Hunter: The Vigil: Mortal Remains by Mors Rattus
Post 1Original SA post Mortal Remains
Mortal Remains starts with a chapter on Prometheans. Sometimes you run into someone, and you just know: they're not people. They are the Uncanny Valley made manifest. They are made of dead flesh, metal or plastic. They look like people, but they aren't and can never be. They are undead monsters, automatons. And they burn quite well. The scariest thing about these Created? They're fascinated by people. They want to learn about us. Why? To perfect their masquerade as humans? To find weaknesses? Or some other, more alien reason? Hunters have no real answers there.
The Created are mockeries of humanity, built of dead flesh and animated by something called the Divine Fire. They see themselves as pilgrims, trying to steal humanity they have no right to claim. But hunters rarely see that - they just see the carnage they leave in their wake. The ones that just blunder through the world, learning and moving on, never draw hunter attention, really. But some of the Created are intrusive - indeed, their quest is intrusive by nature. They enter society with no idea how to function and don't understand basic human behavior. That's not a huge problem in itself - weird, yes, but not threatening. The problem is, they're monsters. They have powers that can easily hurt people, and their mere presence drives people mad over time. They may just want to learn, but when they set up shop, problems happen. And for many hunters, the horror is more visceral even than that.
Hunters often have a number of rather understandable misconceptions about Prometheans. First, while they're made of dead flesh and often called the Reanimated, they really aren't undead at all. Stuff that works on undead usually doesn't work on them, and the bodies they're made of tend not to mean much to them. Second, they are exceptionally rare - less than a hundred on the planet at any given time, far more rare than any hunter might expect. Their 'society' is just a collection of rumors and signs painted on walls. They fall into categories, but most hunters will never be able to recognize those categories - hell, most hunters will never meet a Promethean at all. Last, it's easy to mistake them for other monsters. An Ulgan that calls on spirits could easily be mistaken for a mage, a Golem smashing through a wall could be a werewolf or vampire, and any Promethean could be a demon.
We get an overview of the Promethean Lineages - Frankensteins, Galateids, Osirans, Tammuz, and Ulgans. They are composed of body parts, removed and reconstructed into a new form. To create one requires a burning, driving obsession that makes all else fall away. This obsession in their creators is terrifying to hunters, because it's familiar - they feel the same obsession when it comes to fighting monsters. These creators, demiurges, will justify anything to do their work - and so will some hunters. Some demiurges are monsters themselves - mass murderers at worst, grave robbers at best.
Prometheans suffer from the Disquiet - essentially, a growing madness those who interact with them suffer from. Perhaps they become spiteful, terrified, fascinated, hateful or obsessed. It's one reason Hunters end up going after these things. Of course, if a Promethean completes its pilgrimage, it is Redeemed - it becomes a human being. The Redeemed may not be good people, always, but they are people - fully human - and their transformation is a profound and positive one if you witness it.
Even more rare are the Centimani, strange and inhuman freaks that revel in their inhuman nature. Often, they reshape themselves into monstrous forms. Other Prometheans seem to fear them, and they follow no Pilgrimage at all. They often travel with broods of strange monsters that eat Prometheans. Even the conspiracies have no idea what the fuck is going on there.
Prometheans can eat anything, feel little pain, die only when killed with aggravated damaeg, are very hard to poison or strike with disease, heal from electricity and suffer terrible damage from fire. Fire bad. The longer they stay in an area, the more they poison the land, creating something they refer to as a Wasteland. They foul the earth, the air and the water. They make spirits restless, at times. They cause unpredictable fires. It's just not good for anyone near them.
Ashwood Abbey tend to end up hunting Prometheans when they find them, usually due to Disquiet. They tend to, once they succumb, see the Promethean as the ultimate quarry. They usually don't care about Wastelands or take offense to the mad obsession of demiurges. Indeed, they can be fascinated by that level of passion, and it's said that the original club included someone trying to build a 'perfect houseboy' out of parts. What does offend them, however, is the idea that these creatures could become human. Inhuman creatures are great sport, but they can't become human. If a Promethean can, why not a vampire? Or a werewolf? If these can all become human, the Abbey just become rich perverts killing people, and that just won't do . Fortunately, most of the Abbey are entirely unaware Prometheans even exist. Some older members, often of the Pursuit, have found letters and notes indicating that some monsters seek to join humanity, but have no idea what they really refer to or that it's actually possible. If they found proof, they might actually get serious for once.
The Long Night, on the other hand, already draw a distinction between human and inhuman monsters. Human ones - witches or the possessed - deserve a second chance at redemption. A relapse still means death, but they can give up sin. Inhuman monsters, like vampires or werewolves, deserve only death. They're already gone. But where do Prometheans fit? It's hard to say - most Long Night have never heard of them. They also tend not to find the ones that really follow the Pilgrimage. What they mostly notice, if anything, are Centimani, which they usually mistake for demons. They're happy to destroy those.
The Loyalists of Thule seek redemption, and they approach the Created from a more cerebral place. they are more likely to find a Promethean's notes and journals, rather than the creature itself. They can recognize the obsession they read about. Being rather pragmatic, they see little reason to interfere with most Prometheans, unless Disquiet sets in. However, when that happens, they can be among the most dangerous to the creature, being more able to find information on it and how to kill it.
Network Zero has the most contact with the created and the least knowledge. They know that some creatures have immense strength, that others can dissolve objects with a touch or hurl lightning. But that's not proof the Created exist - it's proof weird shit does. They rarely stick around to give interviews, so Network Zero hasn't exactly connected any dots here. One advantage they have, though? Recordings don't cause Disquiet. Filming one, yes, but not watching the film after. Of coruse, someone stalking and filming a Promethean long enough will still go mad.
Null Mysteriis has managed something no one else has: they've discovered Disquiet. They know many supernatural creatures can influence the minds of others - that's what allows some of them to turn 'invisible.' (It's much easier to mess with minds than light.) So, they have supporting evidence that sometimes a mob will just go mad and beat to death a seeming innocent. But they have no idea why. It doesn't seem to be advantageous to the critter causing it. They can only theorize - perhaps these creatures exude some kind of chemical or cause a neurological change that activates the intrinsic fear of strangers, and the Genovese effect and mob mentality do the rest. Others believe this 'Frankenstein effect' is atmospheric, related to a place or environment more than the victim, and the people it happens to just have some kind of genetic or psychic marker that makes them vulnerable to becoming targets. That has some support in the existence of Wastelands, after all, which often coincide with Disquiet. Null Mysteriis is also most prone to succumbing to the mad obsession of the demiurge when they get consumed by studying the nature of life and Disquiet.
The Union, in many ways, is the worst thing that can happen to a Promethean. They're reactive, local and often a bit xenophobic. Prometheans only exacerbate them. Toss Disquiet in, and it's easy for the Union to go postal on them. Plus, because of their focus on their homes, they notice Wastelands fast . They go out to investigate and clean up. Of course, it takes a bit of a leap of logic to trace that back to a Promethean, but once Disquiet sets in, it becomes really easy to blame anything on the creature. Usually, that's all the Union ends up caring about, and they know very little about Prometheans at all. Of course, the more circumspect Prometheans tend to avoid their notice if they only pass through an area. The more monstrous ones, though, are easily spotted.
Next time: Conspiracies.
Post 2Original SA post Mortal Remains
The Aegis Kai Doru don't really go looking for Prometheans, but sometimes mistakes get made. They also have nothing against using the artifacts or even body parts of Prometheans as Relics. It isn't commonly known, but the energy that animates the Created - it's called Azoth - can imbue objects, too. These Azothic Objects aren't usually Relics - indeed, they're little more than a really durable tool most of the time. However, Aegis records show that sometimes, under the command of a Created, they will come to life, sprouting limbs and teeth and attacking anyone nearby. They are sometimes known as Pandorans, and rumor has it they're practically uncontrollable, even turning on their masters. Still, most Aegis hunters that run into a Promethean won't know about that - they'll just tend to get hit by Disquiet and assume the thing is associated with a wizard somehow, and then try to torture it into revealing what it knows - or just kill it outright.
The Aegis hold Orpheus' Eye (2 dots). Some Prometheans believe the mythic Orpheus was one of their own, returning to life after he was torn apart by the Maenads, but if so, he did it with one eye. The one the Aegis holds feels like glass, but gets warm very quickly. It twitches in the presence of music, particularly soft, haunting or mournful tunes on stringed instruments. When it is held and concentrated on, the person holding it may perceive ephemeral entities in Twilight, though not interact with them.
The Ascending Ones guard against monsters and knowledge of monsters, and they're often more likely to help a Promethean than kill it. As a group, they know little about the Created, but some of their potions resist the Disquiet, allowing them to interact without growing mad. They do know about the Pilgrimage - and they regard it as a miracle, something to be celebrated as an expression of Allah's mercy. (Or whatever you want to call Him.) That doesn't meant they help all Prometheans - rather, they try to steer the Created away from dangerous situations that will get them or innocents killed. They try to keep the Created moving, to avoid them drawing mobs down. Of course, not all Prometheans follow a prosocial path, and the ones that don't? Those, with sorrow, the Ascending Ones put down. Those that reject the precious gift of humanity do not, after all, deserve it.
Gentle Mind (2 dots) is the Elixir that resists Disquiet. It is a thin, clear, flavorless liquid made partially from strong alcohol. It has a pretty big kick. Once consumed, it renders the drinker greatly resistant to Disquiet and able to reduce powerful Disquiet in others - not cure it, but slow its spread.
Cheiron calls Prometheans 'Artificial Organics' and it loves them dearly. They are top priority acquisitions. They don't know a lot about them, but they know they are valuable . They've only found a few, and Disquiet makes them hard to bring in alive, but that's even less of a problem than the Wasteland, which inevitably warps and rots their prisons somehow. They've been trying to figure out how to fight it, but no dice so far. They have, however, found uses for Promethean body parts. The Cheiron Group are one of the few organizations that recognizes different Created Lineages as 'species' of the same sort of creature. They also know that Prometheans contain a caustic liquid which somehow carries memories and information. They aren't entirely clear on how or why, or why extracting it leads to partial amnesia of apparently random events. Not even important ones, often, but things like watching dogs in a park. But hey, that weird 'vitriol' is useful .
It goes in a Vitriol Pump (4 dots), which resembles an external insulin pump - a small, plastic device about the size of a deck of cards, worn in an underarm harness with a tube leading into your abdomen. You push a button on a remote, usually worn on the belt or wrist, and it releases a cocktail of low-grade sedatives, saline and a tiny amount of vitriol into your blood. This gives you access to memories in the vitriol - both muscle memory and experiential memory - memories that belonged to the Promethean the stuff was taken from. This lets you draw on that Promethean's skills to assist at skills, giving you three successes...but only if your skill was already at 3 dots or higher. Usually, but not always, it's limited to physical skills. There's enough in the pump for three doses before you need refills, which usually take at least a week to ship and mix.
The Lucifuge find the Created frustrating. They're not necessarily evil or even really demonic, and they get visited by mysterious angels (the qashmallim). Are these qashmallim divine? What do they want with Prometheans? The Lucifuge have theories but none of them really work. Thus, the group treats Prometheans on a case-by-case basis. Disquiet doesn't help much. The Lucifuge tend to run into Prometheans being made or patching themselves up, as human dismemberment is sometimes confused with Satanic ritual. They also occasionally, when they attack Prometheans, find themselves under assault from beings of pure light, with crystalline wings and leonine heads. The primary theories the Lucifuge have are that the Created are Satanic but not necessarily evil, or are similar to the Biblical Nephilim.
The Lucifuge possess a Castigation rite known as the Gulf of Hades. You see, the Gulf of Hades is the black cavern leading to Hell - so dark that it is not just absence of light, but absence of the concept of light. By tapping into that darkness, the Lucifuge can sap the energy of their targets, shutting down electronic devices utterly - including cars or electronic locks. On a person, it induces near-instant hypothermia and frostbite. On a Promethean? It renders them unable to heal from electricity and drains their willpower.
The Malleus Maleficarum tend to mistake Prometheans for vampires. Sure, they can walk in daylight and don't drink blood, but they also don't age or die naturally. They tend to notice the oldest Prometheans, and that ends badly for everyone involved. They have records on the Tammuz...but mostly via the Golem of Prague tale, which was distorted to paint Jews as evil mystics. You'd hope the modern Malleus would be less anti-semitic, but the fact remains that golems are, in fact, real. Official Church stance is that raising dead flesh is Satanic and the mockery of life must be exterminated. Prometheans aren't actually undead, but the Malleus don't know that.
They use a Benediction called the Peace of Saint Joseph, which lays the dead to rest - a very useful tool when you fight undead corpses moving around. It actually does work on Prometheans, but far less well than on vampires or zombies. When invoked, it saps the vigor from dead flesh, slowing the target and penalizing any physical actions as long as the creature remains in 30 feet of the user. It lasts for a while, too.
Task Force: VALKYRIe tend to just do missions and leave as often as not, rather than camping in an area. They might be called out to deal with a Promethean or the aftereffects of one - Wastelands, angry mobs and so on - and to cover up what really happened, but they don't often run into them randomly. Disquiet, however, can lead to violating the standing orders to capture, not kill. It doesn't help that they often don't have the full data the government has access to. Command knows quite a bit about Prometheans, but they don't share the information with the troops. They aren't told about Prometheans healing from electricity, or that some of them can talk to ghosts. No one is entirely sure why the brass are so tight-lipped about this, either.
Oh right, that part of Promethean no one actually liked.
Task Force: VALKYRIe sometimes hands out Gleipnir Restraints (2 dots). Gleipnir was the bond used to restrain Fenris, who could break any chain. It was a thin ribbon made of six impossible things. Gleipnir Restraints are occasionally given for anti-Promethean missions, or any supernaturally strong foe. The brass says they work on a kinetic feedback loop - the moer the target struggles, the more they restrict. The hardest part is usually getting them on the target in the first place. They resemble a strip of black plastic with a fingerprint panel on each end coded to the user. You're gonna have to wrestle the monster to force them on, in most cases. Breaking out of them is no mean feat - the stronger you are, the more it takes to break out.
Then we get three example Promethean NPCs - a Greek dude who has no idea who made him and is haunted by spirits he desperately tries to appease, a guy made to be someone's ideal lover who doesn't understand that he's been driving his boyfriends crazy, and a woman who thinks she can perfect herself by murdering people and remaking herself with their body parts because her creator never bothered to tell her what she was actually meant to be doing besides 'becoming perfect.'
Next time: Fairy tales.
Post 3Original SA post Mortal Remains
They can be anyone. It's not quick that you start to suspect someone's been replaced by a faerie. A kid undergoes radical personality change. Your husband vanishes for a few days and returns with no real explanation. A coworker gets into an accident and suffers amnesia despite no head injury. It happens all the time, all over the world. A suicide victim jumps to her death, but all they find is a pile of debris where the body should be. Soimeone disappears into a doorway that leads to dead end. Your friend is shot and bleeds tree sap, not blood. They seem so normal - they seem like everyone else. But they aren't. They might be victims of alien imprisonment, too horrible to believe. They might be simulations of the real person, left behind to cover some mystical crime, or perhaps twisted remnants broken by inhuman influence. Or maybe they're made of pure nightmare, wearing human skin. There's no way to tell if someone is who - or what - they say they're human. Hell, some of them believe the lie.
Fairy tales are the first exposure most people have to the supernatural, but most never realize it. An unlucky few learn, later, that those stories were cautionary tales and protection. Hunters know these creatures exist. They can appear however they desire - beautiful, ugly or entirely human. But they aren't. No matter how desperate or helpful or ordinary they seem, they are alien, living by the rules of another world - the rules of the fairy tales. Never leave the path. Don't eat what is offered. Never, ever make a bargain with them. These Changelings were born human, many think they still are human, but they aren't. Something kidnapped them, seduced them away or stole their freedom by blackmail. They were taken to an alien world where the rules of our reality no longer applied. They were altered, modified, twisted into whatever suited their keepers. Somehow, they escaped, and now, they are no longer human, hidden only by a thin veil, a Mask. It sounds implausible, but there are perhaps tens of thousands of these creatures around the world. You might meet one and never know, so long as they're still sane enough to pretend at humanity. But their sanity is often decaying, and keeping up appearances is never easy for them. Sometimes, you can see their true nature.
We get a brief overview of the Seemings and the concept of freeholds and courts, which are generally contradictory and chaotic rather than a steady foundation, and which are often based around emotional archetypes and meaningless titles. All Changelings are desperate, all of them are victims of supernatural forces of immense power. They are defined by their Durances, the experience that broke them and stole everything they were. But all of them, also, have escaped, returned to humanity somehow. Their experience has maddened them all, as they try to reconcile their past and the present. The older, more potent ones are likely to be the most insane. Some pretend at lucidity, but it is a pretense and no mistake. You might believe them reasonable and moral...until you say the wrong word and trigger their insanity. Then, all bets are off. It doesn't matter how they became what they are - their human facade is an illusion, and they are all dangerous as a result. Some of them will do anything to avoid returning to Arcadia, too - including selling others to the fate they escaped. Privateers, they're called. And the only thing worse, say the Lost, are loyalists - those who continue to serve the 'True Fae' even after their release.
The True Fae are those beings that kept the Lost in Arcadia. The Fair Folk, the Kindly Ones. Faeries. They're not people - not at all. They are a living self-image, an embodiment of their own imaginations, with no filter or dilution. They inspire archetypes - they aren't born of them or mimicking them. They each rule a mad realm, and collectively, those realms are Arcadia. In their homes, they are practically omnipotent. Outside it, they are weaker - still monstrously powerful, but not gods. When they walk among humans, though, they are still as powerful as anything you might meet. However, they prefer not to come to our world, where they are weaker, and instead rely on their minions to act as their hands here. Those are the ones you're most likely to run into.
Some of those minions are the simulacra known as the fetches - things that take on the lives of those the fae kidnap. They are built of trash, sticks and string. They look and feel human in all ways...until they die. They are no more human than the Lost themselves, and on death, they revert to their components. But they believe themselves to be the people they replace. Most Lost will happily destroy the fetches holding their old lives - and that'll get them charged for murder, even without a body. Indeed, it may well get a hunter on their trail. Killing a fetch draws attention - and even without it, the Lost can't go back easily to their old lives. Fetches are generally better at being the people they used to be than they are, and their families are unlikely to believe their stories.
Within the Hedge - the term used for the land that seperates our world from Arcadia - there are countless other faeries, hobgoblins and hedgebeasts. They may form entire ivllages or roma in packs, unfettered by the laws of humanity. They eat, live, breathe, breed and die in their strange world, some created by magic and some warped from humans caught in the Hedge. They are strange, occasionally hostile and often thieves. Hunters rarely run into them - they don't usually leave the Hedge - but if you go into there, well, you're at their mercy. The Hedge itself is a labyrinth, a buffer zone that mirrors the plants and animals of the world it touches, but like a carnival mirror. You might be able to use the Hedge to cross a distance of a thousand miles in an hour, but it'll be a journey full of dangerous beasts and unnatural terrain - to say nothing of the smarter things you might meet. It's more than any sane human would want to deal with. Plus, the faeries and some of the hobgoblins or Lost can warp the Hedge to their will, making the path change under your feet. Arcadia itself is somewhere you should never, ever go. You'll not get in without the Fae knowing and allowing it, and escape is practically impossible without the extreme luck that each Changeling has had.
Changelings hide their true appearance from mortal eyes most of the time. They can enter the Hedge via any open doorway, window or gate - any opening, really. They can do the same to exit the Hedge through any spot that has ever been used to enter it. They may incite emotional extremes in people, which they apparently feed on. They can often see and enter dreams, and are masters of back-hgnded blessings and curses in disguise.
Ashwood Abbey are more likely to talk to Changelings than hun them - if they even notice they exist. There's exceptions, of course - a particularly monstrous changeling might prove able prey, after all, and some might find it interesting to see how long a thing made of stone or steel can survive before they break. But other changelings might well be suppliers of strange drugs - fae potions, exotic foods. In fact, some parts of Lost society overlap somewhat with the Ashwood mentality, focusing on desire and passion. The Abbey does love hunting in the Hedge, when they find out it exists, though. It's full of strange creatures to kill, and you don't even have to clean up after. The cops won't be investigating a hobgoblin's death, after all. If a Lost were to open the doors to the Hedge for them, they could probably write their own check...at least until the Abbey started to wonder exactly how they were doing it, anyway.
The Long Night are more concerned with the True Fae than Changelings. They have drawn a correlation between the Nephilim of the Bible and the True Fae, and they believe that the fae are a race of fallen angels corrupting humanity. They see the Hedge as an infernal place, populated by imps and demons. Most of them would no more enter it than willingly walk into Hell. They believe the thorns literally tear away the souls of those that enter, leaving them corruptible. This manifests in Changelings' appearances and powers. The stronger their powers, the more likely they cannot be redeemed - indeed, they may be one of the Nephilim themselves. Because they can't really agree on what to do with Changelings, they may try to test them to see how human they still are. Still, they do agree that the most potent can't be redeemed any more - the power is proof that they gave up their souls and must be put down.
The Loyalists of Thule, officially, deny the existence of faeries. They believe the Lost are a dangerous, potentially contagious supernatural race, and standing orders are to not investigate them directly, but to pass the information up the chain, on pain of reprimand or censure, under a mandate referred to as the Alpdruck Errata. The reason is simple: The True Fae are ancient gods, and Arcadia is the Ultimate Source. Or, at least, that's what the Three Old Men are afraid of. In their earliest searches, see, they pored over folklore and myth, and found that every culture had tales of a race that came before - the fae. Terrified that someone else might find that and spark a genocide, the Loyalists decided to just forbid their members from researching it. They have created a set of lies about the Lost, claiming htey're a potentially infectious threat and insisting that all investigations be handled by specialized (and nonexistent) teams. It hasn't really worked. Even with the Alpdruck Errata in place, it's impossible to ensure that a loose group of scholars won't study the topic. Still, the Old Men can't see the ineffectuality of their current path. In time, once they die, the prohibition will likely fade. And then, it will be time for a new generation to decide how to deal with the fae.
Network Zero does not officially know about the Lost group called Radio Free Fae, but they've run into each other, whether they know it or not. When RFF needs toe share information about privateers or Lost gone rogue, they can rely on Netzo to signal boost without realizing it. And, well, the Lost have been caught on Network Zero camera far more than most of them would like to admit. You can't exactly open doors to the Hedge in the middle of city without being seen by someone - or something, with all these security cameras and cell phones around. And once it's caught, it gets shown on the internet. Most of the time, though, it's the door and the Hedge beyond that Network Zero is interested in, rather than the human-looking guy opening it. Few of them know enough to link the doormakers to Changelings, but what they do understand is that the world beyond the door is really, really interesting.
The Lost are of little interest to Null Mysteriis - they don't do anything that scientists are likely to notice, and their abilities are easily rationalized. Even if a changeling tries to explain, they're likely to extrapolate their own answers. The more ephemeral powers of the Lost are not tangible enough for them to even notice. Most fae items also don't draw their interest. When firsthand reports come in, they often write them off as easily explained and claim that changelings are suffering paranoid delusions or mobs were exposed to mass hallucinogens. However, there are a few obsessed researchers, often folklore historians, who set up energy meters and kirlian cameras at sacred sites in order to discover why they've been associated with faeries for centuries while other sacred sites have not. Within Null Mysteriis, perhaps the greatest topic of conjecture is whether or not changeligns can move from one site to another. There's a lot of speculation amongst a certain subset about the nature of the Hedge and who can alter it. Theories range from mass hypnosis and hallucination to the possibility that Hedge gates are, in fact, wormholes as proposed by German mathematician Hermann Weyl in 1921.
The Union don't bother with theory or legend. They care about the now. This is bad for the Lost - they're likely to notice the presence of a local freehold more than anyone else, and that tends to develop when there's a steady stream of emotionally unstable Lost showing up, which means there's a bunch of weirdos appearing in the Union's back yard. Plus, freeholds also happen where people start to disappear - the Lost usually return to their homes when they escape, you see. People go missing or change, when replaced by a fetch, and that draws Union attention. However, the Lost can be good neighbors, by monster standards. They don't drink blood and aren't prone to murderous rage. They have an intricate social hierarchy, and when they start to go mad, they police their own. As long as they're not hurting the locals or selling people to the True Fae, the Union may not have a beef - at least until the fae start making deals. However, Lost life is never stable for long. They try to prevent it, but their sanity does slip. The True Fae do kidnap people. Conflict happens. And when a fight between changeligns gets Union attention, odds are they aren't going to bother finding out who the good guys and bad guys are if the community is at risk. Politics and deniability don't matter when a Union cell is protecting its neighborhood, and if they have to, they will raze the entire goddamn freehold to keep people safe.
Next time: Conspiring with faeries.
Post 4Original SA post Mortal Remains
The Aegis Kai Doru primarily care about changelings in the context of getting new relics. If a Lost is willing to sell or trade, that's great. If not, there's trouble coming. The Aegis who steal relics rarely ask politely, as it is, after all, a sacred duty. Few changelings are likely to give up any protective item anyway, and that leads to conflict. It can easily swell up to larger scales, too, as hunter cells and Lost groups start making alliances. And if that brings in more items to steal, well, that just sweetens the pot. The entire thing changes when the Aegis learn that some changelings can make relics. At that point, kidnapping and slavery, while certainly not policy, come on the table for the greedier hunters. The Aegis would not approve, but it's hard to police. And some Aegis hunters view what the Lost do as witchcraft, and will go after them for that, especially if it means getting a relic in the bargain. The human Mask may also make them a target as shapeshifters, for the more militant Aegis. The Hedge is a mystery to the Aegis for now, but laybrinths are sacred to them, and if they discovered the Hedge in large numbers, they would find it wondrous and perhaps holy.
Which is not to say they are entirely unaware. They just treat keys to the hedge as special relics, like the Silver Key (2 dots). Legend has it that if, at sunset on midsummer's eve, a young boy puts a warm, stolen hen's egg into the hole of a stone well, the fae wil lcome for it and leave behind a silver key that enters their realm. These keys are then handed down through families. They appear to be antique and tarnished silver skeleton keys with oval heads. When used to trace the edges of any door, window or gate, they open a path to the Hedge. They work only for enturely non-supernatural humans and require an act of will. The door will remain open for a minute, regardless of what passes through it. Once it closes, that key can never again be used on that doorway. It can also exit from the Hedge to any door in the mortal world, with the same single-use restriction.
The Ascending Ones rarely hunt Changelings and in fact may well meet them without ever knowing it. They are far more opposed to the True Fae, though fighting them is often fatal - and while it will bring fame and respect among the Lost, that can just bring more trouble from the Keepers. More commonly, they'll end up buying ingredients from changelings for potions or elixirs, as changelings excel at finding exotic materials. Fae produce can only be grown in the Hedge, which makes the taks dangerous, but lucrative. Unfortunately, occasionally Lost body parts are also valuable for elixirs, and negotiating for blood, bile or brain matter is difficult, to say the least - and difficult also to take by force.
The Hound Mark (1 or 3 dots) is an elixir that strips away the changeling Mask. It's a viscous green liquid that tastes of anise and lichen, with small and crunchy granules in it. Ecstasy is apparently involved in its brewing. The more potent version works on any hidden monster, but the less on only fae. Once consumed, it grants the ability to perceive creatures immediately nearby for what they are - perhaps by smell, or by a glowing aura or heat whispers. Rarely, it can even allow you to spot them when they're invisible.
The Cheiron Group was not entirely sure, for a time, that the Lost existed, or what htey were. The Mask protected them from detection. Fetches, however, were much easier to spot due to reverting to inanimate material on death, and many early experiments were actually done on fetches rather than changelings. Because of their diversity, it has taken Cheiron centuries to suspect that different Seemings are all the same type of creature, and even now, there are misdesignated changelings held captive by Cheiron. Recently, they have discovered the Lost ability to enter dreams and communicate with them - around the 70s is recent. They've spent a long time and a lot of money perfecting a temporary way for their agents to use that power. Organic components from hedgebeasts and hobgoblins are also quite valuable, though it's unclear where they get such a steady supply to work with.
The Cranial Cortex Augmentation (4 dots) involves taking thin tissue slices fro mthe extrastriate visual area of a changeling cortex and then layering them into an agent's brain. That gives the temporary ability to see, enter and manipulate dreams. This involves brain surgery, usually leaves scars and needs the changeling to possess those powers at a relatively high level of skill. A single donor could give enough tissue for a dozen agents, as only a thin slice of neural material is needed, but the removal of the brain matter is always a fatal process. The augmentation also only lasts for a few weeks before the brain absorbs the new material entirely, and subsequent augmentations have a cumulative 10% chance of outright failure. Once an operation fails, no further augmentation operations will ever succeed for you.
The Lucifuge mostly ignore changelings unless they mistake them for angels or demons. They know that the Hedge is not Hell, and the Lady of Milan is quick to remind people to focus on the forces of evil, not the fae. With one exception: True Fae. The Keepers are something else entirely, amoral and nearly omnipotent. It's not hard to start wondering where they fit in the grand design. The Lucifuge herself seems to have a personal interest in the True Fae as well, and some say she is one of them, not a demon at all.
The Lucifuge may call on the supernatural aura of the infernal, the Unholy Aura. The fae, even the Lost, recognize a resonance in that aura similar to that of the True Fae, making them especially vulnerable, and the effects of the aura are doubled against any fae that is not a True Fae. It grants a great social bonus against those affected. The True Fae are likely to recognize the aura as similar to their own but grant no bonus for it beyond getting their interest. (Which isn't much of a bonus.)
The Malleus rarely target Changelings unless they resemble vampires. They have no official stance on the fae whatsoever, but many Catholic regions do have strong cultural backgrounds with fairies. These fairy tales may or may not actually prepare you for interaction with the Lost, but it sure can be...interesting, when that's all you have to go on. The Malleus certainly doesn't provide any further education.
Saint Collen was a Welsh monk who protected his flock from evil, and so the Malleus use Saint Collen's Clarity. Legend has it he was invited to dine with the fairies and refused them three times before accepting. He was led to their king and promised great delights, but he knew that eating would doom him to slavery, so he prayed for protection and sprinkled holy water on things, revealing the illusions for the nothingness they were. Use of this Benediction immunizes the user to any supernatural power that would affect the senses. The invisible is visible, fae Masks are ripped away, glamours look and feel exactly as their true nature is. The illusions still exist - you just see through them entirely for a time.
Task Force: VALKYRIE has had contact with the fae, but mostly positive contact. They don't see the Lost, as a collective, as a threat to humanity. TWILIGHT has operatives in contact with freeholds across the globe, often providing them with false IDs or resources that they can't get normally. It's easy to make contacts and allies by doing that for a freehold. FORT generally focuses more on fae magic than changelings, and it's rumored that entire cells have been assigned to the Hedge and Arcadia, though no official files exist on Arcadia at all. FORt is also responsible for trapping and containing hedgebeasts that escape the Hedge, but that's not usually easy, since they can go back so easily. ADAMSKI agents often work alongside Radio Free Fae, though neither group usually realizes the others are more than crackpots. Often, however, one group will provide tips to the other to 'prove' evidence is a hoax, while the other ensures the 'proof' is well publicized.
TFV has developed Compound Rounds (1 to 5 dots) after realizing that while most monsters have a physical vulnerability to some common substance, it's never easy to know which one you need. They incorporate trace ements of the most commonly dangerous elements to supernatural beings, all in one bullet. Cold iron, gold, silver, salt, certain wood slivers, break-on-impact globules of holy water, communion wafer crumbs, mustard seed, rose petals, wolfsbane, clovers, St. John's Wort. These bullets deal lethal damage to any supernatural creature, even if they would not normally take lethal from bullets, and they get 9-again against all monsters. They don't, however, provide enough of any one material to deal agg to anything. No chip needed to use 'em, either!
After that, we get some sample Changelings. Tensare Custos is an old, very potent ice elemental who thinks of himself as a force of nature that targets those that abuse women. It does not have a gender, really, as it no longer thinks of itself as human. It appears as an older man, but under the skin it is made entirely of ice and snow in vaguely humanoid form. It remembers nothing of its human life. Pearl Lawrence, on the other hand, was a black woman who was a kindly librarian and mother before she was kidnapped and forced to research terrible things, day in and day out. She managed to escape by following trails of news about her own life, including the birth of her grandchild and the death of her estranged husband, freeing herself of her bonds. She was born nearly 80 years ago, but appears to be in her mid-30s. Beneath the mask, though, all that age is there, and she looks like she's made of paper and drawings. Last is Jackson "Boss" Barrow, a fat man from the 20s who loved t o drink and eat. He was forced by the Fae to eat and eat and eat and eat, then get butchered and be eaten himself, over and over. He's started to have nightmares of that experience, and he's terrified that he'll be taken back, though he escaped nearly 20 years ago. He makes his living as a black market dealer in...well, anything.
Next time: Ghostwalkers.
Post 5Original SA post Mortal Remains
Ghosts have been around forever. They need things and want things, and we can understand that. Ghosts are easy to grasp, though. But there are people who, while not ghosts themselves, walk among them. They have been called the haunted, the Fog Men, revenants - but the term most hunters use is ghostwalker. They straddle the line between life and death. They are mediums, psychopomps and horrors. To the dead, they can be a best friend or worst foe. To a hunter, they can be a great ally or a nightmare. Despite what you might believe after seeing their powers, they are alive - living humans who have stepped into death. It's not entirely clear what you should do about them. Where they go, ghosts follow. They complicate hauntings, but they can also help solve them.
Ghostwalkers have little in the way of mythic history. I mean, yeah, you could identify them with Isiris or Dionysus or Inanna. But it doesn't quite fit, no matter what you do. They could Heracles or Orpheus, but that doesn't really fit, either. There is evidence of their existence within the past 200 years, but older information is harder to track and verify. The oldest accounts seem to trace back to Egypt, and some believe that the ghostwalkers there were so prominent that a civil war between them divided the northern and southern kingdoms. However, most believe that vastly overstates their involvement in ancient Egypt. There's all kinds of theories. Maybe the ghosts that haunt the ghostwalkers aren't ghosts at all, but the remnant of the ancient Egyptian ghostwalkers. Or maybe they're Egyptian deities, speaking to modern ghostwalkers. Or maybe that's all bullshit. It's kind of hard to tell. There seem to have been less ghostwalkers between now and Egypt, or at least less reports of them - they might have been misidentified as other stuff.
Accounts of them become more frequent and more active since the 19th century. Mediums, spiritualists and spectral photography became popular then, and some believe ghostwalkers used that interest to claim connection to ghosts and gain some fame. Some believe Jack the Ripper was a ghostwalker, urged un by a 'demon' over his shoulder. Still, the ghostwalkers seem to have been mostly civil, and more among the poor than the wealthy. There's all kinds of theories about why - the poor are more likely to die violently, suddenly or young, and the rich can afford coverups. The Wordl Wars seem to have increased the number of ghostwalkers or at least the news about them. There are reports in World War I of the Sleepers, a sort of ghostwalker that wandered the battlefields to put the ghosts to rest. Some British hunters worked closely with them until war casualties split the group up. Poland, in WW2, was supposedly infested with ghostwalkers. Hunters who believe ghostwalkers are themselves a type of ghost point to this period and the mounting evidence of ghostly sentience, as an increasing number of ghost sightings claimed to see undead soldiers return to battle after death. The Loyalists of Thule, after WW2, began to monitor these reports, and found them active in the Soviet Union, occasionally rumored to rule entire towns, though that was probably exaggerated. North American ghostwalker activity has traditionally been more subdued than in Europe, though, especially after the decline of mediumship. Still, there have been reports throughout the older parts of the US. For some reason, ghostwalkers seem to also congregate and celebrate holidays like Mardi Gras.
Since the late 70s, Louisiana has had a spike in ghostwalkers, particularly during Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows' Eve and All Saint's Day. No one is entirely sure why. Often, ghostwalker culture seems to have an element of celebration, of living life to the fullest. It is confusing, but perhaps the ghostwalkers have no choice - either celebrate what they are, or despair because they are surrounded by death. Accounts on how active they are vary, but numbers seem to have stabilized. The spike after WW2 ended decades ago and the fall of the Iron Curtain revealed no grand ghostwalker conspiracies. They seem to be rare. Apparently, the ghostwalkers are in flux, their culture and attitudes shifting more than other supernaturals. They're hard to track and catalog. Much of what hunters know about them is unproven and most don't know much. To most hunters, they are an enigma, living ghosts that walk the lands of the living and the dead. They are flesh and blood, but with powers and mindsets like the dead. Sometimes, they are helpful. Sometimes their mere presence is dangerous.
Some ghostwalkers show up at hauntings, trying to help spirits move on or contain dangerous ones. This can be helpful...but sometimes, ghostwalkers seem to want to make a situation worse. They might free a vengeful ghost trapped in a building or kill someone the ghost is angry at. They may try to kill you for trying to get rid of the ghost. They often do whatever it takes to stop people that interefere with them. Ghostwalkers know a lot about death, but no two groups are exactly alike. Some of them claim to have visited an Underworld full of ancient dead. Certainly, they understand ghosts better than hunters do. They are better at dealing with ghosts than they are at literally anything else, able to see and talk to them effortlessly, even touch them. Some of them have immense powers, too, able to even make ghosts solid or draw on their abilities. Ghostwalkers often pop up hunting slashers, too, in revenge for the dead.
Your big challenge is figuring out what a ghostwalker is doing and why. They can shrug off terrible injury by releasing ectoplasm from their wounds, which closes them. This is why some ghostwlakers are considered to be a similar type of monster known as the Fog Men. Worse, a ghostwalker that dies can come back to life. It is practically certain that you're going to have to kill a ghostwalker several times. They are powerful mediums, but can have other powers - some can haunt areas or attack people invisibly. Some can curse people or twist themselves into monsters. But not all ghostwalkers can do any of that. You need information to deal with ghostwalkers, because they're very diverse. Sometimes, if you're careful, you might spot another figure when they use their powers - just for a second. When ghostwalkers are shown proof that something supernatural is walking with them, they tend to clam up, maybe mentioning some kind of bragain or binding but not discussing any details.
Hunters who have studied ghostwalkers often believe that they are possessed by a ghost, and that relationship is key to understanding them. They are often more silent on those ghosts than anything else about them. Others believe that the ability to rise fro mthe dead is proof that the haunted are a kind of mummy, who can also resurrect themselves. Most hunters don't realize many ghostwalkers only get one get-out-of-death-free card - it's not something ghostwalkers share freely. They have no obvious weaknesses, either. Unfortunately, talking to a ghostwalker's personal ghost seems impossible, which has led some to believe they are demons, not ghosts. The more scientific hunters note that ghostwalker behavior often seems to be religiously motivated, or perhaps caused by a supernatural obsession. They note that ghostwalkers with such fixations often follow them rigidly and without exception.
Ghostwalkers are extremely resistant to drugs and poisons, and they cannot be knocked unconscious by any means whatsoever. They can return from death, generally at dawn or dusk. When they do, they are grievously wounded, and someone else will die - someone non-supernatural and human and nearby. Some coincidence or accident will cause the death, its nature determined by the ghostwalker's animating force. No ghostwalker can do this more than five times, but they retain all memories on resurrection. Ghostwalkers can resist damage by filling their wounds with ectoplasm, removing any wound penalties. Ghostwalkers can draw ectoplasm from haunted places or by consuming ghosts. They can bleed ectoplasm onto ghosts to restore them to full awareness of their situation and surroundings, and my use ectoplasm to open Avernian Gates. They can see and hear ghosts at all times, and with an act of will, they may interact with them physically. They can also sense when ghosts use ghost magic, and can see Avernian Gates. They may tell if someone is dying or going to die soon by looking at them and sense their health easily. They can detect the undead at a glance. Their powers are often enhanced by the use of objects linked to sites where death is present - a murder weapon, say, often helps them use their powers to kill. They are often incredibly powerful and dangerous.
Next time: Compacts.
Post 6Original SA post Mortal Remains
Ashwood Abbey finds ghostwalkers a fascinating dilemma. On the one hand, they know how to party. They can take drugs that'd kill a normal person, and they have a fun approach to the world. They talk about everything that no one expects a death-oriented creature to do. But they're also really, really interesting to hunt. They return from the dead to be hunted again. They take a lot of punishment, so the hunt goes on longer, and the ectoplasm-bleeding makes for one hell of a shoiw. If you know where they are and can isolate them from ghosts, they're about as hard to fight as, say, a werewolf. But the Abbey doesn't really grasp how dangerous ghostwalkers really are. Killing one to hunt them again when they rise sounds like a good plan, but every time they do it, a nearby member or maybe a servant meets a sudden, accidental death. It may seem random, but they're starting to grasp the pattern. It's happened enough that it seems unavoidable. Worse, the haunted seem to be pretty good at warning each other. It used to be only a minor problem, but now it's a real pain. Kill one, none of the others will talk to you. Some of them even start attacking on sight. They seem to just know who killed who, and it's not entirely clear how. It's a tense situation, building up to some greater conflict. Most interactions now are hostile. The ghostwalkers know little about the Abbey, but enough to know, vaguely, what they represent. They're getting pissed off.
The Abbey, on the other hand, knows what draws in ghostwalkers: a haunting. They've also learned that once the ghostwalkers show up they are exceptionally good at seeing if it's a real haunting or not, so sometimes the Abbey just adopts a real haunted house instead of trying to fake one. Once they have a haunt, they tend to try to conceal their identities. More than one interaction has gone south only after the ghostwalker got invited to a party. The Abbey has understood that superior firepower is very vaulable, and have no idea what weakens ghostwalkers. They're sure something does, but they haven't found it yet. For a while, they thought it was sea salt, but that turned out to be wrong. For now, they party when they can, hunt when they can and do both with as much gusto as possible.
The Long Night have discovered ghostwalkers and that they sometimes call themselves other names. They originally thought they were dealing with witches until seizing materials from a group in Phoenix who referred to themselves as 'chosen' and aligned themselves with the colors of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This has led the Long Night to conclude that ghostwalkers are the created servants of the Horsemen to battle the righteous. Now, they are deeply interested in this army of the Horsemen. Many believe they must serve the Antichrist, and that the Pale Rider may in fact be the Antichrist. Thus, ghostwalkers may be demons trying to end the world. Still, there is debate over their nature - are they created monsters, or former dead humans now enslaved to the will of the Horsemen? Recent evidence suggests that they have no free will, but it's hardly settled. Some believe it is their duty to determine how they regenerate and replenish their number, then kill them as quickly as they can to prevent them spreading. It's a dire situation.
For the most part, the Long Night deals with ghostwalkers singly and works to find ways to keep them dead. Those that believe they are possessed, however, have tried to capture and exorcise them. A pastor in Arkansas by the name of Joshua Waverly has set up a prison for ghostwalkers where he carries out his own exorcism - as yet, entirely unsuccessfully. This has convinced some that redeeming them is a waste of time, that they are willing agents and must be shown no mercy. However, the Merciful faction have not yet given up. Some believe that the existence of ghostwalkers is proof of the Tribulation and so their arrival is a cause for celebration, though they themselves are to be fought.
The Loyalists of Thule know well about the Fog Men, ever since the second World War. They were there when the angry dead swarmed Nazi territories for vengeance. They recorded how the creatures stood after any wounds, bleeding fog but unstopped. Many of their victims were guilty, but others were just targets of convenience with no part in the Nazi government. They believed the Fog Men had the secret to eternal life, which they sought until 1945. After WWII, they continued to study the Fog Men, but learned little new. They know they were connected to angry ghosts. Now, they believe that the number of Fog Men in the West has dwindled to a fraction of what existed during the World War. This has led to the theory that violent deaths produce more Fog Men, and those deaths also cause a specialized type of ghost that rights wrongs. They have studied how the Fog Men tend to protect people from ghosts, which is interesting to them, but not scary. They know Fog Men are able to commit terrible destruction when angered, and they believe Fog Men swell in numbers after mass killing, so the real problem won't be solved by killing any one Fog Man. Better to keep them from being generated. Their source is open to debate, however. Some believe they bargained for new life with gods of the Underworld, but the truth is am ystery. Whatever their origins, the Loyalists do have proof that they aren't human: they can travel via the lands of the dead to cross great distances.
The Loyalists as a whole agree that they need to study the threat of any given Fog Man and decide how to deal with them individually. Usually via traps, not murder, if they have to do something. If not, they just watch. They've stopped doing interviews - they haven't learned anything new from them in years. However, they do spend a lot of time locating doors to the Underworld, which they have studied extensively and, until recently, were never able to open. What they found, however, when they got a door under Berlin to open, was a strangel and of ghosts, some sentient and some barely animal, a land where all of the dead were slowly drawn deeper in, beyond strange rivers. To date, only one cell has gone through and returned alive. It was a very traumatic experience they don't intend to repeat, so the Loyalists have been trying to find other volunteers - including Fog Men. They may not trust htem, but they know that the secrets of the Underworld will not be found without guides.
Network Zero finds the haunted interesting - they don't frown on talking about what they do. Not that they're very forthcoming, mind, but that's usually for personal reasons. Unfortunately, most of the things that the haunted and ghosts can do are easily manufactured special effects - levitation, ectoplasm, bleeding walls...it's all so easily faked, so most people don't believe the videos. Still, ghostwalkers can be pretty forthcoming. Unfortunately, Network Zero have yet to learn that ghostwalkers are often themselves very ignorant on anything except ghosts, the Underworld and hauntings. There's also the problem of some of them being willing to kill and destroy cameras to keep people from 'interfering' with the dead. They're a minority, but they're very difficult to ignore.
In fact, encounters with them have forced Network Zero to rethink its friendly approach. Most haunted are good contacts, but they can't be trusted. Some progress has been made, however. Some ghostwalkers have used the Network to help send final messages to loved ones, which is fine by the NetZo folks. That proves the ghosts are real, after all. Some have suggested, though, that more aggression is needed. They just have to find the right agenda and do something really big to shake people up with evidence that can't be ignored. Ghostwalkers are ideal targets for this, since so many don't care about being on camera. Hunters have begun actively tracking down ghostwalkers and trying to recruit them for this scheme, but others think this is a terrible idea.
Null Mysteriis believe that ghostwalkers are humans infected by something that is causing them to demonstrate traits normally associated with ghosts, thus attracting ghosts. The reason others fear them, they believe, is for religious implications of the ghostwalkers. The Rationalists tend to believe the infection originates from ectoplasm, a natural byproduct of ghostly energies. For reasons unknown, ectoplasm is thought to sometimes infect humans and make them ill, manifesting as a terrible fever with hallucinations of long-dead gods making deals with you. Once the ectoplasm gets in the blood, their bodies begin to generate it in microscopic amounts. This allows the subject to cause ghostly phenomena. But, because it's such a small amount, they believe the infected replenish their ectoplasm out of a misguided need by frequenting hauntings to get more of it. They do not need to seek these sources to survive, as previously believed, and it's unknown if keeping them away from ectoplasm would let them recover from their infection. This is not helped by the ghosts being drawn to htem, ensuring ectoplasm continues to enter their systems. The Open Minds, on the other hand, believe ghosts are extradimensional energy beings, and the infection is caused not by ectoplasm - a byproduct of ghost and ghostwalker alike - but by extradimensional ghost energies in the human body. The specifics of how ghost energy behaves are uncertain, but they believe it causes the body to operate on a similar 'wavelength' to ghosts, which sometimes manifests as half-seen images in mirrors or so on. This is not a second being, though other infected might mistake it for one, but just a proof of the ghostwalker's extradimensional nature. Regardless of which theory you buy into, it's clear that not everyone is vulnerable to infection. Some are naturally immune, and in fact most people are unaffected. Only a few can suffer the infection; anyone else could bathe in ectoplasm for days and be fine. To date, there is no clear means of determining what causes vulnerability, but they have found ways to detect ectoplasm via their instruments.
Null Mysteriis is most focused on figuring out how the infection works, and would love to experiment on ghostwalkers. Some believe blood tests will be the key, believing that ectoplasm acts as a coagulating agent, giving the infected resilience to damage as well as resistance to poison and drugs. Blood samples would be very valuable. Generally they look for volunteers for that, or for analysis of other body parts, particularly the eyes and brain. Open Minds often believe psychology is key to the infection and may relate to altered perception and consciousness. The fact that the infected can regenerate organs after falling into a deathlike state means some Null hunters have very few ethical concerns. After all, you can remove their brain and they'll be fine the next day! Some believe it's possible to do that twicec, even, to compare scans of the current brain to the removed one! They prefer volunteers, but also ignore people bringing up the ethical concerns. They want to know why so many believe ghostwalkers are supernatural - it's clear that this whole resurrection-from-death thing and the Underworld are pure nonsense - fascinating, perhaps, from an anthropology perspective, but not scientifically.
The Union tend to assume ghostwalkers are witches, and they act accordingly. The only real difference is the whole fog-bleeding thing. The Union honestly doesn't really care to analyze threats all that much, they just handle them. Some, however, believe that, in fact, ghostwalkers are the natural step after becoming a witch. Only a few think the two things are entirely unrelated. They tend to beleive ghostwalkers are a kind of zombie animated by a sentient ghost. That explains their power and why they're drawn to hauntings. The main reason these theories arei mportant is that if they're already dead, they're often harder to kill. They do know ghostwalkers lack most of the limitations of undead like vampires. They do know that ghostwalkers often fixate on ghosts and ignore humans, and so they'll happily point a ghostwalker to a haunting if they seem likely to deal with it better than the Union can. The problem is when ghostwalkers cause even more trouble.
When that happens, the Union treats 'em like any other morally questionable monster. They're either trouble now or trouble later. The community remains their greatest weapon - everyone knows where the places and people to avoid are, and dealing with ghostwalkers properly can be dangerous to the community - especially when thy come back to life and someone else has to die for them. This makes them a general menace, but also something to fight only when you have to - and that leads to friction between Home First and the General Strike. Some General Strikers think Home First is too easy on them, giving them more chances to gather power and attack than they should. Still, both know that fighting one is a major thing. It's also a dilemma when the ghostwalkers are someone you know. Do the dead of your community deserve your protection? If they're messing with a house haunted by ghosts of loved ones, how do you deal with that? What if they're breaking their connections and trying to redeem themselves? It's a tricky subject that won't be settled any time soon. (In fact, the idea that people can handle ghosts better than the Union can lead to hurt feelings and confusion.)
Next time: Conspiracy theories.
Post 7Original SA post Mortal Remains
The Aegis Kai Doru know that while any single ghostwalker can be a huge pain to fight, as a group are they are essentially insignificant as a threat. They mess with the dead and fight among themselves. Your time, the Aegis believes, is much better spent getting rleics than dealing with them. Of course, sometimes a ghostwalker causes problems you can't ignore - say, when they seek vengeance for the dead and start being really, really indiscriminate about it. But the Aegis do understand gridges. They also know that the Fog Men have some interesting relics, but most of those are useless to normal people. Still, some, like stolen masks of the Underworld, can be quite handy, so they watch out for those. Occasionally, the Aegis will make alliance with ghostwalkers. They think that ghostwalkers tend to be myopic and obsessive, but their goals don't usually conflict. On the other hand, some Aegis folks find them really creepy or want to steal their shit. In general, however, the Aegis mostly just ignores Fog Men or tries to ally with them.
The Ascending Ones believe that the ghostwalkers can be tied to ancient Egypt, where there were men who were said to dominate society by walking alongside gods. As a result, the Ascending Ones believe the ghostwalkers may be a major threat to the world, as bad as their old foes, the newly returned mummies. In fact, they sometimes confuse the two for each other. Their information is woefully incomplete, which isn't helping. They are fixated on finding out how to affect any supernatural that can cross from dead lands to living with ease. Their resilience to drugs is legendary, and the Jagged Crescent has been testing a new drug, Death Cloud, made from the mushrooms of the Underworld. It's incredibly addictive and potentially lethal. It's also not ready for distribution - testing has shown it to have some very bad side effects, and that could definitely piss off some ghostwalkers...or other hunters. The Ascending Ones also occasionally head into the lands of the dead to get reagents for their elixirs, and sometimes ghostwalkers object to that sort of thing. Apparently they think removing just about anything from the Underworld is a bad idea.
For the most part, the Ascending Ones aren't sure how to handle ghostwalkers. They're a threat, according to the higher ups, but there's so many things out there that are much more obviously dangerous. The Jagged Crescent also like them as test subjects for Death Cloud strains. The Ascending Ones, as a result, have no real idea how to handle ghostwalkers or even how to face them, as a group. It's down to each cell to react individually. What really unites them is the need to go to the Underworld for ingredients every so often, and that means pissing off a ghostwalker or something stranger sometimes.
Cheiron finds ghostwalkers interesting - they're full of ectoplasm, can rise from the dead, see ghosts and can even detect if people have cancer. They've been trying to capture them for years, and have managed it a few times, usually with a lot of casualties. The Cheiron Group has experimented on them extensively when they have the chance, and have learned that they're practically impossible to take down without killing them, but that killing them won't permanently harm them. This has often led to disaster during harvesting. They do know that ghostwalkers don't always return in one piece, so you can't just keep harvesting the same organs. They also strongly suspect ghostwalkers can't revive themselves an unlimited number of times, though the fact that someone nearby always dies when they do makes it hard to figure out how many lives they have. Their biggest setback has been in harvesting ectoplasm. Ghostwalkers channel, contain and use it, but they've learned that the ghostwalkers do not produce ectoplasm. They're conduits. They know they can collect ectoplasm, possibly from spirits, but have confirmed that it's just impossible for them manufacture it. In fact, their autopsies, when they can do them, have shown that there are no obvious places in the body to store ectoplasm, either. Dissection won't yield anything. This is frustrating, and has forced them to shift priorities to capturing and identifying ghosts using sonar-based technologies. That might get them some ectoplasm, but they're worried about what ghostwalkers will do when they find out what's going on.
Both ghosts and ghostwalkers are high priority, and since the 70s, Cheiron has realized that ghosts often lure in ghostwalkers. If they could find or manufacture hauntings, ghostwalkers should eventually show up. Of course, their ability to talk to the dead sometimes thwarts Cheiron's efforts, but overall, they think it should work. They lack any real understanding of how the human soul works, and that is working against them. Some within Cheiron also believe that ghostwalkers should be indoctrinated and hired freelance - they're better at ghosts than hunters are, and that's useful. They could be ideal agents, but their idioscyncracy makes it a difficult thing to do, and they often lack any interest in sustained cooperation. In general, Cheiron will make offers and negotiate, but they'rem ore than willing to take down and capture.
The Lucifuge know that ghostwalkers often claim to have made deals with potent mythological figures, and that raises red flags. They're rare, but the Lucifuge have run into enough to have an opinion: ghostwalkers are fucking delusional. Their claims about getting angelic or demonic patrons are full of shit. They may think they have contracts with the divine, but they don't, and there's a lot the haunted do not know. The Lucifuge herself has met at least seven different ghostwalkers, all claiming to have bonded their souls to the archangel Michael, and not a single one of which know a goddamn thing about angels or demons. They discovered that the entities involved came from some nether world that the Lucifuge had never heard of. They're insignificant in the grand scheme of things, despite trying hard to seem otherwise, but the Underworld is an interesting place and may hold discoveries for the conspiracy. They've yet to figure out how to get there, and some wnder if it may actually be Hell - or if it isn't, if the city Pandemonium might be fictional. The ghostwalkers don't seem to know, and the Lucifuge don't actually expect them to. The Lady of Milan is doing her own investigations and may be making overtures to the haunted to get guides to the Underworld.
Lucifuge response to ghostwalkers varies, but most don't really think they're a problem unless they cause trouble. They're just weird shit that is out there, and not that important. Still, if ghostwalkers are stirring up trouble, most Lucifuge will not hesitate to intervene. They've figured out that the ghostwalkes are often directly linked to ghost activity, and if the dead are restless, often a ghostwalker is involved. Some believe that ghostwalkers could be useful in tracking Satan's unrepentant children - after all, they do tend to leave ghosts in their wake, ghosts that need to be quelled. Still, alliance with ghostwalkers if often shaky - they may be afraid of infernal power or disapprove of it. Some believe that ghostwalker claims should be taken more seriously - sure, they're not really talking to Beelzebub, but they leave themselves open to demonic manipulation, and that's dangerous. Maybe better to just take them out before that can happen. A small number have even aligned with the Malleus, believing that the difference between ghostwalkers and witches is largely academic - ghostwalkers are just a specialized type of witch and must be dealt with the same way. The Lady of Milan holds that ghostwalkers are not a major concern - they're a distraction, really, easily mistaken for actual problem monsters. If they hurt people, deal with them, of course, but they're not important.
The Malleus, as noted, are most concerned with the bargains that the ghostwalkers claim to strike. They believe this represents a deal with a demon - rather like a witch, in fact. Some of them note that the haunted sem to carry a second presence around with them, and for them, that's a clear sign of witchcraft rather than undead nature. These people are victims of a demon's control or influence. Thus, you shouldn't be fooled by their actions or appearance - what they do is because of demonic power, and they are agents of evil, no matter how benign they seem. Unfortunately, the conspiracy hasn't really determined how to exorcise that entity, and they can't figure out how to communicate with it, either. Even techniques used to banish major demons have failed. Some believe that certain ghostwalkers are not really poossessed, but can communicate with the necromantic demon they serve, and in general, all of the Malleus accepts that they are secret witches .
As with witches, ghostwalkers are a bit of a lesser focus, but still definitely a target. No special treatment, not that different than any other force of evil. They want the ghostwalkers to confess, renounce Satan and then die and stay fucking dead. They are not above torture to discover the secrets of the ghostwalkers. The problem is when a ghostwalker actually does confess - killing them as an act of mercy fails most of the time because they come back, and some of the Malleus understand that the haunted might be justified in what they are doing. That's a bit of a dilemma. When a ghostwalker identifies a slasher, what do you do? What about if they find a vampire for you? Can you use them, even temporarily? Of course, this problem is rare - they rarely run into ghostwalkers - and there is no official policy yet. Some of the Order of Saint Ambrose are convinced there must be a way to seperate the demon fro mteh host, and that ghostwalkers are victims, not witches in control of their actions. They believe their past failures are tests of faith, not mistakes. AFter all, most haunted will insist they're tied to some other entity, and may even beg for help escaping it. They keep trying, but so far lack the evidence to build a truly convincing argument. Still, most of the Malleus doesn't want to condemn potential innocents without hard proof, not while vampires are their top priority.
Task Force: VALKYRIE first ran into the Fog Men in World War 2, fighting Nazis and Soviets alike, but even then they were pretty rare. They were a threat, but never on top of the target list, and were deemed a phenomenon unique to the battlefield until the 1980s, when they ran into Fog Men on American soil. Project FORT began to encounter them more often, and trying to eliminate or contain ghosts seemed to piss them off. VALKYRIE has few ideas about the true nature of the Fog Men, and in fact the top brass aren't releasing what they do know. The dominant theory on the ground is that the Fog Men are possessed and appear only after violent deaths. Etheric Rounds seem to hurt them as if they were fully ghosts, though, so that's nice. However, the brass have advised not to use them, and apparently, some people at the highest levels think Fog Men should be left alone.
In general, the VALKYRIE response to ghostwalkers is to kill them before they can kill anyone else, and with extreme prejudice. They are always assured to consider them serious threats, but ones to handle carefully or ignore if required. They're hard to kill, you see. Despite their expertise, the brass are hesitant to order FORT to handle them - see, the brass think Fog Men can be used. They have the power to enter the Underworld, and Task Force VALKYRIE needs to test our their new Gatekeeper Devices there. Most hunters want to use those to get an edge on hunts, and the brass believes they'll let TFV target monsters at their origin point. The project has been top secret, but some ghostwalkers have begun to suspect something's up, believing the government may be trying to recreate them, but not why or how. FORT is not eager to engage the Fog Men, so they haven't noticed that some ghostwalkers are trying to infiltrate, and some have wondered if perhaps ghostwalkers are part of the natural order somehow. If they contain ghosts, why interfere? However, they mostly keep such opinions to themselves, in order to keep their funding.
We then get one example ghostwalker - Naomi Red Bird, an Oglala Sioux from South Dakota whose family died around her - her mother of cancer, her father of alcoholism, her brother of...well, just wandering off and disappearing. She herself died in a party gone wrong, burned to death. Then she came back with the Smoking Woman at her side. She still wonders why, who set the building on fire, and more. Now, she wanders the world looking for answers and occasionally helps ghosts, largely by setting fires.
Next time: MUMMIES ALIVE
Post 8Original SA post Mortal Remains
Imagine you walk by a spider's web, covered in dew, flies trapped in it. But there's no spider to be found. Where did it go? Is it hiding? Dead? If it were not for the web itself, you would never know there was a spider at all. Mummies, then, are ancient creatures - and without them, you'd never know any ancient civilization had been there. They are old beyond measure, mortals from a place millenia old, an ancient, forgotten age of Egypt. They made oaths. They made oaths and passed ancient trials to gain a power beyond death. But there was a price: the mummies must serve their ancient masters, rising from the grave to serve time and again. Time hollows them out, destroying their sense of self, their independence and even their memories. They are eternally trapped in a cycle of death and rebirth they no longer understand, if they ever really did. They cannot even recall their origins. Most, in fact, are so far gone they don't even recall that they've lost anything. Despite their age, they are creatures of the now. They plan for the future, for the inevitable passage of time, but their goals are immediate. They are incredibly focused, obsessed with whatever reason has brought them back. The more they follow that goal, the more lucid they remain. When they deviate from the plan or are derailed somehow, they become deadlier, more animalistic. They tolerate no interference or obstacles with their plans - any such obstacle must be destroyed, one way or another. Mummies are not like other monsters, hiding behind labyrinthine plots. They are spectacularly potent supernatural beings who take what they want and then return to death until the time comes to rise again.
Mummies are easily the hardest monster to identify and deal with. They're exceptionally rare, and little is known even by the most ancient conspiracies. Those who face them rarely understand their nature, and often do not live long enough to correct any mistakes. It's possible to face them, even stop them, without ever knowing what you've been up against. There are, after all, so many types of undead. It's easy to misidentify a mummy as something else. They're just too rare. But the thing about mummies is that they come back. They don't take new bodies - they just get up in the old one, good as new. They are nearly impossible to kill for good. They can be defeated, frustrated, stopped. They just can't really be destroyed. Whatever is left will regenerate eventually. They will rise from their tomb once more to serve those ancient agendas of those long-dead masters. There are hints of patterns in old records that the careful and lucky can find. They hint at something else - something old, powerful, born long ago. If you really look, you can find tales of mummies.
In the last few years, mummies have had a massive surge in activity. They operate in centuries-long cycles, and now is the peak of one of those cycles. Mummies are often absolutely terrible at dealing with modern change and technology, leaving such things to their mortal servants. Those with access to advanced technology will baffle them and be able to track them much more easily. The game suggests using mummies as a sort of end boss - they're stupidly potent, after all, and tend to have cults surrounding them that you'll have to fight long before you confront the undead monster behind it all. You might never even meet the mummy, which remains in its tomb. Mummies can take direct action, but often don't. They have agents serve their will - entirely normal people. They are deeply embedded within society on a scale of centuries, a cancer that cannot be cut out without harming the people that have risen up around their personal conspiracies. These cults act even while the mummy itself is dormant.
Cultists come in several types. Most are just dupes, never aware of what they serve. They're political activists, church members or employees who work for the company that hides the cult. They're committed, and they don't question the strange teachings of the cult - they just shrug and accept it. They are, ironically, often the most potent cultists in the mundane world - after all, you may not want the police chief in your inner circle of mummy service in case he reacts poorly, but he's in charge of the police. Those who prove loyal, committed and useful may be drawn deeper, becoming initiates who know they serve an ancient and terrible power. They enjoy the rewards they are offered for service, and they rarely advance past this. Only the deepest, closest ranks around the mummy truly know what they're doing. They may not understand the complete nature of what they serve, but they know it is an ageless force that has existed since before the dawn of history. They may be hereditary or may be extremely loyal servants, but they rarely have any of the moral qualms lower ranks might have. At best, they are amoral slaves. They have the power to raise the mummy to life, though it costs them their sanity, and they know the most intimate secret of the mummy: its tomb's location.
Mummies don't really leave their tombs very often. They like having a place to be, a focal point and an anchor in reality that remains constant across time. That is also why they build their cults. They need a place to rest and a group to guard their remains. They rely heavily on the objects they own to hold their memories and experiences, to create a narrative for themselves to replace their failing memories. The tomb is their identity as much as anything else. Sometimes they move their tombs every few generations, for safety. A tomb doesn't have to mean something buried deep underground, after all. In most cases, the tomb is a deathtrap for intruders, built to kill any before they reach the inner sanctum. And if you manage to survive that...well, a mummy is strongest in their own home, it's a nexus for their power. Mummies are more potent than practically any other monster around to begin with, too. It can decades to cover up their actions if they really cut loose, and fighting one should usually be a last resort. They aren't undead in quite the way vampires or zombies are, but are closer to dead than alive. They can command ghosts, and may well have their cultists sacrifice their own lives to raise them up as ghosts to use. They can wither, age and destroy people, land and objects. The more damage they suffer, the more inhuman they seem. They can undo that damage with time and concentration, but in combat, that's not really available. They almost always fight to the death. However, mummies lack in free will and will generally behave in predetermined ways when confronted. They aren't elaborate schemers - they have one goal, and they're gonna stick to it most of the time. It takes too much effort to turn against that. Hell, if they try, they almost always end up going back to the grave early. They avoid violence when possible, focusing more on evasion to continue their work than fighting. Fights are a distraction. But when they're forced to it...well.
It is possible to interrupt a mummy's living cycle by preventing their mission. If they deviate from their plan, their strength quickly ebbs and they weaken rapidly. Their commitment to the job is what keeps them alive, quitel iterally. Sufficient damage or frustration can also return them to the grave. They tend to believe that how they return to the grave affects their next rising - one that returns in a terrible state will rise again as a mad, animal creature. One that accomplishes its goal will rise unharmed, likely calm and with more memories. That's one of the reasons they often avoid conflict when possible. There are three ways for a mummy to return to life. At some points in history, for unknown reasons, they just wake up with some mission, without any interference or assistance. They don't always consciously understand their agendas, but their actions are defined by them, and they can sense when they're not serving their goal. Their cultists can also perform a ritual to reawaken them for a single specific purpose, which they will do their best to fulfill before returning to their sleep. And, last, mummies' tombs are full of artifacts and potent items that, when stolen, trigger the mummy's curse. Specifically, it awakens the mummy in a violent rage, and, if that doesn't keep the thief's actions from working, will have the mummy go out to seek its items.
Mummy agendas can be grouped into a few categories. They ruthlessly seek out certain objects of power. They mold the arrangment of cities into shapes and setups significant somehow to their ancient masters. They work to shape cultures into certain fashions - usually related to conflict, sacrifice and death. They devote a lot of time to supporting their own survival and that of their cults. And they fight each other in grudge matches whose causes are entirely forgotten. Ultimately, finding out what they're seeking is often futile - they don't even understand their motives well themselves, so what good does it do to you?
Next time: Compact Mummy - store in your pocket!
Post 9Original SA post Mortal Remains
Because mummies are so rare, the compacts have less direction and more 'this is an instance of this compact running into a mummy.' Ashwood Abbey's Mexico City chapter tend to think of themselves as stuck in a shithole of a city, but one with a thriving sex tourism industry that they make good money off of. Or, rather, that they did, until Santa Muerte showed up. Mexico City's had a rash of cults revering the Saint of Murder, and it seems she's somehow gotten a physical analog. The Abbey's never seen her in person, the mummy behind all these cults - indeed, they don't know for sure she's real. But they do know there are two cult factions - drug dealers who kill in her name, and middle-aged mothers and grandmothers that are cleaning up the streets and protecting children, prostitutes and others in the name of Santa Muerte. It's hard to say who the mummy backs, but the mothers are having enough success cleaning up the streets that the Abbey believes they have supernatural aid...and that's a problem, because it means revenue is drying up.
The Long Night has secretly been supporting the Lord's Imminent Return Church since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement - they were one of the first anti-segregation churches in Cleveland. In the last six months, though, the African-Americans who traditionally went to the church have been stopping coming. They won't really say where they go any more, and the Long Night suspect a monster. This time, they're right. Their congregants have been drifting to the joyless Church of the North Star, a place that's strangely hard to find, even when you know where it is. The leader is certainly a charismatic man with a strong aura of authority, but his services are confusing, lackluster and quote nonexistent scripture. A mummy is starting to build a cult.
While the Aegis Kai Doru seek artifacts, it is the Loyalists of Thule that command the New York import and export concerns, thanks to strong ties with the dockworkers and longshoremen. For forty years, they have been cataloguing shipments, occasionally intervening if dangerous antiquities are involved. (They have been foiling the Aegis for years - the two groups in New York do not get along.) However, an elderly rabbi named Levi has approached them, claiming he has found a dangerous artifact, which must be safely destroyed and its energy depleted. He's even told the Loyalists he shares their need to pay an old debt. They have no idea who he is.
The Nagoya Japanese division of Network Zero are mostly vloggers, and they've accidentally stumbled onto something big. Most of them are English teachers and immigrants who are fascinated by Japanese urban legends, and a few of them ran into a strange, traditionally-dressed Muslim woman who got hit by a car. Later, they saw her around again, perfectly fine. And again, and again. They've begun stalking her, thinking she's a ghost caught on film. Truth is, she's a mummy trying to build a life for herself and hide from some ancient enemies she can no longer truly remember. She knows and is terrified that they'll be after her, and she's even willing to work with the NetZo guys and teach them how to spot other mummies if it means an early warning against people seeking to kill her for good.
Professor Amir Ibn Youssef of the Ancient History department of Cambridge has brought a problem to his colleagues in Human Biology. They're fond of him, because he's big on history of science, but he doesn't know that they're Null Mysteriis. They don't know he's a mummy. He has a rare genetic marker, spread throughout his descendants across the world. It gives those descendants a degenerative and contagious disease, which has lain dormant for centuries but is now re-emerging. He wants them to help him find a cure - and he's becoming obsessive. He's afraid his rage will go out of control if he is stymied in his search or the issue can't be solved scientifically, and Null Mysteriis has no idea how literal he's being.
The Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia is currently engaged in a struggle with the Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology over visitors and tourism. The Academy has made a very unlucky purchase now in that conflict - an Egyptian tomb's contents, which they are reconstructing. They have no idea they've just brought in a very angry mummy. It has no idea what's going on, where it is or who's around it, and it's mad. It's been killing what it thinks are slaves and foreigners to regain its power, perhaps its sentience. The Union are not happy. It's ancient, indestructible and no matter how many times they blast it to dust, it keeps coming back. They're desperately trying to find a way to stop it for good while it keeps waking up and going on rampages by night.
Next time: People who actually know what mummies are.
Post 10Original SA post
I'm curious as to what you mean by this; I only played Ascension with the corebook. Well, I looked at some supplements occasionally, but I actually resented them. It seemed like they wanted me to memorize a college course worth of setting stuff just so I could play an assassin wizard or a mad scientist.
Well, for one, they're talking about Awakening, not Ascension.
The Aegis Kai Doru fight mummies more often than most people do. After all, they are relic thieves and tomb raiders, and mummies are obsessed with retrieving magical relics. They've, over the years, learned a few things about mummies. They awaken at unpredictable intervals, they usually work through proxies and, once angered, they become fierce and terrible foes. However, if you can just survive and hide from them long enough, they go away. Thair working theory is that either mummies are ancient humans who found a way to cheat death by harvesting relic power, or they're some quasi-alive collection tool for some other power. They haven't figured out a way to test it yet. They know mummies as 'those who return' or 'the competition.' So far, they have no idea how to destroy one permanently, but they know how to weaken them. When you face a mummy, you split your attention between crippling it physically and taking out its cultists. Distract it, and it'll start getting mad and focusing on trouble, and that slows them down from their missions. Plus, it gets rid of their cultist power base. They make a solid effort to not appear to be working together when facing mummies, to prevent the mummies from tracking the relics they ship out, usually to Greece. They also have a standing policy: if the mummy knows who you are and what you do, that mummy is your job now. You don't get promoted. You don't do anything else. Your life is that mummy. Your entire job is to watch them, weaken their cult and keep them distracted, for the rest of your life. Sure, next time the mummy gets up, it might not remember you...but the time after that? It might. And if the mummies ever found out about the Aegis' caches of relics, it'd be all-out war, something no one could cover up.
The Ascending Ones believe that the origin of the Cults of Set and the Phoenix were in fighting ancient, undying beings that controlled Egypt. Today, they tend to think these 'Returning Ones' were defeated - and so, they can actually be quite bad at identifying returning mummies. Their leadership, however, recognizes that their ancient foes exist and are rising once more. They have only now realized this might be a really major threat, though, and the Ascending Ones are slowly preparing for war.
Cheiron has noticed that they're showing up in the news more often these days, and they're not totally sure why. They've managed to spin it well and share prices are rising. They've found some kind of new market, whatever's going on. And there is a small part of the FPD handbook that outlines conditions for a hostile takeover when external companies show a particular pattern of activity, particularly involving its founders, their families and non-executive directors. It's not all good, though. Some Midwest facilities were destroyed in a freak explosion that killed two guards. The facility used to be a generations-old brewery acquired in a hostile takeover. If you were to investigate the inbcident carefully, you might notice that photos of the place look like something smashed its way out . If you could get your hands on the photos, that is, without Cheiron covering them up.
The Lucifuge know cults are a red flag, a sign of Lucifer at work and often a child of Lucifer reveling in their demonic heritage and needing to be put down. However, they sometimes run into other things. Things they don't understand that seem to control some cults. Things that usually kill them when they meet. They often tend to assume these creatures are the work of angels, or perhaps very experienced children of Lucifer. These incidents are happening slightly more often these days, for osme reason. Some of the Truth faction wonder if the Lady of Milan may be the same as these strange encounters.
The Malleus doesn't even begin to understand mummies. They know some creatures won't stay dead, of course. The problem is, mummies don't fit their theology, and they have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to force them to fit. It leaves small holes in their faith, room for doubt, and doubt can be deadly for the Malleus. Fortunately, mummies are rare enough that it's not a serious problem. Often, they mistake mummies for other types of undead...but when they do notice the pattern of death and rebirth, they often draw disturbing parallels to Christ, or do not understand why God would allow these creatures to exist, or why they parallel things like Mithras, Odin or Osiris myths.
Task Force: VALKYRIE knows that there's things out there that don't die, and there are standing protocols to contain things that fit a rather loose set of criteria. However, their guidelines are vague and often ignored, since they don't really understand mummies at all. They often don't recognize what they're dealing with. In theory, 'returners' are targeted for execution immediately, ideally for capture of their remains but always for a kill. Containment is still working on a new facility to lock these creatures down. Usually, the conspiracy will try to infiltrate mummy cults if they recognize them in time, and will go out of their way to deprogram and interrogate cultists to gather information. However, they don't go out of their wy to chase mummy rumors - they're too rare to be worth the cost.
Now, let's talk about new organizations. Specifically, Habibti Ma . In 1998, Eme Amun Hassan lost both her husband and her sons to a suicide cult, leaving her alone. After a series of lawsuits against the cult leader, local politicians and the cops that failed to stop the mass suicide, she found herself with a small fortune, but it did nothing for her pain. She prayed and meditated and, while visiting her mother-in-law, she rgained some hope after seeing old statue. Her mother-in-law told her it was Ma'at, the godderss of Justice before the coming of the Prophet, whom some still pray to for answers. In that moment, Hassan understood what she had to do with her money. She spent decades finding the best psychologists, attorneys and private security money could buy, for one purpose: disband cults and return their members to their families safely.
Habibti Ma, the organization she founded, prefers to work within the law as an anonymous party to help find and deprogram cultists. Still, they are willing to kidnap and use psychological warfare to fix the damage - they must sometimes be cruel to be kind. They are still led by the widow Hassan, and they've recently noticed an uptick in cultic behavior...and that their methods are much more effective than those of other agencies, for some reason. Habibti Ma is still young enough that they have no website or offices, and they haven't expanded much beyond their Egyptian starting point. Their target is cults and cult leaders. Desperation's not uncommon in the economically troubled Egypt of modern days, and they've begun to work with other hunters to try and figure out why there are so many cults now. Their tactics remain as they have been from the start - grounded in law and psychology. They are slowly learning about supernatural creatures that might start cults - for example, it's easier to treat vampiric blood addicts when you can identify them. Mummy cults will take further study, because they're so strange and new.
They're starting to realize that, for some reason, their techniques work best when accompanied by prayer. Even those that weren't really religious have found that calling on a human god has impacted cultists who serve the undying. No one is sure why it's so effective - perhaps the gods these mummies have long forgotten are no the same as modern religions? Perhaps targeting a cultist's faith engages primal defense mechanisms? Whatever the reason, they know these cults are working in politics and city power structures, and they've started to work to thwart those efforts. This legal battlefield is becoming a second front on which to face the enemy - they're still not all that well-acquainted with the third, physical front. They're angels of mercy, not vigilantes...for now, anyway.
Mothers Against Cult ACtivity, or MACA, are technically a PAC that raises money and awareness of cultic dangers across the world. They're a new organization, primarily concentrating in and around Egypt, and officially they have no ties to Habibti Ma, but in practice they're the political and financial wing of the compact, focusing on social skills, politics and money. The Watchers of Isfet, on the other hand, are those who lack the social skills to save people directly but have the awareness and knowledge to recognize cults at work. They are like a Neighborhood Watch, roaming the streets, scouring the papers and visiting the hospitals to find signs of cults. They tail people and watch for injustice, and more and more often they are the experts in esoteric areas that HAbibti Ma finds itself in. The Good Sons are the heavies of the organization - thugs and trained experts sent in to break up cults and kidnap cultists for deprogramming. They often work hand in hand with psychologists, and are often teamed up with other wings of the organization on their jobs - the main thing is, the Good Sons are specialists.
Status in Habibti Ma defines what access to money and influence you have. To operate efficiently, they must remain secret so that they don't become a target, y'see, so most of their resources are left only for the most trusted. At one dot, you've got access to Habibti Ma's connections and information network. You get two dots to spend on Allies or Contacts. At three dots, you've gotten to know some of the ompact's secrets and know a little about the monsters they've encountered, provided it relates to your duties. You get three dots to spend on Mentor or Allies. At five dots, you have accoess to anything you need to do your job and stop cults. You can ask for backup, loans, even mystical information if it's available. You get four dots to spend on MYstery Cult Initiation or Retainers.
The Ascending Ones : I can certainly appreciate what they do, and find it parallel to our own work, but their mantra is wrong. They are not saving the sons and daughters of Egypt. They are only stemming the tide by focusing on cults.
Ashwood Abbey : They come, often fresh from a trip to Dubai, and expect that they can lord their money about and buy whatever sordid pleasure they want. The victims of their desire are often brainwashed slaves to cults, even if they are not religious. How are these monsters not hunted like the rest?
NEtwork Zero : It's true that citizen journalists are Egypt's only hope. That said, it's strange they pay so much attention to fuzzy pictures of human monsters. What a waste of pixels. Surely there are better - bigger - threats to record and expose.
Egyptian anti-cult crusaders of justice!
Next time: Eat the
Post 11Original SA post Mortal Remains
The Faithful of Shulpae claim that as long as there have be humans, there have been gods to worship, and as long as there have been gods, they have been the followers of those gods. The first time gods took on a humanoid form and walked the earth, the Faithful were there to Feast. Their rites are passed on secretly, by verbal tradition, and there are few written records. Shulpae, the god they take their name from, is barely a historical curiosity. If they were not forced to do so, they would leave no trace of themselves whatsoever. But they exist, hunting and collected embodied gods for their Feasts. They don't think of it is abominable or profane, or even cannibalism. Humans do cannibalism to each other. They eat gods , devouring sacred flesh to unite with their deities in apotheosis. It is a holy act, no different than taking the Eucharist. Their rituals are worship, and as proof, they gain the power of the gods they commune with and consume.
The Faithful do not believe themselves to be hunting mummies or other long-lived monsters, like vampires or Prometheans. Their traditions are largely handed down along family lines, though once in aw hiel, a stranger stumbles onto their private rituals and doesn't flee in terror. They will often be welcomed to join the Feast, out of a belief that these people are drawn by fate, much as the Faithful are drawn to the gods who walk among them, unaware of their true natures. They may not understand mummies on a practical level, but they're very good at spotting them by the activity that inevitably surrounds them. In all likelihood, most mummies that meet them do not remember them at all from one life to the next - if they did, the Faithful would be hunted down to the last man. The Faithful do, however, have an intimate knowledge of what mummies can do , because they steal those powers by devouring their mummy-gods. Capturing a mummy requires understanding it, as well as, often, hitting with a truck or other large, blunt object until it stops moving. Once you manage that, it's a top priority to get the body to the local temple for the Feast - you want to chow down before the critter gets up again.
The Keepers are those of the Faithful who maintain the temples, and so they often have a lot of power within the conspiracy. They watch over the 'slumbering' gods between Feasts, maintain a calendar of Feasting and decide who gets to eat. They also often take small, personal Feasts in cases when the gods seem to be waking too quickly. The ?Keepers are a secret weapon against any that would try to destroy the temples - no one expects an old woman with a broom to have such immense divine power. The Guides, on the other hand, are recruiters. They are charming, friendly and watch for their gods and prospective members among mortals. They rarely explain what the Feast entails to new recruits - it's better that way. The Celebrants are those who partake most often, because it is their duty to risk life and limb to bring the gods to the temple. They are not all that great at the job, but any of them that dies in the line of duty is recorded forever to be remembered by generatons to come, and those who take the greatest risks eat first at the Feast.
Status in the Faithful of Shulpae is tied to how much you contribute to a Feast, and how often you partake of them. It grants access to the gods and the temples in which they are so messily worshipped. At one dot, you are an initiate, able to learn the Anthropophagy merit. At 3 dots, you are given a temple to watch over, in which gods are consumed. You get two dots to divide up as you like on Safehouse merits. At five dots, you have partaken of enough divine flesh that you manifest strange powers all your own, gaining four dots to spend on any supernatural merits you want.
The Lucifuge : Could you imagine being the child of a god and regard your lineage with shame? Oh, who cares about the politics and ethics of the god who spawned you! What matters is your closeness to the divine!
Malleus Maleficarum : They eat the flesh of pagan gods and think it's the only way to worship; they drink blood and would call what we do savage. Perhaps that is because they've never seen their god's face, and we know our god by name, and intimately.
The Cheiron Group : Make no mistake, what they do is blasphemy. You could argue the similarity of their actions to ours, and find yourself out on the street without a temple to call your own. If you see these butchers, kill them without mercy. Take any god they have captured back to safety.
The Anthropophagy endowment is...well, it is the mystic ability to absorb the immortality and abilities of the monsters that you eat. You must eat pounds of flesh - raw flesh - equal to the power (in dots) of whatever ability you want to acquire, and you have to eat it all at once. The creature need not be dead yet when you eat, though it often is. More than one person can feed off a body, but each power can only go to one person, and there needs to be enough meat for everyone. Damage to the body can reduce how many pounds of flesh are edible. And for every pound over your Stamina, you take damage, because the human body wasn't meant to process that much raw flesh. You may at any time reflexively abandon any power you have, and you can have up to (Anthropophagy) dots of powers, divided as you like, plus Revivify dots equal to your Anthropophagy, which slows your aging. Note that killing and eating people is not good for your sanity at all .
And this is what I meant when I said the Mummy developer didn't like people on his turf. Once this came out, he made a point of saying it totally wouldn't work and that's not how Mummies work at all and you can't eat them to gain their power even if you are a mystical cult of monster-eaters, and this was important.
Anyway, we also get Doctor Jess Jones, a rather potent mummy who is genderfluid and remembers having been a servant to Egyptian nobility before their death. Jess collects artifacts and history in order to try to remember their history. There is not much else to say about Jess other than that Jess is a decent person.
Next time: THEY LIVE AMONG US
Post 12Original SA post Mortal Remains
Demons live among us. They do everything we do - and they lie. They lie a lot. Everything about a demon is a lie. Their identities are stolen, their histories fake, the displays of their emotions all a facade, all pre-calculated. They are exactly what you think they are - intruders, bargain-makers, fallen angels who take over weak souls. But there's more than that. Demons are infiltrators, hiding in stolen bodies, wearing stolen lives, possessing entire structures. Anyone you know could be a demon.
Hunters know lesser demons, often by diminutives names. Imps, familiars, whisperers. They rarely have bodies of their own. They might wear mortal vessels or be imps with teeth of grinding gears. They can be found in lore, but are often overlooked. They all share one trait: they feed on vice. They want you to indulge your vice, insofar as the word 'want' really applies. Voyeurs do want it. Voyeurs are a type of demon that attaches itself to a human soul, to enjoy the thrills of the victim's mind as it destroys itself. They rarely force their hosts to do anything - they just suggest . Voyeurs lack any physical form, but some can see them as strange mechanisms lurking in the hearts or brains of their victims. They suggest, and suggest, and suggest, slowly and steadily, until at least the victim snaps and gives into their vice. Or the demon's. Or both at once. That feeds the demon. They can corrupt mortals who are innocent of any vice the demon shares, but they more often select victims who already share some of their predilections or are in a place to fulfill them.
Imps, on the other hand, are invisible lurkers in physical form. They seem to have been created to do one thing - one specific change - but somehow got disconnected from whatever spawned them, and now try to perform that task over and over. They don't really have desires so much as routines. They stalk victims, pushing them at their most vulnerable moments. Sometimes they obsess over a specific person, but their behavior isn't really emotional. They're just...stuck in a rut, really. They don't need to do what they do - they just do it. It's just what they do. They can possess people, but usually don't. This is because they do not desire to commit acts, but rather to incite them. They don't feed on cowardice - they feed on inciting fear. They don't feed on arrogance, but on causing hubris. The net effect is similar, but their influence is generally physical rather than mental. Their physical forms are appropriate to the vice they cause - a demon that causes lust might be a little black book, one that causes terror might be a black-eyed child with limbs that bend wrong and occasionally reveal internal pistons. They push, rather than tempting, and they aren't really deep cover infiltrators. They just show up, fulfill their imperative and leave again.
Devourers, on the gripping hand, want it all. They want the thrill of living, the thrill of being in a mortal body. They appear, to metaphysical senses, as a kind of phospherescent circuit lattice beneath the host's skin and a golden fire in their eyes. They don't push or tempt - they just take over and act . They are blunt instruments, often deadly ones. Outside a host, they often appear as a black mist which enters the host's body and takes it over like a puppeteer. All devourers have one goal: feel. Eat, drink, feel. They are gluttons, impulsively doing terrible things to savor the sensations. They perform crimes of strange passions, but also tend to odd ritualistic behaviors indicating some original purpose they have not quite abandoned. Devourers, each and every one, can consume human flesh and blood to empower and heal themselves. They are, at least, relatively easy to remove. No ritual - just mortify the flesh. They enjoy pain, certainly, but overloading them will drive them into ecstasy, making them unable to contain themselves in the host. They flow forth in their native form, rarely able to pull themselves together to possess another host soon. The host you beat up will be unconscious and dying, sure, but they can be stabilized.
As for greater demons? They're the ones who steal identities. They don't possess bodies here and there - they offer you a bargain and take your life when the catch comes in. They're everywhere, with strange agendas. Sometimes, they claim to be working for the greater good. They rarely, however, care about who gets in the way. They are near-perfect liars, but their stories do have common threads. The human world serves the will of the demiurge, a machine that has made Earth part of its mechanism. Many mortals serve it without ever realizing. Demons served knowingly, exulting in their divine purpose. Some say they moved among humans, carrying them closer to an apotheosis of smoke and steel. Others say the great work is over now - the world is a prison, flesh a cage to trap mortals. They want to find a Hell free of their god's influence. But if service was so glorious, why did they forsake it? Some speak of war for liberty, others of quiet falls, where they learned to appreciate the world beyond its expression of the demiurge's purpose, to love humanity for its own sake.
When asked about Hell, demons generally laugh. Hell is a place to rule. Hell may even be Earth. Hell, say the Catholics, is alienation from God - and what better thing could there be, ask the demons? They're not at war with Heaven, if you ask...and if they're willing to talk, which is rare. They may have legends of some mass insurrection in the past, but it was long ago, if it ever happened at all. Rather, demons are reality terrorists, trying to decipher and destroy the demiurge's works for a greater tomorrow. They will do anything to harm the demiurge and they want your help. Still, demons are strange when they don't need humans. They tear down institutions and build their own, and just seem to enjoy the profits. Maybe they don't want to change the world. Maybe there is no insurgency. Maybe this is Hell.
Demons are dealmakers. They can offer you anything, for part of your soul. They don't actually care about your soul, mind you. It's just the key to your identity, which is what they actually want. They covet the things that make you a person. At the easiest level, it seems harmless. Transactional, even. You want a promotion, and they'll give it to you. All they want is an old college friend. You haven't even spoken to them in years, you're only aware of them vaguely posting Tea Party rhetoric on Facebook. So you accept. But it's not enough - you're not happy, you still can't afford the life your family deserves. Not on your income, not with twins on the way. So the demon offers you more wealth. All it wants is your ex-girlfriend. She was an addict, anyway. You're better off without her, right? But when that's not enough, when the money hasn't given you any peace of mind at all...that's when the demon offers you the best deal. Oblivion. No suicide, no Hell, they promise. They'll take your soul away, that's all, keep it safe and sound and not harm it at all. And all you have to do is life your life better, with the demon behind you every step of the way. They'll give you everything you ever wanted, one last chance at happiness - and then a nice, clean break. And the best part? The worst part? It's true. Every word is true. They want a mortal life, and once they have it, they'll treat it like it was made of gold. Loved ones will be cared for. If the demon loves them less, they'll never know. If the demon is angry, they'll never show it. A real father might get depressed, but a demon never will. They'll keep up every obligation. They have to. It's part of the contract. So why don't you just sign, you sad motherfucker?
There are several kinds of greater demon. The Cryptics seem the least dangerous - they hunt for secrets, they study the world and its workings much as some hunters do. They want to know why strange things happen, and might even help you stop bad things. They'll negotiate with you for secrets, and they won't even bother forcing a soul pact on you - just a mundane deal. Be careful, though. They hate nothing more than leaving something undiscovered. Everything, everyone , for them, are tools. Libertines, on the other hand, want to have fun with the world. They're most likely to make minor pacts, stealing the nice and entertaining parts of lives for themselves. They run the secret clubs, control the secret orgy cults, start the new religions. If the mortal world must be a prison, why not remake it right under God's nose? They might be interested in helping a hunter - perhaps too interested. They tend to be wealthy and very helpful, if they think you'll be fun or rewarding...but they're dangerous, because their goal is just, well, fun. You might disrupt their operations, or those of the demiruge. They don't want that - they want to coopt God's operations, corrupt them. And any mortal that catches their eye, of course. And Demolishers? They're your most obvious ally, because what they want is to tear down the demiurge. They hate the status quo of reality, and they like violent hunters as allies. They're willing to use their magic to aid you, and they're exceptional at fighting and turning power against your foes. But they don't stop, ever. Reality is their enemy. They can make good arguments about why, and will offer you power to help them. They can give you what you need. But the price is high. How high is too high? What won't you do to change the world?
Once in a while, demons will show their true forms. Sometimes they're what you expect - a red-skinned thing out of a medieval painting. Other times, they're strange biomechanical horrors. Whatever the case, they are things that should not be, but they claim their forms were given to them by God. They can, at will, enter this Apocalyptic Form and gain access to many new powers until they revert back to their human disguises. All greater demons are also perfect liars. You can never tell when a demon is lying, not unless it wants you to or you catch it in an outright contradiction of fact. None of its tells will betray it, and it has complete control over all emotional expressions. They may or not possess true emotion. They do have perfect memories - anything they have ever seen, heard or done, they remember. Every detail. They can speak any living language, and often several dead ones. They seem to have unnaturally good luck, always getting what they need when they need it or keeping you from getting what you want.
The greatest lie a demon has is its Cover, the stolen life it wears like a cloak. It's more than physical - it comes with relationships. They don't wreck marriages - they steal them outright, and everyone remembers it like they always had it. When a demon bargains for a soul, this is what they're taking. Your life, not just your body. They can even use this power to produce items that fit the person they appear to be - a cop could just pull out a badge and gun, for example. They can also counter attempts to reveal them as anything but human. Some demons have only Partial Cover, however. They can take parts of your life, but not the whole of it. Anyone beyond immediate relationships can notice discrepancies in the story, though if the demon is aware it can paper over those with magic. But that means it has to be aware of it. And there's always one fiendish flaw, one bit of supernatural evidence that the demon can't hide. Maybe they have a glowing glyph tattoo that shows through any clothing. Maybe they drink battery acid and need it as if it were food. Maybe they can't shake hands except with their left. Maybe they speak in rhyme or cause static on TVs around them.
Some demons aren't people. They aren't one face - they're many. They don't live an apartment - they're the building. They don't corrupt a stockbroker - they're the brokerage. These are institutional demons. You can't kill them, but you can diminish their influence. They don't possess, but they mastermind grand processes. Their nature is an enigma. They may be fallen creatures that oppose the demiurge, like greater demons, or perhaps they're broken processes of creation. Some work to preserve the status quo, while others seem to be changing things. However, no matter what, they are making the world just a little bit worse, every time they succeed. They care only about their own survival, at any cost. Like greater demons, they have purposes. The Cryptics gather intelligence, tracking people and what they do, exploiting that information for strange purposes. Libertines exploit entertainment - movie studios, casinos, liqour stores - to manipulate society for some reason. And demolishers? They are institutions that crush society. They may seem useful, but their only true goal is to oppress and destroy.
Institutional demons are both the establishment and the fear of it. They are more like spirits than people, but often have immense influence over actual people. They are wrapped in layers of Cover, allowing them to give human agents some of the benefits greater demons can call on. The agents rarely notice they're being helped - they just assume they had what they needed all along, or always knew the person they had to talk to. They can't make pacts for themselves, but can make pacts to grant parts of your life to their human agents instead, though it often causes those agents to suffer identity crises.
Good news? Institutional demons aren't wholly spiritual. All of them require some sort of physical infrastructure that serves as both evidence of their existence and a body you can use powers on. Maybe there's a vast network of arcane sigils under the office carpet. Maybe the factor has entirely superfluous assembly lines that constantly make and unmake puzzle boxes. Maybe there's a clock in the maintenance door under the bridge that counts down to the next accident on the bridge. Maybe the restaurant's freezer won't open and is locked with a combination lock covered in arcane and unreadable glyphs. Maybe a mirror in the bathroom reflects the faces of those you've wronged instead of yours.
Sometimes, demons leave witnesses behind. Sometimes they stumble onto the proof of the institutional demon, or they survive the predations of a Voyeur, or they witness a manifestation of the demiurge itself. Some of those witnesses become Witnesses, granting them an uncanny intuition into the grand design, an ability to see the manipulations all around them. Further, the Witness suffers. Maybe they can't stop having visions. Maybe they have constant stigmata. Maybe they have some psychic power they can't really hide. They rarely have control over their insights without training, and often their psyche is fractured. They might worship a demon or the demiurge, or they might be compelled to seek the truth. They are very valuable allies, able to sense when greater or institutional demons are about when you can't find any proof. They commonly have supernatural powers of some kind.
Next time: Youtube reacts to demons.
Post 13Original SA post Mortal Remains
Ashwood Abbey likes demons. The greater kind are interesting to hunt - they're the greatest game, in the sense of hunting people and in the sense of espionage. Taking them down means acting like them - infiltrating their lives to find the threads on the inside you have to pull to unravel them. That's fun! That's challenging! Plus, if you have a taste for theological horror, they can tell you all kinds of stuff. Lesser demons are also popular because Ashwood Abbey enjoys being possessed. It's a thrill, to let something take over your body and engage in some vice. It feels unlike anything else. Of course, there's a lot of rumors that demons have infiltrated the Abbey itself - the more libertine demons might enjoy it quite a bit, and the Abbey are just the kind of people to sell their souls for kicks.
The Long Night are vulnerable to demonic targeting. Greater demons are really good at pretending to be people you trust - and who do you trust more than your congregation? Sure, it's not intimate, but you trust your churchmates. And you trust your church - but churches make good covers for institutional demons, as well. Demons hide in plain sight, and the Long Night is not all that good at spotting the ones that aren't the more obvious kind, like most lesser demons. Some demons approach openly, though, seeking redemption. But you can't trust them. They lie - it's their nature. How can you ever be sure they're sincere in what they ask? And can a demon ever be redeemed?
The Loyalists of Thule actually work alongside Cryptic demons relatively often. They both seek out secrets, after all. It may be years before the Loyalists realize they're dealing with someone especially weird, but at that point they will start investigating. Same if they end up running into institutional demons - it takes them a while to notice, but they eventually do, and generally they'll be investigating long before they actually understand what's going on. They notice the inconsistencies and the strangeness but don't usually associate them with demons until far later. Demons, they know, must be destroyed and defeated. Even if they're useful. Perhaps especially if they're useful. The Loyalists are especially good at turning a demon's human life into a trap for it, using their own mortal interactions as snares. They know that demons will promise anything - and deliver. They know that demons are amazing con artists...but they can use that. They'll take what's offered. They'll take everything that's offered and use it, and prepare themselves. Once the demon makes the final offer, for the Loyalist's life? They'll take that, too, and the demon will find a trap waiting. The Loyalists are more than willing to turn their own lives into minefields if it'll take down a demon.
Network Zero, obviously, want to film a demon as it reveals its apocalyptic form. So far, no dice, but it will. Hell, there are possibles already. It's not that hard to pull off. The real question is, what will they do with it? Some want to keep it around and show people. Some want to make databases of demons - they have no special magic protecting their faces, and once they track down enough, they can reveal them all to the world. And others? They're terrified. They think demons are behind everything, behind all the takedowns of videos, the discrediting, everything.
Null Mysteriis know that sometimes, someone will undergo what they call 'aberrant psychology,' a sudedn change in personality and behavior accompanied by strange events. They don't like the phrase 'demonic possession.' Most of what they know about are lesser demons, as there is just such little evidence and information about greater and institutional demons. The Rationalists want lab conditions for testing and that's just not possible, really. They agree, yes, that something is up, but not on what, or even that it's all a single problem. That's actually fairly accurate - demons are highly individualistic. The Cataclysmicists have a more terrifying idea - they look at all the events the others gather and they see evidence of intention there. They believe this could be an invasion. There may be, in fact, some grand machine orchestrating events or opposing this wave of behavior. Some of these 'demons' seem to work in concert. Others don't. A war could be coming, and they don't even know what the sides are. They want to find out.
At the core of it, the Union just wants to guard their own patch, but demons are tough. How do you fight voices in someone's head? How do you deal with something that turns your people against you? When your neighbors aren't your neighbors any more...well, business has to be taken care of. But there's no easy answers. Especially when some of the stuff those demons say makes sense. The world really does often seem to be made to oppress people, and they say that's intentional. Makes it all seem like fighting that is a good idea...but that man in the flash suit, with the strange eyes, he's telling you for his own reasons and you know that. But still...he's told you a lot of the banks and agencies out there are themselves monsters, controlling the people inside them. And that's terrifying. It makes sense. Sometimes, weird shit happens to people when they get involved. It's hard to tell what side people are on. But these things need dealing with, no matter if their agents are people or strange machine angels. It doesn't matter if it's one machine or many, if any parts understand the whole. These things are thieves , and need fighting.
The Aegis Kai Doru use a different word than 'demiurge.' They use a name: God-Machine. Over 2000 years ago, you see, astronomers in Corinth found a wondrous device. Perhaps they were Aegis men. But whatever they were, they made a deal with the devil Machine. They made a device not just to predict the stars, but to control them. They learned the secrets of the heavens that they might once again become sorcerers. Eventually, the Aegis recognized the threat, but it was too late. The device was made, then loaded into a ship bound for an impregnable fortress. The Aegis hired pirates to ambush the ship between Crete and Pelopennese, intending to capture the mechanism and the scholars who made it, perhaps find value there. However, the captain of the ship sank it himself, though none can say truly why. But that is why the Aegis know the God-Machine, and they have recovered parts of the device over the course of the 20th century. They still aren't entirely sure what it would do, if activated. They are wary, because they suspect other artifacts are tied to it. They believe this God-Machine may be a link between the supernal and material worlds. They think the device might become a tool to fight witches with.
The Aegis possess the Heart of the Succubus (2 dots), an artifact given to a Witness by a demon in 1453. The Witness, an Orthodox priest in Constantinople, was alive when Sultan Mehmed II converted the Hagia Sophia to a mosque. The demon chose to take the priest's place in sacrificing himself to protect the church. As she lay dying, the demon asked the priest to cut out her heart, but what he found was a remarkable mechanism. The priest died only three years later, but he sold the heart to a trader, whose family buried it with him a few years after that. Rumors spread, and the Aegis retrieved the thing. It was in 1593 that they discovered its purpose, or at least a practical use for it. The Heart is a round, bronze object the size of a man's palm, resembling a modern compass quite well. It is incredibly intricate. Each time the needle shifts, gears start clicking, causing tiny figurines to move along the sides of the dial. The figures appear to be reenacting the punishment of sinners in Hell. The Heart can detect demons despite their Cover, though it takes skill to use, as the needle swings wildly while it's in use.
The Ascending Ones tend towards syncretism, and none of them can agree on what demons really are or how to deal with them. The Order of the Southern Temple aren't even certain they're demons - they rarely respond to true names and can't be summoned by medieval rites. They may follow pop cultural accounts of demonic activity, but they don't obey rules , and rules are what define the celestial hierarchy. They do, however, make bargains, and they do fit a sort of gnostic mythology that many Order members have other reasons to believe in, so perhaps they are worth learning from, as Solomon learned from the devil. The Knife of Solomon are certain demons aren't actual demons - but that doesn't matter, because they are enemies of God, for they served the demiurge, which is nothing but the physical enemy of pure spirit. Their very existence mocks the spiritual alchemy of the Ascended. The Jagged Crescent are more practical. They're on ground zero for a lot of demonic infiltrations, they've seen what demons can do. They also know that the demons have immensely long reach, that they can be anywhere and everywhere, and that to deal with them, they will need allies.
Occasionally, the corpses of greater demons or the mechanisms of institutional demons leave a thick sludge that smells of brimstone. The Ascending Ones use this to make Liar Pills (1 dot). Taken straight, it makes you relive your most horrific emotional reactions for 24 hours, leaving you utterly unrestrained to the point of violence. When the Ascending Ones combine it with alchemical reagents, though, they make little blue caplets give you the full and total control of your emotional responses that most demons have. You still feel emotions as normal, but you need not show anything you don't want to.
Cheiron has, rather to its surprise, found that another pharmaceutical company, Luminous Labs, is already working on the 'demon problem.' Any and all kinds of demon. Naturally, Cheiron tried to buy them out, but they turned out to be owned by the much larger Deva Corporation, which is more than affluent enough to laugh at any offers. So, Cheiron agents on demonic missions must both retrieve subjects and deny them to Luminous Labs...and Luminous tends to be armed with technology superior even to VALKYRIE. Cheiron can tentatively ID possession patterns of lesser and greater demons, and know that greater demons can take over human lives. (In fact, it's been done to Cheiron agents before. Oops.) Institutional demons and those greater demons who live a life for very long periods are outside their area of expertise, but they're getting better at finding them. Great demon identities are often incomplete, and Cheiron's been bringing in outside IT experts to help reveal them. Ideally, analysis of public records alone would be enough, but for now they're mostly just able to pick one out of a crowd of potential suspects. They're not totally sure what to do with them, though. Obviously, Apocalyptic Forms are the grail here, but stimulating those transformations is very difficult, as demonic psychology is nearly impossible to determine due to their control of emotional responses. They do their best with experiments, locking demons in facilities where they have limited freedom of action but are still within defined limits. The theory is, demons will recognize they're being spied on, but not by whom, and in their paranoia they will reveal what they fear, or will transform to escape. The facilities often resemble small resort towns, full ob observers. Very 'The Prisoner.' One of these 'open facilities' is on the French coastline and has several subjects under surveillence, all of whom as yet have not identified the others.
The Lucifuge, of course, know from demons. Odd, then, that they aren't always foes. Most Lucifuge recognize that the real threat is angels. They come from somewhere else, serve a higher power and have no clear purpose. No Lucifuge walks away from an angel unchanged, and not always alive, either. This is terrifying for them. The know more of angels and demons than anyone else, and record everything they learn. They know angels come in several types and suspect that some serve different gods or different aspects of God. They always seem to be in the world for a purpose or mission, never just to hang out. Angels also build. The Lucifuge have identified institutional demons in service to Heaven, if Heaven exists. Angels make them sometimes. The problem is, the Lucifuge isn't entirely sure they serve God - or that God is real. The Devil does not imply God. Greater demons often agree, claiming there is no God but the Machine, that angels are no allies to humanity. Some of the Lucifuge believe this God is, in fact, the Devil and their ultimate source. This demiurge hypothesis is hotly debated. Those who accept it claim that Hell is, in fact, Earth, and the eternal war is one to make a Heaven of Hell. For some the argument is largely academic - you do the job, you fight evil, regardless of what it looks like. It doesn't matter how it shines - it's still a creature of darkness. Others have a more complex view, believing that some demons can be redeemed. (Typically, these do not accept the demiurge hypothesis.) Greater demons often find this idea horrifying when first presented, but some grow to accept it, or even to believe that there is some greater God out there than the one they Fell from. Others accept that the Machine does some good and want to return to its service. And some believe they can redeem the demiurge itself. None can say if any demons have ever been redeemed this way - some vanish, yes, but none can say what happened to them. The redemption of the God-Machine is also debated among the Lucifuge that accept the demiurge hypothesis. You can't just get rid of it, but if you could somehow access its consciousness, you might be able to use it to fix the world. Others say that, assuming the demiurge hypothesis is so, and demons can be trusted...why hasn't the Lady of Milan announced it? Why owuld she conceal the God-Machine? Does she serve it and have them hunting its flaws and errors? Are they actually serving something evil?
Greater demons wrap themselves in lies, but the Lucifuge may call on their power to Rebuke Lies. When used, this forces a piece of equipment or evidence manufactured by Cover to appear wispy and ephemeral, or a person talking about a manufactured relationship finds their voice staticky. The evidence can be destroyed in a burst of smoke and flame, relationships can be forced to be forgotten for a time. This can even be used offensively - blow up a demonic cop's produced gun or body armor.
The Malleus know of many kinds of demon - lesser imps, greater demons, even institutional ones that perpetuate the Culture of Death. The Brotherhood of Saint Athanasius, of course, want to bomb 'em all, but it's not quite so simple. The world would never accept the Malleus if they knew about it, and compromise is sometimes required. Plus, the Malleus is only part of the Church. They don't drive policy. Pope Benedict slashed their budgets, viewing even the physical and spiritual threats of monsters less important than worldwide harmony. Pope Francis? Even worse. He says yes, hunt the monsters, but hunt the monsters that exploit the powerless. If demons fight you with banks and politics, you don't use fire and blades. You turn people against them. Rekindle faith as your weapon. If you must use violence, use it only on the violent. Subtle corruption is to be fought by unsubtle beneficence, showing people the love of God and His grace. And so, now, the Malleus finds itself fighting a new kind of war. The Pope wants them to destabilize Satan's works as well as fight him directly. This could actually be a good thing - the Church is quite good at being a financial and political braintrust more than a military one. The Malleus can subtly draw on those resources to root out demonic corruption, because, as Pope Francis says, if demons want souls, show people where souls truly belong.
Task Force: VALKYRIE is aware that some ENEs oppose a vast machine rooted in reality. Suspects they've captured say it's malevolent, but that's not necessarily so. The ENEs say the God-Machine is at fault for the sorry state of the world, but a lot of VALKYRIE agents see it differently. They prefer to believe the world is a fundamentally good place, where monsters might exist but hunters protect people. Sure, it sucks when people get hurt, but what matters is the USA is he;ping people. The ENEs are denying that good the establishment does. They commit acts of terrorism against anything and everything. They view the world itself as malignant. They must be stopped. VALKYRIE is also aware now of strange spiritual entities that can possess organizations - perhaps demons possessing terror cells. The possibilities are frightening, and the hardest part is convincing people it's happening.
Next time: Bitcoin vs Demons
Post 14Original SA post Mortal Remains
The problem, you understand, isn't vampires manipulating people or werewolves eating them. The problem is the system that allows these things to happen. The problem is the hierarchy we're born into, that we are expected to perpetuate. We must reform society by disrupting it. We must disrupt. That is the message of Utopia Now . Monsters are the symptom of a societal disease, a disease that has infected us to the core. We need a new order. The government as we know it - all of it - is outdated. New technology can free us from those restraints and build communities independent of traditional nation-states. Of course, the tech isn't all complete yet. Utopia Now has to develop it first. But they can salvage it from the festering wounds of our society.
Utopia Now was founded by a Witness, William Horn, who saw the demonic forces controlling the ailing tech company he worked for. He discovered the existence of institutional demons and decided that he had to build a world free of them. He went back to school, getting a PhD and recruiting his fellow students to form a mobile app startup, found venture capitalists and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Now, Horn is a respected Pacific Heights billionaire. Charities seek him out, but Horn does not believe in charity. He thinks you must earn your place. His master plan involves the construction of a floating town off the California coastline, a network of boats that will become a city. This utopia will be built on self-governance and self-sufficiency. He will 3D-print the goods he requires...but the problem is, these communities can't be truly self-sufficient yet. Power has to come from somewhere, and medical infrastructure is another problem. That's where the other part of the plan comes in: find institutional demons, exorcise them and scavenge their infrastructure for the processors, reactors and other technomystical secrets they hold. He might even find a way to dismantle and use their odd conceptual powers. It'd be really handy to draw prosperity off a greed demon, after all...the point is, you take the parts of the old system you need and discard everything else. Disrupt everything. Utopia Now, his company, recruits only can-do achievers - not necessarily his fellow entrepreneurs and engineers, but people he wouldn't mind living in his new utopia. Self-starters.
Utopia Now prefers not to talk about enemies. They prefer bloodless terms - targets. Subjects. Things that let them ignore that they're killing living things. They do know what their targets are, however: institutional demons embedded in a sick society, the creatures that embody bureaucracy, welfare and the military-industrial complex. These demons use humans and theire sense of entitlement to gorge on sorrows, creating needs to fulfill. A real society won't need them. However, greater demons are a giant blind spot. They're enough like institutional demons that their goals aren't always easy to distinguish, but Utopia Now's detection protocols analyze trends on too high a level to usually pick them out. They know that lesser demons exist, repeating tasks forever, but since they're almost never useful for parts they're mostly ignored. Occasionally, Utopia Now will run across other parasites in the system - vampires, werewolves, fairies. They aren't the real problem, but Utopia Now is happy to take them out and see if they can be stripped for useful technology.
The Cure are the department that do the really dirty jobs. They make sure the parasites that the old system uses can't find their way into the new system. They're the most traditional hunters - occult scavengers and monster killers. The Operators do the footwork to track down institutional demons for Horn to dissect. They analyze financies, police blotters and news agencies to identify demons, then eliminate them with business acumen (to break the institutions) and exorcism (to get rid of the rest), then take apart the physical components and ship them back to Silicon Valley. The Incubators take charge of things there, examining the occult patterns institutional demons are built on to see if they can be rearranged in better ways. They take the reactor that runs on blood, say, and try to figure out if they can make it boot on artificial plasma.
Status in Utopia Now is equal parts being a true believer and delivering. In theory, you're expected to excel in your field. In practice, it's a startup, and strong will is just as useful for promotion as actual talent. One dot means you're a new hire - a specialist of some kind but without much experience. You get a free Specialty. At three dots, you're a rising star and get Horn or some other member as a two dot Mentor. At five dots, you bring something unique to the table and are given tools to act on threats. You get a four dot Retainer or four dots of Allies.
Ashwood Abbey : These guys know how to party, but they miss the point. You celebrate success when you accomplish something worthwhile or land a new investor, not just because you found some exotic monster to eat.
Loyalists of Thule : Everything we're fighting against. They set into motion the monstrous engines of the twentieth century. Whatever knowledge they might have, is it worth even speaking to the architects of the very past we want to erase?
The Cheiron Group : You hear about these suits sometimes. Big players in biotech, rumors that they're after the same targets as us. But they're not about changing things. They're about lining their own pockets with the existing system - the one we've sworn to tear down.
The Union : On the one hand, you've got to admire their gumptuon. They take matters into their own hands, and they get shit done. On the other hand, our ideological divide's right there in the name. "Union." We want a future where everyone works for honest dollars (or better yet, crypto-currency). The Union thinks the world owes them warmth and security.
The Knights of Saint Adrian are a blunt instrument. Demons are out there, consuming innocent souls, and there's not enough angels out there to stop them. The angels need to contract out to folks who can stand against the forces of Hell and beat them back. Casey Howard, their founder, was a skip tracer in the 90s. She was good at it, and built like a fire truck with the patience of a Zen monk, at home both chasing bail jumpers and doing paperwork. However, she got her arm broke in a surfing accident, didn't go to the doctor fast enough, and it healed wrong. She just couldn't use it the same any more. Her employers were understanding, keeping her on desk duty after that, but even her patience started to wear thing, day in and day out without kicking ass. One day during lunch, a stranger in a bar offered her a chance. All he wanted was her memories of a friend she'd had after she left the Army. She turned him down - no way does bargaining your memories sound like a good idea. But what made it weird? AA week later she met another stranger in that bar. He wanted to know about the first guy, and she recognized the kinds of questions he asked. She wanted to know if the guy was a con man, maybe, or a thief. But no - no, it was simpler than that. The guy had been an enemy of God. The stranger wanted to know if Casey could track him down, and she agreed, but said someone else would have to do the fighting, thanks to her arm. And that's when the angel healed her, no strings attached.
The angel's made good. Eight years later, not only does Casey's arm work better than it ever has, but she has her own business. On paper, Howard Investigative Services hires out brain and muscle to bail bondsmen. On the road, though, they're the Knights of Saint Adrian, the patron of guards and soldiers. They do the Lord's work, hunting down the devil and earning a hefty commission for it. They're tough folkjs, thanks to the angelic tattoos they have. They're a close-knit band of bounty hunters facing God's fugitives.
Everyone gets the speech. The enemies are demons, fallen angels that scoop out the soul to possess a human life. They offer deals and bargains, but end of the day? They're monsters. Some start cults, some run companies, but they all corrupt people into the devil's work, whittling away at their souls. Now, the Knights aren't religious. Casey's Christian, sure, but that's not the point. The point is, by the end your first or second hunt, you will have seen something out of Hell, and you'll have iced it or taken it in. Capture or kill depends on the contract. Casey speaks to the client herself, and hands out the instructions, which are apt to be bizarre. Sometimes you drop a demon at a warehouse where a man in a lab coat with no pupils takes him. Sometimes you drop one at a cryonics facility, or the back of an abandoned church. You never know where you're going next or what your target will be pretending to be. It doesn't matter, though. You've seen the truth, and there's no way back from that.
The Dispatchers handle the logistics. They give out assignments and also provide services like actual bounty hunting jobs to use as cover. The Hounds handle most of the fieldwork, whether that means taking their way onto private property or shooting out with demons. Demons never go quiet, you understand. And the Deliverers? They take care of whatever esoteric handling requirements are needed to keep a captive demon captive, as well as the strange ways and places the client asks them to be handed over.
Status in the Knights is pretty informal. It represents how clued in you are at home office and how the hunt is going. At one dot, you're a new hire, doing the grunt work. But hey, you have access to the Ink merit. At three dots, you've taken down a few demons. You know what you're up against and have some contacts. You get two dots of Contacts. At five dots, you're Casey's core crew and have worked with her personally. She'll even use the client's name in front of you. You have a company card, letting you get 3 dots of Resources or a 3 dot Retainer, as long as you can justify your spending.
The Union : Say what you will about these guys, but they're regular folks like you and I. Most of them are just looking out for their own neighborhoods and they're just as happy to have some professionals lend a hand.
The Lucifuge : Sons of Satan? These things can have kids? Sign the paperwork and I'll get right on that.
Malleus Maleficarum : Makes sense that the Church proper would have a branch doing the same job as us. Funny how they spend most of their time chasing vampires, though.
Task Force: VALKYRIE : Likewise, of course the spooks know about the devil. The damn government never met a secret it didn't want to cover up.
Next time: Ink.
Post 15Original SA post
An institutional demon is...well, it's basically a God-Machine installation. It is a supernatural
place or institution
which controls the people within it to accomplish some end, often one that makes little sense but makes the world just a little bit worse.
Ink is what the angel who fixed Casey's arm used. It was a magic tattoo that healed her. It looks a little arcane, a little high tech, and the angel keeps coming back to outfit Saint Adrian hunters with new Ink. You get tattoos equal to your Ink dots, and you can raise Ink as high as you want, but overlapping tats look really tacky. While not in use, Ink resembles a normal tattoo, and actually fades faster than most. When active, they don't quite glow, but give the impression of bioluminescence by how they catch the light. So, what Ink is available?
Well, there's Bear Mace. It's on the flat of your palms and makes them glow faintly when it's active. Bear Mace is pretty nasty - see, when you have this tat, you can activate it to make your unarmed attacks deal terrible, crippling pain, enough to stun anyone you hit...but it only affects supernatural creatures, including people possessed by lesser demons. Sure, decking a guy isn't the subtlest monster test, but hey! It works. However, you can only use it (Ink dots) times per scene, due to the vast draw of angelic energy it requires, and it's not compatible with the Fist of Revelation.
Brother Road is a tattoo that lets you read the road, ask it questions. It's subtler than most Ink in that way. When activated, you can ask the road whether any person or creature you know has been that way recently, what unusual things have happened in the past 24 hours, who witnessed something they haven't told anybody about or who last died in the general area.
The Fist of Revelation is a tattoo that lets you remove magical disguises. (But only from greater demons.) With your fist. Whenever you hit with an unarmed attack, you can activate it to cause any greater demon you just hit to be immediately forced into their Apocalyptic Form and become unable to revert for a while. Plus, you knock them down! You can use it whenever you want, but can't combo it with Bear Mace.
King of the Road links you to your vehicle. The tattoo is always in the shape of the vehicle you're linked to, so you want something cool. You also have to pain the vehicle specially, but you can cover that with another paint job after. Once you have it set up? You will never lose that car. Doesn't matter what you do to it. Drive it into a lake? That's fine. Get it blown the fuck up? Sure. Lose it somewhere? That's okay. No matter what, within 24 hours it will show up utterly unharmed in a parking area you visit. Always the exact same car - not a type of car, that one car, the one you linked yourself to. (Or truck, or bike. Whatever.)
The Lord Provides means you don't have to keep track of your bullets. You tattoo a specific model of gun on your body. When using any gun of that model, you have infinite ammunition. It's mundane ammo, you still have to reload, but you always have ammo.
LOVE/HATE is not the classiest tattoo. You get LOVE and HATE tattooed across your knuckles, after all. But when you shake hands with your right hand, you can sense whether someone is trustworthy. And your left hand deals lethal damage instead of bashing.
Pain Magnet is a tat that lets you be hurt for others. You can just pick a buddy and whenever they would get hurt, it gets dealt to you this scene. You must be in the same general area as them for it to work, generally close enough to be part of the same fight. How it looks when you get wounded this way varies with every hunter. And once you get hurt enough, it stops working.
Tough As The Last Guy helps you draw on the strength of your enemies. It takes the form of angelic script around the biceps and a mark on the back of the neck. After any fight in which you faced someone with higher Strength, Dexterity, Brawl, Firearms or Weaponry than you, you can activate it to store those dots for later - even if the dots were only gained temporarily by your enemy. At any later time, you can activate them, replacing your own skill or attribute with the stored dots for a scene. You can only store one attribute or skill at a time, and each storage only gets one use. So be careful with it.
After that, we just get some new powers and the rough and unskilled port of old Hunter stuff. So...that's Hunter.
I picked up a pair of interesting games at Origins. Are folks more interested in learning about Through the Breach, the Malifaux RPG of steampunk card games, or Hellas, a game that seems to use a Talislanta-based system to do ancient Greek myth in space.