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Thursday, 13th November, 2008, 11:39 AM #341
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 6 – Smelly Cat
Hammer dragged Ko back with him, eyes tearing, and fired his Glock wildly into the thick black cloud.
There was the whistle of crossbow bolts. A shooting pain in his shoulder made Hammer realize he'd been hit.
He backed towards an elevator with a black and yellow striped border. A bright red button titled UP was next to it. He hit it with his elbow, and sprayed bullets into the cloud. He could only hope Jim-Bean had gotten out of the way.
The elevator opened and Hammer dragged Ko into it. As the doors began to close, something bizarre half-hopped out of the swirling black smoke. It looked like a horned toad, but it was easily the size of a man. Its sticky flesh was covered in a black and white pattern that was wholly unnatural. But the color did remind him of something…
The elevator closed just as the thing reached the door. It began the journey upwards to the roof.
Hammer noticed that Ko's temperature had risen considerably. The man was sweating. "Bhzang," he gasped.
Hammer pushed him against the wall. A bolt was stuck in the man's shoulder. "Some security," he said, gripping the bolt. "They're doing my job for me."
He yanked it out. Ko screamed, but it was a weak, delirious cry.
Hammer realized a bolt was sticking out of his own shoulder. He pulled it out; there was a smeared white paste on the tip. Poison.
"Huh." Archive's mumbo-jumbo really did work. "Tell me where you get your drugs."
"Wha?" asked Ko, delirious.
"Your drugs. You get them from somewhere. You're manufacturing Blink. I know you manufacture it here. But there's an ingredient that only you know. What is it?"
"Mother's Milk?" Ko asked a space a foot to the left of Hammer's head. "She provides all. She is the one source of all life…" Ko slumped to the ground, unconscious.
Before Hammer could say more, the sound of many skittering claws clattered along the outside of the elevator.
"What the hell is that?" asked Hammer.
The escape hatch above the elevator shuttered. Hammer dragged Ko out of the way as it tore open and an insectoid face in the shape of blasphemous parody of a human skull poked through. It hissed, venomous drool dripping from the lip-mandibles, rearing back as it took a deep breath…
Hammer fired both Glocks into its face.
The head flinched but didn't stop the exhalation of black smoke. The door dinged and suddenly fresh air was shrieking around them from outside. Hammer dove out.
The elevator doors closed behind him with a soft "ding" that belied the monstrosity within.
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Friday, 14th November, 2008, 12:43 PM #342
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 7 – Do You Expect Me to Talk?
Jim-Bean woke up with the wind shrieking all around him. Was it one of those dreams where he was flying? He remembered black smoke, and then…
He looked down a dizzying thirty-eight stories to the ground below. Vice-like grips held his wrists and ankles.
"Magic," sneered Mihn. He held up Jim-Bean's left hand where Archive had stamped him. "It protected him from the Bhzang. But no protection from poison can save you from Jiang's bad breath. "
That got a laugh from the other security guards, who were dangling him out the window. Jim-Bean got a glimpse of his duffel bag, which was sitting near the window to his right.
Mihn slapped his face. “Pay attention!” He was hunched over Jim-Bean, holding his neck in a stranglehold. "Who sent you?"
Jim-Bean swallowed. He was screwed. Hammer had either fled or died in the fighting. Whatever spat the black gunk that even now still coated his lungs was somewhere behind him. Jim-Bean had survived some impressive wounds, but there was no way he could survive a fall from that height. It was only thanks to Archive's magic that he had survived at all…
That was it! What was it he had learned in Flagitious Fragments? He tried to focus.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Focus! He couldn't do it, his focus was slipping. The wind was whipping in his face, the Tcho-tchos were bruising his wrists and ankles, and he really had to pee.
Mihn tightened his grip on Jim-Bean's throat. "You're tough. Most people don't wake up from a meeting with Jiang. But can you fly?"
He remembered Lucinda Ennis. The girl had ignited a matchbook with mere thought alone.
"I…can't…fly," said Jim-Bean, straining. There was a pop from the duffel bag. "Can you?"
Tear gas exploded around them. Jim-Bean dropped to the ground as the other Tcho-tchos lost their grip. Mihn clung to Jim-Bean’s neck, coughing and wheezing.
On his hands and knees, Jim-Bean shifted his weight forward. Blinded and stunned from the tear gas, Mihn went sailing out the window. He screamed all the way down.
Jim-Bean grabbed his duffel bag and headed for the steps down past the glass doors.
The techs looked up at him, curious but unwilling to get involved. After all, he didn't seem threatening.
At the other end of the wide room, the elevator dinged. The doors opened and closed long enough for Jim-Bean to get a glimpse of Ko, slumped in one corner of the elevator. They closed before he could reach it.
Reaching into his bag, Jim-Bean pulled out a utility tool. Then he slowly wrenched the elevator doors open.
The techs looked on nervously.
Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Jim-Bean placed thick gloves over both hands. With a short hop, he grabbed hold of the elevator cables that were slowly winching upwards.
Xian, noticing his return, walked over to Jim-Bean. "What are you doing? You can't do—"
Jim-bean winked at her. Then he put his SIG to the cable and fired.
Saturday, 15th November, 2008, 01:33 PM #343
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 8 – Die Hardly
Hammer looked around in desperation. Security would be on the roof any second and there was nowhere left to go.
Fortunately, someone had conveniently left a mini-copter on the roof. He suspected it was for Ko, and that his original plans were to escape that way. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to fly a chopper.
Hammer considered struggling with the controls. If he tied it to the roof and got the rotors going, maybe he could crash it into the building…
That was too ridiculous, even for him. Instead, Hammer pulled a knife out of his boot and stabbed the gas tank.
Gas spilled all along the roof. Looking about, Hammer spotted a fire hose and unspooled it. He tied it around his waist. If it worked for Bruce Willis, it might work for him…
Hammer lit a match and tossed it onto the spreading pool of gas. Then he dove over the side of the Equitech building.
The tough rubber of the hose shrieked as it slithered over the edge of the building's roof. Hammer prayed it would hold.
And then it did. It was like someone had wrenched him in half. Hammer realized what a stupid idea his plan was as the explosion above him set off a shockwave, which was counterbalanced by the hideous winds at over forty stories up.
He spun around like a rag doll on a string, and for a moment all he could do was just keep his arms and hands out and hope he wasn't going to hit anything hard.
To his surprise, he flew through an open window.
There was no such thing as an open window in a skyscraper. Someone had broken the window before Hammer got there.
The hose caught the edge of the window and hurled Hammer up towards the ceiling. He bounced off of it with his feet, but the momentum was surely going to drag him straight back out into the abyss…
He hit something soft that grunted, followed by a distant scream. Hammer landed on his feet and quickly undid the hose around his waist. Guards were lying on the floor, coughing and wheezing.
Hammer guessed what had stopped his fall was another security guard who had stumbled to his feet. He didn't bother to look out the window.
He raced to the top of the stairs, only to see Dawn Biozyme’s security lined up with pistols at the bottom. Hammer didn't stop his stride as he flipped himself up and over, firing both Glocks downwards.
Some guards were hit. Most of them were still firing at the top of the steps. Hammer landed behind them and plunged through the door.
Then the fire alarm went off and sprinklers descended from the ceiling. Techs, already on edge, broke out into screams and dove for cover.
Hammer balked at the elevator. Someone had wedge it open and cut the cables.
Cursing Jim-Bean under his breath, he headed for the stairs.
Sunday, 16th November, 2008, 12:47 PM #344
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 9 – Going Down?
The air whistled past Jim-Bean as he flew down the elevator shaft. The odds of him landing on the elevator without reaching terminal velocity were looking increasingly slim.
He became aware of a distant clatter, like thousands of hammers punching into metal, above him. When he looked up, he caught sight of a black-and-white centipede-like thing with a human face.
The thing was climbing downwards at a terrific rate, spiraling the entire length of the shaft as it sought to keep up with Jim-Bean's descent. The horrible face paced him, clicking and growling. Jim-Bean couldn't reach his gun; it was all he could do to hold onto the cable.
Jim-Bean let go. He was close enough. The elevator had stopped when he snapped the cable.
He missed the emergency door and slammed into the roof of the elevator. Ribs cracked. Temporarily stunned, Jim-Bean could only think of what the centipede-thing was going to do when it caught up with him.
To his surprise, it slithered past him through the door.
Gritting his teeth to focus through the pain, Jim-Bean drew his pistol and peered down into the elevator.
He caught sight of Ko's feet being dragged out through the elevator doors.
"What the hell…" said Jim-Bean to himself. Was that thing actually trying to SAVE Ko?
He hopped into the elevator after it. When he turned the corner into another office hallway, the second elevator had just opened and closed nearby.
"Hey guys?" asked Mung I Peng, who had just stepped out of the elevator. "Has anyone seen my badge?"
Jim-Bean handed him his badge. "You dropped this."
Jim-Bean ran for the stairs.
Monday, 17th November, 2008, 12:25 PM #345
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
An Outbreak of Alchemy: Conclusion
Archive dreamed.A scream. Archive was torn out of his reverie. He awoke, drenched in sweat, in the car. A car alarm was going off nearby.He saw the All-Mother, her teats providing nutrients to all. Scientists in lab coats had great milking machines hooked up to her, and the milk flowed. It was disgraceful, to treat the All-Mother like a common cow. And yet, it was so right.
He dreamed of feasting on flesh; sweet, succulent flesh. The flesh of long pork. Someone offered him a hunk of meat on a plate. It was a human hand. Delicious.
The fingers were fried. He took a bit of the pinky and savored the taste. It crunched between his teeth.
Archive looked out the window. The man had exploded from the impact, totaling the car. A few seconds later, another man fell, and this time he didn't hit a car.
People were running and screaming. Sirens wailed.
"Archive!" shouted Hammer's voice from somewhere. "ARCHIVE!"
Archive fumbled for his cistron. His fingers felt like dead sausages. "Yes?"
"There's an older man walking out of the building." Ko's image flashed on the cistron screen. "Stop him!"
Archive pulled down the window. Sure enough, a man matching the picture was walking out of the Equitech building holding a small black and white cat. A limo screeched up beside the car.
Archive discovered his pistol was still in his hand. He lowered the window and took aim.
Someone opened the door and Ko got in, oblivious to the pistol aimed at his back.
The cat hissed. Ko turned to look at Archive in surprise.
It was a perfect shot. The bullet slammed Ko into the back of the limo. He grunted, dropping the cat.
Archive got a glimpse of Ko popping the contents of a bright green vial into his mouth. Then the limo tore off, the door slamming shut from the momentum. Police and fire vehicles obscured the rest of the view. Archive slumped back into his seat.
Hammer huffed up to the car, Jim-Bean a few seconds behind.
"Did you get him?" asked Hammer, looking around wildly at the converging police and fire vehicles. He hopped into the driver's seat.
"What the hell happened to you?" asked Jim-Bean, getting in the back with Archive. "Why is there blood on your lip?"
Archive looked at him in a daze. "What?" He touched his hand to his left hand to his lip.
"And what happened to your pinky?"
Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 17th March, 2009 at 03:18 PM.
Tuesday, 18th November, 2008, 12:29 PM #346
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Chapter 26: Cold War - Introduction
This scenario is a combination of, “Cold War,” from by the Unspeakable Oath #11 by Scott David Aniolowski and “Exit 23” from the Dark*Matter d20 book. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
We usually play three sessions at once, which makes for some interesting gaming when we get to the third session. Sometimes, the urgency to complete the session causes some brilliant ad-libbing. And other times, I just rush through the plot to get to the meaty part – usually combat – which I know will take longer. Cold War is one of those scenarios.
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
Cold War is really meant to be played as a one-shot wherein the PCs are cultists, struggling to determine the traitor in their midst and battling a rival Tcho-tcho cult. The connections to the rest of the Ithaqua-themed scenarios were too good to pass up, and I saw an opportunity to use this scenario as a bridge to Jack Frost, which I’ve been itching to play for awhile.
I also wanted to use Exit 23, which is basically “The Thing” at a gas station. Using the escaped Ko as a lure, I set up a complex mystery that involved double-crossing, cultists in disguise, and an ice monster stalking the frozen wastes. It was supposed to be a cat-and-mouse game of stalk and be-stalked as the PCs struggled to determine who committed a murder and…
Then Jim-Bean, using his Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions power, solved the mystery in one round. This required quick thinking on my part, which is to say that the scenario went from a slow build to a frenetic series of attacks. This confused the hell out of everybody. At one point, I had to have an NPC take one of the PCs aside and explain the plot.
It didn’t really help. It also highlighted how fragile the PCs are against supernatural threats. When more than one shows up, they’re pretty much doomed. In the end, two of the three characters were near death and it took a careful shot from Hammer to save the day.
Defining Moment: Jim-Bean figures out the murderer by focusing on the Eye of Ithaqua. And the murderer figures out that Jim-Bean figured him out.
Wednesday, 19th November, 2008, 12:55 PM #347
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Cold War: Prologue
WILLIS, AL—Alabama had never seen a snowstorm like this. October in Alabama was usually mild, but for hours it had been a virtual whiteout. The snow was at least fifteen inches deep on the highway, and the weather showed no signs of breaking.The sun’s getting cold, it’s snowin’
Looks like an early winter for us
Looks like an early winter for us
An early winter, oh, I need you to turn me over
--Early Winter by Gwen Stefani
“Ko’s got to be here,” said Hammer, scanning the other patrons at the entered the small interstate rest stop. “His limo was abandoned a few miles back.”
“Ko’s not exactly hard to find,” said Jim-Bean. He walked over to the counter, ordered some tea from the attractive waitress who ran the donut shop, and took out a cigarette. He seemed much less inclined to look for Ko than he was to warm up.
“Just look for a cat,” added Archive. His left pinky was bandaged up.
It was close to midnight. Patrons were waiting for the plows to come through so that they could get back on the road. Of the staff, there was also a stern-looking woman running the register at the convenience store, and a teenage kid with long hair and an apron who handled the short-order cooking.
Hammer sat down next to Jim-Bean. At one booth was a long-haired college student with John Lennon glasses, an Army jacket, doodling in a sketchbook filled with Gigeresque drawings. Two executive types, one in a good suit and conservative overcoat, the other overweight and wearing a garish power tie, were huddled in another booth. Sitting by himself and staring out at the snow was a bookish man in a tweed jacket and smoking a pipe. Another man with thick silver hair and keen, dark eyes walked towards the rest room. None of them matched the description of Ko.
Archive joined them. “My guess is that Ko’s guardian was trying to cover their tracks. Maybe it can shapeshift into a person…” The limo driver’s body was found in the front seat, the corpse bloated from repeated poisonous bites.
“As if we weren’t paranoid enough—” began Jim-Bean.
The lights flickered.
“Oh great,” muttered the counter waitress—and then the lights went out altogether. Somewhere on the other side of the rest stop a door slammed open, followed by a vicious blast of freezing cold air that somehow found it way over to where they sat. The wind howled like something alive, scratching and clawing with an icy grasp.
There was an awful racket from the direction of the rest rooms—violent blows, choking cries, breaking glass, and finally one more high-pitched scream that made blood run cold.
The wind howled again and more doors slam…and then the room became still, except for the distant whistling of the storm outside. Emergency lights flickered on.
“What in heaven was that?” said the waitress.
Hammer almost drew his Glocks, but remembered such a gesture might not be well-received in a rest stop. HE flashed his badge instead. “We’ll check it out.”
Thursday, 20th November, 2008, 12:30 PM #348
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Cold War: Part 1 – Cold Bath
The last gust of wind knocked out power to the rest stop. There was just enough illumination from various emergency lights to carefully move through the darkened building.
In the rest room, a body was sprawled in the doorway. It was an Asian man. Several large needle-like holes perforated the corpse, surrounded by a puddle of slick crimson ice. A hand crossbow lay nearby.
“Ko,” said Hammer with a sigh. He bent down to inspect the body.
Archive bustled past him. “There’s another body inside,” he said after a moment.
Inside the men’s room was the corpse of the man with silver hair. A crossbow bolt jutted out of his chest. It was the silver-haired man they saw making his way to the bathroom.
Hammer went through the Ko’s jacket. He found a wallet containing an Illinois driver’s license, a couple of twenty dollar bills, and an empty vial.
The other man wasn’t carrying any identification, but Archive found his wallet and dead cell phone in the pockets of his coat, which hung on a hook inside the rest room. His Portland State driver’s license identified him as Dr. Anton Zelazny. He had some credit cards and one-hundred and fifty dollars in mixed bills.
Hammer stood up and looked around the bathroom. All of the stalls were empty. A trashcan stood against one wall and a condom dispenser hung on the other wall. The mirror behind the sink was broken, and ice standing in the sink had frozen right out of the faucet.
Hammer ran one finger along the sink. “There’s a thin layer of frost covering the entire room.” The room was freezing.
“I never saw icicles big enough to kill someone outside,” said Archive. “It looks like he was gored to death.”
Hammer peered in the trashcan. “What’s this?” He dug into it and pulled out a valise. Archive popped it open on the sink.
It contained some papers and a snow globe. Archive scanned the papers while Hammer continued his investigation.
“There’s a partial footprint in the blood on the rest room floor, near Ko’s body. It seems to be the print of a large wolf or small bear.”
Archive looked up from reading the papers. “How did a bear fit in here?”
Friday, 21st November, 2008, 12:35 PM #349
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Cold War: Part 2 – Who Goes There?
The wind howled outside and the snow continued to fall. The building was dark and cold, with icy gusts reaching into every corner of the structure. The woman running the donut shop had lit a couple of gas lanterns in her corner of the rest stop, but it was still dim and shadowy.
Hammer fiddled with his cistron but to no avail. “Cistrons aren’t getting any reception. I’m going outside to get the heavy artillery out of the car,” said Hammer. “Keep an eye on the rest of these people.”
The wind screamed and raged all around as Hammer stumbled out into the snow. It was surprisingly deep, almost to his knees. He couldn’t see much with the snow whipping past his eyes.
Abruptly, the blowing snow, illuminated occasionally by the flickering parking lot lamps, suddenly turned a blinding white.
One by one, the headlights of cars came on. Over the moaning of the storm, a cacophony of horns and car alarms went off all at once. Somewhere nearby, glass broke.
Hammer ducked behind one of the cars. He could barely make out humanoid figures, dressed in white, stalking from car to car. It was the White Shadows, the enforcers of Tong Shugoran. He guessed they had been sent to retrieve Ko.
A crossbow bolt whistled through the air, but it went wide, spearing into the car near his head. Even with the wind blowing, the terrific force of the crossbow bolt was enough to embed it in the car door.
Hammer drew his Glocks and fired a spray of bullets in the direction the bolt came from. More glass shattered and someone swore in Vietnamese.
Hammer backed up. Getting to the car was looking less and less likely. For a second he wished they had taken the van instead…
Suddenly, the car horns and alarms fell silent.
Hammer peered over the hood of the car. Nothing.
He had counted six Shadows. They had to be somewhere…
A white figure blurred to his left. Hammer turned, blasting the snow with his Glocks. He had hit his target, he was positive, but the White Shadows were high on something – maybe Blink – and even a direct hit couldn’t drop one. The figure was gone, leaving only a few drops of red.
There was more furtive movement behind him. Hammer whirled and fired again, missing this time but destroying the windshield of a car.
He sensed a presence overhead. Hammer slowly turned around to face his opponent.
Standing on the car was one of the White Shadows. On the rooftops of other cars all above him stood the other five. They had outflanked him by giving him a few decoys to shoot at. One of them was spattered with red marks, but if the man felt pain there was no way to tell. They all wore featureless masks.
The head Tcho-tcho raised his crossbow and took careful aim at Hammer’s forehead. Hammer lowered his pistols.
Despite the poor visibility and biting cold, Hammer felt an even greater cold approaching. And then two points of fiery red, sinister eyes burned into his soul, floating above the leader of the White Shadows.
The Shadow was lifted up and away, shrieking and struggling. A titanic pile of fur and claws reared up, impaling the tcho-tcho on its horn. Its head was like a cross between a bear and rhinoceros and its massive claws were everywhere.
It smashed a White Shadow with each of its paws down into the hood of the cars, like a child swatting an ant. They didn’t get up.
The thing bellowed. The White Shadows blurred into action, drawing their swords and slashing at the thing.
Hammer made it to the car and grabbed Jim-Bean's duffel bag. He backpedaled to the donut shop.
“What the hell is that?” asked the kid with the long hair.
“I don’t know." Hammer dropped the duffel bag at Jim-Bean's feet. “But whatever it is, it’s weird and pissed off.”
Archive, who was intently scanning the papers in Zelazny’s briefcase, looked up. “That’d be a gnoph-keh. I believe we’re dealing with a cult of Ithaqua.”
Jim-Bean continued to sip his coffee. “So that’s not the centipede thing?”
“Much worse,” said Archive.
“It gets worse?” asked Hammer.
Just then, an orange glow illuminated the dark lobby and the smell of burning gas wafted over to them.
Last edited by talien; Friday, 21st November, 2008 at 12:39 PM.
Sunday, 23rd November, 2008, 01:19 AM #350
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Cold War: Part 3 – Smoke ‘Em Out
The magazine stand in one corner of the convenience store was blazing away. The flames spread quickly to one wall.
“Fire extinguishers!” shouted Hammer. “Go!”
They spread out, looking for fire extinguishers. A few seconds later, the extinguishers managed to stop the blaze before it became an inferno. By that time, the massacre that was happening outside had stopped. The White Shadows were all dead.
Over the smell of smoke, there was a different odor—the sharp tang of gasoline in the air.
“That fire wasn’t an accident,” said Hammer. He looked suspiciously at the other patrons. “All of you, I want you to line up along this wall. We’re going to question you individually. Everyone stays in my sight.”
The other patrons and staff, wary of Hammer’s Glocks, did as they were told.
Archive was torn between watching the thing outside and trying to understand what he was reading.
“What’s that thing doing?” asked Jim-Bean, nonplussed by the ruckus over the flames.
“It looks like it’s…” he squinted through the frosted glass, “building a huge mound of snow in the center of the parking lot.”
Hammer turned back to the suspects. “All right, we need a roll call…” he looked around. “Wait, someone’s missing.”
There were a couple of loud bangs from the other room. The waitress screamed, “Look out! He’s got a gun!”
The overweight man in the suit appeared in the doorway of the donut shop, pointing a pistol in Hammer’s direction.
“I won’t let you meddle with our plans any longer,” he hissed. He raised the pistol. “Time to die!”
Hammer pointed both Glocks and fired. The man crumpled to the ground from the perfect shots, both to his head. He looked around. “Anyone else?”
The other patrons backed away, white-faced.
The waitress cleared her throat. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”
Hammer glared at the others. “Yeah. I don’t want anybody to move!” He pointed at Jim-Bean. “Keep an eye on them.”
Jim-Bean took another puff of his cigarette, staring at the blurry shape of the thing outside. “Sure.”
The waitress ushered Hammer over to a booth and sat down. “You can’t trust any of them. Shepard was a distraction.”
“What?” asked Hammer. He craned his neck to look at the other patrons. Jim-Bean and Archive were discussing the snow globe they found. “What about them?”
The waitress had sharp, attractive features, made more scholarly-looking by the glasses perched on the end of her nose. Her arms, where they were visible, were well-muscled. Hammer assumed it was from holding trays.
“My name is Elizabeth Stride, and I’m actually a professor of history at the University of Toronto. A long time ago I was traveling to Vietnam when I met a Tcho-tcho tribe who worshipped a pantheon of strange pagan deities. After months of cautious study, the tribe finally allowed me to view one of their pagan rituals. On that fateful evening, something answered the savage cries of the tribesmen – something enormous, writhing, and powerful. Shub-Niggurath appeared before me in all its alien might and at that instant I got an insight into the true nature of the universe.”
Hammer put one of his pistols on the table. “Look, lady—“
“Listen to me!” hissed Stride. “That night I was initiated into a cult, and instructed to contact Tong Shugoran when I returned to Toronto. They eventually took me in and made me a member of the cult.”
Hammer blinked. “You set that fire, didn’t you?”
“I was trying to stop them.” She snuck a glance at the other patrons. They were all watching Jim-Bean and Archive intently. Jim-Bean was holding the snow globe and focusing on it. “I was instructed to contact Anton Zelazny and joined his group to keep an eye on a rival cult, the Secret Order of the Windwalker. I’ve been spying on them ever since.”
“So you’re saying everyone here is a cultist?”
“Yes,” said Stride. “And this was all a plot. There’s something special about the town of Willis. Zelazny was convinced he could call Ithaqua tonight. He summoned a Gnoph-keh to create the storm and drive everyone out. All the people who worked here left, so we slipped into the disguises of the staff. Zelazny said he needed five sacrifices…”
“But Zelazny’s dead,” said Hammer.
“Yes. Someone killed him. I think Ko was lured here as a scapegoat, to make it look like Tong Shugoran murdered Zelazny.”
Hammer nodded. “I didn’t get the impression Ko’s ever killed anyone, much less used one of those hand crossbows.”
“Exactly,” said Stride. “It doesn’t add up. One of the Order of the Windwalker murdered both Ko and Zelazny, and he wants to take over for himself.”
“Hammer,” Archive called from across the room. “I think you’d better get over here.”