Modern/Delta Green - The Beginning of the End (COMPLETED)

talien

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Silent Scream: Conclusion

The first rays of sunlight gleam over the woods beyond the manor. Daybreak had finally come.

Exhausted, the survivors returned to their rooms, except for two.

Jim-Bean looked out at the wreckage. Greasy stains were spattered across the lawn, the walls, the doors. Spent shell casings from the massive amount of ammunition fired were everywhere, mingled with broken glass from the manor’s windows.

He put his hand out and snatched up a brandy snifter without looking for it – it was, of course, perfectly balanced on a tray, held by a gloved hand that belonged to Alfred.

“What a mess,” said Jim-Bean.

“Quite, sir,” said Alfred.

“All that gunfire, the eyeless things…we must have woken the dead.”

“You mean the thing in the basement, sir?”

“Besides that. The windows need to be fixed, the blood needs to be cleaned up, and then there’s the fact we have three dead Americans on our hands…”

“Three, sir?”

“Yes, three. Christine Dee, Randy Kalm, and—“

There was a shriek as Mrs. Jenkins discovered the mutilated corpse of Snow Dog.

“Oh, right. Snow Dog’s dead too. Not that he was real to begin with.”

“Pardon, sir?”

“Never mind.”
 

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talien

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Chapter 64: Holy War - Introduction

This story hour is from "Holy War" by Adam Scott Glancy and "Of Dreams and Dark Waters" by Rob Malkovich. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

• Game Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
• Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
• Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://jeremyrobertortiz.blogspot.com)
• Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast/Dedicated Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster

This scenario combines two modern battles with Glaaki, throws in The Fate, Belial, and everybody's favorite pervert Y'golonac. Belial's removal from the Fate as the favored son has big implications in the game world, and Thredra is angling to fill his spot. She is a dangerous source of magical firepower that the agents can't afford to give up easily.

But she comes with a price, and that price is Jim-Bean's affection. The date was role-played out, completely impromptu, as a means of negotiating for magic weapons. This will be a problem later – Thredra is not a nice girl.

The battle itself between Glaaki and Y'golonac was thrillingly brief but effective. I had no idea how this scenario would conclude, but as usual the players concluded it for me by proposing an insane idea that just had to work. So it did!

Defining Moment: Hammer jumps off a crane, grabs a book, jumps off a building, dodges giant monsters, and leads one Great Old One into direct conflict with another.

Relevant Media
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Prologue

And as his strength began to fail
He saw a shimmering lake.
A shadow in the dark green depths
Disturbed the strange tranquility.

--The Fountain of Salmacis by Genesis​
BRICHESTER, ENGLAND— That morning, Hammer was cleaning his pistols when Jim-Bean entered the room.

"We need better firepower, Jimmy." He cleaned out the barrel of one of his Glocks, treasuring them now more than ever before.

"Looks to me like you're doing okay."

Hammer shook his head, peering into the barrel like a jeweler inspecting a diamond. "That's not what I mean. You know what I mean."

"I can do a lot of things." Jim-Bean sighed and reached for the brandy that Alfred had left in the room for him. "But I can't make you magic bullets."

"You know someone who can."

"Oh come on!" Jim-Bean took a sip and put the brandy snifter down. "You want me to whore myself out to Thredra so you can get magic guns?"

Hammer didn't look up from his task. "Yes."

"You're serious."

"Yes."

Fiona entered the room. "What are you two girls gossipin' about?"

"A date," said Jim-Bean with a smirk.

"You'd make a cute couple."

"With Thredra and..." Hammer trailed off.

"Twist my arm!" Fiona rolled her eyes at Hammer. "I'll be your date."

"Fine! Just one condition: no zombies." Jim-Bean muttered.

Hammer nodded. "Right. No zombies."

They had no idea how they would force Thredra to stick to that rule.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Part 1 – Life Could Be a Dream

They were at Club Apocalypse again. Through the double doors was the Green Bar, a large, finely-decorated art-décor bar that was packed ear-to-ear with celebrities and their entourages. It had a small dance floor, a quarter the size of the main one.

The dream was different this time. There was no Belial to lead them past another set of double doors, which opened onto a small bar with several tables, finely but sparsely decorated, most near-empty. As soon as the doors closed, the rhythmic beats of the dance floor were instantly silenced.

An exquisitely coifed and tanned older man dressed in a white suit sat at a table in the center of the room. He sprang up at the sight of Jim-Bean, Hammer, and Archive.

“The shades return! Come in, come in! It’s so good to see you!” Catching the expression on their faces, Stephen Alzis smiled. "Oh don't be so surprised. This is how it works – Blade didn't tell you? Once you've been in my club, you can always visit again." He gestured to chairs at the table. There were precisely three empty chairs. "Please, sit. Drinks are on the house."

Once they were seated, Alzis joined them. "You might recall that I helped you recently – yes, I arranged your friends' visits. You're welcome. Well now it's time for you to help me." He held up one hand. "Now, now, don't get too defensive, I know what you're thinking. But trust me you'll be happy to do this."

"Awhile ago, you thought Belial, the manager of Club Apocalypse," he encompassed the room with a gesture, "was the killer you were hunting. You were wrong. But Belial is guilty of a much greater sin." Alzis' features darkened. "He's been disloyal. And that is intolerable."

"Belial – real name Robert Hubert – has been secretly keeping his allegiance to the Dreamer in the Lake." Alzis shakes his head. "I blame myself, really. I knew Hubert's special condition was useful, but eventually the Green Decay claims them all. Hubert knows he's at the end of his rope, and he's gotten desperate. So he's started a little side operation at the lake in Brichester. That will never do. I've officially revoked my protection of Hubert. I'd like you to take him out."

"Oh don't look at me like that. I like to maintain order. It's very important that my minions understand that rules are there to be followed. It's just better for everybody – less grumbling to suppress and fewer defectors to track down and kill."

He started to rise, then stopped. "Oh yes, one other thing. It seems Hubert has a book, a book that Blade became very acquainted with. A book he stole from your house." He smirked. "The Hand That Feeds wants that book, and it will do everything in its power to get it. So I recommend you get to Hubert and his book before It does. If It gets that final volume of the series…" Alzis sighed, "It will make the Dreamer in the Lake look like crab cakes."

"I’d move quickly if I were you. Hubert won’t wait much longer. Have a good night gentlemen and good luck in your hunt.”
And with that, Alzis stood up and walked out.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Part 2 – Date Night

Fiona was dressed in a slinky forest green dress that hugged her muscular curves. She was compact and finely boned, more muscle than fat. The bare-armed dressed showed off her toned arms, which she adorned only with a gold bracelet. She wore gold eye shadow as well. Her hair, brushed and treated, sparkled jet black. Fiona wore heels that elevated her five foot two frame a few more inches. In the right light, her mix of Chinese and Scottish heritage gave her an elfin appearance that was quite appealing.

Thredra arrived in a black hearse. She was arrayed in a gown worthy of a Disney villainess, low-cut, her eyes painted a dark shade of purple, her eyebrows arched with jet black ink. Her hair was up in a bun with a purple spider pin holding it together. Her form-fitting, plunging dress fleshed out her angular figure nicely, pushing up parts here, slimming out parts there. Although she looked like she was out for a night of trick-or-treating, Thredra cleaned up nicely in her own way.

Jim-Bean and Hammer wore tuxedos. Jim-Bean looked like he'd been wearing tuxes his entire life. Hammer had only worn one once before, at his high school prom, and it showed.

"I'm so glad you finally came to your senses, Andy," said Thedra, her driver Sirahk opening the door for them to join her in the converted hearse, complete with minibar. "Keep it up and you might find our relationship mutually beneficial."

Jim-Bean coughed. "Yeah, sure. Got anything to drink in here?"

Thredra wanted to drink and dance, not necessarily in that order, and she suggested Club Eden first. Eden was a gothic-style S&M club. Hammer and Fiona tried lay claim to a booth, but it was unnecessary. Thredra spoke with the bouncer, who spoke with the four people in "her" booth and they promptly left.

Sirahk joined them, a near pitch-black-skinned man with a hook nose who wore a black suit and fedora. He never said a word, but he was unnaturally tall -- easily over six and a half feet. Most of the people who tried to approach Thredra, and there were more than a few, were warned off by a glare from the big man. It was clear Thredra was moving up in the criminal hierarchy.

After sweating on the dance floor for what seemed like an hour, Thredra finally dragged them back to the booth for more drinks.

"Don't worry about the boy," Thedra she said after casting a spell that would allow her to be heard at the table. "I'm his steward now until he comes of age. But in the interim I've taken over the family business. They have some real firepower in their corner now. We'll be going places."

Jim-Bean just took another sip of his drink.

The wedding march began playing from somewhere. Thredra and Fiona exchanged confused glances.

Jim-Bean put the drink down. The music stopped.

As an experiment, he picked the drink up again and the wedding march started.

Thredra stood up. "Stand back. We're under magical attack. Sirahk, clear a path to the exit!"

Jim-Bean put one hand on Thredra. "Relax. It's just Archive."

Thredra blinked. "Who?"

Archive made his way through the crowd, grinning mischievously. "Hi guys!"

"He has a...peculiar sense of humor," said Hammer.

Thedra sighed. "Well since we're up anyway we may as well go. I'm hungry. There's a McDonald's around here somewhere."

"You really are American," said Jim-Bean.

"And I guess you can come too," she gestured dismissively at Archive. "But no more magic tricks next time or Sirahk might yank out your tongue."

Archive stopped smiling.

Sirahk pulled the hearse around front and they clambered in. The nearest McDonald's wasn't near at all, but the night was young.

"So Andy," Thredra propped her chin up with the palm of one hand. "Tell me about yourself."

Jim-Bean nearly coughed up his drink.

Fiona grinned. "Yes, ANDY. Tell us all about yourself."

"He doesn't ever take a crap," said Hammer. "It's his crazy metabolism."

Fiona grimaced and elbowed Hammer. "Classy."

"What? It's true!"

Jim-Bean glared at Hammer. "Thanks for that."

Thredra was delighted. "Do tell!"

"My metabolism is hyper efficient."

"But you can eat, right Andy?"

"Yeah...and my name isn't Andy cook," he confessed.

Thredra feigned shock. "That is totally new information!"

"You knew all this time?"

Thredra chuckled, patting his leg. "Of course, Jimmy. I own this town now."

Jim-Bean didn't like the sound of that.

After eating a messy combination of fries, burgers, and nuggets, the date finally drew to a close.

Thredra smiled at Jim-Bean. "Well, this was nice. We acted like civilized people and no corpses were involved. And since you behaved yourself Jimmy I've got a gift for you." She handed him a gilded box the size of a small suitcase, with skulls in silver filigree on the four corners.

Jim-Bean popped it open. Inside were two gold-plated Glocks with skulls engraved on the handle. Jim-Bean spun the box around on his knees to show Hammer. "Merry Christmas."

Hammer's face lit up. "Thank you!"

"As long as it makes Jim-Bean happy," said Thredra, stroking Jim-Bean's neck. He managed to not flinch. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

"Yeah," replied Jim-Bean flatly.

The hearse slowed to a stop. "We're here," said Thredra mournfully. She got out of the car. The others filed into the mansion.

Jim-Bean swallowed and followed her out. Thredra pressed herself against him.

"I had a really good time," she whispered.

"Me too," said Jim-Bean. All he could think about was how her purplish-black lipstick looked like a bruise.

"I'm working my way up, Jimmy. We're equals, you and I. You should think about joining me when this is all over. The leader of the Fate, Alzis, wants me to join his organization. He helped me get your friends through PISCES security." She looked at the sparkling stars. "Oh yes, that's right, you should be on a mission for him right now." A slow smile crept past her lips. "But you chose to spend it with me instead."

Jim-Bean tried to pretend they hadn't wasted an evening just to get Hammer his pistols.

Thredra leaned in for a kiss. Her perfume, which had been coiling its way through his brain for hours, flared white hot in his skull. He kissed her passionately back.

"That's more like it." Thredra gasped, gently touched her forehead against his. "Keep it up and I'll get you more bullets."

Inside, Archive stumbled off into his room. Alone once more, Fiona led Hammer towards her room. They caught sight of Jim-Bean retreating to his own room alone.

"You've got something on your forehead," giggled Fiona over her shoulder.

Jim-Bean frowned and furiously rubbed his forehead. White makeup from Thredra's face. He swore and stomped off to his room.

It wasn't until the next morning that any of them remembered Alzis' dream.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Part 3 – Welcome to Lakeside Terrace

The site of the original six houses, Lakeside Terrace was the center of a housing development. The only approach to the area was via Lake Street, a small, two-lane dirt road. Where the road entered the forest, a billboard proclaimed, “Lakeside Terrace Estates-Modem Living at its Finest” above a painting of an attractive housing complex situated on the shore of a sunny blue lake.

The woods were dense, dark, and full of ancient, gnarled trees. Eventually, the road emerged from the forest and into a large clearing on the shores of the dark, still body of water known as Brichester Lake. The whole area seemed to be shrouded in perpetual twilight.

A high brick wall eight feet tall surrounded the entire property. Hammer could make out chanting figures atop the roof of Lakeside Terrace.

"We're late." Archive pointed. "Look."

The first residents of Brichester shuffled down Lake Street, fanning out along the road that encircled the lake. Swirls of orange and yellow light danced across the surface of the lake.

"Can you get that to work?" asked Hammer.

A crane was parked towards the center of the site. It was a large mobile crane on caterpillar treads, with a steel arm approximately sixty feet long when fully extended. The crane was mobile, resting on enormous wide, flat treads; to lift extremely heavy loads.

Archive rubbed his hands together. "I think so."

"I didn't know you knew how to operate construction equipment," said Jim-Bean.

"I don't." Archive muttered an incantation and put his hands on the tread nearest him. It glowed blue for a moment. The crane buzzed to life.

The sky quickly darkened, and a terrible thunderstorm began overhead.

"Bring me as close you can to the resort." Hammer clambered up the side of the crane.

"Where are you going?" asked Archive.

"I'm going to try to catch us up," Hammer shouted back.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Part 4 – The Thing(s) on the Roof

The orange and yellow swirls took on more solid shapes, rising above the water in the center of the lake to form the edges of a giant circle. The dancing lights formed strange runes and shapes, twisting and turning with ferocious intensity. The center of the circle was pure darkness.

Archive pointed and Jim-Bean held on as the crane rumbled forward of its own accord.

"Uh, do you have a plan for getting through the wall?" asked Jim-Bean.

Archive shook his head, intensely concentrating on maintaining his connection to the massive machine.

"Then you might want to extend the crane."

Archive expressed his agreement by extending the crane beneath Hammer, who nearly lost his balance when it suddenly lengthened. It extended fully just as the treads hit the wall.

The crane pitched, hard. The arm swung wildly from the force as it came to an abrupt stop, slinging Hammer towards Lakeside Terrace likes a lacrosse player hurling a ball. He clung to the crane until it hit the peak of its parabolic arc and then let go, letting centrifugal force do the rest. For a heart-stopping moment he flailed in the gap between crane and building...and then he landed.

Hammer rolled and came up magical Glocks blazing on the five men standing on top of Lakeside Terrace, each at a different point an oddly shaped rune. At its center was Robert Hubert, AKA Belial. He held a book aloft, chanting furiously, his eyes on Hammer but unwilling to interrupt the summoning of his god.

Hubert's bodyguard, a huge African man in a black suit and fedora, moved to interrupt but whirled at a rhinoceros-worthy roar from behind him. Barreling out of the emergency stairwell was Y'golonac, the fat, slobbering Great Old One of perversion, its flabby toothed palms speaking for its headless mass.

"GIVE-" said one of Y'golonac's palms.

Hammer rolled as one cultist drew a pistol to fire at him. He retaliated by shooting him between the eyes.

"US-" said the other of Y'golonac's palms.

Hammer ducked behind a spinning air vent as bullets ricocheted near his head.

"THE BOOK!" Y'golonac's two palms shouted in unison.

The book! Hammer listened for the wet slapping of fat feet on pavement. The gunfire changed direction.

Beams of darkness shoot out from the circle with Hubert at its center, spreading out across the ground and enveloping the people standing there. Everything appeared to be twisting and writhing, coming in and out of focus. The buildings, and even the ground around them, writhed and pulsed, pushing and twisting into impossible shapes. Screams of agony arose from people around the lake.

The nearest group of people between Hammer and the dock were transformed. Their shapes were odd and distorted, and only vaguely human; faces and limbs drooped as if melted; strange protrusions sprouted from their bodies; some of their limbs withered or grew massively disproportionate to the rest of their bodies. Their screams resounded, as they were literally torn apart and then pieced back together into horrors beyond imagination.

Hammer ducked his head out just long enough to confirm what he was witnessing: a holy war.

Y'golonac engaged Glaaki's followers with fury. Oloni drew two long spikes from his suit and, wielding them like short swords, parrying the slobbering maws. The other cultists fired their shotguns and pistols into Y'golonac's unyielding bulk to no effect.

Hammer made his move. Pounding the pavement as hard as he could, he ran straight into the melee.

The cultists, focused on the headless terror, had forgotten about their unwelcome guest. They certainly didn't expect him to charge into the fracas.

He rolled and ducked Y'golonac's backhanded swipe. Oloni stabbed one of the mouths with a spike, and the teeth worried it like a dog. Hammer rolled beneath them and came face to face with Hubert.

Hammer fired one of the magical Glocks at point-blank range into Hubert's face. His magical shield protected him from the force, but his still human reaction caused him to flinch, which is all Hammer needed. Hammer snatched the book from Hubert's clutches with his free hand. And then he was off and running again.

Hubert shouted, clutching his face and pointing. Oloni, temporarily distracted, found both of Y'golonac's maws crunched down on his fists. Holding him up like a paper doll, Y'golonac tore him in half.

Hammer charged towards the edge of the building.

"He's not going to make it," said Jim-Bean with a sigh.

"Not without our help, anyway," said Archive. He whispered a chant.

"Stop him!" shouted Hubert, recovering. "He has the twelfth volume of--"

Then Archive shouted a spell and the roof collapsed beneath him.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Part 5 – Clash of the Titans

Hammer dove just as the building crumbled beneath his feet. He leaped into space, and this time there was no crane to help bridge the distance.

But Jim-Bean's telekinetic grip caught him. He landed on his feet and kept running.

"Where's he off to?" asked Archive.

Jim-Bean nodded towards the rickety dock that extended into the lake. "There."

The mutated villagers between Hammer and the lake began to stagger about the landscape, grossly altered but still growing, as large dark pillars spiral up into the sky, framed by massive buildings with obscenely huge windows and doorways. The wretched victims stagger toward Hammer, seething with evil and the desire to punish those who survive unaltered.

At the end of the dock was...something. An oval body covered in thin, pointed metal spines rose from the water. It had a rounded mouth with thick lips set in the middle of a face from which extended three yellow eyes on thin stalks. Underneath the creature's body lay multitudes of white pyramids.

Hammer kept running, dodging mutants who stood in his path. He drew from his belt the knife they found in the basement of Windthrope Manor. Jim-Bean and Hammer followed behind him, providing cover fire and keeping the mutated rabble from surrounding him.

Charging like a rhinoceros and pounding full-speed behind him, Y'golonac was undeterred by the collapse of Lakeside Terrace. Rubble and blood flaked off its flabby shoulders as it smashed aside mutants.

Hammer closed the gap to the end of the dock.

"What the hell is he doing?" asked Jim-Bean.

"He's bringing two Great Old Ones together," said Archive breathlessly.

"Has that happened before?"

"Not in our lifetime." Archive shared a worried look with Jim-Bean.

Y'golonac lunged once, twice for Hammer, almost grasping him each time. The dock groaned from the weight of the pounding behemoth. Glaaki watched, impassive, alien, unknowable.

Hammer leaped over Glaaki.

It wasn't so simple. Glaaki thrust upward as he passed and several spines shot through Hammer, piercing his arms and legs. He screamed but brought the knife in one hand with the book in the other, stabbing it through the spine.

And thus the Twelfth Volume of Glaaki, co-opted by Y'golonac, met the blade crafted to unsummon him.

The effect was immediate. The two beings were drawn instantly into the water as Y'golonac's claws met Glaaki's spines. The light that played over the water suddenly convulsed, sucking downwards and into the spot where the two behemoths clashed. A portal raged, a dimensional wound that suppurated magical energy.

Hammer struggled to swim against the current but the foaming, yellow surf was no act of nature. He flailed helplessly as it engulfed him.

And then he was lifted up, hovering gently beyond the swirling morass that grew by the second. Jim-Bean stood at the edge of the ruins of the dock, arms outstretched, telekinetically pulling Hammer back to the safety of the shore.

With a slurping pop, it was over. The storm over the lake died down, and the winds quieted. In the dawn of a new day, thousands of people- many dressed only in their bedclothes - stared in confusion at their surroundings. Children cried for their parents, and the voices of bewildered men and women begin to rise in a low murmur over the now-still lake.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Holy War: Conclusion

The building upon which Hubert was working his magic was a ruin. Reduced to a mound no more than ten feet high, it was melted into a strange pile of rubble, marked at several points by odd protrusions of twisted metal rising out of the ground which snaked outwards like plants growing toward the lake. The crane arm was twisted into a spiral that bent down, its tip bent just above the surface of the lake. There was no sign of Hubert, nor any of the servants.

The next day, the effects of the dream-pull were felt on people throughout the area. The Brichester Lake area went under martial law. The police, backed by PISCES, cautiously investigated the carnage around the lake.

Jim-Bean kicked up his feet in the viewing room, brandy in hand, as he watched the news coverage. "Nothing like killing two Great Old Ones with one stone."

"They're not dead," said Archive, who watched pensively next to him.

Hammer rubbed his shoulder. "If they don't come back in our lifetime I'll consider a victory."

"They're not defeated." Archive shook his head, at a loss for words. "It's…more of an embarrassment for them. Like adults closing the door so the kids don't see them fight."

Jim-Bean shrugged and turned back to the television.

The secretive event spun multiple conspiracy theories: One easy explanation was that a mass of space debris (perhaps an old Soviet satellite) crashed into the area, causing limited destruction. Since radioactivity was a concern, the area around the lake was off limits.

"When in doubt, blame it on the Russians." Jim-Bean smirked. "It worked for Sprague."

"There's a lot of townsfolk that were affected," said Hammer. "They had to come up with something that justifies rounding them all up." Many of the survivors were relocated out of the Brichester area, while others surely received monetary compensation to buy their silence.

An alternate theory scrolled across the screen: the government uncovered LSD in the water supply, put there by SANE--

BLAM! The television exploded. Fiona holstered her newly acquired pistol from Hammer. "Don't watch that crap. TV rots your brain."
 

talien

Community Supporter
Chapter 65: The Watcher Out of Time

This story hour is from "The Watcher Out of Time" by Clifton Ganyard. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

• Game Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
• Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
• Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://jeremyrobertortiz.blogspot.com)
• Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast/Dedicated Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster

I enjoyed the idea of a time travel scenario where the characters get the chance to learn a story by playing it backwards, a bit like Memento. In truth, this game didn’t play out that way. Part of the challenge is that the action obscures the details; part of it is that we were pressed for time, and part of the problem was that the characters didn’t initially understand they were in a time loop.

But then, when you’ve got time travel you can do all sorts of awful things to characters. I even brought back a villain from the very first scenario the agents played in. I modeled these scenarios after Hellraiser (the Crystallizer of Dreams is a lot like Lemarchand’s Box) and in that regard at least the Tomb-Herd – animated stone crab-people in hooded robes – were creepy enough for the players to comment on it.

Defining Moment: In the second time jump, a lot of agents die.

Relevant Media
 Ramsey Campbell's Goatswood and Less Pleasant Places: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=24385&it=1&affiliate_id=34014

Prologue
“You’ll see me there,” said the cat and vanished.
Alice was not much surprised at this, she was getting
so well used to queer things happening.
-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

BRICHESTER, ENGLAND—At dinner, Derik VanVon proposed a toast. Fiona wasn't present and neither was Guppy. Mrs. Jenkins set the table.

"I recognize that circumstances have been highly irregular due to the…" he stumbled over the words, "events, but I believe we have enough shooting footage to proceed with the film despite my colleague's unfortunate demise. All we need is to film a climactic ending, something permanent, final, that will do justice to the events that have unfolded--"

Fiona burst in, swearing. "Ya know, I was wonderin' what happened tah Guppy. So I checked in on him. Funny thing." She tossed a laptop onto the dinner table, spraying dinnerware in all directions. "And that's when I noticed this."

Video footage played on the laptop's screen. It looked like a relatively mundane shot of the manor from a distance.

"I don't see—" blustered VanVon.

"Oh but I think ya do. Ya see, I thought there was something odd about th' wireless feed, which is why I checked with Guppy. Only Guppy's missing. And that's when I remembered…the security feeds aren't in color." She tapped a key and the black-and-white security feed enlarged next to the color video. Fiona whirled on VanVon. "These ain't our cameras. They're his."

VanVon swallowed hard.

Hammer squinted at the screens. "The feeds don't match up."

"Please…you don't understand!" sputtered vanVon. "My wife left me since I've been in prison…my family won't speak to me. It's very, very important to me that this movie gets made. Please, this will be my greatest triumph! It will redeem me!"

"Guppy's got this place wound tight. He's got security all over th' place – heck, he's got it wired ta blow after that last attack. And ye expected ta place a camera without us noticin'?"

VanVon looked around. "Where's Albert?"

"Don't try ta change the subject…"

"I don't know dear," says Mrs. Jenkins, frowning. "He went out to check the perimeter…"

For a split second the moonlight streaming in from the window winked out as it was blocked by something large.

"GET DOWN!" shouted Jim-Bean.

Hammer hurled the large dinner table over with a mighty kick just before machinegun fire exploded the windows. Splinters puffed out of the heavy oak table, but not everyone ducked behind it in time.

"PISCES. They found us," Jim-Bean supposed it was just a matter of time.

"We've got to get out of here, right now!" shouted Hammer, scanning the exits.

The silhouettes of men on zip lines shadowed the broken windows. Archive whispered a phrase and flicked one palm open wide.

A solid brick wall built itself up at high speed across the windows. There were muffled grunts and shouts of surprise as the intruders struck solid rock. "That'll hold them for a little while."

"Back door!"

Hammer led them out of the living room toward the kitchen. Instinct only saved his life as the whistle of a blade nearly tore his head off. As it was he ducked just in time, the blade grazing his scalp and embedding itself in the doorway.

Hammer unleashed his Glock's in Agent Raphael's face. The PISCES agent pirouetted away, blodding spitting through the air.

"He came out of nowhere?" panted Hammer.

"There's more," said Jim-Bean. "He was using a HOG."

"HOG?" asked Hammer, trying to cover the room against assailants he couldn't see.

"Hand of Glory," said Archive. "It renders the user completely undetectable."

Canisters of tear gas thumped into the room from the kitchen exit.

Hammer retaliated by firing wildly into the gas. He turned the sinks on in the kitchen and tossed wet cloths to the others. "Keep this over your nose!"

The gunfire stopped, interrupted by surprised shrieks.

Out of the gas strode Thredra, dressed in her pale human-leather studded with vampire fangs. Bats swooped in behind her and transformed into beautiful, pale-skinned men and women dressed in red armor. They all struck model-like poses behind her, a veritable gothic movie poster.

“My troops are on their way,” said Thredra. “But we don’t have much time. I spotted several more PISCES choppers on the way over. You need to get out of here, now.”

The danger momentarily averted, Jim-Bean's picked up the headset of the body of Agent Raphael. "This is Agent Raphael. I need a pick up." His gaze became unfocused for a moment. "I just hijacked us a helicopter. It'll be waiting for us outside."

:cth:

Part 1 – NIGHTMARE GREEN
Mrs. Jenkins, who managed to snatch a laptop in the confusion, tapped a key. "Someone sold us out. Here's the real security feed."

On the feed, Andy Cook was smiling and conversing with Albert. He whispered a phrase and Albert's eyes glazed over. He shuffled dutifully behind Albert out of view of the camera.

"I'm initiating the NIGHTMARE GREEN protocol." She looked around sadly. "I'll miss this place." Her features darkened. "But I'll be damned if I let those PISCES bastards take it from us." She looked away and tapped another key. A dour-sounding beep responds. Mrs. Jenkins opened her eyes and tapped the key a few more times. More negative beeps. "It's not working! They're blocking the feed!" She sets her chin. "It'll have to be manually activated. There's no countdown that way. I'll do it—"

VanVon, bleeding from multiple wounds, put one hand on her shoulder. "No. I'll do it."

"You can't!" said Mrs. Jenkins. "I would never ask—"

“As I said before, I don’t have anything left.” He smiled, a little sad. “But you have to go find Alfred." When he notices her hesitation, he resorted to pleading. “Please. Let me go out with dignity.”

"Fine." She took out a jump drive from a chain around her neck, stuck it into the laptop, then handed it to VanVon. "Insert this into the computer that runs the heating system downstairs. You'll see the USB slot. Good luck."

VanVon nodded and ran back into the dining room towards the cellar steps.

Jim-Bean led the charge towards the helicopter. The mind-controlled pilot landed it a few hundred feet away from the mansion on the front lawn.

"See?" Jim-Bean shot Thredra a smirk. "Thanks for your help but I think we have it all under-"

The helicopter exploded as a missile struck it from another chopper hovering overhead.

Jim-Bean sighed. "They're on to us." He thrust one arm out and a rocket launcher materialized, nestled on his shoulder. He dug in and pulled the trigger.

The missile hit the second helicopter dead-on. It whirled past them in a ball of flames.

"Let's go!" shouted Thredra, waving them on through the smoke and wreckage.

They passed over a dozens of corpses at the ready, staring at Thredra expectantly. Cornwell’s wife Kate was there, a wicked bloody grin still plastered over her slack lips. Some of the Brichester kids with bullet holes in their foreheads stood beside her. Snow Dog, his groin coiling with maggots, looked freshly unburied. Burst worst of all was Christine Dee, whose festering wounds were a boiling mass of filth and vermin.

They silently passed the undead troops, like captains leaving doomed men to their sinking ship. Not one of them uttered a protest.

At a command from Thredra they shambled into action. Spotlights flared from helicopters overhead, no longer concerned about stealth. The net was closing.

"The Phantom's in the barn!" Hammer jogged towards the barn.

Hammer hopped into the front seat of the Phantom, souped up from Guppy’s modifications. There was quite a lot of sophisticated equipment in there too – enough for Guppy to escape, which raised the question as what happened to him.

Jim-Bean jumped in the passenger side. Mrs. Jenkins, Fiona, and Archive piled into the back. The Phantom roared to life and blasted through the barn doors.

As they rocketed down the dirt road, there was an explosion further ahead. A 4x4 was off to their right, flipped upside down and roaring with flames from its exploded gas tank. They caught a glimpse of a large humanoid form slamming an APC to and fro. It spun and twirled overhead -- rotating several times on its axis and close enough to hear the men’s screams inside – before it smashed down in the woods on the other side of the road.

And then were free. The video screens in the Phantom crackled to life, picking up the wireless signal that Guppy installed. They were almost out of range as they drove. VanVon's face, bloodied and covered with dirt, filled the screen.

Derik VanVon, blood speckling his teeth, smiled into the grainy webcam lens.

“Looks like this laptop has a camera,” he slicked back his comb over. “My name is Derik VanVon and I was once a famous movie producer. Up until now I’ve been working on a film titled Silent Scream, because I thought it would redeem me.” Gunfire rattles outside and VanVon looks over his shoulder. “But I realize now that was foolishness. If I’ve learned anything in prison, it’s that life is what you make of it. I’ve been given a second chance. And I’m not going to waste it.”

He tilted the laptop. Visible on camera him near was what looked unmistakably like a bomb. A yellow and black switch covered by a glass case was nearby. VanVon flipped it open.

“There’s no value in making movies anymore. Reality is the movie. And this one, I hope, will go viral.”

A muffled roar rocked the room – a nearby explosion.

“So here’s something for you kids to share on YouTube. PISCES, an elite government organization dedicated to defending Britain against supernatural attacks, has been infiltrated by brain spiders.” He taps a key and flashes of curious-looking dragonflies with far too many joints to their limbs slide by. “They can flit from brain to brain, taking you over, manipulating you. They have been here for decades, and they have been playing you all for fools. They are not defending you. They are holding your country hostage.”

VanVon leaned heavily on one arm, wiping the sweat from his brow. Blood was dripping down one of his arms.

He pressed another key, and pictures of Hammer, Guppy, Jim-Bean, Caprice, and Archive appeared on the screen. “Hear me, PISCES. These men are your worst nightmare. They are officially dead. They have nothing to lose. ”

A soldier was silhouetted in the stairwell behind him, automatic weapon drawn.

“And they’re coming from you.” VanVon smiled through blood-soaked teeth and pressed the button.

The feed went blank. The wireless signal cut out as they drove out of range.

A terrific explosion engulfed the Manora a second later. The shockwave shuddered through the trees and shook the Phantom, but they were far enough away to avoid the full force of the impact. Two helicopters whirled crazily out of control behind them, their crash punctuated by fireballs in the darkness.

"Now what?" asked Archive.

"I knew I shouldn't have trusted that Andy @$$hole," snarled Jimmy. "Let's pay him a visit."

:cth:

Part 2 – Gnome-body Knows…
The Cook residence was a small house typical of the Severnford area. There was nothing overtly unusual about the Cook residence, except for the unearthly quiet that hung over the place. An odor lingered in the air, familiar to Hammer: the scent of a recently fired gun. Another odor hung in the air--the scent of blood.

A streak of white-blue lightning illuminated the room for a split second, illuminating a crumpled figure on the floor in a pool of dark liquid.

Archive checked his pulse. "It's Cook. He's still alive. Barely."

Andy was on his back on the floor, a pool of blood at his head. He still held a flintlock pistol in his hand.

Jim-Bean touched the floor and focused...

As the sky darkened and the full moon rose above the horizon, three ugly gnomes began to stir. Andy commanded small, dark figures to slaughter the Cook family. He retrieved the photographs of him and his sister. Aroused, Andy brought himself to sexual climax and scrawled the cryptic message on the mirror with his semen. Seeing the bloody carnage around him, Andy fled. He returned hours later. Filled with guilt and horror over the brutal murder of his family, he put an antique gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Jim-Bean rubbed his templates. "Ugh. Sorry I did that."

"Spread out, check the other rooms," ordered Hammer.

"You'd better see this," said Fiona, standing in one room's doorway.

John and Helen Cook were murdered in their bedroom. Blankets and sheets were soaked with blood, and more of the dried substance was spattered on walls and the floor like the work of some mad painter. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces were smashed, and seemingly-nonsensical words were scrawled on the walls in dried blood.

Jim-Bean eyed the words. "Xada-Hgla. I've heard that phrase before."

"That's another name for the nuclear chaos known as Azathoth," said Archive.

Hammer bent down to investigate the blood. "There's a small set of tracks here. They look like...tiny footprints."

Thredra came back into the hallway. "If you think that's bad, you should see the kid's room."

The third bedroom was obviously Andrew’s. Posters of musicians and lovely young women adorned the walls, and a weight bench cluttered one comer of the room. A collection of hand-painted toy soldiers stood on the dresser. Three ugly little stone statues sat on the floor in front of a window.

"There are pictures under one corner of the mattress," said Jim-Bean. "They're...not good."

"What kind of not good?" asked Fiona.

"The sexual abuse kind," he replied dourly.

Hammer picked up one of the statues. The carved stone figure was an ugly and deformed version of the typical garden gnome; the little statue had bulging eyes, pointed teeth, and twisted, clawed fingers. The unpleasant teeth and claws of the stone figures were discolored. Something has soaked into the stone, darkening it...

"Uh..." said Jim-Bean. "I think you might want to put that down."

Hammer flipped the gnome over. On its foot was stamped the words: MADE IN GOATSWOOD.

Hammer yelped as the thing bit down on him. He dropped the statue, which took off at a run.

The other two statues bolted into motion. One ran along the wall, another padded effortlessly up the ceiling before disappearing from sight.

"Everybody out!" shouted Hammer.

They started for the door when one of the gnomes unleashed a gout of flames, igniting the hallway.

Thredra spread her fingers and magical darts of energy sliced into the upside-down stone figure, still dangling from the ceiling. It fell abruptly two stories down, the impact punctuated by a loud crack.

"We'll leave out the back," said Fiona. She helped Mrs. Jenkins to the bedroom window.

Hammer fired his Glocks at another shadowy figure running along one of the walls. He made his way down the steps as the flaming wreckage of the house seethed around him.

"Just leave them here!" shouted Archive.

Hammer picked up Andy Cook's unconscious body and dragged him to safety.

"Right," said Jim-Bean. He made his way to the front door and when Archive and Hammer were through, telekinetically tore the roof down on the remaining gnome, who was gesticulating wildly in the center of the room.

"Goatswood gnomes," sighed Thredra, who was waiting outside for them, unscathed and unflapped by the experience. "I hate those things."

:cth:

Part 3 – Crystallizer Clear, Round One
"Only Andy knows what happened to Alfred," said Mrs. Jenkins, her lips a grim line. Hammer got the impression she would have tortured Andy for the information if she thought it would help.

"Can you pry it out of him?" asked Hammer.

Jim-Bean shook his head. "Nothing but interference. There's something interfering. A loud buzzing is all I get."

Thredra perked up from the back seat of the Phantom, which was getting crowded. "There's one way."

"Yes?" asked Jim-Bean.

"The Crystallizer of Dreams. You'd have to retrieve it of course. But if you can get it, it will open a doorway into Andy's mind. You can then act as a bridge to bring your companions through."

"And you know where this Crystallizer is?" asked Archive.

"I do," said Thredra. "But it's not going to be easy. Ursula Seton has it and she's not going to give it up without a fight."

"Nothing ever is," muttered Jim-Bean. "Let's go."

Number 55, Lodovico Street was is an old, three story, late Victorian house in Temphill, with gaunt trees lining its overgrown garden. Its curtains were drawn; there was newspaper over its top window. Thredra, Fiona, and Mrs. Jenkins moved Andy Cook to a safehouse where

The first floor consisted of a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and a large den/study in the back of the house. On the mantelpiece of one room, a plaster saint. In the kitchen, evidence of life. Opened tins, bread, bottles of spirits; a glass.

Upstairs was an upper landing with three bedrooms and a bathroom. There was an open door, and through it, a makeshift bed, blankets strewn. An open suitcase, and its contents; more liquor.

As the agents moved up a flight, they approached a room off the top landing, the door of which was also slightly ajar. The light within swung backwards and forwards. In the middle of the floor were several pieces of plastic tubing which were scattered. There was also a strange construct vaguely resembling an atomic model, only infinitely more complex, and a featureless, horned skull with two melted candles perched atop it.

"Daoloth," said Archive. "Whoever left this will be back soon. They're planning to summon him."

"Weren't we IN Daoloth once?" asked Hammer.

Archive nodded, unable to tear his eyes away from the yellow egg shaped artifact, a foot in diameter, that sat in the center of the blood-spattered floor. As they edged closer it became clear just how an elaborate construction it was, made up of sliding panels and mysterious chambers. It is open at present, its polished innards exposed. Out of it came a banal melody, played on a hidden mechanism.

Archive held the egg up. It clicked, and part of it slid open. And to accompany the revelation, there was a twinkling tune.

Archive opened more of the egg. The tune became more complex. Somewhere a bell started to ring. Archive worked the final mechanism of the egg. The light flickers and goes out.

The bell rang. Light poured out of the egg. The light came on again.

"I don't think this is a good idea..." began Hammer.

A very narrow doorway had simply opened in the wall. The corridor was lit brightly in some places, and was absolutely dark in others.

They stepped into the corridor. The walls rose into darkness on either side, their surfaces like the interior of a pyramid, pitted with age, and rotting away. The atmosphere grew denser; smoke thickened the air. Then, a light glowed at the other end of the corridor.

The smoke cleared and the light brightened, and there was a foul smell in the air. Standing across the room, lit by strange phosphorescence that had no visible source, were four extraordinary figures. They were all dressed in red metallic robes and hoods. They each wore an odd red metallic medallion inscribed with a strange geometric glyph. The leader was pale white, his skin devoid of any pigmentation. He was hairless and had strange pink eyes. The other three figures stood with heads bowed, the hoods obscuring their faces. Only the tips of crustacean-like claws protruded from the edges of their sleeves.

The albino gestured. “The Crystallizer... you opened it. We came.”

Hammer cocked his head. "You look familiar..."

"Yes. I am a priest of Yog-Sothoth. You killed me, I believe." He smiled at the incongruency of such a statement.

"Richard. Richard somebody," said Jim-Bean.

“Richard Jacobs. They are the Tomb-Herd. But it matters not who we are, but what you have.” He unwound the medallion from around his neck and it lengthened, growing wicked spikes.

"So I guess you're going to take it back, huh?"

"I already have and I already will," said Jacobs.

Hammer drew his Glocks, but discovered he wasn't there anymore. He was in a maze of corridors like the first one they had entered. Hammer ran for the exit...

Jim-Bean backed up as the whirling chain snapped near his face. Archive fired his own magical Glock at one of the crab-priests, only to discover it was an animated statue that walked like a man. Flakes of stone broke off from the eyestalks as he fired again and again.

Jim-Bean backed up as the whirling chain snapped at his face. He put up a telekinetic ward but Jacobs effortlessly waved it aside, pressing the advantage.

A gun shot dropped Jacobs from behind. He fell forward, Hammer's pistol pointed in the space where Jacobs' head had been.

"I thought you were shifted to somewhere else," said Jim-Bean, who took Hammer's hand to get back up.

"I found my way back," said Hammer.

They turned to Archive. The egg flared brightly and...

:cth:

Part 4 – Crystallizer Clear, Round Two
A wind blew, carrying autumn leaves before it. And on the wind, the distant pealing of bells. A woman was at the door, turning the key in the lock. Beside her was a man. She opened the door, let a man in, and closed it behind her.

The agents entered through the back door to the house and stepped inside.

They moved through the house, and started to climb the stairs, surrounded by a graveyard hush.

In the top floor of the house, the Pentacle of Planes was assembled. The featureless horned skull rested within the pentagram, holding a pair of lit black candles, and the Crystallizer of Dreams. The man and woman knelt before the pentacle, chanting “Uthgos Yuggoth, Uthgos qond, Daoloth Uthgos fhtgan, Uthgos plan ‘f Daoloth asgu’i-come O Thou who sweepest the veils of sight aside, and showest the realities beyond!”

During the chanting, the woman slammed a metal rod against the floor numerous times and then both ceased chanting. All was quiet for a moment before the agents burst in.

A luminous mist formed around the two people and the weird skull, and then vanished. Seconds later, the candles flared briefly, then guttered and winked out, a black flame replacing them momentarily. Then the room was left in total darkness.

In the darkness, a blood-curdling cacophony: the squeal of unoiled winches the rasp of hooks and razors being sharpened.

The woman spoke. “Now, thou has tasted of our blood. Thou knowest our intentions. The Pentacle of Planes shall hold Thee until Thou shalt do what we desire. Prove my theories! Show us the truth! Wilt Thou show me, and thus release Thyself?”

From the din, music. An unearthly rhythmical sound.

The man yelled for mercy - a mixture of tears and roars of rage. By degrees, his incoherent pleas were drowned out by the surrounding tumult, until without warning, his voice pierced the confusion afresh - this time reduced to a naked scream.

Seconds later the light came on in the room. The man, or whatever was left of him, was gone.

The woman whirled the metal baton at Hammer but it merely clanged off the wall behind him. Jim-Bean was about to say something when the skull flew up and struck him in the face. Stiff as a board, he hit the ground.

Archive whispered a chant, but before he could finish a dimensional crack opened behind him and swallowed him up.

Hammer fired his Glocks twice into the woman's head. The first bullet stopped, hovering in mid-air, but the second made it through and her head bucked. She collapsed, dead.

Hammer checked Jim-Bean's pulse. The mask covered his face. He was dead. Archive was missing, consumed by some extradimensional portal.

That just left him and the egg. He tried to remember the configuration and fiddled with the Crystallizer until it opened, light flaring...

:cth:

Part 5 – Crystallizer Clear, Round Three
They turned the corner of the street, and started down it. The wind was strong now.

Before Hammer could bash the door in it was suddenly opened. The woman was standing there.

"Can I help you? It's very late."

"Are you Ursula Seton?" asked Hammer.

"Yes. Come in."

Seton let them in. A man was sitting at the end of the table. The light was behind him. His features were shadowy. He was badly bruised.

He leaned forward and into the pool of light over the table. He looked much the worse for wear. His flesh was raw and bruised. There was blood at his neck and hairline.

"It's good that you came. We're finished now," he said. "The ritual won't happen, will it?"

Seton nodded. "Ian killed her in self-defense," she said. "She tried to convince Ian that I was going to kill him." She laughed. "Isn't that absurd? The body's upstairs if you want to look."

The doorway the three agents stepped through slammed behind them. The white man and his three minions were once again standing in the room, more shadow than substance.

"We want the woman who did this," said Jacobs.

Seton backed away into Ian, who opened his arms with a feral smile. "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?"

Everything slowed down. The sound of bells and the thunder filled the air. The lights in the hallway flickered and threatened to go out. Ian opened his jacket, the interior of which was blood-stained, and pulled a knife from the lining.

"You're not leaving now."

With a yelp Seton tore free of Ian's grip and fled up the steps.

Hammer shot Ian several times while Jim-Bean and Archive engaged the other tomb-herd.

"This is getting old," he muttered. "After her!"

They ran up the steps in time to see Seton attempting to start the ritual. Light began to pour through the walls of the room.

Seton suddenly realized the danger she was in. "No..." She started towards the door. But she was too late. The Tomb-Herd were moving through the light towards her. One of the Tomb-Herd already stood in her way.

Behind her, one the Tomb-Herd spoke. "Ursula."

"No!" shouted Ursula.

"You stole something that wasn't yours, Ursula. It's time to give it back."

The pattern of light in the room became more elaborate, and the Tomb-Herd moved through it towards Seton.

Jacobs turned to the agents. "Leave. This isn't for your eyes."

The door slammed as something heavy thuds against the door. They hurried down the stairs, the walls creaking and groaning. It was dark; the air full of groans.

As they started down the next flight of stairs one of the Tomb-Herd was on the half landing. It started up towards them. "No need to leave so soon."

The sound of creaking was very loud. There were falls of plaster dust from the ceiling.

"The Crystallizer!" said Archive. He caught a glimpse of it in the bedroom, where it sat on a chair beside the door, visible in a patch of moonlight.

Archive lunged for the egg while Jim-Bean and Hammer peppered the tomb-herd with bullets. It fell backwards, cracking like flaking masonry.

As Archive fiddled with the egg, the tomb-herd's howl faded, as it was claimed by darkness, its image spiraling away into ether.

Another Tomb-Herd made a sound of rage, and charged up the steps, smashing the wood with each heavy footfall. Archive pressed a button on the egg and it too was sucked away into nothingnesss, its scream fading.

More tomb-herd appeared, but suddenly the roof above it broke open and a fall of dust and filth buried the creature. The roof blew off then; was torn off, and the swirling sky above made it clear that they were not in any known reality.

:cth:

Conclusion
A creature hung in the space over the house. It looked much like a ghostly, floating jellyfish, bobbing silently and cloudlike above the ground, long, graceful tentacles dangling from beneath a dark and stormy sack-like body. It was featureless except for a pair of yellow, catlike eyes that glowed menacingly.

It moved towards them, its irises narrowing to slits.

"A guardian!" gasped Archive. He kept twisting the egg as fast as he was able. Above it, a vortex opened, sucking everything into it. The guardian lashed its tentacles around the moorings of the house, anchoring itself.

Hammer fired methodically at each tentacle, one after another, loosening its hold with every other shot. Thredra's magical weaponry was the only thing that made it possible to even hit the beast. It lost its grip and flailed wildly, but not before snapping a tentacle around Jim-Bean's torso.

And then it lost its anchor entirely and tumbled helplessly end over end upwards toward the vortex.

Jim-Bean telekinetically grabbed the horned skull and hurled it at the guardian. It plunged deep into its translucent core. He could see the blackened, flaking cancer spread from the skull, infecting the entirety of the guardian. The tentacle that held him in a vice-like grip snapped off and he fell.

Howling its complaint, the guardian was drawn out into the darkness beyond the roof, and disappeared. Its shrieks grew thin, and faded. Finally, silence. The house was still. The roars and creaks from the house ceased. Jim-Bean landed on his feet next to Archive.

"Is the egg still here?" He patted himself. "Are we all still here?"

Hammer and Archive looked at each other. "Think so."

"Good.” Jim-Bean dusted himself off. “Now let's go dumpster diving into Andy's brain."
 

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