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HerculeHastings

Geist: Through The Ebon Gate

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The ghost in Rose's room glared at Peridot and backed up slightly. He had planned to start some trouble, but now that Rose and Peridot were alert, he didn't like his chances of winning a fight. "It is not your place to meddle in the Minister's business. Who are you to decide who gets to become one of you? You wish to keep your gifted existence to yourself only?"

 

The ghost hovered around in a circle, looking around the room thoughtfully. "The Minister has allies everywhere, so just is his cause. Stop probing, or we will bring your world down around you." the ghost tugged on his own noose. "And if you think you have nothing to lose, or do not fear my threats, don't imagine your "friends" are the same. We can make one of you crack, don't think they're so loyal that they won't sacrifice you in order to save themselves from us."
 

The ghost began to slowly sink into the floor. "But if you persist... then I'll see you again tomorrow night." he said with a creepy grin, before completely disappearing into the floor.

 

 

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Rose stared at the spot where the ghost disappeared to in silence. 

 

Without speaking another word, she turned her attention back to her phone and started typing: 

>"Something up with you guys? Need help from my end? O: " 

 

The sun's hanging high on the sky now, sending shafts of light piercing through her window. Any hopes of her getting a good rest has been dispelled with the rest of the darkness enveloping her estate just a couple hours ago. Even Peridot seemed slightly dispirited, as he dropped down and opted to curl around Rose's legs quietly. Loyalty, huh... She mused, swiveling her chair around in circles as she pondered over the intruder's words.

 

How did the Minister track me down? Who had my address? Who..?

 

"Hisss." Peridot suddenly tapped his head on hers. "Hsss. Hs." Another tap.

It took a couple more head knocks before a smile finally cracked on Rose's face.

 

"You're right, I have you." She chuckled. "Peridot and Rose, carrying out their thankless duties as Gatekeeper! It's you and me, against the world! Even if we're caught in a web of mistrust and lies, we'd never turn our backs on each other. This, I can be sure of. Right?" Peridot bobbed his head in response.

 

The sin-eater leapt back on her feet.

 

"C'mon, we'll go find the rest. No one will hear of our encounter with Mr.Nooseman, got it?"

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Fighting back was never an option. Not only was Mikaeus the furthest thing from athletic, his pact with the Father also included an oath to renounce all forms of violence. He sometimes saw visions of what he was sure was the Father's past: holy knights spilling blood across continents; inquisitors burning their victims at the stake; others were drowned in a bid to purify their souls.

 

The thugs, on the other hand, seemed driven by a compulsion by violence. The two wielding baseball bats closed in quickly and swung it at him. Propelled by instinct, he narrowly dodged both attacks and made a break for the exit from whence he came. However, the old man, who was surprisingly agile for his age, reached out and caught Mikaeus in a grapple. Without thinking, Mikaeus withdrew his keystone - a small, gilded cross - from his pocket and pressed it against the man's neck.

 

The cross promptly burned and branded the man; it seemed he had never been baptized or the cross wouldn't have had that effect on him. He howled and let go of Mikaeus, who immediately seized his chance to run. As he did so, the Father's voice resounded in his mind.

 

THE SOUL WHO SINS SHALL DIE.

 

Mikaeus clutched his head in pain as he ran out of the alleyway, while dread filled his being. It was the same dread that fills a child who knows he has done wrong  and will soon have his comeuppance. He turned to peer over his shoulder just in time to see one of the thugs charge at him. He pivoted and the thug just missed him.

 

The streets were starting to fill with the commuting crowd, the nearest of which had noticed the chase but did nothing to intervene. Mikaeus made a beeline for a particularly busy street he recognized and began to weave his way around him. He shot a quick glance towards the rear and saw Thug A inexplicably fall into a manhole. The old man did not leave the alley to give chase after being burned it seemed.

 

Nearly a quarter of an hour later, Mikaeus finally slowed to a stop and leaned against a lamp-post heavily. It appeared that he had lost his pursuers. At this time, a speck of light appeared in the centre of his vision. The speck suddenly exploded into a burst of brilliance and Mikaeus felt an intense burning at his neck. He had the impression that the same burn he had inflicted on the assailant just now was being seared into him at that very instant. All he could hear were the loud buzzing of thousands of voices chanting, chanting in his head.

 

THEREFORE, JUST AS SIN CAME INTO THE WORLD THROUGH ONE MAN, AND DEATH THROUGH SIN, AND SO DEATH SPREAD TO ALL MEN BECAUSE ALL SINNED!!!

 

Mikaeus slumped onto his knees, moaning as his eyes rolled into the back of his head.

 

[Roll 4 die for Synergy due to committing violence against another. Result: 3 successes Link )

 

Gradually, the humming and the light dimmed and Mikaeus regained his awareness. He shook his head weakly and wiped off the drool from his chin. Ugh. That wasn't fun.

 

He drew his cellphone and checked the messages from the rest of the group. He hoped they were having a better time than he was.

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The relief over his plan actually working distracted Isaac long enough for him to not realize that a car was heading towards him at full speed. Isaac did his best to dodge but could not avoid getting scooped by the car. Despite the intense pain Isaac quickly reached for his guns and shot at his assailant from point blank range.

A few bullets managed to hit home, but before Isaac could finish it off the driver went in reverse and increased the distance to ram Isaac once more.

After a quick inspection of his surroundings Isaac decided that the best course of action would be to hide behind a car and start shooting, but this time his aim was off and he did not manage to connect at all and Isaac gave the attacked a chance to retaliate by unloading a magazine at him while driving by. Luckily Isaac managed to avoid most of the bullets but one of them still managed to hit him in the shoulder. Before the car disappeared Isaac managed to make a quick mental note of the license plate… he’d have to pay him a visit later.

While heavily cursing his fate Isaac used the car he hid behind to steady himself as he rose to his feet and made way for his own car before the police arrived. A man of Isaac’s notoriety would rather not get involved in an incident revolving gunfire, so instead of heading for a traditional hospital. Good thing he knew of a mob doctor who’d have no qualms treating him discretely.

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The address on the flyer was in the middle of a rundown strip mall, under a sign that says “Harold Charger’s Antique Bookstore and Tea Lounge.†The small storefront has a display of used antique books in the window. A piece of worn and faded paper is taped in the lower corner of one window, with the upside-down “shattering†symbol drawn in faded marker.

 

As the group staked the place out over the day, they noticed a few seemingly average people go in and out over the course of the day. The only notable thing was that nobody was actually leaving with any books.

 

After half a day of scoping the place out, they finally decided to enter the store.

 

A beaten metal bell clattered as they opened the door, announcing their presence. The interior looked less like a store and more like a living room. A pair of couches faced each other with a coffee table in between. Seated at the couches, two twentysomething girls stopped conversing and look at them as if they had just walked into their apartment. An older man sits on a stool behind a counter with a run-down cash register on it, the only nod to commerce in evidence.

 

A shy looking young man went into the back through a moth-eaten green velvet curtain as a more robust man in shirtsleeves and a tie emerges\d. He smiled a car salesman’s smile and approaches, extending his hand. “Come in, come in! We don’t bite. Is there anything we can help you with?â€

 

Diplomacy was Mikaeus' role in the team, so he replied first, "Hello there. We came in because we saw the, uh, symbol on the storefront."

 

"Oh? You recognize it do you?"

 

"Yeah, we do. And we're kinda curious, true be told."

 

“It’s simple, really. We’ve all seen little things, stuff we can’t explain. You know, like, you know you turned that light off, but HEY! It’s on again. Or the rocking chair in your living room starts to rock for no reason. It’s not a bad thing. I know, I know… It can be scary. But everything we don’t understand is scary. The first person to see a plane was terrified."

 

"I’m talking about ghosts. Sounds silly when you just say it like that, doesn’t it? It’s not silly, and it’s not a joke. We’re not all sitting here having you on, my friends! We’ve all seen things, and we all know that the spirits of the dead are trying to reach us, to pass on their wisdom. We’d like to help you learn from them, too.â€

 

"Yeah, I know exactly how that's like. We've… had some experiences. Could you tell us more?" "How do we learn from them?"

 

“Ed, may I have a word with your new friends?†the shy looking young man said from the curtain. He gestured into the back, inviting the group in. “I’ve been waiting to meet you.â€

 

In the back, a collection of dining room chairs was arranged in a configuration roughly reminiscent of a church or a support group, facing a worn lectern. The young man smiled softly as they entered the room.

 

 â€œI’m sorry, you must forgive me. This is very exciting. The Minister has told us so much about you, but we’ve never actually met someone like you before.†He brushed his limp blonde hair out of his eyes, “Oh! Sorry, my name is Uriah. I’m a Seeker here. I guess you could call me the pastor of the church. Would you like some tea?â€

 

"Nah, I'm good. Not a big fan of tea, I'm afraid. I'm sorry, what do you mean by someone like me?"

 

"A Shining One, that which we all seek to become."

 

"A Shining One? Ahaha, but I'm not exactly shining. How do you know that I'm one of these so-called Shining Ones?" Mikaeus gestured to his skin jokingly.

 

Uriah smiled a little, "Yours is particularly shining bright, is it not?" he says, and you notice that his eyes squint as if blinded, as he looks in the direction of your Geist."

 

Mikaeus paused before replying, having been caught slightly off-guard. Walkie-talkies? Or someone with the ability to detect Sin-Eaters without being one himself? You learn new things everyday...

 

“Indeed, you're right. He calls himself the Father. I'm surprised you can see him."

"You must be gifted in your own way."

 

"Indeed. Though I did not always consider it a gift."

 

"I empathize. It can be burdensome to have a gift you cannot reject."

 

"Why are you here, Uriah? And what else did the Minister tell you about us?"

 

"I am here simply to guide the other Seekers, and to enlighten others to our teachings." he said, preparing some tea for himself. "The Minister has long held you up as the ideal of existence. The Seekers worship you, you know, you are everything we seek to become."

 

"That's flattering. Pray tell me, how do the Seekers propose to become Shining Ones? I certainly didn't become one by design."

 

"When a person is ready, to die and return, the Minister shall foretell their death. It is up to each individual, to determine when they are ready. You must have been ready, but simply did not know it yet."

 

“I suppose that's one explanation. So how many of you have died and returned as Shining Ones?"

 

"None, as of yet. We are relatively new, you know. We've scarcely been together a year. I never expected it to be a quick thing, one must be patient."

 

"Well, how many of you have tried and, presumably, died?"

 

"But a few." he said simply.

 

"Always voluntarily?"

 

"Do you think us a bunch of murderers?" he said, apalled. "We force nothing here."

 

"Perhaps some clarification on context is in order. We're here as a result of what happened to Mateo and Marci. Are you aware of what they've tried to do?'

 

He looked grim. "I am aware of Mateo's actions. It was most tragic. But why do you mention Marci? We have not seen her since that event, we have been concerned that she was involved. Is it so?"

 

"She tried something similar to what Mateo did. And if what she told us is true, the Minister put her up to it."

 

"You must have misunderstood her." Uriah said, taking a sip of his tea

 

"You seem confident that I have. Are you aware the Minister sometimes communicates directly to the Seekers through telepathy?"

 

Uriah put down his tea. "I am not aware of such."

 

"Will you confirm it for yourself afterwards? Marci is thankfully alive and Mateo… he failed and sent us here to prevent the other Seekers from following his foot-steps. The Minister may be a Shining One, but he does not know everything about becoming one. None of us can claim to, and I'm concerned that he may be peddling the wrong information regarding the certainty of the phenomenon."

 

"The Minister is not a Shining One. Perhaps, you had best speak to him directly."

 

Coud he be telling the truth? What an interesting turn of events.

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"They're going to speak to the Minister! That's really great!" Ed put up a thumbs-up sign, his eyes visibly widening with approval. "The Minister would love to meet these Shining Ones, I'm sure."

 

Uriah merely smiled at him, before directing his smile to the group.

 

"Shall we go then? If we do, I'd like to put in just a small request, that we go there my way. I hope all of you don't mind, and are not alarmed. Just remember this. Wherever I go, follow me." Immediately after saying it, he closed his eyes and began praying under his breath, his hands clasped together. The prayer ended a minute later, and he unclasped his hands and placed them at his sides, his eyes still shut. The air seemed to go still. Nothing happened for a short while, save for Uriah's soft, steady breathing.

 

Suddenly his eyes snapped open, and started to roll towards the back of his head, the whites of his eyes shockingly evident. He staggered and swayed on his feet, holding his hands out to balance. He seemed to have forgotten the group's existence. His mouth widened, and he let out a large yell of "ZOOOOOOOONE!"

 

"It's a complete coincidence," explains Ed genially, "that this part happens to coincide with an arc of a particular Japanese TV drama."

 

But before Ed could delve into its wonderful plot, Uriah was already staggering out the door, as if in a drunken stupor. He bumped hard into Mikaeus, then into the pillar right opposite, and with much difficulty managed to knock himself out the door. The sky was already dark outside -- how much time had passed in that dinky dim store, anyway?

 

The group noticed that he was leading them down to the train station. He made a move to step in, but was stopped by a gateway. He blinked, regaining himself, and looked around.

 

"Ah," he said, "this is it. The gateway lies beyond here."

 

The group could feel deathly energies emanating from somewhere below the train station. Uriah was certainly not leading them on the wrong path. However, before they could step in, there was a very practical and realistic obstacle to surpass.

 

"The station gate's locked, of course," observed Uriah without surprise. "It's night after all, and no trains run at this time. You'll have to either pick the lock or destroy it somehow."

 

[please roll Dexterity + Larceny. If you have lockpicks or other equipment, they can also be used. It is an Extended roll so please do it on Skype and we can tell you when to stop. Alternatively, if you wish to destroy the chain or lock, we will tell you the stats on Skype.]

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"Mmmph."

 

Rose pushed past the group and dropped on one knee in front of the obstacle blocking their path, diligently plucking a single pin from her disheveled hair and sticking it into the keyhole. One has to wonder if her unflattering hairstyle was actually formed from a lack of upkeep or elaborately styled that way, as she pulled another pin out and started jiggling the lock with it. Isaac caught onto the situation and took out his iphone 5 with his bandaged hand, silently providing light for Rose as she worked her magic. A single satisfying click eventually rang out as the lock relented, allowing the group to foray even deeper into the darkness. 

 

Uriah and the group now stood in the deserted station, near the beginnings of a spontaneously accreted memorial to the lives lost in the wreck Mateo caused. The pictures are organically stacked and pinned haphazardly, unruly and somehow more beautiful than a precisely designed tribute would have been. Upon further investigation, the group noticed the names scribbled on the bottom of each picture, slowly realizing that this memorial is all but complete. It will continue to expand. Uriah touches each picture in turn, whispering a prayer for the dead.

 

No trains were running this late, but a thrumming vibration was definitely rising from the platform. Cold green arcs of phantom electricity run along the tracks, causing the hair on everyone's arms to stand on end. The blackened, battered engine of the train from the fairgrounds comes into view and rolls to a slow stop, displaying all the scars and tears caused by the wreck. The doors open, and blood drizzles over the edge into the lowered bank below, hissing and boiling as it hits the gravel. Uriah steps on board, ignoring the pooled blood and looks back.
 
“This is the best way to reach the chapel. Are you coming?"
 
"Oh hell n-" Isaac began to protest, but was cut off as Bianca pulled his ear into the waiting cabin with the others. The interior of the train made its external appearance look almost welcoming. Once everyone climbed on-board, they noticed the shades of many of the passengers, bloody and crushed, but staring straight ahead through cloudy cataracts. They took no notice of living ones as they slowly made they way into the center of a carriage, shoes sloshing loudly in liquid crimson. The train shudders and moans as it prepares to leave the station. The doors hiss and close, and the light of the station dims and fades. The train lurches into motion, pulling them away into the darkness.
 
Each of the group members stood in silence, each preoccupied with their own thoughts as the train enters a tunnel, the noise of its riding the rails beginning to echo like some kind of hollow metal heartbeat. Outside the scratched and spider-webbed windows, the walls are changing from the uniform concrete of a man-made tunnel into roughhewn, almost organic structures, broken up by irregular supports that appear to be enormous rib bones. Such was the environment in the Underworld.
 
Here and there, strange creatures scrambled along the walls, staring in at the intruders with heads turned the wrong way on their withered bodies. Too many fingers grasped at the pits and peaks of the wall, and one jumps free, catching at the side of the train. As the train picks up speed, more and more of the creatures swarm over the outside, leering in the windows. A glimpse of a certain familiar ghost caught Rose's eye, prompting the lady to break the silence and hiss out at the fleeting figure, an arm instinctively stretching out to grab at the noose hanging around his neck. As if egged on by her sudden movement, more of the creatures swarmed onto the locomotive, pressing their grossly disfigured faces against the creaking windows. The smarter ones were already scrabbling away and heading for the doors on either end of the carriage.
 
Rose cursed her over active imagination under her breath; eyes glancing between the two exits as the creatures eventually bust open both doors, spilling into the carriage from either side. It looks like another fight was imminent.

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[many events have been lost to time, but we have recovered records of what happened from this point on]

 

If one had not looked closely, one might not have even noticed that the Minister had fallen. He stood rigidly, imposingly, his face betraying no expression, but suddenly the bones began to crumble under their feet, a deafening clatter as the pillars gave way, and the Minister joined his precious palace to crumble into dust. The krewe ran as quickly as they could and barely managed to escape, but it seems Uriah was left with the debris, his loud, forlorn cries resonating in their ears and their minds for days afterward.

 

They returned to the mortal world, wondering what would happen to them now. Had anything changed? Were the cult devotees out to kill them? Whatever it was, it seemed they would not find out for a long time. No one came up to them, their geists did not signal anything untoward, and soon the church that Uriah had fondly called home was sold to an estate developer to build a shopping complex.

 

This seemed to be the end of the chronicle. The devotees were definitely still out there, probably planning their next move, probably returning to their old lives again. It was nothing the krewe could do about, at least. They too returned to their daily lives, promising to keep in touch if anything else out of the ordinary happened in the future.

 

And knowing Old Fork City, it was certainly likely.

 

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