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Part 11: The Church of Science

Previously (Pt. 10) Home Next (Pt. 12)

The adventurers begin their new task–connecting with a “resistance” group of spirits in the upper city. But making it there safely will be no easy task.


To cut down on excess chatter, I’ve created a special “DM” icon for special thoughts. Any time you see this speech bubble to the right, hover over it to read my commentary! (Or don’t, if you don’t want to interrupt the narrative.) —>

The players’ characters are now level 6. Ikkath’s player was unable to attend, so he followed the party silently.


Real Date: August 31, 2014

Game Date: 8th of November, a.r. 231, half past eight bells, morning (Day 8)

Chapter 47: The Circus is Back in Town

On the third morning after ridding the monster from the Open Invitation and the wharf, the four spirits began their trek back up into the city. They kept to the side alleys and back roads, aiming in the general direction of Madame Guerre. However, the elfin orphan girl Ardin found them first.

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Ardin

Ardin: Oh, there you are again. And with a new spirit in tow, I see. How was the cult?

Joriah: Oh, not bad, not bad…we helped defeat this giant monster creature that was eating people. Met this guy here (gesturing to Ikkath). Learned that the guards seem to be using weapons powered by spirits. Plus, we learned how to possess people!

Ardin: Bit like sex, isn’t it? Well, now that you’ve come this far, I think you’re finally ready to meet up with the other ghosts of the city.

The four spirits looked at each other in surprise.

Joriah: Other…ghosts?

Ardin: Oh, come now, you didn’t honestly think you were the only ghosts left in Veritan, did you? Many have survived, and they’ve put together something of a resistance movement, up in the Royal Quarter. Right under the noses of the enemy, if you will.

The adventurers agreed almost immediately. Simply finding others of their kind would be reward enough; it could help them learn more about life as a ghost and what may have happened to them while on earth.

Ardin: Excellent. Getting therewill be dangerous, but you have a knack for getting in and out of places safely. You’ll need to enter King’s Way through the Church of Science, which is the largest pedestrian entrance to the royal quarter. The throngs should help you get by unnoticed. (Talk to a tinkerer named “Mad” Mosley; he has some experience with helping spirits out.)

From there, go to a place called the Sanatorium. Look for a man called “Huxley.” He’ll know what to do.

The elfin girl called after them one last time as they departed.

Ardin: Oh, and the Tin Street Carnival is back in business! Might want to check it out one last time while you can, eh?

The four spirits decided to do just that. They had plenty of fun in their last visit to the shadowy “Carnival of the Macabre,” and they hoped to walk away with more useful weapons and equipment.

Sure enough, the distant cacophony of the physical carnival could be heard as they approached the glass-works store. This time, there was a man blowing glass in a kiln, but he was too busy with his work to notice the ghosts behind him. The four spirits moved over to the shadow world easily enough, where they reconnected with an eager Quinn.

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Quinn

Quinn: Welcome again, friends! Welcome back to the fantastic Carnival of the Macabre! A little death can never keep a carnival down for long! The festivities have resumed in the physical world, and so have we!

Tacitus: It’s good to see you too, and to hear that everything is okay again. We were hoping to play another round at your games before heading off on our next quest.

Quinn: Certainly, certainly! We do so enjoy having visitors! We’ve also spent time improving our games, making them a little more difficult, but with even better prizes to earn!

Here, Quinn put a friendly arm around those closet and lowered his voice.

Quinn: Now I noticed that you were all very commendable players, very above-the table, in your last visit here. Played by the rules, you did. But what if you tried cheating, just a little? Give yourself an edge…make things a little more exciting, maybe? See what happens?

Quinn finished with what might have been a wink with a sewn-shut eye.

The four spirits regarded Quinn with a skepticism. Offending the ruler of their only safe haven had always been last on their minds. However, if he was actively encouraging them to try their hand…well, it would be interesting to see what tricks they came up with.

1. Bobbing for Apples (Grapple checks).

First to return to the games was Tacitus, who headed straight for the bobbing apples. The basic challenge in this game, he remarked to himself, comes not really from gripping the apple, but gripping it as it bobs in the water beneath you. Hence the name.

Tacitus then pointed his finger at the water, releasing a blast of energy. While the Ray of Frost would not freeze the entire bucket of water, it did solidify its surface–just enough for Tacitus to reach down and pluck one of the compliant apples with his teeth.

“Well done!” commended Quinn, applauding Tacitus’s thinking. “And here is your prize.”

Tacitus was pleasantly surprised to receive an Amulet of Health (+2), which would help keep him alive longer when casting his punishing spells.

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2. Jacob’s Ladder (Balance checks)

Joriah, on the other hand, was sizing up the Jacob’s Ladder, which both he and Rina had failed to pass on their previous visit. Indeed, on his first try today, Joriah slipped by the third rung and fell to the mattress beneath. Picking himself up for another go, he heard a familiar voice. Their group’s mage was standing behind him, a spectral hand floating just beside him.

Tacitus: (winking) Need a helping hand?

DMthoughtAlthough Tacitus’s spell could influence no more than 5 pounds at a time, it was still enough to help Joriah across the challenge. With the Mage Hand on his shoulder, Joriah was able to steady himself on the third rung and leap the final distance to the end.

quarters-25-cents-change-coins-glass-jar-12828801Quinn handed the elated Joriah his prize. It was a glass jar of coins.

Joriah: Er…can you identify this?

Quinn: Certainly. It’s a jar of coins.

Joriah: Um…nothing magical about it?

Quinn: No. Just a simple glass jar of shiny coins.

Joriah was about to protest when he noticed that the coins were, indeed, somewhat reflective. Remembering that, as ghosts, the party was always in need of ready-made portals, he immediately began imagining ways to use his new-found treasure. Thanking Quinn, he hurried off to find his other compatriots.

3. Rope-and-Bell (Climb checks).

Rina the Totemist had spent an entire hour preparing on her own before she tried her first game. Instead of two of her normal melds, she instead opted for a Phase Cloak and Girallon Arms, which appeared as an extra set of spectral arms extending from her rib cage. Then she made for the Rope-and-Bell, which had also best the party on their last visit.

DMthoughtNodding to both Quinn and the resident carny, Rina lastly retrieved the Rope of Climbing and ordered it to tie one end of itself to the top of the tower, and the other end to her waist. Then–extra arms, safety rope, and Feather Fall effect all together–she easily scaled the knotted rope to the top, and to the bell.

Quinn shook his head as he handed Rina her trophy. “It seems there’s at least one activity we’ll be replacing for next time.” Rina’s prize turned out to be a Gray Bag of Tricks–not unlike a reuseable version of Tacitus’s Summon Monster.

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4. The Gauntlet (Spot OR Tumble checks).

The Gauntlet, on the other hand, proved to be just as frustrating on the party’s second go as their first. This time, the weights were a little bigger, and their motions a little faster. Knowing that she was allowed to use any trick to get past the obstacles, Rina carefully watched the motions and used her Blink Shirt meld to dash when the timing was right.

DMthoughtOn her first attempt, Rina made it all the way to the final weight, misjudging its motion by only a fraction. It hit her in the back as she blinked by it, tossing her diagonally past the bell at the finish.

On her second attempt, Rina didn’t even made it past the second pendulum before being forced off the course.

For her third and last attempt, Rina decided to pull out all the stops. Retrieving her Rope of Climbing once again, she ordered it to snare up all the pendulum ropes. The strategy was somewhat successful. There was now only one, rather large mass of pendulums in the way–but it was wide, heavy, and fast.

Intimidated by the hulking mass, Rina once more threw herself past it. And once more found herself flying upsidedown through the air, to land in a heap. She pounded her dwarven fist against the dirt, swearing that she would one day master this challenge.

5. The Spook House (Will checks)

A Yeth Hound

A Yeth Hound

After their disappointing turn at the Gauntlet, the party next decided to tackle the Spook House, home to creepy and unsettling imagery. As they discussed their magical and physical advantages, they realized they had no way to increase their will against danger.

Tacitus: Wait a minute…I’ve been getting better at summoning larger and different types of creatures. What if I imagined a monster so terrifying that it scared us into the spook house?

After a hearty laugh, the others decided that Tacitus’s idea might not be so bad after all; at the very least, it couldn’t hurt to try. The sorcerer then bent his concentration towards his task, conceptualizing the most unnerving, horrific monster he could fathom.

Mists began coalescing in front of Tacitus’s feet. From their form, a distorted outline began taking shape. It was as if of a giant hound, but its flesh hung in tatters from its ribs. Its skin was pulled tightly across its frame like a rotten tent, and little more than bones remained of its bloody claws. Then the creature turned its face towards the group, and eyeless sockets gaped above a tortured grin.

DMthoughtAs the group quivered, the beast opened its maw, and a shrieking blast of air erupted. More than a howl, the sound resembled the shrieks of tortured souls trapped within its form. At this, the four adventurers simply turned and lunged dashed into the spook house.

fake spiders

Boo!

They dashed through the room where painted clowns poured fake spiders from buckets onto their heads.
They ran blindly past the men standing quietly in suits. Though the men behaved as if nothing were amiss, their forms were being slowly replaced by arachnia. One reached for a wine glass, not with fingers, but with the eight legs of a spider; another was missing the entire top of his head. travis louie-naven-overcomes-his-phobia
mayakembryo They even rushed through the room filled with shelves upon shelves of “pickled punks”—human fetuses preserved in formaldehyde. Though they floated in silence, the causal observer would have sworn their forms turned to follow whoever was in the room.
bugs under skin Finally, the four travelers finished their panicked flight in the last room of the spook house—a room completely empty, save for a full-length mirror at the far other side. This mirror did not shine like a portal, but merely reflected their forms. However, when they approached, they began seeing the tell-tale bumps of things wriggling under their reflections’ skins. (At the same time, in fact, they began feeling itching and crawling on their own bodies, in the exact same places as their reflections.) worm crawling

Rina, convinced some magical deception was afoot, drew her tin sword and raised it with an angry cry. As she did, she saw a spider’s leg poking up at the back of her throat. With a mighty swing, she shattered the mirror into pieces.​

The skin of each of the “real” adventurers cracked and split at the same moment as the mirror, and maggots and legs and tentacles wormed their way outwards. Their psyches finally breaking under the strain, the four spirits howled in terror and burst for the exit sign, clawing at their face and arms as they ran.

It was only when they recollected themselves in the light outside that they realized Rina’s suspicion had been right: it had all only been an illusion in the end.

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6. Thirsty Clowns (Ranged attacks)

Joriah was happy to again grab a pistol at the Thirsty Clowns, recalling he had already won once here. Indeed, he again burst a blood-filled balloon on only his second try, using no special tricks or cheats. Quinn handed him his prize–a very-useful pair of Gloves of Dexterity (+2).


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Is this big enough?

7. Whack-a-Mole (3 out of 4 Reflex saves).

DMthoughtThe Whack-a-Mole game was still in business, though now the ferrets and kittens moved with alarming speed. None of the party had any means to heighten their reflexes; still, they still had a trick or two up their sleeves. Taking hold of the game’s hammer, Rina had Tacitus cast Enlarge Person on her, increasing both her size and the size of her hammer. In theory, this would give her more room for error when swinging the hammer.

Unfortunately, a large, slow dwarf is still a slow dwarf. The table shook with each strike, but Rina was only able to hit one animal before her time ran out.

Motioning Rina to step aside, Joriah pulled his armor off over his head. Freed from its constraints, he was now able to make most use of his dexterity. However, even with his new gloves and Tacitus’s spell, he was unable to hit any of the targets over two games.

“Carnivals games wouldn’t be fun if you could win them all,” Quinn reminded them with a toothy smile.

8. Bell-and-Hammer (Strength check).

On the other hand, Tacitus’s Enlarge Person spell came in very handy for the Bell-and-Hammer game. With her boosted strength, Rina was able to ring the bell on her second token, winning the appropriate Gauntlets of Ogre Power (+2).

Throughout the activities, Tacitus made sure to keep a ready supply of both candy floss and hot dogs, which restored both his health and his spent spells.

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9. Dart-and-Balloons Game (Ranged attacks).

Still shirtless, Joriah tossed hapless hedgehogs at colored balloons. However, the row of targets was further away than before, and the hedgehogs squirmed in his grasp. He missed all three throws of his first attempt.

Deciding not to play around, Tacitus simply used his Mage Hand to pick up a hedgehog, carry it through the air to the balloons, and pop one with it. Quinn handed Tacitus his prize–a Stone of Alarm–although Quinn’s knowing smile suggested this would be the last time they’d see this particular game.

At the end of their run, the party had managed to win six out of the nine games–a solid percentage. Quinn promised there would be new and even more challenging tasks on their next visit (with appropriate rewards), and the party spent the rest of the day resting and enjoying themselves around the carnival.


Chapter 48: Meeting “Mad” Mosley

Game Date: 9th of November, a.r. 231, half past six bells, morning (Day 9)

The spirits slept a full night and rose again when the physical sun was just rising. Bidding Quinn adieu, they returned to the physical world to begin their trek into the Royal Quarter. Although they briefly considered stopping by Madame Guerre’s, they eventually voted against it. While she had been patient and helpful, the Madame had never been happy to see ghosts in her shop. The four decided to respect her wishes.

mad mosley

“Mad” Mosley

Hovering over the morning steam from a sewer grate, the four spirits eyed their next objective–a tinkerer called “Mad” Mosley. Not far from the Madame’s shop, parked in an empty town square, a self-propelled carriage idled in the early sunlight. A man reposed on an elevated seat that would normally have overlooked a team of horses. However, in Mosley’s modified version, he sat behind only a series of levers and wheels, presumably connected to the shuttering apparatus in back.

The adventurers couldn’t help but notice that this was the only self-propelled carriage they’d seen in all of Lux. All other Veritan technology had centered on the “augmentation” of bodies, such as the guards’ advanced weapons or the Steam Mares’ power suits. Perhaps this was one reason he was called “mad.”

tumblr_lwx7m8Gt6R1qdhvyro1_400Currently alone, “Mad” Mosley held a broken tin automaton in one hand, a screwdriver in the other, and a sandwich in his mouth. Periodically, he would rearrange these three items. He was also loudly humming a ditty as he worked.

As it was still early morning, traffic was minimal in the town square (save for the occasional lantern-man turning off the gas lights). The four ghosts crept up until they were next to the carriage. Tacitus observed that the tinkerer was attempting to repair the spring that powered the automaton, though he could not discern more. Joriah decided to start the exchange.

Joriah: Hello!

When Mosley noticed the four apparitions hovering next to his cart, he dropped his screwdriver in alarm. Then he pulled on one of the levers beside him, releasing a cloud of steam from his carriage’s boiler, while speaking loudly to no one in particular.

“Mad” Mosley: Woah-ho! Looks like we got a lot of steam pent up in the boiler today! Guess I’d better spend some time venting it here, wouldn’t want to blow a gasket. (Then, in a hushed whisper to the ghosts next to him.) Are you four ghosts? Wait, never mind, of course you are. What are you doing, waltzing around in public? Are you trying to get yourselves caught?

Joriah: Ardin told us to get in touch with you about getting through the Church of Science.

“Mad” Mosley: (looking them up and down) Well, they certainly didn’t start you out with something easy, did they? The Church of Science, eh? Wow. Do you four know what you’re getting yourself into? Are you gluttons for punishment?

Tacitus: Well, I think I am on my third afterlife now.

“Mad” Mosley: Yeah, but with the Church, you’ve got guards and crowds and pillars and–you know what, never mind. It’s easiest if I just show you.

Following Mosley’s directions, the four spirits hopped onto the back of his self-propelled “steam carriage.” While venting steam every so often to hide their presence, Mosley drove his contraption through the empty streets up towards the Royal Quarter, and the Church of Science. He pretended to talk to himself as he conversed, and he would bang a wrench against a pipe any time the spirits replied too loudly.

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The journey to the Royal Quarter

DMthoughtOn the ride, the ethereal travelers learned a few interesting facts about “Mad” Mosley. Aside from being a tinkerer by trade, he was also an illegal repairman. Thanks to the “Mechanical Engineering Standardization Act” (M.E.S.A.) of a.r. 87, all homes were required to have a minimum of certain utilities, like sewage and gas pipes. However, waiting for an official licensed repairman often took days, so Mosley made a little money on the side through his own independent repair business. Since he was fast, efficient, and often more skilled than the “official” repairmen, local authorities generally turned a blind eye.

Perhaps half an hour later, the troupe arrived at the Church of Science, the largest pedestrian gate to the Royal Quarter. Mosley parked his carriage some distance away, but still in open sunlight and in full view of the church. As the five of them studied the church to the north, he explained the situation.

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The Church of Science, with entrance at the middle. The basilica is on the right, the clerical offices on the left.

“Mad” Mosley: And here we have the Church of Science. See that tall wall that stretches left to right? That’s the border between the Upper Commons and the King’s Way. There are a number of gates that’ll let you pass from one to the other, but they’re heavily guarded, and all wagons have to be searched. You four probably don’t want that.

The Church of Science, though–the Church is different. It’s smack dab right on the middle of the wall, and you can walk right through it, from the Upper Commons to the Royal Quarter. (In fact, walking is the only thing you’re allowed to do–no wagons or anything with wheels.) It’s naught much more than an embellished covered walkway, with a little bit of museum thrown into boot. Of course, you can always make a detour to the east, where the basilica is, and spend the morning meditating on the virtues of science. Or you can go to the left, to where the offices of the clergy are. I wouldn’t personally, though.

heavy-vintage-glasses-windproof-mirror-being-goggles-cos-props-a-single-filter-steampunk-respirator-1405062903l4cp8strykerAs the four ghosts listened, they eyed the man entrance into and through the Church of Science. There were two large doors stretching ten feet wide by perhaps twenty tall. However, they were flanked by a familiar arrangement of guards–two with mechanical arm-cannons, one with a breastplate of knobs and dials, and a fourth with a large powered sword. They did not seem to be the same four encountered in Wayward Prison; instead, it simply seemed to be a common setup for guard patrols.

The spirits discussed the option of possessing the guards and simply walking through the Church. Two facts gave them pause. First was the fact that while three of the guards were suitable targets, the fourth (the one with the breastplate) wore a respirator mask. “Likely to prevent possession,” the spirits decided. Which meant that if they did decide to go the possession route, they’d need to play things more carefully–either ambushing new guards coming in to relieve the watch, or simply possessing three and bluffing the fourth.

The second fact that gave them pause, however, were pairs of humming obelisks, one set on either side of each door. There was Latin writing engraved on the pillars–phrases of IRRITUM AUGURINIUM and MAGICAE CIRCULUM CONTRA CONFUSIO. Thanks to their knowledge of high latin, Joriah and Tacitus were able to translate the phrases into “Break Enchantment” and “Magic Circle Against Chaos,” respectively. This meant the two pairs had one of each, and associated symbols etched into the pavement suggested their fields were more than enough to cover both doorways.

640_tesla-coilJoriah: Any idea what those could mean, Tacitus? You’re the magic user among us.

DMthoughtTacitus was still a developing mage, but one of those phrases was similar to spells he was learning now.

Tacitus: “Magic Circle Against…” I think I know what that does. Buffs allies against chaotic attackers, prevents possession or mind control, hedges out summoned creatures.

Joriah: Wait…did you say, “prevents possession”? Does that mean we can’t take over the minds of the guards there?

Tacitus: Well, it only prevents the act of attempting to possess. If you’re already in control of a person’s mind, the Magic Circle won’t do anything. (Here Tacitus squinted at the other pillar of each pair.) “Break Enchantment,” though…I’m not sure about that one. I would think that wouldn’t affect us, since we’re not enchantments.

mosley talkingThe spirits had the presence of mind to ask Mosley how he’d helped spirits enter in the past.

“Mad” Mosley: Oh, well…it was different each time. Each party had their own idea of how to get in. Some went in through the church sewers. That’s not quite as easy as it sounds, though; I gather there were protections placed down there as well. Some I carried in through the front door in sealed flasks and containers. One group actually tried to run their way through the Church. (Here Mosley frowned and shook his head.) I wouldn’t suggest that method. I never learned what happened to those ghosts, but it caused quite a ruckus inside the Church.

During this time, Rina was sizing up the Church in her own way.

Rina: I have an idea. There are some stained-glass windows on the basilica to our right. I bet I can blink with my Blink Shirt up to where they are, maybe find a portal over to the Shadow Realm, and see what it looks like on that side.

The others agreed with the plan, and they watched Rina edge around the outside of the square to where the morning sunlight hit the church’s domed section. Though the stained-glass windows were twenty feet above the ground, this was within easy distance of Rina’s abilities. They watched as she blinked to the windows (hiding in plain sunlight), found a portal in the reflective surfaces, and crossed over.

It was only about ten minutes before Rina’s vaporous form returned, and the five reconvened to hear what she had seen.

dark_wings_dark_words_by_blackcynnamon-d58km7cThe first thing they learned was that, surprisingly, the Shadowy Church of Science was (nearly brick-for-brick) an exact copy of that on the physical realm. This was the first time any of them could remember both physical and Shadow locations being precisely alike, and they wondered what it meant.

Second, while the structures were identical, whatever patrolled on the other side was remarkably different. Since she was outdoors on the Shadow Plane, Rina’s vision had been limited to 30 feet. She considered scaling the dome of the basilica itself to bypass the wall separating the quarters; but when she heard the flapping of large wings in the darkness overhead, she thought better of it. Instead, she had climbed to the ground.

The entrance to the chapel was still there, though the enchanted towers were noticeably absent. Also, instead of four guards, there were two huge griffons, sitting atop separate stone pedestals. They were bound to their stations with chains, and they stared resolutely against the darkness outside the cathedral. Whereas the Shadow Church was an exact copy of the physical, the Shadow Upper Commons was not; and the beasts seemed to guard against any encroachment.

spudnik_3Rina had not been willing to scout further by herself, and she had placed her pocket mirror near the wall of the basilica before returning. Now, the trick was simply finding the right spot on the physical street to link a portal for everyone else.

The four spirits discussed possessing a passerby and making him inconspicuously “dowse” for a reflection, or even randomly drop change until they saw one light up, until “Mad” Mosley offered his help. Parking his tinker’s carriage near the basilica wall, he lined up a score of his tiny mechanical men, marching them across the pavement stones. To the casual observer, it would seem merely as an advertisement for their sale. As they did so, the ghosts kept an eye on their metallic hides, signalling Mosley when they saw an inky flash. In this way, it took only a few moments to pinpoint the location of the hand mirror on the other side, and Mosley dropped a large cog there.

marionnette“Mad” Mosley: I’ll wait around here for an hour or so to sell my wares. I can’t stay longer than that, or the guards will get suspicious.

Oh, by the way…if you get the chance, you might want to look for an old associate of mine who has a shop up in the Royal Quarter. He used to go by the name Polycarpus, but these days he’s better known as “The Toymaker.” Pretty famous chap now. He makes these incredibly intricate and animated dolls…marionettes that can jump and dance and spin and courtesy. Mine can barely walk in a straight line without falling over, and I’ve always been curious how he does it.

Well, anyway, check him out if you get the chance. Good luck on your travels!

The four spirits eyed each other apprehensively as they passed through to the Shadow Realm. It was best not to tell Mosley that the Toymaker’s dolls were probably powered by ghosts.


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Chapter 49: The Church of Science

A Shadow Griffon (using the stats from a Gray Render, Cr 8)

True to Rina’s description, a shadowy replica of the Church of Science awaited on the dark side. Both it and the wall around the Royal Quarter were surprisingly perfect reflections of their counterparts. The buildings of the Upper Commons, however, had not carried over; and the griffons still held watch against the darkness.

The four spirits weighed their options, deciding on continuing through the Shadow church. They weren’t sure what waited in the darkness above, and Ardin had advised passage via the structure itself. First on the agenda, however, were the two half-eagle/half-lion beasts. Each by themselves was the size of the Sphinx they’d killed; plus, these monsters had wings.

Rina volunteered the first plan. As a totemist, she felt an affinity to the animals and magical beasts she revered. This meant that, often, she could pacify or even tame wild creatures with a form of wild empathy (though magical beasts such as these would be more difficult).

DMthoughtThe three others stayed out of sight while Rina stepped out into the open. She whistled just loudly enough for the nearest griffon to hear her, which immediately took to the air and swooped in for an attack. However, as soon as it landed in front of her, it paused. A quiet symphony of soothing murmurs, gentle body postures, and placating gestures eased the giant beast down from its fury. Eventually, it blinked at Rina with a gaze of mild indifference before swooping back to its perch.

The other griffon, on the other hand, proved a little more difficult. While Rina’s charms were still effective, it still glared distrustfully at Rina as it returned to its post.

Joriah: I gather that second griffon didn’t take to you as kindly.

Rina: I sense it still views us with suspicion and distrust…but at least it’s not going to attack us on sight now.

Tacitus: What about…when we try to go in through the door it’s guarding?

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Nope.

Fortunately for the party members, they had already edged along the front of the Shadow church before the second griffon saw them. They were faster and more nimble, and they managed to duck in through the Church’s front door just before the griffon’s bulk crashed against the structure. Realizing that its prey was safely inside, the beast instead took to pacing back and forth in front of the entrance. There would be no easy exit here.

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The interior structure of the Church of Science.

Man in a hoodTrue to Mosley’s description, the central part of the structure was a glorified walkway from one end of the cathedral to the other. On the right side, a vaulted entry apparently led into the basilica whose windows Rina had used to first port here. To the left, two separate doorways led to what likely were the offices of the clergy–one near them, and one near the far end of the Church.

Immediately, the party noticed they were not alone. Striding along marked paths that circled the perimeter of the Church, a slow procession of hooded monks made their rounds. Swinging censers that emitted a thick smoke, they chanted from Latin engraved on the stones they tread. Eyes that glinted from underneath each hood belied the presence of other monks walking in the same locations, on the physical realm.

The monks showed no indication of seeing the four adventurers. Each continued on their private march around the church grounds. At any one moment, there were five to six monks in the main chamber, slowly filing in and out through the adjacent rooms.

Tacitus bent closer to study the Latin the monks murmured out-loud. Reading from bottom to top, he was surprised by what he discovered.

monk road preview

a walking surface made of stone

straight and vertical walls

perfect and without flaw

within and without, all together

the width, fifty feet

the apex, twice the same

the length entire, two hundred

composing a safe haven for all

Tacitus: They’re…literally describing the church around them in precise physical detail. It’s like they’re working a spell to maintain the building on the Shadow Plane.

The four travelers looked up again at the Church around them. Well, that was one mystery solved–how this structure could remain so exact and concrete, even on the Shadow Realm. But it did raise the corresponding question of why. Perhaps a jaunt through the Church would turn up some clues. (Luckily, the monks continued to ignore their presence, though they were given a wide berth just the same.)

Down the center of the Church’s course were a series of exhibits, undoubtedly mirroring replicas on the physical plane. Here, however, the four ghosts could inspect them at leisure without interruption. Each was accompanied by a cylinder phonograph that played a short explanation of the display.

phonograph b

“In this most basic conversion of one kind of energy to another, the ‘aeolipile’ vents steam through jets along its sides. Turning heat energy into mechanical energy, this machine laid the foundation for other devices of note, such as the steam engine.

It was thanks to scientific breakthroughs like this that the enlightened Age of Reason was ushered in to a world formerly darkened by superstition and ignorance.”

Aeolipile

phonograph b“This armillary sphere represents current Science’s more precise understanding of the heavens. Rather than worship the sun and five other spheres that orbit our earth, our brightest minds turned their attentions to describing them accurately with math and geometry.

Thanks to the efforts of such great men as these, the nation of Gens Sanctum Veritatin has learned much from the use of Science, and its might grows with each passing day.”

 armillary_sphere_by_amras_arfeiniel1

phonograph b“Our latest culmination of science and technology, the Steam Engine is a marvel of science and ingenuity. It has found applications in a wide range of designs, including in the weapons used by our noble Royal Guards and the iconic Steam Mares.

Combining years of research into mechanical advantage, engineering, and improved alloys, the Veritan Steam Engine definitively proves the value of Science and Reason over baseless superstition and religion.”

 steam engine

The group couldn’t help but notice that, for all its deriding of religion and belief systems, the manner in which Veritan science was described was a tad…flavored. The messages of the Church of Science were an odd amalgamation of scientific discourse, Veritan social propaganda, and traces of a new brand of superstition. (Indeed, with as much as the concept of “Science” was being lauded, it was being nearly deified in its own right.)

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“videre, disco, intellegere”

Notre-Dame-Basilica_opt-2This impression was only strengthened when the party visited the basilica on the eastern side of the church, through the door on the right-hand side. In the physical realm, the morning sun would filter through the stained glass windows that began twenty feet up along the walls. Central to the images was a large triangular sigil, the sides of which sported three Latin words: “videre, disco, intellegere.” Roughly translated, these became “see, know, understand”; church-goers would likely come here for some morning meditations on the value of Science in their everyday lives before continuing to work.

Though the basilica was empty save for the patrolling monks, the distant droning sound of a sermon could be heard echoing around them. It seemed the murmuring monks could impart more than just scenery onto the Shadow Realm. Tacitus lent his ear and translated what he heard.

“…hoc autem confecto,
quaestionem deinde de terra, si opus,
tantum specie intellecta conspicitur
si ponatur in medio caeli
ad centrum spere…”
“…now with this finished,
if we next answer the question of the earth’s position,
the observed appearances could only be understood
if we put it in the middle of the heavens
at the center of the sphere…”

Tacitus: …It sounds less like a religious text, and more like a discourse on the heavenly spheres.

Joriah: Well, that would fit the theme, at least.

(During this time that Tacitus and Joriah discussed the layout of the Church, Rina mostly trudged behind silently. Religion, even this faux-religion centered on science, interested her little; and she was content to leave the conjecturing to others.)

7299474192_f43b537cfd_zScary-Desktop-WallpaperBefore they left, the group noticed that shapes were sometimes visible in the smoke from the monks’ censers. For example, they could clearly see the outline of a man in the pulpit and the book from which he read. They guessed that (like what they’d seen in other locations), the longer something was in the same place in the physical realm, the more likely it would translate to the Shadow.

As the party re-entered the main section of the Church from the basilica, a new buzzing sound in the rafters alerted them they were not alone. Two flitting “cherubs”–though better described as ceramic baby dolls with silvery wings–watched them from above. They stayed out of reach of the party, but hovered nearby, keeping their lidless glass eyes trained on their movements. Pinpricks of light were visible in their irises, suggesting more counterparts on the physical plane.

Tacitus: They don’t seem to be guarding anything in particular, like those griffons outside were. Still, they’re creeping me out.

Joriah: (looking outside) Well, let’s look through the rest of the Church then before we continue on. We might find something else worth looking at.

The landscape Joriah beheld through the far exit of the Church was of a complete dark city–perhaps a entire replica of the Royal Quarter, transposed onto the Shadow Realm. Overhead, the darkness of the Shadow Realm was held back by strange, buzzing globes of light in place of gas lanterns. At the top of the slope on which the Royal Quarter sat, a dark hulk of a structure reposed. It was impossible to tell from this distance, however, if it was a palace, another form of church, or something else entirely.

three-monks-walking-with-hoods-upLike the Church of Science, the streets of the dark city were patrolled periodically by monks, each following their own “monk roads” along the edge of the streets. Though they did not collect as closely as those in the Church, the group was still taken aback at the sheer number that would be needed to maintain a Shadowy replica of an entire city quarter.

Thinking back upon what he had seen, Joriah suddenly realized the vast majority of monk figures they’d seen were of elvish or orcish stock–in other words, from the outlying “barbaric” people. The four recalled that Veritan campaigns to civilize the elves and orcs had been carried out for decades, and slaves were constantly brought back to be re-indoctrinated and incorporated into the empire.  Now, they were beginning to guess at the empire’s true motives for expansion.

zoetrope

A zoetrope.

Emperor Octavian IV

Emperor Octavian IV

The four moved on to the western side of the Church. The two doors on the other side of the church’s central section led first to another exhibition of important Veritan scientific breakthroughs, including:

  • water and wind wheels
  • basic magnifying glasses and telescopes
  • a hands-on exhibit of how concentric pulleys could be used to lift a heavy block of granite
  • explanation of hydraulics and pistons
  • a “zoetrope” of a running Steam Mare

(Internally, Tacitus noted a distinct disparity between the technology being described in the Church of Science, and the technology he had seen out on the streets. Large boiler-plated steam engines did not equate with the refined, miniaturized, and intricate forms of the Steam Mares, for example. It was like explaining how a man could successfully pole-vault because he had once learned how to crawl. The reasons for this inconsistency were still unclear.)

The four noticed that, along with the general propaganda from earlier, this section lauded a few important figures in the Veritan scientific revolution–none the least being Emperor Octavian IV himself, credited with “nearly single-handedly crafting the modern Scientific Age, beginning with the M.E.S.A. of a.r. 87.”

The circuits of the murmuring monks did not venture past this point, where two more wooden doors led to the clergy offices. Though the doors on the physical realm probably would have been locked, here they were easily opened. The four travelers ventured further into the chambers of the Church of Science.


Chapter 50: A Grisly Discovery

recipe preview

Click to read this ghoulish recipe.

Unfortunately for our heroes, their adventures were about to take a dire and macabre turn. The first set of rooms that awaited them were the sleeping quarters, kitchen, and larder for the murmuring monks. The blurred after-image of one of the monks could be seen lying on the top of one of the bunk beds, presumably asleep on the physical realm. The group rifled through the chests near the beds, finding suspiciously little more than clothes, spare censers, and “religious” symbols mirroring the triangle seen in the basilica.

human meat lockerThe shocker came when the party opened the door to the pantry, directly adjacent to the stoves and basins. Along with the anticipated potatoes, vegetables, and fruit, entire human bodies were hanging from the rafters–dried and salted for preservation. A recipe Rina discovered near the stoves confirmed the unthinkable: assuming the Shadow Realm continued to be an accurate copy, the murmuring monks were being fed a daily diet consisting partly of human flesh!

Joriah: Well…I think we may have found what happened to our bodies.

hood shadowSo intent was the party on their gruesome discovery that they did not see the solitary murmuring monk approaching from behind. As the devout continued along his preordained path, the clouds from his censer washed over Rina and Joriah. While the dwarven woman instinctively held her nose, Joriah took a full lungful of the smoke. He immediately arched in agony and fell to the side, gasping and choking. The others ducked out of the way of the monk and pulled Joriah to a safe spot, where he laboriously coughed out the soot…and a few wisps of his light blue essence.

Joriah:(in a haggard voice) It was tearing me apart inside. It wasn’t just trying to kill me, it was trying to completely rewrite me.

Tacitus: It’s because the “real” monk doesn’t see you at all. Just his sleeping quarters on the physical world. Get in his way, and he’ll rewrite you right out of existence.

PentagramThe group was fortunate in that there was only the one monk in this area of the Church; evading him would be fairly straight-forward. The threat was immediately forgotten, however, when they entered the next room of the clergy’s secret chambers.

Tables of scientific equipment and charts surrounded an area designed for diabolical rituals. Arranged at the five points of a pentagram inscribed on the floor were five execution chairs. Although four of them were the appropriate size for adults, the fifth chair was roughly a third the size of any other.

Joriah:(with growing horror in his voice) That’s not even large enough for a dwarf…

Whatever occurred in here, it was evidently for something more complicated than just execution. Spring-loaded spikes on either side of a victim’s head connected to tubing that further routed through mixing and condensing apparatuses. The four couldn’t help but be reminded of what they’d seen in Marcellus the apothecary’s office. A basic-level guide to the operations here only confirmed their deductions.

church notice preview

Click to open the disturbing guide in a new window!

The party discussed all they’d learned in this ritual room. They came away with a few observations and deductions:

scary eye

I’ll be seeing you…in your dreams.

  • Despite the cultist and sadistic nature of the “extraction” process, the Church of Science approached it as simply that: another form of Science.
  • Ghost essence was referred to by the Church as “incarnum.” This was undoubtedly the same light-blue substance the spirits were composed from, though the Church fervently refused to acknowledge this.
  • The “Quicksilver” that Marcellus had made use of was an intermediate stage in the refinement of incarnum.
  • When all was done, a victim of the process would have their spirit forcibly extracted, processed, and converted into a “power gem.” These gems found application in various forms of Veritan technology.
  • Joriah and Rina probably died in a room very much like this one, somewhere else in the city. Somehow, though, their spirits had been lucky and had escaped the rest of the refinement process.

The four heroes were just coming to terms with all they had absorbed when they heard a familiar buzzing noise. Perched atop the door from the monk’s chambers was one of the same porcelain doll cherubs, having followed them from the main galley. Winking one of its glassy eyes, it chuckled at the party in a sing-song voice:

Cherub: You’re in trooouuuble…


BONUS! Applicable Comic From AbstruseGoose.com

 

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