Urban Shadows: The Grave of Tim

In session 3 of my Urban Shadows game, the plot begins to really cook as the Cthonian Eye closes in on their target, Tim the Necromancer’s grave. Sam and O’Malley try to stop them. Then everything goes sideways when the werewolf arrives.

Our protagonists:

  • Anders, the Wolf is a supernatural vigilante. By day a day trader, at night he turns into a barely controlled killing machine. His territory is plagued by bizarre disappearances.
  • O’Malley became a Tainted through a deal that temporarily made him mayor of the city. Now forgotten by everyone, including his own family, he seeks work his way free of his “patron” Mephisto. Now a young upstart named Akiva is trying to take his job.
  • Sam the Veteran used be a mystical hero until he got to old, way too old. Now he runs a bar. Deep beneath it however, his old workshop holds powerful secrets.

The Grave of Tim

I began using the love letters I detailed last time.

We start with Anders confronting O’Malley’s daughter as she tries to chase a demon named Akiva.

“Why are you following that guy?” Anders asks the tween as they stand in the alley.

Julia relates that Akiva seemed weird and had been lurking near her school.

Anders warns her away from him, hinting that he is dangerous. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

Anders rolls +Heart and convinces Julia to leave Akiva alone on a soft hit.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?” she replies.

Anders brushes her question off. Out of the corner of his eye he spies the portal Akiva used close. Anders begins to walk away.

Julia tags along.

“What was he doing at your school?” he asks his new companion.

She says that Akiva was by her school putting up posters. She struggles to describe them. “They were campaign posters with weird symbols drawn along the edges.”

Anders pauses and stretches his injured side. Instantly his bruises from his run in with the car vanish.

He decides to Let It Out and regenerates. He gets a hard hit on his Spirit roll.

Julia’s eyes widen and he seizes the opportunity to point her back the way to school.

Across the street, O’Malley lurks and watches, grinding his teeth.

After talking with Mephisto, he headed back and encountered this scene.

As the two part, O’Malley considers returning to Sam’s. Instead he heads for the office.

As the elevator reaches the secret subbasement, O’Malley steps off and finds his seat amid the sea of desks.

A folder with Mephisto’s official seal waits in his inbox. Inside he finds leverage on Leon’s landlady. That should be enough to convince the old man to come back to the portal.

Then he looks around. Akiva’s desk is a few rows down.The surface is tidy. A banker’s box lurks nearby as if waiting for his next move up the chain.

O’Malley decides to learn something about his rival.

He runs over the office chit-chat as he heads for the archives. The young demon is ambitious and well-liked. The secretaries love him. That means trouble.

He rolls +Wild to learn about Akiva.

The labyrinthine archives of Hell’s Bureaucracy contain every transaction and every deed, from souls damned to who paid for donuts. A few hours of study gives O’Malley some ammunition. Akiva has made many deals but the pacts are sloppy. The former politicians spots loopholes.

Deciding that an enemy of his enemy is his friend, he looks up who Akiva hurt on his way up. Lukas might be consigned to the basement and a wheelchair but another body could be useful in this fight.

Akiva’s latest work proves the most interesting. The archive includes records on his own time in the archives. For some reason the demon is looking into the location of the graves of dead wizards, especially the arch-necromancer Tim.

Further south, Sam makes sure Leon and his unseen passenger get back to his apartment safely.

And gets 2 debts owed by the Passenger.

As he heads back to the bar, he decides to reach out to the one mortal who might know where Tim is buried, Tim’s widow Lisa. There was history between Sam and the now quite elderly woman. Like most, it wasn’t good.

He decides to call her grandson Harper. The police officer answers promptly and confirms that she still lives in the same old house. Harper also lets him know about the recent disappearances in Ander’s neighborhood.

After thanking him, Sam heads for the bar.

Sam spots Anders talking to Piper as he arrives.

The towering woman lets the werewolf know Kimiko isn’t in. As Sam approaches, Anders asks her about Akiva. The troll unfortunately doesn’t have much for him.

Anders fails his +Wild roll to hit the streets.

Sam asks Anders what he is doing. As they idly chit-chat, the door to the bar opens up again.

A crew of pale men enter, led by Arthur, Conrad’s new head ghoul. He scans the room with an icy glare before settling on Anders. They approach the bar.

Anders rolls +Night to Put a Name to a Face.

Arthur asks the werewolf what he knows about the attack last night. Anders tells him about the warehouse and the events as he saw them.

The ghoul thanks him and leads his posse away, perhaps to enact some vengeance.

Anders earns a debt on Arthur.

Kimiko squeezes past them on their way out. Anders asks her a few questions including where Conrad might be “living” these days. She gives him an address and goes to get a drink.

Anders cashes in a debt for information.

Sam then heads to the Chimera. These strange vanishings to another dimension makes the old mystic think about how there may be local weak points in the fabric of reality. With the right herbs and a well rolled cigar, one can smoke them out.

He finds the shop being handled by an African-American woman in camouflage clothing. He buys the herbs even though it sets him back a few weeks of profits.

Stepping out he rolls some cigars and gets to smoking. Cruising around the city, he watches as the purplish smoke gently curls around hidden soft spots. Weak but present, he notes. He marks each location on a map.

Gradually a pattern emerges. A spiral working its way from Anders’ turf and out into the city.

If this continues long enough, the whole city might be in danger.

Sam contemplates his next move. He calls Lisa.

Her voice is as crisp as a half century ago. They pave over old bitterness with pleasantries before Sam brings up Tim.

Lisa listens as he describes how the Cthonian Eye seeks to desecration of Tim’s grave to harvest its occult energy.

She agrees to help and invites him to meet her in Old Sac that night.

O’Malley finds Lukas in a sub basement storage room.

Thunk. A knife sinks into a dart board by the door.

“Hey”, says Lukas as he wheels himself over to retrieve his blade.

“Hello, I have a proposition for you.”

The disheveled man pulls the knife out of a tattered image of Akiva.

“I’m listening.” He pushes himself back to his stapler cluttered desk.

The tainted explains how they have a mutual enemy. Lukas nods and grunts as O’Malley outlines the plan, occasionally adding input in the form of a thunk of another throw.

“I’ll help you. But I’ve got a price.”

“What is it?” O’Malley asks.

“You put in an official recommendation for me for a promotion when this is done.”

They shake on it and arrange to meet after work hours.

That evening, before sundown, Anders visits the warehouse the gang was using. No visible signs remain of them. Nor does he see any trace of Arthur and his goons.

His senses detect the scent of recent gunpowder and with a little time, the whiff of cool air rising from a hidden chamber below.

He examines a place of power with a +Mortality roll. I think he got a soft success.

Under a rug and through a trapdoor, he finds the secret cellar. Empty weapon racks attest to a considerable armory. An oriental symbol decorates each wall, unfortunately in a language he doesn’t know, Cantonese perhaps. The map on the northern wall however shows the gang’s progress on taking over Conrad’s territory. Based on the gang signs, most of Sacramento’s criminal element is aligned with them.

As he does a final pass, he spots a large clay jug, adorned with the same symbol. He picks up the almost empty jug easily. Something small rattles inside. He takes the jug with him.

Lukas and O’Malley meet in the evening. Quickly they hatch a plot. They will feed a band of mortal monster hunters, a group of bikers known as Mary’s Hellions, details on how Akiva’s contracts can be unraveled. Being “good doers”, they will then do their work for them and Akiva will fail. O’Malley pens the anonymous note.

And gets a soft hit on his Persuade roll.

Night falls. Anders leaves the jug at his apartment and in werewolf form goes on the hunt. He sniffs the air for Akiva and bounds across roof tops. With each leap his surroundings grow darker and more crimson.

He tries to hit the streets but fails his +Wild roll. I activate the downside on his transformation…his loss of control.

Elsewhere Sam and Lisa walk through the crowds of Old Sac. Across the street O’Malley spots them and follows.

Lisa guides the way to an intersection. “There. They buried him beneath that street.”

Sam scans the surroundings. Cars push through the thick crowds at a pace somewhat slower than a toddler.

Suddenly five figures appear within the intersection: Felix, Christine, Neema, Percy, and a new man clutching a laptop.

O’Malley steps back into the crowd and watches.

Sam acts. He pulls out his cigars and quickly makes his way to the trash cans at each corner, dropping a burning heap of ash in each. Slowly the garbage burns and smokes.

While the wizards use their magics to examine the region, Sam cries, “fire!”

The mundanes begin to vacate the area.

Above a hulking mass of fur and muscle lands atop a roof. Anders can smell Akiva’s stink in the area. But everything is blurry and red. Someone down is talking and gesturing, someone who smells of brimstone.

I give Anders a roll to keep his Cool and recognize what is really going on. He fails.

A man-wolf crashes down to the street, landing atop Felix. The wizard raises his arms to defend himself.

Anders only sees some sort of weapon. He disarms him.

Basically I narrate events in the worst possible light to Anders and let him make the choices.

The crowd screams as the werewolf rips Felix’s arm off and hurls it across the cobblestones.

Neema and Percy back away as the beast begins to feed on their leader. O’Malley watches as the willowy mage, Christine slowly chants and concentrates on a spell as she retreats. Vasquez, the fifth mage, quickly raises a magical shield in a swirl of glowing ones and zeros. Then he bolts.

And falls flat on his face.

Sam withdraws his foot and places it on the young wizard’s computer.

Vasquez grabs at it. “Let it go man.”

“No,” Sam replies.

“I don’t want any trouble, I’m just leaving.”

“You can have it back if you come by the bar tonight.”

Vasquez glances at the monster devouring his leader. He let’s go and runs.

The others melt into the crowd as well. Christine is last, a strange smile crossing her face.

The red recedes from Anders’s vision. A savaged mess pools beneath him. Around him people stand in horror and snap pictures from their phones. O’Malley looms nearby a burning scourge at the ready.

However the tainted failed his demonic form roll so owes his patron another debt.

Anders quickly bounds off to the river, Felix’s remains seized in his jaws.

A few quick minutes of running and jumping lands him the dark waters. He dives deep only releasing the corpse once he is sure it won’t rise again.

A half hour of sneaking and dripping water later, Anders visits Harper to see what the fallout is. Despite being confronted by nine feet of savagery, the officer gives him a chewing out. The werewolf shrugs it off and heads back home to sleep.

Sam isn’t surprised later that night when Vasquez slips into the bar.

The rebel mage requests his mystic laptop back. Sam agrees on the condition that he leave the Cthonians. “They are riling up people and that won’t end well.”

With Felix’s gruesome death in his mind, Vasquez agrees. It all seems to be falling apart. Their plan to gain recognition, the gathering of death energies, and the plan to summon the Verge.

Sam listens and nods. In a way he can respect his desire to find a place for himself. He then asks if, with Felix dead, they could even complete the ritual. Vasquez thinks not but when pressed agrees that Christine has a lot more skill than the average apprentice.

Vasquez drinks for an hour and comes to some sort of plan.

He stumbles out into the night.

Sam’s persuasion roll only got a soft hit, so Vasquez isn’t going to entirely give up on his dream. Instead he’ll make some new mistakes.