One-Shot Report: Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

Last Sunday, I lied to my players. I lied to them quite a lot.
We played a One-Shot session with a pre-alpha version of my own homebrew RPG system.

I lied to them about several fundamental truths regarding the scenario.
Here´s my original proposal in short form:
  1. A one-shot session, not a campaign (only partially true)
  2. Post-post apocalyptic setting (Lie)
  3. Low technology level, no science fiction (Lie)
  4. No magic-users (Lie)
  5. The game takes place on Earth (Lie) in the year 2184 (lie!)

Here´s a brief rundown of what happened, as well as a big marker for when any of the lies were revealed. Also, music, click to relax:

The setting

The year is 2184, mankind has barely survived several global wars which nuclear and chemical bombardments leveled, polluted or otherwise ruined most of the major cities and poisoned the waters for years to come.
All major networks are lost, including the satellite networks and the power grid. Traffic networks are also mostly useless, as the major cities are toxic wastelands. You can have all the roads you want, but there is no use for them if everywhere they lead is ruination.

Pockets of humanity have retreated to sparsely populated areas that are not as badly ravaged by the fallout as others.
Most animal life, especially birds and fish are wiped from the face of the earth.

The events started in a place called Settlement 16, part of a chain of settlements centered around “The Citadel”.
These settlements rely upon each other (for basic production of food and clothing) and especially on the Citadel, because it is the only source of clean water and energy.

Life is simple and uneventful, the only interesting thing happening is that about once a year, the brightest and smartest are asked to join the citadel for the Ascension programme, an initiative to push forward the restoration efforts (rediscover old technology, drive development of new technology, erect settlements in other parts of the world, etc.).

The players took the roles of 5 pre-built characters, ordinary human beings and inhabitants of settlement 16:

  • Ronald, the farmer
  • Olga, the teacher
  • Claus, the smart kid (son of the farmer and teacher)
  • Odo, the village constable
  • Rois, the village ranger

 

Scanned character sheet of "Olga", the teacher
Scanned character sheet of “Olga”

This is an account of the events, as clear as I can tell them, Act 2 was highly chaotic, with a 4-way party split. I think we managed it decently, but it makes it a bit hard to tell a coherent narrative.

The most important lies and GM notes are marked in the text, I will get back to them, and why you shouldn´t do that, afterwards.
Feel free to skip ahead, as the plot is very confusing to read if you weren´t there. 🙂

Act 1: Racket at the barn

The first scene sees the arrival of Citadel representative Ashur Kodama at the family´s house. His intent is obvious, Claus has been selected for induction into the Ascension programme.

Over dinner, a lively discussion takes place, with Ronald, the father arguing against this, Olga, the mother being cautious and the son himself being curious (Even if it is for the wrong reasons, his first question is if there would be girls at the Citadel)

Scene 2 takes place at the edge of the forest, where the ranger Rois patrols and discovers a group of wild bears rushing towards the village, obviously agitated by something.

She takes up pursuit, and as she leaves the forest, sees strange lights in northern sky (This is actually a space battle taking place in the planet´s orbit.)

The bears crash into the barn of the family´s farm. Rois whistles an alarm to warn the inhabitants of the house and village.

In the meantime, Odo, one of the settlement´s constables is visited by Morgan Leland, the Citadel´s chief of security.
They briefly reminisce about old times and their weapons of office, but are soon cut short by a loud noise coming from the outermost farmhouse.

Morgan signals the hovercraft and they both break into a run for the farm.

The family is also disturbed by the racket the bears are making outside on the barn and begin filtering out of the house to see what is going on.
The bears appear to be quite disoriented, breaking down one of the barn´s wooden walls, the one nearest to the farmhouse.
Olga seizes the opportunity and throws an oil lamp at them as they break through.
Three of them, as well as the wooden wall are covered with burning oil.

A brief melee occurs, in which the bears, by now panicking, are held at bay with makeshift torches, still, one of them manages to seriously injure Ronald with a swipe of it´s claw across his chest, before being eviscerated by Rois´hunting knife.

Odo and Morgan arrive a little later and lay into the animals with taser pistol and pulse rifle.
The fight is swiftly ended when the hovercraft with the rest of the Citadel security personnel arrives, taking down the last of the beasts with their pulse rifles.

However, unbeknownst to them, representative Kodama was inside the barn, and gets mowed down as well. A shot pierces his lung and he falls unconscious.
Frantic activity ensues, the fire is brought under control and the decision is made to bring Kodama and the wounded Ronald to the citadel.

Act 2: Arrival at the citadel

As our protagonists arrive at the citadel, a steel and concrete edifice dominated by two central towers, they rush to the infirmary to take care of the wounded… with the exception of Claus, who sneaks off towards a different corridor.
He slips into an elevator, riding it all the way to the top of the structure.
He surveys the area, crosses a bridge to the second tower and rides another elevator back down, to the second story platform which appears to harbor the dam for the hydroelectric power plant as well as a runway and two small aircraft.

This is what he saw from the top of the tower:

Map of citadel
Handdrawn map of citadel

He also notices three meteor-like objects falling towards the citadel, from the direction of the strange lights in the sky.

In the infirmary, Ronald is stitched up, while Morgan get the news that the orbital platforms are under attack.
Morgan, Odo and Rois venture towards the basement, acting upon a contingency plan that Morgan was given “for emergencies”.

Olga and Ronald venture out as well, separately, sneaking away from the remaining guards, who seem to be concerned with other things (an attack, apparently) than guarding civilians.

Olga finds some classrooms with computer terminals and manages to get a map of the area as well as the information that, yes, there is research regarding space travel, but she is not authorized to view it.
Still, it confirms her suspicions that there is more to this than they were told.
(Part of the second lie is revealed. What I didnt´t reveal yet: Mankind has become a space-faring race, with colonies spread throughout multiple solar system.)

In the basement, Odo and Rois follow Morgan past the water purification plant and all kinds of machinery and computer banks. They arrive at a kind of library / museum, where Morgan instructs them to help carry an astrolabe, which can apparently help save Kodama in some fashion.

While Rois helps, Odo takes a look at some of the antiquities: An ancient sword, and a papyrus scroll, which are displayed very prominently, as if for an exhibition of some kind.
As she observes the scroll, she is befallen by a mental attack of some kind (Nephilim possession, Odo is in the process of becoming a simulacrum to Muchbirin). This is what I gave to the player:

Player handout: Possession by Muchbirin
Player handout: Possession by Muchbirin

Rois, as she touches the astrolabe, is victim to a similar fate. (Player rolls FIVE setbacks, which is an abysmal result. Her mental resistance is immediately overcome, she succumbs to the will of Agmos a Nephilim of the High Priestess Arcanum. At this point, I briefly take both of the possessed players to a separate room to explain. Rois´player agrees to play Agmos, one of the story villains.).

On the upper floors, after a bit of confusion, the rest of the group meet up.
A massive impact shakes the entire facility.
As Rois, Odo and Morgan run past an entrance, they see what has happened. A pod-like missile has crashed into the main courtyard, and a heavily armored figure is embattled with the security forces outside.
Morgan Leland rushes outside to aid her troops in organizing a defence.

Rois/Agmos is able to instantly and completely heal Kodama´s wounds (Lie #3, there is no magic, oops), and they decide that it would be prudent to get to the command center in the upper levels of the tower, to ascertain the situation.
At the urging of Claus, he and his mother Olga split from the group in order to go to the repair bay, where Claus hopes to use his knowledge (a secret I have assigned to the character before the game) to overcharge the pulse rifles, in order to overpower the unknown assailants.
This plan goes awry, when he finds out that the power packs are already overcharged. (The implication here was that the power packs given to the settlement were intentionally throttled to keep a tighter control on the villagers by severely limiting their access to electricity. I am unsure if I communicated this well enough.)

Act 3: Finale

Meanwhile, Olga and Claus are noticed by one of the armored attackers, who begins stomping towards them. They manage to beat him to the elevator, but it arrives to slowly and the massive figure with blood red eyes confronts them.
Fortunately, he is not there to kill them, on the contrary, he is surprised to find civilians within the facility, which forces him to change his plans: They must be brought out of the war zone.
During a short elevator ride, he assures them that he and his allies are here to liberate the humans, and that they have been lied to.

(Here, in my head, several scenes run together, so my account might not be entirely accurate. At some point, the PCs learn that he is the Nephilim Eresh Szat and that the citadel as well as the entire colony is an elaborate setup to create strong human simulacra for the Nephilim operating the facility. The next two lies are uncovered: We are not playing a post-apocalyptic setting at all, and this is in the same universe as the previous campaign (Eresh Szat was an anchor point for the group there.))

At this point, the main elevator of the tower becomes quite the choke point, with various characters riding it up and down. The situation comes to a head when the three hostile Nephilim, Agmos, Muchbirin and Kodama run into the rest of the group at the main elevator.
A brief firefight occurs, which Kodama evades by turning into a cloud of smoke.
Rois/Agmos is incapacitated, but Odo/Muchbirin gets away in one of the small spacecraft. She is still battling the Nephilim inside her mind, and the craft hurtles into the night sky.

The group gathers into the remaining flyer and takes off towards Eresh Szat´s ship, the Integrity. On their journey, they are bombarding him with questions, many of which are answered…

(The original plan here was to give each survivor one question, totalling three here, but I caved to my own desire to unveil more about the setting and gave each of them two. Here, the last two lies were revealed. No, you are not Earth, and no, the year is not 2184, rather it´s the 28th century.)

Dénouement

  • Kodama is alive, tough if he can evade capture from the other two Judges is uncertain
  • It is unclear wether Muchbirin has taken over Odo´s body as a simulacrum, or if Odo resists
  • The three surviving protagonists will be taken to Earth, the real Earth, to stand witness in the trial of Agmos, who will be tried for crimes against humanity.

Game Master notes

Filthy lies!

So, let´s get to the elephant in the room first. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do not think that it was a good idea to hide so many fundamental truths from the players. It went okay, but it might have been catastrophic.

I got the buy-in from the players for “a post-post-apocalyptic scenario”, and presented them a “sci-fi-fantasy-mystery-horror” plot.
It´s a bit like going to the movies to see No country for old men, only to find out that the movie has switched to the X-Men at some point in the middle.
Both fine movies, but usually you want to get what you ordered. (Damn, should do a food analogy, okay, it´s like going to a restaurant ordering a pizza, and right in the middle of eating it the chef runs out of the kitchen and heaps a t-bone steak, a chocolate ice cream and a pile of doritos onto your pizza.)

Generally, having mysteries within the game is fine, great even, but this was a bit too much. I think having NPCs lie is a-okay, but the lies should stay within the game, not on the meta-level above.

What went well?

Here´s a few things that I think went especially well:

The opening scene, starting with a conversation scene helped people get into character.

The opening act split-up: I did this for the second time now, having the players start in separate places and uniting them worked out rather well.

Having planned the first act rather meticulously worked out really nicely. And by “planned” I mean “having made a flowchart with the player actions I anticipate”. “Kodama gets seriously hurt” was in there. Another path that would have put a much different tone on the second act would have been: “Kodama is forced to defend himself magically, the players witness this and are captured and taken to the citadel because they know too much (with a possible hovercraft chase when they try to resist arrest)”

“Theater of the mind” combat for the second and third act, I used the maps only as a visual aid here. First act was performed with an ad hoc drawn map tough.

What went wrong?

Some thing went poorly:

My initiative / Speed system not tested. This was due to a blunder of mine (forgot to print out an important gagdet, the turn clock) and I made a snap decision to just give each player the same amount of actions, in order of their speed.
Good decision to keep the game flowing, but my turn system is untested now.

I didn´t play the Morgan Leland character to it´s full potential. Specifically, I should have played her more authoritarian, and acknowledged the fact that she and Odo were supposed to know each other a bit more.

The core resolution mechanic of my homebrew system needs severe simplification. This is probably out of scope for this blog post, I might write a separate one once I am done simplifying it. The gist of it: A combination of too many mechanical actions (picking up many different dice, rolling, partial re-rolling) and three axes of results (setback/advantage, numerical score, number of required successes) made the resolution of combat rolls too onerous.
Back to the drawing board.

Why this specific story?

Actually, I have no idea where the specific plot points came from, the thing with the citadel basically plopped into my head a few month ago.

What I intentionally built was important tough. The Nephilim RPG is one of my favourite settings, however, it has a problem: Basically, the Nephilim taking over a human simulacrum (host body) and relegating the original owner´s mind to the role of a passive observer… well, that´s not very nice, is it?

So, my solution to this was actually supposed to be explored in the old campaign. What if there was a large-scale unveiling of the existence of the Nephilim, and what if, after resolving the initial shock and horror (there would surely be pogroms and similar nasty things, maybe wars), the two races got along?

And after that follows the question that led me to this scenario: What about the Arcana that specifically would not want this? The High Priestess would certainly not be at ease when so many secrets are unveiled, and, even worse, the Tower, the Blasted Tower, would do their worst to undo this.

Tarot card: 16 - The Tower
We must destroy all human knowledge of magic so that we may once again rule in the New Golden Age. We must destroy Orichalka so that we may be immune to human weapons. We must hide our natures that they may not make us targets. We must also build high refuges where magic can be kept from humanity.

What´s next?

My TODO list swells to epic proportions:

A new campaign (not a one-shot)

  • Outline the campaign (Preliminary idea: medieval, in the Nephilim universe)
  • Write a pitch for the players
  • Prepare a session zero, specifically: character creation, establishing the characters within the game world, establish the some story locations (I want to try doing this together with the players)
  • Write character classes

Update my homebrew system

  • Add damage and armor rules (Current rules are very basic/perfunctory)
  • Simplify the core resolution mechanic
  • Streamline the combat rolls a bit, specifically, I think Acrobatics (Dodge) must have some kind of diminishing returns when being attacked by multiple people
  • Update the character sheet (It worked, I specifically designed it as a one-page lookup, but it needs more shortcuts)
  • Make rules for character creation (probably some kind of point-buy system)
  • Write up some skills for a medieval campaign (Probably at least: horse-riding, melee weapon specialisations
  • Add a magic system (I have already started this for the Nephilim NPCs), I want to do justice to the cool magic system of the original game, but also improve upon it´s mechanical rigidiy and remove/rework some of the more esoteric spells

There´s a lot to do. Let´s get to it!

Advertisements

Nephilim – “Wrath”

(Disclaimer: This is for my Nephilim RPG players, if it read´s like a random part from the middle of a story…. that is correct, because it is exactly that.)

Wrath

Pergamon Museum, Berlin, South Wing, “Ishtar Gate”
Tuesday 11-APR-2017, 02:03AM Security Camera 7

A dimliy lit chamber, only illuminated by a few green exit lights.

The main feature of this room is the Ishtar Gate, a large arched structure, mosaicked with glazed, blue bricks , interspersed with yellow tiles, depicting aurochses and mušḫuššu.pergamon-ischtartor2bwhiteborder
It is of course merely a reconstruction, paling in comparison to the original gate.

This is largely irrelevant, as the serenity is abruptly disturbed by a crushing noise, as one of the walls, depicting lions and palm trees, shakes, cracks, and finally, in a shower of fragments and debris, bursts apart.

Out of the dust cloud steps a man with short-cropped, dark hair and a thin face. His black business suit is rumpled and smudged with grime.

A number of small, red spheres circle around him in overlapping arcs, their fiery glow bathing the room in a crimson light.
He cracks his neck, and starts to make his way through the gate into the next room.

His movements seem at odds with the shape of his body, as if a larger person is trapped within his slender frame.

Minor tremors shake the camera with each of his steps, and micro-fractures start to appear beneath his shoes in the limestone floor tiles, as he disappears around the corner.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Hall 3, “Pergamon Altar”
Tuesday 11-APR-2017, 02:06 AM Security Camera 11

The Pergamon Altar, main attraction of this museum, as well as it´s namesake.
Great steps lead towards an entrance flanked by pillars. The modern safety railings on the stairs marr the appearance of this ancient architecture.

It is flooded with pale moonlight, shining from the ceiling. The light moves in an odd way, slow, like syrup, and it originates from  a point just below the glass windows, not the night sky above.

As the man arrives, the hectically moving lights of his spheres clash with the streams of moonlight, sending shadows dancing across the room in irregular patterns.

The view evokes the images of a bizarre night club, but there is neither music nor dance, only the suited man, making his way towards the far side of the hall.

pergamon-altar1-plexusB

He does not seem interested in the altar or in the figure that approaches from the left entrance, shouting “Halt, stehenbleiben!

It is a security guard. He repeats his demand, trying to maintain a  firm voice, but he can not hide the fear within it.
Understandable, given the surreal scene before him.

The man does not react, but two of the spheres leave their orbits around his body, zig-zagging towards the guardsman.
They hit him in the torso and he collapses in front of the entrance.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Hall 1, “Greek Architecture”
Tuesday 11-APR-2017, 02:07 AM Security Camera 11

A smaller chamber, an exhibition room, it´s walls are lined with display cases, pillar tops, busts and statues. Several tall stone columns reach up, almost to the ceiling towards the high ceiling.

The man appears from a doorway to the left, and as his gaze falls upon the vitrines, his steps accelerate.
He raises his hands above his head and brings them down in a upon the first of the display cases in a powerful swing.Glass and ceramics shatter, as the contents of the vitrine are hurled about the room.
Quickly, he steps towards the next case and smashes it to the ground with a swiping motion.pergamon-heiligtum1bburning

Without pause, he strides along the wall, crushing vitrines and priceless statues as if they were toys in a child´s hands. His gaze flickers about the debris, as if he is looking for something particular, but can not find it.
A drawn out, guttural snarl erupts from his throat, the sound of an animal, certainly not a human being.

Again, a voice is heard, “H-halt, sofort aufhören!”. A guardswoman has appeared in the doorframe, holding a flashlight and a nightstick. She visibly shivers as she surveys the destruction before her.

The rampaging figure briefly pauses, snorts, and rams one of the tallest pillars with a full shove of his body.
It begins to topple towards the woman, who barely escapes with a yelp of terror.
The column´s segments break apart during it´s descent, falling upon a row of pillars near the doorway, which also crumble, burying the entryway in a heap of rubble and a deafening crescendo.

The aggressor freezes, as his gaze falls upon a small black object amidst the rubble.
He quickly picks it up, and lifts it in front of his face.

His head is visible to the camera now; An unremarkable face, clean shaven, young, with a thin nose under a pair of spectacles.
Unremarkable, except for the anger distorting his features.

Briefly, a smile replaces the scowl, while he considers the fist-sized onyx statuette in his hands.
It is a horned creature in a squatting posture, with it´s hands resting upon its knees.

Strangely, its visage is warped in a similar wrathful expression as the mans.

In the flashing, crimson light of the spheres, shadows play upon the idol, and for a fraction of a second, it appears to mirror his smile…

Nephilim – Chapter 2: Allies

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis of the last session we had with our Nephilim RPG group, to give some context to the other posts. Don´t worry, some non-RPG, non-Nephilim stuff will come up soon. I also might write a quick summary of chapter 1, which was the opening session.)

Chapter 2: Allies

Sunday, 9th day of the month of  April, 2017 AD

Visiting the Dojo

On Yxdri´s Advice, the protagonists visit The Dojo, a high-class martial arts establishment, where they meet with the brothers, Eresh Szat and Eresh Khan, of the Justice Arcanum.

They learn that this is still not their final destination, and that they will have to swear a magical oath in order to meet with Skaro. They do so, in the Hall Of Justice, which is a hidden, cathedral-like underground structure, situated directly under the Dojo.

The oath is a spell of Ritual Magic, which Eresh Szat teaches to all members of the group. It requires them to swear upon their blood and the elements, to not harm each other or Skaro for the next eleven years.
Failure to do so promises a dire punishment.

While Sil’Faron peruses the library in the hall, Eresh Khan challenges Sha Naqba Imuru and the others to a practice duel.
They return to the Dojo, where Kek proceeds to demolish Eresh Khan as well as his two newfound friends Sha Naqba Imuru and Finistur, to the amazement of Gealach and an increasing crowd of onlookers.

Meeting Skaro

The oath being sworn, nothing stops them from meeting Skaro anymore; Eresh Szat brings them to her tower, which is apparently a skyscraper in the middle of Berlin. The group is told that they are being expected, and enter an elevator.

As they exit the lift, they are surrounded by impenetrable clouds of white smoke, and the being known as Skaro, the mistress of the white tower reveals itself to be a lithe, elderly woman; an Angel Nephilim of the Wheel of Fate Arcanum.

Three of our heroes learn that Skaro has put events in motion to awaken them from stasis, culminating in their arrival here.
She immediately hands over Gealach´s stasis, a gold bracelet inlaid with saphires, as a token of good will.

Finistur and Kek were not expected, but are not unwelcome, they are offered to join the effort, if they so desire.

The task

 

The Angel reveals to the group that she wants them to construct a Golem for her, and have it be at a certain place at a certain time, more than a year ahead.

Specifically, Sil’Faron is to acquire the magical formulae required to make a Golem, Sha Naqba Imuru is tasked with the physical construction of the Golem, and finally, Gealach should perform the necessary rituals to infuse it with life.

She offers them this as a form of deal, where she helps them with their goals, whatever they may be, while they help her tread the Golden Path toward Agartha (which she offers no specifics about).
It is also implied that by freeing them from stasis, the three of them are in her debt.

The topic of Sil’Faron´s stasis comes up as well; Skaro assumes that it still resides within the Pergamon museum, where she had it placed. The Templars must have simply missed it.

While this conversation took place,  Sil’Faron dispelled the magical fog, only to reveal to the group that, apparently, they are on the roof of the skyscraper… but the landscape below does not look like Berlin… in fact, there is not even a city.

They also find a large number of chess boards, one of them apparently new, with representations of them placed upon an empty board.

Sha Naqba Imuru finally gets some insight onto the identity of Harvey Reeves, a tinkerer of the Chariot Arcanum, who aided Skaro in freeing the group from their stasis; He receives a business card and the name of the hotel Harvey resides in.

Stepping back into the real world

As they return from the tower, a great deal of revelation heaped upon, and a grand task ahead of them, they part ways for the moment.

The following night, Finistur has a dream, featuring memories of her former life as Ferdinand, a 9th century knight, particularly a night in which she aided the Tower Arcanum in rescuing a group of Nephilim from a secret society.

However, mixed in with the memories is the recurring image of a black cat, gazing at her with a green and blue eye…

 

Nephilim – “Suspicion”

(Disclaimer: This is for my Nephilim RPG players, if it read´s like a random part from the middle of a story…. that is correct, because it is just that.)

Suspicion

Berlin, 3AM CEST, Joris arrives at Bergmannstrasse 57.

I approach Yxdri´s office, hoping that the newcomers have left by now.
I watched them fight, and they seem to be decent folk, if a little confused, but right now, I need to talk to him alone.
The light is still on, and their cars are gone.

Good.

I slip in through the unlocked back door, and make my way to the ‘waiting room for exotic animals’. He still thinks this joke is funny, even thought everybody knows it´s where he goes to smoke.

As I press my ear to the door, the veterinarian´s soft voice announces: “Enter, they are gone.”
I abide, and find him sitting on the worn out leather sofa. A smoky haze and the smell of marihuana fill the room.
Temperance1.png

Sitting down on the other couch, I remark “You are quite perceptive, for a stoner.”

“No, You just have become quite predictable. I knew you´d come back to talk. I´ve been waiting.”
He takes a puff from his joint, and leans back his head, smoke slowly rising from his mouth. Of course he is right, I have spent the last four hours driving through the rain, trying to calm the thoughts racing inside my head.

The Templars´ return, the new arrivals, the leak, so much has happened today.

“Earlier, you became quite agitated when I mentioned Skaro´s name. You even called her a traitor.” he continues.
I´m surprised he wants to discuss this. “That´s not at all what I wanted to talk about – ”

He sits up abruptly, his dizziness replaced by an ire I didn´t expect from him. “Really? You brought this up earlier. When they were here. You wanted them to hear it, why not me?” He is becoming louder, “It´s getting worse every time. What was it you told the last group that came here? ‘She is not to be trusted.’? What´s next? Will you hand them a gun, tell them to shoot her?”

“I…”, I start, but he interrupts me again. “This has to stop. At this point you are basically just slandering her. You´re helping no one, not even yourself.”

This is where I finally get a word in, “It´s not slander if there is truth to it. She could have helped. Instead, Khavesh died. Perhaps worse. It is her fault!”

The elf sighs, slumping back into his sofa. “This again. We talked about this so many times, you just can´t let go. You´re the most stubborn Nephilim I´ve ever met. 1600 years is a long time to hold a grudge.”

I really do not want to talk about this right now, I try to derail the conversation a little, “Have you ever met Theseus? I think he has me beat by a few centuries. Besides, 1600 years is also a long time to mourn a dead friend.”

“No, I haven´t met him, but I can´t believe he is as persistent as you are,” he ponders. “Maybe he´s at least working towards settling his grudge, whatever it is, instead of just being angry at the world? You´re just dragging her name through the mud, and that serves no one, the least of all Khavesh. You are so full of energy, but you are wasting it on being angry instead of productive! Maybe he can be restored? But you don´t even try!”

I stand up rapidly. He´s really pushing my buttons now. “What the fuck am I supposed to do? I stand alone against two secret societies, maybe even three! I can´t just run off to seek out his stasis?! I wouldn´t even know which continent to look on!”

A thought pushes itself to the front of my mind. The secret societies , the Templars!

Focus!

I snap out of my anger. Try to calm him down as well.
“We have no time for this. The Templars are back in Berlin. This is why I came back, what I wanted to talk to you about. We´re in deep shit.”

Yxdri looks puzzled at the sudden change of topic, “Yes, of course. You already told me that.”

“No”, I reply, “They are back, yes, but that´s not the real problem. It´s the timing. Ten years of silence, and now they just happen to stumble back into Berlin, steal the stases that we wanted right from under our noses? This can´t be a coincidence.”

He strokes his chin, the anger forgotten momentarily, uncertainty, perhaps fear, in it´s stead. “You think someone tipped them off?”

Back to familiar territory, this is what I am good at.
“I´m not sure, either someone tipped them off, or we have some kind of information leak. They might have infiltrated the CT, and they in turn might have shadowed me, ” I pause for a moment, ” or Skaro has a traitor in her employ.”

His glares at me, the agitation resurfacing, “Again with this traitor nonsense. You -”

This time it´s me who interrupts him. “No, I mean someone who betrayed her. It has happened before.”.

He shakes his head. “No, that´s impossible. You wouldn´t know, but she now let´s the brothers have everyone swear an oath, a magically binding one, to not harm her in any way. Nobody gets to even see her before that.”
“Smart.” I say, “Hmmm, It´s obviously not the new guys either. Wouldn´t make sense for them to tip off the Templars, only to then slaughter them like cattle.”
BlastedTower1

My mind is working on full speed now, juggling ideas on how to handle this situation.

Step One. Find the problem and eliminate it.
“You should ask her who was involved in this museum stunt. All of them could be the leak. And all of them are in danger.”

Doubt creeps into his look, “But you know how she is, with her secrets, she won´t just tell me the names of all those people.”

I interject, “I know how she is, secretive, cryptic, obtuse. But she´s not stupid. Explain the situation to her, and she will understand. After all, what use is her high tower, when every one of her agents on the ground is murdered by Templars.”

Step two. Secure the perimeter. “Oh, and also get rid of all your mobile phones, get new email addresses and everything, maybe even move. Talk to people in person, so that you can´t be monitored that easily. Also tell that to her recruits, they are new to the twenty-first century, they might not be used to this yet.”

“Right. I´ll see what I can do. What will you do?”

Step three. Counter-Intelligence, Counter-Attack. “I will lay low for a while. Watch from the shadows, see if they are setting up a stronghold in Berlin. Wait for them to make a mistake. We have driven out of Berlin before. We can do it again.”

“I hope so… “, he changes the topic, ” ‘Slaughtered like cattle’ you say, so the new ones are powerful? Maybe they can help?”.

I think back to the skirmish for a moment, “Maybe. They seemed to favour raw force and physical combat instead of magic or stealth. But yeah, they made quick work of the Templars without me. Caught them in a pincer movement, sent the armored girl in first. So at least one of them has an idea of tactics I guess.”

His eyes light up, and he voices an idea. “Perhaps one of them can help you find Khavesh´s stasis afterwards? There are two more of them than usual.”

“Perhaps. One step at a time.” A yawn escapes my lips. ” I´m tired, let´s speak of this tomorrow. Can I crash at your place tonight?”

“Always.”

Nephilim – Prologue

The sky is almost clear today. A good omen.

After the incident in Japan, I am left with little choice, I must find help from outside.
Of those available to me, a careful selection has been made:
The alchemist, the centrepiece of my strategy.
I would have preferred someone a little more predictable, but alas, I am not spoiled for choice.
The spearhead could prove to be the creative, driving force for this operation. The symbol seems quite appropriate.
And last, but not least, the scholar will be necessary to acquire the proper tomes and formulae. I imagine them to be the thinker in this trio.
All of them were alive in recent times, so they should not have too much trouble adjusting to the new millennium.

If my information is correct, they even had prior contact, in the 19th century, this should maximize the chance of cooperation.

All the preparations for their release have been made:

By careful manipulation of the museum administration, the three stasis objects are in place. 

Harvey has set up his devices; This was very expensive for me, he actually demanded two favours for this.
I reluctantly agreed, on the condition that he name his first one right now.
To my surprise, he demanded money, an obscene amount of it, but still, only money, an easily fulfilled request.
In turn, he offered to contact the spearhead himself and put in a good word for me.

He stands to gain even more out of this deal, if his new machine works, which I do not doubt, the Merkabah will make him an initiate immediately.

And finally, Akim, he resides in a hotel near the museum, just waiting for my signal.
His task will actually be the easiest, the casting of a single spell, but such an important one.

I think I will call him personally, just this one time, for the sake of old times.

An endeavour of this magnitude should have a bit of a personal touch.

The board is prepared, the bets are placed, the pieces have been selected.
Time to place them on the board.
 

Awaken.

– Journal entry from the private archive of Skaro, Sunday, second day of April in the year  2017 AD, translated from handwritten Adamic script.