The Porcelain Dolls: Session 34 (September 08 2016)

Note: Originally posted to the Blades in the Dark Google+ Community in September 2016.

Shade latches the front exit of the Cat & Cradle, and turns to see the bartender flying through the air and crumpling against the far wall like a rag doll. Having gained everyone’s attention, Setarra begins questioning everyone with her Vulcan mind-meld trick regarding the death of Joshua Gleeson (the man in the barrel). She gets through three or four of the patrons without incident. When she approaches a sharp-faced man in the back corner, he says he’ll tell her what she wants to know. She reads his mind anyway, nods once, and then drags him into the back room and closes the door behind her without a single word. Shade and the rest of the bar can hear as the man yells, then pleads, then screams, and then the scream is cut short. Setarra returns from the back room looking much calmer. She apologizes to the bartender and sends him back to work, but advises him to keep a better eye on the goings on in his establishment.

As Setarra and Shade leave, she explains what she learned from the man. Her contact was murdered by the man and his friends, apparently over the matter of some money. They continue to look for someone to round out the staff for the back room at the Moon’s Daughter. They head to Coalridge, but again Setarra is unable to locate the person she’s looking for (another 3 on the Hunt roll). They head back to the bridge and take the stairs down to the underpass at the water’s edge. She removes her shoes and sits down, dangling her feet in the water of the canal, and closes her eyes. After a minute, she gets up and puts her shoes back on, informing Shade that someone is deliberately attacking her contacts. She implies that whoever it is, they’re above Shade’s power level, so there’s not a lot he could do to help at the moment.

They continue on to Barrowcleft, where they meet an old man sitting on a park bench, feeding breadcrumbs to some crows. He introduces himself as Giuseppe CorĂ©, and he and Setarra trade some affectionately pointed banter. When he shakes Shade’s hand, it becomes apparent that the man’s frailty is an act. When Shade attempts to examine him with Attune, he is unable to get a read, but Guiseppe picks up on the scrutiny and politely asks him not to pry. Shade gives his pitch, and Guiseppe is definitely interested, and so will meet with Constance at the Leaky Bucket in the morning.

They return to Crow’s Foot, to the alley that Shade was supposedly found in when he was carted off to the crematorium. Setarra helps him Attune, and rewind time to the point Shade and Jezelle entered. They looked like they were drunk (or possibly poisoned), and stumbling around a bit. There was a blinding flash of light, and they both collapsed. Setarra knows of a number of entities that could produce such an effect, so it’s hardly distinctive, but promises to look into it. She abruptly but politely bids him goodnight, and departs for Nightmarket. What she has noticed and Shade has not is that Kamali is skulking around on a nearby rooftop.

Once Setarra is gone, Kamali drops down from where she was watching the exchange, not wanting to get anywhere near the demon. He tells her about the mystery he’s trying to solve, and shows her the spirit bottle (which still rattles occasionally). Kamali successfully Attunes, and is able to see inside the bottle to perceive the angry ghost thrashing around inside and attempting to smash the glass. She leads him back to the factory.

Once in the workshop, Kamali brings out her Blue Cloud gear and takes a small hit, and sets out a notebook and charcoal, before manacling herself to a gurney. She points at Shade’s spirit bottle, and then to her open mouth. Shade, never being one to shy away from new and exciting experiences, shrugs and opens the bottle, keeping the spirit hook handy just in case.

I put it down to a Fortune roll to decide if Jezelle’s ghost had the ability to possess someone. I told them that if it didn’t, it was simply going to attack. And there’s Kamali all chained up. However, we get a 5 on the roll, so out of the bottle the ghost comes, and zips straight into Kamali. Jezelle then takes that opportunity to start thrashing around and buckling against the restraints, managing to get up off the gurney and drag it a few feet at one point. Kamali herself experiences the sensation of being pushed aside, and from that point on she’s a passenger, able to see, hear, and feel, but unable to exert any control over her body as it twists and struggles.

And that’s when Shade hears Kamali’s voice for the first time (and Kamali herself hears it for the first time in years). The first thing out of her mouth is a string of obscenities. Kamali finds it odd, in that it’s her voice, but not her accent, as Jezelle is Akorosi. Jezelle is pulling so hard against the manacles, that they’re cutting into Kamali’s wrists, but she manages to Resist the harm (especially with a helping die from the Blue Cloud). Eventually she calms down enough that she can converse coherently. She demands to know where she is, and Shade explains the situation. There’s a bit more back and forth, and eventually she breaks down in tears.

Shade asks for her help to piece together what happened in the missing three days. We end up working backwards, Memento-style, from the alley. When he asks what’s the last thing she remembers she talks bout being in the alley with Shade. For some reason they couldn’t stand up properly, and they knew that something was very wrong. Then a blinding flash of light, and that’s all. Further back, she remembers accompanying Shade as he went bar-hopping, in Nightmarket, Charterhall, Coalridge, finally ending up in Dunslough, at the Devil’s Tooth. There were some Skovlanders there, and they seemed to be celebrating, something about a feud. There was a woman Jezelle didn’t know, who greeted Shade like an old friend (and called him by a different name), and insisted that the both of them have a drink with her. He asks her to describe the woman, and she mentions a tattoo on the woman’s neck. She reaches for the charcoal, and draws a symbol. Shade recognizes it immediately, and knows the woman can only be Quellyn, an old rival of his. He didn’t consider their falling out to be serious enough for her to want him dead. It still doesn’t answer the question of what happened in the alley.

Jezelle says she doesn’t want to hurt the girl, remembering everything that Tocker put her through. Shade gestures to the bottle, but Jezelle shudders at the thought of going back in. Shade feels that he has enough control over the situation to allow her to simply exit Kamali’s body. Shade continues his conversation with her, but Kamali, now back in control, can’t see or hear the ghost, until Jezelle touches her on her shoulder, startling her. Jezelle apologizes, and looks like she’s about to break down crying again. Kamali wryly runs her dagger through Jezelle’s midsection, which of course passes right through her. This is enough to at least get a smile. Kamali indicates that Jezelle can use her any time she needs to, but Jezelle is reluctant to take her up on that offer. Shade makes a deal with Jezelle; if she can assist in solving the mystery, he will introduce her to some people who can help her deal with her new state of being. Jezelle agrees, but says she needs some alone time. Shade offers the bottle as a place she can rest, but promises to leave the lid open.

Once Jezelle is gone, Kamali heads back to her room (while Shade is in the middle of a sentence), retrieves a big heavy leatherbound book, and slams it on the table and points at Shade. The text is in Iruvian, but the hand-painted color frontispiece makes it clear that it recounts the story of how a powerful demon once became a prince of Iruvia.


Another bonus session. Boots’ player wasn’t around this time.

Setarra’s abilities were much less subtle now. On several occasions, Shade’s player said “ooh, I want to learn that”, to which I said “That’s not something that can be learned.” The truth of the matter is that a ritual can be researched to replicate nearly any effect, even innate demonic abilities. It’s just a matter of finding a source.

Jezelle may very well have been the only genuinely nice person in all of Doskvol. No wonder she was a victim. In her current state she’s certainly a candidate for the Reconciled, but Shade is a bad influence.

This was supposed to be a quick pickup session, as Gloves & Boots’ player wasn’t available. As it turns out, what we ended up with was some seriously deep story and quite a bit of background info on some previously sketchy NPCs.

We had a short discussion afterward regarding the multiple PCs thing we’ve been doing (what Ars Magica referred to as “Troupe Style”). While in general it’s worked out well, especially for such a small group of players, this session illustrated the benefits of focusing more tightly on a smaller number of characters. In other words, what we gain in breadth, we lose in depth, as it were. I’m not saying either method is better than the other, just that we need to be aware of the differences in play that these kinds of decisions will engender.