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World of Darkness: Glimpses of Darkness - Chapter 3b: Dead Ends


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As Krystal and Ian drove away in Krystal's beat-up attempt at automotive transportation, the handsome Father East straightened up from where he'd been leaning against one of the columns that graced the outside of the elegant manor home. He stepped over to Lily, placing his hands in his pockets and watching the two of them go with a touch of curiosity.

"I came outside with that one gentleman.. Bob, I think it was. He didn't seem to be handling it that basement thing very well. Said he was ditching the job - I think he stopped by to let Mr. Robillard know. Asked me to give you this, though."

He held out a small memory card, presumably from the camera Bob had been using to take photos with.

"Said it didn't have anything else on it, and maybe it might help out. I certainly hope so. In the meantime, though..."

He leaned down and picked up his bag, smiling pleasantly at Lily in that way men of the cloth seemed to be able to do. It made one feel either patronized, or comforted, usually depending on their particular personality and spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof).

"I'm afraid I must be going as well. I wasn't aware of the nature of the request when I was summoned here, nor it's seriousness. This seems.. worthy of investigation. I'm going to report the situation to my superiors.. it's Vatican guidelines. I'll let them know what we've seen here, and if they deem it worth checking out as well, someone will be back to help out."

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Lily accepted the card with a nod, then peered at the old priest.

"Something tells me scratching in the dirt and a weird drawing aren't really what brings the Church Exorcism Squad down on a place," she pointed out. "But thanks for checking on it. We'll be in touch if pea soup starts spraying."

She waved goodbye as he moved off towards the house their benefactor was staying in. We're dropping out pretty fast here, and nothing dangerous has even happened yet.

Pocketing the memory chip for when Ian returned, Lily re-entered the haunted house to see if she could track down what had been lost, or taken, that was pissing the old lady off so much.

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  • 1 month later...

Three frustrating hours later, Lily plopped down on the steps, halfway between the first floor and the second. She had gone upstairs and combed over the same areas that the guys had already covered. She discovered the books easily, a new clue for her since Ian hadn't mentioned them, though the thought crossed her mind to check and see if the guys had messed with them, since the thin film of dust on them looked recently disturbed. She'd also stumbled across the portrait in the ballroom and taken a few moments to study it, comparing it mentally to the sketch Krystal had shown her.

But after all that searching, there didn't really seem to be much more inside the house to find - or at least, nothing that seemed to stand out as relevant. What was startling was how much time had passed since they'd spoken with Robillard this morning.. the last time she passed a window, she had noticed the faint hints of pink across the horizon that hinted at sunset, and realized that there was only an hour or so of daylight left at best. The house had electricity, but if she intended to look around outside at all, there wasn't much time left to do so.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lily scowled and wiped her forehead with her sleeve. Who knew wandering around an old house would feel like this much work? For a second she fingered her cellphone restlessly, wondering if she needed to use one of her lifelines on this one...then she got up to her feet. Not just yet. She'd looked inside...due diligence demanded she check the yard and outside of the house too.

She started at the front door, then walked counterclockwise ("widdershins" they used to call it) at a slow, observant pace. She looked at windows and windowsills, the doors, the eaves...still looking for signs of vandalism or forced entry or something missing that ought to be there.

When she completed her full circle, she went around to the back yard...the overgrown garden, the garage and the area next to it for trash pickup and disposal. At each spot she tried not to -expect- what she'd find. Instead she tried to focus on what WAS there. It was a hard thing though, cleaning the mind of distracting expectations, and night was coming fast. Lily had to try her flashlight again before she'd quite finished...

(21:45:48) (SalmonMax): Wits + Investigation for Lily in WODGoD.

(21:46:08) (SalmonMax): Spending WP for +3 dice. Cuz...she's really looking hard.

(21:46:14) ChatBot: (SalmonMax) rolls 7d10 and gets 6,10,7,1,9,9,10.

(21:46:21) (SalmonMax): Mother of god.

(21:46:31) (SalmonMax): Popping 10's.

(21:46:35) ChatBot: (SalmonMax) rolls 2d10 and gets 4,4.

(21:46:38) (SalmonMax): Ok

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  • 2 weeks later...

It became obvious to Lily as she explored that someone had been searching the premises. Her first clue was in the overgrown garden, something Mr. Robillard obviously hadn't gotten around to doing much with since the renovation. At first it looked like gopher holes, but the digging was too imprecise - if anything it looked more like a really big dog had gone pawing through it with his paws. Most of the holes were fairly deep, but the overgrown vegetation had done a good job of hiding the digging from the casual observer.

She also discovered a small path behind the office building, a long-worn and well-used trail that led back into the forest, and before night fell too deeply she decided to investigate a ways back. It was there that she struck investigative gold, because a little ways down the trail there was a spot in the brush that indicated someone had been cutting through the woods off of that trail in order to reach the garden. The overgrown brush was trampled firmly, as if by someone who wasn't putting much effort into hiding their efforts. It seemed a safe bet than whoever was exploring the house was skipping the path in favor of a more secretive (or perhaps just more direct) route to the gardens, and possibly the house.

(Link to the Outdoor Map)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lily stood there for a moment, looking around at the cleared section, putting the pieces together in her head.

Guys come down this path through the woods to about here, then start cutting and clearing a new trail through... She points a finger along that path. ...to the garden. Mr. Snuffleuppagus digs around in the garden while someone, maybe two or three, sidle up to the house to get in. Neighbors can't see anything that way. Makes sense, only...

"Why bring a dog?" she muttered. "And if you're breaking into the house, why isn't there more missing?"

Since no one thoughtfully had left a diary where they explained everything, Lily decided to follow the path back to the garden, and see the situation through the eyes of someone using it. In the fading twilight she went through the forest and cane out into the garden, then slowly made her way across, looking around to see what would stand out. As she neared the place where the garden followed the wall of the house, she inspected that wall, and any windows in it, looking for places that showed signs of tampering, or forced entry.

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A thorough examination of the wall and the windows revealed nothing - from what she could tell, the only place that anyone had entered into the home was the back kitchen door that she had found forced open earlier.

Around that time, Charles poked his head around the corner of the building to check in on her. He stole a brief moment off of his cell phone conversation to explain that he had to head back to New Orleans for the night to finish up some business, and he wouldn't be back until the day after unless they called him with any news. He gave her his business card with his cell phone number when she asked how to get ahold of him, and then he left.

At that point, the only real avenue left to Lily that she hadn't explored was the direction the intruders had come from - the path that led into the forest. It was getting late, but there was still some daylight left.. perhaps enough to check it out before the others got back.

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Lily thought about it, but not very long. She'd worked enough on her own to know the dangers. Besides, this all looked weird, but not dangerous. She might have to watch out for the dog, but they could be dealt with...the important thing was not to panic.

So she turned and followed the path back into the woods...and this time didn't stop at the clearing but kept following it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The clearing led her deeper into the woods behind the old plantation, and as she made her way further in, the foilage became denser and less open. Though the path was an obvious one, even this far in, it was also clear that their benefactor hadn't gotten around to any renovations on this part of the grounds quite yet. Lily was beginning to consider that there wasn't anything of interest back here worth bothering with, when she finally reached a fork in the path. It seemed she had a decision to make. The left path looked larger, and more trod open. The right path was smaller and more overgrown.. but they were both paths.

Click to reveal..
Lily, I'll take another Wits + Investigation roll if Lily takes the time to stop and look around before picking. If she doesn't, and just picks a path, then feel free to proceed.
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Lily hesitated and knelt down to closely inspect each branch of the fork, looking for something...anything...that would indicate which one had been used more recently.

(Wits + Investigation = 1 success.

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2915834/

Popping the 10, cuz I believe "10 again" may be in effect. If not, ignore this...a 9!

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2915835/

So 1, maybe 2 successes total.)

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The trail on the left was wider, and had obviously been used more over time. But upon closer inspection, it was actually the trail on the right that appeared to have been used more recently. Lily spotted several broken branches and some disturbed undergrowth, though the rain in this area had washed away any traces of footprints, and created a muddy mess that she would have to trek through.

By the time she finally broke through the overgrown path, she was starting to regret her decision. The mud made squelching sounds under her boots, her feet got stuck in the shallow yet annoyingly thick goop on more than one occasion, and she snagged her shirt at least a couple times on branches. But finally, she broke through into the right-hand corner of a large clearing and paused to take a good look around.

Just to her left were two run-down, decrepit-looking buildings. They were made of simple lumber, and lacked any obvious ornamentation. If there had ever been any door on the left-hand building, it had long ago rotted away or been removed. There was a door on the right, though the wood had broken off or gapped enough in areas where she could still see faintly into the dim interiors. By now it was too close to dusk, and from Lily's current position all she could make out inside the buildings was darkness. Ahead of her, the worn trail continued past the large clearing and turned back into a path briefly, though she could see another small clearing just a few feet in.

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As soon as she broke out into the clearing, Lily instinctively crouched down and went very still, just listening. The sounds of the forest seemed horribly loud all of the sudden. The shrill scree of crickets, the buzz of mosquitoes and gnats all around her, the constant distant croaking of frogs. And it was dark...frighteningly so. Her hand dropped down to touch the flashlight in her pocket, but Lily forced herself not to give in to that temptation. Instead she shut her eyes and just listened.

Hard to be quiet out here. Mud glopping. Sticks everywhere. And if you want to talk, you have to do it over the noise. C'mon...anyone out there?

After a few seconds she opened her eyes, letting them get used to the gloom.

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  • 2 weeks later...

And gloomy it was. It seemed almost as if fifteen minutes had passed in the few moments Lily had knelt quietly, her eyes closed around her. It was a sharp snap that brought her to her feet - the sound of a twig breaking nearby, sending the bounty hunter's heart hammering and her adrenaline spiking, until a small rabbit hopped out of the overgrown brush from the direction the noise had come from. She started, and the little grey mammal's head jerked up towards her, ears twitching once before she took off in the opposite direction, down the small path ahead of Lily and into the clearing, disappearing around the corner.

Once her attention was off the rabbit, a brief glance up told her why it suddenly seemed darker. It looked like another rainstorm was approaching soon, and if she didn't finish checking things out and head back, she'd probably end up caught in it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Damnit, Lily swore to herself. Still spooking like a little girl.

But if there'd been rabbits around here until now, it was a sure bet there weren't any people. She could do her thing. She'd just have to be faster than she liked.

She clicked on her small flashlight and checked the interior of each of the buildings., shining the light over the floors, walls and ceilings. She then ran down the path to the second clearing and painted it with the light beam as well. She was going by the hope that if there was something interesting around, it would reflect the light. Otherwise she'd have to come back after the rain.

(Wits + Investigation (-1 dice penalty) 3dice: 3, 10, 9!)

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2960969/

(Pop 10: 5)

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2960972/

(2 successes!)

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Her quick search of the building interiors - such as they were - revealed little. Lily caught the outlines of old, worn-out and abandoned bed frames, a table or chair here and there that looked as if it had been there for a very long time. She wondered if Robillard even knew about these shacks - they were certainly far enough back from the main house that they might have been forgotten. It was a sudden rumble of thunder that prompted her to pick up the pace, and she abandoned the buildings in favor of the path to the second clearing. However, when she got to the second clearing and flickered her flashlight around the dismal area, she paused.

Here were the uncleared remains of what appeared to be some sort of graveyard. Through the undergrowth, Lily spotted what looked like several anonymous graves, mostly marked with simple, un-carved or eroded stones. There were a few exceptions - a handful that were marked with a worn, broken stone cross or a taller, more sturdy stone marker, and a few that had wooden headstones, though little more than some wooden board stubs remained of those grave markers. Lily was about to turn and head back to the house to avoid the brewing storm, when something caught her eye. Towards the back, there appeared to be an area where the ground was disturbed - as if someone had been digging at a couple of the graves. Even as she moved forward a step or two to investigate, she could feel the sprinkles start to tap her skin, hints of the storm about to start.

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Lily glanced up and grimaced. "Shitshitshit," she muttered and switched to a singsongy parody of her uncle's spirit chants, "oh great sky spirits...just fucking wait another few minutes please, I really gotta see something..."

She carefully went to the graves that were dug around and shone the light onto their ends, looking for the headstones. Who were you...or hell, who ARE you? And why the hell is someone moving the goddamn bodies out of the family graves?

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  • 2 months later...

Finally, a bit of a break. There were indeed markers at the unearthed graves. The first one was made of wood, and thought she had to struggle, Lily was finally able to make out part of the inscription.

Isum Wi rd

Bott 183 as a smal ..ild

Die ..871

The second marker was made of stone, and though the words were faded, they were legible, and revealed slightly more information.. enough for the reality to finally click in Lily's head.

Mose Hamilton

Born Feb 24 1852

Died Oct 1 1906

Born enslaved,

Served with loyalty,

Died free.

This wasn't the family's graveyard.. this was the family's slave graveyard. She shone the flashlight down into the grave, searching to see if the diggers had finished their work, when suddenly she heard a sound - a crunch, and then as she turned, a spine-chilling noise of anger - half groan, half roar - as the most horrifying creature she'd ever seen pushed its way into the clearing from the direction of the buildings.

It looked mostly like dried old jerky - the skin dark and stretched tight, the teeth bared, mostly from a lack of lips. What clothes remained on the thing were half rotted and dingy, it's hands grasping combinations of bone and dried-looking sinew. More like one would picture a mummy than a zombie, though the eyes were the most disturbing - startling white sclera for a creature otherwise so weathered, with dark brownish-black irises, and focused intently on her. The dead and undead stood there for a brief moment, locked into an eternity of horror, before the creature made another noise and began to move, fumbling towards Lily, hands pushing the branches away with a frightening ease.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lily's job was not one that met the conventional definition of 'safe'. She thought she knew what fear was; what terror was. Once, sneaking around back behind a runner's house, there'd been the crash of a shotgun inside a window she was moving past. It opened a hole you could stick a fist through in the glass and curtains, and missed Lily's head by two inches. Another time, when she'd been young and stupid and working alone, she'd gotten herself clubbed from behind and nearly knocked out by a guy she was after...a guy wanted for rape and sexual abuse no less.

None of that compared to this moment though. Those scary moments she'd had before were still real, still things that happened in the real world. This shambling thing was not real, COULD NOT be real. It recalled older fears by far; fears of a little girl who heard bodiless whispers at night, who saw stranger shapes lurching in shadows. Imaginary things.

In the end, she didn't even waste time on a scream. She just turned and ran for the house, crashing recklessly through the brush. Her mind desperately reeled, trying to rationalize what she'd seen even as she fled it. Her body however didn't care about such niceties, and merely moved as fast as it possibly could.

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  • 3 weeks later...

(Sorry about the delay, Max. Give me a Dex+Ath roll at -2d for rain and limited visibility, please.)

___________________

(...continued from 3a: Further Research Needed.)

Conner pulled in just a minute or two behind Ian and Krystal, which Ian was begrudgingly impressed by. After all, he'd whipped past the government spook almost as soon as they'd gotten back on the highway, and driven back at a steady fifteen miles above the speed limit. The rain was coming down steadily now, though it hadn't quite reached downpour status. Krystal grimaced at the weather, and grabbed her bag from the backseat. If they were gonna be stuck inside overnight, she might as well have her stuff.

"C'mon, Ian - let's get inside before it gets worse!"

She jumped out of the car, Fawkes quick on her heels. But halfway through their mad dash to the front door, Ian glanced over his shoulder towards the dog, pausing when he noticed Fawkes frozen, head turned in alert towards the woods surrounding the property, tail down between his legs and ears flattened out.

"Fawkes, c'mon! Inside!"

The big dog let out a whine in response, and kept his attention focused on the forest, ignoring Ian's call.

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“Aw, fuck me,” Ian whispered, a knot clenching in his gut. He scanned the top of the treeline for unusual lights or UFOs, pulling his coat tight around his lean frame. Most people would have just thought it was a wild animal catching Fawkes’s nose and dragged the dog inside. Ian saw signs of trouble in everything, so when Fawkes started pulling the Lassie shtick, Ian gave it merit.

Nervously, the young man walked over to the dog, crouching next to him. “I don’t suppose I could talk you into ignoring whatever is going on out there, can I?” Fawkes made a soft noise but didn’t turn his eyes away from the woods. “Right.” Ian turned back to the car and got Fawkes’s leash and a tire iron. By now, Krystal had wandered back, a question in her eyes. “Fawkes senses something,” Ian said quietly, “and he and I are going to go look into it.” He looked into her incredible eyes and wondered why the hell he was doing this; he should bodily drag the dog into the house and be done with it. “Shouldn’t be long.”

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The rain wasn't coming down heavy, but it was coming down hard, the rain drops large and cold, striking like needles made of ice. Krystal glanced at Fawkes, then looked up at Ian, her wet, auburn hair sticking to her forehead and neck, her shirt growing ever more spattered with wet spots.

Krystal knew Ian had his... paranoia, but Fawkes was her best friend and she knew all his moods. She knew when he was being playful, when he was hungry, when his whining meant he was hurt or just acting like a big suck. With his ears flattened out like that and the rumbling quality to his whine, something was making his really anxious. And truthfully - not that she'd ever admit it - after... whatever had happened in the cellar, this house was making her anxious too.

"That's fine, Ian. I'm coming too," Krystal proclaimed, pulling out her tangled mass of a keychain and getting a hold on the small flashlight and turning it on. In rain, the beam of the low-powered light seemed to extend for a pathetically short distance.

When Ian instantly began to protest, she arched a brow and gave him a sharp sniff. Her lips curved in a playful grin, trying to ease the tension, but in the rain and the pale light of her flashlight, her face looked pale and the smile forced.

"Right. Seriously, you want to leave the hottie alone in the haunted house while you go off into the woods? Are you trying to getting me Jasoned or Ghostfaced." Krystal shook her head, pointed chin jutting out stubbornly. Besides no wanting to be alone in the house, she didn't like the thought of Fawkes... and Ian, him too, being out there in the woods with who knows what. "Nope. No, I said! I'm coming too, and that's it. I'm not a witch - a little rain won't hurt me. Let's go."

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Bruce had made his own decision after Fawkes started barking and joined the three of them only a few moments later with a large Mag-lite flashlight and an oversized black umbrella. It wouldn't cover all three of them, but Krystal found herself out from under the ice-needle drops of rain while they made their way into the woods.

He gave the three of them an easy smile, "Best to stick together, eh? At least, that's what all the horror movies teach me." His tone was teasing, almost jovial and made him seem younger than the suit and (supposed) badge did.

He aimed the spotlight just in front of Fawkes' paws, to give the canine the benefit of the light without blinding any of them. "And whatever happens, do keep together. Even just kids playing a prank in the woods can end up with broken legs or broken necks from running in a panic."

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Ian was secretly pleased that Krystal wanted to come with him – well, with them, since he was sure that concern for Fawkes factored into her motivations. For a second, he was getting excited about being alone with her – then Conner invited himself along. Ian managed to give him a scowl before he wiped it off his face. The advice, while delivered with the best of intentions, only annoyed the young man.

He clipped Fawkes leash with a bit more force than necessary and said, "Let's go, Lassie. Show us where Timmy fell down the well!" Ian swore that the dog gave him a dirty look before the group headed into the trees. Ian gave Fawkes his head, slowing the dog only enough for the people to keep up. Nervously, he kept his eyes peeled for whatever had spooked the pup.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lily, if you're aiming for any particular direction, please state the direction and give me a Wits + Survival roll. If you're just all-out hauling ass, then just let me know and I'll take it from there.

:D

Ian, Conner, and Krystal, I'll take Wits + Composure from all three of you.

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