Friday, October 21, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.9

Continued from Its Hour Come Round at Last 8.

My records for this episode do not include much in the way of reference to rules and rolls.  Where I do have them or recall, I will add them in blue text.  In retrospect, I did not like the use of orange text in the last episode.

One of the problems in splitting up a group is when to include which characters and how much time to dedicate to them.  I first read of the idea of troupe play in the early editions of Ars Magica - when Lion Rampart created it, not White Wolf -  and have occasionally incorporated having a player run an alternate character.

In this case, Smythe and Tali remained in England of 1915 of their home world/timeline, while the others wandered into another place.  While it doesn't become apparent to the group right away (at first they believe they have traveled in time thanks to Jeffery Llywellyn's interest in speculative fiction) soon they debate if they must be on a different world.  Predating study of quantum mechanics by two decades or the many worlds idea four decades later, H.G. Wells' generation of writers informs Llywellyn's understanding of the universe.

Tali's player ran the Zoog - an intelligent rat-like creature with a tentacled-flute nose.  Unknown to the group his music can influence emotions.

Smythe's player ran Pierre le Chien - a 13th century Parisian recently released from prison and sent south with the King's army.

***

Sunday, August 8, 1916 - Recluver, Kent, United Kingdom

Smythe had spent Saturday recuperating from his post-dream libations.  By Sunday, he felt better, but planned to spend the day writing letters in bed when Nigel informed him 1) that he hadn't any communication from the rest of the Lamplighter cadre and 2) after walking Margate the day before in the rain he had telegraphed Smythe II regarding the loss of the automobile, and that morning a driver had brought round another car.  The Patron advantage with a good activation roll is a useful thing.

The rain had slacked to a dull drizzle, yet Smythe noticed he had greater difficulty driving than usual.  He pondered his awful dream as he drove. 

Once at the farmhouse, Smythe was stunned by how awful the place looked.  Nigel agreed.  He even told Smythe that he heard two other men arrive yesterday. One, Bertrand Merriweather, "Also known, sir, as 'the little shit' according to the elder Benjamin.  And Jeffery Llywellyn, a barrister or some such.  Nigel told Smythe that Merriweather and Benjamin actually argued over who really owned this dilapidated house.  Smythe opened a bottle of scotch, poured himself a tall glass, added some ice, and looked unf.  "The petite bourgeoisie," he said and shrugged.

Once he finished his drink, he and Nigel took to exploring the house.  The first room was as ghastly as he expected with a leaky roof.  The second room had an awful hole in the floor, which Nigel examined with a torch and informed Smythe that Tali lay unconscious at the bottom of the hole.  Smythe shrugged. "It's to be expected."

Smythe found the papers in Latin and the cigar box.  He packed them in a satchel, then he and Nigel found the cellar door to the back of the house.  Once inside he noticed a tunnel had mostly been filled by loose stones.  Tali lay bruised and soiled in a pile of root vegetables and a severed foot.  Nigel carried the Welshman to the car followed by Smythe.  Then they drove back to the King Ethelbert Inn where Smythe sent for a doctor and settled in for a nice lunch.

***

Tuesday, August 8, 1206 - Les Hiboux, Auvergne, Kingdom of France

Doctor Thomas McKinley woke in the early morning light filtered through the leaves of the oaks lining a small grassy glade.  Though his clothing was still damp from the day before, the ground beside him was dry.  He glanced quickly in his satchel and doctor bag.  Counting his vials of morphine, he quickly gave himself a dosage. 

Nearby, his companions, Harris Benjamin, Jeffery Llywellyn, and Bertrand Merriweather, lay unconscious.  Rummaging through his bag, he found a heel of bread and a canteen.  As he finished his small meal, he heard a moan from his companions.  Llywellyn stirred and sat up.  The man's face looked as if he had been badly battered.

McKinley rummaged through Llywellyn's pack and found an apple and canteen.  Holding the man's, head, he gave him some water. "Where are we?" Jeffery asked.

Dr. McKinley capped the canteen and looked around.  In the distance, he saw a cloudy mountain peak.  'Not in England anymore."

In the forest surrounding the glade, McKinley and Llywellyn heard the sound of flutes coming from the tree branches.  The doctor drew and checked his pistol before walking slowing to the tree line.  Lywellyn found Harris Benjamin's pistol and held it awkwardly.

On the a branch above him, McKinley saw a strange rat-like creature with odd face tentacles.  It was playing one of the tentacles as a musical instrument.  When the creature saw McKinley, it stopped playing and greeted him.  The doctor took a step back, steadied himself, and asked what or who the creature was.  The rat-like creature smiled and said.  "I am Zoog."

The banter continued with the creature claiming it possessed great magic powers and also asking if it could eat Merriweather and Benjamin as the doctor and Llywellyn weren't

As they chatted, the Zoog stopped talking and looked into the distance.  Dr. McKinley heard the sound of horses and marching.  He slid behind a tree while Llywellyn climbed under a bush.  Our young law student saw a man in drab brown clothing slink quietly through the woods and approach the unconscious companions.  He decided to come around behind the man.  No Stealth skill, only default. But quickly alerted both the man he spotted and another of his presence when he stepped on a dry branch.  The man removed a small horn, which he blew.  

Llywellyn debated running but Merriweather was going to be captured.  McKinley emerged from the trees and approached him, telling him to put away his weapon.  Soon, an armored woman on horseback and three men also on horseback approached the glade.  She introduced herself in what both Llywellyn and McKinley took to be archaic French.  After some difficulty, they managed to communicate with her.  

She quickly decided they were English travelers and since England and France had declared a ceasefire recently she informed them they were to accompany her to Les Hiboux.  She tasked one of her men, Pierre le Chien, to take charge of them.  When another of her men spotted the Zoog, she told the creature to come down out of the tree.  When the Zoog turned to run, she signaled to one of her men who shot an arrow at the it, knocking it off the branch.

McKinley rushed over to look at the creature that had been impaled by the arrow.  Calling for Jeffery to bring his doctor bag he removed the arrow and cleaned it.  "We should stitch this wound," he said, but the Zoog howled.  He bandaged the creature then turned to see Pierre approaching with a reed basket.  He placed the strange animal inside and latched down the top.   

Outnumbered and their companions unconscious, McKinley and Llywellyn surrendered.  They learned from Pierre, himself a Parisian who's Middle French McKinley tried to follow, that they were in Auvergne in southern France during the year 1206 and the reign of King Phillip Augustus.  Pierre noted that the king was sending troops south despite his distrust of heretic Cathars - like his captain, Althea. The Risen were of greater concern.

When asked about the Risen, Pierre expressed some disbelief in the idea that the dead had risen, but but felt that if it were true then the end of the world was not truly at hand.  He frankly suspected grave robbers.  McKinley expressed doubts as to the possibly of the dead walking.  As for the Zoog, Pierre looked at it with disgust.  He told them the local heretics believed such creatures were wood spirits.

On the way, Llywellyn and McKinley noted the trees seemed different and the shadows seemed longer, but they decided that it was just evening approaching.  Finally at dusk, they arrived at a village surrounded by a palisade of fresh-cut logs.

As the gate opened, McKinley noticed there were archers on either side watching them.  "This village is a compound," he whispered.

The pair was met by a man Ello Vande, who introduced himself as Althea's father and village headman. They followed the French he spoke to a varying degree, sometimes needing Pierre le Chien to assist.  He greeted them and assigned the companions to bunk space in one of the new bunkhouses.  In informed them that a Catholic priest as well as a Prefect depending on their faiths.  He asked McKinley to assist them.  It remained unclear if Ello thought of the doctor as a barber-surgeon or a physician.

***

Wednesday, August 11, 1916 - London, United Kingdom

After a few days recovery, Tali finally felt well enough to travel.  Smythe drove them carefully back to London, leaving Tali in the care of Lillian, and mentioned that he should visit the Gasworks in two days. Smythe then returned to his flat, wrote a quick letter and sent Nigel to Fulham.  He then proceeded to soothe his nerves with scotch for the next few hours.

By Wednesday, both Smythe and Tali were feeling better.  Each appeared in the early evening at the Gasworks and were shown to a new room this time.  Unlike the shabbily decorated room where they had first met, this room was comfortable with bookshelves, good leather furniture, a bar, and paintings (mostly of men, but some women) dotting the room. Smythe found an oil painting that was over thirty years old.

Met by Captain Watson, he and Smythe listened while Tali attempted to piece together what happened beneath Kent.  Finally, Watson told them to recuperate more and meet back by the end of the week as he would contact other Lamplighters to accompany their return to the caverns.

***

Friday, August 11th, 1206 - Les Hiboux, Auvergne, Kingdom of France

McKinley, Merriweather, and Llywellyn spent the week recovering from their injuries.  Harris Benjamin remained unconscious though stable.

The night of Friday, August 11, 1206 after they retired for the evening.  Merriweather and Llywellyn dreamed they lay on marble benches in a circular marble room.  Bronze wall sconces lit the room in a golden glow.  Sitting up their wondered if they were dreaming their own dreams or if something had happened when a grey cat hopped onto the bench beside Jeffery.  It purred and rubbed his arm.  Unlike Tali, Jeffery pet the caught (albeit cautiously) and asked Bertrand what he thought was occurring.

The cat spoke to them saying they could wake up or go down the stairs that lay beyond the opening on the otherside of the room.  Jeffery in disbelief asked the cat what they would find and it told him a little girl who would ask for a sacrifice of something.  The cat was vague about what that could be.  She told them they were dreaming though and yet this was very real.

Bertrand shook his head and told Jeffery they should just go look at this girl, so they followed the stairs down to a great domed room with a blue ceiling covered in silver and gold stars.  In the center of the room was a marble fountain, and a little girl in a pink dress sat on the edge of the water.  When she saw them, she smiled.  "To continue, you must give something to the fountain," she told them.

"Why?" Bertrand asked.

"To continue," she smiled.

"Why would we want to do that?" Jeffery asked her.

"I can't speak to your motives," she shrugged.

Bertrand thought and pulled three hairs from his head dropping them into the pool.  Jeffery felt his coat pocket and tossed his dream-wallet into the pool.

The girl smiled. "It is done."

Behind them a bronze gate appeared and opened with more steps leading down.  The made their way carefully through the lit staircase to an open bronze gate at the bottom and into a warm sunny day.  They emerged into a forest glade that reminded Merriweather and Llywellyn of the glade they had stumbled into earlier as the companions raced through the crack in the earth.  Jeffery noted the distant mountain he had seen was absent and there was no piping.

Laying in the grass of the glade beneath the shade of oaks were Tali, McKinley, and a man whom Llywellyn recognized as Reginald Smythe the third.  The three sleeping men woke as they approached. 

While Jeffery Llywellyn and Bertrand Merriweather seemed confused, Doctor Thomas McKinley waved off their concerns noting these things happen.  He was surprised to see Tali and Smythe, and told them he and his companions had probably traveled in time or to another world.

Tali posited they were in Hell, while Smythe just said "Not again."

Introductions between Llywellyn and Merriweather to Smythe were made, and then McKinley suggested they follow the overgrown path he spotted out of the glade.

In doing so, they soon found themselves on the edge of the forest looking out toward a grass and farmland.  In the distance they could see a long river that emptied in to a lake as well as marble city with rose-colored tile roofs.  Behind the city rose a mountain.  Closer, they could see some sort of windmill.

As soon as they were ready, the cadre headed out toward the river.  After hours of walking in quiet they came across a large, pudgy man sitting on a rock.  He looked at them and laughed.  His pulpy face, a sickly-mushroom color, held jagged yellow teeth.  "The King is coming!" He clapped and smiled.  The group tried to question the man but he just stared.  As they were leaving, he asked. "Are you going to the city for the party?"  He only nodded and clapped when they asked more questions.

As they crested a hill, they saw the ruined windmill come into view.  In front were two large white objects.  McKinley was the first to recognize these as bones.  As they approached the windmill, Merriweather thought the looked like the bones of a great wolf or dog that would have rivaled an elephant in size.  Cautiously inspecting the bones, McKinley saw damage to the bones as if they had experienced some attack by sharp objects.  Inside the windmill, the found the bones of a child or dwarf laid on the grind stone.  Confused, they all agreed to leave the place as they found it

Walking further for what felt like hours, they arrived at the river and followed it's banks until it emptied into the lake.  On their side of the lake was a stone quay and a shallow wooden boat.  Tali and Llywellyn prepared the boat for launch and found some paddles.  The current proved more difficult for Tali to navigate than he thought.  McKinley wondered if it was a sailboat (Dreaming skill and he subconsciously created a sail and ropes under a seat.)

As Jeffery was the only one who had sailed and he quickly launched the sails.

Soon they were sliding across the large lake towards the marble white city.  As they drew closer they heard the sounds of music (strings, horns, drums), of singing, of cheering, of shouting, and of wailing.  The companions all looked at each other concerned.

Evening was approaching quickly now.  Torches, bonfires, and lamps were all lit around the city.  By the time Jeffery had trimmed the sails for their approach to the city's quay, the sky had grown fairly dim.

Tying up the sailboat, the companions crept along the darkening stones.  They saw residents in the distance, each dressed in robes or tunics and pants, but all wearing masks - animals, strange monsters, etc.  From a distances they could not understand what was said, but slowly the townspeople's words became clearer.  Some ecstatic and some afraid they were speculating about the arrival of the King.

Ahead, Smythe spied a mask shop and they all slunk inside to look for disguises.  Smythe found an eagle mask, while Llywellyn took a lion mask.  Merriweather decided he already had a mask in the iron wolf helmet he had found.  McKinley took a mask that was half sun and half moon covered in strange markings.  Tali looking for something unusual found a tattered yellow head covering.

Wearing their masks, they left the shop and approached some of the residents.  When the townspeople saw Tali, some screamed.  "The King has arrived."

Smythe, Llywellyn, and McKinley each woke holding a large coin with the symbols of an eagle, a lion, and the sun and moon respectively.

Tali woke holding the silver spiral medallion.  When he went to wash after sweating in such a dream he realized his chest held an old brand of a symbol he didn't recognize.

***

The story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.10.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.8

Continued from Its Hour Come Round at Last 7.

As this game is played live in tabletop, I don't typically record actual rolls.  I have attempted to add any rolls I noted in orange text. Additionally, I have been making any asides or rules comments in italics, but I will henceforth mark them as well.  I will evaluate this strategy in the future and welcome any feedback.  However, I am a few episodes behind between what we are playing and what I am writing, so I will see what I can recall.

In this session, we added two new players and player characters:

Bertrand Merriweather, the son of Rupert Merriweather (called a "little shit" by Harris' father).  A graduate of Oxford University where he read English history, Bertrand spends his time between assisting with his family import/export business, hunting, and care of his family estate.

Jeffery Llywellyn, university friend of Bertrand and son of a judge, Jeffery is reading law at Oxford with an eye toward becoming a barrister.

***

Friday, August 6, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

That evening, Betrand Merriweather rummaged through his father's papers and stopped at a file marked: "Recluver, Kent".  Sitting across from him, his friend Jeffery Llywellyn leaned back in the leather chair by the fireplace holding a brandy glass.  "This file is empty," Bertrand remarked.  "Apparently we own property in Kent, but the deed is missing."

Jeffery lit a cigar.  "Do you think your father did something with it?"

Bertrand shook his head.  "No, nothing in these files had been touched as of last week."  He frowned and pulled a rope near his desk.  Shortly, a family servant appeared and Bertrand sent the woman to find his mother.

After another glass of brandy for Bertrand and Jeffery, Agnes Merriweather appeared in the study.  The lights were low here and the oil lampshadows flickered across the wood paneled walls. Jeffery watched her enter and look at the files scattered on the table.  The light played on her wrinkled face and grey hair.  His player rolled on Psychology-12. Realizing she was guarded and nervous, he leaned forward.

"Mother, do you know where the deed for the Kent property can be found?  This was complete last week?"  Bertrand looked irritated but unfocused.  Attempted influence roll yet scored a Neutral reaction.  His mother replied.  "You know I don't come in here Bertrand."

Body Language-12 - Jeffery realized Agnes was hiding something.  "Perhaps you will have to let the staff go," he told Bertrand.  Jeffery's player rolled on a Diplomacy-12.

Merriweather glanced at his friend.  "You think so?"

Agnes glared at Jeffery for a moment, then approaching the desk poured herself a tall glass of brandy much to her son's surprise.  She sat in an empty leather chair.  "Give me a cigarette, Jeffery."  He lit and handed her one.  "You always were too bright for your own good."  Agnes stared hard at her surprised son.  "Fine, Bertrand.  Your father instructed me to give the deed and key to the property in Kent along with a gold box and journal to his friend Ruben Benjamin."  She took a long draw from his cigarette and downed a quarter of the brandy.  "He visited the day after your father died, so I followed Rupert's instructions."

Bertrand leaned forward now angry and surprised.  Jeffery spoke first.  "They are probably in Kent.  If you want we could take the late train and be in Recluver by morning."

Bertrand agreed.  Finishing their brandies, the pair packed and took a taxi to the train station.  Bertrand did not speak to his mother as he left.

***

Saturday, August 7, 1915 - Recluver, Kent, United Kingdom

The morning after their strange dream, Harris Benjamin, Tali, and Dr. McKinley were sitting at the long table in the inn's dining room having breakfast.  They quickly realized they had all had the same dream the night before.

Nigel, Smythe's valet, approached the group and informed them that Reginald was indisposed and would not be joining them that day.  Smythe had however asked the innkeeper to prepare a basket of food and wine for their trip.

About this time the door to the inn opened bringing Bertrand Merriweather and Jeffery Llywellyn in from the rain.  Harris Benjamin recognized Bertrand immediately and relayed this to Dr. McKinley and Tali.  They debated how to escape when Bertrand strode up to their table and seeing Harris demanded to know where Ruben Merriweather was as the old man had "stolen my property."

Benjamin informed him that his father Ruben was dead and rose to excuse himself.  Jeffery stepped in at this point to calm the group.  He informed Harris that Bertrand had inherited all of his father's property and that included any real estate in Kent.  Harris told them both he had the deed to the property from Agnes Merriweather and that he and his companions had business there.

Their argument stalemated until Doctor McKinley suggested they all go to the house that morning and work out the issue there.  They finally agreed.

The day before a local farmer had been contacted to take the group to the farmhouse, and so that morning they rode in a haywain.  Llywellyn told the rest that he and Bertrand had walked the half an our from the nearest train depot and now was sorry to be sitting once more in rain.

***

The day was cool and rainy.  A storm broke off the chalk cliffs.  The farmer was taciturn, so the group left him alone.

Due to the rain, the trip took nearly an hour.  The investigators (plus two tag-a-longs) were very soaked.  The farmer finally left them at the foot of a chalk hill where an old house sat.  It appears to be fairly old and in disrepair.  The hill around the house has overgrown with grass  The peaked roof seemed to bow.

While the rest of his companions made their way to the door, Tali swept the yard looking for anything unusual. Tali, Search-11.  Fairly quickly he spotted near one side of the house, the fresh corpse of a badger with a large hole in it's chest.

While Harris Benjamin unlocked the front door, Tali asked Dr. McKinley to come look at the badger.  Bertrand joined them as Harris and Jeffery went inside.  Dr. McKinley inspected the creature and realized its heart was missing.  McKinley, Diagnosis-13.  Bertrand also examined the body - Merriweather, Naturalist-10 - and noted the hole appeared to have been chewed open.

Inside the house, Harris and Jeffery found the front room in disarray.  Water dripped from the ceiling, dead leaves covered the floor.  A rotted couch sat near the damp floor boards.  A window sat on either side of the room and a door in the back wall led to another room.

The second room had a hole in the floor that Benjamin's torch revealed led to the root cellar.  One of the windows was loose as if recently opened.  He found some old blankets, an empty pork-n-beans can and a dull knife.  On the far wall sat a fireplace with newish white ash.

Jeffery continued to examine - Observation-13 - the front room and found carved in Latin over the door and windows "venit ad regem."  He made a note in his notebook and took the basket of food as well as his bag to the back room.  There he found Jeffery by the fireplace going through a wooden cigar box.

Tali, Merriweather, and McKinley entered the house now as well.  Looking around the front room in disgust (well, everyone but Tali), they headed to the back room.  There Jeffery pointed to the hole in the floor as unpacked some of their food and whiskey.  Seeing the fireplace, Bertrand collected some of the broken furniture from the front room and lit a fire.  He still seemed displeased with the rest of the group and noted to Jeffery that he didn't understand why they were here.  Harris Benjamin could have been more forthcoming with the house information, but owing to his Jealous disadvantage decided he didn't like the Merriweather's "easy" inherited money - even if they both came from moneyed families.

The cigar box, which Harris Benjamin found, were the hand written notes of Alastair Neville from March of 1869.  There were pages of Latin chants, book notes describing releasing a creature from stone and returning the creature to stone.   Also a silvery powder lined the bottom of the box that the notes said must be used both in a fire with lavender bundles, but also to draw symbols.

Bertrand Merriweather checked the back room, shining his torch into the hole in the floor to reveal a tunnel into the dirt and chalk earth to a root cellar below the house.  He also saw a door to an attic space.  Asking Tali for a lift, Bertrand opened the door to the attic.  Climbing upward, he came face to face with a human corpse.  Surprisingly, I had some notes about this.  Fright check for Merriweather - 11 base, -4 for surprise corpse.  Rolled a 15.  Fright check table, 6 + 8 for 14.  -1FP, 1 sec stun plus modified Will (7) to snap out.   Bertrand screamed in fear and fell backward to the floor.  Takes 1 HP damage.  Dr. McKinley rushed to his side and immediately checked him Diagnosis-13 and applied first aid to the sprain. First Aid-14 healing him 1 HP.

Once Bertrand regained his senses, he told them about the corpse.  Tali climbed up with some help and pushed the corpse down where the others, minus Bertrand, lowered it to the floor.  Dr. McKinley noticed the same chewed hole in the chest and missing heart as the badger.  After his examination, he concluded the man - most likely a tramp - had been killed a few days earlier, probably while sleeping due to the lack of evidence of struggle.  He was also missing his left foot and shoe.  Tali and Dr. McKinley carried the corpse to the yard and left it in the rain next to the badger.

Now that a fired blazed in the fireplace, Jeffery made a pot of tea and they all sat around the room eating and drinking.  The agreed to get some rest before continuing their work though Tali offered to guard the hole in the floor with his rifle.

***

Following a few hours of rest, Tali woke his companions and they prepared to explore under the house.  The rain had slackened, so rather than drop down the fifteen feet into the cellar from the floor, they decided to see if there was a door around back.  There in the drizzle they found a closed and padlocked cellar door, which quickly opened with Harris Benjamin's key.  Once under the house, they found a four-foot high hole in the cellar leading down into the earth.

Some twenty-five feet down, the low tunnel opened into a wide cavern ten feet high.  In the center of the cavern was a depression filled with water.  Animal bones littered the floor.  A cursory examination by Dr. McKinley - Physiology (Humans)-12 - revealed some of the bones to be human.  All of the bigger bones had also been cracked and were covered in odd teeth marks.

Taking lead, Bertrand chose the tunnel at the far end of the cavern.  The passages here were wide, and though they sloped down, none of the group struggled to reach the bottom.  Sweeping the small room with his torch and shotgun, Bertrand told them he found a pile of rocks in the center of the room, which was otherwise empty.

Kicking the rocks over, he found a skeleton underneath the bones were mostly crushed but the skull remained intact inside a rusted and pitted iron, wolf-faced full-helmet.  Bertrand thought he recognized the helmet - History (England) 10 - but could not place it.  Dropping it in his satchel, he recommended they retrace their steps.

Once again back in the boneroom, they picked a third tunnel.  This one dropped slower and switched back upon itself, but it was much longer than the other two.  This passage finally emptied into the lower cavern where the waterfall filled a pool.  Gravel pilled on both sides of the pool provided a walkway.  To the right, the gravel beach arced halfway around.  To the left, it appeared to jut behind the waterfall.

Jeffery and Dr. McKinley investigated the right side while Tali climbed the stairs to the balcony above.  Benjamin and Merriweather held back while avoiding each other.  Jeffery shined his torch on the wall and spied what appeared to be imagery of people fighting, large elephants, and cows with big noses.  Further on, he and McKinley found the image of a gigantic, bloated figure with odd rabbit like ears coming out of a large black hole.  Small blobs surrounded the creature.  The people figures brought other people figures to it.  Everyone rolled and failed a Hidden Lore: Horrors check.  McKinley - rolling his Intuition successfully  - and determined they were some kind of Paleolithic drawings.

Around the other side of the pool, they found an indention behind the waterfall.  There carved into the stone was a stone wolf head.  A skeleton in rusted armor hung upside down.  A dagger stuck out of one of its eyes.  Failed History (England) and Occult rolls.

Further along the passage, they realized that though the waterfall fell into the pool it inexplicable flowed the other direction in an underground stream.  Merriweather made a successful Geology roll. Walking along a smooth space beside the stream for a dozen yards beyond the waterfall, they came across a smooth-walled alcove.  The rock hear looked as if had been polished.  At the back of the alcove was a great silver spiral and in the center a circle of gold.  Crystals of various colors pocked the gold disk.

Harris Benjamin - failing a modified Will check (minus 5) - approaches the crystals on the wall and quickly begins pressing the crystals in a particular order.  His companions looked at him surprised as he did.  In the distance, they heard low rumbling and whining.  Benjamin blinked and looked around confused.  McKinley asked him what he had done, but Benjamin didn't know.

Tali approached the panel and with his knife attempted to remove one of the crystals.  A surge of electricity shot through Tali who was blasted backwards into the stream - Bad Back kicked in as he hit the water.  Harris Benjamin rushed to grab Tali, but slipped partially in the water.  Bertrand Merriweather tried to grab Benjamin but slipped and fell on top of him.  All three were being pulled down the river.

Jeffery Llywellyn grabbed his friend Merriweather, but was unable to hold onto all of them.  Dr McKinley rushed to finally as well but was punched in the face by a leathery hand and fell backward.

Tali, Merriweather, Llywellen, and Benjamin were swept over along the river and over another water fall dropping hundreds of feet into a pool below.  All of them were severely bruised by the fall.  Merriweather and Benjamin surfaced in pitch blackness coughing. Their torches were nowhere to be found.  Nearby they saw their sinking companions.  Pulling them up and trying  to swim they finally pulled onto a gravel beach.  The sound of the waterfall was deafening.    

McKinley's torch spun away from him.  Looking up in the spinning light, he saw a hairless rat-faced man staring at him. Successful Fright check. His hand felt Bertrand's shotgun beside him which he grabbed and pointed at the thing. The shotgun blast at short range barely grazed the rat-thing.  Its rough hands grabbed the doctor.  Grabbing his torch, he backed away from it toward the second waterfall.  He realized the shotgun was empty and turning jumped over the edge and into the pool below.  A controlled jump, he managed to avoid much damage from the fall. 

Near the others on the gravel beach, once they had revived Merriweather and Llywellen, Benjamin noticed a dim glowing purple light coming from further up the gravel beachway.  In addition to the low rumbling, they also heard chanting from above them.  They heard the shotgun blast followed by a splash in the pool.  Soon Dr. McKinley swam across the pool, just making it as the water began to roll as if something deep beneath the surface was surfacing.  Of the characters, only Merriweather had swimming, but McKinley and Benjamin all made the default rolls.

McKinley helped his limping friends toward the building purple glow and rumbling.  Soon they stood in a dim lit room where hundreds of gears and shafts turned.  Some of the smaller gears were the size of a cat, but the larger ones were over ten feet across.  In the center of the room sat a large purple crystal mounted on an obsidian base.

The rumbling in the room continued as did the rumbling from the pool.  Suddenly bright sunlight broke through a crack in the wall behind the crystal.  Benjamin ran quickly toward the light as the sound in the pool continued.  McKinley, Merriweather, and Llywellyn ran quickly after Benjamin.  As soon as they had vanished in the light, Tali unslung his rifle and shot the crystal which exploded in thousands of shards.

The crack of light began to close and Tali rushed toward one of the gears and stuck his rifle in one hoping to stop the closure, but instead the giant metal gear crushed the rifle.

Exhausted and tired he sank to his knees as the light disappeared.  Behind him thirty of the rat-like men approached.  Surrounding Tali, a pair lifted him on their shoulders.  One whispered in his ear.  "Not yet, brother."

***

On the otherside of the crack, the four companions found themselves in a sunny glad surrounded by large oaks.  Behind them was a rocky hillside but no opening.  A gentle breeze blew the leaves as they sank to their knees.  Merriweather, Llywellyn, and Benjamin each sank unconscious beneath one of the trees as McKinley sat exhausted beside them.

***

The story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.9.