Friday, August 10, 2012

Deadlands, Part XX

When last we left our heroes, they engaged in some investigations.  Father Seward witnessed the destruction of most of Boston's religious community.  David and Jeb chartered a ship.  With the help of the Jewish contingent, the group determined that the Fall of Man contains secrets behind its pages.

Rabbi Ezekiel needs a text back at the synagogue to properly translate.

With David Hood and Jeb still gone, the remaining group organizes.  Father Seward, Jake, Ruby, and the unfortunately-named Rabbi Schlemiel will go to the synagogue to retrieve the book.  Rufina will remain to guard Rabbi Ezekiel and the remaining scholars while they continue working on examining Da Vinci's Fall of Man.  So decided, they depart.

The trip to the synagogue is uneventful, but the large synagogue doors are broken, apparently having been forced inward by a large force at roughly head level.  Uncertain of what to expect, the group enters.

The synagogue is dark inside, but Jake senses movement and makes a little light by casting black lightning through the ceiling of the synagogue (much to Father Seward and Rabbi Schlemiel's chagrin) to let the sun through.

In moments, the creatures begin their attack.  Fist-sized, blood-red carapaces appear in the light, and both Father Seward and Jake recognize the shapes of prairie ticks, creatures that force themselves down a creature's gullet and begin drinking blood from the inside until they eventually force themselves out through the stomach.

A few launch themselves at Jake, and before anyone else can react, he annihilates three or four of the creatures with black lightning.  As one tries to wriggle into Ruby's mouth, Father Seward shoots it off her face.  One manages to muscle its way into Jake's mouth and force itself down his throat, prompting Father Seward to faint.  A last tick scurries away through an open doorway into another hallway.

Jake recalls that some people have used emetics to decent effect.  Still having a bottle of liquor with him, he proceeds to down it — since it turned to blood after the activation of the Doomsday Clock, he presumes that it will induce vomiting.

It does.

After the prairie tick has been destroyed and Father Seward has been awakened, the group proceeds down the hallway to investigate the library.

Meanwhile, David Hood and Jeb are still atop the bank.  Satisfied that both the weird top hat guy and the mob have left, they descend back to the street and decide to go to Seward and Taft to see if they can collect some money.

When they arrive, the offices are completely closed.  They break in and scrounge for petty cash, finding a little cash as well as a silver candelabra that is probably worth something.

As they leave, they see a bolt of purplish-black lightning fire up into the air.  David and Jeb decide to investigate.

Back at the synagogue, the group sees an open door on the right that Rabbi Schlemiel identifies as the entrance to the library.  Cautiously, Father Seward steps forward and swings around the corner, gun in hand. He sees a stone box with an ajar lid.  The prairie tick wriggles into it, and the sounds of several writhing shapes come from within.  The box bears pictures in bas-relief depicting an animal of some kind bursting forth with prairie ticks that envelop every being nearby.

At the far end of the room, a robed figure with his back turned to the door is gathering books into a pile and appears to be prepared to light them.  Father Seward calls to get his attention as he squeezes the trigger, putting a bullet in the figure's head.

A puff of dust comes out and the figure barely seems to notice.

Jake tries to play poker with demons when something goes wrong.  It's not clear what, precisely, but his hex doesn't quite work.

Ruby turns the corner with her gun and puts a slug in the creature's gut.  That seems to catch its notice and possibly even injure it; Father Seward fires at it again but Ruby puts three more bullets in the thing and drops it.  As it crumbles, a spectral, demonic figure flows out of its abdomen and dissipates.

Around this time, David and Jeb arrive to investigate the black lightning.  Jake notices that Ruby has a second row of needle teeth.  Since nobody else can see it, he assumes that something has gone wrong with his hexslinging.

As Father Seward determines how best to close the box, Jake just walks up and closes it.  Rabbi Schlemiel goes to look for the book they need, although he does explain that that the box is the Box of Kakisis and that it contains a near limitless number of what Jake and Seward call prairie ticks.  He also refers to the robed figure as a "Dust Man" and indicates that the Jewish people encountered their kind in old Egypt.

After a bit of a wait, Rabbi Schlemiel finds the book.  Before everyone leaves, Jake informs Father Seward of his suspicions that he cannot quite be trusted due to demonic influence.  Father Seward responds that he understands, with the further implication that he will do what needs to be done.

The group manages to return to David Hood's mother's home without incident.  Rufina has largely been spending her time asking the rabbis questions (and unfortunately annoying them).  Once Rabbi Ezekiel receives the book, he and his scholars continue translating.  The group eats and prepares to sleep for the night.  David, Father Seward, Jeb, Ruby, and Rufina all take watches — Jake is allowed to sleep through the night.  The rabbis will continue translating in shifts.

During the night, Father Seward is awakened by Jeb who indicates that he hears something.  Everyone is awakened and manages to piece together that something is sneaking in through one of the upstairs windows.  Everyone readies weapons and takes positions in the halls; Father Seward takes position at the base of the stairs.  A figure starts to descend the stairs — when he sees the tattered Confederate garb, inhuman hands, and silver bowl, Father Seward opens fire, launching several bullets in the thing's belly.  Finally, the creature loses its balance and drops the bowl, spilling blood down the stairs.

Chaos ensues.  Rufina leaps into combat with it, wielding the relic sword, while Jeb takes the occasional shot at it.  Ruby, however, recognizes the mutated form of her brother, John Michael Patrick, beneath the batlike features.  She calls out to him and he communicates, suggesting that he is trying to fight against whatever transformation has been performed on him.  He still cannot resist, though, as he bites and latches onto Rufina's breast, sucking her blood to heal his wounds.  She manages to shake him off, and finally, he crashes through one of the barricaded windows and into the night.

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