Aviario: The Archivists

An Edict From Your GM
No, Really, Gang: Read This

Hi all,
This is your friendly GM speaking.
Please add your characters’ stats & sheet contents to a brand spanking new character page, in the manner that Bonnie has done for Luce. This will help me make game an actual challenge for you all and keep you from plowing through plot like some people (ahem ahem Laurel and Krista ahem).

Also, we will be doing an in-game debrief at the start of next session to refresh everyone’s memories. I am shooting for Sunday the 24th, time TBD.

Also wik: Niki, please message me about lion things.
Also also wik: Mike. please message me about snake things.

The more you carve out five minutes of time to do these little things. the more fun I can make game. Win win.

That is all. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go separate Owen and the toaster again. Oil and water, these two …

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03. The Betrayer's Trunk
In which training takes a hard, fast turn.

It is June 2012 – two months have passed since the events in New Orleans. Nick and Shandra have been training with their Organization seniors on a weekly basis … specifically, anima training with Crowley. Shandra is fine with this development, Nick far less so – to the point that he calls Caroline after each training session to vent his frustrations. On the way to this particular Saturday morning session, the pair hatch a plan to get the drop on Crowley during training. Nick “borrows” a ring from the archives which will render Crowley mute if he manages to land a punch to his face. They head up to their lesson, only to find that he isn’t on the 2nd floor of the Organization in the training room.

In his place is Bart, a member of the old guard who has been retired for quite some time and is happy to be so. He informs Nick and Shandra that Janus and Crowley are busy in a meeting, and that he will be training them… and is extremely amused to hear that they’d planned to knock Crowley on his smug ass. Nick makes an instant ally, and after he and Shandra fill Bart in on the extent of their training so far, the retiree decides to take things a step farther.

Down in the basement – which neither really visited due to it only being the site of the mill kitchens – Bart asks Nick to open a ley line. He does, and finds that he is able to control the energy so that part of the line will follow open behind him … the real-time equivalent of map trails in movies. Thus outfitted, Bart leads the pair into a narrow, dark underground corridor, where Shandra learns how to create and hold fire, and Nick learns a bit about how to manipulate earth. Their new skills come with many more questions, though: why is there a maze beneath the Organization? Why are the walls made out of solid dirt? Where does it go? Interesting …

Shandra makes a poor decision by releasing her fireball into a stack of cans in the basement, which covers them all in sticky soda. Only Bart’s quick reflexes with his own Earth skills save them from being covered in aluminum shrapnel, as well, and they clean up in the kitchen. When Nick complains that it’s still not clean enough, Bart turns the sink hose on him, then sends him up to the third floor to wash off in the spa room while Shandra chills out and chats. Nick is more than happy to clean himself up … but is dismayed to see Felicia Sabrien, Janus’ right-hand-woman, discovering the purloined archival ring in his clothes. She withholds punishment, but tells Nick that Janus will still, indeed, hear of the development. By the time Nick returns to the training room, they have a visitor: Officer Troy MacLaren, Janus’ newest Informer. He tells them that a sinkhole of sorts was discovered in the North End, with a large trunk inside.

Shandra and Nick hitch a ride to the sinkhole site with Troy in his cruiser (Nick drawing the short straw and having to cram himself into the backseat). The site turns out to be where a shopping center was meant to be built, before the head of the project, the town selectmen, put a rather abrupt end to his life two years ago. The trunk in the sinkhole is very clearly an artifact: ancient, but in near-perfect condition. Nick pulls it up out of the hole with help from his newly-discovered ability, but Shandra’s hands begin to shake as she reaches for the trunk. When Nick expresses his concern, they argue, and Shandra blasts him for “trying to be her father” and reveals that she’s been “seeing a shrink” since shortly after they returned to New Orleans. Angry and frustrated, she storms off to the opposite side of the construction site, leaving Troy in the middle to try and smooth things over. He calls Ral to come and use his van to haul the trunk to the Organization, then speaks with Shandra, telling her there’s no shame in seeing someone to talk about how crazy life can get.

Back at the mill, they have an awkward reconciliation, then attempt to open up the trunk. It is sealed with some form of magic, and Nick manages to wrangle it open with help from an enchanted, lime-green 6" prybar. After a little mockery, they examine its contents: a diary dating from the Civil War era, and dossiers on every member of the Organization in Aviario from that time period. The diary belongs to Eustace Preston, and it details his purpose for becoming an Informer: to be a double agent and record everything he can about the Organization for his original employers. He does not mention the employers by name, but there is a very familiar symbol inscribed on the inside cover: the same circle within a triangle that Shandra saw on Hali’id’s desktop wallpaper. The last recorded entry in Eustace’s journal is addressed to his son, Grant, telling him that he needs to flee the country for his family’s safety. Eustace tells Grant that he will find the trunk in the basement, and that the information within is his inheritance and will help bring him good fortune. Clearly, the younger Preston never found his inheritance, but Nick finds dossiers on Janus, Felicia Sabrien, Amelia, Owen, someone named Aaron Hopewell, and their new friend Bart among the pile. Upon showing Bart their findings, he explains that Eustace Preston’s house burned in a fire in 1871, and took him along with it. They decide to interrupt Janus, important meeting be damned.

Janus comes out of his quarters and meets with the three of them, and is ecstatic that they recovered the trunk, much to Shandra and Nick’s surprise. He is not worried in the least, mostly because he knows that the information is safe and never fell into the wrong hands. When Shandra brings up the correlation between Eustace’s journal and the data she hacked from Hali’id, however, he becomes disturbed. Shandra laments her inability to recognize the language the data is coded in, and asks Bart if he might recognize it. Luckily for them, he does: it’s Sanskrit. A few language packs on her smartphone later, Shandra is staring at a file full of scientific terminology she doesn’t understand, but doesn’t like the look of, either. The Laptop File is almost its own language, but there’s mention of DNA sequencing, gene therepy, and an anagram: SUNEX, which Shandra rearranges to NEXUS.

As they begin to pick at the threads they’ve found, Shandra begins to poke around on her phone, trying to find the meaning behind the mysterious symbol. Success yields a simplified version of the eye-in-the-pyramid: a very old insignia of the Illuminati. Horror engulfs Nick, as he remembers a pair of his father’s favorite cufflinks: gold triangles with a diamond set high in the center. His father, who worked for an auctionhouse which dealt in antiques …

The game closes with Janus promising to try and find them a scientist who can help decipher The Laptop File, and Shandra and Nick resolving to find out as much as they can about Gregory Forsythe’s auctionhouse.

h3. Quotes

  • “No one pays you to be a hacker.”
    “Does Janus pay anyone for anything?” – Nick & Shandra
  • “Do you forget it’s Saturday EVERY Saturday?” – Nick
  • “Pop-tarts are lies. Filthy, sugary lies.” – Nick, while discussing what constitutes proper breakfast food
  • “If nothing else, he’ll die laughing, so either way, it’s gonna work.” – Shandra, on their plan to overpower Crowley in training
  • “I will name him Franklin.” – Nick, re: his ley line ‘shadow’
  • “You know, for someone so smart, you’re a DUMBASS.” – Shandra, to Nick
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02-5. The New Haven Errand
In which Nick and Shandra retrieve some stuff and bond.

Owen sends Shandra and Nick to a thrift shop in New Haven to pick up a box of items for him. They have a mini road-trip back to Shandra’s old stomping grounds, and she talks to him a little about her concerns in the wake of everything that happened in New Orleans. A very talkative, bubbly shopkeeper hands over the box, which contained the following items in Owen’s Inventory:

  • A metal lantern
  • A glass decanter
  • A Hummel figurine
  • An old coffee tin
  • A cigar box
  • One cufflink
  • An old metal butter mold
  • A nine-iron golf club
  • A small, decorative Newfoundland flag
  • A silver letter opener & fountain pen from a desk set
  • A large, black-and-white rubber superball
  • Several old books
  • A roller skate c. 1967
  • A lace scarf, coffee-stained
  • A spoon bracelet
  • A very ridiculous-looking felt hat in garish colors
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02. Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind
In which getting home is half the battle ...

When last we left the party, they were standing at the front counter of Meyroux’s Voodoo Shack with a very recently deceased thug on the floor and a mysterious man with a smoking gun standing in the doorway.

Their “savior” is Darren Walker, a voodoo practitioner who wants the Book of Bayencourt for his own purposes. After a lot of freaking out, shouting, and general mayhem, the party reaches a grudging agreement with Darren: he will let them have the book, if he can just look at it for one particular piece of information. He takes the party away with him before the police arrive, bringing them to a large, Civil War-era home on the outskirts of the French Quarter, its yard teeming with kids. Shandra finds solace in playing with a few of them after the shock of seeing a man shot in the back of the head, and they all make a slight amount of small talk before being interrupted by the lady of the house: a voodoo queen named Iris.
She is none too pleased that Darren has killed a man, but tells him they will “talk about it later”, and leads them all inside. The sitting room of the house has an instantaneous grounding affect on them all, and Iris insists on putting the dead thug’s spirit to rest and cleansing the book before any of them attempt to do anything with it. She sets out a veve on the floor with flour and cornmeal and performs the ritual, while Howard “translates” for the rest of them with great zeal. Once the book is cleansed, Darren eagerly snatches it up … and finds that it will not open.

Howard and Nick give the book their best studious efforts, and finally realize that it must be situated in a particular way along a ley line to be opened. Lucky for them, Iris’ sitting room sits along one: the reason for its calming properties, and a great aid to her power. As they are working on the book, Darren explains that he wants an item that can reverse a curse laid on him by the houngan of their voodoo tribe in retribution for an accident he caused as a novice. Once the book is opened, Darren is able to look up a few items which may be able to help his cause, and the party takes the book and is on their way back to Connecticut.

They are stopped just outside Louisiana by a motorcycle cop, who takes Hali’id out of the van for questioning… which is pretty much racial profiling, really, and not cool at all. Shandra says as much, and after giving them some flack for a busted taillight, the cop lets them go. Nick is more than happy to suggest that they stop in Georgia to have Caroline fix the taillight.

At Caroline’s home, they take a bit of a breather, and while Nick and Caroline bond, Howard attempts to get to know Hali’id a little better. Since he is distracted, Shandra seizes the opportunity to hack the laptop that he stole from his contact, Edward, in the previous episode. She is able to get in and begin downloading his files, but only secures 1/3 of the data she was after before she has to abandon the hack.

On the drive home, Howard shares his misgivings about the police having their descriptions from Sally Bowens’ house: he was once a suspect in his wife’s murder, back home in England, in conjunction with a very powerful spellbook, an arcane ritual, and possibly some hallucinogenic drugs. He is innocent, but has been trying to figure out who was responsible and attempted to frame him ever since. The rest of the party is a bit unsettled by this news, but recover rather well, since Howard has already proven himself to be trustworthy.

Shandra falls asleep in the backseat and has a strange nightmare: a figure is following her through the streets of Aviario, but the town is deserted. He corners her in an alley, but instead of threatening her, he only gives her one cryptic message: “Beware of the lion”.

Once the party returns to Aviario, they deliver the book into Janus’ capable hands and are debriefed on the situation. He offers Hali’id the chance to join the Organization, but he declines and departs to who knows where, leaving the other three with more questions than they had when they left town.

Quotes:

  • “Will you chill? It looks like you’re possessed.” – Shandra, trying to calm Nick down before he goes in to speak to Caroline
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01. The Book of Bayencourt
In which the party doubles in size ...

The episode begins with Hali’id Mustafa arriving in the country and going to visit one of his contacts, a man named Edward. He climbs the stairs to Edward’s apartment, only to find that when he opens the door, it nearly comes off its hinges. The apartment has been thoroughly ransacked. Checking for hidden panels, Hali’id finds a secret office space behind the place Edward was pretending to use as his desk, and appropriates the man’s laptop. Searching the rest of the apartment, he finds it in equal disarray … and discovers Edward’s body in the bedroom, with a bullet between his eyes. Cue opening credits, and the decided lack of a definitive theme song – an issue for later.

Shandra and Nick are, once again, called to Janus’ office, where they are introduced to Howard Ainsworth, a magical researcher and professor, who will be assisting them henceforth. Janus informs the three that they were called by Ryan Phillips, the individual who sent over the box of items in the last episode. He has sold the family property that the box came from, and now the new owner would appreciate it if they could come and clear the rest of the family’s old possessions out of the barn on the property. He gives them use of a moving truck, as well as boxes, dollies, and other needed equipment, and sends them on their way.

At the Baldwin farm, they are greeted by the current owner, Steven Connolly, who is clearly new money, and could care less about the ancient barn, which Ryan’s aunt had used as a sort of thrift store before she passed away and left him the property. He means to tear it down and build a new house, which gets both Howard and Nick’s hackles up, but they agree to clear the barn. As soon as they begin to try and clear away some of the stuff, however, the crates it is stored in start to topple down on them. After a few attempts at this, it becomes apparent that there’s some sort of protective charm on the building that must be dispelled before they can move anything from the barn. Howard locates a horseshoe, nailed crookedly to a beam, and asks one of the others to go and get a prybar from the truck. When Nick leaves the barn, he is tackled by an unexpected and anonymous thug. Shandra, going out to investigate, is accosted by the second. Grabbing a pitchfork, Howard moves into the fray, and together the three manage to render their attackers unconscious. Meanwhile, while they are dealing with that, Hali’id moves in to try and take the horseshoe himself, having been in the back of the barn, listening in.

While Howard moves to disable the thugs’ cars – unaware that one belongs to Hali’id – Shandra and Nick search the unconscious men and find two drop phones and a crude drawing of The Crest of Bayencourt. They head back inside to look for it, and Shandra spots it a split second before Hali’id. Both start climbing ladders up into the loft beams, and a scramble ensues to get to it first. Howard throws a knife and catches Hali’id in the shoulder, and Shandra uses her Backdraft to keep him at bay while Nick climbs up into the loft, putting himself between the stranger and his partner. Shandra makes her way to the plaque and dislodges it – and the entire barn starts to come down around them. She throws the plaque out the window onto the lawn, and all four of them manage to escape out into the yard before the barn completely folds in on itself.

Hali’id pulls his gun on Howard, and they have a terse standoff for possession of the plaque, during which Howard learns that the thugs were not with him – and have regained consciousness and taken off on foot, not wanting to have to deal with all of this nonsense anymore. Shandra and Nick discover that one corner of the barn is still strangely intact and untouched, and head off to investigate while the other two continue their conversation. The intact corner of the barn turns out to be a horse stall that was converted into an office for the thrift shop, and Shandra searches the desk to find a copy of an Antique Dealers’ Price Guide from 1994. Inside are two sticky notes: one bearing a name and a phone number (Alex: 555-7108), one with the words “humor of the mind” written in an old, somehow familiar cursive, and one simply emblazoned with the number 2. Meanwhile, Howard calls Janus, informs him of the situation with Hali’id, and is told to simply keep an eye on him and get what they were sent for. Howard tells Hali’id that he needs to stay on the trunk of his car while he checks on the other two, and they reach an agreement. While Howard goes into the remaining corner of the barn, Hali’id surreptitiously buries the plaque in the front yard, disabling the ward on the remaining section of the barn.

Howard notes that there are four horseshoes on the posts marking the corners of the stall – the protection spell that kept it from being destroyed when the rest of the barn went down. He arrives just as Shandra opens the second drawer of the desk and finds a codex – and the researcher lets out a slightly disturbing squeal of delight. Sooner or later, the three locate and open a trap door in the floor – but it is empty, and there are finger marks in the dirt from whoever took what had once been within. Howard rummages through the rubble, finds a tin box, and scoops up some of the dirt to take back along with the codex, and their clues. They leave Hali’id, who calls his own contact and is told to follow them back to wherever they came from.

Upon deciphering the Codex, the team learns that the missing item is The Book of Bayencourt … and that it was stolen from the family that created it by voodoo legend Dr. John, whose current descendant lives in New Orleans. Janus pulls rank and forces Ral O’Dailigh to loan the fledgling team his ancient white van, which breaks down en route during a rousing game of 20 Questions.

20Questions.png

A man on a motorcycle pulls up behind them and asks if they need assistance … and is strangely interested in where they’re headed. They leave him behind and make a pit stop in Georgia, where Caroline lives and keeps a auto repair shop. Amid much blushing and stammering on Nick’s part, they manage to get the van up and running, and finish the drive down to The Big Easy.

Sally Bowen, the descendant in question, lets Howard and Shandra into her house on the pretense that they are a professor and his assistant, working on a dissertation about Dr. John. They are not there very long, however, before the thugs from the barn show up again, very serious about retrieving the Book. They attempt to hold Howard and Shandra hostage inside the house, and one of them threatens to molest Shandra, but Hali’id and Nick rescue them. Hali’id kills one of the thugs in the process, but Nick keeps him from killing the other, who is simply knocked unconscious. Sally tells them the whereabouts of the book: a small voodoo shop in the French Quarter run by a man named Meyroux.

Once they reach the store, their goal is in sight … until the formerly unconscious thug catches up with them. He raises his gun to threaten them … and is promptly shot in the back of the head. When his body falls, the Motorcycle Guy from their trip south is standing in the doorway ….

Quotes:

  • “I appreciate not getting shot.” “I appreciate not getting stabbed.” – Howard and Hali’id
  • “Homina is for Persian, Hootcha is for Arabic.” – Niki
  • “I don’t know what that means.” – Hali’id, repeatedly
  • “I don’t think there’s that much juice in a banana.” – Nick, re: Fruit Slice
  • “It’s like your Google Maps, but it doesn’t MOVE when you POKE IT.” – Howard, explaining a paper atlas to Shandra
  • “The code for ‘come in guns blazing’ is ‘fiddlesticks’.” “What does that mean?” “I … don’t know.” – Howard and Hali’id
  • “Oh, fiddlesticks.” – Howard, less than a minute later
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00. Pilot
In which Nick and Shandra learn their basic duties...

Owen receives a box full of items from a customer, and Nick and Shandra take it into the Archives to test the items for spells or wards. Amid some mostly-friendly banter, the two get a crash course in item enchantment from Janus, and manage to assess the whole box together. Among the items in the box:

  • Several books
  • An old photo album
  • The Locket
  • A ring of skeleton keys
  • A pair of bronzed baby shoes
  • An old tea tin with 10 wheat pennies in it
  • The Wooden Spools
  • Brian the Bear
  • An old copy of Boece’s Scotorum Historiae, worn illegibly on the cover and containing a personal, coded note to Owen.

When they bring their findings back to Owen, he takes the Boece book for further examination, and gives Brian a place of honor behind the counter. He then sends Shandra and Nick out to lunch, so that he can go over the book and its mysterious message privately. Shandra and Nick spend a somewhat pleasant lunch at the local diner, getting to know each other a little better and trading stories about their families. On their way back to the Organization, they’re intercepted by Crowley, who tells them to come with him so that they can work up on the Training Floor.
Needless to say, they’re both somewhat unsure about this new development – and it only gets worse when one of the other Organization members there goes Wild in the middle of her training and attacks the two. Crowley leaves to go get Janus, leaving Nick and Shandra to fend for themselves. Nick calls up his bear anima, and tries to use his enhanced strength to keep the woman at bay – but she shoots quills at him from her fingers, making it evident that her anima is a porcupine. Ouch. In a desperate attempt to keep them safe, Shandra throws out her hands and hollers “STOP”, and discovers one of her Fire abilities: the power to create a backdraft of strong, hot air. Blown back, the Wild woman goes for a chain hanging from the ceiling – one which held the punching bag she’d been training on before she knocked it down – and slips, knocking herself unconscious.
Another Enforcer comes out from the clinic area at the back of the room, introducing herself as Amelia, and helps Nick and Shandra tend to their own wounds. She also brings the other girl – Caroline – into the clinic, so that she can recover. Once they’ve been patched up, Nick and Shandra decide they deserve some answers, and go to find Janus.
Janus sends Crowley away, and then proceeds to give his visitors the truth: he’s been preparing them for field work, this whole time. There are artifacts, antiques, and other relevant items out in the world that Owen feels he’s no longer able to go and hunt down by himself – and the fight against Caroline was planned. She agreed to help train them, and was given a bracelet that made her lose control of her anima, so that they would be forced to try and discover their powers. Nick is less than pleased about this, and loses his temper at Janus, but he simply uses one of his own powers to calm him down. He then tells Shandra and Nick that it is their choice: they can either accept the offer and better their knowledge of themselves and of the Organization out in the field, or they can stay in the shop with Owen, and he will find someone else to do the job … possibly Crowley.
Being less than fond of the troublemaker, Nick begins to reconsider saying “no”, but tells Janus that they need a day or so to think about it. He and Shandra then spend a good while sitting on the steps outside Janus’ office, talking the matter over. While Shandra sees it as an opportunity to get out and do something with her life, to get out of their small little town and do something worthwhile and exciting, Nick is not so sure, having carved out a comfortable little hibernation hole for himself over the thirty years he’s already spent in the States, working with Owen and straightening out the chaos of his shop and of the Archives. Eventually, though, Shandra convinces him to say yes and go along with her – if only by appealing to the fact that he feels he should protect her. Having made up their minds, the two go back to the shop … but decide to still make Janus cool his heels and wait until the next day before giving their answer.

Quotes:

  • “Pretend there’s a pocket here.” – Krista, upon just sitting her prop handkerchief on her chest
  • “No, you may not intimidate the locket.” – Ang
  • “I now know how Jack’s mother felt when he brought home the beans.” – Owen, re: the items in the box
  • “They could be Hitler’s baby shoes!” – … was this Nick or Shandra? GM can’t remember.
  • “You’re a very sweet young little snip.” – Nick
  • “He’s talking to the toaster.” “Yes, he … he does that.” – Shandra and Nick, re: Owen
  • “Maybe it’s time you stopped hibernating.” – Shandra, to Nick
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