The Wardens have suffered another tragedy. Archibald Buchanan died while fighting monstrous fishmen who were released from the hold of the H.M.S. Centuraus, a ghost ship that smashed into New York Harbor. The fishmen were destroyed, but not before they completed a ritual designed to summon … something.
The heroes defeated the fishmen, burning down the warehouse the horrors had taken refuge in. It was in this fight that Archibald died. The heroes fled the warehouse in their Packard Super 8 limousine, driven by the former mercenary McGinnis, one hand on the wheel, the other holding his guts in.
They tried to ignore the long shows cast by the raging fire behind them that would consume four warehouses and close down a portion of the docks for a week.
It was enough that they had survived and that the horrors inside the warehouse had been destroyed. Let the police and firemen deal with the more mundane threats.
They had done enough.
A Stitch Away from Death
The Wardens returned to their Manhattan headquarters, where they immediately unloaded the corpse of Archibald Buchanan and escorted their badly wounded colleague, McGinnis, to the Interview Room.
The Warden’s butler, seeing that McGinnis was in terrible shape, went to the library and asked one of the visiting doctors there for his assistance. The doctor arrived in the interview room, put down his stogie, splashed some of his scotch on McGinnis’s wounds as an antiseptic, and went to work.
He sipped from his scotch as he worked, which didn’t do McGinnis any favors as the doctor’s efforts actually worsened his condition. It took the Tears of St. Bernadette, administered by Sir Arthur Boundless, to heal the worst of McGinnis’s wounds.
Mourning the Fallen
Archibald’s death was the second one that has befallen the Wardens in as many weeks. The heroes gathered in the Hall of the Dead. Archie’s body is laid out on a marble slab, and his closest friends are gathered to honor him. There was also a new addition — Andrew Buchannan, Archie’s cousin. Andrew had arrived to collect Archie’s body and personal effects, but took a tumble of scotch when Sir Arthur started handing out drinkings in anticipation of his toast.
Raising his tumble, Sir Arthur said:
“Archibald Buchanan was an average student, but an exceptional colleague. He was a brave soul who could fly like the wind. His end came far too soon, and I for one shall miss him terribly. To Archibald!”
They raised their glasses, and said good-bye to another of their friends.
The Serpentine Bookmark
Meanwhile, Rikard Greystone was curious about the serpentine bookmark he’d discovered in a book about Greek creation myths in the Warden’s library. The bookmark seemed to move ever so slightly when he wasn’t looking at it directly, and the potentially magical nature of the relic intrigued him. He went to the Metropolitian Museum of Art to consult with Horatio Evans, director of pre-Columbian art at the Museum.
Although it was after hours and the museum was closed, Rikard was able to bribe his way past the night guard at one of the loading docks. He then met with Evans, who was overseeing the setup of the upcoming “Kilquato” exhibit. The director was happy to see Rikard, and was curious about the bookmark.
He picked up the bookmark, stroked its spine, and was surprised when it suddenly slithered down around his wrist. He was equally surprised when he found thoughts about ancient Greek creation myths appearing unbiden in his mind.
He touched the coiled bookmark again, and it unfurled. Thought intrigued, he reluctantly gave the bookmark back to Greystone. He explained he wasn’t versed in such things, but the bookmark was certainly unique.
Greystone tried to repeat the trick with the bookmark, but it refused to coil around his wrist. He decided to place the bookmark in a different book, wait for a few hours, and see if it would oblige him.
A day or two of experimentation revealed that the bookmark needed to be kept in a tome for a full 24 hours, after which it would slither onto the wrist of one — but only one — individual. Once it did so, the coiled bookmark conferred knowledge of the book it had been kept in (in game terms the wearer gains a d8 in knowledge found in the book).
While Rikard attempted to learn more about the bookmark, he was also experiencing side effects from a different relic he was already wearing: the Necklace of Kilquato. While wearing the necklace seemed to grant him extra strength, he also found himself haunted by dreams of blood and murder. His teeth also began to fall out, replaced by wickedly sharp crocodile teeth, and his skin became increasingly patchy. He was alarmed … though not as alarmed as he soon would be.
Meeting with the Red Hand
Two days earlier Rikard spared the life of one of the Red Hands who had attacked the Wardens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He asked the Red Hand to setup a meeting between the Wardens and the leader of the tong, Hongqi Pang.
Surprisingly, Pang agreed. He sent a rice-paper invitation, sealed with red wax, that asked htem to come to the Gold Dragon, a Chinatown-based restaurant. The public areas of the restaurant had all of the stereotypical trappings of an upscale Chinese restaurant with fine tapestries, gold-inlaid woodwork. Upon arriving at the restaurant an elderly Chinese man escorted the Wardens through a packed dining room filled with businessmen eating noodles for lunch. He led them through a bustling kitchen and finally into a storeroom.
There the Wardens were handed off to two men in red headbands who bowed respectfully, then took them into a side room. This in turn led to a cargo lift, which descended below the restaurant. There they found that the chambers were markedly different from those above. The touristy decorations of the restaurant gave way to the exquisite, refined, and clearly expensive décor worthy of a lesser Chinese dynasty.
They were brought to an office, where they found Hongqi Pang leaning of edge of a great olive brown desk made of nanmu wood. Two bodyguards, both in black silk robes with red trim with Chinese demon masks, stood to either side of him. One had an ornate sword in a fine rosewood scabbard, with a red tassel hanging from its hilt. The other had a pear of Colt revolvers, plated in gold and silver with ivory handles, in belt holsters.
The leader of the Red Hand was impeccably dressed in a three-piece charcoal suit with a brilliant red tie. He wore three gold rings on his left hand; three silver rings on his right. One of the rings — a gold one on his right ring finger — had a diamond-shaped onxy gemstone, with a red and orange flame inlade in its center.
Pang looked genuinely glad to see the Wardens. “I am heartened by this opportunity for us to talk. I speaks volumes about your character that you sought a chance to prevent our … encounters … from escalating further.”
Rikard bowed to Pang, then asked for the Red Hands to return what was taken from the ship. Pang politely dismissed his request. “Those … materials … are in the hands of our wise Teacher. You have proven yourselves capable combatants, but you have much to learn. This but one of those lessons.”
The former cop, skeptical that a street gang could be better keeper of such materials than the Wardens, repeated his demand.
Pang responded by smiling and holding his hands before him, forming a crisscross diamond with his pointer and index fingers. Alistair, Rickard’s fellow warden, the fencing master and dabbler in the arcane, recognized this as an detection spell.
“That necklace you wear around your neck illustrates your ignorance. The gifts of Sobek are not easily forsaken. Another lesson. A painful one for you I suspect. Perhaps tragic as well.
He paused dramatically for a moment. “But you are no stranger to tragedy. Death stalks you. First your family. Then your friends. You think you can fight it by not taking a life yourself, but you are wrong. Yet another lesson our Teacher has for us. It is one I have already learned.”
Rikard, with growing horror, turned his full will upon the cryptic gang leader, compelling him to tell him more about this mysterious “Teacher”.
Pang responded by saying that he and Rikard were very much alike, and that the first lesson each of them had learned — how to survive the death of their families — was one the Teacher had taught. He all but stated the Teacher was responsible for their families’ deaths, and that he — for one — had grown past his hatred for the Teacher, and that he now understood the need for such lessons. He was enthusiastic about this, and clearly felt that Rikard too would one day come to understand why such tragedies were needed.
Rikard pressed Pang for more information about this “Teacher”, but Pang could tell him little. “The Teacher will find you when the time comes for your next lesson. Your task is to be ready for him.”
The Warden came very close to getting into an all-out fight with Pang and his Red Hands, but decided to take their leave of them instead. As they left, Andrew Buchanan decided to take note of the layout of the headquarters and the riches it contained. Not that he would come back and rob the joint, but well, maybe he would. Maybe.
The Necklace of Kilquato
Rikard took Hongqi Pang’s warning about the Necklace of Kilquato seriously. Rikard began researching the necklace more fully, and found connections back to the spirit of some sort of primal reptile deity, in particular the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek. He determined three ways in which he might be able to escape the necklace’s influence:
- The ritual sacrifice of an unwilling, sentient being to the crocodile god.
- The ritual forfeiture of blood from four willing sentient beings to the crocodile god.
- The destruction of the Eye of Kilquato.
His research determined that the god might look favorably upon the first two options but the destruction of the Eye might draw its eternal ire.
Rikard presented his research to the Wardens. Alistair Martindrake took the Egyptian connection and ran with it, determining that certain ancient rituals associated with the Egyptian goddess Isis might be able to stop Rikard’s transformation and free him from the necklace’s curse.
Alistair agreed to perform this ritual, and after a long and tense day of spell-casting, it was completed. The curse was broken, and the necklace was locked away in the Warden’s basement.
Anticipating the Gala
In the meantime, New York City was seized with Kilquato fever. Word of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ gala celebrating the Eye of Kilquato had spread through the city, fueled by the “curse” associated with it (the death of a Warden priest in Brazil, the death of one of its discoverers in the States).
Alistair Martindrake used the furor surrounding the gala — and his connection to the Wardens who had discovered the Eye — to reconnect with his high society friends. The click of up-and-coming socialites was led by Benjamin Brockholst and Catherine Livingstone, two twentysomethings with an eye for fashion and culture in the city. They re-introduced him to many of their shared childhood friends, including their respective younger siblings Richard Brockholst and Elizabeth Livingstone, the neophyte socialite Francesca Slaughter (who had just had her coming out ball in September), the be-speckled, near-sighted, hero worshipping Elijah Irving IV, the beautiful and coy Mary Halleck, and the adventure-seeking, former high school baseball star Joseph Stewart.
He attended a number of parties throughout the city in anticipation of the event. His friends were somewhat skeptical — wasn’t he the same guy who’d gone on and on about Atlantis? — but couldn’t help but be drawn to an individual with an inside track November 1937’s biggest event.
Meanwhile the Wardens were increasingly worried about the “Big Event.” The Necklace of Kilquato had proven that some degree of magic lingered in the Eye, and they were concerned that someone might try and steal it or that the Eye itself would exert a supernatural influence on the attendees.
They used their influence with the Museum and their city-wide notoriety to convince the gala’s organizers to attend the event “in authentic adventuring gear”. This included their normal field clothing, equipment, and arsenal of weaponry.
The Big Event
The gala lived up to the hype. Hundreds of upper-class individuals attended the event. The press and common people swarming the front of the museum and in an attempt to catch a glimpse of some of the rising stars in high society.
The Wardens arrived to much fanfare at 9 o’clock on a cold and blustery November night. They were greeted by Horatio Evans, director of pre-Columbian art at the Museum, and the show’s patron, Oscar Slaughter. Slaughter was dressed impeccably in a three piece suit, but his broken-and-re-heled nose betrayed a rougher past.
“Gentleman!” the director said, “This is Mr. Slaughter, one of our biggest donors, and the man who made this night possible.”
Slaughter gave a broad smile, then enthusiastically shook the hands of the Wardens while flashbulbs went off in the distant. “Oscar Slaughter. Slaughter Trading. We make a killing for you on the stock market.” He laughed heartily. “Like it? The ad guys just came up with it. Gonna be all over the papers this week.” He then paused, his eye having been caught by an approaching blonfe-haired, lesser starlet. “You boys to great work. Great work. Gonna have to talk with you later though, I’ve got a business engagement…” He then winked and hurried down the stair to take the woman’s arm.
The main hall of the museum was given over to the gala, and the Eye of Kilquato had a place of special prominence atop a fake stone archway. Items from the pre-Columbian collection were scattered around the hall, sealed beneath glass cases so that party goers could learn about them. There was a massive crush of people in the great hall — easily several hundred attendees, plus a full orchestra.
Once inside the Wardens were quickly approached by Alistair’s Benjamin Brockholst and Catherine Livingstone, who happily and enthusiastically introduced them to their ever-growing circle of friends.
Shortly after the introductions, Catherine and Elizabeth Livingstone left to powder their noses, and several others decided to break off from the group an mingle. McGinnis, as was often his want, headed to the bar. Andrew Buchanan decided to stroll around the bandstand and keep a look out for any unsavory types who might be making a play for the gem. Benjamin Brockholst and his brother Richard announced they’re going outside for a smoke, and also took their leave of the group.
The gala continued, with the music growing ever louder as the gala danced, talked, and drank themselves happy.
That happiness did not to last.
Fight in the Dark
Rikard Greystone also took advantage of the breakup of the welcoming committee to do some scouting of the gala. His wanderings eventually took him outside, to the museum’s Central Park-facing patio. There he learned that Benjamin and Richard Brockholst’s cigar break had ended in an argument, but no one knew exactly what it was about. Rikard, joined by Alistair Martindrake, decided to investigate further and found the spot where the two men had spoken … and evidence of a struggle. There was blood on the stones of the walk way and the nearby brick wall, as well as discarded cigars scattered about the ground.
Clearly there had been some sort of altercation, but it wasn’t clear if this was a brawl between brothers or something more sinister.
The Egyptian Heist
At around 10 p.m. while walking the perimeter of the party he heard the faint cries of a guard, who shouted “Thieves! Thieves in the Egyptian wing!”
Andrew quickly found Paul Fogg and McGinnis, and the three of them ran to investigate. They found the guards dead and a team of a dozen or so men noisily looting the Egyptian exhibit. The burglars immediately fired upon the newly-arrived Wardens, heedless of the fact that gunfire would likely bring even more attention.
Like that of Alistair and Rikard, who had returned inside to locate the Wardens, and instead heard a cacophany of gunfire echoing from the Egyptian Wing. While everyone else turned to run, the two Wardens headed toward the fight.
The combined forces of the Wardens attacked the burglers, and were stunned to find two of them were armed with Tommy guns. Statues exploded and display cases shattered as the gunfight raged on. The Wardens slowly gained the upper hand, with some of the burglars killed outright and one incapacitated by one of Rikard’s boomerangs.
The surviving burglars, stuffing a statue of Isis into a bag, attempted to escape by firing a grappling hook into an overhead skylight, and climbing a rope to safety. The Wardens were able to prevent this, killing the burglars before they could escape.
They were left with a prisoner, a smashed Egyptian exhibition, and far too many questions.
- Feature photo credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Great Hall. Source.
- Game date: April 27, 2014
- Paul Fogg: 2 xp
- Rikard Greystone: 5 xp (thanks to an adventure card)
- Alistair Martindrake III: 2 xp
- McGinnis: 2 xp
- Andrew Buchanan: 2 xp