It was January 19, 1938. Just days Benny Goodman was the talk of New York City as he and his orchestra became the first jazz musicians to headline a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Overseas China was still reeling form the Rape of Nanking, in which Japan sacked the Chinese Nationalist capital and killed tens of thousands of civilians.
For the Wardens though, it has been a quiet time. After defeating the Terror in the Woods and helping clean up the aftermath back in November 1937, they returned to the Horta Quadrangle for some much needed rest. The holidays passed without drama, and while the New Year saw renewed anxiety about the war in Europe and Asia there were no mystical complications.
That was about to change.
Yunnan Province, China
Something terrible happened to Sammo Lau. For years the elderly man was a respected Taoist priest dedicated to protecting the communities of the remote Yunnan Province but then one day in October 1937 the temple was found ransacked and desecrated.
Sammo was a teacher and trusted friend of Shen Li, a noted Chinese occultist and detective based out of Hong Kong. When word reached him that his old mentor’s temple had been destroyed, Shen sent his nephew and protégé Richard Shen to investigate. The younger Shen was a member in good standing of the Hong Kong branch of the Wardens, and happily took on his uncle’s request.
Richard Shen traveled to Yunnan Province hoping to find and speak with the old Taoist priest. Instead he discovered the rumors were true — the temple had been ravaged — ancient texts destroyed, blood smeared on the walls, and a hundred variations of the word “penance” carved into the walls.
Yet there was no body, and conversations with the nearby villagers revealed that Sammo had become withdrawn and conspiratorial in the days leading up to the temple’s desecration. Some said the monk himself had been responsible for destroying the temple.
Intrigued and worried, Shen began investigating the monk’s disappearance and soon realized that the man was, in fact, alive. He and his apprentice appeared to be making their way toward Hong Kong. More ominously, those Shen spoke with said that Sammo would mutter to himself or his apprentice and lash out when interrupted saying that “the traitors would be punished!”
Once back in Hong Kong, he learned that Sammo had left on a steamer for San Franciscio two weeks earlier. Shen quickly used his Warden connections to book passage himself. He arrived San Francisco to learn of the horrible murders in which the victims — all Chinese or Chinese-Americans — had died in such a way to leave behind desiccated corpses. Their corpses were marked with yellow slips of paper with the words “Traitor. Repent. Return.” written on them. When these papers were removed, the corpses revived and attacked the investigators.
He and a cadre of local Wardens hunted down Sammo’s lair in an old apothecary shop in Chinatown. There he found a half-dozen of re-animated corpses, which he was finally able to identify as jiangshi or “Hopping Vampires”. These strange undead beasts had perfectly preserved flesh, but were unable to move like a typical human being. They could not bend their legs — perhaps because of rigor mortis? — and instead hopped, arms outstretched to attack their foes. The jiangshi hungered for the souls of the living, and those they bit would rise as more hopping vampires.
In the battle that ensued Shen relied on his knowledge of Chinese folk lore to come up with a weapon to use against the creatures: sticky rice. The seemingly simple weapon burned the vampires’ feet if they were exposed to it for even a second, and drove the creatures back from where they stood. Shen and the San Francisco wardens briefly battled with Sammo himself as well. The former priest seemed to have developed mystical powers, and was clearly mad — Shen had no doubt that it was Sammo who had unleashed these vampires and bound them to his will.
Unfortunately Sammo escaped the fight, taking with him a jiangshi dressed in Qing Dynasty robes that Shen strongly suspected was the master vampire.
In the aftermath of the fight Shen found a copy of Sammo’s journal, which indicated that the priest intended to travel to New York City and continue his mad plan there. He found receipts indicating he’d even purchased a small business — Mr. Lee’s Medicine Shop — to serve as a front in the city, and had sent his apprentice, Lung Jiang, ahead to open it.
Back at the Horta Quadrangle in New York City, the Wardens were making good use of their holiday downtime. Rikard Greystone spent time following up the cryptic lead given to him by XXXX about his “Teacher” being in Istanbul, and learned that the corruption that ate away at the heart of the Knights Templar began during the Crusades, when they sacked the city. At the time it was known as Constantinople, and it was rumored that the Knights acquired a powerful relic — possibly a powerful demonic relic.
Fast Car, Bad Driver
The uneventful stretch of time came to an end with the arrival of Det. Jason Carl Carlson at the Warden’s Horta Quadrangle. The NYPD detective — who’d been one of the leads on the Metropolitan Museum burglary case — quickly explained that they’d received a call about a strange discovery at an illegal gambling den in Chinatown. Apparently two days before there had been some sort of incident at the den, including screams, shouts, and gunfire. At the time no one reported it; the police only heard about the incident from an anonymous tip.
Carlson took a squad down to the gambling den, and discovered a strange sight — several bodies laid out on the ground, with strips of yellow paper covering their faces. Those neighboring the building were worse then useless when it came to understanding what had happened; they simply dismissed the entire thing as cursed and warned not disturb the corpses.
Carlson, knowing when something strange was afoot, and knowing people who specialized in strange, told his mean not to enter the building, and left to get the Wardens.
Unfortunately, his men didn’t listen.
As Carlson was explaining the situation to the assembled Wardens at the Horta Quadrangle, the man he’d left in the squad car came running in and said he’d just heard from police HQ (over the squad car’s newly installed AM radio) that the squad he’d left outside the den had entered it and done exactly what they’d been warned not to do — they moved the bodies. The corpses then re-animated, rising up to attack the police.
Cursing, Carlson ran to his car, and asked the Wardens to follow. They did so, checking out a brand-new Packard automobile from the motor pool (much to the chagrin of Head Mechanic Frederick Cartwright, who’d seen the same Wardens destroy the car’s predecessor).
He would never have let them have the car if he knew what they were going to do with it.
Their regular driver, McGinnis, was not available, so Rikard drove. Det. Carlson sped off toward Chinatown and his dying men at breakneck speed. Rikard did his best to keep up, but his skills weren’t up to the task. He was barely able to keep an eye on Carlson’s police cruiser while smashing into a light post, getting caught between two merging automobiles, and accidentally smashing through a melon cart in Chinatown. The vehicle was in far, far worse shape when they arrived than when they left … but they did make it in time.
Hopping … vampires?
When the Wardens and Det. Carlson arrived on the scene they could hear the sounds of gunfire and screams from the gambling den, which was located of the basement level of a Chinatown tenement. They advanced on the den, entering with a caution that the patrolmen hadn’t shown. Inside they found a strange sight — several corpses, rigid with death, had some how managed to stand up. One of these had already grappled a patrolmen; others were slowly “hopping” forward in small bounds, advancing on the remaining patrolmen. The police fired at them desperately with their sidearms, but the weapons seemed to have little effect.
Meanwhile another dozen or so bodies lay on the floor, seemingly held in place by loose pieces of paper with Chinese characters inscribed upon them. The heroes noticed that some of these corpses held the familiar red head- and arm-bands of the Red Hand Triad.
The Wardens leapt into the fray, using magic and bullets to try and drive back the strangely animate corpses. One of Augustus Farnsworth’s spells sent a blast of cold energy swirling past the bodies still on the floor and causing the papers to flutter to the ground.
Suddenly the corpses were moving to their feet, and beginning their own strange hopping advance.
Things had suddenly gotten a lot worse.
Enter Richard Shen
Suddenly someone new joined the fray. A Chinese gentlemen — hurriedly introducing himself as Richard Shen, Warden — ran into the room and began throwing sticky rice at the feet of the hopping horrors. To the surprise of everyone but Shen, the rice burst into flames when it hit the feet of the creatures. They shrieked in pain, and leapt backwards.
At this moment McGinnis, who had been unexpectedly sleeping behind the bar, woke up. “Where the hell am I?” he asked as he groggily stood up. Taking in the chaos around him he shouted “What the hell, zombies!?!” and then began shooting.
The initiative regained, the Wardens pushed forward. Fighting alongside their new ally they were able to make quick work of the creatures, which Shen identified as an ancient Chinese menace known as “hopping vampires.” He quickly tended to the wounds of those attacked by the monsters, explaining that anyone who had been clawed by the hopping vampires would die and rise as one of them in a few days time.
Fortunately he had a folk remedy — a mixture of sticky rice and snake venom blessed by a Taoist priest — which he applied to their wounds to prevent the turning and promote healing. Shen then explained that he was a Warden from Hong Kong, come to America to hunt down the former Taoist priest Sammo Lau. He told them of how Sammo had unleashed jiangshis in San Francisco, and of the Wardens’ battle to defeat them. He also explained that he’d uncovered a lead: a journal left behind by Sammo that indicated he’s dispatched his apprentice to open an apothecary shop in New York City under the name of “Mr. Lee’s Medicine Shop”.
The Wardens were eager to deal with the hopping vampire threat, but Shen cautioned them about being impetuous, and explained he needed to re-stock his supplies of the anti-vampire folk remedy. To do so he would need a Taoist priest to bless the venom-and-sticky-rice concoction … and the New York Wardens knew exactly where to find one: in the lair of the Red Hand Triad.
The Red Hand Triad
The Wardens had last dealt with the Red Hand Triad during the Centaurus affair. The two sides had come to fisticuffs, and the Red Hands had been responsible for the destruction of one of the Wardens’ cars. They’d come to an uneasy truce after a meeting between the Wardens, with Rikard Greystone acting as their lead, and Honqi Pang, leader of the Red Hands.
Going to see the Red Hands was a gamble, but the Wardens suspected that Hongqi would want to know the fate of his fallen colleagues … and just might want to help punish their killer.
They went to the Red Hand’s cover business — the Golden Dragonfly Restaurant — and arranged to meet with Honqi. They were once again escorted to the freight elevator that led to the Red Hand Triad’s basement headquarters where they met with Honqi. They quickly explained the situation, and their discovery of the fallen members of the Red Hand Triad who had been turned into hopping vampires.
It didn’t take much convincing for Hongqi to agree to help, and he quickly gave Richard Shen access to the gang’s hidden temple. He was also impressed by the Wardens’ determination to help the Chinese community, so impressed that he decided to give Rikard Greystone a warning that he should be prepared … his lesson was coming. “Protect those closest to you,” Honqi said.
Mr. Lee’s Medicine Shop
After the stop by the Red Hand Triad’s basement headquarters, the Wardens stopped back at the Horta Quadrangle. Earlier they had sent the driver who had delivered Richard Shen home with the totaled Packard while they drove the new car. On their return they found that Head Mechanic Frederick Cartwright was waiting for them. The man was half drunk, and waited with an over-sized wrench in one hand, and a bottle of scotch in the other.
When McGinnis ran into get some equipment, he came face to face with the mechanic.
“You wrecked another car!” Cartwright said. “Another car! I’ll wreck you. Damn straight, I will wreck you.” The mechanic chased McGinnis into the street and was preparing to beat some sense into him when Buchannan (who had taken refuge at his favorite hole-in-the-wall bar) sprung from the shadows. He knocked the engineer out with a single hit, and the Wardens ran for their vehicle.
The team re-assembled, they headed to Mr. Lee’s Medicine Shop. The business was located in the walk-down basement of a tenement building. They arrived to find the lights on, but the front door locked. Andrew Buchanan deftly picked the lock, and the Wardens began moving in.
They found a shop packed with storage shelves packed with all manner of Chinese folk remedies, herbs, and knickknacks. There were also a number of closed cabinets lining the walls, and a counter against the back wall. Behind the counter was an elderly Chinese man — clearly Sammo Lau — who was scribbling glyphs onto pieces of yellow papers. Nearby was his apprentice Lung Jiang, the young man who had purchased the shop. Hearing the Wardens enter he looked up and said “You are hear already? Too soon. Far too soon! But you will be punished the same as the traitors of China!”
With that, the cabinets burst open, revealing more hopping vampires. Another, more ornate cabinet near the front of the room also opened, revealing a regal looking hopping vampire clearly from the Qing Dynasty.
The Wardens quickly engaged their opponents. Andrew, had been sneaking down the far side of the shop, knocked over one row of cabinets. This stunned the creatures inside and bought the heroes some time. The battle was pitched, with the vampires hopping toward their opponents and Wardens weaving through the cramped shop’s storage shelves. Meanwhile Sammo Lau attempted to impose his will upon the room, casting spells that sent a wave of fear crashing into the Wardens. The fallen Taoist priest, desperate for more arcane power, plunged a dagger into his apprentice’s chest. It wasn’t enough to save him though — half of the Wardens charged the mad man, overpowered him. At the same time the other half took on the Vampire Master and slew him. The destruction of the Master caused the rest of the zombies to collapse.
Chinatown was saved.
Mystic knot: Eight infinity knots (figure 8s) tied together to form a bracelet. One per day it grants a +1 to a bennie roll. Photo.
Jade Turtle: Once per day grants a +1 bonus to Parry for a single combat round. Photo.
Rose Quartz Ring: Associated with love and passion, once every seven days this ring grants a +1 bonus to Charisma for 7 minutes. Photo.
Bunch of Dried Mugwort: Grants a one-time +4 bonus to the Banishment spell. Consumed in the casting.
Monkey Gall Bladder Solution: Used to counteract stomach maladies, the gall bladder solution can also be used to counteract poison. Consuming it grants the patient a second Vigor check with a +2 bonus.
- Feature photo credit: Mr. Vampire. Source.
- Game date: September 21 , 2014
- Andrew Buchanan: 3 xp
- August Farnstaff: 3 xp
- Rikard Greystone: 3 xp
- McGinnis: 3 xp
- Richard Shen: 3 xp