Okay, where we left off, the group had just encountered the Man with the Burning Footprints. And as Jack's player was able to be present for this session, I was able to let him know that he would recognize the weird guy he met in Waco who tried the warn the group away from the Agent. He asked if they could head to the throng's room to talk, giving Rudolf a knowing look as nobody else knew he'd gotten a room yet.
Rudolf collected Derek and Roger from the new Frankenvan where they'd been waiting and everyone went into the room that Rudolf had rented from the hotel.
There was kind of a long talk and I didn't take as good notes as I could have because I didn't want to interrupt myself just to write down everything as it was said. I'd set out several points to cover and questions to answer in my head and mostly improvised the actual conversation, so a lot of this is coming from memory.
He explained, with Rudolf writing down notes of questions to ask later, that he was on a Mission, and Gino and the Burning Footsteps Throng are mixed up in it. He gave them a little bit of backstory on the nature of reality, as part of what he was meant to do was give them some perspective. He explained that destiny itself operated in a fashion not unlike a perpetual motion machine. Everything is a part of this metaphorical mechanism, and humans kind of run it in their own way. Prometheans, whose Azoth in some way derives from this theoretical god-machine sometimes get dragged into little adventures meant to fix the system when it goes awry. The Pilgrimage is an 'escape clause' that has been built in to Prometheans to give them a way out from being pressed into service.
Which is where the throng comes in. It turns out that Gino screwed something up a while back, which caused kind of a flaw in the system. Zettler, because of the experiment that changed him back in the 40's, also falls into the category of "things that shouldn't be and need to be fixed." Gino, in his own way, is meant to deal with it as well, but he can't handle it alone. The qashmal has been keeping an eye on Gino and the throng and making sure they're on the right track, and that he himself burned up a lot of his power causing the thunderstorm that stranded them for long enough so he could have a chat with them.
And then, about that point, he dropped a bombshell. Gino used to be a Promethean. And at some point, in his previous existence, he'd come into contact with either the characters or people connected to them and drew them into his kharmic wake.
However, while he was Redeemed technically, he never completed his Pilgrimage. Somehow, using the Flamel Capsule that the throng had left with Alexander, he'd found a way to achieve Mortality without properly completing his Pilgrimage. And he came out wrong. Many of the visions and visitations he had described in his journal were in fact memories of his Promethean existence struggling to the surface. And Zettler was after him because things that Gino knows and remembers could be used with his own abilities and technology in ways that literally threatened existence.
Zettler, also, was the reason why the qashmal didn't make his move earlier. Zettler is something... else. He's been infused with the power of the Azoth itself, having been granted many of the powers of a Promethean with few of the drawbacks and some unique abilities of his own. For example, when killed, Zettler violently explodes... letting out enough of a blast to, say, take out a few floors of a building. And then, like the phoenix on his family crest (and his company's logo), he regenerates from his own ashes, often looking a little younger in the process. And this qashmal, aware of how wrong Zettler is, had to be very careful about making sure he wasn't anyplace where Zettler could get ahold of him.
Which led, briefly, into a small tangent about the cane he was carrying -- it was something that Gino left in his house when he recently passed through town again that the qashmal picked up because the PCs never went back there. He wasn't sure how it worked, but he said that to the best of his knowledge there was a device in there that could be used to neutralize Zettler. Also, when asked where Zettler is, the azoth-fueled visitor had someone toss him the TV remote so he turned on the news to show a young man by the name of Andrew E. Colum, who works for Magnus Research, talking about the explosion life from the site in New Orleans. While he looked like he was in his 20's or maybe early 30's, the qashmal established that this was Zettler, and in the process pointed out that they had a bit of a head start on him for the moment.
But eventually he would catch up to them, and if left unchecked with access to what Gino knows could wind up taking over or destroying the world itself.
There was more, including Rudolf asking a few questions, and I can't remember in what order everything was. So here's a rough list of points covered in the discussion...
- Roger is an experiment of Zettler's. Not evil, or anything, but an attempt to use cloned organs in normal people for transplants... but it went horribly wrong, and the organs have kind of taken over the body like a parasite. Roger is the result.
- The qashmal didn't know how many of those Agents that Zettler had, but probably not too many, given that if he had enough to do so he'd have probably tracked down Papillon's camp and harvested everything there.
- The qashmal reminded the PC's that Zettler's been capturing Frankensteins that dated back to the 40's. Like Steve. Steve's paranoid about Zettler wanting revenge for what some of his 'special unit' did back during the war.
- When asked about the origin of Prometheans, the qashmal explained that some aspect of the Principle tried to fix it so humans, who pretty much run the machine of destiny, would be aware of the machine and be able to maintain it themselves. There were a couple of attempts, and the most recent one that it knew of involved infusing a human with the Divine Fire. But the first thing that human did is what humans do best... create. It created a living thing and passed the Divine Fire on to it, and thus Prometheans were born.
- Rudolf's biggest concern is what part he plays in this. His 'life' has pretty well sucked so far and he's having trouble caring too much about the continued fate of the world, and asked what would happen if he just wandered off. The qashmal said in so many words that if he was fated to continue to play a part in the story, he'd be steered back around to things later. Otherwise, it might just let him go. But because wants to understand how this is all going he's willing to stick it out until they get to Boston because Gino might have some of the answers he's looking for.
If there was anything else, I'm blanking on it. But the qashmal left them with one more major piece of information... that Gino's memories are still patchy and he's a little out of it. The doctors, in the time he spent in the asylum, stumbled onto a treatment that seemed to make him more delusional but in fact restored his memories for a brief time. Going back through his psych records would help them find the key to 'fixing' Gino for a brief time.
With that, he took Ander aside for a little private chat (as Ander's player couldn't make it but it was kind of important that Ander be able to actually talk with this guy, so this sets things up for a backdated scene later), and on his way out the door suggested to the throng that they "deal with what's going to happen next door in a minute."
They kind of sat there, confused, but about a minute later someone began pounding on the room door next to theirs. By the time they get out there, some strange guy has kicked in the door of the next room and is yelling at Joseph (Father John's creator, as a reminder, who is also a Redeemed traveling shaman/monster hunter), who's aiming a gun at him (presumably in self-defense). Everyone else draws their weapons to get the guy to stand down while they figure out what's going on.
As it turns out, this guy was traveling with a friend, and while he was out checking the roads not 10 minutes prior, someone got into his hotel room and murdered that friend brutally. There were obvious signs of a struggle, and blood all over the place. The guy had been stabbed to death. The stranger (who never did give his name) assumed it was because his partner, Marcus, had noticed the spirit familiar that Joseph keeps with him and was killed to cover Joseph's tracks.
There's nothing on Joseph's person or in his room that suggests he just performed a brutal bloody murder, so there had to be another possibility. Nobody had broken into Marcus' room, and it hadn't been a robbery. He still had his wallet, and an artifact the two were transporting (a stone statue of a gryphon, with glyphs on it that gave Jack a severe headache when he tried unsuccessfully to decrypt it with Translator's Eye). Jack tried to scan the guy's aura, but was unsuccessful in pinning down the assorted colors and patterns. In turn, the stranger gave each of the player-characters a weird look and then asked exactly what they were. They gave a vague, non-committal answer if I remember correctly, and the conversation moved on.
The best thing anyone can think to do is to call the cops, when Steve and Jack come up with an idea. Jack activates his Bestowment, Ephemeral Flesh, just in case the victim left behind a ghost. And sure enough, he had. As Jack activated the power, Joseph warned him that this was an area known for casual spirits passing through -- it was one of the reasons he'd come this way, to get a better look at it.
And there were indeed a bunch of spirits in the room (apparently this is an area that doesn't have much of a Forsaken presence), including the ghost of Marcus. He was still freaking out and Jack was able to talk to him to get him to calm down. They started talking back and forth, with Jack relaying stuff back to the rest of the characters, and it comes out that Marcus' killer was "the blonde bitch at the counter." She'd come in to talk about his credit card and the pulled a knife and got the drop on him.
Everyone continues to see what they can get out of Marcus, when Jack and Steve look up about the same time and realize that Rudolf is missing. Steve immediately heads for the front desk of the hotel, and Joseph gets the stranger to accompany him, as he's got an idea. As they head down the walkway, they see Rudolf step out of the office, having rendered Kelly (who had changed clothes since Rudolf checked in) unconscious with Shock and was in the process of bringing her back to the room.
When they get back, Joseph has the stranger scan Kelly, and he determines there's something 'wrong' with her. Joseph has a theory. The reason he was in the area was because it's a well-known spot for spirit passages, and some 15 or 16 years ago there was a sudden wave of spirit possessions in the area for some unknwon reason. One of them, Joseph pointed out as he dug through the binder of newspaper clippings in his room, and dug out an article, which I didn't go into too much detail about at the time, about a pregnant woman named Katherine being possessed and supposedly going through an exorcism. The woman bore enough of a resemblance to Kelly that it's a safe bet that it was her.
Joseph explained that the 'wrongness' of her was the fact that about 9 times out of 10, a pregnant woman possessed loses the pregnancy almost instantly. The tenth time? The kid was born soulless, generally sociopathic and fucked-up. At least, that was the theory. Either way, they had a suspect and police on the way, and both Joseph and the throng knew that beings with a tendency to engender the Disquiet never work well with cops and crime scenes.
The throng got out of there quickly, catching up with Ander, and then they decided to get back on the road and hit the Denny's a mile back on the interstate.