A Visit to Central Park

Book found, pictures mulled over, bullets loaded, student mages thanked, library staff thanked.
We're ready to track down Deagh ...
Except for the other pictures - apparently other pictures have been found in other books.
Chiselmeet will try lo locate them & 'box' them to us.

The plan - back to Ashwell and to the monastery to seek the council of Sister Luana and her elk.
The intrepid group, with Ask in tow, 'picture' back to Ashwell, startling the student tasked with watching out for travellers.
He inform us of a delivery for us that has arrived in the village.
Approaching the Raven's Scry's astonishing powers of perception pick out two crates. One eighteen foot high, the other five foot high. Our names are stencilled on both and the word is 'they've come from the coast'.
Sanguine scrys Gwen to thank her for the gifts ... which she knows nothing about.
After checking that they are safe the crates are gently crowbared open.
A player piano and the original shard from this reality.

Why a player piano - and with no rolls.

Oh yea - the shard is cool too.

The piano is pondered over a beer in the Raven's

Next morning - off to see the elk.
Arriving at the monastery we are astonishingly deer free and and are ushered into the presence of Morgan - the high priestess.
She informs us that Luana has passed beyond the veil and was witness to our visit with the Crimson King.
Also that 'yes' she will accept guardianship of the crystal.
On the Summer / Autumn Isles she informs us that winter is a regular visitor to those shores but time moves differently. Summer lasts an age, Autumn is brief, winter lasts a day and they sleep and the rebirth of spring is short.
She is taken with our statement to the Crimson King, "All friends in all seasons" and points out that making a promise you do not believe in that court is a really bad idea - so we're OK then.

Back to Ashwell - well some of the group. Sanguine 'pictures' to Swarkstone to do some research into alchemy, the branch of magic that Deagh subscribes to.
Chiselmeet has also found some more pictures from the books, some of which are magical. (Who left those pictures?)
Scrylash manages to fit some of them together to form a something. It's a definite something, real and actual.
We try to shift to this thing. Repeatedly. Until we are interrupted by Cschka, "The walls downstairs are vibrating - what are you doing."
The vibration is coming from a picture of the maze - the very maze we used previously to get our memorys back and to shift out to Touren originally.
This vibration suggests that the other side of the likely shift is a long way from here.
A very different reality.

The rose garden over the maze is having a tough existence - it's going to be dug up again.

Armed with shovels and rakes and implements of destruction we gallantly lay waste to a flower bed.

Once clear the band, with Ask in tow, walk the ancient path and again find ourselves passing through probable space and possible time to a new somewhere. And passing. And passing some more.
And no Ask with us.
This isn't the instant shift we're used to - but ...
The only reality here is the small piece of the maze on which we stand. All around is black.
We're moving but 'distance', 'speed' and 'time' are not appropriate, or more properly, not valid where we are.
We are moving forwards no mater which way we face, and the big toothy, chew us up and crunch on our bones mouth is between us and our destination.
It is getting bigger - not because we are getting closer but because of our proximity, and perhaps because we're getting closer ... If that doesn't make sense it's because you weren't there - it made perfect sense to us - not that we discussed the philosophical points, that's not what you do when a big, and growing bigger toothy chew us up and crunch on our bones mouth is approaching.
At the last moment (if that is quite the right word when time doesn't exist...)
(OK listen - I'm going to tell this story in terms that can be understood by people who do not regularly shift between physical realities)
At the last moment the mouth dodged and passed below us (Or we moved up, but there is no actual up or down - Yes I know what I said, but it's tricky. You have to trust me here).
The mouth passed 'below' us and we could sense a 'body' attached to this mouth. If you want a mundane symbol, think 'Ethric Shark'.
It's next pass was 'above' us, then it came for us.
It was at about this time that we started to notice that there was something less than black in the 'distance' and we were 'moving' 'towards' this 'light'.
Ballantine loosed a 'click' at the approaching 'shark'. A 'click' is not a ethric term, it's just the sound you don't want to hear when you point a gun at an enemy and pull the trigger. Scrylash loosed his bow at the approaching danger, who knows where the arrow went. Sanguine stepped up to the mark and sent a lightening blast straight at the black maw. It dodged and headed up. As it's 'body' passed it started sluing off small black eel like creatures that tried to create a shell around us and occasionally encroaching on our small enclave.
Sanguine sent a small blast at one, it exploded. They can be hurt.
Everyone joined the fray.
Ballantine swung with his sword, Scrylash lashed out with the knuckle-dusters, Roggen with full Diss armour spat her secret cider. If any of them had hit one of these 'ethric eels' I'm sure they would have done real damage, but we'll never know.
Sanguine sent a blast of magical energy, destroying handfuls of these dread worms (three months in a library is never wasted time).
This attack created a gap in the blanket and the 'approaching' 'white' was 'closer'.
Again everyone attacked. With exactly the same results.
The next gap in the swarm again revealed that the 'white' was growing. The edges of this new gap started to peel back, as if their intent was to hide this view from us and having failed were retreating, defeated.

Into the white.
With an external observable difference between the black and the white it would seem that the white is a sphere within the black.
And towards the other side of the white.
Observing the approaching black we observe a large collection of 'sharks' awaiting our renewed acquaintance with the dark.
Why are there more on the other side? Do they gather when a sentry warns them or do the other 'visitors' usually come from the other side?
We 'stop'. We become stationary relative to the white and black.
The 'eels' start forcing their way towards us. In a concerted line, supporting themselves they force a black bulge in the white and from the centre a thin stream of 'eels' moves towards us. Like a boil bursting in slow motion, but less pleasant.
This doesn't phase our heroes. We can shift out to a reality - and have a number of pictures of our target reality.
Unfortunately one has to be real to move to a reality. The only local reality we have is the small section of maze we stand upon. That is to say that nothing else here, even us, is real.
And the boil's exudation is 'approaching', or at least, 'getting closer'.

We need to act now. This is not the time for an argument or discussion.
Guess what.
The earliest, loudest suggestion "Walk the maze backwards. We became unreal by walking it, it came with us so by walking back out ..."
Some started, some paused.
Ballantine, who had suggested this solution immediately addressed the concerns of the doubters.
"Yes, it's dangerous and stupid - but that's always worked for us in the past"
We all followed.
Would we get to the start of the maze before the beasts got to us ...

Just in time we completed the walk.
Nothing happened.
The black creatures were within striking dist...........

We were suddenly real, and suddenly in a field, and in very thick mist.

To mark this location, so we would not get lost, Sanguine marked the spot with his sigil. A permanent and irremovable magical glyph that he could always recognise and locate.
It faded and disappeared. Not an encouraging sign.

With strange ringing in our ears, feeling drained and confused we headed in the direction that the sun seemed to be coming from.
With visibility down to around ten feet Sanguine again used his awesome magical might to raise the mist in a forty foot radius.
In other places and times, raising mist by six inches for a few seconds wouldn't seem like a great deal.
Here however it just wasn't a great deal of help. Sanguines magic was really not working properly.

Heading across the slightly unkept grass we came across low a fenced mound, then a path.
Ballantine's innate sense of dangerous and stupid said 'right'. We turned.
The small path became gravel. Walking on the grass edge to keep the noise down we notice that the path is widening to pass either side of a statue of a man on a horse.
Beyond the statue the street lights start, none lit.
Out of the continuing mist a light in front of us, one of the gas street lights is operational and surrounded by moths.
With the mist not lifting and a strange buzzing in their heads we continue. One of the moths swoops down to investigate us. It's a tiny naked winged person maybe six inches tall. It's difficult to tell who is more startled.

The path joins another in a "Y", we turn left down the trunk staying on the grass.
Had we not been on the grass we would not have heard the slow heavy crunch of approaching footsteps and the steady crackle of whatever it was dragging. It sounded like an ogre dragging a body.
Skulking in the mist we waited. The ogre guess was correct but it was dragging a low cart.
Sanguine reached out with his mind to make use of Srylashe's powers of silent movement, a skills trading that they have used countless times. With the prowess of a master spy Sanguine crashed forwards for a better look. So that 'magic' is taking a bath as well.

The ogre passes.
The path continues.
The next ogre is off the path, leaning against a tree and seems winded.
Ballantine's nose start bleeding.
Again we skirt this fowl beast.
Scrylash "Hold on a second - that's a man in a padded suit with some sort of breathing apparatus"
Deciding not to start killing people yet we continue. Three more men is suits appear out of the (slightly) thinning mist. These are not pulling carts. One raises a wood and metal device about four foot long, rather like a crossbow without the bow. One end in his shoulder, the other pointing at us he shouts "Stop. Don't move!".
We move.
Backwards onto the mist, at speed.
The device makes a loud noise, rather like Balantine's pistol.
And to much the same effect.
No one is harmed.

Skirting these three, Scrylash manages to sneak close enough to discern that they seem to be military and are arguing.
"Don't shoot without a direct order"
"They came at me out of the mist. I shot at them. If it happens again I'll shoot again. If you don't like it then don't take me next time"
So they are on some kind of patrol.

As the mist starts to lift they pass a bandstand and start to make out a fence and gate.
In the gateway is one of these men in suits, passed out.
Closer inspection reveals blood seeping from his mouth.
Inspecting his back pack reveals many wires and strange mechanical devices.
We leave him.

Across from the gates Roggen discerns through the thinning, but still debilitating mist, that there are buildings.
The howl of some sort of wolf like creature is also coming from that direction, but further away.
We slowly make our way across the wide road towards the buildings, all senses straining to sense what is in front of us.
Which is probably why the large beast that crashed upon us from the right rather caught us by surprise.
Eyes blazing the beast dodged at the last second allowing us to see that this is some sort of metal construction with a man inside apparently controlling it.
Our wonder is tempered when we realise that this craft is towing something on a rope and where we stand is not perhaps the safest place to be.
Diving for the buildings we manage to avoid the large and very dead cow that is bouncing along at the end of the rope.
Unfortunately the chasing pack of hyenas notice us and some peel off to attack.

Roggen, knowing stone well knows where the door is and makes it inside the building.
The rest are in the open when the hounds fall on us.
Ballantine uses one of his enhanced bullets, one with a spell that creates a magical barrier. The beast he strikes is locked in mid air and the next one is stuck behind this invisible wall. Sanguine blasts one with lightening causing it to turn tail. Scrylash cuts the snout of another which also turns tail.
Were these the only hyenas attacking them then all would be well. As is usual, this is not the case and all is far from well.
Roggen rushed from the doorway to lend aid to the beleaguered crew.
Two of these beasts spring directly at Sanguine in a concerted attack.
The metal craft that dodged us earlier again appears from the mist and takes them out of the air.
Scrylash is not so lucky as a hyena manages to sink his fangs into his midriff. A good sword strike later and all that is left attached is a head.
Ballantine and Roggen deal death to the few hardy remaining hyenas as everyone retreats into one of the buildings, an old abandoned office building.

Having survived another fight we take stock.
Scrylash is badly hurt, the hyena took a few good bites before dying.
Sanguine is more tired by the use of his magic than he should be and has little left.
Roggen is OK but is unable to disengage the Diss armour. It could be worse. If the armour had not been engaged when we started it might be unavailable.
Ballantine is well. His nose bleed has stopped.

The metal craft approaches again and slews to a halt in front of the doors. The pilot leaps out, into the building. Turning back towards the door he raised his oversized pistol (which for convenience I will call 'rifle') and covers the doors.
The sound of the hyenas devouring the cow receded and they move off, thankfully not investigating the building we are in.
"Welcome to Rome, I'm Bredon. You are?"

People from different realities take a little time to create a common ground in conversation. It takes time to get past the assumptions and get the background information required before a meaningful information exchange can occur.
The local story is ...
Bredon is a soldier, but everyone here is.
This city is Rome and some twenty years ago the 'war' started. Creatures from other realities started appearing, they were ejected from their realities when that reality was closed down (sound familiar?). Creatures from many realities have arrived here. The fog in the park is from another reality. The local army is fighting a war against the the nastier elements that have appeared here. Bredon is running interference so that his men in the park can try to get to an ammunition dump. (Where we arrived is called 'Central Park').

Bredon is somewhat taken aback when he tries to comfort us.
"I realise that you're reality has been destroyed. I'm sorry, but you're here now"
"No it hasn't. We know how and why the realities are being destroyed and we came here by choice to stop it. We plan to find the person responsible and kill him"
We can destroy peoples reality too, and that pretty much did it for Bredon.
"Wow - hold on. You're telling me that this is being done by a person!"

He is further surprised when he finds out that we have been in the park without protection. "The Pall", as they call the fog, badly affects his men. We tell him about the injured one in the gate way and he asks for our aid to get the man into his transport. With the soldier on the back seat Bredon takes a flask from a compartment and a knife from his pocket. He cuts his hand and passes the container to Scrylash, the most badly wounded of the group. On drinking he realises that this is some kind of healing draft. We manage to pour some down the throat of the soldier, who perks up a little.

Bredon says that he will take us to the nearest check point and come back to help his men. We can get directions to the main HQ from there. We ask about his boss (Fuller) but he insists that we should visit 'the tank'. A think tank where the war strategy is being formed.

On the way to the checkpoint we discover more.
Magic here is odd, as Sanguine has discovered. Mages here use wands and most magic is blood magic.
The soldiers are in the park looking for an ammunition dump.
Different nasty creatures make different parts of the city dangerous.
Arrivals are not just in the park but all over.
His craft is called a "Bentley"
He recognises some of the pictures we found in the books.
He describes one of the soldiers in a picture as an "Alchemists" which worries Sanguine.
Another picture is of ThetaIII, the HQ he is sending us to.
The device in the soldiers back pack is some sort of communications device, called a "Radio".

At the checkpoint he instructs Ballantine in the operation of this Radio as the grunts draw us a map to TheraIII.
"This is the direct route - but you can't go through that square. It's as bad as the park there, you won't survive and you can't get too close to the square coz that's where the 'greys' wait for travellers so you'll have to go the long way round. Nine hours rather than the two it would take if it was possible to go straight."
"Avoid the roofs and do not go under ground"
It sounds like a stroll in the park.
Bredon will contact the HQ and tell them to expect us.

Bredon takes us aside "You survived the park without dying, you might be able to take the direct route. If you do, you will pass very close to the ' Culturale Arte'. If you want to find a wand that's the place. No one has been there since the war started. Also, very near there is my gentleman's club. The 'B Club'. It has one of the finest wine cellars in the city and no one can get to it"
A slightly dreamy expression passes briefly over Bredon's face.

Wine cellar - we're so going there.