Chapter One: Minnie’s Ghost
Four of the PCs (Lina, Night, Violet, and Edwin) all meet up in Harpers Crossing. It’s a media circus and the normally bucolic Harpers Crossing is stuffed with people that night for a vigil held for the still unconscious Minnie Turner. At the vigil, Minnie’s ghost appears, but it is not like other ghosts. Her ghost approaches the display with her picture and flowers and touches her own picture, before grabbing the hands of Violet and Edwin (in spirit form). Violet and Edwin are burned by her touch, and her hand print is burned on the glass of the picture, along with the words: “Help me.” Everyone can see the hand print and writing and people begin screaming.
There are some clues and troubling portents revealed:
- Ghosts are acting really strange and are drawn to Harpers Crossing
- Minnie’s classmates know more about where she’s been the last year than the police do
- Minnie is being held at Cranston County Hospital; it’s a secret, but all the PCs know the head doctor (Dr. Stevens) treating her
- Minnie appeared as some form of ghost even though she isn’t dead
- Minnie’s touch left marks similar to the numbers on the victims
- A seemingly mundane CSI tech (Morgan Fredericks) aroused Edwin’s suspicion
- A unknowingly Gifted reporter (Kylee Betz) recognized Night was more than she seemed and has become curious about her
- Something called the Soul Eater has returned after not being seen since the murders stopped
- Adam Hoffman (a Rosicrucian and Night’s dad) has invited both Night and Edwin to dinner, though different times)
- The Wicce consider this case their responsibility and Edwin offered to help them
Ghosts in New Hope
Lina Harper had been stalked by the media and curious acquaintances since Minnie Turner was found. Twenty years ago, Lina’s mother, Linda Harper, was the face of the Hew Hope Devil murders. She was the second and most famous victim of Kevin Meadows and every news story at the time (and every documentary and made-for-TV movie since) always displayed her face. Lina didn’t remember her mother, but she looked almost identical. Now many of those same news stations were looking to get her reaction and face to display during the new round of stories.
Lina was staying on a friend’s couch in New Hope in a crappy, but relatively safe area on the edge of the Lockam slums and relatively nicer Morgan County Reservoir neighborhood. She’d been keeping her head down and not answering any of her growing number of emails and voice mails. Eventually, Lina risked venturing out (in disguise) to a local coffee place.
It didn’t take long for Lina to notice the ghosts. Lina was a necromancer and had seen ghosts her entire life, but there were several of them out on the streets in the daylight and heading west (in the direction of Harpers Crossing). That would have been strange enough under any circumstances, but several of them were mindless echoes at best and shouldn’t have been away from their anchors for any reason.
Lina had already planned on heading towards Harpers Crossing for the upcoming vigil. Combined with the massive burst of death-flavored Essence two nights ago, it was becoming clear that there was something big happening. Odds were it wasn’t anything good.
Preparing for the Vigil
Nighteen Hoffman (usually called Night) was in the Harpers Crossing Library helping prepare for the vigil later that night. She was gathering books and materials, her aging cat familiar curled on a shelf, watching impassively.
Night had spoken briefly with various members of the media that had descended on Harpers Crossing like thick flies. The library had significant and historically significant archives, almost none of it digitized yet, as well as a large collection of local history books. The head librarian was on an extended absence while she traveled and Night was currently in charge at the library.
Night overheard some voices in quiet conversation on the other side of a row of shelves.
“…her own fault, you know?” said the fist voice.
“Oh my god, those two are so creepy. It really is her fault…”
Just then they walked around the corner and saw Night looking at them. It was two high school girls she knew, Kristin Sparkman and Cyndi Dickman. They were both about Minnie’s age and had been in her class.
Before the door closed all the way, it was pushed back open and two people entered. One was a pretty young black reporter Night vaguely recognized from some New Hope TV station. Her name was Kylee, though Night couldn’t remember her last name.
Kylee was Gifted, though she didn’t seem to realize it. The Gifted can sense each other and Kylee realized there was something about Night, though she didn’t understand what she wass feeling. She latched onto Night based on a “hunch” that she was significant. Night brushed her off by acting obtuse and cheerful and giving inane answers, but Kylee wasn’t convinced. She left with a knowing smile, a wave, and another appraising look. She’d be back.
Across the town, Violet Holmes stood at edge of city looking at where dozens of ghosts had already gathered. The red number “7” from her murder was clearly visible and couldn’t be hidden in the Twilight Realms. More ghosts were coming in a slow but steady stream. The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, which surrounded Harpers Crossing on three sides formed a barrier they couldn’t cross, so they stood around like gawkers behind police tape.
Harpers Crossing was old and full of ghosts. The two other powerful ghosts in town were also nearby watching. Father Zach, an old ghost of a priest, a little addled, but charming and chatty (during the day at least), stood by Violet’s side companionably. The other ghost, known only as “Blue”, stood apart, radiating cold and anger. Blue was a terrifyingly powerful ghost of an unnamed Civil War soldier and normally never left the caves in the rock ledge that “Lower Town” Harpers Crossing sat on.
Father Zach talked to Violet about the ghosts gathering. It had happened before, he told her, when the murderer Kevin Meadows began murdering in Harpers Crossing two decades ago. He glanced at her number several times. He knew she didn’t remember being murdered or anything until after Meadows was caught. Father Zach continued, saying that the buzz in the ghost taverns in New Hope was that the Soul Eater was back.
Violet hadn’t heard of the Soul Eater but felt a chill. She decided it was time to talk to Edwin. They’d made a pact, sealed with a shake, years ago and she could sense him and appear in his presence at will as easily as any of her anchors.
The Harpers Crossing Town Hall was a small brick building in the heart of the historic district of Harpers Crossing. Inside, Mayor Edwin Danforth Stowell came out of the second meeting of the Harpers Crossing Town Council that day. The other six members besides the mayor were all wired, ranging from worried to poorly hidden excitement. Edwin calmed and chatted with each in turn. Once he was satisfied that everyone was at least reasonably level-headed, he begged off saying he needed to call his wife, Marie. He stepped into the small hallway, crossed to his small office, and called her. They talk briefly before the ghost Violet appears next to him. Edwin acknowledged her presence with a nod and wrapped up his call.
Edwin hung up and turned to Violet. She filled him on what Father Zach had said about the Soul Eater. Edwin had heard of it back when he’d first arrived, but didn’t know much. It was some sort of ghost or spirit that ate ghosts. It was scary and powerful, but disappeared as soon as the murders stopped without a trace… until now.
Then there was a “pinging” at the wards Edwin had placed around his studio. It felt like someone or something systematically testing those wards. Worried and disturbed, Edwin decided to check it out right away and Violet came with him. His studio was nearby and it didn’t take long to reach it. Edwin peaked around a corner to get a glimpse without being seen.
Morgan Fredericks, a CSI tech from New Hope Police Department was causally standing on the street, looking bored, and throwing small stones at the foundation of the studio (not hard enough to cause any damage).
He appeared completely mundane to both Edwin and Violet, so Edwin approached. Morgan looked up, not seeming worried or furtive and smiled at Edwin. Edwin put on his most winning smile and turned the charm up to 11. Morgan didn’t stand a chance and a few minutes later was sitting in the studio sipping tea and telling Edwin his life story.
Morgan was excited about the murders, but as a cool technical challenge, not maliciously. Violet watched him closely; like all ghosts she could see the surge of Essence that unshielded humans released when lying. Morgan was guileless, with no flairs, except for one topic: When Edwin asked him about his boss, Morgan talked about his supervisor at the New Hope Police Department and Edwin picked up no change in his voice or face, but Violet saw a flair. He was lying about something. Violet told Edwin and Edwin asked more questions. Morgan’s answers were all fine on the surface and Edwin wasn’t able to find any clue what he was lying about.
Edwin was paranoid at the best of times, due to his secret identity and secret mission as a ranking member of the Knights Templar and his paranoia was now in full gear, but he let Morgan leave with a cheerful wave.
Approaching the bridge over the rivers into Harpers Crossing, Lina didn’t slow her moped when she saw dozens of ghosts gathered. They saw her and several moved in her direction, begging her to take them across. Lina ignored them uncomfortably and they fell behind her as the sound of the road under her changed as she pulled onto the metal bridge.
On the other side of the bridge Lina was officially in Harpers Crossing. Matthew Schul, the deputy of Harpers Crossing and one of the only two law enforcement in Harper’s Crossing Sheriff’s Department, greeted her. He knew her from her visits when she was younger. He says he hopes she already has arrangements because there are no empty rooms anywhere with all the media squatting in town. She assures him she does, hoping that’s true with her few friends in town. It’s almost dark now and people are gathering for the vigil.
The Vigil Begins
Night was greeted by all the locals as she walked into the park where the vigil was being held. She saw Kristin, one of the girls she’d overheard in the library, with her mom, Abby Sparkman. Abby approached her and started talking, trapping Night unless she wanted to be rude. Abby was worried and scared and talked a lot about how Kristin was the same age as Minnie Turner and wasn’t that terrible. Kristin looks embarrassed and avoids eye contact, scanning the crowd instead.
Then Night saw Kylee Betz, the reporter from the library. Kylee hadn’t spotted her yet, but would momentarily and Night was sure she’d approach for an interview with cameraman in tow. Night excused herself, saying she saw a friend, and ducked away.
It was true, too. Eli Turnbow was in town and had spotted her. Eli was a Rosicrusian and old family friend. Night’s father, Adam Hoffman, had been his mentor and had never hidden that he thought Eli was a proper match for Night. Night didn’t mind Eli, though she wasn’t romantically interested. He was so… white bread.
Eli greeted Night brightly. After initial small talk, during which Night positioned them to be out of the reporter’s line of sight, Eli confessed that her father had given him a message for her. Her father wanted her to leave town and lay low. Things might get dangerous in the area. Night was dismissive saying he could tell her himself if he wished. Eli smiled, unfazed, and said that he’d also invited her to dinner on Sunday at 6:00 PM and he could tell her then. Night said she’d consider.
After Night left, Eli made his way towards Edwin. They were both Rosicrucians and knew each other fairly well. Eli greeted Edwin, then talked business. Most of the Rosicrucians were dealing with issues in Philadelphia and would be less help than usual. Nathan Lacroix, the highest ranking Rosicrucian in the region (and also a fellow Knights Templar, though only Edwin knew that piece) had expressed that he was confident Edwin could handle this, but he should reach out if things went pear shaped. Edwin had another surge of paranoia.
Then, clearly as a separate topic, Eli said that Adam Hoffman had something important to talk to him about and asked if he could come to dinner at Adam’s house on Sunday at 5:00 PM (an hour before Night was invited, though he didn’t know that yet). Edwin agreed.
Violet was by Edwin throughout this conversation, though Eli didn’t detect her. There was nothing suspicious about Eli. Violet did detect the flare of paranoia from Edwin, but she’s used to that. Edwin hides it well, but he’s paranoid and intense underneath.
On the other side of the park, Lina hovered at the edge of crowd, looking around. She saw Gabriel Silva, her old mentor who had introduced her to and inducted her into the Twilight Order. She smiled and cut through the crowd to his side. He nodded and they caught up briefly. He’d also seen the ghosts driving in, of course, which was why he was there. He asked if she’d seen “Blue” out and about. He seemed worried.
Meanwhile, Edwin saw a Wicce coven standing in a tight knot. At their front was Maya Ramsey, the infamous “queen of the Wicce” who headed the Drover’s Park Coven (the oldest and most influential Wicce coven), though if rumors were to be believed she was a controversial and unpopular figure among her fellow witches, only liked by her own coven, though all feared and respected her power.
Eli also saw her and looked eager to avoid her attention. Seeing that, Edwin smiled and dragged Eli over towards the coven. Eli looked pale. Violet trailed along. None of the Wicce seemed to notice her.
Edwin greeted Maya and the rest of the coven respectfully. He was friendly and complimentary, playing Maya and the coven up. He introduced Eli, enjoying the discomfort on both sides. Then Edwin let Eli flee. Edwin told Maya that he respected their expertise and authority and wanted to help them. They were surprised and flattered. Maya said that if he discovered where Minnie had been found or, better yet, where ritual had taken place, to pelase pass that along to them. Edwin agreed.
Minnie Turner’s Ghost
Then Minnie Turner appeared. The number “9” was glowing a disturbing red on the same spot where it was on her phsyical body. Like Violet’s number, it shone through clothing and couldn’t be hidden. She was a ghost, but she also wasn’t. She seemed to only be half there and she reeked with an overwhelming smell of death and rot and damp, like buried leaves turned to black slime. There was something deeply subterranean about the smell. It was a smell of ancient buried death. She looked around the crowd and her eyes locked on the dais at the center of the park, where a large photograph of her was wreathed in flowers, forming an altar of sorts. Minnie began floating towards the altar. People instinctively moved out of her path. When someone couldn’t move and she passed through them, they shuddered. One boy gasped out loud.
Violet noticed next and told Edwin what she saw. Edwin told the Maya and the coven an abbreviated version and asked them to watch his body. Before they had a chance to do more than nod, Edwin found a corner and sat down. He projected his spirit and his body’s head slumped onto his chest. The Wicce began looking around and casting sublte spells of their own, but they stayed in a circle around Edwin.
Minnie turned to look at Lina, Edwin, and Violet in turn. Her eyes were black and bottomless voids. They pulled at their souls, threatening to pull them in and endlessly down. Each of them choked down the supernatural pall of fear and kept approaching.
Lina reached Minnie first, jsut as Minnie reached the dais. The difference between the smiling blonde picture in the frame and the too thin figure with crudely cut and black dyed hair was striking. Lina was now standing out in front of the crowd by the picture. Several people turned to look at her. Minnie reached out a hand and pressed it onto her shoulder in her picture (where the number was on her body and on her ghostly form). A blackened hand print appeared, followed by the hand-written words “Help Me”. These appeared in the physcial world and people started screaming when they noticed.
Then Violet arrived, followed shortly by Edwin (in spirit form) and Gabriel (in physical form). Minnie grabbed Violet’s and Edwin’s hands. Her touch burned. When she let go, both of them had red finger marks on their hands. They were the same red as the numbers, though not quite as vivid. The same mark appeared faintly on Edwin’s phsyical body.
Minnie opened her mouth as if screaming, but no sound came out. Then she was gone, but the air was filled with rotten leaves and the smell of decay.
That’s where the session ended.