The Day After Ragnarok: One Snake Cult, One Ranger

The Darkness at Duval County (Part 4)
Rise of the Serpentfolk!


From the journal of Isabella Donner, March 2, 1948:

Snake cults, witches, and ogres, oh my!  Or so I feel these days.  After getting a small break with the priests, we met up with another Ranger group.  Zarek, James, and Barry joined our motley crew and I found myself withdrawing a little.  However, having more people to investigate this will be ultimately beneficial.  

We met up with Dr. Rev. Hill and Senior Ranger Capt. Frank Hamer.  Hamer let us know that officially, we are off the case as the lieutenant governor owes his position to Parr.  We should return to Austin.  Unofficially, we are to get to the bottom of this quickly and quietly.  There is a person, Nago Alaniz, who has defected from Parr’s side and is currently holed up in San Diego.  He has information that could be incredibly beneficial to the Rangers.  

Given that we know at least one deputy of Parr’s is a vampire, and the book picked up about Camazotz says that if they pull this off undead will be able to walk freely during the daytime, it is in our best interest to make haste during this investigation.  I joined Douglas in scouring the library for more information and we found a book relating to a cavern that can grant knowledge at a price.  It reminds me of my crystal.  

We set off for San Diego after picking up supplies.  On the way there, we began seeing our breath in the air, and I was possessed by a ghost.  For some reason, instead of alerting the rest of the group and dispatching it, I decided to help put it to rest.  Perhaps I’m getting a bit of a conscience, or perhaps I just like finding artifacts which the ghost’s memories had shown me.  We took a detour off of the beaten path to find a witch and an ogre who had been the cause of this poor soul’s death.  After an extended fight with them, including a Deep One and two zombie goats, we dispatched the witch and ogre and found the ghost’s cache of items.  There was a runestone that allows for healing, and a gun that causes anyone hit by it to start bleeding uncontrollably.  We split up the items among the group, with Rex taking the stone and Barry taking the gun, and continued on to San Diego.

Upon arrival at the apartment complex, we spotted a number of guards.  Rex attempted to sell them magazines, but ultimately just irked them to the point of attack.  After dispatching what we thought were all the guards and a snakefolk abomination (a horrid thing that slithered like a giant serpent but had human arms and a mostly human head), we asked the remaining one to surrender.  He laughed at us.  That’s when another abomination (this one with a much more snake-like head) slithered out and bit Zarek in the shoulder and a magic using abomination I later learned was called an "Aunt Jennie" started throwing magic through the window. 

We survived (Rex just barely), managed to take out the remaining guards, and that was when I headed inside the room, gun drawn…  

The Darkness at Duval County (Part 3)
Signs and Portents

From the journal of Isabella Donner, March 1, 1948:

Today I found myself in a quandary of sorts.  The dreams do not come often, but when they do, they leave me in a state of shock for a few hours.  This one was no different.  

I found myself back at that place where I had first laid eyes on the crystal.  There was a hissing sound to my left, and as I turned, I found myself face to face with the largest snake I had ever seen in my life.  It had to have been six feet in diameter, nevermind the length.  I thought it wept from one eye, but as I looked closer, I saw that the eye was injured.

A roar to my right drew my attention next.  Some…creature that I have never seen or heard of, but reminded me of He Who Sleeps Under Ry’leth, came charging out of the darkness.  It and the snake began fighting each other.  

There was a screech above me, and a large bat-thing swooped near my head.  It seemed to be laughing at the conflict, before it swooped in and joined the fight.  

The images started to blur then.  A raven, cawing its displeasure. An old man who was shaking his head.  And…a salmon.  Now a mare.  Now a fly.

“This should not be,” the fly buzzed in my ear.  “You can make this right, but this should not be.”

I spent several hours staring at the ceiling in my room, debating my options, and as the sun’s light filtered into my room, I finally came to a conclusion.

I told the rest of the party sans Rex of my dream and my discovery of the crystal.  They did not find me insane, as I had feared, but instead took me at my word.  Perhaps people are not as disposable or as untrustworthy as I had first suspected.

The priests set us on our way to find information about the Eye of Camazotz in Corpus Christi at a bookstore.  They bestowed upon us several vials of Holy Water, an artifact of the church – The Cross of Saint Anthony – a silver cross that both offered both a measure of protection to its wielder and the power to heal ourselves or those we might come across, and The Knife of Jim Bowie, a truly wondrous artifact to behold.  I thought the lightning gun was a work of genius, but the knife is preternaturally sharp, silver-plated and courses with magical flame.  If Rex weren’t off looking for film, he might want it to toast bread with.

The ride to Corpus was fairly uneventful, except for the giant rattlesnake we came across – that serpent must have been at least a foot in diameter, and not less than 20 feet long if not longer!  It was uninjured, though, and about to strike Claudette.  Douglas spoke to the snake somehow, and went off to hunt with it while Claudette and I continued on.  Apparently they came across a werejavalina of all things, and Douglas has made a new friend.  

When we arrived at the bookstore, we discovered that we were not the only ones who needed help.  The bookstore owner had already been roughed up by two Hispanic men (one ina nice business suit and one in a deputy's uniform) who did not back down, even when shown our Ranger credentials.  Claudette took out the cross to heal the bookstore owner, and the men shrunk away from it.  Curious, I tossed a vial of holy water on them, and they began to smoke and writhe as if on fire.

A small skirmish later, the two vampires were either dying or had dissipated to run back to their town.  Apparently, we had attacked Oscar Carrillo and one of his deputies, which will make life a little more interesting when we return to Duval County.  We did get a bit of information about the Eye of Camazotz, though, and I have become increasingly certain that the bat in my dream was none other than Camazotz.  We have been warned to stop whatever is coming to pass, and while we may not survive the encounter, we will certainly do our best.  

Session 3: The Darkness at Duval County (Part 2)
The Werewolf and the Witch

After their encounter with the chupacabras, the party made their way back to the Alice safehouse where they filed their report.  A Ranger courier met them and brought them notice that Captain Hill, their collective mentor, had been found at the King Ranch and was calling for them.  They made the ride to the ranch the next morning and were led to a bunkhouse where they found Capt. Hill, and someone they did not expect to meet – Howard Hughes!

Capt. Hill explained that he’d also been on the trail of Lloyd Gage, but the chupacabras had been too much.  He’d managed to get away but was recuperating from his wounds, which included two broken legs.

Hughes asked the party if they recovered the case Gage was delivering.  Claudette passed it to him, and he unlocked and opened it.  The good news was that the experimental gear that had been sent to his Houston facility was all still there.  The bad news is an ancient artifact – a large stone fragment called the Eye of Camazotz – was missing.

Capt. Hill noted that Camazotz was an ancient Mayan god of bats, darkness, and death.  Hughes had recently acquired the artifact and was transporting it to his Houston facility for analysis and tests.  Its disappearance, especially in an area that was now confirmed to have vampires, was very concerning.  As Capt. Hill was going to be recovering for a while, he asked the party to conduct the investigation for the Eye.

Hughes then stated that he could offer some assistance.  The gear in the case was being transported to Houston so field trials could begin.  He offered the gear to the party so they could use the items in the field and report back on how they worked.  The gear included 2 Marconi guns, 3 Crotaline droppers, 1 Kinetic Dampener Field, 1 Poison Blade, and 1 Sinew Weave Treatment.

Captain Hill told the party that a Rangers Incident Site Team had gone over the chupacabra lair and found a possible lead – a receipt for room 101 in the Motel 23 located in San Diego … the very heart of Duval County.

The party made their way to the Motel 23 and checked in just before nightfall.  They managed to get room 101 and immediately began checking it for clues.  They found that one of the mattresses had been flipped over to hide a huge bloodstain.  They also noted that something was off about the back wall.

Rex and Doug pulled down a door-sized section of the back wall to find a secret passage that ran down the north half of the building – someone in the passage could spy on any room on the north half.  About that time, though, someone from housekeeping announced herself and asked to enter.

After some misgivings, Doug let her in.  Her name was Connie Lopez, and she was good and scared.  She told the party that if they were in 101, they must have been looking for Gage.  She told them she saw what happened, but if she told them she would be in danger.  After further discussion, she told them that she couldn’t endanger he family by talking to them further, but that Father Gonzales at St. Francis De Paula Catholic Church could tell them what happened to Gage.  They thanked her, and she went on her way.

Rex continued to inspect the hidden passage and saw a door that led into an area just north of the office.  He quietly opened the door and looked around, to see what looked like a bedroom, but with an odd musky smell.

The source of the odor soon became apparent, when a hulking, 7 foot tall werewolf exploded into the room!

After a furious combat (in which the Marconi guns performed admirably), the party finally managed to drop the lycanthrope and only took a few scratches.  After recovering a bit, they checked the remainder of the motel.  They didn’t find anything of note, and decided to sleep there that night and head for the church the next day.

A short time later that night, the party learned a very important lesson the hard way – it is very difficult to make werewolves STAY dead.  The werewolf regenerated and burst into the room while they were sleeping.  Luckily, Doug was on watch and managed to hold the beast off while the rest of the party woke up and charged into the fray.  After a hurried combat, the werewolf was down again.

The party then decided that they should make their way to the church immediately, so they set out.  However, to attempt to discourage the werewolf from coming after them a third time, they severed his head, doused the body in gasoline, and set it on fire.

It was very dark by the church.  They found that there was a sturdy, wrought iron fence around the grounds, and that the cemetery was very well maintained.  Two men who appeared to be in their late 60s stood behind the locked gate.  The party could tell by their clerical collars they were a priest and a deacon, and they looked exhausted.  

Father George Gonzales explained that the church had been under siege almost every night and begged for help.  Before he could explain who or what was besieging them, shapes began to shamble forward out of the darkness – four skeletons marched like macabre marionettes toward the church.

The party made short work of them, thanks in part to a timely lobbed flask of holy water the clerics had provided them.  The party had just enough time to assess their situation and gather a few more flasks of holy water when a chorus of raspy voices in the darkness began to hiss a single word …

"Brainsssssss …"

Three zombies slowly staggered toward the gate.  While Isabella had been hesitant to use her Marconi gun on the skeletons, she found it was quite effective against the necrotized flesh of zombies!  

The party had a brief respite, when they heard something else charging toward the church.  They saw three shadowy figures in the darkness – a hunched woman in robes kept her distance, while two upright figures sprinted toward the party.

The two creatures looked at first glance like zombies, except they were faster and had a much more intelligent bearing about them.  One of them struck Rex, and Rex’s sudden inability to move told them there was something worse going on.  Claudette recognized the creatures for what they were … ghouls! 

Rex managed to shake off the paralysis effect, and in short order the party had sent the two ghouls back to the grave.

However, that gave the hunched woman time to plan her strategy.  With a savage smile, the witch uttered an incantation and threw her open hand toward the party.  A cone of pale grey mist rolled out, engulfing Claudette, Doug, and Isabella.  Doug managed to shake off the effect and was only lightly hurt.  Claudette and Isabella, on the other hand, were wracked with pain as their very flesh began to wither!

Watching the witch fling hexes with abandon – one of which seemed to have healed her completely! – Rex had a desperate idea.  He injected himself with an effort enhancement formula [a cypher they’d found earlier] … suddenly, it was like every single thing he could see was moving in slow motion and had vector lines indicating where they were going, how fast, and what they'd do next.  He picked up the empty injector and filled it from a flask of holy water.

Then, while Isabella, Doug, and Claudette kept the witch distracted, Rex sprinted over to her, ducked under her wildly arcing knife, and injected the holy water directly into her heart!

The witch's eyes sprung open in surprise, then pain.  She reached out toward Rex, possibly to grasp at him or to attempt to blast him with a suitably horrid hex.

However, it was not to be.  She staggered, gurgled something incoherent, and fell over into a smoldering heap.

The party looked but didn't see any further attackers, so they gathered their gear and followed the priest and deacon into the church.

Session 2: The Darkness at Duval County (Part 1)
The Snake and the Bat

When Isabella reported she'd have to take a brief leave of absence, the Rangers sent two new trainees, wilderness scout Douglas McIver and acanist Claudette Cornwallis, to assist Rex Murphy with his investigation.  Captain Hill was still missing, but new information placed him in Alice looking into a confidential matter for the Rangers.

The party took a bus from Corpus to Alice and met up with the Rangers' liason with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's office, Deputy Lawrence Marquez.  Deputy Marquez confirmed seeing Capt. Hill a few weeks earlier.  He noted that Capt. Hill was inquireing about a missing person, one Lloyd Gage.  Deputy Marquez told them that Gage was a courier for Howard Hughes, and that he often ran packages from the port at Corpus Christi to Houston when Hughes was trying to avoid unwanted attention.  He said the last record they had of Gage was when he boarded the bus that ran from Alice to Houston.  The party thanked him and headed to the bus terminal.

A clerk told them that the bus went missing sometime after leaving Alice and never made it to Houston.  The party took a bus to Mathis, but there was no indication the courier's bus had made it that far.  The party then backtracked on horseback.

Late in the day, McIver noted relatively fresh skidmarks that appeared to be from a bus or other large vehicle.  The marks appeared to veer off toward an old ranch gate, which the party inspected and saw that it was heavily damaged.  They determined it had been bent back into shape and was propped up.  They tied off their horses and went through the gate.  A search down the ranch road found a faint blood trail that led to the bus (disguised as a small hill).

They searched the bus and found the remains of the driver inside.  He'd obviously been dead for sometime, but Cornwallis was able to use a necromantic effect to speak with his spirit.  The driver confirmed that Gage had been in the bus but he didn't know where he went.  He told her that he had to swerve off the road to avoid hitting a person who was standing there.  One of the other passengers drew a gun and forced him to drive down the ranch road to the bus's resting place.  He saw Gage escape out the back, but didn't see where he went – he was busy being set upon by dark creatures he couldn't clearly see and they were what killed him.  

The driver's spirit then told Cornwallis he had been given a message for her – that items of tremendous power, called Apples of Asgard, had fallen to earth and one was nearby.  He told her that she and the party had to keep them away from anyone who could misuse them, and that the safest way would be for the party to use the Apples and take on their power themselves.

As he faded, he warned them that there was much going on they did not see, and there were great forces of darkness afoot.

As the party started to leave, Max noted movement in a nearby tree.  He was able to keep them from being surprised when three creatures suddenly appeared and began launching spines at them.  After a fierce gunfight, and the judicious use of a detonation Cornwallis had, two of the creatures were dead and the party managed to see the other run through the trees and toward an abandoned barn in the distance.

The party was then surprised by the sudden appearance of Deputy Marquez!  He told them he thought they could use help and followed them shortly after they left.  They pointed out the remains of the creatures that attacked them, and Deputy Marquez identified the attackers …  Chupacabras!

The party took cover in front of the barn behind a pile of scrap that had been a windmill and prepared for combat.  Cornwallis used a telekinetic tug to try to open the door and got a sudden jolt of power – the two doors flew open, surprising the three chupacabras inside!  The party opened fire and engaged the chupacabras.  

Cornwallis saw a faint, golden glow and telekinetically pulled the source over to her – though she'd never seen the grapefruit sized sphere of golden light before, she somehow knew she was holding an Apple of Asgard.  With a moment of concentration, she activated the sphere and it's power channeled into her, Max, and Douglas.  She felt her arcane power surge, while Max felt his toughness increase and Douglas's accuracy sharpened.  With their newfound power, the combat ended swiftly.

They heard a voice calling for help, and found a pale, emaciated man lying in the back of the barn – they'd found Lloyd Gage!  Douglas went to offer aid, while Claudette searched nearby and found Gage's locked briefcase.  

As Douglas helped Gage up, Gage saw Deputy Marquez and began screaming that they couldn't let Marquez get him … and Douglas drew his gun to cover Marquez!  Marquez held his hands out and pointed out that he'd been with them, but they had no idea what might have happened to Gage.  Douglas kept his gun on Marquez and ordered him down, while occasionally pointing the gun at Claudett or Rex to keep them at bay.  Claudette did a quick scan and was shocked to see from the scan that Gage wasn't actually alive … he was a vampire!  Worse, he had Douglas under his control.

Rex drew his gun and fired at Gage, but did no damage to him whatsoever.  Claudette sprinted out of the barn to a scrap pile they'd used for cover and found three scraps of lumber that would make passable stakes.  By the time she got back in the barn, she saw that Douglas had shaken off the vampire's control and shot a large hole in the vampire's head, but a) the damage was already regenerating and didn't seem to slow the vampire down in the least and b) Douglas had been bitten for his trouble.  Claudette charged the vampire and tossed another stake to Douglas, while Max encouraged him.  Gage ducked under Claudette's stake, but turning his back on Douglas turned out to be a fatal mistake – Douglas drove his stake into Gage's undead heart with one strike.

As he crumbled to a skeleton and then to dust, Gage whispered, "This is not over … this … is only the beginning …"

Deputy Marquez looked on in astonishment … and then said "I'll be taking that casssse now," while pointing his pistol at Claudette.  

As if that sudden betrayl wasn't bad enough, Rex attempted to take the case from her – somehow, Marquez was controlling him!

Douglas fired a round at Marquez, grazing his hand and spinning his pistol into the shadows.  Max tried to fire at Douglas, but the strain of attacking his comrade was enough to shake him from Marquez's control, and he fired a round that grazed Marquez instead.  Marquez lunged at Max, and his mouth opened unnaturally wide revealing a flickering forked tongue and two large fangs – which he plunged into Max's shoulder, injecting poison as he did!

At this point, Claudette channeled a blast of arcane energy that tore across the barn and into the thing that had been Deputy Marquez, blasting a basketball-sized hole in his chest and slaying the snake man.

They tended their wounds, grabbed the brief case, and headed back to Alice on their horses before anything else could go wrong …

In The Shadow of Corpus Christi: Session 1
In Which Rex Murphy and Isabella Donner Find Unknowable Horror

Having completed their training with the Texas Rangers, Isabella Donner and Rex Murphy are now fully licensed freelance operatives.  With their mentor, Ranger Captain Dr. P.B. Hill, on assignment, they are sent to investigate a mysterious rash of suicides in Corpus Christi.

An interview with Corpus Christi PD Sgt Karl Evans reveals that the 10 victims have nothing in common – different ages, races, genders, jobs, schools.  Evans notes that some family members reported the victims suffered nightmares shortly before ending their lives.

They speak to victim Jason Mallard's boss, Scott Smith, who confirms Jason had no reason to harm himself but had a horrible nightmare about the abandoned scrapyard near town.  Victim Rachel Edwards' husband, Dustin, was able to confirm that she had the same nightmare, though Rex had to promise him that she was insured and that it would be enough of a payout to help support her beloved niece and nephew.

They snuck into the scrapyard and found several large ponds on the grounds teeming with hundreds of tiny, odd creatures that appeared to be a mix of leech and tadpole (Rex dubbed them leechpoles).  They got the drop on two odd figures who appeared to have been human once but were now scaly and malformed.  They overheard them talking about the imminent arrival of "the Great Lord" and were able to slay the creatures with judicious use of Rex's detonation cypher and Isabella's .45 and machete.

The two creatures were in possession of an ancient tome, which Isabella was able to decipher and learn that it was the source of a ritual the creatures were using to open a portal and summon an unknowable eldritch horror that should have been sleeping in R'lyeh.  Fortunately, the tome told how to disrupt the portal – by throwing the tome and the head of one of the horror's minions through the portal.  Isabella recovered one of the creatures' heads and Rex lashed it securely to the tome.

Further investigation led the intrepid duo to a large warehouse in the center of the yard.  Inside, a woman in ornate robes and with the same disfigurements as the creatures outside was conducting a ritual in front of a portal to a hellish other dimension.  A tentacled … thing … was on the other side, ready to come through to this reality … but Rex and Isabella would have none of that!

Isabella attacked the witch with cyphers and her trusty .45, while Rex charged in and caught a ride (albeit unintentionally) on a tentacle right up to the portal … taking a picture of himself with the portal in the background in the process!  With a mighty heave, Rex lobbed the tome and head through the portal, and a few short moments later, the portal winked out of existence.

Meanwhile, Isabella had blasted the witch with a cypher and shot her a few times.  The witch managed to ensorcel Rex and turn him against his partner … until the portal collapsed.  With her master forever beyond her reach, the witch collapsed into a sobbing, unresponsive heap.

The duo tied her up and brought her to the police station, and left to recover and wonder what new adventures would lie in store in the strange new world!

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