Ministry of Unusual Affairs [Recap 2]

The first assignment for our ‘Agents of the Ministry’ has concluded with success, but not without losses. These losses were not to life or limb – although that was a narrowly missed outcome – but rather to sanity, and a more innocent view of the Victorian world our characters are duty-bound to protect.

Did you miss Part One? Read it here~

Infiltration

As was noted in the last recap, needing to find a way into a costume party for what they suspect was a recruiting ground for an inner group of Hellfire Club members obssessed with the occult and black magic, former spy turned Ministry Agent Nathaniel Ribbon managed to secure costumes for the group via his many contacts (Well-Connected Talent). Armed with the knowledge Krewes,  a former Inspector for Scotland Yard,  had obtained of the layout of what they had begun referring to as the ‘Hellfire Caves’, they then headed into the lion’s den to search for their missing compatriot (abducted while infiltrating the cult on assignment for the Ministry) with Dr Hennessey and the peculiar but soon-to-be indispensable Ms. Grimhearst.

The main area of the caves was a hedonistic party mostly for cover of the black magic ritual the real Hellfire members intended to conduct. The agents had no idea who was who as everyone was masked – even during the most scandalous debauchery – or attempts to feign it. Grimhearst was disguised as a cat, Hennessey as a devil, Ribbon as a fox, and Krewes – much to the man’s discomfort – as a peacock.

Time was spent figuring out who was important and who was not, then Nathaniel and Grimhearst, an NPC medium, split off to search for secret points of access to other areas, while Krewes and the NPC doctor kept an eye on the obvious front-man and host who was operating in the guise of, and under the name of, Caligula. To everyone’s surprise, the two aviatrixes they had aided earlier in the day were present and looking as out-of-place as the agents felt. Worse, they were armed. Nathaniel’s suspicions about the two being something on the order of mercenary agents for a foreign power were more or less confirmed here, but he kept his mind on the assignment.

While Nathaniel and Grimhearst found and briefly scouted a route to wherever the ritual must be being set up, Krewes and Hennessey found themselves spotted by Caligula and facing brutish guards in attack dog costumes which were more practical and less ridiculous than Krewes’ peacock disguise. With that motivation and the looming threat to their missing comrade, Krewes managed to take the two guards out fairly quickly and quietly, but while he did so, Caligula slipped off into the tunnels.

Interdiction

Nathaniel eventually, with the suddenly-recruited aid of the two female pilot mercenaries, rounded up Hennessey and Krewes and got everyone through the secret passage and down into the deeper caverns of the place. Finding Grimhearst in the darkness, they were able to learn a lot from her observations of Caligula and his followers as they made their way to the site of their ceremony. This let them reach the spot quickly and to bypass the traps set in their way.

They discovered a large chamber lit by many brass candelabras, and surrounded by pillars, with a few passages running off into the darkness. Caligula and other masked cult leaders were issuing orders to round us up but they were under the impression we were still on the upper levels at the party. Using that time, Nathaniel did a little scouting in the darkness and was able to find and liberate the captured agent, Lem Carrington. The man was drugged and dressed as a goat for sacrifice. Getting him to safety would not be easy. Worse, during the time it had taken to find the agent, the cult’s ritual had begun.

Things soon went to hell, or more precisely, hell soon came to them. Needing to buy some time for Hennessey to get the drugged Carrington out of the caverns, or simply reacting in horror to what was taking shape, the agents and their two allies began to interfere with the ritual, but were unable to get through magical defenses and security personnel to the heart of the cultists before they had completed it – at great personal cost to themselves. Cultists were sacrificed, and some of the leaders channeled so much additional power that they were burning from the inside out. Against all odds, they managed a terrifying feat, the summoning of a demonic force that appeared in the form of a sword-bearing angel.

Sanity shaking and stirred, the agents managed minor victories, but could feel the well of failure rising up around them.

Nathaniel stole the main grimoire used in the ritual and found himself able to turn two cultists to his side as they were old friends from military school. They pointed out a secret passage leading to the surface, and gave some vital clues which helped Nathaniel deal with all that happened in the cave; taking the fight to the right people, and knowing when to retreat.

The two pilots, Hale and Byrd, blazed hot lead death into the cultists, disrupting part of the ceremony and further weakening morale. When the demon appeared, however, they bolted and covered the retreat of Hennessey with her barely conscious burden.

Krewes boldly and bravely stood his ground and sought to bring his fists to bear on the darkness, and would ultimately prove successful in that endeavor, but only because of the sacrifice through madness made by Grimhearst.

Driven mad by grief and horror she sought revenge on one of the cultists and the tremendous distraction she caused opened up opportunities for action, until she finally came perilously close to giving her life to banish the demon. As she collapsed, the demon screamed, and Reggy gave it a powerful blow with his meaty fists that sent it dissolving back into the depths of the pit from which it had crawled.

Note: Ubiquity, via Leagues of Gothic Horror does not mess around with how challenging and visceral magical battles can be, and how desperate and sanity-shattering they can be. There is so much streamlined system meat on which to hang description and emotional response that this scene in the caves, even in the aspects which dealt solely with the struggles of an NPC was very, very powerful.

With the demon gone, and their powers waning, the cultists were at an impasse. With their subservient cultists scattered in the darkness and ruins of their plans, the leaders began to work up a foul curse, convincing Nathaniel, who was already in the group of an agonizing spell that withered his arm, that it was time to make use of the escape route he had learned about.

Wasting no more time,  the agents navigated the narrow tunnel with the fallen Grimhearst and Nathaniel’s contacts, making their way out to the rain of the night. Once they got their bearings, they sought out their comrades. On the way to regroup, a devastating explosion ripped through the complex.

They would soon learn from Hennessey when they met up that the two pilots had set off dynamite in the caverns.

Interception

Nathaniel and Reggy managed to track the pilots down and then prevent their departure in the remaining flying machine after a tense stand-off. Nathaniel, out of a deep-seated concern for national security struck a deal to send one of the aviators with Reggy to the Ministry for holding, while he flew with the other to her patron – to ascertain the threat for himself. Learning whatever links the patron had to this affair, or its participants, was worth the risk, as was the chance to evaluate and scuttle the machine.

As Reggy and the others headed in carriages toward town to contact the Ministry and to begin rescue operations in the tunnels, Nathaniel and his pilot, Hale, rose up into the rainstorm and headed for the coast.

Both groups were horrified to see, outlined in a flash of lighting, the form of the demon winging its way toward London…

Go on to Part 3~

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