The Monster Hunters of Strasbourg
Posted 29 June 2011 - 01:38 PM
See that scar? That's a werewolf bite, that is. No, I had it seen to.
Siddown. Help yourself to coffee.
Yesterday we were taking wine and spider pie with the Erlkönig in his halls of black beetles. I've still got fierce heartburn.
The day before that we were in some sub-basement of the Justus Lipsius building. Alledgedly ”the shadows were eating people”. If only our intel was always that specific.
Starting tomorrow, we'll be doing more of the same with a Europol inspector looking over our shoulders. Yippie.
We're the Counter-Occult Task Force, but most people just call us creepy. We're recruited from the EU nations' anti-occult agencies, from law enforcement agencies, and from the private sector. I guess we're the best and the brightest.
It's the COTF that deals with the mojo men and the monsters. It's also the end of any kind of career aspiration, so forget about advancing. This basement office is pretty much the end of the line. Get used to the taste of fear and stale pommes! Heh, that could be our motto.
Want some vodka with that coffee?
Posted 29 June 2011 - 01:42 PM
Where would you look for recruits for your EU occult task force? You need women and men who can keep a secret, who don't bolt, and preferably don't run off with the occult secrets you're trying to keep under wraps. Some previous experience wouldn't hurt either.
One possibility is to make use of the people who are already in the game.
Not all countries have them, but several of the big nations (France, Germany, the UK) do. In a sense they are ideal material for the Task Force. They are already clued in and have a reliable track record in the field. You don't have to babysit them.
On the other hand, they're often eccentric to the point of being crazy, burned out, outrageous cowboys, or have dubious abilities and allegiances. Sure you would like to get one of those famous Gallic sorcerers on your side, but if all he ever does is have intimate conversations with his copy of Le Grand Albert and drink black coffee, you might be better served by recruiting some cop off the street.
Still, they're highly coveted, and their native countries will most likely try to keep them or use them as double agents. We may all be friends in the Union, but that's no reason to be a fool.
Here follows the skinny on some of the various nations' counter-occult agencies. It's not an exhaustive list.
Bundesdienst für die Abwehr paranormaler Gefahren (BDApG) (Federal Paranormal Dangers Defence Service) (Germany)
To some extent the German agency lives up to the stereotypes. They are well organized and run as much like clockwork as is possible for a group that deals with the fundamental irrationality of the supernatural. They are also known as tough customers.
There ais a definite split in the BDApG between the old guard and the young turks. It is not so much factionalisation as a difference in life experience.
The old guard were active during the cold war. Some were staring down their STASI counterparts across the border. Others WERE those STASI agents, hastily recruited when the Wall fell. The Eastern European agents were basically given a choice between joining up or getting a bullet. Of course a few managed to run.
These oldtimers know of paranoia, of propaganda, and of trying to use magic and the Little People as weapons against an enemy who was often within spitting distance.
To the young BDApG agents that is history. They grew up with computers, easy access to information, and a largely free world. Hence they are softer and will frequently try a gentle approach when dealing with the unknown.
The agency does not have the stockpiles of esoterica that the French or British have, nor the archives of the Austrians, but they have learned to do the legwork and improvise.
Bureau (voor) Interne Occulte Zaken (BIOZ) (Office of Internal Occult Affairs) (Netherlands)
BIOZ owes its existence to an incident in 1962. John Billings, a Thelemic sorcerer and criminal arrived in Amsterdam on the run from the English authorities. In a state of panic ans sorcerous arrogance, Billings decided that he needed a weapon against his pursuers, and started creating it right on the Amsterdam docks. The spell he used is known as the Siege Serpent (or something like that), and it is a vast undertaking. The sorcerer channels great energies through his own body, creating a hive mind from the surrounding psyches (in this case sailors and dock workers). The Serpent is thus a creature of many bodies and one mind, ideally guided by the indomitable will of the sorcerer.
Billings' will and sanity broke for good during the process, and the Serpent was left flailing and in a sense headless. It took a dozen stout policemen and a brave priest to subdue it. The Serpent is still living in an underground facility under Elsloo. The many bodies do not age or tire, but scream and scream and scream.
Having reviewed the case, the government decided that a small clandestine force knowledgeable in matters arcane was needed to defuse any future incidents. There had been alchemists and sorcerers in the Netherlands before, but nothing so reckless and dangerous had happened as far as anyone clued in could tell.
Thus the BIOZ came into being. They are nominally under the Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst (the intelligence service), but is for all practical purposes an autonomous entity.
Maybe it would be most accurate to call the Dutch agency consultants. They are a very small group of women and men with some measure of occult knowledge. They are called on the scene when something unnatural happens, and take on an advisory role. BIOZ agents are capable and well-informed, but generally not very combat trained.
Direction de la Sécurité Intérieure (DSI) (France)
The French counter-occult agency has a budget other groups can only dream of and access to occult resources that even the Americans would sell their own grandmothers to obtain.Unfortunately they are also divided and competitive. The French sorcerers are generally considered the best in Europe, but also single-minded, half-mad and with some questionable allegiances.
There are three competing factions within the DSI:
The Fils de Ashtoret are a group of sorcerers who take their name after an ancient Middle Eastern goddess, absolutely NOT a demon prince. Still, they often seem like they have been reading Huysmans' Là-Bas and Jules-Bois' Le Satanisme et la magie twenty times and took copious notes. They invoke dangerous spirits and take a fight-fire-with-fire approach when dealing with the supernatural.
Then there are the less frightening Conservatives and Progressives.
The Conservatives are generally against too much cooperation between the European nations. They have nothing to learn, and the other agencies are generally not reliable or strong enough to absorb their knowledge. They act as kings of their own little fiefdoms, but have absolutely loads of hoarded supernatural lore.
The Progressives are all for cooperation, and make great agents for the Task Force. The are generally younger, less hidebound, and less knowledgeable. They have a tendency to go too far though, and have initiated contact with very dangerous supernatural beings, such as the cannibal creatures of Lozère.
Servicio de Información Esotérica (Esoteric Information Service) (SIE) (Spain)
SIE is part of the Guardia Civil, the militarized police force. Thus they are much more high profile than the other agencies, storm troopers with extensive training in fighting the occult. While the Guardia has existed since the 1840s, SIE first became a seperate entity with the constitution in 1978, ostensibly to combat certain small but aggressive cults scattered all over the country.
Some say they are training for the predicted return of the dragonlike Cuélebre from beyond the sea. Others say that it's fairytale nonsense.
A SIE agent is useful, if unsubtle. Some MI-13 agents have referred to them as 'A-Grade cannon fodder'.
Departamento de Controlo de Elementos Paranormais (Department of Paranormal Elements Control) (Portugal)
The DCEP is a tiny department of the Serviço de Informações de Segurança (Security Information Service). It was created in 1996, and is at best a footnote in the Portuguese intelligence community. The DCEP was created in response to concerns from other European counter-occult agencies that more security was needed on the new Schengen Area's outer borders.
A DCEP agent is much more like a conventional intelligence agent, primarily investigating extreme fringe religions and cults. They are much less likely to be unhinged or in bed with the enemy than most other agencies.
Magistratsabteilung 7146: sonstige Dienstleistungen zum Schutz der Bevölkerung (Austria)
There is something dusty about the Austian agents. Politely arrogant, avuncular, knowledgeable and easily pushing retirement age. They seem more like librarians than the last defense against the darkness. There are persistent rumors that what is Magistratsabteilung 7146 today was once an order of scholar-monks who fell out with Mother Church.
Where the Magistratsabteilung 7146 exels is pure knowledge. They primarily oversee the myriad pacts with the Kleiner Volk. The Little People, or Subterraneans. They know the convoluted rules these creatures observe, their tricks and magic, and the likely location of the next goblin market. When dealing with the Fair Folk, an agent from 7146 is worth his weight in gold.
Gunplay and shows of force are not their style. They're a sign that you're unimaginative, ignorant, and that things have already gone horribly wrong.
MI-13 (United Kingdom)
The MI-13 is the oldest real counter-occult agency in the world. The agency has access to great resources and a wealth of experience. The MI-13 agents are also tremendously loyal to their home country, and see recruitment by the Task Force primarily as a chance to poke their noses into the other EU countries occult doings.
The MI-13 was created in 1910, with the paranoia of the coming war looming heavily. Their brief back then was to weaponize folklore, to use superstition and ritual against the Empire's enemies. They succeeded like crazy (and many agents went crazy), but concluded that much of the genuine magic they found was too dangerous to to use. Thus they have mostly turned their attention towards dealing with native supernaturals and rogue sorcerers. Mostly.
Truth is, they have quite an arsenal of esoteric weaponry. Some is from the old colonies, some from the WWII Axis powers, some is entirely domestic madness.
An MI-13 agent is smart, well-informed and equipped, a littled jaded and arrogant, and not entirely reliable.
Posted 29 June 2011 - 01:46 PM
So, where do you get good monster hunters in this day and age?
While the various police forces and law enforcement agencies are generally well trained, they usually have no special talent when it comes to dealing with magic and monsters. The ones who are recruited for the Task Force are usually ones who have encountered the supernatural in some form or another, survived, and managed to write a report that didn't sound barking mad.
Conventional Intelligence Agencies
(Or CIA for short. Coincidence? You decide). It is hard to recruit from the intelligence agencies. For one thing it will pretty much be a demotion and career suicide. In the MI-6 or PET you can advance. Get recognition, after a fashion. In the Task Force you get to shoot werewolves in a deep French forest, drive out ghosts from a basement in Bruxelles, or guard a dumb clock.
If you get an agent who isn't totally burned out, you usually get quite an asset. Intelligence agents have contacts and resources to draw on that we usually don't. People with genuine political clout.
Watch them though. We had this one guy who tried using a kabouter-made ghost-glass as a bargaining chip with his Turkish contacts. They don't always grasp what we're dealing with.
OLAF is the Office de Lutte Anti-Fraude or European anti-fraud office. It deals with corruption and fraud within the European institutions, and is an administrative investigative body. It has no judicial or disciplinary powers and it cannot oblige national prosecutors to act.
These boys have their noses in some real dirt, and sometimes it turns out that a commissioner has sworn allegiance to something otherworldly, their work may overlap with that of the Task Force. Sometimes an OLAF agent will be seconded to the Task Force, and will wonder exactly who he ticked off.
These guys are the real nerds. Basically they're charged with supplying the Union with statistical information. They also see the big patterns, signal becoming noise and vice versa. While we can categorically deny that they have a group dealing with Kabbalah, they sometimes do tap into some measure of predictive magic.
The Task Force love to recruit these individuals, even if they tend to burn out spectacularly.
A good priest, vicar, rabbi or whatever is worth his weight in gold. He has religion, he has people skills and a bit of positive authority. Getting a kind old Lutheran minister to ask questions is usually preferable to having a tipsy Dutchman with a gun barge in and ask if anyone's seen a ghost.
I'm not talking about anyone specific.
Two problems arise with clergymen:
A) They often don't believe in anything. They see themselves as therapists with a particular cultural and existential baggage. Nice guys, but not worth much when the fair folk come a-calling. Get one who believes.
B) They aren't cut out for it. Nice people who talk to God and parishioners are often not guys you can take in the field. When you have to put a bullet in the poor woman whom the Peacock has cast as Medea, they object.
Decency can be an obstacle, sad as it may sound.
The Great Unwashed
Sometimes the Task Force will recruit someone from another walk of life, primarily if they have skills that are useful. People from academia are popular, as are engineers. People who aren't strangers to field work. The chosen people will often be ones who have had supernatural experiences, and have dealt with them in a resourceful way.
Some everyday people will have unrealized potential of a supernatural variety. This could be psychic abilities, an aptitude for magic, rudimentary gills, or something even stranger. We recruit them so that others don't.
Posted 01 July 2011 - 11:09 AM
The only Strasbourgian I know has ok'd the following.
The Doom Clock is our cute pet name for the big problem right at our doorstep. If one wants to be correct, it is Strasbourg Cathedral's third astronomical clock.
The first on was made in the middle 1300s and had several automata representing the three magi, the Christ child and his parents, as well as a bird of some description (symbolizing Christ's passion). It also had a diagram of the zodiac and which part of the human body they corresponded to.
The second one was an even more ambitious piece, which depictions of Urania, Copernicus, and the Fates, and the third clock is basically a restoration of the second.
What's the problem, then? Well, the clock is bad news, that much is certain. We've had a large number of unexplained phenomena connected with the clock, and there have been a few cults with some unfortunate ideas centered on the thing.
In 1943, German soldiers used the cathedral as a base and shelter. Several soldiers developed a strong fascination with the clock, and a total of sixteen men disappeared during times where they were know positively to be in the cathedral.
Any small animals that come near the clock seem to sicken and die rather quickly. The cause appears to be sudden organ failure. In 1966 a toddler, Charlotte Apostol, died under similar circumstances. According to the parents (who were understandably distraught), their daughter had a birthmark in the shape of the sign of Scorpio on her back. She had never had that before.
Similarly, a stray cat was found near the clock in 1987 with the sign of Gemini growing through its eye like a tumor.
In the early 70s, a small group who identified themselves as the Brüdern des Schattens (brothers of the shadows) frequented the building, frightening the churchgoers. They claimed that the clock was counting down the hours until doomsday, something they clearly were looking forward to. They saw it as a transformation that would take a new species into a new world.
After they had an altercation with the gendarmes which ended in the taking of three hostages, the DSI stepped in and dealt with the group. Definitively.
The clock is still visited by men and women who perform strange supplications before it. We keep tabs on them, but we don't have anything remotely definite.
In 1996, tourist Ingolf Harrer came apart while studying the clock. I mean literally. His arms, legs, eyes, tongue and torso tore themselves loose (“Like dogs breaking a leash” said one bystander). DSI had to put a lid on the whole thing, and spent over a week catching and destroying body parts that seemingly had decided to throw off their yoke of servitude and be free. Several DSI agents, as hard as they come, are loath to discuss it. It hits some prefect note between absurdity and disgust.
These days it seems that the clock is speeding up, and the experts who are sent to fix it fall dangerously ill within days. One gouged his own eyes out. That one is kept under constant suicide watch in a secure institution. He can still see the things he tried to blind himself to. What he says makes little sense. It sounds a lot like The Last though.
Ah, The Last. The cult on our home turf. Not something we're terribly proud of. They seem to be a very loosely organized group of crazies who consider the clock to be the harbinger of the apocalypse, the coming of the baddies. They are non-violent, but minor supernatural phenomena seem to follow them around like eager puppies. Stuff that messes with perception in subtle ways. Visual distortions. Unsettling stuff, and it appears that it is getting more pronounced.
The Last claim that they will be the last people on earth, and that the clock is counting the time until the Great Beasts are born or freed (here interpretations differ) and will tear the world asunder. The signs of the Zodiac are the symbolic representation of these beings, and the end will be signaled by a thirteenth being, the Snake Bearer, who will arrive when the clock strikes thirteen. It sounds like crap of the first water, but they are tapping into something.
We've apprehended and interrogated some of The Last, but there seems to be many of them and they don't really have a leader.
The clock is a thorn in out sides and certainly detrimental to the general wellbeing of Europa's citizens, but we haven't been able to dismantle it, and our brief does not extend to blowing up a cathedral.
Posted 01 July 2011 - 11:10 AM
Real, honest-to-Belphegor sorcerers are few and far between, fortunately. They can be a real pain though, since it is often hard to predict what sort of powers they may have, what they are after and what to do about them.
Generally speaking, sorcerers fall into certain categories, not that they are necessarily particularly useful.
Old Ones: These guys are usually everything you imagine a wizard to be. Impossibly old, somewhat antisocial, often a recluse, surrounded by books, and wielding the power of a petty deity. Whether an Old One lives in the depths of the Black Forest or in the heart of Paris, he is often dug in so deep that it may be easiest to ignore him, unless he is being disruptive. We surveil, but we sure as hell don't go out of our way to antagonize them.
The area around the Old One will be under his command, whether it be trees grabbing at you with claw-like branches, or homeless people speaking in dead languages, or lightning striking an offending mailman.
An Old One may have supernatural servants, brainwashed locals, or even animals as informants. The picture you're supposed to be getting is that they're local gods with a scary amount of clout on their home turf. We don't need a cowboy on Old One detail.
Supplicants: Cultists, fanatics and demon worshipers. Whether they call themselves the True Inheritors of Hermes the Thrice-Great, the Kings of Idumæa, or the Avengers of Lucifer (they do exist, and they're not all that funny in person), they have one thing in common: they get their powers from something powerful and inhuman, and they give something in return.
Supplicant cults often style themselves after things they have seen on TV or read in books, so don't be surprised to see a group of people in hooded robes or skyclad in the forest at night.
Be careful though, we have gone gunning for perfectly innocent neo-pagans and new agers before. It was embarrassing and we do not want a repeat performance. Ideally we strike after we've made sure that they're bad news, but before their master arrives.
Sometimes very innocent-seeming groups can hide genuinely nasty things. An example: the Amelia Case. Amelia Cosmetics gained local popularity around Flanders, and several 'beauty parties' were held. We were alerted that something wasn't right, and infiltrated. Sure enough, the Amelia salespeople were cultists and sorcerers, selling human faces to the Pale Sons in return for power.
The Pale Sons? Remind me to tell you later when we've both had a few. Just keep your eyes open is what I'm trying to get across.
Instant Adepts: The lightning strike of sorcery. Almost impossible to predict, and potentially devastating.
You see, magic is usually learned through poring over books, or by being taught by another sorcerer or other being with supernatural powers. Some people have a natural aptitude though, and stress or other powerful emotions may bring it out, usually in a raw uncontrolled form. A person in the throes of an anxiety attack may start broadcasting the feeling, wrecking minds all around him. An angry person may suddenly disgorge balls of fire, burning herself as well as others.
When something like this happens, we move in fast and try to contain the new sorcerer. If necessary we eliminate him.
Sometimes there are early warning signs, minor manifestations of the power or even freak weather phenomena. Usually we don't know before it's going down though. Be ready to improvise and to shoot.
Posted 01 July 2011 - 12:19 PM
The stuff below is heavily influenced by Changeling: the Lost, by the poem, by The New Mother by Lucy Clifford, and by some old Norse tale that might even be from the Eddas. Might not.
We call them Fair Folk, Kleines Volk, gentle hosts, kabouter, or even old gods. They may be all of those things and none. Some of the Fair Folk behave like they stepped out of a folktale, some seem to be of a more modern vintage, but they all operate according to strange and convoluted rules and taboos. Finding out what works against the Fair One you have encountered is enough to drive you around the bend. Always assuming that you've not been baked in a pie first.
Let us look at the worst of the bastards.
Erlkönig/Elverkongen/Elegast: This being is our big Ongoing Concern. Forget the Doom Clock, this is the capital-E Enemy. The Erlkönig is a trickster and a ruler of a world behind ours, where dark folktales are true.
Let me give you an idea of what we're dealing with. Consider the story of Georg Mann, one of our best German agents. Georg dealt directly with the Erlkönig's court, like a kind of ambassador to nightmare land. Still, Georg was a real trooper. Sure, he drank a bit much and had some kind of hangup about touching and counting thing, but he was basically ok.
Then there was one bad night in some impossibly deep Danish forest. An area beyond the maps of that bucolic little shithole of a country. I was with him that night in the Erlkönig's hall. We had been summoned to yet another summit meeting to 'discuss matters of territory'. Picture us in his banquet hall of dead leaves and stone, where the food is spider pie and heady wines, and the only entertainment is a choir of somnambulists who sing until they vomit blood. That's pressure for you.
The Erlkönig was dressed in silk, tall, impossibly statuesque, and pale as driftwood. He was also disgustingly self-assured. He would take back what was his, he said. Show us our place. He sounded like we should be grateful. He would spare the feeble world of men if Georg told him three truths. That's the kind of messed-up fairytale mind games you can expect from the Fair Ones.
“Alright” Georg said slowly. “I've never been in a place that I dreaded as much as this one.” He appeared to think. The floor was an ocean of snakes, the wine had become bone dust in my mouth.
“I've never seen a ruler more powerful than you” Georg continued. The Erlkönig's face was halfway between childish glee and mounting concern.
Georg smiled. It was a thin, weary smile. “If I get out, I'll never return willingly”.
Earlier that day, Georg had tended his resignation. He met the Erlkönig's furious stare. “You know it's all true”.
The Erlkönig grasped wildly at his face, but he was already losing substance along with his great hall. We found ourselves in some Danish forest, with a motorway roaring within spitting distance.
We cried, laughed hysterically and went on a three-day bender. I remember vomiting in a public bathroom, thinking it wasn't so bad. We had won the world.
When Georg came home, he met his new family. Rotting dolls carved in a crude resemblance of his wife and son. Their open mouths were dripping with worms. We take turns visiting Georg at the assisted living facility.
That's the king of the little people for you. Observing bizarre strictures and rules, yet vindictive, alien, and unutterably powerful. We get no lasting victories.
Posted 03 July 2011 - 06:40 AM
There are other Fair Folk besides the Erlkönig of course, he's just the worst of a bad lot. That we know of anyway. Fairyland is like deep sea trenches, we don't know what it might contain, and it is inimical to us. Let's look at what else is out there.
The Pale Sons: the Sons are greyish-white creatures with rudimentary features and a anatomy. A bit like half-finished flesh dolls. The Sons have a fixation with the human form, faces, details. There are holes in our world, abandoned places in country and city where the Sons parade bought and stolen faces and features in grotesque carnivals, trying to impress each others. Some want eyes, others voices, others again want teeth.
The Sons can and sometimes do steal people's bodies by force, removing what they desire, leaving quivering messes of flesh behind. The find it easier and more elegant to have humans do their dirty work in return for power and magical trinkets though. After all you might like a steak without having to butcher a cow first, no? This we have to deal with cults harvesting the beautiful or the physically extraordinary. They're usually small groups, nestled deep within the worlds of sport and fashion. There aren't many of those, but they are always a mess to deal with.
The Peacock: Another unique entity, possibly as powerful as the Erlkönig, but focusing much more narrowly. The Peacock never has the same shape twice, but always something that combines the glamorous and the terrifying.
The Peacock loves stories, something humans uniquely supply. Fair Folk cannot really make any new stories on their own it seems. If that helps us at all, we haven't figured out how. Anyway, the Peacock is a manipulator, using coercion, magic and humanity's urge to take part in something, anything. Iit makes individuals, groups, sometimes entire towns take part in stories, archetypal narratives, twisted through the alien tastes and thoughts of the Peacock. It particularly like stories of tragic love, and of great men's omen-filled final days.
Given time, the Peacock shapes fates, faces and feelings and molds the stories it wants to see. It does not seem to fully understand or care about the lives it crushes to serve its creations.
We usually come in when damage control is all we can do. Sometimes we can recognize a story in the early stages. Not that it helps much. In '07 three agents were killed during the second act of Titus Andronicus. Our bet bet is often a cold one: eliminating the main character. Romeo must die, I guess. Heh.
Kabouters: These are the little men, hobs, gnomes. Tiny degenerate gods of mountain and earth. They are cunning, but not truly intelligent, and that is their greatest weakness. We can out-think them.
They are good craftsmen, and create wonders of dark magic. They are highly emotionally volatile, which can be used against them, but don't get cocky, 'k? Kabouters are inhumanly strong and fast, and they don't mind a bit of long pig now and then. A few even go out of their way to eat man, and they have to be put down.
Humans and kabouters have lived side by side for as long as we have written records, pretty much. Early humans have often bargained with them, selling trinkets, favors and even firsborns in return for the miracles of the kabouters' dark caves. In Medieval times, rural villages had long-standing pacts with these beings. The sage Austrians are pretty much the only ones with reliable records of these pacts and agreements. Other agencies do not have the long memory or the myopic focus. They're worth the worth when we have to enter negotiations.
We have in our collection examples of kabouter magic.
A stone and pestle that can crush anything you can fit in it. Even symbols of things, a wedding ring for fidelity and love, a photograph for a memory. The owner will however want to lighten the load of his life, and will crush ever more things. We keep it locked up.
A flintlock whose ghostly bullets never miss and cannot be traced or recovered. Great tool, and we have used it, but it tends to go to the users head. Guy becomes a little bloodthirsty.
The kabouter are rarely seen these days. They don't seem to like throngs of people or anything that's newer than the industrial revolution. Machines stress them, but smaller gadgets also fascinate and frustrate them. A clever agent once distracted a kabouter by giving it her ipod and standing back.
As such they are not generally a big threat by themselves, but stronger Fair Folk can rally them or use them as agents.
Kabouter are generally small men, some human-looking, other trollish and animalistic, while others again seem to be roughly hewn from rock or carved from wood.
Clock-spiders: These creatures are some of the most incomprehensible creatures, and they may not even be fair folk. However the Erlkönig has used then as foot soldiers once, so we're assuming that they came from fairyland.
A clock-spider looks like a spider the size of a small human being. The long metal legs look like watch hands, and its body is a clock face. They give off a slight metallic tapping when they walk, not entirely unlike the ticking of a clock, but clock-spiders are otherwise silent. They are predators, and move in the fashion of hunting spiders.
Clock-spiders can only manifest at certain times, but what exact time that is varies by creature. The spider will have a chosen victim and ignore all others, unless specifically attacked. They can appear anywhere they like, but only for an hour. When the hour has passed it disappears only to return when it is 'its time' again.
The spider pins its victim to the ground, and sucks it dry. We assume that it sucks out the victim's time somehow. Look, it sounds crazy, but the victim ages rapidly and disappears when he reaches death. The victim won't be remembered by anyone, so the only way to discover an attack is by being in the right place at the right time.
The victim will leave a vacuum of course, especially if they had family, friends, a career etc. Those who are left behind will walk around this 'hole' in their lives in a very peculiar manner. Children wil not be interested in who their other parent might be, and a remaining parent will be unable to answer questions about the lost partner. Bosses will have a vague idea that someone with certain responsibilities has gone, but will not be able to say who. Cronies at the bar will be reluctant to sit on 'his' stool, but not know why. When you push these people they get confused, frustrated, angry or burst into tears without knowing why.
Coming across an absence like that is creepy as hell.
Defenses against the Fair Folk
It seems that Fair Folk, from the greatest to the least do not die, and a very hard to kill. We have smart people working on it, but we are largely left with folkloric weapons.
This is the big one, and the poetic phrase means simply unalloyed iron. For some reason meteoric iron works best.
Nailing an iron horseshoe to a door can repel fair folk, but mostly the weaker kinds.
Surrounding a cemetery with an iron fence was thought to contain the souls of the dead in the old days. This isn't true, but an iron fence can keep out most fair folk.
Iron weapons my friend! Some minor fair folk can be killed by gunfire, but for the stronger kinds you need a real iron weapon to make an impression. Little tip: if you're entering melee with one of these things, something must have gone wrong somewhere. Don't.
Some fair folk have human associates who will open doors and remove iron and so forth. Beware of these fucking traitors. Shoot them if you can.
Prayer, symbols of faith
Crosses, the Lord's prayer, the star of David, the Islamic profession of faith, all these thing may work. Some fair folk are nauseated by them, deeply annoyed, frightened, or physically harmed. Or it might do nothing. Some fair folk are just too... I dunno, eternal for that stuff to work.
Another factor is entirely intangible: your own personal faith. How much firepower do you reckon you have in the faith department? Are you sure? Enough to bet everything? Huh?
Knowing what you are dealing with
This is absolutely paramount. Know your enemy. These creatures operate according to bizarre strictures and laws. Some have OCD-like urges to count things or place them in patterns before they can do anything else. Some a curious or lecherous, or have certain ancient agreements with humanity or parts of nature.
Most fair folk can be enticed into riddle-games or competitions. Think outside the box, be sure you know what you are competing for, and have a plan B. If you can remember the strange logic of old folktales, they will help you a great deal.
Who are they?
The fair folk sometime seem like they have stepped out of old folktales. Some see that as proof that they have been around since the early days of human civilization. Others draw very different conclusions.
Divine Monsters: A prevalent, 'old-school' theory is that the fair folk are a class of primordial beings who are responsible for all the folktales and mythologies with their gods, demons, sphinxes, hydras and so forth. All of these tales are based in real creatures, greedy, powerful and cunning, but with just as glaring weaknesses. They certainly hunger for our supplication and worship, and it seems that they need us in various ways.
We on the other hand have outgrown these parasites.
This is the one I subscribe to, if it matters.
We made them: Here is where it gets a bit odd. The fair folk are our creations, monsters sprung to life from some part of our psyche. Some say that they embody our fear, an emotion so strong that it may give crude life to monsters. Peculiarities, agency and behavior has come along the way, as mankind has imprinted the ideas on the beasts. This is something that must be taken on faitk, as there is no evidence.
Others claim that the fair folk embody our ignorance, our irrationality, and our attempts at filling the dark places of existence. This theory posits that with scientific advances we have left less and less place for these monsters and that they may disappear in the light of human reason.
Even though it is true that some fair folk dislike human inventions, this theory is pure horseshit. Ask anyone who has sat face to face with the Erlkönig if he feels that the light of reason is just about to reduce this monster to past tense. No way.
Third theory of Fair Folk origin: they are our metaphysical wake as we move through the cosmos. They're karma's heavy mailed fist. The Pale Sons arise out of our greed, selfishness and vanity by forcing us to give what we hold dear. Clock-spiders push back against our relentless overpopulation and wish to live longer lifespans. Kabouters are the suppliers of the wonders that allow us to be lazy and less productive ourselves. The Peacock is the direct rebuttal to our fantasies of wanting to star in our own little dramas and yet live stable, routine lives, by turning us into its own little Punch and Judy show. The Fair Ones are all our collective vices and faults made manifest; we *deserve* them.
The fair folk don't play fair, they want to subjugate or seduce us, and there is on a shred of humanity in any of them. At the end of the day, that is all you need to know.
Posted 03 July 2011 - 12:06 PM
You want to hear about the vampires, right? The suave and seductive predators of the night. Here's the thing: there doesn't seem to be any of those. Yeah, I know it goes against expectations, right? Well, movies have a lot to answer for.
There are three sources for vampire stories, as far as we can tell.
The first one is simply people. Messed up human beings with some psycho-sexual or religious disorder. Look, I'm no psychologist, but it happens. Also premature burial.
Then there's the fair folk. Otherworldly, beautiful predator sounds very much like some of the Fair Ones we've got on record. The Erlkönig for one.
Finally there are the Unfortunate. I'll go into detail about them later on. For now we need to talk about the dead and undead in general.
Dead Souls: The dead go somewhere of course, or at least they don't stay here in any way we can quantify or sense. Before they go they sometimes hang around for awhile. They're not ghosts, just not on their way yet. Normally that's not a problem. After all they don't really have any agency or intelligence to speak of.
The only time they get troublesome when a medium sticks his grubby hands into the area between life and death. Most mediums are frauds, but even the ones with a real gift don't have much idea what they are doing. Rousing a dead soul from its docile state can be very dangerous. It is not the person it was, and the contact with the living world reminds it of this. Reminds them of their inadequacies, I guess. The response is usually frustration or rage, both of which takes the form of particularly aggressive poltergeist activity. Annoying as they are, we'd rather not see a medium get torn to pieces by invisible forces in front of spectators.
Dead souls tend towards herd mentality, so if one flies into a rage, others might follow suit. Sometimes we need to step in and protect a medium from death by stampede.
Ghosts: A ghost is a dead person who hasn't passed into the next world, or whatever you like to call it. They are by rights dead, but still have purpose, will and some measure of intellect left. Their agency is usually pretty limited, and usually linked to some unfinished business. More or less what you'd expect.
A ghost is not a full person though, more of a personified obsession to the point where it informs the ghost's appearance. Most people usually can't see them, and that is really a blessing. A ghost protecting its living family may look like a terrifying dog-like monster, chained by the front door of their house, while a ghost with a sexual obsession might look as obscene as you can imagine.
Most ghosts do not have a physical form, but they can affect human emotions substantially, even if they are invisible. The ghost of a stockbroker who killed himself caused suicidal despair in the Portuguese branch of Euronext. Maybe you heard about that? I think that's been the hardest cover-up I've taken part in.
The emotions that ghosts spread are either the same as the one that drives them, or one associated with its obsession in some other way. Thus, a ghost who died from violence might spread fear or vengeful rage.
I'm sure you've had some training to withstand that kind of emotional manipulation, and the simplest tool is usually the best. Get a mantra. A bit new age, yeah, but it works. I usually mutter the word Altagsbewusstsein under my breath when we go ghost-hunting. Rolls off the tongue, right?
What creates a ghost? We don't know. At all. Our knowledge of what happens at and after death is so hazy as to be inconsequential. If it is trauma and suffering, there are many places in Europe that should be thick with the most lethal ghosts you can imagine, but experience doesn't bear this out at all.
The Unfortunate: Sometimes a dead soul has not found the way to leave its own body. It's rare, but it happens. A person who has been positively declared death gets up and starts staggering around, screaming and taking wild swings at anything that moves.
The dead soul does not understand its surroundings and feels trapped in a flesh prison that has started to break down.
Dealing with one is reasonably easy. You need to hold it down while someone performs a simple exorcism. Tackling a rampaging corpse in a church full of panicking mourners is no fun though. I've tried.
The dead and undead don't generally trouble us much, but a strong ghost appearing in a place full of people can cause quite a stir.
Posted 04 July 2011 - 05:15 AM
(I think Pelgrane Press' Esoterrorists may have inspired the last bit. In a sense the Golden Fortress could be someone's else's player characters. That makes them a pain to everyone else of course).
As Joanne Chan, formerly of the MI-13 says: “we stand around that fucking thing, like drunk kids around a nativity scene”.
While we do not all feel that strongly about it, the LHC does present a problem. We haven't bought the hype about black holes and all the Dan Brown crap. It's just that the LHC seems to work as a beacon to everything supernatural. Try telling a bunch of brilliant scientists that though.
The Fair Folk hate it outright. They seem to see it as a violation of their existence, and demand its destruction when we have one of our sit-downs. We have a few theories as to why, but it's all a bit airy-fairy. Heh.
Luckily the Fair Folk also fear the LHC, but we have driven iron nails into the ground in a rough circle corresponding to the circumference of the tunnels themselves. Just to be on the safe side. Last week a young technician was found dead and naked in a field with hoof prints all over his body. This could get very ugly, even if none of the Fair Folk heavies have shown themselves yet.
We've advised all personnel to be very careful, but the 'magic police' doesn't seem to have much clout in the world of hard science. Fancy that.
The dead seem immensely attracted to the place. For those who can see such things, the area above the LHC is often a thick mist of spectral beings. They are not generally dangerous, and barely sentient, but such a concentration will give you pause, and sometimes the throng gives rise to poltergeist activity in the form of trees being toppled and the earth shaking. The locals blame CERN. It does give us professional paranoiacs some concern. What if someone or some thing managed to direct or focus all that energy.
Those few dead souls we have managed to talk to (in the loosest sense), have all talked of the Great Road or the Great Walk. It seems that the place around the LHC is a place where it is easy or desirable to 'pass through' into, well, into whatever comes next.
Then we have a minor terrorist group calling themselves the Golden Fortress who seem to be out to sabotage the LHC. Luckily that's hard, and here we can count on our friends in the wider intelligence community and the police to help us.
Briefly, the Golden Fortress claim to be an ancient secret society, dedicated to defending humanity against Outsiders (by which they seem to mean anything supernatural). They see the LHC as a threat to the world's integrity and claim that the experiments will 'destroy the Membrane' between worlds. They damned disruptive, a bit amateurish, but also strangely well-funded. We're working finding their backers.
Of course, if they have a genuine point we're uniquely willing to listen. Actually, we do have members who share their sentiment, up to a point. The bombs and the threats do not help their case though.
The science guys better discover something good in there, 'cos the Large Hadron Collider is nothing but a pain to us.
Posted 04 July 2011 - 05:19 AM
These creatures are pretty much the opposite of what you would expect. They are a species of wolves that seem to have something approaching human intelligence and rudimentary hands. They are also substantially larger than the average wolf, sometimes giving them the appearance of semi-erect wolfmen. Yeah, very funny.
There are not terribly many of them left in Europe, but the ones that are still around are cunning predators. They are also “amused by what a soft, feminized beast of prey modern man is”. Yes, some can talk and it is damn disconcerting to hear their wild inhuman voices. They do take some level of brutal enjoyment in what they do, and gloating a bit seems like icing on the cake.
Werewolves like fresh meat, and seem to favor long pig. They are usually clever enough to avoid large concentrations of humans, but usually attack single individuals, preferably the unarmed and weak.
Interestingly werewolves find the fair folk disgusting, and describe their scent as “unnatural”. They often fight with kabouters when they meet. Better then than us, of course, but it causes much more commotion than we normally like.
How do you kill one? With a gun (silver bullets optional). Be careful though. They are better at hunting than you ever will be.
Posted 04 July 2011 - 11:08 AM
(I'll just remind you that this is a pretty subjective in-character view. I'm just playing my character! )
Here we're talking agencies that are not under the aegis of the mighty European Union. There are many occult agencies across the world, and we can and do occasionally cooperate with them, but they are not our buddies. Half the time we don't even trust each other, so it is only natural that we're playing it close to the vest when we're dealing with our esteemed colleagues.
You have read the manuals about cooperation, and they are very good indeed. This is the inside view, and you keep all of this to yourself , 'k? We don't need any more trouble than what we've got.
The Americans: Some fat guy once said that America doesn't have friends, only interests. In matters occult it is literally true.
If you've been around when the President of the United States comes calling, you know how the Secret Service (and the CIA) suddenly run things, no matter what you say. It rankles. And no matter how much you 'play ball', you can't be sure they reciprocate.
It's a bit like that when OOS (Office of Occult Services) descend upon a case like the proverbial ton of bricks. They take over if they can, and they rarely listen to us. They certainly don't trust us.
Come to think of it, that is wise.
The Americans are ahead of us in many ways. They have some very advanced 'ghost-buster' technology, a shitload of conventional firepower and manpower, and frankly they're often better at working together as a team. We can certainly use each other, now and then.
They also have a whole lot of artifacts, both their own and quite a few they cribbed from us during WWII. Most of those we don't really want back if we're being honest. Some things like the ghost-powered tanks would be nice to have, if we could control them, while stuff like the Silver Bells of Brugge just scare us shitless.
They also have some tech we don't presume to understand at all. Flying saucer stuff, some people claim. The truth is that no one knows. They have based their 'ghost-buster' tech on some of that, and we get the impression that their goons on the ground don't really understand it either.
During an op in Schwarzwald one time, something malfunctioned, and I saw a whole load of their boys disappear, and for almost half an hour there was a dark hole in the world. A hole that whined, whispered and sang. While we were gawping at that, the goat-headed kabouters we were after in the first place attacked. What a nightmare!
The OOS have offered to help us with the Erlkönig more than once. They seem to think he's something from outer space. He might as well be, but that's beside the point. The point IS that the ol' Erlkönig does not respond well to gunboat diplomacy, and that we don't want to see a Fairy-Allies war on European soil. Don't want to see a marriage of convenience between Fairyland and the Americans either. So far we've stalled.
We don't want them running the show, and to avoid that we have to be a bit underhanded sometimes. It's all part of the job.
The Russians: To be honest, they do not bother us much directly. new. Most of the agents from KGB's 13th Directorate are scattered across the world. Some of those people are very frightening on an individual basis, but are not connected with any country, although it is possible that some have been 'adopted' by the Americans, or by wealthy Middle Eastern leaders. Some are pretty much high-powered gangsters.
The 13th Directorate dealt mainly with mind control, and the untapped powers of the human psyche. Some of these ex-agents are able to cloud minds, perform feats of strength through bio-feedback, or have some form of ESP. Luckily, many of them are getting a bit long in the tooth, but they're frightening people that we would prefer to see eliminated or at least off European soil.
The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation has a small subdivision that sort of does what we do. They make sure there aren't too much trouble with sorcerers, and try to placate Baba Yaga, and the hordes of fair folk they still have over there. Sometimes they try to steal from our archives, but so far without success.
It seems they've got enough trouble of their own.
The Vatican: What can we say about this bunch that won't offend some people, while convincing others that their Dan Brown horseshit paranoia-fests are true? Not much I guess.
The Vatican has a great hoard of occult literature, as well as many genuinely magical artifacts. They also have orders of brave and resourceful exorcists and, well, monster hunters. Good allies, when you can get them.
The problem is that they have their own agenda, which may be at odds with ours. The Vatican monster hunters generally believe in destroying everything that we might call supernatural. Many are perfectly ready to wage war with the sorcerers and with the fair folk, whereas we mostly try to contain and defend.
Even the less hard-line Vatican operatives present a fundamental problem. We want to maintain a semblance of normalcy. We want to make sure that trolls don't eat the Union's citizens, and we are also very much dedicated to keeping as many of them in the dark about magic, monsters, and the damn Erlkönig marshaling his armies at the edge of our vision. That sort of panic we do not need.
The Vatican on the other hand are much more willing to show the world that there is such a thing as physical supernatural evil. In a sense it is their stock-in-trade.
We think they may be preparing some grand revelation, but we don't have any really good intel. Keep your fingers crossed.
Of course there are many more agencies in the word besides these, but they are the ones we have most contact with, in a not-exactly-positive sense.
When you deal with outside agencies remember these rules:
1)Stall until you can get a background check. You gotta know who you're dealing with.
2)Don't volunteer information.
3)Don't get chummy.
4)Assume that they consider you expendable.
5)Meet in public.
Simple, yet essential.
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