Cycle of Spectra Illuminos: Prison of Comfort 1:2
I gotta say, when I started writing for the PC intros, I had no idea how slow they would start out. I figured the introductions would just be a hop, skip, and jump to a normal group experience. I didn’t realize how much effort it took to get Alonzo up and going until I started to understand what it would take to get him and the other two PCs together as a group. This small session of Prison of Comfort is a bridge to another PC, a Scion of the Primal Wilds. A little more intrigue and spooky subject matter were introduced, and I think the player really got into the role by the end. This was our first experience with using the system rules for magic; there’s a lot of information to sort through, but the possibilities are definitely endless.
The atmosphere of the beach reception is just the thing that Alonzo needs. The music is loud and moving, the drinks are welcome and never-ending, and the people, even though unknown to him, are warm and friendly. A half an hour after the bride and groom leave the party, they return in proper beach attire, followed by a ruckus of applause and hoots, poking fun at the couple. Toasts are made from the best man and maid of honor, and the cutting and feeding of cake begins a night of festivities involving dancing, singing, cigar smoking, drinking, and dining.
“We need another drink,” Alonzo suggests.
Snow White glances around the area to flag down a server, when Alonzo points to the open bar several yards away.
“How ‘bout something a little stronger?” he asks.
“Shots!” Snow White jumps, rubbing her hands together with the thought of downing a glass of smooth Mexican tequila.
At the open bar, Alonzo and Snow White see a man and a woman sitting at the opposite end, staring intently into each other’s eyes with obvious sexual tension. They both seem to be having a grand time, enthralled with each other’s company. After several moments of slight touching and quick whispers into each other’s ears, the woman stands, heading urgently to a small guest house.
Snow White giggles as the bartender slides two shot glasses of tequila toward her and Alonzo.
“Looks like a potty break,” she whispers.
“When you gotta go, you gotta go,” Alonzo agrees.
“Wait,” Snow White stops. “Aren’t we gonna do this with salt and lemon?”
Alonzo smiles, cheeks warm from the effect of previous champagne indulgence.
“Don’t be a pussy!”
Snow White smiles and taps her shot glass to Alonzo’s; they shoot the intoxicating liquid, slamming the glasses down onto the bar top with an indication to “fill ‘er up” to the bartender. The young server smiles and obliges.
Alonzo and Snow White shoot one more round, and then edge close to the small bar’s overhang, watching the festivities. The man at the bar, who was left alone by the potty-dancing young woman, draws their attention as he scans the crowd before pulling a miniature plastic bag containing some kind of white, powdery substance from his pants pocket. He takes one more look around the area before tossing a pinch of the powder into the woman’s glass of champagne. Within seconds, the woman reappears from the guest house, skipping her way to her spot next to the attractive man.
“Esther, did you just see that?”
“Hell yes, I did,” she exclaims in a tight whisper. “I think you should go over there and beat his ass!”
“I was thinking you could do something, you know, with magic,” Alonzo suggests.
“The idea was to blend in when we got here.”
“We have to do something before she takes a drink!”
Snow White stares intently to the champagne flute. In an instant, the hairs on the back of Alonzo’s neck rise, signifying the spark of new magic. Just as quickly as the feeling comes, it leaves, and Snow White dusts her hands off for a “job-well-done”.
“Taken care of!” she says proudly.
As the young woman reaches for her glass, the neck of it shatters in her hands, spilling champagne all over her and the man.
“I’m really sorry about this,” the young woman says as she stands. “I better go change.”
Alonzo and Snow White watch as the man is left alone to his own devices.
“We need to stop him. I’ll be damned if we let him do this to anyone else,” Alonzo presses.
“What?” Snow White asks. “Do we just go up to him and ask him to give us his roofies?”
“What if he did it to you?”
Snow White grins. “I’d kick his ass before it got that far.”
They both walk to the man nonchalantly, sitting next to him on either side.
“What’s up?” he asks, taking notice of their arrival.
“You look like a fun guy,” Alonzo comments, smiling.
Snow White scoots closer to him. “Did you get something on your pants?”
“You could say that,” the man replies.
“This guy’s really hot, Esther,” Alonzo examines, inching closer to the man as well.
The man looks to Alonzo, brow furrowed. “Not interested.”
“Well you know what interests me?” Snow White asks facetiously. “Men who go to prison for rape.”
The man stares at her in surprise. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Alonzo reaches his hand out and touches the pocket the man had earlier retrieved the date-rape drug from.
“What the hell are you doin’ man?” the man stands, abhorred. “Don’t touch me.”
“Looks like you still have some of that powder left in your pocket,” Alonzo reprises. “I’m sure your lady friend and this entire reception would love to understand your pick-up methods.”
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t act dumb, douche,” Snow White orders, prodding her forefinger into the man’s chest. “Drop the drugs or we drop you!”
The man reaches into his pants pocket and retrieves the small plastic bag of white powder, dropping it to the sandy ground. He hurriedly tosses a few dollar bills in the bartender’s direction and walks away from the bar, and the reception.
Satisfied, the two friends smile to one another and rejoin the festivities. More dancing and drinking ensue, leading through an hour of much needed stress relief. Alonzo and Snow White begin to salsa, when an alarming scream sounds from wedding cake table. The bride has her hand up to her ear, scanning the ground with a ferocious and worried gaze. People are beginning to group around her in response.
“This one is full of drama,” Alonzo comments.
“It’s the blonde hair,” Snow White laughs. “Should we see what the problem is?”
Alonzo shrugs and the two walk to the cake table. When approached, the bride laments that she has lost one of her great-grandmother’s diamond earrings.
“It just fell out! My mom let me wear them for something borrowed. She and daddy will kill me if they know I lost it.”
Alonzo looks to Snow White, expecting her to take the initiative to help this saddened bride. Snow White is smiling, her bosom shaking as she tries to hold in her laughter. Alonzo elbows her and nods in the bride’s direction.
“Ow,” she seethes, indignantly.
He pushes her forward and she smiles, coming face to face with the bride.
“Let’s all split up and see if we can find it!”
Alonzo feels the hairs stand up on his arms as Snow White steps forward, peering to the ground with a squint.
Snow White successfully casts Detect Substance.
Within a few moments, she reaches into the sand and pulls up a small object, blowing grainy particles from it. Snow White hands the earring to the bride, who in turn bobs up and down with unrelenting glee.
“Oh my God, thank you, thank you! You just saved my life!”
A few moments pass by within the congratulating crowd when the bride leans closer to Snow White and Alonzo.
“What were your names again?” the bride asks with sideways smile. “Are you here for Robert?”
“Um,” Snow White begins with a blank expression.
In an instant, she pulls Alonzo by the arm, away from the party and into the street, running like mischievous underage teenagers from a beer bust.
Alonzo and Snow White run with plowing excitement, bumping into passersby with a playful jog, nearly laughing aloud as they did when they were children in these streets. So many things seem familiar, but in the last ten years, things have definitely changed. Tourists walk through the streets, some arm in arm entranced with the romantic atmosphere that Cartagena has to offer. Locals seem pleased with the throngs of international visitors strolling through the area. Shops, stores, and galleries are opened much later that they used to be, and more bars and pubs have been opened to service the entertainment needs of all.
When they feel like they have run far enough to get away from the reception, Alonzo and Snow White slow down to a lover’s pace. Snow White presses her arm through his, and they stroll in the pleasure of each other’s company.
Most of the walk is made in silence. Alonzo imagines that Snow White understands his need for a little bit of peace after all that has happened in the last several weeks. Soon, they are nearing the edges of the residential areas. Shops still line the narrow avenues of the area, but not nearly as densely as within the central portion of the tourist area. The area they are now walking serves to those with greater explorative insight, those kinds of people steeled against the fears of drug war history and violence. The sounds and smells give the place an authentic variation to the Americanized tourist attractions several blocks back, and they can’t help but talk to the native residents in the local language, the language Alonzo learned from his mother’s side of the family. This country is after-all, one of two places his mother had grown into a woman, the place where his mother and father met one another, the place where he was conceived.
Alonzo and Snow White both obtain successes on a Perception check.
The duo walks nearly another mile when they pass by the mouth of a narrow alleyway. There, a tiny black cat gazes up with a hungry meow. Alonzo isn’t surprised when Snow White leans down with a cooing sound, rubbing the kitten’s chin. Though an animal lover, he was never too keen on the idea of owning a cat; dogs were the only kind of pet he considered having, and that was good enough for his parents as well. As Snow White throws a barrage of loving attention to the small feline, Alonzo takes in the surroundings.
The alley is clean for the most part except for a couple of trash cans and a dumpster that run parallel with the right side of it. The walls are a combination of brick and stucco, and odd mixture for the age and this part of the city. A single amber security light shines down from on high in the corner of the alley, and he notices that this the alley extends further off to the left, another connecting alley, perhaps to the other side of the block. A single power line extends from rooftop to rooftop, the only apparent means for an electrical flow to this residential quarter.
The kitten rolls on its back, waiting again for the attentive touch of its human admirer, when Snow White slowly rises with an odd expression on her face. She is staring intently at her hand, tilting her head with that look of intense consideration.
“What’s wrong?” Alonzo inquires with a smile.
As soon as the words leave his lips, Snow White replies with “I’m not sure.”
In an instant, Alonzo’s unseen senses pick up the blossoming of magic, and after a few moments of silence and a gasp, Snow White turns to him with a gaze of horror.
She once again casts Discern Substance. At this point, the tracks Prologue and Main Title from the original Nightmare on Elm Street are played.
“Lonz, it’s blood, human blood.”
Snow White picks up the kitten by the scruff of the neck. Wet areas of fur are found on the underside of the animal. The blood is still wet, and the kitten begins licking its chops as it cleans the leftover, crimson moisture from the corners of its mouth.
Alonzo gains successes on a Perception check.
While Snow White curses to herself, wiping away what amount of blood smeared her fingers and hands, Alonzo suddenly feels panic grip at the muscles of his chest and throat. There, beyond a couple of full, loose, trash bags is a set of dirty bare feet. The security light in the corner of the alleyway illuminates the human shape, and it is only then that he notices the residential area is quite and that no one other than he and Snow White are out in the street.
“Ohmigod,” Snow White gasps. “What’re we gonna do?”
“We need to make sure that person is okay!”
Alonzo takes Snow White by the hand and leads her to the body.
The only word that describes this scene is “horrific”. Lying amongst a pile of trash, a young girls’ naked body is sprawled out, positioned in a way unnatural for death; the poor battered girl looks posed in the style of the Lord Jesus crucified. The girl can’t be but eight or nine years old, her skin tone and hair color indicative of a native resident. Specific areas of her body seep with blood, reminiscent of stigmata seen in cases of the supernatural.
Alonzo once again feel the vibrations of magic, as Snow White leans down to examine the scene.
“Shit,” she whispers, her breath and form shaky, her footing unbalanced. She gags once. “Who the hell could do something…?”
Snow White trails off as she continues to gaze at the body.
Alonzo rolls another successful Perception.
An odd, muffled sound brings his attention away from the dreadful sight. Alonzo turns around, gazing back in the direction of the connecting alleyway. Shadows deepen away from the luminosity of the security light. The center of the alleyway is pitch-black, while illuminated at a dead end with another amber security bulb. The stench of spoiled meat permeates the air and a strong scent of urine a feces is enough to make him gag as well. At the end of this alley near the dead-end wall, something on the ground seems to be moving.
“I think you should see this!” Alonzo yells back.
“One minute,” Snow White pleads. “I’m getting close to figuring out how this girl died!”
Alonzo creeps forward into the alley, the comments from Snow White drown out by the mysterious object’s hypnotic sound. He cautiously edge closer to the unknown, images of a dead body, fears of a lurking murderer, and the safety of his oldest friend lost to the sight of what is up ahead.
As he comes out of shadow into the soft glow of the security light, he sees five, hefty wooden tops spinning in unison. The tops are exquisitely made, painted blue with a lacquered finish with a bright orange stripe painted in the center of each. All five are on the mark, uninterrupted in their constant revolving. Seconds pass by and nothing about their rotation changes; speed and position remain precise, and Alonzo begins to doubt the reality of the situation. Soon, the smell of Cuban cigar smoke assaults his olfactory sense, and vivid memories of his grandfather spring to mind. He gazes around the area; there is no indication of cigar smoke in the vicinity.
As Alonzo reaches down, he is pulled back into focus by Snow White’s grip to his shoulder.
“Lonz, this little girl was murdered, we need to call the pol…what is that?” she asks, peering down to the tops. “Those look like, wait, no- Lonz, are those your tops?”
“They look just like the ones my granddad gave me years ago.”
Snow White shakes her head.
“You lost those.”
Alonzo nods. “I can’t believe this.”
“How many was in the group your grandpa gave you?”
Alonzo’s breathe catches in his lungs.
“Five,” he eases out on a whispered voice.
Snow White draws closer to the constantly spinning toys. She squints, scrutinizing them.
“Lonz, we need to get outta here,” she urges. “The resonance and magic sustaining them is the same I found on that dead little girl back there!”
In an instant, Snow White steps forward to Alonzo, focusing on his form as she folds magical frequencies into his eyes and around his body. Alonzo gasps in awe as he begins to see things with more clarity. He nearly stumbles from the overpowering stress it brings to his cognitive ability. He can see magic; he can see that he is surrounded by some kind of protective nimbus.
Snow White casts two consecutive rotes, bestowing Aura of Gloom (Grim Sight) and Afterlife Aegis (Entropic Guard) on Alonzo.
“Better late than never,” she offers.
The sound of footfalls brings their attention away from the small toys. Within the shadows of the alley is the outline of someone, waiting and watching. Snow White looks to Alonzo in silence, and the sound of the spinning tops becomes frightening in their constant motion. The person in the shadows takes one step closer, keeping to the shroud to remain unseen.
“This is no place for little children,” a man speaks in the native Spanish dialect. His voice is musky and smoke scarred, deep and uninviting. He takes one threatening step closer.
“Bitch, you best be steppin’ back before I cut your ass!” Snow White presses in English.
Alonzo feels new magic sparking to life. Whether from Snow White or the shadowed man, he can’t tell.
The dark man harrumphs, amused by Snow White’s intensity.
The man speaks again in Spanish. “Fighting little girls please me the most. Cuts are deeper, screams are playful, blood is clean.”
Snow White looks to Alonzo, the same look she always threw his way in the face of trouble. The Illuminae was always the level-headed one in situations leading to conflict.
“This fucker’s crazy Lonz,” she whispers, “He’s Awakened, and his resonance is all over that little girl. We need to get the hell outta here.”
The man steps another foot forward, the sharp tip of his boot gleaming in the amber light from above. Black, snake-skin riding boots, a razor sharp blade fitted to the tip.
“Do my gifts please you?” the man asks in English, a gleeful smile etched across his face.
He gestures to the spinning tops.
He licks his lips over, unnerving Alonzo and Snow White. They can see the lower half of his face from the light. The hood he wears conceals everything else.
“Lonz,” Snow White starts, “I’m gonna throw everything I got into this guy then open a portal. When I say run, move your ass!”
Alonzo gets ready for anything, the sight and sound of the revolving tops diminishing his resolve. He feels and sees magic light up the alleyway, but whatever Snow White had tried to do was countered by the man in shadows.
“Shit,” she utters, biting her lower lip.
She begins to back up, urging Alonzo back as well.
The shrouded man steps forward into the light, his haunting smile unbalanced with the way he opens his arms waiting for an embrace. He takes in a deep breath through his nostril.
“AHHHHHHHH!” he breathes out. “I can smell your juices flowing like river water.”
Alonzo begins to look in all directions for something to throw at the man when his perceptions begin to skew. All of his five senses begin to dull, and the strength in his legs falters as upper-body weight drives him to his knees. He hears Snow White screaming through the thick screen interfering within his senses, and the man in the shadows steps takes as step forward in surprise. Soon darkness overtakes Alonzo, and when he comes to seconds later, a clean crisp breeze flushes his senses to life, and the bright sunlight from overhead energizes his body.
Alonzo stands, finding himself at the top of the watchtower in Spectra Illuminos, the diamond valleys, hills, and mountains exuding a calming effect from the panic he felt just a moment ago. As her takes a step forward, he feels and hears a resounding burst come from the beacon of fire beneath the diamond lens. From the sky, the column of light pulsing to the center-right tower bursts with a flare of new energy, as if two streams of light are now intertwining with the connection of the tower. From what he can remember from Cairo’s lessons, this spire is the conduit for the Ruling Arcana of the Primal Wilds; a Thyrsus has lit the beacon at the Watchtower of the Stone Book.
Alonzo hears a raging scream call from the fires of the beacon, reminiscent of the same scream coming from him when the golden fires stripped him of the Lie holding him fast asleep. He walks forward to the well of bright, golden flame, the vision of a man gazing back to him. The man is tall and fit, with a head of thick, dark, graying hair. When he sees Alonzo his screams come to a halt, as if realizing the truth of his position within the world.
“Scion of the Primal Wilds, light the path of Life and Spirit. The Path of Ecstasy is bound no longer.”
The voice is Alonzo’s, subconscious words released from the tips of his lips.
As the man within the flames speaks, he reaches out his hand in the Illuminae’s direction.
“Walker of Realms, the beacon is lit. We are now as one in the Power of Life and Spirit.”
Alonzo reaches his hands out to the fire, knowing it will not scorch. When the tips of his fingers touch the other man’s, he feels the power of Life and Spirit that once eluded him. Alonzo has never experienced in the Fallen World what he is feeling right now. The exhilaration, the exuberance, the authority that the Realms Unseen has to offer- there are no words to describe it.
Just as he had in the alleyway with Snow White and the man in shadows, Alonzo’s senses dull and he blacks out. When he opens his eyes, he is standing at the dead-end of the alleyway, the light of midday sun nearly blinding him. As he tries to gain his bearings, he sees that the tops, Snow White, and the foreboding man are gone.