WPC Lyra Trescothick received a phone call at 2:00pm on Thursday from “Beaker”, her friendly, neighbourhood alchemist.
“Hi Lyra, something’s come up and I’m in the middle of a delicate bit of work. Would you mind looking into it for me?”
Since Bill (the Wizard) had left 11 months earlier, Beaker had been getting more and more out of her depth trying to keep up with her mentor’s responsibilities for the Shadow Council. Now a woman called Mary Parker had called Bill’s number (now re-directed to her phone) and asked for help locating her missing son.
The fourteen-year-old was Steven Parker, one of the three children Bill rescued from the Troll Witch, Agatha, just before he had to leave town. They had been through a very traumatic experience, being filleted-alive and imprisoned as living boneless skin sacks in a chest for a week. Then Agatha was forced to stitch their bones back in and Bill brought them back to the Mortal World.
Apparently, he had tried a bit of mind magic (totally illegal in the eyes of the Wizards Council) to help them forget. As he couldn’t be sure it would hold, he gave his number to the mothers in case of any emergency.
“Sparx” seems to have fared badly in the last few months, getting into trouble for theft, vandalism, trespass, fighting – often enough that he has been ankle-tagged by the police with a tracker device. His mother is very concerned as he is a few hours late getting home and the Tag Tracking software can’t find him. He went into town to buy a computer game and only had enough money for a Big Mac on the way home.
Lyra agrees to look into it. Although she’s not supposed to track minors without an official case number, she checks the Tag History.
GM: Rolling an Overcome, with either Focus or Intellect – success
She finds that the tag has indeed vanished but they have history of where it went. He went into the Bullring Shopping Centre, hung about for 20 mins near the entrance, then went to Game and stayed there about 20 mins, then the tag seemed to go on the blink. He apparently walked down to the Brindley Place canal-side area and then the signal vanished altogether!
Lyra decides to go hunting for him along the canal-side, remembering that her Pony had been dragged into the canals and torn apart by ratlings on her first visit to the city.
In case she needed backup, she calls Long Zhu and explains where she’s going. Zhu offers to meet her there and suggests getting something from the boy’s home so she can try to track him.
Unfortunately for Lyra, DS Luke Boyce seems to have it in for her, and spots she has used the Tag software.
GM:Compel to get her in trouble at work
They have some discussion and Boyce is even more irritated with her – not quite enough to put her on a Warning but he has now “got his eye on her”.
Scooting across town to visit Mary Parker, she listens to the frightened woman explain that Steven has been a handful, but seems to have turned over a new leaf recently. “Your lot haven’t had to call here for a few weeks!”. Due to the improvement, she gave him 15 quid so he could buy a computer game for 9.99 and have a Big Mac. He was supposed to be home at 12:30. She checked the tag locator software and found it was missing at 1:00pm. It’s now 4:00pm. Thinking Lyra wanted an article of clothing so tracker dogs could look for him, she handed over a pair of grubby pants!
Lyra and Zhu met by the canal, where the tag last registered and Lyra sprinkles some pixie dust on the flagstones to do her Object Reading thing. She sees the legs and shoes of an old man, walk to the water’s edge, then backtrack to a bin. He’s dressed in black, slightly threadbare trousers, with sturdy black shoes.
Zhu uses her Dragon magic to assist, by letting the spirits of the Air sniff about for the boy. They help Lyra to see and also reveal that “the boy was never here but there is a very faint scent trail”.
Although a tracking spell would normally be a ritual, I agreed to let it be the sort of air-elemental thing Long Zhu can do as an Evocation – effectively the magical equivalent of a bloodhound
Lyra searches the bin and locates the ankle tag. Some amused bystanders record her on their phones. The tag is dead, as though it ran out of battery power. Worryingly, it appears to not have been opened – so how did it come off the boy’s ankle!
The air spirits lead Lyra back towards the Bullring. On the way she remembers hearing there is some supernatural thing tied to the Bullring, but can’t recall what it is. She gives Lyra the number of a local expert, Sanjeet Patel to get more info.
Sanjeet tells her that there is some link to a Minoan Cult, something to do with the Bull.
By crossing-off a box of his Knowledge condition
Sanjeet knows that one of the Security Guards – Niklos Knossos is the head of the Cult of Ariadne. There is some form of sacrifice of a shoplifter to some sort of Spirit Bull every 7 to 10 years! He can find out more by research, if needed.
Lyra asks Sanjeet to join them at the Bullring as a child’s life may be at stake. Despite a lot of hassle from his mother, for which he earns a Fate point , Sanjeet hops on a train from Stirchley to join them.
As it seems like they might need to fight a Spirit Bull – Lyra calls Ezio, who wields a blade called Spiritbane.
Ezio is available to join them now, but is working nights at the blood transfusion service – so is going to be in trouble at work if this goes into the night.
Ezio will get a Fate Point for that complication when it occurs
There is a girl selling Big Issue in the entrance way where Steven spent 20 minutes. Ezio buys one and chats to the girl – Tish Malone. She recognises the photo of Sparx. She is sleeping rough by canal, Sparx bought her breakfast after making her promise to move away from the canal – it seems he remembers enough to be very afraid of the canal. This cost him a fiver, leaving him just enough to get the 9.99 game he wanted. She didn’t see him come back out.
Long Zhu gives Tish an address to go to where she can stay for a while and get looked after.
Crossing off a box of Followers, Zhu gains a Fate point for self-compelling her aspect of “Protector of the Weak”
At the computer game shop “Game”, the scent trail ends abruptly. The 9.99 game appears to have sold out and all they have is the deluxe edition with poster map for 12.99. It seems Sparx tried to steal a copy but was caught by the security chief Nicklos. He talked the shopkeeper into not pressing charges and said he would “put the fear of the gods into him” before sending him home.
To Ezio’s further questioning, it seems they do have more 9.99 copies of the game in the stock room, but took them off the shelves to shift the deluxe copies. It seems the disappointment had been too much for Sparx.
Sanjeet (being a shop-keeper himself) doesn’t immediately think that the security guards are bad-guys. The boy is a shop-lifter and perhaps a few sacrifices here and there might make the world a better place. However, it does seem that the boy had a caring side and some fairly traumatic back-story.
Sanjeet heads to the Library, where he has access to some specialist collections to investigate the Cult of Ariadne.
Rather than risking just making a roll to Create Advantage, he crosses off 3 boxes of Knowledge to learn as much as possible about the situation. This gets him the information and also two free Invokes of “Research into the Bull”
After an hour or so, he is visited by Tobias Prentis of the Lunar Society.
“When certain books are asked for, the Librarians let me know – why are you investigating the Cult of Ariadne today – of all days?”
When Sanjeet explains, Prentis warns that the ritual should not be interfered with as the Bull is tied into the magical wards of the City. Nicklos is a decent enough chap and leaves as big a gap between sacrifices as possible 7 years, only taking one sacrifice at a time instead of the 7 he would be allowed to take. At the time of the Ritual (for about a month) Nicklos gets supernatural powers but the rest of the time he is merely mortal. During the ritual the Bullring will be emptied of all but the shoplifter and the Spirit Bull. It will hunt and kill the sacrifice. Anyone caught in there will be immobilised, the glass walls and inner windows will be inviolate.
It appears that for the Ritual to be successful and the Protection to continue for another 7 years, the Bull can be killed (or at least this year’s spirit avatar of the Bull – this happened once thousands of years ago – some guy called Theseus but the story has become twisted), the sacrifice can be killed (what usually happens) or the sacrifice can evade the bull until daybreak (never been known to happen).
Unknown to the general public, there have been three attempted terrorist bombings of the Bullring. In each case the bomb failed to detonate. There have also been several shots fired at shopkeepers in the last 30 years, none of which has hit the target.
They concoct a plan to get themselves added to the list sacrifices so they can try to save the boy. They will have to let Nicklos catch them all shop-lifting and then convince him to name them as sacrifices. If they can defeat the Bull or stay alive until daybreak the Ritual will be appeased.