The Coldest War

The Haunter in the Darkness

Professor Novell came to Mizz Stockton’s office to thank her for her hospitality and make veiled snide remarks about the savagery of her justice system. He did, however, wish to discuss one other matter. He brought up the ex-Academic named Visage who had been granted shelter in Mount Safeco some many months before. He informed Mizz Stockton that Visage had been a… specialist… in the “occult sciences”, an area the Academics typically disdain. Their rare-book vault and book-restoration rooms had been storing a number of rare occult tomes on loan from Harvard and Miskatonic Universities thirty years ago when the madness had hit, and those books had been kept safe ever since, until Visage stole them. She had been fleeing when the King’s Gang had caught her, and when Stockton’s people ultimately rescued her. Novell wanted to know if she had paid for her rescue in books, and whether she had gone on to the Refined.

Stockton and Silver gave vague answers that did not satisfy Professor Novell, but before their conversation could conclude, all power cut out again.

The Tower went on high alert, and prepared for an attack, which never came. Some hours later, however, word reached the folks in the Supper Club, as well as Mizz Stockton, that the Provost of the Academics himself, Wisher Thomas, was in the lobby with a few wounded Huskies (his gang). Surprised that the Provost himself should be there, various folks converged on the lobby of the Tower.

The Provost seemed to recognize Rhyme, even though he hadn’t seen her since she was five. As Cass patched up his three men, he indicated that Rhyme had spoken in his dreams in the morning hours, and he woke as the Academics were under attack. After some hours of trying to figure out what was happening, he ultimately was forced to flee and find help.

The Huskies were shaken, and their wounds were unearthly. They spoke to Cass of tentacles, and hooked spikes, and a burning eye.

Stockton invited the Provost to a private conference room. He asked for Rhyme, Cass, and (strangely) Beckett to be brought along. In private, he told the tale of a malign darkness that erupted from the rare-book vaults deep below the Suzallo Palace, an entity of tentacles and barbed hooks and flapping wings that struck from the shadow. He spoke of electricity being cut, and slaughter and screams in the parking garage below Red Square which was the heart of the Academics’ fortress. He also spoke of a mysterious woman, dressed identically to Beckett, armed with an assault rifle, who was helping to lead the fight to resist the creature as the Provost fled.

Beckett went to search for Specialist Jackson while Stockton summoned the Regents for a meeting. The Provost then had a mostly-private conversation with Rhyme where he revealed that he was not entirely insensitive to alternate realities, as part of his job was to be at least passingly familiar with ALL academic fields. He posited that somehow Visage had struck her revenge.

The Regents decided that something needed to be done, and quickly, if power was to be restored. They suggested sending a significant force of arms, but holding the Have Rats in reserve, having them guard the Tower while Team Badass, the Rocket Men, and various independent mercenaries such as Sunny and Navarre should be sent under the command of Firestone and Rhyme.

The meeting was crashed by Smith who made a play to be elevated to Regent, with the title “The Sorceress” or something similar. She even had a written CV. She made the case that there was no Regent specialized in mysterious occult forces. To prove her value, she told Stockton and the Regents about the entity they were facing, and told them that Rhyme had already faced it and defeated it once. Apparently the creature’s weakness was light, and so cutting the power was likely the first thing it or its agents did.

With a plan decided upon, the Provost himself volunteered to go with the assault party. Everyone purchased or procured light sources, from old flashlights to kerosene lamps. After some discussion, they opted for a direct assault on the fortified entrance to the parking garage, taking on the malign entity directly. They arrived and saw the fortified gates already half-open, with torn-apart Huskies lying dead. They shone their lights into the darkness and saw carnage. Rhyme quested with her mind to seek out the entity and…

Every found themselves on a lifeless plain of charcoal dust with basalt rock formations under a sky only slightly illuminated with half-seen stars. Beckett recognized the place immediately. Her squad had found this world by accident through a gate and been slaughtered, with only herself and Jackson surviving. Team Badass immediately began driving in a defensive circle, the light of their motorcyle headlights providing a fence of illumination. Sunny fired the machine gun on Firestone’s tank to keep the half-seen tentacles and flapping horrors at bay while Navarre, looking about, came to the intuitive conclusion that they were not actually, physically, in another world, but that rather Rhyme had opened her mind and drawn everyone, including the Haunter in the Dark, into a mental mindscape. It took some effort on the part of everyone to convince Rhyme that she had the power to change her own dreams, but ultimately Rhyme made daylight arrive, and the Haunter vanished in a puff of charcoal dust and smoke.. but not until after it tried to seize Navarre, who ended up with its symbol burned in his forehead, and not until it tried to seize one of the wounded Huskies, who died while Cass was distracted.

They were once more standing in front of the parking garage. As the sun set, they explored the charnal house that had been the Academics’ fortress. Ultimately, in the light of the setting sun through stained glass, they found survivors on the upper levels of the Suzallo library building. The survivors were being led by Specialist Jackson, who was covered in blood, wielding two knives, her rifle having run out of ammunition. The fierce, fevered look in her eye faded when she saw Beckett, and she pleaded to be taking home… not the Tower, but Home.

Navarre and Beckett accompanied the Provost and Rhyme into the rare-book vaults to find where the creature had come from. Rhyme discovered the creature’s symbol burned into the underside of one of the tables, and pushed…

She vanished.



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