Cat had been walking around London minding his own business and began to notice something – it was Christmas, but people were short tempered, angry and… well… selfish as all hell. He started too, to notice that sometimes, he could see a sort of ghost image of the crueler people being nice… and it reminded him of the odd ghost cemetery he had seen a week before – so, he headed to the National Enquirer office to find his way into the Library – to see if this was related.
Meanwhile, Codex was looking after her books when she felt one get jostled and DROPPED. She rushed to see who had done such a crime and found a slightly translucent young woman floating about the shelves and tossing books here and there. Codex picked up her volume, saw that the spine had been bent – and SCREAMED
Cat arrived to find Coppelia telling a young boy that a 1st Edition “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens had gone missing from the Library. Harmonia Hook & Tim Dresden were also at the reference desk when there was a SCREAM from deeper in the Library. The group ran to investigate.
What they found was Codex (whom none had yet met) battling a small pale floating ghost child. Codex was shooting book pages from her hands and the pages were wrapping themselves around the evil looking elfin child ghost thing. It in turn, was screaming at her and trying to bite and claw her with sharp nails and teeth.
Q, Tim & Harmonia joined the frey, but the Cat (being a cat) did not. A second foe appeared out of the stacks – an 8 foot tall broad shouldered man in a worn velvet coat with rotting vegetables making up his beard. The floating elfin child tried her best to take refuge under large man’s robe – but Codex was too angry over the damaged book to let the little girl escape.
Cat, instead of fighting, camouflaged himself and snuck around behind the foul smelling warped version of the Ghost of Christmas Present – what he found in the stacks behind… was an open book.
The tide of the fight was starting to turn. Things were getting ugly….. and then…. the enemies just started to … fade away. Q, Harmonia, Tim & Codex were left with nothing but the view of the Cat – sitting on top of a closed book, flicking his tail and licking at his paw.
They investigated the area – and the Cat found a puddle of blood where the book should have been shelved. Tim, being a handy wizard type, did some woogie magic shit and created a compass that would lead them to the source of the blood. So, they all followed the wizard through the stacks into the darkness.
The book shelves started to look a bit different, and then when people hadn’t been paying attention, they seemed to be replaced with trees and the library gave way to a forest. When they tried to go back, the pathway they had come on was gone. So – through the forest they roamed – following the compass.
The Cat, being a long lived creature, looked around the forest and decided that it was… well…. old. Or rather…. the trees were from his memory – from the 1600’s to be precise. Harmonia, looked to the stars to figure out where they were. Oh, she couldn’t see the sky through the trees – no problem – she climbed a tree and tried again. Oh hey! Stars!
“Spain.” she declared. “We’re in Spain. In the damn middle of Spain.”
“In the 1600s” added the Cat…. not very helpfully.
They came to a clearing in the wood and saw in the clearing a large cemetery. The wizard’s compass started to go haywire pointing all over the place in an arc. As he stepped into the cemetery the arc got wider, and wider, and wider – until in the center of the graves, the compass did nothing but spin in circles. Tim claimed that such behavior from the spell was not normal.
There was some infighting in the group as accusations about bad spells got thrown around and the validity of magic in general…. but then it hit Tim. The blood was a blend – a sample that came from more than one source….. and those sources were now surrounding him – the blood was from ALL of these graves.
The realization seemed to unnerve some of the party and so they looked around with more alertness which is when they spotted the giant Reaper in the corner of the clearing.
Codex, went to try and talk with the Reaper – who seemed amenable to conversation…. albeit telepathically. While she “talked” to giant scary reaper dude, Q was made aware of another figure that had come out of the trees – a grave digger. Skinny, no, scrawny underfed, dirty, covered in blood and carrying a shovel.
So, with a creepy dude in opposite corners, they discovered that the gravedigger’s name was Cervantes – for some reason, lost to time and memory, Harmonia ended up using her sword to cut off one of Cervantes’ legs. He didn’t seem to mind the loss of this limb and continued to stand there staring with menace.
Codex’s conversation with the Reaper was a lot like talking to a zen master spitting koans at you. Which is to say, none of it really seemed to make all that much sense… .until later. Notable here however, is that as a sacrifice offered to the Reaper to talk and to pass by, she gave him one of the dead seeds from her dead forrest.
The group investigated the cemetery a bit more and found that all the graves were for women named Maria and that the oldest grave was for a Maria Ebeneza – they took this as a good sign that they were on the right track to finding the missing Dickens book. Harmonia pulled out her map and discovered that it was different than it had ever been – but it had an X on it, and a trail from the cemetery, to a tavern, to a windmill, to a knight, to the X – so, leaving the Reaper and Cervantes behind, they made their way onward.
After traveling through some very empty, desolate and VERY cold landscape, they came to a tavern. At the tavern they met Dulcinea the bar maid who told them that every Maria who had come to town in the last year or so had been killed and buried in the graveyard. They also learned that the very first Maria had lived up the road at the lending house by the crossroads.
The heroes left the tavern and headed up the road to where Dulcinea had directed them – coincidentally, the path was the same as the one on Hortencia’s map and thus it led them past a windmill. Since the windmill was on the treasure map, the group decided to go inside and check it out.
They found the mill to be abandoned and run down, yet inside it seemed that the mill stone HAD been put to recent use. Investigating more closely, they found that the mill stone had been used to grind human bones into flour. After making this discovery, they all decided it was time to leave the mill – though a sample was taken for further study. Ew.
Before leaving, Codex looked through the “flour” barrels and found that her seed offering was in the flour….. but was no longer a dead seed – but live and viable. Needless to say, she pocketed it right quick!
Further down the road they reached the house they had been directed to – which a sign on the door proclaimed as the “Marley lending house”. The downstairs was a cold and unfriendly business with frozen inkwells and dust collecting everywhere from the months of disuse. Upstairs, was an living space with two bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was clearly meant for a little girl – complete with a knight style rocking horse. In the adult bedroom, they found a series of personal journals that documented Maria Ebaneeza’s descent into madness from her despair over losing her young daughter Maria.
They searched so thoroughly, that under the floorboards of the child’s room, they found what appeared to be a book on how to summon demons. Tim, was able to decipher some of the script and rituals and learned that in this world, a summoned spirit feeds off of two types of energy – their primary energy, the energy that is offered in the summoning – and their secondary PREFERRED energy – that is, the type of energy that they actually want and will accept as a way to end their summoning. Often, these two energies are diametrically opposed.
By doing some comparison between the rituals in the book and the journals, the group learned that Maria had summoned a demon and offered it her sanity and regular feedings of blood. This meant that to banish said demon, they would likely have to offer it life or insanity.
Checking Hortencia’s map, they found that the house was not actually the final X marked on the map, so they continued along the map’s path and found a large stone circle – with one stone tipped over into the circle almost like a diving board. The X marked the center of the circle. Tim was hesitant to cross into the circle, but after some investigation was satisfied that it was not currently active.
Digging in the center of the circle they did in fact find treasure – the missing First Edition Dickens’ Christmas Carol from the Library!
Looking around, Tim realized that this circle was a portal type circle. In the demon summoning book, he found a ritual to open a circle – they’d found a way home! Or… at least… a way out of here. After some discussion, the heroes decided that wherever the portal went would be better than here. So fuck it – let’s do it.
First though, they returned to the bar to get some materials needed for the circle opening. In doing so, they realized that Dulcinea was in fact – bat shit crazy. She was ranting and raving to thin air. The heroes had an idea – bring the summoned demon to Dulcinea and offer it her insanity to banish it.
But wait – the Reaper hadn’t asked for blood OR sanity…. wasn’t he the summoned demon? They went back to the graveyard and talked again to the Reaper. No, he had not been summoned – he had been displaced from his own book by the summoned “demon.” All heads turned toward “Cervantes” who laughed like a madman. They offered HIM Duclinea’s insanity – and he jumped at the chance.
Back at the bar, Cervantes drank away the blissful pillow of Dulcinea’s insanity which banished him back to his book “The Murderous Ghosts of Christmas” and returned her to her sane state in which she again had to face the fact that she was Maria, her daughter was dead and she had killed dozens of people in order to forget that trauma.
The “heroes” left her like that – crying in the bar – awkwardly walking out into the cold towards the portal opening.
Returning to the stone circle, Tim used his occult expertise to cast the spell that summoned the portal. It shot from the ground and each hero jumped into it like a swimming pool – vanishing from that world. Tim was the last one to go – using the diving board rock to hang onto and while half in the portal wiped away the chalk glyphs on that rock to close the portal behind them.
With a lurching snap of reality – they all found themselves back in the Library where they returned the missing book to Coppelia