The party rolls into town. It is nothing like what they expected, a tent town.
Two men with hunting rifles are standing guard at the front gate, literally a cow gate that swings open. They motion for the vehicle to stop and the party does so. Ben steps out and tells the guards that they are there to collect a bounty and fix up the van.
The group doesn’t even see vehicles upon entering the town. They see some scraps, mules, and malnourished and potentially mutated cattle penned to the side. The party can feel the eyes of the town watch them as they drive into town.
Hammond asks Steve where the local law dog/sheriff might be located. Steve directs them to a structure in the middle of town with wooden star on it.
Hammy and Nigel head to the sheriff’s shack. They pass some withered crops and thin cows. They arrive at the building. It looks like an old tourist info hut from a park.
They enter and find a portly fellow sipping on what smells like alcohol. He’s less than welcoming to the two of them. They mention the bounty and show him the bounty sheet from the JLA. The sheriff demands some kind of proof. They offer the data slug, but he has no way to view it. If they want the bounty, they’ll have to find a way to show him.
The two of them head back to the front of town to meet the rest of the party. Ben has completed the wheel repairs, but needs additional materials to repair the body and a plunger to pop out some of the dents. The posse converses about how the townsfolk seem a little off.
Marilyn and Soria hang back and watch over the van. Ben mills about in town to see if anyone is willing to speak. He shows off his Dragon emblems in the hopes someone will recognize the symbol and open up. It actually has quite the opposite effect; many of the townsfolk actively avoid him.
Nigel and Hammy ask around about getting a data recorder/player, but they get the cold shoulder. Steve gives them a little advice- “They keep to themselves, and if you want to be safe, you should do the same. Basic trading is fine, just don’t start a ruckus.”
They pay a man to look for a the supplies they need. While the man is rummaging around, a shady character offering to do some REAL trading approaches them. He claims to know what they are (cyborg, templar, and syker). However he is only willing to do business in private. Also, they will need to buy something from him now and then make a public scene about how they’ve been ripped off- just to keep up his reputation as an “insider”.
Hammy makes a counter offer- He could openly claim to be the mysterious trader’s long lost friend, and bring the trader under scrutiny from the town. The trader accepts and with a wink, storms off shouting out “Not worth doing business with you cheap ass strangers!”
They all reconvene at the van. Ben and Soria stay back to watch over it, but keep the radio communications open. Nigel, Marilyn, and Hammond all head to the mysterious trader’s hut.
The place is fully stocked with items of all kinds. The trader sits at a table listening to a music box. He creepily describes the three of them, with eerie details of their pasts. After this he is willing to do business. “Ask, and I will most likely have want you want- but know this, I do not seek sustenance for payment.”
The trader proceeds to ask them what they “want”. Not what they are looking to trade, but what they really want. Nigel wants to have his human essence. They trader can arrange something, but what will be the payment. While Nigel thinks, the trader asks Marilyn.
She says he has nothing that she wants. He agrees, for he cannot bring back her parents. Just then Ben radios in and mentions the parts for the van. They make a deal. They trade him deodorant and black mind seeds in exchange for the data reader and an aluminum boat hull (parts).
Ben comes to make the payment. When he arrives the trader asks the same question of him. Ben replies, stating he wants to “get the hell out of this town- but there’s nothing in this world I would want from you.”
When the trader asks Hammond, his request is a bit of a surprise. Hammy requests the music box. Intrigued, the Trader points out that the box may hold an answer for Hammond- if the price is right. Hammond offers the Bible as payment. The trader questions why. “The music box contains answers, and for me this book has also contained answers.” The offer is accepted.
Nigel finally decides to trade his tea set. The trader hands him a scroll and begins to tell a great tale of a brave chased by a bear. The brave hid on a peak, known as the Star Chamber, while the bear fruitlessly clawed away at the mountain. This place has come to be know as the Devil’s Tower. At this point there is a thin divide between our world and the Hunting Grounds. Go there and perform this ritual. “You will have an opportunity to defeat the Manitou and reclaim your independence.”
The transaction complete, the trader asks all to exit except Hammond. They do so, but as they exit Ben realizes there is something he would like. He runs back and interrupts the two men. “I want this translated” he says as he reveals the grimoire. The trader agrees and takes Ben’s Dragon clasp (his own, not his love’s clasp)
The trader reads the passage. It is part of an old song. This is the book of a demon. He thrives on the corruption, especially of children. Marilyn, being as strong willed and lively as she is, is a perfect candidate. The demon plans to use her as its mother. “It will choose another. A tainted one to impregnate her.” The birth will bring the incubus into this world, free from the rule of the 4 horsemen.
It is a powerful demon, but it can be destroyed. It is one of defilement, and its undoing will come from a counter to that.
The trader agrees to continue the private discussion with both men, as he now sees their fates are entwined. Both have given themselves to greater causes, and their actions may also be essential to the fate of this world.
The trade answers their questions. Hammond asks if the trader is a man. He IS mortal. He then asks Hammond of his thoughts regarding if a terrible man can find redemption.
Ben asks about the battleground/torture bunker he had seen in Twitch’s brain- this is the lair of the incubus. The place they seek is located in the heart of Kansas. The trader asks Ben if he would have performed all of these good deeds if his love had not died.
Hammonds also asks of the curse ( the trader points it out before he can even finish the questions). Go to it’s origin (McGovern Air Base- AZ) Solve the mystery.
Hammy then asks about the comment regarding their influence on the fate of the world.
The trader speaks of things to come-
A great flood of machine force and mind will come from the mountains in order to overtake the jewel of the desert
Then the trader offers to read the men their cards, a glimpse at whatever the question is in their mind. Think of one thing you wish to know- then choose cards
Hammond’s Cards read:
Past Responsibility, hard work, solvency, without extravagance, new things are favored.
Present A gift, token from a friend, or perhaps a gift given.
Future Ambition, strategy, a practice that is successful, seeing the big picture, things may come to a head, but may not pay attention to the details
Ben’s Cards read:
Past Suffering, victimization, depletion, constant battle, faltering
Present Pressure, external stress, reject further demands, need to put self first
Future Honor and compassion, calm integrity, passion and wisdom, understanding, honorable conduct, comfort, positive response
The trader then pulls a final card, one that applies to the whole party. “I seek an answer, to the question. The path you tread goes forward. Where is that path’s future? This is an important omen. Before you is a dilemma; a suppressed doubt. A person may need to make a decision on their own. The limitations may be self imposed. “
Then the trader offers to give them some info about himself. While he appears roughly 30, he had spent 200 years in the Hunting Grounds. He found a shaman and wandered the hunting grounds through heaven and hell. Eventually he was so overcome, he cried a great river of tears. He tried to drown himself in the river, but when he awoke he was in this body, in this time. All of his travels and the spirits he had defeated in the hunting grounds gave him additional spirit powers. He elaborates how he was able to identify each of their arcane backgrounds. He sends them on their way. Hammy asks for his name- Prophet. John Prophet.