(Changes are made in italics)
The delegation, which consists of Destiny, Decklund, Sam, and Katherine (who doesn’t talk much but seems to have been convinced to come by Decklund) plus whatever PCs want to come as well (it is clearly described as dangerous – Sam things very, Decklund thinks not very), teleports to a location near the Verbena sanctum in the Ramble of Central Park. Katherine facilitates this in a specially-prepared room beneath the cyber cafe that is the Virtual Adept sanctum – that seems to only have Katherine left staying there. The trip is uneventful, though obviously taxing to Kat, though Decklund is able to help, and Esther is helping from her end (she has a resonance that feels more distinctive when it subtly invades the VA sanctum – a brief smell of wilderness and a great deal else). You walk into the room (it is crowded) and close the door. There is a lot of humming and crackling from outside as Kat works, and you open the door into the Ramble of Central Park.
Michael is there in the form of a huge, fierce-looking wolfhound. Esther is also there – she has taken the form of a polar bear, and is a huge, hulking white mass in the moonlight. (if anyone reads the newspaper, there is a story of an unexplained disappearance of a female polar bear from the Central Park Zoo after closing time the previous day)
Esther guides you to a pool and explains, briefly, in a polar-bear murmur, that she will scry for them in the pool and speak with them, and if they have to come through directly, they’ll have to go through one at a time. Again, Decklund helps, and if Sway is there she can assist as well.
The scene that eventually materializes (again, with great effort, as wards are in place, and there is no doubt forewarning of the scrying attempt) is lit by bonfire. Nashota is there, glaring up at the delegation, gripping a staff decorated with feathers and bones and dressed like an urban survivalist.
Esther opens her jaws to speak and Decklund puts a hand on her foreleg and speaks first. “Nashota, good to see you’re well. Is Hakanamut there? We need to speak.”
“I know why you’re here and I know what you have to say. Its taken you long enough to speak up, or do much of anything. You’re answer is: we are Red Spears first, Dreamspeakers second, and members of your Council third. The world dies as you fools fritter away your gifts in idle pursuits. Meanwhile we fight. We draw blood. We risk. And sometimes we feast.” Decklund moves but Nashota goes on “which brings us to your other concern. Yes, this land is watered with blood and cleansed with fire. The land grows strong. The blood is the blood of our enemies, the dream-killers, and they are not to be mourned. We grow strong by feeding on our enemies. It is the way of things.” At this point another presence suddenly enters the background – a large presence that can be perceived by its huffing breath and heavy footfalls in the dry leaves blanketing the ground. Occasionally a huge shadow passes between Nashota and the bonfire.
Decklund nods slowly, thinking on his feet. “I see Hakanamut is there and I assume he agrees, and Yuma as well, doubtless. Ok. Well, we haven’t come to the main reason for this visit. There’s a territorial dispute between you and the Verbena that has to get resolved. We -“
Nashota face darkens – “That is no business of yours. We have claimed this land by blood and fire; it is ours. The Verbena are rotten, weak roots, thin blood. They have forgotten who gives them life. As in all things, the strong survive” everyone feels it in their guts as Esther tenses and begins growling, deeply vibrating in everyone’s bones “and they will here as well.”
Decklund is silent for a moment. “I see. So we’ve come to an impasse. Very well. You know, this couldn’t have been a lot simpler.” There are clearly other presences in the clearing with Nashota now, flitting through the darkness, making soft, mournful, angry sounds. “But, well, your seat has been empty for a while now, and I suppose it can be empty for a while longer. Since it doesn’t sound like you’re going to stop causing us trouble, well, like you said, the strong will survive. And I think you might be surprised.”
Everything, at this point, goes straight to hell. Esther roars and plunges into the pool, emerging in the clearing near Nashota in a flurry of flashing claws and teeth. The clearing erupts with ripples of malevolent presence who swarm Esther. Michael follows, swelling and becoming something more fierce and otherworldly. Blood already stains Esther’s fur, and the floor of the clearing comes alive with crawling, biting things and writhing poisonous thorns erupt from the ground.
Sam hesitates, grimaces, and dives through the pool into the clearing, landing with a hiss of pain as he is surrounded and swarmed and stung. His lightsaber flahes to life and a the green light begins cutting through everything around him in blazing arcs. Decklund cuts a sigil on his left arm and the thorns and swarms begin writing and dying, but slowly. Esther and another furry hulk engage with roars of agony and rage. Michael overbears Nashota, who changes her own shape and emits a terrifying roar.
Howard activates an array of small, battered satellite-type dishes which begin to emit a low, tinny thrumming sound. Alistair dives through the portal, gun blazing.
Nashota drives Michael back and he is buried beneath wraiths, now clearly manifesting and striking and tearing at him, howling and shrieking as they do. Esther overwhelms Hakanamut and catches his skull in her jaws and crushes it with a sickening crunching sound that goes on and on as his bulk shudders and then goes finally still.
Sam appears to be sheathed in a layer of energy which the wraiths have trouble penetrating, and he slashes at them, severing the ones that manifest around him. He is quickly surrounded by the burned stumps of severed vines.
Nashota, seeing Hakanamut in Esther’s bloody jaws, screams in rage and plunges her staff into the ground. Vines erupt and engulf Michael, and Alistair leaps among them, gripping his medallion and shouting something about the saints.
Sam turns and leaps across the clearing, sailing through the air and smoothly severs Nashota’s legs just above the knee, cutting her scream short and putting her into shock as the cauterized wounds smoke.
It is over in seconds, drawn out only by the power of the wards on both sides.
After that, there is some cleanup left, but not much. Yuma does not make an appearance at and hurried scrying brings no result. Hakanamut is dead and his corpse is now a slack heap of smoldering bones and skin which decays into ash in moments. Esther is unmarked and radiates power. Michael and Alistair are both ragged and bloody, and Alistair collapses in exhaustion, his body shaking with privation and exertion. Michael is alive but only barely so – many bones are broken and his body is flooded with poison. The wraiths are driven off relatively easily, having been quickly depleted in the battle. Nashota is alive but deep in shock and is easily kept alive and unconscious both. It seems her spirit has escaped her body and fled into the Umbral Wilds.
Sam looks up at Decklund through the still-active connection. “I don’t think that was the right thing to do, but perhaps it was unavoidable.”
Decklund is wrapping his arm with a bandage from his suit pocket. “Well, I think it would have come to this at some point. I just wish they’d been more cooperative. We might miss them before too long – and really, only one of the three is dealt with…decisively.”
Esther emerges from the shadows, now a small, wrinkled, stooped nude woman with shining eyes and a palpable aura of power. Her gaze takes in both scenes, the clearing and those watching through the connection. “We…are in your debt.” Even now Michael’s body is knitting back together and he coughs and stirs.
(I think we’ll work out the last few days of downtime and begin the day before the next Council meeting or thereabouts)