The Equilibrium Files #5
It all began with a reckless mechanical digger. Rather, a reckless driver. Well, not really reckless, more unlucky. How was he to know as he began his shift at Gibsonville Airport that he would start a chain of events so potentially catastrophic?
The first sign that something was amiss was a sudden rush of wind that caused damage in the immediate area surrounding the Airport. Then the air in Gibsonville took on an odd quality. You couldn’t quite define what was wrong, but it had changed. Then, as quickly as it had come, the strange effect disappeared. Nobody thought any more about it. Who knew what was in the atmosphere in the late 21st Century? A couple of days later a dead security guard was found at the Airport. He had been patrolling the site of the new sub-orbital platform which was under construction. He had been brutally killed in a frenzied attack which had left his body torn apart. The police and, eventually, the Equilibrium agents were called to the scene.
As they arrived at the Airport the four mages were confronted by an angry scene. Demonstrators and security personnel were facing each other. The demonstrators carried banners and placards with ‘We Told You So’ and ‘Sacred Ground – Keep Out!’. They chanted and gestured belligerently at the security representatives who stood grimly silent, wielding their riot batons menacingly. Amidst this chaos the four agents could see one calm individual. They pushed through the crowd towards him. He was obviously ’Awakened’ and he turned to greet them. He introduced himself,
"Hi, I’m Fred Smith.” They shook his hand and made themselves known. During the conversation which followed, Fred told them how he and his fellow demonstrators had tried to warn the construction company about the dangers of working here. ‘Wheels’ agreed saying "Yeah, this area is well known for spirit activity and there have been a few unexplained happenings down the years.” It seems that Fred was a shaman and he knew a thing or two about this site. "If you can get me inside the site I can show you more easily what has gone wrong.” Without further ado the party moved towards the police line. The three mages showed their credentials and proceeded but a guard held out his hand to prevent Fred from getting any further. "OK you, step back, you’re not getting in.”
"It’s alright, he’s with us,” shouted Dreyfus over his shoulder, "let him through.”
Reluctantly the guard stepped aside but gave Fred a shove with his baton just to show his displeasure.
Fred took them to a large hole in the ground where the digging had broken the surface. Below they could make out a large cave or chamber illuminated by temporary electric light. A generator hummed quietly in the background. "This is what I wanted to show you, come on it’s quite secure.” He jumped the few feet to the cave floor. ‘Wheels’, ‘Potty’, Dreyfus and Father Jack followed. He beckoned them over and pointed to the wall of the cave. On the wall they could make out some faded markings which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a pictograph telling a story. As they followed the painting it showed a beast appearing and terrorising a tribal people. One of their holy men went on a vision quest and was shown the means to subdue and capture the beast. The pictures also indicated that the beast was trying to get to a magical spring from which it had to drink to sustain itself. Fred explained that the spring was called ‘The Well of Manitou’. The tribes people were using a totem to keep the beast away from the spring. Eventually the beast was captured and its body imprisoned in a cave, presumably the one in which the five mages were now standing. The spirit of the beast was banished by the holy man. A magical symbol was shown, evidently a locking spell which kept the beast’s body and spirit separate. Fred then showed them a shattered stone which bore the locking symbol from the cave wall.
"This is bad,” said Father Jack, "It looks like the feckin’ spirit has joined the body and the beast is up to its old tricks again.”
Fred nodded, "but all is not lost”. From his pocket he produced the totem. "We can use this to banish the spirit again and then imprison the body. I will need to perform a ceremony to activate it and I’m afraid I must ask you all for a small sacrifice of some of your essence.” They looked at each other and silently agreed.
They accompanied Fred to a quiet spot away from prying eyes. He lit a small fire around which they all sat. Then he rummaged around in his back pack, eventually pulling out an ornately carved pipe. He quietly filled the bowl with some shredded green leaves and played a match over it. He began to chant rhythmically to himself. Then he inhaled deeply and passed the pipe to Dreyfus on his left, encouraging him to do the same. Soon all five were under the influence of the pipe. In their dreamlike state their spirits seemed to leave their bodies and circle over their heads. The spirits appeared to separate and coalesce like clouds blown in some ethereal wind. Eventually, all but a small part of their spirits returned to their bodies. The fragment of spirit which did not return to their bodies whirled towards the totem and merged with it, giving it a bright glow.
It took them some time to return to normal after the ritual and they all felt a little confused and woolly headed for a few minutes. When they recovered they renewed the pursuit of the beast with new enthusiasm.
Returning to the excavation they scanned the underground cave for magical residue and soon they were on the beasts trail. They followed the signature deeper and deeper until they came to a sewer. The trail seemed to turn back on itself at certain points, as if the beast was searching for a way to something. They could sense that they were getting closer to the beast and prepared for battle. Suddenly a terrifying howl echoed along the sewer, reverberating and setting their ears to ringing. As one the five men stood rooted to the spot in a confusion of fear and indecision. ‘Wheels’ was the first to recover and he set about snapping the others out of their shock. "Come on guys” he exhorted "we can’t let this creature get loose in the city.” The others responded quickly and they headed off through the stench and the unpleasant looking liquid of the sewer. Unfortunately, there pause meant that they lost the trail. They found a route to the street, emerging carefully and safely out of a manhole in the middle of a busy mid-town street. ‘Wheels’’ commlink made its presence known.
"Hi this is Driscoll, we’ve got another body ripped open like the one at the Airport. She’s lying on a street corner Downtown.”
‘Wheels’ thanked the detective and turned to his companions. "We’d best get down there.”
"Looks like the beast is heading for the posh end of the city, maybe the park. Remember it needs to drink from some spring. Lots of fountains in the park.” He switched his commlink and spoke; "Hey, Cyberchief” he was speaking to Equilibrium’s resident computer expert, "Can you check if any of the water features in the park correspond to an ancient spring called ‘The Well of Manitou’?”
"Give me a few minutes and I’ll get back to you.” Cyberchief replied.
The five headed for the scene of the latest killing, Downtown. When they arrived the area was cordoned off, police everywhere. They caught Driscoll’s eye and he led them over to the body. An open manhole cover could be seen in the road. Obviously this was how the beast had gotten onto the street. The unfortunate victim was covered in a sheet. Driscoll lifted it and the group saw a horrifically broken body, unrecognisable as human. They almost threw up but managed to maintain their composure.
"We must find this creature and deal with it before anyone else gets hurt” said ‘Potty’.
Dreyfus’ commlink beeped; "I’ve got that intel you wanted,” it was Cyberchief. "One of the fountains near the city zoo seems to be fed by an underground spring which could be the one you’re looking for.” He gave the details.
"Thanks,” said Dreyfus "Come on dudes, we’re onto something.” They headed to the park.
It was getting dark as they arrived at the park. They took a few minutes to find the fountain Cyberchief had identified and then they settled down to await events. As the time wore on they began to wonder if they were at the right spot and doubts set in. They had just about given up when there came a noise from the zoo. Bellows, howls and grunts from different species filled the air, gradually getting louder and more agitated. "Maybe we are in the right place”, they thought. Then the shrubs and bushes ahead of them began to rustle and shake violently and with a hideous growl the beast burst into view and rushed towards them. Intent on drinking from the pool around the fountain the beast lumbered forward with single minded determination. ‘Potty’ drew his firearm and fired, hitting the beast in the body. The bullet was deflected by the beast’s bony outer covering and it carried on to its destination. "I’ve just the thing to stop it” said ‘Wheels’ and he produced a heavy gun with armour piercing ammo. He fired and dealt the beast a deadly blow. It staggered on, still trying to get to the fountain and recovery but the wound proved too much. It collapsed in front of the five, a huge hole in its armour and dark ichor pouring from its body. Quickly, Father Jack held up the totem and intoned a banishing spell. The beast’s body writhed and shuddered as its spirit tried to stay with it but the spell succeeded in separating the two. Dreyfus called Equilibrium for back up and a clean-up crew arrived with a lead container they happened to have handy into which the body was sealed. The locking sign was painted onto the container and it was whisked away to a secure location. Satisfied, the group got ready to leave.
A whirling cloud approached them. "What the feck now?” shouted Father Jack, but before anyone could reply they were swept up by the cloud. After a severe buffeting the cloud dispersed and they found themselves on a lush plain and a figure was approaching them from the horizon. "This ain’t Gibsonville Toto,” said ‘Potty’, doing his famous Judy Garland impersonation. "Shut up,” the others said in unison. As the approaching figure got closer they could make out it was that of a Native American woman in a shining dress and riding a white horse. She spoke;
"I am White Buffalo Calf Woman. You have saved your city from the beast which once threatened my people. You deserve a reward.” She waved her hand and the totem glowed faintly. Faint wisps flew from the totem and circled the four mages, one wisp entering each of their bodies. The essence they had given up was being returned to them. "There is a further gift I give to you. You will each be given an eagle’s wing.” ‘Wheels’ and the rest looked puzzled.
"That’s a bit big isn’t it?” he said, "A feather would be more manageable”
"My apologies” said WBCW "It has been a while since I granted a gift. An eagle’s feather it is then. Its magic will protect you when you are in most need.”
As she turned to leave there was a slight flicker and they were returned to the park. They headed home knowing they had done a good job and looking forward to the next case.