[Mage: the Awakening] Darker Days – Part 1

Kicking off the Actual Play Reports for Darker Days, my Mage: the Awakening campaign with this post. If you’re new, please check out the characters in this post. This will be written in a narrative style, and while I am using the Boston setting native to Mage: the Awakening, I’ve taken incredible liberties in characters, plot hooks and setting details so don’t be surprised when things end up different from the books.

Vardos stood in the middle of the high-rise condominium’s spacious living room, admiring the late afternoon view of the Boston skyline through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It was good to see how well his employees had done in cleaning after the place.

Blood was so difficult to get rid of, after all.

Along with him was his bodyguard, Kayode Olosula, better known as KO. Vardos had taken in the former child soldier and taught KO everything he needed to become a capable aide to Vardos’ numerous illegal activities.

KO checked his watch, and as if on cue, the doorbell rang.

“Good to see they’re at least punctual.” Vardos said, “Let them in.”

Pythagoras was not surprised in the least to see the swanky condominium unit that Vardos had chosen. He was even less surprised to look it up prior to visiting to see that it had belonged to someone who owed Vardos money… and that someone disappeared about a week ago.

His gaze immediately went to looking for a suspicious stain or two.

Pythagoras caught himself and checked out the other two people with him. Raider, the red-headed guy with the warfighter beard and physique to match looked like someone who could break his neck like a dry twig.

The other redhead was a girl who seemed more intent on her phone than listening to Vardos talking.

This was going to be a weird crew. But hey, if the pay’s good and there’s little in the way of harm, why not?

“A pleasant evening to all of you.” Vardos began, “The reason I called for you all today is that we’re sitting on something of a golden opportunity. We’re all either new to the city, or new to the city’s Awakened population at present, and my contacts have told me that a visiting foreign mage by the Shadow name of ‘Gilead’ was abducted while on his way to meet up with the Dead Wrens over at the Emerald Scroll.”

“Do they know who did it and why?” Raider prompted.

Jane Doe looked up from her phone, snapping it closed for emphasis, “Hold on, we can’t just poke our noses into the other cabal’s territories and not be held accountable.”

“I’m certain they’d have clues.” Vardos said to Raider before turning to Jane, “Astute observation. However, getting this concern resolved is a means to show the local Consilium that we’re potentially valuable to them.”

“By pissing off the Wrens.” Pythagoras spoke up, “Do we really want to start making enemies this soon?”

“As the old adage goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.” Vardos smiled, “Their misfortune is our opportunity. Given our diverse talents I’m certain that we’ll have this wrapped up all nice and tidy in time to make our official debut to the Consilium. And if we do this right…”

“We can still spin it to make it look like the Wrens owe us a favor.” Jane finished the sentence.

“I knew you’d all catch on quick. Now if there are no objections, let’s get to work.”

The Emerald Scroll

Jane’s current self was a self-styled social media “influencer” and the fact that she and Pythagoras were in a swanky Maybach on their way to the Emerald Scroll was just too good an opportunity to miss. They’d done a few posts by the time they arrived at the Dead Wren’s hideout.

It didn’t take long for Vardos to meet with Davy Jones. He was forthcoming enough, telling them that Gilead was supposed to arrive that night, and had come looking for them in order to sell something off. But rather than make it, Davy Jones had a bad premonition and sent one of his fellow Wrens, Sunjata, to see what’s up.

Sunjata caught a trace of a Fate spell and followed it to catch Gilead, seemingly unconscious being hauled into an unmarked van.

“That was a few days ago.” Jane asked, “Why didn’t you track him down?”

“Look, lass.” Davy shrugged, “Gilead was in the neighborhood, but he never made it to the Emerald Scroll. I’m all for the Law of Hospitality among the Awakened and all, just ask Sunjata over there, but Gilead’s an outsider. He may have enemies of his own. Sucks that such a fate befell him, but if it’s his problem… well, it’s his problem.”

Pythagoras shrugged, can’t argue that. Still, there was a job to do.

“How’d you get in contact with Gilead?” Pythagoras asked,

“Internet.” Davy said holding out a phone, “Chatted with us and all, sayin’ he needed something off his hands something fierce. Something valuable.”

“Mind if I?” Pythagoras waggled his fingers in the universal sign of magic.

Davy shrugged.

Pythagoras inspected the phone, hacking into it with an app he’d coded personally for it. He pulled the necessary identification off of Gilead’s connection: the wifi signal was named after The Verb Hotel.

Pythagoras gave the phone back, but not before inserting a backdoor program for himself. Might come in handy later on.

Armed with that information, the team split up: Vardos and Raider would check out the Verb Hotel, while Jane Doe and Pythagoras would inspect the area where Gilead was abducted. Davy sent Sunjata to accompany Jane and Pythagoras to make sure they found exactly where it was.

The Verb Hotel

Vardos and Raider arrived at The Verb Hotel. They had the barest information to work with, but that was hardly a concern for the Awakened.

Vardos settled into the restaurant, ordering their finest wine and making a scene to make sure that he had the management’s attention, while Raider sought out whom among the employees would be the most vulnerable for bribes.

The answer turned out to be a bellhop. A little bit of talk and some heavily implied wealthy patron, and soon the bellhop was leaning on a girl from the front desk he was dating to look up anyone who hadn’t been to his room for a few days.

They’d found their guy.

Vardos finished his wine, and made a scene of getting the bellhop to bring him to “his” room, and slipped the man a $500 bill for his trouble.

The Alley

Jane Doe and Pythagoras were already doing a sweep of the place. Pythagoras gave them both postcognitive sight over the past few days and ran over the abduction as it played out.

They saw Gilead, nervously making his way to the alley, one that was Fate-twisted to just happen to be abandoned at his arrival. The unmarked van came into being as soon as the Mind spell that concealed it from attention, and two men in military outfits and faces covered in balaclava masks jumped him with Mind spells. Gilead tried to to fend them off with his own magic but was knocked out.

Pythagoras and Jane ended their investigation there, and Sunjata prompted them if there was anything else they needed.

Jane shook her head as she made her call to Vardos. They had his face and his Nimbus. Hopefully it was enough.

Erase and Rewind

The team met up at Gilead’s hotel room, where Raider had already found some cash, and Gilead’s passport. With both Raider and Vardos being Mastigos mages, they had the means to use what they had right now to open a magical scrying window by means of the Space arcanum.

Taking the moment to focus themselves, Vardos crafted the scrying window, to reveal that Gilead was currently being held prisoner inside an abandoned church in Boston’s South End. The scrying window showed them that he was tied to a chair, clearly after some torture. The team also realized that one of the mages there had sensed the spell and quickly pulled down their mask and called out a warning to their friends.

That was when Pythagoras reversed time.

“Don’t.” Pythagoras held up a hand as Vardos was about to cast his scrying spell. “We did this and they sensed us.”

“What are you talking about?” Vardos asked.

“Just believe me.” Pythagoas said, “Read my mind, just the past five minutes.”

Vardos frowned but did so… and realized what Pythagoras had done.

“Do you do this all the time?”

“Only in emergencies. But there you have it, we know where he is, but we can’t risk opening a scrying window without precautions.”

“Duly noted.” Vardos straightened his suit, “I think I’m going to need to make a few calls. What you saw wasn’t just some ratty church, they had military grade technology.”

“And the methods were also similar to a group we’d heard of before.” Jane added, “Scorpio, a Seers of the Throne Pylon that operates in this area. They’re known for using harsh tactics, and paramilitary methodology.”

“Sounds fun.” Raider added helpfully, “I’m going to go get my gun.”

This Is The Way We Do Things in Boston

They could have asked for backup at this point, but Vardos knew a prize when he saw one. “We’ll have to do this carefully, and get both Gilead and whatever it was he was hoping to sell. The Seers took him and kept him alive, so it’s safe to say that only Gilead knows all it’s secrets.”

Raider would take point in the rescue team, while Jane and Pythagoras ran assistance. KO and Raider’s friend, Jack were also on-site to provide muscle if things went south.

“We’ll need C4.” Raider offered, “It’s a way to screw with all the gear they got.”

“I don’t think you can get those in Wallmart.” Jane shrugged.

“I can get them. Or rather, I know someone who can.” Vardos switched on his phone, “It won’t be cheap.”

“It’ll get the job done.” Raider offered by way of explanation.

Soon, they were ready. Vardos opened a highly secure (and extremely subtle) scrying window to the location, where they saw that Gilead was resting in his cell. But more importantly, there was an object that glowed with intense brilliance in Mage Sight.

“I’m guessing that’s our prize.” Pythagoras said, “Can we apport it over here?”

“Not yet.” Jane said, “I can see a Fate spell woven over the case. It’s triggered to alert them if we mess with it. Give me a moment.”

Jane Doe closed her eyes to filter out the distractions, focusing on the spells that held the Fate trigger in place. Using her control of the Prime Arcanum, she reached out and began to pull the strands apart without breaking them, preserving the spell while reallocating the parameters to allow them to take the contents.

After a few terse moments, she nodded. “Done. It’s safe to take it out. Once you have it, hand it to me and I’ll conceal it.”

“Wait…” Raider grinned, “Can you imitate the aura of the thing?”

“I think so, why?”

“Can you do it to this block of C4?”

Jane frowned, “You’re going to end up making a scene.”

“No, no, this is good.” Pythagoras said, “I’ll see if I can’t get footage online. That’ll make their headquarters useless to them when the cops hold an investigation and the conspiracy theorists get a hold of it.”

An hour later, the team got into position and went to work. Raider reached through the scrying window with his will, apporting the item into Jane’s hand. Jane looked at it, a strange bell without a clapper, covered in High Speech runes.

She tucked it into a Hermes bag that Vardos had bought her and began to make her way out of the area, weaving her spells to conceal the presence of such as thing along the way.

Meanwhile, Raider stepped through a portal of his own making, grabbing Gilead and handing him off to KO, before throwing two primed bricks of C4 and pulling out.

The explosions shook the entire neighborhood, even as Pythagoras pulled out his phone and used his fame as an internet streaming celebrity to document it as it happened, drawing the attention of his substantial fanbase to seeing the explosions and calling the authorities to it.

Strange Magics

While this was all happening, Jane Doe made her way as far away as possible, intending to put some distance away from possible scrying to look for the artifact. She was already coating it with magic, dampening the brilliant aura and working on altering its signature.

While she was doing so, she became aware that the item was altering her Mage Sight, giving her a strange overlay over her magical senses, but instead of detecting the flow of Mana and the leylines as her Prime senses would, she saw the flow of authority and power. Street signs glowed with imbued authority emanating from the government, while a passing soccer team were tethered to the coach and the team captain.

She wasn’t certain of what exactly she was experiencing, but it was a compelling visual: Authority was a resource and it could be redirected and controlled to manipulate societies as a whole.

Pull the right blocks and you can send the entire system into chaos.

One Hell of an Entrance

And that’s the summary for Session 1 of Darker Days! The team was composed of 3 players who have had experience with Mage before (Jane Doe and Pythagoras from Awakening and Vardos from Ascension) and Raider’s player was new to it but the result was nothing short of overwhelming success.

Certainly they’d stepped on a few toes (the Wrens for one, Scorpio, definitely was the other) but they’re suddenly in a much stronger position to present themselves to the Consilium. With a daring rescue of a foreign mage, a mysterious (and powerful!) artifact in tow and the Wrens owing them a favor for taking out Scorpio from their territories, the team has every right to make a show of presenting themselves to the Heirarch without the need for bowing and scraping.

What’s more, the artifact in their possession could also be a bargaining chip to get a place in Boston for their own that isn’t some stinking armpit of a district, and can open a lot of opportunities to interact with the other Cabals of the city.

Image Credits
– Highlight Image Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

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