JADE - A Scent of Ebb

by Simon Naylor 

By now most Ebons will be itching for a Jade, but will have little knowledge of the deeper workings. Here’s a chance for them to earn a few points of Formula, maybe more if they’re prepared to take a few risks.

Curis’s Tale

Three weeks ago Curis visited friend, Jennifer Maxwell, in Orienta. Maxwell has found artifact in market that looks like it might interest her. The artifact is a pale mask made from a sort of ceramic with what look like glyphs carved into the inside. Staying in Orienta for a few days, Curis studies the item. She doesn’t recognise the glyphs and she feels the item faintly trying to draw Ebb from her. She emails her old professor at Meny for advice, who refers her to several documents on ancient glyphs. She pores over copies of these for several days before deciding there are no similarities, and throws them away. Still curious, she books passage on her SLA account by foldship to Static and spends a week investigating the item at the Tas-Tuo. Discussing the item with one of the librarians, she eventually finds a description. The item is named The Pallid Mask, and according to her research can be worn to contact other people who have worn, or will wear it. Curious but sceptical, she tries the mask on. She is surprised to find herself looking at an ancient Tas-Tuo, and sitting across from her an Ebon woman with a set of glyph cards. Both women face each other in astonishment before Curis tears off the mask in horror. Shocked, Curis packs up and makes to head for Mort so that she can present her find to Dark Lament. Something is wrong though. In her dreams she is stalked by gibbering creatures. The things crawl as a bat would, slowly making their way towards her. She can’t shake the feeling that these creatures are real, and are genuinely coming for her. Postponing her departure, she returns to the Tas-Tuo for the sake of her sanity. Again studying for several days she finds a description – Dour Hounds. Encountered 200 years ago by a Brain Waster from whom they took their name, they followed him through ‘the corners of time’, gradually making up the distance. Dour was, as is Curis, unable to shake the feeling that he was being hunted by the foul beings and took steps. Taking huge risks he volunteered for a black BPN which would take him into a Thresher holdout on the far side of Cannibal Sector 1. The exact details of the BPN are classified, but it would seem Dour survived and, unknown to anyone at the time, managed to attain an earlier model Vaph assault rifle, complete with depleted uranium ammunition. Dour then waited for his stalkers to arrive in the hope that the DU would destroy these creatures from the Ebb. He was right, when a pair of hounds arrived Dour was ready and opened fire with the Vaph. One hound was obliterated, the other winged before being finished off by a second burst even as it pounced. Dour had survived his hounds, but in the process had been scarred himself by both the DU rounds of his unwitting Thresher saviours on his BPN and by the claws of the hound as it expired on top of him. Curis reads about the encounter but cannot see herself following a similar course of action. She heads back to Mort in the hope of a solution or some help. A day later she arrives, but the hounds are close. She faces a decision – does she request help from her friend Eldrix, but risk the hounds changing their attention to him, or does she try to deal with the problem herself. Half mad by now, she takes the latter. Using her last few hours she uses any material she can get her hands on to shore up the corners of her bathroom. Plaster, papier-mache and wrecked furniture are all used to crudely smooth away any corners, thus denying the hounds a means of entry. As she waits she puts on the mask again. Sitting in her wrecked bathroom, surrounded by the debris of her solution, she communicates to the Ebon operative who investigates her death.

“Take the mask back to Static, give it to the custodian. You’re already dead like me, but you can stop those things from ever finding anyone else. It needs to be locked away in a vault – they’ll understand!”

With that she appears distracted by a scratching in the walls. She tears off the mask and the connection is severed. The hounds catch up with her seconds later, smoke billowing from the gaps in her construction before the beasts come crashing through it. They feed on her, turning her corpse into a desiccated husk, then leave. Two days later the Shivers find her apartment empty.

The Contact

Eldrix is an Ebon, and a line manager at Dark Lament. One of his researchers, Curis, was due to have arrived back on Mort a week ago. She hasn’t, and Eldrix has had no success finding her. When the Shivers broke into her apartment they found a mess and some strange stuff, but no Ebon. Eldrix has pulled some strings to get a BPN issued to find her. The last time he saw her was three weeks ago. She’d said she had a lead on something and was going to visit a friend. This wasn’t uncommon – as a Dark lament researcher she would often leave Mort to investigate Ebb-artifacts such as glyph cards and other such items. She contacted him a week and a half ago telling him she was on Static and would have to delay her return by a few days, but that she should be back on Monday. That was the last he heard from her.

Unwittingly Eldrix can provide the squad with a wealth of information. He can get them access to all her communications and transactions, as well as contacts within Dark lament who may be able to help later. At first they’ll have to ask him, but if the players are being slow he may shove them in the right direction.

Paper Trail

Curis has left lots of clues as to her movements behind. The first that are available are the electronic ones, although the Ops might not realise that right away.

Email – Her inbox and outbox contain communication with Jennifer Maxwell with regards to an item that might be of interest. The two seem friendly and familiar, as though they know each other well. Indeed, Eldrix knows of Jennifer as an old friend from Meny. In her emails Curis arranges to meet Jennifer at her home in Orienta to take a look at the item. The emails are dated three weeks ago.
Also is a communication with an Ebon named Grail, dated three days after the ones to Jennifer, requesting information on an item. Curis describes the item as a pale mask with unfamiliar glyphs on the back, made of a strange sort of ceramic material and with a definite connection with the Ebb. Grail replies that he will fax her a copy of a few reports that may be helpful.

Accounts – Curis holds a corporate account, and she has used it quite extensively in the last few weeks. Three weeks ago she bought a gauss train ticket to Orienta. Three days later she pays for a foldship to Static. She pays for a hotel for a week and then another foldship trip back to Mort, then cancels and stays for a further two days on Static. She then pays for the foldship again, which is the last transaction made.

The Apartment

The Shivers were right. The Ops arrive at Curis’s apartment to find that it has been completely trashed. The furniture has been smashed and it looks like plaster has been mixed on the floor. In the bathroom the furniture and plaster, along with lots of other junk, has been crudely made to fill the corners of the rooms so that, apart from where the door has smashed through, there are no straight edges in the room. No trace of a body is apparent, but it’s there. The hounds dragged the body back to the wall as they exited, and as the plaster and shoring restored itself to its former position it sealed the corpse inside. If the Ops pull at the mess it won’t take them long to find it, and in true cinematic style it will tumble out of the wall at the lucky finder (causing stress, naturally). An autopsy will reveal the body appears to have been dead for years and has almost been mummified. In actual fact it has been dead for one week. The autopsy also shows damage to the shoulders and upper torso, although due to the age of the body it is difficult to tell what caused it. It is also uncertain as to how the person actually died. A DNA test proves that the corpse is Curis. Also in the bathroom, stuffed down the toilet, is the Pallid Mask.

Her Oyster should have been in her apartment too, with some research on the mask on it. Unfortunately for them a Shiver took a shine to it and swiped it. The Shiver, named Brockbank, still has it at his home and is waiting for the BPN to finish before he sells it. Only Brockbank knows this, although if pressed some of the others who have attended the scene will confess that it isn’t unusual for high value items like that to go missing. It isn’t important if the Oyster is found or not, as most of the information on it is misleading with various articles about other artefacts. The Ops could gather from it that the mask is probably capable of creating Ebb effects in the same way as a glyph card or Deathsuit, and that it is probably worth thousands of credits.

Orienta

While Curis was in Orienta she stayed with her friend Jennifer. The Ops should be able to contact or even visit her there, and she has some information that might help. She found the mask on a market stall, which she can take the squad to if required. The owner states that he got it from a contact in the Bayou in Mort, but that he’s not prepared to say who that is. He did say that his contact got it from somebody (a sector ranger) who’d brought it back from CS1.

When Jennifer presented the mask to Curis, the Ebon was quite excited as she hadn’t ever seen anything like it. Jennifer claims that Curis had commented on how it felt like it was tugging at her flux, and that she spent a few days studying it and researching it on her Oyster. The Ops can see the room where Curis stayed – Jennifer hasn’t tidied it yet. The only thing to be found there are the reports that were faxed to Curis from Grail. They are screwed up and thrown in the waste paper bin, and describe various rare glyphs and their effects. An Ebon with some sense may take these and study them later for a point of Formula on a successful DIA roll with 20 as the target. If a character scans the documents they will take a few hours and a successful DIA roll to learn that the glyphs on the mask (assuming they have the mask) are not the same as the ones in the report, and that it is of no use with regards to the case.

Grail

Grail is a professor at Meny, and Curis’s old teacher. He teaches Ebon archaeology and is quite knowledgeable about ancient glyph artifacts. He doesn’t know anything about the mask, and can only refer the Ops to the same reports to which he referred Curis. If the squad actually take the mask to Meny to show it to Grail he will confirm that he knows nothing about it, but that it is probably at least Conflict War era if not older. He can give the Ops some advice on the mask though – such ancient glyphs are often dangerous and unpredictable. He advises against wearing it without knowing what it does, and suggests it should be handed over to Dark Lament as soon as the BPN is over. If an Ebon character has already tried the mask and is being haunted by the Hounds, Grail will correctly identify the creatures as Ebb Demons, although he doesn’t know the specific type. He recommends that the character take the dreams seriously and prepare for a fight, and that they get to Static for further help at the Tas-Tuo.

Foldship Travel

The Dept of Archaeology will authorise foldship transport to Static. There’s a very good chance that none of them have ever travelled by foldship before – non-Ebon aliens would have generally travelled by ion ship and most Ebon Operatives are born on Mort. It’s an odd experience to non-Ebons, feeling like they’re being sucked into the womb then spat back out again. Between jumps, of which there are several en route to Static, the characters have to wait on board while the ship and pilot’s flux is recharged. During this time they will feel various emotions brought about by the Necanthrope members of the crew, and simply by being inside a huge piece of science friction. Ebons and Brain Wasters alike will feel a mixture of awe and curiosity. The journey lasts a full day and is extremely stressful to non-Ebons.

The Tas-Tuo

The Tas-Tuo is the largest library in the World of Progress, a towering majestic building situated on the Ebon homeworld of Static. Unlike the vast library at Meny, the information here is not stored electronically, it is held in row upon row of books. Hundreds of librarians are employed to assist in the location of information, all of whom are well versed in their particular area of responsibility.

Upon entering the library to chase up their case the Ops will be struck by the vast echoing silence of the tower, and in many cases a sense of vertigo as they peer up into the distant rafters. Characters wishing to make their mark on this peaceful place by disturbing it will be asked to leave immediately by a librarian. Protests will be met by the threat of Cloak Division intervention. This may prove an unpleasant first contact with an alien culture for those used to the Mort way of life, but those who respect the library and its occupants will be offered all the help they need.

Asking around the large reception area will yield immediate results. Showing a picture of Curis and mentioning (or showing) the mask to the librarians causes a ripple of nervousness among them. The Ops are asked to wait while the librarian who assisted Curis is summoned. After five minutes or so a librarian will approach them and ask them to follow her. Her name is Sanctuary, and she seems nervous as she leads the Ops to the top of the tower. If enquiries are made on the way she will answer their questions, but otherwise she will silently lead them to a reading area on one of the highest floors. She fetches an ancient book and lays it out, opening it on a page already marked by a clean, new piece of paper. She informs the characters that she met Curis about two weeks ago. Sanctuary is the curator of this level, which specialises in ancient Ebon artifacts relating to communication. A colleague directed her to Curis after seeing the Pallid Mask and taking a guess that it might have been communication related. Sanctuary directs the characters’ attention to the book, which is written in a language none of them understand. She describes the contents of the next couple of pages – that the mask is a pre-conflict war glyph device that was used to communicate not only over distance but also through time .The item has been missing for centuries, and has always been something more of a collector’s item than anything of real value to SLA as nobody found enough value in the outrageous claims to investigate further. Several owners were killed in strange circumstances however, with the last simply disappearing about three hundred years ago.

This isn’t all though. When Curis was due to leave for Mort she said her goodbyes and rushed off. However she was seen by Sanctuary for another couple of days, frantically researching on a lower level. She asked for no assistance and avoided contact with the librarians. She then left. Sanctuary, curious about the mask and what Curis had found, found the last book she had read and identified the most likely article she had researched. The article regarded Dour Hounds, and Sanctuary is clearly extremely disturbed by these creatures.

The Beasts Revealed

Sanctuary can translate the paragraph on Dour Hounds for the characters:

“I have heard tale of creatures who dwell within the Ebb. Many forms exist, but the sinister beasts who I suspect were the cause of the death of my lord are known as hounds. The creatures are said to stalk their prey through the very Ebb, drawing ever closer as a nobleman weaves his wonders. Creeping, festering creatures, they appear after their quarry and with queer movements make their assault. The victim is found to be drained of all substance, a withered husk frozen in their death throes.”

The paragraph is an excerpt from the statement of Portis, vassal to Placit, a pre-Conflict War nobleman who was notorious for his hedonism and eccentricity before his gruesome death by unknown means.

Curis had cross referenced this ancient tome with another more modern book, and the only common factor is the Hounds. The second book is only 100 years old and is a compilation of SLA reports on Ebb demons. Officially these should be high SCL, but the Tas-Tuo seems to have a habit of getting declassified information, probably because it’d be almost impossible to find without a skilled librarian. The second book reads:

“I started getting dreams about these things. They were like bats, and they crawled after me in my dreams, dripping slime and making horrible noises. I really got the feeling these things were coming for me, and I’m not easily spooked. I trusted my instincts and decided to go hunting them instead. I didn’t know when they’d come, so I figured I’d ambush them. I reckoned I had a day or so, so I got hold of a financier contact and got me a Black BPN in Cannibal Sector 1. I knew I’d be up against a Thresher observation post, and it was hit and miss, but I did what SLA wanted me to do and picked up a Vaph II into the bargain. Course I hadn’t bargained on taking a couple of DU rounds myself, but no risk no gain. I took my prize home and waited, and sure enough two of these things arrived later that night. I was ready for them. The Vaph tore the first one apart, but by the time I’d drawn a bead on the second it was on me. Faster than they look, but not quick enough doggie. I let rip a full burst into its belly and that was the end of that. The things didn’t leave much behind, but SLA must have believed me ‘cos they even let me keep the Vaph. I chucked the DU ammo though, never want to see that stuff again.”

The extract was taken from an interview with an SCL 6 Brain Waster called Dour from whom, as the only person known to ever have survived an encounter with them, they took their name.

Dour

Dour, despite being several hundred years old, is still alive. Of course he’s a Necanthrope now, but he has retained his name. It’s a bit of a leap of faith that the Ops look him up, after all why would they expect him to still be alive? They do have enough information on the case to be able to contact Eldrix with an explanation though. Eldrix knows of Dour and will ask the Ops to return to Mort while he checks out the story. If nobody is being hunted by the Hounds then upon their return Eldrix will meet them at the spaceport and solemnly thank them for finding out what happened to his assistant. He will also request that they hand over the mask. Needless to say, they don’t actually have an option. Should anyone have tried on the mask, however, they should be most interested in meeting Dour for some assistance. Luckily for them he will also be at the spaceport.
Dour is a hulking creature, even for a Necanthrope. Looking like a gorilla made from leather, with a flat elongated head. He has fanblade-like protrusions from his shoulders – his Necanthrope embodiment of the injuries he received from the hound, which look almost like wings. Dour refuses to speak about the Hounds to the Ops. He knows they have read his article and has nothing more to add. The BPN he completed is still classified, so he considers discretion to be his prerogative. He will, however, offer to help fight the Hounds. He’s anxious to get another shot at them, because this time he’s far more powerful.
Should the squad accept his help – and they really should – he will fight alongside (using his Gore Cannon – he hasn’t fired the Vaph since his last encounter with the Hounds) them until the Hounds are gone, then leave with a (rather unpleasant) smile.

The Pallid Mask

At any point someone might decide to try the mask on. A non-Ebb user won’t feel any effect, it just doesn’t work. An Ebon or Waster will feel it pulling at their flux as soon as they pick it up. It doesn’t drain any, it just sort of attracts it like a magnet or surface tension on water. If they put on the mask their natural predisposition towards Curis will connect them to her and they will see her crouching in the bathroom where she passes on her last message. They might never put it on, in which case her message is academic. If they do though, the hounds will see them and begin to approach. While it only took four days for the hounds to find Curis, they are inconsistent as the method of travel they use causes variations in their route depending on the point in time their prey is at. Therefore the encounter with them can be sprung upon the character at a dramatic and predetermined juncture. The hounds will announce their arrival with smoke billowing from a corner, out from which they will creep. Attacking, in this case, in a pair they will concentrate only on their chosen target and retreat once they are dead. These hounds aren’t necessarily the same pair who attacked Curis, incidentally, although the Ops will probably assume they are. The encounter will raise the formula of any Ebb using character who witnesses it by one, and any Ebb using character who actually defeats one or more hounds will gain an additional point of Formula. It’s probably safe to say that the BPN can be considered complete if the Ops encounter the hounds and survive – they can account for the disappearance of Curis, which is all that was required of them.

Wearing the Pallid Mask will increase the wearer’s Formula by one.

Dour Hound

Dour Hounds are a type of Ebb Demon, a creature who exists in the Ebb. They lie in wait for foreign objects to enter their domain, where they will track them and then follow them into the physical world. Very rarely an Ebon reality folding over long distances can attract their attention, although Operatives using the ability during the course of their duties should be at negligible risk. Foldships often attract the attention of the Hounds, and while the great craft are far too large to be threatened by the creatures they still occasionally arrive at their destination sporting claw-marks and slime residue. Unfortunate Ebons using the Pallid Mask expose themselves to the creatures of the Ebb for far longer though, allowing the Hounds to locate their prey and track them down at their leisure. Physical location is not important – these hunters pursue their quarry through time. While physical beings travel through time on a curve, the Hounds travel through the angles, cutting off their targets and intercepting them. This can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks as the Hounds alter their course to make up the distance. During this time the target of their attentions will feel a growing sense of foreboding as their stalkers draw closer. Their dreams will be haunted by visions of the creatures. Often the victims will be driven almost insane by the time they are caught. Upon catching up to their prey the Hounds will use physical angles (120 degrees or less) to manifest themselves physically. Proceeded by a billowing cloud of thick black smoke and a foul stench, they will emerge from a corner and unswervingly attack their victim. Draining their flux, as well as any physical nutrition, the victim is left as a husk. The Hounds will then retreat back into the Ebb, sometimes attempting to drag the corpse with them, although they invariably fail and the body is left in the corner.

Physically the Hounds resemble emaciated, wingless bats covered in translucent blue slime. They have spindly limbs ending in hooked claws and their front legs have long fingers which they use to drag themselves along with. This creeping movement is very unnerving to see, and is deceptive in its speed. Once the Hounds enter the physical world they are capable of massive bursts of speed, although they cannot sustain it in such an alien environment. Escape is possible for the victim, but the Hounds will simply return later to attack again. Once the Hounds close on their prey they will sink in their hooked fore-claws to secure them, then plunge their sharp pointed muzzle into the victim’s body. Draining the victim of fluids and flux, the Hounds will then latch on with their hind claws for extra purchase and will continue to drain until their victim is empty. They will then return to the Ebb.

Any Ebon or Brain Waster who survives an encounter with the Hounds will gain one point of Formula.

STR 12 Walk: 2.5m
DEX 14 Run: 5m
DIA 3 Sprint: 7.2m
CONC 3 Weight: 95kg
PHYS 13 Length: 2.6m
KNOW 3
COOL 15

Skills: Weapons: PEN DMG AD Position
Detect 6 Claws (2) 4 3 3 Fore Legs
Tracking 8 Claws (2) 4 4 3 Hind Legs
Sneaking 5 Snout (1) 8 2 2 Mouth
Hide 4
Unarmed Combat 10
Climb 5
Running 4

Position: Hits PV
Total 50 /
Head 16 5
Torso 50 5
Legs 25 5

Dour Hounds take one point of damage from any physical attack, and full damage from Ebb attacks. They will attack first with their front claws simultaneously, then with their hind claws, then with their snout.

Claws: After a successful attack the hooked claws will dig into the target, securing the Hound to them. This prevents the victim being able to use any actions to avoid attack, such as dodging or parrying. The victim (or others offering assistance, with combined strength) may attempt to dislodge the Hound with a strength roll, but they will be at a -5 modifier for each claw the Hound has embedded. A removed claw will cause 2 points of damage as it is wrenched from the flesh.

Snout: The snout of the Hound is similar to a long sharp proboscis. It is used to pierce the body of the victim and drain them of nutrients and flux. A successful attack that penetrates their victim’s armour will cause physical damage initially, then for each round it is embedded it will drain five total hits and ten points of flux. Removing the Hound will also remove the snout. Should the snout fail to penetrate the victim’s armour it will use its hind claws to tear at them until the armour is destroyed, then try again.

Slime: The slime that the Hounds are covered in is actually a colony of separate creatures that live in a symbiotic relationship. Extremely resilient, they protect the Hounds from harm and in turn feed from them. In some respects they could be considered as similar to a deathsuit.

Dour

There is a lot more to Dour than the stats below, but as he will only be present for one combat then will leave immediately, only the combat stats are relevant.

Necanthrope, SCL 4A.2, Dark Lament
STR: 30
DEX: 12
Actions:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Hits: 51
PV: 18
DAM PEN AD
Claws 23 6 4
DAM PEN AD
Gore Cannon 20 N/A (not affected by armour)
DAM PEN AD
Flintlock 25 20 10

Blast 19
Gore Cannon 9
Unarmed Combat 12

Stress Figures:

Having Curis’s body fall out of the wall on a player: 3PS
Seeing Curis’s body: 2PS
Touching the mask (Ebon): 1PS
Wearing the mask (Ebon): 2PS
Dreaming of Dour Hounds 2PS
Foldship travel (Ebon/Waster): 1PS
Foldship travel (non-Ebon): 1AS, 1PS
Close proximity to Necanthrope(s): 1PS
Hearing Sanctuary’s description of Hounds: 1PS
Encountering Dour Hounds: 4PS
Being the target of the Dour Hounds: 2AS, 2PS