They Shoot Wild Horses
by Michael Mulvihill
The year is 2061. Halley's Comet has returned to remind the myopic people of the Awakened world that there are things outside of what megacorporation makes the biggest profit. The media has proclaimed 2061 the Year of the Comet and sees the comet as a blessing - something to take peoples' minds off of the sewer that is their daily lives. Others see the heavenly messenger as the harbinger of bad times. The end of all bad times.
But the comet isn't the only event occurring in 2061; the year marks the 50th anniversary of the Awakening of magic. Shamans and magicians have seen their ranks swell with charlatans, con men, and hucksters duping both the mundane and the magical alike with "remedies," trinkets and protection "pills" to ward off the next "awakening."
This only obscures those who are really preparing for what the next stage of awakening might bring...
The only constant in the practice of magic is that no one practices it the same way. Under the shadow of Halley's Comet and the knowledge that 2061 is the 50th anniversary of the Awakening, magic has come to the forefront of the media. But the normal, established groups and schools aren't spectacular enough any more. The spotlight has fallen on those considered outsiders by the magical status quo. One group that has managed to keep itself away from public scrutiny is the Purity Brigade.
The Purity Brigade was only rumored to exist. Spoken about only in tones reserved for saints or angels, this group of women was said to be so chaste and noble that they really couldn't exist in the jaded and despoiled times of the 2060s. Yet rumors persisted on the Matrix, especially in the nodes and hosts of Magicknet - the foremost gathering place of magic - that they were out there. The Purity Brigade was rumored to be almost anything, but the most common theme was a group of shamans devoted to the Unicorn.
Equina Cadamus is the leader of the Purity Brigade. She has kept the group away form the forces that would rip it apart - the media, the corps, the charlatans, the shadows - anything that could devour the group and its mission. The members rarely see each other, but once a year they get together for the sharing of rituals and information. These meetings are wild, magical, sexual and forbidden to outsiders.
That was, until Equina received a vid-chip. The chip, labeled "Who do you answer to," showed, in graphic detail, the slaughter of another unique shaman group-Oak shamans involved in a ritual gathering. The message was clear: continue with your gathering and you will die.
Equina knows, however, that the ritual must take place. Unicorn must know her servants are willing to risk themselves to worship her. It also means that Equina must reveal her secrets to outsiders. Those outsiders are the player characters.
SETTING UP THE SCENARIO
This scenario can be used in conjunction with a larger magical campaign, within the events presented in Year of the Comet or as just a side offering; a one-shot adventure to run between campaigns. The scenario uses all of the rules for Shadowrun, Third Edition and advanced rulebooks such as Magic in the Shadows, Cannon Companion and Man and Machine. Other advanced Shadowrun rulebooks and source material such as New Seattle, Shadowrun Companion: Beyond the Shadows and Shadowrun Third Edition Gamemasters Screen and Critters Sourcebook may come in handy.
WHAT'S UP CHUMMER
The player characters are hired by Equina Cadamus, the leader a group of Unicorn shaman called the Purity Brigade, to protect them from an unspecified threat. This threat seems to spring from a group that despises what they consider to be different and even wrong practices of magic. The Purity Brigade was sent a vidchip that shows the slaughter of another group, with the warning that they are next.
The shaman hires the runners to secure and guard them as they perform their ritual.
TELL IT TO THEM STRAIGHT
This should be read aloud to a runner with either a talismonger as a contact or one who belongs to a magical group. If no one in the group has either contact, use the standard means of contacting runners.
It's pretty rare for your talismonger (or someone from the magical group) to contact you. You usually have to contact them.
The text message was pretty simple: My shop at 1 am, bring friends. A friend of a friend needs help.
Once the team arrives at the shop, read the following aloud:
You can't tell if anything is out of place. The street is quiet and calm. The shop looks normal, but then again you aren't sure what the shop is supposed to look like at 1 am. The windows are dark, but then they are in the daylight, too. The only way to get answers is to knock on the door.
Once the runners have sat down, read the following aloud:
The talismonger leaves the main room and comes back with a vidchip player and monitor. Following the talismonger is a human woman who seems to light up the room. She stands tall and stately and almost seems to shy away from such a group of people as shadowrunners.
She is a vision of white: dressed all in white leather, her bright white hair is braided and nearly touches the floor, and her skin is a deep bronze...it even looks like it's a real tan!
The woman begins: "My name is Equina Cadamus. Please watch this chip. I will answer all your questions after it is finished."
After the runners have viewed the chip, read the following aloud:
Equina says, "As you have seen, these maniacs have targeted me and my group. We are not equipped to combat such lunatics. We need outside help. I want to hire you to protect our ritual. It begins at sundown tomorrow night. If you are interested, you will find payment on this credstick of 25,000¥ now and that much again after the job is finished."
It's a meet in which the player characters are told that they will be expected to run combat interference. The gamemaster's description of the events on the vidchip should be disturbing enough to convince the characters they should help.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The scenario unfolds simply. Once the player characters accept the job, it's just a matter of bullets, spells and survival.
This should be simple. The point is to get the information out there and let the player characters react to it. The talismonger shop should be warded and even have a few low-Rating spirits on duty. If one of the player characters is familiar with the shop, he or she should notice that the protection level is a bit tougher than normal.
Equina Cadamus is a unicorn shaman initiated at Grade 7. She is not Masking her aura when she meets the player characters. She wants them to know exactly how powerful she is. She will address the most pure person in the group, to the complete exclusion of all others. This means the gamemaster will have to make a judgment call on the history of the shadowrunners up until now: those who have the highest regard of their fellow beings, who have helped more than harmed and who still have a feeling of hope or of innocence will draw her attention. If there is no one who fits that description, or multiple people who fit the bill, then she will address the runner with the highest Essence.
She will actively shun those with Essence less than 2.
Dice Pools: Astral Combat 9, Combat 8, Spell 8
Karma Pool/Professional Rating: 8/3
Active Skills: Aura Reading 9, Centering (Chanting) 6, Edged Weapons 4 (Knives 6), Conjuring 9, Enchantment 6, Sorcery 8, Stealth 6, Sambo 6, plus any others the gamemaster considers important
Knowledge Skills: Ecological Groups 8, English 5, Environmental Causes 8, Greek 6, Magical Background 8, Magical Groups 5, plus any others the gamemaster considers important
Spells: Analyze Truth 6, Death Touch 4, Clean Earth 5, Eyes Of The Pack 6, Stun Ball 6, Shape Earth 5, Shape Change 6, plus seven Health spells and seven Illusion spells chosen by the gamemaster
Metamagic: (Initiate Grade 7) Anchoring, Centering, Cleansing, Divining, Masking, Reflecting, Shielding
Weapons: Cougar Long Blade Knife [6M]
Armor: Leather clothes [0/2]
Gear: As needed by gamemaster
She will explain that her magical group is called the Purity Brigade. Some player characters may have heard of the group. Her organization is dedicated to helping to free nature, specifically the environment, from the destruction of man. The Target Number for such knowledge is 9.
|0||I think they are a band ... from the Tir.|
|1||Sounds vaguely like one of those new religious movements.|
|2||Sounds made-up. Is it an ad campaign by one of the megacorps?|
|3||I've heard of them, just rumors and innuendo,though-I'm not really sure they exist.|
|4||If they do exist, they operate outside of standard groups. They have their own agenda, their own motives.|
|5||They are a magical group whose cause is the environment. Could be anyone, but this one is very secretive-that's for sure.|
|6+||Unicorn shamans. That seems to be the odds on favorite to be behind the Purity Brigade.|
What the player characters watch is a first-person account of the wholesale slaughter of a group of Oak shamans. The angle of the feed make it seem as if it was filmed with a cybereye camera or very small mounted camera on the barrel of a gun (p. 35, Cannon Companion).
The rituals the shaman are performing are simple: seed planting, chanting, and basic magical rituals, nothing odd or different. Any shaman can see they are basically there to bring the group closer together and possibly go on an astral quest. The shamans seem harmless, but stoic and strong in their faith.
The opening of the vid has the "camera" breaking through shrub cover, to see the Oak shamans planting and chanting. The cameraman makes a grunting noise and someone off camera laughs.
The gamemaster can take over and describe in detail the following events.
- Voices off camera: laughing and ridiculing the "magic" the "freaks" are attempting. Some saying which ones they'll take out. Others saying they will show them real and pure magic.
- The sound of weapons readying and even (softly) the sound of magic being prepped.
- The initial explosion of guns and magic against the defenseless shaman.
- The first-person camera following it all.
- Some shamans trying to fight back, mostly with magic, some with spirits.
The group that attacked is in nondescript clothing, and all their faces are covered. They never use any names and they seem to know of the powers and weaknesses of the shamans firsthand. It is important to note that the attackers seem to include shamans and mages.
The video ends with the warning: "You are next. When we are finished, the mana will be pure."
Equina's deal is simple: Use any means necessary to protect the shamans from the maniacs in the video during their ritual. There are two caveats.
The first is that the player characters must allow her to use the Alter Memory spell in order to erase the memory of the ritual's location from the runners' minds.
Secondly, they cannot do anything that would harm the earth or the local wildlife, thus: no massive explosions, no missiles or grenades.
She doesn't have time for negotiations, so she will give them players all the money they want to do the job. The base is 25,000¥ up front and 25,000¥ after the ceremony. She will go up as high as 100,000¥ up front and 250,000¥ if they survive.
The ritual begins at sundown later that same day. It will last until dawn. The player characters are to meet her at the talismonger's shop at 2 pm and she will guide them to the location.
If the player characters still balk at the use of the mind altering spell, then Equina will require some DNA for ritual tracking/spellcasting. The player characters may choose which is more damaging.
Assuming all goes well in the twelve hours since the meet, the runners should be geared up and ready to go. Equina meets them at the shop. She will ask them to pile into the back of her van. The van itself is warded. The ritual site is in the very northern and western edge of Snohomish, along the Salish-Shidhe boarder. The entire trip takes just over an hour.
The site itself looks like a family farm, surrounded by a four-foot-high wall. The wall is made from stone and looks handmade.
The homestead is small and simple. It seems to be a working farm with seven separate buildings: the farmhouse, the stables, the barn, two rather large sheds, a greenhouse, and a barracks-type building. The player characters are led to the barracks.
Equina asks them to not leave the building until they are called. If the player characters protest that they need to get a better scope of the area for defensive positioning, she explains that the windows in this building can see the entire area and the player characters can make their plans from here.
The gamemaster can furnish a map of the area. It is a square farm, with the far corner containing a grove. The grove is overgrown with trees and bushes. That is where the ritual will take place.
The homestead buildings are all located opposite the grove. In between are various patches of planted crops in various stages of growth. If the players watch for any length of time, they will see various "wild" animals in the farm area, including deer, wolves and bears. They all seem mundane. The gamemaster can toss in a paranormal creature if he so chooses.
There are no horses to be seen, though the stable looks to be in use.
If a magic-capable character decides to check out the astral, the first thing she notices is the purity of the astral space. It's like pure oxygen or crystal-clear water. There is no man-made corruption here at all. The player character may actually feel as if his or her presence is making the area "muddy." The player character can find fifteen other shamans in the compound. Most are preparing for the evening.
One of the sheds serves as a Force 12 lodge that is masked to look mundane. The main house contains a magical library.
Any successes on an Aura Reading Test will reveal that most of the people are nervous, excited, sexually aroused and impatient for the festivities. Only Equina has a level of fear. It is obvious she has not spread the full information of the security team or of the consequences if the runners' fail to the rest of the shamans.
The player characters can set up any way they want. The only request by Equina is that they do not enter the center of the sacred grove unless they must. It is a holy spot and many of them are not pure enough to enter there.
Once the team sets up... the ritual can begin.
The women all enter the grove in silk gauze robes. There are eight women in all, led by Equina. They enter the grove and begin chanting in Greek. Equina pours wine into chalices, lights some herbs and begins dancing. From the stables come eight pure white unicorns. If a magician goes astral, it can be seen that these are eight male shaman, shapechanged into unicorns. In their mind, unicorns are normal animals and so they have no problem making this spell work.
Once in the grove, the unicorns and the women begin rituals that the more prudish might consider obscene. Before long, the women begin to shapechange into unicorns also, and an animalistic lust fills the grove. The exact details can be left to the imagination of the players.
The shamans are of all races. Use Equina's statistics with modifiers for race (p. 56, Shadowrun, Third Edition). She is the highest initiated shaman; the rest are between Grades 1 and 5.
Once the women shamans have shapechanged, the hit begins.
There will be a number of attackers equal to the twice the numbers of runners. The attackers are well trained and well equipped. They do not want to wipe this place off the face of the earth, and so prefer a more stealthy approach. They will not use vehicles or large-scale combat devices (missiles, rockets, mortars, etc.)
They will attempt to come over the wall nearest the grove. They will use spirits and spells to help them.
The will wait until they are all in position inside the wall but outside the grove to attack.
The gamemaster can use any pre-generated character type for this attack: the Street Samurai, Mercenary and Combat Mage from the SR3 sample characters section are good choices.
Combat can proceed as a normal Shadowrun conflict, with a few exceptions. The grove is aspected for Illusion and Health spells. Both those clasess of spells gain an extra die when cast within the grove. Combat spells actually lose a die when cast here. When conjuring a forest spirit, the shaman gets an extra die for both the Conjuring and Drain Test.
It will take 10 Combat Rounds for the Unicorn shaman to break off their ritual frenzy. That time is reduced by 1 round for each box of damage they take.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
If the gamemaster wants to ramp things up, Unicorn may grant Equina (or any number of shamans) the power of the Unicorn. For a brief moment, she isn't just shapechanged, but is an actual unicorn with all of its paranormal powers. Players and attackers can be surprised by critters both regular and paranormal finding their way into the firefight.
The gamemaster also can allow forest spirits to manifest of their own accord. These spirits will protect the grove.
This a straight-up firefight and the player characters may end up dying. It's the price of running the shadows.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
If all the Unicorn shaman are killed, the attackers will take off over the wall.
The attackers will not pull out, even if the tide turns against them. They will fight to the death or even kill themselves if it proves useless to continue. The player characters will not anticipate this extreme behavior; it will catch them by surprise.
If unmasked, the attackers look like regular metahumans, at least one of all races. There are more Native Americans than anything else, but no tribe affiliation is obvious. They look like any other shadowop team.
One of the attackers will have either a cybereye camera or a camera on the barrel of his gun.
Equina (or one of the other surviving members) will pay the runners. It will be on a single black credstick. They will then be subjected to the Alter Memory spell to remove the location of the site from their minds-but they will remember the ritual and the firefight quite clearly.
Neither the player characters nor the Unicorn shamans will know exactly who or what the attackers represented, but they will hear from them again. This group will make its appearance in Threats 2, scheduled to release in the third quarter of 2001 from Fantasy Productions USA and WizKids LLC.