The runners arrived late to the rendezvous point and were forced to wait until the following day for pick up. They concealed themselves well in the periphery of the remains of Tehran and were able to successfully hide from its denizens. Radek met them on the Ares TR52 and they recounted their failure at retrieving the Shroud of Shadows because of the intervention of Aden the dragon. Radek did not seem to be disappointed and gave the runners the full 200K nuyen payment each.
Radek said that there was a change of plans. The runners needed to meet a Mr. Johnson in the California Free State as soon as possible. They took a series of aircraft culminating in a helicopter ride to Mount Shasta. As the helicopter came in for a landing on the same helipad that the runners had seen the great western dragon Hestaby fly off from not that long ago, some of the runners had a sinking feeling in their stomach. They wondered if Hestaby had finally found out that they were behind the Shasta Lodge run and if she was bringing them here to exact her revenge.
Radek brought the runners inside. They entered a meeting room with exquisite wall panel carvings and opulent furnishings. There was a gorgeous golden skinned and golden haired human woman seated on a luxurious divan. Radek introduced her as Hestaby, and she greeted the runners warmly. She had the runners sit as she explained that she and the other great dragons had been engaged in a series of trials between themselves. Each of the dragons had a team of champions doing their bidding. She informed the runners that she was the Johnson that hired them for the Shasta Lodge run, as a test of their prowess and also to make it appear that they were working for someone else. She was very impressed that the runners completed the run without killing any of her employees.
Since that run they had been working for her and she admitted that she was satisfied with their progress. She had expected them not to be able to remove the Shroud of Shadows, as she knew that Aden was watching over it. It had been left to him by Dunklezahn in his will, but Aden had refused ownership of it. When the runners had attempted to take it they had made Aden take ownership of the Shroud, which had been the point all along.
She told the runners that she had one more job for them, a quest on the metaplanes. For this run they would receive one million nuyen each. She needed them to gain access to the metaplanes and retrieve the “Jewel of Knowledge”, which would appear as an actual tangible jewel on the metaplanes. The runners stated that they had been on the metaplanes before and agreed to the run. She told them that time was of the essence and had them come with her into another room with six comfy couches arranged in a circle. She bid them lie down on the couches and clear their minds. She started chanting and the world quickly fell away from the runners. They were floating in darkness, surrounded by nothingness. Without any reference points direction and time were meaningless. After some indeterminate time each of them saw a light in the distance. As they each individually focused on the light it grew closer until they could see a circle of light with a figure in the center. As they each stepped into the circle of light the figure resolved itself into a knight in full armor kit with a two-handed sword slung over his back.
The figure asked why they had come. The runners responded that they had come seeking the Jewel of Knowledge. The knight waved his arm and a meter square wooden panel appeared, hovering in the air. He turned to Tool and the wooden panel resolved itself into a scene of a house with a small yard and a city in the background. The runners watched as Tool’s skin slowly turned brown and took on the appearance of wood. Tool disappeared and a miniature wooden Tool appeared on the left hand side of the panel. Other figures appeared on the right hand side of the panel. They moved toward and into the house through the front door. The figure of Tool moved toward, then behind the house. After several moments the figure of Tool reappeared from behind the house and moved to the right edge of the panel as the house blew up. The figure of Tool reappeared on the left edge of the panel as the panel scene changed to a cliff with a woman and child standing on the edge, facing away from Tool. Tool snuck up behind her to grab her. As he was about to grab her his 200K nuyen credstick from the last run slipped out of his pocket. Both the woman holding the child and the credstick started to fall over the edge of the cliff. Tool realized he can only save one, so he grabbed the woman and child. The panel went bank and Tool reappeared amongst the runners. The knight told him that he could pass and wished him good luck on his quest.
The knight turned to Whip. The panel now had a scene with an Asian man covered in colorful tattoos and an Asian woman in it. Whip turned to wood and disappeared as a baby appeared in the woman’s arms. The man and woman disappeared and the baby slowly morphed into Whip on the left side of the panel. On the right side of the panel two lines of words appeared. The first line read ‘frigid precious metal’ and the second line read ‘cold gold’. After Whip had read these lines they disappeared and a new line that read, ‘slender projectile shot from a bow’ appeared. Whip thought about it for a moment and then said, ‘narrow arrow’. The words appeared below the current line and then both lines were replaced by, ‘give sustenance to a horse’. Whip thought about it for a while and seemed at a loss. Wildfire called her name, but she couldn’t hear him because he was outside the carving. He waved at her to get her attention and then started mouthing words. It took her some time to follow what he was saying since she was not adept at reading lips, but she finally worked it out and said, ‘feed steed’. The words appeared on the right side of the panel for a moment before it blanked and Whip reappeared amidst the runners. The knight told her that she could pass and wished her good luck on her quest.
The knight turned to Wildfire as the panel changed to an Aztec pyramid. Wildfire disappeared as the figure of a miniature Wildfire appeared, stranded on top of the pyramid. Words appeared on the right side of the carving, “state the names of the four most powerful western dragons.” Wildfire thought about it for a moment and boldly stated, “Lofwyr, Hestaby, Ghostwalker and Aden.” The names appeared on the panel and then it blanked as Wildfire reappeared in front of the knight. The Gatekeeper told him that he could pass and wished him good luck on his quest.
The knight turned to Brick and the panel resolved itself into a male and female ork in corporate suits. Brick disappeared and an ork baby appeared in the female ork’s arms. The scene slowly changed as all three of the orks aged. When the baby had morphed into a preteen, the adult orks disappeared to be replaced by humans in corporate suits, attaching electrical leads and machines to the preteen’s head and body. The panel changed in ripples like a drop of water in a pond and on the left side was a fully grown Brick in his best armor and toting a light machine gun on a full body gyro mount. On the right side of the panel four silhouettes appeared along with the words, “only one chance”. Brick walked a fifteen round burst across all four targets, causing them to shatter as if they were made of glass. The panel cleared and Brick was back with the runners. The knight told him that he could pass and wished him good luck on his quest.
The knight turned to Smokey as the panel changed to a scene of a grassy hill with woods around its base. There was a giant rooster on the hill, scratching and pecking. The rooster turned and looked at Smokey as he approached from the left side of the panel. Suddenly a giant raccoon appeared and leapt onto the rooster, ripping its throat out and consuming it. It looked at Smokey and they walked off into the woods, hand in paw. The scene changed into a barren expanse with Smokey, gun in hand on one side and a giant wasp on the other. Smokey raised his hand and banished the spirit. The panel blanked and Smokey reappeared. The knight told him that he could pass and wished him good luck on his quest.
The knight turned to Kus as the panel changed to a dirty alley, filled with trash, dumpsters and bums. Kus entered, slit the bums’ throats and dragged them off one by one. The scene changed to a dimly lit room where Kus cut up the bum’s bodies and harvested their organs and any cyberware that they had. The scene changed again and Kus was naked, strapped to an operating table. A figure loomed over him and drove large spikes into his body. Kus survived the spikes being thrust into him (body test) and he reappeared as the panel disappeared. The knight told him that he could pass and wished him good luck on his quest.
The knight and the light winked out and the runners found themselves on a plateau surrounded by high peaks under a cloudy sky. They are surrounded by great dragons (Dunklezahn is not among them). A dragon that they recognized from the trid as Lofwyr stated that they had decided to destroy the younger races as they are a blight on the world, unless they can be convinced otherwise.
Whip said that if the dragons destroy the other races then they will have to return to the old ways of fighting each other directly instead of by proxy, which would lead to greater peril among the dragons.
Smokey said that it would not be fair or morally right to destroy entire races because of a few bad members.
Tool stated that if they kill the younger races then there will be no one left to build the things that the dragons covet, buildings, magical items, shiny baubles, etc.
Wildfire stated that he knew that dragons love gold and gems, and asked who would dig up them up once the lesser races were gone? Would the dragons deign to scrabble in the dirt with their claws for it? Who would do all of the dirty jobs that the dragons didn’t want to sully their claws with? How would the dragons pass the endless years without the lesser races to watch and manipulate for their amusement? He said that it sounded like an extremely boring eternity to him.
Lofwyr stated that the runners had given the dragons something to ponder before making their decision. He waved his claw in dismissal and suddenly the runners found themselves in a huge, stretch limousine. Each of the runners looked down at themselves and realized that they were not in their normal forms. Each of them was in the shape of an animal. Whip was a kitsune in fox form; Kus was a butcher bird; Smokey was a raccoon; Tool was a chimpanzee; Brick was a bear; and Wildfire was a giant fire salamander. They looked up from their new bodies to see Dunklezahn in human form lounging in the back of the limo in a very expensive tuxedo. He said that he was having second thoughts about sacrificing himself for metahumanity and looked expectantly at the runners.
Whip said that she liked to live life to its fullest, to try hard at everything so that there would be no regrets when she passed.
Wildfire suddenly remembered more about Dunklezahn’s “assassination” than what was in the news. He wondered if this knowledge was somehow granted to him by some entity while in the metaplanes. He told Dunklezahn that his sacrificing himself saved not only metahumanity, but quite possibly the dragon race as well. By infusing the Dragonheart with his powerful spirit and magic, Dunklezahn not only firmed up the barrier between our world and the world of the evil Outsiders in the short term, but also in perpetuity. Wildfire stated that there could be no greater or more noble sacrifice than sacrificing oneself to save an entire world and every creature on it. He thanked Dunklezahn for his bravery and conviction.
As Wildfire finished speaking, the limousine exploded and the runners’ animal forms were launched into the air. On moment they were hurtling through the air in animal form and the next they were standing on flat stones in a circle of light in their natural forms. A western dragon appeared and roared a challenge. Smokey activated spell defense over the runners. The dragon breathed fire on Kus, but between Smokey’s magical defense and Kus’s armor the fire didn’t harm him. Kus whipped out his Ingram Smartgun and fired a seven round full auto burst of APDS ammo at the dragon, causing the dragon to pixelate. The pixels swarmed around in an amorphous blob for several moments before reshaping themselves into a woman trapped inside a silver pentagram inlaid on the flat stones. The woman stated that her name was Alisa and that she had been trapped inside the pentagram by an insect shaman. She begged the runners to break the pentagram and free her. While the runners looked at her and at each other, Wildfire assensed her with his magesight. He saw through her disguise and determined that she was a shadow free spirit and he knew from his magical studies that all shadow free spirits were evil of very bad news variety. He communicated this to the other runners and they decided to leave her in the pentagram even as her protests became more desperate and vociferous.
The scene around the runners dissolved and each of them found themselves alone, floating in darkness. Tool suddenly found himself outside the Humanis Policlub building belonging to the humans that had brutally killed his parents. A wave of pain washed over him as he remembered his parent’s deaths and the revenge he took the night he blew up that club during one of their meetings. He stood in the shadows as he had that night and watched the humans arrive in their cars and shuffle into the building. He noted that it was not just the policlub members attending the meeting, but also their families. As he watched the women and the children move into the club he knew that blowing up the club was wrong and he couldn’t do it again. Instead he wired all of their cars to blow up, hoping that that would be enough of a warning to deter them from harming any other metahumans.
Smokey found himself inside the central garden of the Finnegan mansion in Seattle. His girlfriend and contender for the head of the Finnegan crime family, Rowena, has just dispatched a long time family advisor with her heavy pistol for his appearance of disloyalty. She turned to Smokey and asked him for news on who killed her father, the Don of the Finnegan family. Smokey responded by telling her that the runners had a promising lead on her father’s murderers.
Kus found himself back in the blacksmith’s shop from the last time that the runners were in the metaplanes. He held the smoking tang of a sword in his gloved left hand and a smith’s hammer in his right. A sense of shame filled him as he remembered that he had failed to create a magic sword when the rest of the runners had succeeded. He resolved to redouble his efforts and create one now. He worked the metal as the smith had taught him and eventually was rewarded with a shiny magic sword.
Wildfire found himself inside a building that he knew he would never forget. It was the building where his brother Rapid had died while covering the team’s escape on their last run together. His brother and the rest of the team were there. Rapid approached him and said that it was time for the team to leave and that Wildfire should take the lead and he would cover their backs. Wildfire looked at his brother and smiled a bittersweet smile. It was good to see him again, if only for a moment. He told Rapid that he would cover the runner’s retreat with his magic and that Rapid should lead them out. Rapid asked Wildfire if he was sure about that. Wildfire, tears forming in the corners of his eyes said, “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I love you brother.” With that Wildfire turned away to face their back trail, hoping to catch a glance of his brother’s murderer.
Whip found herself in an Asian marketplace. She looked around at the shops and landmarks and felt that they looked familiar. After several seconds she realized that she knew this marketplace. Her attention was drawn to two Yakuza foot soldiers shaking down a merchant. She remembered that the soldiers had beaten and killed the merchant while she watched and everyone else in the marketplace looked away. She knew that she had a chance to change things this time around, so she pulled out her monofilament whip and charged the Yakuza. Her whip cut the first Yak in half and the other ran for his life. The merchant looked up at her from the ground and smiled gratefully.
Brick found himself back in the apartment that he had shared with his parents. When he raised his hand he noticed that it was much smaller than it should be and he wasn’t wearing his armor or any of his gear. He went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, his ten year old self stared back at him with a look of surprise on his face. His parents called out to him to tell him that they were going out and a creepy deja vous feeling came over him. His parents had said the exact same thing the night they went out and were killed in a car accident. Sadness and shame warred within him as he remembered that on that fateful night his ten year old self had been so focused on wanting ice cream that he had given no thought to his parents. He had whined and complained to them, saying awful things to try to guilt them into giving him what he wanted. Those were the last words that he had ever said to them and he had regretted it to this day. His parents called out to him again and he ran to the front door. They were standing by the door and looked just as he remembered them. He felt the ache in his chest when he looked at his mother’s beautiful face and knew that she wouldn’t survive the night. He knew he should try to stop them from leaving, but they had a very important appointment and wouldn’t take a ten year old’s worries seriously. He wished that there was some way to turn back time and erase the accident, but his gut told him that couldn’t happen. He crossed the room and hugged both of his parents and told them how much he loved them. As the door closed behind them he started to cry like he had when he first heard about their accident.
In a flash of light the runners found themselves reunited on the parapet of a huge castle floating hundreds of feet in the air. The runners looked down on a rolling green countryside with a mighty, winding river running through it, dotted with white sailed ships. They wondered what the next challenge would be and if they could master it. They saw the graceful white spires of a far off city under a vivid blue sky. The sun appeared to be setting in what they assumed was the west, casting golden light over the land. The runners turned and saw great archways opening onto a huge room at the top of the castle. They approached the nearest archway and saw that the chamber beyond had a high, vaulted ceiling supported by tall, fluted columns. The dome overhead was a deep, dark blue, set with gold and sparkling gemstones in the shape of the constellations of the night sky. The floor was inlaid with tiles of finely cut stone of different colors, creating a map of some strange land that the runners had never seen before, though they guessed that it might be the lands surrounding the castle.
In the middle of the room was a meter tall intricately carved stone pillar, with a beautiful red gemstone slowly rotating in the air above it. The gem was easily the size of a troll’s head, its deep crimson facets throwing slowly moving blood red splotches on the floor and ceiling as it blazed with a fiery inner light.
As the runners gazed at the Gem of Knowledge they heard a metallic rustling coming from an arch on the far side of the room. They watched as an enormous great western dragon entered the room and sinuously curled his long body around the central pedestal. His head, propped on his thick tail, faced the runners from beside the gem as eyes the size of medieval shields and the same shade as the gem regarded them. He smiled, showing row after row of gleaming white longsword sized teeth. The runners felt a shiver of fear as his voice boomed out, “Welcome to the end of your quest, shadowrunners. I have a proposition that might interest you.”
Karma 1 (for the previous write up)
Official Kill/Knock Out Stats: N/A because in the metaplanes nothing is real.