The Castle: Strange Days, Stranger Nights (Finale) – Session Notes – 17 July 2021
The Castle: Strange Days, Stranger Nights (Finale) – Session Notes – 17 July 2021

August 25th, 2025 – Shenandoah Valley National Park, Virginia

The session begins with a cutscene:

Cole slides the door open.  It’s on rails, but it’s a lot heavier than you’d expect.  It feels like it’s made of cast iron.  A warm light pours from the doorway, washing over you.  Daphne gasps and stumbles, wincing and holding her head.  Seamus shoots an arm out and catches her before she falls.

In the light you see Daphne, her features completely inhuman, armed and armored in that strange fey red and gold.    But it’s not just her.  Seamus is in a kilt of red and gold tartan, his face covered in blue tattoos, the broomstick is gone, replaced by a long spear with a wicked-looking blade at the end.  Emma’s skin is literally glowing, streamers of light stretching from her fingertips off in all directions and little motes of light flitting around her like fireflies.  Her eyes are pools of fire.  And Jamie…Jamie is cloaked in shadow, darkness flowing off him like wisps of smoke and spreading around his feet like fog.  He seems to…flicker…like a poorly-tuned television.  Where Jamie’s shadow and Emma’s light touch there are tiny sparks of annihilation events that are hard to focus your eyes on.

Daphne, something is happening.  The sound and pressure in your head have resolved into a chime, like a bell the size of the universe being rung in your skull, infinite and steady and all-consuming.  At first you think you’re being filled with a power, but that’s not right.  You’re becoming a power.  It’s as if you’re being handed a job and you’re finding yourself unexpectedly qualified.  You feel it – the autumn frosts, the ripened gain, the leaves blowing in the chill winds.  It’s all you.  Of you.  From you.  And there are rules.  Terrible, constraining, perfect, immutable rules.  Like new laws of physics applied to only you.

After a moment of shock that Daphne is having difficulty recovering from, you move into the building.  You find yourself in a large room, it’s almost completely empty save for some lockers and benches along one wall, some breakroom-grade tables and chairs, and a pile of bodies in Division tactical gear piled up like cordwood in the corner.  The walls look like they’re made of cast iron and they’re covered in runes cast or carved into the surface.  Along the far wall there’s a heavy door – it’s open, and that’s where the strange light is flowing from, and beside it, a very large window.

Through the window you see a dark, dense primordial forest.  Huge mature trees stretch off into the distance – much further away than the walls of the building would be.  There’s a clearing in the forest beyond the window, surrounded by four huge standing stones.  In the middle of the stones sits a bonfire and a circle of glowing runes drawn in the dirt.  Dr. Pickens kneels outside the circle, his hands outstretched, seemingly providing some magic to it.  Inside the circle you see Mab, robed like a queen, tall and cold and terrible, holding a wicked-looking dagger and performing some ritual over the prone form of Titania, who is looking small and frail and, dare I say, mortal.  In the woods around the clearing a host is gathered – hundreds, if not thousands, of armored fey – some in whites and blues, some in reds and golds – standing witness.  They seem somewhat indistinct, as if they’re looking on from beyond the veil.

A huge figure ducks through the door.  Daphne and Seamus see a great, 8-foot-tall troll, the rest of you see Pinky, who is easily the largest human being you’ve ever seen, with red hair and pink face, stuffed into a suit of tactical gear.  He bows deeply to Daphne and stands aside.  Then through the door walks a shimmer in the shape of a man – Seamus, you know immediately that this is the Winter Knight, the same you felt in New York, and the same Hugo remembers you all battling briefly before he rewound time.

The shimmer resolves into a Knight in white and blue fey armor, a wicked-looking sword at its side and, quite anachronistically, an automatic handgun strapped to its leg.  It removes its helmet, revealing Dennis Jones.

Both John, and, in Emily’s head, Teddy, simultaneously let out a dismayed “Ohh.”

Dennis hands his helmet to Pinky, who then reaches over and closes the door leading into the forest.  Immediately, the light flowing through is snuffed out, leaving everyone back to their normal selves in some pale fluorescent light, except for Daphne, who appears normal but is still holding her head in pain.  

Dennis gives you a smile that’s almost, but not quite, warm.

“Well,” he says, “here you are.”

John looks out the window and back to Dennis, a combination of shock and disgust hidden behind a slight sneer.  “There was never an invasion, was there?”

Dennis grins and kicks an invisible stone with his foot.

“Naw, hoss, there wasn’t.  Someday…but the world’s not quite prepared.  I mean, this Dungeons & Dragons shit is fun and all, but there’s still the not-insignificant issue of the 82nd Airborne to contend with.  No, this was about balance, and power, and control.  This was about Princess Dumpster-Fire here, and a little goblin revolutionary who just wants to watch the worlds burn.  It’s about a dark queen who plots over the span of millennia, rarely forgives, and never forgets.  It’s about the death of gods.  And maybe the birth of one.  Such as it is.”

Dennis takes a glance out the window, then back to you.

“The hard part was trying to turn the Strung-Out Village Bicycle into a legend – in both worlds.  And you lot did nicely.  You’re all, quite frankly, extraordinary.  You escaped the Division, shot your way out of Dubai with the help of a Dragon, slew the Summer Knight, came back from the dead, fought alongside our dear, ill-fated Daughter of Summer, and stormed a secret Division facility to bring your future Twilight Lady to her prophesied ascension, at the sacrificial altar of the Summer Queen.

“Kids, they are already writin’ the songs.

“Y’all have done your part, you can go, at least those of you who haven’t become too entwined with Suzie Trackmarks here to escape her orbit.  Go in peace, now, and you’ve nothing to fear from me or my mistress for the rest of your days.  I swear it on stone and hearth.”

The ritual outside the window seems to be intensifying, growing to a crescendo that you’re certain ends in the death of the Queen of Summer.  

Additionally, several of the party notice that the standing stones in the forest clearing are rigged with explosives. There are a few brief moments of banter with Jones – who never seems to take his eyes off of Hugo as the party slowly maneuvers around. When asked why the stones are rigged to explode, he says that the worlds are getting a little too close together, there’s too much spill-over. The “experiment is over” as he says, and they need to be kept a bit further apart. When asked about what happens if the stones are broken, he says that those “more on that side” will stay there and more on this side will stay here. Eventually Daphne and Seamus head straight for the door to the stones and face off against Pinky. As the ritual in the forest clearing reaches a crescendo, everyone acts.

The battle is brief, but brutal. Cole, John, and Hugo attack Jones while Seamus attacks Pinky. Mike attempts to disrupt the ritual by distracting Pickens, which works briefly, allowing Jamie to teleport Daphne into the clearing to try to disrupt Mab. Mike also senses from Pickens’ mind that he has a deadman’s switch, presumably for the explosives on the standing stones. Cole is seriously wounded by Jones, but not before inflicting quite a bit of harm. Finally, Hugo lands a shot that incapacitates Jones. This sends Pinky into a rage, storming across the room and smashing Hugo, sending him flying out the door, almost certainly dead.

Meanwhile, Emily has taken remote control of the helicopter outside the building in hopes of maneuvering it to disrupt the ritual, and Emma’s dragon swoops in to take a massive chunk of the roof off for the same purpose. Margaret throws the door to the forest open, again flooding the room with the surreal light, and Emma ignites. She uses her enhanced power to resurrect Hugo. Mike unceremoniously shoots the unconscious Jones in the head, removing the Winter Knight and making Mab vulnerable.

Visibly weakened due to the loss of her Knight, Mab rebuffs Daphne’s attempt at distraction and totally consumes Pickens’ mind to keep the magic circle going. Jamie teleports Seamus in behind Pickens’, and Seamus tries to knock the wizard unconscious but fails miserably and ends up on the ground. As the ritual nears its screeching end, Hugo charges back into the building and fires into the clearing repeatedly, killing Mab.

The whole of the universe seems to shriek as Mab’s body falls to the ground and rapidly deteriorates. Titania looks between the body and Daphne semi-consciously as Daphne fully becomes the Queen of Autumn. Pickens cackles madly, and sets off the explosives. Four quick pops shatter the standing stones.

And there is silence. Titania and Mab are gone. Daphne and Seamus are gone. Pinky is gone. Jamie and Emma and the dragon are gone. The forest is gone, leaving a patch of dirt in a steel building, and Pickens mindlessly burbling in the corner. The remaining party takes a few moments to gather their wits and get Cole conscious again. After some quiet conversation about the implications of their actions, John offers to again shelter them in New York. They all agree, save Hugo, who wants to be back on the water.

As the party leaves the building, Hugo turns back and sighs sadly, not content with the outcome. He closes his eyes, and rewinds time…

…at the moment before the battle breaks out, Jones finally sees what he’s looking for and gives Hugo a sly smile and winks.

There you are,” he says knowingly, “what’re you going to do this time?”

The End

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