Degrees of Horror

Beautiful Smile

Episode 5

Cast: Markus, Red

Waking up late in the morning, Red notices someone has left a hand-made bouquet of roses by his door. The card’s addressed to him and signed “from a secret admirer”. He finds this suspicious, and leaves the flowers on the table as he leaves.

Meanwhile, Markus is getting lunch from the dining hall (cafeteria) when one of his band-mates (Jason Reed) comes up to him screaming that he has to hide, someone is after him, she’s driving him crazy, etc. It turns out that a senior student, the head cheerleader, Debrah Burton, is suddenly obsessed with finding Jason. That wouldn’t be so bad, except Jason himself seems obsessed with finding another girl (Keyva Bordeaux).

As Markus and Red try to perform mundane errands, they quickly realize weird things are happening all over school. Lots of people seem to be obsessed with finding other people and expressing their love. Some people seem really obsessed with it, to the point of psychopathy. Some of these people seem completely obsessed with finding people they don’t even know that well, know nothing about, or don’t even know the names of. At one point, Markus has to talk Jason Reed off a roof when he becomes depressed over not finding Keyva. Whatever’s going on, it’s getting worse, as the players realize when Dan Freeman asked Markus for his opinion on a poem for Trystie Moon. “Roses are red, violence is too / Come to my bed, it will be safer for you”

Markus and Red go to Professor Maclanahan for help, barging into his office accidentally interrupting him in a passionate embrace with a school guidance counselor, Helen Lane. The two regain their composure and try to act professional as she leaves. Red notices the professor’s admiring gaze as Helen leaves. Markus and Red conclude that whatever wacky mind-control stuff is going on, it’s got the Professor too and he’s not going to be any help.

Another spooky event that has been going on during this time is that they’ve been seeing the spectral form of the late Timothy Diamond around campus. No one else seems to see him, but often times he’s seen whispering to someone and fading away, and then that person’s demeanor changes. At one point, Markus is talking to someone and the spectral form of Timothy comes up to her and says, “Isn’t there something you need to be doing right now? Someone you need to find?” Timothy vanishes, but the person suddenly seems obsessed over finding another student.

At this point, the party has split up. Markus visits Missy Jordon, asking her for tutoring assistance. The tutoring session does not go well, and he ends up frustrating Missy a lot. In the end though, she does agree to continue these tutoring sessions once a week in her dorm.

After the tutoring session, Markus receives a frantic call from his band-mate, Grant Harrowway — Red’s roommate. When Red and Markus arrive, they discover that the bouquet of flowers left on the table has grown into a giant plant-monster and has entrapped the roommate while he was asleep. Grabbing an emergency ax, they kill the giant plant and hack the roommate free. Other problems are happening around campus. A love-letter being passed around seems to inspire anger in everyone who reads it. A photography student snaps people’s pictures and some of them disappear in a flash of light. One girl dips her hand into a box of candy and has a hard time getting her hand back out.

While Red does some research on what’s going on, Markus runs around trying to put out fires (figuratively) and keep his band-mates from doing anything stupid (and of course this was a great opportunity for me to have them do the stupidest things). In the dorm’s shared kitchens, Markus tries to keep violence from breaking about among a group of love-sick students by keeping them busy. It doesn’t help that some of them seem clearly insane. Jason, for example, decides to make “love muffins” with Drain-O as the secret ingredient. In his euphoric but obsessed state, this seems like a perfectly rational idea. After providing some help, Markus gives Grant the responsibility of keeping Jason out of trouble.

Meanwhile, Red did some research on-line to find out that something similar happened to the school about fifty years ago. There was some major controversy around an unusual number of strange romantic couplings around the time of the harvest dance in the ‘60s. He finds a photo of two people on the front-page of the newspaper that apparently involved “a scandalous kiss” by two people, Nina Castle and Tommy Ellwood. Further research didn’t yield much, although there was a strange little comment by Tommy when he answered a reporters question with an off-hand comment about how he “enjoyed the dance much more once they got rid of the Greek influence”. Red’s research didn’t yield any more information, so Red and Markus got together again.

Once they had rescued all the band-mates and everyone was together, their dialogue revealed one other strange clue. The performance hall where The Barbecue Boys practice each night had been locked up “for the gallery”. Grant revealed that he earned a few bucks last night helping to setup the room for an art gallery the school was having on display tonight. There were half a dozen paintings in there. They were making it a big deal because one was dedicated to some student who died recently.

Red and Markus decided to continue making sure everyone was okay and generally killing time before the gallery opened. “The art show is officially at 8pm, but they open the doors at 7pm so people can walk around and admire the art.” Once the gallery opened, they looked around and discovered that the prize 1st place painting was a portrait of Timothy Diamond called “Beautiful Smile” painted by Sam Wilkes.

They ask around and discover the location of Samantha Wilkes’ dorm room. They find her room and persuade her to let them in. The spectral form of Timothy Diamond is in there and it has clearly spent a lot of time tormenting Samantha. She seems subject to his every command although she doesn’t see or hear him. He seems mostly concerned with making her finish her next painting (“Lonesome Fields”). She hasn’t easten or slept in awhile — she’s just driven to paint.

Convinced that the painting of Timothy Diamond is at the heart of everything, Markus and Red decide to steal the painting. They stage an elaborate heist by pulling the fire alarm. There were a few complications (they broke the fire alarm, they aroused the attention of a security guard, etc.) during the heist. One of the security guards sees them steal the prize painting, but is more concerned over rescuing the other art work and evacuating all the students. Markus and Red got the painting and met up on the roof of the Linda Kirchman Tower. The spectral form of Timothy Diamond tried to stop them, but Red’s spirit guardian mauled him.

Markus and Red managed to burn the painting and Timothy suffered an agonizing spectral death. (“That’s the second time you guys have killed this guy!”)

Once the painting burned, it left behind some residue in the form of a luminescent blue fluid. They soaked up the strange gelatin with Markus’ shirt and saved it in a duffel bag for later analysis.

Once the players destroy the painting and kill the spectral form of Timothy Diamond, everything seems… different. The killer plant has turned back into roses. The pictures that Red took of the creature are gone. The students around campus seem to have a fuzzy memory of the last several hours. The band-mates don’t know why they are walking around with cupcakes, but are thoroughly enjoying them. Many people seem to forget about their strange behavior or dismiss it in some way. (In the background, Keyva Bordeaux is suddenly wondering why she is driving to Louisiana.)

The next morning, Professor Maclanahan leaves a message asking Red and Markus to come and see him after his morning class. They do, and he formally introduces them to Helen Lane. (The two of them seem to be a lot more professional now.) Helen Lane answers some of their questions about what happened 50 years ago based on stories she heard. There was a harvest dance around that time that turned bloody. That night, a body was found in the basketball court completely burned alive. It’s the very girl in that photo they were asking about. That year was a tragic year — many students died or disappeared. So the school stopped having harvest dances after that. That’s really all she knows, but she’s concerned as to why the students are looking into this. They basically lie to her and she lets it go for now,. saying goodbye to the Professor as she leaves.

Once she leaves, the players share all they know with the Professor. They share their research, their recent encounters, the strange fluid… all of it. The Professor is fascinated, but confused by much of this. He doesn’t know anything about Samantha Wilkes or Timothy Diamond. He suggests they should have Dougie analyze the fluid. When Red mentions something about a “Greek influence”, the Professor explains about an ancient Greek myth about spirits who whisper inspiration into artists. The Greeks called them “muses”. He continues on to say that “It wasn’t just art. The muses were said to visit generals in their sleep and inspire them to make profound battle strategies. In occult lore, there are some references to ‘dark muses’ – spirits of evil inspiration that drive artists mad.” He suggests they could be dealing with something like that, but are at a loss as to what could have awoken or summoned it now.

At this point, it’s been almost a full 24 hours since they visited Samantha and decide to check up on her. Everyone else seems back to normal, so they are curious if she is okay and how much she remembers. The room is locked, but they get in and discover the whole place empty. The cupboards are bare, the beds are missing sheets, there’s nothing but furniture in the room. No books, no papers, nothing in the fridge. They ask some of the other students in the hallway and discover that no one lives there — that dorm wasn’t rented this year. No one has even heard of Samantha Wilkes. They ask about the art gallery where they learn that the 1st place ribbon was given to David White for his painting, “Dreams on the Sea”.

Markus and Red are still pretty confused as to exactly what happened, but at least they managed to save the school.. The school is safe… right?



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