Dude, only we can see this namespace, if you don't count the occasional script kiddie that boots a “hack into corky livecd” :p - so no holding back.
Name above is working title, but might grow on me.
Gods exist. From the dawn of time they have walked among us, and no one knows why, how or from where. They are vastly powerful, but far from omnipotent. Gods can mate with humans and amongst themselves. The results are never predictable, but it is a fact that gods get born every once in a while. And although they are immortal in theory, in practice many have died - almost always in a violent fashion. Alexander the Great was a famous short lived minor god. So, perhaps, was Hitler.
It is true that their fame has dwindled since the old days, when their glories were sung from every corner, but do not be fooled - thanks to the miracles of society and technology gods hold a greater sway on us than ever. And while Baal and Ishtar and Zeus may be dead, Jupiter still employs his thunder (recently in the bombing of Iraq) and Odin is said to be running half the EU. The gods still rule, and it is by their own choice that they went underground.
Of course, some gods still dispute that decision.
Even the gods themselves do not know much of their ancient history, but it is clear that they had a profound role in the development of human civilization. Some claim they initiated it originally, some claim to be the very glue that holds it together, but at the very least they nurtured it through the ages and shaped it to their needs. There is even a neat theory, of which I am a fan, about how gods “domesticated” humans into something that can form a productive society.
These days, the oldest living gods only barely remember the old Mesopotamian pantheon, and their memories have been so twisted by myth and age that not much can be certain about them at all. Everything before them is pretty much a mystery. Most of them are said to have been slain millenia ago by the younger Egyptian gods, some of which are still around.
Yahweh is generally considered to have existed and perished many years ago. Some say El was his son, some say it was just another name he used. Jesus, who was obviously also a god, claimed to be the son of El, come to avenge his father, but more of him later. Yahweh is probably still alive, perhaps the oldest god of them all, but he has memory problems. Memento like.
The Greek gods were a great family which managed to control (AKA “nurture”) the entire Hellenic civilization for more than a thousand years. Towards the end of that period, Apollon, the young god of light (a stand-in for Helios, who met a tragic fate), started feeling a bit oppressed by his elder Olympians, especially Zeus. He deserted, and along with the powerful but feeble-minded Jupiter jump-started the Roman empire and the Roman pantheon. Within a few decades they eradicated many of the Greek gods, and almost all of the Olympians.
Much divine blood was shed during this time by the Roman gods, and it was against their bloody rule that Jesus son of El preached. Apollon, now called Apollo, personally nailed him to the cross. Common belief is that Jesus died upon the cross and the whole resurrection thing is just a myth - one that was encouraged by Apollo himself, for reasons detailed below.
Apollo became more and more paranoid with age. If anything, the history he helped shape has taught him caution, and he was probably the first god to realize what is today pretty common knowledge: being directly worshiped just isn't safe anymore.
During the next few centuries, the Roman gods, led by Apollo, went underground. They systematically erased their own existence as anything other than myth, making much use of Christianity - both as a misdirection and as a relatively safe way to control society. Today, the Roman Catholic church is nothing more (or less) than a front for the strongest family of gods in the world.
The full reasons for the Masquerade may yet become clearer, but I think it safe to assume that if you are directly worshiped, you can be found, and if you can be found, you can be killed. Either by other gods or, as technology progresses, by mortals.
In any event, it is clear that most other gods, some sooner and some later, realized that the Masquerade is a good idea, and it has been strictly adhered to for many centuries. The last serious conflict in that regard was around a thousand years ago, when the invading Norse gods were vanquished and forced to sign the Treaty of Hastings. Some of the Norse survivors still wield significant power, using the Anglican Church as a front.
Sol is a relatively new Sun god. He was born during the middle ages, allegedly to Isis - one of the oldest surviving Egyptian gods - and allegedly from the seed of Apollo - who always had a thing for screwing his elders.
Sol never liked the Masquerade. He initiated the Heliocentric heresy, and held a small but powerful cult during the 15th century. The cult was eventually crushed by the Roman Inquisition, but Sol himself was only banished (from Europe, I assume, or maybe from the western world). It is said that only Apollo's direct intervention stopped the court from sentencing him to death. It is also said that Apollo, being a god of prophecy, foretold that he will one day regret his decision.
I'm not sure what Sol did in the centuries since. I suppose he played god to a bunch of primitive societies. Practiced. Schemed. Worked on his resistance to lightning bolts. But during the late 80's, a little while after the death of L. Ron Hubbard, he took over the church of Scientology, renaming it “Suntology” and using his divine power to turn it into the most successful cult ever, with millions of well placed followers.
The cult is led by a Saul Smith, who may be Sol himself, but may also be just a figurehead.
In very general lines, gods are the source of power, while mortals are the conduits channeling this power into the mortal world. The channeling process is highly rewarding for the mortals involved. Prayer and worship are small scale channelings of the divine power, and are thus also pretty rewarding. They also keep the pipes well lubricated.
Not all mortals are created equal. Some have weak souls, and some have very powerful souls. A powerful soul allows the god to manifest more power, and in return is even more rewarding when you properly worship. It also grants the mortal possessing the soul a greater hold over his god, and that is the dark secret of gods which - Bo, we should discuss.
The gods have another existence, in the ethereal realm, which is more abstract and contains only the potential of what is finally manifested in the mortal world. The souls of the mortals are considered the only relevant product of this realization process, and they are stored in Lands of the Dead for some mysterious future purpose.
Both characters are agents of the Vatican, which is a front for the Roman pantheon headed by Apollo, who were deputised Inquisitors and sent to inquisit the all-too-powerful church of Suntology. They are to ascertain the presence of supernatural involvement and to pin it down, assuming that once the true power behind the Suntologists is found, the Vatican will find a way to handle it.
They both possess exceptionally powerful souls, which makes them valuable both to the Vatican and to Suntology. Their real mission, the one serving the Romans, involves a bit more than they signed in for. Apollo plans to use them once they are near Sol and channel his lightning through them, destroying Sol and martyrizing them in the process.
Gabriel Delle is an African ex-cop in the service of the Vatican.
He was born in Nigeria to heathen parents, and became assistant to local missionary as a young kid. One day he traveled to a nearby village to assist the missionary in an exorcism. Something went awry and the whole thing ended with a fiery hell that destroyed the entire village and left him an only survivor.
This trauma made him realize that there is true evil in the world, and that true evil must be fought. This understanding led him to first spend a few years in the Nigerian PO-lice, where he made detective, and a few more years as a priest. Eventually he was recruited by the Vatican as a valuable inquisitor.
Deborah Black is a devote nun and a dedicated freelance social worker.
She was born in London to defunct family and had a very rough life, including much violence and prostitution and substance abuses of all sorts. At the age of fourteen she lost her eyesight, probably dues to the potent cocktail of venereal diseases she contracted at the “office”, but after two years of blindness - and right after a sexual encounter with an odd smelling gentleman (“we also have this blind girl here, lolz”) - she was completely and miraculously cured. And the first thing she saw was a church.
Deborah found her faith and joined a nunnery, where she spent the past decade, praying and helping children in need as a freelance social worker. Several months ago she was allocated by the special Vatican forces and sent to an intensive paramilitary training course, which she aced.
Here starts the first session
Our story begins in Rome, which happens to house both the Vatican and the head branch of the church of Suntology (Solariums, they call them). Gabriel walks undercover as his own cousin into the latter, and wanders around reading brochures. Sure enough, a signore of colour approached him and asks if he can be of assistance. When Gabe expresses sufficient interest he points out two available options. Gabe chooses the more expensive one, pays a hundred and fifty euros and is sent for auditing.
Deborah, at the same time, takes the guided tour and then approaches the main desk and asks about joining. She is offered a week long seminar for several thousand euros, she argues the price to great length, but still ends up paying several thousand euros, albeit several thousand euros less than before.
Gabe goes into a nice office with a nice desk and a huge banner (it's the Suntologists banner, found all over the Solarium to great effect). Behind the desk is an elderly and very professional man, and on it is a machine with twin handlebars that are connected to a bunch of boxes and a PC. The man tells him to grab the handlebars and starts asking him questions about his past - focusing on negative stuff to which Gabe has a strong emotional reaction. Gabe retouches his telling a bit, not wanting to blow his cover, but in general he talks and gets things off his chest.
The man seems surprised and then impressed by the readings he is getting. Gabe catches the reflection of the screen in the window - most readings are off the charts. Eventually the man shakes his hand, tells him he is an extraordinary individual, and asks him to wait while he consults his superiors. He returns with a big cheese named George who explains the individual nature of the Solar path and quickly sends him to the very same seminar as Deborah.
At the seminar Deborah “finds out” about the price differentials and makes a scene, but is told that different people have different paths and is offered to go audit the next morning, for no extra charge. She is audited by a far less professional woman than the guy who audited Gabe, but it seems her readings are also very high. She notices special treatment from that point onward. The sessions are very interesting, with great dynamics between everyone, under the warmth of the Sun Banners. Deborah rides the wave and pretty much leads the sessions. Everything fits in perfectly, except when she brings God into it, at which point she is gently reminded that this being an open seminar, with people from all sorts of different faiths, and that everyone should try and avoid hurting anyone else's feelings. At one point Deborah uses her pen to form a cross and examines the banners through it. She finds that the cross shades her from the warmth, leaving her out in the cold.
When she does a library roll for this banner she keeps seeing, she finds a close resemblance to the emblem of Paulus Solarium, a Catholic priest with some innovative ideas and a penchant for old-school paganism. He had quite a following, and was eventually found guilty of the Heliocentric Heresy and put to the stake by the Roman Inquisition.
Gabe gets into a talk with some seminar folk about Christianity. Most of the time he gets the same politically correct answer, but at one point he makes contact with someone who used to be a very devout Christian himself, and that guy tells him that “it's all there, except God isn't who you think it is”.
On the last day of the seminar, just as George is discussing the PCs future with them, a man arrives at the gates of the Solarium, all tense and soaking wet. Gabe's just about to approach him as he shouts some accusations at the cult and proceeds to self immolate right in front of their eyes. They try to help him, but are too late, the man is very quickly dead and Suntology security shows up, advising everyone to gather inside. Bo, I think it was really stupid of me not to let them do anything at this point. Slap me next time I do this. Gabe does some PO-licing and finds the guy's car, with some letters from his wife and similar crap.
Back at the Solarium the head of the local branch, a German guy called Hans Messerschmidt, speaks to the community, mourning the loss of life due to Internet propaganda and people's fear of change. After his talk the character's continue to discuss their future with George, who invites them to a special class with “someone very special” who is coming from abroad. This is very advanced stuff, and it is not made clear that this is the main reason George is even it Rome, and they will have to attend some evening classes during the coming weeks so they will be ready for it when this great personality arrives. They accept.
At the Vatican, using the Vatican database, they check out Vittorio Sunmoreno, the immolating man, and find out his wife has become a Suntologist a few years back and divorced him for being a bit crazy and took the kids with her. Quite surprisingly, their taskmaster, also named Vittorio, crudely suggests that they abandon this line of investigation, which for now, they do.
They attend some classes and catch up on their Pagan. Most classes are pretty small and pretty specific, but the students keep changing. It is really like each one is on a different path, somehow, that sometimes intersect at the same class. Eventually they get to meet the important visitor, James, a First Circle Lightbringer from the UK. They meet him along with George, the American big cheese, who is very excited; Federico, whom they have seen around in the compound and is also some kind of big shot; and Louis, whom they met several times as a fellow student in their classes these past few weeks. They talk, and gather strength from each other, and ask questions with obvious answers. But towards the end of the meeting, James says something about witnessing the light, and he guides each of the five students through a process of prayer and visualizations and such.
He talks to George, and sees his pain. It appears that George's wife has terminal cancer and only a few weeks to live. They prey for her.
He talks to Federico, and sees his pain. A shining star in the sky of Suntology, Federico had to leave his family behind him, in ignorance. They prey for them.
He talks to Deborah, and sees her pain. She is handling the case of a young girl who is quickly spiralling into a life of crime and un-love. They prey for her.
He talks to Gabe, and sees his pain. His brother, back in war torn Nigeria, has pissed off his wife sufficiently for her to walk away, and now he is drinking and gambling and falling into ill repute. James tries to prey with him, but Gabe does not with to sully himself with false gods, and - with a tremendous exertion of willpower - he pretends to prey to the Sol but is in fact praying to Jesus. This brings the whole ceremony to a halt, and it is clear to everyone that the disturbance is coming from Gabe. He is reproached and pretty quickly gives in, imagining himself and his brother and his family bowing to the Sun and accepting its blessing. How does Dotan feel about that?
They all have a very strong feeling that this is for real, and it almost comes as little surprise when George's wife goes into remission and when Federico's family joins the church and when Deborah's case girl gets adopted by Madonna or Angelina Jolie (both renowned Suntologists) and when Gabe's brother sees the light and goes to beg his wife for forgiveness. But before all that, James talks to Louis, and sees his pain. It is a pain they heard off, in some of the classes Louis took with them. He had lost his daughter in an automobile accident a few years earlier, and he preys to hold her back in his arms.
Deborah rushes home to check on the girl. Gabe reads in the blogs that the fighting in Nigeria sort of migrated a bit, away from his brother's village, and gets the happy phone call from him two days later. In another couple of days they hear of George's wife and Federico's family. All goes according to plan. The PCs, naturally, don't really care much about all that emotional stuff as they only have eyes for Louis and the Pet Sematary scenario.
Gabe decides it's time for some good old fashioned Po-lice work. They tail Louis, who is getting nervouser and nervouser as the days go by, and get a lucky break when he is approached by some sort of Selarium stewardess and given an envelope. He opens the envelope, nods to himself and starts walking off to a side corridor. They both follow him from a safe distance, although he is way too excited for them to even need to be that stealthy, and eventually get to a room with a door that is ajar.
Peeking into the room, they see it is decorated like a log cabin, with a burning fireplace and a bearskin rug. Louis is with his back to them, talking to a young girl sitting in front of him. He seems surprisingly relaxed, almost deflated, and does not notice them. To his right, on a large couch, wearing a fine suit, sits Vittorio Sunmoreno.
And we cliff.
Gabe walks in the door and asks Louis if everything is alright. Deb starts talking to Vittorio from beyond the door. Louis turns, startled, and tells them not to close the door. Vittorio is surprised that they can see him, and complains about being puppeteered into his self immolation. “The worst part”, he says, “is that I regained my senses as soon as I lit up. What a crappy way to go”. He also says he can only leave the room through the “other” door, perhaps meaning the fireplace. Louis, pretty oblivious to this exchange, breaks down on Gabe's shoulder and starts crying. Security shows up, not seeming to notice Vittorio or the girl, and asks them politely to leave. Before they do Debbie asks Vittorio who manipulated him. “Freakin' Phoebus Apollo”, he shouts as they are being walked away.
They go to the cafeteria, where they see Louis talking to Federico who gives them a nervous glance. Hans invites them to a talk in his office and tries to sooth them with crap (“it was a personal experience, I don't know what you saw, beyond your level, bla bla bla”). Seeing they are not satisfied and noticing they are studying under a first class Lightbringer, he promises to get them a special audience with him, since he is currently their direct guide. Back at the cafeteria they talk to Louis directly. He is in a terrible state, and Gabe makes him feel worse religiously insinuating it's his fault his daughter died (he really was driving). Debbie kicks him and kicks into case worker mode and consoles him, giving him some good advice and even calling his wife (as far as she is concerned they are long parted) and asking her to make contact at this crucial point. Eventually she agrees to tell his son to call him and debbie pretty much saves his life. Jesus points galore.
Later they get approached by a cuntette who is a third circle Lightbringer - she apologizes for not being able to get James and offers her services instead. She gives pretty much the same answers as Hans and they leave pissed. , where Debbie thinks she hears feint sounds of sexual ecstasy from beyond one of the walls. When they leave the office they manage to find the door to the orgy room, but are too afraid to open it.
Gabe starts mapping out the premises, esp. as far as security patrols are concerned. When he is done, he starts opening suspicious doors, but gets immediately approached by security people who were not supposed to be in the area and they politely but reproachfully ask his to stop. He gets paranoid and feels he has been made, so he decides to avoid the Solarium until his next session with James.
In the meanwhile, Debbie goes to the Vatican (disguised as a nun!) and talks to their Vittorio, updating him and asking him why he stopped them from investigating Sunmoreno. He says he has info - from a parallel investigation - that he was put up to it by another cult, and is therefore a red herring. Apollo steps in, making eyes, making her uncomfortable. Debbie proceeds to purchase video-recording shades and a fiberoptic cam. You know, for spies.
Gabe gets to the Vatican (disguised as a priest!) and has his own talk with Vittorio (the taskmaster). Vittorio tells him MORAKIM of fighting hive minds (“we did this, then we did that, eventually the power of prayer got them”) and tells him a bit about the other investigation (it concerns Roman gods and pagan stuff).
Gabe finds that the Solarium was build on an old Apollo temple that was abandoned after a bad incident. They get the jawbone of a saint that lived at the same time and place (patron of gossip, he is). Gabe uses it, feeds it a bounty and they both get a vision of being that saint, meditating, and visioning the attack of thunder on the temple, where the son of Apollo is surrounded by his dead guards and his shining father comes to him. He says he will not eat the snake like his mother and his father slays him.
When they take it back they see Apollo arguing with a VITRINA and Debbie records his lips.
Debbie takes her toys and goes to continue Gabe's work, and is not at all bothered by security. 606 does static, orgy room is examined. She even makes friends with one, notices that even when he is on break he somehow knows where there is trouble, and that holy water can interfere with it. Holy water in the tanks (their holy water, which contains Apollo's urine, not the stuff in the PAILA in the church) comes up as a nice attack vector.
At the next James session he starts off with talking about the incident, openly and honestly. Debbie tells him that playing with a man's psyche like this can be dangerous, but he says he is a professional. Louis does seem a lot better. They talk about Vittorio's ghost. After class he asks them to stay, makes it sort of clear that he knows they are working for someone else, and offers them a quick trip in the company jet to meet Sol Smith.
And we cliff again.
Limo (with lightbringerette who was an actor), private jet (where she and James spend some time alone, in the bedroom), Wales. Crap weather that gets better as they approach the encampment. Sunday picnic, they hang around. Gabe reports to HQ through a carpet cleaning number, although he promised not to. No biggie, he will be absolved once he confesses. Deb gets a shower and a change of clothes, and prays to Jesus. She feels resistance to her prayer and tries to break through. when she finally does, she finds her faith aimed not at Jesus, but at the odd smelling guy from her past. She confesses to Gabe and is forgiven.
They meet Sol in the main tent, radiating warmth and joy. He tells them they were used by the church, and lied to. He lies too, but he strives to make the truth known. He PO and he SHAM. Debbie catches whiffs of the odd smell. Gabe feels the taste of his last transubstantiation rising in his throat, making him want to belch, or hurl. Debbie places her hand on him, and for an instant they are like gods. Jupiter is channeling through them, aiming his lightning.
Gabe pictures the cross, which sort of works perfectly for Jupiter. He flips it into the symbol of some African deity. Debbie focuses on love, thinking it can't possibly go wrong. Sol tries to establish some sort of shield. Debbie uses the wisdom of the gods to learn the Jesus had died on the cross, which saps her will. Gabe helps her focus on the love.
From the corner of their eyes they notice a figure, like a kid, like the head of a bird, like not even there. He offers them help, and they take his hand. They zoom out just as Sol's shield cracks and the whole camp goes nuke. The Earth is getting very far, a tiny globe, and then darkness. And then they are in a small apartment in what turns out to be Amsterdam.
Make the see the whole suntology thing is the devil's work. Pagan orgies are highly recommended. - Got started.
Get Roman symbolism to the Vatican guard's uniforms - I saw you trying, Bo, so we nned to figure a good way to do this, or it will wait for after meeting Sol.
The wafer they got before they we sent is some sort of psychic enzyme that will kick in when they are near Sol and enable Jupiter to smite him. Hermes' trick, of course, so they will get back to get TZALASHIM and he can get back at Apollo. the taste of it reminds of the odd smelling man that screwed Deb (Thoth).
The door is a link to the Lands of the Dead, if they close it, the room will disappear around them and they will be stuck there (with Louis, I suppose). There are many kings to the land of the dead, and an immune system for fight scene. The dead themselves have perfect memory, but no needs or wants. boring as hell. It's somehow more than just backup of every mortal that ever lived - but they never got there.