[This is a from-memory account of a session that happened 3 months ago, so I’ll be broad]
You are sitting on the floor in the middle of an enormous auditorium. You are bound by handcuffs and surrounded by guards.
The group is in custody, attending morning Assembly before interrogation. The Chairman finishes his (very dry) address, and the prisoners are escorted out of the hall by a side door. They are led up a flight of stairs into the Market, and through an unmarked sliding door into a wide, bare-concrete chamber. A metal shutter opens, and the Interrogator is sitting in the empty room behind a desk.
After a brief interrogation, which consists of little more than name-taking, the prisoners are thrown into separate cells. A further cell is occupied by Patricia Graham. The prisoners employ various means of escape: while the guard is distracted by Elias’s clamouring, Synthia tries unsuccessfully to pick the lock with her hairpin, and Doctor von Wehr swipes the guard’s keys. Patricia convinces Synthia to slide the hairpin through the bars, and demonstrates the correct method of lockpicking. The doors open, Professor Henghist Pantheon charges the guard, knocking him to the floor, and Patricia opens his neck with a shard of crockery found on the floor. The prisoners exit via an open door hidden by a black curtain, into the Forum.
The sky is searingly bright and orange. The Central District building lies to the north; above it are three imposing triangular towers, easily 300 feet high. Traders are beginning to set up in the terrace below. Patricia warns against going back through the Central District, as the party do not have papers. She leads down some stairs to a locked gate in a fence that stretches across the western bank of the Lake. Although she had picked up what looked to be breaching charges from the prison corridor, they have no way of detonating them. Doctor von Wehr walks up to the traders, and identifies a spark plug, which they happily give him. A short, sharp blast, and the gate swings open into the fields.
Chest-high cereal crops and deactivated farm machinery await. Patricia points out a corresponding gate on the southern end of the fence. Luckily, this one opens from the inside.
The gate leads out into the courtyard of the Temple of Hephaestus, on the south side of the lake. Henghist identifies it as being older than the Citadel that surrounds it. In the courtyard are worshippers exiting the temple and a blue hoarding to the west. Workers are carrying out works on pipes beneath the brick floor. The Doctor confronts the workers, but finds nothing untoward. Stairs to the west lead down to an inlet to another lake to the south. On the opposite bank of the lake is a wall, which appears older than even the Temple by some centuries. Patricia advises that there is a safehouse in Andrewes Block, to the east, where clothes and papers can be found, and that Bertie O’Malley, the Ratmonger, can provide work. When the party turn around, she vanishes.
On the way to Andrewes Block, the group encounter a drinking establishment, frequented by off-duty guards, adjacent to a barricade and guard post. Beyond is the shimmering blue of the smog buffer, followed by dust as far as the eye can see. A set of spiral stairs leads up to the podium beneath Andrewes, which stands on concrete columns and stairwells above. They enter the nearest stairwell and ascend, arriving at number 311. Suspicious, they investigate the door for traps and locks, only to find it swings open. Inside are five nicely inconspicuous sets of clothing and five sets of work papers, names already in place.
O’Malley’s is in the market; rather than having to retrace their steps, a more direct route lies across Gilbert Bridge, which spans the lake. Nearing lunchtime, the market is far busier than before. They find the Ratmonger, who has been expecting them. He sets the task of dispatching and retrieving three Giant Rats, which can be found in the Lower District, beyond the algae vats. The party descend the stairs they were led up in handcuffs a short while before, and exit the Central District via a front door. An underground road stretches east to west; the algae vats are to the west. Entering a chamber not unlike the one their prison was housed in (which, come to think of it, is directly above), they see four 50-foot vats as the pungent stench of algae assaults their senses. Workers in wading trousers rake the vats, but pay them no mind. At the far end of the chamber is a thick metal door, with stairs leading downwards.
Below is a room filled with deactivated industrial equipment of unknown function. The party can hear scampering of large feet. From the shadows, they are attacked by rats easily four feet long, with teeth the size of hands. A protracted battle ensues, with the rats finally captured and killed. They bring the corpses back to Bertie, attracting a few strange looks on the way. Grateful, he gifts them with cured skewered whole rats, and instructs them to head back to the safehouse and await instructions.
Upstairs to the balcony and exiting to the east, Doctor von Wehr is observant enough to see the burly thugs and their sacks moments before they are plunged into darkness. They are carried down stairs, dumped into metal chairs and the sacks ripped off. A silhouetted figure sits opposite, across a desk, in a room not unlike the interrogation chamber. He chuckles. “We need you to head out into the Ribs”.
“What on Earth for?” (the Doctor)
“There’s something we need out there, and none of us can get out. It has to be you.”
“And if we refuse?”
“Why would you ever do that?” said Bertie, leaning forward into the light. His signet ring shines.
There is an expanse of atomic glass to the northeast. The party finally agree to retrieve a sample and deposit it in a dead drop. They are equipped with radiation suits and a pickaxe and ushered out on to the underground road. The metal shutters close behind them. The road leads east, and sweeps up and to the north. A branch leads downwards. Up the ramp is a barricade and guard station, staffed by at least a dozen guards and a sergeant. Beyond, the infinite dust of the Wastes. Spotted by a guard, they run down the ramp to the east, and come to a wide chamber with concrete pillars: a dead end. However, behind them to the northwest is a green-lit sign, depicting a running man, an arrow, and an open door. They follow it through a heavy metal door, up concrete steps, and out into the open.
To the east, a fenced-off agricultural field. To the south, what appears to be the disused entrance to an office block. To the north: an archway, leading out away from the Citadel. They exit into the Wastes. Visibility is poor, perhaps 50 feet. It’s slow going in their radiation suits. They encounter the metal Ribs, sticking out of the dust, stretching sometimes dozens of feet into the orange sky. They carry on for almost an hour of walking and peter out. Some distance beyond is the start of a black translucent expanse of glass. Elias begins hammering with the pickaxe. The sound is amplified by the glass, and reverberates along it into the distance. They hear a screech. After the next strike of the axe, some footsteps. What they can only describe as a Wyvern strides into view, screeching, young roosting on her back. They finally remove a 1-foot-square section of glass, and hightail it back towards the ribs. They reach them just in time.
Arriving back at the northern edge of the Citadel, they spot a metal box, painted red, with a slot near the top and a sigil on the front, comprising four letters B, arranged in a square, at mutual right angles. They recognise it from Bertie’s signet ring. Unsure as to the legitimacy of the deposit box, they split the glass in half, keeping one half and placing the other in the box. They enter by the archway they left by, only for some of the Citadel Guard to emerge from the shadows and apprehend them.
The party are led along the wall to the guard station they had avoided. The sergeant takes charge, leading them into an elevator. It climbs to the very top of the middle of the three towers, and opens to the large single room of the penthouse. The Chairman is standing with his back to them, looking out of the panoramic window.
“You heard me.”
The Chairman confiscates the remaining chunk of glass, dumping it on his desk. “You think I don’t know what your little group has been up to? This is my city.” Elias looks pained. “There’s somewhere out there! A paradise!” “Out there?” spits the Chairman, “there is nothing”. A look out of the panoramic window confirms (apart from a shattered stone dome to the southeast, and a wide gorge a mile to the south). The Chairman’s triumph is short-lived when Doctor von Wehr plunges a letter opener into his neck.
Just then, a klaxon. RADIATION ALERT: ALL CITIZENS TO BUNKERS repeats on the tannoy. The party head back to the lift, taking it all the way back down to the ground floor. The doors open to chaos: citizens, Bureaucrats and guards pouring through metal concertinaed doors into the bunkers. They hear guards muttering “we weren’t forecast a radiation storm…” as they run past.
Taped to the wall next to the elevator door is an envelope. On the back is the sigil from Bertie’s ring. Inside are five polished black gems, and a note with the words “a gift”. The party each pocket one, and head for the nearest bunker. The last citizens trickle in, and the enormous doors close. The ground starts to tremor. Lit by greenish emergency lighting, they see Bertie, face fixed in rictus, chuckling to himself. “We did it,” he whispers, “it’s happening. It’s finally happening. Hah!”. As the tremors wax and a deafening rending sound fills the air, the party enquire what’s happening: “You’ll find out soon enough. See you tomorrow!” shouts Bertie, with a glint in his eye.
The world tears itself apart, and everything is white. Then black.
The party finds themselves sitting on the floor in the middle of an enormous auditorium, bound by handcuffs and surrounded by guards.
They’d been there before.