Demon in a Bottle

> This file was sent to me by Talon, who says that he acquired it from the magical journal of a fellow street mage and some-time associate of his not long after his untimely death (aren’t they all?). I don’t understand the magical theory behind any of this stuff, but I know enough that this kind of thing makes me wonder. Where does this stuff come from and what, if anything, can we do about it?
> Capt. Chaos
Transmitted: 11:53:20/3-13-57

— from the research journal of Nicodemus

>12 February 2057
>Waxing Moon, 2nd Quarter (Cancer)

It was a damn shame about the Phoenix. It was, in truth, one of the best lorestores in Denver and I was sorry to see it go. Kara was a good friend, and the least I can do is honor the last favor she asked of me in checking out the talisman she wanted examined, even though I can’t return it to her now. I may be able to sell it for some cred. I wonder if Kara had any family?

I received the item in question from Kara at the Phoenix a couple days ago. She said that she had kept it in storage after buying it off some strange old man and that it was time that she got it checked out by someone who knew what they were doing, but that I owed her a favor and I’d do. Damn, I’m gonna miss her.

> For those of you not in on the Denver scene, the Phoenix was a lore store in the Sioux Sector that was known in the shadows for providing high-quality magical gear and discrete service, if you know what I mean. A little over a month ago there was an explosion that almost leveled the place and killed Kara Jay, the proprietor. Eagle Security tagged the explosion an accident, a magical experiment that got out of hand according to their shamans. Sure.
> Magister

The talisman is made of some kind of deep red stone (carnelian, maybe?) in the form of a demonic, tailed humanoid. The figure is bent over clutching a sphere of pink crystal to its chest, with its long tail wrapped around its legs, kind of like a long and bulky wand or rod of some sort, about 30 centimeters in length. The crystal sphere is mostly translucent with some smoky occlusions near the center and seems to glow faintly in dim light. The stone of the idol is carved all over its surface with runes or symbols that have been worn almost entirely smooth. They’ve very faint and difficult to read.

Everything about this idol, especially the weathering patterns of the symbols, seems to indicate that it is very old, centuries certainly, maybe even longer. Who could have made it? The design doesn’t seem familiar to any of the styles that I’ve seen, nor does the creature depicted look like anything from any mythology I know, and yet there are things about the appearance of the idol I find familiar. Perhaps some kind of subconscious awareness or memory that I should explore later.

> The scans that Nico made of the idol and the symbols are attached to this file. Take a look at them and pipe up if you know anything, chummers. I want to know what this thing is.
> Talon

> I checked them out. No matches, nothing conclusive. If I didn’t know better, I’d tend to think that somebody just made the whole thing up.
> Silicon Mage

>13 February 2057
>Waxing Moon, 2nd Quarter (Leo)

After assensing the idol I’m convinced that Kara had something really amazing on her hands, one of her “rare finds” that usually end up getting sold off to those high-class collectors in Europe or Tir Tairngire. This thing is like a fragging battery of magical power! The astral matrix is channeled in a way I’ve never seen before, but however it’s done, this talisman can direct a lot of mojo, more than any other focus I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to say, but it looks as if the astral structure of the focus is out of alignment with the ether in some strange way. It might be damaged or simply due to age or even shoddy enchanting, although that’s hard to believe given the complexity of its aura.

> Query: “rare finds”?
> Shadowdancer

> Kara Jay had something of a reputation for getting hold of really unusual foci from time to time, things that aren’t like anything you’d find for sale at a lore store. I personally saw an orichalcum key that gave off a sense of unbelievable age, like it was ancient when we were first making fire and looking up at the stars in wonder. And it was simply crawling with constrained power, but its aura was like nothing I’d seen, sort of like what Nicodemus describes, like it draws its power from a Place unknown to us. There was no way it could be as old as it seemed, but there it was, and I know what I felt.
> Magister

>15 February 2057
>Full Moon at 7:16 a.m. (Virgo)

I’ve done some additional research on the symbols on the surface of the talisman, but after sending my search daemons crawling through gigapulses of data armed with pattern-matching algorithms, I’m not much father ahead than when I started. Most of the symbols are so faint that it’s hard to get a perfect match on any of them. The search turned up lots of partial matches with several symbol systems: Futhark, Sanskrit, Enochian, Hebrew and ancient Greek all have some similarities to some of the characters, but no one alphabet or symbol system really has an edge over the others. It could just be random similarities. In other words, nothing conclusive. Tonight I’m performing a bonding ritual to investigate the talisman more thoroughly.

> I’ve basically rechecked Nico’s analysis and gotten the same results. Some of the characters and symbols have some resemblance to ancient languages and symbol-systems, but none of them correlate enough to make any definite matches. It’s like a weird polyglot of different language families
> Know-It-All

> Stupid slot, performing a bonding ritual with a focus that he knows almost nothing about! This chummer was a few megapulses short of a full disk.
> Starfall

> Nico got a little over-enthusiastic with his magical experimentation, sure, but he was a good mage and a good friend. Don’t forget that.
> Talon

Amazing! The ritual worked far better than I could have hoped for! I decided to perform an attunement to help realign the talisman and let me experiment with more directly. I set up all the conditions to be as favorable as possible for the bonding and it seems to have paid off. I’ve never had a more simple attunement, the talisman seemed to adjust its aura to synchronize with mine almost instantly. It’s astoundingly psycho-reactive, almost like astral clay that’s malleable to the will of the forces around it. There’s a great deal of power to be tapped there, I could sense it when I performed the ritual. I’m feeling drained from performing the realignment, but the aura of the talisman seems stronger and more vital.

>16 February 2057
>Waning Moon, 3rd Quarter (Virgo)

Rose came by for a visit today and nearly fragged with all of the delicate work I’ve been setting up. I love her dearly, but sometimes she just can’t leave things alone. One of the cardinal rules of magical etiquette that I’ve always tried to drive home with her is that you never handle a magician’s magical tools, talismans or foci without permission, because it can disturb the balance of their energies. Rose spotted the idol on my workbench were I’d placed it after the ritual on the full moon and asked me what it was, reaching out to touch it at the same time.

I shouldn’t have gotten so mad at her. I’ve been tired and touchy all day and so I nearly took her head off for it and read her the riot act about never touching my stuff without asking. She said that she didn’t know that it was part of my mojo gear and looked like she was going to cry, which made me feel like drek afterwards.

>22 February 2057
>Waning Moon, 3rd Quarter (Sagittarius)

Fate gave me the perfect opportunity to experiment with the talisman. I need to get my thoughts down now while they’re all still fresh… it feels like they’re all struggling to get out of my head at once.

The group of us got called in on a run that took us up against Aztechnology. When we were extracting a certain researcher from one of the Big A’s secure “housing” sites, I got a chance to test some of the better magical defenses out there. I used the idol a few times in dealing with some of the more difficult defensive measures and I’m truly astounded at the power of this talisman. The amount of mojo I could channel was enough to take out one of the guardian elements in a single shot! Using the idol is also getting easier and less draining than it was at first.

The corporate egghead we sprung from Aztech took a real interest in the idol when he saw me use it. Said that he’d never seen anything like it. He wanted to examine it, but I told him to frag off. I’m the one conducting the experiments here. I owe that to Kara. No fraggin corporate researcher who spends all of his time in his ivory tower is going to know drek about real magic. Janus thinks I shouldn’t have hit the guy, but he was hackin’ me off. Janus said I was starting to look like drek and that I should get some rest away from the stress of the shadows, but I told him I’ve never felt better.

Ritual and Summoning experiments with the focus should be soon.

> From the description and what I know of Nicodemus, it looks like the idol is some kind of mega-power focus. If he was able to take out an Aztech guardian elemental in one go, it must have increased his personal power by something like 200%, which is almost unheard for any kind of focus. I could imagine that kind of power being pretty intoxicating.
> Silicon Mage

> We all could, omae, that’s what’s kinda scary about it.
> Miss Tick

> Just for the record, word has it that the “corporate egghead” that Nico’s team sprung from the merry old land of Az was none other than Dr. Hidalgo Perez, one of the corp’s big league thaumaturgical researchers said to have been working with some of the applications of the ancient myth cycles of the Aztec, Toltec and Mayan peoples. No word yet on who wanted Perez sprung or where they’ve got him stashed as of yet.
> Silk

>23 February 2057
>Waning Moon, 4rd Quarter (Sagittarius)

Bastards! Fragging Aztechnology, how did they find out about our run? Everything went off so smoothly, but Aztech still sent their goon squad after us. Jaguars. Topper’s dead, they cut out his fraggin heart. They must be looking for me, too. I should be safe here, give me time to figure out how I’m going to pay back that Azzie scum for what they’ve done.

The Idol. They must be after the Idol. They found out about it and want to take it for themselves. No way am I going to allow a focus like this to be used by those drek-eating Azzie blood mages. I’m gonna have to get out of the Free Zone soon and find somewhere safe ’til things cool off.

> Aztechnology retribution at its finest. Janus and the other members of the team who worked the Perez extraction all turned up dead within a month of the run. So far as I know, Nico’s the only one who escaped from Denver alive.
> Milo

> That’s fraggin weird even for the Big A. Aztechnology’s as vindictive as they come, but sending a hit squad to kill a bunch of runners after the fact is strange. Put a price on their head, sure, but devote serious corporate resources like the Jaguars to something like this? I think that Nicodemus might have a point in his paranoia. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Aztechnology was interested in the idol.
> Pyramid Watcher

>24 February 2057
>Waning Moon, 4rd Quarter (Capricorn)

Those Aztechnology slots have actually helped me figure something out. Blood magic. The Idol responds to the power of blood magic. I performed a ritual of anointing It in my own blood and watched the stone of the Idol soak it up while its aura grew stronger. I’m sure that some kind of ancient blood magic is the key to the Demon’s full powers.

> BLOOD MAGIC!?! Is this guy totally soft? Everybody knows not to mess with that drek.
> Webster

> It is clear by this point that the victim is not in a rational state of mind. The irrational mind can justify many things.
> Many-Names

> Anyone else notice how the references to “the Idol” and “the Demon” have become capitalized? Nico recorded this stuff using Dictation 12.1 voice-translation software from Renraku. The software appears to have been translating additional emphasis in his voice when speaking of the focus, almost a kind of reverence. The algorithm for it was (I drek you not) based on the vocal inflections when people speak of things like God.
> Killroy

Tonight I slip the border and get out of the FRFZ. I think I’m going to head for Seattle and look up Talon. He knows which end of a wand is which and he’s had a couple of run-ins with the Big A. Maybe he can help figure out how to get them off my back. Tried to get a hold of Janus and the others, but there’s no word. Did Aztech get them too? I talked with Rose this morning over an encrypted comm circuit that she set up. She seemed really sad, distant. I told her I’d be coming back as soon as things cooled down, but she just nodded numbly like she didn’t really care. I told her I’d see her before I left.

> As a side-note Neon Rose, the person Nicodemus is referring to here, was killed along with the rest of the team by Aztechnology hitters.
> Milo

> I’m not so sure of that, paryeni. Rosie was killed the night that Nico left Denver and her death wasn’t a pleasant one, but it didn’t match the M.O. of the other killings. Those were brutal, but professional. This was more… all I can say is “passionate.”
> SecSpook

> What are you suggesting, chummer?
> Talon

> Not suggesting anything, just pointing out that the facts don’t entirely jibe. No offense meant.
> SecSpook

>27 February 2057
>Waning Moon, 4rd Quarter (Aquarius)
>Runic Half-Month of Tyr Begins

They knew, they knew about it. They said it was a routine border patrol, but no border patrol is going to stop people are as far into Salish-Shidhe territory as we were, but there they were. They must have known. They were looking for it. They want the power it represents for themselves, but they don’t understand its true potential… well, I guess they do now. Josie, the rigger-friend of Talon’s I hired, told me that she’d never seen mojo like what I used against the Tir border guards. I could tell that she feared the power I had. They all do.

> Okay, chummers, I was there, so here’s the straight scoop. I was in Denver when Nico contacted me and told me he knew Talon. I told him I’d give him a lift out of the ‘zone and back to Seattle. Let me tell you, this guy looked like drek. I thought he was a chiphead or something when I first saw him: scraggly, gaunt, and paranoid to the max. His eyes kept darting around like he was expecting to be jumped at any time.

We hit the autobahn back up north and skirted past the Tir border just outside of Boise, maybe 20 klicks out. A border patrol showed up out of nowhere. I still can’t figure how they snuck up on us like they did. I tried to lose them, but they were all over us, closing in fast. Then Nico tells me to spring the hatch so he can use magic against these guys and I tell him he’s fraggin nuts, but I was running out of options fast, so I let him. Chummers, he was right about one thing. I’ve never seen mojo like that, he took out two Tir choppers with a fireball that lit up to sky like the sun. We beat it out of there double time and Nico looked at me with those crazy eyes the rest of the way like I was his worst enemy.
> Josie Cruise

>28 February 2057
>Waning Moon, 4rd Quarter (Pisces)

Gods and Spirits, what the frag is happening to me? I looked in the mirror and it was like seeing myself for the first time. I look like Death. I’ve lost almost twenty kilos, my face and body look sunken and skeletal. My skin’s gray and ashen and my hair’s gone white. I’ve been bleeding myself far too often and I look at the scars on my arms and hands feeling ill. I look like my grandfather when he was wasting away from cancer, hooked up to all those machines…

It’s the idol. It must be. Something’s gone wrong. I’ve tried to get a hold of Talon. This thing has to be destroyed. It’s aura is stronger than ever to my Sight while mine is getting weaker. The damn thing is feeding off of me like a leech, replenishing its own magical energies with my very essence. There has to be some way to stop it, something I can do.

I’m going to try and contact Talon again.

>1 March 2057
>New Moon at 6:48 a.m. (Pisces)

It can’t be done. Nothing can hurt it. It just sits there and mocks me. I can’t even leave it’s presence without terrible pain. Still no answer from Talon. He picked a fine time to find gainful employment, heh, heh.

I think I passed out. It’s night now. The moon is dark, but I can still see it’s face in the night sky, leering at me. I feel like I’m falling… sliding down a slippery embankment into a dark, still pool. The surface of the water is like a membrane, like the surface tension that little bugs skate over without slipping under. I made a slip, I can feel myself sliding under. Oh my God, I don’t want to die! The water’s rising all around me, pulling me under. The current has claws and teeth and it’s hungry for my life. NO! NO! Stop it! ohmigod, what is it? What ARE you? please no… no…

> I was actually out of the Sprawl when Nico tried to get a hold of me. By the time I got the message and managed to track him down it was way too late. We found Nicodemus’ body in a doss in Redmond. I don’t mind telling you it was one of the most horrible things I’d ever seen, omaes. It was like he’d been mummified, just dry flesh stretched tight over his bones, although according to the last journal entry he’d only been dead for three days when we found him.

We searched the place for any signs of the idol that he talked about, but there was nothing. Make of that what you will and if you come across it, I’d keep away.
> Talon

Gamemaster Information

Magic is still one of the great unknowns of the Sixth World. With the Awakening only 50 years old, there is still a great deal that remains undiscovered and unexplored by magical scholars and theorists. Shadowrunners, being on the bleeding edge of things, will end up discovering many of these unknowns themselves and be forced to deal with them.

In the cast of unique enchantments as described above, the origin of the magical item is less important than its impact on the adventure and the campaign. As pointed out by Nicodemus’ experience, many of these powerful unique enchantments are incredibly dangerous to their users and should be handled with caution. The gamemaster should decide what the item’s properties are to be and how use of a unique enchantment will affect the overall plot of the campaign if the item should end up in the hands of the player character.

These unique enchantments don’t necessarily follow the rules for magical foci given in the Shadowrun rulebook or in Magic in the Shadows, they’re unique, after all! That means that they can work in almost any way the gamemaster wants them to. These items seem to draw their power from somewhere other than the normal astral plane most Shadowrun foci tap into, this means that the item’s abilities and powers vary widely and sometimes without rhyme or reason. An item that’s earth-shakingly powerful might only be so during one day out of every 134 years when the planets are in their proper alignment and so forth. The gamemaster can use this to regulate the power of such items.

The best use of unique enchantments in a campaign are as plot hooks to motivate an adventure. Such trinkets tend to inspire a great deal of interest from the other figures in the Sixth World who may have a greater insight than the runners into the true nature and power of these talismans. Other magically oriented Threats may take interest if a powerful and unique talisman falls into the hands of the player characters. The runners can quickly find themselves entangled in an adventure when they come across one of these items.