I wouldn’t consider myself a racist. I doubt many racists would consider themselves racist either, but that’s besides the point. I mean, I regularly hang out with a satyr and shapeshifter. They practically live in my house. I let a homeless minotaur use my cell phone whenever he wants. I even do work for an orc who sacrifices chickens to divine the future. So, I would confidently assert that I’m not a racist.
Now, ask me if I discriminate based upon personal hygene, and I would say, “Hell yes!” Ghouls, sadly, fall under that category. I know – it’s not their fault. They’re victims of a terrible disease, cursed to live off the flesh of metahumans. It’s not fair, I get it, but they still smell like a hot pile of owl drek. And, yes, I happen to know quite well what that smells like.
But, there I go getting ahead of myself again. So, Aioda gets a call from dear, old Teddy and says a pal of his needs help of the illegitimate sort. As that’s pretty much what we do best, we head on down to the casino and are introduced to a Mr. Bill Flint, that chicken genocidist I mentioned earlier. He tells us his daughter has gone missing and wants us to find her. While Aioda and I were both thinking it, in a rare stroke of restraint we neglect to note the irony of a diviner not foreseeing his daughter’s disappearance.
Jumping the gun a bit, in hindsight, we went straight to the girl’s house to find it in fairly normal condition, minus some missing clothing. With no signs of forced entry, scuffle or even missing valuables, it looked like she just up and left. The really interesting part of this uneventful search was the powerful antivirals in her medicine cabinet; stuff you’d prescribe if someone had the VITAS plague. With nothing else to go off of, we returned to the casino to investigate a different angle.
Bill’s daughter was last seen with her boyfriend Warren. After some chit chat with casino’s bartender and some “tactfully spent” nuyen, I get the full name and alleged address of the boyfriend. Turns out, however, it’s just a run-down church in the 9th Ward, but there were some folks hanging around who weren’t openly hostile, so I did what I do best and lodged my foot in my mouth.
Among those excessively patient people was a reverend by the name of Jebediah Backwaters, who was kind enough to not show us the door or even show me the finger. Instead, he admitted to knowing Warren and offered to discuss our interest in him in exchange for a few hours of work on his church. With some physical heavy lifting from Aioda and some magical heavy levitating on my end, we managed to patch up a sizable hole in the roof. Sable “helped” by hunting some rats under the floorboards. Ol’ Jeb was so impressed he even fed us.
After some sweet talking, Jeb gave us the skinny on Warren. Despite the description we had been given of a strapping, blue-eyed black man, Warren’s actually a ghoul. According to Jeb, he’s got a special gift for altering his appearance. My grasp of science isn’t so good, but I’m fairly knowledgable about different kinds of magic, and I’ve never heard of such a thing. Of course, that wasn’t what I was thinking about at the time; I was too busy cringing as Jeb told us he would be leading us to some dilapitated building where ghouls regularly gathered to see if anyone knew exactly where Warren was holing up.
Regardless of my personal misgivings, we followed Jeb to the ghoul nest. The ghouls were probably even less happy to see us than we were to see them, but it didn’t take long to figure out Warren wasn’t the most liked ghoul in the neighborhood. Not exactly from anything he’d done, really, but jealousy is far from the pettiest reason anyone’s ever had to hate someone, and they were more than happy to fuel the suspicion that Bill’s daughter may have been infected as well.
All that said, the ghouls were another easy-to-negotiate-with bunch; all they wanted was some clean, running water, which didn’t take more than a phone call and an hour wait. The ghouls delivered on their end of the deal, but once again I wasn’t as happy with the information as I’d have liked to be.
I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t thrilled to be going into the sewers, but there we were, looking at a flooded tunnel and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. Thankfully, Sable was able to navigate the tunnels and figure out the route she thought we should take. With a some magical assistance, we went for a little swim, and found ourselves a rather messy living area, complete with a rather suspicious ghoul. Can’t blame him, really, since we exploded out of the flooded tunnel into his home, for lack of a less flattering term. He was, however, open minded enough to not shoot us on sight, and trusting enough to lower his pistol after we put our hands up.
With a mere mention of Warren’s name, the ghoul called out to him and there he was, though not the man we were told to look for – pale, blotched skin and the tell-tale milky eyes of a ghoul. Just as Jeb had told us, however, he quickly changed his appearance and inquired as to why we were looking for him. A simple mission statement was really all it took to make our missing lady pop out behind him, unharmed and unghoulified, and a little guilt trip was all it took to convince her to come back to the casino to, at the very least, let her father know she was safe.
Bill was plenty happy to see his daughter alive and well, even though she wouldn’t be sticking around. While she was immune to the effects of Warren’s disease, she was now a carrier and didn’t want to endanger anyone. That, of course, didn’t affect Bill’s ability to compensate us with some nuyen and some rather unsanitary, albeit magical, chicken feet.
After making sure Bill’s daughter returned to Warren safely, Teddy thanked us for helping Bill out and gave us some extra nuyen for our trouble. Despite the fact that I’ll probably never get the stench of rotting flesh and sewer sludge out of my clothes no matter how many times I send them to the dry cleaners, it was refreshing to know that sometimes we don’t need to risk life and limb to make a dishonest buck.
But if my skin starts peeling, I’m chucking that life lesson out the window, right after the ghoul that got me sick.