In Grove Or Green

Prologue

Baltimore, 1920

Scene 1 – An Auspicious Party
The characters gathered to celebrate the appointment of a new city official: Charles D. Gaither, the new Police Commissioner. It was a standard high society assembly, with a Who’s-Who list of guests. Arthur Dawson entered by the front door and accidentally stumbled into Amelia Earhart in a very meet-cute sort of way, and they fell into a brief conversation. Meanwhile, Evelyn, her reporter’s senses scanning the room, saw the mild commotion they caused at the door and (recognizing both of them from previous news items) drifted downstairs, where she was interrupted by the unwelcome flirtations of an intoxicated Baltimore City Mayor, William Frederick Broening. Before extracting herself, she noted his son, Will Broening, Jr., slyly escorting a young blonde into the gardens.
With Amelia’s nursing background having been noised about the party by her parents, she and Arthur are interrupted by William H. Howell, current Dean of Johns Hopkins Medical School. Amelia was able to have a brief conversation with Dr. Howell regarding his work on blood anticoagulants, while Evelyn saw but did not speak to both H. L. Mencken and Philip Perlman, also of the Sun.

As the night proceeded, Broening Jr., stumbled back in from the gardens with a crash, babbling giddily about an ‘accident’. He then collapsed messily, toppling a heavily laden server. Arthur was tapped to investigate whilst Amelia and Evelyn both contrived to sneak into the gardens and spy upon what happened. Evelyn tripped over a stone bench in the dark and fell across the body of the girl, half covered by some particularly verdant shrubs. Using her camera flash to illuminate the area, she saw the body and heard a low, teasing laugh – but no one else was present. Alerted by the flash, officers swarmed the scene and Amelia joined in to offer her skills in medicine for a brief field autopsy. Lights (and Dr. Howell) were called for and ensuing investigation discovered the following:

  • Heavy formal booted tracks were present around the body, unlike anyone’s current footwear. They do not come or go from the scene, however.
  • A streak of black dust was drawn across the corpse’s closed eyes; it was coal dust.
  • A piece of paper bearing a few letters was found within the mouth.

As they watched, rose blooms slowly emerged from facial orifices and thorns grew rapidly to pierce through the skin of the arms and torso. Evelyn took pictures throughout, and the ranking police supervisor ordered Arthur to “handle things with those civilians.”

Scene 2 – Dreams of Darkness
That evening, the characters all had similar dreams. They found themselves in complete darkness, buried bodily in sharp fragments of rock and anthracite coal. As they struggled free, it grew warmer and warmer, and eventually they emerged, gasping, beneath a glaring sun. A voice began to whisper indistinctly but became clearer as they crawled forward, exhausted, toward a clear pool of water, sparkling under the heartless, burning sun. Thirst overwhelmed them as they drew closer, and glancing into the pool they saw the reflection of another one of the trio. Plunging a hand into the water, they felt their forearm pierced in several places. The water began to boil away, and they fell forward to impale themselves upon bloody thorns. The voice was very loud now, calling out a short poem.

“Roses are red/Violets are blue/Black is the coal/I am coming for you.”

Under the scorching sun, the thorns began to dry out, cracking and withering away as blood continued to flow from their bodies. Finally tumbling free, they rolled to a stop at the foot of a recognizable monument (1920, Washington Monument in Mount Vernon). After staring up at it for a moment, the ground gave way and they were once again buried alive.

They woke the next morning feeling weary but compelled to visit the monument that day during lunch. As they left for the day, Evelyn and Arthur ran across the following news items.

• A coal mine in Western Maryland has caught fire and is burning out of control.

• A sinkhole due to water erosion has closed down the intersection of Lombard and Broadway, and skeletal remains were found within.

Upon arriving at the monument, Arthur saw Amelia eating lunch with her latest boyfriend, Adam, and greeted them both in passing. Unbeknownst to the others, Evelyn was seated just a few tables away. Arthur went to examine the monument and Amelia noticed Evelyn sitting alone and quickly ditched her date to talk to her. After briefly beating around the bush, Evelyn got Amelia to discuss her dream and confessed that she too experienced it. Amelia, suspicious of Arthur’s presence, dragged Evelyn off to talk to Arthur and was shocked to find that he was meeting his fiancee Virginia for lunch. Before much discussion could occur, however, a Police Department stops by and hauls Arthur away, stating that another murder has occurred. Evelyn and Amelia decide to follow.

Scene 3 – The Second Death
A prostitute, and also a known call girl for Vincenzo “Jim D.” D’Urso of the Baltimore Gambino Syndicate, has been found dead in an alley along E Baltimore St. Arthur is tasked with holding back the onlookers and Amelia takes the opportunity to sneak into an adjacent burlesque hall to try and get a closer look. She is caught and escorted quickly out just in time for Arthur to give the press access to the scene. Entering the alley, a fresh wind blews out toward them, carrying the scent of blood and a stream of purple confetti, revealed to be violet petals. The source was seen further in, as the body is sitting against a wall, with ragged slashes across the face, neck, arms and legs resulting in immense blood loss. The pooling fluid was mostly invisible, however, as it appears to have produced a dense growth of violets wherever it reached the ground. The victim’s eyes were closed, but her exposed skin was almost completely covered in violet petals, like the ones that blew out of the alley. Above her head, scratched into the wall, were the letters VAB. A brief examination revealed yet another scrap of paper, and a single bloody bootprint leading away from the body, matching the ones seen last night.

Scene 4 – Looming Portents

As the characters returned home, each had an eerie experience near their dwelling.
• A pushcart vendor strolled by Evelyn’s house, calling out to sell strawberries, cherries, and cantaloupe. The vendor halted to entreat her closer, and for a brief moment shifted from a normal black man to a lanky goblin in torn rags, and the cart was suddenly entwined with thorns and blossoms. Some of the fruit grew fleshy spikes or shifted to resemble small beating hearts. Evelyn blinked, and all was normal again.
• Arriving home, Arthur ascended his marble steps and was swarmed by bats and insects. Beating them away and clutching for the doorknob, his hand flares with pain as he saw the knob was barbed with brassy, hooked thorns. Upon entering, the swarms vanish and further investigation revealed the handle was now perfectly normal. His hand still bloody, Arthur spoke with a magazine salesman who grew very uneasy and left quickly after seeing his injury.
• Entering her bedroom that evening, Amelia saw something was lying beneath the blankets. Pulling them back, she was faced with a jumbled collection of glossy black human bones. After trying to investigate, touching them caused the entire pile to reduce into coal dust and soot.

All three also experienced a similar dream, only the monument has changed. Now it was the statue of William Wallace in Druid Hill Park, surrounded by caged birds and animals, all flinging themselves against the bars. Once again the poem was repeated, the ground gave way, and they were buried alive.

Scene 5 – The Wild Hunt of the Marquis
An event was planned at the statue of William Wallace to celebrate his success upon the Raid of Scone for this evening. All the characters attend and quickly noticed the mood of the crowd began to slowly change from a friendly civic festival to a much darker parody of celebration. Men aggressively chased the women, sometimes assaulting them and more than one fistfight broke out. The bagpipers started to play unfamiliar songs and the dances became wilder and more suggestive. Having accompanied Arthur, Virginia also became affected. And then, as the moon rises, a woman’s shriek rent the night air. Arthur forced Virgina to leave the park before joining the others at the statue.

A corpse lay in front of the monument, his neck and legs broken. The man had no eyes left; instead, jagged chunks of coal were thrust into his empty sockets. A third and final paper was found, revealing a message reading “Marquis de Charbon”. And then, a horn’s call rose over the crowd. Panic immediately overtook the festival as the bystanders attempted to flee the park. Despite the close location to the streets, however, the shadows and bushes became twisted and confusing and the characters could not seem to get out. Snarls from otherworldly menaces and screams from the victims contributed to the disorienting atmosphere.

Taking several blind turns, the trio stopped, exhausted, and heard hoofbeats approaching. The Coal Marquis drew nearer and Evelyn snapped her flash in his direction, trying to get a better look. His mount rearing back, the Marquis charged and Arthur fired a single shot, grazing the Fae before he once again sounded the hunting call. All three fled in horror, unwittingly being driven into the Hedge.

Amelia lunged into the bushes, searching for another footpath, but the shrubs grew taller, denser, and thornier. Brambles tearing at her clothes and skin, she pushed forward and was struck senseless by something.

Evelyn found herself on the shore of the lake and leapt into a small rowboat. Capsizing it in her panic, she became entangled by water plants and dove under the water to free herself. Soon losing her sense of direction, Evelyn clawed through the now-sharply barbed weeds and barely escaped drowning before she broke the surface. Gasping for air, she felt a hand clutch her hair and then a blow to the head rendered her unconscious.

Arthur was pursued by the feral hounds of the Marquis and spotted an idle police vehicle at the edge of the park. Dashing through an archway, he was horrified to see the vehicle vanish and a thick woodland appear around him. Glancing over his shoulder at the pursuing beasts, Arthur smashes full tilt into a tree trunk and all falls to darkness.

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