We rejoin our onstage at the local public house, as Werewolf Explodes a Punk, London’s leading exponents of upside-down sitar-rock, performs their inaugural gig to a small crowd of politely baffled bar-patrons. Ground-breaking as the act most surely is, commercial success seems unlikely. Can artistic integrity trump the siren-call of popularity?
Fortunately, or perhaps not, our heroes were rescued from their dilemma by the arrival of a bad-tempered senior mage: Balam, come bearing the timely gifts of arcane busywork. The stench, he explained, was growing intolerable, and the lack of answers was forcing the senior mages to mobilise even the most unreliable of their subordinates. Clear enough as it was that Balam had no over-abundance of faith in the troublesome duo, they possessed something which he did not, the favour the local werewolf packs, and so an as yet-unpursued line of investigation into the stench.
While Balam wearily informed our heroes of their mission, the werewolves were receiving some instructions of their own from a scarificially uglified figure known only as “Dave”. Although the werewolves proved reluctant to show what they knew of the stench, a combination of good-favour and chiselled jaws allowed our heroes to strike a deal: if they helped the werewolves fulfil their obligations to Dave and his various facial mutilations, they would share what little they knew.
London, Lisa explained, was being visited by the Azlu, the spider-hosts. A pair of blank stares prompted elaboration, allowing an enthusiastic Julian to dive into a far-fetched story of wolf-gods, spider-queens and the lost world of Pangea. Locate the Azlu, Lisa instructed, – and whatever you do, don’t confront him! Not a little sceptical, our heroes returned to their sanctum, and set about researching the creatures. After a few horrifying hours, our heroes gather that the Azlu are spider-demons, cheerful creatures with an endearing habit of devouring humans and wearing their skin. Particularly favoured are those of high status and noble blood- the former offering the most valuable costumes the latter a particularly delectable meal. Contacts are contacted, meditation-spaces prepared, and after some wining, dining and a few cosmic bong hits later, they have a name: Lord Jonathan Marlsby, who disappeared briefly a few days ago, only to return suspiciously without explanation.
The young lord is discovered to be a student at the University of London, the theoretical employer of our work-sheer protagonists, and as luck would have it, in one of Moonjava’s own classes. During a tutorial, the rest of the class is dismissed, Basilica summoned and the young lord confronted, Moonjava wisely observing that rules exist to be completely ignored. Like any self-respecting blue-blood, Marlsby does not take kindly to these presumptuous plebeians, and a scuffle ensues. Moonjava leaped to demonstrates the Eastern art of braining oneself against a radiator, but a more on-the-ball Basilica, drawing on his days as an army prizefighter- and, if it must be known, a cattle-prod which he merely happened to have about his person- managed to subdue Marlsby and tie him to a chair.
Briefly considering skinning Marslby alive to see if there’s a giant spider underneath, our heroes decide that they may be just a little out of their depth. Instead, the prisoner is secured inside Basilica’s physics laboratory, and the werewolves are called. Lisa and Julian arrive sooner after, less than totally impressed by the turn of events, bringing with them an associated by the name of Sandy. With the application of ancient werewolf truth-divination techniques that appear only to the uninitiated as violent torture, it is determined that, while Marslby is not the Azlu, he knows where it can be found. Tragically, the interrogation proves too much for Marslby’s aristocratic constitution, and the former aristocratic is partially-fed into the laboratory’s demoleculiser, Basilica solemnly observing that he would not be the first student to inadvertently contribute himself to scientific advanvement.
Setting off to confront the Azlu, the werewolves bring out heroes to a well-appointed Victorian mansion, greeted at the door by a well-spoken young maid. In what seems a rash move, Sandy shifts into the form of a giant, slathering wolf-man, and seizes the maid by the throat, pushing her forward into the house. Before the propriety of this gesture can be considered, the maid reciprocates, her skin peeling away to reveal a huge, red spider. Spewing acid, the Azlu twists out of Sandy’s grip, and a flood of tiny, biting spiders fill the room. The werewolves seem to lose their confidence- but not before out dynamic duo spring into action!
Through the well-established formula, “portals + swords = dead things”, Moonjava is able to banish the demon, while the quick-thinking physicist makes use of matter-magic and a cattle-prod to flash-fry her minions. Escorting our heroes from the premises, which by total coincidence seem to have burst into flames- faulty wiring, our heroes nod sagely- the werewolves share what they know. Mother London is dying. The spiritual fabric of the city is infected, putrefying, and unless something is done about it very quickly, things will not bode well for London. What can be done about this, our heroes demand, but to no avail: the werewolves know what is wrong, but not why, or how to resolve it.
Troubled, our heroes return to the pub, to the welcoming arms of Ex-fascist Jack and his soothing screeches. Reporting their discovery, our heroes meet not a little incredulity, but for want of a better lead, they are told to see what more they can discover. Before their next move can be considered, the mysterious Dave bursts into the pub, eyes-blazing- Lisa has been kidnapped!
Next time, on Ashes of a Fading Hope:
“Whadda you mean, the entire orphanage contributed itself to science!?”
“Why are there not more spiders, is my question?”
“With dynamite on your side, nothing can go wrong!”