The Pack are contacted by Sebastian Lowe of the Venatori, who tasks them with investigating recent mysterious events in the town of Ashbury, including strange crop circles and disappearances.
The Pack travel to Ashbury and buy some newspapers, from which they assemble a list of local missing people. They notice that the local tabloids are awash with stories of UFOs, ghosts, vampires and other speculation.
Jack Whitley – homeless, bit of a local nuisance, not been seen for about 7 weeks.
Daniel Thorpe – alcoholic and gambler, spent his inheritance on bad business ventures, went missing about 3 weeks ago, last seen wandering drunk towards the downs.
Melanie Penn – twenty-something last seen having a row with her boyfriend in the street before storming off. Was quite new to the area, has no local family. Her car is still in the drive, and she doesn’t seem to have packed. She hasn’t attended her part-time nursery job in the last 2 weeks.
Prudence Shavorn – fierce 80-year-old granny, vanished about 10 days ago. Lots of family in the area, all worried.
Justin Garret – antiquarian & historian in his early 60s, semi-retired academic, worked at the national trust visitor centre for the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy. Vanished about 7 days ago.
They travel into the hills (chalk downs) in the direction of the jellyfish crop circle, and Vellum pulls over at a nearby ruin (his family home – but the rest of the pack are unaware of this).
The PCs investigate the burn-out manor house, sensing its resonance of old mysteries and fire (small darkling and glimmerling spirits skitter about). Lewis finds an old microphone transmitter, and tunes himself into the signal with magic, but senses nothing.
Vellum finds a hidden trapdoor and leads downstairs as Summer questions him about his past realising that this place was once his home.
In the basement tunnels, they find various relics of the Grey family that have survived the fire, including (in a secret alcove) a dusty journal and a tome of genealogy. Lewis also finds a black stone about the size of flattened tennis ball, carved with a stylised tree (the branches of which resemble a bat).
They briefly drive to some of the crop circles, and Vellum theorises that they are in some way connected to weak spots in reality. However, dust begins to fall and the pack decide to go back to town, resolving to return and investigate the circles tomorrow in daylight.
Back in town, the pack rent a room and speak to some locals, filling in details of the recent disappearances.
Vellum begins translating the books (which are in code), and determines that the journal was written by several generations of Greys, most recently his parents.
The genealogical works were mostly conducted by his great-grandfather, William Grey. Interestingly, they seem to track not only the grey family, but other local bloodlines.
From his initial work translating the journal, Vellum discovers that his ancestors were founding members of the Society of the Winding Path, back in the latter half of the 18th century. They were an offshoot of the Masons; founded as a secret order of natural philosophers dedicated to unlocking the sublime mathematical secrets of the mystical realms.
Over time, however, the order’s aims seem to have drifted. The Grey family were still prominent members of the order, and it is likely that they did many dark and questionable things in the name of the science and the empire. In the early 20th century the Grey family (headed by Vellum’s grandfather, Nathaniel) seem to have become less prominent in the order (it is unclear whether this was a deliberate distancing on the part of Nathaniel, or whether other factions politicking within the order caused them to loose status; probably mostly the former). During this time, the Winding Path continued to darken, now existing as a cult rather then an order of philosophers. By Nathaniel’s death, the Grey family were on the very periphery of the society.
Vellum’s parents were opposed to the Winding Path. They felt that the Grey family name had been blackened by past deeds, and they wanted their true legacy to be the destruction of the Winding Path (or at least the corrupted elements within it).
They set out to discover what they could about the secretive past of the Winding Path, and determined that it seemed to have been subverted in the Victorian era.
[This is as far as Vellum has got which the translation of the books so far, more information may come to light as he completes the translation]
Summer and Lewis head to the pub and talk to the locals about the missing people, crop circles, and strange rumours. They meet a young man named Robin Elmholme, who turns out to be a bit of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, distressed by the disappearance of his friend Justin Garret (the antiquarian).
Lewis questions Robin, building up a rapport, and gives him a business card in case he thinks of any relevant information. Summer summons a cat spirit called She-Who-Slinks-In-Shadowed-Paths to follow watch over Robin.
Unexpectedly, Detective Inspector Jennifer Warding walks into the bar. Lewis talks to her (joined a short while later by Summer), and it transpires (once her initial suspicious hostility has passed) that she is in town looking for he cousin. It seems that Beatrix (“Trixy”) Ford hasn’t been seen in 3 days. Jennifer explains that although Trixy has some history of metal health problems (depression and occasional hallucinations), her instincts tell her that she wouldn’t just vanish like this. DI Warding suspects that something strange is going on, and has taken a short leave from work to come and unofficially investigate the case.
Back at the Inn, Vellum notices strange lights in the sky over the hills (which he suspects may be caused by energies form another world bleeding into this one), and has a conversation with a local business woman named Caroline Thyme (but learns nothing about the disappearances from her that he didn’t already know).
The next day Summer and Lewis investigate the graveyard (where rumour has it ghosts and vampires have been seen lurking). They summon up the spirit of the guardian of the graveyard, which tells of its distaste for the young vampires that have appeared in town over the last few weeks.
Vellum heads up onto the downs and begins using magic (primarily the time arcana), to determine what has been happening. His visions show figures walking over the downs, entering into a crag nearby. Vellum is able to determine that one of the figures matches the description of Jack Whitley.
Lewis senses something strange from the hills, and realises that the lingering after-effects of the spell that he cast upon himself yesterday are allowing him to detect a certain frequency of radio transmission. The buzzing sensation seems to he moving through the downs, and Lewis and Summer decide to pursue it.
The pack meet up inside the mouth of a cave network called the Howling Crags. A short distance inside the tunnels, they find the corpse of a man. Summer determines that it is several weeks old, and notices vampire-bite wounds.
At the same time, Lewis realises that the buzzing radio transmission that he has been sensing is coming from within the cave, and they realise that Vellum has been bugged – someone has slipped a tiny device into his pocket.
Suddenly Summer’s danger sense flares, and the pack become aware that figures are surrounding them in the shadows.