Our three protagonists enter the scene: Tobi, a middle class high school student, Victoria Stillwell, an upper class high school student, and Rufus, a dog. Tobi has been having health issues, particularly odd nocturnal dreams and disjointed lucid dreams of a land of vast, ancient castles, mages and dragons, noble warriors and fair princesses. Her issues resulted in a brief period of treatment at Lakefront Pines Hospital, where her psychiatrist, Dr. Sylvia Hatchet, treated her for her bouts of anxiety. Once home, she adopted a stray dog wandering her neighborhood, a scruffy mutt named Rufus, who has been adopted as her service dog. Victoria is also having health issues, and her family sent her to the same facility after a breakdown, where thanks to Dr. Hatchet’s expert treatment and liberal use of drugs, she also is now able to face the world again. Finally, Rufus is an insightful Bone Gnawer kinfolk who is accompanying both girls because he suspects something foul is going on at their new school, Warren High School #20, and he feels both would end up badly without his keen insight and unique talents.
Morning finds Tobi waking after a dream of an elderly wizard warning her of something. The dream fades fast under the rush of readying for school. She and Rufus rush out and take the streetcar to Orpheus Street, then get off and walk down to the turnoff on Daedalus Street, and then down to Foucault Street. On the route, they pass by an alleyway between Shapiro’s Tailoring and Liang’s Laundry, where a disturbing old bum, unclean and with a warped face, is spray painting disturbing slogans on the walls of the alleyway in bright yellow paint, things like “Beware the Pale Man,” “It lurks in the shadows,” “It hungers for flesh,” “it hides at the school,” and “Wylde sucks!” Rufus senses the bum is very Wyrm tainted and tries to get Tobi to move along, but she seems intrigued with the graffiti and influenced by some odd power emanating from the bum to give him money. The bum then tells Tobi: “If I were you, I’d walk the other way. That school is hungry.”
Rufus finally herds Tobi away and down the street, passing such local spots as the Orpheus Street Diner, the Orpheum Theater, and the many new boutique shops and restaurants along the gentrified street, until they reach where they can see Our Lady of Thorns Church and School, a fancy, elite prep school that they are not attending. While looking at the fancy school and its students, one of the female students runs over and starts making a fuss over Rufus. Rufus detects her as normal, but with something odd and a little off on her, he doesn’t know what. The girl seems very friendly and chats a bit with Tobi before recognizing Tobi’s uniform and asking her if she’s going to Warren #20. When Tobi affirms this, the girl gives her a dream catcher necklace, formed of some odd symbol in turquoise and silver, on a leather strap, and tells Tobi to wear it at all times and to never go off alone around the school.
Rufus sniffs the necklace and his senses tell him it’s a talisman of some sort. While the girl and Tobi talk, another girl, who looks way too young to go to a high school, with a white-blonde haired, white Gothic Lolita look to her, comes up to the first girl, and calls her Amy, and tells her it’s time for school. She has a quiet, calm voice that makes Rufus feel creepy, and his supernatural senses tell him she’s actually a dead person, not a vampire, pretending to be alive. Amy, the first girl, calls her Madelyn and tells her she’s coming along. She then gives Tobi her cell phone number, and tells her it’s a Gaia phone so she never drops calls. She tells Tobi to call her if anything bad ever happens to her at the school. Tobi tells Amy that she only has a track phone, because all the awesome P Phones her parents buy her seem to disappear. Amy says goodbye, and heads off to Our Lady of Thorns, while Tobi and Rufus head down Daedalus to reach school.
Meanwhile. Victoria is at her apartment preparing for her new school. Her health issues are under control, but her bout of sickness made her miss out on enrolling at elite prep school Ecole Icarus (their motto is Academia Superiorem Crusta.) As a result, the family’s head, old great-grandfather Elias Stillwell, head of Stillwell Properties, and the Stillwell Trust, is very disappointed in Victoria, and has declared she must prove herself worthy of her family. As a result, she is living on her own in a comfortable but small apartment on Saint Georges Avenue, on her own, to show she’s matured. Her driver, Desmond, picks her up in a limo, on schedule as usual, as old Elias said specifically he does not want her walking alone in the Orpheus Street area. As Desmond expertly navigates the limo down the narrow streets, they pass down Orpheus and the same old bum that stopped Tobi stops the car, seemingly offering to clean the windows. Desmond asks if he should activate the car’s Taser based electrical security system, Victoria tells him no. When Victoria feels the urge to give him money, she rolls down the window and gives the bum $20 dollars. He thanks her in a very gravely, not human voice and asks her if she’s seen the Yellow Sign and that the school is a gorging maw. While Victoria ponders this, Desmond steps on the gas and leaves the bum in their exhaust.
When Victoria reaches Warren #20, which she insists is her new charter magnet school, she notices that a large crowd of students are dutifully filing in through metal detectors. She heads past the Pellagro beverages delivery truck, dropping off new supplies of URGE! Cola (Feel the Urge!) and Golden Bull (It Gives You Horns!) She compliments the school on its dedication to security, and gets in line, coincidentally next to Tobi and Rufus. Rufus has noticed that the driver is very Wyrm tainted, and notes to look into him later, perhaps killing him and burying him in the backyard, along with Tobi’s old P-Phones he’s been taking care of. Tobi and Victoria start chatting, and a skinny black kid in line, named Dontrelle, starts talking to them a mile a minute about the school, how its rumored to be haunted, how people have been murdered over the years. He fills them in on the dead quarterback case, the dead teacher case, the ongoing deaths among cheerleaders and prom queens, and the old school fire. He also tells them about the website StrangeShitatSchool.com.
Once through the security search and metal detectors, they head to the gym/auditorium for the opening day speech from the new principal, Ms. Zenobia Kilgore. Dontrelle says it’s taken eight years to find a new principal, since the last one was murdered horribly and dismembered in his office by three members of the infamous Red Cobras street gang. He also tells them about how in the Seventies, the old gym was burned down during a Fourth of July party and over fifty people burned alive. He also tells them about CityofDarkness.com, a website that lists all of the odd stuff that happens in the City, run by the Crypt and Chalice Society. In the gym, Rufus spots an obvious ghost, a young blonde girl in an old style ponytail, with an old school uniform (poodle skirts, bobby sox, etc.) sitting in the rafters, watching the ceremony. Then, the school disciplinarian, Mr. Richard Meansley, addresses the students, with a long, rambling speech about fitting in and how deviants and malcontents won’t be tolerated. Rufus senses he’s normal, just a dick.
Ms. Kilgore then steps up. She’s a normal human, and she radiates hope and energy. She gives a very peppy, inspired speech about finding one’s true potential and how everyone there IS a special snowflake. Her perky speech is in marked contrast to the angst, depression, and sullen rage the school radiates to Rufus’s senses, and he feels the principal is not going to last very long at the school. While talking during a pause in the speech, a well built, handsome young black kid with dreads, comes over. He says his name’s Debrelle, and he talks with a Jamaican accent. He tries his charming best with Tobi and Victoria, talking about school and extra-curricular activities, then gives the girls his cell phone number and hustles off, startled by something they don’t notice. Rufus notices Debrelle has some sort of supernatural abilities, as he literally disappears when ducking behind a group of students. After this, the speeches go on for another 30 minutes, before the students are released to Homeroom.
In homeroom, the girls find themselves together, and with Dontrelle. The homeroom teacher is Mister Hacker, an old, very cranky, uptight old English teacher. When the bell rings for First period, everyone heads off except the two girls, who are called to see the Guidance Counselor. Along the way, through the crowds of students, Rufus keeps noticing weird things no one else sees. He sees a very thin, tall man clad in a ragged tuxedo, with a top hat and carrying a bloody axe disappear into one of the classrooms. He also sees a fat clown in a blood spattered white outfit juggling blood-filled balloons in the courtyard area. The clown will every now and then throw one of the balloons at a student, who doesn’t seem to notice the blood splatters. Oddly, the clown makes a courtly bow to Victoria, who doesn’t notice. They round a corner and spot the tuxedo man coming out of a different classroom. He doffs his hat to Victoria, who again doesn’t notice, and Rufus can see then that the man is missing the top half of his skull. They head into the old admin building, which is connected to the new admin building by an improvised built access way.
Inside, the old admin building has unused offices, mostly used as storage space. They step into an old office, with the words “Guidance” on a piece of construction paper taped to the door, with a smiling face, stars, and a Hello Kitty sticker. Inside is a very young looking woman, dressed full scale Goth style in black and white lace up dress, with elaborate hair braiding, and Doc Martins, in a cluttered office full of old books and movie posters. She radiates to Rufus a weird blend of Weaver and Wyld energies. She immediately squees when seeing Rufus, and pets him, picks him up (its oddly comforting to Rufus to be held like that) and gives him a treat. She then notices Tobi has the dream-catcher necklace and tells her to wear it at all times. She then opens a ledger and writes down the girls’ names, and Rufus’s too. She then puts on her “serious” glasses, and asks what the girls want to accomplish in the school year. Tobi responds with “Live through it,” while Victoria thinks. While the girls try to expand on that line of thinking, Rufus notices that the Counselor’s eyes are giving off these weird matrix-type displays of code and images, that are reflected onto her glasses, and he realizes she’s some sort of spirit.
Tobi finally replies that she’s interested in people and crafts, while Victoria is interested in fashion design. When asked what they think the biggest problem in the City is, Victoria replies “Yuppies” and Tobi says “Potholes.” The Counselor then asks what they think about spooky things, while scritching Rufus’s ears, such as ghosts, vampires, etc. The girls seem intrigued, so the Counselor tells them they’ll be perfect for the Occult and Paranormal Investigations Club, which is down to two members. She then gives directions to the club’s meeting room. Rufus tries to prompt Tobi to asks the Counselor’s name, but Tobi mistakes Rufus’s actions as a need to go outside. They take Rufus outside, then head back to class, where they find they have Mr. Hacker for First Period English, and there is an announcement over the intercom that Metadata Systems is providing free P-Phones and Persimmon tablet computers free of charge for all students. Rufus mentally notes to make Tobi’s tablet and phone disappear later.
Lunch time rolls around and while they are eating, with Victoria talking about how good her special diet vegan organic tofu sushi is. While eating, the girls and Rufus spot Debrelle flirting with another girl. He does very well, and ends up giving the girl his number, when he suddenly takes off running and disappears around a corner. This time, Rufus can see that something with an invisibility cloak is chasing Debrelle. Tobi and Victoria then realize Debrelle was hitting on them and seem surprised. After lunch, they head to the old library building, where the club is located. The inside of the old library is filled with stacks and boxes of books. They make their way downstairs, past a door with a sign that says “Do not feed the leopard.” In the basement there is an old beat up boiler room, and storage room, and the club room, which has a handwritten sign on it. Victoria knocks and goes in. inside, the room is a weird mix. There are bookshelves with old books, old filing cabinets and file boxes piled in a corner, as well as two sofas and a coffee table. There is also a very modern custom computer rig, as well as a 92-inch flat screen TV and a P-Box system, with a complete set of games. There is a medical skeleton in an overstuffed chair, reading an old copy of Edgar Allen Poe, and an actual coffin being used as a table.
Inside the room is a skinny white kid named Alvin, who asks if they’re joining. He seems excited and says the club has only one member left, himself. He seems evasive when asked what happened to the old club members. He gets out a really old ledger book, with club members names in it and adds Victoria and Tobi’s names. Everyone notices red X’s and dashes next to certain names, and Alvin says that they’re notifications about the current status of former club members, for example, red X’s are members who left on bad terms. He then talks a bit about how the club investigates weird occult stuff, and that they run the StrangeShitatSchool.com website. He also mentions he’s a junior, and the club archivist, responsible for converting the old paper files to a digital format. The girls and Rufus then take an inventory of the club’s stuff. There’s a half copy of a book title Der Vyrmiis Mysteriious, which Rufus senses Wyrm taint on, a half illegible book called Keys to the Twilight Vault, a copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide, a fake Necronomicon, and a untitled journal of an 18th Century vampire hunter. There’s also a copy of the Lex Infernalis in Latin, which also has Wyrm taint on it.
There’s also weird board game from Black Dog Game Factory, a game that Rufus senses gives off a weird mix of Wyrm and Wyld taint. It’s called Annie and depicts a tied up little girl in wild west clothes being pulled along by a rope through a blizzard. Rufus looks through the box and it’s a board game/card game combo, with all sorts of weird west style cards in it. The purpose seems to be to rescue the girl from her kidnappers, but the environment and encounters seem stacked against the players. Rufus tries to get Alvin’s attention about the game, but Alvin instead breaks down and blubs about how lonely he is and he needs hugs. Tobi feels he’s very bi-polar and needy. Victoria thinks he’s just needy. Tobi opens another closet and there’s monster hunting gear ( Current List of Club Items)in an old, classic steamer trunk. There’s also a poster on the wall for the death metal band “Knights of Gormathond” and a poster for the last Rap-Apocalypse from Black Pharaoh Productions, feature lead rapper Brotha’ Paine. Rufus also discovers a small rosewood box holding two fetishes as well. The trio then decided to spend some time taking stock of the club, and Alvin.