Hook: The characters have just arrived in a small town with no know history of the occult and paranormal. Perhaps they are researching a local legend, following up information on a rare text, or simply wander into the city by accident. In any event, the group will be forced to spend some time in the area (a convenient car accident could tie them up for some time while the authorities work things out). Recently the town has seen a lot of action; a huge corporation has chosen the area for it's main office. Work began some time ago and the multi-level complex is almost complete. BarkettsCorp has it's fingers in all sorts of pies; real estate, medicine, pharmaceutical, food, just about everything you can imagine. That the corporation came to Barkettsville is no surprise, the family which owns the company is from the city, one of the ancestors was a major political figure who brought wealth and prosperity to the town.
Unfortunately, there has been other action taking place. For the past month there have also been numerous disappearances and a few rather grisly murders. Police investigation has been cursory and turned up nothing (almost like the police aren't seriously looking for the perpetrator). The victims have all been relatively young, none of them more than 18 years old; the last person to disappear was Emma Wildsmith, who worked part-time as a secretary for BarkettsCorp. Since that time, a week ago, there have been no further events. This led to an investigation by the police who considered her a main suspect. Upon searching her house, they found a considerable library of magic and the occult. The current official belief is that Emma was somehow connected to the events and she fled before she could be apprehended. The police have officially closed the case and notified national agencies to look for Emma.
Line: A few things about the police conclusion don't ring true. Emma did have a very extensive library of magic, but it's all of a "good" type. In fact, most of her tomes go to great lengths to talk about the dangers and responsibilities of magic, none of them contain any positive or useful information on human sacrifice. Emma herself grew up in Barkettsville, her family has lived there for generations on the same property near the edge of town. It is common knowledge that her family practiced magic, although people thought it had stopped gener ations ago. In fact, one of her ancestors purportedly escaped from town before she could be burned at the stake for witchcraft over 400 years ago.
Her house is on the family farm, the most distinguishing feature of which is an incredibly old and dying tree near a ramshackle barn and rough stone wall. Any psychics coming near the tree will feel very uneasy and hear strange, whispering voices. This will be all that happens until later in the development of the story (see Sinker for further details). The family has resisted cutting down the blackened and twisted tree or repairing the barn and wall with every generation, but can't seem to give a specific reason for why.
Her personal diary has gone missing, but a copy of it can be found on her computer with some inconspicuous title. It talks vaguely of her being very interested in BarkettsCorp. She did extensive research on the company and it's directors and took the part-time job so she could do some snooping, what she was looking for is not clear. The town librarian and records keeper will attest to her searching out all records of the company as well as any information about her ancestor who was almost burned as a witch.
The sole owner and director of BarkettsCorp is Joshua Barketts IV, a direct descendent of the historical figure and sole remaining member of the family. He is a recluse who people see only by direct invitation. Supposedly he has private living space in the company complex which has already been completed. There is no other useful information on him available (he has no drivers license, no birth certificate, no high school diploma, etc).
Sinker: At some point in trying to piece things together, while staying at or investigating Emmas house, the group will be compelled to go to the tree at midnight. When they arrive, any psychics will receive a vision of Emma Goodchard, the woman accused of witchcraft centuries ago. She informs the party that she was killed and her soul is being forcibly tied to this plane. Her body is buried under the stone wall near the tree and she cannot have peace until her killer is found. She was kidnapped by Sam Barketts, who was a judge at the time, and sacrificed in a ritual to increase his power. She knows that Emma is still alive and being held against her will, but not where.
The characters will discover many things when they investigate. The BarkettsCorp complex is located on a ley line, there are secret rooms in the sub-basement of the complex, Barkett has been paying top-ranking police to look the other way, and Barkett has been forming a cult (telling people that involvement will bring riches like it did for his family). At some point, the characters will get into the secret rooms of the complex. They will find an occult temple and a prison, the prison holds Emma. The characters will also find evidence that the other missing people and murders were the work of the cultists. Further, Joshua is Sam Barketts, he has been sustaining his own life by sacrificing others. He is interested in Emma because of her background in magic and putting and end to the snooping she's been doing, but has been waiting for an appropriate celestial alignment before killing her.
The final battle of this adventure should be grand and challenging, with the group fighting Joshua Barketts and his cultists (Joshua is a very experienced mage).
9 April 2000