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Be good, parents used to say, or the bogeyman will come and take you away. The story has a hundred different incarnations. Maybe it was an animal in the first telling, a wolf or great cat. Children everywhere grew up hearing about wicked spirits or little men who would kidnap them given half a chance. In some places, it was the gypsies who filled the role of the potential abductor.
The stories about a bogeyman usually involve the thought of transgression. “Don’t go across the railroad tracks at midnight, or it’ll get you”. Of course, human abductors and predators aren’t held at bay by a person’s obedience to the rules. The True Fae are, somewhat, but the rules vary so much. But sometimes there’s a story of a supernatural bogeyman who’ll get you through no fault of your own, because someone else set him on you. Like the story of Skin and Bones.
The story doesn’t go into detail about who or what Skin and Bones is. His name is his description. He’s the Tall Stranger, the Man with the Sack. There’s no explanation of where he came from, or why he does what he does — these morsels of information are often left blank just to entice the listeners’ imagination. Nobody knows what happens to the people he takes away. They’re just never heard from again, and that’s where the story ends.
But those who do their research find out the story is old. A grandmother remembers her grandmother telling her the story when she was a child. There are similar tales to be found in the various ethnic neighborhoods of the city. The backdrop of an archaic photo shows the words SKIN AND BONES written backwards across a piece of glass in the distance.
His origins are unclear. He’s decidedly one of the Fae, equal parts medieval bogeyman and modern urban legend. Nobody seems to know more than that, though. He might be one of the lords of distant Arcadia, but if so, he’s been doing humble work for decades rather than manifesting in all his glory. He might have origins in the Hedge, somewhere between here and there. He’s definitely not a changeling, even if he might have started out that way.
Skin and Bones is a creature defined by his purpose. He comes when he’s called, and he abides by the unwritten contract of “give me a name and I’ll make that person disappear”. He doesn’t always come right away. Sometimes he waits until you’re drifting off to sleep before he steps out of your mirror and stands over your bed. Sometimes you see your reflection swim away, replaced by his face. Sooner or later, though, if you’ve made the kind of call he can’t ignore, he comes through. And you’d better have a name for him.
It’s a rare thing to meet Skin and Bones outside of a summoning or abduction. He doesn’t come to the mortal world for any other reason. Some changelings have said they’ve seen him out in the otherworld of the Hedge, always at a distance, carrying his bulging gunnysack on his back. The stories get a little wilder from there. He’s allegedly been sighted in a Hedgeside cemetery, presumably to bury his targets. Others see him on a wide Faerie road, no doubt bearing a burden home to Arcadia. But stories like that don’t seem to come up much until after someone’s had an upclose-and-personal run-in with the Tall Stranger, and then they crop up like mushrooms. Everyone’s got an opinion.
When Skin and Bones comes to take a target away, he is the very picture of patience. He won’t chase someone over open ground: he’ll pace after her slowly, waiting for an opportunity to close the distance by using his ability to travel between mirrors. If he’s after someone who has been named to him, all he has to do is touch her to put her in his gunnysack, so he doesn’t bother much with any other kind of grappling or striking. He will wrestle an opponent to defend himself if need be, and he is surprisingly strong for his nearemaciated frame — but mostly he doesn’t see the point of fighting against people who aren’t his actual target. He’ll simply retreat through the nearest mirror, attempt to lose pursuers in the Hedge, and try again later. It’s nothing personal. It’s never personal.
His nickname fits him. Even to mortal eyes, he’s nearly skeletal. It’s not that he seems old — he’s just gaunt, with a sunken nose and dark, recessed eyes. He wears the worn but still-intact clothes of a vagrant: a battered hat, a suit so drab it’s hard to tell if it’s brown or gray, and thick-soled shoes that clomp inevitably down an empty hall — at least, when he wants to be heard. He stoops a bit to enter a room or when he has his sack over his shoulder, but he’s a tall one, with long arms and long fingers. He gives off an aura of being wrong— most people can’t help but be afraid when they see him, ordinary though he may seem. He gives off a sense of the unavoidable: if the crazy old man decides he’s going to take you, you can’t help but feel that nothing you can say or do would stop him. It’s an impression not far from the truth.
His true mien is more disturbing, though not full on demonic. His skin seems perpetually dusty and it creaks softly like leather when he’s in the mood to be heard. His limbs and digits are even longer, giving him a strange daddy longlegs gait. Sometimes his finger-length toes will creep out the front of his tattered shoes, curling and sifting like a second pair of hands. There’s no light or color in his eyes at all — just a deep blackness, a hint at the darkness inside his gunnysack.
His voice is low and hollow; not that it’s often heard. He doesn’t talk much beyond his ritual “Give me a name” greeting. He doesn’t answer questions such as “why are you doing this?” or “where did you take them?” unless somehow supernaturally compelled to do so. Even in the middle of a fight he can’t escape, the Bagman is quiet and methodical, as though it’s just another day on the job.
The Bogeyman Who Comes When Called: Skin and Bones
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 3, Wits 3, Resolve 6
Physical Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Stamina 6
Social Attributes: Presence 4, Manipulation 2, Composure 6
Mental Skills: Investigation 4, Occult 2
Physical Skills: Athletics 3, Brawl (Grapple) 4, Larceny 3, Stealth (Silent) 5, Survival (Hedge) 3, Weaponry 1
Social Skills: Intimidation (Unspoken) 3, Subterfuge 1
Merits: Brawling Dodge, Danger Sense, Fast Reflexes 2, Iron Stamina 3, Strong Back
Glamour/per Turn: 14/5
• Hunting by Name: When Skin and Bones has been given someone’s name, he develops a supernatural affinity for his target. He always knows what direction his target lies, and has a general sense of how far he has to go to get to her. He still has to close the distance as usual (usually by traveling the Hedge), but he’ll always know the way as long as he’s in the mortal world or the Hedge.
• Nameless: Skin and Bones has no name of his own. He is effectively immune to supernatural powers that require someone to know his name; he has no true name to be discovered, much less compelled. He cannot be bound by pledges or oaths laid on him by another, only by his own fae code of behavior.
• I’ll Take Your Name: If he makes eye contact, Skin and Bones may stare into a person’s very soul to learn their name. He spends two Glamour and rolls Intelligence + Wyrd; the target contests with a reflexive Resolve + Wyrd roll. If Skin and Bones wins the contest, he learns his victim’s true name. Use of this aspect is a standard action. He uses this power rarely, usually only if a summoner refuses to name a target for him, whereupon he attempts to learn the summoner’s name and spirit her away instead.
• Brutal Hands: Skin and Bones doesn’t like to fight, but if he has to, he can be very dangerous. His fingers can jab like iron rods into soft flesh, or crush a windpipe as easily as plucking a daisy. He may inflict bashing or lethal damage with his unarmed strikes at his discretion.
• Tick, Tack, into My Sack: If Skin and Bones has been formally given a person’s name, he may spirit her into his gunnysack by touching her and expending a point of Glamour. He rolls Strength + Wyrd; the victim contests reflexively with Strength + Wyrd. If Skin and Bones wins the contest, the victim is sucked into the gunnysack. It’s larger on the inside than it is on the outside, as well; Skin and Bones can keep up to 25 Size points of victims in his gunnysack at once (essentially, 5 Size per point of Wyrd). He can spirit a victim into his bag if he hasn’t been formally given her name but knows it anyway (such as if he uses his I’ll Take Your Name aspect), but his Strength is reduced by 1 in such an instance.
Escaping the sack isn’t easy. An entrapped victim must accumulate 20 successes on an extended and contested Strength roll against the gunnysack (which, as essentially a part of Skin and Bones, uses his Strength of 5). As usual, a dramatic failure eliminates all successes. Most people are either exhausted long before they can succeed in forcing the sack to open, or fight their way free a long, long way from home. There’s a secret way to free someone from Skin and Bones’ gunnysack, though. If someone smears the sack with his own fresh blood and says the name of the captive, the sack will give up the prisoner…for the cost of just a bit more blood. The liberator takes one point of lethal damage as part of the transaction.
• Mirror Travel: Mirrors are gateways to Skin and Bones, particularly the broken ones. He may enter or leave the Hedge from any nearby mirror as a reflexive action, though he can only cross between worlds once per turn. It costs one Glamour point to make the transition if the mirror is intact, but nothing if the mirror is broken. Skin and Bones can also see where mirrors are in relation to his location in the Hedge, making it easy for him to navigate from one mirror to the next. This power isn’t a functioning teleport between mirrors, however; he must still cross the Hedgespace between mirrors to emerge from another.
• Immortal Flesh: The creature called Skin and Bones is durable even for a creature of Faerie. His skin is tough as boiled leather and his bones are hard as stones. He doesn’t have to eat or drink, or seemingly even breathe; deprivation means nothing to him. He is immune to bashing damage (though a cold iron bludgeon will still inflict aggravated damage). Bullets mean even less to him than blades; it’s uncertain just how much vital tissue he has to damage in any meaningful way. His armor rating is entirely natural.
• Ruled by Passion: The True Fae are entities almost embodied by their passions and vices, with higher morality and self-denial little more than a whim to them. For them, passion is virtue, and the denial of passion an affectation. Their supernaturally amoral nature is reflected in an inverted ability to regain Willpower. The Hunter regains one Willpower point from indulging his Virtue, but refreshes his whole pool when satiating his Vice.
- Night Horrors, Grim Fears, p. 112-115