At the Edge of All Things

BJ Sidequest 4

Rings and First Dates

Body Hammer is beginning to fill up with the afternoon crowd, so finding a spot takes a couple minutes, and the public gym floor is intensely noisy, but as BJ descend into the “VIP” area the sound just fades away. Horatius and “Big Dave” are sparring on the mat, and the fat man is surprisingly dextrous, although he’s clearly the learner in this situation.

Blackjack goes to the locker room to change out of the tweed and into his gray sweats with Army emblazoned on the front. If anyone is in the locker room, they might note that BJ has a smallish tattoo on his back. The Jack of Spades from the Bicycle deck. After he has changed, Horatius and Big Dave move off the mat, the latter going to a fridge and popping the top off three bottled waters in quick succession. Horatius nods at you. “Brother Blackjack! What can I do for you today?”

“We spoke at the Consilium meeting and unfortunitly I was distracted by other events. But we had spoken about your legacy and my poor hand to hand skills.”

“Indeed. Have you come to a decision?”

“I am not sure that I am cut out for the Perfected Adepts. I would like to improve my hand to hand skills though. I may never be a master but an Arrow can never have too many weapons.” Smiling at Horatius.

He nods, smiling slightly. “It would be my pleasure. And no offense taken about the Legacy – one should not commit to such a thing unless one is absolutely sure of oneself.”

BJ steps onto the mat. “Shall we begin?”

“Very well!”He steps onto the mat and bows. Horatius comes at Blackjack at with a flurry of fast punches. Grunting slightly as he takes the blow. The younger man attempting to step into the blow and counter attack. Moving almost faster than he can see, the teacher turns aside his blow with a serene expression on his face. He moves around BJ’s swing, striking from the side. Grimacing, noting that is going to leave a bruise, Blackjack attempts to bring a knee up in hopes of landing a blow.

“Don’t…overextend yourself…” he murmurs, grappling BJ from behind. He releases the hold, rolling off BJ and into a standing position. He offers a hand up, bowing as he does so. “Good. Now I have an idea of where we should begin.”

Bowing to Horatius. “Excellent. Do I go straight to waxing your car or sanding boards.” Not sarcastic, trying to crack a joke to keep from grimacing. Felt something pop during that grapple.

“Mr. Miyagi was a bit of a grifter, wasn’t he? No, you shouldn’t worry, there are no life lessons in store.” He looks into the distance. “I cannot pretend that I understand enough of it to do that.”

Listens politely. “Never enough time to understand it all.”

Horatius tosses BJ a towel and grabs one himself. “No, I just wasn’t paying attention.” He moves to a sink. “But even I can tell you have something else on your mind, Blackjack. What is it?”

“I need to speak to Traceur about a library for the order. We depend on cabals for it but we need to have a source that can be accessed without worrying about who is feuding with who. But I have not spoken with him since the meeting….” And isn’t sure if he’s on Traceur’s shit list or not.
The older man looks thoughtful. “It’s a good idea. I…dislike politics, but if relations with the Mysterium and Free Council devolve….it would be best for us to be prepared. If Traceur agrees to it, my cabal would be happy to share some of what we have.”

“My cabal has good relations with Minerva and Janis seems to like me. I was hoping to ask both of them for whatever access they would grant us. Perhaps keep some ties if things do get worse politically.” Carefully rinsing his face. “But will Traceur be interested?” “Will I be interested in what?” Traceur walks in from the public area, tossing a gym bag onto a bench and loosening his tie. “A library for the order. A central library rather then depending on the goodwill of various cabals.” Turning and facing Traceur. His attempt to straighten up pops something. Likely back into place.

Horatius bows to the Provost. Traceur returns it with a somewhat casual salute, then turns to BJ.

“It’s a good idea, but if the Arrow begins assembling its own library, questions will be asked. The mystagogues will wonder if we plan to supplement it with the contents of their Athenaeum.” He undoes his shirt, tossing it into a locker. “The Free Council will wonder the same about their Lorehouse. If it’s not handled correctly, this could cause more problems for us than it solves.” He strips out of his slacks and begins donning a loose-fitting gi.

“I was planning on asking the Mysterium and Free Council to assist. Minevera has a fondness for my cabal mates and Janis seems to like me. And perhaps given the current climate it could be suggested it be a way for the Arrow to maintain information channels with both of them.” Stretching out. Hoping that will help with the stiffness.

Traceur sinks to the bench, lost in thought. “I can’t give you permission for this, BJ. Neither can Khatsalano. Our motives are too easily called into question. And with good reason, frankly. I get tired of picking up the messes left behind by, by irresponsible children. But you’re correct. We need it…” he sighs.

“If you and your cabal go to Minerva or Janis on your own time, and explain what you’re doing, and emphasize that this is your idea and no-one else’s, then, well…I can’t argue with a fait accompli. Neither will Khatsalano.”

Noding, can accept that. “Thank you. I will keep it simple for now and likely limit it to potential non-mage threats. Hopefully that will be small enough a start to prevent problems.”

He smiles briefly. “You’re more of an optimist than I am, but I wish you luck. We’ve been on the back foot for too long, I’m coming to think. We need to be…proactive.” Horatius frowns but says nothing.

“I could not agree more. But we are not in a position to be more proactive. But this could be a start.”

He stands. “I hope you realize that neither the Councilor nor I bear you any…ill-will. Khatsalano is not a man to stand on ceremony. That took me a while to get used to. He welcomes the input of his men, even in anger; all he expects in return is service.”

“I do not think he does. I just…dislike my oaths being questioned. I was…angry that night. " Changing out of his sweats back into his teaching tweed. “I would like to talk more but I have errands to run before I meet with Friday.”

The Arrow Provost smiles. “Ah, yes. I was wondering when you were going to mention that. Not even a Space mage travels faster than gossip, you know.”

“I assumed as much when someone called her the ice queen.” Isn’t pleased by that term.

Horatius nods. “She’s always kept to herself, that one. Seems to have the weight of the world on her shoulders sometimes. I hope you can help her with…whatever it is.”

“Duty is a heavy burden. There are…expectations.” Isn’t sure how to explain that world to them.

Traceur nods. “Well, I wish you and her luck. What we do makes it hard to connect. I gave up on it years ago.” He moves to the gym mat and Horatius follows him.

Ziping up his gym bag. “We will see what happens.” Waves to the two and takes off. Has a matter master to meet with.

Forge is not far away at all. He lives in Yaletown, in an industrial building converted into lofts. His building is brick, a bit scarred on the outside by some ancient fire, but the windows and fixtures are all top-shelf and modern. There’s a wrought-iron sign in front – FORGE STUDIOS, BJ finds a nice place to park and decides to ring the bell. Doesn’t know him, decides being polite is his best bet. The door is wood secured by metal – almost like the entrance to a medieval keep – and painted a cobalt blue. After he rings the bell, you hear a few locks being undone, then it opens partway. A man’s face – olive-skinned, late-thirties, with dark rings of curly hair coming down at odd angles – stares at you through the crack. “…Yes?”

“My name is Blackjack. I was hoping to find out if you were taking commissions.” Hands folded behind his back, posture straight.

Forge continues looking for a moment, then opens the door. “You’re a willworker.”

“Yes. I am told you are a skilled one yourself.” Is slightly uncomfortable having his discussion out here.
The smith holds a hand above his eyes, squinting into the sun. “Ugh, it’s past noon? Come on in.”

“Thank you.” Stepping inside and looking around. The studio is stifling hot – Forge apparently literally works metal here. The floor is covered in sawdust but a few – metal things, BJ can’t tell if they’re sculptures or junk, hang from heavy-duty chains in the high ceiling. He steps over to a sawhorse upon which a styrofoam cooler sits and produces a beer. “Want one? What do you have in mind?”

Gestures to pass on the beer, it’s still a bit early for that. “I need four orichium rings. Two for women, two for men. All bearing this sigil.” Taking out a piece of paper with a copy of the cabal’s sigil. Forge doesn’t look, taking a long moment to drain his beer in a single shot. He wipes his forehead and belches once, then takes the paper.

“…Orichalcum? Interesting. Okay, you’ve got my attention. You know people wearing those rings will have sympathy to each other, right?” “Yes. It is for my cabal mates and myself. I plan on imbuing the rings with some spells they may find helpful.” Is used to the heat. Sweating a bit but keeping his jacket on.

He nods slowly. “Innnteresting….okay.” He goes to a huge roll of paper and just yanks it down by about a foot, grabbing a pencil from the sawhorse table and doing some quick figures on it. “Okay. If you’re going to be the one imbuing them, it’ll go easier if part of the gold has a sympathetic connection to you already.”
“I see. How much gold would you need with a connection to me.” Trying to go through what gold he owns. Not much at all.

“Not much. A few grams melted into the mix would work. But it would have to be something you have a preexisting connection with, like…a wedding ring? Ever been engaged?”

BJ goes to speak for a moment then stops. Looking down at his hand, his eye catching on his academy ring. You can see scratches from sand, small dings from when it’s been banged into things. Reaching out and twisting it to slide it off. Holding it away from his hand for a moment. Feels weird without it. Naked. Holding it up. “I believe this is all of the gold I own.” His cabal mates might pick up on the very slight crack in his voice.

Forge looks over from where he’s already making calculations. “…Yeah. Yeah, that works. Now we need to talk payment.” He grabs a pack of cigarettes from the table and taps one out, lighting it with deft, restless fingers. “I work for Tass. Job like this will run you sixteen units. Half up front, half on delivery.”

The Arrow mage does some quick math in his head. Can use the five tass from the sanctum, and could make three units of tass from his own pattern. “I can have the first eight tass to you within an hour or two. Would that be acceptable?”

“Sure. I’ve got some leafing to do anyway.” Puffing on the cigarette.

“Then I will return with the mana shortly.”Nods, leaving the ring on a table, his hand lingering over it for a moment. Is running low on mana, and it’s just going to get worse when the casting happens. Can’t be helped.

Within the hour BJ brings said tass back to Forge. He raises an eyebrow as you come back in. “Gotta admit, I wasn’t sure you’d be back with it. Tass is pretty hard to come by around here. ’S’why I do most of my business with Pitch these days.” He looks it over. “Seems legit. Should be about two weeks. I need a way to get in touch with you when it’s done.” BJ gets out a slip of paper and a pen, writes down his cell phone number on it.

He takes it, nodding and folding the paper carefully into the pockets of a pair of pants hanging from a nearby table. “All right, brother. I’ll let you know when it’s done.” He pulls on some heavy-duty gloves as he sees BJ out.

David takes a moment in his car before starting it up. Feels like a small bit of him is missing and wasn’t expecting it. He spends 45 minutes preparing before heading off to the coffee shop. It’s in a corner shop, has big picture windows with bright white frames, and tables with umbrellas outside. Friday is standing outside the door, furiously typing on a cell phone.She’s wearing a sleeveless black blouse over a grey skirt, and short black pumps. Her hair is let down, though, and her Star of David seems to be either absent or tucked under the blouse. BJ is dressed down. A nice pair of jeans, and a white button down oxford with the cabal’s logo embroidered on the pocket. “Hi, I am glad you found this place.” Talking before he gets too close, hasn’t done this in a while but startling your date seems like a faux pas.

She smiles briefly as he approachs, then pounds a few more keys on the phone. “….Foundation business, sorry.” She steps forward, offering a hand. “BJ. It’s good to see you.” She winces slightly, wobbling. “Ow. That run convinced me to get back into shape and it’s…ow.” She looks at the embroidered logo. “…Hah! That’s great. I should tell Impresario to whip us up some merch.”

“You have my sympathy. Horatius was assessing my hand to hand skills.” There is a hint of blush at the logo comment. “I am my cabal’s banner warden…I am having some rings made but until then…” Has to keep the logo on him. Taking her hand and steadies her wobble.

She smiles. “Thanks. Let’s get inside and caffeinate. I hear that’s just the thing for jangly nerves.” She leads you into the cafe. This is one of the few places in the city where you wouldn’t be the only person in tweed. A grey-bearded professor you recognize from the halls of UBC glances up at you and Friday over his copy of Utne Reader. Friday steps up to the counter and orders a large vanilla latte and a biscotti. BJ orders a large coffe, black with two sugars. And a scone.

“Want to do this al fresco? It’s gorgeous out.”

“Yes, I would like that.” Is a bit nervous. “Some of the professors mentioned this place so I was hoping it would be nice.”

“I’ve never been before, but it’s nice. It’s very…you.” She chuckles.

“I am not sure if that is a complement or a horrifying prediction of my future.” Gesturing to a table and pulling out a seat for her. Smiling at her.

She sits, smiling. “Oh, I don’t know, it’s not so horrifying…get a good stream of conferences and talks going and you only need to cook maybe three nights a week. Or, you know, have someone cook for you, as the case may be.” She takes a long swig of her coffee. “…I needed this. I was out late in the graveyards again.”

“Are you out there often?” Isn’t quite sure what she does. Sipping at his coffee.

She nods. "It’s what I do….keep an eye out for ghosts, try to settle their business, if I can. Rabbi Gelbart never liked to talk about the, the life after, I guess, and now I see why. It’s not an escape from the problems of living. It’s just another phase with its own problems. Some of them just need someone to talk to them, acknowledge them…others just need to be put down.”

“I had not thought about that. Do they often create problems?” Leans in, interested in this.

She nods, leaning in. “They can, yeah. Sometimes it’s because they need attention or they need to get something done – other times it’s just malicious, or they’ve gone mad, or were mad to begin with. And other times it’s because someone told them to. We always get a few of those.”

“Because someone told them too? Instead of using a spirit?”

“Oh, absolutely. People, well, like me, for instance. If you’re a Moros, compelling a ghost is a lot easier than dealing with spirits….and some Moros don’t…how do I put this?…they just see the dead as tools. Of course, most of that sort feel that way about the living too.” Shakes his head at the idea frowning a bit. “And of course they are not careful with their ‘tools’.” “Well, naturally. I have this idea that….well, they warn us about Hubris. And I think Hubris is most visible in how you treat things that can’t possibly hurt or defy you. I’ve seen Mages I knew and respected just be brusque, dismissive, demanding with ghosts, spirits or whatever and I’m like…is that how you’d treat me? If I couldn’t do what I can do?”

“I see that with sleepers sometimes. But we have a duty to protect those who can not protect themselves.”

She nods. “Duty’s just a word to some people. An old-fashioned thing, like doilies, or, or naming girls after flowers.”

“What is power without responsibility?” She sips her coffee. “Power without responsibility is the Seers.” She frowns. “And half the Consilium sometimes, I swear.” She looks down for a moment. “…Hey. Did you lose your ring?”

“I…” Pauses for a moment. “It was needed for the rings.” Shrugs at her.

“But wasn’t that…?” She sees your expression. “…Oh. I hope they appreciate it.”

“I am not sure they will realize. But that is not why we do it, is it? Between Sinon and myself, they are being dragged into things…outside their comfort zone and skill set. So what ever edge I can give them, I owe them.”

She smiles. “You care for them, don’t you?”

“They are my cabal.” Like others might say ‘They are family’. “They may think I am a hitman, or a gun nut, or a warmonger but they are my cabal.”

“Not everyone sees it as clearly as you do. My cabal…” she shrugs. "It’s more like a gentleman’s club. We do favors for each other, help each other out on projects, cut deals. But I don’t know if Montesquieu would, you know, take a bullet for me. Your group is…different. Everyone knows it. If you guys keep going the way you’ve been going, you’ll either be dead in a ditch somewhere, or one of you will be Hierarch in ten years.”

“Elithoria most likely. And I am not sure Montesqieu would take a bullet for anyone. The meeting that started all of this was…sloppy.”

“Oh, he didn’t like it any more than you did. It was a last minute thing. He owed a ton of Tass to…well, I shouldn’t talk out of school. The thing about Monty is, okay, there are certain things – like bullets – you know you can’t rely on him for. But there’s a point before that where you /can/ rely on him. Does that make sense? And if you know that about him, and you’re okay with him, then you can trust him. Up to that point.”

“I understand. I did not mean to cast aspersions on your cabal.” A stiff, formal politeness in his voice.

She smiles. “You get so formal when you’re worried about something. It’s okay.” She takes your hand and squeezes it. Her phone beeps. “Look, I have a fundraiser for a children’s wing at….” her eyes narrow. “Hey. Think you can grab that tux of yours in the next forty minutes? I don’t want to take my poor driver again.”

Squeezes back. “I think I can manage to be prepared in 40 minutes. I do not live far from here.” Relaxes, smiling again.

She raises an eyebrow. “Oh ho! I’d heard you had a place. I’ll have to come by sometime and check it for g-g-g-ghosts. Standard service, you know, all part of the package.”



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