At the Edge of All Things

Session 5

Bleakscale, part I

In the last session, the cabal attended the monthly session of the Consilium, met some new people, and made some waves.  You’ve been formally inducted as a new cabal (sans name for now) and the service you did in retrieving the Tass has raised eyebrows and your profiles.

It’s been four days since then, and Elithora and Aurelia have begun looking into a missing document for the Mysterium with Blackjack’s help.  Sinon has been acclimating himself to the Vancouver Guardians and setting up his Sanctum.

It’s now a Wednesday evening, and the cabal has been asked to meet with the Mysterium mage who’s coordinating the investigation into the Bleakscale outbreak. Since they brought it to the Council’s attention, it’s kind of been assumed that you’d want to continue pursuing it. Tonight finds three of the mages at Chemical Wedding, the bar in Gastown.  Elithora has texted to say she’s running late, and as it happens, so is their contact.

Aurelia arrives by skytrain. finding a quiet booth.

Sinon enters from the alleyway entrance, gives the room a quick look over and glides into the booth. He signals to the bartender and gets a whiskey, neat.

Blackjack finds a parking space and hops out, spotting Aurelia and sliding into the booth seat opposite her.

Blackjack nods to both of them and then orders a beer.

Aurelia waves hello. “So where’s your new protege? I figure she’d want in on this.”

“She is working on some new rotes. And she is a little tired. Apparently my fun runs are exhusting for her.” The Talon stretches a little. “The good news is that she’s up to four miles of running and eight without emptying her stomach.” His face twitches a bit with what almost could be an evil grin.

Sinon nods as he listens to the others.  “It’s good that she has taken to the training so readily.”

Aurelia rolls her eyes. “Readily, sure. Like you aren’t cracking the whip.”

“I am. She is out of shape. But she is coming along. Training is not supposed to be fun. Well for her. But when we get her up to half marathons, I will consider that acceptable. And she is not taking to firearms training at all.” Blackjack shrugs. “But she is studying her rotes well and she has the right kind of stubborn. Of course it’s going to get her killed one day but likely she will have a hell of an honor guard when she goes.” He sips his beer.

“It’s best that she seizes the opportunity Blackjack has given.  Our little show at the consillium only bought those three a short reprieve.  If they don’t prove themselves useful in that time…”  Sinon swirls his drink as the sentence trails off.

The door from the outside opens and a pair of newcomers stride in.  One of them is Sterling, Minerva’s provost and coordinator.  The other is a blond, clean-shaven man in his early forties in a subtly expensive dress shirt and pants, sans tie or jacket.  He has something of an intense air. The two of them look around briefly before Sterling points Aurelia out to his companion.  They wave and stride over.

Aurelia waves at Sterling. “Hey Sterling!”

Aurelia looks back at BJ “Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier.”

“She is not a solider. But she will make a fine warrior.” Blackjack nods to the pair of them.

He breaks out into a grin.  “Aurelia! Hi!  Blackjack, Sinon…I’d like to introduce you to Jude.  He’s the one looking into Bleakscale.  He heard about the clinic and wanted to…”

Jude waves him off.  “I can explain it myself, Sterling.”  Sterling looks a bit crestfallen at this.  “…Sorry.”  The two men pull chairs from a nearby table over.  “There are actually several of the Wise looking into bleakscale.  I’ve simply taken it upon myself to coordinate them.  Or try to.”

Sterling nods at this.  “A bunch of Janis’s people are really champing at the bit to help.  If those kids at the clinic had thought to approach the Free Council, they wouldn’t even be in trouble….well, as much trouble…”

Aurelia leans in on the table. “Have the other two kids approached any of the orders? are you working with them, Jude?”

Jude starts up again.  “Anyway, trying to get two or three mages to compare information and share basic notes is like…well, it reminds me why I chose this name.  The way we act is antithetical to what has to be done to deal with a situation like this. There are six or eight different Awakened in Vancouver that I know of looking into this, and they’re all duplicating work and jealously guarding their results.  It’s absurd.”

Sterling nods.  “Everyone wants to be the hero who singlehandedly cured an Abyssal infection.”

Sinon nods.  “A situation like this does call for coordinated efforts.  The lone hero doesn’t cure ebola.”

Blackjack: “What can we do to help?”

Jude nods.  “Right now the thing I need more than anything else is data, and I am long past the point where I care how it is gotten.  Even with magic, I can’t be in two or three places at once…hence your group.  I’m told you’re quite the go-getters.”

He puts his hands on the table.  “The problem with Abyssal manifestations that take the form of Fallen World disease is that they don’t obey any of the normal rules.  It’s not about coughing or someone handling something they oughtn’t…an Abyssal disease might strike only people who are left-handed, or who listened to a certain song on a certain day.”

“I’d like your cabal to look around the city for people with symptoms, and then try and establish some sort of common factor.  Once we know that, and only once we know it, will we be able to move forward.”

Aurelia ponders a moment. “So it follows rules, just different rules”

Blackjack relaxes a bit. Had assumed this job would require breaking and entering.

Jude nods.  “Correct.  At least, until whatever is driving it decides to change the rules.  Which it may, at any time.”

Sterling leans in.  “The Council, for once, is united in this….Sacerdote and Minerva and Janis all want to see this dealt with.  For their own reasons, of course, but…”

Sinon takes in the information and nods with Sterling’s statements regarding the council.  “Of course.” To Blackjak:  “Has your protege mentioned where her group first found the afflicted?”

“She mentioned that Loki is the first one to spot it. I suspect we can get his and the rest of his cabal’s notes.” Finishes his beer in a long pull.

Jude shrugs.  “It’s worth a shot, although the last time I asked about it I was told that he and the other one were being held by the Sentinels in a….what’s that charming phrase?….‘undisclosed location.’  I’ve no idea where they are now, and nobody will tell me.  But if you think you can find out…”

Blackjack sighs and looks up at the sky. “I might be able to. I just hope the cost is not too high.”

“Wait. Let me make a call.”  Sinon stands up from the table and walks over to the corner.

Sinon shakes the tree a bit and are eventually passed to Rook, a Guardian sentinel with the RCMP.

“Sinon…?  Oh, you’re the out-of-towner.  I’ve been hearing things about you.”  Rook is a woman with a bit of a foreign lilt to her voice – maybe Nigerian?  “What do you need?”

“We’re looking into that… glitch… that the bosses want taken care of.  We need a few minutes with your guests to go over some of their notes.”

She chuckles lightly. “Oh, Jones is gonna love you.  You’ve got the lingo cold.  I always feel a bit silly…anyway, I’m showing the guests around town now.  You’re with some friends, right?  I’m going to send one of them something.  I’ll see you soon.”

“Thanks.” Sinon hangs up and heads back to the table.

A few seconds later, Blackjack’s phone vibrates.

The Arrow raises an eyebrow and answers it/views the text/whatever.

It’s a text – an address in Mission, BC.  Fishing country about an hour east of town.

Appended to the address is a couple of words. BRING BEER.

“Right, so apparently we know where they are. Jude, care to join us? Oh and we need to make a beer run.”

Jude looks at Sinon with new appreciation.  “I’m impressed.  I spent half the day on the phone with various Guardians and Sentinels and got nowhere.”  He stands up, pulling on a coat. “A beer would be splendid.  Sterling, thank you very much for putting me together with these youngsters.  We may start seeing results soon.”

“It helps when they fear you.”

Sterling nods.  “No problemo.”  He looks at Aurelia as he pulls out a notebook.  “I’m going to stick around for a bit and get some paperwork done.  If I see your friend, I’ll tell her you went out.”

Aurelia: “Sweet. can I get the addy? I’ll wait for Eli and bring her up to speed when she gets here and meet you guys out there.”

Elithora enters.

Blackjack forwards the text to the rest of the group. “And I will grab the beer. Jude, you can ride with me.” Sliding out of the booth. “Elithora, we are off to vist ‘an undisclosed location’. There will be beer and mysteries.”

“Sorry guys, dentist. You had me at beer.” Elithora swings her car keys in a circle around on one finger.

Aurelia: “I’ll bring you up to speed in the car. You coming Sterling, or still got paperwork?”

Sterling waves off.  “Nah, I really was just here to make introductions.  I’ve got a ton of stuff to write or Minerva’ll be very mad and then I won’t have a nutsack anymore!  And that would be sad.  For me, anyway.”

Sinon nods at Elithora as he heads out the door. 

Elithora leans out the door to call, “Don’t drink all the beer before we get there!”

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So we have Jude and Blackjack in one car, the girls in another, and Sinon on his own.  In one or two sentences, do you guys do anything/have any conversations on the hour drive to the sticks?

Elithora is delegating MP3 duty to Aurelia while she tells me whatever is going on.

Blacjack discusses the idea of encouraging Arrowsmith to join the Free Council.

Jude’s feeling is that from what he’s heard of Arrowsmith, the boy might be happier in the Mysterium.  But he agrees that selling them on Orders might be helpful in their sentencing.

Sinon has another call to make on the way.

And Jude, for the record:

Elithora: “So we don’t really know what the common trigger is yet, but something is causing people to get it.” Some idle speculation on causes, chit chat, staring out the windows, bonding, etc.

Leaving Vancouver for the hills at night is like passing through the membrane of a bubble of light.  All of a sudden, even in the height of early summer, the shadows get long and the road gets lonelier.  Past the tall trees lining the road, the mages catch glimpses of secluded developments and golf courses, or off ramps to bedroom communities, then not much at all.

Elithora:“Hey, horses.”
Aurelia: “Where?”
Eli peers in her sideview mirror at the property already whizzing by. “Oh, on my side.”

After about an hour and twenty minutes, you pull off the road onto a gravel easement and rumble down a hill to a small lakeside resort area.  There’s a one-story motel, and some cabins, and a small marina with a few boats.  The address leads you to one of the cabins.  It’s tiny; it barely qualifies as a bungalow. There’s an old Cutlass Ciera parked in front, and no other sign of life for a good quarter mile.

Aurelia: “Well this place is… cozy”

“How did you guys even get into this.” Eli peers at the cabin.

The door opens at the gravelly rumble of three cars approaching and a silhouette peers out cautiously.  As you get out of your cars, a lilting voice calls out “Who goes there?”

Blacjack: Finds a parking spot and pulls into it, getting out of the car and opening up the trunk. Gets out two cases of a nice microbrew and two cases of Budwiser. And not a single damn drop of Molsen. “Friends. Who were told to bring beer.”

“Then watcha doing out there?  Get on in, kids!”

Sinon pulls up a few seconds later.  He exits the car carrying two large boxes.  He walks to the door and says “Pizza to go with the beer.”

The interior of the cabin is carefully generic and preserved in some kind of endless late 1970s; everything is wood-paneled, including the coffee maker and the television, which stands on four brass-topped feet.

Eli enters, admiring the consistency of the decor

Blackjack nters and sets down the beer, looking around. Noting the lack of Loki or Arrowsmith.

The woman – Rook – is tall, dark black, and lean-muscular, as you can see through her track pants and loose tank top.  Her hair is unruly dreads held back by a rubber band.  She looks tough, but her voice is honeyed.  “Getcha a seat, then.  Company at last, thank god.  I’m Rook, by the way.”

The cabal’s guardian nods.  “Sinon.”  He points to the rest of the group, “Blackjack, Aurelia, Elithora”

She hollers back.  “Fellas!  Come on up, there’s beer and pizza!”

One of the three doors in the back of the room bursts open and Loki hustles in, wearing blue jeans and a Simon Fraser University t-shirt.  He looks at the beer greedily.  “Aw, fuck yeah.”  He grabs one and sits down.  “Can you believe this?  I’m sort of glad to see you people.  It’s too fucking wholesome out here, it’s unnatural.”

Elithora helps herself to a slice of pizza. “So, Loki. How’s the wholesomeness treating you?”

Aurelia grabs one of the craft beers and looks around. “There a plate I can use?”

Rook passes her a ceramic plate in the best baby-food pea-green.

“It’s fuckin’ creepy, is what.  Everyone’s all friendly an’ shit.  Tourists everywhere, families….I went out on one of them boats.  Never been before.  I was fine for a while and then tossed my cookies overboard.”

Arrowsmith comes out a few moments later, tucking his shirttails into some black trousers.  “Ah….Rook mentioned we might have visitors tonight.  What’s going on?  Has the Council changed their minds about us?”

Blackjack shakes his head. “Not really, no. But we are hoping to help you earn some more good behavior.”

Sinon: “Not yet, but they might if you can give us a hand with something.”

Loki shakes his head.  “…figures.”  Arrowsmith leans forward intently.  “Tell us what you need.”

“We’re trying to track bleakscale.  How its transmitted.  Where it started.”

“If you could provide Jude your notes and any information, it would help.” Blackjack twists open one of the craft beers and sipping it.

Aurelia grabs a slice of cheese pizza for her plate.

Jude chimes in.  “You’re a medical doctor, Arrowsmith.  I assume you kept records, files…”

Sinon grabs a beer as well and has a solitary sip.

Blackjack grabs a plate and puts a pair of slices on it. Watching Loki and Arrowsmith casually.

Arrowsmith looks pained.  “Not…not as well as I would have liked.  Loki brought the disease to our attention and my first thought was treatment.  Reinforcing the afflicted’s Patterns with mana seemed to be helping…it wasn’t until I’d had a friend bring me some information from the Free Council Lorehouse that I even learned what it was.”

Elithora good cops it by handing Arrowsmith a beer. “What did you learn?”

“Just what you probably already know.  It’s an Abyssal intrusion…I didn’t even know those kinds of things existed, not really.”  He shrugs sadly.  “I didn’t realize how many new factors there were when dealing with Awakened medicine.”

Aurelia nods in agreement, “Yeah, everything is weird. Like, hardly anything makes sense with magic. Kind of the point I guess.”

Sinon leans forward.  “Arrowsmith.  Lying to us is not going to help you.”

Jude leans forward.  “No, it probably…hang on.  He’s right, you /are/.lying.”  His eyes narrow.  “What on earth for?”

He blanches slightly.  “I mean, I kept some basic charts…but surely that’s not the kind of information you need.”  Loki is busily looking elsewhere.

Rook is suddenly very interested as well.

Loki blows air out of his lips, exasperated.  “Dude!  It’s not even a big deal.  Just tell them.”

Arrowsmith throws his hands up.  “Fine.  Fine.  One of my contacts…another Apostate.  He was interested in what we were learning and asked me to send him my observations.  He’d have all of it.”

Elithora looks unruffled. “We’re obviously not going to go goon squad on him any more than we did on you. If you could get us in touch, it woudl look great for us and help you with polite society. A win-win.”

He leans back in his chair.  “It wasn’t anything particularly rigorous or detailed.  And this guy makes a lot of weird requests, so I didn’t think much about it.  It’s just that he asked me to leave him out of anything that might happen.”

Aurelia narrows her eyes, not needing to read his mind for this one. “Gerard”

Sinon nods.

Jude spits out his beer. “WHAT DID YOU SAY” Looking at Aurelia as he says this.

Arrowsmith just winces and nods.

Blackjack raises an eyebrow.

Aurelia: “You heard me. Want to fill me in on who he is?”

Jude pats his pockets, as if looking for keys.  “It’s a long story, I’ll tell you on the drive home.  Rook, thank you so much for your time and your help, but we really ought to be going.”  He looks deeply uncomfortable.

Rook looks baffled but shrugs.  She understands secrets as much as any Guardian.  “Ohhhkay, then.  We’ll keep the beer.  Loki, Arrowsmith, say bye to your nice visitors.”

Aurelia puts her feet up. “I just started on this slice. Let’s talk about this. I let it slide when we picked you guys up, but I know Gerard was there. I heard his voice, saw him. Who is he to you?”

Jude is desperately making throat-cutting gestures at Aurelia.

“It may be best if these two” Blackjack points to Arrowsmith and Loki “understand what exists in the shadows.” Is begining to put things together.

Sinon sighs.  “Aurelia.  Take Jude back to town and talk to him on the way.  Blackjack and I can talk to the apostates. We can reconvene afterwards. Some things are not meant to be shared with everyone.”

Aurelia looks into Jude’s eyes. “Relax, would you?”

8d10h8 telepathy with Jude. He gets to contest gnosis+composure

Jude frowns.  “Young lady, I ask – I beg – for your patience.  I’ll explain on the way back into town.”  He shrugs into his coat.  “It doesn’t look like I have a choice.”

Arrowsmith looks confused as hell.  “I….he just helped the cabal out a bit, early on.  Gave us some advice on how to live, you know.  Off the Supernal grid.”

Blackjack: “Jude, tell me when I say something wrong. Gerrard works for an organization opposed to the council.”

“No, if he’s the same man I think he is, he really is an Apostate -” says Jude.

Rook goes “HOLD ON!” in her best Mountie Voice.

Jude stops, halfway to the door, looking defeated.  Arrowsmith looks bewildered.  Loki is glancing warily back and forth.

Blackjack makes note of the voice with professional detachment.

Eli leans her head on her hand and sips a beer. Why can’t anyone just tell us anything the first go-round?

Rook holds out an index finger.  “I was GOING to let you leave with whatever dorky little secret you dredged up, as a professional courtesy, but now I’m hearing things about ‘opposed to the Council’ and I don’t know what.”

“So now I’m interested.”  She looks at Arrowsmith.  “Answer the lady’s question.”

Aurelia pushes on, indefatigable. To Arrowsmith “This is important, and what you say now will affect your future. You too Loki. Where did you meet Gerard and what was the nature of your relationship. I know he was the one who planned that impressive heist, not you.”

Arrowsmith takes a deep breath.  “Fine.  Yes.  Gerard planned it.  He found the three of us after we Awoke and told us about how Mages work, how Mage laws work and how it guarantees that nothing ever gets done.  He said that if we kept our heads down and didn’t let his enemies know he was in town, he’d help us with our project.”

Loki nods.  “He’s fuckin’ weird, though.  Likes to keep weird lists of things.  Says the city gives him messages and shit.”

“House of Ariadne?”  Sinon muses to himself.

Arrowsmith continues.  “It’s not really much more eccentric than many other of the Mages we’ve met…this lifestyle seems to do things to people.”

Loki shrugs.  “I dunno.  He kind of skeeved me a bit, yo.”

Arrowsmith continues.  “And yes, he had me keep some notes about my treatments, but they were hardly…they weren’t really medical notes at all!  I was supposed to ask questions about their birthdays and their favorite colors.  It was absurd.  He has all of that stuff, now.  I didn’t bother keeping it.”

Sinon: “Unfortunately, that is how abyssal strains spread.”

Aurelia: “Welcome to the world of the absurd.”

Elithora: “How do we get in touch with him to discuss these absurdities?”

Arrowsmith goes a shade paler.  “You mean…there’s method to what he wanted?”  Off Elithora’s question.  “He used to have us meet him on Fridays at the Playland Amusement Park after hours. He liked to play the midway games by himself.”

Elithora wonders out loud, mostly to herself, “Who hangs out a closed amusement park? Do they have a business card that says ‘I am creepy’?”

Loki laughs.  “This dude would.”

Aurelia: “Who doesn’t? I doubt he’ll be there this friday. I’m sure he’s noticed the missed meeting and word has gotten aroud of what happened.”

Blackjack: “Jude, what can you tell us about him.” Taking off his glasses to clean them. Again.

Rook looks levelly at Jude.  “Yeah.  Yeah, I think it’s time we had some disclosure from this side of the room.”

Jude sighs and rubs his temples.  “Yes.  Well.  I was hoping to spare a friend some embarrassment and avoid having this all over town by tomorrow but I see that ship has sailed.  Gerard isn’t that man’s Shadow Name.  It’s his /last name/.  He used to be the husband of Mrs. Gerard.  Who you might know as Minerva.”

Sinon laughs at that.

Elithora stops with her beer halfway to her mouth, duly surprised.

Aurelia to Sinon: “That was terribly unnecessary.”

“Well, you’re the one who insisted on airing this in front of a live studio audience.”  Sinon states in matter of fact tone.



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