At the Edge of All Things

BJ Side Quest Part 3

mr.a - (added the more tag)

BJ dials his cell phone, calling the number Janis gave him. Impresario answers the phone. “Hello?”

“This is BJ. I spoke with Janis last night about a private meeting. It is urgent that I speak with her today.”
“Ahh, Blackjack! Excellent. Janis is looking forward to seeing you. You’ve been to Chemical Wedding?”
“Yes, I know it.”

“Good. Mr. Montesquieu has set us up in a private room; the Councilor has had a steady stream of visitors today, as you might imagine…if you come down, I’ll make sure she gives you priority.”

“Thank you. I will be there promptly.” Is dressed down today. Pressed white oxford shirt and chinos. Oxford shoes shined to perfection as he drives out to the Chemical Wedding. The Chemical Wedding is incredibly busy for early afternoon. Several faces from last night’s Consilium turn to look as Blackjack pushes his way past the heavy iron door into the speakeasy.

“Oh, is that…?” “I heard he might be coming.” “His cabal might be ready to go over to the Council…” “The old man’s not gonna be happy about that…”

BJ pauses as he looks for the person who said that his cabal might be ready to go over the council. It’s a middle-aged Native woman in a denim shirt. She’s thin and looks to be carved from wood, with long jet-black hair skunk-streaked with a column of white. She’s chatting with a heavy-set native man in a black t-shirt. He looks to be in his forties and is on his third giant beer. Stopping and walking over to her BJ fixes her with a look.

“My name is Blackjack. Talon of the Admantine Arrow.” Hands behind his back. Not offering one to shake as a courtesy. “I have a fond dislike of gossip, and so I would like to make something clear. I speak only for myself but I have no plans on leaving the Arrow. I see no reason for hostility between the pentacle orders, just as a disagreement with a superior does not mean I would break my oaths.” The “Am, I clear” is unspoken but implied. His tone stealing the best inflection from his former first sergeant and some of the professors he’s worked under when it comes to taking a strip out of her hide.
The woman and her partner meet your gaze for a minute. She looks taken aback, and then he busts out laughing, a large hearty laugh. “Ahahaha! Forces mages. Gotta be careful what you say when they’re around, ahahaha! Don’t sweat it, son. We’re in the old man’s cabal. He’ll be glad to hear that, not that he was worried.” He stands and offers a hand. “I’m Big Dave. That’s Tia. Don’t be too mad. Everyone’s been saying all kinds of crazy stuff today. On top of everything, I heard someone died last night…”

Relaxing a bit, BJ asks “Who?”

Tia slowly exhales. “That part’s true. Some really old guy, a Libertine. I’m here waiting for Volcker to show up so we can make arrangements for the funeral and estate.”
“Palare?”

She raises her beer in acknowledgment. “Yeahhh, that was it. I’d never met him; he barely ever attended council. Happened last night, apparently – went in his sleep. Janis asked me to meet her and Volcker here, but that little nerd hasn’t shown up yet…”

“I see. Excuse me, I do not wish to be running late to my meeting with Janis.” Nodding his head and walking quickly to where ever she’s holding meetings.

“Nice meeting ya, kid,” Big Dave calls after him.

“And you.” Looking through the crowd, keeping his panic in check as he makes his way over to where Janis is holed up. Impresario leaves Montesquieu and joins you on your way to the private lounge. He’s wearing a pinstripe suit with no tie, and is chewing on a toothpick.

“Afternoon, Blackjack. I think Janis should be just about free….” He holds open the swinging door. In the room behind, you see Janis speaking to Finn, the bicycle messenger Herald.

“I can wait a moment. My news has become slightly less urgent.”

Janis hands Finn something small which he puts in his fanny pack. He sketches her an ironic salute with two fingers and heads for the exit, nodding at you. “Oh, hey, BJ.”

“Finn.” With a bit of pleasantness to his tone, suppressing the cold chill running down his spine.

“Gotta roll! Good seeing you, man.” He squeezes past, and Impresario holds a welcoming hand inward.
“I guess that’s that!” Janis half-stands from the lounge couch as she sees you enter, and waves at you. “Oh hey!”

“Hello. What I needed to meet with you about suddenly became a bit less urgent.” Gesturing to a seat in a silent request to sit.

Her brows furrow. “I…how so? What were you wanting to talk about?”

“Do you recall when I was investigating a spirit that came into my possession?”

“Oh, yes! That night at the Ankh.” She seems a bit disappointed you weren’t here to start the revolution, but quickly shifts into efficient, businesslike mode. “That stuff sounded like ancient history. Why, what happened?”

“Ancient history still leaves a lingering impact.” Gives her the run down of what he found out, his beliefs that Palare was a Seer spy, and his purpose in telling her so she could clean house before the Guardians found out.

“I….huh.” She’s taken aback by all this. Impresario coughs from your side. “I have to admit, I have some trouble with this idea, Blackjack. Parlare was a Provost at one point. He was responsible for our Lorehouse in the 1960s. If he’d been a Seer, he could have sold out everyone in the Consilium back then.”

Janis leans forward, tapping an index finger against pursed lips. “Hmm. Hmm! It is interesting, though, isn’t it? Tell you what, Blackjack. Tia and Volcker are going to be arranging the disposal of his estate. If you want to go there and poke around before the Guardians show up, it can be our little secret.”

“Would you object if brought one of my cabal mates? She is a fate mage and understands the magics involved with the stone better then myself.”

She shrugs. “Wouldn’t bother me. Just…hurry. I don’t know how quickly the wheels turn on this stuff. It’s so rare for one of us to die in his sleep.”

Blackjack attempts to call Eli. The phone rings….“you’ve reach the office of Catherine Millet, Professor of….” Resisting the urge to curse, driving towards the estate at least will try to find something himself. Debating on calling Sinon on this. Takes a breath and figures in for a penny, in for a pound. Calls Sinon on the cell phone.

“Sinon.” The Guardian has just returned to the Sanctum and is busy changing out of a full-on stereotypical mountie uniform.

“I need your help with something. But it has the potential to place you in a potentially awkward position.”

“Might it be /cabal/ business?” Sinon asks, clearly implying that saying so would allow him a bit more leeway.

“I think it might be close enough for this. It involves clearing my familiar of being a Seer spy.” Which isn’t quite the truth but good enough for a report.

“Text me the address. I’ll meet you there.”

Parlare lived in a modest bungalow in Burnaby, a shotgun arrangement with a red tile roof. The lights are off as the two of you approach The front door is locked, and there’s some mail stuffed into the mailbox – a couple days’ worth. Two newspapers sit on the front stoop. Gets out of the car and gather’s up the mail and newspapers to take them in. Stopping at the locked door. Hopes Sinon has a way to open this door.

Sinon arrives at the front door, dressed in a sweater that appears entirely too warm for the weather. “So what kind of mage was this Parlare?” he asks as he looks around and at the lock. The lock is an ordinary home bolt. He nods as he pulls out an odd looking multi-tool. “Hopefully there won’t be anything triggered if I get this thing open.” As BJ checks for the wards, the lock pops open. There are wards. Or rather, there were. They seem to have been deactivated already.

Sinon stands up straight and puts on fate sight. “After you.”

“It looks like someone turned off his wards at least.” Not only that, but they’re fading even as he looks at them. Much more quickly than normal. It’s like they were erased. Not just deactivated, nullified, or dispelled, but like something was cast to make it look like they weren’t even there in the first place.As you watch, they gutter and die, leaving behind not even a faint whiff of Resonance. “That is some very subtle magic.” With a tone of respect. With Fate sight, Sinon sees the room as almost identical to how it appears “normally.” This is not a very Fated place. But there’s a faint sparkle, a fairy dust glimmer, coming from the trash can. Something with a fate is inside.

Sinon heads over there and looks inside—moving any actual trash aside to find the source. “There’s something over here.” There’s a small glass phial inside. A dropper or test tube. In an old man’s home, it would be utterly unremarkable on its own. Wandering over, BJ can’t resist being curious. Sinon reaches in, pulls the phial out and holds it up to where both of them can see it. This thing has no magic on it at all. It isn’t magical, and has held nothing magical. It does smell very faintly, though. Something chemical.

BJ squints at it. “Odd. Does it have a perscription on it?” but the vial is unmarked. This is a very tiny amount of fluid in it. “Chemistry was not my strongest subject.”

“A Moros, a Moros, my kingdom for a Moros.” Sinon states in a flat, dry tone. Sinon stands up and decides to extend the fate-vision a bit by casting Interconnections.

“Memo would be rather useful here.”

The phial is strongly Interconnected to something in the kitchen pantry. Specifically, a box of bran cereal. “For what it’s worth, I did volunteer to act as the apostates’ probation officers.” The ‘s’ is not an accident. “Over here.”

“Thank you. It is worth quite a bit actually.” Following Sinon towards the cereal. It’s a half-empty box of a pricey boutique oat bran cereal, the kind you can only find at a Whole Foods. He had about six of them. The entire place is like that – Parlare lived simply, but apparently very well. The home is spotless and all of his appliances and housewares are top of the line.

“So a weird unlabeled vial, linked to a box of cereal by fate. Just for once I would like to just be being paranoid rather then finding something dangerous.”

Sinon looks at all of the cereal. “Poison poured on his breakfast, maybe?”

“Seems like a reasonable answer. I think we can let the Free Council do the forensics on it.” Looking around for something out of place. They didn’t see it when they came in, but from inside the kitchen he can see a photo album open on the floor next to the living room recliner. BJ moves towards it. Curious as to what it is open to.
It’s all photos dating back to the 1940s – they’re carefully labeled in a tight, clear hand. It’s the Ars Regia cabal – Palare, Duncan, and Nodens. But just those three. There are no pictures of Miranda, the woman Duncan and Nodens had loved and fought over. There are just empty pages where those pictures would have been.

“Pictures of his cabal. But missing the member that died. Not one photo of her in here. All removed.” And now that Blackjack is close enough, he can see the faintest traces of resonance around the recliner,. Palare’s resonance – he recognizes it. He had been sitting in this chair, casting a spell.

Sinon follows the Arrow into the living room. “I was just going to ask if there was anything interesting.” He pulls a pair of glasses out of his pockets and puts them on. He extends his mage sight into spirit as well as fate, just in case.

There’s nothing of the Spirit here – but Palare had been casting some kind of Fate spell. Handing over the photos to Sinon and squatting by the chair. Looking carefully at the recliner. BJ attempts to amplify the resonance there, strengthening it rather then altering it’s type. They see the resonance grow stronger; Sinon sees a faint, faery glimmer in the air, a golden sheen and a scent of spring. Focusing on the resonance, BJ tries to see if can determine what he was casting.

Sinon stands up and pulls off his glasses. “This was a Fate spell in the Practice of Knowing. He was trying to discern someone’s Fate – his own or another’s.” His phone vibrates. He looks at it and frowns. “The cleaners are on their way. I set up a warning.”

BJ takes out his own phone and calls the number Janis gave him. Impresario answers. “Blackjack? Any news?”

“It does not look like natural causes. There is a vial that reeks of fate and it is tied to Parle’s breakfast cereal. I am bring them to you and Janis for you to look it over.”

“…That’s troubling. It’s good you found it. His body was found by the maid; if he wasn’t slain by magic, it might have been decided he’d died of natural causes.” He thinks a moment. “You’ll want to take it to Friday. I’ll talk to her. She’s a cabal-mate of mine.” He pauses. “Expect a call in a few minutes.”

Gathers all of the breakfast cereal, the vial and the photo album. “Lets get out of here.” Sinon nods and heads toward his car. Gets in the car and answers it. “Hello.”

“Hi, is this Blackjack?” It’s a young woman’s voice. “I was asked to call you about an item.”
“Yes. I have a couple of them for you. Where should I meet you?”

“You’re in Burnaby….why not Ankh?”

“Do you know where that is?”

“I have been there once. I will be there in a few minutes.” Checking his rear view mirror periodically. It’s not too far, they’re both on the east side of town. He arrives about twenty minutes later. The club isn’t quite as packed as he remembered from last time. The bouncer recognizes him after a moment and waves him through. Inside, the music is as deafening as ever. BJ isn’t sure what his contact looks like. Assumes however he will be noted as out of place with all of the breakfast cereal. Blackjacks see Friday jumping up and down and waving at you long before you hear her. He has seen Friday at Council meetings – she’s an attractive Sephardic Jew who dresses in a very modest, funereal way – black pantsuits, with a dull golden Star of David pendant around her neck.

Moves towards her through the noise. Wondering if he can get away with casting control sound. She’s drinking a Shirley Temple and motions you to a quieter nook. It’s still loud, though. “HI!” She offers you a hand. “I DON’T THINK WE’VE MET.” Sets down the stuff in his arms then shaking hers. Taking a moment to cast control sound near the entrance of the nook. The sound is instantly muffled to a much more pleasant level. “Oh, thank goodness. So this is the stuff, eh?”

“Yes it is.” Rubbing his ear, really should get a life mage to deal with the tinnitus.

“What am I looking for? You said something about a vial – poison?”

Points out the vial. “I think so. There might be some in the boxes as well.” She picks up the vial with long white fingers with elegant nails. This close, you can tell that she has some money – her clothes reek of taste, albeit a kind of stuffy taste. Then, as he watchs, the color begins draining from the vial, from her hand, from the cereal boxes – not entirely, but like the colors in Saving Private Ryan. Desaturated. BJ feels solemn, suddenly, as if a hearse had passed on the street.

Then the color returns, and she nods. “It’s an alkaloid poison, yes. It’s in the vial and the one box of cereal. The rest are fine. I imagine the killer put it in the open one.” She sighs. “We never die in our sleep.” Blackjack shrugs a little at that. He is an Arrow member, and served in a combat zone in a position noted for it’s short life span. Has already exceeded his expected life span. But has a moment of sadness as he realizes it’s likely his investigation that got Parle killed.

Friday stands up a bit straighter. “Well. This is now officially a murder, and murders are investigated by Sentinels. Do you want to join me at the morgue? I’m going to try and speak to Palare.”

He Nods. He has his own questions for him. “Yes. Shall we go together?”

She smiles. “That sounds lovely. I’ll have Lucas bring the car around.” She pulls out a phone and taps a few keys. “He’ll meet us outside.”Blackjack rises and dispells the control silence spell. Grimacing as the noise level goes back up. She blinks and puts fingers in her ears, gesturing toward the nearby EXIT sign with a shake of her head. They head through a heavy fire door, mercifully dimming the music, then downstairs and out onto the street. The evening is seventy-seven degrees and somewhat humid. BJ’s head swiveling as he looks around. Checking for threats without thinking about it.

A large black Bentley glides up silently, and a bald, middle-aged man in a skycap gets out. He taps his cap. “Miss Friday.” He heads to the passenger door and opens it. “Oh, no, Lucas, I’ll be sitting in back with Mister…Jack.” He quirks his brows almost imperceptibly and then opens the back door with a slightly ironic flourish. She clambers in, tossing her purse into the front passenger seat. “Crank up the AC, Lucas. It’s a bit warm.” Climbs in without acknowledging Lucus, the habit from his youth coming back. She looks over at BJ as he enters. “I hope you don’t mind – I like it a bit colder than most. Ever since…well, you know.”

“No, I do not mind. I suspect it will be rather cool where we are going anyway.”

She leans forward in the seat. “Lucas, take us to the hospital on Kincaid.” “The usual entrance, Miss?”
“Yes.”

Apparently Lucas is used to driving his mistress to the morgues around town. She leans back and smiles at you. “I regret the circumstances, but it’s good we’ve had a chance to meet. Everyone’s been wondering when you might be joining us.”

“Given the current political climate, it may not be soon.”

“Don’t count on it. Elevating you to Sentinel puts you at the direct bidding of the Council and the Hierarch. They might prefer you there than out in the wild.”

“Perhaps. I have found I have a tendency to attract trouble. But the trouble I can attract as an outsider would be different then the trouble I could attract as an insider.”

“I can’t tell if that means you’d accept the job if it were offered or not….for what it’s worth, I’d like you to consider it. There aren’t enough of us.”

“If offered I would take it. I have never really been able to turn away from duty.” A bit of bitterness in his voice with a mix of acceptance.

She looks at you thoughtfully. “…That makes two of us,” with a sad chuckle. One hand tugs at her Star of David, unconsciously. “You’d think doing what we can do…it would make things easier than…before. But it never is, is it?”

His turn to look at her thoughtfully. Seeing a degree of his own path there. “More power, more responsibility. It simply means we can do more, so we owe it to the world to do more.”

“My first case was my own father. That’s how it…happened. I was at the funeral, and suddenly knew that his partner had killed him. I couldn’t say why, and half my family didn’t believe me. But I was right, of course. For all the comfort that’s been.”

“I was in Baghad. My platoon was pinned down by a Shia milita. I lead a squad to try to take and clear the building they were using when I ran into something Abyssal. I did not know what it was but I did know it was wrong. That it needed to be purged with fire. When it was all done the building was clear and the medics found me ranting.”

Before the car pulls in: She listens to your story thoughtfully, never dropping her level gaze. “I’m glad you made it,” she says at last, after a beat.

“So am I.” The very serious BJ smiles. His face doesn’t actually crack. Money is going to exchange hands because of that.

“We’re nearly there,” Lucas offers. You see Burnaby General Hospital rising ahead. Then the Bentley pulls onto a side entrance that curves around the back. There are a few official vehicles parked back here, and the remaining spots are reserved. The Bentley parks there anyway. “When your name is on a plaque inside…” she chuckles softly. Blackjack nods to her in understanding, and a bit of approval.

They exit the car, and she leads him into the rear entrance, beeping their way through with a keycard. “One of the perks of the job,” she offers. They smell chemicals on the air, and heavy-duty cleaner. It’s cold. “Ahh, this is much better.” She takes off her jacket and hands it back to him. Taking it carefully and putting it over his arm. Finds this place to be wrong. The sterile atmosphere irritates him irrationally. She undoes her cuffs and rolls up the black sleeves of her black shirt, then claps her hands together. “Okay. Time to get into character.”

BJ watches quietly. Opening up his mage sight to see what is going on. He can see all the power lines thrumming through this hospital – they’re everywhere. There’s some resonance here, too, of course – hospitals are places where life, death, and trauma all happen. He is a bit fascinated to watch a magic that is a bit alien to his own.

She leads him around a couple corners and into the morgue room proper. “These attendants are never on duty. Tsk.” She consults her phone for a moment, then looks down the row of slabs. “Ah.” She slides it open. Parlare lays on it, skin pallid and cold. Friday touches him with one hand and her Star of David with the other. The world loses a bit of color again – although there’s not much here to begin with. “….You were right. Poisoned. An alkali compound. Highly unlikely he saw his killer, then…”

“Still, I could bring him out for an interview. Is there anything you’d like to ask him?” She seems much more energetic and active here, among the cold and the dead, than anywhere else he’s seen so far.

“Yes but it could be something very…awkward for you.”

“How so?”

“If the answer to the question I ask him is yes, then I think the unpleasantness in the Council last night will be mild compared to what this information will cause.”

Her expression is serious. “You have your duties; this one is mine. I speak for the dead. If he knows something about who did this to him, I have to follow it, no matter what.”

“And I would not stop you. I do not think the identity of his murderer is going to cause anything more then a blip. It is why I think he was killed that would be the problem.”

“Well – we’ll see, won’t we? I’ll grant you my sight, so you can see and hear the spirit.” She touches her star and murmurs a few words, and his supernal vision – deepens. The light of Prime sight, the sense of a world of energy, is replaced by a world of heaviness, of slow, leaden matter. She touches Palare’s head, and something sits up out of him. A transparent, spiritual version of him. BJ shivers a little at the change.

WHY AM I HERE, the spirit says. It says this without sound or moving its lips – you just understand it.

“He has a question to ask you,” Friday says, gesturing toward you. The spirit’s head swivels around. AH, YOU. I REMEMBER YOU.

Takes a breath. “Were you a Seer spy or agent?”

NO, the spirit answers.

“Did you have any contact with them that the Council would have issue with?”

NO, the spirit says. YOU ASKED ME ABOUT THIS. I TOLD YOU THE TRUTH.

“Did you tell the truth about what happened the night Miranda died?” THE TRUTH AS I KNEW IT THEN, the spirit says, gazing into your eyes. “Is it the truth as you know it now?” NO. BUT I’D LIKE TO HEAR YOU GUESS IT. I DON’T APPRECIATE BEING CALLED A LIAR, the ghost says, folding its arms. You never knew a ghost could get prissy before. Through its ghostly head, you see Friday stifle a snort. “In the past 24 hours I have had my word question and had people gossip that I would be an oathbreaker. I will get over it just as you will get over being called a liar. I have done enough guessing in the dark for now.” Staring back at him.

The ghost looks between you and the Moros. It seems to reconsider. THE QUESTIONS YOU ASKEDTHE MEMORIES IT DREDGED UP – GOT ME THINKING, it begins.

I TOLD YOU THAT MIRANDA WAS THE SPY. SHE WAS. BUT SOMETHING ABOUT HER DEATH NEVER SAT RIGHT WITH ME. IT BOTHERED ME AT NIGHT, IN THE QUIET HOURS.

“It does not make any sense to me either. It is why I thought you were the spy.”

SO I PULLED OUT THE PHOTO ALBUM. AN OLD MAN LOOKING AT MEMORIES. AND I CALLED UP WHAT I REMEMBERED OF MY ARCANA, AND I READ MIRANDA’S DESTINY.
MIRANDA’S DESTINY…IT EXISTS. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? MIRANDA HAS A DESTINY.

“She is not dead.”

SHE IS NOT DEAD. SHE IS ALIVE, AND SHE IS A SEER, AND SHE HAS THE CENTAURUS LEGACY. AND THAT NIGHT I WENT TO BED. AND THAT IS THE LAST THING I REMEMBER.

“I was much happier today when I thought you were the spy.” With bitter amusement. “It does explain why all of your pictures of her are gone.”

SYMPATHETIC CONNECTIONS. NOW I WONDER WHY SHE LET ME KEEP THEM ALL THOSE YEARS. PERHAPS SHE IS…SENTIMENTAL. AN UNUSUAL WEAKNESS, FOR A SEER.

Friday speaks very softly. “There isn’t much time left before the spell expires.”

“It would have been suspicious for those connections to disappear. I had hard enough time beliving it as it was. What else do we need to know.”

SHE IS OLD, AND POWERFUL, AND RUTHLESS, AND KNOWS I KNEW ABOUT HER. SHE PROBABLY HOPES I TOLD NO ONE. A DODDERING, NOSTALGIC OLD MAN. BUT IF SHE SUSPECTS AN INVESTIGATION – IF SHE LEARNS THAT ANYONE KNOWS… the spirit trails off.

“It’s time,” Friday says.

“And she can see the future. I apologize for calling you a Seer spy and a Liar.”

The spirit of Palare begins to dissolve back into its body. HM. I DON’T BLAME YOU. IT IS THE NATURE OF OUR WORLD. THEY SAY…THEY SAY OUR SOULS REJOIN THE SUPERNAL, AND FLOW IN A GREAT RIVER, TO RETURN TO THE FALLEN WORD AGAIN AND AGAIN. BUT I HOPE..I HOPE NEXT TIME, I END UP AMONG PEOPLE WHO KNOW MORE OF TRUST.

“So do I. Go in peace.” Making the sign of the cross and nodding his head for a moment.

Friday touches her star, and bows her head, and slides the slab back into place. “That wasn’t awkward,” she says softly. “But it was frightening.”

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MrAnthropy

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