Last week, the cabal followed the trail of the missing tass and Dolph, its carrier, to a night clinic in Vancouver’s sketchy Downtown East area. There they found a line of homeless and transient people waiting to enter.
Aurelia snuck in and underwent an “examination” by the Awakened nurse, then hustled into a back room with other patients, many of whom showed signs of some sort of odd skin affliction.
A second Awakened, a doctor, began performing some kind of extended ritual on the patients as Aurelia watched on from the sidelines. Meanwhile, the rest of the group attempted to enter and discovered the all-devouring cosmic menace of the door.
As the door mocked their dice rools and their feeble mortal lives, the nurse came back up front just as Blackjack smashed through shoulder-first. His silence spell kept the commotion from being heard in the back, but the nurse drew a pen and began casting!
Elithora is currently standing on the outside of the clinic door, next to the one Blackjack smashed open. A line of homeless people are staring at you guys, although many more are dispersing, thinking something is up.
The nurse is inside the reception area with Blackjack.
Elithora yells something out to Blackjack while pointing at the nurse, but her words sound like a record being played on a turntable that was just unplugged and is slowing to a stop.
And her words return to normal speed, to little effect.
Looking around at you three outside, she quickly realizes she might be outnumbered. As she steps back from Blackjack, her pen traces quick, jagged arcs in the air, and as it does so, the lights in the reception area seem to go on a dimmer switch as the shadows become inky pools. Her own shadow bubbles up like oil, forming a membrane between her and Blackjack.
She grimaces and a little blood trickles from her nose as she absorbs the paradox as Bashing damage.
Most of the clientele have now fled into the street, btw, but one is pressing her face into the glass to get a better view and another is standing there rocking on his heels and murmuring monosyllabically, deeply freaked out.
Elithora: “This stupid nurse is going to flip everything sideways.”
Blackjack makes a halt motion with his hand, and casts reduce friction under the nurse’s feet.
Aurelia is in the back room – she doesn’t hear the commotion up front because of Blackjack’s Silence spell. The doctor is moving between the listless-looking patients, murmuring the High Speech as he makes a show of touching stethoscopes to them, etc. – but it’s clearly a ritual casting.
Aurelia continues to observe—hoping to discern whether the apostates are really helping these people or are ritually killing them.
Aurelia doesn’t know the Life arcana, but she recognizes a few of the words and gestures, and she’s beginning to think that this actually is some kind of attempt to heal these people. She catches an Atlantean word that can mean, alternately, border, thoroughfare, or cliff, and that is often used when invoking or countering the Abyss.
Sinon is near Elithora, on the outside of the clinic doors.
Sinon looks to the sleepers who are remaining. “What the hell are you two doing here!? You’re going to ruin the filming! This may be a hidden camera pic, but do you know how much these effects shots cost!”
The more on-the-ball bum grabs the other by his cuffs and drags him away. “C’mon, man, they gonna call security or something on us…!”
Elithora hisses at the nurse, “You idiot.” She makes a somewhat archaic mage gesture at the nurse as she says it, and stabs twice at the air with her finger.
The nurse is backing away from Blackjack and going to try to get help. Unfortunately, the floor under her is frictionless! Her legs go out from under her and she executes a perfect three-point pratfall, banging her head on the counter as her pen goes flying out of her hand.
Blacjack: “You are out numbered and out matched. If you’re willing to be bound by oath, I will accept your surrkender.” He slips the pistol out of his jacket as an or else.
Nurse: “You…we are trying to, to help people! And you pull a…! No! Go to hell!”
Blacjack:“Pull a what?”
“A, a…!” She points at your gun. “That! I, I mean…what gives you the….?!” She shrugs, angrily, before finishing her sentence like three seconds later. “the right?”
“A gun? Yes. I am Blackjack, Talon of the Adamatine Arrow. I am here at the direction of the consilium to retrive the tass that was stolen. I am not unwilling to listen however.”
Sinon walks into the room. With the sleepers gone, he drops his borrowed jacket to the floor along with the magical guise he had been wearing. He looks at Blackjack. “She should take your deal. She would’ve received better than what the guardians will give her.”
Gives a shrug to Sinon. “Youthful idealism and haste. Assuming her goals are noble.” Turning to the nurse. “My offer still stands. My word is good.” With just a hint of challenge.
To Blackjack, “Indeed.” To the nurse, with complete calmness, “I suggest you take his offer before I call Miss Smith. You know how we Guardians are with Apostates.”
She frowns, looking concerned, and raises her hands diffidently. “But you aren’t supposed to be here. Loki’s going to be mad if he sees you. So will….” she seems to think better of it. “We’re not doing anything to hurt the Veil.”
Elithora glances at the windows at the word “Veil.” Are there still bystanders peering in?
They’ve taken off, although given how bright the clinic is compared to the dark street outside, it’s possible someone could be standing in the street. The nurse’s shadow spell fizzled out when she hit her head, though./b>
Elithora scowls at the nurse and glances around the room. Where the hell did Aurelia get to, anyway?
It’s just Aurelia and the doctor.
Aurelia risks reading the mind of the ritual-performing mage.
He calls himself Arrowsmith. He’s concentrating very hard on a spell that he hopes will arrest the spread of – you catch the word “bleakscale.” He’s wondering where Memoranda has gotten off to, and wonders if he should trust Loki to be alone with the Tass. They need the Tass to create the cure. That’s what Gerard says, anyway.
Aurelia judiciously decides not to interrupt the man.
Elithora is still thinking about the spirit she spoke to. “What are you even doing here?”
The door from the back offices opens. “Yo, I’m going out for some eat- man what the fuck?” You see a lanky youth in track pants, a t-shirt, and a skullie. He’s unshaven and has the complexion of someone who eats a lot of McNuggets.
The nurse pipes up. “Loki, you really should have been up here with me. It is not appropriate for you to be taking naps in the back while the rest of us work.”
Keeping his pistol visable but not raised. “I am Blackjack, Talon of the Admantine Arrow. The Consilium has sent us to retrive the Tass your group stole. Can we skip the part where you try to fight your way through us?”
He shoots her a look of baffled frustration, then turns to Sinon and Blackjack. “Arrow, huh? What a clusterfuck. We thought you was Seers.”
Sinon chuckles a bit to himself. “If we were Seers you’d be dead.”
Finds a chair. “Sinon, is it often a problem in your line of…work for people to assume you know what they are talking about?” Sitting in it and looking relaxed but not loose.
Loki shuffles back and forth on his feet. “So this about that Tass, or what?”
Sinon ignores the Arrow. “Yes, this is about the Tass. Specifically: Where is it?”
Elithora seems to decide that a Good Cop is needed and steps next to Sinon with a calm smile. “There are procedures to keep in mind in acquiring these sorts of things, and I sense some of us may have gotten a b it hasty in taking the Tass … even if for a potentially good purpose.”
The nurse sighs. “Well, YOU people weren’t even supposed to BE there. It is hardly OUR fault that you were. I did my job perfectly.”
Elithora starts to say to the nurse, “You have to understand there are protocols … Things can’t simply go missing …”
Loki shuffles back and forth uncomfortably. “Yeah, uh…we need that Tass, dog. These people be sick. And like the lady said, y’all weren’t even supposed to be there.”
Blackjack: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Sighs. “Perhaps this would all be much simplier if you both sit down and tell us what is going on, and why you took the tass?”
Elithora almsot invisibly nudges Sinon towards Loki while walking toward the nurse with an extended hand to help her up.
SInon: “i suggest you do as my friend asks.”
Aurelia is wondering how long this ritual is going to take
Arrowsmith has finished his ritual. A couple of the patients smile and scratch as they feel a bit better without knowing why, and one starts to leave. “Hold up,” Arrowsmith says. “I need to, uh…double check.” He pulls out a tongue depressor. He moves quickly from patient to patient and frowns. “Not as well as I’d hoped…” he murmurs.
As he finishes Aurelia pats him on the back
He jumps at the back pat. “What the…?”
Aurelia: “What exactly are these people sick with?”
Aurelia smiles at him. “I’m a friend, please don’t be alarmed.”
The doctor’s eyes narrow as he looks you up and down. “Hm.” His nostrils flare with momentary anger, then he relaxes at your question. “It’s called bleakscale. It’s an abyssal intrusion, last seen in Prague in 1931. Showed up in the homeless population roughly six weeks ago.”
Aurelia frowns slightly. “That’s not good. And you’ve been stockpiling Tass to attempt to cure it?”
Arrowsmith looks at the Mastigos. “Precisely. It takes a lot of mana, and with no Hallow and no nearby ley lines, we had to make our own luck. I’ll face the Consilium’s judgment if I have to, but I stand by what I’ve done.”
Aurelia nods. “I take it you’ve discerned why I’m here then. I can’t force you to come with us, but I think it would certainly be better to tackle this issue with the support of the consilium than be seen by the as an enemy. For the sake of your patients, if no-one else.”
Arrowsmith pauses. “Voices…you brought friends, didn’t you?” He sighs. “Okay. Let’s go up front.” He looks at the patients, who’ve been watching your conversation quizzically. “Uh, you folks can head out the back entrance over there. Take plenty of Vitamin C and come back to me if your symptoms recur.”
The nurse takes Elithora’s hand somewhat reluctantly. “People have been getting sick, magically. It’s called bleakscale. Some have died already. Their ghosts want us to fix it…”
The nurse continues. “Well, they want me to fix it. I don’t think they care what Loki does.” She sniggers.
Elithora pulls the nurse up and half-guides and half-pushes her into a seat with a smooth motion while listening. She remains standing.
Loki rolls his eyes.
Blackjack: “So you took the Tass to power a ritual to try to cure it? Do you know what it’s source is?”
Memoranda, the nurse, shrugs. “It’s abyssal. Someone’s spell went really wrong, or…maybe a Scelestus?”
Loki says, “We been looking, but ain’t found anyone yet. When we do, though….” he makes a tough-guy face.
Sinon puts his phone back in his pocket once Loki and the nurse begin to talk.
Elithora taps her chin thoughtfully. “We should call this in. I suppose our benefactor would want to know about his missing rock candy. Wait …” She turns to Memoranda and Loki. “Why haven’t you gone up the ladder with this? Do you think this problem came from inside?”
Blackjack: “Apostates. In a Guardian controlled area. Still, I would assume there have to be a few Free Council members who would have helped just for the benefit of tweaking the Guardian’s noses. And they could have gotten help from the Admantine Arrow.”
Arrowsmith and Aurelia come up front from the back hallway. Arrowsmith frowns. “I thought you were our site security, Loki.” Loki looks at his shoes. “Get off my case, man.”
Arrowsmith claps his hands together. “Okay, ladies and gents. You’ve caught our little cabal. Are you Guardians, or what?”
Memoranda grumbles. “They weren’t even supposed to BE there!”
Sinon: “Only one of us.”
Arrowsmith nods. “Hm. How much do you know?”
Elithora sizes Arrowsmith. “Maybe the free market sent us. How much should we know?”
Sinon: “We understand the situation and your plan. Which was nicely constructed, by the way.”
Memoranda smiles. “That was me. I did most of that.”
Aurelia looks around. “There was another. We’re one short.”
Blackjack: “Which does bring us to an important point. There was a man with that Tass. What happened to him?”
Aurelia doubles back to the office with the tass
Loki and Arrowsmith look at Aurelia briefly before looking away. Arrowsmith clears his throat. “The, uh, bulky gentleman? He’s fine. After the spirit left him, I gave him a bit of morphine and put him in a cab headed toward the nearest Best Western. He’ll wake up in ten to twelve hours feeling pretty good.”
The Tass is in two gym bags on the floor of the records office. It’s been made to look like barbell weights. It looks like a small quantity has been used, but the bulk of it is still here.
Elithora peers at the bag and looks relieved. One mystery down, new mystery opened …
Arrowsmith looks at Loki and Memoranda, then to Sinon and Blackjack. “So what now? Whatever happens, someone has to do something about the bleakscale.”
Blacjack: “Of course. Would you be willing to address the consillium on the matter?”
Aurelia grabs one of the bags o’ tass. “Can I get some help? This stuff’s heavy.”
Arrowsmith looks to Memoranda and Loki. They shrug. “Ain’t gonna be me,” Loki says. Memoranda snorts. Arrowsmith nods at Sinon. “Of course.”
Elithora: “We need to look into this ‘bleakscale.’ If some … epidemic is about to break out … We ought to at least know what we’re dealing with.”
Blacjack stands up and finally holster’s his gun. “Can I speak with you a moment alone?” To Memoranda, picking up one of the bags of Tass.
Memoranda looks at her cabal, confused. Arrowsmith nods. “Okay. Just don’t be a creep or anything.”
Blacjack rolls his eyes as he walks over a quite spot, his voice pitched low not to carry. “You are an Apostate. Why?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. It just seems dumb, asking for permission for everything. We weren’t hurting anyone. And you guys were supposed to be Seers.”
Blackjack: “You keep saying that. Why?”
“Because that’s what he said!” her voice rising in frustration.
Sinon walks over. To Blackjack, “I’d apologize for interrupting, but I don’t care about your little recruitment pitch.” To Memoranda, “Who said what?”
She looks at Sinon. “Ga-rrowsmith. Arrowsmith said it. He’s our leader, OBVIOUSLY. He would say it.”
Aurelia tries a little magical reading.
Memoranda was thinking “Gerard.” His appearance: a slim man of average height, late forties, balding, with long grey hair in the back, dressed kind of outdoorsy with a wooden walking stick. And he has a kind of high-pitched voice.
Sinon: “Arrowsmith! What do you know about this?”
Arrowsmith blanches slightly. “What do I know about what?”
Aurelia looks at Sinon and shakes her head. "Don’t worry about that right now. It’s late and we have reports to make
Shoos Sinon away from Memoranda.
Arrowsmith speaks slowly, choosing his words with care. “We had heard Pitch would be making a deal with Seers tonight. That’s why we picked tonight to do our little heist.”
“Obviously, we were misinformed.”
something out, but you think he’s telling the truth as far as it goes.
Elithora muses, “Pitch should make new friends who don’t gossip.”
Blackjack again pitches his voice low and speaking to Memoranda. “Now that we’ve cleared that up, a further moment of your time. I simply want to point out that members of the Admentine Arrow are expected to act, and do what they see is needed. Sometimes that means asking for clarification from above but often that means doing something. When I came through the door, you didn’t hesitate. You acted. Perhaps you might consider a role in the order. Just a thought.”
Aurelia grits her teeth. “If Pitch is dealing with Seers that’s a serious issue. Moreover, if his information is correct that’s a very serious issue.”
Sinon looks at Aurelia. “It is deadly serious. Let’s get the Tass loaded up and get moving.”
Sinon’s phone rings.
Sinon heads outside and answers. “Yes.”
Elithora watches Sinon walk outside and volunteers to pick up the other bag. She looks lost in thought.
Aurelia looks to Arrowsmith. “Are you coming with? I can’t promise they won’t judge harshly, but I will promise to speak up for you, for whatever that’s worth.”
Arrowsmith nods. “We’ll come quietly. I think circumstances will vindicate us.”
Sinon, it’s Montesquieu on the phone. “Any luck with that Tass?”
Sinon: “The Tass is secure. Most of it at least. We have those responsible. There are other issues, however.”
Sinon: “I’d rather not over an open line. I’ll elaborate when we get there.”
“…Good point. I take it you have prisoners, yes? Shall I send the Sentinels to take them off your hands?”
SInons: “Go ahead ahead and send them over. The perpetrators have agreed to come in willingly, though so I don’t think there will be much difficulty.” (“This is just one long amateur-hour.”)
Montesquieu says, “Good work, Sinon. Expect them momentarily. Tell your associates I said to be ready for the full Consilium next week. It’s going to be must-see TV.”
Elithora avoids the politics and starts lugging one of the tass-barbell-bags to the limo.
Blackjack snaps his fingers in front of Memoranda’s face.
She looks up at Blackjack peevishly. “WHAT?!”
“Usually that recruiting pitch gets a ‘Fuck off, do I look like I wanna die.’” May be making a facial expression that could almost be a smile. In the right light.
"She kind of “harrumphs” at Blackjack. “Talk to me later when I’m not having such a DUMB NIGHT.”
“Oh come on. This wasn’t so bad. Sure the door got kicked in, and you fell down but hey, not every night can be seer attacks and fighting off monsters from the beyond.”
Sinon hangs up the phone. He looks over at Aurelia and Elithora and says, “Apparently we’re in.”
About two minutes later, a space warp opens up in a nearby alleyway and two men step out – one tall, sturdy-looking, and dressed in coveralls, the other shorter and in dark glasses. They introduce themselves, respectively, as Carson and Lefors.
“We …” Elithora turns to the two men. “The paperwork for this will never end, will it.”
Sinon: “You should’ve joined the Guardians. We’re not allowed to write reports.”
Lefors smirks, Carson says in a broad but not unfriendly Albertan drawl, “nnnnnope.”
Aurelia lugs the tass into the trunk. “And the others? You won’t hurt them , right? They aren’t bad, really.”
Blackjack: “Should be ten minutes or so to write up my report. One of them might make for a recruit. She didn’t freeze up when we came in the door.”
Lefors nods, brisk and businesslike. “The Arrow have kept an eye on these Apostates, but we deemed them a non-issue – they’re basically neophytes. But of course, they’re just smart enough to make trouble. We’ll try and set them on the straight and narrow if we can.”
Lefors looks at Memoranda appraisingly. “You don’t say. Well, we could always use warm bodies…”
Aurelia places her hands to her temple and concentrates a moment before carrying on.
Elithora looks at the tass and then the medical apostates with half-focused eyes and not without sympathy. (Interconnection-Fate vision, not really looking for anything specific. My tapestry-knot-sense is tingling about everything tonight.)
Elithora shakes her head at some private thought, tugs the zipper on the gym bag closed, and shrugs to Aurelia. “I didn’t know you were so Tom Clancy these days.”
Aurelia wrinkles her nose in disgust. “Hey, does this look like a fucking deli? They aren’t fucking cold cuts so quit it.”
The two men commandeer a nearby car and lead the captive cabal to it. Arrowsmith looks back at your group. “Don’t let them forget about the bleakscale. If they’re really worried about Sleepers, they’ll do something about it…!”
Blackjack nods to Arrowsmith. “We will not allow them to forget.”
He smiles back at you. “Thank you.”
They pile into the car, and Lefors and Carson drive them off.
Aurelia smiles at Elithora as the car pulls away. “Are you kidding? I was scared shitless in there. But once I realized they were good people I relaxed. One last thing before I forget. I know the identity of the fourth man, the one they were desperately trying to protect.”
Elithora: “Fourth man? Who?”
SInon: “The one who tipped them off to the meet.”
Blacjack raises an eyebrow.
Aurelia: “Gerard. I know what he looks like. How he dresses. Acts. Sounds. Smells.”
Aurelia smirks. “It was written all over their minds as you were giving them the third degree in there.”
Sinon: “Some of us are only Apprentice’s of the Mind.”
Aurelia slaps Sinon on the shoulder, grinning “Buck up, you’ll get there some day.”
Elithora repeats the real name “Gerard,” like someone handling a gun that they don’t know is loaded or not. “We need to track him down. I’m not a fan of this Seer business. And does Montesquieu know his little pals are dealing to them on the side?”
Sinon has a dream.
You’re in a forest, lost. It’s night. The trees are huge and you have the oddest feeling that they’re watching you.
An owl hoots from somewhere ahead. It seems to be calling your name – your real name.
Sinon walks toward the owl.
As he moves in the direction of the owl’s voice, shafts of moonlight pierce the treetops to dimly illuminate the next few feet in front of you. They seem to follow you, or precede you, providing a path over the treacherous ground, moving ever closer to the source of the sound.
They also illuminate something else: there are carvings on the trees.
The light is dim and the carvings seem to move and shift as you glance at them, but every so often you see arrangements of symbols that seem to resemble names. Not any names you recognize, though. You have a feeling some of them are very, very old indeed.
Sinon momentarily brushes his hands across a name as though that could bring it’s meaning forth. He stops and then continues on the path toward the sound of the bird.
The path takes a turn and the Guardian emerges into a clearing. Two enormous totem poles – bigger than anything in reality – tower over him.
The owl flutters above, soaring up and perching on one of the eagle wings of the right totem pole. It points its beak at the ground before you, where a pair of masks sit. One is the comedy mask, and the other is the tragedy mask. “WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE, SINON? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?”
Sinon starts to reach down. As he does, both of them become completely blank. He stops suddenly. “Who are YOU!?”
The owl turns its head 45 degrees to the left. It blinks. “THAT…WOULD BE TELLING.” You hear a distant laugh that tinkles like crystal. “ALWAYS THE INQUISITOR, EH? I’LL MEET YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME VERY SOON NOW. NEVER STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.”
The dreamer awakens.
Elithora sits upright, looks around, grabs a pad of paper and pen next to her bed and begins scribbling down notes.