At the Edge of All Things

Session 2

Land of Confusion, Part II

When last we met: you four had met Montesquieu, the Provost to Vancouver’s Hierarch, and he laid out some current events for you.  There are too many Awakened in Vancouver, not enough Mana, and that’s causing tension.  He had you accompany him to a deal with Pitch, a freelance dealer in Tass.

Pitch and his bodyguard, Dolph, portaled into a deserted loading dock behind a discount electronics store in the borough of Richmond.  Everything was going according to plan until Dolph disappeared – and with him, the Tass that Montesquieu had bought.

MOON

Montesquieu’s nostrils flare.  “What the hell’s going on, Pitch?  Where’s your man?”

Pitch is leaning forward into the back of the VW Bus, and various of its contents are flying out – a beanbag chair, a broken amp, an empty laptop bag, several aluminum cans.

Blackjack’s hands go inside his jacket as if scratching an itch, hand on his pistol but not drawing it or showing it.

Elithora glances back and forth between the two men. Ominous feeling: about to be verified.

Sinon pulls his smartphone out of his pocket and begins to spell a rune out on the touchscreen. A map appears showing that the nearest life is in the cars on the thoroughfare nearby, on the other side of a retaining wall and a row of trees, a hundred feet away.

Pitch: “What the SHIT!  It was right….what the hell are you Consilium assholes trying to pull?  I shoulda known something was up when you showed up with three strangers!”

Aurelia grits her teeth. “Could you get him to quit tampering with the scene here?”

(Sinon:) “Pitch!  If we wanted the tass, we would have it and you wouldn’t be here to ask us about it.  You are going to calm down and we will take a look around.”

Montesquieu steps forward.  “Trying to pull?  Yes, giving you a hand-crafted artifact and not taking our Tass was all part of my /secret/…wait.  Hold on.  Stop.  Stop!  Aurelia’s right.”

He looks at you appraisingly.  “You think you can find anything here?  I was going to call in the Sentinels…”

(Aurelia:) “I might? It’s worth looking at at least. Like a puzzle.”

Aurelia starts walking towards the van. “Something happened. We didn’t happen it, and if you didn’t happen it you shouldn’t be obfuscating the trail here.”

Pitch snaps up at Sinon’s tone of voice.  “Whaa?  You brought a fuckin’ /cop/…?” He raises his hands, though, and backs away from the bus.  “Fine.  Whatev.  You and your little Scooby Gang can go nuts.”

Aurelia is already at the back of the bus looking for any telltale signs of spatial manipulation

Space magic was definitely used to spirit Dolph and the tass out, but it’s hard to pick the resonance out from the much bigger and showier spell that Pitch used to get here in the first place.

Blackjack keeps his eyes moving, flicking to Aurelia and the perimiter.

Elithora walks back and forth behind the van, peering. “Any sense of where …?”

Aurelia pokes out from behind the bus “Hey, one of you is bound to know more about magical resonance, right? I don’t think I can pick these two apart.”

(Blackjack:) “I can try.” Shrugging and buttoning up his jacket, taking a deep breath.

Elithora muses out loud to herself, “Maybe the question is when it went.”

Aurelia shrugs. “It’s definitely an elsewhere, though. could be an elsewhen. I can give you eyes to see, but I’ve never tried to.actually analyze this… whatever it is before.”

Elithora watches the van driving backwards in his vision and shakes her head with a shrug and a frown.

“No, Aurelia. It happened in the present, but … Who and where.”

Elithora, you don’t see any evidence of Time magic.  You can say that pretty conclusively.

Sinon walks around to join the group.  “The Libertine’s fireworks are covering up the theft?  Whoever pulled this knew about our friend’s routine use of vulgar casting.”

Blackjack is able to pick out a distinct resonance that isn’t Pitch’s.  There’s something odd about it that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s cold and kind of weak.

(Aurelia:) “So what do you see?”

Elithora rubs the timesight out of her eyes and looks for more academic clues …

Aurelia taps her on the shoulder

(Blackjack:) “The Resonance is cold and not very strong. And it’s not right.”

Minutes pass as you carefully scrutinize the scene.  Pitch shrugs and lights a cigarette, looking peevish.  Montesquieu leans on the hood of his limousine, watching you work with interest. Here is what you’re able to discern:
The resonance is of the Space, Fate and Spirit arcana – there appear to have been a series of interlocking conditional spells set up, and by at least two casters.  However, there’s something else – mixed in with the resonance, is the tang of Numina.  A spirit was involved.  It was here – but none of you saw it, somehow.

The general gist is that something happened after the pair arrived that set off the first part of the spell, the Spirit part, which then caused something to happen that triggered the Space part.

“Multiple triggered conditions… this was an elaborate trap.”

(Blackjack:) “For us? For Pitch and company? Or just wrong place, wrong time?”

Aurelia nods. “Right place. Right time.”

Sinon walks over to Pitch and Montesqieu.  “You’ve used different mages on this meet before, yes?”

Montesquieu nods.  “Usually I round up one of the Heralds.  We’ve never had any problems with Pitch.  Well, I haven’t, anyway. The Guardians don’t trust him, but….” he shrugs.

Blackjack joins them. “This may be a silly question, but the Tass. Is it all accounted for?”

Pitch nods.  “It was in two gym bags, made up to look like dumbbells.  I tried bricks of clay once and the cops thought I was hiding hash or something in them. But nobody looks twice at a guy like Dolph carrying some Nike bags around.”

(Blackjack:) “And where are the bags now?”

“With Dolph, man.  Wherever he went.  I can’t believe he did me like this…”

Aurelia grits her teeth. “I have an idea… it might not be a very good idea, but it’s an idea.” She pulls out one of Elithora’s hairs.

Elithora winces. “I wonder if any other minor spirits nearby would have seen anything and could be coaxed into talking.”

“I’m going to try to follow the tass.”

Montesquieu raises an eyebrow.  “It sounds like you have a plan, Aurelia.”

Aurelia nods. “A risky plan. A stupid plan. But yeah, I have a plan. I’m going to rip my way back through what’s left of the spell that they disappeared to. Hopefully it’s not somewhere lethal.”

(Blackjack:) “Yes, that is a bad plan.” Undoing his jacket again, taking out his pistol and making sure there is a round chambered.

Turns to Aurelia, “You’re going to do this here?  Now?  With little-to-no preparation?  ‘Bad’ seems to be an accurate assessment.”  He goes back to the limo, grabs his bag and pulls a set of brass knuckles out.

Elithora raises her eyebrows but considers the plan. “It makes sense. If someone is going to steal something, they must want it. I’d wager they snatched it to where they can use it. On the other hand, they might be using it right now.”

Aurelia loks at Pitch. “Unless there’s some piece of the bags left in there or something.”

Pitch shrugs.  “There might be something you can use…”

(Blackjack:) “You do realize whoever stole it has magic and a lot of Tass to turn into mana and burn?”

You turn the van upside down for a few minutes.  There’s some cigarette butts, the stuff Pitch tossed out – aluminum cans, some junk, a sweaty t-shirt….

Aurelia shrugs. “Not like I can be more prepared than I am now. I have another idea though, and that’s to try and track the stuff sympathetically. But seeing as I’ve never even seen the stuff that is nearly impossible unless…”

The t-shirt is about the size of a beach towel.  You don’t think it’s Pitch’s.

Aurelia tosses it to Sinon. “Think you can use that?” Aurelia keeps searching for something connected to the bags themselves.

Sinon catches the shirt. 

(Elithora:) “We’re really going into wherever this has been taken?”

There’s a swatch of blue fabric caught on a jagged bit of aluminum from where a can had been stepped on.  This might be from the bags….or not.  But it’s not from anything you’ve seen Patch or Dolph wearing.

Aurelia examines it closely. “This is probably the best chance here.”

Montesquieu looks at your group.  “You’ll risk it, then?”

(Blackjack:) “I do not see that we have much choice in the matter. Unless the consilium simply wants to write off the Tass?”

(Aurelia:) “And the guy?”

“No.  No, we can’t.  Minerva has plans for that Tass, and…well.  If you can get it back, the Consilium will be grateful, and so will I.”
Pitch steps forward.  “I know some space.  Let me help.  Just, uh….don’t hurt Dolph, okay?  Promise me that.”

(Blacjack:) “If we can get him out of there, we will.”

(Aurelia:) “Just trying to find the thing.”

Sinon rummages around his bag and pulls out a syringe filled with some form of blue liquid.  “Well, if we’re going to pull a crazy stunt, may as well be ready for it.”  He begins chanting in High Speech and jabs his arm.  He draws some blood in and then injects the mixture.

Pitch begins casting.

(Elithora:) “This is going to turn into a massive shitstorm, isn’t it?” Elithora’s eyes unfocus as she begins a Divination.

(Blacjack:) “Nope. Not quite a shitstorm. Not nearly enough high ranking brass for that. Yet.”

Aurelia sighs “Okay… so let’s try this methodically.” She places the scrap of fabric on the ground, and begins drawing a crude circle around it. “I have no idea what I’m doing but maybe this will work?”

Pitch and Aurelia quickly set to work on the ritual circle around the bag scrap.  With his help, it goes surprisingly quickly.  A shimmering begins to form.

Aurelia grins, her eyes wide. “Get me a map get me a map!”

Montesquieu hands Aurelia a map from the glove box of the limousine.

Aurelia points on the map at the precise location of the bag. “It’s there.”

Elithora squints at the map.

The bag is located downtown Eastside, near Main and Hastings. It’s a sketchy neighborhood, you’re given to understand.

Aurelia grins. “Let’s go! I could jump there now by myself but I think it’d be better if we all went together.”
Sinon nods in agreement.
(Elithora:) It’s not going to retrieve itself …"
(Blacjack:) “Yes, and ideally with one of us in front of you.”

Pitch steps forward, “I can whip up a portal to get you guys there. Where is it?”

Aurelia: “A neighborhood? If it moves I can track it.”

Elithora: “A quieter approach than punching Space might be worthwhile. Do we know what we’re driving into?”
Sinon agrées. “We should refrain from vulgar magics unless there is an actual need.”
(Blacjack:) “Also I do not care to walk into ambushes. We should take the limo.”

Montesquieu sighs.  “I’ll condescend to wait in the Volkswagen with Pitch.  I’m sure we’ll have a productive discussion.”  Pitch blanches.

(Aurelia:) “Let’s roll then. We’ll send your lunky friend back, assuming he’s alright.”

He pulls out the keys.  Who wants ’em?

Aurelia raises her hand.

He tosses them her way.

She bobbles the catch but doesn’t drop em. Gets behind the wheel. “Pile in”

Blackjack gets in and takes off his jacket. Folding it carefully and setting it out of the way.

Elithora slides into the passenger seat to keep a watch for any errant strands of Fate.

As soon as everyone is in the car she takes off

You pull out of the parking lot and onto Knight Street, heading back north, over the river.

Elithora observes to no one in particular, “This is exactly what happens when you insist on doing business with scruffy minivan people in strange parking lots.”

Between Elithora and Blackjack, traffic isn’t a problem, and neither are the police.  You cross the river into downtown and then to the somewhat seedier east side.

(Sinon:) “The entire operation is sloppy.”

(Elithora:) “The Consilium never met a corner to cut that they didn’t love … I think this is it coming up.”

(Blackjack:) “The story of brass everywhere.”

And indeed it is.  You turn off Knight onto a side street and the romantic mountain views are a distant memory, replaced by something that’s pretty nice by the standards of an American ghetto but not much nicer.  Harsh mercury-vapor lamps flicker over washed-out people doing furtive business behind bus stops and in alleyways.

Aurelia points directly at the bag. “It’s right in there.”

Aurelia is pointing at the one well-lit building on the entire street; a squat white structure with a neon Cadeuceus.  Asclepius Clinic, the sign reads.

Elithora glances back at Sinon and BJ. “You two look ready for things to go sideways.”

(Sinon:) “They always do.”

A small parade of transients is lurking outside the door, apparently waiting their turn to come inside.

(Blackjack:) “Right. Aurelia, you’re behind me. Elithora behind her. Sinon you have the rear. And yes, they always do go sideways. Can we skip the joke about how to get out of this chickenshit outfit?”

Sinon chuckles quietly.

Elithora lets the limo door shut behind her and falls into formation. “I hate not knowing what’s coming.”

Aurelia pouts a bit. “You want to go in guns blazing? They probably don’t know who we are yet, all of that stuff was set up on triggers after all.”

(Blackjack:) “That’s why I’m going first. I am sure you can figure it out while I am dying.” Begins to move towards the building, jacket back on. “If there is a better plan, I am willing to listen.”

(Sinon:) “No guns blazing.  But there’s no way triggers like that were set up accidentally.”

(Aurelia:) “I can scout it out. They won’t even remember I was there.”

How are you guys approaching the clinic?  There’s the front, but there also seems to be parking around the side, although there’s a guard post with…one of those toll booth arm…things.

(Aurelia:) Parking the limo on the side street

(Blackjack:) “Wait. Let me look first if you’re going to scout.”

Aurelia arches an eyebrow “scouting fir the scout huh?”

(Blackjack:) “Yes. I would rather you not set off an alarm before we got in.”

(Sinon:) “Something’s wrong.  What are they doing here at this hour?” Points at the transients.

There are no wards on the exterior of the clinic.  If someone’s operating here, they probably have some sort of sanctum somewhere inside.

Aurelia casts Incognito Presence on herself.

(Blackjack:) “A spirit with lots of Tass and homeless people. I think the more important question is if we really want to know.” Shaking his head.

Aurelia nods at the others. “Okay, I’m going in. I’ll be in her head if I find anything.”

Elithora stares at the transients as Aurelia goes ninja mode.

The transients waiting.  Every so often, the doors open and another couple are waved in.  The ones outside don’t look good, though.  There’s a lot of coughing, people wearing heavy clothes even in the comparatively balmy weather.

Sinon looks around at the transients. 

There are roughly two dozen waiting in line outside, so yes, there’s definitely a rough match among them.

(Elithora:) “What are they doing …”

As Aurelia enters, she sees that several of the homeless have odd discolorations or lesions.  They’re clearly sick, but not with anything she recognizes.  A young, pale woman dressed as a nurse periodically opens the front door and waves another two or three in, then leads them past an unoccupied front desk and into one of several waiting rooms.

The woman’s brow furrows for a second as Aurelia enters, then relaxes.  She waves Aurelia in along with an older man riven by a hacking cough and an overweight woman in a trucker hat.

Aurelia follows them in and tries to feign a cold.

That would be problematic, except the nurse barely seems to be paying attention.  The hallway behind the reception area has four small doors on a side, and by the sounds of mumbling, talking, coughing, and moving, most are occupied.  The nurse gestures at the first room on the right.  “Wait there, Miss.  I’ll just be a moment.”

Aurelia can hear the nurse step into the room across the hallway from her own, with one of the other new arrivals.  “I’m just going to have a look at you here…okay.  Wait right here, sir.”  Then the nurse moves into the room adjacent to that, and says roughly the same thing.  These examinations appear to be lasting about ten seconds apiece.

Sinon checks his watch.  (“How long has Aurelia been in the clinic?”)

Less than five minutes.  She cut to the front of the line and was let right in.

Blackjack is doing his best to put on that practice air of an officer who is waiting.

Elithora asks out loud, “What have you seen here?” After a moment, it’s clear she’s not speaking to anyone else (visible) in the car.

A spirit enters the car. It’s a spirit of hunger, fed by the various appetites that tend to be sated in neighborhoods like this.

It’s not the brightest, but it can converse, sort of.

Elithora is really not a master in the sphere of the spirit, but a little social savvy has sometimes seen her through. “These people must be hungry. What are they hungry for?”

“Nourishment, carnality…relief…numbness.  A word.  Myth, myth ‘o’ something.  But…not as much…not as frequently…now they are sick.  Getting sick, falling apart, not hungry, not good.” The general vibe Elithora is getting here is that this place is a methadone clinic, but its patients seem to have been dying a lot lately.

Inside, the nurse is making her rounds very, very quickly.  She’ll be in Aurelia’s little waiting room soon.

Aurelia appears as the nurse would expect. A sick street person. “What now? hack

She barely looks up from her clipboard, tapping a silver pen against it with a distracted rhythm.  “I’m just going to have a look at you…here.”  It’s a half-instant before you realize the last word was in the High Speech.

Her brow furrows again, then relaxes.  “I….you’re not sick.  Find someplace warm to sleep tonight and get some food.  Try to stay away from Eastside.”

She shakes her head and moves to the next room down.

Aurelia gets up to leave, and walks towards the bags.

The hallway she is in has four little waiting rooms on each side.  Then there’s a pair of double doors marked STAFF ONLY.  The bags seem to be back there.

Aurelia waits until nobody is looking and then walk through them.

Aurelia gets some static trying to contact Elithora and decides to try again when she has more info.

Back in the car

As Aurelia is getting herself into trouble, Elithora is thanking the invisible spirit and trying to make sense of it and summarizes what she’s heard to BJ and Sinon. “The people are coming here for help, but something is going wrong. They’re getting worse, not getting better. Precisely how is unclear. I don’t like this at all.”

Sinon looks at Elithora.  “Hmmm.”  He checks his watch again.

In the Clinic: The staff-only area is a series of mostly-unoccupied offices.  A pair of voices can be overheard from one of them, in the direction of the Tass.

Aurelia sneaks past.

“I don’’t see what the big fuckin’ deal is.  So what if they had some extra help with them?  They’re gonna be busy blamin’ each other.  Meanwhile, we got the stuff, we severed the threads…we’re golden.”

Aurelia tries to telepath back to Elithora again

In the car:

Elithora leans forward in her seat as if listening to a sound.

In the Clinic:
“We don’t know who those people were!  Do you want to take the chance they were Arrow, Loki?  Or god help us, the Guardians?  Because I guarantee you, they don’t give a…a fig what we’re doing or why.  We’re just Apostates.”

“Guardians got bigger problems, bro.”

THAT DOESN’T REASSURE ME!”

Aurelia thinks what she hears at Elithora. “Three mages, the nurse is a willworker”

In the Car:

(Sinon, To Elithora:) “What’s up?”

Elithora half-thinks and half-whispers, “This isn’t safe. Are there wards? They’re doing something to the people coming in. Do you see the Tass?”

The connection doesn’t last long enough for Aurelia to respond

In the clinic: Aurelia can sense that the Tass is in the room with the two male voices Aurelia’s hearing.

It’s a side office, one door half-open.

In the car:

Eli shakes her head and turns to her compatriots. “There are mages in there. A nurse as well? I lost the connection.”

(Blackjack:) “Did she say how many mages?”

(Elithora:) “She didn’t sound panicked or in danger, but … Three mages. And the nurse.”

(BLACKJACK:) “Did she mention any other details?”

“She was listening to the mages speak. They were apostates — names we didn’t recognize. Loki? It was vague … I can’t hear here at all anymore.”

“I don’t think anyone else knows about this place. They were afraid of being caught.”

Sinon looks at Elithora, then at Blackjack and exits the car.  He taps the first guy roughly his size on the shoulder and says, “Hey buddy, nice coat—wanna trade?”

The man is in his sixties and has a boxer’s nose.  He smiles through a few nicotine-stained teeth.  “I…sure, buddy.  Ya might wanna wash that, though.  I been under th’ weather.”

Sinon trades his jacket and tries to find a space away from observers.

That’s easy enough to find, the alley is badly-lit.

Elithora steps out and follows a little distance behind.

(Blackjack:) “Fucking acdemics.” Gets out and goes up near Elithora. “You know we stand out here.”

Sinon speaks a few words and high speech and swings the bum’s coat over his shoulders with a flourish. He now looks 10 yrs older, 10lbs thinner, pockmarked and with yellowed teeth.

He walks past the two mages muttering, “Speak for yourself, ’jack.”

Clinic:

Aurelia meanwhile tries to find a better entrance than the front door

There’s a noise as the double doors open, Ell.  You hear the “nurse” and several other sets of feet.  “Okay, friends.  Come right this way.  You’re sick, but we might be able to help.  Are you /ready/ yet, Arrowsmith?  People are getting impatient!”  The group is heading your way!

Aurelia blends in and follows the crowd.

The “nurse” leads the group of six patients to the back office break room.  A trio of refrigerators and a vending machine silently hum in the corners.  A man steps into the room wearing a doctor’s coat with the sleeves rolled up.  He seems to be in his mid-thirties and has a serious cast to his face under a head of boyish blond locks.

Outside:

The other transients instantly accept Sinon as one of their own.  A couple take obvious notice of Elithora.  One looks at her with a rheumy eye and goes “heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.  Heh.” for a solid minute.

Sinon moves through the crowd and attempts to enter.

The front door is locked.  It looks like the nurse has been turning the deadbolt when she’s away.

(ELithora:) (“Sounds like my last Esotology Professor back in her undergrad mage days. Lechery is universal.”) She follows Sinon, staring at the walls as if trying to see through them.

Sinon reaches into his pocket and pulls out a multi-tool with several strange prongs. He begins talking to the lock’s resident spirit. “Help out me out here.” There is no response.

Elithora whispers, “C’mon door.”

There is no response.

Blackjack follows the pair, shaking his head.

(Elithora:) “Fine, be that way.”

Sinon tries the lock anyway. He gets nowhere.

(Elithora:) “Remind me to invest in one of this brand of deadbolts.”

Inside:
The nurse hears something rattling at the front.  “Ugh, they’re getting restless.  I’ll be back…”  She hustles toward the front.

Aurelia watches on, trying to remain separate from the group but indistinct from them

Meanwhile, the blonde man – Arrowsmith, Aurelia thinks – begins looking very carefully at the patients.  “Hm.  Yes.  The same signs, the same pattern in the lesions.  It’s a good thing you and Loki arranged for that Tass.”  He draws a deep breath.

Outside:

Blackjack shakes his head, and casts dampen sound. He slams his shoulder into the door. It budges only slightly.

Elithora asks a question of fate: “How soon is the attendant coming back?” Her eyes flick back and forth. “She’s … coming. She’s not that far. 10, 15 more seconds …”

(Blackjack:) “Grr.” He tries again.

As a crowd of confused homeless and ill people begin saying things like “wait your turn, buddy!”, Blackjack manhandles the door open just as the nurse bursts through the Staff Only door.

(Elithora:) thump “She’s actually right …” slam “… there.”

The nurse is twenty feet away – she’s coming from the hall leading back into the back of the building.
WHAT?” she yells.  “This isn’t helpi-who are Y- (cough)”

Sinon left hand quickly forms a steeple mudra and his eye focus on the nurse. Her throat clenches in mid-sentence.

The assorted hoboes are confused by the sudden activity, and some of them step back. The more savvy ones have seen people breaking into methadone clinics before.

“Aw shit, someone can’t wait….”

The woman’s eyes widen.  She opens her mouth to call for help, but starts coughing wildly again.

Inside:
Arrowsmith has begun chanting in the High Speech while touching a stethoscope to various parts of the afflicted homeless that stethoscopes don’t normally work on.  He’s casting some sort of Life magic.

Back to the entryway:
This nurse is holding a clipboard and pointing a silver pen at you, tracing odd gestures in the air.

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