Sept. 11, 1866: We wake up more-or-less refreshed. Breakfast is served, with a not arriving from Huxley with a status report on Malachi. He slept peacefully through the night, though Huxley thinks that it is merely a reprieve. It is likely that his issue has reset to its original state due to our interruption, and he will probably get progressively worse again (and might do so at an accelerated rate). Huxley is going to continue to puzzle over it while we deal with our _ALTAR_nate problem.
I have to stop doing that. It would have been WAY funnier in Apache.
We head out from London on the morning train to Aberdeen, getting there in late afternoon with no incident. Any train ride with no bloodshed is a good one! Marcus is still there waiting for the Aberdeen and Rome CHs to decide what to do with the altar. The fine brothers of Aberdeen regret our plight, but have far too many volatile items in storage to risk any long-term exposure to such a dread item.
While he was there, Marcus asked the brothers if they had anything sitting around that could help his new-found love of stabbing magical menaces in their stabby-points. Evidently they went a step beyond and asked Tyson about it, as they were storing an item for him here that fit the bill. It was cleared, and Marcus is now the proud foster-father of a mid-length steel sword of Viking make. It is a very fine weapon; well constructed, made for work not looks, but with a glaring (supposed) structural issue. In the cross-guard is a large hole that, were it a standard sword, would make it prone to easy fracturing.
Anyone reading should know by now, this is not “a standard sword.”
In the rather pretty case with the blade are seven precious gemstones, each marked with one of the symbols of the CH. Each stone fits magically into the empty space in the hilt, merging seamlessly and dulling to look almost like lacquered metal rather than jewels (heck, for all I know they could be either, or neither). And each one gives the sword different properties:
Topaz (Book & Staff): If activated, this sharpens the wielder’s thoughts, giving them temporary clarity;
Dark Blue-Green Stone (Trident & Staff): When the sword gets water on it, allows the wielder to breathe underwater!;
Crossed Hammers (Obsidian with silver inlay): Seems to be dull against living targets, but wrecks havoc on inanimate objects;
Bow and Arrows (Blue Sapphire): Converts any attack, melee or magical, to do damage as lightning. More curiously, it also allows the user to change the shape of the weapon, from daggers to halberds, with a thought;
Crossed axes (Emerald) = Slightly accents a user’s strength, allowing the sword to be used by less-hardy wielders. Can activate to more substantially increase strength.
Shield and Spear (Amethyst) = Sharpens the wielder’s awareness, allowing for much stronger defense in melee;
Crossed swords (Ruby) = Gives clarity to an opponent’s possible weak points, increasing fighting prowess.
All said, it is the most amazing weapon I have ever seen not made by a gunsmith. We play around with it, also letting our Brother’s from the other House have turns learning the weapons we carry (they are LONDON’S weapons, not ours, so they need to know these things).
After a bit, a young red-haired fella comes in with a telegraph for Koenigsmann from Tyson. The altar is going to stay here until the medium from Spain gets here to give it a thorough once-over. With time to kill, we all head out to tour Aberdeen, specifically to check out the docks where our Spanish brothers will be arriving tomorrow. When we head back for dinner, Mr. Ling (looking exhausted), asks us to take a turn as nannies to the altar around midnight or so.
Around midnight, Mr. Lithgow takes us down to the vaults. These are hardened, secure areas for the storage of things that man was not meant to know (and therefore will do ANYTHING to know). While I see no overt defenses (the brothers at this CH do not look like warriors…), the construction is amazing. We all sit around playing cards and chatting when the altar begins to shift. The depictions of a serpent and jaguar on the sides begin to move and fight, while the petrified man sculpture on the front opens it’s mouth a bit wider. VERY disconcerting!
Mr. Ling pops in just after this, having just awakened. He mentions that this has been happening every night at around this time, and measures to see by how much and whatnot. By his estimate (and my well-educated guess), this altar will probably open on the upcoming eclipse, and being where it is during that time will be bad. Acting on a hunch (and a bit of boredom), I take a seat on the altar and try to summon the spirit of Alana Murray (Uriah’s murdered sister). Ling’s face was PRICELESS when she popped up from the altar as a ghost!
She fills us in that the altar takes the souls of anything killed near it (including the priests, demon, and cultists we recently dispatched). Alana was stabbed in the back by persons unknown and ‘woke up’ in the altar. She can speak to the others in there (a LOT of them), and mentions that there is much more than just people contained within.
Sept. 12: We wake up in time for lunch, then head to the docks. When the freighter comes in, it is not hard to pick up on who our brothers are; there is a well-groomed Spaniard escorting two very beautiful ladies (twins), along with a rather plain-looking man bringing their luggage. The dapper gentleman is Hernando de Silva, and he is escorting our mediums, Amada and Adella Loyola. Their porter is named Raul…
…and is, of course, the GM of their CH. I did not mention this (I was trying to be civil), but what danger brings a GM away from his House? I should have asked; did he know of something else that has him so nervous? Or is his House so well run that it can afford vacations to its leader?
As we mention the issue, de Silva immediately insists the girls be returned to Spain. He is obviously their ‘handler,’ and I admire his instincts. Hell, I would not want them within 10 miles of this thing! But the girls are intrigued; Raul dismisses de Silva from the room in order to let him regain his composure while we discuss the issue at hand.
The altar depicts the battle between the Aztec gods Quetzalcoatl (serpent) and Tezcatlipoca (jaguar). Evidently the altar was originally made as a prison for them, and as a side effect grabs others as well. We hypothesize that some ritual has been performed that will open the altar on the eclipse, releasing everything inside.
The mediums leave to get into ‘work clothes,’ walking back in looking like proper adventurers. They do an initial inspection of the altar, circle it up with glyphs and stuff, and one of them hops in to start the ritual. She summons Alana and we confirm what we were thinking. Sexy-Medium (more like a Small; they are both kinda petite) also believes that we could possibly let Alana possess one of us, move the possessed into holy ground, then just allow the spirit to leave.
OF NOTE: Little-Medium could not tell us this information normally, as neither of them seem to have TONGUES. I am sure there is a tragically sad story there, and when we visit their House someday, I may ask about it. But they can ‘talk,’ after a fashion; they speak directly from their mind to their target’s mind! It did not work on me very well (probably due to the natural distrust my People have with pretty Spanish people offering ANYTHING), but they could speak with others easily enough!
We debate a bit over who is the best choice to be possessed, but Aldo makes the best case; without his armaments and gadgets, he is just a Swiss watchmaker (OF NOTE: without the same, I am just an regular guy as well, just a pretty burly one). Also, he has already carried something like this in his brain before, so maybe it will be… hrm. More comfortable? We give it a try and, what do you know, it works! Aldo finally gets intimate with a cute girl! We walk to the CH’s central room (which I remembered are almost always sanctified). Alana speaks to Marcus on the demon that he seeks to slay (Bathanamon, a child killer). Alana had come across it before, and it fled to Spain, where Marcus had the misfortune to meet it. At least now he has a name!
Marcus, being a part-time priest when he is not busy figuring out what to say to the pretty ladies, performs Last Rites for Alana. This works very well; Alana thanks us, sprouts spectral angel wings (WOW!), and states that she was off to recover her brother and little sister from their resting places.
I am glad they can move on, but will forever regret not getting to know them better. I grow weary of losing brothers and sisters that I never got to treasure time with in life.
Everyone meets us by the altar, and we begin with the strategy. GM Hamilton (who is a wonderful person and a boon to his House) knows a friend at the nearby university with a camera. Marcus wants to begin research immediately, whereas I want to get it to somewhere that, in case of the worst, will do the least amount of damage to people, places and things (like western areas of the United States). But it is then I have my moment of true inspiration (I get so few of these).
We have three issues we must address as fast as possible:
1. We need this thing away from those it may harm if things take a turn for the worse,
2. We need the altar somewhere secure, either due to defenses or anonymity (preferably both),
3. We need to try to turn off this ‘apocalypse clock’ before the eclipse.
The first two are best handled by others with more knowledge and resources than we have. Marcus is an agent of Rome, so Rome makes sense. But, better yet, Rome gives us access to #3 above…
…because Bia owes us a favor. And she is a librarian for a pretty decent collection of arcana, or so I have been told!
Sergei and Aldo LOVE this idea, and the three of us convince Marcus of the validity of this idea without giving him details. He has to trust us here; in a world full of wonders, the surprise that this one could bring him would be the same as a child finding out the Father Christmas is REAL.
(NOTE: Find out if Father Christmas is real.)
We head to telegraph Tyson; he is on-board with the idea, and transfers control to Marcus from, well every other invested Brother. Mr. Ling has a contact for a good boat, so we transport the altar by train to Liverpool, then by steamboat to Rome.
Sept. 13th-21st: We are passengers on The Flying Starling, a new design and marvel of steamworks. The man in charge (although he never calls himself “Captain”) is one Mr. Underwood; a rather large black man with perhaps the most pleasant countenance of any person I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Good weather, excellent company!
Sept. 21st (afternoon): We arrive at Rome. What a marvelous city! London has it beat in many ways with all of the modern mixed with the old. But this city is truly beautiful, with history etched everywhere I looked.
This place probably has more arcane crap attached to every square foot than a witch’s pantaloons.
We head over to one of the CH’s at The Beacon, and turn over control of the altar there. We meet a nice, cute nun called Sister Agnes, whom it is explained is a member of a Catholic sect that specializes in being specialists. She herds us to a reading room to meet with Tyson. Marcus, having been working for Tyson a while now, finally gets to experience his mentor being honestly surprised by an idea. Bia and Kyra (her sister) are busy sexying up the room. Bia is still sweet and friendly, while her sister is all gruff and intimidating. They are totally for our idea, but would like for us to awat the arrival of their other two sisters. Opening the locks on the Library will be easier then, as will fending off the residents than are within.
Tyson goes to fetch GM Garza, who concurs. The downside is that Bia’s other sisters will be arriving a few days before the eclipse, which will make things VERY dangerous timing-wise.
BUT, as an additional incentive, the day Tyson, Garza, and Bia have in mind sounds like the most fun a person can have in a library with clothes on! Our opposition (either one group or several, no one is sure) will likely be making an assault on the Library to try to obtain the horri-book The Song Thief (a book that teaches one to steal a person’s soul for fun and profit) at the same time that the other House’s errant trouble-making team (we keep missing those folks!) will be inside stealing the book before they get it to move it somewhere safer! At the same time, our side will be making merry havoc with the intruders!
This has gone from a very good idea to THE BEST IDEA I HAVE EVER HAD, EVER. Our new mission will be to go into an ancient Library and find the information we need to prevent a rather localized apocalypse while dodging the inhabitants of said Library (or killing them… you know, whatever strikes our fancy) and keeping the invaders from disturbing the other team, which is after a much more dangerous item that could cause a GLOBAL apocalypse!
That is the greatest sentence ever put on paper.