Mar. 4th, 1867: We wake up a bit early and begin our planning session for our trip to Madrid. Double-fake setup, false trail of mail for our trip, and sending out some early in disguise to prep for the secondary team. REALLY well done! The plan is to wait a few days before setting out to see if anything bites.
March 5th-8th: Nothing bit. Montague loans us Vaughn and Sixsmith for the bait and chats with Poole the day before, so we all set out. We do find that some guy (or family) named Atawolf was who was intercepting our correspondence, so he is on the list. Even though we were not jumped, it was a GREAT plan, and we pulled it off well. We rode through to Toulouse, then swapped trains to Madrid.
Mar 9th: So, we are eating breakfast, preparing ourselves for the day, when Victoria’s eyes roll back in her head and, in a nice, soothing, eerie-as-hell alto she remarks:
“Magne mater leonibus sunt qui imprimatur per driven niger. Ursus in viniculis.”
…and then continues to nibble on a croissant.
I seriously had so many funny things I wanted to say right then, but, as Victoria obviously had NO IDEA what she had just done, I did not want to seem rude. Two years of etiquette lessons paid off, Dad!
she took the news in stride, but was a bit upset that she had spoken but did not get to hear it. Our ancient language people translate this as:
“The Great Mother’s Lions are under attack by the Black Cross. The Bear is in chains.”
Now, I have read my share of fairy tales and epics, and that is the most succinct prophesy I have ever heard. The Lions? Easy, Spain has always been associated with leonine heraldry. Black Cross? Teutonics, because they are just made of butts. The Bear? The Chapter Master of the Madrid House is Garcia, which translates to “the Bear.”
Whomever used Victoria as a magical mail service just wanted us to know, in VERY specific terms, that we are heading to battle (or, as we worry, the leftovers of one).
We arrive just after lunch, and book into a hotel (in case we are being watched). We carriage up, and pass by the Madrid CH building. It looks fine to us, but Sergei activates his Magic Eyeballs gift and says that it is an illusion; the House is a gutted, burned husk. We investigate. Hernando de Silva, the guardian to the Loyola twins, is upstairs, burned to death. As I am the nearest thing to a medium, we rustle up his spirit to chat.
They had just enough warning of the attack to usher the Loyalas and support members out of the House. The warriors stayed to fight, but were totally unprepared. De Silva and his men made a last stand above on the stairs, but were attacked by…
…and we get attacked. Sergei gets the barest sense of “Hey, Dummies! AMBUSH!” before we are set upon. He dark-blots out the door they are rushing from, only for us to get hit from the opposite door as well. The cover is needed though, as these are no mere mercenaries; swords, guns, the works. And, after a few frenzied seconds of introductory bloodshed (I removed the head from the initial attacker, Victoria whipped out a gun and introduced two assailants to the wonderful world of ballistics, and Marcus danced the afternoon away through the gutted corpses of four), something curious happened.
NOTE: I should have been surprised; all of us should. What we saw charging around the corner should have sent our minds reeling into lunacy. But, to our credit, it did not. This means we are either steely-eyed veterans of the weird, or crazier than a Texan trapped in Japan.
A larger-than-usual ape of some description rounded the corner. Okay, I have fought crocodiles, animated plants, and werewolves; no problem. Only this ape had some additional accouterments; mainly a armored skullcap bolted to its head, a rotary gun on his left arm, and a large, metallic fist on his right. He sprayed the group of us, winging Aldo, then charged into melee…
…and, sensing my new best friend, I met him in the hall. We started trading blows, but many or my normal favorite spots to chop into things were either armored (the head) or just tough to pierce. He was having nowhere NEAR the luck he wished fighting me, so he grabbed the banister to the stairs and attempted to bully Sergei (who was upstairs offering ranged support). As I found this exceptionally rude, I removed the supports to the banister and brought this silly creature back in tune with who his target is.
As we traded blows, the combat was joined by a caster. Offensive spells are not appreciated, and he showed a bit of knowledge on at least what he faced (if not exactly who); he maneuvered around the way to shoot fireballs at a now-time-twisting Aldo, who shrugged off his attacks with difficulty. As Aldo was trying to control the warrior surge in the room with Victoria, he was a bit busy. Luckily, Marcus had just dispatched his last melee assignment, and was in need of a new dance partner.
Marcus loves to dance in the firelight. This caster… not so much. He retreated to the back ranks, but was brought down by a shot from Victoria. Sergei did a backflip off the ape’s head (it was AMAZING to see, dashed outside to see if there were more attackers, and was nearly shot by snipers from across the street.
By the way, there were more attackers.
Victoria and Sergei finished off the attackers, Aldo and I finally drop the ape, and the assailants outside ran for it. a tough fight, and a Pyrrhic victory. Aldo goes about removing the technology from the ape, and Marcus and I begin interrogating the caster. A zealot, though-and-through, and we have no time to take this questioning slowly, so I send him to his Maker. De Silva mentions that the ape had a different hand last time (that shot a cone of flame), or there is another one out there with it. We remove the apes weapons a bit higher up so Aldo and Co. can investigate the attachments, and I take the creature’s head.
And then new people flood through the door. I have seen thoroughfares with less traffic than this place!
Well, at least the newcomers are a welcome sight. In strides Mattias Tyson and a small crew of bashers. The timing is great, but understandable; other Houses have been hit within days of this, and he feared for Madrid. Paris was hit by a large force, but as they were forewarned they repelled it with no casualties.
Tyson has recovered the Loyolas and Madrid CH’s support staff, and, like us, mourns for our fallen warriors. Marcus and Sergei take the bodies of our fallen Brothers to what is left of their CH room, with the exception of de Silva, who would rather stay with us. I take a finger (sporting a blackened ring) and add it to my Bundle. That should keep him linked to us.
On the way out, I ask for folks to give me a few minutes to reframe the scene for any who may check in after us. Without going into detail, I leave a message to the Teutonics, written in the remains of their men. As words will not sway them, I will write these messages in horror. That language is nigh universal.
Tyson leads us to the safehouse, which happens to be the Imperial Palace. So, we got to go to the Imperial Palace… this is almost as surreal as a mechanical ape to me. I am glad that Victoria did not have the time to fully conceptualize that she was in the same building as the Queen of Spain, dressed like a street hood, covered in sweat and death. She might have died of embarrassment!
Tyson brings us in on the hasty plan to rescue the men captured in the raid on the Madrid House. He was going to raid using conventional military forces (the Queen owes him favors, which he is cashing in in toto. Also, A FREAKING QUEEN OWES HIM!) and his group as a strike force, but Sergei’s new teleporting trick, combined with Tyson’s inside man already in the keep, gives our group the best chance at freeing prisoners. We figure that, should they be attacked with overwhelming force, the Teutonics will start killing prisoners. Tyson was willing to risk that with his one inside man to free what he can as the best of bad options.
The Magical Ruskie gives us a shot at a big win.
As we are rather wiped out from the fight, Tyson calls on his TYSONPOWER to, for lack of a better term, transfer destiny straight into us.
I would be surprised, but that seems about normal for his kind of thing. Besides, since he is going to be out front looking all scary and whatnot, he probably will not need it as much as we will inside!
We sneak around to the wall, and Sergei teleports us in. This knocks him straight the hell out, but Tyson’s inside man reveals himself as a canine-shapeshifted Jacob Mercer. He re-humans up, and uses a bit of magic to wake up Sergei. Sergei, still having one teleport to go later, is going to have a headache that the bards will sing about (albeit quietly around him) tomorrow!
As Aldo, Sergei, Mercer, and Victoria set up a strong fire-point and scout the nearby cells, Marcus and I get to hunting. A couple of startled-then-no-longer-in-any-shape-to-care guards later, and the cellblock is clear. Sergei and Aldo pop the locks on the cells and we arm the former prisoners (who have all been roughed up and starved for a couple of days).
In the last cell, we find Master Garcia. He is suspended by his own body weight from chains (as they are glowing, we assume magic at work). Sergei prepares to break (or remove, if need be) his hands, while Marcus and I decide, in the sake of leaving Garcia able to applaud our audacious jailbreak in an hour or so, to just cut the wall around the chains using Marcus’s death-to-inorganics gem in his sword. Garcia is lucid but exhausted, and, most importantly, seems unbroken.
NOTE: What power or powers does Garcia command requiring such shackles? A caster, more than likely, but still. The manacles were not there to torture, but to secure him. Interesting…
Well, the alarm goes up (probably from Tyson ordering cannons to be shot into the walls). We all huddle up, put hands on the Amazing Disappearing Russian, and pop out of the jail. Sergei passes out so hard he nearly knocks us out by proxy, but Mercer wakes him up again, more or less (closer to less at this point). As we round the fortress to reach Tyson, the head Teutonic of the fort comes out, and is immediately possessed by some sort of demon. Tyson jumps into the fray, blade flashing, and we support as we can. Outnumbered a regiment-to-one, we dispatch the demon, and Tyson, who used the excuse “they are evil occultists using dark, heretical magic” is vindicated. Heck, the Queen might owe him MORE favors after this!
We head back to base and clean up. Tyson tells us that the voice that warned us was likely Samantha Thayer. She has a tie to the Loyolas, and a vested interest in the Madrid House. Evidently Victoria has some sort of tie to Thayer as well, which Tyson urge we ask her about the next time we see her. We swap info with Tyson, letting him know of Aldo and Sergei’s new magical repertoire and our investigations into the infiltration and sabotage in the northern Houses.
He affirms our fears that Rome is likely compromised and that our plan to form a coalition of the Houses local to us is a good idea, just in case. He warns us that more of this is to be expected, and that he and his are going to do broad-based investigations as best they can. For now, he urges us to return home and fortify for war, because that is what these actions by our foes have caused.
I was born of war, for war. I hoped to leave that behind me, but the enemies I slaughter this time bring my soul rest and my spirit fire. We will burn them to ashes, then use those ashes to flavor our tea.
We British like our tea.