Sept. 8th, 1866: We roll out of bed to a nice, hearty breakfast. I imagine that, as much as we eat, most of the costs of running a CH come from keeping the pantry stocked! Then again, what we eat here is usually hearty, ‘peasant-style’ food; I imagine the other House eats cucumber sandwiches and such for their repast.
I digress. We have a visitor that morning; one Marcus Lobo de Santa Diego. He is a brother from Rome (via Mattais Tyson) who WAS a Brother from Spain before a mission gone bad cost him his Faith. He seems Faithful enough, and a good guy to boot! Well versed in occult lore, plus fit enough for fighting. He has been sent from Rome to check up on London, as everyone in the greater CH organization can feel the calm before the storm. His specialty is demons (which is what caused his previous team to become his post-team), and he knows a bit of library demons. Convenient, that!
Sergei realizes that, as we offed her previous employer, Livinia the Pocketwatch Pretend-Prostitute is now a free agent, probably has info we can use, and also a loose end to her previous employer’s cabal. All three factors lead us to designate today as a good day to look her up for a chat. Sergei thinks to ask Jenny if she remembers anyone who looked like Livinia in the park, which she did. She said that sometimes she would just show up and watch the kids before the boogeyman attacks.
We head over to Hyde Park. It is always a joy to check up on our gang there; they get stronger from the influx of food each time we see them, and tougher from the realities of London. But what we have given them by our small assistance is a possible chance at a future, and a little time to just be kids. Maybe I’ll get them something for Christmas… shoes are a must. We need to do a check on these kids to see which ones are possible recruits and then what can be done for them within the greater organization. Maybe see if we can find some way to get the rest off the street as they grow older.
We chat with Scab and ask him to be on the lookout for a lady matching Livinia’s profile. As Marcus needs to check in with the other House per his instructions from Tyson, we head over there. He meets everyone and notices the slight tension among some of the members and our coterie. As we leave, we decide that Marcus might like to see our ‘real world’ office, so we head over there.
There is a note asking for a meeting at 7pm at the Scottish pub down the road from us. Figuring that it is probably from Livinia, we chat a bit (Marcus has great stories, and loves ours as well. He is a good Brother) and then head on over.
We get there and order some chow. When Livinia does not show, we get anxious; she is probably marked for death now. Playing a hunch, we move as if the building was being watched; Sergei and Marcus split for the roof as Aldo and I head to the front porch for a ‘smoke.’
They notice a fellow stalking on a nearby roof, watching the pub. Sneaking around and up, they engage him in a bit of witty banter (which is more than polite, considering he had a loaded crossbow up there!). He decides that jumping off the roof is a better idea than going for a chat, so he jumps to a nearby roof in an attempt to escape. Marcus, being either a confident leaper or a damned fool (okay here either way) jumps over behind him, barely missing him with a reinforced combat-rated cross (good idea; reinforced combat cross!). Sergei, having no more of this nonsense, grabs the guy with his mind-fog-grabbing-hand and introduces his face to the roof a few times. He rapidly becomes more amenable to our company (read as: unconscious), so we slosh him with some alcohol and wander him back to the office.
This guy is helpful enough, but obviously more scared of his employers than of us. He refuses to name anyone, but does finally give us a location. He is probably a local mercenary who has realized exactly how in over-his-head that he is. If they are willing to cancel out Livinia, what hope does he have? As promised, we let him go (always nice to be known as honorable) and then head back to the CH to arm up and head out for the (possible) rescue mission.
The building is an old customs house in a BAD part of London; folks give us a relatively wide berth as we head there. A local kid comes up to us and warns us not to go in there, but what fun is there in that? Besides, we had already walked all the way here… Sergei climbs up to peer through a window, and remarks that the edifice seems infested with buggers-all crazy people (like Parliament or Congress but with less clothing). After a quick planning session, we pop in through a side door and get to work.
Parley was never an option; these poor bastards are crazier than rich people at an art auction. Not purely savage, though; several are on the balcony with crossbows trained on us. They were on guard, just probably too crazy to be very good at it. One of the scraggly curs is sitting on a throne-like chair made of bones (probably human). They all have circular brands on their chests and, though they fight as savages, one does take the time to channel a fireball in our direction; Aldo then channels a rifle round through his face. We clear the room in short order and, as I do not approve of their decor, I launch an arrow from Songrid into the throne of bones. It shakes violently and blows apart, showing a passage down into the basement. I guess Songrid was a pretty good skeleton key!
I apologize for that; I am not so good at puns.
We move through the underground storage area, then through a hole in the wall into the sewer areas. External access through the sewers has been blocked off; these folks wanted this to be secure and secret. As we progress downwards, we hear that good ole sound of people chanting in some long-forgotten but obviously evil language (it sounds like hateful Latin). Rounding a corner, we see the payoff; a large room with rough pews facing an altar with Livinia strapped to it. And not just ANY altar, but the very Aztec altar that got me started on this new business venture!
We move to stop the ritual, but too late; Livinia morphs into some sort of demonic creature with fang-encrusted mouths for eyes and with mouths in its hands (leaving a curious little bluish orb behind). You would think that would incite a panic in us (or the followers), but no deal; we are steely like swords. Sergei charges forward, ice-lances blazing, and drops several cultists. They respond by surrounding him and stabbing him in all of his organs alphabetically. He drops to the ground near death.
For added difficulty, this demon seems to be able to make his followers EXPLODE in fire (and blood), but we are pretty quick on the dodge here. We off the followers as fast as possible (the demon, being a kindly sort, helps by exploding a follower every few seconds), and then move in to see what we have that can hurt this critter. Silver proves to be no use (Aldo tried it at range), and before I could close range to try cold iron, Marcus shows that ancient Minoan battle-axes also do little to him. Things are looking bleak; the critter utters to Marcus something akin to “Bow before your new god” before the final fight begins in earnest…
…and that is when God reminds us that, though Marcus had lost faith in himself, He never lost Faith in Marcus.
The axe lights up with holy power, and the demon DECIDEDLY does not agree with its application to his face. I notice that the orb on the altar cracks a bit with each hit from the axe, so I move over there and apply a bit of Hrunting to the crystal. In short order, the demon is vanquished, leaving a unconscious and unharmed Livinia in its wake.
Crisis-time. Sergei is not doing so well; as banged up as we have ever seen him. Aldo tries to patch him up, but to no avail. We have three issues; and unconscious and possibly demon-possessed lady, an injured and possibly dying compatriot, and a ancient, evil, and exposed magical altar that our Opponents will do anything to get their hands on if they knew it was compromised. Against Marcus’s strident objections (he does NOT like to leave a man behind!), Aldo grabs Sergei and Marcus goes with him to get Sergei back on his feet (if possible). Our friend comes first, but this altar is too dangerous to leave unprotected. I am ready to sacrifice myself to stop it, if need be. But I will not hear of any of my friends making this choice, at least not today.
(Aldo filled me in on what happened outside. A bit away from the lair, he remembered that this neighborhood is near Chinatown. Mr. Ling of the other House has a quaint little shop there, and is known to be a pretty good herbalist in his offtime. It is far closer than either House, so Aldo gets to an area that has cabs and grabs one to the shop. Marcus sees him off and then heads back to help me.)
Meanwhile, I get to business. As I am a lone man with several magical weapons (everyone left their magical devices in case I had to find one that could possibly destroy this altar), a known penchant for violence among my enemies, and a proud member of both the Cherokee and Apache nations, I used what I had to set up my environment to my advantage. The exploded minions added a good bit of ambiance, and I added to it by scalping the remaining corpses, arranging them in poses that made it look as if they never even had a chance to move. Finally, I stripped down to pants, applied a bit of festive blood-markings to my face and chest, and sat on the altar as if in quiet contemplation. Marcus ran back in, shocked for a moment. But he saw the method in my madness and rather than lecture me on the sanctity of the leftover meat when the spirit has left a body, he took up position flanking the entryway, awaiting my signal to axe a few questions to intruders.
I apologize again for that.
Luckily for all involved, our next visitors were Aldo and a haggard-but-moving Sergei. They were a bit taken aback by my theatrics (when Sergei went unconscious the room’s decor was creepy to be sure, but not nearly so… drippy), but agreed to set up for an ambush. Next up were Ling, Huxley, Koenigsman, and all of the younger members of the other House that we have met. They were loaded for bear, but only the older members looked READY. Once again, I was thankful for the lack of lecturing about the condition of the room; it was just time to work. I was also thankful that neither Montague nor Bannerman had made the trip; what we had done may had had their poor British heads melt. Ling agreed with us that the altar was not safe in London, and we agreed to get it to Aberdeen as fast as possible.
Livinia woke up and seemed no worse for wear. What little testing we could do showed no lingering effects, but this will warrant attention. We grant her temporary asylum and head back home.
Of note, this is the third-most time in my life that I really, really wanted a bath.