ChapterHouse

From the Journal of James Watie: March 14 - April 1
Samurai, fancy parties, and dinosaur battles!

Mar. 14 – 29th, 1867: Nothing work-wise to report. Emily and I continue our courtship, and are enjoying our time together immensely. We especially enjoy our combined efforts in educating our ward; she is reading the Bible and the various works of Mr. Dickens (with some difficulty). From where she was a year ago to now is quite a transformation! We have procured a dress for Jenny for the upcoming party; she does not know that she is going yet!

Mar. 30th: Elizabeth Cullen strolls in for breakfast. Cyrus has been called away on urgent business; members of his old regiment have been called in to work on a incident in west England involving the death of several prominent members of the peerage. As it was steeped in ‘weirdness,’ they called their old buddy Cyrus out of retirement for a spell.

(NOTE: Cyrus is going to laugh a LOT if it is what I think it is!)

We catch her up on what we have been up to. She is suitably jealous of our adventures (especially the dragon), but also worried over the same issues that we are. Storm clouds on the horizon, if not for us, then for our allies.

A knock on the door. Always when we are eating! But a pleasant surprise; our favorite Pooka haberdasher, Mr. Caning has come a-calling! And with him is a pleasant enigma; a 6’5" Japanese man in traveling peasant clothes, carrying a set of warrior’s blades. He met this man on the way to work, and, as he had a CH card referring him to us, decided to lead him our way.

Fate, now delivered fresh to your door!

We chat up Mr. Caning a bit; I have a headdress that he had been waiting for, and Elizabeth invites him to her party. He is thrilled, twice. He met the samurai on a crossroads, and these things have a special significance to his people; his duty done, he takes his leave.

The samurai is one Oda Saicho. He mentions that it is customary to present a host a gift on entry, so I take his shoes. I noticed them on his entry; they have almost disintegrated from hard walking. I will have him some new ones made from Raoul in the Fae Market, then find a reason to gift them to him. Sergei magic-eyes his blades; the long blade (a katana) is demonic in nature, and the wakizashi is angelic. Oda is quick to his story:

He was a up-and-coming swordsmith in his land; a position of some renown. Once, when starting work on a new katana, he was overcome in some sort of crafter’s trance; when he finished some days later (exhausted from working a few days straight), the katana he carries was the result. It is his greatest work, and is also possessed by the “Demon of Pain.” This weapon possessed him, forcing him to find battle wherever he could to satiate its bloodlust. He became a soldier, killing ‘a thousand men’ with said blade with little thought of anything else.

One day the wakizashi was delivered to him, and the merest touch of its hilt in his hand was enough to snap him out of his bloodlust. Within it lies the recently deceased soul of the Emperor of Japan (who died mere days ago). It is the Emperor’s desire to see Oda’s blade purified, and Oda’s honor restored. Why? Who knows; he is some mystical oracle quest-fellow. But it does keep Oda in check, and that is good. The Emperor is now guiding Oda in his journey (one form of control for another, but with less mutilation). Oda took a boat to China, hoping to find some way to cover expenses for his trip as a laborer (he has no concept of money, or the modern world). Instead, he found himself on a long road (made of magic, probably). At a crossroads (you have heard this story, right?) he meets a weird little guy who agrees with his Emperor that his journey should take him to visit folks at the Munster House in jolly ole England.

Well, when your talking cutlery and the mystic hobo you just met on a Chinese mountain path are in agreement, who are you to argue?

A brief walk later (MAGICAL GOAT PATH!), and he bumps into one Archibald Caning. Explaining his mission to the Pooka, he shows him the card (which imprinted itself with our House’s letterhead at the previous owner’s request, according to Oda) and is walked here.

Well, at least none of that is WEIRD

Needing an expert in Eastern magical whatsits, I send for Mr. Ling. I assumed (correctly) that he HAD to get in on this craziness! He said that the card belonged to a friend of the CH, one Kano. A Londoner born of Chinese descent, he left years back for China, and send wayward folk back along the mystical roads from time to time. Like my dear Emily, he has a knack, and his is in mystical thoroughfares. Handy, that!

Oda is amazingly compliant; it is obvious that all of this is about as strange as a buffalo on a bicycle, but he accepts what he must for his quest. Admirable focus! As he has no clothes suitable for walking around as a homeless person in London, much less going to a party, we endeavor to take him shopping.

(NOTE: To be fair, we were going shopping, anyway. Emily and I told Jenny she was invited to the party if Mrs. Cullen said it was OK, and since Elizabeth was delighted at the thought, we are going to take Jenny shopping and let her pick out a hat for her dress. I love shopping with my girls!)

We hit the Fae Market, meeting with all of our now-familiar friends among the shops and stalls. How weird is it that being surrounded by trolls, elves, pooka, and the like feels more natural than a walk in Piccadilly? Oda, once again, just takes us at our word on what he should wear. Aldo realizes that, along with his new attire, Oda will require a new sword-belt for his blades. He and Sergei get to work on that after we return from our trip, triumphant. Sergei has the brilliant idea to hire Oda on as a ‘security consultant’ at the practice; Oda galled at the idea of loafing around for free, so we will help him with a spot of occasionally-blade-dependent employment.

Mar. 31st: We help Elizabeth prep for the party. Due to the growing list of people invited, it is being held in the National Museum, which is good; we know that place, the people there know and respect us, and if it burns down, Cyrus and Elizabeth still have a bed to sleep in.

April 1st: The day passes quickly into evening. Jenny is about to bounce out of her dress she is so excited! We get dressed up; the ladies are stunning (Emily, Zoe, and, as we see when we get there, Elizabeth), and the men dapper. Mary and Marcus will not be making it; the last I heard, they were tracking down a lead on a possible child slavery issue in town. It is probably for the best; Marcus would have NEVER decided what to wear, and Mary would have melted from the sheer dandy-ness of everyone at the party!

We hit the party, and are introduced all properly at the door. I am actually pretty excited myself; this is the first public party that Emily, Jenny, and I have gone to, and with her father in attendance as well!

Mr. Birch, the head of the museum, comes over to say hello. He has used Sergei and I to check security on occasion, and we like working with him. Mr. Braddock introduces us to his business partner, Mr. Finch. He is kind of a withdraw, quit kind of fellow. Sergei recognizes him as having a slight Slavic accent, the kind he has probably spent years trying to wean himself off. I imagine he is in worse shape than Mr. Braddock on the ‘new rich’ scale; at least Mr. Braddock is British. Sergei also catches Mr. Balin (of Her Majesty’s Shadow Men) in attendance. Faint, polite nods from across the room all around.

The party starts off wonderfully. Elizabeth is radiantly happy, and charming the socks off of everyone. If her mother-in-law could be any prouder, I cannot see how. They are schmoozing, hob-nobbing, and whatnot. Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Aldous Huxley all make the scene. This is truly shaping up to be the party of the year, and the donation pledge box for the orphanage is filling fast enough that we will probably have to empty it a bit before night’s end!

And then the band started playing, “Here Comes The Queen.” Or whatever that song is called.

Wow! Elizabeth’s party is so awesome that THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND is making an appearance! She strolls in (definitely the best dressed now!), Balin and other official functionaries get ready in case of bad things. Well, as ready as they can be when taking a knee.

Just like everyone else is.

Except me.

(BEGIN EXTENDED NOTE:)

As much as I try to keep these entries about important events, here is a little nugget of information about me, for posterity’s sake.

I am a child of three nations. My mother was Apache, my father is Cherokee, and I fought for a portion of America (under protest, but still). Of those three, I identify most with my Apache heritage; I was raised with my mother for 12 years, before her passing, and then went to live with my father (who did his best to ‘civilize’ me). I loved my time with my mother and my family there; it was exciting, a bit scary (because we were always at war and on the move), and simple.

Apache do not kneel. And, though it would have made so many of my peers (including my betrothed) much more at ease, I refuse to dishonor my mother by doing so now, even for such a personage as Queen Victoria. I do bow my head, respectfully. But that is the limit I am capable of doing.

And, lo and behold, a 6’6" Indian standing alone in a field of kneeling-folk tended to stand out to Her Royal Majesty. And, not coincidentally, to everyone else in the room.

Well, Elizabeth thought that there was about to be a war right then and there. I could see the “BEST PARTY EVER” draining from her face. Emily was too stunned to speak; I think that she alone understood why I did what I did, but never thought it would be an issue, especially on so grand a stage. I think Sergei was thinking of hamstringing me, but decided to let it play out.

Now, I have seen many wonders in my young life. I have been blessed with an extraordinary life, and have met extraordinary people because of this. But, as the monarch of the most powerful nation on earth strolled over with her guards directly to me, I was preparing myself for several possible outcomes; fighting, incarceration, and maybe the most talked-about hostage situation in history. I was not ready for what happened:

The Queen acknowledged me and asked if I was James, son of Stand Watie of the Cherokee Nation. When I answered in the affirmative, she smiled, greeted me, and asked how my father was doing. She then took her leave of me and circled the room once, saying her hellos, before leaving.

In doing this, she left me keep my pride. She acknowledged me, in front of her people, as my father’s son. Sure, my Dad and I do not have the best relationship. But I love the old goat, and he is the chief of the Cherokee nation, as recognized by the United States. She recognized me as a visiting dignitary, and gave my breach of etiquette her approval. She made it public that she welcomes me to her nation in a way that people who are now called my ‘brothers’ (re: GM Montague) cannot do in the House. She accepted me, savage though I am, in front of the type of people who live off of scandal.

Suffice it to say, Queen Victoria is the classiest Lady I have ever met.

(END EXTENDED NOTE)

The party goes on, and it is SOOOO much fun to see people now unsure of what to do about Emily Braddock’s arm-candy.

King Bob (VoL) and his daughter Lady Grey sashay in and make rounds. He may be a blood-sucking uber-aristocrat, but he also has style, and that counts for a lot.

Zoe catches a shifty looking fellow making for the museum’s back area. This, being a no-no, gets us moving. Fast Eddie laSalle, who crashed the party earlier, seems quizzical on this as well. He stays back (not one to risk himself for what may turn into a fun experience), while we move to investigate.

Aldo uses his gizmo to keep the darkness from our eyes, and we sneak through the eerily quiet museum halls. Well, most of us sneak. Aldo and Oda sneak about as efficiently as a Cape Buffalo covered in tiny bells rolling down a mountainside.

We scout around, when a fellow moves into view from behind us. He tries to hit our guys with some crazy phrase in French, probably a code. And, after we insinuate to him that we are NOT the people he is looking for (and the LAST people he wants to see), he tries to run. Aldo misses a trip, but this lines him up for Sergei’s Sap-of-Doom. Lights go out for our new friend.

As he drops to the floor, a large beetle runs from his sleeve and scampers impossibly fast into a storage area. I grab Frenchie and we give chase. We get in there in time to see the beetle burrow into a nearby crate. And then starts the scuttling, which gets louder and louder.

The box explodes, and out comes about a million beetles. As they have big, sharp mandibles and make a beeline (beetleline?) for the door, we decide that they are NOT allowed to crash the party, and start stomping. The mandibles are not for show, they actually cut up a few of us before we can finish squishing. Some poor janitor is going to have a NIGHTMARE after this clean-up!

After we fight, I hear a bit of box-cracking in a nearby room. We tip-toe to the door, and, lo-and-behold, there is sneaky guy #1, carrying a gigantic urn. And, since we were all just dying to know what was in the urn, he obliged us by slipping and dropping it on the floor.

Contents: dinosaur bones. Well, the were just a few bones and a lot of dust. Which rapidly reformed into just bones. Then a full-sized, animated dinosaur.

(NOTE: Elizabeth, ever the educator, told us later that it is what is known as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or “Giant Lizard with Swords for Teeth”)

As mister Fumble-fingers tried to run, Aldo sped up himself and Oda, and moved to intercept the fleeing thief. It was a good call; I had mentioned earlier that firearms were an emergency-only issue, and this, and I cannot believe that my life is so awesome so as to say this, was not yet an emergency. He immediately altered strategies into a support role, slipping on some brass knuckles and doing what was needed.

I would like to say that what happened next was a protracted fight worthy of epic ballads, but, honestly, this lizard was outclassed. The fleeing thief cast a globe of darkness on the dinosaur, which Aldo’s magic countered for us but not the beast. Make no bones about it, he was big and scary. But, after what we have been through, the Ladies did not even ruffle their dresses. Heck, Zoe just hung back and threw magic at it to keep it rattled. Trust a lady from Paris to only risk a fancy dress if she ABSOLUTELY has to! Elizabeth spent a few rounds punching and kicking it until she found one little bone in it’s spine. She poked it, and the whole thing came crumbling down.

But, as it did not turn to dust, the museum now has, instead of a urn of dust and unidentified bone fragments, a full dinosaur skeleton! HOORAY, COMBAT PALEONTOLOGY!

(Note: Seriously, Zoe and Elizabeth we not IN ANY WAY frumpled. If it is not some form of magic, then it should be!)

The now-not-fleeing Frenchie is no zealot, a bit of angry over-acting and subtle persuasion from my colleagues has him spill. A man named “Monsignor Garnier” hired the two of them; him to get the vase and his unconscious friend to take a small box (containing the beetle) to the box full of bugs. It seems like us that it is a diversion, so Elizabeth, Sergei, and Zoe head back to case out the party and send Mr. Balin back here to deal with these two.

Zoe tells us later that she recognized a French vampire named Leopold at the party, looking nervous as hell. Probably waiting for his distraction to come crashing in. He is a mamber of one of the more naughty vampire groups in Paris, and definitely not on the guest list. When he sees Zoe stalking his way, he and his crew make haste for the door and leave. Zoe, being a genius, immediately concludes that to give chase would frumple her dress, and instead says hello to King Bob, telling him and his kid the situation. He is not amused, and sends Lady Grey out to… ahem… ?speak? to Leopold?

Mr. Balin makes his way to us, with guards. We fill him in, and he thanks us for the assist. Man, I hope we can stay friends. The more friends we have, the sooner we can go hunt Marcus’s demon, and Vikki’s devil, and every Teutonic on Earth, and everyone on our list.

But, to close this entry, let me say that Mrs. Elizabeth Cullen was the belle of the ball, and her entry into polite society was assured. Well done, m’amn!

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From the Journal of James Watie: Mar 12-13, 1867
I head back home for a bit...

Mar. 12, 1867: We get back home very early in the morning. All of our casters immediately head to sleep (they are wiped out). We wake up around noon and eat a bit. Huxley comes over and we talk a bit of shop; the VoL is going to clean up his place a bit, and will set up formal and informal communications with our House as soon as he gets things back where he needs them.

We head over to check out the office. No real leads on fun new clients, according to Patti. Probably some standard ‘downtime’ cases; missing persons, unfaithful spouses, ghost sightings. We can get back to most of that later, I suppose. We have an idea on current events, though, and head to the other House to work it out.

Speaking to Ling, we mention that we would like a meeting with Her Majesty’s Shadow Men; the organization that keeps her country’s interests safe from our kind of threats. Our fear is that our adversaries will continue their modus operendi, doing some grand gesture that cannot be ignored and pits the Shadow Men against another London-based occult group. Ling knows a guy, one Benjamin Balin.

This guy works in the actual Tower of London! Being the very souls of subtlety, we stroll on over for a chat. And, surprise, surprise; they let us in to see him.

Nice, plain office. Very business-like. Benny is personable enough, for a British administrator. We explain our position, and, without going into too much detail, give him a rundown of current events. He is troubled, wondering if this is being orchestrated by “The Enlightened,” a group of power-seeking rich guys. He lists Wilhelm Franz, the Archduke of Austria, as the head of the Teutonic Order and a member of this group.

Welcome to “The List,” Mr. Franz!

We warn Benny about the various ways our enemies have attacked, and that he should be very careful of assassination attempts, especially with the current political situation. He thanks us for the cautionary tale, and seem generally appreciative. I hope he is; we all live here, and would prefer this city to be as free from evil as possible. Well, aside from standard, human evil; that seems to be perfectly okay.

We head back home and chat a bit. We snag a late dinner, and get Emily and Jenny suited up for their patrols. At around 11PM, there is a knock at the door. I would say that is strange, but I really do not know if I understand the meaning of that word anymore.

A tall, blond, and almost impossibly pretty white guy walks in. Coat and cane go into the cloak room, and he is led in to meet us. Sergei excuses himself to go check out his gear (later informs us that the cane is VERY powerful, and masked from detection while on his person).

The stranger introduces himself as Benedict Halvard. He claims to be an old friend of Samantha Thayer, and that he desperately needs to talk to her. We get Bia (who is working out in the practice room) to come in and take a glance at him, but she comes up blank as well. We mention to him that we might be able to get in touch with her, and that we will meet him tomorrow morning at his hotel’s restaurant to talk it over.

Mar. 13th: We sleep a bit, then head over to breakfast. Victoria meets us there, ready for action; well, as ready for action as any of us can be with perpetually wrecked sleeping patterns! Sergei preps up detection magic and we head in to chat. Benny throws down some magic (Sergei isolates it as ancient Enochian angel magic) that muffles all sound where we are, and we get to chatting.

Benny (outing himself as something of an angel) has come into possession of a magical artifact that is both powerful and immensely evil. This is a major corruptive artifact, and only the countering effect of his cane (re: flaming sword) has let him stave it off so far. He knows Sammy from way, WAY back, and wants to drop it off with her for possible destruction.

(OF NOTE: Interesting. An angel also wanting to use Sammy for a similar purpose as Sammy’s ‘siblings.’ This must mean that, within our kind of circles, she is well-known as incorruptible from such forces. How do I get me some of THAT ability?)

We inform him that we do have some contact with her, and that we will try to do what we can. He is thankful, but desperate; even an angel’s indomitable willpower seems to be fraying a bit.

Well, my first thought is that we hit Victoria over the head until she starts speaking like Sammy. But I do not voice this, because: A. I do not know if that would work, and B. I do not want to risk getting beat up by a petite girl. So, instead, we decide to go check out Sammy’s old blown-up residence. We find the same book that teleported us last time; it no longer does, but we find through trial and error that any message stuck in its pages disappears. A few minutes later, a note pops into the book for us to meet up in a bit at “Cleopatra’s Needle,” the Egyptian obelisk in London.

We head to the CH and grab Aldo and Victoria (those two seem awfully chummy as of late…). More firepower is good, and those two specialize in firepower. We head to the Needle, and a precocious street urchin brings us a note to meet in a nearby Pub. We are ushered over to a side booth, and there is Sammy, in disguise. She does not want to be in the open like this, being hunted and all, but she has some concerns on this one.

Benedict is, in actuality, Barachiel, otherwise known as “God’s Lightning.” Sammy portrays him as a warrior, a bit of a naive goofball, but very powerful. If this item is corruptive to him, it must be bad news. But she does not want the item with her, as she has a lot on her plate at the moment and, as we all chat about it, it starts to feel more-and-more like a trap. I go so far as to wonder if the item has some form of magical trace on it specifically to find Sammy. She okays us to take it to Gerty in San Fran; if it is a trap, that CH can handle it (or no one can).

We head back to meet Benny, and give him the old good news/bad news; Sammy cannot help, but we can get him to Gerty. With a little prodding, we get the truth, he did just kind of ‘luck’ into this item.

We have set enough traps in the last year or so to know one when we see it.

We head back to the CH, then to Librarian Bungalow. Veronica is awake, and is who we wanted to chat with, anyway. We inform her of our plan, and she is on board (anything for Sammy, as usual for her and her sisters). She gets out a doily, mumbles some incantations, and BAM! Into The Library we go!…

…and out comes Zoe’s lunch, breakfast… heck, maybe her shoes. I forget that everyone has not done this; I have teleported more in the last year than I have ridden a horse.

(NOTE: I should get Emily, Jenny, and Prof. Poole and go out to visit Willy. He has lots of horses, and it would do them all good. Emily needs to remember how to ride, Jenny needs to learn, and I bet the Prof would LOVE it!)

We are met by Leo the centaur-esque lion guy. Big hugs all around; Leo is all about hugs. Veronica gives us a spare doily in case the one we have burns up on exit, and is going to stay back to guard the exit. Leo can also track back to her pretty quickly, so she is a good anchor all around.

We head on through. It is a quiet ‘day’ in The Library; no spider or scorpion demons, no necromantic trees, nothing. It kind of makes me sad, but is probably for the best; Benny is nearing the end of his tolerance for this evil artifact.

Welcome to sunny San Francisco! We pop out to a cascade of rifles being cocked. Waiting as appropriate, we are met by “Annette” (ex-Gerty). She introduces us to some of the new folks, including to young kids (Quet and Tzal both decided to memory wipe and start over; the culture and time shock was a bit too much) then we get to business. Explanations abound, and she agrees on the trap idea. She hands the item (a pretty cool-loking draconic ring) to “Paulo” (Feyd), and he heads back to start checking it out. Benny IMMEDIATELY perks up; he is, indeed, a lovable goof. Paulo comes back with a 100% identification on it being: A. ancient, B. Evil and corruptive, and C. a VERY well-masked trace spell.

The San Fran House takes over from here, being glad to assist us by setting a trap for our common foe. Benny decides to stay with them; he has been played for a fool, and, depending on what the enemy brings with them, a warrior-angel has to be a good thing to have around. They will expect the extremely powerful mage, Sammy Thayer and her magical minions; they will get an OCEAN of high-speed lead, followed by roughly all of the blades in the world.

Wish I could be there! But, alas, my stay on the home continent is short. We head back home through The Library (after the doily-portal opened, we hand off the spare to Gerty, just in case) with no incident. Chat a bit with Leo, then pop back to London and head home.

Upon reaching the CH, the Prof mentions that he did a bit of research on the item. It is an ancient Nordic Dragon Ring. Nordic Dragons are a bad sign; always destructive and evil. It is good that such an item is being taken out of circulation, and even better if Paulo and Gerty can get any more info about them.

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From the Journal of James Watie: March 10th-11th, 1967
If I Would Have Known It Was Going To Be THAT Kind of Party...

Mar. 10, 1867: We arrive in Paris. Aldo and Victoria make their goodbyes, as they have a crate-load of ape-related, military-grade research material to transport. The Cullens are in town and take their place, being rapidly caught up on the events of the previous days.

Watching Cyrus’s eyes light up at the idea of forbidden magi-science is only surpassed by watching Elizabeth practically turn into a lightning bolt at the idea of a biological component to the mechanical-hybrid primate. But, as they both wanted to see the Paris CH, they wave goodbye to the ape remains and stick to us.

We hit the Paris CH. Zoe and Georgia head out to get work done (always good to see them). We chat with various members of the House on what happened in Madrid, and learn that the Paris House was hit as well. Due to their being prepared, the attack was turned away with no real casualties. But the method of attack was interesting; the attackers were made up to look like members of various Paris vampire groups. If the warning had not gone out, the attack may have caused an outright war between the Paris House and the vampires in Paris.

After chatting a bit, Xavier (the CM) confirms all of this as he rushes out for a meeting with the head of one of the main vampire houses in Paris. He had warned them as well, and now both sides enjoy a common enemy for the first time in a LOOOOOONG time.

Welcome to Paris, where it is now Teutonic Hunting Season all year round!

As much as we would like to stay and help them root out these vermin, we have our own giant city to protect. The Paris Weaponmaster, Natalie, has a favor that may help us as well. She has a friend (also a friend of Zoe) named Mary. Mary needs to meet the Vampire of London, specifically to obtain permission to move about his city, but also to warn him of this all-out assault on the various supernatural organization in Eurasia. It is Natalie’s hope that doing this will garner support from the VoL, show the CH as honorable neighbors, and prevent anything like what almost happened in Paris from happening in London.

Mary is oldish-looking; black cloak, cane, and rather spartan attire. She is also cranky like few people I have ever met; she initially wants nothing to do with “a bunch of dandies” (probably talking about Marcus’s new fetish for snappy clothing) and insist she needs no help.

She is ornery, cantankerous, and a bit mean. She is also passionate, hates demons, and not afraid to speak her mind. Marcus and I take an immediate liking to her. Sergei… not so much. He seems a bit agitated the moment he sees her. When we finally figure out that she is a vampire, that makes a bit more sense.

When Marcus asks her if she is a Child of Lilith and she answer vehemently in the negative, she gains points with the Cullens, Marcus, and I. When Marcus mentions giddily that his life specialty is killing demons, we go up in her estimation. She agrees (grudgingly) to travel with us to jolly ole London.

We decide to head out that night, with Cyrus going to secure tickets. Those Cullens… smart, moderately fearless, imminently useful in a jam, and with enough money coupled with curiosity to grease the wheels. What great people I have befriended!

Although Cyrus does decide not to buy Marcus a train. Marcus gets over it.

Mar 11th: We ride on the train. Sergei and Marcus patrol the cars, just in case, and find a fellow in the dining car that looks to have been fed on (non-lethally) by a vampire. No identifiers on the man, and still has his money. Worrisome. We chat a good bit (Mary is a light of happiness in this dark, dreary world!), and then, right before dawn, we get Mary into her comfy-as-possible travel crate.

As we do, I have a quick chat with Mary on emergency exit procedures, group dynamics, and what we deal with as a group. This insight seems to put her at ease a bit. I guess; with her it is hard to tell. Whatever her story is, I bet it is FASCINATING, and probably very sad.

We hit the lovely city of Calais. We take stock of the place as we wait for our ferry, and note three men wheeling six caskets from the same train we are exiting. What an amazing coincidence! Cyrus and Sergei find the shipping label on the caskets, and we telegraph Huxley to let him know there are probable vampires entering London sans permission from the VoL. Better safe than sorry!

We ferry across to England, and are met by Huxley at the dock. We get Mary-in-a-box to Huxley’s office, then Marcus and I go with her to help her get something to eat before her big meeting. That goes better than I expected, all things considered. It is strange seeing a predator in a little old lady’s body. But a gal has to eat, and she is preying on people no less than we see every day. Just a bit more literally.

We head to the VoL’s estate with Huxley. It is in a very nice part of town, but not ostentatious on the outside. The interior, on the other hand, is just under French-level extravagant. Very British, very ‘an important man lives here.’ Everywhere we look we find vampires and human ‘attendants’ in various stage of undress and physical exertion.

Mary is disgusted. Sergei is an inch from rioting. The Cullens walk through like it is a walk in the park. Marcus is exited to be seeing something new. So far, this has been a great evening!

We head into the VoL’s meeting room. It has, and I kid you not, a centrally-located big-ass chair, aka a throne. He is perched on it, lounging, with his brood carrying on rather lasciviously around him. Perfect atmosphere of casual power; the fellow is a pro, I will give him that. Mary starts her conversation and, he, sensing the unease that some of our group feels, offers to take this to a private meeting room. What a classy guy!

Mary chats him up a bit, making her introductions and receiving permission to be in his city. She goes over the happenings in Paris in some detail, and makes sure he understands that, while not a CH member herself, she represents them in this meeting as a concerned independent (NOTE: if ‘Independent’ were Mary’s middle name, I would be surprised not-in-the-least!). He begins his spiel about neutrality and keeping out of such affairs and whatnot when, as usual, all hell breaks loose.

One of his brood come in with her head nearly severed to alert us to uninvited guests. Sergei gets moving quickly, but not quickly enough; the room is flooded with white-robed, silver masked assailants. Marcus greets the first man in with a beheading; the second guy in runs over and stabs Elizabeth (which is just really, really rude. She is a LADY, man!) The room fills up, with all newcomers missing their targets; but then the last attacker comes into play. He heads to a far corner and drops a ball of burning radiance into the center of the room. Not fire, which is scary enough. No, this is searing sunlight, and it does a number on everyone in the room. I shrug off the blast, but no one else is so lucky; it ignores our attackers, and scorches everyone else. That plus attacks from the mooks almost kills Sergei (a bit of bad luck on where he was standing did not help him at all). Cyrus, knowing which side of the bread is buttered, heals up his wife, Lady MurderDress.

Our turn, assholes.

Mary shows a propensity for mind-altering magics right at the start. She addles the minds of most of the attackers, letting Marcus, Elizabeth, and I do what we do best; make soup. The VoL and Huxley prove remarkably ineffective, but, to be fair, both had taken big hits in the initial blast. We clear our room (making sure our host is safe), then move on to the throne room.

More chaos. Casters, sword-wielders, and hellhounds abound. Well, for about 30 seconds; we get to cleaning house. More confusion sown by Mary gets us openings for attacks, and we capitalize on this. As always, we prioritize saving the… uh… ‘innocents?’, and are largely successful. An enemy flanking maneuver to come around on the VoL and Huxley’s position is turned back by Mary making a VERY scary face at them, turning them right back into the fray, anchored by, and I am not kidding, a 10’ tall, sword-wielding giant summoned by Cyrus. ‘Reginald,’ as we call him, seems to have the sword skills of a teacake, but he is resilient. Marcus beheads, Elizabeth caves in skulls, and I disembowel.

Huxley comes tearing around the corner a bit more than worried. Some kind of creature has been released in the rear of the house. This ‘fire elemental,’ as he calls it, is a 12’ tall, semi-sentient column of flame. And it is busy licking the walls, setting them a-blaze. The VoL orders a retreat of his people, and Huxley does the same with us. But, being that he is not 100% caught up on what we bring to the table (and our general lack of anything resembling common sense), we decide that killing this elemental before it gets done here and rampages through the neighborhood is worth the risk.

Well… what risk? Mary confuses it, Sergei (who has spent this whole donnybrook bleeding in various corners) serves it up a helping of ice lances, and Marcus finishes it with a stab to the… uh, gut? Who knows, but it works; it winks from existence. Hooray, we win! Oh, and decide to flee the now merrily-out-of-control house fire.

From there, we help the VoL (real name is Earl Robert deVeer) organize his evacuation to his favored daughter’s abode (Lady Jane Grey). She is glad they are alive, but less-than-thrilled at the sudden intrusion. Vampires take hospitality VERY seriously! He holds court, such as it is, and offers Mary a personal boon (read as, “That’s MY boon!”) for her bringing us to his door at that perfect moment, as well as her assisting him personally in the fight.

He offers to ally with the London CHs, because whomever attempted to do this had false CH cards and enough firepower to have killed him and every one of his brood present that night. He owes her, and us, his life, and that has to bother him; his hospitality was overwhelmed by selfless heroism from people who, before that evening, he was probably sure would have preferred him dead. Sergei probably still does, but that is beside the point.

For all the failure the Teutonics have met with, I fear for their successes closer to Austria. We have Western Europe pretty well intact (even Madrid’s losses were minimal, personnel-wise), but we have heard nothing from the other cities. I hope Tyson can find out more there, because I fear we have our hands full here.

(Footnote: Mary is going to stay a bit in London, or at least set up a home there. Patty has another bungalow near ours she is going to rent her VERY cheaply, and we are going to help her move in. She is now our favorite neighbor, and would request that Marcus stay off of her lawn as much as possible)

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From the Journal of James Watie: March 4th-9th, 1867
Vicki Can Talk! Well, Telegraph, Mostly...

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.

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From the Journal of James Watie: March 1st, 1867
The Winter Passed Uneventfully

Nov. 1866 – Feb. 1867: As we were all but snowed in for these months, I have little to report. We closed a few cases (mostly missing persons), and Emily and I started formally courting. As much as the formality of this may chafe, I do not mind going to the operas and fancy dinners. Culture has it’s uses, I suppose!

March 1, 1867: Our nightly dinner is interrupted by our friend Tom from Scotland Yard. He looks as if he has been in a fight that he may have won. He goes on to say that there was a tremendous fire at a local brownstone, which is not that strange. But, as the fire was green in coloration and reluctant to die off, this piqued his interest. When he rattles off the name of the resident, my blood chills a bit.

Samantha Thayer: the last know holder of The Song Thief.

Dinner is over! Emily and Jenny go to get ready for a patrol with the other House folks, and we kit out for work. Tom is right; the house is a mess. We start our investigations, ready for the inevitable traps someone like Samantha would leave. Her desk is mostly intact, especially the secret compartment we find. Inside is a journal and… hrm. How to explain? How about a sentient green cloud of unknown origin? It envelops each of us in turn, and decides we are good enough to be here.

As we investigate further, we find a functional portal to… somewhere. Cyrus, being a true paragon of bravado and derring-do (read as: needs a leash) walks on though, followed by an exasperated Elizabeth. We pile in, readying ourselves for a murderhole…

…and, thank goodness, are not disappointed. the room we walk into is a dome, seemingly underground, with no obvious exits. Before we decide to dismantle the whole place, Samantha strolls in, no worse for wear.

The story unfolds. Her house was assaulted by a well-trained group of mercenaries (or troops) led by a demon of some sort. She handled her business, blasting the mercs and besting the demon, who was screaming that all he wanted was the Book and he would let her live. She replied by shredding him like a slow-cooked roast.

Samantha is good people.

Sam decided that it was time to relocate, so she got her important people and things through the portal, and will soon be heading off to parts unknown (by us). She left us mentioning that she would be back in touch when she gets settled, and the cane that the demon was using. The can has some kind of giant injection spike in the base, and a reservoir of foul, fish-smelling goop inside.

OF NOTE: VERY few people could possibly have known that she had what she had. Someone told, simply put. A few members of the other House, several from ours, and several of Sams ‘siblings.’ Other than that, I cannot think of anyone else. Short list that will need to be reviewed and perhaps trimmed.

We head home. Patti takes a look at the cane, and identifies the goop. She believes it is Oil of Shuggloth; used in rituals to transform people into fish-demon things. We figure that Erasmus might know either who can make the goop or who can make such an interesting cane. Also, Cyrus and I are both nearing the end of our tobacco stores. Priorities and whatnot!

ED looks it all over, and agrees with Patti’s assessment. Moreso, he knows people who deal in exotic canes in the area. One maker is in Cardiff and the other in Dover. ED believes the Cardiff crafter the more likely, so we thank him, stock up on tobacco, and head home. Cardiff in the morning it is!

March 2: We meet up with the Cullens for a bite of breakfast, then head to Cardiff. The concierge of the very nice hotel the Cullens choose states that any crafter worth his salt would be in the artisan district. As good an idea as we had, we head out to look around.

A woodcarver in the artisan district checks out the cane, and identifies the work as likely by a Riddick of Riddick and Sons. Heading over there, he checks out the work and admits he crafted it, and several other just like it, for one Abraham Morgan. We head back to the hotel, and mention to the doorman that we are looking for one Abe Morgan. He knows of one, a local coal merchant of some renown and wealth.

DID SOMEONE SAY WEALTH!?! Man, it is good to have Cyrus around for this kind of stuff; it opens up dialogue options that used to be filled with blood, screams, and high laundry bills! Cyrus sends a message to Morgan’s local gentleman’s club with a request to visit, which is replied to in the affirmative in less than an hour.

Cyrus and Aldo (our two most normal non-Russian white guys) get ready to socialize, while the rest of us get read for war. They have Aldo go in the servant’s entrance, allowing him to get a head count on the goons in there and analyze the area, just in case. Cyrus mentioned after that they gave him the tour, then schmoozed over him for a while. The standard treatment.

Meanwhile, outside, we attempt the most comically doomed attempt at stealth in history. But, it was either that or release the krinkle-crackum; and NO ONE wants that! We recoup, regroup, and follow a hastily leaving Morgan to a local, dingy apothecary’s shop. We decide that it is no coincidence that this is the shop in town that ED said could make Essence du Shuggerloff.

We enter the establishment, and I try to explain to the clerk up front that his counter has a spot on it. He is perplexed, then concussed, then Marcus’d into unconsciousness. Hearing conspiratory nonsense being blurbled in the adjacent room, we line up, Sergei drops the lights, and we go to work. The shopkeeper being accosted by Morgan is terrified, and also pukes up a nascent Shotgolf. Morgan and his goons fight, then die. It would have been nice to get some information from him, but he was too dangerous to let live. The shopkeeper admits to summoning Sharpclocks, but does not want to; Morgan knew the shopkeeper’s family had old ties to fish-people, and used his Sugerloaf grease to curse the poor guy.

Did someone say, “Poor, moderately innocent person with a permanent and crippling affliction?” That sounds like a task for the Electric Cossack! And, even better, it worked! The shopkeeper is left happier, still creepy as hell and needing to move, and happy we did not kill his whole family. It looks like this ‘dark water’ was less a curse and more a poison, and Sergei has a good track record with that kind of thing! The shopkeeper is going to grab what is left of his family (Morgan had been using them as shock troops) and get out of town that very night.

As we prepare to leave, I have a bit of an idea. I retrieve the ring we took off of Herr Bechner’s assassin and, after a bit of creative corpse-modification, leave the ring clutched in Morgan’s hand.

Let them figure that one out. Anything to ice our trail a bit. Also, this guy was a monster, and sometimes you have to leave a display to the other monsters.

Darnit. Now I need another Teutonic’s ring. The Hunt continues…

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From the Journal of James Watie: Nov. 19th
The Doctor and the Walking Punch Machine

Nov: 19th, 1866: We sleep in a bit (rest well deserved). Victoria mentions that she could use some time to adjust to the new paradigm of her life, so Marcus offers to take her for a trip out to Willy’s place in the country. It is safe for her there, and Marcus needed to work on some research, anyway. She leaves us with a list she spied at Stafford’s place: Cecil Guinness, Erasmus Dein (we know that one!), and Cyrus Cullen. Prof. Poole mentions that he knows of Cullen; he was being vetted for membership before everything started going downhill. He lives nearby, so we decide to go meet the guy.

His address is a VERY nice manor house. Great… probably another noble. We meet Dr. Cyrus, who, while no doubt wealthy and noble, is by no means exclusionary. He is a world traveler, and has been as far as India and China in order to hone the medical arts. While in China, he met and married the second person we meet here, Elizabeth. She is bright-eyed, if a little manic. Looks to be suffering the initial stages of “Holy-crap-they-will-not-let-me-do-anything-fun-in-this-country” syndrome.

The Cullens are steeped in the occult: Cyrus seems to believe that the fusion of science and magic can lead to the perfection of the medical arts, and Elizabeth was trained in Eastern martial arts at some kind of girls-allowed punching school. I never knew China was so enlightened towards the fairer sex! How progressive! Since they seem like they are nice enough people (Prof. Poole had mentioned this as well), we tell Cyrus about his name being of Stafford’s list.

Cyrus is NOT AMUSED at this. And Elizabeth… well, let us say that the subtle shift from lady-in-a-dress to tiger-in-clothes was not all that subtle. While we plan what to do about this, we decide to show them around the more mystical part of London, starting with the Fey Market.

As we stroll around (it is amazing what can become ‘routine’ in one’s life), we overhear Patrick Stafford’s whiny voice over the din. He is in a box shop, arguing with the nice lady behind the counter. Evidently he had ordered a box to contain some item, and no longer needs the box. I wonder why not? (If you are reading these out-of-order, it is because we robbed him. Carry on.) After he leaves, Cyrus confronts him as one occult-leaning noble to another peer. Elizabeth does her best to not rip this smarmy, oily creep’s arms off and slap him to death with his own hands.

Stafford, seeing a possibility to recoup some face in the occult neighborhood, invites Cyrus over to schmooze, which Cyrus accepts. HOORAY, A PARTY! We buy some things while in the Market, including a very intricate puzzle box that was once owned by one Mr. Berringer. Sergei gets that one, and we decide to store it in the fireplace locker at the office.

Wait, a closed puzzle box once owned by a cannibalistic, pedophile, demonologist, mass murderer? SURE, that sounds like something we want to have! Seriously, for people with such good instincts 99% of the time, they really, REALLY make up for it in that 1% left over!

We escort the Cullens over to our House and let Cyrus give the new Stone of Dee we have a once-over. He confirms what we know; it is a summoning stone for Phanuel, the Enocian Archangel. I think we will send this one to a nice, safe place; no need for it to stay here.

Cyrus sends Stafford a missive, telling him to expect Cyrus, Elizabeth, and entourage tonight. Yes, you read that correctly; Cyrus tells Stafford, in no uncertain tones, that Stafford is hosting a party tonight. Cyrus is a funny guy to know; he wields his money and such as a tool; he defines what this power is, rather than let it define him. Rather refreshing, actually!

We get kitted out for the shin-dig (enough weaponry to stop a small cavalry charge, and then everyone else gets dressed). We head to Stafford’s place, and are greeted with many more people than we expected. There is a Mr. Bechner from Munich (a banker of note), Edward la Salle (whose eyes light up in delight when he spies us enter), and then a big, burly guard followed by a stately Germanic fellow. Well, Prussian, actually; one Major Fredrick Lebow. He is some kind of war hero.

This is no party; it is all business, and Beckner is OBVIOUSLY pissed. He and Stafford move to a back room to chat, as Cyrus rambles a bit with the table-folk. Sergei moves like a guard, noticing and indicating to us that there are guards outside. We hear a rather ill-hidden argument coming from Beckner and Stafford in the other room, leading to Beckner storming off, trailing the guards from outside with him. The party breaks up a bit, as Lebow also leaves.

After setting Stafford’s nose (I do not think he can resist), Cyrus lays in on the table for Stafford. He knows his name was on a list, and wants to know why. Stafford confirms our hunch; he is wanting to become a broker in the area. I think he believes that his brother’s status as some big muckitey-muck is how he plans to shield the fact that he is robbing other people in the area to get the items he wants to sell. Cyrus buys a set of really old, non-magical surgical tools (good museum pieces) for 30 pounds; I counter by offering to tell him who robbed him for 30 pounds. He pays up.

Hilarity ensues.

We almost kill him then and there. I really, really do not like killing people unless it is absolutely necessary. This walking example of multi-generational cousin-banging is going to kick off a city-wide turf war with his inane antics, and is not only oblivious to it, but believes himself immune to the effects of his actions because of his BROTHER’S status as one of the ultra-white people in town! Seriously, Sergei and Marcus rolled their eyes so hard I think they collectively sprained them!

When Stafford all but blurts out that he now realizes that her recognized Victoria and is going to tell her brother about all of this, Sergei does what Sergei does; informed Mr. Stafford that doing so would lead to his immediate termination. Simply put, if we even THINK that Stafford is doing something that may irritate Victoria in the slightest, he would receive another visit, and it would end poorly.

This was PERFECT of Sergei; Stafford is simply incapable of realizing when he has lost, and will likely transfer his anger at Victoria towards Sergei. And Sergei, being Russian, can wholly subside on a diet of hatred, cabbage, and vodka.

As we excuse ourselves, Fast Eddie leaves as well, outside and out of earshot, he laughs his ass off, stating that bottom-feeding imbeciles like Stafford give the profession of middle-man a bad name, and letting us know that, while Stafford’s people were out looking for us post-robbery, he had his people break in and steal a translated copy of The Book of Enoch.

Take note, Stafford; that is how a PROPER criminal operates! Also, why does Fast Eddie want that particular book? I know he likes to get stuff to sell, but still…

We his Erasmus’s place (the Cullens are both entranced by his collection of oddities), and ask why his name would be on some list with these other folk. He states it looks like a list of possible buyers and sellers of authentic occult items in the immediate area, with Becknair being a know collector of the Stones of Dee. That tracks pretty well. Erasmus thanks us for the info, mentions that he might have a job for Sergei and I as investigators later, and Cyrus and I load up on some good ole American tobacco.

Well, as we know that Stafford will almost certainly send out thugs to avenge the numerous slights on his honor, we head over to Cyrus’s place to rearm and garb up. We pick nearby Regency Park as our battleground, head over there, and wait… for about two minutes. Two very, very large crocodiles burst from the stream to start the evening’s exercise.

Let me start with this: Elizabeth Cullen, when faced with a crocodile of about 13’ in length, responds by PUNCHING IT IN THE HEAD. And, to make this night oh-so-much more wonderful, the DAZES the creature!

A group of guys charge us from some nearby woods. They are probably ex-soldiers; they are all armed with modern-look swords. The standard donnybrook begins; lots of gnashing and wailing and people getting stabbed. Eventually, I dispatch a gator with my crescent-sword (which I now call Moon), and Aldo drops the other with a couple of well-placed shots.

While the fight goes on, two shambling mounds of vegetation are summoned onto the field to harass us; they, and the crocs, have glowing green eyes! This is the same modus operendi as the other times we have been attacked by critters or shrubbery! Everyone scans for the caster, and Sergei feels that he spots him in a distant copse of trees. It looks like he and a pistol-armed guard are about to make a hasty retreat.

Sergei is officially not having any of that crap.

Now, chalk it up to our Mad Russian to keep an ace up his sleeve, but this is near-operatic in its beauty. While we are croc-wrestling and playing among the swords, he rolls over one crocodile and, with the merest touch of his hand on Elizabeth’s arm, moves them both into the trees with the caster. No travel in-between; one second they are with me, the next they are with him.

The caster is more surprised than we are. He is even more taken aback when Elizabeth says, “Hello” buy, in one strike, shattering almost every tooth in the man’s head. It is one of the funniest and surreal things I have ever heard to hear that man curse in German, then sputter through his ruined mouth, “I am a vurry important person!” Seriously, reader… I almost quit and went home. It was not going to get much better than that.

As Sergei and Elizabeth soundly handle their new playmates, we make space for Cyrus to show off his skills. He seems to have a lot in common with Willy’s casting, but is much more varied. He knocks people, topiaries, and landscaping around with some kind of force-wave, and, in a very chilling scene, seems to use magical persuasion to force one man to turn on his friends with lethal precision.

In a few more seconds, the battle is over. Most of the mercs/soldiers are still alive, but unconscious. We leave them for the authorities, who show up and are very, VERY puzzled to find Dr. Cullen and his lovely wife claiming to have fought off some lowlifes with the help of a local savage (I was still there, because I am not letting 20+’ of croc skin rot). Seriously, they had hardly a hair misplaced, and the scene looked like a battlefield. The looks on those copper’s faces was beyond priceless!

We take our caster back to the office (Patti and Bia are there and puts a kettle on), and the interrogation begins. He is actually pretty forthcoming; he knows that he is unlikely to live to see the morning, and would rather not suffer whatever indignities we would force upon him between now and then if he were to keep quiet.

This man was hired by Herr Bechner to slowly and methodically kill off the members of the Munster House. He was the man who set up and ambushed Patrick Warburton, summoned the undead to kill Uriah Murray, and pushed Kit off a bridge. Bechner is a high-ranking Teutonic, and, for some reason, has it out for us.

Fair enough, Mr. Very-Important-Person. You get a quick death, as promised. But the issue of disposal… well, as this man killed several people that my life would have been enriched to get to know better, tried to kill us on many an occasion, and would continue to do so until death-do-us-part, he gets the special treatment. With a full-house okay for this course of action, Bia snaps his neck, takes him aside, and, after getting into an ‘outfit’ that better suits the task at hand, eats him.

But not before I snag the Teutonic ring off his finger. We have your name and face now, Bechner. Run away to Austria. Run to India; run to the deepest part of the Congo. I know you now, and not even death itself will stop me from having vengeance for Uriah. I will hunt you and yours until there is nothing left, and the people with me are no less resolute.

And then I will feed you to an Egyptian Booby-Beast and use the poop to plant a pretty flower garden. Because this is funny to me.

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From the Journal of James Watie: Nov. 18th-19th
Enter the Mystical Mime.

Nov. 18th, 1866: We finally arrive back home, or at least on the right landmass. Aldo is so sad to be away from his beloved boat trip that he puts on a brave, always smiling face to cover his sorrow.

While awaiting the train from our landing in Dover to jolly ole London, we meet a rather jumpy Frenchman, Phillipe Duval, and his charge, Victoria Dearing. Phillipe is a mincing little thing hired to be ‘protection’ for his MUCH more interesting companion. Victoria is mute, but has GREAT penmanship; she has recently arrived home after adventuring with Zoe in Paris. She noticed us and figured that we kind of had to be Zoe’s mentioned friends from London. We shoo away the Frenchie and get to know our new friend.

Victoria is back in town to deal with “family matters,” which seems to mean “her jerk of a brother.” We invite her to stay over at the CH until she is ready to hassle with her brother. Leifsson, the Bible Twins, Brother Anatolia, and Sister Alicia head to the other House to make introductions, which is probably a good idea, anyway. Our House is getting a bit snug (this is a good problem to have)!

Nov. 19th: We wake up after some much needed sleep. While in hour three of morning practice, we get a message that a Gypsy is upstairs asking for us. Our collective “something is befouled” sense goes a little insane.

Now, get this, gentle reader. The Gypsies of Piccadilly, a known, powerful, and as-close-to-respected troupe there is in Europe, were ATTACKED. Not just attacked, but jumped by illusion’d TROLLS. Stanica and several others were injured. On this, we bolt to help our friend.

Stanica will heal, but some of her troupe need a bit more help. The target of this attack was diversion while someone sneaked into Stanica’s wagon and stole her Tarot deck. That is right; someone attacked Gypsies and stole their Tarot.

Well, that eliminates from the suspect list “anyone who believes in curses, vengeance, or common sense!”

Well, since trolls like to brag and the Fey Market is close, we head there first. Our Victoria is a bit overwhelmed with the speed that this is escalating, but she is obviously brave; she uttered not a syllable of protest.

When we hit town, we chace upon our favorite pooka haberdasher. He mentions that most trolls-for-hire come from North Town. We realize that Spork probably has the directions to such a place, so we head out. After a good, brisk walk, we find North Town. Less of a town and more of a rest stop, but it has what we are looking for; a troll bar.

I could have been in America right then, either drinking my sorrows away or killing people to do the same. Instead, I am avenging an assault and theft from a gypsy friend by visiting a troll bar. Just a reference point on how great my life is!

While getting to know the locals (these trolls are FABULOUS chaps!), a goblin comes in, chittering away about another troll gang who just got paid big in gold nuggets for roughing up a band of Gypsies. We know this because, while silent as a pretty painting, Victoria can make herself magically understand pretty much any language. This is helpful, frustrating, and hilarious all at once.

Victoria is our new favorite person. She is feisty, tough despite her hardships, and understands troll/goblin! If she dislikes her brother so, he must be a bad person who needs to be smacked around until she feels he has learned his lesson! We add that to our “To Do” list.

We offer to go with the bar trolls and help ambush the rival gang. They are skeptical at first, but we offer to take no part of the gold. They grudgingly agree to a limited partnership. We just said trolls, including a clean, well-dressed member carrying a nice satchel. Marcus and I charge in, and while Marcus distracts, I cut the satchel off the dapper troll-gent. A quick pass to Marcus and return to our group leaves us with the upper hand. Victoria had mentioned she was a bit of a pistolero, so Aldo lets her have at with the Winchester. She is a natural, shooting me FAR less often than Sergei does when he has a gun!

After dropping the troll’s leader, the others quit. Evidently it is part of their ritual gang-fights to quit when the leader is down. How strangely civilized! Our new troll-buddy, Kang, and his group leave with their loot (which was in the satchel), and we go about speaking to the dapper chap-troll, Pock.

Pock spills quickly, and why not? He is now broke, gangless, and around people who have a rep for being a bit brutish. He was hired in Highberry by a man named Stafford to steal the Tarot. Stafford was a bit of a dandy, and acted superior to everyone. So, a typical British noble. So, when we need to know the name of someone who is being naughty, who do we go see?

Fast Eddie LaSalle!

A quick trip to LaSalle’s fave gentleman’s club leaves us in luck, as he is in residence. He is also quite chatty, offering up names with no banter of recompense. He must not like this guy! Baron Stafford is most likely clean in this, but his brother, Patrick, is an occultist wannabe of the highest order, and is dumb enough to think he can get away with this. Thinking that someone in the other House may have more info, we head over to ask around.

Good ole Bannerman! He knows of the guy, and produces an address forthwith. He also warns us against a frontal attack; this guy is a complete waste of skin, but his brother has clout and would be forced to retort to a real attack on his family, no matter how sad and pathetic that member might be. We head over to his house and begin formulating one of our patented fool-proof plans.

As we were going to need a distraction, Victoria does us all one better and offers herself up as a decoy! She rolls to the front, arms a-flailing at the doorman and quite flustered, saying that she was accosted by hooligans!

Seriously… she is our new favorite person!

Aldo and I wait out front, inconspicuous as possible, in case Victoria needs backup. Marcus and Sergei hit the roof (after some creative un-lighting from Sergei and vision-improvement from Aldo), and sneak in through a window. A bit later, a ruckus happens, Victoria runs out, and Sergei and Marcus bail from the roof, wrapped items in tow. From what I learned later, Stafford is a friend of Victoria’s brother and was going to have his butler go fetch him (she was against this idea), but Sergei and Marcus made a counter-distraction upstairs that let them all skedaddle.

So, Marcus bags the Tarot for Stanica, which is great! But Sergei snagged a different prize. A stone of Dee, and, judging by the size and shape, it is a summoning stone, not a speaking one. We get back to the House, and Bia helps us translate it; it is the stone for Phanuel, the Archangel known in the Book of Enoch as “The Face of God.”

Good call, Sergei! WE do not need to have that, much less an utter ponce like Stafford or whomever he was going to suckle up to for favor by selling it to them!

We head back to Stanica and give her Tarot back. She is kind of shocked we not only helped her with no recompense asked for (or needed), but we also got it back in less than 24 hours. Well, m’amn… it is all in a day’s work! Sergei heals one of the gypsies crippling wound from the trolls, further showing Stanica and her people that, well, we are all outsiders together here.

Before Victoria heads to her home to confront her family issues, we get her story. She once had a beautiful voice, and was an amazing singer to boot. Something happened to her brother, and something she now believes to be a demon/devil offered to trade her brother’s health for her voice. She agreed, but some other stranger stepped in at the last minute and awakened or granted her magic as a consolation prize. In a cruel twist, her brother wound up pretty much trading her to her husband, old man Dearing, for a substantial sum and to tie into Dearing’s fortune. Since Dearing’s death (man, I hope she killed him… that would be a great part of this story!), her brother has been whittling away what good name and money she has, and she feels a bit responsible for him.

You know, she does not even have to SAY the word. We will gladly let her WRITE it. And when she does, we will all sit down with her brother for a chat. He needs to have his priorities and realities re-examined.

By that, I mean we plan to beat him until he behaves. In case you were unclear.

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Update on travels
Marcus Lobo

Sept 8th, 1866
DECODED USING PRIVATE CODE FOR Mattais Tyson. Delivered using secure courier to the First house in Rome.

Master,
I send this first report to you from the Munster house in London. I have met both houses and find them both much different in temperament. I will endeavor to follow your instructions and to report on the state of any chapter I encounter.

The First house is very traditional in their focus, and seems more concerned with their appearances than with active goals. Not to disparage the house, they seem very capable bureaucrats, but it reminds me much of certain areas of Rome. The walls could crumble around them and they would argue to color of the mortar.

The Munster house is where I have decided to lay my head. These gentlemen would seem out of place in most anywhere in the world, much less in comparison to the First house. They had recently returned from sending a killer of children to a special place of no return. I will try to understand better the artifact Songren that does this, as it seems a very fitting place for those Children of Lilith I hunt. These men are men of action, who follow the course laid before them with both recklessness and utter confidence.

I have stood beside them this night in a battle before an ancient Altar from the Southern America’s, and am impressed with their skills. A women was transformed into a demon of which we dispatched as well as the cultist who supported it. The women was saved and the Alter will be transported to the organization’s safe haven for such things.

I find myself fitting comfortable with this group, and will spend some time with them. During our adventure I was touched again by the hand, though I know not how or why. Perhaps it is His way of directing me to what and where I should be. I am no priest now, but other than that fact I am unsure what else I should be.

Their sense of direction and purpose fills some of the emptiness I have battled with these months past. We visited local parks for urchins in need, and battled cultists, and protected one who once flirted with the wrong side of righteousness. I hope you find it satisfactory that I remain with these for a time, as my soul is weary from travel and I still have not found that place of peace that was once promised from my God.

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From the Journal of James Watie: Nov. 4th-16th
Triangles are our friends!

Nov. 4th, 1866: After chatting a bit about our route, we head down to the docks to grab a ship to Stockholm. There is a rather dapper fellow in a bowler hat watching us, so we wave at him (it pays to be friendly!) and board our boat.

Nov. 5th: Aldo is miserable. Cold and miserable. The rest of us, being merely cold, are WAY better off!

Nov. 6th: We reach the shores of Stockholm. This is a quaint town on the rise; a great stopover from Western to Eastern European ports. It is cold; not as cold as I have ever been, but getting there!

We follow our directions from Poole to a small island where a Viking museum is being built. Across the way is a statue of Odin with a familiar spear and shield. Taking in a hunch, Sergei notices it is pointing at a nearby brownstone, with one building being a bookbinder’s. This is a likely place, so Aldo takes the lead and discerns that it is, indeed, our building.

The bookbinder is one Professor Dhal, the librarian of the House. A large fella strides out to meet us; Kjellson, the Armsmaster of the House. He reminds me of Viking Koenigsman. He leads us to our rooms and we get freshened up (Aldo wants to not smell like boat, well, ever again). Their butler, a rather friendly man named Bob, mentions that they have not had many visitors of late.

A pretty fine spread is laid out for us; roast turkey with all the trimmings. A very sweet lady wheels it our, followed shortly by a battle-scarred warrior of a guy. He introduces himself as Eloff Lungdren. The nice lady with all the grub is his wife, Mary. We all talk shop; the Stockholm House is more of a rest stop than anything else, but, as such, they have a decent feel for the area. All involved feel that something very bad is brewing up here, and that Rome is all but oblivious to their requests for assistance in an investigation.

This trend is becoming a bit too common for my tastes.

Lungdren is shocked to hear that Poole and Montague have somewhat reconciled. He was part of their coterie back in the good ole days, and is glad to here that there is any chance of reconciliation. He also knows Patti, and is happy to hear she has someplace to feel like home. We finish the night in this fine company, and head to sleep.

Nov. 7th: As we are heading back to the boat, Mary packs us all leftover turkey dinner for lunches. She is one of my new favorite people, by the way. Eloff gives us three letters to deliver: one for Patti, one for Poole, and one for Montague. He mentions that he and Kjellson make their money (and fund the House, most likely) by being in the shipping business in these parts. That HAS to be good money! As we leave, he also mentions that a telegram has arrived, and Oslo has ousted their Grandmaster.

Why do I get the feeling that I will someday have to storm that CH?

Nov. 7-10th: More icy boat adventures with Aldo, the green-tinged watchmaker!

Nov. 10th: We land on the docks at St. Petersburg. It is snowing and about as cold as I can imagine living through. A friendly policeman mentions that, while not expressly forbidden, wepons should not be shown around town. Good tip, officer!

We begin looking for Pavel Volakov’s relatives in town (he had mentioned that they were members). We learn of a weaponsmith/blacksmith here that is a Volakov, and his smithy has crossed hammers as a symbol (same as Pavel’s card). A early 20s young lady is tending the store (very pretty despite the cold). She introduces herself as Miranda, and, after asking her about Pavel, she heads back to get her dad. He comes out and mentions that they have a cousin named Pavel. Sergei passes them a card, and dad excuses himself to go check on something in the back (most likely to check the card out). We peruse their weapons, which are masterworks, all. Even the utilitarian ones are exquisite… I really, really hope these people are good folks and do not do something stupid like make me filet them with their own creations!

Sergei uses his detection gift to look around. Miranda glows as an innate magical being (much like Emily back home). Dad comes back, along with her mom. They also glow, but mom differently than dad and daughter. Very curious! Sergei’s card glows lightly as well, probably residual from whatever magical tests they put it through. They mention that they do not know much about Pavel, but give us a lead to a nice hotel in town.

Russians: Masters of Subtlety!

The ‘hotel’ in question is the Church of St. Catherine. It is a visually amazing building; while I do accept that the white man’s obsession with forbidden texts will probably doom us all, they are really, REALLY good at building churches! We look around (Marcus finds copious CH iconography), and I hit the confessional to speak to someone all subtle-like (when in Russia…). The priest confirms that this is the CH we are looking for. We head to the back area (prepping for an attack, just in case).

A priest, Brother Krozekov, enters, along with a nun we met up front. She is also a member (“Sister” Alicia by name, although I am not sure she is a nun), and a legacy at that. He laughingly mentions that the weaponsmiths are actually Pavel’s folks, but they are very, VERY suspicious of, well, everyone.

Yep… we are in Russia alright. Paranoia? Check. Cold weather? Check.

The doors open up to admit two more fellas, one a rather striking older guy, and the other a big wall of meat. The dapper gent is Bernardo Winter, and he is the GM here. We give our spiel about cross-training and needing members, and they love the former and will mention the latter to their membership. We move past that into general chatting. He is grateful to know that the rumors of what happened to Sister Gertie in Athens can be authenticated by us firsthand; they obviously have some history.

We have alcohol, cabbage, and good fellowship. Their werewolf issues have been ramping up, but they hope they are going to cool down over the winter. We urge them to stay in contact with the other Houses in the area, including ours; if Rome is too far away to bother, then we must all support ourselves. One of their members, a researcher named Brother Anatolia, is very please to hear of our demon-splattering ways.

Nov. 11th: The compass lines have triangulated over the last few days, and now have settled in Bucharest, Romania. Marcus’s demon is there, and has been for about a week. We mention this as we prep to leave, and Bro. Anatolia, a renowned demonologist, asks to accompany us back home. If we are taking the fight to them, he wants to help as much as possible. Marcus is THRILLED at this, and so are the rest of us. But we will have to watch him; those that study such things rick much.

Nov. 12th: We head out. Brother Anatolia is going with, as is Sister Alicia. At least someone is going with us back home! But the trip was a massive success; with the exception of Oslo (the LOVE us there!), we met a ton of new people and made a good accounting of ourselves.

Nov. 13th – 16th: If Aldo survives all this boating, I am not sure he will be my friend anymore for suggesting all of this. I will need to buy him something fancy… maybe a new tiny hammer…

Nov. 16th: We hit Oslo to check on our friends there. Leiffson, Cain, and Abel meet us at the docks. They are going to travel home with us.

I am going to have to storm that place. I know this.

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From the Journal of James Watie: Oct 21 - Nov. 3rd
Where wolf? There, THERE Wolf!

Oct. 21, 1866: We have a good time going to church with Prof. Poole. It is not only refreshing to see him more functional, but to see him so happy about keeping it a secret! Upon our return, we chat about the demon-tracking compass. We have about as good a home security as we are going to get right now, so we decide to get moving on step one (Triangulation). So far, it still seems to be pointing the same direction as previous days.

Sergei has the brilliant idea to start our trek in the North. As winter is rapidly approaching, it behooves us to get those trips done now rather than after the winter is done freezing everything. That means Amsterdam, Oslo (they LOVE me in Olso!), Copenhagen, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg are our targets, weather permitting.

The plan is to go to them, see if they have any members who are interested in a bit more active House and, barring that, just a place to cross-train (and our members with them as well). Moreover, we just want to make friends with our ‘neighbors;’ all any of the Houses seem to have in common is a growing distaste of the Rome House’s distant attitude.

Oct 22nd – 24th: We prepare for our trip. Patti gets set up on our tab at Erasmus Deens shop, and we get her to take over the work with our urchin gang in our absence. Vaughn’s crew from the other House welcomes joint patrol-work with the girls, and we urge Patti to take part as well. Aldo gives Scab (who will soon have to be promoted out of ‘kid gang leader’ if he keeps growing like he has this year) his spare pocketwatch. Scab is FLOORED, but is also now punctual.

Oct. 25th: Hugs and kisses to our people, and we hop a boat. Aldo is THRILLED at this part!

Oct. 26th: Around lunch, we hit Amsterdam. It is a very clean, rather simple city. Aldo hails us a cab, and we head to the address Prof. Poole gave us. The building does not hide the fact, proudly bearing a shield and spear. A young guy meets us at the door (Patrick), and leads us in. We are then greeted by another teenager, Astrid, who brings us some finger foods to snack on.

Security? Not so much. But very, VERY polite, and that counts for much!

We are joined by one Kristoff Dahl, Master of the House. We chat a bit on our reasons for being here. They are a smaller House (10 members), and do mostly research and resupply. We meet the Librarian, Gunnar Sorenson, and their resident mystic and recruiter, Otto. Otto is a great find; he is a bit of a Demonologist himself. Marcus and he get along FAMOUSLY, and go to work doing some research. Otto scribes Marcus a list of 27 known direct children of Lilith.

More names for our List of People/Things that get the “Munster Treatment” if we get a chance!

That brings us to a conversation we had there about Songrid. Sergei still worries that her primary ability (‘Special Hell Express’) may be a bit on the blasphemous side. I can see his rationalization; if it sends a soul to Hell, Special Hell, or obliteration, that means that it may indeed supercede God’s right to judge all souls.

A very good point! But, fortunately for me, a point that means little to me. I will do what I have to do to rid the world of these monsters; they undoubtably will do the same for me. And I will use my tools as needed to insure they never hurt anyone again. But, in deference to my friend, I have asked Songrid to never “Special Hell” anything with a soul.

I’m sure she will listen, too!

Oct. 27th: Back on a boat, heading for Oslo! I think Aldo is coming around to all this water travel; either that or he has mastered screaming on the inside. It could go either way on that one…

Oct. 28th: We hit Oslo that evening. It is starting to get a bit nippy out, but still warm enough to ask for hospitality from our Brothers! Well, except they keep their House hidden… we hit the same hotel we stayed at last time, and hit the bar area for a nightcap. Our waiter is either Cain or Abel, who palms us a CH card with an address.

We head to the listed locale on the outskirts of town. Knocking on the door, we are met by the same little old lady with the sewing circle as last time. Hrmmm… midnight sewing? Why not?! the building is different, but the door is the same. Sergei postulates it is probably a magic door. Once again, why not?

We are guided through the lair by Cain, hitting the same nice lounge as last time. Master Lieffson meets us, looking both exhausted and sleep deprived. They are having all kinds of internal issues, with a vote of ‘no confidence’ being brought against Lieffson. They vote their CM in? We offer our assistance to Leiffson, but he fears it would only make things worse, no matter how much everyone else in their House *_LOVES_*us!

This House needs a good good spanking.

Marcus asks for and is granted permission to research here on the morrow. We head out and stay at the hotel for the night.

Oct. 29: Marcus heads back to the House to research the book with the children of Lilith listed in it. From what he can find, it was written by a 12th century lady named Hildegaard. We will have to put her works on our ‘required reading’ list!

We reaffirm our dedication to helping Leiffson and his boys Cain and Abel at a moment’s notice. Any good friend of Poole’s is ours as well! He waves us off, but asks us to check up on them on the way back to London.

What does he really fear here, even if he loses the vote? I know he wants to handle this internally, but the line has to be drawn somewhere between security and responsibility!

He warns us that something strange has been happening in the North, and he is worried for the Copenhagen House.

We rejoin our boating adventure. Aldo is definitely loving it; so much so, he is nearly hyperventilating all the time and can barely sleep! What a go-getter!

Oct. 31: We land in Copenhagen on Halloween Day in the morning. Fortunately, the spirits here seem to be as reserved as the citizenry. Unfortunately, the address for their CH is a bit of a let-down; recently burned-down husks make for generally poor guest quarters.

YAY! Rage, my old friend! Someone either had a terrible cooking accident, or this House was attacked. Time to hunt…

…postponed! We are met by a member of the St. Petersburg House, one Pavel Volakav. I have to take Sergei’s word for it, because he does not speak any languages that I know. As it so happens, a friend of his at the House sent him a friendly, “Hey, Pavel… everything is fine here, but could you come by with your werewolf kit as fast as transportation can go?”

Werewolves. Never have killed one of those!

We search the ruins, and Sergei and Marcus find a couple of Nordic runes hastily prepared. Either a signal for us, or a trap. Either works just fine here! As we continue to look around, we find nothing of value burned. This looks like well-staged arson.

The plot thickens!

We all drop our traveling stuff off at a local hotel, and arm up for a hunt. Pavel offers to investigate some of his contacts while we look for a local expert in Nordic runes. He is obviously used to solo work, so we let him get to it. We head to the National Museum and ask for a runic expert. They usher us in to one Dr. Michelson, who sends us to another expert in town. The address he gives us? A police station.

But, the lady sitting in the park reading Dickens? She was watching us all subtle-like. So, she either liked the goods (I am am dashingly exotic and handsome!), or letting on she knew exactly who we were.

It was the latter, as we find when Michelson (first name Aristotle) strolls up. She is his sister, Hannah Michelson, and they are the kids of the Copenhagen House’s Weaponmaster, Lief Michelson. They say that a local cult has hired a pack of mercenary werewolves to run as muscle for their activities, which includes murdering vagrants.

Cultists AND werewolves! We are going to have some FUN in this town!

Of their 20-member House, all are tired and two injured and cursed by werewolves (and being sent to Kiev for treatment). Hannah and Aristotle are going to get us into their new House, but Aldo and I decide to head back to the hotel to grab Pavel (a family friend of the Michelsons).

No answer at the hotel door, so Aldo pops the lock. The room has been trashed, with slight drag marks in blood on the floor. From what I can tell, it looks like Pavel got the best of his attackers, grabbed his gear, and bailed out the window. As we told him we were heading to the museum, we head there to see if he thought to look for us. Proving himself more than competent, he had done just that. We rendezvous with Hannah at the police station, then all head back to the hotel and grab our gear.

Hannah takes us to a nice tailors shop, which is a front for their backup CH. Met by Hannah’s mom, Helena, and the House Librarian, Eleanor Thorson. They let us stow our gear and chat us up over lunch. Hannah is a lady after our own heart; bored of her town and wanting to see the world. Her mom and dad are not thrilled with this.

The Master of the House, Anton Thorson, strolls in. He is an old running buddy of Poole and Montague, and damn near calls us liars when we say that they are working together now. After the explanation, of how it came to be, he is quite relieved. He mentions that Songrid used to belong to their House a long time ago, but was spirited away by forces unknown (that probably rhyme with “Puhtayis Dyson”). He is glad to see the old girl, and knows a good bit about her history. She was designed by an ancient power specifically to hunt and kill the Children of Lilith and their spawn. Also, these creatures have no souls.

That makes me very happy in my assaulty-place.

We chat a bit more about the cult in town. It is unknown what they have planned, but they obviously wanted the CH out of the picture. Since then, the CH has tracked them to their lair, but lack the proper forces to fight the cultist and werewolves.

Did someone say “proper forces?!?”

The plan is this: the werewolves will HATE Pavel (a renowned werewolf killer), and will follow him for the kill. When they vacate the lair, they will be ambushed by the forces of the CH, who are pretty set for killing werewolves. We will assault the cultists, then all meet somewhere for dinner and cake.

Nov. 3rd: After waiting a few days to get ready, we head to the cultist hideout in the late evening. Sure enough, a messenger comes running in, then several wild ’n woolly types come running out. We attempt stealth; note I say “attempt.” When Sergei pops the lock, we are greeted by several animated skeletons (probably ex-vagrants, poor folks), who proceeds to hit Aldo so hard he was seeing boats.

We start our work, killing skeletons as fast as possible. There is one big one that I hold off while my brothers mow them down. Or, in Aldo’s case, bleeds on the rug. From a dark corner of the room, we get hit by some magical poison cloud, which hurts and makes me angry.

Cultist caster guarded by a wounded werewolf. Sergei lights him up (literally), and the werewolf gets a claw into me. Man, I hope that does not infect me… fur coats are WAY too hot most of the year! I hold him up while Marcus cleans up the skeletons and Sergei and Aldo show the arcanist what the meaning of ‘ranged superiority’ is. The caster is knocked unconcious for later questioning. Marcus gets in on the werewolf, and we bring him to heel. And kill him.

We heal up at the CH, then go check on the other ambush. They did MUCH better, killing all of the weres they knew about. We head back to the CH and have a polite chat with our cultist friend. They were not targeting children, but rather just regular vagrants, using them in a ritual to summon Nikadishu, one of the Children of Lilith. Since he was so forthcoming, we give him a clean death.

Crisis averted, for now. We tell these lovely people (I really, really like this House!) that we will help them when asked, and they say the same. Also, Thorson said he will seriously consider sending some of their members to London to cross train with the Houses there. Good public relations and new friends.

But another attempted demonic incursion. I wonder, does this kind of stuff really happen this often? Because it feels like things are still building, albeit a bit slower after the Houses of London punched the forces of evil with a Library…

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