ChapterHouse

From the Journal of James Watie: Riddle Me This, Bia...

Aug. 13th, Monday: After waking up to an excellent breakfast (I am not a fan of British food, but I am a fan of a warm, home-cooked meal), we discussed perhaps renting Mr. Warburton’s old flat for our investigation firm. It is located in a decent neighborhood, already defense-ready, and possibly now the property of Patricia W. as well. She would probably be a pretty good land-lady; at least we would not have to worry about home repairs too much!

We spent the rest of breakfast discussing ways in which we could solve the Edward la Salle issue. Willy seems to be dead-set against any solution that ends in la Salle dying a regrettable ‘accidental; death, like falling asleep in his bed while juggling knives. British people have a strange idea on how to ’solve’ these kinds of issues…

As we entered the museum, we were drawn to the new ancient world exhibit. Specifically Willy was interested in the new showcase piece, the previously noticed copy of The Book of the Dead. Magical, possibly dangerous, and on public display. Well, at least the museum has good security… SIGH

Prof. Birch (whose is a quaint, pleasant fellow) let us in to the back room to see some of the other items. Of specific interest were the large statuary of a Sphinx and a gold-covered bone bow. I’m sure we will be reading something later that will involve that Sphinx eating someone, hopefully la Salle.

(NOTE: Practice a bit more on my bow skills. It has been YEARS since I last fired one, and I find myself missing it.)

Willy’s boss, Rawlingson, is anxious as hell as he heads out to meet the buyers. Sergei hides in a box that he shrouds out a bit (just in case). Birch’s pretty assistant Sophie comes in for a brief chat with Willy. (NOTE: we are not going to live forever, Willy. She is a bookworm, you are a bookworm… you should not need a reference book for this concept) After a brief discussion on American Indian relocation practices, she scampers off. La Salle, his gal (whom we saw on the boat on the voyage over to England) and an armed bodyguard enter. La Salle was his general, smarmy self. He put on black gloves to check the stones, then left.

The next buyer appears, one Barbarin Haeffner of Ireland. Haeffner is obviously interested and probably hopes to be able to get these non-authenticated stones for a bargain. He comes with two associates, who all ogle the stones then leave. He is followed by a Frenchman named Travere, some sort of social gadfly of minor import. He looks at the items as possible art acquisition, and leaves after checking out the stones.

The highlight of my day? CHARLES DICKENS walks into the room with a German compatriot. Dickens is known to be fascinated with the occult, and chats a bit about the stones before leaving. Aldo recognizes his friend as Charles Wilheim Franz, the Archduke of Austria in charge of the military. His appearance is risky for him, and notable to be sure.

In the end, a bid war begins between la Salle and a British ex-Parlimentarian, Thomas, Earl of Zetland. This man is assumed to be the head of the Freemasons in England, and is fantastically wealthy. Dundas wins the bid war, and therefore is now a target for theft by la Salle. Which means we are probably going to have to protect one possibly-cultish British noble from a DEFINITELY cultish British noble. GREAT.

We head to Willy’s gentleman’s club to meet la Salle. He is oozed into a chait at the bar, so we stroll over for a quick pre-duel chat. Willy, being INSANE, accepts a drink from la Salle (SIGH), and they banter a bit. After getting suited up (they have ‘dueling clothes’), they begin their duel (with blunt fencing blades). La Salle opens up with a very well-disguised spell of confusion on Willy (who shrugs it off). Since cheating did not work, he just shows off some skill. Willy responds in kind, and the match goes 2-2 before Willy ALMOST jams his foil up la Salle’s nose (which would have worked GREAT for my idea on how this should work, by the way) to win the bout. He is rewarded with a very nice bottle of alcohol.

So, all of that builds up to: la Salle cheats when he can (no surprise), is a caster of no small talent (already knew this one), and is about equally skilled as a duelist as Willy. So, in all, we end one bottle of booze better off.

So, it was a good day.

Aug. 14th: The morning paper states that a child was dismembered last night near Hyde Park. Sergei and Willy, owing a certain being three favors within this theater, resolve to look into it (Aldo and I do as well, but mostly because anything that would do that needs to meet the lead-ish part of Mr. Winchester). We head to Willy’s attorney’s office (good ole Barnaby…) to ask about the current owner of Warburton’s flat. The owner shows up (she uses Barnaby as well), and it is indeed Patricia! She has left the Oslo CH due to differences in operational strategy (or was it because they are a bit too tightly wound?), and is moving back to London. She plans to use the upper area of the flat as her lodgings, and loves the idea of our office occupying the lower section.

When we catch her up on the situation, she actually knows for whom the previously found Prometheian symbol is a calling card. His name is Mattias Tyson, and is some kind of higher-up in the overall CH structure. He specializes in monster hunting, and thus makes sense that he was an acquaintance of Warburton. This is also confirmed by Prof. Poole, who also takes this time to re-swear Patti over to our House. She is no warrior, but she is amazingly welcome. Maybe the proximity will allow Aldo to actually TALK to the lady… After I send a letter to our friend at Scotland Yard about the child murder, we head to the First House of London (thank goodness they are down-to-Earth, eh?) to ask about Mr. Tyson.

Upon arrival, we are met by a simply delightful Asian gentleman called Ling. When we inquired about a desire to find Mr. Tyson, he handed us over to a burly German man named Koeingsman for a debrief. Once again, a wonderful chap, and helpful to boot. He is the First House’s weapon’s master, as shown by a mechanical contraption that pops a derringer directly into his hand at will! (Aldo is in love with his forearm). After he explains Tyson overall role in things, he agrees to try to get a message to him.

With new-found time to spare, we head to Hyde Park. The kids are the only help, stating that the victim was killed by ‘the bogeyman.’ By the descriptions of the ones who saw what happened, we conclude that they are probably correct. The children are STUNNED that there are adults who believe them. Willy tries a detect on the area, and manages to pull a miraculous trail leading to a unnaturally blighted tree in the park, labeled as a “Tibbern Tree’” an old public gallows.

We are on the trail of a being that feasts on the fear of children. FINALLY, something I get to fight! We return that evening cloaked in fog. As we enter the park, we are drawn to the screams of a child. Meeting her as she runs for her life, we are greeted by an unnatural voice taunting us. Sergei was not having that silliness, so he lit the area up magically, and IMMEDIATELY regretted his decision.

This creature was over seven feet tall, seemingly comprised of rotting vegetation and pointy, spindly arms. Aldo goes white with fear, and Sergei FREAKS OUT (probably some terrible Russian story about how this creature makes that place even MORE unbearable). I stay calm, as does Willy (because for the rich, the bogeyman comes as a person that takes all of your money. If this thing had been dressed as a banker, Willy would have fainted). We open up on the creature, who denied his primary defense of stealth, goes down in rapid fashion. A nasty, bloated grub scampers away, laughing at Aldo’s attempt to shoot it. It stops laughing when I loan my tomahawk to the little girl (Jenny), and tell her to go kill her fear. She does so with no small amount of relish.

Aug. 15th: We wake up to a startling sight; in the night, Aldo’s hair has faded away to a stark white. I have seen similar in war, but never so complete a change. Sergei did not sleep well either; I feel for my friends. They have suffered, and will suffer more. A hero deserves the respite of just sleep, even though they rarely get even so basic a gift.

We are told by Poole that there is a small chance that Tyson spoke to our CH’s mysterious financial benefactor. Evidently our benefactor knows our true mission, and also knows Tyson. We also decide that, as Dundas won the bid for the stones, we would volunteer for security when they are delivered. In doing so, Sophie (Birch’s assistant), is revealed to be our benefactor. She shows for dinner at the CH to confirm this; her father was a renowned Italian Egyptologist named Rossini, and her godmother is a high-up member of the secret CH of Rome. Tyson left the summoning stone he took with her with instructions to destroy it if she could, and hide it in the museum if she could not.

And here is where my day reverted to insanity. As it so happens, the Sphinx statue in the museum is supposedly a magically petrified ACTUAL MYTHICAL SPHINX. She believes that this creature would be powerful enough to destroy our artifact, but we would need to be careful, because the ritual to awaken it could destroy a good portion of the city (YAY READING!), and the creature itself would be free to do the same if it so wished. Willy IMMEDIATELY agrees, and why not? He is being given a VERY BAD IDEA having to do with a dangerous book by a gorgeous female Italian/Egyptian version of himself.

(NOTE: Find a weapon that can kill BAD IDEAS.)

We decide to check with Poole on perhaps adopting Jenny, as she will probably need guidance in the future no that she has been so closely exposed to the unnatural. Jenny accepts, and we semi-adopt her old gang as well. Keeping them in food, clothes, and the like gives them a fighting chance in a tough life. We leave contact info for Scab and Mark, their gang’s de facto leaders, and cut a deal with a neighborhood grocery to keep them fed. (NOTE: Check up on this. The grocer seemed honest enough, but I will not see these kids suffer more than needed to toughen them up to their lives). We leave Jenny with Poole and the house staff (who are delighted), and head to the museum.

As Willy, Sophia, and Sergei prepare the ritual, I look over the golden bow in the artifact area. It has very little degradation, and upon further inspection seems to be a focus for the magical bolts that some magi can hurl around. Worth noting, just in case.

Ritual begins and goes off pretty well. The Sphinx awakens, leaving the statue unharmed behind (which is good for the museum). After I almost had to shoot her (she grabbed Sophie by the neck), she casts some linguistic spell to understand us. Her name is Bia, which means ‘Destruction’ in ancient Egyptian, because OF COURSE IT DOES. She IDs the stone as belonging to the archangel Metatron (the Voice of God, and one of the worst possible angels we can think of to have their power stolen. Bia understands the situation, and eats the stone. No sauces, nothing to drink. After that, for dessert she morphs into one of the most stunning examples of the human form I have ever seen. I loan her my coat to cover up with just as we hear voices in the hall.

(NOTE: Sergei seems to have developed an issue with unidentified voices. Understandable.)

We round up the thieves with a minimum of fuss (Big Winny gets the point across). Sergei heads out to alert our friend in Scotland Yard, who come to collect the rabble. We leave with the Bow (a loan for now). On the way home, we are informed that Bia is one of the gatekeepers of the fabled Library of Alexandria; not the physical one that burned, but the mystical one that housed all the wisdom of the ancient world. That is the target of yet another power cabal, and Sophie has been tasked with helping to awaken the Sphinxes to enable the security needed to defend this information.

So, in the end, we gained a mechanic (Patricia), a new junior member (Jenny), a magical bow, renewed funding from Sophia (she was afraid the CH was too far gone to save), a street-gang-in-training (and recruiting vector), a location for our new business, and an Egyptian Titty Monster as a friend. Pretty good for three days work!

(NOTE: Oh, and Bia thinks that Aldo has been marked by Death. So, there is THAT to look forward to.)

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