Journey to New Europa
Chapter 12, Arcanely Attacked
Ashleigh, Kate, and Tom drop in on Holmes around noon, and find him at breakfast. We report on Murchison's movements and that we've got strong evidence that the Temple of Ra abducted Tom Olam. Holmes is gratified but not surprised, since they were always on the list of suspects. His chief suspects for the Chesterton murder are the White Lodge and the Crime League. He puts the White Lodge first, since the Crime League has not usually meddled with magic.
Tom asks for and receives descriptions of Murchison's most frequently-used agents, Jenkins, Withers, and Murdoch by name, but Holmes warns us that Murchison often works alone. He also remarks that Jenkins resembles the man who killed Smyth (the late partner of Mr. Brown, the merchant), glimpsed in a retrocognitive vision by us.
Around 2 PM, we receive a calling card from one Harold Dunstan, whom we've never heard of. Ashleigh suspects this is the Golden Dawn, finally getting back to us. Dunstan, when he appears, is a well-dressed man of 30-something, with an elaborate mustache. He introduces himself as aide to Lord Anthony Alexander deClare, and then very carefully hands Ashleigh an envelope. It's actually addressed to "Lord Nicholas and Colleges" and contains a letter from deClare. In it, he accepts our invitation to meet and talk, and describes Dunstan, just in case. Still no overt mention of the Golden Dawn, but they're not secret societies for nothing. We can make the arrangements with Dunstan, the letter says.
We introduce ourselves all around to Dunstan and arrange to meet with deClare at 8:00 tonight, for supper, in "private rooms." Nick takes the opportunity to spy into Dunstan's notebook with clairvoyance and finds that he takes his notes in something that looks like it has cuneiform in its ancestry.
After Dunstan leaves, we traipse back to Holmes, who tells us that deClare is a powerful and prominent noble, not publically a member of the Golden Dawn, but then that's usual with their members. Holmes is sure he is a Golden Dawn member and a sorcerer. DeClare is really more in his brother Mycroft's line, though.
We decide to try to make Mycroft Holmes' acquaintance. The surest way to attract a Holmes is with something intriguing, so Ashleigh sends him a note, reading:
Have traveled a long way and desirous of making your acquaintance. Glad to find you are in the Diogenes Club.To this, Sherlock appends:
M.:That ought to get him. But not immediately. Meanwhile, we have to pack to move out of the hotel and into our new house, and meet deClare for dinner.
Around tea-time, Mitchel, the little boy from our new neighborhood, shows up again. He and his buddies have been tracking Murchison, but he is chagrined to tell us that they lost him. He's very apologetic. Two strange men showed up in town, one with a long, thin package, suitable for containing a rifle for instance. The two of them made a systematic search of the town and the one with the package was the first to find Murchison. The two murmured briefly together, then there was a loud sound, Mitchel's agent in the field looked around for it, and when he looked back, Murchison was gone. Nor did he find a source for the sound, which was a sort of thump or crash. The two strangers are, however, still under surveillance. There is a runaway boy hiding in a loft in the village, who only comes out at night, and he could do the night tracking.
We approve of this plan, tip lavishly, and warn several times that these men are spies, or wizards, or something of the sort, and the boys are to guard their own safety closely.
We then finish dressing for dinner and head off to Le Coq d'Or restaurant, where deClare awaits us in "private rooms."
Actually, we are met there by Dunstan, who escorts us upstairs past two beefy blokes, into the private dining room. There's a bar, and later a waiter. Eventually, there's deClare, who dresses with a severe slickness, in lots of black, with smooth black hair, and mustache and goatee. Dunstan introduces us with a noticeable reliance on a very good memory, in proper order of precedence.
We are invited to sit. We do, and a long silence follows, in which each waits for the other to move first and Kate cleans her fork with her napkin. Nick starts. "We've been investigating the Blackthorne murder, as agents for the druids, who, as you know, don't interfere themselves, so they've sent us instead." He goes on to describe how we were conjured out of Faerie by Alexander MacLeish & Co., and set to solving "the current problem," which includes figuring out what that problem is.
We conclude, from our investigations, that the problem involves a number of odd deaths, including Blackthorne's, and the abduction of Tom Olam. We suspect that the wizardly orders are being set at each other by someone else, for a motive that is still obscure. In short, we spill our beans, since, so far as we know, they are not secret beans.
DeClare is openly skeptical of our story and asks us what we make of the Illuminati in all this. They seem uninvolved, to us. DeClare would not have thought so. We ask why.
He tells us that the Golden Dawn always knew Blackthorne's death was murder. The timing was very advantageous to the Illuminati. The magics used were very subtle and the Golden Dawn has been unable to track them further, but they suspect the coercive magic of the Illuminati. Blackthorne was cut off in the midst of certain crucial researches. The Golden Dawn see both motive and means for the Illuminati and deClare intends to answer their "escalation" of the conflict between them.
Nick goes on to describe our own researches in the matter of the murder, how the magic we've uncovered has been for concealment, not coercion. These incidents commonly involve mysterious and hard to place people.
"You would have me believe that the theatrics surrounding Mr. Olam's disappearance are genuine?" Yes. But just then the appetizers arrive, which deClare seems to know a few seconds before the door actually opens.
Eight young waitresses come in and serve with military precision -- which is odd, considering the hour and the place; you'd expect older waiters. Lorelei probes for drugs and poisons, but finds none, so we eat.
Nick goes on to tell deClare that we have evidence that Auberon and Morrolan really, genuinely investigated Olam's disappearance. We have, moreover, found the robe of one of the abductors, who seem to be members of the Temple of Ra.
DeClare still thinks the Illuminati staged it all and are also responsible for the bombing at the Temple of Ra lab.
Nick goes on to tell him about the word "Mesopotamia" in the agony columns and how it seems to be a signal for mysterious deaths.
Just then, Nick gets telepathy from Dafnord, who had stayed at the hotel, that a Bavarian has just arrived form their embassy, with word that Morrolan has just been attacked, though unsuccessfully.
"How do you know?" deClare demands. "Did you arrange it?"
"No, the Bavarians sent word to our hotel." Nick leaves it there, to deClare's obvious puzzlement. "So," Nick goes on, "why did you try to summon me?"
"It is not often that an unknown casts magic in our direction. And it is also seldom that high-ranking members are murdered. A connection seemed likely."
Nick then apologizes for the magic-casts, explaining that he has no way of knowing which kinds of magic are even detectable here.
By now, we've worked our way through a lavish meal to dessert, still delivered by these young girls of military precision, up well past their bed-times. As the dessert comes in, we glimpse a vaguely familiar young man in his 20s, talking to the guards. Nick sends clairvoyance through the shut door and finds a cigarette case in the man's pocket bearing the name "Simon Blackthorne," so he is presumably a relative of the victim. He looks very excited.
Dunstan comes in, opens the doors to the balcony, and has a brief, whispered conversation there with deClare. He leaves and Tom follows him with clairvoyance. Dunstan talks to Simon Blackthorne, ordering him to leave NOW. Simon balks, muttering about his brother's foul murder. Two more athletic fellows come up the stairs and assure him that it's time to go. He goes.
Back at the table, we offer our help to deClare, who smiles sardonically, and take our leave. On our way down the stairs, Lorelei remarks there are too many paranoids involved here for impartiality to work; that'll just have everyone against us. Does Simon think we murdered his brother? she wonders.
The maitre d' summons carriages for us at the front door. On the ride back to the hotel, first Katrina and then Tom (the mere mortals in the party) begin to have trouble breathing. Katrina goes into coughing fits and Tom simply can't inhale. Lorelei probes and gets the kind of "oo, ick" impression she usually seems to get when she probes, only even stronger than usual. How could Katrina be so sick? Or Tom? No, it isn't really them, and it isn't sickness -- it's death.
Lorelei stops the horses telepathically, and we all pile out, the humans wheezing and such. We try psilencers, but they have no effect. Lorelei raises wards. This helps, but the really interesting thing is that she raised them while her psilencer was on. Apparently psilencers don't work the same here.
Nick looks around for these magical threads and knots that form the basis for magic here, and sees them cut off sharp at the boundary of the psilence. Could there be knots inside the psilence, still working? He begins using his Cloak skill to untie the knots around Tom and Katrina. Tom sees what's going on and adds Pattern to automate the process.
Then Lorelei hears running feet approaching and announces "Ambush!"
Mithriel, in the grand family manner, throws her cloak aside and vanishes with patharchic Distraction.
Turning back to the immediate victims, Lorelei begins transfusing energy into Katrina and trying some magical healing. Ick again; it feels like the time she tried to heal a vampire, but it does seem to help.
Nick glamours up a Gordian-knot-slicing blade and whacks at Tom's bonds. Tom can breath! and does so, repeatedly. He also steps quickly aside as new strings of magical energy try to knot around him.
Those rushing footsteps suddenly change -- one set having fallen out. Someone appears around a corner and throws something. But Mithriel is there and smashes him in the nose with the back of her hand.
The thrown object looks like a scarf. Lorelei probes at it and gets the biggest Ick of the evening. Dead, dead, dead! Kate tosses a knife at it, deflecting it.
Two guys pile into Broken-Nose from behind. Nick and Lorelei draw their blasters, and Lorelei fries the thrown scarf. Mithriel thumps one of the two new arrivals on the back of the head, then recoils and exclaims "Oh! I'm sorry!"
The fight appears to be over now, and we take stock. The man whose nose Mithriel broke was Simon Blackthorne. The man whose head she thumped was one of the guards, who was (we now see) in the act of tackling him. He is now unconscious.
The magic threads are creeping up on us again.
Meanwhile, Lorelei picks up Blackthorne, holds him aloft by the scruff of his neck (to the respectful attention of the remaining guard) and shakes him. "Simon Blackthorne," she thunders, "we had nothing to do with your brother's death! We weren't even on this cruddy planet at the time! Go away and never bother us again!"
Tom, meanwhile, is tired of dancing out of the way of evil spell-threads. He figures that if Nick's glamoured blade can cut them, maybe his glamour can affect them, too. Of course, he can't manage any glamour here, yet, except uncontrolled blasts of sparks, but that might serve. He blasts at the threads for a bit, but Mithriel remarks that it would be easier to see the dust if he didn't do that.
Dust? Yes, dust. She's noticed that the magic comes from some dust scattered about on our clothes. Everyone's. We switch from glamour to dicing and soon have all the dust gathered up into a noxious little pile.
Tom goes over to the guard Mithriel thumped. He may have a cracked vertebra. He and Mithriel hold Blackthorne while Lorelei heals the guard. Nick conjures up an envelope and puts the dust in it.
A carriage comes along quickly and deClare leaps out. Tom has several sharp words for deClare, who says he can't explain, but rather wants an explanation himself, from Simon. He grabs Simon and says, "I told you to go away." He then hands him back to Mithriel and looks at Nick's envelope, and at the remains of the scarf.
Nick does a retrocog on the dust, while deClare looks. He traces it back into a neat little ceramic container and, before that, into a white-hot heat. Crematory dust?
DeClare looks up from the scarf ashes and says, "Simon, you will pay for that, because it was our property. It's bad enough that you interfered with Martin" (his late brother).
DeClare is also ticked with the guards, who failed in their assignment of keeping Simon away. He sets the undamaged one to guard the ashes of the scarf, smacks the other one awake, and sends him off to fetch an arcane clean-up squad. Then he apologizes suavely to us and withdraws, taking Simon Blackthorne with him.
We look around for our carriages. One has lost its driver and the other has a driver in mild shock. Tom climbs up on the driverless carriage and telepathically orders the horses along. We make our way back to the hotel, and there find two Bavarian lieutenants with Dafnord, Z, and Cailin, with word of the attack on Morrolan, which by now is rather old news to us. They also tell us they were sent to protect us. We giggle feebly and pour some medicinal brandy all round.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.