Week 9, Tracking the Magician
We left our heroes investigating the boarding-house residence of Raffles, the Gentleman Burglar, where, so far as we can tell, a local magician has arrived, conjured two very nasty demons who killed a witness to the conjuration, then searched Raffles' room with demonic aid. He found the Eye of Dalgroom, then apparently lost control of the demons and fled, hotly pursued by them.
We start tracking the magician and his infernal pursuers, led by Pfusand and Daewen. At first the trail is easy, being marked by gouges in the plaster, claw marks on the floor, etc. It leads out to the street and somewhat back the way we came, toward Regents' Park. The magician and the fiends keep off the main thoroughfares and, between this and cover of darkness (it's night by now, and was when they left), do not attract undue attention. Though some householders will be pained and puzzled to find cloven hoof-prints in their flower beds.
The trail fades out on the cobblestones outside an alleyway. Daewen spots the magician's footprint, marked out in blood, though faintly. She traces this for a few more blocks, then loses it. We blunder about for a bit, then Alag tries his Retrocognition again. He sees the magician hurrying up the dim-lit street, hands deep in his pockets, glancing nervously over his shoulder in the approved manner of those pursued by Nameless Horrors. He flags down a cab and huddles deep within it. No demons show up.
The cab headed off north of Regents' Park. We follow, taking note of the cab's number. We hope to find another cab in the area and ask how to trace the one we seek. Chris spots a cab. Tom covers his invisibility with a likeness of the magician and runs for the cab, intending to claim he left something valuable on the desired cab.
Woops! This IS the desired cab. If he asks for a leftover valuable, we will quickly find it isn't aboard. Nor can Tom ask "Which way did I go?" In mid- stride, Tom modifies his image, averaging his own features with those of the magician and supplying himself with a beard.
The cab stops on being hailed and Tom asks if the cabby has seen his "brother," "dressed like me, same height, similar face." The cabby says he dropped him off at St. John's Chapel. Tom thanks him and dashes off into the dark. As his flusterment fades, he realizes that he doesn't know where St. John's is; he may be running straight away from it. He stops dead and looks back at the cabby, who is looking curiously back at him. "Uh, could you take me there?" "Right, guv'nor."
The cab takes Tom up Primrose Road, around the north end of the park, the around and back south. The rest of the party follows on foot or aloft, invisibly. They get left behind. Tom pays off the cabby and, when alone, reverts to invisibility again.
The "chapel" is in fact a church of considerable size. While Tom waits for his friends to catch up, he cases the outside -- circumspectly, remembering that he is chasing demons as well as a magician. The front door is locked. All the ground-level windows are stained glass or frosted. Even a walk-up doorway is glazed in frosted. He climbs over to some clear windows on the second floor. From here, he can see the front door from inside: it isn't locked, it is securely barred with a crucifix, one of those on a long pole that they carry in procession at church services. That certainly looks like the act of someone fleeing demons. Tom returns to the front door and feels around for psychic energies. Nothing on the door itself, but a faint feeling from far, far back in the church.
Alag arrives, flying. He left the others trekking through the park, which includes a zoo full of nervous animals, suggesting that something nasty has preceded us through the grounds. While Tom examines the grounds with clairvoyance, Alag tries Retrocognition again. He finds it very difficult to get a fix on the right time. He has a glimpse, which may be imagination, of the magician stumbling anxiously up the steps.
Tom's clairvoyance moves through the church door and the nave, seeking the caster of that faint trace of psi -- presumably the magician. He rummages around in the back rooms of the church, including a couple of closets, a kitchen, and an office/vestry. There's no one in there.
Alag and Tom go around to the walk-up door in back, where Alag picks the lock, admitting Tom and himself to the kitchen. The door won't close properly behind them, and they discover it has been bowed in by some enormous force. Soon, the others show up. Alag and Tom have discovered nothing of interest in the meanwhile. Daewen notes that the door handle is scored on the inside, as with claws, and finds more claw marks here and there on the outside.
What we do NOT find is Cantrel. He doesn't put much chatter out on the telepathy net, and between that, and being invisible, inaudible, aloft, and sneaky, it's hard to say just when he parted company with us. Nor can we raise him telepathically. This could mean anything from his death to a decision to turn on his psilencer for some interesting reason. We could try calling him on his hand-comm, but if he HAS reverted to psilence, he's probably being sneaky about something and would not appreciate a phone call.
We decide to continue investigating. Tom finds that the crucifix was jammed into the front door hard enough to bend it. (It was a reasonably stout brass pole.) Alag finds the trace of psi in the closet and does Retrocognition on it again. Once again, it's hard to get a fix, and instead of the objective pictures usual with Retrocognition, he gets emotion -- mostly fear, with tinges of terror. Our magician barred himself in a church and hid in a closet.
Pfusand finds a faint blood-stain on the floor near the closet. Lorelei scrys the area Alag retroed and gets a faint, remote reading of fear. She does NOT pick up any signature as of demons. It begins to looks as if the magician cowered in the closet and chanted a dismissal while the demons rattled the kitchen door. From the lack of demon-trace and dismembered corpses in the kitchen, it seems he succeeded.
Daewen, meanwhile, has been doing odd things with the kitchen equipment. She has ransacked the drawers and is now hanging a number of silver forks to the ceiling with twine and tacks. When asked for an explanation, she says, "I'm taking very crude measurements of distortion." She weighs some things on the kitchen balance here and there around the room, squints at the hanging forks, then pronounces, "There's been a distortion here. Down isn't quite true."
Sure enough, if you look at a pair of forks and try to line up the lines of twine, you can't; they don't hang in quite the same direction. That COULD be a gravitational distortion, but things don't change weight as they move about the kitchen, so all that's left is a twist in the continuum, now quite smoothed out yet.
Chris sends his clairvoyance back to the dimensional sensors at home and hidden at the botanical garden. There are faint signals, hardly distinguishable from noise, on their records.
So it looks like this magician managed to banish his devils. But where is he now? Realizing that this might alert the magician to our presence, Tom tries to Find him, using the spot of blood on the floor as a token. Ha! A nice clear signal coming from only a couple of blocks away, not far from London University College, in fact, where other dimensional disturbances seem to be happening.
We remove the traces of our visit to St. John's and follow the trace through the benighted streets. The target building bears a brass plaque labeling it as a medical lab. Chris sends in his clairvoyance and, guided by Tom's dowsing, finds ... a morgue. ??? We thought he survived his demonic encounter. But the dowsing leads to a body bag containing a very shredded body. Cross-checking the label on the bag with the files in a nearby cabinet, Chris learns this corpse was picked up at Raffles' house.
Wait-a-minute. This is the demons' first (and perhaps only) victim. That wasn't the magician's own blood; he just stepped in some of the blood of the unfortunate who stumbled on his conjuration.
After relieving his feelings with some highly un-Victorian language, Tom tries a finding straight on the Eye of Dalgroom, which he has not dared do before. It's southwest of here, still in London. Good. There was a non-zero chance it was in the unfashionable part of Hell.
Since the evening is already ruined, we decide to get a token of the magician himself to Find on. This means returning to Raffles' ravaged residence, in hopes of finding a bit of the pentagram or something. We trudge through the darkened streets to find a commotion going on there. A police wagon is leaving with Raffles' nondescript friend, the one Raffles took for the victim, locked up inside. (This is discovered by a little clairvoyance. A little more finds some papers on a cop, identifying the suspect as Robert ("Bunny") Manders, detained to assist the police in the murder of an unknown man.
We spy invisibly on the cops hanging around the scene and here gossip between an inspector and a sergeant. They are wondering if Bunny is a mad killer. He's slightly bruised and he did flee the scene without reporting it, which is suspicious. (Yeah, but a mad killer Bunny? Should we call Sherrinford Holmes, or Eddie Valiant who was able to unframe another rabbit?)
Lorelei flits into the murder room, only to find the Scotland Yard police cursing the Metropolitans for the careless way they destroy evidence. There isn't much in the way of tokens, thanks in part to an unseemly tidiness on the part of the Metropolitans. We give up and decide to go home for a bit of sleep.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.