The season has shifted from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold. Outside 78 Perry, passersby bundle themselves into thick coats, bracing against the chilly air. The time is 8:20 PM and at this point, it's already been dark for several hours. From his rooftop paradise, with heightened vision, one might be able to see Polaris, perhaps the belt of Orion. The stars stay fixed in an sea of inky mystery, lending an aura of quiet, but peace? Peace is something yet to come.

Your phone buzzes, a certain sort of utterance you've keyed to indicate chatter from Straud's coterie. Like all warnings, it sounds no different than any other bing, but the silence that hangs in the air after its cessation feels ominous.

The creatures of the night generally say little to Davian Hughes, preferring instead to keep their little dramas to themselves. The channel might have held an invitation to the Blue Velvet, or juicy gossip. If not that, a request for a favor. But you feel a pit of concern linger in your heart after looking into the sky's abyss, knowing that in the deep beyond, an evil lurks, waiting for just the right moment to strike.

Perhaps you wonder, as you reach for the phone, if tonight is the night you'll get the news you've been fearing.

The phone recognizes your identity and populates. A small photograph of Cedric is the first to appear, along with text that fills in word by word as it is typed.

"Something's up. Vlad has fallen silent. I fear torpor. Did he say anything to you?"


"I'll be there in a jiffy".

I fold the space between his house and my house, stepping through the juncture and appearing on the porch in Jamaica Estates.

I tap on the back door with my cane


A familiar face answers the door in an instant: it's Mandarc, looking, if it's possible, even more pallid than usual. His eyes shift about anxiously, scanning the environment behind you.

You enter the home and it's comfortably warm. A loud pop is heard from the fireplace.

"Thanks for getting here so quickly." He shuts the door behind you before continuing to speak.

"I was just going to pick him up to drive him to Astoria when... When the house was silent."

As you step into the house, you observe two figures standing at the fireplace, staring into it, and seeming at a loss for words.

One is Cedric, the other is Miriam, a dark-skinned vampire with a chin-length head of raven curls. You know she is one of the few vampires capable of healing magicks and seems to have long ago earned Straud's trust.

"He's here, I can sense him, as I'm sure you can, but he's not responding to anything I send to him." She says, with a worried expression weighing down her delicate face.

"He's gone into periods of inactivity before," she continues, "but it seems unusual that he'd not have said a word of warning to any of you." Miriam may have been an old friend of Straud's, but she was still a recent acquisition of the coterie and spoke with a certain air of cautiousness that spoke more of politeness than distrust.

"Miriam. I don't know that we've met. But you must be Magister Davian. Your reputation precedes you. I only wish we'd met under better circumstances."


"Indeed. As does yours, Madam Duatba. So, Vlad is comatose, even when attempting direct contact?"(I look over at Cedric)

At Cedric's nod, I turn to the assembled party. "I am going to replay the events in the house from the last 24 hours as an interactive holographic projection. Let's see if He left us any clues."


Cedric shifts his weight across his feet, moving forward toward you somewhat. "It's like talking to a picture of him. I know he's there, I know he's not in pain, but he won't respond." The unspoken fact is that only those of considerable power are able to refuse the telepathic connection. It's a refusal that is rarely faced in their circle.

Davian focuses, leaving the party silent to grant him mental space. His eyes open and suddenly a figure of light comes into focus. It's Straud, standing near the fireplace, moving logs with a cast iron poker. He moves only in tiny motions as the holographs speed up, indicating the passage of time. The day seems entirely ordinary; he spends some time keying in text to his pocket device, other moments are lost in pacing. He seems to be waiting on someone, or something.

He leaves the room for a time and lets in the dog via the back door. They greet warmly and leave the house to go out on the front walkway. There they play fetch, but something about Straud's movements are stiff, unyielding.

Once their game is concluded, Dexx motions to follow Straud inside the house. But he gives what ends up being the only vocalization from him in the 24h period: "Shoo!"

The dog runs off into the distance and isn't seen again in the projection.

Straud spends some time then staring over his many bookshelves, seeming to read the titles but never removes a book from the storage.

He spends some more time on his phone and then retreats into the basement, where the projection ends.


Davian has a pensive expression as the projection dissolves.

"Vlad was clearly distracted, almost anxious. I know he has a lot on his mind, but it is unusual for him to display it so openly..." A thought strikes Davian. "Where is that Fera, Ben? and where is Dex?"


Mandarc steps up, feeling responsible for the dog that was once his. "Dexx isn't here... He usually comes to greet me when I visit the mansion..."


"You have had other things on your mind." I say reassuringly.

Turning my attention back to the group, "Where is Vlad's phone?"


Cedric answers. "Probably in the crypt, at his computer there. It's a good thought..."


"All my thoughts are good. Mandarc, would you mind using your impressive speed to bring me the device?"

"Cedric, have you had any chance to probe the mind of our resident were-cat? He seemed to hold Vlad in high regard, and I can't help but notice that his disappearance coincides with this...incident."


"Not... a problem, bossman. Can do, can do." Mandarc whizzes away, leaving in his wake disturbed air that fluffs Miriam's hair.

"Certainly. Probably the best chance we have of tracking down the mutt as well." Cedric unfurls his arms and places one fingertip to his temple, as if attempting to soothe a headache.

"Ben, are you out there? We need your help. Straud has fallen into torpor. We're at the Mansion. Please return."

In a moment, Mandarc returns with a small cellphone in hand. It's a small flip device with manual buttons, like the devices Straud was accustomed to presenting to his unliving accomplices. Mandarc hands it over to Davian. "Can't say I know his password or anything like that..."


"Thank you Mandarc; and you as well Cedric. Now let me see..."

Davian focuses his attention to the cellphone and begins to weave a pattern of effect from Correspondence, Matter, and Forces: Correspondence to access the data without opening or destroying the device, Matter and Forces to determine the location and encoding of the data within the physical memory of the phone.


The phone seems to welcome you, opening to a screen of icons indicating the applications installed on the phone. A dot below the title seems to state which programs are currently suspended, including a pdf viewer, a document composer, a messaging app...


With an small grunt of triumph, Davian begins to access the data, checking each open app in turn.


It appears the pdf viewer and document composer were working in tandem -- he was viewing a number of plays that he'd attributed to other sources, though you'd always suspected he was indeed the primary author... the document composer has a few paragraphs, but nothing you'd ordinarily attribute to his genius. The messaging app has open a chat he was having with Cedric concerning the Prince, Caleb, who you recall meeting at one of your parties in the spring.


As I review the material, a small frown begins to grow on my face. Dead end.

"Cedric, looks like you were having a discussion with Vlad regarding Caleb...he came to my soiree earlier in the year, correct?"

While I wait for his answer I make a quick google search of the paragraphs Straud had entered in the document composer.


Cedric wears a serious expression on his face at the change in the conversation. "We were talking about Caleb...We're worried about him because he's fallen in with Trente Gagarin and seems to be withdrawing from our company. No matter what we do, he seems to be regarding us as the bad influences, rather than the other way around. Even to result in the exclusion of his sister. It's been something that's been troubling to all of us."

"Trente, you'll recall, is a dear friend of Trelaine."

Mandarc seems to shudder at the mention of the name.

Your search on Straud's writing reveals possibly plagiarized phrases -- although you concede that he could be copying his own work. Is it really plagiarizing if you're using your own words?


I make a copy of the relevant texts into my notebook for further investigation.

"He seemed a decent sort, if a bit feckless and easily influenced. Do you suppose Trente is influencing him through the use of Blood sorry, 'Disciplines'?"


"She's certainly capable of it, I would think, and being from Firsthome it's hard to say what she is capable of."

There's a pause in the room, half of the attention going toward Miriam, wondering if the old associate of Straud's has anything to add to the conversation. But she seems to shrug, if telepathically, as if she's unable to comment on the elephant in the room. But Mandarc pipes up, breaking the silence.

"Can I just make a comment here? I respect the Master as much as the next guy, maybe even more so after he saved me from Lenard...But can we talk about this for a second? Do we really believe the tale that the Master is from another planet? I mean...he always talks about his origin obliquely, as if he's hiding something. Cedric, I know you're on board to believe him but couldn't it be possible that he was once a human? He walks, talks, and acts like someone who was born here, like us. Ancient beyond measure...I believe it to a point but to the point that he actually comes from another Earth-like planet, with humanoids like ourselves, that have also been cursed with vampirism...Miriam, you've known him longer than any of us here. What do you think? Do you really think he's an inter-dimensional traveler?"

She hesitates, her face like a deer caught in headlights. "I...I really can't say. It would explain a lot of things..."

"But it leaves so many more things unexplained!"

"You know what they say," Cedric interjects. "Eliminate the impossible and what you're left with..."

"Oh shut up you smarmy fuck!" Mandarc has lost his cool. "I could even see him being some kind of creation of a Earth-bound deity -- that is something I could attempt to believe. Improbable, but maybe I could wrap my mind around it."

"Why does it matter where he's from?" Miriam interrupts. "What matters is that he's here before us and we must help him."

"I never said I didn't want to help him, but I'm also pursuant to the truth. And the explanation that he's a little green man from space doesn't seem the truth to me."

He changes his approach. "What say you, Davian? Have you ever met a man from the moon?"


Davian stands and stares at each of them, eyebrow raised, a small smile on his face. "The moon? Depends on which side of the Veil." Davian's eyes fill their vision and for a brief moment the three are granted a vision: the kindly, foppish gentleman is replaced with a Dragon of Legend, power rippling off Indigo scales, eyes alight with wisdom.

As quickly as the vision came, it is gone, leaving a tall man in a stuffy, old-fashioned suit. "Straud's secrets are his to give, I will not speculate, but I find your lack of faith...disturbing."


"The Master also speaks of the importance of this elusive Faith, but what use is Faith in the presence of Truth and Science? Even your magic is no longer imaginary when you work miracles into reality. If the Master came to me and told me he was from a foreign plane, I might believe it. Might. But as I see it now, he spins half-truths and makes implications as if he's trying to inspire goodness in us. No different than the mortals trying to invoke good behavior under the threat of Santa Claus's ever-present eye. I do not think he need be from another world, in fact I think perhaps it might be a greater tale if he weren't."

"I keep hearing about this quasi-mythical Firsthome and how the three of them originate from there and it dilutes the idea that we Earthicans can do anything. As if we're just a stopping point on their quest to dominate the local habitable worlds. And I don't want to be that, I want to believe our world is special. I suppose that is my Faith, that we don't need extra-dimensional beings to fight their wars here for no one's benefit but their own. Trelaine was a frightening man, with little real concern for anyone outside those who stood to benefit him. I don't want to believe he and the Master have anything in common."

"Suppose it's true, then, that this Firsthome really is another planet. We might need an army of mages to combat their comic book style rogues gallery. Because as it stands now we have one of Straud against how many of them?"

"Numbers don't mean shit when we have the homefield advantage. Besides, I have no reason to believe there's anything exceptional about the elves of Firsthome, excepting, of course, that they're naturally telepathic. That makes their entire culture and development different from what we can imagine."

He pauses for a moment. "And if my dreams aren't complete imagination, if they're rooted in the true vision of the Umbra...Then their technology is something to fear. But we have the ultimate weapon against technology, and that's our friends of Talent. Faith became science for me, Mandarc, when Davian brought my Master back to life. He was a spirit trapped inside a mortal's mind, and yet, there he was, standing again before us all. I think we should fear their magic, because of what magic can do by definition, but we should have faith in what our friends can do."

"So Vlad may be the only good one in a terrifying race that squelches free expression and independent thought. It's foreboding but I think we can handle it. We're well on our way." He eyes Davian and the slightest smile spreads over his face.

"On that note, if we're still looking for the mutt and Ben is M.I.A., I think Vincent would be able to help us. His gifts include those others call "gangrel". He should be able to catch scent of the dog and find where he's gone."


I nod at some of Cedric and Mandarc's points, raising an eyebrow at others ('only advantage being naturally telepathic').

"I sympathize with your desire to view earth as special, Mandarc, and it is - to you and everyone else who lives here. The value of your home is not diminished because you learn of the existence of other houses nor because you find friends to help you defend it from invaders (a nod to Cedric). "

"The issue of course, is how to defend the planet without destroying the consensus completely and causing absolute chaos. You both speak of Faith and Science as if they are separate things, but my experience with Magic has shown me otherwise. The shock of billions of souls suddenly realizing the truth and potentially Awakening...well, victory might be worse than defeat."

"I will create a sending for Ben; if he cannot be found we will contact Vincent."


"For most," Cedric continues, "I fear the shock of Magic will be the end of Faith. They like the unknown, but mostly they like the unknowable. They like the farcical idea that all that separates them from the likes of Ian Dusk is a few handfuls of cash. When magic divides the haves from the have-nots, you're looking at the threat of revolution."

"And to be honest, I don't blame them. They have little comprehension of how unequal their world already is. When it is thrust in their face, that some mortals are little more than the world's cattle...It is then we will miss Faith."

"If we want the world's people to exist together in harmony, we will have to replace their Faith with something else. Did you ever meet Mikael? We will need more Awakenings like his, people with an inherent sense of justice and fairness. The people will want protection and it is people like him who will provide the face they are looking for."


"Yes, the potential consequences have always been too high."

"I have had the pleasure of meeting Mikael, a promising young man; in this age of pulp adventure and mass-market cinema he is a fitting ambassador, the wedge we might need. But I digress and Vlad remains. I will reach out to Ben now."

Davian settles into one of Straud's supremely comfortable wingback chairs and calms his mind, letting his consciousness wander. Expanding his perception, street by street, he is soon aware of all but the most shielded minds in New York and after a moment he finds what he is seeking in the middle of Central Park. The Node, of course.

Gently, Davian touches the mind of the Werepanther, letting him acknowledge the contact before 'speaking'. Ben, this is Davian. You attended one of my Parties a little while back. I need you to return to the house immediately. Nixkamich natomuwal (Grandfather is in Peril)

There is a sensation of startled understanding and then two words. I come.

Message completed, Davian reaches into his jacket pocket and removes a large joint from a platinum and gold cigarette case, which he lights with a snap of his fingers. After a deep drag, he motions to the other chairs around the fire.

"Ben will be here in a moment. Please sit and tell me every detail you know about Trelaine. Assume Vlad has been a cagey old mummy, I know that will be hard..."


Cedric lets out a laugh before continuing. "Well, by the time I'd been converted in the late 90s, Trelaine was already enemy number one for my House. In 1995, he kidnapped the young Kevin Marscapone and performed a number of medical procedures during the captivity. His father, Vincent, rescued him and vowed revenge."

In the silence, Mandarc moves forward to fill the void. "Trelaine was my first master -- I don't remember much of my origins except broken dreams and shattered visions -- but when I did first to begin to discover my own mind, it was he who called me Childe."

"My early memories involve listing about the lab, yearning for his guidance. But he was usually nowhere to be found."

Cedric interrupts. "You see, even after he left Vincent discorporated...He still held his rivalry close to his heart."

Mandarc recaptures the conversation. "He has outposts all over Brooklyn, but the main headquarters is what we call the Cathedral. When he's not practicing his medical arts: splicing up vampires; he has a deluded bunch of followers that cluster around this Cathedral. They are on the feral side of things, stalking humanity indiscriminately and taking whatever prey smells the best in the moment. He seems to want a group of mages to follow him to keep him safe in the Reveal, and we have no way of knowing how successful he's been on this goal so far."

"The last we had intel, he was working on ensuring the loyalty of the daughter of the Tang family. He may also be...." Mandarc pauses, trying to find the right words.

Cedric bursts in. "He's doing research on forcing the Awakening in mortal subjects. We found that he was stealing bone dust and distilling the magic that remains in the bodies of the deceased after their departure from our realm. It''s..." He clenches his fist in anger. "It's reprehensible, unforgivable. Our coterie swore him off once he declared war on the Marscapone house, but this theft...Makes it personal."


"The Awakenings I remember discussing; a fool's errand even if successful, but he risks much more than himself. Whose dust does he now possess?"


"There's no telling, he's covered his tracks that well. I can get you a list of names if you give me time to compile records...People who he was harvesting dust using his identity as a legal "practitioner" of medicine."


"Please do; widen your net to include any report of stolen remains. Once we have a list, I can craft a Working."


"I'll get on it -- I have some folders of files relevant to our goals here, I just need to get a list of what we were working on." He turns on his phone and starts to thumb through its contents.

As Cedric steps away to hastily press commands into his phone, Mandarc steps up to where Davian is standing. "Forgive me," he begins, "but is there a way we can steal his research and use it for good? It seems to me that if the Awakenings weren't forced, they could be something we could use to bolster our side...Would any human not want to be elevated to something more powerful than they are?"


"I am definitely interested in obtaining his research, but only so I can ensure its destruction. Many Orders have thought of forcing Awakening...who wouldn't want more soldiers for their faction and, after all, we are doing them a favor..." Davian gives his head a small, sad shake "the results were monstrous. The mind has to be ready; there is no process to force Enlightenment."


"Do you think there's some god driving this all? A god of Magic? There rarely seems to be oddity like this without there being reason behind it all." Mandarc seems genuinely interested in Davian's response.


"Cogito Ergo Sum, or rather Credo ergo ego sum, Mandarc. 'I believe, therefore I am." The nature of Awakening is tied to the nature of reality itself. Rather than a single God, divinity resides in every conscious mind."


"Okay, that's fine, I can buy that, but you are still saying the gods exist even though we can't prove anything. Perhaps that's the catch."

He pauses a moment and then looks at Miriam, who shrugs and frowns in a slight pensive look.

"I've always been a believer." She states, gently but firmly.

Mandarc looks up at Cedric after making an exaggerated gesture. "I'm not even asking you."

"It's good you're not, because I'm done." He waves his phone in the air. "Vlad's latest list of families and addresses that he believes have been victims of Trelaine's grave robbing. There are tens, maybe nearing a hundred families on this list. You want to have a look and see if there's anyone you recognize?"


"Yes, let me see."


The names are largely unfamiliar, and you wonder, perhaps, if the families weren't chosen for their obscurity and distance from the Queens coterie. But there is one name you recognize.

Osei is a family name you wouldn't soon forget; Abeni was a woman you knew at the order of Hermes.


Davian skims the list, taking note of the two above as well as several others, including..."Hmm. Black...I do hope they're not related to Lila."

Turning to Cedric "I recognize enough names on this list to be very concerned. We need to make a plan to counter this activity immediately."


"Are you promising the labor of your Order? The main problem has been that he's chosen sites that are overseas. Me and my kind don' well." He makes light, but comes back to center. "I agree this is a matter of the utmost importance but I've been unsure how to tackle it."


"You have the 'labor' I can provide directly and through the Order resources I command here in NY. I will have to speak to the Council for further assistance."

"One moment." Davian turns away and speaks into the open air. "Lila, I need you here; it's important." This accomplished he turns back to Cedric.

"My Apprentice will be here shortly."

Davian settles into the wingback chair and puffs calmly. After a moment or two, a gentle chime is heard. "Ok to open Lila". A doorway 'rotates' into view in the middle of the room, revealing a frozen mountain landscape. A tall young woman with scarlet hair hops through the portal, carrying a skateboard with a carved wooden deck.


Eyeing the group warily, she locates Davian and takes the chair opposite the fire; the flickering light highlighting the intricate pattern in her grey sweater.

"I came as soon as I could, I was with a group of muggles; what's up?"


A small grimace appears on Davian's face at her last comment, which only provokes a smile from Lila. "What's up is the fact that someone is stealing the bones of people, many of the wizards, in an attempt to harvest any residual magic as well as further research into the nature of awakening...with the goal of creating an army of forced-awakened mages."

"I am currently preoccupied with a mystery of my own; you will work with Cedric and Mandarc to recover as much of the dust as you can and...'discourage' his henchmen from any further harvesting."


I nod to each one, taking a look at their auras while I have a chance. "Nice to meet you both; I look forward to learning more about you" The last two words said while looking at Davian.


Using Mind to Lila: "Oh, come now. Cedric and Mandarc are gentlemen of the highest caliber and you might find their skills useful. I am trusting you with this, the potential consequences of this lunatic's work are astronomical"


Understood. So they'll take my orders?


Think of it more as a collaboration.


Being excluded from the discourse between apprentice and master, Cedric and Mandarc meet gaze.

I wish He were awake. Mandarc lets loose telepathically, as if an accident.

Cedric sends forth a ping welcoming all those in the room. "I am Cedric, this is Mandarc, and Miriam. You are Lila. Charmed to meet you."

"Perhaps the first concern one will have with a chance meeting is who is decidedly not present. For today that creature of the night is Lenard H. Trelaine. He's enemy number one due to his work advancing forced Awakenings. We've each our own reasons to hate the fellow. Perhaps you'll join us in this venture."


Davian has been sending me the details. I understand now...we must gather these and somehow prevent them from being harvested. I am happy to help. I am Lila Black, Apprentice to Magister Davian.

Has anyone analyzed the data to see if there is a pattern to the gatherings?


There seems to be a preference for matriarchal lineages. Cedric transmits.


Ok, that's a start. Let's try something Lila pulls out her laptop and flicks her wrist: a copy of the data is pulled out of Cedric's tablet into her spreadsheet.


The spreadsheet details dreamlike sequences of Intel describing the accounts of ancient ancestors forlorn at the thefts at their family mausoleum. The reports come through the Umbra and so certain matters can be distilled on a spreadsheet; the names are thought to be accurate but there's no accounting for an address.

Lila hooks in a link she has to several government databases, and suddenly the spreadsheet is populated with a probable head of family representative, as well as their address. People are found all over the world and the spreadsheet itself soon looks a veritable museum to address syntax standards.

There are exclusions, of course. Many of the families are wealthy landowners because that's all who can afford burial methods that leave the body mostly intact.

The spreadsheet is populated with an additional column, a set of dates along with notes on certainty. What doesn't have a precise date has a range of years as a guess for when the theft occurred.


So, here we have the data organized with name, location, and rough time. I am going to match those to coordinates on the map to see if a pattern emerges. I am also going to cross reference the names with any known mages.

(Going to cast a multi-round effect where I gather successes to: model the results and cross reference those results with a spell that seeks their resonance (mage or not, Life5Correspondence3,Mind1; dice pool is Arete (5) + Highest sphere (life5) = 10)


You reach out into empty space, looking for answers. For a moment, all that is returned is silence, even the sound of birds outside the mansion. But soon, you seem to have a moment of clarity. Each family is indeed a mage, and the most recent thefts occurred in Russia, but those are out of date by about two years...


I nod to myself as the data confirms my suspicions, but the lack of recent activity is concerning; are there intervals between sprees of gathering or is this gap a new development?


Davian spends a moment finishing his joint, watching Lila dive into her work, then stands and heads for the back porch.

"Let Lila work her magic, gentlemen." Davian points to a large Raven flying directly towards the house. "Ben has arrived."


I can feel the mood on wind as I soar across the East River into Queens. The impression grows stronger as the house comes into view as a shimmer on the edge of my perception. The mage who contacted me...Davian, things are indeed dire if Vlad's Lieutenants reached out to him...many mysteries at risk.

I swoop up to the porch as the mighty Raven before shifting swiftly into man-shape. Davian stands ready, having clearly sensed my arrival, concern written in subtle clues across his face and body. Looking at Cedric and Mandarc, I see open Panic and Dismay.

"Greetings Magister. As you have called, so I have come."


I return the greeting with a small bow. "Thank you for returning swiftly, please come inside and we will discuss the situation further."

After opening the door for Ben and ushering him inside I scan the sky for anything suspicious in the EM spectrum (Forces 1 ability).


You sense nothing suspicious in the EM spectrum and feel pretty confident about your feeling.


Davian shuts the door behind me and gestures to the sofa. A young woman with intricately braided red hair is absorbed in her work on a laptop; though she doesn't react, I sense her focus shift to me momentarily before being drawn back to what looks like a Matrix Screensaver.

I sit on one end of the sofa with Davian taking the opposite end.

"What threatens Nixkamich? Where is he?"


"He is downstairs, unresponsive, though seemingly at peace. Attempts to contact him through the powers of the Mind have been fruitless. I was hoping you would be able to provide some more information, but your reaction tells me all I need to know."

"However, your trip might not have been entirely in vain. Forgive me my bluntness, but, you have a connection to the Umbra, do you not?"


"Yes. All Fera share a connection to the Spirit Realm."

The mages eyes remain calm but implacable.

How does he know? "As the last of the Onimikì I serve as the...Medium...for the Spirits, yes."


"Forgive my intrusion; I suspect that the cause of Straud's malady to be tied to the Umbra and his unique nature. The little I know of your Lore indicates you have the ability to contact the spirits - I have need of that ability, if you are willing."


"Nixkamich has earned by help. Let us discuss what can be done."


The three vampires stand off to the side, seeming superfluous in the shuffle. In the silence, they begin to speak to each other telepathically.


Is there anything we can do to help?


Keep out of their way.


Not very fun. But you'd know.


You'd know?


Don't you know, Cedric used to be a mage before he was turned.


I thought mageblood made you immune to the Curse.


That is what I was told too, but look where we are.


I'm starting to think there's less that divides mortals and mages than we think.


There's plenty that divides magic-users from mundanes. And when the Reveal occurs, only the differences will matter.


Sorry to change the topic, but do you think Trelaine is really responsible for this?


I don't know what he could have done to induce torpor but it would be a step up from what we know him to be capable of. Doesn't make it impossible.


There is a pause in their conversation, recognizable only to those who'd be listening in.


Cedric, I'm sorry.


She refers to Cedric's passage into undeath.


Don't be. It is what it is.


Despite being engrossed in my work, I can't fail to notice the 7' Native American man and take a brief peek at his aura: A shifter! Shaking my head, I focus on my task. Yours is not to reason why...

After a few more moments of analysis, the report is complete: each recorded incidence of stolen remains, their location and approximate time of theft, and suspected repository.

I look up from my computer and catch Cedric's eye, waving the three of them over.

"Take a look at this: here is a list of all the events we could capture and their associated data. It appears they are being held at this warehouse in Brooklyn." I sneak a glance over at Davian. "What say we show some initiative?"


Mandarc butts into the conversation. "'This warehouse in Brooklyn'?! You are aware of where you're talking about, right? Trelaine's unholy Cathedral...It's not just any old warehouse, the whole thing is a gigantic warehouse connected to an old train station, complete with access to the modern subway tunnels. Trelaine uses it as the primary headquarters for his Sabbat junkies. The whole thing's going to be crawling with baddies! I haven't been back since...Since I left for good. I'm not eager to go back."

"Well, you may have no choice, bucko." Cedric steps up. "Your knowledge of the palace will likely be invaluable."

"I don't know the place half as good as you think I might..." Mandarc says, quietly.

"At any rate, it might be helpful for us to take AVAEL -- She's a friend of ours who's had her body modified to incorporate the latest in portable gunnery technology. And she's got her own bone to pick with the Doctor."

"You want to take AVAEL?" Mandarc asks, tone brightening. "She's a little hard to tote around..."

"Full disclosure:" Cedric continues, "AVAEL is a vampire who's had her body modified with Vissicitude. She weighs a considerable amount and can no longer pass as a human; her augments extend to her face."

Mandarc talks as if in aside to Cedric, despite the rest of the audience. "I'm sure AVAEL would love to get a shot in on the Doc."


"So we're going the subtle route..." I turn to Mandarc "It sounds like a sensitive subject, but I would prefer not to fight a Blood God and his minions tonight; do you know where the remains might be kept...and perhaps a little known/used entrance?"


"I know how the guys used to get in...No telling if that's how they do it anymore or if they've put up protective wards since I left the premises..." the party allows Mandarc space to think and he quips back with a worried voice.

"Are we really going to do this? Storm right into the castle? Shouldn't we have disguises or something?"

And a irreverent, almost defeated, "...that's how they do it in the movies..."

"But maybe you mean the Backdoor Into Heaven, the alleyway bewitched not to appear on any mortals' maps. The alleyway that leads to the Grim Cathedral. Yeah, I can lead you there, but I'm very aware of warding magicks they will have on the premises once we reach the gate. It's the same kind of magick they used to exclude Vincent after his repeated attacks against their properties...And him overcoming that...Well you know where that got him, so...They will have something set up to protect against my personage and unless you work some kind of mage-ery..." Mandarc pauses for comedic effect, and then continues, "please excuse my expression but 'ain't no way' I'm getting into their compound. And I'm not even sure I want to."


"What about entrances that are a bit more...utilitarian. Do they have wards on the sewers that run under the warehouse? What is the exact address of this 'Cathedral'..."


"450 Avenue S, if I remember correctly. Or it might have been Van Sicklen Street. There are a few twists and turns that I would take on my path from the train that I may need to replicate, a part of the cipher that keeps the area hidden from the mortals. I'll show you on a map..." and Mandarc pulls out his flip phone, that has a very nice, bright screen.

"There's a Chinese food store and restaurant, the Fat Rabbit, that acts as a front for the entrance into the sewer -- a small staircase to the basement level, all to mask an entrance to the sewer. From there there's some neutral zone for local informants and labor. But beyond that is the entrance to the cathedral." He pauses, as if to take a breath. "It's where anyone wanting to seek shelter within the Sabbat's walls might look to present oneself. But it's a low-class entrance, sort of like those used by underclassman, and the uppers don't like to be seen using it. Scrutiny may be tough, but so long as you present yourself as completely ordinary, sort of beyond notice...They like to present themselves as welcoming, a shelter for young vampires and other creatures of the night. With a bit of work on a disguise...It might work."


"Hmm. I was looking for something a lot less conspicuous...the alleyway sounded promising, but you said it was almost certainly warded against your arrival. But perhaps we are looking at this from the wrong angle. Does he also own the building next door? 1990 E. 4th?"


"I can't say anything against the property adjacent...Now please be gentle with me but couldn't you cast Polymorph Other," he pauses, lowers his voice, "as well as Polymorph Self of course," Mandarc tries his best despite being completely out of his element...

"Please excuse my friend Mandarc, here," Cedric interrupts, "as a vampire, his closest relationship to real magic is through our proxy-play in D&D. As a result, his terminology is a bit out-of-date. I hope you'll excuse us, his education in systems of magic..."

"Is limited by my teacher. Lila..." He says in reverence, "Lila. Mandarc. Enthusiastic student of your craft." He sticks his hand out to her, eager to accept her hand to bless it with a kiss.


I hold out my hand, more slightly surprised and a bit embarrassed on his behalf. "I have the ability to modify your form, or at least I think I do...Magister Davian has spoken about the static nature of Vampiric magic...but without knowing how the wards are laid...perhaps our best bet is an extremely intricate illusion that projects all the life-signs of another target."

"Making the effect complete, for all three(looks questioningly at Miriam) of us, might be tricky; in order to be complete I would have to attempt to simulate their aura..."


Miriam shrugs as if to dismiss herself. "Someone should look after Straud and see that the house is occupied lest the dog return. But I have a suggestion, perhaps you could search his stores in case he has a spell prepared for such an occasion. You never know."


"I wouldn't have started rummaging around without leave, but that sounds wonderful."

A flock of fashionably morbid, red-skinned imps appears around Lila; they immediately begin to seek out and memorize every piece of written material available.


Soon, one after the other, two imps return with useful information. One is a schematic for an aura-masking 'plastique' but you've never heard of any of the materials requested. The other is a ritual that produces a potion that swaps the user's aura with a victim's. Do you want to broaden your search?


I will absorb both of those imps and begin writing out a list of ingredients. I would also be interested in anything the library has on spirits/the spirit world and True Magick in general.


"Yes, my mistressss" the imp hisses subserviently. He disappears into the house, hissing commands in what you can only assume is some demonic dialect.

"Many hands make light work," Cedric comments, a little awestruck by the way the imps are running about the house, climbing up and down bookshelves, and all together causing the neatest, non-disturbing ruckus that is imaginable.

All of a sudden, three imps run into the room carrying books, each very excited, eager to shove their finds into eager hands.

Soon, everyone in the room has a book in hand, looking a little clueless as if they'd been brought a toy by an over exuberant dog.

Lila, you look down into your hands and find a copy of Practices and Habits of the Peoples of the Umbra, an old copy, written in Latin. Mandarc looks down into his hands to find a copy of Wuthering Heights. Cedric was blessed with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

"Uh, thanks?" Mandarc says, cluelessly.

"Misssstressssss!" One of the larger imps calls out. He babbles at you near incoherently but you make out that there's one more relevant book on the shelf, but it will need a wizard to remove it from its home.


Smirking at this riotous expression of her subconscious, she takes the opportunity to make an exit and pops over to the larger imp.


He scurries up the side of the bookshelf and points to a large book in gilded black and gold. The side of the tome is written, in old English, 'On the Origin and Nature of Magick'.

"This book very heavy, liftable only by wizard, not by little beingses such as meself."


I high-five the imp for a job well done, absorbing him upon contact. Using a simple rote, I float up into the air until I am level with the tome, taking a moment to admire the binding. I reach forward and grasp the book, half-expecting background music to blare triumphantly; fingers twitching with anticipation, I open the book while hovering, unable to wait even a second more.


The vellum pages are heavy with age and turn confidently but the pages are...blank? You flip through the book frenetically but it's assuredly blank.



Floating down with serene grace, I square my shoulders and walk back over to the kids' table.

"Well, my spell was successful, but the most promising resource is going to require a bit of effort. Tell me, can any of you see any text on these pages?"

I place the book on the table and open to the first page.


"Looks blank to me." Mandarc says.

"Same." Cedric agrees. Miriam offers a sound of agreement. "Could it be hidden behind a cypher?"

"Could be but doubtful. It's probably encrypted to only appear to its author or owner or something. It's in the Master's library so..."


"I have some suspicions based on the title, but more research is needed." Lila looks over quickly at Davian, making sure he is still deep in conversation with the Giant. "Magister Davian has one of the nicest libraries I have ever seen...I think we should have time for a quick trip."

I gather my will for the effect, but am surprised by the ease in which the potential gathers in this place. No resonance to speak of, but reality feels...thinner, more malleable.

With so much gathered power, I change my plans and begin to 'probe' the book with the various spheres, one by one then in combination. Each probe is appropriate to its type (mentally address the book with mind, open the 3rd eye in spirit, open to a random page with entropy...etc).


As you address the book using Mind, you are surprised to receive an error message rather precise and almost...lifelike. It manifests as if using knowledge of Tongues, and its rendition of modern English is a bit jilted. It asks, "Proof of Self-ness?"


Very interesting. I extend a mental 'handshake', introducing myself in basic terms and allowing a surface scan of my emotions and cognition.


Greetings Lila Black. We were requested to respond only to the author. Do you have the author with you?


From my investigation of the book and first round of 'probing' do I know who is the 'author'?


The book has no indication of who authored it.


Requested or required? I found you in a vampire's library and you only permit mages to touch or move you


Please present the requisite credentials.


Lila grunts before turning to Cedric, Miriam, and Mandarc "This will just take a moment..."

Turning back to the book, I attempt to analyze the magical nature of the object, now that it has been awakened. Did any other sphere of magick produce a response? What happens if I simulate various Mind effects (Astral Projection, See through Illusions...etc; no direct attempt to force it open yet.)


Cedric, Miriam, and Mandarc are watching you curiously, quiet, although perhaps talking to each other through mental telepathy; you've not been peeking in on their conversation.

As you awake your inner reserve of Spirit and probe the tome, the book seems to glow a little, a pale blue.

"Heehee! That tickles!" comes the same voice that'd thrown you the error message. She struggles to speak through laughter. "That's a very good try, but seriously! I can't do anything for you unless you present the requisite credentials." And then she pauses, "'Requisite Credentials'... Um. Am I saying that right? 'Password'? 'Speak Friend And Enter'? I don't know."


I wrack my brain for a moment, trying to remember my ancient languages before taking a stab at Password in Old English


Oh, you're too much, Lila Black. I like you, but I'm afraid that's not it. Your accent is very good, though. Where are you from?

Mandarc raises a finger as if to pose a question, holding it up quizzically while looking back and forth between Davian and his energetic apprentice.

"What does this book have to do with --"

Cedric seems to grimace and you think he's thrown out a command to Mandarc to stop talking.


Orkney Isles, Scotland. Listen, I dunnae how Straud handled you, but we have an emergency...


Straud? As in, The Straud? What kind of emergency? How do I know I can trust you?


Hmm. Well I'll admit that Straud is a recent acquaintance of mine, but he's good friends with my Master, Magister Davian Hughes of the Order of Hermes. Straud has gone into a strange sort of Torpor and is totally uncommunicative, but he would definitely want us to research and stop someone from stealing the remains of dead mages.


Stealing the remains of dead mages? I suppose that is a bit of an emergency... she mutters, and I've been up there so long.

Well, the truth is that I would love to help you, but I can't operate without the password. It's stored on a crystal. It has been for about a thousand years. That's all I know.

Your sense of the book through Entropy suggests it's encrypted.


Lila looks up from the book and catches Cedric's eye. Does Mr. Straud typically have a crystal or gem on his person? This friendly book cannot grant access without the password, which is stored on a crystal. I could try to brute force it, but that seems poor form and I would hate to get into any more trouble with Mandarc.


Mandarc is a simple soul. I don't believe Vlad does anything without purpose. Everything in this house is fair game for us to use to help him. If he wanted them to be kept private, they would be stored beyond our reach.

As for a crystal, I can't say with certainty. I would guess it wouldn't be stored on his person since I seem to remember him mentioning once that he can hear frequencies that we can't. A resonating crystal would probably be included on a list that make enough noise as to make his meditations difficult. So I doubt it's on his person.

What about projecting a range of auditory waves in the hopes that the crystal will reflect the sound back to us?


That would work, but I fear for the glassware. I wouldn't be able to restrict the band since we don't know what type of crystal was used for the key. Might be time to summon my little friends again.


Sounds like a good idea.


Lila puts the book down and focuses her mind, creating the image of the imp in her headspace then feeding Life, Matter, and Spirit into her creation. With an audible POP a legion of blue-skinned imps appear, dressed in kilts/tartan, their tiny voices swearing in Gaelic and Scots.

"Alright, gather up. We're looking for a crystal, probably no larger than my hand; could be set into something or loose. No damaging the house. Ok, Go."


With a tempered chorus of hup-hups, the imps set off to work, crawling and scampering around every nook and cranny, looking inside bowls and demystifying the dusty corners of curio cabinets.

The house is silent except for their work until two imps approach Lila, cooperating to carry a mid-sized leather-bound box.

"Mistress. Was this what you were looking for? Inside is a pretty shiny!"

The box is unlocked and you flip open the top to reveal a shining citrine cut into an impossibly perfect diamond shape. It seems to glow of its own accord and all those who see it are impressed by its beauty, leaning over just perceptibly to glean a better view.


Lila admires the gem for a moment before turning to address her imps. Letting the leash on her accept slip, she thanks them in their own brogue: "Weel dain a' body, noo back whaur ye cam from."

The wee Scotsmen give a surprisingly loud cheer before disappearing, the faint sound of bagpipes taking a moment longer to fade.

Turning her attention to the gem, she removes it from its box and hefts the stone, noting how smooth (and a little warm?) the gem feels in her hand. Sensing Ol' Straud had a preference for Mind, she 'addresses' the stone as she did the book.


The gem 'sings' in response to your greeting, and you recognize some musicality in the composition. But something about it is a little off, as if in minor key. It doesn't seem like anything to cause alarm, but however this gem was created, it was done with a foreign sense of spatial structure and tone. It's strange to your ear, but solid none-the-less.

It doesn't seem to possess the capacity to address you with language, but there is something very rudimentarily mind-like about the response you received. You are inspired to imagine an image of a thousand-million tiny minds all whistling together in unison to greet you.


I will 'wave' back at the mini-minds before returning my focus to the book. Hello again my little friend; might this be the gem you require? I wave the gem over the blank page while connected mentally to the spirit within the book.


The gem buzzes and vibrates gently in your palm while the book simultaneously glows a pale blue. A familiar voice pipes up, Hello again, Lila Black. You brought the crystal! Thank you so much for that!

I shall tell you a little about myself. I was created to introduce mages to the wondrous world of the un-ordinary and un-usual, the im-probable and the im-possible. I'll warn you, though, my author left me unfinished, your friend Straud (oh dear, I sincerely hope he's your friend) keeps me safe within his library but me oh my! If only my author were around to finish my archives...

You wouldn't happen to be familiar with a Percival Whitford, would you? A pale man with striking blond hair who went missing outside of London in May 1053...?

(She continues to talk, but mostly to herself, not knowing or not caring that she's still talking to you.)

It was Harold...It had to have been Harold. I told Straud and Althia he was not to be trusted. Not after he brought that cursed ring to our circle...


Straud is a friend of my Master; I would offer to have him perform introductions but he is currently indisposed. Sadly I am too young to have known Mr. Whitford, though any Mage talented enough to construct a Wonder of this nature would be worth meeting. I let the voice talk for a moment, taking note of the details she is inadvertently confessing.

After a minute, I attempt to gently steer the conversation back to current events. Now that I have provided the Gem and identified myself, might I take a peek at your contents? You mentioned you were unfinished?


I sure hope we can find Percival before my pages start to degrade...

She dutifully listens, although you get the distinct impression that it's difficult for her, after so long quiet in the book, to keep silent as you speak. I am indeed unfinished. Percival went missing and was unable to finish my data stores. But you are welcome to what I do have, indeed, most of it should be here, or at least, most of what Percival wanted to include. You see there are a great deal of things unknowable to us mages. Or at least we think they are unknowable. Unknowable is usually what we think of things shortly before they become knowable. So what is knowable is unknowable. Ha! I crack myself up.

My contents? Well some of my most interesting contents are first-person narratives of mages awakening to their full potential. Some real hope and passion there. What wondrous things you young people are capable of. Um...What else do I have jostling around in here...Some sample spells...Signature spells from the Circle of Friends...Some musings on how magic is different in different planes, but honestly most of that barely makes sense to me...A very lengthy appendix on druidic magic...What else what else...Well let's try it this way. How can I help you? What are you looking for?

There is the slightest pause to allow you to speak but she interrupts and continues talking.

I'm glad to hear Straud is a friend of your Master's. He was always a good friend and a helpful hand to the Circle of Friends. He has taken good care of my vessel over the years.


Straud now needs our help; he is lying, unresponsive, in the basement and his old nemesis is stirring to life, these can't be coincidences. This enemy, Trelaine, is attempting to force-awaken his minions and is stealing the remains of dead mages to attempt resurrections.

Realizing this might be a lot to dump on the poor thing, Lila segues What kind of organization was the Circle of Friends? From what you have said, it sounds like a small Traditions enclave?


The Circle of Friends was a very special group of people with unique talents. 'A Traditions enclave'? I suppose. Enclave makes it sound quite secretive. We didn't -- or they didn't -- hide their talents. At least not from those we could trust.

Straud was an outsider, he came to our group late, but he was a dutiful participant. Even taught our group a few things. His gifts seemed...different.

Percival was the de-facto leader of our clan. Everyone looked up to him for advice. When he went spelled disaster for us.

Maybe you could go looking for Percival. He's my creator, the most powerful mage I've ever known. Maybe he can help you with your war. I know it's a long shot, and it's been a thousand years, but you mages are a crafty lot. Maybe he's still kicking around here somewhere. I don't want to believe he's truly gone.

You know, come to think of it, I've got a story in my archives that came all the way from Rome. About an Egyptian mage who used mummy dust to enhance her magical power. Maybe that's relevant to your troubles?


Really now...My Master would be very interested in what Straud was able to teach you, but perhaps we should save that for another time. As for Magister Whitford...I promise to find out what happened to him. If he is still alive, he might have much to teach us all. Now, back to that sounds germane indeed, please continue.


Perhaps you'll allow me to use my projection capabilities. It's one of the gifts that Straud gave to me, to us, so long ago. I can make people of light and show you pictures and stories. I hope that's okay?


That sounds fun, please continue. Give me a moment to alert my companions so we can all enjoy the story...they are working on the same problems.

Lila looks up at Cedric, Mandarc, and Miriam with a sense of triumph. "I'm in. The book is quite fascinating and has quite a bit to has offered to show us some history. Apparently there was an Egyptian mage who used the bones of mummies to enhance her magical power. Sound familiar?"

Ok, go ahead, your audience is ready.


As soon as you say the word, the book opens to the center and flies to hover in a central part of the room. "Now, I'll provide the necessary boilerplate: this tale was brought to you on the wings of hearsay, borne through the winds of time."

A glowing figure, about a foot tall, appears above the centerfold of the tome. In the dim light, runes and letters upon the otherwise blank pages fluoresce in the firelight.

"It was one of the Cleopatras. Which one exactly I couldn't tell you, but it was one of that long line of strange, weirding women. She was strikingly beautiful." At this, the hologram focuses in on a headshot of the woman. "You may not think so by modern English standards, but she was almost too much to look at for the average person. But her fantastic beauty, enough to strike awe into the hearts of man, wasn't enough for her."

"You see, she was an incredible summoner. If you ever get the chance to visit Egypt, you'll see some of these beasts painted upon their walls. But she fueled her magic with desperation and selfishness. You see, she was angry, angrier than anyone in her station had a right to be. But nevertheless, she was angry that she had no mentor. She was the most powerful being in her land, and people shook in her presence. They feared her when she was normal, and she came to crave the feeling. She summoned more creatures, but it was not enough."

"Surely you're familiar with the Egyptian practice of mummifying the dead? Their ancients taught them that. Back in the time before we understood planes magick, they believed it was a backdoor to immortality. No one ever dreamed that the young would ingest the essence distilled in their corpses. It is one of the reasons we always recommend complete destruction of the dead. Cremation is the only acceptable means for disposing of the departed."

"She consumed not only bones, but also organs. All of it. It's too much to detail here..."

"It was a danger to the world, what she did. She continued to summon great creatures of fear and war, until one day, she summoned the worst of them all."

"I say it had the body of a demon, but I've never seen a demon before. I'd say it had the bloodthirsty nature of an injured wild boar, but thankfully the Circle dispatched any I've heard of. No, I can't say what exactly this terrible creature looked like, but it ate indiscriminately. It ran about the kingdom, frightening all who did not pay their proper respects to the queen."

The hologram that the book holds on is a bestial, bent creature, with hooves and claws, a terrible beak, and mottled, messy hair-like fur, matted with blood and dirt.

"The creature ran rampant and the queen grew fatter and more contented with her empire of terror. Then one day, the queen, with little else to harvest, took to challenge the great beast for its magick. They fought a terrible fight, and her kingdom was all but destroyed, the queen devoured, the monster no where to be seen."

"You see, there's a twofold lesson to be learned here. First, always destroy the bodies of the dead. It is Man's duty to curate his land and allow for the young things to flourish. To that end, we must destroy the old so that it may be given to the young. Second?"

She stumbles over her recitation. "Second. Shit, the ink's run. I'm not sure what the second point is. Something about how there's always a bigger fish."

Mandarc breaks the silence.

"So all we can do is stand around and wait for evil to destroy itself?"

Their meandering eyes wander back toward him.


Ignoring this fatuous remark, I address the group "So, snorting elder slough helps you to summon Cthulhu. As if this wasn't a big enough problem when we were just worried about the souls of those dead mages."

Addressing the book Well done, thank you! I don't suppose you would want to travel with me for a bit? I might have more questions and I know a safe place you could stay where I could always pop in for a question.


T-t-travel? Well it's been many years since I've gone on the road, but I'm sure...I'm sure I'd find a way to help you with your war...

She pauses. I think the Circle of Friends would be proud of me. I'll go.


Excellent I 'embrace' the consciousness with a mental hug. Since we'll be travelling together, we should complete our introductions...what is your name?


It is wonderful to make your acquaintance, Lila Black. I am Cornelia. I eschewed a name for a long time while my author was adding to my repositories...But finally he shooed my protestations and gave me a name. Perhaps it will serve me well. It is one of the last things my creator gave to me before he went missing.


Pleasure, Cornelia. I am going to Scan you into my Tower in Suramar; the other books will help you adjust and I'll be there shortly after I finish things here in meatspace

Using 'Encode' rote: Corr2, Life2,Matter2,Prime2


'Meatspace'? You're a silly one, Lila Black! I look forward to assisting you again. You reflect on how much happier Cornelia sounds compared to when you first unearthed the book.

The merry feeling associated with finding a new book begins to subside as the tinkling sound of the digitization rote concludes. Mandarc has his hands stuffed in his pockets and Cedric looks calm and confident as always. Miriam is paging through a book that was brought to her by one of the imps; an encyclopedia about trees.

"So, if the mages are going around killing one-another, wouldn't that make them kiiiind of like..."

He waits for someone to complete his sentence.

"Us." Cedric obliges.

"Yeah. Kind of like us." Mandarc repeats.

"My question right now," Cedric continues, "Is is the power they obtain from the bone dust temporary or permanent? Although, perhaps it doesn't matter. The promise of power is enough."


"Imagine using all that power..all those a single working."


"I think we have to assume they've already done something insidious, so that our goal is also to undo what they've already done. That's what scares me. The 'Cleopatras' that we don't even know about. I guess I'm sort of glad that we're going on a trip because I need to get out. I need to see things." Cedric says.

"The Master traveled a lot." Mandarc offers.

"Yeah well he's a fair bit older than us, yeah?" Cedric contests.

"Ugh why am I even entertaining this?! In case you're forgetting, I don't do so well underneath the sun's harsh glare! So I have the suncreme now; it really only does so much. I need to regenerate."

Cedric rolls his eyes. "You'll be fine."


"Forgive the intrusion, but time is of the essence and if need be I can always whip up something to protect you while we are outside. Speaking of more spell."

Using Mind, Coordination, Matter, Time and Forces to access my computer and use it as a portal to use the Digital Web to execute an exhaustive search of the area around Trelaine's Cathedral: 1)Survey reports, municipal reports, constructions permits, inspections...etc. Anything that shows how the land was modified over time. 2) current digital data surveillance of the Cathedral from satellites, google maps, local security cameras, social media, drones...etc. with the intention of pinpointing the number and frequency of guards, patrols...etc.


What you get back is notably sparse. There is a very old map of the area of Brooklyn that shows the first instance of a church on the property -- The Church of the Immaculate Conception -- back in the 1700s. The next record you find is a detail on the sewer systems in the area from government records. But the file is corrupted and the detail you need won't display. Camera data shows people going in and out of the Fat Rabbit, but it's a rather high-profile entrance.

You cut an impressive figure, sitting rapt at your computer screen.

Suddenly, Mandarc cuts over the quiet. "Can I put this away? You know, just in case the Master gets up and goes looking for it?"

Cedric buries his head in his hand and mumbles to Lila, "He's too much sometimes. Anyway. Anything I can help with?"


Lila goggles at Mandarc for a second before meeting Cedric's gaze "I have been running a Deep Search for every piece of information on the 'Cathedral' and the surrounding area I can find, in the hopes of locating a forgotten entrance, but it seems records for this area have been lost at an alarming rate."


"Not surprising. We don't know much about Trelaine's involvement with mortal agencies...But we have reason to believe he's been a little bit of everywhere."

He pauses and watches Lila for a moment, taking careful note of her facial expressions and mannerisms.

"Y'know, maybe we should try Schrecknet. Are you familiar?"


"Not familiar; is it like an onion?"


"It's as acrid, that's for sure. It's a hidden computer network, accessible only by certain devices on approved networks. It's run by the Nosferatu, a clan of secretive vampires. If you're looking for information on the subterranean passageways of the city, they're the ones to talk to. But we have to use the terminal downstairs."

He leads you into the basement, the stone foundation reminding you a bit of catacombs. The scent is earthy and slightly dusty, but not repulsive.

Once underground, he takes you through a large door into a section of the home that is completely different in feeling. The winding hallway takes you past a TV room and a large selection of workout equipment. The appliances are modern and the furniture is tidy, all seeming completely normal, save the dim lighting.

You enter an area that's both a room and the end of the hallway. Off to one side, set into the wall as if a small cave, is a single computer at a desk.

"This computer has access to SchreckNet, let's get logged in."

Cedric sits at the computer, pops a thumb drive into the USB slot, and starts to work.

"So, you're Davian's new apprentice, huh? That old man is something else. Glad he's with us, not against us."

After about five minutes, the computer screen is awash in emerald green text.

"Alright, so our session has begun. You're looking for information on ways in and out of Trelaine's Cathedral, right? Maps, narratives, pictures, stuff like that?"


"Yeah. He's an OG gentleman, but I can't forget the war stories they told about him in the Order..."

She leans over his shoulder to get a better look.

"Yup. Even if it's been bricked up or paved over, knowing it's there will help us access. "


"They have a whole archive dedicated to wayfinding in the city. I'm scanning over their archives to find what I can find..." He falls into silence as he concentrates on reading the results.

They sit in this silence, poring over the computer for quite some time until a pop up on the screen derails his concentration.

I see you're looking over some of my old maps. Can I help?

"One of their members is messaging us. How do you want to respond?"


"How friendly are you or Straud with the Nosferatu? Since you're ok with using their network, can I infer they are no friends of Trelaines?"


"Trelaine has excluded the Nosferatu from his Kingdom of Heaven. He preaches that their hideous appearance is a curse from the OverGod and they will not be saved in the coming of the End. Now, not that the Nosferatu generally want to attend their services...But they don't like being specifically singled out and used as an example, especially because of their appearance."


"Prosperity Gospel, Vampire-style; Grok. Tell them Straud is looking up old land claims in the area; hoping to challenge Trelaine's property lines and/or draw some local attention (law enforcement...etc)."


"I think I can work with that." Cedric turns back to the terminal and starts typing furiously.

"Now, I've told him who I am, no hiding that, but what about yourself? I can vouch for you, of course, but we're talking collaboration with creatures of the night. It's kind of like the Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like, but..."

"You were with the Order of Hermes before becoming Davian's apprentice, weren't you? I'm sure they don't look too kindly on our type."


"We are taught to avoid you guys, a sort of 'live and let die' sort of thing, though I must say that you three are very different from what I learned growing up. That's one reason Magister Davian left, he had befriended Straud during the War and was dismayed at how quickly the old distrust returned. However, Magister Davian is still an active member of the Order, in fact he caused a bit of a kerfluffle last time he visited...something about getting more involved..."


"Haha! How I'd like to be a fly on the wall of that ivory tower." He pauses.

"Davian and Straud are old war buddies, then? That confirms a theory I had but never confirmed. But what do you mean, 'the old distrust returned'?"

"Anyway, I'm not going to volunteer info, but it just gives me a kernel in case we do need to give information."

He continues to type at the computer terminal.

"He says he has a map of the area we're describing. And he'd be willing to part with it for free, seeing as he hopes it goes to a good cause."


"You said it yourself; Mages are warned against vampires. Despite our power, Magi are just as vulnerable to prejudice as anyone else, and all mages are terrified of their Avatar being shattered. Anyway, after the war, Davian pushed for a Concord between the Order and the more 'trustworthy' Vampire sects. Needless to say, it went over like a lead balloon. Davian took it personally and has had little to do with the Order until recently."

"Only one? I guess that's better than nothing. Please give him our thanks."


"I had no idea that Davian had been on our side for that long. Someone's got to talk to his P.R. team! ...But seriously, I understand the concern."

"He says he oversaw this one personally. If we're truly up to no good, it'll serve us well. I'll accept the file transfer and sign off."

Cedric soon unplugs the flash drive from the computer. He turns to you, "I guess we should head back upstairs."


"Heh, well Master is strong enough that they call him 'eccentric' but...I am glad I am his apprentice and get to see the truth."

"That's great! let's head upstairs and check it out, I am sure the others are getting impatient."


You walk upstairs and find everyone doing more of the same. Mandarc is punching away at his phone, Miriam is reading her book.

Cedric speaks at Mandarc from across the room, but he expects everyone to be listening. "We got a hand drawn map of the undertunnels linking in to the Cathedral. Probably nothing you're familiar with but who knows what might jog your memory."

"I doubt it. It's a big complex."

"I have the map here on this thumb drive. Here, Lila, this is your forte." He hands you the drive.


(Simple projection spell combined with mind 2 to read the card and correspondence2/prime2, so diff = 5 (3+2)).

I make a 3D Holographic projection of the current area and overlay the hand-drawn map in red, matching features of the hand-drawn copy to known features in publicly available surveys.


The striking feature that the hand-drawn map presents is an old sink pipe that goes directly from the neutral sewer to the Cathedral's basement. The sink is in an all but forgotten corner of a wine cellar. You'd have to be able to shape shift but that shouldn't be a problem, right?


The hologram is flawless, and shows the sink pipe clearly. Lila looks at the other three and nods "This is more like it...remind me to send that Nosferatu a bouquet of blood bags. We can get into the sewer and then into the compound without having to cross those wards. Once inside, I'll have the ID spell prepped so we can steal some appearances and auras if necessary, but it might be worth remaining in disguise as long as possible, assuming we make the right choice. Let's has to be small yet not repulsive or off-putting enough to be noticed. Perhaps...rats? At least, rats to start. I will hang another one for us, but I can't risk too many more."


Davian, who has been listening surreptitiously with Ben for the last several minutes, stands up and claps his hands.

"Well done Apprentice. This plan is risky, but so is every plan that involves the enemy. You will have a Portal spell the House hung and ready, yes? Good. While you are there, please keep your eyes peeled for anything that might be related to Straud's current condition. I am making plans with Ben, but it never hurts to take an advantage of an opportunity. " He gives the group a critical eye "Cedic and both can contact me if need be; I have avoided direct involvement so far but, I would hate to have to explain to Straud how I lost his two Lieutenants and my first Apprentice in 50 years."


Having expected a fight, I am momentarily too stunned to speak as my mental momentum is reabsorbed.

"Thank you Magister. I will be sure to keep in touch. Um, before I start preparing, I should mention this book I found in Straud's library...just in case. It's a sort of "Young Ladie's Illustrated Primer" for mages, curated by a generated mind! She's currently in my Suramar Tower being guarded by Skoll."


"I was wondering if you were going to mention that.. I hope the information will not be necessary, but thank you Apprentice. Now get started on your castings, it would be best for me and Ben if we had the house to ourselves for what we plan next."


I nod, and had back over to the others. "Well, that went better than I could have hoped. Now, please give me a moment, I need to make some preparations before we leave."

(Rolling for 4 effects: Battle Trance, Dracorage, Transmute, Mass Teleport)

I spend a few minutes gathering and storing magical potential, crafting each spell like a paper crane before freezing it just at the point of flight. After the 4th settles into place, the temptation to prepare more is overwhelmed by the awareness of the growing cost. Turing to the 3 I smile nonchalantly; ok, I a few surprises set, and the 'oh, shit' button is ready."

After double-checking the location and fixing the coordinates in my head, I prepare to open a portal to the Sewer, a little distance from where the pipe.

The spell takes effect easily, opening a shimmering oval window that immediately belches noxious air into the room.

"Ugh. Well, in we go..."


"Are you for real?!" Mandarc exclaims. "We're just going to open a portal and jump right over there? It's..." he glances down at his wristwatch, "8:47! The nightly sermon starts at 9:30 and that place is going to be crawling with baddies!"

"So he'll be distracted. Sounds perfect to me." Cedric retorts.

Mandarc rubs his forehead with his fingertips to try to center himself. "So let me get this straight. This portal goes to the sewer underneath the Cathedral, that much we can smell. What from there? I didn't pass my spellcraft check to know what else you've got up your sleeve."

"We're going into the pipe." Cedric seems to be suppressing a grin.

"Great. I'm crawling back like a rat." Mandarc sighs.


"Not 'like' a rat, and you're infiltrating the compound in service to The Cause. Straud would be proud of you."


Mandarc sighs audibly and walks over to Miriam with his hands in his pockets. "Here. My personal effects." He pulls a few small objects from his stores and fills her hands awkwardly. "Just in case I don't come back."

"You're too much." Cedric comments.

"I'm just being careful." Mandarc replies, in a sort of no-nonsense, dry tone. "Miriam, if you don't hear from me, see that the counter makes it to Yuki at the B.V."

"Will do, Mandarc." Miriam replies reverently.

Cedric smooths over his jacket while Mandarc finishes up. Mandarc stands up straight, stretching his back, and calming his expression. He looks at Lila, then to Cedric.

"You're going first."


"Gentlemen, I know I make it look effortless, but holding this sort of effect open is draining, and the night is young. Go Go Go."


Without so much as a goodbye, Cedric steps through the glowing portal. Mandarc goes second, and Lila goes last.

The acrid scent you'd previewed in Straud's living room now assaults your nostrils but you shake it off. Soon the three are standing in a cramped chamber on a stone walkway; the ceiling is just barely above your heads, and below you is flowing water. It's a singular long hallway; to either side, near the end of what you can see easily, it branches off in other directions.

Both Mandarc and Cedric use Auspex to orient themselves in space. There is no light in the dark hallway. The water is making a light gurgling sound as it speeds down the hallway.

Best not to make a sound... Cedric transmits telepathically to his company.


Lila uses a layered Forces effect to reassemble the visual space. Agreed. The entrance is 200 yards ahead of us on the right. Probably best for me to transform us here, one moment.

Lila pauses, forcing herself to ignore the almost-physical stench of the gurgling sewage. Weaving Life, Matter, Prime, and Spirit, she transforms the three of them into Norwegian rats: One russet, one tuxedo, and one with a spot of white on its head.

Rat-Lila makes a barely audible squeak of dismay and holds up her slime covered paws Let's get into that pipe.


The three of you skitter down the hallway, taking notice of how long it takes to make any appreciable distance, what with your size being what it is.

D'ya think there're any crocs in that riverway? Mandarc asks.

Let's not stay long enough to find out. Cedric replies curtly.

You venture down the hallway, noting bits of trash and detritus that would have escaped notice on two legs. There are half-chewed bits of food as well; you're not the only rats in this cave.

Finally, matching the map to what you see in front of you, you take a careful look around and note the steady drip-drip-drip coming from above the water. All drips come from somewhere. You've found the pipe. But your rat-paws will not scale the rounded ceiling.


Well...rats. One second. Lila extends her senses up the pipe, 'looking' for the resonance of a Ward or active spell effect nearby.


Your senses brighten, spreading to the area as you close your eyes and fill your consciousness with the sense of 3D space.

An unknown magical aura begins above your head, somewhere where the ceiling ends and the basement begins. The pipe seems clear, but as it travels into the building, it becomes fuzzy...


Alright. The Wards don't extend down through the ceiling; I should be able to pull off a little trick without anyone noticing. Lila makes a strange gesture with her paws and a beautifully enameled metal skateboard appears on the ground next to the party.

Lila hops onto the deck and takes a seat Accio Firebolt.

Hop on and it'll take us to the pipe.


The two vampire-rats scurry onto the skateboard's surface.

Hold on to your butts. Mandarc comments as they get situated.


Lila sticks her tongue out as the skateboard rises into the air; once it reaches the pipe it hovers in place.

Thank you for flying Southpest Air, mind your step while disembarking Lila waits until Cedric and Mandarc are safe before leaping into the pipe behind them, skateboard defragmenting into lines of code before transitioning back into the Digital Web.

Alright squeakhearts, forward march.