Spear of Destiny

Interstitial - Evan
Friday Afternoon, July 13, 1934

Evan enters Syrenia’s large, modern mansion. He tries to avoid the stare of her mute manservant, knowing that Syrenia is likely looking at him through the eyes of her pawn. He is lead into his former mentor’s office; Syrenia enters at the same time through a side door. Her face is beautiful, imposing, and as usual a complete cypher, giving no clue to her emotions or thoughts. She offers Evan a seat, and they both sit in leather wingbacks, not at the desk, but around a small round table. The manservant returns with a tea service. Stirring milk and sugar into her cup – she offers Evan neither of these – Syrenia gets straight to the point.

“So, you wish a favor from me? After you spurned my teaching during the last half of your apprenticeship for that dusty old relic-hunter? Tell me, what do you have to offer that makes you think that I’ll teach you this rote?”

If Evan tells Syrenia that he’s obviously a pawn in her plots and that he can’t continue to serve if he’s dead, turn to page 15

If Evan tells Syrenia that the cabal is headed to Tibet and asks if there is anything he could “retrieve” for her, turn to page 17

Evan’s player turns to page 15.

Page 15

Evan feels his sixth sense go off – a dropping sensation in his stomach as if he’s falling – and feels magic slamming into his mind. He knows that he’s locked something away in there; something important, something dangerous. Still, the Memory Hole in his mind holds – the hours he spent in ritual casting were not to waste.

Syrenia’s expression and body language change not a bit.

“You must think highly of yourself, to think that you would be important to me. Furthermore, the rote you ask for is dangerous and valuable. Still, I am not unreasonable.

“The price for this knowledge shall be this:” she switches her legs, left now crossed over right in her cocktail dress, “accompany me and assist me as you did during your ‘apprenticeship’, for one day of my choosing. To be sworn in front of the council.”

If Evan accepts this deal, turn to page 23.

If Evan bids her farewell, turn to page 25.

Evan’s player, always a risk-taker, chooses page 23.

Page 23

Saturday, July 14, 1934

Jonah corrects Evan’s hand positions slightly as they finish going through the rote for Finder. The older Mystagogue’s version of the rote is arcanely named “Loci Correspondentiam”.

“I think you’ve got it,” Jonah nods approvingly as he motions for Evan to take a seat. He has to move two piles of dusty papers and a book from the davenport to find enough room. Jonah pours coffee for the two of them and pours a healthy dose into his own cup from a small flask.

Offering the flask to Evan, he shakes his head, “I still can’t believe you went anywhere near that woman, never mind making her any sort of promise. You didn’t swear an Oath or have a Gaes laid on you?”

Evan shakes his head as he adds a stiff shot to his drink. They both sip, and the older man again shakes his head.

“Next time, son, come to me first, or others in the Mysterium. If you don’t keep your promise, she could challenge you to the Duel Arcane – and that would be trouble!”


Evan finds a small notecard slipped under the front door of his shop when he returns. He turns it over and reads as he enters:

I know you felt me hit your mental wall. Rest assured, I will find out what you are hiding, Evan Radmonovich.

Whatever your true name is.

“Is everything ok, hon?” a woman’s voice asks. Evan realizes that he’s stopped midway through the door. He hastily pockets the card.

“Josephine! Yes,” he hastily remarks, “just business.”

He gives the young woman a peck on the cheek as he heads into the back room; she leans into it with affection and smiles.

Dun dun DUN (for the 3rd time). The name ‘Evan Radmonovich’ doesn’t work to establish a connection for Sympathetic spells (spells at a distance – and this is not that surprising of a revelation given that he was memory-wiped and smuggled from Russia into the US as a teen) – good to keep Syrenia out of his business (without quite a lot more effort on her part), but it also means that his friends and allies will have a harder time too, unless he can discover his true name.

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Interstitial - Matilda
Early Sunday Morning, July 15, 1934

Matilda tosses and turns in her sleep, her brow dripping with sweat. Her bed is tucked into a corner of a room otherwise covered with half-finished projects and parts mechanical and electric. As she twitches fitfully, her boot – she’s collapsed into bed fully dressed late into the night as usual – kicks a gear-and-chain assembly to the floor, but Matilda doesn’t wake.

In her dream, she’s walking down a hallway. The walls are brick and the floor is concrete stained with oil and grease. At the end of the hall is a wooden door, the red paint well-worn and flaking. Behind the door, the dreamer can hear the rhythmic hissing and thumping of a machine.

If Matilda opens the door, turn to page 30

If Matilda tries to wake herself from the dream, turn to page 34

Matilda’s player chooses page 30.

Page 30

In the dream, Matilda’s steps click in time with the thumping rhythm of the unseen machinery as she approaches the door. Greasy hand-prints surround the doorknob; she reaches out and opens the door.

The room beyond is dark, yet she can see that the walls are covered with pistons, dials, and thousands of interlocked gears.

Between the gears are a hundred human arms, crushed and sucked in between the teeth farther with each pulse. Though there is no sound beyond the thump of the machinery, she can feel them scream in pain. The arms flail, their fingers spasming with pain.

Except for one. One arm reaches for her.

If Matilda goes away from the arm, turn to page 60

If Matilda goes towards the arm, turn to page 34

Matilda’s player chooses page 34. Brave!

Page 34

As Matilda approaches, the rest of the room fades away, leaving only the single arm, reaching, desperate. Without knowing why, she begins running, reaching. The arm is receding; Matilda’s fingers brush against the outstretched hand. Both are grasping, desperate to connect, but the blood slicking the arm prevents a good hold. Finally, the arm is pulled away and sucked between the gnashing gears.

Matilda falls to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably, though she doesn’t know why. Tears drip from her face onto her bloodstreaked hanwake up, Matilda, wake up. Matilda, you have to wake up. Turn to page ض

End of interstitial! Short but hopefully creepy. And full of meaning, of course.

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Interstitial - Madeleine
Saturday Afternoon, July 14, 1934

The following is a short one-on-one Choose Your Own Adventure-style interlude scene between the end of the last adventure and the start of the next one.

Madeleine makes her way back to the Sanctum with several shopping boxes full of winter clothing. The sides of the boxes read “Sachs Fifth Avenue” and “Nieman Marcus” – just because she’s headed into the high mountains on an adventure doesn’t mean she can’t look great! It’s a warm afternoon after the morning fog burned off, and the city’s people are out and about. As the young woman passes a corner newsstand, her mouth suddenly dries and the back of her neck breaks out in goose-pimples: her Sixth Sense detects that something supernatural has just occured. Madeleine feels an odd pull towards the newsstand something Important is there.

If Madeleine follows the pull towards the newsstand, turn to page 25

If Madeleine resists the pull and tries to figure out what is going on by herself, turn to page 27

If Madeleine resists the pull and goes to talk with Brother Poverty, turn to page 52

(Madeleine’s player chooses page 27 and starts the next page, and I add on)

Page 27

Madeleine can’t seem to resist the pull from the newsstand, but she tries to nonchalantly observe the situation. She sets her boxes down on the ground and begins perfunctorily digging through her purse to give her more time to assess what’s going on. She quietly whispers a few Atlantean words of power and activates The Sybil’s Sight. Through the Unveiling of Fate she glances around, looking for whatever – or whoever – set off her Sixth Sense. She can see no obvious active spells, and indeed the strange compulsion lasted only a few seconds, but it still lingers in her memory. She covertly inspects the people around her, but none seems to carry the telltale sign of Mana in their Pattern that indicates a mage.

Concentrating, she shifts from looking for signs of magic to seeing the lines of Fate. From each person, she can perceive a thousand tiny spiderwebs – interconnections tying them to other people, things, places. From Madeleine, there is also a thicker spectal web leading from her chest. A foot in front of her, it splits, one end leading towards the newsstand and another leading on towards her original destination, her Sanctum. Cleary, she is at a decision point, and an Important one as well.

If Madeleine follows her Fate towards the newsstand, turn to page 31.

If Madeleine follows her Fate to the Sanctum, turn to page 33.

Donnie Darko, minus the creepy rabbit mask! (Madeleine’s player chooses page 31 and again starts the next page with her character’s action)

Page 31

Never one to shy away from a challenge, and knowing Brother Poverty will understand, she begins to pick up her packages and head towards the newsstand, looking for anything of importance or suspicion. She follows thick line of Fate until it ends at a stack of newspapers. She feels a tingle through her body as she picks up the top paper and opens it at random. A the top of the World News section is a headline:

Hitler admits responsibility for “Night of the Long Knives”
Friday, 13 July, Berlin
After first covering the incident up, the German leader proudly admitted responsibility in a speech to the Reichstag today. In the speech, which was broadcast nationally, Hitler claimed that the arrest and slaughter of the German SA (a paramilitary Nazi organization) was a necessary action to prevent a coup allegedly planned by the group. In addition, many other “threats”, such as political enemies of the Nazi regime and non-Party journalists were arrested and assumed imprisoned or killed…

Madeleine’s heart pounds as she reads. If she had not Awoken, would she have been among those eliminated? Absently, she reaches into her coin-purse and pays the newsie a nickel. She adds the folded paper to the stack of packages and resumes her walk to the hidden wreck of a Victorian mansion she now calls home. Was it Fate trying to teach her a lesson, or was someone trying to draw her attention, and for what reason?

Turn to page 67

Dun-dunDUN! End of Interstitial. This will be a long-running background plot for Madeleine; it’ll continue in interstitial…or appear in the main story at some point. >:-D

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Flash-Forward
Gunfire and Thugs and Blood

This session is a flash-forward. We left off on Saturday, with the mages planning to move into their new Sanctum on Sunday and start going after the book Monday. The players were up for starting later on in the story, and then playing the lead-up to that point next time. I gave them a choice: they are chasing the SS operatives, the SS operatives are chasing them, or they are in a standoff. They chose standoff!

Tuesday, July 10, 1934

Three mages are crouched in a dirty kitchen. The two young women wield pistols; the man brandishes a set of brass knuckles. A rough voice echoes through the hallway of the house. “Just give up the book, Hellman!” A feral growl issues from somewhere in between the mages and the commanding voice.

Matilda looks at Madeline for reassurance.

Madeleine looks wildly at Evan and mutters under her breath, “You just had to stop for more tobacco, didn’t you?” She peers around the kitchen counter that she’s squatted behind, glaring into the cloud of dust settled in the air. “Now what do we do?” she whispers. “Can anyone see?”

“We’ll cover you,” Matilda mouths quietly at the Russian while motioning to the sleek pistols in the women’s hands.

Evan nods to the ladies and moves to peer out the window to check the surroundings for Nazis, or Hellman.

Wits + Composure roll for the Russian.

The Russian peers above the counter through the decorative opening into the dining room. He doesn’t see Hellman, though he heard the man’s response from the next room. He DOES catch a glimpse of three heavyset men, the front one armed with a short revolver. “Last chance, Hellman, or we’re coming in, and this time we won’t stop with a broken bone!” the man shouts.

Madeleine peeks out the kitchen window, looking for a good way out – the airshaft between this house and the next is empty except for a narrow wooden stair and a few pigeons. The only exits are a door into the first-floor garage and a wooden ladder to the roof.

Madeleine looks at Evan and Matilda and gestures at the back door. “We need to get him away from them. The back is empty, I can see from here. We can go into the garage.” She looks at Evan. “You should go get him.”

Matilda chants softly focusing on Evan’s brass knuckles. She feels a reaction from the weapons as Evan is working other magic

Alter Accuracy on the Russian’s brass knuckles.

“This should confuse the hell out of them," Evan adds with an evil grin.

He attempts and illusory sound…

Evan tried to cast his voice from afar, producing only a garbled whisper coming from the area behind the three men.

Well THIS time should work." Evan muttered, brow furrowing. Madeleine tries to help Evan by attempting to control his luck but unfortunately, she senses a failure as well.

Two failed attempts at the Mind spell to make an illusory sound, and 1 failed attempt at bestow luck later…

“Maybe, I’ll have better luck impressing Hellman with my winning personality.” Evan hoped making his was toward the man, knowing this isn’t just his night.

…and a failed Dex + Stealth roll…

Madeleine rolls her eyes violently as Evan fails blatantly at sneaking out towards Hellman. She gives a meaningful look to Matilda. Matilda rolls her eyes then shrugs at Madeleine.

Initiative time!

Madeleine sighs, “_Chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous._”

The Russian crawls into the dining room and sees a disheveled man crouching in the corner in the small space next to a large cabinet. “That’s all the time you get!” the large man shouts, and one of the other toughs moves ahead into the dining room, hooks the table with the baton he’s holding, and flips it on its side. The piles of papers, books, boxes, and old remains of food go flying as the hired thugs are surprised to see a man in a suit crawling between the kitchen and the ragged man, Hellman.

Matilda gives a side glance at Madeleine while thinking, speak English you Frenchy bitch, but keeps her comments to herself.

Evan grabs Hellman’s un-casted arm and tries to drag him back to where the ladies are crouched.

Opposed Strength + Athletics rolls. Again, the Russian (who’s not an athletic person by any means) biffs it, while the crazed Hellman gets several successes.

Hellman pulls his arm back and shrinks further into the corner. The Russian can see a dark, leather-bound tome tucked in the man’s arms.

Wits + Composure for the gunman to react. He fails, the first good turn for the PC’s.

The gunman tries to react quickly and brings up his weapon. He’s hampered by surprise; with his compatriot in the way, he has no clear shot. “Who the hell are you?”

The man in the dining room with the club moves forward and tries to kick the Russian away.

The Russian takes a point of bashing damage and is pushed back into the kitchen…but we forgot to add armor.

The third man can’t get past the leader; he moves back into the main room.

Matilda takes a stance to shoot some one in the room moving her focus between the three thugs in front of her. “You might want to lower. Your. Weapons. We are stronger than you are probably willing to admit.”

Presence + Intimidate – the tough’s Resolve to get them to stop and talk. Great success!

Madeleine casts a spell quickly.

The Perfect Moment. Why not?

With surprisingly good timing and grace, Madeleine stands from behind the kitchen counter. “And I think you know that there are easier ways to come to an agreement than violence.” Her gun glints, but it is at her side, lowered, and non-threatening.

Evan get to his feet brushing off dusts and tries to get a connection going with Hellman, still face to face with the club wielding thug, but the spell fizzles. Again.

Emotional Urging to try to instill trust in the PC’s onto Hellman. He’s got terrible luck!

The leader of the thugs points his gun off to the side and raises his hands slightly at Matilda’s threat, and then lowers his weapon entirely to his side when Madeleine pops up. “How many of you are there behind that counter?”

The man with the club grabs Hellman roughly and tries to pull him and the book out from the corner he’s jammed in.

Contested Strength + Athletics rolls. The baddy wins handily.

Hellman is jerked to his feet by the thug and pulled back to the now table-less center of the room.

“The hell do you want with this loser?” the leader asks.

“I suspect the same that you want with him. But I also suspect that it’s not really that important to you in the grand scheme of things,” Madeleine says as she looks to Evan and Matilda for backup.

“He has something we want, something that you wouldn’t be interested in, I’m sure.” Evan added hastily.

Matilda does not lower her weapon and instead cocks it while still pointing it at the leader. “Hands off the goods,” she says cocking an eyebrow and glaring intently at the man. “Don’t make a bad decision.”

The Russian pulls off One Thought, Two Minds…though I think we were using it wrong.

“Did that Kraut bitch hire you to get that book too? Think we couldn’t get the job done?” The leader asks, waving his gun about. “Or is there more than one interested party?”

When Matilda cocks her weapon, the thug with the club pulls Hellman up as a shield. “Whoa there,” says the leader. “I’m sure we can come to some agreement.”

“Gives Hellman and my friend there won’t shoot you and you can still save yourselves.” Evan added, as he mentally split his mind in two.

“Don’t blow your wig, I’ll only use the bean shooter if you make me.”

“Pretty tough from two girls and a fancy-suited man.” he replies. “You want Hellman?”

The leader nods to the thug holding the poor man.

Another contested roll to rip the book out of Hellman’s arms and shove him towards the PC’s…but Hellman holds on! Didn’t see that coming…

The man pushes Hellman towards the counter and tries to simultaneously rip the book from his hands. Hellman has a madman’s grip on the tome, though, and both end up falling to the ground, wrestling over the book.

The leader begins to raise his gun again.

And back into initiative…

The Russian throws the spell and then brings his brass-guarded fist down on the thug wrestling with Hellman.

The Russian manages 2 Lethal with a Mind spell of Fraying (pretty much the only covert direct damage) and 1 Bashing on the thug on the ground. Now I REALLY don’t think we were using the Two Minds correctly, but hey, go with it during the sessino and look it up later.

The gunman grasps his head in pain but then brings his weapon to bear against Matilda and fires a deafening shot. The bullet throws splinters into the air as it plows into the counter in front of the young woman.

Between Mage Armor and cover from the counter, they’re safe for the moment.

Matilda jumps in surprise. She quickly regains her composure and returns fire at the leader.

The gunman takes a graze to the hip and grasps his side.

He takes 2 lethal. Meanwhile, Madeleine makes a successful Wits + Composure roll…

Hellman wrestles himself and the book away from the big thug and begins to crawl away on the floor. Madeleine hears footsteps at the other kitchen door, which is currently closed.

Madeleine raises her gun and aims for the leader’s shoulder. “And it isn’t just us who have extra people hiding. There’s someone behind the door!” As she says this to Evan and Matilda, she fires the gun at the leader. “Someone grab the book!”

The leader takes 3 more lethal and is NOT in good shape, at all.

Evan fights with the thug on the ground trying to work his way over to Hellman and the book.

Who takes 3 lethal damage from Psychic Fraying and 1 more bashing wound from the knuckles.

The leader puts his free hand on his shoulder and takes a wild shot with his revolver as he backs out of the room. The bullet chips plaster from the wall next to Matilda and Madeleine

The thug on the ground tries to push the Russian off as he reaches out for Hellman’s leg, but can’t shift the mage.

The side door to the kitchen explodes inwards – the third thug appears, holding a knife.

“This is not going to be a trip for biscuits if I can help it,” Matilda climbs up on the counter and spins over to hop down into the dining room. She skitters over to Hellman to protect him.

Madeleine attempts to shoot at the newcomer but her shot goes wide and she curses in French.

“Stay down you bastard! Don’t make me enjoy killing you!” Evan enjoyed this tumbling around on the ground much less than the last time he did the same thing.

And does 2 more Lethal and 3(!) bashing wounds to the club-wielding thug.

The gunman is out of sight. The thug on the floor is bleeding profusely from the nose from the Russian’s combined psychic and physical assault, but he seems the type who is not unused to a fight. He pulls back a fist and takes a swing at the mage, having lost his baton in the scuffle.

The Russian takes 3 Bashing.

The knife-wielding thug advances on Madeleine, but she dodges his thrust.

Matilda sighs deeply in frustration and shoots the psychotic Hellman in the leg.

8 successes, and Hellman is full Lethal with one Aggrivated, and is bleeding out. Oops!

Blood explodes from Hellman’s thigh as the bullet hits him. He cries out in pain and falls to the floor from his knees unconcious, dropping the book. Blood begins to pool around the man’s legs.

“Where did all this blood come from?” Evan said as the spray coated his bruised face.

Madeleine readjusts her aim at the thug with the knife, and fires again at his shoulder.

The Russian continues his assault on his foe. The man on the ground’s eyes start rolling back in his head as he struggles to stay conscious.

“Don’t make me hurt you further, stay down!”

He brings a fist again at the Russian’s face, but without as much conviction as before.

And misses.

The third thug reels from Madeleine’s bullet as it raises a line of blood across his shoulder. He reacts quickly, trying to bring his knife into the woman’s stomach, leaving a hole in her clothing and a stinging scratch on her skin.

Matilda grabs the book and runs through the doorway to the living room in hopes of escaping quickly. A trail of blood leads through the front room and out the partially open door to the stairway. She tucks the book into a football, intent on keeping anyone else from taking her prize.

Original a Heisman Pose, but darn it, the Heisman award and its signature trophy didn’t start until 1935! Anachronism’d!

Taking the hint from Matilda, Madeleine bolts after her into the dining room, yelling back to Evan, “Come! She has the book, let’s get out of the place!”

Evan grabs Hellman and drags his towards the front door. “My god Hellman, they got you in the leg! Let me help you, once we are away from here.”

“I’m sorry son…they got us!” Way to shift the blame.

Matilda fully opens the front door as frantically as she can to sprint out the front door. “Madeleine! Evan! Are you coming?!”

As she rounds the stairs to leave the house, Matilda comes face-to-face with a short-barrelled revolver. The man behind the gun is holding a cloth against his bleeding shoulder, smiles, and fires.

BLAM

And with that we’ll continue next time and see how they got to that point, and then continue from the shot.

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An Ending, A Beginning
Exposition and Hobos

The following was sent to the players in an email before the session:

Saturday, July 7, 1934

Madeleine follows Brother Poverty out of the stucco building that’s been her home for the past 7 months of her apprenticeship. The July sun has burned through the morning fog early, but her face is shaded by a wide-brimmed summer hat. In a rare indulgence, the friar hops onto a trolley; Madeleine follows and the two ride downtown, getting out at a 4-story building of tan stone and bright stainless steel. The two enter, the doorman giving Brother Poverty a nod of recognition as they pass. In deference to her heeled shoes, the friar passes the stairs and hits the elevator button. Though she hasn’t yet been, Madeleine knows that they are headed to the offices of Concejo San Francisco de Asis – with her time as an apprentice complete, she is to be inducted as a full member of the Consilium of local mages.

Madeleine has 3 xp and 1 arcane xp from her prelude session. Additionally, she has been sworn in to the outermost circle of the Guardians of the Veil – she gets the merit “Status (Guardians of the Veil)” at one dot for free and 2 more xp for a total of 5.


The Russian kisses the hand of a young woman before he exits her car and waves as she drives off giggling. He enters the building and gets into the elevator, admiring the golden Art Deco doors as he has done many times before. Instead of hitting the button for the third floor (home of Richardson and Associates, the cover company for the Consilium’s activities), he instead taps the one labelled ‘4’ – Jonah, the older Mystagogue who had become the Russian’s mentor in practice rather than the cold, calculating Syrenia, had notified him that he should report there promptly at 10 that morning for a meeting of some importance. The apprentice mage wondered if he’d get to see the interior of the large council chamber he’d heard about, under the dome that decorated the top of the building.

The Russian also has 3 xp and 1 arcane xp from his prelude. He’s also been inducted into the Mysterium, sponsored by his de facto mentor Jonah – he gets the merit “Status (Mysterium)” at one dot for free. Obviously he’s been less secluded from the mage’s world than the other two – he also gets the merit “Status (Consilium San Francisco)” at one dot for free; he will probably know at least the most prominent of mages and and be a recognized face in the consilium.


Matilda rides in the passenger seat of her mentor Archibald’s Packard as the two drive from the Santa Clara valley up the peninsula to the city. The mages of Stanford University fell under the dominion of the Consilium of San Francisco – an organization that Archibald has hinted at but not explained much to the young apprentice – and they are headed there as some sort of official ceremony to complete her apprenticeship. As they crest the hill south of the city, Matilda peers with interest at two webs of steel that stretch across the water – one bridge under construction heading east across the bay, and one to the north across the Golden Gate. They finally make their way downtown; Archibald parks the car and they make their way into the Consilium headquarters in impressively decorated modern building. Matilda admires the fine metalwork, both practical and artistic, as they make their way to the elevators and the fourth floor.

Matilda has 3 xp and 1 arcane xp from her prelude. Matilda’s mentor has introduced her to the members of the Free Council (mostly academics and students at the university) but has not pressed her to apply or make a decision – it’s something she can decide in the future. She has 4 additional xp for a total of 7.


The first session starts here!

The three apprentices and (some of) their mentors sit in leather chairs and couches – Madeleine and Brother Poverty, Matilda and Archibald, and the Russian alone. At the other end of the waiting room from where they had entered are wood-paneled double doors that presumably lead into an office or meeting room. The lighting is subdued but not dark, and the smell of fine leather and oiled wood give an ambiance of wealth and power.

Evan takes out a silver case and offers cigarettes to all in the room. Brother Poverty waves them off; Archibald pulls a pipe out of his coat pocket and winks at the Russian. Madeleine curtly nods to Evan and takes the offered cigarette, placing it in the end of her holder and lighting it daintily. She gazes around the room at the other two, mild interest in her expression.

Evan lights up his cigarette, sits back down, and checks out the surroundings.

“Archibald,” Matilda leans over to whisper,“What are these other people here for?..actually what are we really here for?”

Matilda nervously pets the leather of the chair that was soft and soothing even though she would have been just as soothed by cold smooth metal. Madeleine arches an eyebrow as she overhears Matilda speak – of course, she was wondering the same thing, but she was quite glad to not be the first to ask.

Archibald leans in as he packs his pipe, “Initiation to the Consilium as a full member – your apprenticeship with me is done, my dear. Not usually more than one at once though – this is unusual.” He leans back. “Not to worry though, it’s just a bureaucratic thing”

“Bureaucratic thing? Wonderful! Who is up for a little refreshment afterwards?” Evan adds, blowing smoke towards the ceiling.

“Do you know him?” Matilda nods her chin at the Russian while checking him out with a wary eye.

“Not in the slightest, though I don’t make it up to the city very often, I’m afraid.” Archibald stands and offers his hand. “Archibald, and this is my apprentice – well, not for long! – Matilda.”

Madeleine remains silent, not only watching her fellow students but also her mentor, gauging his reaction to Archibald’s statement that it’s an unusual circumstance

Evan smiles and winks at the wary eye cast his way. “I’m the Russian. I have a lovely little shop in the downtown area, and I invite you all to join me down there after this little affair for a beverage.” Evan adds, “I also do a bit of boring study at the University, to pass the time.”

“Brother Poverty,” the older man in the brown friar’s robes says, in turn, “and this is young Madeleine, recently of France.”

Madeleine nods curtly. “Perhaps I will take you up on that offer, Monsieur Russe.” Shetakes a long drag on her cigarette.

Matilda raises an eyebrow at the Russian but does not acknowledge him one way or the other.

The double doors open and a man exits into the room where the mages are waiting. In a soft but clear voice, he announces, “The apprentices will enter and meet with the Herald; she will conduct the apprentices through the induction. Mentors,” he looks at the two older mages, but does not seem surprised to see Syrenia absent, “thank you for your service – may your students do you proud.”

Evan stands and makes his way to the doors, holding one open for the others. “After you.”

They are about to meet with Huli, someone the Russian already knows. She’s quite nice, but is a bit of a joker, as they shall soon see.

Madeleine turns to look at Brother Poverty, “You will…you will not be joining me then?”

The friar smiles. “No – but it will be fine! Come see me when you are done; don’t forget about your old mentor!”

Madeleine smiles wryly. “I shall not.” She turns and enters the room ahead of the Russian, with another short nod of thanks for his politeness.

“Thank you,” Matilda says as she cautiously enters past the Russian. She looks back briefly at Archibald, looking for some sign that she is doing as she is supposed to. Archibald nods at her and salutes her with his pipe.

Evan extinguishes his remaining portion of his cigarette and puts the butt back into his case. “Watch out for Huli, she is a bit of prankster at times.” he warns as Matilda passes by.

Heavy red curtains are drawn across the windows in the office beyond the double doors, and the fragrant smoke of incense tickles the noses of the three mages. The secretary does not follow them in, instead shutting the doors behind them. A desk sits opposite the doors, with three green leather chairs arrayed in front. Behind the desk is a woman – perhaps in her 80’s, Chinese, in a rich red Oriental silk dress with golden dragons cavorting across the fabric. She gestures for the visitors to sit, and dourly asks in a cracked, heavily accented voice, “So, you wish to join Consilium of San Fransisco?”

“Yes, as quickly as possible, we are all terribly parched.” Evan replies.

With a sidelong glance at Evan, Madeleine nods. “Yes, that is my wish.”

“Well, not maybe terribly parched, but a least a bit on the thirsty side.” Even grins sheepishly.

“Yes," Matilda answers as she moves quickly and purposefully to the closest chair and sits tall. She stares quickly down at her dirty fingernails, stained with grease, and pulls at a ripped cuticle.

The woman stares at the Russian and her frown deepens. “You have no respect for the seriousness if this ceremony, apprentice.”

Matilda reacts, feeling accused, “In fairness, we have not been warned of the seriousness…”

Madeleine watches intently as Evan is evaluated by the woman.

“That is not the first time I have heard that, and I apologize for this time, and I truly mean it.” Evan adds.

The woman’s head slowly bows down to the desk, and to the mage’s surprise she is laughing to herself. She looks back up and years of wrinkles and age-spots have disappeared. “I’m sorry,” she says in a neutral Californian accent. “My name is Huli, and I’ll be your Herald!” She stands and holds a hand out across the desk. She looks in her late 50’s or early 60’s, with bright eyes and a wide smile. “I run a traditional medicine and fortune-telling shop down in Chinatown – the act is for tourists! I apologize for having a bit of fun at your expense.” She winks at the Russian. “And no, you don’t mean it, you scamp. Can’t even play along with a little joke…”

“I was kidding when I said I apologize, and I mean THAT, you trickster!” Evan chuckles.

Madeleine’s eyebrow quirks again as the woman looks back up; she’s mildly amused by this, but she does remain passive for the time being – all that time with the Nazis taught her to keep her mouth shut in most situations.

“Down to business,” Huli says as she sits back into her chair. “Joining the consilium is a simple matter; there are no complicated tasks or scary initiation ceremonies. Usually we do it individually – you are inducted, and then may apply for membership to a cabal if you wish. However, with the three of you ready so close to one another, the Hierarch has a special offer for you – more on that I can’t say. Any questions before we get started?”

“She has the best prices on bear gall bladders in all of San Francisco, very fresh and quite potent.” Evan expounds the virtues of Huli’s shop to the ladies. Huli tosses a wadded up piece of paper at the Russian. Evan pockets the paper for later, while innocently whistling.

“I have none. I am ready to move forward.” Madeleines’s voice is calm and her French accent is thick.

Matilda is restless from the irrelevant banter and asks, “What is the offer?”

“The Hierarch will fill you in on that, Matilda. Everyone ready then? No questions? Not an inquisitive bunch, for sure."

“Oh the questions will come, for now, we aren’t even sure what to ask. Be ready for it to change at a moments notice,” the Russian responds.

Matilda adds, “I would rather get down to business and figure things out for myself than with individuals I am not acquainted with."

“Fair enough.”

Huli leads the apprentices through a side door out of her office into a wood-panelled hallway. The four mages pass other similar closed doors until they reach the end of the hall, where Huli leads them through into a large open space – the council chamber. The circular room is ringed with three elevated rows of marble benches, interrupted by five stairways leading down to the open center floor. The walls and dome ceiling are painted, the walls with Art Nouveau depictions of the five Watchtowers, the ceiling with a canopy of trees and flowers. Off-center in the middle of the room is a raised dais with a large ornate wooden desk atop it (though still lower than the first set of benches), with several smaller desks, tables and seats below, as might be in a courtroom. Three figures stand around one of the lower tables – an older man in a brown business suit, a younger man with rolled shirtsleeves, suspenders, and a yellow bow-tie, and another person, completely covered in a black silk robe, wearing a golden mask with a stylistic androgynous human face.

Madeleine is familiar with the mask – this is a magical object that the Guardians of the Veil use that obscures and anonymizes a person, going so far as to magically change height and voice. Matilda has heard of a similar device from Archibald – a Guy Fawkes mask used by British Free Councillors.

Madeleine’s breath catches in her throat a little bit as she enters the room and sees the mask of the Guardians of the Veil – things are happening quickly and she’s having a hard time making sense of it, so she continues to watch and wait for instructions.

Evan bows his head to the man in the business suit as he enters the room.

Huli addresses the older man, “Hierarch Janus, may I present apprentices Matilda, Madeleine, and the Russian.” The three break off their hushed conversation and turn to face the newcomers.
“Come, sit,” Janus says as he takes one of the chairs along the table. The other two sit farther towards the end, leaving the chairs across from the hierarch open.

“So,” Janus reclines in the chair and eyes the three apprentices. “You want to join the consilium?”

“Yes, very much – an offer to the three of us was mentioned, very interesting indeed.” Even says, taking a offered seat.

“Yes, we do.” Matilda answers as she takes a chair as instructed.

Madeleine takes her seat without hesitation, some of her fear leaving her – big tables and conferences she’s used to! “Yes, that is my goal.”

“The offer in a moment,” Janus raises an eyebrow at the Russian, “but first: do you agree to uphold the Lex Magica of Consejo San Fransisco de Asis and be bound to its laws?”

Madeleine nods very determinedly. “Of course. All of my training has been to be of service to the Lex Magica.”

Matilda tries to not look completely uninformed while asking, “Meaning what exactly?”

“What all does that entail? I am at a bit of a disadvantage in following what I am not sure of the specifics; please enlighten me.” Evan asks.

“Guardian, eh?” Janus says, looking at Madeleine. “Typical attitude, but so serious.” He turns to the Russian and Matilda. “The Lex Magica is our set of laws – much like the laws you’ve been following as a Sleeper. These laws, though, almost entirely concern keeping our disagreements, which happen more often than any of us would like, from spilling into the Sleeper world.”

Madeleine actually takes this as quite a compliment; she has always been serious in her endeavors.

“Sounds like a good idea to practice, I can follow this Lex Magica.” Evan adds, his tone serious.

“You could read it – we have several copies in the consilium library – but it’s huge and boring. Basically,” he starts counting off on his fingers, “Don’t perform Vulgar magic in from of Sleepers. Don’t discuss the Mysteries where they might overhear. Disputes shall be settled by the Duel Arcane if they cannot be settled by mutual agreement.”

Matilda waits for eye contact from Janis and gives one quick nod.

The Russian perks up, “I might read up on the Duel part, that sounds not boring at all. I agree about the rest though.”

“Do you all agree then?”

Evan nods agreement.

“Yes, of course,” Madeleine replies.

Matilda continues to stare at Janus, almost uncomfortably, and replies, “Yes.”

“So be it. You’re now full-fledged mages. That was easy, eh?” Janus sits up. “Normally now you’d join one of the existing cabals, your mentors or another that you are interested in, but I have a proposal for you. This,” he gestures to the man in the bow-tie, “is Cyrus, Free Councillor, and this,” he nods to the robed, masked figure, “is a representative of the Guardians, both of the Washington, DC consilium.” He pushes the chair back. “I will let them take it from here.”

Cyrus stands and addresses them; his voice is higher than the mages might have expected. “As you may be aware, the Free Council is alone in embracing the present and future, rather than just looking to the past for mystical knowledge and enlightenment. For the past 10 years, a project I have headed has been discovering, cataloging, and gaining favor with the newest powerful spirits of the modern world – such as the great spirit Ma Bell, Western Union, and the Trans-Atlantic Cable, and others. Through these beings, we’ve been tapping world communications, and we found something recently that caught the attention of the Guardians of the Veil.” He nods to his robed companion.

The voice that comes from behind the golden mask is neither male nor female but somewhere in between. “The German SS is a paramilitary force loyal to the Nazi party. Besides moves against the political and social enemies of the party, according to coded cables we’ve decoded from Cyrus’ group,”“ – you can almost hear the distaste of the Guardian even through the anonymizing power of the mask – “they’ve also taken a great interest in the occult, to the point of endangering themselves and us. They’ve been accumulating magical artifacts, texts, and objects far beyond what sleepers should be capable of – we fear the involvement of the Seers of the Throne at the highest levels.”

Cyrus takes back over. “We’ve been recruiting teams across the nation, and our colleagues overseas have been doing the same. We supply information from the intercepted messages to the teams, and they in turn stop the SS and their operatives from obtaining occult objects – either by directly stopping them, by retrieving the objects before they are taken, or in the worst case by recovering them afterwards. In return, the teams may, as far as their consilium laws allow,” he nods to Janus, “keep anything they find.”

Cyrus sits as Janus adds, “As an incentive, because you will be working as a team, the consilium is prepared to offer you a Hallow and Sanctum for your use.” He rubs his chin, “This is a great opportunity, but it does not come without risk. Do you have any questions before you decide on this?”

EXPOSITION’D!

Matilda looks to her two companions.

“Questions?!” Madeleine suddenly looks around like a trapped animal. “Questions?! You expect us to take the SS on as brand new Mages? Brand new Mages who have not met yet in this life? You must be joking!”

“I would wonder where the Sanctum would be located? I am partial to San Francisco, and have a small business to keep up.” Evan adds, for some reason out of breath.

“The sanctum is here in the city, yes.” He turns to Madeleine. “I said it would be dangerous – but these are Sleepers! I think you’ll find that your new abilites give you quite an advantage.” He smiles at her worry.

“What have I got to lose? Will I still be able to have contact with Archibald?

Janus raises his eyebrows at Matilda’s question. “Of course! The consilium – or this assignment – is not some tyrannical jailer! See who you wish – you are an adult, and a mage. Who am I to stop you?”

“I’m in.”

“My German is a bit non-existant, but I don’t mind doing some traveling, why not?” the Russian replies. “Is your German much better than mine mademoiselle? Or do I miss my mark?”

“Dis donc! All due respect, mon capitane but these are no ordinary Sleepers.” Her voice becomes low, “They are capable of evils of the worst kind; they have access to powers no Sleepers should know.”

At mention of “Evil of the worst kind” Evan steeples his fingers and leans in to the conversation, intrigued.

“Young woman, you seem to think that these operatives and hired thugs are some sort of mystical gods among men – a view that they would more likely hold of themselves. I think you’ll find things a bit less…melodramatic.” Janus turns back to the Russian. “German language skills are not a prerequisite – this assignment may take you all over the world. Plus, you are a Mastigos, yes? Your Mind magic will make short work of any language.”

Madeleine casts another sidelong look at Evan. “My German is commendable at best.” She throws up her hands in frustration at the offhand way Janus is talking about the Nazis and goes back to smoking her cigarette and being silent.

Matilda continues to tear at her cuticle.

Evan fishes out another cigarette as Madeleine looks to be about finished with hers.

Janus sees that he has only one more person to convince. “My dear – Madeleine – we don’t throw novice teams at the meat grinder. We have many more experienced mages – some of whom you may join on assignment from time to time perhaps – for the more dangerous missions. We’ll pick objectives well within your reach. And don’t throw away the opportunity! Secrets such as the locations of artifacts are usually drug out of years of research and are not shared by mages for any cost. And this is hardly binding – you may stop at any time.”

The Russian’s player – “No, the intermediate teams go to the meat grinder!”

Matilda starts lightly coughing as she is surrounded by cigarette smoke. She never even picked up the habit socially due to being around machines that run on combustible fluids.

Madeleine takes the cigarette from Evan as an act of kindness, showing a small smile at his generosity and then listens intently to Janus, pauses for a long moment, and says, ”Alright. If only because I think it’s important to stop those salopards from what they’re doing.”

Janus motions triumphantly to the two visitors from DC. The masked Guardian nods. “Here is your first assignment.” A gloved hand places a folded piece of paper on the desk.

Janus stands and gestures towards the door from which the three entered. “Huli will be waiting for you and will take care of any other questions you may have. Good luck.”

Evan walks to the desk and picks up the paper, “Unless anyone else wants this for now?” and places it in his jacket pocket.

The three lead themselves out of the door that the entered by. “I couldn’t help but notice you hands madam, do you do a great deal of work yourself, an artist perhaps?” Evan asks of Matilda, looking at her cuticles.

She looks at him startled, thinking that by not making eye contact she was but a mouse in the corner. She carefully chewed her response. “Yes, I am an engineering student at the university.”

“Engineering, an admirable field, something not ever woman signs up for! I’m impressed.”

Huli is waiting, excited. “So, did you take the deal?”

“What do you think?”, Matilda replies cryptically.

Evan pats his jacket pocket and nods to Huli.

Madeleine nods, “Yes, we did. I am still hesitant, however.”

“You’ll do great, I’m sure.” She pats Madeleine on the shoulder in a motherly way. “If you’re ready, I can show you the sanctum.”

“I am ready.” Madeleine nods and follows Huli.

Evan nods and looks around. Huli leads them out of the consilium building and onto a trolley that heads east and the north, up Telegraph Hill. She gets off and stands between two white-bricked buildings. “Here we are!”

“These look the picture of non-descript – they are perfect,” the Russian observes.

Huli laughs. “These are businesses and offices!” She fishes three iron skeleton keys from a bag hanging around neck and hands them to the three younger mages. As they look up after taking the keys, they see a Victorian house between the two modern buildings. It didn’t appear out of nowhere, it was just as if their eyes had slid right over it before without noticing it.

“It’s not great security, but it keeps the Sleepers out – they wanted to demolish this place after the great quake of ‘06.” The house is three stories of peeling paint above a basement, with the bay window turning into a fourth-floor tower above. “The Hallow’s up in the tower – it probably would have dissipated without the house here.”

She leads them to the door; next to the entrance is a cast metal sign that reads, “Hathaway.”

“That is the picture of amazing, I like this place more all the time,” says the Russian. “Anything we should know about this place before we go in?”

Madeleine observes the sign and looks at Huli, “Who is Hathaway?”

Huli opens the door to reveal a dusty interior. “Whoever lived here before – it’s been abandoned since the Great Quake. We’ve used the hallow off and on, but mostly we’ve kept it shut down to avoid attracting too much attention – hobo mages and Seers.”

After me then." Evan opens the door and enters the sanctum, eyes wide open.

Madeleine peers cautiously over Evan’s shoulder as he enters the sanctum. “And we don’t have to worry about it collapsing onto our heads?” She raises her eyebrow again.

Matilda listens carefully and adds, “Hobos?”

Huli turns to Matilda, “Not literal hobos…usually. Just solitary mages that don’t belong to a consilium or cabal. They often leech mana from unused hallows – or occupied ones, if they get brave.”

“Oh, that sounds pleasant,” Madeleine sneers at the idea of these mana leeches.

The older woman taps a wall with her fist. “I don’t think it’s going to fall.” Dust cascades from the ceiling, making her cough. “Could use a good cleaning I’m sure.”

Matilda enters with the duet while examining the room and fiddling with something in her pocket. She looks around for a radio.

“This has a certain, earthy charm, and by charm I think I smell the usual hobo.” Evan peers into one of the bedrooms.

“May we claim a bedroom?” Matilda inquires.

Huli shouts up the stairs at Matilda, “It’s your house now! Work it out with your cabalmates!”

Madeleine rolls 3 successes on Wits + Investigation.

Madeleine looks through the entryway and beyond for signs of recent – or current – habitation. Besides the footprints left by herself and her companions, the only other disturbances in the dust are themselves covered by a rather thick layer. It’s been some time since anyone’s been in this house.

The Russian rolls 3 successes – all 10’s! – on Wits + Occult to find any signs of magical involvement in the house.

The Russian finds several Atlantean runes on a wall in the hallway leading to the fourth floor tower – several have been struck through, but the remaining seem to have something to do with “Pentacle Order” and “Claimed”.

Matilda finds a corner bedroom that is small, quaint and has a big window. She plants her hands approvingly on her hips and smiles. “I think this will work,” she mumbles to herself. “Now, I just need a tinker project and a cat.” She takes out her watch, reflectively opens it, closes it, and tosses it in the air and catches it in a fluid motion before taking the steps two at a time down to her teammates.

Madeleine looks up as Matilda descends the stairs. “Anything interesting up there?”

Matilda stops at the bottom of the stairs, “I got my room picked out. It’s kind of dusty – but I like it like that.”

“I’d prefer the bed room at the back of the house, unless either of you would prefer it.” Evan says peering into the room and noticing a refreshing lack of hobo odor.

“I’ll go then and try to find a room for myself, as well,” Madeleine mutters, mostly to herself. “I’ll have to get my belongings from Brother Poverty…”

Huli makes her way up the stairs. “The Hallow’s up on the fourth floor – make sure you set up a schedule to draw the mana off, or it’ll start accumulating in the structure of the place.”

“What would this accumulation of mana do to the house?” Evan asks pulling at an exposed board in the wall.

Huli answers the Russian’s question. "If the mana is not harvested, it will start leeching into the matter around it – it’s called Tass. You can draw the mana out with some knowledge of the Prime arcana – especially useful if you can take that matter with you. If you get the Tass to build up in a food or drink, you don’t even need Prime to harvest it, but it doesn’t last as long.

“If you don’t need anything else, I’ll leave you to it.” She hands a card to Madeleine. “Call me any time – there are two Heralds in the consilium, but I’m assigned to you!”

Madeleine nods, “And the other Herald?”

Matilda raises her eyebrows at Madeleine wondering if she is always so testy.

She pretty much is.

“The other Herald is a man named Phelan – nice man, you should say hello some time.”

Madeleine nods. “Thank you for your help, Huli." She turns to the stairs to start looking for a room.

Huli turns in the door, “If you have any more questions, just let me know!”

“Matilda is it? Is this place safe from an engineering standpoint? I don’t want to be killed by a house.” Evan asks, still looking at the same exposed board.

“Hmmmm, all the big kids are maging, I guess I can too.” Matilda sits and chants for a minute…

One success on an improvised spell to feel the composition and construction of the house. This should probably require some Space as well, but hey, we’re winging it.

Matilda’s vision expands as she activates the spell. She can see, or almost feel, all through the structure. The house seems sound enough, though slightly shifted on its foundations. She ‘feels’ a rough spot in the basement, where some of the concrete wall has collapsed. She relays this to the Russian.

“Now about this basement . . . " Evan opens the door and descends into the darkness, candle in hand.

Matilda’s eyes snap open as she exclaims, “Be careful down there – part of the wall is crumbling!”

The basement is cool and dark. A wooden shelving unit has tipped over and remnants of glass bottles litter the floor, along with the dessicated remains of whatever was stored in them.

" . . wall . . . crumbling . . . . got it."

The Russian gets one success on 8 dice for a rote to Speak with the Dead.

The Russian stops to perform a rote he had learned, attempting to reveal any ghosts present in the basement. The ghostly image of a single glass jar floats in twilight where the shelf would have been; other than that, he sees nothing, though he has an odd feeling tickling the back of his neck.

Matilda pops up in fear for the Russian’s safety and runs to peer over his shoulder on her tip-toes. “What’s down there?” she asks.

“I think the crumbling walls are the least of our problems, down here is about the least hobo tainted part of the house.” Evan called up the stairs then turns around quickly to find Matilda right behind him. “All I saw was the afterimage of a floating jar, then I felt like something was watching me, or maybe it was just a spider dropping down, they are all over down here.”

Noticing that Evan is nervously rubbing the back of his neck, Matilda grins, “Sorry, did my breathing startle you?”

The three head back to the entryway. Evan takes out the note and reads it to the group.

“Grimoire of High Tibet. By 10 July. Hellman.” and an address by Golden Gate Park.

“They’re not giving us much time, are they? Madeleine sighs. “I would like to gather my supplies from my mentor and then I will be ready. Perhaps in 3-4 hours?”

“By the 10th? Does the deadline have anything to do with the full moon on the 11th?” Matilda fiddles in her pocket again. “I would like to relocate a few of my belongings before we tackle this…”

“How about we take tonight to rest, tomorrow to mover in and the next day to retrieve the grimoire?” Evan asks.

“That sounds like we are in agreement," Matilda says.

Evan nods.

“You think we can locate and retrieve the grimoire in a single day? My, you are confident!” but Madeleine nods in agreement with the plan – she does need her rest.


END SESSION 1

A bit slow and tons of exposition, but the players liked it. There’ll be more action next time!

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What Evan did afterwards . . .

After his revelation filled meeting with Jonah, Evan headed back to his small curiosity shop. His mind filled with new possibilities.

The next morning Evan began the preparation to cast the spells needed to hide the knowledge of Syrenia’s true name from himself. He knew that his knowledge of Syrenia’s name was too dangerous to let on to his mentor, unless he wanted to end up dead. Before, beginning the spell Evan wrote a himself a note with Syrenia’s name inside, and “Open next month, or in case of emergency.” He then cast the spells necessary to hide away the dangerous knowledge somewhere deep inside his mind.

Hours later, with the spells complete, Evan looked down at the note on the dresser and wondered what information the envelope contained. Sweat dripping down his head, Evan picked up his phone and placed a call.

“Hello, Josephine? Its Stephan. I have a opening for an assistant, that I think you would be just perfect for you, interested?”

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0c - Prelude: Matilda
A World of Adventure

These scenes are set during the apprenticeship of Matilda, a young American tomboy college student who Awoke as a Moros. She’s apprenticed to one of her professors, Dr. Victor “Archibald” Walthingstone, a middle-aged, dashing British adventuring Free Councilor.

A young woman and a middle-aged man stand across from each other, eyes locked. The man lunges with his sword, which is parried handily by the woman. “Closer, that time!” he says. They trade blows until finally the older man forces several hasty retreats on the woman, finally beating her defenses and lunging in for the kill. A red mark spreads across the white fabric.

The man drops the mask he’s been holding in front of his face and salutes the woman with his epee. Dr. Victor Walthingstone, professor of electrical and mechanical engineering at Stanford University, and now known to to woman as “Archibald”, has been teaching Matilda fencing as well as the magical arts.

He brushes the red chalk from the end of his weapon. “Ready to go again?”

“Damn your height advantage. If we were fighting with foil, I would have the advantage,” Matilda said as she took a deep breath, removed her mask, and wiped a single drop of sweat from her temple.

“We fight with the advantages we have,” Archibald replies, “though we Awakened have a few extra tricks up our sleeves as well. How about we go again, but this time with a little… enhancement?”

Matilda sees her mentor concentrate as he makes a few hand motions, and can tell he’s chanting a bit under his breath. Matilda cracks a small grin taking the clue to parry Archibald’s magical advances and closes her eyes. “You are on.” She mumbles under her breath as she starts to concentrate.

They’re using Alter Accuracy. Matilda fails pretty badly for a 4-die roll, then finally burns a point of willpower to make it go through.

Matilda attempts to strengthen her weapon, and fails twice. She finally catches her mental breath and succeeds. Archibald brings the mask up to his face and the two advance towards each other.

A fencing match proceeds as a Dex + Athletics versus roll. Archibald rolls far, far better than the novice mage.

The more experienced Brit and the American novice parry and thrust back and forth again until Archibald finds another hole in Matilda’s defenses. To her surprise, he doesn’t connect the weapon to her chest – instead, he stops several inches short…and a stream of black liquid shoots out of the end of the sword, staining her white fencing jacket. “Hah!” he says. “Jury Rig, one of my favorites. Combined my epee with an ink pen!”

Matilda looks down at her once white jacket, and ducks under Archibald’s blade only to come up to his off side and shove the bell of her epee an inch short of his nose. “See, I can do that too.” She smiles, rolls her eyes and puts her off hand forward to shake hands, “You best me every time.”

“With practice, and your determination, my dear, I’m sure you’ll be bruising me to no end soon enough,” he chuckles in his gentle mid-Atlantic accent. The sun has gone down as the two have sparred. Archibald eventually calls off the fencing practice and removes his fencing jacket, replacing it with his usual tan shooting coat with leather elbow patches. “We should do some more practical application of your new skills.” With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he asks Matilda, “Up for a little late-night breaking and entering?”

“With you I will,” Matilda purses her lips tightly. She normally just kept to her gadgets to keep out of trouble. Archibald seemed to be trying to get her out of her shell and be a rebel as much as learn her new skills.

“Oh, it’s not as bad as it sounds,” he says with a smirk. “A friend of mine in the anthropology department just received some exciting new shipments from a dig in Egypt that will be going on display soon. What say we nip in and take a bit of an early peek?”

“I’ll be right there.” Matilda removes her fencing gear and lets her locks of auburn hair fall to her shoulders. She quickly pulls on her tweed knickers and cable sweater before dashing out the door behind Archibald. He leads on out of the building and across the lighted paths of the campus.

The mentor and apprentice reach a small solid back door. Archibald pulls on the handle. “Locked,” he says, “but not too much of an obstacle for us, eh Matilda? Why don’t you take a stab at it – oh, but try not to leave any permanent damage; we don’t need the police, or God forbid one of the deans looking for a burglar.”

Matilda sizes up the door while pulling a shiny pocket watch from her knickers. She holds the watch in front of her while chanting in Atlantean. The reflection in the watch face quickly rotates as the spell is cast.

Plasticity on the door, with a bonus for chanting and the paradox reduction of her dedicated magical tool, her father’s pocket watch. 6 dice and still fails, but thankfully no paradox on the chance die.

“Jezebel!" She hisses under her breath. After a quick huff at the wooden door and a stare that if powered could have opened the door on it’s own, Matilda turned to Archibald, “I’ll give it another try, if it’s alright.”

This time it succeeds, though only for a few seconds duration.

Matilda quickly catches the bottom corner of the door with her foot and passes it to her hand, pulling it up several more inches before it turns hard again. Archibald reaches under and unlocks the door. The two enter, and he closes the misshapen wooden thing. “Do you want to put it back in proper shape, or shall I?” he whispers to Matilda.

Though Matilda’s glare should have been heated enough to melt the door. “I’ll do it.”

She fails again (terrible luck) but thankfully avoids the paradox, now on one die as it’s the second spell in the scene.

Matilda throws her hands up in the air. “Pfffft”

Archibald rolls his eyes. “Don’t fret about it.” He turns the door to putty again and bends it back to meet the door-frame. The two lead on cautiously into the dark hallway.

“Don’t want to risk any lights in here if we can help it – and we can, with a little Forces,” he says. “Shift the light entering your eyes from the infrared to the visible.” He casts the spell on himself.

Two tries AGAIN for Nightvision.

“Alright, I’ll try…<huff> Alright, I’ll try again.” Matilda says as she flubs her first attempt but is able to see down the dark abandoned hall after a second attempt.

Archibald motions her on and leads down the hall. He stops, reading the sign next to one door, nods, then opens it. Inside are four tables, each with a large coffin-sized crate on top. “This ought to be a lark,” he says, carefully moving the lid back from one of the crates. Inside – white cloth wrapped around a human-shaped form.

“What the HELL are you doing, sir? Careful or not, I have to say, this seems a little…well…bad”

“Relax, dear girl,” he laughs quietly as he moves the cloth back. Underneath is a brown, wrinkled, ancient face – a mummy. "These chaps have been dead for years, there’s nothing to fear.”

“Time is no barrier to the Death Arcana, though. See if you can tell how this one died!”

“Well, that would be okay…practice under pressure” She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath while putting her hands over the body and chanting softly….

Forensic Gaze, a very handy one-dot Death spell. Her player, “I sense something…a feeling I have not felt since….”

Matilda feels an image come into her mind – an old man in a strange-looking bed, surrounded by men dressed in white linen and gold jewelry. In her mind’s eye view, she sees the old man’s lungs and feels the bacteria growing inside, poisoning the man and stealing his breath. As she watches, the man gasps and then slumps, dead.

“What did I just see? Did it work?" Matilda explains what she saw to Archibald.

“You tell me – how did he die?”

Matilda closes her eyes hard and repictures the scene, “…sickness…” she says tentatively.

“Spectacularly non-specific,” Matilda’s mentor frowns. He moves the cloth back over the mummy and closes the lid. Archibald opens the next one and peels back the cloth again, revealing another dry face with gaunt cheeks and missing teeth. “How about this one?”

Much better luck on these, for whatever reason, even on 3 dice.

Another image comes into the apprentice mage’s mind. A younger man looks about as if hunted and moves quickly. Suddenly, the scene slows and she sees a small metal object fly through the man’s shoulder, leaving a spurt of blood flying out the front of his chest. The scene speeds up again and the man turns and falls. She realizes that something is out of place – the man is wearing the uniform of a Napoleanic soldier.

“That isn’t right…he shouldn’t be here. This man is not a mummy, he was a soldier killed in battle!” Matilda looks down curiously and pulls back the shroud further to reveal a gaping hole in the man’s chest.

“Hmmm, that doesn’t look like a spear wound. Cause of death on this one?” he asks, peering at the body.

“Bullet wound.”

HAH!” he shouts, making Matilda jump as he slaps the table. “Dr, Morrison’s got a fake! I wonder if he knows…”

Wits + Perception for 0 successes.

Matilda and Archibald flinch and cover their eyes and their dark-adjusted vision is suddenly overwhelmed by what seems like a searing light – someone has turned on the lights in the room. “Run, Matilda, run!” he shouts, laughing as he flees the room. Matilda turns on a dime and flails her way out of the room.

“…the hell?!” a man’s voice yells as the two flee down the hall. “Miscreant students! Come back here!” Echoing feet behind them reveal that the unknown man is giving chase.

Figuring Archibald would plan for such an outcome to this outing, Metilda follows closely behind her wise mentor. Archibald seems to be making fast, random turns through the halls,clearly not retracing the steps that brought you here.

Hah, yea, he didn’t plan for it at all, but the thrill of getting caught is part of the reason he did this on a whim. Matilda burns another point of Willpower on the Dex + Athletics roll to stay upright as she follows on the slippery floor.

Matilda manages to keep up with her mentor as he bursts through an exit door into the cool night. She can hear his laughs echo off the nearby buildings as he finally stops at a tree after putting some distance between themselves and the Anthropology building. He claps her on the shoulder, breathing heavily.

“Looks like we lost him!”

“Yes…now what?” Matilda asks. “Do we need to tell someone about the soldier?”

“And how would we know anything about it? After all, we were never anywhere near old Morrison’s room. Let him figure it out – it might just lend a little humility to that pompous fellow if he finds he has a century-old Frenchy rather than a millenias-dead Pharoah!”

He spins in glow of the streetlamp with his arms raised. “Ah, adventure! It really makes you feel ALIVE, doesn’t it!”

Matilda starts to scold her mentor and then stops herself. She quickly rolls her eyes and replaces her doubt with a subtle grin and she jogs to join Archibald in their walk home.

Tune in next time for more WORLD OF ADVENTURE!

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0b - Prelude: The Russian
Mysteries and Revelations

These scenes are set during the apprenticeship of Evan “The Russian” Radmonovich. A Russian-American bum, carouser, confidence-man, and sham psychic/medium, he Awoke as a Mastigos and was assigned to a mysterious and contentious mage by the named of Syrenia.

The Russian waits in the the foyer of Syrenia’s grand house. His mentor of several months since his Awakening asked that he show up promptly – not that she ever expected anything but immediate and to-the-letter obedience. After several minutes, the woman descends the wide, sweeping stairs; the Russian can’t help but turn and stare – she has that effect on everyone. Syrenia’s Sleepwalker manservant comes from a side door with perfect timing, as always, to hand the lady of the house her hat and coat.

“Come, Evan,” she says to the Russian without even glancing his way, as she leaves out the front door.

Evan nods his head, and follows Syrenia out the front door. Syrenia walks purposefully down the stairs and into the back of the waiting limo. The Russian makes his way around to the other side – she would never scoot over. As her driver takes them down the street, she says, “I will need to you assist me with a task today: entertaining a young woman – not a task you will find too onerous.”

“I would be more than happy to help in any way, and entertaining a young woman would be our pleasure.” Evan replies, “But if you need help entertaining this woman she must be something more than another pretty face. Not that there would be anything wrong with that.” Evan adds with a wink.

“I am sure you will find her perfectly…acceptable,” she replies. “Remember our lessons in Mind magic – I would suggest making a good First Impression.”

As the car wove in and out of traffic Even looked intently at Syrenia and tried to perceive her aura, as he always does when first meeting her. Syrenia’s aura is a cool, calm blue, as it always is. Some day, the Russian was going to catch his mentor in a state of distress, anger, even happiness, but so far – she was either extremely good at controlling her emotions, or at masking her aura.

The car pulls up in front of a tall, brick downtown building. Above the brass doors is written “Bank of America”. Syrenia leaves the car as her driver opens the door without glancing back at the Russian, though she clearly means for him to follow. After reading her aura, Evan waits patiently for more information about this certain lady who needs entertaining.

Evan follows Syrenia, on the lookout for out of the ordinary things in this Bank of America. Syrenia’s fingers twitch sublty and the Russian feels a spell go off; the doorman’s eyes, which had been glued to the captivating mage, slide off of her as if she was not even there.

Gotta love some Incognito Prescence

Evan follows past the doorman. As the two enter the main hall of the bank, Syrenia turns to the right. The Russian hears her voice in his mind, ‘Her.’ She nods to a woman, a secretary he’d guess, behind a desk at the wall, in front of a glass office door.

The apprentice mage attempts to cast First Impressions, but feels the magic slip away. Evan prepares to meet the secretary, adjusting his tie for the second time. The second time’s a charm – and he’s a charmer! – as his spell takes hold.

The woman, in her mid-twenties he thinks, is busily scratching away with a pencil on a desk calendar. Her aura consists of sharp, flashing colors that the Russian has learned signifies someone in a daydream. She glances up at him – ignoring Syrenia completely. “May I help you?”

Evan hands over the fresh flower he had place on his lapel earlier that morning. “Now you are a propery attired banker; there was a certain lack of color.”

A quick Prescence + Socialize roll with a bonus die for First Impressions, and she’s happy to see him.

The woman – ‘Josephine’ from the name-plate on the desk – smiles and blushes. “Why thank you, sir. Mr. Johnson,” – the office door behind her has “Mr. Phillip Johnson, General Manager” in gilt letters on the glass – “is out at the moment.”

The Russian hears his master’s voice in his head again, ’One Mind – Two Thoughts, as you have been practicing, so you can pay attention to my instructions as you amuse the girl."

Responding to Syrenia’s mental request Evan began to split his mind, one half focused on the banker and the other listening to the commands of his mentor.

Four dice and no success – not a good start to impressing his master.

The Russian spends an awkward few seconds smiling blankly as another spell fails. "Yes, I couldn’t help but notice you were looking at your calendar there . . . " Evan said, making small talk as he tried again to divide his consciousness again – this tim esuccessfully.

The secretary smiles again and rolls her eyes. “Mr. Johnson’s schedule, Mr…?” She tilts her head down and glances coyly at the Russian. In his mind, he hears Syrenia’s thoughts as the other mage slips though the office door, ’Keep her busy…see if you can get a date, perhaps, it seems to be one thing you are good at. Perhaps some Emotional Urging to get her in the right mood."

“You know, I have been meaning to spend more time getting to know my co-workers, and since it is about lunch time, and since we are co-workers, how about we go have a nice long lunch?” Evan asks, all the while trying to influence Josephine’s emotions.

Evan, disregarding the request of his mentor, simply asks Josephine out to a nice lunch.

Why use magic when you have a fantastic Manipulation + Persuasion (Womanizer) dice pool?

“Well, I’m seeing someone, Mr…I never did get your name!… How about dinner? Mr. Johnson,” she says with obvious distain, “needs me to run some errands and get him a sandwich from that deli of his blocks and blocks away…are you free for dinner tonight?”

‘Damn, damn, damn’ the Russian hears in his head as he is talking with the secretary. ’They’re not here – he must have them on him. Continue your womanizing ways, and just go with whatever happens.’

“You know what, I know a very nice deli not too far from here, one where they have a nice, secluded area, and they are very quick with the take out orders.” Evan said trying to further engage the secretary. At the same time he sought what Syrenia wanted with the girl via telepathy.

“By the way my name is Stephan, Stephan Davis.” Evan says with a smile.

Syrenia ignores her apprentice’s question. The Russian notices her quickly open the manager’s door and slip out – she must have excluded him from her Incognito Prescence or he’d not likely notice her. She cancels the spell and he feels her trigger another effect. Suddenly, he sees an older, balding man standing in Syrenia’s place. The man walks up to the desk where the two are flirting, and ‘his’ impatient voice says, “Jo! Where is the backup safe deposit box key? The others must in the pants at the damn cleaners – you better get those today!”

Evan waits as “Mr. Johnson” addresses Josephine, all the while still in contact with Syrenia. ‘What would you have from this girl’ These keys?" Evan asks.

Josephine straightens up in her chair immediately, “Right here, Mr. Johnson!”

She pulls a keychain from her desk and unlocks a lower drawer, hands Syrenia-as-Mr.-Johnson a large key, and relocks the drawer. “I’ll have your laundry for you right away, Mr. Johnson.”

“Yes, you will,” ‘he’ answers, and moves off with the key.

Josephine turns back to the Russian and sighs once her boss is out of earshot. “You see what I have to deal with? Where do you work around here, I haven’t seen you around before?”

‘Keep with her until I return with the key,’ the Russian hears from his master.

“I’m new, down in account receivable, it really is the sub-sub-basement of the bank, I don’t blame you for not remembering seeing me.”

The two continue to flirt for several minutes before ‘Mr. Johnson’ (he assumes) returns with the key. Josephine returns the key to the drawer, and Syrenia-as-Mr.-Johnson strides off purposefully.

“I really can’t do lunch today, Mr. Davis, but I would love some dinner. Pick me up at 7?” She writes on a small card that she pulls from her desk and hands it to him; it contains an address and a name – “Josephine Blackwell”.

‘Complete – meet me outside,’ Syrenia sends.

“I look forward to that dinner, I will pick you up promptly at 7, wear something red and comfortable shoes you can dance in.” Evan adds, since he is in the mood for a night out.

“See you at 7…Stephan,” Josephine says as he leaves.

Syrenia’s limo is waiting in front of the bank again; his mentor is sitting in the back, returned to her usual – but captivating as always – look.

“Did you find all that you needed in the deposit box, ‘Mr Johnson’?” Evan says as he climbs into the limo. “I hope that whatever it is won’t make me miss my dinner date; she is quite a charming young lady, though I do wonder about that boss of hers,” Evan says, looking for signs of what might have been retrieved from the safety deposit boxes.

Syrenia ignores his question – something which he is used to by now, but never stops him from asking regardless; he imagines that it bothers her every time he does it and he takes pleasure in that. She glances at the card in the Russian’s suit-jacket pocket. “Good, Evan, that will help for a little lesson later.” The rest of the rise home is spent in silence.

Later that afternoon…

Syrenia’s manservant, a tall, broad-shouldered blond giant of a man named Knut who looked like he’d be more likely some Norse bodybuilder than someone’s butler, lets the Russian know that he is summoned to Syrenia’s sitting room.

“Thank you Knut,” Evan says as he hands his hat to the giant, “I’ll show myself the rest of the way.” With that Evan walks into the sitting room.

Syrenia has the curtains down – the room is dimly lit from the light spilling around the rich fabrics, and from the glowing tip of Syrenia’s cigarette. “We should work on Scrying today, Evan. Do you remember your lessons on Sympathy?” she asks, with the insinuation that she’s not sure he’s mentally capable of remembering anything.

“Where abouts are we looking this fine evening?” Evan asks with a smile.

“That young secretary of yours – let’s see what she is doing. You know her true name – I can’t imagine that one such as her would be going by a false one – and you have something of hers, which gives you sufficient Sympathy to work the scrying.” She sits back and blows out a ring of smoke, clearly waiting for her apprentice to continue.

Evan furrows his brow, calling upon his willpower, and opens a window into Josephine’s current location.

The mages see the secretary’s face, tears drying on her cheeks and an eye blackening. She seems to be still in the bank, though in another room, perhaps a conference room of some sort. There are two uniformed policemen and another man in a gray suit in the room with her. The man in the suit has a small notebook in front of him on the table; he seems to be taking notes.

“No, I swear it was Mr. Johnson that I gave the key to!” she says, indignant.

“Ma’am, we have three witnesses that say he was in a meeting two blocks away at the time”

Evans brow furrows even deeper as he watches on in horror; this was something he feared would happen. Syrenia arches an eyebrow.

“I had hoped that it would not be discovered, but no matter,” she says dismissively. She waves the hand with the cigarette in his direction. “Go ahead and cancel the scrying window.”

With that, Evan closes the window, feeling terrible that an innocent had been harmed in the pursuit of the safety deposit box keys.

She moves to take Josephine’s card from the Russian. “No more need for that.”

Evan hands over the card, having already memorized the address. Syrenia rips it up and tosses it in the ashtray, lighting it with her table-lighter. She doesn’t seem to consider that her student may have any intention of actually meeting up with this Sleeper.

Several Weeks Later…

The Russian hits the buzzer at the gate of an apartment house. “Yes?” a slightly nasal voice answers. Syrenia has no talent or respect for the Arcana of Death – she’s assigned a ‘tutor’ for him, another mage of her Cabal, the Order of the Sacred Diamond, a Moros Mystagogue named Jonah.

“Its me, the Russian. We have a friend in common: Syrenia.” Evan says into the speaker.

Evan’s eyes take on a darker shade, as he prepares to meet this Jonah, and see what he can discern with Grim Sight.

“Syrenia’s apprentice? I’m sorry!” the voice on the intercom coughs. “I’m getting ahead of myself. Come on up – third floor.”

The gate buzzes, and the Russian pushes it open. He makes his way up two flights of stairs. The door at the landing is open – a salt-and-pepper-haired man in a tweed suit and a bow-tie holds out his hand.

“Jonah, pleased to meet you.”

With his Grim Sight, the Russian can see the mana in this mans pattern, as well a heavy shadow of death – as might be expected from a Moros.

Evan enters the apartment and looks around. The older mage’s apartment is chock full of an eclectic and macabre collection of objects – bones, animal or otherwise he can’t tell, in glass cases, some like museum pieces and others intricately carved. Books and loose paper cover every other surface.

“Sorry about the mess,” Jonah apologizes.

“No problem at all,” Evan looks for a place to sit down, “Some of these would fetch a nice price in my shop downtown. That monkey’s paw over there looks quite nice indeed.”

“I’m sure they would – thankfully all of these are benign, I’d hate to see what some of the other pieces I’ve recovered would do in the hands of Sleepers…or indeed Syrenia.” He shudders. “Not to hurry you out once you’ve arrived, but our first lesson will be something of a field trip.”

“I wore my walking shoes. Not heading to any banks, are we?” Evan asks.

Jonah glances at the apprentice questioningly. “No, no banks.” He heads down stairs again after grabbing a hat. The Mystagogue leads the Russian across town via several trolleys, and chats along the way. “So, what do you think of your ‘master’?”

“She thinks more of what people can do for her than what happens to them as a result. I hate that about her, but she is still an amazing woman.”

“Powerful, perhaps, there is no doubting that. She certainly has little regard for others – how she treats her household servants! – and I won’t lie, she’s not well-liked by the mages of the Consilium. It’s a wonder she hasn’t been exiled, actually, with her violations…”

The buildings are getting dirtier and the neighborhoods poorer as they continue to ride – wherever they are headed, it’s not in the middle-class part of the city where Jonah’s apartment was.

“Yes, she does at times take extreme measures. Where abouts are we heading? I haven’t the slightest notion,” Evan says during the third trolley switchover.

“You said something about violations Syrenia committed?” Evan asks leaning in to Jonah.

Jonah rolls his eyes. “She has no respect for the Lex Magica, the laws that seek to keep the mages of this city, if not friendly, at least non-confrontational. I can only figure that she has some sort of leverage over the Hierarch.” He purses his lips, shakes his head, and changes the subject. “Syrenia doesn’t regard Death magic as useful – and if she doesn’t see an immediate use for something, it’s out of her mind. I hope to convince you that the Arcana is a worthwhile one.”

The trolley stops and the two get off to find themselves in front of a large Victorian-era schoolhouse.

“If she sees worth in something it will soon become another tool in the toolbox, she is nothing if not pragmatic,” Evan reamarks as he looks up at the schoolhouse.

“Yeesssss, unfortunately the people around her fall into that same toolbox,” Jonah quips as he opens the unlocked wrought-iron gate to the schoolyard. “This lesson will involve her, actually – though indirectly.”

He leads on to a side-door, bends over and touches the lock. The Russian sees his Nimbus flare – dust and the smell of stale air.

“Syrenia’s life before Awakening is unknown – she has done a thorough job of erasing or hiding it. Still, I have found out a bit – for instance, she was not always such a high-society woman. In fact, she went to this very school, back when it was a boarding school for ‘Troubled Girls’.”

“Interesting. Even more interesting to hear how death plays a part in this past.” Evan says, looking around the yard.

Jonah leads the younger man into the building. The mages enter a large room – the cafeteria, the Russian assumes, from the smell of overcooked peas.

“Death allows you the unique ability to see ghosts – and spirits, to a degree; don’t confuse the two in front a a Spirit mage, it drives them batty! Why don’t you try a quick Speak with the Dead here?”

“Here?” Evan concentrates, his eyes going black, searching for any ghosts that might be in the cafeteria.

Though technically he would not have learned it yet (Syrenia wouldn’t know it), he has a rote for Speak with the Dead called ‘Seance’. Let’s ignore that here and assume that he learned it from someone between this and the main chronicle.

A translucent figure stands in the middle of the room. It appears to be the colorless image of a middle-aged man. The ghost moves a mop back and forth over the same patch of floor – back and forth, back and forth.

“An interesting thing about magic – spells on living beings wear off eventually as those beings grow and change. Even the most powerful Mind spell can’t erase a memory forever.” Jonah nods at the ghost. “Go ahead, talk to him.”

“Excuse me sir, are you looking for something?” Evan approaches as he poses the question.

The ghost looks up. “Cafeteria’s closed for the night, you shouldn’t be in here.” He seems to be looking at the Russian.

“I have a question about a girl, who was here years ago.” Even goes on to describe Syrenia as she might have looked as a little girl.

The man interrupts and talks over the Russian’s description. “Is that…? My god, you’re all grown up! Little Alice Hutchins. I missed our talks when you left the school so much.” He’s clearly not having the same conversation.

“I’ve grown up and I fondly remember those times, what did we like to talk about again, it seems so long ago and I was so little. I just remember them in general,” the Russian tries to play the part of this Alice girl.

“Come here, come here!” the ghost drops the mop and opens his arms wide.

“Shhhhhh, watch,” Jonah says quietly.

The ghostly janitors arms begin to close around an unseen figure when suddenly, he stops and gasps. A stain of silver blood begins to spread across the ghostly white shirt. The Russian can see the shock in the man’s eyes as he falls silently to the ground.

“She…killed this man?” Evan’s alarm is evident in his voice.

“Yes,” Jonah replies. “She buried every trace she could find of her old life – but she forgets that death is not always the end.”

Between blinks of the young mage’s eye, the janitor’s ghost is back mopping the same patch of floor.

“He’s too far gone – he doesn’t see or hear us, just repeats the moments around his death endlessly until he eventually fades into nothing.”

“How many others know of this ghost? It is an amazingly dangerous thing to Syrenia,” Evan wonders. “Has she tried to destroy even this part of her past?”

“I don’t think she even considers that this thing exists.” Jonah explains as he leads the Russian out of the schoolhouse. “As for the name that you heard, only you and I so far.” He settles on a bench outside. “It is a valuable piece of information – and a dangerous one. Keep it safe.”

“You do the same, knowing it is dangerous, and I think I am not the first person you have brought to this school.” Evan watches Jonah reaction to his words.

The tweed-clad man raises his eyebrows quickly. “Oh, no, you are the first I’ve shown since discovering this for myself. You are Syrenia’s first apprentice – I wanted to make sure you knew what she was capable of, and give you a bit of ammunition…for later.”

“Thank you for that, hopefully this is a tool that can remain in the toolbox. But these are dangerous times indeed.” Evan thanks Jonah for the information.

He seems slightly surprised at the younger mage’s choice of words, but recovers. Jonah puts his arms across the back of the bench. “This is all too depressing, anyway.” He turns to the Russian. “So, have you ever considered joining the Mysterium?”

конец

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0a - Prelude: Madeleine
Lessons Learned

This is a series of scenes during the apprenticeship of one of the player characters. Madeleine is – was – a French fascist journalist and Nazi sympathizer, until her assignments to fascist cults started leading her deeper and deeper towards ancient truths. Covering a Californian cult (secretly a Labrynth of the Guardians of the Veil), she Awakened. The young mage was assigned to a solitare Guardian, a Catholic friar named Brother Poverty.

Madeleine comes down the stairs into the great-room of the building she’s been sharing with Brother Poverty since her awakening. The space belongs to the Catholic church – her mentor, the friar, has been using it as a base of his operations in the city. He lives in a small monastic cell in the basement; Madeleine has chosen a much bigger and brighter room upstairs. No-one else calls this place home – which is handy for her to practice her newfound magical talents.

Brother Poverty is cooking breakfast on the old gas stove and glances over his shoulder as Madeleine enters. “Eggs?”

Madeleine shakes her head as she slumps into the nearest chair. “No thank you. I am still feeling an unsettled stomach due to the fate spells we were working at last night.”

She looks around to see if there’s a glass of water conveniently close by. Brother Poverty finishes preparing his breakfast and sits across the long table from his apprentice. He eats as she lays her head down on her arms. There is a medium sized wooden box on the table with three dials, like the lock on a briefcase or luggage, on the front.

The older mage glances over as he eats. “Since Fate has been bothering you, let’s continue working on Time. Are you ready? Sleep out of your eyes and a clear head?” he says over a mouthful of eggs.

She gives him a bedraggled look, like a puppy who just got kicked and is now being offered a treat. “If I must be then I will be.” Even with the pathetic look on her face, her tone is matter-of-fact.

Brother Poverty smiles. “Using the Arcana of Time, you can open this box. I will answer three questions to help you, but with the right question, you’ll need only one.” He points his fork at Madeleine, “And no, I won’t answer ‘What is the combination?’, so don’t even try.” The corners of his mouth crease as he smiles.

A light smile flickers across her face before she looks intently at the locks. “While I think, I will not say no to a glass of water if you offered.” She doesn’t look up at him, being a bit snarky this morning, but instead concentrates on the locks and starts toying with a number of questions related to time.

As he brings the glass of water, she looks up at him over her steepled fingers. “When…,” she pauses, to be precise and not waste a question, “…exactly…was this lock opened last?”

He smiles as he hands her the glass. “Very good. I opened this box last night, at precisely 9:16.”

Madeleine closes her eyes and attempts Postcognition. As she casts her mind back to 9:16pm the night before, in the lock’s past, her pupils flicker erratically under her eyelids, and she spreads her hands out on the table; an old habit of concentration she picked up from her father. She sees the friars hands working the dials of the lock – 3, 7, 1 – and the box pops open barely a smidgen before her postcognition stops.

2 successes for two turns – 6 seconds – at this level. Luckily Brother Poverty is both quick and timely :)

She reaches out to the lock and her eyes snap open, and she moves the dials to read 3, 7, and 1 respectively to open the box. The fine wooden box is full of neatly stacked dominoes.

“Excellent!” Brother Poverty says as he sits again across from his younger apprentice. “Many people see the Arcana of Time only for its augury of the future – but the past is often far more valuable.” He starts taking out the dominoes, turning them face down and mixing them up across the table. “A friend of mine – he loaned me this domino set – has been working to codify a rote for that spell. Are you much of a reader of fiction?”

Madeleine listens intently, steepling her hands again as she watches him mix up the dominos; his last question takes her off guard. “I think that maybe depends on the definition of fiction. The last fiction I read was Mein Kampf, but of course, at the time I did not view it as fiction.” A grimace crosses her face as she remembers the manifesto.

Brother Poverty doesn’t do more than glance at Madeleine as he continues to work the dominoes. “Mystery novels actually. This friend of mine – Eseteban, I will introduce you some day – loves the novels of a British writer, a woman by the name of Agatha Christie. Her detective, a countryman of yours, I think, named Poirot, always lectures the assembled characters on how the murder was carried out in some fancy nobleman’s parlor. Esteban is calling this rote ‘The Accusing Parlor’ – when he’s done he’s agreed to teach me, and I could teach it to you if you were interested.”

She smiles more widely at this. “Christie? Oui, yes I have read her work! I would love to learn the rote you are speaking on. When do you think he will have this prepared?” She watches him mixing the dominoes as he speaks.

Rote stolen from the Voice of Freedom AP on rpg.net. Thankfully Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels had been out for some time by 1933-34 when this takes place. Also, he’s not a Frenchie, he’s a Belgie!

“Soon, soon, I hope. I’ve been helping him, but you need to be Master of an Arcana to make a rote properly, and I am only an Adept of Time.” “Apologies to return to Fate magic, but perhaps this application will enlighten your mind rather than upsetting your stomach.” He finishes arranging the domino set face-down in a rectangle between them. "Find me the double-3, " he says as he setles on the bench and rests his head on a hand, elbow propped on the table.

She peers intently at the dominoes, feeling the tiniest lurch in her stomach anyway, but forcing it down for the time being – she reaches out with her mind to Read the Outmost Eddies and tries to sift the correct chance out of a random draw. A grin twitches at the corner of her mouth as she immediately draws the double-three and flips it face up on the table top. “This I think is not so difficult.”

The friar smiles again as his student succeeds. “Let’s continue to play with luck.” He moves the empty wooden box to the other end of the long table – nearly 15 feet away – and then comes back to sit across from Madeleine. He picks up a domino and twirls it between his fingers. “Grab a domino and toss it in the box; I will do the same – make sure you make it, and make sure I don’t.”

Madeleine smiles gamely at him as she drops a wink, casting Exceptional Luck on herself. Feeling a surge of good luck course through her, she decides to use it wisely on her casting of the Evil Eye on Brother Poverty, and throws in an extra dose of Willpower for good measure. Confident she has affected his aim, she looks down to the end of the table and gives her domino a light toss.

Brother Poverty feels the curse take effect, and tries to fling the ivory square accurately despite his apprentice’s best efforts.

The dominos clack together in the air as the mages toss them at the same time – and both fall to the table and slide to the base of the box. Brother Poverty laughs, “Even with a nudge of Fate, nothing is certain!”

He was on one die and she on four with a point of Willpower, but they both still biffed it.

The younger mage knits her brow, disappointment showing. “Yes, that is true.” She waves her hand in the air, as if waving away cigarette smoke. “Well, one day I will become much better at these things anyway. Mostly, I just wonder what it is I am to do when my training is complete. In what ways I can help.”

He smiles at her again. “In time, my dear, you will discover that for yourself.”

Several months later

Brother Poverty invites Madeleine to help him as he goes to deliver donations to the needy. He does this often – for a mage, he’s quite involved in the mortal world – but this is the first time he’s asked her to come along. They walk in the morning fog that is common in the City. “Talk to me as we walk, child. We’ve been discussing the history of the Awakened – Atlantis, the great Wizards War, the Fall, the Exarchs and their servants, the Seers of the Throne. Tell me Madeleine – what is The Lie?”

“The Lie is the period after the Abyss grew between the higher realms and the Fallen Realm, when mortals forgot their magical background and fell deeper into Sleep and became attached to the Abyss.” She walks next to him studiously, her hands clasped behind her, dressed in a smart black suit dress and a hat with a fascinator.

“Nearly,” he nods. “The Lie is that there is no magic, no touch of the Supernal – this is the Lie of the Exarchs, that their servants spread, so that none will challenge their rule over this Fallen World. It is good you know this. Many mages, especially those of the Silver Ladder and the Free Council, say that the world is a lie – but this is not true. The world was here before the Exarchs, and will be here after they are gone.”

She nods. “Yes, Brother Poverty. I understand.” She looks up, “It is important that we do not let our pride become excessive in our works.” Her confident tone, however, belies the swelling pride she has felt the last few weeks as her power has grown and she has made progress that has even appeared to surprise Brother Poverty.

“Indeed.” The pair round a corner and enter the rear of a church-yard, past a sign saying, ‘Church of Saint Philip the Apostle.’ Brother Poverty begins loading cans and other food supplies into a wooden handcart. “Madeleine, you know that I belong to an order called the Guardians of the Veil. What is the Veil that we guard?”

“The Veil between the Sleepers and the higher realms. You must protect those who do not know from those who would wield their powers without responsibility.” She begins to assist him in loading cans into the cart.

“All that and more. You might wonder why we would seem to uphold the Lie – why wouldn’t we want to show Sleepers the truth? But with every Paradox, the Abyss strengthens, and the Supernal is one step farther away.” He beings to pull the full cart along. “Be careful of vulgar magic, Madeleine – use it only when absolutely necessary, and abate Paradox in any way you can, even at the cost of your own body.”

She nods. “I understand fully. One wonders how, when our goal, all of us,” – she means in every order – “is to reach the Supernal, how so many can do things so harmful to that connection.”

“Not all share this view of the nature of the Abyss. I – many of the Guardians in fact – believe that one day, the Veil will fall, the Abyss will be destroyed, and we will no longer be required to act as the guardians of this world. To bring this about, a mage will Awaken, the Heiromage, who can perform vulgar magic in front of Sleepers with no paradox. This mage will bring an end to the Abyss and return the world to the way it was intended, before the hubris of the Atlanteans brought it down.” He glances down, and then sideways at his apprentice as he pulls. “A few of us…very few…like me believe that this mage has already been born. A man who worked miracles and promised the salvation of all…a man who did not die, but became an Archmaster. Someday, He will return…”

Blah blah blah beliefs and exposition. The friar has some interesting and odd ones at least…

Madeleine quirks an eyebrow at him as she walks next to him and listens. “And who do you believe this Heiromage is?”

He smiles again and taps the Crucifix that hangs on the wooden prayer beads around his neck.

The master and apprentice reach a collection of tents in a vacant lot. Madeleine has seen the pictures and stories in the newspapers of the great tent-cities, of Hooverville in New York. This is much smaller – but the dirty faces peering from the makeshift tents look no less desperate.

The other eyebrow quirks up to match. “You can’t possibly mean…”

“Yes. I believe that the Heiromage was born in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago, and will return some day to become the savior of all – a belief I don’t expect you to follow, my dear.” He begins handing packages and cans of food to grateful families.

She helps in this process and mostly keeps quiet as she digests this information, before some questions pop into her mind. “And the few who are like you? Where are they?”

“Scattered across the Christian world, very few of us, but we keep in touch.”

A middle-aged woman in a tattered dress runs up to the old man in the humble brown robe and the young woman in the fashionable suit. “Father! Father! I beg you, please, we need your help!”

“Brother, Brother Poverty,” he answers. “I am not an ordained priest, just a simple friar. Still, I will certainly offer any help I can give.”

“My son, John, he is posessed by a demon of Satan himself! He shakes and spits and foams – please, is there anything you can do?”

Brother Poverty nods, “Perhaps – I can try. Show me to him, quickly.”

The woman leads the pair through the tents. Madeleine follows, all thoughts of philosophy and belief brushed aside for the time being as she wonders what kind of problem they are about to face.

Inside a tent with walls of patched cloth and corrugated tin roofing, a man is restraining a young boy who is jerking, red-faced and eyes closed, on a blanket on the ground. The boy stops, and relaxes, seemingly asleep but still breathing hard.

“Please, stand back a ways – I will see what I can do. This,” he says, nodding to Madeleine, “is a fellow charitable volunteer, Madeleine – she will assist me.”

Madeleine feels him cast a silent spell on himself as he grasps the rosary beads (his magical tool). “Grim Sight,” he whispers. “A spell of the Death Arcana that allows me to see ghosts and spirits – of which I see neither. You can help as well; Interconnections, a simple spell of Fate that we usually use to detect Sympathy between things – the connections that allow us to cast magic at a distance through space or time – but it also can detect magical possession.”

She looks carefully at the boy, noting the area around him as she attempts to cast Interconnections.

Madeleine sees no indication of possession or mind control. She shakes her head at Brother Poverty. “I see nothing, no evidence.” She turns a concerned glance on the boy.

“I agree. Nothing supernatural is likely then,” he whispers. “We’ve been studying Life magic – here is a chance to use it. An Initiate of Life can detect diseases and illness.”

She nods and places a hand on the boy, attempting to cast Healer’s Trance. After 15 seconds or so, Madeleine feels a frenzied anger attack her brain as the Healer’s Trance continues.

It took her a while to get the 3 successes I decided was appropriate for this disease.

She whispers to the friar, “It’s rabies, nothing mystical.” She shakes her head and looks back at the boy.

“I am a Disciple of Life – I have the power to heal this boy’s disease. Without it, he will certainly die. Still, even a covert spell may call Paradox down from the Abyss when found improbable by Sleepers.” He glances at the family, standing apprehensively at the wall of the tent. ‘What should we tell them?" he asks. Madeleine recognizes the tone of voice – one she’s hear many times since her apprenticeship started; this is a test.

Perhaps a slight modification of the Paradox rules, but if modern folks will see healing magic not improbable with the use of medical tools or the like, the truly devout will not see an ‘exorcism’ as improbable. Madeleine’s player decides that the best lie is to not tell anything false, just fail to tell the whole truth…

Being the prideful youth she is, instead of consulting with him first, she turns to face the family as he remains bent over the boy. She addresses the boy’s mother in a soft voice, “Madame, this is a situation in which we have much expertise. If you will only give Brother Poverty a moment, he will be able to help your son. But I must ask you to please give him room to work and not to approach the boy, no matter what.” She looks meaningfully at the woman.

Manipulation + Subterfuge + specialty (Misdirection) – the target’s Composure, and not a single success.

The man – the boys father, she assumes – steps forward, clearly concerned. “I will not be told to stay away from my own son.”

She gives a meaningful look to Brother Poverty, clearly asking for assistance, even though she knows she shouldn’t have acted out of pride in the first place. Brother Poverty takes a deep breath and looks at the man.

“You may assist – hold his shoulders, but keep yourself away from his mouth at all costs.”

The friar pulls the rosary beads free of his robe with one hand and puts the other on the boy’s chest. He begins chanting – Latin, Madeleine recognizes, though she doesn’t understand enough to make sense of what he is saying; it seems to be what the man and woman were expecting though.

The younger mage feels the swell of magic as Brother Poverty forms a spell in his mind. She assists the friar in his attempt as he begins to cast, Bestowing Exceptional Luck on him and his efforts.

Tons of dice but not a single 9 or 10. Thankfully, three 8’s means that the disease is gone no problem.

The man and woman look as if they’re expecting something dramatic – light from heaven, or the emergence of a demon from their son. The friar simply smiles and stands up.

“The boy is safe now.”

The young boy’s color turns from an alternating red and pale to a more natural tone, and his labored breathing slows. As his eyes flutter open, his father sweeps him into his arms. Both adults are crying; the woman showers gratitude on Brother Poverty.

Madeleine steps back, abashed, mostly because she wasn’t able to coerce the parents in the first place, and waits for the friar to give the indication to leave. Brother Poverty’s cheeks turn slightly red as he silently listens. As the woman turns back to to her family, he makes the sign of the cross in their direction and walks back to the handcart.

“You asked some time ago about what your purpose would be after you complete your studies, how you could help. This may not be your calling, but this is how I help – I can only hope that you choose a cause as worthy.”

She smiles warmly to him as they walk back to the cart, and nods. “I shall consider it of course. I am still having a difficulty understanding everything. Obviously I will learn more over time, and I have become more comfortable already.” She smiles again. “I just need time with thinking.”

“To grow in wisdom over time is all we can ask of this life – and as Awakened, we have a chance at greater knowledge than any others. May we not waste this opportunity.”

The master and apprentice walk the empty cart back to the church as the mid-day sun burns through the fog, spreading warmth across their bodies and souls.

FIN

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