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?”