Note: Archiving paper letter, sent.
Thank you for your latest shipment. It was just what I needed. My sister was thrilled with the katana, and intends to use it regularly. I did pass on your warning about katanas being far less effective than they appear to be in movies and video games, but she didn’t seem to care. I’m caught between worrying she’ll get killed when it breaks at a critical moment or fall into a funk and be impossible to deal with for a week.
All the same, the gift bought me a week of her listening to me. That matters a lot. Thanks again.
To answer your question, things are heating up here, but are still under control. A storm is brewing, and things that would stay away have been gravitating closer. It isn’t the other practitioners at work. I can’t help but imagine savvy crows lurking near a place that will soon be a battlefield. Your offer for help is appreciated, but wouldn’t go over well. I don’t know about the other locals, but Sandra has made it clear she knows who you are and would rather you stay away.
When you next collect from the black stipend, can you put some of it toward a bid for plastic explosive, low priority. While you’re in that neighborhood, can you double check the rocket fund? I could use the extra firepower if things go south.
I’ve finished the wiring on the radio. It’s a week earlier than you asked for. Recording and live feed options. The live feed will kill batteries, so I included some with a good lifespan to them just in case, in a second routing. To activate the hidden camera, use a pen or something else to depress the space between the AM and FM buttons. I’m interested in hearing if you can see the camera lens without turning it on. Reminder: your average practitioner will be able to look and see if something’s watching them, even if it’s a camera. It’s a little heavy too, thanks to the extra batteries, you might want to watch out for that.
My best to the kids.
Note: Archiving paper letter, received.
Good go with the camera. Not so bad.
I opened it to dig out the extra battery and live feed. Too much of a giveaway. The detail work and hidden lens were good as they were, much better than anything my hands can do. I can put just about any gun or an engine back together, but I can’t put tiny holes in the front of a plastic radio without making a hash of it.
Don’t worry about the camera being seen. It’s not for any wizards or whatchits. One of my crew has been acting funny. Whole reason you’re supposed to operate in larger groups. More eyes. He’s still got his senses, but he’s dodging the cameras he knows about. Might be drugs, might be witchery. Might be he’s a clever something else who took his memories along with his face.
I’d leave it like it is and keep an eye on him, but my ex dropped the kids off (here of all places!) and I saw the man talking with them. It’s enough to concern, if he’s unsafe. We’ve got a new recruit, about your age, and you know I like to be careful with the trainees. Too easy for bad influence to take hold as they mature. I’m not specifically naming your sister here. Not specifically.
The kids are fine. Thanks for asking. Long winter’s getting to them. They only get a few hours of daylight that isn’t seeing them stuck inside a classroom. I do what I have to, and they do their thing. Keep me motivated, pop into my mind when it’s down to the wire and I need to dig up a bit more something to push through.
The quartet in ‘Magog picked up all the C4 we had to dole out before I could get your bid in. Supplies are running low, with the last source we had getting arrested. I know you said Eva was messing around with your grenades, and I know Mac taught you how to rig a daisy chain pin pull. I stuck a belt of pineapples in your shipment. I can’t imagine it’s unwanted.
Rocket? I have serious reservations about giving you that RPG launcher, boy. Either you’re using it, and I don’t think you’re equipped for it, or your sister is using it, and we’re talking a slew of other problems.
Consider asking for help instead. Offer still stands. I trust your sensibility, Andy boy. If you think you need seven (now eight) good witch hunters to cut down the riff raff, you know we’re good for it. We’re all in this together, Andy boy. You two, me and my guys, the Magog nuts, the Montreal organization.
If you say no, then I’ll accept that. I’ll trust your sensibility a little less, but I’ll accept that.
You know those files that Mac always had us fill out? Wouldn’t mind seeing your best attempt at one. I’m particularly interested in just how much danger you think you’re in. A big part of the reason we interact is to share knowledge. If you or Eva get yourselves into trouble, the rest of us need the details to walk into that situation with our eyes open.
Note: Andy’s personal notes
The diary section. Having sat here trying to figure out what I should do, I can’t help but see the open book and know I really should. If anyone picks up the top book off the stack of volumes, I’ll say here what I said before. I was never good at this. Eva’s better at it than I am, which is weird, since I’m the book guy. She tape records it, but she still does the personal diary bits pretty consistently.
I’m writing stream of consciousness because if I stop, I won’t get going again. That’s the big problem with me.
When we got our training and they gave us all the tools we need to do this, they kept going on about how important the diaries are. They made us read some too.
I think my problem is that I think too much. Most of us who start this when we’re kids, we don’t live long enough to leave anyone behind. Humans have an instinctive desire to leave a legacy. I don’t like myself enough to want to leave anything of myself behind.
The tone of things is changing. Everyone’s excited, Eva included, and all I can think about is what comes next.
Note: After Action Report (Andy & Eva)
Job commissioned by council.
Incident was raised by Joanna Duchamp, the younger, corroborated by other members of the younger council – informal group of practitioners consisting of Behaims, Duchamps, Maggie Holt and possibly padraic.
Grade schoolers in Joanna’s classroom reported a shallow puddle in the woods east of school. Stones and branches that were dropped into the puddle disappeared, leaving no trace, only muddy clouds. Children were joking about pushing each other in, or threatening to throw the boots or hats of others into the muddle.
Joanna was unable to show us the way. My suspicion is that the puddle noted her approach. Contacted young neighbor and got directions. Eva and I went to look.
The puddle was a manifestation of a frog spirit. We rigged a treated wire snare for a countermeasure, and Eva stood by with a weapon. We disrupted the manifestation to raise the frog spirit, and killed it with a treated wire snare.
Frogs should be hibernating for the winter. It concerns me that a frog spirit would be active at this time of year.
Our resources aren’t fleshed out enough to identify it in more detail or look up why. I received mail from Samaniego two days ago, and I’ve been meaning to respond. Tomorrow. Am tired after two long hikes past the school in one day.
Note: Archiving paper letter, sent.
I’ve attached backups of all my files. See .crypt 1 through 26 and ’27incomplete’. You’ll need a program to open them. I included a notepad document with some directions on how to get that program. I wanted to protect all exchanges – to access pages where you and I exchanged correspondence, you or I would have to supply the password. The same goes for my conversations with Creevey.
Your offer for help is appreciated and accepted. I would still ask you to please steer clear of Jacob’s Bell. My need for help takes another form. If your trainee is still there, I would very much appreciate if you could have her set up something online for sharing information. A slow but steady stream of guests have been arriving over the past week, and I can’t keep up, going at the rate I have been. Eva’s fine, Eva runs on instinct, but I need to research what we’re up against, so I at least know what to steer her away from.
Please see pages 120, 122 and 150 in volume twenty six and pages 45 and 60 in volume twenty-seven. Also, I described a series of creatures on page 71 of volume twenty-seven.
Help with identification would go a long way.
Eva and I would very much like to have our rocket launcher. I talked about it with her, in the sense of the general situation, and she agreed. No jokes, no apparent manipulation. I think she realizes that things are getting more dangerous, and recognizes the need for more firepower.
If Eva and I are on the same page about something, that’s indication enough.
Note: Archiving paper letter, received.
You had to ask about the computers, huh? I’ve put the new recruit on it.
If the two of you are on the same page, yeah, I’ll go with it. I’ve asked around about your weapon, and passed on the files. The others will get back to you.
Note: Andy’s personal notes, after action reports.
Met with the unnamed practitioner, placed tape with conversation transcript in the Holt file. We left on amiable terms, despite Eva’s initially hostile response (threatening to shoot the practitioner). I’m concerned about Eva, and it’s not something I can address with Mac, Creevey or the Magog group.
We walked different paths from the beginning. Different forms of training, different amounts of time spent with Mac’s group, Creevey, in Halifax, and with the talons in Rhode Island. They trained us in all the basics, but they emphasized our strengths too. While I was learning to use a hunting rifle, Eva was hunting goblins with a sword in hand. While I was learning about the basic principles of the practice in Halifax, Eva was in London, Ontario, doing god knows what.
I’m increasingly worried that something went wrong. That she ran into something and it got to her.
I’m not sure it was one of the monsters. Not in the fang and claw sense.
We had two jobs on behalf of the council, keeping things tidy while they get their ducks in a row. Non-allied threats are still lingering. Goblins are supposed to sleep for sixteen to twenty-two hours a day, but I’ve noticed goblins have been more awake and active than that. Ghosts are cropping up, and they should be quieter than they are. Old echoes are stirring.
Things move so slowly that we don’t see the gradual changes, but the monsters who live for centuries do. I’ve wondered for a long time why the monsters gather in the same places the practitioners do. The obvious answer is that the practitioners follow where the monsters are, drawing on the power the monsters can give them. But I don’t think that’s it. The monsters should want to avoid the practitioners, who are the best equipped to bind them.
The second answer is that monsters are practitioners. We know about some cases. See Mara in the files for Jacob’s Bell. It’s a common theory with Faerie, and obviously the likes of vampires and werewolves, which are much rarer and more monstrous than conventional media would have us believe. Again, it’s an answer, but it doesn’t feel like ~the~ answer.
This is a thought I’m putting together as I put pen to paper, something I’ve thought about in the shower, but what if the monsters are following practitioners because there’s some fallout we’re not fully aware of? What if we’re gouging reality? I sit in on the council meetings, because I don’t trust Eva to go alone, and I won’t stop her from seeing what she views as ‘the drama’. I watch Sandra and Johannes interact, and I see them practicing. A part of me wonders, are each of those displays generating some attention? Are some or all of the monsters detecting magic in the air like sharks in the water detecting magical signals or sniff out blood?
They become a little less human over time. They make compromises, and they might unwittingly be inviting the monsters into Jacob’s Bell. Sandra does it because it’s the way it has always been done in her family. Johannes does it with the future in mind. Both do it to be on top.
I think about that. The selfish actions, and the unwitting damage they may be causing. I don’t like it, but I have to keep doing what I do.
Eva is all about action. She doesn’t like to sit still, and when she does, she turns on the television and tunes into something that lets her turn her brain off. Or blares music so loud that thinking is impossible.
For a long time, she was better than me. Maybe she still is, standalone. If Sandra needed to die, I think Eva could do it. I could do it too, but not without drawing on expensive tools, planning for days or a week.
It felt subversive, giving the girl with the scarf weapons. It wasn’t something I should have done, standing where I do.
There are promises to keep.
In the interest of keeping those promises, we went after two of the monsters. Trying to keep things under control.
In the middle of the day, we had to deal with a gnome or brownie or fairy-cousin of some sort. A little person disguised as one of us, going door to door with a clipboard. There was something questionable in the fine print.
The rules are strict when it comes to going after the regular people. Our hunt wasn’t successful. It was fast, it was tricky, and we weren’t coordinated enough. It was one of the monsters that’s been around so long it knows most of the conventional tricks.
Eva blamed me for letting it slip away. She was probably right.
I was inspired to write this entry by the meeting with the girl with the scarf, because I definitely want better records if memories are being altered, and by the night that followed, because a thought crossed my mind, and it felt like more of an epiphany.
Eva and I both had guns. Shotguns with rock salt for a ghost. Not perfect, but it slowed it down. The echo went as quickly as it’d resurfaced.
The police came, hearing the gunshots. We couldn’t afford to get caught without the practitioner police chief in town to get us off the hook.
The close call made me think. I was tired, I don’t have a lot of stamina on a good day, and for a moment, I nearly considered giving up.
I nearly gave up on my promise to Mac.
Hearing Eva yell at me, I felt like it was a role reversal.
What if I’m as bad as she is? I’ve yelled at her so many times for getting into hairy situations, for taking risks, or making blind leaps, picking a fight without knowing exactly what she’s fighting.
But she’s a genius, in terms of talent. She can go toe to toe with a faerie that’s glamoured itself up as a vampire, harboring some of the best traits of both, and still cut the thing’s head from its shoulders.
The thought hit me that I’m just as bad as she is. To want to get arrested. To have it end. Knowing that she’s behind bars, and so am I, and the responsibility is over. No caring for the sister who trained in how to fight monsters and became one. Just me, a prison cell, and a book.
To end my existence.
Realizing that was a wake up call, hearing it from Eva’s lips doubly so.
I don’t want to go down that road.
That means being more regular with my diary entries. Polish my skills.
The promise to Mac still holds. He was my teacher. More of a dad than anyone was to me. I owe him too much. As infuriating as Eva can be, Mac saved her for me. Mac saved me from me. He saved my parents, even if it was with an ice pick through the temple.
It’s my duty to see the promise through.
I know we haven’t been in contact, but three people have been in touch with me in the past week, asking my advice in identifying the creatures you’ve described this past week. Rather than let the irritations continue, I’m going to the source. You’ll have ten deliveries in the next two weeks. Boxes of books. My secondhand tomes. I’ve already marked some pages where you raised questions or named details, my best guesses, off the top of my head. Please tell your teenaged witch hunter peers to stop pestering me about the computer nonsense.
Note: Andy’s personal notes.
The girl with the scarf is now ‘Mags’, a local ambassador.
Rose, too, has returned.
They always pushed paper in training. The idea that paper is more permanent than the digital.
My papers are getting awfully messy, with big gaps in the files. For any poor soul that has to dig through my teenage ramblings, any gaps in the files are because Eva opened a window and some of the pages blew out the window.
I think there’s more to it than coincidence. Too specific, as events go.
The files that went missing seem to have something to do with the younger Rose. They cover the point in time when Rose Thorburn the younger replaced Molly Walker. Trickery, or did the universe want to erase traces? Even my memories of Rose are fuzzy and nonspecific. It feels somehow like it’s the first time I’m seeing her face.
She did offer me support, at a time when I was feeling pretty grim.
She brought a cabal with her, and they look fairly new to all this. It reminds me of me, back when I started the training with Mac. Every monster was a whole different kind of frightening. Molly Walker was like that up until the end.
Rose feels different than when she left, somehow. Now, as I think about how her predecessor handled everything… I think about how Rose coped, and I wonder ‘how did she handle it?’ and I can’t come up with much.
When I asked Eva, Eva reminded me of the techniques we learned. Right off the bat, she found the discrepancy.
When we ask, “How did Rose manage?”, we struggle to answer.
When we ask, “How did the second Thorburn heir manage?” we can mutually agree that the heir was almost eerily in step with this world.
As witch hunters, free of any vows or ties to the world the monsters and practitioners inhabit, we’re protected against the trickery. A measure of innocence can challenge that reality, and clearly see the emperor without his clothes.
It’s the youths that are going to make a difference. Good or bad.
Note: After action reports.
Eva’s commented on the change in my outlook. We’re working more effectively as a team now.
Eight threats targeted and chased down in the past week. Eight victories. I even allowed myself to get excited about it, as we found our stride. Eva in close, drawing attention, me at a distance.
She’s listening to me more, even. It’s always been her propensity to ignore people she doesn’t agree with. I think she agrees with how we’re doing things now. Block escape routes with traps, wait until they’re in the right position, then attack. Things aren’t fixed. She’s still more reckless than she once was.
It helps that we have less administrative work, with Mags taking on the messenger duties, standing by at meetings. She doesn’t have a lot of firepower, but there’s a symbolic element to it.We remain ninety percent positive that one bogeyman we dealt with was attached to Rose. Testing the water, seeing how responsive we were. We crossed paths a few days later, and it felt like she was showing me just a bit more respect.It’s now impossible to keep track of the local guests. No less than twelve practitioners under Sandra, twenty monsters working for or doing favors for Johannes. I’m getting four hours of sleep a night, staying up reading, and sleeping in thirty minute bursts during the day to keep going, but I have more drive than I had when I was sleeping twice the amount.
The remainder of the action reports are as follows:
- Eva baited a skinchanger into an old boathouse past the marina. I crushed it with a deadfall trap.
- Went with Mags to help with goblin hunting, helping to herd them to a place where she could bind them. I believe they’re still bound, and she’s waiting them out.
- One Nightmare-type monster was invading dreams. Targeting normals. Not affiliated with Johannes or Sandra. Found wandering the streets in a human guise, spotted through the trickery with innocence, cut down with katana.
- Junior council pointed us at a new child at school. We followed. No parents or furniture in house, never slept – only stood in the house. Executed quietly, no blood was drawn by cuts. Plant matter at core.
- Investigation by Sandra led us to second wooden person. Adult, fought back. Immolated by molotov.
- Arrogant practitioner among first outsiders to make open bid for leadership. Small bomb under seat of car. Sandra and Duncan, the new police liason, diverted attention of authorities.
- Backwards Man required special means of tracking, as the human-like monster functioned by operating backwards in time. Wounds occurred in his future, our past, making it impossible to make anything stick. Came after us with knives. I distracted while Eva slipped by to invade his apartment. Destroyed the object at the crux of his nature. Investigation into ties to local Chronomancers was initiated and dismissed.
- Practitioner was posing as a tertiary member of the Duchamp family. Sandra’s records showed no such evidence of marriage. Simply trying to hide in the background. I took him down with the second shot from 150m range with a hunting rifle.
I don’t enjoy the killing, but I was proud of that last one.
Things are accelerating.
Note: Council Notes
Samaniego told me to keep logs, in case something happened to me.
If something happens to me in the near future, this is going to be at the root of it.
I’m writing it as I remember it:
Mags entered the church. Molly ‘walked’ a half-step behind her. Not quite floating, not quite walking, not walking like someone would walk on the moon either. She didn’t really have feet, either.
Andy studied the ghost, pen ticking on his notebook as he leaned against the stage.
He’d visited it before, to study the thing, even considered getting rid of it.
Now it was active, alive, and it looked meaner.
“We’ve got a problem,” Eva said.
“Yep,” he said.
“We were just talking about you,” Johannes commented.
“I don’t suppose you want to start over from the beginning?”
“We were talking in generalities,” Sandra said. “Unlike the demesnes claim, it isn’t always obvious if someone has carried out one ritual or another, like the familiar ritual.”
“That’s an invitation to share,” Johannes said.
“Oh,” Mags said, looking between them, “I thought you’d say more. You had to have discussed more than that.“
“We’re not your enemies,” Sandra said.
“Yet somehow I don’t think you’re baking me a cake in here,” Mags said.
“When you wanted to claim the title of ambassador, I’d like to think we were gracious.”
“It wasn’t entirely selfless,” Mags said. “You stood to gain too, removing a problem from the board by making it a non-entity.”
“If we’d stood by and let you continue down that road,” Sandra said, “You would have become a non-entity all the same.”
“But not without making a mess,” Mags said.
“Is a three week span enough time for you to lose your sense of appreciation?” Duncan asked, from the sidelines.
Andy looked at Duncan. As factions went, Duncan was a non-player. Or he wanted everyone else to think so. The real risks were the two people who were in Duncan’s company right now. A young and talented chronomancer, and an older member of the family.
He would be very surprised if the young chronomancer wasn’t the one to ascend to the head of the house.
Mags spoke with a terse tone, “I don’t think I’m showing a lack of appreciation. I’m just a little miffed that you’re questioning me, instead of giving me the benefit of a doubt.”
“You’ve upset your neutral position.”
“I’ve done exactly what you guys did for me. I took a wild, unpredictable element and I made an effort to normalize her, to keep things quiet.”
“With no ulterior motives?” Sandra asked.
“With no mind to consequences?” Johannes added.
“I paid lots of mind to consequences. I just pushed them aside,” Mags said.
“I really did want to support you,” Sandra said. “But you’re making it hard. You’ve upset your neutral position. If we don’t challenge you for a flagrant violation, picking one side in the conflict, then our word is worth less.”
A self-imposed bondage of rules and law, Andy mused.
“A flagrant violation on the surface only.”
“Tell me how it isn’t a violation,” Sandra said. In a serious, quiet voice, she added, “Please.”
“Molly,” Mags said, not looking at the ghost. “Do you harbor any love for the Thorburn family?”
“My immediate family yes.”
“Definitely not Rose.”
Mags spread her arms.
“Thin as arguments go,” Duncan said. “It’s fine because she’s not particularly fond of her family?”
“That’s all you’re going to get, and that should be all you need,” Mags said.
“Is it now?”
“I asked, she said no,” Mags added.
There were a few exchanged glances.
Andy made a note in his book. Not an entry, but something to inform his entry when he wrote it. Besides, it gave him something to do with his hands.
He hated these meetings.
“You still asked,” Duncan said.
“Thin, as arguments go,” Mags retorted.
“Enough,” Sandra said. “No bickering, please.”
Mags shrugged, sticking her hands into her pockets.
Duncan took a second to compose himself, before speaking in very deliberate, authoritarian tones, “You were the one to resurrect her.”
“Accidentally,” Mags said. “I think.”
“Regardless of what happens, you’ve upset the situation in Jacob’s Bell.”
“I got the situation under control. No real harm done.”
“That’s for us to decide,” Duncan said.
“Can we not let Dudley Donut here keep talking?” Mags asked.
“Wherever blame lies,” Sandra said, “We need to deal with Molly Walker’s spirit.”
“No,” Molly said. “I don’t need ‘dealing with’.”
“You’re quite sentient, as ghosts go,” Johannes commented.
Andy saw Mags look at Faysal, then Johannes.
Something up there.
“That was a whole other issue,” Mags said.
“What I require,” Molly said, “Is an apology. Amends.”
“Very sentient,” Johannes commented.
“Not helping,” Sandra told him. “What sort of amends?”
“A child from each group,” Molly said, staring. “A meaningful sacrifice from Johannes, who doesn’t have a child to spare, but who stood by and let me be killed.”
Andy saw Eva’s hand go toward her weapon.
He put his hand on her wrist, shaking his head a little.
“That’s, uh, not going to work,” Mags said.
“I think everyone present agrees with the ambassador,” Johannes said.
“I don’t,” Sandra said. “Can I take the ‘sleeping beauty’ loophole?”
Molly gave Sandra a curious look.
“Not death. But removed from the family all the same. A loss, a sacrifice all the same, a child sent away, never to return?”
“Do you swear this?” Molly asked.
“No,” Sandra said. “I don’t swear. I don’t have a child of my own to give up, and I suspect I’d struggle to find a mother who’s willing. It’s only a thought.”
“I’m not willing to do even that,” Duncan said.
“And I would still be in a position of making a meaningful sacrifice,” Johannes added.
“This is the way it always happens,” Molly said. “My grandmother, my parents, my aunts and uncles. They’re greedy, selfish, they refuse to face the consequences. Those consequences get passed on to the young.”
And the young are tasked with changing the status quo, before they become the problem, Andy thought.
“Don’t,” Mags said. “Whatever you’re thinking of doing-”
“They killed me. You killed me. I believe you, that you’re willing to make amends. What comes next-”
Andy didn’t stop Eva from raising her weapon. A pistol loaded with salt shot.
The wraith was fast to move out of the way. Unexpectedly so. Mags yelped, throwing herself to the side.
The wraith’s voice echoed through the church, “I can’t promise you’ll walk away unscathed, but I won’t come for you, murderer. The others, the old ones… they have to face what they did. The city does.”
There was a long pause.
“Angry ghost,” Johannes commented.
“Wraith,” Andy corrected, thinking of the books. “Eva and I have dealt with a number of ghosts lately. She wasn’t one.”
“The difference being?” one of the younger Behaims asked.
“A little more unpredictable,” Andy said.
The bell at the top of the church tolled.
Eva glanced at Andy.
“Go,” he said.
“Which way?” she asked.
But Sandra was already pointing, pulling out her chalice. Eva was faster, crossing the floor in two steps.
The bell tolled a second time.
“Faysal?” Johannes asked.
Both sorcerer and dog disappeared in a flare of light.
Andy crossed the floor, offering Mags a hand.
“Balls.” Mags said, accepting. “I tried. I could’ve contained her, kept her calm. But she’s too angry. I would have left her behind, but she’s tied to me by blood. I didn’t think she’d be this angry, after I’d calmed her down a little…”
“What’s she doing?”
“Starting something,” Mags said. “Don’t you feel it?”
“Each toll, it’s filled with negativity. Each one is worse than the last.”
“Everything in the city is going to feel it,” Mags said. “They’re going to think it’s a signal, and that’s enough.”
Andy felt a peculiar calm settle over him as the bell continued to toll.
He thought of the promise he’d made.
To serve loyally, in Jacob’s Bell. To keep the people safe. He could do that.
But the promise to Mac had had contingencies. If things got bad enough, and things were bad, he had another responsibility.
Mags looked up. “Thirteen tolls.”
He offered her a light smile. A witch hunter could lie. Oaths weren’t binding.
One of these days, after years of loyal service, when it didn’t put too many people in danger, he’d skip the council meeting, and act while they were all in one place.
He had a rocket launcher at home for just that purpose.