CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………..…Human Psionic
Jera Morrison…………..….Alseyne Aulaudin……………………Sidhe Changeling
Kendall Nye………….……Joseph McAdoo………………………..Ronin Garou
Jeremy Whitener………….Korin Alabaster…………………………Were Mongoose
Aron Head………………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
“…I’m just saying that I think it’s a bit much is all.” Pip frowned, steering the SUV out of the parking lot and onto North Lamar. “All of us? For a baboon?”
Behind him in a middle seat, McAdoo smiled without humor. “Better to have and not need.”
Korin sat quietly in a back seat of the SUV, looking utterly bemused. Beside him, Casey saw his mute bafflement and remembered that he knew even less about what was going on than she did. Quietly, she leaned over and shared what little information she had. “Pretty crazy, isn’t it? As I understand it, Austin was a much safer place to be until just recently. All the different factions have always been here — the garou, the vampires, the Fae and so on — but they maintained a kind of…balance, a status quo, amongst themselves. They weren’t allies, but they kept the peace; they followed certain rules of conduct.”
Korin nodded, listening intently.
“Then something changed,” she went on. “Bronwen, the Vampire Prince of Austin, somehow formed an alliance with a subgroup of garou, the Red Talons, and with Mardmor and his goblins, and with a demon prince called Kilarothes who’s in exile from his own world. Between them they seem to be recruiting all the local figures of power who will join them, and destroying the ones who won’t. Bronwen killed his own closest vampire Lieutenant, Gerard Houseman, and someone apparently hired this baboon to kill a powerful garou named Bruce Lobban.”
“And we are going to stop this baboon and keep him from killing this…Lobban?” Korin smiled. As always, it made him look more feral than friendly. “Sounds simple enough. Just have Sinatra up there sing him a song. That’ll bring him to our side faster than you can say…well think of a really short word and say it really fast. Faster than that.”
“Lobban’s dead,” McAdoo snorted from the seat in front of Korin’s. “His neice too.” The werewolf thought, clearly enough for Casey to hear without trying, that claws and fangs were nice short fast words.
“I’m sorry MacAdoo,” Korin stammered. “Mouth outprocesses my brain at times.”
McAdoo looked over his shoulder and nodded forgiveness at the Mongoose.
“The baboon is the prime suspect in Lobban’s death,” Casey clarified. “Mr. McAdoo can probably tell you more about Lobban than I can. I don’t know much about what his role was in all of this.”
“He was a friend, as close to family as one can have without blood relation. ” McAdoo offered agreeably. “His role in Austin was complicated among those players on the board, yet he was honored and neutral.”
“Neutral?” Casey looked up at that. “He wasn’t aligned with the garou?”
“He was ronin.” McAdoo looked out the window toward a distant thought. “Neutral in the power brokering between the vampires, elves and the children. Honor bound to treat all with equal…” he twitched a smile at a remembered joke, “contempt.”
Casey leaned forward, very interested now. “Power brokering? What does that mean?”
“The game of thrones. Information used to play the game was Lobban’s specialty.”
“What was his goal?”
“What is yours, cat-curious miss?” the garou responded easily.
“Short-term, learning why Bruce Lobban died. Mid-term, questioning a baboon and surviving this night. Long-term, helping to prevent the total annihilation of the human race. Is Lobban an uncomfortable topic for you? I don’t mean to intrude on your grief, but knowing what he was trying to do — or prevent from being done — might give us some insight into our enemy’s next move.”
“Lobban simply investigated things. The information he acquired…some he sold, some he bartered. All to maintain the status quo.” McAdoo sighed and added quietly, “I suspect Lobban died because he found that the vampire Prince was betraying his own. I think you resolved that much of the…problem…last night, or at least this round of the game.” He sat up bit straighter and continued, “You ask what he was trying to do. At the end, he fought to protect those he loved.”
Casey absorbed that thoughtfully.
McAdoo continued after a moment, “What he did for a career path…his purpose in life, ha. We would need a bottle of Cullaine’s.”
She smiled, then suddenly remembered. “Hey, did you ever figure out how to access that ‘information fetish’ of his?”
“Yes. It’s gone though.”
“Hmm. Did you learn anything useful from it?”
“Only a bit, enough to realize I should have asked better questions. Guardian of the Well of Worlds, mentors.”
Casey realized she had a question for the garou that she hadn’t known enough to ask earlier. “McAdoo, you said your profession is ‘personal security.’ Who are you working for currently?”
“No one at the moment, Miss,” the werewolf returned politely.
“So this is personal rather than business for you, then? You were looking into Lobban’s death and got pulled into the crazy?”
McAdoo hesitated, plainly debating how much to answer “…Yes. That pretty much hits the high points. Some of this is personal.. and some is debt. And now to see who the monkey has gotten his hands on. Phil has a history of strangling young women. Who is hiding under the masking from the node.”
Casey pondered that rather cryptic statement for a moment, then asked, “Who’s Phil?”
“The monkey calls himself Phil. Sorry, I was thinking of other things.”
In the driver’s seat Pip checked his blind spot, changed lanes, then glanced over at Alseyne beside him. “Why not see if you and Claws can coordinate a conversation with Oswald or Drax, or Lena for that matter? We can put this monkey thing to bed, gain some ground on the sorcerer situation, and maybe even sleep in tomorrow.”
“Pip, I’m TRYING to get hold of Lena now,” Alseyne broke in as she held up her cell phone as a visual aid. “It’s not like I’m ignoring your suggestion.”
“It’s like talking to a wall sometimes,” he said to the windshield.
“I could say the same,” she muttered to herself, then smiled wryly. “Besides, if this baboon was enough to drive off both Mac and Yggthor earlier what makes you think you won’t need more back-up?”
“Me and Wynne,” he grinned.
“Blast!” Alseyne punched the phone off and put it back into her purse. “She hasn’t been picking up her messages. Mailbox is full.”
Pip frowned. “I didn’t like her much, but I hope nothing bad’s happened to her.”
On a wooded road, he navigated the vehicle to the shoulder. “Everyone getting out here, get on out.” Pip pulled the keys from the ignition and offered them to Alseyne. “You want? Or are ya’ll coming with?”
“I think we’ll join you. I’ll call the other two when we finish up here. It shouldn’t take too long and I don’t think we should take off with the only transportation in case we need to get the girl some medical attention.”
Pip nodded, locking his door.
McAdoo stepped out, and removed his jacket and shoes. “You cannot live in fear,” he said with grim resolve, transforming toward Garou form.
“Pity that some do,” Yggthor nodded.
“What are you…?” Pip trailed off as McAdoo trembled, veins popping at his throat. His face turned blood red as his mouth widened, constricting in unspeakable agony.
“Huuuu…!” He managed. “Huuuuu…! He staggered a step forward, eyes wide as the flesh all over his body began to rip and tear as cold stone erupted from beneath. With one last “Huuuuurrr….!” his fleshy form exploded, leaving only the Stonewolf present.
“…Damn that’s gross.” Pip shook his head.
Korin nodded his agreement, stepping out of the SUV along with Casey and Claws. “Yeah, not too sure I can get used to watching that.”
BranAdoo gasped and staggered forward a step, readjusting to the Stonewolf form. “Indeed.. General are you still with me?”
“Aye, lad.” The other’s voice rumbled the Stonewolf’s chest. “Ah’m right here.”
“Good to hear that.” BranAdoo drew the Guardian blade, visibly appreciating the comfortable weight of the now claymore form. “We’ve a mission to rescue an innocent and to pay a debt. Allied with us are the faye lords,” he looked to Lord Norfolk and his Lady, “Yggthor.. and this is Casey.”
“We’ve met,” Casey smiled. “There was that whole thing in the Machine room.”
“Aye,” the Stonewolf recalled. “You fought well, lass. Would that I could say the same.”
She grimaced wryly. “Mardmor beat me six ways from Sunday the first time we faced off. I think I was just more pissed off than you when we took him on in the Machine room.”
“If that’s the case, Lassie, I hope to never earn your ire.” He tipped his head respectfully to her.
“I agree to that,” BranAdoo murmered. “She nearly took my head off.”
“General,” Pip smiled, drawing a short rod from its place on the back of his belt. With a flick, it telescoped out to the quarterstaff’s full length.
Casey looked up and down the road, reaching out with her perceptions to get a sense of where the monkey house was and who-all was at home. She found herself wishing that Pana were with her.
More than a dozen minds were present in the area… several watching them right now. She sensed no danger or evil intent from them. They were arranged in three groups of four.
The first and nearest cluster were in the trees several paces forward.
The other two groups were further ahead.
They were observing the house.
“There are people in the woods,” Casey murmured quietly to the others. “Spread out, watching the house…looks like twelve of them in groups of four. They know we’re here. They don’t feel dangerous to me.”
“Those may be General Bran’s guardians. On our side.” BranAdoo supplied. “Wot?” he immediately replied to himself in the General’s voice. “What guardians ye talkin’ about?”
“I believe he’s referencing the Warriors of the Shadow Realm,” Yggthor explained. “The boys in red masks.”
“They’re not my guardians,” The General clarified.
“They watched over you while you slept,” The Troll offered.
“Be that as it may, they are not mine!”
Casey’s mind eased further out, and sensed a young woman struggling for consciousness. “She’s there, the girl…half-conscious.” A glimmer of distaste flickered for an instant in the telepath’s eyes. “She’s a ghoul.”
The Stonewolf growled, “Alive…good.”
“And someone else….” Like turning on a light in a dark room, Casey found a dark, malevolent mind looking right back at her.
It startled her out of her probe. She recoiled, blinking. “There’s something bad in there alright. Psionic, or magical…it ‘saw’ me. So it knows we’re here too. Bad juju.”
She scanned around for Wynne and found the sluagh in the dark undergrowth very close to the house. “Wynne’s over there in the brush,” she added, indicating the spot.
Pip nodded at that, flashing the high-sign to Yggthor.
The troll’s eyes were slits, peering into the darkness.
Alseyne pulled her Glock from her purse and checked to make sure the clip was full and the safety on before she slid it into the front pocket of her jeans.
Yggthor hefted his mighty axe. “I have to be in before ten. So we should hurry.”