Whitechapel, Part I: In Media Res

The Storyteller: The rain came down in sheets upon that dismal September night, soaking Ilkin and Rakesh to the skin. Ilkin had a raincoat on, at the very least, and an umbrella, two advantages which Rakesh was presently missing. The werewolf looked like a German Shepherd just now, his fur plastered to his skin by the driving rain, resembling nothing quite so much as a drowned rat.

The Storyteller: "The scent leads in here." Rakesh said, sitting down on the wet cobblestones outside of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. A two story building, quite old, though it was closed down for the night and firmly unlit. The werewolf's voice sounded hoarse coming from the dog's throat. "Can you get us inside? I can rip down the door, but I'm lacking in subtle methods."

Ilkin: Ilkin took an old credit card out and tried sliding it into the lock. The door jiggled and clicked, but remained unyielding. He shrugged and stuck the card back into his pocket. "It's not working," he said, "I tried getting the lock's spirit to cooperate but it's not being very friendly. I think it's sleepy." He stepped back several feet. "At your leisure, sir wolf."

The Storyteller: "If we're arrested, I'm going to make you pay for my legal defense." Rakesh said, his form shimmering in the rain from wet hound to wet human, and then to something a bit bigger and a bit stronger than a human being. The werewolf's upper arm bled freely, but Rakesh ignored it as he examined the door for a moment. He paused, and then in a single, swift, movement, pulled the lock out. Wood splintered, metal squealed, and Rakesh ended up holding the detached door knob and lock assembly. He dropped it to the ground, then pushed the now de-locked door open.

The Storyteller: In the meantime, Ilkins mind wandered, and he could feel the presences in the rain. Rakesh's intellect, burning brightly, and various animal minds in the distance. A ghost dwelled on the street a few hundred feet away... and there was a human mind standing perhaps a dozen feet away from Ilkin on the sidewalk, hidden from sight despite the lack of cover. Magic.

The Storyteller: "After you." Rakesh said, his voice a husky growl. His body twisted, he lost about a foot of height as he turned back to normal, and the half-Indian, half-Welsh werewolf straightened his collar.

Ilkin: Ilkin tilted his head curiously. The unseen presence made him wary, but at least it was only one. Still, it would be worth checking out briefly. He murmured the Atlantean runes under his breath and then looked over the general area. After a cursory check, he nodded. "Hidden Mage," he whispered to Rakesh as he passed by the werewolf and walked into the building. He kept one hand at his gun, just in case.

The Storyteller: Rakesh's nostrils flared, but he nodded and followed Ilkin into the building. After a moment, the unseen presence followed as well, moving without so much as a sound.

The Storyteller: The Whitechapel Bell Foundry was one half museum and one half mechanic's nest. Massive molds and casts were present, as well as furnaces for heating the bronze designed for casting, though all were cold now. There were plaques describing how they had cast the bells of Big Ben, and other such things as well.

The Storyteller: It was, on the whole, a quiet place, and any sound here would be muffled by the falling rain outside. At the very least, it was dry in here, though Rakesh still resembled a drowned rat. Then, Ilkin felt a new presence on his mental map of the foundry. Someone was coming from the workshops below.

Ilkin: "Something's coming," Ilkin closed his hand around his gun but kept it in his jacket, "Human, or human-like, from downstairs. Are there security guards here?" His mind raced through his spell options. He could attempt to go incognito but that wouldn't help Rakesh. Maybe. He could extend the spell to the werewolf, but even then it might not work. Still...

The Storyteller: The door to the stairwell opened... and Melissa Westly, psychiatrist, Libertine, and sometime lover of Ilkin stepped out into the foundry proper. In other words, quite decidedly not the person who would be expected here. She looked over at Ilkin, her brows furrowed. "...Marduk?"

Ilkin: "Athena?" Ilkin's brows furrowed in return. He relaxed his grip on the gun. "What are you doing here?"

The Storyteller: "Dying, primarily." Came a certain urbane, eloquent voice from behind Ilkin. There was a shimmer of power, and Seventeen dropped the spell of invisibility and silence that he had been holding about himself. He looked perfectly dapper, if somewhat damp, and he raised the gentleman's cane he always carried to point it at Melissa. "Good-bye."

The Storyteller: A column of white-hot flames, thick as a man's wrist, surged forth from the end of the cane.

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The Storyteller: It had started with a phone-call, like these things often did. "Jason? It's Melissa."

Ilkin: Ilkin sat back and kicked his feet up on his desk. "Mel, hullo," he said, "How d'you do?"

The Storyteller: "Stressed, the usual. Listen, I know it's short notice, but they're calling an emergency meeting of the Assembly." Melissa sounded it. "The Hierarch sent a messenger an hour ago and he's not taking no for an answer. Can you come down here as fast as you can?"

Ilkin: "All right," he said, "I'll be there soon." He grabbed his keys and headed for the door.

The Storyteller: The Consilium of London was headquartered in a boardroom at the Institution of Civil Engineers, a severe building near Westminster Abbey. The Guardians of the Veil laired in a nest of interconnected rooms beneath Highgate Cemetery. The Free Council, for their part, had neither the connections of the Consilium nor the sheer arcane might of the Guardians of the Veil. What they had, however, was style in abundance. Which is why they met in a theater.

The Storyteller: The Barskby Players House was one of the more minor centers for the creative arts in the district of Soho, where the bohemians and artists dwelled. It was a beautiful old Victorian building, and even if the artists who played here were never more than second-rate, it still made a beautiful background to the meetings of the Libertine Assembly.

The Storyteller: Melissa was waiting for Ilkin at the front door. "Jason, I'm glad you came."

Ilkin: "What's going on?" Jay asked after giving Melissa a quick hug. "It sounded urgent. More than the Guardians' usual antics."

The Storyteller: "The Hierarch sent his bastard of a grandson over, and they're here in force. I don't like it at all. Mass meeting, immediately if not sooner." Melissa said, pulling away from Ilkin. "And he asked for you to be here by name. Jason, what are you up to?"

Ilkin: Jay blinked, startled. "He asked for me specifically?" The Acanthus couldn't figure that one out. "I've no idea what he wants with me. Did he say anything else?"

The Storyteller: "No. But they brought guns with them."

Ilkin: Jay's expression darkened. "Well, take me to them," he said.

The Storyteller: There were a great many Libertines gathered in the Theater. Most of they city's Free Council mages had come to the meeting, and there were over fifty mages gathered in the seats. They were an ecletic bunch. Pygmalion artists mixing with Uncrowned alchemists, Islamic pirs and Awakened Hindu fakirs rubbing shoulders with Christian revivalists. It was a broad bunch indeed.

The Storyteller: The Guardians of the Veil had taken control of the stage, and Melissa had been right. They'd come out in force. Seventeen was there, dressed in his dapper suit, a bowler hat on his head and a cane in his hands, sitting on the edge of the stage and having a conversation with a young Libertine. Seventeen could charm a stone. Standing directly behind him were the two tall bodyguards Ilkin had last seen beneath Highgate cemetery, dressed in dull greys and cradling assault rifles in their hands. Two more mages stood in the shadows at the edge of the stage. A green-haired girl swathed in shadows, and a grizzled, older man in a skull half-mask. Whim sent a wave up to Ilkin as he entered.

Ilkin: Ilkin waved cheerfully to Whim. Of all the Guardians, he tended to like her best. Except for that snake-in-the-bed business. He was less keen on Seventeen, but he was usually tolerable and Ilkin usually had enough social grace to not let that interfere. "I'd stay away from him if I were you," Jay called good-naturedly to the Libertine chatting with Seventeen. "Before you know it, he'll have you believing you're really a woman and Big Ben is your husband."

The Storyteller: The Libertine jerked back, and Seventeen grinned up at Ilkin. He checked his watch, then waited for the various Libertines to settle into their spaces. "Is everyone here? Shall we begin?" Through some trick of magic or acoustics, Seventeen spoke at no more than a calm speaking tone, but it rang through the air. There were advantages to being an Obrimos.

Ilkin: Ilkin folded his arms across his chest. "I heard you asked for me specifically," he said, "What is this about?"

The Storyteller: "I'm merely fond of your charming company and ravishing good looks, Marduk." Seventeen said with a grin. "After the Assembly, can I talk with you in private?" All eyes were now on the two mages, and Seventeen stood up onto the platform now.

Ilkin: Ilkin smirked, but remained cautiously curious. "Very well," he said, "Carry on."

The Storyteller: "Excellent." The Assembly quieted down, and after a few moments Seventeen began. "Now. First I wish to bring to you the unfortunate news that six hours ago, Magister Devon Erasmus of the Mysterium was found murdered."

Ilkin: Ilkin folded his arms over his chest again and tilted his head. That was too bad, but he wasn't sure what this had to do with the Assembly. He stayed quiet, though, and waited.

The Storyteller: Seventeen waited as the polite murmur died down. "Due to the evidence found at the scene, the Hierarch and the Council have decreed that martial law is instituted for the City of London. All meetings and assemblies are declared outlawed save those allowed by express order of the Hierarch. Everyone is to return to their sanctums, set up whatever ward spells they possess, and stay safe until this emergency has passed. This is, I stress, a temporary measure." Now the room exploded into protest. The two bodyguards on Seventeen's sides put their hands suggestively to their weapons.

Ilkin: "We're supposed to just hole up?" Ilkin snorted. But then he bit his tongue. He was about to have a chance to talk privately with the Guardian and was going to wait til then to rake the man over the coals.

The Storyteller: "Athena, Marduk, if you would come with me please?" Seventeen said politely, but firmly, and strode off the stage, bodyguards in tow.