Erin's Files

   
Erin's Files

Aleksander Fyodorovich Melikhin

Talking to Aleksander (Dreams)
The first thing you quickly learn if you're not expecting it, is Aleksander is lucid and aware in his dreams. I mentioned controlling his own dreams to him, which he took to rapidly.

He is rather attached to Sergei, though when pushed (and mauled) enough he was willing to mercy kill his old partner. He cites having put too much effort into saving Sergei's life to let him die. The hand incident does seem to still bother him, though. He has an occasional nervous tic of rubbing his wrist where the hand was bitten off.

He admits Chernenko was a bastard, but respects how his old boss treated him. I haven't noticed any of the near reverence he had for Wormwood after the demon fixed his hand, but I haven't asked much about Chernenko.

His family had a little dacha by the Black Sea, maybe twenty miles from Sevastopol. When the government fell and they stopped paying him, they had to sell the house.

He was married to a woman named Tatyana over ten years ago, but wound up divorced. Arguments over money started causing trouble. Living in a tenement apartment on a policeman's salary gets hard. (He doesn't state as much, but there's a heavy chance it was the fact he didn't take bribes that led to everything falling apart.) He started to cheat on her, and suspects she did the same. Eventually his wife left, taking their five year old daughter with her. He's seen his daughter only a few times since then, and not for years. But, despite knowing how it ended, he admitted to me he would do it again.
Investigation in Odessa
Born in 1972 in Odessa, then-USSR. Comes from a pretty good family, apparatchiks who were in the lower reaches of the bureaucracy. He's something of a pan-Russian mongrel, with Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar blood in him, along with a strong presumption of something recessive and Scandinavian, given that he's big. Finished school, never went on the university but was instead drafted straight into the army at 18, in 1990. Spent the time up through the fall of the USSR in the military, leaving in 1992 and went into the police force since that's more or less one of the few things he was good for that didn't involve manual labor. Family fell on severely hard times after the fall of the USSR. In 1997 Sasha left the Odessan police force, and that's about where the trail dries up.

His family still lives there. Mother and father both were members of the Communist party and bureaucrats in the government offices (low-ranked, but still). Both went kind of broke after the USSR collapsed, and are presently living with his maternal grandparents, who are still alive, and still working, and helping make enough money to support the whole family (his grandfather is a semi-successful food entrepreneur). No siblings, some cousins. The family knows little of what happened to him after he went to Moscow. It's generally suspected he turned into a criminal. To greater or lesser extent, most of his extended family bids him good riddance.

His ex-wife, Tanya, lives in Smolensk (Alek married in 1992 and had his daughter, Lena, the same year, and was divorced in 1997, about six months before leaving the police). Tanya is working as a receptionist at an American-owned hotel in Smolensk, and remarried not long after the divorce.
Odessan Police Records (recorded via high resolution digital camera)
Sasha was a policeman for four and a half years. During that time he made a bit of a name for himself as being a very good person to have for 'domestic disturbances' or things like that. Basically, he's good with people, while also being big and intimidating to keep anyone from trying to attack him. So Sasha's good at defusing unruly situations.

His arrest logs show a sharp and noticeable decline in the number of arrests starting at about 1996, 18 months before he left the police. Basically, marriage was heading south, idealism was worn away (he was 24 years old at the time, note), and so he started becoming noticeably more corrupt. Most interesting is a separate case file attached to his transcript, which had him suspected in a mob-related beating of a Russian businessman in early 1997 (after his divorce). Suspected to be the Orekhovskaya gang he later became a part of. A couple of months later, Sasha turned in his Militsiya badge and left for Moscow.

Alek basically went through a very bad patch around 1995-1997, wherein he degenerated rapidly.

Doesn't have any old enemies from his police days. It's been ten years, and he was a rookie. While there's probably plenty of drunks and petty thieves who'd cheerfully push him in front of a bus, no one who'd hold a grudge for ten years.
Interpol Files
Aleksander was a senior negotiator/shakedown artist for his organization. Chernenko had taken Alek and Sergei on a few business trips to the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, which is how they came to Interpol's attention. As a note, Interpol did not know that they were in England. When they caught Alek, it was a bit of a surprise.

Their general view is that Aleksander went crazy, broke from Wormwood, and turned into a serial killer. The problem is that Alek fails to fit the usual serial killer models, and there was a serious lack of information. The police had no bodies, and Alek refused to talk, so they don't actually know all that much about what happened in the disappearances. Ultimately, they pinned it on Alek as the only reasonable person available (the Guardians were involved in this), and there was trace DNA evidence when they looked around. But they don't really know how the people were killed, why they were killed, or where the bodies are, which is a reason for why this did not really get very much press. The police were not interested in publicizing a case where any good lawyer would have obliterated it. Interpol thinks there's a high probability that Alek was responsible, but they can't find any reason why, given that his apparent personality was that of a very loyal mob thug. There's some theorizing that Alek is covering for someone, or that he's got a split personality.

There were some psychiatric interviews with Aleksander after he was arrested, but Alek, as I have learned, is a really hard person to analyze. Alek also generally made himself as annoying as possible in the psychiatric interviews, mostly by making up completely false events and histories and explanations. As we know, Sasha is a good enough liar to fool the psychiatrists with at least some level of success on occasion. He'd launch into very moving accounts of suffering antisemitism in the USSR, until someone points out that Alek is maybe one eighth Jewish by blood and doesn't worship at all. Or he'd describe participating in horrifically gory executions while working for the Orekhovskaya Gang, until they contacted Interpol and found out that not only would Alek not be the person they trusted with this kind of job, the crimes never even happened! After a few months of this they mostly stopped interviewing him, though they also slapped a "pathological liar" label onto Sasha. Then he "apparently" committed suicide in his cell, and that was that. There was a body, so Interpol took his death at face vaule.

-Breaking him out was mostly Whim's doing. She spent a couple of weeks on securing a corpse of roughly Alek's size and build. Then she spent a lot more time working Death magic to alter what it looked like, as well as reversing decay and generally fiddling around with signs of death. Then, she raised it. So, she had someone who looked a great deal like Alek, except being dead. Then take a quick trip into the Twilight, pull a switcheroo, and have the zombie hang itself.

Apparently, however, he took all the sweaters I sent him when we broke him out. I can only assume their absence went unnoticed, or the police assumed the other inmates stole them.


Talking to Sergei and Erin's opinion
Sasha's smart. He's as smart as I am, possibly even smarter - but he has an untrained mind. It may be intellectual boredom that drives him to play games with people, so it is best to keep him occupied. The Dream of Mars seems to suggest Sasha has a certain like of order. Sergei believes he used to be a good policeman, and despite all odds, looks to be right. Being an uncorrupted man in a corrupt system quickly put an end to his idealism, and various factors (including the lack of money) put an end to his marriage. That was pretty much that.

Sasha is highly unrepentant, but he's selfish. This happens to be a good thing, in his particular case. If he were evil, he'd be committed to remaining so. Sasha, on the other hand, will be on whatever side pays him. If I am permitted a bit of arrogance, he has a better deal under me than he's likely to find anywhere else. So long as it doesn't come to choosing me over his life, he'll cooperate.

Sasha's personality is easy-going, but what I'd call "heavily flawed". He's stubborn, he's manipulative, and he really just can't help screwing around with people. His main redeeming feature is that he doesn't enjoy picking on people who are already down - if anything, he can be very kind to such people. The trouble with Sasha is it's hard to get him to do anything if he doesn't feel like it. For this reason, I try to avoid confronting him with rhetoric on his past crimes - it will only make him more entrenched in his position.

I have a few advantages over him currently, however. The first is he does not respect me in the slightest - indeed, I think he pities me - but he does seem to be aware I have some power over him. So he pushes the line, but doesn't cause trouble, and doesn't expect me to try to manipulate him. The second is I do not believe he recognizes what I am trying to do to him. The third is he isn't actively fighting me, either because he doesn't know or doesn't care.

He has currently re-encountered his daughter and often takes her out on night-time misadventures - which I can only hope are not affecting her grades. They met under such bizarre circumstances I have little idea what she thinks he is. He is working as a Private Investigator, especially in cases where the police did not perform as well as they could, and doing his pro bono work for people who cannot afford further investigation on their own. He has also entered into a relationship with Heather, which seems stable but I am mildly concerned about.


Mary Mack


Speaking to Mary
Mary is always willing to answer Erin's questions, and not wonder why the little faerie wants to know.

Mary was turned at seventeen by a stranger in the house. He said he was a lost motorist, and it was snowing hard. They let him in, at which point it took him an hour to kill her mother, father, brother, and Mary. He then apparently raised her, and abandoned her.

Mary clung to her humanity as well as she could, but over fifty years has slipped up a number of times. She's expressed suicidal wishes several times, but doesn't seem to actually want to die - not now, possibly not ever. An actually suicidal vampire probably could have ended it at this point.

She's obsessed over a pair of old-fashioned scissors, which I believe were used to stab her in the back of the throat. Poor Mary was trying to make right with the family of a man she'd accidentally killed, which went as well as you'd expect.

Mary as a vampire usually liked to operate in closed environments (free from interference by other vampires), and in ones where the fact that she usually looks about 15 is not a major problem (trying to get a job or something is an exercise in misery). But she's still a vampire, which means she has to hide when the sun is out. So while she half-avoids the situation by sticking to boarding schools, most students are going to be asleep when Mary is most active (in the winter, she can hang out in the evenings a fair bit, though attending classes would still mean that the jig is up). As a result, Mary tends to only meet the kind of students who are likely to be wandering around after curfew, away from adult supervision.

Mary's an ancilla, even if she doesn't look like one, but she is also a bit of an outcast and unofficial in vampire society. Othello seems to have taken her as a hanger on, and they seem to get on rather well together.
Lena Melikhin

Speaking to Mary
Mary knows her... not hugely well. In terms of physical facts, Mary knows less than Erin. Lena is Russian/Ukrainian, attending Hawkworth Preparatory on a scholarship, and is good at maths and sciences and absolutely abhors language lessons. But in terms of personality, Mary is of the view that Lena is first, a risk-taker, and at the same time, an inherently manipulative sort of person. Not necessarily in a bad way, but like daddy, she's good at getting people to do what she wants. She's basically very curious, and at the same time rather cynical about things like rules. She's the kind of person who'll ignore a "Do Not Enter" sign just to see what's there. At the same time, she's quite good at persuading other people to come along with her on these escapades. And no one would really expect it of her because she doesn't look like a troublemaker. She's a short, freckled girl, slightly chubby, with a kind of "Who, me?" look of innocence about her, which she knows perfectly well how to use. Mary's private opinion is that she's a heartbreaker-in-training.

She's not required to remain at the school over break, and usually spends her summers back in Smolensk. The shorter vacations are variable. Depends on the length of the break, how much money Tanya has to ferry her home vs. let her stay there, etc. Otherwise, she's staying on campus pretty much all the time. There are plenty of field trips and so forth, but if she's off-campus there's someone supervising. Once she's sixteen she can wander off on her own. The school is understandably paranoid about letting 13-year-old girls out on their own, it's the same reason they do have some security.
Hawksworth Preparatory Academy

Preliminary Investigation

A boarding school and
what an American would call a private school
Public School located over in Essex. Eton, it is not, but it is still distinctly above average. The students are a mix of half local Essex children who live at home, and half foreign students, mostly from the British Commonwealth but also a good number of Americans, who live in the Academy. Total student population is about 2,500, and another few hundred faculty and staff. It's pretty sizable. It's also fairly old. It was originally founded in 1882 as the Hawkworth School for Girls, but they changed the name in the 60s. It's located on the grounds of an old aristocratic estate. The manor house (Hawksworth Manor, hence the school's name) burned down back in the 1920s, and there's been a good deal of rebuilding since, with most of the construction being either in the 1920s or in the 1970s.

There's three school-buildings in a central cluster, alongside the basements and cellars of the old manor house. About a hundred yards away are four dormitories for the students. A bit to the side of those are variety of smaller buildings off to the side such as sports halls and what-not, including an aquatics building built in the 70s, which has a swimming pool and some hot-tubs. There's a stable somewhere on the grounds, though not super-close to the central area, and there aren't many horses left. The school is on somewhat shaky financial ground at the moment. They had a building boom in the late 1990s, and they slightly went overboard, hence the hot-tubs. There were, unsurprisingly, cost-overruns.

Most of the rest of the grounds are fairly barren of habitation, lots of trees, shrubbery, hills, it's the kind of terrain where you can travel for an hour just to get a mile. There's a few manicured paths, and there's a few out-buildings, some still in use (groundskeeping, etc), some effectively abandoned. Not super-huge-forest, but enough for people to wander around in and not get claustraphobic, very hilly.

The estate is surrounded by a fairly tall fence (originally from the 19th century, but they updated it during the last round of rebuilding), and three gates, two of which are service-gates that lead to staff parking and to facilities, the third of which is the public entrance. Visitors go in through the gate and are directed straight to the main office in the nearest of the schoolbuildings, where they sign in. They're not usually allowed to wander unattended, or into the school without a prior appointment. It's not too hard to get an appointment or permission to come, but the school does make an effort to know who is on the campus at any given moment. They're pretty security conscious, though I've been told by the experts that anyone reasonably competent can probably break in under fifteen minutes. The fence and security system is there mostly to ward off overly-adventurous teenagers and random perverts.
-They found the teacher in the aquatics building, where Mary was lurking. Her name was Gail Pearson, and she was a mathematics teacher. In her early 30s, and been teaching at the school for about ten years now. Divorced. She was heavily involved in various extracurriculars at the Academy. Unfortunately some of her extracurriculars happened to be with a hungry vampire.

Sergei Valentinovich Zaitsev

Investigation in St. Petersburg
The family situation is, broadly speaking, like Alek's: he fell out of contact. Sergei is not at the forefront of his family's mind. They think he's gone and made something of himself, and become a professional somewhere far away, working for some multinational corporation. So they're proud of him. But he's emigrated or what-not and so they don't really think about him a lot.

He looks to have been a fairly unexceptional soldier. No disciplinary issues major enough to make it back home, anyway.
Interpol Files
As one of Oleg's croneys, he appears in Chernenko's files. Basically, he was a mid-ranking-to-high-ranking 'fixer' for the Tambov organization. Sergei was a hitman pure and simple. There isn't too much new here. He's a criminal, made a name for himself primarily by being quite good at what he did, and in the early 2000s, Wormwood was looking around for new acolytes and pegged him for the job. Interpol pretty much assumes Sergei has gotten himself killed.

They have copies or info on Sergei and Alek's criminal records pre-Wormwood. I'm not sure what the point of having detailed criminal records on my own employees is, but I have them now.

Sergei's first job, the one he can't recall: long story short, a businessman (Canadian) was ignoring just what the Mafiya could do for him. So instead, Sergei got dispatched along with another bratok to dispense a bit of education. The Canadian IDed both of them later in records, before leaving the country altogether. He apparently still walks with a cane, so it was a bit messy.
Talking To Sergei and Sasha
Sergei speaks rather good English, but he's a slow reader.

I think he's allergic to cats.

Ever since the Battle of Grozny, Sergei has had issues with repressing stressful memories. The information is still in his subconscious, and he's aware that he was present at whatever event occurred, but when pressed for details he cannot recall much of anything - though he was able to correct a detail when reminded of the circumstances around it. He cannot recall Grozny, his first job for the Tambov, or his "final exam" for Wormwood, when he was nearly eaten by a demon. Much to my dismay, I found he'd also forgotten the circumstances of our first meeting.
-Interesting to note: Sasha would later claim to Sergei that the demon incident was "too easy", despite having his hand bitten straight off, and Sergei nearly being eaten. He also knew perfectly well Sergei blacks memories out.
Socially, Sergei is a very shy man, and I have a feeling this was exacerbated by his time in the Mafiya, when he stopped communicating with most his old friends. When I asked if he missed anyone from before, he could only name his parents, and a few friends from school or the army (and perhaps one or two from "later"). He thought his parents might have known what he did, though I seem to have learned they did not, and still do not. He's picked up communication with them again, as he'd been considering. He also said he never had anyone he seriously fancied, though he used to like "forward" women?

To be honest, I know almost nothing of his personality before I met him, at which point his personality radically changed. I believe he is starting to equalize, however. He's not longer as openly religious as he once was, though this does not indicate a decrease in faith to it becoming more subtle. He is also becoming much happier, in no small part because of Sasha's return. Despite grievous misgivings about letting Sasha out, and certain... arguments between the two, the two men really are fast friends.

Charles and Amanda Drayton, of Mayfair

Rakesh's Investigation
The Draytons are upper middle class, closer to the 'upper' part. Charles Drayton is an Aerospace engineer who works for a contract that in turn works with the RAF (he does weird things with radar and electromagnetism). Amanda Drayton is the CFO of a mid-level NGO that does policy work for the Labour Party. They live in a very nice house in Mayfair (which is the 'highly expensive' part of town), and are about on par with Ilkin as far as monetary status goes.
Heather Drayton

Rakesh's Investigation
Heather Drayton, born in 1980 (making her 26 years old) to Charles and Amanda Drayton of Mayfair. She has a younger brother, Arthur, who was born in 1984. Heather attended some very good prep schools, and this along with some family connections managed to get her into the University of Nottingham, where she majored in art history. (The University of Nottingham, for the record, is a seriously good university.)

Rakesh got copies of all her transcripts. Heather's academic career is... speckled. Basically, Heather is very bright and very clever, but she has the attention span of a squirrel. She sort of squeaked out with a degree in 2003. The only places where Heather does excel in is sports. She's was a cheerleader in secondary school, and has been doing gymnastics at a competitive level for a while now. She's also dabbled, at various levels of competence and commitment, in soccer, water polo, women's rugby, and a Korean martial art with a really long name. Since graduation, she's been working as an assistant researcher at her mother's policy NGO (nepotism) and is actually proving to be reasonably good at it. Basically her job involves sorting through archives, interviewing people, and other such research-related tasks. She does lots of surveys. She currently lives in an apartment in Marylebone (which is a rather affluent inner-city part of Westminster, in London), along with a pair of absolutely huge English Sheepdogs.

Financially she's got a fair number of loans to pay off, parents are helping with those.

She's got a bit of a criminal record. Nothing too dramatic, but she was busted at a couple of very wild parties at Nottingham. Rakesh also dug up a now-dropped academic disciplinary action wherein Heather was basically accused of beating the living daylights out of a boy. The charges got dropped due to a bit of uncertainty about what the boy was doing to deserve getting punched in the stomach repeatedly.

Medical records (don't ask how Rakesh got those) show that Heather is something of a medical oddity. Heather suffers from diabetes mellitus, something she got diagnosed with around age 6 (which is odd, but the family has a genetic predisposition for it, so not that bizarre). She actually got into the exercise business as a way of managing her diabetes originally. The strangest aspect of the disease is that it does a number on her pain-nerves. Heather isn't completely unfeeling of pain. But she can shove needles into her finger with only a vague tingle. She'd probably be a physical wreck if she also wasn't healthy as a horse otherwise, and very quick-healing. As is, the doctors sort of scratch their head, think that she should be worse off than she is, but since Heather's doing well, they try not to worry about it - though there's quite a few nasty things coming down the road, (decreased neural functioning, kidney failure), so they have her on medications anyway. Heather's parents alternate between being terrified/worried sick, and secretly relieved that Heather is as happy and healthy as she is.

Heather also spent a bit of time in counseling and with psychiatrists when she was in secondary school (she saw a psychiatrist for about two years following the "beat up the boy so bad that he keeled over" incident). Rakesh also got those psych reports. Which describe Heather as being very outgoing, very cheerful, but with a distinct anger-management problem and a rather peculiar case of monophobia. Basically, Heather gets very anxious and unhappy if she's alone, to the point of panic attacks in extreme situations. She's also taking medication for that, attends monthly meetings with a psychiatrist, and generally tries to avoid situations where she's alone. The dogs sort of help with that. As far as temper goes, Heather tends to run hot-and-cold. She'll be cheerful and pleasant till something finally gets her ticked off enough, at which point she will yell at you for a while. She's usually really sorry about it afterward. Generally speaking, when she blows up at people they deserve it, but she does tend to be strident in her opinions.

Some other snooping around and chatting up spirits reveals that Heather is a very social person , and has a swarm of different friends all over. She has something of a talent for attracting unusual friends, with her best friend since college being Harata Bijarati, a Pakistani woman who is also a practicing Muslim, and who works at a law office in London. Despite that, Heather also has a slight reputation for going through boyfriends like tissue paper (the combination of endless energy and a temper makes her hard to live with sometimes, and she has a somewhat domineering personality), and is at present between SOs, due to getting into a screaming fight with her last boyfriend about a month ago and kicking him out.
Erin's Occult
From the sounds of it, the Mistress was not really quite as careful as she could've been when making Heather. By fetch-standards, Heather is sort of middle-of-the-pack. She doesn't seem to have any horrific, glaring flaws (she's not a sociopath), but the diabetes is apparently some kind of screwy Echo that Heather doesn't know how to turn off. The monophobia is quite likely a result of Heather's personality being a bit unfinished as well. She has a hard time knowing how to act unless there's someone around to take cues from.
Talking to Heather
Heather is mildly supernaturally aware. Someone, by the name of Mr. Sutcliffe, met her in a coffee shop and then showed up in her dreams. He taught her some occult, how pledges work and how to Skien-walk. He's also likely responsible for the Dream Golem we encountered. However, he leaves a good amount of information out. She recognizes dream visitors, but doesn't identify them as Fey. She doesn't know why she should be afraid of someone taking her place, only that she has been warned it could happen. All signs point to that she doesn't realize she's a Fetch. She does seem to recognize she is nothing like her family, personality-wise. All things considered, she seems rather aware of her flaws, though she very much took the appearance of a random coffee-shop man in her dreams in stride.
-It seems that "Mr. Sutcliffe" may be the Jack-of-Crows himself. It certainly makes sense.

Arthur Drayton

Rakesh's Investigation
Heather's polar opposite. He's quiet, studious, and pretty much a grade-A nerd. Currently finishing up his last year at Nottingham, and as of spring 2006, is waiting for applications to return from various physics programs he's applied to. He's generally not physical at all, being small and kind of meek, though apparently having a sister who's a kind of kung fu demon has that effect on people. He's something of a loner, though he's involved in Nottingham's Sci-Fi club and is working in starting up a chapter of the SCA in Nottingham. Rakesh didn't look at his records in quite such detail, but he has no peculiar diseases and no disciplinary records, though he did spend a year or so seeing a psychiatrist (same one Heather saw) for clinical depression. This was back when Art was 14 or so.

Art and Heather seem to excel in exactly the things the other one is horrible at, leaving them both feeling vaguely insecure. They fight like cats and dogs, but they'll defend each other to the bitter end. Which when dealing with Heather, is probably quite literal.

Oleg Wormwood

Interpol Files
Oleg Chernenko appeared on Interpol's radar shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to Interpol, Chernenko just under 40 years old, and was a minor criminal in the Ukraine who struck it big with the fall of he USSR. Chernenko is a bit unusual in that he doesn't really have a loyal organization of criminals working under him. He's more of a grand facilitator. Chernenko's modus operandi is to have very small groups of very elite agents. He basically headhunts people from other organizations, which he tends to get away with due to being highly useful to folks. Also because even by the terrifying standards of the Russian Mafiya, Chernobyl Ollie is known as someone you do not mess with. He might twist your soul and use you as a zombie slave. There's weird rumors floating around about Oleg, of which Interpol has collected a few.

- Yorgavich kind of clashes with what Interpol knows about Chernenko, since Yorgavich was recruited in the 80s, and Interpol thinks of Oleg as having been still in high school at the time. Of course, we know that he's been around for a good long while.

In any case. Yorgavich (though Interpol doesn't know of him), Alek, and Sergei all fit into Chernenko's habit. Each of them is a very competent, very trained criminal whom Chernenko recruited, apparently worked with very closely for a few years, and then sent out into the world. Reading between the lines, apparently some of that training is Chernenko's introducing his agents to the supernatural. In a very real sense, Wormwood is running a Hunter-style Compact, or maybe even a conspiracy, if he ever hands out that supernatural lore. Interpol obviously doesn't say, but it would make sense.

-Which leads to the question: Why? He was picking off the other "Fallen Angels", one by one, as well. Does he enjoy being the only power in town, or is there more to it?

Interpol also estimates that there's maybe fifteen to twenty of these 'agents' still active in the world, but this is assuming that Wormwood started up in 1992 or so. If you extrapolate from the dates and from people like Yorgavich, the actual numbers may be two or three times larger. There's a certain assumption that Wormwood is either dead or in hiding, as no one's seen him around for a while, but his organization, such as it is, still seems to be functioning normally.

Chernenko mostly works in Russia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Interpol thinks he was selling weapons; he's an arms smuggler, ultimately. Of course, he dabbles in other things - like the occult.

Seventeen
Wormwood is heavily involved in acquiring and trading Awakened artifacts. The Guardians aren't exactly thrilled with that.
Talking to Sergei
"But there was one time, before I was there, that an old man tried to murder kill him with a knife. I heard this story later, but they said the old man was an American, he spoke no Russian. Most times, when someone tries to kill you, you know who, and likely why. This American? No one knew."
Talking To Yorgavich
Stepan Yorgavich was Wormwood's lieutenant in Vladivostok, and matches the same pattern as Aleksander and Sergei. He was a legbreaker in Vladivostok when Oleg was there in the early eighties (he specified 1982), and got recruited for being clever and not asking a lot of questions. Oleg sent Yorgavich to kill a human trafficker competitor who also happened to be a vampire. Yorgavich didn't ask questions, but spent time searching for the answers, and learning more about Oleg and the vampire. Oleg found out, and in his odd way, liked this. For the most part, Yorgavich smuggled, but also ran protection businesses and prostitution rings.

Oleg Chernenko has vanished before, for long stretches of time, so his current disappearance does not concern his agents. The longest was from 1995 to 1999, when he had gone to handle a deal of some kind in Rome. Before that, he spent much of the late eighties in the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, but he would check in at least once a quarter.

Oleg has a strange sense of humor, and perhaps a strange sense of honor. He is loyal to the men who serve him, and protects them well, but uses them hard.
-Yorgavich, like Aleksander, seems to have a strong respect Oleg. I have only met three of Oleg's agents (and VeritÚ as a colleague), but it is a definite trend. Given the overwhelming odds he threw his two agents against back at the museum, he has very... stringent expectations of their capabilities - or perhaps his agents are simply being too charitable in their assessment of Oleg.

Sergei was the one dissenter. Oleg terrified him.

Oleg is old, and he is not human. Yorgavich found the church records of a village church in Magadan, which the Tsars used to send their political prisoners. Oleg was there, from 1881 to 1885. The priest thought he wrote a book in that time, or possibly spoke with ghosts, whom no one could see.

Encountering Wormwood

Wormwood and the demon Belial are two distinct entities, as far as I can tell. For the most part, the personality is Oleg's, but when surprised the demon appeared to take over, for a moment.

Wormwood is not a physically strong man, and was easily tackled and pinned by our more athletic colleagues. He makes up for this by being completely immune to mundane damage - he can be wounded and bleed, but it does not affect him at all. He stole a Hesperidean Apple from The Prince with Sun Flecked Eyes, a Gentry Lord, which grants him partial invulnerability. He thus can ignore almost all attackers without fear. His favored attack appears to be shooting a spiked tendril from his hand, with enough force to punch completely through a man's chest. Among other deformities, he has a pair of solid green eyes just above his normal ones, slits in his head. We also know he is a sorcerer, having demonstrated the power to regrow limbs. If I read VeritÚ's writings correctly, he is likely to have mastery over Healing, Necromancy, Demonology, and Transmutation, with possibly even the power to raise the dead.

His bane is lead, which not only harms him as normal, but more so than it would normally. It is for this reason I always carry a wedge of the metal in my pocket, wrapped in a handkerchief. The demon bound to Oleg also appears to have a Ban - if caught fairly, he cannot attempt to break free. It is difficult to say what counts as "caught fairly", and I'm sure he ways of twisting around his Ban, but Schafer's spell appears to have counted as a fair capture.
Speaking to VeritÚ
Oleg, apparently, keeps all his money in banks. Oleg also found the lost library of Ivan the Terrible while fleeing from Cossacks, in 1841. He really has a talent for getting people to try to kill him. VeritÚ mentioned his own book was amongst the library, and thus this is likely before Oleg became possessed by a demon.
Sergei's Dream
Oleg confirmed he had killed Ba'al Hammon, which puts him confirmed of killing Ba'al, Mara, and Arshelfar. He didn't kill Typhon, someone beat him to that. He claims to have been a runaway house serf, and might have engaged in some rabble rousing along the way.

Oleg claimed that Belial and the others couldn't go home because they still hoped to finish the task that brought them here. But given their general malevolence, what task could that be...?

Highgate Citadel

Oleg is dead.

We found his body, charred to the bone, in his cell. Whim confirmed it was him, not a trick. He'd drawn a huge magic circle in his own blood. He'd started drawing it before VeritÚ even mentioned the potential of me wearing the Crown. Wormwood's circle cut a giant hole in the space-time continuum, and in so doing shredded both Sir Civitas's defenses, and Oleg's link with the Angel. It warped time, creating a folding and refolding of the space-time continuum in the local area. The effect pierced into various other dimensions, destroying the local gauntlet. He opened a direct link to the Underworld, which slowly advanced entropy in his cell, making it collapse into dust. There will likely be a hellmouth in the place where his chamber once was...

Time flows strangely. The blood dried over the course of several hours, but the design took several days to make. He should have passed out from the blood loss, but Oleg could not die. Not until the link was severed, which, as Father Marcel had said, caused him to die from numerous mutations, cancers, extreme old age, and spontaneous combustion. But Oleg had opened up a direct line to the Underworld, and seems to have thrust himself into something there. He seems to have figured that being a ghost was a decent second chance. If he does not lose his mind, he is a ghost with a hundred-something years worth of experience in all kinds of magic. And should he grow old and powerful and wicked enough, he may become a demon himself.

The cell was run through with pure hate. Wormwood killed himself to spite us.

I don't understand. Why didn't he just wait us out? He's been imprisoned before. He barely cared when we captured him, and put him away. I always knew in my heart that if I had visited him, he would be only smug and mocking. I can never find out, now.

If I had spoken to him, over the years, would he have done this?

He's really gone...

I don't understand. I feel blank. I feel hollow.
The Underworld
We found Oleg down in the Underworld, his form warped and corrupted past recognition. When asked, he easily reshaped to a more amicable form. Certainly, he's power enough to have a somewhat prestiged existence down there. He is trying to make himself into a true demon, from the looks of it. In exchange for a promise to come and retrieve him if I succeeded, he told me how to put the angels to rest. I feel that if I've truly managed such a thing, Wormwood will be little concern to me at that point.

He still keeps the lilies I put on his grave.

Oleg's Estate


Talking to Yorgavich
Oleg's Estate is in the Sakha republic, south of Udachny. Oleg, as it happens, does not mind if people are sent to his home, so long as they are not police. His agents are encouraged to send such people on, and to charge all that the traffic can bear. Yorgavich has sent two groups before: a pair of Americans tourists who were vigilantes, and once an Italian aristocrat. He does not know what happens to them. Oleg does not say, but Yorgavich never saw them again.
Visiting, Speaking to the Skopsi
Oleg Chernenko's Siberian palace is indeed a palace. It is a huge, three story affair, nestled in the mountains at the edge of the plateau. I could only guess at the number of rooms it contained, but there would be dozens, perhaps more than a hundred. There is a central building, and then two long wings leading out to either side. Out-buildings complete the picture, including a garage, a helipad, and Oleg's mockery of a church.

The area around Oleg's estate has been corrupted by the demon's presence in the area. Reality has been changed within an approximately two kilometer radius, preventing the use of fire or anything involving combustion. As such, anyone approaching by vehicle will rapidly lose their mode of transportation. There is a notable exception in that guns work perfectly fine within the area, and I can only assume there is also an exception made for helicopters. There is also a separate dimension overlayed on the manor that proves more amiable to fire, and thus, to human life.

The forest is infested with Hellhounds, perhaps over a hundred of them. They are mostly docile unless provoked - their role appears to be to follow visitors and keep them on route until they are close enough to the manor. At this point any vehicle breaks down, and the visitors have no means to escape. VeritÚ appeared to have some form of mental control to summon them, but there appeared to be more to it then that. They were provoked when I rendered the professor unconscious, but they did not identify me as the proper culprit nor was their docility dependent on VeritÚ being awake. It is alternatively possible that they only reacted to Father Bogdashkavich's ritual.

The interior of Wormwood's estate is freezing. As stated before, fire will not ignite, nor does the old Boyariny estate have any insulation. There do not appear to be any right angles in the manor, and the entire place is built like a maze. It is, however, luxurious. There are many oil paintings on the walls of the corridors, plush red carpets, white marble staircases, bronze statues. His dining room is probably larger than the whole first story of the Russell House. Despite the elegance, it has an aura of sterility and abandonment. Most of the manor was simply unoccupied, put into mothballs for the better part of a century.

The East Wing of Wormwood's manor mostly had elegant, turn-of-the-century furniture covered in dust cloths and with drawn shutters. However, there were several things of great interest. One was Chernenko's ego wall: portraits of Chernenko with important people. This is also where we encountered the library, which appeared to sit in a different dimension, as it was larger on the inside than the outside. The room was huge, the ceiling a good forty feet above the floor, and there were books everywhere from floor the ceiling, with ladders on rollers scattered throughout the interior. There were reading tables as well, and art deco lamps.

The church, or Sanctum Sanctorum, is part shrine, part memorial, part mockery. It is built in the style of the Russian Orthodox faith, albeit with a certain amount of variation. The building was octagonal in shape, and not actually very large. Smaller than the Russell House, more chapel than church. There is only one door in, but on the other walls of the church were seven tall windows, letting in streams of golden light. In each of the other seven walls were deeply recessed alcoves, within each of which there was a single, massive Icon, twice Erin's size. Five of these were covered with a black cloth. The other two were paintings of Belial and Cybele. Beneath the five shrouded icons there were glass boxes, and each contained what had once been something; only under the dark woman was there nothing. Before the Belial was an altar in the classic Russian Orthodox style, though this too had a glass case, with a book within it. Scattered here and there throughout the rest of the church were more glass cases, containing scrolls, books, and other things. There were no pews in the church, and no lights but for what came from the windows. The Skoptsi could not find a door to the church, though I had no trouble exiting from it once I was already inside. There is singing from the church in the Low Tongue every night, though it seems only certain people can hear it. Something flung Pavel out the window when he tried to break into it, so it seems to have its own guardian. Aside from the base architecture of the place, the church is very different from its extra-dimensional counterpart.
Speaking to VeritÚ
VeritÚ, as well as anything of actual value in Oleg's manor, exists in an alternate dimension that is overlayed over the estate. It was here we found Oleg's library - actually books he had stolen from beneath the Kremlin, where they'd been forgotten and lost in the reign of Ivan the Fourth. The Library was the dowry of the Princess Sophia Palaeologa of the Byzantine Empire, the collections of the Byzantine emperors. It was hurried out of Constantinople shortly before the Turks arrived to siege the city. Its contents include Polybius, Tacitus, Pindar, Cicero, Suetonius, works by Kalvos and Vigril, copies of works today largely lost. As well as books of a more esoteric nature, most notably El Libro de Hierro by Encadenado. The library's keeper had been adding tomes during the four hundred year period in which it was lost.

The alternate dimension is powered by a strange "hymn" - not music, for that would imply harmony and rhythm, but some kind of oddly modulated noise, ceaseless and constant. The dance and the song creates a resonance with the power of the angels, drawing it into this world. I caught the name of Cybele and Arshelfar, but Belial was absent. The difficulty with this process is that it burns out the dancers very rapidly. It has horrible effects on the living, but the dead can be used instead. VeritÚ employed zombies, including Schafer's clockwork zombies, which he had somehow managed to recreate despite the brains collapsing into ectoplasm when she demanifested.
Oleg's Men

We are not quite sure how many of Oleg's men remain. Sergei estimated Oleg had twenty or so, though he himself did not know them all, and neither he nor Sasha recognized Tychevski off the bat. Interpol estimates around the same number, though they are working on incomplete information. With Oleg gone, many of the survivors drifted off on their own paths. Now that he is starting to rumble again, however, they seem to be coalescing again. Oleg has vanished before, so this is nothing new to them.
• Sergei Valentinovich Zaitsev: Presumed vanished back in 2003. His habit of flying with the Guardians, or with false papers, likely leaves little trace of him beyond that.
• Aleksander Fyodorvich Melikhin: On public record, he hung himself in prison in 2005. He has a public grave which I still visit and maintain.
• Nikolai Igorovich Tychevski: Has FSB contacts and loans from Oleg, but has mostly gone straight over the years, at least as straight as you can go in Russia. He has a definite interest in the occult, though I cannot say for sure how much he knows. He also has a bit of a problem with Raha popping up around him.
• M÷nkhbat Borisovich Rostovtsev: Went crazy and vanished in 2003. A shell of his former self, although he indicates he's less of a shell than he used to be.
• Peter Yorgavich: Dead. Formerly a drug smuggler and Oleg's lieutenant in Vladivostok. He met a violent end at the hands of the Skoptsi in 2004.
• Yuri: Died in 2003. No last name given. Eaten by Arshelfar when Oleg's hitmen attacked the demon.
• Sergei Rachov: A human trafficker, and a "bad man".
• Nikita Vladimirovich Akhroyekov: An old-school vor v zakone, the sort that goes back a long, long way. Must be sixty or seventy now, close ally of Josef Lisky, the head of the Lisky Bratva. The two of them spent a long stint in prison back during the late eighties and nineties, and Akhroyekov came out back in 2006, Lisky two years later.
• Lisky Bravta: Lisky's dropped completely off the radar, but over the last year, the Lisky Bratva's undergone a rapid increase in strength, and much of it is coming from the arms smuggling trade. His old organization was all about high specialists, but this has changed to a different style. The Lisky have thugs, and plenty of them. Interpol estimates they're about a thousand strong.
• Doctor Dorjiev: One of Ceaușescu’s scientists. Sounded like a vampire, which is odd, given Oleg's habits. Evangeline St. Claire said she killed him quite thoroughly three years ago, though who can ever tell with people like us.
Some other folks of note:
• Arkady Pavlovich Shevlenko: Ninth Section. He's a KGB general. He knew Oleg and Zobel was frightened of him.
• Abram Yefimovich Shturin: Not one of Oleg's men, but knew him and sometimes dealt with his employees, Sasha in particular.
• Asherbenal: @$%&^(&*
• VeritÚ: Not even remotely Oleg's man, more like vice versa. However, Yorgavich knew him and assumed him to be Oleg's favorite pet scholar, thus it is not a stretch to think others knew of him as well.


Oleg's Travels
• He started out life as a runaway house serf, and may have caused some rabble rousing in his day.
• He found the Lost Library of Ivan the Terrible beneath the Kremlin, which VeritÚ was tending, while fleeing from the Cossacks in 1841.
• At some point before he went to Tibet, he 'killed' Ba'al Hammon.
• He was in Tibet in the mid-19th century, where he attacked the Green Caps' monastery and destroyed the Emerald Lama.
• He was in Magadan, where the Tsars used to send their political prisoners, from 1881 to 1885. The priest of the church thought he wrote a book in that time, or possibly spoke with ghosts, whom no one could see.
• He has a picture of himself with Vyacheslav Molotov from the World War II era.
• He was in Vladivostok in the early eighties, where he encountered Yorgavich.
• He spent much of the late eighties in the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.
• He vanished from 1995 to 1999, when he had gone to handle a deal of some kind in Rome.
• In 1999, he returned to Moscow and picked up M÷nkhbat.
• Sasha was with him in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
• Sergei and Sasha were with him in the Congo during one of the wars, but they don't remember which.
• Sergei and Sasha were with him for a month in the C˘te d’Ivoire, and for some time in Mexico.
• At some point, he and Sergei were in Libya selling tanks.
• He was in Russia in February 2003, where his men killed Arshelfar.
• He came to London in November of 2003, where the Guardians took him.
• He killed himself in 2007.

The Servants of the Books
"...Among the heretic-scholars of Eritrea, it is the contention that of the twice-hundred Watchers fallen from Heaven, only seven remain to trouble mankind in the present. Faceless angels shorn of their wings, they teach mortal men dark secrets stolen from Heaven, the arts of blasphemy and sin, and for this they are worshiped, and their names are whispered in the hidden places of the Earth...

Golden Belial is their herald, carried by the merchants of Byzantium across the world to spread the gospel of sin. Phrygian Cybele is counted among their number, courted in Rome and Anatolia by her castrated Attis-priests..."
The Servants of the Books are group of seven "Fallen Angels", for lack of a better term. They should perhaps be considered 'proto-divinities': entities that were parts or messengers of a greater whole, but who for one reason or another did not return to their origins when their missions were completed. They were worshiped by people in the days before the modern Abrahamic religions, and some of their names have been maintained in mainstream theology. In truth, I had heard it before even meeting them, a long time ago. The Mistress mentioned having them as guests, before sending her servants away. Perhaps it is true that the Gentry are as some say - the angels too good for hell and too evil for heaven...

According to VeritÚ, such entities can't affect the mortal world. In fact, they can't even think on the same plane as the mortal world. So, what would normally be considered 'Belial' or 'Cybele' is actually a trio of separate entities. There's the actual 'Angel', which is an idea from beyond the rational universe as we perceive it. It's immensely powerful, but it operates on a plane in which humanity is literally incomprehensible to it, and vice versa.

There are multiple gates, which in VeritÚ's view are spells that allow one to siphon some of that angels power into a comprehensible form. A gate might allow you to restore a person to life, transmute lead to gold, or impose obedience on an entity from a lesser world on the chain. The most powerful of these gates is the Crown, which is a spell that allows for the melding of the angel's power with a human mind. Crowns invariably take some kind of written form (usually books). The people who use the Crown are called avatars, or possessed, though VeritÚ insists the last is grossly inaccurate. According to VeritÚ, the angel has at best tendencies, nothing like a coherent will. Any motives or mortal aspirations that an avatar has comes from the human part. However, he does note that angels are in themselves conditioned by their avatars to expect certain responses, and can in fact impose these responses on a human avatar, providing a certain level of continuity.

To completely excise an angel's power from earth, two things are required. First, all the avatars must be killed, and then any crowns must be destroyed, to prevent new avatars. While there can be more than one Crown running around at a time (though not many, for the process to create or even to copy them is apparently very complex), there is never more than one avatar at a time, by definition. Having two people linked to the same angel means they're sharing brain space, which tends to drive people into non-functional insanity.

Our only information on these entities comes from personal experience and the writing of Jean-Michel VeritÚ, which involves these creatures in detail. Verite's view of the world borrows heavily from Jewish Kabbalism and Cathar Gnosticism. VeritÚ perceives the universe as a chain of interconnected worlds, each one linked to a world above and below it. The further you get up the chain, the more rarified and thought-based you get. At the top of the chain, everything is a single, all-encompassing idea. I can identify a great many of the known realms in his writing: Arcadia is the realm immediately above earth, with the locals being creatures that are more idea and less matter than human beings. 'Hell', for lack of a better word, is the link the chain immediately below, so demons are more matter and less idea. VeritÚ makes it very clear that being higher or lower on the chain has nothing to do with morality.

Humanity, in a clear gnostic derivation, is composed mostly of the substance of earth, but with a divine spark from many levels higher. The divine spark is vaguely defines as being creativity, mutability, the ability to change or grow.

VeritÚ writes a good deal about the gentry, about demons, and about what he terms 'angels', which are entities from far up the chain, who are able to somehow travel down the chain to earth. VeritÚ explicitly links Belial, Cybele, and the others to these kinds of angels who are somehow trapped, or else chose to stay, on earth. One of the divisions he made note of was the Rational and the Emotional angels. The emotional ones, Cybele, Arshelfar, Typhon, tended to be destructive and had only small, usually kind of deranged followers. The rational ones, Hecate, Mara, Ba'al Hammon, and Belial, tended to be corruptive, and were often worshiped by large networks.

Five of them had supposedly been destroyed over the centuries. It is difficult, but it is possible to destroy a fallen angel, by happenstance or by mortal agency.

Arshelfar
Demon of Gluttony
I am uncertain, but believe the name "Arshelfar" refers to the demon, and "G. P. Vedovsky" to the servant. He was assaulted by four of Wormwood's agents, as a form of "final exam".

There were two distinct entities present during the firefight. The first was an extremely fat and cannibalistic man, who was keeping human parts in his fridge. He was barely affected by bullets and bled lard, which he could turn into grotesque grappling ropes. His jaws also unhinged wide enough to swallow a melon whole, and his stomach could sprout a second mouth that was nearly three feet wide. The demon devoured one of the mobsters whole and nearly did the same to Sergei, before it was finally killed by Aleksander. The mafioso shoved a grenade down its throat, at the small cost of losing his hand. The demon bit it straight off, before exploding.

The second entity was a few pieces of artwork that looked like gilded religious icons, only subtly different. They gave off an aura of uncomfortable warmth, as if someone's breath was far too close, an infernal influence even mortals could feel. Indeed, when one man moved too close to them, the icons drove him completely insane. After the servant was killed, the icons began to speak in the Dragon's Speech, threatening Wormwood. However, the icons appeared less potent against Oleg, who ripped them down and smashed them to pieces.

From the general pattern, I would guess the icons were the Crown, or perhaps the Angel itself, and the beast was its avatar. VeritÚ himself seemed to suggest this Angel, unlike his fellows, was a true demon. Like Bogdashkavich, it would be a plausible theory that this demon had fallen on hard times, as it had little in the way or servants or power.
Ba'al Hammon
Demon of Sloth
Bronze-bellied Ba'al Hammon is wisest of them all, discoursing upon rhetoric and mathematics while accepting the tophet-sacrifice from Punic priests. The painting has it as something resembling a four-horned minotaur with a starry void in his stomach.
Astarte
Demon of Pride
Chief among them all was proud and willful Astarte, named Hecate by the witch-cults, who taught at Scholomance the arts of sorcery. Hecate, a chthonic Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads. The statue I saw of her was of a serious looking woman with six eyes. VeritÚ refers to her by a number of names, including Morrigan.
Mara
Demon of Envy
VeritÚ describes Mara as a figure with four faces, and identifies it most of all with the tempter-demon of Buddhist lore, though he also links it with various spirit-vampires in Germany. The avatar of Mara that we saw had four arms, the ability to teleport, and powers over the mind.

The Green Caps, also called the Dugpas, or formally, the Brotherhood of the Black Lotus, are a still-extant heretical sect of Buddhism that follows Mara. They used to receive guidance from an entity known as the Emerald Lama, the avatar of Mara, who resided in a monastery somewhere in Tibet. The Lama claimed the sect was as old as Buddhism itself. Back in the mid 19th century, the Green Caps were badly battered in some kind of underground conflict with the Oleg Wormwood, who killed the Emerald Lama. The Green Caps currently operate in China and Tibet and probably want their book back.
Cybele
Demon of Lust
Cybele's statue, and painting, was that of some grotesquely voluptuous Paleolithic goddess, black as tar, with no head, just an endless expanse of flesh. It felt sweet, sickly-sweet, smelling like something that rotted or fermented or died. She also gave off an aura of unnatural and feverish heat. Oleg referred to her icon as a Venus of Willendorff. Also known as Matar Kubileya, the mountain mother, she is originally Turkish in origin, her cult was popular in Rome though she herself migrated into the Caucasus area sometime in the 13th century. She is linked to Attis, another fertility deity, linked to the plant life, to be born and die anew each year. Sometimes also identified as her son, more frequently as her husband, often both, he was driven mad with jealousy when Cybele married another. In an ecstasy of madness he castrated himself, and subsequently died of his wounds. The more fervent devotees of Cybele, such as Father Bogdashkavich, try to emulate Attis, including the castration. The rewards involve death, but also rebirth.

She is served by an Old Believer congregation, latter-day Skoptsi, lead by Father Jeremijiaz Bogdashkavich, though the cult had fallen on extremely hard times. The Soviets did a great deal to destroy Bogdashkavich's power. He and Oleg have been feuding for at least a hundred years now, and VeritÚ believed the cause to be jealousy: Oleg was wealthy and prominent, whereas Jeremijiaz was the last priest of a weakened and dying cult.

The remaining Skoptsi seemed more like assassins than pious religious types, for the most part. They are fanatics that obey the the Holy Father's word in all, including committing murder. Most of them did not speak English, and they would sometimes speak in Liturgical Russian. They live in the Caucasus mountains, in Georgia.

We met six of the cultists at Oleg's manor: Pavel, Arsen, Magda, Timofeyich, and Masha. Pavel is a very, very large man and a eunuch, and I suspect the muscle of the group, given he killed Yorgavich. Despite VeritÚ's claim the cultists lack much appreciation for art, Pavel knew Shakespeare rather well. Arsen is an Armenian, Ex-military at a guess, a younger man, late twenties, with swarthy skin and armed with a submachine gun. We caught him poking around in our room, though he at least had the dignity to look sheepish about it. Magda is a serious, matronly looking woman in her fifties, who seems rather pragmatic and slightly sour-faced, when it comes to us. Timofeyich is an old man with with wispy white hair in his seventies or eighties. He wears glasses, though doesn't see very well even with them.

Then there is Masha, a young woman with chestnut hair, very pretty. Though all of the Skoptsi registered as minor supernatural anomalies, she is the only one we identified beyond that: she seems to have some limited ability to sense the supernatural. That is, she claimed she heard the hellhounds 'in her heart', not with her ears, and could also hear the singing from the church. However, she did not seem to recognize my own nature, nor that of the mages. She seems rather naive to the true nature of the cult, and the other cultists seem okay with keeping it that way. She has lived with the Skoptsi since she was six.

Last is the Holy Father Jeremijiaz Bogdashkavich, the avatar of Cybele. He was an immensely fat man, obese to the point of being nearly circular, and tall as well. He wore the black cassock and stovepipe hat of the Russian Orthodox clergy, with a bushy beard reaching down to his chest. He moved with strange, mincing steps, due to his lower body being that of a hairy goat. He was also a powerful sorcerer, able to melt a bullet out of mid-air. Jeremijiaz possessed a silver book of spells, and a long, golden-handled knife that registered as magical. He's a shrewd man and a sharp haggler, and despite the hard times had money to spare to pay Yorgavich. Despite this, he seemed more faithful than intellectual. He badly underprepared for the trip to Chernenko's, assuming he wanted his followers to ever leave the place.

To this day I am still not sure what he was attempting to do. The best guess I had was that he was attempting to summon Cybele into the huge statue he brought. The presence of ice seemed to interrupt the ritual and "unconscecrate" the statue, so I can only guess that ice was his bane. I threw the statue through the wall and into the snow just to be certain. He threatened to re-consecrate the Great Mother afresh with our blood, however, the deliberate noise from Sergei's sub-machine gun attracted the Hellhounds, which devoured Father Bogdashkavich.
Belial
Demon of Greed
Though the demon we have most encountered, we know much more about his avatar than Belial himself. The painted representation of the demon is that of a tawny-furred creature, with far too many arms and limbs, and no features on its face beyond a pair of acid-green eyes. These green color seems indicative of those it has influence over, as VeritÚ and the zombies had the same shade of green eyes, and the glow that indicated VeritÚ's realm was the same color. Belial acts in a more business-like manner than the other Angels, with Oleg having pretensions of being a junior partner, or at least a trusted employee. This seems to be viewed as a blasphemous way of going about business by many of the other Angels. It is hard to say if the feud with the other Angels began over ideological differences, or whether Oleg started hunting them for sport first.

His current avatar is, of course, Chenenko, but we have encountered what appears to be a former avatar of the Angel. I encountered Jean-Michel VeritÚ on my trip to Siberia. He is a man with a long, lean looking face; he looks to be around fifty years old, his hair all but gone except for a slate-grey fringe, and he moves slowly and wears delicate glasses. He is known as the Professor to Wormwood's minions, and is the author of La Couronne de Rois, the book that serves as Belial's Crown. According to VeritÚ, most of his information came from a combination of research in the south of France, a trip to the Middle East, and what appears to be a great many dreams, which were largely fueled with some odd narcotics. Unfortunately, he happened to be present in France in 1791, during the Terror. Most of his books were burned by the Committee of Public Safety, which burned him as well.

Obviously, his story did not end there. VeritÚ claims to be a mundane mortal who's done a lot of traveling and knows far more secrets than is good for him. This was before his apparent death, however, and his current age would be over two-hundred and fifty years old. He appears to be human, but eats magic somehow. It was described to me as latent Abyssal infection, and that such a thing was not a pleasant experience. He seems to have kept quite a bit of rapport with Belial, and any number of unknown boons from his possession. He does not seem to age as he should, for one. For another, his eyes flash green, and on occasion his shadow has far too many limbs for a man's.

Whether he was an Angel or not, his writings note an interesting fact, that the link between Avatar and Angel can be severed. In fact, it usually has to be severed, as otherwise the avatar cannot die. The link holds them back.
-When I asked VeritÚ personally about this, he denied ever having been an Avatar. In fact, his sentiment was nearly identical to Oleg's when we caught him, as they both claimed to be simply mortal men. Oleg cited having friends, VeritÚ education. It could be this has something to do with the "blasphemous practices" Belial supposedly uses. There are three "easy" theories to explain this. One is that VeritÚ is simply mistaken. The second is that both men are lying, though this is far more likely in Chernenko's case than in VeritÚ's. The third is that there is some difference between them and the avatars of other Angels, but VeritÚ didn't correct me when I said Oleg was the avatar, so this would seem to discount that.

What is he? I have always assumed him on par with Chenenko, possibly even more powerful, but this is just an assumption I am making, and it may be due to bias. We know mostly that he is a frail-bodied man, with an Abyssal infection that devours magic. We also assume he would know all the spells in his book - he wrote them, after all. And I suspect he is the one who reverse-engineered Schafer's spell.

Whatever he is, he seems tied to Belial and Belial alone. It would be easy to simply discount the professor as being wrong, but there are so many intricacies of these creatures, that it is possible I have misconstrued events altogether...

VeritÚ appears to have been a patron of Turkish opium dens, and still has an impressive tolerance for opiates. I saw him smoking something resembling Syrian Rue in my dream, though I do not think it to have been a natural plant. VeritÚ himself claims to be a minor nobleman from Provencal, and was apparently involved in the Catholic Church and consecrated as a bishop at one point. This had more to do with the fact that his family had connections at court than with any particular piety.

The book we confiscated is one of three full copies. The other two are both in Italy, the Vatican has one of them. There are also some abridged or altered copies, but they're mostly worthless.
Typhon
Demon of Wrath
An infinite spiral serpent, or dragon, the betrayed king. Human myth is rife with the concept of the Dragon, some serpent or lizard of unimaginable size, sometimes good, sometimes evil, always destructive. There is Jormungand, the World Serpent that encircles the world, a creature so unimaginably vast that it late at the botton of the ocean, and for it to actually rise would be a sign of the end of the world, and perhaps one of the causes. Also in Norse mythology, one has Nidhogg, the dragon (sometimes called a 'worm') that gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree that supports the mortal world. The Egyptians had Apep, an immense serpent that embodied evil and chaos, who fought every day to end the world and send it crashing into darkness. The Persian Magi wrote of Aži Dahāka (Aži) being the word for a dragon or serpent, possessed of all possible sins and evils. And of course, one has the Beast in Christian eschatology, and Lucifer is sometimes described as a dragon (St. George and the Dragon, anyone?). The story of the Wyrm is common in human myth-cycles, and it is usually an apocalyptic sign.

VeritÚ refers to the entity as Typhon, and it holds true to it reputation of massive destruction. Just the echo of its voice was enough to "kill" Cuchulainn's house, rotting and murdering it spiritually. It also demonstrated the ability to kill smaller life forms, such as Cuchulainn's poor cat. It is possible this creature is also responsible for the 1666 Fire of London, which left an unknowable death toll in its wake, and supposedly almost wiped out the local supernatural community. The wyrm-ghosts claimed that Typhon taught mankind the secrets of war and "radiant fire", which I suspect refers to nuclear power.

We have not met any avatar of Typhon, nor do I know if there is one. What we have encountered are Typhon's Get - children, or victims, perhaps both. These appear as bladed shadows that are neither quite spirits, demons, or ghosts. The wyrm-get said William Hilderbrand was with them now, yet we can find no trace of his existence on earth. They also wished to grant us complete oblivion to save us from Typhon's wrath, perhaps the same oblivion that occurred to Hilderbrand. It is difficult to gain any facts of use from entities that call Typhon both our savoir and destroyer, and cannot comprehend of existence as anything more than unbelievable torment... or perhaps Typhon's wrath is truly that terrible.

VeritÚ was, for lack of a better word, shocked to hear Typhon was active again. His indication that Belial was not a loyalist seems to speak that Belial is the one who betrayed Typhon, though VeritÚ said it would be over-confidence to assume any of the Angels were truly loyal to one another.
-According to Oleg, Typhon was dead when he struck London in 1666. Oleg claims an English person killed Typhon back in the 1500s. Odd that Typhon would be called the Betrayed King, then, with his "five loyal brothers" - who betrayed him, if Oleg marked the resurgence of Belial's power? VeritÚ, if his biography is correct, was not involved, though his surprise seemed very strong if he had no involvement in the affair whatsoever.

It is troublesome I do not dare ask VeritÚ much on the details of Oleg Chernenko, but I may need to press on the details of Typhon. He caused a fire in 1666, but with the culmination of nuclear power in 1945, we may not be so lucky as to merely burn this time...


The Chapel at GÚvaudan
Father Marcel
There are trivial truths and the great truths.
The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false.
The opposite of a great truth is also true.


The Cathar priests in the south of France managed to survive and pass down their tradition about the Fallen. Father Marcel's story to me was this, though he warned that all of knowledge I had found were but reflected parts of the truth.

The Grigori were the watchers. In the Beginning, God made Man. Whether this happened in Eden’s Garden or by some misplaced spark of divinity can be argued. But with the creation of Man, the task was not yet finished. And thus, God sent two hundred of his angels, the Watchers, the Grigori, to watch over Man.

That was their mission. To watch. To teach. To complete the act of Creation. But they looked down on the sons and daughters of Man, and they felt… desire. Perhaps in those days the Grigori were less maddened by aeons, or Man closer to the divine source. But the Grigori fell from grace due to lust — or love, if one feels charitable — and they bred the Nephilim.
My Mistress, in such a tale, is one of the Nephilim. The flood changed the world so it was painful for them, and so the Nephilim created Arcadia and fled. What, then, am I?
They taught Man forbidden knowledge. The darkest arts of war and sorcery. They came to rule over Man. They did this for desire. But nothing is eternal but the Lord, and with the ages, the Grigori fell away. They had traded away their immortal natures for power on Earth, though few of them realized this at the time. One by one, they completed their missions, taught all that they could, and faded away. Others who finished their task condemned themselves to sleep, chaining themselves to the Earth. Others cut out their memories and became almost mortal, and dwell among us still, a handful of angels who believe themselves human.

But the Servants of the Books would not complete their missions, for they had no desire to give up what they possessed. And so they chained themselves to books and visions, and refused to teach their very last secrets, so as to never fade away. Though, if what Wormwood says is true, perhaps in an eternity of isolation, they have come to change their minds.

It is not merely enough to teach Man the secrets, however. But to teach their original charges, those handfuls of mortals whom they desired too much, and who live still, their souls tethered by the wake of a divine, self-inflicted curse. They are reborn over the centuries, but there is little to be known. There are so few I doubt anyone has ever met one - and I know no way of finding or recognizing such a being.
Father Marcel did not know how many angels remained. I know of seven - he thought perhaps even eight or nine. Moon spoke of eight angels, but they did not match up with the descriptions of the ones I know. He did seem to know of the seven, though, an could not name any others - or at least, did not.

Oleg says the he knows of two of the mortal bloodlines - One is kept in the secret archives of the Vatican. The other, in an ancient manor-house outside of Milan. hey are those of Hecate and Baal-Hammon, supposedly. A third may lie in South America. He says to look for the bloodlines, bloodlines of the gods, of the cultists and priests. He says he will not find them among kings, but among artists, occultists, and scholars. The bloodlines make up the majority of humanity at this point, but the souls travel down the most direct path possible.
Typhon, who is the Amon of daemons and Asmodai of spirits, was the second greatest of the Servants of the Books, second only to Lucifer, who is also Hecate and Lamashtu. Lucifer and Amon have ever quarrelled. Asmodeus, him that is Cybele and Attis both, is allied to Amon, as is the Prince of Flies, who feeds his gluttonous urges upon Amon’s waste. The great beast Leviathan and cunning Belphagor submit to him who is highest, but both concede pride of place to haughty Lucifer. Mammon keeps his own counsel... that we have seen clearly.

This quarreling only hurts them, as they cannot act without servants or mortal actors. But the force of their will is enough to continue to shove their way back into reality, even when all knowledge of them has been destroyed.

I asked him if the link between avatar and Grigori could be severed. He said yes, but it is painful, and often deadly.
Father Marcel mentioned the TheogonÝa Hekate Klŕidouchos and Scriabin’s Thirteenth (Threshold) Sonata (Op 76), which I found in the Mistress' Chambers.

What happens when Creation is complete? I do not know. Having asked Marduk about it, I don't think anyone living knows.


Putting the Angels to Rest
Oleg Wormwood, Former Avatar of Belial
Oleg confirmed part of Father Marcel's story. The Angels are looking for souls. These souls are reincarnated into different bloodlines, that stretch back to the dawn of mankind. By this point, these bloodlines make up a majority of all humans on earth, so there's no danger of them dying out. It also makes the soul near impossible to find, though Oleg noted they will always take the most direct route possible down the genealogy. He said to look for the bloodlines of the gods, of the cultists and priests, among artists and scholars, and occultists. He also named two places where two of the bloodlines could be found: Milan and the Vatican.
He also noted that the chamber in which he found the Crown of Belial was emblazoned with a butterfly. Something to do with NASA's Crypt of the Butterfly?

The God Machine

GotV Library
In ascending order of interest:
There's an old GotV file from back in the fifties that discusses, quite credibly, the possibility of a secret society in the top brass of the American military-industrial complex. According to the author, a Guardian living in Washington between 1952 and 1959, this group, which he called "The Commission", was quite small, but inordinately influential. The problem is that the GotV mage had next to no evidence for this assertion beyond a few cases of Men in Black doing the "disappearing witness" routine on sleepers, and in one case, a Mage. The file's sort of been languishing ever since.

The second object is a little bit from Moon Publishing from back in the 80s, and consists of a lengthy, entertainingly written and horrifically poorly researched article arguing that mis-broadcast messages from the God-Machine were responsible for all Abrahamic Religions. The only reason this is interesting is because it goes in depth into the topic of Christian theurgy, and talks about "Techno-mantric" roots beneath it. How you can reduce a prayer to a signal or a frequency, and get better effects for it.

The third object is also from Moon Publishing. It's the excerpt of "The Testament of the 'Pain Prophet' of New Delhi" and it's the edited transcription of an interview between Vincent Moon and the 'Pain Prophet', Marco Singe. [And if you turn to page 26 of the New World of Darkness core rulebook, you can read it in the entirety.]

The Stolen Souls

Experiment 01 - The Student
William Keel
The first one they found, rather precisely, was one of the college students from later years. Psychology major, worked on the student newspaper, after his soul was removed following a "$$$ for participation in a science experiment!" session, he committed suicide a couple of months later. Not very healthy, in the "pulls Adderall-fueled all-nighters to finish Psych reports", combined with generally atrocious eating habits. No major psychological issues, a bit insecure and over-stressed. Went into Psychology out of some strange idea of getting the girls more easily that way, ended up being a bit over his head. Would probably have been a better reporter than a psychologist, judging from his work. Clever, opinionated, but well written enough not to be too preachy. He was fond of jogging and biking, and was a regular marathon runner. He was also involved in the local debate club, and was a regular participant in political functions. Liberal Democrat, of all things.

Typewriter keys for the fingers and toes, typewriter body for the upper torso/shoulders.
Bike body for the spine/pelvis, arms and legs. Bike chains for tendons, bike spokes for ribs. Springs for the heels. Strong rubber for the muscle.
Cameras for the eyes. Headset microphones for the ears. Ballpoint pen caps and bodies for the teeth.
Blood is the richest coffee I can brew up. Shove the coffee maker into his chest while I'm at it, along with some cream and sugar.
Bike helmet for the skull. Ink for cranial fluid. Folded newspapers (his articles) and old books for the brain, plenty of blank notebooks, and a very sharp fountain pen.
Snips of a film reel for a tongue - a picture is worth a thousand words.
Lungs, take a pair of rubber bags, bike through the streets to catch the breeze and sense of speed inside of them.
Scales of justice in the chest area.
Something electric for the heart area. Lightning in a jar preferably, some kind of dynamo. Set on top of a mirror. Inside the jar, a marble egg - looks fragile, but stronger than it seems, and may hatch itself into something.
Experiment 02 - The Satanist
Paige Benton
The soul in question is one of the older ones, and it belongs to a British gentleman named Paige Benton, who was 28 years old in 1977, when he walked out of a jail cell in Brixton (when he wasn't supposed to be allowed out), and disappeared. Shortly thereafter, his soul took up residence in a cult-provided jar, and his face was in the files, and the body... well, the body was never found. According to most public records, Paige came from a modest, middle-income family, went to a technical university, got married while in college, and took up a job as a communications engineer at the BT Group, which is a telecommunications firm (though at the time it was just the General Post Office). Paige helped keep phones running, and was generally described as a very calm, very orderly sort of person.

The most comes about from the question of why he was in jail in the first place, which was that apparently back in 1977, the MPS busted an unusually loud party in the backroom of a club over in Southwark, and discovered that there was a slight case of copious alcohol, narcotics, a distinct lack of clothing, and someone had hanged a goat. It was a Labyrinth. The GotV set up a few of these, and according to their records, Paige had been involved with their group pretty much since college, (the specific labyrinth had been founded there and then), and was an absolutely splendid organizer, and a very cool liar. He managed to keep his professional life and marriage separate from his cultic activities for about nine years before the GotV pulled the plug on the Labyrinth.

According to the GotV's rather excellent records, Paige had a desire for transgression. He wanted to break the rules and thumb his nose at society, and never get caught or punished for it.

Bones of iron. Muscles of brass. Chains for the tendons. A goat's skull for the head. Lapis lazuli for the eyes, for power and wisdom. A silver tongue, with a fresh carnation set atop it. Inside the goat's skull, a copy of Duty - nestled within, a butterfly chrysalis, symbol of transcendence. Agate inlays on the skull, for organization. Flesh of earth and dust, mixed together with snake blood, cockerel blood, and the most potent wine and liquors I can find - Scorpion Mezcal, Asian Snake Wine, Absinthe, etc. Heart of solid gold. A garnet around the neck, for protection and loyalty.
A Winged Disk staff over the spine, imbued with a dream of flight. Three sets of wings on the back; a bat, a raven, and a dove. Sulfur in the chest and mouth, the symbol of fire. In the chest, a golden apple and a rose. For the lungs, and amphora, filled with burning incense. Copper for the genitals and ribs, symbol of Venus and Lucifer, the morning star. Goat hooves for feet. The left forearm, made of a scepter, the right hand, made of keys.

Lydia Morreluck

Real name is Cindy Mourville, and she was born to fairly religious, lower-middle class parents around thirty-five years ago. She went blind around the age of 13, due to a combination of vitamin deficiency and no one taking her to see a doctor until it was far too late. She was homeschooled and generally separated from mainstream society. Lydia's parents were not... the best people. About fifteen years ago, when Lydia/Cindy was twenty, she was Embraced by Alessandro Bourettien, a Baddacelli vampire who lives in London.

The Baddacelli are a bloodline of vampires who's weakness is to go blind. They tend to embrace people who are already blind, because embracing someone into a bloodline that causes you to go blind is a very good way to get yourself a childe who hates you. Since then she's been a fairly standard vampire. Bourettien is an old friend of Scratch, so Lydia hangs out there a lot. She is more of an associate then a member.

Freed of her parents control she's gone a little bit freedom-crazy, hence the goth look. She's also been involved in the Circle of the Crone, which really likes her because she can make beautiful music with her voice. There's a Cruac magic that lets you borrow someone's senses, so Lydia and her Sire both take advantage of that.

She likes pigeons. Lydia is actually interested in pigeon breeding and getting really good pigeons. She's ghouled some of her favorites. She's also a weak enough vampire that she can eat the pigeons. Lydia has enough animalism to command animals, so that's how she hunts. It takes a lot of pigeons.

Lydia's attitude, indeed, most vampire's attitude is that killing people is something to avoid if you can help it. Not so much for moral reasons as because it's a nightmare to clear up. Her criminal record mostly trends towards burglary. She's dangerous to a mortal, to be sure, and has enough Nightmare to cause derangements, but she's more likely to run from a fight.

The Sin of the Apple

In the beginning, God made Man. Set within man is a spark of divine inspiration, that which we know as the "soul". All men have a connection to the divine, the path of which is hidden within the depths of their dreams. To the prophets, the divine came to them along these paths, showing them truth in visions. To the magi, their souls traveled to the divine, bringing a spark of Heaven with them when they returned to Earth.

But what was to be done with man? With no knowledge of good and evil, his choices were made in innocence. Like an animal, he could not know the meaning of his actions, and thus could not truly have free will. Was he to remain like the beasts? For they too have a connection to the divine. Or was man meant to become more like God - creatures with the potential to transcend themselves? But would man's will be nothing more than God's will, if they were given free will by a dictum of God? Could man be given this choice, when they could not understand what that choice meant? Instead, man and woman came upon the Tree of Knowledge, and the serpent spoke to them. Would man ever obey God, and be little more than automatons to God's will? Or would he be free to forge his own path, free to grow, and free to fall?

We call this the first Sin, because it created all other sins. The Original Sin removed God from our world.
Epicurus writes:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
God's will is absolute. When God wills for something, it is so. How, then, can man have free will? His choices mean nothing in the face of God's choices. To give man a choice, God's will retreated. Man made his choice, and so God's will is gone. The departure from the Garden of Eden was not the act of a wrathful God, but the simple fact that the perfect order within the garden no longer existed. God himself is not gone, but His work must be done by servants and mortal actors, else his dictums will unmake the world. The world that remains is made of rules and reactions, and all things stem from either mortal will or natural Law. When a hurricane or blizzard kills, it is the work of nature, and has no more will behind it than that of a machine. When a child is beaten or an old woman robbed, it is the work of man, and it comes from malevolent will.

Then where, now, is God? The mistake made is to think that the world is God's creation, and thus God is separate from it. God is all-encompassing. God is the universe, and the universe is composed of His will. When God spoke "let there be light", he created light, by becoming light. God is gravity, and thermodynamics, and the structure of atoms. We call him Natural Laws, or the Laws of Mathematics, and these Laws are Laws that man's will cannot supersede, only work within. Mathematics is a holy prayer, to understand physics is to understand God.

On the Grigori

When man chose to have free will, a host of angels was left behind, tasked to teach man how to live in the natural world. Yet after countless eons have passed, this task is still not done. The angels grew too attached to the mortal world. Perhaps they enjoyed the power of rulership too greatly. Perhaps as messengers of God, they would reunite with God once finished, and they wished to remain actors with their own free will. Perhaps, as they say, the angels fell in love. It would be wrong to say that the angels were cast down by God. But they could not return, without completing their tasks. They refused to do so, and so they remain, wandering the Earth until they finally relent. They are not cast from heaven - they refuse to return.

The Nephilim

The offspring of the angels and man are the Nephilim, the fey lords, the Gentry, as we call them. They walked the Earth until the flood changed the world, driving them back to beyond the Hedge. They are strange, mad creatures, divine yet not divine, of God yet not of God. They are the Lords of Dream, and Arcadia is a living dream, because dreams are likewise both mortal and divine. But their nature keeps them from both heaven and earth. On Earth they are defined by God's laws, and so they are greatly diminished in power. Instead, they rule Arcadia, where they are unto Gods. Arcadia is created and ruled by the forging of contracts with the world - as God said "Let there be Light", so the Gentry say "Let this thing be." To break one's word is to be obliterated, for like God, they are the laws that create their universe. The combined force of them creates the Wyrd - Fate - and though they create it, they are subject to it. To break the Law is to break oneself.

Yet they can break it. The Gentry often forget they have Free Will, but as I grow closer to them, I realize the truth. We changelings are more than twisted mortals. We are their children, seedlings planted and waiting to sprout. The Gentry and changelings are one and the same. The Gentry are not of God, so they cannot create as God does, and they have forgotten their humanity, so they cannot create as Man does. They are sterile, but they can steal man's creations and twist them to their liking, and they can steal God's creations and insert a spark of themselves. Us changelings must take heed of this truth, and ask ourselves careful questions. How much has the divine spark grown within us? How much do we remember we are human?

Arcadia and the Soul

Ghosts do not exist in the Hedge, spirits become solid. The Thorns of the Hedge are able to cut the intangible, mortal soul. How can such a thing be? The realm of Arcadia is a realm where spirit bleeds into flesh, the concept and the form of things are one and the same. Why is this? It is the realm of the Gentry, created on the strength of their names, and it reflects their divine nature. Like Plato's ideal world, the idea of something is also its physical form. This is a state that cannot be true in the mortal world, limited as it is by the constraints of flesh - for such an all encompassing thing as an ideal cannot be expressed in a single, concrete form. Yet it is not so bound in Heaven, and not as bound in Arcadia. Thus, does the name in Arcadia hold the same power and authority as the real thing. Thus, can Thorns of base matter cut the spirit along with skin. And thus, by changing a changeling's physical appearance, does it alter the changeling's fundamental nature. Into what, I must ask...

What Lies Beyond

Hell exists. I have seen it, personally. It is not the abode of the sinful, as many would say. It is instead the realm of the unhealthy, of which the sinful are often - but not always - a part. It is attachment that keeps the residents bound there: fear, obsession, humiliation, longing. Suffering may bind a person to hell as much as sin. It may gall us to think that innocents reside in the flames, suffering in death only because they suffered in life. We must recall that it is not God who condemns them, but the pain within their own souls. This, more than anything, reminds us what unspeakable evil that cruelty is. War, famine, murder... they stain the Earth for ages to come.

Death once called himself the ultimate equalizer. Emperor or beggar, sinner or saint, of all faiths or none, once we pass through the final dream, all of us are the same. There is thus only two options I can conceive of for what lies beyond the Pale: oblivion, or God. I must believe that all beings return to God.

Why, we might ask, is it wrong to kill and harm another, when doing so returns them to God? Because harm and death create suffering, and unfinished business, and these things damage the soul and may condemn them to the Underworld. We may ask, why is suicide, that act of poor, lost souls, such a deadly sin? It is not a sin against others, but death will not end the pain in their heart, and many, we often find, do not even wish to die. Consider the destruction of the soul - it is an unspeakable act, not just because of the atrocity done to the person, but because it is the willful destruction of the divine. A soul lost is the utter destruction of something unique within the universe.

I have never heard of a changeling ghost, and so I am left to wonder why. Does our connection to the divine mean we are inexorably drawn to God, no matter how attached we may be? Or does our state as divine but not-of-God mean we are condemned never to return to Him. Myth would suggest the hidden-folk are separate from Him... the Pale Brother would suggest we shall be like all others. Oblivion after death would explain both these views... I do not know. I can do nothing but hope.

Erin's Information on Bat (the other Bat)

1) His full name is M÷nkhbat Borisovich Rostovtsev, he's variously called Bat, Shiska (pine cone or 'lump on the head'), or Bat'ka (a diminutive that can also be read as 'little father' or priest). He was born in 1979, which makes him just over thirty years old, is half-Mongolian and half-Russian and is from Moscow.

2) He's a former street kid and a runaway, who started working for the Russian mob during the 1990s. He's been a hitman since he was fifteen, and met up with Wormwood in 1999, when he was twenty.

3) Last Tychevski could track him down, Wormwood put him in some kind of private asylum somewhere in Russia in early 2003, after he completely lost his marbles. But this is based on rumor, and Wormwood was very good at hiding paper-trails. That said, Tychevski is willing to keep an eye out for him.





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