Ultima Ratio Regum, Scene III

Underwood gave a somewhat bleak smirk. “Been doing a good bit of digging – just caught wind of a thing or two, actually, might be major. I was going to call you up to give you the full report on the night of Elysium, which is of course when I got dragged into this business. Trouble doesn’t come in singles… Talk later, in private? No offense, Miss Mack.” He inclined his head towards Mary; regardless of what his report entailed, it was probably not for extraneous ears to hear.

Back to Cinder. “Far as the Lake’s affair is concerned, though, I can be liaison between your dad and you, if you want – Lord knows talking to the guy is enough trouble, I can at least save you that. Is there anything you don’t want Othello to do when he’s on your grounds? Tactics he should avoid? Places he should stay away from? It’s your turf; you make the rules.”

Erin tapped around he wooden panel for a little longer, using her antennae to probe the inner workings for another minute. Then she gave the device an implacable stare, waiting until the springs buckled under her gaze.

Dice Roll: 10d10s8
d10 Results: 7, 10, 4, 8, 2, 7, 9, 1, 10, 4 (Total Successes = 4)
Unmaker's Destructive Gaze

That done, the moth leaned on the trap and tried to click it open.


The panel slid open, revealing a slender hollow just a few inches deep and about a foot long. It was a very good hiding spot, and it was here that Sheridan kept... something. It was an ecletic assortment of objects, for certain.

The first thing that caught Erin's eye, because it was shiny, was a locket, which when Erin opened it, revealed a cameo portrait of Elizabeth Sheridan. Judging from her dress, it was from some time in the late 1800s, and a labor of love. Not too far away from it was a small parcel wrapped in tissue paper, which turned out to contain a... severed human finger. A cheap bible from the 1790s was put at the far end of the hollow, with several inset flyleaves that appeared to contain names -- hundreds, thousands of names, along with dates. They stretched from the beginning of the 19th century straight till the present. A small holder with letters, a few dozen letters that likewise stretched the duration of Sheridan's long, long life...

And a key. A long, metallic key, with no manufacturer's sign on it, but with a number on it. It was the key, Erin realized, to a safe-deposit box, specifically a safe deposit box at Lloyd's of London. It made sense, certainly. Sheridan's relatively lax security had more to do with the fact that she kept her most valuable papers at a bank. Why risk having them here? But with this key, Erin could find box (the number would let her find it), and would be able to open it. More than that, with this key... or with a copy of this key, which Erin expected she could make from memory, she would be granted access to Sheridan's private papers at the bank, no questions asked. And those papers would lead Erin to that blood factory out in the wilderness.



Originally Posted by Lauren
"Like what?"
"Practicing my volleyball serve, Darrow, of course." Evan smirked, then relented after a few moments. "Researching demonology, primarily, and looking through the records of old crimes, and cross-referencing the two. Then cross-referencing both of them with known vampires' locations, which is much harder than it looks. Haven't found anything yet."

Originally Posted by Lauren
"Can things be removed from the East Wing, or do they have to stay here? And what sort of things did the former tenants have there?"
"Well, they're not supposed to be removed without the permission of either the Castellan or the Kogaion -- so not unless either Van Holt or Dvorzsak sign off on it. In practice though... as I understand it, the East Wing's library is only about a third catalogued. If something's lost, who'd know?" Evan said. He was quiet for a moment. "As for what's there... books, of course, quite a few. Tapestries. Marble statues. Swords. Thumbscrews. A Buddhist prayer wheel made from tanned human skin. A butterfly collection. A set of portraits of the British prime ministers since Walpole. A celestial globe from Byzantium."

"So I'm told, at least." Evan mused. He didn't rank highly enough to be allowed into the East Wing either.



Cinder scratched her chin thoughtfully. The point of the fact was that they were facing a shapeshifter, of unknown ability, who could bring in allies of unknown quantity and ability, and who would decide when he arrived. Also, Cinder figured that if a bunch of vampires wiped each other out, she saw no reason to get involved, and Othello's participation did not change that. Also Cinder was a really bad tactician -- roaring at things and ripping their heads off had worked wonders traditionally.

"He should stay away from the tree." The Green Park Tree, the one that was the place of power that Cinder all but worshipped. She paused suddenly, and so did Mary in her singing. Underwood could tell why, actually.

One of the nearby shadows -- a large blotch smeared across the grass -- had tittered. And nothing seemed to be casting it.

Dice Roll: 11d10s8e
d10 Results: 10, 3, 9, 1, 1, 5, 5, 1, 10, 9, 6, 10, 10, 9, 5 (Total Successes = 7)
Blessing of Perfection
Dice Roll: 9d10s8e8
d10 Results: 7, 5, 10, 4, 5, 4, 9, 6, 2, 3, 9, 4 (Total Successes = 3)
Repair Roll

Erin examined the key, then padded over to examine the names in the Bible. They were extremely regular - every day or two, just about, and extremely constant. The daily lunch menu, Erin supposed. She poked around at the letters. Some seemed to be in code. Then she turned back to the blade trap she'd damaged. A small, fuzzy moth wasn't really suited for repair work, but Erin was a magic moth. She clicked all the pieces back into place, then flew out, and slid the panel closed.

Erin flew back out the chimney and into the night. She wanted to get back to the Cradle while her memory was fresh.

Originally Posted by Evan
"Researching demonology, primarily, and looking through the records of old crimes, and cross-referencing the two. Then cross-referencing both of them with known vampires' locations, which is much harder than it looks. Haven't found anything yet."
"Sounds like we've been looking after the same things. I can show you some of the sigils I think he made, if you think it might help." Lauren frowned. "I guess the Kogaion didn't really need me to convince her."

"So, it's possible he did take something..." And maybe Lujza figured it out, which would explain why she was suddenly investigating Lake.


It was about an hour later that Erin found herself back in the Cat's Cradle. It was a busy night, with plenty of customers and Ajay, D'Angelo, and the girls keeping the restaurant running. Sergei was at the hospital just then, fixing a CAT-scan machine, and unscanned cats were presently bothering the patrons. Martin was at school which meant that before Erin got through the door she already had a small tele-cat weaving itself between her legs.

Cynthia was already there, in one of the booths. She arched a brow and tilted her head a little to one side when Erin entered. Any luck?



"Anything's possible..." Evan made a point of trying not to second-guess the Kogaion. It never seemed to end well for the man. He tapped his finger against the steering wheel. "And yes, sigils would be helpful. Wish you'd offered them to me, oh, twenty-four hours ago, but such is life."

Sheffield was a sizeable metropolitan area, a city of half a million souls. But compared to London, it paled. It was a small shadow of that greater conurbation, a slender, flitting ghost in the night. Evan seemed to know where he was going, as he took Lauren through quiet streets and along the River Sheaf, until they reached a bridge that took them onto Kehlam Island.

The structure was an old one, a brick factory that had a hundred years ago been a steel mill. The remnants of the foundry were everywhere, Bessemer converters and ovens all about. It was a museum now... but it felt to Lauren more like a corpse, a remnant of long-ago industry. She could feel the heat in every object she touched, a thousand memories of the blasting furnace prickling through her skin.

Evan parked the car and emerged, approaching one of the large, free-standing vats of chilled metal. He stood there, and gestured for Lauren to do the same.

Underwood reacted to the giggle by…not reacting at all, or at least trying not to. If they’d just been made, then the best thing to do was not to let the observer know that – and, if that observer was Loki in deep cover, to feed him a convincing line and change the gameplan after the fact.

“Perfect. No tree. …Whoops, hold on a second.”

Underwood had, after fiddling with his pocket in an indicative manner, received a text message, complete with alert noise. This message was from Sparky, to Sparky – the phone had heard the noise too, and was in on the game – which in turn gave the reporter an excuse to bring him out into the open, where the phone could see. The blackberry then proceeded to “receive” another text as Underwood was looking at the first one, which just happened to include a supernatural analysis of the present invisible watcher. Phones were useful that way.

Perceive the thing!
Dice Roll: 7d10s8ez
d10 Results: 4, 7, 7, 1, 5, 3, 3 (Total Successes = 0)
What kind of occult thing is the thing! (Sparky)
Dice Roll: 6d10s8ez
d10 Results: 5, 10, 3, 4, 8, 5, 10, 7 (Total Successes = 3)
Act as if I’m not noticing the thing!
Dice Roll: 10d10s8
d10 Results: 1, 7, 4, 4, 6, 2, 6, 4, 7, 4 (Total Successes = 0)


Underwood took a look at the screen, nodded slowly, and typed a few definitely-not-instructions-to-his-phone into the text window. Then, all of a sudden (and surprising absolutely no-one, as Underwood was currently too stressed to be a very good actor), he whirled around to face the shadow, brandishing Sparky like he was a cross in a vampire movie, and going "HA!"

What was on Sparky was rather surprising: a full-bore whitescreen flashlight app, accompanied by the audio from a Youtube clip of adorable four-year-olds laughing at a sleepy kitten. Underwood glanced over his shoulder at Mary and Cinder-- "Demon born of abuse, hurt by bright lights or kids laughing. This doesn't do anything, we're booking it."

Erin scooped up the young telecat, and provided it didn't teleport away, nuzzled its nose. She plopped it up on top of her shoulder (where it probably started trying to maul her antennae) and proceeded to her office. To Cynthia's silent question, Erin simply held up a single finger. Wait and see.

She sat down and locked the door behind her, going to get her tools. There was work to be done, and quickly.

Dice Roll: 11d10s8e
d10 Results: 4, 10, 5, 7, 1, 7, 1, 2, 6, 5, 1, 4 (Total Successes = 1)
Harvest (Composure+Empathy+Location)
Dice Roll: 9d10s8e8
d10 Results: 5, 7, 7, 5, 5, 4, 6, 8, 5, 3 (Total Successes = 1)
Dice Roll: 8d10s8e8
d10 Results: 9, 9, 10, 6, 8, 7, 8, 3, 7, 6, 5, 10, 1, 10, 5 (Total Successes = 7)
Int+Crafts (Rote)


With a skilled craftsman -- which Erin was -- and a good workshop -- which the Cat's Cradle had -- creating a copy of the key was a matter of not quite a half hour, though to be certain some of that was Erin's uncanny ability to get projects done in the time it took most people to turn around. Pretty soon, Erin had produced a picture-perfect copy of Sheridan's little bank-vault key.

With this, and a little salutary shapeshifting, Erin could go anywhere in Lloyd's of London -- and conveniently, there was already a shapeshifter running around on whom to blame anything. If this all went according to plan, the unlamented Loki would carry a great many sins off the stage with his passing, not all of them his.



It was a normal park scene in most ways. Cinder and Mary and Underwood had been standing in the grass not far from the Green Park Tree. About a hundred yards away, a pair of teenagers had availed themselves of the bushes for a moment of privacy, and another hundred yards further, Underwood could see a mother and a pair of children walking a very active Scotch Terrier. None of them seemed to notice the approaching shadow, dappled and dark beneath the light of the moon.

The shadow had been creeping closer, letting loose a certain inane, stilted tittering as it moved. It may have been powerful and it may have been the concentrated emotional bulk of a great deal of misery and despair, but it wasn't actually very bright. It was an animalistic predator, lying in ambush before giving chase and draining the victim of all hope and love and joy, leaving them only a suicidal wreck. Mortals had a hard time seeing it, for to them it was only the ambient misery of the world. Underwood, however, and Cinder and Mary, they could sense it for its true nature.

The small, tinny laughter burst forth from Sparky's speaker. In that moment, the diabolic shadow shrunk back, as though stung. According to Sparky, now it would disintegrate, patches of light appearing in the shadow. Except... this wasn't what was happening. But then, Underwood realized, it wasn't actually real kids' laughter. It was a recording of it. There was no emotion to give it metaphysical bite against the demon... but the demon didn't know that. Yet.

"Like hell. This is my park." Cinder snarled, casting a quick glance about and being disappointed to find that there were witnesses. She hooked her fingers into sharp claws, as multi-colored aura began to glitter around her hand, a cloak of pain that hurt to look at. At this distance, the mortal witnesses wouldn't spot it.

"Um..." Mary said, as Cinder stalked towards the demon. Cinder was bloody-minded enough to be fine. Mary looked to Underwood for guidance. "Maybe we should go..."

Originally Posted by Evan
"And yes, sigils would be helpful. Wish you'd offered them to me, oh, twenty-four hours ago, but such is life."
Lauren rolled her eyes. "I came as soon as I could!" It was very tempting to try and guilt him by recounting the demon ambush.

When they arrived at the old brick factory, Lauren folded her arms over her chest and shivered. She didn't like this place. She hadn't liked the St. Thomas Club much either, but at least that had become an almost familiar sort of cold, empty, and creepy, after all the time she'd spent in it. She stood next to Evan and waited.


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