The Shadows' Price

Cast: date: '6 November 2012'
place: 'Carpe Librum / Safehouse S514A'
participants: 'Ash, Talbot, Cedric (emits by Wynn)'
synopsis: 'An information-sharing session turns into a nightmarish discovery - and a whole bucketload of paperwork. (Happens in real-time alongside "This Blade Slays the Snake")'
log: "Ash keeps odd hours. It's better to meet in the back office when the shop is closed anyway. Keeps customers and Ash's little brother Eli (who works the counter sometimes) from taking note of who comes and goes. So it's later in the evening when he gives Cedric a call to let him know he's free and has many things to tell him. In the back room with all its strange bits of this and that and papers scattered everywhere, there is a pot of tea brewed and waiting, and Ash is leaning over his desk, peering down at some photos. Cedric is buzzed in the moment he gets to the door. So much for Ash not using his powers. \n\n\n It's not until supper hour that Cedric actually comes by. When he does, though, he looks freshly washed and shaven, and wears jeans and a sweater instead of the polo and khakis he normally wears even in the Watch offices. The duffel and shinai from last night are nowhere to be seen. \"'Lo, Mr. Cohen,\" he greets quietly. \"Hope no more wayward Vikings show up.\" Yes, dry humor.\n\n\nAsh grins crookedly and says, \"None so far. Tea, Mr. Moseley?\" He is usually well kempt and tonight is no exception. White Oxford shirt under a sapphire paisley waistcoat, black twill trousers and Italian leather shoes. The hair is, as it ever shall be, impeccable. He steps away from the table to pour himself a cuppa, and Cedric if he wants one. The photos he is looking at are of the hem of the Viking's cloak and the inside of his shield. There is strange writing on both of them, and the language looks similar to the artifact as of yet uncracked. \n\n\n \"Yes, please.\" Cedric seems to be considerably more focused and fully awake, his strides and movements their usual fast and explosive selves. He seats himself with an energy that some might consider disturbing and peers down at the photos; when the tea arrives, he takes it and drops a lump of sugar into it. \"What's all this, then?\" he asks quietly, his low tones settling into seriousness. \"This is our Viking mate, yeah?\"\n\n\nAsh brings his cup over to the table and looks down at the photos. \"It is indeed,\" he says. \"I'm working on acquisitioning the items, but I can't in good conscience take from the poor man the few things that belong to him. He told us the prophecy. It sounds a little too probable for my comfort, but at least we're getting a head's up.\" \n\n\n \"Mr. Oliver told me a fair bit of that,\" Cedric answers, taking a sip of tea and cradling the cup in his hands. \"Bumped into him coming in from the office this morning, but I wasn't half shattered,\" he admits. \"What have you got?\" \n\n\nAsh leans his hip against the table and glances down at the photos. He takes a sip of his tea, then comments, \"I've got the Viking's words verbatim.\" He leans in to shuffle one-handed through some papers until he finds a notepad with his neat handwriting on the topmost page. He tears it off and offers it over. \"I also have some followup on the situation with the electronics going all wonky.\" \n\n\n Setting the tea aside, Cedric takes the sheet of paper and frowns at it as he focuses on it to read it. \"Right, let's sort this prophecy first, yeah?\" The comment is almost absent as he reads.\n\n\"The volva in my village had prophecy - that great darkness would befall Londinium in a thousand years. A cave near my village is entrance to shadowlands. The volva enter it, seeking powers, but not all come back, or come back without aging. We make a bargain with the dark creatures, to take me in to shadow place, and let me out again in Londinium, near the time of the prophecy. They take half my village into the dark place in payment.\"\n\n\"A man. A merchant. A king without title or skill with sword. He makes a pact with the child of Jormungandr. He builds an army. The place you found me, that is his court. If he builds his army, Londinium will fall. This begins Ragnarok.\"\n\n\"Man of prayer. Son of Namara. A Celt. His words bend men to his will.\"\n\n\nAsh notes, \"These are answers to the questions he was asked but they were pretty basic. What is the prophecy, what does it entail, who is the man we must stop. Of course Son of Namara is MacNamara. Man of prayer: priest or religious nut? Either charismatic or capable of some sort of mind control. I'm thinking a merchant king without title or skill with sword is probably a businessman. We found the Viking in a courtyard — possibly it's where this MacNamara plants to break ground. Of course this is all speculation. I haven't gone digging to verify any of it yet.\"\n\n\n Silence while Cedric reads, and his expression darkens. \"Building an army, is he?\" he murmurs to himself, very softly. \"I know who he means.\" The words are crisp as his conversation with Crispin comes back to him. \"My family's all bankers,\" he explains quietly and a little tersely. \"I well know that area. That courtyard we were in was right next to Lamia Industries. How much did Mr. Ambrose tell you about that artifact and where it came from?\" He holds up the paper. \"Mind if I keep this? I've got to do the paperwork when I go in.\" \n\n\nAsh shakes his head and says, \"Not very much. I'll ply him for information when I next see him. I'm afraid we've been putting out smaller fires here and there, but I think we can make time for this.\" He waves a hand then. \"By all means. I've already logged it in my own records.\" He smiles wryly. \"I'm in defiance of the stereotype, I know very little about banking. My father was an investment banker, but he's retired and did most of his work overseas.\" He sets his tea aside to gather up the photos. \"You can take these if you like, or I can put them on a thumb drive for you.\" \n\n\n \"Thumb drive would be smashing, I've got to link the photos to the database entry for this,\" Cedric answers, folding up the piece of paper and stuffing it into his wallet before replacing it and picking up his teacup again. \"Right. Some two months ago, a rush report came in of a wave of paranoia affecting students in a block of flats in the Islington area. A two-block radius. Traced it to its source, a sort of mist-type Other reported in the Watch's records round about fifteen years ago and not seen since. Was loads stronger than the records suggested, though. The woman who owns that block of flats is Touched, and she'd turned down a great big offer to buy the flats off her some two months prior.\"\n\n His tone is crisp, clipped, and factual; this is probably as much as or more than Ash has ever heard the usually quiet agent say in one sitting. \"Harris was supposed to do for the creature, and I told 'im how to do, but it hadn't been done and I hadn't seen Harris in ages. I wasn't cleared for the field, so I asked Ambrose if he could take a team in. He did, and came back with that artifact.\" He presses his lips together. \"The corporation that offered to buy those flats from Ms. Hargrove was a subsidiary of Lamia Industries.\"\n\n\nAsh sits down in front of his computer and makes with the uploading. \"I'm also putting my notes in here about the other matter off our mystical Rubik's Cube,\" he says. As he listens, a frown darkens his features. \"Now why would Mr. MacNamara want to buy up places with high Gloom activity?\" The thumb drive is removed and offered over to Cedric. \"Here we are. Everything I've got on it, you've now got plus what I've learned about the other thing.\" \n\n\n \"Right, thanks.\" Cedric is sitting on the other side of the desk from Ash, who is copying material over to a thumb drive, the desk scattered with papers and photos. He hadn't come back or contacted the group last night after separating from them, and after his promise to join them, some might find the silence curious. But here he is now, freshly washed and shaven, alert and crisp and one leg jittering as he sits in his chair. He smells faintly of cigarettes, and a half-drunk cup of tea sits nearby. \"But … man of prayer. The bloody fuck is that all about…wait. What's the name Declan mean?\" He's muttering half to himself until the last sentence. \n\n\nAsh rises from his chair. The thumb drive is set before Cedric, and he walks over to the intercom to buzz Talbot in. The bookstore is closed, but there is a buzzer for late night visitors. \"Mr. Richardson is here,\" he says. Then, \"Saint Declan, a fifth century missionary in Ireland. The name is anglicized from an Irish name of unknown meaning. I take it Mr. MacNamara isn't a religious man?\"\n\n\n \"Haven't the foggiest,\" Cedric comments, taking the thumb drive as Ash sets it down and pocketing it quickly. \"Thanks - Declan MacNamara is the CEO of Lamia Industries. Their headquarters is right off that courtyard.\" He stands at the mention of Mr. Richardson, picking up his tea and sipping it again at the mention of someone he doesn't know, that demeanor of quiet reserve he adopted last night returning in full force.\n\n\nTalbot comes in. Usual suit, usual brutally short haircut, usual air of sphinxish reserve. \"Hello,\" he says, simply. \"How does our guest?\" Like the Viking just dropped in for the night.\n\n\n%rAsh rises and pours Talbot a cuppa, fixes it exactly to his tastes. He offers over the cup and says, \"As far as I know, he's setting in about as well as can be expected. I'm afraid the bookstore has kept me busy all day, but bad news travels faster than good. Mr. Moseley and I were just discussing him. I've given Mr. Moseley a copy of everything I have and will be meeting with Mr. Ambrose later for a one-on-one.\" He sits back down at his computer and brings up a few text files to glance at. \"There is another matter as well.\" \n\n\n Cedric is standing when Talbot enters, wearing that same quiet, reserved demeanor he had last night. He's informally dressed - jeans and a sweater - and looks freshly washed and shaven. He did not join the group last night, nor did he make any attempt to contact them. \"Yeah? Just a moment.\" There's recognition in the man's eyes, but no more than that. \"Don't reckon we've been properly introduced,\" he greets Talbot, offering a hand to shake. \"Cedric Moseley.\" \n\n\nTalbot takes it, carefully, shakes it. No pissing contest grip, happily. \"Talbot Richardson. How d'you do?\" The accent remains broad Yorkshire, no concessions to the usual Estuary polish. HE nods at Ash, thoughtfully.\n\n\n\"Tea, Mr. Richardson,\" Ash says politely. He has clearly been expecting the man. \"Now, on th topic of the electronic malfunctions, I've done some digging. It's not much, but it may flesh out what you already know.\" He jots down a few notes on a pad of paper, and as he does, he asks idly, \"Does London Watch have a morgue or some kind of forensic procedure for the processing of bodies whose condition is not fit for public knowledge?\"\n\n\n Cedric's accent is straight London, crisp and clear, the deep baritone voice rough around the edges. \"Fine, thanks.\" As Ash starts speaking, though, he turns to listen, and eventually seats himself again, this time picking up his tea and sipping from it. It's cooling. \"Harris usually deals with that,\" he answers. \"Haven't seen him in ages, though. Someone else might have picked that up. I just got cleared for the field again.\" \n\n\n\"Lucky,\" Ash says, a bit morosely. \"They've barely cleared me to languish in a tiny room away from all the action. To spare me from stress is the yarn they're spinning these days.\" He glances up at Cedric and smiles pleasantly. \"In any case. It turns out the Watch does have one of those Rubik's cubes. I haven't gotten hold of it yet, but since it's your case I imagine you could take a look at it at your leisure. There are some accounts online of people who have had similar experiences. I could only get one to communicate with me via email, though.\" \n\n\n Cedric's expression darkens at Ash's comment, and he looks troubled for a moment. He doesn't comment, though, instead nodding and indicating that Ash should continue. \"They say anything?\" he asks quietly, finishing the last of the cooled tea and setting the cup down on the desk. From behind him, beneath the sweater, he fishes from the back of his trousers an iPad and brings it out to sit on his lap. \"Seen the photos it took?\" \n\n\n\"Rubik's cube?\" Apparently Tal isn't up to speed on that front. HE sounds intrigued.\n\n\nAsh gives Cedric a curious look, but he doesn't press. Instead, he says, \"I've given you links to the sites I found relevant to the case. Now, there are groups of student on the Internet sharing information about a certain man who stalks them, and they claim that his proximity causes a disruption in electronic equipment, usually followed by an object either appearing or vanishing. Most of these reports are hoaxes, but some of them look like they might contain a nugget of truth. The object most cited is a Rubik's cube. Our records show the Rubik's cube has been in the Gloom at one point, but there are no theories of note as to what any of it means.\" He takes a deep breath, then adds, \"And there is no documented case of this phenomenon prior to the mid-2000s.\" He leaves Cedric to describe the incident. After that speech, he needs a drink of tea. And he still doesn't look like he's done. \n\n\n \"Yeah. Kid approached me with a Rubik's cube in London library. When he set it down next to it, it did its nut. Audio and video distortion, took photos on its own.\" Cedric sets the iPad down and begins to flip through his camera roll with quick finger strokes, then pulls up and displays a photo. It shows green tentacles against a black sky, under considerable video static. He displays that briefly, then flips it again, to show a photo of a tall, faceless gentleman in a suit standing behind Cedric and another man who looks to be orthodox Jewish judging by hat and facial hair. \n\n He looks at the photos for a minute. \"Stalking students? Any idea why?\" \n\n\nAsh shrugs helplessly and says, \"I don't know, but I can glean a few guesses from what my contact told me.\" He sets his teacup aside and brings up another file on his computer. \"Most of them wouldn't talk to me. They said stay away and it's too dangerous to look into. I've taken the liberty of giving you a copy of the email of the one who did respond. His theory is that the man is attracted to cameras, and that once you start recording yourself is when you get in deep. Not well known or widely accepted, but he says it's kept him safe. He's never had an encounter, but he claims to be the first to have found a recording of him. He then describes a scene that you'll just have to read. Short version: monsters, then more monsters, then everything going to Hell. Didn't think to ask him what the symbol looked like but I'll see if I can coax a copy of the video out of him.\"\n\n\nAsh shrugs helplessly and says, \"I don't know, but I can glean a few guesses from what my contact told me.\" He sets his teacup aside and brings up another file on his computer. \"Most of them wouldn't talk to me. They said stay away and it's too dangerous to look into. I've taken the liberty of giving you a copy of the email of the one who did respond. His theory is that the man is attracted to cameras, and that once you start recording yourself is when you get in deep. Not well known or widely accepted, but he says it's kept him safe. He's never had an encounter, but he claims to be the first to have found a recording of him. He attached a clip, and I've passed it on to you. It's, ah. Interesting. There's some other stuff, but it's all in what I gave you.\"\n\n\n Cedric listens to the explanation, leaning back in his chair, one foot tapping on the floor incessantly. \"Right,\" he mutters when the explanation is done. He tenses as the explanation goes on, and if anything, he becomes more reserved and less happy-looking. \"I'll have a crack at those when I get back to the office next. Thanks, Mr. Cohen.\" He taps a key on the iPad, and the photos vanish to be replaced by a bunch of icons, and he leans over to examine the screen. \"Bother. I'm supposed to be watching the Viking tonight for a bit. Hate to cut this short…\" \n\n\n\"It's no trouble at all, Mr. Moseley,\" Ash says. \"If you don't mind, I would like to tag along. I wouldn't mind getting a better look at our friend, and I've been cooped up in this place for the better part of twelve hours. I could use a glimpse of the outside world. What do you say, Mr. Richardson?\" \n\n\n When Talbot declines and takes himself out, Cedric shrugs. \"Come on, then. Best be off. Thanks for this.\" The quiet reserve remains, and tension is added; he says little on the trip to the safe house.\n\n\nThere's a fellow called Adam guarding the viking when they arrive. \"Ah, good. You're here. Big fella was up to eat about an hour ago. Tore through a whole chicken. He's sleeping now.\" He nods towards the bedroom. Adam's had the television on, but with his relief arrived, he clicks it off.\n\nThere's a sound, on the edge of hearing. A scratching sound. Like mice chewing something in the walls. \"Think you'd best get the landlord to check in on that. Been going on the last ten minutes or so. Hungry fellers.\"\n\n\n When the pair arrive, Cedric is and has been for much of the ride taciturn. The explanation and the sound draws a deeper frown, but he nods. \"Right. Thanks, I will. Take it easy, mate.\" \n\n\n\"How long have they been doing that?\" Ash asks the man who just wants to be relieved and go do stuff. He hangs up his coat and hat, re-perfects the hair with a sweep of his fingers. \"I didn't hear them last night.\"\n\n\nThe sounder gets louder and less mouse-like. And suddenly, a cold draft pushes from under the viking's door. And there's that feeling again, that nauseating, pit-of-stomach feeling. Adam doubles over with the rest of them. The wave flows over them like a tide, lingers a moment, then slides away.\n\n\n Cedric actually drops to one knee, caught by surprise by the wave of nausea and wrongness again, squeezing his eyes shut as the feeling washes away, leaving behind it tides of bad images and … something else. His shoulders are tight and tense, but give him a minute, and he'll stand, shakily. \"The bloody fuck was that?\" he mutters low in his throat, and starts for the door. If no one beats him to it or stops him, he'll throw it open. \n\n\nAsh stumbles and catches the back of the couch, sagging against it as his complexion loses a few more shades of color. \"I don't think it's a mouse,\" he replies, and when he can get his feet under him, he follows after Cedric.\n\n\nAnd what Cedric opens the door on is a terrible sight. Vegeir is on his knees in front of the bed - or rather, what's left of him. The same inky shadow that deposited him here, fades from a corner of the room. The shell of the viking is still as stone, hands partially outstretched. His eyes are gone. Just…gone, as if they were never there. His mouth is locked slightly open, and inside, no tongue. The wooden floor in front of him has been gouged with a blade. Two lines of runic script, punctuated by an ornate dagger jammed into the ground at the end of the second line, as if for emphasis.\n\n\n Already tense, Cedric stops halfway in the door, and just freezes, going white as a sheet as the reality of what he's looking at washes over him. Anyone wanting to get past him will have to squeeze by - his hand is still on the doorknob when he freezes. \"Bloody fucking hell. Gloom got 'im. AGH!\" Blind fury washes over him, and he raises a fist to pound it into the door, but abruptly stops, cold, before it slams into anything, and he holds it, fighting with himself. \n\n\nAsh does squeeze past Cedric, first to get a closer examination of the body, and then the runes. He doesn't look happy about any of this, but there's a certain kind of emotional detachment, revulsion and rage overwhelmed by curiosity. \"Would've gotten Adam too I suspect,\" he says. \"Thank God for small favors.\" He doesn't venture too close, just enough for a better look. \"We're going to have to document all of this. Do we have a forensics team?\" Distant, businesslike. \n\n\nAdam looks white as a sheet. He hangs back from the other two. In fact, he looks like he wants to bolt. \"Should I go get help? Should I…?\" And then he's running for the bathroom. Seems the nausea hasn't quite passed for him. \n\n Vegeir's body is like a perfectly painted statue. He is as rigid as if he were not a man at all. Like an insect carapice with all the living bits torn out. The message started out carefully carved, but got hastier and louder and more damaging to the floor as he went on. The dagger is jammed in quite aways, but not too deep to be impossible to remove.\n\n\n It takes Cedric a good, full minute to bring himself back under control, and when he does, there's a definite snarly edge in his voice. When he gets himself under control, he shouts, \"Adam, get the linens and whatever food you can get out of the kitchen. Strip the place, it's compromised.\" He still sounds very shaken. Finally, finally he manages to let go of the door. \"Don't want to wait for them. Use my iPad, get photos, document whatever.\" Is that the snarl or shakiness in his voice? Hard to tell, but it's closer to snarl for now, and he fairly rips the device out of the back of his trousers, turns it on, and enters a code, then taps a quick message in something before closing that application and handing it to Ash. \"Get what you can and we're fucking off. Don't go back to another safe house, either.\" \n\n\nAsh takes out his phone and says, \"Quite all right. I've got an iPhone. Why don't we both get our own and compile them?\" Blank-faced calm. Click. Click. The body. The text. Different angles. Body, text. \"Are you contacting Wynn? If he needs to shuffle of boarders, I could handle three. Four if they're cozy.\" Click. Click. And a small nudge with his mind. Doesn't count if Levi or Ritter doesn't catch him. Not enough to translate the message, but perhaps to get an inkling of the poor man's state of mind when he was carving it into the floorboards. \n\n\nAdam is a relatively new Watch member, and he hasn't seen much of this madness yet. He snaps to it and goes about, shoving things into handy crates. Fortunately, this safehouse isn't particularly well-stocked, so there isn't as much of value to bug out. It's designed that way, for just such an occasion.\n\n\n Without comment, Cedric pulls the iPad back to himself and snaps several pictures as well, both of the text and the dagger, and multiple angles of the Viking. He works fast, with explosive movements, and in absolute shaken silence. Finally, he tucks the iPad under one arm and tugs at the dagger, looking t pull it free of the floorboards.\n\n\nAsh in contrast is methodical. Certainly not dawdling, but not rushing either. \"I'm pretty sure he knew this was coming,\" he says. \"Stoic right up until the end, then desperate. Poor bastard. Can you imagine facing this kind of death with such dignity?\" Finally, he's got about all the angles he's going to get and he draws back. Then he fires off a text to Wynn: V. dead. SH compromised. \n\n\nThe dagger takes a few sharp pulls, but it comes loose. Ash might notice that the runes on the dagger, along its blade and hilt, match those along his cloak, and on the artifact. Oddly, the runes do not match the ones he carved. The ones Vegeir carved appear as ancient runes - recognizeable if not easily translateable.\n\n\n Yank, yank, pull. Finally, the dagger comes free, and Cedric takes a step back, examining it closely before shoving it into his belt, beneath the jacket, and nodding at Ash's words. \"Poor bastard,\" he nods quietly. He then grabs his iPad again, taps it a few times, enters something, peers at it, then swears under his breath, \"Come on Bevan, wake up. Cohen, can you ring Oliver and find out where the fuck Bevan is?\" \n\n\nAsh frowns at his phone. He fires off another text to Crispin: Tell Wynn to check his phone. Then another text: Please. He glances up at the dagger when it's pulled free. \"Hold up,\" he says. \"Let me get a shot of that.\" He's got his phone out anyway, so there is more click click clicking.\n\n\n \"Huh? Oh.\" Cedric retrieves the dagger from his belt and holds it out for photos, both sides of it,; when Ash is satisfied, he tucks the weapon away again. All his motions are very perfunctory - he's keeping on keeping on. \"Right. Have you got someplace to go? No safehouses, one's bloody well enough. Don't know what this rot rightly is, don't want to risk leading them anywhere else.\" Low, tight, and tense, and still pale. \"Are you fit, then? Got everything?\" he asks of Ash. \n\n\n\"Certainly,\" Ash says. \"I live above the bookstore. The place is usually packed but I could shuffle off some freeloaders if it means not turning any boarders onto the street.\" He withdraws from the carnage, pockets his phone. \"I'm quite all right, Mr. Moseley. I can make my way back. I'm just going to try Wynn again.\" But not in this room. Even his creepy calm has its limits. \n\n\n \"Right. Text me if you need anything. I've got the paperwork covered. Let's all just scarper.\" Cedric seems still shaky, and only too inclined to do exactly that. On the way out, he tells Adam, \"Keep that lot in your car for a few days if you can. Don't go back to any safehouse that isn't a class A and don't go straight away to your place, right? Be careful.\" He sounds as if he's reciting protocol or something. \"And thanks.\" He pauses as his iPad chimes, and pulls it out, reading quickly. \"Adam, wait, have you got room for us? Got a house we can make for.\" \n\n\nAsh checks his phone as well. He just nods to what Cedric says, seconding the question. He fires off a quick text before the phone goes back in his pocket. \"If it's not too much trouble.\"\n\n\n\"I've got room for you if you can hold towels on your laps. Come on, then,\" Adam seems in a great hurry to get away from this flat. Can't really blame him. That corpse is something freaky.\n\n\n Cedric isn't about to argue, and falls into that tense, taciturn silence as he gets into the car. Last one out lock the doors.\n\n(OOC Note: There's a set of text conversations that happen in this log. The exchange is below.)\n\nCedric to Wynn: S514A COMPROMISED, taking what we can carry and fucking off\nAsh to Wynn: V. dead. SH compromised.\n(long pause of no answer)\nWynn to Ash and Cedric: Bug out to B345A. It's been warded. Should offer some protection.\n(pause)\nCrispin (from Wynn's phone to Ash and Cedric): Where are you headed? -C Also, there's a picture sent seconds later. It's of a wooden floor with the following words: 'Goodbye. The shadows collect their price. This blade alone can slay the snake.' There's a deep imprint at the end where it appears a knife was stuck into the floor. It's since been retrieved.\nCedric to Ash and Crispin/Wynn: B345A - I have the blade\nAsh to Cedric and Crispin/Wynn: Home unless you need me. Phone is on 24/7.\n"

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