October 28, 2009

Rowan and the Treasure Hunters

November 29th, 2009

When I woke up that night, Maury let us all know that Rowan was going to be meeting us. He showed us where to meet with her, and we went through the heavy steel door and waited. There was a table and chairs in the small room.

It wasn't long before the door swung open again and Rowan's mages entered. They set about doing their normal warding crap. Rowan sat in one of the chairs. "Good evening."
We all nodded to her, Gio actually responded. "Evenin'"
She gave him that creepy smile. "And how is your family Giovanni?"
His expression became one of mild suspicion. "Well.."
"Please, give my regards to your uncle the next time you see him for breakfast." She said, maintaining that unsettling grim.

She turned to the rest of us. "The blood was not Louie's... where did you get it?"
We looked at each other, slightly confused.
"It was drawn directly from his body, where we found him dead. He had been injected with a shit-ton of morphine...Who's blood was it?" I hadn't been there, but everyone seemed to be waiting for me to be the one to communicate with her.
"Louie was not without his..faults. It was the blood of a rat. I believe someone is trying to send me a message.." Anger bubbled up in her rough voice. I swear it wounds like she talked through a throat full of wet leaves.
"What message is that." I asked.
"That he was not...to be trusted."
The rat blood resonated on a different note with me. It brought my thoughts back to the Beshilu.. one of the groups we suspected had a hand in those killings. But I said nothing about it. I frowned. "So we have nothing."
She shook her head. "No. I have other avenues to explore. I owe you a boon."

At this, one of her mages stepped forward. He started making motions, like Nadi did with her mage voodoo.. only different. From what I could tell each mage had their own rituals. Then he spoke, which almost startled me. It was the first time I'd heard any of them say a word.
"For the service you have provided, Rowan offers one piece of information for all of you, collectively. When fulfilling this bargain, you will chose one representative to approach her with your question. She will make her best effort to procure this information, without harm to herself, and will not seek to manipulate, influence or lie about this information. The more difficult the information is to procure, the more specific the question must be. If Rowan uses all of her resources and cannot find the information, that will still be considered a fulfillment of this bargain..."
He continued for a few more minutes, outlining all the details of a rather impressively worded verbal contract. It was thorough. Which was good, since we knew he was about to bind us to it. We got one question, she'd do her best to answer it without lying to us or misleading us. It was a bargain I had no intention of taking.

"Do we have an agreement?" He looked at each one of us in turn, everyone voiced agreement but me. When he met my gaze I shook my head slowly. I had much more than just one question that I wanted to ask Rowan. I had no intention of screwing the others out of a piece of vital intel if I didn't need to. I watched his aura flare as he closed the binding. Not for the first time I wondered what Nadi saw when others did magic...

"If you have no further business...?" Rowan asked.
"I have some private business I would like to discuss with you." The others looked at me like I was mildly crazy to request a private audience, but regardless, filed out of the room. I was left alone with Rowan and her three mages. I didn't want them here either, but I didn't dare insist on it.
She looked at me and smiled widely. It was unnerving. "You understand that you are completely alone now. Completely.. vulnerable."
"Yes. I do." and boy did I.
She watched me for a few moments, then motioned to her mages. "Leave us."
To my relief, they all stood and walked out. The heavy door clanged shut behind them. She looked at me expectantly...hungrily.
"I have been considering the offer that you posed... I have decided to accept it."
Something eager flashed in her milky eyes. She pulled out a goblet, and a rather ornate knife from the folds of her clothing.
"What then, are you offering?" The way she said it, and the tools, rang of ceremony. I wasn't exactly sure what kind, however. I thought a moment. I wanted to be sure I was protected in this. As I spoke, the words echoed in my head as heavy and important. It was a reminded that what I was about to do could be a death sentence.

"I am offering to teach you a basic knowledge and understanding of the Coils of the Dragon, that which will be useful to you, in exchange fo..."
She cut me off with a curt gesture with the dagger.
"There are rules that must be followed. I accept your offer, and in exchange I will teach you to use the blood magic Cruac and enough rituals to make it useful to you."
She took the knife and made a cut on her palm, letting blood flow into the goblet. She set the knife on the table and watched me.

I reached for the knife. It was heavy and looked deadly sharp. I mimicked her action, allowing my blood to flow into the cup as well. She then took the knife from me and used it to mix the two together. She lifted the cup to her lips and drank half of it, replacing it in the center of the table. I didn't allow myself to hesitate. Thoughts of Viniculums and other consequences swirled through my mind, betrayals, execution... but I ignored them all. I did not allow myself to be afraid. I had made my decision and I was bound and determined to see it through. I took the cup and drank. I felt the mixture move inside of me, but it did not create the bond I was fearing. I felt a connection, but no false emotions. Nothing like the Viniculum Giuseppe had made me endure, then broken me of. Her blood was in me now, and I knew, without having to be told, that it was a powerful and dangerous thing... for both of us. I was now a vulnerability for her. I knew that she would take great care to protect our new... relationship. Which meant protecting me.

She smiled widely. It was not a pleasant smile. We both stood. "I will return in four days."
I nodded. "Good night."
The door opened and she was gone.

I should have been worried, but I wasn't. I felt empowered. The anticipation of learning those secrets was better than any drug. And twice as addictive. I probably looked pretty damn pleased with myself when I walked back into the living area. I was too amped to even give a shit when Gio and Nobody started ribbing me.
"Aw, you're all grown up! I'm so proud."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
I gave them both the finger, mostly out of habit, and settled into one of the arm chairs, sitting sideways and throwing one leg over the overstuffed arm.

"What did I miss?"

"We were discussing how to deal with the Louie thing." Gio said.
"You mean who he was dealing with." I pointed out.
"Right. We're meeting with Sammy for breakfast tomorrow. We'll have to tell him."
I nodded. Martindale had given us photos of Louie dealing with Neco, one of the pit bosses in the Santore family. Neco had been...taken care of. We had had to give Luciano's a wide berth for a few days.
"Have fun with that." I muttered.

Gio wasn't happy about the possibility of Rowan snooping in the family business. Understandably so. We discussed it awhile, then Gio disappeared into his lab and I pulled Nobody into the internet room. "The fuck..what?" He protested
"You get to talk to Tommy with me."
"To tell him about the stupid shit you pulled."
I dialed Tommy's number.
"Hey Harper, whats up?"
"Tommy. You're on speaker. Nobody is with me. We have a problem and we need your opinion."
"Uh..okay.. whats going on?"
"Nobody attacked some Pure, we jumped in to help so he didn't get his ass flayed... two of them got away. How much shit are we in?"
"Why did you guys get into a fight with a pack of Pure?"
"I was trying to save Volkas' niece!" Nobody said, defensively.
"You didn't know it was his niece." I shot back.
"Well no, but I couldn't let her get beat up on!" Nobody insisted.
"Riight. Either way, its irrelevant. One is dead, though we didn't kill him, and the two others got away, after we attacked." I said, getting back on track.
Tommy paused to think a minute. "Well.. from the sounds of it, it wasn't a very strong pack. Or else you guys wouldn't have gotten out alive."
"We figured as much. Our question is how much shit are we in?"
"Well, more than likely they'll either recruit more members, or allow themselves to be absorbed into another pack, and its likely they'll come after you. Also..." Tommy paused.
"What?" I prodded.
"It's possible they may use it as an excuse to restart a war with the Forsaken."
I frowned. "How for the love of God?"
"There was a tenuous truce between the Pure and the Forsaken for the fight with Ophios.. that's happened before, but fighting always breaks out again soon after. They may lie and say that Forsaken attacked them, or at least allies of the Forsaken. It wouldn't be the first time."
Nobody broke in. "But they were attacking a Forsaken kin family! They started it!"
You could hear the shrug in Tommy's voice. "Doesn't matter. Not how they will use it."

We thought about that for a minute, Tommy broke the silence. "You might want to alert the local packs to whats going on, just to give them a heads up. The Architects of Steel are a large pack in town, they're the ones I got that wax statue from for the battle."
"Are the friendly?" I asked.
"They let me into their vault..."
"Not what I asked." I said sourly.
"Maybe you should send someone with diplomacy skills.. who isn't a vampire.." Tommy suggested.
I smirked. "We'll keep it in mind. Thanks."
"Keeps your heads down. Watch your backs.. excetera, excetera."
"Yeah, yeah.. we go it. Thanks for the help." I said and then disconnected the call.

Nobody walked out muttering about saving innocent people and no one believing him. I ignored him. We walked into the lab where Gio was working on his homunculus and Nadi was reading and just stared. He'd finished the skeleton, and it was beautiful. He'd somehow taken the skeleton of an 8 year old and fashioned it into a creature that looked like a rather large house cat. Bones had been bent and fused, and overall, it looked like a fucking work of art. Nobody and I just hovered over it for a few minutes, examining it. Gio held a metal ruler he'd been using, waiting for us to try and touch it so he could whack us.
"Gio, that's fucking amazing." I said in a slightly awed voice.
He just smirked his arrogant ass smirk.

Movement in the doorway caught my attention and I looked up sharply. I expected to see Maury, and maybe even the Collector (doubtful..) but instead I saw an unfamiliar face. He looked to be in his late 60s, dressed in a long leather trench coat, tan in color. He held a pocket watch in one hand and moved like he was in a hurry. Gio spoke first. "Who are you?" I had my gun out and pointed at him, ready to shoot his ass if I didn't like his explanation.

He gave us a small half bow. When he spoke he had a heavy German accent. "My name iz Herr Klempt. I am a representative of ze Shield and Spear. It has come to our attention that you are in possession of two rather dangerous artifacts. Were these to fall into ze wrong hands, it could very well be disastrous."

I watched him, ready for any sign of aggression, but I also stretched out my senses to the rooms behind him. Surely Maury wouldn't let someone like this down here. A treasure hunter... but I couldn't hear anything else. It didn't seem like he'd brought friends. But it struck me as very odd. Because I heard absolutely NOTHING. No water flowing through pipes, no sigh of old furniture. I realized I couldn't' even hear the television Rebecca was watching anymore. No one else seemed to notice it. It made me edgy.

Gio raised a brow. "And what two artifacts does the Aegis Kai Doru think we have?"
He pulled out a small notepad and glanced at it, then around the lab, almost as though the pad was some sort of map. "One item iz a bronze sword. A sword that iz rumored to be able to kill gods. The other, a small geode. It does not belong in zis world. Ze longer it is here, the more turmoil and chaos it will cause."

"Why should we give these to you, even if we did have them?" Gio asked with a stubborn tone to his voice.
"They cannot be permitted to fall into ze hands of certain people...certain people who have taken an interest in you as of late." He looked directly at Gio. "Can you imagine ze consequences if an angry brother acquired a weapon that could kill ze unkillable...?"
Gio sat back on his stool and looked thoughtful. He muttered to himself.."Could end the world..."
Herr nodded. "We only wish to protect these artifacts. I am requesting that you turn zese things over to me, so zat they may be properly dealt with." He looked down at his watch for about the 10th time in the last minute.
"And the geode?" I asked.
It was his turn to lift an eyebrow. "Can you imagine what could happen if zat monkey got his paws on it?" We all traded glances and shuddered at the thought.
"We aren't particularly comfortable giving away shit to people we don't know." I said, perturbed.
"Do what you will. If you feel you can keep the artifacts safe from ze monkey, please, feel free to keep zem. We merely wish to ensure the security of ze items in question. We have a long history of securing such things."
"How do we know you aren't planning on using it yourselves?" Nobody accused.
"You do not. But I can assure you, we do not anymore wish zis world to end than you do."
We all traded looks. None of us liked this. He looked at the watch again.
"Consider my proposal. I must go." He handed Gio a business card, nodded to everyone, and quickly left.

About 15 seconds later all the sounds I had been listening for suddenly came back. Not gradually, but all at once, like someone had flipped the 'on' switch. I stepped out in the hallway, but he was gone and Becca was still watching VH1, oblivious.

I went back into the lab and sat across from Gio. "I don't like it."
"Neither do I."
Nadi and Nobody nodded agreement.
Gio looked thoughtfully at the drawer that held the sword. "And what's bugging me even more is, if that guy can get in here unannounced, whats stopping the monkey?"
We all thought about that in sullen silence.

We discussed it for awhile longer, but came to no conclusion. I didn't like it. No one did, but Gio seemed to be considering more than I was comfortable with. The conversation came to a dead end and I went back to my room. I had more meditation to do.

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