The Secret Garden

Chapter Thirty Six: "Interstitial Terrain"
Death on the Beach of Black Sand

Part I

Kailani dreams that she walks the ruins of Le Caylar. There she meets Jah Kingdom. He questions her about the path she is walking. Kailani says she is trying to help Aiden, return Tallow and Gothrak to the Cathedral, and follow her own path to growth. Jah Kingdom wonders if it is worth it. ”How far will you go to get what you want, little sister?” These prove to be prophetic words indeed…

At the d’Anjou house in Le Caylar, Tallow makes breakfast while Aiden arranges for local criminals to make repairs to the house and cover the cabal’s tracks, Felix enchants charms with the Better Body Effect, and Alastair subjects the entire property to his Crime Scene Interference rote.

With a night’s sleep between them and the conflicts of the previous evening, the cabal come to a realisation. They think they can access the alternate timeline without the Angel of Tears’ help because they have their own interstitial items – Alastair’s coins. These bear the imprint of a King Roderick of Britain and likely hail from an alternate timeline. Perhaps they can use these coins to forge a route to the timeline of the Giza Continuum.

The cabal drive back from France and return to Fall from Grace. There, Gothrak is even worse. Kailani and Felix cast a joint Effect to investigate his deterioration and discover that they can offset the force of Unbelief with Tass – and so they feed the Petrefax several drams, restoring much of his vigour.

Alastair heads to his flat in Pudding Lane to retrieve the coins. He realises that time is running strangely, skipping and jumping. At Pudding Lane, Alastair discovers that at least two people have been in his flat in his absence. He retrieves the coins but as he is leaving, a pair of thugs in black hoodies accost him on the stairs.

Predictably, it goes badly for the men. Alastair shoots one quite badly and the other flees. Interrogating his captive, Alastair learns that the men are friends of Cade, who is now at liberty. Alastair calls an ambulance for the man, dumps him on the street, subjects the stairs to Crime Scene Interference, then slips out the back way and returns to the chantry.

There, Felix examines coins. He comes under immediate attack from some kind of umbral parasite living inside the spiritual reflection of the coins. With Kailani’s aid, Felix manages to resist the parasite, and Alastair offers to examine the coins instead. He learns that they are from different timeline to book, and so of no use to the cabal. However, the specks of statue dust on the coins are from the same timeline as the Codex. The coins were embedded in the statue at some point in the past – and a fragment of the statue’s head is still in Alastair’s safe at Pudding Lane.

Alastair rushes back to Pudding Lane to retrieve the statue fragments. There, he finds two police officers searching his apartment. Alastair conceals himself and listens to their conversation. It turns out that Cade has been released due to irregularities in his arrest. Alastair caused Cade’s arrest with magic, and is unsure why the drug dealer is now free. Has his Effect unravelled through Disbelief or Paradox? Has another mage unwoven it? He has no answers. He waits until the police leave, sneaks in through the back of the house and retrieves the head fragments from his safe.

Back at the chantry, the cabal confirm that the head fragments are from the correct timeline and begin preparations for their journey to Borneo. From all they have learned, the cabal feel certain that interstitial terrain of some type exists at Mount Lesung – all divinations point to it. Alastair arranges passage aboard a military transport for the group.

It is as they are preparing transport to Borneo that the group discover the date. Another timeslip has occurred – it is now December 2010. Kailani and Alastar immediately head out to buy survival gear for the jungle, Felix makes more charms and upgrades the cabal’s Mindlink Effect. The cabal then spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing, meditating at their Node.

Just after midnight, they pack Gothrak into a large crate, then head to RAF Brize Norton and embark. The cabal lands on Borneo at night and emerges into sweltering heat. Ahead, the lights of a town beckon. Hefting Gothrak aboard a luggage trolley, they slip away from the airstrip and into the waiting darkness…

Part II

Again, Kailani dreams. Now she sees herself back on the plane, still over the ocean approaching Borneo. It doesn’t take her long to realise that something is wrong with the plane. Something very wrong. And shortly after that, Kailani realises that it isn’t a dream at all. It’s real. There has been another timeslip. The cabal are indeed back on the plane. And it’s crashing.

Effects fly thick and fast. Aiden races to the cockpit, Kailani thickens the Gauntlet around the plane, Felix tries to hold the plane’s airframe together by controlling the forces tearing it apart, and Alastair seeks to repair the damage to the plane by undoing the decay of its machinery. In doing so, he discovers the Resonance of the one who crippled the plane in the first place:Theora Hetirck.

Aiden reaches the cockpit to find the crew dead and Theora waiting for him. Trying not to look at the ocean rushing up towards them, Aiden hurls Theora bodily from the plane with elemental force, then tries to regain control of the aircraft. It’s hopeless – Theora has truly crippled the craft. From outside the plummeting vehicle, Theora unleashes a withering spiritual blast at Aiden – but Kailani’s thickening of the Gauntlet protects him.

Felix uses his Correspondence Arts to pluck Alastair and Aiden from the plane and deposit them at the cabal’s resort destination in the Lesung jungle. Alastair immediately scrys Felix, observing the plane’s final moments. Kailani scrambles across the hold and helps Gothrak escape from his box. Gothrak grabs Kailani and Tallow and flies to safety, then Felix teleports himself away from the plane and to safety. Seconds later, the plane crashes into the ocean.

Safe but shaken, the cabal catches its breath. The resort is the very picture of a jungle idyll, and after the terror of the plane crash, the mages decide they can relax. Gothrak joins the others, depositing Kailani and Tallow, then retreats into the jungle to hide. Kailani, Alastair and Tallow head to the resort shops to recce and window shop. Aiden heads down to the riverbank to commune with his Avatar in preparation for the coming events, and Felix remains behind in their villa. He updates Ibrahim on the cabal’s progress and begins work on a Correspondence effect back to the Chantry in preparation for creating a few prime and life charms in the shape of phone apps and then downloading them to his phone.

Which is when Theora strikes.

She sneaks up on Felix when he is alone in the villa, hidden under magical concealment. She has already dealt him a crippling blow before he realises she is there. A kick to the head fells him, and Theora straddles Felix’ chest, mocking him before she ends his life with a blade to the heart.

Alastair and Kailani realise something is wrong immediately, as their mental link with Felix goes dead. Along with Tallow, they race back to the villa to find Felix’ body sprawled there. Alastair rushes down to the river to warn Aiden, who cannot believe his ears. Felix is dead.

Kailani cannot accept what has happened. This is her cabal-mate lying dead at her feet. How is she to walk the road to the Cathedral if she cannot even keep her friends safe? And so Kailani makes her first unaided passage through the Gauntlet and into the Umbra. The injuries that the passage through the Schism would normally inflict are instead absorbed by her Clay Man amulet – or what remains of it. The amulet shatters, depositing Kailani in the Umbra.

The spiritual reflection of the Lesung jungle is a riot of colour and predatory life – spirits feeding on spirits, life devouring life, excreting life, creating life, all in an endless, nauseating cycle. Unprepared for the sheer violence of the spiritual realm, Kailani is all but overwhelmed. Yet she marshals her Arts and imposes stability upon her own senses and the spirit-matter that envelops her.

As her senses attune to her new surroundings, Kailani locates what she seeks – a death spirit in the form of a uge pitcher plant. She makes a pledge to the death spirit – she will provide it with a death if it agrees to let her save Felix’ life. The plant agrees and Kailani says she will give it Theora’s life. No sooner has she uttered these words, than a new spirit arrives.

It takes the form of a withered old man in a wrinkled white suit, with elongated fingers and a bitter smile. A smaller figure crouches behind him, holding a needle with golden thread. Oddly, he looks a bit like Tom Jones. Wrinkle – for it is he – chastises Kailani and warns her that meddling with timelines can have serious consequences. Wrinkle’s mute assistant nods in agreement. Kailani says that she doesn’t care. She has made her bargain with death and will pay the price. Wrinkle nods and wishes her well.

Kailani passes back into the material world, weathering the storms of the Schism. She finds Jah Kingdom waiting for her. He is somewhat shocked by Kailani’s actions and asks if she is sure about what she is doing. Kailani, however, is unable to answer. For her spiritual senses are still full of life, and she sees Jah Kingdom for what he truly is – an Umbrood.

Jah Kingdom is highly amused at her discovery – she has truly never looked upon him with a shaman’s eyes before – and leaves Kailani bewildered and amazed. ”Looks like life still has a few surprises in store for you,” he says, wandering into the jungle. ”See you on the other side…”

Kailani returns to the others and reveals that she has made a pact with Death and Time to tear down the walls between the living and the hereafter, and restore Felix to life. Kailani builds a psychic shriek – a warning to beware of Theora’s imminent attack and weaves this together with a scrying Effect centred on the moments before Theora’s attack. She builds it until her spirit can contain it no more. And then she unleashes a psychic howl at the same time as she casts her senses back through time.

Time rewinds. Felix is seated before his computer when his personal wards alert him that he is being scried from the future. Felix immediately investigates the source of the scry, only to sense Kailani’s Resonance and the echoes of a howled warning.

Felix acts without hesitation. He conjures a primal illusion of himself, infusing it with Life signatures and enough Quintessence to make it semi-real, and kinetic energies to respond in a life-like manner. And then he teleports away. Seconds later, Theora enters the room, slays the simulacrum, then escapes into the jungle.

The rest of the cabal arrive at the villa to see the simulacrum fading from view on the floor, and Felix standing alive and healthy on the far side of the room.

Their reunion is both joyful and tearful. Relief is mingled with recrimination at having been so careless, and the Butterfly Effect vow never to lower their guard in this fashion again. Alastair is uncertain of the virtues of tampering with the passage of the Wheel so brazenly, but Kailani argues that this is what it means to be Awakened. To defy the gods, and rewrite reality according to mortal will.

Refocused on the task at hand, the cabal search for Theora. The assassin seems to have made an entirely mundane getaway, disappearing into the jungle. Felix summons swarms of insects to hunt down Theora and slow her escape in a gigantic Effect melding his skills in the Spheres of Life, Prime and Correspondence effect. A powerful counter-Effect conceals Theora’s aura, hiding her from the swarms, so Felix directs the swarms at the source of the counter-effect instead. He senses the Resonance of none other than Voormas himself.

The cabal move fast. They obtain boats and head up river to Mount Lesung. Aiden rigs paragliders for an aerial final approach, then the cabal beach the boats where the river draws nearest to the foot of Mount Lesung. From there, they scry their destination. They see a crater, a temple, a beach of black sand – and Theora. She is not alone. With her sits an aged, withered man and a monk who looks a bit like Tom Jones. Felix matches Theora’s new aura and that of the old man to his Effect, but the old man waves his attempt away, then contacts the group telepathically.

“Enough skulking in the jungle, my friends. Come. Join us. Let us speak as befits the Awakened.”

The Butterfly Effect neither accept nor refuse Voormas’ invitation. Instead, they seek wisdom. Felix produces the Tarot of the Fates and suggests seeking insight in the cards – a short reading, just four cards. One to reveal the best course of action, one to reveal their biggest obstacle, one to clarify the best resource at their disposal, and one to expose their greatest risk. His cabal mates agree, and so they shuffle, cut and draw.

The very first card is the Mage.

The cabal can barely contain their joy. Of course, the best way for them to proceed is to be who they are – mages. They are the Awakened and can reshape reality to their will. Now, more than ever, this will define them.

For their biggest obstacle, the Queen of Primordialism, reversed, rears her head. The cabal see Theora’s dark reflection here, but also their own immorality, perversity and dishonesty. They cannot guess at the true meaning of this card yet – but the coming conflict will answer all.

Felix draws the third card. It is the Devil, reversed. To defeat the darkness, they must turn it on its head and seek understanding in its midst. Through compassion and unpredictability they will win out, through feeling their way to victory.

The final card is turned: the King of Dynamism, reversed. For this is the face of the cabal’s greatest risk – the descent into injustice and barbarity. As they soon will see, that risk is all too real.

Next, the cabal scry the temple more closely and find the focal point of the interstitial terrain – it is the statue Alastair found in Abkhazia, but complete and intact. As one, in an Effect the cabal dubs The Butterfly Effect, the mages combine their powers to hone in on the statue, then teleport there en masse. Aiden immediately begins attuning himself to the statue and its fragments. But before he can complete the connection, a lash of temporal and entropic energy shatters the statue, scattering its pieces throughout time and space. Now there is no way to create the portal between timelines. The cabal see the Effect was Voormas’, and when the dust settles, he repeats his invitation to parlay.

He introduces himself as Voormas, Grand Harvester of Souls. He warns the cabal not to try and access the other timeline as it was corrupted and deserving of a good death. Let it remain extinct. He offers Theora’s life as indication of his sincerity. Kailani steps forward, gun in hand. Theora pleads for mercy, then summons her will to escape. The Harvester immobilises her and smiles at Kailani.

“She’s yours,” the Harvester says. “Take her.”

Kailani stares down the barrel of her gun at Theora, kneeling and whimpering before her. She recalls her bargain with Death, with Wrinkle, the long road that has brought her to this place.

Then she empties the clip into Theora, killing her in cold blood.

Voormas congratulates Kailani on cleaning up his loose ends. Then he insists that the cabal depart. Of course, they refuse.Even as Voormas musters energies to smite them, the Angel of Tears manifests from the Umbra and spears Voormas with his bone sword. At the same moment, Tallow reveals herself to actually be Yusuf in disguise and unleashes a pure primal blast at the Harvester.

With battle joined, Kailani calls for Gothrak to aid them. Alastair shoots at the Harvester but Aiden kneels, trying to put the battle from his mind. Instead he looks within, seeking communion with his Avatar. This place is interstitial terrain. Even if the statue has been destroyed, Aiden knows there is another connection to the other timeline. His Avatar. For it has been incarnated in both. He is all the conduit that the cabal needs. Aiden’s very soul is interstitial terrain.

The sound of stone wings sounds from the crater rim. Facing four mages (two of which are Batini, acting in furious concert) and an angry incoming gargoyle, Voormas departs through a Correspondence portal. This fight is not worth his energies. As soon as he is gone, Felix whirls on the spot and shoots Yusuf in the head with a prime-charged bullet. The bullet barely wings Yusuf, but the primal energies destroy him utterly. He turns horrified eyes on Felix as the primal energies unmake his body, his last words unheard and unheeded.

The Angel reveals that all talk of coins, conduits and correspondences has been lies. One thing and one thing only will open a portal back to the other timeline – the liberation of an Avatar powerful enough to seek its home. Aiden’s Avatar. The Angel glides across the beach, bids Aiden fond farewell, then beheads him with a single blow.

Transcendental energies erupt from Aiden. At their heart stands a luminous figure, akin to a slender, ethereal girl. Then the world warps and transforms. The sweltering humidity of the jungle is replaced by the baking heat of the desert. Crater and temple are replaced by the pyramids of Giza. The desert night stretches out all around them.

Three figures stand in the shadow of the pyramid. One is a young girl, pale and strange, reminiscent of Aiden’s Avatar. One looks a bit like Tom Jones. The third is Theora Hetirck. Theora steps forward, relief on her face.

“Thank God you made it through,” she says. “We’ve been expecting you.”

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Chapter Thirty Five: "Angel of Tears"
Tracing the path to Heaven

Part I

With the Thebian’s revelations ringing in their ears, the Butterfly Effect hold counsel at their Chantry. They have a solid lead on locating the Hapsburg Codex, but cannot ignore the growing problem posed by Killian. Aiden is keen to seek out the Angel and the Codex, but the rest of the cabal talk him into dealing with Killian first.

The cabal seek advice from Mama Nettie on how to proceed. She is happy to talk to them and even offers Aiden a slice of cake. Aiden, perhaps a little paranoid, uses his Prime sight on the cake. Mama Nettie is deeply offended, outraged that someone should doubt the sincerity of her hospitality thus. Alastair manages to calm her down, plying the ancient witch with the offer of a free cigarette, and Mama Nettie agrees to share what she knows.

Her news is not good. It would take a Master of Spirit to break Killian’s connection to Fall from Grace. The cabal will simply have to reason with the wraith, or make use of their available Arts. Thanking Mama Nettie and apologising for any offence caused, the cabal depart to consider matters.

They head into town and visit a pub they have never been to before, and discuss their options. In the end they decide to raise a Spirit Ban over the nightclub, thus hedging Killian out. As they are finalising their plans, however, an unexpected interruption brings discussions to a halt.

The Rakehell Bastard manifests in the pub, alerting the cabal to problems back at the Chantry. Gothrak has apparently fallen from the chantry roof into the courtyard and seems injured, while an intruder has also appeared in the basement where the Node is located.

The cabal race back to the Chantry, aided by Alastair’s manipulation of London traffic, a feat worthy of legend in itself. Back at Fall from Grace, Aiden and Kailani race to the courtyard, while Alastair rushes down the basement. Felix warps space itself and teleports directly to the Node, biting down against the Paradox.

When Felix arrives, he sees the Rakehell Bastard holding a young woman at swordpoint. She introduces herself as Tallow and claims to be a pilgrim looking for sanctuary with the Great One. She reveals a third eye beneath her woolly hat and claims allegiance with the Mater Carasophia. Felix relaxes and the Rakehell Bastard lowers his blade. Alastair arrives moments later.

In the courtyard, Kailani and Aiden find Gothrak collapsed. The Petrefax has indeed fallen from the roof, his hide chipped and flaking. He is, of course, mortified by his failings. Kailani and Aiden divine that he is suffering from Unbelief – the force of mortal disbelief in the supernatural is slowly killing him. Kailani vows to find a way to return Gothrak to the Chalcedony Cathedral.

With Gothrak resting, the cabal reconvene. Kailani is unnerved by Tallow’s reverence, and is unsure of how she can help the girl. Tallow seems happy to follow in the Great One’s footsteps, but further discussions are interrupted by horrendous screams from upstairs.

Racing back into the nightclub, the cabal find that one of the cleaners has stabbed herself in the eye with a shard of mirror from the women’s bathroom. Knowing this place to be the hub of Killian’s influence, the cabal waste no more time in dealing with their unwanted houseguest. Together, Kailani, Felix and Alastair work a powerful Ban to keep Killian out of the nightclub and prevent him from using any of his powers on the club or its denizens. Killian’s screams of frustration are sweet reward to the cabal’s ears.

With their home at peace, the cabal join together in their shared mental communion and discuss how to proceed with locating the book. They decide that Felix will check his library at the Mobius Strip, Kailani will scry the future to see how they might best locate the book, and Alastair works with Aiden to devise an Effect to locate the book using any connection Aiden may have with it.

At the Mobius Strip, Felix spends valuable time alone with his cat, then looks into the various occult tomes on the shop’s shelves. He discovers a footnote relating to a mention of the Angel of Tears in a book called The Bestiary of the Never-Was – according to the book, the Angel is an umbrood of some kind. No further details are available on the book, save its author – Ludwig, formerly of the Brythonic Lodge. Rather than follow that particular avenue of investigation, Felix instead contacts Ibrahim, who knows little of the Angel, save as a spirit that haunts interstitial terrain – places where alternate timelines bleed through into ours.

Alastair devises an Effect that compares his connection to Aiden with Aiden’s connection to the Codex. Alastair discovers that the Codex is not of this Tapestry but shares some features with it – it is woven from the same threads but with different dye, so to speak.

Kailani scries the future to see the road to the Cathedral. She has been told by the Bone Curia that helping Aiden find the Codex is the first step on her road to that place. She learns that the cabal will achieve their goal at a time both three months hence and a decade or more in the past. Kailani surmises that this means she and the cabal will be travelling back in time. She attempts to divine where and when this will be, and learns that it will take place in the Borneo jungle, on Mount Lesung. She sees that one of her cabal-mates will be bloodied, and the Angel of Tears will meekly follow them through a portal to a desert with pyramids.

Kailani then tries to track the Codex using Aiden and Alastair’s comparative sympathetic connections instead of scrying the Codex itself. Even this proves fruitless, as the Codex is too well shielded. Kailani guesses that the Angel is hiding it from her, and so moves her perceptions forward through time to find places where the Angel’s control of the book wavers. She finds three potential locations: Rosedale in England, Le Caylar in France, and the monastery of St. Ipatius in Abkhazia. Each of these would seem to be interstitial terrain frequented by the Angel of Tears. Having tangled with House Helekar at Rosedale, and being wary of the monastery, the cabal head to France.

The location in question is an old manor house in Le Caylar, once belonging to the d’Anjou family. It is now luxury rental accommodation, and the cabal coincidentally win a local lottery in order to take possession of the house for several days. They settle in and explore.

They discover a dormant node in the family chapel, its Resonance that of Unity. Felix crafts an effect that weaves the various beliefs of the Butterfly Effect into a single whole, each paradigm supporting the other. He then channels this odyllic pattern into the dormant Node. He further weaves a responsive obfuscation into the effect – when the Node slumbers, the obfuscation dies away to almost nothing, but when the Node is active, the obfuscation conceals its existence.

The effect is a resounding success. The Node awakens. The windows of the chapel shatter. When the dust settles, the Angel of Tears is standing by the altar. In the flicker of an eye, the Angel grabs Felix, tells the others to depart, and vanishes. Aiden sends out a telepathic call to the Angel, saying that he seeks the Hapsburg Codex. The Angel reappears, depositing Felix on the chapel floor, snatches Aiden, then vanishes again. He moves like the lightning – the mages are barely able to perceive him, much less interfere. Alastair attempts to locate Aiden through their recent connection, but finds nothing.

Moments later, the Angel and Aiden reappear in the chapel. The Angel places the book on the altar, disconnects it from the chain on his wrist, and invites Aiden to read. Aiden opens the Hapsburg Codex and reads. The pages seem to be filled with ornithology notes, which Aiden decides are uninteresting. He returns the book to the Angel. The Angel smiles and shrugs. “Alas. You are not the one.”

Kailani asks to see the Codex, but the Angel warns her that it will only accept the touch of its true keeper. Alastair asks to look at the book. Not understanding why Alastair chooses to ignore his warning, the Angel allows Alastair to examine the book. The book unleashes a blast of primal energy at Alastair. Again, the Angel smiles and shrugs. “I did warn you.”

Felix tries to scry the book without touching it. The Codex responds in exactly the same way – by firing blasts of primal energy at him until he desists. Whichever dark ages mage crafted this journal’s enchantments, he was clearly a figure of great cunning and foresight. For now, the Hapsburg Codex refuses to surrender its secrets.

Tallow and the Angel of Tears pass the time by opening their third eyes and sharing silent communion.

Aiden asks the Angel to explain why the book allows his touch but remains indecipherable. The Angel explains that they are all in a divergent timeline created by an event called the Giza Continuum – which was an attempt to rewrite an earlier timeline that resulted in this one. This reality is just a faded echo – a Qlippoth – and the Angel wants to return home. The Codex does not properly recognise Aiden as he is just an echo of the book’s true keeper – his parallel incarnation in the original timeline.

Aiden recalls hearing something similar from his vision of the girl at the pyramids. He tries to establish a true connection to book, seeking to find a way to help it recognise his Avatar. But to no avail. He asks the Angel how he can find a version of the book that he can read. The Angel says the Codex can be used to help Aiden open a portal back to the previous timeline, because it comes from there. Aiden’s Avatar and the Codex together will form a portal – perhaps the same seen in Kailani’s vision of the future. Perhaps there Aiden can find the original version of the book. And, more importantly, he can help the Angel get home.

This, then, is the Angel’s bargain – he will allow Aiden to use the Codex to reach the original timeline. But the cabal must allow the Angel to accompany them. The original timeline is his home. Like the Spaniard, the Angel is an exile here and longs to return whence he came.

Alastair attempts to clarify the connection between Aiden and the Codex. He learns that, for this paradox of timelines to be resolved, either Aiden or his alternate self – the girl at the pyramids – must die. Meanwhile, Kailani, Tallow and the Angel have a discussion about third eyes and whether everyone is actually the same person.

With dawn nearing, Alastair heads off to make tea. When he returns, the Angel has vanished, taking the book with him.

Aiden and Felix head back to the chapel to build an Effect to locate Aiden’s parallel self. They receive confused readings that confirm the importance of Lesung Mountain, but are unable to discern more than that. Alastair chooses this moment to perform a swift spirit scan of the area – and spots the Angel of Tears sleeping the earth, curled up with the Codex.

Part II

Over lunch in town that day, the cabal decide on how to proceed. They are unsure about trusting the Angel but it is clear that Borneo lies in their future – or so Kailani’s predictions would appear to indicate. They agree to make preparations for heading there as soon as possible. They decide to tentatively accept the Angel’s offer of help, as the Hapsburg Codex seems to be the only way to reach the original timeline.

When all is said and done, the cabal agree that they are pledging to assist Aiden in his personal path to enlightenment as well as aiding Kailani in reaching the Cathedral, which seems to lie along the same path, as well as securing safety for Gothrak and refuge for Tallow. All of these goals seem to hinge on finding the Codex, which has itself revealed a path to a former timeline said to harbour the answers the cabal seek. And the Angel holds the key to that path.

That evening, the Angel reappears at the house. When the cabal discuss his offer, the Angels adds an additional caveat – he wants the cabal to allow his friend Yusuf to accompany them . The cabal are divided over this change to the deal. Felix has been warned that Yusuf has turned Nephandus, and immediately refuses. Alastair, convinced by Felix’ argument that even the suspicion of a Nephandus is reason enough to refuse, likewise votes to reject the Angel’s offer. As mages, surely the cabal can find another way forward.

The Angel argues that Yusuf is not Nephandus – he’s an exile from a lost universe, seeking only to return home. Aiden agrees – there is no proof of Yusuf’s Fall and the true Codex promises answers to the riddle of his life. Kailani supports him, wanting to walk the road to the Cathedral and knowing that helping Aiden will set her feet on that path and – more importantly to her – get Gothrak to safety before it is too late.

The argument escalates and Tallow heads out to get pizza for what is clearly going to be another long night. Felix consults with Ibrahim again, who reiterates his insistence that Yusuf is a barrabus. Moreover, Alastair and Felix are concerned about Aiden’s previous actions. Aiden – to them – often seems to think that the end justifies the means.

Aiden argues that they should not prejudge matters. And if Yusuf truly is a Nephandus, should they not hear what he has to say before ruling out cooperation? Alastair and Felix insist that they’re not being paranoid – they have a genuine concern for the future of the universe. What are consequences of helping someone retrace their steps to heaven, as the Angel describes Yusuf’s desires? What are the consequences of helping someone reach the Garden? Who are these people? How does them leaving a timeline change or damage that timeline and are they even worthy of that help?

Just when the argument seems like it can’t get any worse, the Freedom Razor spring a surprise attack. The cabal respond with furious force. Ayman and Virginia are slain, but Theora manages to escape again. The battle demolishes part of the house and leaves the cabal drained of resources – but victorious.

Weakened and frustrated, Alastair and Felix abandon the argument. Perhaps tomorrow will bring clarity. To mollify their concerns, the Angel tries to contact Yusuf, but there is no response. The cabal retire and the Angel melds with the earth to escape the coming dawn. A decision awaits the cabal – one that has threatened to tear it apart. Whatever they decide, the Butterfly Effect cabal know that their future lies in interstitial terrain…

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Chapter Thirty Four: "Scourge"
Down the Rabbit Hole

Summer swells and passes. Fall from Grace prospers, winning repute on the club scene, sweltering with success. As the months pass, the Butterfly Effect cabal are not idle. Kailani hooks up with Jah Kingdom and studies the arts of Time and Mind with him, while going on a massive skunk binge. Aiden spends his time meditating on his past lives, deepening his understanding of Spirit. Alastair listens to the Wheel in a series of deep isolation sessions in his tank, further exploring the Entropy arts. And Felix spends his time working with his library, further refining his Quintessential web, and increasing his mastery of Prime.

Early in September, Alastair contacts Corduroy Jack for his promised pint. They meet at the Black Castle pub near the fish market. Jack is clearly interested who the mage they’re keeping at St Jude’s is. Alastair says he’s a mage who knows how to find a book that one of his friends is seeking. Alastair, in turn, asks for the dirt on Ludwig, and Jack spills the beans on Ludwig’s broken bonds with the Brythonic Lodge. He rounds this out by giving Alastair Ludwig’s mobile number. Alastair thanks him and pockets the number.

They down their pints and head to a nearby park, settling down on a bench. Jack leaves a pound coin on the footpath in front of them and tells Alastair to figure out whose life is the most changed by it. ‘If someone picks it up, or someone walks past and doesn’t pick it up, upon whose life will it have the most effect?’ he says, then leaves. He’ll be back in an hour…

Back at the club, Aiden welcomes Kay Weston from Time Out for a feature interview. The interview goes well enough (Kay noses around how much the club cost) until their tray of drinks flies across the room. As Aiden tries to calm Kay, he sees the wall behind her cake with frost. Just as she seems about to settle down, she feels someone touch her on the shoulder. This is more than enough for anyone’s nerves – Kay makes her excuses and leaves. Aiden mutters to the empty room ‘You haven’t heard the last of this.’

Felix is stroking his pussy at the Mobius Strip when he hears someone enter the shop. He finds a small boy who introduces himself as Babo and asks Felix to help him. Felix realises the boy is actually a magical effect of some kind. Babo asks Felix to find him, in return for which he will help the cabal find the Hapsburg Codex. Felix examines Babo’s Resonance and finds that it is connected to himself, the rest of the cabal, and the sleeping form of the Thebian at St. Jude’s. Babo departs and is apparently run over in the street in front of the bookstore. Felix rushes to his side, but there is no sign of the boy. The distraught driver swears there was a boy there a moment ago. Felix heads for the chantry, deep in thought.

Kailani sits atop Fall from Grace, chatting to Gothrak. They discuss how best to get Gothrak home to the Chalcedony Cathedral, to which Gothrak reacts as if he is being punished for his failings. Surely the Great One does not wish to banish him? Kailani insists it is only because he is an alien here and needs to return home. Gothrak promises to do whatever she thinks is best. She is the Great One, after all. Kailani makes it clear she can’t take up her role in the Cathedral until she learns how to heal others. They spot Alastair arriving home and wave from the rooftop.

Alastair watches the coin. A rich woman walking her dogs ignores it. A youth out with his mates pockets it. Alastair follows them, but they are doing little of interest besides smoking and drinking alcopops. Alastair sits on another bench to watch them. He is joined by a young woman with a baby in a stroller, checking her phone and crying. They talk. She is in a dilemma, having reported a crime but indirectly caused the death of someone in retaliation. She now wonders whether or not to report this killing. Alastair tells her that she has a greater responsibility – that of her child – and that staying alive is her prime task. Yes, there are things worth dying for. But not this. She makes her mind up and leaves.

Shortly thereafter, Jack returns and asks Alastair whose life was affected the most by the coin. Jack muses on the possibility that it could have been Alastair’s. Alastair is pretty sure the coin had the most effect on the woman, who neither picked it up nor ignored it, and whom Alastair was able to help because he ignored the coin except to let it lead him to the right place. He doesn’t contradict Jack too much though, because he is so intrigued by the whole game, and Jack’s motivations for it. They part. As Alastair heads back to the chantry, he sees Baedecker ahead of him in the street. He follows, but loses sight of Baedecker a couple of blocks from the Red House. Kailani and Gothrak wave as he walks up the street.

Inside, the cabal gathers to consider its options. Felix talks about Babo and says the boy is connected to the Thebian somehow, so they decide to pay a visit to St. Jude’s. En route they also decide to visit Solomon at the Observatory so they can check up on any developments with Rupert Soames. During the discussion, Aiden notices small spirits clustering around Kailani. Investigation reveals that they are barely-sentient music gafflings, drawn to her. They create a continual soundtrack on the other side of the Schism. He also reports the strange occurrences during Kay Weston’s visit. Alastair sends his senses across the Schism to survey the Spirit world in the surrounding area. He sees Killian’s wraith in the corner of the room. Killian glares at him and demands he stop looking. Alastair tells him to fuck off, and Killian sinks through the floor.

Kailani uses her Time arts to divine when she will next encounter the Chalcedony Cathedral. To her surprise, she learns that this will be in three months and also nine years ago in Egypt. From this she deduces that time travel to Egypt lies a few months in her future. The cabal ponder the significance of this as they head to the Observatory.

There, Solomon is preparing for the Surge, and is only too happy to explain its significance to the cabal. As for Soames, he states that the hapless journalist is still in an induced coma but that he found a small runestone embedded in Soames’ neck. The runestone uses static magic to make its bearer appear Awakened, but Solomon hasn’t had any time to look into it further. The mages examine the runestone, then inspect Soames himself (in magical sleep in an antechamber beneath an ensorcelled shroud).

Aiden examines Soames’ mind and discovers that he has a compulsion to phone a certain number after leaving the Observatory. Aiden notes the number and looks deeper. Soames’ memories of the implantation of the runestone have been removed, but Aiden is able to glimpse a blonde woman in a featureless grey room administering Mind arts to Soames. Aiden rises out of Soames’ mind and imparts his discoveries to his cabal-mates. They agree that whatever is going on here, it’s far too spooky to get involved with at the moment. They recommend to Solomon that he remove Soames’ memories of the Observatory, but keep him here under observation for now. Solomon agrees, far more concerned about the Surge than an unconscious Sleeper.

Shortly thereafter, the mages arrive at St. Jude’s, where the Thebian is still comatose. Babo appears again and they correctly divine that the child is an astral projection of the Thebian’s younger self. They narrow the Schism as much as they can, then Aiden joins the cabal together in a shared dream, from where they will be able to step into the Thebian’s dream in order to answer Babo’s call for help.

Aiden’s Arts engulf them, and they arrive in a strange representation of Fall from Grace. It is dark and dank, and graffiti lines the walls. “Murderer!”, “Killian knows!” and “The Codex will destroy who I am!” and similar inscriptions reveal that they are joined together in Aiden’s Oneiros – his personal dreamspace. From there they must find the conduit to the Thebian’s Oneiros. It lies, of course, in the astral version of the club’s toilets where they faced Killian’s wraith. There the broken mirror has been replaced by a jagged portal into darkness. The cabal summon their courage and plunge through.

They arrive in a strange maze dotted with unearthly black monoliths inscribed with silver runes. Alastair manages to decipher the runes, learning the name of the place: The Maze of the Ebon Gates. Moments later, a mass of grasping tentacles erupt through the hedges and attacks the cabal. Felix is able to decipher enough of the runes on another of the monoliths to activate a portal. Aiden and Felix race through and Alastair shoves Kailani ahead of himself, suffering the touch of the Maelefract for his troubles.

They emerge from the portal in a forest glade. A boulder grooved with lost scripts sits at it centre, and standing before the boulder is a startlingly beautiful man. He identifies himself as Adonaios, and asks if the Thebian found the Garden. Alastair replies: ‘Would we be here if he had been successful?’ Adonaios seems unmoved by his insolence, and asks if it was worth the search, but the cabal has no answer for this. Finally, the angel asks why the Thebian’s search was unsuccessful. ‘Because there is no Garden,’ Kailani says. Adonaios smiles at this reply and steps aside as a further portal flares into life atop the boulder. The cabal step through.

They appear on the banks of a great river at the heart of a verdant belt in a mighty desert. A dusty hut sits on its banks. Babo plays in the dirt outside and is overjoyed to see the cabal. He points to the hut. ‘I’m in there.’

The mages enter the hut to find the Thebian sitting in the gloom. He congratulates them on being able to understand and respond to his plea for help. He says that he needs their help. The Scourge has trapped him inside his own mind and he wants out. If the mages agree to free his consciousness from this nest of memories, he will help them in return. Aiden says the cabal will help and Felix asks where the Hapsburg Codex is. The Thebian says they’ve had a wasted journey as he gave the book away years ago. But if the cabal helps him, he will tell them how they can find it. They agree.

The Thebian tells them that he obtained the Codex by trading it for a diary. He then traded the Codex to the Ahl-i-Batin in return for learning the location of a Lilith Stone, so that he might enter the Garden. But the Batini lore was flawed – or a lie – and he found only Adonaios and death at the Lilith Stone. As for the Codex, he gave it to a Batini called Yusuf in Jerusalem. The cabal thank him – this advice is better than nothing – and ask what they need to do to help him. The Thebian replies that they must kill Babo.

The cabal are horrified. Alastair suggests that they just end the shared dream and leave the Thebian where he is. Only Kailani and Aiden possess sufficient Arts to destroy the spirit-projection, but Kailani flat-out refuses. The Thebian insists it doesn’t matter – Babo is only an astral construct. Aiden heads outside to kill Babo, but Felix follows him, arguing that Babo is actually part of the Thebian’s mind and therefore sapient. Aiden changes his mind, breaking their bargain, and ends the shared dream. The Thebian’s curses echo through the Astral Umbra after them.

Back at the Red House, Felix contacts Ibrahim and asks him about Yusuf. Ibrahim replies that Yusuf went into the Nephandic pits at Damascus, and has turned barabbus. The Codex wound up in a Batini library, but was subsequently stolen by a demon known only as the Angel of Tears.

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Chapter Thirty Three: "Home Truths"
Buried Secrets

Part I

The Butterfly Effect cabal returns home from Rosedale with Balthazar of Thebes in tow. They make directly for the Red House, which they have decided to reopen under a different name and begin using as their Chantry. As they settle themselves in, Kailani performs a tarot reading for the cabal.

This complete, she then uses her Time arts to examine the recent past of the Red House, looking for signs of any wrongdoings there that might haunt the cabal. She immediately witnesses Aiden’s murder of its three previous owners, and their illegal dealings with the Spaniard and Norman Stafford. But apart from this, only a few minor drug-related misdemeanours reveal themselves. And, pushing her perception back a handful of years, she sees that the club was merely a warehouse before that. After a quiet word with Aiden, Kailani proclaims the place safe to use.

While Felix heads back to the Mobius Strip to check up on things and feed his cat, Alastair contacts Dr. Becker at Saint Jude’s and arranges for the Thebian to receive long-term care there. Becker is more than amenable, and Alastair and Aiden drive on over, arranging to have Balthazar collected by ambulance shortly thereafter.

While Aiden deals with the financial side of things in Becker’s office, Alastair is led by Nurse Bryce to the room where the Thebian will be staying. Alastair notices that she is struggling to conceal some private grief, but does not press the matter and instead checks the room over while Nurse Bryce returns to the nurses’ station further down the hall.

No sooner is she out of the room, however, when Alastair notices none other than Theora Hetirck sitting in a chair by the window. She demands to know who he is and why he is prying into her life. Alastair insists that he has no idea what she is talking about, so Theora changes tack, asking why he had to kill Shelton Bruntee. Alastair replies that it had to be done, to which Theora replies that this makes them the same as each other. Alastair isn’t sure, but Theora merely laughs at him. ‘We’ll see,’ she says, and saunters out of the room. Alastair follows her into the hallway, but she has already vanished.

Aiden arrives, his dealings with Dr. Becker complete, and Alastair, somewhat panicky, tells him of his meeting with Theora, insisting that St. Jude’s is now compromised and that they have to find somewhere else to house the Thebian. Aiden concurs. While Alastair hurries out of the clinic, Aiden takes a moment to slip his perceptions inside Nurse Bryce’s mind, curious as to the cause of her sorrow. He is, therefore, deeply shocked to discover that she is the daughter of the man who died, along with her brother, in the explosion caused when Alastair destroyed Stafford’s house.

Aiden finds Alastair in the parking lot, checking their car for bugs and explosives. Aiden tells him what he has learned about the nurse and Alastair, even more unnerved by this coincidence, decides to abandon his car at the clinic, and the pair takes a long, circuitous route back to the Red House.

At the club they discuss what has happened. Felix thinks that Alastair might be suffering from Paradox-induced visions, but is at a loss how to tell for sure. Kailani decides that first-hand intelligence is the best way to learn the truth. She disappears into the women’s toilets and works Life magic on herself to transform her appearance into that of an over-the-hill WAG – exactly the kind of person who might come wandering into the clinic outside of visiting hours. She departs for St. Jude’s via taxi.

While she is on her covert WAG-mission, Felix examines the club with the fullness of his magical skill (and some large hammers) and discovers a covered hatchway leading into a forgotten cellar. From the cellar he discovers a bricked-up archway leading to a deeper area. He calls Aiden and Alastair, and they proceed into the darkness.

At the clinic, Kailani totters her way past reception and into the room where Alastair saw Theora. There she uses Time arts to view the room over the previous hour. She sees Alastair subconsciously create an etheric projection without seeming to understand what he is doing. He holds a conversation with this shimmering form, clearly believing it to be Theora. He even watches it leave the room before dispelling the projection a few moments later. Satisfied that the vision of Theora came from Alastair’s own mind, Kailani returns to the club.

Beneath the Red House, the rest of the cabal explore the lower area and find statues to Dionysus, Diana and an angelic representation of Priapus (bearing the legend “Fais ce que tu voudras”). They divine that this is a long-buried Regency-era Hellfire Club and that the statue of Priapus is the focal point of an inactive Node. When Kailani rejoins them a few minutes later, she also confirms that a guardian spirit slumbers at the Node. Further investigation reveals that the Node can be activated by a sufficiently riotous celebration, and so the cabal decides to throw a huge opening-night party once the club is ready and use this to power the reactivation of the Node.

Alastair, still concerned as to the source of his vision, asks the cabal to watch over him while he looks further into the matter. They agree and all head to his flat in Pudding Lane, where Alastair immerses himself in his flotation tank. He has been inside it for about an hour, when someone knocks on the exterior. It is apparently Baedecker, who claims that he is not really dead, but only faked his demise. He advises Alastair not to look into his death because Alastair should be content with remaining an irrelevance and a mere pawn of fate. Alastair is polite but rejects this advice outright and goes back into his tank. When he emerges, Baedecker is gone. He tells the rest of the cabal what he has experienced, and how he has no intention of following Baedecker’s suggestions. They agree that it is the right decision, but are none the wiser as to the source of these strange apparitions. Alastair, however, begins to suspect that they are projections of his subconscious, each espousing a different opinion on his place and behaviour as a mage.

With the pseudo-Baedecker having reminded them of the issue, the cabal decide that now is the ideal time to look further into Baedecker’s death. Felix devises a cunning conjunctional Effect that will allow them to triangulate the location where Baedecker called them from on the night of Aiden’s little kidney incident. They all head to the places they were at on that night and prepare – Aiden at the hotel where Ruth Pearcy seduced him, Alastair to his car on the Strand, Felix to the Mobius Strip, and Kailani to Felix’ couch with a nice fat joint.

Aiden settles himself into the bath at the hotel and finds himself in the grip of some startling visions that hint at past existences for his soul – an eye like an eclipsed sun, a face on a desert monument, a sorceress, an ethereal child – but they lie in spiritual waters deep enough to strike utter terror into him. He makes note of the experience and prepares for the triangulation Effect.

The Effect is successful and the cabal trace their communication with Baedecker to a small houseboat on a tributary of the Thames in Teddington. They head there and discover that it is home to a Sleeper called Rebecca Handley. Aiden and Alastair disable mundane security devices around her home but discover that there is a powerful Effect of some sort in place. Their investigations are briefly derailed when Aiden loses control of his Enochian chanting and breaks one of Rebecca’s windows, causing Rebecca to emerge from the houseboat wondering if “Charles” has returned. Mental investigation reveals that Charles is none other than Baedecker, whom Rebecca believes to be a retired city banker. The two were clearly lovers and she has no inkling of what has happened to him.

Kailani, meanwhile, discovers a powerful serpent spirit coiled around the houseboat and learns that it was placed there by Baedecker to watch over Rebecca. Kailani tells the serpent that Baedecker is dead and the spirit prepares to depart, freed from its bond. Kailani asks it to continue watching over Rebecca in return for its freedom and it agrees to do so… for a month and a day.

The cabal continue to investigate the Effect on the barge by sluicing raw Quintessence across its Pattern, and learn that it is an Obfuscation hiding something else. Without dispelling the Obfuscation, they manage to work their way around it in order to examine the Effect that it is concealing. They discover an incredibly powerful Correspondence/Entropy/Time Effect that is anchored on the barge and three other locations. Investigating further, they learn that these three other locations are the café outside which Baedecker was killed, the Mobius Strip, and Alastair’s apartment. They also examine the Resonance on the Effect and divine it to be Pattern (Enduring, Preserving) and Entropic (Black, Murderous, Rotting). Felix recognises this as the same Resonance that attacked his shield over Shelton, and the group assume that it is connected to House Helekar and the Harvester.

They leave the various Effects intact and return to the club, bedding down in the apartment above it. Alastair is woken in the small hours by a phone call from his dead friend Smitty, claiming that he has found a buyer for the stone head they recovered on their last mission together, and that Alastair needs to come on over to the hotel as soon as he can. Alastair, now fully understanding what is going on, agrees and then just goes back to sleep.

He has a dream in which he is at Rosedale Manor once more, Shelton on his knees before him, Theora at his side. Alastair promptly puts a bullet into Shelton’s brain, and Theora crows that they are just like each other after all: they do what needs to be done, when others cannot – or will not – make those tough decisions. Alastair says that they are not the same at all, because Theora never bothers to make a distinction between who should die and who merely could die. Theora challenges him to prove that he has made that distinction himself, even once. Alastair says that he made that distinction where Cade was concerned. Theora concedes the point (although she says she was sure the man’s name was Declan) and bids him au revoir. Before the dream ends, Alastair sees Jenny Smits, who thanks him. ‘For what?’ Alastair asks. ‘For knowing how to tell the difference,’ she replies.

The dream over, Alastair lies awake in bed, watching the sun rise through the bedroom window. ‘I don’t always get it right,’ he says, ‘but I’m damn well going to try.’

Part II

The following day, the mages rebuild their various shields and wards and discuss their options for the reopening of the nightclub. Aiden makes arrangements for work to start on this side of things – during his preparations, he heads into the subterranean vault and finds that there is another exit through a boarded-up tunnel that leads to a metro line.

Alastair calls a coroner contact of his and reveals Baedecker’s Sleeper identity so that Baedecker’s body will be identified. Felix, meanwhile, divines that Rebecca has a sister in Canada, a certain Alice Handley. He locates her and Aiden taps into her mind and prompts memories of family and a desire to contact her loved ones. The experience is overwhelming, filling Aiden with memories and longings he had long thought consigned to history. As for Alice, the Effect is successful and she calls her sister Rebecca and invites her to come to Canada. Rebecca agrees.

Aiden, shaken by his communion with Alice’s mind, goes to get a stiff drink and sees shadow in the nightclub’s courtyard. It turns out to be Gothrak who has traced the cabal here, wanting to see Kailani. Kailani confirms that her offer of sanctuary is still open and the mages agree that Gothrak can lair atop the club for the time being.

Felix heads to the Mobius Strip to collect Ziggy, but while he is there Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar visit. Theirs is purely a professional call – they remind Felix that the cabal must choose certain Great Rights to espouse. Felix promises that he has not forgotten and says he will raise the issue with his cabal-mates as soon as possible. Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar seem mollified and depart.

Back at the Red House, Alastair asks Kailani to teach him the spirit arts. Kailani is only too happy to agree. They head to Glas Bheinn, in the wilds of Scotland. Jah Kingdom meets them on the slopes of Glas Bheinn Mhor, and shares some serious ganja with them both. ‘Enough time spent playing in the grass,’ he tells Kailani. ‘Time to climb the mountain.’

Alastair and Kailani are immersed in a waking dream, and their spirits roam across the mountainside. In the depths of a primordial forest they encounter the Victus Ovate (or so they believe). ‘Who are you?’ it asks them. ‘I have used many names, but you may call me Alastair,’ Alastair says. ‘I am Kailani, a child of the universe’ Kailani answers. The Victus Ovate is pleased, and shows them a path through the ancient forest and out onto a plain where a stone circle rises from the mists. There three of Mama Netties Death Birds squat on the stones. ‘Why are you here?’ they ask the spirit-travellers. ‘To learn about you,’ Alastair replies. ‘To help Alastair find wisdom, and to seek it for myself,’ is Kailani’s reply. The Death Birds are pleased, and guide the duo towards a path leading higher up the mountain. There they find a cave, its opening guarded by Baedecker’s serpent spirit. ‘For whom do you speak?’ it asks. ‘For those who strive,’ says Alastair. ‘For those who nobody to speak for them,’ Kailani answers. And the serpent is pleased, and allows them to enter the cave.

Within the cave, visions await. Kailani sees her own, personal spirit guide – a many-armed Vedic goddess. Kailani admits that, in her quest to provide guidance to others, she has failed to look within and see the truth within. Alastair glimpses Kailani’s inner spirit, and speaks words of Kaja to it. His use of High Speech prompts a deep communion with Kailani, who finds that she can see Alastair’s inner spirit guide. In his case, it is a vast and implacable Wheel, grinding all of existence, all of time, to cosmic dust. Alastair looks upon the Wheel and sees it through spirit-eyes for the first time. He sees that the dust it leaves behind is the very ephemera that makes up the spirit-worlds. And he also sees how each grain of dust might in time become a Wheel – and so Wheel and dust are one.

Overcome by their visions, Kailani and Alastair awake. Jah Kingdom congratulates them on their fresh insight and takes his leave. Kailani and Alastair round the night off by cracking open a bottle of Cragganmore. And in the morning there is bacon.

Back in London, Felix and Aiden discuss Solomon’s visit. If the Butterfly Effect is to endure in London, they must at least appear to uphold the Lex Magica, and so they decide to seek advice on which Rights to espouse. They recall that Morgayne of the Belters was both knowledgeable and forthcoming at their last meeting, and so decide to seek her out. Felix uses his memory of Morgayne’s Resonance to locate her at St. Peter’s church in St. Albans and he and Aiden pay her a visit.

While they are still en route, Morgayne divines their scanning and probes them in return – Felix allows her to identify them and asks for a meeting. ‘Fine,’ Morgayne replies. At the church, after she has gotten over her irritation at being located, they discuss with her the requests of the Lodge. Morgayne talks over some of the ramifications of the Great Rights. Aiden invites her to come to the opening of the club and gives her its card. She agrees to pay them a visit.

Back at the club, Felix contacts Ibrahim and updates him on their investigations into Baedecker’s death. When Ibrahim hears that Helekar may have been behind the murder, he recommends that the cabal have nothing more to do with the matter. Helekar will kill them all if they cross them. Felix states that it is too late, because they have already crossed paths and slain one of the Freedom Razor. Ibrahim tells him to prepare for retribution. Felix also tells him about the Effect at the houseboat and both agree that it is a trap of some kind – possibly for Baedecker in case he faked his death, but certainly something to be avoided.

Aiden, meanwhile, performs a ritual to gain further communion with his past selves. He has a vision of the Sphinx buried up to its neck in sand and meets an ethereal young woman who states that she and he share a soul. However, he is not her reincarnation. Instead, because the timeline has been rewritten, she no longer existed and Aiden seems to have taken her place. She sees this as proof that her imminent actions have failed – she and her companions were about to embark on an undertaking intended to make everything better. If Aiden exists, it can only mean that the War of Ruins has further shattered the timelines and she will fail. Aiden suggests that there could be multiple timelines. The girl says that if so, he is in a worse place than she is. She hopes only to return home. Aiden, however, is still trapped in a cycle of reincarnation and death.

Aiden says that this is just the way of things. The girl states that his cycle sees him slain over and over again at his brother’s hand. Aiden says he doesn’t have a brother. She says he has two, but revisions to the timelines might mean that they are different to hers. She asks if he has found the book and Aiden correctly realises she means the Hapsburg Codex. He says that he is still looking for it, but that the man who knows where it is in still in a coma. He asks what is in it. She tells him that it was written by one of their forebears but from his perspective contains only lies. From her perspective, it was filled with uncomfortable truths. If Aiden is having waking dreams about his past lives, then he is close to the book – it must be calling for him. Aiden asks how he will know it when he finds it. She tells him that she will write of this meeting in the book. Aiden thanks her and bids her farewell, extending her hand. She places the book in it. Aiden opens the book and reads its first page before the vision ends.

The mages reconvene in the upper apartments, placing quick wards about themselves. They share their recent experiences and revelations and discuss what to do next. Kailani will check up on the serpent and make sure that Rebecca is heading off to Canada. The cabal as a whole will prepare wards for the Chantry. They will decide on which Great Rights to espouse, then visit Solomon to tell him. They will also try to persuade Solomon to release Rupert Soames to them so they can investigate who he is and what he was doing. And they will hold a huge fucking party for the grand opening of Fall From Grace.

The opening of the club is set for June 9th. The cabal prepare a host of Effects to protect themselves and the club from what they feel is inevitable… attention. Firstly they lay an aura of well-being over the entire nightclub, mellowing the mood of anyone in the building. They join themselves together in a perceptual filter that will identify aggressive thoughts among their customers. They enhance their own physical and mental characteristics, ward their clothing with primal energies, and a variety of other enchantments. And then they open the doors to the public.

The grand opening is a riotous success. The cabal’s subtle enchantments blend with their cutting-edge club, leading to a bacchanalia of Dionysian proportions. Solomon puts in an appearance, congratulating the mages on their new Chantry and asking if they have decided on their Great Rights. Aiden treats him to a drink as he explains that the cabal has elected to espouse the Rights of Hospitality, Sanctuary and Nemesis. Solomon, unfailingly gracious, congratulates Aiden again on his choices, leaving after a suitably polite period.

At the height of the revel, the cabal retreat to their Node and throw a banquet of their own, indulging in wild gluttony, carefree carousing, and copious quaffing, all laced with magic. The ritual awakens the guardian spirit of the Node, binding the mages to it, and it to them. The Rakehell Bastard, the spirit is called, and it raises rapier and flagon alike in salute to its new allies.

The evening wears on. With celebrations in full swing, the mages are alerted by their wards that someone is scanning the club using Correspondence. Investigation reveals the Resonance of Theora Hetirck. Alastair investigates and discovers that the scan originated at Correspondence point in a car parked outside the club. He tries three times to get near it – on the first two times, his experiences rewind so he is back in the club, but on the third he manages to get close enough to the car to see that it is empty. Eventually the car departs, leaving a mobile phone on the road in its place. It rings. Alastair refuses to pick it up. He gives it to a security guard to dispose of in a dumpster.

Meanwhile, back inside the club, there is a commotion in the girls’ toilet. Investigation reveals that there is a disturbance from the Umbra – spirits of some kind are causing mischief across the Gauntlet. The cabal hush up any problems and have the club security usher people away from the toilets, blaming a water leak. They discover fthe disturbances are being caused by none other than Killian’s wraith, aided by a second wraith who wears a large African death-mask. The cabal combine forces and unleash all manner of spiritual and physical whup-ass on the two intruding wraiths. Killian’ ghostly form is dissipated and he is apparently sucked down into some sub-realm. They then attack the other wraith with its own chains, ripping its mask from its face. The other wraith flees in horror at being unmasked and our heroes congratulate themselves on dealing with the first threat to their new Chantry.

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Chapter Thirty Two: "Of Wine and Roses"
In the Ruins of Rosedale

The cast and crew of Spook Spotters arrive in the village of Rosedale, where they are to investigate ‘the most haunted place in Yorkshire’ – the legendary Rosedale Manor. With the daylight already waning, they make their way to Pippin Lodge (or, rather Pippin Odge, as the damaged sign claims), where they are welcomed by Grace Potter.

Danny Dawn turns on the charm when Zach Farley’s foul mouth wins Grace’s ire, and she bustles about, clearly star-struck. While Zach and Weird Pete unload the team’s SUV, Danny and his wife, presenter Yvonne Meadows pander to their host’s ego, signing the guest book (with a huge marker pen in Yvonne’s case) and coo appreciatively at her oddly extensive collection of pictures of trams. After some confusion over the rooms (Grace has booked them all singles, and the only double room is reserved for another couple arriving later that evening), the team unpack and decide to head up to the manor to scout the location and shoot some night-time footage.

Danny and Pete prep the gear and load the car and Yvonne and Zach take advantage of their absence to indulge their illicit passions in Yvonne’s bedroom. Unbeknownst to them, the suspicious Danny has already planted a hidden camera in Yvonne’s room. Unfortunately, he mangles its placement – it falls down behind a cushion – but the audio it records is quite unambiguous.

With everyone engorged and tingling and eager to see what Rosedale Manor has to offer, they head up out of the village and onto the moors. Although rainclouds threaten a downpour, the vistas are stunning and, before long, masses of overgrown wild rosebushes show that they are near their destination. They have heard all manner of conflicting tales about this place, and its appearance does not disappoint. After forcing its rusted gates open, they are treated to a splendorous ruin of crumbling majesty, overgrown with an ambitious profusion of roses, creepers and twisting vines.

They park the SUV and explore the grounds. Most of the building is an inaccessible ruin. The east wing is almost entirely collapsed, and much of the roof has fallen in elsewhere across the building. Zach and Yvonne film some preliminary and interim footage outside, while Danny and Pete explore the interior. Danny searches for the best places to fake communication with The Other Side, while Pete simply wanders about, allowing his own sensitivities to point him in the right direction.

With the light failing, Zach and Yvonne are startled by furtive movement in the undergrowth. Switching to infra-red, Zach picks up a heat signature and then spots two feral blazing eyes. Out of the undergrowth rushes… a cat! Yvonne shrieks, back-pedals, and falls flat on her backside, which sends Zach into paroxysms of insensitive laughter. Yvonne’s irritation only provokes his mirth further, and she stomps off in search of the others.

Danny is exploring the old stone kitchen, wondering if this would be a good place to stage a séance with the alleged cannibal chef of the manor. The cat wanders in through one window to observe him with cool disdain. Pete feels a strange pull towards the east wing but his explorations only confirm that it is too badly damaged to locate any routes into its basement area in the poor light – and the sudden opening of the heavens does not help matters at all. He heads back indoors to see if there is a route through one of the house’s cellars.

Zach and Yvonne are already in the cellars, snooping around, filching bottles of wine and sharing a mutual grope. Pete catches them in a particularly exposed moment atop a huge wine vat but doesn’t seem to care, being far too obsessed with locating a route through the cellars to beneath the east wing. He is now certain that something supernatural is located there. However, the route is completely blocked off, and he reluctantly accepts that he might have better luck above ground in better light.

Satisfied with an evening’s productive work, they are about to head back to the Odge when the ever-vigilant cat alerts them to the arrival of another car. The team douse their lights and huddle together in the hallway, unsure if they are about to fall foul of local authorities displeased with their intrusion onto the property. The truth is far stranger.

A young woman in a black leather jacket and a young man in similarly dark clothing park their car at the end of the drive and walk up towards the house. Once they are within earshot, the team hear snatches of an extremely strange conversation – and catch the names of the two newcomers: Theora and Shelton.

The two are at the house looking for something (although it is not clear what). They are also concerned that four others have beaten them here. At first the Spook Spotters think that Theora and Shelton are referring to them, but Theora’s next words soon disabuse them of that notion:

‘They’re not here. If they were, we’d be dead already.’

She looks around, clearly nervous, and then insists that they leave before they are noticed. None the wiser as to who these people are, the team wait for them to depart before emerging from hiding.

The investigators then regroup in the kitchen and stage a thoroughly convincing interaction with the spirits of the dead who were burned alive in the furnace by the manor’s cannibal cook. Pete rigs a heat emitter to fake a rise in temperature in the oven for Zach’s camera, and Yvonne interviews Danny while the latter communes with the ghosts of the dying. Their work done, they head back to Pippin Odge.

Back at the hotel, they discover that Shelton and Theora are the couple who were due to arrive that evening – the Hetircks – and Theora is in the kitchen drinking tea with Grace. Zach clocks her as something of a badass through certain small, tell-tale signs. She is polite but noncommittal and the team decide to head over to the local pub to learn a little more of the lore of Rosedale.

At the Rose and Crown they find some decent food, decent ale, but poor conversation. The usual babble about mad monks, cannibal chefs and black dogs is repeated. Danny finds that not everyone here is a fan (the barmaid much prefers Derren Brown, to Danny’s disgust) and Zach’s ebullient nature brings swift scorn from the locals (a wholly unfortunate incident that ends with Zach chanting “USA! USA! USA!” while throwing the horns to all present).

Pete takes a more subtle approach and plies one of the locals with a few pints of ale and learns that the supposed “mad monk” was once a denizen of Rosedale Abbey here in the village, but was ousted for his heresies and went on to build Rosedale Manor out of his own pocket – something that failed to endear to the other inhabitants at all. Pete resolves to investigate this further in the morning.

The team retire to the Odge and settle themselves down in their rooms. Zach spends some considerable time hovering by his door, trying to decide whether he should go and pay Yvonne a visit. In the end he decides that “the bitch should come to me” and consequently goes to bed without any action. Yvonne has already decided against any late-night liaisons anyway, having donned her granny-pants and settled down for the night. Her sleep is disturbed only by the sound of the Hetircks leaving the Odge in their car at some point during the night, returning just before dawn.

The next morning is dominated largely by a quest for coffee by Zach, who is appalled that Grace has none in the house. Pete takes the time to look around the abbey graveyard for any signs of the mad monk’s heresy. He finds none, but he does encounter Rodney Mellor, church groundsman. Rodney tells Pete a number of interesting facts about the mad monk (locally known as “Bloody Barraclough”). Barraclough apparently got up to all sorts of misdeeds in the abbey and was thrown out. He went on to build Rosedale Manor and started abducting children from around town and cutting their heads off for some insane reason.

Yvonne is thrilled with the idea of adding some local colour to the show and so persuades Rodney to allow the team to interview him. Although at first reticent, Rodney soon warms to the idea. Yvonne tells him that they’ll do a dry run first without the cameras rolling, but secretly has Zach film anyway in the hope that Rodney will relax and provide more natural candid detail. Which he does when he explains how Barraclough was actually thrown out of the abbey for “buggering the nuns up the arse”.

Needless to say, the interview comes to a grinding halt, with Yvonne convinced that Rodney is just winding them up. Rodney insists that he thought they weren’t filming and Yvonne grudgingly agrees that bleeping the rude words out will only lend authenticity to the footage. They film the rest of the interview with Rodney and head up to the manor once more to complete the rest of the filming.

With the rain stop, a spectral mist hangs about the moors, lit by patches of diffuse sunlight from above. The manor itself sits in a pool of hazy darkness, however, and so the team park their SUV and head back into the grounds to investigate.

At Pete’s insistence, they search the ruins of the east wing for a way into the basement below it. Danny finds one in a most unexpected manner when rotten floorboards collapse beneath his feet, and he plummets 20 feet into the darkness below. Battered and bruised, with a badly sprained leg, he is lucky to survive, and calls up to the others for help. Zach and Pete rush back to the car to find some rope while Yvonne stays at the edge of the hole.

Danny groggily sits up and realises that he is in some deeper basement level below the east wing. Any alarm he might be feeling due to his predicament suddenly deepens, however, when he spots a spectral glow. It is coming from the figure of a woman in lace skirts – a real, honest-to-goodness ghost. Danny can scarcely believe his luck, and shouts up to Yvonne to go and get a camera. His shocked enthusiasm swiftly ebbs when the spectre hisses his name and begins to lift her skirts, revealing a strange, phosphorescent fluid running down skeletal thighs. She beckons towards him and Danny feels an overwhelming urge to go into her embrace. With a burst of willpower, he resists the compulsion, pulls himself to his feet, and flees into the darkness. The apparition follows.

At the car, Zach and Pete are rummaging through the boot for tow-rope and a first-aid kit when they hear a moist slithering from the undergrowth behind them. This time it is no cat. A group of vile serpents – seemingly formed from human waste and other fluids – with lamprey mouths come rushing towards them. Pete leaps into the car and locks the doors, and Zach is overwhelmed by the creatures. He fights two off, but the third deals him terrible injuries with its suppurating jaws. At this point Yvonne comes racing over, shouting for them to grab a camera. At the sound of her voice, the serpents turn and race towards her. She runs for her life.

In the darkness below the house, Danny arrives in some kind of subterranean sepulchre hung with faded tapestries. In niches in the walls are dozens of tiny heads, stitched shut at eye and nose and mouth and neck, yet still whimpering, still weeping. The stairs out of the chamber are blocked with rubble and Danny realises that he is trapped. He begins to pray – half-remembered snatches of the Lord’s Prayer – and the apparition closes on him. She pins him to the floor and hitches her skirts all the way up. And there, in the crux of her loins, is a suppurating growth like a sea anemone, fronds waving in anticipation, gleaming fluids pattering to the floor. To Danny’s horror, his own manhood betrays him, rising to meet the spectre’s engulfing grasp. He screams. The severed heads whimper in stitched sympathy.

Outside, Pete guns the engine and crushes the serpents pursuing Yvonne under the SUV’s wheels, even as Zach scrabbles to his feet and flees away from a fresh wave of the creatures. Yvonne throws herself into the car and Pete spins the wheel, driving back to help Zach. Bleeding copiously, Zach stumbles into the car and Yvonne starts trying to help him as best she can. Pete barks at Yvonne to grab his anti-ghost kit from the back of the car, and then spots something strange in the wing-mirror. It is a small girl, clad in 19th century clothes, translucent, and gesturing towards the manor gates. Pete looks in that direction and sees Theora and Shelton arriving in their own car. Pete wastes not a moment, floors the accelerator, and drives straight at them. By some freak coincidence, however, he hits a chunk of rubble in the driveway, loses control of the SUV and crashes into the undergrowth.

In the sepulchre, Danny is lost in a world of horror, his treacherous body bucking and trashing in the spectre’s embrace. And then, of all things, he smells the pungent aroma of cannabis smoke. A sing-song voice comes to his ears and the apparition slides herself off him. Drawn by the curious melody, the ghost-woman is entranced, and Danny seizes the moment and flees. As he rushes out of the sepulchre, he catches a brief glimpse of a strange, elfin woman, and then he is stumbling for dear life, back the way he came.

Back at the car, Yvonne, Zach and Pete come to their senses after the crash, battered and bleeding. Theora and Shelton appear, yank the car doors open, and order them out at gunpoint. Our team of intrepid investigators are no heroes, and they meekly comply. The duo order them down the driveway, muttering darkly to one another.

‘Are you sure that the wards are intact?’ Theora asks Shelton.

‘Yes!’ Shelton snaps. ‘Jesus, Theora, I told you already.’

‘You’d better be right,’ Theora growls. ‘There are four of them, remember. I’ve tangled with them before and they’re no idiots. It won’t be long before they find us. I want to be done and away from here long before then.’

Danny reaches the bottom of the hole through which he fell and sees a length of tow-rope come snaking down. He grabs hold of it and is yanked to the surface with surprising speed. His relief at being rescued evaporates when he sees the predicament he and his team-mates are now in. Theora doesn’t help his state of mind:

‘For fuck’s sake, pull up your pants,’ she says.

Danny does.

And so the team are ushered around to the back of the manor house where there is an oddly vacant patch of ground, devoid of any overgrown plant life or riotous rosebushes. There, Theora turns on the team and grins unpleasantly. At the same time, Pete sees the strange Victorian child-ghost once more.

‘Don’t worry,’ the ghost says. ‘Everything will be fine soon.’

‘So,’ Theora says, producing an elaborate, rune-carved dagger from within her jacket. ‘Which one of you will it be?’

Yvonne is the only one who can find her tongue. ‘What?’ she manages to gasp, knowing all too well what Theora is talking about. ‘What the hell is this?’

Theora laughs. ‘What do you think? I’m asking if any one of you wants to nominate someone else to be the one to die. No? No desperate screaming? No “please take him, not me, oh God I just want to live?” No? That’s what normally happens.’

‘Just kill the douchebag,’ Shelton says. ‘Look at him. He’s half dead already.’

‘Good point,’ Theora says. She turns towards Zach, blade glinting in the witch-light. Both Yvonne and Pete leap to save him. Shelton clubs Yvonne prone with the butt of his shotgun but Pete leaps past Shelton and splashes a vial of holy water into Theora’s face. Nothing happens and Theora sneers at him in contempt before stepping forward and stabbing Zach through the throat.

Zach gargles horribly, wheezes ‘You’re ugly,’ and then collapses, one leg spasming in death.

Theora strides to the middle of the clearing, kneels, and raises the the bloody dagger high.

Shelton looks over at the Spook Spotters. ‘Rabbit hole time, motherfuckers,’ he says.

Theora plunges the blade into the earth. She begins to whisper strange words over it, words that the team’s minds cannot accept, much less understand. And then, in their final moments, their world is upended forever.

As if the world had previously only been a night-bloom, its petals closed against the day, now it unfurls and reveals its petals in all their splendour. The wall between spirit and matter rolls away and a tower appears in the midst of the clearing. Up until now concealed within a fold in the Periphery, Theora’s blood sacrifice has opened the way to reach it.

Shelton keeps the three surviving members of the team under guard while Theora rushes into the tower. Wild, primal energies flood out through its doors, and she is soon lost from sight. Moments later, however, a blast of argent fire erupts out of the tower door, and Theora comes stumbling out, her shoulder smoking from a wound.

‘It’s the Cataphractine!’ she shouts. ‘We’re out of our depth. Get the fuck out of here!’

Theora levels her gun and puts a bullet between Danny’s eyes. She turns the gun on Yvonne, who can only stare dumbly down its barrel. It is the last thing she sees, as Theora blows her brains out the back of her head.

Pete knows that he has only seconds left to act, and runs for the tower. Theora spins, trying to draw a bead on his fleeing back, but the lights from the tower engulf him.

‘How the hell is he doing that?’ Shelton shouts, squinting after Pete.

‘He’s Awakened,’ Theora snaps. ‘It’s the only explanation. We’ve wasted enough time here. Let’s go.’ And so they race back towards their car, leaving the three bodies where they lie.

Gunshots. It is the gunshots that alerts the Butterfly Effect to the fact that all is not as it seems at Rosedale Manor. They have been here for a day or so, watching the Spook Spotters bumble about the place. Sent here by Mama Nettie to leave a message for Balthazar of Thebes at the manor’s Node, they have been unable to find said Node. Kailani has divined that it lies in a pocket realm in the Periphery (much like Caractacus’ Isle) but can’t figure out how to access it. Theora, of course, had no such trouble – but then blood sacrifice comes easy to her kind.

Felix, investigating the upper floors of the ruined manor, races to a window in time to see Theora and Shelton running back towards their car. The duo’s wards are now down and they and their misdeeds are fully visible. Felix opens his Correspondence senses and tracks their progress around the building. Alastair reacts equally swiftly, leaping through a window and taking aim at Theora and Shelton. Aiden thwarts their flight by putting a bullet through the engine block of Theora’s car. The car erupts into flames. And Kailani calls upon the spirits of fire in the burning car, rousing them to furious heat and lacing the fires with waves of fear and loathing.

Theora does an end-run around the burning car but Shelton foolishly stands his ground, leveling his shotgun at the cabal. Alastair, gun at the ready and already aiming for the perfect shot, puts a bullet through his knee and Shelton hits the deck. Felix sees that Theora is close to escaping and so unleashes his most powerful attack – Rip the Man-Body (or woman-body, as the case may be.) Theora collapses, howling and screaming, blood erupting from her form. And yet even in the depth of her agony, she finds the focus to bring her will to bear. Shrieking chants in High Speech, she vanishes in a whorl of Correspondence arts.

Aiden sends his etheric senses out after Theora, tracing her flight. He follows her trail halfway round the world, until it is lost in a mire of clashing mirrors and other defenses in the city of Calcutta. He files this reference away for future use and heads over to question Shelton. Alastair is already standing guard over the downed mage, pinning his knee beneath his foot.

Shelton bleats and screams for a short while longer. Felix erects a ward around him to prevent others from listening in, Kailani sends spirits streaking across the Umbra to learn more about the location where Theora has fled, while Alastair begins questioning the hapless mage. Aiden uses his Mind arts to infiltrate Shelton’s mind to learn what their captive knows.

Together the cabal discover some alarming facts. Shelton and Theora were members of something called the Freedom Razor. Led by Ayman Loufti, its other members included Virginia Adams. The Freedom Razor is part of a great chantry known as the House of Helekar, ruled over by someone known only as The Harvester. The Freedom Razor was sent here to locate the Butterfly Effect, find out what they were doing here, and locate the Node of Rosedale Manor.

As the interrogation – mental and verbal both – progresses, Felix becomes aware of an immensely powerful mind probing at the fringes of his ward. He immediately begins to reinforce the ward, as that other mind simultaneously attempts to batter it down. He informs his companions that they don’t have much time, and the mages decide that there is only one option. And so Alastair puts a bullet in Shelton’s brain, ending the matter for once and for all.

And then they turn their attention to the Node.

Entering the tower, they find the Node blazing and alive. Its lights dapple the ruins of the manor, alternately showing it as a fire-blackened husk, an empty conference centre, a vine-choked mass of stone, or even a grand building, untouched by time or damage. Above the Node hovers the wondrous form of the Cataphractine. And leaning against the Node’s shimmering basin is Weird Pete.

‘Hello,’ Felix says. ‘Who are you?’

Pete smiles. ‘I,’ he says, ‘am The Hammer.’ He nods towards the other side of the tower. ‘I’m going to head out to get some air. There are some people here who want to talk to you.’ And so saying, he heads outdoors, looking up at the shimmering lights playing across the manor.

‘Weird,’ he says, and wanders out of sight.

The cabal cautiously walk around the blazing Node to the rear of the tower, and there they find three women. One is an aged crone wrapped in a shawl. The second is a woman half her age, kneeling on the floor, busy with a tangle of knitting. And the third is a women half her age, leaning against the rear wall of the tower, chewing on her thumb.

Kailani bows immediately, and orders the others to follow suit and show respect. Even the least-educated mage known when he stands before the Three Fates (or their avatars) and the mages greet the three women with deference.

The three women, of course, know exactly who the mages are and why they have come here. They tell the mages that they will offer them a favour, advice and a gift. The favour is to pass on their message to the Thebian. The advice is simple: they should think carefully before they proceed along their chosen path to contact the Thebian. Just as one cannot tell a book’s contents from its covers, so also one might not like what one reads once the book’s covers are opened.

The Butterfly Effect, of course, have come too far to give up now. Aiden surmises that he and the book they seek are too closely bound to turn away. And so they ask the women to pass on their message. The women smile, and say that this has already happened.

No sooner are these words uttered, than the Node erupts with primal energies. The Umbra opens and a man, wracked with sour and smoking wounds, pitches out, collapsing at their feet. As the rift in the spirit world closes, the mages catch a glimpse of a terrible figure – a broken-winged angel with eyes that bleed white fire. And then the rent seals and the Thebian’s pursuer is lost from sight.

‘He is yours now,’ the three women tell them. ‘Nurse him to health. Heal his ills. And hope that he treats you with gratitude when he awakens.’

Left with little choice, they mages agree. And their reward? The three women smile, and the eldest hands them a pack of cards – a sacred tarot – and tell them to use them whenever they are in need of the wisdom of the Fates.

With the Thebian in their care and gifts from the Fates in hand, the Butterfly Effect cabal depart Rosedale, for a future unwritten… except, perhaps, in the cards…

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