The Secret Garden

Chapter Three: "Ripples"

First strike against the Union

The day after the confrontation at St. Ann’s, the mages are lying low, trying to make sense of what has happened. The new is full of the events at Heyhead. The demonstrations. The riots. The police charge. Terry Gould in a coma. Ripples of discontent spread throughout Manchester.

Gideon is back in his suite at the Excelsior hotel, trying to prepare himself for another day at the demolition site in the village. He is filled with doubts about what he is doing. This isn’t how he saw his life turning out, an agent of desecration. He has promised Hemlock and the others that he will do what he can to spare the church. Now he has to make good on that promise.

In Heyhead, WiSK and Moonbeam have remained at Old Thatch, staying with Hemlock and Persephone. Hemlock is suffering from the traumatic events at St. Ann’s and his botched attempt to alter his physical Pattern. Persephone has done her best to heal the resultant injuries, but they run deeper than she expected, seeming to have infested Hemlock’s psyche as well as his body. Strange hallucinations dog his perceptions.

Bruno, meanwhile, has driven back to Manchester to do a spot of dealing in the small hours of the morning. Flushed with success (and no small amount of illicit drugs), he lets himself into Moonbeam’s basement flat at her parents’ house and collapses into a deep and dreamless sleep.

With the demolition of Heyhead to be completed today, Gideon has his work cut out for him. He spends the morning concocting a variety of surveys that show how the plans to demolish St. Aidan’s are flawed on health and safety grounds, and that it should be spared until a sounder approach can be devised. His scientific acumen is enough to convince his superiors to agree to spare the church – but not the rest of Heyhead. This settles it for Gideon. He decides that he is on the wrong side in this fight. With the church spared for now, Giddy resolves to resign.

In the company of Woomish and a pair of police, Gideon carries out his last act as supervisor of Heyhead’s destruction – he comes to Old Thatch and regretfully serves Persephone notice to quit the premises by the end of the week. Woomish plays the neutral mediator, clearly unaware that Gideon and Hemlock have become allies. Persephone accepts the compulsory purchase order with good grace, and Gideon, Woomish and the police depart. They are not the only visitors who will come to Old Thatch that day.

Persephone and Hemlock head to St. Aidan’s to retrieve what little Tass remains there (in the form of holy wafers).

‘Our last harvest,’ Persephone says, ‘unless we can do otherwise.’

Across the village, the bulldozers move in. St. Aidan’s church stands alone as Heyhead dies around it.

Back in Manchester, Bruno finally wakes. Jenny Boswell brings him tea, her face lined with worry. She is used to her daughter staying out until all hours, but the television news has her worried. Moonbeam’s father, Jim, is more concerned about his car. Bruno, through a druggy fog, recalls that Moonbeam drove it to Heyhead. It’s probably still there. He promises to tell her to call home and bring the car back. Then Bruno drinks his tea, and he and Ziggy take his BMW back to Heyhead to rejoin the others.

Gideon heads into the city council offices to tender his resignation. He is sure that the demolition of Heyhead masks some deeper agenda and wants no part of it. The appearance of their mysterious attackers at St. Ann’s has only deepened his suspicions. His immediate superior, Randle, has no time for Giddy’s ethical protestations. He threatens to hold Giddy in breach of contract if Giddy just walks out. Giddy points out that he is giving notice and will stay on for the required term – but after that, he’s done. Randle then threatens to give his job to Lucas Chatwin. Giddy replies that Chatwin is welcome to it. Left with no other option, Randle shares a few choice insults, but is forced to accept Giddy’s resignation.

As Giddy is leaving the building, however, he is called back for an impromptu meeting with the regional manager, Carlos Allende. Allende is a smooth operator, and deploys a considerable charm offensive.

‘You’re not happy with your job, I hear?’ Allende says. ‘Listen. We hired you for a reason, Mr. Gov, and we’d hate to lose you. People of your calibre are hard to find. Is there something we could do? Is it Randle? He is a little unimaginative…’

Giddy cites his concerns once more over how the Heyhead demolition has been handled. He wants no part of the brutality that took place there, much less the contempt shown towards local residents.

‘I completely understand,’ Allende says. ‘Listen, I’ve been thinking, Giddy. You’re obviously streets ahead of Chatwin, Randle and the others. As it happens, there’s an opening in Special Projects and I’m going to put your name to Bob Clerkenwell. He’s a good chap. It’s a grade 3 position, but the salary is just upwards of £30,000 per year. After tax. They’re working on some experimental road surfacing materials and could use someone with your special insight. Does that sound like it might hold your interest?’

After some deliberation, Gideon agrees to stay on with the council. The money is, of course, extremely attractive, and it would be an assignment that allows him to exercise his command of the material world. Mollified by Allende’s charm and his improved prospects, he goes to see what his new assignment holds in store.

Back at Heyhead, Hemlock and Persephone are preparing to leave Old Thatch when they receive another visitor. It is none other than Lucy Medlock, a TV journalist from BBC Northwest. After Louise’s story on the Heyhead riots was published in yesterday’s Manchester Evening News, the BBC have sent one of their own to investigate.

Lucy is keen to build a human interest story, capitalising on Hemlock’s position as a volunteer worker at the church, Persephone as the village’s oldest resident, and so on. Hemlock and Persephone agree to an interview, but find Lucy’s approach somewhat irksome. The woman has clearly come with an editorial direction already in mind – she is keen to portray Gideon as the uncaring face of local government – and presses this angle relentlessly. They give Lucy the interview, then make it clear that they have more pressing business. Lucy departs, promising to give the story real legs, and Persephone reluctantly accepts that she will be the public face of the campaign to save the church.

It starts to rain. As the waters turn Heyhead into a muddy cemetery, a figure emerges from the drizzle, greyly indistinct. He walks up the garden path of Old Thatch and attempts to shake the excess moisture from his trenchcoat and thick hair before knocking at the door.

Persephone opens the door to see Balthazar of Thebes standing on her doorstep.

‘Good morning, old friend,’ he says. ‘How are you keeping?’

Persephone invites him in and they share a warm reunion. It is clear to Hemlock that Balthazar and his grandmother know each other of old. WiSK is surprised but pleased to see the Thebian – this man was present at his Awakening, and he feels a deep connection to him.

Balthazar apologises for not being around the previous day, but explains that he has been busy looking for Malachai all over the region. Balthazar is certain that there is a Labyrinth somewhere in the northwest, possibly containing a Caul. This news concerns Persephone deeply, but neither she nor Balthazar will say any more. Persephone insists that the knowledge is far too dangerous to share at present. They repair to the parlour to discuss the matter more deeply in private.

Hemlock, Moonbeam and WiSK are left to their own devices. Shortly thereafter, Bruno arrives, parking his BMW rather badly in front of the cottage. Unfortunately, he is so stoned that he forgets to tell Moonbeam that her family are deeply worried about her absence (and the absence of their car).

Louise, meanwhile, calls Giddy at work to talk over her investigation. She shares Giddy’s suspicions that there is something amiss with the demolition of Heyhead – the numbers don’t quite add up. But she’s actually calling to ask for a favour.

‘So, I’ve got this interview with that Heilinger woman from the police,’ she says. ‘Remember her’

Giddy doesn’t, unaware that he has met Heilinger since Heyhead.

‘Anyway, I need a favour. Someone at the protest had a camera – this guy called Jez – but he’s really paranoid and wants me to collect them in person. Or someone sent by me. You catch my drift?’

‘You want me us to go and get these photos from Jez?’

‘Please. It would be a big help. The office is going off its trolley with this story.’

Gideon agrees. Louise thanks him gives him her address so he can deliver the photos to her later, then hangs up. Gideon departs for Heyhead, intending to enlist the help of the others.

As the afternoon wears on, the day’s last visitors come to Old Thatch. They are a pair of plain-clothes detectives calling themselves Clarke and Tarantino. Ostensibly, they want to question Persephone and Hemlock regarding what they know about the Heyhead protests. Hemlock and Persephone agree to answer their questions, and Tarantino places a large, expensive-looking tape recorder on the table between them.

The detectives start by addressing the behaviour of the protesters, but soon drift into stranger territory. They ask what is so valuable about St. Aidan’s that motivates the villagers. They want to know about the relics taken to St. Ann’s. And then they produce a photograph of WiSK and ask if he is known to Persephone and Hemlock.

Alarmed by this turn of events, Persephone and Hemlock lie. After what happened at St. Ann’s, they are unsure who they can trust. And realising that WiSK is in danger, they elect to protect him. Hemlock says he saw him in Heyhead and thinks that his name is Barry. Tarantino and Clarke clearly suspect that Hemlock and Persephone are hiding something, but there is little they can do at present. They depart, making it clear that there will be consequences if it turns out that they have been lied to.

WiSK, listening from the next room, thanks his hosts once the detectives have gone. Persephone says to think nothing of it. There are sinister forces at work, and the mages of the Traditions should stick together. WiSK has no idea what she is talking about, but remains grateful.

Shortly thereafter, Gideon arrives and the others fill him in on what has happened throughout the day. Struck by the creeping escalation of events, he completely forgets to mention Louise’s favour and instead suggests that Hemlock, Persephone and WiSK come and stay at his flat in Manchester. With the Heyhead demolition all but complete, he is planning to leave his suite at the Excelsior hotel anyway. They agree. Moonbeam, Bruno and Balthazar join them for the evening.

The group depart Heyhead, with Persephone and Hemlock saying a sad farewell to Old Thatch, and drive into Manchester in Bruno’s BMW and Moonbeam’s dad’s car. Those travelling in the BMW are subjected to the quiet scrutiny of Bruno’s cat, Ziggy.

‘He’s my accountant,’ Bruno explains.

At Gideon’s flat on Tenby Avenue, they watch riots break out across Manchester. The police aggression at Heyhead has woken a simmering anger in the city, fuelled by Louise’s firebrand reporting and Lucy Medlock’s feature on the evening news.

While the others watch the news, WiSK tries to talk with Bruno. Bruno is largely disinterested in pretty much anything WiSK has to say – he pays more attention to Ziggy – and the conversation is stilted and awkward. Bruno also soon discovers that he has problems of his own.

His vision goes blurry and the ends of his fingers and toes go numb. He feels something squirming around behind his eyes – it is filthy and horridly personal. He gags and goes rigid – Ziggy hisses and backs away. A shudder wracks Bruno, as if he has swallowed something particularly distasteful. His jaws work frantically, but only strangled noises are squeezed through his clenched teeth. Suddenly, he speaks.

‘I’m still here! You promised me. You said you’d help me. You fucking promised!’

Bruno, locked within his own mind, struggles to make sense of the experience. In his inner eye, he sees the ghostly form of Derek arise before him, eyes black and bleeding.

‘They’ve taken him,’ Derek snarls. ‘Arrested him. Who’s going to help me now?’

Bruno realises that Derek is referring to Baz. Of course, he is unable to reply.

‘Help me, or you’ll be sorry. You’ll be so fucking sorry.’

The words hang ominously in the air, infusing the moment with their dire message, then Derek is gone. Bruno realises that he is his own man once more. WiSK stares in horror at Bruno. Unsure what to make of this, Bruno refuses to discuss it.

Gideon goes online, accessing chatrooms and bulletin boards to see what local chatter says about the situation. He is soon contacted by a pair of self-confessed urban provocateurs calling themselves D-Res and JaNet, who seem to know who he is. They quiz him on his motivations for interfering with the demolition of St. Aidan’s, mock him for his ineptitude with his computer, and outright call him a technomancer. Gideon realises that he is interacting with other mages who seem to be able to remotely access his computer.

Giddy explains that he knows what the church is. A Node. And he knows that something valuable was taken from St. Aidan’s to St. Ann’s. A relic of some sort. Not only that, but an attack on St. Ann’s led to the loss of the relic. D-Res takes this on board, then suggests that Gideon and his friends get the relic back. Back from the real technomancers. Then he calls Giddy a flat-head and kills the connection.

Moonbeam decides that they need more information. In an act of stunning audacity, she hacks the Greater Manchester Police computer network and looks for information on recent events. She discovers a number of alarming things.

Firstly, she find pictures of the woman called Heilinger – and realises that it is the same woman who led the assault on St. Ann’s. Whoever their enemies are, they are deeply embedded in local law enforcement. She also discovers the address of a safehouse that Heilinger is using on New Wakefield Street.

Further to this, she discovers that both Bruno and “Barry” are wanted by the police. Bruno is wanted for dealing drugs at the Salisbury (an incident that resulted in the death of the hapless student he sold LSD to), and WiSK is wanted for the murder of a local gangland hood at the Hacienda nightclub. Moonbeam also sees that Hemlock and Persephone are tagged as persons of special interest, but is unable to access the files related to that.

Gideon says that Louise was going to interview Heilinger, and finally remembers that she asked the group to collect some photos for her and deliver them to her home. Bruno (now deep into a day of creative drug use) becomes concerned for Louise’s safety and asks Gideon for her address. Gideon gives it to him. This does not prove to be a wise decision.

Bruno hurries out of the flat, leaps into his BMW and careens across the city. He screeches to a halt outside Louise’s flat and hammers on the door. A man answers. Bruno, tripping his nuts off, fears the worst. He attacks the man, ties him up with his belt, and crams him into a cupboard. Then he sits in vigil, waiting for further assailants to arrive.

Louise returns home within the hour. When Bruno explains what has happened, she is horrified. The man in the cupboard is her landlord – she shares her flat with him. Louise frees her landlord from the cupboard and Bruno, filled with embarrassment, flees. He hurries back to his BMW and drives back to Giddy’s flat. Ziggy makes fun of him all the way back.

Bruno arrives back late at night and finds the others preparing to leave Gideon’s flat. They have decided to strike at the safehouse on New Wakefield Street and retrieve the diary. Persephone and Balthazar explain that the people who attacked St. Ann’s – Heilinger’s team – are members of a conspiracy known as the Ivory Tower. Composed of technomantic mages, the Ivory Tower seeks to control or even eradicate those who follow mystical traditions. Their theft of the diary is clearly part of just such an agenda.

Hemlock convinces his grandmother not to accompany them on the attack, fearing that it will prove too dangerous. Reluctantly, she agrees – Hemlock is still in the throes of strange hallucinations and she does not want to exacerbate his emotional state. The group leaves Persephone at Giddy’s flat and heads to a nearby pub to come up with a plan. Giddy takes his car and Bruno drives his iconic battered green BMW.

Once at the pub, Moonbeam suggests entering the safehouse via the spirit world, but it soon becomes clear that nobody else can cross into the Umbra. She then turns to her spirit guide for help, but there is only so much her grandmother’s ghost can do – and bringing people into the spirit world is beyond her. Moonbeam is frustrated at the lack of solid assistance her guide can offer, and broods in silence.

‘You should be able to visit the Umbra with Correspondence,’ Gideon complains. ‘Spirit is just a crap Sphere.’

Bruno makes more jokes about the others being in touch with their inner dolphins. He realises that they all have very distinctive smells and wonders if he is still tripping. So he heads off to the pub toilet to smoke an enormous joint to calm his nerves.

Louise, meanwhile, phones Gideon on his Nokia to ask if they have retrieved the photos from Jez. Gideon explains that something else has come up. Louise seems annoyed, and tells Gideon what Bruno has done to her landlord before hanging up. When Gideon tells the others, they greet the news with varying degrees of dismay. Hemlock is convinced that Bruno is insane, but WiSK finds himself coming to Bruno’s defence.

‘He needs guidance, Hemlock,’ WiSK says, ‘not just leaving to his own devices.’

The mages (plus Bruno) settle on a plan after much discussion. They decide to harness their own chaotic elements and use them against the Ivory Tower. Bruno will tip his entire supply of LSD into the safehouse’s water supply. When the drug begins to take effect, the mages will make a hard entry, retrieve the diary, then escape.

They scope out the safehouse using their nascent magical abilities, then put their plan into action.

The incursion starts well. They dump the LSD in the water supply and use magic to nudge it through the building, subtly tweaking coincidence so that the safehouse’s inhabitants slake their thirst on the tainted water. Then they wait for the drug to take effect. They don’t have to wait very long. Fairly soon, the sound of psychedelic consternation filters down to the street. The mages strike.

Wielding gunfire and witchery, they force their way into the safehouse. Gideon uses his Matter Arts to collapse the ceiling and the mages drop into the rooms below. They meet spirited opposition, both from enlightened technomancers and black-clad enforcers. Hemlock, still struggling with the after-effects of the fight at St. Ann’s, is nevertheless able to locate the diary in a small laboratory. Bruno and the Thebian lay down withering covering fire – the former with his shotgun, the latter with an amulet that fires blasts of primal energy. Gideon and the others face off against Heilinger and her associates – briefly identified as Cassault, Ivanov and Yung. The mages hold their own until the cyborg – called Blake by his colleagues – bursts onto the scene.

Against an opponent this powerful, the mages are no match. Heavily outgunned, they are forced to beat a fighting retreat. While Hemlock scrambles for safety with the diary, Gideon takes a desperate gamble to cover their escape: he causes a tightly-focused gas explosion in the building.

The devastation is shocking. It levels the safehouse, fills New Wakefield Street with burning debris, shattering glass and cracking brickwork along the road. Yung manages to escape seconds before the blast, but Heilinger, Cassault, Blake and Ivanov are all killed.

The mages flee, flushed with victory but shocked at how rapidly the conflict escalated. Bruno dumps his shotgun in one of Manchester’s canals, then they return to Gideon’s flat to assess what has happened.

The diary, although intact, has a strange grey disc attached to it. Persephone and Balthazar confirm that it is some kind of fetter designed to defend the book from people unauthorised to read it. In this case, the device would likely attack any would-be-readers with a high-powered electrical charge, possibly also damaging the book. Balthazar says he has seen something like this in the libraries of somewhere called Doissetep. He offers to examine the book and device more closely to see what he can do about it.

The mages agree to his offer and the Thebian heads up into Giddy’s attic to work in peace. The mages wait. And wait. And wait. By the time that the sky is beginning to lighten outside, they decide that Balthazar has had enough time to do whatever he is doing and Gideon heads up into the attic to see what the results of the investigation are.

The Thebian is nowhere to be found. And nor is the diary.

It doesn’t take the mages long to realise that Balthazar has betrayed them and stolen the diary. Moonbeam confirms this when she uses her Arts to look back into the near past. She sees Balthazar remove the device and start reading the book. Amazement fills his features and, shortly thereafter, he takes the diary and steps into the spirit world with it.

As the mages are trying to come to terms with the Thebian’s treachery (Persephone in particular is deeply hurt by her old friend’s behaviour), there is a knock at the door. When Gideon answers the door, he comes face to face with the smirking features of a dark-eyed man in a turtle-neck sweater. WiSK immediately recognises the newcomer as Malachai, and Persephone likewise seems to know who this is.

‘Good morning,’ Malachai says. ‘I am an acquaintance of the Thebian. May I come in?’

Bruno arrives in the hallway and finds himself snarling. A fouls stench rolls off Malachai and it is all that Bruno can do to keep his temper.

‘Please, be at peace,’ Malachai says. ‘I have a suggestion for your dilemma that will benefit all parties concerned.’ He gives a nasty smile. ‘Well, apart from our Egyptian friend.’

Gideon asks what Malachai wants. Malachai says that he will help the group find the Thebian and recover the diary. In return, they will help him kill Balthazar.

Persephone insists that this is a terrible idea. ‘Banes cluster about him,’ she says. ‘He is tainted. Show some sense and bid him begone.’

Gideon heeds Persephone’s advice (and also Bruno’s growing anger) and declines Malachai’s offer. Malachai bows politely and departs. He offers Persephone a glare filled with promise as he leaves.

‘I think I must have been a dog in a past life,’ Bruno remarks, as Gideon shuts the door.

With Malachai and the Thebian both gone, and with their destruction of an Ivory Tower safehouse looming over them, the mages know that their enemies are more powerful than they had imagined. Whatever else is true, they know that they have spread ripples throughout their world. What changes those ripples bring, remains to be seen…



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