The Secret Garden

Chapter Thirty-Three: "Home Truths"

Buried Secrets

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.’

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 queen Funkadelia – phear my phat beats,’ 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. ‘For the free pizza,’ 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 all da ladies in da house,’ 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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