A (WINTER) ROSE HAS THORNS
After catching their breath in ERIC LAUFEY’S front lawn the party convinced him to get in their van as they took the severely wounded IVAN IVANOVICH to the hospital. ZEBADIAH EINAR and STACY KEENE treated Eric’s wounds while questioning him. Zeb also tried to surreptitiously take a sample of Laufey’s blood in case they wanted to track him later. Laufey, being no fool, noticed this and got understandably defensive. After much discussion and bargaining with SILVIO KHLORES Laufey agreed to owe him a favor with Right of Refusal if he would destroy the blood samples. Silvio agreed and used his powers over nature to cause all the blood Laufey had left on the van’s interior to grow over with fungus and vanish. After dropping Ivan off at the overworked hospital they took Eric to SINGARD JARLSON’S house and got some answers from him while on the way.
Eric admited that he was hired by BLACK AGNES although he hadn’t known her name. And he didn’t want to know. She was riding in a limo though. She had given Eric the creeps but he agreed to contract out a job to steel the CAULDRON OF STONEHAVEN from WILLIAM WEST’S collection. Eric also said that she wasn’t exactly what she seemed. He said that at one point he could have sworn that the old hag was asking for help. But it wasn’t the hag. He got the weird impression that it was a beautiful young woman with dark hair. But then the hag seemed to regain her control and angrily left. Put the fear of Odin into him though. He figured someone might have been possessing her.
He explained that once he had the Cauldron he was supposed to meet Agnes right outside of Windemere Park. Which is where the ritual that released SAWNEY BEAN was performed.
At this point they arrived at Jarlson’s house. He came to the door and screamed at Eric asking him if he had anything to do with the earthquake and the storms. Eric replied that of course he had nothing to do with it. To which OSAMU NISHIMURA called out that, yes, he had a little bit to do with it. Singard smacked Eric upside the head but let him into the house as the party drove away.
The van’s old AM radio reported that, due to rioting and looting in Seattle, Martial Law had been declared. People were to remain in their homes until emergency services could reach them with new instructions. The temperatures had also dropped precipitously going below freezing. Silvio, because of his deep ties to nature, realized that this unseasonable weather wasn’t supernatural in and of itself. It was just nature trying to compensate for the unnatural storms that had lashed the city before the quake.
Silvio’s phone rang as the party headed back to the UNIVERSITY DISTRICT. It was KAROLYNN KENNEDY on the line and she seemed scared. She asked Silvio if he could ask Zeb if she could stay at the house until the danger was over? There was so much violence and fighting and she was terrified. Zeb’s house would be the safest port in the disaster ravaged city of Seattle. Silvio said that of course she should stay there. Zeb had asked Silvio into his home and Silvio’s home was Kennedy’s home! Zeb grumbled but didn’t say anything to contradict Silvio’s claim on his house!
Karolynn seemed relieved and then said that a beautiful woman named DELILAH MONTAGUE was just at Zeb’s house and wanted to speak with him. She said she would be back at around 3pm. It was important apparently.
She had also seen LUCY SMITH-EINAR about an hour before that. She was really angry about something and scared Kennedy a little. She meekly asked if she should try to keep Lucy at the house if she showed up again. Zeb told her not to do so. And suspicion chilled his heart as he considered Laufey’s information. Could his daughter be somehow involved in this madness? He told Kennedy that he would be home soon and told her to stay there.
They dropped Silvio off at MAGGIE SIMPKINS’ apartment. She too was terrified. Luckily she lived in a secured apartment because she had seen some rioters attempt to break into the heavy security gate. It scared her. They were acting crazy she said. Silvio managed to sooth her fears and offered to stay and protect her. She agreed and Silvio made her some herbal tea that knocked her out. He then opened a passage to his demesne and spirited her into it. He used his magic to ensure that she would sleep for a while and left her there under his protection. He returned from the Nevernever and decided to head over to Zeb’s house.
Zeb and Osamu along with STACY KEENE stopped by the park where Eric claimed he was to meet with Black Agnes and looked around. They found nothing of interest there but they did hear the sounds of concussion grenades and fighting echo across the city as police tried to quell the riots that were raging throughout the U-district. They then headed home.
They arrived to find the house immaculate, sandwiches and salads in the kitchen and even some chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Kennedy was obviously dealing with the stress through perpetual motion. Everyone went immediately to the kitchen to dig into the spread. Except for Zeb. He obviously wasn’t too suspicious but he decided to err on the side of caution and asked Karolynn to accompany him to his laboratory in the basement.
She followed him downstairs and he told her to step into the circle. He wanted to check something. She balked and nervously asked him why he wanted her in the circle. Keeping his cards close to the vest Zeb said that it was nothing but he really needed her to get into the circle. She meekly agreed and started to move toward it.
But at the last second, catching Zeb completely by surprise, she turned and BLACK AGNES’S spirit flowed out of Karolynn and tried to possess the old wizard with a shriek! The battle was a psychic one and completely silent so no one above would hear it. Karolynn’s body dropped to the floor and Zeb realized that he had made a major mistake. He could not hope to prevail against a spirit as powerful as Agnes. His only chance lay in being smarter. Zeb did a lot of work in his lab over the years and he had installed a powerful sprinkler system in the laboratory in case he needed to put out a fire or ground out some magic experiment that had gotten out of his control. Luckily, running water also grounds out spirits. He activated his emergency sprinklers and with a shriek Agnes fled Zeb’s house going up through the kitchen floor scaring the crap out of the rest of the group who were happily devouring the food that Karolynn/Agnes had made for them.
Zeb ran up the stairs into the kitchen and told them to stop eating. Black Agnes had prepared the food while in possession of Karolynn! Osamu, covered in crumbs from the excellent sandwiches turned pale while Stacy spit out a mouthful of cookies. Silvio slowly and deliberately put down the salad he had been about to eat.
Zeb explained what had happened and they went down to check on Karolynn. She was lying on the floor her eyes wide open and her mouth fixed in a scream that she didn’t quite seem capable of uttering. It was as if she had been hollowed out and the only part of her soul that was left was suffering unendurable pain. Stacy determined that she was breathing freely though and wasn’t in danger of dying any time soon.
While she was doing her examination Stacy discovered the BOOK OF THE OUTER DARK. In her excitement she immediately grabbed the book and felt vast magics course through her. But it was as if a powerful gun had clicked on an empty chamber. The book could have done her considerable harm but was missing a vital component. Stacy looked at Karolynn’s vacant, pain filled eyes and felt very, very fortunate that her haste hadn’t caused her to end up the same way.
At that moment they heard a gentle knocking at the front door. THE GATEKEEPER asked and gained permission to enter Zeb’s house. Rashid explained that whoever had stolen the BOOK OF THE OUTER DARK was going to attempt a ritual to open a passage for the OUTSIDER alternately known as Leviathan, The Midgard Serpent and At’tos by the natives of this region. To do this an Avatar was needed in this reality to summon the god forth. The Avatar would perish in the ritual so it had never been very likely to happen as most servants of the Outsiders were too selfish for such sacrifice.
The last time this was attempted was in Scotland by SAWNEY BEAN. It is said that Bean could attack the minds of any who approach him turning them into his thralls. Once they had succumbed to his madness there was no hope to save them. It was said that the spirit of Bean’s wife BLACK AGNES resides in the BOOK OF THE OUTER DARK and that she would possess whoever read it unless they took the proper precautions. But he imagined that they knew this already as he had just witnessed her angry spirit emerge through the roof and fly off into the night. Stacy shuddered and realized that she had just dodged a bullet. The Gatekeeper then said that he must go. He must prepare secondary defenses in case Zeb failed to stop Bean and his madness.
Zeb, realizing that Kennedy was doomed no matter what happened because she had gained knowledge of the Outsiders from the Codex, made a decision. Karolynn was suffering and he would end it. He mixed a potion and gave it to her and KAROLYNN KENNEDY died in her sleep. Zeb couldn’t face what he had had to do but Stacy held Kennedy’s hand until she breathed her last. Later when they were both upstairs Osamu noticed their somber expressions and asked what was wrong. Zeb announced that Karolynn was dead and Osamu, seeing the guilt on the old Warden’s face, demanded to know how she died. After a heated discussion Osamu conceded to Zeb’s decision and let the matter drop. But it was evident that Kennedy’s death would haunt all of the people involved in the future.
Delilah Montague arrived right on time in a police cruiser along with a uniformed officer escorting her. Zeb invited her in and while she did not use her powers of persuasion all present were astonished at her natural beauty. After pleasantries were exchanged and dead bodies were noted she got down to business. She reported that Seattle’s fire and police departments were completely overwhelmed dealing with the flooding caused by the storm while trying to dig survivors out of the rubble of collapsed buildings.
What was even more alarming was that there had been riots in the U-district that the police could barely contain. In fact there were instances of their own officers joining the rioters. People were going insane and attacking everyone around them. It seemed to be spreading from there.
At this point she pulled out an I-pad and showed a grainy surveillance video from a grocery store:
Everything seemed normal when suddenly all the people clutched their heads and started screaming. Then they started ripping each other apart devouring whoever was nearby. It was horrific. The scene ended with one lone woman who had resisted the madness being cornered by the survivors. She was a bit different looking and Silvio realized that she was a Changeling. She fought desperately but in the end she was overwhelmed and torn to pieces. Those left standing out of the dozens in the store then all turned as one and left.
The police obviously could not handle the situation and the National Guard was being mobilized and would arrive in the next couple of days. The situation must be contained before then or the loss of life could be catastrophic. LORD MONTAGUE would take whatever steps were necessary to keep the supernatural secret from the government. That could mean dealing with the leaders of the military and which would be disastrous. With that in mind he had called a conclave of all of the supernatural leaders in Seattle at midnight in a secure office on the SEATTLE WATERFRONT.
She relayed that Montague also would ask a favor of them. Tensions between the Red Court Vampires in PIONEER SQUARE and THE PACK led by DOZER had ratcheted up. If they started a full scale war with TREY WELLINGTON and his gang of fools it could well tear the whole city apart. She asked Zeb and his group to diffuse the situation. Zeb balked at first because he felt that stopping SAWNEY BEAN was more important and he wouldn’t have time to deal with this. But Delilah revealed that THE PACK found some bodies on one of their properties in the UNIVERSITY DISTRICT and suspected it is the work of the RCVs attempting to frame them. She thought it was more likely that Sawney Bean was involved. Zeb agreed. Delilah gave him the address and said they must first meet with DOZER to gain access to the warehouse. He had agreed to meet with LORD MONTAGUE’S representatives. With that she stood up and left. She had a busy schedule and many people to meet with.
With the meeting not until midnight the group decided to visit ODIANNA OF WINTER as MR. SQUIRE suggested to see what information she may be able to provide them. They arrived at her nightclub that afternoon after skirting the ongoing riots and destruction left by the flood and quake. After Osamu attempted to converse with the creepy gargoyles that guarded the entrance into the Masquerade they decided to ring the doorbell. Squire showed up to escort them up to the third floor of the two story building to have an audience with the WINTERROSE.
Once across the threshold Silvio and Zeb realized immediately that they were in the NEVERNEVER. Odiana’s demense most likely. They entered a beautiful hall made out of a cathedral of pines decked out with Celtic swirls with heads displayed on them. There was a throne carved out of an ancient oak tree where Lady Odiana sat. Snow fell slowly to the ground.
Odiana addressed each of the characters in turn and was particularly fascinated by Osamu. A man of peace with blood stains on his hands? After a lengthy dialogue she got him to admit that he enjoyed triumphing over his enemies. That it was thrilling. This seemed to match her own savage philosophy and satisfied her curiosity.
Silvio received a warm and respectful greeting considering his position in the Seelie Court. Zeb did not however. Odiana’s exile was Zeb’s doing after all. His love affair with Fern Frost (Jack Frost’s daughter and Odiana’s charge as handmaiden) caused her great embarrassment. She vowed to have Zeb’s heart on a plate! And she would roast Stacy as well as his accomplice! The rites of courtesy and perhaps Squires gentle insistence were the only reasons Odiana restrained her anger.
After calming down a bit she said that Sawney Bean was a Red Cap who had made a bargain with mysterious dark forces that even Mab respected. He was eventually hunted down and destroyed by a combination of Winter and Summer Fae and a human army. He feeds on madness. He can cause it and once he has driven a person mad he feeds on their essence utterly destroying them. Few minds could stand against his power which was nurtured for 30 years with ritual cannibalism. However, she could provide protection to them. Blooms from the WINTERROSE. She was willing to give them to the group. For a price. From each individual she made a trade. Osamu and Stacy promised her two favors apiece with the RIGHT OF REFUSAL and Silvio promised to share Odiana’s bed and give her any child that might result.
From Zeb she gathered a promise of pain. He agreed that for one day he will allow her to inflict whatever pain she might wish. As long as there was no permanent damage. Agreeing to these terms she required her agent, MATHEW RILEY, accompany the group. He would return the blooms to her when the job was done. With the bargain struck Odiana plucked 4 blooms from the Winterrose and gifted each one of them with its magic. The magnificent blooms became intricate necklaces that she put around each of their necks. Odiana warned them as they departed that the Winterrose will not last forever against Bean’s madness and bid them good night.