With a flourish JACK YOUNGBLOOD, wearing a outrageous rockabilly tuxedo, Elvis sunglasses, his battered combat boots and his hair spiked up in a spectacularly punk fashion, imbued the circle of magic he had prepared for The Game with his power, sealing all the players inside and cutting them off from outside energies.
SILVIO KHLORES had gone all out for the event with the table seemingly grown out of the ground from a gorgeous wood that featured intricate scrolling and relief including scenes of debauchery and sex. Each seat for the players was tailor made them and featured a flower that matched their unique natures. The location of the table was in a setting that would put fabled gardens of Versailles to shame. The Duke of Flowers certainly lived up to his name and his demesne was a glorious place to behold.
Before beginning Jack explained to all present that he would not tolerate cheating of any kind and would deal with cheaters in a very harsh manner. He glared in particular at TREY WELLINGTON who stared back with unbridled insolence before giving ERIC LAUFEY a meaningful stare. Eric looked completely innocent and somewhat indignant but given his reputation he wasn’t fooling anyone. Jack drove his point home by casting a spell as a slight demonstration of his power. Each of the card players felt a twinge of pain showing that the young Warden had obviously done his homework and was prepared for anything they might try. Jack then began to deal the cards to the seven players:
BARONETTE MYST started the game off by doing a very credible job of playing a worthless fop convincing TREVOR RADCLIFFE that he was harmless. Wellington wasted no time though. He obviously saw DETECTIVE ROY MULLENIX’S daughter MEGAN MULLENIX as an easy mark. His arrogance was quite evident as he tried to intimidate the young lady out of the game referring to her as cattle and talking about how “food should know its place”. Although she wasn’t ruffled by Wellington’s attacks LIEF WOTENSEN boosted her confidence with some well timed compliments while he was obviously gunning to take Myst out of the game. He was not successful as Myst easily saw through his bluff. Meanwhile, ERIC LAUFEY, in a bad luck streak that shocked all who knew him was the first to lose all of his chips.
It seemed that Myst believed Radcliffe was his deepest rival because he went after him hard but did not manage to ruffle his feathers or learn much about him in any way. LORD MONTAGUE played it conservatively, slowly but steadily increasing his chips. Wellington again went after Megan and she goaded him into going all in on a particularly contested hand. The vampire, thinking that he had her cowed, was completely shocked when she turned out to have a Straight Flush after all. Cursing her and promising to make her pay he was the second to be taken out at the table. But, unlike the son of Loki, he decided to do something about it besides availing himself of the excellent bar Silvio had provided.
Having prepared for the possibility of losing the match the Red Court Vampire had laid a trail of pheromones for his minions that would allow them track his location in the Nevernever. What he didn’t realize was that Jack had heard about this little plan from some of his spirit contacts and used wind magic to alter the path of Wellington’s trail. The red court vampires were quite surprised when the trail they followed led them to the heart of the Realm of Eternal Sunrise. They did not survive the experience. During a short break Jack informed the players that a small incursion had been attempted by some vampires and told them all how he had dealt with it. He was glaring at Wellington the whole time. The two traded insults and the arrogant red court vampire stormed off.
The recess over the game began again. Megan got things started by tricking Myst into pouncing too soon taking a huge win off of him while Radcliffe deceived Montague to stop playing conservatively also coming out a winner. Myst was unable to recover from his losses and telling them all that they will “rue the day” he skulked off from the table.
Leif, thinking Montague was vulnerable, went after him but was unsuccessful against the wily White Court Vampire. He took heart in the fact that he IS the son of Odin though and remained unrattled by his losses. Meanwhile, Megan again played on an opponent’s arrogance and took a huge pot from Radcliffe. Leif, seeing a chance to take down another opponent and insure Megan’s victory, managed to beat Radcliffe in a game winning with a One Eyed Jack that he attributed to the All Father’s grace. Megan then seeing that Monty would not fall for her “innocent victim” act after she had brought down so many at the table decided to play like she was getting overconfident. The White Court Vampire saw right through her though he wasn’t really in a position to win the game given Megan’s huge gains.
During a short recess the vampire made a proposal to Lief. He would concede the match to Megan if Leif bowed out as well. He could tell that the young man had been doing his best to make sure she won. This would put the Son of Odin into his debt. Leif was sorely tempted by the offer. After all his visions had shown Megan having the most positive impact if she was the winner. But in the end he turned Montague down.
When the game began again, Lief concentrated on his most licentious fantasies with all his might distracting the vampire lord. This allowed the young lady to defeat Montague. Leif, after some thought, allowed Megan to beat him and win the Falcon.
With the game over and Megan declared the victor Ronin passed his prize to Megan and Roy’s custody and they take it to the detective’s house. They planned to deliver it to a Venatori Umborium safe house the next morning. In the meantime they decided to celebrate!!! Before departing, Ronin handed Osamu a card with two phone numbers – one printed and one written by hand.
While at the party Leif hit on Megan while she seemed to have eyes for Jack. Jack seemed distracted which his friends attributed to his recent run in with his lost love ABIGAIL WHARTON. So Megan ended up spending a fun filled evening with the son of Odin.
They were wrong about Jack’s distraction though. The Warden had cast an illusion using spirit magic of his friend OSAMU NISHIMURA (西村修) making it seem like he was attending the celebration. Luckily, this wasn’t too difficult given the monk’s quiet nature.
Jack had promised to help MATHEW “WOOF” RILEY acquire the statue so his mistress, ODIANNA OF WINTER, wouldn’t torture the ex-SEAL. But Jack didn’t relish the idea of the Winter Fae gaining the power the statue could provide. So he planned on stealing it.
As he had learned when initially researching the item if it wasn’t given as a gift or won in a fair contest the Faclon would not provide the thief with its power. By stealing the statue and giving it to Riley he would make sure his friend wasn’t punished by the Exiled Handmaiden and that she wouldn’t gain its power. To that end he recruited Osamu to go to Roy’s house and break into his safe. What he didn’t count on was Roy’s paranoia.
Cloaking himself in shadows, Osamu was able to sneak into the house without disturbing Roy’s wife or children. Although what he didn’t realize was that he was captured by well placed security cameras. He used his enhanced strength to rip the safe door off its hinges. But the statue wasn’t there. Roy had moved it to a hidden safe that Osamu couldn’t find. Osamu decided at that point to meet up with the rest of the group and let Jack know what happened. Realizing that any hope he had of stealing the statue and saving his friend would vanish unless he did it that night Jack left the celebration a bit early and tore off for Roy’s house.
Jack was no stranger to breaking into houses using both mundane and mystical means. And he had an additional edge since he had been invited into Roy’s home on more than one occasion so his magic would be viable past the home’s threshold. Using a Veil he crept into the house and found Roy’s hidden safe using his Sight. The statue stood out like a lighthouse beacon in his eyes. He made sure to hex the cameras in the house and clean up Osamu’s fingerprints before he cracked the safe and gathered the Falcon, making a clean getaway. He contacted Riley and told him that he had the statue and was ready to make the exchange.
When Roy came home and discovered the statue missing he went immediately to his security system to check to see what had happened. When he noted that the electronics seemed all to have failed spectacularly he was immediately suspicious of Jack. The detective had tried to build a case against Jack many times back in the days before Jack had cleaned up his act and the two of them had started working together. He recognized the signs that Jack, or a wizard of similar ability, was behind the theft.
He dialed Jack’s house and angrily confronted the Young Warden about the theft. Jack, never one to react well to ultimatums, told the detective in a knee jerk reaction to “Fuck off” and hung up on him. The wizard couldn’t let the detective know that he was responsible for stealing the statue because if he did, and Roy and Megan decided to willingly give Riley the statue, then Odiana would be able to access its power.
Roy checked the security footage again and caught the shadowy form sneaking into the house and recognized him despite the cloak of shadows. After all he had seen Osamu use that ability often enough. When he called the monk and confronted him with the evidence he confessed without hesitation to breaking his safe but explained that he wasn’t able to steal the statue. Roy asked if Jack did it. Osamu answered honestly that he didn’t know since Jack had said nothing to him about his intentions when he left the celebration. When the detective called his superior in the Venatori, RONALD PARKER Esq. IV, and gave his report he didn’t give the young warden up. Roy had come to see that Jack was truly a changed man and knew he had to have a good reason for doing what he had done. Roy was torn between his duty to the Venatori and his loyalty to his friend.
Riley woke up in the middle of the night and instinctively grabbed for the pistol he kept hidden under his pillow. It was then that he noticed the Falcon statue sitting on his bed stand. Shaking his head at Jack’s need to show off he picked up a phone and dialed MR. SQUIRE to inform him that he had acquired the Item of Power.
When he dropped it off his mistress, Odianna, was quite pleased with him. She even went so far as to say that this made up for what he did for ZEBADIAH EINAR when he was being tortured by her in her demense at the end of the THE CAULDRON OF MURDER 9. It turns out that the ex-SEAL had stopped Zeb from eating Odiana’s faerie food during a moment of weakness. He had knocked the apple out of the old wizard’s hand and had given him a candy bar which saved the warden from an eternity of slavery to the Exiled Handmaiden. And he had been suffering for his heroism ever since. Odiana told him he could retain the Barret Anti-material Rifle as reward and bade him to leave her. The last he saw of the fabled Maltese Falcon was it glowing brightly and suddenly all the tarnished dark metal burned off revealing a beautiful bright golden statue.