The familia receives a request from the Cammora to find and return a number of diseased individuals that were on the way to Locus Analisel. Tracking the Noble of Disease, Ilse of the familia of the angel Sariel, to Russia, the Nobles engage in negotiations with this newly made pawn, and Vex agrees to owe her a future Hard miracle in payment for her divination. The plague bearers are found in the city, and they turn out to have some bizarre illness that attacks their spirit itself, weakening their soul's ties to the body. They are all killed and handed over to Mr. Gzalt, resulting in a boon owed by the Cammora.
Discovering a tomb in the chancel graveyard newly made of towering mirrored glass, the familia investigates for few answers besides discovering that the spirit of the new tomb is very vain. Vex sends a spy off on an errand as the Nobles learn of a meteor that suddenly is being reported where none had been known of before. When Natalie goes to Tina's meteor-watching party, she sees that the Kelsey-Laughlin meteor is, in fact, a falling angel. Rushing to the site of impact, the familia discovers that Michael has now enchancelled from wounds suffered, presumably in the Valde Bellum, and empowered at least one individual. The powers are turned away until a less trying time as the city of Brighton is reshaped into a fortified chancel.
Kestral: It's not talking, I'm throwing
my voice. See...
Vex: . . . . . . . . aaaah.
After initial wanderings, the familia looks into the summoning so prevalent in their chancel, as well as signing up for a high-level physics class at their university to torment the professor. Getting a demon that looks like nothing so much as a large winged toad, they banish it before it can talk Natalie into bartering with it. As the Lonely Ones leave the chancel for some kind of meeting or party in London, Natalie leads the familia in trick-or-treating where they discover an unnatural band of children with bloody sockets rather than eyes. Trailing one, they track him to the heart of the sewers beneath the city, where he seems intent on discovering something. After some inarticulate growls and snorts, he dies unexpectedly and is washed away into wherever the chancel's deepest sewers lead.
After the Nobles try and fail once more to get useful information from the spirit of the mirror tomb the day begins with a major discussion about the war against Iraq, which was started the previous week. Natalie thinks that the war is a bad idea, and wants to stop it, while Vex is more happy about the idea of all the spying that goes on when countries are at war. As a compromise, he establishes a Major Creation of Inquisitiveness about the war in the hearts of UN officials, government officials of UN countries, reporters, elementary school teachers, and US dissident groups. Visiting DC to see how the effects of the miracle are turning out, Vex checks in with one of his operatives and then, inscrutable, leaves a White House tour. He discovers that the President is proof against incidental direct miracles, or at least has some kind of shielding, but afflicts his secretary with a dark curiosity which Vex hopes to use for blackmail later.
Returning home, the Nobles engage in some shenanigans with Vex's new ninjas, and Kestral assigns Herald to study with Vex after rescuing him from being slowly devoured by a botched summoning. Herald quickly determines that Vex has no idea how a group of ninjas should behave or be trained, and so he heads to the library to create a research paper on the issue. The next day, Election Day, Natalie's divination of the strength of the various Reigns in the country indicates that the Democratic party is likely to lose against the Republicans during this wartime election. Therefore, she sets out to meet the various Democrats of Washington State in order to Preserve their reigns. Unfortunately, Governor Locke is sequestered in meetings all day, and can't be reached by an eight year old girl whose only explanation is that he would really like to see her. After Vex enacts some more mad hijinx to attempt to get the governor to come out, and fails at this goal, Natalie gives up and goes home, swearing an eternal hatred for the Power of Politics (who she has never met).
Suspecting that the power of Mirrors might be able to shed some light on the recalcitrant tomb, the Nobles set out to discover if they can get in touch with this power. Unfortunately, they only know two other familia, and are loathe to wake their Imperator again for something as simple as asking for an address. One of the Lonely Ones might know a few other Nobles, but the psychic vampires are all still apparently in London for their party. Therefore, they decide that their next best bet is to ask the Power of Glass whether he has met his mirrored counterpart, and they head off towards the Russian steppes to Sariel's familia. It turns out that Sliver, despite being a real jerk, does not admit to having any idea who the power of Mirrors is. Vex, around this point, decides that he's going to make it a new goal to assemble a list of the Nobilis to make it easier to get in touch (and, likely, because he has a very limited circle of people to nettle right now). The familia decides that they are going to throw a Nobles only Christmas party this year, and invites Sariel's familia. Titan turns out to know a few other nobles, and is willing to share this knowledge, so he gives over a list of the ones he can remember.
The next stop is Michael's newly formed chancel, which is little more than two weeks old still. Encountering the members of the familia they had not previously met, Rook, Storm, and Thunder, they invite all of them to the party. They all say that they'd like to come, except Giselle who "will think about it." Eager to begin their preparations, the familia heads home.
Rob/Kestral (on Ninjas): No, they have to be around long enough for Natalie to teach them to go "Whee!"
Vex (on the value of Minions): Five went in. Four came back. That's Good!
Vex (to Natalie, about her dislike of the term "Minions"): From now on, in your presence, I shall call them my Sunshine Spirits!
In the preceeding two weeks Kestral has been hard at work creating demensnes for the other two powers, so they'll cease wanting to be in his Cathedral of Loneliness constantly. Vex is given a large cavern beneath the Cathedral, lit by guttering lamps and a fountain of fire and connected to the various sewer tunnels around the city. For Natalie, Kestral invokes a Major Creation of Realm to make a large hemisphere of one way glass, wherein Natalie can look out on the city from privacy. The center of the dome is open to the sky, allowing rain to fall into a fountaining basin in the center of the structure. While this is going on, the problems in the world have intensified as militant dissident groups, spurred on by their inquisitiveness about the war in Iraq, begin to take back the country. As Montana's new capitol becomes Freemen City, the world devolves into deeper chaos.
Sheltered in their chancel, the familia begins to seriously plan the party that they've scheduled for Yule. Venturing to the stadium, closed down after Kestral's prohibitions against socializing, they find it in serious disrepair. They decide that there needs to be a glassed-in roof, and Vex calls for a minion to fetch an architect. All are surprised when a "ninja" leaps from the 200 foot high ceiling and lands on the sodden turf with only a few bruises; perhaps none more surprised than the ninja himself. As he runs to fetch the architect, Kestral begins to replace the turf with marble while everyone discusses how exactly their gala is to be organized. Allex and Vex attempt to convince Natalie to pursue bringing the concept of Snow under the estate of Rain, and begin to brainstorm plans to convince the world that "snow rains" is a correct expression.
When the ninja returns with the architect, he also bears a curious cipher that was written on a sticky note and posted on the mirrored tomb in the cemetary. It reads as follows:
While they discuss this note, Natalie goes off on a tangent about her desire to find the power of Sunlight and invite him or her to the party. This has to do with her eventual goal of making Rain and Sunlight into the same phenomenon. Interested in the scope of Natalie's goal, Kestral announces his own intent to pursue a wide-ranging increase in his estate. He plans to convince the world that being lonely is a biological necessity, and that people will die without achieving some quota of loneliness in their existence. Not to be outdone, Vex begins to plot his own far-reaching plot for expanding his estate, and scurries off to his catacombs to think about it.
Later in the day, once Kestral has returned to brooding and Natalie has gone home "after school," Vex decides to talk to Herald about his ninja. Specifically, he's confused at the fact that his ninja no longer say "Whee!" when leaping from surprise, and Herald is forced to explain the silliness of this idea. Vex still wants a calling card of some sort, however, and settles on the idea of having his minions remove the eyes of their victims, and save them as trophies. A passerby in the library says "that's gross" after overhearing this exchange, and is treated to an unhappy inquisitiveness creation, suddenly having an overwhelming desire to look at other gross and gruesome images. Not knowing when to quit, the mortal smacks Vex in the head on heading back into the library. This affront is met with the fellow being knocked out by a ninja and having his eyes removed. From the hospital he dispatches the police to deal with Vex's abuse of power.
Police Officer: "So... er... Lord Vex... did you have some guy's eyes
Vex: "Yes I did."
Police Officer: "Oh, alright, just making sure. Could you do us a favor and give us a list of the people you're going to do that to, just so we know when a real crime has been committed if someone isn't on the list?"
Vex: "Sure thing."
More tormenting of Mr. Frank Thomas is pursued at the city hospital, where Vex is rebuffed in his attempt to turn the man into a minion. Returning to his cavern, he begins to share with his ninjas his plan for establishing a mortal corporation as part of his eventual goals. Natalie is standing around and overhears some of Vex's ideas, and begins to put together some of what he's done that day, and becomes very angry. The two powers have an involved argument about evil, and then Natalie storms back home once Vex assures her that they're just going to have to "Agree to Disagree."
November 27, 2002 - Thanksgiving Eve
Expecting another uneventful day to work on festival preparations, Kestral is surprised by the cry of his estate. Exerting himself miraculously, the baronet manages to narrow the disturbance to a small southern town in central Georgia. After wrangling the rest of his familia to help out against the possible Excrucian attack, they make plans to get to Georgia. Natalie asks her anchor, Benjamin, to arrange accomodations, a car, and money (much to Kestal and Vex's chagrin, she only asks for a couple hundred dollars; several times more than the mundane-currency strapped nobles have on hand, but not nearly as much as they'd like).
Taking a short connecting flight, the Nobles touch down in Atlanta. As they head towards the Western Union station they're accosted by two uniformed policemen. Natalie, it seems, has been reported as kidnapped by someone claiming to be her father. Kestral manages to act completely suspiciously and then goes running off with cops in pursuit. Dodging into a bathroom he becomes invisible, leading to some very confused (but not suffered Dementia Animus) police officers. Natalie is escorted to a police car as other officers comb the airport for the missing kidnapper.
After being informed that she's about to be taken to the station house, and her parents called, Natalie decides to get proactive. Invoking her Glorious, the two cops are suddenly her loving, devoted protectors. Meanwhile, an invisible Kestral and an inscrutable Vex have also taken up their position in the backseat. The police car becomes a cab to Griffin.
Eventually, following numerous hijinks (including Kestral being temporarily stuck, invisible, in the trunk where he tried to get the shotgun), the police bring Natalie to the Griffin Holiday Inn and register her for her room. She convinces them that, since the room was registered by her father's boss, that he is meeting her there for a business thing. Unfortunately, they won't let her leave until some adult comes to claim her, and the suspected kidnapper Kestral is not an option. As the devoted cops set up to protect Natalie in her hotel room, they are not in a position to stop Kestral and Vex from stealing their car.
Focusing, Kestral narrows the disturbance in his estate and drives into the suburbs near the town airport. Ditching the cop car a mile away, after finally taking the shotgun, Kestral dons his mask and goes invisible while Vex remains inscrutable. The disturbance is centered on a small house in a middle class neighborhood. Vex gets boosted into a quietly broken window and scopes out the inside of the house. A small memorial is erected for a dead soldier, Thomas Crispin. Apparently a casualty of the war in Iraq, the flowers in the funeral wreath include Kenshi and Amaranth, Kestral's heraldry. Now fully aware that this is a flower rite in progress, Vex is suddenly chased through the house by an incorporeal apparition of the dead soldier. Passing the widow and her two children, looking terrified on the couch, Vex dives back outside with the "ghost" in pursuit shouting that he'll kill their new housecat.
The wraithly figure is unimpeded by the window, phasing right through it and Kestral (still invisible outside). Vex turns and decides to raise his Sight rather than saving all of his Aspect for flight and discovers that the "ghost" is, in fact, an Excrucian shard. Kestral gets its attention to keep Vex from being creamed and finds himself being slammed hard enough with a backhand to harm him through his Durant and send him smashing through wall and window. He comes to a stop a few inches into the opposite wall. Vex leaps in and burns through his miraculous energy to give the shard a nasty face full of claws before bounding off just in time for Kestral to sink his energy into firing the shotgun. The shard goes flying back outside the house, through the Kestral-shaped hole, as it takes a deadly wound from Aspect-enhanced buckshot.
Kestral and Vex turn towards the family only to see another, identical, shard materialize behind the couch. "They can't save you," it says as the Aspect-depleted Nobles run away from the house to come up with a better strategy. Police sirens wail in the near distance in response to the stolen Atlanta police car and the sound of a discharged shotgun.
End Session 1/Begin Session 2
Regrouping after fleeing, Vex and Kestral discuss what they've learned. Obviously, there are at least two Excrucian shards present in the house. Each looks like the dead husband, Thomas, and they seem to pack a lot of Aspect and at least some Spirit (due to Auctoritas). These factors indicate that what is being dealt with is a Warmain that tempered on killing the husband. Unless the husband was a noble, then it is likely that, small comfort, this was a recently-arrived Warmain that had not yet tempered before. The shards also have at least two gifts, intangibility and invisibility. Suspecting that those gifts wouldn't likely have a lot of penetration on them, the Nobles consider what would happen if they were overlapped by Natalie's Sunfire-level Auctoritas.
Wandering, invisibly, into a local house and taking the keys to the truck, Kestral drives Vex back towards the motel. The theft is immediately noted. Quickly picking up Natalie, who flees the room claiming that she's going to get ice, the familia has a short high-speed chase back towards the airport. Kestral drops off the others and then gets stopped by the cops. The masked man, weilding a stolen police shotgun, is asked to put down the weapon. Pretending to comply he instead dives behind the truck and becomes invisible, but not after taking another wound from the vigilant police force. In quite fragile shape at this point he meets Natalie and Vex and sits down for while to rest. Burning up most of the rest of his energy on the Last Trump rite, he manages to fuel his Aspect enough to heal back within a few minutes.
At this point, the group is not at all sure of their ability to power through multiple Warmain shards, even with Natalie's Spirit in the mix. Deciding that the rite will probably not finish until Thanksgiving, the traditional time of family togetherness, they feel they can explore other options. Kestral muses on his estate and, on discussion, the familia figures that the rite is targetted at the fact that the presence of the "ghost" of their father, demonstrating his worst traits, is keeping the family from experiencing loneliness and, thus, mourning. Loneliness is a passive state, something that comes to the individual, and thus if the family are encouraged to seek out loneliness then they will be acting in opposition. If they have to kill themselves to do it, then they will also be conflicting with Kestral's sensibilities as a member of the Light and his belief that loneliness is a protective force. If they, as participants in a flower rite, find their souls excruciated then they will never be alone, and the rite will be complete.
Eventually it is decided that the best way to end the rite is to attempt to find the real spirit of Thomas Crispin and bring him home to convince his family that what the excrucians are telling them is all lies. Hoping that the spirit survived the tempering process without being excruciated, they decide to journey to heaven and hell in search of his soul. Initially looking for a mythic pathway to heaven in the local hospital (after stealing yet another car), Kestral gets Herald to research back at the Chancel better ideas for places to find roads to the world tree. After a short time, Herald suggests that powerful chancels of Heaven or Hell might have a tendency to be created near the tree so that their imperators can more easily visit home. Since their chancel doesn't have one, and they hadn't seen roads at Michael or Sariel's chancels, the only other likely suspect is the chancel of the Shadowed Lord. Getting a train sent, the familia heads to Bavaria (by way of their Convenient chancel).
Wandering around Worms with their Sight up, the first noble the familia finds is an elderly blind man who looks like the judge out of an old Western. Vex makes contact, thinking that his allegiance to Hell will make him fast friends with any member of a Hell chancel. In typical Vex style, he immediately puts off the man by being indirect, assumptive, and generally irritating. Natalie is left to salvage the conversation, and Malak, power of Justice, introduces himself. Against his better judgement (heh) he lets the group into the Gigeresque chancel and opens the gate to the world tree for them. Vex stays behind, as he feels like he'd be better served scouting out a Hell chancel than walking to Heaven. He immediately sets out to meet the power of Secrets. Slipping into her computer firm back in the mundane city, Vex tracks down Mercury. The young woman is not pleased, especially when the self-admitted power of Inquisitiveness begins asking all sorts of questions that the power of Secrets would prefer to keep, well, secret. Suspecting that he's leading up to a Nettle Rite, Vex is ejected as soon as possible having failed to make a new friend.
Meanwhile, Natalie and Kestral are ascending towards Yggdrasil, marveling at the immense view of mythic Earth beneath them. Managing to flag down a passing Aaron's Serpent and convince him to help in their combat of the Excrucians, they get a quick ride to the top of the tree. Debarking in Heaven Natalie feels empowered by the closeness to her affiliation, while Kestral feels lessened by his distance from the home of Light and Dark. He tells Vex through the Realm's Heart that it was probably better that he didn't come.
Heaven, on this day, is an immense sculpture of titanium and glass, glimmering in a rainbow sheen under the beautiful light. They find their way through the countless millions of spirits standing around, humans and aliens alike, to the front gate. They ask the angel at the gate whether Thomas would have come this way, only to discover that there is quite a backlog. Heaven is behind on judgement, and, prosaic time, no one has been admitted since the 1400s. An early Renaissance man is sarcastic about the problem and gets tossed back into the crowd by the angel to mark where she thinks the most recent arrivals from Earth are likely to be.
Forcing their way to this section, Kestral and Natalie eventually find the soldiers and, from them, the casualties of the current war, and, eventually, to Mr. Crispin whose spirit is weakened but present. After hearing what's been going on at home he is quite unhappy and willingly follows to Earth. The duo also manages to talk several other soldiers into reincarnating once they hear just how long the line is.
Eventually the familia, with wraith-Thomas in tow, debarks outside the Crispin home on midday Thanksgiving (thankful for the less regular process of Mythic Time). Figuring the time to act is now, Kestral and Vex call up their skill with mortal magicks to create a summoning circle that will make Thomas visible to his wife and children. Both Nobles, sensing the climax of their mission, invest all their remaining Spiritual energy into the summoning. Blue light flares, the chalked circle melts its way into the asphalt of the street, and Thomas becomes momentarily coporeal.
Charging into the house with the Nobles right behind, the wroth spirit takes out his anger on the Excrucian that killed him and is trying to ruin his memory and destroy his family. Shards go flying from the Spirit-powered but partially mundane ghost, unable to compensate fully with Aspect against a hybrid entity with the fires of love and revenge fueling his strikes. Smashed, slammed, crushed, and beaten the shards fade from the Prosaic or flee into the evening as Thomas tells his family that he's sorry that he died, that he loves them, and that he's sorry that he has to leave them behind again. The Breakthrough is Nettled and the story ends.
The familia discusses party preparations and meets the familia of Suriamas to invite them. Kestral begins to dream.
End Session 1/Begin Session 2
Vex debates bleeding on a mirror with a Pythagorean, and eventually, with Kestral's permission, they try it, opening a portal of some kind that is like a disturbed pool to normal sight but looks like a yawning void in the mythic. The Pythagorean is forced into bleeding on the mirrored tomb, and is almost sucked into the portal before being rescued. Vex tries it out on his own, and knocks poor little Timmy, on torch-lighting duty for shoplifting, into the inky void. The rope that was attached to him comes back snapped. Little Timmy is gone.
Vex and Kestral once again seek out what the strange children were looking for on Halloween, descending beneath the Heart of the Sewers and eventually finding themself miles beneath the city, or so it seems, in a mysterious hollow of mist, darkness, and caves leading into all sides of the enormous cavern. After some investigation they find the body of another child, presumably dead since Halloween or thereabouts. The investigation is cut short by a twang on Kestral's line that would lead him back to the ladder, and they give chase to the person or thing that has begun the ascent. Despite several Realm-change teleportations, the lack of any clear knowledge as to where they are keeps the two from quite catching the target, who is moving at Aspect speeds and is resistant to divination miracles. They trace whoever it is onto a passing train, and keep everyone on board for questioning, but cannot narrow down a suspect, adding all those people to thier mental list of possible spelunkers.
Meanwhile, a terrible murder is committed near Natalie as a man is ripped to shreds and dropped from a height with no witnesses and no traces of blood on the buildings roof nearby. The man turns out to be a member of the Circle of Pythagoras (though, fortunately or unfortunately, not the poor schmuck that nearly got sucked into the tomb earlier). The question surfaces: is the familia suffering from a ridiculously intricate plot or do they just have a metric ton of enemies all running different schemes?
Investigating another murder, the victim seeming to be suspiciously well known to Vex, Kestral is interrupted by a vision of a dead woman walking around a corner. He tracks down a woman named Karen that only bears passing resemblance to his wife, and is interrupted by a death somewhere in the city before he can narrow the mystery more closely. A dockworker has been killed by having his skin ripped from his body, and culprit is not nearby.
Other hijinx ensue. Vex tries to steal a piece of the original dead man (for ghost-summoning) from an over-excited coroner and comes into conflict with Natalie. The man's spirit is wan and remembers little, seemingly drained of all energy, and gives very little information after all the trouble of obtaining it. It is revealed that Vex has been dealing with the Gaki that killed the dockworker, who was seemingly sent as a diversion (thinking he'd been invited by Vex) and is very pissed off about everyone blaming him for what's been going on. One of Vex's ninjas steals a cab and runs it into an apartment, the resultant explosion killing him, a man, and a child. The man and child turn out to be the family of Karen, the woman from earlier, who arrives just in time to see the carnage. She blames Kestral, who leaves in a bad state.
The party just around the corner, and at least one maniac loose on the streets. What fun.
Vex: "Are you oka? You're normally very prompt with pieces of people."