A Bride for Merlin
Session XV, 14 July 2000
Seonaid’s imperatives are gone, and so are Fendrith, Julia Barnes-Sawall, and Ghislain. She lies in a bed in House Jesby, recuperating. She feels like she has a mild hangover, and not just because of tomorrow’s concert.
Within House Jesby there are more guards on patrol than usual. There have been some minor problems, another attempt on Flark’s Uncle, and while the assassins were stopped, continued vigilance is warranted. No assassins were captured; they all smoldered, combusted, and burst into flame. They were another batch of Black Ninja Demons.
Flark invites Shandor on another foray after the Black Ninja Demons. Shandor also says that he would like to locate some Soul Stones.
When Ghislain arrives at his studio, he finds two guards there. Not servants; rather they are military. They seem suspicious until they recognize Ghislain. He considers what he should bring from his personal studio to extend his stay here. The guards assign two soldiers to escort him, and he accepts the backup. While the guards are helpful in the moving, one is always watching. Among the personal affects he brings are his pictures.
Meanwhile on Shadow Earth...
Dr. Alex Aziz is a special agent in the laboratory division of the FBI. He has discovered a little bit about some exotic blood types. Subject 1 is Carl Corey. Subject 2 is Merle Corey. Subject 3 is Lucas Reynard. Subject 4 is Julia Barnes, presumed dead. Subject 5 is (baby) Jane Doe, missing from an orphanage, and by genetic testing is the daughter of Merle Corey and Julia Barnes. A cross-reference subject is Sylvia Barnes (presumed dead, car accident, one month after Carl Corey’s original accident, body never found).
Alex Aziz is continuing his investigation. Harry Barnes and Bill Roth Jr. are two active leads. He and his partner, Tom Sullivan, a senior agent at the FBI, consider their next step.
Somewhere in shadow, Fendrith is flying.
And meanwhile, back across the universes...
Flark and Shandor look through the Vaults of Jesby for Soul Stones. Amid lots and lots of "hey wow" nifty magical stuff, but nothing like what Shandor wants. Maybe in Melnibone, a barony within House Helgram.
(The Master of the Guild of Sorcerers is also the Baron of Melnibone.)
Flark is an honorary member of the Guild of Sorcerors (because he's a Duke), and he's probably in good standing because of his study of sorcery, and thinks more could be learned from them. He is, however, reluctant to inquire with that particular House. Shandor considers ways to trap the souls of lesser beings.
On other topics, Black Ninja Demons have been seen harassing House Sawall, especially Duke Despil. Also, House Helgram is in Civil War. There are agents of House Helgram on Shadow Earth.
Flark believes a lunch with Julia is in order, to bring her up to date with Helgram’s presence on Shadow Earth.
Shandor leaves the Ways of Jesby, making a shopping trip on his way to the Ways of Sawall. He keeps the Logrus up, looking around for something that meets his needs.
Elsewhere, Fendrith arrives at his destination in Shadow. Flying above an industrialized metropolis, he recalls that the place is rather mundane. He notices contrails in the distance, caused by mechanical flying devices, and large ships in the harbor. Seeking an unpopulated area, he soars for a distance, passing on a small island with a huge statue of a lady with a torch. Nearby are huge road-like intersections with flying machines arriving and departing. He continues at 8,000 ft., heading inland, making best speed. He breaks the sound barrier, alerting local military bases.
At Newark AFB, fighters are scrambled to investigate a UFO (what the radar operator at first thought was a flock of birds, which then started doing Mach 1) in JFK-controlled airspace. They lose tracking about 100 miles inland and scramble a local base’s contact team to investigate.
In Washington, Aziz gets a cell phone call regarding a UFO out of JFK. Since he’s on duty, he has the pleasure of investigating, but maybe he can follow up with his leads at the same time.
Fendrith lands in a forest far from Manhattan. He shifts to a stealthy form, a low flat lizard form with chameleon properties. Overhead, the contact team overflys the area. He identifies the physical characteristics of the local population (much like the Chaosian’s human form with subdued color schemes and clothing). He prepares a shifted form, a large male specimen, and goes in search of a disguise.
At a gas station, people are happily filling up their tanks and buying concessions from the mini mart inside. Bubba drives up in his pickup truck, and starts filling up the tank.
Fendrith thinks he can take Bubba. He sneaks into the pickup truck bed.
When the contact team returns, it is explained to the press that this was merely a field deployment exercise by the National Guard. Still, out in the field, the HAZMAT team is using Geiger counters, taking soil samples, and making castings of the claw prints. The area has been secured from curious onlookers, including the press.
Special Agent Aziz is told to contact with Special Agent Spinner when he arrives.
After some time, Fendrith arrives at a deserted farm, courtesy of Bubba. Bubba gets out of the truck and walks toward the residence. Fendrith leaps from the truck bed to subdue Bubba. Nothing goes crunch; Bubba is knocked out though. A set of clothing yields a disguise, and some metal things Bubba took from the vehicle.
Fendrith can’t resist trying the vehicle. In his new form approximating Bubba, with more brown hair in place of the balding gray, he manages to start the car and get a grip on the basics of driving. (Thanks to the blessing of Yankee Bubba’s automatic transmission.)
He drives off, focusing on the target that started his journey.
Aziz and Sullivan land at JFK. They get a rental car, and rendezvous with Spinner. Inside a tent, plaster casts of footprints are available. Radiology is negative, as are the soil samples. The dinosaur-like footprints are like nothing anyone has seen before.
Oddly enough, there are more than just one type of footprints. One set are clearly a large quadruped, which seems to have "landed". By the time the prints approach the road nearby, the overall mass of the creature has been decreased its mass to about 400 lbs., a quarter of its original size, and the footprints have reduced correspondingly.
Aziz considers that this has to be bogus. It might be some sort of hoax. It just doesn’t fit with any physics he can think of. Still, one agent has videotape from the nearby convenience store. On it, some strange distortion-masked entity crawls into a pickup truck. They have a make on the license plates, and an address.
Aziz and Sullivan proceed to investigate.
In other places, Shandor finds samples of devices that can contain souls. One is a gem, one is a jar, and one is an old oil lamp. He studies these examples, each in turn. After some consideration, he decides he likes the gem the best, though the price is rather outside his present means. He contacts Flark.
Flark is doing necessary evil paperwork. When he detects an inbound contact, he considers the recent attempts on his Uncle’s life, and declines to accept, activating his shields.
Shandor’s contact fails. This is not the first time, he remembers sticking a message to the outside of the shield before, and Flark’s reaction. This time the shield is a little different. He considers, then tendrils a "head troll" at Jesby. "This is Lord Shandor Sawall, apparently Duke Flark is not accepting calls. If you could physically notify him that I am trying to contact him..."
"How would you prioritize this call?" the functionary asks.
"It would be of some importance to him. Something he’s aware of."
The functionary gives Flark the message. Flark contacts Shandor, and is told about the soul gem, and the soul gem’s exorbitant price.
Flark sends through three small bags from his petty cash drawer, covering the cost and a little extra.
Shandor offers a soul gem in exchange for the funds, should he be able to produce one after his study of this specimen. Shandor provides Flark with his current knowledge of the Gem.
Shandor purchases the item. The merchant gives Shandor the correct change, which Shandor holds on to.
Taking his purchase with him, Shandor returns to the Ways of Sawall.
At Sawall, Shandor inquires about Julia, learning she is away. He leaves a message in her chambers, asking for an opportunity for him and a friend to talk to her over tea.
Investigating the gem, Shandor detects the residual trace of three lesser demons that have been placed inside. The residue is the "ashes", the demons having been consumed while trapped inside it. Shandor is reminded of the Wizard, and Fendrith’s prior situation.
The gem seems to be usable, and after a little study, Shandor discovers how to use it against "the reality-challenged". He continues to investigate how to reproduce these.
Seonaid, recuperating at "Club Anakara", has recovered. Anakara, Seonaid, and the twins all go home. (Kalto has been at Thelbane, keeping Keliith company -- and out of trouble, one would hope...) She tries a contact spell for Fendrith and it fails. Next she tries a Logrus tendril, and it takes a while to get to him.
Fendrith is disturbed by a contact attempt. He pulls over in his Pickup truck and takes the call.
"Fendrith?" Seonaid is surprised by his appearance. "My you’ve changed. I’ve recuperated a fair bit and thought I’d check in." She recognizes his conveyance from the tabloid adaptations of the Corwin saga. "What are you up to?"
"I’m following up some leads from your Uncle."
"From Flark? What kind of leads?"
"It seems that this ‘Earth’ is somehow entwined with the goings on at Helgram."
"Oh, should I come through?"
"Don’t you have a concert?"
"They’re supposed to contact me when it’s time."
Fendrith says, "Well, yes, I think you’d fit right in here." Seonaid pulls herself through.
Aziz and Sullivan are investigating Bubba’s farm, finding the incapacitated, naked man. Bubba is groaning, and starting to move. He has large marks on his back, and is starting to bruise. Some sort of four-fingered critter seems to have accosted him.
Retrieving his doctor’s bag and a blanket from the car, Alex approaches the gentleman.
Tom has called in to the local police as Alex attends the gentleman. Bubba seems to be suffering a concussion. He may have landed on a rock, causing his forehead to bleed and smashing his nose.
Bubba remains pretty incoherent, but his condition is stable. Photos are taken, and eventually an ambulance arrives. Word is given that Aziz is to be contacted when the man can be questioned.
The local police arrive and are quite upset that Bubba has been the target of violence.
Odd coincidence, Tom notices one of the addresses of the leads in their ongoing investigation is nearby. They proceed in that direction.
On the way, Fendrith fills Seonaid in on the Ninja Demons being here in Merlin’s home shadow. He says he is seeking something ‘real’.
Seonaid and Fendrith come to a collection of buildings sharing a common lawn. There is a sign there in an unfamiliar language. They seem to be at a residence, a set of small single level buildings mostly occupied by elderly people.
Finding a conveyance corral near the building, they leave the truck behind. In the lot there are no trucks except theirs. Fendrith follows his senses, and the two approach a specific building.
"Shall we go inside?" Seonaid asks.
"Doors are usually meant for privacy. Perhaps we should knock." Fendrith knocks, and is greeted by an old man, who says something in a strange language.
Fendrith feels he’s sensed something like this person before.
Seonaid touches the man’s mind with a tendril, and finds he asked if he could help them. She puts him "on hold."
Fendrith says to ask if he knows Merlin.
"I’m sorry I don’t a Mr. Merlin. Do you mean Merle Corey, Julia’s old boyfriend."
Seonaid puts him "on hold" and translates for Fendrith.
Tom and Aziz approach the retirement home residence of Harry Barnes, father of Julia Barnes and the widower of Sylvia Barnes. Pulling into the lot, they spot a pickup truck matching the description of the stolen vehicle they were investigating.
At one of the buildings, two people talk to someone inside. The man wears overalls and a flannel shirt. The other, a woman, wears something like practical SCA garb.
They park, calling for backup upon spotting the pickup truck. After spotting the unusual pair, they plan their approach, Tom watching Alex’s back.
Fendrith notices two people approaching, looking cautious and weary, one with his hand on a handgun. One man without the weapon seems ‘real’. What Fendrith was tracking, however, is still in the building.
Alex notices the man not moving in the doorway, in some sort stasis. He says, "Hey, nice day isn’t it?" Seonaid responds by contacting him with a tendril, to translate his unknown words.
Aziz notices someone attempting a psychic domination against him, using some tradition with which he is unfamiliar. He says, "I seek refuge in God from the Evil One," in Arabic, an Islamic prayer against psychic domination.
Seonaid’s contact fails, and she pauses a moment, surprised.
Tom calls out, "Alex, are you okay?"
Fendrith asks, "How are you doing, Seonaid?"
Alex replies, "Everything is fine. Just a weird day..."
Seonaid replies, "I can’t contact him to translate."
Fendrith asks, "Time to bug out?" He gives her a ‘let’s use the Logrus’ look.
Seonaid says, "Not yet..."
Alex hears this discussion in an exotic language. It seems a little familiar, something he learned a long time ago, perhaps.
Special Agent Aziz moves past Seonaid and Fendrith, talking to the man in the door and speaking in the strange language. Seonaid starts to get bits and pieces from her connection with the man.
Alex approaches Mr. Barnes, and arranges to talk with him inside, politely dismissing them. Alex expresses concern for his well-being, and is placated.
Alex calls Sullivan, filling him in, telling him to keep an eye on the two. Sullivan requests Alex back him up.
Seonaid starts toward the truck, Fendrith following. Fendrith expresses concern about driving the same vehicle away. He spots an approaching cop car in the distance.
"How should we go?" Seonaid asks.
"Walk around back?" Fendrith asks.
Behind them, Sullivan calls out "Halt!" and points a weapon at them. At the doorway, Alex appears and also draws down. Seonaid gets the message and stops moving, Fendrith following suit.
The cop car arrives and two men get out, drawing weapons. After a little communications, they put away weapons and remove manacles, issuing a command.
Seonaid contacts Sullivan, getting the details that we are under suspicion for assault and grand theft auto. "They intend to arrest us."
"Do you wish to be arrested?"
"I don’t think that would be advantageous."
"It might be interesting."
Seonaid and Fendrith are handcuffed and placed in the vehicle. Seonaid downloads the details on Mr. Barnes from Sullivan’s mind. He’s here to question Mr. Barnes.
About a mile and a half away, Seonaid mind-tweaks the two cops. They pull over, remove the handcuffs, and politely wave as she and Fendrith drive off in the police car. They slowly walk back to the station as if this is a perfectly normal thing for them to do. Sadly, they won’t have a clue to explain their actions later.
Alex and Tom discuss their odd day, and go inside to talk to Mr. Barnes. A duty nurse says he was in good condition, and reflecting on his condition, Alex feels it was really more of a trance... a psychic domination trance, perhaps.
They question Mr. Barnes. They start with Julia’s accident 15 years ago, and going back to his wife’s death. Looking around he sees pictures of the two women, family shots, nothing unusual. Mr. Barnes comments about the photographs, tales of happy times. Getting to the meat of things, he explains the ongoing investigation into Julia’s death, and his background in genetics. He explains the collecting of evidence after the fact, and how that is tied back by genetics. He asks for hairbrushes or other personal effects that might help.
Mr. Barnes explains that all of Julia’s things are in a storage shed a few miles away, along with some of his wife’s things. He retrieves the key, and offers it to the agents, along with a statement giving the address and shed number.
Pausing at a pencil box on his dresser, he opens it. "Sylvia got this postcard a week before she died. I never figured out what it was about."
When he hands the card to Aziz, the card is very cold. The picture on the front shows a psychedelic work of art of a circular canyon with a gaping pit of darkness with a tiny floating thing in the center. The sky is split in two, half stars, half a rainbow. Very 60s. Still, it seems funky beyond the art style. The back is written in a foreign language Aziz is not familiar with. It is postmarked from Manhattan and addressed to Mrs. Barnes.
They go over the other contents of the box with Mr. Barnes, finding a photo of Julia with Merle, Lucas, and Gail Lampron in college. Another photo is of a country club. Among other men, Carl Corey stands with Harry, looking exactly the way he does from the photo Alex has of Carl in the Great War. Harry seems to be in his late 30s. He doesn’t recall who Carl Corey was, but that the photo was from a bachelor party for Bill Roth Sr., the gentlemen in the center of the photograph.
Alex makes copies of the photos, promises to take care of the locker, and leaves his card, thanking the old man.
As Sullivan and Alex leave, it is getting late. They get a hotel room, and decide to see Bill Roth Jr. the next day, along with checking up on ‘those two suspects’.
Fendrith and Seonaid return to the general area of the old folk’s home. They pull into a donut shop. Seonaid contacts Sullivan and gets an update on his perceptions of his day. "Strange chick, probably a rebel punk biker chick... check up on those two." She squashes the later idea; instead supper is now a good idea.
Sullivan and Alex talk about checking in and getting a restaurant.
Seonaid mind-links to the donut shop proprietor, obtaining some semblance of the language. Fendrith goes in for food, finding the pastries much to his disappointment.
Upon returning to the car, Seonaid tells him, "We’re supposed to eat this stuff."
We both go back inside to eat the donuts, correct their appearance for the clerk.
The clerk’s mind directs them to a Motel Six they might be able to afford. They head out.
The two discuss what they were looking for, and decide to stay at the hotel. She requests a room by the pool, having parked the cop car rather far from the pool. They get their key, wipe his mind, and head to the IHOP next door.
Prior to this, Sullivan has faxed the photos and postcard to the office, to a personal friend of Sullivan’s at headquarters. Sullivan also faxes a copy to his cousin in the priesthood. Seonaid checks up on Sullivan during dinner. During the night, she cross-references her language skills between Sullivan, the donut clerk, and the desk clerk at the hotel. She also gives Sullivan some pleasant dreams.
In the morning, a fax waits for Sullivan. The language is "Thari Romany", a variant of gypsy Romany. It contains two words, a name, "Saelevatha", and the word "return (as a command imperative.)". This came from his cousin the priest. Sullivan has some fun pronouncing the name, even with the pronunciation guide. They roll it around their tongues for a bit, and consider it strangely similar to "Sylvia." The addressing of the card doesn’t name a recipient, and it was postmarked a week before Sylvia disappeared, a week after Corey’s escape from the second sanitarium.
They head off for breakfast when Alex’s cell phone rings. The local desk sergeant explains that the two cops that apprehended Seonaid and Fendrith have had something weird happen. The two FBI agents head downtown to talk to them.
Arriving downtown, they get the tale of the two officers letting the suspects take their car and drive away. The desk sergeant hopes that the FBI agents have an explanation. The rookie comes from a police family, though he’s green, he knows what he’s doing. Both are as clean as a whistle, no drugs no booze, even their hair sample came back clean. They are interrogated.
The police car was found at a Motel 6. Nobody there knows anyone matching the description, but they were spotted at the IHOP next door. Sullivan suggests the security camera at the hotel.
They suggest that an aerosol date rape drug may have caused the aberrant behavior, and that an investigation might have missed it. Thereby allowing the department to save the two cops' careers.
Waking up, Seonaid and Fendrith adjust their appearance and obtain new clothing. Fendrith looses the flab, retains his size, broadens the shoulders, and takes on a muscular appearance. Darkens the hair, almost to black. Seonaid increases her weight a little, adds some more generous curves, and picks a bright red for her hair she saw a waitress at IHOP. Reaching through shadow she gets two black suits with a white shirt and blouse, appropriate shoes, and dark sunglasses.
Stepping outside, she obtains, out of view, an appropriate conveyance through shadow. She ends up with a black late model Lincoln Town Car with a full tank of gas.
After a hearty breakfast back in the room, they head out, resuming Fendrith’s search for real things.
"That cop, the one you couldn’t take over, he had something special about him..."
Seonaid adds, "...He was real."
They end up circling the block in their quest, and eventually spot Alex and Sullivan’s car. Seonaid tap’s Sullivan again. They are after Seonaid and Fendrith, and have switched the cop car, were covering it, but came up with nothing. They’re also after the recording device, but it’s not here. It is recorded at a central security office, which the dummy clerk doesn’t know where that is.
The cops do though, and retrieve the information digitally. During this, Seonaid uses the Logrus to flatten one of the tires on their car. Alex changes the tire.
Sullivan gets the room number and calls for a SWAT team. Seonaid tells Fendrith to watch the fireworks, so to speak.
In the unoccupied room, the crime scene unit takes over, obtaining samples from the bed linen.
This will eventually yield some interesting returns for Alex from the genetic analysis: Seonaid matches Sample 5: Baby Jane Doe, daughter of Julia Barnes and Merle Corey (Seonaid has no idea at the time). Her companion is completely bizarre, from a genetic perspective.
Fendrith and Seonaid drive off before they are noticed. They think about the agents of House Helgram. Fendrith tries searching for something about Helgram and they end up back at the old man’s home.
The two go up to the building, welcomed by Mr. Barnes after explaining they are there to follow up. Seonaid taps Mr. Barnes’ brain and puts him on hold. They find four photographs. All show Sylvia Barnes. One also has Jasra, mother of Rinaldo, at a country club. (Different from the earlier one.) The one with Jasra is the last photo he took of her. Seonaid starts noting photos of Julia Barnes all over the place: one with Sylvia and Harry Barnes, has a two-year-old Julia looking like the spitting image of Seonaid at that age. This turns on a light bulb in Seonaid’s head. She takes that photograph.
She briefly recalls her Logrus experience of witnessing an incredible journey of Merlin and Julia.
Making Mr. Barnes forget all this, and explaining the missing photo: the guys yesterday took it. They leave. Stopping at another nearby Hotel, Fendrith prepares some spells while Seonaid grabs an ID for Fendrith and some more money. Seonaid then heads for home and Anakara.
Alex and Sullivan head to Bill Roth Jr.’s law offices, calling ahead to make an appointment to discuss an ongoing investigation concerning Bill’s father. In person, Alex asks about a client of his father’s, Carl Corey.
Bill identified a photograph of Carl Corey in the Great War, perhaps a Carl Corey Sr.?
Bill explains that Corey would be interested in locating any of his lost children.
Alex and Sullivan head back to JFK, when they are attacked by a large something that tears off the roof of their car. They reel into the concrete divider. Sullivan passes out.
The thing may be a gargoyle or a demon, but it’s trying to pluck Sullivan out of the car. He forces the mike open and shouts details over the radio while shooting. The thing is hardly affected, eventually smacking the gun from Alex’s hand.
The thing grabs Alex, and Alex snaps off one of the thing’s fingers. Alex is slapped in retaliation, cutting his face. Alex attempts to flee.
Another vehicle smashes into the back of Alex’s car, the midday traffic goes into disarray.
Alex is jumped by the thing, and mutters a prayer. When the thing grabs for Alex’s throat, he tries to break off another finger, and swings for the creature’s free arm. Eventually all the creature’s fingers are gone. The general public has fled, abandoning their vehicles. Alex eventually concludes he’s stronger, and better at unarmed combat.
The thing attempts to bite and claw with its legs. Getting on top in the rumble, Alex tries some impromptu surgery on the demon with some scrap metal he tears off a nearby wreck. It beats at Alex with its wings and the feet continue their assault.
Alex backs off, maneuvering for something to go after it with. The beast jumps at him again as he hears the approach of a traffic helicopter. Evading, the bluish thing follows after, wings flapping. It seems to be regenerating. Alex crouches behind an unoccupied car, and when jumped again, punches in the creature’s head. Finding exposed gasoline under the overpass, Alex lights it, setting off a chain explosion of nearby cars. Poor injured innocent people are at risk, and he attempts to correct his nasty error.
Arriving emergency crews try to tend to the situation. Alex recovers his partner, and many wounded people.