The Road

[V.O. Alastor] 12

You know, it used to be there were days when I felt like most of the human race was like a bunch of cockroaches. Crawling around making good off other people’s shit and no matter how many of em you kill, there never seems to be any less.

Nowadays I look at people and it’s more like I’m seeing crabs in a fuckin barrel with the lid on. They climb all over each other to get to the top, but there’s nothing to see up there. Til somebody punches a hole in the lid and they see the light, and you think maybe they’d get the picture, but instead they just keep doing what they always do to get a glimpse of it. They could be knocking the whole damn lid off but they can’t seem to get the concept through their thick crustacean skulls.

I guess what I’m getting at is, putting a mage at the top of the heap didn’t change jack shit about the Sleepers. They’re still sheep, still stuck in their little routines living in fear, it’s just now they know what they’re afraid of. Would this time be any different if M had won New York instead of this jackass? Hell if I know. All I know is, that word ‘destiny’ people keep throwing at me’s starting to sound like a fuckin siren song. Would’ve liked to prove I didn’t need Vates’ advice, but just like that acamoth, this is bigger than him. I gotta know what he said to me in that underground shithole of his. It could mean the difference between saving New York and watching it pitch face-first into the Abyss along with everything else.

Plutus snapped Jimenez’ neck like he was swatting a fuckin fly. I’m counting on Vates being enough of a dickwad not to shield his own pylon pals next time we see each other, because getting inside that thug’s head is gonna be my best bet to keep from being on the receiving end of the encore.

…wait. Wait a minute. Speaking of Jimenez. He said a name, Dahaka. I’ve heard it before. Old Mastigos myth, Dahhak, the power-mad dragon king who became Pandemonium’s Syzygy. Dahaka’s what they call him in some languages. And come to think of it, Medraut’s the name of Arcadia’s aeon of fate. It’s gotta be a cabal of pretentious fucks who named themselves after legends, right? I don’t know if I even wanna know what the alternative would mean.

I’m gonna have to tell the girls what happened in DC. And hope to hell they can keep their mouths shut after we get back until I figure out where to go from here.

That is, assuming it ain’t “down a pit of bloodthirsty spiders”. Jesus.

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[V.O. Alastor] 11

I’ll say this about Caesar. He makes a damn good devil.

I wonder if M got hooked up with him to begin with cause he was taken in by all the flash and bang. I mean, I’d think he could see through that pretty easy, but then again, here we are in DC. M trusts people in a weird way, even though he’s one of the most paranoid bastards I know. Too easy to just take everything he wants from you, if he thinks you’re worth it. He wants you to want to give it to him. I respect that about him.

I guess it’s a little fucked up that I feel kinda loyal to him, he’s such a prick. I mean, he’s sitting there up in New York screwing me over as we speak. I’d bet five bucks Caesar knows what happened with Amadeo and figured this would be about the same. Difference is, Luciano didn’t offer me the fuckin world over it, I knew more or less where I stood with him. Caesar’s trying so hard to buy me it’s like he wants the shiny shit to cover up something. Damn, though, the shit’s pretty shiny.

Everything he wants is something I’ve wanted ever since I woke up. Hell, maybe he can make it happen. Maybe all we need to start building a new ladder to the stars for real is one guy who can smile and have the whole world follow him. After that…thing, in the woods with Artemis, it’s hard not to feel, I dunno. Small. Caesar doesn’t feel like that, he’s bigger than life. Not to mention, it sure would be nice to have some damn support for once.

Question is…how worth it would it be to build Hieraconis on top of lies and assassinations? Because let’s not forget, if they kill M, they’re gonna have to get rid of people loyal to him too. Baines, for one, unless he’s more two-faced than I ever gave him credit for. Looks a little like a path to more Exarchs. I ain’t exactly the most law-abiding of citizens, but the people at the top taking a dump all over the Lex Magica as a means to rebuild Atlantis seems kind of backwards to me. When the system’s working right, you want the cops to be cops, not paid-off flunkies. If you can’t even rely on them to get in the way of crime, then all you got is chaos. I hate crooked cops.

Point is, M wants power but he doesn’t want to turn the whole thing upside down to get it. I think I get now why he didn’t want me going to war against the family. Then again, you don’t shake things up once in a while, you never change anything and people keep sleeping. There’s gotta be somewhere in between, you know? M’s so focused on this Hierarch thing he can’t see past his own dick, but Caesar’s tossing out the baby with the fuckin bathwater. Shit, I wish I knew who else was in their cabal. Somebody up there at the top’s gotta have their head on straight, right? Yeah, right. Damn, maybe I should be deacon someday. Ha ha, sure. Stick to Ladder Bogeyman, Adrian, it’s what you’re good at.

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[V.O. Alastor] 10

So the order’s invented a brand new title just for me. Ladder Bogeyman. I think I’m flattered.

The only thing about all this that makes me just want to kick a fuckin puppy is that a Seer of the Goddamn Throne is playing the whole order, after M’s big speech about infiltrators. If he really did somehow figure out how to evade a mindsweep with his mystical Exarch superpowers or whatever, the Pentacle’s in serious shit. I gotta talk to Pierpont pronto.

Meantime, I might be able to use this rumor mill to my advantage. After all, all a don is is the guy with the most ruthless, fearsome reputation and the stones to back it up. M’s got that in the bag, sure, but if everybody’s looking over their shoulders at night to make sure spooky Alastor’s not hiding in the darkness, so much the better. Dark demon of avenging evil wrongs, and all. Maybe they’ll think twice before they rat each other out, huh? The trick is to turn this from a personal thing with that Moros prick to a thing about loyalty. Couple phone calls might be in order. All that work with M gave me a pretty good idea of who’s in it for the order and who’s in it for themselves. Could be I can use this bogeyman image to root out other traitors, get them afraid and making mistakes. Spread a little fear of the dark. Two can play at this game, Vates.

I didn’t shoot Grim. I wanted to so bad I thought I was gonna split open but I didn’t. Didn’t even touch him. One kick to the brain just to get him talking, that was it. Something’s wrong with that kid, I swear to God. He reminds me of that clown from one of those movies I saw with MacKenzie. How’d they beat that guy? …found him with that machine. Maybe it’s time to have another chat with Mnemosyne. If she can call every mage in the Pentacle, she can probably track Grim through his phone. He’s too smart to use it for anything incriminating, but who the fuck knows what kind of info the Free Council can get with that network of theirs? Dunno if she’d do it, but it’s worth a shot.

Think it’s a good thing I didn’t tell Grim about what’s in the Trikephalos charter about the Lex Magica. I would’ve been justified if I had beat the snot out of him for information, and in accordance with the mission they couldn’t have done shit to me legally, but it’s better to keep that trump card up our sleeves until we really need it.

Caesar might be drinking the koolaid or might not, but he’s right about one thing. I gotta find a way to be more indirect. Stay one step ahead of all these jerkoffs. How though? You’d think a fuckin disciple of Mind could figure this shit out. Come on, Adrian, get cerebral on these fucks.

Dunno what I’m gonna do about MacKenzie. She’s a sweet kid, I don’t want to get her killed. But hanging out with her’s like…taking a fuckin break, you know? Besides, she’s the only one in the Consilium I trust. Shitty situation.

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[V.O. Alastor] 9

You know, for somebody who’s mastered three arcana and leads the Ladder, M’s pretty fuckin petty. Oh boo hoo, Alastor stole my toy, I better cry about it. He’s really no different from any other boss when you get down to it. Lives off his reputation, intimidates through power, whacks anybody who gets in his way. Funny to think I might not’ve joined him in the beginning if he was any different. So while he’s off sulking about the Cipher, I’ll learn from other people. Pierpont, Caesar. I still got friends in this town, asshole. And sure, maybe this is just another test. Maybe he’s really getting into seeing what I do without help.

But my money’s on “petty dick,” this time.

His problem is he thinks he’s invincible. Hey, so did Amadeo, and look what happened to him. I’ve seen deals go south in a hurry when somebody thinks he can’t be touched and he’s just wrong. Does he really think the Consilium and the Free Council would sit around with their thumbs up their asses if they found out he had a thing like that? Power or not, one guy against most of the Pentacle’s not gonna fly. Everybody’s got a weak spot, even the most powerful capo di capi. …I wonder if the Exarchs were like him, before they ascended? Now there’s a freaky thought.

Enough about him, jesus. The girls were up for Rome, though I gotta tell you, that really could’ve gone better. Eh, guess it could’ve gone worse too. Ha ha, Rhiannon thinks that was a guilt trip? Wait til she sees me do it on purpose next time. Thinking back though, pretty sure she was ticked off because it was working and her pride was hurt. Don’t like being friends with the devil, huh? Sometimes it’s easy to forget she’s Obrimos.

Then again, sometimes she blows shit up with celestial fire.

That Moros demesne was some fucked up stuff. I’ve felt that before, but never for that long. Usually you’re staring down the barrel of somebody’s gun, then you make a move, then it’s over. Not like this. This was a deep down certainty that any minute death could just claim you, and what the fuck are you gonna do about it. Then there was that Abyssal thing, and I can’t even tell you what it looked like or nothin. All I know is it had a mean right hook from thirty feet away and it’s got Denigan’s soul. It’s not just in his head, all this book mumbo jumbo. I tried, it was like looking into a huge dark pit that was watching me. Like what happens with paradox but everywhere.

For a second there I thought maybe I should just leave Denigan behind. If this thing’s content to let us waltz out of here and all we gotta do is give him this crazy friend-murdering prick, what the hell, right? But that wouldn’t have been right. Easier, but not right. The Arrow deserves to deal with him however they want, he’s their man. And if they can get the Abyss out of his soul somehow, that’s best for everybody. And at least the shithead was useful. Turns out Rhiannon’s pal Jimenez might be a traitor, a Seer or an idiot. Maybe all of the above. Think we’re gonna have to have a chat with him, show up unannounced this time.

Makes me want to rip somebody in half, thinking about how easy the Seers have gotten their hooks into us. Like blood in the water. I want it so bad I can taste it. But I can’t let it distract me. It’ll happen, but when the time is right. When we can do it on our turf, our terms. I can do this.

Oh, and by the way. Getting notes from yourself that you don’t remember writing? Fuckin weird.

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Manhattan subway explosion kills two.
Sally Taggart, Penta News Corp.

Tremors shook midtown Manhattan last night as an underground gas explosion occured in an unused section of New York’s subway system adjacent to Times Square’s 42nd street station, killing two. The victims were not identified, however they seemed to be a part of New York’s homeless population. The cause of the explosion is unknown, however the NYPD has thus far ruled out arson or human error as the cause.

The Metropolitan Transit Agency reported the tremors, as well as a brief stoppage of service at approximately 8:45PM on Saturday, July 14th. However, after authorities made sure that there was no danger, service on the Broadway, Seventh Avenue and Flushing lines resumed.

-PNC

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[V.O. Alastor] 8

Surrounding myself with Obrimos chicks, I really must be a glutton for fuckin punishment.

MacKenzie’s great though. Even if she does move slower than a nun’s drawers. I don’t mind too much, she’s a blast. Oh yeah, she mentioned Nidhogg’s looking to put together an inter-order front-line cabal, asked if I’d ask around for him since he don’t know too many people outside the Arrow. Told her I’d do it, of course, I owe that guy a couple times now. He’s good people. Figure I’ll start with the Ladder initiates I know are still running around doing order errands and work out from there. They’ll be glad to get a piece of something bigger, I might get a favor or two out of it. Then maybe I’ll hit up Rubrum, see if he knows anybody in the Free Council militia who’s up for integrating with Diamond guys. Nidhogg’d shit himself if I found him somebody who could make magic guns.

You know, here’s the funny thing about destiny. Once you hear about it, it’s like you can’t stop hearing about it. Everything starts to look like signs and portents. That Acanthus, Vic Graham, did a tarot reading for me the other night. Sounds like a crock of bull, right, but it’s different when there’s a guy with Fate magic dealing the cards. Most of it was pretty familiar, kind of like looking into my Oneiros without having to go there, but some things caught my eye. Like that elevator comment, what the fuck did that mean? Straight out of my Awakening, which probably makes it important. Shit like that doesn’t just pop up, no such thing as coincidence with mages in the mix.

Anyway, so I go see these movies with MacKenzie and the whole time I’m thinking, damn this reminds me of those cards. Like the backwards Empress and that whole trip to China to become a ninja thing. Oh, and see this is why I don’t watch movies about mobs, every one of them ends up being dumber than bricks, it’s just insulting. What enforcer rushes an obviously competent brawler when he’s got a fuckin gun in his hand? Come on, who hired these mooks? Jesus. Though it’s not like we never hired people that dumb. Fuckin Petey Giordano, that guy. I’m surprised it took him as long as it did to end up facedown under a bulldozer, every bone in his body broken in five places. That was a closed casket service, you better believe.

Speaking of the family. I can admit that going to Rome to meet the Anziani scares me shitless. And the chances of the girls not hearing somebody call me by my name over there are probably slim to get the fuck outta here. But you never know, maybe I can take the opportunity to put a bug in the ear of an influential Giovanni vampire, change something, no matter how small. Just let’s not have a repeat performance of the Luciano incident, okay Adrian? You stupid fuck.

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[V.O. Alastor] 7

Holy shit, what a night.

Feel like my mind’s finally clear. Dunno what the Abyss did to me but I think I made it mad. Could feel it looking at me the whole time. It’s gone now though, pretty sure. God damn, I did it. Tough as balls but I did it. Summoned a demon from Pandemonium and got it to agree to help. Crashing pretty hard from the fuckin roller coaster I had to put myself through but man was it worth it. And this donut’s the best goddamn donut I’ve ever had in my life, I could kiss Pierpont.

Okay, not really. Cougars ain’t my thing.

Anyway, the demon showed up looking like Amadeo, and in the state I was in by then I just wanted to kill him all over again. Recreating Pandemonium was some scary shit, let me tell you. Felt like I was gonna have a heart attack right there in the mud. Which by the way doesn’t wash out of khaki too good so there’s another piece of clothing ruined on this mission. I swear to God I’m gonna make a list and give it to the Mensarius at the end for damages.

I guess I was too on edge to think straight by the time the demon showed up. Fuck, I wanted to put my fist straight through his head. In some ways he did me a favor though. See, I’d been wondering, what the fuck does a demon care whether I kill or not? The more I think about it, the more I think he was trying to tell me something about my Path to ascension. They’re watching me, just like they watch all us Mastigos. And what he said sounded familiar, like what M says all the time, about rising above what he calls “animal concerns.” They’re right, I suck at denying myself what I want. Seems like if I keep giving in, I’ll never make it up the ladder.

Now, the demon also said goetia’s self-indulgent. But the way I see it, once I figure out how to beat the thing I summoned into my head last time, I’ll know how, and I won’t have to summon it anymore to keep that shit under control. And fuck Artemis and her so-called advice, man. She was pissed off about whatever got a bug up her ass, okay, but she don’t know jack shit about what I need to do and how I need to do it. At least we’re past the part where she might gut me in my sleep. Probably. Last night though, damn, expected it every five minutes. Couldn’t’ve slept if I tried.

Been thinking about this too. What is she so mad about? It’s not the killing, pretty sure. She talked a good game about saving lives but it wasn’t about that—she was angry, not outraged. Not scared enough. She doesn’t think I’m a monster, she just thinks I’m an asshole. I think she just didn’t like being in the dark, that’s what I think. Just like with the Consilium, she didn’t like having her little bubble burst. Now Rhiannon’s a question mark, if the girls have some kind of gossip slumber party or whatever. She’s Obrimos, so chalk one up for ‘righteous bullshit,’ but she’s a Guardian too so chalk one up for ‘necessary evils.’ I’ll have to see where the chips fall on that one. Hoping for the latter. Let me be the bad guy so long as we get this job done.

Time to go sleep in Pierpont’s weirdass truck sanctum. I kinda like it.

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Thaumaturgic Notes 1

OK, the spell records have not said anything. I think maybe I was the first to do this! I am reminded of a saying in Norway: “The naked woman learns to spin yarn.” I think I am using it right.

It is strange that nobody has considered this before. It seems so obvious. But maybe nobody else has had to pick out hay from a haystack in a gunfight.

Here is what I did:

Normal testing for correspondence involves examining a thing and seeing what its correspondence is with another thing. Like choosing a “string” and pulling it to test its strength.

I inverted this. Instead of choosing a string, I chose an endpoint and ran my awareness across the strings leading from everything I could see to that endpoint. Like playing a harp! The string with the strongest “tone” stood out.

I am not sure what to call this. Maybe the harp comparison would be good. Correspondence Harp! I kind of like it.

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[V. O. Alastor] 6

Would you look at that. First Cohort, now a cabal. Next stop, deacon. Ha ha.

Can’t argue much, working with two hot chicks. I only trust one of em, but nothing new there. Any watchdog they threw at me was gonna be like bringing a fuckin FBI agent to a gig, so I’ll just appreciate the view and take each day as it comes with her. Goes by Rhiannon. Blonde, sexy, seems like she comes from money. Might sound weird coming from me, but having an Obrimos around might not be such a bad thing, especially against that dickwad Plutus. And get this: she knows how to use a gun but doesn’t want to pull the trigger. Maybe if I watch her I can figure something out about the line between the nightmare and the dream. And stop her from toppling off the edge if it comes to that. Fallen angels, biggest fuckin tragedy of history, right? She don’t belong in the gutter.

Then there’s Artemis, remember her? I got there first after all, she’s in for hunting Vates. Figured she would be, she was pretty ticked off. Still is, from the look of her thoughts. If she’s a Seer spy, I’m Doris fuckin Day. Feels kinda good to know that, you know? We still gotta hammer some stuff out, protocols, sigil, name – if I’m gonna do this I might as well do it right, cause I’m sure Vates did, one way or another.

Guess where he’s from. That’s right, LA. And the Guardians’ files think he used to be a hitman for a Mexican cartel. God I hate dealers. No fuckin class. Then he was a hitman for the Seers. Now I guess he’s infiltrating Pentacle cities looking for whoever he followed across the damn country. I don’t like how much we have in common, and I don’t like all these arrows pointing to LA. M’s gotta know something about all this, but obviously asking him is suicide. And frankly it’s better this way. Means that if I can connect these dots, I get to decide whether he needs to be exposed or whether I want to keep his secrets. Can’t fuckin wait to talk to Luciano. Gotta get out to Hoboken soon.

Turns out the Seers picked Mercury up as a convert from the Arrow up in Boston. Either he was a plant the whole time, or when his mentor was whacked – maybe their doing, maybe not – it put him in a place where they could turn him. Either way it means he’s Arrow-trained, which sucks for us. I’m gonna shove those shades right up his scrawny ass, I swear to God.

Ugh, this tux wasn’t cheap, dammit. Blood all over it, gonna have to ditch it the usual way. Unfortunately this time the blood’s mine. That bald Obrimos fuck, Remmy Odoya, shot me around cover, in the dark, through perception shielding. What is it with Seers and shaving their heads, huh? Maybe they got some kind of code or something. Anyway, taking the girls to a fancy gala was some swanky shit, but next time I’m going with “nightclub.” Whole damn thing was a train wreck, though to tell you the truth, after a week of doc’s orders for recuperation it felt good to see some action. Plus we got Pierpont and the Cipher out of it, thanks to MacKenzie and good old Nidhogg. Guy’s kind of a mook, but he’s okay in my book. Here’s hoping Pierpont wasn’t in the know about M. That’s a shitstorm waiting to happen if it’s true, and it’s probably coming one way or the other but I need more time.

Shot another Sleeper today. Wasn’t even thinking about it. That’s how we always did things, guys with guns come after you and yours, you make sure you shoot first. They were after Artemis and they had hostages, had to act fast. In the moment you don’t have time to think, hey, ratfaced Seer lackey or not this guy could wake up someday, maybe just knock him out and round him up. Or at least, I don’t. And I guess that’s the point. Not my first instinct.

Should it be?

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[V.O. Alastor] 5

Jesus Christ. Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire. More like from the frying pan to the goddamn pit of Hell. Though frankly I’d take that over this. There at least I know where I stand.

Knife wounds still hurt like a bitch, but I don’t mind. Reminds me of what I still got left to do. Vates in his boundless fuckin generosity had somebody play doctor with me, enough to make sure I wouldn’t bleed all over the town car on the way home. Better that way, though. Otherwise my story of getting attacked and escaping wouldn’t hold up so well.

What the hell am I gonna tell the Mensarius? He’s gotta hear the important stuff. Descriptions of Vates and his friends. Not that he needs them I guess. Their capabilities. That they know my name. That’ll go over real well I’m sure. Hope he doesn’t turn my brain into even more swiss cheese than it already is. Can’t believe I agreed to wipe my memory. Must have been important, at least, otherwise they wouldn’t have risked me deciding to say fuck their oath. Don’t know yet whether I will, but from what I remember I don’t think I want the Mensarius getting his hands on what’s in my head any more than Vates does. How’s that for scary.

Vates, that little cocksucker. Made sure to get that dig in about the Mensarius before he got to the good stuff, obviously wanted to make sure I’d want to keep the oath. Explains a lot though, don’t it? Why M’s so up in arms about the Seers all the time. Wants to wipe them out so there’s no more evidence, so they can’t tell anybody in the Pentacle. …fuck. What do I do when the Guardians come asking questions about loyalty? They find out he used to be a Seer, we’re screwed. They find out I got holes in my memory, I’m screwed. That’s if Vates wasn’t lying, though, and he might’ve been. Bastard’s hard to read. Then again, I don’t know squat about what went down in LA or why the Mensarius came here. I think it’s time to have a talk with Luciano. But I’ll wait til after they meet next week, see if I can get M to let me come with him. Might pick something up, fly on the wall style.

…oh yeah. One more thing. That goetic demon. I lost control of it. Offed a Sleeper. Just some guy, lived in a cabin, heard gunshots and came outside. The demon…whatever part of me this is…pushed me, and I just let go. Wanted the kill too much, didn’t care who it was. This is the kind of shit I wanted to take down the vampires for, Jesus. Preying on innocent Sleepers for no good fuckin reason? It’s one thing for criminals to kill criminals, we know what we’re getting into, but – well fuck, it’s not even that. I mean, that too, but it’s more about us us. The Ladder. Mages. We’re supposed to be waking people up. Like M could’ve killed me when I went after him, but he didn’t, because this is our job, god dammit.

Gotta get this under control. Next time, do better.

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