The Road

[V.O. Alastor] 37

…hey, Artemis.

Normally I’d be talking to you about all this crazy shit, but since I left you behind in a cold dark hellhole of insanity that was exactly your worst fuckin nightmare, you’re not around. But I’ll be damned if I let that stop me. Especially when I’m hung the fuck over and spent most of last night in a haze of beating the everloving shit out of people who probably only kinda deserved it.

Now, before you give me that look and go “tch” and get on my case for wallowing in self-loathing bullshit, I’m not. Mostly. Kaa was right, there had to’ve been a reason we let you stay and I’m not gonna second guess it until I know exactly what happened back there. The Abyss, as you know, is a bottomless well of douchebaggery, and it put its fingers in my head and scooped out a bunch of my memory. Don’t worry, though, I remember the most important part. The promise I made you. I’ll get to the bottom of what’s wrong with Daniela and I’ll fix it. I’ll look after em for you.

Ain’t talked to Rhi yet, I put it off last night. Was reeling a little too much from losing all that time and everything changing under my feet. You’re gonna laugh, but I had a Ladder girlfriend who’s kind of a milf. (If that’s slang you don’t know, too fuckin bad.) She’s got a sweet car but damn, like things with Rhi weren’t complicated enough. Plus it turns out Rhi was banging Lasombra in this shiny new reality, and maybe you’ll say this is bullshit but honestly? After all the hell I put her through, maybe she’s better off.

Look, don’t think I don’t see it. In my position there’s not a lot anybody could’ve done. About the archmasters, the Prince, all the many and various forces fuckin with us from beyond every veil from here to god damned eternity. But you know what? Not fuckin good enough. Not for a Mastigos. It’s an excuse for still being too weak, too small. Somewhere Pandemonium’s lookin down at me and saying, jesus christ kid, ain’t we given you enough chances to prove you’re not just another mindless product of the fuckin Lie? If I were half the Mastigos I should be, I’d’ve found a way to stop them all from making us bend over and take it all this time. I didn’t.

Put it this way. I found this fern everybody’s had their panties in a twist about, out here on the balcony. At first I didn’t see what the big fuckin deal was. Why would Praelia think I’d give half a shit about a plant? But I figured it out. It’s not the plant that’s important. See, she and Kaa, they both asked if I’d been taking care of it. Like that was the important part, the act of keeping this thing alive. Considering I apparently told Praelia my whole fuckin life story, she’s gotta know who I am by now. How many things I’ve broken. This thing was a challenge.

A challenge I still need. The family, the cabal, everyone who’s ever depended on me, I broke them all. Not this time. This time the Ladder wants me around, they respect me, and I’m not gonna fuck it up. I’m not gonna fuck it up for Kaa, either. And if it kills me, this fern is living to see it.

…I fuckin hate that destiny handed me this second chance now, now that you’re gone. Like…like you were the price. If I ever get my hands on the cosmic force that planned this one, you better believe I’m gonna rip its head off and crush its metaphysical skull into a thousand pieces. It’s not right. You should be the one coming back to a life that doesn’t suck balls, not me. I can deal with a shitty hand, hell, it’s my job, why did you have to be the one to take one for the fuckin team? God dammit. How many times did I tell you it wouldn’t happen? Just a lie. Another promise I couldn’t keep.

…yeah, yeah, quit it with the attitude, I know. Not gonna go do something stupid out of guilt, turn myself over to Jimenez or anything. Even though you just did the same fuckin thing, you stubborn self-sacrificing bitch. I’m gonna make damn sure I get it right this time.

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[V.O. Alastor] 36

Sarah.

This is gonna hurt her. I know that. Am I gonna do it anyway? Probably.

Closing all those boxes made me realize a few things. Not just all that objectivity, endless potential ascension shit. It made me realize that part of figuring out how to master the mind is figuring out when to be human. Turning all your emotions and compasses off completely makes you nobody. The point is to choose who you want to be and then to be him.

So do you choose to love her, Adrian?

I know what my daimon thinks. He thinks she’s holding me back. He thinks she’s just a symbol. He, it, whatever. That part of me. There’s a part of me that thinks the whole thing was just a way to define myself as Not Her and her as Not Me, to have something bright to look at as an inspiration, something to protect until the world would let it blossom. And yeah, she was that. The glowing flower in the dark spaces.

Here’s the thing. She’s also a person. And if there’s one thing Mind magic makes clear, it’s that people are ultimately the only thing that matters to Pandemonium. Even when you look out at the Anima Mundi, where you see how insignificant you are against a universe of massive fuckin forces of nature, you remember that Dahhak’s palace plays This Is Your Life with its visitors, because that’s what the Path cares about. Who you are and who you could be.

So what’s that got to do with Rhi? I’m not hubristic enough yet to think this whole awakening thing is just about me. Mastering magic and looking toward ascension and all, it’s important, but not important enough to just ditch the idea of right and wrong. That’s the whole damn point. Passions are what make us into real masters, that’s what M said, and the more I think about it the more I realize that my passion’s gotta be putting things right. Justice is one way but it ain’t the only one I got, I know that now. And what I did to Rhi, to her potential as a willworker, by letting her live in that safe little world where I would always be there to protect her, that was bullshit. Some demon somewhere’s shaking its head at me right now. Where’s your Mastigos balls, Adrian, he’s saying to me. So I need to put that mistake right.

And it’ll hurt her, and maybe she’ll hate me, and y’know what? I’m gonna go ahead and let that idea hurt me right back. Yeah, I choose to love her. Because without passions we’re nothing. Because love can be as much of a trial as anything else. I can love her enough to let her hating me make me better. And if the day comes when she doesn’t hate me for it anymore, then I’ll know she really learned something.

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[V.O. Alastor] 35

So fuckin sick and tired of learning just how blind we are. If there’s one thing a Mastigos isn’t supposed to be it’s blind, jesus christ. Sick of finding out all the brand new ways everybody and their goddamn grandmother’s got of breaking the rules and pulling one over on us. First some impossible bullshit to get through my wards without my knowing and now this? It wasn’t even Vates on the phone to begin with, we got a casino full of poor dead zombified assholes and some freak who can shut magic off for no fuckin reason I can see. What is this thing?

And now this pathetic jackass is useless. Oh boo hoo, your gang of round table goonies missed the train. What, cuz I decided not to plunge a couple million people into hell? Save it, douchebag.

Satisfying as it’d be, though, think I’ll refrain from putting a bullet through his ugly face. For one thing, somebody wanted me to pull the trigger on him tonight, and I wanna know who. Gotta be somebody who knows enough about the both of us to set up the perfect storm – his drunk, despairing ass and my being pissed off enough to shoot on sight. And since fate practically lit up a damn neon sign to bring us to this godforsaken town, and insists I’m supposed to kill the bastard, something tells me there’s nothing natural about this sequence of events.

So either Vates got some Acanthus’ panties in a twist, or Weyland caught on to the Seers’ little Knight problem and decided to snuff it out in the most Machiavellian way possible. Puts a weird spin on some shit, though. Like leading us on to think Panopticon, or Vates, was gung ho about letting Legion do its thing. Probably a load of crap, considering.

Wonder if Plutus was playing Vates this whole time? Consciously or not. Obviously if he was Legion before he still is now, that shit wasn’t going anywhere without Dahhak’s interference, and Plutus sure knew enough to pull this off. Subconsciously he’d do whatever he could to spread Legion even if he didn’t realize he was doing it.

…wait a second. Vates just giving up and drowning his sorrows, seems like it’d take more than a setback or five to do that to a guy like him. I know him. Fucked up as it is to say, he’s a lot like me. He wouldn’t just lay down and die like that. Unless his Obrimos buddy figured out how to go Bel on him, and took his god damned soul. (Too on the nose? Ha.) Nothing stopping him from impersonating Vates all day long at that point.

Shit. I need Artemis over here right the fuck now. Yeah, maybe I’m just paranoid. But since when has there been nothing to be paranoid about?

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[V.O. Alastor] 34

Legion. This is some seriously fucked up shit. Can’t help feeling like the only good way to deal with these bastards is to put a bullet in every one of their skulls. That’s instinct talking. …no, instinct and common fuckin sense. But so help me God if it’s the last thing I do, I’m gonna redeem that Seer shithead. Cure his psychotic disease and make him get it. I need to do it. If I do it, it’ll be proof that I can be a force for real justice in this hellhole world, that my daimon was right about me and I’m meant for more than blood, no matter how good the blood feels.

Maybe Dahhak’ll have something to say about it. If there’s anybody in this whole damn universe who’ll get it and can beat some ideas into me, it’s him. …and maybe he can tell me whether I got any corruption in my subconscious that I can’t find. Wonder what happens to the daimon in a Legion-infected mind? Does it fall first or last? Does it fight back? I’ve read that daimons don’t see themselves as protectors of the Oneiros, but its job is to question you so you’ll take a closer look at yourself…it’s gotta know something’s wrong when it all starts, right? Hm.

I’m just glad Rhi finally got the picture. What we’d have to do if she kept using the masques that way…I mean, maybe someday she’d learn how to do it like Leto did but she sure as fuck ain’t ready for it now, and frankly I don’t think she’d like who she became if she did learn. I wouldn’t. Jesus, I need to be careful. The more I fall in love with her the worse it’s gonna be if some asshole finds out and uses it against us. …could turn it off, but hell, she’s the best thing to ever happen to me, and I don’t want to do that to her. Not like that.

…she said she was proud of me. Dunno what to say about that. Felt like somebody pushing open a curtain and letting the sun in or something.

Even with all the rest of this, though, there’s something nagging at me. There’s gotta be justice for this city, for all the shit she’s been through. Nobody’s paid for this, nobody’s had to face up to it. Grimnir, his buddies, they’re not responsible, not really. Complicit, but not responsible. Convenient and satisfying to take it out on them, but real justice ain’t about those things. Trouble is, the only one I can legit point my gun at here is fuckin Weyland, or Velentr or whatever the hell his name is. How do you bring an archmaster to justice? How do you even learn enough to know what he deserves? Well, I know one thing. If he’s allowed to destroy the Ladder, the world is fucked. And anybody willing to fuck the world probably deserves everything we can throw at him.

I just don’t know how to make that enough.

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[V.O. Rhiannon] 1

Look at me. Just days ago I was ready to take on the world and make a difference, and a whole lot of other bullshit I was telling myself to keep myself from going catatonic from how fucked up the situation is. But I can’t believe i let Vates affect me like that. It took one phonecall, one threat to just make me shrivel up and start panicking. I should be goddamned better than this, but what else can I do?

And this whole damn excercise was pointless, wasn’t it? I feel like shit for just running off like that, but I just couldn’t lie to them to their faces about what was going on, and what I might be doing. And what did it get me? I’m right here back with them, fucking terrified that I’m going to be leading them into something terrible.

At least the election went as well as it could’ve. The Scrivener is out on his ass, so to speak, and someone who’s hopefully less of a complete monster is in charge of the Concilium. Still, what he did in that chamber. I still think he’s utter scum, and all of that rhetoric about being abolve the lie is bullshit, but maybe somewhere under there is someone worthwhile. Maybe.

I’m just glad that I didn’t screw things up more than I already had by running off before the big night. Or maybe I did. Outing Bel isn’t doing me any favors with anyone, let alone what I might be walking into. If it even is Leto in the first place. Great going, girl, you’re going to fix the Guardians all on your lonesome, you just need to fix the hundred and fifty or so mages who you just pissed off by letting family secrets out into the open. At some point, I wonder, they knew exactly who I was when they brought me in, what the hell did they think was going to happen?

God.

The worst part of all of this is that I left them when they needed me, hell, when I needed them. Artemis looks like she’s about to have some sort of breakdown. No, actually, the worst part is the way Alastor has been looking at me.

I’m so sorry, Alastor, this wasn’t fair to you. Happy fucking birthday, your girlfriend is an untrustworthy fuckup who nearly ruined everything you’ve built over the past few weeks.

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[V.O. Alastor] 33

If I didn’t know better I’d feel like any minute now I’m gonna wake up and this’ll all’ve been some kinda dream. How the fuck does a guy go from hunted apostate to Seneschal of the Consilium in an hour and a half?

Why do I feel like I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop? Nah, I know why. Been a long time since somebody told me, Adrian, you did good, kid. Kinda stupid to say so but it feels good. Guess I’m still more paranoid about deserving it than I thought.

…could be Rhiannon, too. Didn’t even expect to see her here and I almost wish she hadn’t shown up. She helped me out and don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it. But seeing her like this…I dunno. Hard to feel like even all of this was good enough, knowing what a piss-poor job I’m still doing as their Doorwarden. Still can’t find Flare, Artemis has been acting like she expects to be smacked for something all week, and now this with Rhi. She barely had three words to say to me. I get that something’s going down with Mainyu, and God knows I know Vates can give you some good reasons to shut your trap, but how the hell am I supposed to do my job when I got no fuckin idea what’s going on? Every minute we’re with her I feel like we’re walking right into a trap blindfolded, and every minute we’re not I feel like I’m about to lose her.

Yeah, I know this is what Vates wanted. Us separated, her scared, me angry. I don’t give a fuck. When the chips are down I’ll turn this off, but right now I want it right here at the top of my mind. Because the second he and his bullshit schemes hurt one hair on her head, he’s history. And I’m sure he knows that, too. So he’ll be real careful. I just hope to God I figure this out before it’s too late.

Ha ha, what a Pandemonium birthday this is gonna turn out to be. Congratulations, Adrian, you won the election. Now suffer. Bring it on, Path of Scourging. I’m ready for you.

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[V.O. Alastor] 32

Even though the two years I spent in the Library were all inside just one building, sometimes this world seems somehow smaller. It made me smaller. All that violence and emotion just shut down the best parts of my brain, even for just that instant. So easy to forget everything in the heat of the moment, all that will and fire to remake myself and my mind…devoured by desperation. All that Awakened enlightenment, crushed under a heap of fuckin human limitation. Every day I hate the Lie a little more.

Did I really leave Asphodel behind forever, fall off my path, give destiny the finger? Maybe. Maybe not. Who the fuck knows anymore. Maybe Artemis can tell me. If she’s not too pissed off about how I almost killed her, jesus. She didn’t seem pissed off, though. Couldn’t read her aura at the time but she’s not usually that quiet when she’s angry. Or quiet at all. …don’t like that I had to do that. Not to her. Not to the girls. Never thought things’d come to that. Too much Princeps in me, still, too much of the monster. But what the fuck was I supposed to do? She was about an inch away from putting an arrow straight through Rhiannon’s skull, and I couldn’t get out of my goddamn head to stop her telepathically.

More than that I wish to god Rhi hadn’t been there to see it. She was already freaking out, though, before the Hunters even knew where we were. Wish it didn’t feel like she resorts to crazy shit like bombs when she’s desperate because of me. Sometimes I think she wants to show me she can be hardcore or something, why doesn’t she understand? It’s funny, looking at the big wars between us and the Obrimos in history, it starts to look like just a bunch of hypocrisy if you stare at it too long. Means and ethos, angels and demons, none of it really mattered in the end. In the end they were all just mages making chaos because they got angry, got desperate, had too much pride. Because they were human. But Rhi’s not like that. Why does she want to be?

Almost wish I’d had the opportunity to punch Flare a couple times, though, maybe that ghost would’ve gotten the fuckin hint. Still, wasn’t a lie, what I said to Rhi. No way in hell does Flare let that asshole nest in there forever. She’s good enough with the wheel to’ve found her way back out before the storm was over. I’m not too worried. And maybe she’ll be upset we didn’t go after her but frankly the city’s too important. If it’s true we couldn’t’ve gotten back then it was a choice that had to be made.

…oh, the city’s too important, you mean the one you’re watching go straight to hell while you’re sitting here on your ass in the sanctum? Yeah, her. My city. My. Fuckin. City. Feel like I did the day they got Boston, but a hundred times worse. Like I gotta do something, right the fuck now, but at the same time I can’t be stupid about it because there’s people trusting me not to screw up. So I just sit here and let it happen, I hate this. That piece of shit on the phone. Can’t believe I told my daimon I wanted to change his mind. All I want right now’s to feel his blood on my hands, god, how can I make myself do any less? How can he possibly deserve anything else? There’s nothing decent about that scumbag. Justice told me to trust my own judgment, that I had a code that would guide me, but all it’s telling me right now is to wipe that bastard off the planet.

Alright, alright, think. He’s taking orders, he’s just a cog in a big bloody war machine. Killing him’d stop him but it wouldn’t stop the machine. He has to be brought to justice but that means making things right first and giving him whatever he deserves after that, if he survives this fight. If all goes well there’ll be a new Council in place that can put him on trial. Your job is to make that happen and convince him not to be such a shitstain in the process. Breathe. You can do this.

Need to find Hermes, find the House. Figure out how to ask the city what she wants from me now. She’ll tell me how I can fix this. Just gotta listen harder.

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[V.O. Alastor] 31

I can feel it. Killer’s instinct. Shoot first. Only way to make sure you win. Pounding in my chest, screaming in my head. That guy might’ve been there when they killed Nidhogg, he’s a twisted son of a bitch, and something inside me wants his blood on my hands right the fuck now. I know I should be controlling this, but without magic what the hell am I supposed to do? God, I hate this feeling, like being stuck inside a tiny box inside my head. Just like before. Only now it’s not just me I gotta make sure gets out of this alive.

Just calm down, Adrian. Breathe. Focus. You’re in charge here. Losing the magic doesn’t change that. You’re still a Mastigos, act like one. Just…think. Alright, say Medraut wasn’t Medraut, wasn’t an aeon. Because frankly that never made much sense in the first place. He’d still have to be somebody who could screw around with my Oneiros, interfere with a mind probe and vanish without apparent spells, and do some of that from a distance. So it sounds like we’re dealing with another Mastigos, and not just some master. I doubt even M could’ve pulled off yanking the girls into my mind with no warning, or doing all that sympathetic casting without tipping me off. So we got an archmaster on our hands, and we already know the Seers’ve got one of those who likes to interfere personally.

Say I’m right and it’s Weyland. Why do all this? Vates – and probably Castle – both went out of their way not to interfere with whatever I was supposed to be doing, because I was already on track to find the Road on my own. And as far as we know, they’re not allied with Paternoster. But taking the fight to our enemies meant stopping their war, so getting us out of the way would be beneficial to them. Maybe he picked up on this destiny and didn’t give a shit about it, just used it as a convenient excuse to get rid of us. I know he’s a Fate practitioner, it’s possible.

…and if one Minister is parading around as one aeon, maybe Jimenez’ “Dahaka” is another one. Gotta find out who Panopticon’s Minister is.

Now the storm on the other hand…jesus christ, this storm. Whoever wrote that note didn’t need to fuckin remind me what’s happening to the city right now. Can’t believe I’m stuck holed up in a shitty apartment building that barely exists while Manhattan gets ripped to shreds. At least the thread hasn’t gone anywhere. I can still feel it, still connected. It helps. I’m not completely trapped up here alone. Plus it seems like Artemis’ witchy soccer mom taught her how to give people Fate Sight without casting, and this is some weird shit. Not much resonance around to see, though. The rain’s killing everything.

Focus, come on. The storm’s archmaster material, too, I’d say Obrimos. Prime to kill all the magic, Forces to give it shape. We’ve seen the Eye of Panopticon, but at the time it just looked like a big fuckin moon, so that doesn’t tell me much. Panopticon doesn’t make much sense here anyway, though, doesn’t seem like their style and the Minister shouldn’t know about the Road. If he does I guess Vates is fucked. Seems more likely that somebody else – maybe the Praetorian Minister, helping Paternoster out – sent the storm to make us vulnerable, and the Knights are taking advantage of it. Send the Hunters, they’re expendable, scry them from a distance so you don’t get caught in the storm yourself. Get them on our trail, then when we’re out of the storm, teleport to our location while we’re still weak and out of mana. And since it sounded like Vates was taking advice from so-called Medraut, doesn’t seem too out of whack to think we’re all being played.

…don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the Seers orchestrated my destiny. I mean, I guess an archmaster probably could do that, but I dunno. That seems like a hell of a lot of trouble to go to just to get one person out of your way. Still, I’m getting the same vibe now that my daimon was getting before, in the future – with all the archmasters lurking around keeping watch over stuff, their Pax Arcana, who’s gonna let things come this far? If one or two archmasters broke the treaty, you’d think the others’d do something about it. …unless they’re dead, I guess. Jesus christ, talk about a sobering thought. I wonder if Hermes has got any way of contacting Harpocrates. Not to farm our problems out, but we need more information, and we need it pronto. Y’know, after we survive.

Though if Vates wants to follow these assholes to the Road, they won’t kill us. At least, not yet. That’s a big “if” though, and god knows Jimenez wasn’t half that sane. So for now the question I gotta focus on is just whether or not I should put a bullet in that Hunter’s skull before he has a chance to find the girls.

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[V.O. Alastor] 30

Gotta say, this wasn’t really what I expected out of M’s jug of wine. I don’t even think I got the words for this place. Nobody would fuckin believe me if I told em. A library built and hidden in Twilight by survivors of the fall of Atlantis? How many people’ve been branded whackjobs for claiming this kind of shit? But here I am in this room, exactly where I was when I went to sleep, and I damn well know my mind well enough to know when I’m dreaming. This ain’t a dream.

And it looks like I’m stuck here til my body wakes up on its own. If this body were just a psychic projection this’d be easy but like the lion said, it’s definitely physical. And if that wasn’t crystal fuckin clear before, it sure is now, I’m starving. That asshole Librarian looked at me like I was nuts for asking about a goddamn kitchen. Being alone in this place for god knows how many years did a real number on his personality, jesus. But smug bastard or not, he’s the one M meant for me to meet, and since I’m here one way or the other anyway I might as well see what there is to learn here. Seems like the answer is “a fuckin lot.”

I sure as hell hope it doesn’t take ten years, though.

Today I fixed one of those atoxi crystals that are all over the place. Took me a while just to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with it. I broke one the other day trying to get its resonance right, hope it wasn’t anything too important. Also if M were alive I’d buy him a drink for teaching me how to split my mind because holy shit being a librarian is boring as fuck. Less boring is what I saw in that crystal, though. It’s like somebody took a video camera back in time a couple thousand years to record the kind of stuff people would kill to get their hands on now. Occult knowledge I’ve never heard of about things I barely understand. I feel kinda like somebody took the Mysteries and just dumped them into a box, and now I’m here in the box wading through it all, way over my head. But hell if I’m gonna tell that asshole I can’t keep up.

I found a crystal that’s supposed to be the memory of a great Mastigos master from right after the Fall. It’s broken to hell, though. Gonna keep at this one, I want to see what’s in there. What does somebody that enlightened learn from Pandemonium? What kind of person was one of the first guys to ever write his name in the Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet? Whose footsteps am I really walking in here? Just how Fallen are we now?

p.s. really fuckin sick of bread.

Time’s sight might be worth jack shit for figuring out how much real time is passing but in here it’s been a month. Didn’t really think I’d be here this long, I keep feeling like any day now I’m gonna be right in the middle of some big breakthrough and then I’m just gonna wake up. Hasn’t happened yet, though, so I just keep on working for now.

The Librarian knows I know he’s full of shit about that door he keeps saying is corrupted. The acamoth can’t get in here, period. So what the fuck’s in that room? I think he thinks I’m gonna go open it when he’s not looking. And I’m not gonna pretend I don’t want to, there’s gotta be a reason he called attention to it. A test maybe, or something. But a demon once told me I had to learn how to deny myself what I want. Self-control’s the purview of the Warlock, right? So fuck him, I’m not gonna open that door and prove him right. Even if it might mean going home. I don’t want to fuck this up.

Not gonna lie though, I miss the girls. Keep dreaming about em but it ain’t the same. Especially Rhi, guess I didn’t really need to tell you that. But maybe when I get back I’ll have learned something about how to deserve her. Miss the city too, not used to this much silence, it’s been weird. Not looking out the window and seeing her heartbeat pulsing, all the lights and noise and people. Never realized before how empty a place would seem without people in it. The Librarian won’t let me into his head, not even to practice, so it’s just me up here all the time. And no, I’m not stupid enough to try delving into the mind of the acamoth. Real good way to put yourself on the fast track to crazy. So it’s quiet out there and quiet in here, and I feel sorta out of place in it but I think I’m getting used to it. Other shit just seems so far away.

Turns out those trials weren’t just trials, they were part of the Society of Kittiara’s philosophy about enlightenment and hubris. Been working on kind of a project, I guess, since there ain’t exactly a lot else to do with all this free time. They had ideas about morality and stuff, with five Supernal values that correspond to the Paths. For Acanthus you got courage, for us you got knowledge, the Thyrsus got compassion, Obrimos are faith and Moros are humility. I started looking at it more closely cuz I wanted to see what they had to say about ascension and living up to Awakened potential and everything, like Medraut and my daimon were talking about.

These guys said a mage isn’t supposed to use their magic to dominate others. Which is kinda funny since Pandemonium governs the whole idea of domination and power over people, but I think the Mastigos here thought it was way more important to master yourself and leave other people to their own shit. I dunno about that, some other people need their shit messed with, but this is how the Librarian talks about Mind, too. He’s been helping me focus on Mind as a self-directed arcanum, it’s been pretty different from the way M taught it. Still feels like there’s a big hole in the world without other people, though.

It’s been almost a year since I got here. Kinda can’t believe it, but Time don’t lie. Guess I’ve kept pretty busy despite the complete lack of strip joints and nightclubs here. Come on, Adrian, let’s not give C’Desith ideas, huh? Last thing you need is an Abyssal reminder of how long it’s been since you got laid. Jesus Christ why did I say that.

Today I talked to Justice. I don’t mean the guy driving around my Oneiros in a beat up old Chevy. I mean Justice, the astral Exemplar. Still remember like it was yesterday, what the Princeps said right before he died. Never gonna forget it. But what does justice even really mean? For the family it was pretty simple. Somebody fucks with you and yours, you fuck with em back one better so they learn the lesson. And I’ve had that part down pat for a long time, but I felt like there had to be more to it.

…y’know, the further I go down this rabbit hole the more I feel like I dunno when I’ll ever see the city again, but it’s not like it won’t be there when I get back. Weird, I haven’t thought about going home in a while. You just get caught up here.

Anyway, Justice really got me thinking. It said we all have a code, laws and morals we hold ourselves and the world accountable for. What differentiates a just code from an unjust one is whether you’re your own harshest judge. If you can’t be somebody who wouldn’t cross a line, then you can’t punish other people for crossing it, it don’t work like that. It said, to give somebody what they deserve you gotta learn about who they are holistically, not just how one act defines them. You can’t just ignore the good or the bad they did when you decide what they got coming to them. I wonder if Grim’s ever done any good in his life. Guess I’m gonna have to find out. If not…I think I gotta give him the opportunity to try first. Before I make my final judgment. I’m not usually much for playing fair, but when it comes to life and death for willworkers…well, M once said he’d never kill a mage unless there was no alternative. I gotta leave space for an alternative…just in case.

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[V.O. Alastor] 29

He asked me if there was a day I could remember when I felt good about myself, no qualifiers, no bullshit. I said no then, but thinking about it now there was one. Just one.

The night I met Harpocrates.

And y’know what? That was something new, something different. Something I learned how to do, on my own, that doesn’t break nothin. When I walk the city, follow the thread, I’m not Adrian Giovanni the scumbag hitter anymore, I’m…somebody else. Somebody who’s a part of this city somewhere above the Lie, somewhere better. I can be the city’s protector, and who the fuck knows, maybe I won’t have to agree to whack anybody to do it.

Think I know how I’m gonna get Grim. He wants a phone call when I’m ready to talk about moving on Caesar. Get him to show up to a strategy meeting or some shit, then just…have a nice, quiet talk. Gonna have to be subtle about it, I doubt he’s had a single regret in his miserable piece of shit life, but what’s a Warlock for if not subtlety?

Funny thing about my daimon. Think he’s getting impatient. He deliberately kept me away from the monster last night, gave me a truckload of philosophical “it’s a part of you” crap he knew I wouldn’t buy. That’s the whole fuckin point of the Oneiros, asshole, everything in there is part of me. Morpheans like that beast are stronger in dreamspace when they’re closer to your conscious mind, not weaker, come on. Not exactly a beginner here. Anyway he kept me away from it on purpose, think he didn’t want me wasting my time on a fight he figured would be pointless. I dunno, could be he’s right, though writings of Mastigos masters indicate that if you do it at the right time and for the right reasons, fighting with your morpheans is one of the best ways to master your mind.

But maybe I was doing it for the wrong reasons. Fight em because you want to learn something from it, not just because they hate you. So, one step at a time, I guess.

Speaking of which, tried something new today. Learning some shit about myself made it easier to get into other people’s heads. One thing you learn being a telepath, most people ain’t so different from each other after you get past all the superficial trappings. Everybody’s got mental defense mechanisms, and there’s only so many ways they can work. Short story is, I figured out how to reach in and suppress parts of the mind. On Sleepers anyway, it’ll be harder to do to a mage. Still, if I can turn off some bastard’s resolve to screw us over, might be one less fight we gotta have. Best Doorwarden strategy I can have now. Don’t like the way it tastes in my mouth sometimes, doing it that way, you can’t learn control if you never test yourself, but it’s tactically sound and frankly there’s more important shit going down right now.

Wonder what else might be easier now. Think I’m gonna go hang around Times Square and find out.

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