35: Old Faces, New Agendas

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): June-July, 2006

Who Was There: Yukio (Bob), Bruce (Matt), Mark (Eric)

What It Was

A night time visit by the vampire, Lady Helen Douglas, spurs plans for a raid on Castle Glamis to capture the Crystal Skull. Meanwhile, Katsoulakis shares a new development with the Kempelen Speaking Machine and news of an old enemy back in New York.

The Full Horror

Mark is making a circuit of the Renaissance late at night. On the roof he pauses for a moment to look out over the neighborhood when he senses something behind him. He spins to see the Lady Helen Douglas watching him as she hovers in the air. A moment later, he hears the fluttering snap of leathery wings and the vampiress has disappeared into the night.

Meanwhile, Yukio returns to the Marble Arch after several months of travel abroad, and immediately sends out invitations for a party. When Bruce, Mark, Ken, and Cassandra have arrived, Yukio tells them he thinks the time has come to raid Castle Glamis and steal the Crystal Skull. The plan he and Bruce have in mind is more heist than direct assault, but it would still benefit from having Mark's help in case things go awry. When Mark shares the news that Lady Helen was near the Renny only the night before, that makes the move against Glamis seem even more vital.

The real problem will be Lady Gwendolyn and any other Douglases who could wield magic against them. Yukio suspects the Skull is hidden in the basement, and the powerful Ward around that level will take time to overcome. Fortunately, the castle is a historic landmark, which means there is plenty of material available for research; daily tours can be used to gain access to the interior; and the Gilmores, the heirs of Glamis in exile, will be eager to provide intel.

That leaves the problem of Ben-Nevis. While neither the Aces nor the Jokers want to admit it, they know they are all considered part of Katsoulakis' sphere of power. (Mark is particularly disgruntled by the realization that he helped to put New York into Katsoulakis' hands.) That makes any aggressive action in Scotland, Ben-Nevis' place of power, especially risky.

But the Skull is too important to leave in the hands of the Douglases. Bruce and Yukio are now convinced it is Atlantean technology, and possibly linked to predictions about 2012 and TimeWave Zero. Various plans are discussed, but they decide the best course is to ask the Gilmores to create a distraction. If the Aces and Jokers are lucky, blame for the raid might even fall on the Gilmores, who would be glad to shoulder the wrath of their old enemies.

Given that the vampires are able to move around during the day, there is no obvious time to strike. But even if a night-time attack seems reckless, there is much they do not know about life within the castle.

Reluctantly, they decide to reach out to Lady Helen, provided she can be convinced to talk to them. Mark returns to the rooftop of the Renny that night, and succeeds in drawing her out. Yet despite many precautions, Mark falls deep under her power, and as she moves closer to embrace him, Yukio is forced to launch a Necromantic Bolt. Mark runs downstairs to attack Yukio's body (shoving Cassandra to one side), but halfway down the stairs, he comes back to his senses. Furious at himself, he runs back upstairs, only to see Lady Helen flee back into the night.

Later, Mark confesses to Yukio that he is worried the lingering effects of Lady Helen's control might compromise his ability to take on the vampires. Yukio replies this need not be a problem if they can avoid a confrontation altogether.

The Machine Speaks

The next day Katsoulakis invites Mark and Yukio--and Bruce--to join him for dinner and, perhaps, a bit of business. Yukio and Bruce are not pleased that Katsoulakis is aware of Bruce's presence in New York, but they are not really surprised either. Yukio decides to bring Ishida as 'his man' and have him chat with Niko during the dinner to see what he can learn.

When they arrive, Niko and Alexandria greet them as usual, and they are soon sharing drinks with Katsoulakis in his office. After some friendly small talk, they adjourn to the dining room where a typically elegant and extravagant dinner awaits. Their host gives the three men time to savor and digest it before moving on to the business of the evening.

He starts by reviewing the history of the Kempelen machine, and his account makes it clear there is a gap in the known history between its disappearance following the death of Doc Nixon in 1939 and its reappearance at the Rolston estate auction in 1999.

Katsoulakis is not certain what happened to the Machine during that time, though he suspects the Lodge had it until Rolston claimed it, perhaps as some kind of personal fetish, sometime prior to 1999. He had resigned himself to never getting a straight answer about that, but then Jameson and Rolston turned up again. He really will have to invite them over at some point.

Katsoulakis then rises from his seat and beckons the men to follow. He leads them through his office and down the spiral staircase to his museum and library, and as soon as they step into the main exhibit room, Yukio, Bruce, and Mark can hear a low murmuring: low, guttural, and wet. It is coming from the Kempelen Machine, and the cadence suggests some kind of chant.

Katsoulakis eyes the machine and says, "Were it not subject to the protections and wards I have over this place, it would already have summoned whatever it has been trying to." Unfortunately, he is not certain what is being summoned. Bruce has a vague notion that he knows the chant, but cannot quite place it.

But there is one final matter. Katsoulakis leads them back up to his office, where Niko is pouring a final nightcap of ouzo for them.

Katsoulakis picks up a manila folder and hands it to Mark who opens it to find a high-quality digital photograph of a proud-looking Spanish woman. Katsoulakis explains, "I expect George or Jonathan might have mentioned the Contessa Catalina Saragossa. By the time of the Rolston auction, she had been slaughtered and replaced by a serpent in service to Ben-Nevis. If this creature has returned to New York, you had best watch for her. But it's the man she's talking to that should most concern you."

The man is Thomas Donnely.

At a gesture from Katsoulakis, Niko activates the office's sound system, and the noise of street traffic fills the room, along with two voices in conversation:

The recording ends. Yukio and Mark are somewhat relieved to hear that the Contessa and Donnelly are acting on outdated information about the Aces and New York. But the danger they pose could not be more real.

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