38: Dulce et Decorum Est

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): June 20-22, 2007

Who Was There: Yukio Ohta(Bob), Mark Donovin (Eric)

What It Was

Derek Cross appears at the Marble Arch one night with an unusual request: use the Crystal Skull to go back to 1913 and learn what really happened to his namesake.

The Full Horror

Months after Luther Abel's ill-fated attempt to restore The New Inquisition, life is back to normal, or at least what passes for it in New York. But the Aces and Jokers are not taking that for granted. Mark has stepped up his search for Donnelly, while Yukio works with Tamara and Latrell to upgrade security over the Orgone projects at the Renaissance, while also raising the security level at the Marble Arch in general. Mark's mode is search-and-destroy. Yukio is in the bunker.

Yukio also decides to change Bruce's legal status from guest to renter, just in case a future incident leads to the guest house getting damaged. Then he adds extra fire extinguishers, a beefed up insurance program, and a halon fire-suppression system above the guest house.

The past academic year has been a good one for the school, and as the official year winds down and the Summer Program begins, there are more Gifted among the students than before.

On the night of June 20, Yukio decides to hold a small get-together. Bruce is away for the evening, but among the invited are Mark, Tamara, Michel, Cassandra, Kaori, and Michelle Chen, Ken's fellow student at the USA Shaolin Temple in the Village. Yukio has also invited a friend and colleague from Columbia who is an accomplished poet.

June 20 turns out to be a perfect, warm summer night. The appetizers are glorious, and the flower arrangements breath-taking. Ishida has out-done himself, and the gardens have never looked better. The Faerie plants fill the entire complex with a soft, multi-hued glow, adding to the magic of the night. When Kaori shows up, she asks Ishida to give her the Grand Tour, and spends over an hour ooh-ing and aah-ing at his many triumphs.

After the general party, a private dinner party begins, to which are invited Mark, Tamara, Michel, Cassandra, and Kaori. Rumors are shared about sightings of Ariadne, and there is plenty of gossip and news to fill the rest of the evening. Oison and Pwyll remain on guard while the others enjoy themselves.

A Strange Request

Everyone is settling into their second drink, when a figure appears at the gate. Pwyll and Oison glance up from their resting places, but then relax as they recognize the newcomer: Derek Cross.

Yukio looks at the man with Death Sight. Derek has not taken a life recently, but death is on his mind. Yukio invites the man to join them, but seats him between Michel and Kaori and across from Mark, just to make sure he says off-balance for a while.

Ishida offers Cross a plate of some of the more mind-liberating Faerie plants. Cross wisely avoids this, but does accept another Faerie plant whose effects are much like a shot of whiskey, and he looks like he needs it. Cross is obviously there to make a request, but Yukio lets the evening continue, seeing no reason why he should not be allowed to sweat a little. But he also asks Ishida to prepare a meeting room, and takes steps himself to ensure it can not be scryed on (not an easy task in Katsoulakis' New York).

Pwyll and Oison confirm that Cross just appeared at the entrance, where Yukio's property technically begins, rather than walk through Katsoulakis' turf to get there. That suggests to Yukio that he is not here on official business. When the guests circulate after dinner, Ishida checks Cross' chair and finds pollen from a flower called Maltese Everlasting. Has Cross come there from the island of Malta?

Finally, Yukio relents and invites Cross to join him, Cassandra, and Mark in a private meeting.

When Derek comes into the protected space he finds everything very carefully arranged. Cassandra sits to the North, Mark to the West, Yukio to the East, leaving only the South for Derek. He comes into the room, takes off his coat and weapons and shoes, and takes his appointed place. For the first time in Yukio's experience, Derek is having a hard time meeting his gaze, or anyone's gaze. In a low voice, he begins, "I heard you took back the Crystal Skull from Glamis."

He heard about this, of course, from Aglie. Such a momentous accomplishment was bound to come to the attention of all the Players. But then Cross admits, "I'm not here on Vincent's behalf. This is for me." Aglie knows he is there, of course, but he does not approve of the visit, though he did finally give his consent when Cross insisted.

When they demand to know what he wants, Cross looks at Mark. "I need your help. Or-I'd like to ask you for your help. I want-I need to find out about something. Something that happened in 1913. And if you agree, we'll need the Skull to do it."

Derek then explains. Like many who work for Aglie. his family has been ‘in service' for generations. His great-grandfather and namesake, the first Derek Cross, was one of the officers leading the battle in 1913. But the accounts of his actions during that conflict have always been vague, unsettlingly so, and now Cross wants to go back and find out what really happened. Aglie asked him not to do this, but finally agreed when he could not talk Cross out of it.

The crystal skull, as an energy lattice, can be used to focus psychic abilities to a tremendous degree. Derek believes that if Mark uses his MindTime ability-and yes, Derek knows Mark has that-in a special ritual framed around the Skull, then he will be able to reach back all the way to 1913. Performing the ritual on June 21, the summer solstice, would increase the odds of success, and Derek also bears the sword his great-grandfather used.

When they agree to help him, Cross presents a sword to Mark very similar to his own. If they encounter something during the ritual, it will probably not be something vulnerable to bullets. Yukio says they will make the necessary preparations, and then tells Cross to return the following morning with a car.

After the meeting, preparations go quickly. Kaori agrees to ask Maori for the Skull and have it ready for them when needed. They decide to hold the ritual at noon, but as the discussion goes on, the idea of holding it near Belgrade itself makes more and more sense, especially when they could pass through the Faerie realms to get to Glasgow and then rely on the Gilmores to see them on a plane to Europe.

Yukio decides to take along the book discovered in Winfield Hall that appears to be an account by Saint-Germain of 1913. He also suggests to Michel that an impromptu-even flash-mobbed-"seance of the stars" held at the Marble Arch would be an excellent distraction while they are away. Michel is only too happy to agree.

The plan goes well. Kaori hands over the Skull herself, ensuring Cross will not learn where they are keeping it safe, and thanks to Carla, Mark has a safe house near Belgrade ready and fully supplied by the time they arrive. When the building is properly Warded and Cleansed, they begin.

The four sit in a specially constructed magic circle, with the Skull set in a prominent position. Then Cross draws out two stunningly beautiful blue sapphires and set them in the eye sockets of the Skull, where they fit perfectly. He then tells Mark to concentrate on the Skull, to reach back in time through it, and a short time later, the building around them begins to shift, and then disappear as the years unwind. After a time of bewildering changes, the world around the circle slows again, and they find themselves on a street in the midst of open war.

The battle is so chaotic even Mark has a hard time following what he is seeing, but after several minutes, certain facts become clear. First, the ritual has been successful, transporting them back in time but in a spirit state that keeps them safe, even from the massive invocations and rituals going on all around them. The magicks being wielded are well beyond anything they have seen up to now, both in power and brutality.

Eventually, they are able to make sense of the parties involved. On one side, the Black Hand, supported by the Thule Society, the Order of St. Cecil and the Society of Sentinels. On the other, an alliance of the Rosicrucians and the Templars. (Lesek Czernin had it wrong all along.)

All parties wear their colors openly, even the Templars, who are clad in white (very much like Tessa DiMarco and Derek Cross) but also sport a small, stylized red cross. Nor does anyone try to take cover. There is little point in trying when your adversaries can immediately detect your position and punch through solid matter with hardly any effort at all. The body count is staggering.

But even worse is the sight of the Sentinels, who are wielding a primitive version of Uranur. while not as powerful as the Saints, apparently drawing strength for their attacks from only their own resources, not those of others, the connection is obvious. They only lack the brilliance (and depravity) of Donnelly's research.

Yet, despite their limits, the Sentinels rip through their adversaries. From the stunned look on the faces of Templar and Rosicrucian alike, none of them have ever seen Uranur before, and the Sentinels nearly win the day for the Black Hand. Only when an elite force of Templars sacrifice themselves to hold the line are their allies able to rally, and the fighting intensifies.

Yukio takes advantage of the fog of war to use Death Speech on a fallen Templar. When he asks the man who the Grand Master is, the name is not clear, but it is definitely not Vincent Aglie. Any other questions are cut short when a horrific, unearthly shriek comes from behind, and the time travelers turn to see four Grim Reapers closing in.

The fight is short and, in the end, victorious, though Derek takes a bad hit. But first aid gets him back on his feet, and he returns to the search for his great-grandfather. A short time later, he succeeds.

The elder Derek Cross is magnificent, performing more than one act of heroism even as they watch. But then his Templars are cornered by Cecilites and Black Hand shock troops. Boxed in with only one route for retreat, they are left with a stark choice: stand their ground or fall back through a neighborhood at the city's edge, using it and its innocent people as a shield. The decision falls to Cross, who hardly takes a moment to decide to fall back. Barely a half hour later, nearly three hundred mundane people are dead, ripped to pieces in the most appalling and unimaginable ways.

As his fellow Templars look on in horror, Cross ignores their objects and roars them on. A few minutes later, a massive Necromantic Bolt catches him right in the chest, and his body is blown apart. Shocked, Derek falls silent as the ritual begins to end, and they start a slow drift back to their own time.

But just before 1913 fades from view, Mark, Yukio, and Cassandra see a wild eyed woman staring at them. Anne Salters. Before their eyes she savagely rips apart three stern and powerful Rosicrucian mages, batting aside their mighty invocations. Looking up from their dismembered corpses, she locks eyes with the travelers again and utters a peal of cold laughter. "Until next time."

Unhappy Truths

As the safe house reappears around them, they see Aglie and Tessa waiting, silent and solemn. adly for them. "I am truly sorry, Derek. But I must say, I did caution you."

Seeing them together it is even more clear how similar the clothes of Aglie, Tessa, and Derek are to those worn by the Templars of 1913 (allowing, of course, for the changing fads of European fashion). But the absence of the red cross is blatant.

Derek is still on one knee, the wound from the Reaper having re-opened, and Cassandra and Tessa move to his side to begin a Healing. He looks up at Aglie and nods, "I should have listened."

Aglie shakes his head. "No. It was only to be expected. You must not blame yourself."

Aglie turns as Yukio comes up and hands him the book from Winfield Hall. Aglie is not sure what to make of it, and cannot be certain that Yukio has not brought the book back somehow from 1913. But he accepts it with thanks.

"The Society of Sentinels and their brethren, the Order of St. Cecil, date back to the 1790s. A reaction to the excesses of the French Revolution, or so it was said. In truth they were only the first of many bitter reactions to the modern age. They could not even be said to be part of a vision for a return to a glorious past. They were only instruments of denial, hammers of a retrograde faith, sent into the world to terrorize those who dared to rebel."

"All of which served to alienate us still further from our own roots, much like our Rosicrucian brothers and sisters who shared our sympathies. Had we united in our disaffection, perhaps 1913 would not have been so devastating, or our recovery from it so difficult."

"But we, at least, survived. The end was inevitable for the Cecilites and the Sentinels after 1928, when a new force usurped their place in the hierarchy. By the '40s they were only a memory, with only a few scattered members left, driven mad by what they had seen and what they had done. If only the knowledge acquired by the Sentinels had died with them, but instead it was kept, husbanded, protected, until that day when a man like Thomas Donnelly would exercise the will and resources necessary to make it an even greater threat."

"Had my predecessors been in a position to prevent that, I assure you they would have. But even they were hardly able to manage more than a few symbolic gestures even by the 1950s. It was that reality, I think, that finally drove us all together, to make formal the alliance that should have been forged centuries before. And so Rosicrucian and Templar stood together at last, breaking all ties to the past and turning instead to the future and the forging of a better world, one free of Authority and Tribalism." He smiles ruefully. "If only."

Aglie identifies Anne Salters as one of the Black Hand's most fearsome mercenary lieutenants in 1913, but he is alarmed to hear about her connection to Winfield Hall. She had a particular vindictiveness toward the Rosicrucians, and was responsible for the loss of some of their most accomplished mages. He offers to share any knowledge he can find about her. He is also aware of Donnelly's recent sighting in New York, and is as concerned as they are about it.

Mark may keep the sword Derek gave him, in thanks for his help in the past. Aglie pauses, then sighs. He admits that perhaps it would be best if they (Aces/Jokers) pursued their own agenda. There had been a time when he had hoped for a closer alliance, but he has only himself to blame for not treating them with the respect they deserved. But they are welcome to visit them in Malta, should they wish. "Yes, I think that may be overdue. Malta has changed much over the centuries, but the heart that beats deep within her remains a Templar heart. The rise of Ben-Nevis in Scotland has made it necessary to shift a greater number of operations to the Mediterranean and our other places of power."

When asked by Yukio, Aglie admits that when he knew he could not talk Cross out of his plan, he called ahead to Katsoulakis to let him know his man would be passing through. It was a courtesy, and it seems the matter was handled cordially. Nonetheless, Yukio decides he will tell Katsoulakis that Cross only needed aid regarding a problem with the dead. Cross had done favors for Yukio in the past, so saying he felt obligated to return the favor was, in a real sense, perfectly true.

With that, Aglie and Tessa help Derek to his feet, and offer their thanks before departing. The Skull still safely in their position, Mark, Yukio, and Cassandra head back home.

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