While perusing the spare prompts on More Odds than Ends last Wednesday ((am I the only one who thinks wednesday is spelled weird? Why is there a silent “d” in the middle of the word?)) I spotted one that offered potential to continue the snippet from Week 40. As you walk through the ruins, you can feel the old dark magic starting to stir…
It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of this segment that I realized that I had misread part of the prompt. Whoops. Oh well, I took what I thought I saw, flipping it to 3rd person, and added to the story. I’m still not real sure where it is going, but it definitely wants to go somewhere. Need to sit down with partner-in-crime and a notebook and start hammering out some story ideas.
It had been just over half an hour since Maurice had opened the special courier package; half an hour since an abrupt phone call to his second when the doorbell chimed. He opened the door to his second. Dominik looked only slightly frazzled, which considering the early hour was remarkable in itself.
For his part, Dominik gave his old friend and former mentor a long look. “Okay, wha’s so urgent that ya had to yank me out of bed at this unholy hour?” A sour voice in the back of him mind noted that Maurice was up, dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, and looked relatively fresh for a Saturday morning. While he’d barely run a comb through his hair and had just grabbed a pair of running pants and a t-shirt. “It’s early in the morning, he’s in his seventies and still looks fresh and energetic, meanwhile I’m half dead,” he thought.
“Come in, Dom.” Maurice motioned him in. “I’d apologize, but once I tell you what is going on, you’ll understand the need to move quickly.” He turned and led the way to the breakfast bar. “I’ll get you some coffee. Maybe that will help.”
“Some.” Dominik grunted.
Maurice let him sip at the cup for a moment before indicating towards the den.
Dominik dropped into the overly padded chair without ceremony or comment and waited for his friend to explain. Maurice settled at the desk and picked up the pouch.
“I need you to do a couple of things. First, how many active cases do we have right now?”
“Active?” Dominik scowled and thought for a moment. “Ten, that I can think of offhand. Plus the odd observations that are routine.”
“That many?” Maurice drummed his fingers on the desk. “I could only recall half a dozen,” he murmured. “I need you to contact the Sentinels in Communications,” he turned his attention back to Dominik, “all activity is to cease immediately. We can leave the monitoring alone, but everything else must stop.”
“What on Earth for?”
Maurice dumped the contents of the pouch where Dominik could see them. “Someone has broken the Treaty with the Other Realm – perhaps someone from our own branch.”
“Oh shit!” Dominik paled and spilled coffee on his pants.
“Indeed. We’re on the brink of war. We’re fortunate that someone had honor enough to warn us.”
“It may not have been us,” Agnes swept into the room.
Dominik flicked an eyebrow. Even after the years he had known them, seeing Agnes wearing anything besides business or evening wear was always surprising. This morning she was gliding around in a blue and silver caftan that caught and emphasized her bright red hair and piercing eyes. He carefully set his coffee on the floor to prevent farther spillage.
“Richmond, Quantico and Washington also received special deliveries this morning. Tobias has started the process to freeze activity. Zheng hadn’t opened the package yet, but once I told him what was in yours, he took a look. It was the same. Seline wishes the Summit to take place in DC, since both us and Quantico are seed branches.”
“Of course she does.” Maurice allowed a deep sigh. “And of course Harold is insisting on Monocacy, since they are historically older than any other branch in the region.”
“Naturally.” Agnes gave him a grim smile and moved to the other chair. “I suggested they discuss it between themselves and let us know when and where.”
Maurice chuckled in spite of the situation. “As you can see, I’m going to be quite indisposed in the immediate future. I need you to oversee our people until the Summit is over.
“Of course.” Dominik inclined his head.
“Shenandoah and Augusta say they have not gotten or heard anything, as does Caledon and Northern Neck.”
“Interesting,” Dominik glanced between the two branch Elders. “The branches that touch on I-95 got the messages, but not braches border them. What about Monticello?”
Agnes shook her head. “Bernice is in the hospital and her Secondus knows less than nothing.”
“That’s about par for Mercedes,” Dominik shook his head.
“The second thing I want you to do,” Maurice turned the conversation back to business, “is to reach out to Star and Robin, see if they will be willing to lend their skills to investigating this situation.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Those two have been known to come very close to crossing the personal gain line. We know they resent having to wait for approval before moving. For all we know at this point, it could have been them.”
“Yes, Dom,” Agnes leaned back and made room on her lap for a large black cat, “they can be exasperating at times. And I know you have no great love for Robin. But they are experienced detectives. Besides, Cymia’s indicated that they’ve stayed within the rules.” She nodded to the cat. “Standing on the edge of the precipice and looking over isn’t the same are jumping down to the next ledge.”
“As you wish.” Dominik leaned over and picked up his coffee. It was going to be a long day.
They finished going over what needed to be done and Agnes walked Dominik out while Maurice went to lay out his clothes.
As the door closed Cymia made a sound suspiciously like a laugh. “Cubling.”
Agnes laughed and looked down at her daemon. “You know Dominik is long past cub age. In human years, he’s almost your age.”
“Still young,” Cymia declared and turned to stalk towards the den. “Most think more, feel less.”
“He’ll do what needs to be done.” Agnes followed her down the hall.
Cymia flicked an ear and snorted. As she walked through the den her form blurred and grew until she was larger than a Bengal tiger. “Not leader.”
“Perhaps not,” Maurice stepped in holding a couple of shirts, “but he is a very competent second.” Agnes pointed to the less ornate shirt. Maurice studied the shirt for a moment, and then nodded. “Thank you, my dear.” He returned to picking his wardrobe.
Cymia yawned, displaying fangs nearly a foot long, and sprawled in front of the fire place. “Human stuff boring. Fire?”
Agnes smiled and reached over to turn on the igniter. “You have become soft.”
Cymia pinned her ears back and gave Agnes an annoyed look, her short tail twitching. “Watch human. Stay comfortable.”
“Agnes, dear, have you seen my satin tie?”
Agnes gave an exaggerated sigh and looked down at Cymia with arched eyebrows. “I’m not sure who I spent more time waiting on, you or him.” She left the gigantic cat and went to help her husband get ready.
The call they were expecting came before noon, naming the time and location. Maurice absently wondered how Harold had managed to persuade Seline to allow the Summit to take place at Monocacy. He also spent a good deal of the time wondering if the breach has happened in his branch. The fact that three other branches received the message only indicated that it had happened somewhere in that area of Virginia. Northern Virginia had gotten larger since his first days as Magus. They numbered over three dozen active Custodians and almost twice that many Sentinels, both Sworn and Attached. With nearly a hundred people, some of whom he knew only in passing, it would have been quite possible for someone to have gone rogue and not have been noticed. In his younger days he’d known everyone, including many of the Attached Sentinels, and could have spotted trouble brewing before it came to a head. Perhaps it was time for him to consider stepping aside, letting someone younger and more observant assume the mantle. But who would the other Masters favor?
By the time he reached the edge of Creagertown, Maurice was nearly in bad humor. He turned off onto the hidden lane off Route 550 and followed it up around the corn field. Just off small gravel parking lot was a path the led past a small grave yard with faded headstones dating back to the 1730’s, some of the first white settlers in western Maryland up to the remains of an old barn. While the barn wasn’t as old as the graves, it had long since ceased to be used – at least for its original purposes.
As he walked past the ruins of what use to be a well, through the battered door, he could feel the old magic rising. The power it took to maintain the façade and the seal was nearly mind boggling. Through almost three hundred years the Magus’ of this branch had maintained the magic ties to the land, protecting this location from prying eyes. The town of Monocacy had vanished into the mists of history, but they kept and protected the location.
Maurice paused on the threshold, looking around. Part of the roof was missing and several of the walls had gaps larger than his hand, but the same shields that protected it from wayward magic, and preying eyes, also protected it from the elements. On the far side, under the old hay loft, he saw several of his fellow Magus’ gathered around a small table laden with finger foods and coffee. Straightening his jacket and tie, Maurice made his way over to greet them.
Monocacy MD, like most of the settings we use in this universe, was a real town. It amused me to show it as still existing, if only in the form of an old barn and well, and tying it to one of the oldest Collegium branches in the region. I tried to get as close as possible to the most probable location, but with only a few clues, I had to make some wild guesses.
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