Many of us planned to visit the Hedge together after the events of last night, but the only members of the Threads of Fate who were still available when the time came were Wanderer, The Last Messiah, and me. Jack joined us as always, to help me keep eyes on my companions. Though Freya originally said she could join, work robbed of the chance to revisit the Hedge.
She did provide us some helpful information over the phone. The pedestrian bridge in Providence, where the portal to the Hedge was supposed to be (per the invite I told you about), was under guard. While there – on duty – she found a feather and felt the presence of supernatural power, but was told Federal agents would be coming to watch over the bridge. She did not specify if the bridge was closed or just under surveillance, so I called my contacts in the Marshall’s office to get some clarity. They confirmed our suspicion; the bridge was closed.
The Last Messiah was skeptical, and I joined him when he explained the professional nature of his former colleagues at the Estate. The people on the bridge could be real Federal agents, impostors planted by the Estate, or both. We had no way of knowing until we reached the bridge.
I drove us into Providence and we parked a few blocks away from the bridge to allay suspicion. From there we walked to one of the smaller bridges downtown to get an unobstructed view. I gave us each the ability to see miles, as I’ve done before, and we saw many men on the bridge vividly lit by flood lights. It was extremely suspect and made me happy I was able to grant Wanderer and the Last Messiah a spell I normally use on myself. I empowered Wanderer’s watch with Primal magic and I did the same to the Last Messiah’s shadow name, making their magic more potent than ever before. I also gave them the ability to see through lies – mundane and magical, though I did tell them the potency of the spell may not be strong enough to see through all deception.
But once we felt comfortable enough with the logistics on the bridge I made us invisible and gave us flight. With my magic they were able to see through my illusion, which I know was uncomfortable for them down in the tunnels. About half a minute of studying the people and the area yielded no pings of power until we reached the center of the bridge. Coming from beneath us was familiar power; it felt like the last portal to the Hedge. But at that moment I noticed one of the nearby men react to our souls as we called on the Supernal. He gestured to another nearby man so the 4 of us dropped down to study the portal.
It was decorated in an almost nest-like fashion – full of crow feathers like the one Freya found earlier in the day. We spoke briefly and decided to head inside almost immediately. At first, walking through the portal was familiar. The path extended ever forward until we came to a path fork – left or right. Then it happened again. But when the Last Messiah tried using some magic, the Abyss corrupted his spell and then we found ourselves among a grouping of statues. They looked much like the ones we had seen at the Collector’s garden, but these began yelling inaudible screams like an alarm system. And we all realized that’s exactly what it was, so I made us invisible again and we headed into the briers.
The briers are dense with thorns and brush, making it difficult to see even with my magically enhanced vision. I had heard enough about the briers during my last trip to the Hedge to know we needed out as soon as possible. Wanderer used some type of magic to guide us out and through in a matter of minutes – all of us completely unharmed. The bartender with the “memory drinks” was the first to notice us, commenting that “those who come through the briers are most powerful.”
We did a fair amount of looking around, but our goal was to find Spiralina and its source. The Last Messiah used magic to track it down, and he did. Ahead of us was a large tree with stairs wrapping around going higher and higher. As we climbed we found several levels of shops, above the marketplace I saw on my last trip here. There were creatures with crow heads but human bodies walking around as guards, which made the Last Messiah reveal the politics of the creatures. There is a great deal of in-fighting, families fighting families, much like the mob. He said to be careful.
And careful we were as the four of us approached a shop. A man who would only call himself “the Alchemist” when I asked possessed 4 vials of the Spiralina, which the Last Messiah procured by initiating in a trade. He traded the service of his miniature golem to the man for all the Spiralina. I wonder what things the golem will be forced to do in service of this man, but the consequences are on the Last Messiah, not me. I wonder how the “month” time will translate within Fey…
While I watched over him, Wanderer went over to a different shop close by to purchase some potions of some kind. I’m not sure what exactly, but he traded for Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest he brought from the liquor store. A clever move, and a cleverer man.
While trying to figure out our next move, I asked the Last Messiah if supernatural creatures, mages included, are influenced by the effects of the Spiralina. He seemed to be telling the truth when he said he didn’t know, and I believe him, but I have to know. Maybe this can give me clues to unlocking the mysteries around Forces and Life magic.
While I momentarily zoned out, Wanderer and the Last Messiah talked about one the “mob” families I mentioned earlier being a distributor of Spiral in the past, but against their will. He did not believe they were doing it any more, but obviously the circumstances of Spiral’s return has a great many unknowns.
A few minutes later, I noticed a man wearing New Year’s Eve glasses (2020) several branches above us dressed in human clothing. He stuck out; he was the only one dressed like a regular human other than the three of us. I also noticed our vampiric friend we first saw outside the entrance to the Market a few months ago. Against my normal advice, and I’m a fool for considering it, I recommended we split up so I could talk to Chant and his companions. Jack went with the Last Messiah who went searching after the man. Wanderer and I confirmed we could discuss with the vampire later and then went to Chant’s table.
At Chant’s table we met a woman dressed in tall heels and fine clothing – like a twinkling diamond comprised of ice. Their guard was the man who looked more like a rhino; he doesn’t say much. Mira was dancing on one of the stages with friends while we tried to discover the reason we were sent the invitation. Chant and the woman confirmed the invitation was not their doing. “We would have called you,” he said. Note to self: call to confirm magically delivered invitations. That was my first failure.
While conversing I saw through Jack’s eyes to see that he and the Last Messiah were on their way back. Just a few minutes later, the Last Messiah was very obviously out of sorts. He pulled me aside and told me he did not want to give the Spiralina to the Seattle Consilium. “I need at least one night with it before we turn it over.” I told him I didn’t plan on turning it over and that I had not even discussed it with Silentium or the Hierarch. Something was wrong, and when i said as much I could see the Last Messiah’s face searching for answers. I had received no such orders and I was confident if the Hierarch reached out to the Last Messiah specifically, I would know about, too. I immediately activated my sight and studied him. There was a feint aura on him that reminded me of a time my Kung Fu master scolded and lectured me for being distracted. That’s when the Last Messiah confirmed the man did use magic of some kind, and that’s when I decided we were under attack.
The Last Messiah continued musing about being the best-equipped to inspect Spiralina and I made a point the Last Messiah could not excuse, even with his enchantment. I said that if he had received that order last night from the Hierarch, he would have told me about his desire to keep the Spiralina at that time, not almost 24 hours later. So to put him at ease I told him he had my permission to disobey his “order” and that any trouble he encountered as a result was my responsibility.
Then Amy, the young vampire, showed up during our discussion. She wanted to talk and the Last Messiah wanted to leave. There was more for me to learn and discover; I was not ready to leave so I selfishly kept us there. Another mistake. Fortunately I did some things right, like putting a protective ward around the Last Messiah. I wanted to dispel the foreign magic on him, but I’m not strong enough in Prime yet. I have to get better to protect against hostile magic.
While Wanderer spoke with Amy, I told the Last Messiah Starfrost (the Winter sovereign I mentioned earlier) and Chant were not the ones who invited us. During our conversation two large raven-headed creatures approached; that’s when I put the protective ward around the Last Messiah – just in case. One of the ravens said, “Ladonna Ilsa formally invites you to her mansion openly as thanks for saving her family if you wish to reside there.” I was very confused – and concerned – but the Last Messiah described her as the head of one of the very powerful families he described earlier (the ravens nodding as he said it). He said, “Thank you either way,” as he didn’t accept or decline and the creatures walked away. Apparently as a member of the Estate, the Last Messiah helped free her children the Spiral scheme.
It was time to go, so I focused on Jack’s sight and found Wanderer talking with Amy in one of the branches above us. As we reached them, the Last Messiah deteriorated into a panic. “We have to go. Now. We have to get Wanderer and leave.” I asked what changed in the past few minutes and all he said was to trust him this time and that we needed to leave. So after saying a very quick, somewhat rude goodbye to Amy, we headed back to the Sovereign’s table and asked for help leaving Crowhollow. We did not want to exit the way we came in because we expected those people on the bridge to be working with the man enchanting the Last Messiah.
The Sovereigns nodded and went to collect Mira. The rhino led the way while Chant guarded our backs. Starfrost came to walk beside me and asked if we suspected we were being followed. I nodded, and fracturing ice instantly rose around us obscuring us from view. A tall crown of ice appeared on her head as people moved out of the way in a hurry. We left through a door made using a skill some Changelings possess called Hedgeweaving. The man who did it was the same man from the bar that fixed the table at the Met months ago.
The Fey changed their appearance to look mortal as we walked through the door and found ourselves in the living area of a group home. Starfrost asked for our discretion in guarding one of their gathering places; we all agreed. As a last ditch effort, I asked if any of them could remove magic from someone and none could. I nodded and feigned acceptance but was screaming in frustration in my mind.
The night was successful because we acquired Spiralina, but it pointed out many of my failures as a guardian. I must be more vigilant in anticipating my enemies and protecting my Cabal.
I feel a great deal of pity for the man who enchanted the Last Messiah…