19 March 2007
Michael set out for England yesterday, and we were brought before the Queen of Heaven to update her about our progress. Akshainie did most of the talking, since she was the one actually answering to this authority, and I mostly just answered questions when asked. It took some explanation to demonstrate why we were shifting our focus to the Brood sites rather than attacking the cult members themselves, but the Queen understood the gravity of the situation when we talked about them corrupting locus points to trap ancient entities and siphon their power. The Queen didn’t seem entirely convinced I needed Akshainie’s help for this, however, and we spent the night trying to locate our next target and worrying about whether or not she would even have clearance to leave Iravati.
It was nearing dawn when we finally managed to trace the web of connections to the actual entry on Nachash. Knowing that we were on a time limit and we’d used connections to find him in the first place, we skipped right past the pages of people affiliated with him and went straight to locations. We picked out the first few and decided we would go to whichever of those was closest to a river to begin, but before we could begin determining which that was we were brought back before the Queen. It was a grueling encounter, in which we argued for our approach and Akshainie’s involvement in it for hours. In the end, the Queen agreed that the work was important enough to see finished and that Iravati was invested enough to send a warrior, and Akshainie was sent out again on the condition that she check in more frequently and that I be open to input from Iravati about future targets. We agreed to these terms.
We presented the locations we had picked out, and granted the aid of the court staff to find the best route between them. It took some digging, as Iravati’s map collection was outdated and never particularly concerned with the human world beyond the Indus Valley region. We ended up needing to travel with a couple scribes to the river and seek information from travelers to fill in the gaps, and this at least helped us with two of the three sites we were seeking. The third was much more difficult to nail down, so we split up, with one scribe and Akshainie continuing to seek information from travelers while I took the other scribe out of the city to the physical world, where my phone would work and I could try to reach some contacts with modern maps. My initial attempts failed to yield any results, but then I reached Dr. Harris.
“Look,” she told me, “I’m rather busy at the moment. But listen, we have this situation, got this promising girl looking into it, but it sounds like she’ll need help.”
“I suppose you’d have time to look into my question if I can offer support,” I said.
“That’s the short of it, yeah.”
“Well, tell me what you know about it, and I’ll see what I can do.”
She gave me a brief overview of the situation and promised to have a case file available for me when I arrived, which I assured her I would do quickly if I could get there. She told me to let her know, and we returned to Iravati. There, I learned that Akshainie had no better fortune finding the site than I did, so we returned to the Queen and I told her about the proposal from Dr. Harris. After a conversation about the nature of Harris’ work, the Queen conceded that it sounded like the best option available. We’ve been urged to rest and gather supplies for the remainder of the day and set out first thing in the morning. After a brief conversation to inform Dr. Harris we will be arriving tomorrow and a trip through the market, Akshainie and I have returned to her family’s estate to prepare for our next mission.
The Queen of Heaven summoned us in the morning to publicly thank us for our assistance in realigning Iravati with the River Network and the physical plane, and oversaw about an hour of public proclamations and speeches and logistics for what life would look like going forward. As we made our way back to the apartment I noticed an array of new spirits in the market, some of which were excitedly talking to old vendors like long-lost friends. Akshainie was taken in by all the new visitors, and dragged us to a boat on the edge of the river where a nymph was selling herbs and food from the Mediterranean, and a nearby jengu selling balms and potions.
Her shopping done, we returned to the apartment where Michael retrieved and set up the Book of Shadows and Consociationes Daemonum while Akshainie explained the purposes of the various supplies she’d picked up. As we ate lunch, Michael began to explain the books.
“So in what way is this,” I asked, picking up the Consociationes Daemonum, “an index of the Book of Shadows?”
“In a somewhat indirect way, if I’m honest,” Michael explained. “What do you know about the Book of Shadows?”
“I know that it’s a tome that tracks the location of all demonic entities in real time. It seems to also highlight connections between them using some kind of esoteric labeling system, but I don’t know what purpose that serves.”
“Okay, look, you deal with the Book of Shadows since it listens to you, and I’ll show you around this one.” He opened the Consociationes Daemonum and flipped through to a page covered in alchemical symbols. “The Book of Shadows doesn’t just track locations, it also tracks affiliation and natures. It’s primarily a political tome, one that gives its user significant insight into which strings can be pulled and what weaknesses can be exploited to accomplish your goals. Here, let me show you an example. You have a demonic entity we can look up? Ideally one that you know enough about to verify what the book says.”
“Telial of the Broken Oath,” Akshainie said. I turned to glare at her and she shrugged. “We can verify that one, Bene.”
“Fine,” I said. “We’ll look up Telial.”
“Sounds like a touchy subject,” Michael said, flipping through the book. “What do you know about their associations?”
“He’s a son of Babylon.”
“Oooo, going big, okay. Let’s see here.” He then began to walk us through how the book was arranged, with each chapter after the first devoted to a major demonic prince and their various allegiances. It turns out the structure of these allegiances doesn’t significantly change, so the Consociationes Daemonum didn’t need to update very often. “Sometimes they’ll start calling a given arrangement by a different name, which matters if you directly invoke it, but doesn’t matter for the books. The function of the arrangement remains the same, and the symbols used to represent it carry over. So, here,” he pointed out that one arrangement Babylon is known to make involves a life debt built around political influence. The subject enters into a pact with Babylon, who then secures the subject with political clout and an edge in advancement opportunities, and in exchange the subject is bound by blood oath to champion whatever causes Babylon calls on them to enact. “If you want to have any faith in our political institutions, I wouldn’t read anything with this label. But see here, this pact is represented by the alchemical symbol for wax, presumably because of its association with royal edicts. So anywhere you see this symbol in the Book of Shadows, it shows that the party bearing it is under this pact with the demon to whom they’re connected.”
The Book of Shadows, he explained, is laid out in the same order as the Consociationes Daemonum, so we can find everyone affiliated with Babylon by just going to her part of the book, and we found it quickly. Descendants were represented by the symbol for Aqua Vitae, so we looked for those symbols in her section until we found Telial. He showed us each of the symbols attached to the Telial entry in the Consociationes Daemonum, and interpreted them all to mean that Telial was in human form, bound by oath to the Papal See (”usually you see them in some direct animosity to that, but okay,” Michael said), affiliated with water spirits and various serpent entities through a connection with Mundir, bound by fate to the Beast, enemy of Nachash, and located in the spiritual realm.
“So…is this you?” he asked.
“In a manner of speaking,” I answered.
“Okay but look at what that means.” He turned a few more pages and showed that, because of my demonic nature, he and Akshainie were now being tracked by the book due to their close affiliation with me. “Here’s a guy named Tadzio, a couple priests, Henry Matteson who is apparently deceased?”
“But not John.”
“John is an anchor, they can’t be tracked by magic. As far as the book is concerned, he doesn’t exist.”
“And what are these?” I asked, pointing to a list of locations.
“Those are sites that the demonic hierarchy treats as yours. Essentially, those are places that, through either your actions or inheritance, are now under your purview. Demonic activity there must either go through you or involve a challenge to your local authority.”
“What’s this one?” I pointed at one composed of sweeping curves and dots.
“Looks like Arabic. I think…yeah, here,” he pointed to the same symbols further up the page. “Whatever that is, it’s where this Mundir is located.”
“Mundir is the authority there.”
“Mundir isn’t a demon. The hierarchy considers him to be under your protection.”
“Iravati,” Akshainie said, pointing to another listing in, I assume, Sanskrit.
“Well at least you don’t have to worry about any demons popping in to start trouble, unless they specifically want to deal with Benedict.”
“Okay,” I said, rubbing my temples, “you’ve made your point. So we use that book to figure out where in this book to find things, and to interpret the symbols attached to them?”
“And we can find Nachash this way?”
“Already did, he’s in this chapter both as an enemy of yours and a friend of Babylon’s. Looks like he’s currently at a place called the Crossroads.”
“Is that important?”
“It’s the primary junction in the Deep Realms, everyone that travels through the realms often ends up there once in a while. I’ve been twice.”
“But is Nachash in this book? Can I find locations tied to him like the ones tied to me?”
“As long as he’s a demon, you just have to follow the web of his affiliations until you find his full entry in the book.”
“And if he isn’t?”
“Then there won’t be a full entry, which you won’t know until you trace all the connections.”
“Then I guess we better get to work,” I said, and we settled in to do exactly that.
From the records of Father Benedict de Monte, dated 17 March 2007
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we emerged from the supernatural realm onto the banks of the Ravi River yesterday. We’d been scouting a path for realignment for a few days, and knew that if we’d reached this point and all was going well Iravati wouldn’t be far behind, but we hadn’t discussed how we would know when realignment was complete. I suspect most of our company was having the same thought, as everyone turned to watch the river and wait. Everyone except the courier, that is, who was speaking rapid Sanskrit into a glowing ball of energy he’d been using to communicate with the city all along. Multiple soldiers were fiddling with their armor or swords, and only Michael took the time to check if any other mortals were watching this group of naga that just appeared out of thin air with two random white men in tow. I got the impression no one was, by Michael’s relaxed pose as he walked over to me and turned his attention to the water.
“What are we watching for?” I asked.
“Iravati,” he answered in a flat tone.
“And how will we know when it arrives?”
“You’ll know, priest.”
I sighed and continued watching the river. It was another half hour of waiting and listening to the courier rattle off his information, with occasional checks against his notes, before he suddenly went silent. We all turned to look at him as he waited a moment, then gave a short statement that sounded like the answer to a question, then dismissed the ball of energy and turned to the river. Before I could fully follow his gaze back to the river, the ground began to shake and knocked me off balance. I looked around at the others, but the snake bodies of the naga were better able to handle the shaking than my legs, and Michael was floating about an inch off the ground. He smiled at me before offering me a hand.
“I think I’ll wait,” I grumbled as the ground shook again.
Michael shrugged and turned back to the river. The water was churning wildly, white foam splashing off of it in every direction. There was a shimmer, ever so slightly visible as though the sunlight was catching on tall sheets of ice, and I realized the forms looked like the walls of Iravati. I leaned forward to rest my arms on my knees as I watched the city seem to barely begin to form and then vanish again, over and over, and then suddenly everything stopped. The ground was still, the water began to calm, and the city completely disappeared. I stood and wiped the sand from my clothes as the courier and half the soldiers moved forward. There was no summoning this time, no gate opening from under the river, no change to the water. The scouts merely slipped into the water and vanished, and then emerged a moment later. The courier yelled something I didn’t understand, and everyone else but me erupted into cheers.
We re-entered the city to something of an impromptu parade, with thousands of naga taking to the streets and cheering on the company. Most of the focus was on the courier and soldiers, with only a few naga even seeming to notice Michael and me.
“Do we not count?” I asked him softly.
He rested his hand on my shoulder. “This isn’t our victory. Let’s just take it as it comes.”
“I don’t think I expected the man I met in England to hold such a stance.”
“Aslaug made sure to beat it into my head before I came here.” With that he was gone, slipping away into the crowd. By the time I caught sight of him again he was talking to the court mage, so I decided not to hassle him.
The celebration quickly became an outright party as naga from across the city brought out food or alcohol or instruments and just joined in. I quickly got lost in the crowded streets, and wandered for about an hour before I found somewhere I could sit and enjoy some fruit I’d picked up along the way. As I began to cut the fruit open, I heard a familiar voice.
“You’re doing that wrong, English,” Akshainie said.
I pulled the knife from the fruit and stood, facing her. “Still German.”
“Still doing it wrong.” She smiled.
I held the fruit and the knife out to her. “Then show me.”
She took the fruit but pushed the hand with the knife away as she slithered a little closer. “This is a mango, Bene. You can have no shame when eating a mango, it’s too pure for that. Ruins the flavor.” She took a large bite out of the mango, the juice running down her chin and dripping onto her armor, then placed the fruit back in my hand. I didn’t break eye contact with her as I did the same, and I have to admit, it did taste better than the one I’d had in the market when we first met. I wonder how much of that was really my approach to the fruit. Her face lit up for a moment, and then she started to laugh as I quickly put the knife away and tried to wipe the juice from my chin.
It suddenly occurred to me that we hadn’t seen each other in over a week, not since that dinner with Michael where she explained the effects of separation from the river. I hadn’t bathed or had a decent place to sleep for the last few of those days, while we were out scouting ahead, and I must have looked a complete mess even before the mango. She looked tired, for her part, but generally seemed to have fared better in our time apart than I had. As I watched her and lost sight of everything else happening around us, she seemed to slowly realize what I was thinking about.
“I missed you,” she said, before taking a quick breath as if catching herself before saying more.
I rested my hand against her cheek and she closed her eyes and leaned into it. “I missed you, too. You’ll have to tell me all about your adventures this past week.”
“My adventures! Bene, I was mostly standing around waiting for a war that never came. But you, out there in the void? How was that for you? It was your first time, right?”
“It was, yeah. Very…dull, the void.”
“Yes, but I know who went with you, and I doubt they were very dull.”
“That’s true,” I laughed, “I assume you know Divit’s jokes, then.”
“Unless he picked up new ones while I’ve been gone.” She looped her arm around mine and we started heading down the street. “You better tell me some of them just to be sure.” She picked up a bottle of some kind of liquor as she led me back to my apartment, where we talked and drank away from the crowd for hours until we both fell asleep.
From the personal records of Lord Michael Hudson
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.