After we separated from the other two, Akshainie, Michael, and I made our way back to the farmhouse where we had captured the cultists. The goal today was to track any connection we could find to other cultists. Michael had materials for a tracking spell to see if he could find where the cultists had come from before the farmhouse in the hopes he would find a hub of some sort; Akshainie and I were asked to slip into the spiritual realm and follow the ley lines connected to the site, splitting up if needed, to seek out any other ritual locations on the network. We entered the house, did a cursory investigation to make notes of anything particular to this branch of the cult that should stand out to us at other sites, and then stepped aside out of the physical realm. Both of us took our more spiritual forms once we crossed over, since they were able to cover ground more quickly than our human forms. We stood for a moment and watched Michael continue to take notes on the site, then turned our attention to the ley line and followed it away from the town.
“I think Alice has some legitimate concerns about our employer,” Akshainie finally said, after we were well out of earshot of the house. We didn’t know how much Michael’s spell would allow him to see or hear, and it seems we both felt it prudent to assume he could hear us while we were close.
“Are you saying that because you think something is off, or because you consistently haven’t trusted him?” I asked. She sighed, slithering slightly slower.
“Both, I suppose.”
“There is little we can do about the latter at this point. I doubt anything there will change until he actually has his audience with your queen.”
“If he seeks an audience.”
“If he seeks an audience,” I repeated. She gained pace and resumed her place at my side. “But about the former.”
“Yes,” she said. “I didn’t want to consider that Alice might be right about the capture of the cultists. I haven’t really thought of them as people we have reason to consider for some time now.”
“They have chosen a path of darkness.”
“So it suits our purposes to just wipe them out?” I stopped and rested my hands on my hips, looking at the sky. She turned back and rested in coils in front of me, holding her head just high enough that she could look me in the face.
“They have chosen a path of darkness,” I said again, slowly, trying to wrap my head around how to say the rest. “But it was a choice, and given reason, they may be willing to make a different one.”
“So we have to give them a chance.”
“I don’t know. But I think I need to. It’s pretty important to my religion, you know, getting another chance.”
“Important like your oaths? Or important like transparency with your supervisors?”
“Like my oaths.”
“So the death of the cultists during Michael’s interrogation, then, does not sit right with you?”
“I gather it doesn’t sit right with you, either.” I lowered my gaze to meet hers, and she frowned at me for a moment before turning and continuing along the line.
“I want the cult to be destroyed. I’m willing to kill every member if I need to.”
“But what if we don’t need to?” I asked. She paused.
“You have something better in mind?”
“I…I don’t know yet.”
“Then we can talk about it when you do.” With that, she continued, and I jogged to meet her. We walked in silence for a few more minutes. We were approaching another little town by this point, and I could see a nexus point just on the edge of it. As we approached, a sudden shudder rippled through the ley line, giving the air a faint metallic taste. Akshainie’s eyes grew wide. “Get off the line!” she yelled, diving to the side. I jumped the other way, and suddenly the line exploded with energy and then crumpled into a dark, frozen shard.
“What was that?” I demanded.
“Matteson,” she said, staring at the line. “What the hell did he have Matteson do?”
From the journal of Father Benedict de Monte
Matteson had given us his location and that he was following a ley line, which was enough for us to get started in the right path. So Michael paid the tab and asked Aslaug about the ley network nearby, as he hadn’t thought to bring any maps into town with us, and she took us into the back room where she had her own information on the matter. After some review of what line Matteson would be following and some of the key points along it, we loaded into the car and started looking. I don’t know what we were really looking for; none of us could, in the physical realm, track the energy signature nearly as well as Matteson apparently could, so I suppose we must have been seeking something that would stand out as being a ritual site. We never found it, at any rate; but we were not far from the location when Matteson called to tell us he’d found it.
We sorted out the plan quickly, or as much of a plan as we could. Matteson would cut off the ley line from outside, and we would apprehend the four cultists inside. Akshainie and Michael were certain we would know when he cut the ley line off, and that he could reopen it when we were done, but I was not sure how any of that would happen. Shortly after we arrived, however, I felt it. It was as if the air was suddenly drained of some vitality, and a part of me recoiled and knew that it was what we were looking for. The look on Akshainie’s face told me she felt the same thing, and without further ado we threw the door open and charged in.
Akshainie never dropped her human form, but moved with a grace and power that betrayed her serpentine nature. In a flash, she was past the foyer, and then a jump and flip put her on the other side of the four robed figures, cutting off the other exit. One figure tried to get around us, and I sent him flying back into the room with a kick as Michael called on spectral chains that shot from his wrist and wrapped around another’s ankles. The three who had not felt my boot yet began trying to call on their own offensive spells, one hitting me with fire that burned off a sleeve but managed no other harm. It was weak, I could feel how mundane the fire was when it met my skin, and I wondered if Matteson’s work would limit us all.
Michael, for one, did not seem affected, at least not to any degree I could recognize. Akshainie, aware we aimed to arrest and not kill, did not draw her swords, and I saw for the first time just how dangerous she was at her weakest, no magic, no weapons, and no powerful form. Just decades of training and a body that could execute a move before most people could even think of it. A single punch to the figure I’d kicked knocked them out, and I turned my attention to the round mirror in the center of their ritual circle. Whatever they had been looking at was gone, probably lost when their extra magical energy dried up, but I grabbed the mirror in case we could use it to learn anything of their activities.
The battle was over quickly, and Akshainie darted off to check the rest of the building while Michael and I bound the figures, who we now learned were three men and a woman. She found no one, and around the time she returned we felt energy surge back into the area. Matteson and Alice walked in shortly afterward, but Michael told him to stay back a bit. He had a difficult spell he could do to bring the cultists in for questioning, he explained, and absolutely would not be able to do it with an Anchor hovering around. So Matteson shrugged and went outside, lighting a cigarette as he went, and Alice hesitated. Michael waved her over, and she entered the room and watched as the ritual was carried out. A glowing door finally appeared in the wall, and when Michael opened it we could see a dungeon on the other side.
“Where is that?” I asked, concerned about the look of the place.
“It’s a secret wing of the estate,” Michael answered. “Not every crime is something that gets turned over to police, so we were given clearance to carry out our work in privacy when needed. Would you be so kind as to help me with these?” I lifted three of the unconscious cultists as Michael carried the other, and Alice watched me with a noted curiosity. When we returned, Michael stopped in the doorway. “Do any of you know how to drive on the proper side of the road?”
“I’ve had some practice,” I answered. He nodded and handed me the keys and told me to bring the rest of the party back to the estate, then returned to the dungeon. As soon as the door closed behind him, it vanished, and we made our way outside to gather our Anchor and head back.
From the records of Fr. Benedict de Monte
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.