10 February 2007
If any of our ancestors knew anything concrete about the Red Spiral, they didn’t write it or pass it down. I was going to have to seek alternative sources of information. So today, I made a stop off at The Horn & Thistle. It’s well known among the locals that the place dates back to the Danelaw; less commonly known is that the owner does, as well. She doesn’t hide it—hell, she doesn’t even try to look human—but people always seem to have some other explanation for her odd look and their aversion to the place. With her piercings and tattoos and white hair, the reigning theory for the last few decades has been that it’s a punk bar with a barkeep surprisingly fond of plastic surgery.
“Business or pleasure today, Mike?” Aslaug asked, fixing her solid black eyes on me as I sat down at the bar.
“Maybe a bit of both,” I answered. She snorted and leaned on the bar.
“I warned you, you’re no good doing both at once.” I chuckled.
“Then I’ll start with business.” She sighed and stood as another man sat down next to me.
“You at least planning to spend some of that money while you’re at it?” I nodded toward the bourbon, and she turned to fix my drink. As she drifted off to her task, the man next to me watched her go with a soft hum. He was clearly a few drinks into his day, which his breath confirmed as he turned to speak to me.
“You think she’s blue all the way down?” He asked with a waggle of his eyebrows. She is, of course. That’s just how her kind is when they aren’t trying to hide as human. The problem is that Aslaug is not a kind lover, and the places he wanted the conversation to go would be dangerous if realized. I still have an elbow that always knows when it’s about to rain.
“One of life’s great mysteries, mate,” I said, focusing my attention to getting the notepad from the inside pocket of my jacket. He either took the hint or got lost in his own reverie; either way, we were done discussing the bartender. She returned with my drink and took care of the other man as I waited. Once he was squared away, she turned back to me, and I laid my notepad on the bar.
“No,” she said, pushing it back toward me and stepping back to lean on the counter with her arms crossed.
“Oh, now you have to,” I said, flashing a smile that always gets me what I want around here, as I slipped the notepad back into my jacket. She growled, but after a minute gave a huff and threw her arms in the air.
“Fine. When I close to switch over for dinner.”
So I ordered some lunch and took a booth to wait. It was a couple hours and bourbons before she threw the last straggler out, locked the door, and slumped into the seat opposite me with a bottle of mead. Aslaug is a dark elf, native to one of the realms below Midgard. She doesn’t talk about how she got here, or why, but she did so alongside the vikings and then just never left. She’s a registered magical citizen, and part of that arrangement includes the occasional bit of information when the Hudson estate needs it. Her longevity and connections have made her contribution invaluable to us, but she’s well aware of what she holds over us and how much she can ask for it. So it was some surprise to me when, this time, she didn’t open with a demand.
“I hope you haven’t just been flashing that symbol around,” she said, before knocking back a large swig of her drink. I finished mine and slid the glass to the side.
“Would it be a problem if I started?”
“Not for me.” She glanced at my glass. “You want some?” I nodded, and she poured me a share before setting the bottle down.
“So what is this?”
“It’s called the Brood of Nachash. Very old cult, fancy themselves dangerous.”
“Are they?” She considered the question a moment, then shrugged.
“Wouldn’t know. They’re not in my network.”
“Is that why we haven’t talked payment yet?”
“Oh, you’ll pay, Hudson. Just not me.” She reached into her bra and pulled out a small paper, with a phone number and a time written on it. “Some birds told me you’d be needing this.” I looked the paper over, then folded it and placed it into my pocket.
“And who will I be calling?”
“Catholic priest, one Father Benedict de Monte. He’s almost the closest thing to an expert walking the earth today.”
“There’s one expert. If he wants you to find him, he’ll turn up. The priest is more reliable, and I know how you nobles love reliability.”
“Thank you, then. Do I happen to know these birds?”
“Everyone does. They just don’t all know it. But you’re on a schedule.” With that, she left the booth and went back to work. I knocked back the rest of my drink and let myself out.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.