From the records of Father Benedict de Monte
We had found no leads in months. Whatever system Henry had expected us to know for his book to help with ours was not as obvious to us as it apparently was to him, and now we had no way to ask him for help with it. We were still hopeful we could find something if we reviewed everything we did know, however, and were walking through Pittsburgh on our way to check on a possible source when a child stepped on my shoelace and pulled it just enough that I needed to stop and retie them. I knelt out of the way to do so, with Akshainie leaning on a wall between me and a pay phone. Just as I finished up, the phone rang, and before I realized I should tell her to ignore it Akshainie had answered it. I sighed and stood, realizing I was going to have to wait until she finished whatever was happening before we could move on.
“Yeah, he’s right here,” she said, then handed the phone out to me. “It’s for you.”
“They asked for me, specifically?” I asked. She nodded, and I stared at her for a moment in confusion before taking the receiver. “Father de Monte.”
“Father, hello,” a male voice, British accent. “I was hoping you had a moment to talk.”
“Where are you? How did you get this number?”
“It was given to me. I was told to ring this exact number at this exact time to speak to a Father Benedict de Monte about an unusual red spiral.” He must have heard my hesitation, as he added after a moment, “is this unexpected?”
“This is a pay phone. We only just happened to be walking past it when it rang. I would be very curious about your source.”
“As would I. Unfortunately, they had at least one intermediary. I suspect we will get much more done if we focus on the matter at hand.”
“The red spiral.”
“Indeed. I’m told you’re familiar with the cult who uses this symbol?”
“The Brood of Nachash,” I said, softly, as if anyone walking by was paying attention. “I’ve been working that case for some years.”
“Good. I have reason to believe they are active in my territory, and I would like to bring you in to shine some light on the matter.”
“And your territory is what, exactly?”
“The British Empire.”
“Not much of a British Empire left, is there?” I saw the color drain from Akshainie’s face at that, and her hands ball into fists.
“Who is that?” she hissed through her teeth.
“I suppose it’s a matter of perspective,” the man said.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” I asked.
“Oh, goodness me, of course. My name is Michael Hudson, son of Lord Hudson, acting emissary to the magical population in service to the Queen.”
“Michael Hudson,” I whispered, covering the receiver. Akshainie’s eyes narrowed.
“You tell that posh bastard I’d rather clean up the mess after the Brood burns his whole nation down than work with a Hudson.” The words were dripping with venom, and I wondered if there was any real venom involved when she spit as if the name itself wasn’t suitable for her mouth.
“What’s this all about?”
“Is everything okay, Father?” Michael asked.
“Ah, it seems my associate has some…hesitation to work with you.”
With that, she ripped the phone out of my hand and spoke into it herself.
“Listen here, Hudson,” she was barely stopping herself from yelling into the phone, “whatever problem you have with the Brood is on your own head.” There was a pause, and she rolled her eyes. “I’m from Iravati. Check your records, if you don’t know. I doubt your dog of an ancestor bothered hiding his work.” There was another pause, her expression only growing more stern. “Fine. Ask what you want, but know that if you show up looking for us I’ll slit your throat before you can spit a single curse from your foul lips.” She slammed the phone back into my hand and stormed down the street a little bit, where she began pacing.
“So,” I said, watching her, “that sounds like it went well.”
“Look, I don’t know what happened at Iravati, but I will find out,” he said, suddenly sounding much more tired than he had before. “The fact is, I am at a complete loss here, and fear there is a real danger that only you can help address. If there is something I can do that will begin to smooth things over with your associate to ensure you can come, know that I am more than willing to entertain the idea.”
“What’s the nature of the problem?”
“There is much I am not going to discuss over a transatlantic phone call. It will have to be enough to know that I have found evidence they are still active, and a possible hub of their power.”
“How, exactly, do you plan on us getting there?”
“Well, I would send a plane, naturally, for you and anyone else you need to bring along.”
“If there’s a site, I think I’ll need to call in someone specific.”
“Very well. It’s not like I’m paying for individual tickets.”
“Fine. Send the plane, let me try to work on things on this end. What number can I call to confirm details with you?” I wrote the number down as he said it to me, then thanked him and hung up. Once she saw that, Akshainie returned.
“Well?” she demanded. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him I’d see who I could get involved. I would very much like you to be involved, and he is willing to make some amends if they’ll get you there.”
“It shouldn’t require that! What his family did to us was wrong, and if he can’t see that—”
“He says he doesn’t know what happened yet. But he’s going to check, and hopefully he will have by the time I call him back.”
“And what do we do in the meantime?”
“We should get back to the hotel. I’ll have another call to make first, and I am very curious to hear what you hate so much about this man’s family.”
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.
On returning to the estate, I took a brief lunch and began investigations in the library. I searched for any records related to the geographic area around the site, and found nothing that indicated knowledge of the chamber, aside from one bit of folklore about a beast that could be heard groaning on certain cursed nights nearby. I made note of that, but turned my attention to the iconography of the site as the most sensible alternative lead.
The runes were an old script. Most such markings in Britain use Norse runes, but these were most similar to a small handful of pre-Roman sites we had on record. As such, there was no translation available, or even any certainty that it was something that held a translatable meaning; but it did suggest that the reason no one knew about it was that it predated any of the attempts to categorize these things. That did happen from time to time, but my search showed no other such site that was still active when it was found. This line of research led nowhere.
The spiral, however. There were precious few references to it, all in secret documents not to be studied outside of their storage room, which I only gained access to last year when I took over the main body of field work from father and had not needed before now. The few instances of this specific red spiral appearing were tied to events with major attempted disturbance to the magical equilibrium of Britain. What connected the events, aside from the spiral itself, was not immediately clear. However, I had somewhere to start. I determined to speak with father about this later and, if needed, to call on a source who has been on Britain long enough to know about this sort of thing.
From the journal of Michael Hudson
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.