Campaign Journal - Chapter Two
"Details, details. It's so easy to get bogged down in details. You want to hear the story don't you? I forget myself. I was there you see, and I remember every bullet, every tense statement and every little detail as plainly as if it were yesterday."
"Perhaps I should switch style, then? My memoirs are a little simplistic, but they'll tell you the story you want to hear."
As I reach for my journal, a little girl interrupts me.
"Yes, Little One?"
"Were you afraid?"
"Terrified. Even so, I was safe enough. And magic was coming
back to the world!"
February 16, 2005, continued
The fight over, the group turned their attention to getting off the streets. The world was just a little off kilter this evening and there was an almost tangible feeling in the air. They took what supplies and resources they could from the gang and returned to their cars.
If this had been a movie, the heroes probably would have been somber and quiet. Not so with Markas around! I'd never seen anyone need to take deep breaths in order to talk! If I had to name someone to play Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream, I'd choose Markas. He struck me as a cross between a mischievous devil and a satisfied cat.
The resources of the gang members were few, but Chance found a book for Markas that must have been interesting. It actually shut him up for a while!
We drove on, until we came to the Country Club. That's when we saw the birds. It was impossible to count them but these creepy little bluebirds - yes, THOSE bluebirds - were everywhere. I still shudder to think of it thousands of them, lined up on the fences flanking the road...
Then it got weirder. A crow actually landed on a fence and we felt ordered to move along. Chance took a feather that the bird left in his path and we were moving again. It felt like the set of a Hitchcock movie.
Traffic was surprisingly light. I guess everyone was staying indoors.
That's the feeling! All evening long it had been there, but only now as I put pen to paper does it become clear. It felt as if we were in the calm before a storm. Every little sound was surreal and exaggerated, every sight stood out to our eyes like we were seeing it for the first time. Indeed, it felt as if it might well be the last time that we saw or heard any of it.
We arrived at our destination, a walled community with large electric gates. Thankfully we were expected and we got in without a problem.
The only hitch was the pack of media jackals swarming around the gates. They all wanted news of something and thought that it could be found here. For the second time that night, I found myself terrified as the cars came under attack. We drove forward, shaking off the reporters. They followed us, but they didn't last long.
Conversations were a little tense after that one. Concerns about murdering, looting and stockpiling were countered with survival, instinct and necessity. To this day, I'm still not sure about the actions we took that night. All I can say is that we lived. Many others did not.
Markas had a way that still brings a smile to my face; in the midst of all the carnage and gloom, he started singing:
"Loot, loot, loot.
Then he laughed, not in cruelty, but in pure merriment. We drove on in and down the road. There was another gate, this time with a Germanic sounding guard. He had a battle axe in the guard house!
That's when we met other people that would join our group. The guy I wasn't so sure about, but the woman I liked from the moment I set eyes on her. His name was Richards and he wanted to know what had happened to someone named Aerin. His partner was Linda. Like I said, I liked her the moment I laid eyes on her.
It was neat to see Chance lose his stoic sense of the universe when Richards started talking about Elves, other planes of existence and why our world appealed to Elves (what with flush toilets and hot showers ).
All of the new arrivals seemed to want everything to be a dream. We wanted to believe that we were on Candid Camera and that we were not face-to-face with Mulder and Scully.
Explanations were quickly given. This Aerin person actually was an elf, and many other supernatural and unexplainable creatures lived among us, Kind of like in that movie, Men in Black. Those that visited us chose to do so secretly, not wanting to cause panic or a witch hunt I can understand that. But it was still difficult to accept.
We went through the gate and finally arrived at the House. I remember thinking it could not be a house, that this was really a shopping mall and that the real house was off to the east a bit. I found out later that the building to the east was a stable. The front doors opened, and we were all greeted by Steven Winters. He immediately set to helping us with our wounded and getting everyone inside, out of the chill February night.
I must say it again, the house was enormous. The home I had left earlier that evening was big, as big as could be had by a wealthy and successful lawyer. The whole of it would have fit easily within the Great Hall of Cullan House. Steven told us the Great Hall was a Temple of the god Crom, and that he himself was a Priest in Crom's service. None of us could believe where we were, but for some strange reason we felt safe.
Steven showed that the trappings of the Temple were not merely for display when he invoked the name of Crom to heal the wounded officer. The second display of Crom's power restored a man's shattered faith and saw a little girl walk again.
It's something strange. Although I remember it with crystal clarity, I find really hard to put this event to paper. It's weird A car accident had robbed little Cynthia Morgan of the ability to walk and had left her with terrible burn scars. Steven too up his mantle of office, then spoke softly to that little girl's father and asked him to make a choice. He accepted, and that little girl walked again. Her wheelchair - so long her prison - was transformed into a stuffed animal; a sabre-toothed tiger, to be precise.
Her father cried tears of joy as the little girl came running.
Somehow, after this night, her father found it a little easier to explain what had happened, even though he still to this day misses Cynthia's mother, his beloved Samantha. But now the car accident that claimed Samantha Morgan and very nearly took Cynthia as well was no longer quite such a horrible story. Years were visibly lifted from him that night, to the point that even his little girl noticed.
(It's still interesting; I never thought it would be so hard to put that in writing. I still had to do it in the third person. I guess it's just so hard to associate with )
The room was quickly filled with wonder and awe, and the new arrivals were convinced. Miracles could happen, and there was magic in the world. Meals and further explanations were offered. Kris and Chance clearly wanted to lean more about Crom.
We learned about Steven and heard everyone's story over a late meal. Steven had been a Magus of Set, an evil and ancient Egyptian god. Or at least that's what the movies would have us believe. We learned that Crom is a god of individuality and self-reliance. Then, we learned about the dark days to come.
Steven began to explain that Aerin had left this world because she sensed a coming change in the fabric of magic. Her magic would become harder to use and new powers would be arising. Steven and the personnel of the house had chosen to remain behind to provide help and support for the masses.
We started talking about current events and how they wove a larger picture. Steven told us about what Aerin believed: that humanity had outstripped its wisdom and that the consequences would be harsh indeed. Then he talked about the snows in Canada, months of snow without cessation. Agent Richards tried to wave it off as an abnormal event that was nothing to worry about. Steven wasn't impressed, and when I thought about it, neither was I. As Steven went on, Richards lost his conviction and his counter-argument trailed off.
The connection between Aerin's thoughts on humanity and the snow in Canada was nothing tangible. Aerin, it seems, had family in Canada, outside of Quebec. The family, the Llewellyns, wanted to know about the storms, so they asked Aerin to consult her crystal ball. When Aerin began to explore that question, she saw the events of the next week unfold. A top-secret government project, code named "Looking Glass", had successfully managed to create a machine that granted wishes by collecting and storing a quantum particle that makes magic happen. This type of magic, unfortunately, was not compatible with the type that Aerin and her family used. If they stayed, they would be trapped here with no magic and no way home, facing the end of civilization as we know it. No more hot showers and flush toilets, I thought; Of course they went home.
Aerin and her family decided to move back to their home plane, and offered to take the Llewellyns and the inner circle, those people who knew the truth about the family, back with her. The last two months had been an unending stream of elves and elf-friends, leaving this world through a gate in this house. The gate was now closed, possibly forever. Steven and his wife Debbie volunteered to stay behind and help the survivors. The guards we had met - the people dressed like Vikings - were from Aerin's home plane; worshippers from Crom's home temple in a place called Mannheim. They were told that this was a one-way trip and that they would probably die here. They were all volunteers. Aerin had set powerful spells around the House, but those spells meant that Steven and the Mannheimers could never leave the premises; they were there to defend Crom's temple from those who would destroy it.
Steven warned that the coming days would not be pleasant. In approximately 55 hours, a nuclear weapon would be used against a ground target in Oklahoma. At 6:00 am local time the next morning, between three and five nuclear weapons would also be used against St. Joseph, Missouri. Roughly eight hours later, another nuclear weapon would go off in Oklahoma. The President would authorize use of a small nuclear device against the headquarters of the NSA in Maryland. Detroit and Chicago, also gone. There would be riots, civil war, and creatures of nightmare loosed on the world. Entire cities would burn and die. Then he said, very calmly, "In a year's time, the world's population will be one-tenth what it is today, and dropping."
When Steven said that, we were all in shock.
When the inevitable questions of stopping the machine came up, we were told that Aerin met President Ventura some years back when they appeared on 'Politically Incorrect" together. She supported his campaign for governor of Minnesota and donated heavily to his presidential run. He didn't know the truth about her, of course. By the time he was inaugurated, the evacuation was well underway.
She brought him into the loop about three weeks prior to our meeting. Steven didn't think Ventura really believed Aerin, but he agreed to look into it. Steven's fear was that Ventura's inquiries alarmed certain parties, and caused them to activate their contingency plans earlier than they would have otherwise.
Steven explained that as for fixing it herself, that was something of a Catch-22 situation. The particles, when concentrated as they were, tended to magnify and manifest the worst fears of the people in the immediate vicinity. They were directed by imagination, focus, and strong emotion. The two ways humans combine those requirements best are violent fantasies and what you might call "worst-case scenario" anxieties - dwelling on what horrors could occur if something goes wrong. The particles respond to those feelings VERY well. Aerin's magical abilities also tended to attract, destabilize, and be destabilized by, these particles. The more magic she used, the more particles were attracted to her, and the more unstable both magics became. The furthest in the future she could reliably scry was the 15th of February. We were now in largely unexplored territory.
Then Steven explained how Aerin and her friends had tried to find out who would drop the nukes. If they could not change the events, they sought to minimize the long-term damage. They failed.
Faced with a situation where she could not change what is to be, Aerin did what she could. She provided for the survivors, gave them the tools to fight the battles to come, and spent a huge amount of energy making her home a safe haven. She worked until there was no more time, then they left and sealed the Gate behind them.
It was late, so we were provided rooms. Those of us that wanted to read more about Aerin's findings were given the opportunity. I watched as Agent Celenza flexed her 'take charge' attitude and talked about these events like she handled news like this on a regular basis. I believed her.
Richards excused himself and made arrangements to take the wounded officer to a hospital before he went back to his headquarters. He gave the pretty agent instructions to look through the records and was on his way. We never saw him again.
We woke up well rested the morning of the 17th, somewhere around 7:30 am. The phone chimed next to us with a wake-up call. "Good morning," said a pleasant voice. "Breakfast is being served in the dining hall. Follow the brass waymarkers on the walls. Please dial 999 for security if you require an escort."
As we all reassembled, it was clear that we had all dreamt strange things the night before. Some were shaken, others looked like they had found themselves
To be continued