City Lights at Night

RE: Suicide Mission

Dear Jess,

Do people still start letters with ‘dear’? I wasn’t away from the world that long, but of all the things that changed letter writing seemed to be the most. I still can’t get the hang of email, and the format and formality has gotten all new rules and I can’t make sense of any of it. It never made the most sense anyway, now that I think about it. Is it in the old way where you call everyone dear, or are you saying whoever you’re writing the letter to is honestly dear to you. Not that you’re not, of course, but I put that on my letters to everyone. Aw hell, none of this makes any sense, I’m starting over. Computer, delete everything.

My Dearest Jess

…Computer, delete that too.

Jess,
I know you think this isn’t the smartest idea. If it was, it wouldn’t have been us that had it. But its what I have to do. People keep telling us, everyone fromMs. Silver to TJ to your Sis, that we have the mark of destiny on us. When you got a thing like that hanging over your head, standing by while a power hungry interloper and an old madman seize power just isn’t in the cards. Hell, maybe they’re right, maybe we do have a destiny and we’ll pull this off. Certainly feels like I’ve been going in this direction, ever since the minute I got back from the hedge. Ambassador’s the only Lost to ever leave that city, and he was the first one of us I saw when I got back, just sitting there playing and waiting for me to run enough that I’d feel I’d gotten away enough to start thinkin. Guess he understood the feeling.

Anyway, this is something I gotta do. Tell John it ain’t his fault and I ain’t doing it for him, so no sense feeling bad about it if I don’t come back. And tell him if this new court does come to pass, don’t let Summer keep getting the shaft. Even if it means taking that limey bastard by the neck during the negotiations, don’t give up on the court. And speaking of Norman, don’t trust him. I’ve met his type before, he’ll put his ideals before people, because even though he’s given up on people he hasn’t quite given up on believin he’s right. If he sees an opportunity or he’s backed into a corner, he’ll strike, and he’ll be dangerous. Don’t trust the Reverend neither, I think he’s a good man, but he’s too caught up in his own past to be dealing with the real world. David’s a good guy in Autumn, but be careful aroundPeyton, for all his manners he carries himself more like a killer than a butler. Don’t know much about Ms. Post in Winter, and I don’t know who’s in Spring but not in Galt that it’d fall to. Could always be one of your family, and you don’t need me telling you about them, but if it is don’t be afraid to use that connection, for your own good and the Court’s.

I’m telling you all this because, if I don’t come back, the pledge falls. If the pledge falls, Coyote loses his crown and can’t contend for the new one. With him out and me gone, that means the Iron Crown is definitely going to fall to you, Jess, and its going to fall like a ton of bricks. If you can use it to save lives and protect us, then do it. But if the city looks like its going in Dusk’s direction, if you’re just bangin your head against a wall, don’t. You have friends and contacts all over the country and world, you could make a new life for yourself anywhere with your brains. Throw the crown in the dust, get as many of us out with you as you can, and never ever regret it.

If I can ask a favor, there’s a few things in the hollow I’m leaving behind that should go to people. First, there’s a photo album, with some pics of my motley, and some of us, mostly from that first night at yule and the few from chessboxing. Its yours. I want you to have it to remember me by, but I want you to finish it, too. Fill the rest of it with pictures of you and your motley, the court, the freehold, your man if you ever find one able to step out of my handsome and charming shadow. Remember me, but move on. Second, there’s a small lockbox under my bed. In it is about $1000 in cash I’ve saved up and a knife. The cash is going to Julianne Rakowski, she lives at 3289 Kemp Street on the west side of North Vegas. The knife is going to her son, its his birthright, but make sure to tell him it was never in anyone’s ass. Tell them Michael left these things for them before he died. Tell them he loved them very much. And call her husband a candy-assed accountant.

One more thing before I turn this thing off. Jess, you mean a lot to me. I don’t know if I mean the same to you, but I’m gonna be real pissed if I never get the chance to find out. But there’s something you should know. Only one soul has escaped this city before, and the way I see it, it might come down to one escaping again. You should know that if that happens, it isn’t going to be me. As much as you mean to me, and as much as I hate to think of you hurtin because I did something stupid, at least for now, they mean more. If there’s something I could burn to save Wren, Masa, or Ondrej, whether its me, or us, or anything I have in the world, its ashes. Hope you understand.

- Red

PS – If I come back from this, you’re going out with me on the Fourth of July, not taking no for an answer. I wanna show you what an elemental can do with a fireworks show

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Keys and Killing
in which there is death, and not just a little

We has a plan. It was solid, it was…. okay, it was less than solid.
Masa went in first, to make sure things were clear. He did better than I expected, but he’s good at keepin’… still… under pressure. We piled through the door after him, no problem. (Yet.) Turns out Mr. Talamh and company were there too— shoulda guessed right off the bat that they had their own agenda. They helped us out, in a way. We were goin’ to have Ondrej walk up to the wolves guarding Neon‘s door— but the Beta saw right through that, and thats when things went south. Pockets took out the other wolf, quick as anythin’; the boys got off a few shots at Raji, but it was me dropped him.

I killed a wolf. No… I killed a man. But I’ll let myself fret over that later.

We got in, after all that. The five of us, plus Galt’s four. We slipped into 2616 and barred the door… found Neon hidin’ in a back room. We got his key all right, but Pockets did what he does best just then— 86’d Neon.

Of course, we split after that went down. Like a handful of bats outta hell. I had a question for Ms. Silver, one that I wish I’d asked sooner, and I asked as soon as I could— I heard about what happened back in the ‘80s. Seems Joanna had this idea that she built into the Satrapy, but after a point Joanna didn’t call herself Joanna any more, and more’n one person went mad before it all ended. She said that our only limitation (us bein’ the Lost, that is) was our own free will.

Now we have to go fetch the last key— and in order to do that, we have to walk into a city that only one Lost has walked out of since a certain deal was made. I en’t religious… but Lord have mercy.

“Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
And here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice
Oh, Mama, is this really the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.” (BD)
—Wren

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Comings and Goings

Mr. Red was tired of writing about himself in the 3rd person.

He’d started a diary in The Barnswallow like they told him to, they said it’d help keep him grounded, help him remember what was real. But he hadn’t been able to bring himself to write just about him… Somewhere between not wanting to accept the things he had gone through, and being so transformed by them that he couldn’t bring himself to break discipline by either keeping a diary or admitting individuality, he had made the choice to write about his life as if it was fiction. He had let himself be weak.

Well, not anymore. He… I won’t let that happen again. This diary was supposed to keep me grounded, be a clear, unbiased indicator of the past. But I’m not the sniveling corporal that started writing on these pages, and I honestly don’t know how much I trust his account of things. He dragged himself out of the war, and for what? To immediately go back to craving discipline and desperately seeking orders? No, that wasn’t worth it. Arcadia happened, it created that person, no getting around that. But I don’t have to be him. I will take everything he gained in that hell and use it; I will have his strength, his speed, his ability to do what has to be done. But I won’t have his weakness. I’ll look to Ondrej and Wren for advice, not orders. I’ll fight for Summer because the court fights the right battles, not because I need an army. I’ll stop insulting a warrior as great as John Coyote by calling him a General.

Warrior… I like that. I can take everything they made of me, and turn it to something better, something older. I can’t help what I am. I was forged and tended and stoked into a killing machine. I hate to say it, but I have more in common with that murdering coward than I’d like: I can’t not be a monster. But I don’t have to be a soldier.

I suppose I should leave an update on what’s been going on, as well, so whoever you are reading back to this, even if its only been a few months, you’ll have to take my word. I damn well hope you haven’t forgotten this date, though. Neon is dead by Pocket’s hand, and although I’m not sorry to see him go, you don’t kill a defenseless prisoner. Plus, according to everything we get filtered down to us from the monarchs, this just makes things even more complicated. The new Beta is dead too, and Wren of all people dealt the final blow. I thought I was the fighter in this family once, but this incident and Short-Round taking care of his fetch have shown me that fate brought us together for a reason. We might seem different, but we’re all warriors, in our way. I tried to take the trophies; the head for the family, the ear for Wren, but she seemed opposed to that idea. I don’t know why I thought she wouldn’t be, but at the time, it felt natural, like it was already second nature. Hell, I don’t even remember where I learned those were the appropriate trophies, those are just the ancient laws of combat.

Now, shit is about to get complicated. Texarkana keeps looming closer metaphorically while the Tower does it physically. Galt is poised to come back into the open, and they’re still counting on Ondrej to bat for their side. And to top it all, the The Reverend has called the biggest gathering i’ve seen since I got back for Friday, and everyone with sight says a split is happening there. I don’t know how its going to shake out, or where everyone will fall, but I know that no matter how much love or loyalty I have for certain people or organizations, I have to follow my conscience before I follow orders.

Alright, this individual assertion thing is nice, but lets be honest for a second. I’m not ready to be on my own, or lose the court, or my… friends. I talked to Zeke earlier, he gave me his guy’s number, and I have Jess, Enrico, and Rodney meeting me there tonight, although they don’t know for what yet. Come Friday, we might not be able to be friends, but we will never stop being brothers.

Or at least Red hoped so…

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A Storm's Comin'

The has started to roll, there’s no stopping it now.

With help from most of the freehold we got past the wolves to get to Neon. I entered alone through the secret door on the 23rd floor. From there I hid in a laundry basket and Juliet Post pushed me to the up to the 26th. Luckily I am made of clockwork and didn’t move or sneeze when some wolves joined us for our elevator ride. I felt just like that asian man in Ocean’s 11

Anyways Ms. Post snuck me into a nearby room and I opened a door to the hedge and let the rest of my family in. John Galt had also infiltrated the hotel and together we took out the guards and stormed Neon’s room. How exciting! I wish we had been able to be more subtle, but the wolves saw right through our non-violent attempt at getting past them.

Once we all got in the room and found the hidden closet through the looking-glass (oh the irony there) We had him! We were all ready for a peaceful end when the folks from Galt started talking. I was ready to stop Patrick from shooting Neon but then Roland walked right up to him and stabbed him. These Galt folks were driven by revenge, they didn’t care about what was best for the freehold; selfish. I was surprised to see Ondrej try to apprehend Roland and I tried to assist by removing his escape route but he still got away.

I don’t know what is going to happen now. John Galt now holds the crown of Spring, which may not be any better than Neon. If anything we now have a stronger Spring Monarch who may still wish to see the Pledge collapse. I don’t trust Galt, they poisoned Red’s dreams. That is the realm of the keepers. Galt has spent too much time in the hedge and coming from me, that is a big deal.

We have the Key of Law, We just got the Key of the City. Now we need the Key of the Goblin King. I should ask Frederick about that. Maybe he just has it in his hallow… I don’t think we will be the fortunate. I also wonder if the Reverend will want his key back. The Reverend is holding church this Friday, I fear things might not go well there.

A storm’s comin’

We better get ready

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Everything has a price

The Little Clockwork man saved Frederick. But at what price? The Tower was destroyed, The evil Galt was dead, the day was saved. But it was a pyrric victory. The four brave heroes of August Motley saved the town. But They were not the victors, the victors were the people of the Freehold.

The Little Clockwork man had made a deal to save Frederick. But he had made a deal with Mr. Scratch. And the scars that Frederick has serve as a constant reminder of the Debt owed for saving his life.

The Little Clockwork man had betrayed his friends, he had chosen Frederick over their friendship and he knew that the consequences of that action would come in time. While the people celebrated the Little clockwork man faded into obscurity. Building other little clockwork men to keep Frederick company after he inevitably wound down and stopped ticking. Eventually everyone forgot about the little clockwork hero who had helped save them.

One day, the time had come, and The Little Clockwork man could no longer delay the debts he had to repay. Death came and the Little Clockwork man knew that it was time.

“You’re Late.” he told Death.

Death said nothing, he just smiled and walked with the Little clockwork man, taking him to his domain.

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All's quiet on the Western Front

I had a meeting with Leah on behalf of Galt. They wanted to recruit me. Their looking a lot more spring now. Anyway, I told them I had to meet Galt before I signed up. For now we’re allies, but two separate fighting forces. She told us where we could find Susanna’s haven, but we didn’t need to. She saw reason when Red, Dirge and I dropped by Costas’ place to discuss business. Turns out some twins named Jake and Jen were responsible for the bombing, and they will be made to pay for their sloppiness in leaving Wren in the building. If Susanna doesn’t follow through I’m sure I won’t be the only one up for making sure they pay for the mistake. Susanna, however, did not take it well when I attempted to negotiate reparations as part of their terms of surrender. The way I see it she owes me and mine (specifically Wren) $1.5 million. Either she’ll pay up or I’ll have to take my reparations another way. I always collect on my debts.

Raji is the new Beta for the wolves and Pat believes, as I suspected, that LeStrade is still walking the night. I need to try to reach out to him again and confirm that we did not send Snyder to the meeting.

The Red army has been neutralized, and it appears that Blue is doing better than they are indicating. For now Neon is our primary objective. We failed to convince Red to turn to our side and to convince the mages to join with us. I guess that means we’ll just have to cash in some conquest cards to storm the Bellagio.

We’re starting to see returns on our scouting and the board is beginning to shift in ways which benefit us, but there are 7 sides in this war. Galt may be our ally, and Susanna may have agreed to some non-violence, but I won’t forget that they are not us. Our enemies’ enemy is our friend. But they are not family.

Susanna owes me for this. But Tremaine owes just as much, if not more. We will have much to discuss at our meeting. The only question is if she wants to speak with me, or let the bullets do the talking with her subordinates. For a reasonable price this could all go away.

Allies:
August Motley – Yellow
Galt – Green

Enemies:
Neon – Orange
Tremaine – Brown

Neutral:
Susanna – Red

Unknown Loyalties:
LeStrade – Blue
The Reverend? – Black

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Can't hide anymore

Alright, this is no time for stories. I am going to give this to Frederick to hide it in his hallow. If someone finds this then … well then I have more problems than I thought.

We have two more keys left: the one in Texarkana and the one around Neon’s neck. Our hand has been forced, we have to get Neon’s key. He has hidden himself away with the werewolves and if he doesn’t pass on the crown to the Coyote on the 4th then the pledge will be broken. Stealing from a monarch is bad. Stealing from a monarch who is in power is insane. And stealing from a monarch who has cloistered himself in a wolf hotel… doesn’t look good for the little clockwork man or his friends.

Luckily the other monarchs are helping out. Coyote has been talking with Mr. Red, Silver has been feeding Wren all the pertinent secrets she knows. Dr. Cruxes gave his last prophecy before summer. He said that the “hedgeborne” are going to stay out of this conflict until there is a clear winner in Spring. And the the Black and the Green army is going to clash in the hedge. I think that means that galt and the reverend’s forces are going to fight in the hedge. That just begs the question, who are the reverend’s forces? Will there be lost fighting other lost? a duel in the thorns is one thing, but a war? It sounds to me like an alarm clock going off for the keepers. I will have to talk to Frederick, I know it wasn’t in the prophecy but if Frederick can command even a few goblins, it might be enough to stop the fight before it begins.

I need to gather some goblin fruit for the days to come, If I can’t fight I might be able to help in some other ways. I wonder what John Galt is thinking about all this. Watching us from her tower. Maybe the keepers won’t be able to reach her up there and she will just watch as all of us get taken away back to arcadia never to be seen again.

I can’t help but wonder what my part will be in all of this. I am only helpful in the hedge, the real world still feels to… concrete to me. I will have to do all I can, but what can a little clockwork man do? This is a time for fighting, not growing a garden, or making clocks, or bartering with goblins. There isn’t time to make Armor, I can’t rally anyone, I can’t fight; but I have to help, this is too important to stand on the sidelines anymore. I will have to do what winter does in times like these. Help by providing support to the other courts, and give them every opportunity I can provide to help them succeed.

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Strike When The Iron Is...

A lot had happened in 48 hours. The word from Galt that things were about to start moving, the state of hostilities with Tremaine, the attack by Susanna and the much too soon peace brokered through Costas… That whole thing still burned wet to Red… He understood why they had to make it. Attack or no, they had bigger priorities and more dangerous enemies at the moment, they didn’t have the resources to be fighting on that front. But if they and the freehold made it through everything that was coming, he would be returning the favor to the sucks, and he heard they liked firebombs even less than most people. But that was down the road, he had to keep his thoughts organized. What needed to be done and in what order, that was what he needed to be thinking about. He’d have to run it by Wren and Ondrej, but as far as he saw it, they had a pretty tight schedule

1. Infiltrate Tremaine’s fortress
2. Get Neon‘s key
3. Get out of the casino alive, with either Neon’s resignation or his head
4. Book it to Texarkana, find the third key, and find a way to escape
5. Get back, open the tower, and make the choice between persuading, murdering, or handing the crown to Galt.
6. Get her back worldside and willin to hand the crown right back to Coyote.

And all of that had to happen before the 4th. From what Red gathered, they’d be doing it pretty much alone too. They were going to have to move, and fast, if there was any hope. Luckily, that was something Red was pretty good at

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War and Wishes
in which the motley runs a few errands

Neon is in the Bellagio.

I know we have ways to get in… it’s gettin’ to him and then gettin’ out that’s the trouble. I mean, we have all the pieces, right? We have a door to get in. We have a key that opens all kinds of doors. We have a plant that keeps the wolves from sniffin’ us out. But hell, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do when we get to him! How do we make him give up what he stole, what he took when he locked her in the Tower? Ms. Silver (hell, all the other monarchs I guess) want this to end without the Pledge gettin’ broken. We have to get him to give up his crown, get him to step down.

There has to be a way. I just don’t know what it is.

In the meantime, I have to figure out who’s plantin’ things in Red‘s head. I got one of his dreams from Dr. Sinclair at the market, I need to… is watch the right word?… whatever, I need to see it. Maybe I can figure out who’s messin’ with him, or how to stop it. We can’t have him outta his mind, not now.

With all this goin’ on, there’s a part of me feels like this is all goin’ to end in tragedy. Maybe that’s just the Autumn court speakin’, or maybe I’m more Winter than I thought— but I can’t shake the feelin’… that feelin’ like I’ve had butterflies for dinner. (Again. I know better than most what that feels like.)

I hate war. I know it en’t war in the strictest sense, but in the same way it is. No sense in wishin’ for fear it’ll end up on that hill in the Hedge— but if I don’t hope I’m gonna crack and fray. So here’s to hopin’ that when this is all over I get to see the rest of this wide world with a very excellent gentleman name of Dirge, and time to time ramble back to my brothers.

“Sayin, ‘Hey I’ve been havin’ the same old dreams,
But mine was a little different you see.
I dreamt that the only person left after the war was me.
I didn’t see you around.’” (BD)

—Wren

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You Don't Come at a Man's Family

They blew up my fucking house. Those fuckers. Fuck every single one of them. This will not stand. This is war.

I went to the meeting with Havelock with Red. He was, presumably dead, or someone made it look that way. And fucking Snyder was dead right along with him. Tremaine broke our deal, if I get the chance to talk to her I can bend her to my will presumably with little difficulty. Spoils of war. And fucking Susanna had my goddamned house blown the fuck up! Tremaine is backing off and protecting Neon. I lost my contacts in the lichvar and the Firm all in one go. Someone answered Snyder’s phone, they didn’t do me the curtesy of introducing themselves. It looks like Susanna just lashed out at whoever she could reach, but that’s not acceptable. She reduced my home to a flaming pile. I think I’ll go ahead and return the favor. Galt didn’t know it was a set up and is moving to support me against the attack. Neha defected to Galt. The cogs are in motion now. I called Cray and he put me in contact with a local mage. I made them an offer if they should join in this little war of ours. I doubt much will come of it, but it can’t hurt.

My goddamned house. And worse yet they damn near killed Wren. If it were just the house I could deal with them in the future. That can be gotten past. But they attacked my family and that doesn’t stand.

Who the hell is the black army? It has to be the Reverend, right? Maybe not.

My fucking family, Susanna? Do you know nothing about me? Do you think that this doesn’t mean I will end you? So my money is gone, that was never the point. The point is the freedom to do what one wills, and now above all else I will vengeance. But you may have been confused.

I know where Costas sleeps.

If Neon doesn’t get off the throne the whole pledge will crumble. Someone has to take the crown from him. I might trust Neha, or maybe I should do it. No one thinks its a good idea, but isn’t that irrelevant? I’ve read my Hobbes and my Machiavelli, all that matters is that I could provide security and Neon can’t. Especially since Tremaine broke the promise. One doesn’t do that lightly with our kind.

Our kind, as though that means anything. Neon tried to have me killed. So did Galt. At least Galt owned up to it.

Family first.

There will be retribution for this.

Red is with Coyote now. Maybe that will turn something useful up.

But first I need to think about this rationally. The black army is likely the Reverend. Susanna may have been lashing out, she needs to be contacted. Costas is the only in I know of. I need to deal with Tremaine somehow, she is on the defensive. Know who is the beatdown. They think I’ve been neutralized because they took my property and my cash, but that isn’t enough. They seized my plane, that means they expected me to run. When the enemy believes you are weak strike. When you are weak strike their weakest link. Tremaine is a weak point, she is missing her beta, with unrest in the ranks. If I can deal with her one on one I could make her an offer. She is reasonable. She gives me Neon and I’ll support her continued control of the pack. It seems reasonable. And if she doesn’t see it that way there is more than one way to skin a cat. Or a dog. The mage angle seems dead, but I’ll leave my feelers out there. I need information. Where the hell is Galt. I need to hear from people. What is Galt’s role in the vampire deal.

Wait. I saw ashes, and they were in Havelock’s suit. That doesn’t mean he is dead. And he is still on the board, even though his side lost a cannon. I need to verify that he’s gone.

We have to come at this logically. Strategically. Tactics and strategy. Small formation tactics win wars. So first, recon. I’ve got everyone I know working their angles on this. Then assess targets. Then strike. Strike fast, kick ass.

Because you don’t come at a man’s family.

“ring”

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