City Lights at Night

_Untitled_

(scribbled on blank sheet music on Wren’s nightstand)

A long time ago in a far-off land
Am -———————- Am
Was a tower in the sky, and a Rosewood man
Dm -———————————- Dm7
Lived in the city where the tower fell
E7 -————- Bdim
Where it fell it left a scar
Am -————— Am
And the city there, its doors are barred
Dm -————————- Dm7
And only one escaped the tale to tell
E7 -———— Bdim -————— Am

Back in the city’s darkest hour
In the shadow of the fallen tower
A stranger walked into that cursed town
Just as the sun was about to set
The Rosewood man made himself a bet
With the stranger there he laid his wager down

Four had done it before, and he could too
And what was a Rosewood man to do
To escape a city he knew was cursed?
He’d beat the stranger at what he did best
And if he could, he’d walk free with the rest
Said the stranger, “Do your worst.”

Seems Georgia’s missin’ its Devil
The stranger, ‘course, wasn’t on the level
That’s somethin’ the Rosewood man, he should’ve known
“I can best you, bet I can”
He told the stranger, the Rosewood man
And he did— but he walked out the gate alone

Now the city waits, the doors still barred
And the Rosewood man, he’s ridin’ hard
Tryin’ to escape the city that haunts his dreams
The guilt that follows him, it’s his
And the moral of my story is
In our world, nothin’s ever what it seems

—Wren

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Addendum

I stopped by a Toy’R’Us and bought many many board games. All the ones I had ever heard of in fact. They will be handy for something Eugene taught me. I set out Stratego to play against Tremaine, well sort of. The board itself will play her part of the game. This should give me some heads up if Tremaine moves against us for our part in the Leviathan issue.

Wolfe knew about Jeremiah’s key, he had it before she knew him. He never let her touch it but he promised to give it to her when he retired. I guess that has come to pass. Once we finish our business I’ll make sure to get it back to her. Family.

Some reporter was looking into a hitman for I Cavalieri. I checked with Wolfe, she doesn’t think they know she’s one of us and she doesn’t think they know about me. This alleviates my concern that Rocco and Socco are Lo Sparviero

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Orders; Eldritch and Otherwise

Things were coming together quickly, and for all appearances well on The Order. Mr. Red had invited only those whom he trusted and the one expat, but he seemed like exactly his kinda guy. Just in time too, as Norman had all but confirmed that war was coming, so we could use all the strength we could get. What was that bullshit about the war coming from his own court, though? Maybe dusk was just paranoid, Red had no idea how they were, but with the Pelts and Sucks and Galt and Neon the freehold had enough enemies without making Summer or Coyote among them.

War was coming. Red remembered war, more in vagaries than specifics. He remembered the fear, the tension, the boredom. He remembered the sounds, the horrible smells, and the taste. The taste was the worst; some nightmare mixture of blood and metal and gasoline and all the terrible things you had to do in order to survive, in order to win. Time was coming that he would need to do some distasteful things again, but maybe, if he acted early enough, he could at least have them save some lives. Ondrej had some mission in the hedge about old Jeremiah Wolfe’s last days, and although he didn’t want the rest of them knowing everything, that shady carnie let slip some valuable intel. Wolfe had a key when he died, and from his ramblings, it almost certainly opens the doors of the Tower. This was too valuable to let lie in an unprotected grave, even if we didn’t have use for it, it had to be kept out of the hands of the Galt-cult. Even if it meant desecrating the grave of a hero of the Court and risking the current Wolfe’s wrath.

War was coming, Red wasn’t as scared about as he had been since he got back. Everything was falling into place, his allies were becoming stronger everyday. Ondrej got better at working his connections and power everyday, and Red couldn’t place it, but there seemed to be a lot less excitement from him about joining up with Galt lately. Wren was her monarch’s favorite, had a strong ‘alliance’ with a powerful man, and was finally learning to take care of herself with a weapon. And even little Masa was showing some backbone, even if it was made of clockwork. Red was so proud of him, he had done what needed to be done, by himself, and for all appearances had come through it with about as much of his mind as he’d had before. Still, he needed to keep an eye on the little guy, your first one is always the hardest, and some people just aren’t meant for it. But in a situation that tense, Red had expected far less of him. Maybe he could be made into a soldier after all.

War was coming, that much was sure now. Tremaine’s and Neon’s and Galt’s schemes were all going to come to a head or run into each other eventually, and once one of them was in motion the others would seize the opportunity to strike, it was just tactics. Red was 90% sure that LeStrade and the other one would have a move to make too, but he didn’t have any idea what it would be or anything solid to back that assumption up, another reason the Order needed to be up and working asap. If it came inside the freehold first, though, that was Summer’s job, and he needed to be ready to fight at Coyote’s side. That meeting Jess was supposed to set up was important, Red needed to have some questions about the court addressed, and he needed someone to teach him some more of the Season’s contracts. Plus, it’d be nice to have a word with command

War was coming. Red felt good.

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Murder and Mistakes

He’s dead… I killed him… I drove that blade into his spine… Murderer.

His soul was incomplete, but so was mine. He was made of clockwork, but so was I. He had a real family, I have my motley. He wins that one. He will be missed. His parents will mourn his death. His family will never be the same now that they’ve lost their only son.

But I was the original, if one should go it should be him. Shouldn’t it? My motley mates would miss me if I was gone, right?

But he felt real emotions, emotions that I haven’t felt since I was taken. Red told me that they don’t, but he did. My clockwork keeper up in his tower, He made them well. I was even able to make clockwork men who felt emotion… granted they only felt hate for me. I know that the emotions that my fetch felt were real, they were probably mine, taken from me to make him. I got my shadow back, and the watch, but my humanity that was stolen will never be returned. I lost that when he died.

It could have been different. I had done my research. We could have combined our broken humanity and been slightly more complete, more human. The part that was taken by the keepers and the hedge, that doesn’t belong to us anymore, and I know I would have never been complete… I just wanted to feel more like how I used to before I was taken… Happy.
-——————————————————————————————————————————————

His family will be looking for him. I need to fix this. (On a scrap piece of paper on his workbench in the hallow, Masa composes a letter)

Mom and Dad,

Things just haven’t been the same since I came to college. There is a void in me, a sense of incompleteness that can’t be fixed. I am wearing down like a stripped screw or a gear with all of its teeth worn down. I feel like an old man at the age of twenty. I have been trying to fix things, but there is something wrong. It can’t be fixed. I will miss you two, and look back on my life back then with fond memories. The first time I rode a bike out to the red pickup sitting in the driveway, or when I tried to help out around the house and put dishsoap in the dishwasher. You two raised me right, something just broke inside me when I went away. It is time for me to go.

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Carnival and Conspiracy
in which there is conspiracy, dinner, and the telling of fortunes

I feel horribly, terribly guilty. I am not happy about that. I’m hidin’ things, things I ought not to, because I don’t even have a very good reason to.

I had an invitation to dinner on Friday— from Ms. Silver, of all people. So I went, with Dirge in tow; it may just have been the creepiest thing I’ve done since I came back this side of the Hedge. (‘Course, that was likely because we had dinner in the Hedge, surrounded by cobwebs and creepifyin’ paintings and such.) Ms. Silver wanted to know about what happened when we got rid of the demon inhabitin’ the Leviathan. So I told her about what Red had asked, and about what Masa had asked… and I hesitated when I got to what I had asked. I was a little afraid to mention it, because it was somethin’ I really ought to have asked Dirge about. Ms. Silver picked up on that, and covered for me—said somethin’ about only two questions bein’ allowed. I owe her for that, I think— but now I wish I’d just said outright what I had asked about, because it’s buggin’ the hell outta me that I didn’t.

Anyway, we talked about other things too— a bit about Galt (and she mentioned, I think, a name that I just barely caught), and a little about the Tower (the Reverend knows about it, but it’s driven him mad and the story’s in the book he keeps). Oh, and she gave me a present. It’s a necklace, a leaden diamond (very, very Autumn-court-like, no surprise). She said if I need a little outside wisdom, all I have to do is wear it. Very thoughtful.

Went to the Market too, there was a carnival in town this week. The Last Picture Show, greatest show beside the Earth. Seems Ondrej was lookin’ for somebody there, someone to tell him about Jeremiah Wolfe and how he died. I’m not sure why Ondrej is lookin’ into this, but it has to have somethin’ to do with Texarkana. There was a fortune-telling praying mantis woman there too, read the cards for me. She told me a fair piece about what’s goin’ on and what will go on. I didn’t used to put much stock in fortune-tellers, but considerin’ where I spent fifteen— or was it fifty?— years, well… that aside, it seems the Tower will spell disaster for either the Knight of Cups or the Queen of Wands, and that means either a particular gentleman I’m very fond of, or a very nice but very scary older lady that I’m also rather fond of. I’m not lookin’ forward to either option. Apparently I’ll also get at least a few answers outta all this chaos, but one of my brothers will be betrayed, one will lose his luck, and things will change… but the last card she turned was the World.

Maybe my end, after all that, will have some kind of peace.

It’s gettin’ there that’s the problem.

I still feel terrible for hidin’ my question from Dirge— but all I wanted was to keep from draggin’ up memories that are less than happy… is that a good enough reason? I should talk to him about it, but what if it makes him angry? And what if… ah, hell, I’m just goin’ to tell him. I have to ask him about Red’s conspiracy, too. Might as well lay everythin’ out on the table, show my hand.

“Some day fate may be kind
Pray for the future, hope for the best
One never knows, does one?
That’s just the way it goes.” (BH)
—Wren

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Wolfe's Business

Back in Vegas. Wolfe was out of town also; she heard some rumors that she wanted checked out, but her role made that difficult. The beauty of freedom, I can look into it for her with out such constraints. The ringleader of The Last Picture Show, a man named Hatcher was supposed to have some information.
I gave Red and Wren the slip so that I could speak with him alone. Masa didn’t even come to the market.
Jeremiah Wolfe died in 1985 of natural causes, or he was murdered by John Galt along with Patrick Talamh.
He was losing his mind when the circus found him. They assaulted him and attempted to rob him. He killed two of their hobs. Hatcher offered him a job.
He was rambling about having been lost in a city in the clouds, this is likely the broken tower.
He had a large iron key. The Tower is locked. The Key likely opens that lock.
He was found in Tulsa and had clearly spent a large amount of time in the Hedge.
He was incoherent; saying he had lost his court and his freehold, but he had found something.
He was sick, with many nightmares.
This may be indicative of time in the Tower. I know just looking at it was bad enough for me.
He left the city in Phoenix after having met with Galt.
The A Crest that Wolfe carried and which is present in the Graveyard Red spoke of is used out East.
Hatcher and his employee Minch found that Wolfe had died by discovering his grave.
He did not rob that grave out of respect.
Galt probably didn’t visit Wolfe in Vegas, but somewhere nearby.

Now, do I give Wolfe the lead on Galt, or keep that one to myself. They put me in an interesting position. I will not be their pawn any more than I will be my Keeper’s or Neon’s. I am my own man. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial to me to keep them around. Still, who will run spring. I don’t know anyone with a firm enough hand who is willing to take the risks necessary to rule.

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Demons, Wishes, and more questions

Sister Clarice translated the documents for me with a schoolteacher’s ruthless red grammatical corrections.

Jim, Cassandra, Frederickand I found the door that Jim had made into the thorns, We didn’t end up needing it but it was and still is a valuable piece of information.

It is done. The demon is gone. Back to wherever it came from. Even if it was evil, I feel bad for it. Being the slave of the mage, these things do not sit well for me. It answered a question from me, reMr. Red, and Wrenand granted a wish to Ondrej. I am grateful of the information but I don’t much like being in debt to a demon, even if it is on a different plane now.

The Demon told us about the Tower, Texarkana, and John Galt. They all seem interconnected in some way, especially texarkana and the Tower. We should go there sometime, I can learn more about the tower.

Now that we have some downtime there are many things I need to take care of: I need to do some more stargazing and spend some time with Frederick, He is growing up so fast!

There is also the unfortunate matter of the other me. Cruces gave me a dagger to pin his shadow. Perhaps a visit to UNLV is needed… I am not looking forward to this.

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Hellions and History
in which the motley makes a deal with a mage

I’ve got an awful lot to relay to Ms. Silver.

She was right, the computer at the Inferno is a placeholder, a housing— it was occupied by a demon called Marchosias, bound there by Lincoln Cray. We found all this out with no small amount of trouble:
Red broke into Cray’s office and stole papers and a book.
Masa copied all of it in a matter of seconds.
Ondrej returned the book and papers to the wolves.
Masa had Sister Clarice translate the book (it was in ancient Greek).
I convinced a very drunk Cray to tell me more than he ought to have.
We sorted out (with help from Eugene) just what was in the book.
Ondrej threatened Cray with exposure.
We made a deal with Cray to get rid of the demon, and we’d make him disappear. (Presto. Ha ha.)

After all that, we actually had to get in and talk to the thing. Me, Masa and Red got to ask questions— Masa asked about the Broken Tower (it fell to the will of men); I asked about Texarkana (they sowed the seeds of their own damnation); Red asked, of course, ‘who is John Galt?’ (the Spring courtier who defied the thorns). Ondrej… he got a wish from the demon.

Cray upheld his end of the bargain (get us in and send the demon back to hell), so we held up ours (get him out of here to where -hopefully- the wolves can’t find him). He gave us a pretty good run down on what happened back in the eighties. The whole ordeal is the one that nobody wants to talk about, but everybody wants to know about— there were several things that shifted all at once. Cray knocked off Tremaine’s boy; power shifted in the fangy and furry divisions, and there was an upset in our system too— someone took the throne that didn’t deserve it.

I’m not sure what Galt’s game is any more, and I’m not sure I want to know but I’m sure I’m goin’ to get tangled up in it anyway by virtue of bein’ in the same motley as Ondrej. In the mean time, maybe things will be a little more normal now that the demon’s gone…

… ah, who am I kiddin’?

“When it rains out here
It’s stormin’ on the sea
Every time I come here
Everything happens to me.” (BH)
—Wren

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The Art of War

He didn’t know why, but long rides were the only time Red ever really sat down and read. Sure, there was the movie, if you were lucky, or a walkman if you weren’t, either was enough to hold his attention, but something about the environment made him feel guilty for all the reading he should have been doing. So he was finally getting some use out of one of his christmas presents, which was good. This was a victory, to be celebrated for sure; but for all the hype, the magic question answering demon had just opened more doors. Red needed something else to think about for awhile.

As it turned out, this was not the right book for that. Every sentence seemed to jump out at him, forcing itself into relevance to the present or the future. By the 3rd chapter, it was too much. In a 2500 year old book, he read exactly why he was screwed.

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

The more he tried to put together what he knew, the more some quote he had learned in school came to mind: All I know is that I know nothing. Red had learned more about Tremaine, her tactics, her motivations, and the extents to which she would go for a weapon, enough to know that she was definitely an enemy, but one that had to be tolerated for the time being. Still, he had no idea what inspired such fierce loyalty among her soldiers, or what her weaknesses were.

Red had, finally, learned something about the Freehold and the Eighties. Galt, the queen of Spring in the ultimate city of desire, thought she had the power to reclaim the broken throne and stand against the Gentry. Apparently this was such lunacy that the other courts united against her. Red almost couldn’t picture it, Coyote passing up the greatest weapon the Lost had ever built and sacrificing the power of Summer to do it. Why? If the fight was truly that hopeless, then their court was defunct. And why was this shakeup kept so deathly quiet, a lot of the freehold had lived through the change and yet refused to even mention it. And did the monarchs know Galt was still in the tower?

Even what Red knew abut himself was changing. He had been a soldier since his durance, sometimes the life sucked, but you always knew your place. But now? He had disobeyed direct directives from Baz and strong suggestions from Coyote to strike against Galt if the opportunity presented itself. Hell, he had [[:128609 | Pockets] alone in the hedge and had a friendly conversation with the bastard, all because Red made an independent call that Galt in Spring would be stronger against the Pelts and Sucks than Neon. He had information kept from him, that was part of being a soldier, but this time he was taking it personally. Jess was here for the 80’s, and nothing happened in the hedge without her knowing, and she hadn’t said shit about Galt. More than that, though, Red wasn’t sure he was expendable anymore. He had his family and connections in this town, and couldn’t name a changeling short of the Monarchs he didn’t think he’d have at least a fair chance against in a fight. The first night he felt his mantle, after pledging to Summer, it was hard to distinguish its heat from his own, he thought it was normal, but the more courtiers he met the more he realized only the King’s burned brighter. Even outside the court, the way people treated him was changing. Sure, some of them still treated him like dumb muscle, but there was a tone of respect with it, as if they were speaking to an equal, or even a superior. And more than any of that, Red could feel it. He could feel his power growing, and he knew he wasn’t doing it on purpose. Something in him was changing, maybe not as radical as what had happened to Ondrej, but still significant.

The Order was the next step. That was what Red had resolved to call the organization he was trying to form, it was appropriate enough, and Ondrej had really helped with organizing it. Two brotherhoods, one of the watch, to monitor threats from the other supernaturals, and one of the guard, to stand ready to strike against them, and a Lord of each. Originally, he had just wanted something informal, just a clearing house for relevant intelligence and a coordination point for a possible attach, but now he felt like his eyes had been opened to what it could truly become. If Galt had their own little Satrapy, why couldn’t those whose intentions could actually be called noble? If forged properly, this brotherhood could be a weapon, for Red and for the freehold. And if people kept thinking of him as a grunt for now, he was more than ok with that. After all, “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.” Maybe things were looking up.

But Red knew he was fooling himself. As much of a threat as they were, the wolves and vamps had never dragged him to Arcadia, never poisoned the dreams and lives of his family, and even if they killed him they could never drag him back. The Keepers were still out there. Red was slowly finding out that, at least for now, he knew neither himself or the army he had joined, and the They were unknowable. “It is the rule in war, if ten times the enemy’s strength, surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, be able to divide them; if equal,engage them; if fewer, be able to evade them; if weaker, be able to avoid them.” Even with the might of The Tower, the belief that the Lost were even able to engage the Keepers was apparently arrogant to the point of insanity, so they were stuck to evasion, at least for now. But Red wasn’t willing to give up hope in his court or his people, their day would come. “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” One day, the tower would lead an armada of its ilk at the head of an army of Changelings to blast open the gates of Arcadia and take their vengeance. That day is still far away. But it will come.

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Paranoia and Cowardice

We took care of the Leviathan by making Lincoln Cray an offer he couldn’t refuse. Its like my father used to say, “Never force a man to work for you, he’ll do a better job if its in his interest too. Partners are better than Employees.”

Red approached me about forming a conspiracy to repel external threats to the freehold, he wants me to be in charge of the information side, I think its better to be on the inside than out.

I picked up some money from a slush fund for Casper Silverstein while I stopped off in Israel for Cray, off the record. It should be good to have more allies with the Corporation, especially with having aggravated the Firm.

Lech is still walking around also, intriguing. I verified with Pat, the meeting was legitimate. What is Cruces roll in all of this?

The Leviathan called me after dealing with the rest of the motley, it let me make a wish… I had it undue what my Keeper did unto me with the Wyrd; it remade me. I am no longer a dealer of someone else’s game, but a grandmaster of my own.

So where now? My will is no longer bound by anything but that which I have chosen. But that will not always be the case. There are those here who would oppose me. And the battle between Galt and Neon continues, with me here on the fence between a paranoid woman and a cowardly man. Someone needs to bring some sanity to Spring, and the stability that Red is so concerned about back to the Freehold. But who?

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