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World of Darkness: Attrition - Coventry House: A Mage's Tale[FIN]

Adrian Moss

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The Mysterium was founded on a dichotomy. Its purpose was to find, gather, and hoard knowledge. It was also supposed to trade that knowledge for power and prestige. A secret isn't a secret if you share it. Knowledge isn't power if it is kept under a bushel. Randy Edison had come to the Mysterium to gain knowledge and all he had to trade was his time and brain. That translated over to studying and updating all kinds of old tomes and journals into the Mysterium databases.

"Maeror," said his contact within the Order using his Shadow Name, "here is a text you may find interesting." He lay down a leather-bound book onto Randy's desk. It was reddish brown in color, bordered in lead, and a five starred symbol in what might have been bone. Randy rubbed his hands along its surface.

"Is this a tome of Rotes?" he asked the Archivist.

He was rewarded with a look reserved for favored idiot children.

"No," he said curtly. "We reserved the transcription of magical tomes for those of ... superior standing. Nice try though. A correct amount of hunger is to be cultivated."

With that, the senior Magus left Randy and returned to his own stockpile of backlogged material. Randy was left to ponder the book, and ponder it he did for about two seconds. The cover of a book were nice, but unless it gave a clue to what lay within, it was about as useful as your wife telling you she wasn't a virgin on your wedding night.

The book didn't make much of a creaking sound as he opened it. That pointed to a book of modern design. Randy had already learned that older books had a cracking sound that leather treated in more modern time didn't have. The advantages of a more modern tome was twofold. First, you rarely had to worry about it falling apart in your hands and thus getting your ass chewed out. Second, it might just have an actual relevance. Learning that one Mage sent love letters to a Mage who didn't return his affections didn't matter too much if they were both dead.

The book's first page clarified things immediately. It was the journal of a Moros Mage named Cyrus Macmillan. The second page indicated that the journal was one of a set, as this one was up and running May of 1974. Randy was thankful that it didn't read like a diary. It was a note book detailing things he had encountered and actions he had taken to deal with them. It described rotes and their effects, though not the fundamentals of the rotes themselves. Randy gave a slight sigh. This was going to be another long trudge, with the only benefit being that he could take his work home with him. The Mysterium's primary concern was the data within, with the books being a close second.

Randy waved to the Archivist as he left, Journal in his backpack. The man waved a stylus at the Moros as he walked to the door.

"I'm taking the Journal with me for the weekend."

That earned him another wave. Randy had every reason to believe that the Magus made a personal and detailed note of the books exit too. The guy was the Archivist because he knew where things were, not where they might be. If the book didn't come back, it would be paid for in Randy's hide. Randy had been a private in the Marines. He could stomach being the bottom man again. He would rise above it soon enough.

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November 23 (year was 1978)

On the trail of Eddie Cartwright (earlier noted as Edwina Cartwright - Banisher), but the Order has called me in for a consult. Kharma Sinclair (long time partner and troubleshooter - a Thyrus Magi of the Adamant Arrow) is going to keep on her trail. We are sure she's holding up somewhere in either Glendale or Burbank. She's going to do some legwork while I get this out of the way.

(afternoon) I've finished an interview with a young Mastigos named Kyra Nielsen, Disciple of Space. She and two compatriots went to investigate a location two days ago. They were all under five years of experience. One was Thyrus, Jean Dalalier Disciple of Life , and the other a Moros named Clark Stevens, Disciple of Matter. All were Mysterium, which is why the Order wants me to handle this in house.

- House was occupied by Sleepers from October 24th until November 1st of this year. Before that, it seemed to a haunt of some mystery. It hadn't shown up on our radar - ever. Don't like that.

-It was known as the Coventry House. Zero research on the house or the site.

-The three Magi did only preliminary research. She confesses they were expecting something like a minor poltergeist. They approached the house late in the day with minimal preparation - the usual course of basic Shielding and Unveiling rotes.

- House showed sign of recent occupation and a rapid departure. Access was through an open door. Jean made note that there was nothing in the house life-wise. Stevens kept making comments about the silence. He said the house was old and well crafted, with only the finest of materials used.

- Once inside, the separated and looked for clues. I can hardly imagine their naiveté.

- Kyra went upstairs. Jean stayed on the ground floor. Clark went looking for a basement.

-Kyra heard a muffled noise, followed by Jean calling her name. She claims to have heard someone running down another flight stairs as she returned to the first floor. She then heard Jean calling Clark's name from the rear of the house. She ran that way. She heard Jean's muffle incantation of a rote she didn't know (spontaneous casting?) followed by a loud scream. The scream was cut short and Kyra was filled with a sense of absolute dread. She left the house.

-Kyra waited until the next morning, but neither man came out. She returned to the Order.

I have nearly two decades of experience and I don't know what to make of it.

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November 24

Kharma has a solid lead on Cartwright, so I had better wind this up. I'm arming up on my Shadow Realm Rotes before going in. I'm a little rusty and I don't like going in alone. There is something to this place. I have a bad feeling. The Order isn't offering me enough for this shit.

It's done. My hands are still shaking. It was a conjunction of a Hallow and a thinning of the Veil between this world and the Shadow Realm.

Such anger, pain, and sorrow. I could barely stand it. It took every bit of will to hold them at bay while I reset the wards over the Sanctum. It won't hold, but it will last long enough for the Order to get some Prime Magus to anchor everything.

I've contacted Calvin (not mentioned elsewhere) about what happened. He's going to meet up with me at Kharma's. We can figure all this out there.

Randy looked at the last entry of the Journal and blinked. There was no answers. No one was likely to hand him any answers either, because in another hand was this final addition.

Cyrus McMillan's Journal

found November 27th in Edwina Cartwright's possession

The Journal had sat in the Mysterium archives all this time, waiting for someone to come and seek answers. What had Cyrus McMillan encountered the final day of his life? Randy knew what he had to do. He had to learn the mystery of the Coventry House.

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For starters, the LA Times makes you pay to search their archives. That was an unwelcome surprise. Money being what it was, Randy grumbled and groaned as he poured over article after article. Coventry House turned to be tied to a Thomas Coventry, a big wheel back in the first quarter of the last century. The Coventry's went to all the right parties and knew all the right people, movie stars included. They had seven kids (each birth page cost) and numerous charities. In the end, Randy was happy to have laid out the $150 for the 200 articles. He damn near reached his limit when he found what he was looking for in the November 2nd issue of the Times.

Coventry Family Found Brutally Murdered!

Early yesterday morning, eight of the nine members of the Coventry found slain. Mr. Thomas Coventry missing. Foul play suspected.

Yesterday morning placed the murder on the thirty-first of October. That was an inauspicious night dealing with the dead. Most of the mystery of Halloween was more myth than magic, but the will of the Sleepers wasn't something that Will-Workers could ignore. A few more articles revealed little of use. Thomas Coventry was never found. He was forgotten, and he wasn't alone. The house disappeared entirely from the real estate listing. The records holding its plans burnt down in a fire. That was the hallmark of powerful warding magic.

With mundane sources exhausted, Randy turned to the Mysterium Archives. What he found didn't make him a happy Death Mage. It turned out that Thomas Coventry was a big wheel for a very obvious reason. He was a powerful Arcanthus Magus. With the ability to bend Fate and Time to his will, little mundane power was beyond his reach. Back in those days, the West Coast was much more of the Wild West. The Orders were weak. Their main focus was in the San Francisco and Los Angeles was only starting to get its act together.

From 1908 until 1930, Coventry was a law unto himself. He may not have been the baddest (official records rarely had a rating system), but if you read between the lines, you could make some reasoned presumptions. Coventry got warned about interfering in the Sleeper's World. When that didn't work, they warned him again. It seemed to be easier to iron over the ripples in the Tapestry than hammer down the nail causing them. For his part, Coventry traded with the Mysterium. He provided early-colonial and Indian artifacts in exchange for Asian and European tomes.

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That was the mistake. For all of his purported vile qualities, Coventry was conniving. He seemed to have pulled the wools over the eyes the few Mysterium operating in the South-West. By the time they started talking to one another and putting the pieces together, Thomas the Right-Bastard that he was, had collected an impressive collection of lore on Death Magic and the Shadow Realm. There was even some mention of something/someone called Tremere. Tremere was a dead end, but some of the other tomes weren't so obscure.

Coventry was looking to cheat Death. He was looking into a means of extend his life span and some of his methods were Dark Magic. Sacrificing someone's life for power wasn't an alien concept to Randy. It was abhorrent in his eyes. He knew it eroded the soul, weakening the strength of one's Awakened existence, but he could conceive of it happening. The things that Coventry was theorized to have attempted went way beyond that. He delved into Death and Spirit Arcana far beyond Randy's grasp. Even the Mysterium writing after the fact seemed in awe what he had attempted. They even theorized why he had failed.

Late on the first of November, a group consisting of a Mysterium Obrimos, a Adamant Arrow Obrimos, and a Guardian Moros descended on the place. The account made little sense to Randy, talking about metaphysical concepts and Arcana spell-weaving so powerful the book should have been magic. What they had done, from what he could understand, was repair a rip in the weave between this World and the Shadow World. They didn't fix it. They plugged it. They were aided by the Hallow Coventry had kept from the world and by the foci already in place. They locked the wards in place with the soul of Thomas Coventry.

Thomas Coventry had butchered most of his family. Those he didn't kill, he had his Cook had kill in his name. When his Cook had been badly wounded in a final confrontation with Coventry's eldest Son, Coventry sacrificed his loyal stooge. The exact record of the murders, of how and when they took place, was laid out in their final report.

For a time, the Cabal was content to let wards over Coventry House remain and slowly bend the World's attention away from the place of such a gruesome murder. The Hallow was so polluted that it wasn't safe to use, much less stay live on top of. The pain, anger, and sorrow was too great. The hand of fate stepped in. By World War II, two of the three Magi were dead. A year or so after the war, the third was recorded as having gone over to Japan, reasons unknown. Randy could find no record of his return. Outside the three, no one seemed to know exactly where or what Coventry House was. Maybe the three felt that advertising its location would lead less capable Magi toward the source, and suffer because of it. There didn't seem to have been a conscious effort to obfuscate it. It was simply forgotten.

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The information trail had grown cold. Randy realized he had to take a different tact. He had a location. It was up in the Santa Monica Mountains north and west of UCLA, in some place known as Bundy Valley. Finding maps that labeled every little dip and draw in those mountains proved to be an exercise in hair pulling. Sitting back and staring at the expense, the Death Mage had a flash of insight. He cross-referenced real estate listing for 1978, but all that gave him was Bundy Valley again. Then he looked down the page. There wasn't a Bundy Valley listing, but there were a ton of Blunt Road listings.

Google Earth provided a quick and easy reference to begin his search. Randy wrote off the South Bundy addresses at the start. South led away from the mountains. He followed the path northward until he was halfway up the draw. There things got interesting. The road was chained off and there was no sign signifying an address. The houses on either side of the chain matched up with the possible address though. The road beyond was unpaved, and showed remarkably little use. A bird's eye view showed nothing but trees and shadows. There was no visible evidence of a house, but Randy knew this was it.

Now that he had a location, he had to run down the clues of what had happened. The family from 1978 was unreachable. The house had last been listed on the market in late 1998 and early 1999 before it dropped off again. Throwing a few more bills down the rabbit hole, he accessed some property records from the time right after the last listing. True enough, there was the family that bought the place. Better yet, the family still held property in the Los Angeles area. Randy debated telephoning them versus stopping by. How did one go about asking 'what drove you from the house?' without sounding a bit touched. A lie with just enough truth seemed to be an answer.

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His cover story was that he was doing a research on Mr. Isaac Loetz's latter career and life. Taht earned him an invitation to their domicile. The Loetz home turned out to be in a nice section of Hollywood, off Sunset Blvd. He had to be buzzed up to the house. The wife came out to greet him as he drove up. She introduced herself as Irene Loetz, wife of Isaac. Randy did his best to be polite. She did her best to wheedle out of him exactly what he was after. He held her off with the statement about a situation a decade past. Intrigued, she led the Mage into the Living Room.

The situation was hardly less conducive to an interview about the haunting of Coventry House. There was a young woman in the room with an infant that may have been two playing at the feet of an older, yet fit man. The man made as if to get up, but the baby clung to his shin. Mr. Loetz made an apologetic shrug, saying,

"What can you do? Mr. Edison is it?"

"Yes sir. Randy Edison."

"Well come in, and take seat. Want some tea?"

"No thank you, sir."

He motioned to the child at his feet. "This is my first grandson - grandbaby of any kind, Joseph Hildebrandt. This is his mother, my daughter, Rebecca Hildebrandt. Like you, she went to UCLA," he said nodding to the younger woman sitting on the floor near the child. Randy guessed her age to be somewhat less than his ~ 25 or 26. "I wish she had followed me at USC and Law School, but she opted for an honest career in International Business."

The man was obviously not annoyed by his daughter. It certainly must have made USC vs UCLA games interesting. No matter how ruckus wasn't his concern. He remained standing while Irene took a seat. He took a deep breath and dove in.

"Primarily, I'm interested in the latter quarter of 1999. There was a drop off of activity (not a total lie) and I was curious as to why? At the time there was V. Johnson vs. San Mateo County was in the settlement phase and it was postponed (actually true). I was wondering why?"

The mention of 1999 brought a hush to the assembly. It was so unsettling that the boy on the floor looked around and crawled over to his mother for comfort.

"I had a personal issue, Mr. Edison," Mr. Loetz said abruptly. It was clearly a subject he didn't want to broach. Randy didn't care. He was here for as much of an answer as he could pry out of this place.

"Did it have anything to do with Coventry House?" There, the gorilla was unleashed into the room. Irene gasped for air. Isaac stood up going from ghostly pale to ruddy.

"Get out," he choked. He pointed a claw-like hand toward the door. "Get out of my house."

He wasn't shouting yet, but Randy knew that was coming. Irene remained seated, eyes looking at something way beyond the house she was currently in. The child started to sniffle. Randy nodded and turned to take his leave. Behind him, the daughter stood up and handed her son off to his grandmother.

"I'll show you out, Mr. Edison," she said. Her tone was harried, her eyes wary.

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As they stepped outside, Randy could tell there was fear in her eyes. There was another emotion there he was also familiar with and somewhat surprised to see - guilt. She closed the door to the outside quietly behind them. She turned and looked into the Magus' eyes.

"Why are you really here?" she said, equal parts curious and cautious.

"I'm studying Coventry House," he said. It was truth enough. "I want to know what happened the last night your family lived in the place."

When he said it, he could tell he touched on something sensitive.

"You were there." As soon the words left his mouth, he realized how stupid that sounded. Of course she was there. She had to have been.

Rebecca looked around nervously. "Yes. Yes I was. I will never forget it, Mr. Edison, for as long as I live."

Randy nodded. Since asking questions wasn't turning out to be his strong suit, he started to rely on her willingness to unleash her guilt. She didn't give him that option.

"Mr. Edison, what are you really looking for?"

"Coventry House is haunted. I know what happened in 1930 and 1978, but I don't know what happened to your family. I plan to go to that house very soon."

A look of shock took over her face.

"You can't do that," she muttered. In a stronger voice she repeated her plea.

Now was the time for silence on his part. He waited for her to unravel her story at her own speed. That took a minute as she struggled with an inner dilemma.

"You really believe the house is haunted, don't you? This isn't some prank?"

Randy gave her a curt nod.

"It's my fault, you know? We were fine in the house until Halloween night." She shook her head in self-denial. It was clear she had never unburdened herself before now.

"I ... I had a slumber party with three of my closets school friends. We were fourteen year old girls. We were silly. We had DVD's, popcorn, and all the usual girl talk. I can't believe how stupid we were. I had told them the legend of the 1930 murders. We all thought that was great fun, living in a Murder House with all the little creaks in the floor boards and branches across the windows."

"We had no idea. My family had lived in the house for over a month. Before that there had been contractors and designers in the place for six months. No one said 'Boo' about seeing or hearing anything."

Now she was the one looking haunted. "How was I to know?" She got no response. How could he explain to her that she was a sleeper in an Awakened World. What Randy had to know was if and how she had ended up tampering with forces beyond her perception.

"We were hyped up on soda and chocolate. It was late, we were awake and feeling bored. We were arguing over which movie not to see next when I remembered I had a Ouiji board. We took turns playing with it in my room, but we decided something was missing. My friend Sarah asked about the murders. I went over the details I had gleamed from my parents. One detail struck us all as momentous. All the bodies had been taken down to the basement."

Rebecca stifled a sob. "We went downstairs, got some candles and matches from the dining room. We made sure to not wake the parents or my little brother. It was such a big adventure. That's the last time I ever felt safe in that house. We went downstairs. Dad was turning that into some sort of Man-Cave, but he had just started so the place was a mess."

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The image of her and her friends spending their last few safe minutes fooling around in the dark touched a nerve.

"We sat in a circle so that our knees were touching. It was cooler down there, so we were shivering slightly. We took turns summoning up people like James Dean and Kirk Cobain. It was eerie. We all began getting a feeling we weren't alone down there, but we couldn't find anyone, so we kept going."

"My best friend, Amanda - we didn't speak again for over a year - got this crazy idea. She wanted to contact the spirit of the Coventry's oldest girl, Minerva. We were sleeping in her room after all."

Rebecca snorted in disbelief at the words coming out of her mouth.

"What could be the harm? Well, Amanda took her turn. She was giggling and moaning, moving the symbol across the board. I'm not sure what she was spelling out because she never finished. Instead, she made a sudden jerk, like she had been shocked. Her hand began moving the symbol in a very hesitant fashion. Amanda looked scared. We all thought she was faking at first. Why wouldn't we?"

"R ... then U ... N ... A ...W ...A ..." and Amanda stopped. She jerked her hands off and stared at us. We congratulated her on a wonderful performance, but she remained quiet. I thought she was blushing from the praise. In the candle light, we couldn't make out her fear. She told me later that she could still feel Minerva inside her and that froze her up. If only," Rebecca sighed. "If only she had been able to say something."

"It was my turn, and I was so determined to One-Ups-manship over Amanda that I got this brilliant idea and ran with it. I was going to summon the spirit of dead Mr. Coventry himself."

"Crap," Randy whispered. "Oh crap."

"I didn't know," she pleaded.

"No one did," Randy said, put a hand on her shoulder. "What happened next?"

"I made up this incantation."

"What was it? Exactly."

"I'm not sure? Is it important?"

"It could be. Rebecca, I'm going back to Coventry House, and I need to know what went wrong there."

"What went wrong?"

"Yes. Something ... something put into place to stop the hauntings failed. I think it failed that night. I think what you and your friends did had something to do with it, and I've got to make it right."

"What? How? Mr. Edison, you are scaring me."

Randy looked at her. "What scares you more, me or that House?"

She didn't answer. Instead she went on with her tale.

"The incantation, yes. I'll try to remember. It went like this: Thomas Coventry, in the name of your murdered children, I summon you forth. I call upon you to avenge them. Name their murderer. Clear your name."

"Then Claire, one of the other girls interrupted. "Ask him were he's buried."

"So, I continued in that vein : Thomas Coventry, name your assassins. Tell us where you are buried so that you may have Eternal Rest. I shouted that last part. That was wrong, I could tell. That was the wrong thing to say."

Randy nodded. "Yeah, you could say that." He decided she deserved to know something in return for the trauma she was reliving.

"Thomas Coventry murdered his family, Rebecca. I can't tell you why, but I can tell you Thomas Coventry never left that House. He's been trapped there these eighty years. He has been seeking Eternal Rest for all that time, and frankly he doesn't deserve it. Now, continue."

She looked at him. She saw the coldness in Randy's eyes and somehow she suspected he was protecting her from something with that frigid gaze.

"I said: I call upon you, Thomas Coventry, to appear before me, and use me as an instrument for his salvation. Everything got cold, and I mean really cold. I felt ... felt something tear, but it didn't sound like cloth. Then the stones seemed to grind together and the candles blew out. We screamed, but still thought it was great fun. Only Amanda seemed to understand. She began cry and begged us to get out."

"My hands were still on the symbol. It began to move under my hands, but I couldn't make out what it was doing. Claire grabbed a flashlight and cut it on. She pointed it at my hands. The symbol was flashing all over the place, but the letters didn't make sense. I don't know what would have happened if Amanda hadn't kicked the board and sent the symbol flying."

"For a moment, there was silence, and I mean real silence. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. Clair and Sarah both cried out that something was right behind them, but when we flashed the light, nothing was there. Our breathes began to come out in puffs. We were all standing up when we heard this terrible wail. It was all around us, coming from every direction, and then they attacked."


"They ... the darkness. I didn't stay around long enough to find out. We ran upstairs screaming at the top of our lungs. All the lights on the first floor were flashing on and off. Furniture was moving around. There was this little girl right outside the basement door. She was splattered in blood. It was horrible. Sarah fell right through her and the girl began crying. She told us to run, that they were coming."

"Mom and Dad were yelling. Aaron, my brother, was crying. We came out from under the stairs and there was a ghostly figure of a young man, struggling with something, or someone. We froze. Mom, Dad, and Aaron came down the stairs and were flummoxed too. The ghostly young man suddenly broke free. He gestured to the front door and it sprang open. He mouthed something to us, but there were no words. It didn't matter. We got the message and ran out the door. Dad grabbed the keys as he ran. When we were all piled in the SUV, we bolted."

Rebecca was like a deep sea diver coming up for air, she was breathing so hard.

"Man and Dad came back the next day, around noon, and gathered up some things. We never came back."

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It took him two days to gather the necessary supplies before he steeled himself for the final challenge. More than once Randy wondered just how crazy this was. He was going to attempt a warding of sorts. No, he was attempting to reinforce a warding. He was attempting to re-weave an established Twilight Ward set over a Hallow. Creating a new ward was beyond his capability. Truth be told, he wasn't sure even reinforcing the wards was within his capacity, but he understood the mechanics and ... well, he wanted to try. Mysterium magi didn't hide behind dusty tombs researching artifacts (all the time), they ventured into the dark places of the world for relics and lore. The lore for Randy was one of self-discovery; a facing of one's fears.

On the third morning, while it was still dark, Randy got into his car and drove west and north, to Bundy Avenue. The road traveled up into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. The shadows ran deep as the sun came up over a cloudless sky. Randy knew this would take time. How much time, he didn't know. That is why he was making the early start. Working under shadows was risky enough. Working once night fell didn't strike the Death Mage as wise. Hell, it struck him as lethal.

Randy came to the end of the paved road. It was still early, but he passed a jogger. She gave him a cautious look, but kept on her way. He came to the chain, got out of his car, and unlocked it. Randy drove over the chain and into the packed dirt road. He noted that there were signs of another car being this way recently when he got out to put the chain back across the road. Randy so no reason to let anyone in authority what he was doing.

He almost missed it on the ride up the valley. It was off to the left, and the road went right on past it. As he took in the building at first glance. It was in good repair. The trees hung over it, but hadn't gone into the structure. The veranda was covered in a light layer of leaves. The door ... was open. The driveway showed signs of someone leaving in a hurry. Now Randy had to hope that whomever had recently been here hadn't made things worse. Or, that the someone had been a mage and gone back for some more help. There wasn't much mystery in discovering something that everyone knew about.

There was no time for idle speculation. Every moment wasted outside was a moment of wasted sunlight. He took up his flashlight and his sack of goodies. Randy stroke forward into the building. The door squeeked slightly as he opened it further to got a better, but it didn't disturb anything; anything alive, anyway.

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He didn't have the plans, but he remembered some of the reports that had been made about the place. The stairs to the basement were in the back of the house. That didn't help much as he looked around. He walked in further and cast his light back and forth. Library - door - entry to another room. Living area - door - entry to another room. Ahead were stairs going up. Randy had no time to wonder who had died up there, and who had been taken down to the basement, before they were murdered. From the spectral evidence, the eldest son had died at the front door, and the youngest seemed to have died in the kitchen.

The Kitchen! That would require a smoke stack. At least he hoped it would have to have a smoke stack back in the 1920's. More to the point, Rebecca had told him that they had gone down the stairs to the basement. He supposed that those stairs ran from somewhere close to her room, all the way down. Randy went up the stairs with strong strides. He wasn't dissappointed. There were several open doors, but there was an alcove up on the left. He made to it with a sense of urgency. The alcove turned into a stairwell going down. He went down. The stairs creaked, but the house otherwise remained deathly silent. The darkness was becoming oppressive. It seemed to by swallowing up the beam from his flashlight.

He came to the first landing and the stairs doubled back down. The next landing had a door, shut, and more stairs going down.


As he turned down to the next landing, he felt eyes upon him. Randy looked over his shoulder, and stopped. At the top of the stairs was a small girl splattered in blood. She said nothing, just stared.

"Want something?" he finally asked.

She pointed down the stairs and nodded once. She slowly whiffed away into ephemeral ectoplasm. The Death Mage shook his head and headed back down. The little girl was tied to the kitchen, so the door he had passed must have led to it. He didn't know if that knowledge would be useful, or not.

'Maybe if I end up running for my life,' he wondered.

He passed the next landing and turned into the utter blackness. His light could barely fight its way through. At best, everything was cast in shadow. There was no secondary glow, no cast off from the light. Randy set his foot down on the stone floor. Even through his feet, he could feel the cold. He moved into the center of the room. Sure enough, there was a carpet. He had to move it, so he put his backpack down and started to roll it up.

Sure enough, there was the shallow outline of a warding circle on the floor. It was the resonance for the main ward. It tapped into the Hallow beneath his feet. It was the pain, anguish, and anger that caused him to feel the cold. It was unnatural, and unsafe to wield, but he had to try. He began pulling out five candles. Each candle had the shavings of the appropriate Major Arcana. They would be enough for his needs. He placed them at the important cardinal points on the floor's diagram.

Now he pushed his Sight beyond its normal bounds. He needed to see beyond the wards protecting it. Prime was functional, which was a desperate requirement. Prime kept all the others going. Fate was strong as well. You couldn't just stumble across this place. It took a conscious handle of one's destiny to get here. It also served to keep the vagaries of chaos at bay. The Mind ward was strong, though he had to wonder if at one time it had been stronger. The 'effect' of this ward is what kept the uncertain mind away. You had to be looking for this place to find it. Spirit was in effect, keeping wandering spirits away from the power of the Hallow. Any spirit activity was likely to erode the other wards. Randy felt lucky. Had something been wrong with any of these, the trip would have been in vain. On the other hand, there had been no evidence that these were malfunctioning.

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That left the Death ward, and it looked anemic to say the least. The ward was torn. It could keep the Shadow Realm at bay for only part of the day. When the Awakened World darkened, the Death ward grew thin, the opposite of the intended effect. This had to be more than the stumbling of young girls. Randy could only guess at the pressure the Shadow World was exerting. There were things on the other side that couldn't, or wouldn't, let go of this side of existence. They had to be stopped. In time, Randy knew he would have to deal with them - settle accounts and set things right as far as Death was concerned.

Randy pulled out his brass bowl and poured some charcoal into it. He covered that with redwood shavings and dosed the mixture with lighter fluid. He lit it. Flames licked up with a welcome crackle. He then took five different long matches, each one dedicated to the Major Arcana and lit the appropriate candles. He drew out the proper powders for the bowl, and his dedicated bone knife. There would be blood spilled today, and Randy wasn't the type to drag a cat or dog around for slaughtering. That seemed ... a betrayal of trust. The last thing he did was open up the book (notes really) detailing what he needed to do. He understood the mechanics. He could do this. What worried him was the reality that he had never done this before, much less something on this scale. He had made his bed, now he had to sleep in it.

His voice began in an even tone, speaking English to the assembled ghosts and declaring his intentions. He changed to High Speech as he began invoking the five Major Arcana, Prime and ending in Death. He intoned the Minor Arcana next, completing the Pentagram, point and line. That was the bush league, Apprentice Primer stuff. Now it started to get interesting. Now he had to take up each tattered web of the Death Weave over this house. Now he had to lock onto the anchor for it, the one established back in 1930. He looked through the near wall. The True Ward came to life in his presence. Behind that, he saw him, his face eternally etched with unimaginable pain, madness, and fear.

Thomas Coventry was suspended much like Da Vinci's Viturvian Man in the mouth of the thinnest part of the Veil keeping the two worlds apart. Ever time some presence passed through, it must have torn at his spirit. Healed back by the Death and the Prime only to be torn again and again. Randy squashed any sense of pity. The man had murdered his entire family for personal greed. Randy would save his pity for the poor ghosts of his family trapped here instead.

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The Weave began to respond to his coaxing. Strand by strand, he re-attached the threads into a semblance of the old Ward. Randy couldn't hope to imitate the grand endeavor done by its creator, but he didn't have to. He had to patch it up until he was powerful enough to do the proper job of making his place right. That will drove him on. He pushed himself into the task. The incantations potency grew as each hour succeeded the next. His confidence called him to reach for the farthest reaches of the spell.

3)Adrian Moss *rolls* 9d10: 1+2+9+7+10+3+10+6+5: 53

Adrian Moss *rolls* 2d10: 2+7: 9

6)Adrian Moss *rolls* 6d10: 2+9+9+5+10+7: 42

Adrian Moss *rolls* 1d10: 1: 1

Adrian Moss *rolls* 6d10: 6+3+10+10+3+1: 33

9)Adrian Moss *rolls* 2d10: 4+9: 13

15)Adrian Moss *rolls* 9d10: 1+8+9+8+2+1+8+9+9: 55

Adrian Moss *rolls* 9d10: 4+7+7+7+4+7+4+4+3: 47

Adrian Moss *rolls* 9d10: 7+3+5+5+10+2+1+6+4: 43

17)Adrian Moss *rolls* 1d10: 8: 8

21)Adrian Moss *rolls* 6d10: 8+10+8+1+9+1: 37

Adrian Moss *rolls* 1d10: 1: 1

Woot! 7 hours (4WP)

At first, the shadow presences that circled around him remained silent, uncertain of Randy's power and intent. As they felt the door pressing shut, they howled and pressed against him. As the Sun reached its zenith, their power waned, but not their anger. By the time the shadows outside lengthened, it was too late. Randy had done enough to counter their efforts. In the back of his mind, the Magus mused how much more appropriate it would have been for this to be all coming down to the wire. It wasn't. His internal time sense told him that there was still plenty of light outside. When the ritual was completed, he cut along his forearm, mixed his blood with magnesium and lead, then poured it into the bowl. The flames devoured the offering and the magic was sealed. At that moment, the Death Mage could have sworn he heard Thomas Coventry calling out for help. Randy allowed himself the slightest of smiles. After that, Randy stumbled backwards and then fell on his ass. It took him a moment to realize that that the whole room was lighter. In the candlelight he illuminated most of the room now. His flashlight gave a cast off glow. He took out a first aid kit and began taking care of his arm, then binding bound it. Then he began extinguish the candles in the proper order, ending with the bowl. He found an ash bin and poured out his coals. He stirred them with a shovel into the sand. Once that was taken care of, he finished packing up and got ready to leave. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glint of something. He walked over to it. It was the Ouiji board pointer. He picked it up and put it into a coat pocket.

Randy shut the door as he left. He hoped to be coming back here before too long, when he could make himself master of this place. This place would be his Sanctum. He put his gear back into his trunk, got into his car and started it. The sound of his engine coming to life was a welcoming sound. It was an indication he had stepped back into the modern Awakened World. He backed out of the driveway and slipped back down the road to Bundy Avenue. After he had passed onto the hardtop and was putting the chain back up, a Sheriffs car pulled up.

'Oh, sweet', Randy thought. 'What now?'

The Deputy stepped out of his car and walked over to him.

"Do you realize what you're doing?" the man asked.

Randy thought quick. "My girlfriend - ex-girlfriend that is, through my wallet out of the car last night. I was hoping to find it."

The Deputy stared at him for nearly thirty seconds before responding.

"Did you find it?"

Randy carefully presented his wallet. It was old and worn enough that it made the story sound plausible.

"Been here long?" the lawman continued.

"All morning," Randy brought back. He remembered the jogger from this morning and realized this might be a trap.

The Deputy looked at the wallet for several more seconds, turning it back and forth.

"Okay then. You are trespassing on public land. Don't do it again."

He tossed the wallet back to Randy.

"Get out of here," he added.

Randy didn't waste any time. He finished locking the gate back and got back in his car. The Sheriff's Deputy turned his car around and headed north. Randy followed him part of the way, but turned off as soon as possible. Best not to tempt fate for the next few days.

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"I wasn't sure I would see you again, Mr. Edison," Rebecca said. Her eyes still shown a tint of fear.

"I brought you this." He handed her the pointer. She took it as if she expected it to come alive and bite her. She looked at it for a few moments then looked back up at him. Her eyes were filled with unasked questions.

"I dealt with the problem. Those things won't be bothering you anymore."

"Thank you," she whispered.

Randy nodded, turned and left. He wasn't sure why he had done this gesture. It wasn't like him. Maybe he believed that no kid should be afraid of the dark, no matter how old they became.

He turned the journal in with the proper amount of notations. There was no lie in it, save one lie of omission. He left no indication that he had gone back to the house. If someone else discovered the place, that was fate. If no one did ...

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