inally disentangling themselves from the emotional trauma of the wreckage on Euclid, the circle follows Sarah back to the boarded up high school at the edge of Little Five. Despite her hesitance to give away Suki’s current hiding spot, she finally leads them to her little hole under the stage where she is deep in the junk.
To her immense annoyance, Sarah is unable to eject Trent from Suki’s body and no one can get Suki to wake up – thanks to Trent’s meddling, even the little dose she has taken is far more potent and keeping her under far more effectively than normal.
It is only when Rose steps into their combined junk dreams through Phantasm that they are able to convince Trent that they absolutely need to find Holly and get out of Little Five before the hierarchy raid tonight. Trent languorously emerges from Suki and is nearly immediately replaced by Sarah, and the circle returns to the scene of the crime.
It doesn’t take them long before they practically trip over Holly Underwood in the back alley behind the main row of shops in Findley Plaza. Keeping low and discorporating into nearby objects, they listen in on her conversation with a wraith in a black iron mask (likely a Hierarchy wraith based on what they’ve been told about mask-wearing wraiths). They can’t read his lips or hear what he’s saying, but they overhear Holly excitedly telling him about new corpus finally in Little Five, but the raid tonight is going to fuck shit up for her and whatever they are planning.
A police car is making the rounds through the back road, and when his spotlight crosses over the wraiths, the wraith in the iron mask spots the eavesdropping circle and points at them. Holly turns in surprise to them and immediately the masked wraith drops into the tempest to escape.
Holly makes a run for the police car, attempting to inhabit it while Trent skinrides the police officer so he’ll be able to watch for when she pulls out of the vehicle. But Rose proves again the power of her strange arcanoi and drives Holly into a slumber, fully unconscious and asleep in the manner of the quick. As the circle gathers up Holly to bring her to Urban Primitive, Rose dives into her dreams and sees
- Holly watching the car accident from across the street (not actively involved) and from a position where Holly’s own actions in the accident are not visible.
- Holly in a circle of masked wraiths doing something (but she can’t see what) with the knowledge that they are saving others by their dark actions.
- Holly, now much smaller, among the same masked wraiths, but now they tower over her, disappointed and disapproving of her.
The doors to Urban Primitive are closed after the cat-spy incident, and discorporating Holly to get her in will likely also wake her up, so Tyler walks through the door and gets the attention of Willie who is more than a little surprised that Jomo seems to be right that the whole problem points back at the Burning and only potentially a linked Hierarchy plot. Sending a wraith they have not met before with brilliant neon hair to fetch Jomo, Willie brings them all into the back room. Before they get more than a sentence into describing what happened, Jomo has arrived and immediately begins the process of acquiring first-hand information from Holly herself, while other wraiths begin to gather in the space.
Jomo begins by gently moliating Holly’s limbs together so she cannot run or grab anything. Once that is done, the gentleness immediately ends and he forces her into the form of a modern art style chair, leaving only her face so she can hear and speak. Meanwhile, in the back of the room, Willie begins heating up a small portable forge and acquiring his tools – the threat of eternity soulforged…
When she realizes she is truly stuck and trapped here, Holly swiftly transforms from her vampish southern best to something vile and violent, screaming about the balefires that can only be subdued by feeding their tenders the corpus of other wraiths. That this is not damnation, this is the only way to keep Atlanta from burning once again and watching even the Citadel fall to the Tempest and the balefires.
But it is the witnesses that question when she learned to skinride – it was never one of Holly’s talents and she was far more interested in manifesting in objects than people. This brings Jomo to a pause and he and Willie ask the circle about the blade used to snatch the newly formed enfant – a straight razor that Holly used to cut her way through the road and directly into the tempest. Without this artifact blade, and Holly’s lack of skinriding skill, and now watching Jomo twist Holly into any number of horrific shapes it becomes evident that while Holly is definitely part of the Burning, she is not responsible for the missing wraiths – someone else moliated into a resemblance of her did so in her place, likely to cover their own tracks and throw off pursuit.
In the discussion that ensues, a wraith-hunt is beginning… An attempt to catch whoever is behind this before the raid tonight disrupts any chance of finding their trail. They are introduced to Magenta (who looks like the goth version of Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show), Neon (the young man with brilliant hair) and Lucille (the “guardian angel” of Little Five, with wings of black crow feathers).
It is Magenta who recalls seeing “Effie” at one of the sites of a soulnapping. Neon recalls seeing her at another one, the suicide behind Echoes & Memories… Jomo seems unhappy, but “assigns” Magenta to bring the circle to find Effie and ask her about the situation.
Magenta explains that Effie is a very young wraith, and the wraiths of Little Five take careful care of her because child wraiths are pretty much automatically fodder for the Hierarchy soulforges as they claim that the young do not have the strength of will to resist oblivion for long. Further, Effie is a pretty fragile wraith – she was murdered prior to the civil war, but her body was never found, and her cauled corpus sat undiscovered until last year… so she’s a bit traumatized by the whole thing and the local wraiths do their best to keep her happy and out of trouble while walking on eggshells around her.
Magenta leads them to the Blue Crystal, a new age shop where Effie has been residing. As they approach, Victor can feel the turmoil in the tempest – there’s a nihil within the store…
Inside they meet Effie who is indeed a small child, holding a rough cloth doll. She admits to being at the locations of the soulnappings, but that the “grups” had to go, because they are the people who hurt little girls, who cut them with razors, who bleed them and leave them lost in a culvert. There’s a moment where the group starts to feel for her as she leads them to the back room of the Blue Crystal.
The room seems like a regular stock room with metal shelving holding various new age goods and lots of cardboard boxes… except the ceiling is a swirling whirlpool of blackness and a strange wind is tugging at their corpus here. And there’s a cat. A black cat.
As Effie goes on about the dangerous grups, it slowly dawns on the group that Effie is deranged… she sees ALL adults as reflections of her murderer. All adults need to be removed before they can hurt Effie.
And Jack the Magical Cat is there to help make sure this happens. Jack who is sitting on one of the shelves with a suspiciously familiar straight razor behind him. He gives up the charade with a shrug – his front paws become hands as he explains how he tries his best to keep Effie safe, but the circle is no longer buying it. They’ve seen the monster behind Effie, and the monster that is Jack, preying on her for his own ends.
And Jack calls out the spectres swirling around in the nihil – bringing them through to the shadowlands. The nihil turns into a funnel-cloud of blackness, with a great winged spectre spinning within it, huge black claws lashing out into the back room…