June 15, 2189
It was almost 11 when I finally
gave up and pulled into a McDowell's. I had no idea exactly where we
were; somewhere out past Joy, I think - somewhere I hadn't ever been. I
don't know about Griffin or Shen, but I was seriously strung out. After
ten hours in a car, running solely on adrenaline and caffeine, I was
spoiling for a fight in a major way. Part of the problem was that I don't
think I'd ever come down off the fight response that had kicked in after
Hakthla's aborted attack on Stark the night before.
So I went into McDowell's and drowned my sorrows in a super-sized Coke.
The day had started out on a somewhat optimistic note. We were all finally in agreement as to our plan of attack, and off we went to bait a demon. We drove, and drove, and drove... At first it was kind of fun. After being cooped up in the house for three days I was glad to be doing anything, frankly. I took my captive audience of Shen and Griffin on a whirlwind tour of the High Territories - the abbey ruins at Dunnig'nal, Seven Circles, the Barrows of the Tuath'na'nir, The Witches' Cauldron, Avalon Mound, the ancient oaks of Shethney Forest, home of the faery preserve.... But as the day wore on with no sign of demon attack (or demon anything - it had been eerily quiet on that front since my last encounter with Hakthla, in fact), the novelty began to wear off, as did my patience.
So we sat in McDowell's, a rather subdued bunch, postulating our next move. It was obvious that Hakthla wasn't going to fall for our little scheme, and that we were going to have to try something else. Grayson thought he might have something amongst his equipment and research that may be enticing enough to draw Hakthla out against the group of us. It was decided since we were just as far from his place as from mine, we'd just head out there.
I excused myself to go let the home team know what was up, trying to hide my amusement at Shen's reaction to ice cream. You never really realize just how much you take for granted until you're with someone to whom all that is familiar to you is novel. It was somewhat unsettling, actually, when I realized that all the things which are to me completely natural, are strange and supernatural to folks like Stark, Shen, Griffin and Fletcher.
The phone demanded a pound ten for the call, and after digging a couple of lint-covered ten pence pieces out of my pocket I managed to get through. A gruff, raspy voice answered on the third ring. "Infernal Image, Murray speaking."
"It's me, Murr."
"Where the bloody hell are you guys? We were starting to wonder if we should come looking for you."
Goddess forbid, I thought to myself. Murray and Harry do not the cavalry make. "A McDowell's somewhere north of Joy. Our pickings have been pretty slim. No sign of any grumpy demon types." There was a less than delicate snort from the other end of the line. "Okay, let me rephrase that - No grumpy demons types bent on killing me."
That got a chuckle out of him. "Let me put yer brother on the line so he stops pestering me." There was a muffled moment of conversation and then Harry's voice, quite peeved-sounding, muttered, "Pestering indeed. Cecily, now where have you all been!?"
I repeated what I had told Murray, and explained the current plan. "Are you sure that is wise?"
"If he hasn't come after us yet, then maybe a change of venue will work. I don't know. We've got to do something."
"Hrmph. Well, please try and keep yourself in one piece, if you would." I could hear his concern quite clearly though his snippy tone.
"I'm not the one who had to go into the demon dimension to check out the great 'demon rays', remember?" There was a profound silence from the other end of the line. "Harry..." I paused, not really sure how to tell Harry how worried I was about leaving him alone without actually saying so. Since that first note had shown up, I have had this horrific fear that the next one would have my brother's name on it. And now that Hakthla had made it into the house once...
"I know, 'Silly," he said softly. And I was pretty sure he did know exactly what I was thinking. Damn him. "You and Murray ward the house up as tight as you can and don't go out for any reason. I don't care who calls. Just stay put until I get back." I was somewhat successful at keeping the anxiety out of my voice.
"We'll be fine, dearest."
"You'd damned well better be," I growled. "And stay the hell out of the extra-dimensional bathroom." He had no chance to respond, because the time ran out and the line went dead. I stood there in front of the phone a few moments, merrily cursing Hakthla and all his ilk when I suddenly remembered Stark mentioning that Hakthla said he had been sent after me by someone else. I sighed, returning to the group, and wondering how in the name of all good things I had managed to piss off someone powerful to summon a Beholder, and how I was going to get out of it.
June 16, 2189
Grayson may be an arrogant
bastard, but he's a well-equipped arrogant bastard. As he
ushered me into his little armory, I was struck by a sincere case of
gun-envy, which seemed to amuse him. He let me look around for a few
minutes before pointing to the bookshelves near the back. "There might be
something there we can use..."
"Gotcha. I shall do my best to emulate my brother, lack of tweed notwithstanding."
Six hours later, I was staring at the book in my lap in a mix of glee and horror. It was an old text, probably someone ceremonial sorcerer's book of shadows; it was a filled with demonic rituals: summonings, bindings, banishings, and the one that held my attention so raptly-
"Notes on Beholders - the Oculus and its Regeneration" was neatly lettered in tight script across the top of the page, along with the ritual formula for regenerating an Oculus. I must have stared at the page for half an hour, all its implications running through my mind. "How to repair your oculus in ten easy steps," I muttered, the darkly humorous irony of the situation not lost on me. "Well, at least we have our bait..."