Skaði's Journal

The Journal of Skaði Jarnseiðsdottir,
Lorekeeper of the Eye of the Storm

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This journal is intended to be a record of the adventures and experiences of the cabal registered in the Consilium of San Francisco as the Eye of the Storm, founded by the five mages Skaði Jarnseiðsdottir (Mystagogue Warlock), Chimera (Mystagogue Necromancer), Rui Shi (Arrow Shaman), Alfred Nobel (Libertine Theurgist) and Hermes (Guardian Enchanter) in the year 2008, as experienced and remembered by the cabal's Lorekeeper, the aforementioned Mystagogue Warlock Skaði.

To be perfectly honest, I have never really been the kind of person that keeps journals and personal diaries. Too many childhood experiences, personal studies and beliefs that I thought could get me declared crazy if I wrote them down and they ended up in the wrong hands. Most people unfortunately, or perhaps rather fortunately for themselves, outgrow the childhood knowledge of the reality of the things that go bump in the night. The lack of hard evidence and hands on experience allows them to forget the innate truth that there are more between heaven and earth than we like to think. But I digress. I am writing this now since, as I have understood it, one of the responsibilities of a Lorekeeper is to keep a track on the history of his or her cabal. In that respect my job should be fairly easy, seeing as how the Eye of the Storm was officially registered but a week ago. But the truth is that our history began several months before any of us even Awakened, and since there is no place to start like the beginning, that is where I will begin.

Birds Singing In A Sycamore Tree
It all began on an autumn day, with a sycamore tree. More specifically, the big, now lightning struck sycamore tree standing in Moth Park. I was walking through said park after a study session with some friends, when this woman caught my attention. She was pale, her hair looked wet and full of leaves, and she was staring straight at me before disappearing in the crowd. And, as it turned out, she was quite dead. When I came home the lawn was covered with sycamore fruit. I even found the blasted brown things inside the apartment, despite my hard work trying to safeguard it from supernatural beings and influences. And when I later prepared to go to bed, an unpleasant incident involving the bathroom mirror and scary reflections took place as if to really hammer it in that my wards and amulets did nothing.

The following day I saw the woman on the news. Lenore White, found strangled in the park the day before. I returned to Moth Park in the hopes of finding a clue, any clue, as to why the dead woman was haunting me and how I could make her stop. But as it turned out, I was not alone in this quest. Four men, two in their twenties and two in their early thirties, were also snooping around. My future cabal mates, as it were. And for obvious reasons I will refer to them by their shadow names – Hermes (a fellow European, most likely British, who described his own business as "completely legitimate"…), Rui Shi (an American born Chinese and a fellow student at the City College of San Francisco, as well as a dabbler in the Taoist arts), Chimera (the young manager of a scrap yard just outside San Francisco) and Alfred Nobel (a professor in physics and chemistry at the City College of San Francisco and, as it turned out, a self taught explosives expert) – even though we at this time still were under the sleeper curse. Anyway, after a while the five of us gathered around the information plaque in front of the great sycamore tree planted by Thomas Moth after whom the park was named, and it soon became obvious that we all were in the same boat. They too had walked through Moth Park the day before, seen the woman, and later in the comforts of their homes experienced incidents that could best be described as unpleasant. We decided to join forces, and together find out just what the hell was going on. To me it was obvious that we all were victims of a haunting, an opinion that I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rui Shi shared with me. Chimera, Hermes and Nobel, on the other hand, remained skeptical. No doubt, they had been fortunate to live their lives so far free of close contact with the supernatural. That would change soon enough, though. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After a fair amount of research, we learned that Lenore White was not the first to turn up strangled in Moth Park. Some asking around among the homeless people inhabiting the park eventually led us to a man named Grey Pete, who told us to return after dark if we really were interested in finding out the truth of what was going on. We did, and he revealed to us that it was the big sycamore tree that somehow had killed all those people. I think it was around this point we noticed the blackbirds. While not necessarily the same ones, there was always the same number of birds resting on its branches, watching us. The same number as the number of people who had been strangled, plus one. Our conversation with Grey Pete was cut short by Chimera who, after having attempted to approach the sycamore, suddenly started screaming in fear that the tree was trying to eat him before running away as fast as his legs could carry him. Then the stray dogs attacked. We managed to fend them off, but not without injuries, or without attracting the attention of the police officers who had begun strengthening the security around the park in an effort to prevent further killings. We only barely got away without being discovered.

While licking our wounds after this eventful night, we once again delved ourselves in research, this time digging up as much as we could about the sycamore tree and any reason there might be as to why it was claiming lives. We already knew the tree had been planted by Thomas Moth, a wealthy businessman with a passion for botany, and that the park was named after him. We also found out that Moth Park had used to be his estate, and that it had been demolished and turned into a park after his death. But the real pot of gold was the tragic story about how he lost his wife and two children – they had all apparently been killed by Moth’s gardener, Henry Creed, who met swift justice at the hands of a lynching mob by being hanged in the sycamore tree the very same night. The first victim. The blackbird we had been unable to account for. The reason the sycamore tree had begun claiming lives. Things had apparently gone downhill for Thomas Moth after this tragedy, and he died years later in an asylum in Chicago. A book we found online (and that turned out to be written by none other than father Peter Grey) on the subject of hauntings and exorcism suggested that there were two ways in which this could be resolved; an exorcism ritual that would only work if we had all our facts straight and what we thought had happened really was what had happened, or the destruction of the tree in question, which also required the destruction of any seedlings that might have come from the tree, and even then could potentially result in the spirit of the tree manifesting as a ghost. We agreed to make arrangements for both options, and so continued our research for any clues as to whether the sycamore had any seedlings. The answer was yes; Thomas Moth had apparently planted four seedlings outside his summer house, and upon learning that Thomas Moth's last living relative, one Everett Moth, still was living in the Moth summer house, we decided to pay him a visit to scout out our potential targets, and at the same time maybe get some more accurate information, or at least a confirmation on what we already had, from someone of Moth's own bloodline.

It took us a good hour's drive from the city to get to the Moth summer house. The house itself was neglected, menacingly surrounded by four sycamore trees – the four seedlings – one by each corner of the house, their roots and branches reaching in through cracks and windows. In other words, letting Nobel blow them up would also mean blowing up the house. On the inside we found walls covered with parchments, newspaper clippings and pictures, protective salt wards keeping the aforementioned roots and branches from conquering the entire house, an old and fragile Everett Moth connected to an oxygen tank and telling us that the trees were out to get him because of a family curse, and a Scottish nurse who could probably single handedly fight off a German invasion without as much as breaking a sweat because it disturbed her patient's need for rest by being too noisy. Still, we learned quite a bit from this visit. For one, that Thomas Moth had loved the old sycamore tree more than anything in the world, but that after Henry Creed had been hung in it, he claimed that it was haunting him, whispering threats to him, trying to get him, just as it now was out to get the last remaining Moth. Chimera also came across an old piece of parchment that he quite unscrupulously swiped because he recognized the single symbol drawn on it. He showed it to us when we later gathered in Harry's Bar, revealing to us where he had seen it before. I only barely registered what he said, though, as I too at this point had recognized the symbol. I had seen it many times, studied it, memorized it over the course of countless hours spent examining the object in my possession on which it was engraved; the silver key, my one piece of solid evidence of the all too real world of fairy tales. It turned out that also Hermes had an item in his possession with the symbol engraved into it, and both Nobel and Rui Shi could remember having seen it before. But I'm getting ahead of myself again. My apologies.

After we had promptly been thrown out of the Moth summer house by the nurse for upsetting her patient by reminding him of rumors that something had been going on between Creed and Mrs Moth, Lenore White appeared before us again, beckoning us to follow her out into the fields that stretched out over the surrounding area. She led us to a boarded up well, at the bottom of which Rui Shi found an old painting of Thomas Moth with wife and children. The blond and blue-eyed Thomas Moth with his blond and blue-eyed wife. And their two dark-haired, brown-eyed children. Even without the painting being creepy and changing before our very eyes for the briefest of moments to show us something we already suspected, it didn't take a genius to guess what had really happened in the past. Thomas Moth, devoted to his botany as he was, had been neglectful of his wife and unaware of the long-lasting affair between her and Henry Creed. At least, up until the point when he for some reason finally put together two and two and realized that his children weren't his. Enraged by this discovery, Thomas Moth shot his wife and the two children, and then told his servants that he had seen Henry Creed run away from the scene of crime before discovering the bodies of his family. A mob was quickly gathered, and poor Creed had been lynched for a crime he did not commit. The result; one pissed off ghost haunting the tree he was hung in and the family of the man that framed him, and who, as time went by, in his thirst for revenge started claiming the lives of innocent people who just happened to be on the wrong place at the wrong time.

Armed with this knowledge we returned to Moth Park, hoping to recruit Grey Pete to help us perform the exorcism ritual mentioned in the book that, after all, was written by him. He was more than willing to help, having tried for a long time to end the killings, and obviously blamed himself for his inability to properly vanquish whatever had possessed the sycamore tree. The reason he had failed, as it turned out, was that he had been unaware of the fact that it was the ghost of Henry Creed that haunted the tree. We agreed to do the exorcism under the cover of night – Grey Pete would do the chanting in latin, while the rest of us would protect him from whatever Henry Creed would throw at him to make him stop. Nightfall came and we gathered in Moth Park once more, preparing ourselves for our first ever exorcism. Rui Shi performed a ritual that allowed him to enter the Twilight, obviously feeling that he would be more useful to us on that plane of existence. Chimera, Hermes and Nobel had all armed themselves, and I was entrusted with Grey Pete's crucifix. Then we began. And then the dogs came. We fended them off once again, but I got mauled pretty badly. I have vague memories of a storm building up and Grey Pete's chanting getting louder and more intense. And pain. I remember the pain. I felt just about ready to buckle over and pass out. But then Creed finally showed himself. And I'd be damned if I'd give up when I finally had the chance to beat the ectoplasm out of the thing that had so many lives on its conscience, and that had possessed the nerve to haunt me. So I clenched my teeth together and I fought him, using Grey Pete's crucifix as my weapon. And let me tell you, that crucifix works like a charm against ghosts. Still, the fight felt like it lasted forever. And when it finally ended, with a blast of lightning striking the old sycamore tree with such force that it was split in two, I only barely managed to register that we had all sustained injuries, albeit some more than others. (Nobel had actually almost bled out, but had fortunately been stabilized just in time by Hermes, and Rui Shi stumbled back from the Twilight looking as bad as I felt.) I don't know whether or not I actually passed out. I must have, because I don't remember just how we even got to the hospital. I do remember that I had to spend quite some time in there, though. But somehow, knowing that we had managed to put the victims of Henry Creed to rest made it all worth it.

Oh Kidney, Where Art Thou?
Roughly two weeks after the exorcism in Moth Park, shortly after I finally was deemed by the doctors to be well enough to leave and was mentally preparing myself to go back to my normal life, I received a phone call from Hermes. It didn't take long before we all were gathered in a hospital room, where a drugged out and anything but happy Hermes confided in us that he had fallen victim to one of the more interesting urban legends; kidney-theft. And taken into consideration that we had all just been through an exorcism together, we were the only ones he felt he could ask for help with getting it back. Obviously, we agreed to help him. I do not know what incentives my would-be cabal mates had, but personally I made that choice because the memory of how good it felt helping those trapped souls in Moth Park was still very fresh in my mind, and also because I understand, relate to and very much respect the whole "My kidney! Mine! Want it back!"-mindset. Never give up anything that's yours without a fight. And hey, after kicking the ectoplasm out of a serial killing ghost, tracking down a flesh and blood kidney-thief should be a walk in the park, right?

After a quick trip to Hermes' apartment to pick up some reading material for him, we began our investigation by going through what our unwilling little organ donor could remember from the night before waking up in a bathtub full of ice. Apparently, he had spent it in a nightclub, Club Envy, having a …"business"-meeting with some "clients". We headed there, and after a bittersweet parting on our part with a handful of dollars, the bartender could recall that he had seen our friend leaving rather sloshed with a woman dressed in red. A quick chat with the bouncer outside confirmed this information, and he could furthermore add that they had left in a limo and that Hermes was not the first to have left Club Envy in this fashion with the lady in red. I wish I could say we managed to hunt her down before Hermes got discharged from the hospital, but the truth is that to this day we still don’t know just who she is, only that she allegedly worked for "the Doctor". Honestly, how the hell do you find someone when all you got to go on is gender, a bouncer and a bartender's rather wanting description, and colour of preference in skimpy dresses? It's like finding a needle in a haystack when you're not even certain you're standing in the right field! And gender might not even be so certain after all. I mean, seriously, this is San Francisco. Sanity is optional.

Anyway, once Hermes got out of the hospital and joined in on the search we gave up trying to find out anything more about the lady in red. Time was running out, and so rather than keep going on a wild goose chase, we decided to follow up on the bouncer's insinuation that Hermes was not the first to have been reeled in by the lady in red. This had been professional, meaning that it wasn't all that unlikely that the kidneys were sold to someone. The trail led us to the gang "Red Dawn", situated in an abandoned bowling emporium in the Tenderloins. When we went there we were met by a woman that could best be described as an overgrown gangster midget. She led us to her boss, a man she knew as Fortesque (but that we later have identified as the mage Mr Hyde from the cabal Karma Hotel). He could tell us that he was the distributor of a kidney-based drug made by "the doc", but was hesitant to reveal anything else about this mysterious doctor. Yet fortunately for us, he was interested in recruiting Hermes as a salesman for his kidney-drug, something that allowed Hermes to convince him to accept a small challenge; one game of poker. If he won, Hermes would sell his drug. But if Hermes won, he would give us the information we wanted. Lady Fortuna turned out to be on our side (although if she was so willingly is a matter still up for discussion), and we learned that the mysterious "doc" was in fact an Asian doctor named Manchu who lived in an apothecary in Chinatown. Unfortunately, this is where my first person account of the Great Kidney Hunt must end, as my normal life at this point was getting sick of being ignored and demanded my immediate attention. In other words, I got caught up with work, studies and personal life, and so the conclusion of this epic tale must be based on the accounts that were later given to me by my cabal mates.

Now that they knew the whereabouts of the man most likely responsible for Hermes' motel operation, my cabal mates prepared themselves for the confrontation by recruiting the aid of Rui Shi's mentor in the Taoist arts, feeling that his expertise might come in handy. Once he had agreed to come with them, they went forth to the apothecary and entered, finding Manchu inside busy as work. From what I understand, he revealed to them that he was, in fact, immortal thanks to an elixir he created using specific parts of human kidneys harvested by him in a way that filled them with ki. What was left of the kidneys afterwards he used to make the drug "Red Dawn" was selling. He further explained that he was working hard to find a way to create this elixir without the use of kidneys, and that he at that point only needed one kidney a month. I'm told that my friends exited the apothecary at this point, to discuss how to proceed. Rui Shi, apparently, had been so impressed with what he had seen and heard that he had half a mind of letting the doctor continue. Hermes, on the other hand, was quite determined to reclaim his kidney. Can't really say I blame him. Anyway, after some discussing back and forth they finally decided to do what they had come there to do and went inside again. But before they could do anything, another man entered, presenting himself as Nathuram and claiming to be from "the Agency". Manchu was supposedly terrified, trying to run away, but was prevented from doing so by my cabal mates. The last they saw of him, he was carried away by Nathuram. As for Hermes' kidney, they found it in one piece and filled to the brim with ki, something that apparently greatly shortened the recovery period after they brought it back to the hospital and somehow convinced the doctors to put it back in.

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