Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 09: Chapter 04
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: May 8, 2022
In Game date: August 2012
Episode: 47 (121)
Part 01: Jack Youngblood
We reconvened in our new “home” after one hell of a first day. Fergus and Virgil spent their night winding down by assembling some pieces of furniture using instructions that must have been written by a Wizard or something. While they did that, I worked on cooking dinner. I found it soothing and the aroma of fresh food took the edge off of the general malaise that covered the community of Silver Falls.
In between turns figuring out instructions and cooking entrees, we made small-talk and Kerouac would pipe up something in kid form like, “I’m hungry!” or “When’s dinner?” very loudly.
But, that’s what you would have heard if you were listening to us. What we were saying to each other was a different matter.
When we were doing our prep for our rescue mission, Virgil did a day on surveillance in my basement.
“When we enter Silver Falls, assume they can see and hear everything that we are doing.” Virgil had said.
“That’s paranoid.” I said, “They can’t always being watching us. Even if they had one guy on retainer for each household they would need like over three hundred people to watch the entire neighborhood. That’s not including additional shifts or backup.”
“That is true,” Virgil capitulated, “It’s just a general principle. The people in the neighborhood will be on the lookout for anything unusual. But, that’s only outside our ‘home’.”
“A key principle of surveillance is that it is easier to listen than to see. There is no guarantee, but the house they put us in could be wired in some way. We can sweep for bugs, but especially with magic, we won’t always be able to find them all.”
I rubbed my chin in thought. “I’m not sure what kind of magical surveillance they can use in-town, but it would be as limited as technological solutions. Easier to listen than watch.”
Virgil nodded, “That being said; it would be safe to assume that even if we sweep for bugs perfectly, someone might be listening to us inside our new abode. We need a safe way to communicate with each other.”
Fergus scratched his head, “I don’t think we have time to learn sign language.”
“No need for sign language, “ Virgil said, “We just need like $8 and a Walmart.”
We all arced our eyebrows until we made said trip to Walmart, when it all made sense.
While we were in our house in Silver Falls, we made chit-chat about anything under the sun. I can’t even remember what we talked about five seconds after we said it. We verbally talked about anything to each other in-character the best we could without ever repeating ourselves.
But, we also had an actual conversation. But instead of spoken words, we used dry erase markers and whiteboards. Each of us had our own board and marker color.
Say one thing out loud, write down another. Erase. Repeat.
Have fun with that one, you peeping assholes.
I started our business by writing in red marker, my designated color.
“Possibly found wardstone. Definitely found a big demon guard.”
Virgil continued our little improv, writing on his board in black ink.
“Found explosives in classified section. Might be able to obtain something.”
“Take no chances. Be sure you are not caught.” I replied.
“Burt is a loon.”
That was not surprising. Our next-door neighbor gave me Mr. Rogers-as-a-serial-killer vibes.
I checked in with the others. Both Fergus and Kerouac wrote in green marker, just different shades.
“I did not find your daughter amongst my class.” Kero wrote in perfect adult penmanship, “I will need more time to find her.”
Fergus wrote, “Same here. I am going to have to do some more digging.”
Kerouac and Fergus gave their rundown of what they found.
“When we save these children, “Kero wrote, “I want to burn this place to the ground.”
I could sense the pooka’s anger, even in the guise of a child. I immediately erased the statement from his board and wrote back, “Chill. Find her first.”
He looked at me offended and before I knew it had written, “My word has been given: She will be found.”
I smiled at that. There were few things in this world you could trust. One of those things was the word of an angry fae.
“We have a demon problem.” I wrote. “And Holy stuff might be out.”
When I left the demon at the bottom of the community center behind me, I took my mind off it by running around the block a few times. At least if I was going to be in shape after this rescue mission was done. During my jog, I took the opportunity presented by my frequent stopping for air to tie my shoes and focus my supernatural senses on the environment.
The ward on this place was powerful. I didn’t dare cast magic within the walls of Silver Falls after what it did to Fergus. It also made my spirit senses antsy because there were no spirits here. The aura of this place made me feel like I had a permanent case of sunburn. I felt hot whenever I felt emotion, which was always whenever I thought about why we were there.
I didn’t even want to think about what we would find if I opened a Way to the Nevernever in here.
The aura was so tainted that it would defile any kind of holy water we brought in let alone sacred objects.
“Could the Sword of Wrath work against the demon?” Virgil wrote and erased as quickly as he could.
“It might have been corrupted. How the hell did he even get it in?” I replied.
We talked through our plans going forward and decided on our course of action. I ended our strategy session by asking for ideas for handling the demon.“Keyword: Missiles” Virgil wrote, referencing the ordinance factory.
“Missiles need distance before they arm.” Fergus replied, pointing at me. My magic, though drained would make electronics unreliable and explosives potentially hazardous.
Virgil grinned and erased something as quickly as he wrote it. I don’t know how he knew how to make an improvised explosive, but it meant we might have a chance.
“What the fuck, V?” Fergus wrote.
“You are on a list somewhere.” I wrote.
“Not yet.” He replied.
A little while later, Virgil took a minute to drain my magic into the focus object I had made from a canopic jar. The feeling of Virgil whenever he drained me was the same feeling I felt when The Un-man attacked me.
It felt…wrong. Like when you are at the hospital, and you knew they drew too much blood, but they still have a few vials to go. It made me nauseous.
“Sorry.” Virgil wrote. He had to write that a lot.
“NP” I always wrote back, finally picking up some of that new slang. I also followed it by writing, “For her.”
After dinner and cleaning up, we laid out some information we got from Grizzly on the kitchen table. They were printouts of satellite imagery of the town and surrounding area.
There were 200 to 300 homes in the area. We needed not only to find my daughter, but we also needed to find the Sword of Wrath. A small penance for a good cause.
We continued our conversation on the boards, trying to keep our discussion simple.
“Where is Azael’s house?” Someone wrote. Eventually, it didn’t matter who wrote what.
“Focus on the host. The angel is a back seat driver.”
“ Barry Goldman is a sociopath. And a wanted criminal.”
“His house will be paid off. He won’t want to worry about a mortgage and will want to lay low.”
“Barry is also away on business thanks to Tenebriel. His house will be unoccupied.”
“We still need more information. We will need to scout.”
Part 02: Fergus Mac Cormaic
It took a while to get used to speaking one thing and writing another, but I more or less got the hang of it. If I could use my magic in this place, I could have popped a veil and saved us a lot of trouble, but there was too much risk in that.
But, you couldn’t doubt the technique’s effectiveness.
It also made it easier to talk about difficult topics. I didn’t want to say some things out loud, so with the whiteboards, I didn’t have to.
“My boss has no tongue.” I wrote, “Good chance of finding your daughter.”
“What are the most suspicious things you’ve seen?” Virgil wrote.
“Principal is old school. Very German. I can’t get a hold of student files easily.”
“We’ll need some lo-fi surveillance on the school.” I wrote, “We need some pictures and video of the kids to see if we can make a positive ID.”
I shuttered at suggesting it, but it was for a good cause.
“Kero can carry in a camera.” Virgil wrote.
“Lunchbox cam?” I suggested and almost vomited.
He nodded, and we both knew it was the best course.
Virgil worked on the electronics while I took an off-the-shelf tin lunch box and modded the inside. My leprechaun craftsmanship ensured that the cam could fit in the box while still leaving enough for some snacks and a milk carton.
If this were any other context, I would have thrown up and beat the shit out of the person who suggested this.
At some point, the house phone rang, taking my mind off the topic at hand. In that moment, we all paused. The pause ended when everyone pointed at me and nodded. I was technically the head of the household, so I picked the ringing phone up.
“Aaron Williams?” A voice with the accent and tone of an old TV news anchor on the other end said.
“Yes.” I replied.
“This is Mister Kemp. Checking in with parents after the first day.”
“Mister Kemp, glad to hear from you. How was my little Connell?”
I caught Kerouac holding up his whiteboard in the corner of my eye.
“He is clearly insane.” Kero wrote out, “But a good teacher.”
“Connell has some interesting behaviors when he was playing with other kids, Mirroring, unusual responsiveness to the other student’s speech patters.” Kemp said.
“Might have aptitude with languages.”
“Good to hear my boy is excelling. I think we should set up playdates with other kids. With us just moving in, he could use some more friends. “
“We can see about setting something up.”
We finished up our call and operation: infiltration was further underway. Kero being able to take the form of child, though annoying allowed him to go where we couldn’t.
I hung up the phone and tapped Kero on the shoulder.
“Good work Connell” I said aloud.
Kerouac smiled and ate some mac and cheese.
As we finished with the lunchbox cam and showed Kerouac how to use it, Virgil and I looked over my schedule for the coming days.
My second day went by in a blur. I don’t know how real teachers do it, let alone a fake one that also has to take notes.
Kerouac walked right in with the lunchbox of nope, and no one noticed. I spent my day pretending to teach and writing down everything I could to find gaps in people’s routines. I started my notes with a few oaths to burn that lunchbox and all the footage as soon as we were done with it.
I tried to make friends with my fellow teachers, but each one creeped me out more than the last. Hard to find something unusual when everything was equally unusual.
I also spent my time looking at faces. I looked for anyone who resembled either Jack or Abigail. With the faerie realms able to accelerate time, I couldn’t completely rule out anyone as being a potential, though a student was more likely than a member of faculty.
Even so, I struck out that second day. No students, teachers, or other staff fit the bill. Damn.
I did manage to find some peewee sports for Connell, though. Another good place to infiltrate.
The PE computers and files did not have anything on the students past class lists. Eventually, I found the computers that would have more. One of them was in the main office, and another was in the Principal’s office. The Principal was almost always in her office, so I would have to go with the main office.
That meant a trip to IKEA near Spokane for some new furniture.
While we picked up a token desk or something, I picked whatever was cheapest, I called Griz on a burner. This far away, we could speak freely.
“Hey Griz, can you hack a computer in this place remotely?” I asked him.
“I can, but I need a connection to it.” He responded, “The net security is actually pretty good for a school.”
“What do you need for a hack?”
“A piece of spyware on a USB stick will do just fine. I can send you a file for it.”
About an hour later, I took out my laptop in the cafeteria and used the IKEA’s Wi-Fi to download said file into a cheap thumb drive I got at an office supply store.
“Just stick this into a drive?” I asked Griz over the phone.
“Either leave it in overnight, or run a program off it. Best place would be somewhere no one will notice it.”
That night, I reconvened with Virgil, and I worked together to find a 15-minute gap in the routines I recorded. I was never the best student academically, so I just gawked as Virge worked out some numbers in his head and on his whiteboard that looked like advanced algebra or something on the fly.
“The office is the easier target.” Virgil wrote.
“What if I can’t get a thumb drive into the computer?” I asked in green pen.
“B&E.” Virgil wrote, “Leave that to me.”
The thought of leaving that to a professional gave me some relief.
With this knowledge in hand, day three turned out to be a breeze.
I made my way to the office between lunches when there was only a lone secretary in a blue blouse and skirt combo. Even in cultist school, there was a bored secretary. This my moment.
With only the two of us, I used my charms to full effect.
“Hey there.” I said with a big grin.
“Hello mister Williams, you’re new here, right?” She replied in a friendly way.
“Do you like basketball?” I asked eagerly.
“Not really, I…”
“The zags are totally going to stomp the Cougs this season. Once we get to the Final Four it’ll be…” I began and just kept talking. I was familiar enough with the local sports to make some conversation. The trick was not to make it a conversation.
My charm made her pay attention and made her realize I wasn’t going to stop.
At one point, she looked away to find a Tylenol.
I moved into another diatribe about shooting statistics and dribbling theory in hopes of getting her to stand up from her desk. Instead, I drove the poor woman to the point of snores.
“Whatever…” She replied and clearly didn’t care about anything I was doing from then on.
I found the physical files for the first grade and kindergarten and made photocopies. I even managed to put them back where I found them without the secretary noticing at all.
I looked at her computer and palmed the thumb stick for Griz to hack the system. With her distracted, I could still possibly reach in.
A variety of factors foiled my well-thought-out plan. The placement of the tower case under the desk made it hard to reach unnoticed. Too many devices just plugged into the damn thing made it hard to find a spot.
There was nowhere I could plug in an extra thumb drive that someone wouldn’t notice immediately or get knocked out by her leg. There might have been an open port on the back of the tower, but that would involve getting beneath her desk, which would just be not okay.
When my window dried up, I wrapped up my improv about ball passing and just left. I heard her relief behind me as I left with a physical copy of the roster for two grades of kids.
I returned home with the info, and together with the lunchbox footage, we started checking off names…
Part 03: Virgil Gugasian
One of the keys to blending in is creating routines. Routines that don’t stand out make you look normal when you are doing something abnormal. Someone goes for a jog every morning, and nobody looks at you twice when you change up your route. When you are new to town, doubly so because it is easy for a new person to get lost.
No officer, I wasn’t casing the neighborhood, I was just enjoying the view.
That’s the tact Jack, and I took when we went jogging in the early morning and early evening. After the third day of doing it with a different route every time, no one questioned us checking out the beautiful neighborhood that was Silver Falls.
Over the course of our jogs, I used a tape recorder to make notes about what I saw. I can palm a lot of things and a Dictaphone was pretty easy.
The jogging wrecked Jack at first, but after a while he got used to doing it. With his daughter on the line, I think my friend would run until his feet bled and then would keep going.
We had made out plan for exploration before we jogged each day. We picked a logical route around the neighborhood to check for Azazel/Barry Goldman’s house. Once we found the house, we could worry about how to get in and retrieve the Sword of Wrath.
I promised Jack I would help any way I could, and I keep my word.
The first day was a bust. Too many houses. Not enough data.
When we reconvened, we considered what we knew about our target.
Barry Goldman was a wanted man, so he would be in a house that allow him to be concealed. He was a denarian host, so he would be in one of the big houses and would drive a nice car. Not a common Prius driver. His house would be derelict since he was out of town. Someone might be house sitting in it for security, but for the most part it would be largely unused for a house of its size.
Then, we hit pay dirt. We narrowed it down to houses that was facing the water. Best view in town for a guy on the run from the cops.
Ultimately, we didn’t find the house. But, each day we whittled down the possibilities. With each potential eliminated, we grew closer to our target.
In the meantime, I went to work at the factory assembling things that exploded. Or at least partially.
Working in the unclassified section, I had no direct access to explosive materials and fully assembled ordinance. I did as my new friend Burt if it was possible for me to move into the fun place after a while of good work.
“Classified section is where the real fun is.” Burt said at lunch, “You’ll need to get security clearance before you transfer.”
“How long does that take?” I asked humbly, careful to not break my cover.
“Takes about two to three months on average.” He said with a smile.
Damn. That was inconvenient.
I considered asking Griz if he could forge me some security clearance, but I knew that was not impossible, just too much work and risk for him to take on.
That meant I would need to do an unofficial pen test of this government contractor.
I explored my new workplace during break time to familiarize myself with the area. Not being able to find a bathroom was both a great excuse to be wandering around everywhere and a potential OSCA violation.
I found my entry point to the classified section in the back of the warehouse where trucks are loaded and unloaded. The keypad was protected, so I would have to physically tamper with it to open the forklift door that connected the two sections. In addition, the area was covered with cameras.
The fact was, even with my skills and preparation, I couldn’t get in by myself. Then I remembered where I was on a map and noticed the ice cream shop across the street.
I returned home that day and went straight for my whiteboard. When Kero and Fergus arrived home after whatever marathon they endured, they found me waiting with a smile.
“Hey, Connell? Would you like to go out for ice cream one of these days?” I said physically.
On my board I wrote, “How’d you like to rob a defense contractor.”
Fergus and Kerouac the kid had contrasting expressions that almost broke character. Kero jumped up and down going, “Ice cream! Ice Cream!” with a grin I associated with the Cheshire cat.
Fergus looked mortified and wrote on his board, “I never thought someone would ask me that. WHY???”
“Need an extra set of hands for some firepower. Too much security.” I wrote back.
Fergus waved around his hands in confusion, “The Ward?”
I wrote back, “Plant is far enough away. You can cut loose there.”
That perked Fergus up. “I think ice cream would be a great idea for my little boy doing so well in school.”
Kero nodded, clearly eager to return to Pooka form or at least use glamours for a while. He wrote in green ink, “Can we blow the place up to cover our tracks?”
I shook my head vigorously. “An accident like that would put suspicion on the new hires first. I would get burned or at least out of a job. No violence if possible.”
Kero scowled, but wrote down, “I like a challenge.” in response.
Part 04: Kerouac
My time as a child was a quite a task. Not enough food. Not enough playtime. School was frightfully boring even if we were learning. And that was back in Ireland.
There is no greater illusion than the lies told to children. The Silver Falls Academy was built upon illusion. Its purpose was to mold young minds into zealots with no thoughts of empathy, individuality, or emotion that did not serve their masters’ purpose. The school wasn’t a place of learning but an incubator for mental cocoons to be hatch into adult monsters.
I could not let this stand, but I had a mission to complete first.
No one thinks of a child as a threat. Play with enough crayons, and humans do worse than ignore you. After a few hours of following rules as expected, no adult could spot a child who actually watches and listens. Gods forbid a child that can actually understand the lies they tell and the secrets they think they hide.
As a result, my infiltration to find Jack’s daughter was not entirely fruitless. I managed to eavesdrop on a number of conversations between staff and teachers. I even managed to find a moment to search my teacher’s desk and find their course curriculum to better word my answers to stupid questions.
The second day, I gave all the right answers to questions. I perfected my act of being a smart enough student without being too smart. Act too smart they will become suspicious. But a Pooka is a master of looking however we like to our prey.
The second day was further complicated by our magic lunchbox. Such a deception done for anything beyond our mission was so far out of bounds that if anyone else had done it for any other reason…I would gotten creative with them.
It served its purpose well, allowing me to easily get eyes on every child I had immediate access to as well as the face of every member of staff and faculty that interacted with Kindergardeners. With time being what it is in the nevernever, we all felt it prudent to assume nothing. Anyone in this school could be Jack’s daughter.
The one thing we did know for certain is that she was in this school. The Djinn had confirmed it, and that old bastard was the not the sort to get a labor like this incorrect or half-completed.
It meant that Jack’s daughter was here. We just had to find her, and I was in the best possible position to do it.
This mission proved to be complicated. Finding one child in a school of children is difficult, even if you know both parents personally. I could find no child in Kindergarten with a resemblance to Jack or Abigail. Same with staff or teachers. None seemed to resemble either of them.
When Fergus obtained the student lists, we began to go over the rolls. Over a plate of macaroni, I used my whiteboard to make quick sketches of the children I had seen name by name and confirm for them what I knew.
“We should be able to eliminate the boys.” I wrote, “The school included space for gender identity notes on the teacher copy of the class lists, and none of them had any notes, so if the kid is male presenting, it is a really deep cover.”
“I didn’t expect them to be progressive.” Jack wrote.
I started with a few of the children who might be close.
“Jacquelyn Garrett?” Virgil asked, “If they named her after Jack.”
I wrote back, “Child of a known supermodel. Confirmed not the one.”
We made several such questions and answers. None seemed to fit.
“There is one child who isn’t targeted in dodgeball.” I promised to investigate her further.
“Dammit, we’re running out of kids.” Someone said, getting dirty looks from everyone.
“They could have easily changed her appearance.” Virgil wrote, “Nothing surgical, but they possibly dyed her hair.”
“If her appearance has been altered, I have other things I can look for.” I said, consuming the last of my macaroni in a cheesy after glow.
Eventually, after I took my dish to the sink like a good son, I made a deduction on my way back.
“Maybe the child is segregated somehow given her parentage and purpose.” I wrote.
We thought about it and Virgil followed up asking Fergus, “Is there a Resource Room? A class for those with Special Needs?”
Fergus shook his head, “There have one, but it is currently empty.”
I followed up, “The teachers love to tell parents that, ‘All children here are special’.”
“What about a gifted kids class?” Jack asked, “If she has magical talent, it might have manifested already. If she has my family’s eyes, she might already be able to sense spirits.”
“If there is a gifted class, I have not heard of it from other students or staff.” I replied.
“Looks like you are going to have to do better in school, Connell.” Fergus said, “It’s skip rope class tomorrow.”
The third day, I worked on building my allies. Allies are important, even in Kindergarten.
If Jack’s child was disguised, I had to ignore physical characteristics. They could change the look, but not the person beneath. She would still be Jack and Abigail’s daughter.
I started with the troublemakers and the class clowns even by the strict standards of the school. I found one or two potential inheritors of the Youngblood brand of scoundrel. No true pranksters, but ones with a better sense of humor than most. Too much deviation from discipline was met with extreme punishment.
On the other side of our target’s gene pool was Abigail. I searched for and found the smartest child in class.
Being African American, Luther Stokes was definitely not Jack’s child. He was however a curious lad with an interest in mythology. We had a conversation over tinker toy-like organization games. Not bad for a six-year-old.
I mentioned to Luther some stories of Celtic myth, both what was traditionally printed and stories of actual faeries I knew personally. I hooked the dear child immediately. I would rescue this child.
A new friend gained, I moved to the second phase of my infiltration. Advancement to another grade level was composed of two factors, knowledge, and socialization with peers. With my new friends taking care of socialization, I moved on to knowledge.
This time, I looked bored on purpose and began to answer questions more quickly than my peers. I didn’t answer too quickly or elaborate on my answers. I just made sure I knew the answers to everything that was asked.
That night I overheard a conversation between the Principal and Fergus about me. Fergus went from sweating to smiling over the course of a call. He needed to learn to “Chill out” as they say.
He eventually came over to me and patted me on the head.
“Good job, little guy. We’re meeting the Principal in her office tomorrow.” Fergus said aloud.
“Rewry?” I replied. "Why?”
“You might be going to First grade.” Fergus said while he handed me his thumb drive. It was going to be a good meeting regardless of outcome.
Part 05: Jack Youngblood
At least this search was getting my cardio in for the year. Three days in and we seemed no closer to finding my girl or the sword. The sooner we find both, the sooner we could get out of this Stepford Wives reboot.
In the mornings, Virgil and I would do our jogs. Every day were narrowed down our search and every day we seemed barred from investigating by the snooping eyes of security guys in golf carts. I hate golf carts…
While everyone else worked and went to class, I worked on my thesis and explored the neighborhood when I could. I couldn’t go everywhere, but I could hang out at the community center with an open ear while brushing up on my hieroglyphics.
When I was able to concentrate, I took in more of the area to at least try to get used to the haze of the area’s defiling ward. I could sense small bits of magic being performed in the area far away. Probably preparation for some kind of ritual. With a ward stone beneath my feet, it might be related.
I also heard some gossip from a group of young women that an upcoming party was canceled.
“Saturday Night is off” One of them said.
As the conversation went on, it sounded like a cult in robes kind of thing. Maybe something Azael was supposed to attend.
I walked up to them and tried to ask about the party. My charm was not with me, though. Probably the lack of magic and not how weird it was to ask about a cancelled party that was obviously supposed to be secret. They just turned their noses up at me.
After going over one Eye of Horus too many, I decided to check the community board for any kind of group I could mingle with to both pass time and get answers from.
I settled on gardening. I did need to learn herbology as a young wizard and…herbs are good to know as a teenager.
The gardening club was a casual affair for a surprisingly wide demographic. It helped that folks around here had big enough yards to actually grow food they could eat, let alone flowers and hedges to make the neighborhood look more boring than it already was.
I barely managed to mingle when I ran into an old German lady among the club’s senior members.
“You are one of ze new boys, yes?” The old lady asked.
“Steven. Steven Williams.” I said in my perfectly rehearsed manner. Easy to remember. Not too much like James Bond for someone to pick up on it.
“I am Ruth,” The old lady said, “So, you are a student? What subject?”
“Archeology. Specializing in Middle Eastern and Egyptian relics.”
“A smart boy like you is single? I should introduce you around.” Ruth said.
I went along with it, if only to get her talking. I had no interest in anyone here, but I would anything for my family.
I managed to find some fit looking girls I thought I vibed with, but Ruth waved them off.
“Not a good fit. ” Ruth said.
Over the course of an hour, I talked to a dozen people about herbs, plants, cooking. The cooking discussions actually got pretty good. Turns out I was over spicing some of my favorites.
As I mingled, I did manage to build a rapport with Ruth. I didn’t exactly like talking with the old bird, but if it helped the cause I would do it.
But that left me with a question.
“So what do you do in town, Ruth?”
“Oh, I work at the school. I am the Principal.” Ruth said.
That meant I had to stay. I had to talk up how smart and social my nephew Connell was. I had to entertain this little old lady I was sure had a killer behind her eyes.
It meant that the gardening club was a success…for now.