Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 13: Chapter 03
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: September 24, 2023
In Game date: December 2012
Episode: 65 (139)
Part 01: Hiroko Noshimuri
Politics is really boring. I don’t have the patience or brainpower for it.
Because of that, it was ultimately a wise move for me to run exterior security for the Conclave meeting. I have a feeling that if I had been in there next to Jack, there would have been violence. Someone would have been dead by the end.
Instead, I found myself outside watching for threats and using eye drops and caffeine to stay on my toes. My Shen Sight was strained, keeping a lookout for creepy crawlies, but we couldn’t take the chance.
Then, this faerie in a silver convertible shows up, and Jack tells me I have to guard him on a trip to the zoo.
“But, I hate faeries.” I said to Jack, “Why do I have to guard him?”
“So he doesn’t weasel out of deals.” Jack replied. Logical.
“I wouldn’t dare shrug out of a fair deal.” The faerie said.
I saw Jack’s logic and approached.
“I’ll hold you to that.” I said.
That shut him up until we got on the road.
I spent a good two hours on duty and learned way more than I wanted about Silvio Khlores, the Duke of Flowers. To his credit, he tried to be charming, and I believed him when he admitted his love for Maggie the baker.
But he was still a faerie, so I did not trust him.
We went to the Zoo, and there was a lot of talking. Funderwear and the Zookeeper did a lot of back and forth. I kept to my training and stayed as stoic as I could.
When the deals were done, we made our way back to Conclave.
“You did not have to yell, Miss Shinigami.” Silvio said as we pulled in.
“I didn’t yell.” I said, “I was getting you to go faster.”
Jack seemed pleased to see us back and for Silvio to give a thumbs-up with fake enthusiasm. He then looked to me.
“It took him an hour of arguing, but he got it.” I confirmed.
“What did it cost us?” Jack asked.
“I owe Mayberry a substantial favor,” Silvio admitted.
“Great.” Jack said, “I owe some little folk some baked goods.”
“Maggie will appreciate the business.” Silvio said, “How did the vote go?”
Jack offered a hand for a handshake. Silvio took it.
“Welcome to the Conclave of Emerald Jack said. Then he motioned behind him and revealed a stack of paperwork. Silvio sighed and fucked off to office drudgery.
I walked over to him, and together we slinked off out of Silvio’s earshot.
“Does the Conclave really require that much paper?” I asked.
“Nah. I added some copies and other nonsense just to see if he reads it all.”
“How screwed are we by this deal with Mab? What are we getting out of it anyway?”
He explained that there would be favor for showing up to the battle, additional favor for injuries sustained in the line of duty, and even more for going above and beyond.
The lawyer in me thought about the potential implications.
“Great if we can’t live to use any of the favor.” I said.
“It is transferable to your next of kin upon death.” Jack confirmed.
Great. It meant that Mab had dotted her i’s and such.
It also meant that we were all absolutely, positively expendable.
After the Conclave convened for the evening, the post-Conclave cocktails began. It was all on Odianna’s dime, so we all decided to go with it. We all ordered top shelf.
If this was going to commensurate our going into the breach, we were getting the good stuff.
I asked on a lark and got a 50-year-old McClelland’s and drank the bottle happily. The one bottle was worth the value of a small house in today’s market. I asked the bartender to keep half of the bottle in the fridge for when we came back.
Hiroko got herself a Dom Perignon ‘57 for a more distinguished look.
Kerouac was offered milk and gave the poor bartender a cat sneer.
“Have you ever owned a cat, you fool?” He said, threatening violence.
The bartender corrected his mistake with some bottled water with a label in Icelandic. I don’t know what the label said, but the art depicted the Titanic hitting the iceberg.
Virgil drank coffee. He had been up as much as the rest of us and looked ragged when he sat down next to me.
“Where are these gates, anyway?” Virgil asked seriously.
“Somewhere in the Nevernever, I think.” I said, “We’ll have to talk to Squire when he shows up at dawn.”
“You should follow up with our other potential allies.”
He then motioned towards Vitaly, who was enjoying his own little feast I only hope was human food.
I picked up my glass and approached him, glad I had 50-year old scotch in me. Hiroko followed me, acting as my bodyguard for the duration.
Vitaly noticed me immediately and belched with a hand over his mouth.
“Acting Councilman Youngblood.” He acknowledged.
I bowed slightly, “We need help protecting the gates. You and your former master Cyrus Grey used to defend the gates.”
He shook his head, “Very different back then. Just cracks in reality.”
“I recall during Black Monday humans devouring ghouls.”
“Turnabout is fair play, Youngblood. I’m surprised it took humans this long to bite back.” He chuckled at his own dad joke.
“Family is not what it once was, “ Vitaly said seriously, “I cannot make agreements about alliances at this time. The Knife of Hunger is very good at fighting. I would show you the scars but…”
“Didn’t we just help you recently?“ Hiroko piped up from nowhere.
“Ah, angry sword girl.” Vitaly replied, “A deal could be made. But it would be expensive. Other interests at play.”
He seemed to be ignoring the subtext of overthrowing the Knife. Like his hands were tied.
Thinking about it, he was talking about The Patient One. Overthrow the Knife of Hunger and the Patient One and Vitaly would get his ass handed to him by an angry Wizard.
I nodded to him, “Saying thank you, Vitaly.” in the same way someone would say, “Thanks for nothing, asshole.”
We walked away and I took a pull of scotch.
Hiroko looked at me, “He didn’t say no.”
“I do not want to owe the Knife of Hunger or the Patient One any favors. Fuck ‘em”
One of the ghouls tapped Jack on the shoulder and offered him a piece of cake on a white plate.
I sniffed it. Smelled fine. Hiroko seemed to think it looked fine.
I took a bite. Tasted fine.
The message it sent was clear. “No hard feelings. He is being honest. It will be a mess if others are involved.”
I nodded to the ghoul, “A superb cake, thank you.”
Hiroko gritted her teeth, losing patience.
“Weren’t you the one who said we should go to whoever we can? Now we have made our beds with half the people here. Now you want to turn your back on them?” she gritted out to Jack.
“The Knife of Hunger and the Patient One are different. Cannot be trusted."
“But you can knock off the Knife without dirtying your hands.”
I lost it at that point.
“To get the Knife to fight for us will require more favor. I don’t have any more favor. He is an apex predator. He will play reindeer games with us and has no honor. At least the others do. A little bit. One wrong move and we’ll have another Black Monday. Make the flood and the riots last year look like party weekend by comparison. Thousands dead. I can’t risk it and I am fresh out of ideas.”
I finished the cake and my scotch and sat back down. I poured myself another glass just in time to see the wheels turn in Hiroko’s head.
“I can’t believe I am saying this, but I know someone we can go talk to.”
“Who?” I asked.
“My ‘Uncle’. He’s a leader in the Jade Court.”
I thought about our options. We were out.
“I’ll set a meeting.”
Jack and the others took Odianna’s hospitality as a way to buy expensive stuff. Instead, I kept my distance with a pair of mirrored sunglasses on my face.
It made me uneasy, what had just happened. Looking upon Hrolf had changed me. Made me dip into power I had not known before.
I had checked in the bathroom mirror later and froze at what I saw. My eyes had changed to those of a predator. Like a Coyote or something. Something primal and higher on the food chain than a mere human.
I spent the rest of the cocktail hour trying to calm myself while Jack talked Hrolf up for help. I drank coffee and then some booze, but they did nothing for me but tasted okay.
At some point, Jack came up to me.
“What’s going on with you?” He asked.
“Nothing.” I lied, “Just thinking about that thing from the sewers. How it has friends.”
“You and me both.” Jack said.
I couldn’t hide it forever. I just hoped I could control my new self.
I decided to do my best by asking for help from the only person on the Conclave I had any connection with.
He was what the magic eggheads call a “Minor Talent” or some shit. Barely enough magic to bend spoons or something. Leagues away from Jack. Minnows to a wizard’s great white shark. But Emerson led the local branch of The Paranet, an online collective of minor talents. A school of small fish was still a school.
I asked Emerson about the Outsiders and he shuddered.
“We can’t fight, but do you need any extra support? We can help where we can.”
Emerson at least was honest about it.
“I will let Jack know you guys are in for this.” I said, “We will definitely have injuries and we will need runners and messengers.”
I finished up and parked myself close enough to Jack to hear him talking to Hrolf.
“We have vast commitments and are not very close to the gates.” Hrolf said.
Jack was as clueless as the rest of us about the Gate things.
“What about support?” Jack asked.
“What do you need?”
“Medical support. Any equipment Monoc can spare.”
“Call my secretary, I will let you know what we can get you. Medical support is the least of what we have in surplus.”
“Well, Aunt B could use a new Clinic.” Jack said not very subtly.
“A worthwhile investment to be sure.” Hrolf replied.
They went on a bit more. It made me nod off, I think.
When all was done, we seemed to get the details for a supply drop from Monoc of whatever we needed and some kind of intelligence stuff on the Shioma Clan.
It sounded like Jack had gotten all he could. I could only hope it was enough.
We all waited for sunrise the only way we could…catching catnaps outside Odianna’s club. I am not sure if I slept. Outsiders could come in dreams, couldn’t they?
I’m not sure Orenda slept either. She was always staring outward looking for predators.
At Sunrise, a door appeared out of nowhere, and Squire emerged in his Ogre form, then quickly glamoured himself back into his normal form of very tall bouncer. He looked disheveled and covered in minor battle damage.
On the sight of him, Orenda sniffed the air.
“Smells like Outsider,” She whispered, “He’s been in combat with them.”
Jack approached the Ogre and gave a slight bow.
“Squire.” Jack said.
“Warden” Squire replied, “My time is limited. Ask any questions you wish with haste.”
I decided to take the initiative.
“Are we able to see these gates that need defending?” I asked.
“I can take you there and return you the next day. The window of travel is limited. It only stays open the duration of sunrise.”
“So scouting is a day trip? Gotcha.”
“We’ll scout it out tomorrow or the next day with some reinforcements. First, we need some more information, Lord Squire.”
We got the Ogre to clarify some things.
The other gates had defenders but needed reinforcements on the Solstice. The Seventh Gate especially. Odianna was doing what she could at the Seventh Gate, but she wasn’t the Guardian. Even with most of Squire’s Ogre Clan at the gates, they needed all hands-on deck.
I could only imagine what powers Fergus’ mantle gave him when close to the gate. Maybe he got a serious power boost being close to what he was chosen to protect, a homefield advantage?
But I couldn’t find out because Fergus wasn’t here, and we were on our own.
There was still no sign of him.
“How long do we have to hold out?” We asked.
“The Solstice is the important night, but we need to hold out before then to ensure they do not get a beachhead.” Squire replied.
“Do the Outsiders have any vulnerabilities?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, each one is unique.”
He mentioned a bunch of weird stuff I could barely imagine. Living Lightning Bolts, shadows that lock you in place. Gaussian horrors were just one example of weirdness.
After a while Squire looked to the sky.
“The window closes.”
“Last thing,” I said, “Anything else we should know about where we are going? What kind of environment is it?”
“Cold. Very Cold. Minus forty.” Squire said.
Then, he turned and marched back through the door.
Then there was no door anymore.
“Minus forty what?” Orenda asked.
“It is the same in Fahrenheit and Centigrade.” I clarified, “We will need some Cold Weather gear.”
We went back to Jack’s place and immediately crashed. I woke up to find Hiroko squeezing a Garrus Vakarian body pillow. Cute as hell. But I wasn’t staring.
We spent the rest of the day gearing up. Those of us who had gone to Jotunheim still had our cold-weather gear, so we restocked. Jack made some kind of cold weather potion for himself, and Kerouac lit a blanket on fire.
Then we met up with the Pack and Monoc’s rep…who gave us an entire military truck full of crates of gear.
“This is surplus?” I asked. They had some high-end stuff. It would have to be enough.
Unfortunately, it also meant that The Pack had just upgraded their firepower as agreed upon as part of their deal to join us.
The strange bedfellows bullshit was getting on my nerves. The Patient One didn’t talk business on Saturday in the day, so we had to visit him in the afternoon.
Hiroko, Virgil, Kerouac and I piled into my old jeep and took off to some big mansion in Redmond.
The Patient One had been working in Artemis Miller’s old mansion, but had recently relocated to more permanent housing of his own design in Redmond. From the looks of it, he had benefited from the week of perfect balance after Halloween as much as Virgil had.
I could sense the presence of Wards on the house. A master’s, comparable to Lucy Einar’s if not better.
Virgil stood off to the side with Kerouac on his shoulder and put his hands in his pockets.
“I’ll stay out here.” Virgil said, dejected.
“You’re not coming in with us?” I asked.
“Do you want me in the same room as a Conclave Member in good standing?”
Virgil was under the Conclave’s thumb. He was bound to speak no direct falsehoods like a faerie in the presence of any member of the Conclave. It was annoying and a damned liability.
“Good call.” Hiroko said, “Wait here.”
“If there’s trouble, come in after us.” I said.
“If the Patient One does something untoward in there and is no longer in good standing with the Conclave, do let us know.” The stupid cat said, “Things could get…fun.”
“That reminds me.” Kerouac muttered something in Gaelic and discretely shot some Summer fire into me. I felt lighter and stood up straighter. I’d need the help.
The front door had a knocker and a bell. We tried them, and an old-fashioned middle-age male butler greeted us.
“May I speak with the Patient One?” I asked politely.
“Are you willing to behave as a guest?” The butler asked.
“Yes.” both Hiroko and I said together.
“You may enter.”
We walked through the door, and I felt a wave of heat over me like I was walking into a sauna. The ward extended over the doorframe. It squeegeed the enchantment Kero put on me. Looked like help was not in the cards.
It was a nice house all things considered.
We were taken to a sitting room. There were biscuits and…crumpets? Whatever goes with the tea service waiting for us. Mist wafted out of the tea kettle, a pleasant smell.
I tried one of the cookies. Damn good for a cookie.
The Patient One appeared hobbling on a cane, a new accouterment of late.
“Thank you for having us.” I said, trying to maintain decorum.
The Patient One sat across from us like he was everyone’s great grandpa.
“Warden Youngblood. Nice to see you get deeper into politics.” The Patient One said, “Those are necessary skills these days. As Wizards, we are so outnumbered.”
“We are here so we can contact the Knife of Hunger.” I said.
“Would you like to meet him?”
“That would be good.”
The Patient One tapped a finger on the table. The Knife of Hunger came out of the kitchen, sat down, and ate a cookie in one bite.
Damn. I should have expected that.
“Ah. Nôž Hladu, I am in need of help. We need to enlist members of your clan to protect the gates.”
“I have been briefed.” The Knife said plainly, professionally.
I paused awkwardly. Not every day you talk to an assassin that tried to kill your friends. And I actually needed his help.
“What would you need to retain your clan’s services?” I asked.
“Me or my clan?”
“Your clan if you are not busy.”
“As long as the payment is made to me by Mab for their services, it will be acceptable.” The Patient One said, “I sit on the Conclave and have to be civically responsible.”
My blood pressure shot up. Owing the Patient One anything was not good. Getting him favor from Mab was doubly so.
I chose the wiser course and smiled.
“Very good. We’ll get your clan the details. Be ready for war.” I said, “Thank you for having us.”
I stood up and started to leave.
“Would you like some for the road?” The Patient One said, the cookies that were very good all things considered. The butler even had a package ready.
“We could take some.” Hiroko said, taking the package.
The Patient One nodded to us as we rose to leave.
“My respects” The Patient One nodded to Hiroko’s sword separately a hair deeper, “I hope your sister is well.”
I couldn’t help but turn towards him. I almost caught his gaze. If he went after my sister…no mercy.
We left as quickly as we could.
“You have a sister?” Hiroko asked.
“Yes. She’s in Scotland apprenticing with Warden Einar.”
The situation made me taste bile in my mouth.
The Patient One was playing a long game. I knew he was skull-deep with schemes and had had a hand in every major catastrophe Seattle had seen over the past decade. But I couldn’t prove any of it.
I hated the idea of him getting favor from Mab. I hated the idea of him getting any more power than he already had.
But we needed the ghouls. So the old Wizard’s cooperation wasn’t something I could just dismiss.
I could only hope the Knife of Hunger somehow met a sticky end on the field of battle.
We got back into the Jeep with Virgil waiting for us, reading a message on his phone.
“Shioma agreed to the meeting.” He said.
Hiroko sighed, “Can I leave my sword at your place?”
Shit was about to get worse.
Part 06: Hiroko Noshimuri
We locked Zanpakutou in Chez Youngblood’s safe. Jack assured me that it would take a genie to bust it open, but I wasn’t sure if he was exaggerating. It had a bunch of wards on it, so it would have to do.
I didn’t want my sword anywhere near the Shiomas.
Jack and I dressed to the nines and drove to downtown Seattle, one of the hilliest places I had ever been. As a New Yorker, everything seemed so small when you compare the skyline to skyscrapers. But, the lack-of-parking parking situation was straight out of the Big Apple, albeit with much narrower streets.
The Space Needle was the tallest structure in the area, nothing like the Chrysler, but was still imposing. A byproduct of a World’s Fair decades ago, the place reminded me of Star Trek. Maybe the Enterprise was going to dock with the tip or something.
It was located in a touristy area on top of one of those godawful hills and one of the weirdest sets of intersections I have ever seen.
“How can anyone drive in this mess?” I asked, straightening my dress.
No one answered. Must be that Seattle Freeze I kept hearing about.
I had a bit of a chill until that damned faerie cat appeared out of nowhere waving his paws at me. I was about to kick him like a football, but then orange energy surrounded me and gave me a second wind. I felt confident and energized.
“You are safe for now, you stupid cat.” I said.
“Just trying to make things more interesting.” Kerouac said, “Politics are so dry.”
The Space Needle’s entrance was very bare bones, just a front on a concrete path. A valet at the front.
“With the Shioma party, yes?” The valet asked.
“Yes.” I replied.
We got into an elevator and went up for a while—finally a familiar feeling from back home.
We emerged in the dining room that spun ever so slowly around. Our party waited for us at an area clearly bought out by the clan.
The Oyabun was at the head of the table. Yoshimitsu Shioma was the head of the clan. His middle age not reflective of several hundred years or so of life. A clan that had lived in the shadows of Japan since before it was an empire or, so I had been told.
The Shiomas had had their hands in many pieces of modern history. Yoshimitsu in particular was partially responsible for a few wars during the Meiji Restoration and for getting Japan into World War II. At the end of the war, the clan then perfectly positioned itself to take advantage of a thriving economy and a pliable legislature.
Or so I had been told. I was just a girl from Hawaii.
I clamped down on my feelings as we sat down.
If I had brought my sword, I would have used it on him. On the bastard that had my father killed.
I bowed just enough but hid a middle finger I had for him at my side.
“Thank you for the meeting, Shioma-Sama,” Jack said, going off of what I had told him to say. His Japanese was surprisingly good for someone who had to learn it phonetically in an hour. I learned later that he had summoned the aid of a Japanese speaking spirit to guide him.
A minor formality since all present spoke perfect English.
“I know you are not thrilled to see me here.” Yoshimitsu said looking towards me, “It is good to know exactly where you are.”
Virgil was right. Yoshimitsu knew I had been in Seattle the whole time.
I sat down and followed the plan. I ordered the most expensive things on the menu and let Jack do all the talking. Less likely for me to throw Yoshimitsu out the window.
Jack and Yoshimitsu talked about the situation and our need for reinforcements.
“Outsiders are a threat to my clan as much as to your White Council Yoshimitsu said.
“That is why we need your help.”
“What are you willing to trade?”
Jack sighed and went to the script again, swallowing crow.
“We want to offer you our support for a seat on the Emerald Conclave alongside the Venatori Umbrorum
“One mortal and one non-mortal faction?” The Oyabun asked, “Wise.”
“What say you, sir?” Jack asked nervously.
“This would be acceptable. If my clan and the venatori were welcomed, we would do what we could to defend the city.”
“I will hold you to that.”
I started finishing up my meal and looked for a reason to walk away. I couldn’t find one.
Jack and Yoshimitsu shook hands and sealed their deal with etiquette.
“We have to find a better way to meet.” Jack said.
“That will be arranged.” Yoshimitsu said, “Now Hiroko, you haven’t spoken much tonight. Tell me of your travels.”
Jack could see that was the focus of attention and took the initiative. He waved his fingers and whispered. My Shen Sight showed me the almost imperceptible shadow of a small spirit. I knew he could talk to ghosts, but I didn’t think they were always around him.
The spirit followed Jack’s command and tipped a few wine glasses over, including one right into my lap. The chaos that ensued was just enough to allow us to slip out to the elevator and never come back.
Once we were out of the building, I took a moment away from Jack to catch my breath and recenter myself. It didn’t work too well as one of my burner phones got a text.
“You were looking quite well. We should meet again at a time that is less pressing.”
I broke the phone and threw the pieces in the trash. I had more. I could get a new number.
I would find a way to get him. Just not today.
Killing Yoshimitsu could have probably unmade my sword. Put the city, if not the world in danger.
But I would find a way to get him.