Tuesday 13th August 10:22
Back room of the King's Head Pub
Rachel nods and stands to walk round behind Ron, below the portrait. She gives a quick smile to Phillip and Alf and "would you two mind bringing me down the...". They clearly know what she's talking about even without the object as both nod and head out of the room.
"Ok. Bran. That's the Welsh pronunciation isn't it? Your family are form there originally, perhaps?
Are you familiar with a series of books and then later TV show called The Game of Thrones? In that there's an organisation called the Night's Watch. They stand at the very borders of civilization and protect people who barely know they exist. The sword in the darkness, keeping soft city folk safe in their beds. Figures like that exist in myths throughout the world and that's not coincidental.
How good is your history, Bran?" She's read in a book somewhere that repeating a person's name builds trust. "Do you know what the new castle in Newcastle was? It was to protect the soft city folk of the south from the barbaric Scots. That was the purpose of this city, long ago. It was ruled by the Percy family, the Earls of Northumberland. We're a bastard offshoot of them in one way" Ronald tuts at the correctly used profanity, despite his own language "but in another we're their direct descendants. The Percy family served exactly this sword in the darkness role. This here" she taps the portrait "is my distant ancestor, Henry de Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland. You can read about him if you know your Shakespeare. He's also a god. History will assure you he fell at the Battle of St Albans, but he didn't. This will sound strange but I beg you to hear me out. I hope you realise none of us mean you any harm and the worst that will happen is you have something to laugh about with your friends later. You won't believe the bunch of crazies I met this morning, and so forth.
There is a reason this archetype of the faithful defender of civilization far away on a lonely frontier doing a thankless task exists across cultures. There are others as well. Perhaps you have heard of the Maiden, Mother and Crone? Or their distaff counterparts, the Warrior, Father and Judge? The Fool, who pratfalls his way through life without a care in the world. The grim executioner behind a hood. Many others. All of these, three hundred and thirty three of them in total, are in a very real way, real. They exist as platonic, idealised forms. Where did they come from? The collective unconscious. As soon as a human is aligned enough to exactly how that role is perceived they leave this world and become it. For example, had I children and were I a devoted enough parent, fulfilling every unconscious belief humanity has about mothers it is possible I would become the very goddess of mothers. motherhood incarnate. That is what happened to Henry Earl Northumberland. He became the incarnation of the Guard in the Darkness.
That is the apogee, of course. But there are steps along the way. By aligning oneself with one of these archetypes, one can gain power. The more motherly I act, the more I will be able to tap into the power of the perfect mother. The more like a Guard in the Darkness my great-uncle acts the more he can tap into that power. Of course, times have changed and we no longer need soldiers stood on a frontier to protect against barbarians. In time, we shall perhaps talk of our work to update this family position.
We have in fact touched upon it, more than touched upon it, already. My grandfather is the King of Newcastle. He is. That is because he is aligning himself with another one of these archetypes, the King. The more regal he is, the stronger his power. You have actually seen a demonstration of that although you may not have noticed it."
She pauses for a moment as the two men come back in, carrying a large fish tank between them with a large tropical fish of some type lazily swimming around in it. With a lot of swearing from Phillip and a "God's wounds, the burden of Sisyphus would I gladly trade to be rid of the accursed weight of this Piscean Tartarus" from Alf they haul it up on to the bar. Once they have it in place she continues.
"When my grandfather decided to call a meeting of his court to discuss your situation, I came downstairs to attend. Did he call me? Did someone else? They were all in your line of sight at the time. Was it merely coincidence? None of those. I know when my King needs me. Circumstantial, but we will show you more.
For, you see, reality is defined by these three hundred and thirty three individuals. For reasons I cannot fully explain, they have allowed many oddities to exist. One of those is the existence of rituals, one of those rituals is called Back Monkey. It is what I will show you now.
Back Monkey shows you if you have any unnatural effects on you. I know for a fact that I do, and when I demonstrate that you will be able to see it. Now, I am going to take this slowly as I do not wish to overload you. If I were to, hypothetically for the moment, drop a few drops of my blood into that fish tank then what do you imagine the chances would be of them swirling around for a moment before showing my grandfather's full name then an image of his face. Low I should imagine. But that is exactly what will happen. Sit down, Bran. If you wish it there is brandy behind the bar.
You hadn't noticed it until now but there is a small letter opener held to the fish tank with masking tape. She pulls that loose and makes a shallow cut across her palm above the tank, letting the blood flow in. It swirls around in vaguely the manner you'd expect for a few seconds before starting to coalesce. First in to words "Ronald Jeremy Percy" then into an image - low definition and two dimensional but definitely recognisable - of Ron's face.
Whatever tension there might have been is broken by your phone beeping with a received email.
Gimme a rank three unnatural please. Take a +20% shift on it because they've taken the time to prepare you. I'm assuming you know what that means but please do shout up if not.
Tuesday 13th August 10:22
Between Unit 16 and Unit 18, Fergusons Street
He looks up at you puzzled when you don't immediately reply and wipes angrily at his eyes with the back of his hand. A moment later he waves his hand slowly in front of your eyes then shakes his head angrily. "Oh no. No fucking way. No fucking way. Because I'm not having a bad enough day, now I have to deal with catatonic chicks." He turns and walks away down the road, shaking his head as he goes.
Leaving you behind, as your brain struggles to make sense of the situation.
An unknown amount of time passes. The shadows don't noticeably move but at the moment all of your higher functions are occupied leaving no space for petty things like tracking the passage of time.
Eventually, though, he's heading back down the street towards you, loudly talking to either himself or, judging by where he's looking, some sort of uncaring deity: "Fine! Fine, I'm fucking doing it. Alright? I'm fucking doing it."
He stands in front of you and peers at you quizzically with a heartfelt sigh. After a moment of doing that he cautiously reaches out to grab your upper arms "Come on, pet. Let's get you, fuck, I dunno. Let's get you somewhere." When you don't move he throws his hands up in despair and looks for a moment like he's going to leave again. Instead though, he takes your hand and half-pulls you with him. Your brain seems happy enough with this. it had no real idea what to do next so 'walk with this man' seems as good as anything else.
In fact, as you leave the former location of Honer's and head up the street you feel yourself starting to come round again. Who knows what damage its done to your world-view, but your psyche has internalised that this is a thing that can happen.
A few hundred metres up the road his phone beeps and the two of you pause while he checks it. "Oh thank Christ for that. Some good fucking news at last." He types furiously for a moment then pockets it and turns back to you. "That's you that is, pet. Some good fucking karma. You're a regular lucky charm. I'm John."