Song of the Earth
What Has Gone On Before
The Drawing of the Cabal
Sonia met Will when the two of them felt a bit of their life—as well as a hundred other students’—tugged off by the rogue mage, Jeffrey. Upon confronting him, he threw her off a catwalk. Afterwards, the two disclosed that they were mages and shared their interpretation of events.
The child mages met two others—Christine, a Hermetic, and Sid, an Akashic Brother—and went to investigate again. Sonia determines that the ritual circle Jeffrey is using is a mouth. Before they can do much more, Jeffrey returns, the mouth opens, and between these two forces they are soundly defeated. Jeffrey actually abducts Will.
He takes him to Jerusha, who appears in her angelic form, masquerading as a Nephilim and uses her power to make Will trust her with his life. She tells him that Jeffrey is investigating a network of energy for her, and sends him back to see his friends (who, in the meantime, have shut down Jeffrey’s ritual circle).
Jeffrey leaves Will on the side of the road. He hitchhikes, picking up a ride from Chad Smith, who has also picked up Jahan Meshadi. Chad Smith turns out to be a serial killer, and Jahan Meshadi a Dreamspeaker, but neither boy is a match for the human. He knocks them out, drags them to the woods, and ties them up. Jahan sees the ghosts of dead teenagers, and someone he interprets as such—Joshua. They are rescued by Jerusha.
The cabal reunites with Will—and meets Jahan—when both boys are in the hospital. They decide to talk to Jerusha and deal with Jeffrey—but as a cabal. Sonia is the one who comes up with the name “ the Children of Vision.”
The Children Deal with Jeffrey
Making a visit to Jerusha, they convince her to fire Jeffrey, unaware she’s snowing them. They offer to help her instead. Then, Jahan communes with the spirits he’s seen hanging around Will. They are vengeance spirits. Will is a descendent of William Henry Harrison, and they are the continuation of Tecumseh’s vengeance. Jahan manages to get them to agree not to kill Will, but they require him to learn about and continue Tecumseh’s work, to remove Jeffrey from the picture, and to “get over his prejudices” by making friends with jocks, the spiritual equivalent of hazing him while he works.
Will already drained Jeffrey’s bank account. The Children get together and make a plan—not to kill him, but to turn him over to the authorities. Kate finds a Virtual Adept, Linda, who lives near the area, and she agrees to show up (in person) to help them. The plan is simple: Jahan will hold him in sleep while Christine and Will knock him out with carbon monoxide.
It doesn’t go according to plan. Jeffrey wakes up, and begins psychically attacking Sonia. Jahan announces he saw in the man’s dreams he’s a Nephandus. And Will makes a split second decision, turning the air around him into fluorine, and melting him.
The resulting jhor would impact Will for a long time coming.
Investigating the Network
After this, Sonia spends a week in Japan with her mentor, Matt, fasting and purifying herself. Jeffrey tried to take her body or corrupt her before he died. Matt tells her that only her own actions can corrupt her, and sends her back. She runs into the rest of her cabal at the mall, in time for Sid to lead a shit demon out of the men’s room. They fight, Jahan explodes it, and Sonia is knocked out. The Children are forced to leave her behind for the Technocracy to clean up.
The Technocrats have just created a new amalgam to hunt Sonia (in order to find Matt). They are Xifeng Lin, Ben Bickley, Cadence Richmond, James McAvoy, and Russ Jones: Amalgam AT-12. They are also low-ranking members of the 5th degree.
Will and Sonia meet Jacob. The vampire feeds off Will and places him under the first step of the blood bond. Sonia, oblivious, lets him help her carry him home (and invite him into his house)… until he tries to pacify her mind. After it doesn’t work, he asks her about the spirits around Will and the tone changes. When she tries to read his mind, however, she connects with Juggler, and he claws desperately at her mind for an escape, incapacitating her as she defends herself. Jacob takes the opportunity to feed from her. He heals the wound afterwards.
Jacob asks her what she is now that she knows what he is. He continues to ask about the spirits and whatever she just did to him. Sonia is leery until he points out he could have killed the kids, and didn’t. She ends up telling him she’s a Mage and setting up a meeting with him later.
Jerusha gives Will the book that led her to study the Network. It’s written by Ada Lovelace, the first Difference Engineer, and mother of his Tradition when it was still in the Technocratic Union.
Kate, Will, and Jahan discover they can enter the Network mentally, via the Digital Web. They have Linda act as a gatekeeper while they go inside. Jahan has an epiphany and converts from Dreamspeaker to Virtual Adept. While inside, Matt’s contact, Devona, knocks out Linda and makes off with their data. Afterwards the cabal discusses the Network and what it means. It’s Christine who first thinks of a Dream of a Thousand Cats—that the Network could be used to rewrite reality.
Breaking the Cabal
Will asks Matt to help him tests his mental firewall. Matt tells him about jhor before devastating his defenses, mentally testing how likely he is to kill again. Then he rakes through Will’s memories, trying to get Will to drive him out on his own. After viewing Will’s memories of Gabrielle, he apologizes and leaves.
Jahan tells Will the story of how he Awakened, became a Taftani, and became a Dreamspeaker.
Christine finds out her father, Frederick, is a Technocrats when Russ comes to give him a report. She overhears them talking about Sonia. They wipe her memory but it spontaneously returns (unbeknownst to her, due to Eleanor).
As Will’s blood bond to Jacob continues to progress, Matt and Sonia confront him at Will’s house. Juggler leaps at them psychically. Matt manages to shove Juggler back into Jacob, but between Juggler and Jacob’s psychic attacks (aided a bit by Will dropping a bookshelf on him) Jacob completely mentally overpowers Matt.
The next day, he is tracked to his hotel by Octavia Debussy and her amalgam, fashioned for the purpose of capturing him. He recognizes her, though she did not recognize him, telling her that this time, he’s the good guy. She promised him his life if he surrendered. Driven by fate, he came out with his hands up, a dagger in each hand, and threw them each into a Technocrat, and then dropped to the ground. He managed to escape somehow, although was believed dead for some time.
Christine and Sid go by Matt’s motel, seeing it crawling with Technocrats, and send word back to the rest of the cabal. Sonia is stricken. With no access to her mentor and feeling like Will is compromised, she makes plans with Christine and Sid to attack Jacob. They bring Jahan in afterwards.
Now every member of the Children, but Will, is keeping secrets. Christine has seen Jerusha’s human form—that of their algebra teacher, Jane Davis—and kept her confidences above those of her cabal. And the rest of the cabal makes a plan to attack Jacob on Will’s front lawn, after luring Will to Jahan’s house for video games.
Jahan has a friend with him, though, the Brujah, Cudro. Cudro is a vampire with super-speed and a gun. He handily defeats the assembled mages.
Then Jerusha appears out of Will’s door. Summoning light that blinds Sonia and knocks Jacob out, she leaps across the yard and kicks Cudro into a car. The car is Dylan’s, as he is coming home from work, and Will and Jahan are just in time to see it. Will talks Jerusha into leaving. He’s furious with Sonia and the rest of the cabal, excepting Jahan, who backed down and told him what was going on. Sonia, realizing the depth of her mistake, tries to warn him he needs to get out before the Technocrats come, and he tells her he will—without her. Will, Dylan, Jahan, and the two vampires leave, and Sonia walks home without a cabal.
The sting of her failure and broken connections is enough to make her understand why everything just happened, and she passes a Seeking.
Immediately after leaving Will’s front lawn, Jerusha sprung Chad Smith out of jail, telling him God was pleased with him and had a mission for him. Acting as messenger, she charged him to kill the boys in the Children of Vision—Jahan, Will, and Sid Sterling—but that Christine and Sonia were hers.
Will, Jacob, Jahan, Dylan, and Cudro drive to Chicago. During the escape, Dylan pieces together enough to realize what’s happening, and lets the word “Technocracy” slip. He reveals that Gabrielle was a Cultist of Ecstasy, realizing neither one knew the other knew about magick. This revelation overshadows much of the drive to Chicago, but Dylan also infers that Will is blood-bonded to Jacob. He reveals that Jacob is also bonded to Will—the path is slower but no less complete—and surmises that he’s known Will too briefly and superficially to care enough to risk himself if the blood bond were not a factor. Later he tells Will he knows about the bond because he was bonded himself, once.
After getting everyone safely to Chicago, Dylan returns to Davenport to meet with a contact—Eleanor, though he does not share that with the group—taking Jacob with him. Jacob has his own encounter, meeting Xifeng, Ben, and Russ. Xifeng gives Jacob her card and Jacob directs them to who he thinks is a random student—America Anders. When Ben reveals Jacob is a vampire, he uses illusions to escape and abduct Russ. When they return, Kate is able to read Russ’ mind and find out about him and the rest of his amalgam. As he is assigned to find Will’s cabal, Dylan wants to kill him or have him blood bonded to Jacob, but Will and Jahan outvote him.
After her encounter with Jacob, Xifeng goes to question America Anders. It’s a largely uneventful exchange, but Xifeng is left feeling like she missed something. It’s this feeling that would draw her back to America’s neighborhood hours later.
And Xifeng is not the only one interested in America Anders. Sapphira comes to collect, disguised as the girl next door. She lures America into the next house, manipulating her emotions, and whips off her top, revealing her legendary lamprey-breast. Xifeng catches sight of America’s terrified face in the window and enters the house, shooting off Sapphira’s corrupted breast. Sapphira fights her with fire and claws but doesn’t really have any sense of how to move her body in a fight. Xifeng outmaneuvers her and saves America, whose heart has been destroyed by Sapphira’s venom.
America wakes up in a lab. James McAvoy has replaced her heart with an artificial one. He also knows she’s a reality deviant. He’s chosen not to share that information with his colleagues because he doesn’t like to see kids processed, but needs her to keep quiet about this—he’s putting himself at risk by not turning her in.
Jacob calls Xifeng, prompting the need for an escape before the Technocrats arrive. It’s delayed by Kianna, a vampire and member of Jacob’s pack who wants to know what Jacob is hiding. She gives Will an urn that gives him the blood of their entire pack by touch, but Will’s system rejects it, causing him to profusely vomit blood. They don’t manage to get out before the arrival of the Technocrats. After a skirmish, Xifeng allows the group to leave… and Jahan tumbles out of the back of the van.
By the time they notice, it’s too late. Jacob drives Kianna off for allowing Jahan to fall without saying anything, choosing Will over Kianna. Dylan tells them he won’t be tortured, but the next time they see Jahan, he will be a Technocrat.
Jahan wakes up. Xifeng can’t get him to talk but James intimidates him without laying a finger on him, letting his imagination conjure all sorts of ideas about what “the Technocracy” could do to him and how they could change how he’d think. He answers Xifeng’s questions without any sort of interrogation or visit to Psych Ops… although that will still prove necessary.
In Venice, Alex Cinna is summoned to the Hermetic chantry, where he meets Matt. It has been made clear to him that he is on loan to Matt, indefinitely. Matt sends him to Davenport in order to watch over the cabal where he cannot.
He meets Sonia first, revealing his identity and that he knows she is a mage as well. The two travel to the school, where they look at the ritual circle. They are attacked by Jerusha, and Sonia drops a power line on her. It is the first time any of them have ever hurt her. It drives her into her demonic appearance, and she flees, setting the building on fire behind her. When the mages try to escape, however, they find it warded, something Jerusha knew Sonia couldn’t escape from. Alex manages to break the ward while Sonia shields him from burning debris with her body. They escape, Sonia regenerating the damage.
While they change clothes at his apartment, they hear on the police scanner that Sid and his mother are dead. Chad Smith had found him and smashed his head into a wall. Sonia is devasted. She calls Kate, who tells her to get the hell out of Davenport. Alex directs her to a Hermetic chantry to be healed.
From there, Matt and Cécile pick her up. Cécile is Matt’s Mentor, and a Master of Entropy and Life. She expresses the opinion that Matt has coddled Sonia, and takes Sonia back to her home in southern France. From there, Sonia spends the next month on an island in the Mediterranean, with a hunting knife and a prohibition against using magick, growing stronger and tougher.
Dylan takes Will to Mr. Kite, an ally of Gabrielle’s who was responsible for her Awakening. He is a Master of Time with his own pocket realm. When they arrive, they are greeted by Ava, and old friend of Dylan’s. She is thrilled to meet his kid. Will finds the chantry his mother left for him—it’s inside a VW bug. She also left him a letter predicting he is most likely a Virtual Adept, and treatises explaining everything about magick, the Traditions, and the Technocracy to him even if he knows nothing already.
Dylan tells Will about the old inhabitants of the chantry. One of them stands out to Will—Jeffrey Moor, a teenager during his brief time in Gabrielle’s cabal. Will tells his father Jeffrey was a Nephandus and that he killed him, and Dylan reacts very negatively. Then he apologizes, for his reaction and everything else.
They return, meeting Alex, who has followed them all the way to Ohio. Alex proposes hiding out in Cincinnati.
In the Digital Web, Jahan manages to dream himself to where Will and Kate are. Kate removes his memories of Christine to protect her, and corrupt his memories of the Network, but he is awoken by Cadence before they can do anything else. Cadence doesn’t buy that he’s a Dreamspeaker from the way that he talks about the Web… or the way he just projected himself there. She keeps him awake until his mindscaping, and tells him about the Web, the beginnings of their friendship.
Cadence and James take him to see the Psych Ops, something Cadence is visibly shaken by. It is Stephen Mackenzie. He straps Jahan down but is interrupted by Sonia, who kills him. They escape, but getting off Rock Island will be much harder. Soon she decides he’s too likely to be corrupt, and makes it clear she’s going to kill him—she just didn’t want to do it there in case they could have resuscitated him. Will disagreed. Jahan realizes the panting figure under a canvas is Will, stabbed and missing an eye. Jahan helps get Will his handheld, and Will fluorine gases Sonia, melting her in front of the boys.
And Jahan wakes up with Mackenzie, screaming. So will continue his reeducation until he is a happy Technocrat.
Kate has been aware of Will’s jhor since he came clean to her about being blood-bonded to a vampire—since she confronted him anyway—but she lacks the expertise to remove it herself. She takes him via the Digital Web to Davey Darkefell, a Disciple of Mind. Davey is a Son of Ether who has done this before. During this process of removing Will’s jhor, Will sees the memory of him being tortured by Mackenzie, and the death of his friend Thomas.
Will and Dylan fight repeatedly, from Will taking the master bedroom of the chantry to Will taking risks to just about everything. Sapphira manages to invade Dylan’s dreams, aggravating the situation.
Kate tracks down a Dreamspeaker in Cincinnati, Trista Hanford. Alex and Will go to meet with her. Trista has a student named Jianyu who is a student of history. He lays out his theory Tecumseh was a mage, and his workings to create a cross-continental ritual, which Will recognizes as the creation of the Network. Jianyu thinks the ritual is a net, specifically a pink net, though he can’t say why besides that it’s red and white.
Trista does not allow Will and Jianyu to exchange email addresses, and places herself as a go-between. After he leaves, Trista explains that she doesn’t hold him back to frustrate him. Jianyu has only been a mage for 3 months. He doesn’t even know the names of all the spheres, and he’s already piecing together archaic rituals. Mages who Awaken as children progress fast. Before Will, she only knew two others who Awakened younger than Jianyu. One is in a mental hospital; the other Awakened at 11 and was a Marauder by the time she was 20. Marauders are disproportionately young even excluding those who go Marauder at the time of their Awakening. She finds Will’s cabal of children very odd, and is disturbed at the age of Jahan’s Awakening.
She is antagonistic with Alex, and looks down upon the Order’s methods of Awakening. Later, after Jianyu finds more sources for Will, Trista relents and lets the two of them speak directly, figuring she has been a bit stifling, and it will be good for Jianyu to know a mage his own age.
Sonia returns from her trip to France at the end of May. Everything is forgiven between her and Will; they are all that each other has left. They catch up on what’s happened to each other.
In the Digital Web, Kate, Linda, and three other Adepts, Dash, Gimel, and Ryu, lay out a plan to rescue Jahan. Kate is planning a raid on the construct; it should distract the Technocrats enough for Will and the others to slip into Jahan’s house and rescue him. The Adepts advise Will not to take Sonia in—she was part of the torture in Sonia’s mindscape and seeing her might panic him.
When the time comes, Kate and Linda can’t get anyone except Davey to agree to the raid. Kate decides to get Kibo to sign on—if he does it, everyone else will do it. She is apparently successful as the raid goes down. Some of the major consequences include Dash/Vic Jacques’ capture and reconditioning into a Technocrat, Linda and Argentyne having their cover blown (and subsequently going on the run), and the release of emails showing that Peter Fischer sexually harassed and illicitly demoted Xifeng Lin.
The cabal makes their own preparations… which mostly consists of Jacob taking an alligator from the zoo. Jahan clues in that they may be coming for him, and has Cadence and Ben do a stakeout at his place. When Will arrives, he tries to shoot him with a stun gun. A vicious fight breaks out, wherein Jacob, disguised as Jahan, shoots Cadence in the head at point blank range.
Ben goes nuts, shooting Will in the gut. Russ has to drag him out. Xifeng, summoned to the scene like Russ too late to make a difference, trains her weapon on Will, but Jacob draws her Beast out, making her docile. Alex knocks Jahan out, with Dylan’s help they manage to escape with both Jahan and his mother, the Hermetic taking them for St. Louis. They do not leave with Sonia.
While sitting in the car with Dylan, Sonia has a sudden certainty that Fate needs her elsewhere: Christine’s house. She tries to leave, but as Dylan keeps asking why and trying to delay her, she’s forced to knock him out. She heads to Christine’s, where the cheerleader drugs her in time for Jerusha to show up and knock her out.
Sonia Awakened to find herself strapped to a table. Jerusha, Sapphira, and Mackenzie were there. Mackenzie injected her with something to prevent her from using magick. Jerusha told her she would sing the praises of the Wyrm in all her incarnations for all eternity. Sonia tried to antagonize them to kill her but it didn’t work.
Then Eleanor appeared. She took on both Nephandi and the demon with fire and lightning and freed Sonia. Tossing her a knife, she told her to run. Sonia ran.
But something drew Sonia down, towards the Black Spiral. She couldn’t stop herself. She couldn’t even use the knife on herself. She knew she needed the Spiral even though she didn’t want it. When Sonia saw the Cauls, however, and that someone was inside, she was able to resist. She cut them open, freeing America. Something came out after America—some thing attacking Sonia physically and mentally, so Sonia stabbed it in the face. They ran, and Sonia was attacked by a man with a cat o’nine tails. America rammed him, and then Eleanor showed up and drove him off. The three of them escaped before more Nephandi showed up.
In the meantime, Dylan took off with Will bleeding out. Chad Smith jumped onto the car, fighting with Dylan for the steering wheel. They crashed into the Technocrats car. Both Ben and Russ are knocked out, badly injured. Xifeng gets out of the car, shooting and killing Smith. Dylan is not moved, however. He takes her hostage, frisking her and telling her to take them to an Empowered doctor. He lets her know he will do anything to keep his son alive. If she tries something, she’s dead. If Will dies, she’s dead. If the doctor tries anything, she’s dead. If they don’t get out of Davenport, she’s dead.
She takes them to James, who heals Will. Then Dylan ties up him and his wife and leaves with Xifeng. He leaves her at the edge of town and heads back to Cincinnati.
The cabal reunited
The cabal reunites at a gas station, America and Sonia with Eleanor. Jahan and his mother are at the St. Louis Hermetic chantry. Dylan reveals that the “Ellie” from his old cabal was Eleanor Graf, now Morris. Will notices that America’s heart has a tracking device in it, so he reroutes it to go somewhere else and throw them off for a while. They exchange stories. America was taken by Sapphira and Jerusha. She found James McAvoy among them. He tried to warn her how to resist the Cauls, and not to advance, and told her if she could hold out long enough he would bring help. It would not be soon. The cabal discussed if he was a Nephandus but America was adamant she would have been corrupted already if not for James. Eleanor acknowledges the Traditions have had agents among the Nephandi—why not the Technocrats?—but it is very, very dangerous.
In Cincinnati, Jacob becomes increasingly strange, actually dropping the name “Joshua” to Will. Unfortunately, Will’s blood bond also progresses. Eleanor works out a process for breaking it, one utilizing her entire coven. The bond is broken, leaving Will shattered afterwards (and still addicted to Jacob’s blood). Jacob however is completely bonded to him. The four of them meet afterwards to mete out justice, and at Eleanor’s suggestion and Will’s agreement, deliver Will’s feelings and memories of violation to Jacob, a rote the Verbena use to punish abusers.
In Jacob’s weakened state, Juggler comes forward, taking Eleanor down. He threatens and begs Will in alternation. Will gets him to back down and explain who he is and what he needs. Juggler is completely unfazed by the threat of being turned into sand—better than being locked into Jacob’s body—but does as Will asks before Jacob resumes control again.
Davey arrives at the chantry. Like some of the Adepts, he’s been a refugee since the raid on the Rock Island Construct. He interacts abrasively with most of the cabal, but strikes up a fast friendship with America, bringing her into the Sons of Ether Tradition.
Will and Dylan visit the Cincinnati Hermetic chantry, where they meet Mountjoy. He has Jahan, although he’s not completely convinced Jahan is stable. Will doesn’t like Mountjoy’s condescending attitude towards his father, and between that and Jahan asking to come home, Will takes him back. Unfortunate, since by this point Jahan is already a Marauder…
The Technocrats, meanwhile, have uncovered Peter’s treatment of Xifeng. Her demotion is reversed and she becomes a supervisor. She is transferred to Cincinnati to follow the cabal. James is now the 2nd-in-command of AT-12 and Vic Jacques will replace Cadence Richmond once they get out of reconditioning. Additionally, she is given a second amalgam, WU-51, for general deviant hunting. Zahir al Shahrani is its second.
Xifeng sends Ben and Vic to the Old Man’s to get information on the cabal. He is an 88-year-old human who runs a neutral safehouse on the edge of town. It is a Vampire-enforced Elysium with all kinds of supernaturals there. There they see Jahan. Ben speaks to him privately, exchanging email addresses. Jahan warns him Stephen Mackenzie is a Nephandus. Ben turns around and tells Xifeng, wanting to pull the tapes of Jahan’s conversion, but Xifeng orders him not to, that they need to sit on this for now.
Sonia has been keeping Jacob at her house to keep Will away from temptation. The addiction finally becomes too much for Will and he goes looking for Jacob. Jacob does his best to keep Will safe. There are limits to his resistance. He can’t tell Sonia what Will is doing and he can’t harm Will. He isn’t able to throw Will off him himself but he’s able to use Will’s momentum to do it for him. He’s sure that Will can’t get to his blood—he can’t overpower him and his teeth aren’t sharp enough to cut Jacob’s skin. Leaving Will behind, he runs off.
Will teleports his arm off his body.
Jacob hardly has time to deal with this shock before a Nephandus and a Black Spiral Dancer arrive. Jacob puts up a fight, but neither he nor Will are in any condition to fight a werewolf. They are overpowered and taken down.
Meanwhile, Xifeng leads both of her amalgams in a raid on the chantry. Russ drops in first, along with an unhealthy cloud of gas mask. Quick thinking by America seals Russ in the chantry by himself. The Technocrats arrive, and they and the cabal neutralize one another. Mel takes out Sonia with a concussion grenade. Davey uses his mento-intensifier helmet to make Xifeng take one of Russ’ grenades and set it off, taking them both out. America’s tactics rule the day, getting them into the basement—while Davey throws up an artificial barrier—and down into the hot tub headed for Hollow Earth.
At least that’s the plan. Detecting the usage of Dimensional Science, Charlotte Bailey redirects it to come out into the middle of the living room. Half the cabal is unconscious when Jerusha, Sapphira, and two other Nephandi arrive. Sapphira heads straight for Xifeng, in the process of calling for backup, and vindictively rips her breast off her chest.
Meanwhile Technocrats and Traditionalists join forces against the Nephandi, Sonia waking up to join the fight. Davey takes Jerusha down with ball lightning; she flees the scene. Alex hits the Batini Nephandus with a tranquilizer, but he transfers the anesthetic to Alex, who passes out. As Charlotte is the only one left who can see him, she defeats him. Meanwhile America faces off against Sapphira, her “mother.” Sapphira cuts her open, digging her clawed hands into her intestines, telling America she reminds her of her dead child.
Matt’s voice cuts through the chaos, telling Sapphira she killed her daughter Jasmine before she even Awakened, smothering her in the crib. As Sapphira remembers, Matt moves across the room, thrusting his knife into her heart and killing her.
Sonia heals America, saving her life, and Matt works on Xifeng, even fixing most of the disfiguration Sapphira left behind (the rest a problem for the Technocrats, and not field medicine). He announces the Nephandi have taken Will and Jacob. He also opines his belief that Jacob, like Sonia, is important to the balance. Had they not broken the cabal, Jerusha would have made her move while they were in Davenport, and unaware. Had he not blood-bonded Will, Sapphira would have moved from Dylan’s dreams to Will’s, and the Nephandi would have learned everything he knew, but his dreams were blocked to her.
Then he tells them he needs an investigator to help him find them. If Xifeng refuses, he will kill her and her amalgam. She reluctantly goes with him.
Matt first takes her to Sonia’s house, where he allows her to experience his perceptions as he uses a deviant ritual to see back through time to Will’s abduction, although the backlash is stomach-turning. Having exhausted their leads, they return to Xifeng’s apartment. Matt is not going to let her out of his sight, taking her bed and forcing her to choose between the bed and the floor. Affronted, she chooses the bed.
Meanwhile Will has learned that his Nephandic abductor is Gavin. He breaks Will much faster than Will could have even imagined. With Entropy as a focus, he can touch any weak spot on Will’s body, causing immense pain. He rewards Will for compliance and inflicts terrible injury for even a half-answer, such as breaking a finger. He can use his magick to tell when Will was lying or not telling him everything. He makes Will dependent on him, using shame, humiliation, pain, fear, and empathy as weapons. He bargains with him, and then makes Will watch or even tries to get him to participate in Jacob’s torture.
She awakens to the knowledge that Jahan has shared a dream with Will and he’s in a church. The pair meet with him and interview him, and Jahan shares his sensory perceptions with Xifeng. It helps, but it doesn’t lead to anything concrete.
In the meantime, Xifeng had Zahir researching leads. He finally finds something for her. She arranges him to send an agent to a meeting place. Matt abruptly switches the meeting place to a Kindercare. When Charlotte Bailey arrives, she’s afraid that any sudden action may result in child deaths. They look at the folder she brings and Xifeng recognizes a younger Gavin from her psychic time travel trip with Matt. Charlotte goes back to Zahir for more research, identifying a specific church in Davenport. However, before she can get more clearances, the Technocracy pulls her resources, advising her Odysseus “probably” won’t kill her if she resists at this juncture.
Matt offers her a choice. After much wrangling over where she’d do the most good, she goes with him. He knocks her out. She awakens inside the Hermetic chantry, listening to Matt arguing with another man. When Matt announces she’s a Man in Black, she smells ozone as the man produces ball lightning to kill her with. Xifeng whips off her blindfold to find Matt holding a knife to James Mountjoy’s neck. Matt makes it clear that if she dies, he dies. He backs off and allows them the use of Nadira to teleport to Davenport. They have to drive back once they find Gavin’s current church.
Out of a sense of guilt, Jerusha tries to get Will to just tell her everything, promising she’ll call Gavin off if he does. She asks him if he understands what faith is, and talks about the power of human faith—Consensus—to determine reality. The Technocrats are destroying it. The power inside the Network is the only realistic shot at stopping their grip on reality, because they are winning. Using it to create an impossible earthquake, where no earthquake should be, would shatter human faith in science and signal to even the most mundane that Change was near.
Will has given up much but he won’t tell them how to use it. He tries to redirect Jerusha’s thinking—Tecumseh used it to create a comet, why does it have to be an earthquake? Why not something equally impossible but less deadly? Jerusha won’t back down on her plan but concedes his victory would also be hers: his friends are coming to rescue him. After they have him again, she and her Nephandi will leave him be while they all race against the Technocracy to control the Network.On the third night, the Matt, Xifeng, and the cabal converge on the Sisters of Mercy church in Cincinnati. They encounter a few obstacles. America spars with the infernalist, Nina, who defeats her until Davey joins forces, and combined they are able to knock the Akashic Sister out. Xifeng rescues Alex and Sonia from a Black Spiral Dancer but accidentally kills Alex. Even combined Sonia and Matt can’t heal him—they need her cooperation, her belief—which she supplies—but are only able to stabilize him. He’s in a coma.
Meanwhile Gavin tries to get Will to torture Jacob with fire, but he refuses. Gavin does it himself. He reveals he has True Faith, and uses a holy symbol to burn Jacob. While he is talking to Will, though, Jacob appears to die. When he investigates, Juggler comes forward in the body, Dominating him and breaking free. He frees Will, but tells him Jacob’s body is too weak to escape. Will is too weak to feed from and Gavin’s blood is corrupt. While he is content for both Jacob and himself to die, Will makes them push on to escape. He is too weak and too low on blood to stop Jacob from coming back though. Jacob frenzies, feeding on Will. When he comes to, it is Will who is paralyzingly weak.
Sonia and Jahan come upon them while Kate is pulling the others out of the church. Jacob, still prone to frenzy, feeds off Jahan: his Marauder’s blood makes Jacob hallucinate and project those hallucinations as illusions. Just before they leave, Gavin arrives, telling Will if he lies down he won’t be punished. Kate gets them out of there, flooding the corridor with electricity as a parting gift.
Jahan and Will talk after Will’s rescue. Jahan realizes that part of Will wants to go back to Gavin because part of Jahan wants to go back to the Technocrats. Jahan discloses this, and gets Will to promise to tell him before he goes back or contacts them. Will asks him if he would really go back to the Technocrats, and Jahan lies and tells him no.
Xifeng’s return to the construct the next day is lukewarm. She is greeted by Syndicate agents, frisked, and interrogated by people with no field experience and no understanding of why she cooperated with Matt Coronas. Then Octavia Debussy appears, removes her, and starts again. Agent Debussy finds most of her story completely rational, but calls her active assistance in a deviant ritual a “poor showing of judgment” and that she may lose her promotion.
Before Xifeng’s final professional fate can be determined, however, the construct sends in thirty agents to flush out the Nephandi. It’s a trap. Twenty-seven are killed, and three are left in critical condition. Now suddenly Xifeng’s record doesn’t look so bad—if they hadn’t cut her off when she was investigating them (on her own) none of this may have happened.
She is not demoted. Octavia recommends a demerit for her record, that she is showing a tendency for impulse over regulation. AT-12 is dissolved and reconstituted into WU-51, primarily geared toward pursuing Nephandi and other deviants. Peter Fischer is removed (he was really only there as a punishment anyway) and put in charge of a prosthetics unit, but they left that on Xifeng’s plate anyway.
Shortly after this incident, Octavia comes calling on Xifeng to beg a favor. When Xifeng confirms one of the Avengers is Davey Darkefell, Octavia tells her he used to be her student. He Awakened at 12 to the Technocratic paradigm, and she gave him age-appropriate materials to prepare him for a career in the Technocracy. Then his sister turned him to the Sons of Ether. While no longer assigned to that cabal, if she has the opportunity to pick him up, she would greatly appreciate it.
Will works on fixing the damage to Jacob: restoring Jacob’s arm will be his long-term priority. He meets his mentor, Kate, in the Web, filling her in. She promises to teach him how to fix Jacob. He tells her how much he told Jacob, including comprising Linda. She reassures him Linda is a grown woman—they foresaw this possibility and Linda has already relocated. He also tells her about the deal she struck with Jerusha over the Network. Lastly, they discuss the possibility of a new cabal.
A New Cabal
Will meets with the other mages. Things are serious and they need to be official, not a bunch of mages hanging out in a chantry. They form a new cabal: Will, Sonia, Alex, America, Davey, and Jahan. It’s a new cabal, and not just a reforming of the Children of Vision (with all its flaws) and it needs a new name. America comes up with the Avengers and the name sticks.
It is now the summer solstice. Matt meets with Sonia in private, away from the chantry, and says he’s going away for the next 6 months, to give her time to choose: is she Chakravanti or is she Verbena? Then he meets with Will, telling him that Will needs to lead them. Will asks what would happen if he just told them what he wanted. “I think you’d die.”
America finds an artifact that makes all of her dreams come true. All of them. She is a hero in an iron maiden suit, and Davey is her sidekick. Eleanor and Sonia are her girlfriends. Sapphira is her mother and James is her father. America Anders colonized Saturn. America Anders ended the Cold War… with her fist. When that universe ends, America, Eleanor, James, and Sonia find themselves in a park—with Sapphira, alive, her Avatar uninverted.
Will and Jacob go to Trista, who takes them into the Umbra to fix the Jacob/Juggler problem. They reach the Penumbra, where Jacob is connected to Will by a silvery leash from his neck to Will’s leash. As soon as they arrive, though, Jacob runs off, dragging Will with him and separating them from the Dreamspeaker.
They travel first to Flux. Here they are free of all bonds and restrictions, including the blood bond and Will’s Stockholm Syndrome to Gavin. If they leave, those feelings will return. Jacob negotiates a deal with the forces of Dynamism—Will agrees to follow Dynamism, replacing all his resonance with Dynamic resonance (and entering into a state of Quiet, Madness, although this is not explicitly spelled out), and in exchange these bonds are permanently broken.
Meanwhile Alex, upon dying, entered the First Precinct of the Low Umbra, a dark place with a river running up to his thighs. He walked through a waterfall into the Second Precinct, where he met a figure chained to Life. Juggler. Juggler, unlike the rest of the wraiths, wants to move on, but cannot. He gets Alex’s oath he will sever his connection to Jacob, and takes him back to the First Precinct, aiding him against the dead things that try to steal his life. Then Alex is on his way, into the Middle Umbra.
After encounter a panther in a comet, he has a dream about a blue-eyed woman. Then he ends up in the sea, where he is taken by Flotsam and Jetsam to see Ursula, the Sea Witch. She tries to convince him to give up his skill in Forces for a return ticket home to Cincinnati. Though he refuses, she suggests he’ll learn it back in no time because he’s a winner—“except for the last time of course, by why focus on something hundreds of years gone?” Further refusals turn into a conflict. Alex shoots Ursula, and escapes into a different part of the Umbra, crawling out of a rabbit hole to meet Bugs Bunny.
He and Bugs head to Albuquerque, where they part ways. Instead he meets a raven, Jared, and Felix the Cat. Jared leads them to a mountain on top of a tower, and six Nephandi, including Karasi Belaouf. The raven manages to kill two Nephandi but is driven away as the remainder capture Alex.
The Nephandi scour Alex’s mind, learning everything he knows. Karasi shares some of Alex’s past life with him: she knows who he was. They also make him emotionally linked to her.
Meanwhile, after some further misadventures, Will and Jacob meet a Batini, Lila. Lila is hunting Karasi and the other Nephandi. She shows Will and Jacob the scene of Alex’s capture. She also knows that there are two ravens: one is a messenger of the good path and one the evil path (although not necessarily evil itself). She does not know which one was the one with Alex.
During their travels, the three find Ren. Eventually they meet Jared as well. Will realizes Ren is a messenger of hope and Jared is a messenger of death, and drives Jared away.
After they rescue Alex, Karasi flees, and Lila pursues her. Lila will never be seen again. Juggler is able to take a separate form and attacks Jacob. Alex and Will talk him out of killing him, and Ren returns the piece of him that was still inside Jacob. Jacob can no longer Dominate, among other things. Jacob apologizes for the first time for what he did to him, and Juggler asks Alex to send him on. Juggler passes beyond in peace. Everyone goes home.
Karasi passes a Seeking as a result of her interaction with Alex. She appears in Kentucky and heads straight for Jerusha. Striking up an alliance, she calls dibs on Alex.
Ren returns with Alex. He is connected to both Alex and Sonia. When Sonia and Davey go to see Jerusha to confirm the Nephandic ceasefire, he acts as backup. Karasi guides the mages to her, although she doesn’t go to the actual meeting. They run into Sapphira, still uncorrupted but very creepy. Then they meet Jerusha for dinner under the tunnels. Jerusha invites Christine (to rattle Sonia) and Gavin (to truly upset her).
Christine is fervently convinced she is saving the world, no matter what Sonia says (or Jerusha does). Gavin is content to torment her. Davey, surprisingly, is the voice of reason, trying to distract and keep her calm. Nina, the other infernalist, goes along with it in order to prevent violence. But when Jerusha has Davey served cooked human flesh, Sonia becomes enraged, stopping him from eating it and ending the dinner. Davey vomits on Jerusha, causing her to leave. Gavin takes charge, and Sonia and Davey get satisfactory answers before they leave.
Linda also awakens the spirit inside Will’s computer, so that it can make vastly accelerated progress on the Network. Will names it Gabe. It considers Will it’s dad.
In August, Xifeng is assigned a new supervisor, Rick Morgan. She requests a Man in Black to replace Peter, receiving Brendon Bern. Early in her experience with both, Rick calls her to let her know of a disturbance by her apartment, and asks her to get on the scene until the Pan-Dimensional Corps can get there. He has no idea what he’s sending her into, but there are Sleeper cops chasing a drug addict there, and she’s better prepared than they are.
She finds a warehouse full of bees and strange honeycomb. Inside she finds Brendon Bern encased in honey—he tells her that he and Charlotte went looking for her: she’s been gone for hours. He also warns her not to fall asleep, but she does anyway.
This is her first encounter with the Marauder Joshua. She has an almost indescribable experience with him before waking up and acting almost stoned. Brendon takes control of rescuing the Sleepers encased in honey—they still don’t know where Charlotte is. They are interrupted by the sudden arrival of Mr. Kite, who mocks Brendon for trying to shoot him. Kite leaves Technocrats and Sleepers both stranded in time after taking his bees, leaving Brendon to try to find the edge of the time anomaly on his own.
They encounter Joshua one last time, but he allows them to pass. They find Charlotte, who calls Zahir, but neither Zahir, nor Morgan, nor any of the PDC have any memory of the events of the warehouse or the hours after—it simply didn’t happen for them.
Her next encounter would be much stranger. She, Ben, and Vic head out to a carnival for some much-needed recreation. Vic disappears with some of the crowds (and would not be seen again for several months). After heading into a fortune-teller’s tent, Xifeng and Ben suddenly have sex. Xifeng’s behavior is relatively normal after this—and she knows something is wrong—but Ben is bent on impressing her.
They run into Daniel and Jianyu while looking for Vic. At the Circle Most Dire, Jianyu grabs her and spins with her, teleporting them away from the others. Joshua manifests from inside him. Jianyu, by now outed as a Traditionalist (if a baby Traditionalist) tries to warn her he’s crazy, as in MADE of crazy, before Joshua knocks him off the ride. Then Joshua turns her into a housecat.
Ben ends up kissing Daniel before switching bodies with America mid-kiss. America is in the Hall of Mirrors with Will and Jahan.
Correspondence is vulgar in this place, and every Correspondence mage takes aggravated damage when it is finally defeated. Jacob finds Xifeng, and as the only one who can talk to animals, holds onto her. The two of them realize the center of the anomaly is at the Circle Most Dire, and they and half the cabal try to shut it down. Something happens to Daniel and he is changed, able to counter-magick Time as a much stronger mage would. Somehow, Joshua relinquishes their hold on them.
The Traditionalists let Xifeng and Ben go, but not before Davey uses the mento-intensifier helmet to read Ben’s mind and blow his cover in the Digital Web.
Ben waits an entire weekend before taking Xifeng in to see her boss. They are able to restore her, somehow. As a result of Morgan threatening to call Psych Ops on Ben, Morgan becomes suspicious and investigates Ben. The next time he has her alone in a car, he’s staring at her in such a way she is SURE he’s about to come onto her. Instead he asks how many people know Mackenzie is a Nephandus.
The question almost causes Xifeng to have an accident. After some discussion, Morgan enters the conspiracy with Xifeng and Ben. In the process, he admits that he only got his job through nepotism, and he has less qualifications on his record than Xifeng (he checked). He would rather they tell him if he’s making a stupid decision and him be offended than him be dead. With this in mind, Xifeng takes control of the conspiracy, telling Morgan to pull the tapes of Jahan’s conversion and everything else to do with Jahan’s cabal.
Jacob, Will, Jahan, and America return to the carnival psychically. It was defeated on a physical level but not on a mental level. They four represent the crazy ones, the ones most susceptible to the carnival and to Joshua. America comes up with the plan to pull the plug at the dunk tank, sucking the Carnival down the drain and defeating it.
Matt has not given up visiting Xifeng’s apartment. He appears on Xifeng’s couch, ordering her to acquire command of the new QH-97 Amalgam specifically crafted to combat Joshua. She confides in him about Mackenzie, and tells him Sapphira is back from the dead, something that actually shocks him.
Xifeng gets QH-97, including Kouamé Bekoe, a Chrononaut and one of the only 5 Adepts of Time in the Technocracy.
Will’s mind is destroyed, though, or regressed to that of an infant. Kate is able to determine it’s not mind magick—it’s Time. Daniel is able to fix him. In the process, though, Daniel gets an influx of Will’s memories, finding out what the cabal is up to. He joins the cabal, over Davey’s objections and fears.
The Avengers travel to see Mr. Kite. He has an audience with Will, Alex, and Daniel (the only members he will actually see). He warns them to stay away from Joshua (especially Jahan) and that he and Joshua are the last Masters of Time left in the world. More, by the early 90s the Adepts of Time were all dying.
On Halloween, the Verbena help America track Sapphira. She is warm but afraid, trying to convince America to leave because it is not safe for her here, as Sapphira is with Jerusha and the Nephandi now. America refuses to leave, saying she has a second chance, and Sapphira grabs her hair, showing her the crib where her infant daughter is decomposing—no amount of magick can stop Jasmine’s eventual decomposition. “This is what will happen to you if you stay.”
Her shrine to her child now has America’s yearbook picture in it. America asks if she’s one of them, and Sapphira says she doesn’t know. Something has changed, but not enough. America tricks her, tranquilizing her, and takes her back to the Verbena. They treat her.
Matt visits Xifeng again, on the Day of the Dead, setting up an altar to share memories of the dead, like Sid Sterling, or her brother Chenglei. He gives her a candy skull to eat (with her name on it) and then tells her it was poisoned—he seems pleased when she immediately induces vomiting.
He tells her Sapphira is with the Verbena, who have not killed her. He also shares his suspicions of the Verbena. He spills the beans about Eleanor and Frederick Morris. Over her objections, he spends the night in her chair.
Traveling through Time
In December, Peter comes to Xifeng’s office to apologize for his past sexual harassment. It’s motivated by Vic Jacques’ ongoing sexual harassment of him. Peter is insistent Vic never disappeared and was in his lab this evening. Xifeng reviews the security tape and sees them, and upon viewing it, Vic appears. They act like nothing ever happened. Xifeng pulled her sidearm, and Vic seemed to take it in stride, saying they’d been traveling with a Time Marauder. Vic offered to take Xifeng to see her brother, Chenglei, and she accepted in order to collect information on the Marauder. As they left, Brendon Bern tackled them and traveled with the group.
They reappeared some 5-600 years in the future. There is no sign of people and they can’t contact the Technocracy for help—there’s been some kind of cataclysm between now and then that creates too much interference. Vic reminds them they can’t do anything as they are not a Time Mage, that’s Joshua. After Brendon sends him a distress signal, he sends them back to Xifeng’s past. Here she learns that Chenglei committed suicide because of Joshua’s influence.
Back in the present, Vic is dropped in among the Technocrats, but Kouamé and Brendon are frozen in time and can’t help Xifeng. Vic tells Xifeng about all the wonders they have seen before telling her they’re still a Technocrat and grabbing the frozen Kouamé’s sidearm. Xifeng shoots them to protect Kouamé, but as they’re pushing him out of the way, just gets them in the shoulder. Xifeng realizes Vic is trying to commit suicide by cop. Kouamé, unfrozen, can’t stop Joshua from extracting Vic, and Vic can’t stop themself from going back—and doesn’t want to. Looking into Vic’s eyes, Xifeng shoots and kills them.
America leads the cabal on an expedition and adventure to Hollow Earth. Some strange things happen there, like Jahan and Will teleporting during an emergency. When Alex and Daniel visit a place called the Cave of Tears, they see the future, and then time traveled to Gabrielle’s kitchen in the past, startling her. She says she doesn’t sense Kite’s resonance or the boy Marauder’s, so there were only three ways they could have reached her—the Starlight Passage in Davenport, the place of Tecumseh’s Defeat in Tippecanoe, and the Cave of Tears in Hollow Earth—and asked which way they came. Alex confirmed it was the Cave, and asks if she created it, which she denies, saying it is a vile place, even worse than the Starlight Passage.
They are interrupted by Will, at this point six years old. She sends him away to catch lightning bugs. Among the answers she provides is that Joshua is too powerful for them to confront—although Xifeng Lin may have a chance—but he will eventually remove himself from the Tellurian anyway, but he’s a trigger for other types of madness, and leads Daniel to realize that Jahan is a Marauder.
Daniel shares knowledge of the meeting with Davey and America, although not the rest of the cabal.
She also left Will a copy of her collated Prophecies safe for him in Hollow Earth. When Alex retrieved it, he finds the first page has a message for him:
Be careful. Even if you are who you think you are, everyone else is not. You can find answers in Tippecanoe if you must, but as Will would most likely say, information wants to be free. Once others realize you will no longer be free to hide your nature.
Put your house in order before you go. There is a Marauder among you."
However, the blue-eyed woman haunting him compels him to destroy it before he can read further or give it to Will.
A Marauder Among You
Alex and Daniel confront Will and Jahan, leading to a confrontation where Jahan flees Hollow Earth. Will goes after him, allowing him to escape Hollow Earth unobstructed. He makes it up to the chantry, telling Sonia a not-entirely-untrue story that sends her down to Hollow Earth, thinking Alex and Daniel are mind-controlled. Then he crashes the chantry, heading to the Old Man’s to hide out.
Daniel, Alex, and (after a fashion) America decide to kill Jahan. Will, Davey, and Sonia want to try to save him. The cabal is split. Jacob agrees to arranges a meeting for Daniel and Alex with the Prince of the City so he can lift the Elysium on the Old Man’s, but they arrive unannounced. They meet Alethia, who tells them to get out. After Jacob says his companions are mages, the Prince agrees to meet with them. Because Alex won’t name his Tradition, Alethia grabs him from behind and makes it clear she will kill him if he tries any magick.
The Prince introduces himself as Johan and primarily interacts with Daniel. Alethia pours the mages glasses of a strange, dark red viscous liquid. Alex actually drinks from it freely, causing him to be first step blood bonded toward the Prince. As they explained their problem he was at first unmoved. Then he poured Daniel’s wine into a solid stone which he gave to Daniel. When Daniel picked it up, he spaced out and fell into the gem for a moment. Johan took it back, studied it with interest, and then agreed to waive Elysium after he talked to the Old Man.
Since that encounter, Daniel felt in retrospect like the Prince took something from him, but he can’t remember what.
The same day that Daniel prepares to kill Jahan, Nadira takes Alex to assassinate Xifeng. She is eating at Chili’s with Charlotte. Charlotte perceives Nadira (although they are both Arcane) and flings a plate at her. Charlotte is badly burned in the confrontation, but seeing Alex about to shoot her boss, gets their Sleeper waiter to steady her arm and shoots him, shattering his chest. Nadira is about to incinerate both Charlotte and the Sleeper in retaliation, so Xifeng executes her. Before slipping into a coma, Alex activates the Network and drops the building on the three of them.
That same evening, Joshua attacks Sonia and drops her into the Umbra.
Jacob has begun seeing Cadence, who wants him to do what she cannot, and kill Jahan. Moreover, she can physically interact with him. He joins Daniel’s kid-killing party, replacing Alex, who is missing. Jacob and Cadence go ahead to distract Jahan—while America distracts the inhabitants of the Old Man’s house—and talk him down.
Then Daniel tries to shoot him. He misses, hitting Jacob, and his blood ricochets onto Daniel’s face and into his mouth. As he fires again, it becomes clear to him that Jahan is moving his gun somehow. Then Jacob notices that the person on Jahan’s top bunk is gone. Shortly after this Joshua appears. The presence of two Marauders drives the assassins away.