I left the hefaist with Callum, while the rest of the team went home. Callum had received a letter from his fiancée/long time girlfriend, Mackenzie, who is incidently a childhood friend of mine. Mackenzie is a member of team C, and they’ve recently been involved in a rather violent showdown against Lady Sybil, which have left them wounded and in pieces. Henry was taken directly to the hospital in London. Their newest member, Alejandros, whom I have yet to meet, was taken home by his fellow lanters to recover, and the rest of the team sent to a sanatorium to heal mentally and physically. Though my wound is all but healed, Callum thought it a capital idea, if I joined him going to the Sanatorium. He had done a good job patching me up after the run in with the stone demon’s spear, but we decided that we too could do with a nice relaxing time at a sanatorium. V gave his permission, and off we went.
But oh dear me! What a place! I had expected a spa. Relaxation in beautiful surroundings, good food and general wellness. Not at all what we got!
But first: let me introduce you to team C. Besides Mackenzie, whom I’ve played with as a child at various Society family events, and whom I had tea with every once in a while since, there is also Cassie, another of the Society progeny. I remember her as a sweet, bubbly and giggling girl, and she seems not to have changed much since our glorious debutante days. She appears to be romantically involved with Vincent, the one with the demon affliction, who is a fine looking man with no regard for rules whatsoever. And then there is Max, who have on more than one occasion fixed my gadgets or made me new ones. Quite the genius! I hope he can fix my parasol. The spray button jams occassionally, which is a bother. The sticky stuff I used in the hefaist did not go well with the spraying mechanism.
Anyway, here we are in the Sanatorium from Tartatos! The food is terrible! It’s not that I mind cucumbers, but not when it is 90% of all we get to eat. I AM HUNGRY! And someone really should tell them that saltwater and water smelling of sulphur is not for drinking! Yuk! And then there was the mix-up with the rooms. Good heavens! I was made to share rooms with Callum, which was not so bad. It’s like sharing with a brother. But they took away all our clothes and gave us only robes to wear. So that’s us: in white fluffy robes and nothing else. NOTHING ELSE, Xavier! It really gives occasion for some pretty awkward moments, I can tell you that! We eat all meals and participate in all activities wearing only white, fluffy robes… At least they give us enough of them so I can change, whenever I normally would have changed clothes. One simply cannot eat dinner in a day dress! Or robe, in this case. Oh, Xavier, my love, how you would have laughed at the absurdity of it all. What bothers me more is that they also confiscated our weapons. Even my parasol and my fan, which look quite innocent, as you know. It gives me reason to believe they knew what to look for, and that is really troubling.
And there really is something fishy going on here! The ghosts most of all! I’ll get back to those. At first we just found the staff here completely incompetent, with their mix-ups with the rooms and the couple-events (ie. Mackenzie and Max had couples massage, which according to them both was EXTREMELY awkward! The towels were too small, and there were mirrors everywhere. An event that would have been great fun for a couple, but not between coworker/friends! And Callum and I had hot stone therapy together. Fortunately I am not shy and Callum a fine man, if a bit too tall for my tastes, but he is Mackenzies lover, and it was just weird. We made the best of it). But soon enough we found out that something is definately going on! Several staff members seems terrified. Several guests seems either catatonic or almost brainwashed (or merely weird, I am not sure). One guest, an overly obeese man is here on a health treatment – a gift from his wife, who is personal friends with the owner – and he is the only one who gets unlimited amounts of food. I am sure his wife and her friend intend for him to eat himself to death. And no matter what treatment Vincent got for his wound, it kept bleeding – and really – with all that medical staff around, they should have been able to heal a wound. Even a nasty one as the one Vincent sported.
And then there are the ghosts! In the middle of the night I woke to the sound of muted arguments. I followed the sound to the bathroom I share with Max (this time the staff coupled me with him, and seemed very confused that we were not Mr and Mrs Hansson. Oh well, I don’t mind sharing with him – he is a good enough guy – but it is very improper! Yes, it is, and you know it!). Well, I saw two glowing figures, clearly ghostlike, in the bathroom, arguing. When I opened the door, they turned to look at me and vanished! Since they reacted to me, they are not mere spirit memories, but something else, something more. I called out to Max, and just at that moment we heard a commotion in the hallway – the obese man was fleeing his room – naked – because he had also seen a ghost. Urgh, there are some things that you just wish you could unsee. And then Callum came racing down the hallway, with Mackenzie on his tail with his robe (white and fluffy) – he was chasing a ghost, he said. As it turned out the others had also seen different spectres. All of them had seen ghosts that glowed slightly and then disappeared when exposed. Very odd!
We had different theories about us being here: Cassie thought we might have been sent here by the Society, to solve the case about the ghosts, but that somehow their message to us about the case had been lost en route. That might have made sense, if the team was not so beaten. It would be quite irresponsible of the Society to sent them on an assignment in their state. So I found that quite unlikely. Vincent thought we were being tested by the Society (and if that was the case, he seemed determined to fail the test, as he broke the rules, so that he could sleep with Cassie in her room instead of in the (erroneously assigned) room, he shared with Mackenzie. He claimed that if we were being tested, then he wanted them to know that he would not behave as a cow (here I got hungry again) led to slaughter (BEEF!). As if the Society ever did that! I wonder if he knows how dependent he is on the Society as long as he has his demon affliction? He will never be allowed to just walk away, as long as he is possessed. I wonder if it is the demon in him that makes him so contrary? Well, as you and I both know, I should not rely too much on first impressions. He is an excellent burglar, as it turned out, so he may be quite alright. I must admit that I personally think it is all an incredible coincidence – us being here while there are ghosts. But I must admit it does seem strange.
On the second day we (just the girls – and the women and the crones) participated in nude yoga. The instructor wasn’t half bad at his job, even if he was a bit on the oily side – in more than one sense. I actually enjoyed the class, even if is was a first doing it in the nude (except for that one time in New Orleans). After the class one of the twitchy staffmembers made signs to us (Cassie, Mackenzie and myself), holding up three fingers and pointing at the pile of towels. Under the third towel we found a map of the kitchen, with an x marking a spot. We consulted with the gentlemen in the team, and decided that Vincent or I should try to break in to the kitchen and discover what x meant – since we are the best at sneaking about and breaking into places unseen. The staff paired us up again: me and Callum (this is when we had the hot stone therapy. He attempted to distract the therapist, but failed, and I was unable to leave the room), Max and Mackenzie, and Vincent and Cassie. Cassie faked an excellent accident with tennisballs (she took several to the face), and Vincent managed to sneak into the kitchen and reveal the nature of the x, while others tended to Cassie and her bleeding nose. He found a cupboard with a multitude of vials of strange liquids – none of them innocentlooking! Curiouser and curiouser!
Well, I will let you know more, when I know more. May Persefone guard you, my heart, and protect you from harm. I wish you were here to share in the fun and ridiculousness. But team C is also good fun to hang out with. I am particularly delighted to spend time with Mackenzie – you should’ve seen us waltz in our white, fluffy robes! Such fun!
I keep you in my heart,
We have sorted out the Sanatorium – bit of a mess, that! It all turned out to be quite a nasty business with almost vampiric energy sucking, outragous exploiting of innocents and other deplorable dealings – certainly not cricket!
Max managed to sneak away and Mackenzie was mislayed for a while, but turned up again wearing a sheet in stead of a white, fluffy robe, talking about a strange doctor, who had led her to a room in a closed off tower. Callum found her there, asleep in a bed with restraints (she was not restrained, but the option had been there, so the doctor must have been benevolent). Seaching the room (and the other rooms in the tower), we found a lot of old magic. Magical signs painted on the ceiling. Henry identified them as energy stealing magic of a sort. Oh! I forgot! Henry turned up! He is out of his library and out in the open – a real field agent! Can you believe it! And quite a competent one, too! I knew he had it in him. Hidden depths in that one! Cassie, who has some magical abilities, identified the magic as old and disused. But whatever it was it was to suck life energy out of someone a long time ago.
Back in our rooms I tested the liquid that Vincent stole, and it was a curious thing: It reacted unnaturally, possibly magically. We suspected that is was life energy liquified. Nasty! And then I spotted something shiny near the ceiling: shiny and metallic. We tore away some of the wallpaper, and there was more magical signs made in shining metal directly in the walls! Henry said these signes were more sofisticated than the ones in the tower, and Cassie said the magic felt identical, but newer and fresher! They were sucking energy out of US! US, can you believe it! The fiends! Paying customers, and this is the service we get: sucked dry of our life force. Ungentlemanly! But the question was: why was life energy being sucked out of us? And where did all the energy go? And did this explain all the ghosts? Were they people who had been sucked dry of energy, but not of soul? (I will get to the answers to all – or most – of this).
Oh, by the way: Henry wore clothes under his robe. Apparently that was an option all along, and we just never questioned it. Between us, I had gotten used to the liberty from corsets and hoops, so I did not bother to put on clothes. Apparently Mackenzie was so fond of her sheet, that she did not change out of that either. She kept it on. But did don a bonnet for propriety’s sake. Oh, and Mackenzie told us that the mysterious doctor, who had led her to the room in the tower, had warned her of ‘them’, who were after us.
Still a good deal of clues short, we went to dinner. The obese man (who turned out to be Lord Chubby, sorry, Lord Tubby of the obscenely rich Tubbies of Valoria. Very respectable family with a lot of money distributed on a dwinddling amount of relatives) was struggling with his ‘diet’, and finally Callum and I could watch it no longer. It felt wrong to watch a man eat himself to death! I would gladly empty his pockets at a card table, but could not watch a friendly and innocent man be fooled into death. Callum went to speak to him, but Lord Tubby got so upset by this that he left the table and sent for the doctor and his evening tonic. Convinced that any evening tonic this place handed out would be no good, I followed the valet and tried to convince him to leave the tonic to me. No luck. Meanwhile Henry went to Lord Tubby’s room to talk with him – with mixed luck: but he did manage to get Lord Tubby to hand over the tonic, and not drink it. When I tested the tonic, it turned out to be an ordinary health tonic – with a bit of magical life force added!
We had gone outside to rest – we were NOT going back to the energy sucking rooms! But no rest for the wicked. Callum and I felt restless thinking about what might happen to Lord Tubby now, so we went back to his room. It was empty. So we asked EVERYONE we met: we wanted them to know that they could not just slip Lord Tubby away (a bit difficult to hide such a large man anyway), but gone he was. While looking for him, we suddenly heard a bit of commotion from the lobby, where Mackenzie was yelling and telling the conscierce off. I never discovered what that was all about. We decied to all to the Headmasters office. We were done messing about now: we were off to face the man in charge of all this, so we could sort it out!
We tried to face the lion in his den, but the door stuck… Vincent could not work the lock, and before I had a chance to offer, Callum used his straithclydian lockpick technique: his shoulder. It worked like a charm. Especially because the door was in fact not locked, just hard to open. Well, easy to open, when a shoulder was applied. On the other side of the door was a hallway with shelves and shelves of books and ledgers. A very annoyed achivist insisted that we should leave, but we refused. The hallway shook and the bookcases moved. It seemed like the whole house was angry with us! Maybe this whole house was damned – so many ghosts around could not be healthy. Even if it was a spa!
At the end of the hallway there was a door to the Headmasters office. This door WAS locked. I looked through the keyhole, and the place looked a mess! The door handle felt unnaturally cold and most definately magical (so those who knew about such stuff affirmed). Once again Callum applied his antimagical shoulder, and broke open the door. We searched the place. Mackenzie turned her business eye to the ledgers. She found evidence that they had in fact messed up our reservations, and the Headmaster was not pleased about it! We were supposed to recieve the luxury treatment (sans energy sucking), given some of the ‘tonics’ to make us feel better, and then back into the world to recommend the place. Oh, what a blunder!
Then Callum and Vincent discovered a hidden door (classic bookcase sort). Vincent went first, with me right on his tail! He is good, that one! I knew he was right in front of me – had I reached out, I could’ve touched him – but I could not see him. Apparently the demon affliction renders him invisible in the dark. Very impressive! The door closed behind us, but we pretended not to be terrified of this (I was a bit). We went down a spiral staircase that ended in front of a door. The magic here was so dense that even I could feel it. This was surely the lair of whoever was behind all this! One by one we moved into a room with a giant trough, almost a font, into which life elixir was dripping from the green magical lines in the ceiling. And then things got really weird!
In the next room we could hear the same sort of whispered arguments that I had heard in the bathroom the first night. Dozens of ghost were discussing something. Cassie put forward a theory: that there were three parties to this: benevolent ghosts, malevolent ghosts and the Headmaster and his ilk. It sounded most plausible. We entered the room and the ghosts came forward: a very angry female ghost came towards me. She was quite upset: she had come here as a patient, but had been bleed dry of life force to make others feel better. She was angry at the Headmaster, at his staff and at living people in general! I tried to reason with her, and telling her we were here to fix it, but she was too angry to listen. Callum seemed caught up in a similar situation, while Henry, Cassie and Mackenzie fared better with more reasonable ghosts. Meanwhile Vincent edged along the walls to look into an opening at the other end of the room. There were two openings, and when we had managed to free ourselves from our angry ghosts, Callum and I went to the other door. The angry ghosts followed us, though, so we decided to stay closer to the others, and entered the other room along with Henry and Vincent. Cassie and Mackenzie stayed back, engulfed in conversation with a pair of ghosts.
Once through Vincent’s door we had hit jackpot: this was were the Headmaster was; chanting and doing hocus pocus, while not only Lord Tubby, but a number of other people were chained to beds and slowly emptied of life force. With no plan whatsoever we rushed into the room to stop the magician and his two goons. We were sort of unarmed, and had only what we had found under way. Callum had a mallet and I had a candlestick. I prefer my accessories, I must admit, though a candlestick quite does the trick in a tight spot. Suddenly I heard shouting behind me; Mackenzie yelling in gaelic, and all the ghosts streamed into the room and attacked the magician. Whatever they did seemed to suck years and years out of him, until he was an old and feeble man. Henry put in the final stab with his cane rapier – la! Yes, surely a good thing that he came out of his library. I am very impressed by him!
So, that was the story of the Sanatorium, where we were supposed to have been pampered and cared for (and fed other people’s life force), and in stead we brought the place down, dealt with an evil magician and saved a lot of innocents – living and dead! All in a days work.
In between all this running about, and after too, I had some good talks with Callum. We talked about leadership, and ambitions and dreams of the future. I guess I’ve had all the fun I was supposed to have outside the Society, when I dallied with you. Best years of my life to be sure! What a bore I would’ve been had I never taken a chance with you. You taught me to enjoy life in a way I hadn’t before. The Society was the be all and end all of my existence. Well, it is again now, but with a brighter outlook. Callum said the Society most likely had plans with me – of the leading variety, or they would not have made me second in command to Bea. I have learnt a lot from her, though I don’t think I can be as sharp and consistent a leader as she is. I must be my own kind of leader. I guess I will know the day they actually put me in charge of a group. I was surprised to learn that Cassie is actually the official leader of team C, with Mackenzie as battle leader. I had supposed their leader was the absent Alejandros, but I suppose there are many ways to be a leader, and maybe this works for team C? I think I like a leader more in between: sharp, but not as bossy, as Bea can be. Gentle like Cassie, but more selfconfident. I hope I can be such a leader. But we’ll see what the Society says.
Oh, and Callum told me a secret: he and Mackenzie are already married! But no one knows, except for team C. Apparently they expect the family to object to it. Well, I know all too well, how clans can react to weddings they’ve not planned a few generations ahead! All the fuss I had to go through, when I married you – jeez! You charmed Mama, but Daddy was not amused! But I think Mackenzie and Callum need not worry. He is a splendid fellow; they will adore him! They just have to get over that Mackenzie made a choice, and they were not in on it! Tough! She is head of the clan, and her word is law. But they will bicker and bother, I suppose. Well, I do wish Callum and Mackenzie all the best. They are a lovely couple, quite devoted to eachother. Makes my heart skip a beat, and miss you more. Oh, Sweetheart, did you have to play that ace? Yes, you did… He needed a taking down. Who would have thought he went armed to the table?
You are in my dreams.
Your very own, forever,