Personal Journal Entry - Head MI-5:
It has been three days since the last dispatch from Shea. Either he has fallen or is in deep cover work and is not able to get any word to me. Blast it, where are the others? The Celestial Kingdom is almost silent to me at the moment, and I REALLY hate that.
The snow was falling steadily outside my offices as I sat down to write to Shea and Dau. I could feel my frown drawn down as it always does during periods of intense concentration or worry. Just then there was a tap on my office door. It was one of the junior offices of the Lancers. Apparently they had just escorted a foreign guest to the manse. When he handed me her calling card, I asked that he please send the young lady to my offices in the keep. I would meet her here
Angelica Ortegavich ascended the steps of my office. Tall – nearly 6 feet, blonde, and blue eyed. While she looked very little like her brother, Fuzzball, she has his same expressive face and intense eyes.
Smiling I offered her a seat, and told her that I assumed she was visiting Caledon – and specifically me – for business purposes rather than pleasure, since she had offered me a card with the Pinkerton emblem and motto.
We talked for some time about what we knew and didn't know. Angelica being very close to her brother had some personal interest in what was transpiring, and I was happy to have confirmation about his whereabouts along with those of Dr. Mason, and Dogg. I had whispers coming my way, but had not been able to confirm anything. However, Angelica is also senior enough in the Agency that she had been officially assigned to this case – keeping an eye on the situation for the Americans. She has been authorized to talk to me of their concerns particularly surrounding the actions and inactions of the British governmental agencies. Of prime concern to the US is the intelligence that has been coming in regarding Nayland Smith's "backup plan" to eliminate American interference in the region. I believe that she has rightly concluded that he means to kill Fuzzball, Glitterach, and Darien. Certainly the British envoy who visited me indicated that they did not appreciate Caledon's part in this. I suspect that Shea, Dau, and O'Toole are on that list as well.
We talked long into the evening and made agreement to keep in close contact via our secure channels. Daily status updates and coordination. It is an agreement that I feel entirely comfortable with.
I walked the loch, thinking. I could feel the junior Lancer following me several steps behind. Good man. Somme and O'Toole would feel proud of him: keeping watch per orders, but maintaining a distance.
What do we know about the British? I asked myself.
- We know that England wants no more EVAs; they regard them as popular movements, which are too hard for them to control.
- We know that after Gordon was put in charge about 18 years ago the EVA disbanded after a year, and the Warlord "system" started with England in a very predominant place.
- We know that Nayland Smith is "British establishment". Most agree that he felt Ward was an amateur and never appreciated his management of the EVA years ago.
- We HEAR that there is a resurgence of nationals in the Kingdom who think that Ward has come back from the dead. This must be related to the appearance of Hotspur and possibly others from the old EVA days back into the Fusang regions.
Still not enough information. I need to have first hand accounts from the front lines, as it were. LaFevre! Where are you?
The Following Day
I should not have even been thinking about this, but I knew that the only way that I would quickly be able to learn what was going on in Fusang was to contact Lady Amber. God bless her, she had at one point been able to make a direct psychic connection with Hotspur, though that experience nearly brought Lien Bao through the rift. It has taken many months for her to get over the trauma of that connection.
I was not even sure she would help me but I sent the message to her last night with some little hope. She just arrived in Loch Avie as I was at my weapons practice. She said that she was extremely fearful of taking on this evil again, and that she did not want to do it. Her hands were shaking and she trembled, but I could see her resolve. She felt this was her duty. Somehow she found the strength (and this time without the laudanum that had plagued her since the last encounter) and asked that I find a location on my property of "intense energy" for me.
Lady Eva – your energy should help me connect to Hotspur once more time, and should hopefully also protect me.
I chose the area near the base of the waterfall and she began her preparations.
She asked me to quiet my mind of all thoughts or concerns (a rather large order if you ask me, but I did my best to comply) and to sit in the circle as she began her incantations. The soft murmurs she made actually did make it easier for me to relax and clear my mind.
She spoke clearly. I see Hotspur. Oh Lady Eva he is in a battle and there is water, and some monstrous steam gun boat. OH! OH! The image is gone.
Suddenly I could see something - a palace. I started to speak, but could sense that Amber knew I was seeing what she was seeing. I kept quiet and watched the scene unfold. It was as if we were flying through the castle – up and down corridors and stairs. The gilt and stone sparkling around us, I could feel the wind against my face and flowing through my loosened hair. Then I heard something. I was not sure what, but the spirit guiding us obviously also heard it, for we seemed to move in the direction of the sound.
Lien Bao! He found us in the rift. No. He did not see me. He was completely focused on Amber.
I heard him taunt her as he laughed, "Small child, why do you try to hide from me again? You cannot find him. He is mine."
Amber wavered slightly, but just as quickly as the fear came, it was replaced by anger and strength. "I will find him despite your power. Get out of my way or I shall move you."
The laughter deepened and, as if only to spite her, Lien Bao made himself appear larger and began to weave his way through the rift. He was going to step through! My eyes were open I could see my home around me, but could also see into his palace. Suddenly the fog moved from around Lien Bao and his image became clearer. A foot, a hand. He reached for Amber as she began to slump over her table.
"No! No you will not harm her!" I heard myself yelling at him as I stood and drew my Claymore back.
He had not seen me.
I felt the cold, hard steel of my Claymore slice into his abdomen as his eyes found mine for the first time. He was utterly surprised and began his retreat back across the rift.
Suddenly there was a flash of light and I could feel myself falling. Still holding my Claymore which was deep in the flesh of the old wu-jen, I too was falling through space.
We both hit the stone floor. In his palace in Fusang. In what appeared to be a small, austere laboratory. There was smoke all around us, much of it emanating from Lien Bao himself at the point where my sword entered his body.
Quickly, I pulled the claymore out of his body certain that I would need it to defend against the arrival of his soldiers. He moaned loudly, cursing me in Chinese. I was in battle crouch, ready for what might come my way (or hoping that I was), when the old sorcerer began rapidly transforming in front of me. He wounds were deep. I was certain they would have killed any other man nearly instantly, but he was not going to die easily, if at all.
A large raptor, a black bear, a fox demon, a dragon, a zhenmushou
With the last transformation the smoke rising from his wound intensified and he burst into flames. I shielded my eyes the fire was so bright. Shrieking as if from a hundred souls swirled around me, and then quiet. Complete and utter stillness.
Lien Bao was gone – diminished to the small pile of ash on the floor of his palace.