The journey home from Nanga is rather trivial compared to the last couple of months. The weather is surprisingly mild, and we encounter no storms at all. Nanga is warm and dusty, when we leave, and there is no sign of the rain that usually fall this time of year. The sailing is uneventful, apart from Vincent finding (and stealing) the box the archeologist brought to Nanga to keep the Apple of Strife in. The archeologist – and a single orceologisk – are the only ones from Lady Sibyl’s party that return from their expedition. The box is effectful; everyone seem to calm down a bit once it’s magic is no longer influencing us. All accept Niall, that is, who keep having run in’s with the colonel Cartwell, who managed to survive the massacre of his soldiers. He is very sensitive to the fact that he misjudged the M’tabele so much, and Niall makes sure to remind him at any given chance. We take measures to keep them apart as much as possible.
I talk at length with Henry about being a nymph. He is very understanding and supportive about it, not prejudiced at att. He cautions me to keep it secret, as not all, the Society included, are as openminded as he is. I remember all the times I have stood out in society, and how little it takes to get negative attention for just being a little odd. I imagine how people would treat me, if I was not just odd, but actually not quite human – I don’t think I would like that at all.
We arrive home to cold rain, dirty streets and grim skies, and I am glad to be home. We part ways on the docks: Niall and MacKenzie goes to MacKenzies apartment, Henry and Max takes a carriage (and the box with the apple) to headquarters. Vincent and I also head for our home at the headquarters, but we decide to walk. I need cobble stone beneath my feet and the fresh, smelly air of my city in my lungs.
When we reach headquarters, Vincent and I find a street urchin outside, watching our door. Vincent grabs him by the collar and we invite him in for dinner and interrogation. Henry and Max are already here, but no one else is. They found the house deserted – cold and dusty, as if no one has been here for a long time. Something strange is going on!
The street urchin works for Aidan the Irish down in the docks. He (the kid) was ordered to keep an eye on our house three weeks ago, and to send word to him, when we got back. He describes Aidan and the tattoos in his face, and Vincent remembers seeing a man of that description watching us as we docked. That means that Aidan already knows we are home. We feed the kid and send him home to Aidan to earn his penny, with the promise of more food for information on his return. Vincent runs to MacKenzie’s appartment to warn them of the funny business going on.
He returns soon enough with news: Headquarters is temporarily shut down. Lady Sybil is on to us, Cassie in particular. Cassie has been sent to safety abroad. We are ordered to pack up our things, which is easy, since Vincent and I never unpacked. We are to meet up with the others in the backroom at The Golden Swan. Vincent and I leave by the backdoor with a false box, in case anyone is watching us, while Max brings the real box disguised as tools in the carriage.
At The Golden Swan we meet up with the others, including Mrs M. She had been hosting a dinner party in MacKenzie’s apartment, and was thus present when they returned. She tells us about Cassie, and that Aidan is working for Lady Sybil. The Society had sent us a telegram, which we never got, warning us not to return to headquarters, but too late now. We make plans on what to do now; we must find out about the Apple, and about why Lady Sybil would want it. We have already put our street urchins to work, spying on Aidan. We decide to invite the archeologist for dinner and see what he might tell us about the apple. We became on quite good terms with him on our journey home. The Apple seems to be connected to Atlanthea, M says, and we might find something, if we looked into that. Vincent and I will go to the temple of Eris, the Goddess of Strife, who first introduced the apple to the world, Henry and MacKenzie will see what they can find about ancient stories of the Apple, and Niall and Max will go to the museum, to see what they might find there.
The young archeologist accepts our dinner invitation. He is very impressed with the restaurant and is very forthcoming. We get a private sitting room. He tells us, that the Apple is quite the ‘collectors item’. It is a prophecy. The first war in the world was between the titans and the titanesses, and sprung from a prophecy about the children of the titans, who would rise against their forefathers and dethrone them. The titans would not let the titanesses have children, which is why they fled into the wild (and had numerious children, including nymphs, there). We all know how it went: Uranos allowed his wife to have one child, but she cheated him and had three: Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, and they did in deed rebel against their father and banished the titans forever. The archeologist is quite the expert on this first war, which he theorizes took place in Nanga. That is why the Apple was there; in the first temple of the titans. No wonder I felt such strong magic there! It was the first, and most magically potent temple of history – and titan through and through, since no gods yet existed, when it was made. We try to convince the archeologist to leave the country, but he feels he is in no danger here. I am sure, though, that should Lady Sybil learn that he talked to us, his life is forfeit.
The next day we split up to investigate. Vincent and I go to the temple of Eris. It is in the outskirts of the temple area, packed in between two other temples. Vincent and I pretend to argue, as is expected when seeking out Eris. We discuss the color of the Apple of Strife – was it green or red? A priest comes to our aid, and in roundabout ways we learn this: Eris was the daughter of Gaia (a titaness) and married to Typhon (a titan). She is the mother of Ares, the God of War (not surprisingly), and though she did cause several wars between the gods, she was forgiven and ennobled to be part of the pantheon on the Olympic.
We meet the others back at MacKenzie’s apartment, where we tell what we have found out. I feel a little ill, entering the sitting room. Dizzy and a bit nauseous. Vincent looks a little pale as well. But we are soon distracted as we tell the others what we learned, and they tell us what they learned. Henry and MacKenzie found references in old nursery rhymes and fairytales, in particular in the one about the Sleeping Beauty. Niall and Max went to the atlanthean exhibition at the museum, and found that the Apple caused the fall of Atlanthea. The Apple combined with a powerful sorceror kan make a whole country collapse! Maybe that is what Lady Sibyl is working at? To collapse Bretonnia! She must be stopped!
Right then Mrs M enters the room with a distraught Callum and a few of other Society members. “Grace Hunter!” she says with a hard and cold voice “You are under arrest!”. The room falls completely silent. I merely stare as Callum approaches me and put cold iron around my wrists. They hurt. “I am so sorry, Grace!” he whispers, and I see a tear roll down his cheek. Then all hell breaks loose: MacKenzie and Vincent starts shouting. Niall has to hold back Vincent as he seems ready to attack M. M holds up a hand to silence us. “Grace, you are under arrest for being non-human. As you will notice; the room is secured and your magic will not work here”. I look around, and intrigate patterns and wards have been painted to MacKenzie’s walls. The same sort of wards I tattoo unto Vincent. Vincent is pale and perspiring – he must feel it too: his demon must be screaming inside him. MacKenzie looks enraged that her mother would tresspass in her home and trap her friends. “You are furthermore charged with crimes against the Society” Mrs M goes on “To have worked with our enemies to harm us”. I shake my head. I could hardly deny being non-human, when I suspect it myself, but this I can deny, but she will hear none of it. With a flick of her hand, she orders Callum to take me away, while I hear my friends shout at her.
Callum takes me down into the cellar, where there is a jaillike cell. The walls are overpainted with wards and the like. A little crude, but done well enough. Callum keeps apologizing to me. He says it was his report from Nanga, which caused Mrs M to react. I still don’t understand why anything Callum might have said, could bring her to the conclusion that I have hurt the Society. All I have done in the past many years, I have done for them. I ask Callum if he could put something between my skin and the handcuffs, since they hurt me, and he tears his handkerchief in half and ties them around my wrists between the iron and my skin. He then looks apologetic at me again. “I am so so sorry, but I have been ordered to examine you”. I nod my go ahead. He listens to my heartbeat and my lungs. He checks my reflexes, and with another series of apologies he cuts deeply into my left index finger to expose bone. My bone is grey, like stone. I look at him, my question unsaid. “They are supposed to be white, Grace. Human bones are white”. “Oh” I say “Well, is that so bad? Does it matter if I am not completely human?”. Callum looks at me and takes my hand “I’m afraid it matters a lot, Grace. To sociery and to The Society in particular” He sighs, and absentmindedly pats my hands. I feel confused. Surely they must know that I have never betrayed the Society. “Could you get me the exact charges, Callum? I would like to know exactly what I am accused of. Maybe I can explain”. Callum gives me an odd look, but nod and leave.
When he returns later, he has brought a piece of paper with the charges, and a rockcollection! He explains that he collected rocks, when he was a child, and he has a very fine collection. I completely forget about the charges for a while. I am completely engulfed in the rocks and his stories about where he found them. He leaves the rock collection behind for me to study. Finally I remember the charges and I take a deep breath and look at them. They say:
1. Grace is charged with being of titan descent
2. Grace is charged with being an enemy of the Society, Britonnia, the divine order and the human race
3. Grace is charged with having infiltrated the Society (maybe in collaboration with others)
4. Grace is charged with passing on secrets of the Society to the enemy
5. Grace is charged with having acted to the advantage of the enemy on assignments
6. Grace is charged with having recruited others to work for her case
7. Grace is charged with having hidden these facts and having covered other’s secrets up
The charges are not to be regarded as law, but as possibilities that must be investigated. Any of the charges 2-5 will be punished with death. Charge 3 and 6 may affect other ongoing investigations Charge 1 would normally lead to death, but a minority of the Counsil are undetermined whether this is the correct consequence, should charges 2-5 not stand. Charge 7 has variable punishment.
Well… Anyone who knows me just a little would discard charge 2-6 as completely ridiculous. But apparently Mrs M does not know me very well.Well, I can certainly defend myself. I sit down and write a letter to M about each of the charges. I tell her that charge 1 is probably true, but that the knowledge is quite new to me, and that I don’t really know much about it. All the charges about betraying the Society I deny completely. I have worked for, not against, the Society ever since they took me in. I owe my life to them. All I have done, I have done in their service, to their benefit and on their orders. It is also true, though, that I have kept certain secrets. Fx about the vase in the hallway that Mackenzie and I accidently broke during a practice fight. We cleaned up the shards and tossed them, and never told a soul. We probably should have.
Callum brings Vincent and MacKenzie to see me. MacKenzie brought me a bunch of clothes, underwear, nightgowns, shoes and boots. I have never in my life had so much clothes and in such good condition! We talk, and I tell them about Fostermother’s sister who might still live and be able to tell something about how they found me. But really my concern is not on proving who I am, as I am most like non-human – I am coming to term with this. It is like pieces of a puzzle falling into place in my head. So many things make better sense to me now. I cannot deny being something other than human, but I can certainly deny being the monster they seem to thing I am. For a long time Vincent and I merely hold eachother. That feels very nice. It is hard when they have to leave.
Later Callum brings Niall to see me. Callum seems to think that Niall will be a good help to me, as his view of me is not clouded by emotion. It feels strange to have Niall on my side. He declares his deep since of justice, and how he thinks the Society is doing me a great wrong by accusing me of working against them. So he is determined to help me. I fell odd about it. He still looks at me with contempt. Like I am something that should be locked away, just in case. Callum looks at us “I sense you feel a little uneasy with Niall defending you, Grace. What is with the two of you”. I shrug. “I just don’t think he likes me. And there was the time when he wanted to lock me up – that didn’t help”. Niall responds “I don’t know her very well, but allways thought there was something odd about her. Turns out I was right, didn’t it? She sees demons and senses magic. She solves every problem she meets with an iron stick. That is not normal”. I bristle at last accusation – that is completely untrue! “So, what you are saying, is that she is dangerous?” Callum asks. Niall nods “Certainly she is. But that doesn’t mean she has worked for the titans. My rifle is dangerous in the wrong hands. My sister can be dangerous. That doesn’t mean it is a bad thing”. Niall turns to me “What does Grace say about this? I will stay out of it, if she wants me to. I will do what I can to serve justice, but if she is more comfortable having someone else lead the case. Henry is capable”. I feel angry. His coldness and his disdain annoys me, but I answer “I think the Society will listen to you, because you are not my friend. We are all dangerous, when it comes right down to it, but no one thinks MacKenzie is not normal, when she solves problems with iron sticks. I would like you to help me, if you believe me when I say, I have never worked for the titans”. Niall is silent, but Callum says “I was concerned with yours and Vincent’s reactions in Nanga, but I have seen you solve many problems without violence. If the two of you could work together, I think this case would collapse in on itself”. I straigten my shoulders “We don’t have to be friends to work together” I say to Niall “You don’t have to like me, and I don’t have to like you. But I think that together we can do a lot of good. For the Society. And justice. And me”. “I am always on the side of justice” Niall says “As long as you are only a danger to the enemies of the Society and the divine order, I can work with you”. I put out my hand “Likewise” I say, and he shakes my hand. He then turns to Callum and says “Since it was your report that started this mess, you might redemn yourself by finding out who wrote up the charges against Grace. That is, if you are able to help”. Callum blushes “The Counsil wrote it up, but I’ll ask around”. Niall nods at him and leaves. Callum throws me a look, I might interpret as embarressed. I really don’t know what to make of Niall. There is absolutely no friendliness in him. I am gratified that he will help me, but I cannot figure out his motives. Justice? Well, justice is what I need, and if he will help me get it, I can only be grateful. Of all humans he is the one I will never truly figure out.
I intensely dislike being couped up here. Callum does his best to ease the days, but even he cannot replace an open sky, freedom of movement and the comfort of my own home. I ask him to stay and share my bed – I miss sleeping with Vincent – but he reclines with a funny look. He offers to sleep in the cell on another bunk, but what I miss is curling up against another warm body, one that holds me. I also miss Artemis. It never occurred to me before how often I send up little prayers to my goddess, how often I find myself speaking to her. With all the wards here I can’t seem to get a clear line. I cannot do any of the rituals alone, and as Niall is the only other person I know who worships Artemis as fervently as I do, I ask Callum to ask him to come at perform a ritual with me.
He comes. He seems as taciturn as allways, and a bit preoccupied. He has problems with the ritual, and explains to me he usually does it in nangian. I tell him to just speak nangian. I know the meaning of the ritual even if I don’t know the words. It runs smoothly after that. He seems in a hurry afterwards. Assures me that they are proceeding well with charge #1, but that he really has many things to do, so if I don’t need him further he will run along. I do not wish to hold on to someone, who is busy, especially not if he is busy trying to save my life, so I thank him, and he leaves. But before he does, he leans in as if to kiss my cheek (this startles me), but instead whispers in my ear: If the Society deems me guilty in charges 2-6 several of my group is ready to try to break me out of my cell. I smile. They are kind to offer, but now that I have explained myself to Mrs M, I am sure they will release me soon. There is no evidence in existance that I should ever have aided the enemy.
A few days later MacKenzie breezes in. She is excited and tells me of all their adventures trying to help my case. I so wish I could have been with them: it sounds like so much fun! She tells me that they are looking for the Tulipstone – a book of sorts, that should hold clues that might help me (she forgets to tell me what sort of clues). They looked for it in the University Library, but she and Vincent got lost, and then they found some men looking at their own genitals in some sort of study group (this she tells me NOT to tell Callum – I am concerned this might count as another secret kept from the Society, and I wish I knew to what extent I’ll have to keep or tell secrets from now on). Apparently the Tulipstone has been lend to some Gentlemen’s club, so they go there.
The Gentlemen’s club is a place for gentlemen to read their papers and books in peace. No ladies allowed, but that never deterred MacKenzie none. She demands to know the whereabouts of the book, and apparently these clubmembers are very afraid of librarians, so they promptly come clean: the Tulipstone has been stolen from it’s locked showcase. The thief only left behind a white lily folded in paper. “It’s the renowned catburgler White Lily” MacKenzie explains exitedly “No body knows who he is, it’s very exciting!”. Then she goes on to tell me at great length about a hand-to-ball match they played with a scandian group. I don’t know why they stopped to play ball, but it seemed like a part of their grand plan. She explains the match in detail, and it sounds like great fun! Henry was goalkeeper for our team, and was a very poor one. But they made great friends with the Scandians, and that must be good. She hugs me and kisses my cheek on her way out, and I find myself a little short of breath. She tells stories so it feels like I was part of them. I only wish I would have heard a bit more about why they did what they did. I guess she just forgot in her excitement.
Vincent comes to visit also, and he answers quite a few ‘why’s. The Tulipstone is in fact a stone with information about the gods and titanesses. It is of Scandian origin, and should hold information about the gods and titans among other things. It was supposed to be in the University Library, but had been lend to the gentlemen’s club, that MacKenzie also talked about. Vincent told me mirthfully about the male genital selfstudy group, which he had found quite silly, but also very interesting. I wish I could have been there to collect empirical dato on sizes. I still only know one penis size and that is Vincent’s, which I have seen quite often. Well, Vincent told the same tale about the gentlemen’s club as MacKenzie did. The stone was stolen by White Lily, who apparently had climbed down the drainpipe to get to the showcase. Very niftly done!
Because the stone was originally Scandian they went to the Scandian part of town. Scandian are known not to mingle with others and were not very forthcoming, until my friends challenged them to a game of hand-to-ball, which is one of the Scandians favorite games. Hand-to-ball is mainly fighting with eachother over a ball. All in good fun. This did warm up the cold Scandians, and my friends were invited to share a meal with them. It was one of their holy days, so a wise woman came and performed a ritual, and was afterwards very willing to share information:
The Scandian gods are very similar to ours. Only the names are a little different. The Scandians divide their deities into two groups: Aisir and Vanir. The Aisir rules the summerhalf of the year, while the Vanir rules over the winterhalf. The leader of the Vanir is Gaia, a titaness. She apparently has many guises, and I failed to understand everything Vincent told me to that effect. But, most importantly: Gaia, a titaness, is the parent of Aphrodite amongst others and is recognised as a goddess rather than a titaness. And many other titanesses are now percieved as goddesses rather than titanesses. The titanesses have been accepted into our pantheon as goddesses of nature, of which Artemis is one. Artemis is fact the mother of nature spirits, such as nymphs, from the days before she was accepted as a goddess. I am therefore, in fact, a descendent of Artemis! My Artemis! Way down the line off course, but still! Artemis! Vincent finds it very funny. He kisses me on the forehead and tells me ‘So in stead of being some evil monster, you are actually divine! Just don’t expect me to start worshipping you, my divine highness” He winks at me, and I start laughing. I can barely contain this. I dance and laugh. “Artemis! Do you know that she is the one I have allways worshipped above all others?” Vincent laugh “Yes, I think you may have mentioned it a time or ten”. I spin, but then I stop “Can you prove this? Will it hold up in court?”. “We will need to dig deeper” Vincent says “But we’ll find find the proof” He lowers his voice “And you know what? Niall told me, that if the trial should turn against you, he will help me and MacKenzie get you out of here”. I nod “I know. He told me. Does he know about me being a possible descendant of Artemis?”. Vincent nods “He knows what I know”. I frown “You should think it would make him treat me nicer. I asked him to perform an Artemis ritual with me, and he did. He didn’t say anything about this, though”. Vincent shrugs “He always was a bit difficult, and not very prone to believe in the supernatural. Maybe he is jealous? Or maybe this frightens him a bit? Being in such close proximity to a descendent of his goddess?”. I shrug “I don’t know. He has always treated me like a something of a freak. I should hope that this would change things to the better. I truly hope so”. “I’ll talk to him” Vincent says “I think he is a bit upset about something else. You see, Cassie wrote him. He wouldn’t show us the letter, but I suspect she told him she just wanted to be friends. I think he was hoping for more. MacKenzie got a letter too, asking her to kiss both me and Niall on the cheek from her. After he had had a bit to drink, he seemed very down about he and I getting the same from her”. “See, this is the kind of thing I just don’t get about you people” I start laughing “YOU pure humans. It explains a lot, doesn’t it? When I am not purely human”. Vincent smiles and nods “It does. I get why Niall thinks that Cassie is lovely. I do too”. “So do I” I say “Poor Niall. I think she likes you and me better”. “She likes all of us the same, I think. But merely as friends. I don’t think she is interested in any more from any of us” he says. “What more?” I ask. “You know; sex and love even. Not the love you feel for friends, but romantic love”. I feel confused “I don’t get the difference. Love is love”. “To you it is” he says “You’ve never had to distinguish”. “I love both of you. I love sleeping with you and touching you. It makes me happy. This I understand. You love me and I love you. That is all I need to know” “Me too” Vincent says, and I smile broadly. I like we feel the same. “From you, that is” he says “I would like more from Cassie. I don’t think she is interested, but I can dream”. “You can also ask” I say “If you don’t ask you won’t know”. “Well” Vincent says “She’s not here presently, so it’ll have to wait anyhow”. “I just hope I still get to sleep with you” I say “It’s so cold and lonely in this cell. I asked Callum to sleep with me, but he refused. You should’ve seen his face when I asked!”. Vincent smiles funnily “Most couples prefer to sleep only with their partner. But rest assured: you will allways have a place in my life” We hug, a good, long and tight one.
“How are the tattoos holding up?” I ask “Is ‘he’ going crazy in here?”. “Bitching and moaning as per usual” Vincent says “I’m used to it”. “Vincent, we really have to get rid of him! I am afraid if he gets loose again. If my tattoos can’t hold him back…”. I shudder. Vincent nods “I am afraid too. If we loose your case, they will come for me next…”. “And Cassie…” I say with a low voice. We look at eachother. Vincent grabs my hand “We’ll work it out. I am sure we will win!”. “We have to make the Society realize that there are different kinds of magic. So we only fight the bad kind” I say. “Agreed” Vincent says “It’s only in fairytales that things are black and white”. “The demon is black” I say “You are not”. Vincent smiles croockedly “Me? I’m as white as snow” He winks at me. I giggle “Snow in the streets ain’t white” “See?” He says “Nothing is black or white. We will find someone who can help me ret rid of that demon. But for now we’ll concentrate on getting you out of here!” I nod, trying to look brave, and failing “Well, let’s check those tattoos, and make sure they are not damaged. Strip!”. “Yes, ma’am” Vincent says and takes off all of his clothes.
I am still checking him, when Callum peeks in. “Time’s up and… what are you doing?!”. I peek out from behind Vincent “Just checking tattoos”. Vincent is laughing while getting dressed, while Callum is mumbling with his back turned. Vincent gives me a big hug, and leaves.
Later Callum comes in with my dinner. As the door is open a mechanical spider enters with him, a roll of papers tied to it’s back. “Oh, Callum, look!” I exclaim “A mechanical spider! What fun!”. Callum jumps at the sight of it “What is that?” he asks. I pick up the spider and puts it on my bed. I untie the paper “Oh, look! A letter from Max! How nice of him”. I sit back and start reading, while Callum looks to be scowling a bit. I read it aloud to him, to make him feel better.
Max pretty much recounts what MacKenzie and Vincent have already told me, just with much greater detail: How he finally accepts the Society’s claim that I am not human, since I have now said so myself, and MacKenzie have confirmed it to him. He says that he was actually the one who theorized that the titanesses had in fact been accepted into our pantheon, which is what got that particular ball rolling. Clever of him! He writes about the trip to the University, the many, many books and the study group, which he had to physically remove Vincent from. He skips the part about the Tulipstone being lend out to the gentlemen’s club and having been stolen, but tells instead of the very interesting meating with the Scandians and their wise woman. They ate and drank very well at the feast following the hand-to-ball game. Max seems rather proud to have endured drinking their Brennvin, without loosing his senses completely. He says that the wise woman told them many things that will help them defending me – he does not say what, but as Vincent already have, that is alright.
I play with the mechanical spider which is really an inginious little creature. It can climb up the walls and carry things. I hope I get to keep it, and that Max won’t want it back. I really like it.
3. The Tulipstone
There is a fly in my cell. A contant buzzing that drives me up the wall. Buzz buzz buzz then nothing, and just as I think it might be gone; the buzzing again! Both Callum and I desperately chase it, but to no avail. We can’t open the window. We can’t reach it. Even when I climb onto Callum’s back, we can’t reach it. Just then there is a knock on the door. Callum opens it, and it is Niall. He looks a bit pale under his tan. He asks Callum to please leave. “I will go get a flyswatter” Callum says “And a broom or a ladder or something…”.
Niall sits down on my bed, while I stand. He is silent for a long while, so I just wait patiently. He makes several attempts to start talking, and finally begins: “I… I had a vision” he says. “Not just a dream, but a true vision. Our goddess appeared before me. She confirmed your lineage – you are in deed a descendant of hers..”. (At this point I may have squealed a little). “She told me… She told me to look after you, to help you. Not just during the trial, but generally”. Finally he looks at me. He does not seem particularly pleased with this task, but he does seem a bit daunted by the fact the our goddess has indeed visited him. I smile at him. “So…” he asks and stands up “If there is anything I can do for you, just let me know”. “You know” I say friendlylike “I could really use a hug”. He steps back a bit and looks uncomfortable. “I’ll go get Callum” he says and leaves. A few minutes later Callum returns with a flyswatter and a broom. “Niall said you wanted a hug?” he asks, and hugs me. I hug him back. I like hugs freely given the best.
The day of the trial approaches. I get to get out of the cell to discuss strategies with my friends, but only for a short while. Niall will defend me, with Henry as backup and factfeeder. Our approach will be to reveal the double standards of the Society: that they do in fact accept many kinds of magic in our fight against evil, and that magical abilities is not by definition evil, as they seem to claim. We have recieved the list of the prosecutors wittnesses. On it are: Callum, Mrs M, a theologist of some standard and the achivist, that took over the archives, when Henry left them for fieldduty. And Vincent. Henry and Niall are sure that they are calling Vincent in order to try and make him angry and say incriminating things about me and himself. He must do his best to keep calm. Henry tells us that the archivist is well versed in legends, myths and fairytales, but not as well versed as Henry himself. We will crossexamine the wittnesses and bring our own to boot: the xenozoologist with all the titles from the university – the one with knowledge of the Tulip stone, which we yet have to retrieve, and Mr. Hawk from the Society’s high counsil. He is the one who is against magic the most, and he has always scared me. He has a really mean glare.
Our strategy is clear, but there is one thing that must be done to prove our case: we must find the Tulipstone. Or my friends must. I cannot come. Fortunately I wait only a day and a half before Vincent and Henry comes for a visit at tells me their story of the capture of the renowned cat burgler White Lily.
As the newspapers has told us White Lily has struck several times, so they decided to find out what the police had on file. Apparently the Society has ties to the chief inspector of police, and though he couldn’t help them directly, he advised them to go to the police achives at Straithclyde Yard past lunch, as the policeofficer on afternoon duty is quite disgruntled and posibly willing to help if properly pursuaded. The boys dressed up for a visit to the Yard (unfortunately Mackenzie had fallen ill, and was home under Mrs. M’s care). They sought out the archives after lunch and found Constable Beatrice Glob in charge. The Constable was a rather stout, younger woman with a ponytail tied back so severely that she looked constantly surprised. They noticed that her uniform appeared to resently having been stripped of a star. She had obviously been demoted not so long ago. She did in fact not look very pleased with her position in life. Henry lounged into a longer explanation about how they were investigating some thefts for an insurance company, but she seemed very uninterested in helping, until he said the magic words: White Lily. That caught her attention. Vincent commented on her general attention which had been quite alert: neither Max nor Vincent managed to squeeze past her into the archives. But at the mention of White Lily, she became quite helpful. Apparently she had worked the cases herself, and her zealous endeavours to uncover the truth and catch the culprit had gotten her into a bit of trouble and had caused her present lack of a second star on her uniform. She made a condition to her help: that she would be involved in the capture of White Lily. Henry assured her that they were only interested in returning the Tulipstone to it’s rightful owners, and that she was welcome to the thief him- or herself.
After she had surplied my friends with the famous Bobby buns that policemen seem so fond of, a large pot of coffee and all the files on White Lily, they set to work. After much scrutiny there seemed to be only one common thing about all the cases: All the victims had resently used the services of Pierre’s Shave & Haircut Delivery Service – a barber that made housecalls. Contable Glob suggested that Max, as the one she deemed to look most stylish and gullible of the lot of my friends (!), got dressed up and sent to acquire Monsieur Pierre’s services. He would pretend to be a wealthy diamond dealer from Nanga, and be in possesion of a rare pink diamond: The Moon of Nanga. Max as his alter ego Max von Südow pretended that he was going to a ball tonight, and that he required to have his hair done beforehand. Monsieur Pierre was most willing. Niall’s apartment was used as rich diamond dealer home, while Max was having his hair done. Max made sure to talk about the Moon of Nanga, about his Francois Chasseur safe and about him being gone all night to a ball.
As soon as Max had left in a hired carriage, having ordered the driver to take him to the nearest ball, the others hid in the apartment: Niall hid in Mackenzie’s closet, Henry hid behind a lionskin hanging on the wall, while Vincent hid on top of a bookcase near the window. Constable Glob was patrolling the street in the meantime. Henry told me of his problems in the lionskin. Besides smelling a lot of lion, is was also stifling hot to hide in. It was claustrophobic and reminded him just a bit too much about his time in the ruined city in Nanga. Vincent discovered that he was sharing the top of the bookcase with a stuffed nangan porcupine – one of the big ones – which made it equally uncomfortable. They had the impression that Niall too had suffered in the wardrobe, but he refused to talk about it afterwards.
They seemed to wait forever! But just as they felt they could not stand waiting a second more, they heard a soft sound in the chimney, and moments later a small monkey climbed out of the chimney and proceeded to the window. It unlatched the window, and soon a dark figure entered the room, praising the monkey and giving it a treat. The thief was soon engulfed in trying to open the safe. Niall jumped out of the wardrobe and caught the monkey, while Henry left his hiding place and caught the thief. Vincent regretably was so stiff after having to curl op for so long next to a porcupine, that he more fell of the bookcase than jumped down. But the thief was caught. It was the barber. Constable Glob arrived just then to arrest him. But Henry said to White Lily that if he would deliver the Tulipstone to them, they would not press charges. The constable was about to protest, but Henry winked at her, and she went along with them to the barbers apartment. There he handed over the Tulipstone to Henry, and the constable immidiately arrested him for stealing (the proof was right there!) and for keeping a wild animal without proper papers. She took off with White Lily, while my friends rejoiced that they had the Tulipstone at last! The Tulipstone is a greenish sort of greasy stone, about the size of a ledger and the shape of a tulip. There is writing on it it in three different languages: Scandian, atlanthean and some unknown pictogram language. They delivered the Tulipstone to Richard Whatshisname, the professor of xenozoology, deistical studies and pantheon relations (our expert for the trial). He seemed very pleased. Meanwhile Niall turned over the monkey along with a significant amount of money to the zoo, so it could have a good life, preferably without further crime.
Then they started laughing, and told me of Max’s adventures, while they were catching the thief. When he had asked to go to the nearest ball, the driver had taken a good look at him, and taken him to The Annual Cricket Player Ball. Once again he had been taken for the famous cricket player. The new hairdo probably didn’t help, because he looked fabulous. Even though the actual cricket player was present, and even though Max adamently denied being him, he was still mistaken for him. Most ardently by a young woman who hogged his favours all night. Poor Max! Or lucky Max? I’m confused…
4. The trial
The courtroom is located in the cellar: a long, darkish room with dark wood, but lots of room. We need it. There are a lot of people here. 120 at least. I think everybody in the Society have shown up. Henry whispers to me that the decision about officially allowing magic for good use is imperical to many. All ten of the leaders of the Society sits on an elevated stage – they all look serene and some of them even menacing. Cassie’s parents are there. They nod at me discreetly, but nothing more. There is much at stake here. I know that if we loose this trial, anyone could be next. Vincent and Cassie foremost. It is not just me on trial, but everyone in the Society that are associated with magic – and there are many.
The prosecutor begins, and Callum comes first. He looks a little nervous, but answers in a steady, clear voice. Yes, he has examined me, and the conclusion must be that I am not completely human, but appear to have titan traits. He says my bones are silicon based rather than carbon based, and that my uterus is weirdly shaped. He is asked about the mission we were on in Nanga, and he says that the Apple of Strife affected me differently than that others, and that I survived a fall that ought to have killed me, but only left a hole in the ground.
Niall takes over. He asks Callum about his experience with titans, and Callum says he has examined many that were half or quarter titans. Is Grace half or a quarter titan, Niall asks, but Callum shakes his head, and says I am probably a lot less, since I don’t have any outward physical traits. Niall asks how the Apple affected me differently, and Callum answers that while the others seemed to grow contrite and aggressive, I did not. Niall says thank you and Callum is dismissed. He gives me a discreet thumbs up, as he passes me. I think it went well.
Then the prosecutor calls Mrs. M. She explains about the reports that caught her attention and made her suspicious that something was amiss. She discovered inconsistencies, but no outright lies. She looks formidable in the witness chair, and no one would dare to question her declarations. Except off course, Niall. He seems a bit aggressive, while he makes it clear that the reports held no evidence at all to the fact that I had done anything wrong. Then he goes too far: he asks her if she had spotted any direct lies, and when she begins to explain, he cuts her off and says “Just answer yes or no”. The cousil frowns and there are murmers among the audience. “I cannot answer that question with a yes or a no” she says sternly. Niall clenches his jaw, but Henry whispers “Let her answer or it will make us look bad”, so Niall asks her to answer in her own words. “I found many inconsistensies in my predecessor’s files” she says “Things that are left out or are unclear. But as we all know, my predecessor has been thrown out of the Society, and his ultimate motives are unkown to us. I did not, however, find that he held a hand over Grace Hunter or protected her in particular”. After that she is excused. While we got some good facts across, it made a bad impression to attack Mrs M, who is so widely respected in the Society.
1-1 so far.
The Archivist is called by the prosecutor. He testifies that there are many myths about lesser sprites and creatures that are evil. He tells stories about men being lured to their death by elf maids or small children stolen from their craddles by trolls (here I gasp with horror). It is clear that he talks only of stories that put nature sprites and the like in a bad light. Henry is scribling like crazy and shows what he’s written to Niall. When it is Niall’s turn he begins: “Is it not true that you are only the second best choice for your position, now that Henry Haggart here is appointed field duty?”. The man goes absolutely white, and begins to stutter. Then Niall pulls him apart. He makes him admit that there are just as many stories about nature sprites, where they help and even save people. Makes him admit that he has left out crucial parts of the stories he has already told – parts that paints a quite different picture. The man is in pieces when he is excused, and the counsil is whispering to eachother. I doubt the poor archivist has a job tomorrow.
Next on the stand is a theologist – the secretary for The Counsil of 12 no less – the highest authority on theology in the realm. He declares that all demicreatures are descendants of the titans and therefor evil. Niall tries to get a wedge in, but the secretary is very determined: there is no evidence that the gods should be descendants of titans. Yes, it alledgedly says so on the legendary Tulipstone, which probably doesn’t even exist. The Counsil of 12 would not accept any text not written in atlanthean anyway. It looks like a lost cause, but Niall has made a very pretty setup for when our theologist arrives with the Tulipstone.
Then it is Vincent… He looks pale, and I worry for him. He is fiddling with an amulet of sorts around his neck. Now I think of it, he has fiddled with the thing during the entire trial. They make him sit in a special chair with chains, and I rise to protest, but Niall puts a hand on my arm, and Vincent softly shakes his head at me. He agrees to be tied to the chair. The prosecutor tries to provoke him to anger. They establish that he does in fact have a demon inside of him, and that it has on one occasion gotten loose. Vincent stays calm throughout and I am very proud of him. Then the prosecutor says the unbelievable words: “We want to talk to the other one”. Every one are hushed. The other one? “We want to talk to the demon. I am sure he can tell a pretty story of your friend, Grace”. A cacophony of protests and cries of anger fills the courtroom. I too rise and yell “Are you insane? You cannot let the demon loose! It is crazy dangerous!”. Niall and Henry too have risen to protest loudly. The looks on the counsils faces are priceless. They deny the prosecutor the right to free the demon, and I think he realizes just as we have, what a spectacular mistake he has just made.
When the courtroom is calm again, Niall takes over. They establish that, yes, there is a demon inside Vincent, but the tattoos that I, Grace, make, keeps him trapped. The Society is aware of Vincent’s condition, but has approved of him under the premise that I, Grace, keeps it trapped. Yes, it did once get loose in Nanga, while under severe titan influence, but I, Grace, trapped it, before it could cause much damage. And it is established quite profoundly that the demon have never ever found strength in my company as it had when under titan influence in Nanga.
The score is presently: 3-2 to us.
The prosecution rests and we have a short break. Max is doing a terrific job weighing and affecting the mood amongst the spectators. They seem to be mostly on our side. They are not the ones who decide the outcome, off course, only the counsil does that, but it is good to have the room at my back.
Then Niall call our first witness: Richard Whatshisname (with the enormously long title). He explains his theory about how the titanesses were forgiven their titan blood and accepted as goddesses in our pantheon. He explains that Artemis is such a former titaness, and the spirits and sprites of nature are descendants of Artemis. When asked for proof of this theory, he names the Tulipstone, and we present it. Oh, what glorious reaction. The secretary of The Counsil of 12 looks crushed, and the prosecutor is so out of it that he doesn’t bother to cross-examine. A clear win!
Then we call Mr. Hawk. He glares at me, and I sink into my chair, until Henry urches me to sit straight. Niall goats him into declaring all his prejudices against nonhumans and magic. He thinks it should all be eradicated and utterly destroyed. The prosecutor is gloating. Then Niall nods and says quietly: “And what about the Oracle?”. Mr. Hawk is startled “The Oracle?”. Niall explains: “The Oracle is highly magic and clearly not human. Should the Oracle be detroyed?”. “Off course not” Mr. Hawk scuffs. “And what about Q department?” Niall continues. Everyone from Q department – wizards of all sizes and colors – start to move about uneasily. “Q department is essential to the Society’s good work against evil magic” Mr. Hawk says in a stern voice, while his eyes flicker a little. He knows where this must lead. “But Q department works with magic” Niall says “Are you saying there is a difference between good and bad magic?”. “Off course there is!” Mr. Hawk says, his face growing redder and redder. Murmers break out all around the room, including among the counsil members. “And how would you categories magic that can bind and hold a demon captured? Good or bad?”. Mr. Hawk glares even worse than ever, but does not answer. But he doesn’t have to. We know the answer, and we know what double moral is when we stare it in the face. Niall rests his case.
The prosecutor looks like a beaten man while making his closing statement: His arguments are vague and he presents no real evidence (because there is none). Presumptions and allegations, but nothing concrete.
Nialls statement is short and consise: The Society uses the aid of good magic to fight bad magic, and has done so since the beginning. The goddesses was once titanesses, but where forgiven and are now part of our established pantheon. If gods can forgive titan blood in their goddesses, how dare we do less for their offspring? He turns to return to his seat, while both Henry and I gestures wildly and mimes ‘Artemis! Remember the part about Artemis’. Niall turns back towards the counsil and proceeds: “Artemis is such a goddess, forgiven for her blood, and beloved and revered by us all. Sprites and spirits of nature are her offspring, nymphs in all their diversity too. We do in fact here”, he gestured towards me with a sweep of his arm “find ourselves in the presence of the offspring of Artemis herself”. The courtroom is completely silent. But not at all an uncomfortable silence. Niall nods to me and to the counsil “Thank you” he says, and sits.
The counsil retreats to vote, and surprisingly soon they return with their verdict. I stand with Henry and Niall, as the chairwoman declares: “Grace Hunter. In the matter of hiding your true nature, we find you guilty. On the matter of you having in any way cooporated with titans and evildoers, we find you innocent. On the matter of you being nonhuman, we find you guilty” and then she smiles, puts her hand on her heart and bows slightly towards me “And we pay you homage”. My jaw drop, while clamour of (mostly) joy explodes around me. She raises her hands to silence the crowd and continues “Let is be known, that this is now the stance of an almost agreed counsil: We use good magic to fight bad magic. Dixi!”. The crowd goes absolutely wild. Vincent hugs me and dances around with me. Henry exclaims “Yes! Finally!”. Q department is teary and laughing at the same time. Scores of people congratulate me. People I cannot recall having ever seen before hugs me and says how happy they are, until Vincent saves me and brings me to a quieter place. We celebrate the victory with our friends, and I am so very happy! Not just for me, but for Vincent and Cassie, and Henry, and Q department and everyone who’s lives depended on this verdict.
I feel very content. An ease has fallen over me. I know now what I am. I am an onead – a stone sprite, a descendent of Artemis herself. But I am also human. And I am as curious about being a human as I am of being an onead. One day I will find my parents, learn more about where exactly I came from. My nymph and human lineage both. But tonight I want to try something else.
It is late at night, and Vincent and I are undressing in his lodgings with Henry. “Vincent” I say “I have thought of something. I am curious, and I want to try sex”. He stops taking his shirt of and looks at me. “Ok…” he says and continues stripping “Are you sure?”. I nod “I gather that it is a big deal, and it is one of the human interactions I don’t quite get. I would like to know what it is all about, I guess. Will you help me?”. “Me?!” he says “Uhm, yes, I guess. Off course, I will!”. He smiles, and he shows me. It takes a lot longer than I expected and there is a lot more to it than just the thing they usually talk about. I like it. I like it very much. How lucky I am that Vincent is my friend.