Cassie is home! I watch her walking down the gangplank wrapped in heavy furs, and two sailors bend low with her luggage. She looks like a bear. I run to hug her – we all do – and we laugh and talk all at once. She has been in Valakia, where it is presumably very cold. She has ridden a dog sleigh and eaten strange food and met strange people. But best of all: she is home. She asks about our troubles and I explain all about the trial to her, and tell her that I am a descendant of Artemis, and she seems impressed by it. We do not stay harbourside long – Vincent spots Aidan the Irish. We tell Cassie all about him and Lady Sybil and all that. We hurry in carriage to The Golden Swan to eat and catch up. Cassie has brough gifts: MacKenzie and I both get a furry coat a bit like her own. Now we look like a bears as well. The fur is soft and the coat is warm and nice.
Bobby from Q-department approaches us, and want us to come see them, as they have found something of interest. Q have moved into the basement of The Golden Swan, so we just head down the stairs. They have located someone, who might help us exorcise Vincent’s demon! Kendric Humpfrey, who was former a theologist working for The Counsil of 12, have worked with exorcisms before the 12 stopped the practice. According to the 12 demons don’t exist and thus exorcisms are superfluous. Nitwits. Well, we need an exocism done, and apparently Kendric Humpfrey in Brumbleby in Brumbelyshire is the man to do it. Henry is very exited about going. Partly because he has heard good things about Humpfrey, partly because Brumbleby boasts of exellent troutfishing.
To throw Lady Sibyl and others off our scent, we lay out false trails, before we go to Brumbleby. MacKenzie and Cassie go shopping, and talk – loudly – along the way about what to bring to a journey to the colonies in the east. We buy tickets to a ship that leaves for the colonies, and we board it with much ado. But when the pilot boat is about to leave, we leave with it. The Captain is not happy about these irregularities, but there is really no way to force us to stay on board.
We return to the railwaystation. The platforms are very full, and we disappear in the crowd of soldiers, families, schoolchildren, labourers and what have we. We get a compartment to ourselves and are quite comfortable on the ride. I like looking out the windows and see all that we pass on our way (all that we can see through the coal dust), and MacKenzie buys us all tea with the works. You should think that many, many hours of trainriding would be dull, but I like it. It is much better than sailing that’s for sure! Just before nightfall we reach our first destination, and we spend the night in the Post Hotel.
The next morning we move on by postal coach. It is not very comfortable, even though they boast of having the best springs in their carriages. It is still quite a bumpy ride. The coach makes a lurge, when the horses startle, when a deer crosses the road in front of us. The deer is the symbol of Artemis and I feel like she smiles upon me, wishing me a pleasent journey. Such musings are put to a violent stop, when a hunting party with dogs come upon us. They ask us about the deer, and I argue with them about the unsportly use of dogs in a hunt. To gain true audience with the Goddess, one must hunt on ones own. Not by using dogs! Deer meet a sorry end, if they get torn and mauled by dogs. I assure them, that Artemis will not be pleased, but they seem indifferent. Cassie tries to explain to me that there are many ways to hunt, and that not all do it to please Artemis. I am horrified. Such barbarians! I tell them in no uncertain terms what my kinswoman, Artemis, thinks of their sorry arses! At that point my friends escort me back to the postal coach. The others try to smooth it over with the hunters, who continue on their despicable hunt. I hope they will never catch anything again!
Brumbleby is quite a small village. I could have driven through it, and not notice it. But we stop, and a sign at the inn says ‘Brumbleby Arms’, so this must be it. Next to the inn there is a temple, a marketsquare and a handfull of small houses. I cannot understand a single word the innkeepers says. Well, I do understand single words, but the context eludes me completely. I can understand every accent and dialect in the city, but these rural accents are really strange. The rooms are assigned to us, and I get a lovely little room with a view of cows. Henry gets a room overlooking the creek, and within the hour he is fishing from the window. He doesn’t catch anything, but he says that is not the point. I am confused.
We eat a lovely dinner in the inn, and soon after Kendric Humpfrey arrives for his evening ale. He is an older gentleman, very pleasant and forthcoming. He is quite willing to help us with our problem. We agree to meet the day after in the temple. Mr. Humpfrey is friends with one of the priests there, and we are given access for a private session in the temple.
The temple is pantheon – all deities are worshipped here. The murals are quantaty rather than quality, but that has a charm of it’s own. Mr. Humpfrey begins a ritual to identify the demon in Vincent. It takes hours, but his findings are clear: the demon is focused on pleasure. To drive it out we need the embodiment of Aphrodite, preferably a certain statue in the temple of Aphodite in the City – the one of passionate lovemaking. Aphrodite’s temple is not a place where exorcisms have ever been custom, and it will not be easy to gain access to the statue or help from the priestesses. Mr. Humpfrey will help us with the exorcism, it we can get our hands on the statue, and we agree to meet in the City in 10 days.
Planning to steal a statue from a temple is no easy task. Also we have long discussions about whether we want wittnesses to the exorcism or not. Henry really wants to prove to the public that demons does in deed exist. I sort of agree with him. I don’t want the public as such to know it (people will panic, and I hate when people panic. The noise!). But I would very much like the religious world to know it. That way people who get obsessed can get help, in stead of just being locked up as insane. Also I would not have to kill them, merely escort them to the nearest exorcist. The others are more sceptical about it all. We do not want a lot of wittnesses, and we do not want the kind that could get us into trouble. We want reliable wittnesses, who can speak in favor of us to the authorities. I suggest Helena – my coach from the Artemis temple, and maybe her friend Hercules from the Ares temple. I would also like Cassies father to be there.
Vincent stake out the temple to find out exactly where the statue is and how to get to it, and find out this: It is kept in a discreet alcove, reserved for ‘special worshipping’. The entire temple is guarded around the clock, but it is possible for outsiders to reserve the alcoves. There is a window of stained glass in the alcove. It can be opened, but is not big enough for the whole statue. Fortunately the statue is a sort of puzzle: it consists of two parts – the man and the woman – and can be pried apart if you know how. In pieces it can fit through the window. The statue itself is very old, and said to originate in Atlanthea. Humpfrey told us of it’s powerfully magical potency. The priests and priestesses in the temple seems oblivious to it’s powers.
We reserve the alcove for Brom Warner (the famous cricket player that Max is frequently mistaken for) for the night after Humpfrey comes to the City, and hire to pleasure workers (friends of Henry’s I gather – or at least he knows their mother, I think it was). We borrow the trained monkey White Lily worked with, and smuggle it into the temple. MacKenzie and I borrow an excavator from a building site. With it we can reach the window from the outside, and can transport the statue to our designated exorcism place. So far everything has gone well: the monkey opened the window, and MacKenzie works the excavators grab and lifts me to the window. Vincent managed to seperate the two half of the statue (with a little whispered help from me. Max and the two pleasure workers make a lot of noice to cover up the noice we make. At some point the guards peek in, but Henry, Cassie and Vincent turn them away, and says that Brom Warner wants his privacy protected. After they leave we manage to get the two halves of the statue through the window, and I sit in the grab with one arm around a passionate man and the other around a passionate woman. I can feel the magic tingle in my entire body. The statue is truly powerful stuff! Henry, Vincent and Cassie follow through the window, while Max stays behind to make noices with the two pleasure workers. Poor him! He will miss out on all the fun!
Kendric Humpfrey have prepared the room for us, when we arrive. Thick candles are placed stratigically, and he has already made many of the wards on the floor with fine salt. He asks us to help him finish up, so we do. Vincent undressees and goes to lie in the middle of the pentagram, as Mr. Humpfrey directs him. Mr. Humpfrey blindfolds him, and says it is so Vincent will not be distracted during the exocism. Henry starts lighting the many candles. A sweet and heavy scent fills the room. I pick up a bag of salt to continue with the ward signs. My head starts spinning. I blink. Ward sign making is precision work, and I am not being precise. I blink again, feeling dizzy. I hear a thump and look over at Henry who has fallen and do not get back up again. Something in my head cries a warning, but I cannot move. I too fall to the ground. I have passed out before I hit the floor. What?
I wake to the sound of metal against metal. I lie on a hard, cold floor that is none too clean. I hear snoring and female screeching and a deep base voice calling profanities. I get up, dragging myself up the bars. The bars? I am in a jail cell! My friends lie sleeping on bunkbeds and the floor in the same cell as me: MacKenzie, Cassie, Henry and Niall, who has a nasty bump on the head. Vincent calls my name from a different cell. He has a blanket around his naked body, and he looks cold. The metal on metal is the jailkeeper’s baton on the bars, the snoring is from a bunch of raggedy people in the next cell, and the female screeching from 3 pleasure workers across the aisle. How did we end up here? I call out to the jailkeeper that there must have been some mistake, and to let us out. Does he not know who I am?! He merely guffaws at me and hits the bars right next to my face. I retreat into the cell. Clearly he does NOT know who I am. When he leaves, Vincent says that Mr. Humpfrey has betrayed us. Blindfolded he had heard us fall one by one, but not knowing if this was intentional or not. He had then heard Niall enter the place and ask what was going on, and heard a bump and him falling too. At that moment he sat up and removed the blindfold, just in time to see the police flooding into the room from one end, and Humpfrey leaving with the male part of the statue at the other. He had spent all night explaining to the police that we had been lured to perform a ritual and that we had been set up. He did not say that we stole the statue, and he had said that we did not know each other. Oh, I do hope they do not question me! I never can keep such stories straight! Fortunately they talk to Cassie first. She assures them that we are all innocent, and she thanks them for their timely arrival and for having saved us and flatters their professional handling of the matter. Boy, she sure is good at lying! And after that they just release us. They even give Vincent his clothes back.
Now, how do we find Mr. Humpfrey? We have to find him! Not just because he needs to be yelled at quite a bit, but also because we still need to go through with the ritual, and we really need to get the statue back to the temple. Max can only keep the charade going for so long! Oh dear! Max! I wonder what happened to him? I hope he got away and none the worse for it.
We go back to the scene of the crime (Mr. Humpfrey’s crime of cheating us, not our scene of crime of stealing the statue). We seach every nook and cranny of the place and ask the neigbours if they had seen anything. We find these clues: a reciept for candles from Hekate’s Heavenly House, and an empty bag of götaland salt (the stuff we used for the wards). The neighbours had seen a derelict carriage with some rather old horses outside the place. The carriage had a sign saying ‘Mrs. Bloat & Sons’ Rent-a-wreck’ on the side. Cassie says that statues of that size do not just disappear – custom services must know if a statue have left the city last night. Henry thinks that old colleagues that know Mr. Humpfrey might know something that might help, while Vincent will ask around in the underground community. We have plenty of things to check out, so we split up into groups and meet up several times during the day.
Cassie and MacKenzie goes to the custom office. Though the custom officers are less then helpfull, they do discover that three statues have left the city tonight – one heading for Lydia, one for Götaland and one for Andalus.
Niall comes with me to the apothecary that sells Götaland salt. It is more than a apothecary, though: you can get all sorts of things here. Some of it is magic, and some of it is just herbs and honey and stuff. The back room has the more interesting stuff, but the apothecary is not very willing to talk of his clients. Not until I offer him a vial of divine blood (mine) does he warm up to us. He is indeed the only importer of this particular type of salt, but has not sold large quantities of it lately (or ever). Mr. Humpfrey must have imported it directly from Götaland.
Vincent and Mackenzie speak to the street urchins and discover that just as the police arrived on one side of the building we were in, a man fitting Mr. Humpfreys description used the excavator to lift the one half of the statue into the rent-a-wreck carriage. He was aided by an elderly sailor type with braided beard and a funny accent. They were away before the police checked the back side of the building.
Then Henry and I go to Hekate’s Heavenly House to ask about the candles that definately were not regular candles. The proprietor, a rather ditzy and flamboyant middleaged woman see us for what we are, and hence treats us with great respect. She tells us that she sold 12 Kaku-candles (normally used for Morpheus rituals that put the participants to sleep…) to a certain Brian Wolfe, who is an undersecretary in the Counsil of 12. I buy a candle that I bring as an offering to the Artemis temple.
Niall and Vincent find the Rent-a-wreck business run by Mrs Bloat and her numerous sons. While the lady herself is not very forthcoming, her youngest son, who had driven the carriage we sought, is very friendly and informative. He tells them that he drove the carriage to the trainstation, and saw it loaded onto a train bound for Straithclyde. Mr. Humpfrey and his companion, which the young man thought sounded like a Götalander, accompanied the statue.
Finally Henry and Cassie looked up old friends of both Henry and Mr. Humpfrey: an old priest of Kaku (the trickster god). He told them that Mr. Humpfrey is actually an initiated Kaku-priest! AND he has connections to other Kaku priests all over the continent!
In the Golden Swan we put all these informations together. Everything point towards that Mr. Humpfrey is heading to Götaland via Straithclyde. Kaku is known as Loki in Götaland and is a very important figure in the Götaland pantheon. But why he only took the one half of the statue is still a mystery.
The trainride to Straithclyde is long and tedious. Mostly because of a tiny dog with a big ego travelling with a society lady. It keeps yapping and growling (in a high pitched way) at everybody. But when the lady falls asleep, the elderly colonel, who hasn’t spoken a word all day, picks up the dog and leaves the compartment. He returns shortly after sans dog, and seems very pleased with himself. I am also pleased with him. Small yapping dogs are the worst travelling companions! Also in our compartment are a pair of young lovers running off to get married, 3 brothers going to collect an inheritance which size they know nothing about, the beforementioned colonel, and a bretonian family of four doing the tourist tour of Straithclyde. They do so in mock clan colors of all shades and mostly look like a cartoon drawing of all the prejudice one can accumulate about the straithclydian. MacKenzie looks like she would very much tell them of everything they do wrong, while Niall ignores them completely.
Finally we reach the harbour of Buckie in the northern Straithclyde. We speak with the custom officer, who tells us that people and baggage similar to Mr. Humpfrey, his companion and the statue did in deed board a ship yesterday heading for Götaland. Another ship is ready to sail on the tide today to the same destination. We have a few hours in Buckie, and Vincent and I spend it on a rocky beach finding strange and lovely stones which I fill my pockets with. When we return, Niall takes one look at my pockets, leaves and come back with a carpetbag to keep them in. Much easier! And much better for the seams in my pockets.
We share a couple of very small cabins on board the ship with a tiny round window that barely fits my face. The food however is exellent! All sorts of fish and seaweed and shellfish and stuff. The Götaland people have a very nice cuisine, I must say! Götaland itself is very lovely – rocks everywhere! The people are tall and blonde with ruddy skin. Most of them speak bretonian, but in a funny singsongy way. We find out very quickly that they have many rules about everything. A custom officer, Kalle is his name, is so concerned that we might break rules while we are here, that he comes with us. Very handy with a local guide, to show us around and make sure we don’t get into trouble! The salt dealer is closed until noon, so we see the local sights. Kalle shows us the local temple. It is completely made of wood! It is dark and beautiful and smells funny. It is beautifully decorated with woodcarvings of all their gods. Their gods are very similar to ours, but have different names. Henry tells us many things about their nature spirits, which I find fascinating.
With a few hours still to spare, we go hunting in the local birch forest. At a calm and peaceful lake in the forest we see a magnificent creature – Kalle calls it a mousse, which is strange. It looks a bit like a deer, but with an enormous nose and antlers that are crazy big. Niall loads his rifle and aims at the animal, but it just stands there completely still and munches on some grass. Niall lowers his rifle, looks at the mousse with a frown, brings his rifle back up to aim, but then shakes his head. There is no sport in killing an animal that just stands there… I try a different approach: I will sneak up on it! Silently I move through the grass – it does not see me or hear me. When it is only a few feet away I run at it and jump onto it’s back, and smack it over the head with my baton! Nothing happens. Well, it stops munching for a second and then starts munching again. I smack it a few more times, but it merely shakes it’s head as if I am an annoying fly. After a particularly hard smack it walks into the lake in a sedate manner. When the water reaches it’s flanks I feel forced to jump off. I jump very elegantly, but unfortunately am too far from the shore, so I plump into the water. I sink. It is a curious sensation. I sink like a, well like a rock. Someone jumps into the water next to me, and moments later Niall drags me onto the shore. I splutter and spit out water. That was a lesson learned: Grace – you cannot swim! My dunk into the lake is not a complete disaster, though: I find numerous crayfish in my pockets afterwards and they make a nice supplement to lunch.
The salt makers office is now open and we find out that not only have they exported a large amount of salt to Mr. Humpfrey in Bretonia, they have also just delivered a fair amount to the Kaku temple right here in town. We hurry over there. The temple is situation on and in a small mountain. There are many stairs up, and many of them are trick stairs that wobble or spin or tip when stepped on. It is great fun! What a marvolous stair case! At the end of the stairs there is an opening into a cave full of stalagmites and stalagtites. The light in here is amazing. At the backwall of the cave a huge stone figure is carved into the rock as if he was chained to it. A liquid gently drips on it, but is collected in a bowl held by a priest before it hits the forehead. The cave is full of tunnelopenings leading further into the mountain.
Another priest approaches us, and we ask him if Mr. Humpfrey is here. He says that he is not, but he obviously lies. He blinks furiously and a tick by his left eye jumps like crazy. Every question we ask him he answers with more lies, but he does so so poorly that the truth is easily discovered: Mr. Humpfrey is in deed here, and is down a particular tunnel to a secret room of worship. We follow the tunnel and it ends up in a cave below us. And here in deed is Mr. Kendric and the statue! With him is a woman and three additional priests wearing masks. He watches while a man saws the erect penis off the Aphrodite statue. MacKenzie cries out: ‘Hey!’ to stop him, and I run down the cliff side with Vincent on my tail, while the others take the less direct, but much safer route down the stairs into the cave. The priests try to hold us back, while the man with the saw removes the statue’s penis, and Mr. Humpfrey thrusts his arm into the cavity that is left. Everything seems to freeze as he pulls out a handmirror from the inside of the statue. It feels overwhelmingly magical!
And not only magical – divine! It is the closest to the Apple of Strife that I have ever felt. I say so to Henry. “I bet that it is the Mirror of Aphrodite” he says, and quickly reprises the story: Kaku/Loki wanted to spy on Aphrodite, and convinced her husband, the smith god Hephaistos, to make a mirror that would allow one to spy on the goddess once she had looked in it. Kaku convinced Hefaistos that Aphrodite had many lovers (which she did) and that the mirror would enable Hefaistos to catch her in the act. Kaku, off course, merely wanted to watch her. But unbeknownst to Kaku and Hefaistos, Ares – the god of war and one of Aphrodite’s lovers – overheard them, and he warned Aphrodite about the plot. So when the mirror was handed to her, she never looked in it, but hid it immidiately on the human plane: apparently inside the statue of Passionate Love. This was the mirror Humpfrey now held in his hand.
“You betrayed us!” Vincent growls in a low voice. “You have to help us get the demon out of Vincent”, Henry says. Humpfrey shakes his head. “It cannot be done” he says “I cannot remove a demon, only gods can do that. Please don’t stop us. This ritual is already underway. Kaku has been called. I only mean to trade the mirror to Kaku in return for fertility. Please! We so wish to have children”. He gestured to the woman, who stands in a circle of salt, surrounded by magical wards. But strange wards! They are askew somehow, almost as if the one made them was clumsy, but they are consistent in their askewness, as if it was done on purpose. The woman looks at us, anxious and pleading. Henry shakes his head and approaches the woman. “A child begot with the aid of Kaku will mirror the god of chaos and be chaotic in nature” he says to her “You won’t know what terrible risk you take”. “Yeah”, I add “It might have tentacles or three eyes or be green or something”. The woman shriek and run out of the circle, scattering the salt on her way out. Humpfrey and Henry both gasp: the circle is broken and Kaku is on the way! Henry and I hurry to the circle repairing the wards. Henry suddenly screams and is tossed back from the circle, lying lifeless on the floor. MacKenzie revives him, while Vincent help me with the salt. Vincent then takes the mirror from Humpfrey and places himself in the center of the circle. “Do you really think that will be a good idea?” Henry says urgently “Kaku…”. Vincent takes a deep breath “Kaku is a god, so Kaku can remove the demon. We have no choice. The god is coming!”. And in deed the god is coming. The walls seem to vibrate and there is a clear sense of someone moving closer. The candles flicker and all the shadows seem to gather into one.
Kaku is here. I stand in his presense, as close to Vincent as I can, but outside the circle. I feel mighty and strong. I can hear Kaku’s voice speaking to Vincent. He speaks with a soft voice, a low whisper that somehow fills the universe. My ears seem to vibrate too. Kaku’s voice both soothes me and scares me. His presense is mercury. Kaku and Vincent negociates. Vincent makes Kaku promise that Humpfrey and his wife will have children, and then asks to have the demon removed. But Kaku says he cannot (will not?) remove a demon that Vincent has willingly made a deal with. But he can make the demon ‘more or less’ contained within Vincent, in a way so that it cannot harm him. Vincent agrees to this. What just happened? Vincent agrees?! The demon will not be removed, then, but held inside Vincent at the god’s command. I don’t know how to feel about this.
Kaku disappears and it feels for a second as if all the air left the room with him. Vincent stands frozen for a second and then falls screaming to the ground writhing in pain. I run to him, scattering the salt to all sides. I try to lift him up, and MacKenzie comes to my aid. We carry him out of the cave and out of the temple. Vincent finally passes out from the pain.
We acquire rooms at the Lönnatorpa Hotel, so Vincent can rest. Once he has rested a bit, we sit on their terrasse eating götaland cakes and drinking a lovely local apple cider. I have tried to explain the deal to the others, while Vincent was unconscious, but as I didn’t really understand why Vincent would accept the deal, Vincent will have to explain for himself. Henry thinks we will have to lock Vincent up: A demon ‘more or less’ contained is dangerous. I argue that the demon was allways more or less contained by my wards, so nothing is much different than before, except that I am sure that godmade wards will be much more powerful than mine ever was. I cannot agree to lock Vincent up. I know he would rather die! Vincent himself tells us, that he cannot hear the demon anymore without actively wanting too. It used to whisper to him all the time, but now it is contained so well that he cannot hear it at all. “But if you die”, Henry says with force to Vincent, “The demon will be loose!”. “That was allways a risk” Vincent says “But the demon can only enter someone who will let it. I made a deal with the demon back then, because I was dying. Otherwise I would never have let it in”. Henry is still sceptic “A loose demon is always dangerous!” he says. “Are you afraid you won’t be able to say ‘no’ to it?” Vincent asks pointedly. Henry stares at him with a strange look. He is. I can tell. “I think we should agree that you will not die!” I cry, and Vincent smiles at me. “I am in favour of that” he says and pours more of the lovely cider into my glass. The conversation lightens after that, and when Vincent escort me to our room, my legs are wobbly and I have fits of the giggles. We sleep soundly. And not once in the night do we wake because of nightmares. The demon is truly contained.
Before we leave for home we convince Humpfrey to release the statue of the Passionate man (and his penis) to us. We wrap it up for transportation and bring it with us when we leave. MacKenzie stays in Götaland. She as eyed business possibilites (the magical salt, the cider and other interesting local produces), and will stay to see is she can get some export venture going before coming home.
The journey home is rather uneventful. We meet the vacationing family again, and tell them about the wonders of Götaland. They are very exited and seem anxious to go themselves on their next vacation.
Once back in London we try to figure out how to return the statue. The temple of Aphrodite is heavily guarded, and the priestesses are all very upset. Apparently the goddess is giving everybody the silent treatment. We end up just leaving the statue on the stairs up to the temple in the dark of night, and scatter in all directions as guards stream out of the temple to investigate. I will never steal from a temple again!