An hour after sundown the party is texted. They are to meet Ignatio at Amada, a topless restaurant near Market Street. The bar is owned by one of Ignatio’s ghouls. He seems more relaxed here that he has ever seemed in front of the group. Perhaps it’s because he’s in his element. They meet in a private room off the main restaurant. Rich tango music is playing in the background. Ignatio offers appetizers glasses of fine pedigree.
“No… umm… no boobies?” Olivetti asks meekly.
“Evidently not,” Ignatio dryly replies as Tyler quietly pockets his pimp roll, “present company excepted, of course. Perhaps my text was garbled in transmission; the vagaries of modern technology and all that. Welcome to my tapas restaurant.”
“Now, to business. You completed your last task, but not without stirring a few bats. I’ve sent Rowana out to clean up the mess with the werewolves. In the meantime, we want you to seek out Ms. Kadei. She’s the fae girl-queen of the Philadelphia subways. We’d like to procure the subways for ourselves. Rumor has it that she’s getting bored with her reign. Seek her out and deliver the message that we are interested. You are acting as liaisons for the Prince. Find out her price. There’s no one place you’ll be able to find her. You’ll have to start by searching the subway tunnels. Edee will provide you the what intelligence is available.”
The coterie take the Bentley to Edee’s, and Deep Throat shares what he knows of the Winter Court which Kadei presides over, “likely explaining why they have claimed the subway – what other environment could offer the Winter Court as much human sorrow to feast upon?”
At Edee’s place, the coterie inquires as to whether she can describe Ms. Kadei. Edee cannot, but she describes Ms. Kadei’s underdog, Kenny Sixes and gives them a photo of him. She also is able to provide a map of the subway system with Kadei’s known movements outlined into a rough sort of ‘territory’ for the fae, and tells the group to look for Sixes in that region. “Well, it’s not quite the whole subway system – thanks doll!” Grant says with a wink. Deep Throat shudders at the thought of conversation, much less intimacy with Edee. Stabbing a random finger onto the map to select their first subway stop to investigate, the coterie goes in search of Ms. Kadei.
At the first station near Chinatown, Grant sidles up to a wizened old man coaxing something plaintive from his koto. “So…” he says, throwing a bill into the man’s hat, “seen anything… unusual around here?” The man nodded gravely, “yes.”
Meanwhile, Tyler and Olivetti are startled to find a mage hanging in the crowd waiting to board the subway. Curiosity fighting against their survival instincts, they debate whether or not to approach him.
“So, what have you seen?” Grant asks the old man, who gives him a searching glare before turning back to his koto. “Ah, I see how this game goes,” Grant says, throwing in a couple more bills, “what have you seen, friend?” “Yes, yes,” the old man says with a smile. Finally cottoning onto the fact that the old subway musician doesn’t speak English, Grant looks around in frustration, just in time to see Tyler and Olivetti board the subway. “Nice talking to you, friend, it’s hard to find a good listener these days,” Grant says, throwing a few last bills into the koto player’s hat as he hops up and joins Deep Throat on the train.
Don’t Spook the Mage – He’ll Go Goetz on You!
Once aboard, Tyler explains what they’ve found, and the coterie begin to sidle up to the mage. The mage notices four kindred sidling up on him first, and quickly moves to the forward car. The coterie repeats the dance in the next car over, and as the doors open at the next stop and the mage hurries away on the platform, they decide to let him go.
Besides, Grant has found something else to interest him. Two sweet bits of jailbait at the end of the car are giggling and making goo-goo eyes at Grant, who scans over their black on black goth attire and gives them a slight nod.
“You’re vampires, right?” giggler number 1 asks, giving everyone a nasty turn and making them look around for masquerade breaches. “Oh, we know all about vampires, we hang out with them all the time,” giggles number 2 adds. Grant dials up the charm a bit and explores their knowledge of vampires. Tyler cross-examines and Deep Throat asks if they’ve seen Kenny Sixes, holding up his photo.
“Oh yeah, he’s around sometimes… on the subways…” the girls say vaguely. As the train is approaching the next stop, Grant and Tyler take their phone numbers to turn over to Meir for further investigation later (“someone’s been careless!”). The train stops, the coterie exits, and Grant leaves his fan club swooning and giggling as the train powers off into the dark.
Investigating the platform, the coterie notices glimmers of light and what looks to be a cardboard town down an unused tunnel. Heading into the dark, those who can dial up their vision and notice a homeless man rooting through garbage, a woman muttering herself and petting a “doll” that turns out to be a dead rat, and a child further in darting among the piles of rubbish.
The coterie approaches the old woman, whose name turns out to be Sally and who is mad as a hatter. In response to Tyler’s questions, she coyly offers her dolly for him to give a kiss to, but Tyler demurs despite the majority vote of the coterie. Under Olivetti’s command, she rallies herself for a few cogent answers, but while they suffice to show that Sally knows Kenny Sixes, she cannot provide anything more. Of the boy playing hide and seek among the trash, Sally says, “the tunnels are his; he owns them!” and then drifts back into disjointed ramblings suggesting that ostrich eggs are poisonous, the benefits of peat moss as a dinner companion, and how to find lottery numbers in the dreams of your beloved.
The old man is similarly useless, though far more mentally present. The coterie decides to talk to the boy, who stands about three feet tall with wiry black hair and empty black eyes – he is apparently blind. He somehow senses the coterie coming, however, and dances away. He is soon leading them on a merry chase down the tunnels.
The coterie follows him down the tunnels, into access passageways, and into a large room bearing a strong resemblance to a dusty, broken-down Grand Central Station, with stairs leading up and arched passages leading away. The boy dances up the stairs, and the coterie follows, led by Tyler who sees by Auspex vision. He races up a second flight, and the coterie follows. He dashes up a third flight, and the coterie follows. He ducks down some stairs, and the coterie follows. And so on, until Grant thinks to check his watch and discover they have been chasing this blind will-o-the-wisp through this Escher of a room for the last three hours!
Deep Throat Bares All
Aghast, the coterie gives up the chase and retraces their steps back to the main tunnel. Before they have a chance to plan what to do next, a shower of sparks in the distant dark draws their attention. The sparks come at one moment from the rails, then the walls or ceiling, appears to be sparking all around the tunnel, and clearly drawing closer. Finally, a number of strange birds come into view, crushing rock as they go with the axes that serve as their heads.
“Secrets!” the birds screeched, the scraping and crashing of their axe/heads ringing through the tunnel, “give us secrets or we crush you like rock!”
Deep Throat negotiates passage to Ms. Kadei in exchange for his secret, and the birds readily agree to guide the coterie. With a Deep Breath, Deep Throat reveals his secret, which spans universes and realities in its shame. The birds cackle delightedly, and the members of the coterie try their best to hide their shock and suppress their giggles. Telling and retelling Deep Throat’s secret among themselves, they faithfully guide the coterie into the Winter Court, where a party seems to already be in full swing.
Fetch the Fetch
Ms. Kadei greets them merrily, teasing the coterie as if she and her court were already in on the punchline, to gales of laughter from the crowd. Deep Throat explains they are emissaries for the Prince, and asks what she would like in exchange for her subway domain.
“Your Prince is well informed! I do weary of these same dark halls. Almost any new home would be pleasant, so long as there is misery aplenty to revel in! Perhaps… the red light district!” she proclaimed with an airy waive as the crowd erupted in cheers and laughter.
“We cannot make any promises, but are happy to convey…” Deep Throat began.
“Oh, but wait! I am far from convinced I want to be working with you. What shall I do?” Kadei said with a bemused expression. The Winter Court took the hint and started shouting “a test! a test!”
“All right,” she said, hushing the crowd, “the things I do to make you happy. There is this small wrinkle I haven’t smoothed yet. Smooth it for me, and we can talk.”
“Cut to the chase, already, lady,” Tyler growled, “what do you want?”
“There is a fetch named Bobby Slim roaming loose and causing problems for the fey. You’re familiar with the fetch? Soulless doppelgangers we create from inanimate stuffs to stand in for the desired person. Bobby Slim has run amok and he’s become the wrinkle I would like you to smooth.”
“Smooth…” Olivetti said tentatively.
“Ah, you’re a little slow to catch on, aren’t you? Let me catch you up quick. ‘Dead.’ I would like Bobby Slim returned to the dust from which we created him. Goodness,” Kadei said with a twinkle, “I’d say that tie must be restricting the flow of blood to your brain, but, really, you’re kindred – so, what flow? You’ll need a new excuse, son. But don’t worry – he really is quite evil. He has been killing the living right and left. When a fetch goes bad, he goes very bad. You would be doing both our races a service by smoothing him.”
Deep Throat hastened to accept Ms. Kadei’s commission without much further discussion.
“Here’s a picture, quite lifelike, lovingly drawn by my own court jester here. You’ll find Bobby Slim in the Goblin Market, where you are sure to be welcomed so long as you’re willing to sell!” Here the court again burst into peals of laughter at some inside joke. “My jester will guide you there. Meet him on the platform; wear bright blue spandex and yellow sneakers, and bring thirteen black roses or, frankly, I do not know how he can hope to recognize you!”
“Now,” Kadei said, “business concluded! Won’t you stay and join us for the party?”
“The DMV’s Pretty Depressing, Too.”
Olivetti and Deep Throat beg out, concerned about the late hour and being caught by the coming dawn. But Tyler and Grant decide to gather their strength and stay awake through the day and learn what more they could from the fey. The coterie parts ways, promising to meet the next night, each vehement that he would not be the one in the clownish dress.
On their drive home, Olivetti and Deep Throat try to anticipate the Prince’s bargaining posture – would the red light district be on the table? Perhaps just a particularly dreary house or two? What other domains might offer comparable misery to attract the fey?
Olivetti also expresses his unwillingness to be part of a cold-blooded murder. “I mean, if he’s all that evil and attacks us, no problem. But to just kill him… I don’t think I can be a part of that.”
“You really have an issue here, Olivetti,” Deep Throat said. “What happened to you that’s got you all twisted up on the whole killing kine thing? We kill all the time. It’s our nature, unfortunately.”
Olivetti thought for a minute, driving as Deep Throat waits for his answer. “I really should tell someone. I should tell Deep Throat.” Olivetti thought, “Maybe I can make more sense of it myself. He should know more of my history if we are going to be relying on each other. Yes, I’ll…”
“Ah! Here’s my van! Drop me off here, Olivetti. Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you tomorrow!” And with a wave, Deep Throat was gone.
...And Party Every Day!
Meanwhile, back at the Winter Court…
As the sun crossed the horizon somewhere above, the party below continued. Trapeze artists dropped from unknown places in the subway tunnel ceiling. Their colorful scarves trailing around them, several musicians quickly set their instruments up in front of Ms. Kadie and played furiously. The flying artists above swung in tune to the music as the crowd watched. When Grant or Tyler stopped to watch the crowd, they found their vision blurring at the edges, and sometimes they spotted horns atop heads, or yellow eyes or rabbit ears – so that it grew hard to tell whether they were amongst man or beast, myth or reality, devils or humans.
Grant relaxed near Ms. Kadie and enjoyed the show passively, feeling no need to go out of his way for anything when there was just so much to see right where he was. Tyler picked his way through the crowd asking them about their lives, learning about their stations and their culture, their habits and why they might be interested in leaving the court beneath Chinatown. Eventually Grant also made smalltalk with the stately women who whispered near him or the cockneyed garbage man missing several teeth, while Tyler picked his subjects carefully to survey the life of the fae for treatise he planned.
As Grant turned to dancing, Tyler noticed that a figure sat apart from the party, motioning anyone who came up to pass along. He watched Ms. Kadie unhappily, lost in his own morose thoughts. Tyler then spoke to Ms. Kadie and asked her more directly why she might want to leave her court here, and what Prince Gerald might expect. Or what neighboring tenants there might be. To put her at ease, he specified that he simply plays the part of the good business liaison for Gerald. She, in her slipperiness, dodged the questions. “This girl’s ready for a change, is all. And I can’t very well just leave my court. It’s my court, after all. And I’m it’s queen. But no, there’s nothing wrong with these tunnels. Why, don’t you like them? I thought your sewer rats liked them very much. We might come to something pleasing to everyone, no?”
By the time the following evening rolled along, Grant and Tyler were swimming from the color and the music and sweet and savory fragrance from fae treats – though they politely refused to partake a dozen times each. They looked at each other wearily and climbed the stares back up to the Philadelphia above, a little unsure of their footing.