Episode 7: The Shadow Over Diligence


Diligene dreams he is wandering in a garden maze while a little girl with purple hair urges him to come with her. A shadowy presence is pursuing him, telling him THIS IS NOT A DREAM, but he's not sure he wants to go with the little girl. Behind him is a crinoid Old One from Antarctica, waving its tendrils at his mind. A dark-cloaked man with a steel hand comes after Diligence, aiming to stab him in the chest, so Diligence decides maybe he'll go with the little girl after all, but now he can't find her. He does find Juliet, who urges him to go a different way, and he goes with her. The little girl turns up again, Diligence establishes that her name is Thessaly, and that she doesn't trust Julie.


Diligence stumbles across a chessboard with living players. On the White side are Alexandra Harrow, Walker, Harmon Creel, Billy, and Dr. Black, the principal. On the Black side are Moonstomp, Alexandra (the evil one), Ekaterina, Wilhelm, Lawrence, the unnamed Brujah leader from St. Vigeous' night, and the Fourth of the Fallen on a ladder as the Black player. Diligence runs onto the chessboard and is attacked by Walker; Juliet then turns into a vampire and attacks Diligence. He wakes up.


Diligence contacts his buddies on the Internet; Dr. Armitage tells him how to write down his dreams so as not to miss details, and someone called OARN tells him not to trust the warrior. Thessaly is online, too, and says she thinks OARN is trustworthy. Then she disappears off the chat room.


It turns out that besides the varsity football team vanishing, several people were mugged last night. Walker was stabbed outside his dorm and is in the hospital; his werewolf constitution can't heal the wound, so it was made with silver or magic. He didn't get a good look at his attacker, either.


Dr. Black having been a good guy in the dream, Diligence is emboldened to set up an interview. He arranges for Alex and Billy to be in the office when he confronts Black -- Julie was supposed to be there, too, but she's at the hospital visiting Walker. Diligence catches Dr. Black reading a Bible, which he locks away in his desk. Diligence explains that he saw Dr. Black in a dream which may foretell the future. Dr. Black says not all prescient dreams are sendings of Satan. Only dreams which urge you to change a course of action you were going to take are from Satan. So whatever you see in your dreams, don't act on them, he urges.


Now that Diligence is reassured about the principal, the gang goes to the University museum, where there's an Old One from the 1935 Starkweather-Moore expedition. It's supposed to be behind a thaumaturgic circle, so it's probably not escaping to destroy Diligence's mind. Professor Armitage was supposed to check on it, but he's not there -- in fact, he's stuffed under a packing case, bleeding to death! An Assamite assassin attacks with a curve-bladed sword, and Juliet stakes him. Billy takes the sword, which Walker later confirms is magical in nature.


Alexandra does a spell to heal Armitage, and he recovers enough to say Marshal stabbed him. Marshal had said that he took orders from Belial, demon prince of war, and that if Belial told him to, he'd have to obey Asmodel, the Fourth of the Fallen. Perhaps, suggests Armitage, this has already happened.


Meanwhile, Billy mentions that the Peaslee ring, brought back from Australia 80 years ago, is burning hot to the touch. It has been since midnight, but he just wrapped it in a rag and forgot about it, till now.


In the hospital, Armitage and Walker are placed in the same room. Walker uses a mirror to cross over to the spirit world, to ask Thessaly what's going on. Dr. Armitage stays to protect the mirror, and everyone else crosses over. They meet Thessaly, who says someone wants to talk to Diligence. He uses her as a go-between for a while, while Walker helps the gang dodge furmlings (crackling, transparent electricity elementals), cogs (engine elemental), antibiotics, and slashes (glass elementals). They eventually reach a garden maze, where Billy gets lost and runs into Marshal. Marshal says for some reason, Belial has placed him at Asmodel's disposal, and Asmodel's orders are for him to kill Julie's friends, one at a time, and then come for Juliet once she's alone. Billy asks if he can just obey his orders in a very slow fashion, but Asmodel thought of that and ordered him to hurry. Then Marshal attacks, and Billy runs, managing to lose Marshal in the maze.


Thessaly leads Diligence to the Tunnel of Hands. Millions of hands reach up into a central void, scrabbling and struggling to get to the center, but continually pulled down by their fellow sufferers. Thessaly scampers in, stepping on each hand quickly enough to avoid being grabbed. Everyone else follows, with the mentally quicker kids being more athletically gifted on this side. They grab the person Thessaly indicates and haul him out, and it turns out to be Diligence's father, Orne Wingate Peaslee!


Orne went in search of his own father, Nathaniel Peaslee, who vanished in Australia in 1927. He found him, all right, but his body was dead. Orne, however, believed his father's mind was still alive in the distant past, kidnapped by the Great Race of Yith, a species of time-travelling monsters who flourished on Earth 400 million years ago. Eventually Orne was able to locate his father's mind, here in the Tunnel of Hands, and came to rescue him, but got stuck instead. Orne's body itself is in San Francisco, probably still alive within his spell of suspended animation.


Now, having rescued Nathaniel, all Orne has to do is restore him to his body. That's not going to be easy, because Nathaniel's body died in the Twenties; his mind is currently trapped in the body of an Antarctic Old One, and was trying to contact Diligence in dreams. But Orne plans to use the Resurrection spell to reanimate Nathaniel's bones. Diligence, who recently learned the same spell, approves. He wonders if it could be used to bring back Thessaly, too, but she doesn't remember ever having been alive ... is she a ghost, an elf, perhaps a changeling? The group discusses.


Just then, Marshal grabs Nathaniel and puts a sword to his ear. He wants Julie to send out her friends one at a time, or he'll kill Nathaniel. Walker sneaks up behind him and attacks, saving Nathaniel, then gets in a furious battle with Marshal. Everyone else tries to pitch in, with Julie and Billy using their magic swords, but Marshal's hell on wheels and they're getting trounced. Diligence notes a chain around Marshal's neck, hanging down the back, and reasons it's probably Marshal's bond of obedience. He tries to shatter it with a hammer he's carrying (the spirit projection of the tools he always carries around) but instead, the first blow causes the chain to snap rigidly up into the sky, and Marshal is carried kicking and cursing into the distance.


Thessaly explains that the souls in the Tunnel are people whose bodies were taken by vampires. Every time Juliet stakes one, the soul is freed and can go on to its destiny. She urges Juliet to keep up the good work! Orne and Nathaniel start pulling people out of the tunnel, one at a time, sending them back to their bodies to fight the vampires. Nathaniel predicts a lot of vampires are going to get very distracted once their souls return.


Orne promises to get in touch with Diligence as soon as he gets back to the material plane, and the gang heads back to the real world. The next day, in school, they see a girl who looks like a slightly older Thessaly. Her name, according to the class rolls, is Thessaly Soros, and she wears a ring just like Diligence's ...