“About every 1500 million years this ball of radio waves will double in diameter; and it will go on expanding in geometrical progression for ever. Perhaps then I may describe the end of the physical world as one stupendous broadcast.”
Tinkerbell had made good use of the few days that he’d had. In addition to all the thinking and planning for Jack’s raid on the Ahnenerbe smuggling gang, he’d turned the safe house into a home – albeit a Spartan one – and he had added to its security. For a start, he’d placed wards on the front and back doors, on the windows, and on the gates that led into the pocket-handkerchief front garden and reasonably sized yard in the back. Nothing too strong, mind, because it could be the wards themselves that drew the attention of the wrong sort of people. Then, he placed watch sigils – discreetly – at either end of Seagull Lane, and in some other choice places that meant all the approaches were marked and there was good coverage of the whole area. Again, he was careful to make sure that these would not be so strong as to draw attention, and also that they didn’t of themselves form an obvious pattern with Hotel at the centre. He drew a sketch of the locale on prepared parchment, and bound the sigils and wards to the map: if something triggered or tripped these spells, it would be indicated on the map.
Whilst he wasn’t as good at fading into the background as Billy – who was – he wasn’t bad at being unobtrusive, and so he took the time to reconnoitre the area, building on the picture that Charlie and Billy had painted. A few streets away, he found a hardware shop: here he purchased, amongst other things, a shallow enamelled bowl. There were those, principally people who didn’t have a clue who held that it should really be silver, but Tink was much more practical than most practitioners: whatever receptacle he’d found would have needed the same several hours of ritual preparations. Another few hours preparing boiled water, again ritually (although there was enough left over for a rather nice cup of tea), and at the end of it all, he had the paraphernalia for scrying. In a pinch, you could scry in a puddle of murky water, but it took some effort, and was rarely worth it.
Preparations complete, he went through some warm up exercises, trying to locate people that he knew. As usual, he was completely unable to find Billy. Jack appeared to be cleaning his boots (about time too) in his Mare Street garret, whilst her ladyship was in yet another tea room with one of her waifs and strays. Tink always felt uncomfortable scrying on friends, but they were a useful touchstone, especially when he was out of practice. From here, he tried looking at the street outside, and he practiced traversing his focus along the length of Seagull Lane and back again. Finally, he reminded himself of the tips and tricks for scrying a location in darkness.
Earlier, he’d briefed Jack and the rag-tag group of helpers that Billy had found for them, if you could call it a briefing: the plan lacked subtlety, and there were so many things that could go wrong. He felt uneasy, and he’d told Jack so. Jack had taken him seriously, but had asked what else they could do, and Tink had nothing to offer.
Tink had followed the raiding party in his scrying bowl. Whilst perfectly proficient, especially having put the time in to warm up over the last few days, Tinkerbell wished, not for the first time, that he had more power and skill in this area. He knew, and had worked with, adepts who were capable of keeping two, three, even four separate scenes in view at once.
Keeping a broad overview of the West India Docks, he saw Jack and his team taking up positions. He saw the boat tie up at the quay that Billy had located. Tink was no spotter, but he rather thought it looked like a Vosper designed Motor Torpedo Boat – how had that slipped into the control of the Ahnenerbe?. He didn’t see the fire-fight start, but he saw the night, until then peacefully furtive, erupt into chaos and confusion. He lost track of Jack amongst the debris of the bombed out docks. He lost track of the other courier. He bent all his will and effort to trailing the chap who’d snagged something from the ground near the dead smuggler. He watched him beat a retreat from the compromised docks. He saw the man do his best to disappear into the night and head for the safe house as quickly but indirectly as possible. As far as Tink could tell, he wasn’t followed.
The man had significant promise: rather than handing over the package to Tink face-to-face, he simply lobbed the briefcase over the back-gate whilst running past at full tilt. Tink waited, checking to see if anyone was following, and then, when he thought the coast was clear, he doused the lights and slipped out of the back door to retrieve the package. Perhaps this evening wasn’t a total wash-out after all.
Back inside, upstairs, at the table he’d set up in one of the bedrooms, Tink settled into a chair and pulled a metal case from the inside pocket of his jacket: it resembled a case for glasses, although slightly oversize. He opened it and indeed there were a pair of glasses inside, although these looked more like the sort that an optician would pop on your face to assess a prescription. In this instance though, instead of the single lens on either side that could be replaced in order to change the strength of the lens to suit the patient, here were three sets of lenses in series, which whilst obviously capable of being rotated, were not removable.
As Tink fiddled with the lenses, he remembered the making of them with Michaela. This had been a defining moment for Echo. Tinkerbell’s people had the knowledge of various invisible writings, but the moon-letters (he probably shouldn’t have mentioned them at that gathering in the Eagle and Child, but how on Earth could he have known that they’d have ended up in that children’s book) were perfect for their purposes. Michaela had understood what was needed straight away. Then it had simply been a case of getting the information to the Ahnenerbe without them suspecting. Whilst they hadn’t used it for everything, the Ahnenerbe had taken to it with enthusiasm, and much of their plans had been a, heh, open book, to Echo.
Tink leafed through the contents of the briefcase making notes in his pocket-book. With a start, he realised that he was looking at a code book, some dates, and a frequency: 13.13 kHz. Radio was not one of his areas of expertise, but he was reasonably certain that this was in the range that was called Very Low Frequency, and that it was used, amongst a very few other things, for signalling submarines.
Rather pensively, Tinkerbell put the spectacles away again. It was at this point that he received his second bad shock of the evening: the sketchmap of Seagull Lane and environs was starting to light up like a Christmas tree. Multiple intruders were entering the area. They’d clearly managed to track their quarry somehow. Tink swore in a language unknown to the East End and red sparks grounded on the brass bedstead against the wall. He turned to his scrying bowl. Yes, he recognised some of the faces from his scrying of the docks earlier in the evening, and there were others, clearly forming a cordon. Escape was going to be problematic, to say the least.
Tink’s mind raced furiously: he muttered a cantrip and a little speck of white light formed in the air. It danced over the documents he’d been looking at earlier, the briefcase too, and settled on the code-book. At a word from Tink, the speck of light became more orange, and landed on the paper. Instantly, the paper flared white, and the Ahnenerbe Irminsul seal – a pillar-like tree-trunk – extended from the page in an angry red projection. The light dissipated, leaving nothing but ash. Out of the corner of his eye, Tink noticed that one of men converging on Hotel seemed to flinch at the moment of the document’s destruction. Interesting. Tink made sure that he’d recognise the man again.
Tink was reasonably certain that his future was now measured in minutes. He flicked his scrying between two people approaching the front and back of the house. He grabbed his bag from under the bed and shoved a few things into it – he’d kept everything close to hand. He didn’t have time to be indecisive, but he really was between the hounds and the spears. He could cross into Fae but, as an exile, his life would be forfeit. He could stay here, to face what ever out-of-tune music the thugs outside could muster. There was a third option. Beyond perilous, and with the risk that he would be lost from the World for ever.
He watched as the enemy, literally at the gate, produced bottles of something or other – presumably not brown sauce – and proceeded, on the one hand, to pour it through the letterbox and, on the other, to douse the back door with it. Tink sent out little flickers of will in order to prevent the coming fire from damaging the houses either side – whoever lived there didn’t deserve to be caught up in this.
Realising with a start he’d not had time to share what he’d learned, Tink’s mind raced over how to pass on a warning. Jack was missing…he’d never find Billy…it would have to be her ladyship. Hoping upon hope she’d understand, he rummaged around in his pockets until he found his little box of special matches. He tapped the box delicately so that he could see the ends and selected one. Scribbling his message several times over onto a piece of paper, he tipped out his bowl. Rapidly tearing the page into fragments, he set light to them.
Having done the best he could, he set about re-filling the scrying bowl before drawing up a new scene. One he was pretty certain the hounds outside would not know about. He drew a deep breath. Face Queen Mab? Out of the question. Face the Ahnenerbe? Given that they had gone straight to burning the safe-house down, it was unlikely that they would bother to talk to him before they tried to slit his throat, and there were just so many of them. He fancied he could hear the sound of a lighter, but that was probably just his imagination. He muttered a brief prayer, focussed on the image in the bowl and, as the flames began to lick at the stairs, touched his fingers to the surface of the water, so delicately that he did not break the tension of the water.
There was a flare of energies, coruscating electric blue and violet, enveloping the form of Cledwyn Cadwalader, former War-Chief of the Armies of the Fae, known to his friends as Tinkerbell. When the arsonist’s fire reached the bedrooms of the two up, two down, they were empty.
© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey