A cold, dark October night. The endless hissing of rain on concrete, a city drowned in neon tears. Anyone sensible would be inside by now, hiding from the cold and the rain and the things that go bump in the night. Midnight isn’t the safest time to be abroad, especially here and especially now…
“Good evening Milton Keynes. Welcome to The Naked Truth: the place to be if you want to know what’s really going on in our fair city. I’m Beth, your charming host.” Bethany’s fingers move over the sound board as she talks, making a few minor adjustments here and there. A commercial radio host would have someone to do that for her, of course, but then this isn’t exactly a commercial operation. Or, for that matter, an entirely legal one. “I’d like to start tonight’s show with a piece of friendly advice: the word on the street is that there are some not so friendly trolls in the Wavendon Gate area. If you can, avoid the place. If you can’t avoid it, be careful and – if you survive the experience – call in and tell me all about it! I also want to hear from the trolls in the audience: what’s really going on out there? And now…”
Bethany continues to talk, giving her faithful listeners the lowdown on Milton Keynes’ sizeable supernatural community, the way she does every night. After only a very short time, her phone rings.
“Looks like we have a caller, listeners.” Putting the caller on speakerphone, she says: “Good evening, you’re through to The Midnight Hour. What do you want to talk about.”
There are several long moments of dead air, and then a nervous voice asks: “Are they real?” It sounds like a woman; a nervous or upset woman. Before Bethany can ask her to clarify what ‘they’ are, she continues: “Are… are trolls real?”
“I’m afraid they are.”
“Oh.” Another pause, and then: “My son’s gone missing. Last night. He was coming home late.” The caller takes a deep breath. “We live in Wavendon.” She sounds desperate, her voice quavering as if she’s only just managing to hold back tears.
“Talk to me.” Bethany keeps her voice low and soothing. “Tell me what happened. Maybe I can help.”
“I hope so. I don’t know what else to do. The police are looking, but…” She trails off.
“Let’s start with his name.”
“Eric. He’s called Eric. He’s… Oh God, he’s only fourteen.”
“And he went missing last night?”
“Yes, he was coming home from a friend’s house. I don’t like him walking the redways on his own at that time of night, but he insists. You know what boys that age are like.” Bethany makes a sound that may or may not indicate agreement. “Anyway, he rang to let me know he’d set off, but… but he never turned up. No one’s seen him. No one’s seen anything.”
“Is there anything else you can tell me?”
“No, I’m afraid not. I’m sorry.”
“That’s alright, you’ve given me a lot. You did the right thing calling me. Now,” Bethany takes a deep breath. “I know some people who might be able to help. I can’t promise anything, you understand, but we’ll do our best. Okay?”
“Thank you, oh thank you. I… I just… I just want him to come home…” Her voice wavers, but she holds back the sobs long enough to say: “Find him. Just… please find him.” And then she hangs up.
Ever the professional, Bethany doesn’t miss a beat.
“You heard it, folks: it looks like something’s come up. I hope you’ll forgive me dear listeners, but I have to leave you with a little night music instead. Try not to miss me too much, and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow night. This is The Midnight Hour, signing off.” Playing the sound-board one-handed – she already has a mixtape queued up – she checks the number of the last call. It’s a mobile number. Making a note of it, she puts the handset away and pulls out her own phone. It’s time for her to phone a friend.
Evelyn cautiously inches forward, closing in on the small sounds of movement from up ahead. It’s hard to move silently when you’re wading through what might charitably be called ‘water’, but she’s had practice. Slowly, she crouches to peer round the corner (staying at normal head height is just asking to get your face ripped off), only to twitch as she comes nose to whisker with a very large rat. Cursing internally, she finishes checking the tunnel and stands up. The rat seems singularly unimpressed. While it could be a darkhound, she’s fairly sure it’s just a rat. ‘Just a fucking huge rat.’ And almost certainly diseased. ‘I’m lucky it didn’t bite me,’ she thinks, closely followed by: ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’ Friday night, and she’s crawling around the sewers chasing up rumours of a Black Court nest. ‘I really need to get a life.’
Because she’s a professional, Evelyn doesn’t jump out of her skin when her phone suddenly starts vibrating. She does, however, swear profusely (if silently) as she quickly retreats to somewhere out of earshot of anything that might be lurking in the darkness up ahead.
“Shouldn’t you be on the air right now?”
“Something came up.” Bethany tells Evelyn about the missing child, and the rumours of unruly trolls.
“I presume you’re heading over there.”
“I’ll meet you there, then. I need to go home and change first.” Glancing around at her surroundings, she adds: “And shower.”
“What are you up to?”
“You probably don’t want to… Shit!” Her foot slips in a noxious pool of… something. “Fuck.” As she tries futilely to scrape the clinging muck off, she sighs. “This shit isn’t going to come off, is it?”
“You’re right, I don’t think I want to know.”
After saying goodbye to Evelyn, Bethany makes another call. This time, it takes several rings before someone answers.
“Hello?” De La Croix was slumbering peacefully at his desk until he was rudely awakened by the shrill ringing of his half-buried phone. Clutching the black Bakelite handset tightly, he slumps forward, still only barely conscious. His voice is roughened by sleep.
“Did I wake you?”
“Ask me in five minutes,” he mutters, dragging a hand over his eyes.
“I’m sorry about that, but I’m afraid this is an emergency.”
“What is it?”
Bethany explains. “So,” she concludes, “I was wondering if you’d be able to ask around a bit; find out what people know about what’s going on in Wavendon, and about these disappearances. You know people.” 
“I suppose I could do that,” he says. After all, it’s not like he’ll be able to get back to sleep any time soon. Fortunately, the people he’s going to have to talk to are also unlikely to be tucked up safely in their beds. A thought occurs to him. “You know, the Accords  forbid the local trolls from taking human prey. They can keep pets, but mortals are right off the menu.”
“Well, we don’t know that they’re eating people. Let’s see what we can find out first.”
“I’ll go and ask around.”
“Thank you. Stay in touch.”
As soon as they hang up the phone, De La Croix gets in his Bentley and heads off to the Bull. It’s well past closing time, of course, but it’s not uncommon for the establishment to hold an after-hours lock-in for the regulars. Luckily, De La Croix is classed as one of these, and gets in without difficulty. There are a number of familiar faces, but one in particular stands out. It belongs to one of a group of men in monks’ robes, carrying flails. A number of empty bottles, cups and glasses are scattered over the nearby table, but only one of them looks as though he’s been doing some serious indulging. Naturally, his is the familiar face. De La Coix heads over.
“You’ve got to have a proper drink,” Linden is saying. He gestures expansively towards the bar, where a dour-faced barman is casting a beady eye over in their direction. One of the monks sighs.
“Brother,” he says, “we are supposed to be engaged in ritual purification.” A desultory swish of his flail illustrates his point. “Elderflower tea will be fine.” He sighs again.
“Alcohol purifies,” Linden points out. “Well, sterilises. Same thing.”
“Well… alright. I’ll have a gin, I suppose. Since you insist.”
“Excellent!” Linden signals the barman.
“Just a half, though,” the monk cautions. “And no tonic.”
A few moments later, the not-so-reluctant monk has his drink in hand, and De La Croix manages to attract Linden’s attention.
“De La Croix! Come and join us.”
“Lads’ night out?” De La Croix asks, side-stepping the odd flailing, well, flail.
“Yeah,” Linden leans against an ancient, mechanical fruit machine. “You know, just a quiet evening of drinking and flagellating with the boys from the Order.” He’s talking about the Order of St Gulthalac.
“That sounds like… fun.” De La Croix doesn’t sound convinced.
“Well, I’m more in it for the drinking, but some of them really get into it.” He nods towards one monk who’s wielding his flail energetically, a look of intense concentration on his face. “Brother Ignatius is one of the more dedicated ones.” He starts to say something else, but is interrupted by a grinding noise from inside the machine. 
“Oi!” says the barman. “I’ve told you before.” He gestures with a dishcloth. “I only just got that fixed.”
“Sorry, mate.” Linden stays exactly where he is. There’s another grinding sound, followed by a sharp snap. The barman shrugs.
“You break it, you pay for it.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Turning to De La Croix again, Linden asks: “So, what brings you here this evening?”
“Bethany rang me, and…”
“She didn’t send you here to borrow more money off me, did she?”
“Getting someone else to do her dirty work!” Linden points accusingly. “You should know better. You can tell that niece of mine, that…”
“She didn’t send me to borrow money,” De La Croix interrupts, impatiently. “She didn’t send me to talk to you at all.”
“Oh.” Frowning, Linden asks: “Well, why didn’t you say so? Why are you here, then?”
De La Croix explains about the missing boy. Unfortunately, the monks are within earshot. When he mentions the possibility of troll involvement, they spring up as one.
“To arms, brothers!” thunders Brother Ignatius. “There are monsters to slay!” Snatching up their weapons, the monks – minus Linden – pour out into the night.  Linden watches them go, then shrugs and turns back to De La Croix.
“Let’s ask around, shall we?” Between De La Croix’ contacts and Linden’s generosity in buying drinks to ease their way, the two of them manage to get a lead. 
“Hello Dave,” says the old man in the corner, nodding at De La Croix. “Dave,” he says again, nodding at Linden. He calls everyone Dave. No one knows why, but he’s been around long enough that everyone just accepts it as one of his quirks. He tells the two of them that the boy isn’t the first disappearance in the area. According to his sources, all the missing people were travelling the redways late at night. “You need to talk to the Winter Court,” he finishes, nodding sagely.
It’s about one-thirty when Bethany reaches Wavendon. With her headphones on , she walks the redways for a while looking for clues, but doesn’t spot anything obvious.  As she pokes around in some bushes, the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Spinning around, she finds herself confronted by a huge, looming figure…
Evelyn is driving over the bridge into Wavendon when a figure hurtles over her head, landing somewhere in the darkness below.  ‘Fuck!  That was Bethany!’ Even as the thought races through her head, she stops the car and jumps out, pistol already in hand. The huge figure thundering along under the bridge is a pretty big clue as to the cause of Bethany’s sudden flight, and it’s heading in the direction of her sudden stop. ‘A troll. Fucking great!’  Luckily, thanks to Bethany, she was expecting something of the kind. That’s why her gun is loaded with iron bullets.  Bracing herself against the railing, she takes aim at where she thinks the troll is going to emerge.  She shoots as soon as he comes into view, landing a solid hit. Jerking to a halt, the troll spins around – he moves fast for something so big – and fixes her with a furious glare. Bellowing in rage, he raises his fists and prepares to leap. It looks like she’s gotten his attention. 
Unfortunately for the troll, he now has his back to Bethany, who has recovered somewhat from the impact. Reaching up to her hair, she pulls out a sharpened iron spike that’s currently masquerading as a hairpin. (She knows her Fae lore. Or, more to the point, Evelyn has told her how to kill them. Her other ‘hairpin’ is made of silver, just in case.) Charging towards the troll, she stabs it expertly in the back of the knee.  The troll’s leg gives way, dropping him to one knee. Bellowing in pain and fury, he swings one mighty fist at Bethany. She tries to parry, but he just bulls straight through it, the blow crunching into her face.  Once more, she finds herself flying off into darkness.
Now that he’s dealt with Bethany, the troll returns his attention to Evelyn, who lays down suppressive fire while snarling:
“I wouldn’t.” The troll appears unfazed by her tone, although the bullets seem to give him pause. His hesitation gives Evelyn the chance to take another shot, the iron bullet smacking into his collar bone. He screams, the arm hanging limp and useless. All of a sudden, the small person up on the bridge is looking like a much less tempting target: he’s had enough. Turning, he crashes off into the night, still screaming.  Evelyn swears profusely, unable to get a clear shot. Lowering the gun, she peers into the darkness below, looking for movement; looking for anything that doesn’t belong. There’s no telling what kind of attention all that commotion could have drawn. She isn’t waiting long. A small scraping sound, sudden pinprick flare of light; a cigarette. A figure steps forward from the shadows… 
Linden and De La Croix pile into Linden’s Bugati. De La Croix is reluctant to leave his prized car behind, but Linden convinces him that it’ll probably be safe in the Bull’s car park. (After all, given the high proportion of Wizards inside the Bull, there aren’t that many people around who’d actually be able to start the thing.) Just to be sure, De La Croix removes the steering wheel and takes it with him. Despite the beers he’s drunk, Linden remains confident in his ability to drive safely,  and the two head for the Winter Court’s palace. It’s off to The Centre: MK.
The first hurdle they have to overcome is the Centre’s mortal security force. Given the particular requirements of the job, the night watch is composed of guards who tend to be better informed than the general population. That’s why the watch chief recognises Linden.
“Is this official business, Sir?” As a (technical) member of the White Council, and a consultant to the Council of Milton Keynes (commonly called the Concrete Council, much to the chagrin of its members), Linden has a certain amount of pull in town.
“I’m afraid it is,” he replies, gravely.
“Excuse me one moment, Sirs.” The guard turns away and murmurs something into his radio. A minute or so later, he turns back to them and says: “I’m afraid Lord Kieran is busy with official business of his own at the moment. Perhaps you can make an appointment for another time?”
“This is very serious business. We’re talking about a possible breach of the Accords.” Leaning closer, Linden pitches his voice low. “If we’re going to sort this out quietly, we need to get in to see Lord Kieran sooner, rather than later. I think that would be best, don’t you?”
The guard looks uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, Sir. I have my orders. I suggest you make an appointment tomorrow.”  He starts to close the door, but De La Croix quickly steps forward.
“George?” he says. “Is that you?”
“Sir.” George nods to him. “I didn’t see you there. Is this official business for… Oh. Sorry, Sir. I suppose it wouldn’t be. Not any more.” Since giving up the Stationmaster’s position, he doesn’t have any official standing in Milton Keynes any more. He still knows people, however, and George is apparently one of them.
“No, this isn’t official for me: it’s personal. George, a child has gone missing. It might already be too late for him. If we don’t act now…” He lets his words trail off, leaving it to George’s imagination to fill in the details. George’s discomfort deepens. He looks at his radio, glances back at De La Croix and then sighs.  Raising the radio to his lips, he says:
“It’s George again. I’ll vouch for them. They really need to see Lord Kieran at his earliest convenience. Yes, yes, I understand. Yes, I’ll bear the consequences. Yes.” He looks up, but doesn’t their eyes. “Lord Kieran will see you now.” Stepping aside, he holds the door open. “I believe you know the way.”
Their footsteps echo in shadowed corridors that seem to stretch on forever. The air has an arctic bite; it’s sharp enough that the air-conditioning must be running at full power to maintain it. Darkness pools in every corner and doorway, moving in ways that have nothing to do with the position of the lights. A man – one of the Winter Court Fae – appears to escort them to their destination. The room he leads them to is technically an office, but it looks more like a throne room. A large wooden desk forms an effective barrier, the chair behind it positioned so the occupant can look down upon the room and everyone in it. The Winter Court Envoy is currently engaged in conversation with someone, possibly an aide. He doesn’t bother to look up when the escort announces their presence, only deigning to notice them when they approach his desk.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” he says. Lounging back in his chair, he dismisses the aide with a negligent wave of his fingers. “I understand you wanted to see me on some urgent, official business. As you can see,” he gestures towards the various Court members scattered around the room. “I’m rather busy myself, so I would appreciate it if you could make it quick.”
Linden strides forward confidently and outlines the situation (a missing child; possible troll involvement), stressing the seriousness of a potential breach of the Unseelie Accords.
“I have no truck with rumours,” Lord Kieran pronounces, waving a hand airily. “And neither should anyone of any sense.”
“These are very serious rumours,” Linden points out. “And they’ve got to be looked. I’m sure it would be… easier for all concerned if we settled this business quietly here, rather than raising a big noise at the Council.” The Winter Fae grows very still.
“Are you threatening me?” he asks, quietly. The temperature plummets a few degrees.
“No, of course not. I’m just saying, it’d be easier to get to the bottom of things right away. After all, what if someone’s trying to frame you? Making a big noise would only benefit them.
“Hmm.” Kieran seems only partly mollified by Linden’s words. “Do you have any proof? Of anything?”
Linden hedges in answer to Kieran’s question, and the two of them talk in circles for a while.
“Look,” says Linden, eventually. “We’re going to need to talk to some of the people on the ground.”
“Oh?” The question is accompanied by a quizzically raised eyebrow. “Who?”
“Trolls, of course.”
“Well, that isn’t difficult. You apparently know where to find some of them.” Almost as an afterthought, he adds: “I suppose I’d better send someone with you. Just in case.” He doesn’t clarify just in case of what.
“Can you think of anyone who might have a grudge against you or against your Court?” Kieran shoots Linden a disbelieving look.
“It would be easier to try to discern who might not hold such a grudge. We have many enemies. Summer, of course, are the obvious candidates. They are extremely jealous of our current prominence in this place. And, speaking of Summer’s agents…” He pins De La Croix with an icy glare. “What is your involvement in this?”
“You screwed up, Evie B. Let a killer get away.” The figure steps forward, into the yellow light of the streetlamp. “I guess that’s what happens when you pal around with monsters. You get sloppy.”
“Why the flying fuck are you here, Ben?” Evelyn turns so that she can cover him with the gun without destroying her night vision. She keeps the weapon pointed at the ground for the moment, though. They might be on different sides, but this man isn’t quite an enemy. Not yet. Keeping his movements casual, Ben stoops, scraping flakes of something from the ground into a sample bottle. He stows the bottle in a pocket as he stands up again. Only then does he deign to respond.
“Probably the same reason you are: trying to find out what’s happening here.”
“How do we know you’re not behind it?” Bethany glares at Ben as she emerges from the darkness, her voice dripping with suspicion. Ben returns her glare with interest.
“It’s obviously not us,” he says, as if talking to a child. “They’re killing humans. We don’t kill humans.” He smiles thinly. “Only monsters.” Bethany starts to say something angry, and Ben looks like he’s more than happy to respond in kind, but Evelyn pre-empts them both with a:
“Shut the fuck up. Both of you. This isn’t the time or the place. Ben: if you don’t have anything useful to add, just piss off. You’re trampling all over a crime scene.”
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I got what I came for. Now, don’t you have a killer to catch?” 
Once they’re certain that Ben’s really left, Evelyn and Bethany check over the scene for themselves. It seems that Ben was collecting a sample of blood, most likely the troll’s blood; spilled during the altercation. Evelyn collects a sample of it for herself. Now that she has the chance to think about it, there was something decidedly off about the troll’s behaviour.  If she didn’t know better, she would say it was high on something. But what kind of drug could get a troll high? Putting that thought aside for the moment, she examines the blood trail and the general destruction left in the troll’s wake. It looks like he’s heading towards the city centre.
De La Croix looks to Linden for support, only to find Kieran’s suspicion mirrored in his companion’s eyes.
“Yes, what’s your game, De La Croix?”
“I told you.” De La Croix frowns, looking hurt. “Bethany called me.”
“And how,” asks Kieran, his voice showing only languid interest, “did she come by this information?”
“Someone called her show. I don’t know who it was. I can call and ask, if you want.” As if on cue, there’s a thunderous noise from out in the corridor and a large troll suddenly bursts through the door. Covered in blood and extremely agitated, he limps to the desk, falling to his knees in front of it.
“My Lord,” he grunts. “They tried to kill me.” The temperature drops a few more degrees.
“Who tried to kill you, my subject.” The troll looks around wildly, his gaze fastening on Linden. Flinging out his uninjured arm, he points at the Wizard.
The atmosphere was already tense, but at the troll’s words, it practically hums like a live wire. Weapons appear in the hands of the Winter Fae, and some of them – guards, most likely – position themselves as if expecting an attack on their liege.
“You said you can contact this person,” says Kieran, looking at De La Croix. “I suggest you do so.”
“Of course. Do you have a landline I can use?”  A very short time later, De La Croix is making a call. He turns on the speaker phone, just to address any lingering suspicions that he might be less than honest in reporting her words. Or even calling her at all. She picks up more or less straight away, but before De La Croix can speak, Linden jumps in. He yells at his niece, demanding to know what she’s been up to and why she attacked a subject of the Winter Court. His tirade goes down about as well as can be expected, and the conversation quickly degenerates. Admittedly, it didn’t have far to go, but it doesn’t help matters when the troll – who gets more agitated at the loud voices – starts wailing about how she stabbed him with a sword. Hearing this from the other end – where Bethany also has her handset switched to speakerphone – Evelyn loudly observes:
“What am I? Chopped liver? I shot the fucker with iron bullets and they’re going on about a sodding hairpin!” As intended, that draws some of the heat away from Bethany and onto her.
“Evelyn,” murmurs Kieran, somehow managing to make his voice heard over all of the commotion and kerfuffle. “I should have known that you’d be involved.”
“With all due respect Lord Kieran, shut the fuck up.”
“It’s clear you haven’t changed.” It’s not clear from his voice whether he’s amused or insulted. Evelyn has to grit her teeth to hold back further insults. “But the lady has a point.” He seems to be addressing everyone now; not just the people on the phone. “We must all be calm if we are to get to the bottom of this. Now,” he says, in a business-like tone. “I would like to know why this troll was attacked. Why my Court is the target of malicious rumours. Why a known associate of the Summer Court – he casts a sharp glance at De La Croix – should join forces with a Wizard of the White Council to threaten and accuse me.”
“The rumours are public knowledge,” says Bethany. “I don’t know where they started, but they’re all over the place. And a child is missing.”
“He’s not the only one either,” adds De La Croix. “A few people have gone missing in Wavendon lately. All were last seen heading out on the redways.”
“People go missing all the time,” says Kieran. “This is a dangerous place. Yet nothing you have told me suggests I should look to my own Court. Quite the contrary, in fact. From where I sit, this is starting to look more and more like a plot against us.” Leaning forward, he fixes Linden and De La Croix with a suspicion-filled glare. His voice hardens; cold and brittle as ice. “You push your way in here,” he says, softly. “You insult me, attempt to threaten me. Two of your… associates gravely wound one of my people.” He gives a thin, sharp smile. “Someone less charitable than I might see this as an attempt at provocation.”
This is not going well. The Winter Fae filling Kieran’s office are still bristling with weapons, all of which seem to be pointing at the two outsiders. Hearing the cold suspicion in Kieran’s voice, Bethany realises she has to do something to divert the Envoy’s attention from her uncle and De La Croix.
“The troll attacked me first,” she says, quietly. “I just defended myself. Evelyn protected me. As for proof : look at him. He’s acting strangely, and there is blood around his mouth. Blood!  At the very least, this matter requires further investigation.” Her tone is eminently reasonable. “No one is accusing you, Lord Kieran.”
“There is something wrong with your troll,” Evelyn interjects. Gritting her teeth, she forces herself to try to imitate Bethany’s calm reasonableness. It isn’t easy – especially when she’s talking to Kieran – and she can’t quite conceal the edge in her voice, but at least she’s not hurling obscenities at the Fae. “He looks sick; maybe drugged. I suggest you have someone examine him.”
All eyes are suddenly on the troll. Linden immediately starts questioning him, asking if he’s taken anything, or if he remembers someone doing something to him. The troll seems confused, and becomes more and more nervous. It soon becomes apparent to anyone who knows trolls that this one’s behaviour is a little off. He’s sweating, his pupils are dilated and he just doesn’t seem to be able to keep still. And perhaps there is something around his mouth that maybe, possibly, could be blood.  It’s hard to say. In any case, Linden reaches a similar conclusion to Evelyn, and volunteers to examine the troll magically. Kieran agrees, but only on condition that his High Mage do the same. The two of them accompany the troll into a side room, where they perform their rituals.  Linden finishes first, but both of them get the same answer: the troll’s blood contains Red Court vampire venom. This is bad. The Winter mage looks terrified. He beckons Linden out of earshot of the troll.
“We can’t tell him this,” he all but whispers. It’s clear he means Lord Kieran, even though he doesn’t say the name. “It will mean war.”
“You’re right.” Linden nods. “We’ll have to tell him something else.” He didn’t think it was possible for the other man to become any paler, but somehow he manages to blanch.
“I can’t lie to him. He’ll know. He’ll know.”
“You could forget.”
“What do you mean?” Linden explains how to work the spell. “It’s dangerous,” he notes. “If it goes wrong, it might take everything.”
“What choice do I have?” The Fae’s tone is bleak. “If I tell him what we found, it will be war. If I lie, he’ll know. And then he’ll kill me. Eventually. This is the only way.”
Bidding the unfortunate mage goodbye, Linden steps out into the main room.
“Well?” Kieran demands. “What did you find?”
“Your mage hasn’t finished yet. It’s probably best if he tells you.”
“Very well.” Kieran doesn’t look pleased at having to wait, but he settles back into his chair. A few minutes later, the High Mage emerges, a look of utter bafflement on his face.
“My Lord,” he says, bowing to Kieran. “I’m sorry, but… What did I go into that room for?” Unsurprisingly, all eyes turn to Linden.
“What have you done, Linden?” De La Croix’ demand bursts out ahead of Kieran’s. He eyes the Wizard with suspicion. Linden takes the only reasonable course of action for a man in these circumstances: he lies like a bastard. Putting on a good act, he claims to be experiencing the same kind of memory loss as the Fae mage. Kieran and De La Croix both ask him some hard questions, but in the end Kieran, at least, seems more or less convinced. De La Croix speculates that both Wizards have come into contact with whatever’s affecting the troll: either a spell, or possibly some kind of drug.
As her uncle doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger of meeting a sticky end, Bethany hangs up the phone so she and Evelyn can continue their poking around. Bethany isn’t much of one for investigating, but she does her best to help by reminding Evelyn what’s at stake here.  After a few minutes of careful searching, Evelyn discovers a pile of what seems to be troll shit. Carefully separating out the lumps – it’s fortunate she brought gloves – one of them turns out to be a child’s foot. It seems quite fresh, and is still encased in a trainer. There are bite-marks on the exposed flesh, and they look like they’ve been made by troll teeth. There are also some bones in the pile, much older than the foot. They also bear the marks of troll teeth. This isn’t looking good for the Winter Court. 
Meanwhile, in the centre, a Fae runs into the room and makes a bee-line for Kieran, whispering in his ear. Kieran looks shocked and announces that the audience is over. Linden and De La Croix are escorted out, the door closed firmly behind them. Something important has clearly just happened. Out in the corridors – which really are much longer than they should be, given the size of the building – Fae are clustered in knots, whispering together. Apparently, the messenger’s news was released out here before he made it into Kieran’s presence. Linden and De La Croix see what they can overhear as they walk past. It isn’t hard. Everyone’s talking about it: the Stationmaster has been killed. Linden wheels around to stare at De La Croix.
“What have you done?” he accuses.
“I’ve done nothing!” De La Croix matches him glare for glare. “I’ve been here with you.”
“What about before that?”
De La Croix blinks. “Are you seriously asking me if I murdered my own nephew? Do you really think I’d do that?” Linden shakes his head, but it’s more in disgust than in answer.
“I don’t know. I just don’t know you any more.”  The frank exchange of opinions that follows results in Linden driving off, leaving De La Croix standing outside the Centre.
Racing around to his personal assistant’s house, Linden bangs impatiently on the door until a sleepy, rumpled-looking woman answers it.
“I need you to call my niece,” he says, without preamble. “Tell her to stay where she is: I’m coming over right away.”
“It’s nearly three in the morning!”
“So?” Linden is used to keeping late hours, and it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that this is way past most people’s bed time.”
“Never mind,” the tired woman sighs. “Is that all, Mr Avery?”
“For now. Thanks, Shelley.” With that, he heads back to his car. Shelley shakes her head as she closes the door.
“You’re not paying me enough for this,” she mutters. But she dutifully makes the call, just like she always does. Bethany tells Evelyn that Linden’s going to meet them shortly.
“Fine,” Evelyn says, continuing to pick through the troll shit pile. “I’ll hold off on calling in the Cleaners for a little while longer, then.”
At this time of night, without a car or a phone, De La Croix’ options are limited. There is one place he can go – one place he probably should go – but he doesn’t want to. It’s a place he’s turned away from; a place he’s trying to put behind him. And yet… And yet he finds himself heading towards the station. Towards his family.  Taking a deep breath, he steps through the door and into the place that the mortals never see; the place that belongs to the Family. His mother is there, coming to see who’s stopping by, no doubt. She stops when she sees him, opening her mouth to speak, but he gets there first.
“Before you say anything: It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.” Linden’s accusation really seems to have shaken him. His outburst seems to throw his mother a little off-balance. Stepping back a little, she looks at him, eyebrows drawing together in a frown.
“Why would you think we’d believe that you did?” Her voice, although soft, has an edge of grief, although her face is as composed as ever.
“I’ve been having a bad day,” he mutters, looking away.
“What do you know?”
“Not much.” He shrugs. “Only what I’ve heard at the Winter Court.” A brief pause – not quite a hesitation – and then he continues, quietly: “I know he was killed.”
“He is… he was only seventeen years old. He was too young to be De La Croix.”
“This isn’t the time, Mother.” They both sound weary. This is an old argument, the grooves worn too deeply, forming a chasm between them. Maybe it’s just too late to bridge the gap. Meeting his mother’s eyes, De La Croix deliberately changes the subject. “I’ll need to see the body.” His mother inclines her head.
“You know the way,” she says. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have things to see too. Family business.” She starts to walk away, but then stops, half-turning to face him. “Come to see me when you’re done. We have things to discuss.”
His nephew’s body is lying in a pool of still-wet blood. In life, he was a good-looking boy, but it would be impossible to know that from the ruined mask where his face used to be. It looks like someone shot him at very close range. De La Croix isn’t a forensics expert, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s planning on questioning the only murder’s only witness: the victim. The ritual doesn’t take long to set up, and he pours forth his will, summoning the shade of his nephew to stand within the circle.  It’s not really him, of course; it’s just an echo of what he was, but that doesn’t make it any easier. De La Croix asks his questions, and the shade answers them. He saw a man come into his chamber: into the chamber that no one but the Stationmaster and his family should be able to enter. When he confronted the intruder, the man calmly shot him in the face.
“Did you see what he looked like?”
“He was… unremarkable. Ordinary.” The shade shrugs his translucent shoulders. “I couldn’t pick him out of a crowd.”
“Show me.” As the ghost concentrates, an image forms in a nearby mirror. The face is just as unremarkable as he said, but at the same time oddly familiar. De La Croix has seen this man before; enough times that he actually remembers his face. After a moment’s thought, he remembers where he’s seen the man before: talking to Evelyn. He’s seen the two of them together on a handful of occasions.
Dismissing his nephew’s shade, De La Croix starts to call Evelyn, but his mother interrupts before he can do so.
“Milton Keynes doesn’t have a Stationmaster,” she says, getting straight to the point. “It was bad enough to only have a substitute, but to be without one altogether… This is dangerous, son. It makes us vulnerable.”
“What do you want from me, Mother?” But he knows what she’s going to ask; knew it before he even came here.
“Take up the mantle,” she says, simply. “Become what you were meant to be. Save us.”
“I can’t.” The words are little more than an anguished whisper. “You know I can’t. I walked away from all that. I can’t go back again.”
“You haven’t changed. Still thinking of your own selfish wants.” The softness of her voice doesn’t in any way blunt the emotions within it. “But we need you. We need you to be De La Croix. To be the Stationmaster. You’re the only one.” Her voice cracks now, and she turns away from him at last. “You’re the only one left.”  A tense silence falls, broken when De La Croix heaves a great sigh.
“I can’t become that again,” he says quietly. “Don’t ask. I can look after it for a short while. Like a steward. I’ll find the murderer. And I’ll try to find someone who can do what I can’t.” Meeting her eyes, he asks: “Will that do?”
“It’ll have to.” But, despite the apparent coldness of her words, there is something in her eyes: respect, perhaps, or understanding. It’s a start.
Linden meets up Evelyn and his niece without incident. Surprisingly, no one else seems to have been drawn by the noise of their encounter with the troll. Maybe the people here are used to strange noises late at night. Maybe they’ve just learned to ignore them. Linden tells the two women his suspicions regarding De La Croix, but neither of them seems convinced. When he mentions the venom in the troll’s blood, Evelyn swears profusely.
“I need to make a call.” Expression as grim as her voice, she starts to pull out her mobile.
“Are you contacting the Cleaners?” Bethany asks. Evelyn shakes her head.
“No,” she says. “Someone else.” 
As Evelyn disappears off into the darkness to make her call, Bethany shows Linden the smear of troll blood, and the nearby shit-pile. He repeats his magical ritual to analyse the blood, confirming the presence of Red Court vampire venom. This time, however, he tries something else. Concentrating on the venom itself, he ascertains that it doesn’t just come from one vampire, but from several. Does that mean he’s been in close contact with more than one of them? Curious, he analyses the venom further, determining that it’s actually a cocktail of venom from a number of vampires. More than that, although the individual ‘samples’ have a range of ages, it looks like they’ve all been within the troll’s system for the same length of time. It’s not clear whether the venom’s ‘donors’ were still alive at the time of extraction. Either way, this situation is obviously much more complicated than it first appeared. Is someone ‘milking’ Red Court vampires and feeding the venom to trolls? Why? To influence or control them? To inflame their hunger so that they’re willing to break the Accords to satisfy it? Are the vampires themselves doing this? Someone else? Either way, the Winter Court High Mage was right: this information could very well lead to war if it comes out. When Evelyn returns, Linden fills her in on his findings.
“This is fucked up,” she mutters. Neither of the others disagrees with her assessment. She sighs. “Well, it looks like I have an appointment to speak to someone in the Red Court. I’ll see what I can find out.” With a wave, she starts to head off towards her car.
“Be careful,” Bethany calls after her.
“So,” says Bethany, turning to her uncle. “What now?” Linden frowns.
“Do you have the number of the person who called your show?”
“Yes.” Pulling out her phone, she reads out the number. He scribbles it down. “Why?”
“I want to try to find them. I think I can use the number as a focus.”
“Do you think that’ll work? Magic and technology don’t tend to play well together.”
“I won’t know until I try.” He suits the action to the words, letting the power build and then releasing the seeking spell… but nothing happens. There’s an odd sparking sensation, but that’s it.
“Well?” Linden shrugs.
“Nothing,” he says. “Oh well, it was worth a shot.” 
Since there seems to be nothing else they can find out from the scene, they decide to see if the police search has turned up anything. They achieve this by simply wandering up to one of the officers who’s currently out and about in the area. Bethany is her usual charming self,  and the officer tells them they haven’t managed to find the boy (whose name is Eric Black). He gives them the description, and asks them to contact their local police station if they come across anything that might help the search effort. Once out of earshot of the policeman, Bethany tells Linden that the trainers Eric was wearing sound like they’re an exact match for the one encasing the partially eaten foot. It looks like this isn’t a missing persons case any longer…
Evelyn drives up to Woodhill Prison, the headquarters of the local Red Court vampires. The guards wave her through: she’s expected. Her phone rings just as she’s stepping out of her car: she doesn’t recognise the number, but it’s De La Croix on the other end. He gets right to the point.
“I need you to tell me if you know this man,” he says, describing the face his dead nephew showed him.
“He’s a Cleaner,” she says. “Another specialist, like me. Why do you want to know?”
“He just killed my nephew.”
“The fuck?” Tersely, De La Croix explains.
“I need his name,” he says. Evelyn thinks a moment.
“Let me handle this,” she says quietly. “I have something I need to do right now, but it shouldn’t take long. I’ll follow this up as soon as I’m done.”
“This has to be dealt with, and quickly.”
“It will be. I’ll find out what happened; whether it was really him. Then we’ll see.”
“Fine. Let me know what you find out.”
“I tell you what I can.” She pauses, and then continues in a softer voice. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thanks.” De La Croix sounds tired, but then it is very late. Or very early, whichever way you want to look at it. “Talk to you soon.”
“Goodbye.” They hang up.
Samantha hasn’t changed. She never does, not since that fateful night so many years ago. Sitting at her desk, she looks like a child playing in her daddy’s office, innocent and joyful. At Evelyn’s knock she looks up and smiles, her whole face lighting up.
“Evie! How wonderful to see you. Come in and sit down.” With an inward shudder, Evelyn does so. ‘I hate this,’ she thinks. ‘I hate being here.’
“Hello Samantha,” she says. “I’m afraid I can’t stay long. This is… This is a personal visit. Just a chat with an old friend.” Samantha raises her eyebrows, studying Evelyn with interest.
“I understand,” she says, quietly, and then: “You never come to visit any more.” There is a wistful note in her voice.
“I’ve been busy.” Which is true as far as it goes, but isn’t the whole truth.
“Well, you’re here now. Would you like something to eat or drink?”
“No, thank you.” The pause between the ‘no’ and the ‘thank you’ is perhaps a touch too long for politeness.
“As you wish.” Samantha leans back in the chair, tucking her feet under her like she used to do when they were children. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Trolls?” Samantha looks puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Have any of your people have been… indulging a taste for the exotic?”
“Feeding on them, you mean? Not as far as I know. We don’t tend to have much to do with the Fae Courts, as a rule. Why do you ask?” Evelyn tells her about the intoxicated troll, and what Linden discovered about the venom’s composition.  Samantha looks startled, and possibly a little angry.
“I haven’t heard of anything like that,” she says. “I’ll look into it.” Frowning, she adds: “This could cause a war. None of us want that. I certainly don’t want that. If this originates from within the Court, I will discover it.”
“There’s…” Evelyn hesitates, then plunges on anyway. “There’s something else.”
“Someone took a sample of the troll’s blood. This is going to come out sooner or later.”
“Then you have to stop them before it does. You have to take care of them.” Bristling at Samantha’s commanding tone, Evelyn forces herself to speak calmly.
“I’ll deal with it.” Samantha frowns.
“If that sample ends up in the wrong hands, it won’t matter what the truth is. The Winter Court will have to respond, and then the whole thing will be out of our hands. You have to…”
“I know what’s at stake, Samantha,” Evelyn cuts in. “I’ll do my job.” Samantha sighs, resting her elbows on the desk and her chin in her hands. The position makes her look like nothing more than a worried little girl.
“I hope that’s enough.”
Bethany’s phone rings. When she answers it, she’s almost deafened Linden’s rather distraught assistant.
“They won’t stop calling,” Shelley says, not even bothering with a greeting. “I keep telling them to ring back tomorrow, but they just won’t give up. He has to see them, or I’m never going to get any sleep!”
“Calm down,” says Bethany, soothingly. “Take a deep breath. And another one. There, that’s better, isn’t it? Now, who’s been calling?”
“Lady Amaranth of the Summer Court.” Shelley sounds much more composed, if rather tired. “Well, one of her people. She wants to meet with Linden as soon as possible, on Accorded Neutral Ground.”
“Hold on a moment.” Bethany relays the message to her uncle, who leans close to the phone and shouts:
“Tell her I’ll meet her at Willen Lake in about half an hour.”
“Did you get that?” Bethany asks, once Linden’s stepped back again.
“Not really – too much static.” Bethany repeats Linden’s response. “Fine. I’ll let the Lady know. Will you be with him?”
“I suppose so.”
“I’ll call you if there are any problems. Goodbye.”
“Bye. I hope you manage to get some rest.” Shelley’s response is heartfelt.
“So do I!”
De La Croix is concerned. With all the night’s activity, it’s clear that something significant is afoot (and not just the one that Bethany and Evelyn found). Whether or not all the disparate events are connected, it couldn’t hurt to take precautions. With that in mind, De La Croix decides to study the Wards and the Ways of Milton Keynes, just to make sure all is as it should be. He’s particularly worried about the bindings laid upon the creature from the outer darkness. The consequences if those should fail simply don’t bear thinking about. The sheer amount of background magic in the city makes such a large-scale divination difficult. Not impossible, not for him, but why take the chance of missing something? Fortunately, he knows a place with just the right resonance; a nexus of energies where he can simply reach out and touch the web. He’s just starting to extend his senses when Linden interrupts him.
“What are you doing here?” De La Croix’ eyes snap open. He glares at Linden, but before he can reply, Bethany steps forward and hugs him.
“I’m sorry about your nephew,” she says.
“Thank you.” He smiles sadly at her. “I…”
“I bet you’re not.”
“Not sorry. It’s worked out quite well for you, hasn’t it? Very convenient. Couldn’t have gone more smoothly if you’d done it yourself. In fact…”
“Shut up, Linden!” Bethany steps between the two men, glaring daggers at her uncle. “This isn’t the time.”
“I quite agree.” The new voice is calm, but with an edge of… something. Disapproval, perhaps? Interest? Turning to face the speaker, they see a clearly Fae woman. This, then, would be Lady Amaranth. “If I may interrupt you conversation,” she says to Linden, “I believe we have some business.”
“Yeah,” he says. “You wanted to talk to me.”
“That’s correct.” She inclines her head. Neither of them seems particularly concerned that Bethany and De La Croix are within earshot. “I called you here because I would like to retain your services.”
“It has come to my attention that Winter are in breach of the Accords. Clearly, this proves them unworthy of the exalted position they hold here.”
“So, what do you want me to do?”
“Why, I want you to prove it. Show that, under the Accords, Winter must step aside and cede their position to Summer. That is all. Can you do that?” Linden thinks about it for a moment and then nods decisively.
“Yeah. Yes, I can do that.” 
“I am most pleased to hear it.” Lady Amaranth smiles. “Now, let us discuss the details of the arrangement…”
 Although Bethany has been designed as a fairly social character, De La Croix is the one with the high [Contacts] skill. As the former Stationmaster, he’s certainly had ample opportunity to familiarise himself with the movers and shakers of Milton Keynes’ supernatural community. (Note: I’ll put mechanics terms like skill and stunt names in square brackets, to distinguish them from descriptors.)
 The Unseelie Accords are the major piece of legislation governing the treaties and interactions of supernatural beings (and a few notable mortals). They don’t just cover Milton Keynes, although the unique features of Milton Keynes mean that it has a few specific provisions of its own.
 Linden is a powerful enough Wizard that he sometimes has problems even with older technology.
 The Order of St Gulthalac feature in one of Linden’s aspects. When they cause trouble for him, it’ll give him a fate point.
 Linden’s player made a [Rapport] roll modified by [Resources] to give a bonus to De La Croix’ [Contacts] roll.
 Bethany’s player was using [Performance] to give herself the aspect [focused] for the scene. The GM has ruled that you can use [Performance] with recorded pieces, as long as it’s something you made or mixed yourself.
 Someone failed her [Investigation] roll. I believe there was a failed [Lore] roll as well, but I could be misremembering.
 Bethany has the aspects [Damsel in distress] and [Apparently I’m famous]. Her player suggested that one of these might get her into trouble – and, therefore, earn her a fate point – if she went poking around in the dark on her own. She got the troll’s attention, taking the minor consequence [Winded] as a result of being hurled over the bridge. (White Court vampires tend to be fairly tough, so the short flight and sudden stop weren’t likely to do her any severe injury.) This got her a fate point. The encounter wasn’t resolved as a combat. Instead, the GM and player agreed on the consequences and we cut to the next scene.
 Evelyn swears a lot. I blame a combination of her army background and her having six older brothers.
 A successful [Guns] roll. This trapping should come under [Lore], but Evelyn has a mortal stunt called [Hunter of the supernatural], which allows her to use [Guns] instead of [Lore] for identifying supernatural creatures and their habits and weaknesses.
 Another very useful stunt she has is [Guns, lots of guns (and more)]. This is a [Resources] stunt that means she can have items up to her [Resources] level without needing to make a roll. (Ordinarily, you can only have items up to [Resources] level minus two without a roll. You can only make a roll once per scene.)
 So, here we are with our first proper combat of the game. Evelyn’s [Alertness] is Good, but she has a stunt that gives her +2 for the purposes of initiative. That meant she acted before the troll. I made a successful [Guns] roll to aim; a manoeuvre that placed the aspect [In my sights] on the troll.
 The really great thing about using iron bullets on one of the Fae is that they ignore things like armour and extra wound boxes from [Supernatural toughness]. Additionally, guns have a damage bonus (+2 for pistols). The troll now had the minor consequence of [Enraged]. His action for that round was probably going to be an attack on Bethany, but Evelyn interrupted it with her shot.
 Bethany was using her vampiric abilities to give herself extra speed and strength. This boosted her initiative (so that she went at the same time as Evelyn), and gave her a damage bonus, respectively. Bethany’s player used the free tag on [Enraged] – representing the fact that the troll was so focused on Evelyn that he didn’t notice her charge – to give herself +2 to her [Weapons] roll. That was enough to inflict another minor consequence ([Hamstrung]) on the troll.
 So, the troll got to have his attack on Bethany after all. The GM succeeded in the attack roll and the player failed her [Weapons] roll to parry it. She conceded at this point, however, taking the medium consequence of [Concussed]. She gained two fate points: one for each consequence taken during the course of this fight.
 [Intimidation] is the only social skill that is explicitly permitted to be used in physical combat. Although the rules don’t actually say what that means, our interpretation is that it can be used on your combat initiative (determined by [Alertness]), rather than your social initiative (governed by [Empathy]). Evelyn was trying to intimidate the troll into giving up. Since she was laying down suppressive fire, the roll was [Intimidation] modified by [Guns]. I failed the roll – the troll was still determined to try to bring the bridge down – but she has a [Guns] stunt called [Pin them down]. This has two effects. First, it makes the [In my sights] aspect sticky while the target remains within the same zone. Second, it places a border of one around the zone that they’re in. This meant that the troll had to use this round’s action up closing to attack distance, making [Athletics] roll to succeed. The GM succeeded in the roll, so he could use the next round’s action to attack. If Evelyn had let him. I succeeded well enough in my [Guns] roll to inflict the severe consequence [Broken collarbone], which meant he lost the use of that arm. The GM conceded at this point, as the troll didn’t have a death-wish.
 As this was the end of the scene, we resolved the hunger damage that Bethany took from using her powers. Her player rolled fairly badly, and ended up taking three damage on the hunger stress track.
 I believe Linden is actually the only character with the [Drive] skill. De La Coix might have it, but I’m not sure. Evelyn and Bethany definitely don’t.
 Linden’s player tried a [Rapport] roll modified by [Lore], but failed.
 De La Croix’ player used a [Contacts] roll as manoeuvre; determining that he knew the security guard and that the man could be swayed by the plight of a child in trouble. He then followed this up with a successful [Empathy] roll to convince him to let them in to see Lord Kieran. This should possibly have been [Rapport] rather than [Empathy].
 Apparently Ben lost his sense of humour somewhere between trying to recruit Evelyn into the Sons of Man and the present encounter. That seems entirely reasonable. Incidentally, I’m not sure it was actually mentioned in Evelyn’s novel summary, but Ben tried to take Bethany hostage at one point. Evelyn persuaded Bethany not to kill him – he used to be a comrade in arms, after all – but there’s a certain amount of bad blood there.
 A successful [Guns] roll, using [Hunter of the supernatural] to substitute it for [Lore].
 Given their effect on technology, Wizards don’t tend to carry mobile phones around with them.
 Bethany was lying about the blood. She was trying to get Kieran to treat this as a serious matter and to distract him from his suspicions about Linden and De La Croix. The [Deceit] roll was successful.
 Maybe Bethany wasn’t lying after all. If so, it was completely by accident. She certainly never noticed the blood at the time.
 Linden used [Thaumaturgy], which seems to be an extremely potent ability.
 Bethany used [Performance] to give Evelyn a bonus by reminding her that children were involved. It counted as a rousing speech.
 At this point, it had been a scene since Bethany suffered hunger damage and consequences (mild and moderate). Since she has [Inhuman recovery], she activated it this scene, which meant that the mild consequence disappeared within a few minutes and the moderate consequence disappeared at the end of the scene. Also, since she used a one refresh ability, she had to roll her [Discipline] to resist a one damage hunger attack. She easily passed this, which meant that the previous damage on her hunger track also disappeared. Oddly, using her abilities actually made her less hungry. If she doesn’t use any of her vampiric abilities in a scene, can the player choose to defend against a zero damage hunger attack?
 Linden has an aspect along the lines of [What’s your angle?], representing the fact that he just doesn’t trust other people and their motivations. This is why he’s been so suspicious of De La Croix, and even of Bethany. The player gained a fate point for this, although it doesn’t actually seem to have caused him any personal inconvenience.
 De La Croix has an aspect related to his family ties, which the GM compelled at this point. Going to see his family – people he’s been actively avoiding – instead of doing something else netted him a fate point.
 This is another application of [Thaumaturgy]. Affecting a corpse – or parts of it – with magic would break one of the Laws of Magic, but simply summoning up a ghost to talk to is fine.
 At this point, the GM compelled De La Croix’ aspect of [Can I save the city, or destroy it?], putting the player in a dilemma. I believe the GM intended that accepting the compel would mean that De La Croix became the Stationmaster once more, with all the difficulties that entailed (not least the forced neutrality that was the reason he walked away in the first place). However, De La Croix’ player didn’t see that outcome as something his character would ever do. He was also concerned that it might render the character unplayable, rather than just challenging. (Although we didn’t really discuss this until later, this raised the idea of defining aspects by what they can’t do as well as what they can.) Instead, he offered the GM a compromise: rather than taking up the mantle as a way to save Milton Keynes, he would dedicate himself to solving the murder and finding a replacement Stationmaster. Those goals certainly have the potential to make his life awkward. Later, this was expanded to include the character taking temporary stewardship of the position. This was largely because we realised that the player was going to be absent for the next session or so, and it was a convenient way of taking the character out of play for a short time. I don’t remember if he got a fate point for that or not.
 At this point, the GM compelled Evelyn’s [Conflicted loyalties] aspect to encourage me to call the Cleaners, thus putting the cat nicely among the pigeons. (I think that’s who he thought she was going to call.) I had something different in mind, however. Turning down the compel cost me one of my precious fate points, but the advantage of playing a mortal is that I can afford to do that on occasion. (Evelyn has a refresh of four.)
 If I understood Linden’s player’s reasoning correctly, he was trying to treat the woman’s mobile number as a name for the purposes of targeting her with magic (in this case, a locator spell). As this was a divination, no roll was involved. The GM allowed the attempt, but offered the player a fate point because Wizards don’t get on too well with technology (compelling his high concept aspect). The player accepted, and the woman’s phone got toasted.
 A successful [Rapport] roll to get information out of the policeman.
 Evelyn had two main reasons for going to see Samantha. First, there was a possibility that she might be able to get some information out of her. They were friends once, after all (back when Samantha was human), and they have worked together in the past (Evelyn’s novel). Her gut instinct tells her that Samantha isn’t involved with this, even if elements of her Court are. It’s not that she trusts her, exactly – she doesn’t – but she doesn’t think it’s her style. If it’s not an official Red Court operation, or if it’s being perpetrated by outsiders, then potentially Samantha can shut it down (possibly by passing information to Evelyn so she and her associates can deal with it). She’s fully aware that she could be completely wrong about Samantha, however, which leads into the second reason for her visit. If elements within the Red Court are involved, then telling Samantha potentially gives them the chance to cover their tracks. That’s the point: if they cover it up successfully (or, more likely, find a scapegoat), then it might avert a war. If the other party involved had been anything other than Fae, then she might have hesitated, but she sees them as worse monsters than the vampires. (Of course, ‘cover up’ might well mean ‘kill everyone who knows’. That’s why she didn’t tell Samantha exactly who else knew, and why she made the point that the information was potentially going to come out anyway, thanks to that other blood sample.) She’s really not happy with the idea of the perpetrators getting away, especially as children have been killed, but in the short term it’s a price she’ll pay for keeping the peace. In the long term, one way or another, she’s planning on bringing those responsible to justice, personally if necessary. After all, she kills monsters.
 I believe there was a compel involved here, but I could be mistaken.
· Evelyn Amelia Blunt, a mortal black ops specialist working for the Cleaners
· De La Croix, formerly the Stationmaster of Milton Keynes, now a mage with a mission
· Bethany Dina Laksmi Smith, a White Court vampire and pirate radio show host
· Linden Thorne, Wizard and lawyer; specialist in supernatural contract law
The Ceyhanes Family
· De La Croix’ mother
· De La Croix’ nephew, custodian of the office of Stationmaster
Red Court Vampires
· Samantha Margaret Grey, of prominent but unclear position
Sons of Man
· Benjamin Daniels
Summer Court Fae
· Lady Amaranth, apparently a person of some stature within the Court
Winter Court Fae
· Lord Kiernan, the Winter Court’s envoy to Milton Keynes
· The Winter Court high mage
· An unnamed troll
· George, a mortal security guard
· The proprietor of the Bull tavern
· An old man who knows some things
· Some brothers of the Order of St Gulthalac
· Mrs Black, a caller to Bethany’s radio show
· Shelley, Linden’s personal assistant