The Hollow Crown
A Fateful Decision
New England – October 2000
" Eleanor Van den Berg has refused any attempts to meet with her." the prissy young man concluded. He shuffled his notes and looked up towards the head of the table. The Ipsissimus kept his hands in a steeple position, eyes closed, seeking guidance.
“We must do all that is required to obtain this information from her. In doing so, we will spare her from the risk of being exposed to this evil. She is meddling with forces she cannot comprehend.” Eyes open he looks straight at the large oil painting on the wall in front of them. The work is of limited quality, but displays a ‘frolic’ in the New England countryside. To the left of the image, a blonde rake, with a striking gaze looks back at the viewer. Debauched, dissolute and clearly depraved the gaze is unsettling and clearly aimed at the naked ‘nymphs’ bathing in the water. “She must be dissuaded from investigating him further – and we must take advantage of what she knows to strike at the serpent.”
The table as one utters “As you will it.”, the Ipsissimus gestures for De Vries to remain behind. “I feel she is unlikely to give up her studies despite our best advice.” he allows the words to hang in the air, awaiting to see De Vries response.
“It is sad that some people will not see the truth, even when their eyes are open. I will ensure that sufficient guidance is given to her”. The man nods, a serpent’s gesture, and leaves the room. The Ipsissimus watches him go, and questions again if the path they are moving through is just.
New England – December 2000
“She is alive”
“I find this distressing Mr De Vries. Four weeks ago, you insisted to me that you saw her assaulted by unknown assailants at her library. Three weeks ago, you failed to take proper precautions over our security, and as a consequence two demons assaulted us during a ritual. They stole the codex we had acquired, and caused the death of one of our trusted servants. Now you are telling me, this Eleanor woman, who you failed to protect from the path of the demon has become one herself?”
“I saw her with my own eyes, exiting train platform at South Station.” he didn’t add that the men he had paid to scare off the competition at the Stone Inn, had also reported three people exiting, one of whom matched the description of Eleanor. He didn’t see the need to tell this old fool that he had pocketed most of the money assigned for the purchase of the damn fool book, paying instead to have some local gang members scare off the competition. A double win, after they had failed to retrieve the information the first time, and he’d had to break in the next day and obtain it himself.
The Ipsissimus looks sadly at him, “This is grave news. A final piece of ill-tidings, on a grave day.” he stands up from and moves over to the decanter, pouring two large glasses of whisky into a tumbler. He hands one to Matthew, who feigning deference waits to see the old man drink first, before sipping his own appreciably. “The other sad news I received is that we have someone seeking to profit from the Order, to exploit it for his own gain.” He slides a file of Bank records across the table to him. Matthew looks at them, sees his own name at the top, tries to rise from his seat, to lunge at the older man, and fails, falling back. "Matthew, I fear you have lost your way.” The Ipsissimus presses his hands to the table, “I forgave your excesses in the past, because you were successful, and I had hoped this was zealotry on your part. Now I see you are little more than a vile and avaricious fool.” Another man steps forward into the room, seeing Matthew slumped to the table, he looks at the Ipsissimus. “Yes Timothy, your drug was most efficacious. I’d suggest you destroy the bottle lest someone else drinks it in error.”
Timothy stammers, “I saw you drink it first, it was in the decanter.” The Ipsissimus merely smiles wanly, “To one as advanced in the arts as me, such drugs are of little effect. Take him away, ensure he cannot be traced back to us if he is found, Magister” Aware of his new title, Timothy pulls the comatose Matthew from the room.
The Ipsissimus pulls a small vial from his robe, and drains the red liquid in it quickly. He realises this is coming to the end of the supply he stole from those fools in the Arcanum when they would not listen to his warnings that Vampires were real. He would need to get a new supply, he turns over the photograph showing Eleanor’s face and contemplates it and the picture of her ancestor in front of him.