The Price

Mirrors and Madness

The motley decides to find out if Hedge has visited Rosebriar yet while they wait for Alice Ruby‘s classes that evening. Rocco focuses on researching Pastor Albright’s family, hoping Hedge might visit his mortal connections. Marco suggests canvassing the streets near the church but Nikki points out that Hedge has been living on the streets for decades. No one would mistake him for the pastor. She suggests they focus on the train tracks and other locations where the homeless might be found. Nikki creates a cover story of tracking down her father who is currently off his medication.

At a local diner, Marco and Nikki chat with a waitress who served Hedge a few days ago. She tells them he moved on to visit Appleton, a residential neighborhood to the west. They drive there, searching the parks and the few diners for any clue of Hedge’s whereabouts.

They run across a man in his 30’s walking a pack of dogs. Fred, as he introduces himself, recalls the homeless man, in fact he reported him to the police. Hedge had been in the park recently, supposedly harassing young women passing through it. Fred seems taken in by Nikki’s story and offers to help her find his lost father. He hasn’t seen him today but the police might have picked him up.

Nikki flirts for a few moments feeding from his mix of emotions before heading to the police station. There she and Marco discover that Fred has called ahead. The man at the front desk informs them that her “father”, Hedge, was taken to Edgewood, the asylum, for psychiatric evaluation. He is in the care of a Dr. Edwards.

Rocco meanwhile tracks down Ben Albright’s daughter, Lucy, who lives in town. He learns of a granddaughter, Myra, as well but she’s currently at college. Together with Ruzena, he stakes out her house, hoping to see Hedge.

Rocco and Ruzena position themselves on a city bench within viewing distance of the house. As he reads a newspaper, Rocco gets the feeling of being watched. Suddenly he hears a familiar but forgettable voice, the voice of the faceless man.

This voice, the voice of the Agent, mockingly says, “I know why you are here. If you want Hedge, destroy the protections on the park and church.”

Rocco refuses and the Agent threatens to put him back in the chair. Rocco grabs Ruzena and they quickly leave. The Agent warns them that he won’t have another offer.

Rocco fills the others in on the Agent’s threat once they regroup. With the knowledge that both Hedge and Charlie are currently in the clutches of Edgewood, Miroslav focuses on what can be learned from Alice Ruby.

Her schedule shows she has three classes today. Miroslav attends the first and third one while Nikki shadows him. Alice appears to be oblivious while she focuses on her studies and Miroslav doesn’t even notice his sister.

To Miroslav’s occult eye, Alice seems to be a normal young woman. He does notice that she lacks any real friends and keeps separate from the others. But there are no signs of magic or magical restrictions. He decides to trail her home.

As evening approaches, Alice walked north from campus into Appleton. As the streetlights turned on one by one, they trailed her to a rundown Victorian home. Mir pauses as she slips inside.

Nikki reveals herself to her brother’s surprise and asks about their next move.They decide to stake the house out, watching for anyone entering or leaving. Calling the others, they take turns during the night. It is fairly quiet. Some lights can be seen but there are no visitors or voices to be heard.

In the gray light of morning, Marco sips his coffee and watches the house. He sees the young blond woman leave the house. Marco alerts the others and then shadows her.

Marco follows the possible True Fae through the empty streets of Rosebriar. She studiously does not look in his direction and begins to zigzag through the streets. Marco realizes he is made. Unsure what to do he casts his gaze into the future attempting to learn the worst that could happen if he just talked to her.

Marco sees that trailing her, talking to her, even trying to convince her that she’s lost him all have the same level of danger: none. With nothing to lose he approaches Alice.

As she tries to walk away he calls out that he just wants to talk. He admits to following her and wants to ask her some questions. Alice tells him that she can’t help him but at least stops walking away. She huffily explains she needs to go somewhere.

Marco offers to help get Lada off Alice’s back. He reveals he is working for the professor but that he is willing to help her instead. He also lets on that he knows about Hedge and the weirdness in town. That’s why he needs her help.

Alice seems surprise that he knows about Hedge. That’s who she was hoping to see. Marco tells her what happened to him. She explains she needs to remake a deal with the mad Changeling, that she didn’t get what she wanted. But if he is at the asylum, he may already be doomed.

Alice explains that things changed about 3 years ago, that a darkness in Edgewood is consuming the town, beginning with the fae. She can’t stop it. Anyone who goes there comes back changed or not at all.

Back at Alice’s house, Nikki and Mir have slipped inside unnoticed. Her security system is little more than a can on a string. Outside Rocco gets a phone call from brother. Marco tells him that Alice is willing to help them and that she isn’t dangerous. Rocco directs his brother to take Alice to get coffee and wait for them. They’ll be there within an hour.

Inside the Callaghans find Alice’s hideout, a cluttered room filled with band posters, old toys, and clothes decades out of style. None of it has the least bit of supernatural power.

The picture her effects paint is of a woman trying to be normal. Not trying to act normal, Nikki clarifies, she knows the difference. Alice really wants to be a normal person.

The pair exit and reconvene with Rocco. When she hears what Marco has done, Nikki questions if he has perhaps been Glamoured. They decide to investigate cautiously.

Th motley meets Marco at the coffee shop. They find him still of his own mind. Nervously they talk to Alice. The once True Fae reveals how her deal with Hedge went wrong. How she sought to become human again but found herself continually reverting to her teenage self instead, never able to die.

Under their probing questions she reveals her history. In the first version of reality, she was born a normal mortal. To stop a drought she was given or sacrificed to the True Fae. She was taken to Arcadia and over the centuries transformed from a Changeling to one of the Gentry.

Then there was gala, a gathering of True Fae. A social faux pas was made, she explains. A large number of slaves escaped in the confusion. For her part in it, she was exiled by the Slender Man. She traveled home to Rosebriar and encountered those slaves again. They killed her.

But Hedge and his companions did not end her existence. She arose again as a mostly mortal being. She decided to give up her power and made a deal with Hedge. He would rewrite reality and she would become mortal. But it didn’t work out.

In the second version of reality, she lived as a seemingly normal woman but she always aged back to her teenage self once a decade. Her family and friends died but she kept on. Hedge’s friends and family were protected from any harm but Hedge himself was replaced by a new version of himself.

Now she just wants to find Hedge. He should return to make the deal as in the original version of reality. He wants his life back and she wants to grow old and die.

Talk turns to other version of reality which only confuses Alice. Miroslav questions her about her encounters with his father, something that greatly intrigues the former fae. It hints that he has a special destiny. Then Nikki asks what she can do to help rescue Hedge and Charlie. After stammering for a moment, she tells them that she knows about tunnels into the asylum, forgotten by the current inhabitants. They can use them to get in unnoticed.

The motley gets their preparations underway. They load their guns with cold iron bullets, gather tools to break in with, and obtain the floor plans of the asylum. Nikki locates Dr. Edward’s office and the place where the tunnels intersect the building. Marco also realizes that his vision of the mirror had it in a building with white walls, like a hospital or asylum.

Rocco attempts to hack into the Edgewood computers but runs into some stiff resistance. Before he can really get anywhere he is booted off. As he considers his options, a pop up from his virtual self comes up. He offers to help but Rocco turns him down.

Sucks to be you, the pop-up says before disappearing.

Rocco slams his laptop shut and tells Ruzena they are leaving. Exiting the coffee shop they hurry back to the motel. Worried that something might be coming for them, he is surprised when Ruzena pushes him forward on the asphalt street.

Then a truck crashes into someone behind him.

Rocco scrambles to his feet and finds Ruzena thrown forward into the intersection. He rushes over and tries to stabilize her. The river fae is bleeding with cracked ribs and a collapsed lung. Desperately Rocco pulls out his first aid kit and does what he can.

By the time ambulance arrives, Rocco is sure she will pull through. The medics take her away while Rocco picks up his batted laptop and activates a long worked on piece of code. Keying the virus to his other self, he releases it into the local network.

The motley sneaks unto the Edgewood grounds that night. Alice leads them to an overgrown grate that hides the tunnels under the building. They break in and feel their way through the damp stone pathways. Slick mud covers the floor of the tunnels and a musk of decay fills the air.

After several hundred feet the path ascends and widens. The air grows chill and foul. They each realize something horrible happened in this spot. Nikki shines a flashlight on the ground to find it stained back. Miroslav and Rocco both realize only one thing could cause this: the final death of a True Fae.

They press on, eventually encountering the section of ceiling that strikes the Asylum subbasements. Nikki quietly breaks through the floor with a saw and crowbars. The group climbs out into a supply closet.

They find the area filled with medical supplies ranging from old boxes of syringes to piles of discarded clothing. As they creep down the hall to the stairs, Mir collides with some crates. They jostle softly but don’t fall.

The next room is dimly lit by a single swaying bulb. A metal operating table gleams in the center next to an electroshock machine and a table full of scalpels.

As they enter the room, they realize there is a figure lurking in each dimly lit corner. Dressed in hospital gowns and sporting bandages and straitjackets they rush the motley.

Marco pulls out his taser and fires. Two metal prongs lodge in one of the Unclean’s chest and 10,000 volts rush through its body.

An arc of electricity flies from the machinery into Rocco, protecting him in cascading lightning. Nikki seeing her brother is distracted positions herself to defend him.

Alice rushes forward with her staff and cracks it over the head of one of the Unclean. It topples over in pain and begins to scurry for safety.

The Unclean shot by Marco tries to pull the prongs out feebly. The electricity overwhelms it and it collapses to the ground. The other two rush Nikki and her brother.

Mr. Skittles rushes forward to defend Nikki, leaping up and biting the arm of one of them. As it howls in pain, the other rushes Nikki. She deftly steps aside leaving it off-balance.

As Marco secures his opponent, Rocco and Mr. Skittles attack and defeat the last standing opponent. The wounded Unclean scurry away to safety.

As they catch their breath, they realize they have to hurry. An alarm may be raised any moment.

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