Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steelhead’s Lost Sleep

I have not slept well over the past few days, and my restless nights have sapped my energy. I put it down to my fretting over the increasing length of time since Sergeant Griggs last set foot in Steelhead, but other incidents have been brought to my attention.

The students have been increasingly peevish, which is odd. The ones in classes now are the ones who chose to be here, opting out of the long summer holiday many of the day students take, in favor of pursuing their particular special interests. However, finding Alexandria and Wolfgang quarrelling over a specific patch of ground (she wanted it for her test trenches, and he is still assaying the chemical composition of Steelhead’s topsoil) was exceedingly odd, since they have worked together harmoniously in the past. Anya has been twitchy, and rarely leaving the company of an adult. Rengerin snapping at one of the other instructors, with it escalating into a brief shouting match before they recalled themselves, brought it all to a head.

Meeting with the other teachers over tea clarified some observations. None of us has been sleeping well, and those who are not connected in some way to metaphysical studies are even worse off. Sister Mary Evangeline reported she had cancelled group target practice for the students, with their mood being so chancy. The sisters have reported some of the same symptoms as the teachers, but none as severe as Professor Lyles. If he has slept at all in the past week, I would be greatly surprised.

Dr Beck’s report at the town meeting did not put a specific name to the issue, but at least we know it is not an attack just on the Consulate or the school. The whole town has been affected, from Harborside to the slums in the Shanghai district.

The next day, half the office staff was out, including my assistant. Since she had come into the office last winter with a severe cold, this was a telling point. Something had to be done - actually, several hundred things, but I was just one person. Luckily, Amarantis was able to take on some of the tasks. I gave her the list of the staff that were out, and the notes Dr Beck had been able to assemble. That left me free to clear the rest of the office work and determine the next step.

My next clue was noting that, though he was melancholy over Miss Burton’s long absence, Messenger was not displaying the same symptoms as the rest of the staff. Some quick questions of the ones that were least affected brought up some similarities. They were either adherents of some esoteric practice, or they (like Messenger) were closely associated with a practitioner. The sisters were sleeping in blessed territory, and only lightly affected. A quick report by Amarantis brought the news that the missing staff were recovering slowly, as they were being shielded by Madame Kitla or herself, but that Miss Burton had shielded Messenger’s quarters against any and all inimical influences.

Surveying the affected population showed that mages and the sisters were the least impacted, empaths who were sleeping under shields were only partially influenced, but that those that were completely unshielded were suffering greatly, to the point that reality was difficult for them to track. Without the Foundation to triangulate the effects of different methods, I had to rely on Kitla’s formulae for structure. That did make it easier to explain our findings in my report to the Baron, as her work is rooted in mathematical forms.

The next escalation appeared at sundown. Messages crudely painted on the walls of the city in tar that “He is coming” and “Offer your heads” match the nightmares reported. The fact these were not some arcane language leads me to believe the person is likely not a practitioner of esoteric arts themselves. The language is Polish, translated by my new roaming assistant, Mrs DeCuir-Irato. We have inquired throughout the staff to find who in town might have Polish as their primary language, cautioning that the person who has done this could be dangerous. Orders are to watch and report only.

The staff members have also been advised that alert status is possible soon. Once we have the reports from the investigators, both ours and the sheriff’s, the next step may be clearer.

1 comment:

Ryne Beck said...

Dear Frau Lowey, this is a fascinating report and although not a man faith myself, if a strong faith can hold back these night terrors until their cause can be determined and a cure found, then I for one am happy to spread the news.