Gathering Storms: Worlds Without End, Date Uncertain

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Day One, June 1869
Josephine wakes to her idyllic marriage to Ezekiel Drake with the strange sensation that something is terribly wrong with her world. Her daily rounds of working with the indigent charity she's set up with an Indian woman named Sadif, her visitation schedule, and her correspondence (along with managing the household) fills her day as usual but she cannot shake the feeling that something is amiss, that this life is not the one she's meant to lead.

Ezekiel Drake is a man of some wealth and means. He is hale and whole; no disease racks his body, nor do visions strike him. He has no quest involving the manifestation of Excalibur. Instead, he is living the comfortable wealthy middle/lower upper class life.

Katherine chafes intolerably in her marriage to Lt. Gordon, heir to the Black Soap fortune, and is a virtual prisoner in her house, held by the fears and expectations arising from her eldritch geneology. It is widely believed within her family that she is the dreaded red-headed demon of Eldren legend and must be controlled lest she wreak havoc and ruin on the world. She is constantly watched and brow-beaten into good behavior, regularly drugged with Laudanum to keep her tractable. Her father, The Colonel, has never forgiven his daughter for her mother's death in birthing her and when Katherine exhibited the ability to speak with the dead, he instituted measures to keep her contained. Marrying her off to the strong hand of Gordon was one such measure.

Kit Ashmore is a destitute drunk on the streets of London, widely regarded as mentally broken and treated with suspicion and scorn. He is searching for his wife, Rebecca. Pavel, a unemployed Russian mercenary, is his stalwart friend who can be countd on to spot him for a pint. Kit has a Hand of Glory with him and by it, Kit hopes to find his Rebecca. He runs to a nearby park to catch pigeons for a magic summoning using the Hand.

Also running the streets is Liz, who wakes in time to avoid being killed in her bed for a bauble she's reputed to have stolen from a rival. She gains the upper hand and steals an expensive pearl and gemstone ring before escaping to the streets. In due course, she joins up with Pavel and Kit as they snare pigeons in the park.

Rebecca Spencer wakes to find herself under her brother's thumb as a recovering patient of a complete nervous breakdown over the death of her military husband in the Crimea. Her brother is a successful archaelogist and is busy with her father managing a prestigeous dig in Egypt. He has been given the responsibility for Rebecca's care and as it takes him away from his important work in Egypt, he resents her and treats her badly. Nevertheless, for the past two years she's fought to regain her sanity and her stability ... and today she wakes with the utmost conviction that she must get out, that there is something not quite right with the world, that the life she lives isn't true. She convinces her brother that she is stable enough to go for a walk in the park. She's granted the freedom to go, but only if accompanied by her caretaker-nurse. Rebecca agrees and manages to elude the woman once she gains the park.

Pieter and Ariadne Finch are suffering the effects of the time shift as well. Ariadne, a brilliant but unrecognized bio-chemist, lost her unborn child due to an accidental exposure to toxic lab chemicals. The miscarriage caused her to go mad. Pieter's love for his wife would not countenance committing her to an asylum. Instead, Pieter took care of her himself with the help of a hired nurse, giving up all hope of gaining entrance to the Royal Society. The resulting two years have been hellish but Ariadne has finally shown signs of improvement.

Josephine visits Katherine in her normal round of visiting and when Katherine fastens her glittering gaze on her friend and asks if she can feel the wrongness, Josephine agrees and finds a way to sneak them outside to a nearby park. Once there, Katherine catches sight of a tall dark-skinned man in North African robes and turban hiding behind a tree. Katherine knows him, however impossible it might be, and goes to him. Josephine follows.

The tree and the park and the African is the point at which Rebecca's path crosses Katherine's and Josephine's ... and from there Rebecca and Katherine divine the nature of the wrongness. Rebecca joins hands with the women, works her magic, and restores their memories of their former selves.

Rebecca's caretaker catches up with them and Josephine thwarts the nurse's attempt to drug Rebecca, turning the anesthetic syringe on its wielder. The nurse goes out like a light. Thinking quickly, the women throw the unconscious nurse's arms over their shoulders and they haul her along, as if helping a drunk friend home.

It's not long afterward that they find Liz, Kit, and Pavel in the park and plans are made to have everyone in the party meet in the private back room of a nearby pub. The nurse is propped safely in the corner. While they wait for the rest of the party to arrive, she wakes. Josephine and Katherine gag her with handkerchiefs. (If Katherine does so a little more harshly than required, no one calls her on it.) Once everyone arrives, Rebecca and Katherine spend their magic to restore the memories of everyone still caught in the illusion: Ezekiel and Pieter and Ariadne Finch.

Unfortunately, by the time it is the Finches' turn to be restored, Rebecca's Manna is deleted and Katherine's strength can help only so far. As a result, the Finches' memories are only partially restored. It is enough to allow them to keep up with the rest of the party, however, and everyone makes their way to Ezekiel and Josephine's townhouse.

They take the nurse with them. She has witnessed everything and the party can ill-afford to keep her their captive as they set about righting the world. Neither can they kill her--it is not in their nature to murder for convenience. What then can they do to keep her from revealing the party's restoration and yet leave the woman alive? Kit uses his magic to summon a demon to possess her for 48 hours, thereby taking her away from the party and preventing further witness of their actions. Kit attaches the condition that the woman is not to be harmed by the demon in any way and that she be released to herself in 48 hours. The demon grudgingly agrees, Kit releases it to have its corporeal holiday, and the Nurse wakes.

She runs immediately out of the townhouse and into the path of a passing carriage. She is killed instantly and while half of the party bring the carriage driver in for a bracing snort of brandy and reassurances that he is not to blame, Kit takes the nurse's body back inside. He summons the demon and is about to punish it for breaking his command that the nurse remain unharmed. The demon remonstrates that it did nothing to harm the woman and that Kit has cheated it of its half of the bargain. After grilling the demon harshly to ascertain that it is, for once, speaking the truth, Kit banishes it back to hell and holds a seance to question the soul of the dead nurse.

She reluctantly appears, unhappy to leave her dearly departed family whom she can now see again. Why was she brought back? She was at peace. What does Kit want from her? Let her go. Kit asks her if the demon killed her by forcing her into the carriage's path. No, she says. She did it of her own will. Somehow she was free to do it. Nothing and no one forced her. Why does he need to know? Why did he bring her away from her family? Kit has no ready answer or explanation and dismisses the Nurse to her reward, whatever it may be.

The balance of the evening is spent discussing what the party should do next. Liz reveals the ring she carries to Rebecca once she figures out that it is supposed to be Rebecca's engagement ring from Kit. Katherine is struck by visions of a little Oriental boy, speaking in a language she cannot understand. She thinks she is going mad but this time others have seen the apparition, too. The Finches find a way to retask an older invention of theirs to capture the boy and allow it to communicate to the others. They come to understand that are needed at Stonehenge. The Finches' apparatus explodes and the boy disappears ... but now the party has a direction for their efforts.

Ezekiel arranges train tickets to Salisbury Plain for everyone. They will leave in the morning.

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