But not a relaxing one.
After a bit more talking with the Houndsman, and going over what he wanted, Hugo thought he had the contract secure. The team chose him to negotiate, for though the Houndsman seemed the brutish type, at his core he was Fey. And Hugo found out exactly what that meant.
The team was to recover an artifact from a guarded location- they would receive information on the security measures. They were then to bring the artifact, and only the artifact to a specified location where the veil was thin, and set the artifact on the ground, drawing a circle that would attune it to a similar location on the other side, letting the Houndsman know it was done. At that point, the spirit of Kai would be freed. Hugo was so focused on the fate of Kai (correcting the point about freeing Kai’s spirit, to driving out the entity and restoring Kai’s spirit, freed and of his own mind and will, to his body. He was quite pleased to find that nuance), that he ignored the nature of the artifact. The Houndsman did give them a container to hold the artifact in, but he didn’t explain the need for it- something that Hugo caught also, but thought that it was probably better if they didn’t know. Though he did include a clause about their condition afterwards, and the fact that the Houndsman wouldn’t send someone to clip loose ends, Hugo didn’t really focus on the nature of the artifact, what it was currently being held in, and would it’s retrieval cause harm. This is because, for all that his mental capacity was way beyond the ken of normal mortals, the level of trickery didn’t approach the Fey. The answer to those three questions was very salient to the problems at hand. But that revelation was far away, and would have very real consequences.
They received the promised information. The artifact was in a chalet in Wengen, Switzerland… Cortina d’Ampezzo. The chalet overlooked some of the most scenic landscape in the Alps, with tight switchbacks leading up the side of the mountain. It had been used for majestic action shots in many movies, and was a well known site. The security profile that the Houndsman provided was quite thorough, which considering the source, was more than a little concerning.
Hugo decided to reach out to one of the contacts they’d been given by Reidel- Myles West. They give him what they have, and he promises to get back to them ASAP. In the meantime, the others followed different leads- all to dead ends. But Myles was very accomodating, if not hopeful about their chances. Putting them in contact with Luther Benzinger- a broker of information out of Switzerland. Taking a plane, they arrive at his location, and are taken aback to find out that he lives in a literal castle, well protected by the landscape, the fortification, and a small army. Only he and his daughter, Helga actually live there- the guards are rotated out regularly. Luther, it appears, has more than a touch of paranoia. He goes to make further preparations, and leaves the group in the able hands of his daughter. The beautiful blonde flirts shamelessly with Alucard and Hugo… and it is more than a little apparently that she doesn’t know how to ‘handle’ Kassandra, so keeps her at arm’s length. She informs them that for all of their contacts, and all of the information that they’ve been provided, it was still going to be impossible to break into the Chalet. The defenses are reinforced with personal information- information that only the guards on duty have, and that is changed regularly. From someone who lives in a paranoid’s fantasy fortress, that is a daunting endorsement. The only other way to get the information is perhaps from Hottinger and Compagnie- a family owned Swiss bank. Apparently, whomever lives there does business with the bank. But Swiss, other than being well known for their cheese, are also well known for the privacy of their banking. She wasn’t able to retrieve the information through normal channels, but perhaps they could?
In the meantime, Arcas, since the last meeting, ran afoul of Lea- the Fey caught up with him after he dropped the others off. It seemed that Winter had a vested interest in the situation of the artifact once it was recovered, and the box. Arcas was told it was ‘in his best interest’ that he have it for Mab before the Houndsman gets his hands on it.
The group is able to get to the bank president a lot easier than they thought- but getting him and getting the information are two different things. They do get the information, but not before Alucard has to do some things to him the others find questionable. Gerard Reitmann apparently set up the account- a bearer account. Someone comes in monthly (and has a safe deposit box) and checks on a wire transfer- one that is to be happening in the next few days. He is very prompt- but varies the time that he comes in. But always within a day or so of the transfer.
Arcas goes to secure the box from the Sanctum, where Soup keeps guard over its contents. But someone has already been there, and apparently has the box. And they used ‘questionable’ means also. Forgetting about his problems, Arcas ministers to Soup. He’s able to broker help from Lea, but it’s a bit touch and go. Not physically. His changeling form strengthens his stamina enough where he’s in no physical danger. But the mental rigors- whatever they did to him, Lea shudders to know, which says something about the nature of the violation. They are able to get out of him that whomever it was, was powerful- but was only an agent of another power, even at that level. The other part about it- they are Fey. Soup was able to garner that. But Lea Knew that it wasn’t Winter, nor sanctioned by Mab.
Boring surveillance- not something that this particular group excels at- is the next order of business. To determine who this mysterious agent is, and intercept him before he makes his withdrawal. The first day goes by uneventfully. Helga is able to get a clean car for them, so it’s a lot of rich food and uncomfortable positions as they watch, and wait. Changing cars as the night approaches, they switch out the watchers. It seems that they have it all under control. And it also seems that their prey might not show. But, their guard lapses during the wee hours of the night- at that point where the attention drifts, and sleep descends like a brick. That hour that counter-intelligence makes use of right before the dawn. And that same point that the unknown agent makes use of on them! It goes badly- but not as bad as it could have. The Agent outmaneuvers them at every turn- until Hugo starts to use his abilities. Fracturing the figures’ concentration with staccato bursts of psychic energy, he is able to turn the tables just enough to get them out of there alive. But now, they have no information, and they’ve blown their chance to capture the only link. It seems like they will have to go in blind.
About that point, Arcas decides to call the rest of the group, and share what he’s learned. Alucard and his investigative skills is able to make some connections that reveal a bit about the subject, and more importantly he’s able to find some fibers that make a metaphysical link back to their assailant. A quick trip through the Nevernever, and Arcas is with them again, and casts a ritual to find out where their subject is. He notes that the link feels of Summer, but not totally – it’s a bit off. But it proves to be enough to get them a lock on the target, in the general location of Trümmelbach Falls near Lauterbrunnen – close enough to the villa that it is not inconceivable that this is their first break.
But after the events of the night, and the fact that this unknown ‘agent’ has the box already, they’ll have to strike soon, or risk losing everything!