Subsubsection: 6 August 2014 (more excavation, Babbage’s message, capture and escape.) Up Subsection: The Possibility Chalice Subsubsection: 27 August 2014 (dealing with Basher, north to Amethyst’s lair) 

13 August 2014 (to England; Babbage is missing; Rotherhite and Basher Gallios)

Passage across the English Channel is pretty hazardous these days; the team eventually locates a Captain Groeneveldt, whose grandfather did something during the War. Groeneveldt has a heavily-modified wooden yacht, loaded with cork for additional buoyancy to the point where it looks like an early self-righting lifeboat. (Stephen tends to feel that it’s better if the boat can be kept from capsizing in the first place, and Groeneveldt agrees that that would be better.)
The reality storms across the Channel are particularly vicious, with influences from the Cyberpapacy as well as Aysle spilling into Core Earth, and David nurses the diesel engine as they make the passage. Once they’re clear of the storm area, Groeneveldt steps the mast and the boat carries on to Dover.
For Thorfin, it’s good to be back in his home reality. For everyone else, it’s a bit… authentic. Especially in the matter of smell. However, arranging to take passage on a stagecoach round London to St Alban’s isn’t too hard; the group breaks its journey in Dartford, and Stephen (who’s back in an England even if it isn’t his England) celebrates by getting very drunk and telling war stories. Diamond eventually finds an intersection between the sort of thing she drinks and what’s actually available; David lurks in the corner in a surprisingly authentic Ayslish manner, and Thorfin tells tales in a more structured style.
The next day, they cross the Dartford Ferry (even where tunnels have survived the reality wave, they have a tendency to become inhabited by trolls, unfriendly dwarves, or even dragons) and carry on to St Alban’s, then hire a private carriage to Aylesbury, arriving in mid-afternoon. There’s no obvious wizard’s tower, but asking around gets them directions to a cottage on the Oxford road (“with a dome on the back”).
Babbage seems to be a popular fellow; outside his cottage there are men-at-arms standing around and holding horses, and everyone seems to be in the same brown-and-gold livery. The group approaches companionably, and the men-at-arms call for their leader, Tolwyn of House Tancred. Several of the team have heard of her; she’s the leader of the Home Guard, and high in the government of the Aysle Realm, under the Lady Pella Ardinay.
Once introductions have been made and bona fides established, the team tells her about the message from Babbage. As far as she’s concerned, Babbage went missing a few days ago (probably before the team saw the message in the temple, though it’s hard to be sure): the egg boy found the door open and a trail of smoke from inside the house. He nerved himself up to take a look inside, and saw signs of disturbance. Normally that would be a matter for the shire-reeve, but Babbage was a museum curator before the invasion and had a great deal of knowledge from both Core Earth and Aysle.
Recently, it seems, he’d been asking among other wizards about the significance of an ancient jewel-encrusted cup that he might have access to. (He was being rather cagy about it, as is the usual way of wizards.)
He had magical wards up at all times, and they haven’t been broken, which means one of two things: demons (against which Ayslish magic can’t ward), or a reality bubble from Core Earth or another low-magic realm. Tolwyn and the Home Guard will continue the investigation within the realm of Aysle, but those are two things with which the team might help her. She could have them transported temporarily to the demon plane, to find out what the demons know about it; or they could look into the Rotherhithe Quarantine Zone, a part of London that’s officially been fenced off because of cholera outbreaks but in practice has simply got too rough for the rump government in London to bother with trying to police; it’s now become the place one goes to hire thieves and thugs, and it seems likely that someone there will have heard of this operation. In particular, it’s a place to get Core Earth talismans, which would allow a non-possibility-rated person to get through the wards. That sounds like an altogether more congenial option, and Tolwyn writes passes that should get them past the police line.
David’s able to spot some churned grass which looks like the tracks of 6-10 people, some days ago. There’s not enough definition left to get boot impressions.
The team heads into London, crossing the Thames at Staines and then plunging through the reality storm that separates the realms. There’s a strong smell of sewage: the population of London has tripled since the invasion, and power is spotty at best.
The team gets a taxi towards Rotherhithe by dint of not telling the driver just where they want to go; he’s a cheerful fellow, and it soon appears that he knows just whom you talk to if you want to get in or out of Rotherhithe without the cops noticing. The policemen roll back the gates a little, and the team moves into the Rotherhithe Quarantine Zone.
The place’s construction is a mix of dingy concrete and amateurish modification, lit by occasional bonfires, and smells even more strongly of untreated sewage than the rest of London. The team heads towards a bonfire, which is populated by a group of young men who seem to have adopted fish skeletons as personal adornment. They start to take careful offence at these newcomers, but Stephen, who’s apparently had a hard day, points out the automatic weapon that he’s carrying, and combined with his weary attitude this gets them to back down. They direct the team to the Gutted Perch, and tell them to ask for Basher.
On the way to the Perch, the group sees a man bending over in the gutter; as they approach, he runs off, leaving behind the corpse that he was apparently robbing. As the team takes a quick look, a brown rat runs out from underneath; it has an odd black circle round its right eye, and Thorfin attempts to stop it, but it dodges round his planted shield.
The Gutted Perch smells of stale beer, vomit, cheap cigar smoke, and less pleasant things. It doesn’t go completely quiet as the group enters, but there are plenty of careful looks. The barman, who looks more like a bouncer, is surly, but brightens a little when the group buys a round for the house. As for Basher, he can set up a meeting, but that takes a bit more cash.
While the team’s waiting, Thorfin overhears some drunken goblins talking about “magic” and “cup”. (Goblins weren’t known on Aysle before the invasion; when they met them, the Ayslish initially assumed they were a race native to Core Earth.) He gets chatting with them, and buys them more beer; they’re feeling annoyed, because they were given talismans and sent up against wards to burgle a wizard’s lair, but the talismans didn’t work right and several of them died. They got paid a bit, but they heard that the Gallios Gang got paid much more for actually kidnapping the wizard later that night. Thorfin composes a song for them to sing about their heroism.
Basher (as it turns out, Basher Gallios) arrives with a couple of underlings, clearly armed; he’s a shortish man of mixed extraction, with hair shaved into odd patterns and what’s left dyed a variety of colours. He speaks with a strong Jamaican accent.
The team starts straight in, asking him for information about a kidnapping; he doesn’t deny it, but says that his clients pay for confidentiality, and the team will have to pay as much to make him break it. He names the sum of £10,000, more than the team have on them, but lets them have enough information to make it clear that he does in fact know the details of this particular kidnapping.
As he’s talking, he jumps: a rat scurries out from under his chair, takes a swipe at Stephen’s leg tearing his trousers, and runs off. It did seem to have a black patch round its right eye.
The team considers ways of raising £10,000 in a hurry. Getting money transferred from the American bank where they lodged the bonds would probably take too long, as would running fuel across the realms from mainland Europe. David reckons he knows someone in the French underground who could let them have the cash for a few days, though they’ll still need to pay it back reasonably soon.
 Subsubsection: 6 August 2014 (more excavation, Babbage’s message, capture and escape.) Up Subsection: The Possibility Chalice Subsubsection: 27 August 2014 (dealing with Basher, north to Amethyst’s lair)