Interlude – What measure a man?

Richard Forde was born March 16, 1828 in Ireland.  He doesn’t remember exactly where, he hasn’t been home for a long time and his memory isn’t what it once was.  After failing to gain entry to Trinity College of Medicine in 1846 he moved to London to attend law school, quitting sometime during his second year to pursue a career of sending drunken letters to family and friends.  Somehow this didn’t pan out financially and Richard entered the Royal Navy in 1850, serving aboard HMS Fox.   

Richard fulfilled his duties without distinction through to the blockade of the mouth of the Yangon River and the instigation of the Second Anglo-Burmese War.  He was reported missing after the storming of Rangoon on April 14th, 1852, although not much missed by any of his crewmates if you catch my drift. 

Richard would reappear in 1872 in Gulgong.  Where was he in the intervening 20 years?  Learning magic of course.  After deciding that he wasn’t having much fun in the Navy and wandering away (which is treason technically) Richard drifted over to China where thanks to Opium War 1 he was able to become fast pals with a British fellow who was making bank off selling opium and various other immoral bullshit by the name of Henry “Hank” Smithparke.   An Irishman and an Englishman?  Truly friendship is the real magic.

One day Richard said to his pal Hank (paraphrasing) “I know why I get blackout drunk all the time, I have no prospects, but you’re rich as balls from selling opium and other nasty things, why do you do it with me?”  Hank told his friend Rich that he did it because a wizard killed his wife and he really liked his wife, maybe even loved her, and he was sad about it.  At the time Rich was drunk enough want to hear more about that and Hank was drunk enough to tell it but not so drunk that he couldn’t speak – it was the perfect storm.   

Hank explained that a few years back the Buddhists came to his opium factory and said that his workers were going missing because they were being killed by an evil monster.  An evil monster attracted on account of a pool of negative energy emanating from said factory. Probably because of all the opium.  Regardless of why it seemed, they said, that a shuten-doji or gaki was haunting the neighborhood and they wanted to look for it.  Hank told them (paraphrasing) “go nuts buddy” thinking it was all superstitious mumbo-jumbo and not caring what they did.

Seeing an evil spirit be bound in human form and then banished to the netherworld by a quintet of Buddhists monster hunters is the kind of thing that will sober you up real quick.  See this was back when people still could believe in that kind of stuff if it was in front of your face whereas nowadays you see something like that you assume you have a brain tumor and go to the hospital.  Which to be fair you probably do.   

So Hank was all like, whoa, how do I learn to do THAT?  The one Buddhists guy who survived the ordeal said that his order normally they doesn’t support the teaching of foreign devils this kind of thing, but his personal philosophy was that the more people know the better on account of there seemed to be a lot more evil going around.  So Hank became an apprentice and started learning the magic of detecting presence of negative ki in the world, sensing the taint of evil spirits, and ways to combat them. 

Self-improvement is usually admirable, but this particular curriculum didn’t go over great with a sorcerer who used those evil spirits to prop up his own rival opium trade so that’s where the wife murdering came in, at which point Hank said “nuts to this, I’m going to get drunk” and gave up on his training. 

Hearing this, Rich thought it quite the tale and said to his pal Hank (paraphrasing) “what if we both stopped being miserable hope to die drunks and wasting our lives and instead we gave this magic thing another shot, do some good in the world” and Hank thought about it for a moment and then said “Sure”. 

They muddled through magic training as best they could on their own since the Buddhists weren’t talking anymore (on account of most of them were dead) with the occasional help of the best mentor they managed to scrounge up – a backwoods con artist/smuggler from Virginia who was there posing as a missionary.  He had picked up a few spells here and there and was willing to teach what he knew for cheap whiskey and cheaper women.

All magicked up and fresh out of opium money Rich and Hank headed to Gulgong to get in on the gold rush because everyone knows that if you want to be a magician protecting the earth you need a lot of money.  They didn’t come up with much gold despite their best efforts, but they did thwart (and by thwart I mean murder) a fellow magician who was posing as a “dingo spirit” to butcher people and steal their claims.  They also busted up a circle of witches that weren’t doing anything evil at all but they were women in the 1870s.  So.  You know. 

Once the Gulgong boomtown was all boomed out and an unpleasant necromancer had moved to town (fighting evil is all well and good but discretion is the better part or valor and so forth) Rich and Hank, still cash poor but magically delicious, decided that America was the place to make their fortune/stop evil.   

Florida America was a happening spot in the 1880s.  At first everyone was getting rich on citrus fruit, then two hard freezes wiped out the central Florida citrus industry – with the exception of Rich and Hank whose trees had a little bit of help from sweet lady magic.  With everyone else out of business they were poised to make a killing until Hank was killed himself for real by Jacques Daviel, who happens to be an apprentice of one Raymond Pine.   

Richard fled the Sunshine State and kept right on fleeing until he hit Chicago, where he decided to rebrand himself as Huddie Mooringsport.  While the craze was on the wan nationally, Huddie found that middle-class Chicago women were still bananas for spiritualism and he quickly installed himself as the numero uno spiritualist in the windy city by virtue of the fact that he was only mostly full of crap instead of entirely.  Take that Bangs Sisters! 

Things were going great for Huddie until the early 1920s when a Frenchman magician who had been a surgeon during the Great War decided that he had seen enough of what humanity was about and it was time to end it all.  To quote Mr. Roe himself –  

“The world disgusts me.  People are treacherous, crude and cruel.  The natural world is no better. When you’ve seen it all there’s really nothing left to feel but loathing.”  

In order to gather the power he needed to cast his “kill all humans” spell Roe needed a lot of magical energy, and what better way to get it than the ritual blood sacrifice of other magicians?  A very short and very ugly shadow war was fought in Chicago, with Roe ultimately being defeated in no small part due to the intervention of none other than the visiting couple of Royale Fantastique and Bessie Love.   

Huddie was haunted by what he had seen and done during this conflict, feeling that if he had taken his magical studies more seriously and not been such a ding-dong he could have stopped Roe before he murdered most of the magic users in the Midwest.  When you’re a hundred years old you tend to get maudlin.   

Huddie came out of his funk in the 1950s to join up with a band of minor mages to combat the scourge of communist wizards working to destroy truth, justice and the American way.  He fell right back into that funk when the sixties rolled around and it became clear that this literal witch-hunt was an excuse for violent misogynists to commit murder.  This new funk coincided with the cult boom of the 60s and Huddie was in the right frame of mind of capitalize, getting in on the free love let’s all get high movement with his own showstopping cult recruitment tactic of being able to do actual magic. 

Things were going so well that a decade and change later, with a bunch of dedicated followers under his belt and cult compound and everything Huddie thought that maybe he could do some real good in the world, you know, with magic.  And maybe he could have if another more powerful and more violent magic guy hadn’t decided that it was a good idea for their two cults to merge.  Huddie disagreed and that’s when the more powerful and violent thing came into play.  Hostile takeover you know?  It was the style at the time.  Reaganomics and so forth.

This new group would go on to be very successful in the Midwest and be the same one that Grace listened to a book about, with the blood magic and the fake Norse stuff and the sexual abuse.  This is just like a flashback on Lost, all kinds of things are being connected in ways that will probably never be mentioned again.  That’s called not paying off. 

Huddie survived the merger and decided that it would a good idea to spend the 80’s on a coke and booze binge, naturally ending up back in Florida – the home of cocaine even though it comes from Colombia.  In his more hopeful moments Huddie tricked himself into thinking that he was there to avenge Hank.  In his low moments he admitted that he was waiting for Raymind Pine to kill him since he couldn’t manage to do it himself.   

Neither of those things happened.  After hitting rock bottom eight or twelve times Huddie got clean in the 90s and fell into a routine of going to the store once a week and not doing much else.  On his 170th birthday he started dipping his toe back into the magic realm here and there, working on new spells and documenting some of the old ones.  For who?  He wasn’t sure, but he started get nostalgic in the way you do after 17 decades. 

When 2012 rolled around and the world didn’t end Huddie managed to resurrect a little bit of optimism.  He really thought the Mayans had it pegged and it was going to be the end.  Since the world still existed he started getting more involved with the local magic community, such as it is, and began using his skills to find missing persons and lost pets.  He started to feel good for the first time in a long time.   

A few years later that goodwill vanished when UBM first send a couple of goons to kill him.  His black magic group depends on missing persons for fuel and didn’t take kindly to them being found and brought home safely to not be missing.  If they had sent some real hardass killers that first time Huddie would have died for sure, but UMB was just trying to feel him out and sent a couple twerps and Huddie had enough magic in his old silk hat to win that first battle.   

Opportunity missed.  Huddie spent the next few years learning everything he could about combat magic and learned an even more important skill – not giving a damn about killing.  Not good for the soul, but great for surviving violent confrontations.  At first Huddie was all gung-ho to take on UBM and his whole crew, but he eventually figured out that there were always going to be more low-level black magic peons no matter how many he fried and the “inner circle” were too well insulated to be gotten.  Not gotten without probably dying himself anyway and Huddie wasn’t there anymore.

Over the last few years a magical cold war malaise has overtaken Huddie.  Every now and the he frees one of their victims.  Every now and then they send a couple sacrificial lambs to try and kill him.  And in the end what’s accomplished?  Nothing.  Status quo. 

And then along came Grace.   

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