The email from Kaylee was quick and to the point. It said, “Hey Alex, I stumbled across this and thought you might want to see it.” Then there was a link to a website of some kind, and that was it. Alex clicked on the link, and it opened an online forum. The site was called The Learned Elders of Ritual Magick, the forum he was currently looking at was the Guild of Smiths, and specific post that Kaylee had linked him to was titled “A Promising Development.”
The post read, “Happy to be here on the northern coast of California with the local Guild members. The weather here reminds me of home, though the trees are a lot bigger than any we have. We’ve been working, of course, and we’ve been getting some promising results. It’s helping that, among us, we now have a full set of tools.
“We haven’t made any tangible contacts, but there were clear signs that we were getting through. We’ll be working for the next couple of days until, unfortunately, I’ll need to collect up the new toys I’ve brought and head home again.
“Here are a couple of photos of the fun we’ve been having.”
Underneath, there was a photo of a group of five average looking folks in the woods,, all wearing fleece jackets or hoodies and big smiles. They were standing next a sign that read “Giant Tree.”
Alex had to agree that it was, indeed, a very large tree behind them.
The next picture was more interesting. It was a photo of what looked like someone’s living room, with all of the chairs and tables shoved against the walls to get them out of the way. The floor was wood, and was covered with symbols drawn, with what looked like white chalk, in a circle around a three legged table in the middle of the room. The table itself was sturdy looking but amateurishly built, and kind of looked like it might give you a splinter if you so much as looked at it wrong. Each of the legs had what Alex guessed was one of the smaller disks under them. So someone there did have the third one, unless they’d simply made themselves a copy of the others.
It kind of looked like the bigger disk was on top of the table, in the center, but it was hard to tell for sure, because it was obscured from view by what looked like a piece of highly polished black glass placed on top of it.
The username of the person who had posted the photos was “Archimagus.” Whoever Archimagus was, “home” for them was apparently Dover, England.
Someone further down the thread had asked when Archimagus was going to be heading home again, and said they couldn’t wait to get together to discuss the results over a pint of beer. Archimagus replied, telling them he’d be back on Wednesday.
“Shit!” Alex said. “Harold, the guy who has the disks, well, I assume it’s a guy, anyway, he’s in Northern Callifornia somewhere right now, but he’s heading back to England on Wednesday. We need to get out there and find him before we have to chase him to England.”
Harold moved to stand behind Alex, and looked over his shoulder at the screen.
“Is there any more information about where they are at the moment?” Harold said.
“Just that they’re in Northern California, and this picture has them standing next to a sign that says Giant Tree,” Alex said.
Harold looked intently at the photo of the group in front of the tree for several seconds.
“Have you tried searching for ‘Giant Tree’?” Harold asked Alex.
“Um, no. Good idea,” Alex said. He switched over to a web browser and tried searching. He was a little amazed by the number of results there were. A bit of clicking around was didn’t provide any results.
“Show the photo again, please,” Harold said.
Alex switched back and they looked again for a clue.
“There, at the bottom of the sign, it says ‘Humboldt Redwoods State Park.’ Where is that?” Harold said.
“Let’s find out,” Alex said, and added ‘Humboldt Redwoods State Park’ to the search. The list of results came back, and there were several other photos that looked remarkably similar to the one Archimagus had posted. Alex brought up a map to see where, exactly, the park was.
“Wow, that’s the middle of nowhere,” Alex said. “I’m thinking they just made a day trip to visit the park. Which means they could still be anywhere in Northern California.”
“Hmm,” Harold said. He was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Is there any more information on that site about Archimagus?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said. “Let’s find out.”
A bit more digging and they hit upon something that was almost too convenient: a link to Archimagus’s Facebook profile.
Incredibly, it appeared to be a genuine Facebook profile for someone named Noah Tipton. The profile photo was of a balding, bookish man wearing a cable-knit sweater. He happened to be one of the people in the photo in front of the tree as well.
Alex was amazed to find that Noah’s profile was entirely public. There was a photo from a couple of days ago of a hotel done in a Tudor style. The caption read, “Happy to be staying at the Eureka Inn. It’s like I never left home!”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Alex said. “Could he have made this any easier?”
“He’s either a complete idiot, or he’s trying to be found,” Harold said. “Or, possibly, he’s leaving a fake trail of breadcrumbs. I think we should assume it’s one of the latter two options.”
Alex was already searching for airfares to get out to Northern California. “Sweet,” he said, “Did you know we can fly right to Eureka? Ouch, though, looks like it’s a six or seven hour trip, with connections.”
“Would it be worth it to simply charter a private jet? We could be under way in an hour and I suspect we’ll be able to fly directly to Eureka,” Harold said.
Alex paused, then said, “Really? I’ve never done that before. What will it cost?”
“Less than our time is worth, I expect,” Harold said.
“OK. How do we do that?” Alex said.
“Leave it to me, I’ll make a call,” Harold said.
Thirty minutes later, they were back in the Mustang heading for a regional airport nearby that Alex hadn’t even heard of before.
“Are you sure this place is legitimate?” Alex asked Harold.
“Yes, Mr. Minor. This is the only way I fly anymore,” Harold said.
Alex felt a little conflicted. On the one hand, he was excited to see what flying in a private jet was like. On the other hand, it seemed extremely extravagant. He suspected a private flight to the coast of California from Minneapolis wouldn’t be cheap.
He also suspected that it might be totally worth it.