Edit: Currently writing a new version of this, dont know when it will be done.
Edit: Since first post I have updated a few sections with additional information.
I recommend reading it all even if it is very long, I might have placed some relevant info in different sections while thinking about what else needed to be added, plenty of steps remains mostly the same except when I comment directly on it. It is not necessary to do 100% security all the time, unless you absolutely need it, combining some high and some lower security ideas for a balance of security and convenience is useful.
I will base this mostly on Windows, Linux users probably know this, and I have no idea how apple machines work (tho many things in here are still relevant for other operating systems, as they are just general tips)
Disclaimer: There are certainly other steps that can make you more anonymous or safer, however I think for most people this will surfice. Any software I recommend should be independently verified for security, and examples of software are not to be taken as endorsements. I simply use examples and give recommendations when I believe it necessary, or helpful.
I will not really differentiate between anonymity and security, they are often the same thing. As such the word security can mean either more anonymous, less vulnerable, or both. -
Everyday Simple Info Sec:
- Password for the device is an obvious one (8+ characters minimum, best if over +12), if there is sensitive information on any of the drives, either encrypt the entire drive or just the sensitive files, and make encrypted backups on a different memory storage device (There many programs to encrypt files and drives I'm sure a search will figure it out)
-There could be a hidden administrator user on your PC, make sure to change its password
- Always use the device on a non admin account
- a VPN that doesn't log (use with kill switch on, should be enough for everyday stuff, more safe stuff in the high security section) (VPNs that claim they don't log sometimes do, it's bad, but I would like to point out that not using a VPN will always expose your traffic to your ISP and also remove additional encryption. Even if the VPN tracks, there is no downside because your ISP would track anyways, and VPNs can be more anonymous, and also add extra encryption)
- disable location tracking (preferably make all your privacy setting to release minimal info, get rid or cortana, change privacy settings in all of your accounts as well, there's no reason why you should allow Facebook to give you target ads. Use the setting they give you.
- TOR, Firefox or similar browser, stay the fuck away from Google Chrome.
- your preferred search engine should be duckduckgo (other privacy focused search engines exist as well)
- use an adblocker that also prevents the adding of tacking cookies
- Use pgp with all your friends or messaging services that implemented end to end encryption (Implemented services can still be bypassed, but are way more convenient so for everyday use they should suffice, some examples should be Telegraph, Signal, WhatsApp etc) (more info on pgp in high security section)
(Snapchat msgs, reddit dms, discord msgs, are just a few examples of msgs that are never encrypted)
-Any info even send in encrypted msgs (and obviously non encrypted) should still be kept with possible deniability, don't say "I'm gonna do MDMA", say "I'm going out with molly."
- use software (like ccleaner) that purges cookies and other data after every use, before shutting down your device
- use a virus scanner daily (I like spy bot Search and destroy, many other options also exist)
- never use the same password/passphrase twice (I will address what passphrase are below) (Better yet use randomized passwords that are stored in a master key chain, make them as long as possible (tho it is okay to go with the minimum of 12 never go below 7, I recommend 15+ depending on how often you have to manually enter the password instead of copying/pasting it) Don't generate too long keys for things you need to access regularly without copy/paste, except your master key ring)
- its ideal to never use the same email or username as well, especially username, email is obviously tricky and also very annoying, but it would be best to always change the email.
- it's also ideal to check https://haveibeenpwned.com and anything you have that comes up positive should be immediately changed
-DO NOT STORE ANY PASSWORDS ON GOOGLE, IF GOOGLE LOGIN IS AUTHENTICATED IT WILL AUTFILL ALL PASSWORDS IT HAS SAVED (same with other similar services) (This means if you are logged in to chrome and someone has access to your machine, they can auto fill passwords without entering a single password)
-use a rememberable passphrase, especially for your master key ring aka password manager A long sentence that is memorable makes an okay password (decent example,: "I met my wife at Little Ceasers for the first time on 07/09/20" better even if it's just something you know, if its impersonal, and if you can add special characters or numbers that you won't forget) (A better example for a passphrase is: "There is 0nly 0ne letter that d0esn’t appear in any U.S. state nameQ
- for your main password manager(key ring), I highly recommend Keepass 2, make backups of the file save to separate devices and drives (Flash drives, phone, PC, laptop, etc, if you loose that file, you lose all of your passwords) (Other good password managers exist as well, I don't recommend online password managers as you lose the control over passwords)
-Purge your internet activity frequently, there's a reason why I only have one post, and a few comments appearing in my account, but thousands of kama. Exposing information needlessly is not good.
-Never post private information publicly, and if you do, do it vaguely as possible. (Example: Not "I'm 15", say "I'm a teenager") Do not post any vital information ever, no birthdays, mother's maiden name, age, or anything you have ever seen in a security question. Never post your current activities while they are ongoing. You going on a vacation? Don't announce it to the world, taking picture there? Post them when you are home.
- Any account that is supposed to remain anonymous and as secure as possible should only be used on secured devices. A unsecured device can link you to the account.
- always shutdown your machine when leaving it (To prevent access, and to prevent a possible attack vector)
- 2 factor factor authentication is not great anymore. Unless you can do it over a anonymous source. A cell phone is usually directly connected to you, so it is not a anonymous device. There might still be secure/anonymous 2 factor authentication methods that won't expose you, for example over a secure email. (If there is 2FA that doesn't need a device that removes anonymity and is secure, use it.) (Please don't misunderstand, 2FA is great, however it can remove the anonymity that you worked hard to establish)
-Rethink how you do security questions. Many answers to security questions can be found in your internet history. One could use the first word of the security question as an answer, or a different sceme that will mean you always remember it. (Security question need to go, the amount of personal info an average person puts on the internet makes it easy to attack anything using security question)
High level crimimal information security:
The motto here is, "All the Security, All the Time" As one fuck up can end with you leaving a lick of traceability, and you could be fucked.
Pre Note: All of your software should always be up to date. Also even perfect info sec does not guarantee you are completely safe, a new zero day (exploit) can still fuck you, but good info security makes you significantly safer, by eliminating as many attacks as possible.
-Get a new device (or make a already owned device seem like you never owned it, do this only if you know how to, there's a lot of stuff that goes into that, like changing your mac adress etc) buy with cash, and your face covered, preferably far away from where you live. (Do I need to specify to not bring your phone or anything else that tracks your location to anywhere you want to go anonymously?) (Be aware that even hardware can have vulnerabilities, many cpus have known vulnerabilities, I can't list them all, do some research before buying)
- Do not EVER use a high security device at any lower level of security. There are unique identifiers to your device, exposing them once can expose you for everything you do.
-If you know how to use Tails (A linux distro designed for Info sec) use that, preferably on a USB. (Or learn how to use tails, its better, but complicated) Otherwise a clean copy of windows (make sure its not in any way associated with you) can do the job too, tho not as well. (Using a VM might give extra security, since VMs usually erase all data and RAM they were using on shutdown)
-Get a non tracking VPN, Enable the kill switch (a setting that disables all traffic that doesn't go through the VPN) (change your firewall settings to only allow the traffic from the VPN, windows guide
(Change settings so only traffic from the tor application is send) Edit: (Due to complaints: do not use vpn over tor, use tor over vpn. tor over vpn has no notable downside, if the VPN logs it makes no difference, your ISP will always log anyways, and vpns remove other attack vectors and also provide backup security should tor fail. Again even if the VPN tracks you only change the people doing the tracking, but now you are further removed making it more anonymous and also with less vulnerabilities)
-rember privacy settings, cookie cleaner, and antivirus, password (There could be a hidden administrator user on your PC, make sure to change its password)
-Always use the device on a non admin account
-Ideally use this device only on networks that are not connected with you. Such as public networks (try to never use the same public networks twice, move around) (a home network should be fine now, as it should never be exposed, but more security is always better) (Its just a conveniences vs security trade)
-Never use accounts that have been exposed to lower security on higher security machines
-your browser is now TOR
(or your preferred security focused browser, if you dont plan on using onion ) Make sure you get the standalone version of tor not the addon build (the standalone is safer, because there are less settings and options to tweak)
-Change your tor settings, to safest mode, enable a bridge (to my knowledge there's no difference in security between the build in bridges in tor), enable automatic updates, set duckduckgo onion as your primary browser. Set dark.fail onion page as your home page. (Or your preferred privacy search engine and onion directory)
- set up a new pgp (can't use the same one you use for regular use, again less safer accounts are never used on safer devices) Cleopatra is my choice, its simple to use. Make sure you back up the private key multiple times, on safe devices. (Dont let the private key fall into anyone's hands) Give it a generic name like "HighSecurityPGP" do not give the pgp key pair a name that could identify you. (No initials etc) (Some pgp key pair programs want an associated email for a key pair, you can create a safe email, or which I recoend you can use a different program (like Cleopatra) (Feds & LEOs are known to copy private keys if they have your machine, so you will need to set up a new key pair if they ever take a device with a private key copy)
- a high security machine that facilitates criminal activity can not use many programs. Many programs collect your devices mac adress, which is a unique identifier, amongst other things. It's should be used only for the activity you want to do.
How to use dark net markets (DNMs)
If you finished your High Security setup, we can dive right in. Otherwise go do that. This is where all that is essential.
Quick info on Tor, and onion sites. There is no search engine. It's all based of directories and addresses you are given by others. Tor will likely not be very quick, it has to pass through multiple networks to get to the destination. DNMs sometimes exit scam, an exit scam is when a market shuts down completely and takes all the money, this is a risk when using DNMs, it's not too common but happens maybe 0-4 times a year. The admins of thoese servers need to get out at some point, before they get jailed, so they exit the game, and scam everyone out of their money.
-A very useful onion directory is dark.fail it has a lot of links, for all kinds of stuff. News, email, DNMs, Psychonautwiki (harm reduction website), forums etc. (Other directories also exist)
-Pick a market, preferably one that handles secure connection server side instead of requiring you to establish the secure connection. Then create an account. Your account once created should include an entry box in your profile for a pgp key, post your PUBLIC key in there. (Verify the link is not a scam, most markets should provide a pgp signature)
-Next is currency setup. All major cryptocurrency exchangers can be used, I can recommend coin base but there could be better ones out there. Unless you find a small non U.S., exchange, they will always ask for your identity. So unless you can find a trustworthy exchange that doesn't ID, you will need to give it to them. (Side note, all major crypto exchangers report to the IRS, if the IRS asks you if you bought cryptocurrency and you bought while having IDed yourself SAY YES, DO NOT COMMIT TAX FRAUD WHEN THEY KNOW YOU DID)
- I recommend using Monero, it's hard to track, so it makes your job a lot easier. (If you use bitcoin you should run it through a scrambler, because BTC is tracable to anyone who knows what they are doing)
-Transfer (monero you can send directly, btc you should scramble) to your wallet. There are two options a cold wallet (physical) or a software wallet. Software wallets usually dont cost anything so I recommend them, even if often less safe. Electrum is easy to use, and pretty safe.
You can also do your own research and find a wallet that fits your needs.
- decide where you want to ship it. You can send to your home, to a PO box, to a PO box that you opened with a fake ID (I don't recommend), an abandoned house, general mail (sending to a post office instead of a street adress) pickup up with fake ID, use a remailing service. These are some options, sending it to your own home, isn't ideal, but its pretty much the only easy way.
-now you are ready to buy, only buy using escrow (it means the money is held by the market as a middle man until the product is delivered, they will also handle any issues like wrong quantity, cuts, etc), judge the reviews for a product, and if available look at the history of the vendor, until you find a product from a vendor you trust. (I recommend to buy within your country as much as possible, so it doesn't go through customs, it's very rare that something is found, but it can happen)
-now you get to buy, depending on market, you either have cryptocurrency stored in their wallets (not recommend, you will lose it in an exit scam) or you can send it every order. When you send your delivery adress (or the one you want it to go to) encrypt the adress using the sellers public key. Make sure the adress is correct.
-wait for the product, make sure to extend the escrow until the product arrives, if you can't extend it anymore dispute the order, and a moderator will step in
-test the product, use it, and leave a review. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW, DNMs only work because of reviews.
Edit: Didn't imagine I would write over 15000 words. Oh well, it was fun. Hope it helps, if you have any questions feel free to ask.
No idea how long this will stay up, I might purge it in 7 days, or never.
Go Back to Part I
The door chime rang as I stepped into Sandbrook’s Saint Street Deli, a favourite local eatery of mine since childhood. I gave a nostalgic side glance to the now off-limits seating area where my father and I had often shared a meal, hoping wistfully that we’d be able to do that again before too long.
“Hey Samantha, perfect timing. Just got finished with your order,” Sam Sandbrook Jr. smiled at me from behind the plexiglass partition.
My dad and I had always been on good terms with the family-owned deli, even though my mother and sister’s ‘Kareness’, for lack of a better word, almost always brought them into conflict with the outspoken Sandbrook Senior on the rare occasion they visited the deli at all. More than once, he’d remarked that I was so quiet because all my mother’s verbosity (not his word) went to my sister.
"Perfect, thank you. Moxley's been cooped up in my trailer all day and I need to get home before dark to give him some outdoor time," I remarked as I fumbled through my purse for my debit card.
“You’re still living out in Harrowick Woods? That forest is haunted you know,” he teased as he rang up the total on the 1980’s cash register they’d used since before I was born.
“Yeah, I know,” I said with an enigmatic smile, which he couldn’t actually see because of my mask.
“That’s a very pink mask you’ve got there. I thought the surgical ones only came in blue,” he commented.
“Genevieve ordered them for us. I’m working out of her New Age shop over on Albion now,” I explained as I tapped my card to the modern peripheral that had somehow been jerry-rigged to the ancient till. “She’s convinced that surgical masks are the best after N95’s, but she wanted ones that were still distinct and feminine.”
“Distinct and feminine – that’s Genevieve alright,” he agreed as he slid the bag through the hole in the plexiglass. “Umm…. I don’t mean to pry, but you’re dating Genevieve, right?”
I froze, my eyes widening as the familiar, noxious feeling of my social anxiety began to churn in my stomach.
“Ah, yeah. Over a year now,” I said softly, uncertain about where the conversation was going. “Why?”
“I know it’s silly and none of my business, but I was wondering about your sandwiches,” he chuckled awkwardly. “I noticed late last year that whenever you came in here for take-out, you started buying two sandwiches instead of one. I knew it wouldn’t be for your dad, so I started thinking that maybe you were seeing someone. But Genevieve’s a vegan, isn’t she?”
I let out a sigh of relief and nodded.
“Yeah, she is. She checks every box on the Left pretty hard,” I chuckled.
“So – and again, I know it’s not my business – what’s with the extra sandwich?” he asked curiously. “Are you squirreling them away for when you can't stomach any more kale?"
“No, it’s not that. I like Genevieve’s cooking,” I laughed awkwardly, considering what I should tell him. “No, its for a friend of mine. Someone I meant out in Harrowick Woods.”
He furrowed his brow, his curiosity peaked but too polite to pry too much.
“Anyone I know?” he asked.
“Not anyone you would remember,” I answered.
Not twenty minutes later, I was home in Harrowick Woods, in a cemetery that a 19th-century occultist by the name of Artaxerxes Crow had made hallowed ground, weakening the Veil between the physical and spiritual planes, and hiding it from the notice of unenlightened mortals. It was beautiful, and secret, and sacred, and I loved it more than anything other than Genevieve, my family, my cat, and one other person.
I bent down by my altar, which I had placed by my fire pit, and lit the candle within the jack-o-lantern shaped holder that I had marked with a special sigil. I took my wand, tapped it to my command chakra, and then traced that same sigil in the air with it.
“Elam Crow. Under Sacred Sky and upon Hallowed Earth I invoke our pact and call you hence from the astral plane. Heed my summons and come serve your Lady. So mote it be!” I incanted, bidding my spirit familiar to appear.
Right on cue, a translucent blue astral body in the form of a lean man with white hair and a long coat manifested on the other side of the fire pit.
“Hi, Elam! You can have a seat. I just want to talk tonight. Here, I got you an Italian hoagie from Sandbrook's."
It’s very important for a Witch to show her appreciation for her familiars so that their relationship doesn't deteriorate into just giving and obeying orders, but how you show your appreciation can take many forms. On two occasions when Elam had still been alive, including the night he died, I had shared sandwiches with him from Sandbrook’s deli, so I thought that would be a meaningful tradition for us.
He also just seems to enjoy the chance to consume food again, though I’m as confused as you are about how that actually works.
As far as I know, consciousness is the only thing that can exist on both the physical and astral planes. I think it is possible to transmute physical matter into astral material, so long as the lost mass is compensated for somehow, kind of like Hawking radiation from a black hole. Elam might be doing that, or his astral body might just be telekinetically grinding up the sandwiches into such minute crumbs that they're dissipating in the air without me noticing.
Or it could be something else altogether. I've never asked him about it. Seems rude.
Elam accepted the sandwich with an appreciative nod and sat in the chair next to mine. I unwrapped my own Rueben, tossing a piece of beef down to my cat Moxley, who was already eagerly pawing at my leg.
“So, what’s on your mind, Samantha?” Elam asked before he took his first bite.
“Well, I’ve been trying to research Artaxerxes, since the only information I have on him is from his own journals, which are very obviously biased towards glorifying him,” I began, already tearing off a second helping of beef for Moxley. “But I can’t find anything else about him, or you, or the rest of your family. The will-o-wisps ate it all. I was wondering how much you knew about him.”
“Very little. I didn’t even know his first name until you told me,” he admitted. “I do know that he was my Great Great Great Grandfather and that before she died my daughter Rosemary was the seventh generation of Crows to bear Persephone's Favour, as we called it. The reason I mention that is because the seventh generation Crow was to be significant somehow, or at least that’s what got passed down to me. Did you find anything about that in the journal you dug up with him?”
“Not exactly. That journal was obviously meant for his eyes only, so a lot of it’s pretty cryptic,” I answered. “More than once he rambles on about how he’s ensured the greatness of his bloodline, and how when the stars finally align it will be one of his descendants to usher in a ‘rapturous iconoclasm’ that will leave the mortal plane forever altered.”
“Well then, I guess we can safely rule out prophecy as being one of old Xerxes’ gifts,” Elam scoffed, hints of bitterness and sorrow seeping into his voice.
I considered dropping that line of inquiry entirely, but I still had a few nagging questions.
“One aspect of the Favour I'm a little unclear on; did all of you inherit the physical aspects as well as the spiritual ones; your white hair, silvery skin, and bright blue/green eyes?" I asked.
“Every relative I ever met looked like this, though it’s milder when we’re younger,” Elam nodded. “Rosemary, for instance, had platinum hair and pale skin, so she didn’t really look too unusual. Why do you ask?”
“I just wanted to rule out the possibility that I am not some unaccounted-for descendant of Artaxerxes,” I admitted, modestly averting my gaze.
“With red hair and brown eyes? Not a chance,” Elam assured me. “No Samantha, you are a monkey wrench in Xerxes' most well-laid plans, and had you discovered this place one month later then you did, I and every Crow except
for Xerxes would still be in Hades right now.”
“Yeah. It’s funny to think about how different my life and your afterlife would be if we’d never met,” I mused, sneaking in a bite of my sandwich before moving onto my next question. “What do you think the odds are that there are Crows who have yet to shuffle off their mortal coil?”
"Zero," he said flatly. "Xerxes' deal with Persephone was that he and every descendant would sacrifice themselves to the wisps here on All Hallow’s Eve, by no later than their 70th year. Each of us who failed to honour that deal brought compounding waves of misfortune upon our entire family, which eventually became fatal. By the time my father’s 70th birthday rolled around it was down to just him, me, and Rosemary.
"I pleaded with him to sacrifice himself, so that Rosemary wouldn’t have to grow up without a father, or so that I wouldn’t have to bury a daughter, but he was too damn stubborn. He said he was too healthy and had too much to live for, that he didn’t trust me to manage what was left of our assets on my own, and that he was not to blame for the curses of the Elder Kin. So, his 70th Halloween came and went, and… Rosemary never saw her third Christmas.”
He paused, putting the sandwich down as he buried his face in his palms. I could feel the heartbreak of his daughter’s death welling up in him.
“Elam, you don’t need to go on if you don’t want to,” I said softly.
“Thank you, but I can continue,” he assured me. “I blamed my father for Rosemary’s death, and for my wife’s suicide not long after. We fought, physically, and that was the last time we spoke before he died. That was the really cruel irony, as far as I was concerned; that his refusal to sacrifice himself for me or my daughter hadn’t even bought him an extra year.
"He died of a stroke, suddenly but not surprising for a seventy-year-old smoker, and had already cut me out of his will. Chamberlin, the conniving bastard, took advantage of that and was able to scoop up most of what was left of my family’s assets for himself and, well… you know the rest.
“So no, I don’t think there could be any more living Crows out there. I only managed to survive until Halloween by hiding out here. Any long-lost relatives would still be cursed and would have died sometime between my father’s death and you turning Xerxes’ body over to Persephone.”
I nodded, satisfied with his answer, and unwilling to dwell on such an unfortunate topic any longer than was necessary.
“You mentioned Chamberlin. Crow, Crowley, & Chamberlin
seems to be the only place that the name Crow wasn’t forgotten,” I told him. “How well did you know Chamberlin?”
“Not very. Like I said, my father didn’t trust me with the business. I only ever met Chamberlin a handful of times,” he replied. “He was a hard man to read though, both conventionally and clairvoyantly. At the very least, he had enough occult knowledge to occlude my extra-sensory perception.”
“You mean he’s a psychic dead zone, like Saint Aria’s Church?” I pressed, simultaneously intrigue and alarmed at the prospect. Elam nodded in the affirmative. “There are a lot of weird rumours about Chamberlin, including that he’s the same Chamberlin that founded his financial firm two hundred years ago. Did you ever get that impression?”
“He doesn’t seem to have aged since I first saw him as a child; but, you know, neither has Cher, so make of that what you will,” Elam shrugged, before growing pensive. “Do you still have all the keys from the keyring I left you?”
“Of course, why?”
“I have a safe deposit box at CC&C
, box 373, under the pseudonym Cyril Vance,” he replied.
I took out the keyring he was referring to and quickly flipped to one with the numbers 373 engraved on it.
“This one?” I asked.
“That’s it. With that, my pseudonym, and the password Asphodel, they'll let you access the box. They won't ask for ID. That's their safe deposit boxes' main selling feature, actually. They don't need to know who you really are. Assuming that Chamberlin never figured out that box was mine, it's probably still intact."
“What’s in it?” I asked. He took a moment to consider his response.
“I'd like to call them scrolls just to sound dramatic, but I suppose they're just rolled up pieces of paper," he replied. "The occult dealer I bought them from said they were spell scrolls made by a Witch who came here with the first settlers. I could sense they had astral properties, but I was never able to read them. The Witch who made them had taken measures to ensure that only clairvoyant women would be able to uncover her secrets. I bought them with the intention of giving them to Rosemary when she was old enough but now, now I want you to have them.”
“You’re sure?” I asked carefully.
“Absolutely,” he nodded without hesitation. “You know, if Rosemary had gotten the chance to grow up, you’re the kind of woman I would have been proud to see her grow into.”
I blushed at the undeserved compliment.
“A socially awkward, bisexual, technically grave-robbing pagan illegally squatting on municipal land?” I scoffed dismissively.
“A gifted, independent, well-learned Witch who accomplishes what she puts her mind to no matter what,” he answered back. I accepted the compliment without further resistance, and we finished our sandwiches without any more talk of the past.
A couple of days later, after my last counselling appointment at Genevieve’s, I took a walk over to Crow, Crowley & Chamberlin
to see if I could get access to Elam’s safe deposit box. It wasn’t a long walk, and for reasons I couldn’t quite place my finger on, I didn’t want to risk them getting my license plate number. Maybe it was just my anxiety, but even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong or dangerous, it still kind of felt like I was.
I had told Genevieve about Elam’s scrolls, and she was extremely interested in getting ahold of first-hand accounts of another Harrowick Witch, but there didn’t seem any need for her to come with me. It was a simple enough errand for me to handle on my own, and she had her afternoon backyard yoga class to teach. CC&C
wasn't really her kind of place either, and she hinted she was a bit wary of Chamberlin himself.
I eschewed my customary witchy dress in place of more generic dress pants and the nicest long-sleeved blouse I had, in the hopes of both blending in and avoiding recognition. I wore my mask, a large pair of sunglasses, and I put my hair up into a bun under a wide brim hat, thinking myself to be as inconspicuously incognito as I could possibly be. Crow, Crowley, & Chamberlin
was a Greek Revival style building with big stone columns lining the front entrance and a pair of marble sphinxes flanking the stairs. The inside was just as ostentatious with dark marble floors, mahogany panelling, and a three-tiered fountain in the lobby.
Behind the counter was also a large portrait of three 19th-century men, and I recognized Artaxerxes Crow immediately. The tall, slender, scarlet-clad likeness of either Chamberlin or his ancestor was familiar enough as well, as he often made himself noticeable at public events. The third man was presumably Crowley
, who I don’t actually know anything about.
I was so fixated on the portrait, I almost didn't hear when the teller waved me up to the counter.
“Hello. I’m the beneficiary of Cyril Vance, owner of safe deposit box 373. I’d like to collect its contents,” I announced as I presented the key. The teller inspected it briefly before typing the information into her keyboard.
“Password?” she asked.
“Asphodel,” I replied. “Excellent. Right this way Miss,” she said, leading me across the counter and down to the vaults. She punched in a code to open a cabinet full of keys, picking the one marked 373. She signed it out on a nearby clipboard and then opened the vault to the safe deposit boxes. She led me straight to 373 and, using both of our keys, unlocked for it me.
“Take all the time you need,” she said, politely refusing to open it and excusing herself to wait outside.
I took off my sunglasses and, after taking a furtive glance around for any spies or cameras, I pulled open the drawer. Inside - along with a heavy Manila folder, a velvet case, and a leather coin purse - were the scrolls Elam had described. They were essentially just rolled up sheets of paper held closed by a brass ring. I picked one of them up and examined it carefully, weighing it in my hand. It was old and yellow, but didn’t seem like it would disintegrate on me if I tried to open it. I cautiously slipped off the brass ring and unfurled the paper.
At first, it was blank, but being observed by a Witch activated whatever latent enchantment it was under. Dark, nebulous vapour of astral matter was summon into existence and began to swirl about the page, forming an elegant, floral border around its edges. Something like a living contour map began to form upon the page itself, and as I skimmed over the fleeting calligraphy and sigils that marked them, I realized I was looking at a map of ley lines.
I’ve read a lot of varying conjectures on what exactly ley lines are, but my personal theory is that they’re currents in the aether, a primal substrate that underlies all reality. They're most prominent in the astral plane, but they seem to affect paranormal activity on the physical plane too. The Veil between planes is always a little weaker around ley lines, and especially where they intersect.
The undulating lines danced upon the page, their strength waxing and waning, their positions shifting subtly over time. I wasn’t sure if I was looking at a record or a forecast, which suddenly became relevant as a powerful convergence of ley lines briefly came together before disbanding again.
If I was looking at a forecast, when and where was that predicted to happen, and how long would it last? The implications of such a convergence were, though vague, still significant, and it seemed like something I should be prepared for. I began scanning the scroll to see if I could decipher any system of coordinates or dates, when the map instantly dissipated right before my eyes.
“What?” I muttered, unsure about what had just happened.
“Why hello, hello, hello,” a man’s voice came from the vault’s entrance. I spun around and saw who I instantly recognized as Chamberlin leaning in the doorway. Tall, slender, and dressed in a dark red three-piece suit with a matching top hat, hardly any different from his portrait.
His mask was actual gold and looked like the bottom half of an Oni mask, with a snarling smile and prominent fangs, the black cloth behind it giving the impression of an abysmally dark and deep gullet.
Most disturbingly of all, I couldn’t read him at all with my clairvoyance, exactly as Elam had said.
“Ah, hello,” I responded, rolling the scroll back up and sticking it into the bag I had brought with me. “I’m sorry, was I taking too long?”
“Oh no, of course not. I just happened to be available at the moment and I always like to offer my personal attention to our clients whenever possible,” he explained, introducing himself with a curt bow. “I’m Seneca Chamberlin, Chairman of Crow, Crowley, & Chamberlin
. How may I be of service to you, Miss?”
He spoke with a ‘Mid-Atlantic’ accent like an old movie star. Since Chamberlin was supposed to have been born locally, it was logically an affectation, but for some reason, it gave me the impression that it was a worn-down native British accent.
“Um, ah, thank you, but, but no thank you. I’m just here to collect some personal, private
, documents, and I was just verifying their contents before taking them,” I said, quickly shoving the remainder of the box’s contents into my bag and pocketing the key.
I fumbled with my sunglasses before making my way to the door, but Chamberlin refused to move aside. He glanced up and down my completely occluded face before letting out a short chortle.
“May I just say Miss that I admire your choice of such a distinctly pink surgical mask. The blue ones are so common as to be positively blasé
,” he remarked with a roll of his eyes. “I suppose that for their traditional purpose, an easily identifiable mask is counterproductive, but since our masks are solely
for medical purposes, it’s advantageous for them to be easily recognizable, isn’t it?”
I swallowed nervously and nodded, but said nothing. He stepped aside then, gesturing politely that I was free to go. I nodded my thanks, and scurried out with my bag of occult scrolls clutched tightly to my side. Just before I reached the exit, I heard him shout from behind me.
"If you're ever interested in opening up your own account with us, I'd be happy to see to it personally, Miss Sumner