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Claremont Academy, September 15th, 9.45 A.M.

The day had dawned bright and clear, a slight mist hanging on the ground that quickly dispelled as the sun rose and evaporated it, leaving everything outside the warm buildings of the Claremont campus feeling slightly damp. Birds were now departing for warmer climates in force, with flocks passing over Freedom City in great 'V's. Their calls rang out with the sound of approaching autumn and the inexorable march of winter, and they frequently stopped at Claremont Academy to rest, many students having the ability to outright speak to them, and the paths were often littered with stray bits of bread and other kinds of food.

While walking across campus, Cerys happened to walk by a small flock of Canadian geese huddled around and hiding a still figure on the grass. Hearing her steps, they rose up in a noisy stream of wings and loud honks, soaring up into the cloudless sky. What they had been hiding turned out to be a small hawk, a bird with long claws and a red stripe down its back, lying still on its side. After a few seconds it stirred, weakly flapping one wing over its left leg, on which a small steel ring holding a piece of paper was bound.

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Blodeuwedd had a complicated morning routine she would get up early to jog round to Ellis’s apartment to check for any mail or message. Then she would drive her car back to nearby Claremonts, before getting ready of lessons.

And today was no different, except for the bird. As part of her training by her order she always tried to keep an eye out for anything unusual, anything like that could be some kind of portents. She watched them all take flight and the hawk that left behind. Now that must be some kind of message, especially as she looked to be carrying a message. Dropping down she made her way towards the bird, talking softly to it in Welsh.

<â€Hello little Hawk let’s see what’s wrong with you.â€>

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With great alacrity the bird got to its feet. Using its wings to steady itself on its short journey over to Blodeuwedd. An explosion of feathers a breath of air and it was perched ungainly on her shoulder, extending the leg holding the ring in which the small scroll was tucked. Getting it out was supremely easy, and the message(in her native Welsh) read:

'Agent Blodeuwedd, AKA 'Cerys Pefr'. Your presence and assistance is requested at once. The Afanc of Llyn Brenig has started to become restless, and we believe that spirits of the Otherworld are to blame. If you can, bring one other, preferably one that can supply a little brawn. The passageway will be set in the sidewalk outside the Academy from 12.00 to 1.20 PM.- The Order. PS: the Adar Llwch Gwin bearing this will guide you to the spot when asked.'

The hawk gave a sharp whistle, staring up at the girl with cold, bright eyes.

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She had expected to be called to help the Order at some point, it was a duty of the wielder of Dyrnwyn after all, but she’d hadn’t expected to go against a lake monster of all things. As far as she had understood it most of the countries lake Monsters had even been tamed or sedated, if one was waking up especially one like Afanc Llyn Brenig. She looked at the hawk and gave a little smile.

“Do you understand English little hawk?â€

But who to ask along? She considered for a minute asking Tona. Not only was a capable warrior and a ranged weapon would be useful against a Afanc, but opening up a little about her own past might make Tona more likely to reveal a little of her own. But no she didn’t want to reveal the existence of the order too to many people that really left only on other person. She got out her phone and dialed the number

“Subito how are things? Do you fancy another little trip? A little further this time…â€

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The bird nodded once, a gleam of understanding in its eyes. It whistled again.

At the moment the phone rang, Subito was in his dorm room, busy reading a massive book on the political history of nations in the Caribbean, eyes-deep in the lengthy struggles of Haiti to gain its independence. Frowning as he turned the page he muttered "Huh, I had no idea it was that ba-whargle!" the rest of the sentence lost to time as the phone on the wall rang imperiously, and he nearly dropped the book. Mastering himself he tossed the weighty tome onto the bed as he leaped off it, grabbing the phone off the hook and saying(a little impatiently) "Hello? Subito here." the voice on the other end lit up his face

“Subito how are things? Do you fancy another little trip? A little further this time…â€
"I'm doin' super-good! How about you?"

'Hey, this isn't gonna be another of those missions, is it?' 'We must lend our aid when called for, Subito. This time is, of course, a trifle more literal than most'

Nodding at that he answered "You bet I'm in, Blodeu! Just tell me where we meet and what to bring..."

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Despite herself she gave a broad grin Subito’s enthusiasm was infectious.

“Well in a nutshell we’re going to Wales to subdue a Lake Monster and stop those trying to wake her.†It was delivered in her normal matter of fact manner “Meet me by the tree in about an hour.†After hanging up she looked at her new guide little Red Strip the Hawk.

“If you want to grab something to eat now would be a good time. We’re all meeting up by the oak over there.†She pointed to the large Oak that seemed to have it in for Crow

With all that sorted she made a dash for her dorm, not knowing if Tona was up or not she crept into the room, grabbing just Dyrnwyn and her traveling bag. Only pausing to leave Tona a note that she'd be away for a day or two she made her way back down to the ground of the Academy. Making her way over to the oak she made herself comfortable among the branches. She dug out her battered paperback copy of Red Book of Hergest. Looking for the story that involved the Afanc.

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Without his mother's strict scissors around to keep it in check, his hair had grown much longer, requiring him to loosen the strap of his baseball cap, emblazoned with the symbol of the Freedom City Heroes. He had left a similar note to Serge, feeling a stab of guilt that he hadn't thought to invite him along, though the Blue Dame had told him 'He was not invited along, there may be restrictions in place against more than one going with her'. Adjusting his well-filled backpack(having learned his lesson from the last time he had gone on a mission with Cerys. He whistled a merry tune to himself, walking into the Claremont quad eyes peeled for Blodeuwedd. Catching sight of her under the tree he charged up, calling out "Hey there, Blodeu!" sliding to a halt on the grass and dropping down onto his knees beside her he looked at the Red Book with interest "Whatcha readin'? Are we waiting for our ride to show up?" a bit of fur dropped from a branch above them, and he saw the hawk above him gnawing on a dead squirrel "Cool bird." He looked back at Blodeuwedd, eyes bright with curiosity.

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Look up at Subito she gave a little smile waving her paperback around.

“It’s called the Red Book of Hergest it’s one of the oldest book on Welsh myths and folktales. I’m sure it has a reference to the Afanc, that’s the old term for a Lake Monster. Its means beaver in Modern Welsh, so it’s probably a not a good idea to tell any Welsh ladies that your hunting for Afanc…â€

Blodeuwedd got up and brush herself down.

“Our little Hawk friend is a Adar Llwch Gwin, incredibly intelligent animals, but they can be a little literal. So best not to tell them to attack anyone unless you want a face full of talons as well. She’s also knows where the portal is located.†She switched to Welsh and addressed the Hawk <â€Come on then little Red Strip finish your meal and show us where we have to go.â€>

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Its means beaver in Modern Welsh, so it’s probably a not a good idea to tell any Welsh ladies that your hunting for Afanc…

Subito looked blankly at her for a few seconds before the penny dropped, at which point he blushed furiously and looked down at the ground for several seconds "Uh...yeah, yeah that would be a bad idea" he agreed hastily 'Oh come on, how does this keep happening?' 'I cannot imagine Mr. Prudish', getting to his feet when Blodeuwedd rose. He gave a long, low whistle at her explanation for the hawk and its peculiar powers, giving the bird an admiring look. "I'll keep that in mind. No face-fulls of talons for me! Your family use these birds a lot? They seem pretty handy messengers. Also..you guys have lake monsters? What are they like?"

Red Strip squawked, tossed back the last of the foot it had been tearing at, and flew on before them, alighting on the academy wall and turning around to watch the pair with its bright beady eyes.

Subito walked along beside Cerys as they passed the imposing gates "'Little Red Strip'? You've got a boundless imagination, Blodeu" he said with a friendly laugh.

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Blodeuwedd faced the same question she all did when talking about the Order, or at least the version she’d told the other and it was like a family to her. She quickly decided to tell as much of the truth as she could.

“Well the family operates on two different path, one most technological the other the magical side. I dealt mostly with the technical so all this is still new to me. Of cause the Technical side also uses magical items, like Dyrnwyn here, and I’ve heard that the Seers Skype during some of their sessions. â€

She made sure to keep Red Stripe in view as they walked along. Maybe it was the thought of going home, but she was in quite a buoyant mode.

“Anyway Red Strip sound much better in Welsh, Coch Sreipen, so does Ef sy'n gofyn cwestiynau gwirion.†Her tone was a little more drier than Subito but it seemed she was gently poking fun at him. “And if she didn’t like it I’m sure she’d let me know.â€

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Subito looked briefly surprised before an expression of deep chagrin came over his face "That's real neat. I bet you come up against this a lot, but I keep thinkin' that everyone who does mystic stuff always uses magical ways of doing things all the time, like they never use phones and stuff. It's pretty silly" he added sheepishly. He was heartened that Blodeuwedd had decided to tell him so much about who she worked for and what they did, and from what he had seen on campus she had gotten several friends already, which to him was almost a prerequisite for happiness of any kind. "I should introduce you to a friend of mine, Serge. I bet you two would get along great! You've seen him a few times, he's blond and super-tall and loves science."

Anyway Red Strip sound much better in Welsh, Coch Sreipen, so does Ef sy'n gofyn cwestiynau gwirion.]

Even when not bearing the mantle openly, Subito's powerful ears allowed him to understand what she said perfectly "Well, Red Stripe's got a huge advantage over me! He doesn't wanna ask the cool girl about her mysterious and badass job, so he can't ask any silly questions!" he protested jokingly, watching the small hawk idly. He glanced around once they were walking down the sidewalk "So, is there an invisible door around here or what?"

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Blodweudd blushed a little at Subito comment and did what any girl would do in the situation, she changed the subject.

“She. Red Stripes a she, either that or she doesn’t mind what we call her…â€

Where exactly was this portal? She didn’t think that they would send her to find something she couldn’t see. Wait that was it, she was so caught up with everything she’d missed the obvious answer. Not quite feeling the cool girl that Subito thought she slipped out of her bag her goggles and put them on, there green lenses designed to detect magical energies.

“Should be around here somewhere, it shouldn’t be too had to find.â€

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With her goggles on, Blodeuwedd saw a smooth blue circle composed of patterned runes around a neat hole in the sidewalk. The portal was, in fact, right in front of their feet. Red Stripe glided down before the pair, whistled once and flapped her wings at the round circle on the pavement only a few inches from them, where they certainly would have fallen in if she hadn't stopped.

The hawk cocked her head to one side, waiting for further instructions and looking quite pleased with herself. A grey car passed by with a muffled roar of its tires on the asphalt, and a news helicopter soared high above the city, with the bustling downtown clearly visible from the hill.

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Blodeuwedd crouched down at the edges of the circle and quickly studied the Oghams making sure that this circle was what it said it was. Once she was happy on the details she took her goggles off and offered them to Subito.

“The portals a circle just at your feet. As far as I understand it we all just step in and away we go.†She held out a hand and looked towards Red Stripe “You welcome to join us. Unless you’ve got something better to do?â€

She stood up an offered her other arm to Subito.

“If you’re ready we can leave. I believe it traditional for everyone to do a little leap into the portal…â€

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Subito knew enough about being around unfamiliar situations to stop when Cerys stopped. He watched in mild confusion as she donned her goggles with the glowing lenses and stared intently at the sidewalk, holding his tongue and looking suspiciously at little Red Stripe. 'Yeah, this is probably why people get so creeped out by magic guys. This stuff is just weird' 'Is that so?' 'Alright, fine, I get what you mean'

Taking the goggles when they were offered he squinted through them at the hole in the ground in the blue circle "...Whoa. Your people do not mess around. That's pretty awesome, let's go!" he said gleefully, putting his arm snugly around Blodeuwedd's. Looking down at the hole in the ground, he tensed and jumped the same time as Cerys did into the circle!

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With a roar of air, the two Claremont students fell for an incredible distance, the tunnel seeming to twist and turn faster than they could react to, the world around them flashing by in vague blues scattered with grey rock and brown earth, the small hawk clinging to Blodeuwedd's shoulder with all of its surprisingly considerable strength and tenacity. At last, after what felt like hours, they fell out onto a a green and wooded hillside with enough speed to send them slamming and tumbling down a short ways through the wet grass, sliding to a halt just short of a large and ancient tree stump. Red Stripe had been tossed much further than them, narrowly missing a heavy branch that it stumbled rather than flew onto. It gripped the tree with renewed vigor, the world reeling around her as much as it did for the two teenagers.

The air was crisp and damp, filled with the heavy throb of the distant windmills and the sounds of animals bolting into the underbrush at the sudden arrival of unknown entities. Everything else was still and quiet, which made the appearance of a professorial-looking man with a a trim goatee wearing glasses, a thick sweater, boots and a rucksack around a tree all the odder. Looking at his watch for a moment before stooping down and offering the two teens his hands he said cheerfully to Cerys in Welsh <"Excellent timing, agent. We just got everything set up for the investigation"> he looked with interest at Subito <"Ah, and you brought a companion! I trust he's capable?"> helping them up and switching to English he said to Subito "Welcome to Wales, young man. I am Supervisor Medraut, your guide and commanding officer on this mission. Let's get out of this sodden wood and have a little picnic by the lake. Some friends of yours managed to come along, agent Blodeuwedd" he said merrily, walking downhill comfortably through the forest towards a distant patch of glittering light far below "you remember the agents Efnysien and Nisien, I believe?" the wood did not crack under his tread.

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Blodeuwedd remember at the last second exactly how the portal worked, in her defence this was the first time she travelling this way, her warning was unfortunately lost to the fall. As she landed her instinct, from hour upon hour of gymnastic training, she rolled with the fall and came up on her feet. To almost wish she hadn’t.

<â€I’m honoured that you will be assisting us Supervisor.â€> she bowed her head in respect, this was a seasoned member of the order, not a friendly trainer like her old Taid <â€I’ll allow him to introduce himself, but he was the one I mentioned in my report that assisted with that incident in America. I had to tell him a little of the workings of the Family. He also either been teaching himself Welsh or he has a special ear for languages.â€> So be careful what you say didn’t need to be said.

The formalities out of the way she looked for little Red Stripe, she’d hoped she hadn’t been hurt by the fall.

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'This..this guy...this guy is one of the dudes in charge of her family's evil-fighting stuff! Oh man, I can't wait to meet the others!' 'Calm yourself, Subito! There is some deception afoot, cannot you see?' 'Dama Azul, normally I think you're right, but I think in this case you're reading too much into what they're saying'

Shaking Medraut's hand eagerly with his own powerful hand the strongly-built teen said "I'm Subito Sondo, sir! Blodeu's told me a lot about her family, you guys do great work!"

Falling step with the other two, he could hardly help but overhear Cerys' words "It's the second thing, thanks to the personification of Puerto Rico I have the gift of bein' able to understand any language i hear, though i can't speak more than a few yet. I'll have to learn Welsh some time" he commented happily as he slid down the wooded hill, pushing ahead of his feet small avalanches of loose twigs and dirt not gripped by the grass or bushes "it sounds like a beautiful language!"

Squinting his eyes he could make out the glittering water far below them, and sudden excitement gripped him. Turning to Cerys he said almost reverently "We're seriously going to do this, Blodeu, we're gonna fight a lake monster!"

Red Stripe swooped down from her perch, landing neatly with a long whistle on Medraut's shoulder for a change. He smiled at the bird, stroking her head lightly as he said <"Good work, little hawk. Keep alert for any of the Otherworld that might try and steal up behind us."> the Adar Llywch Gwin bobbed, and instantly turned its gaze to the forest around them.

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She went to give a told you so look to the Supervisor before catching herself, he wasn’t her equal he was her superior. She knew each one had proved themselves over countless years; no one at Claremont’s could earn that kind of respect or even awe. Well except perhaps Headmaster Summers, there was something about that man…

So instead she enjoyed the fresh air and rugged beauty of this part of Wales. She’d never been homesick, and Freedom City had its own charms, but she did miss the views.

“We’re not going to attack the lake monster unless we really have to, for all its destructive nature it’s still just an animal. No we’re going to try and stop those attempting to wake it. Unless I’m missing something?â€

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"Quite correct, Blodeuwedd. We're not going to attack the Llyn Brenig Afanc unless we have no other option." Medraut said, though a little absently as he walked noiselessly down the slope "We think the Twylyth Teg are trying to rile it, though the reasons for why they are doing that is of course a substantial mystery. All we know so far is that it has something to do with an old grudge between our people and theirs. When we get to the picnic, I'll be able to tell you more" with a soft rustle, the quartet seemed to leap from the cool green darkness of the forest into a world of light, which resolved itself into a beautiful land of squared green pastures, with a vast lake not far below them. To the east on a hill the whirring blades of a wind farm could be seen, slicing the air. At the edges of sight were the thin white roads that weaved over the countryside from town to town, with faint dots of color the cars and trucks that drove along them.

After a walk of around fifteen minutes through the fields and trees, they came to a stout outcropping of rock on which a few tables and benches were set, around which were seated the familiar faces of the Order's agents.

Supervisor Medraut waved briefly in response to their grave welcome, with more than a few frowns directed to the rather expressive Puerto Rican and his bright fashion sense. There were many birds stepping, whistling, cawing, clacking and screeching at a small pile of food nearby, and at a word from Medraut Red Stripe jumped from his shoulder and began the serious business of getting her share.

Directing the two teenagers to a free space on one of the benches that overlooked the lake, Medraut introduced them to the other(most much older and of a very serious mien)agents. "Friends, agents, friends of agents, welcome to Llyn Brenig! We are gathered today in honor of our familial mission to battle the forces of our fabled ancestor Lleu Llaw Gyffes' mother Arianrhod, and other mystic threats to our homeland Wales. The latest challenge to our family duty are the Otherworld forces that are disturbing the Afanc that dwells in that lake. Let us eat, and share what we have learned about this matter." Glancing at Subito he added "Also I would like to welcome a schoolmate of our sister Blodeuwedd, Subito Sondo! A student at Claremont Academy brought specifically by her for assistance on this mission. Let us eat!" a smattering of applause spread through the agents of the Amddifyynner, and was silenced as they settled down to eat. It was solid and healthy food, with little seasoning or taste enhancement.

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“What of the Twlyth Teg of the Caer Dathyl? Do they know nothing of the actions of this tribe?â€

The order had an unusual arrangement with the clan of Twylth Teg that lived in the bounds of their village. In return for protection and aid in certain rituals, but none that cost human lives, the fae put a powerful glamour on the whole village of Caerdathyl. Apart from the most powerful of mages and spirits no one could find the place unless the occupants wanted them to, it meant the village had all the comforts of modern world but the order could operate in almost complete freedom.

Blodeuwedd leant in a whispered to Subito “You are honoured indeed; very few outside the order had been allowed to hear of our origins. It may seem innocuous but you may never repeat this to anyone else, secrecy has protected the family for over 3,000 years. I am now honour bound to ensure you protect the family’s secrecy.â€

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Seating with his usual general lack of finesse, Subito quickly set to the meal after a quiet and discreet prayer. Quickly getting the hang of the food(mostly fresh-water fish and potatoes), he ate as politely as he could manage in the informal setting, deeply nervous about accidentally making some blunder that would put him in disgrace before the grim Welsh. He managed to not make a fool of himself in the eating department, his table manners surprisingly refined and ably suited to dining in close proximity to others. The words of Medraut did a lot to relax him: 'Oh good! Cerys wasn't lying about that. They really are her family!'

He was munching happily on a hunk of stewed potato when Blodeuwedd whispered to him:

You are honoured indeed; very few outside the order had been allowed to hear of our origins. It may seem innocuous but you may never repeat this to anyone else, secrecy has protected the family for over 3,000 years. I am now honour bound to ensure you protect the family’s secrecy.

He stopped chewing, and looked over at her with no little surprise in his eyes for a few moments. Swallowing he answered softly " For your secrets Blodeu? You can count on me" he declared solemnly, putting his right hand over his heart "I will never tell a soul about this, or anything else you don't want me to. If only to keep you from having to sword me. What else are friends good for, eh?" he asked with a warm smile.

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Blodeuwedd supressed a little frown by nibbling a little on her food. They’d always been told that as a last resort they might have to kill somebody. Keeping the Order secret was so important that it was an option if there security was about to be compromised. Whilst it seemed all good and fine it the isolated environment of the dojo, in the real world with people she considered friends she wasn’t sure she could do it…

“I wouln’t dare, I’d break Dyrnwyn on that thick skull of yours.†She managed a weak smile

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"Hey!" Subito protested in mock outrage "Just 'cause I can split a boulder with my skull alone doesn't mean it's thick!" he turned back to the meal and thumped her heartily on the back, adding more seriously "B'lieve me, if I can keep from telling anyone about your family and their heritage, I will. I promise you that." He smiled reassuringly at Cerys before continuing with the deeply serious task of demolishing the pile of food placed before him, which he did with consummate enthusiasm.

He kept his ears open as the meal went on, though he knew that his..limited knowledge of Welsh folklore and myth made him more than a little unfit for the task of figuring out what was stirring up the Llyn Brenig Afanc. 'I wonder if they have a nation-' 'Britannia.'

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During the brief exchange between the two Claremonters the conversation around them in the crisp air had gradually grown in ease and volume, Blodeuwedd's question about possible information the Caer Dathyl might have sparking a thorough review of the recent movements of the Order's Twylyth Teg allies. <"Last I heard our Otherworld comrades were investigating the matter, but the stirrings and thrashings of the Afanc only began a few days back. Not time long enough for them to find anything"> Medraut said thoughtfully, delicately removing a slice of flesh from his trout, which got halfway to his mouth before one of the other agents, a tall broad-shouldered man with long and leonine black hair looked up from his soup and said shortly <"Not so, Mr. Supervisor. Just this week I found traces of a fairy path like those used by our allies only a few dozen miles north of here. Judging from the trail they were tracking something. I think we will hear from them very soon."> Medraut raised an eyebrow at that <"Thank you for that Agent LlÅ·r, that was unknown to me."> he nodded gravely to the larger man, who ducked his own head in recognition and went back to his soup.

At the table Blodeuwedd and Subito were seated at, a towering and rawboned woman with a shock of reddish-brown hair and piercing gray eyes was chatting idly with a shorter and considerably more rounded woman wearing a suit and bowler hat. <"Hey Branwen, I heard that there was a disturbance at the reservoir, a battering and smashing noise near the center of the water. Here, look at this"> taking out a tablet and putting it on the table among the plates and bowls of food, she tapped one of the icons that brought up a file of pictures, zooming in on one showing a scaled back glittering with narrow spines, with the tip of a broad tail poking out from the frothing water. The other woman inspected it with care for a few moments, nodding and saying firmly <"Aye Cigfa, I have never seen one like that, usually they never show their backs."> She glanced over at the two teenagers, smiling kindly at them as her friend began scanning through a collection of other similar pictures, none as clear as the one she had first shown however.

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