Dresden Files: Twin Cities

The Drunk Leading the Blind
A Max Steele Adventure

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The Story

The first night Max returned to the Twin Cities, he found himself hot on the tail of a rage demon accidentally summoned by teenage dabblers in magic. Unfortunately the beast was fast and Max found himself behind the steering wheel of a car for the first time of his life. Bad luck doubles down on Max ashis face is a too little well known for being a BLIND Billionaire Playboy and he was promptly pulled over by an annoyed Det. Alek Erikson. His attempts to make an early donation to the Detective Alek Erikson’s early retirement fund was met with scorn. His arrest was forestalled when the rage demon flipped a small truck. The Cop and the Billionaire found themselves teaming up on the car chase and eventually sending the demon back to the Nevernever. All of it costing Max a night of drinks with Alek.

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Craig seeks the Archive
A Craig Hale Story

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The Story

The Council wasn’t too happy with me for blacking out all of Downtown Minneapolis. They told me they really don’t need another Harry Dresden causing havoc. Who are they kidding though? When you’re in the trenches you don’t always have the luxury of deciding the best way to do nothing by committee. Maybe I really was becoming another Harry Dresden, I mean, damn it, I’ve started to monologue.

What I really had to do was get the answers I needed from the Archive, I had to know how to deal with the World Chair, and that meant talking to her directly. That’s how I found myself on a Greyhound bus racing through the dark of a winter morning. I knew better than anyone how easy it was to find someone who didn’t take the proper precautions, so I was travelling light, and by mortal means. Airplanes were out of the question at this point, we had made enough enemies who wouldn’t think twice about bringing down a jet in the last few months to make it a safe way to travel.

The bus was nearly empty, except for an elderly couple in the very front row and a teenage tough in the back, whose eyes were glued to a phone and ears plugged with music. The couple in the front had trapped the driver (overweight, dark skinned, unconcerned with speed limits) in a tangle of small talk and pleasantries. Nobody was paying attention to the wizard, and that’s just how I liked it.

I was on my way to St. Louis, following a brief conversation over the phone with one Jared Kincaid. Not the most pleasant fellow to deal with, but according to everything I’ve heard dedicated to protecting the Archive. I could respect a man like that, even if the council told me they didn’t like his methods one bit. The darkness lifted and black gave way to gray as the hours passed on our journey down slushed up highways, following the Mississippi. By noon we were driving through vast, white plains. I was thinking about my deal with the winter court, and how it would impact the weather. Someone was sure to call it evidence against global warming, but then again, if climate change is man-made, I’m surely the man who made it. A temporary imbalance was a small price to pay for the support of the Unseelie in the war with the Red Court. If only I could figure out a way to get the Seelie court on our side as well.

A few hazy hours later I arrived in the city, and made my way to a motel. I found myself secretly disappointed how inoffensively nice the place was, since it would have made for a much better story if it was gritty, run down, and serviced by someone with at least one limb missing. I would get my fill of questionable establishments later when Kincaid gave me a call and told me to meet him at a bar.

I took a cab out to the dive where I was meeting Jared, and made my way inside. The place was poorly lit, and seemed to compensate for lack of conversations with blaring music. Kincaid was sitting at the bar. I joined him, and he quickly ordered two beers. I was becoming tense, even though I wasn’t expecting any hostility. This just seemed too far out of my comfort zone. Conversation was sparse. Kincaid confirmed who I was and who I was here to meet. I guess he didn’t care much for Wizards. After confirming my identity he pulled out what looked like a bottle of eye drops and without the slightest effort to hide it squirted the contents into my glass. I wanted to protest, but he had already raised his own beer and started a draft that lasted just long enough to let me know he wasn’t going to explain himself.

I needed the information too badly to simply walk away, and against my better judgement I raised my glass. I toasted to him in a meek gesture of defiance, and downed the unsavory contents. Kincaid paid the tab and told me his car was outside. By the time we were in the parking lot my legs had already become rubbery, and my vision blurred. It takes strong drugs to knock out a wizard, but whatever he was using was certainly doing the trick. The passenger seat of what must have been a freezing car felt warm and inviting, and beckoned me to sleep.

I woke up the next day in my motel room, sprawled out on the bed, still in the clothes I wore the night before. My head was pounding. My vision blurred as I jumped up, followed by a stab of pain in my head. I was cursing under my breath. That bastard was supposed to bring me to the archive, not drug me and do who knows what. I calmed myself, sat down and began to take inventory of what I recalled from the night before. Slowly but surely as I stirred my brain the information I needed began to rise to the surface, like morsels in murky soup. Well done Kincaid, it seems my meeting with the Archive had taken place without me having any idea of where or how. As much as I lamented the splitting headache, it was an efficient way of keeping her hiding places secret.

On my way back to the twin cities I pondered what I had learned. The World Chair couldn’t be destroyed or neutralized. It became clear to me that very likely the only way to restore a somewhat peaceful status quo was to reform the wards. I needed to make allies not enemies to get this done, but something was telling me there was a whole lot of new trouble waiting for me back home.

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Idle Observations of an Immortal Man
An Aleksander Erikson Story

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The Story

Alek has liven a long time, here are some of the thoughts that move and mold him:

  • After losing his wife, he spent 230 years traveling the world, drinking, womanizing, and especially gambling… why not? When you live forever, riches come and go. You get really good at picking up on the games, calculating the odds, and reading the players and their motivations, deducing their reasoning. Sometimes you can’t help yourself. Bet Big, or don’t bother. Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires. People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy half a slug who must tighten his belt. Always store Beer in a dark place. Keep your clothes and your gun where you can find them in the dark! There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk. There is no such thing as ‘‘Social Gambling. Either you are there to cut the other blokes heart out and eat it—or you’re a sucker. If you don’t like this choice—don’t gamble. All debts need to be paid in full when the ship sails.
  • During (and Since) his centuries of debauchery, Alex would join a branch of the military, or local law enforcement body. He would serve for a while, out of principle. Then leave out of necessity. His liver may regenerate constantly, but he still gets drunk – impairing his faculties. Several times, his inexperience or his inebriation have led to the deaths of others There are times when no amount of alcohol will quiet those voices. Sober for a good while now, he tries to atone. A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate. No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on this custom declined. So did Rome. Those who refuse to support and defend a state have no claim to protection by that state. Killing an anarchist or a pacifist should not be defined as “murder” in a legalistic sense. The offense against the state, if any, should be “Using deadly weapons inside city limits,” or “Creating a traffic hazard,” or “Endangering bystanders,” or other misdemeanor. However, the state may reasonably place a closed season on these exotic asocial animals whenever they are in danger of becoming extinct. An authentic buck pacifist has rarely been seen off Earth, and it is doubtful that any have survived the trouble there…regrettable, as they had the biggest mouths and the smallest brains of any of the primates. The small-mouthed variety of anarchist has spread through the Galaxy at the very wave front of the Diaspora; there is no need to protect them. But they often shoot back.
  • An Athiest that beleives in Magic? Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent. History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it. Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child. What are the facts? Again and again and again-what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”—what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

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Dealings & Dragons
A Brittany Winters Story

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The Story

“Ms. Winters, Mr. Pearce will see you now.”

With a smile and a nod to the receptionist, I stand and slide my phone into the pocket of my smart blazer, grab my briefcase and follow to the door she’s moved to hold open for me. A quick nod of gratitude to her and I’m in the office of Windsor Simon Pearce.

I find him standing in front of the huge wall of glass looking out onto downtown Minneapolis, he turns and smiles to me.

“Ah, Brittany, do come in.”

His right hand, Alice LaRue, is standing next to him… I still don’t like her. She had me shot with tranquilizers and tried to appropriate me for Windsor’s collection within five minutes of meeting her. She gives me a haughty smirk and I don’t give her the justice of acknowledging her existence.

“Ms. Winters if you please, Mr. Pearce, as I’m here in an official capacity it seems appropriate to stand on ceremony.”

“Of course, please forgive me. Ms. Winters.” His manner becomes more business-like with a slight narrowing of his gaze. He squares his stance as he motions to a chair across the desk from his and waits until I’m seated before seating himself. Alice remains standing at his shoulder… and if those high heels she’s wearing are as painful as they are expensive it’s a small victory for me.

“What brings you here today, Ms. Winters?” He asks over steepled fingers.

“By your own admission, I am owed a boon by your… benefactor, for aid rendered in the protection of his property and interests. I am here to negotiate the terms and conditions.”

With a raised eyebrow, he gestures with a roll of his hand for me to continue. Setting my briefcase across my lap I pop the clasps, bring out two sheaves of paper.

“Having purchased a location here in Minneapolis for a second Sacred Grounds, I am having a Way constructed to link the two locations. As this could be of significant interest to both the ”/wikis/summer-court" class=“wiki-page-link”> Seelie and Unseelie houses of Faerie, it is prudent to procure protection for it."

He nods, leaning back in his chair. The leather creaks for a moment before he motions for me to proceed.

“I feel there’s a rather bit of exquisite symmetry in having your benefactor help protect my house. If what I’ve been lead to believe is true, an acceptable term of service would be one year and one day.”

Reaching forward, he opens a box on his desk extracting a cigar, which Alice lights for him. Leaning back into his chair, fragrant smoke billows out of his amused smirk.

“You are right, there is a beautiful symmetry to your request. The length of term is likewise acceptable. Shall we begin at Sunrise tomorrow, until Sundown one year and one day from today?” He asks, leaning forward to shake on it, the small cloud of smoke about him swirling like wings with the motion of it.

I lean forward and take the offered hand, careful not to powder the bones of his hand in my grip. As I lean back into the chair, he quirks an eyebrow at me while Alice gives me a disdainful ‘Are you still here?’ look.

“Is there anything else, Ms. Winters?”

“One more matter… yes. As a signatory of the Unseelie Accords, I would ask that you bare witness to arrangements and caveats of my Last Will and Testament."

Alice’s gaze snaps to me at this. As I caught Windsor on the inhale, he coughs and sputters a bit on the cigar, smoke coming out in fitful puffs. I have to work keep from smiling. After a moment he’s breathing normally, he straightens his tie as he leans forward.

“Please, pardon me.” He clears his throat before continuing, “But why would you come to me with this?”

I give a slight shrug as I move to slide one of the sheaves of paper across the desk to him, “With your… firm providing security for my interests, I felt it appropriate that should something happen to me, you’d see to it that my wishes were adhered to. You have my word that you will not have to go beyond the already agreed upon terms.”

With a nod of understanding, he starts reading through the contract. As he gets to the third page, he smirks slightly and gives an almost imperceptible nod.

A half a second later Alice blurts out with, “The Dog!? You’re giving your ”/wikis/lost-girls" class=“wiki-page-link”> Freehold to the DOG?"

With this Windsor’s attention snaps to her, his gaze narrowing dangerously.

“Yes. Ripley will become the new Lord of ”/wikis/sacred-grounds" class=“wiki-page-link”> Sacred Grounds." I say, my expression still a deadpan as I slowly roll my gaze to her.

“You have anything else to ask, Ms. LaRue?” Windsor drones. She doesn’t want to go on, but I get the feeling that if she doesn’t, she’ll be reprimanded or worse after I leave.

“Why the Dog?” She asks, somewhat less emphatically than a moment ago.

I’d be lying if I didn’t let some smugness creep into my voice and expression as I answered, “Because the ‘Dog’ has not only been recognized as a representative of the Unseelie Accords already, but she already makes the Freehold her home, she has a vested interest in it’s continued safety. Not only that, when confronted while in possession of the Dragon’s Generosity, she showed more intelligence than most where doing the right thing is concerned.”

I turn back to Windsor, who nods to me before turning his attention to Alice again, “Is that all, Ms. LaRue?”

Her cheeks flushing slightly, she nods and squeaks out a small affirmative. Windsor returns to the will and after finishing his read through, signs off of the last page with a pen that probably costs more than my car.

“Everything seems to be in order, Ms. Winters. I trust that shall conclude our business for today?” He stands to offer me the signed copy.

I take it with a nod, level a death-glare to Alice, just to nail home fact that she acted unprofessionally. She returns it in kind as I turn to head out, a smile pulling at the corners of my mouth.

It’s not quite a tranq-dart in the ass… but being in trouble with daddy is almost as good.

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Phase 1
Updates after the Events of Phase 1

Phase 1:

Phase 1 refers to the first three scenarios, Falling Star, Helping Hand, and Changing Faces. I will link to changes in the world that resulted from the events of those three scenarios here as we prepare for Phase 2.

2/15/2015

2/14/2015:

2/13/2015:

11/28/2014

11/18/2014

11/15/2014

11/14/2014.

11/12/2014

11/09/2014

11/08/2014

11/07/2014

11/05/2014

11/04/2014

11/03/2014:

10/29/2014:

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Left in the Dark
Changing Faces, Conclusion


    Terrorists Blacken Minneapolis    Police Armory Robbed    Prominent Financier Murdered During Terrorist Attack – Minnesota Public Radio News    

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The Story

IDS Tower, Minneapolis

Thomas pauses for a moment as HRG stands over the unconscious Peter Capra, the secretive man begins to secure Pearce’s wooden box.

IDS Tower

“Thomas, I’m glad you’re here,” HRG glances briefly at Rosalie, “we can’t let the Generosity of a Dragon fall into the wrong hands. I can take it, put it into hiding if you can buy me some time.”

HRG

Thomas cracks his neck and nods, when a loud crash interrupts his response. Susana, her flesh mask hanging in tatters about her fleshy bat, demonic form, screams with rage and tackles LaRue. She locks her talons about the Norse woman’s shoulders and flies towards the elevator. The two slam through the door and the wall behind it. They disappear into the open air and out of the building.

The distraction gives the mysterious shapeshifter the opening it needs, still wearing the Thomas suit it channels the living iron and hurls itself at HRG. A meaty hand snatches the wooden box from HRG’s grasp, and the Fake Thomas slams his other fist into HRG’s gut, hurling him down a hallway. Thomas turns with a hostile glare towards his double.

On the other side of the meeting room, an elevator comes to a stop because of the damage done to the shaft by the exiting Susana and LaRue, with a flustered Craig, Ripley and Bethany stepping out. The fake Thomas calls out, “There’s a shape changer here trying to get the Generosity of a Dragon and it looks like me, kill the fake one.”

Thomas glowers and grapples with the Fake Thomas, trying to rip the box from its hands. Rosalie yells out, “The one with the box is the fake one.””

Rosalie

Craig confusedly calls out, “Thomas throw me the box.”

The Fake Thomas growls, “It’s too risky,” and pushes Thomas back with surprising strength.
Bethany’s eyes widen and she whispers to Craig, “The Thomas, the one with the box, he’s stronger than he normally is.”

Craig nods and steels himself, opening his third eye. Craig sees Everything. His eyes are first drawn towards Bethany; her figure the familiar glass silhouette, encasing a tumultuous thunderstorm. Hovering about her Craig sees an image of himself and Bethany…”passionately entwined” with puppet strings leading up to the grinning figure of Puck.

God damned fairies, Puck must have charmed Bethany.

He Notices Ripley next to Bethany, a gigantic, wild wolfhound made of branches, leaves and weaving tendrils. He can see a thin leash about her neck leading off to the distance and he gets the vague sense that it’s Blackthorn on the other end. Out of the corner of his eye, he Notices Rosalie, he can see her frantically grappling with the demon that creates Red Court Vampires. He also can’t help to notice Thomas, a man out of time, red hot iron coursing through his veins. He is surprised as it looks like he can see Blackthorn’s finger prints all up and down Thomas.

Craig’s Sight continues to get drawn to the other Thomas and he sees a mirror image of the first Thomas; yet he gets the vague sense that it is a shroud, hiding something else beneath it. He can make out a long chord of misery, pain, of a dark almost Native American energy. Beneath the shroud he catches the scent of something dark and decaying; an undead rot that is hiding away. What really draws Craig’s Sight is what is in the fake Thomas’s hands, the simple wooden box. He sees instead, nothing, then a burst of pure golden light, it transforms into a golden egg. It then cracks open, birthing a small golden dragon. The dragon rapidly grows ages, engulfs the room, the building, the city, the world and then beyond. Craig feels its life burning through the depths of his soul and then experiences a soul crushing emptiness as it vanishes, turning back into nothing. The nothingness is filled with a golden light, leaving behind an egg. It then cracks open, birthing a small dragon.

My god, Chrysophylax gave up the ability to have children for Gleipnir. That is what I am seeing.

Craig can’t tear his eyes away as the dragon rapidly grows, ages, engulfs he room, the building…

I have to look away, it burns.

Craig can feel his mind cracking, overwhelmed by what he is seeing, but what he now knows and must always remember. With a scream he tears himself away, drawing upon his training and experience. He falls to his knees in anguish, closing his Sight. Ripley, experiences no indecision, she has a mission to fulfill. As Craig experiences his revelations, Ripley charges across the floor and leaps into the air. Her jaws snap and she snags the wooden box from the Fake Thomas’s grasps. She twists away from the shifter’s grasps and lands delicately on the floor.

Abandoned Hamm’s Brewery and Mansion, St. Paul

Hunter and Moss pull up in Bobby’s old RV in the dead of night. The sounds of gunfire and sirens left behind them at the Police Armory. To both of their trained eyes, the two realized that the buildings were not as abandoned as they appeared. One of the main buildings showed signs of considerable traffic going back and forth from the road.

Hamm’s

Hunter takes the air in the form of a hawk and Moss skulks in the shadows towards the abandoned warehouse. They could see that the windows and entryways were boarded up and the only entrance into the building had two security guards stationed by the door. Hunter flies closer to get a better view of the guards. One holds a billy club limply and stares blankly into the night. The other has a loaded gun that he cocks and uncocks, gazing stupidly down the barrel on occasion. Hunter circles back around.

Their minds are destroyed vacant, like their sense of self was scooped out and someone else’s will was placed in. They might as well be dead.

The hawk screeches and dives down; Hunter shifts into the form of a gigantic wolf and slams into the guard with the gun. He lands with a sickening crunch. The other guard twists around and swings the club at Hunter. He catches the metal awning above him with a loud clang. Hunter makes a wolfish grin and leaps for the throat, snapping the second guard’s neck.

Moss had begun moving when he heard the screech. He found a crack in one of the board windows and it was enough for him to leverage himself into the building. He finds himself in a dimly lit hallway, dusty footprints showing passage towards a rusted, old door. Moss carefully walks down the hallway, scanning the doorway; his ears straining for sounds. He doesn’t like the feel of the place. The doorway looks safe and Moss turns the handle opening up the door to the main floor.

Moss

Hunter cleans the blood from his lips with a lazy lick and shifts back into human form. He enters the building and quickly catches up to Moss, standing there with his mouth agape. Hunter follows his gaze into the room. He sees that the floor is littered with human remains and bones, casually tossed about like one would a McDonald’s food wrapper. In the center of the room is a Native American woman with a hood over her face. Hunter’s heart stops, he knows who it is and he knows what this means, his search is almost at an end. He sees that she has a bone collar about her neck with a bone chain linked to a large structure made of human remains. It is decorated with macabre wind chimes tinkling with the wind.

Moss’s mouth is dry when he whispers to Hunter, “What is that thing?”

“Watch the wind chimes, they move with the captive’s suffered whimpers,” Hunter starts to walk forward, “It’s used to steal a Naagloshii’s power. It’s powered by the suffering of a shaman. That’s why this bastard took Kat. Moss get that hood off her. I have to destroy this thing.”

Kat

Moss wastes little time running towards Kat. Hunter grasps the bone links from the chain and grunts. He draws upon the power of a wolf and tears the bones apart. His heart pumps with a wild energy. Moss rips the hood off and breathes a sigh of relief, seeing the tortured visage of Kat beneath it.

“It’ll be ok, we’re here to rescue you,” Moss pulls the soiled gag from Kat’s lips.

Her eyes go wide with fear at the sight of Hunter, “no, no, no, Moss you don’t understand. Jack is dead. He was killed by that thing!” She looks at Hunter with hatred and terror, “It’s a Naagloshii, a shifter, and this thing took its power and kept it locked as Jack.”

Hunter clenches his fists, his knuckles going white as he lets out a bone chilling laughter, “Yes, Yes, Yes, It’s all back.” He turns toward Kat and the confused Moss, “I was free to feed, to hunt until some upstart Black Court Vampire made this and kidnapped Kat. I just wanted to kill her for her power, he used it to steal mine. I was stuck in the shape of the last person I drained, Hunter. Now, now I am free.”

Hunter hunches his shoulders and stalks towards Kat and Moss, a murderous glee dancing in his eyes.

Top of the IDS Tower, Minneapolis

Brittany and Steven climb up the wreckage left behind from Susana’s attack and pull themselves to the roof, only to step into pandemonium. Waves of fire and lightening dance deadly arcs between the IDS Tower and the Foshay Building. The shadow of a massive dragon hunches protectively over the roof of the IDS Building, as the sky fills with dark clouds mirroring the murderous intent of the magic being thrown about.

Pearce

Brittany can see Windsor atop a helicopter platform in the middle of a ritual circle craved about him. Waves of energy ripple from Pearce, some going towards the Foshay building and other waves going at clusters of vampires in black tactical gear attempting to assault his position. Through the wind and the rain, Brittany can make out a figure shadowed in dark power directing energy towards the top of the building.

Steve yells to Brittany, “We can’t let the vampires disrupt the ritual, it would definitely kill Windsor and leave us vulnerable to Ortega.”

Ortega

Brittany had already come to that conclusion and summons her ghost axe. She runs at the first crowd of vampires, leaping over blasts of energy being hurled by Carlos and Pearce. She whips her axe violently around her, cutting a swath through the crowd of vampires. Steve calls upon the demon that drives his hunger and lets energy ripple around him. He drives the vampires to a feeding frenzy and they rip into each other apart.

Pearce and Ortega continue their deadly magical duel, their rage and hatred bleeding into the air about them. The shadowy dragon perched atop the building lets out a roar as Brittany and Steve finish off the last of the vampires. Before either can react, a furious and bloody Susana glides up from below the roof top, her wings outstretched. She channels her earth magic and causes the rooftop to buckle. Brittany and Steve dive out of the way of girders that stab up from the roof. Pearce’s platform is not so lucky. A beam tears at one of the helicopter pad’s supports, bending it. The platform lurches and threatens to break. Pearce stabs a sword into the ground to maintain his balance and continues to focus his assault.

Susana

Steve dashes across the floor, slamming his shoulder against the pillar and pushes the platform back to level. Brittany runs the other direction and leaps into the air, her ghost axe high above her head. She buries it into Susana’s back, causing the vampires to lurch and flail. She hisses, and runs her tongue along the Brittany’s exposed neck and face. Brittany steals her mind and knows that she is the Slayer and is immune to such trickery. Steve grabs a steel rod and slams it into the pillar, stabilizing the platform. Brittany twists her axe, buried in Susana’s back, and drives the vampires across the gap between the two buildings. Susana loses control and the two slam into the rooftop of the Foshay building, kicking up dust and tiles at their impact.

Inside the IDS Tower, Minneapolis

The fake Thomas suddenly lurches back and vanishes, leaving behind a dry husk of a corpse. It lurches upright, its eyes burning intensely. Craig yells out, “Watch its eyes, it’s a Black Court Vampire.”

Thomas attempts to avert his gaze, but the vampire focuses upon the scion of living iron. His gaze and will boring a hole into Thomas’s mind. Ripley snorts at the disgusting smell of the vampire. She focuses her mind on Blackthorn’s name and the sigil she gave him. She remembers his instructions and knows he will come when he is summoned.

Thomas tried to pull away from the vampire, but the creature continues its mind melting leer. The elevator doors open up next to Craig and Bethany. Blackthorn, cane in hand, steps out with a small smile. Ripley hurls the box towards Blackthorn, only to have a potted plant from the desk suddenly spasm and grow to monstrous size, snagging the wooden box from the air.

Blackthorn

Craig senses the presence of Puck. He focuses his will upon the moisture about him and lowers the temperature of the air. Craig then fills room with a thick fog, blocking everyone sight. Craig whispers to Bethany, “This should keep the vampire from mentally attacking Thomas,” he then yells out, “I have to get to the basement and keep the building from blowing up!”

And maybe Puck can get out of here with the box and my obligation is lifted, plus he will stop messing with Beth.

Silence and scuffles fill the room, as people lose each other in the fog. Bethany stumbles across the room, with Rosalie helping her. Thomas gathers his wits and readies himself, lost in cool, damp air. Ripley focus her hearing and scent. She is not as blind as these humans. She can sense a scuffle between the two fairies and hears a clatter of wood. She dashes across the floor and snatches up the wood box with her jaws.

The fog dissipates as quickly as it came. Rosalie and Bethany begin to make their way down the service stairwell that the Red Court infected and Thomas had used earlier. Puck and Blackthorn glare at each other, Puck holding his bloody hand.

Puck

“I can’t let you play this game here, this is too important,” Blackthorns eyes take a wintery blue, mingled with a vibrant green.

Puck makes a mocking smirk, “The game is all that matters, and I know what you really are. You are far from noble.”

The Summer Sidhe draws two wooden knives from his coat and launches at Blackthorn. Blackthorn takes a classic duelist stance. His cane suddenly narrowing, becoming sharp at the edge. He catches Puck’s assault and the two begin a deadly dance. Craig, Ripley, and Thomas see that the two fae are distracted and dashed down the service stairwell after Bethany and Rosalie.

Roof of the Foshay Building, Minneapolis

Brittany and Susana pick themselves up from the ground, their eyes locked on each other. Ortega and Pearce continue their battle, deadly energies dancing between them. Brittany feels a different energy about Ortega. Where Pearce was fire and fury, Ortega is dark and burning. She can see that his ritual circle is stained in blood. Susana flexes her wings and takes the air, her eyes shifting towards Pearce.

Foshay Building

Brittany leaps again wrapping her arms around Susana’s wings preventing the Red Court vampire from flying forward. Steve grabs another steal rod and leaps across the gap between buildings landing up on the Fosahy Tower. Ortega has noticed their presence and a flair of dark energy lashes out at Brittany and Steve. Steve loses his footing in sudden pain as Brittany sucks in a breath of air. Susana digs her claws into the Slayer’s side, creating even more pain for her.

Steve feels a fury well up inside of him and hurls the steel rod at Susana. The bar pierces her shoulder, causing the vampire to scream in pain. Brittany grabs a wing with one of her hands and matches Susana’s scream with one of her one. She shreds the wing from the vampire’s body, causing her to start plummeting to the street below. Brittany pushes off from Susana and lands atop the building with a roll.

Ortega sends another blast of dark energy at Brittany and Steve. Steve falls to his knees in pain. Brittany grimaces and stands, clutching her ghost axe. She strides forward, ignoring the pain and terror of the dark energy emanating from about Ortega. With a single swing she brings the blade of the axe down upon his ritual circle, severing it. Ortega gasps, stumbling suddenly. He turns towards Brittany, his eyes red with a murderous rage.

Before he can bring his ire down upon the Slayer, the ghostly image of the dragon leans across the gap between the buildings with its jaws wide. It descends upon Ortega and snaps its mse, Brittany can feel the heat of the creature’s breath. She nearly stumbles as its teeth snap, cutting off a pained scream from the Red Court Duke. The dragon draws back, leaving behind only the stumps of Ortega’s bleeding feet.

Chrysophylax

Brittany falls to her knees as the Foshay Building begins to shudder from the suddenly released dark magic. Steve dashes and scoops her up, leaping back to the IDS tower. He sets her down on her feet, and whispers to her, “I know you promised me yourself tonight. I will not have you that way. When I do have you, it will be willingly. I release you.”

He grimaces and Brittany nods quietly, still catching her breath. The energy about the IDS Tower begins to dissipate and a furious Windsor Simon Pearce strides towards Brittany and Steve, his blade still clutched in his hand. “I apologize for this assault on my place. My principal investor and I will remember the aid you both have given to us and we will be sure to repay it in kind.” His eyes narrow, still glowing green with energy, the ghostly dragon clutches possessively at the top of the building, “I apologize I cannot speak longer, for I have a thief to deal with. She has taken something….precious from me.”

Subbasement IDS Tower, Minneapolis

Thomas falls behind the rest as his cellphone rings from an unknown number. He answers it and before he speaks, the familiar voice of a girl speaks, “Thomas, I can’t speak long. Do not trust Puck, he must not get the Generosity of a Dragon. It would be dire.” The girl then hangs up.

Thomas grunts and runs after the rest. Bethany, Craig, Ripley and Rosalie make their way into the sub-basement. Craig makes his way over towards the timer, seeing that is growing short. A radio by one of the dead Broadway Shotgun Boys crackles with life.

“Craig Hale, I know you and I know what you are," Michael Abernathy’s voice crackles over the radio, “Let this happen, I came to –“

The radio suddenly dies as Craig begins to channel energy, disregarding Michael’s words. Thomas clomps into the room, “Hale remember, there is more than one explosive, more are beneath the armory and in the Foshay Building.”

Craig nods and continues to focus his will, his fear, and his hope into his channeling. He doesn’t respond to the buildup of magical energy emanating from the walls of the sub-basement. Bethany recognizes it though and shouts out, “Thomas something is happening, I think, I think it’s the dragon.”

At those words, Ripley suddenly darts up the stairs with the box in her mouth. Right as she leaves the entrance seals, locking the rest inside. She continues up the stairwell and into the main lobby. She bounds towards the exit only to be greeted by a giant dragon eye glaring at her, “Hello little wolf, you have something of mine.”

Craig ignores the rising heat and extends his energy outwards. He expands his mystical senses to nearby buildings and then releases it. His control slips briefly, and he grunts with pain as it flairs around the city. The hexing disrupts the timers and diffuses the explosives, but the explosion acts as an EMP blast darkening a wide swath of Downtown Minneapolis.

As the lights blink out, Ripley sets the wooden box down on the ground and growls back, “Chrysophylax, I came to protect the box, Blackthorn asked me to get it.”

“Blackthorn,” the dragon snarls, “I will deal with him later. Your companion rendered me a great aid tonight. I shall ignore the fact you have broken guest right if you place the box on the ground and leave my domain.”

Ripley lets out a little whimper and bows submissively and leaves the box as she darts out the door. As she goes, she hears the dragon whisper, “I will have my eye upon you, thief.”

Craig sags against Bethany, the heat building up. Thomas starts to pound against the wall, when suddenly the room cools and the doorway opens. A booming voice suddenly echoes throughout the room, “Leave.”

With that, Bethany, Craig, Rosalie and Thomas, make their way back upstairs.

Sacred Grounds, St. Paul

Craig sits at Brittany’s newly re-opened Sacred Grounds reading the paper as the NPR news blares in the background.

Sacred Grounds

“The city mourns at the surprising death of financier, Carlos Ortega, during last week’s terrorist attack. Authorities continue to have no leads as to who attacked the armory making off with a large part of the arsenal. The EMP like blast still has the city in disarray as sections still struggle to regain consistent power. The damage to electronics –“

Brittany clicks off the radio as Craig gives an embarrassed grin. “So how hard did the White Council come down on you?” She asks while cleaning a glass.

Craig makes an embarrassed cough, but is saved from answering.

“Craig, I missed your call, the Red Court Vampires were chasing me all about the city,” a bemused Jack Hunter says as he strides across the coffee house floor, “I got your other message too. The World Chair thing, that sounds really important,” he claps Craig on the shoulder with a wolfish grin, “You can trust me Craig, I have your back.”

The Conclusion of Changing Faces

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Changing Faces, Part 2


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Subbasement, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

Thomas no longer wonders what it feels like when he punches someone in the face. His double strikes him hard, knocking Thomas off his feet as he….she…it runs by. His massive size slams into the door frame, causing it to fracture and then the structure to collapse. The stairwell is now sealed off with the shapeshifter on the other side, leaving Rosalie and he trapped with members of the Broadway Shotgun Boys and enough C4 to turn the IDS Tower into a crater.

IDS Tower

Rosalie had wasted little time, she easily scrambles over the makeshift machinegun nest the gang members had constructed. Moving with a grace and speed that only those trained in the South American martial art of capoeira and striking blows infused with the strength of a Red Court Vampire; she quickly begins to overwhelm the well armed thugs. Bullets rip around her as she flips and turns, some of the Boys attempt to turn the mounted machinegun around to bring it to bear on Rosalie.

Thomas, seeing that pursuit against the shapeshifter is not readily available, turns and charges the machinegun nest. He rips it from its mounting and swings it violently. The Living Iron sings in his veins as he rips through the remaining gang members, hurling violently from their construction project. The last two throw down their weapons and dive down a hole that was drilled into the floor, one takes a moment to throw a timed grenade behind him.

Rosalie dives behind some of the rubble left behind from the construction to take shelter from the explosion. Thomas calls upon the Living Iron and pulls pieces of metal from the room about him and the rebar imbedded in the concrete. He makes a dome of iron and slams it atop the gernade. There is a rumble as the dome reverberates from the explosion contained within. After a couple of seconds of silence, where the only sounds falling dust plinking off of Thomas’s armor, they both stand quietly up.

Thomas surveys the explosives and notes the C4 has been drilled into the concrete pillars, all of which have been interconnected by yellow cables of “det cord.” A piece of concrete tumbles off of one of the pillars and Thomas realizes that his calling upon the Living Iron to make the dome has probably damaged the integrity of the building. He decides to get a closer look at one of the explosives and gingerly pulls it out of one the holes drilled in the wall. He is able to get it out and disconnected it from its case casing, unfortunately in doing so Thomas sees the rest of the explosives suddenly light up and LED screens flashes a timer, counting down from 30 minutes. He glances at Rosalie and they both jump down the drilled out concrete tunnel to chase the remaining Broadway Shotgun Boys.

Upper levels, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

Three things happened at once. The large glass window leading to the exterior of the building shatters, because a large group of men in black tactical gear, armed to their pointy teeth, swing in on rappelling lines into the meeting room with murderous intent. The second is that all three elevator doors leading to the meeting room slide open simultaneously disgorging more heavily armed thugs, but even more worrisome, Susana, Carlos Ortega’s protégé and right hand vampire, also steps into the ballroom and she looks….hungry. Then, escaping everyone’s notice but Brittany’s, Peter Capra snags the wooden box that Craig identified as possibly holding the Generosity of a Dragon. He then ducks out through a side door; luckily Brittany also notices a man with horned rimmed glasses and wearing a waiter’s uniform also slipping after Peter.

Susana

The ramifications of all these actions come quickly to home as heavy caliber machineguns are being cocked and aimed at the party in the center of the meeting room. The heavily armed thugs part allowing Susana to the forefront, who is smiling with evil delight.

“Really, Susana, you plan to involve me in all of this?” An exasperated Baldur calls out, “you and Carlos are not ready for that.”

Susana makes a delightful little laugh (arguably delightful coming from the throat of a murderous Red Court Vampire), “Oh no, I am here on other matters, but don’t worry we will make time for you shortly.”

“Well then, I suppose my date and I should just get out of your way too,” Steve straightens himself, sighing at the damage done to his suit.

“Oh no, no, no.” Susana holds up a finger as if she is scolding a naughty child, “you should choose your dates more wisely.” She gestures to the other gun men, “Kill them.”

The gunmen features change, revealing their vampiric origin. Susana demonstrates her mastery of evocation and channels her killing rage to the ceiling above the ball room, warping the support struts. She brings the heavy ceiling crumbling down atop the bewildered party goers. Bethany takes a deep breath, looking intently at Craig. She knows that she does not want to lose him, not now. She draws on her desperation and exhales blowing out a strong gust of wind upwards. She focuses her energy, she know she will be a wizard some day and she will prove it tonight. The shield of wind extends over the ballroom, blasting the debris away and shielding the others from harm. Susana snarls in frustration and Bethany falls to her knees next to Craig, winded.

Brittany and Ripley charge towards Susana and the vampire strike team with her. Steve’s countenance takes on a chiseled, marble appearance. Attraction and lust radiate from him, threatening to burn those around him. He glares at the Red Court Vampires who dared to strike against him. His passion causes some of them to give into their blood lust and fall amongst themselves tearing and feeding. Ripley darts into the chaos and hamstrings Susana, throwing her off balance. Brittany pulls the ghost axe from the ether and slams it into Susana’s gut, the busty debutante grunting as the blade bites deep. Craig draws deep into the well of his energy, tapping into the deep veins of spirit that connects everything. He then wraps it tightly around Susana. He draws upon the mantle of being a Warden of the White Council and closes his fist about the vampire. Blood pours from her mouth and stomach wound and Susana snarls in pain. Craig’s knees shake as the mental energy leaves him drained. Susana’s eyes burn with rage. She grabs one of the vampires next to her and casually rips his head off. She greedily gulps down the blood pouring from his neck, restoring her health and vitality.

The vampire strike force from the window open fire. Bethany is caught surprised and flat footed, but Craig dives knocking her to the ground, bullets shredding through his Warden Cloak. Steve moves with snake like speed and twists between the streams of gunfire. Brittany finds herself surrounded by hostile vampires and struggles, their fists and claws pummeling and tearing at her. In the silence that follows the sudden gunfire, Baldur takes a seat and turns towards Craig and Bethany, “You’re valor and bravery have been noted and however this night turns, take heart, for the bards will remember your deeds.”

At Baldur’s words, they do not feel as drained of mental energy. Bethany leans against Craig, drawing strength from him. She focuses this new found energy and curls the gusting wind from the shattered window about the vampire’s assailing Brittany. The blast hurls two of them out the window. Ripley harries Susana’s heels and Brittany, her ghost axe still embedded in Susana’s stomach, grips the shaft of the axe tightly. Like a coiled spring, Brittany twists and then hurls Susana, axe and vampire, across the boardroom, over the other vampires, and out into the night air. Susana lets out a vengeful howl as she suddenly plunges to the streets below.

Steve reaches into his coat pocket and then quickly snaps his wrist, a collapsible baton in his hand. He stride forward towards Brittany, his motion empowered by his rage. He bellows to the Red Court Vampires, “How dare you harm that which is MINE!”

Even in a killing rage, Steve is beautiful. He wields the baton with a possessive savagery, beating the remaining vampires around Brittany into a bloody pulp. The other strike team reloads, training their guns towards the room. There is a pause when a voice yells at them in Sumerian over the radios. The second strike team then, with supernatural strength and speed, leaps up through the large hole in the ceiling and darts deeper into the floors above.

Craig draws upon his arcane knowledge and is able to translate the words and informs everyone else, “They are moving on upstairs, for a bigger target. I think they are going after Pearce.”

Nobody pays attention. Steve wraps his arm around Brittany’s waist and pulls her in for a startled and savage kiss. Her eyes go wide as pushes at his shoulders. Bethany overcome with emotions and a sudden, strange passion also tackles Craig in a kiss. He bites back a groan as Bethany’s lips taste a little bit of Summer and can’t help but to think to himself, “Those Bastards!”

No one hears Ripley’s bark of warning as Susana, dark bat like wings out stretched from her back, glides level to the open window. She gathers her will and with a sudden howl, punches forward, causing the floor beneath everyone to shatter with a blast of evocation magic.

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis

Moss carefully picks his way around the three bloodied vampire corpses towards the second set of steel doors. He slips out his lap top and examines what looks to be a biometric hand scanner that acts as a lock.

Foshay Tower

“Why don’t we just use one of their hands,” Hunter picks up one of the dead vampire’s hand and waves it towards Moss.

Colin reloads his gun and checks his ammunition, “Because crime lords are paranoid bastards and probably wouldn’t let just anyone access their vault.”

Hunter grunts and lets the arm fall to the ground. Moss has already unscrewed the face plate and has connected his computer to the security system. Upon prompting he types a few keys.

“Once again, Peter’s password works,” Moss says aloud and he begins to access the security protocols. He quickly realizes that the door will be easy to open, but he also notices that someone put a backdoor into the security system. It doesn’t take him long to figure out who and to access their servers.

Monoc Securities, let’s see why you were poking around in here.

Moss scrolls through and notices some odd surveillance files, some accessed fairly recently. He plays one of the video clips and sees the grainy footage of a tied up Katrinka Hunter being beaten by another man, Jack Hunter. He glances over his shoulder quickly and notes that the time stamp shows this happening only two days ago. Moss copies the file and backs out of the system. He recognizes where the recording took place, the Abandoned Hamm’s Brewery over in St. Paul.

I hate shapeshifters, everything gets all twisty when they’re around.

Moss triggers the door and Hunter steps forward, shifting into his hawk form. He darts down a hallway that has a less modern aesthetic and then up a stairwell. He flies into a long wide room littered with alcoves. Each alcove has a silvery, ornate gate in front of it with some ancient looking artifact or artwork stored behind. In the center of the room he notices a large suit of armor, burnished and made of sharp edges. The plaque reads Carlos Ortega, 1452. The room itself has a complex and handcrafted crowning with elaborate runes.

At the end of the vault room there is a simple desk with a leather chair positioned next to an alcove with a locked leather book behind one of the gates.

That must be the ledger!

Hunter flies back, on the way, he can see a spot on the wall in the vault where he can see some cracks coming through.

They are almost through the wall, we don’t have a lot of time.

He rejoins Moss and Colin, transforming back to human form and informs them of what he saw. They make quick time back to the vault room and across the floor towards the alcove that Hunter mentioned. Moss smiles to himself as he glances at the lock and slips out some old fashion lock picks. Colin trains is light automatic rifle on the spot where the drill is going to break through. Hunter transforms back into a hawk and takes watch for any other disturbances.

Demon Armor

Moss begins to work his “magic” when real magic interrupts his locking picking attempt. The silvery gate flashes with light, the crown encircling the room does likewise. In moments, the giant suit of armor turns around. Red eyes, framed in sulfurous smoke, peer out from inside the slit of the helmet. “Thieves! You will be punished!” The demonic creature roars.

Hunter descends on the armored knight with a screech that stretches into a howl, he shifts from hawk to wolf and slams into the suit of armor. His claws rake at its sides, rending the steel plating. Colin follows up and peppers the suit with bullets, neat holes forming where the rounds punch through. Sulfur pours from the wounds and the edges glow red and then close, leaving no trace of injuries. The demon grabs Hunter by the side and smashes him violently into the floor, the wolf whimpers in pain.

Moss glances around and sees that there is an old fashion sprinkler system in the vault. With a quick study of the plumbing he runs to a section of wall and removes a panel. Using his lock picking tools he begins to quickly work on the pump in an attempt to trigger it. Hunter dashes between the armor suit’s legs distracting it from Moss and Colin. Colin drops his light assault rifle in disgust and reaches into his trench coat. He pulls out a smaller gun with a large barrel and loads a single massive shell. He takes careful aim at the demon and fires. The large shell rips through the ancient suit of armor and buries itself inside the demon. The beast lets out a roar, as the bullet hole begins to close. Then suddenly the suit explodes, blasting bits of demon and shards of metal everywhere.

Moss lets out a small yell when a piece of sharp metal stabs into the wall next to him. As quickly as the demon was blown to pieces, pieces begin flow back to the center as if drawn by an unknown force. The armor and demon flesh burn with a white fire and begin to sear as they touch, reassembling themselves. Moss manages to trigger the fire system and water pours from the ceiling. The burning demon sizzles as smoke rises from the smoldering pieces of its body. The metal and flesh try to pull itself together, but the water prevents it from searing and healing.

Moss quickly finishes picking the lock to alcove and snatches the leather bound book. The drill punches through the vault wall and retracts, pulling parts of the drywall with it. Moss sprints back to the hallway with Hunter close behind. Colin snaps up his light machinegun and leaves it trained on the opening, ready to gun down whoever comes through next. The three quickly make their way back down the steps, the feet splashing in the water cascading down the stairs.

Hunter and Colin are watching for pursuit behind them, so only Moss is able to move out of the way when they cross paths with Michael Abernathy and some of the Broadway Shotgun Boys. They open fire on the would be thieves, with Moss jumping up in the air and propping himself by the ceiling to avoid the gunfire. Colin and Hunter call out in pain and shock as bullets pepper the air around them. Colin quickly wheels his machinegun around and mows down the Boys, but missing Michael. Hunter surges forward snapping his jaws at Michael who ducks around the corner.

The sounds of splashing feet come from the vault room as more figures begin to charge towards the hallway. Colin takes cover in the stairwell they came up previously and fires shots towards the vault, stalling pursuit. Hunter continues to snap his jaws at Michael who slides across the wet floor, dodging his sharp teeth. He calls out to Moss, “I’ve heard of you, I can’t believe you are helping this freak of nature hear and Capra man. Just give me the ledger and you can walk out of this.”

Moss takes a deep breath, still pressed against the ceiling, “Mate, I agreed to do a job and I am a man of my word.” He then slips his stun gun out of his pocket, turns it on and drops it into the ankle deep water below.

Screams echo up and down the hallway. Colin staggers back down towards the stairs surprised by the electric current. Hunter and Michael find a dry part of the hallway that they both jump too, avoiding the dangerous charge. Michael fires a round at the shapeshifted wolf, a bullet catching his shoulder causing Hunter to howl in pain. Moss smiles as he reaches into his bag and reaching for his second trick for the night.

He pulls out the C4 from the vent earlier and disrupts the timer on it, causing it to rapidly start counting down. He then hurls it into the hallway, before swinging into the stairwell. Hunter and Michael are rocked by the explosion, with Michael diving further down the hallway. Hunter shifts into his hawk form and rolls with the explosive force, flying out an open window and into the night air.

The explosion rips a hole on the side of Foshay Tower. Moss winks at Colin and then dives out the hole in the wall and into the night air. Colin, figuring that he is being betrayed, opens fire on the fleeing form of Moss. As Moss sails through the night air, he can see the dance of fire and lights arcing between the IDS Tower and Foshay Tower. He thinks he can see a winged figure flying about the sides of the building. He twists through the air and hopes that Hunter is close by. He smiles to himself when he feels the talons dig into the fabric his coat and glide him towards the ground.

Colin lets off another shot and disappears from the opening, Moss dusts himself off as Hunter shifts back to human form. “Well that went well, let’s get out here, I think I saw the getaway vehicle.”

Hunter grunts and follows Moss who leads him to an alleyway by the IDS Tower. There they find Bobby Chan’s RV still running. Moss grins, “It looks like we are going to add vehicle theft to my list of illicit activities tonight.”

Hunter barks a laugh as they both get into the RV and slips into the driver’s seat. He pulls slowly out and Moss easily picks the lock on the leather bound book. Carlos Ortega’s voice rumbles into the air, full of fury and threats, “To the thieves who dared violate the sanctity of my vault, I will find you and rend your souls.”

Moss chuckles and quickly flips through the book, finding the account in question. “Hunter, it looks like the account belonged to the estate of Thomas Archibald Brown, everyone’s favorite ghost.”

They both know about the notorious corrupt cop and they both know that his ghost is rumored to be by the Abandoned Brewery. Hunter checks the rear view mirror, “It looks like we are heading to Saint Paul.”

The Sewers Beneath the IDS Building, IDS Building, Minneapolis

Thomas and Rosalie trudge their through the sewers. They have long since lost track of the two Boys that they followed down into the tunnels. Thomas notices recent construction where it appears walls have been knocked down between sewer and utility tunnels for ease of travel. He comes to a constructed intersection with “det cord” leading off in three different directions.

He turns to Rosalie, “Huh, it runs back towards the IDS Tower, it looks like another branches off towards the Foshay Building and the third goes towards the Police Armory.”

Rosalie sighs and brushes sludge off her shoulders, “So which way do we go?”

Thomas sighs and looks down the three tunnels, he knows Craig and Brittney are back at the IDS Tower, “Back the way we came, we have to warn the others about the explosives.”

They quickly wade back to the subbasement and find a service stairwell leading back up into the building. Rosalie and Thomas make good time up the stairwell and are able to locate an intercom system. Rosalie checks the directory for the upper meeting rooms and Thomas begins to dial. It doesn’t take him long to get an answer.

“Uh, Hello, Steve here.”

Thomas recognizes Steve McCellan’s voice and knows that Brittany was with him, “So, can you put Brittany on the phone?”

Thomas can almost feel Steve’s smile over the phone, “No, she is….unavailable”

Thomas ponders for a moment, “How about Craig…..or Bethany?”

“Nope, neither one is available.”

Thomas thinks for a moment and then barely hears an indignant gasp from Bethany on the other end of the line, “I am too available Steve! God you’re such a creep!”

Steve starts chuckling over the phone, “it appears Bethany has just woken up, we have had a rough evening.” Thomas can hear the phone being passed and Steve’s voice becomes muffled, “it’s Thomas.”

“Thomas, oh my god, Brittany and Craig are out cold. We got ambushed by Red Court Vampires and Susana! We fought them off, but they collapsed the floor. Windsor and Ortega are now hurling spells at each other from atop the tower. I don’t know what to do and only this creep Steve and the dog are awake….well it looks like Brittany is stirring.”

Thomas takes that all in and shrugs, there isn’t much he can do about that now, “Well, there is another problem, someone laid C4 all over the foundation of the building and we have around 15 minutes left before it explodes.

Bethany lets out a soft sigh and then Thomas can hear the phone being passed to another person. Brittany’s sure and confidant voice comes through the crackling speaker, “Thomas, thanks for the warning, the Generosity of a Dragon, the thing for the wards,” she pauses for a moment, “well, it was taken by Peter Capra and he ran down a service stairwell. Also, our friend with the glasses, he is dressed like a waiter and went after him.”

Thomas thinks about the layout of the building and feels there is a good chance he is on the same service stairwell, “Brittany, I’ll stop him. Stay alive.” He then hangs up the phone and turns towards Rosalie, “we have to go up and stop some mobster named Peter, he has something that can do damage to the city.”

Rosalie nods and follows Thomas up the stairwell. They start passing corpses of Red Court Vampires with neat little bullet holes in their stomachs and head. They both hear the sound of continued gunfire and watch another vampire drop suddenly dead onto the stairwell. Thomas calls on the Living Iron and reinforces his sword, Rosalie takes a more defensive posture and charges with Thomas out of the stairwell and into the adjoining room.

Alice LaRue reloads her pistols and takes aim, firing off more rounds at Susana. He flesh mask hangs raggedly from her body with her large bat wings flexing behind her. Towards the side of the room a heavy table is on its side and it appears that Peter has taken cover behind it. Thomas and Rosalie sees that it appears Peter acquired one of the Red Court Vampire’s machine guns and has a large bulge in a pocket of his suit coat. Thomas strides in next to Alice, “Don’t worry, we are here to help.”

Alice LaRue

Alice nods and opens fire on Susana, continue to pepper her with bullets. Rosalie charges forward ducking beneath an enraged swipe of Susana’s clawed hand and punches her rapidly in the side. Thomas, on the other hand, transforms his blade into an axe and hurls it at Peter, smashing the table in half. Peter manages to dart out of the way of the whirling axe as it smashes a hole through the wall.

Susana snarls, shrugging off the blows. She focuses the power of earth and creates a magnetic field around Thomas, lifting him into the air and then hurling him at Alice. Thomas twists around preventing the hit from being clean, but still knocks Alice off her feet. Thomas shakes his head and tries to stand. Brittany suddenly darts into the room and vaults the table with a speed and grace that is normally beyond her. She snags Peter’s coat and rips it from his body, clutching it tightly with her hands.

Thomas knows Brittany can’t move that fast and narrows his eyes, “Rosalie, that’s the shapeshifter, get the coat it has the thing we want.”

Rosalie darts beneath a wide swipe by Susana, some well-placed shots from Alice knocking the vampire off balance slightly. She vaults the table and snags the coat in her hand, ripping it, but getting the half with the box. Peter makes a little sarcastic smile and leaps out a small door, pulling a little remote from his pocket. As he jumps he presses a button and his suit coat explodes.

Brittany suddenly takes the form of Thomas and turns herself into a giant iron statue to ward off the explosion. Alice rolls nimbly into the stairwell, avoiding the brunt of the blast. Rosalie hurls the explosive she is hold at Susana, the blast ripping through the vampire, shredding her flesh. Thomas hardens his skin with liquid iron and dives knocking Rosalie into the room that Peter leapt into.

Thomas leaps to his feet, ready to chase Peter only to find him sitting on the floor unconscious with a little dart in his neck. The man in the horned rimmed glasses is kneeling beside him, wearing a waiter uniform, and taking ahold of the little wooden box. He looks up at Thomas, “You need to help me keep this out of Ortega’s and the shifter’s hands, it will mean the end of everything we love if we don’t."

In a Collapsed Room Beneath the Meeting Floor, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

Craig opens his aching eyes and finds himself looking directly into Bethany’s concerned gaze. They both quickly look away to avoid an accidental soul gaze. He can see a hole in the ceiling with rubble strewn about him. Standing on the floor above is Baldur leaning over with a bemused and concern look on his face, his arm around an unsteady Madison. His head aches as he hears Brittany arguing with Steve. Bethany tells him about the explosives and Peter stealing the box.

Craig sits up with a wince and interrupts the arguement, “I have to get to the subbasement. I can hex the explosions and possibly keep the building from collapsing, Bethany I need…”

Bethany cuts Craig off before he can finish and grips his arm tightly, “Oh no, I am not letting you out of my sight, I’m coming with you.”

Craig grimaces and nods quietly. A shockwave rocks the building as the deadly duel of magic continues between Pearce and Ortega. Brittany lets out a sigh, “I’m going to the roof, letting Ortega win this is probably not going to be good for any of us, especially if they blow up the building in the process.”

Steve chuckles, “You definitely are making this an interesting night. You won’t be going alone.” Steve makes his away beside Brittany.

Ripley looks from Brittany to Craig and for reasons that only the wolfhound knows she pads over to Bethany and Craig wagging her tail.

Brittany’s voice hardens, “Let’s move.”

To be continued…

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Against Better Judgement
Changing Faces, Part 1


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Witch’s Hat Tower, Minneapolis
Witch’s Hat Tower

Craig had a moment to his books. Between the reconstruction and Bethany’s constant hovering he has had little time for himself. Now the construction is done and Bethany is away for the afternoon. Craig thinks she is taking some psych classes at the University of Minnesota. He glances through his research notes when an impatient cough disturbs his thoughts.

Craig turns, irritation coloring his every mood and finds himself eye to eye with the grim faced Warden, Donald Morgan.

Donald Morgan

“I have little patience to be an errand boy,” Morgan growls and tosses a neat bundle of papers onto the desktop, “the research on Gleipnir, the Archive sent what she could,“ Morgan then reaches into his grey cloak and draws out an envelope, “the Senior Council has another demand to make of you Warden Hale.” He hands the envelop to Craig before continuing, “We have been invited to an Art Gala by none other than Windsor Simon Pearce, this is a yearly celebration that Chrysophylax throws and as the Warden of Witch’s Hat Tower, you will be our representative.”

Chrysophylax

Craig grunts and takes the envelope, Morgan continues, “The Celebration is tomorrow night. The research notes provides some ingredients for the Impossible Bounds. One of which is the ‘Generosity of a Dragon.’ Chrysophylax was one of the original forgers of the chains and he was the one to provide that towards the construction of the wards. We want you to identify the object and ensure that it is safe.” Morgan looks levelly at Craig, “If it is not safe, make it so.”

Craig arches an eyebrow and glances through the research notes. Morgan takes his leave, grumbling, “I hope you don’t prove me right Hale.” Craig barely notices him leaving, lost in his thoughts.

Interesting, the forgers of Gleipnir, the Archive, Baldr, Chrysophylax, the Merlin, Blackthorn (representing the Winter Court before his exile), Puck (representing the Summer Court), and the Archangel Raphael. The Archive lists only ingredients that we know about already, the Blood of a Star, the Fear of a Fairy Queen, and the Generosity of a Dragon. Why does she not list any, ah I see, she thinks it is too dangerous to share in written format. It looks like I will have to speak to this Archive myself.

Puck

Craig jots a note to himself when he catches the distinct smell of fresh flowers behind him. He turns and sees the insolent Sidhe Lord, Puck, sitting on one of the chairs of the library. Puck is nibbling on the stem of the flower, his muddy boots propped up on one of the new tables Craig bought.

“Craig, Baby, Pal, Bosom Friend of Winter,“ Puck smiles, twiddling with the flower. He looks near human, except for the black curled horns atop his head, “You owe Summer a favor, and I….am here to collect.”

Craig scowls and folds his arms.

“It just so happens that you are in a position to do me, a favor.” Puck glances to the letter in Craig’s hand, “You are invited to a certain party and at this party there is a certain item. The Generosity of a Dragon. Well, I want it. Secure the item and bring it to me, your debt with Summer will be clear.”

Craig’s scowls deepens.

“You will have four days and if you don’t do it.” Puck smiles with a pleasant sort of evil, “I think your lovely landscaping will get a new tree.”

Craig sighs and nods in agreement. Before he can speak he hears Bethany’s familiar humming as she sets her text books atop the counter. He glances towards her and notices that she is checking messages. Puck follows his eyes.

“Surely you’re tapping that?” Puck’s eyes twinkle as Craig’s face goes slightly red, “You know, letting her feel the might of your wizardly staff.” Puck makes a pumping gesture with his hand and laughs at Craig’s slightly embarrassed silence, “Really, oh my, well, you wouldn’t mind if I take a pass at that. She is so young and perky!”

“Leave her alone.” Craig states firmly. His voice calm and laden with power.

Puck laughs, his eyes turn a bright shade of green, “The Generosity of the Dragon, you have four days.” He then vanishes into a gust of wind, blowing out the door. He passes through the entryway of the library, taking a small detour to blow a very startled Bethany’s skirt up. She lets out a little yelp and pushes her dress back down. Craig shakes his head and opens the invitation.

The IDS Tower, hmmmm, Puck shouldn’t be that bad, he did make the original seal. It might be safer with a fairy anyway.

Craig lets out an irritated sigh, “Now who should be my plus one?”

“Plus one to what?” Bethany’s hopeful voice echoes from the doorway.

Crap! I said that last part out loud.

“Oh, just to Pearce’s Art Gala, tomorrow night.”

Bethany lets out a girlish squeal, “Oh! I saw pictures of it, it is really remarkable. Can, can I come…” Bethany’s voice trails off with embarrassment, “I…I mean if you don’t have something else in mind.”

Craig, returning to his thoughts, hurriedly replies, “What? Oh yes, yes, Beth, sure you can go.”

Sacred Grounds, St. Paul

Brittany wipes the sweat from her forehead. The clean-up has been going well, her girls are really putting their backs into helping her re-open the place and it can’t happen soon enough; her wallet is starting to feel a little light. Her rest is interrupted when her phone rings.

Sacred Grounds

“Brittany!”

“Brittany,” she shudders when she hears the silken purr of Steve McCellan’s voice, “I was hoping you were around. I have heard of your recent exploits, it so wonderful how you got all those girls off the streets and….cleaned up.”

Steve McCellan

Brittany shudders a bit, gripping the phone tighter, “Steve, I’m busy, make it fast.”

Steve chuckles, “I am just calling to collect on a debt, Freeholding Lord. I get you, Madison and Bethany on a date. Well that date is tomorrow night and the three of you will accompany me to Pearce’s Gala in the IDS Tower. It’s around 8, what time should I pick you up?”

Brittany knew that promise would bite her on the ass, “Let me speak with Madison and Bethany, but around 6 will be fine.”

Brittany hangs up and scowls, Ripley cocks her head to the side and then resumes cleaning her paws. Brittany then calls Madison and after a short conversation finds her agreeable to going. “It’s going to be so much fun! And Steve, is a total hunk.” Madison shares before she hangs up.

Yeah, fun.

She then calls Bethany.

“Brittany!” Bethany’s voice is breathy with excitement, “You will never believe it! Craig asked me out on a date! I don’t know what to wear, oh my god. I didn’t think this would happen!”

“That’s great!” Brittany can’t help to think, oh you poor girl,” just calm down, what are you going in?”

“I don’t know…oh god, what should I do?”

Brittany rubs the temples of her forehead, “Honey, give Madison a call, she can help you find something to wear.”

Bethany pauses for a moment, a little hesitant, “But she….she’s kind of slutty and she is really into that creepy Steve guy, I don’t know.”

Brittany laughs, happy for her friend for the moment, “You got the assets you should flaunt’em.”

“Really!? I’ll call her right now, bye!” Bethany hangs up.

Fucking White Court Vampires.

Augie’s Tavern, Minneapolis (Continued from Strange Smells Part 2)

Hunter meets Peter’s gaze, not flinching from his stare. Moss plays with his napkin. Colin lights a cigarette.

Augie’s

“That’s bad for your health,” Hunter glances at Colin and he pauses, “if your man is as good as you say he is, then it’s a deal. We can’t afford any mistakes, not now."

Moss sighs, “So I get the code, we break into Foshay Tower and steal ledger right from under Ortega’s nose. We get the account information that Kat used and you get the ledger. So, code please.”

Peter laughs and shakes his head, “Not that simple. Colin will have the code, he will give it to you. I imagine you will only need an evening to prepare?”

Peter Capra

Hunter looks towards Moss. Moss nods, gulping down his scotch. He looks at Colin, “What about him, will he be ready?”

“Ready for killing Red Court Vampires?” Colin grins evilly, “I am always ready. I will see you tomorrow, at the bar.”

Hunter looks towards Peter, “And you, where will you be during this?”

Peter shakes his glass of scotch, the ice clinking, “Apparently I will be a party, well, a Gala, Pearce’s to be exact, so I will be….busy.”

Hunter scowls and gets up from the table. Moss quickly follows. They leave the topless bar, feeling Colin’s dead eyes watching their backs.

“I don’t trust either of them Moss,” Moss nods in agreement, “We have to keep our eyes on them.”

Sacred Grounds, St. Paul

Brittany drums her fingers on the counter top hanging up her cellphone with irritation, she hates the idea that she is going to have to continue to owe Steve one. She makes a face at Ripley, “I’ll make it interesting he says, yeah right.” Ripley yawns and stretches out.

Brittany’s one sided conversation is interrupted when a visitor steps through the door. She turns to let the guest know that Sacred Grounds is still closed, but finds herself confronted by Blackthorn. Instead of wearing his usual green leaf pattern coat, it is now gold and browns. His usual green eyes are now a rich brown color. The Sidhe Lord extends a slow smile. “Ahh, I am looking for the Mistress of the House.”

Blackthorn

Brittany straightens her hair and smiles, “Right here Blackthorn, how can I help you?”

Blackthorn dismisses her with a wave of the hand, “No, no, no. I am looking for the Mistress of the Establishment.” He then lets out a gruff bark.

Ripley’s head perks up and she barks back. Blackthorn squats down by Ripley and begins to exchange growls with the hound. Brittany stands there, mouth agape as the two continue their conversation. Blackthorn then reaches into his coat pocket and puts a collar around Ripley’s neck. Brittany notices that it bears Blackthorn’s sigil and at the neck of it is a small piece of paper rolled up. She look closer and sees that it appears to be an invitation to Pearce’s Gala tomorrow night.

“Brittany, I look forward towards your establishment being reopened. Please have a good day,” Blackthorn makes a small bow towards the barista and then a small bark at Ripley before walking out.

Brittany turns to Ripley, “Nothing is making sense anymore.” Ripley just wags her tail.

Thomas’s Garage, Minneapolis, Tomorrow Night

“Thomas if you want to live, listen to me carefully. I am breaking the rules by talking to you, whatever you do don’t say my name aloud. I need you to hit the floor and hit it now.”

Thomas knows the voice. Everyone thinks she’s dead, but he knows the truth of it. He drops to the ground fast, his dinner forgotten; his cellphone pressed tight against his ear. Seconds later bullets pepper walls of his garage, mowing down the area he was just sitting enjoying his evening meal. The girl’s voice on the phone continues, “Keep low, roll towards the back window. When they pause to reload, jump out your rear window.”

Thomas crawls beneath the hail of gunfire that continues to pepper his warehouse, as he closes on the back window, the gun fire pauses. Thomas pushes himself forward and crashes through the wall and his rear window, staggering into the alleyway behind the house. The voice on the other end of the phone continues, “Thomas, turn right, draw your sword blade and hold it out as you turn down the left alleyway.”

Thomas draws his sword blade and runs right down the alleyway. He can hear the sound of more gunfire and then an explosion shreds his warehouse as he feels a blast of heat behind him. He turns the corner, his iron blade held before him and promptly slams it into the gut of a man shaped person who was running towards him down that alleyway.

Blood pours from the stomach wound and Thomas finds himself face to face with two Red Court Vampires. They are dressed in tactical gear, he can see the tattoos on their neck that mark them as members of the Latin Kings. The one that Thomas stabbed howls in pain and shudders, sliding off his blade. The other one lifts a submachine gun and opens fire on Thomas. Salt tipped rounds slam into him and he feels his skin begin to burn with irritation, the living iron reacting to the corrosion. Thomas growls and takes his blooded sword in hand, he lunges forward and guts the second vampire, blood spraying against the brick wall.

“Thomas, listen, I can’t talk long, but, I couldn’t leave this alone. You saved me and my parents. Everything will be made clearer in a moment. Now, you need to run towards the end of the alleyway and jump into the middle of traffic. I will try and call your later.” The line goes dead.

Thomas slides his phone into a leather pouch. He can hear more footsteps behind him. The last vestiges of daylight spills out on the busy road in front of him. Thomas sprints down the alleyway and leaps out into the middle of the road. He finds himself face to face with Bobby’s RV as it slams on the breaks, just moments from plowing into him. He hears the voice of Rosalie call out, “Thomas, is that you? Quick get in the RV!”

Rosalie

Thomas hurriedly wrenches the dented up door of Bobby’s RV open and staggers inside. Rosalie revs the engine and peels out quickly. “I was on my way to see if you were at home. I stopped to find Bobby first, but his RV was empty. Some guy from the park, Crow Sings I think, said Bobby wouldn’t mind if I used it. My contacts told me that Ortega has put a bounty on your head. He wants you dead and he wants it to happen tonight. He also wants whoever was involved with the Alison Harper stuff dead too. He is making some kind of big move. I came to warn Bobby and all of you." Rosalie takes a deep breath to steady the tremor in her voice, "where’s Bobby?”

Crow Sings

Thomas notices that Rosalie appears…leaner. She looks as if she just drove up here and sees that she has a shotgun resting next her with a large caliber revolver strapped to her hip. More importantly, he sees the tattoos of St. Giles on the back of her hands. He pulls out his cellphone. He really doesn’t want to tell her that Bobby is dead. He can hear the hope in her voice, he isn’t that dense. Besides, he can’t have her distracted; he has a vampire lord to kill.

“Let me make some calls and warn some people, we should be able to make our next move.”

Rosalie nods and continues to make her way downtown.

IDS Tower, Minneapolis

The car that came to pick-up Craig and his guest pulls up to the first floor of the IDS tower. After Thomas’s call, Craig used that time to place a shield spell on himself. He hopes the mystical spirit armor will give him the protection this night. Bethany used her time for a different purpose. Her consultation with Madison paid off and she found a little black dress that she think Brittany would’ve approved. Craig felt himself redden as he gives the archivist a sideways glance. Bethany said little on the drive over, also fighting off a small blush. She leans over and takes the time to straighten Craig’s collar, her eyes drinking in the sight of him, careful to not look to deeply into his gaze. The moment passes when the driver opens the door for the both of them.

IDS Tower

Craig steps out of the limo with Bethany on his arm. Security at the ground level of the IDS Tower appears to be tight, he can see security guards wearing Monoc Securities blazers checking guests as they step in to the main floor of the building. He finds himself ushered into Pearce’s private elevator with another guest, Baldur Vadderung, billionaire philanthropist and rumored Norse God. They exchange pleasantries on the ride up and Craig appeared to win some of Baldur’s esteem.

Craig & Bethany

At the top of the elevator, Craig notices something out of place. He sees some janitorial staff enter a side stairwell, that isn’t what throws him off; he also sees that they have the markings of the Broadway Shotgun Boys a street gang from North Minneapolis. He thinks it would be odd that they are here. Craig opens his third eye and looks on with the sight. He notices that there is nothing magical about the janitors, but he can see steel chains about the walls of the IDS building and realizes that travel to and from the Nevernever would be difficult here. Out of the corner of his eye he catches sight of both Bethany and Baldur.

Baldur

Bethany looks as if she is made from a clear glass and beneath that glass he can see roiling storms and churning clouds threatening to break out. Occasionally the clouds take shape and the most prominent one is of his face. The image of Balder burns into Craig’s mind. He sees a figure of white light, willingly diminished, the purity of it burns away the imperfections of his soul. Craig feels his sanity slipping when he hears the faint echoes of Bethany’s voice as she shakes his shoulder. He follows that thread and pulls himself back just in time for introductions to the party.

Back at the entryway, Ripley is the next to arrive. The driver mutters to himself as he opens the door and the wolfhound jauntily hops out. She pauses for a moment to itch her neck atop the red carpet before padding by astound security. She sits pleasantly and lets her invitation to be read with her presence being questioned by the other security guards. The dispute comes to a quick resolution when Alice LaRue descends on the bewildered guards and growls at them, “Do not insult the guest, this hound is one and shall be treated accordingly,” Alice turns and makes a small bow towards Ripley, “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Ripley

Ripley holds her head high and trots on by. While Ripley is being accord her honors; Brittany enjoys her limo ride despite her better judgment. Steve and an already drunk Madison arrived at Sacred Grounds to pick her up. Brittany finds herself relaxing and even accepts a glass of champagne from Steve. When they arrive at the IDS Tower, Steve offers both Brittany and Madison an arm before escorting them down the red carpet. Brittany notices the disapproving eyes of Alice as she walks by, she hears Alice whisper harshly, “You allow yourself to be captured by one such as that?”

Alice LaRue

Steve caught the whisper and winks towards Alice, who blushes and straightens her blazer. Brittany smiles at Alice. Alice catches herself and scowls back. Steve resumes whispering towards Madison as she begins to lean into the White Court Vampire. Brittany can see the effects that Steve is having on her friend and she realizes she might have to do something about it before the night ends. She takes another deep drink of champagne and flushes a bit, realizing that she better make sure that Steve doesn’t have the same effect on her.

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis.

Colin drives Hunter and Moss towards Foshay Tower, parking the vehicle by the loading dock Moss recommended for access. Moss slides out of the back seat as Hunter watches the alleyway for signs of intrusion. Colin pops the trunk, revealing a small arsenal. He quickly selects a set of weaponry, then follows Hunter and Moss towards the building.

Foshay Tower

With the security codes that Peter gave them, Moss is able to hack is way into the building’s security system. He taps into the security cameras and locates the ideal location for the vault. He looks up at Hunter and Colin from where he is seated on the floor, “Well boys, judging from what Peter said about Ortega going old school; there is one area on the fifth floor that has no surveillance. If the vault is anywhere, it’s there.”

Hunter nods, “I will scout ahead.”

He then shifts into his hawk form and flies into the loading dock, through an open doorway and down a hallway. He flies into a lobby area of the building. He arcs high towards the ceiling to hide from sight. He sees four men in security blazers and a fifth one looking dirty and out of place. He recognizes Morgan Hernandez, he knows him for a Red Court Vampire. Unfortunately Morgan remembers the shape shifting police officer who gutted him.

Morgan Hernandez

“Shoot the Hawk!” Morgan roars. The men in security blazers open fire.

Hunter twists and turns, dodging bullets. He claws at Morgan’s face. Morgan roars, his face twisting demonically. The other men follow suit, their supernatural reflexes making it harder for Hunter to dodge. Morgan’s clawed hands rake across Hunter’s side. He shrieks with furry. His wings batting back at Morgan.

Colin wastes little time when he hears gunfire. He unholsters a small automatic rifle and darts down the hallway Hunter flew down. He comes upon the room and sees the four Red Court gunman firing on Morgan and Hunter. Lucky for him Morgan is also pinned down by the gunfire. Colin makes a small smile and unloads a short burst of fire; bullets tear into the stomach of the nearest gunman, popping it like a balloon filled with blood.

Hunter shrieks turns to a howl as the hawk in Morgan’s hands takes the shape of a gigantic wolf. His jaws snap at Morgan’s face and they begin to roll on the floor. Bullets rake across Hunter’s back, causing the hound to howl with fury again. One of the gunman charges at Colin who easily sidesteps the clumsy blow and then promptly guns down his assailant from behind. He turns with another burst of gunfire, mowing down the remaining gunmen. Hunter tears at Morgan, who is able to throw him off for a brief moment. He darts away, but not before Hunter is able to snap at the security badge clipped to his belt; ripping it from the panicked vampire.

Moss took the cacophony of gunfire and howls as an opportunity to sneak down the hallway towards the stair well. He hears the machinegun fire sputter to a stop while he pulls out his lock picking tools to work on the side door. To his surprise, he finds that it has already been opened. He pushes cautiously at the door and peeks into the stairwell.

“Well bugger me sideways.”

Ground Floor, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

This might be useful.

Thomas secures the potion he found locked away in Bobby’s stash before coming back up front to join Rosalie. She circles the IDS Tower. Thomas notices a carpet cleaning van parked near the building and through an open door he sees technical equipment that has little to do with carpet cleaning. He is distracted from the suspicious van as he sees men in black tactical gear, much the same gear as the vampires who assailed him earlier in the day, casually gunning down unconscious guards in Monoc Securities blazers.

Bobby Chan

Thomas charges out, iron sword at the ready. The vampires are not quick enough to catch his approach. He smashes one with a quick swipe, bullets ping off his iron armor. Rosalie follows behind, a blast of her shotgun cutting down two other vampires. Thomas grabs the last one in a headlock, before snapping its neck. He glances at the security desk and sees that an elevator is on its way up.

“Let’s check out the van.” Thomas secures his sword and strides over towards the alleyway. Rosalie quickens her pace to follow him.

Thomas is able to enter the van through the opened back. Inside he finds what he fears. He notices technical gear to make explosives. Thomas examines some of the open packages of C4 and figures there is enough to bring down a couple of buildings. He also finds some pouches of odd powder. He takes one for himself. Rosalie points out some radio equipment. Thomas makes a quick examination and realizes he knows the detonation frequency. He takes some of the left over equipment and makes a radio jammer and realizes, for at least 30 minutes, he can prevent the bomb makers from setting off the explosives.

He and Rosalie notice that a door way has been left ajar leading into the IDS Tower. They enter the building and make their way down the stairs. The sound of drilling and men barking orders echo up the stairwell as they cautiously descend. Thomas beckons Rosalie to wait behind him as he peers into the subbasement. He sees a group of men with cement drills making holes in various support pylons. The men are loading the holes with plastic explosive. He can barely make out some of their tattoos and recognizes them as belonging to the Broadway Shotgun Boys.

He also sees one thing that is out of place. A young, Native American woman is surveying the work. Thomas recognizes her. She was one of the Ripper’s victims.

Kat

What is going on here? Nothing is adding up.

Thomas is not left alone too long with his thoughts, the young woman turns towards him. “Ah guests, and its Thomas I see! I wasn’t expecting the Living Iron to annoy me again so soon.”

She charges across the floor suddenly and swiftly. Thomas steals himself and holds his Iron Sword in both hands. He recognizes that voice. It sounds like, Kat, Hunter’s dead wife. He also knows those words and the last person, or better yet, thing that called him the Living Iron was the Roseville Ripper. There is a blur of motion and as the woman punches, she shifts, molding in form, becoming identical to Thomas. It is his fist that connects with his face that sends him reeling.

Roseville Ripper

Just like the Ripper

Pearce’s Gala, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

The party is in full swing. Ripley makes her way to the buffet table, unheedful at the attempts at conversation. Craig and Bethany find themselves chit chatting with Peter Capra, the young wizard and canny mob boss getting an assessment of the other. Windsor and Steve exchange withering barbs as Brittany grows more annoyed being a trophy that these two men are arguing for. The only thing that keeps her from slapping them silly is that one is the closest thing to a dragon and the other is a White Court Vampire and one does not do such things when one has given their word. She takes another gulp of champagne and thinks that this is going to get tedious fast. She steadies an extremely intoxicated Madison and realizes the woman is not just drunk on alcohol.

Windsor pauses from his sniping with Steve and strides to the front of the banquet hall to speak with his guests, “Good evening, thank you for coming, as you know this is an important day for us at DH Acquisitions, and I thank you for coming and celebrating with us. You select few represent the true power in the city and we wish for you to know our splendor.” Pearce smiles widely, his eyes glowing green and gold. His arms are wide, almost as if he was on display, “Now please, follow me to the Gala, there are some new pieces that are on display that are most unique and magnificent.”

Pearce

Craig nods towards Brittany. She nods back, hoping that Steve didn’t notice. She got Craig’s call from earlier and will keep an eye out for this “Generosity of a Dragon.”

Craig whispers towards Bethany, “Keep your eyes open, if you see something that looks possible, let me know.” Bethany answers with a determined nod.

The guests follow behind Pearce as he pauses in front of each piece, describing its history, detail and value in incredible depth. Bethany and Craig take the opportunity to scan the gallery, looking at the artifacts. Unfortunately for Brittany, Steve takes the opportunity to continue to stoke Madison’s fire. She even catches him leering at Bethany, only to see him turn away with a sick look on his face as Bethany glances at Craig. This only redoubles Steve’s efforts on Madison.

Brittany feels a fury building inside of her and she grabs Steve’s arm with an iron grip, “Stop this,” she whispers fiercely into Steve’s ear, “and you will get…..Me, tonight, just, leave her alone.”

Steve’s expression goes from surprised to smug as he clears his throat and calls out to Pearce, “Excuse me, is there a place where my companion can lie down, she is slightly indisposed.”

Pearce gestures to a side room with irritation and Steve makes some soft sounds towards Madison and ushers towards the door. He turns to Brittany and extends his arm, whispering to her, “Good, now I will have no more distractions.”

Craig puts Madison’s plight out of his mind, as much as it disgusts him he has other obligations this evening. He feels a subtle tug on his hand and sees Bethany motioning to a small, plain wood box sitting on a shelf by a center pillar. He and Bethany walk quietly closer, feigning small talk as best they can. Craig notices ornate runes carved about the lock, suggesting that someone has taken some magical means to seal it. Craig whispers to Bethany, “Let’s try to sneak closer.”

Unfortunately Bethany is not experienced wearing heals and as the two try to maneuver closer she slips, falling to the ground and pulling Craig atop her. There is an embarrassed silence as those in the room pause to look at the sudden commotion. Craig looks down at a wide eyed Bethany.

I can feel her heart pounding between her…

Craig’s thoughts are interrupted. Peter suddenly dives to the floor. Bethany, Craig and Pearce look towards the east. They can sense a large wave of spiritual energy flowing towards them and if it hits would turn everyone here to psychic jelly. Pearce’s eyes narrow in rage, one of his fingernail thickens and elongates. He scratches a complex circle in the wall quickly, channeling energy for a shield. Craig stands and straightens; his own strength is meager beside the force that Pearce is drawing upon, but he adds his strength. Bethany is only able to yell, “Get Down!”

The spiritual blast strikes the tower, shaking it to its foundations. Pearce’s shield envelops the Gala, yet the shockwaves rip through the party goers throwing them to the ground. Only Pearce, Baldur, and Craig are able to remain standing amongst the chaos. Pearce’s mouth stretches in an angry grimace. Smoke pours from his lips as his skin takes a greenish, scaly hue.

“Ortega, you dare strike now, I will turn you to ash and smash your puny tower!” Pearce snarls, he then glares at Craig, “Warden of the White Council, your conflict tonight is my conflict, I will strike a blow that will wash away the Vampire War from the Twin Cities. Come with me and lend your strength to mine!” He turns and storms out a doorway.

Carlos Ortega

Craig’s face turns pale and Bethany gasps. Steve struggles to stand, as Brittany shields a near unconscious Madison. Peter is nowhere to be seen. Craig looks towards Baldur, “I know you are more than you say. You have the power to stop this madness before it spreads. Please act now.”

Baldur’s face frowns, his eyes shimmer with frustration and despair as he takes a seat on a chair. “I cannot interfere. I must not interfere.”

Craig feels frustration welling inside of him, “I know you empowered the seals, one of the totems is here and if it is destroyed then a seal goes with it. Protect what you made!”

Baldur looks at Craig and for a second Craig glimpses…something…but then it is gone, “You do not understand,” the impotent god then looks away, closing his eyes. Waves of energy begin to boil from the IDS Tower towards the Foshay Building.

Brittany looks at Craig, yelling, “Just grab the box….”

She never finishes her words, all eyes turn towards the elevator as the bell rings and the door opens.

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis

“We have a little problem,” Moss calls down to Hunter and Colin, “it looks like someone was here before us, and they left presents.”

Colin and Hunter join Moss at the stairwell, Colin reloading his machinegun and Hunter pocketing Morgan’s plastic keycard. They find Moss looking at a wired block of C4, his lips pressed tightly together.

“Well mates, I don’t see a timer, Colin, what do you think?”

Colin squats down and grunts, “Radio switch, probably more around the building. I could disarm this one, but it would take time. Time we probably don’t have.”

Hunter grunts and Moss nods, “Alright boys, tick tock, to the fifth floor.”

The three would be burglars run easily up the flight of stairs. As they near the fifth floor they hear the sound of gunfire. Colin arrives at the door first and reaches into his trench coat pocket. He pulls out a can of tear gas. He cracks the door open, hurls the canister through and then closes the door. Yelling and sporadic gunfire fills the hallway and then silence. Colin glances at Hunter, “Care to see what’s left?”

Hunter locks eyes with the sociopath for a moment, alpha to alpha, and then shifts into his hawk form. He flies through a crack through the slight opening of the door that Colin makes for him. He flies into a hallway, down one end he sees a locked medal door; down the other a t-intersection. At the foot of the intersection he sees two dead gunmen in gas masks. His acute vision is able to pick out some tattoo markings on both corpses and he recognizes them as small time gang members of the Broadway Shotgun Boys.

Where did they get the cash to afford that kind of equipment? And what the HELL are they doing here?

Hunter can pick up the sound of a high power drill coming down one of the side hallways and flies towards it. He flits quickly by and catches a large room where more heavily armed gang members are around a large drill workings its way through a reinforced steel wall. Hunter easily recognizes the man directing them, Michael Abernathy, the cunning gang lord of the Broadway Shotgun Boys himself.

Michael

He whips back towards the stairwell and shifts back into human form. Hunter opens the door for Moss and Colin, whispering fiercely, “Clear.”

Colin and Moss step into the hallway as Hunter shares what he saw. Colin scoops up a gas mask and straps it on. Moss sighs, “This job just keeps getting worse and worse.” He squints looking towards where they are drilling, “it looks like they might be angling for the same vault we are. We got a race on our hands boys.”

He dashes quietly to the sealed medal door and sees a card reader mounted on the wall beside it. Hunter grunts and tosses Moss the keycard he swiped from Morgan. Moss adroitly snatches from the air and slides it through the reader in one motion. The medal door slides open revealing a very surprised Morgan and two red court vampires.

The conflict is short and bloody. Moss slips beneath the arms of a wildly charging Morgan. He slides a stun gun from his sleeve and zaps one of the vampires, pinning it in a stun. Hunter draws his pistol and opens fire on Morgan, sending the already injured vampire spinning sideways. Colin slides past Morgan, his machinegun spitting out bullets rapidly, exploding the remaining vampire. He spins around quickly and mows down Morgan at the knees, sending him hurtling towards Hunter. Hunter throws an arm out, catching Morgan at the throat. The Red Court Vampire snarls in rage, snapping at the rogue cop. Hunter grimaces and presses the barrel of his revolver below Morgan’s jaw. With a quick pull of the trigger, he splatters the vampire’s brains on the ceiling above him.

The stunned vampire pulls away from Moss and begins to run. Colin and Hunter shoot the creature in the back.

Moss takes a deep breath, “Well that was messy.”

The building suddenly shudders as an explosion from the top floor rocks the entire structure.

To be continued

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Dude, Run!
A Spencer Winfield Report

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The Story

While doing a story on the increasing popularity of “Paranormal Reality Shows,” Spencer meets up with the T.A.P.S. crew on the site of one of their investigations. After the interviews are concluded and he’s shown the tools they work with (he kept his distance), Spencer is invited to stay on for the evening and assist with the investigation. Strange things occur throughout the night, culminating in an attack on the crew by an embodied spirit. In the ensuing fight, the crew’s evidence was “accidentally” destroyed when Spencer called on his magic to aid their survival, eventually leading to Spencer riding his bike at top speed through the corridors of the massive building with an enraged spiritual entity hot on his heels.

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A Band of Barristas
A Brittany Winter's Story

Featured Investigators

The Story

The next morning Sacred Grounds still reeked of the chemical smoke the ghouls deployed to flush out their prey. The place is ransacked, but livable. Sneaking on tip-toes into my bedroom, I give it up as a futile effort, seeing as the mammoth that is usually asleep beside the bed is spread across Sanya’s legs… graciously, Ripley accepts her belly-rubs, tongue lolling out of her mouth. His smile is the brightest thing in the predawn shadowed room.

“I do believe ”/characters/brittany-winters" class=“wiki-content-link”>your horse likes me." He chuckles, it’s like a thunderstorm in baritone rolling up from his stomach. After a second, he winces from the movement and I’m at his side in an instant, pushing Ripley’s considerable mass off of him.

“Get off of him you Cuddle-Slut. Can’t you see he’s hurt?” Sanya grunts as Ripley rolls to her feet and as she tries to negotiate the topography of the occupied bed, she places one of her oversized paws firmly into the area well-meaning animals always manage to find. The air rushes out of Sanya in a grunt and I can’t help but laugh. The Knight of the Cross attempts to fix me with a cold stare as the hound makes her way downstairs to hoover up whatever food she can find, it only serves to make me laugh harder. I move to the bedside, setting lightly on the edge.

“You’re gonna have to get out of here if you ever want to get back into any kind of fighting shape… otherwise my pet monster will kill you with kindness.” I smile and it’s nice to wear a real smile, it seems like it’s been too long.

Smiling he nods, “Da. Also, you will be wanting your bed back.”

Shaking my head, “Oh, that’s ok… it doesn’t get used that much anyways.” I realize how that sounds a second too late and as his eyebrows climb towards his hairline, I start feeling the heat of embarrassment in my cheeks. “I – I mean that I don’t sleep well, most nights.”

Quickly bringing this portion of the conversation to a close, I stand, slapping my hands against my thighs as punctuation. “Well, a healing boy needs breakfast. I’ll be back in a sec… gotta feed the brontosaurus too.”

Heading downstairs, the sun properly making it morning, as I start to fix breakfast I about jump outta my skin at the banging coming from the back door. Moving quickly, spectral ax at the ready, I’m poised to fight as I swing open the door to findJane, Grace and a few other girls who look like they’ve been sleeping in an alley.

Dropping the axe, it fades back into the Nevernever… or where-ever it goes, before it hits the floor. “Ladies… it’s barely morning. What can I do for you?”

Jane steps up, she looks embarrassed… like she’s going to ask where babies come from.

“We…know you help people…we want to work, but…we want to know how to…how to fight, to stand up for ourselves. To many monsters prey on us and we want to make them pay.”

At this a wave of determination sweeps through the assembled girls, fists clenched and faces resolute. They’re going to fight whether I help them or not. With a deep breath, I gather my thoughts.

Nodding to them. “Alright… If that’s what you want, I can help. I know you all know the stakes, but I have to lay it out for you. This isn’t a game, people will get hurt.”

For a second, my breath hitches in my chest, the face of Bobby Chan floating to the surface of my thoughts. Wiping at the corner of my eye, I look back to their faces. “People Die.”

On that somber note, I step back to allow them in, those that will still come. I’m not shocked when they all slide past me into the shop. All of them meeting my gaze, that same determined look. Without a word, they start cleaning up the store, setting the tables and chairs back to right. Jane, showing a bit more initiative starts directing the others as to what goes where and with Ripley’s needs and the cleanup effort in their capable hands, I take Sanya his meal and a change of bandages and clothes.

When he asks who’s making all the noise downstairs I can only shrug and reply…
“That’s my new Barrista Brigade.”

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