Dresden Files: Twin Cities

Conflict Mediation, Defenestration and You
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


    Currently Airing: Witch’s Hat Tower’s Reconstruction Complete, Residents Complain That There are Still no Computers     DH Acquisitions hosts Gala Event    Jonesing for Joe? Sacred Grounds Soon to Reopen – Minnesota Public Radio News    

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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

View
Dude, Run!
A Spencer Winfield Report

Featured Investigators

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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Strange Smells Part 2
A Jack Hunter Story

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The Story

Hunter didn’t have to wait long for a response. He got a quick text message from Moss, “Meet me at ”/wikis/augies-tavern-restraunt-and-lounge" class=“wiki-page-link”> Augie’s." Jack knew the place. It was an out of the way topless bar, but it pretty much served as a mob front for the Genovese Crime Syndicate. He was pretty sure he hadn’t done anything recently with his extra curricular activities that would piss them off, well aside from just being a cop.

Moss better have a good reason to meet me here.

Jack got to the place pretty quickly, one of the perks about being able to shape change into a hawk; you get the avoid traffic. He walked into the dimly lit, smoky lounge and was greeted by Augie’s Employee of the Month, Colin Patterson. Jack has had some run-ins with Colin and the best thing that anyone could say about the man is that he is an out an out sociopath. Luckily, Colin didn’t seem too interested in Jack, which suited Jack fine because he didn’t want to tangle with Pete Capra’s number one enforcer today.

“Would you like a seat at the bar or a booth?” Jack’s reverie was interrupted by a topless hostess. He didn’t really look. Whenever he looked at another woman, he thought about Kat.

Jack looks over the hostess’s bared shoulder, “I’m looking for someone,” he sees Moss sitting in a back corner booth, “excuse me.” He brushes by the waitress and makes his way to Moss.

Jack knew he could trust Moss with this, because Moss owed Kat big time. He got to the table and slid into the dingy booth. Moss was drinking and smiling with another fellow, Lucky Dan. Small time con for Clinton and known half-goblin, Jack waited for Moss to speak as he knew that Moss never did things without a plan.

Yeah, but they aren’t always good plans.

“Sooo, Jack, I got your call and I was already looking into something weird and I think it might be related,” Moss elbows a very drunk Lucky Dan, “and my new friend here has something he wants to tell ya.”

“My new friend has been buyin’ me drinks,” Dan shotguns a glass of beer, belches, “All DAY! Son, ALL DAY!”

A topless waitress leans across the table and takes Dan’s glass, depositing another. Moss and Lucky Dan observe a moment of silence as they take in the view, Hunter merely….smells…he notes an odd scent from the beer, almost as if he catches the faint whiff of iron.

What’s Moss’s game?

“Now, Danny boy meet Jack, Jack, my new, dumb friend Danny boy here,” Moss says in an affected British accent. Jack knows that Moss was born somewhere in North Dakota, but he has used that accent ever since Jack has known him. Moss Continues, “Danny here works for a certain black market dealer in magical artifacts, Clinton, and Danny here is going to tell me about some very LARGE purchases that were recently made,” Danny gets hard eyed at the words, Moss ignores the clenching fists, “because if Danny doesn’t tell me there is going to be pain, and he is going to regret the fourteen beers laced with iron he just drank.”

Danny suddenly looks sick, “I know nothing.”

Moss smiles evilly, “Danny, that isn’t a good answer if you don’t want your fingers broken…and I am the nice one here, Jack…well, lets just say he doesn’t stop at fingers.”

Lucky Dan shrinks back, “Ok, ok, ok, it’s not like it’s a big deal or summthin’, just some native chick came up to Duluth and started flashing around a bunch of cash. She wanted just stuff, you know, basic stuff, like Sandman Sand, you know sleeping powder, and other stuff. She paid in cash and we asked no questions…none.”

Jack growls, “A name, did she have a name?”

“I…I don’t know,” stammers Dan, “It was summthin’ like Kate or maybe it was after an animal, like Gerbil.”

Jack slams his fist atop Lucky Dan’s hand; there is a crunching sound as the iron infused goblin lets out a small scream. “It was Kat, oh god, it was Kat.”

Jack lets up the pressure and Lucky Dan scurries out of the booth clutching his shattered wrist. Moss looks at Jack, “I know that look and I can’t tell you what she did inside the Foshay Building without taking a peek, but I want you to know what you are asking. The last guy who broke in there, they tracked him down, they tied him up, starved him a little ya know. Made him nice and hungry, then they began to feed him a little morsel here and there. Then they gave him a video, all those fruit smoothies they fed him? Yeah, it was his family, his friends, his neighbors, hell a stray dog, they chopped them all up and fed them to him. They left him alive though, the poor bastard, I hear he is still in the psych ward at Regions. I mean I know, but if we do this. If we peak in there, we got to do this….careful like, ok?”

Before Hunter can assure his friend, Colin’s looming presence interrupts their conversation. “Mr. Capra wants a word with you,” the sociopathic thug says in an icy voice.

Hunter looks past him and sees that there are some other goons and while he is confident he could get out in one piece, Moss might not be that lucky. Hunter nods slightly to Moss. Moss gulps and takes a slug of beer, “Well, I suppose we should see what the King Pin of Organized Crime wants with the likes of us.”

Colin gestures, giving Hunter the opportunity to see the piece he is carrying. He briefly notes a native totem and realizes that someone has been doing their research. Research that he doesn’t like. They walk into an area at the back of the club and are shown to a private booth. The dim lights afford those seated here privacy while being able to see the rest of the bar. Seated in the booth, drinking a glass of scotch is Peter Capra. He smiles, showing his teeth which gleam like a lions or a sharks and gestures for the two men to sit. Moss shrugs and slides into the opposite side of the booth, with Hunter, sliding in next to Moss. Colin sits across from Hunter, his dead eyes staring at the suspended cop.

I never like feeling like prey.

Capra takes a second to speak, “My sources tell me that a certain crook and suspended officer of the law are thinking about breaking into a bank. And not just any bank, but one controlled by one of the ”/characters/carlos-ortega" class=“wiki-content-link”>most ruthless creatures in this city." He pauses for a moment, “One who has something that I want.”

Moss looks at Capra with innocence being reflected in his wide eyes, “I have no idea where you got that idea! I was just meeting a friend for a drink and some atmosphere.” Moss gestures towards one of the topless waitress slinky through the bar area, “besides a job like that is suicide…:”

Capra’s eyes go hard, his voice firms, “I know what you have been asking after, who you have been asking about, I know what you need.” Peter leans back taking a sip of scotch, the ice clinking against the glass, “And I can help you get in.”

Moss goes quiet, Hunter remains still.

Capra, stop playing with your game. I hate being the fucking mouse.

“I have the access codes for Ortega’s electronic security system.” Capra glances at Moss, “Someone of your rumored skill could do a number of the Foshay security systems with information like that. Now you are thinking that with that information, you could just break in electronically and get the account information.”

I was just thinking that.

“Ortega is….well old school…and those accounts. The accountings of…the ”/wikis/nevernever" class=“wiki-page-link”> Other World he keeps in a ledger hidden somewhere in his vault. Find that, you get your information. Now my password is not free."

Nothing ever is.

“I have two conditions. The first is I want that ledger. That is my price. The second, well, the second is a form of assistance. Colin will come with you.” Capra slaps Colin on the shoulder. The man doesn’t even shift his expression when he finds out he is going to be breaking into the criminal banking syndicate and lair of an ancient Red Court Vampire. “He has certain skills that you might need, plus he fucking hates Red Court Vampires.”

Moss sighs to himself and turns to Hunter, “I don’t like this, but, the impossible just changed to the improbable, are we in? Its your call.”

Peter snorts, “I didn’t realize I was making a request.”

Nothing is ever simple.

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Heaven Kinda Sucks
A Bobby Chan Story

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The Story

Bobby Chan sees Ivory Tower going back up the stairs to Witch’s Hat Tower with the Warden and the Wizard. They don’t really see him. He can make out the image of a warrior behind him, armed with a giant sword. Bobby has some questions, but the giant warrior doesn’t really seem like the talkative type.

Bobby sighs. Well he thinks he sighs, its hard to tell without having lungs and all. He thought there would be more clouds or something. Time passes. (Bobby assumes time passes, as there isn’t anything really pressing him at the moment.) When he sees a shadowy figure come down the stairwell.

Crow Sings sneaks into the room, taking a sip of his hip flask. “I really didn’t want you to find out about this place. It has some bad juju here man.”

Bobby, not having any of the requisite parts one would need to make sound, much less speak, nods.

“Well, you’re stuck here, but I won’t forget you. They built a statue of you, you know? That young wizard with the stick up his ass, put up for it.” Crow Sings sits down and continues to drink from his flask, “It doesn’t make as good of weed as you did.”

Crow Sings finishes his whiskey and lights a joint taking a faint puff. Bobby really wishes he had the requisite parts to enjoy that too.

“What you did wasn’t for nothing, bad things are happening, and the other Wards,” Crow Sings points at them, “They’re Stupid,” Crow Sings taps his skull, “You’re Smart. You might actually help.”

He finishes the joint and stands, “Don’t worry, I’ll come visit. I’ll bring one of those portable DVD players or something, we can catch up on Breaking Bad or whatever.”

Crow Sings stands and Bobby watches him go. He sits down pondering the shaman’s words when he feels probing at the wards, something dark pressing on them. He sees flashes for a moment, visions of a Man in Embers….of a Fairy who got him in a ton of Fucking Trouble….Greedy Vampires…and others, so many others. They are feeling for weaknesses, searching for a way to sneak through.

Bobby quickly moves the energy in the Wards, directing it, pushing off each attack. He senses there are others here, surprised by what he does. Each Ward has a personality, has something behind it. As he moves actively to stop the probing, they lend their strength to his. Eventually the attacks fade away, but Bobby knows this won’t stop, but he’ll be ready. Hell, he doesn’t have anything else to do.

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The Arcadian Buzzkill
From Craig's research notes.

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The bullets Craig created with the use of Summer Magic to defeat the fetch in Helping Hand:

Arcadian_Buzzkill.jpg

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Bobby Gets High in the Sky
Helping Hand, Conclusion


    Currently Airing: Hennepin County Medical Center has Freak Blackout     Helping Hands Shelter Destroyed by Dump Truck    Freak Storm at Witch’s Hat Tower, Damages Iconic Library    War Hero aids St. Mary’s with Homeless Outreach    Missing Wrestler Found Paralyzed, Recovering in Hospital – Minnesota Public Radio News    

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The Story

Downtown Minneapolis, Minneapolis

Bobby and Crow Sings follow the wandering spectres through the city streets. Crow Sings continues to take pulls of whiskey as Bobby follows him. “Jacobs, yep, he is doing something in the morgue at HCMC, Bobby, you’ll know what to do.”

Spectres

The only thing that Bobby dislikes more than having to stop a burgeoning Necromancer is having to live next to a law breaking Necromancer, so he straightens his potion satchel and follows Crow Sings down the street towards HCMC.

Once arriving at the hospital, Bobby already senses strong magic in the works. The power is out and it appears even emergency generators have gone dark. He sees patients being wheeled out and loaded into ambulances to be transported to another hospital. Crow Sings’s path takes them away from the pandemonium and towards an alleyway near the hospital. The drunken shaman continues to mumble to himself and stumbles to an open doorway. Bobby notices that some strong evocation was used to rip the metal door from its hinges.

Crow Sings

Crow Sings points down the interior Hallway and takes another pull of whiskey, “He’s down there. Its bad mojo, I can feel it in the air.”

Bobby can too and he steps into the hallway, the air is cold and lifeless, infected by gathering necromantic energy. While the lights are out, Jacobs’s path is easy to find as because someone broke glow tubes and left lighted crumbs to follow. Bobby also notices an outline of runes in the light that someone drew with marker. He realizes that Jacobs crafted a ward of some kind. He holds out a hand and stops Crow Sings from going forward. Bobby takes out his own piece of chalk and quickly draws a circle on the ground; he channels some energy, using the hallway as his link to the ward and slams into the wall with spiritual energy. It doesn’t take long, but Bobby thinks with the power he put behind the blast he should have broken through.

“So, you got this, right, my whiskey is gone, so I can just go wait by the bar, ok?” Crow Sings asks, sobering slightly as he shuffles backward.

Bobby sighs inward, he is not going to deal with this alone, “Wait man, I got something for you,” Bobby slides a Bad Ass potion from his satchel and tosses it to Crow Sings, “The high from this man, is like, unbelievable!”

Crow Sings takes a swig and suddenly he straightens up. He puffs his chest out and tidies his clothes. He snaps the leg of a shelf off and holds it in one hand like a club. “Let’s get moving Bobby, I have to show this moron that there is only one Ghost Whisperer in this town.”

Bobby hurries after Crow Sings as he begins to yell challenges down the hallway slamming his make shift club on the floor. Bobby can hear the sound of a low base coming from a side room. Inside he sees that an autopsy room has been dimly lit with a gurney slid into the center. Bobby notices the beginning of a ritual spell, one that would be used to create zombies. He sees a map of the Twin Cities spread out on the gurney with a small replica of Witch’s Hat Tower sitting in the appropriate spot on the map. With what appears to be red marker, Bobby hopes it’s a red marker, is a ritual circle drawn on the map around the tower.

“GET OUT OF HERE; I HAVE TO SAVE THE CITY!” Jacobs roars at Crow Sings and Bobby, “I….I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

Jacobs

Crow Sings is nonplussed by the Sorcerer dressed in formal military gear. Bobby can see the haunted look in Jacobs’s eyes and realizes the young man is not all there, that powerful emotions are driving him to desperate measures. Crow Sings swings his club, smashing some vials on a shelf, “Listen here, I talk to the ghosts here ME! I don’t turn them into some freaks.” Crow Sings points his club at Jacobs, drunk on magical bad ass-itude, “If you don’t back off, I am going to make one more ghost and we can talk about poor life choices after that!”

Jacobs seems a little taken aback, not wanting to face the anger that Crow Sings is venting.

“None of you get it, the devil; he is going to break this city. He is going to shatter those Wards and bring the Dragon. The Man in Embers told me so, in the desert. He showed me what would happen. I have to stop it.” Jacobs draws strength from his words and possibly from some of his derangement, “and, you can’t stop me, I won’t let you do it. I won’t let others die again.”

Bobby feels his world stop, for just a moment. He has met the Man in Embers, The Prophet of Doom, only once. There is a reason that he forswears the Sight, because the first and only time he used it he saw the Man in Embers. He got a prophecy that night; that the next time he heard the Man in Embers name, Bobby was going to die. Bobby takes a deep breath, “Listen here man, like, there is another way, go to the tower, and like confront the devil yourself. This, this just breaks the city in another way man. I know the Man in Embers, man; he wants you to save the city!”

Man in Embers

Jacobs seems to relax a little, his eyes haggard and red rimmed. He has a glassy look, almost like he is sleeping standing up. He shakes his head, “You’ll go with me? Right? To Witch’s Hat Tower? We can face the devil together.”

Crow Sings roars, “I am ready to kick some Devil ass” and snaps his club over his knee.

Bobby slumps a little. “Alright man, let’s go man.”

Helping Hands Shelter, St. Paul

Brittany, Craig, and Sister Dark arrive at the outskirts of the Helping Hands Shelter in downtown St. Paul. Ripley, still torn up from her wounds, stayed behind to watch over Sacred Grounds to ensure it suffers from no further destruction. They already notice that the area feels out of place, homeless should be teaming about the shelter for dinner and to get a place to sleep, but it seems virtually deserted. The area should also be teaming with other people, but the crowds have largely disappeared.

Helping Hands

Craig notices a parked car that appears to have the door frame bent. He sees claw marks, “Uh guys, it looks like ghouls are active in the area and are scaring people away.”

Craig drives the car down the road, making a slow perimeter about the Shelter. They notice one truck idling in the loading dock with the driver slumbering in the front seat.

“I’ll go and check it out,” Brittany then slides out the car door, ghosting down the darkened alleyway.

“I’ll cover you from the building across the shelter,” Sister Dark whispers to Brittany’s fleeting form. She grabs her high powered rifle and disappears into the night.

Sister Dark

“I think I’ll guard the car,” Craig says to the universe and turns off the idling engine.

Brittany silently makes her way towards the truck. She notices on the pavement around the truck that empty containers for ground beef have been strewn about the cab, as if the driver had gorged himself on raw hamburger meat and fell asleep. She sees that he is wearing the garb of a Helping Hands Shelter worker and thinks that they have a sleeping ghoul. Brittany darts around to the back of the truck and finds that the door open. She notices that the bed of the truck has drag marks from something metal being slid across the floor. She takes a sniff and can smell human blood, sweat, and urine from inside the truck. Not liking this at all, she looks up towards the roof where Sister Dark said she would be and motions for her to shoot the driver.

Sister Dark lethally complies, a high powered rifle round shatters the windshield and explodes the slumbering ghoul’s head. Brittany hears voices suddenly rise from inside the building and the door in the loading bay opens with two Helping Hands Outreach workers stepping outside. Brittany leaps to the roof of the truck; her landing on the aluminum gives her presence away. One of the shelter workers calls to the people inside of the building as both of their forms elongate, their jaws growing sharp teeth.

Ghouls

Brittany prepares for the ghouls’s assault. As they attempt to leap atop the truck, she sweeps at them with her ghost axe preventing them from getting a handhold. Sister Dark unleashes another shot, exploding the head of a second ghoul. Brittany reaches down and grabs the other one around the throat, lifting him into the air. A second shot wings out from the night, blowing off the restrained ghoul’s leg. The creature howls in pain. Craig sees that the situation in the alleyway is well in hand and begins to saunter down. Brittany roars at the ghoul as it futilely tries to claw at her face. “If you want to live, demand that they release the girls from inside!”

“You’ll let me go?” The ghoul slavers as it kicks its remaining leg in the open air.

Brittany tightens the grip on her axe and jams the heated blade against the leg, her fury causing the blade to sear the creature’s flesh, “I will let you go.”

“Let the humans goooooOOOOOOo and come out!” The ghoul howls in pain.

A deep laughter echoes from inside the building. Brittany jumps off the truck landing on the ground as Craig walks up to the loading bay. The voice rumbles from inside the building, “Why would I do that?”

Brittany scoffs and yells to the open doorway, “Because if you don’t I will have my wizard huff and puff and blow your house down!”

Craig cocks an eyebrow at Brittany and she sheepishly shrugs in response. The loud voice calls out from in the building, “Perhaps I should just crush thatlittle girl’s head instead?”

Before Brittany can respond, Craig notices some odd flashes of suppressed gunfire coming from the roof. He realizes that Sister Dark is under assault. He focuses his energy and draws in a gust of wind around him, then throws himself up into the air. He lands atop the roof, catching the glimpse of Sister Dark spraying bullets with an Uzi, holding a small group of ghouls at bay.

Brittany curses a bit as she starts to contemplate plan B, when suddenly a black man leaps up onto the loading bay next to Brittany. She notices that he is dressed in black Kevlar and has a sheathed sword strapped to his back. “To the beast that huddles in fear, Aaron, I give you this opportunity to seek forgiveness.”

Aaron Douglas

The loud voice rumbles, “Kill them, kill them all!”

Brittany shrugs her shoulders, “I guess we charge in? Oh, I’m Brittany!” she shouts over her shoulder as she dashes into the building. The black man draws his sword; it glows in the dark light. Brittany recognizes it as a Sword of the Cross, “Excellent, and I am Sanya,” the Knight responds to her sprinting form.

Sanya

Sister Dark loads a clip and unleashes another spray of bullets. The ghouls make their way closer to the nun and Craig as they slip through the hail of gunfire. Craig stills his mind and draws on his frustration, the irritation at this interruption, and pulls the moisture from the air about the ghouls. He sucks it from their flesh as he chills the skin. Two ghouls howl in agony, the other two shatter to hunks of dried, frozen meat.

Brittany slides through the doorway of the shelter. In the main floor she sees a small group of ghouls in Helping Hand uniforms standing around a tall, hairy man in a flannel. She recognizes Aaron from the promotional pictures in the paper; he is Evan’s right hand man. The ghouls roar, their clawed feet scraping across the floor as they charge at Brittany, mobbing her. Aaron howls and he suddenly begins to bulge and ripple, ripping his clothes apart. He grows into a hulking creature that has the head of a bull, the torso of a man, and the body of a horse that has claws instead of hooves. This creature charges her, slamming his head into her gut, causing her to release a whoosh of air.

Brittany slams her hands against the side of the monster’s neck, causing it to stumble and crush one of the ghouls. Sanya jams his blade through a closed door, slicing it neatly as it carves into the side of the beast. “I gave you this chance Gog!” Gog roars in fury and pain.

Atop the roof, Sister Dark kneels and with her Uzi opens fire on one of the crippled ghouls. She shreds it quickly and thoroughly with a blast of bullets. Craig throws a fist out and sends a strong gust of air at the other. The cold wind shreds the desiccated creature, hurling it in pieces from the roof. Craig sags from the exertion and Sister Dark leans over to hold him up.

Gog grabs Brittany and hurls her out of the building. She flies across the alleyway and slams into the brick wall, causing it to spider web behind her. She slumps to the ground, weak in the knees from the blow. Sanya cuts into Gog again, the beast howls in pain. Brittany stands up, dazed when a dump truck suddenly barrels down the alleyway and past her. She briefly sees the image of Alek Erickson at the wheel as he slams the dump truck into the ghouls, Gog, and Sanya. There is a brief bellow and Gog pushes the dump truck back, before he charges off; running into the night.

Det. Alek Erikson
Witch’s Hat Tower, Minneapolis

Thomas follows the floating spectres towards Witch’s Hat Tower. While they appear aimless, he notices that they are all intent on getting to the tower. He narrowly avoids being hit by a speeding truck from the Helping Hands shelter. This is when he notices a change in the spectre’s behavior, they start to roar with fury and rush at the tower, almost as if some ghostly insanity was brought by the truck. In the distance Thomas can here bone chilling barks and forlorn wailing, he decides to pick up the pace.

Witch’s Hat Tower

Thomas crosses onto the grounds of the library and he witnesses nightmarish chaos. He first notices that it appears the doors of the library have been torn off their hinges. He thinks he hears conflict inside, but he is not sure. The grounds between the library and the tower are packed with enraged spectres mindlessly rushing towards the stairwell of the tower. In a circle about the tower stands a line of ghouls in Helping Hands outfits battling the spectres as they try to pass them. Thomas can smell the fumes of one truck as he sees that it is overturned in the parking lot. A second truck is inside the line of ghouls, the back doors thrown open. He can see ghouls pulling people from cells inside the truck and dragging them up the stairs.

Thomas calls on the iron in his blood, his hands suddenly gripping the hilt of an iron sword. The spectres run around him, pushing at him roughly, but Thomas stands against them like a stone in the sea. He approaches and then passes through the ghoul line with two quick swipes of his blade. The ghouls howl in agony, unable to prevent his passage. Quick, sure strides take him to the tower where he interposes himself between the ghouls at the truck and the entrance.

The ghouls unloading the truck howl with furry and rush forward, trying to tear Thomas limb from limb. Thomas shrugs off their blows, the iron stiffens his resolve. He lashes out with his sword easily crushing two of the monstrosities. More begin to pile in. Suddenly, in the tower behind him, a strong wind gusts forward, attempting to throw Thomas out of the way. He jams his blade into the stonework on the floor and holds his ground, the ghouls are not as lucky. The ones who were attacking him are hurled into the crowd of rioting spectres. The truck, now empty of ghouls, is left open and undefended. Thomas sees some, what appears to be homeless people, huddling to the back of the truck.

“Get out of here if you want to live!” Thomas doesn’t stop to see if they heed his words and pivots around his sword. He calls upon the living iron and transforms the blade into climbing hooks. Thomas pulls his way across the floor of the tower towards the stairwell, his strength pulling him through the strong gales. When Thomas reaches the stairs, the wind stops. He then charges up the stairs swiftly, following the path the ghouls took the other victims.

He reaches to the top of the tower and is greeted by the sight of homeless individuals chained at the ankle lining the top parapet of the tower. Thomas notices that they appear to be in some kind of slumber. On the ground of the top floor, Thomas sees an intricate circle carved into the stone. Standing in the center of a circle is a man who looks like the one he has seen in the newspapers, Evan St. Claire.

Evan St. Claire

There are some dramatic differences though. Thomas notices right away that he has two sets of eyes, one atop the other. Evan has his hands outstretched and there is a hint of silvery wings extended from his back. Thomas also notices another curiosity, in one of Evan’s hands is a glass vial that is glowing, much like the glow that Alison Harper had. Evan turns and smiles at Thomas, “Ah one of the pawns finally made it here. You were so helpful with clean-up on the Alison Harper thing. I mean, I stole some of her blood and I hoped you would just stop Magnus, you do that and get the girl KILLED, how precious!” Evan lets out a deep laugh, “And you don’t stop there, that fallen Valkyrie also thought she could stop me and you go and destroy the thing that could! In fact, you managed to do more damage to the Wards than I thought was possible.”

Thomas shrugs, as he frankly doesn’t care and the climbing claws in his hand turn into a sword blade. He slashes at Evan, who swiftly sidesteps the blow. Evan’s form changes as he moves. His body becomes more muscular, more….perfect. His coat vanishes and his hair changes from old and grey to flowing blond locks. His back sprouts white, vibrant wings and from his side he draws a silvery blade. Evan looks angelic, but where one expects kindness and mercy; there is only perversion, anger and hostility from the nimbus of light that surrounds him. His face twists in a visage of rage, his eyes are filled with a lust for destruction. The only hint at his humanity is the black goatee that remains on his face.

Evan stabs at Thomas, knocking him to the ground. Thomas lands next to some of the chained victims. He sees the metal links holding them in places and touches them with a hand. The living iron causes them to crumble away. With the links destroyed, the magic slumber dissipates, people begin to wake.

“The wailing of the innocent, while at times pleasant, I find to be distracting.” The gold nimbus about Evan flairs brightly for a moment. Thomas thinks he can hear the sound of a choir, but the noise is discordant, twisted and tears at his soul. Soon he and the other people atop the tower are bathed with a deep feeling of despair. He watches the other people lie down and curl up, paralyzed with sorrow.

Thomas is made of sterner stuff and the living iron would not let him rest, not now. He stands back up, holding his blade at the ready. Evan’s light flairs again, his wings tremble and a gust of wind slams into Thomas, blowing him off the top of the tower. The living iron quickly transmutes the blade in his hand to that of a grappling hook attached to a metal chain. As Thomas flies through the air he hurls it out, catching the parapet and taking a hold of the chain. He swings downwards, slamming into the stone wall of the tower, dangling in the air above the ghouls and rioting spectres below.

Bobby, sitting in the passenger seat of Jacobs’s jeep, gets the perfect view of Thomas’s flight and subsequent salvation as he arrives to the chaotic melee occurring outside the tower. Crow Sings decides to slump down and cower in the back of the seat, mumbling, “Fuck this.”

Jacobs steps out of his jeep. His eyes continue to be red rimmed with exhaustion and despair. He channels his fury and ignites the air in front of him before hurling a blast of fire towards the top of the tower. It shatters as it glances against a ward surrounding the peak. “You see what is coming, its happening up there! The Man in Embers told me!”

Bobby can see Jacobs gathering in more of his rage, his fear and despair. He slips a hand into his pouch and grabs his Ultimate Clarity potion. He uncorks it and takes a sip and suddenly time stops. It all becomes clear; Bobby doesn’t know how he could have missed all this. Jacobs, the Tower, the Wards, even the Man in Ember’s words. He knows what it all means. Witch’s Hat Tower is the fulcrum for the Wards that seal Fenrir in; it is the original location where the sealing ritual occurred. He realizes that it is not Fenrir that is sealed in though, no, he is just one of the Wards. Something worse is sealed in, something beyond the destruction of everything. He knows how a Ward is brought down. Someone atop the tower is using a ritual spell to funnel energy against the Wards. If he uses some related energy in his casting he can destroy the,. That is why someone of them failed when the Fear of a Fairy Queen was destroyed. It was “sucked” in. Whoever is up there must have another ingredient used in crafting the Wards. Bobby sees the universe, he sees through time and space and he now knows what he must do.

Bobby grabs Jacobs arm and in calm, confident voice states simply, “This isn’t the way man, I know what to do. Get me a path atop the tower.”

As Thomas begins to scale his way back up Witch’s Hat Tower and Bobby comes to understand the Mysteries of the Universe, Brittany, Craig, and Sanya drive towards the tower in Sanya’s old, rented Mercedes. She is determined to save Jane, Grace and everyone else who has been carted off to their doom. After Gog had ran off, she searched the shelter and found some homeless girls, poorly cared for. Alek and an injured Sister Dark offered to care for the children and decided to take them back Sacred Grounds.

Before they left though, Alek had some weaponry in the back of his dump truck. He was ready for a fight as he hadn’t trusted the Helping Hands since the Alison Harper case and was staking them out. When he saw the battle on the loading dock, he couldn’t hold back. Brittany was able to grab a bullet proof vest, while Craig grabbed a ridiculously large assault rifle that he could barely lug around. Brittany turned her thoughts to the present, focusing instead of the rampaging Gog in front of them.

She watches Gog plow through a group of rampaging spectres as the beast charges towards the tower. She catches the glimpse of Thomas’s form as he almost makes it above the ramparts. She sees Bobby and a man in military garb begin to stride through the rioting spectres, undisturbed as they make their way to the tower. Brittany turns to Sanya, “Get the car alongside Gog!”

Sanya presses the gas pedal, driving his vehicle through a throng of roaring spectres. Brittany kicks open the door and leaps onto Gog’s back. The giant beast roars and thrashes as Brittany jams her axe into the back of his head. She steers him into a pack of ravening ghouls. Sanya jams on the breaks of the vehicle. He dashes out of the vehicle drawing his blade in a smooth motion. He shouts to Brittany and Craig, “I can sense a second Denarian here, Durien, he is atop the tower!”

Craig is distracted. The tower grounds are torn up, he can see that the doors of the library have been ripped open. “The White Council is going to kill me.” He gets out of the car and makes his way to the battle field to survey the damage inside.

Thomas pulls himself atop the tower to face a sneering Durien. He morphs the iron grappling hook back into the form of a sword. Before he can set himself, Durien lashes out with his blade, severing a strap of Thomas’s armor. They exchange a quick furry of blows and Thomas realizes that he is out matched in skill, strength and speed. Durien darts around him, slashing at Thomas, the air filling with the fallen angel’s mocking laughter.

At the base of the tower, Jacobs channels two walls of stones, parting a path between some of the ghouls and spectres. Bobby and he walk to the tower with confidence. Jacobs matches Bobby’s steps. Bobby looks to Jacobs and with the effects of his Clarity potion still lingering, he can see the ghostly image of a creature, of a Mara. Bobby knows of these dream stealing demons and pulls out a spray can labeled with the words Demon Be-Gone. He sprays the air behind Jacobs and hears a small shriek of pain and then senses that the Mara has vanished. As soon as it is gone, Jacobs’s eyes lose their haunted look. His vision clears and the invisible weight has left the haunted man’s shoulders.

The Mara

Gog slams his fists into Brittany’s side and her ribs begin to creak under the pressure. Sanya stabs his blade into Gog’s flank, drawing another furrow of blood. Brittany wrenches the axe and forces Gog to slam himself against the tower wall with a thundering crash. Gog lashes out with his clawed feat and hurls Sanya across the courtyard. His blade flies from his hand as he slams into the wall of the library. Blood sprays from his mouth as he lands in an unconscious slump on the ground.

Thomas knows this fight is desperate and he already feels the stings of the small cuts that Durien has inflicted on him. He hears the sound of combat below and hopes that help comes soon. Durien laughs at Thomas’s growing fatigue, “You’re doom comes soon, just lie down and accept it.”

Thomas straightens to retort when he sees a glint from the corner of his eye and watches a gleaming sword stab into the concrete floor of the tower right next to him. Thomas, an experienced smith, recognizes Esperacchius, the Sword of Hope. Durien’s face turns ashen and Thomas grabs the hilt. He feels the iron nail of the crucifixion dig into the palm of his hand as the sword slides free of the stone floor. Durien snarls and stabs at Thomas, the sword sings in his hand and blocks the blow. Thomas thinks to himself, “Two magical weapons in one day, talk about luck.”

Craig strides into the library. Inside he sees destruction. The shelves and books have been torn apart. Bethany’s desk and office has been ripped to shreds. He catches the smell of charred flesh and sees the remains of two ghouls burned to ash. He sees three more tearing a bookcase tipped across a hallway leading deeper into the library; it is acting as a barricade. The ghouls howl with frustration as they tear at it, slavering with hunger. Bethany’s voice echoes from behind the barricade, “You killed him, you will pay. I will destroy you!”

Bethany Tempest

Craig feels a fury building inside of him. These monsters destroyed his books and harmed his assistant. He gathers his will and summons a gust of wind, snagging at the torn pages and gathering them. He lashes out at the ghouls, slicing them to narrow ribbons with a flutter of furious pages, leaving behind a bloody mess. He sends a second blast of wind to knock aside a barricade.

Bethany screams and runs out. Her eyes are red with tears and fatigue. Her blouse is torn, electricity dances along her arms, and her hair is wild from the wind and the power of the current coursing through her. “You took Craig from me!” She screams…and then stops. Bethany sees Craig standing at the doorway, and the magic, the emotions and the fatigue finally catches up to her. She smiles and passes out.

Bobby and Jacobs stride up the stairway. Bobby, feeling more certain than any other time in his life, reaches into his pouch and draws out his Possession potion. Jacobs and he reach the top floor of the tower, just in time to hear Thomas, pulled by the power of a Sword of the Cross, demand Durien’s surrender. He laughs at Thomas and hurls fire his way. Jacobs reacts quickly and summons a shield of energy to protect Thomas as he shrugs the blow off. Thomas quickly stabs Durien and the fallen angel’s beautiful face contorts in agony. Bobby sees his opening; he knows that this moment is the best one, really the only one. He gulps down his Possession potion and transforms into a fine mist. He soars forward and pushes himself into Evan St. Clair’s body.

Gog roars with fury and charges through the entry to Witch’s Hat Tower, he attempts to slam Brittany into the arch of the doorway. She pulls back on her axe, forcing Gog to slam his body against the archway itself. They continue their odd wrestling match, bucking and slamming one another into the stone walls. Brittany feels her grip slipping as she struggles to remain conscious. Gog bellows in rage and fatigue as he bucks and twists, unable to get a grip or buck the nimble Brittany.

Craig places the remains of a cushion under Bethany’s head before leaving the library to check on his companions. He can see the magical energies being discharged atop the tower. He sees Brittany’s titanic struggle with Gog inside the tower. Craig looks to the heavens and calls upon the love and sacrifice that he feels from his friends, drawing in the spiritual energy. He taps into his very essence, into the vary nature of his being and pulls out a small part of his soul. He hurls the energy at Gog, disintegrating the monster in a spontaneous blast. His hope and passion drive the force behind his magic. Gog dissipates, leaving behind a crippled Aaron who falls unconscious to the stairwell floor. A silver coin bounces down the stairwell; Brittany spares it a brief glance before running to the roof of the tower.

Hope drives Thomas as well; he trades blows back and fourth with Durien. His strikes distract Durien as Bobby tears into Evan’s psychic defenses. He senses their ego, their greed, their rage and he pulls apart the man’s mental walls brick by brick. When nothings left he strikes, forcing the essence of Durien back and takes control of Evan’s body.

“Thomas man,” Bobby in the Evan suit calls out, “this is like, Bobby, the coin is in his chest, under the skin, pull it out!”

Bobby fights with Durien for control of Evan’s body, he forces the arms wide. Thomas sees the opening and reaches out with his hand grabbing at Evan’s bared chest. He feels the ridges of a coin and pulls back, stretching the skin of Evan’s chest like taffy. Durien’s rage pushes at Bobby’s psyche and the fallen angel gains control of Evan’s arms. Evan grabs Thomas’s hand in a vice like grip, which prevents Thomas from yanking the coin further.

Brittany charges to the top of the stairs, with Jacobs yelling, “We have to get the coin!” at her as she passes by. Brittany grips her ghost axe tighter and leaps in the air, sweeping the blade down. Her axe cuts through the stretched flesh, severing it neatly. Evan howls in pain, blood gushing from the wound as he steps back. Thomas’s hand turns to solid iron when he grasps Durien’s coin, shielding him momentarily from the corrupting influence. Thomas can feel the living iron battle with the power of the fallen angel.

Bobby stumbles inside his Evan suit, but is able to grab the glass vial containing the blood of the fallen star. He reflects on the Prophecy given to him by the Man in Embers, the nature of what he saw in the moment of Clarity. He calls on his life, Evan’s life and the blood of the star and pours it into the ritual spell. He knows the energy pours down the tower and into the Wards below. Instead of ripping at them, he finds the hole where the Seventh Ward was. He can do nothing about the Veil, but with his, and Evan’s final breath, he pours his energy into the ancient Wards below.

Evan, along with Bobby, vanish atop the tower, the glass vial falling to the ground, empty. The dark energy dissipates and one of the Wards below is restored.

Several Days Later, Witch’s Hat Tower, Minneapolis.

Craig stands on the library grounds beneath the shade of Witch’s Hat Tower. He watches the reconstruction with satisfaction. He likes where Bobby’s statue is going to go, his sacrifice saved lives, saved the city, probably the world. Craig goes through his mental checklist. Thomas gave Durien’s coin to Sanya (He could’ve sworn that he saw Brittany and the Knight out on a date last night), Aaron’s crippled body is at the hospital, and the Helping Hands Shelter is disbanded. Craig scowls to himself for a moment when he remembers that Gog’s coin is still missing. He then moves onto happier thoughts. Those girls, Jane and Grace, that Brittany wanted to save were found alive and well atop the tower. He heard they might have gotten jobs at Sacred Grounds, who knows. Jacobs seems none the worse for wear and those spectres vanished as soon as the ghouls scattered. He heard that he is helping Sister Dark with a veterans outreach program at St. Mary’s. Craig taps his chin thoughtfully, as there still is something about Jacobs that nags at him.

Grace
Jane Doe

Craig is unable to chase down that thought as he is interrupted by a terse cough behind him. He turns to see the severe Donald Morgan. That doesn’t surprise him; Morgan is always the dour thundercloud that rains on a Wizard’s sunny day. What surprises him is that Morgan is not alone, next to him, standing tall is Martha Liberty, a member of the Senior Council.

Donald Morgan
Martha Liberty

Craig gulps, thinking to himself, “They must be here because of that deal with the Winter Fairy. Shit, I knew that had to catch up with me.”

He walks towards them.

“…..don’t trust him, he’s too young.” Morgan whispers to Liberty
.
Liberty shrugs her shoulders, “It has to be him, logistics demand it, hell, fate demands it.”

When they notice his approach, Morgan scowls at him and Liberty turns to face him.

“Wizard Hale, follow me.”

Without waiting a response Martha strides through the tower entrance with Morgan behind her. Craig quickly follows. He watches the Senior Wizard pull a gold key from her pocket and she touches an interior wall of the tower where the stairwell ends. A small hole opens up, and she slides the key inside. With a small click, the stone wall swings open and Craig sees a winding stairway leading down.

Liberty and Morgan descend down the staircase. Craig pauses, examining the architecture. He never even knew about this staircase. He hurries up after them. After several flights of walking they reach the bottom. Craig follows the pair into an enormous cavern. He can feel magical energy in the air as he sees shimmering Wards preventing further access. He scans the ground and sees the evidence of six powerful Wards. It looks like one burned out.

He looks through the Wards, for a brief instant he thinks he sees the ghostly image of Bobby Chan floating by. Craig blinks his eyes and peers deeper. He sees an image of a man with an enormous sword deeper in the cavern, held back by some of the Wards. In the center he sees the shadow of a chair, a throne carved in stone.

Gleipnir

Liberty lets Craig take in the sights before speaking, “You know of Gleipnir. The Impossible Chains used to hold the beast Fenrir. The legends you have heard are a lie. They are used to hold something back, something worse than Fenrir, something worse than the end of the world.” Martha Liberty pauses briefly, “Fenrir is just the Final Ward, the Final Chain to seal off the World Chair, the Throne of All. You can barely see it in the middle of the room. If someone sits on that chair they become the master of reality….and in doing so, break it. The various powers made an agreement to hide this chair, to seal it…and then to forget about it.”

The World Chair

Martha sighs, “Unfortunately, forgetting about it is no longer an option,” she takes the golden key and presses it into Craig’s hand. She looks to Morgan and nods. Morgan hands Craig and a Grey Cloak.

“Wizard Craig Hale, by birthright, by art, and by law, the Senior Council calls upon you to act as the Guardian of these Wards,” Martha intones solemnly, “you are named Warden of Witch’s Hat Tower.”

Craig can hear Morgan mutter under his breath, “And may god have mercy on us all.”

Craig looks at the key and slips it into his pocket. He glances at the cloak. He heard that blood cannot stain it. He just wanted his research and his books. Craig looks at the other two wizards and slips the cloak on. A piece of fabric has never felt heavier.

Conclusion of Helping Hand

View
Spiritus Securis
A Brittany Winter's Story

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The Story

I awake with a start, fumbling on my nightstand I find my cellphone and when my eyes finally adjust to the retina searing glare of the screen, a sigh escapes me when it reads 3am. This is the third time this week. Looking to my other hand, gripping what should be my blankets, I’m unphased to find the ax in my clammy fist.

Again, it’s the third time this week.

Slowly, I roll my legs over the edge of the bed, careful not to wake the mountain range of snoring dog that’s taken up vigil beside my bed. I quietly sneak downstairs, to where I keep my workout bag. With shaky hands, I change into my running clothes… the whispers from my dream still too vague for me to make out the words. Quickly downing the dregs of the shop’s last pot of coffee from the previous night, I head out into the drizzling predawn hours.

Picking a direction at random, I run full tilt for maybe 15 minutes before hearing the hissing whispers that woke me up. Slipping down a side street, the whispers start gaining substance, I’m hearing more consonants than “H’s” and “S’s”.

Slowing my pace, I find myself standing before a rundown two-story house near the old Landmark brewery. Hopefully when it becomes the Schmidt Artist Lofts the neighborhood will take an upswing.

Looking from the old brick towers to the house, my hand closes around empty air, the spectral ax firm in my grip. Concentrating on the shadows in the empty windows, the ax whispers for the last time.

“Jacob Phillips”

With a heavy breath to still my nerves, I start at the door with a run. A split second before my shoulder hits the door, the flat top of the ax’s head hits just to the center of the knob, obliterating the lock and the frame as my shoulder swings the door clear and I’m inside.

In the echo of the door’s destruction I’m creeping through the front hall and up the stairs, at the top I stop long enough to hear a rasping, inhaled sob. The owner’s throat too raw from wailing out it’s fear.

It’s coming from the bathroom. The hallway passes by in a blink of my jangled nerves, the ax in my hand is a length of barely contained violence. As I turn into the bathroom I see him there, curled into the same little ball the others were. Shoulders shaking with an unheard cry. Every time I see it I get a little sick inside.

My sneaker crunches on broken tile and the kid jerks, looking up at me, I put a finger to my lips as I make eye contact. Jesus, he can’t be more than 4 or 5 years old. He nods at me for a moment, before his eyes go wide.

Turning, I see her as she’s materializing into the hall. All dark, swirling hair, thin arms and fluttering, white skirt hems coming through the wall, her long fingernails aimed at my throat. As she screams, that silent scream that carries up the length of the ax to my ears, her mouth stretches to take up her entire face. I push into the hall ax first, surprising La Llarona as she finds she’s solid to my touch.

We push back and forth for a few tense seconds, each jockeying for the upper hand on the other. After a few swipes, she manages to rake her nails across my collarbone, a series of small gashes in my hoodie that quickly darken with the blood welling up beneath.

Thinking she has me on the ropes, she screams again as she rushes in to finish me, that’s when I bring the ax around in a whistling strike that takes her head from her shoulders. Both pieces remain there floating with her head spinning slowly from the remaining momentum of my swing, like there’s no gravity.

Dropping the ax, I step back into the bathroom. His terrified eyes look up to me as I hold out my hand to him, going down to a knee.

“C’mon baby… let’s get you back home.”

With a sob, he runs into my arms and we make our way back into the hall. Lifting his tear-wet face from my neck to look at the ghost, his rough voice whispers “What about her?”

“Don’t worry, when the sun comes up she’ll be gone.”

We get out of the house and take side streets to the police precinct where I’ll drop him off, carrying him the whole way. Setting him on his feet in the alley nearby, he looks at my hands as they go into the pockets of my hoodie, “Oh no, you left your ax!”

He won’t understand when I say “I wish”, so I just smile and say, “That’s ok, baby. You’re worth it,” and point to the door. “Alright Jacob, you’re going to go into that door with the police cars in front. They’re going to make a big fuss over you and get your parents here. Ok?”

He nods and gives my legs a quick hug before heading out of the alley. I watch until he goes in the door. Turning to head deeper into the alley, my hand closes around the ax shaft and slinging it over my shoulder I head home to open up shop.

I really hope there isn’t a fourth time this week.

View
You Break It You Buy It
Helping Hand, Part Two


    Currently Airing: Sacred Grounds Vandalized, Community Outraged    Homeless People Assaulting Community in Streets, Evan St. Claire Calls for More Outreach Assistance    Disaster on Eat Street, Rioting and Vandalism – Minnesota Public Radio News    

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The Story

Trailing a Fetch Shaped Dragon Through the City, Minneapolis

Val turned up the gas, powering her motorcycle through city streets. Thomas clutched to the side seat, holding on for dear life. Behind them, Brittany struggled through the traffic to keep up, torn as to follow the dragon or to return to Sacred Grounds and see what is happening to Jane after her phone call cuts out. Ripley hangs her head out the window enjoying the wind in her face. Bobby hurriedly searches through his bag, searching for a special vial. He knows that the dragon is really a fetch, and fetches feed on fear. He finds a small tin, labeled “Chill Pill” and laughs to himself, knowing he has his secret weapon. Crow Sings also indulges in his “secret weapon,” taking a pull of whiskey. He looks at the bottle and mutters, “good shit” before he passes out. Craig and Sister Dark, still stuck under the glamour as ghouls, hop on Craig’s Indian Motorcycle and head towards the Como Park Conservatory to talk directly to the Winter Court in an attempt to cut to the heart of the matter. Craig and the nun agreed to meet with the rest at Sacred Grounds.

Val

The dragon shaped fetch continues to fly above the city, heading closer to downtown Minneapolis. The pursuit quickly adds a new layer of intensity, Thomas, looking at Val’s rear view mirror, and Ripley, with her head out the window, notice Hel’s Angels bikers, led by Tiny and Lobo, in hot pursuit of Val and Thomas. The bikers begin to pass by Brittany’s car, unaware that that vehicle is aiding Val and Thomas in their hunt.

Tiny
Lobo

Thomas yells up to Val, “I think your friends are following us again!”

Val looks in the mirror and lets out a curse, “Use the shotgun in the holster!”

While Thomas draws out the shotgun, Ripley growls in frustration that none of the passengers in her vehicle know a civilized tongue. She turns glowing eyes at the bikers and lets out a fearsome howl that echoes through the air around the vehicle. The effects are profound. Tiny nearly loses control of his bike as his heart thunders with sudden fear. Brittany, sitting next to Ripley, screams in surprise and shock. Bobby and, unfortunately, Lobo and other bikers demonstrate little fear towards the soul shattering howl.

The werewolf bikers let out a chorus of howls and open fire with sub machineguns and pistols. Thomas feels a flurry of bullets ping off his armor as Val swerves the bike back and forth dodging the hail of shells. Thomas looks at her shotgun and realizes it is too small for his hand. He levers his weight and attempts to swing around behind Val to act as a shield from the gun fire. His weight pushes on the side car and snaps it, sending it hurling behind him. Most of the pursuing motorcyclists are able to dodge it, but Tiny, already off balance because of his fear, slams into it and crashes.

Ripley, sensing that her vehicle is now included in the werewolf pack’s hunt, leaps out the passenger side window and tackles one of the bikers, knocking him off his motorcycle. Brittany, shocked at the eerie howl of her dog and then to have her suddenly leap from the vehicle to maul a biker, loses control of the car while slamming on the breaks. It swerves sideways, blocking off the road. This catches the pursuing motorcycle gang causing them to slam into the vehicle, flipping over the car or sliding across the pavement. The bikers turn their fury from Val and Thomas to the passengers of Brittany’s car.

Bobby sees that Val and Thomas are continuing to speed off towards the dragon; he calmly unbuckles his seat belt and steps out of the car. “Ok, now, like guys, lets just talking this over like the civilized individuals we are. So, let’s like get our license and insurance information.”

Bobby realizes that none of the bikers are buying it. Lobo and the others howl and bark with rage, tearing their leathers and transform into monstrous wolves. Further down the road, Ripley lands atop the biker she mauled and smashes him into the pavement. She sees the growing confrontation and knows the pack wants to hunt and feed. While they are distracted, she charges down the road and mauls another biker from behind. She savages him viciously, slamming him side to side repeatedly into the pavement.

The other bikers, now challenged by a new alpha close in and charge Ripley. The pack attempts to circle in and hamstring her; however she spins rapidly snapping her maw at any challengers. Lobo sees an opening and crashes atop Ripley raking a deep furrow down her back. She howls in anger and pain. Bobby yells out, “The wolves man, they follow the alpha, take down the leader and you break the pack!”

Brittany shakes off the terror she felt and kicks open her door. She draws her ghost axe and throws herself at Lobo from behind. His rage distracts him and she cuts him deeply along the side. He howls in pain and terror. Ripley gets in under his throat and bites savagely. Lobo bounds away and then dashes off down a side street whimpering as he runs. The other wolves break turn and follow after him.

On the way to the Como Park Conservatory, St. Paul.

“How does this help us find Jacobs?” Sister Dark asks, astride the back of Craig’s motorcycle.

Sister Dark

“If the Winter Court keeps interfering, it’s going to be too hard to get anything done! Besides, we have to get rid of this curse!”

As Craig revs the engine, Sister Dark taps Craig on the shoulder. “I got a message it looks to be from your assistant Bethany. She says that there are some odd homeless people assaulting the visitors, she says she closed the library, but things are getting weird and scary over there.”

Craig scowls and thinking about the information on Jacob’s map, decides that he needs to head to Witch’s Hat Tower instead to check on the library. Craig, with Sister Dark behind him, makes excellent time to the library. As he gets nearer, he notices people hurrying down the street from the area. Craig senses necromantic energy in the air. He feels a little uneasy when he sees his first homeless person walking listless down the road, staring intently at the Tower.

Witch’s Hat Tower

Craig drives closer and sees that the individual is a little translucent and realizes that he is dealing with spectres, ghosts twisted with necromantic energy. He sees more gathering about the base of the Tower, staring up at it. They appear docile and only interact with someone when they close, when that happens they turn on the person; showing all their rage, guilt and sorrow, driving the person away. This all changes as Craig and Sister Dark approach the Tower by motorcycle. When the spectres see Craig and Sister Dark, their docile nature changes into a more violent aspect. They suddenly roar with fury and charge at the two of them, their moans echoing with anger and despair.

Spectres

Craig yells for Sister Dark to hold on tight and channels a blast of wind. He hurls the motorcycle through the air over the grasping hands of the spectres. Craig loses control of the motorcycle and crashes on its side, slamming it against the wall of the library. Sister Dark pulls herself free and draws a large submachine gun, watching the spectres begin their run towards the two of them. Craig heads to the library doors and yanks them open, hoping to find shelter inside. Instead, he finds an irate Bethany Tempest.

Bethany Tempest

“Be gone foul creatures, your kind is not wanted here!” Bethany focuses her energy as she looks upon Craig and Sister Dark, rage in her eyes. She channels a blast of air. It whips out from in the library and through the open doors.

Craig remembers that the Glamour is still in effect and that Bethany is seeing them as ghouls and not as they are. He ducks behind the door, avoiding the blast of air. Sister Dark is not as lucky and turns towards the door. The gust of wind rips off some pieces of stone from the Library’s entry way and a rock strikes Sister Dark on the side of her face, leaving a giant bruise and knocking her off her feet.

Ghouls

Craig peers around the door and pulls out his dream journal, showing it to Bethany, yelling out, “It’s me Craig, let us in.”

Bethany’s rage filled eyes turn to sudden despair. Craig never really appreciated how much Bethany cared for him, and he can now see the loss on her face, he also realizes that she doesn’t see through the Glamour. Bethany’s voice echoes through the air, heavy with vengeance and pain, “You murdered him, you killed Craig!” Energy crackles and dark clouds gather above them, “I will DESTROY you!”

Thunder rolls as the sky fills with the power of Bethany’s love, of her pain, and her rage, lightning strikes, stabbing at the ground. Spectres crumble and turn to ash with each flash. Craig and Sister Dark get caught in the sudden storm. Craig focuses his energy and calls upon the charged air, creating rods of lightning to diffuse the energy. Bethany’s fury smashes through Craig’s desperation and lightning singes both he and Sister Dark, hurling them to the ground. Bethany escapes the brunt of her own onslaught by slamming the door shut.

Craig, Sister Dark and the Indian Motorcycle survive the storm, but all carry the injuries of Bethany’s vengeance. They can hear the continued moaning of spectres and Craig realizes that before he came to the tower they were docile. His presence is what is causing them to act out. He turns to Sister Dark and shouts, “Get on the motorcycle, we have to get out of here,” he glances back at the library, “and we have to get rid of these Glamours before they cause more trouble.”

He jumps onto the motorcycle with Sister Dark, and with a painful shudder of the motor he speeds off down the road towards the Como Park Conservatory.

Eat Street, Minneapolis

As Val continues charging after the dragon, Thomas slides the letter that has been sitting in his pocket all evening. He takes shelter from the wind as best he can and breaks open the seal, reading the letter addressed to him.

Erin Kirkpatrick

Thomas,

The Winter Court, angered by your interference regarding the Fallen Star, has marked you and some of your companions, the Viking Aleksander Erikson and the wizard Craig Hale, for death and destruction. A woman by the name of Val knows this and will use you to lure a creature from its slumber in an effort to destroy it. She is, in fact, after an object of power that this creature guards. I, and the Summer Court, provide you this warning as a gesture of thanks.

With Honor,
Erin Kirkpatrick

Thomas narrows his eyes for a moment at Val and slides the letter carefully back into his pocket. He then grabs his cell phone and makes a quick call to Sister Dark, in an effort to warn Craig. He unfortunately gets a disconnected signal. (Unbeknownst to Craig and Sister Dark, the nun’s cell phone burned out during their accident confrontation with Bethany.) Thomas then calls Bethany hoping that she might have a way to reach Craig. A very weepy voice answers the phone tentatively, “H..Hello? This is Bethany.”

“Bethany,” Thomas gruffly says, “I’m look for Hale, can you pass a message for me?”

Thomas jerks back from the phone at the sudden anguished wail, “Craig….Craig’s DEAD. He was eaten, by, by some Monster!”

Thomas thinks for a moment, “Hey, was it a ghoul? If it was, Craig’s been turned into a ghoul, I think, so it’s ok”

Bethany continues to cry uncontrollably and hangs up the phone. Thomas shrugs his shoulders; he was never good with the crying stuff anyways. He then makes a quick phone call to Alek giving him a warning that the Winter Court might be after him.

“Good thing I took my unpaid leave down in Florida,” Alek mutters, but then asks, “Hey, you’re friends with Brittany Winters?”

“Yeah”

“Well, I have heard some gossip from guys on the force that someone blew up Sacred Grounds, is she ok? I mean, that place has some killer donuts.”

“Well, I haven’t heard anything about that, but when last I saw her she looked fine. I will let you know, but, I got some things to take care of right now.”

Thomas then disconnects from the phone as Val slows down the motorcycle heading towards Nicollet Avenue. She shouts at Thomas, “I want you to take guard in the center street and lure the beast out into the open. I will then be able to charge it and we will end this foul creature.”

Val pulls into a now abandoned street. Normally it would be trafficked with people going in and out the various restaurants; instead Thomas sees several flattened cars and hears the whining sound of a police squad car being crushed. Val leaves him in the middle of the road and then speeds down the broad avenue, rapidly building up distance.

Thomas looks about and can see a restaurant that normally would be bustling with business, now appears to be quiet. It looks like a section of its roof has been peeled back and he can hear the crunching of jaws from a nearby alleyway between two larger buildings. Thomas scans the other stores and sees a flower shop. An idea suddenly strikes him.

Thomas moves swiftly, clanking heavily towards the florist. He easily smashes through the front door and ignores the ring bell. He begins to grab handfuls of flowers and stuffing them in the open gaps of his iron suit. Thomas thinks to himself, “The Trappings of Summer” as he jams some roses in between his shoulder and forearm. Thomas’s actions have not gone unnoticed and the dragon roars with a sudden fury and punches a clawed hand through the glass wall attempting to crush Thomas in its grasp. Thomas dodges the clumsy blow and grabs a bag of seeds from the counter next to him. He then jams it into the dragon’s maw, causing it to choke on the bag.

Bobby, with an inebriated Crow Sings, speeds onto Nicollet with his borrowed Hel’s Angels motorcycle. Brittany and Ripley, in her mangled Solstice, follow behind. They come upon the Dragon tearing a florist shop apart. They can hear Thomas yelling taunts at it from inside. Ripley jumps out the window again and attempts to tear into the dragon’s tough hide. Unfortunately her teeth are unable to penetrate it. Brittany attempts to ram her car into the Dragon, thinking, hey it is a Solstice, but as it revs forward the engine coughs and shudders to a stop. Bobby reaches into his bag and pops a Chill Pill. He feels its calming effects quickly enough and goes to grab his headache potion, to traumatize the dragon. He then thinks, “Yeah man, in a minute, some of these flowers, are like, awesome” and literally stops to smell the roses.

Crow Sings

The dragon narrows its eyes and lets out an earth shattering roar. Its bellow fills the air and people who were cowering in windows previously suddenly start screaming, overcome with fear. Thomas, Brittany, and Ripley feel the hair stand up on their neck as the unnatural terror winds its way through them. Brittany becomes the most affected as she wets herself, feeling shear terror. Bobby simply giggles a little bit and puts a flower in his hair.
Val’s motorcycle roars from down the road and the inflicted terror is only short lived. Ripley leaps up and tears at the dragon’s eyes, bounding up its body and building, blinding one of its eyes with a rake of claws. Brittany grabs the now immobile car and hurls it at the dragon, it crumples against his body. Bobby focuses his attention and whips a Sticky potion through the air, shattering it on the ground. The vial explodes, coating the ground in a sticky substance. Thomas grabs the exposed gas tank from Brittany’s car and hurls it at the dragon. The dragon roars in pain and slams its fist against Thomas, his claws denting his iron arm suit.

Val continues her charge, the long spear held at the ready. Ripley jumps back down and howls with fury at the dragon, seeking to protect Brittany. Brittany grabs a lighter from her pocket, only to realize, with no small amount of disgust, that it has been “ruined.” Bobby though is able to light the gas fumes about the dragon and it roars in fury as it is set ablaze. It grabs the ruined vehicle that Thomas is standing upon, knocking him to the ground and hurls it at Val. Its aim is true and it knocks the motorcycle out from under Val, sending her hurling through the air. Val loses her grip on the spear and soars into a brick wall, slamming into it roughly.

Luckily, the spear landed at Thomas’s feet. He struggles to pull it from the ground; it was caught in the sticky substance that Bobby had laid out. Val yells, “Thomas, use the spear to kill the beast,” she then makes a quick chant throwing some rocks with runes at Thomas’s feet.

The dragon thrashes, but Thomas feels energy flow through him and he pulls the spear free. He stabs swiftly upwards gutting the dragon deeply. The great beast shudders and starts to slough off pieces of its skin as it dissolves into ectoplasm. The fetch shudders and then vanishes back into the Nevernever leaving behind a gold phylactery that falls towards the ground. Ripley is the first to act and dives through the air, seeking the vial for herself. She is able to snap on it with her great jaws, catching it perfectly. The delicate vial is not able to withstand the crushing might of the wolfhound’s jaws and it shatters.

Fetch
Como Park Conservatory, St. Paul

Craig’s motorcycle comes to a rattling halt in front of the closed gates. He slides gingerly off the bike. Sister Dark pulls out a small first aid kit and begins to dab at some of his burns. She now has an arm in a sling, bandaged from the burns she received from Bethany.
Sister Dark finishes and slides the first aid kit back into her habit, Craig sighs, “Alright, I am going in to talk with the Winter Court, we need to end this interference.”

Como Conservatory

“Fucking fairies,” the nun suddenly curses, then blushes slightly and makes the sign of the cross, “I trust none of them, I see a high point and I am going to cover you from there.” Sister Dark suddenly turns the white part of her habit around making it as dark as the rest of her frock. She then pulls out the pieces of a rifle and snaps them into place.

Craig steps back, a little startled, “Well, ok, just, don’t fire unless things get violent. I need to talk.”

Sister Dark nods and then dashes into the shadows, vanishing into the black night. Craig walks up to the gate which swings open untouched with a small grinding sound. He steps into the closed conservatory grounds and gets the feeling of eyes upon them. He thinks he can see the shapes of smaller pixies flitting in the trees. As he gets closer to the conservatory he feels a sudden drop in the temperature, his breath misting. He feels slightly comforted as he sees a red bead of light on the ground in front of him and he knows that he is under the militant nun’s watchful gaze.

The glass of the conservatory suddenly whitens from condensation and the elfin figure of Sylivia appears. She leans upon her bow, her hand on a hip, with a quiver of arrows resting on her thighs. Her severe eyes blaze with a blue energy as her blonde white hair settles about her.

Sylivia

“I have warned you once before wizard,” she spits out the last word like a curse, “you will cease your meddling or you will die!”

Craig holds out his hands, now covered in bandages, plaintively, “I come in peace to bargain, I ask that you call off your fetch and end your glamour.”

Sylivia arches a pale, blonde eyebrow, “Oh and to what end? You interfered with our matters and you come to bargain as if we are on equal footing.” Sylivia wrinkles her delicate nose, “besides, you stink of Summer.”

“Listen, Sylivia, the fetch is involving others in a conflict that has nothing to do with them,” Craig reasons, “lets not get this all tangled with the Accords and just have this conflict between us.”

The snow elf smiles mischievously, “There is a ritual to bind it,” she draws a circle for Craig to see, “Simply place a drop of your blood in the center and call upon the power of Winter.” She looks at Craig directly, “And the beast will turn to stone and resume its rest.”

Craig listens to Sylivia’s words and looks at the circle, his gut tells him not to trust the fairy, but he can find no evidence that Sylivia is deceiving him. He looks to her again, “Now about the Glamour?”

Sylivia laughs harshly, “You come as a beggar who already has a great debt. What do you offer? What do you have that equals the power of a star, that equals the power that which you denied us?”

Craig begins to sweat, he can sense that the winter fae’s patience is beginning to wear thinly, “I have something that I can offer, the Way Nexus of Witch’s Hat Tower. I am a Wizard of the White Council and I can allow the Winter Court free passage for a year. In return you cease your interference with my activities.”

Sylivia laughs, but suddenly her eyes blaze with a colder blue light. Her hair swirls wildly about her as she gazes intently at Craig. Her voice, now heavy with power, intones, “You ask for indefinite interference and give only a definite exchange? No, Wizard, that will not do,” Sylivia laughs, rich and powerful, but cold and cruel, “However, we will remove the glamour from you and the other. We will say that on the matter of Alison Harper that our accounts are balanced.”

Craig thinks for a moment, realizing that he is probably not going to get better, calls out, “Deal!”

Sylivia smiles and he feels the frost that was coating him earlier fade away. Then the world crashes. Everything lurches and Craig visibly stumbles forward, losing his footing. He gains his balance in time to see the look on Sylivia’s face turn from one of satisfaction to abject terror. She vanishes and with her the presence of Winter. The air warms around him the park falls silent. Craig extends his arcane senses, trying to understand what happened. He senses that the fragile ward about Fenrir has just collapsed. Not only that, but he finds that he can hold in his mind the idea of Fenrir’s cage and realizes that with the ward collapsing, something also caused the Veil to shatter.

Gleipnir

“I have to get to Sacred Grounds and meet up with the rest, there is something going on here that we are missing.”

Eat Street, Minneapolis

When the gold vial shattered in Ripley’s mouth a profound sense of emptiness had washed over the giant wolfhound. She becomes consumed by the feelings of the end of everything and overwhelmed by an unnatural feeling of terror from an unnatural creature. The entire world lurches and stops, then suddenly resumes. Ripley tumbles to the ground and everyone stumbles. A look of despair flits across Val’s face before being replaced by anger.
“Fah,” Val shouts, “you damnable beast, you have doomed us all. Thomas, my spear.” Val holds her hand out to Thomas. Thomas passes her the spear.

“Well you kept secrets, you should have been upfront with us,” Brittany screams back at Val.

“I have no time for you!” Val scowls at Brittany, looking her over, “I don’t even know who you are, with your wet pants, and mangy mongrel, but you destroyed the only thing that could have saved us, The Fear of a Fairy Queen. Bah, you are not worth my time.” Val turns her back to Brittney, a lost look on the biker’s face. She quickly smooths it over, but before she strides away, Thomas interrupts her.

“My payment?”

Val snorts and tosses a bag of gold to Thomas’s feet and strides to her motorcycle. She quickly stands it back up, starts the engine and rides off. The huff from motor echoes her disgust. Bobby, on the other hand, concerned at the sudden lurching of world also begins to mull over the sudden event with his arcane lore. He realizes that the weakened ward to Fenrir’s imprisonment has suddenly failed. The next ward, the Veil, has also shattered.
Brittany sighs and pets Ripley who whimpers, “I’m going back to Sacred Grounds to check on the girl and meet up with Craig, who’s coming with us?

Thomas shrugs in his arms, walks towards Brittany and then suddenly states, “Oh, yeah Brittany, I spoke to a cop who mentioned that someone bombed Sacred Grounds. I thought you should know.”

Bobby, on the other hand, notices that Crow Sings is waking up and still feeling a little chill still says, “Yeah, me and Crow Sings will, be like right behind you, we might like, you know get something to drink or something. We’ll catch up with you later!”

Brittany, concerned about her store, hurries with Ripley towards the light rail. Thomas decides to follow her and they leave Bobby and Crow Sings behind. Bobby and Crow Sings stumble into a nearby bar, when Crow Sings, a little more sober, mumbles, “I hope we don’t meet that Jacobs’s guy, he is doing weird things with ghosts over at HCMC.”

Bobby notices that some spectres milling in the city street, walking towards an unknown destination. Curiosity and maybe the spark of heroism gets the better of him, “Hey Crow Sings, why don’t we go like talk some sense into him, so we don’t have these ghosts bugging us when we are, like trying to chill.”

Crow Sings slugs down a beer real quick and agrees, following Bobby out the door and towards HCMC.

Sacred Grounds, St. Paul

Craig and Sister Dark arrive first to Sacred Grounds and find it surround by emergency personnel. The windows are shattered with smoke pouring out of broken windows. Craig channels a brief wind of air to blow the smoke out of the way, so that he can see inside. (He also, for the unfortunate emergency responders, shorts out their radios.) Shortly after Brittany, Ripley and Thomas arrive on foot. They see Craig and Sister Dark and confirm that they are no longer on the influence of the Glamour.

Sacred Grounds

“I need your help Craig; there was a girl that I saved from a pack of ghouls. I think she was taken by them, can you track her down?” Brittany asks Craig.

Craig nods, “I just need something of the girl’s. It should be no problem.”

Jane

Sister Dark sighs, “I….I need your help with my friend, but, if this girl is in the hands of ghouls, I can’t just abandoned her.”

Brittany approaches the crime scene, only to be stopped by law enforcement, concerned by her appearance. They direct her towards the paramedic.

“Can I go in and just get a change of clothes?”

The paramedic shakes his head, “I’m sorry Ma’am. It is just too dangerous in there. The structure isn’t sound.”

Thomas sees this argument and starts clanking towards the building, only to be stopped by a police officer. He gets into a brief argument and Brittany takes the moment to run into the building with Ripley. They look around as firemen shout at the two to leave the building, but Brittany finds some food that Jane was eating and snags the plate; while grabbing some other belongings. Eventually she is ushered back onto the street.

Brittany hands Craig the plate, “Will this work?” Craig nods and begins to channel energy about a ritual circle for a tracking spell.

Thomas bored at the ritual magic being cast and not really caring about what is going on, notices some odd people, most likely specters, not pausing to look at the destruction, but all wandering in the same direction. Curious he hefts his sword and walks off unnoticed by the rest to follow these ghostly figures.

Craig uses the journal they found at Jacobs and the plate at Sacred Grounds to get a sense where both of these people are. Jacobs, he finds is towards Minneapolis. Craig remembers the map he saw on Jacobs’s wall and thinks he is being directed to HCMC. The other, for the girl, he is being directed towards Downtown Saint Paul.

Brittany sees where Craig is pointing and says aloud, “ The Helping Hands Shelter. Let’s get going.”

To be continued

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