Chapter 5: Rescue

When I came to, I was seated on a bench. I looked around me, and down. My hands were manacled together. Silver cuffs connected together with heavily runed and spelled chains. Chains that lead down to a hook on the floor. My legs were bound too. I looked up. Maddie was across from me, and she was in a similar situation. To my right and left there were Chessmen. Giant mechanical creations seven feet tall and wide. Built with Ley access, and the latest magitek based weaponry, they were essentially walking autonomous tanks. Maddie had a hunter guarding her. I couldn’t tell if the Hunter was male or female. They were dressed in bulky battle armor that had those gauntlets Jimmy had grafted into his nervous system. There was probably a neuro uplink in the helmet that controlled the chessmen.

I looked up. Maddie was across from me, and she was in a similar situation. To my right and left there were Chessmen. Giant mechanical creations seven feet tall and wide. Built with Ley access, and the latest magitek based weaponry, they were essentially walking autonomous tanks. Maddie had a hunter guarding her. I couldn’t tell if the Hunter was male or female. They were dressed in bulky battle armor that had those gauntlets Jimmy had grafted into his nervous system. There was probably a neuro uplink in the helmet that controlled the chessmen.

I reached for my magic and found fumes. Maybe enough to break my chains. The battle in Undercity had drained me almost dry and I needed to tap a ley line to recharge.

I cast out my senses in search of the hum of energy that signified a ley. There was nothing. That meant I was either airborne or on the water. The nearest Hunter processing center would be in Boston. That meant I’d be headed there. Probably in an Ether powered hovercraft. I cast my senses around me. I had to be careful. If the pilot or our “honor guard” caught me sniffing around I’d be knocked out again. I found what I was looking for. The Ether core to the hovercraft. Except it was located inside the engine of the ship. If I could gain physical contact with it I’d be able to drain some of the energy into me. That wasn’t an option. If I could just touch solid ground for one moment I could tap a ley and escape.

“Where are we headed?” I asked,

“Boston. Then for you, Nocturne. For her, probably her parent’s closest safehouse,” the Hunter replied.

My blood chilled. I would not go there. I had spent five years in Nocturne before being killed by whatever horror Caine unleashed upon it. It was a prison in a dimension of total darkness. You were in a cell with only meals and rounds marking the time.

Have you ever been in the dark with nothing but your thoughts and time? Not the dark of night with starlight on your face, but honest pitch black darkness? Hours felt like days, and the less said about years the better.

No, I would not go back to that pit. I’d end it all if I had to. I refused. Damn magic, damn this endless loop. Damn these useless sheep. Let them hide in the halls as magic died. I would not go back to Nocturne and await death.

We reached the destination, and then we were touching down, and then the ramp in front of us was slowly descending. A squad of Hunters greeted us. Instead of them being armed with Wands they had sleek silver rifles I knew could shoot various types of ammunition depending on the block currently inserted into the clip. They were dressed in full black body armor, including helmets and facial shielding. Probably runed and warded. These were the Hunter equivalent of SWAT.

It was raining in sheets, and that quickly made the ramp slick. The hunter’s motioned for us to get up and walk. Maddie went first with her escort and I was unchained.  I was flanked by the two chessmen. I waited until I was near the bottom of the ramp and then I fell. My hand brushed against the ground and instantly magic flowed into my core, filling me with power.  One of the chessmen hauled me roughly to me feet and we were led inside and to the holding cells. I was pushed inside. The door slammed behind me and I felt a static sheet of magic cover the bars as the wards went live.

These wards were powered by the ether spire that connected this building to the ley lines. It would be useless fighting against them. I needed time to find a way out. I should have teleported away instantly.

That was when Samuel Black, chief director of the New England Hunter branch, the man who had interrogated me just this afternoon afterr saving Maddie’s life entered the holding area.

“Oh thank Maeve, Samuel, I need you to let me out,”

“Mister Owens, as a friend of your family and the Hunter in charge of your case, I am here to inform you about the charges that have been brought against you,” He said

“What charges?” I asked.

“You have been charged with the murder of the Central Park Alpha. You have been tried in Absentia,” Lucian was a powerful member of their community. He had practically united New England’s packs under his leadership.  If that’s what I was being charged with, I was shocked kill squads hadn’t started in on me.

“Samuel, I’ve a question, before I’m processed and sent away, have I been appointed a barrister?”

“No,”

“Then I’m invoking that right. I am appointing you my defender. Standard payments. I’m invoking the right of counsel, now,”

“You do realize I’ll lose my job if I accept?”

“Whatever you’re being paid by the Council, I’ll hire you as a Consultant with double your pay,” my family could afford it.

“While tempting, I’ll pass,” Hmm. That meant I was in so much trouble and the evidence was so stacked against me that it was an open and shut case or he was leaving me for the wolves.

“Could you at least tell me what evidence they have against me?”

“Traces of your DNA and your auric signature were found at the crime scene. We managed to backtrace your aura from the alley I spoke to you at yesterday and followed it to Lucian’s penthouse on 5th Avenue,”

“I was with the dwarves for most of yesterday,”

“Not according to their video and magic logs,”

Those backstabbing assholes. They’d burn. I was thoroughly fed up with this whole situation.

“When am I going to be transferred?”

“They Lycans demanded your delivery. An emissary will be here tomorrow to collect you,”

That meant I’d be taken into the woods, and set loose while half a dozen of their leaders transformed and hunted me down. That would be an easy fight. A conjured circle of silver caltrops made invisibleand I’d just have to wait until they converged on me and then they’d die. That also meant all I had to do was cool my heels and wait. I could do that. It would put me behind, but I could go puppy hunting, pick up Connor and then return to grab Maddie. I needed to make a stop in D.C anyway. The Archive held something I needed.

“Maddie was innocent in all this, I’ll swear and agree to whatever you want me to, but she returns home,”

“Our forensic ­­techs agree with you on that,”
So that meant whoever was trying to frame me only wanted me. That meant Fate or the Dwarves. But this wasn’t either of their styles. The Dwarves would just wreck my financials and send a squad to off me. I’d already seen Fate’s idea of “dealing” with me.

“I’ve got one question for you Mage Owens,”

So, while he was eating breakfast with us after a overnight visit with my mother, my first name would suffice. Here it was all professional.­­­

“What?” ­­­

“Who’s the Elementrian you have working with you? We have reports that a geokinetic was in play at Undercity, and New Hope has no idea who it could be,” By that he meant the Cortez School for the Gifted, a training academy cum embassy that was one of many Elementrians holdings here on Earth. So an Elementrian had gone off the deep end. As if I didn’t have anything else to worry about. As long as it wasn’t an Aether I’d be fine.

“Hell if I know. Maybe one of their black book operators went rogue. Maybe they were busy tracking down one of their precious artifacts. God knows they have enough trouble keeping a grip on them,”

“I’m sure it won’t matter, much. It’s not as though anyone can reach you here,” Well, these people haven’t watched a horror movie, ever. Have they?”

That was when Murphy decided to show up in full gods-damned force.

Klaxons started blaring and Samuel whirled around. He gestured in the air and magitek holo display came to life. It showed a map of Boston and the greater area outlying area. Nova Scotia had a red line on the eastern coast.

Then a Hunter ran into the room.

“Sir, the Fomor have attacked Nova Scotia. They’ve made landfall fifteen minutes ago.,” Well, I can add that to things that haven’t fucking happened before. But then again I’ve never been stuck in Boston before either. I knew that the Fomor had started carving their own little empire out of our coastal cities in the end. This was jumping the gun.

Samuel looked at me, narrowed his eyes as if I was sicing the Innsmouth rejects on the Canadians, and then looked back at the Hunter.

“Mobilize everyone. Keep half of them here in case the Fomor try for Boston. Set up O-Net and CMASS alerts for all Civilians to report to the shelters. Send word to New York, Salem, Augusta, and Providence that their assistance is needed, and then engage city wide wards. Finally deploy half of all our assets with all haste. Inform Natalie that she’ll be leading the assault. I have to stay here to guard the VIP,” He said, with a very pointed glare in my direction. The Natalie he was referring to was probably Natalie York, a member of one of the Seven High Houses. She had saved Boston once. The things that woman could do with fire spells downright scared me.

“Tell her to use everything at her disposal. Call in any favors she can. We cannot afford another Panama,” he said this part with a sense of urgency I had only seen once or twice before.

Panama, the first action in our prolonged war against the Fomor. They had slaughtered the city of Pedasi and then they used some sort of bio-magitek fuckery to use the corpses as walking cannon fodder for their next engagement. it spread simply by touching the bodies that it had infected. It had spread like wildfire. We had already lost everything from there to Santiago before we knew something was wrong. It had started to infect Costa Rica and Columbia before we managed to contain by erecting massive wards, walls and Elementrian forcefields to stem the tide. It was the first offensive action by the Fomor but it would not be the last. Our biomancers and scientists were still trying to figure out how to cure it.

The hunter nodded once and left. Samuel left for a few minutes. When he came back, he was dressed in black body armor, the same type the dwarves used. He also had a sleek silver rifle that had a visible blue power/ammo gauge. An Elementrian piece. It seemed as though their weapons dominated our markets more and more over traditional spellwrought gear.

“You know, if I was the Hunter in command I’d have all available people come help me. Including the junior Warder and the Battle Mage in training that you have detained. I’d even offer them clemency if they were so kind to agree,” I said with a smile.

“Nice try Mister Owens,” He said, and turned his chair around. He conjured another holodisplay and begin browsing security feeds and the Hunter Command News Feed.

That was when the power flickered. It went out for a brief second and then the backup generator kicked in. I knew that was powered off of the building’s Ether core. The same Ether core that also powered the wards. Samuel waved an Ansuz rune in the air and blue sparks flew out of his wand. That was a vision rune. If had been successful the rune’s outline would have glowed. But something was negating it. So Fomorian mages could already be tearing down the wards or Fate could be interceding so my Brother could attack. The Dwarves wouldn’t try anything. The Lycan’s wouldn’t bother.

I would not die in a spell lined cell like some common criminal. It was time to make my escape.

I drew a circle in the air and drew a binding rune in the center and then I drew an Isa, a rune that could mean many things. In this case it meant cold, and ice, and snow. Snow, bright and sharp like a Yule’s Morn. Dark and brittle like an endless Alaskan night when there was a knock on your door when nobody had any business to be out.  I brought those feelings to the forefront of my mind and muttered the Runes under my breath.

“Maeve, Queen to Be, Queen to Come, Lady of Cold. My Marker has come due. I seek the service of your Vassal, Jack Frost,” A cold chill of fear snaked its way down my spine and I knew I had earned her attention,

“Free Madeline DuBois from where she is contained and all my possessions.l without drawing attention to himself. Meet me in Preston Park in Brighton, four hours from when I leave this place. All will be answered then. Do not harm or tamper with Madeline DuBois or any of my possessions in any way shape or form, or allow anything like that to come to pass. Alert me when this has been done,” I murmured under my breath. I thought I saw a shadow flicker in the corner of my eye, but it was probably dust. Probably. The shiver I felt might have been the air conditioning.

“What were you muttering about, Owens?” Samuel said.

“Just talking over homework with myself, I’ve got nothing else to do,” I said with a smile.  He gave me a dirty look.
I heard a muffled boom outside and I felt the ambient magic of the building’s wards roar to life like a lion on the hunt, ready to kill.

“Stay here,” He said, unlocked the safety of his weapon and left the room. I heard another boom, and the magic from the wards flared again, this time it was more subdued. Something with some serious power was outside.

Godsdammit, I needed more time. I splayed my hand against the spelled bars, and my aura flared, and I poured pure power out. I felt the magic in the bars coil back and my own magic attacked me. I bit back the scream of agony I felt. I had to get out of here. If I could just escape these bars.  I called up power and spoke a string of spells.

“Wyrda Dispardurous, Arcanum Oblesco, Incantore Dormio,” My magic shot out of my palm. Hazel light flared and met with the silver of pure magical energy. It dissipated like a match in a wind storm. Fuck. I had another trick up my sleeve. Magic was powerful, but there are some forces out there that pervert it, that twist it in two. If I did this, and it did not work I would be drained of strength, and I would just be a sitting target for whatever was- another muffled boom and the magic of the wards broke. I felt something dark, and I drew a rune in the air, a circle with two curving lines inside it, and another razer straight line joining them. Then I called forth what little power I had remaining inside me and threw it out into the world with a shout,

“Magia Anarchos!” The chaos rune flared into hazel and eldritch green life. The spells on the bars glowed with pure silver energy, and drew energy from the minor ley line flowing underneath the police station. My magic glowed and dissipated and the backlash slammed me into the wall. I spit out blood and growled.
Bullshit. Such bullshit.

That was when a Hunter ran into the room. His hand glowed blue and spears of lightning and fire materialized and flew out of his hand. Something behind him screamed in pain.

Then he waved his hand again and the door slammed shut, ice shot out of his palm, and covered the door and spread-outward five feet.

“There, that should buy us some-time,” He murmured and turned to me.

“Jeremiah Owens, I presume?”

“Yes, and you are?”
“Lieutenant Blake Andrews, ETDI,” I hadn’t heard of that agency before, Belatedly I realized I hadn’t felt magic when he had performed his light show.

“You’re Elementrian. You’re also an Aether. Get away,” I said.

He frowned,

“You mages are so superstitious sometimes I swear. I’m just trying to help you out.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because your case file has important written all over it, and there are creatures from the black lagoon and a god’s hit squad on your ass and in this building,” He waved his hand over the door, then flicked his hand in the air in a series of gestures. He was probably consulting one a corneal AR display. Another piece of bullshit Elementrian tech that they were so fond of.  Then he drew a rune in the air, and the lock glowed. My door opened.

“Sorry, had to consult control,” He said.  I tapped a ley and felt power pour into me, I let it rush into me until I felt full, almost uncomfortably so.

With a gesture of my hand, a muttered spell, and a measure of power I threw him into the wall and held him there.

“Now. Why you are here?” Aether or not, I had him pinned. It would take power to break my hold, and the resulting fight would likely level half the city.

“You are a VIP. Or you will be. The file for this time frame is sketchy. The fact the temporal stent is still in effect doesn’t help matters. Anyhow. I was sent here by command to ensure you and Miss Dubois make it through the next few days. I’ve been cleared for Thule. Now I’ll give you a choice. I can escort you out of this killzone and leave. Or I can escort you through Thule, and help you end this menace before he irrevocably fucks the timeline up. There are only some many times we can reset the timeline, and that isat it’s end,”

“That’s a fuckin lie. Fate is protecting the timeline. I made a deal.”

“That would be the outside influence we’re detecting. It would explain a few things.” He muttered, then gestured in the air again. An Inhuman scream filled the air and that broke it him out of his reverie.

“We need to go,” He said. He waved his hand and the ice turned to water and then presumably air. Stupid effortless transmutation.

I couldn’t waste time on shields this time. I muttered spells, and summoned shields around me like a barrier, layers of light appeared over me like plate mail. It was tied to my aura, and tied to a permanent pull of ley energy. Supporting this for a long time would overload my lymph system and probably kill me, or burn me out literally. I couldn’t afford to not have this protection at the moment. Heat and kinetic impacts would hopefully drain into the system and enforce it. Hopefully. I was making these spells up on the fly.

Absently wishing for a nice GAU-13 or Perhaps a legion of chessman, I nodded to my Elementrian savior and we walked out the door. The first thing that greeted me was the corpse of whatever Blake had killed. It looked almost canid, but the scaly skin and serpentine tailed made it seem reptilian. I had odd coral like growths on it, and was a pale silverfish color. It’s blood was blue and there was a smoking hole in the center of it’s chest. I’m guessing that was where Blake had killed it. I looked around. There was a red 1 on a sign on the hallway. Holding Room 1. I knew where I was in the building, relatively.

So Fomor then. Great.

“I’m guessing your fi- friend has already left?”

“I’m hoping,”

“Good, this will make things easier,”

He manifested an arrow that glowed pale blue.

“This will show us the way out,” he said. I scoffed and started down the hallway. My past lives gave me a fairly complete map of this place. A few last stands had happened here, and I had faced the Fomor here more than once.  I walked down the hallway until I saw a flight of stairs. We went down those and walked into a war zone. Hunters were fighting Fomor, and dying. Spellfire flew through the air like a kaleidoscope of death.  I smelled ozone and shit and all thee smells I had come to associate with a magical battle. There were barricades set up that hummed with magical power. Magitek Pulse guns had dropped out of the ceiling and were firing on the Fomor who had set up portable barriers of their own. I threw out my magic, it wasn’t even a crafted spell so much as it was an intent to kill backed by ley fueled power. It slammed into another one of those dog things, this one was roughly the size of Shetland. The creature turned to ash mid leap. That drew the attention of the Hunters. They were a smart bunch and didn’t start firing on me. A Fomor spell glanced off the auric helmet I had created and it dazed me.

Blake flicked his wrist and a ball flew into air and formed a turret which landed. It must have been programed to fire on non-human like signatures because it did not target the mages.

He then threw out his hand and a shimmering bolt of air hit a Fomor and combusted.

I fired off another spell and it impacted with a Fomor barrier. Cerulean green met hazel and cerulean held. I absently wished for a wand. I could fine tune my spells, find what ward matrix they were using and destroy it as opposed to throwing out power and hoping it struck. A spell struck my shoulder and was stopped by the wards.

“Blake, I need a wand!” I yelled. A bolt of something that felt cold like ice whirled toward me.

I threw out a shield and the bolt sparked away into nothingness.

Blake looked at me and then he flicked his wrist and a wand slid into his hand. He tossed it to me, and I caught it. It was unaligned. No aura, no mage had bonded with it. I cast my senses toward it, and suddenly it was an extension of myself.

I drew an eye in the air, and an Ansuz rune.

“Ansuz, show me all,” It was liking putting on glasses after not wearing them. There was sudden clarity. A see the runes and the way the Fomor had their spells constructed. I saw the patterns of spells that flowed around me, that seemed weak and diminished. No doubt the non-essential security runes and magical miscellanea that were powered down at the moment.  I looked at the spell matrices that powered the Fomorian barriers. They were solidly enchanted, and if I hadn’t had a hundred some odd lifetimes to study the arcane I wouldn’t have notice that it was only spell-linked in four separate places. I pushed a tendril of thought and power toward one of those places and then drew a merkstave Thurisaz and another regular one to direct the spell output backwards. The explosive backlash destroyed the Fomorian soldier hiding behind it melted from the discharge. I repeated that maneuver again. The Fomor had noticed and were rapidly retreated down the hallway towards another flight of stairs.

Not to be outdone the Hunters went on the offensive, Spellspells of death and destruction flew and killed the Fomor in their path. When they finished they turned to me.

“You’re that prisoner they brought in,” one said. He was older than my apparent age, probably in his mid twenties.

“Correction, was,” Blake said, I gave him a look.

“Excuse me?”

“Blake Andrews, Hunter NETF. Battle Mage Owens here is a CI,” The Hunter paled. NETF. Nether-Elementrian Task Force. Basically a task force that oversaw Elementrian and Nether travel. Nether was a dimension just outside of ours that the Fae and Daemon and other miscellaneous creatures that went bump in the night occupied. The NETF had Carte Blanche went it came to just about anything.

“Do you want to check my credentials? I’m sure that’s so important right now. It’s not like you’re CO is holding the line against an existential threat or your comms are down. Go ahead, recruit, I’ll wait,” He said that in a bored tone, completely uncaring of any events that might transpire between then and now. It was a tone that told the Hunter that it would be his ass on the line if anything screwed up between his oh-so important call, and the current crisis.

“Maybe we can wait until after this skirmirsh,” The Hunter said. Blake was already headed down stairs. I rushed to follow him.

“What a great idea!” He replied. With a half flick of his wrist the turret he had deployed vanished. I slammed down the feeling that I was rapidly losing control of the situation. We reached the second flight of stairs to find a graveyard. Fomor and Hunter dead where they were fallen. Chessman nothing but scrap. It was odd. Something had torn one of the Fomor hounds to shreds. Literally nothing but a carcass was left. The same something had torn into a couple of the Hunters, their necks were shredded open. The arterial spray on the wall opposite them was like a macabre Pollock painting.

I reinforced my shields. This wasn’t good. Blake and I shared looks, and he pressed a button on his gauntlet. There was brief shimmer in the air and I knew he must have activated some sort of personal energy shield. I wonder what other tricks those two bracelets had. I wondered if I could stun him and take them for myself.

“Don’t even think about it. They’re biolocked to me,” He said. Of course, the whole Aether psionic package.

We went up the final stair well. Soon we reached the VTOL bay.

To no surprise of my own, my erstwhile undead brother was waiting for me.  He had four of those half-living hounds.

“Brother!” He said in cheerful tone that belied the malice filled grin that showed on his face.

“Have you come to join me? To repay back the debt you’ve incurred?”

Blake stepped in front of me. Ice blue motes of lights dancing around his hand. I felt a half formed spell gathering power in the air, like the air before a blizzard. Or the static before a lightning strike.

“Back of Draugr. He is protected. Your mistress knows this,” I felt the air start to grow colder and the spell slowly begin to gain more cohesion. I subtly begin carving runes in the air.
“And you Aether, have no need to be here,” My brother said. No treatise binds you to this spot.  No promise has your people compelled to help this errant mage. You have no place here,”

“I beg to differ, vassal. Fate has stepped out of line. There are powers here you have no comprehension of at play. No matter you dealing with here. Whatever last minute bargain was wrought. Leave or I swear on my blood I will see you undone.” Blake said this in a quite tone, and still the spell he was calling up gathered. Whatever magic he was conjuring up was nearly complete.

Jeremy paused.

“Fate will displeased with me if her brother’s playthings are broken. So once more I ask. Leave,” He said.

In response, Blake unleashed hell.

Flame and Force and Lightning and godsdamned Ice flew towards my brother. The very air ignited around Jeremy and he shrugged it off like it was nothing. The hounds charged.

Blake flicked his wrist and a sub machine gun wireframed into existence. He held that in one hand. His other a ball of power.

One of the hounds came rushing toward me, and grabbed my arm in its teeth. If it weren’t for the shields I had layered over me, It would have crushed my jaws. Instead it simply grabbed hold and would not let go.

“Carnificare Clava!” The spell was known as the bonesaw spell in some circles. It was designed to kill. It could destroy the shell of a chessman with a few hits. The hound shook it off like it was nothing.

I knew we needed to contain this quickly. Half the Hunters and Chessmen in the United North Americas was headed this way.  I threw all the power I could into the wand and threw another bonesaw spell out. This cut the hound in two.

I carved a couple of runes in the air and muttered a Thulosion spell, I shot the spell at another of the hounds and it ripped it half, gore showering the area in a cloud of black and red ichor.

The spell should have vaporized it.

Blake had killed one of the hounds with a pistol. Now he had one of the hounds grappled. It was floating in the air.  His hand was gripped in a claw and he balled it in a first. The hound collapsed in itself.

We turned on my brother and he smirked. He drew a sword from thin air and charged toward Blake. Blake conjured his own sword, parried the blade and threw a wave of force out that sent my brother spinning backward.

My brother threw out a golden spell that Blake allowed to bounce off his shield. Blake then threw out a spell that felt like cold and grease. My brother blocked it with a localized shield the size of a small dinner plate. The spell shattered afterward but served it’s intended purpose of blocking whatever magical fuckery Blake had unleashed.

Then I opened fire on my brother with a spine shattering spell empowered with a Thurisaz. It hit him and his face crumpled into a pained grimace. I heard bones break, and pop and form back into place and then my brother gave me the crooked grin he flashed through soccer and chess and all those juvenile conflicts siblings shared. The grin that had reassured me the fateful night when our family was destroyed. The grin he had used time and time again. Then he raised his hand. My shields popped like a bubble and pain flowed through me like blood. I fell to my knees and screamed. Oh, how I screamed. I screamed for the pain that was crippling me. For the old me who actually thought he could make a fucking difference. For the lives that monster I was hunting had ended. For the city I wanted to tear from its time locked tomb. For everything that could have been and never would be.
Tears ran freely down my face and I screamed for an indeterminate amount of time.

Suddenly the pain stopped, and Blake was there. His hand was outstretched and his hair was matted in the rain. His chest was heaving, but he looked okay but pent up well of energy I felt for him was nearly gone.

“I managed to do away with that demon for now, but we need to leave,” He said. He gestured at a VTOL crafts. The low whine of engaging engines had filled the air. I realized this wasn’t a Hunter VTOL, but an Elementrian one.

“Get up. I don’t have the strength to carry you. You either move or I’m leaving without you.” Blake said.

“Why should I? We’re fucked no matter what.” I said. None the less I gritted my teeth and climbed to my feet.

We ran to the VTOL. It was designed oddly. There wasn’t a cockpit, and the vehicle was one open floorplan. I sunk to a cot off to the side. A woman was waiting for us. She had long red hair, pale skin, and was in the same black body armor Blake was wearing.

“Tess, we’re ready,” Blake said, and took a seat in the copilots chair.

“The other two?”

“On their way already. He sent for help,” Blake said. He waved his hand in the air and a holographic display came to life. An image of the globe zoomed out and he pinpointed Great Britain.

“Frost is in play then?” She asked. I couldn’t place her accent.
“Yep. We need to get to their rendezvous point as soon as possible,”

“I’m engaging active cloaking. I’ve also already scrubbed us from Hunter Command and Boston Municipal. ETA London, two-hours.” Tess said. I looked out a window, and to my surprise we were already in the air.

“Great, let me know when we’re closer,” Blake said. Then he got up out of his chair and walked to a cabinet. He pushed a button and a panel opened up. He took a capsule out a tray and brought it over to me.

“Take this,” He instructed.

“What is it?”

“It’s a regenerative nanite compound. It will get you back to fighting shape, and undo any nerve damage that you’ve suffered over that last few hours,”

With a wary glare I popped the pill in my mouth. The moment the capsule hit my tongue I felt a cooling sensation. Within minutes the trembling in my limbs stopped.

That didn’t mean I hadn’t forgotten the thoughts that ran through my head moments earlier.

 

Chapter 4: Reunion

Well, at this point, I’ve given up at reaching my weekly deadline. It seemed as though it would be easy, but I’ve had enormous difficulty meeting it. This is a combination of school, work, and the mental exhaustion of finals. BUT. The whole point of this was to force me to write. So I’ve at least accomplished that goal. I’ve been writing more than ever. Even if it’s a few hundred words while on break, I am writing.

So, without further ado, I present:

Chapter 4: Reunion

It had been a good day, and I needed a drink. Both to steady my nerves from what I’d just done and what I was about to do.

Chicago has great beer and there’s this little pub there, Mac’s. They have the best microbrew around. It was somewhat of a place for magicians to gather.  We went there and I got us two cold ones and we sat down at one of the vinyl and wood booths the proprietor had placed around the outer walls.

“Now Jeremiah, tell me what’s going on.” Madeline said.

I drew my wand, drew a rectangle in the air and muttered a privacy spell, a hazel film covered our booth. I augmented it with a merkstave Thurisaz to drive off any potential listeners with a feeling of them not needing to be there. I also drew two Ansuz, one merkstave, to compel anyone passing by our booth that we were no-one of consequence.

Only a magician of extremely high strength would be able to defeat that. If it came to that, I’d be too busy fighting to worry about my wards falling.

“Maddie, what do you know of the lost cities?”

“Well, Atlantis is Elementrian, and those bastards won’t let anyone through those portals.” she said.

“Besides those idiots, what other cities do you know of?”

“Thule and the City of Ceaser… Caesar fell during World War II during the South American campaigns. Thule doesn’t exist,”

“Yes it does,””

“You believe that?” She said.

“Yes, I do. Madeline, I want you to find it with me,” I replied. Fiddling with my bottle cap.

“Why?”

Because every good time-traveling moron needs someone to keep them sane.

“Because I don’t know a whole lot about warding, and I know that’s the DuBois family specialty?”

She pointed at the hazel sheen covering our booth.

“I’d say you’re doing just fine in that respect,”

I signed, and took a sip of my IPA.  Fuck it. If I was dragging her to hell, I should be honest about where we were going.

“What I’m about to tell you is going to sound ludicrous,”

“Well, I’m now on the dwarves’ most wanted list, and you literally blew a hole in a Lycan’s chest without so much as pausing, I’m open to new ideas,” she said, and took a sip of her own. We were fifteen, but we were part of the Thirteen. We had learned to handle and enjoy our liquor as a matter of course. It wouldn’t do for an heir to be plastered after a state dinner.

“Okay, you know who Caine is,”

“Jeremiah, there were only ten of us that escaped that hell. You and I are two of them,”

“Right, well, anyhow. Six months from now, He’ll emerge from Underhill after an ascension ritual. He’ll have an army of Undead and Daemon at his disposal. New York falls first. With it, he destroys the Obelisk Network.  New England falls in six months. Miskatonic is the only hold out. In a year, all of United North America will fall. South America is safe, the Aztecs have some horribly effective wards, and thier airforce is second to not. They are right not to tap into the Ether Network.

Russia is next. Rasputin is starting to show his age. Europe follows. In five years there will only be a few hold-outs left. Places where the Ether Net doesn’t reach or Caine simply doesn’t care about. The South Pacific nations, the African continent because even he’s afraid of what the Egyptians and Africans have in store. Places where the wards and magical infrastructure pre-date Ether usage. The Vatican, London. No-one is safe.

My mother dies overloading the Crestwood Ether Hub. This destroys the half million undead swarming what meager defenses they have. Connor is captured and turned during a raid gone horribly wrong. He is the cause of London’s demise. We lose the rest of Britain in a month. Ireland still stands, the Fae refuse to let their people die.

Then the Elementrians play the hero. They’re responsible for evacuating millions of people, and destroying hundreds of undead strongholds using orbital bombardment.

When one of their cruisers is infected they see the writing on the wall and leave us to our fate and retreat to their galaxy.

 

The environment is fucked and the ley lines are jumbled because of the nukes that the mortals”, I say the word like a curse. In a way it is. Those filthy overgrown apes should really mind their own, “manage to launch. When I left, the African continent was the only place the Undead didn’t rule. Even then, Mombasa had fallen and they were rapidly spreading across Kenya,”

“What about the Winter Queen?”

She was referring to the ancient Lich who ruled Antarctica. Not a certain Fae Queen who’s heir owed me a favor.

“Before the nukes launched, Lady Sylvia raised walls of ice around her domain, and make a deal with the Elementrians for an Ice planet. She has no love for mortals,” I was irritated by that, but I wouldn’t try to get my revenge against her. Even I knew there were some dragons better left sleeping.

“If you are really from the future, then how’d you come back?”

I took a breath. This would be the deciding factor on whether she came with me, or I put her under a sleep spell in an Owens Fortress until this whole mess was done with.

“I braved the Angles of Time and found the three sisters. I made a deal, and the eldest sent me back seventeen years to the day, I tried to go back farther. But there was something in the Deal I made. There are rules even gods have to follow I guess. I chose you because I need a wand I can trust by my side, and there just aren’t that many of those in stock,” I said, and took another swig. There were exactly two of those in this miserable world. The other was awaiting me in London.

She looked at me. Looking at my features for some sign of the long gone trickster I used to be. Looking for some tell that this whole mess was a joke. After the longest thirty seconds I’ve ever experienced, she nodded.

“Fine. I’m not saying I believe you Owens, but I’ll give you a chance. I’m not doing anything for the next couple of weeks, anyhow. You made sure of that,” she said that last part with a growl. I fought back regret about the opportunity I caused her to loose.  ­

I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. We finished our drinks and left the bar. Then we took a hover cab to a levi-lift. It took us down a hundred feet, and we entered into Undertown.

If New York was the center of the magical world, Chicago was the Wild West. Chi-town had long since been the underbelly of Magical North America. If it was illegal, frowned upon, or just plain ugly, you could find it here. The Hunters here fought long and hard battles with the vicious street gangs who were as likely to carry an Uzi as they would a wand, plus the Ley Lines in Chicago were jumbled from a necromantic ritual long since gone awry. This meant the more delicate magics like psionic recreation and other forensic goodies behaved unpredictably.

The Hunters tried their damndest to police the place but were fighting an endless war. The higher ups had long since abandoned the town. They had assigned a token lot to fight the good fight.

Souls could be bought and sold in Chicago’s Undercity.  Crack dealers set up shop next to daemons, and prostitutes lived next to sirens Friends one day were likely to stab you the next, and the criminals here were as likely to turn your insides out with a spell as to shoot you in the kneecaps and leave you for the vultures.

It was gritty and dirty and bathed in constant neon light that emanated from the drug dens, brothels and casinos.

Anything that was desired could be bought here, and anything not sold could be stolen.

All were welcome to Undercity.  There was one rule: Stay Alive. The cliché was strong with this town.

I didn’t spare any time to sight see. Maddie stuck behind me. She was weary, I could feel that in the way she held her magic close and ready like a tightly wound spring.  I didn’t blame her.

My destination was an arms dealer. Whether the weapon was magical, mortal, or some hybrid of both, Jimmy could get his hands on it.  From the exterior the place looked like a seedy pawn shop, like most of Undertown.  It was all barred windows and glass. I could feel the runes he had carved in the surface of the steel rods barring the windows. Fresh and new, and hungry to kill. Even Undertown was antsy.  His wards were up and armed. They felt like the pressure building in the air before a thunderstorm. They smelled like salt and something burnt.

I carved a Hagalaz run in the air. I felt the infinite potential of the rune gather in time with the flow of my magic up from my solar plexus and flow into my right hand, and then into my wand.

“Arcanum excidium,” I muttered. The magic shot out of my wand, and into the rune. This served as a focus and my magic tore his wards apart like tissue paper in a rainstorm. I latched onto this by splaying out my left hand and casting my senses toward it. The energy poured into my core. I fought back the heady wave that this brought forth. I walked up to the door and pushed my wand forward with a muttered word, I envisioned the latching flipping up on the other side, and it did. I walked into the shop. The man at the counter raised his right arm, and the crystal embedded into the palm of the copper and steel prosthesis unleashed a lance of energy that I diverted into the ceiling. Plaster rained down on us from the new skylight. I used a wind spell to force some of the particles into Jimmy’s lungs. He instantly began coughing. While he was doing that, I bonded the materials together in his pant legs to constrict his movement.

He was a tall man, and lanky. His right arm had been severed just below the shoulder in the same drug deal that had cost him one of his eyes. Instead of having them regrown in a vat with magic and mortal cloning tech, he had opted for a magitek arm made of clockwork with ether piping connected to a gem which could be used as a wand. I had seen gauntlets with the same setup on the power armor Hunter Spec Ops used.  He had opted to have his eye replaced with a piece of Elementrian biotech that allowed him to view heart rate, and breathing among other things. I disabled that with a temporary EMP that BSODed the eye’s OS.

“Hello, Jimmy.” I said. I silently broke the spells on the enchanted shotgun he had below the counter. Then I turned the ammo the lead buckshot to sand. Jimmy had killed me once or twice, and I learned from my mistakes.

“Look, I’m not here to hurt you,”

“Really, because you’re doin’ a great fuckin’ job of convince me otherwise,” he said, and coughed again.

“Well, I needed an entrance. I’m dramatic like that. I also need weapons, and you need money,”

Jimmy had developed a nasty habit of mixing ether dust with acid. It would fry his brains eventually. I was buying guns from him, not giving him advice. I wasn’t a guidance counselor, dammit.

 

“Who the fuck are you?” He snarled.

“This is Undercity. Do you really want to know that?” I used a silent spell to make eyes glow red. A little fear never hurt anyone.

He shuddered.

“I didn’t think so. Now I need weapons. I’ve got the money. I also need armor, and provisions.”

“What kind?”

Jimmy wouldn’t turn down a client. I enchanted a little bit of self-awareness into a pad of paper and pen he had laying nearby. The floated into the air. I knew that the spell would record and transcribe everything I spoke. The spell would fade a day or two after I picked up my loot.

“Mortal SPAS-12s with Hunter multi-rounds enchanted to explode, four of them. I need ten thousand rounds each in bottomless ammo boxes.

I also need semi-automatic hand guns with the same.  If they had self-reloading spells on them, that would be nice, and would be worthy of a bonus. I’d also like the XN-15s if you have them, Ten thousand rounds, with Hunter full functionality.
I need three sets of dragonhide and basilisk leather duo-weave gear charmed for all weather, to be light weight, fire proof, bullet proof. I also need it class 6 spell proof.”

“What kind of garments?”

“I need full sets, chest, gloves, boots, vambraces, and pauldrons. Everything. Helmets with communication and telescopic functionality would be nice, and I can give you a bonus for that as well,” I paused for a second to let the pen finish dictating.

“I’m going to need clothing like this too. Jeans and cotton t-shirts that are the same, oh and undergarments. The clothing also has to be self-cleaning and cooling or heating with adjustable spellwork. I’m going to need a week’s worth for four people. I’m going to need two-way communication mirrors,” I paused, and took a breath,

“Finally, I need this all in a trunks that have a levitation, extension, and lightweight spells them. I need four hyperextended cargo trunks with the same spells.

A hover trunk with pocket dimensional tech won’t work. Where my expedition is going tends to fuck with technology, even Elementrian tech, and I’m going to need about six months of normal rations, and the same in MREs enchanted with mobile fridge spells,” I then listed off the potions I need for blood loss and exhaustion, among other things,

“Finally, I need a wand designed for battle, and a blasting rod as well. “

“How do know my bra size?” Madeline said, looking at the paper facing us.

“Maddie, we’ve known each other how long?”

“Creep.” I smiled, shrugged my shoulders and looked back at my new favorite criminal.

“This is going to cost you,” Oh, the humanity, I might actually have to spend money.
“How much?”

“At least five hundred and seventy grand, and a week.”

“Jimmy… Don’t play games with me.” I said, shaking my head a little.

“Fine. four seventy-five and two days.”

I had talked him down farther once, but he had rigged the crates to self-destruct. That was one of my more explosive lives.

“Half now, half later.” He said.

I flicked my wand and two-hundred seventy thousand dollars appeared on the counter. We left Jimmy’s shop a half an hour later after haggling with the details. We left his shop and began walking toward the levi-lift that would take us up to the streets of Chicago. As we walked toward our destination I noticed two Hunters out of the corner of my left eye, and two more out of my right. There was no way four Hunters would be in Undercity without something big about to go down. I paused, and pulled Maddie’s phone out of my pocket. I brought up the note apped and typed for a second.

“Look at what that idiot sent me this time,” I told her.

She read what I typed.

“Hunters, 8 and 4. She paused for a moment, and then let out a laugh,

“What an idiot!” She laughed again. I saw a glint of silver flash in her palm before it closed and I knew that she had just removed her wand from its holster. Smart girl.

Then she frowned. A look of grief covered her face, and her tan skin went pale. She nodded subtly behind me. I turned around.

That was when I saw my brother. He had golden skin. The same shade of gold as the man who had impaled me on my last round. He had two dogs, no hounds, with him this time. Half of them were whole, showing a creature in its prime. A bright eye keen and alert, a liver coat untouched by age. Muscles well-honed and ready to kill. The other half of it was grotesque. Bone and rotting musculature was showing and their eye glowed with golden light the same shade as their de facto master’s skin, and a smoky eldritch green aura that was just wrong. There was an air about them that just made me feel like I needed to leave right then.

“Maddie, go,” I murmured.

“Yeah right. You wanted someone by your side. I’m here. Besides, Fortune favors the bold,” Not when her sister is pissed at you.

I growled under my breath, cursing my prior choice of vocabulary. In order to get her out of here forcibly I’d have to teleport her through the Ward networks of Chicago and Undercity. I didn’t have the energy to do that and fight my way out of this impending shitstorm.

“Fine then, cover my back,” I said.

“Hello Brother!” Jeremy, no, the creature wearing Jeremy’s face, said cheerfully.

Gods-dammit it even had his voice.

“Tell your boss to fuck off,” I snarled. I noticed the four hunters had noticed me.

The man frowned and cocked his head,

“Is that anyway to speak to your freshly resurrected brother?”

“You’re not him,” I said

“You’re an illusion. Some fucked up trick Fate’s pulling on me. As if she hasn’t played enough of those. What do you want, you face-stealing son of bitch?,”

I barely contained myself from yelling that. My temper was barely controlled. I hadn’t been this mad in a very long time. How dare she! How dare she use the one thing I can’t save against me! That bitch! I’ll rip her fucking throat out! I fought back from speaking my thoughts aloud.

“I’m here to settle a debt you owe my benefactor,” he said. He conjured a sword out of thin air.

I recognized the blood on it. My blood. Blood I had spilled hours ago when he had killed me the first time.  The latent magical connection called to me like an old friend. I knew I had no time to waste.

“Maddie, spell to kill,” I said, and called forth the power I had collected from Jimmy’s little ward.

Human, mortal magic, is based on Latin, due to its creators coming from the city of Latinium.

Thulosion magic was based on something far different. It was based on the magic. Power that pre-dated mankind living in caves. I had spent many lives learning that magic, learning how to control it and harness it, and I unleashed it then. I fought back the urge to laugh like a maniac as that power flew out of my wand.

“Mal-Pirg!” I shouted and a blast of flame that was almost sentient, colored hazel tinged with gold shot out of my wand and struck the man in the chest. His skin crackled and a hole burned through his chest.

That was when his hound rushed toward me.

“Pon,” I said, jabbing my wand at the beast. The spell caused the hound’s cranial cavity to implode.

A dozen daggers glowing with gold light came flying toward me. A shield the color of summer sky stopped them in their tracks and reversed course. I looked behind me at Maddie. Her eyes glowed blue with her aura, and she nodded. The man dissolved the dagger spell, and still walked toward me.

I drew two runes in the air with me that shimmered and shot toward him. The binding runes would take time for him to break. Long long enough for me to grab Maddie and run towards the lift. There was no release of power, no magic in the air to signify that power had just been expelled. The earth rose up of its own accord, and blocked the only reachable exit. I spun around and saw the Hunters from earlier. Wand’s drawn and alight with spellfire. But the magic used, or lack thereof, meant an Elementrian. Most of them could only control one element, maybe two. Unless I was dealing with an Aether. Then I was well and truly fucked. How can you defend against someone with enough power to rewrite the laws of physics or create a world with a thought?

“Jeremiah Owens, you are under arrest for the murder of the Central Park Alpha,” One Hunter said. The silver chain on his wrist glowed red and came off his wrist like a snake uncurling from its perch. It was called a breigh. I turned the enchantments to my aura with a word and it attacked him, binding it around his wrists.   He probably knew how to break the enchantment, but I was just trying to buy time.

None of this shit had happened before. Including the little road block behind me. That meant there was a second player working behind the scenes to mess up my plans. Or a fourth if the Elementrian was a separate entity entirely. They weren’t ones to place well with others. Their little civil war a decade prior had shown that.

“Impeccable timing as always,” I muttered, turning around to face my attackers. Not-Jeremy was walking toward me.

I drew runes with my off hand that flew toward him forming a chain as they did so. They wrapped around his body. He fell to the ground. Runewrought chain wrapping around him. That would take time for him to break out of. Time I needed to deal with the Hunters and the other dog of his.  Two of the Hunters had engaged the dog, and Maddie was facing off with the third. I rearranged a few chemicals in the air and a ball of green fire ignited in front of me.

I quickly contained it into an orb and then threw it toward the Hunter Maddie was fighting. He noticed the incoming projectile and conjured a wall of water. I split my concentration long enough to unbind the two chemicals and absorbed that backlash into my strength. The spell caught him and the hunter ignited. I ignored his screams and used the energy I’d just absorbed to unleash a wave of force that slammed into the hound and caused it to go careening off into a storefront’s glass window. Then the other two Hunters turned toward me. Well, maybe I should have used that to break the barricade holding me in….

Undertown Hunters played for keeps. They quickly unleashed spells that felt just a little bit off, just a little bit cold and greasy.. Then they started rapidly firing even more spells. I knew if they hit me I’d probably be taken down in short order. A shield of bright blue flared in front of me and the spells dissolved into sparks. Thank you Maddie.

I ran toward them, holstering my wand and drawing my gladius. I charged it with energy, and it began glowing hazel. I dodged a spell and heard Maddie grunt in pain behind me. A second spell hit me in my wand arm and I felt a searing pain in my shoulder.  I knew it was some sort of cutting spell.  I sealed my shoulder with a spell. I was probably sealing in some sort of nasty curse but I couldn’t afford to lose blood. I dodged another spell. Then I unleashed a cutting spell of my own, and one of the Hunters fell to the ground, a bleeding stump where his left arm used to be. A second spell caused the other’s melatonin level to spike and drained her magic into mine. She’d be out of commission for a while.

I spun around just to lock swords with the golden man. I splayed out my other hand and unleashed a ball of conjured capsaicin right into his face. He screamed in pain and I drew my wand.

“Rhewi!” Hazel magic tinged purple and bright blue that smelled like pine and felt like ice flew forth from my wand and hit where his heart one be. In an instant an icy statue stood where my brother’s doppelganger once was.

That was magic from the Heart of Faery. Magic used in Mab’s court. Magic that I had learned under the tutelage of the Winter Prince, Jack Frost himself. I was nearly out of juice, but I just needed to last long enough to escape.

“Tell that backstabbing bitch that our deal is done and damned. Thule’s last Prince is coming, and I’m not taking prisoners,” and then with a shouted, Conlidam! I shattered it into a million pieces.

I heard a growl behind me and turned. The hound had recovered from his shopping trip. I unleashed green fire again and watched it turn to ash. My magic was nearly gone. I’d need to tap a Ley to recharge as soon as we left Chicago.

That’s when a spell slammed into my back. Searing pain shot through my limbs and all I knew was black.

 

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BR BR BR

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And that concludes my forth chapter. My plot is slowely but surely taking off.

As always, If you like the chapter comment below, retweet it on Twitter using the #FatesFool hashtag, or support me on Patreon, or discuss it on Reddit. 

Thanks for reading.

Justin.

Negotiations

Here it is. Chapter 3. It’s almost a month late. I apologize for that. I would say midterms called my name, I would say I’m swamped with real life issues. There is now excuse. I should have had it up by now.

So, without further ado,

Chapter 3: Negotiations

The dwarves were rich. Richer than any mortal bank. Most countries owed them a marker or six. Rumor had it that there were literal mountains of gold, artifacts and precious metals hidden in vaults. I could believe this.

Dwarfs could control entire economies and entire countries if they so wished. I’ve seen them do it before. When the war, the slaughter, reached critical mass, they would activate wards that had withstood Fae Queens and retreat beneath their cavernous halls.

I didn’t blame them for it. The world goes to hell, daemon and undead running loose, magic that kept polite society fed and clothed all but gone, and you have to look out for you and yours, and damn the rest. I was the poster boy for that.

After all, it wasn’t that kid and his parents across the street out for a Saturday stroll that made me sell my soul and damn myself, it was my friends and family.

It didn’t make the hate any less pronounced. It didn’t erase the fact that they had left us to starve and rot time and time and time again while they feasted in their halls below the ground. Familiarity and contempt and all that bullshit.

Midas New York showed all that hoarded wealth. Each of the doors on the bank were twenty feet tall and seven foot wide. They were silvery titanium, studded with diamonds that hummed with magical energy. Magical energy that smelled like the earth, and felt like a spring storm, a howling blizzard. It was at once hopeful and terrifying. It set my mage sense screaming and it was all I could to shut my senses down before I lost control.

There were five dwarven guards standing outside the door. All of them were dressed in body army, some Frankenstein’s creation of Kevlar and dragon leather with call backs to the middle ages. Caine had everyone on high alert.

Two were armed with sleek crossbows, the bolts were no doubt enchanted with spells and laced with poisons that promised a very fatal demise. It’s why they haven’t switched over to automatic weaponry yet. A bolt, enchanted to activated when it came in contact with someone’s shield spell and trace the latent magical energy used in the projection of the shield and follow it back to the source of the spell and detonate would require a lot of room for rune carvings, and those were something that no-one has quite figured out how to machine print yet. It’s why the Hunters preferred Gestare to weapons.

One of the others was armed with a halberd almost taller than him. The other had no visible weapons, but I felt the same magic coming off of him that the door hummed with. If it came to a fight, I’d kill him first.

We walked up the steps, through the massive doors and walked into luxury. The floors were white and black marble, the booths the dwarfs sat were made of dark, shining wood. The couches where clients sat when waiting for a meeting were big leather islands of comfort. A couple of honest to god freaking butlers were standing around talking in lower tones.

I placed a hand on Maddie’s shoulder and she turned to me.

“Follow my lead on this one, okay?” I half asked, half stated. She paused for a moment, and then nodded.

“Jeremiah, I’ve got to return to work. Aelfric will be wondering where I’m at.”

“Stay awhile, won’t you love?”

“Fine, and don’t call me love.”

We walked across the bank floor until we stood in front of the manager’s desk. He had two more guards, both armed with crossbows and reeking of magic.

The bank was mostly deserted. It was a Saturday and usually they closed around noon, but the warders and guards were housed below in case of break-ins. Those never ended well.

“Yes, can I help you?” The dwarf said in a condescending tone, his voice was deep and sounded vaguely Nordic.

“I am seeking council with Grimtooth Oakenshield, on behalf of the Council of Mages, by the Treaty of Ragnarok under the purview of Thule,” I said this calmly. I brought up every bit of rich asshole that was becoming of the ruling families.

The dwarf’s eyes narrowed.

“Mage, you are speaking of things you don’t know, leave,” I knew he had just pressed a hidden button alerting a battalion of guards. It would be a few scant minutes until crossbow bolts and spellfire filled the air.

Both guards had their crossbows raised, and I felt their magic being drawn up. I drew my wand in a flash and pointed it at the manager on duty. I manifested my magic as a glowing hazel ember on the end of my wand. A promise of unspent power ready to lay waste to any who stood in my way.

“Tell your guards to lower their weapons or I swear by my magic this bank will be ash before I lay my wand to rest.”

You had to be firm with the dwarfs. It was all they understood. There was a fine line between firm and stupid. I was tiptoeing it.

“Those are brave words magician. Brave and foolish. Lord Oakenshield is busy at the moment,” The dwarf said.

I scoffed. I didn’t have time to play these word games.

“I know you’re just stalling me until more guards with those shiny crossbows can show up. My head of House knows I’m here. Should I report back to her that this was a failed meeting, we will go to the Council,” his eyes widened. The Council, one delegate from each of the races that made the laws for the magical and human world. To bring their name up was like bringing a fucking nuke to a knife fight. In a way, I had just declared war on the dwarves. War it would be regardless, but I didn’t want to fire the first shot.

I had his ass over a barrel. He knew he had to obey the old laws and customs. If other powers found out that the dwarves of all beings refused the old ways, their banks would be all but forfeit.

“Allow me to escort you.” He said with a forced grin.

He opened the little gate next to his desk and Madeline and I followed him down the hall. It was decorated mostly in dark wood, we strolled down the halls for some ways, slowing going down further and further into the earth.  We walked until we got to a hallway, there was an occasional marble bust that depicted one of the former bank presidents. I knew that the wood was an illusion, and that it was metal underneath. Hidden in the pedestals there were AP Mines. I was walking through a kill box. If it came down to it I would redirect the millions of pellets away from us by magnetizing the walls themselves.

After ten minutes of walking we came to a wide oak door which opened with a hiss of pneumatics. This office was in stark relief to the endless tunnel of wood and carpet we had just trekked through. It was all glass and chrome. There were floating screens of either Elementrian holography tech or magical projections that showed stock tickers, business news, and security feeds. Grimtooth Oakenshield sat at the desk, when we entered he quickly gestured in the air and the screens dispersed. So holograms then.

In mortal fantasy dwarfs were portrayed as miners, all chainmail, axes and anvils. Since the Middle Ages this has changed considerably. When they moved into the banking business they had slowly ditched the armor for Armani. This didn’t change their attitudes. They were still mean bastards to those who have pissed them off or messed with the status quo.

So you’re fucked Mr. Owens. There’s nothing new about that. I clamped down on that thought hard.

Two of the guards protecting Grimtooth raised their crossbows when they saw me. I felt the third bringing up his magic. My wand was in my hand instantly, hazel twinkling like starlight.

“You dare try to attack me in my own place of power?” Grimtooth asked.

“Tell your pet mage to stand down and I’ll do the same,” I said. I set my face in a hard cold mask.

Grimtooth nodded subtly and the magic I felt brewing in the air like a storm subsisted. I stopped my own little light show, but I didn’t put the wand away.

I made a note to get a second one as soon as possible. Only having one was going to be a handicap I could not afford.

“Mage, You have one chance to convince me not to kill you. I would seriously consider your words.”

“I’ll be frank then. Caine has made a play for Thule. I need the dwarves’ assistance to get it back. I’ll give you a quarter of whatever bounty I find inside those walls, and in exchange I’ll hunt down that thrice curse bastards and kill him. All I need are the five favors detailed in the Treaty of Ragnarok as agreed to and decreed by Merlin.

Dwarves, for all their cunning favored Honor above all else. I held no stock in such things. I had learned not to. I wasn’t one not to exploit a weakness. I saw a brief glimmer of surprise in the old dwarf’s eyes, but it was quickly replaced by a calm mask.

“Those are some bold claims. Why aren’t the mages contacting me through the proper channels? Why did they send me a member of the lesser houses to invoke the treaty, and finally, how do I know you are telling the truth?” He said. If I failed, and I was right about this being my last chance to set everything right, and I failed my little errand, then the Dwarfs would be in the right to declare war on the mages, and that was a war we would not win.

“I will swear on whatever you wish me to swear on. Thule must be reclaimed from Time. I am coming to you because this is a mission the Conclave of Mages has no knowledge of, but my Head of House, and my benefactor do,” The less said about my benefactor being a goddess who had turned me out into the cold, the better.

Oakenshield peaked his hands and rested his head on them. He looked past me, and up to the manager who had escorted me to his office.

“Take the guards and leave us, we need to discuss this in private,”

Without hesitation his manager did so. Grimtooth could hold himself in a fight. It was the dwarves that had saved Boston during the Fomor attacks after all.

“Mage, I am taking you at your word. Should this prove to be a falsehood, I will strike with the full might of my Clan. You understand this, correct?” Once more I nodded.

“Fine than, that being said, what favors do you wish?”

“For the first, weapons. Three gladius made of Mythril, bound to none.” He nodded.

“The second, a trinket. It is heard that the Oakenshields have a ring in their vaults that negates the auric tracking the council uses, The Ring of Gygax. I need it loaned to me for a year and a day. Should I lose it, you may take the value of it out of the Owens accounts. A wave of my wand, and a note with forged with my mother’s signature, both pen and yellow aura, appeared, agreeing to this. If I didn’t return that ring our accounts would take a seriously hit.

“I also need 1 million of Euro, USD and Yen delivered in extended Samsonite suitcases.” He nodded without hesitation, 3mil was nothing to the dwarves.

“Anything Else?”

“I need airship boarding passes, and identities for myself, ¬Miss Dubois,” I gestured toward Maddie, “and Connor York,”

“Finally, I need a warder on retain. I’ll accept the services of Miss Dubois,”

“Very well,” He picked up the phone on his desk and dialed a number. After speaking for a moment he hung up.

“You’ll have what you need by the time you return to the Lobby,” He said. Hmm, that was odd. This was usually when they tried to kill me. “Would you like an escort?” By that he meant a minder. No fucking thank you.

“No thanks,” I said with a smile.

“Mister Owens, I will be blunt with you, the moment you leave my office, you leave my Protection. Even now rumors of you are starting to circulate. You will have a bounty on your head before this day is done. You do know this, correct? Furthermore, that ring will mask your auric signature. As a client of this bank, I have to remind to you that this is felony under the Mage Laws,”   Oh, wasn’t that just a dreadful bit of news. To be exempt from the O-Net tracers and the ether spire triangulations. It was almost if I was trying to hide from my fellow mages.

“The ring is Thulosion. It is crucial to entering the city, without it my plans are useless.”

“Would you mind telling me what else is crucial to the city?”

“Regalia, Kusanagi is a key in more than one way. I need your men to steal them. I have business with an Oni on Fuji.” I said with a rogueish grin.

“Now, if the ring could arrive with my papers, and weapons that would be great,”

We ironed out a few more kinks, signed an official contract regarding the ring, and picked up the artifact in question.

We left Midas New York at fifteen after two. I had the ring of Gygax on my finger. I knew it was a fraud, MI-13 had the real deal.

It was one of the many stops ahead of me on my road trip to doom. I had given one of the Gladius to Madeline who had bound the blade to her buy cutting her palm with it.

The blood interacted with the dwarven enchantments in the blade and now the only one that could use it was her. Anyone else would be quite likely incinerated. The dwarves were paranoid like that. I knew there were also a few other surprises also woven into the blade. Nothing lethal to its owner, of course. The greedy bastards weren’t stupid.

I had bound the other blade to myself. I was saving the third for Connor. They had been kind enough to provide sheathes and belts with the gladii. Luckily someone carrying around a sword wasn’t really frowned upon. It was the same as carrying a handgun or a wand in plain sight. If someone could destroy a city block with a few words, a sword wasn’t really that much of an issue.

We grabbed a hover cab and took it to the Grand Central airship terminal. Using some of our blood, I created two golems that would mimic us long enough to get to Fuji. Then they would dissolve into the water and dirt they were made from.

I borrowed Maddie’s mortal smart phone and used a long since memorized Owens’ credit card to rent the top floor of a Fiji five-star hotel.

I gave the two golems the fake ids the dwarves had been so kind to loan us and they left on the airship bound for California, and then Japan.  We had left the terminal before Maddie turned to me.

“Do you mind telling me why the fuck you just threw away an internship I’ve been waiting two years for?” Her tone was calm, but I knew she was pissed.

“I’m saving your life. The dwarves have seen me with you. They’ll kill you, or capture you.  When they go to my hotel and find me missing they’ll be after you. Then they’ll come after my mother. She’s a fully trained Hunter with squads of chessmen at her disposal. She’ll be fine. I won’t have your blood on my hands,” I said. Gods knew she had died enough times for me.

I’m not too concerned about Connor. His dad is with M-13, and the spooks look out for themselves. The Dwarves know how much gold and treasure Thule has.  They’ll get their filthy hands on the Regalia.

Then the Dwarfs will have a war on their hands with all the pissed off Japanese mages coming after them for stealing a national treasure, This will also make sure their bounty hunters will be too busy chasing off Oni and Kappa and all manner of eastern monsters, and won’t be able to go after us, ”

“So, what do we do now?” She asked.

I took her hand.

“Why take over the world, Pinky.”  I said and spoke the teleportation spell. Chicago awaited.

Author’s Note:

And that’s chapter 3.

There was a lot of world building in this chapter, and I felt as though it was very info-dumpy.

If you like the chapter comment below, retweet it on Twitter using the #FatesFool hashtag, or support me on Patreon.

Thanks for reading.

Justin.

Stuck on Repeat.

I woke again from the nightmare. This time it was a golden man that had killed me, not even two hours into my journey. A man I had never seen before.

This was such bullshit. Time was mine. Mine in a deal sealed by blood, an Old One, and the death of the World I was trying save. Mine in a Deal that I made forever ago and six months from now. It could, would not, be used against me like this. Whoever this bastard was, he going to fucking pay. Because you really need another enemy.

I got out of bed, ran to the bathroom, and emptied my stomach.

Pain that should not have been burned through my body and set every nerve afire. I screamed bloody murder. I was freezing, but my chest was burning. I hauled myself up to the bathroom sink. My chest had a new scar. A scar I had never seen before. A scar that look a lot like the fucking sword that had impaled me never ago. Oh, this is such fucking bullshit.

For all the journeys I had taken through time, this was new. Time didn’t leave physical scars. It was the soul that went backwards. My soul, my magic, my foreknowledge. Never the body, never the heart. Never a goddamn scar.

The scar felt raw, like someone had rubbed my skin with sandpaper and rinsed it with alcohol, and rubbed salt on it just to be friendly.

I walked to my dresser, grabbed a pair of jeans and a Green Day tee. Then I grabbed my wand, put it in my pocket, and slid my watch on my wrist. I checked the time. 9:55 AM. I was already behind schedule. I grabbed my coat and headed downstairs.

I walked down the stairs, exited the house, and walked down the steps. I flicked my wand, and Connor made his appearance. I quickly repeated my party trick with the keys and wand.

“Jeremiah, how the hell did you do that?”

“Hello Connor,” I said.

“Where are you going? How’d you do that?”

“Meet me at Sherlock’s home in three days. I’ll explain everything.” Then I bound him.

“Portus.” I muttered, and my skin was covered with static. I opened my eyes. I was standing in a ratty apartment building. I could hear the noise of the city coming from the open balcony.

I exited the apartment, and walked down the steps, exited the building and jogged down the streets.

I hurried to the barrier between mortal and magic.

.

I must have been the only one crazy enough to be out in this cold of weather. I came to my destination, leaned against the brick wall and waited. Odd, that cat wasn’t here this time.

Five minutes later Madeline came through the portal.

“Hi Maddie.” she turned, looked at me.

“Jeremiah! I was just about to get lunch, want to come with?”

“Why not.” I said.

We headed out of the alleyway, encountered the bounty hunter, and I killed him. This time I sprang a minor Ward up around us. A spell of non-aggression. Hopefully it give the freak enough pause to let me run him through.

No glowing man. No blade to the heart. What the hell was going on? Had Fate grown a sense of Humor, had she decided that she liked our little game better with a half-time show thrown in?

“Josiah, you saved me.” Maddie hugged me. She smelled like soap, and jasmine. I loved that scent. I would never tire of it.

“I guess I did, huh?” I made sure to put just enough surprise in my voice to make sure it didn’t sound rehearsed.

“Well, my hero, what do you want for a reward?” Her voice was teasing.

“How about lunch and a kiss?” I asked and gave her what I thought was a roguish grin.

That was when three Hunters and two Chessman came through the boundary. Two had wands drawn and another had a blasting rod. He must have been a War Mage. NYC must have been on high alert to have a wizard that powerful on hand; usually those were stationed at the boundary line in case of a daemon incursion. Daemons. They were another thing I need to add to my to-do list, after killing their big brothers that is. I needed to talk to a certain Faerie too. Jack owed me a marker, and I knew they carried through time. I didn’t blame them of course, the War Mages were probably mobilizing everywhere, followed quickly by Chessmen. Chessman were clockwork golems, armed with gestare and other pre-defined focci and magical weapons that were meant as a type of heavy trooper. Usually these were held in reserves, or sent in when the possibility of losing someone actually alive was too great.

They were dressed in the usual Hunter uniform, black pants, a matching spelled dragon’s leather vest, and a white shirt enchanted with durability and spells that would act as impromptu bandages should their wearer be hurt.  Each also had a bandolier that held pouches and holsters that contained every from healing potions to the magical equivalent of grenades.

“What happened?” The one in the lead barked. He had a name tag that read S. Black on his vest with a silver star next to it. I also recognized him from the infrequent dinner parties my mother had for her colleagues.

“Commander Black, this man teleported in and fired upon us. I stopped and sent the bullets back at him. If you notice he’ll has a triquetra over where his heart used to be. He’s a member of the Trinity Gang. I think he was sent to kill Miss Dubois,” I said, and Commander Black turned his gaze toward me.

“Thank you Mister Owens. Tell me, why aren’t you home?” He asked.
“Christmas shopping, Sir.” I replied.

I knew his bullshit detector was going off, but he’d let it slide. Samuel Black knew when to mind his own business. The fact that my family has higher in the political food chain might have helped matters.

After going over the scene again in exhausting detail, he eventually let us leave after we gave him our rune codes for our O-Net Mirrors. I had left mine at home. Whoops.

We left the alleyway and headed to lunch.  We grabbed two sandwiches at a café. The café was mostly deserted, but it was a vampire establishment, and they didn’t come out until after mid-day, it always began in this café. It had ended here once as well, a dozen lifetimes and a war ago.

“So, why are you in the city instead of lounging a perfectly good Saturday away in bed?”

“I’ve got business to attend to.”
She laughed, it was music to my ears.

“We’re eighteen, what kind of business could you possibly have.” Baby, I haven’t been that young in a very long time.

“Midas business.”

Midas was the name of one of the biggest banks in the world. It was run by the dwarfs. Greedy, short, bastards who would get their comeuppance soon enough, but I needed them for now.

That sobered her. Her internship involved learning ward work. Learning how to make sure no bandits like yours truly got their hands on the piles of gold and the artifacts the bank protected. As if I would need any of it. I would be swimming in the stuff soon enough, but for now I had to be nice to the midgets.

“My brother left something for me, and I have to speak to one of the managers. Grimtooth, I think.”

Her lips turned into a frown. Grimtooth was the head honcho of the dwarfs, and the bank president of the New York branch. He was not one to be taken lightly, it was like saying I had an appointment with Xander Bonaparte, or Bill Gates.

“Are you sure it was Grimtooth?” She asked, and I nodded.

“Don’t you have to get back?” She pulled out her mirror and looked at it. I already knew it read 11:30 AM.

She nodded.

“Come with me?” She asked.

“Of course,” She laid down a twenty and three dollar coins, and muttered a spell, a pop of displaced air and she vanished into the ether.

I got up, incanted my own spell, closed my eyes, and turned on my heel.

So that’s the second chapter, as always, if you like it, Comment about it here, Retweet it on Twitter, Share it on Facebook and Support me on Patreon.

Happy Trails

Justin.

An Introduction.

Hello, my name is Justin. This is my first web serial. I’m launching it now, because I’ll never actually do it unless it’s live and out in the wild.

You can contact me on Twitter and Patreon.

Without Further Ado, I present to you:

Fate’s Fool, Chapter One: Let’s Begin Again.

I can’t count the times I’ve died. As I look back on the years of war, death and burning, I wonder if selling my soul was worth the world.

I woke again from the nightmare. This time, it was a horde of demons that had killed me: scaled, crawling, things. I tumbled out of bed, and ran to the bathroom and heaved.  Motion sickness: Time’s reminder that I owed her.  After countless lives, I should have been used to it.

I hauled myself up to the bathroom sink, washed the vomit off my face, and took a long look in the mirror. My hazel eyes were baggy from the lack of sleep. From the nightmares of Jeremy’s death and the carnage I narrowly escaped from. They would all be about hell now. Well, the hell earth would become if I didn’t succeed.

It always came back to this, Ya’know? This glance in the mirror, and my tired face.

I had tried half a dozen times to go back further. Back to when he, Caine, was born, or back a few short weeks to stop Jer’s death. The Angles, or the fucked up deal I made with Fate, wouldn’t allow me.

I walked to my dresser and grabbed a pair of jeans and an Aerosmith tee.  I slid my watch on my wrist.  9:52 AM. I was already behind schedule.  I grabbed my coat off its hook, swiped my wand off my dresser, and headed downstairs.

My mother was a Hunter, a member of the magical police force, and she had taken to keeping odd hours since my brother had died. She wouldn’t notice if I was gone or not.  Probably off chasing a rogue mage or necromancer. Anything to get her mind off the pain of losing her husband and favorite son.

As a member of the Thirteen, the “lower” families who reported directly to the seven ruling families, and debated and voted on their proposed laws, my mother didn’t need to work, and we certainly had properties much grander than this McMansion suburbanite hell we currently lived in, but that was a compromise my father made with her before his death.

Everyone had lost someone in the Underhill Massacre. We were just lucky enough to lose two.  I went downstairs, through the living room, and opened the front door.

I walked down the porch stairs, flicked my wand, and the Hunter guarding my house was shocked to discover his glamour was suddenly unraveled. He was short and was dressed in the typical black leather jacket, matching denim jeans and t-shirt that was passed as civilian clothing. His long red hair was being blown about by the wind. Connor was, had been, Jeremy’s boyfriend, and had been with him in the battle that had taken his life, and started mine on the road to ruin. It was a small miracle he survived.

“Jeremiah, how the hell did you do that?” He asked me. Connor was a master at veils, but I didn’t need to see through one to know where he was.

“Hello Connor,” I said.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To the city,” I replied. The city, New York. The Big Apple. We lived in a gated suburb upstate, but teleportation made it as far as walking.

“I have to come with you then,” he said.

A flick of my wand and he was bound and on the ground. His keys and wand soared into my outstretched palm. I threw his wand over my head and it hit the front door with a thunk. I wave of my wand, and his keys became invisible. They were thrown towards the door too.

“Sorry, Connor. It’s not going to happen. Nothing personal, it’s just good business,” I smirked.

The Hunter gave me a look. His bright blue eyes were part curiosity and part murder.

“Baker Street, London. Four days from now, and I’ll tell you everything.” I said and stepped over him.

I needed to move fast to meet my first deadline.

I closed my eyes and fixed upon my destination in my mind.

From New York to Crestwood it was a forty-minute ride by maglev. Teleportation shortened it to four.

“Portus.” I muttered. My skin was suddenly covered with static, but not quite. That fuzzy shocky feeling when you turn off an old television and touch the screen? It was that feeling. I opened my eyes. I was standing in a ratty apartment building.

I exited the dingy apartment, walked down the steps to the ground floor, exited the building, and headed down the sidewalk to my destination.

New York City was home to one of the biggest cities of the magical world, next to the conclave under Stonehenge. Of course, we keep the cities separated. A dimensional pocket holds the majority of the magic, but “mortal” New York was not without its share of magic.  The mortals had known about magic since the Renaissance, and nearly every mortal city had the glass and copper pipes that allowed magical energy, Ether, to be siphoned from spires and pooled in reservoirs. This Ether powered the ground vehicles and airships that filled the streets and skies. Magicals liked their own place, not as segregation, but as a familiarity. Who didn’t need a place to belong?

Magical New York is hidden behind a wall in a dead end alley in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen.

I came to my destination, leaned against the brick wall kitty-corner and waited.  A stray cat crept into the alleyway and jumped into a dumpster. I paid the thing no mind. It wasn’t harming me any.

Oddly enough this was the first time I had noticed that particular cat.

Five minutes later she came through the portal.  Her name was Madeline Dubois. She was tall, blond, and any guy, especially me, would have killed to have her. Today someone was going to kill her.

Her father was the department head of New York’s Hunter Investigations Unit, and had made a few enemies in his time. The Central Park Lycan Alpha, had placed a bounty on Madeline’s head.

“Hi Maddie,” she turned, and looked at me.

“Jeremiah! I was just about to get lunch, want to come with me?” Her smile was friendly. Her emerald eyes were bright from the caffeine in her system and her joy at seeing me. I wondered absently how many times I had seen the life leave them. She had just gotten off her morning shift, from Midas, the bank where she was apprenticing at over winter break.

I began reaching for a Ley and drew the energy into me.

I nodded, and we headed out of the alleyway and heard a sharp crackle of teleportation behind us, I was moving before the bounty hunter appeared and fired three times. I spun around and spoke a word.

“Oppilo!” Hazel energy, my magic fueled by the energy of the ley line, shot out of my wand and stopped the bullets in their tracks, I felt the kinetic energy from them travel through my magic.

“Revenio!” I released that energy and the bullets slammed back into him in a localized bunch, punching a gaping bloody hole in the center of his mass. He fell to the ground and his blood began pouring across the snow covered concrete. It was a Lycan, it always was.

The particular maneuver had taken me six tries before I got it down. It was worth every death.

Maddie stood back up and looked at the dead man, and back at me.

“Jeremiah, you saved me!” Her voice was filled with gratitude. That was when a sword sprouted from her chest, and her eyes filled with shock and pain.  What the fuck? That’s never happened before. Why was this new? Nothing was ever new. New was old, at this point.

I turned. A man of inhuman beauty was standing there. His hair was gold, his blue eyes were cold as ice and his skin glowed with eldritch, inhuman, power. He pulled the sword from Madeline’s body and she fell to the ground. Her blood spilling outward in a red pool that melted the snow in its path.

I slowly walked backward. This was new. This shouldn’t be new. In all my lives, nothing like this had happened.

“Hello Jeremiah,” the man said, and began walking toward me, his blade thrumming with the same power that radiated from his skin. Oh, fuck, this wasn’t good at all.

“Delevit cor!” I yelled, a bolt of hazel light fueled by more ley energy shot out of my wand and hit him in the heart. Nothing happened. That spell should have blown a hole the size of a baseball in his chest..

“You are wanted Jeremiah Owens. Fate is demanding to be set right,” the man said, and plunged the sword into my chest. A sharp, searing pain and he pulled the sword from my chest.

I felt my knees give way, saw my life blood begin pouring out of my chest, and all I knew was black.

Fate, you bitch.

That’s it, my first chapter. If you liked it, comment below, or retweet on twitter.  New updates will be every Tuesday, unless noted.

Thanks, Justin.