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.
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.
“I didn’t think so. Now I need weapons. I’ve got the money. I also need armor, and provisions.”
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.
“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.
BR BR BR
And that concludes my forth chapter. My plot is slowely but surely taking off.
Thanks for reading.