Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Fairytown

December 15, 2018

Princess Cuddlebottom sure was a funny name but there was nothing funny about her getting murdered. The incident had happened in Mount Washington and Detective Danielson was glad that no kids had been around to see it. He was a little surprised to see that a fairy had traveled this far from Fairytown. It did go down outside of a school so maybe she had just been trying to get a glimpse of the kids. Most fairies love kids and many missed being around them. Danielson shrugged and pulled out his notepad and began writing down his impressions. He spotted Detective Waters making her way over.

“I’m surprised you would show up this early, Waters,” he said with a smirk.

“Are you kidding?” She said, holding out a cup of coffee. “You know I’m always there when fairies are involved. Though, this is a bit out of our usual jurisdiction.”

“Our beat is Fairytown so when something happens to fairies, we get involved anywhere in the metropolitan area,” he said. He took the cup of coffee and took a sip with a smile. She may not have been a morning person but Waters could remember how he liked his coffee.

“Lucky us,” she said without a hint of sarcasm. Ah to be young again. “Is this where it happened?” She asked as she walked over to the roped off area. Her face grew more serious when she saw the blood. It looked like somebody had spilled sparkly nail polish but anybody who knew the real story could tell what it was. It turned Danielson’s stomach a little bit and obviously it had a greater effect on his partner. “Steady on, Waters. They’re counting on us to solve this one.”

Waters nodded slowly and composed herself. “I’ve never seen their blood before,” she said. “Do they all bleed glitter like that?”

There was the clicking sound of a lighter as Doctor Gabriella Stone walked up, smoking a cigarette. “Not all of them do,” she said. “There’s a whole rainbow of colors and some of them even bleed oily black.”

“Oh joy,” Danielson said. “What luck to have Charm City’s most sociable medical examiner join us on this beautiful autumn morning.”

“I’m the only ME who has studied fairy physiology,” Stone said. “Who else did you think was going to show up? I live right around the corner, I was here before you were.”

“Where’s the body?” Waters asked, looking around the street.

“I already had it moved,” Stone said. “No need to scare the kiddies. My team did all the forensics and we packed everything up and sent it back to the station. Relax.”

“Not a doubt in our minds,” Danielson said. “I just wanted to see the scene of the crime myself before we started knocking on doors and asking questions.”

“Have fun,” Stone said before walking away. She did not ask permission and she did not look back. Danielson could respect that.

“She’s so cheery,” Waters said. She was staring at the splash of blood on the pavement again but this time with a look of determination on her face.

“The Reapers are usually not the happiest souls,” Danielson said as he turned to walk toward his car.

Waters walked quickly to catch up to him. “Isn’t that kind of a rude nickname for the medical examiners?” she asked.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Danielson said. “What Reapers do is a kindness. They pick the fallen up off of the street and they help us figure out their mystery. They help us get justice. And it’s no wonder they’re cheery. They see and touch so much death in their lives.”

“True,” Waters said. “So what are we dealing with here? I mean, who are we dealing with?”

“The victim was positively identified as Princess Anjelica Snugglebottom, a resident of Fairytown. The system should have her address on file but I have a feeling I already know where she lived.”

“The palace,” Waters said. “Why was she all the way over here? Was she an imaginary friend back in the day?”

“I have no clue until we look into it but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Danielson said.

“Why would she be an imaginary friend?” Waters asked. “Isn’t that sort of thing beneath royalty?”

“Fairytown is lousy with princesses,” Danielson said with a shrug. “I’m not sure where she falls in the line of succession but I feel like it has to be way down the line if she was able to travel this far uptown by herself.”

“So a princess could be an imaginary friend?” Waters asked.

“You know that they do not like that term, right?” Danielson asked. “We all know that they’re not imaginary now.”

“Yeah, I know,” Waters said. “It’s just habit. I had one, did you know that?”

“An imaginary friend?” Danielson asked. “I seem to remember that from your file when you came aboard.”

“This was before we found out that they weren’t imaginary, of course,” Waters said. “Her name was Lady Carinas and she watched out for me when I was little. My parents worked a lot.”

“The fairies that posed as imaginary friends did a lot of good back then,” Danielson said. “They got a bad rap after they were revealed. I really feel for them.”

“Me too,” Waters said. “That’s why I requested this detail. So should we start knocking on doors?”

Danielson shook his head. “The uniforms can handle that. I really don’t think we’ll get anything useful out of canvassing the neighborhood. If somebody was going to come forward, they would have done it already. Besides, I don’t think a human could bring a fairy down so easily.”

“Then what do you think happened?” Waters asked. Though, they both knew as they locked eyes.

“It was probably a monster,” Danielson said. “It’s the thing that makes the most sense but we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. We have questions to ask.”

“So where are we going?” Waters asked. “Wait, are we going to the palace? I’ve never been.”

“Well, this is your lucky day,” Danielson said. “You get to visit the palace and more than that, you get to meet the queen.”

“I can’t wait!” Waters said.

“Don’t get too excited, Junior,” Danielson said. “I have a feeling that the visit isn’t going to be pleasant.”

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Elorian Campaign Pantheon Pt. 4

December 3, 2018

Nerull (God of Undeath)

No god had the fall that Nerull experienced and nobody pitied him because he brought it on himself. In ancient times, Nerull formed from the primordial forces of death and never really connected with the 6 Holy Domains. He remained on his own, hiding away from the world while the other gods roamed and introduced themselves to each other and creation. For the first while, there was not much for Nerull to do until more people started to die. This was back when there was only one afterlife and Nerull watched over it with his nameless lieutenants. As the afterlife was populated, Nerull started to experiment on the dead in secret. He was very interested in the domain that he had been given, so interested that he wanted to take it apart and put it back together again. As he experimented, he succumbed to madness and contempt for the Holy Six whose fingers were not stained by the dead. One of his experiments ended up destroying a whole kingdom. In revenge, Azrea killed him and stole his domain from him, casting his body into the afterlife he had called home. However, Nerull did not die, at least not exactly. He pulled himself back together and used the energies of his broken home to become the God of Undeath. In the Shadowfell, he continues his experiments mostly by whispering to the wizards of the material plane, trying to tempt them into creating more undead to rip apart and corrupt the creation that spurned him. His followers are necromancers, liches, and other dabblers in the undead arts. His symbol is a sewn X.

Those of the Abyss

Gruumsh (God of Destruction)

Where there is creation, there will also always be destruction. It is part of the natural order. And so, Gruumsh was born of that primal force and from birth desired to destroy what others had made. However, evil bent his heart and he desired only to destroy what was good in the world. As he was thwarted again and again by the Holy Seven, he began to thirst for their blood and the blood of everyone they sought to defend. When he was defeated in the great conflict, he was chained up at the very bottom of the Abyss and left there. Still, there are plenty who remember him fondly and carry out violence in his name. Many evil men, bent on destruction, carry out his mission, trying to wreck society and make it bleed. Principal among his followers are the orcs who have constructed large stone temples where they feed victims’ blood to their god to sustain him should he ever return. Few have seen one of these temples and lived and most would rather die on the battlefield than be captured to bleed for the brutes who follow Gruumsh. His followers hate all government, desiring pure anarchy where the weak are controlled or destroyed at the strong’s whims. His symbol is a bleeding heart.

Shar (Goddess of Darkness)

While physical darkness is not inherently evil, metaphorical darkness is known as evil and Shar works with both. Shar lurked in darkness and learned to love all of the other things that lurked in darkness and also hated the things that lurked in the light. Her beloved monsters were quite adept at destroying allies of the light and good. The drow, duergar, ilithids, and the beholder societies were all born bathed in Shar’s darkness. Gods like the Three Suns, the Moon, Bahamut, and Mara tried to seek her out but they could never find her in her element. They successfully fought back her companions mostly into the Underdark but dared not journey too deep into her territory. In the final conflict, Shar and Lloth chose to support Gruumsh as they admired his passion. They struck from the darkness as Gruumsh raged against the other gods and it was only through the use of a terrible weapon that Shar was removed from the Underdark, leaving much of its civilization in ruins. Afterward, Shar was thrown into the darkness of the Abyss where she was free to create the demons with Lloth, hoping to use them to destroy the material plane as she wished before. Her symbol is a black diamond.

Llolth (Goddess of Poison)

Lloth was born to kill the world or pervert it in her own message or one and then the other. Lloth quickly partnered with Shar, seeing that the two were of a similar mindset. However, Lloth’s attentions turned toward both harmful and beneficial poisons, ingesting them all until she herself was toxic. She mutated and that gave her ideas of how she and Shar could accomplish their goals. She used her poisons to mutate elves and dwarves into drow and duergar. She kept all sorts of spiders and other poisonous creatures as pets and part of her personal army. She and Shar are responsible for the particular deadliness of the Underdark. In the great conflict, she and Shar struck from the shadows but both were horribly injured by the terrible weapon used against them and their armies. Her creations are still very loyal to her and also to Shar but Lloth above all. Her followers despise the surface world, attributing the Holy Seven’s previous devastation to their heirs. Rampant xenophobia on both sides has created an unending divide between both sides. Her symbol is her beloved spider.

Those of the Nine Hells

Cyric (God of Corruption)

Born from that little voice in your head that tells one to act for evil instead of for good. Cyric seeks to turn the tide and make the world as evil as himself and his compatriots. Unlike his more monstrous-looking friends, Cyric easily walked among the races that walked the world to learn all he could about them. He learned so many weaknesses that he used to make the world darker and more vicious. He followed two main lines of thought. He used charisma and he invented psionic powers to influence minds directly. In the final conflict, he helped amass an army for one of the evil sides. He was cast into the Nine Hells along with his allies where he is the most beautiful thing there. His followers seek to spread evil through influence, anyway that they can. His techniques with psionics were picked up by the ilithids deep underground although some have survived on the surface available for use for good and for evil. His symbol is the slithering serpent.

Torog (God of Subjugation)

He is called He Who Binds and is the god of kidnappers, slavers, and all of those who entrap and use other beings. In ancient times, he seized people in the darkness and held them against their will. He created creatures to entrap those he was interested in and exhorted evil people to help him in his task. Even those who served him did not count themselves as free as Torog would not let them go too far. In the final conflict, he constructed a grand fortress but a division in the evil gods’ ranks caused an easier defeat. After the final conflict, he was sent tumbling into the Nine Hells where he eventually set up his own twisted prison to torture anybody and anything he could get his hands on. Few have truly seen him and escaped but those who did shakily described a living shadow with large glowing eyes from which long clawed arms would stretch impossible distances. His followers feel they gain and show their power by enslaving others. His symbol is a lock.

Tiamat (Goddess of Conquest)

In response to the creation of Bahamut, the evil gods all agreed on something for once. They needed to create their own enforcer and so they did, taking their inspiration from Bahamut himself. However, they constructed something from the chromatic dragons instead since they seemed to be of like mindset. Of course, they had to try to make her more powerful, fusing five ancient dragons together and upping their power level. What resulted was a very powerful force of combat but also a very intelligent new goddess. She believed that the world deserved to be under her thumb or ground under her heel. An intelligent general, she was the only force existing that could rally all of the chromatic dragons together which was scary on its own. However, she was out-thought by Ioun in the final conflict and defeated by her rival Bahamut. She was sealed with her compatriots in the lowest layer of the Nine Hells where she schemes without much effect. However, she still has plenty of worshippers who will try to carry out her will. Her symbol is an inverted pentagram.

Elorian Campaign Pantheon Pt. 3

November 26, 2018

Bahamut (God of Battle)
War Domain

Known both as the Stormlord and the Platinum Dragon, Bahamut was actually created by some of the gods in response to the emergence of some of the evil gods. They needed a champion to help defend the world from the more violent divine threats of the world. They created something based on the dragons they had seen roaming the land but empowered with the primal power of the storm and infused with a love for combat. He is depicted as a giant platinum dragon and as a winged knight based on what aspect people focus on. His followers are also varied. Some of them are ardent defenders, only seeking battle to bring peace or justice to the world. Some of them are just focused on his love of battle and are just looking for a good fight. Of course, there is also everything in between. In ancient times, he worked with Mala, Pelor, and Ioun to protect the world but also challenging other gods to friendly yet destructive fights. In the Final Conflict, he was instrumental in subduing the enemy before their eventual banishment, taking heavy damage. When it was time to go, he decided to have his own plane created Ysgard, a land for deceased warriors to endlessly battle and feast. His symbol is a lightning bolt.

Mala (Goddess of the Hunt)

Created a little later by the gods, Mala also loves battle but she loves the finesse of the hunt more. She is known as The Huntress. She lives for the thrill of adventure and was often relied upon to locate anything or anyone for the gods. She is not based on a dragon but is instead depicted as a feral woman with mottled gray and brown skin. During ancient times she often either hung out with Bahamut or hunted great beasts or tiny quarry. In the Great Conflict, she shot Gruumsh and Shar from behind with a bow and arrow, helping to turn the tide of the battle. When it was time to go away, she happily joined Bahamut in Ysgard where she can hunt as much as she wanted. She was also the leader of a group of warrior women known as the Freya who later became planetars in her service. Her symbol is the bow and arrow.

Akanay (Deity of Chaos)
Tempest Domain/Trickery Domain

Akanay is the genderfluid deity of chaos and tempest and has always existed outside of the continuity of good and evil. Akanay has never really supported either side but instead often made things stranger through altering reality or playing pranks on others. Not much is actually known about Akanay as they have never held a consistant form. They have often done things without claiming credit, letting chaos reign as people blamed each other. However, the only real enemies of Akanay are those who would spoil their good time. They dislike Pelor and to a greater extent, they absolutely hate Torog. In the Final Conflict, Ioun manipulated Akanay into occupying Torog. After that, the gods imprisoned Akanay in their own plane of chaos but their energy sometimes leaks into the other planes. Akanay has few worshippers and most of them are insane but those who do worship Akanay use a swirling whirlpool as their symbol.

The Children of Akanay

The Following deities fall under the domain of Akanay, the Chaos Deity because all three are hard to pin down and because there is some vagueness to them. Religious records are not clear whether or not anybody ever actually encountered these gods on the material plane. In fact, sometimes scholars wonder if Akanay made them up. Some other scholars theorize that they are merely aspects or alter egos of Akanay. It is not clear but still, the early elves wrote them down so they must have existed in some form or another.

Somnus (God of Dreams)

The lord of both dreams and nightmares, he is a hard one to pin down. He maintains the Plane of Dreams and most of the time his sleeping charges go where they will based on the currents of their minds and their hearts. However, he allows many gods to alter the trajectory and itinerary of various mortals in order to provide prophetic dreams or dreams of a divine message. A shepherd, he tries to keep the boundaries of people’s dreams separate. He also shepherds those who die in dreams to their true destination.

Lyssa (Goddess of Madness)

Born as the fire in the minds of early elves, Lyssa is rather harmless on her own. Like her patron, Akanay, she is just looking for a good time by shaking things up. She apparently did this by infecting those she met with various forms of mental disorders. She does not care about laws, society, or ethics in general. She is pure madness incarnate. Those who met her could not be fully believed but there is evidence that she existed. She was apparently caught and imprisoned in a cell somewhere in the Outland Plane. While she did not intend to be a villain, she was treated as one.

Sharess (Deity of Desire)

Both male and female and also everything in between, Sharess is desire incarnate. They are not “love” but physical lust and attraction instead. Also, to a lesser degree, Sharess is greed and envy. They are everything you want and therefore they proved to be far too distracting to mortals and gods alike. Sharess has no form of their own but instead is constantly shifting to attract those in their surroundings. Sharess was reportedly imprisoned somewhere. Nobody is quite sure where so it is impossible to verify. This has led to rumors that Sharess still walks the material plane or is perhaps traveling the planes at will. Or, again, Sharess never existed and is just a convenient excuse for previous drama.

 

Laverna (Goddess of Thieves)

Laverna is a goddess that was never spoken of in ancient times and has only appeared in the last few centuries. Many theories swirl around her existence. Some wonder if she is a new goddess, formed long after the others. Some think that she may have been around a lot longer but people covered it up. Yet more people think that she might have been made up by the thieves guilds which is where he legend is believed to have begun. She is known as Lady Luck, an enigmatic figure who plucks the strings of fate, doling out fortune as she sees fit. She is often depicted as a woman in rags, hidden by a long cloak with her eyes covered by a blindfold. She has no public temples but sometimes people might come upon a makeshift altar in an alley or other hidey holes. She is prayed to by thieves and criminals but she is also sometimes worshipped by the poor, hoping for her generosity. Her symbol is the question mark.

Elorian Campaign Pantheon Pt. 2

November 19, 2018

Asherah (Goddess of Life)
Life Domain

Known as the Queen of Life, she is often depicted as a woman with four wings and five eyes. She was the kindest and least destructive of the original deities, preferring to talk to people, meditate or heal the damage caused by others. In the final conflict between the gods, she was instrumental in restoring the forms of Kord, Azrea, Lathander, and Sylvanus when they were nearly routed and overcome. While she herself is peaceful, she understands that physical intervention is sometimes needed in order to protect others. Her followers are often healers or those who choose to protect those who cannot help themselves. Her temples often double as centers of healing, tranquility, and sanctuary in both urban and rural settings. Her followers are not as preachy and usually let their actions lure people into their lady’s service. She resides in the material plane of Avalon in a simple cottage. Followers often use the dove as her symbol.

Azrea (Goddess of Death)
Death Domain/Grave Domain

Known as the original Goddess of Winter, many believe that Azrea killed the original god of death in order to seize his domain for herself. The other gods decided to let this aggression go unchecked since she turned out to be a more benevolent death god than Nerull had been. She is now sometimes known as the Raven Queen. She views death as a kindness, a reprieve from suffering usually reserved for those who reach a certain age. Death is a necessary part of the cycle of existence and at least a kind hand is guiding that force now. She also remains vigilance against the undead magicks promoted by Nerull, locking them into an eternal conflict. Her followers seek to facilitate funeral services, eradicate necromancy and its creations, and guide souls to their eventual destinations. In reality, Azrea was the denizen of an ancient civilization which was decimated by one of Nerull’s experiments. She seized what power she could and, through a miracle, used it to attack and kill Nerull. At that point, she was accepted by the rest of the pantheon after she pledged her allegiance to them. She is usually depicted as a heavily cloaked woman with a bone-white bird skull mask. She resides in her own plane called the Farplane which is a waystation to various eternal resting places, often conversing with souls to pass the time. Her symbol is the raven.

Ullur (God of Winter)

He is known as the Winter Lord, he is often depicted as a massive silver-skinned man with one massive eye and long light blue hair all over his body. He is known to not be very sociable but not evil, he just enjoys his solitude. He could be listed as neutral. Originally under the domain of Sylvanus, he left his service to convene with the like-minded Azrea. Still, there was an understanding between him and Sylvanus about the need for Winter. During the Great Conflict, he often fought by her side. In the end, he willingly left the material plane and made his home in the Elemental Plane of Ice. His symbol is a snowflake.

 

Sylvanus (The God of Nature)
Nature Domain

He is known as Father Nature, a mountain of a man whose form keeps changing based on his mood and his needs. He is very hairy but some of it is hair, some is fur, and some of it is vegetation. He and his entourage built the material plane and Sylvanus populated it with his and Asherah’s magic. He created animals, plants, and most of the other living things on the Material Plane. He spent a lot of time exploring the Material Plane and examining his and others’ handiwork. The other gods would lose sight of him for days, weeks, sometimes months as he faded into the wild (it was mostly wild at that point). In the Great Conflict, he used his power to change shape to battle the opposing gods. When he left, he passed through the barrier and created the Feywild and he has not been seen since. His followers are naturally often druids or barbarians. His temples are not often traditional temples. They are either open-air altars in clearings or are set up in already enclosed places like caves. His symbol is a wreath of vines entwined with a stag’s antlers.

The Four Elements

These four are the blue collar workers of all of the entourage of the gods. When the gods were formed, they quickly realized that their purpose was to build the material plane. They worked together with Sylvanus to put it all together after Lathander brought light to the material plane. Umberlee is the Lady of the Sea, she once enjoyed roaming the depths and often upset early sailors unless they warded her off with prayer and offerings. Geb is the Lord of the Earth who spent much of his time walking his creation which caused earthquakes. Akadi is the Lady of the Air and she once flew everywhere and people grew to worry when they saw her shadow for high winds usually followed her. Kossuth is the Lord of Flame but he lay dormant beneath the surface and people feared him emerging. All four eventually agreed to leave the material plane, enticed by the four Elemental Planes. Those planes are playgrounds where each can control their element as they wish. With their departure, their creation was allowed to operate on its own, growing and changing for the first time in eons.

Chauntea (Goddess of Farming)

Legend has it that she imparted her love of vegetation and animals to the first elves who, until then, could only hunt and forage. She taught them how to farm and allowed the first of them to settle and the no longer nomadic elves started to create culture and civilization. These methods were also taught to gnomes and dwarves who adapted the practices for their underground civilizations. Chauntea often wandered through orchards eating produce, squished her feet in the mud of the fields, and stopped by to pet the livestock. She was one of the most peaceful and least-feared gods to encounter before the Great Division. Her symbol is a shepherd’s crook crossed with a pitchfork.

Elorian Campaign Pantheon Pt. 1

November 12, 2018

Alright, I have rethought my campaign setting’s pantheon a bit to be more inclusive of creation. Of course, I have once again almost completely disregarded lore that I have not seen or experienced myself. My goal was to make this world my own with DnD’s 5e mechanics. Below are the corrections and elaborations needed to worship in my setting. We will start with the ‘good’ gods.

The Three Brothers of the Sun and The Sister of the Moon
Light Domain

Lathander (God of the Morning Sun)

Known as the Morning Lord, Lathander is the most positive of the Brothers of the Sun and that is reflected in his followers. His followers are very enthusiastic and often evangelical about their religion and often spread their Lord’s gospel to and fro. Their main message is one of hope as each day dawns after even the longest night. His followers seek to pull others from the darkness and use their faith to rekindle hope in others. Although the siblings of light are technically all the same age, Lathander is often depicted as acting and looking like the youngest brother. He is depicted as having shining golden skin and shining yellow hair. He was the one who urged his siblings to bring light to the multiverse, allowing the creation of the material plane. He spent a lot of his time delivering sermons of hope and fellowship to the earliest denizens of the world. However, when the final conflict came, he eagerly picked up his sword and fought as hard as the rest of the gods. Like other gods, he retired to Avalon taking up the east wing of the Shining Palace. His symbol is the rising sun, beams of light stretching forth.

Pelor (God of the Midday Sun)

Known as the Shining Soldier, Pelor is most interested in fighting the good fight among his brothers. His followers often hold justice and the vanquishing of monsters in the highest regard and make such ideals their goal. This is the church of the sun which is most likely to spawn adventurers, traveling the world in order to right wrongs and vanquish evil. When the sun is high, shadows run in fear. He encourages clerics and paladins to go forth under his banner in order to make the world a better place, eschewing personal glory for the glory of all. In urban settings, his followers might be involved in law enforcement. His temples sometimes double as law enforcement or military headquarters. Pelor appeared to many like he was the middle brother, putting himself out in front only to shield his siblings. He was reportedly hard to look directly at as he often shone like the sun as he walked the material plane. This was fine as he really only showed up to trounce evil and then departed again. In the final conflict, he led the charge against the evil gods with his grand mace lit up like a beacon. Like other gods, he retired to Avalon where he decided to live in the tower of the Shining Palace. His symbol is the full sun, fire on its rim.

Arrah (God of the Setting Sun)

Known as The Twilight Scholar, Arrah set himself up to be the border between the light and the dark. His followers are constantly vigilant for whatever darkness might threaten the world. They tend to be more strategic people, thinking through their problems more like a chess game than an all-out brawl. His temples are often partnered with temples to Ioun and Azrea. His followers know better than many that all good things must end but all hardship will end one way or another as well. He was always the quieter, more thoughtful brother and is often depicted as being the oldest and wisest of the brothers. He is often depicted as being more bronze colored and less shiny than his siblings. He often walked alone on the material plane, examining what his brothers had missed or studying their wake. He sometimes had long discussions with Lona, Ioun, and/or Azrea. In the final battle, he, Ioun, Lucia, and Oghma drew up the battle plan. When it was time to leave, he chose to retire to Avalon where he took up residence in the west wing of the Shining Palace. His symbol is the setting sun.

Lona (Goddess of the Moon)

The quieter sister of the three brothers of the sun she is known as the Watcher in the
Night. She watched peacefully over the night but would spring into action while her brothers slept if need be. Her ways are more subtle, akin to a classic rogue archetype. While not as forceful as her siblings, she has a quiet, subtle magic of her own. She is depicted as a pale woman with shining pupil-less eyes. She often had long talks with Ioun and often spoke with Sylvanus’ followers as well. She often spent her nights drinking tea either alone or with whoever happened upon her. Sometimes, she would preside over the Court of the Gods at night in place of her brothers. When it was time to leave, she chose to live with Ioun and her retinue in the Eternal Library but she does visit her brothers on occasion. Her symbol is the crescent moon but some worshipers use other phases.

 

Ioun (Goddess of Knowledge)
Knowledge Domain

Known sometimes as the Knowing Mistress, Ioun is tapped into the collective knowledge of all things on the Material Plane. She delights in keeping tabs on all of creation and waits in anticipation for creation to surprise her. She is rarely disappointed. She especially became interested in magic as it poured into the world before she departed it. She is interested in wizards and witches in particular as they are just as studious as she is. Her followers are often curious, studious, and observant. In ancient days she would travel the world interviewing people and observing events. In the great conflict, she wielded awesome and terrifying magicks and designed the spells that sealed all of the gods away. Her temples are often schools or libraries. She lives in the Eternal Library in Avalon, rarely leaving as she reads and stays in her observatory. Her symbol is an open eye.

Lucia (Goddess of Memory)

One of the librarians of the world, she is known as the Memory of the World. She spent much of her time cataloging the world to make sure that the absolute truth was written in stone. In the final battle, she used her encyclopedic memory to help plan for the final battle. When it was time to leave, she leaped at a posting in the Eternal Library and her home and office is in the Non-Fiction section. She spends her time meeting with Ioun and Oghma where she struggles not to correct Oghma’s stories. She loves them both with all of her heart. She appears as a studious, serious looking woman. Her symbol is a book.

Oghma (God of Imagination)

The other librarian of the world, he is known as the Story of the World. He spends much of his time writing wild stories and listening to the stories invented by the storytellers of the world. This is not all that different from what he did before the Final Conflict. In that conflict, he used his vast imagination to inspire the plans for the final battles. He spends his time regaling Ioun, Lucia, and Lona with stories and trying not to add embellishments to Lucia’s histories. He appears as a wild-haired man with a goofy grin. His symbol is a pen.

The Shield of Tau Pt. 3

November 10, 2018

Jace arrived at the central city square before his time and so he was waiting when the Shields of Tau emerged to set up the trial. The others who would be trying out arrived around the same time. The Shields wordlessly unlocked and opened a trapdoor and everybody walked down a set of stairs. Right before Jace was about to descend below the level of the square, he looked around for a friendly face but he saw neither Lita nor <A>. The trapdoor clanged back into place behind them as they descended toward the Pit of Trials. They were brought into what looked like an ancient armory.

“My name is Captain Cahrn,” a man in armor yelled, his voice echoing in the small stone space. “Choose your weapon wisely.”

Jace looked over his options. There was just about everything a fighter might want, really. There were several different flavors of swords, spears, halberds, shields, daggers, axes, hammers, and everything you could conceive of to slash, pierce or bludgeon a foe. Even though all of those weapons were relatively cheaply made, Jace was definitely wowed. He had grown up loving weapons and here was a room full to the brim. He started walking through the room, putting his hands on all of them and feeling their heft.

“Would you hurry up?” Cahrn said to nobody in particular.

Jace hurriedly picked up a shield and a sword and moved to line up near the door. The shield and sword was not the most exciting choice but it was a classic. More than that, it was the iconic pairing that Jace had fallen in love with when he and Lita had been rescued from the blink dogs. Whenever he thought about protecting the people of the Empire, he imagined himself using a shining shield and a wickedly sharp sword. He had no idea how that imagined reality would match up with his true future but he was definitely ready to give it a shot. Or at least, he was as ready as he was going to get.

They shuffled through a door into the next area. Jace counted five others who were trying their hand at this. There were two women and three men. Jace did not recognize any of them but in a city the size of Tau that was not so strange. They were led to a caged-in area and beyond was a bigger cage, a huge circle. It was the trial pit itself and at the top of it, Jace could see the sun filtering down and he could hear people gathering to watch outside. The Festival to Kord was a big yearly holiday in Tau and the Shield Placement was the biggest event so the crowd was very boisterous. It was a completely different atmosphere from the tension down in the pit as the fighters waited their turn. One by one Jace and his fellow applicants drew lots to see who went first. Jace drew second and started to prepare himself as he watched a young blond man enter the pit.

As the man stood there, a door opened on the other side of the cage and a crag cat leaped out, white and furry. The blond immediately dodged that first attack and tried to maneuver to a place to sink their spear into the cat. The two opponents began combat in earnest, both of them moving fast around the cage as the crowd gasped or clapped above. The crag cat would lunge with tooth and claw and the young blond man would try and dodge and counter. The crag cat was too nimble to be caught by such a simple plan. Fear started to sink in as Jace realized that the cat was toying with its prey. Unless something changed, the cat would win. A few moments later and his suspicions were confirmed as he watched the blond accidentally roll his ankle and succumbed to the claws of the crag cat. Shields rushed into the cage and tried to clear the cat from the body but the cat dragged the body back through the door while the Shields pursued it.

After a beat, Jace got the signal that it was his turn. He took a deep breath and walked into the cage. He saluted the crowd above and he tried to look for Lita. He could not spot her but knew that she would be somewhere in the crowd. He trained his eyes on the opposite door and tried not to look down at the bloodstains. It was time for his future to begin and he would let nothing get in his way. He swung the sword, trying it out again, and made sure the shield was securely strapped to his forearm. He listened to the countdown and then the door began to open but instead of one beast, there were two small ones. He knew these beasts all too well. It was a pair of blink dogs.

For a moment, Jace flashed back to the day one of his friends was killed by blink dogs. It was the first day that he had swung a weapon at another living thing. The horrible moment that had solidified his dream to forge himself into becoming a protector, a true Shield of Tau instead of just a kid pretending to be one. The memory of that promise pushed through the trauma and he felt his resolve become as iron as he gripped his sword tight. He did not wait for the blink dogs to get their bearings, he lunged forward. They both lunged at him but he fended off one with the shield and grazed the other with the sword. The one that was cut suddenly blinked away and Jace worked hard to calm himself. The dog suddenly reappeared in the air above Jace, trying to dive down onto him. He swatted it hard out of the air with the shield.

It was at this point that the other dog lunged at his feet, forcing him to step aside and plunge his sword into the thing’s back. The dog yelped and struggled but was unable to free itself and passed out, bleeding profusely. Meanwhile, the first dog had teleported to the other side of the cage. It growled defiantly at Jace and Jace glared back at it in return. He flicked the blood from the sword which caused the dog to charge in a rage. Jace charged the dog and he saw as the dog failed to teleport again and instead tried to bank right to circle around. Jace spun and struck at the beast, injuring its paw and causing it to stumble but keep moving. As the dog lunged one last time, Jace stabbed it in its throat, putting it out of its misery. The crowd cheered and the door opened and Jace was summoned to leave.

In the Shanti Desert Pt. 3

November 5, 2018

A thin, spindly man slowly climbed out of the box. He had pale white skin and hair and he looked like somebody had wrapped a bundle of sticks in skin and hair. His striking appearance was the first thing that hit her but the man’s impossibly big smile surprised her. He looked sweaty and sore as he shifted on his feet after climbing out of the box but he still had a big smile on his face. His gaze scanned the room and when they fell on Saara, she saw that his eyes were a dark shade of pink. When he met her gaze, he winked playfully. It was then that the full realization that these people had been transporting a living creature in a box hit her.

Before Saara could object, Arana blurted out. “What are you?” Her eyes were wide and the words came out sounding awestruck.

“My lady,” The man said as he turned to her and bowed. The action made Sabri flinch slightly. “They call me Ba’as. As for what I am, I suppose you might call me one of a kind.”

“You’re Ba’as?” Saara asked. Her voice rose in pitch a bit in her excitement.

“Unless I’m lying,” Ba’as said. “Do I detect a fan?”

Saara nodded. “We didn’t think you were real, though,” she said.

“Sometimes I wonder myself,” Ba’as said. “Who is we?”

Saara pulled up her sleeve and showed off a stylized tattoo of a rat high up on her forearm. “The <>. Small crew. We heard stories from fences about you, though.”

Ba’as shrugged. “People do like to talk,” he said. “but I don’t like to brag in mixed company.” He gestured toward Arana, Adira, and Sabri. “It’s all true, though.”

Saara noticed a tattoo of a key and a question mark on Ba’as’ bare chest and she made a mental note to ask him about them if they were ever alone together. “Wow,” she said with a beaming smile.

Horseface Horu came in through the door and immediately reacted to Ba’as, a mix of startled fear and curiosity. When Sabri snapped his fingers, Horu was brought back into the moment. “Boss, we found the flag,” he said. “I can bring you there.”

“Are we to swing into action, ‘boss’?” Ba’as asked, turning toward Sabri with that unsettlingly broad smile. “Buckle some swashes? Locate some treasure?”

Sabri looked away and over at Saara and shook his head. “Not until daybreak when our sorceress should be healed up,” he said. ” Until then, I trust you not to try to escape.”

“It’s far too hot and dry out there, I’m sure,” Ba’as said. “Besides, I am curious about the job for now.” Ba’as then bowed low and gracefully for Sabri.

“Good enough, I suppose,” Sabri said. “Horu, get the man his clothes and then gather the rest inside.” He settled into a chair with one last glance at Ba’as and closed his eyes. He was either meditating or taking a nap. It was really hard to tell.

Horu started searching through chests until he found Ba’as’ gear. Saara watched Ba’as start to pull on black leather armor. “Ah, I felt so naked without my second skin,” he said. He chuckled a little to himself as if he had told a joke. When nobody laughed, he glanced around and raised an eyebrow. Saara could see that the armor had an attached half-cape with a heavily tattered edge. He went back into the box and pulled out a necklace, some rings, and a bracelet and slipped them on one at a time. He pulled out a white porcelain-looking mask with black braids dangling from it. He slipped the mask on and he looked somehow more ordinary, at least for a Kofrani city. He reached for two wicked looking daggers but Horu shoved him aside and picked them up instead.

“I don’t think we’re going to trust you with those yet,” Horu said. “If you need them, you’ll have them. Until then, I’d rather not have them sticking out of my back.”

“I’d love to disappoint you,” Ba’as said. “but it appears I have no choice but to wait.”

“What?” Horu shouted, outraged.

“Kidding,” Ba’as said.

Horu grunted and looked over at Arana. “I suppose I’m relying on you to help the boss keep things under control in here,” he said. “I wouldn’t put that burden on the healer.”

“I have my eye on all of them,” Arana said. “This is literally my house. I think we’ll all get along, right?” Ba’as simply smiled and Saara shrugged. Horu stepped back outside without another word.

“What is your name, witch?” Ba’as asked, moving slowly toward Saara, Arana, and Adir.

“I’m not a witch, I’m a wizard,” Arana said in a matter-of-fact tone with no anger but a tinge of nervousness. “My name is Arana.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Arana,” he said. “I promise I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t or you don’t want to?” Arana asked.

Ba’as merely winked. Saara laughed. Arana frowned but then managed a fake laugh.

“And who is this young lad?” Ba’as asked. He gestured to Adir who was watching Ba’as with big eyes.

“This is Adir,” Saara said. “He’s a healer but he doesn’t talk.”

Adir gestured toward his throat, glancing at Arana.

“He can’t talk,” Arana said. “He was born that way so it doesn’t respond to healing magic.”

“Curious,” Ba’as said. “and also unfortunate. I’m sorry, Adir.” Adir shrugged and nodded and stuck his hand out. Ba’as was taken aback for a beat but shook Adir’s hand. “Trusting. I like that, sir.” Adir smiled and took his hand back.

Sabri opened one of his eyes. “I would suggest you rest your mouths and your bodies,” he said. “We will be working hard tomorrow and I do not want my investments failing on me.”

“Aye aye, boss,” Ba’as said with a mock salute. Saara giggled and mock saluted as well. Ba’as leaned over and ruffled her hair with his hand.

“Gross,” Arana said and she grabbed her spellbook and moved over to settle in a chair.

Adir slowly laid down on his back and closed his eyes.

Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 4

October 27, 2018

Aftershocks Playthings

It took a while to find out where the kids were. This time, Lydia had no reservations about Rob doing some hacking. Already having access to a server was not the same as actively hacking into a government computer. Lydia spent her time trying to keep Nancy calm as Rob worked, knowing how much she cared for those children. Also, she knew the way her dad had preyed on children weighed on her and had her wanting to balance out his actions. It was a hard weight for sunny Nancy to carry and Lydia could see that. Also, she knew that Nancy’s freak out had started to wear on Rob’s nerves. How she became team mom, Lydia had no idea.

They arrived at the safehouse not quite as put together as they had been at the toy store. Lydia’s nerves were still jangled from combat, she was getting more battle-hardened but she still had a ways to go. Rob put on a brave face but Lydia was sure she could tell that he was nervous. Still, he was obviously the most composed. In the backseat, Nancy was like a dog begging to be let off of its chain. There was a wildness in her eyes that Lydia could understand but knew that they could not afford to indulge. She took Nancy’s hand in hers and spoke softly.

“Nancy,” she said. “These kids need us but they need us to be strong for them.”

“I’ll be strong for them,” Nancy said. “I’ll tear Charles apart like Ley and Jack.”

Lydia squeezed Nancy’s hand. “Nance, you are scaring me. We got lucky the last two times but this time they have hostages. We have to play it smart.”

Nancy looked helpless.

“You need to keep the monster at bay,” Lydia said. “Unless we absolutely need her. You are not a monster. You’re my happy friend. So let’s go save the day and make those kids happy again.”

Nancy took a deep breath. “Alright,” she said. “I’m with you.” Her voice was shaky but she looked sufficiently calmer.

Rob stepped out of the car and the girls piled out after him as quietly as they could. None of them were exactly stealth experts. At that moment, it really hit Lydia how young they were and how normal fighting demons had become. It was inspiring, frightening, and sad all at the same time. She wished she was reading paperbacks back in her room. She wished Nancy was leading sing-alongs back at camp.

Unfortunately, it was gunfire that snapped Lydia from her revelry and the three of them scrambled to duck back around the car. Rob cursed loudly as the bullets impacted the car but it was lost in the noise. Lydia reached into her bag and grabbed a mirror and held it up to try to see who or what was shooting at them. A bullet grazed the car near her arm and Lydia lowered the mirror. She whispered a few words and waved her hand over the mirror and she remotely viewed their surroundings. There were two cops with rifles aimed at their car.

“We’re not the bad guys!” Lydia yelled out. “We want to protect the kids.”

There was nothing but silence from the cops but they had stopped shooting.

“There is a maniac named Charles who is after the kids,” Lydia said into the night.

Both cops simultaneously tilted their heads back and let out insane cackling laughter. Then they spoke in unison. “The kiddies will be mine just like these two dopes. Either come and submit to me or I’ll pull out your eyes.” They both cackled again in perfect unison.

“Shit,” Rob said. “They’re possessed!”

“What do we do?” Nancy asked, eyes wide.

“We improvise and move forward,” Lydia said. “Sorry, Rob.”

Before Rob could ask what for, Lydia waved her hand and the hood of the car pried itself up and floated in the air. Lydia walked toward the house as the cops shot up the hood. The other two hurried to follow behind Lydia. At the last moment, she waved her hand again and the piece of metal flew into one of the cops. Rob pulled a revolver and shot the other cop in the shoulder. He pulled out a vial and sprinkled liquid onto the cop that Lydia had hit with the metal. There was no reaction.

“They’re gone,” Rob said. “It’s not normal demonic possession.”

Nancy actually growled and her hands sprouted sharp claws. Lydia actually mom armed her, raised her hand and snapped and both cops caught on fire. What had formerly been the cops flailed around but succumbed to the flames. Rob moved to pick the lock on the front door but Nancy lunged forward and dragged those claws down the door, cutting it to pieces. The three of them slipped into the house.

In the living room, the kids were unconscious and tied to the furniture. A little red-headed toy man stood in the middle of it all with a twisted grin on his face. He did not look afraid of the three newcomers. Lydia knew at once what this little man was planning and hoped that he had not succeeded.

“You can’t stop me,” Charles said. It was the same voice that came from the cops. “Their bodies are mine. They will be the start of the Army of Me.”

“No way!” Nancy yelled.

“Yes way!” Charles yelled out. “Do you think I subdued all these kiddos myself?”

As if on cue, toys came out of hiding and attacked. Nancy lunged at Charles, claws out and began to wrestle him. It would have looked comical in any other situation. The other two combatted the rest of the toys, slowly hacking and smashing their way through them. The living room was chaotic with battle and thankfully the kids really were out of it. At one point, Nancy and Charles crashed through a window and outside which was impressive since there were bars on the windows. Rob and Lydia did their best on their own, slowly destroying each toy and it seemed to take forever. Finally, they made sure the kids were safe and headed outside.

They arrived just as Charles got the upper hand, landing on top of a prone Nancy and pulling out a large wicked knife.

“I’ll rip your guts out, kid!” He yelled.

A shot rang out and then two more and Charles went flying from shots from Rob’s revolver. He and Lydia charged forward, covering for Nancy as she tried to recover.

“You little shits!” Charles yelled out. “You’ll never win. Me and the big guy are friends to the end.”

“This is the end,” Lydia said. She snapped her fingers and Charles burst into flames.

His screams were horrible but oddly satisfying. The three of them stood and watched the doll burn. When the screaming stopped, Rob made an anonymous call to the police to come to clear things up. Nancy continued to watch the remains of Charles burn as Lydia and Rob collected the car’s hood and untied the kids. They came and grabbed Nancy and Lydia was satisfied that Charles would continue to burn down to cinders before the police arrived. The three of them left. None of them really wanted to talk about things yet.

Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 3

October 20, 2018

Aftershocks Playthings

Once again, Lydia insisted on driving, pushing Rob into the passenger seat since he was still a much younger kid. Nancy climbed into the back and made sure everybody buckled up before they started off toward the toy store. Nancy thought about how normally she would have been overjoyed to explore a toy store, even an abandoned one. Now, she knew that this was not going to be fun. It was going to be the gym and the hotel all over again. Beneath the fear was an anger quite unlike her usual happy demeanor. She clung to that anger a little, trying to use it to fight back the fear as she bounced a bit in the backseat of Rob’s big black car. Lydia glanced back at Nancy, a little worried for her best friend.

“So what’s our plan?” Lydia asked. “Go in hot like usual?”

“They’ve already hurt the parents,” Nancy said. “We need to crush them before they go after the kids.”

“Agreed,” Rob said. “Besides, the tactic has worked for us before. I don’t know what their plan is but we have to stop it.”

Nancy nodded. “For the kids,” she said.

“For the kids,” Lydia and Rob agreed. The three of them were still all under the age of eighteen but they did not really feel like kids anymore. Nancy looked over at Rob and wondered about him most of all since he was the youngest but had way more experience fighting these things.

Lydia felt the whole thing was unfair. She and Nancy had been pulled into this because of their shadow-touched pasts. They never chose it, it had been thrust upon them. Lydia was in this because her parents had dragged her to that house and things had gone off the rails. He had nearly married her and would have been unleashed on the world. Nancy’s story was even worse. She was only in the game because that demon had somehow impregnated Nancy’s mom so the process had been started long before her birth. It was maddening but if they could not get away, they both had decided to confront the problem head-on.

The three of them piled out of the car at the toy store and they opened the trunk to get out their weapons. Rob pulled out his silver blade, the one he called an ‘angel blade’ which was curious knowing what they had seen during their first encounter with the boy. Lydia pulled out her sword, an item that always made her feel sufficiently badass. Nancy grabbed the iron fireplace poker that she had taken from their last adventure in the hotel. It had served her pretty well and it was something she was more comfortable using than her own powers. Lydia was ready to use her magic spells. Finally, Rob grabbed a shotgun which Lydia was going to object to but thought better of it. The kid obviously knew what he was doing and they would be fighting sentient toys, not people.

Rob picked the lock on the sliding doors out front which raised some eyebrows with the girls but both of them let it go. The three of them slipped into the store which had shelves of old merchandise. Obviously, that made the three of them tense from what they had seen back at the bunker. They stood in the middle of those aisles and before any of them could comment, the shelves erupted with living toys. The three of them sprung to their defense and all three slashed at the attackers. It was an absolutely ludicrous sight to see three kids smashing and cutting up a whole bunch of toys. Everybody involved was screaming bloody murder and when the dust settled, the floor was littered with stuffing, plastic bits, springs, and all sorts of other parts. The three demon hunters were relatively unscathed. They walked toward the back.

“Where are you, Charles?!” Lydia called out, working at getting her breath back.

“Your plans are over!” Rob yelled.

They walked into the back and they almost ran into a baby doll, a teddy bear, and a jack in the box. The baby doll was smoking a cigarette calmly.

“This is the end of the line, kiddos,” the baby doll said. Its voice certainly sounded like it smoked.

“For you,” Nancy said.

“Charles isn’t here,” the jack in the box said, its voice like nails on a chalkboard. “We have a deal. He gets the kids, we get you.”

“What do you mean he gets the kids?” Nancy asked.

“Enough talk,” the baby doll said. With a growl, the teddy bear grew into a real bear and lunged after the three. Rob, Nancy, and Lydia spread out and the bear ended up chasing Lydia. The others each went after Rob and Nancy. Lydia swiped her sword at the bear, making sure to keep out of its reach the best she could. A couple of times, the bear nearly took her head off. She led it back into the shelves. Each slice with her sword only exposed stuffing under the bear’s fur. She was getting nowhere and she could feel her arms beginning to hurt and her swings started to slow down. Backed into a corner, she waved her hand and called out an incantation and set the bear on fire. As it panicked, it lost interest in Lydia before falling to the concrete and slowly burning away. Lydia leaned against the wall and tried to recover.

The baby doll had chased Nancy through the storeroom. It moved surprisingly fast for something with such little legs but Nancy supposed that demons worked with different rules of physics. She turned and swung the poker at the thing and was startled when the baby doll blocked the shot with a switchblade knife. Nancy thought it must have looked ridiculous as she started to fence with a baby doll. She was never going to look at another doll the same again. After a few moments, she gained an edge over the baby doll. At last, she disarmed the doll, sending the switchblade flying across the room and sticking into the wall. She drove the poker into the doll’s face and, as it shuddered and stopped moving, she worried about the nightmares this might cause.

As for Rob, he squared off with the jack in the box which laughed maniacally, showing off needle-like teeth. After spending some time trying to stab the thing with his angel blade, he gave up and retreated. As the thing laughed in triumph, Rob cocked the shotgun and blew its head off. The laughing abruptly stopped.

“This isn’t over,” Lydia said. “Charles is going after the kids. Where are the kids?”

“They’re all gathered together,” Rob said. “at the social services safe house.”

“Let’s end this then,” Nancy said. “Nobody messes with kids when I’m around.”

Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 2

October 13, 2018

Aftershocks Playthings

While they were waiting for Rob, Lydia and Nancy had tried to do their best to research the problem. They had called a few people to see if they could separate fact from the rumors that had started to circulate. They found out which parents had died specifically and they had started to theorize what the actual plan was. The children were all going into the system but in the meantime, they were being held at a Social Services-sponsored group home. Without more information, neither of them had a clue what was going on. They were not even sure that the problem was supernatural in nature. There was definitely a killer on the loose, though.

Rob showed up at the bunker a bit later in the day, hanging his coat up near the door. He looked tired as he laid his magical blade across two pegs on the wall of the bunker. He took a deep breath and turned toward the girls.

“So,” he said. “People are getting murdered again.”

Nancy nodded. “A lot of them so far,” she said. “At least the kids got away. Do you have any ideas about what did this? Is it a demon again?”

“Slow down,” Rob said. He was a serious little kid and he looked sternly at Nancy’s frantic behavior. “I poked around little myself and yeah I think it’s demons.”

“What makes you think this is demons?” Lydia asked.

Rob pulled out his phone. “I found some stuff at one of the houses,” he said.

“You snuck into an active crime scene?” Lydia asked, her eyebrows rising up in surprise. “That’s a huge risk.”

“It’s not like we could flash a badge and pretend I’m FBI like my family does,” Rob said. “I’m too young for that. Nobody would buy that you two are law enforcement.”

“Thanks,” Lydia said with an edge of sarcasm. “I guess it’s fine as long as you didn’t get caught. People’s lives are on the line. What did you find?” Lydia was pragmatic and, although she was not much of a rule breaker, she recognized that the demons obviously did not care about rules.

Rob showed them the screen of his phone and the word ‘Playtime!” was written on the wall in a reddish brown liquid. The two girls had seen enough violence to know blood when they saw it. It still made them cringe and feel a little sick. “I found this written on the wall of the garage where one of the dads was found.”

“Oh geez,” Nancy said. “Why would somebody write that?”

“I have a theory but I wanted to check if the cops have uploaded the crime scene photos yet,” Rob said and moved toward his laptop.

“How?” Nancy asked.

“I have a backdoor into their server,” Rob said. “I installed it months ago to keep tabs.” He started to type on the computer.

Lydia took a deep breath. “I’m going to hold back my disapproval and just focus on how all the crimes you’re committing are saving lives.”

“It’s kind of a family tradition,” Sam said. “Look at these.” On screen there were a series of photos of similar writing on walls. Messages like ‘Friends til the end’, ‘Jack wuz here’, and ‘Wanna play?’ all written in blood. There were dozens and dozens of messages. “The messages are all written close to the ground like really close to the ground. That confirms my theory. The toys killed the parents.” He got up from the computer and headed toward the door.

The girls looked at each other and then back at Rob. “The toys?” Nancy asked.

“Are you alright?” Lydia asked. “Did you hit your head or something?”

“I’m fine,” Rob said and started fishing through the pockets of his coat. “I found something else at the house.” He pulled out a plastic container and walked into the interrogation room, the room where the three of them had officially become a team. He dumped the contents onto an elaborate symbol engraved on the table’s surface. The girls walked in to see what the fuss was about and saw a little sailor doll which looked kind of cute. Except that the doll was moving around by itself and its little hands were stained with blood.

“What the Hell?” Lydia said, joining Nancy in taking a step back from the creepy little doll.

“Exactly,” Rob said. “It’s possessed by a demon.” He turned toward the little demon sailor. “Tell us what happened.”

“Go f%9# yourself!” The little doll yelled. Despite its efforts to seem tough, it came off a little bit cute if creepy.

“I don’t think it’s going to talk to us, Rob,” Nancy said.

“Strange,” Lydia said. “We’ve killed quite a few of his kind so far.”

“You don’t scare me, lady, you’re a c&*7!” The little thing yelled at the top of its tiny lungs.

Lydia started to gather a fireball into her hand but Rob caught her wrist. “Hold that thought for a minute,” he said. “I have something they’re all afraid of.” He started to chant in what sounded a bit like Latin and the sailor started to scream and writhe in pain. “Talk and the pain stops!” He yelled at the demon. Nancy backed up a little further and hugged herself.

“Stop! Stop!” the demon screamed and Rob stopped chanting. “I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

“Go ahead and talk then,” Lydia said.

“He told us to kill the parents but I was out of practice and I hung around too long and that’s why you caught me,” the demon said indignantly. “It just felt so good.” The demon sighed. “He’s going to be mad.”

“Who’s he?” Nancy asked. One could practically see her pulse speed up.

“Charles,” the doll said in a mocking voice. “What a loser.” Nancy started to relax and Lydia reached over to squeeze her hand gently.

“Where are the other demons?” Rob asked. “Where’s Charles?”

The doll hesitated, looking down. “I dunno,” it said but gave itself away by smirking.

Rob started to chant again. “Talk!” Nancy yelled, furious at this little creature for harming the children she cared for. Her eyes flashed inky black for a moment and the doll recoiled from that even as it was in pain from the chanting.

“Harbin’s Toys!” The doll yelled out. “43rd and York! Please!”

Rob tapped that into his phone and then nodded at Lydia who tossed the fireball onto the doll and the three of them watched it writhe as the flames consumed it. It melted before the flames got hot enough to actually burn it to cinders. Lydia extinguished the flame with a gesture and they all left the room. Rob sat down at the laptop and searched the address.

“It’s an abandoned toy store,” he said.

“Perfect for finding little murderous bodies to inhabit,” Lydia said.

“We have to stop them,” Nancy said. “Charles must die.”

“I’ll get the car,” Rob said.


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