Posts Tagged ‘Urban Fantasy’

The Nighthawk Pt. 3

June 24, 2019

What about this case? Would I be doing the right thing by figuring out what was going on here? Would I be protecting the people of this city? I thought of the people in that folder. They were all drug users but that did not really make them innocent or guilty. Their criminal records might show that they had dark spirits and stained souls but I believed that nobody deserved to die before their time. Especially if something that bumps in the night was somehow causing all of this. I guess I was taking the case.

I realized that I had not asked Mr. Black for contact information. I did not know what to do even if I found the evidence the Council was looking for. I also did not know how the Council would deal with the guilty. Did creepy crawlies get trials or would this Council just bring down the ax as soon as I handed over the evidence that incriminated the perp for doing whatever it is they did? I found the thought made me feel uneasy. I never worked homicide because I did not believe in the death penalty.

I had killed less than a handful of criminals but that was in the heat of the moment and in all cases it had been a clear case of self-defense. Them or me. Still, I felt bad about the thought of ending the life of another person. I needed a better working relationship with my clients if I was going to finish this job.

I hit the library early to figure out how to summon a djinn. Mr. Black owed me more answers and besides, I had to inform the Council that I was going to take the case. It was difficult to tell from the internet what the correct path was. How was I supposed to separate the nuts from the scholars when they both looked the same to me? None of it was helping so I did the only thing I could think of. I headed to the dustiest area of the library to look in the occult section.

It had been a long time since I visited the library. When I was a police detective, I could put in an order for someone to look this up for me. Well, not this but just about any book research I needed. I guess I underestimated what I had put the people in archives through. Now that I was working alone, I had to wear all of the hats. I started to look through the stacks to find something I could use to contact Mr. Black or this Council.

After twenty minutes of thumbing through old books, I realized that I was still getting nowhere. Mr. Black had said that most people who pierce the veil go crazy or everybody thinks their crazy. How was I supposed to tell the difference just by reading their rambling theories and magic spells? Even if I could make sure that the ramblings were actual, legit magic. I was beginning to doubt my own story. Had I even met Mr. Black? Could I remember how much whiskey I had drunk?

That line of thinking was getting me nowhere. Besides, I know it was just a half tumbler of whiskey and Mr. Black’s horrible non-face was burned into my brain forever. There was no way I imagined all of it. I turned toward a new shelf full of books with renewed determination. Though at that point I wished I had an expert to count on.

After another hour, I was about to go get something to eat so I could clear my head. I turned to go when I almost ran into a woman walking down the aisle. Her skin was as pale as a piece of paper and she wore dark black make up. Her hair was jet black except for some dark blue highlights. She was pretty but the goth look was not really my thing. I gave her a quick ‘excuse me’ and started past her.

“John Redcross?” She asked, leaning a little against one of the bookcases. When I turned, I could see the wry little smirk on her black lips. She was watching me waiting for an answer but I had a feeling she already knew who I was.

“Yeah. I’m John Redcross. Don’t tell me, I ruined your sister’s marriage with my camera?”

“I don’t think so but it’s nice to know you have that skill.” Her smirk said that she was definitely willing to let me twist in the wind.

“You must see my confusion, miss,” I said. “You know my name and I can’t recall yours. I would think I would remember your face. No offense.”

“No offense is taken. I know what I look like. I’m a beautiful, unique snowflake.” That smirk intensified as her eyes seemed to look right through me.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“That depends on who you ask,” she said.

I laughed as loud as I dared in the middle of a library and shook my head. “I’m asking you. Did the Council send you?”

“Of course they did. How else would I know who you are and where to find you?” She said.

“Yeah, I guess that’s probably true.” I was starting to get a headache from figuring out who I should trust and who I shouldn’t.

“Find anything useful here?” she asked.

“Hold up, let’s go back to the part where you introduce yourself,” I said.

“You can call me Corva,” she said.

“I can call you..?” I asked. “I can never get a straight answer out of you people. Even when the question is just about your name.”

“Sorry, maybe you’re not the only one who is wondering how much to trust,” Corva said.

“Forgive me if my language sounds insulting but can you at least tell me what you are? You look human to me even if your fashion sense is interesting.” Now that I had recovered from the shock, I noticed now that she was wearing a little black dress with a black leather jacket. She was wearing knee high black boots that looked like they were real leather as well.

The Nighthawk Pt. 2

June 8, 2019

“Don’t run. I mean ya no harm.” The voice said from no visible mouth whatsoever.

My response was a stunned silence with a renewed hawk-like watching of the puddle. I also might have definitely let loose a string of unrepeatable swear words. Alright, I definitely said the swear words. Meanwhile, the puddle was doing an awful lot of moving which looked disturbingly like it was animated by Ray Harryhausen. This is not the sort of thing that you expect to see on your office floor. The liquid coalesced into a blackened mess which might be interpreted as muscles and a skeleton. No skin seemed to be forthcoming but thankfully the thing slowly started to form clothes.

Imagine a blackened skeleton in a gray fuzzy sweater and brown corduroy pants. Now imagine that this delightful figure was four feet tall and was somehow both terrifying and adorable. That was what the creature who had just reverse-melted off my floor looked like. I had so many questions but my brain had put on the brakes at this point and I was already reaching for that old family revolver tucked into a holster by the small of my back.

“Lay off the gun, kid. I promise I won’t hurt ya.” The little black skeleton said.

“Did you just use a Brooklyn accent?”

“Good,” the Skeleton said. “You’re lookin’ at me without pissin’ yourself. I did live in Brooklyn for a long time. Actually since before you monkeys showed up. It was way different back then but that’s beside the point.”

I stayed leaning against the wall, hand near my gun. I never did trust easily. “What is the point, creepy skeleton man?”

“This is creepy?” The skeleton asked. “Your species is so close-minded.”

“You keep floating away from making an actual point. Why are you haunting my office?” I was getting annoyed quickly. At least annoyed was better than scared. I headed back toward my desk, making a wide berth around the skeleton. At least I could use the desk as cover if this thing went from David Lynch to David Cronenberg.

“Alright, alright,” the skeleton said. “I guess being timeless makes you less inclined to rush things. I guess your impatience is more or less a biological imperative. I don’t have really have a biology so I’m not really sure.” The thing’s eye holes tracked my movements. Every single moment.

“What are you?” I asked. It was probably rude and blunt but I was rattled. Sue me.

“I guess I’m a messenger of sorts in this situation. Of course, maybe you’re actually asking what sort of creature I am. I am a djinn.”

“I’ll bite. What’s a djinn?’ I asked, still wondering if I had drunk enough whiskey to black out. If this was real, I was glad for the calming effect of the alcohol.

“A djinn is basically a being of thought and emotion and magic. Very few of us actually hang out here in the real world but reality kind of grew on me so I visit every so often.” The skeleton gestured and a lit cigar formed in his hand and he began to smoke. I did not smell any smoke.

“What’s your name?” I sat down, my legs ached with released tension.

“Unpronounceable. People call me Mr. Black. That works well enough.”

“My name is John Redcross but you probably saw the name on the door. You said ‘people’. What people would talk to something like you?”

“I’ll forgive the bigotry you’ve got going on there,” Mr. Black said. “The people I talk to are mostly the Council and that brings me to why I’m here. Like I said, I brought you a message.”

“First, who’s this Council? If you have a message from them for me, I’d like to know who they are.” I reached for a pencil and a piece of paper if only to look professional if this was going to be some sort form of business meeting all of a sudden.

“Makes sense. The Council is the ruling party of the so-called supernatural world. A world, we’re aware you briefly experienced just about a year ago.”

My heart tightened in my chest and my gaze went to Harmony’s badge where it was framed on my wall. “So it was real.”

Mr. Black nodded. “Yeah, they’re real. The Nagloshi are some vicious sons of bitches. Whatever they did to her could not have been any good. That’s not why I’m here.” He gestured with the cigar a bit while he talked. The talking skeleton bit was starting to get less unnerving. I am not sure whether this acceptance was something positive or negative. Regardless, my enemy had a name now which made them chillingly more real but also more within the reach of my revenge.

Mr. Black spoke up again, filling the silence. “Earth to Detective Redcross, do you want to hear the message or not?”

“A creepy little skeleton muscles his way into my office with a message from some clandestine council of supernatural beings?” I asked. “Of course I want to hear the message.”

Mr. Black put out the cigar he had been smoking on the top of his shiny black skull and shrugged. “Alright then. The Council is aware that you have discovered a piece of our world. It’s what we call ‘piercing the veil’. Most people who pierce the veil either go crazy or the world thinks their crazy and things spiral from there. It’s only when a large number of people discover the truth at the same time that we have to worry.”

“So if they’re not worried about me then why send you to creep me out?” I asked.

“Again with the impatience and bigotry. They sent me here to hire you. There have been several deaths in the Woodland Heights area and we think a rogue faction is responsible.”

“Don’t you have your own cops?” I asked.

“We do but the case involves both mortal drugs and the supernatural,” Mr. Black said. “They feel that since you have pierced the veil and have experience with human crime, you might be better equipped to handle this. Also, if you’re not gonna go nuts, you might as well prove useful.”

“I still don’t understand anything about this. Frankly, I don’t know if I want to help a community that killed my partner and lost me my career.”

“Don’t go lumping the rest of us in with that one Nagloshi,” Mr. Black said holding his hands up in the universal sign of ‘we come in peace’. “We’re not all psycho predators. Just like any community, we have our good guys and bad guys. We’re offering you the chance to step inside our ranks and be a good guy. You don’t have to like us to do the job. In fact, you’ll probably be more objective if you remain skeptical.”

“Your council is afraid that if too many people die, you will be risking exposure,” I guessed.

“Obviously,” Mr. Black said. “I guess those are the kind of smarts that they’re banking on.” Even with no skin on his face, I could feel the sarcasm radiating off Mr. Black.

“If I do this, will I get information on these Nagloshi?” I asked.

“Officially, I should warn you that revenge is not the diplomatic sort of idea that will keep you alive in our world. Unofficially, you might discover a few things about the nasty buggers. I honestly don’t know where this case goes, I’m not psychic.”

“Where do I start? Usually, there’s a crime scene or a case file for me to look at. “

“Hold onta your hat, detective. I got what ya need right here. There’re no active crime scenes right now but I picked up this from the local station house.” He pulled a file folder out of thin air and held it out. I came around the desk and tentatively took it from his bony fingers and retreated back behind the desk.

The Nighthawk

June 1, 2019

(This was originally written in 2013 as part of NaNoWriMo.  I thought it was time to do something with it)

If this were a noir detective story then muted trumpets would be playing as I sipped whiskey with my feet on the desk.  There would be a haze of smoke in the room regardless of whether I am smoking or not. A leggy blonde or redhead would be cued up to enter in the next few minutes with some sob story.  For the record, this is not a noir detective movie. The room is in color and I quit smoking two years ago.  But the whiskey was spot on but only half a tumbler because I was just about to walk home for the day and the office was officially closed.

The private detective business had turned out to not be as glamorous as Humphrey Bogart advertised it.  Who knew that Hollywood did not, in fact, portray truth? I was stuck in this tiny basement office because I had been fired from my job as an actual detective for the police.  I worked narcotics with my partner, Harmony Hall, for years and we made a lot of busts and we received a lot of kudos from the big wigs.  I really believed that Harmony had been on track for a promotion.  She was going to get stuck with a desk job even though she always hated the idea.  At least, that’s what she said.

The good times ended when Harmony was killed during a stakeout gone horribly wrong.  Something came out of the shadows and tore Harmony and the crooks we had been tailing into shredded meat.  I call it a thing because I still do not know what it was.  I still cannot adequately explain my partner’s death.  I know that it was not human or anything that I had ever seen before.  I also know that the brass at the police station did not believe me when we got debriefed. What I do know is that they fired me or “let me go” for psychological reasons.  I feel that the only reason that I was not committed was that I eventually shut my mouth and agreed to walk away.

Harmony didn’t deserve to die and then get that horrible death swept under the carpet but I still didn’t know what to do about it. I don’t know if there is anything that anybody could have done about it.  I see that thing in my dreams.  It was all teeth, claws and sinewy shapes that made little sense. It stuck to the shadows and easily avoided shots from my service revolver. I had no experience hunting animals, especially ones intelligent and brutal enough to slaughter six drug dealers and one police officer and then slip away into the night without a trace.  How was there no forensics at the scene?

So now I was trying to make ends meet mostly by taking pictures of people cheating on their spouses.  It was the kind of thing that made me feel completely filthy but the landlady did not take reassuring smiles and good intentions as payment on the rent.  Some people are total hard asses when it comes to money. I was not prepared for the hustling up of clients or chasing them down and hassling them to pay me.  This job had quickly turned into a horrible headache but I had burned a lot of bridges by telling the truth.

But I still looked for that truth when I could.  In what little spare time I had, I scoured the news and the word on the street for anything weird.  I turned over whatever rocks I could find and poked my nose where I probably shouldn’t have.  I found some strange things that I could not really explain and honestly made me feel crazier.  I read through strange books on the weirdest subjects in search of something to explain.  A city is a strange place even without the supernatural elements that I thought that I had experienced.

The whiskey felt good going down in that sweet, sadistically masochistic sort of way.  Alcohol was dangerously seductive and there was a bad history in certain corners of my family.  Still, after a long week, it was much-needed anesthesia and that was good enough for the moment.  I was too restless.  I had spent too many days sitting in my car and watching motel rooms.  I felt like I wanted to do something but absolutely nobody had walked into my office today. Restlessness could become dangerous if I left it unchecked so I was just about to get up and go for a walk.

Of Course, that’s when the door to my office opened.  I had thought that I had locked that door and so I was about to look up and tell whoever that the office was closed.  To come back on Monday or never. Though, I did need something to do so maybe I wouldn’t send them away.  Then when I looked up they must have already left. If possible, I was both disappointed and relieved. They had left the door hanging open so I got up and closed it. I reached for my coat to just leave when some sort of smoke came in from under the door.  

At first, I thought it was a fire but the smoke was blowing under my door like it came out of a fog machine.  My church youth group had rented one when I was a teenager for a haunted house.  The memory was suddenly vivid. Whatever was going on, my fight or flight response must have been broken because I froze with one hand on my coat. I should have embarrassed that my first responder instincts had disappeared. I think part of the reason was that I could not smell any smoke.  I could not smell the smoke and I could not feel any heat or hear the crackle of flame.

With a strange, wet sound the cloud of smoke just suddenly dropped out of the air and condensed into a puddle on the floor.  As the guy who pays the rent, I started to properly freak out. I pressed myself to the wall and watched the puddle like a hawk with some sort of obsessive complex for watching puddles.  The puddle started to slide (or was it ooze?) across the floor toward my desk. I felt that if I followed it, I would be the guy in a John Carpenter movie who the audience was rolling their eyes at.  Maybe I should just bolt out of here and call the fire department. They wouldn’t believe me anyway. I wouldn’t believe me either.

Just as I was reaching for the door, fully willing to let the living puddle eat my damn coat, I heard a voice.  The voice came from the puddle. Of course, it did. With my luck, it would be a talking puddle.

Reap

February 16, 2019

20180315_081252.jpg

Lopita put the final touches on her graffiti as she sat on the stone of the train platform. He was late, he was always late and Lopita was always bored. As a free-roaming spirit, she had never been bored but she had been drafted to the Reapers. She enjoyed all of the prestige but none of the responsibility but one did not always get to choose their afterlife. Fugitives were punished and she had to serve out her sentence by preventing other fugitives from escaping. Of course, that meant that she was deployed with one of the most annoying senior operatives.

“I thought I told you to stop vandalizing mortal property,” Ren said. “it’s beneath us.” Ren stood there in the sunlight like a shadow. He was tall and thin and impeccably dressed in a suit. Even though it was August, he was wearing a heavy leather duster. The dead did not have to worry about the weather. He also wore a pair of round spectacles that looked like they were a very antique style. He had a very serious look on his face and a Reaper badge on his belt buckle.

“Like they’ll even know what it means,” Lopita said. “If I have to be a Reaper, I have to represent.” Lopita was a completely different picture in style from Ren. She wore a tattered hoodie and jeans with the cuffs completely frayed. She had fashioned two belts across her chest in an x which she used as makeshift holsters for her multitude of daggers. She also wore no shoes. She also had shockingly pink hair.

“How about you focus on the mission instead?” Ren asked. “We have a squad of fugitives down the rails and they aren’t going to catch themselves.”

“Hey,” Lopita said. “I’ve been here for a while now. Maybe if you dressed down I wouldn’t always be waiting for you. It’s awkward just hanging out in places like this.”

“Why?” Ren asked. “They can’t see you. Only the most sensitive among them can even begin to sense you.”

“Still, I guess social anxiety persists after death,” Lopita said.

“Ridiculous,” Ren said. “Let’s move out.” He hopped off the platform and started to follow the rails south. Lopita sighed and stood up and hopped down to follow him.

“I still don’t understand why we have to rain on their parade,” Lopita said. “They’re probably harmless. I was harmless.”

“I told you,” Ren said. “The longer a spirit is unmoored from reality and does not go to their rest, the bigger chance they have of going crazy. Also, they could be recruited by demons.”

“Ooh,” Lopita said. “I have met demons before. They’re totally unsavory. Very rude.”

“And dangerous,” Ren said. “Always be on your guard.”

As if on cue, a screaming blur came out of the trees, lunging for Lopita. Ren grabbed his tie and it magically extended, wrapping itself around what turned out to be a woman. He held her fast as if she was the dog on the end of a leash. The woman’s hands had grown into impossibly long claws and she was foaming at the mouth. Ren locked eyes with Lopita and nodded. Lopita ducked low and came in with two daggers, spinning around her fingers. She plunged the daggers into the woman repeatedly until she faded away to blue sparks.

“Corrupted,” Ren said. “I’m willing to bet they’ve all lost it. This won’t be pretty.”

“Shit,” Lopita said. “I guess I’m happy I didn’t end up like that.”

What seemed to be bullets rained down on their position. Ren gestured toward their source and his coat formed into a shield as he ran for cover. Lopita merely blinked out of existence and reappeared on the branch of a tree, looking for their attacker. The shooter shifted their attention and she had to blink away again as the bullets ravaged the tree she had been standing in. Meanwhile, Ren had pulled his own handgun. He focused and pieces filtered out of his coat and attached themselves to the gun until it was a sniper rifle. He whirled and fired once and there were no more shots fired but only for a moment. A man rushed out of the woods firing bullets from an oversized arm.

Lopita blinked behind him and brought two daggers across his back in an X shape. She grinned as he turned but then she blinked away again. That gave Ren the time to change his gun again into a shotgun. He ran and slid to the man’s feet and fired up into his center mass, ending that fight in another shower of blue sparks. Ren fastidiously wiped the sparks from his clothes as they straightened themselves up. Lopita blinked to his side and they both scanned the treeline.

A towering woman stepped out of the brush and roared like some sort of alien beast. She charged like a rhinoceros and Ren fired again. The bullets ricocheted off of her skin in all sorts of directions and Ren and Lopita barely dodged the charge. The rhino woman circled around for another charge. Lopita ran toward her before Ren could grab her. Lopita baseball slid between the woman’s legs at the last moment and plunged a dagger through each of the woman’s feet, fixing her in place suddenly. Ren’s gun had been shifting again and he pointed it and shot a grenade at the woman nearly point blank. This time, the gun worked and the woman was blown into another batch of blue sparks.

“Is that all of them?” Lopita asked as she retrieved her daggers from the ground.

“I think so,” Ren said. “The home office said there were three signatures. We put down three out of three.”

“You think so?” Lopita asked. “It sounds like we did it. Come on, be happy for once. We were totally awesome.”

“Those souls weren’t supposed to be that old,” Ren said. “They shouldn’t have had power like that.”

“So I’m gonna guess that this just got more complicated,” Lopita said. “I thought this would be an easy day.”

“Nothing’s easy until you get to head to the afterlife,” Ren said. “And I have a hunch that something very wrong has happened around here. Something demonic.”

Lopita sighed. “Peachy.”

American Mages Pt. 1

February 5, 2018

As Abigail ran into the abandoned building, she thought she might have gotten away from the Strange Men. They had been hot on her heels and she knew that if they caught her, she would definitely be shipped off to the High Tower. That was where they put mages they disagreed with and without anything resembling a human trial. Sometimes the tower trip was accompanied by a very inhuman execution. It was either that or timeless imprisonment. Abby was not sure which one was worse. She did not intend to find out. She quickly climbed into an old cabinet and pulled her legs in before she closed the door. There was no way this was going to work.

The Strange Men, two of them, entered the building. Abby could hear the soft rhythm of their breathing devices. She focused on her own breathing, trying to keep it as quiet as possible. It was very difficult as panic started to rise in her chest. She did not have a lot of tricks left with her to get out of this situation and she did not want to waste them in case there were more obstacles. The cabinet was suddenly yanked open. She had totally been in her own head, forgetting to keep track of the Strange Men’s footsteps. She cursed herself as one of the gray-skinned goons grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her out. She tripped on unsteady legs and fell face first on the ground.

When she pushed herself up she could feel a trickle of blood flowing from her forehead and she sighed. She would have to use magick, there was no way around it now. If she made a break for it, the two would use one of their gadgets to make her stop moving, perhaps permanently. She quickly took inventory of what she had in her head and found something fun. It was not perfect but it would work. She deftly pulled a card from her jacket and slapped it against her forehead, soaking it with her own blood. She could feel the magick start to spark and she grinned.

“From dreams to thought and from thought to reality!” She called out and the Strange Men were confused. She threw the card down onto the ground. “Off with their heads!”

The card started to smoke but it was red smoke and out of the smoke rose a lithe, crowned woman wearing a wicked dress with hearts all over it. The woman smiled and an axe formed from the smoke and fell into the Queen of Heart’s hands. She swung at the first startled Strange Man and his head went flying. The other one was barely able to put up a fight before his head bounced on the floor as well. Their brown blood sprayed all over the walls and the floor and the Queen seemed to revel as she too was sprayed with it. Then, just like that, the Queen was gone again.

“Snicker-Snack,” Abby said softly as the card on the floor finished burning away.

It had only been ten years since magick had revealed itself in earnest to the human population of Earth. In doing so, the magick opened people’s eyes to the magical creatures that had existed in the world all along. Even then, it was only a small percentage of the human population who knew about magick. An even smaller percentage was actually able to perform spells. Only bargains with the fae unlocked the first spells, humans had to stumble around after that before eventually learning to create their own. Pockets of so-called mages existed around the world and traded secrets.

The Strange Men had first appeared almost a year earlier and stories were told of them hauling mages away kicking and screaming to a tower that was invisible to normal humans. Mages could see it, though, and it was terrifying both because of its size and the vibrations it gave off. Nobody knew exactly what the Strange Men wanted. Most people figured that they generally disapproved of humans gaining magick and were out to put a stop to it. The Strange Men were theorized to be a twisted offshoot of the fae even though the fae denied it up and down. Abby thought they were their own thing, but either none of her contacts knew or none of them were telling her the truth. It was probably both.

Abby got back on to her feet and dusted herself off. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a little antiseptic cream and rubbed it into the cut on her forehead and winced at the sting. The bleeding stopped and she hoped it would not scar. Not that she was entering any more pageants, she had kind of lost interest when she learned she could do real magick. She used the flow of magick to make things from books she had read come to life and serve her. In mage circles, this made her what was called a ‘summoner’. She called herself a ‘story summoner’ because it had a special ring to it. She had no idea if any other summoners were using her motif. She had not met any but it was a big world.

Thankfully, no more Strange Men accosted her for the rest of her walk. Jamin was standing just inside of the door of the safehouse when Abby got in. She did not see him while she was reapplying the wards which she did by miming tying a blue ribbon across the door. As she turned to move further down the stairs, she saw him and nearly jumped three feet.

“Jam!” She yelled. “You scared me! You can’t just stand there silently.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I was just watching out for you.” Jamin was a ‘transmuter’ and he did a lot of changing the form and composition of objects by touch. He was carrying a large, solid rod of metal on his back but Abby knew that it could change into any weapon. She also knew that he used his abilities to sense movement in the same way that a spider can feel the slightest movement in its web.

“Thank you,” Abby said. “I can take care of myself.”

“You sure can,” he agreed. “However, there is a new mark on your forehead.”

“Well, there were two Strange Men on the way here but the Queen took care of it,” Abby said with a shrug.

“Strange Men, huh?” He asked. “That’s the first sighting in a while now. I’m glad you got away but the Queen is pretty messy and kind of scary.”

“Yeah,” Abby agreed. “She’s not ideal but she is effective. Now, who summoned the summoner?”

Shield of the Ishim Pt. 2

July 6, 2015

Ishim Shield

“Do you hear that skittering sound again?” Maya asked, tugging lightly on the goggles resting on her brown leather mask. She still kept close to China so she wasn’t crushed by the gravity spell surrounding them. It had been an hour since they had started searching for a nasty intruder at the old Belvedere Hotel but there was nothing but skittering noises so far. This was not the usual hunt an Ishim faced these days. Normally the supernatural creatures leapt out and attacked pretty quickly so it was strange to have to try and follow their prey through the hotel like they had so far.

“The ballroom this time.” China whispered from behind that perfect porcelain mask. “At least there’s open ground there. Less chance of it getting away this time. Let’s go.”

China turned with a flip of her long gray hair and walked confidently but carefully toward the ballroom which forced Maya to stick close once again. They were surrounded by a chorus of creaking floor boards which was completely unnerving. Maya looked to her right and watched a spindly dining room chair get crushed under the weight of the spell. She felt confident that the gravity spell China was conjuring would protect them from physical attack by slowing or smooshing their attacker. At least, that was the theory.

If the spell covered physical threats, Maya carried various totems and charms that protected her from magical attacks. She had no idea what the great China Gray was relying on but the woman seemed confident so it was hard to be too concerned for her. Maya was still having a hard time figuring out China’s age with all of the contradictory evidence. Gray possesed confidence and wisdom like an elder and she was taller. However, she also lacked patience and moved far too easily for an elder. After all, most elders were too heavily injured to move like they used to.

They rounded the corner and pulled open the big double doors under the plaque that said this was the ballroom. They pushed open a second set of double doors just a few feet inside. The ballroom must have been really spectacular in its day. There was plenty of intricately carved woodwork still on the walls and empty bronze rods where drapes must have hung. A lot of the tarnished brass light fixtures were still there but a lot of them were dangling off the walls by thick wires.

Maya swung her torch around and focused the beam of light with a force of will. There were a few ruined chairs that were quickly flattened around them along with some partially collapsed tables. She thought she saw something twinkle on the floor so she focused the light there next to investigate. She gasped and clutched her torch tighter and she could almost feel China tense up next to her even though the other woman was silent.

There on the floor, draped over a shattered chandelier, there was a dragon the size of a Clydesdale. It was dead and there could be no doubt. There was a cut the length of Maya’s forearm in its neck and two clean puncture wounds in its torso. It had definitely breathed its last breath ass it was statue still with one wine-colored eye open and unfocused. pointing vaguely torward the ceiling.

“Did somebody complete the job for us?” Maya asked, the thought of an elder not taking them seriously brought on a hot flush of anger that she knew turned her skin reddish pink. Thankfully, her face was covered by the mask.

“It looks that way, doesn’t it?” China responded bitterly. Her voice was filled with annoyance once again but this time Maya felt she wasn’t the cause. For once, she felt more kinship with this stiff, by-the-book woman. She also guessed that she was not an elder because this absolutely did not happen to elders.

Suddenly, a blood red symbol flared to life on the wall where somebody had carved it through the wallpaper and into the wood beyond. Maya didn’t recognize the symbol but while they were staring, blood red words ignited above it.

‘The Ishim Will Die’ They said.

Maya and China looked at each other. “What does that-” Maya started but did not finish her sentence. Dozens of brown, shiny beetles the size of small puppies exploded from every vent in the room. They surrounded by nasty little insects that let out horrible shrieking noises like crickets from Hell. Maya raised her torch and once again she was interrupted as China already had something in mind.

It was one of those series of moments that slows down so that you can see every detail. The beetles leapt at them as one, brandishing pincers as sharp as daggers. China yelled out what sounded like “Unleash!” and a bright flash of light spread from the epicenter of the gravity spell they were standing in. In an instant Maya felt forces push her and China up off the ground. Around them it was if a giant mallet slammed down into the floor, wooden floor planks and beetles and everything went flying. Then China went limp and Maya reached out for her as they started to tumble into the darkness of the basement.

Shield of the Ishim

May 30, 2015

Ishim Shield

Maya pulled up to the Belvedere Hotel and put her station wagon into park. The instructions had said to don masks before entering and Maya always followed the rules. Well, maybe it was only that she sometimes followed the rules. She sighed and pulled the rough leather hood over her head and shoved her inky black hair down the back of her jacket. She adjusted the mask until the eye holes were in their proper places and jammed her shoulder into the car door so that it opened with a scraping noise. She always meant to get that fixed but there was always something more important to do. Instead, she had grown to love the sound.

She started to prepare her bag of tricks. She kept all of her spell components in a leather messenger bag which made for easy access at the drop of a hat. Life was certainly interesting as an Ishim. Ishim was just a name, taken from Judaism to refer to an order of people dedicated to defending humanity with magic. The order itself was scattered and its members and initiates came from all sorts of different backgrounds. There were rumors that some members were not even human. Now that their order had been granted rights to practice by the federal government, there were also rumors of regulations and organization. The old guard would never accept that.

Maya strode confidently toward the entrance of the abandoned hotel. It had recently been revealed to the public that supernatural creatures are real and that the Ishim used magic to combat them. The public was slowly becoming aware of what that meant about the past, present and future. Paranormal rights activists were starting to crawl out of the woodwork but most of the public seemed to support the Ishim. However, most of them did not want to socialize with a witch so that was one of the reasons for the masks. The door was unlocked so her contact must have already arrived.

“Hello?” She called out, the sound muffled slightly by the leather covering her mouth.

“Enter and stay silent. We’re not sure what we’re dealing with yet.” It was a distinctly female whisper.

Maya closed the door behind her and walked toward the cloaked figure in the middle of the room. The woman wore what looked like a dark gray power suit from the nineties under an old gray cloak. Her face was completely covered by a porcelain mask. Even through the mask, Maya could feel the woman staring daggers at her but shrugged it off and walked forward as naturally as possible.

“Greetings, my name is — ” Maya started to say.

“Are you new or something?” The woman hissed. “We use code names only.”

“I know. I was just about to give mine.” Maya responded with a frown, trying her best to keep her voice soft. There was no set rules that the Ishim followed but there were suggested guidelines that kept them safe and made their job and lives easier. One of those guidelines was to keep their identity a secret when close to a supernatural threats. More powerful creatures who knew your true name or had seen your true face could magically use that against you. Most of the nastier bits of magic required such intimate knowledge.

“They call me China Gray.” The woman said, looking around the large entrance hall.

“They call me Rabbit.” Maya responded patiently. She gripped her bag tighter. These creepy abandoned building situations were never fun.

“What the hell are you wearing?” China asked. She was turning out to be kind of critical and Maya didn’t like it.

“My gear. I went with a steam punk kind of thing. Can we get started?”

“So disrespectful but I suppose you’re right.” How old was this woman? She sort of talked like an elder but definitely didn’t move like one so she couldn’t be that old. “We’re going into this situation blind, I’m afraid. We’ll have to be extra cautious and be prepared for anything.” She showed some bangles she wore on her wrists, one was silver and the other was copper. “I have lightning and ice covered. Yourself?”

“Wow, ok.” Maya said, stalling for a moment. The abrupt way China spoke to her threw her off her game a little bit. She pulled what looked like a small hand broom out of her bag. “I’ve got fire and light covered. I have a ton of holy water too.” She waved her hand over the blackened bristles of the sawed off broom and the end of it caught fire but the bristles did not burn up. She smiled a little at how well she had mastered that trick.

“I think that will work. Now, stay close to me.”

“I’ve done this before.” Maya responded with a frown. She was six months into being an official member of the order not an initiate at her mentor’s knee still.

“Noted. I meant that I’ll be casting an area of high gravity around us that I don’t want you to be caught in it. The spell cuts down on creatures who cling to ceilings. I don’t like it when I’m surrounded.”

“Wow, I’ve never seen that before. Go for it.” Maya said with a smile. She loved learning new spells even if this one sounded difficult and very capable of mass destruction. This is probably why Horse never taught that spell to her.

China nodded slowly, took a deep breath through her mask and then a wide area around them suddenly became a sea of creaking floorboards. Maya shuddered slightly and moved closer to China. She couldn’t even tell where the gravity began or ended. She was at the mercy of China Gray. The two of them started to walk into the hotel to see what they were up against.


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