Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Other Witch; A missing minister

Cast; Salvia Hex
If Salvia Hex had to describe herself, and she found that she often did, she would have started off by pointing out the obvious; she was a professional witch.  After that it got a bit more complex; she was a native Gascan, but travelled a lot.  Her favorite colors were black and purple, which was good because those were traditional witch colors and she'd have had to wear them anyways.  Her role model was whoever she thought the person she was talking to's role model was, but her personal hero's were Petra Demonsbane and her fourth year combat magic instructor Miss Newtsey.  She felt like that said a lot about her; they were both strong women and capable fighters.  And her least favorite thing about her job was the paperwork, such as the reports she'd stowed in subspace while she took the shuttle down to the surface. 
Not that she was poor, it paid well enough.  But a private ship just screamed 'I think I'm too important for civilian space travel', and she really didn't want to give that impression to the people who had requested her help.  Local covens hated it when freelancers like herself put on airs.  And she had to agree with them; it was bad enough asking people for help without then having them look down their noses at you.  The fact that she'd failed her piloting test every year for the past twenty years had nothing to do with it. 

She was quite surprised to find that she recognized most of the welcoming party.  With a few younger exceptions, It seemed that all of her old Sisters had turned out to greet her with a large, obnoxiously sparkly sign that read 'Welcome Home Salvia Hex!!!!'  Salvia felt as though the second and all succeeding exclamations were superfluous, but that was probably Lizzy's idea. 
"There she is!  Salvia!  Salvia, over here!"  A witch a few years older than herself began jumping up and down behind the sign while waving as though her life depended upon it.  Elizabeth Jones, the perkiest witch on all Gasca.  If you didn't know it from the way she acted, you'd easily guess it on seeing her almost neon colored shirts and mismatched rainbow colored socks.  The fact that she was the only witch who embroidered little pink hearts onto all of the black lace in her cottage came as no surprise to anyone who'd met her and any self-respecting witch.  And somehow none of that detracted from the fact that she was the most skilled witch in the coven and could hold her own in a fight, a karaoke competition, or a drinking contest; all of which Salvia could attest to from personal experience, although she preferred not to think of the karaoke competition. 
The other sisters were less familiar.  She could see Mother Newcombe, the elderly witch who had been in charge before Lizzy had been placed in charge, talking to the lady at the ticket counter.  And the twins were over there, flirting with some poor military officer, navy from the looks of him.  The rest were all sort of piled behind the banner with Lizzy; Jess, Candi, and Callen were there.  Gindra was missing.  She was probably in the hospital; injured child or injured self would be equally good guesses. 

"Hi Lizzy.  I must say, I really wasn't expecting to see you all.  Did you hear I was coming and turned out to just to visit?"  Salvia set her bag in front of the highly distracting array of exclamations.  It wasn't a large bag, a witch's bag didn't have to be. 
"Well, we're actually the one's who sent for you.  I mean, we could have just sent Callen or Jess, but I couldn't bear the thought of you coming all the way out here to take care of something like this for us and then not even get to see most of us.  So I just had to round everyone up to come visit."
"Where's Gindra?"
Lizzy's smile faded.  Slowly, a real testament to her inner joy that she managed to hold it as long as she had before letting it go.  "She's dead.  That's part of why we called.  You see, Gindra was investigating a local monastery when imperial guards attacked.  They burned it to the ground about a month ago.  We don't know much about it, but we know it started when she was looking into the disappearance of.."
"Of who Lizzy?  I need to know where to start."
"Father Krell.  You see, about a week before Gindra died he went missing.  She went to the monastery following a lead she'd gotten from the post office, something about a letter he'd sent.  There's a company of soldiers stationed by the ruins and we thought..with your clearance."
"..That maybe I could find some answers."  Normally this would have been rather standard work; investigating odd and likely private abuse of the military against civilians.  There would probably be a squad thirteen guard along the trail somewhere tracking down the same crooks.  But they'd killed Gindra, and that made it personal.  And worse still, Father Krell was involved. 
She'd known him since she was little.  He was the one who'd introduced her to Mother Newcombe, paid her way into the academy.  He was sort of an odd, sad sort of man, but rarely unkind and always good.  The coven had tried to find out who he'd been before he'd entered the order but someone had covered his track well, the administrators insisted that a witch had done it.  So she'd simply satisfied her curiosity with the hope of one day being able to stumble across his path again and get her answers.  And maybe..repay him for everything he'd done for her. 
And it looked like this was just the chance she'd been waiting for. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Short Story; One of the Bad Guys; Redux

"Oh get stuffed you thin-whiskered little twit; there ain't a chance in fat heck that Petra, the legendary demon hunter, would ever end up with a demon, no matter how repentant he was."
"I swear, it's true.  Heard it from one of them Yellsdana out on Cantrell."
"A Yellsdana?  Next you'll tell me that Empress Thalia, the destroyer, isn't dead, but rather has been left without memory or any recognizable feature."

Typical tavern trash; thought the elegantly dressed maid.  Washed up adventurers, and the wantabe young twerps who hoped to learn from them; not a single one amongst them able to do battle with any real enemy.  Of course, the villains on the other side of the room had neither the gall nor the grace to deserve even the pathetic efforts of this gutless band of refuse. 
She felt a twinge in some deep part of her being as she thought of how much better things had been under the Pax Gravaga.  In the days of the necromancer, when even the powers that be wouldn't have dared send their militaries to dispatch of a local tyrant without first consulting with the High Necromancer herself.  Ah now those were the days when a tavern like this would have been filled with the sort of rip-roaring tales that rattled bones and lifted spirits both liquid and metaphysical.  Real tales, tales by the sort of adventurer who knew the value of a decent healer, some eye shadow, and a little bug spray. 
"Hey,you spilled my drink!"
"OH! My mistake, I'm very sorry."
"And all over my armor.  Do you know how dangerous rusty armor can be?  Someone could drive a spear right through that and kill me.  That spilled drink could kill me!"
"I'm sure it can be replaced; how much would you like for it?"
"I'm going to want a little more than money to pay for you risking my life."  He grabbed her by the arm.  She barely noticed the change, but something in her seemed to react instantly. 
"Very well, if that's what you require please step into the alley.  I will follow."
"No, you'll go first.  How stupid do you think I am?"
"Very; however, if word of this reaches my mistress I may lose my job for endangering the life of one of our visitors.  As such, I am obligated to comply,"  She licked her lips for effect.  "Fully."
He grinned cruelly and stood up.  "Alright then, you've got ten minutes."
"I understand."  She watched him leave.  As soon as the door closed she scowled.  Filthy pig would get what he deserved.  She reached into the folds of her dress and plucked a kukri, a wicked looking knife designed by ancient Humans, out of them.  She opened the door into the alley and found the man waiting, fully prepared for the expected act.  As soon as he saw the knife though he snatched his axe from his haphazzardly discarded belongings and proceeded to defend himself with more expertise than she had given him credit for. 

Just as the man began to overpower her, he stumbled and howled in pain.  As he fell to his knees, dropping his axe, she saw a towering man with a crystaline long sword standing behind him. 
"Weakling.  I barely broke the skin.  If you want to be a real adventurer then you're going to have to deal with far worse then a mere nick like that."  She could see his chestnut beard in the dim light that came from the sword, but the rest of his face, and much of his body, was hidden by a dark brown cloak.  "Not that you'll have the chance now, you've gone and angered the Lady.  Son, if I were you, I'd apologize and pray to God she was in a good mood." 
"The (&#$ old man!  Why'd you have to cut my legs?"  She heard his shoulder pop, and then crack, as the man twisted his arm and then applied devestating pressure to the joint.  The man began crying audibly in between groans. 
"Watch your language, or else I'll have to watch it for you."  The man looked up and she could make out his eyes.  There was something in them that smoldered; loss, or maybe just anger.  "Are you ok?"
"Should he live?"
She thought for a second.  Her mistress had, in truth, given her the right to dole out justice as she saw fit within the district.  And as she could think of few more heinous crimes, it seemed only fitting that she dole out an appropriate justice. 
"He should be turned over to the authorities.  The Blood Guard will attend to him."
"Is that what you wish?"
His blade was silent as it did its work.  And no sooner was it done than he had departed.  Liss departed soon thereafter.  After all, a maid's work was to clean up the mess. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Moving on

Cast; Petra,
"What was I thinking?"  Shad pounded the wall in frustration.  Following the previous night's disatrous events he had relocated to what most humans would have reffered to as 'a secure location'.  The Nielda liked to call them bars, but they worked about the same.  He'd reassumed his physical form as soon as he'd managed to contain the nightmares, but the fact was that he wouldn't be able to wear it for long.  He'd have to find a new one, or more likely many new ones. 
"All I had to do was explain what was going on.  But noooo, I had to go and try to sweep her off her feet.  She's not the sort of girl who wants to be swept off her feet.  Too modern for that sort of thing I expect."
"Hey buddy, you gonna buy anything or are you just going to sit there and complain all night?"
The bartender.  He weighed his options.  Back in the day he would have just killed him for talking.  But he didn't really want to for some reason.  Instead he just slid his hand across the counter and left a half dozen large gold coins for the rough man. 
"Don't suppose you have coffee?"
"What the hell is coffee?"
"Nevermind, just get me whatever doesn't normally sell, pour it all in a glass, stir it, and then leave it here for me.  I'll pay you double this for a pitcher."
"Whatever you say mister big spender."
He watched the man walk off, and then decided not to wait for the concoction.  He stepped outside and walked up the street.  He had responsibilities to attend to still after all.  But he couldn't see how he could keep doing it any more.  She'd be there to stop him still, and maybe...just maybe, he could proove to her that he'd changed. 


Her Mother's house was a wreck.  All of the enchantments seemed to have lifted now, although she couldn't imagine why. She managed to navigate the house rather easily now, and made it back to the foyer by walking down a long hall of guest bedrooms and then cutting through the parlor.  The demon had dissapeared, as the corpses of demons tended to when left unattended.  But in place of her mother's body there was a monster.  It had a maw with thousands of teeth, and the blood drying about it was blue.  Then she remembered the story Shad had read her.  All this time she'd been living with a monster, and it seemed that there had been a demon with it.  How had she been fooled like this?  After all, there was no expert on demons superior to herself save her mother. 
And then, as if a faucet had been opened, all her memories returned.  The Shade Invasion in all its horror; the panic and uncertainty as it began, Death Herself leading the Imperial armies in battle, and then at last she remembered the last reports from embattled Anatolia and the death of Death.  And then she wept. 

Petra came in the next day for work and found the hall monitors still inquiring about the murder.  She explained to them that the situation had been taken care of, and influenced them to simply accept it and move on.  Class was uneventful, although one student, the one with the odd hair, did ask if she was feeling ok.  Her name was Tala apparently, and Petra tried to explain as politely as possible that it was none of her business.  She failed miserably.  Following that, she went to the room her Mother had always taken her to when she'd been doing poorly. 
"Welcome to the Arcane Academy Library.  Can I help you get anything?"
"Sod off or I'll.."
"No need to say it twice miss.  The dark, broody section is on the third level, in the far corner."
"And what makes you think I'm looking for the dark, broody section?"
"Well, you bein all dark 'n broody."
"Do I look like a poet to you?"
"Perhaps if you didn't have that braid..."
Petra sighed and leaned over the counter.  She rested her chin in her hands and looked the Human female, age fifty-eight, weight one hundred and fifty-four pounds, height five foot nine, in the eye as best she could without scaring her to death and said.  "Just give me the keys to the psychology section, I need to research something." 
"There you go miss, was that so hard?"  Petra resisted the urge to employ a death glare and silently waited for the librarian to return with the keys.  "And here are the keys.  If you need anything else just give us a holler, 'kay?"
Petra walked off without another word.  She was really in no mood for peppy librarians today.  Her mother had been dead for centuries withut her remembering, the man she'd fallen in love with had turned out to be her archenemy, and on top of it all the maid was missing.  Her only hope of getting her life back on any sort of track was the chance that her mother had left her some kind of explanation, or help, or at the very least, a will. 
She found the side room with the psychology books.  It was designed to look like an old study, with books all around and comfortable chairs beside ornate tables with ancient oil lamps.  It was a room her mother had built when she'd converted the old arena into a library.  In fact, it was her mother's favorite room in the entire school.  That's why she had come; her mother had always seemed to hint that she'd hidden something important here. 

Petra looked around.  She'd combed the room for years after her mother had shown it to her and never found a single secret place in it.  And as she looked around, and muttered a few potent spells of detection, she found that nothing had changed. 
~Guttentag Fraulein~
"A German cat, that's new."
~Cat? I assure you, I am no mere cat.  I am a prominent member of the scientific community.~
Petra scooped the cat out from under her chair and set him in her lap.  He looked sort of old; but in a very human way.  A white beard pattern stretched from ear to ear, and black spectacles were around his eyes.  His face was a tan-ish color, and the tip of his tale was brown like polished leather, but the rest was a sort of dull gray. 
"Alright then Professor..."
~Doctor, I am a Doctor.~
"Fine, Doctor Puss, is there a secret hidden in this room?"
~The mind holds many secrets.  And of course books hold much knowledge as well.~
"I mean more like a secret passage, or a hidden nook."
~No, I've spent hundreds of years in this room and I can find only the one door.  I've moved every book and slept by every crack in every wall.  This room has no secrets save those I hold and those you bring.~
"Then maybe we could trade.  Do you know a woman who called herself Zink?"
~Death, that is, in the tongue of the elder Nieldic mages.  Yes I know her.  Did she send you?  She said a woman of two and twenty years would come one day and release me?~
So this was the secret her mother had left her; a crazed immortal cat?
"Apparently.  My mother had led me to believe her will was here."
~And it is.  You are her heir and sole inheritor of all her tangible possessions, master of all her servants, and she has charged you with the defense of the universe against demonic forces.~
"That's..simple enough."
~Nothing is ever that simple.  Her possessions are disordered, her servants scattered, and the universe is under constant threat.  It will take all your strength to set it in line.  And so long as you fight you can never be happy.~
"Still the will?"
~Yes.  She was quite speciffic in that regard.  \I forget the rest though, something about meeting the right man, being with jiggy, and accepting feminine tools in place of your current phallic symbols.~
"Sounds rather Freudian to me."
~So you've heard of me?  Excellent!  Now could we please be off?  I'd rather enjoy a warm saucer of milk.~

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Unfortunate Events

Cast; Petra,
Zink stumbled to the floor; blue blood coursing from her heart.  Petra found herself frozen as Joan's scar's split and leathery wings burst from her back.  She knew the form only too well, but somehow it didn't seem to matter.  All she could think of was the one who'd done this.  Shad was yelling something at the demon; something about getting in the way.  His gleaming sword flowed to meet the demon's every blow and slid in seconds from steel to flesh. 

She was torn.  On the one hand she wanted to help him.  He was fighting a demon, she fought demons, and he was...well he was Shad.  That alone seemed like a pretty good reason to join, and it would have been more than enough.  However, he had just killed her mother.  And while some little voice in the back of her head insisted there was something fishy about that, there was no denying the evidence. 
Then Zink coughed.  A little azure dribble appeared on the edge of her lips. 
"Mom!" Petra dropped to her knees beside her mother. 
"Yes Mom?"
"Avenge me."  And she collapsed backwards.  Petra stood up and drew her sword. 

The demon was on its knees, bleeding from many wounds.  It's wings had been cut to stumps and lay feebly stirring upon the floor.  It was completely helpless before Shad, who stood before it untouched by either the demon or its gore.  She managed to force herself to step forward, and then another.  She didn't want to kill him, yet she did.  More than anything she wanted to avenge her mother, but if only it could be someone else.  Shad struck the demon's head from its shoulder just before she managed to bring her blade to bear. 
"Well, that's over.." Shad turned and saw Petra's sword.  "Crud.  Petra, I can explain."
"You just killed my Mother."
"Actually, that wasn't.."  He didn't have a chance to finish.  He only barely managed to get his sword up to block hers.  She was throwing every ounce of her strength at him.  But as soon as he regained his footing the tables turned.  She was all rage, and his skill was more than enough to withstand her onslaught.  And at last after nearly an hour, the fight drew to a close.  Shadilne-thokan, Petra's black sword, spun across the polished floor boards of a large ballroom that only appeared when there were eligible men in the house. 
"Petra, you have to listen to me."  He shielded himself as she began hurling bolts of alternating light and shadow.  It was a simple enough matter; the two practically diffused each other by mere proximity.  After another five minutes he forged a barrier about her to prevent her from commiting any further violence and binding her in place. 
"Petra, your mother has been dead for hundreds of years.  That thing I killed was a Chori-Sada, like the one in the story.  It bled blue, couldn't you see it?"
"You."  She managed to bash her head against the barrier.  "Murdered."  She did it again.  "My."  A shadowy torrent began to build about her hands.  "MOTHER!"  The barrier burst and Shad staggered back.  He remembered Zink's style well enough to recognize what was happening.  And he drew up his sword as the first thorned appendage sprouted from the growing crack between the dimensions.  As soon as it managed to rip it open enough to let the netherlight through he would be exposed.  It was probably the most annoying thing about the Shadow Plane.  After the beings that dwelt upon it anyways; he'd seen first hand, and at times had even felt, the torturous horrors inflicted upon anyone who tried to stand against the denizens of the Shadow.  As only one, he was no match for the eldritch nightmares.  But it was only a matter of time before he would be revealed anyways. 
"Petra.  Perhaps in time you will understand, and I hope you will forgive me then."  He sighed.  "I love you."
Petra didn't have a chance to process his declaration.  It was much less terrifying than watching Joan had been.  His body never tore, it just sort of faded.  And the form that replaced it was far more magnificent than any demon she had ever faced before, save one. 
"Shadowfolk.  We are Legion.  Return or join Death."
Petra felt space distorting and found both the portals and Sha..Legion being pulled to some other place.  She didn't have time to get her sword or even cast a spell before the entire rapidly approaching battle was whisked away.  And she was left standing alone in her mother's house.