Belle Starr stood outside a run down old white house built sometime in the 1960s. She was under a tiny overhang of the roof that, during rainstorms, would shelter the front door. She knew it was sometime after noon, but as she carried no watch or cell phone herself she couldn’t be precisely sure. She was waiting for one more.
A few minutes ago, what she half-jokingly referred to as a “Tornado Warning,” went through the relay system. Ghouls, nasty fanged, clawed, and savage creatures of the Nevernever, had attacked members of the Dallas supernatural community. Pia Degaldo, a member of The Confederacy who lived in the area, had witnessed it. Like many Minor Talents here in the Metroplex, she had some Ritual ability that she had picked up from who knows where. Also like many Latinos of once Catholic persuasion… she half wondered if the source of her power was divine or demonic… and had a lot of guilt about it. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Dona Esmeralda also lived in the area affected by the ghoul attack and this was her house and place of business. Well technically, this was her place of business. Her “house” was actually the next building behind this one. She had paid a lot of good money to have an old “mother-in-law” mini-house torn down and built into a more modern suburban and comfortable home back in the 90s. Her original house remained her place of business as it had all the neon signs and lawn decorations that proclaimed “Fortunes told,” “palms read,” and the like. The signs were in both English and Spanish. The Dona had offered her business as a “storm shelter” and Pia had fled here and was inside already. She was waiting for Lucinda Esparza, a girl who had some minor Psychic abilities that ensured her continued success as a stripper. Belle had long suspected, but had never yet been able to confirm that Lucy had White Court lineage in her blood somewhere.
Lucy’s car, a pretty nice red Hyundai sports car… one of the new ones that Belle couldn’t remember the name… pulled into the Dona’s parking lot and went around back. She came running back up a moment later, wearing red platform sandals with heels, a red tube top that provided absolutely no support for her anatomy whatsoever, and a pair of cutoff denim shorts at least one size too small. She ran into the house with a whispered “Sorry Belle!” and closed the door.
Belle turned and drew a rune on the front door with chalk and closed her eyes. She had already performed the bulk of the ritual necessary and was just waiting for the final stray local lamb to come into the fold. She chanted a short prayer to her Goddess Freya before pulling a simple blade from its sheath in the small of her back. With a quick motion, red droplets spilled from her thumb as she empowered the Ritual with the most basic of the primal forces; blood. She couldn’t cast spells willy nilly like members of the White Council, but this building had once been a home and was now being used to protect those girls… Belle knew that Freya would empower her spell. She felt the Ward pop into place. Between the Dona’s presence (and not inconsiderable Ectomantic power – meaning ghosts) and her own magic, for the next couple hours nothing supernatural was going to touch those girls.
She then wrapped her thumb in a bandage quickly as she walked towards her own vehicle, parked on the street. The Catmobile – her red 1984 Chevy Silverado pickup (with its big broad white horizontal stripe down the sides) had never let her down. It was old enough that it didn’t have so many fancy electronic gadgets to fail. Sure it didn’t have a radio anymore, the power locks stopped working years back, and the cruise control was iffy… but at least the air conditioner still mostly worked and that was a huge plus in a place like Texas.
She hopped in, started it up, and headed for the area where the “tornado” had touched down; a hispanic owned car dealership over on Ross Avenue that specialized in cash transactions. It had been longer than 12 minutes since the events in question, the cops would be all over the place by now. Hopefully her friends had been able to get other things accomplished while she tended to the storm shelter itself.
She parked her truck in the parking lot of Emanuel Lutheran Church (her beloved grandfather was an Elder down in Fredericksberg, old habits die hard). She turned off the engine, reached over to open the passenger side door, and waited. She reached under her seat and replaced the bandage she had used from her pocket with one from the vehicle’s first aid kit.
As she was shoving the kit back into its normal place, a giant black raven flew in the door and landed on the old worn out bench seat. With the blink of an eye, it was replaced by a skinny naked white guy with gorgeous flowing black hair. He looked like he could have made a fortune as an 80s big hair rocker. Belle reached under her to pull up the “horse blanket” that she had used to “reupholster” the seat and shoved it in the direction of the naked guy. He nodded, tugged on it some more to free it, and drapped it over himself. He then reached over to shut the passenger side door.
“Well?” Belle wondered.
“At least three ghouls came out of the Nevernever and attacked Elena and Conor. Miranda is involved somehow. Her highness is sitting in a car crying her eyes out in a Chase Bank parking lot at the intersection of Fitzhugh and Bennet. I assume they were heading to Atwater’s and then the Scooby Squad abandoned the vehicle for some reason; probably related to the Ghouls.”
Belle nodded, “And Barbara?”
“She did her thing and tossed the bodies back into the Nevernever just before the cops arrived.” Pallas grinned. “…but rather than be seen fleeing the crime scene she’s standing around looking like a bystander. Just another latina onlooker. Jorge is a bit freaked out of course, but it looks like Elena threw him into a car to keep him safe. Plus it’s the cops, he’s not going to say anything unless he has to; bad for business.”
Belle started up the engine, “Ok, let’s go see about Miranda. I got a pair of sweats in the glove box.”
Pallas arched his eyebrow, “Black?”
With a somewhat exasperated sideways look, “Of course. Like I’d buy any other color you clothes snob.”
The trip was roughly a mile and didn’t take long. She turned into the bank parking lot and pulled up next to the car Pallas indicated. Miranda was in the back seat, it looked like she had only just recently stopped crying. Belle got out, leaving Pallas muttering something about “prima dona &$#%*” and walked over to the car and tapped on the glass.
Miranda looked like a drowning victim that had just been thrown a life preserver. Belle helped her by opening the door and Miranda scrambled out and threw her arms around Belle in a fierce hug and started crying again. Belle held on to her tightly, looking over at Pallas. He rolled his eyes and shook his head, turning back around to look elsewhere.
“Miranda honey, come on into the truck. Lets get somewhere less exposed so you can tell me what’s going on OK?”
Shortly, Belle was sitting in the truck with Miranda, and Pallas was standing outside leaning up against the open passenger side door, wearing nothing but a pair of black sweatpants. He didn’t look pleased. With coaxing, Belle was able to extrapolate some of the horrific details. The Ghoul attack on her home and death of Ceres and abduction of the other two members of the chorus, her role in tracking down Elena, and the events afterwards.
“Pallas, can you drive Elena’s car back to Dona Esmeralda’s? I don’t think Miranda knows how to drive.”
He just looked at her incredulously and shut her door. As he was getting in the other car, she heard him mutter “Useless breeder” just before he slammed the driver’s side door on Elena’s car. Belle had known Pallas a long time, and knew he wasn’t talking about her for a couple reasons. The comment seemed to either not register with Miranda or she was ignoring the remark.
“Ok, we’re going to drive to Dona Esmeralda’s, ok? I have wards up, we’ll be safe there, ok?” Belle had deliberately said OK several times, mainly to help the word resonate and hopefully get through the other girl’s grief.
Miranda nodded wordlessly. Her green eyes seemed to glow like chemical nightsticks in stark contrast with the redness of her now splotchy tear-and-makeup streaked face. She curled herself up in the horse blanket that Pallas had left wadded up on the benchseat and said nothing for the rest of the trip.
Idly, Belle wondered what (as Pallas liked to call them) “The Scooby Squad” was up to. Belle never called them that, if she thought of them as anything at all it was usually the “A-Team;” Conor, Elena, Matthew, Ren, and of course the now Wizard Jaime Harper. was likely with them too. Considering what Belle remembered of her mother, that seemed oddly appropriate. That they were “doing something” about the Ghoul attack was now obvious. The details would be forthcoming later. For now it was more important to see to the protection of “her people.” Get them behind thresholds and wards, with food, warmth, and comfort; the rest will take care of itself. Somehow.
The players were kinda teasing me that, due to all the work I had recently done on Belle Starr’s backstory I could basically run her as an NPC in the party instead of Conor. So I idly wondered…. well… what WOULD she be doing in the wake of something like this? Thus this story.