Every man, woman, and child with any inkling of Power who had been asleep from midnight to 3 AM had gotten hit with the same dream whammie that I had. Dead children, Chaos and Blood, and a World in Flames became the favored topic of conversation amongst DFW’s spooky-side literally overnight. I gave Dr. Scott’s number out more times that next morning than I had in the last three months.
Then people started disappearing. By late afternoon, I had gotten a couple of pings from various sources on my old Paranet CrackerJack ring, Claret’s watch that I had made for the Freakshow showed multiple MIA statuses, and Raven sent a message thru the grapevine around dusk that people needed to start grouping up and finding shelter. I had concurred, despite sorta hating Raven and her cliché friend Donna, Raven’s number 2.
I had originally believed it was just a panic response to the Nightmares that everyone had had the night before. MIA statuses could be people going to ground paranoidly early. Pings could just be nerves and adrenaline. I had my own nerves myself, so while I was pretty sympathetic to the guys and gals that needed some reassurance that their neighbor for eight years was not in fact a Denarian, I had blown off more than one call that had talked about people disappearing.
Martha, the cute semi-retried Hispanic kitchen witch over on Ferguson, hadn’t shown up for her substitute teaching job that day. Her daughter had called me from Lubbock after talking to Belle, who had been on Martha’s emergency contact list. Amy, a vaguely emo nursing assistant at the Birth and Women’s Center with a penchant for birth magic and that I bought ultrasound gel from occasionally, never came home from work that evening, prompting a weird equally emo call from her boyfriend Jordan. I told the callers to give their loved ones a day to show back up again, then to call the police and report a missing person. Practitioners can be a spooky lot, and ducking down for a day isn’t unheard of. I had received a bunch over my 6 years as a Paranet relay, but never in this density. I had also never been party to a city-wide, possibly country-wide communal dream before, either, so I chalked it up to ‘Something Needs to Figure Out’ and went about my day.
By the morning of November 2nd, however, the ParaNet and Freakshow practically frothed with talk of reported disappearances, assaults from mundane vanilla sources as well as spooky side, and a new host of relatively bizarre shapes in the Night. And it wasn’t just in Dallas! It went as far as ParaNet could spread, and certain well-informed contacts within the ParaNet said that whatever was happening, it was damn near global.
At that point, Raven took her crew and vanished into whatever hell-hole they hid in when the sh!t hit the fan. She made a token attempt to round up as many of the ‘nominal’ or ‘casual’ Freakshow members, the ones that were technically in the group but never really came to meetings and/or had more paranoia than herd instinct when times got spooky, but I doubt she grabbed more than a handful before she and hers poofed.
That left more than 2 dozen minor talents and lesser practitioners to fend for themselves on the night of November 2nd.
The Night the Fomor came out to play.
In the spirit of ‘settling in’ and ‘turtling up’, I decided to host a Call of Cthulhu game that night to distract everybody from looming maddening supernatural terror with ‘fictional’ looming maddening supernatural terror, but I was having trouble getting anybody to play with me. As per usual.
“C’mon you guys! I got everything setup, I think, grab some drinks and lets start playing!”
Claret’s voice came from the kitchen area. “Dammit Erica, I’m not playing that stupid game! I just wanna read my Poe in piece!”
“Lovecraft is better than Poe, everybody says!” I retaliated, hoping to provoke Claret into compliance by insulting her favorite author.
“No they don’t, nice try four-eyes.” Claret’s voice was distracted yet resolute.
Damn it. “Midoriiii? Will you play with meeee?” I used my best little kid plea voice that I know drives her crazy.
Midori’s voice carried from her bedroom, sounded mildly frustrated, but only barely. “Erica-chan, if I wanted to be frightened by tentacled atrocities I would request different anime from Japan, thank you.”
"Aww C’mon you guys! Hobbes keeps making me guess the numbers on the dice every time I roll it, it’s super annoying!" I could feel the nerves of the previous few nights shenanigans edging in more desperate begging into my words than I would have preferred.
“But highly enjoyable.” Hobbes’s voice came from directly behind me as I sat on the couch, and it took everything I had not to spin around and scream in abject terror. So instead I spun around and squeaked in abject terror. Much more appropriate, right?
Hobbes continued as he circled around in front of me. “As much as it would delight me in seeing you writhing in frustration, I am going out tonight.”
“And where would that be, young tom?” I asked in my best impersonation of my mother.
“White Rock Lake. Something is brewing in that part of town, Fae-flavored, so I thought I would take a look and report back to you, of course.” His smugness was palpable.
“Uh huh. Go nowhere else, you understand? I give you a long leash because of our deal and because I vaguely trust you, but you are to harm none that do not seek thy death or mine, in addition to thy list of forbidden prey, ya savvy?” I dropped into the old Bill Shakes vernacular whenever I talked to Hobbes about rules and such; he seemed to grasp it better. Well, mostly it just made me feel better cause he’s Fae, but that was beside the point.
“Indeed, I ‘savvy’. May I go now?” Hobbes was clearly indignant about the new restrictions on his nighttime activities.
“Yeah, get outta here.”
Hobbes turned tail audibly, knocking over my Dr. Pepper can all over the coffee table and the game board, then popped out of existence.
“Ahh ya damn cat!” I tried to sop up the precious bubbly fluid with some nearby towels but mostly ended up spreading it around. Midori walked in from her room and began to help me as I offered a weak and vaguely pitiful thank you.
Midori began to pick up the scattered cards and pieces of paper. “I thought Hobbes was forbidden to destroy any of your property without your permission or case of emergency.”
I sighed. “He’s not. I borrowed the game from a guy in my class today, which switched rooms on Tuesday, so Hobbes was there as my seeing-eye-malk today to help me find it.”
“Ah so.” Midori’s voice was gentle and comforting, completely opposite of Claret’s that resounded through the living room a moment later as she rounded the corner towards us.
“OH MY F***ING GOD! Those are my towels! What are doing with my towels?!” Claret stood over Midori and I in shock, and I’m sure being emphatic with her hands due to the increased jingling.
“We are using them for their intended purpose, Claret. To clean up.” Midori said matter-of-factly with considerable dryness to her tone.
“Uh No you’re not!” Claret shouted, picking up the towels we hadn’t used yet. “I just got those towels from my guy in the Mav’s locker room! I gotta pull basketball player sweat out of them for a new potion recipe I’m working on!”
Midori and I dropped the towels we were using almost instantly, with corresponding synchronous ‘ewww’s. I held my hands up and tried not to touch anything.
Midori got up and made her way to the kitchen. “Erica-chan, I will fetch the hand sanitizer. Claret, do not leave things that you wish to preserve ‘mystically intact’ in the living room on the back of a couch.”
Claret deposited the non-Dr. Pepper soaked towels in her room and slammed the door. “Are you telling me what to do again, B****?” Claret, emotionally stoked by the loss of a portion of her potion resources, rounded on Midori.
“Indeed I am,” Midori yelled back as she brushed past Claret in the hallway. “You are slovenly and inconsiderate of personal space-“
“-Well at least I’m not a snooty-Japanese F*** doll paying her way through college by shakin’ her-“ Claret shot back as she followed Midori back into the living room.
“-I resent the implication of my using sexual favors for my school! Erica-chan, stop smelling your hands! And at least I am attending college, Claret, and didn’t start selling drugs right out of High School!” Midori fumed at Claret without raising her voice directly, and would have been eye-to-eye with Claret had not Midori’s ‘ampleness’ prevented that scenario from happening in the purest literal sense. But Claret was getting as close as she could as she yelled back.
“I didn’t F***ing need school, B****, and what I did afterwards is none of your F***ing business!”
A knock came from the door.
“It becomes our business should the authorities ever find you-“ Midori continued obliviously.
“-Well maybe I should just take my sh** and get out of your pretty high-falutin’-” Claret responded, equally oblivious.
Deciding I wasn’t ever going to get the hand sanitizer from Midori, I did my best to wipe my hands off on my jeans as I made my way to the door. I had to sort of go over the couch to avoid walking into ground zero, so that made things a touch more awkward and prolonged, and the knock came twice more before I opened the door to the door chain.
“Hello?” I asked, trying to sound normal but still be heard over Claret’s now near screaming tirade.
“Erica Goodchilde? My name is Tom Kazansky. May we come in?” His tone was smooth and even, like he reciting tax law. I felt a surge of Power, and then heard a small thump at his feet, a whistling in the wind outside the door followed by a cracking of ice further down the walkway.
“I don’t know, can you?” My typical response with the typical amount of distrust in my voice inherent to these sorts of situations.
“Miss Goodchilde,” he stately coldly, followed by another thump and several more Power/wind/ice sound combos in quick succession. “We hereby request sanctuary in your abode with full guest, “ (woosh-crack) “and host rights as stated in the Accords. I will harm none of you or yours, but (woosh-crack) I would prefer to keep my Power and Talent in the (woosh-crack) interim.”
A gunshot rang out from down the walkway and in the direction of the parking lot, and I could hear it clip one of the decorative flowerpots Claret kept outside the door.
I had that door open and yelling at him to come in by the time the second shot shattered the other one on the other side. Luckily the wards were still down from 20 minutes earlier when the landlady had dropped by for her rent check. Midori and Claret had stopped talking at this point and had moved behind me. After a large surge of Power and sudden drop in temperature, Tom made two grunting sounds as he seemly hefted something into his arms and walked thru the door.
Claret exclaimed something in French and Midori reciprocated in Japanese. I understood the Japanese one: “So much blood…”
He dropped two large objects on the living room rug, and then collapsed himself. One of the thumps gave a moan, a female soprano.
Claret had already ran off for medical supplies, and Midori started pushing furniture out of her way to reactivate the Wards, a ball and cup by the mantle. The Wards sizzled to life, Midori’s crafting but my design, so they had some decent heft to them. I pinged the immediate area, part of my brain worried that Midori’s X-box was still on but the rest not really caring.
I assessed three figures lying prone in our living room: One of decently muscled masculine frame, two more of smaller and obvious feminine dimensions on either side of him. Claret came in with her med-kit, and Midori did her best to assist with unpacking and handing things over as Claret began to give sharp clear directions. I did my best to help, and in five minutes we had all three of them stabilized and resting semi-comfortably, still where they had fallen, courtesy of a few potions and Claret’s chemical concoctions.
The taller of the two women, the one who smelled like bacon grease, had a bullet wound in her thigh and a few lacerations around her wrist that suggested that she had been bound very tightly. The smaller of the two women, the one who smelled like the muse bird cage at Medieval Times and who was almost completely naked except for a stiff military jacket, had received some bizarre bruising along her arms in addition to three broken fingers, and had blood around her mouth. Tom, on the other hand, had several acid burns around his leg and midsection, as well as a bullet wound to his left shoulder and another to his right calf. Both bullets had just passed through flesh, so nothing serious aside from severe shock and blood loss, and Claret’s potions and drugs had helped with those.
Tom regained consciousness about ten minutes after he had crashed thru our door, but he was loopy from the shock and drugs in his system. “Matthew… cough… said to come here, said you were closest to our position.”
“Tom,” I asked with more than a little fear and worry in my voice. “What happened to you? Who are these two?”
Tom sputtered, and Claret gave him a sip of water from a straw in a glass. “Blonde is Dana Hawthorne, were-hawk Theriomorph. Brunette is Stacy, psychic waitress.” That last one sounded familiar. Tom’s head sagged back down into his pillow, my contribution, after he indicated his companions in turn. “We were… We were all at Atwater’s. Shared a cab to the DART station, I was against it… at first but Stacy…”
“Mockingbird Station?” I asked. Not sure why I fixated on that but I was tense, sue me.
“Yeah. Parked there. No parking at Atwater’s since Halloween, too crowded.” Tom maintained a cool demeanor while Claret and Midori tried to clean him up and apply some foul smelling unguent to Tom’s acid burns. Tom continued, stopping only once in a while to wince silently in pain.
“Taxi was a trap. Driver opened up with an SMG three blocks down by the piano store. Managed to see it coming… ugg… put up a shield of ice around the back seat. Couple shots… still… made it through, though…”
“You did fantastic, Tom,” I tried to assure him. “You saved both their lives. You did good, soldier.”
Tom coughed again, and Midori gave him a sip of water as Claret checked on the two women. “Of course I did. I’m pretty… cough… awesome like that. Anyway… Dana went into hawk form to get out through the open window, but they were ready with a net. Blackjack knocked her out… Waitress already in shock, kept screaming about eating… fish or squid… or some fool thing…” Midori gave him another sip of water, handed me the glass and started helping Claret with a makeshift IV for the tall one, Stacy I think.
I had heard down the grapevine that Tom had some history with the military, with some accompanying PTSD to boot. I double-checked his pulse: still steady. He had maintained his cool and their lives during a firefight that lasted from just North of Atwater’s on 75 all the way to our apartment on Armstrong and Cole Avenue, a solid couple miles. That included carrying two badly injured women at least part of the way and talking to Matthew on a phone (or maybe one of the watches) all at the same time. That’s military training at work, for sure. I couldn’t do that, despite my prep and homespun training from Mom, grueling it may have seemed at the time. But I had had my share of PTSD, or at least PTSD-like symptoms, from my idiotic impulsive choice to open my Sight, my Third Eye that reveals things as the Really Are, on an ancient blood demon shaped like a T-Rex.
As I shuddered remembering in perfect detail, ‘cause anything seen with the Sight is perfectly permanent, I remembered where I knew Stacy! She had been the waitress at the diner where we had gotten stuck in that Red Court Vamp Time loop thingy, with the weird worms! She had put her two-week notice after that incident and started working Atwater’s instead. She made me a martini last week, ha! Small town…
Tom had continued his narrative as I daydreamed, his strength regaining, so I stowed my thoughts for later and tried to keep up.
“…difficulty keeping a grip on a naked person when in ice form despite the jacket, so I dropped it in lieu of return fire and better mobility.”
“Wow,” I said, and meant it. “Well you get some rest, Midori and Claret have your friends well in hand.”
Tom raised his head abruptly and coughed again. “Not my friends…”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Shared a cab, doesn’t make us friends.” Tom replied coolly.
“Well, buddy, you saved their lives fairly decisively tonight, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you have friends now.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the token misanthropy in his tone, or at his subsequent sigh of frustration (his first non-cool show of emotion for the evening, BTW).
At that moment, gunfire riddled the front door. Tom tried to stand up but I kept a hand on him and indicated to rest easy. The wards had kept the bullets from penetrating into the apartment, instead making little tinkling sounds outside as they dropped onto the concrete. We had decided to go with a ‘dampening’ kinetic ward instead of reflective, considering we all agreed that talking to the cops about why there were spent and smashed bullets on our doorstep was much better than explaining why our neighbors opposite us across the narrow courtyard had been pelted by bullets that looked like they had come from our apartment. The gunfire stopped for about half a minute, and everyone conscious in the living room held his or her breaths in silence. A sharp thunk hit our window, and Midori let out a small cry.
“What was it?” I asked frantically.
Claret’s voice came out incredulous and anxty, a unique gift of her’s. “A squid.”
“And it’s oozing…” Midori commented in disgust.
I turned toward Tom. “What?”
“Acid,” Tom repeated. “I took one of those in the mid-section…” he pointed, “and it released some form of acid after it had clamped on. I froze most of it off, plus the critter, but the stuff burned through my shirt pretty fast, couldn’t get all of it.” Tom slowly sat up with assistance from Midori and I. “Shouldn’t it be eating thru the glass? Ate thru my shirt and the sidewalk next to me easily enough.”
I pointed at Claret, who took her cue. “Naw, we programmed the ward against acid and other chemical warfare back when we moved in, my little contribution to our continued safety, I guess. Besides, glass in naturally resistant to acid anyway. Whoever these guys are, they need to catch up on their basic science.”
“Science!” I exclaimed in my best German accent, which prompted a chuckle from Claret.
“Will your wards hold against them?” Tom asked, almost professionally.
“Not sure,” I replied hesitantly. “We built them for a pretty broad spectrum of stuff, given our different backgrounds, but overall it’s strong enough to withstand assault weapon fire,” I gestured as the automatic weapon fire resumed, “but anything stronger than that has a good chance of busting thru.”
Midori, helping Tom to his feet, continued where I left off. “Erica-san also stressed that we should not have any retaliatory attack programmed into the warding as well, since several of our neighbors have children.”
I nodded. “So if this thing hits our wards hard enough and long enough, they’ll come down.”
Tom turned towards me, with the help of Midori. “Matthew assured me that this was as safe a place as any we would find.” Tom’s voice went from cool to icy. “I wouldn’t have come here if I knew this place wasn’t warded appropriately.”
“Tom Kazansky-san, if I may, that may be answered in time. But to sum up,” Midori helped Tom to the couch, “Matthew may have been referring to our individual ability to keep you safe rather than the strength and complexity of our ward.”
“Why is that?” Tom asked. I ignored him and Midori’s polite replies as I concentrated.
I let my magic draw in slowly, controllably, in a equally slow intake of breath. On the out breath, I let that pent-up energy flow through my sense and thru my often-used matrix of spell work that I had memorized years ago, not long after my accident. I had lost my eyes several years ago because I had been impulsive and careless in an attempt to use my magic to see my music, because I believed, vainly, that it would make me better at what I could do. The desire to be better is a noble intention, don’t get me wrong, but it has to come from a pure place inside, or it gets twisted. With as much selfishness and pride that I had had at the time, my initial spell work had reflected that, and twisted appropriately. I lost my eyes forever because of that spell, sliding out my eye sockets all the way to hell on my spell of noble intentions.
But I had learned an important lesson after that, one of many. “Seeing with Sound” is impossible, especially as the limited Sonomancer that I had made myself from that same spell. The Visual cortex, as it was, can’t handle direct neural stimulus from a non-visual source without busting and/or shutting down. My visual cortex, on the other hand, had begun to form new connections after my accident, putting that now unused brain matter to good use, specifically to keep me alive. New neural connections take time to establish, and there’s nothing magic about it, just the good ole human body adapting and doing what it’s got to do. My matrix, on that account, became a go between my light-based visual cortex and my non-light based sonic imagery, not unlike what submarines and ultrasound machines use to construct usable images from normally unrecognizable data. And as my visual cortex began putting new two-and-two-equals-four connections together to make up for my lack of vision, my matrix subsequently became easier and easier to ‘read’, as it were, to the point that now, six years later, I’m a walking multi-spectral sonic imager for pennies on the dollar.
The matrix, a complex magic ‘program’ that relayed input directly into my brain in a ‘not frying’ and ‘not melting’ kind of way, told me what the surrounding area looked like, deriving input from the sound received from passive sources, like talking, traffic sounds, even heartbeats, as well as from my own recipe of ultrasonic and subsonic pings, into input that my visual cortex could interpret. The apartment complex was not large, and our door opened to an outside courtyard just like all of our neighbors. There were two levels of apartments circling the courtyard, with gates and mailboxes facing Cole to my right. Several large shapes loomed around the opposite upstairs neighbor, ans a few smaller shapes crouched behind some foliage directly beneath them. The metal from their guns glowed bright to my Sonar Vision, and after some signal modulation I started to make out bone structure. Two humans, with guns ready and speaking to each other, crouched on the ground, hearts beating fast for excitement but not for active combat. Four more large frames, well muscled from what I could tell, with slow, steady, and almost cold-blooded heartbeats.
Wait, scratch that: six large frames, two coming up behind off the back patio, probing the ward I figured. The gunfire resumed, illuminating my Sonar Vision to painful intensity, but nothing I couldn’t handle. At the exact same time, the two in the back started poking into the air, and I could feel my ward key around my neck respond to their touch. Midori’s voice carried over, thankfully within the 200 Hz to 10,000 Hz range that I had told my matrix not to respond to.
“Erica! They are pushing thru the wards by the back patio!” Her voice was frightened but not out of control, reading the Japanese glyphs she had programmed the wards to respond with during an intrusion.
“Get everybody in your room and bring up your secondary wards!” I shouted back at her. “Claret! Help her, then bring out the boom box and get ready to invert the flow! We got about a minute, give or take!”
“Give or take what?” Claret spat back at me as she helped get the unconscious girls onto the improvised futon cushion stretcher and slid it across our thick carpet towards Midori’s room.
“A minute!” I shouted back. Claret gave a quiet “oh Sh**” and started to double-time it. We (Midori, Claret and I) had rehearsed similar scenarios during the few months we had been roommates, a habit I learned from my mother, God rest her hardass soul, and maintained on my own since her death. We weren’t a well-oiled machine by any means, don’t get me wrong, we were all scared out of our minds at the moment, but we had at least rehearsed and drilled the shocked stillness out of the current situation. Hopefully that will be enough to get us through this, I prayed. Tom came up to me as I held my hands outstretched to widen my arc of ‘vision’.
“Nice work with those two. Drills?” The gunfire started again, and the ward probing intensified.
“Yeah,” I responded with equal parts embarrassment and pride.
“Should do that with the rest of the Freakshow. They don’t believe me when I tell them it’s a quality time investment, not to mention better for morale.” Tom limped up to the window and looked around. Claret’s painkillers must have kicked in.
“Ok, your house, you know the lay of things, so your show. Where do you want me? I can hold the front door no prob-“
I cut Tom off before he got too far into it. “I need you to go into the room with music notes on the door, go to the first counter on the left and retrieve a black collar with middle stud-work and a pair of white knitted hand warmers both on a rack for me, please. There won’t be a light, so don’t bother looking.” Tom, even limping, made short work of my request. When he got back I put on my focus items and started putting furniture roughly back where they go. “Help me with this,” I asked.
“Why?” he asked as he helped.
“I have the layout of the apartment memorized, cause I’m blind and it helps my day-to-day, so if everything is back where it usually goes, I won’t trip over anything if my sonar spell goes down.”
“If combat breaks out in here, the furniture is gonna get out of place real quick, you sure this is the best use of time?” His voice was cool and professional again, not insulting or even condescending, just pointing out a flaw in the plan. And it was, I admit it, but I muttered something about familiar terrain for the onset and didn’t mention that I was doing this to calm my nerves down with a little physical labor. I would have done yoga but we really didn’t have time at this point.
Midori and Claret had the two girls back in Midori’s room at this point, and Claret had retrieved a basketball-sized wooden case that jingled as she set it down on the re-positioned coffee table. She opened the top and started tossing small vials around the room and in the kitchen. She gave a little yelp as she saw the two trying I imagine comically pushing again a screen door very slowly, then came back in to the living room and put a vial in my hand. The gunfire started up again.
“Ok Tom, Claret, both of you grab whatever you need to make war and go in there with Midori and guard that room, ok?” I tried to sound decisive and commanding, but I think it just came out strained and a little wimpy.
Claret wasted no time grabbing a big bag full of weirdness from her room and heading into Midori’s. Tom, on the other hand, dug in his heels and refused to leave.
“Negative. I am not leaving you alone to fight these guys yourself. You are a non-com, a civ, you can’t handle it.” His tone was still cool and even, still professional, but it pissed me off anyway.
“My house, my plan! Remember what you said? I got this! Now get your ass in that room and lock the door! Seal it with ice and do the windows too. Its gonna get loud in here.”
“I can help you, I kept them off for at least three clicks.” Tom argued.
“Sound and Ice don’t mix, Tom, I told you I got this.” I became a lot less confidant as we argued, and my ward necklace started to heat up uncomfortably as the wards started to degrade.
“You’re a kid. You can’t handle them by yourself.” Tom wasn’t backing down.
I looked straight at Tom (as much I could). “I’m. Not. Alone.”
Tom gave me a pregnant pause, and started shuffling towards Midori’s room, cursing in entire way there, and then slammed the door.
I know what you’re thinking. I lied to the guy. But you’d be wrong. Well, I didn’t exactly lie, anyway. While Tom and I had been arguing and while I had been trying to not freak out about possibly dying in the next few minutes, I had been muttering a Name under my breath over and over. It wasn’t a complete name, but there was enough to get my target’s attention. After Tom slammed the door, I started calling the name louder and faster.
“Hobbes Growltiger Hobbes Growltiger Hobbes Growltiger…”
Then on my Sonar Vision, I noticed a smaller figure come over the top roof across the courtyard. Quadruped, feline, smallish bobcat or giant tabby size. My grin stretched from ear to ear as I heard a voice arise from my ward key necklace.
“You called?” He was using the sympathetic between our two ward keys to throw sound glamour at me, while I went the other way and sent my voice to his collar.
“Hobbes. Good to hear you right now, kitty. We got problems in here.”
“So I’ve noticed. And you expect me to help, I suppose?”
“Oh ya know, if you aren’t terribly busy.” I kept the sarcasm in my voice purely for ritual sake. Honest.
“I was, honestly. This one will cost you.”
Damn Cat. “Name it Hobbes, Ward’s about to come down.”
Hobbes hmmed to himself thoughtfully and frustratingly. “Three weeks of Fresh salmon, with tuna gravy on each.”
“One week of a single fresh salmon each day,” I countered, getting really impatient, “plus one week of my fist-sized tuna pâté, plus whatever you want from the foes.”
Hobbes purred. “Oooh… Tempting, tempting. I accept!” I swear I could hear his Cheshire grin from here.
“Good. When I invert the wards, take out the two beneath you with the machine guns, then move inside and back me up.”
“Claret! You ready?!” I yelled at Midori’s door.
“Yeah!” I heard faintly from inside.
The apartment went black. I know they did because that’s what we had planned. Not a hex, just Claret flipping the breakers. I started pulling all the Power I could, focusing it into the vial in my hand that linked with each of the specifically prepared vials that Claret had scattered, no longer afraid of hexing our apartment. The back door exploded inward, and my ward necklace went ice cold. The wards, previously designed to keep things out, were now aligned to keep things in, which included my magic, again by design. I could throw spells all day long and no one outside our threshold would feel a thing. On the outside, though, it looked like our wards were down.
The four large shapes jumped down from their perches and stormed the front door, also breaking it inward.
I drank the vial in my hand, muttered “Sonus Disgregat” into the vial as I shattered it. At that exact moment, every other vial exploded in cool steam, filling the apartment with a dark mist. My magic plus Claret’s specifically crafted vials allowed me to fully nebulize the contents of each vial simultaneously, filling the apartment air with a host of fiendish concoctions brewed and distilled by the Mistress of Pain and Potions herself. What Claret lacked in social niceties, she more than made up for in imaginative potion use. And I had been rendered temporarily immune thanks to the contents of the vial I drunk. But it wouldn’t last long.
All the figures that had stormed in through the back and front were coughing and wheezing. The front four, I could see through my Sonar Vision, were attempting to cover their mouths with their shirtsleeves, as they did. Ok, so these guys weren’t dummies. Good to know. Also, they were not lightweights. Also Good to know.
The combination of black smoke and interior lights after dusk put me in at an advantage in this scenario. They needed Light to see but I didn’t, right? That’s what I thought, too, until one of them started making this clicking sound that sounded almost exactly like a dolphin sonar ping click. Then I heard 5 reciprocating clicks.
So they were clearly non-human. Well, Good. I could throw the big toys at them, then. I threw up a layer of counter sound, an audio only veil of sorts, just as one of the ones in the living room turned towards me. I ducked and rolled about six feet to my left as a large shape threw a smaller fluid shape at where I had previously been standing. I heard the plaster where it hit start to sizzle. Acid again. Great.
I modulated my Sonar vision spell to go to Passive only and subsequently began relying on their sonar pings for input instead of my own as I held my veil. Between the six of them I could see great! So could they, of course, so I reinforced my Veil and went to work.
For about a minute the six of them and I played a little impromptu game of hide-and-go-smash. I’d generate a false sonar image (‘cause I know how without it looking hokey) over here or over there and they’d attack it, causing them to step into a pool of liquid lightning and getting mildly electrocuted, or being rendered unconscious as a traveling gaseous snake made of this weird DMSO-carfentinyl compound (I think she called it Kolokol-4) tried to give them a hug from the inside. I managed to take out two of them like that, with the last one dying from his skin melting off like that one guy from Raider’s of the Lost Ark, but slower and more painful. They both died loudly and smelling like fish. Who were these guys?
The roaming clouds of holy water were having no effect, though, nor the sticky and mobile iron-oxide puddings that tried to grab at ankles as the shapes went past. Ok, not affected by Holy or Iron, so scratch Demons and Fae. Also Good to know, but Claret’s vials were starting to run out. I had to do something else.
The one large shape I had identified as the leader motioned towards Midori’s room and made some more pops and clicks towards his buddies. In an effort to divert his attention, I made the sound of my voice come from my room as I spoke.
“Hey! You over there! Yeah you! Who are you and what do you want?”
The group of four turned towards my bedroom and started to slowly approach it. To cap the illusion, I planted a very subtle sonar image of myself inside the room. Pretending to hide. I was starting to get really tired though, keeping up my veil plus sporadic multiple fake sounds and sonar images over several minutes, so I needed to wrap this up quick.
Leader shape spoke in a deep basso rumble towards my image “I am Nothing of any importance, and we are here for our merchandise.”
“And what merchandise was that?” I felt a slight familiar pressure on my leg, and I reached down to pet Hobbes, coming back up with my hand covered in blood. Hobbes rubbed up harder against my other leg, and I resisted the temptation to kick him.
“The Man of Ice, The Were-Hawk, and the Clairvoyant.” He and his compatriots had been slowly filing into my room as we spoke. “They will be ours by Dawn, or we will turn this building to cinders.”
“I think I got a better offer for ya…” I crept up in utter silence (cause I’m a Sonomancer, not a ninja, FYI), drew my boot knife from it’s holster under my blouse, and took a swipe at the large shape in back. They all smelled like salty water and stale fish, which I hadn’t noticed until I had gotten close enough to get past the cacophony of smells from Claret’s potions. And these guys were gigantic up close, easily seven feet tall each as as wide as a truck. I mean, I had known cause of the sonar, obviously, but at point blank range my petite frame seemed very small and unthreatening. Good thing I had a knife!
My knife is only about five and a half inches, due to Texas law, so taking a knife that size laterally across hard muscle and even harder bone, especially the spine, would normally have just pissed him off. But my knife is special. I figured out a long time ago that if I made a bladed edge produce the right kind of sound, I could get it to vibrate. Actually you can do that with anything. With the right sound, anything will vibrate. But with a knife and a couple weeks worth of work, I could get that knife to vibrate so fast and so efficiently that it could slice through steel like a hot knife through butter. ‘VibroBlade,’ the RPG supplements called them. And I had one.
Like I said, I took a swipe at the guy in the back right at waist height. The back of his waist, including his spine, opened up like a overstuffed piece of luggage as he made a croaking sound and fell forward. As he fell forward, I reached over and shut the door with all of us inside my room. Midori isn’t the only one with a personal ward inside my room, but unlike hers and due solely to the fact that my wards can handle nothing but sound based stuff, mine was just a great big sonic landmine, targeting the inside of the room except for a few specific places I had pre-established with cut out circles in the carpet. After I shut that door, I took a step to my left inside one such circle, activated with my Will, and then activated my landmines. All of them. At Once.
Why did I have all my landmines pointed inward? Cause of Bull$#!% like these guys. Specifically Carlos, even though we had a semi-truce at the moment. What happens if he or someone equally horrible got past Midori’s apartment wards and caught me in my room with no opportunity to cast a spell? That’s why I turned them inward.
Suffice it to say, I would probably never get the rotted fish smell out of my room. The simultaneous rupturing of ears, noses, and eyes along with the splintering of bones from the inside made for some horrible screaming and a big gigantic mess, too. Then you mixed in the uncontrollable vomiting and forget ever getting that security deposit back!
Everybody came out after I had dispatched the last ones with my vibroblade, and gave appropriate character specific cries of shock, glee, and disgust at the current state of my room. Claret’s response was the glee. She hugged me for like 5 minutes until she realized I still had blood and fish/man guts all over me.
Turns out we hadn’t been the only ones hit, either. Matthew, Barbara, and Belle and one or two others were held up at The Purple House trying to coordinate people and make sure everyone got behind a quality ward and/or threshold. Jamie, Alice, and their kids were at his place with a couple of others, and they were fine.
Helped having a Warden who specializing in Wards around, I guess. I think that the reason the spooky community did so well at all was due to Jamie and his warding work. He always put up quality stuff, and with enough locations spread all over town, supernaturally inclined people were able to run to a proper ward with little undue fuss.
Elena had been roaming the streets making sure everybody got to where they needed to go. Conor had been over at the Ft. Wolfe Posse Den with Marisa (dag nab her…) when things started to get hairy, so he was helping guard that place even though they didn’t have a real proper ward to speak of. Mostly bells and whistles that I had thought to put up while I was there training. No need to thank me, Ramon. Ya asshole.
Dana, the werehawk, and Stacy the waitress made fine recoveries in the aftermath, I am happy to report. Tom seemed ok, although to be honest it’s hard to tell the difference between his previous cold and icy exterior and his current one. He healed fully physically, at any rate.
In the aftermath, the word “Fomor” got thrown around a lot over the ParaNet and Freakshow gossip webs. I have no idea what a Fomor is, aside from mythic literature references which were clearly inaccurate. I also heard that the Red Court is gone. The whole Court just got etch-e-sketched right out of existence, leaving a ginormous power vacuum in its wake. Were the Fomor trying to make a play for that Power? And why were they snatching up people like they were merchandise? It’s gonna kill me not knowing, but I guess we’ll find out in due time.
Damn it, I hate waiting…