Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 09: Chapter 07
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: August 21, 2022
In Game date: August 2012
Episode: 50 (124)
Part 01: Virgil Gugasian
Take it from a professional: don’t try to rob a munitions plant with a defense contractor. Not only is it very illegal, but it is also rather difficult and prohibitively dangerous. Any company that has classified materials in it has actual professionals doing security as well as money from the government. When it comes to state secrets, the US Government has no chill.
That means that the munitions factory I had infiltrated had guards, locks, and cameras covering everything. A fellow professional had also taught all employees how to spot a fake badge, prevent someone from tailgating in, or using any of the other usual methods infiltrators use. All of that is after they get another actual professional to do a background check. Depending on your job and clearance, that might be a real background check; the kind where they talk to the piano teacher you took one class from as a kid.
But past the security is the take itself. You don’t steal money from a munitions plant because there isn’t any. You rob a munitions plant because of what it makes and the knowledge of how they make it. Most of those things are meant to explode and will kill you if you are not trained to handle them properly. That is before you even get to the geopolitical threats they plan for – people with government training and backing.
With all this said, it is not worth it to rob a munitions plant for any reason. Safer to build bombs in your backyard near a bonfire using hazardous chemicals that kill you if you look at them funny.
But Jack has a kid being brainwashed by a cult enslaved to fallen angels. That turns out to be a thing. And the main thing keeping that kid and everything and her locked down is a ward that can only be destroyed by means.
So fuck all that… We need some boom-boom.
Unfortunately for all the mortal professionals employed to keep the munitions plant secure, the weakest part of any security system is the human element. Doesn’t matter if you have a supercomputer running security, play the people running it, and you can get past that security. None of the humans here had prepared against myself and a pair of associates with faerie magic.
On Friday night, our neighbor Burt walked up to the guard at the security desk and said, “Golly, I forgot somethin’ important, and my badge is at home. Can’t you give me a temp?”
The well-trained guards looked at Burt and held to their training.
“ID.” They asked without hesitation.
Burt produced his ID, which the guard verified and scanned.
“Where to?” The guard asked.
“Quality Inspection.” Burt replied with a smile they all recognized and loved.
“Fred. E2, copy.”
The guard named Fred came over to Burt, gave him a temp badge, and escorted him through the plant without much of a fuss. Burt even waved to the continuously monitored security cameras to acknowledge the security guys he had brought doughnuts for that morning.
The only problem was, it wasn’t Burt he was escorting.
Let me flashback to earlier during dinner at Burt’s house.
While the others were making small talk during dish duty, I picked Burt’s pocket for his wallet and passed his Driver’s Licence to Kerouac. Kero used a pad of paper to record the details of Burt’s driver’s license and passed it back to me. By the time Burt gave me the dime tour of his garage, his wallet was back in his pocket, and he was none the wiser.
Later, we regrouped outside the factory, and Fergus had some trouble.
“You watch too much Lord of the Rings,” Kerouac said in his adult Irish voice, “You look like an Ent!”
“I have been without my power for a week. Lay off.” Fergus replied.
He had been trying to disguise himself as Burt, but couldn’t seem to manage it. Instead, he looked like the newest knockoff tree-themed superhero your kid watches on Saturdays.
“Just go invisible,” I said, “Burt is not hard to impersonate.”
Fred the guard led Burt through the factory. Or at least a Virgil with a Kerouac the mouse in his front pocket who was veiled to look like Burt. Right behind the guard was Fergus doing his best Predator impersonation. Thankfully, his performance as Tree Man was temporary.
We went through several checkpoints, filled out a bunch of forms, and then were taken into a cage, where he finally left us alone.
I used my skills to circumvent the electronic lock on a storage locker and opened it up for our prize.
I had learned our product line well enough to know of three devices that would fit our needs. Two were shape-charges used to make the warheads for anti-tank missiles or something. Point it at what you want gone and it will make it go away. The other was a more conventional explosive that could take out an entire room, walls and all.
I reconfigured their payloads into small bombs with entirely mechanical detonators that could have a countdown or a remote control. Being made of don’t-try-this-at-home, I shouldn’t have to worry about Jack’s magic setting it off. You could set this stuff on fire and it won’t explode. They showed us tapes in training, and besides, I was draining off all of his spare magic several times a day.
To cover our tracks, Kerouac crawled under the door to the manager’s office and stole some paperwork. I filled it out quickly, so the paperwork listed the missing munitions as destroyed in testing or as defective and deposed. No one would ever know these munitions were gone.
“Are you sure they won’t find out about this?” Fergus asked in a whisper.
“As far as the paperwork and the cameras are concerned, Burt did all of this.” I said.
“I never liked Burt, always came off as kind of ew…” Kero said in his adult voice. Weird to hear it coming from a mouse.
“At least he loves his job.” I said.
Fergus picked up the bombs and teleported out of there. We had what we needed.
Then Kerouac almost killed us both.
Kerouac had been on my heist crew and was an invaluable member most of the time. With his faerie glamorous and my own skills, we could get in anywhere and steal anything we wanted. We spent the whole past year on a whirlwind of crime against the seedier members of the paranormal community.
But, Kero was still a Pooka. And a Pooka’s gotta Pooka.
So, as I was filling out paperwork on my way out…Fred found his shoelaces tied together and fell flat on his face like something out of a Three Stooges skit. The little bastard caught me by surprise so badly, I broke character.
“Are you alright?” I asked casually, without accent.
The guards looked at me suspiciously, even as I back peddled away and tried to cover for my slip up. One of these days, I will get Kero back for this. I am not sure how, but the punishment will be severe.
We got outta there, and Kero turned back into a kid. He jumped up and down going, “Pizza!”
So, we celebrated the most dangerous heist of my career with the next one: which involved a pizza place. Well, the most dangerous one to that point, but we will get to that…
Part 02: Fergus Mac Cormaic
I picked up the bombs and moved through the Nevernever. It took me to a small patch of forest about a mile away from the factory.
This being the first time in weeks that I had done this, my wyld power filled me. I got the same kind of rush you get when you quit smoking and then take one after 10 years. I wanted to hunt. I wanted to kill. I grew hungry and thirsty…
But, I remembered our mission. A child needed to be rescued.
I breathed in and out and sweated through my clothes.
Then Virgil showed up in the station wagon and welcomed me in. I put the bombs in the trunk and got into the passenger seat.
“Pizza! Pizza!” Kerouac shouted from the back seat.
“Damn straight. Pizza.” I said.
We went to a local pizza place that the community seemed to like. Nothing special, but a good price for the area and locally owned. I channeled the hunger my Wyld generated into buying enough pizza to feed a family of five.
It was the best pizza I ever tasted. I had it loaded with meat and every other topping they had. Kerouac ate his fair share from this child seat, and we were just a father and son to the outside world. I longed to be able to do this with my own child in the not-too-distant future.
“Oh, Mister Williams!” Somebody said, knocking me out of my food haze. I saw that it was one of the girls from the neighborhood, so I put my disguise back on.
“Oh hello!” I said with a mouth full of greasy goodness.
“I didn’t think you…indulged in junk food, coach.” The girl, whose name escaped me, said.
“We are celebrating victory.” I said, nodding towards Kero, “He skipped a grade.”
“Hmmhmm,” Kerouac said, painting his face with a pizza sauce goatee.
This seemed to placate the girl, who went off on her own. As soon as her eyes were away from me, my butthole quit clenching.
“I can’t wait to get out of here.” I said.
“You and me both.” Virgil said. Virge had gone off to the bathroom, but took the door to the back instead.
“You get what you need?” I asked. Virgil just nodded and then went to order a few more pizzas for the road.
We went back to the car and left for Chez Goldman so we could steal a sword.
Part 03: Jack Youngblood
Even with Virgil draining me, I didn’t want to be anywhere near a munitions factory. Wizards have an antagonistic relationship with technology. I can kill a photocopier at twenty paces. I didn’t want to think about what I would do to a building with hazardous materials signs and guys like Burt with sweaters that read, “If you see me running, try to keep up.”
I spent the night staking out the Goldman House. I watched teenage girls come and go to the sounds of an all-night party. After an hour, I figured out enough of the security golf cart routines to make my move.
I used the shadow magic I had picked up to cover myself in darkness. It didn’t make me truly invisible, and without a proper focus, I couldn’t maintain it for very long, but it was effective enough to let me walk into the nearby gazebo and let no one see me exit.
I crept forward through the shadows and got closer to the house. I then reached out with my wizard’s senses to make sense of the wards on the house.
It took about an hour to keep my profile low, but I managed to figure them out.
When I finished, I crept over to the rendezvous point across the street and waited for the car.
I guess my concealing shadows were really good, because I made Virgil jump a little in the passenger’s seat when I crept up to the car and knocked on the door. Fergus unlocked the car and let me into the backseat.
Kerouac held up a slice of pizza in my direction, but I knew better than to accept anything from a faerie, and I was too jacked up to be hungry anyway.
“You get the stuff?” I asked, referring to the ordinance.
“Just some defective stuff in the trunk. It’ll do the job.” Virgil said.
I shuttered forward, away from the back seat. Virgil held up a hand to placate me.
“The payload uses a chemical trigger,” Virgil said and rattled off some letters and terms I didn’t completely understand, “Utterly stable. You can hit it with thermite, and it won’t go off.”
“Okay.” I said, leaning back in my seat.
“What’s the ward like?” Fergus asked, looking over at the house.
I calmed down and put my metaphorical wizard hat on, “The ward has two layers. The outer layer prevents the ward from rubbing up against the Wardstone. Some kind of friend-or-foe field too complicated for me to replicate easily. The inner layer is keyed to detect anyone touched with magical power.“
“What’s the anchor?” Virgil asked.
“Curtains. I found them stitched with what looked like Babylonian symbols of magical power. ”
“That means I’m up.” Virgil said as he took his disguise out of the back seat. Virgil had noticed some pizza boxes in the trash can out front from a local pizza place. When the others went for dinner, Virge had used the opportunity to steal a uniform hat and one of those insulated pizza box carriers.
I sat in the back of the car and finally took a piece of pizza of my own free will. I still so jacked up, I couldn’t taste it, but it gave me the blood sugar I’d needed for what was to come.
Virgil walked right up to the front door and knocked using the built-in knocker.
One of the teenagers answered with a bottle in her hand, “I don’t remember ordering.”
“I hear you’re regulars…” Virgil said and showed off his carrier, which had the two pizzas and some top-shelf booze he had procured for the occasion.
We watched with bated breath as the girls let him right in, taking the food and booze.
If Virgil was discovered in there, we would have to move fast. I tried to keep the spell I had used earlier in mind. I didn’t want to have to use more power here, but it might be necessary.
After about a minute, we saw the silhouette of Virgil walking backwards towards the curtains with some kind of raised voices. He fell and grabbed them to haul himself back up. Virgil left out the way he came with his hands over his eyes and an embarrassed look.
He got back in the car and laughed.
“What did you do?” I asked. Virgil started waving his arms.
“Oh, no I wasn’t looking at your bodies. No, I didn’t mean to say that…prat fall.” Virgil said, “Burned the curtains out until sunrise. Safe’s in the office; the girls won’t go in.”
“Nice” Fergus said, “Now what?”
“We wait for them to fall asleep.” I confirmed.
The girls finally fell asleep around 2 am or so. I used my shadow magic and some socks over my shoes to creep up again and open the window from the outside. My misspent youth paid off again for the good of the world. Who would have thought?
I found the girls inside passed out with the TV on. They were watching some HBO show about Vampires with way too much skin in it.
Vampires are sexy and misunderstood…
Goddammit! I almost tripped over one of the girls as the vivid memory hit me.
I opened the door to Barry’s office, snuck through on silent steps, and closed the door silently behind me. The safe was against the wall, but I ignored it for now. I moved to the curtains, took out a seam ripper I had. Any magic can be undone, nullified, or sabotaged with the right know-how. In the case of the curtains, I uprooted some of the stitching in some key places and shorted out the circuit of the ward the curtains controlled. Not only did it drop the ward protection for the room indefinitely, but the damage also would not be able to be found until you did a close inspection.
Have fun with that one, Barry.
I opened the window and signaled the others. Virgil came in with his kit and went straight to the safe, which I could now see was large, black, and imposing.
I checked it for magic and didn’t find any, so Virgil went to work.
“Wow, a Mosler.” Virgil said.
“Is that good?” I asked.
“It’s old and mechanical. And this model never made it to market. This might take a while.”
I noticed something upon closer inspection, a seam. The seam around the dial was barely visible in the light of the flickering TV.
“Hold up. I want to try something.” I said.
“Be my guest.”
I set a hand on the safe and reached out through the shadows in the safe. I could feel the tumblers as I moved the dial. I felt them click into place one after another as I moved the dials with more precision than I ever could without this power.
I heard a rustle and looked over to the other room. Girl had gotten up.
Without saying anything, Virgil appeared next to the door with a roll of duct tape ready.
We waited for what felt like forever as a drunk and soon to be hungover teen looked around, saw the TV, and wriggled back into the pile of people snoozing on the floor.
It wasn’t until we heard a snore that we let out our breath and continued the safe cracking.
The last tumbler clicked, and the safe opened to the heat of the sun on a summer’s day.
“Bingo… I awkwardly said. I could feel the power from the ancient blade that once belonged to the Angel of Wrath even within its sheath.
“No way am I touching that thing with bare hands…” Virgil said.
Virgil put on some leather gloves, wrapped the sword in cloth, and hauled it out with reverence. He closed the vault door behind it, ignoring the money and other objects inside.
We left the way we came in. No one was the wiser.
“I am pretty sure I can’t touch that.” Kerouac said, looking down at the package as we secured it in the station wagon.
As we closed the trunk, I let out a sigh and looked to the others.
“Let’s go get my girl…”
Part 04: Virgil Gugasian
I got a coded text message the next morning. Azael’s return flight was scheduled for Tuesday. That meant we had a real deadline, not just ‘quickly’.
Over the weekend, we did our last bit of legwork and planned. Jack and I checked out the community center one night as best we could. It ended with me giving golfcarters a run around while Jack got a good look at the demon we had to tangle with.
“Big thick-necked muscly demon.” Jack said afterwards, “wings. Bronze armor and weapons.”
“Swell…” I replied.
I tried getting more gear from Spokane’s surprisingly well-stocked Army Surplus Stores, but I stuck out too much. We had to go in with what we had.
When I returned, I found Jack practicing some sword stances outside the neighborhood. I couldn’t see what he saw, but it looked a lot like samurai movie stances except more…authentic. I wasn’t concerned at first, but then I saw he was carrying the sword.
“Are you sure you should be handling that thing?” I asked with genuine concern.
“With my blood, I think I am the only one who can use this safely.” He said with confidence, “It might be the only chance we have against the demon.”
I looked at the sword and the darker part of my brain started to work of their own accord.
“If you lose it in there, I will make sure your kid gets out.” I said.
“I’m not going to lose it.”
“I don’t trust that thing.” I said, indicating the sword.
“Neither do I. But thanks for the offer.”
An old memory passed through me. A dead gang member.
“It wasn’t an offer. I will not hesitate,” I said.
Jack didn’t respond. He just went back to his practice. He knew that I meant what I said.
Later, we all gathered around the basement, which we were doubly sure wasn’t bugged.
Being the resident mastermind, I led the planning phase as we all faced each other.
“Extraction is Monday, early morning just before sunup. Two teams, two tasks.”
I made some makeshift diagrams on the maps we had of the area.
“Jack and I will take out the Wardstone.” I said.
“You handle the stone; I’ll keep the demon busy.” Jack said.
“Fergus and Kerouac, you are in charge of Pauline.” I said to the two Irish lads, “As soon as the Wardstone goes down, get her to safety any way you can. Take no chances. Her ‘mother’ is a practitioner.”
“How will we know when the Wardstone goes down?” Fergus asked.
“You’ll know.” Jack confirmed.
“As soon as you finish your task, you get to the rendezvous point. No one gets left behind. No looking back.” I said.
We set out to get ready…
Part 05: Jack Youngblood
After the meeting, I told everyone to stay out of the basement. I drew a circle. I summoned a demon.
Reileta appeared in the form of an empty suit floating in the air with no effort.
“What do you want, Wizard?” The demon asked in a voice on the wind.
“The demon guarding the stone. I want its true name.” I replied solemnly.
We needed every advantage we could get. We had no access to sacred objects or any of the magic I would normally use to fight the demon with. Normally, I would fight something like that with a squad of wardens or a battle tank of some kind.
“First, an agreement. What we bargain for will remain between us.” The demon asked. That meant we wouldn’t try to con each using intermediaries.
“Agreed.” I replied.
“A name for a name.”
“A name for a name.”
“One of your names for one of its names.”
“I am willing to give you my name and owe you a favor with some caveats for the full name.” I offered. Getting the demon’s full name would allow me to lock it down completely.
“How about answer a question with no caveats?” The Demon counter offered.
What he was asking was not unheard of. A question like that would have to be answered with no falsehoods.
“I am amenable to that. What question.”
“What is your sister’s full name?”
“No, I won’t do that. I will not sacrifice one family member for another.”
“If you give up your family name….”
“No. One name for one name.”
“And call upon me again before the year is out.”
The demon gave me the name and disappeared on the wind. There was one loophole to the deal. I couldn’t call on the demon if I didn’t survive…
Part 06: Virgil Gugasian
I smelled something weird when Jack came up from the basement for the last time. Expensive aftershave with a hint of brimstone and sandalwood with a little bit of oak underneath. But whatever, we were committed now.
We spent Sunday night eating, making arrangements, and cleaning up our house of all evidence that we had lived there. Any cleaners would find no trace of us when we left. I made sure of that.
We geared up and started the heist around 5 am. Just before sunrise.
I found a security golf cart heading towards the community center, so we followed it on foot all the way there. Jack was carrying the Sword of Wrath like he knew how to use it while I had my silenced pistol and the bombs I made in a backpack.
The memory had come again, so the dark parts of my brain told me that in case of a search, I put the search in the ground. No choice now.
We crept into the community center and descended the stairs. We found the door at the end of the hall. Jack dropped his new shadow veil thing on the two of us, and I opened the door.
The demon was fifteen feet of pure muscle and who knows what. Bronze armor and an axe the size of a Buick. Just like Jack said. Horns and hooved feet. The artistic depictions of demons didn’t do this thing justice. I only hoped the charges I had would be enough to do our job and not make it mad.
The Wardstone stood in the center of the circle, the Demon waiting in front of it. The stone was a piece of carved granite about eight feet tall with all manner of carvings in it. Were they runes? Sigils? Symbols of dead gods? Who knows what they used to make it.
The room itself had no windows. A massive magic circle was wrought into the floor with precious metals. Serious shit.
Jack had determined that the circle was meant to keep the demon inside the room and insulate the outside from magical detection. We couldn’t get to the stone without crossing it.
I swallowed the fear that welled up in my liver and stalked forward towards the circle.
I reached out a hand and extended my kleptomancy into the ward. I absorbed some of its power. Some kind of anti-demon barrier. But, I couldn’t cross it without tripping the alarm.
The demon sniffed like a dog and stood. Its voice put the ones in the movies to shame. I can only describe it as stone on stone that only vaguely imitated English.
Jack took a step forward with the sword. He called out a word that burned in my ears… I think he challenged it. They got into a swordfight.
I know a signal when I see one.
I ran to the wardstone reciting the procedure for arming the shape charge I made. I attached the shape charge to the stone and set the simple mechanical timer. It was live. I popped in some military-grade earplugs.
Clang! I heard the demon scream and stab my friend.
Without thinking, I ran into the demon with a tackle. I didn’t know what the energy I had absorbed would do until I hit. I bounced off. With this power, I couldn’t even touch the demon.
The demon looked back at me, annoyed.
“Run!” I shouted. I couldn’t remember how long the timer was.
Part 07: Jack Youngblood
Virgil was in position, so I did my thing as soon as the demon looked up. I raised the sword of wrath and pointed it at the demon in a challenge.
I crossed the circle and ran at the demon.
“-Balthazaar-, I challenge thee.”
The Sword of Wrath felt almost weightless in my hands. Best sword I ever used.
But, the demon was not only big, but it was also inhumanly fast. Its flourish looked like a helicopter blade in all directions.
It hesitated a moment when I called out the fragment of its name, still fresh in my head from when I traded for it. I took advantage of that and I let the sword of wrath guide my hand and slashed forward. I got the demon in the gut, causing it to howl in pain. It cut like steel into flesh, the bronze parting as if it was paper. I knew a normal sword would have turned against its skin.
“A worthy blow from a worthy blade.” The demon snarled.
I said the first thing that came to mind, “You’ll see I am full of surprises.”
The demon returned my slash with a flourish of its own. More helicopter blades.
I didn’t see its attack until I felt a deep wound erupt across my chest. Pain filled me, even with the adrenaline.
I fell down. That wasn’t good.
It looked like Virgil tried to tackle the demon, but he bounced right off it.
“Run!” Virgil shouted.
I shouted the demon’s true name again to get him to hesitate and ran for the door.
The demon’s axe swung again. I blocked it, but its sheer force still knocked me across the room and into the brick wall.
I felt like I was in a car accident. It felt like my rib cage was shattered. I got lightheaded and I was spitting up blood. I must have been in shock because I wasn’t feeling the pain yet.
Virgil ran past the demon and picked me up. I could barely hear the demon after that because Virgil popped some earplugs into my ears. I could still comprehend it, though.
“Come back puny beings, and entertain me more.” The demon shouted as we made our way up the stairs. Lucky for us, he didn’t notice Virgil put the bomb on the stone.
I was about to ask how long Virgil had set the timer for when we heard a series of sounds.
A deep pop that I felt more than I heard echoed through the building followed by the sound of something like shattering glass only wrong. Then a woosh like a big wave made by a tsunami but there was no water. There was power…
Part 08: Virgil Gugasian
I have never taken LSD but was on morphine once to get my wisdom teeth out. I tripped pretty bad during surgery, but this was entirely different. I heard smells and tasted colors. I smelled the textures of heavy metal and saw images I had no words for.
My sensitivity to magic finally bit me in the ass and overloaded my senses. The force of it all had knocked the earplugs out of my ears.
I fell, and Jack jostled me awake. I held his wounds and tried to bandage them.
I finally looked back and saw what had happened. The building half imploded. The room we had left was covered in rubble of concrete and rebar. I couldn’t see any sign of the wardstone or the demon, but I saw the rubble shift and move.
“Go!” I shouted.
I slapped Jack and forced him up the stairs.
I opened my backpack and got out the area explosive. I laid the bomb next to what I thought was a load-bearing member and set another mechanical timer.I followed Jack up the stairs….right into the security guys.
Part 09: Jack Youngblood
I came out of the community center with some serious injuries and a light head. I barely kept my hands on the sword of wrath.
We emerged to see three golf carts full of security guys with assault rifles approaching the broken building. I thought quickly and said the first thing that came to mind.
“There’s a gas leak! It’s gonna blow!”
The guards were already splitting into teams, with some headed to evacuate the community center and squad intercepting us on the street.
“What were you doing out this early?” The a guard asked, looking at the sword. The others stood behind in formation, ready to back him up.
“We were showing up for Ren Faire prep.” Virgil said. Clever.
It wasn’t clever enough, though, because I heard him raise the rifle.
“Ren Faire prep is on Thursdays. On your knees!” The guard said.
He was interrupted by another boom. The community center collapsed in on itself, making my ears ring.
I ran and raised a magic shield as the guard fired.
Then it all went black.
Part 10: Virgil Gugasian
The community center blew, and my ears rang. I used the distraction and ran from the guards.
I looked over just in time to see the AK-47 fire. It tagged Jack in the neck. He went down.
I don’t like guns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use one. With my new job as a bounty hunter, firearms have become a part of my every day lately. I’ll never be a marksman, but I knew enough.
I drew my own gun and I fired at the guards. I didn’t hit anything, but it got them to take cover at least. I would have taken them with me if I had had a clear shot.
I looked over and saw our way out.
I ran for Jack and picked him up with strength I didn’t know I had. I put him in one of the golf carts. Next to him, I put the damned sword.
I fired a volley at the guards to get their heads down, then put two in the tires of the remaining carts. I reloaded as fast as I was able and put my foot on the pedal.
I drove as fast as I could as the AKs fired at our backs. As soon as I was out of their sights, I took out the first aid kit I had in my backpack. I held a hand to my friend’s bleeding neck.
“Stay with me, Jack!” I shouted. I drove through the front gate. I headed to the rendezvous point.
I hoped I wasn’t too late.
Fergus and I took our places in front of the school as the sun began to rise.
I had been devising a plan for the children of the school, a way to rescue them from their indoctrination. The part of me that was still that Irish lad wanted nothing more than to give those children a new home.
But, I also swore an oath. An oath to rescue Jack Youngblood’s daughter.
The school was going to open soon, and parents began to gather to drop their children off for early morning programs.
We saw Paulene and her “parents” arrive.
The wardstone was still up, but we couldn’t wait any longer.
We approached the “family” and Fergus made small talk with the mother, Violet. We knew Violet was a mortal practitioner, so her death would be swift to avoid a counterattack or a death curse.Fergus worked up some small talk while I did the same to Paulene.
“Hi again!” I said, “Top of the morning to you.”
I made my own small talk about class and archeology lessons. I tried to start a discussion about Saturday morning cartoons, but Paulene’s parents were especially evil. They didn’t let her watch them.
Then the wardstone blew up. Psychic feedback hit us. I saw colors swirl and sounds shift, but resisted what would be overwhelming for most mortals.
Unlike Paulene and her mother who were fighting a migraine. Violet even had blood coming out of one nostril.
That meant I could finally do what I had longed to do so since I had entered this den of cultist gobshite. I worked some glamour.
Faerie Glamour is a subtle art beyond mere illusion. It requires a mindset to make the unreal real and vivid for all who experience it. A mindset that makes true glamour impossible if you do not possess it.
Jack is a natural for this mindset, a byproduct of his childhood of crime. Fergus has learned this mindset for invisibility, though he struggles with impersonation. Virgil thinks too much to hold the mindset. The man challenges the believability of illusions too much to ever be good at making them.
But my associate Virgil does understand one thing that the others lack. Misdirection. The key to turning a mere phantom of light and sound into a true glamour worthy of a faerie.
To protect Paulene, I decided to use a variant on a practice human confidence artist still use to this day: The three-card monte.
I raised my hands and sent out images that lingered over all of the mortals in the area. When Violet regained her senses, she found not one but five sets of Paulenes before her among the various parents.
If I had more time, I would have taken all the children with us. Sadly, we did not have time, and an oath is an oath.
I noticed Fergus wasn’t moving…so I gave him the signal.
Part 12: Fergus Mac Cormaic
I didn’t know what to expect when the Wardstone blew. I thought maybe an earth-shattering kaboom or a screech or something.
Instead, one minute I was talking up Violet about the importance of teaching children important lessons at a young age. The next minute, I was in Woodstock.
Psychedelic visions and sounds hit me. It was overwhelming.
The only thing that brought me out of it was Kerouac’s tiny foot stepping on mine, which all of a sudden felt a lot heavier.
I looked up and saw duplicates of Paulene all around us, a confusing haze. Except for the Paulene right in front of me, who had the tell-tale sign of a veil hiding her from everyone but me.
Thank you, you annoying little bastard.
“Paulene? Paulene!” Violet called out. She stopped bleeding from the head and had started looking for her daughter. But, she was facing the wrong direction.
As a new father, I couldn’t let this moment slip. I had to reunite her with her real family.
I reached out to Paulene, who was clearly scared and as overwhelmed as I was, and took her hand.
“It’ll be okay, Paulene.” I said in my best fatherly voice, “You want to see a magic trick?”
Violet then straightened her posture called out with a much more authoritative voice.
“Lillith! Come here this instant!”
Lilith? Not a good sign.
This seemed to change something in the child before me. “Lilith” began to speak with a child’s voice, but the maturity of someone much older.
“Let me go!” Lilith shouted, her voice muffled by the veil around her,“ Get me back to my mom, or you will suffer. Your bones will break. Your flesh will burn!”“Those were not your parents.” I said, trying to calm her. She tried to get away, but I held firm to her.
“That’s what any kidnapper would say.” She tried to break from my grasp. I held fast.
When she realized she couldn’t break free from my faerie-enhanced strength, she went from struggling to calm, and collected disturbingly quickly.
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with” She said. She had been trained.
“We know who we’re dealing with.” I replied.
“That’s what they all say. I look forward to seeing what becomes of you.”
It’s a hell of a thing to hear anyone say that. It’s not something you expect to hear from a child.
I immediately used my Wyld Power and teleported myself, Kerouac and Paulene-Lilith to the rendezvous point. Violet would be left looking for her daughter surrounded by illusions.
We arrived in a small forest just outside of town. The same place I arrived when I ported out of the munitions factory.
But, unlike the previous teleport I wasn’t met by my friends in a station wagon.
I was met by golf cart covered in blood.
Virgil hauled Jack out of the cart like he was a sack of flour. Jack looked pale and was bleeding from…everywhere.
“Holy shit! What happened to Jack?” I shouted.
“Got tagged by an assault rifle.” Virgil said, hauling him into the back of our getaway car, “We need a hospital.”
“Leif can help us. He’s the best surgeon in the State.” I said.
Virgil shook his head, “He won’t make a five-hour drive. We need to stabilize him.”
Virgil put on his gloves and reached back into the Golf Cart. He carefully carried the Sword of Wrath and put it in the trunk of the getaway vehicle.
“I’ll handle that.” Kerouac said.
Kerouac changed from his child form back into the Maine Coon form he preferred. I’m not good at reading the expression of a cat, but I could tell that he was pissed off.
I dragged Paulene into the back with us.
Virgil scared me again by doing the kind of covering of tracks only dangerous people do. He splashed the golf cart and our old station wagon with bleach before using a pair of homemade bombs to set them on fire.
I figure a similar bomb probably went off back in our house, erasing most of the evidence of our passing in cleansing fire.
We jumped into the getaway car and gunned it straight for the freeway. Virgil drove faster than I thought was safe.
I spent the trip in the back seat with Paulene in my lap and a bleeding Jack lying next to me. We had brought some saline and bandages with us, but we needed a real doctor.
We stayed like that for five minutes until we caught up with other cars on the road. Virgil slowed down to the speed limit and began breathing again.
“I think we’re clear.” Virgil confirmed, “You know a medic, Kero?”
Kerouac hung out in the front seat, pointing with his paws.
“At the next rest stop. There’s a forest there.” Kerouac said. I thought I heard some Irish creep back into his voice.
Then Paulene reached for the seat release. I held her still.
“What’s that singing?” She said.
“I don’t hear anything,” I said.
Virgil looked in the rearview.
“Might be our other passenger.”
The Sword of Wrath. Shit…
“I want it. It should be mine.” She said, trying to get out of my grasp.
“Bop her!” Virgil said unironically.
“I am not going to punch a kid.” I said.
“Then hold her down.”
So, I held Paulene down for the remainder of the trip. With my superstrength, she was unable to go anywhere.
We stopped at the first rest stop, following Kerouac’s directions. I held onto Paulene and stayed with the car while Virgil and Kerouac moved Jack into the forest.
I felt the power from the forest. The power of another member of the fey.
Virgil and Kero returned a few minutes later. Jack was covered in new bandages made of moss with stitches of spun spiderwebs, vines and other materials clearly of faerie make. The saline bag had been replaced with a glass jar full of some kind of red and green fluid that emitted a soft glow.
We started driving again, and I took a minute just staring at Jack before I spoke. He was still pale, but he was no longer bleeding or sweating.
“Will he be okay?” I asked.
“He’s stabilized.” Virgil said, “Enough to get him to Leif.”
“I put myself in debt.” Kerouac said, “I vowed to reunite him with his daughter. Youngblood’s death would not make that possible.”
“His daughter?” Paulene asked, now growing more confused.
I looked at her and did my best to connect to the innocent girl inside the indoctrination.
“This isn’t a kidnapping. This is a rescue mission.”
Epilogue: Jack Youngblood
I dreamed I was floating in a void. I heard the faint music. Like the singing of ominous angels.
A dark thought came to mind. The reason my girl was taken.
Abigail was possessed by Azazel when she was pregnant and during the birth. Our daughter had an even more special lineage than I thought.