Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 10: Chapter 01
Transcribed by: Brad
Date: September 11, 2022
In Game date: September 11, 2012
Episode: 51 (125)
Part 01: Hiroko Noshimuri
Seattle is not where I imagined I’d be. But, after my troubles in New York, I didn’t have much of a choice or much time for any alternatives.
Seattle is the largest city in the state of Washington, with three-quarters of a million people living here. But compared to New York City, everywhere seems tiny. The only place I felt was smaller was back in Hawaii, which is a row of islands.
When it is not overcast, which seems like never or all the time around here, I can actually see blue sky. I can smell trees and sense the flow of nature all around me.
There are skyscrapers downtown, but nothing like the Manhattan skyline. The streets are laid out haphazardly, and everything’s on a stupid hill.
But as the great masters say, we should go with the flow of the universe or something like that.
So, when I finally settled into the International District, I went looking for a new sensei. I found way too many McDojos for my taste. Way too many schools are full of kids punching the air for some weird colored belt instead of actual training. When I asked around, there turned out to be a Kenjutsu instructor about a block away from me.
Toshiro Watanabe is one of the most generic Japanese names back in Tokyo. It would be equivalent to “John Smith” or some variation to an American. Lots of Watanabes back east. Lots of Toshiros. The kind of name that would get lost in a crowd of similar names. The guy sounded like a Japanese nobody.
The first tip-off that this particular nobody was anything but was his dojo, which was one of the oldest structures in the International District. Although it was made locally, it looked like the pictures I had seen of dojos in Tokyo. Same atmosphere. Same discipline. Same layout. It even had the same curriculum as the classic sword schools back in Japan that I had only read about. The kind of school that teaches you how to kill with a sword.
The second tip-off was the mannequin display that was mounted on the wall. It was a distinctive blue and white uniform. A haori and hakama over a kimono with a white tasuki (white cord) crossed over the chest and tied in the back. Beneath the kimono was what looked like a suit of chainmail armor next to a light iron helmet.
For most people, that outfit would look silly. Why put someone in blue like that?
To anyone with any kind of knowledge of Japanese History, it stood out as oddly specific. It was the uniform of a Shinsengumi, an old special police force from the 1860s for the Shogunate. The actual history is complicated, but it is the stuff of samurai movies and bad anime. But this was real. 150 years old real. The specific light blue color was Asagi-iro, which to a samurai characterizes an honorable death.
Toshiro-sensei was the real deal, but I wasn’t sure how deep that particular rabbit hole went. I thought it was time to find out. We exchanged emails, and he suggested I come in to see where I was at.
I brushed up on my forms and my copy of the Hagakure and went to Toshiro’s dojo to feel him out. I succeeded in that task in seconds.
I walked into the dojo to find a man who looked like a guy who was half-assing the part of a sensei. He wore the traditional uniform, but he had five o’clock shadow, and reeked of BO and marijuana. But then I felt his aura.
It was the aura of a master. A pool of calmness surrounded by an ocean of chaos that seemed to part for him. Even without using my Shen Sight, I could tell he was the real deal by the way he moved and held himself. A true master.
“You are Hiroko, yes?” The master asked.
“I am.” I said and bowed.
“Not every day we get a Shinigami in my dojo. In fact, I don’t think one has graced us here.”
He knew who I was. What I was.
Now I needed to impress him.
I got into my training gear and picked up a bokken for his test. A simple wooden sword for training.
Toshiro tried to make small talk, but I decided to be as stoic as I could. He put out whatever he was smoking in an ashtray and took up his own bokken in one hand. He leaned on its pommel like a cane or something, tip in the floor.
“Let’s see what you can do.” Toshiro said in an old-fashioned accent.
I rushed towards him and swung. I used a perfect form, just like the old texts.
Toshiro took one step to the side and dodged it. He countered my strike with a strike of his own…right into my sternum.
I tried a second strike. He hit me in the head with the tip of his bokken.
I followed up with a triple-strike and finally touched his sword. He deflected each of my blows and locked blades with me. I don’t know what he did, but whatever it did knocked me over.
Toshiro held out a hand, and I didn’t take it. I stood up on my own.
“You’re good, Toshiro-sensei,” I said.
“You are arrogant.” Toshiro said, “I am not your sensei.”
Toshiro replied by lighting what I think was a joint and breathing it in my face.
“You have been gifted with great power. The black-bladed sword you hold in that bag of yours is known to me. Muramasa makes a good blade.”
I hadn’t even taken the sword out of the bag. He was good.
“You know of Zanpakuto?”
“That blade has many names. Names that predate even your oldest family. One of them is Glorious Victory Unsought. Are you worthy of the names it holds? The samurai tradition you follow in?”
He held his hand up and took a puff.
“Until you can show me your humility, I cannot train you the way of the real blade. At most, you can sign up for my Kendo classes every other night. We only swing around sticks, but it is at least a good workout.”
Toshiro sat back down and began some meditation. I left the dojo with my tail between my legs.
I got outside to the distinctive sounds of motorcycles. I knew there was a motorcycle club in Seattle. Some kind of werewolves, I think. But these bikes were different. I knew the sound of a Bosozoku gang when I heard one.
From what I understand, the subculture was just a fad that was dying in Japan. Juvenile delinquents on bikes raising hell. But around here, it can only mean the lowest level of Yakuza trying to move into town. These bikers were mobsters in training, and they were heading to the center of the Internation District.
My feet made my decision before my brain when they started moving towards the sounds.
Part 02: Virgil Gugasian
The aftermath of Silver Falls was sheer hell. We got Jack to Leif in stable condition, but he needed days of surgery after that. Abby met us and took Lilith with her. I told them to go somewhere safe. We would take care of Jack.
Jack came out of surgery in a coma. Unresponsive.
Because of his Wizard powers, Jack went from the Hospital to hospice. All we could do was wait for him to wake up. I spent my shifts at his bed reading some of his books on the basics of magic. Maybe there would be something in his libraries that could help.
If it taught me anything, it’s that you can’t prepare for everything.
One month later, he still hasn’t woken up. We visit from time to time to talk in his ear, but still, he just lies there.
Jack’s best friend, Bruno, takes care of the Youngblood house while I am forced to do my own thing.
I spent the month consulting for security matters, but also transitioning towards my big job: hunting bounties. As a licensed bounty hunter, I am able to get some money for bringing in people who have skipped out on bail. Not uncommon in the state of Washington.
As a result of my wakeup call, I stopped overstocking everything for every contingency. I carried only what I thought I would need and just decided to go with things as they came.
I started carrying actual weapons and ID for said weapons. But those were still just for show. For my new profession, I started experimenting with bringing more magic that most people wouldn’t expect. I had stolen quite a few spells from my half-year crime spree with Kerouac.
It was going pretty well.
Then as I was stepping out my shower with a towel barely around me I found a Japanese asshole standing in my apartment uninvited.
“Hidenori-San, to what do I owe the pleasure?” I said, seeing the modern ninja in my apartment yet again.
Hidenori was a representative of the Emerald Conclave, a local supernatural organization protecting the Greater Seattle Area. His clan was in charge of enforcement for the body and he was technically my parole officer. The conclave had gotten my number a few months back and I had to sign a contract in my own blood to make sure I could get out of the jam alive.
As a result, Hidenori here was perpetually keeping an eye on me and threatened to kill me on a weekly basis for not liking me.
I still have no idea how he gets in like that. I have tried everything from changing locks to video surveillance cameras to putting a damn bear trap at the foot of my door. All I get are unlocked locks, surveillance tapes with nobody but me on them, and a plastic bear in a bear trap that is still set.
“Sigard Jarlsson has a task for you, thief.” Hidenori said.
“Con Artist.” I said, emphasizing the term again, “Where, when, and with whom?”
“Today at noon. Panama Hotel. Bring your allies mister Clay and mister Mac Cormaic with you, thief.”
“Gotcha. I am guessing it is important.”
“If you do not complete this task, thief, your contract with the Conclave will become due. I have so many plans for what do to you when your fate is in my hands, thief.” Hidenori said with way too much melodrama.
“You and me both, pal. I got plans for you too. I’ll get the task done. Could you?”
I looked up to finish my thought, and Hidenori had already disappeared without a trace. Asshole.
The one saving grace was that in the presence of any member of the Conclave in good standing, I could not speak a deliberate falsehood. When I said I had plans for Hidenori, I wasn’t lying…
Part 03: Fergus Mac Cormaic
Our new house in Capital Hill was the largest I had ever lived in. Perfect for a family. Good neighborhood. Good schools. Good internet connection and cable offerings.
But my life had been reduced to boxes. More boxes than I had room for. Boxes with and without labels. Empty boxes stacked on top of each other. Some boxes might be recyclable or might be turned in for money at U-Haul. Or they may be neither because they have been covered in baby stuff.
On the downside, it turns out that a genie’s wish only goes so far. I had inadvertently wished that my daughter would stop crying so much at night so my wife and I could get some sleep. It worked for a while.
We got plenty of sleep, albeit with occasional nightmares brought on by my Wyld power and the implications of a genie using magic on our daughter.
Then we moved into a new house…and she started crying again.
Maybe the spell was location-bound or something. Maybe it was the crib that got lost in the move. I don’t know.
My wife and I took turns waking up in the middle of the night to feed and change her. Erin would cry for seemingly no reason. But she’s my life. My everything.
On the upside, my business was taking off. William West’s checks never bounce. The Hometown Heroes Initiative had gone into production, and my new team was more or less on auto-pilot. Even if the program tanked, we were set up to make basically anything at this point. We were beyond where I wanted my business to be.
But like my daughter’s crying, the genie’s wish that made the initial success possible had run its course. I had to juggle a few unexpected expenses this month, and finding new clients was not as easy as before.
The fate of my business was now in my hands. My deeply sleep-deprived hands.
“Fergus, this is an emergency,” A voice rang out from down the hall, “I can’t find my cat tree!”
“I’ll help you in a minute,” I said as I finished a diaper change. As soon as I finished, I put Erin back into her crib, and she reached out for Kerouac.
Kerouac has been our bane and our biggest boon. The annoying little shit keeps messing with locals and doing pooka things. But, he is one of the only things that consistently keeps Erin happy. She loves that cat. When it is a cat.
He was also the one who called in a favor to save Jack Youngblood’s life. He kept his word.
I let out a yawn and walked into my living room to find a flurry of paper stacks. Anna, the love of my life, had been working on some kind of big legal case with our friend David Clay. She had been going in and out of the office and working from home almost every day for the past few weeks, even during the move.
But past the stacks of work, I found Anna sitting silently. She looked frozen in shock.
“Honey? You alright?” I said. She gave no response.
I moved closer to her to give her a hug. She jumped like I had pulled a gun on her.
As soon as she realized it was me, she just held onto me for dear life.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Anna collected herself and shifted in her seat.
“There’s something I need to run by you.” She said.
I sat down next to her and held her hand, “Okay.”
“I have been working with David on this case. I found some evidence that implicates my father in a real estate scam with Vanguard Real Estate. Buying properties cheap and reselling them back to people for pennies on the dollar.”
Raymond Avila, Anna’s father, was one of the people I always knew was up to something but could never prove it. He had paid for our wedding but always came off as someone with an agenda.
The mention of Vanguard Real Estate, one of the many ventures owned by Trevor Radcliffe, meant whatever this was, it was bad.
Even so, it was her Dad. So, I was at a loss for words.
“That’s bad.” I said.
“I don’t know what to do. If I do nothing, I’ll be an accessory after the fact.”
“What exactly is he doing?” I asked.
She took me through it. Vanguard Real Estate was buying up real estate that had been hit badly by Black Monday and, more recently, the Great Seattle Flood. Vanguard Insurance would refuse or delay payments to victims of the disasters forcing many to foreclose on their properties. The company would buy up the notes of those properties or sometimes even help those impoverished people refinance their mortgages with predatory loans. Then Vanguard Real Estate would buy up the properties and sell them to investors for pennies on the dollar. The investors would then sell the properties at full price on the market, making massive profits. Ray Avila was one of those investors and had made millions on the dirty deals.
Or at least that’s how I understood it. Anna was always the smarter of us.
Kero slinked past us and headed towards Erin’s room.“Sounds like Money Laundering to me.” The cat said.
I nodded to Anna.
“This lines up with everything Jack, David, and I found out.“
Anna held back tears.
“Honey, I don’t know what to do. Should I give David this information? It would mean the end of my Dad’s career.”
I looked my wife in the eyes and held her close.
“You have to do what you think is best, honey. What does your heart tell you?” I said.
Anna thought for a minute and came to a decision.
“If I am going to do this, I need to do this myself,” Anna said.
Then she kissed me.
Our kiss was interrupted by a human voice coming from a cat.
“Help! I am being assaulted by a 6-month-old child!”
Part 04: Kerouac
Erin has enormous potential for a mortal. Potential I shall keep an eye on for her entire childhood.
Her lineage alone gave her a high likelihood of being a changeling.
She smelled of clover. Oh no…
But first, she had to get past the terrible twos.
The toddler still had a lot to learn about how to treat a cat. She didn’t understand belly rubs and that pulling the tail was not okay.
I ran away from the toddler, dove under the couch, and into the Ways. I thought maybe I would catch up with the wee folk, my local contacts.
I came out of the Ways on the roof of the house next door. The local Ways were still being influenced by recent disasters of late. Change that comes once in a century had come in less than five years.
I looked out from the roof to the rising sun, a beautiful sight even when the sky is perpetually overcast and marred by ferromantic light pollution.
The sight was also marred by the van I saw down the street. A familiar animal control van.
“Harold, you piece of shite. What are you doing here?” I said to the air, infuriated.
Harold Grey the Dog Catcher was my mortal nemesis. A lowly animal control officer who would stop at nothing to catch me and was always up to no good.
That morning, even more so.
I moved silently through trees and past powerlines, following Harold across the neighborhood. Harold was out catching every animal he could find. Eventually, he dismounted his motor carriage to chase after one of the neighbor’s dogs.
I looked inside and found a horrific scene. Dogs, cats, and other domestic pets in cages. Catching strays was his duty, but these had collars and those ferromantic piercings. He was taking them from their human’s yards. This was most unusual. Even for Harold.
I could not let it go.
I used my glamour to create a mirage of myself down the street that meowed and licked itself. It caught Harold’s eye immediately.
‘You!” Harold said.
He put down the cage he was hauling in and reached for a net. But this one looked and felt strange. It was made with steel wire.
Harold crept up to my glamour, and my glamour ran. Harold pursued the phantom cat, and it would change positions rapidly. He would follow it around the corner, only to find it two steps ahead, behind him, or even by his own feet. I even managed to trick him into running across the street, only to have the very glamour he had chased follow him across the street like in one of those delightful cartoons Fergus tried watching with the little menace when he had time. His favorite starred a large canine with a speech impediment, and I took pride in catching Harold up in a timely reference.
I could do this all day. But innocents called.
I changed into my pooka form, a form akin to a furry chimpanzee hybrid to mortal eyes. But, unlike my cat form, it had thumbs.
I unlatched the cages and let the captured animals out.
The animals fled to safety, drawing Harold back to the van.
Harold found me on top of his van in cat form. I waved at him, meowed, and then ran while my glamour did the same in the other direction.
The bastard twisted in confusion and tripped over the curb. His face met mud and water.
Part 05: Hiroko Noshimuri
I followed the bikers to the International District’s core block. They dismounted from their bikes and began to assemble. Bosozoku around the states were among the lowest rung of membership into the Yakuza. These were thugs trying to prove themselves to real criminals.
Their loud outfits contrasted greatly with the surrounding people they passed. They carried steel bats and chains. Any one of them on their own looked to be not much of a threat, especially not to a trained swordswoman.
But, there were three groups of six. Far too many for just me.
They started going into the business and broke things with their bats.
“Oh, what an accident.” They said before poking the owner with the tip.
Amateur hour shakedown.
They were also nowhere near established Yakuza territory. These kids had just moved in. I had to find out more.
I opened my Shen Sight, the sight I was born with that allowed me to see supernatural threats for what they really were. Or at least to see a taste of what they really were.
The gangers couldn’t see me, but I could see everything about them.
The gangers were mostly normals. Mostly. Besides the weapons, a stiff punch or kick from a real warrior would blow them over.
Except for the leader, the Kyodai. His aura was one of a true warrior. He would be a challenge even for me.
But the Kyodai had a minder shadowing him. A minder in a hoodie concealing his features, which were…not right. There was the stink of corruption.
Son of a bitch, a Jiang-Shi. A Vampire of the Jade Court.
These kids were in so far over their heads that it wasn’t even funny.
I wanted to step in there. Kill the vamp and show these kids what tough really was. But there were too many innocents. Too many who could be caught in the crossfire.
Then a teenage girl came out of one of the stores. The boys hounded her. They to her with the same vile comments women are too often forced to endure. Disgusting.
I steeled myself and was about to put a stop to it when a voice stopped them.
“Enough!” a woman’s voice screamed. One of the bikers got backhanded and flew twenty feet through the air.
The source of the body blow was a middle-aged Japanese woman in a bespoke business suit. Rather than heels, she wore leather flats made to look fashionable but held up to a good kick.
In addition to the obvious supernatural strength, my Shen Sight revealed more. The same stink of corruption I had felt on the Jade Court Vampire, but a spark of light. Someone not fully vampire. A Jade Court infected.
It was the same stink I recognized from my contact, Solomon Castostrani.
She followed her display of strength with a lecture to the rest of them. The lieutenant listened to every syllable before she got into a sedan and drove off in another direction.
But, that wasn’t surprising. I knew the woman.
It was my “niece” Michelle Shioma.
The New York Yakuza had found its way to Seattle. Found its way to me…
Part 06: Kerouac
Harold did not like the mud. His face grew red, and my cat laughter grew.
Then Harold got a call on his phone, and his face turned pale as he put the device to his ear.
I couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation, but his expression was one I associate with people who had just displeased a predator.
“Yeah. There has been a slight snag. I will get you the animals you want but…I know I promised…But see, you are going to get everything I promised y…I will get the animals I prom…" he gulped in fear. "…my legs, yeah. I understand. I will have the animals for you in a couple of hours.”
I meowed viciously. The sound drove the onerous man back into his van, and he drove away. But, with that kind of desperation, it was clear that Harold would not stop with my neighborhood. There were more animals, no doubt. I could not let this stand. I had to find the rest of them and find out why.
I followed the van by tree and by Way to a local animal shelter. Harold continued his sordid task, continuing to load up his truck with animals.
One of the volunteers at the shelter confronted him, and he gave a bull shite excuse.
“They have me getting the critters for isolation. There’s some kind of bug going around.”
This falsehood seemed to satisfy the volunteer, and Harold loaded his truck with innocent animals.
His time would come. His punishment would be sweet. But I needed to follow him.
Over the course of an hour, he filled the van again. As he did, I snuck on the roof of the vehicle and waited.
Harold took us to the Seattle Waterfront, a place still reeling from recent supernatural disasters.
We came to a fenced-off warehouse. It was surrounded by Japanese men with extensive tattoos, some of whom moved stiffly. There was something strange about them. Something not mortal.
Dangerous things.The men start unloading the cages while the stiff ones continued to guard the facility.
“I got everything…” Harold started, only to be stopped by one of the tattooed hands slamming him against his own van with little effort. The thug held up an envelope with his other tattooed hand.
“Take your money and go before I change my mind about letting you live.”
The voice was cold. Predatory.
Definitely dangerous. It also meant that Harold had been manipulated. He was a catspaw in someone else’s plan.
Harold nearly soiled himself and took the envelope.
Then, the humans moved. They stood upright as an automated chariot called a sedan came toward the warehouse. Clearly the transport of their better. Their boss, as they say.
I reared up on my legs and covered myself in a veil. I found a perch and waited for my prey. The leader of these things.
The motor coach stopped at the warehouse, and a monster came out. It was a beautiful young Japanese woman in an expensive business suit. Not quite human anymore, but very controlled. The tattooed ones all bowed.
Obviously, she was their superior.
She began to yell commands to them that I couldn’t quite hear, but her human language was no problem for a faerie.
“He’s going to come here to inspect the merchandise, “ she said.
Another master? Curious…
Harold made himself scarce as the creatures started hauling the crates into the warehouse.
I shifted my form into something more useful, that of an innocuous dock rat. There were so many that it was easy to blend in.
As I made my way inside, I saw more cages. But they didn’t hold animals.
They held people. Children who were obviously homeless. The kind of people produced by every society with haves. The have-nots personified.
I moved closer to the cages, crawling as low as my rat form could take me. The leader in the business suit seemed to be able to hear the patter of my tiny feet. She looked in my general direction but didn’t see me.
The guards didn’t even notice me. Between my size and my glamorous, I was invisible to them. But the woman had the instincts of a predator.
My mind wouldn’t leave the children in cages. They looked just like my friends back in Ireland. Hungry. Innocent.
“They’re here.” One of the guards said.
The door at the front opened for one of the largest motor coaches the mortals make. An 18-wheeler, I believe it is called.
A figure emerged from the truck and headed towards the leader in the business suit. There was something strange about the figure. It was a misshapen thing that played at looking human from a distance by dressing in a peacoat and large hat.
I tried to smell him to get a sense of what he might be, but the smells of the entire warehouse and the noxious exhaust from the big truck overwhelmed my rodent senses. I started sneezing so uncontrollably that I couldn’t get a good look at the new figure.
“There are all here as promised.” The woman said.
I couldn’t see much of the figure, but I could see its meaty hand shaking the woman’s. I could also see its eyes. Large red eyes that glowed in the darkness.
I could see the parties leaving. I could only pick one to follow. I couldn’t ignore the plight of the children, so I followed the truck…
Part 07: Virgil Gugasian
I drove up from my place in Renton and met the others in the International District.
Traffic was weird on my way in. Young guys on bikes. Young Japanese guys.
Fucking Yakuza? Great…
I found a spot down the road from the I-District and loaded up with my now standard kit. It took Jack going down to teach me that you can’t prepare for every conceivable scenario, so I just had to bring what I knew I needed.
That meant I had to upgrade from my usual smile, bespoke suit, a Thunderball, and a knife.
As a licensed bounty hunter with a valid concealed carry permit, I could carry a gun if I needed one. I still think guns make you stupid, so the pistol I carried was just for show and for any mortal I had to contend with. My real gear was hidden among my outfit, disguised as various accessories.
I still needed serious work to make them Wizard-caliber in Jack’s absence, but they’d have to do.
I still kept the Thunderball, though. That thing is useful and stylish.
David was looking better than he was at the wedding. He still had an aura of not-quite-human, but he was much better than the Hollywood Horror Nights look he was rocking.
“How is Jack?” the Golem asked. I pursed my lips.
“Still no change.” I said.
I shook my head and tried to get my head back in the game. We were here to meet Jarlson at some local landmark. The Panama Hotel Tea House.
“So, what do you know about this…tea house?”
My thought was stopped by what the thugs did next. They went inside the Tea House.
Part 08: Hiroko Noshimuri
The Panama Hotel Tea House is an I-District staple from what I understand. Lots of weird ghost stories dating back to the 30s.
The owner was a friend of mine, Babylan. A Deva.
When the bosozoku moved towards the Tea House, I followed. I kept my Katana and Wakizashi in my gym bag to keep the police from getting ideas. I had heard about the last guy in Seattle with a katana and didn’t want to witness a repeat first-hand.
Before I closed my Shen Sight and picked my targets, I saw two people I didn’t recognize with auras that were concerning. One was a large man in a suit I only associate with a defense attorney. But his aura was wrong. He was an evershifting mountain that was carved into the shape of a human being. I didn’t know what he was, but he had a power to him.
The other man with him was a black hole. Instead of emitting an aura, he drew in the power around him. A cursed quirk I associate with demons immune or highly resistant to magic. But that was to my Shen Sight. To my human sight, the man was…boring. T-Shirt, Jeans and a few accessories. The only distinctive feature was a magic 8-ball on a chain hanging from his belt. I would peg it as a weapon if it weren’t so small.
Then I saw a third man and a distinctive green aura before I closed my Shen Sight.
Fergus? Fergus Mac Cormaic?
They all headed inside the Tea House and I followed.
One of the bikers knocked over some stuff and tried to shake down my friend, Babylan.
“Oh, an accident. You wouldn’t like another one, would you?” The creep said.
The attorney stepped forward right into the guy’s face.
“It’s good that she has protection from accidents on her property then.” The attorney said.
The thug looked up at him, stunned that such an unassuming man would get in his face like that.
“You’re not where you are supposed to be.” The thug said.
“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.” The attorney replied.
The black hole guy reached for his 8-ball. He could sense there might be trouble and was ready for a fight.
I had no choice but to prevent one.
Part 09: Virgil Gugasian
The Panama Hotel Tea House looked nice. At least until a teenage asshole slammed a bat into one of the tables.
The owner, a South Asian lady of some variety, told the biker and his group of friends to leave.
David got in the asshole’s face.
These guys didn’t look tough, but there was a bunch of them. I reached for my Thunderball just in case.
I didn’t want a fight, but if these kids wanted one, we would give them a beating.
Then someone with the timing of unknown gods walked in out of nowhere.
“You don’t want to have to start trouble here. Walk away.” She said in Japanese.
It was a Japanese woman. Late Twenties or early thirties. Gave me the vibes of growing up stateside.
And she looked pissed.
“Do I know you?” The thug with the metal baseball bat said.
The girl responded by rolling up a sleeve, showing a tattoo similar to the boys.
“You don’t need to know who I am. Just back off.”
Whoever she was, it spooked them. The kids walked off without another word.
Only when they were gone did we all unclench our buttcheeks.“Perfect timing as always, Hiroko,” Fergus said, clearly recognizing the stranger.
“You know her?” I asked.
“Hiroko here saved my bacon back in the day. She’s family.” Fergus replied.
Fergus doesn’t call everyone family, but if he vouched for her…
He introduced us, and I shook Hiroko’s hand. I wasn’t sensitive enough magically to detect if she had power, but I did have a good enough eye to read her.
Cellphone meant she wasn’t a magic user, or at least not a powerful one. The tattoo was clearly yakuza. The callouses on her hands and her strong grip strength combined with the unusually long bag meant only one thing…
“Master Swordswoman, I take it?” I said, eyeing the suspicious bag.
“Very astute…” Hiroko replied.
“Pretty young to be a Master, aren’t you?”
“It’s not the age; it’s the mileage.” a soothing voice said. It was Babylan, the Tea Shop’s owner.
I don’t know what she did, but her very presence calmed everyone. It felt like we just popped an Aleve or something. Not something I would rely on for a serious injury, but it was a good feeling.
Babylan directed us to a table at the back already waiting for us. Singard Jarlson looked like a portly fellow with a full professional beard befitting the curator of the Nordic Heritage Museum of Seattle. In reality, that is exactly what he was, besides being a vassal of Odin, if you can believe it. He was an expert in all things Norse for sure.
I still can’t wrap my head around the whole “All myths are true in a way” thing. But I guess I have to roll with it.
But who was more interesting was his companion. Hrolf Helgarson was the number three man at Monoc Securities, a security company with ties to the paranormal.
Hrolf had also been the one to catch me. If it was Hrolf asking, I had to obey. He was on the Conclave. It also meant I couldn’t speak a deliberate falsehood in front of him, but he could say anything he wanted.
“Hey Singard. Hrolf. I heard you had a mission for me?” I asked.
“We do, my boy.” Singard said.
“Eric Laufey has been found.” Hrolf said.
Eric Laufey was a scion of Loki working as a used car salesman who had gone missing a while ago. He had been missing so long that he could have been anywhere. I had teamed up with Kerouac and his means of opening Ways in order to track down the AWOL car guy.
I had done the legwork for Eric Laufey at the same time a wish-granting genie was wreaking havoc on the Seattle area. On one side, I missed out on the opportunity to snag a wish-granting genie. On the other side, I did as the Conclave requested of me to help resolve my debt, and I was nowhere near the Great Seattle Flood.
“That’s right. I located his whereabouts a while ago. Conclave said that was enough.”
“Not this time. He needs to be rescued.” Hrolf said.
“So, where is he?”
“He is in Jotunheim. He is being held captive.” Hrolf said.
Jotunheim. Some mystical land of the Giants. One of the corners of the Nevernever. Some of Jack’s allies had gone there once according to a what he had told me.
“Great…” I said, “What kind of timeframe?”
“Bring him back as soon as you are able.” Hrolf said.
Going back into the Nevernever into a mystical land of giants all to rescue a used car salesman? If you had told me this would be my life ten years ago, I would have gone to Law School and become a Public Defender while selling drugs on the side. That would be easier and safer than this shit.
“How can we find him?” I asked, “Jotenheim is a big place, so to speak.”
“Erik has a runestone on him. He can be tracked through it.”
“It will be done,” I said. Because of my contract in blood, I had no other choice.
Part 10: Kerouac
I rode the truck in my cat form. It took us across the waterfront to another dark warehouse. I had never been there before, but I recognized it. Jack and Fergus described its aura to me. A place where dark rituals had been performed. The place oozed darkness and smelled of dirt, and ash, and blood. People had died here.
I saw who was in there. More cages. More children imprisoned.
I also saw who took them.
The Fomor…gathering recruits and food.
I leaped into the Ways and sought out my allies to stop them.