Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 12: Chapter 02
Rescue Down Under
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: July 9, 2023
In Game date: November 2012
Episode: 62 (136)
Darkness follows me like a lover. I can’t help being wherever the darkness is right when I need to be there. I like to think it is God looking out for humanity.
One night, I found some kind of weird vampire I couldn’t identify. It burst into lights and disappeared when I cut it in half.
Because of this Twilight Zone encounter, I missed some calls from a few people. I didn’t notice until I was standing outside of Jack Youngblood’s house. The damned faerie in the shape of an even more damned cat finally answered my knocking by appearing right behind me out of nowhere. He tilted his cat head.
“The Wizard is out.” Kerouac said, “That should have been obvious.”
“What’s going on?” I said angrily, “I’ve been out here for an hour.”
“You didn’t check your ferromantic messaging service like a sensible human. And you continue to be rude.”
I checked my messages. My heart skipped a beat, and I ran down the street as fast as I could.
Jack was in the hospital again. He wasn’t in traction this time, but he still looked beaten to shit. Virgil sat next to him, also bandaged up with that same blank look he had since Halloween. Kerouac once again appeared from nowhere, standing watch over the injured.
“What the blazes happened?” I asked, checking him over. He had blood dripping from every orifice. Gross and intense even for a wizard.
“Outsider down in the underground. We took it down, but Orenda got away from us.” Jack admitted, barely able to talk. Virgil motioned to Jack to lie down and rest, so he could do the talking.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked
“Orenda rushed in for the finishing blow.” Virgil said dryly, “She was on the other side of the portal when it closed.”
“So, where the hell is she?”
“Lost in the nevernever.” Virgil said, “With the outsider gone, we can’t get back there easily.”
“We need to go find her.” I said, thinking quickly as to what we could do.
Virgil held up his bandaged arm and pointed to the new holes in himself and Jack. They were both out of action.
Jack sucked down some water and sat up just enough to get a few words out.
“Go see Orenda’s father.” Jack said and passed out.
“I am staying here then.” Kerouac said, standing his watch, “Cole and I don’t get along well since that horse incident a century ago.”
“Why am I not surprised?” I said and set off.
I took one of the new “ride-share” things that just got rolled out. Riding in a stranger’s car through a phone app could be the replacement for cabs or could be a terrible idea with SCOTUS cases waiting to happen. Time will tell, I guess.
Pioneer square is an old part of Seattle. It survived fires and industrialization. I got the rideshare to take me to one of the oldest parts, where a pub straight out of the old west sits, albeit with some updates for modern building codes. It still had a pair of those saloon door things.
At first glance when I walked in, it looked like a bar for bikers and big men with big guns and even bigger egos. Said clientele were personified by a seven-foot braided-blonde Scandanavian woman in something close to biker leathers holding two such tacticool guys upside down by a leg while beer was being poured into their mouths through hoses attached to funnels.
I got the tall woman’s attention just by walking in, despite the shouts of, “Chug! Chug! Chug!”
“I’m looking for…” I started.
“Behind the counter, Shinigami.” The woman said, motioning to a guy in his 40s wiping down his bar with a white towel.
For those in the know, the Renegade Saloon is really a place for Monster Hunters across the tri-state area. Been in business since the 1800s. If you believe the rumors, it is still owned and operated by the same person.
Virgil Cole is a legend in monster-hunting circles. They say he can’t die because of some ancient curse or something. They say he’s one of the best hunters.
To me, he just looked like an old bartender with a five-o-clock shadow older than me. To my Shen sight, I saw an aura of death.
“Virgil Cole?” I asked.
“Whose askin’, darlin’?” He replied.
“Orenda is in trouble.” I said plainly.
Virgil looked through me, knowing I spoke the truth.
“Skuld.” Cole said, “Back.”
The two upside-down guys fell with a thud immediately as the tall woman let go.
“Bar’s closing a might early tonight.”
Skuld Jaeger was one of the many generic names given to one of Odin’s Valkyries. My Shen Sight showed me her truth: ancient glittering mail armor and black, feathered wings sprouting from her back, translucent and existing only in divine realms that lay between this world and the nevernever.
We went to his back room, and I told him the story. The whole time, I couldn’t help but stare at the photos and memorabilia he had on the wall. Proof of well over a century of life. Proof that the stories were true. Proof I had come to the right place.
Virgil Cole is a curious case. The bastard refuses to die, and the Norns refuse to see him dead yet.
One hundred years, I have been following this man. But in that time, I learned one thing.
Do not anger him, or a fury will follow. Now his little girl was in trouble.
“I’ll need to make a few calls.” Virgil said, “Skuld can do her thing in the meantime.”
Hiroko the Shinigami looked surprised at how quickly we were working. I don’t think she knew who she was asking favors of is all.
“I’ll get the cat.” I said and walked back into my office.
My office is a monolith of order. Neatly stacked and organized documents and ledgers for the bar, side businesses, and ventures related to monster hunting and Monoc’s investment in them. On the back wall, I have a map with various points of information on them. My current project tracking the unusually low number of recruits to the Einherjaren in recent decades. A suspiciously low number.
I will find the truth. Nothing can hide from a chooser’s sight.
In front of my research was a rune I had wrought into the floor. A simple summoning circle for information gathering as needed.
I found a Name, and I chanted it with purpose. A few minutes later, the little bastard was yanked through the nevernever and deposited at my feet.
A rather large cat sat in the middle of my circle, cleaning himself. That annoyed me.
“Skuld…” Kerouac the faerie said, “I figured it was only a matter of time before you summoned me.” That annoyed me more.
“Tell me everything that happened to Orenda. You owe it to us for helping her get lost in the first place.”
“Now, now, are you accusing me of this directly? Honestly, I would expect more from a Valkyrie…”
“Not accusing, faerie. Merely stating fact as it was stated to me. Do you deny trying, and failing, to hold open a portal to the realms beyond Manna-Heim which then closed, leaving Orenda stranded? Because if I am mistaken, either you never tried and violated your promise to Orenda when told her that you had her back or you didn’t fail and actually closed the portal yourself which definitely qualifies as something you promised Virgil you would never do when you bargained to keep his little girl safe the last time we talked like this. All I’m asking for is the trip from your perspective from the time you entered the underground to the time you exited, and we’ll call it even this time.”
He didn’t argue. Faeries cannot when they are cornered and bargained with. Even troublemakers like Kerouac can be handled with the right persuasion.
Thirty-five minutes later, I went to Virgil with a pile of my notes as he was on the phone.
“I corroborated the Kensei’s story.” I confirmed, “The faerie was very forthcoming on details.”
“What do you have on that little shit that gets him to talk to you?” Hiroko asked.
“His Christian name from Ireland, for one.”
That reply made her smile.
Virgil set the phone back into the cradle and sighed.
“Situation?” Virgil asked.
“Your daughter’s in Ghoultown.”
Virgil clenched his jaw, “We’ll need to deal with Vitaly and the Knife. We’ll definitely need that backup.”
Hiroko poked her head out to confirm what I just said.
“Don’t tell me this is a ghoul clan involved with the Russian Mob.” She said.
I nodded. Hiroko facepalmed and crossed her arms.
“Extra Backup will be here in an hour as soon as he puts his newborn to bed.” Virgil said.
I thought about who he could be referring to and raised an eyebrow.
“I thought he was out.” I said, “And I thought you hated police officers.”
“He’s better than most…and he’s a good soul. Plus we need the gun.”
“Who else is joining us?”
“You’ll need to pick up Ben at his hotel.”
“Of course I will…”
The hardest thing I have ever done is sleep in a hotel room. Harder than meditation or that magic shit that Wizards do, or even the forging of legendary weapons.
Sleeping in an actual bed.
In war, you sleep wherever and whenever you can. You sleep on floors and mountainsides. You sleep in trenches filling with rain and the smell of death. You sleep next to a fire that is your only heat in a blizzard. You sleep on your feet while leaning against a wall. You sleep on rocks and branches and mud.
Sleeping in a bed is a luxury for the living. For the peaceful.
And I just can’t do it. A lot of old soldiers four hundred years my junior can’t do it.
It’s the same everywhere in every war. It is a cost of war my father taught me well.
It is a reminder of what I have cost countless others.
So, when a knock came on my hotel room door, I was already wide awake. With my divine power, I didn’t have to sleep much anyway.
I drew my Colt 1860 instantly and silently. I compensated for height as time slowed down. I waited milliseconds for the sign that would decide between if I stood down or put two in the chest and one in the head.
The knock was followed by two others, then a third in a pattern from long ago.
I moved to the door and checked the peephole. The blonde hair and biker leathers was proof enough.
I cracked the door open and looked into her eyes. The same eyes that always looked for my death.
I didn’t dare let her inside. No telling if she had been bent or was gunning for the bounty on my head.
We exchanged passwords—an old routine.
“What’s the deal?” I asked plainly.
“Orenda’s in trouble.” Skuld replied, “Ghoultown.”
“Down in five,” I said and closed the door on her.
Cole was asking me for a favor. I owed him more than that.
I swept down my room, got my go bag, changed my outfit, and met the Valkyrie on her bike out back.
If Orenda was in trouble, I was going to help.
It was one of the only good things I could manage.
Time takes all things from you and gives you only things to mourn.
Raising Orenda was one of the few good things I ever did. I made her a good soul, or at least I thought I had.
She was still a hothead. Now we had to bring her home.
Skuld brought in Ben, and we pooled our resources. Most of our better gear was not available on short notice, so we had to make do with what we had.
Skuld packed a bag of monster hunting essentials along with a Desert Eagle and a very large shotgun that was bigger than the Japanese-American woman standing next to her.
“Jesus.” Hiroko swore.
“Fighting underground in tunnels, there is nothing better than the AA12…” Skuld said.
Ben offered a gun to Hiroko, but the kid just shook her head and held up her sword. I kept misremembering her as not being one of those Japanese samurai types despite her carrying the blade, but God Bless America for our diversity.
“Stay out of our lines of fire, and you should be fine.” I said to her respectfully, “You don’t run in unless I tell you.”
I went into my safe and produced my old reliables. A Henry Rifle I had had since Antietam, a shotgun since prohibition, and a few others that had served me well over the years.
Hiroko scoffed at my mini-arsenal.
“You’re bringing museum pieces?”
“They’re reliable,” I replied.
“You boys just like your guns.”
Our argument was interrupted by the sound of someone coming through my front doors. In another life, he would have been a gunslinger walking into a saloon. But tripping like he did, he just looked like an idiot.
But he was someone I needed.
The guy was in his early forties with the fitness only a drill instructor can keep at that age. He carried a bag full of guns he set down next to us.
Roy Mullenix was one of the many kids I had taught to hunt monsters. A recent recruit of the Venatori Umbrorum, which normally favored bookish types with fancy titles. Roy had been some hot shit cop, but nowadays, he was washed up in the eyes of everybody. Roy was also one of the few hunters I knew wouldn’t do anything stupid.
Roy looked down at Hiroko, and the two shared a nod.
“Must be serious if you are bringing her.” Roy said.
“She came to me.” I confirmed.
Skuld nodded. Ben echoed the silent affirmation. We were all here.
“Let’s get to work.”
God smiles on us all, and sometimes he laughs. Somehow, I was once again sneaking out in the middle of the night to hunt monsters. I was going to retire, but between the local Venatori getting whammied by the White Court and a newborn, that wasn’t an option yet. I took Virgil Cole’s call because I owed him a lot. He had helped me make sense of the madness in my city and had helped me keep Seattle as safe as I could for the past decade at least.
So when Cole called and said Orenda was in trouble, I was there in half a heartbeat.
Our party assembled; we went through our available gear. Unfortunately, most of our big stuff was out of stock, so we had to make do with the essentials.
“Going underground is dangerous.” I said while laying out my M4 as I wiped it down, “Even without the supernatural stuff.
“We got it covered, pig.” Ben said. His photos were up on a wall in the station. As a good cop, I should have arrested him. But as a hunter, I trusted him with my life and knew Seattle needed him.
Ben and Cole were going with more ancient weaponry than my surplus M4. Cole took a Henry Rifle while Ben loaded his revolver. If I hadn’t seen how accurate they both were with them, I would have suggested something bigger. Maybe see if I could find a flamethrower.
It contrasted with the four-foot-something Japanese-American girl sharpening her samurai swords next to us, and the seven-foot amazon currently reassembling a very illegal and very modern, fully-automatic shotgun.
“Boys, boys, boys.” Hiroko said, testing the balance of her swords.
“We’ll do fine as long as we stay sharp, and you don’t get in our line of fire.” I said.
“What are you, a gun sensei or something?”
“I am a teacher, actually.” I confirmed, “Police academy. Continuing education, Investigations, Weapons, Drills, and a bunch’a shit no one else wants to teach.”
“You teach cops how not to beat up minorities on sight?”
“I got written up for doing just that last week.”
The dramatic pause and my tone was enough of a signal for the girl to realize I was being serious before continuing.
“I failed half my racial sensitivity class. They called the Union on me. They thought it was bad that I brought in actual homeless veterans from their district to help them roleplay how to deal with de-escalation.”
“Way. Department’s full of racists. I intend to fail every last one of them.” I said, strapping on my vest and webbing.
Hiroko seemed to balk at that sentiment. Not surprising given the Seattle PD’s reputation.
“Guess that TV Movie did get you right.” She said.
I cringed. When I ran with Special Investigations, we managed to close a series of serial murder cases with sensational names like “The Hackmaster”. During the Goldman murders, I rescued an infant and a well-taken photo of me had gotten me my 5 seconds of fame. When some local moron wanted to make a TV movie conflating them all together, I offered to consult so I could pay for the newborn’s bills.
It was all so stupid, but I needed the money.
Loaded up, we made our way down the street. Cole had bought his Saloon back in the Old West and had got prime real estate. Being night-time, we walked in dark clothing, covering our weapons with bags and avoiding street lights. No one was out that late and anyone who saw us would have been unable to figure out who we were or what we were about.
The Seattle Underground is a leftover from a century past. Tunnels that went on for miles were abandoned beneath the city streets and regraded hills. A utility door barred us from entering until I used my officer’s keys to unlock it.
Ghouls lived down there—eaters of corpses and people. They were bad news normally, and this clan was particularly nasty.
We had the tools.
We had two guys and one Valkyrie with stares so long you have to consider the curvature of the earth.
We had an impulsive Japanese-American girl with swords that could cut through the universe, according to her.
And we had me and my paltry pure mortal talents.
Hopefully, it was enough.
At some point, I called my old friend Solomon.
“Next time, you call ME. Got it?” I said calmly into the phone.
I was not shouting. Roy was just messing with his earplugs.
“I did. It went to voicemail.” Solomon said, “Next time, answer your damn phone.”
Solomon was being stupid. It’s not my fault a weird vampire decided to show up.
The door to the underground opened, and Roy raised his hand in a signal.
We were ready for war. Three guys with guns, one Valkyrie with a battleship that happened to fire shotgun shells, and me.
“The Shinigami should go first,” Skuld said, “She is shortest.”
“Fine.” I said, “I’m the only one who can see in the dark anyway.”
“Just stay out of our lines of fire.” Roy said.
I lead the way into the Underground beneath Seattle. Right behind me was Virgil, Ben, and Skuld with Roy watching our six. The others used some maglights on their tactical vest until we got deep enough into the tunnels. Magic plays hell on technology, so when the flashlights started to flicker, they switched to chemlight sticks.
We followed the directions that Kerouac gave us and found where they had been easily enough. The moment we knew we were in the right direction was when Ben sniffed the air and the scion of war said, “Blood down here.”
“Of course you immediately smell blood.” I said.
“Son of Aries, kid.”
“Athena’s the better War Deity.”
There were bodies and pieces of bodies here and there, but no signs of anyone else let alone a biker who could turn into a grizzly.
Virgil Cole knelt down and started to do some tracking—old school stuff while Ben continued sniffing around and throwing jibes at me. Roy, to his credit, just put his back to a wall and moved silently. Skuld watched our backs while we moved.
We moved through the tunnels and found an area with scrapes along the wall.
“This looks like the place.” Roy said, “And smells like ozone. Smoke some magic if you got it.”
I opened Shen Sight, and it started showing me the aftermath. The area looked like reality had been peeled away or had a nail file taken to it. The whole area just seemed off. I found the outline of a bear running and followed it into nothingness.
“This is where she exited.” I confirmed. “Can any of you gun-toting Lunatics open a portal?”
Ben and Cole glared at me. Roy just silently pointed towards Skuld, who shook her head.
“No good.” Skuld said, “Outsider is gone. The other side has changed. But, if we go deep enough, we get there naturally
“Can you follow it back, Cole?” Roy asked like a detective, “Find where it came from before it got here?”
“This way.” Cole said and led us deeper.
Orenda disappeared about three and a half hours before, and her last known location was the Underground. The Seattle Underground had gotten fucked by the earthquakes and a century of mortal construction, so it was thoroughly unmappable.
So, we had to go back to basics to find her.
I found signs of the Outsider. Reality being cleaved leading southward. Dried blood, but no body.
“Could be ghoul blood.” Ben confirmed, “What clan lives down here?”
“Kulikovas.” I confirmed, “Been down here a long time.”
“Are they supposed to sound like members of the Bratva?” Hiroko asked, as she pulled down the sleeves of her jacket.
“They are.” Roy said, “And they got bought out recently. New management.”
The Knife of Hunger had taken over the clan. The Knife was dangerous.
“Great.” Hiroko said.
We continued into the darkness until the air started getting denser and more oppressive. I am not sure when we exactly crossed over, but I knew we had when I found myself alone in the tunnel. We were all in our own tunnels alone.
I readied my rifle and backtracked silently. I came to a T-section and saw Hiroko behind a wall with a finger to her lips. She motioned kind of like we had taught her and pointed out the group of flannel-clad guards with rusky assault rifles she was following.
“Ghouls ahead.” She mouthed.
It was clear that Hiroko meant to follow the ghouls back to their lair.
I decided to go a more traditional way.
I slung my rifle and walked out with my hands up.
“Don’t shoot!” I said, “I need to speak with Vitaly”
The ghouls turned around, aiming their rifles in our direction.
“Where you come from?” The ghoul asked in a very strange accent.
“I am hunting something in your tunnels. It took my daughter. Might have killed one of yours too.”
“This way.” One of them said.
One of the others pointed a gun at Hiroko’s head, “You. Tiny girl. This way.”
Hiroko walked out with her hands out but not up.
“I’m with him.” She said.
The Ghoul aimed his gun at her swords.
“We are here on a truce.” I said, “No one is gunna try nothin’”
The ghouls led us through impossible tunnels of stone and whatever the nevernever was made out of. There were markings on the tunnels, but I didn’t keep up the best with current events. I didn’t recognize them.
Our hosts took us into a station at the end of the tunnels. No trains, just tracks leading to nowhere. The station looked like Grand Central in New York, but off. It had been converted into a living space with sandbag bunkers and a barcolounger in the center.
The place was crawling with Ghouls in track suits and flannel with various pieces of gold jewelry.
The chair turned around, showing the ghoul boss that sat in it. His face had healed since the last time I saw him.
Vitaly Kulikova was the head of the Kulikova Clan.
His clan raised their guns at us, but Vitaly stopped them with an instant raised hand.
Behind Vitaly sat a very familiar-looking Grizzly bear.
“Orenda!” I shouted.
Orenda’s bear form raised a paw, as if saying “hello” like a human would.
“You know this bear?” Vitaly said, “Very smart bear. It killed tentacles and followed us home. Maybe not met with this one.”
“Definitely do not poke this bear.” I said, smiling.
A ghoul pulled up a chair for me and I sat across from the Ghoul.
“It’s been a long time, Cole.”
“It has.” I said. I reached into my pack for my offering. I presented a bottle of Vodka to Vitaly. The oldest one I had in stock.
Vitaly took the bottle, examined it and pour a pair of shot glasses. We took some shots, the clear liquid burning all the way down.
“Not bad. Seen better, but not bad.” Vitaly said.
“I understand there was trouble down here in the tunnel.” I said.
“I am here for the bear. That is my kin.”
“You are kin with bear?”
“Yeah. Let us go in peace and we’ll be on our merry.”
“There may be problem with that. When people go back to tunnels, not all of them come out.”
Vitaly motioned to me. I followed his direction and leaned in close for a whisper.
“When some of my people go in tunnels, some who don’t come out.” Vitaly said, “When they do come out, we still find the bodies. They have been replaced. Don’t tell others that you know.”
The concrete gave way to the piece of rebar I used as a lever. It gave me a hole big enough to climb through. I hope I was going the right way.
I knew I was in the nevernever thing because I was lost, and everything around me changed without warning.
I don’t know how long I stumbled around in the dark or how many lights I went through.
At some point, I found Skuld. Luckily, we didn’t brain each other or start shooting. It would have been messy for both of us.
We walked together for a while, Skuld comfortable in the dark.
“What the hell is this place?” I asked, “Doesn’t look like Seattle.”
Skuld looked around and chuckled.
“I once saw this in concept art. Seattle was supposed to have a Subway, but the deal fell through. The idiots took the money and moved to Atlanta. All that was left was art.”
“A Seattle that never was, huh?”
We finally found a tunnel leading to light, and I caught the glint of an AK-47’s barrel. I used my flashlight as a signal, turning it on and off rapidly as a challenge.
The Ghouls signaled back, and I approached slowly.
I saw Cole up with Vitaly, and the pair of them waved off the guards.
I looked at one of the guards lowering his AK, and nodded.
“You don’t have a problem with me, I won’t have a problem with you.” I said.
Then Ben came out of another tunnel, and one of the ghouls next to Vitaly went apeshit.
The Ghoul charged at Ben, who drew his pistol in an instant.
“Hold up!” I shouted, “He’s with us. He’s a friendly!”
“He no good. Dangerous.” The Ghoul said.
Hiroko stepped out of the shadows in a ready stance, but her sword was still sheathed.
“We are here for the bear.” Hiroko said, “Everybody stay cool. “
Ben scoffed and took aim.
“I remember you. Kosovo, right? I owe you fifty quid or somethin’”
Things got a little tense. I could see which way the wind was blowing, so my brain went to tactics. Positioning.
What I found was a situation I needed to recreate at the academy. The station with the ghouls in it had no good places to stand. No good cover or concealment. The entire place was a fatal funnel.
Hiroko hitched her sword up a little out of its sheath.
“Unless people want to leave in pieces…” Hiroko began.
She was cut off by Cole just…standing. He stared down the entire sewer. I felt a primal fear enter me. I couldn’t explain it.
An aura of menace, I guess. Skuld just smiled. Those two were weird sometimes.
We all eased down, and Vitaly asked us to get close.
We huddled up away from the other ghouls, who just looked ready to decide what kind of cutlery to use.
“Perhaps you can help us find the imposter.” He whispered, “Find them, and we will get you back to the surface.”
“One of these Ghouls isn’t a ghoul.” Ben said, “But, if the imposter can change forms, how can we tell the difference?”
I thought back to my training and finally felt like the smart one.
“Ghouls are burned by holy objects.” I confirmed, “So are a lot of things, but not in the same way.”
Vitaly gritted his teeth at the idea, “Who has holy object?”
Cole produced a piece of some Native American staff or something. Hiroko produced a Christian cross.
We went around the station and tested each one. Vitaly went first and sizzled a little. He was clearly affected but didn’t catch fire or anything.
We tested the others one by one.
Then one of them backed away…
One of the ghouls backed away from us. Dollars to doughnuts it meant he was the fake.
“Are you an idiot trying to push us around in our home?” The ghoul said as I got up into his face.
Guns were raised, things in languages I didn’t speak were shouted.
The tension rose.
Then I heard a new voice.
“They’re not worth it, H.” Orenda said in her human form, “Let’s just leave.”
Vitaly grinned at Orenda. I am not sure if he was impressed or disappointed.
“You are very good bear.” Vitaly said.
Guns were lowered, but the Ghoul I was talking to was still giving me the stink eye…and I couldn’t resist.
I turned to Vitaly and said, “You have to learn to control your dogs better.”
Vitaly barked a sound, and the guns came up again. Ghouls at me from all directions, Ben at Vitaly, and Skuld and Roy at the entire room. Cole was the only one without a weapon drawn.
I wished I was a few feet taller at that moment.
“Apologize now.” Vitaly said, “You do not talk that way about my son. He is not dog.”
Cole tried his aura again, but the anger was too much for him.
“Just apologize, youngin’” Cole said.
With all the guns on me, I couldn’t tell if any of Vitaly’s boys were going to listen to him, so I hitched up Zanpakutou.
“Three” Vitaly said. Followed slowly by “Two.”
I rolled my eyes and swallowed something.
“Fine Tsukomu, I apologize.” I said.
Vitaly seemed satisfied. But then a rifle went off next to me.
My Shinigami allowed me to dodge. I saw who fired, a ghoul dressed as an old lady.
I quickdrawed and charged her as others drew their weapons and fired.
Vitaly tried to stop us.
“Who fired?” He shouted.
“This bitch!” I replied, using my blade to knock her off balance. The Ghoul kept fighting despite her master’s call, so I knocked her on her ass.
Vitaly turned to Orenda and said, “Check her. You are trustworthy.”
Orenda took a sniff and went cold.
“Look at the ghoul with your Shen Sight, H.” Orenda said, “But in the corner of your eye.”
I opened my Shen Sight and initially I saw a ghoul. Then, I looked in the corner of my eye.
I can’t remember what I saw, but I know it was wrong.
I slashed at the not-ghoul…and it turned into quicksilver. It came at me like the damned T-1000, and the shooting started again.
All things considered, things turned out well for us.
We chased the thing pretending to be a ghoul and killed it with a lot of bullets, claws and swords.
Vitaly let us go, and we mosied back to the surface. I did my father’s duty and chewed Orenda out all the way back. She insisted she did nothing wrong.
When we finally reached the surface, Roy’s phone told him we were down there for 45 minutes courtesy of the Nevernever.
We had won, but something didn’t sit right to me.
That thing could have replaced Vitaly. But what was its game? Why attack them?
There were more questions to answer, but that could wait.
I spent the night continuing to chew out my daughter while Skuld tried to get her to clean up my bar with a toothbrush. A petty thing, but it gave me some more time to spend with her.
“Dammit, girl,” Cole scolded. “How many times have I told you that you don’t go into a bad situation you can’t get yourself out of!”
“You’re the one to talk!” Orenda yelled back at him. “How many times have you charged in guns blazing and gotten in way over your head?”
“But ya have to be better than me, dammit! Ya have to keep that wildness inside ya under control or you face damnation. Jest like yo’ daddy. Baby-girl, Ah could not stand that. "
“Stop fighting!” exclaimed Hiroko, a short Japanese American girl, wielding a black bladed katana. She swept the blade down to separate father and daughter.
“Hey. The Outsider was defeated. We got Orenda back safely. AND we uncovered something new and spooky that was infiltrating the ghouls. A win-win if you ask me. Now both of you make nice, or I will go all Chun-Li on you!”
Everyone in the bar froze. Shocked by the young warrior’s audacity. No one talked to Cole like that unless they had a death wish.
“Girl, this here’s a family matter and ain’t none of your concern. Now get that fancy pig-sticker outta my face,” Cole growled softly, a dangerous glint in his eye.
Orenda and Skuld took an instinctive step back and even the fearless Hiroko felt her heart skip a beat at the cold look on the immortal gunslinger’s face. Orenda knew her father was on the edge of violence and reached out a tentative hand to try and calm him down. He shrugged it off and turned to Hiroko. The tension in the room was palpable.
Hiroko sheathed her sword, “Look. Take it from one who has lost family. ALL her family. Family is important. Family is all you have. Treasure it and be glad we got her back,” she turned to Orenda. “And you…think more with your head and less with your claws next time.”
Cole glared at Hiroko for a moment before his gaze softened. Memories of his own long-lost family flashed before his eyes. "Ah appreciate what you are tryin’ ta do, darlin’. Ah really do. But Ah have several lifetimes of guilt and loss and have learnt a thing or two. All’s Ah am doing is trying to prevent my hot headed daughter from makin’ the same damn fool mistakes Ah made.”
“Y’all have been a friend and ally ta us both. But Ah got dis under control," he said firmly.
Hiroko nods, “Sorry. I tend to get protective of the few friends I have. Life’s been rough and fairly lonely for me since my father was murdered.”
Skuld put her mace up on its wall hooks behind the bar.
“Good. Now that’s all settled…”, the Valkyrie began, a mischievous look on her face.
She held up a toothbrush and slowly turned to stare at Orenda expectantly.
Orenda glared at Skuld, not backing down an inch. "Exactly what do you expect me to do with that toothbrush?”
She turned back to Cole.
“Father, I understand that you’re just trying to help me, and I do love you for it, but I’m an adult woman, with my own life, I’m not a little girl anymore,” the young woman stated defiantly. “I demand you treat me like an adult. I have earned that right, dammit!”
“I just spent the last few hours as a Grizzly, in tunnels with ghouls and I need a long hot shower…"
Cole held his hands up and nodded at his daughter in acknowledgement. He held her gaze and his heart suddenly swelled with pride at the young woman that stood her ground before him.
“Skuld, put the damn toothbrush away,” Cole said in exasperation. “’Twern’t mah idea in the first place.” He served Hiroko a beer and came around the bar to give Orenda a hug.
“Y’all go get cleaned up and get sum rest,” he said to her quietly ignoring Skuld’s exaggerated disappointment.
“Love you too, daddy.”