Elasmo's Guest Story
Year Five of the Addergoole School
Finnegan answered the door, blinking in surprise at Mark’s appearance despite anticipating the visit. Mark leaned jauntily against the doorframe, weapons casually displayed on both hips: a long-bladed hunting knife on the right, and his mentor’s rowan sword on the left, extending all the way down his camo pants and past the top of his combat boots. A white muscle shirt completed the ensemble, and he smiled broadly at the kept boy.
“Morning.” Finnegan looked over his shoulder. “Mark’s here.”
“Let him in,” called Acacia, and Finnegan stepped aside. Mark nodded and stepped inside.
“Morning. Ready?” Acacia looked him up and down as she slid on thin leather gloves. She was already wearing form-fitting leather jeans, a black tank top, and a black leather jacket. The whole was covered in weaponry, steel and hawthorn blades wrapping her in a deadly shroud, giving the overall impression of an exceptionally lethal black rosebush. Sima and Allyse stood behind her, similarly attired.
“I think so, yeah.” Mark looked over their outfits and arched a brow, smiling. “And I thought I was armed. Is this going to cut it?” He gestured to the rowan sword.
“Well, it’s a very good start.” She walked him outside, momentarily out of earshot of the others.
“Understand,” she said softly, “this isn’t a hallway bully. And this isn’t a situation where you’re the front lines.”
He nodded slowly. “Yeah. The first thing I tell people about fighting is to be prepared to get hurt.”
“Good. But in this case – be prepared to run away. These monsters are big motherfuckers; sometimes we just can’t take them down.”
“Oh. Do we know what exactly we’re going after today?”
“Okay. Well, I’m as ready as I’m gonna be, I think.”
“Right.” She looked over the girls and nodded, raising her voice to include everyone. “Let’s meet up with Doug, then.”
Doug was waiting in the truck hangar with an amazingly non-descript black van with California plates. The girls loaded in like they were used to this, and Mark piled in behind them.
“How far out are we going?”
Doug passed back a folder with some newspaper clippings as he answered.
“About an hour drive. Teenaged boys gone missing over the last month. Twelve of them... and it’s not a big town.”
“Right...” Mark let the girls look over the information, not knowing what to look for himself. Acacia explained:
“Missing teenagers are often Daeva Nedetakai. Sometimes Mara, but Mara Nedetakai are more likely to be serial killers, torturers.”
Mark coughed, then nodded. “Okay.”
Acacia raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Not used to thinking of Mara that way.”
“Think of... Barem’s a good start. Someone with the blood of the Mara, all twisted.”
“Okay, yeah. What about Grigori?”
“Nazis. Scientists. Usually. Sometimes... flesh peddlers.”
“So not much different, then.”
“Less blood, usually...” She blinked, then grinned. “Oh. Nasty.”
Mark chuckled softly and fell silent. Acacia, leafing through the documents, finally nodded.
“Well, this will be interesting.”
“Any more information? And what’s our MO here when we spot it?”
“We’ll go down the back route through the town, look for a place off the beaten path, easy to access by runaway teens and some monsters. Allyse will pull out the map and scry it when we get closer. When we know where we’re going, we pick a route and go in.”
“Do we attack on sight, or hold off?”
“Attack on my cue or Doug’s, but usually on sight.”
After a bit of driving, they entered a small town, moving slowly through it. Allyse focused on the map for awhile, and finally pointed to a location. Doug drove to a half-overgrown factory just outside of town, parking the van some distance away. Mark began chanting softly under his breath, noting that the girls were similarly spelling up, although their Workings were likely much more powerful and complex than his own. Nonetheless, Aistrigh Tlacatl was one of his strongest pairings, and he’d been practicing this spell, hardening his flesh until it took on a faintly metallic sheen. He waited for the girls to get out, and then trailed Acacia. Doug picked the path, and the group followed, working their way around the side of the factory. Three quarters of the way there, Mark saw a skeleton just off the path.
“This is the place,” he murmured quietly, pointing low at it. Acacia glanced at it and muttered.
“Yep. Poor kid.”
Mark’s eyes narrowed as they continued on. The next body was clearly much more recent, only partially skeletonized. The third had been dead only a couple of days. It was clear that he was barely more than a kid, and that he was impaled through the heart by something big. Mark shook his head slowly.
“It’s like it knew we were coming this way...”
“Or like there’s bodies around the whole place.”
“Yeah,” he frowned.
Doug and Sima, on point, came to a stop, and they fanned out, looking through the overgrowth to a gaping hole in the wall that left a lower level of the factory partially open to the air. Mark stuck like glue to Acacia, scanning the area. He squinted as he gazed down into the factory floor, seeing what looked like a black horse, a black-haired woman, and a half-dozen kneeling people.
“Fuuu-uuk,” Acacia breathed.
“What?” Mark whispered behind her.
“Dude, if you feel an urge to kneel and worship, Run. Away. Fast.”
He nodded silently, watching. The horse turned its head, and he could see it was actually a black unicorn, with a wicked, rusty-looking horn. The black-haired woman was clearly the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen – which was saying something, considering he Owned a succubus. Mark exhaled slowly, waiting for someone to make a move. Acacia glanced worriedly at him and Doug.
“Six,” she muttered. “You know what that means.”
“I don’t, actually,” Mark murmured in reply.
“Twelve kids missing. We counted three bodies.”
“Three more bodies, then.”
“Remember that. That’s a monster.”
“Will the kids interfere?”
“Try not to kill them if you can avoid it.”
“Now!” Acacia said, as the unicorn looked up at them.
Mark dropped the seven feet to the factory floor, rolling easily, and drew his sword. Immediately he could feel something trying to control his mind, edging around the protections Eris Worked upon him, probing them for weakness. He murmured his own Quipia Intinn, weak as he was in both those Words, and dashed across the floor, hoping the others were also closing in from Acacia’s signal. The floor seemed to buckle and warp with every step, but he shook it off, recognizing the illusion for what it was.
He was approaching the woman... but, no, the unicorn was a better target. It seemed more dangerous. Clearly it should be the priority. He lunged at its flank and withdrew quickly, trying to draw it out, not wanting to directly engage it. It hissed an incomprehensible stream of language, startling him, but not as much as when it proceeded to spew fire from its mouth. He rolled to the side, batting out the flames clinging to the hem of his pants, and checked the status of the others. Doug was fending off the teenaged boys, summoning concrete walls out of nothing. The girls were attacking the woman... that wasn’t right, was it? She shouldn’t be attacked...
Mark frowned, but had bigger things to worry about at that moment, sidestepping the unicorn’s horn and closing to slash at its legs. It made an angry, startled bellow as the rowan blade cut its flesh, whirling to stab at him again. The thing was fast, too damn fast! Its horn skittered off his chest, drawing sparks from the hardened skin, the lethal strike reduced to a painful cut. He backed off, circling it warily, feinting and parrying as he searched for an opening... and entirely forgetting the fiery breath, which singed his right shoulder even as he tried to dodge. He couldn’t take this thing on his own; where was everyone? As he looked around, his gaze fell on the woman.
She was lovely. She was the most perfect thing in creation. She could be his, if he was worthy... but of course he wasn’t. Then his head rang as Doug smacked him on the back of the head with the flat of his sword, breaking the spell. The unicorn was charging at him, and he rolled to the side, but he couldn’t get totally clear, and it kicked him in the kneecap with a loud crack. He thrust upward from his prone position, opening its guts, but its horn slashed his left arm in return, laying it open almost to the bone with a whine of tortured metal. Despite the gushing wound, there was an opportunity there and Mark took it, rolling away and slashing at the inside of its front leg as his blade cleared. Looking up, he saw Doug hack off its horn. The beast fell to the ground, ducking its head, and Mark backpedaled and kipped up, taking a few steps to put his back to a wall and holding his injured arm against his side as he looked to see how the girls were doing.
They were fighting the woman, and they seemed to be winning. That wasn’t right, was it? Shouldn’t he be helping her?
“Acacia, what are you doing?” he called out. “I think we got the horse, let’s go!”
Doug grabbed him by the good arm before he could be further distracted.
“We need to finish the horse off.”
“Right.” Mark nodded, closing warily. The horse had transformed into a kneeling human with jet-black skin, bleeding from the forehead and apparently in shock. Mark blinked twice and set the rowan blade to the man’s neck.
“This is it?”
“Do you want me to do it?” Doug asked.
“Just making sure,” Mark replied, and took the man’s head.
The thump it made hitting the floor was echoed by a similar one from across the room, as Acacia finished the woman. By the time Mark looked up, the girls were already pulling her headless body towards that of the horse. Doug muttered a long, low Working, and the concrete floor swallowed the bodies. Mark’s head was swimming from the abruptly terminated mental influence; that, and the blood loss. He drew his knife and cut a strip from his shirt, tying it high around his arm. Allyse walked over and looked at it, taking his arm in both hands.
“I can do a quick and dirty to keep you from bleeding out.”
“That’d be nice.”
She muttered a brief Jasfe Tlacatl, as Doug dissipated the wall containing the very spaced-out looking kids. Mark sheathed his knife and stretched, evaluating his collection of less serious injuries.
“So... what now?”
“Now, we falsify evidence, lock these kids in the room where they were locked for most of the time they were here anyway, and call the local police from a payphone.”
“Right... none of that's really me forté."
“Nope. Allyse has most of it. We can round the kids up. They won’t be hard.”
They weren’t, at that. They were dazed, confused, and disoriented, and half of them had actually passed out. The room in question was cramped and filthy, and Mark scowled, but recognized that there was really nothing more to be done here besides following Doug’s plan. When it was over, he sighed as they took their seats in the car, and turned to Acacia.
“That was... different.”
“Good word for it.”
“I kind of didn’t realize the unicorn was a person too.”
“The Nedetakai do a lot of shapeshifting.”
“Yeah, okay. Still, that was pretty intense. How often do you do this?”
“Maybe twice, four times a year.”
“Ahh. So what did that woman hit me with?”
"A really intense, gender-based charm, I think."
“Gender-based? Is that why you were okay?”
“And I guess Doug’s just stronger, huh.”
The man in question barked a laugh. “I have more practice not looking, that’s all. Acacia had to bean me the last time we met one of those.”
"That was some pretty powerful mojo back there."
"It was," Acacia agreed.
“Could she fight, too? I kept trying to see how you were doing... but I guess that wasn't a great idea."
"Like a stone bitch."
"Took pretty much all I had to not come help her. Guess this may not have been my brightest idea."
“No one died. No one’s too badly hurt. We killed the bad guys.”
“Well, okay, yeah, it worked out, once Doug saved my ass. Although this arm is one of the worse injuries I’ve had in awhile; and I’m pretty sure I’d have a broken leg if I hadn’t spelled up.”
“Hey, you think we don’t get cut up?”
“Well, no... but maybe a different standard of badly hurt.”
“Still, you’re right, any fight you can walk away from...”
“You didn’t do badly.”
“I need more practice with this thing. I’m used to fighting unarmed, mostly.”
“Won’t do you much good at all against a Nedetakai. And you need your own weapon. We can help you find a good tree.”
“Okay. Something a little heavier, I think.”
“We’ll go out next weekend and find a good tree, then.”
“Saturday sounds good.”
“I’ll see you then, then.”
Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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