Location: Shadow of the Moon Occult Curiosities – Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: 2 p.m., One Day after Present
“Aw! I thought finding the siren was the exciting part, she ends up having a grandpa wizard bird.” Carrie lamented to Charlie walking side by side down the sidewalk. Busy afternoon traffic zipped by them, the pair of women set a leisurely pace across town. Neither comfortable having the same conversation on the bus.
“Yeah I could have used your help, I mean look at my arm.
” Charlie held up her bandaged forearm, frowning. She wore a loose white t-shirt and jean shorts, slung around her shoulder was a beat up brown messenger bag and in her other hand she walked with her staff. Her long blonde hair tied in it’s pigtail braids. While Carrie beside her wore her long brown hair down, bangs pinned out of the way with bobby pins. She wore a navy blue sundress and sandals.
When Charlie woke up the following day after a long restful sleep, her and her family had a long talk about starting up a neighbourhood watch, even if they could only get the block of neighbours to lookout for trouble it was better than isolating themselves. More news confirmed Hounds of Humanity were not above attacking orphanages, monstrous people pulled right out of a horror story. It fuelled the need to prepare, have a plan, something
to feel more secure in their day to day. Necromancers seemingly paled in comparison. Charlie was convinced if they were careful, they could skirt under their radar.
Carrie insisted to meet up and go over every detail regarding Berry, she wasn’t as much help as Charlie hoped Carrie cited the clues Salamander gave for his identity could be linked to a slew of entities. She promised with some research they could puzzle it out. Their real goal though was to visit Shadow of the Moon, Carrie needed to restock some of her supplies. The little occult shop was one of her favourite local places to shop.
They strode up noticing the broken glass glittering in the sun from the broken shop window all over the sidewalk. The pair of them went around it, cautiously entering the shop Carrie’s expression pulled tight with immediate worry. It was a disaster inside, shelves were toppled over glistening with an unknown liquid, broken glass littered from the display cases. Things were swept aside, stomped on, it looked like it had been ransacked. Though nothing seemed to be missing.
” Charlie gasped.
A rustling could be heard in the back of the shop, like more things being tossed from shelves, metallic clanking and shifting jars. There was the audible screech of something sharp being dragged across the floor. A few moments later, Madalena appeared from the storage room, a waste basket with a rusty wheel in tow and a broom in hand. The bin was already filled nearly to the brim with debris, everything Madalena knew she couldn’t salvage or what had been soaked in kerosine.
Entering the main store, she looked up at the two women in surprise. ”Sorry about the mess, ladies,”
she apologized between sniffles. Her eyes were red and puffy, her red hair wildly tossed over shoulders, visible bruises circling her wrists. ”The store will be closed for a bit, as long as it takes to get some of these shelves back up . . . and the windows replaced . . . and the lights fixed . . . and, well, it’ll be a while.”
She kept her head low, focusing on sweeping up and trying to look put together, barely getting a good look at her visitors.
Carrie raced across the store and hugged Madalena tightly. “Oh, Maddi! You poor thing! What happened? Are you alright?”
Charlie stepped through the mess picking up the odd thing in her hand, turning it over. Some of it sticky from the kerosine. Charlie noticed the bruising, the rest of the garbage she was toting alone. The sight of Madalena had a burst of sympathy instantly from the alchemist. Who would attack a shop in the middle of the day? Who had such arrogance?”Oof,”
Madalena was taken by surprise with Carrie’s hug, but she allowed herself to fall into the embrace once she realized who she was. ”Carrie? Oh, bless you girl, I didn’t know it was you! I’ve had a rough day, as you can see.”
Madalena chuckled, allowing herself the comfort of having others to share in her dismay. She could see the abject horror on both of their faces, how they felt for her suffering.”I got paid a visit by a few of those Hounds about an hour ago . . OH! You ought to be careful out there, Carrie. I didn’t think those bastards would go after someone like me, but if they’re willing to go this far to send a message, you better believe they’ll be on you next.”
It was Madalena’s duty to protect her brothers and sisters in the craft, at least, it was now. With the knowledge that the Witchfinder General was stalking the east coast, she knew that none of her kind, be they Wiccan practitioners or true witches, were safe.
Carrie held her out at arm’s length then took the wastebin out of her hands, gently guiding her shoulders to the back of the shop. “Here, take a break let me make you some tea. Oh, and I almost forgot to introduce my friend.” Carrie paused gesturing to Charlie - who waved a little. “This is Charlie Croll, Charlie this is Madalena she runs Shadow of the Moon.”
She tilted her head a little then said, “Hey, wish we were meeting under better circumstances. These assholes are on the news every other minute with some new horrible thing.
Carrie nodded then squinted at Madalena, “Something’s different about you Maddi. Did you get a haircut? I don’t want to be rude but your whole aura is totally off, not just ‘cause you were… just attacked.” Carrie pursed her lips, realizing how insensitive that must of sounded.
Charlie forced herself not to roll her eyes at aura. “That was pretty rude, Carrie.
Carrie squinted at her instead.
Madalena turned to Charlie with a smile. ”Really, there’s no harm done, and it’s always nice to see a new face, even when times are tough.”
Madalena responded after Charlie’s quip at Carrie. She looked back at Carrie for a moment, gaging how much she wanted to reveal.
Madalena had seen Carrie come and go over the past year or so that Shadow of the Moon had been in business, she was a repeat customer, even managed to make it to a couple of the Sabbat gatherings hosted in the altar room across from Madalena’s office. In that time, she’d seen the things Carrie purchased, took note of them. She knew Carrie for a witch, one who’d ignited that vital spark, way back then, but it was now that she could see her as a sister, as two carriers of the Cunning Flame.
Perhaps this was part of Puck’s plan for Madalena.”Well, I guess a couple of things are different, but mostly this.”
Madalena gestured to a candelabra that sat on the far side of the shop near the entrance. There was only one candle remaining after the Hound attack, but the rest of it was in good shape. With a small motion, the candelabra flew into Marie’s open hand. After gripping the handle, the lone candle lit at her behest.
Carrie’s smile was large and bright. “Oh my goodness! Maddi! Who? When?”
Charlie whistled, “Nice, you managed to trick the Hounds into thinking you weren’t a witch. Smart.
She bent down to her knees then gathered more broken pieces of what appeared to be a small statue of some deity she didn’t recognize. “If we’re being honest here, Maddi, I’ll tell ya right now not to bother calling your insurance company for a quote.
She leaned her staff against the counter laying the pieces down, arranging the pieces together. It was made of clay, easy and basic enough to pull back together. She pulled out an old napkin from her bag, using a sharpie to write out the simple alchemical formula for clay. She laid the palm of her hand against the statue pieces then concentrated, the symbols glowed briefly the statue pieces skittered under the counter then stilled when she removed her hand. Tilting it back up she grinned, it was seamlessly back in one piece. “Miraculous repair! There’s nothin’ a Croll can’t fix.
Madalena looked at the spectacle with wide-eyed wonder. She had seen more magic in the past three days than she could ever have dreamed of. ”An alchemist? That’s amazing!”
she exclaimed, setting the candelabra on the counter. ”Y’know I just got a couple of books in on medieval alchemy last week? Did you know that alchemical formulae share basic structure with the geometric circles used by high magicians of the time? I think they were likely developed as a method of capturing the virtues inherent in alche . . . I’m rambling, sorry.”
Madalena had become somewhat of an academic in the past few months, taking in as much mystical content as she could . . . even though her focus was on early-modern witchcraft.
Charlie stared for a few seconds, the apparent rosy colour bloomed across her nose and cheeks. Her heart skipped. Carrie noticed Charlie blushing, she had a twinkle of knowing in her eye. Charlie dusted off her hands then reached for her staff not trusting herself to comment coherently she nodded.”Anyway,”
she continued, ”The same person responsible for this,”
she pointed to the lit candelabra, ”also came up with the plan for hiding it from the Hounds. The only reason I made it through this ordeal alive is because their records were a few days behind. I gained these powers right after the Salem attack.”
Madalena turned to Carrie. ”You heard rumors of Robin Goodfellow poking his nose around Lost Haven, or Puck I guess, I’m not really sure which one he prefers. Anyway, he’s the one that introduced me to all of this, got me to sign his book, or, someone’s book, in exchange for my help with the Hound problem. Never figured an imp would be so tall . . . “
Carrie’s excitement dimmed a little, “Are you sure...? He’s…” She searched for the right word, “A tricky entity. These are terrorists - they’re extremely dangerous. What does he have you doing?”
Charlie asked before they got to far into it, “Who is Puck?
“I’ve told you about him before, Shakespeare wrote about him.” Carrie insisted, Charlie shrugged. “We’ll talk about it over some tea.” Carrie dragged a stool over dusting off some glass then sat Madalena down on it. “I’ll be right back, Maddi is an encyclopedia where witchcraft is concerned.” She said pointedly to Charlie then turned back to Madalena, “Charlie just graduated with her masters in chemistry.” She said happily then practically skipped away.Don’t think I don’t see what you’re trying to do, Carrie.
Charlie thought, Carrie shot a wink over her shoulder before disappearing as if hearing her thoughts.”Really? I was a chemistry major for about four weeks at a university in Georgia.”
Madalena beamed, focusing her attention on Charlie. She was relatively good with new people, always the positive sort, very charismatic and complementary. ”Nothing compared to a literal alchemist, though. That’s why I switched to history and anthropology . . . never got my master’s though.”
Madalena trailed off.
“Then had a change of heart? Opened up an occult shop, the witch population here in Lost Haven isn’t huge but it’s pretty tight knit. Something about surviving in a city home to superheroes.
” Charlie responded, in how she thought sounded smooth enough. “We’ll get you back up to normal.
” She said earnestly.
Her eyes panned around the store again, “My family runs our own little shop on the east end called Croll Corner. So we gotta stick together.
” She smiled brightly.
Madalena responded with a warm smile of her own. It was nice to be involved with other merchants and artisans in the area . . . even if the circumstances of their meeting weren’t ideal. ”Damn right we do! Is it a shop for alchemic goods and services? I’ll admit, I’m still pretty unfamiliar with all that this city has to offer in terms of magical whatever-the-hell. Certainly never knew about some demon tavern in the city . . .”
Madalena trailed off again, her mind racing from one subject to the next. ”Sorry, I’m a little scatterbrained these days.”
Madalena apologized, trying to change the subject.
“It’s okay, I hardly noticed.
” Charlie reassured her.”Have the Hounds given you and your family trouble?”
She shook her head, “No, the shop is mostly decorative giftware and repair. We don’t advertise our alchemy, Carrie’s family and few others know the secret in our miraculous fixes. We think we’ll be okay, but we’re starting up a neighbourhood watch. Not much we really can do against men with guns but y’know…
” She pursed her lips, nervously tapping her staff. “Better than nothing, right?
“Usually you see folks like Icon, or Iron Knight swoop in then end the trouble before it really gets out of hand. White Witch helping defeat Doctor Diplodoc and taking on the Silver Sorceress. They ended up breaking out of jail, anyway. I mean, where are they all now? Picking fights in Walmarts then tearing up Chinatown.
” She stalled a bit, then said quietly. “Maybe we took them and what they did for granted.
“Falls to us little guys to do something.
That made Madalena think.
Surely Puck didn’t mean for Madalena to go against the Witchfinder General alone. He had foreseen the Hound attack days in advance, given her just the right amount of information to make it through alive, and he hadn’t bothered to show up afterward to help clean up the mess. Maybe Carrie and Charlie coming along was part of his plan, maybe she was meant to recruit others to the cause. ”About that . . .”
Madalena sat forward in her seat, looking for Carrie to make sure all parties heard. She was certainly within earshot, the walls weren’t that thick. ”Puck came to me a couple days ago because he thought I was his best shot, flattering right? He said that since I had no history of magic, the Hounds could be convinced not to kill me on sight. Puck wanted me to get cozy with them I guess. I offered to be an informant on the magical community and they gave me this.”
Madalena pulled out the burner phone, tossing it around in her hands a couple of times.”Before they left, I overheard them say something about the ‘Witchfinder General.’ I’m guessing that’s who Puck wants to stop. He was more worried than I thought someone like him would be. Makes me think this Witchfinder is a bigger threat than any regular Hound.”
Charlie ran her thumb under her lip in thought, “What will you do? They’re going to expect something from you, probably hoping you rat out a coven to them. Like any witch worth an ounce of salt would turn their backs on their own.
Carrie came through with a small tray of various sized mugs, strings of tea bags hanging out their sides. “Witchfinder General, hmph. For Puck to recruit you specifically is a big deal, Maddi. Do you need any help with nailing some basics?” She placed one in front of Madalena then in front of Charlie, she grabbed another stool shuffling to sit beside Madalena.
The alchemist scratched her head, all meaning of Puck sailed over her head. “Why is he such a big deal?
“Don’t mind her, she’s the equivalent to a magical stick in the mud. Doesn’t know much at all outside alchemy.”
“Cliff notes please.
Madalena smiled, it wasn’t so long ago that she was in Charlie’s position . . . well, not quite. Unlike Charlie, she had the knowledge of a wide array of occult topics centering around witchcraft, but missing a few of the finer details.”Puck’s basically the Devil, or one of them, or His brother . . . actually, I don’t know what he is.”
Madalena took a moment to think about the lore of Puck and what she had gathered from their last meeting, as well as the knowledge he’d gifted her. ”Ok,”
Madalena continued, ”I think I got it. So basically, Puck, or Robin Goodfellow which is his actual name, is this old timey spirit that’s been around for pretty much as long as anyone can remember, BIG name in the witching world. He and his brothers, the imps, are kinda like witchy gods who have all sorts of involvement in history and events, they’re pretty much all tricksters, but Puck is like the head trickster among them.
“He’s got this tavern, bar? Tavern? Sure, a tavern called The Red Devil where he services and houses all kinds of magical folk and issues magical contracts via his band of merry witches. You guys actually know of one of them! The White Witch works for Puck, but she’s . . . somewhere else right now. Anyway, The Red Devil is somewhere in Lost Haven, kinda, like it’s not here but it’s pretty much here.”
Madalena stopped before she went down another rabbit hole. ”Does that make sense?”
Charlie stared, “Oh. Um, sure. Witch-Devil-Trickster-...Thing. Filed directly under Witchy Woo. Got it.
“Yeah! I’ve always wanted to visit Red Devil, I had no idea White Witch worked for him. Rumours and stuff but that’s cool!” Carrie said then took a tentative sip of tea, “That’s a relief, it might not be the superheroes doing something about the Hounds but real
forces are moving against them.”
Charlie nodded conceding, “Yeah you’re right. It’s a bit of relief we’re not completely without a paddle. Brings me back to my first question though, what are you going to do Maddi? If White Witch is off doing her own thing, it sounds like you know her personally. Do you have anyone else to help you?
Madalena blew over the surface of her tea before taking a sip, wincing at the heat but continuing to take regular sips regardless. She hadn’t stopped to consider exactly what the plan was from here. Sure, she’s managed to get the Hounds off her back for now, but they would be calling soon, and Puck hadn’t checked back in with her to offer any insight. Perhaps he was testing her?
Madalena’s generally cheerful expression turned grim as she was faced with this dilemma. ”I . . . I’m not sure. I just assumed that Puck would chime in when the time was right, but he hasn’t yet. When he gifted me these powers and what knowledge he could, he told me that I was under his care, that he would always be watching and waiting . . . guess the time isn’t right yet.”
Madalena looked down into her lap, lost in thought.
Charlie and Carrie shared a look of thoughtfulness as well.
“We could always lend a hand.
” Charlie blurted, without much of a second thought. “Y’know, it’s the neighbourly thing to do.
Carrie stared at Charlie, “What help will we be against the Hounds of Humanity? Hmm?” Carrie said pointedly, “You’ve already got a certain necromancer to worry about. We’d be better off reporting this to the police.”
“Oh right, like they’ll believe an Imp named Puck gave Maddi witch-status and that the Hounds are targeting her specifically winded up changing their minds ‘cause she convinced them she’s not a witch.
” Charlie tapped the counter. “I’m standing right here in the middle of the mess watching her leviate some candlesticks and my skeptic’s voice still isn’t completely convinced. If Maddi is going to be an informant, a mole - a believable one we gotta be smart about this. We could help eachother out, hit two birds with one stone.
Charlie looked hopefully at Madalena. “Turning over information about this necromancer of ours could solve your problem. A legit target to keep the Hound’s busy and win their trust.
Carrie sipped her tea, reluctantly noting, “I mean… it could work.”
Madalena perked up; this was exactly what she needed! Puck certainly wouldn't want her to rat out any of the actual witches, fey, and other associates of his in Lost Haven, but details regarding an errant necromancer causing problems for the local populace? Maybe Madalena could manipulate the Hounds into doing some good. ”That sounds like a great idea! And even if they don’t catch the bastard, it’ll show them that they can trust me . . . well, more than they do now.”
Madalena looked around at her shop, then back at Carrie and Charlie. It was a small price to pay for the takedown of villains like the Hounds.”The men that did this to my shop haven’t been gone for long, but I figure we’ve got some time before they call in a favor. Mind helping me tidy up?”
Charlie and Carrie nodded draining the last dregs of tea from their mugs. Carrie and Madalena armed with brooms and dustpans collected the remains of broken products from everywhere in the store, assembling them into neat tidy piles. Glass, wood, brass and stone objects from various spiritualities were gathered. The shelves and display cases would be the last of the repairs along with any surface areas pock marked by destruction, kerosene would need to be removed as well. Charlie removed her notepad scribbling away her alchemical values placing them beneath the broken pieces.
Carrie looked at the rows of various things they collected and asked, “Are you sure you can handle all of this by yourself Charlie? This is a lot.”
She grinned, confidently nodding. “That’s right, it’s been ages since you went out scavenging with me.
Carrie tapped her chin in thought, “It has been a few years, I remember when we were kids - fixing a broken glass used to exhaust you.” Carrie laughed at the memory.
“Let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of practice.
” There was an unmistakable twinkle in her eye. With that said she began working the miraculous repairs. With some help from Madalena, a couple hours worth of work and touchups the shop was restored once again. It was as if the Hounds were a bad dream.