Time: Present Day - Day of Satellite Attack
Location: Lost Haven, Maine
Captain Dahl stood tall in worn leather boots, her long black hair tied into a ponytail, sunglasses perched on her nose, masking the bright green eyes. Lips; crimson red. She stepped out of the airport, quickly ushered into a black escalade with heavily tinted windows. Her luggage was loaded into the trunk, sinking easily into the leather seats. She checked her watch.
Sore from her loss in Las Vegas, Dahl was energized with anticipation to watch the reaction of their attack roll across the city. Lost Haven, Pacific Point, Vegas, they were cesspools for metas and magic. Hunting for the strange in this city was going to be easy, easier for redemption in the eyes of the Witchfinder General. Captain Dahl was in certain words; confident.
The operative driving the vehicle was one of the General’s people, new - fresh faced to the fold. Keeping up a visage of professionalism, local to Lost Haven Dahl guessed. There was a noticeable trend in the meta or magic tolerant cities. While there was large portions of the population happy to have the likes of them among them; a small, angry and buffeted sliver of people lived in direct proximity to them. They hated them, Dahl having heard plenty of stories from the people affected by their destruction or mischief. She was among the few not fuelled by passion but by leading a life of a soldier of fortune. There was some merit to staying in the Witchfinder General’s good graces, his vision for The Hounds of Humanity quietly splintered from the core. Using them as a vehicle to bring up numbers for The Winter Court.
Opportunity awaited the opportunists.
The escalade pulled away heading into eastern Lost Haven, for a discrete abandoned flower shop.
When they arrived Captain Dahl exited the SUV stepping ahead of the driver, entering with a push of the door to the greenhouse. Rows and rows of empty steel grate tables, dead vegetation and dark natural light filtering through the grubby windows.
Knowing better to his theatrics she called out, “Captain Dahl reporting in!”
“You’re wasting your time,” a voice called back, the subtle vibrations of footsteps upsetting the dust-laden floorboards. Captain Hawthorn rounded the corner, a couple of his men leaning against a decrepit checkout counter. His fair hair fell in messy curls over his ears. While his subordinates were in full Hound attire, Hawthorn dawned civilian dress, sporting a brown leather jacket, worn jeans, and dark boots with a pattern running along the side. He was a Pacific Point native recently converted to the General’s cause. No one was quite sure how or when he was promoted to captain, but Hawthorn’s skills spoke for themself . . . at least, they used to.
“General’s not here yet, probably wants to make an entrance. Fashionably late, I guess.” he crumbled a few dead vines in his hands as he walked over to Dahl.
“That hat of his is always fashionably late,” Hawthorn called back to his men, who chuckled before resuming whatever conversation they were having before.
“Captain Hawthorn.” Dahl grimaced. Smugly she commented, “Didn’t know you’d be here, how was hunting the casino overlord vampire? Heard it blew up in your face spectacularly. Ate a couple of your subordinates.”
She turned her head fast enough for her ponytail to wack Hawthorn in the face. “Vegas was a real shitshow.”
Hawthorn scoffed, putting a little more distance between he and Dahl.
“Well,” he replied, a thin smile appearing on his face, “it went about as well as your grocery store massacre. What were the numbers for that, again? Two witches, two metas, three werewolves, and a vampire, right? But sure, call the kettle black.”
He sighed, combing a hand through his hair and looking around.
“But you’re right about Vegas. I’m guessing the General told you the same thing he told me? Get your ass down here before I send wolves to rip you apart?”
Dahl curled her lip with distaste. “Something like that. If I were you,” She looked him up and down with judgmental eyes lifting her sunglasses. “I’d shut your mouth about fashion choices. The only ones that matter are the ones that do their job.” She lifted the iron cross, meaning another slight. “You’ve got a long way to go before you earn your cross and Sight.”
“Perhaps not as long as you might think,” a gruff voice echoed through the building followed by heavy steps. The Witchfinder General appeared in one of the entrances without his usual escort. He was a beast of a man, well over six feet tall, broad shouldered, yet there was no mistake that he could be as silent and nimble as he desired.
“Captain Dahl, Captain Hawthorn, thank you for your prompt arrival. I dread to think what I might have done had either of you been late.”
The General’s face was obscured by the collar of his cloak and the rim of his hat. His voice was low and grim. It was unclear if he was capable of conveying any emotion other than rage and indifference.
“But already you exceed my expectations, good show. Are you ready for your next assignment?”
Hawthorn nodded in agreement, standing up straighter and keeping his arms to his side.
“Yessir, I won’t disappoint.”
Dahl nodded, “Yes, sir.”
Location: Southern Docks, Lost Haven
It was overcast, dark clouds rolling in off the bay threatening rain. Captain Dahl and Captain Hawthorn had their assignments directly from the Witchfinder General himself with added pressure of complete
success. They were both working to get back into his good graces.
Dahl insisted on driving, of course. She parked in an alleyway off from a quiet warehouse, a black four door jeep loaded up with their equipment in the trunk. A large shipment was being unloaded, huge shipping containers were being lifted off with a crane. She lifted her sunglasses onto her head exiting the vehicle.
“C’mon Hawthorn, now I know you don’t have much experience. Especially compared to me.” She said her snark shamelessly apparent. “You ever deal with demons before? The ones that crawl up from the recesses of Hell, feed and use us mortals. They’re about as much of a handful as faerie. Don’t let your guard down.”
Dahl stepped around to the trunk, opening it up. Rifling through her duffle bag.
“The Church has been slackin’ real hard. Don’t believe anything until they have concrete proof.”
“You’re conveniently forgetting the ‘Captain’ in front of my name, Dahl,” Hawthorn snided back, slamming the jeep door with more force than intended as he followed Dahl to the trunk. “Give me a little more credit than that. I dealt with a succubus back in Pacific Point, one of my first missions under the General. I’ll watch my back.”
Hawthorn kept the General’s orders close in his mind, replaying them over and over again, filtering through the disappointed side comments he’d made at Dahl and Hawthorn’s expense. This was their last shot. If this demonologist, Phoebus, wasn’t dead by the day’s end, they would take his place.
“And I’ve got something extra with me this time,” Hawthorn said holding up a small stone with a hole through the center, hanging around his neck next to the Court’s customary iron crosses. “May not be proper Sight, but it’ll do.”
“You say conveniently, I say intentionally.” Dahl laughed. “Alright, Captain
Hawthorn. I suppose that little stone donut will have to work. Hag’s Stones are reliable enough.”
She holstered her pistol to her hip. Slinging a rifle over her shoulder, slipping a couple extra magazines into her back pocket for easy access. Finally pulling her bible free of it’s pocket. “I ain’t much of a believer in the Son and the Holy Spirit but demons hate
it. We see him we shoot him. If he’s got a familiar, or a demon has a grip on him we’ll need to find out it’s name to banish it.”
Hawthorn nodded, sheathing a silver knife at his shin and pulling free a loose copy of the Dictionnaire Infernal
, briefly skimming the pages for names and descriptions of demons that matched Phoebus’s MO.
“Got it.” He replied, a small team afforded to the Captains’ pulling up behind them, briefed and ready.
The warehouse in question was smaller than those surrounding it and suspiciously void of trucks, crates, or pallets around the perimeter. Old industrial equipment was stacked at one side, hinting at the building’s former use and suggesting recent renovations. One might expect the warehouse to be an empty, cobweb filled space waiting for new shipments, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Inside was a truly macabre display. Every wall was lined with a different occult seal, each drawn with mathematical precision in a mixture of ash and blood. Pews were arranged in rows on the open floor space, leading to a raised platform at the far end of the interior, surrounded by large, demonic banners, magical apparati, and sporting a massive stone altar at its center. Draped down over high support beams were more ritual items bearing strange insignia’s and glyphs, giving the space an almost regal appearance.
Scattered throughout the pews were dessicated corpses, nine in total, some dressed and almost recognizable, others wrapped in thin sheets and severely decayed. Small wisps of red and orange light collected above the altar and spun wildly elsewhere in the building, dancing to the music of chaos and disarray. Phoebus stood tall over the altar, dawning ritual garb that obscured every feature, all but a wicked grin. He was accompanied by another figure, a man dressed all in black with a long, black cloak and high collar, leather boots, dark breeches, and a black cloth that obscured his mouth.
“I’m not gonna ask you again, Gabriel,” the stranger spoke with hints of an accent that became thicker the more words he let out. “Where’s the fuckin’ brooch?”
“Phoebus,” the demonologist protested in a deep, raspy voice, “My name is Phoebus, and you know my terms. I’ll hand over the brooch when you bring me what I want, Orrin.”
Orrin sighed, turning his head and stomping a few feet away in a rage.
“Well you’re being right difficult in telling me what the fuck you want ‘Phoebus’.” he replied in anger, “I found you this place, didn’t I? And what’d ya give me in return? Fuck all! I haven’t got time to hear your creepy monologues, mate, just tell me what else
you need and give me the brooch.”
“The Lover’s Coil.” Phoebus responded curtly, going about his work over the altar, pouring a viscous liquid onto a silver plate. “That’s my price.”
“The bloody Lover’s Coil?” Orrin responded in outrage. “Yeah, sure man, let me just walk up to the Ars Obscura and kindly ask them to hand it over, I’m sure that’ll work out nicely.” He walked away again, deep in thought. A small click caught his attention, something just beyond the doors of the warehouse. He was running out of time.
“Fine, you win. I’ll get my hands on the Coil for you, alright?” Orrin conceded. “Just . . . just tell me where the brooch is so I don’t waste a trip.”
Phoebus smiled, pleased with himself.
“Very well. I buried it in London. Grave of a famous witch, though you’ll have to bring me the Coil to find out which one.”
“Are you shitting me? I come all this way and it’s exactly where I’ve just left?” Orrin jumped up, carried by some supernatural force to a tall beam next to a small window at the height of the warehouse. “Y’know what, ‘Phoebus,’ it’s a bitch working with you, so I think I’ll find the brooch on my own. But I’ll do you one last favor.”
Orrin held a blackthorn cane, once fastened to his back. He tapped the end of it on the beams, sending a powerful hex through them that caused those nearest to the door to collapse.
“I’ll make it a little harder for your guests to come in.” With that, Orrin bolted through the window, fading from sight in an instant.
Phoebus shifted his focus on the warehouse doors and his unwelcome visitors.
With a line of trained men and women on both sides of the warehouse doors, it collapsed now rendered useless. Dahl signaled for them to hold, then spoke over the radio. “Alright we lost our element of surprise. Time to toss some of our surprises. Ready smoke grenades.”
Those closest to the door moved to give way for those who had the grenades. Simultaneously they pulled the pins and generously tossed through the wreckage. Smoke billowing out in several directions creating a screen to obscure their movements.
Dahl signaled them, pulling her mask up over her face. Rifle in her hands. They poured in climbing over the wreckage, taking up defensive positions to allow others to enter. From the otherside of the smokescreen, Dahl could see the set up well enough. Wall to wall, dark figures of the bodies in various states of decay were sending her skin crawling. The bastard’s decor was gruesome.
“Steady now. Use the smoke to your advantage. We’ve got ourselves a bastard’s church and the devil’s priest himself is at his altar.” Dahl spoke over the radio.
Phoebus jumped as the smoke started pouring in. The Hounds of Humanity. He’d managed to go unnoticed for quite some time, taking only drifters and the occasional dock worker for his experiments, but somehow, he’d been found outt.
“GO!” He commanded, pointing a gnarled dagger at the coming Hounds. Dark wisps of light began to descend from the rafts, taking residence in dead piled among the pews. To those with the Sight, the wisps were winged monstrosities with heads and bodies like bats, curved horns, and the tails of scorpions. Those who could not find residence in flesh began to swarm the Hounds, producing unholy sounds like dragging nails and discordant whines.
Meanwhile, nine decaying bodies lumbered over to their master’s assailant, slowly filling with supernatural speed and vigor. They began thrashing about in the smoke, forming a line between the Hounds and Phoebus.
“Incoming!” Captain Dahl pointed to the zombies and the demonic creatures. “Captain Hawthorn and I have the invisible bastards, you lot take on the zombies! Fire!”
The zombies came running into the first operative they found dogpiling them to the ground, his screams as he flailed at their strength and stench. Light from his rifle visible through the smoke. A pair of his teammates shot at the zombies dragging their bloody teammate back from their jaws.
Captain Dahl took shots at the winged demon flying close to one of their operatives, it screeched as it wheeled away, the blessed silver found spirit ripping through it’s back, “Don’t let them get close!” She took several more shots, they were quick and actively avoiding her line of sight.
Hawthorn tried to conserve ammo, swinging at the flying demons with his knife. Those he made contact with screeched in pain as the metal seared their flesh. Several began to fall around Dahl, their bodies bubbling and sizzling until they dissolved into nothing. They were making progress, but Phoebus was yet untouched.
Taking a chance, Hawthorn barreled through the fading smoke, readying his pistol at Phoebus, who was kneeled over the stone altar. He took a shot, his aim disrupted by a stray imp creature latching onto his shoulder with sharp fangs. Hawthorn buried his knife in its skull, wincing as the creature’s bite subsided with its death. His efforts hadn't been for nothing, however.
Phoebus clutched his left side, the blessed silver passing through his ribs, sapping his strength. The next shot wouldn’t likely miss, he needed to act fast. He whispered a single word in some chthonic tongue, its utterance spouting embers from his mouth. Dark shadows mixed with candle flame, coalescing into a massive being.
Before Phoebus stood a great, black wolf, three times the size of a man with an eagle’s wings and serpent tail. It turned its attention to the Hounds and let out a mighty growl that shook the warehouse’s very foundations. What few flying creatures remained scattered out of sight while the dead continued their onslaught and the wolf marched toward the Hounds.
“Boss, we’ve got a big bad wolf coming our way.” One of the operatives spoke.
Captain Dahl cursed, “Concentrate fire on the beast! Ready flashbangs, blind it!”Plink!
The sound of flashbang pins being pulled and similarly tossed at the beast exploding on impact. Bright light exploded forth in front of the beast’s snout. A direct hit.
“Captain Hawthorn, take the shot! We’ll distract the beast.” Captain Dahl said through the radio raising her rifle to the beast, both eyes on it and not paying attention to the zombies. She was confident they wouldn’t reach her.
A hearty laugh echoed through the warehouse as the flashbangs went off. The beast maintained its stance, unaffected by the Hound’s attack. ”Cease this pitiful assault and I will make your death swift.”
The beast taunted them in an ominous voice that shook their cores.
Hawthorn knew this was no simple demon, but a Duke or Marquis. He nodded at Dahl’s command, lining up his shot a second time, but his movement was anticipated. The beast turned to Hawthorn and opened its mouth, a thick haze spewing forth and surrounding the Hound. Hawthorn took the shot, but his bullet turned to ash, the blessing unable to withstand the beast’s attack. Soon enough, more of Hawthorn’s equipment began to decay, dissolving in his hands. His black armor began to shift on his body as he let out a distressed scream, looking down to find his legs slowly turning ash.
There was no time, he hadn’t the resources left to attack Phoebus. Instead, Hawthorn chucked his knife at Dahl, striking an encroaching zombie in the head before it could latch on.
“Marchosias!” Hawthorn let out through his pain, “His name is Marchosias, ban . . .” his words were cut short by the dust filling up his lungs, no, his lungs were turning to dust. As the haze subsided, all that remained of Hawthorn was ash. Dahl had only herself and the men that remained.
Dahl was shocked to see his sacrifice, she figured him to be a runner but her respect for him shot up. Witchfinder General would be proud. Kneeling down to the zombie she pulled the knife free then stomped on it’s skull. Gore splashing outwards. Holding the knife before her she pulled her bible free, ready to recite the banishment. She stared down the Beast and her remaining operatives gathered behind her.
“In the name and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we command you - Marchosias
to leave, we banish you back to pits of Hell with whence you came!” She shouted with conviction, removing the cross from her neck holding it with her blessed silver knife and holding it up with the bible open in her hand, “Begone! Leave this realm!”
Marchosias howled as the banishment echoed through the warehouse, forcing his retreat. His body was enveloped in smoke and ash, seeping through the stone floor back into the pit. Phoebus winced as the blessed silver began to travel through his veins. His wound was bleeding profusely and he was unable to stand without support.
As a final effort, he called the lesser demons from their dead hosts to carry him off, but his power had waned and they were unreceptive to his call, instead fading away, no longer bound to the service of their conjurer.
They moved forward cautiously, Captain Dahl stepped up to him. “You’re gonna have to repeat that line about ‘pitiful assault’ one more time. The big bad wolf wasn’t clear enough for me, Phoebus.” Pressing the end of her barrel against his head, “You were a blight, even the witches wanted nothing to do with you. Happy to rat you out to us. All of you are untrustworthy and slick as it gets.”
The remaining Hounds surrounded them, pointing their rifles at Phoebus.
“Got any final words?”
Phoebus looked up at Dahl, hand firmly clutched over his wound. He opened his mouth and let out a quiet whine, trying to find the words to say. Suddenly, he began to cough, a low gurgle sounding in the back of his throat. He keeled over, coughing aggressively. Water began to stream from his mouth, slowly at first, then a torrent. Phoebus was drowning. He seized up, water flowing endlessly from his mouth until his eyes went dark, his limbs cold. Dead.”I suspect he won’t be saying much else,”
a woman’s voice echoed through the warehouse. Near the ruined entrance stood a woman dressed in emerald green with auburn curls and gold ornaments, her skin pale and glowing in the strands of sunlight. ”But I have a few words to share. Your dear Witchfinder is at his end. The covens of Nevada have mobilized, as have those in New Orleans and Salem. The Witch-Mother plots against you as we speak, and believe me, she is more fearsome than a pitiful sorcerer and his pets. Tread carefully in the coming days, or you’ll meet a similar end as the first iteration of The Winter Court.”
She laughed, waving an arm and disappearing in the wind. At her feet lay a broken iron cross and silver ash.
Captain Dahl lowered her rifle, the witch left with ominous warnings. Dahl looked down to the dead body of Phoebus then swiftly kicked his head aside. She called out to the other Hounds, “Round this shit up, clear it out and let’s make a sign. Nobody can trust the other, let’s give the freaks a clear sign we’re looking for informants as much as we are for targets. Let them know they’re not safe even among their own.”
They nodded, dragging Phoebus’ body clear of the altar working to dismantle his work and the pews. Piling the broken pews into a pile at the center of the stone altar. Captain Dahl approached the spot where the witch had spoken picking up the broken cross and running a hand through the silvery ash.
“Hmph… I’d like to see them try to dismantle us.” She said to herself, shortly thereafter the Hounds make quick work of the pews and added kindling. Throwing the dead atop of the pyre. Captain Dahl lit it up, kerosene catching easily. Their work for the day complete, Dahl claiming success for herself, paying proper homage to Captain Hawthorn respectively. They left the burning warehouse behind.