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Time: Evening after The Earthquake
Location: ???

The exact moment when Odette’s eyes shut her mind and soul were suddenly elsewhere. She felt no real direction, nor had a sense of time. It all felt somewhat familiar, similar to when she tethered her soul to Bach’s. She opened her eyes, ultimately not feeling like herself.

Darkness surrounded her, blue hair floating about her as if she were in water. She flexed her fingers, then her toes. Unable to see anything at that moment, she tried to speak but her voice was muted. Odette then tried to breathe and while it felt like inhaling thick fog, it calmed her.

Amidst the clamouring darkness and a sea of nothing, a gust of wind pushed Odette forward, seemingly into the nebulous void. Slowly the curtain was lifted with delicate hands, the same ones that nudged the dazed and weary Odette. Blinding light erupted from beyond the fog, giving way to a picturesque scene.

Odette stood on small, grassy knoll overlooking the foggy hills of the British Isles. Here in the countryside, mounds of earth dotted the landscape and seemed to flow like frozen waves of green, bare trees with stout constitutions rooting themselves at every minor peak. The crisp, salty air of the sea met with the refreshing odours of green pastures to form a most inviting scent.

Not far from her post, a small cottage, modestly accommodated with tall stalks of flowers and vines along with an assortment of other strange flora was just visible, a smokestack rising from a worn roof.

When Odette’s feet touched ground, immediately she felt the soft grass. The salty air smelt real as ever, the breeze raised the hair on the nape of her neck. She pursed her lips. Taking in the new surroundings, she spoke to herself, “Impressive.

Upon reflex she tried to summon magic into the palm of her hand but nothing stirred. Wherever her mind was, it was barred access to the Arcane Stream. That troubled her a little, but she held faith that Bach would pull her out of this world. She walked forward toward the cottage, her shoulders straight and eyes wandering trying to guess where exactly this was supposed to be.

The pillar of smoke began to swirl in an ethereal wind, becoming thicker and darker with each passing moment. It moved as if alive, snaking its way through the air and turning towards Odette, carrying a presence within.

What have we here? a voice rang out over the valley, low but familiar. It had hints of an accent that couldn’t quite be placed.

Ah, it continued, the meddlesome wench who tried to steal my Sight. How interesting . . .

The voice trailed off, black smog slowly manifesting into a woman’s form. Raven hair flowed in the wind, thick and glossy though slightly unkempt, attached to a fair-skinned maiden with pale, rounded features, small freckles neatly dotting her skin. The woman was adorned in rich, scarlet garments and a floor-length black cloak. Her face was familiar and her figure doubly so. This was the witch whom Odette had seen in the oracle’s scrying pool, the one who bore the White Witch’s likeness. Here stood the witch, Gwyneth Owens, in all her splendor.

You must be Gwyneth. My name is the Ambassador of the Fair Folk. You are quick to assume I stole, I was actually gifted your mysterious item by Hekate herself. I was hoping to meet you.” Odette replied smoothly, she dipped her head out of respect aptly ignoring being called a wench. If Gwenyth wasn’t putting forth a good first impression, Odette had no problem doing so. If she was lucky, it might inspire a little guilt for calling her a thief.

She locked her hands behind her back looking up at the witch, feeling her heart pace quicken a little. It was one thing to see Gwyneth's visage through the oracle’s pool but the resemblance to the White Witch was uncanny, from what she could remember of the young woman the last time they met. To her benefit Gwyneth’s outfit wasn’t nearly as tacky. She carried an air about her that was only earned after living a full life, admittedly she was quite beautiful.

She felt more at ease dealing with Gwyneth than she did Hekate. If the witch responded well enough to her presence here it could very well mean subverting the prophecy diplomatically. Preferably, at the very least. Gwyneth being an immortalized witch, she was still comparatively human with an ego to match, one Odette could easily stroke.

Gwyneth raised her brow and wore a faint grin, a quiet laugh passing her lips.

The Witch Mother has involved herself? Even more interesting . . . Gwyneth’s voice echoed throughout the land. Whatever illusion this was, she was clearly its source.

Moving closer, Gwyneth began to examine Odette, taking note of her strange attire, stunned by her title. This woman’s talent was obvious, and Gwyneth was quite interested in learning more.

Gwyneth bowed her head to Odette in a similar fashion.

My sincerest apologies for approaching you in such a manner. It is unbecoming of a lady to speak to her guests in such a way, and what a fine guest you are. Madame, you are of a fine sort, a rare creature indeed. Few have seen my treasures and fewer still have known their creator. That you know who I am speaks highly of you. Tell me, if you would, how come you to be here? You speak of a meeting with the Witch Mother yet you do not hold her spark. Be you a witch? If so, a strange witch you are.

Gwyneth felt something staining Odette’s soul, a mark not unlike those carried by her brothers and sisters in the Craft, a familiar mark that Gwyneth couldn’t place.

Odette used her warm, pink lipped smile, brightening her expression considerably, “Apology accepted. My meeting with Hekate is a bit of a tale that I am more than happy to share out here in these lovely fields or inside, assumingly, your quaint cottage. I am not a witch, I am a sorceress.” How cut off from the modern world was Gwyneth? What was she aware of and, most importantly, how could Odette use her ignorance to her advantage? As it were, her mention of Hekate got Gwyneth’s attention in a good way.

The way she spoke was an old way, and Gwyneth’s voice reverberating around her was disorientating.

Ah, I see, Gwyneth smiled warmly, You are bound to a faery helper, are you not? That is the mark I sense on your soul. I am happy to know that there are those who continue the ways of the Faery Doctors of my time, and you their ambassador? Tell me, how fares the Summer Court in their war with Hell? Do Oberon and Mab still reign supreme?

Gwyneth hardly left room for Odette to reply. She was excited to know the mysteries of the modern world, her awareness of mortal goings on severely stunted by her spirit’s imprisonment within her artifacts. Though she knew nothing of Odette or her motives, Gwyneth would allow them both time for idle chat before discovering Odette’s reason for meeting with her.

Awkward, she hasn’t had any new information for centuries... Odette thought, “Yes I am, I built a permanent portal as a coalition of myself and the many faery courts I have allied with. I was officially given the title then but had been wearing it unofficially quite some time before.

Of course though, the witch would be starved for information from a new voice.

Unfortunately, the Summer Court lost that war. King Oberon retreated back to his realms, while the King struggled with the weight of the loss Mab was stricken with relentless grief. The druids were destroyed by Roman Fire.” She bowed her head largely out of respect for those who came before. She felt nothing for their loss, her focus was forward. “May their spirits find peace.” She projected some empathy for the past.

She carried on, “This wedge between Mab and Oberon was the perfect opportunity for Titania to take advantage, a beautiful creature of great strength and foresight in the Summer Courts. Titania shared in their grief, she helped strengthen Oberon when Mab drew away. Mab went missing long before Titania was crowned Queen.” Odette said idly adjusting the cuffs on her sleeves while her eyes were on Gwyneth, reciting the history from memory. “Now a few centuries later, Queen Titania had fallen from providence her power waned considerably only to be renewed as of…” She thought counting the days. “A little over a week or so ago. She and I came to tentative alliance.

Watching her, thoughtfully she added, “A lot of time has passed, humanity reached an unprecedented industrial age and leap in technology. Humans cannot regularly see the Fair Folk, nor do they as a whole believe in magic or the supernatural.

If you don’t mind my asking, do you have a sense of how much time has passed?

Gwyneth frowned, slowly turning her head down and away. How could she describe this suspended state she’d put herself in? The sky grew dull in response to Gwyneth’s silent grief. She looked up at Odette thoughtfully.

Time passes not in this place. All that you see, she made a motion with her arm that gestured to the landscape around them, is but an illusion, a precious memory of simpler days. I do not experience any stretch of time here. When one of my possessions is moved or moves itself, I awaken briefly to note where I am being taken. When they come too near to one another, I send them apart. Memories of the days before my death are more numerous than those after. . .

Again Gwyneth fell into a quiet state, but a slow smile began to brighten the grey skies.

Your news saddens me, yet I am glad to hear it. However many seasons ago, I regarded the Faery Monarchs my allies and dear friends. It haunts me to know that so much has changed, that those whom I once trusted have been buried beneath mounds of mortal ignorance, but no longer must I toil to know their story. I have you to thank, Lady Ambassador. You have done me a great service in recounting this tale.

The scene around them seemed to liven up as Gwyneth spoke. The sun became more pronounced, the naked trees dotting the landscape bore thick foliage, some flowering, and the air smelled not of the sea, but of freshly baked bread and pastry from the cottage just beyond the hill.

Odette nodded, the change in their surroundings caught her eye when the sun shone brighter, the distinct smells of a bakery floating across the sea breeze. The illusion clearly being tied to Gwyneth directly. She imagined such a powerful illusion would have shifted in such a case. When she turned back to the witch, she replied. “You are most welcome, it is my pleasure. I am glad you mentioned your items, I would love to learn more about you and these possessions. I have also met briefly with your reincarnation.

Gwyneth’s eyes lit up, her back straightening and full attention pointed at Odette. So far, she had only felt the smallest pull from her modern counterpart, but she knew that as her possessions were returned to her mortal form, that connection would grow stronger.

Have you? Tell me, what am I like in your time, by what name am I known?

Odette said, “I only know your reincarnation by her alias, the White Witch. She is explicitly tied to Puck, Mister Robin Goodfellow. Beyond that, not as much as I’d like to know.

The resemblance, may I say, is uncanny.

Gwyneth scoffed.

White Witch? Pah, as naive in your time as I was in mine. I’m sure I think that I’m helping them, those mortal swine, but in good time I’ll learn that they can’t be trusted . . .

Gwyneth trailed off once again, caught in her mind, memories of her past failures manifesting as dark clouds looming over the horizon.

And I should have guessed one of the Pwca would rear their heads. No doubt she’s run into the Witch Father, He and I were well acquainted in my time, but to be under the employ of that meddlesome imp Puck . . . then again, perhaps his insights have been of use to me . . . Gwyneth drolled on before realizing that she was getting severely off track.

Turning her attention back to Odette, she added, Her visage and mine are not pale imitations, they are a reflection. Such was the nature of the spell that brought me into your time.

Odette nodded, understanding that point since her meeting with the oracle. Noting only to herself that Gwyneth had a particularly negative view on mortals. Similarly to some Fey. “I see. Puck has been running a rather successful business in modern times as it were. A particularly large portal network and tavern for mystical and supernatural patrons gather to have a drink. He doles out his prophecies to a few still. As far as I am aware.

I likely owe him thanks for revealing certain truths to my modern incarnation . . . about whom you know a fair amount. How is it that you have come to know both versions of myself, and what business have you with me and my possessions?

Gwyneth’s tone wasn’t accusatory, but she was certainly suspicious. She postured herself to reflect her curiosity, all senses fully focused on Odette and her answers.

Odette inclined her head her hands clasping behind her back once again, knowing her answer to this would be of winning her trust to sit and talk inside that cottage. Odette knew Gwyneth was familiar with the Fae, while she was largely ignorant of modern happenings she was shrewd and powerful enough to come to know the likes of King Oberon and former Queen Mab, which spoke volumes of her experience already. Disregarding how long it has been since she has walked the Earth personally.

Tread carefully.

It was a rather interesting meeting, she caught me red handed during a kidnapping. Neither of us knowing the other’s intentions. We fought briefly while I managed to escape, the ensuing Witch Fire that came about when I had knocked her unconscious had marked me. The fight, piqued my interest.” She spoke honestly as possible, it was true that today was the result of that initial fight. “I used the residual witch fire in my skin to find out more through a Fey oracle, thus coming to learn about your possessions. Particularly where I could find your Sight.” Odette said, leveling her gaze at Gwyneth. The context was verily more complicated, so if not only for Odette’s benefit to gloss over it saved time in explaining. “I had hoped to understand the White Witch more through these possessions, possibly having a hand in reuniting a clearly powerful witch such as yourself, Gwyneth, with the present. The world…

She paused, looking out to the distance. The beautifully rendered illusion of the English coast. “Has lost a significant sparkle the past few centuries. I am very interested in bringing our worlds back together. So, that is how I find myself here speaking with you today. I would very much be willing to help you and White Witch reunite.” Deciding then, the way this conversation has gone Odette felt confident in possibly allying herself with Gwyneth.

Gwyneth’s entire being was washed over by a wave of fresh exhilaration, the idea of being able to join her two halves and complete her life’s work with such ease was indeed tempting. But something stirred in her core, a sinking feeling that not all was as it seemed. She would contain her excitement for now.

A noble quest indeed, Lady Ambassador. If you speak plainly and truthfully, I would very much like to take up your offer, but I have a question. What have you to gain from such a quest? As one who works so closely with the Fair Folk, you know there is always an exchange. One does not pay a price for nothing, and I cannot believe that one with such high standing as yourself among them would perform acts of charity.

Odette smiled knowingly, “You are absolutely correct in that. Number one, I want to be safely returned to my body. Number two, more importantly is that in exchange I want an alliance or truce. As it stands because I did fight with White Witch, you can imagine things are not quite friendly between us. The conditions of the truce would be a matter of staying out of each other’s business, if an alliance were to bloom, well that would be for the better, and I would be more than happy to discuss such conditions.

The Ambassador smiled at the 600 year old witch, “As you know, Fey love to negotiate. There stands to be a lot to gain from an alliance.

The wind had begun to pick up, Gwyneth’s hair and cloak floating carelessly about her. She raised a hand to move the hair from her face, eyes glistening with joyful tears that threatened to fall if not contained. This was an opportunity she wasn’t likely to receive again.

I . . . I would be forever grateful, indebted even, if you would do me this honor. But I warn you, and let these words carry more weight than the finest Faerie arms: I cannot, I will not be betrayed again. Never again. My trust is in exceedingly short supply. I have been without it for a portion of my life and the many years after. There is no place in the world for one who would shatter my faith or betray my trust, and neither this prison which holds my spirit now nor the very jaws of Hell could contain my wrath if a vow to me were again broken. Understand this now, Lady Ambassador, for whatever flames have scorched your earth before are but singular sparks, dying embers of a celestial fire that has burned for centuries and centuries to come. Have I spoken plainly enough?

Her expression hardly changed as Odette’s head bowed low, “I would expect nothing less. Allow my actions to speak louder than my words. I do not build bridges to burn them. One does not earn the title of Ambassador by betrayal.” When she stood up straight, she fixed some hair behind her ears. “With that understanding would you like to discuss an alliance or truce?

Gwyneth wore a larger smile than she thought herself capable of producing. It was all coming together, every piece falling into place. She could trace the threads of fate to this exact moment, knowing that all that was destined to happen, all that she had worked for, was finally here.

Gwyneth nodded, Shall we speak inside? I’m sure you would like to rest your legs and know more of the story than what you could read on your own.

The sorceress nodded, the negotiations hadn’t begun but Odette felt that once she crossed the threshold she would have easily diverted this prophetical nonsense. Puck’s words and sight had been disputed. The walk across the field to the homely cottage was short, the environment changed again reflecting how Gwyneth felt. Odette wondered what it would take to create such a space, to shed one’s spirit onto personal items to preserve their mind past death. The process had her curiosity.

The cottage was simple red brick with dark wooden trimming and supports, moss and vine creeping along the side creating intricate, natural designs. Scattered about the outside were dozens of small raised beds where an assortment of flowers and herbs were in full bloom. Beyond the sturdy, oak door lay a modest room clearly sectioned by the change in decoration from one space to the next. Immediately the living area came into frame, a large, open fireplace near antique chairs and a large bench. Next came Gwyneth’s living quarters, a single bed with fine quilts stacked atop it and one massive feather pillow at its head. Around the bed were several open books scattered all across the floor. Near this was a stone wash basin and the bucket used to fill it. And finally a small area dedicated to crafts that housed a loom, several lengths of fabric, and a small working altar for Gwyneth’s spells with some alchemical apparatus and other mystical instruments thereabout.

Gwyneth lead Odette to a small, round table near the fireplace with two chairs neatly tucked underneath.

Excuse the mess, I wasn’t expecting company . . . ever. she apologized with a sweet smile, snapping her fingers and watching with satisfaction as the whole house began to tidy itself. A broom flew about sweeping up dust, books realigned themselves on empty shelves, dishes flew into a basin smaller than the tub and began to rinse and dry themselves before hanging and stacking themselves in their proper place, and a fire roared in the pit, beckoning a cauldron to sit atop its growing flame and bubble with expectant delight.

Odette stood still patiently waiting for the cleaning spell to complete curiously studying the surroundings, the books in particular. Lifting her foot to avoid a stray dish passing a bit low. It was rare to see her own home in such a state as Gwyneth’s but Odette conceded this would be the one forgivable case.

Lovely little home. Very cozy. For an illusion everything seems to have a weight to it here, this little pocket dimension is quite impressive in foundation.” She smiled pleasantly and added to herself, Far too rustic by any real means.

If you like we can begin discussing the means of our agreement or alliance. I am your guest here, I will happily follow my hostess’ lead.” She commented waiting for Gwyneth to take a seat.

Gwyneth nodded, seating herself at the table and motioning for Odette to do the same.

This little cottage is by no means the most luxurious of homes I’ve had, but it does well enough, thank you. As for terms, I believe you and I would most benefit from an alliance or friendship upon my full awakening. I shall be hard pressed to find anyone competent and willing to aid me in my future endeavors, but you work with the Fey. You are cunning, I imagine, strong willed, patient. And, as evident of this meeting, quite powerful. I would be willing to agree to aiding you in your future endeavours, the matters of which I would expect to be fully disclosed, or enough so that there is not so much risk, in exchange for the same, and of course, your help in returning my memories to the White Witch. But this is a negotiation, what have you to add or ask?

Odette took a seat, crossing her legs and holding her hands in her lap. She nodded along to what the witch said, she expected as much. No one with experience with the Fey did not enter agreements without specifics.

Thank you, I appreciate the compliments. Transparency of course builds a level of trust so that condition will, of course, be no problem. I would love to know more of these memories and their retrieval before I agree, I am sure I am capable of helping.

Gwyneth nodded, sitting up slightly and letting out a low sigh as if casting off a large weight.

It is difficult to say what my current incarnation knows, but the spell that binds my spirit here is designed to bring us closer. That I know little of the modern world means she has yet to recover enough of our shared past to strengthen our connection. The memories I wish to regain are but the tales of my past, all of my trials and tests, my feats of greatness, my failures, of course my magic, and my mission. I’m sure you’ve wondered why I trapped my soul in various hosts and scattered them the world over. This was all part of a larger plan, a grand spell that would allow me to live without fear of betrayal or harm, a spell of true invincibility.

Gwyneth adjusted herself once more before continuing.

Odette leaned forward to listen, invincibility capturing her attention unlike before. She leaned forward into her hands resting her chin in her palm.

You see, I was orphaned as a girl, left on the outskirts of a small village in Wales as a babe, parents likely taken by a plague. The townsfolk knew well the tricks of Faery midwives and didn’t dare collect me from my place lest they invite a changeling among them, but a poor widow took pity on my soul and invited me into her home. I do not recall her name, but I remember that she always smelled faintly of honey and ale. The widow had seven children and not a single space for another, yet she found room for me. . .

Gwyneth paused for a moment, peering out the window of the cottage, lost in thought. Everything around them seemed to change, distortion rippling through the air, a new scene unfolding with each scattering wave.

The pair now sat at the end of a long table in a house much smaller than Gwyneth’s cottage. The inside was messy and chaotic, the flooring was worn and large patches of exposed ground were left uncovered, the walls etched with scratches from wild children. At the other end sat a miserly woman in rags spooning porridge into seven bowls, suckling the baby Gwyneth.

It was here I stayed for my first four years, the widow’s charge. We had little, but it was the only home I had known at the time, and unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before I was driven from this place.

Odette watched the scene, listening rather intently to Gwyneth’s story. She felt it was far too late to interrupt and a few centuries of solitude it is easy to flow into speaking again with another person. She let her speak her piece.

Once again, everything began to shift. More slowly this time, the walls of the home became clean, the floor was slowly patched, drying racks were filled with herbs and game, and the whole house smelled of fresh grain and produce.

It was around this time I began to notice that I was different from the other children. I heard whispers on the wind, saw shadows dancing in the night sky, felt a warmth and security in the forest and trees where others felt only fear. A faery-born child, or one with fae ancestors. It was a common sight back then. Many witches could trace their line back to a faery nobleman who took a mortal wife. Our fire burns brighter than other witches, it is fanned with study and practice, but sparked at the moment of our birth. The villagers knew this, knew that I was a witch child, for with each new day the widow was granted another blessing.

Her home was always tidy, her children behaved, her roof never leaked, her wheat was never rancid, her butter never spoiled, her bread was never stale. She might have thought an angel had taken kindly to her plights if she didn’t know better. No, these were the doings of a witch, and the village knew it. Though it pained her, the widow was forced to remove me from her home lest she and her children be shunned, or worse. I never knew what became of her after my leaving. Wherever she is now, I hope she and her husband at peace.

Changelings lived very peculiar lives in and around humans, while witches especially struggled to practice safely among humans. How Gwyneth was able to slip away before others caught onto her strange presence was a stroke of good luck. Persecution was rampant in oral histories along with written. “Witch and faery bloodlines mix quite generously throughout history, I find and you will find as well when you step fully into the present. There is a lot to read and learn about. But please, do go on.

Well, after I was run from the village, I took refuge in the surrounding woods. It was there I truly learned of myself, of the power coursing through my veins. The trees spoke to me in dreams, the spirits therein guiding my path, instilling me with skills and knowledge that I might survive the harsh wilds. I learned to build shelter, to gather and forage, to steal from the village and remain unseen, and the most useful skill of all, witchcraft. The spirits taught me the secret virtue of things, how I might use what I had to bring about miracles and wonders.

For five years I lived this way, wandering from place to place, making what I could, taking what I could not. The spirits taught me how to haggle and barter, told me that my power could bring me fortune if I would but sell my services to the desperate or needy, and so I did. Love philtres, minor blights, medicinal pouches, these were my wares and what I gained wasn’t always gold or silver. Sometimes I was given bread, others a bed for the night and a quick wash. Those who asked for my services pitied me for I was a young girl on her own, but feared me as well and never wished to house me longer than a night.

The world around them shifted more suddenly, the bustle of village life quickly fading into the serenity of the forest. Odette and Gwyneth sat at a table in a large clearing in the forest, sunlight barely piercing the thick canvas of leaves overhead. A disheveled, dilapidated hut lay at its center, a smokestack rising high above the canopy.

A young Gwyneth stood outside the hut, the crooked door bursting open to reveal a portly old woman in rags hunched over on a wooden cane, silver locks falling wildly about her head.

On one of my expeditions, I met a woman whom I knew as Nanny Owens. It was she who named me Gwyneth, and much later in life I took her surname out of respect for her. She was the first witch I had ever encountered, a hermit woman living on the precipice of the civilization and the wild. Her heart wept for me. She recognized me as a witch the moment I stepped foot in her forest. She took me in and became my mentor in many things, teaching me how to cook and care for myself, how to speak to folks, women’s crafts like sewing and embroidery, and furthered my knowledge of the Craft, enlisting my aid in her many spells and charms for the townsfolk who came to her in secret.

Gwyneth looked forlorn, everything around them turning dull. The trees began to wither, the already dilapidated building falling down upon itself, Nanny Owens and young Gwyneth fading from view.

I was 15 when they came for her . . . witch hunters, a whole order of them stomping around our forest in search of the devil’s whores who were corrupting their lands. Nanny Owens had unleashed a pox on a farmer’s cows two weeks earlier at the request of a rival. Sent the whole town into a fit. Nanny knew she’d be killed, so her only thought was to protect me. That’s why she called Him.

A black mist descended upon them, swirling around the grove, forming into a singular mass that erupted into a pillar of flames. The glowing embers slowly formed a man, bare chested, head like that of a black goat, legs and feet the same, flames spiraling upward into a candle that floated betwixt the goat’s horns.

The Witch Father, Bucca, Gwyneth introduced him with hints of awe in her voice. He came for me at Nanny’s request, took me away from her hut to the north, a large coven in London made of noble witches. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

Odette turned to look out upon the image of Bucca, she had seen the odd painting of him once before but to see such a realistic memory was another point. Very vivid and his mere presence alone inspired an air of mystery and unmistakable magic. Having met Hekate Odette wondered what it would be like to meet Bucca in his occult glory. This for now, was enough. The sorceress looked to Gwyneth whose eyes were on Bucca, casually gazing noting her slight reverence for him. The scenery changes were helpful in telling her story but disorientating without her ties to the world outside of Gwyneth’s item, she felt like she was losing her footing in this little world of hers.

The world around them began to shift dramatically, the dense forest overtaken by high walls lined in royal colors, English finery scattered about a large bedchamber with delicate sheets and fabrics draping down over a queen-sized mattress. A small table near a balcony window is where the pair now found themselves, comfortably seated under the warm rays of the noon sun. A young Gwyneth strode past accompanied by a trio of women and a tall, blonde man, all adorned with rich garments that clearly showed their status.

Gwyneth pointed at herself and those in her company, all gathered around an oversized vanity, flipping through a great, dusty tome.

The London witches were something else. Few of them began their journey with witchcraft. Many, in fact, began as the offspring or apprentices of great magicians and learned wizards, clinging to their master’s every word. But it was not the place of a wizard to use his power for his own gain in that time. A wizard helped his king and country, a witch helped herself and hers. I passed on the knowledge Nanny Owens had gifted me, and the Londoners gave me a place to sleep, a heightened position in society, and a bit of the astrological and alchemical knowledge they had kept from their former teachers.

I had become a seamstress’s apprentice while in London, working on fine dresses for the noblewomen mostly. But the folks of London still had need for a witch, and the witches there taught me that one needn’t just survive in this life, they should thrive and enjoy all the finer things that they could. I had been weary of groups before then, especially groups of mortals; they had always done me harm in the past, but I was coming into my own in London, blossoming and blooming. I began to trust the common man once again, I even took a few friends outside the coven who housed me. This, unfortunately, would be my undoing . . .

Gwyneth stopped, expression neutral, eyes glazed and distant. She was forcing herself to relieve every painful moment, but it was for the best.

Odette pursed her lips waiting a few moments, letting the silence between them grow comfortably. To see the past through the eyes of Gwyneth, to see history of days long past. It would be humbling for some but Odette wanted to know what happened next, how did Gwyneth survive the centuries? Was it worth it to split one’s soul?

Eager to hear more, Gwyneth’s expression was easy to read. She feigned some empathy, “If you need a moment…?

Gwyneth seemed to stir from a deep sleep, taking a moment to see if she had heard Odette. Realizing that she had, she continued.

Apologies. What came next is what set me on my current path. As I said, I befriended a mortal, a maidservant who worked in close proximity to King Henry VIII. She and I traded tips and secrets from our respective professions, and once we had been friends for a time of two years, I let her know of my magic. As you can imagine, she was equal parts delighted and devastated. To be a witch in that time was a dangerous thing, she feared for my life more than she feared what I might inflict upon her. But she also knew of the many ways I could bless her, of the wonders she had heard in legends and tales.

I was 18, I believe, when she betrayed my trust. A new edition of the Malleus Maleficarum had been released recently, prompting for the continued onslaught of witch-hunting by pretentious nobles and self righteous clergy. A new wave of witch hunters seeking sanction from the church to carry out their holy crusade came marching down the streets, taking prisoner of anyone whom they could call a witch, planting evidence of bewitchment in places where fear of witches hadn’t reached its peak. My maid friend’s mother had been accused of poisoning a well, her sister accused of changing shape in the night and stirring dark storms. None of this was true, of course. I knew the witches of London and many from the surrounding area; they were not so careless with their arts. But fear of persecution took my friend prisoner. She became a slave to these fears, hoping desperately that she could make amends and spare the lives of her family if she could produce a true witch for the hunter’s stake.

The room spun once. When it ceased, they sat in a large dining room, decor matching that of the bedroom they had just seen. The young Gwyneth and her coven sat at the other end, merrily drinking and feasting as the moon rose overhead. A banging sound echoed through the hall, giving way to a door cracking open and two brawny fellows in long coats and wide-brimmed hats stomping into the dining room, there to arrest Gwyneth and all in attendance.

Naturally, I fought back. Gwyneth quickly added, allowing the scene to unfold.

As the witch hunters neared, Gwyneth and the others held out their arms, the two hunters thrown from the room and crashing into a wall with great force. Gwyneth chased after them, arriving at their motionless forms, she raised her arm and up they came, suspended in midair. With only a glare the whole room was ablaze, fire traveling up the wall where the hunters were now held, licking their trouser legs and coats, swallowing them whole. The other witches fled past her, leaving the house behind, knowing they could never return. Gwyneth followed them.

I didn’t leave London immediately after that. I went up to the servant’s quarters of the castle and sought my maid friend so that I might inform her of my leaving. It was then she told me what she had done. In a fit of rage, I cast her from the window overlooking the courtyard where she fell to her death. I cannot say I regret that decision.

Odette shielded her eyes against the blaze of light in the fiery memory. “A lot has changed in the past centuries but many practitioners of all schools of magic keep their skills a secret. Myself included, there are very few who know of both my names. It is easier.” She gestured to the scene with a wave of a hand, “For your friend I would have done the same for such a betrayal. Possibly worse given some time and thought.

Gwyneth looked at Odette, a soft smile barely visible. Though it was grim, Odette’s words were comforting. As she adjusted herself in her seat, the world seemed to fall back into place. The pair returned to Gwyneth’s cottage, seated at the same little table where they began.

The tale becomes quite repetitive after this, I’m afraid. From London I flew to East Anglia where I spent the better part of a year before the church began to march on the local settlements and burn their resident witches. Then on to Scotland where a farmer nearly struck me down in the night, then to France for a time, hoping to gain back what I had lost in London, but the witch hunts there were fiercer than England. Finally, I returned to Wales, ensorcelling a carpenter to build me this little cottage by the sea, placing his bones in the walls as a powerful deterrent for mundane threats.

I came to hate mortals, my every encounter with them showing me that they couldn’t be trusted. Wherever I went, they would eventually betray me and there was no way to conceal my identity for long. If ever I tried to settle down or get close to someone, they would either betray me too, or would be taken by another envious mortal. I wouldn’t allow myself to be taken advantage of any longer, wouldn’t allow those mortal swine to decide that my life was worthless. That’s when I began searching for the answer, a way to become truly invulnerable, impervious to any of their foul tricks.

Gwyneth turned in her chair to face a chest next to the small altar on the far side of the room. She made a motion that unlocked the chest and another that brought its contents forward. They seemed a random assortment of items, strange reagents in amber bottles, burnt scrolls and stray parchment with hastily scribbled notes, the odd alchemical diagram, but nothing particularly noteworthy.

It may not look it, but this was the answer. I had spent my last days scouring the globe for a spell that would do the trick. I read volume after volume of magical theory from Egyptian sorcerers, delved deep into the knowledge of the Arabic alchemists and astrologers, traveled through histories the world over for the answers, returning all that I had learned to my corner of the world. At last, I combined what I had gathered with Welsh folk belief to craft my invulnerability spell, something that would give me the power to stand against my every oppressor, something to ensure that no mortal would ever forfeit my life for their own gain, something that would allow me to live in peace and free of betrayal.

As you can see, I was unsuccessful in the performing of said spell. Do not doubt that it exists, however. The spell was sound, ready to be tested, but I was interrupted by a coalition of testy villagers and church officials who wanted nothing more than for me to burn. I hadn’t the time to fight them off, nor the time to perform the spell as planned. I couldn’t flee and take all my research with me at the same time. I had to make a decision, and I’m sure you can guess what that was.

It was plainly difficult for Odette to hide the shine in her eye, her excitement at knowing such a thing existed. She clutched her hands in her lap, “How? How did you manage such a feat as splitting your soul with angry villagers stomping at your front door?

Gwyneth chuckled, moving in closer, placing her arms on the table.

That, my Lady, was part of the original spell and the only section I had prepared. The intent was to bind the whole of my spirit to one item that I would make invulnerable. That way my spirit would be forever bound to this world, thus making my body a vessel for my mind only, and a vessel is an easy thing to repair or replace. I modified that portion of the spell and instead bound pieces of my soul, and in turn my memories, to multiple items, tools that I had used quite heavily in life. I knew that, when I was executed, the other half of my spirit would be unable to fully move on. I issued a command to the halves of my soul that they were to take themselves as far away from this place as they could and never remain stagnant for too long. I then sent a silent prayer to Bucca before confronting the townsfolk, asking that He guide my way so that I might become whole again and finish my work. I suspect He had something to do with the White Witch’s awakening, and his trickster brother, Puck, was even more involved than He.

Odette sat back in her chair with an audible squeak of wood. Her eyes grew wide at that particular revelation. “I- I did not know that Puck was related to Bucca. I always believed he was particularly gifted Fey…” She stood from her chair a little too fast. “Thank you for sharing your story, Madame. Quite a lot of information to process. I see now why you must reassemble your items. With all these mentions of soul and memory, once reunited what will happen to White Witch? Will your spirit and memory supercede your current incarnation?

My dealings here today will be exclusively with you.

Whomever the White Witch is, she and I are still one and the same. Whatever memories and experiences she has amassed in her brief time on Earth, they are only a fraction of the pain, power, and pleasure of her past. When the halves of my soul are reunited, I will remember my cause. I will not forget those whom I had known as the White Witch, but I believe that I shall no longer wish to be near them lest they betray my trust as those in my past. This meeting too shall be remembered when the halves are joined, and however the White Witch may feel about you, Lady Ambassador, will come second to what I have promised you, this I guarantee.

Odette leaned against the back of the chair, chewing at the inside of cheek in thought. “I can accept that. Whatever your cause may be I do not feel any real affinity to my fellow mortal. With the understanding of your background I will be able to help reunite you with your scattered pieces. An alliance with a powerful witch such as yourself is an attractive option for me.” She placed her hand over her heart, “What I truly wish for with this agreement is simply not to step on eachother’s toes. You have aspirations once your soul is reassembled and I have my own. We can add a condition of consultation if our actions were to affect the other’s. Leave an open channel of communication for you and I.” Straightening she thought back on the story Gwyneth shared, trying to cover her bases. “In the spirit of transparency I will answer any questions you have for me before we shake hands on this alliance.

Gwyneth smiled warmly, the whole of the cottage seeming to brighten as she did. Was this trust she felt seeping into her mind, corrupting her actions with its naivety. Perhaps this was one instance where trust was needed, perhaps this was the first among many transactions she was to make where betrayal wasn’t an option . . . but it never hurt to be cautious.

Gwyneth nodded, I agree that measures must be taken to assure both your safety and my own that we might never cross the other in the days to come. To that end, Gwyneth paused, holding up her hand but not turning away. A scroll flew from an overhead shelf into her grasping hand. She laid it out on the table, words forming on the blank sheet.

Inscribed herein are the terms we have exchanged during this procession, including the aforementioned call for open consultation before a particularly audacious undertaking. You mentioned that my other half works closely with Puck, yes? In my time, he had long been crafting magical contracts for mortal and witch alike. I cannot sign a legal document as I am now, nor will you likely be successful in convincing my current incarnation to do so, but Puck might be able to sign in my place if I am contracted with him in the waking world.

Gwyneth nudged the scroll toward Odette.

I can offer you this document as a vivid memory to be taken to Puck and recalled for transcription into a proper form that you and he may review and sign. Perhaps it is too much a formality, but given my past dealings and your experience with the Fey, I feel it may be necessary to ensure our mutual safety. Would you do this for me upon the conclusion of our meeting?

Odette looked upon the document drawn up, her eyes running across the inked words. “As you know a handshake is as binding to me as a written contract,” She sighed, “I suppose Puck would be the only viable option to represent you in the waking world. I will bring this contract to him and we will go over it together.” She said holding out her hand. “Upon this handshake I promise to take this contract to Puck and only then will our alliance be complete upon his signing in your stead.

Gwyneth smiled and stood, reaching out her arm to take Odette’s but stopping just before to add, There is, however, the matter of how you will help retrieve my memories and the items that hold them. As it stands, my other half can find them only when the connection between us grows, when the veil that separates past from present is thinned. By some force of luck, or perhaps fate if you believe in it, you have come upon one of nine separate vessels for my spirit, and the White Witch, to my knowledge, has found only one. I may be able to instill you with some sense of where the others are hidden, but how shall you return them to me given your current standing with the White Witch?

Quite simply, I will present White Witch with the Sight and give her the choice of accepting my help. She may have access to Puck’s network of portals, the ones I build can go anywhere. If you were to give me knowledge of where to find the items I can act as her…” Her smile was full of genuine humour, “Her guide. If she is on the hunt for the items as it were, she would be a fool to refuse my help and intimate knowledge regardless of our previous disagreements.

With regard to this, Gwyneth added a final note, I have a request. However you proceed, do not make it easy for me. Much as I long to return to the world in full, I cannot dismiss the good of trials and tricks. I would ask that, at your own discretion, you test the White Witch’s mettle with whatever Faery skills you possess that she may grow stronger and that our eventual reunion is even more fruitful.

Odette steepled her hands in front of her face, a grin of unmistakable excitement and joy. Cheerily she said, “You have yourself a deal, Madame. Trial, opposition, challenges rooted in chaos. It will be my pleasure.

Gwyneth bore a wicked grin, her arm fully outstretched. She took firm grasp of Odette’s hand.

Then it is decided. A bargain has been struck. This has been a pleasure, Lady Ambassador. Now, as promised,

Gwyneth pulled Odette in close, her blue eyes piercing Odette’s, their faces mere centimeters apart.

May you see a light in the dark, may all my treasures be dually felt and found, and may you carry these words with you for all time that they may never be gone from you mind. So be it. Gwyneth blew a soft, sweet breath over Odette’s eyes, her blessings taking hold. As her final word echoed over the illusory fields, all seemed to fade from view, returning to that primordial darkness from whence it came.

The darkness enveloped her once again but felt as if her mind was a slingshot back into consciousness. Odette shot up in her hotel bed with a gasp, holding the now opened box cradling Gwyneth’s Sight neatly inside. Her eyes were wide staring down at its contents. Large copper, wooden, and silver coins engraved with various occult symbols, wordlessly her fingers brushed over them.

When she spoke it was to both Bach and Mandate, her breathing was in short hurried breaths.

I have a plan.

Full Moon Madness


Location: New York
Time: 12 – 1 a.m.

This night was full of complications . . .

After being taken to Ji’s apartment, Marie waited patiently to explain herself to the other twin. Having received mental updates from Holt the entire way, Marie was perfectly aware of her location despite having been blindfolded (Yeong, as Marie expected, failed to realize Holt’s true nature as a spiritual familiar, writing him off as a simple pet).

While the twins bickered, Ji subtly accusing Yeong of endangering them both, Yeong being defensive and a little high strung after all that had happened leading up to this point, Marie and Holt mentally discussed their plan for finding Ben. Despite the time that Ji had spent with Ben already, Marie doubted she could locate him before his departure from New York with the mystery magicians. Luckily, Holt had a plan.

The ring Marie had gifted Ben bore a mark that tied it to Holt. Though the ring’s original intent wasn’t to act as a tracking device, the inscribed spell could link Holt to Ben, and given that Ben had already used the ring once, Holt was fairly certain he knew where Ben was being kept, or at least had a vague sense of direction.

Once tensions had calmed and the twins had resolved to let Marie help, she explained to them the functions of the magic ring and how she could use it to find Ben. Both Ji and Yeong seemed weary of Marie and no doubt questioned her motives, but they saw no other choice.

Filing into Ji’s car, the twins sped away from her apartment and followed Marie and Holt, both airborne astride the White Witch’s broom so as to survey their surroundings and assess any hidden dangers once they had located Ben. After a long circle around New York, Holt had finally tuned in on Ben’s exact location. Soon, Marie and the twins were upon Ben and the unknown magicians.

Ben caught Marie’s scent just before she arrived, she being the first to make contact with Ben, Rune, and Otto. He looked forlorn and detached, but the familiar scent of Marie’s magic was well-received and seemed to perk him just slightly.

Rune and Otto looked up at the approaching woman and then looked at each other. They then stared at her as magical eurythmics danced across both minds as they were still a bit high. They knew instantly that she was a witch. She carried magic on her like a stink on a good cheese. Several of Rune’s wards popped within his robe and his glare turned downright cold. Infernal taint. Broker’s little helper. But he had promised Puck not to do anything, so they just kept their distance.

Ji and Yeong pulled up a few moments later, both jumping from inside the car and ready to fight if the need arose. Marie and Ben assured them that everything was fine, but the twins couldn’t help but stay alert.

Marie proceeded to ask Ben about the rogue Alpha, and, catching a few nasty glances from Yeong, tried to be sure that Ben was in no way involved.

Ben nodded his understanding then tried to recount what he could recall about his meeting with the Alpha, his mind remembered bits and pieces. Then he mentioned how Barron had found them and that all he knew for sure was what Rune and Otto had relayed to him, them being the ones that saved him from the Elder Vampire. The last thing he mentioned was the fact he wanted to help Rune and Otto so he didn’t owe them for helping him.

“You see.” Rune began “You screwed up. Majestically. You have likely caused the death of several vampires and other undead. But they were undead, and well, most undead are not very nice to begin with. But you, you are like, the clusterfuck of fuckups. You are the royal screwer of screwups. You might have unwittingly doomed the entire fucking world.”

“Literally made a deal with a Devil” Said Otto, solemnly, sipping a beer he procured from god knows where.

“And like kidnapping a young werewolf and giving him peyote is among the best things to do,” Ben mumbled loud enough for the pair to hear him.

Yeong growled and began yelling, her suspicions about Marie proven true.

Rune, in his eternal wisdom, spoke.

“If it was up to me. You would likely be dead by now. It is not that I particularly want to kill a young girl who is clearly confused. But you are a threat on all realms because of what you have done. And my king did task me to safeguard all his subjects in this realm. Some, I might add, are missing after your little stunt in New York.” Runes voice was stone cold sober, and the edge it held was nothing like he had exhibit before. Just as it seemed he might actually make good on it, he relaxed. “But I made a deal with Puck. I cannot kill you.”

“Grrrr….,” Ben placed himself instinctively between Rune’s icy glare and Marie, his neck hair bristling instinct. He barely managed to get the blanket over him as he felt a slight, subtle tremor through his figure, “I’m not in the mood for this or likely the right mental condition so I’m going to ask once: don’t threaten her.”

His eyes turned to Marie, just when he heard Rune speak.

“So you might as well start talking. And tell us why you are such a fuckup.”

Marie nodded, telling the group about her connection to the witch Gwyneth Owens, a version of herself that had been reborn under mysterious circumstances and whose memories she desperately needed to recover. She explained that the only one she knew that could help was Broker, and the only way he would help is if she did as he asked. She was frantic and becoming emotional, but something within her spoke and she retained control of herself, going into detail about Gwyneth’s belongings and how recovering them would piece together the memories she had lost after her death.

Marie expressed that she felt some remorse for her actions but made clear that her search meant everything to her, that finding the parts of herself she had lost to time was just that important.

After a moment or two, Ben spoke, “You didn’t have to help back at the museum as you got what you needed, but you did. So I don’t think you intended to cause harm, but the fact you did is something I won’t turn a blind eye to. You need my help to find those pieces you’re seeking.”

He let the words sink in before he continued, “I’m going to help you on one condition: you help fix your mess. Not just ignore it to do what you want or I swear, you’re on your own with your search. Prove to me you’re as good as I hope you are and not willing to watch the world burn for a selfish reason.”

Marie agreed to Ben’s demands, resolving to go with Ben and the magicians to Las Vegas to find an end to Broker’s eventual reign and hopefully continue to search for Gwyneth’s treasures, wherever they were hidden.

With all their arguing at an end, Ben scratched the back of his head, “Can I go home now? I got to sort some things out with Daniel and Lorrie, mainly how the hell I’m going to get to Las Vegas without Lorrie calling the police on me. I also need to think on things.”

He turned then received some contact information from Rune and made a request, “Hey, Ji wasn’t it? Can you take me to the Hudson Valley school building? I need some time to walk off my thoughts before I get home. I’ll call you all when I figure something out and meet you there soon.”

Marie had given the group her name before departing, trusting that they wouldn’t use it against her. She made her way back to the Hudson Valley Wyrd and used their door to The Red Devil to return to Lost Haven and get some rest, awaiting her call from Ben.

Similarly, Rune and Otto decided to stay somewhere for the night, knowing they would have to wait for Ben to sort out his affairs before they could leave for Vegas, much as it annoyed them.

The twins took Ben home, nagging him the whole way there but relaxing their grip once they realized that he was upset about something. At Ben’s request, they dropped him off a few blocks away from the manor to give him time to clear his thoughts. Afterwards, the pair returned to Ji’s apartment. Both needed to decide how much time they would need for this trip and whether or not to get a head start on the group so they could be there when Ben arrived.

Meanwhile, Ben would have to figure out the best way of getting to Vegas without his parents freaking out. Luckily enough, Ben was soon to meet the answer to all of his problems.
@Afro Samurai

Something else to note, this is a sandbox style RP where the overreaching story has some impact on the characters, but the primary focus is building your own story and interacting with the world and other PCs by creating your own arcs that allow your character to grow through your own creativity or collaboration with other players.

As mentioned above, there are summaries listed on the first page of the OOC, and the only major story arc going on right now is the Hounds of Humanity, which has only just started.
<Snipped quote by Mercinus3>

@fdeviant, just as a heads up for you to be aware of as I didn't see a response to at least the earthquakes that have been produced :)

My current posts are a little dated so what's happening in the time of my posts isn't current time. The Hounds stuff, and consequently the Nexus's arrival, are all happening the day AFTER my latest post.

Full Moon Madness

The Investigation

Location: New York
Time: 10-11 p.m.

As Marie sped from the Hudson Valley Wyrd, the moon, in all her splendor, was slowly reaching zenith, silver light cascading over the tops of trees and falling into luscious pools of light reflected in the surface of the Hudson River. Where the lush greenery of the valley met the dense city, however, the moon’s light struggled for dominance, her radiance kept at bay by the blinding aura of the city.

From atop the labyrinth of structures, the White Witch scoured the streets and back alleys, searching for clues as the the whereabouts of the Alpha who had been terrorizing New York on nights like tonight. It wasn’t long before she stumbled upon a frightening scene, blood spattered across the street collecting into a messy trail of crimson that led into a tight crevice between adjacent storefronts. Police tape had yet to be laid down, but the flashing red and blue told Marie that a full investigation was soon to come.

With cunning and grace, she skillfully evaded the notice of attending officers and landed near a white sheet stained with fresh blood. A few feet away, another smaller sheet covered what Marie assumed was a severed limb, making her believe that she had found one of the Alpha’s recent kills, or that of a pack member.

Holt flew from Marie’s shoulder and with an outstretched talon, pulled the sheet from body so that Marie could examine it further and look for signs that might lead her to the Alpha.

”Oh my god . . .” Marie exclaimed as she turned her head from the gruesome sight for a moment, allowing herself to come to terms with the uncensored image of death and violence that lay before her.

The victim’s body was mangled beyond recognition, face and neck torn to ribbons, left arm painfully severed, pieces of viscera and broken bone strewn haphazardly about the body. The long hair and slender frame led Marie to believe it was a woman, probably in her mid to late twenties.

Marie turned back. This was no time to be squeamish. She had dealt with literal demons and otherworldly abominations, a dead body should be nothing. She resolved to move closer, kneeling down while having Holt examine the alley’s entrance in case the police forensic team was on their way.

”This was definitely a wolf,” Marie made the rather simple observation, noting the lacerations and claw marks along the chest and lower stomach as well as the shredded tissue on the face and neck where the victim had been bitten. The placement of the claw marks led Marie to believe that the victim had been taken unaware. She hadn’t been running away unless she was flanked, but if there was any sort of a struggle, Marie believed that the body wouldn’t be positioned so neatly on her back.

Marie then remembered the trail of blood leading from the street suggesting that the initial attack had happened there, but it didn’t make sense. She couldn’t fathom why a wolf would have been wandering along a busy New York street in its second state so brazenly. Wolves were quick, but one running around the city wouldn’t have gone unnoticed, even in the area where this particular attack had occurred.

Marie pulled the bundle of notes from her cloak and thumbed through them until she reached a small section on Alphas. There wasn’t much written as it seemed the only defining characteristics of most Alphas, no matter the breed, was their enhanced strength and ability to influence other wolves. However, the notes suggested that Alphas could change much more quickly than fledgling wolves. If that was the case, Marie reasoned, it could explain why the attack took place on the street. The Alpha could have shifted into their wolf form before the victim had time to react.

But what if Marie were wrong? It was certainly convenient for her if this attack was truly that of an Alpha and her logic had been sound, but it was also possible that a less experienced wolf had killed this woman, perhaps changing out of fear or surprise and attacking aggressively due to the strange environment. Marie reasoned that any fledgling wolves in the city would either be documented by the Agency, whom she had come to realize had a strong foothold in New York, or was a pack member of the Alpha, who wouldn’t have been far behind. Marie’s eyes went wide as she came to this realization, letting out a deep sigh as she thought on it more.

She had met with not one, but three young wolves earlier that evening, one of whom was completely new to lycanthropy and prone to changing form while under stress.

”Ben . . .” Marie said softly, Holt turning his head at the mention of the young wolf’s name.

”The wolf from the museum? Do you believe he had something to do with this?” Holt inquired, shifting his attention from the entrance, to Marie, back to the entrance.

”I’m not sure,” Marie shrugged, ”but I can’t rule it out. We saw how he reacted to seeing you at the museum. Who knows what could have happened between now and then. If something spooked him enough to trigger another transformation, he could have very well done something like this without knowing what he was doing. And if not him, maybe one of the other two wolves that was with him earlier.”

”You know that if they are truly responsible, they must be dealt with.” Holt stated with a cold conviction.

Marie sighed once more with a heavy heart.

”I know, but I hope it doesn't come to that. Our best bet at finding all three of them is to look for Ben. The twins seemed to know him so it’s safe to assume that they would be together, especially if one of them were responsible for this.”

”How do you suggest we find him?” Holt questioned Marie, taking his place on her shoulder once she had showed intent to leave.

Marie thought for a moment.

”He introduced himself as Benjamin Reeves, didn’t he? I remember seeing the name Reeves somewhere else on our way to the museum.”

”Indeed,” Holt chimed in, ”A flyer for Daniel Reeves was left outside the museum. A campaign advertisement for the position of District Attorney of New York.”

Marie chuckled.

”Should have guessed he came from money. He had that rebellious, neglected teen look when I first saw him. That’s the only lead we’ve got right now, can’t be too hard to find the newly elected DA’s house.”

Marie turned to leave the scene until a thought crossed her mind. To leave the body in the state it was could lead to exposure and unnecessary questions from the police and investigators. It wasn’t likely that they would pick up on a pack of werewolves running rampant in the city, but if there was even a hint of doubt as to the nature of this crime, a more magical task force might investigate and stir trouble with New York’s supernatural community.

With an outstretched arm, Marie issued a silent command to Holt, who felt her intent. He flew around the crime scene three times, enchanting the body with each pass. Slowly, the jagged claw marks were mended, appearing more like stab wounds. The lacerations across the face began to fade, the vague image of a woman returning to the victim’s face, the cuts on her neck forming into something slightly less irregular. The cuts along the arm began to appear more surgical and precise, making it look like the work of a serial killer rather than a rabid animal.

Once Holt had brought to life Marie’s vision, he covered the body with the sheet, took his place upon the mantle of her broom, and off they went into the night to locate the Reeves Manor.

Full Moon Madness

Part 2

Location: The Red Devil
Time: 8 p.m.

”What do you wish of me?” Holt inquired, bowing his ethereal body as a formal sign of respect to Puck, who looked amused by the gesture.

”Come now old friend, there’s no need for such formalities. For as long as I had known Joseph, I have known you. I would have thought that, after all this time, you had grown fond of me.”

Holt gave no indication one way or the other. He seemed to think on it for a moment, but kept his stoic expression (what little of an expression he could form) and rigid posture.

”No matter,” Puck waved away his last comment. ”I haven’t kept you here to discuss the complexities of our relationship. No no, we have more important matters to discuss.”

Puck sauntered over to a liquor cabinet hidden in the corner of his office, shelves lined with all manner of strange spirits, some aged well over a century, some not of this world. He collected a bottle of whiskey bought from a store in Lost Haven. It was cheap and tasted like acid, which Puck found most pleasurable at times.

Moving back to his desk, Puck set down the alcohol and a single glass, a little larger than a shot. He poured himself a drink, taking more time than Holt felt was necessary. After a few sips, he moved to the edge of his desk and leaned against the corner, his full attention on Holt.

”I know of a coven operating in the Hudson Valley. German witches the lot of them, followers of Frau Holda. I want you and Marie to give them a visit as part of your Alpha investigation. They have a great knowledge of old world wolves and will be able to provide you with information enough to ensure your safety.”

Holt seemed puzzled.

”Could not you provide Marie with the same information more quickly? Why send her to a foreign coven when you have access to those same secrets?”

Holt was much more understanding of the cryptic nature of spirits and otherworldly beings, he sharing many of their virtues. But so too was he practical, as were the witches he served. It seemed odd to him that Marie should have to gain the trust of strange witches in order to receive information that could be more easily obtained from Puck.

”Indeed I could, but I have a theory that needs testing. Frau Holda is an ancient and beloved patron of witches, one of their blessed dead, a powerful ancestral spirit who leads their nightly processions, who sings and dances with them in their hidden groves and glaives, who governs and teaches their secret arts. By virtue of my birth, I have knowledge of many things and access to powers and secrets most attractive to witches, but I am not all knowing.

“Frau Holda’s vision stretches farther than mine, and it is my sincerest hope that in meeting with Marie, she might stir her latent memories and bring forth an image of Gwyneth, or reveal a hidden truth when two familiars meet.”

”If you suspected that Frau Holda could conjure memories of Gwyneth, why not tell Marie?”

”Because,” Puck sighed. ”With this comes a warning, one which I know she will not hear. There lies a danger in her path. Not mere obstacles, she will have no trouble navigating. The danger I see comes with the completion of her quest. If she is successful in restoring Gwyneth’s mind, and I believe she will be, a new threat may surface.”

Puck’s tone was dark and serious, ominous and foreboding. It troubled him to no end that he couldn’t see the exact ending to this story. Just knowing of a hidden danger wasn’t enough, yet it had to be. There were few in his life whom he would warn, but it was obvious that whatever he saw just beyond the horizon brought both fascination and fear to the meddlesome imp.

”Of course, you know as well as I that Marie is hell bent on completing this quest and would never heed my warnings. If I stood in her way now, she wouldn’t likely return or seek my aid in the future. She sees me more as more of a resource than a friend. But you, Holt, she sees as a companion, a trusted friend. You hold sway over her because she has an emotional investment in you, and despite your appearance of apathy, I know you feel the same. If you were to offer her guidance in my stead, she would have no choice but to listen.”

”I see,” Holt nodded. ”What is it you wish of me?” Holt repeated his initial question, now more informed.

”All I wish is for you to keep a close eye on Marie. When you sense that she isn’t quite herself, when you feel she has gone too far, guide her in another direction, lest my fears come to pass . . .” Puck looked away for a moment at a large, ornate grandfather clock adjacent to a collection of scrolls and other occult antiques on the outer edge of his office.

”Relay only what you must; do not arouse any suspicion that you know more than you say. And of course, be vigilant. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have important business elsewhere.” Puck gave Holt his orders then crept into the shadows of his office, fading into obscurity and off to attend to secret matters.

Holt drifted slowly from his place in Puck’s office to the hall outside before shifting into a raven and flying down to the workroom on the floor below.


Marie rifled through a large wardrobe filled with cloaks, coats, and all manner of dresses and gowns from late antiquity. It seemed to her that Puck was more of a hoarder than anything else. Still, she was told that her costume had been placed in the workroom. After what seemed like hours, she managed to pull the separate pieces from behind a jester’s costume, likely worn by some of the attending imps to amuse Puck in his spare time.

Marie marveled at the design for a few moments before adorning the improved garments. Originally her costume was more black than white and looked rather dated. However, thanks to the efforts of a Fey seamstress, her new costume had been modernized with hints of Elizabethan and medieval inspiration.

Marie looked at herself in one of several ornate mirrors that lined the walls of the workroom, twirling a few times for effect, allowing her cloak to fall around her dramatically and letting the silver buckles on her waist catch the flickering candlelight. She felt more like the White Witch now than ever before, and she certainly looked the part.

She hurried over to the wardrobe to grab her broom, which had also been redesigned. What was once a simple birch rob with hawthorn bristles was now a work of art, the mantle now curled into an attractive crook with a silver lantern hanging from it, which was equal parts aesthetic and practical. Not only did it provide light, it was also a spirit vessel for Holt. Instead of using the transvection ointments and oils she had used previously to grant herself flight, she could use Holt by giving him a space to reside on their journies.

Shortly thereafter, Holt arrived from his meeting with Puck. He quickly took his place upon Marie’s shoulder, who welcomed his presence.

”What was that about?” Marie questioned her familiar about his time with Puck while fidgeting with her skirts and adjusting the brim of her hat.

”Puck was providing me with more information about our ‘case’ as it were. He didn’t want to bother you with details.”

”Huh, really?” Marie chuckled. ”Since when does Puck care about not wasting my time?” It seemed an unfair question to Holt at first, but he soon realized that Marie was just making a joke at Puck’s expense. Despite what Puck thought he knew about Marie, she had feelings for him. Those feelings were just . . . complicated.

”What did the bossman say?” Marie continued, her voice carrying signs of subtle affection.

”He believes that a coven in the Hudson Valley may be able to prepare us for our encounter with the Alpha. They are witches of a German tradition that follows Frau Holda. Puck said they would know more on the subject of werewolves than he.”

Holt couldn’t tell if this were a lie or a stretching of the truth. EIther way, it didn’t feel right to leave out details that could negatively impact Marie, but if Puck had a reason for keeping things hidden, Holt was confident that those reasons were justified.

Marie didn’t seem phased by Holt’s message nor did she pick up on any of Holt’s uncertainty.

”Sounds good. The sooner we get this done, the sooner I can get back to Gwyneth. Let’s go.” Marie said enthusiastically, regaining a bit of her energy from seeing herself as the White Witch again. She couldn’t explain it, but there was something enticing about the idea of heroism. The costume reminded her of her involvement with Doctor Diplodoc’s arrest and how satisfying it felt to be part of a team who needed her abilities. She had missed that feeling.

But she didn’t dwell on this for long. After a brief nostalgic episode, she and Holt made their way to the ground floor. From there, they set off to Puck’s door and on to New York once more.

Deutsche Hexen

Location: Hudson Valley Wyrd – Hudson Valley, New York
Time: 9 p.m.

It was rare to find locations specifically dedicated to Puck and entrances to The Red Devil, but there in the Hudson Valley, just at the river’s edge and the foot of a sprawling forest, dotted by patches of green clearing touched only by moonlight, a grand stone wall, probably dating back to the original settlers of the area, was adorned with ornate drawings and inscribed with words and symbols of power that protected the wyrd and their land. And at its center, the framework for a door had been masterfully carved, Puck’s impish symbol fixed at the center.

The stonework began to glow with scarlet light, the stone slowly transmuting into a deep red wood, the fiendish imp’s symbol changing from carved marks to golden embroidery. The door crept open, revealing Marie, The White Witch, allowing her safe passage into the witches most sacred space. Through the portal she stepped, leaving behind the familiar sights and smells of The Red Devil and trading them for those of the forest and the river.

Before Marie lie an impressive settlement completely hidden from the eyes of mundane citizens. The rich green of the canopy was illuminated by a dozen structures all housing members of one of the largest covens Marie had come across, and every one of those cottages had a unique touch, but all bearing an antique colonial and medieval inspiration. Tall smokestacks rose from the cottages, intertwining with the rich vapors of giant bonfires lit in dedication to Frau Holda. Stone pathways twisted all about the forest, inviting any lucky enough to see the fantastic spectacle to enter and explore the witches domain.

At the center of the settlement was a stone woman, presumably Frau Holda, and at her feet were many gifts and offerings. The statue itself was clad in a simple robe that left her shoulders exposed, her hair was neat and ethereally flowing, and she held a distaff in one hand and a sickle in the other.

Marie approached the statue slowly, mouth agape, eyes wide with awe at both the beauty of the statue and how, even in stone, her features seemed so real, as well as the size of such a coven and in such a populated area. It was a wonder that they had managed to escape early persecution and keep themselves separated from the toils of the mundane world. Yet it wasn’t so surprising to her given that these witches had been following a tradition that stretches back centuries and under the guidance of the witch, Frau Holda.

She also couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of the witches she saw going about the settlement. Among them were men and women of various ages and races, and attired in strange mixtures of modern and colonial dress. Marie could also hear little bits of German here and there among the witches, but most spoke in English, she even heard the odd bit of Latin.

“Welcome,” an older woman draped in a dark cloak approached Marie from a nearby cottage, a thick tome held in one harm by her waist. Her hair was silvery white and her face was aged, but there was a beauty there still, a softness in the skin that was uncommon among women her age and a youthfulness in her step and voice. “We have been expecting you, White Witch of Lost Haven.”

Marie was stunned to be recognized as her alias by witches so far from modern conveniences, but perhaps she gave them too little credit. Though the string of cottages appeared completely antique, there were touches of the modern throughout. Tapped sewage mains and power lines delivering comfortable amenities to the wyrd, running water drawn in from the river and purified with a mixture of modern filtration and magical finesse, this wyrd had much more than Marie could have originally imagined.

”I-It’s my pleasure,” Marie stuttered, old insecurities arising once again with the unexpected wave of recognition. She cleared her throat before speaking again.

”How did you know of my and my arrival?” Marie asked with a clear voice.

“Many of our members frequently visit The Red Devil to gain supplies and information. Those among us who travel from the wyrd had heard of your exploits in Maine and the work you had been doing there and in The Red Devil under Puck’s employment. He’s taken on so many witches in his time, but I don’t believe that any of them were half as famous as you.”

The old witch’s words were so kind, genuine, and unexpected that Marie could feel herself becoming slightly emotional, her cheeks flush red. It was most unusual for her to hear any amount of praise. She rarely saw her customers at The Red Devil more than once and Puck wasn’t exactly known for handing out kind words. It was nice, Marie thought, but she also had no idea how to handle it, she’d never been good at taking compliments.

”T-thank you,” she replied sheepishly before changing the subject. ”You said you had been expecting me, do you know the reason Puck sent me to you?”

The old witch nodded, motioning for Marie to follow her further into the wyrd. She spoke as they walked.

“There are witches among us who have eyes and wits almost as sharp as Goodfellow’s. We have known for some time that a stranger would find themselves among us in need of aid, though it was only recently when we found out who that stranger was.”

She pointed at the charm around Marie’s neck.

“That little trinket right there has been causing us some grief in discerning who it was that would find us. At first we were worried, but once we caught wind of a witch working so publicly up north, we assumed it must be that same White Witch who would pay us a visit. And here you are.”

Marie smiled awkwardly, sorry that her glamour had given these witches trouble, but also slightly impressed at the strength of her charm.

Their brief walk ended in front of a large stone tower, the crenelated roof just shy of touching the tallest branches of the canopy.

“This is our library. A collection of all the knowledge we have received or been gifted over the past four centuries. Inside, there is a desk with notes pulled from various books of lore regarding werewolves, the subject of your inquiry. Please, take these notes for your investigation.”

Marie was again stunned by this witch’s knowledge. How could she have known that Marie was there to look into the Alpha attacks? She had NEVER met another witch with as much insight, even Puck was selective about how he dispensed future knowledge. Then she recalled the distaff held in Frau Holda’s hand. Marie knew little of the witch, but she knew that in legend she was often a protectress of the wild and patron of women’s crafts, spinning and weaving chief among them. Marie assumed that her association with weaving could very well tie her to divinatory practices given the symbolism of threads and tapestries with fate and the future. But even knowing this, it was till something else to experience such powerful divination first hand.

Marie nodded to the old witch before eagerly stepping into the tower, and for the third or fourth time, she marveled at the craftsmanship of the German witches. The tower itself wasn’t too large, perhaps three stories or so, and yet the inside appeared to be a labyrinth of shelves all completely filled with dusty tomes, massive manuscripts, and sealed scrolls. It was amazing what four centuries of witchcraft looked like in print.

Just as the old witch had described, a small wooden desk, one of many dotting the tower’s interior, was nestled in between rows of shelves, notes and alchemical diagrams detailing the physiology of lycanthropes scattered all around. Marie scanned the notes, information pouring into her mind.

There were details about the feeding habits and changing patterns of wolves throughout Europe, Africa, and the British Isles, as well as differences in breeds, the powers certain wolves held, the stages of lycanthropy in different parts of the world, the differences between fledgling and adult wolves, and a plethora of other information. Beneath the open tomes and foreign field guides was a concise list of general facts common to most, if not all, breeds.

Marie wondered for a moment why these witches would have such a vast wealth of information stored on werewolves, but then she was reminded of the roles that witches played in the old world during those early days. They were feared, yes, but their knowledge of the natural world was almost unparalleled. They held many charms and trinkets that would drive away most supernatural threats and werewolves were likely much more of a threat back when missing persons went more unnoticed.

Filing every loose scrap of paper into her cloak, Marie prepared herself for her investigation. As much as she wanted to stay and view the rest of the archives, Marie knew that time was of the essence. If the Alpha were left to roam for much longer, it would leave more bodies in its wake. Reluctantly, Marie turned to leave the tower, thank the witches for their hospitality, and begin her search for the Alpha.

But something stopped her . . .

When Marie turned from her place inside the tower, she did not see the exit, nor the spiraling stacks of books and scrolls, nor even the bare stone walls. Instead, she was greeted by a path of winding trees, gnarled branches curving overhead to form an archway. At the other end of the path, a figure slowly came into view, ushered in by an ethereal light and a thick haze.

This all felt strangely familiar to Marie. She recalled her last vision of Gwyneth; this was the place where they met. And yet the approaching figure looked nothing like Gwyneth. This woman, Marie could tell, was much taller with fairer features than her own. This wasn’t Gwyneth, but another spirit of equal or greater power, an ancient force, a patron and protectress. This was Frau Holda.

Welcome, White Witch. Her melodic voice echoed through the ancient grove.

Marie was in absolute awe. Never before had she been privy to such a being. Not even Bucca held such an aura of splendor, he commanded a more ominous presence than an awesome one.

My lady, Marie bowed her head, unsure of how to speak to such a one as the illustrious Frau Holda, patron of the Hudson Wyrd.

Holda smiled.

There is no need for such formalities. We are kindred spirits, you and I. We share a connection stronger than the pacts formed by my followers. That same cunning flame burns within us. You call yourself the White Witch, but I know your true name, the one you left behind all those years ago. I know you, Gwyneth Owens.

Marie was paralyzed by feelings of joy and shock. It should have come as no surprise that such a talented seer as Frau Holda would be able to peer through the threads of fate and see what was, even if it were hidden to all others. Marie couldn’t contain herself, she had to know more.

H-how do you know that name? What do you know of me? Can you tell me of my past, of the events which led to my death? What of the artefacts I scattered, could you find them? It all came spurting out at once, a series of questions Marie had longed to ask.

Frau Holda smiled again, placing a hand on Marie’s shoulder.

Whatever I may know of your mortal life, it is not my place to say. However, it is not by your mortal deeds that I know you, Gwyneth, but by the threads of spirit which connect you to All. I appeared to you not as an informant nor an oracle, but as a friend who longs to see you at the end of your journey. Go with the knowledge that the witch-fire will bless you at the end of your path.

The fog upon the ground began to thicken, beckoning Holda back to her place. She turned to face a likeness of herself, a lifelike statue bearing all her same features. Holda began her retreat, her final words to Marie were thus.

I cannot say more, but you will know the truth soon enough.

Before Marie could speak, Holda was gone and the vast walls of books and tomes had returned. Marie rushed out of the tower to the center of the wyrd, catching a few odd glances along the way. When she reached the statue of Frau Holda, she wanted to continue her questions, bow at the feet of the witch and beg for answers, but she knew how difficult it was to elicit specific information from spirits, especially ones as ancient and powerful as Frau Holda.

Holt came flying after Marie, caught off guard by her sudden sprint from the library. He had not witnessed the same spectacle as she.

”What happened to you just then?” Holt asked with concern, perching himself upon her shoulder.

”I-I’m not sure. I’d like to think that it was a clue, something to lead me closer to Gwyneth’s memories, but I can’t tell.” Truly, Marie was at a loss. Was Holda’s message a riddle to be deciphered, a portent of doom, a prophecy she needed to fulfill? She shook off the thought, for now.

”We’ve spent enough time here. Let’s go find the Alpha, it’s likely to have done some more damage by now.” Marie looked up at the moon who was slowly reaching its peak, a beautiful and eerie reminder of her mission.

Astride her broom, the pair sped off into the night, away from the Hudson Wyrd and on to the city where they were met with a grim sight.

The Ambassador

Location: Hoover Dam, Las Vegas
Time: Evening - Night of the Full Moon

The gentle breeze rolling off the river was refreshing. Mandate, Odette and Bach had spent the past couple of hours taking in the view. After another fruitless goose chase, they decidedly took a break at the popular tourist spot. Odette sat on the edge of the concrete wall legs dangling. In her lap she had her grimoire open, idly flipping through it trying to think of another strategy. Bach was beside her while Mandate stood behind them.

Rubbing the heel of her hand against her forehead she grumbled, “I am open to some suggestions.

Bach had been throwing the odd seed into the water, willing it to grow to sprout before it hit the surface. “We can try searching for more local Fey, we might have more luck than following another location spell.

That would take another day.” She replied, closing her spellbook storing it away. Bach nodded his leafy head, browning at the edges from so much direct sunlight of the day.

He felt a sudden pressure above them, he snapped his eyes up in time to see a magical cloud of smoke descend upon them.

A pillar of black smog swirled violently overhead, crashing against the wall below. A heavy wind turned about their bodies, Odette and Bach caught up in the midnight torrent that threatened to rip them apart. But no harm came to them. Instead, they were carried through the air to the bridge overlooking the dam, gently placed on the cold stone and freed from the clutches of their ethereal assailant.

The smoke and shadows spun about a few feet away, a shapeless mass that slowly began to recede. As the smoke faded, two women appeared, one dressed in black garments with dark curls to match, the other in vibrant green with scarlet braids, both shining brilliantly in the moonlight.

”So this is the meddlesome ‘Ambassador’,” the darker figure spoke in a sultry tone.

”She’s a pretty one, and how lithe and delicate she looks.” The emerald woman responded, voice much lighter but carrying the same air of mystery.

”Don’t be fooled by mere appearances, my love. She has proven herself to be quite the troublemaker indeed.”

Disorientated at first at the sudden sweep of magic, unexpected with no time to brace nor ward against. Their eyes were filled with darkness while their feet found ground atop the bridge on the other side of the dam. Odette could see Mandate’s form, she imagined the golem would be panicking by now, her being spirited away by unknown assailants. Bach was reassuringly at her side, regaining his composure in record time, brushing his sleeves fixing the women with a level gaze. Studying them. The moon was on the rise behind them, a tiny bell in her mind ringing. Recognition but no name.

Magic seemed to surround them, unique but in a way only a certain few creatures or spirits could exude. The two women spoke of her as if she didn’t have ears. Regardless her first instincts kicked into action. They weren’t attacking so there was time for introductions, even if she was being forced to make them.

Lifting the hem of her skirt a little, she curtsied. “Good evening, I am The Ambassador of the Fair Folk. It is a pleasure to meet you, unexpected but a pleasure.

Bach bowed his head to them as well, remaining silent. The gears in his extensive memory working away. He was right about the witch presence but much like Odette felt the answer to the sudden strangers were right on the tip of his tongue. The way the pair of them dressed was telling of just how old they were. He kept his eyes on them even as he bowed.

The darkly clad woman gave a look of surprise. ”My my, how polite of you to offer such formal gestures. You are truly a diplomat, Ms. Ambassador, a testament to your name. As for mine, well . . . I go by many names.”

She drew nearer to Odette and Bach, the air around her shifting all the while, filled with an ominous aura that grew stronger with each passing moment. It was as if a shroud was slowly falling from around this woman, revealing her true identity.

”To the Romans,” she continued, ”I was known as Trivia. To others, I am Cthonia, Beldam, Night Mother, the list goes on. My associates know me as Lydia Valis, a little creation of mine, a form I assume in my waking hours. But by far my most favored name is the one given to me by the Greeks, Hekate. And the radiant picture who accompanies me is the great Medea. She is like a daughter to me, my greatest love.”

Medea looked at Hekate with awe, moved closer to her side, and took her arm.

Odette drew up straight as a board, her posture stiffening, drawn into Hekate’s gaze. Bach drew up in a similar way. The surprise in their expressions were unmistakable. As strange as their lives were it was a rare occasion to come to the attention of such legendary figures. Immensely powerful even before they knew their identities. Hekate had referred to her initially as meddlesome, they couldn’t be connected to the Barron… could they? The heist wasn’t quiet by any means.


Odette finally broke the eye contact, her stomach clenched. The words coming to her as second nature, but the sudden shift in power was like standing in quicksand. “Truly- an unexpected turn of the evening. I was not aware legendary figures, such as yourselves, had made your home here in Las Vegas. It’s an honour to be in your presence.

May I ask as to why?

Hekate took a moment to survey Odette and Bach. She could see their sense of wonder and amazement, but also their fear and respect. It was rather refreshing, she thought, to be once again seen as a goddess in all her facets rather than a thing to be gawked by the witches of Las Vegas or a minion to be ordered about by Barron and his men.

”You flatter me, Ms. Ambassador. As for my presence here, it would seem that you have upset a recent associate of mine. You are certainly familiar with the wealthy socialite, Barron Vanderbilt, and all of his wondrous treasures, yes? Much to your detriment, he and I have a contract of sorts, the details of which you needn’t concern yourself. But I could not in good faith allow my dear friend’s belongings be whisked away by a band of thieves, especially not magically gifted ones such as yourself.”

Medea moved closer to Odette, circling she and Bach once before returning to Hekate’s side.

”She’s a mortal, and quite a young one by the looks. How come you to know such powerful magic at such a young . . . ah, I see! Look there, my lady, a faery familiar, no doubt entangled in some mystical contract. You don’t see many sorcerers bothering themselves with the affairs of the Fey these days.”

Hekate nodded, remaining silent and giving Odette time to respond. She was intrigued by the Ambassador. Hekate could tell that she was smart, cunning; her time with the Fey would have assured that. She waited to see how Odette might try to dissuade Hekate or dissolve the tension.

Odette steeled herself, slowly peeling back her fear. Her eyes shifted to Medea as she spoke, again as if she wasn’t there. That irritated Odette to some degree, nor did she like being analyzed. With some thought, Medea was only able to glean the obvious. Bach’s connection to her was clear as day to those who could see. Hekate confirmed she knew of the heist, quite plainly making it clear she was connected to Barron. No point in lying, she could take the blame while protecting Silence from Hekate’s attention.

Her arms relaxed, holding her hands at her waist. “Wondrous treasures that now have a new home. The Fey don’t see lifting items from the undead as ‘stealing’ per se but simply…” She pursed her lips allowing the pause to think, “Finding a new purpose for them. What purpose comes to a vampire stockpiling herbs and ingredients? Beyond selling them, of course.” She replied turning her eyes on Medea next. “You are quite right, Bach is my dear friend and partner. Those very same sorcerers dismiss the Fey because they ultimately lack the patience and ambition. While they had their noses deep in a tome I staked my claim on Paris.

She spread her hands open, a slight shrug. “Unfortunately we no longer have anything to return. What I can offer is my apologies, one must make friends and allies where one can. I can say quite honestly that I understand that sentiment more than you can imagine. Unfortunate is your contract with Mr. Vanderbilt marring this first meeting indirectly.” Odette bowed her head.

Hekate and Medea each offered a soft laugh.

”Very good, Ms. Ambassador, but you needn’t lecture me on the topic of grey morality. A witch uses the left and the right hand, the right gives, the left takes away. Your apology is appreciated . . . but irrelevant.”

”You obviously hold sway over the Fey in Paris to be dubbed their Ambassador. You are an enemy to Mr. Vanderbilt, and by extension, so are your associates whom you would gladly gather in arms against Barron should you ever feel so inclined. The truth of the matter is, Barron has a hand in all that occurs in this city, including the affairs of witches.”

”That’s right,” Hekate took over. ”And as should be obvious, the affairs of witches are of the utmost importance to me. Wherever I find myself, I try to elevate them and their positions in society, grant them greater power that they may be free of any and all oppression, that they may have power over any foe. I have entered into a contract with Barron that insures my loyalty in exchange for the services he provides my witches, and surely the first thing he is to do when those pitiful louts he calls mages fail at protecting his estate from magical harm is to call upon the powers of my witches. Neither myself nor the Fey courts of your country could afford an assault on one another, and I cannot be certain that you will not perform a similar crime, or worse, with the aid of your Fey allies.”

The Ambassador listened intently, she shared a look with Bach before replying. He nodded, encouraging her. Hekate’s intent was now clear, graciously giving Odette headway. The Goddess was drawing boundaries, a line in the sand warning Odette not to cross it. At least not without accepting certain consequences. It would be a matter of assuring Hekate and Medea Odette had no intentions against the witches, just inciting rivalry against the undead.

Odette nodded, understanding warming her expression considerably. The tension in her body language melting away. “I would never dream of moving against the witches here. There is no love loss between the Fey and witches.” She echoed words she had once used with Puck. How sincere would her words ring to the likes of Hekate, she wondered. She continued, “That much has been made very clear when I have interacted with the local Fey populace. There is a great respect, a symbiosis within the magical community here. To upset a balance like that would indeed be a crime in of itself. I agree, neither of us have need nor want of a fight like that. My stint against Mr. Vanderbilt was sincerely a one time affair, that I can give my word on.

Is there anyway I can assure you both that my intentions are not hostile?

Hekate remained silent for several moments. She could tell that Odette was sincere, but did she care about sincerity?

Medea pulled her aside for a moment, speaking in a hushed tone.

”My lady, she speaks in circles.”

”Perhaps, my love, but I wonder if she could be useful to us.”

Medea looked puzzled. ”My lady?”

Hekate gave Medea a knowing look before turning her attention back to Odette. She looked her up and down, silent all the while. Something stood out to her, the touch of something familiar. Hekate labored to understand this feeling, eventually coming to an interesting conclusion.

A wide grin appeared across her face, seductive and sinister.

”Perhaps it is against my better judgement, but I believe you, Ms. Ambassador. You have studied this city well, know the delicate balance between all the hidden folk within, and I believe that you mean this no harm. It is for this reason that I have decided to drop the matter entirely.”

Medea looked shocked despite being aware of her lady’s ulterior motives.

”And to show that there is no bad blood between us, I’d like to give you a gift. What say you to that?”

Odette’s nerves ramped up during Hekate and Medea’s private chat. The Ambassador knew she was grasping at straws, quite literally toeing a dangerous line of irritating a powerful goddess. She could pull nothing meaningful from her silence upon their return to the conversation. Odette knew if had she been prepared she wouldn’t have struggled half as bad. At least, she liked to think so. Her luck held, Hekate let her off the hook but not quite so easily.

Merci beaucoup, Mademoiselle. Would it be out of place for me to ask what you intend to give? I’m sure you understand my wariness of gifts.” Odette ventured masking her fear with curiosity.

Hekate smiled. Odette was smart for not wanting to blindly accept a gift from magical beings, but it was something she’d likely have learned in her line of work.

”Well, I suppose it’s equal part favor and gift, but I can show you nonetheless.”

Hekate turned to Medea.

”That box I asked you to hold for me, could you bring it out?”

Medea nodded, ”Of course, my lady.”

Medea held out her hand, an ornately designed box materializing in a quick flash of light and red mist. She handed it to Hekate, who presented it to Odette.

”I’ll be quite honest, I haven’t the slightest idea what’s inside. I never managed to pry it open so its contents and purpose are both unknown to me. However, I believe it may be of use to you. If you would but hold on to this for me and discover its mysteries, I would be forever grateful, and I believe you would be all the better for it. What say you now?”

That is neither helpful nor comforting that I will know as much about the ‘gift’ as her, Odette thought begrudgingly squinting at the mysterious box.

Reluctantly Odette held up her hand, it glowed a light misty blue as she whispered a small ward about her hand. Experience also told her not to ever touch magical objects directly without knowing their true nature. “It reminds me of the little trunks Earth Fey store their memories in. How could I refuse a Goddess a gift or her favour? I accept.

Hekate smiled, dropping the box into Odette’s palm.

It certainly felt magical, though gave no indication of being cursed. The outside was a worn by time, the intricate wooden details and knotwork faded slightly, the brass lock at the front rusted and greyed. The box itself was a little larger than a small music or jewelry box, offering little space inside for anything that wasn’t incredibly malleable or flat. On the underside was an ashen symbol that had withstood the test of time, highly ornate, resembling many warding sigils that had been used throughout history, but with small alterations here and there to make it personalized to whomever had inscribed it.

”Whatever it is, may it bring you great insight and direction on your current path.” She turned after she gave Odette her blessing, letting the words sit for a moment.

She felt a little bolder now, her warded fingers thrumming across the wood. “It is no coincidence you should give me something that will guide me after the day I have spent without it. I do not pretend to understand the mysteries that drive magic but coincidences do not exist here... So, thank you.

Hekate turned from Odette for a moment, taking Medea’s arm in hers and preparing for their departure. A slight breeze pierced the still air atop the bridge as the two witches met. Hekate turned briefly to face Odette once more, a wide grin her lasting expression.

”I can tell that you are the adventurous sort, Ms. Ambassador. Creative, cunning, and curious, virtues I seek and foster in those whom I teach the ways. But be careful of how close you let your hand wander to the hearthfire, my dear. A burn like that is likely to stay with you. Farewell, Ms. Ambassador.”

The breeze became a raging torrent, calling forth shadows and ethereal clouds of black mist that enveloped Hekate and Medea, ushering them away from Odette, away from the dam, and into the night.

A few moments after the wind finally settled Odette let out a long exhale, relieved that conversation was finally over. She patted her chest, her heart thrumming hard, a little rush of adrenaline. “At least it wasn’t a prophecy.

Bach looked about as relieved but brightened at the box, “That’s got to be Gwyneth's ‘Sight’. Insight? Direction? Look at the symbols.” Bach chatted excitedly about the little gift as they made their way back to Mandate’s side. To soothe the anxious golem and examine the box. Odette felt a tiny pin prick of foreboding, similar to how she felt after speaking to Puck. Hekate may not have revealed vague glimpses of the future but such gifts were never to be taken at face value nor lightly. She knew better than that, now more than ever.
Witching Hour, Part 2

Witching Hour, Part 2

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, The “Wyrdhouse” – Warehouse #475
Time: Following the Events of The Heist

Marvelous . . . Hekate looked in awe at the work of her witches. In just a few short months, she and the Five Families had been able to coordinate the organizational efforts of Barron’s original mage staff and create veritable works of art with his plethora of resources.

This warehouse in particular, affectionately referred to as the “Wyrdhouse” by the mage staff due to its large collection of witching items and attending witches, was Hekate’s favorite. It housed a strikingly large collection of materials for witchcraft ranging from specialty herbs and reagents uncommon to the practices of other sorcerous folk to the personal journals, grimoires, and formularies of long dead witches of myth, not to mention a small fortune’s worth of magical trinkets crafted by those same witches.

”It is a sight to behold, My Lady. Though I’m not surprised, you have always been an excellent leader.” Medea expressed her adoration from behind, waltzing through the through the front entrance to the main floor, dressed in flowing, emerald garments that called back to renaissance dresses, with a modern twist, and auburn hair pulled into intricate braids, held in place by golden bands and circlets.

”Medea, my love. How you flatter me,” Hekate turned with great haste at the sound of Medea’s voice, drawing her in for a long embrace before kissing her twice on each cheek, ”but you give me far too much credit. It was the cunning and intellect of the local Covens which brought all of this to fruition, and let us not forget our gracious host and his lovely wife for allowing us access to this rich foundry of knowledge and art.”

Medea’s expression turned sour at the mention of Barron.

”I have been meaning to ask, if I may, of the exact nature of your contract with Mr. Vanderbilt. Why ask and deal for what you could gladly take? He has no power over you, and I doubt that even the strongest magician in his company could match your strength. Why . . .”

”Medea,” Hekate interrupted, ”you know as well as I that in the wake of a changing world, one must find new ways to go about one’s business undisturbed. A tenet of the witch is to be silent, is it not? Such hubris would surely lead to our downfall, regardless of the power of those with whom we contract.”

Medea bowed her head.

”I am sorry, My Lady. I did not mean to speak out of turn.”

”Oh, my love, you have not offended me nor angered me with your inquiries. No, I encourage such discourse. It is wise to question the motives of those in charge, though I must remind you, I am not your superior nor your commander. As a witch, you are free to do as you wish. Think of me not as your leader, but as your patron; one who guides and keeps a watchful eye, who steers from danger, but who will respect your wishes and allow you to make the necessary mistakes.”

Medea and Hekate shared another embrace, Medea becoming slightly emotional from her lady’s wise words, wiping away her tears on an emerald, silken sleeve.

”And besides,” Hekate continued, ”it is not a matter of whether I trust Barron. He is but a means to an end. I have done all that he has asked to ensure his peaceful cooperation, but I would be a fool to think that he was not, at this very moment, searching for ways to protect himself from me and my influence, or worse, ways to end me should he feel threatened. That is precisely why I have provided his wife with a bit of . . . misinformation.”

Hekate gave Medea a knowing grin.

”How do you mean?”

”Well, Mrs. Vanderbilt came to me in search of a way to protect she and her husband from Greed, Broker. It would appear that he is attempting to form some sinister cabal of ne'er do wells and criminals for whatever reason. I showed her the recipe for a Mesopotamian Spirit Vessel and claimed that it could entrap the Broker’s essence, but of course, it cannot.”

Medea turned her head in pondering and, unable to come up with an answer, questioned Hekate further.

”But why, My Lady? Surely this will damage Barron’s trust. Why place a wall between you two?”

”A lesson in greed,” Hekate confidently replied. ”Barron truly thinks he stands a chance against one such the Broker. He is arrogant and prone to fits and childish outbursts. This will certainly be his undoing. My simple yet tactful betrayal will, once discovered, show Barron that he cannot win in a battle against ancients. We are far more clever and skilled in the art of deception than he. If this damages his trust, so be it, but our contract doesn’t condemn strategic lies when they are needed.”

Medea gave Hekate a wicked grin, now fully informed and in tune with her lady’s plans.

”How cunning you are, My Lady. Truly the wisest and greatest among us.”

”Oh, enough flattery,” Hekate smiled playfully, taking Medea’s arm in hers and walking her around the warehouse, ”and enough talk of Barron and his dreadful empire. Come, let us instead explore his treasures and see what we can’t find. Mrs. Vanderbilt gifted us the privilege of taking some of these trinkets for our own use.”

The two of them glided merrily about the warehouse, stopping and marveling at priceless artifacts from their days in Greece that had managed to surface once again, old world charms that had scarcely been seen since the days of early American settlers, and mystical tomes and manuscripts of varying ages. Their browsing was interrupted occasionally by a chatty witch or two, all of whom Hekate was more than pleased to accommodate, and the conspicuous glances of mage workers, some of whom looked at Hekate in awe, others in disgust and disdain of her and her craft, seeing it as a lesser discipline.

They came to a far wall where pallets and trucks were filled with curious items that had yet to be organized or shipped out. One trinket caught Hekate’s eye, a small ornate box fashioned from ancient wood, worn carvings and embroidery snaking its edges. It felt familiar.

Hekate picked up with wooden box, slightly larger than a normal jewelry box, and turned it over in her hands, listening for the rattle of its contents, but hearing nothing. She went to open the weathered latch, but stopped before touching the simple copper lock.

”Is something wrong, My Lady?’ Medea asked, taking note of Hekate’s strange behavior.

Hekate said nothing, instead recalling a memory of days prior. The box had an aura about it, something strong, something hidden. A spell had been placed in the box, the magic keeping its contents undisturbed reminiscent of the power she felt surging from the witch she had observed through the Graeae’s Eye. The two were linked.

Hekate turned to a worker nearby, presenting him with the box.

”Has this item been placed on your inventory list?”

The worker looked at her for a few moments, surprised that she had thought to ask him anything. He then removed a folder from a bag around his waist and searched its pages for an item matching the box’s description.

“N-no ma’am,” he stuttered, “I don’t see it anywhere. Would you like me to add . . .”

”That won’t be necessary,” Hekate cut him off, handing the box over to Medea. ”Please keep this with you until I ask for it again, and do not let your curiosity lead you to opening it. Will you do this for me, my love?”

Medea gave her a confused look, but nodded anyway.

”Of course, My Lady.”

Hekate smiled, then turned back to the worker.

”Thank you for your assistance, that will be all.”

He looked at her for a few moments, pondering whether or not he should take note of the box somewhere on his record. Then, after an impatient look from Hekate, decided to let it go and hastily walked in the opposite direction.

Shortly thereafter, a tall, slender Elven woman and a fair witch came rushing into the warehouse. The mage workers started in their direction with the intent to stop them, but Hekate waved them away. These two obviously came with urgent news.

“My Lady,” the frustrated witch began, dark hair falling in messy curls over her round, pale face. She was out of breath from her sprint to the warehouse. “I’ve just heard news of two separate attacks on Barron’s men, one in Maine a few days ago, and another a few miles from here last night.”

”What has this to do with My Lady? Does not Barron have men of his own to deal with such disturbances?” Medea spoke before Hekate could respond.

The Elven maiden stepped forward, an ethereal glow emanating from her translucent wings.

“We would not have come to you were it not for the presence of Fey magic in both cases, the likes of which rivaling some of the noble faerie sorcerers of the highest courts.”

”I see . . .” Hekate had not been tasked with keeping Barron’s men safe, not directly anyway. But with such powerful magic involved, the assailants could become a threat to her own self interests.

”Have you any leads?”

The Elven maiden nodded.

“A group of Sylphs under the agency of the Five Families intercepted a sprite working for the culprits. She identified herself as an affiliate of The Ambassador of the Fey, a French national who works in close proximity to the lower Fey courts in Europe.”

Hekate nodded. She did not wish to disturb the Fair Folk or meddle in their affairs, though she assumed that even the lowest courts would have no cause to attack Barron’s men. If this Ambassador had gone rogue, she could be a threat to Barron in the future, and by extension, Hekate.

”Has she been captured?”

“Our divinations and subsequent reports from survivors confirm that The Ambassador and others were held captive for a time, but managed to escape with a collection of magical reagents. The local Fey could likely lead you to her, assuming she’s still around.”

”Well, we can’t have some faerie sorceress wandering about and meddling in our affairs. Medea, shall we pay this ‘Ambassador’ a visit?”

Medea nodded, a wicked grin streaming across her face.

Hekate waved away her informants, took Medea’s arm, and away they flew in a torrent of black smoke to find the troublesome Ambassador.

Full Moon Madness

Part 1

Location: The Red Devil
Time: 8 p.m.

There was nothing more inviting or more familiar to Marie than the smell of The Red Devil, not because it was particularly pleasant, but so much of her time had been spent among its diverse patrons, performing magical services or dispensing her knowledge to the plethora of other witches in Puck’s service. So accustomed was she to the atmosphere of the bustling tavern and Puck’s habitual, and somewhat obligatory, mingling with patrons that she was surprised to see him confined to his office, peering down at the growing stacks of contracts that eternally collected on his desk.

Puck, feeling Marie’s prying eyes, turned his attention to the tired, young witch and her ethereal companion, his signature grin at the ready.

”My darling Marie, I didn’t think I’d catch you snooping around my tavern until you’d finished your quest. Has something happened?”

Marie rolled her eyes lovingly and waltzed through the door to his office, taking off her long coat and resting it on the back of the chair opposite Puck before taking a seat.

”Let’s skip the part where I pretend to not know that you watch pretty much everything I do in that mirror of yours out front.” Her tone was impatient, but only because she had been through quite the ordeal this evening. She gave Puck an apologetic look before continuing.

”But no, everything is fine. It wasn’t nearly as smooth as I would have liked, but I should have expected as much. Still, I found Gwyneth’s Eye. A simple hagstone, but something powerful enough to help me locate her other items . . . at least, I hope it can.” Marie sounded more than a little dejected. Since receiving the hagstone, she had gained no further insight from Gwyneth. No visions or whispers, no surfacing memories, nothing of any substance. She counted the Eye’s retrieval as a win, though she worried for the future of her quest.

Puck noted Marie’s looks of desperation and responded with a little more warmth in his voice than usual.

”Worry not my dear, I have complete confidence that you will succeed. And, on that note, I have a little information that might be to your benefit.”

Marie perked up slightly.

”There have been several disappearances in New York as of late, many bodies turning up with missing limbs, large claw and bite marks, some not appearing at all. It would seem that an Alpha wolf has been increasingly active in that area, but none have been successful in tracking him down.”

”Wait,” Marie interrupted, head tilted and voice filled with utter confusion. ”What has any of this got to do with Gwyneth? I thought you weren’t sending me to complete contracts right now.”

”It’s less of an order and more of a suggestion.” Puck replied with a wide grin, eyes turning back to his desk, hands fumbling with papers.

Marie sighed.

”Puck, I don’t have time for this. What aren’t you telling me?”

Pucked amused himself with signing papers and making revisions as he spoke. ”My dear, what I’m not telling you could fill volumes. It’s what I am telling by not telling you that’s important. If you wish not to busy yourself with the affairs of werewolves then by all means, end your quest now and return to work.”

Marie looked furious, but there was nothing to be done. There was nothing she could do to keep Puck from being as cryptic as demonically possible. But she had learned to interpret a majority of his stops and pauses, she knew that everything he said held double meaning.

With much hesitation, she stood up, dramatically pulling her coat from the chair and stomping over to the door.

”Fine, I’ll go find the suit and send White Witch to investigate. Just, give me a little more to work with when I come back.”

Off she went to the workroom to change. Holt, who normally follows Marie closely, stayed behind at Puck’s request to speak of private matters.

Sixth Sense

Part 7

Location: American Museum of Natural History, New York City
Time: Late Afternoon

Marie let out a sigh of relief. The day’s excitement was finally coming to a halt. She relaxed her tense muscles, brushed off bits of dust and viscera left behind by floating displays and Ben’s transformations, and took a moment to herself.

”Marie?” Holt’s voice melded with her thoughts, the ethereal and familiar raspy tones soothing her even more. ”Are you alright?”

Marie chuckled softly to herself, hoping the others weren’t paying attention. Holt’s concern was always genuine and appreciated, yet, given his stoic nature never ceased to surprise her.

”Yes,” she responded internally, ”I’m fine . . . for now. I’m more concerned about Ben. He’s been through a lot today and he won’t remember a fair portion of it. Can’t be easy living like that, not knowing where you go when you lose yourself.”

”It will come to him with time. Such is the way with werewolves. They rely upon instinct. The more he learns about himself, the sharper those instincts will become, not unlike your instincts as Gwyneth, which you have clearly displayed this evening. It is no small feat, compulsion, and to coax a werewolf into its human form . . . that is a power the likes of which I have scarcely seen, certainly not in this century. Have any memories returned?”

”No, unfortunately. But the power was familiar; it comes in waves. I can’t imagine what Gwyneth must have been capable of at full strength.”

It was both an empowering and deeply troubling thought. It occurred to Marie that, aside from the glimpses she had been granted of her former self, she knew nothing of Gwyneth’s character. If she possessed great power, how did she use that power, to what end?

Marie dwelled on this thought longer than she realized, for her pondering was interrupted by a small knocking on the storage room entrance. This was, undoubtedly, the caretaker Ben had mentioned earlier. He was from the “Agency,” if Marie recalled Ben’s words correctly, an organization about which she knew next to nothing, but one who had a reputation for meddling in the affairs of magical folk. However, seeing as this caretaker was here to help Ben, not contain him, Marie felt no need for animosity.

”Holt,” Marie engaged her familiar silently, ”Go to the Red Devil and bring with you a few of Puck’s imps to help clean up this place. I don’t want him or this Agency thinking that I’m incompetent enough to risk exposure.”

Holt gave a silent nod before fading into the shadows of the room. As time passed and the group readied to leave the museum, feint whispers filed into the space followed by a slight chill, broken statuettes, pedestals, stone flooring and pieces of the wall slowly being mended by invisible agents of The Red Devil.
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