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Colorful Magic

Lachance Stronghold Exterior – Henderson, Nevada
Time: Late Evening, Present Day

The moon began to wane in the sky, fading behind tall buildings in the distant city. A chill crept across the arid landscape, quickly giving way to warm currents of morning. Though the sun had yet to peek above the blazing lights of Vegas, the day was fast approaching. All this time wasted in pain and fear.

Marie stepped through the mirror in the downtrodden shed, dodging fallen boards, broken glass, and billowing tarps, slowly breathing in the crisp air. She finally felt calm. Her wounds had been healed, mostly, and Ben was on his way to recovery. This time alone to reflect was a blessing.

Marie, Holt called from behind, stalking the ground as an ethereal feline. His presence was appreciated. Marie felt that he was a part of her; to be alone with him was to be with herself.

Now that we have the time, what did you see before?

He spoke of her memory in Smithy’s, when Gwyneth’s past overcome Marie’s present. It was a painful experience, not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, the knowing that she had been persecuted so in that time long forgotten. She wanted to unload her woes and worries, but something was amiss. The air changed suddenly . . . she was no longer alone.

The air outside of the shed began to swell, swirling around the figure standing before Marie. The wind even slipped inside of the shed, picking up some of the debris laying around inside and tossed it about outside. The woman who had appeared before the young witch wore a silver-colored dress, while her dark brown hair was buffeted by the strong winds that she had summoned.

“I have waited three long months for this moment,” the woman declared as she began to inch forward towards Marie. The torrential winds followed along, as if the silver-clad woman had been the epicenter. “Revenge is always best served cold

Marie had enough time to anticipate the sorceress’s appearance to move back, though not enough to dodge a few shards of glass that cut at her legs as they flew from their place. Immediately, Holt positioned himself between the two women, his shape a phantasmal swirl of dark shadows, black tendril-like arms, claws, and teeth.

”Wait!” Marie cried to the both of them, raising a pleading hand for both parties to halt.

Holt reluctantly did as asked, moving just enough for Marie to get a good look at the Silver Sorceress.

”Look,” she began, words heavy with fatigue, ”I . . . I know what this is, okay? I get it. I royally screwed you and Diplodoc over last time we met, but can we not do this today?”

It was an odd request to be sure, but Marie continued nonetheless.

”A lot’s changed in three months and honestly, I could give a rat’s ass about S.T.R.I.K.E., or Icon, or whoever the hell else was on that team in West Virginia. I have nothing to do with that group anymore, nor did I really ever want to in the first place. If you and Diplodoc are planning another Pax Metahumana, be my guest! I’ve got more on my plate to deal with.”

Marie extended her hand as if to offer a handshake, or some other appropriate gesture. She wasn’t so naive as to think the sorceress would stop at just that, but she hoped it’d be enough to start a conversation rather than a fight.

A smile appeared on the Silver Sorceress’ face before she mumbled a few inaudible words under her breath. Suddenly, several shadowy arms slithered out of the ground, grabbed ahold of Marie, and started to try to drag her into the ground.

“Not personal?” the Silver Sorceress taunted the young mage, “It becomes personal when you’ve been held under lock and key while being sedated for three whole months. It becomes personal when your sister had been hospitalized for that same time and you couldn’t do anything for her. This isn’t about being a hero. This is about actions having consequences.”

Marie gasped as the sorceress’s magic wrapped around her arms and waist, squeezing the life from her as they slowly retreated into the earth, the ethereal hands like ice on her skin. Holt responded, slashing at the tendrils with his own shadowy claws, his power just enough to disrupt theirs. It was a struggle, but Marie held on, speaking as she was being cut free.

”Three months, puh,” she scoffed, ”Try having your memories locked away for 500 years, then we’ll talk.”

She pulled herself up, taking in a deep breath before calling to Holt, issuing a series of mental commands. He assumed the form of a raven, circling the immediate area to create a wind to combat the sorceress’s own.

“Once we’re through here, I’ll give you a first hand experience of being put under ice,” the Silver Sorceress threatened while she watched as her opponents were attempting countermeasures against her. Nevertheless, she was quick on her feet and already initiated her next spell.

“So, you reject the title of hero, do you?” the Silver Sorceress called out to Marie, after she had mumbled a few more words. “Why don’t you tell that to all of them.”

She then pointed towards the shadowy figures rising from the ground. Suddenly, a foul spell arose, just like charred skin and hair. Although the physical features of these figures were obscured by their gaseous nature, it was clear that all their hair had been scorched off and their clothes were in tatters. Ghostly echoes resounded from their mouths, asking why she had not saved them, why they had to die. With each moment passing, more shades ascended from the ground and encircled Marie.

“These are just a few of the souls whom the Hounds had just wiped off the face of the Earth. Do you want to tell them you’re not a hero?”

Marie turned to face the mass of burning remains and ephemeral voices, their cries drowning the outside environment, even the whistling of the wind through the loose boards began to fade, replaced by the cry of illusory spirits. To Marie, however, they seemed quite real.

”I-I had nothing to do with that,” Marie stammered, backing away slightly. ”I’m not responsible for what the Hounds do. If anything, it’s you and Diplodoc’s fault they decided to surface in the first place!” Marie cried, head reeling from the cacophony of lost souls infernal pleaing.

Listen to them not! Holt’s voice tried to break through the wall of disembodied screaming, finding that Marie’s mind was nearly closed to him.

They are illusions, Marie. You know this, you have combatted such tricks before. See them for what they are, not spirits, but shadows conjured to confuse.

Marie could only just make out Holt’s voice among countless others, but this spell was insidious. It took hold of that fragment of her old self, the part that longed to be a cunning woman, the part that had, at one time, thought to help the folk of Lost Haven. She covered her ears to escape the crying voices, losing herself momentarily to their screams.

“What a selfish little bitch. She was more concerned with herself than the countless lives of those murdered by the Hounds,” the Silver Sorceress taunted Marie as the mass of shades grew by the moment. Marie’s counter that it was DIplodoc’s fault for the Hounds only fell on deaf ears. “And if Diplodoc had been successful, there would not have a reason for the Hounds to rise up. There would not be any massacres if there were not normal humans left.”

While Marie was distracted by the shades, the Silver Sorceress noticed that the winds she had summoned were slowly dying down. When she examined the sky above, she noticed a shadowy shape of a bird. She could not quite make out all the details of this creature, but she know that it was a threat, as it was flying against the summoned winds. Something like that had to be dealt with.

She was not sure how corporeal this creature was, so she began to use the winds to pick up any sort of nearby rubble and sent it up to where the creature was flying. If that did not slow the being down, she would just have to try something else. Nevertheless, the Silver Sorceress had them separated. If she could force Marie’s hand, then that shadowy bird would just be an annoying distraction.

Suddenly, the ground underneath Marie began to become soft and unstable, just as what had happened to the Raptor Pack back in Albany. Slowly, Marie began to sink into what now seemed like quicksand. Yet the shades, who did not need solid ground to stand, remained unaffected by this next trap that the SIlver Sorceress had cooked up for the White Witch.

Holt was unphased by the floating rubble and debris. They passed through his body as if it were air, but the force behind them, the shifting winds that stirred greater objects in the room, that gave Holt pause. Nevertheless, he pressed forward, the winds roused by his wings clashing with those conjured by the sorceress.

Meanwhile, Marie began to sink, unaware of her predicament. The voices raged on, Holt’s warning fading into the noise.

”I didn’t save them,” she whispered to herself in a whimper, hands clasped against her ears as the earth began to swallow her whole. ”I’m so . . . “


The word echoed through her mind. She could hear it in her own voice, from the Silver Sorceress, from Holt, from Puck, from . . . Joseph.

”I’m selfish,” she said aloud, the sound of her own voice cutting through the crying shades. ”I am selfish. I’m a witch.” she uttered with confidence, slowly bringing her hands away from her ears.

”Witchcraft is cruel, selfish, and self serving. It’s a part of me, in my blood. I can give with the right hand and take with the left, and that’s my decision, my will. I do this for me . . .”

Marie turned to the phantasms, arms firmly at her side, the vortex of sand not quite able to move past them.

”I don’t owe you anything!” she screamed at the shadows, her voice pushing at each one, forcing them to retreat, fading back into whatever part of her mind had conjured them, if it existed any longer.

Marie pushed against the quicksand, not with her strength or any physical attribute, but with that vital spark, her powers of fascination working against the charm that kept her trapped. It was enough to free her from the enchantment, her body rolling across the ground to a level patch of sand.

“Well, if you won’t listen to those murdered by the Hounds,” the Silver Sorceress told Marie, unfazed by the White Witch’s ability to get herself out of these enchantments. “Then maybe someone a little more close to home can.”

Finally, one last shade arose from the ground. However, unlike the last mob of ghosts, this one did not look like he had been zapped by an orbital death ray. His usually scruffy brown hair was dirty and matted, bangs plastered to his forehead, which was covered in sweat. His dark eyes were rife with fear, scars and bruises appearing along his sharp features. On his neck lay two, wide holes like bite marks, the wound that killed him in his battle with the Ambassador, the bite from the Ouroboros.

”J-Joseph?” Marie whispered, pushing herself up from the ground, stumbling slightly at the sight of him. She hadn’t seen his wounds, hadn’t known the severity of his condition. He was paler than usual, and gaunt, like the life had been sucked from him. Marie’s hands shook in nervous frustration, her arms quivered. She had tried to forget, but here he was.

“I see you have become stronger, Marie, since I last saw you before I went to the Ironworks,” the shade of her dead friend acknowledged, “but at what cost? What deals have you made with the devil to gain this power?”

Marie shook her head. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes.

”What are you saying?” she responded, trying to reign in her emotions. ”I . . . I’ve done everything you would have done, everything you did. W . . . Why wait all this time to see me? Why now, why this?” Marie began to slur her words as Joseph’s presence brought back memories of their time together. All that he had taught her, all that he had done for her. It was all too much to bear.

“Do you not know with whom you make alliances?” Joseph demanded from her, “Do you not realize that you have now entered a pact with the one who sent me to the afterlife and, in doing so, spit on my memory? Are you so sure about what you are doing and what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals?”

”You-You were the one who charged into a fight that we all told you would end poorly! I warned you, Puck warned you, we tried to keep you out of it! But you wanted fame,” Marie argued, tears streaming down her face.

”You were careless,” she replied almost in a whisper, not wanting to offend, ”How could you think summoning something that unstable would end well for you? Holt cautioned against it. And the Ambassador . . . s-she was just doing a job.”

Marie let out a heavy sigh,

”You told me . . . you were the one who reminded me of what we are,” Marie could barely speak, unable to finish her thought.

“You have not answered me with anything except excuses,” Joseph chided Marie, “Why did you ally with the woman who sent me to the grave? Did our friendship not mean anything to you? Do you have no respect for the dead?”

Marie! Holt called out once again, fighting for a place in Marie’s mind. You cannot speak to Joseph, you know who holds his soul. Fight this!

Meanwhile, the Silver Sorceress was amused by how well her illusion was working. She had definitely hit one of the White Witch’s heartstrings. For the entirety of this conversation with the illusion of Marie’s dead friend, the Silver Sorceress could have taken any of the opportunities presented by the situation to end the young witch. However, ending her would have been too kind of a punishment for the girl. Living with her guilt was way more satisfying to the silver-clad magic user. While the conversation was going on, the Silver Sorceress was conjuring one last spell as a parting gift. Unlike her others, this one would be timed, so that she could make her escape. Small ice crystals began forming below the White Witch’s feet and they gradually grew while she was distracted.

At this moment, the Silver Sorceress decided it was the moment for her retreat. However, before she left, she etched a warning into the ground.

If I wished it, you would be dead now. If you ever cross me again, you won’t be leaving our next confrontation in one piece.

After the message was written, the Silver Sorceress teleported away while Marie was reliving memories with Joseph. At that very moment, the ice crystals rapidly expanded into sharp icicles. While most of them missed Marie, as they were designed to by the Silver Sorceress, one grazed her leg, drawing out blood. At the same time, the shade that the Silver Sorceress had summoned slowly faded away into the breeze, revealing its true nature, since it could not remain intact when its creator was not present.

Marie fell to her knees, the cold chill from the ice creeping through her veins. Holt was instantly at her side, the sorceress’s winds subsiding with her disappearance. He tried to speak to Marie, tried to assure her that all was well, but she couldn’t hear him. Her vision began to blur, a soft breeze carrying the smell of wheat and fresh game into her nostrils.

Marie looked down to see her hands were those of a child, and the cold she felt came from the forest, beckoning her to return. A small village crept behind her, its denizens shooing her off into the wilderness, happy to be rid of the child with the loaded finger. It was a brief glimpse, but Marie knew that this was Gwyneth, her childhood, the fear and abandonment she felt being ushered from the first home she knew.

Marie, Holt’s voice finally made it through, Are you alright?

Marie grabbed her leg, applying pressure to the new cut and wincing at the sting of air brushing against it.

”I . . . I can’t keep doing this, Holt.” she muttered, rocking gently to soothe her physical and mental ache. ”I can’t keep going back to this. I mean look at me!” she shook her head in frustration.

”No, this has to change. Gwyneth wasn’t like this, I wasn’t like this. I was strong . . . I know I was . . .”

Holt perched himself on her shoulder as a raven, nestling his head against her neck as a form of comfort, though she knew he didn’t fully understand the sentiment of the gesture.

With time, you’ll regain that strength . . .”

”No,” Marie cut him off, standing quickly and moving toward the mirror at the back of the shed. Her voice was cold.

”This won’t happen again.”

The Calm Before the Storm

Part 2

Lachance Stronghold – Henderson, Nevada
Time: Late Evening, Present Day

Marie and Benjamin were taken to adjacent rooms down a long and winding corridor. The walls were etched at the top and bottom with intricate vines that seemed to twist around one another in the corner of one’s eye. The decor was rustic, almost medieval, with grandiose furnishings and wall hangings, many of which sported rich banners and clothes dyed royal purples or deep greens; Faerie colors, Marie noticed.

The two of them were given as much comfort as was available; Marie was taken to a spare bedroom constructed for witches seeking asylum, one of a few that dotted the whole of the sanctuary, while Ben was carefully placed on a large bench in one of the work rooms so as not to get blood or fur on the good linens.

Genevieve came to Marie’s room first, two women in tow, one carrying a censure and a pewter bowl, the other a black book and short dagger. They positioned themselves in a triangle, Genevieve at the foot of the bed, the two witches on either side of Marie.

“It is a most insidious poison that courses through your veins,” Genevieve cautioned Marie, taking the book in her hands. “Designed to sap our kind of our strength, deplete our will and weaken the cunning flame. It is imparted on silver objects via a ‘blessing,’ though few who have felt its sting would think it so.”

She leaned down with a smile.

“Fortunately, the rite to purge your body of this curse is a simple one, if not a little time consuming. We will need to bleed you, however, just a little. The herbs in the censure should dull your senses. Close your eyes now.”

Marie did as asked, letting herself drift away, taking in the bitter scent of the burning herbs. It was familiar, traces of belladonna, mandragora, ergot, trance inducing herbs used in works of physical and spiritual flight. A wave of euphoria came over Marie. Her muscles relaxed, her mind was at ease, and slowly she fell into a deep sleep, no, something more than sleep. Her eyes fluttered open once more, but as her vision cleared, she saw herself lying in bed, the witches hard at work.

It had been too long since Marie had undergone the spirit flight, releasing her spirit from her body in the traditional way. She smiled as she watched them work, Genevieve reciting an incantation in some old French dialect, one witch wafting the smoke from the censure over Marie’s body, the other bringing the bowl and blade to her outstretched arm.

Marie’s spirit flinched as she watched herself be cut, though she could feel nothing. A stream of black bile poured from her veins into the waiting vessel, a result of the enchantment, Marie thought. The dark fluid continued to fill the pewter bowl. So much fled her body that Marie wondered if they meant to bleed her dry. After a few more moments, however, her arm began to bleed red once more, prompting the witches to cover it to stop the bleeding.

Genevieve took the filled container into both hands, incanting over it until its contents burst into flames. Marie’s spirit felt invigorated, stronger, though not at peak strength. Her body was covered and left to rest, Genevieve brushing a stray hair from Marie’s face as she whispered into her ear.

“Rest now, and do not exert yourself unnecessarily. We’re off to help the wolf. He should be fine when you wake.”

They filed into the other room where Ben lay motionless on the bench, a second pair of witches, one man and one woman, strapping his limbs to the legs of the bench in case he became violent. It seemed harsh, but Genevieve couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t rip his way through the sanctuary if given a chance. Marie followed in silence, noting Ben’s nostrils opening slightly upon her arrival. Could he sense her spirit?

Holt hopped around on a nearby table as a shadowy raven, motioning with his beak to an opened manuscript detailing the procedure the witches were to perform. Genevieve ran her finger over the page, ensuring she understand the finer details before turning to Ben.

“I don’t know if you can hear me,” she spoke plainly, her voice firm with little sign of any other emotion. “Or if you can even understand me as you are. Regardless, the illness which plagues you is twofold. The silver in your system paralyzes you, as I understand, but the blessing applied to the bullets is also working against you. Now,” Genevieve spoke louder, circling around Ben to a large bowl filled with dried purple flowers.

“If the rantings of an eighteenth century Swedish alchemist are to be believed, a fumigation of dried aconite petals will stimulate the muscles and upset your system enough to cause a violent reaction similar to nausea. The common name for aconite is wolfsbane, quite deadly to your kind as I hear. Fear not, the fumes won’t kill you, though I cannot speak to any side effects you may experience after your system has been purged.”

Marie moved closer to Ben, running an invisible hand over his head. She hoped it might be enough to calm him. This was undoubtedly a highly stressful situation for him and the wolf. Had he not already been turned, he would surely have done so by now.

Genevieve placed the smoking herbs near to Ben’s face, wafting the smoke into his nostrils. At the same time, a woman knelt down and carefully cupped his snout, gently pouring a cool, bitter liquid into his mouth.

“We’ve prepared a tincture for the nausea. There are a few muscle relaxers in there as well. I’m afraid that is all we can do for now. According to Marie’s notes, you should regain feeling and mobility soon, though the nausea might make you a little rowdy. Apologies for the restraints, but I must keep the coven’s best interests in mind. Try to rest. We’ll alert your friends to signs of improvement.”

Genevieve led her witches from the room, locking the door behind her and ordering a few of them to check in regularly. She passed by the room holding Kat, Yeong, and Ji, looking them over to make sure they hadn’t gotten themselves into trouble, then turned a corner and returned to the tree at the center of the stronghold.

Some time later. . .

Marie felt the pull of her body stirring. She’d sat at the foot of her bed, glancing back to Ben’s room now and again to look for signs of movement. Her awareness faded, her senses dampening as she returned to her awakening form. As she sat up in her bed, Marie could feel the sting of the cut used in the rite, though it had healed remarkably in the time since Genevieve’s purification. She scanned the room, catching Holt pacing the room as a hare in her periphery.

Awake at last, Holt sounded satisfied, pleased even. He hopped up onto the bed and sat next to Marie. I can feel your strength returning as we speak. How do you feel?

”Better,” Marie let out in a single breath, stretching her arms above her head and yawning. ”It’s been a long day.”

Indeed, but now that we’ve had a chance to rest, will you tell me what you saw? It was a memory, wasn’t it?

Marie shook her head.

”Not now, I need a bit of fresh air. I’ll tell you outside.”

The Calm Before the Storm

Part 1

Location: Hoover Dam – Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: Late Evening, Present Day

Marie fell to the ground with enough force to knock the wind out of her. She had passed through many of Puck’s portals, but their composition was entirely different, more sophisticated in Marie’s opinion. Where the Ambassador linked places through doors opened via the Arcane Stream, Puck’s doors connected to the soul of a place, his presence infused within the very stones. No matter her method of travel, Marie was safe . . . well, relatively speaking. She glanced at her wounded party, all understandably shaken by their brush with death. Somehow, they had emerged victorious.

Holt formed next to Marie, wispy hands running over the length of her arm as a sort of rudimentary comfort. His attempts at emotion were well received.

Are you well? he spoke softly to her mind, trying not to surprise her further.

Marie’s strength had been completely sapped. The bullet’s poisoned continued to work its way through her veins, slowly draining her vitality. It was a vicious weapon the Hounds wielded. Had she not conjured that memory, had Gwyneth’s Sight not been in her hand, Marie might have fallen.

Well as can be expected, her mental response was sluggish, bearing the weight of her physical fatigue.

Marie turned up to find the Ambassador standing over her, words falling from her lips in irregular passes, fading as she struggled to fight the bullet’s poison. She saw the glint of the phone being handed to her and weakly grasped it. Had she been in a better way, Marie might have appreciated the charm on the back. As the Ambassador took her leave, Marie turned back to the others, Benjamin noticeably more damaged than she.

We have to get him help soon, Marie’s thoughts were like a whisper to Holt. I might have something useful back with the Lachance witches . . .

Worry about yourself, Holt interrupted. Your energy is all but gone, and your strength will continue to deplete until you undergo a purifying rite, one I’m sure the Lachance witches know.

But the question remained, how would they get back to the Lachance family stronghold? Marie and Benjamin were in no condition to travel, and Puck’s door required a more direct link to the target location than Marie possessed. Holt could carry Marie and Ben, but Yeong, Ji, and Kat were all rather close to him at this point; they’d throw a fit if Marie spirited him away. Fortunately, Genevieve Lachance had been a gracious host to Marie and provided her with a means of returning to their stronghold.

Marie riffled through the small bag at her side, filing through the miscellaneous witching instruments before happening upon a long, white wand. It was crudely fashioned, resembling a limb more than the intricate ceremonial implements she’d seen before. The only signs of its power were small inscriptions along each side, written in the same tongue as the magic mirror in the desert, but these words she couldn’t read, not in her current state. Despite this, she knew the wand’s purpose.

With some difficulty, Marie positioned herself closer to the group, the twins and Kat all huddled around Benjamin. She grabbed hold of his back foot, flinching at his soft whimper.

”Everyone place a hand on Benjamin,” Marie commanded with clenched teeth. She could sense their unease, understood their hesitation, but had no time to deal with any objections. Eventually, all did as asked with the exception of the Dover Twins who promised to keep in touch.

Marie turned to Holt, giving him a weak nod. He took the wand in both hands, dark tendril-like claws wrapping around branch like an enveloping black pitch. Then he snapped the wand in half, releasing a deafening crackle of energy. There was no flash of light, no wind or mist, they had simply vanished, fading from one place to the next.

Lachance Stronghold – Henderson, Nevada
Time: Late Evening, Present Day

All became clear once more. The sudden blur of one world fading into the next began to melt away. When at last their eyes adjusted, they were met with a strange spectacle indeed. Before them stood a tree far larger than words could describe, its bark white as snow, emanating a soft glow that was icy yet comforting. Its long branches were littered with silver leaves and crimson blossoms, all floating on an ethereal wind that gave the illusion of dancing, or perhaps they were dancing. The tree called to them with a faint hum like the chiming of bells, was it singing?

A slender figure approached from a long corridor leading into that divine arboretum, scarlet locks falling around her painted features. Genevieve Lachance, head of the Lachance witches, came to greet her weary guests. She could see it in their eyes, the source of their suffering.

“The Hounds,” she spat with disgust, kneeling down and cupping Marie’s face. “What have they done now?”

”S-ss-silver b-bullets.” Marie struggled to speak. How effective could this weapon of the Hounds be? Surely their knowledge of witchcraft wasn’t so sophisticated, nor her powers so weak, that she could be so easily bested by a simple graze from a bullet.

”Blessed silver,” Holt corrected, falling onto Genevieve’s shoulder in the form of a raven. ”The sort used by The Winter Court . . .”

“Don’t speak their name,” Genevieve warned, shuttering at the mere mention of the infamous hunters. “I know their handiwork, and worry not, my dear, I can reverse whatever ills they have inflicted.”

Marie didn’t follow Genevieve's and Holt’s conversation, but she was relieved all the same.

“That, however,” Genevieve pointed to Ben, the corners of her mouth turned down. “That is beyond my power. I can do nothing for your lycanthropic friend, nor do I fully understand why you’ve brought them here.”

Genevieve turned her back to the others, speaking quietly to Marie.

“I gave you that wand in good faith, White Witch. Your path, your deeds are known to me, theirs are not. I agreed to grant you my aid, not these creatures. The Families are weak, we cannot afford the chaos that your friends here will surely bring.”

Marie shook her head.

”I promise, they can be t-trusted. They’re helping me just as you. They w-won’t cause you any trouble.” Marie only half believed her words. So far, this group had been nothing but chaotic, but she hoped things would simmer down now that they were all out of immediate danger.

”I have a method for healing B . . . the wolf. It’s in my b-b-bags. Holt can find it.”

Holt offered a small nod to both Genevieve and Marie before flying down the corridor to locate Marie’s belongings.

Genevieve sighed.

“Very well,” she turned back to the rest of the group. “You are all safe here, but hear me when I say this place will not abide the chaos your kind brings. You will be mindful, you will be respectful, you will make yourselves scarce, or you will be forced from this place. Where exactly that lands you . . . I couldn’t say.”

She let out a soft chuckle, motioning for a few of the witches throughout the chamber to carry Marie and Ben to separate rooms to be healed, and leading Katarina, Ji, and Yeong to another room to wait.

Promoting one of my NPCs to a full-fledged PC. Here's my CS for Madalena Hawthorne/Hex. And I know we've got a lot of supernatural and magical folk, so to keep a sort of balance I'd also like to make Hekate an NPC for both White Witch and Hex (albeit a very active NPC, but an NPC nonetheless).

Time: Evening (Forever Evening)
Location: Smithy’s Grocery Store - Las Vegas

Marie fell back in exhaustion, catching herself just before hitting the stained tile. She cupped her head with both hands, the sharp return of memory more painful than she might have expected. Her ears rang for a moment as her head throbbed. The air around her shimmered with something old. There was power there, power that hadn’t existed before, at least, not that anyone could tell.

Holt rushed to Marie’s side, his ethereal form phasing through the remnant chaos.

Marie, Holt’s raspy voice conveyed concern as best it could. Are you alright? Did something happen?

He could feel it, of course. The change in Marie’s voice moments before, her posture, the burning embers within that bathed her in an ephemeral glow, all was apparent. It was just as Puck had warned.

Marie stood slowly, the hem of her dress covered in blood, dirt, and ash, her sunhat blown away in the fray, small nicks, bumps, and bruises on her lower legs portraying more harm than she’d realized.

”Yeah,” she groaned, dusting herself off, wincing as she bent her right arm which had caught the brunt of her fall. ”I’ll live.”

The smell of burning flesh carried through Smithy’s, the charred corpses of her victims still blanketed in hot flames. Marie looked them over, emotionless, remorseless, but trying to make sense of what had happened. Gwyneth had taken over, that much she knew. Could she trace this new memory back to others, use it as a torch to illuminate Gwyneth’s other dark secrets? She scanned the room, hoping to find context for her newly discovered memory.

Odette had watched the White Witch change before her eyes. She felt Gwyneth's possession in her purse burn through the enchanted walls warming her leg. It astounded her the power released even at close proximity to another piece of her soul. Every time she turned around it seemed Gwyneth and by extension the White Witch was setting the bar higher. For the briefest of moments she saw Gwyneth herself. Slowly she approached White Witch, seemingly herself once more. Mandate was close by while Bach whispered in her ear on her shoulder.

Quite the reaction, rage and witchfire. I suppose that was only a brief glimpse.” Odette guessed, the fey around them flocked openly surrounding Mandate and some returning to their Ambassador’s side lingering in her shadow and around her head.

That was far too easy, The Hounds would not seriously expect to rid us that easily. Sending in a few people with guns.” The sorceress shrewdly observed the White Witch, physically and her clothing were in a state. “You are prepared to continue fighting, yes?

Marie turned to glare at the Ambassador, but her eyes weren’t filled with hate or rage, only fatigue.

”If I must,” Marie’s voice carried her tiredness, but there was a subtle determination there as well. ”Might be easier if you handed me that box.” Marie gestured to the Ambassador’s purse. She didn’t know if touching Gwyneth’s artifacts would strengthen her any more than being in proximity to them. Either way, Marie was keen to be in full possession of what was hers.

The Ambassador dug the still warm trunk containing Sight out of her purse, “It would certainly be an interesting experiment. This...belongs to you.” She said with a slight begrudging tone. Clearly not eager to hand over her bargaining chip. They had shook hands and a contract was signed. The White Witch was obligated not to do her harm. “It is fair warning of me to say, powerful wards protected this for centuries and the magic that these were steeped in were powerful enough to pull my mind and soul into a world built then maintained by Gwyneth, by her will and her will alone. They are more than just containers for memories.

She offered it.

Marie took the trunk quickly, holding it in both of her hands while looking Odette in the eyes.

”So you really saw her?” Marie sounded invigorated, her excitement apparent. ”She . . . pulled you into another world? Where did she take you? What did you see?”

Marie rattled off questions, all the while opening the box to reveal dozens of small divinatory stones, runes, and coins bearing images and symbols she didn’t fully recognize. The box gave her no trouble, but there was a power in it, something that resonated with her. Perhaps it hadn’t made Marie stronger, but more aware.

I saw you. When-” She hesitated to say, taking an extra moment to tailor her words, “When I first began to look for more information regarding you, I did not fully understand what it meant when I discovered you and Gwyneth are one in the same, just incomplete. When I met you, in past memories - a bubble so to speak, you isolated yourself from the world. You believed that Queen Mab was still ruling in the Summer Courts. Only then did I finally understand. It is like a mirror.” She said holding the White Witch’s attention with her icy blue eyes. As for her other questions, there was no time to go in depth. “There will be time later to discuss, as for now we must focus. Gather what energy you have left to defend you and yours.

Mandate, for her part, had meandered closer during the Ambassador’s exchange with the White Witch, having returned to her side once her playtime was done. The heavy golem was mostly preoccupied with wiping at her hands with a strip of cloth stolen from her victim’s clothing, working to remove his blood from where it pooled at her joints and crevices. Still, some of the conversation managed to float its way into her ears. Hopefully the Ambassador would give her the important footnotes at another time.

”You think there will be more to kill, Miss Ambassador?” she asked, curious and perhaps a little contemplative. Maybe she should have grabbed the man’s gun like she’d been wanting to, she mused. It wasn’t like she needed it, but such things killed faster than she could run. Although, she’d found it inconvenient the last time she’d held one, how it did not fit her finger, or her hand for that matter. The little piece that prevented her digit from operating it didn’t look important…

The Ambassador turned looking up to her friend, “Yes, I do not doubt the Hounds of Humanity are finished with us yet. I remember quite clearly, only a few days ago the destruction they brought to us.” A rumbling agreement from the Fey around them. “We are not the weak-

Three bullet shots rang through the store cutting through the shadows, cutting through the distinct form of a Far Derrig in their rat-like appearance. Their dark red coat bled colour, greying into ash as the silver bullet ‘purified’ the spirit. With it the strangled cry of their death.

The Fey around them erupted with anger, in a blink of an eye their magic soaked their surroundings elongating Odette’s shadow filling it with various shapes making it unrecognizable. The ground in the aisles became swampy with bog, a vile stench permeated the air. The Ambassador braced herself against it. In another blink The Ambassador began warding her surrounding area, Words of Power summoning the Arcane Stream upon them. She stepped behind Mandate, working another layer.

It became abundantly clear that her wards would do them no favours, multiple shots began to tear through the shop. Each with a target, not firing indiscriminately as they did before. Her wards shattered. Fey took shelter in their boggy hatred, erecting natural shields of their own as opposed to magical.

The sudden pain striking Mandate, which a foggy memory compared to the sting of insects, brought with it a violent flinch from the golem, her arms swinging up instinctively to block her face as she nonetheless turned her body towards the assault, presenting a wider target and greater cover. ”Ow!” Ow? Ow? That was unacceptable. She was becoming far, far too familiar with pain, in her opinion; one time was already too many.

But Miss Ambassador came first. The golem whirled on her feet deceptively quickly, resisting the urge to arch her back as the little stings prickled their way across it, rather than her front. She now faced the Ambassador and the White Witch, her body low and hunkered forward, arms spread. ”Miss Ambassador, are you alright? They’re hurting!” Her voice was almost a petulant whine, her ‘v’ of a mouth flipping into a frown. Areas of the golem’s broad chest carried dents, as if pockmarked. Similar marks were doubtlessly appearing on her back now, judging by the noise and stinging pain.

Holt positioned himself between Marie and these new assailants, ghastly arms like black tendrils spread wide to absorb the oncoming fire. A silver bullet passed through his left side, a flash of light and crackle of energy sparking from the impact. Holt screeched in pain, an audible hiss that sent shivers down Marie’s spine. She’d never known he could be hurt.

Looking down on his left hand, a mass of sharp, ethereal claws, a burning hole had pierced Holt’s form, the edges of the wound glowing with white light, preventing the familiar from healing himself. Instinctively, he took Marie’s shoulder and pushed her behind Mandate alongside the Ambassador.

Marie could hear a dull whimper, one of the wolves had been shot. Before she could survey the area to see which one, another bullet came zipping past, grazing her right shoulder. At first, it was nothing, only the slight sting of air hitting the fresh cut left by the edge of the bullet. But soon after, there came a sharp pain, a burning pain that seemed to spread to her entire arm. She winced, holding her arm closer to her body to ease the pain, but it wouldn’t pass.

Witch hunters . . . Holt spoke in a whisper, looking to the attending fey all gathered in the Ambassador’s shadow. He could see the looks in their eyes, some held panic, but others true terror. He wondered if they knew.

”I-I-Is-s this s-silver?” Marie struggled to ask, gasping with every breath, teeth clenched in response to the pain. She knew the powers that iron held over the fey, indeed, over any magic; she knew the stories of witches being harmed by silver, but never had she experienced the malice of witch hunters or their instruments . . . not in this life anyway.

Holt nodded, looking down to find that his wound had only partially closed.

Their weapons are blessed. These are the armaments of witch hunters, your magic alone cannot halt their progress. But perhaps our magic combined . . . Holt turned to the Ambassador, now fully visible in gruesome detail, a black shade with no distinguishable features save a head full of jagged teeth and two long tendril-like arms sporting vicious claws.

Holt finally appearing and pushing the White Witch around meant she was as affected by their weaponry as The Ambassador’s wards were. The familiar was a shadowy apparition with teeth in what she assumed was his true form. White Witch herself was injured from a bullet graze. Mandate had clear dents across her chest and arms. She assured Mandate, “I am alright.” Her brow furrowed, switching to new tactic. Do as her allies did, the fey had in their expression of anger changed their surroundings to their advantage. From what she could see the ground had become swampy and difficult to trek through. The items on all the shelves were still there, haphazardly but they remained.

The Fey in her shadow whimpered as Bach tried to console them, he tugged on her ear. “My Lady, we cannot remain.

She nodded. “White Witch, we need to gather everyone close, set traps and slow down their advance. We may not be able to affect them directly but everything around them is still susceptible.” White Witch seemed to be focusing elsewhere, Odette snapped her fingers in front of her face. “No matter how battered you are, focus allow the pain to sharpen your actions. Fan the flames.” Odette adapted a hardened tone, firmly trying to get her attention. Stabilize the fear. The Ambassador hardly wanted to send the Fey into certain death and it would soon mean they would be surrounded, there was only so much Mandate could do. “I need time to craft our escape.

The rings of dents ticked time away, Odette closed her eyes calling upon the Arcane Stream the shelves of groceries began to levitate surrounded by misty blue. Some of the floating cans were shot out of the air mistaken for a true target. A shout from one of the Hounds told them they were not far, perhaps conserving their limited supply? Soup cans, bags of pasta, boxes of powdered potatoes were lifted scattered into the air at random. Another shot sprayed soup contents, feeding the swamp.

Marie followed the Ambassador’s words, straining her eyes, which had begun to glaze over with a soft haze. This nullifying poison was spreading, weakening her, draining her stamina, dulling her mind. A tool of the witch hunters, she thought, to make their victims unable to protect themselves or fight back. But Marie was no second rate witch. Gwyneth had made herself known before, twice now. Perhaps these circumstances were exactly what she needed to unlock that hidden potential.

Holt, Marie’s mind linked with Holt’s, even her inner voice carrying the same fatigue as her body, Shake the earth, stir the winds, don’t let them any closer.

Holt gave a single nod, his ephemeral body coalescing into a mass of dark shadows, shifting into the form of a large raven. Off he flew into the fray, carrying on his wings an unnatural gust of air. Around the Hounds he flew, drawing some of their fire as they struggled to see his misty figure in the growing fog. The wind became so strong it threatened to topple still standing shelves. The Hounds’ bullets flew straight, but their focus was gone.

Soon after, Holt assumed a form Marie had seen only once, the one gifted to him by Joseph, that of a black goat. He stomped around Smithy’s, bucking his head, long, gnarled horns scraping the walls. With each pass, the ground beneath them began to shake, upsetting their balance further, forcing them remain stationary to catch their balance.

Marie used this time to conjure her strength, or that of Gwyneth, and find some piece of that old magic. Much to her surprise, it came with relative ease, a gift she had witnessed before but had not always been able to perform . . . the gift of fascination. She lifted her arm, two windows near the entrance shattering in response, spraying the still encroaching hounds with shards of glass. The winds summoned by Holt became more wild with her aid, as did the trembling, now stretching to the walls and ceilings, causing light fixtures and display shelves to fall and add to the swamp of debris.

Odette caught her balance of the shaking ground against Mandate, that would be what they needed. Disturbing the environment around them was the perfect deterrent. The Ambassador turned her back to Mandate, summoning her will to open a portal. Bracing herself, she shut out the world around her, shutting out the audience, closing her mind to all foreign distractions. She acclimatized to the vibrating ground, the noise faded away. Quietly the sounds of a rushing river came to her in her imagination, far away and changing from the sounds of a river to a heartbeat. She lifted her arms into the air blue energy flowing down from her hands to her arms. Words of Power spoken in French Odette invited the Arcane Stream to open and it responded in kind.

A line of energy was drawn down, it widened in a triangle brightening their surroundings considerably. A wave of life flowing from it. From it slowly a door took shape, first it’s wooden frame, panels and then finally a golden door knob and hinges. The portal was formed after a couple minutes. Light outlined the frame. Opening her eyes, Odette looked to her right seeing the White Witch pushing through her injuries then to her left she saw two guns pointed at her.

Dread spread through her stomach. Two Hounds had broke away from their main formation, sneaking alongside the parameters to arrive alongside them. Turning to face them magic still gathered in her hands, no time to properly react, the pair of guns fired. Odette flinched at the first bullet ricocheting off of Mandate’s right arm while the other found its home in her shoulder. The force drove her back into Mandate’s left arm. Stumbling to a knee.

The pain was white hot blooming down her arm and collarbone. The burn from the blessed bullet spread blocking magic from her right arm. She felt familiar with the pain as if she was experiencing the poison of iron once again. “My lady!” Bach shouted, growing back to a human size supporting her torso. Lifting her clear of Mandate’s arm.

Odette let out a drawn out groan, biting down hard on her lower lip. Stifling the cry.

Ki-Kill them.

Mandate barely heard the command, though it was hardly necessary. Something had squeezed inside of her for a terrifying moment after the startling pain had bloomed on her side rather than from behind. Then it had returned, and made a seemingly permanent home for itself when Mandate registered Odette’s motion in her arms.
The sight of the ambassador on her knee, a wound driven into her shoulder, was what solidified the feeling. No. And then the Ambassador was leaving her arms, her mind too stricken in that moment to protest. There was a chorus in her mind-no, rather, her mind was the chorus, babbling and incoherent. Fear, twisting inside of her like a knife inside fragile human flesh. Rage, scalding and seething, demanding.

It was a combination of the latter and simple instinct that snapped the golem free of her trance. The tile was exploding beneath her foot before she had even completed her turn, a wordless and senseless scream tearing itself free as if from a hundred throats in discordant harmony. The soothing surreality of her multi-toned voice was gone, leaving only noise and fury.

There was no adrenaline in her body, no veins to carry blood and no heart to race, but the distance between herself and her targets seemed to eat itself up at a frantic pace, the ground exploding beneath every stomp in her long-legged, hunched sprint.

The hounds, for their part, seemed to realize the futility of their gunfire after only a moment. Their backpedaling retreat became a frantic dive to escape her reach. Her arm swung around with all the speed of a frantic rage, the strike of her claws snagging and tearing through one soldier’s equipment, followed by the flesh of their side. A strange buzz swept across her hand in the moment of contact, but it didn’t matter. It was, compared to destroying them completely and utterly, a secondary issue.

The hound was sent into a crimson spiral to the ground, their scream echoing oddly in the magic-rich air. The other paramilitant was caught in a firmer grasp; Mandate’s hand struck true, snapping around their throat like a vice as the golem skidded and stumbled past. It was only a momentary restraint that did not see them decapitated as her first Hound had been.

It didn’t matter. They had to die. Anything else was unacceptable, and anything too slow was not currently practical… But Mandate would allow herself a small vindictive act. Her stampeding became a skidding turn, her occupied hand slamming into the ground hard- accompanied by her target’s neck- as she fell onto all fours. Lifting up the dazed and choking man, the golem lunged to close the distance with the injured secondary ‘soldier’, still writhing and scrabbling upon the ground. The choking man was slammed head-first into his agonized companion, and suddenly both were silent. Not enough, have to be sure. Her hand released his throat, covering the entirety of the man’s face. Screaming with that same agonizing fury, she drove him downwards.

The ensuing force of his head striking his companion’s turned both into what could only be called shrapnel, and left her hand buried into the floor up to the elbow.

Grasping Bach’s shoulder The Ambassador pushed herself up back to her feet. Feebly, her breathing was shallow, blood bloomed across her white blouse. Sweat beaded at her forehead. She felt like everything was fogged, growing distant by the minute. She saw Mandate’s retaliation. She looked to the door then pointed, “W-we need to leave.

Bach nodded gently towing her to the door, with her free hand she grasped the doorknob tugging it open. All the while the floor was unstable with the disruptions from Holt and the White Witch. A wall of light greeted her as the door swung wide open. She grasped the frame, looking to both White Witch then to Mandate. The Hounds were on the other side of their defenses, Fey came flowing behind her running to the retreat of the portal. The flowing energy of the Arcane Stream gave her the final push to cross the threshold to safety.

Marie made a motion to Holt, bidding him to return.

Holt did as commanded, making one final revolution around the room, trotting down the isles, dodging around struggling Hounds, nicking a few with his horns as he passed. Before returning to Marie’s side, Holt passed by the other half of their group.

The Ambassador has opened a portal for us. Gather yourselves and fall back. Further efforts to protect yourself will be in vain.

With that warning issued, Holt returned to his ethereal form, appearing next to Marie as a mass of dark shadows, supporting her with his magic.

Marie could feel the influx of power, it was enough for her to make her escape. Picking herself up, Marie followed the Ambassador through the portal, the chaos of Smithy’s slowly fading to black, replaced by the soft glow of the night sky and the sound of rushing water.

We Witches Three

Part I, The Witch Mother’s Secret

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, The Witches Stronghold
Time: 12  p.m., Day after LHU Attack

”Do not insult my intelligence, Circe.” Hekate snapped at Circe, pacing over the lavish tile of her inner sanctum, dark garments floating in a phantom breeze. The two witches hadn’t seen nor heard from one another in 180 years, and Circe’s idea of a greeting caught Hekate in a sour mood.

”I meant no disrespect,” Circe appologized, her sultry voice conveying more sarcasm than sympathy. ”But the topic requires further discussion, given recent events . . .”

Hekate glared at her former pupil, falling onto a stone bench with dramatic flair, leaning her head back and releasing a dreadful sigh. Circe had always been meddlesome, more so than Medea, though no one would know it given how isolationist she was. This wasn’t the time for Circe’s prying hands.

”Does it? 2000 years it’s gone withough discussion, why bring it up now, amidst all this chaos? The Winter Court is rising once more, the witches of this city, this country, are falling to lesser men, powerless. The Five Families are short one coven and infighting will soon begin if I don’t maintain control. And then there are my other associates in town . . . I don’t have time for your meddlesome inquiries.”

”Precisely,” Circe rebuted, setting herself next to her mistress, taking Hekate’s hands in hers. ”You don’t have time, but not for the reasons you may think. My Lady, you’re spread too thin, and you haven’t the time to spare to all these pet projects.”

Circe caught Hekate’s attention, staring deeply into her eyes.

”I won’t mince words, you’re nearing your end. You’ve felt it, I know you have. You have been diligent in your protection and granting of the cunning flame for centuries, but there is one duty you’ve overlooked. Finding y-”

”My successor,” Hekate interrupted, turning away from Circe, head turned downward in sulken dismay. ”Yes, I know. The duty I have failed to uphold.”

Hekate spoke of the role of Witch Mother, a unique title but one held before she assumed that mantle. In the years preceding the rise of man, the Witch-Fire took shape, forming a duality that became known as the Witch Mother and Witch Father. It is their nature to be reborn in a continuous cycle; every few centuries a new leader rising from the living, the dead, or the Other. When the new Witch Mother or Father rises, the old one fades. Hekate’s infernal husband, the Bucca, rose to power in the early 15th century, his predecessor, an Egyptian sorceror priest, falling as he rose.

In those early years, Hekate too should have fallen, but something happened. Her successor wasn’t whole. Hekate reigned as the Witch Mother centuries longer than intended, but recently, she could feel the new Witch Mother near, not quite whole, but growing in strength.

”There is too much still at stake. I cannot fall, not while the Winter Court is at work, not while I’m needed.”

”Nor do I wish to see you leave.” Circe spoke with genuine emotion this time, placing a hand on Hekate’s lap and the other cupping her face. ”Medea and I have served you well, have we not? Allow us to shoulder your burdens. She has already been dispatched to see the end of the Winter Court, and I shall take your place as ambassador of the families here, and elsewhere. Do what you must to see your reign last for another 2000 years, but do not fool yourself into believing it will go away, that you have more time.”

Hekate smiled, kissing Circe’s forehead.

”You are too good to me, the both of you. I shall do as you ask . . . but do not fool yourself into believing you my master.” Hekate joked, the two of them chuckling heartily.

Hekate felt a faint pull, someone calling to her. Her face turned sour, her spirits lowered considerably.

What’s wrong, my lady?”

”It would appear time for you to meet one of my associates.”


Part 5

Location: Smithy’s Grocery Store – Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: Late Evening, Present Day

Phantom voices drowned out the screaming patrons of Smithy’s, the encroaching attack fading from vision. Smoke rose over their dimming visage, feint cries calling to Marie in a familiar fashion. The panic, the pain, the rage, all this and more come flooding back in an instant. Blind was she to her surroundings, deaf to the worried cries of Holt and the wolves, numb to the rumbling earth beneath. All that was ceased to be until there was nothing.

Marie closed her eyes, attempting to make sense of her fading world while riding a wave of dread and fear. This unknown, this illusion, it called to her minutes before, beckoning her ashore with invisible light and ethereal bells. It was like a dream, rather, the waking from one. The confusion, the longing, Marie felt them all intimately as she drifted on a silent sea.

And then she awoke to truth; and then she awoke to the past.


Gwyneth sipped merrily her glass of wine, its floral bouquet and honeyed tang cutting through the bitterness she had come to expect. The savory scent of roasted game and sweet confectioneries filled the dining hall of her recent friends. Each platter was expertly presented on fine silver, the finest she had seen in her stay. The witches of London had become accustomed to finery. Truly they had spoiled her.

They were four in number, Gwyneth included, all seated at one end of a long table stained a few shades darker than actual wood. The others were well mannered yet wild, as they were want to be, while Gwyneth held a definitive air of mystery her peers could never hope to attain.

“Shall we dance tonight?” one of the witches spoke, a fair haired girl of 17 with elegant curls and striking eyes. “The moon is right for it.”

Gwyneth laughed along with the others, their jovial disposition an ironic betrayal of otherwise wicked and hedonic desires.

“We have danced for three moons, Miss,” a young man responded, hair similarly fair but eyes more dull. “Is there nothing more for us to do this night? Perhaps we should away to the west, see the country by cover of night.”

He turned to Gwyneth, taking a sip of his wine. “Would that be agreeable to you, Miss Owens? I would very much like to visit the home of our newest.”

“Oh let’s!” the first witch exclaimed.

Gwyneth shifted uncomfortably in her seat, sipping her wine for the duration of their conversation, sad at having reached the bottom of the glass. Her own flight to London was to escape the complications of home, if ever she had one.

“It is entirely uninteresting, I assure you. Perhaps a stroll through the back garden would be more fruitful?”

“Oh come now,” their last companion interjected, a portly woman with dark hair, “modesty doesn’t become you, Gwyneth. Let us see the forests of your home, hear their whispers and dance among them.”

Before Gwyneth had a chance to object, a loud crash sounded through the hall leading to the dining room. Two tall men in dark coats ominously lingered in the entryway, mouths covered by scarves, the rest of their faces obscured by the brims of their hats. They moved with purpose, brandishing swords with feint inscriptions at their waists. Their intent was clear.

The witches stood in unison as if communicating their strategy through a mental link. Each cast out their arm, sending their assailants soaring into the wall behind, paintings and other decor shaking and clattering to the floor in response. Gwyneth gestured for her friends to flee. They were reluctant to leave, but the seething rage in her eyes made them aware of her motive.

And darkness overcame her, world fading like a dream.


Marie awoke from her memory, but her mind was set to one purpose. This world mirrored the other, this moment liken to another. The rage that filled her once before filled her now, the desire for freedom, to be rid of persecution, all pooled into Marie.

Two figures stood out among the destruction, Hounds dressed all in black, faces obscured, weapons raised and aimed at her companions. She could hear their berating, feel the sting of their presence. She hated them more than before. It was a simple motion, a single wave that sent them back into the wall near the entrance. Marie inched forward, stepping over the mangled forms of freshly dead Hounds.

”You will torment me no more,” her voice was her own, yet held the sound of something older, the hint of an accent, the ripple of power and something unnatural.

A single spark fell from her fingertips, and in response the Hounds were set aflame, fire creeping up their legs, engulfing their bodies, drowning their cries. She held them there for a time, relishing in their agony, the sound of it a familiar song, a well loved tune.

Her rage settled, her mind began to steady, and yet she was different. Not less herself, but more. And so the old became the new, a memory long lost returned in the heat of battle.
It wouldn’t be the last.

Witching Hour

Part IV

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, The Witches Stronghold
Time: 3 a.m., Day after LHU Attack

”Black spirits and white, red spirits and grey,

Mingle, mingle, mingle, you that mingle may.

Round, around, around, about, about,

All ill come running in, all good keep out.

Here's the blood of a bat.

Put in that, oh, put in that.

Here's libbard's bane.

Put in again.

The juice of toad, the oil of adder.

Those will make the younker madder.

Put in; there's all, and rid the stench.

Nay, here's three ounces of the red-hair'd wench.

Round, around, around, about, about,

All ill come running in, all good keep out.”

The Witching Hour heralds the arrival of malediction. Within the hour, when God’s light is driven from faithful hearts, stolen unto waiting arms by night’s black agents, and Heaven’s fire becomes the cunning flame, is when she, the Queen of Night, is at her peak.

And she is not alone.

And the mad dance begins.

The wheel turns sunwise, thrice about, invoking the ills of this world that lie dormant on the fringe of society, between the civilized and the unknown. Here the Great Sabbath yearns for attendees, feeds their fire and consumes their flame all at once, all at the command of the Witch-Mother, leader of this ungodly procession. At every corner the Guardians stand ready like points on a compass: The hare, the raven, the serpent, and the toad.

Gathered at the hour and place of their choosing are the most powerful of the Four remaining families of old, whose hold over Las Vegas and the state have begun to wane. The Four heads come together; Syrena Rowan, Aaron Wright, Cassandra Loyal, and Genevieve Lachance. In their shadow are four accompanying witches from their respective lines. Hekate, their queen, towers above them in full sorcerous glory, assuming her truest form. Beneath her, Medea, witch of Corinth, gathers the gifts brought forth by the Four Families, placing them delicately into the vessel, each adding to the potency of their charm.

Three seats remain, each filled by an effigy, a totem to draw power from the name etched onto its person. The first to Roman, who attends only in spirit, the force of his memory enough to conjure the Adessi flame. The second to Aradia, whose grieving presence is felt and whose willing aid is given. And the Third to the Witch-Father, known to most as Bucca, and to the Wright line as Baphomet or Qayin, whose wildness dances in the heart of every witch.

Thirteen is tradition. Thirteen gather to work a spell, to plot the end of a common enemy, to protect their own.

”Sing my beautiful children!” the Witch-Mother laughs, her wild dance encompassing all within her sanctuary, their ecstatic screams a baleful symphony.

”Sing your love and sing your hate! Sing your desires and let them fall upon you. We unravel the threads of fate to grant a wish. Let us weave a wicked web, my loves, one the impudent Hounds will dread to penetrate. Come, more gifts for our vessel, more thread for the knot, more fire for our spell!”

“Three hairs from my head and one for each son,”

“The ring from whence our line hath begun,”

“A promise issued by infernal father,”

“A branch from tree that gave me bother,”

“Piece and piece and piece and part, all ill come in, all good depart!”

The Four witches and their partners sang their part, each adding their own piece to the spell, coming together in unison for the final chant.

”Danger turn with haste by charm, from you to those who mean you harm. The spell is done!” Hekate concluded with a booming voice, the pool at the center of her temple, the acting vessel of their spell, spilling forth a pillar of black smog, lead by Medea into the Four heads, filling their nostrils and dissolving into their core. This act would not be without consequence, for all in attendance, save Medea and Hekate, would be exhausted for days to come. But they would be safe.

”Away, my children,” Hekate commanded her flock with the sterness of a mother, ”you need your rest. I will deliver proper instruction to each of you when the time has come. Now, away!”

Into shadows the witches fade, all but Medea and Hekate, who take to a bench opposite the scrying pool.

”Well done!” Medea congratulated her mistress, voice brimming with admiration. ”Tonight has seen the beginning to the end. As your plan unfolds, those disgusting Hounds will fall, and The Winter Court with them.”

Hekate smiled, pulling Medea in for a long embrace.

”Thank you, my dear, but I cannot assume full responsability for the task ahead. The glory shall go to us all!”

Medea’s eyes were bright with joyful tears and wide with venerate bliss.

”How humble of my lady to share her success! Tell me, what shall be my role in it? I am eager to know.”

Hekate let out a jovial laugh.

”Eager indeed. Well, let me tell you then. During his brief attendence at tonight’s revelry, my husband made me aware of a similar plot by his dearest brother, Robin Goodfellow. A fledgling witch he has taken in and gifted with the cunning flame, sending her in his stead to worm her way into the Hound’s ranks. I would ask that you guide her way, from near or far, and ensure her success.”

Medea’s expression turned sour, moving away from Hekate, brows furrowed in rage.

”Y-y-you would have me play the role of idle wife? I am to turn my gifts to the aid of another’s success rather than my own, as it was with that bastard Jason? No, you cannot ask this of me!”

Medea stood furiously, pacing the room with heavy steps.

”No, I’ll not play such a passive role, not again! Why, my lady? Why ask this of me?”

Hekate chased after Medea, placing a gentle hand on her chin.

”Fear not, my love.” she spoke in a matronly tone. ”This story shall not end as that one. This is your story, our story, not Jason’s, not the novice, ours. You will find glory in her success, and your feats shall be recognized thusly.”

”I . . . I suppose you’re right.” Medea conceded. ”Apologies, my lady. I meant no disrespect.”

Hekate embraced Medea once again, stroking her head and running her fingers through Medea’s auburn hair.

”There now. No reason for apologies, but we mustn’t delay any further. Each momentthe Hounds yet draw breath is a moment we must sieze. Away, Medea. Find the young witch in Goodfellow’s company, the door shall be open to you.”

Medea nodded, fading into a shadowy wisp, then into nothing.

”And when one door opens, another closes . . . or is it the other way around?” A mysterious voice echoed through the sanctuary. A woman’s voice, low and melodic, and entirely familiar.

Hekate stood erect, eyes wide with anticipation. She turned to face the voice’s origin with a wide grin.

”The Gods have truly blessed me this year if I know that voice by ear.”

The woman laughed.

”A blessing you may soon find a curse,” she joked. ”But for now, a blessing all the same. We have much to discuss, My Lady.”

The stranger stepped forward, bathed in sunlight absent the sun. Her skin was an ivory dream, crimson robes of finest silk shimmering on her delicate frame, golden curls weaving around rich jewels and bands befitting a queen.

Hekate was momentarily blinded, not by her companion’s divine glow, but by a flash of nostalgia.

”Indeed we do. But first, welcome home . . . Circe.”

Judge and Jury

Part III, Hopkins Man

Location: Shadow of the Moon Occult Curiosities – Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: 2 p.m., Day After the Attack on LHU

Madalena held up the phone, displaying the message to Charlie and Puck, her trembling fingers shaking the screen such that it was only just legible. She couldn’t tell if it was fear or excitement, but either way, it was difficult to contain. Entirely unsure of what to expect from the Witchfinder General, Maddi began assessing potential dangers, mind racing with thoughts of imminent harm and failed reconnaissance. Her last encounter with the Hounds hadn’t ended quite as amicably as she would have liked. The was no assurance that this time would be any different . . . well, except that Puck had promised her safety, but such a promise did little to calm her quaking nerves.

”We don’t have long,” Maddi let out an anxious sigh, ”Ol’ Witchfinder has given us the hour to haul ass to this address. We need to get the plan straight, fast.”

Charlie squinted at the address. “This guy is expecting you to throw someone under the bus to save your own neck. Do we know anybody we can give them a solid lead on? Some shithead that we can toss to the dogs without a problem?” Charlie suggested, then coughed into her fist. “Playing judge and jury on behalf of the Hounds feels pretty slimy, but… it’s us versus them.

She shrugged, “They’ve made that painfully clear. That address though is for an old flower shop here in Chinatown, I don’t remember seeing it open for the longest time though.

”I believe I have just the scoundrel for the job . . .” Puck eerily chimed in, closing in on the pair and lowering his voice, as if a mere utterance of the name would summon the owner’s presence.

”The Red Devil has long been in my possession, but it hasn’t always had a seat in Lost Haven. Some time ago, when the tavern was introduced to the city’s underworld, I met a magician named Phoebus. A Goetic Sorcerer by trade, well learned in the Arts of King Solomon. The Solomonic tradition is a noble one, but Phoebus sought certain pleasures not found in the Legemeton. He revelled in death, cherished the thought of it, longed to bath in mortal blood . . . particularly children. He asked my protection in exchange for his underwhelming powers.

“I refused, of course. Though I’ve seen my fair share of infanticide, it wasn’t a profitable business decision at the time, and Phoebus had nothing of value. He ‘cursed’ The Red Devil, a pitiful jinx really, attempting to sap my wealth. I never got around to dealing with him, but I know he still calls Lost Haven home.”

Maddi shuddered at the thought. It was true that witchcraft and other systems of magic were littered with histories of human sacrifice and the slaughter of innocents. Such magic was generally considered taboo among most circles of magicians these days, but not all. She tried not to think about it.

”If a bastard like that is kicking around, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be reported, especially if he starts causing trouble for the city.” Madalena nodded in agreement, looking to Charlie for confirmation.

The alchemist made a face at the description, “Christ, he sounds like he’ll fit the bill just fine. Yeah I have no problem, let’s drop his name for the General to chase. With that in mind, I want to prep a few things just in case things go sideways. Can I see your trash can?

Location: Sweet Narcissus Flower Shop– Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: 2:48 p.m., Day After the Attack on LHU

Sweet Narcissus had fallen into a state of disrepair after a string of Metahuman attacks along the street earlier in the year. In fact, many of the surrounding businesses had either moved to vacant locations elsewhere in Chinatown, or shutdown completely due to increased activity in meta crime; and the terroristic threats during Pax Metahumana didn’t help matters.

Charlie and Maddi ducked behind a bus stop across the street, Puck moving silently in tow, invisible to all, even those gifted with Sight. Now was their chance to strategize.

”The Witchfinder’s likely expecting me to come alone,” Madalena whispered, mostly in fear that the General had eyes and ears on the flower shop. Then again, he was likely watching their every move since they left the store.

”Should we risk fussing things up by having you come in with me? I don’t want him to target you.” Madalena looked at Charlie with genuine concern. She trusted in Charlie’s abilities, but Maddi was concealing a spell that could save her from death. She wished she would have had the foresight to make more than one poultice.

Charlie pursed her lips, having pulled a sweater to wear and hide everything she made inside it. Lining the sleeves were aluminum tubes full of salt, plastic shards, and copper. On the inside of the pockets she carried spools of magnesium and a borrowed packet of matches. She’d created a small face mask and pulled the hood up.

Charlie gripped her staff, feeling more confident with her pockets full. “I’m terrified, but... ” She squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s going to happen one way or another, I’m on their radar after yesterday. I can’t pretend because I wore a mask, they won’t see me with a staff and not put two and two together. So, I’m going with you.

Can’t turn back now.” She gestured with her staff at the flower shop.

Maddi nodded, hoping that Puck might have some encouraging words, but he was nowhere to be seen, observing from afar as usual.

With caution, Madalena and Charlie tiptoed into the abandoned flower shop, the door creaking loudly on rusty hinges. Low beams of light shone under long, black drapes that looked recently hung. Dust swirled around their feet as they shuffled through the store. It was barren, devoid of any signs of life; no dusty or broken flower pots, no watering cans or garden decor, no withered flowers or crisp seed packets, nothing to indicate the nature of this once bustling business. Was this the right place? No escort arrived upon entrance, no armed security, nothing to suggest the Hounds had ever occupied this location.

And then . . .

“Come in . . .” a muffled voice crept over the empty stone, beckoning the duo to the center of the store. It was a harsh, gravelly sound that grated on their eardrums, sending a chill up their spines.

Amidst a pile of shattered glass casing and fallen ceiling lie a walkie-talkie filtering the mysterious voice through layers of sharp static. Just as Madalena and Charlie leaned in to take a closer look, Hounds in dark body suits began to file through the front and back entrances, encircling the two, weapons held at attention. Soon after, a tall man in a long, draping coat and a wide brimmed hat entered, catching their attention.

“I see you’ve brought a friend,” the same deep voice echoed through the store, spilling from beneath the brim of the stranger’s hat.

“An unexpected turn of events. I thought it only fair to invite a few friends of my own.” He gestured to the crowd of Hounds, each roaring with laughter. It was yet unclear whether the General and his cohorts meant to harm Maddi and Charlie.

“I had hoped you’d be more cooperative, Ms. Hawthorne. Instead, you mock my hospitality by showing me an abomination my men failed to slay once before. Or perhaps you bring her as a gift?” A coarse smile peeked out above the collar of the General’s coat. Madalena could make out the remnants of a scar on his upper lip and a very faint European accent, though it was difficult to place.

Charlie straightened her shoulders, jutting her jaw out. Resorting to solid bravado, even at the sight of being surrounded, scared the living shit out of her. She rubbed the ground with the ball of her foot, slowly. “Talkin’ real tough for a bunch of cowards storming a university during the summer time where the volume of students was at its lowest.

Who am I to talk, we’re a wiley bunch of abominations. Able to ruin your day by fucking around with a few towers.” Charlie said, a tap of her foot and one from her staff. “Anyway, we’ve got bigger fish to fry than little ole me. Right, Maddi?

”R-right.” Madalena struggled to respond, clearing her throat and trying to latch on to Charlie’s brazen attitude. ”Right. You asked for information and I’ve got it, The Alchemyst is just an associate, an asset to you, just like me.”

The General’s hat obscured most of his face, but Maddi could make out another sly grin.

“Very well,” the Witchfinder amusedly acknowledged them. “I’ll allow this minor indiscretion if I deem your insights a productive use of my time. So, what have you found?”

Madalena could feel herself perking up. So far so good.

”A demonologist named Phoebus, nasty piece of work. He’s been skulking around Lost Haven for awhile now, responsible for a few missing kiddos late last year. He and a few of his lackies have been laying low on the waterfront. No clue what he’s been up to recently, but that doesn’t really matter to you, does it?”

The General shook his head.

“Very good, Ms. Hawthorne. If indeed this Phoebus is where you suggest, you’ll have proven your worth. But if not . . .”

”I know, you’ll burn me to a crisp.” Madalena interrupted, finally aware of the leverage she and Charlie held. The Hounds seemed to disapprove of her belligerence, murmuring to themselves, some moving in closer, but the General halted their advance.

“That’s quite enough for today.” The General stepped forward, pacing around Charlie and Maddi a few times before gesturing to the exit. “You are free to leave, and as you know, we’ll be in touch.”

Yessir, anything you say.” Charlie replied, sarcastically giving a mock salute. Another tap of her foot, restabilizing the ground where they stood. “After you, Maddi.

The pair moved quickly from the flower store, heading back in the direction of Shadow of the Moon.

”That was . . . exhilarating!” Madalena exclaimed as they walked, unsure if that was the best reaction to their current predicament. The information provided by Puck was legitimate, meaning both Madalena and Charlie were now even more entangled with the Hounds of Humanity than before. Still, Maddi wished to revel in her small victories.

”We actually got away with that, can you believe it? Did you see the look on their faces when you sassed the General?”

Charlie blushed considerably, moving the mask away from her mouth. “Terrifying, but I guess yeah a little shot of adrenaline without the gunfire. I really have no filter when I puff up my chest.” She replied sheepishly. “I’ll be taking some extra precautions to lose any assholes wanting to follow me home.

Rubbing her thumb across her staff she commented, “The General seems to be of a prideful sort, upset at my very presence reminding him he failed in some way. I’m surprised he showed himself at all, even though we didn’t see his face.

”And THAT is exactly how we’re gonna put that bastard six feet under. Hubris is an ugly color on pretty much everyone. The Witchfinder won’t be coasting on waxy wings for much longer.”

Returning to Shadow of the Moon, Madalena bid farewell to Charlie for the day, exchanging numbers to keep in touch and work out their plans for the next time the General knocked on their door. A strange business card also found its way into Charlie’s pocket upon departure, bearing a strange insignia and instructions for entering the demon tavern, The Red Devil.
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