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Augury

Part 3


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




Marie chuckled as she watched Benjamin eagerly huff the packages of meat, his eyes widening in hunger and anticipation with each stride past a different succulent cut. It was a little macabre, she admitted to herself, but it was equally amusing seeing a young wolf so enamored with an otherwise mundane sight.

The three of them, Ben, Katarina, and Marie, or maybe four counting Holt, engaged in small talk during the brief ride to Smithy’s, Marie taking in the lights of the Vegas strip the entire way, Ben being stoic as ever, and Katarina curiously commenting on every building and billboard they passed, acclimating to the modern world a little more with every observance.

Not long after their arrival, the trio was met by the group of siblings, Yeong and Ji striding quickly ahead of two strangers. Marie caught a few glares from Yeong while cautiously greeting the hired help, a pair known as the Dover twins. They were metas, unlike the rest of the group, each of whom possessed some supernatural talent or affliction, and their presence reminded Marie of her time in West Virginia. It had been some months since her last meeting with a metahuman, let alone two. She only hoped that her time on this “team” would fare better than her last.

And then it all fell apart.

The first body to fall was a woman picking up assorted cheeses just behind Marie, then a janitor putting down a wet floor sign. One by one, every normal denizen of Smithy’s was rendered unconscious by an eerily familiar ethereal mist.

Marie, Holt spoke from Marie’s shoulder in an incorporeal form, I know this magic . . .

Before he could finish, the place went dark, emergency lighting quickly buzzing to life in the wake of the blackout. The soft light falling from the ceiling was just enough to illuminate the tops of shelves and cast a pale glow on the laminate floors, but shadows crept up in corners, collecting in pools that shifted unnaturally.

The Fey, Marie thought, looking around, allowing her vision to shift focus that she might see beyond the illusion of darkness. As a witch of great skill, the Sight came naturally to her, but it hadn’t been trained in some time. For now, all she could make out in the dark were pale apparitions of varying sizes, all gathering around a central figure.

Bonsoir, ladies and gentlemen.”

The voice rang like falling nails to Holt and Marie. They knew this woman’s identity long before she introduced herself, the touch of her magic carrying a familiar sting to Holt, her presence sending shivers down Marie’s spine. This was she; the vile harpy, the fetid wench, the loathsome bitch that took Joseph from them.

Marie burned with seething rage, The Ambassador’s words adding fuel to her fire. She ignored the sorceress’s comments, engaging in a mental debate with Holt while she and her minion spoke.

She felt the touch of witches fire the last time we met. Even with her new toys, I doubt she’s a match for us.

Hold fast, Marie. You are not the first to underestimate the Ambassador. Joseph believed himself invincible when last they fought . . . and it was his end.

He was alone, Marie’s thoughts were heavy and sharp, cutting at whatever sensitivities Holt possessed, but I’m not. I possess Gwyneth’s power, I have you at my side, along with three wolves, an elder vampire, and two metahumans. What can she . . .

Hubris. Holt interrupted. You hold a portion of Gwyneth’s true power and are accompanied by two strangers whose strengths you do not yet know, a vampire with no knowledge of the modern world, two temperamental young wolves who care not for you, and one fledgling wolf whose transformations are brought on by any amount of strenuous activity. In fact.

Holt pointed a wispy claw at Ben, who had doubled over in pain much like before in the museum. All these sights and smells, the strange appearance of the attending fey, creatures he had likely never seen before, as well as a giant magical construct and the sudden mystically induced sleep of dozens of humans; it was all clearly too much for him to handle so early in his transformations.

Marie looked at him, wincing at his screams and contortions.

You . . .you’re right. Marie quietly responded, attention shifting between the Ambassador’s slow approach, Ben’s ongoing transformation, and the female Dover going over some half-assed plan of attack. We’re not ready for this . . . but I can’t let get away with what she’s done. Put some distance between us, surround the Ambassador in flames like before.

Holt nodded, floating down from Marie’s shoulder and charging through the ragtag group towards the Ambassador, ignoring the fey at her aid. But as soon as Holt reached their group, as he felt the flames of Marie’s rage engulf him, ready to envelop the enemy in enchanted fire, he stopped, staring down the Ambassador and her faery familiar, unable to advance.

Holt! Marie issued another mental command, but the result was the same.

I-I cannot. Holt responded in frustration, stuck between the opposing groups, his only choice to retreat. Something stands in my way . . . I can do nothing against her. I sense no barrier or ward that hinders my path, I can do nothing.

What the hell is going on? Marie wondered. She lifted her left hand, casting it in the Ambassador’s direction with a small flourish, small sparks falling from her fingertips meant to spout flames that would entrap she and her comrades. But as they neared the faery entourage, they vanished, withered away in the air.

It was the same as Holt, Marie’s magic hadn’t failed, it just couldn’t touch the Ambassador. If there were a ward or some other protective magic in place, Marie would know, Holt would see it, they could find some way through it or around it, but this wasn’t the case. What was stopping them?

And then she felt it. A familiar pull, a silent song that called to her in a faint voice like her own. A piece of Gwyneth was near. Then she remembered, the smallest fragment of a memory drawn forth, a meeting that she had attended with the Ambassador, yet this was only their second time seeing one another. How had she known where to find Marie? How could she protect herself without detection? Why . . .

”That bastard,” Marie spoke aloud, moving around the Dover twins, filing in front of a kneeled over Ben. She was acting on a hunch.

”What did you give him?” Marie questioned the Ambassador, words coated in venom. ”How did you manage it, huh? What could possibly . . . it doesn’t matter. If what I think is true, then you can’t hurt me either, none of you can.” Marie gestured to the Ambassador, Bach, Mandate, and the fey surrounding them. ”Not if she orders it.”

Marie spoke loudly and slowly enough for the others to hear, hoping that this revelation, if proven true, would halt her compatriots from acting on impulse and engaging in a fruitless battle.

As much as Marie wished to end the Ambassador for her past transgressions, other things were at stake.

Puck’s Ward

Part III


Location: Shadow of the Moon Occult Curiosities – Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: 1 p.m., One Day after Present




Horse and Hattock, Horse and go,
Horse and Pellatis, Ho! Ho!


The words echoed through the shop, followed by the low howling of wind through crevices in the wooden frame.

Tout tout, a tout tout,
Throughout and about,
Here and there, hence and thence!


A dull ring sounded like the tiny jingle of chimes or twinkling of bells, heralding the arrival of some faerie creature or the beginning of a work of the Arte.

Fair is foul and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air!


Each charm added to the potency of the last, the long string of trasnvection formulae weaved together to invoke the witch’s powers of flight.

Madalena sat astride an alder branch fitted with dark bristles recently collected. In the storage space behind Shadow of the Moon, she watched as her feet began to slowly lift from the ground. She had done it! With some luck, Madalena had achieved full levitation. Her sense of wonder was quickly interrupted, however, by a sharp bump on the head and a heavy plop on the concrete floor.

”GAAH, Goddamiit!” she cried, rubbing her head and setting herself upright. She examined the broom to make sure it wasn’t broken, then her leg to search for a sprain. Her priorities were a little mixed up, but she had taken hours to fasten all those twigs into bristles and she didn’t want to go through the trouble a second time in less than twenty-four hours.

That’s what I get for flying in doors . . . and on the clock. Madalena mentally scolded herself, propping the broom against an empty shelf and making her way into the main store.

Her bargain with Puck had gone over well. After signing his book, she was given a stack of books related to Old World witchery and magical lore, as well as a splitting headache from the knowledge Puck had imparted directly. It wasn’t much and she would certainly need to do her research to fill in the blanks, but it was enough to give her some extra leverage over the Hounds when they came knocking.

Of course, Madalena did what any other aspiring witch would do first, or so she imagined, and went straight to the flying ointments. She’d seen too many stills of the White Witch not to want to experience such a thing first hand. It had taken her only a day and a half to induce complete levitation, but actual flight was a different matter entirely. Madalena hadn’t the courage to attempt full flight. With the threat of the Hounds still looming, she thought it best to practice such magic in private . . . or at least behind a locked door.

Madalena positioned herself behind the register, thumbing through a few small journals Puck had left. Most were written, at least in part, in some foreign or mystical language with which she was now familiar, but it was still exhausting trying to mentally translate everything. Instead, she looked for pages and titles that stuck out. Her skimming was interrupted, however, by the familiar ding of the bell on the entrance and heavy footsteps.

Madalena was confronted by the sight of five darkly clad, armed men barging into the store and moving hastily to her place behind the counter.

This is it, she thought anxiously, this is what Puck prepared me for. I have to stay calm, I have to hold my ground.

Madalena continued to coach herself as she stepped out from behind the counter to meet the leader of the small group, much to his surprise. She stood with her arms tucked behind her back, legs straight, sporting a welcoming smile.

”Well met!” she greeted the Hounds as she would any other customer, with as much enthusiasm as she could muster despite how internally distressed she was. ”What can I do for you gentlemen today?”

The men positioned themselves strategically about the store, stopping when Madalena greeted them. They looked at each other and laughed, the leader, a tall man in slightly bulkier body armor and face fully obscured, stepped forward, mere inches away from Madalena.

“Well now, what’s this? Hospitality?” the man’s muffled voice shook Madalena to her core. She knew that she shouldn’t be intimidated given all the protections the Puck had promised, but she couldn’t help herself. Knowing that she had the means to defend herself wasn’t enough to rid her of the fear of confrontation.

”Of course, you’re my guests aren’t you? What kind of owner would I be if I didn’t warmly greet my customers. Speaking of, isn’t it a little hot to be walking around in all that black? A moon and star print skirt or black mesh blouse is one thing, but you’re all decked out head to toe. Do those chafe?” Madalena rambled. It wasn’t uncommon for her to be overly chatty, though her nerves were likely driving this conversation.

“You picked the wrong day to come into work, little miss. It’s about to be a lot hotter in here than in this armor.” The man readied his weapon, signalling for his men to complete their mission. One by one they began turning over displays, smashing statues and trinkets, dousing tapestries, rugs, and robes in accelerant.

Their leader backed Madalena into the counter.

“Must be sad to watch all your hard work go up in flames. Maybe you should stay here and go down with the ship.”

He tripped Madalena and fastened a cuffed her left hand to a heavy display case by the register. She gasped as the wind was knocked out of her.

W-what do I do? her mind raced, searching for an answer. They had been more forceful than she anticipated. She wanted to believe that they would go easy on her if she cooperated early on, but now she could see that Puck was right. They didn’t care if she posed a true threat, she was just in the way.

”WAIT!” Madalena cried as one of the men took out a lighter. He lit it without looking over to her. She would have to show more conviction. ”I can help you, you know! I can’t do any magic myself, but it’s my job to know about it! If-if you let me go, I-I-I can give you information! Yeah, I’ve heard some things from customers, I’ve read about magic for years, I could b-be an asset, please!”

Madalena was genuinely pleading for her life. Puck’s promises did little to comfort her despite knowing that he would hold up his end of their bargain. Fortunately, Madalena’s desperate cries were to her advantage.

The Hound leader ordered his men to halt their destruction, turning to Madalena and kneeling down in front of her. He held her head level with his, staring into her eyes through thick goggles that hid his own, then dropping her chin and turning back to his men.

“What do we think boys?” He convened with his group.

“You can’t trust the bitch, she’ll say anything,” one replied.

“Yeah,” another agreed.

“I don’t know, the General told us she was harmless,” the third member spoke up.

“And he has been lookin’ for informants . . .” the last member chimed in.

“Well then,” the leader said, walking over to Madalena. “I guess today’s your lucky day. It just so happens that the Witchfinder General needs the lowdown on bitches like you.”

He unfastened her restraints, then shoved a simple, black, flip phone into her hand before signalling his men to leave the shop.

“We’ll be in touch. Oh, and I wouldn’t leave town if I were you . . . he’ll know.”

He slammed the door with enough force to shatter the lower glass pane. The few shelves that remained relinquished the last of their displays onto the floor, shattering them instantly. Shadow of the Moon was a mess, but it was still standing and Madalena was still alive.

She slumped down onto the floor and let out a long sigh, fighting back tears. If ever there was a time to cry, to let out her frustration, now seemed most appropriate. But Madalena was tired of crying, she was tired of being taken by surprise. It may not have gone the way she wanted, but she had succeeded and was mostly unharmed.

”I did it.” Madalena whispered to herself, head turned up at the ceiling, lost in thought.

Phase one was complete, but she dared not think of what was yet to come.

Puck’s Ward

Part II


Location: Shadow of the Moon Occult Curiosities – Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: 11 a.m., One Day after the HoH Broadcast




”I have a proposition for you.” The words rang ominously through the shop.

Puck stood over Madalena, who was as backed into the counter as possible, hands covering her mouth to hold in the ear shattering scream that followed Puck’s sudden appearance. He kneeled down, pulling a handkerchief from his suit jacket and softly wiping away the tears streaming down Madalena’s face.

She wasn’t sure how to respond. This creature, whatever he was, seemed amicable enough, but Madalena wasn’t an idiot. She’d read plenty of old folktales on the subject of strange spirits offering aid to humans, and the name Goodfellow stuck out to her, but she couldn’t place it.

”W-w-what d-do you want-t?” Madalena stuttered between quiet sobs. This wasn’t like her. She was normally far more boisterous and hardened, but she wasn’t normally confronted with strange men with horns barging into her store and demanding her aid . . . well, not since last Samhain, and those men were at the very least human.

Puck continued wiping away stray tears, placing his other hand on her shoulder to calm her. Perhaps it was the fear of the unknown that caused her to sit still and not object or pull away from Puck, but Madalena slowly but surely ceased her sobbing.

”There now,” Puck uttered softly, putting away the kerchief and helping Madalena to her feet. ”Forgive me, love. I did not mean to frighten you. I forget sometimes that your kind are not accustomed to my entrances, and with all that has transpired as of late, I can only imagine what horrors you expected to befall you, but fear not.”

Puck took a step back, giving Madalena plenty of room to move. He gave a formal bow, showing his regret and respect.

”It’s a-alright,” Madalena sniffled. ”Who . . . who did you say you were again?” Madalena asked more as a courtesy than anything. She remembered the name he had given her but hoped that hearing him speak it again might jog her memory of it.

”Robin Goodfellow,” Puck was quick to reply, ”but perhaps you know me by my more informal alias, Puck.”

That did it. Immediately, Madalena recalled the stories she’d read of Puck under the name Goodfellow. He was regarded an elder spirit among medieval witches, a witching god from the ancient world. His reputation has a trickster and a faery were well known to those witches, but these stories weren’t made popular until Shakespeare wrote him into A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He looked different to the wood carvings and New Age illustrations Madalena had seen of him, but perhaps this was the modern guise he wore.

Madalena, recognizing Puck as a powerful and important entity, clumsily bowed in return.

”It’s an honor, Mr. Goodfellow. B-but, I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer.” Madalena looked at him in confusion, gesturing to the contents of her store. ”I’m sure this isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, and I’m not really any sort of witch so I’m no. . .”

”That’s precisely why I’ve come, Madalena,” Puck interrupted, ”to ignite that cunning flame and invite you into the true witching world.”

Madalena was stunned. Years ago she dreamt of such a fate, but the idea hadn’t crossed her mind in almost ten years. Back then, when she first took an interest in the craft, she dreamed of doing the impossible, of wielding powers held by the witches and sorcerers of legend. She even favored the witches of old Disney films just because they had the power to do what they want. But as she grew older, she met many new age spirituals and Wiccan authors who turned her mind away from such flights of fancy. She gave up on being a practicing witch, opting instead for the more attainable goal of daily enlightenment and invoked positivity. She saw the old craft as her peers did, an antiquated and often violent means of shaping the world. Until recently, she wanted nothing to do with it, but everything changed once she met Marie . . .

Madalena let that thought be taken over by another one: Why me? To her knowledge, she had done nothing of note in the past few months, no acts of magic, no strange dreams, no dragon slaying. So why had she, of all people, been chosen by Puck to receive such a gift?

”Well, that’s very kind of you, Mr. Goodfellow,” Madalena replied hesitantly, speaking slowly in case her words made Puck angry. ”But can I ask, why? And not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in exchange for what . . . sir.” she threw on the last bit of her reply to show her respect.

Puck grinned, sending a chill down Madalena’s spine.

”Ah, I love it when the mortals are self aware. Makes things more interesting.” he said, moving around to the other side of the counter across from Madalena and placing his elbows on top, leaning forward slightly.

”The truth, my dear, and it is a harsh truth, is that you were not my first choice.”

Madalena tried not to be hurt. She hadn’t expected something like this to happen to her at any point in her life, why should it bother her if she were only second or third in line for some grand mystery?

”However,” Puck continued, ”you came highly recommended by a mutual friend and an employee of mine, the person I would have chosen for this task in your stead had she not been busy. A certain Marie Hartford.”

It all made sense.

Madalena had known for months now that Marie was the White Witch. A failed robbery on Shadow of the Moon some time ago revealed Marie’s secret. She used her magic on the intruders, confirming Madalena’s suspicions. The two proceeded to have a conversation about Marie’s time as the White Witch, leading to her eventual hiatus from Shadow of the Moon. Madalena wouldn’t fire Marie for being absent, nor would she let Marie flat out quit. Madalena stubbornly and with as much sass as she could said to Marie on her final night “you’ll be back.”

The two rarely spoke after that, and now it made sense why. If Marie had been doing god knows what for Puck this whole time, and under the mantle of the White Witch no doubt, she wouldn’t have the time to work for or speak with Madalena. She felt as though she should be grateful to Marie for mentioning her to Puck.

”So if Marie told you about me, and you’re only just now showing up, I’m guessing it has to do with the Hounds of Humanity, right? Only other reason I can think of that you’d be desperate enough to recruit someone like me.”

Madalena was feeling a little more brazen now that the connection to Marie had been established. She didn’t imagine that Puck would her if Marie were involved.

Puck’s grin grew wider.

”Indeed, that’s quite the detective work there,” Puck responded sarcastically. ”But don’t sell yourself too short, my dear. Even without my gifts, you would be involved. As we speak, the Hounds are planning an attack on your little store on the morrow. But this should come as no surprise. Given your reaction to my appearance, I’d say you were expecting them.”

Madalena could feel herself becoming emotional again. What could she do about the Hounds?

”Why would they want to attack me?” she exclaimed, crashing her fists into the countertop. ”I haven’t done them any harm, I can’t even do magic! I don’t understand . . .”

Madalena turned her head down, but Puck caught her chin and gently held her eyes level with his.

”It does not matter what you have or haven’t done, my dear. It’s what they think you could do that frightens them. The Hounds are terrorists, and terrorists, no matter their origin or creed, are thieves and cowards. They take what they believe they are owed, they claim superiority, they destroy their opposition not to send a message, but because they are afraid of what will come if their enemies are allowed to live. I have lived in the world of man long enough to read their fragile minds, I recognize their goals and ambitions, I see them for what they are.”

Puck leaned in closer, his face almost touching Madalena’s.

”And that, my dear, is why I need you. Because for all my intuition and all my powers of foresight, something about them eludes me. I can see the destruction they will leave in their wake, but I cannot see what causes it, nor if there is a way to end it. So I need someone to be my eyes and ears, someone to who can move freely among them, someone who they won’t see coming. I need you, Madalena, because you pose them no threat, only their image.”

Madalena move back slightly, a puzzled look crossing her face.

”Wait, I don’t understand. If they’re gonna kill me regardless of whether I’m an actual threat or not, how can I do anything for you? And if I don’t have any actual power to stop them, how do I keep myself alive?”

”It is as you’ve said. You’ve done them no harm, you have no power. The Hounds will know this upon arrival. As random and indiscriminate as their attacks appear, they are more targeted than the public realizes. You, to them, are no real witch. You service and supply witches with your wares, which is enough for them to turn you into a monster in their narrative. All of this,” Puck motioned to the entire store, ”is an affront to everything they stand for. They will destroy it on principle, but they will know that you possess no real power, and that will be to your advantage.

“If you plead your case to the Hounds when they enter, offer them your knowledge of the occult in exchange for your life, they will have no choice but to accept. For all their efforts, there are some things one cannot know about the world unseen unless one is intimately involved with it, and that is where I come in. I shall grant you greater knowledge and true power, powers the Hounds will not know of because you did not possess them until now, that can be used to deceive the Hounds once you have infiltrated their ranks. It is a dangerous gamble, I admit, but know that you would have my full protection should you agree.”


Madalena fell to the wall behind her, slumping down onto the floor in thought. This was too much to take in at once. Puck seemed confident that he knew the Hounds well enough for his plan to work, but Madalena didn’t share this sentiment. But even if she didn’t, did it matter? If she agreed, she would have power like Marie, and with all that she had read about Puck, she imagined that whatever defenses he could offer would likely be more than enough to keep her safe from the Hounds long enough for her to get away from a dangerous situation. Another worry crossed her mind, what happened after all of this was over?

”I don’t know,” Madalena voiced her concern, ”I mean, assuming all of this goes down how you’ve said, then what? I can only get so close before they realize something’s up. What happens then?”

”A reasonable doubt,” Puck responded cooly, moving around to the other side of the counter and kneeling down to her level. ”It is true, the powers I offer come at a price. A bargain must be made, but upon the completion of this task, however far to completion it comes, you will not lose your power nor your place in the witching world. To be initiated into the great witchcraft is to be forever changed, my dear. There is no turning back. It is a bond I cannot break, nor would I wish it broken.”

”And if I say yes, do we shake hands, does lightning strike me and I fall into a deep sleep? How does this work?” Madalena questioned, her old sense of humor finally surfacing.

Puck chuckled as he stood up, holding out his arm to help Madalena up a second time. He lead her over to the counter and wave a hand over the top, an oversized, tattered, black-leather bound book manifesting from a spout of flames and dark smoke with a flash that left Madalena momentarily dazed. Puck flipped through its pages, landing on a blank page near the middle.

”If you agree, you need but sign your name here . . . then all the world shall be yours in return.”
The Fall of The Five


Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, Temple of Aradia
Time: 5p.m., Present Day




Roman Adessi waltzed through the entrance of Erodiade, the original restaurant in the chain that had spread all across Nevada, with plans to expand into the west coast. Erodiade was a hit the moment the foundation was laid, catering to a wide audience of folk from all walks of life. By day, this location served authentic, quality Italian fare from Roman’s family cookbook, even sourcing out a few of its imported ingredients to artisanal chefs for a modest price. But by night, this Erodiade was home to one of the largest covens in the western United States, a member of The Five Families of Las Vegas, witches of the Adessi line, loyal followers of Aradia one and all.

As the last few patrons passed by, Roman was sure to shake as many hands as he could, modestly accepting the many compliments given by satisfied customers. The restaurant was usually open until nine, but tonight was special, and Roman needed time to prepare. Once the last person had left, the store was closed up for the night, the day staff graciously sent home for the evening with compensation for their lost hours. With the final click of the employee exit came an ethereal wind, sweeping over every inch of Erodiade, carrying subtle sighs and giggles from unseen visitors.

Roman smiled as the daemons danced about the restaurant, acting as the night staff, taking dirty dishes and silverware to be washed, sweeping and mopping the tables and floors just by placing an elegant foot or hand on their surfaces. A tall, darkly clad woman stepped out from the kitchen, a large platter in hand. On it were a variety of sweet and savoury treats, freshly baked for the attending spirits. As soon as the dish was placed, the household spirits greedily whisked away the luscious breads, pastries, and goblets of wine. They danced with merriment, bidding Roman to retreat to the temple housed below the store to begin the night’s devotions, and so he did.

Opposite the kitchen and the main dining hall was a small office where Roman often sat and performed administrative work. Inside were all of the usual decorations, a couch, a desk with chairs on both sides, table lights and other shelf top clutter. But behind the desk sat a large, ornate painting of a woman holding a star. Roman walked over to the painting, bowed his head, and uttered the soft prayer.

”Saluti, Erodiade. Il tuo fedele servitore, Roman Adessi, cerca rifugio nel tuo tempio.”

A low rumble sounded through the office, followed by a loud creak. Roman looked up, the painting of Aradia sliding over the wall to reveal a hidden door, a passageway that led into a cavernous, marble temple below with witching tools strewn all about and a large, rectangular altar at the center which held a magnificent statue of Aradia.

Walking freely around the temple were witches dressed in ritual garb, some moving sunwise about the altar with censures in hand, fumigating the area for ritual work, others tracing the markings on the floor around the altar with swords and staves, invoking the elements and the attending spirits. It wasn’t often that old world witches performed such elaborate workings, but Roman needed the ceremony for such an occasion.

“I trust that everything is ready?” He questioned a young man, no older than sixteen, who stood near a supporting marble pillar.

The boy turned and nodded.

“Y-yes, Mr. Adessi,” he stuttered, nerves shot both by being in the presence of his coven’s leader and by the responsibility that had been placed on him. “The last of the wards are being placed as we speak, and the initiates are being dressed after their ritual baths.”

“Excellent,” Roman responded, placing a firm hand on the boy’s shoulder, “I’m proud of you, Dustin. This ceremony is perhaps our most important, I knew I’d left the preparations in capable hands.”

Dustin smiled brightly before turning to review a list of his duties. His part in this ritual was a test, one that he had passed with flying colors.

Just as their conversation ended, a string of men and women were led into the altar room, all dressed in white and blindfolded. There were twenty in total, each being placed in a specific space before the altar. Roman walked over to the group, standing on a raised platform that sat opposite the statue of Aradia. He motioned for each of their blindfolds to be removed, then proceeded with the ceremony.

“Greetings, initiates.” He greeted them in a booming voice that echoed through the temple. “All who stand before me have been issued a number of harrowing trials to be where they are now. You are the best of the best, the most promising, most devoted individuals from a long list of hopeful recruits. You will make fine witches. And tonight, witches you shall become, witches of the Adessi line, witches in service of the great mother, Aradia!”

“Erodiade!” the surrounding witches cried out in response.

“Now is the moment of your awakening,” Roman continued, motioning for a chalice to be offered to the initiates from the altar. “Drink of this elixir and receive Aradia’s blessing, become one with the Adessi line.”

As soon as the first initiate took up the chalice, a loud scream sounded from upstairs, closely followed by the cries of dozens of ethereal voices.

Roman turned to see a host of spirits flocking to the temple, fleeing from some unknown assailant.

“What is the meaning of this?” He demanded.

Before the spirits could answer, a thunderous explosion tore through the temple, shattering the wall between the upstairs restaurant and temple below. Droves of men in black body suits came rushing down into the temple. Gunfire followed their arrival.

The witches retaliated the best the could, those closest to the intruders vaulting behind pillars and statues, bidding the flames from surrounding torches to leap from their sconces and block the assailants’ path. The witches seeing to the initiation joined hands and began a low chant, the air around the altar faintly shimmering. Witches ran into the arms of the ward, some with minor scrapes, some bleeding profusely from deep wounds. Meanwhile, the gunmen continued their attack, bullets bouncing off the barrier around the altar.

Roman moved to the front of the barrier and forcefully raised both arms, the front group of assailants being thrown upwards in response. He then turned to the statue of Aradia and incanted:

”Erodiade, essere con me!”

The statue of Aradia responded, marble limbs and features moving with grace and fluidity. Her body turned in the direction of the masked gunmen, outstretching her arms in an elegant pose. The assailants who had been knocked to the ground began to writhe in pain and thick boils and pustules erupted onto their skin. A few others seemed stricken by the curse, but still they marched toward the barrier.

A tall man in heavier armor stepped forward from the crowd, pulling out a large rifle. He fired a single shot into the barrier and watched as it passed right through, piercing Roman’s left shoulder and sending him sprawling onto the floor.

“They work!” he yelled to his team, who all seemed to pull out a separate magazine for their weapons. By this time, none of the remaining gunmen were affected by Roman’s curse, protected by some unseen force. They fired into the barrier once more, this time each bullet passing through, taking down lines of witches with ease.

Roman cried in pain, slowly moving behind the altar trying to seek refuge in another part of the temple. Unfortunately, the gunmen’s bullets managed to damage the circle around the altar, weakening the warding spell enough to allow them access. They began beating down the defenseless witches, many they killed instantly, some they injured and knocked out. Roman look up at the larger gunman, the last thing he saw was the underside of the man’s boot before he fell unconscious.

When he came to, Roman was tied to a large stake hastily built atop the restaurant. He and the initiates were crowded around the large wooden beam, bits of wood and straw piled up at their feet. He and the others had been gagged as well, and all far too injured to concentrate on some act of witchery.

“I hear you were some sort of celebrity,” the tall gunman stepped forward, holding Roman’s chin and forcing their eyes to meet. “Guess that’s how we found you so easily. It’s a shame too. Your food was pretty damn good.”

The man dropped Roman’s head which fell instantly. He was too weak to look up, too weak to make even a whimper.

A crowd of men poured accelerant over Roman and the initiates, then over the splinters at their feet. They stepped back as their leader pulled out a lighter.

“Burn, witch.” He said dryly, tossing the lighter into the fray.

Immediately their bodies caught fire, as did the ground beneath them. The restaurant was soon to follow, men filing down from the roof and throughout the building, throwing burning lighters and makeshift torches into the gasoline lined walls and floors.

On the street outside the restaurant the men left their mark, a name scorched into the pavement, the only fiends capable of such heartless murder and destruction:

The Hounds of Humanity.

Puck’s Ward

Part I


Location: Shadow of the Moon Occult Curiosities – Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: 11 a.m., One Day after the HoH Broadcast






Panic

The whole of Lost Haven’s underground seemed taken by it. Metas began their panicked flight from the city the moment they turned on the evening news; sorcerers, witches, and other occultists and practitioners clung to the darkest regions of the state, warding themselves and their loved ones with their many mysteries and magicks; inhuman and other immortal creatures descended back into their netherworlds, not necessarily out of fear, but in anger and disgust of the human race; and all who remained, who hadn’t the means to leave or perhaps who would rather fight this battle than retreat, did so wearily. Lost Haven was damned long before the arrival of the Hounds of Humanity, but now, even with the knowledge of ones such as Icon guarding the city, no one felt safe.

But that wouldn’t stop everyone.

Wonderfully brassy and deterministic, Madalena Hawthorne stepped through the front door of her store, Shadow of the Moon, just before opening. She’d stayed late the night before to make sure her displays were in order, wanting plenty of time to rest after the previous night’s events. The idea of a hostile takeover by domestic terrorists like the Hounds scared her to be sure, but this wasn’t the first time Lost Haven, or the country for that matter, had felt that same terror, and somehow it always managed to work itself out. Besides, she was more likely to die walking down the stairs of her apartment than at the hands of a crazed terrorist . . . right?

Waving away her innumerable doubts, Madalena began obsessively fidgeting with her merchandise, realigning hanging charms, arranging altar tools into slightly more aesthetic positions, anything and everything to keep herself from opening the store for the day.

Oh, get over yourself, girl! Madalena gave herself a mental kick, setting down a half shuffled deck of oracle cards and making her way to the front of the stoor. Just turn the damn sign and get this show on the road.

Madalena flipped over a rustic, “We’re Open!”, sign on the front door and switched on the neon open sign displayed on the right window. Immediately, she felt a sense of relief. There was no thunder and lightning, no rumbling or scratching, nothing to indicate any sign of impending doom. Satisified, she walked back to the counter and sat down on a low stool, pulling a small book from below the register. Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition, the second edition published by Three Hands Press.

Madalena had taken a particular interest in the medieval grimoire tradition of sorcery and its roots in modern traditions of witchcraft, as of late. This scholarly side felt completely new to her, though not all that surprising. She’d taken a plethora of research classes at her community college in West Virginia before moving to Maine, acing all but her psychology course. And given her slow but apparent departure from New Age craft, which she owed almost in full to her companionship with Marie, Madalena wanted to become more adept in her historical understanding of witching traditions in case she ever wanted to get into the practice again.

After only a few pages in, a soft breeze poured over the counter, nipping at her exposed arms and gingerly lifting the edges of flyers for old events that were strewn about the countertop. Madalena looked up, but to door remained shut and the AC vents were only in the office and the front of the store.

Another breeze stirred inside the store, rattling prayer beads and windchimes, creating a cacophony of ethereal music that was far more chilling than any wind. Madalena stood from her stool, moving to the front of the counter to see if the AC was set too high by she or a customer the previous evening. Finding no signs of tampering, she walked under the vent, which was so light it could barely lift a strand of hair.

Not a moment after the second breeze came the flickering of lights, first signaled by a crackling in the neon sign, then the office, then the whole store, constantly shuffling in and out of darkness. Madalena rushed back behind the counter, ducking down and peeking through the glass jewelry display.

Shit! she swore internally, her heart pounding in her chest, eyes watering from fear of the unknown. I shoulda just stayed home, I shoulda knew this shit would happen. Goddammit, why did I get out of bed!

Her thoughts were scared and frantic. She assumed that, any moment now, a pack of Hounds in black body gear would come bursting through her door, condemning her to a painful death. And the real kicker, in her mind, was that she wasn’t even a witch, or not in the magical sense anyway. Sure she dabbled when she was younger and made a living off the lore and the spiritual practice of it, but she was nothing like the White Witch or any of the others witches she’d read about.

Just as Madalena feared, in the midst of her worry, the door swung open with full force, a loud crashing noise following closely behind. But what she saw wasn’t a a pack of men, only one, and though he was dressed all in black, it was a suit.

C-Could he be a customer? Madalena wondered, repositioning herself behind the counter to see the whole the man’s entire body rather than just his lower half.

No, this was certainly no patron.

From beyond the door stepped a tall, slender man dressed all in black, handsome, pale features, except his hands, which were like ashen claws, and atop his head were similarly dark antlers, complementing his black hair and soulless eyes. What was he, and what did he want?

Madalena placed her back against the counter, sitting deathly still and holding her hand over her mouth so as not to let out a loud breath or cry. The sound of footsteps nearing the counter, however, made her audibly sob.

”Ms. Hawthorne?” his voice echoed through the store, touching Madalena and shaking her core with its ethereal reverberation. She shuddered at the mention of her name.

The footsteps stopped right as he neared the counter. Overhead, Madalena could hear the ding of the bell she’d left next to the register for customers to get her attention if she was in the back. Madalena didn’t move, remaining deathly still.

”I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time. My name is Robin Goodfellow,” the man introduced himself, his voice still eerie and jarring, but carrying an air of whimsy that Madalena seemed to recognize, along with the name.

”Things around Lost Haven have been a little hectic lately, as I’m sure you’re aware. You must trust that I mean you no harm. In fact . . .” his voice trailed off.

Madalena turned to look out of the glass case to find the store empty. She took in a deep breath, turning around to find the stranger kneeling right in front of her, their faces so close she could feel the same chilling wind from earlier emanating from his skin.

”I have a proposition for you.”

Augury

Part 2


Location: Lachance Stronghold Exterior – Henderson, Nevada
Time: 2 p.m., Present Day




Marie and Holt arrived at the Lachance Family Stronghold after an hour of searching. It was well hidden even in the desert landscape along the lakeside, likely the work of protective enchantments. The exterior was just as the faeries had described, an unassuming shack with broken boards falling from the windows, slightly obstructing the view from the outside, rusted tin palettes running along the side of the building, some propped against the eroded wooden walls, some actually nailed to the roof to cover large holes that had been left by years of neglect.

The interior wasn’t much better. Inside were several dusty, rotten shelves and tables with crooked frames and broken legs, just stable enough to support what few artifacts still dared to fill them. The curtains were faded and moth eaten, flowing in the breeze that poured in from exposed areas in the ceiling and between boards in the walls. It came as no surprise that the floor was little more than arid dirt with a few bits of tarp that were likely blown off the walls and ceiling during a storm.

Marie moved carefully over the debris, dusting off the bottom half of her dress after rubbing against the wall to avoid stepping on shards of glass from an adjacent window.

”Is this really the entrance to a witches’ stronghold?” Marie uttered skeptically as she made her way to the only other room in the shack, hidden behind a door that, like everything else, was falling off its hinges and bearing holes that spoke of past conflict.

Holt remained atop Marie’s shoulder as a raven, eyes scanning the room for anything of interest.

It is certainly inconspicuous, much to the witches’ delight I’m sure.

Marie nodded.

”I guess it makes sense. Who would think to disturb the remains of something this far gone?”

She carefully moved the door to the side, which let out an unnervingly high-pitched squeal as the hinges fought to fold in on their rusted nails. The other room looked much the same as the first, but with less dust. At the far end a large sheet had been draped over what Marie assumed was the mirror spoken of by the fey.

Sure enough, as she peeled back the white sheet, Marie unveiled a tall, ornate oval mirror with beautiful golden vines snaked around its outer edges. Next to the mirror was an end table, atop which was an inscription in a language Marie recognized but couldn’t name.

”What is this script?” Marie asked Holt, tracing the inscription with her fingers.

An old fey dialect used in the lower regions of France. The witch hunts in France brought to light many of their ancient traditions; you would likely have seen this in one of the books in Puck’s collection.

Marie took a closer look, soon realizing that she did indeed recognize the old dialect. To her surprise, she effortlessly recited the inscription word for word, the sound of it like the rushing of wind through dense trees and the sharp crackle of lightning.

Suddenly, the mirror began to hum in response, Marie’s reflection soon replaced by the swirl of dark clouds. The clouds receded to reveal a long hallway with rows of doors on either side. There seemed no separation between the room in which Marie stood and the image in the mirror. Sounds and smells of this other place began to fill the desert shack. Marie turned to Holt whose eyes advised caution, but who nodded to confirm her silent inquiry. They stepped into the mirror and turned to see the shack fade into a reflection, the portal closing and becoming a simple mirror once again.

Marie turned to face a double door that stood at the end of the hallway, likely the dwelling of Genevieve Lachance or some large ritual/communal space for the witches. Unsure of how to feel in such a situation, she walked forward, broom in one hand, luggage in the other, and entered through the imposing door.



Location: Homewood Suites Hilton – Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: 9 p.m., Present Day




Marie strode into the lobby of the hotel, Holt trailing behind unseen. She masterfully hid herself behind a family bringing in their luggage so as not to be stopped by the desk clerk. It probably wasn’t unusual to receive the odd visitor to a resident or guest, but she wasn’t in a mood for too much unneeded interaction. She was feeling another strange mixture of emotions and wanted only to focus her attention on those who truly needed it.

Her meeting with the Lachance matriarch went better than expected. Marie expected that she’d be thrown out for her intrusion, but the witches welcomed her with open arms, commending her for her mastery of the craft and her ability to open the door to their stronghold. She waited in the glamorously decorated ritual space for around an hour before finally meeting with Genevieve.

The two had a long conversation about the recent Hounds attack, Marie taking the time to pass on the message sent by her fey informants. Genevieve, a relatively young woman to be a powerful matriarch, around 36 or so, received the faeries’ pleas warmly, assuring Marie that the Witch-Mother was hard at work finding a solution. They then held an in depth conversation of the Witch-Mother and her involvement with The Five Families, the conversation stretching on for so long that they had time enough for tea and dinner.

Marie was fascinated by the stories Genevieve told of how The Five had built their strongholds and how Hekate had managed to unite them in the past few years. Their history was astounding, and though Lady Lachance was obviously leaving out a few details, Marie was still in awe at their rise to power in Nevada. Their meeting concluded with an invitation from the witch to stay in the stronghold for as long as she needed. Marie was reminded of the generosity of the German witches in New York and that of the solitary witches of Lost Haven.

She was led to a lavish room by one of the Lachance heirs, a handsome boy around Marie’s age. That room put any hotel or luxury resort to shame and had far greater amenities. But that wasn’t all the night had to offer . . .

Upon receiving the arrival message from Ben, Marie fell into a trance, recalling an image of her early days. An intricate box formed in her mind’s eye, dubbed the “Sight” by Gwyneth’s echoing voice. When she came to, Marie realized that she had received a vision of Gwyneth’s next artifact, and this time the image was clear, albeit still incredibly vague, but she had reason to believe that she was on the right track, that Gwyneth’s “Sight,” whatever that may be, was near.

Now, pacing around the hotel lobby, Marie pulled out her phone and sent a message to Ben, informing him of her arrival to the hotel, though she assumed that he had likely felt her presence the moment she entered.

Whatever doubt she felt before in aiding Ben and the other magicians, at least now she had some incentive. Having Ben already in Vegas made the search for the next item that much easier, and her newfound relationship with the Lachance witches would give her access to the city’s magical resources, perhaps even an audience with the Witch-Mother herself.

Marie waited eagerly for Ben’s response, heart racing in dread, joy, and above all, anticipation.


Augury

Part 1


Location: Marie’s Apartment – Chinatown, Lost Haven
Time: Noon, Present Day




Marie paced back and forth in front of the window overlooking the street, eyes still glazed with sleep, hair pulled back, still wet from the shower she’d taken in an attempt to invigorate herself and awaken her dulled senses. Her chase for Ben the morning before had left her exhausted and despite having expended nearly all of her energy during negotiations, Marie managed to stay awake the rest of the day, finally crashing at around 6 p.m. and waking at 8 a.m. Fourteen hours of sleep and yet still drained.

It made sense to Marie. After she’d returned to The Red Devil, instead of flying swiftly home and getting a well deserved rest, she hogged the workroom trying to get a hit on the next artifact. As she might have expected, her time was wasted looking through vague accounts of Gwyneth she’d managed to dig up months prior during her initial search for information. Not only was she unable to divine any relevant information about the next item, whatever it may be, Puck was nowhere to be found and thus could not offer his cryptic wisdom.

Even after returning home in what felt like an eternity, Marie was reminded of her long list of failures and misadventures. Her flat was littered with open tomes, scraps of parchment and paper she’d wadded up and neglected to toss, and minor charms and trinkets she’d attempted to use in various spells and rituals to locate anything remotely related to Gwyneth.

Holt, who lay dormant in an oil lamp-turned-spirit vessel at one end of the studio apartment, took note of Marie’s worried movements.

What is the matter? He questioned in his normal dry tone, moving from the lantern in the form of a thick mist and manifesting as a jet-black cat sauntering about the room. Surely you should count this as a victory. The boy agreed to help you, which means that you are one step closer than before. Much closer, in fact, given you now possess Gwyneth’s Eye.

Marie shook her head as she paced, eyes fixed on a park bench across the street from her apartment complex. She let out a heavy sigh as her first reply, and with it, expressed her deep sense of worry and unease.

”I know, Marie stood still as she spoke, gaze still glued to the scene outside, ”I know that everything should feel better now that I’ve got a little more direction . . . but it doesn’t. Even with the Eye and Ben’s help, I still don’t know what the hell I’m looking for, or where I should be looking. I can’t just carry the kid around the country hoping he picks up on something. And that’s another thing . . .”

Marie turned and faced Holt, lowering herself onto the floor, back against the window.

”I have to work in a team again and I don’t know if I’m ready for that, especially not this one. Ben’s the only one who trusts me. The twins are suspicious and the magicians want me dead, not exactly the ideal team. At least with S.T.R.I.K.E. I could be a little detached, but this is personal. I NEED Ben’s help, and he’s expecting me to be this picture of morality and atone for my sins.” Marie shook her head, spitefully letting out those last few words.

”Be honest,” Marie’s spoke to Holt in a low, somber tone, ”Is it wrong for me to admit that I don’t really care about my part in whatever Broker is planning? Sure, it’s probably something horrible and unimaginable, but we had a deal that both parties honored. Is it wrong for me to want to leave it at that regardless of the consequences?”

Holt met Marie’s gaze, brow furrowed and forming a stern expression with his feline features.

You are a witch, Marie. It is that simple. Your kind do not linger on such things as guilt nor trouble themselves with fanciful things like morality. Furthermore, it is not my place to comment on the desires or whims of my masters. Your goals became mine the moment I came into your service, but if it comforts you to know that I have aided past witches in far more sinister deeds than this, very few of whom had any regrets about such workings, then I will not hide that fact.

It wasn’t really the answer Marie was looking for, but it’s what she expected from a being like Holt. Though it did little to calm her nerves, Holt’s words comforted her all the same. She’d heard something similar before from Joseph and any reminder of the time they had shared was welcome.

Letting out another sigh, Marie lifted herself from the floor and began packing a small suitcase full of necessities. She imagined that Rune’s search would take some time and it was far more convenient to rest on scene than having to pop back in from The Red Devil every few hours. Puck had a few associates in Nevada, most notably a large coven known locally as The Five Families. With luck, she’d be able to find one of their meeting places or strongholds and rest there instead of spending a fortune on a hotel room.

Holt watched as Marie filed random assortments of clothes, toiletries, makeup, and witching supplies into her suitcase. He took mental note of their conversation. This was the change Puck had described, the slow descent he’d envisioned. Marie wasn’t acting like herself, or rather, she was acting too much like herself. Holt knew little of Gwyneth, but he knew enough about Marie to see the clear differences in her behavior within the past few months. Her obsession felt more to him like instinct. Whatever the case, he would help her as was his charge and continue to monitor her as Puck had instructed, though if Marie ever caught wind of it, he would be forced to do as she commanded.

With the last of her belongings neatly tucked away inside her suitcase, Marie readied herself for the trip to Vegas. She didn’t have the energy to try to put on too much face, opting for some simple pastel gloss and eyeshadow to make her look a little lively, as well as some strategically placed highlighter to catch the lights of the city. Once her hair was dried, she combed it out and laid it over her shoulder, covering one of the straps of a simple white sundress with a black belt, covering the top of her head with a similarly colored, wide-brimmed sunhat. Around her neck was the signature glamour charm to conceal her identity.

Once Marie was relatively pleased with her appearance, she took her suitcase in hand, grabbed a separate bag from her closet which housed her White Witch get-up and a few other witchy baubles, took her broom in the opposite hand, Holt tucked away inside the lantern at the broom’s mantle, and opened a door to The Red Devil which Puck himself had placed shortly after Marie signed on with him. From there, she entered another of Puck’s doors and left for Las Vegas, hoping to do a bit of sightseeing and establishing a base of operations before the others arrived.



Location: The Remains of Pixy Stix – Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: Noon, Present Day




Puck’s door opened to an alley next to the burnt remains of the Faerie club, Pixy Stix. Marie had been so busy as of late that she’d almost forgotten about the Hounds of Humanity cretins that had been terrorizing members of the magical community across the U.S. Marie bowed to the corpse of the building while Holt hissed at the HoH propaganda that littered the building's ashes.

We may encounter these fools while here, Marie. I would advise caution. They have already taken a group of witches in Salem. Holt issued the mental warning, perched on Marie’s shoulder as an ethereal raven.

Marie moved a little closer, staying out of the street and minding the police tape around the ruined entrances.

And they’ll pay for their actions dearly. They have no idea what they’re up against and I can’t imagine that the Faerie Courts of this world and the next aren’t planning some sort of revenge. Same with the American witches and sorcerers.

Marie spotted a few roaming sylphs and mourning fey women dressed in white. She didn’t want to approach them out of respect for their grieving, but she needed information on where she could find one of the Five’s sanctuaries.

Upon seeing Marie, the wandering faeries immediately flocked to her location, the sprites flittering about her head, one resting on the brim of her hat, the three tall fey, each with distinctly wild, animalistic features on their faces, circling around her in a sort of embrace.

Marie knew she was in no danger, she could clearly see that each of them meant no ill will, but she was surprised to receive such a welcome, especially considering she hadn’t done much work for the fey before.

Holt cocked his head, exuding a warmth that felt to Marie like joy.

”Welcome, my lady,” one of the fey maidens spoke quietly, her voice echoing on a soft, sweet breeze. She spoke in English, surprisingly. ”We wondered when your mistress might send one of hers to deal with the human filth who burned our loved ones.”

Marie was utterly confused.

”M-my mistress? I’m sorry, I think you may have me confused for someone e . . .”

”The Witch-Mother,” the fey woman interrupted, ”surely she sent you to investigate the matter?” She looked hopeful.

Marie’s jaw dropped. She was nearly floored by the mention of the Witch-Mother, how these fey spoke of her so candidly.

Hekate? Holt interjected. The Witch-Mother, Hekate, is here in Las Vegas?

One of the sprites overhead nodded.

”She’s been here for a few months working with The Five, noble families of witches who migrated west in the early days of the colonies. Are you not a member of The Five?”

Marie shook her head, even more stunned than a moment before. To know that Hekate was so near, physically interacting with such a large collection of witches, was amazing; it was beyond amazing. Not even Bucca was so open.

”I was unaware of the Witch-Mother’s presence, I’ve only just arrived in the area.”

The fey all looked rather dejected, obviously expecting Hekate to help them enact some sort of vengeance on the Hounds.

”But,” Marie added before they had a chance to leave, ”I do work closely with Puck and hoped that I might meet with a few of his associates in The Five. If you could point me in the direction of their strongholds, I might be able to speak with them on your behalf.”

It was a stretch, but it was all she could offer. Luckily, it was enough.

The sprites spoke with the fey maidens in an uncommon dialect, perhaps one native to the Americas or this area specifically. After a short concession, they turned back to Marie and nodded.

”Alright,” one of the sprites addressed her with a high voice, ”there is a small building near the lake in Henderson. Inside is a mirror that leads to the Lachance family stronghold. Genevieve Lachance is the most hospitable leader of The Five and will take in almost any stray witch to pass through. She will help you, but when you arrive, please inform her that we wish to hear from the Witch-Mother soon.”

Marie nodded in compliance.

”I will do just this, thank you for your help. And may those murderous bastards be dealt swift justice.”

The faeries smiled, hope filling their eyes. They left Marie’s sight in their own ways, some in swirling lights, some fading into the wind, some speeding off into the distance. One they had all gone, Marie issued a mental command to Holt to shield them from mortal eyes. The pair hopped aboard the broom, Holt perched at the front like the figurehead on a ship. As they began their ascent, black vapors poured from Holt’s body and enveloped them, causing them to be unseen. Off they flew to the Lachance stronghold.
@Crosswire I didn't catch the Gumball reference until I read the supporting characters, well done on that lol. It's not subtle but neither is it glaringly obvious.

Visions


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

Finale


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.
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