Dresden Files rpg: Dresden2Boston

Ulfgeir

Explorer
This is the chronicle I wrote for a campaign in Dresden Files. The chronicle is written in 1st person perspective, and contains some sex and violence. Was a few years ago, so I don't remember quite how explicit.

The premise of the campaign when we started was that we were all students at the the university in Boston. Supernatural things existed, but as per Dresden Files canon, then people tend to disregard them or explain them away. the GM had a fun thing were we got 1 extra fatepoint if we did a chronicle. 4 players started writing chronicles, but only two of us kept it up through the whole campaign, which lasted 9 adventures (or books if you will). Was a long hiatus between "book" 7 and 8, so the campaign changed a lot in "book" 8 and 9.

The characters:

Amy Clarke (my character). A young goth girl, who studies theatre. She has psychic powers and gets strange visions of past, present and future. She is a Wiccan.

Antonio Enrique de la Fuente. No one really knows what exactly he is studying, but he has numerous romantic involvments with the girls at school. He is Half-fae.

Imogen Tayler. An activist at campus. A vanilla human without any powers or even knowledge of the supernatural.

Karl Lindstrom. A student from Sweden. He studies engineering, and is a tough guy. He is a werewolf.

Mirou "Mirror" Divin. A Swiss rich guy, studying economics. He is working for the Dragon Ferrovax, and might actually be a half-dragon

Star Thyme. A very clueless and weird girl. Very good at music. It turns out that she is actually a djinn , but most of her memories has been lost, and she has spent a long time locked up in a bottle. And do be careful what you wish for. She will most likely take things literally. She is also quite limited on what she can do...

Tim Dobson. Young journalist writing for the Trimountaine Arcane. Those that are not in the know think of it as a National Enquirer-magazine.


Resources
We had a wordpress-page for the campaign, and there you can also read the chronicles from the other players (2 are in Swedish though). I was not the one that set it up, so I am not guilty for my chronicle to be filed under the name of Cassandra's Lies. There are some wonkyness with the characters-page, you get a summary of the characters with some mood-images* if you click the menu-item, and you get more stuff if you let the menu expand and then click the link for each character instead.

* Most mood-images lead to dead Defiant Art-pages. My character had two mood-images, and the one that worked that leads to an image called Pandora1.jpg is made by me. I first used that image for a character in a post-apocalyptic talking-in-character forum over at a places that used to be called wbrpg. I then reused the drawing for this character.
 
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Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 1: The Blood Rite

The last week had been a bit bad at the theatre I worked at. Johnny, our director, had had a mental breakdown after his boyfriend left him, and were now babbling of moving to Norway and becoming a fisherman. It didn’t help that Jason wanted to replace him as the director, and as well casting himself as the lead role all the time. Sure, he was good looking in a way, and he did have money, something the theatre needed badly in order to stay operational. So I could sort of understand why the owner thought about selling the theatre, but Jason was utterly incompetent at acting, and I shuddered at his directions. Not to mention that he thought that he was the centre of the universe, but he was nothing but a mama’s boy. His two brothers, Kyle and Braden were at least good at what they did.

Sure I might not be the best actress in the world, but I had at least earlier gotten smaller roles. If Jason took over, then I wouldn’t even get that. And I sure as hell wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of having sex with him to get a role, not that I was his type anyway. He seemed to prefer blonde bimbos. Nor was he my type. Not in a million years. Anyway, I talked to some of the other members of the cast if anyone of them had any ideas for a new director. It seemed that at least two of older members were a bit interested in taking over as director. At least I got them thinking about it. And given that they were quite good actors, I think they would be able to do well. One could hope at least.

The day after, I woke up screaming at 07:18 after a particularly bad nightmare. Hadn’t had such bad dreams since The Night of Troubles. In my dream I had been in a strange room with white concrete walls, and concrete floor, but there were no windows and no doors in the room, and the roof was just utter blackness. I could hear some dripping sound, and then a dark liquid started running down the walls, while three ghostly shapes with screaming faces tried to pass through them. I could see the walls bending and buckling as if it was a piece of cloth. I could see that the beings trying to come through had had their throats cut. The blood started to pool together in some kind of container at the end of one wall, before overflowing and pouring out on the floor. When I woke, my poor room-mate Melissa was shaking my shoulders, and had for the past ten minutes been trying to wake me up.

Outside in the hallway, lots of the girls in the dorm was standing, wondering what was going on. Melissa ensured them that I was alright. Imogen though, wanted to check up on me, thinking that someone had been hurting me. When she came in, I was bleeding from my eyes. She instantly called an ambulance, which came rather quickly and brought me to a hospital. Of course she had been exaggerating and claimed that it was blood everywhere. Well, let us just say that having an upset practitioner of magic near delicate electronic equipment, such at that found in an ambulance is not very good for said equipment. The poor EMTs couldn’t make heads or tails of why their equipment started malfunctioning. The doctors at the hospital released me rather quickly when I had finally calmed down, and they were satisfied that I wasn’t physically hurt.

I did a bit of research, but couldn’t find anything in the news that would match the horrors I had seen. What ever had happened, or would happen was bad. But I didn’t have any other information at the moment. And without something to go on, there is just so much that you can do. Sure I am good at divination, but I still need something. In retrospect, I should have done more, but I doubt it would have changed anything.

Three days later, on the 30th of November, it was time for a big Halloween party at the student pub Avalon. I decided to go as a vampire. I had at first entertained the idea of going as the Wicked Witch of the West, but green isn’t my colour. At the pub, I met some people that I knew. Imogen had apparently gone as the Little Red Riding Hood, but she had decided to bring a huge sword with her. What was she thinking, did she really think that Karl, the bouncer would let her bring that inside? He was btw dressed as a Viking, and the bartender Mirou, or Mirror as some called him, did his best to come across as a Yakuza solider. Not sure why he avoided me at the bar though. Was he angry with me for telling him the vision of him that I had seen? Not sure. Star went as Batgirl. People think I am strange, but she takes it to a new level. She and reality didn’t always seem to be on speaking terms. Then we had Antonio. I had seen him a few times at the sorority. He was dressed as Zorro, and actually made it work.

The day after, I again woke up screaming in terror. It had been more or less the same dream as before. But this time I could see arms hanging down from the black roof, and there was much more blood. This time it was Star that were waking me up by shaking me. How had she gotten in, and where was Melissa? I somehow noticed that the time had been the same as before: 07:18. Strange, how the mind latches on to such small details. As I got into the shower, I saw blood on the floor. I had apparently managed to scratch myself bloody as again my eyes were bleeding, and now I also had blood running from my fingers. Damn, this was bad. I silently asked the Goddess to give me strength to endure the pain of these visions.

As I finally had calmed down and made myself ready to go out, I was struck by the news that there had been some horrible murders on campus. They had found three victims hanging upside down in a tree, with their throats cut. I didn’t really want to see it, but I had to know. I slowly steeled myself and went down there. A lot of people had gathered, watching as the police took care of the bodies. I didn’t know the victims, but I felt guilty somehow. I recognized the boy as one of the quarterbacks in the football-team, but I couldn’t place his name. The two girls were unfamiliar to me. Could this have been avoided if I had told anyone of my first nightmare? Probably not. People don’t seem to want to believe in prophecies, or at least not the kind of visions I see. That doesn’t stop them from believing in silly horoscopes that are so inaccurate that they make the weather prognosis look like it is one hundred percent certainty. I took a look at the crime scene, and for the first time I really saw that strange tree. It was totally white with shiny black leaves. It felt old. My instincts told me that there was something not right with this whole situation. It screamed of black magic to me.

I spent a most of the day trying to find out what was going on. I couldn’t find anything. So I was quite relieved when it knocked on the door. It gave me a reason to think of something else. I was a bit surprised to see Mirou with a huge white wolf like dog, Antonio, and Star there. Apparently Olivia from the Wiccan sorority had gone missing, and they wondered if there was some way to track her. They thought that there might be a connection between her disappearance and the murders this morning. I told them that sure, it could be done, but it would need something of hers, and the more personal it had been the better. I guess Mirou had told the others about my vision with him, and they figured correctly that I knew magic. Well, to quote Willow from one of my favourite TV-shows, most of the members of that sorority were blessed-be wannabes with no magical talent at all. It was all a façade.

Anyway, they had actually managed to get hold of something that I could use. I asked the others to stand back so I could prepare the spell. I drew a large circle on the floor around me. Star backed away a lot from that. Not quite sure why but she seemed almost afraid of it. Then I took out a map of the city, and burned some incense while cleansing my mind. I then used my pendant as a pendulum, and it didn’t take that long before I got a hit. The girl was quite nearby, and she was moving, something that my pendant indicated. The others went to the place that I told them of, and found the girl. She was apparently in a state of shock and covered by blood.

After a few minutes they called me, asking me to come to the sorority-house, where they had taken her. We did that, and talked a bit to the girls there as they tried getting Olivia to respond. I touched the clothes she had been wearing, using my ability of psychometry to get an image of what had happened to her. I saw that she had been at the tree at dawn, and lots and lots of blood. I could hear screams of terror. Shortly after that the police came, and took Olivia with them to the hospital after asking a few questions. After they leave, we sit around for awhile wondering what to do, when Star gets a phone call from Imogen who had been doing some research. We decide to go and talk to her, to see what she had found. Say what you want about her, but she did have a lot of contacts, and seemed to know a lot of what happened on campus.

I could feel that there was some kind of magic in the air, slowly building up. I had no idea for what and where it came from, but it was powerful and probably not very good. Imogen called campus security, asking them about the mornings happening. Apparently she knew the guys that had found the bodies, and it had been at the same time as my bad dream. That strange tree where the bodies had been found had apparently stood there for as long as anyone knew and even pre-dated the university. Maybe even the city itself, and it had according to rumours been used as a place for sacrifice. Even stranger was that it had always looked like it did now. As far as everyone knew it was an elm, even though elm trees didn’t look like that. As we were talking, I felt the magic spell that was being built up go off, but I had no clue as to what the target was.

Mirou had let the dog track Olivia’s scent backwards to see from where she had appeared, but the dog had lost the track at the parking place near the library. Mirou then threw his bag into some nearby bushes and told the dog to fetch it. The dog took of, and shortly afterwards Karl turned up. He told us that he was a werewolf and that he had also tracked the scents from the murder scene, and that they too had vanished at the parking place. Oh my. That was indeed a lot to take in, but sure I could accept that. Apparently Olivia had vanished yesterday from Avalon after having some heated discussion with her boyfriend, then been abducted a few hours before the murders.

I thought that I might be able to pick up something from the scene if I went and did a reading of the tree. Karl agreed to accompany me there. As I touched the tree, which I somehow knew to be dead, I got a vision of horrible rituals there. I saw lots and lots of murders. But there had been a long time since last time. As far as I could make out before I fainted, was that it hadn’t happened since the 17th century. By the time I had awoken again, Antonio had just got a call from one of the girls at the sorority that Olivia had managed to hang herself at the psych ward where she had been taken by the police. I was quite certain that the spell had something to do with that. It felt as just too much of a coincidence.

Well, having fainted as well as getting such news made me feel a bit too weak to do any more investigation, so I decided to head home for some well needed rest and try to speak with some of my contacts that were knowledgeable about magic if they knew anything. Some of the others decided to try and find Olivia’s missing phone, as they figured that might hold clues to her mysterious boyfriend as that might give some more leads as to what had happened to her. Imogen and Tim tried getting in touch with their contacts and learn more of what was going on, and see if they could find any witnesses. Of course the police would be doing the same things.

We met up the day after at a café, to discuss what we did know, and all the new rumours that were circling around on campus. One of the more chilling rumours we had heard was that each leaf on the strange white elm with the black leaves, corresponded to one human sacrifice. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if it was actually true. Apparently the others had managed to find both Olivia’s phone and her computer, and from there deduce the possible name of her boyfriend. We had some different ideas of what to do with the information we had. Tim took it upon himself to turn the phone and the computer over to the police later on. Imogen talked two of the girls from the sorority that had been close friends of Olivia, into accompanying her and Tim to the psych ward to see how the suicide could have happened. Star veiled herself and accompanied them. Karl accompanies me as I go talk to my contacts. I learned that some of the minor talents here in Boston, also tried their best to find out what had happened. They all expected the wardens to show up sooner or later, but hopefully the community could band together and solve it without their intervention. Karl wondered why everyone was so afraid of the wardens, and I told him that they were a kind of ruthless magical police force that wasn’t exactly big on compassion and empathy. Everyone with magical talent tends to get skittish whenever the wardens are around, due to what they can do. Basically, they are judge, jury and executioner all at once.

Later on, we met up at the Avalon and talked while Karl and Mirou were working as it was a Friday night. Given the recent happenings, it was a rather slow night. Of course we hadn’t exactly learned much that was useful. Imogen had learned that Olivia had been restrained to the hospital bed and under guard, when she managed to commit suicide. We all thought that felt very wrong indeed. So either the staff at the hospital had been lying about what happened and possibly been involved, or someone had had gotten to them through supernatural means and made them think that was what happened. According to Imogen’s information the staff had been away for less than half a minute to get some water, and when they got back, Olivia’s restraints had been undone and she had hanged herself, without making any sounds that the guard outside her room could hear. No, there were something fishy going on here.

As it was getting a bit late and we all had things planned for tomorrow, we decided to call it a day, and go home. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we would face more problems. I quickly fell asleep once I got home. The dream I had now was much more pleasant, but still unsettling. I felt as if I were floating through a forest. All the while I could hear what sounded almost like a song, but it was in a language I had never heard before. I came to a clearing, filled with moss. In the centre was a huge oak tree. The music gradually changed and I could tell that some kind of consciousness was focusing on me. I could see something white sticking up through the moss near the tree. I also felt how my grip on my own mind was slipping, with the music taking over more and more. Finally I woke up in bed, dripping of sweat as if I had had a fever. Tears were running down my cheeks, and I was freezing as if it was well below freezing. I could still hear the mysterious music, and I knew it wasn’t natural. As I tried to get up, I collapsed on the floor, weak as a kitten and unable to move. Not sure how long I lay there before Melissa woke up.

She called an ambulance, and I was taken in for observation. It took a few hours where they gave me lots and lots of intravenous fluids, as the doctors claimed I was severely dehydrated and on the brink of death. All the while, I could not get that haunting music out of my mind. After a few hours when I have stabilized, I am released from hospital with strict orders to drink lots and lots of fluids. A bit like the stuff athletes drinks and I had to come back the day after for a check-up. I met all the others except Star and Antonio in the hospital cafeteria. They were of course quite worried about me and asked what had happened. As I told them, I knew that I had been targeted by a spell, and that I would need to find someone to help me break it, as wards and dispelling weren’t exactly my specialities. Karl was quite interested in my dream, and he decided to go and see if he could find the place I had dreamt about as he thought he knew the whole forest. There was something special about that oak tree.

I had to know if the others were targets of the spell as well, so I very carefully used The Sight on them, making sure that there were no distractions of other kinds. None of the others were affected. Not quite sure exactly what Mirou was, but he sure wasn’t all human. I did gather that Antonio somehow also had been targeted by a spell, but they wouldn’t tell me more. So I leave the others to get some more help against whatever was targeting me, and also doing some research of what exactly we were up against. Felt like we were out of our league.

During the night, I am harshly awoken by Karl, as he had found me sleepwalking in the forest, dressed only in my panties. He tackled me to the ground just before I entered the same strange clearing that I had been dreaming of before. But now, there were two bodies hanging upside down from the mighty oak. We both recognized them as the two girls, Kim and Cory, from the sorority whom had gone with Imogen to the psych ward earlier. This time they, the victims had not gotten their throats cut, instead they had been cut open from the throats down to their waists. And I could still hear that haunting music, trying to pull me in. Below the moss, we spot what appears to be a multitude of whitened skeletons. Apparently it had been pure luck that he had found me, he had taken his motorcycle out for a ride as he couldn’t sleep, and then come a cross my smell. Intrigued he had decided to follow it, especially since this was a place of the forest he hadn’t been to before.

Karl tried calling the police, but couldn’t get any signal. We decided to take a quick look to see if we could find anything. We found a paper bag with a receipt for twenty metres of rope and silver tape, and Karl found the broken tip of a knife. He took the tip of the knife. As I touched, the bag, I got a vision of someone making the purchase and feeling very elated on what was to come. Again we saw that there had been some kind of container beneath the victims to catch the blood. Good thing that a werewolf has a good sense of smell. Karl could sense that the same three women had been present here as on the other gruesome site. We decided to head back to his motorcycle, and then call the others. Maybe we could then be able to track down the murderers. Besides, I needed some clothes as it was a bit chilly. After some time Mirou, Tim, and Imogen came after some serious guidance by Karl over the phone. Star had replied in a text message that she was at the FBI headquarters. What had she gotten herself into now? When I asked about Antonio, Imogen looked very sad. Didn’t I know, she wondered? I shook my head, I had absolutely no idea. Apparently Mirou and Karl had earlier that morning found Antonio lifeless in the white elm. No one had any idea why he had been there, but he had not been sacrificed like the others. His body had been brought to the hospital almost the same time I had been brought there. Imogen had managed to get them to abstain from an autopsy for the time being, as she still held hope that he wasn’t really dead. Why hadn’t they told me earlier during the day? Dear Goddess, why were some people so pigheaded?

After we had explained the situation of what we had found in the clearing, Karl shifted into wolf-form again and began tracking the women who had been at the scene. Sadly, the tracks stopped at a road, where they appeared to have had a car waiting. So we headed back again. Had it not been for the lingering smells, we wouldn’t have found our way back to the clearing again. Realizing that there was no way in hell, that we would be able to get the police to the place; the boys gently lowered the victims to the ground and carried them to a place that we could direct the police to. If nothing else so that the families of the two girls could get some kind of closure as bad as it was. So after leaving the paper bag there and the receipt, Karl made an anonymous phone call to the police, before we left.

On the way back, Karl got a frantic phone call from Star, and she wondered if anyone knew how to get hold of large quantities of pain-killers, preferably morphine. We of course wondered why she would need that. She claimed that it was for Antonio, that he was alive and in her room at the dormitory, although in very much pain. We naturally hurried back there, and did indeed find Antonio bedridden in pain. Someone had tried to cut him open, and then sew it together. Mirou set of to the Avalon, where he knew that he could get hold of Morphine. I have no idea why they had that there, and not sure that I would like to know. Of course I had heard rumours that for the right price and if you knew the right codes, you could get anything to drink there. Imogen and Tim talked to Star about what had happened, but she was only babbling about her missing monkey, which she referred to as Master. Remember, that I mention that she and reality weren’t always on speaking terms? Well, this was a prime example of that. I tried to ease Antonio’s pain, while Karl set off trying to track down the missing monkey by its smell. How was it that Star was allowed to keep a monkey as a pet in the dorm, anyways?

After a few minutes and still early morning, Mirou came back with the Morphine, and the missing monkey. He had just run into Karl who had been running towards the sorority house where he had seen a fire blazing. Imogen, Tim and Mirou quickly followed suit there to help save the girls who lived there. Luckily they got there in time, but as far as I gathered the house was destroyed. I stayed with Antonio and Star. None of the girls that had been there had been seriously hurt. Imogen realized that all the things that had happened had been targeting the sorority. It seemed that last year, three girls had been expelled from the sorority and the school. It definitely seemed likely that they were the culprits. The only ones that knew for a fact why they had been expelled had been Olivia, Kim, and Cory, and of course the school officials. The police had been involved in the matter, so whatever had happened had been bad.

During the morning, I set out to track the girls with my divinations, as it was a good guess that they still had the broken knife with them. Karl, Mirou, Imogen and Tim, tried getting hold of more information on what exactly had happened without much success. They did find the former headmaster dead in his house. He had been dead for quite a few days. Imogen then had to excuse herself as she needed to go and participate in the presidential election. Tim continued his investigation, while Star tried to care for Antonio. Still think he would have been better of at a hospital, but then might be difficult to explain that he was now alive, especially since the FBI had previously brought the body with them for further investigation. By Star’s ramblings, I gathered that it was the FBI that had cut him up. Why would they do that?

When I picked up the trail of the knife, Mirou, and Karl, joined me into seeing where it was. Hopefully we would be able to stop the three girls: Cassie Ramon, Katy Goodman and Fiona Campbell. The track led us into a rough Spanish neighbourhood in Boston, where you could almost cut the sense of dread with a knife. People were genuinely afraid. My spell led us to a building that looked like it should have been condemned. As we opened the door, we found a young boy that had been shot in the head. It really sickened me, but it was the kind of neighbourhood where no one would have seen or heard anything. We would have to do something though. The spell led us to the attic, where we found that someone had made a temporary lodging. On the floor were four mattresses and someone had painted a huge pentagram on the floor, and in it was a ceramic bowl filled with blood. This was the place for some foul magic. By the Goddess, I so wanted the perpetrators to be stopped.

When we searched the place some more, we found papers, on which they had drawn quick studies for the pentagram, as well as a psychology-book. Apparently it had belonged to Katy Goodman, and was full of lecture-notes in it. But it didn’t make any sense to me though. One thing that was strange though, was that there were no other signs of anyone living there. No food, no clothes, just nothing. It could be that they were already done and had just abandoned the place, but it didn’t quite feel right. I wanted to make sure that no one could use the pentagram for more nasty stuff, so I made tiny breaks in the lines for it. That should neutralize it, hopefully without it being detected, if my understanding of magic was correct. While I did that, Karl decided to pee on the on of the mattresses. Eugh, that was gross, you don’t do that when there are girls around. And to make it worse he only laughed when I asked him if he knew no shame. Bastard! Had he at least been in wolf-form when he did that, I might forgive him. Now it just came across as a juvenile stunt. Just typical of what one would expect from a boy.

On the way out from the condemned building, Mirou took a closer look at the body of the dead boy. Rats had started sniffing around the body in the short time we had been upstairs. The boy couldn’t have been more than maybe five to six years old, and had a bit of candy in his hands. The callousness of how he had been killed made me want to cry. Karl did the decent thing and called the police from a nearby phone booth. I don’t think he saw the missing persons-poster there, but I did. It had a photo of the dead boy. His name had been Benito Gonzales, and he had been missing since the 22nd of October. But we were quite certain that he had not been lying there more than a few hours. So what had happened to him in the meanwhile? I really didn’t want to know, but I felt so bad for the kid and his poor mother that had made the missing persons-poster. Life wasn’t fair.

Satisfied that there wasn’t anything else we could do there, we left for less scary places in town. Karl and Mirou accompanied me as I took the time to go and vote, and then do the required check-up at the hospital since the dehydration-scare the day before. Luckily the doctors gave me a clean bill of health. For some reason the hospital were crawling with police officers and people from the FBI. Something bad must have happened there, as they asked everyone that came there lots of questions. We didn’t stick around longer than we had to. I did appreciate getting a lift on Karl’s motorcycle though. Maybe I should get a driver’s license myself? It would provide freedom to go anywhere.

As we left the hospital, Karl got a phone call from Star, who claimed that Antonio had vanished. Given the condition he had been in, he shouldn’t have been able to go to the bathroom by himself, much less leaving the dorm. Something wasn’t right. He sent a message to Imogen and Tim to meet us there. Before we left Mirou tried calling Antonio’s phone, but only got Star on the other end. Mirou being how he is, he tried convincing her that he was Antonio, and she seemed to fall for it. That girl is such an airhead.

When we got to Star’s room, we did indeed find that Antonio was gone. He had only left some bloody bandages behind. Strangely enough we found flowers growing through the floor, underneath her bed. The fragrances reminded me of summer. The flowers were indeed real flowers, but I could feel traces of magic from them. Mirou claimed that Antonio had vanished into Nevernever. This was quite intriguing I thought. How had he done that? I didn’t think he knew magic. According to both Karl and Mirou, Antonio was a Prince in Nevernever. So they figured he had gone to the Summer Court. How did they know that? Had they been there? Imogen was quite confused and wondered what we were talking about. We tried explaining about Nevernever to her, but I don’t think she accepted our explanations.

I used my Tarot deck and the bandages that Antonio left behind to do a spell to see if he was still alive, which I found him to be, but I could not get any direction to where he was. Star claimed to have the ability to open a portal to Nevernever down in the basement of the dormitory. Mirou said that we should not go there, as it was dangerous. From all I knew about the place, he was indeed right. It almost seemed like he was afraid of going there. I realized that he had indeed been there and something had gone badly. So that was what the prophecy I had given him earlier had meant. I think I really should ask him at a later stage exactly what had happened there.

As I was doing my spell, I was dimly aware of the alteration between Imogen and Mirou. Not sure why, but he had apparently said something about her coming from the wrong family and that she lacked money, status and looks. She of course flew into a righteous tirade against him, arguing that he was nothing but a male chauvinistic pig. He just laughed it off and ignored her. Why, did he have to go and do something like that? We didn’t need that kind of trouble.

The situation was luckily defused by Tim’s phone ringing. He had earlier asked one of his contacts within the police force about what had happened last year at the sorority, and now we would know. What we found out were really bad indeed. It seemed that the three girls that we thought was behind it all had last year tried to ritually murder another girl, and had carved a pentagram on her chest when they were discovered by some of the other girls at the sorority. The poor victim, Jessie Hendricks had barely survived but had lost her mind and was now interned at the psych ward. The previous Headmaster of the school, who was the person responsible for throwing out the three girls, had been found dead. Apparently by a heart attack, but he had unexpectedly been bleeding huge amounts from his eyes. Could that be what had affected me in my nightmares?

Imogen and Tim wanted to do more researching to get to the bottom of this, and Imogen managed to track down Jessie’s family. Her sister said that she was going to visit Jessie the day after, and Imogen managed to talk her into letting them join her. Mirou on the other hand took another look at the psychology book we had found earlier, and found some notes that indicated that Katy had been romantically involved with some unnamed boy. Imogen called a girl that knew all the gossip on campus. Apparently Katy had been involved with the sports jock that had been found dead in the weird elm tree. The two girls with them had apparently been nasty towards the three murderers. So it all seemed to be about revenge. But why had they used Jessie as their first victim? All we knew was that she had been in the same class as two of the girls, and that she had been beautiful and popular.

The day after, most of us spent in classes. I got very surprised when I saw someone who looked like Antonio down in the cafeteria. Well at least like Antonio with a beard and long hair. I went up to him and got his attention. It was indeed Antonio, and he looked fully recovered. I sent the others a message that I had found Antonio again, and we decided to sit down to go through what had happened. Antonio was a bit surprised when I wondered how he had vanished yesterday. For him it had apparently been many months. Months that he said he had spent in a hospital. I thought it looked more like he had been away on a holiday, and you could only see faint scars from the hideous injuries he had gad earlier. I used my Sight to verify that it really was Antonio, and it sure looked like him. I could tell though that he indeed was not quite fully human. Seemed that Karl and Mirou had been right about their comments about the Summer court. I really needed to get the full story about that. He claimed that what had happened earlier was that he had climbed up in the weird elm tree, and then gotten bored and when he climbed down, he had found himself in a version of Boston that was totally empty of all life and that the sun had moved much too fast. Then suddenly something weird had come and attacked him, causing those terrible injuries we had seen. When he woke up he was at a hospital under guard, and then Star had come and gotten him out of there. He said it was his father that had taken him away from her room. No matter how it had happened, we were of course all glad that Antonio was back.

He had previously learned that there were two really violent gangs that had started fighting about territory in Boston, and especially the Spanish quarters. He claimed that the gangs were called MS13 and El Eme. I hadn’t heard much about them before, but that explained why everyone there had been so frightened.

The meeting Imogen and Tim had had with Jessie’s sister had not shed much light on why she had been taken. It seemed that the poor girl had been totally unresponsive to anything that was said to her. Strangely enough she had been found walking around by herself at two times. Both the 1rst and the 3rd of November. It coincided well with the time of two of my strange dreams. She was indeed linked to the magic. I fear that there was nothing that could be done to help her. The ritual where she had been the intended sacrifice had almost succeeded. Her soul had been almost obliterated. As far as I knew there was no way except possibly a divine miracle to help her. And those can’t exactly be conjured up on a whim. Star claimed that she had had her soul being torn apart and that it had taken her more than five thousand years for her to get back to the state she was in now. Not sure what she had been smoking, because that just couldn’t be true, could it?

Antonio got a phone call from the girl that had taken over as leader of the Wiccan sorority, and she invited him to join them in a memorial ritual at midnight on a roof. He gladly agreed, then asked if I could join him. She was a bit sceptical at first but agreed when he said that I knew magic and had been helping him. We would meet them at half past ten. The others would take precautions to safeguard the ritual in other ways. Karl would join us in wolf form, and Imogen would be on another roof with Mirou down below. Star and Tim would apparently hide somewhere else, with Star using a veil to hide them.

Me and Antonio then met with the other sorority girls at the agreed upon time. They asked me a lot of questions in an interview. I was then accepted to join them by Yukimi Nagano, who was the new leader. She also explained to me just what the ritual would entail. One of the girls, Beverly asked me to do a reading of her future. Something I gladly did, but the reading was very troubling for me. How do you tell someone that they will die horribly in just a few hours? I told her that she would have a short but intense life, and that she should make sure every moment of it counted. I could tell that she didn’t believe me, when I said she would be in danger. Such is the curse of my gift for seeing the future, that people don’t believe my prophecies.

For the ritual, we painted a huge magical circle combined with a pentagram on the roof, and place lit candles on various places. All twelve of us are naked. Wonder what ideas someone would get if they saw that. It should have been chilly, but a warm summer breeze kept us warm, and Antonio made flower petals appear from nothing. I doubt that any of the others had any magical powers, but it was a fitting ritual to the Goddess.

Suddenly the door to the stairwell down opened up, and three girls naked but painted with blue symbols showed up. Before anyone had the time to react, they unleashed a magical wind that blew Beverly and Lita, the girl next to her, out over the roof of the four story building. I could hear how their brief screams of terror were abruptly stopped by the sickening sound of bodies hitting the pavement below hard. Damn it, I hate it when I am right.

I yelled to the girls to take cover and get away from the edge of the roof, and then I saw Karl in his wolf form attack one of the newcomers. Suddenly I saw a blur of motion, which I took to be Mirou, coming from the edge of the roof and running towards the attackers with a sword in hand. How had he gotten up to the roof? After the three girls a big man stepped out from the stairwell. Unlike the girls, he had clothes on and wielded what looked like huge claws. I could tell how the girls were lining up for another spell, but then it suddenly got very warm as Antonio cast a fire spell at one of them, yelling something like “burn you bitch”. I could understand him; these girls had murdered several of his friends. I too would want revenge.

The rest of what happened was pure chaos. The girl that got hit by the fire spell threw herself over the edge of the roof, just as Mirou stunned the witch by smacking her over the head with the broadside of his sword. In the corner of my eyes, I saw how Karl struggled with the girl he had bit earlier. She didn’t seem to care for him and retaliated with a nasty spell. Antonio helped me protect the girls form the sorority, getting them away from the fight. Somehow Imogen had also made the way up to the roof and she interposed herself between the attackers and the girls. Where were Star and Tim? I could hear gunshots ringing out, but from where? And what was the target? I could see Mirou and the strange man going at each others in a flurry of blows, and then suddenly a strange blue mist surrounded the man’s head, temporarily blinding him. Karl bit down on the woman’s arm with renewed ferocity, and you could hear the sickening sound of bones breaking. With another spell, she flung herself off the roof, probably trying to take Karl with her. I could see how the third woman regained her composure and started working a fire spell of her own. Not wanting to see what would happen, I ran up and knocked her down to the ground with a hard tackle from the side. I really shouldn’t have done that, as she responded by sending an arc of electricity into both me and herself. The excruciating pain racked my body, and made me collapse. Was that what it felt like being hit by lightning? I was dimly aware how both the man fighting with Mirou and the woman I had been facing just collapsed. She appeared to have killed herself with her spell.

A warm rain began to fall over the roof, erasing our magical circle as we started picking up our belongings and leave just in time to avoid being arrested by the police that came to investigate the disturbances. Oh, by the Goddess, I really hoped this was over and that the murderers had been stopped.

Somewhat later Tim had managed to get an article published in the Trimountaine Arcane, detailing the case, but thankfully he had left out the stuff that could implicate us in the deaths during the ritual. I think we all would need time to come to terms with what had happened. I had gotten some new friends though. Maybe that would turn out to be a good thing.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 2: The Witching Hour

A few days after the attack during the ritual, I could tell that I was being followed by someone. Not sure, but I think it might have been a warden. I had heard rumours about a group of wardens hitting town. A bit late I must say, had they come earlier maybe some of the deaths could have been avoided. That I still have my head must mean that they found me innocent and not a threat. The police of course couldn’t make heads or tails by what had happened. That lead to a lot of debates, and some support programs for troubled girls were started. It sounded good but I am sceptical of what good it would accomplish.

Then FBI started to poke around campus, and started interrogate all male persons with a Hispanic look. They get well-deserved criticism for racial profiling in the media, and they then back off. Not sure exactly what they were after, but I think it might have been connected to what happened to Antonio. Not sure, but I think he made himself scarce when they were around as it seemed they were looking for some kind of terrorist.

Imogen seemed very pleased with herself that Obama won the presidential election. Of course he was a better choice than Romney, but he still had done some bad things during his previous term. I must say that I am not that happy with the current system, as basically only candidates from the two big parties have a chance, so yes my vote in the election had in effect been wasted. But at least I had voted.

I spent lots of time with my new friends in the sorority, and well at least three of the girls there had some magical talents; Kathleen Hannah, Johanna Faithman and Jude Dee Samson, or J.D. as she preferred to be called. So we spent time trying to develop our talents, and I learned some other stuff not just divination. I bonded quite well with the sorority leader Yukimi who was very friendly to me. No one seemed to blame me for what had happened during the remembrance ritual on the roof, which was good. When I started taking driving-lessons in town, Í even managed to find a store called Starstone where one could buy magical equipment. For most visitors it would be just another new age store, but they had some nice stuff. Most of them were well out of my price-range though. Some of the stuff, I had no idea what they could be used for. Not even sure I wanted to know.

On the theatre-side I had unsuccessfully tried to track down our old director. He had indeed moved to Norway to start his new life. Damn it. Well, I had at least managed to inspire Gerald and Nina to look further into becoming directors. I think they would be able to do it as they have the acting capabilities. I asked them what their toughest roles had been, and told them to just imagine that they played the role of a director. That seemed to work. We had some lengthy discussions about what kind of plays would draw the most audiences. We would even hold a fundraiser later on as well. I would need to talk to Imogen about that.

Three months later, life had sort of started going back to normal. The sorority had gotten a temporary place to be. It wasn’t much though. Think it used to be used by some geeky computer club. Karl and Antonio helped out a lot in making it better. It seemed to be lots of bureaucracy involved in rebuilding the house.

We had however heard worrying rumours that the warfare between the two gangs in the Spanish quarters had escalated. Apparently they used kids as couriers and there were lots of reports of people ending up dead. I really hoped the police would be able to do something, but I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. It felt like that situation would only get worse.

At a monthly meeting with other magical practitioners that I had started to get to know in Boston, we found that Jamie was missing. No one of the others had heard from her for the past three weeks, and she didn’t answer her phone. So we decided to go to her place to see if she was ok. When we came there, we found the door unlocked, with lots of mail piling up inside. It was totally silent. We found her cat dead in the kitchen from apparent dehydration, and all her flowers dying. Someone called the police to register a missing person’s claim, but they wouldn’t take it serious. That is so typical. I tell the others that I would look into it more, so I borrowed one of Jamie’s trinkets that she so cherished to perform a divination, and also called Tim to see if he could get some more info from the police as he had some contacts there.

Of course I didn’t perform the ritual at Jamie’s place. I wasn’t exactly surprised that my divinations indicated that she was dead. I had gotten an idea of where she were so I called Karl, as I knew that he could track stuff much better than me in his wolf form. I hadn’t expected him to show up together with Star in a van. She had apparently for some reason bought it and had it painted like Scooby Doo’s Mystery van. Why had she done that, and how had she afforded it? And I don’t think she knew how to drive.

We drove out to the place where my divination-spell indicated that Jamie would be. Karl changed into wolf-form, and he sniffed around. Sure enough, right under one of the bridges near the harbour did he find her remains. She had been dismembered and stuffed into a plastic bag. Eugh, that was really nasty and made me want to throw up. I called the police, who came and took statements from me and Star. I don’t think they quite bought that I was just out walking my “dog”, and he had dug up the remains. After being questioned, I took and drove the van away, and when we had gotten away, Karl shifted into human form again and I gladly let him take over the driving. We did notice that the homeless persons that had been near the bridge had mysteriously vanished when the police came there.

I called the other practitioners later, and let them know what we had found. One of them, can’t remember who said that Jamie had just prior to her disappearance met someone but they didn’t know who as she had been rather close-mouthed about that. I wondered if the person whom she had met could have been the one responsible for her murder.

Tim had found out earlier that Jamie had been reported as missing almost three weeks before. The police had been at her place and searched for clues. Her neighbour had been supposed to take care of the cat, but she had herself gotten sick and ended up in hospital. He had also found out that the dismembered parts had been chewed upon. The police couldn’t tell exactly by what, as it looked both human and animal. He also learned that a similar case had happened in Hartford, Connecticut about four weeks earlier. Tim had also been able to track down the homeless persons near the bridge, and they claimed that they had seen twelve children driving up in a car and then burying the plastic bag containing Jamie’s body. They had felt that something was seriously wrong and decided to keep well away. I wondered if it might be something from Nevernever, as I doubted it would be real children. Even if I took into consideration what the gangs where doing. But without a better description or if I could use my Sight on them, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

Star and Karl decided upon hearing this that they should go and see if they could find out more at Jamie’s apartment. I don’t know what they expected to find, and I think the police would be all over the place considering that she was dead and all. I took the time to dispose of the trinket I had used for the divination-spell. Anyways, they came back with a diary. And it turned out that Jamie had been involved with a strange brown-eyed woman whom she had met at a club called Wishes. None of us had heard of it, but Mirou said he would be looking into it.

I had a long talk about fundraisings with Imogen, and she gave me lots of good pointers. It all depended on who you wanted to come. The upper class would prefer seeing old stuff with class, like Shakespeare. Theatre-snobs preferred more artsy stuff in my experience, whereas the average Joe would go for something lighthearted.

We decide that Star, Imogen, Antonio, Tim, Karl and I would go to Hartford to look into more stuff the day after. Mirou absolutely refused to be seen anywhere near Star’s van. He would instead look for more info on the nightclub. I talked to Antonio a bit about Nevernever and the Summer court in specific. He was indeed a prince there, or rather his father was. A bit surprised that a changeling would hold high status there, but stranger things has happened. He was very happy with the medical attention he had gotten there. I had no idea what that would entail though, but for some reason I gathered that he had been looked after by a lot of pretty faerie women. Antonio is such a ladies man.

Once in Hartford, Tim talked to a journalist about the case there. The victim there, had been named Sadie Benning, and her mutilated body had been found near a jogging-track by a woman who had been out with her dog. He managed to track down some drunkard who claimed to have seen the body being dumped. The drunkard claimed that it had been what looked like four children dressed as adults who had done it. But he was very certain that it had not in fact been children. One of them had had horns, and one had been wearing those old worthless 3d-glasses. He claimed that they had been talking in squeaky voices and that didn’t speak English. Someone wasn’t right in their heads, in fact I wonder if they were crazier than Star was, and I wasn’t sure if it was the drunkard who had observed it or the perpetrators.

I tried on the other hand to track down any connections to the supernatural through the Paranet to see if anyone here knew anything. No one knew for sure. The others did some digging as well, and we did find out that Sadie like Jamie had been a practitioner and recently met someone. Sadie had apparently had a long-distance relationship with a woman from New York. No chance of tracking her down without anything else to go on. Besides how were we going to persuade the police to believe any findings?

Tim got lucky when he talked to the police and learned that there had been a string of similar murders since December in 2010. It had started down in Florida and hit every capitol of every state up along the coast with one case more or less per month. Wonder why the FBI hadn’t been all over this. We then found out that all of the victims had been leaders of local division of the Paranet. Why was someone murdering local practitioners? Was it because we were perceived to be easy targets?

Satisfied that we couldn’t learn anything else in Hartford, we headed back to Boston. I believe Tim asked Imogen out for a date on the way back. Good for them. While it would satisfy my romantic side, to have a knight on a white horse and shining armour to come ask me out, I am enough of a modern girl to go ask the guys out myself. If I could find any that’s worth it that is. Heck, there were even some of girls I knew that I wouldn’t mind some snuggle-time with, and I am not even drawn that way. At least I don’t think I am. I could just imagine the outrage that would cause with my parents back home, but I am who I am and I do things my way now.

When we got back we learned that Mirou had apparently been to the club in question and it had been very expensive, so how had Jamie managed to get in there? She hadn’t earned much money. Tim tried to get hold of the guest list for the club but got stonewalled. Not much of a surprise. I gathered that the thing about exclusive clubs was their exclusivity.

Then from out of nowhere we learned that the sorority house would not be rebuilt at all, instead there would be a dormitory. I can understand it sort of, as that would mean that more students could attend, but I just knew that it would be really demoralizing to my new friends. First everything they had gone through, then having to fight red tape and now this. Imogen seemed to take this as a challenge and claimed that it infringed on our rights. She started doing what she does best; organising things.

Then in the drama class, I learned that Roxy and Lynette were talking crap about me behind my back and giving me dirty looks. Well, I had no idea why they would do that. I hadn’t done anything against them. I didn’t care much for that. I was in class to learn things, so decided to just ignore them. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, as a few days later I got called into the dean’s office. He had photographs of me and the others in the sorority, taken during the remembrance ritual. He gave me a warning, and threatened me to expel me. That was so unfair. Luckily he didn’t have any photos of the fight, or at least he didn’t show them to me. It was obvious that the photos had been taken from another roof. I think the same one that Imogen had been at, and the photographer had used some real fancy camera to get such good pictures. I asked the dean where he had gotten the photos from, but he didn’t answer. How had the other girls known that we were at the roof at that time, and how had the mysterious photographer known. Who was it, and why had those photos been taken? As I was dismissed from the dean’s office, I met the other girls from the sorority. They had also been summoned there. I quickly told them what I knew. We agreed that we would have to discuss this later. Damn it, why couldn’t things go well for once?

A few days later, I ran into Yukimi, who was ecstatic. The sorority had been given a really large donation from a mysterious donor. Someone had bought a large house on campus and donated to the sorority. This of course got other people upset as that house had not been for sale earlier. My head hurt from the campus politics, but I too was very happy about the outcome. The one thing marring it was that I learned that Jason from the theatre had planned on doing his own fundraising a week after the one I helped doing. And he definitely aimed for the high society. He was such a sneaky bastard. Of course as long as it helped the theatre it was good, but I still didn’t have to like it.

Then later Tim called me as he had gotten news about something mysterious happening in the Spanish part of town and wanted the help of the rest of us to see what was going on. Apparently there had been some kind of alteration there that had the police baffled. Antonio seemed a bit stressed out, and I learned that the gangs there had had gone after his sister. Ouch. Family does matter. He claimed that everything was fine, but I could tell that it was something he wasn’t very happy with. I just prayed it wouldn’t come back and hurt either one of them.

When we got to the place, we could se that the police had cordoned off a garden behind the houses. We could from a distance see that one part had been badly burned as if someone had gone loose with a flamethrower, while the other part was frozen solid in ice. In the burnt part, we could see what appeared to be a body. It was clear that magic had been used here. I opened up my Sight to get a better look at what had happened. As far as I could tell there had been two persons involved. The one who had wielded fire-magic had not been human. The other one had been. I could also make out that the human wielder had wanted to protect something, probably the neighbourhood, whereas the fire-user had wanted to destroy and it felt dirty and really nasty. There had been lots of anger involved. I had no idea what kind of supernatural being the other one had been. The experience left me with a bit of a headache, like when you eat an ice cream way too fast. When I told the others this, Star claimed that she belonged to the fire court. What was she babbling about, we all wondered? She claimed that there were other faerie courts than Summer and Winter, and that she hailed from the Middle East, as if that would explain anything. Oh, Goddess, what was going on? I realized that there was a lot I needed to learn.

Antonio and Tim asked around for any witnesses, and Karl and Imogen tried getting a closer look at the scene without much success. Antonio managed to get some info, and apparently there had been two girls fighting. The dead girl had been a Hispanic girl who called herself Raven. She had been some kind of street shaman or something here helping the community. Apparently she had had special days where the people living here could come and talk to her and she would solve their problems. The other girl had been an Asian looking girl around twenty years old. She had left the place in some kind of luxury car. For some reason I really hoped this wasn’t Yukimi. The very vague description fitted her, but then she was as far as I knew all human, and she wasn’t a practitioner. Why then was I worried?

We spent the rest of the day trying to find any clues on what had happened and why. The day after, I got woken up by Mirou, who called me way too early. It didn’t help at all that he was in such a good mood either. Did I mention that I am not a morning person? Anyways he wanted to meet me real early as he had pulled some strings to help me with the fundraiser, and that we should meet some people at the theatre. I got a sinking feeling that he was up to something, and that I had just been suckered. Damn it, I hate it when that happens. He told me to dress up. I don’t have much of fancy clothes around here. It isn’t quite my style, well I count my corsets and velvet dresses to be fancy. Sure I love nice clothes as much as the next girl, but it isn’t like I have tons of cash to throw around to buy all the stuff I want. What was he up to? I got quite surprised when he picked me up in a limousine. Of course he complained about my clothes not being fancy enough.

Once at the theatre, we were met by some of the people that he had hired. How much money did he have? I mean he had interior decorators, catering, and even security people. I had to show them all around the Theatre so they knew what they had to work with. I tried to act all professional, and being polite all the time. Once those persons left though, I had to ask him what the hell he was thinking. He only laughed at me and told me not to worry about it, it was what was needed to win over Jason. Of course I worried, and it didn’t help that he had apparently invited some important guests. I prayed that the Goddess would bless it so that it would all work. And I saw no way to persuade Mirou to back down here. I felt like I was so out of my league.

I spent the remainder of the day trying to track down information about what the strange beings that had appeared as children to the witnesses regarding the string of murders. Not surprisingly, I didn’t find anything that allowed me to pin it down. I was quite sure though that it was indeed something nasty from Nevernever, and that they didn’t look like children in their natural form. I was quite happy though with the information that Antonio sent out regarding the moving in-party we would have in the sorority later. It would be a wiccan-themed masquerade. What should I wear? Maybe I should dress up as a faerie?

The day after, we woke up to a heavy snowstorm. During the nigh, about three feet of snow had accumulated. I and many others had never seen that much snow. We quickly learned that most of the city was closed off, and that there were no classes being held. Antonio in his ever playful mood decided to organise a snowball fight. That was very fun, but getting snow inside my corset was damned cold. That cold feeling against my tits was in a strange way quite erotic though. Star made some kind of tower to the snow fortress that Antonio had built. Not sure what it was supposed to look like, but it got some lewd comments. I don’t think that turned out the way she had hoped. The snow kept falling through the day, and on the news we learned that outside Boston it was hardly any snow at all. Very freakish weather, and there seemed to be no natural reason for it.

Both Antonio and I tried finding out through our contacts if anyone knew anything about what was happening. I performed a divination spell, and saw a vision of a huge white hart, that was running over open water. Each step causing the water to instantly freeze beneath it, and it seemed to drag a ferocious snow storm behind it. When all of us except Tim and Imogen met up, I told them of the vision I had had. Karl answered that he had for the last two nights had a dream where he and his wolf pack was hunting a huge hart through a wintery landscape, but that members of the pack had been mysteriously injured when they got closer to the hart. He said that he had been calling home, but everything was fine there so he figured it was just some weird dreams.

During the evening, we went to Avalon, as there was not much else to do. I came late as I had been to the theatre first. Was not much people at Avalon, but I saw Antonio managing to seduce some rough looking Asian girl who came in together with four equally rough looking guys of mixed heritage. All of them had a feral feel about them. Apparently Star had the guys distracted as she danced on stage in a provocative manner. The guys couldn’t stop lusting after her, and then even started fighting amongst themselves. Well they didn’t get too far before Karl stepped in and cooled them down. They then started looking for their female companion, who came out from the toilets together with Antonio. Both were looking a bit flustered, so not too much mystery about what they had been doing. Sigh, my love life left a lot to be desired.

During the evening I first got a call from Nina at the theatre, she said she would quit if she didn’t get to be the director. I managed to get her to calm down and said we would discuss it the day after. So I would meet with her and Gerald at a café and talk. We really couldn’t afford to loose anyone. I had some idea on how to sell it though. Then later on my way home, Yukimi called me, and she was totally distressed. I made my way to her room to check on her. She had just had a bad break-up with her boyfriend Steve. Apparently she had caught him in the act with Angelica from the sorority. Ouch, that would turn bad I thought. A woman scorned and all that. Luckily I could calm her down, and we had a long talk before I had to go to bed.

The day after I went and talked to Gerald and Nina. I think I came up with a good compromise. Gerald would direct this version of Hamlet, that were doing, and we would reverse the gender roles so Nina would play the role of Hamlet. And then the next play we would make she would direct and they would rotate that role between them. I think that would help them do even more challenging roles, and they could focus on one thing at the time. I really hoped this would pay off. It was worth it to avoid breaking up both their friendship and the cast at the theatre. I had succeeded being a mediator at least.

I later talked to Yukimi about both how she was doing after her break-up and about the events that had happened during the ritual we had done earlier. I could in a way understand how the three former members and that guy had showed up. They could have tracked us down through the use of a divination-spell, besides they already knew that that was the place the sorority used. I was however more troubled by the photos that someone had managed to take. How had that person known when to be on the other roof? Someone had probably leaked the information. Yukimi thought it might have been Maria. She hadn’t liked it that Yukimi took over as leader of the sorority. It was plausible, but we didn’t have anything to prove it with. We would just have to keep our eyes open.

A bit later on the day when the snow had subsided, I got an urgent text-message from Mirou who wanted all of us to come quickly to an electricity station on campus as something weird were happening. As I hurried there, I noticed that someone had made a lot of improvement on Antonio’s snow fortress, and it was now a work of art. When I was getting closer, I saw Antonio a bit further up ahead. I was just about to call out to him, when a miniature snow tornado buzzed right past him, heading for the electricity station. A few seconds later, the massive steel door from the station, were ripped from its hinges and flew towards us. Antonio just barely ducked and I watched in horror, how it came flying towards me, only to embed itself a mere six feet from me in the frozen ground. I couldn’t see anything except a blizzard at the station, but I could hear growling and what sounded like fighting.

Wanting to know what was going on, I used my Sight. The intensity of what I saw nearly knocked me out. I could see that there was a fight between the Winter Court and the Summer Court, with a help of Fire. In the blizzard I saw contours of a bunch of small bluish and vicious looking creatures, as well as Antonio. I thought I could see other shapes moving around, but they were just a blur. I could see that the whole city was supercharged with some very potent magic, but I could not make out what it was. As I struggled to make sense of what I saw, the fight seemed to reach a crescendo, and then the Fire were suddenly torn away from the swirling mass of snow. I fell to my knees almost fainting by what I saw. Then suddenly the blizzard just vanished, and I felt a hot breath on my face and a cold muzzle nudging me to stand up. As I looked up, quite disoriented, I saw Karl in his Wolf form there, together with Mirou and Antonio. Antonio really looked the worse for wear. According to Mirou, Star had vanished in a sort of fireball heading towards the town, and we needed to find her quickly as she might have been injured.

Luckily Karl could track her scent. She had indeed said that she was from the Fire Court, and given some of the collateral damage we saw, it appeared to be true. Something very hot had burned through the wall to the electrical station, and then in some zigzagging path burned through signs, chimneys and other things that had been in its way back towards town. I guess it was pure luck that no humans had been in the way. We followed the trail back to the Boston Museum, and saw that it had burned through a window on the 3rd floor of the anthropological wing. The museum had been closed since the snowstorm started, but I guess they had been sloppy in locking the doors, as one of them opened when Mirou tried it. I did a quick divination to find more info where in the huge museum Star would be, and then after that Karl and Mirou dashed in real quickly. I stayed outside with Antonio, who really didn’t feel very well. He claimed it felt like the worst brain freeze ever. I believed him. After a short while Karl and Mirou came out, and they had some strange old oriental lamp with them. That was where the trail of Star had ended they claimed.

We headed back to the dorm. Antonio came up to my room for some head-ache pills. He needed to lie down and rest for a while for his migraine to pass. Luckily Melissa wasn’t at home, I had actually not seen her for the past two days, but I knew that she had been around as she had picked up some of her stuff. While Antonio rested, I started long in some books I had about what it was that we had been up against. I could confirm that it was trolls, and that they belonged to the Winter Court. Later in the evening, Karl and Star came by asking about how we were doing. Star looked really tired as well. Karl said that he had some feeling of dread. He and Mirou had earlier tracked the trolls over the campus area and found that three electrical stations had been demolished. He had been in contact with the power company. So the question was how would one stop the trolls? According to my books, iron was a good bet, as was strong Summer magic. I was also quite certain that it was these trolls that had killed all the practitioners. Why? Had they done that, and where there more of them than the twelve we had seen.

The next morning, Karl came by again, and wanted my opinion on a dream he had had. He had again dreamt about the white hart. This time he had in wolf form come to a clearing where he saw the stag standing. In the clearing had been lots of dead wolves from his pack. The hart itself had been covered in blood, and then suddenly it shifted into three stags. When he woke, he had called his family back home in Sweden. His mother had said that everything was fine, but he didn’t believe her. He was quite certain that something bad had happened, and he no longer felt the sense of dread that he had done earlier. As far as I could tell, someone had used some heavy magic against his family. Without more to go on, I couldn’t tell him what had been done or by whom.

I am not sure where he had gotten it from, but Karl then went and brought me some frozen blood. He claimed it was form the trolls they had fought the day before, and wanted me to track them. I had no problem finding the direction to them, and gave Karl the general whereabouts. Apparently six more electrical stations had been destroyed during the night and it was now freezing cold outside. The FBI was apparently taking things very serious according to the news, and they considered it to be some terrorist actions. I decided to do some more divinations and research to find out what was going on.

Later on during the day we spend some time at the Avalon, as nothing else was open and there was not much to do. As we sat there talking, the four feral guys and the feral girl showed up. They were still quite hyper-energetic, and the boys seemed to have been playing a bit rough. The girl had a talk with Karl, before leaving. Not quite sure what they talked about but I gathered that he just got himself a date. Mirou was being very generous and buying everyone at the Avalon drinks. Very nice, though I had to take it a bit easy. I am not exactly used to drinking, as I was underage. Besides, with my abilities, it was definitely in my best interest to maintain control of my mind. I was old enough to vote, drive a car or even getting married but not to legally buy alcohol, but not much I could do about that.

I managed to find some information in some of the books I had. Apparently it was not in character for trolls like that to perform wanton violence as they had done now. Something or someone was pushing them. I really didn’t like that thought. I also found some more references to white stag that Karl had seen in his dreams. As far as I gathered they were the protectors of some old Celtic Faerie queens. Apparently they did not belong to either the Summer or the Winter-courts, instead they made up a separate court called the Daoinie Shidhe, and there were three queens; Hecate, the queen of dogs, Nimue, the queen of blood and Baba Yaga who was the queen of mist. The book I had made references to a book called The Thelema by Aleister Crowley. I really needed to find that book and see what it had to say. It could hold some clues to our current predicament. Karl, Mirou, Imogen and Star agreed to accompany me to the library the day after. And if they didn’t have the book, then maybe Starstone would have it. As a precaution we would bring a few rebars of iron. We hadn’t heard anything from Tim for the past few days, and Antonio was still out of it, even though he had decided to go somewhere else to recover from his previous ordeal.

The next day was even colder. One could almost think we were living in Alaska or something. Of course the library wasn’t open, but Mirou found a backdoor that was open. How does he do that? It felt wrong to go in like that but what else could we do? Time was probably of the essence. After doing some looking around, I managed to find a book about the Celtic faeries. Someone had mistaken it for a book for children and put it in that department. It had some interesting notes regarding what differentiated the fair folk in different regions. It seemed that every region had had its own type of faeries and different customs on how to interact with them safely. I wonder how accurate that book really was.

Imogen managed to actually find the book that I was looking for. Someone had hid it amongst some geography books. The book here was an old and somewhat shortened version that didn’t include Crowley’s satanic stuff. In it were descriptions for rituals to summon the queens, and calculations of dates when each step should be done to gain the most. Someone had definitively used this as there was a photocopied page in it. The dates seemed to add up. The optimal starting date would have been 1st of November last year, and then mid winter for stage 2 and stage 3 would be around the 12lth of March. Damn it.

The ritual was in three stages. First you needed to create a sanctuary, and this stage seemed to involve blood sacrifices. Then after that you gather power, and then last do the summoning ritual. Strangely enough there was nothing in the book regarding what safety precautions you should do. I made sure to take the book and note for safekeeping. Having working rituals around like that is probably quite dangerous in the wrong hands.

Not sure what Star was up to. She said something about Scooby Doo, and well she did manage to find a secret passageway that led downwards in a narrow staircase with brick walls. It had a very low ceiling. Even I was too tall to stand up properly inside it. Karl had to shift into wolf form to fit. He’s a big boy. Star turned into a glowing ball of fire that flowed just underneath the ceiling. According to my divination spell, this would lead to the trolls. I must say that I was curious, but in retrospect it might not have been such a good idea. We followed to passageway for a few hundred yards, and on the way passed another door in the ceiling, but that was impossible to open. Something heavy barred it. At the end of the corridor we came to a heavy steel door behind a sturdy wooden door locked only by a latch.

We heard a loud noise from behind the door as if something large passed by in a great speed. We came out on a maintenance walkway in the subway. To the left we could see East Berkley station on the Silver line some 20 yards away. My spell indicated that the trolls were the other way, so we followed the walkway into the darkness. A bit scary to know that you are walking in such a place where you are not meant to be. Star again took material form, but something didn’t quite go right. She appeared fully dressed in some kind of harem clothing but with burning hair and skin like lava. Imogen really didn’t seem to like that for some reason. Wonder why she reacted that way. When we asked Star about her appearance, she transformed back into the burning ball of fire and then reappeared as her usual self.

Imogen and Mirou kept nagging each other as we followed the walkway to Herald Station and there took another way on to Downtown Crossing. A bit into the tunnel, we found some large stone portal made out of limestone in the wall. The portal was completely dark and we couldn’t see what was on the other side. Some kind of magical effect obscured all light, which made it impossible to see when passing by on the subway. As we went through it we found a staircase leading further down, and we started seeing lights. On the wall were old metal hangers with burning torches, just like you would expect in a mediaeval castle or something.

The passage exhibited signs of having been used frequently despite all the dust on the floor. As we followed the passage we started hearing some kind of murmuring sounds. Further on we found another portal and a sign proclaiming that to be King’s Crossing. We could now make out that there was lots of people talking and singing, but in languages we could not understand. Beyond the portal lay some kind of large market filled with people. None of them looked human though. For example we saw some merchant who had two very large hulking trolls guarding his merchandise. I had a feeling we were not in Kansas any more.

Star apparently had been to this kind of places before, and gave us some quick pointers on what to do and not to do: Don’t accept any deals, don’t accept any gifts, and be very careful of what you say. As if to make a point, Star suddenly materialises a big sword hanging on her back.

When we entered the market, the people there noticed us and looked at us intensely, judging us. As I tried getting my bearing son which way we should go, a large man in a strange headgear came up to us and pointedly told us to loose the iron we had with us. We were obviously not welcome if we were carrying it. We reluctantly agreed, and left the rebars outside the market. No use in upsetting the locals. Strange that I had never even heard about this place before, but it was something that I would need to remember.

Took some time to find the right passageway, and each one looked differently. Some were elaborately carved and others seemed natural, but all appearing random. Finally I found the right way and we headed down there. After maybe fifteen minutes did we come to an area where the passage was natural stones and lots of glowing trees and other plants. A bit further on, we could hear what sounded like the chatter from children speaking in a strange language. I had a feeling that we were getting near the trolls.

Finally we came to a small cave where we could see some kind of large magical circle carved into the floor. I could tell that it wasn’t active so it wasn’t from here that the ritual for summoning the Queens was performed. Luckily the trolls paid no attention to us, instead they played rough with each others and the large amounts of trinkets that they had accumulated, and which lay scattered all over the place.

Sadly this was then things turned bad as Imogen decided to get the trolls attention and give them a piece of her mind. Naturally they decided to attack her. Karl who was in his wolf form managed to block the first of many attacks. The trolls attacked with great ferocity, and injured Imogen badly. At Mirou’s insistence, did Star and I grab her and run away with her as Mirou and Karl defended against the trolls. We ran towards the market, leaving a trail of blood behind us. Luckily the trolls quickly lost interest in us, and Karl and Mirou could join us.

When we came to the market, lots of people gathered around us, but no one wanted to help us. One old woman even went so far as to gather up Imogen’s blood in a cup, while muttering something about finder’s keepers and virgin blood. Star led us quickly towards a large bonfire that they had at the market, and somehow opened a kind of portal there. She said that would take us to a place where we could get some help for Imogen. We were instantly transported to a clearing in a forest where large stone portals arched up towards the sky, and we could see another marketplace much bigger than the one we just left.

It was clear that Star had been there before, as she dragged us towards a large tent in one corner of the market, and we were greeted by a man who obviously was one of the fair folk. After some quick exchanges of greetings, he offered to help us, started treating Imogen’s wounds inside his tent. After he was finished with his magical healing, he offered us tea and coffee as a token of hospitality. According to Star that was fine and we were in no danger from accepting that. In fact refusing it would have been bad. We talked a bit about what had happened, and it seemed that a lot of the supernatural community had left Boston as there was too much Winter magic present at the time. The trolls were just a symptom, and were tougher due to what was going on.

Apparently someone was doing some major mojo, and the heralds of the Queens had gathered there to settle things. I asked him if that would have something to do with what had happened in the alley where the street shaman had been killed. He said that was a purely mortal matter. The heralds would take the form of large white stags. He also told us more about the three Celtic Queens. Things would probably be bad if the ritual were completed. If we could disturb it, the gathered power would dissipate and the grip of Winter would vanish.

After our long talk, we were ready to head home. We carried the sleeping Imogen on a makeshift stretcher that the good doctor provided. This time Star opened a portal that led us to the boiler room in the basement of the dormitory. We helped Imogen to her room where she would lie down to rest. I went to my room to change clothes and try to get the bloodstains out of the other ones. Luckily my favourite colour is black and that means stains like that aren’t visible. I found Melissa to be at home sleeping in bed with Antonio who still looked a little worse for wear. I decided to let them be, and then afterwards went up to Mirou’s room where we had agreed to meet and talk. As I got there Karl had just gotten of the phone with his parents, and apparently two of his cousins had been killed by some Winter trolls.

After getting Mirou’s permission I drew another magical circle on his floor, and then did a divination spell to find where ritual was being conducted. As far as I could tell it came from a place in the wealthier neighbourhoods in town. Great, just what we needed, not only did we have some powerful and potentially crazy sorcerer to deal with, the person responsible was probably well connected, and filthy rich. It did fit with what we had learned earlier though. It definitively piqued Mirous’s interest. Imogen came by later during the evening and apologized for her actions and thanked everyone for saving her life.

Some time after that while we were discussing what to do about the ritual, Tim showed up. He had apparently been snowed in at the office for the Trimountaine Arcane and had had to spend the last few days there. Needless to say he was a bit out of the loop on what had happened lately. Antonio also showed up later after having recovered and leaving poor Melissa. I really hoped he hadn’t broken her heart. She is a nice girl and I didn’t want to see her hurt. We decided to head back into town to check out the place that was the centre of the ritual according to my divination-spell. Some of the others had access to weapons. In retrospect, what we did was rash and stupid. We were lucky that no one caught us.

So we took a late-night subway into town, and then had to go for half an hours walk to come to the place. Karl had of course taken wolf-form again. Star did some magic that made him look less wolf-like. Her magic is definitively a neat trick, though I have no idea on how she does it. Well Faerie magic I guess, just like Antonio did. So much I don’t know yet about magic. We could tell that this was a fine neighbourhood just by looking at the houses. There were lots of large mansions and gated communities.

My spell led us to a large white house with an enormous lawn. It was of course protected by an eight feet wall and a large hedge of cypresses. The entrance was a large gate of wrought iron, with two cameras watching it. We could see a few more cameras on the wall. I had a feeling that something really bad was centred on the house. I could tell by the look of some of the others that they felt it too.

According to Imogen the house was in Colonial style. And those houses where originally made out of wood. This house looked like it had been rebuilt a number of times. As we realized we didn’t actually have a plan, we headed back into town again, and decided to settle at a night-open café for a while. We did however learn the address of the place, and we could use that to do some more research. Tim apparently had some contacts to the archives in city hall. Didn’t know they were accessible in electronic form. The house was owned by an old Greek woman, and the house had been in her family for over a hundred years. Imogen’s guess that it had been rebuilt a number of times turned out to be accurate.

We spend the next day doing more research. Antonio talked to his contacts to learn what the other faeries knew about the current situation. He learned that the Summer Court was unable to do anything as that would lead to the Winter Court attacking. No one wanted to have anything to do with the Daoinie Shidhe as they were apparently dangerous. We did however learn that near the house three different Ley lines converged. That was really bad news as far as I understood things. Imogen on her hand went and talked to some of the guys in the school’s computer-club to see if they could help getting some extra information. I decided to do some more research on how to disrupt this kind of rituals, and what the expected result would be. As far as I could tell, you had to do it before it was finished, and if done right, the stored energy would probably dissipate harmlessly. However timing was the key factor. Star spent the day working her magic on creating a hidden passage through the deep snow that covered the lawn.

So the next night at three a clock we make our way to the house again, and this time we would sneak in. We had during the day acquired certain equipment that would let us do that more easily, such as a portable fire-ladder of the kind that you hang out through a window, as well as better clothes like ski-masks and so on. I should have been really ashamed of even thinking of joining into this madness, but I somehow knew that the stakes were really high. We had to succeed. When we got there, I hexed the camera nearest where we would go over the wall in one of the darker places. Star easily climbed the wall, and then helped the rest of us by attaching the fire-ladder on top of the wall. Once we had gotten over we moved the ladder so it was now on the inside of the wall. Star had indeed managed to create a hidden tunnel of ice under the snow, which lead up to the house. Karl turned into wolf-form and moved first.

As we walked through the tunnel, I could feel on immense amount of power pushing down upon us. It felt really bad, and filled me with a sense of dread. When we came to the house, we sneaked to the back of it. We could see light from one of the windows on the second floor. Mirou very carefully opened the door on the backside, and we silently moved in. Most houses have thresholds, and this was no exception to that rule. I could tell that it was a powerful threshold as soon as I entered the house. Karl had reverted to human form, and Star turned to her fiery form again for a while.

We very carefully searched the house, but could only find 4 elderly persons sleeping. One old man had fallen asleep in front of the television set. What we didn’t find though was any signs of the ritual. The only place in the house where such a powerful ritual could have been cast would have been in the cellar or in the dining room. The other rooms were too small and too cluttered with furniture. Given the strength of the threshold, I knew that whoever had performed the ritual had been invited into the house. As far as we could make out the persons sleeping in the house were the hired staff. We had learnt that the woman who owned the house had been in hospital for the past six months. As we didn’t find anything of value here, except some notes regarding the grocery shopping list, indicating that there had indeed been some guests here during the time that we thought the ritual had taken place. So we decided to leave, and Mirou made sure the back door could not be locked properly. After covering up our tracks again, we left. We knew that we would have to get back here when the ritual was due though.

The next days I spend a lot of time with the theatre practising for the play and organizing the fundraiser, as well s the few classes that were held. For some reason, Mirou had during one of those days gotten himself a Jack Russel puppy. It was indeed quite cute. Karl built doggy doors into both the door to Mirou’s apartment as well as his own. Of course the doggy door on Karl’s apartment was much larger. Well, it made sense, that way he would be able to go out in wolf form. I guess the owners of the dorm might have something to say about that later on, but given that both Mirou and Karl had lots of money that was their problem.

Star had gotten some coupons for a spa and invited me and Imogen to a visit there. It felt really nice being pampered with hot baths and just relaxing. Star was quite interested in my piercings, and asked me about where I had got them. I told her I had got them at Tír na nÓg – Tattoos and Piercings and gave her directions on how to get there. I felt they were very good, and well worth the money due to how nice the staff always were. Imogen would apparently go on a date later on with one of the guys from the computer club. Guess that was the price for getting his help in finding out everything about the family that owned the mansion we had entered earlier. I don’t think her date with Tim had been that good.

The next days, I spent even more time at the theatre, and what time I didn’t spend there, I spent with Yukimi. We had bonded very well, and watched some movies, did some cooking and other girly stuff. She insisted that we should go together to the housewarming-party at the sorority that was held on the 9th of March. Antonio had made it a Harry Potter theme, so everyone was supposed to come as one of the characters from the books or films. He had even used some magic to create fantastic effects. I dressed up as Bellatrix Lestrange. It felt good to be wicked. Yukimi also went dark. Antonio had invited all of the gang. Imogen came as Ginny Weasley, Star as Luna. That suited her very well I must say. Mirou came as Voldemort, and he brought his dog with him. The dog was dressed as the snake and was being carried all the time. Antonio went as Fred Weasley, and Tim came as Professor Snape while Karl came dressed as Lucius Malfoy. As expected lots of people came as either Hermione or Luna. I had expected someone to come as Harry Potter though.

At the party when I was standing talking to Yukimi, Imogen came up and wanted some help. Yukimi went and got new drinks for us while I talked to Imogen. Apparently during the date she had been on, she had suddenly developed a huge crush on a young girl named Lisa who had been sitting next to her, and they had left the theatre together, leaving poor George alone there. Well, if he was such a geek that he brought a date to a horror-movie and then not paid any attention to her, he deserved being dumped. Imogen and Lisa had been sitting talking on a café and started making out, then suddenly the feelings for Lisa that Imogen had felt had vanished as quickly as they had come. I told her that she probably had been under the mental influence of some kind of spell or supernatural creature. It might not even have been targeted at her. There was no way I could find out anything about that now though, but she would call me if it happened again.

After some more time where I had been drinking and talking to Yukimi, we both realized that we had to become more intimate with each other. I guess the alcohol helped, but I had fallen in love with Yukimi and the feeling was evidently mutual, so I apparently was attracted to girls as well. That was the first time I had sex with a girl, but it was wonderful and we spent almost the whole next day together in bed. Some might say that I am a sucker for romance, and it might indeed be true. But I love being seduced and her kisses made me feel absolutely wicked, in a good way.

I was rudely awakened way too early by a frantic phone call from Karl. He claimed that the ritual seemed to take place right then, so that would be our only chance to stop it. Quite groggily I asked him what made him think it was happening at that time, and all he said was that all the snow was rapidly melting and the cold was gone, and that we needed to hurry. I quickly got dressed and headed downstairs where rest of the gang was waiting in Stars now repainted van. We quickly drove towards the mansion, and everywhere we saw floods of water as the snow melted away. The lower parts of Boston would be in so much trouble.

When we came to the house we saw that everything was covered in a thick fog. Star hid the van with one of her veils. I didn’t need to hex the cameras as they were quite dead as far as we could tell. No doubt from being near such a heavy ritual. Again we climbed over the wall, and saw that all snow was gone, and we could only see the remains of the ice-tunnel Star had created earlier. The backdoor was still unlocked from our previous visit. To our dismay the threshold was still active and just as strong as before. Not wanting to run into any people we quickly searched the house and found all members of the staff as well as a young woman all sleeping very heavily. As they could not be woken up, we decided to move them outside to the porch just in case.

As we were just about to head to the cellar to stop the ritual, we heard a very discomforting sound; the sound of crazy children playing outside. When we looked out we saw the trolls that we had fought before, and they were now after the persons we had put on the porch. Karl, Mirou and Star quickly went outside to protect the sleeping persons. One of whom had already been killed by the trolls, who seemed less powerful now. I remembered that the house had an open fireplace, and ran and got an iron poker for defence, while Tim, Imogen and Antonio ran to the cellar to disrupt the ritual. This time we were much more successful in fighting the trolls.

I could hear a loud bang that I thought was a gunshot from the cellar, and then slightly after that a strange shockwave rocked the mansion, blowing out all windows and throwing us all to the ground. I was quite groggy when I rose to my feet again, but the explosion had sent the trolls running away. Mirou had managed to kill one of them just before. The remaining inhabitants of the house were alive but still asleep. Tim and Antonio staggered up from the cellar, carrying Imogen who looked the worse for wear. They indicated that we should leave very quickly as some of the participants of the ritual might be quite angry for our disturbance, but that we had some time now as they had been at the centre of the explosion.

When we looked around we saw that all windows in many blocks had been destroyed. We ran to the van, which didn’t start until we managed to push it. It seemed that the explosion had also knocked out everything electronic in a large area. Damn, it meant I had to get a new cell phone again. After having driven a few blocks we could fins a payphone, where we sent in an anonymous call to 911 as the house had started burning as well. I had a feeling it would be reported as a gas leak or something like that. As we drove off we saw the snow melting away more and more.

The day after was time for the fundraiser, and I was so nervous. Everything seemed to work quite well though. Of course, I haven’t seen the final cost for it yet, nor how much money we made. Mirou had gotten lots of respectable people to visit. Star played violin in the pause, and Tim did news coverage. Karl helped out with security and Antonio, Imogen and Mirou spent the evening talking to various guests. I had of course brought Yukimi with me, and she literally beamed with happiness. I think people liked my speech where I thanked the actors, my friends for helping out and the guests for attending, and hinted that we would be doing more interesting plays in the future. Not quite sure yet what Nina will direct, but I look forward to it.

It turned out that the fundraiser was much more successful than I could ever have dreamed about. It drew in 30 million dollars. The fundraiser that Jason held didn’t generate nearly any money, so he and some other actors quit and started a theatre of their own. As the fundraiser had been my idea, the other actors elected me to handle the money. What do I know about economics? I talked to Mirou first to see if he had any ideas about what I should talk to the banks about. I didn’t understand a thing he said though, so I had to just talk to the bank. I made sure the theatre’s old debts were paid off and repairs could start, as well as setting up the money in such a way that it would sustain the further maintenance costs of the theatre for quite a few years to come even if I was not around. Tim wrote a really good article about the fundraiser and I think he managed to sell it to a number of high-profile newspapers. More importantly for me, the play got a really good review.

The day after the fundraiser Tim called me, and wanted to show me something strange regarding the old sacrifice-tree. The tree and an area some maybe ten yards away from it was totally covered in a localized mist. I could tell that a lot of power came from the tree, and it felt wrong somehow. I dared using my Sight on it, and could see shapes of various beings move inside the thick fog. As far as I could tell this was a portal to Nevernever. I hoped that what was on the other side would stay there, and that no one would be foolish enough to try and enter the mist.

During the night we headed off to the mansion again to see the results of the aborted ritual. I wanted to make sure that the ritual they had used was the one from Crowley’s book, or if they had somehow learned some other ritual. The police had cordoned off the house, but we sneaked in. I could feel the same kind of threatening aura in the garden as before. I noticed that when we walked over the grass it was as if the soil itself was bleeding, and pointed this out to the others. The threshold had been totally destroyed. Once inside some of us removed our shoes to not make any bloody prints all over the place. Luckily no one was at home. Star however left bloody barefoot footprints even though it looked like she was wearing shoes. I asked her about it and she just shrugged and instead turned herself into floating fire again so we could see.

Down in the cellar we found the remains of the ritual circle. As far as I could tell it had been a very powerful and complex ritual drawing power form the ground itself, but it had not been the one from the book. This meant that they had learnt it somewhere else, but where and from whom? I was a bit disturbed by the marked outlines of three bodies down in the basement. That meant that we were responsible for the death of at least three persons. Better make sure the police never connected us to what had happened here. We could see that they had also used some props that had been removed after the fire, and we found a hidden door that had been destroyed in the explosion. They had bolted it up wit some plywood, but Mirou could easily remove it. In the room behind it, we saw an old map of Boston where they had pinned some nails in various places. As far as we could make out it was the sacrifice tree, the weird clearing in the forest and the house itself. We also found the remains of a magical laboratory. There was no telling what they had been making down there.

Once we were satisfied that there was nothing else to find, we left the house. When I had gotten out, I used the Sight, and here too was a sort of portal to Nevernever. I could see shapes moving and the silhouette of a large man with antlers. The soil was indeed bleeding and the power came from the ground itself. Was also as if the Nevernever was sucking the place into itself, and the centre of power was larger than the garden. We decided to check on the place where the ley lines had converged. There we could see lots of dead birds and squirrels on the ground. That gave me the creeps, and we decided to quickly leave.

During the next days, the police and the FBI investigated a lot, and there were talks about terrorism, but ultimately they wrote the explosion off as some kind of gas explosion. Some of the students at school were missing, and we figure that they had been involved in the ritual. Some were according to rumours in hospital, while we got confirmation that some of the others had been those that had died at the explosion.

Life sort of went back to normal after that, but the strange mist surrounding the sacrifice tree stayed on, and the mansion did indeed vanish as if it had never been there. The strange thing was that the persons living in the neighbourhood claimed that there had never been a house, but that the missing street number was due to some odd bureaucracy.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 3: Fallout

During the weeks after the incident with the ritual, Star asked me to first show her to the tattoo and piercing studio and introduce her, and then later asked me to accompany her to the studio for one more piercing, which I gladly do. She said she wanted some emotional support for a daring piercing. I felt the need for more ink and more piercings. I had though about doing intimate piercings before, and this was a perfect opportunity as that was what she was doing as well. Star thanked me for accompanying her by giving me a wonderful set of enchanted piercing jewelry that looked like ice but would not melt and were as strong as the metal ones I had before. They were indeed cold to the touch, which felt very erotic and gave me lots of very interesting thoughts as I put them on. I was such a naughty girl, and I liked it. I was a bit wary of accepting them at first though. Star is after all some kind of supernatural being. I am not entirely sure what she is, but I would hazard that she is a spirit of some sorts. Accepting gifts from faeries is said to be dangerous, but in this case I think I were safe.

During spring break most students left town. Yukimi and I was no exception and we went away having lots of fun together. Sadly not everything was going as well as our relationship. As I had feared, the tension between Yukimi and Angelica, had led to a division of the sorority. I tried my best to make sure that it didn’t get worse. Being Yukimi’s girlfriend, I of course supported her in almost everything. The war between the various gangs in Boston escalated, and the police seemed helpless to stop it. We also heard rumours that some people had gone missing by going too close to the strange mist surrounding the sacrificial tree.

In the magical community, I met a young girl named Lisa, who was quite bubbly and talkative. It felt nice having someone roughly my age as a friend there, as all the others were older. I talked a lot with Lisa, giving her what few pointers I could about both her talents and her love life where she said she had some problems. She said she was in love with another girl, and the feelings were mutual, but that the other girl was too shy to do anything. I hope for her sake that she gets the courage to act on her feelings. As for her talents, well it seemed she needed to practice on her control. I told her to do it somewhere where there wouldn’t be any people around. Getting control over your talents are tough especially when you’re young. Heck, being young is tough enough. Add the weirdness of magic and you got a potential disaster on your hands. I was lucky in that the powers I had wouldn’t pose any dangers to anyone else. Of course at times I felt like I was losing my mind by the strange visions I saw back then I came into my powers. We heard some rumours about a large group of Wardens going to hit town later on. Why hadn’t they intervened during the murders last year? It felt like a dollar short and a day late. Of course might be good to hold a low profile for a while.

I am not sure if Star let her monkey escape or if she herself took it away, but during the spring the monkey was suddenly gone. There were reports of weird sightings in one of the parks, but not sure what happened to it. She wouldn’t talk about it though. I was not going to press the issue, but I did wonder.

I spent my birthday relaxing and going out eating and going to the movies with Yukimi. The movie wasn’t that good but the company more than made up for it. My parents sent a few presents. Of course they didn’t send the kind of stuff I wanted, they never did. I had looked forward to celebrating 4rth of July with Yukimi, but she had to leave for Europe a few days before on some urgent family matters.

I was a bit afraid to have to spend 4rth of July alone, but then Mirou decided to invite us all for a dinner at his place on the third. I was the only one that didn’t have a date sort off, so I felt a bit out of place. Mirou hade a good looking girl called Nathalie, Karl brought the Asian girl from Avalon that Antonio had first had a fling with. She introduced herself as Peggy. Antonio true to his style had two girls with him. Luckily for him he hadn’t broken Melissa’s heart. Tim had started dating some European girl. I think she was called Jen and was into photography. Star always being the weird one, she brought some old geezer. Didn’t think that was her type. Even though Imogen didn’t have a date with her, it seemed that Mirou had invited some young single guy named William LaFayette from his class. It seemed that he and Imogen hit it off quite well, but I think Star was trying to steal him away from Imogen. I must say that the various dinner guests were quite interesting as I got the vibes from most of them that they were not mere humans but rather supernatural beings. In fact, I think only Imogen, Tim, Jen and Antonio’s two girls were purely human. It would have been rude of me to use my Sight to verify it during dinner, but I was intrigued. If I understood a comment Star made, then her date was the guy that had made the jewellery she had given me. I must say he had done some very good handiwork. After dinner, Imogen excused herself and went home to study while the rest of us went out to a nightclub. When I discretely asked Mirou if he knew that his friend was a supernatural being, he looked quite surprised. He had apparently no idea. Wonder how large the supernatural crowd was in Boston.

The day after was the national day. I had been told it would be interesting with lots of fireworks throughout the city. I spent most of the day walking around the city and visiting the parks just to feel the atmosphere. Lots of people had picnics there, I so wished I could have spent the day with Yukimi. Karl, together with Star, Antonio and two others that I didn’t know very well spent the day doing the final touches on their entry in the fireworks-competition on campus. I think the other two were called George and Linda. As a safety precaution, I was asked to keep my distance from the stuff they worked on. Explosive material with fidgety electronics and magic was probably a very bad combination. I had at least no wish to test whether it was safe or not.

During the evening we all watched the fireworks competition. Everyone was quite surprised by the entry that Karl and his team had done as it played the national anthem. Sure there were a few others that were more visually spectacular, but having fireworks play music was something else. So of course they won the contest, and got a nice price. We then went down to Avalon, which was totally packed with people. Mirou worked in the bar and was quite busy. He asked us if we had seen his girlfriend but no one had. Outside the bar was lots of barbecues with delicious food. I took it a bit easy with the drinks, but a lot of the other students there went wild. For a brief moment I even though I saw a Zebra there. Some one was apparently having fun.

The day after was relaxing. Karl came up with the wonderful idea that we all should go swimming at the beach, and even managed to get a few others to join. Seeing Karl in leopard strings felt weird. Sure he worked out but still. Antonio had more classic bathing shorts. I knew Star was extrovert but she went topless which got some looks. I preferred to wear a small black bikini. Later on when it wasn’t that much people around I too went topless to sunbath for a while. However I found that bathing while wearing the jewellery Star had given me had its own weird effects. I hadn’t realised just how cold they were until I came up from the sea with a thin layer of frost and ice on my nipples and my nether regions. Very kinky indeed. Had someone kissed me deeply then and there, I think I would have had an instant orgasm. What can I say, I am a wicked girl. And no, I sure as hell hadn’t noticed this effect when showering before as I like to shower very warm.

From my contacts in the Paranet, I heard that some girls had mysteriously disappeared over the past months. According to rumours, the Wardens had for some unknown reason taken those girls. I heard some names but I didn’t recognize most of them. The only ones I did recognize were Lisa Green, Dawn Watley, and Regina Spektor. Dawn had apparently been hospitalized since early February and been insane. I decided to take a trip to Starstone to get some more materials for my magic workings and check out if they had anything new interesting there. Most of the stuff they sell are harmless trinkets for those that like the new age stuff, but they do have some real good stuff if you know what you’re after and can pay for it as it is quite expensive.

In the evening we went down to the beach again for a barbecue. Some of the girls form the sorority joined. Star decided to bring out some weird string-instrument and play. She is good at it, but it did have a haunting sound. All in all we had good fun and a good ending of the long days of around our national day. Then it would be back to summer studies.

The day after, at campus, I noticed that someone had put up a high iron railing with barbed wire on top around the sacrifice tree near the library. Given the rumours that some people had vanished into the mist that was still present, and I for one knew that it was stretching the fabric of reality and probably were a gateway to Nevernever, it felt like a good idea. Wonder when it came up though. I think Karl had something to do with it, but I am not certain.

Antonio came and asked me about the girls who had disappeared. I told him what I knew about the rumours of wardens, and after we looked in the school catalogue, we found that all the girls that had disappeared had been involved in the summoning ritual in February. Three of the girl, Bethany Consentino, Carla Gillis, and Amanda Braden had died in the explosion when Imogen had apparently broken their magical circle. After that the wardens had taken care of another seven. Some of which had been in hospital since then. That still left three of them unaccounted for; Lynette Gillis, Natalie Adams, and Roxy Richter. Karl and Star decided to go try finding more info about the girls. Apparently what they could find, the girls had left their rooms in great haste. Not sure if that was good or bad. They did manage to find though that one of them had had a small secret compartment in her room, but whatever had been there was gone.

Antonio was a bit scared that he had misplaces his pants and a t-shirt earlier, and asked me if I could track them down as he was afraid of someone using them as a material link to him regarding magic. I tried, but couldn’t find them as the link was too weak, besides there were traces of him all over town. I told him that if he wanted to I could of course create a ward in his room, but that would mean that he would have to stay there until we could be sure no one was using the clothes as a link. He wouldn’t agree to that and begrudgingly told me that he didn’t have a room of his own. He had earlier been sleeping either at the old sorority house, or every night in some new girl’s room. I just shook my head at that. That is what you get for being a playboy. Of course another option would be if he could manage to get invited inside some house with a heavy threshold. We quickly scrapped that idea as well. That was not going to happen. Other options included having him submerged in running water or maybe staying at some holy place. Neither of those options seemed viable either.

Later that night was I woken up by Star who banged on my door. Apparently there was some kind of magical problems. Took me a while to understand what was going on. Karl had gotten a frantic call from Peggy that someone was attacking them. So Antonio, Star and I set out to go help her and her friends. We met up with Karl a bit further away as he had rushed ahead. We then met two large wolves dragging a naked unconscious man behind them. He was bleeding a lot from various wounds, and missing a large chunk of his thigh. I recognized him as one of the guys that had been down to Avalon before together with Peggy. I could tell that the two wolves were injured as well. Behind them came three large ferocious hounds that seemed ready to attack.

Karl turned into a wolf, and Star drew her big sword and suddenly flames erupted around her making her look very ferocious. Antonio drew a started using his magic to make the ground beneath the dogs slippery as if it had rained heavily. I turned my attention to the wounded man trying to stem the flow of blood, sacrificing parts of my skirt to use as bandages. The wolves also attacked the hounds. As far as I could see in the corners of my eyes, Antonio’s magic worked quite well. Sadly just as I finished bandaging the wounded man, one of the other wolves went down from its injuries and instantly transformed into another of Peggy’s pack. I quickly eyed him over after yelling at the hounds to lie down. I am not much of an animal handler so of course it didn’t work. It was worth trying though. His injuries didn’t seem as bad as the other ones, but I quickly went to work bandaging them. In the meanwhile, Karl, Star and the last wolf whom I guessed was Peggy managed to kill the hounds.

An exhausted Peggy turned into human form. I could tell that she too was hurt, but she claimed to be fine. She said that they had been attacked further on, and had had to leave two of the pack-members. Karl still in wolf form set off to investigate. I called an ambulance for Peggy and her pack members after we moved away some from the area. Star made sure to look as human as possible. When the ambulance came, Antonio true to form, chatted up the female EMT and rode in the ambulance with Peggy and her guys. We told them that we had come upon thee victims of dog attacks, but that the dogs had continued on chasing something else. Star and I quickly headed home to the dorm to clean up and recover. About an hour later Karl came back. He said that he had backtracked the way Peggy and her pack had come, and had found the other two pack-mates dead as well as a number of dead hounds. When he continued on he found himself back at the strange clearing, to which I had sleepwalked earlier. There he saw what he took to be the herald of Hecate, and at least twenty dogs. The herald ordered the dog to attack, and they chased Karl all over town for almost an hour before suddenly giving up and returning.

The day after we learned that Karl and the hounds had been seen by lots of people, and they had found the bodies of a large number of people that had been killed by animals. What was strange was that most of them apparently didn’t come from the US, and some seemed to have fillings in their teeth and injuries that indicated that they were hundreds of years old. And the police hadn’t found any dead hounds, so we figured that the hounds had been humans transformed into hounds, and that the spell had broken some time after they died. That didn’t sound good at all. Sure I had read stories about the fair folk kidnapping people and holding them for hundreds of years just for amusement, but I had thought it was just myths. We also learned that one of Peggy’s pack-members had died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Later that day, I got a call from Yukimi who was at the airport and who wondered if I could pick her up as she had lots of stuff with her from Florens. I went and asked Star about the keys to her van, but Karl had them. Not sure why she bought it when she didn’t know how to drive. He offered to join me, which I thought was nice. When we came to the airport, we didn’t see her, but then she emerged from some service-entrance with two huge suitcases, and dressed in full winter gear even though it was high summer. I know, a bit weird to say the least.

Karl had to help with her suitcases as they were really heavy. Yukimi claimed that she had had some problems getting them through customs. What exactly had she brought with her? She couldn’t get out of the heavy winter clothes quickly enough. Not that I blamed her.

On the way back from the airport, Yukimi asked Karl who was driving if we were being followed. Apparently some black beamer or something was following us, but Karl managed to shake it off on Yukimi’s request. She said that she had expected her family to act, but not so soon. She had gotten tired of being told what to do, and they didn’t seem to take no for an answer. So instead of going to the sorority house where she had move din, she directed us to an apartment in a well-to do region of town that she said was a safe house. I realized that there were lots of things I didn’t know about her. Obviously she had lots of money.

The apartment was almost devoid of furniture. Yukimi said that she hadn’t been there since she bought it, and that she had another in Chile. Why would she need a safe house? But it wasn’t until she started unpacking that I really started to wonder. In her suitcases were lots of automatic weapons and pieces of armour. And then something she claimed to be some kind of mine. Karl seemed a bit impressed with the hardware. She then asked me to get a large case that was under the sofa. That turned out to contain a rocket launcher and a long white wooden staff with some ornamentation on it. I could possibly understand the assault weapons for self-defence, but a rocket launcher? In my mind, I started thinking Yukimi belonged to some kind of crime-family. And the staff, well to me it seemed like a magician’s staff but she didn’t have any powers as far as I knew.

Yukimi said that her family would try to attack, and that she could use some help. Karl suggested Antonio and Star, so she called Antonio while Karl called Star, whom both agreed to come as quickly as possible. I asked her if she wanted me to ward the place, but she said it was already warded. Intrigued I opened up the Sight, and found that indeed was warded, and that the wards seemed more powerful than something I could do, at least not without a lot of preparations. Dear Goddess, what was going on? I felt out of my league.

I stop and asked her who she really was. At first she smiled, and said it was complicated, but she would tell me. Would I like the short version or the long version, she wondered. I settled for the short version for the time being. She claimed to have been born in 1171 in Florens, and that she had been Italian nobility. Her real name had been Margrave Isabella de Este. When I pointed out that no human could live that long, she said that it was true, but that she changed bodies. A year ago she had been a man named James Green, and that she had been sent here to hurt the magical community here in the US. But then she had fallen in love with me, and wanted to out. I could hardly believe what she was telling me, but she seemed utterly sincere. It was then I realized that this was the first time I had looked into her eyes for such a long time. Suddenly the world was spinning around me, and I saw Yukimi as a European noble lady, dressed in fine clothing from the 12th century, and standing in a grand ballroom. The expression on her face was innocence and joy. Behind her I saw an almost identical version of her but with hatred in her eyes. The lights from the large crystal chandeliers hanging from the roof suddenly seemed to grow and the woman who radiated evil faded away. I fell to the ground clutching my head as I got a severe headache, and I felt weak as a kitten.

Both Yukimi and Karl doted on me and asked how I was doing. Yukimi explained to Karl that I had just experienced a soulgaze. I had heard about it before, so I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Yukimi had been telling the truth about who she was. What had she seen in me? She seemed a bit surprised when I told her I had never experienced a soulgaze before. As I tried to gather my senses again, I could not help but wonder exactly how much had Karl overheard of what Yukimi had told me. What do you do when you learn that the person you love has done horrible things in the past that most would consider unforgivable, and that the only thing redeeming them was your love? Dear Goddess, I could not let anyone else know about it. Not now. I needed to learn more first. And I knew without a doubt that Yukimi, or Isabella as I now knew her as, was a powerful witch. If she turned back to her past, how would I stop her? Could I even do so? Or would I turn to darkness as well? That thought troubled me, but there was something seductive about the power I could see.

I was unsure of how much time passed before we could hear the rumbling sound of a motorcycle. Karl seemed a bit disturbed about it. Why? Then I realized that either Star or Antonio must have taken his motorcycle. And sure enough, it didn’t take long before they came up to the apartment.

My head still hurt. Sadly no one had a headache-pill. Karl wasn’t exactly happy when Antonio gave him the keys to his motorcycle. After a while Mirou and Tim also showed up. I knew that Mirou could fight, but I thought Tim was just about as bad at that as I am, but then again he might surprise me. He did seem less than pleased about the weapons, and I must say that I was quite sceptical as well. Karl took a short moment to go and move his motorcycle, and then came back to the apartment in wolf form. Wonder how many he freaked out by performing that stunt.

Tim was quite sceptical of what he was doing there, and asked Yukimi that specific question. She answered that she was actually protecting us from death as we had apparently gotten ourselves involved in some plans they had, and that they had sent mercenaries after us or more correctly her. But we were there to keep her from taking the whole block with her when she would defend herself. I really did want to believe her, but I was concerned about the possibility of the innocent neighbours in the house getting caught in the crossfire. Mirou and Karl rigged up some nasty traps while we debated what to do. I don’t even want to know how they came up with that idea. I performed a quick low powered ritual that would enable us to get some warning if someone tried sneaking up on us.

After some debates, Yukimi said that she had intended to open a portal to the Nevernever and use that as her most likely way out. When asked whether her family knew about the safehouse, she said that they shouldn’t but that they had ways of finding out. Mirou didn’t seem to appreciate the idea of going into Nevernever, as that was filled with nasty beings wanting to kill you. That was indeed a quite fitting description as far as I knew, but it might at least give a safe way out sort of. Apparently Yukimi had hired two trolls to stand guard on the other side so that no one would be able to attack us from there.

Suddenly the warning spell I set up earlier flared up. Something had triggered it. I quickly told the others that someone or something was coming for us. We quickly agreed to go to Nevernever. Just we were starting to go through the portal, Tim and Antonio suddenly collapsed to the floor. Mirou threw Antonio through the portal and then carried Tim through. We suddenly heard the sound of a helicopter real close. We all hurried through the portal, and just as came though the windows and one wall of the apartment literally exploded behind us. I am not sure if it was the trap that Mirou had set up earlier or if grenades were thrown in through the windows, but we felt the shockwave and the flash of heat as the portal closed behind us. And we were indeed met by two huge trolls on the other side.

I turned my attention to Tim and Antonio, who both had a pulse, but their unconscious state confused me. Antonio had though said that he feared someone would use his missing clothes as a link to him in a ritual and that seemed likely. The wards in Yukimi’s apartment would have protected against that, but as we opened a portal, that must have breached the wards and made them vulnerable to attack. Karl, who still was in wolf form licked Antonio’s face as away to see if he would wake up. That didn’t work. I was just about to use my Sight on them to check if they were indeed under some spell, when Yukimi said that their souls had been ripped from them and were still in the apartment, and that they would indeed die very soon unless we could get them back.

Star took her fire form again and opened a small portal of her own and went back to scout the apartment. I still don’t quite understand exactly what she is, but I am quite certain that she is some kind of fae or spirit. We could see the apartment through her portal, and we saw that it was on fire, but we didn’t see any of the persons that had attacked us. We quickly went through the portal again, and once there Tim and Antonio woke up again as their souls returned to their bodies. When we looked around we saw that there was a large hole in the floor to the apartment below as well as one of the walls.

We could hear people moving in the staircases. Karl had apparently seen a fire extinguisher outside the doors and went and got it. I started using that to stop the fire, while Antonio, who had recovered used his water magic on both the front staircase and the one leading up to the attack and the back entrance to make them slippery. The others set out to ambush whoever had attacked us. I heard crashes as people fell and then the sound of automatic weapons along with some yelps. Behind me, I heard Yukimi shouting something, and the muted sounds from the helicopter right outside the apartment suddenly changed into a high-pitched shriek as the engine suddenly developed a severe problem. I looked up and saw in slow motion how the rotors failed and the helicopter started spinning out of control before gravity took over. A loud ominous crash could be heard a few seconds later.

After a short while I had stopped the fire in the apartment, but I could now see that it was burning in the apartment below, so I tried to stop that fire as well by leaning down through the hole in the floor and letting the fire extinguisher work. The old woman who lived downstairs was totally oblivious to everything that happened around her. She was sitting watching some old tv-show from the eighties about some pathetic guy with a mullet. She didn’t seem to notice at all that it was burning a lot behind her or that her ceiling had a hole in it. I had to get her attention by spraying her and the area towards the door. Frightened she noticed the fire and started slowly walking toward the exit. Luckily, Antonio saw what I was doing and came to my help with his magic just as the fire extinguisher went out. He summoned a heavy rain inside her apartment, which was enough to extinguish the flames.

As we finished up that, Yukimi worked some magic on Tim who appeared to have gotten shot. At least he wasn’t bleeding all over the place now. When I looked out through the window I could see the wreck of the helicopter as well as a mysterious black car that had gotten totally flattened. I really hoped no innocent people had been hurt or killed. I was so out of my league. Explosions, and gunfire was not my thing at all, at least not when I was in the middle of it. It is one thing in the movies, but it is totally different in real life.

As I looked around I saw all the blood around us. Karl in wolf warm was near the front door gnawing on someone’s arm, and just then Mirou came back the other way dragging an unconscious soldier behind him. Apparently we were safe for now. Or so we thought. That thought had barely crossed our minds as we heard lots of sirens approaching. This place would be crawling with police soon, which meant we should make ourselves scarce and also dispose of the stuff that implicated us. Yukimi opened her portal again to Nevernever and we, or rather the others quickly got everything we had touched in through the portal. As we went through it, Yukimi used some kind of spell to clear the apartment from all signs of us being there.

In the Nevernever, the troll seemed intrigued by the dead bodies and stared eating them. Eugh. That was totally gross. Mirou tried interrogating the soldier who had awoken. I couldn’t understand a thing he said, as he spoke some other language. I don’t think Mirou got the answers he was looking for. He then beat up the soldier some more and after wiping the weapons clean of fingerprints, he asked Yukimi to open the portal, and then threw the dazed soldier and the weapons back into the apartment, letting the police deal with him.

We decided to head back to the dorms, and then later on pick up our vehicles when everything had calmed down. Seemed like a good idea to lie low for a while. I was still a bit chocked of what had happened, and about what I had learned about Yukimi. Sadly she realized that if she stayed, I and everyone else around her would become targets for her family, so she had to leave for a while in order to keep me safe. She did promise to stay in touch and that we would see each other now and then. Such bittersweet kisses. I knew in my heart that it was the right thing, but it still hurt a lot. I would be alone, fearing every day that her family had found her. Oh Goddess, I loved her, but her past made things complicated to say the least. If only I could do more. The worst part was that she would have to use magic to block anyone from finding her with magic. If I could find her, then her family most certainly could if they were as powerful as she was. It was with tears running down my face that we kissed goodbye. At least for now.

A bit later Tim got a call from a contact he had among the police; apparently Imogen was lying in a coma at hospital. She had been hit by a car as she crossed the road. It might have been pure coincidence, but it had taken place at roughly the same time as when Tim and Antonio had fallen victims to the curse that had ripped their souls out from their bodies. Sure, we might not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I hoped she would recover quickly. No, the question was who and why? Could it be the three missing witches that did the large winter ritual last February?
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 4: The Fraternity Haunting

The following seven months were quite hectic, both in school and at the theatre. How I missed Yukimi, as she had gone into hiding. We cherished each one of the precious few moments that we could be together. I did hear some troubling rumour of various catastrophes around the world. I prayed to the Goddess, that Yukimi was not involved in those, but I had a feeling it was the kind of question that I really didn't want an honest answer to. In some cases it is best not knowing.

I didn't get to see the others that much during the semester as everyone was busy doing their own things. Karl had joined some motorcycle group I think, not sure if it was a gang or not. Would be bad if he were to get himself arrested I think. He and Peggy were still an item. Star had gotten herself a boyfriend, some kind of sportsjock. I think his name was Nick. They seemed to make a nice couple, although I can't help wonder what their dating must have been like as she had to ask me of what happens on dates. Star seems to be one horny and really messed up girl, given some of the questions she asked me. Sure, I am thankful that she asked me but I just wonder how I came to be the go to girl for romantic advice. I had hardly seen anything of Tim, and Antonio was as usual messing around with lots of girls. From some of his talks though I gathered that he had been spending lots of time in Nevernever with the Summer Court. Mirou had spent most of his time studying and organising things around campus and the dorm especially. So it was no wonder that he rose in the ranks of the fraternity he was a member of. That only left Imogen. She was definitively a changed girl since her recovery from the accident that had sent her to hospital earlier. She now seemed to drop out of her politics and focusing on learning everything she could about the occult instead. I must say I had mixed feelings about that. Imogen can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Yes, she is very passionate about things, but I get the feeling that deep inside, she is a very lonely girl and would do everything to belong to a group. So I shouldn't really have been surprised that she started hanging out with the Wiccan sorority more, but I think they all regarded her as a bit flaky and only tolerated her because she was my friend. She had started living in the sorority house instead of the dorm, wonder why. I was quite certain though that if she started making waves the others would kick her out with her head first.

Otherwise things were fine in my circle of friends from the paranet. I did hear some rumours that a young girl, that was probably Lisa had been recruited to the wardens. She hadn't said anything about it herself, but if it was true, then they had the resources to train her so she wouldn't become a danger to others with her magic. Of course, if it was true then I guess I should be a bit careful not to draw the attention of the wardens if need be. And she was still pining away from unrequited love towards that other girl, that she had met earlier. Damn, it makes me sad. Maybe I should try to intervene? Least I could do though, is to offer her encouragement and be there for her if things go wrong. I want her to be happy.

As far as we knew, the forest was still infested by vicious dogs attacking passers-by, but strangely enough the old sacrifice tree at the library on campus seemed to be fading way. Weird disappearances still happened there though, and I made certain to stay well away from it. That place gave me the chills, after what I saw when I touched the tree. Antonio had heard some rumours that there was some kind of preparation for war amongst the Summer and Winter Courts as some other unseen force tried to take over their place. Could it be the old Faerie Queens that had partially been summoned during the winter ritual? I would need to learn more about that.

Things weren't so good though in the Wiccan sorority, as there now was four different groups vying for power there after Yukimi left. I tried my best at keeping peace between them but it was quite difficult, and my position was tenous to say the least. Some of them wanted to learn magic of any type and didn't care about consequences, some wanted to only learn magi to defend themselves, others wanted nothing to do with magic at all but rather just wanted to have fun and some wanted more spirituality. I have no idea how I came to be elected as treasurer in the sorority though. Angelica belonged to the group that wanted to learn magic at all costs and it was clear that she hated my guts. Why? I had never done anything against her. As far as I knew, it was she who had been the villain by having an affair with Yukimis former boyfriend.

FBI on their hand, still kept looking for imaginary Mexican terrorists. Sadly though the gangwar between the two Mexican gangs and the Russian mob had ended in a cold war where they divided up the city between themselves, and they defended their territory with heavy weapons. The Irish Maffia had been all but eliminated in the process. But it felt like any spark could trigger an all out-war again. Of course now there rumours abound about some kind of mastermind known only by the codename of Nacho Libre who was behind the gangs.

It was still early in Februari when we were supposed to have a meeting in the sorority. Imogen had volunteered to do some baking for the meeting, and Star offered to help her. So they showed up at the meeting with a huge amount of buns. Antonio was also present, and I knew that Karl was in another room fixing something. Right from the start of the meeting I knew things were going to be difficult as the emotions between the various members was frosty to say the least. Star went and held Karl company so as to not disturb the meeting. If I should be polite, then I can safely say that baking was not amongst Imogen's and Star's talents. If I were honest, then well the buns were inedible and would probably work better as projectiles than food.

During the meeting we suddenly heard a terrible shrieking sound coming from some place outside. I felt cold, and I got the feeling that something of pure evil had manifested in our world. Something powerful and very, very dangerous. I looked out through the windows to see if anything was coming towards us. Antonio and Imogen went outside. As far as I gathered, Karl had turned into wolf-form and went out through the windows with Star following him. Most of the girls, wisely opted to stay inside. After making sure that the wards on the house was up, I followed Antonio and Imogen. We meet up with Mirou, who had been in the house next door, and he looked a bit shook up. He babbled something about a ghost who had attacked him in the fraternity.

We then heard a scream of horror, which was suddenly cut off. It seemed to come from the fraternity. All the lights in the fraternity suddenly went out. We rushed towards the house, and when we came closer we saw that the windows in the kitchen were covered in blood. Mirou and Karl rushed in. The rest of us followed after. What we could see was that the persons that had sat around the table had been cut into pieces as if someone had taken them through a giant blender, the table itself had been splintered. It all had happened in an instant. Karl, Antonio, and Mirou went in to search for intruders. I probably shouldn't have, but I decided to use my Sight to check if the attacker was veiling itself. What I saw, would give me nightmares for some time. It was a spirit of smoke in the shape of a vague humanoid form with billowing robes. The spirit turned around and looked at me, uttering my name in a deep hiss before vanishing into nothing. I felt really nauseous, and stumbled outside before I collapsed.

I had vague recollections of Star taking me home, but my memory was hazy. I woke up in my bed, feeling as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. Not sure how Charlie had gotten there but he lay beside me. A puppy is a really good emotional healer. After a while I could get up and make myself a cup of tea to calm down. I was quite glad that Melissa wasn't home, but I wondered about the dropped towel and cellphone on the floor. It wasn't like her to just leave things like that. I hoped nothing had happened to her. I am not sure how Star got me into the room though, as I still had my keys on me.

Needless to say I slept badly during the nigh, and I had some horrid nightmares. The news were of course filled with stuff about the murders at the fraternity. In the morning, Melissa came back. She was quite upset and babbling something about a demon of fire attacking her. She quickly packed up her stuff and left campus to go back home to Arkansas. Think this might have been the final straw for her. Sadly I wasn't in such a good shape myself. I wondered though, if this was something that I needed to ask Star about later, because I knew I would be upset if I learned that she had had something to do with Melissa losing her mind. I would have to call Melissa later on. I talked to Antonio in the morning and asked him if he could talk to the girls wanting to learn black magic and get them to change their mind. They sure as hell wouldn't listen to anything I would have to say, not with Angelica there.

Later on as I was recovering, Imogen came by and started talking about proposed strategies to deal with the situation in the sorority. Apparently there was going to be a meeting, as things had rapidly escalated. As we were talking, I accidently soulgazed Imogen. I had been right in my guess that she was a very lonely girl. She was also very angry, something that showed in the visions I saw with an open stormy sea. Basically it was her against the world. I am not so sure if that was a very good combination. I should probably count my blessings that she was a normal human, I shudder at what she would have done if she had had any powers.

When we came to the sorority, the other members there had just started discussing things for the meeting. It had gone so far that either they would have to find a way to keep together or they would have to split the sorority. Imogen gave the suggestion that we had talked about earlier. Everyone seemed to think it was a fine idea, but the result from the actual voting was very strange. It was almost the opposite of what Imogen had suggested. In fact some members became quite upset and demanded a recount. Same result. Lynn Masters, the leader of the black magic group ended up as the president, then Louise McGraft from the group that wanted magic as defence became vice president, and Kate Winstead representing those that wanted pure wiccan traditions became secretary, and Cathy van der Wall from Yukimis old group became the new treasurer. And the latter I think was just because they couldn't kick out that fraction all together. I wasn't sorry for not being treasurer though, it was a tedious task that I didn't relish

There was something fishy going on though. I suspected that someone had used some mind-altering magic, for these results as no one seemed to be acting in a way that indicated that they were ashamed or coerced into voting that way. I used the sight to see if there was some kind of magic affecting the ballots, but that was clean as a whistle. Not that anyone else in the sorority had the necessary power as far as I knew. I did see though that everyone in the room was indeed affected by some kind of magic. It appeared as if a thin black sheen enveloped them all. I could only surmise that I too was affected. What I could tell though was that it was very subtle, and the only reason I noticed it was that everyone was affected. I could also tell that it had taken quite some time for this to be put in effect, and that it was far stronger than I would be able to break without much more preparations. Not wanting to stir things up again, I just smiled and lit some incense as a cleansing action and to mark a fresh start. No way I would say anything unless I had more proof, and could do something about it.

After the meeting,I tried to get in contact with Lisa. If the rumours I had heard about her being a warden, then she needed a heads up to this potentially disastrous situation. Both the ghost that had killed the students as well as the fact that the wiccan sorority now was lead by the fraction that wanted to do all kinds of magic, even black magic, and that everyone in the sorority was under the effect of some spell. I would of course try to learn as much as I could. Took a few hours before she called back. She was at some place called Camp Kaboom, and wouldn't be back for a few days. We decided to meet when she came back. I didn't feel comfortable talking over the phone about the current situation. I made damned sure though that my room was properly warded. If the Goddess was with me it would be enough to keep me safe.

The next day, Star came by and knocked on the door. I couldn't believe my eyes as she had with her a baby troll. For crying out loud, a troll. What the hell was she thinking, and where had she gotten that? Star said that she had found it down in the subway as she had been following Mirou, and now she wanted to know what trolls ate. I gave her the best answer I could, and told her to make damn sure that it was returned from wherever it had gotten. I had had enough of trolls for a lifetime. I wanted no part in it. Mirou was still not home, so I had to take care of Charlie some more, while I tried doing some research about ghosts and what that magic at the sorority had been, before I had to go to class. I was fairly certain that the ghost had been summoned, but by whom and why? Maybe more importantly was, how to stop it if it came back, and who was behind the spell that affected the sorority and what did it do? I had a feeling that it was the three surviving witches from the winter ritual, or maybe it was one of the faery queens. They definitively had the power for it, but then why target the sorority and not us who had stopped the ritual? Or was it what they were doing? So many questions, and so few answers. I would find the answer, it was only a question of patience and finding the right angle.

After hours of tedious cross-referencing and translating from old Latin into English, I managed to get lucky. I sure was glad that the library at campus had such good resources. It seemed that what I had seen was a combined ghost. Or rather a construct made of a multitude of different ghosts. Apparently these things could occur naturally, but it was very very rare. In most cases, one ghost would eat another and gain power through that as well as all the memories that made up the devoured one. On the other hand, someone who was knowledgeable about necromancy could forcefully do it. It would take time and lots of power though. The books I found obviously didn't go about any specifics on how to do it as that kind of stuff was considered black magic and would merit a surprise visit from wardens. That was a fate I didn't want to meet. However, ghosts would also normally be intangible. Someone or something had to affect them either here or in Nevernever for them to manifest.

I tried finding out whether or not I too was affected by the strange spell I had seen at the sorority, but I could not get any conclusive results. This in itself was strange, but also a bit expected. It was always more difficult to see things about yourself. Not sure why though. Magical theory wasn't my thing.

Something gave me the chills when my phone suddenly rang during the evening. It turned out to be Mirou, who wanted me to help him banish the ghosts. I tried to tell him that exorcisms was something that was dangerous, and that we needed a priest for that. As usual he wouldn't listen. He wanted us all to meet him at his fraternity, and to bring whatever equipment that was necessary to deal with ghosts.

Once we met up at the fraternity, he told us that he had been doing some research, and had found that a lot of gruesome murders and suicides had occurred in the fraternity house since it was built. Not sure what had happened to him but he looked like a mess. Maybe not that surprising though, given that he had been attacked by a ghost, and jumped out of a window from the third floor. He mumbled something about everything being Star's fault, but wouldn't elaborate on what he meant by that. Imogen came up with the idea of finding out if any other places on campus had a similar history, and she and Tim quickly found some results. Turned out that similar stuff had happened in the old wiccan sorority house, and a third building, which belonged to another fraternity. What was strange though was that it appeared that someone had gone through a lot of trouble to suppress any talks about it for a long time.

I told the others what I had found about the ghosts, and that it would have required some kind of ritual, which would take hours to perform. And like all rituals, the closer you were to the target and the better link you had, the better result you got. So this meant that someone had to have spent a long time in a place where they could be undisturbed. We decided to investigate the cellar of the fraternity house where the murders had taken place. Down there we found first the typical stuff that you would expect to find in that kind of building; kegs of beer, lots of documents, and so on. However, we found something that shouldn't be there. Someone had managed to put in two large metal circles in the floor. The outer one was made of silver and the inner one was copper. This meant that whoever used the ritual had been inside circle to protect himself or herself, and spread death outside the circle. According to Mirou, no one had been down there for a long time.

So, we now knew that whoever had summoned the ghosts had done it from this place. The question was why? The people that had died had all been the ones that was closest in line to be elected to serve on the fraternity's board. The interesting part now was that they had elected a new member. One Maximilian Wernstrom III. He came from one of the richest families in all of New England, and Money had been the sole deciding factor. Many of his elder relatives had held such positions. What was noteworthy was that he was a freshman, normally that kind of positions went to the seniors.

Before we could dwell more on that, we heard screams of terror coming from the house next doors. Mirou and Antonio rush up to investigate. I gathered that Tim called the Police. I followed after the others to the other house. Mirou, Antonio and Imogen ran into the house to investigate. I decided to stay outside watching to see if anyone was moving around, as I had no wish to encounter that ghost again. Star and Tim came a bit later, and it didn't take long before the Police arrived. I decided I should probably be somewhere else. I did see that Imogen came out of the house, with blood on her clothes. Star veiled her before the police came. Where were Mirou and Antonio? The police quickly take control of the scene. Given what I heard later of what had happened, I did the right thing to stay outside. I had enough nightmares as it were.

A few hours later, we all meet up at Avalon to go over what we knew. Tim had tried earlier to get help from a catholic priest, to deal with the ghosts but that hadn't given anything. I don't think they took him seriously. Imogen had had to spend a lot of time talking to the police, and she had apparently filmed the gruesome details inside the house on her phone. Antonio and Mirou didn't elaborate where they had been, but the news had been filled with reports about the new murders as well as a terrorist attack on the FBI building, which had just taken place. Dear Goddess, what was going on? I had a feeling that this would cause more problems further on.

Given the situation, I decided to tell the others about the strange election result we had had at the wiccan sorority, and that I had used my sight to look for signs of magic being used to influence the result. Everone at the sorority had been affected. I discounted the possibility that it was any of the girls that had shown a magical aptitude there that would have done it. They wouldn't have cast it on themselves. Besides neither Lynn Masters, Hope Shaw, nor Louise McGraff had enough talent to pull it off as far as I could tell. Sure they could have performed a ritual together but it was most unlikely. After some deliberating I decided to check the others, and I found that they too were affected in various degrees. Antonio was much more affected though. I still didn't know what the spell affecting us were, but it probably had something to do with the ghosts.

We decided to check out the old house for the wiccan sorority as that had been one of the houses that had a gruesome history. When we first came there I couldn't see anything special at all, but when I opened the sight I saw something strange. It looked like floating blobs of energy, similar to when you poured ink into water, but this was floating upwards. It felt similar to what I knew had affected the others.

I asked the others to get me some ingredients that I would need to perform a divination ritual to see what had happened at the place. What I saw was similar to when you watched a film on video while it was rewinded, with a few glimpses here and there. Finally I saw how thirteen girls were doing a wiccan ritual, where the late Olivia Winsdale were the high priestess. I could recognize a few others as well; Kimberley Austin, Jane Ash, Kim Chiffino, Corey Gardner and Yukimi. The rest were girls that since then left the sorority and that I hadn't seen. I gathered that nothing magical was supposed to happen as it was a religious ceremony, but I could tell that there was some kind of power erupting. Some of the girls fainted. After that, I saw glimpses as the vision forwarded again. I could tell that Olivia somehow had gotten the ability to make people believe and do whatever she said, and that she had told the others that there were three girls who had conducted some dark ritual and needed to be punished, and evicted from the sorority. The girls in question were Cassie Ramone, Katy Goodman, and Fiona Campbell. Dear Goddess, they had been innocent, and then gotten their lives destroyed. Making them easy pickings for Isabella. And we had helped kill them. Oh dear. How would I atone for that? If anyone had ever had reasons for coming back as ghosts, it would be those three. One question presented itself in my mind, if they hadn't been the ones that had performed the ritual that had destroyed Jessie Hendrick's mind and soul, then who had?

I told the others what I had seen. They did seem quite interested in Yukimi, but I did point out to them that there were seven other girls that had been involved in the ritual, and it was just as likely that they were behind it. Not sure if they believed me though, but I said nothing of what I knew about Yukimi and her past life. Imogen once again came through with her contacts as she managed to scrounge up an old yearbook in the middle of the night. I could identify the other seven girls, and it didn't take Imogen long before she had managed to track down the current addresses of the girls. We decided that we would need to follow up on that later.

I am not sure how it came up, but someone mentioned Mirou's girlfriend. He denied having one. When I asked him about the party he had organized last 4rth of July, he just looked at me and told me to stop making fun of him. He must have hit his head bad when jumping out of that window. I mean who could forget such a babe?

To get some more leads, we headed back to the fraternity house where it all started, and I did a psychometric reading of the magical circles there. Surprisingly the image I got was a man in profile, wearing some kind of trench-coat. By now it was high time to go to bed to get some sleep. I was utterly exhausted.

The police stayed on the campus for the next few days. Not hat it made people feel better. Everyone that had been living in the fraternity house had moved out due to feeling ill. I don't blame them. I send tout some enquires to the paranet to see if anyone knew how to deal with ghosts.

A few days later, I got a call from Lisa, who wondered if I could pick her up at the airport together with her mentor. I asked Star if I could borrow her car, and went and picked them up. Lisa had really blossomed now, and carried herself with a lot more confidence and gave me a big hug. She had matured a lot, and I was very happy for her. Her mentor, a young Hispanic man who introduced himself as Carlos Ramirez. He was definitively good looking. If I hadn't been in a relationship I wouldn't have minded a date. On the way back,we also had to pick up an old priest at the cathedral.

We met up with with the other at the campus, and the situation became a bit awkward when Imogen and Lisa lay eyes on each other. They obviously knew each other from before. I suddenly understood everything. Lisa was the girl that Imogen had met while on the date with George, and Lisa was obviously still very much in love with Imogen. So much for my skills as matchmaker. I tensed up briefly as I wondered what would happen. I didn't think Lisa would handle a rejection very well. That situation might be just as bad as if I would have dumped Yukimi. Star too apparently though Ramirez was very handsome, but she was her usual weird self and asked some strange questions about monsters under the bed.

It turned out that warden Ramirez knew Mirou's father. Mirou was quite confused by this, but nothing further were said. As we described the situation about what we knew about the recent events, Ramirez said that they could deal with that. But they might need some help. Antonio and Star volunteered to help with veiling what happened in the houses, so that no one would get too curious. The rest of us would just have to make sure we stayed out of the way. In the fraternity house, some foul critter materialized, as the very air were torn apart when the priest started his ritual. Lisa and Ramirez managed to quickly dispatch the critter though. The house did take some damage but it would hold. According to the priest, whoever had summoned that ghost had used raw power, and lots of it. We then went on to the other fraternity house where the latest murders had happened, and there to was some kind of creature, but this was much smaller. Apparently, that had been an unintended side-effect. We went on to the old wiccan house, but there was nothing they could do there. The stuff I had seen were just an echo of the spell, and would fade over time. So would the mind-affecting spell we were under. We had apparently fallen for it by being inside the house before it burnt. The holes we had in our souls would heal over time. It still didn't feel good though.

When we were finished, Lisa and Ramirez said goodbye, and said that they had to hurry on to Washington, so they couldn't stay around. As they left, Imogen handed Lisa a letter of some sort. No idea what would happen there.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 5: In Love and War

Lots of stuff happened in the year following the haunting at campus. Most of my friends had now finished school and moved out from the dorms. I was the only one left, that was still studying. Well, that was unless you counted Antonio, but I gathered that he didn't do much studying, but rather picking up girls at the university. I swear, if there was a degree in sex, he would have a PhD in it. Well, all those one-night stands works for him, but it is not my style, not that I haven't had any, even if that was before I met Yukimi. Not quite sure why though that he and Imogen had moved in together in a house. Speaking of Imogen, how in the name of the Goddess had she learnt how to do magic? I hadn't sensed any talent in her when I soulgazed her earlier. She had joined the White Council and was now an apprentice to Maria Feodorovna, an Russian Wizard of the old school. She was apparently supposed to be very strict, yet fair. I think that had Imogen developed her powers without any training, she would very very quickly have become a warlock, if what I saw when I soulgazed her was any indication. She still might though. Not sure why Imogen hadn't told anyone else that she was now a wizard, but that was her decision.

I know now that nothing had happened between Lisa and Imogen. It pained me to see Lisa hurt like that. More than once I had had to comfort her when she was crying from unrequited love. Imogen was apparently trying her best to be an ice queen. Wonder if she could ever love anyone? Lisa on her hand had become a full warden now and no longer needed to be Ramirez apprentice. I must say that I was both very proud of her for her success, but also a bit frightened. I had a distinct feeling that the White Council wouldn't approve of my relationship with Yukimi. Given that I had started to learn evocation magic, and had gotten more powerful through training, the White Council now wanted me to join them as a member, and they wouldn't take no for an answer. Yukimi wasn't exactly thrilled about it, but I really didn't have much of a choice. I really really hate politics

Star had moved into a fancy apartment of her own, and filled it with musical instruments and sheet music everywhere. Very nice indeed. She had broken up with her boyfriend Nick, and had as far as I understood it had numerous short flings with members of the Boston Symphonic Orchestra where she worked. Tim had also broken up with his Danish girlfriend and now spent lots of time at the Trimountain Arcane where he had gotten a regular job. Mirou on his part had patched things up with Natalie, and had started a business. As far as I knew, he was quite successful, and he did brag a bit about the people he rubbed shoulders with. Well, he seemed to enjoy life with the high and mighty. And that left Karl, who had been quite scarce lately. Not sure why though. He and Peggy still hung out together. Guess you could say there was some animal attraction between them.

In the city the war between the various gangs had escalated, and there had been lots of high-profile murders. Murders that had gotten the FBI really angry and they had come out in force to wage war on the gangs. In the wiccan sorority, the other girls had started practicing lots of magic. I had tried to steer them away from the darker stuff that would lead them into trouble. But of course they weren't listening to me. They had made me into some kind of honorary member, but I got the feeling that they really didn't want me there at all. Just that they couldn't kick me out as that would be too obvious. The theatre had had its ups and downs. For awhile we had gotten lots of competition from the theatre that Jason started, but they closed down when it was found out that it was used for money laundering. Sadly, Nina left the theatre as she moved to another city. I am not sure how it came to pass, but the others at the theatre wanted me to take over as director after her together with Gerald. Of course it was an honour and looks good on the CV, but it made my life much more hectic and stressful as I was now doing my final semester at school.

I knew things would be bad when I had another mystic dream. This time at least I didn't wake up up screaming in horror. In the dream I saw the sun set behind two large trees. In the air between was a broken crown. The leaves of the trees were covered in blood, and looked strangely familiar. Most of the tree trunks was covered by a thick mist. On the ground was a large flat black stone, covered in blood. On the stone was a gun and a severed hand that had lots of tattoos on it in some weird writing. I guessed it was Russian. The grass on the ground was scorched, and I saw a FBI-badge lie there. Then I saw the body of a young girl hanging in one of the trees. She was bald, and lacked one leg. I knew she was dead. In front of me stood a bronze bowl filled with water and rotting plants, mostly leaves. The bowl had been covered with some kind of Arabic writing.

I spent most of the day afterwards in the library trying to research the symbols I had seen in order to find out the meaning. I was quite certain though that the trees was the two sacrificial trees that we had encountered before. That made me shudder, as they were pure evil. I wanted nothing to do with them if I could help it.

In the middle of the night after that dream I got a call from Imogen who wanted everyone to meet. She claimed it was very important. So we decided to meet in the morning at her place. We were all there except Karl and Mirou. It turned out that Imogen and Antonio had been at the hospital during the night and Antonio's sister had died from her cancer. But there had been some kind of strange man there, who Imogen had identified as a Black Court Vampire. Antonio had apparently met him last year. The man had looked at them, and then pointed to Antonio's sister and said something about her life for his life. That didn't sound good at all.

I described the dream I had had, as I figured it marked the start of something unpleasant. Star made some weird illusion that showed what I had seen. She then borrowed Antonio's phone and filmed it. Not sure why though. Antonio wanted me to describe the girl I had seen in the dream. He looked quite concerned, and then called the hospital. The colour of his face literally drained away when they told him that the body had already been sent to cremation, and that he should talk to their legal department. Oh dear Goddess, we all feared that his sister had risen as a vampire, and vanished.

We decided to do some research into what was going on. Tim called his contacts in the police. Apparently the two Mexican gangs had lost lots of ground recently, instead the Russian and the Chechen Mafias had taken over. Antonio said that that corresponded to something he had heard the night before that the Mexican gangs were scared of some external threat, and were collaborating sort of. Star said that she had received a summon to her faerie court for some official business. We managed to find out that the vampire that Antonio had met before was called Abraham of Worms, and that he was supposedly born in 1362 and had died in 1458. He had been a Jewish magician, who had been taught by some Arabic magician. Antonio didn't go into any details about how he had met the vampire, but it seemed that Antonio and Mirou had somehow screwed up.

I decided call my friends in the paranet to see if they knew anything, but they hadn't heard anything that would indicate any supernatural trouble, other than that the faeries were planning something. I talked to Lisa if she knew anything about the vampire, but she didn't know anything . She and ten other wardens were apparently coming to town for something big. She wouldn't tell me what though, but said she would tell me once it was over. I decided to ask Yukimi later on, given that she was a contemporary of the vampire, but I would have to keep that a secret.

Imogen trid finding more info at the library, but had no success. Antonio set out to try ask the local fae what they knew. I gathered that the wyldfae were confused to say the least.

Later during the day, I got a phone call from Lisa, who wanted me to get in touch with a guy called Semyon Laguonov. He hung around the local paranet, and was sometimes acting as a driver. He was supposed to meet with Lisa and her fellow wardens, at a specific time and place. I just had to coordinate it. When I called him, it sounded like he had a party going on in the background. He did sound a bit worried though when I told him how many people he had to pick up. I had met the guy before. Not quite sure what he was but he wasn't mortal. I had the feeling that he might be a shidhe or a changeling like Antonio.

At school, I passed a TV-set that was on and showed the news. Something really strange had happened down in Houston during lunch. Apparently there had been some kind of killing spree in the middle of a shopping mall. 225 persons had died. There had been lots of explosions, and people dying without any particular visible cause. There were some confused reports on dead people walking around. The police was mysteriously silent on the matter. There was something about this report though that gave me the chills. It didn't take a genius to realize that there had been some supernatural involvement even though it was classified as a terrorist act. It seemed that no weapons had been found, and that some sources said that it all started when two persons attacked a third person, who some described as a dark-haired woman.

When I came home, I found Yukimi sitting on my bed. She was crying violently and it took quite some time for me to calm her down. It was as bad as I had feared, she had been the mysterious woman who had been attacked in Houston. Her two younger siblings; Beatrice and Azzo had found her, and had attacked with full force. Yukimi had done all she could to defend herself, and had just barely gotten away.

During the night, I had another dream. It was almost the same as before, but this time, there were three dark trees, and the sun had now already set. The girl that had hung in one of the trees were now gone. Instead there was a mausoleum between the trees, and the fog glowed from beneath with a cold blue light, making everything appear ghostly. On the black stone where there previously had been a gun and a hand, now only the hand remained. The FBI-badge that had been on the ground had now almost melted, and the enamel on it had peeled away. The bronze bowl now only contained rotten leaves. When I woke up, it felt like I had been asleep for a long time and that the dream felt distant.

Poor Yukimi, she was at a loss, and didn't know quite what to do. It seemed that her family could track her down quicker and quicker now. She feared that they had gotten hold of blood or something from her, and that that was how they could track her. Or they had just gotten a lot better. The question though, given her ability to switch bodies, was whether they were tracking the body or her soul. If I had been them I would have assumed that she had taken a new body. Especially since she just got away.

During the morning Semyon and Karl came and picked me up, so I could guide them to Lisa and the other wardens. Lisa was quite happy to see me again and gave me a big hug. She was apparently in charge of this mission, and all the other wardens were quite young. They needed to go to a place near Forest Hill station, and told us to keep back and wait. While we waited, I talked a bit to Karl and filled him in on the latest stuff, he had been home in Sweden meeting his family, that was why he had been so scarce. Ten minutes after the wardens had went in, we could hear lots of explosions, and then car-alarms went off all over the area, before the electronics in the cars were fried. I could tell that it was some major magic going on. A few minutes later, eight of the wardens came running with nine kids. Lisa were not among the wardens that came. I was quite worried to say the least. The wardens were all injured, and the kids looked like they were in very bad shape.

The wardens quickly ushered the kids into the cars, then some of them joined the kids and then told Semyon and Karl to drive away as quickly as possible. The kids appeared to be in shock. I tried talking to them to calm them down while we quickly drove to the place that the wardens indicated, which was an old church where we were met by a priest who took the children inside. Two of the wardens stayed with the children, and we headed back to get the others. When we came back the area looked like a war zone. People in black cloaks were engaged in a magical fight with the wardens. Semyon ran over one of the cloaked persons and then stopped the car in such a way that the skidding car hit another. He shouted to the wardens to get in the cars. The remaining wardens get an unconscious Lisa into the car I am in. Her whole left side had been badly burnt. Luckily her face was unhurt. We drove back to the church. I asked what had happened, and got the answer that they had gone up against a full coven of 13 witches. Two of the wardens died in the assault. The wardens had taken down ten of the witches, but had been hard pressed, and would probably have lost had we not come. When we get to the church the priest tells us that Lisa needs get to hospital. We quickly drive there, and then get the doctors to start treating her. No matter how much I would like it, I couldn't stay at her side, or I would risk causing the sensitive machines there to fail. Was bad enough with just Lisa being there, but as long as she was unconscious it would be relatively safe. The best I could do was to call the White Council and tell them what had happened, and then pray that they could help.

After the visit to the hospital, Semyon asked me and Karl to come to his part. I told him that I wasn't exactly in the mood and that my girlfriend was visiting. He just smiled and said to bring her as well. Once I was at home I talked to Yukimi about what had happened. She said I should go to the party as she had some things she needed to do, and that she would see me later. So I went to the party, and found that almost all of the others were there. Star took it upon herself to be the disc jockey. Mirou seemed to fit right in with the other guests as most were rich brats. I talked a little bit to Imogen and told her that Lisa was in hospital. I didn't stay long at the party, but it did succeed in lifting my mood a bit.

When I came home, Yukimi wasn't there. I found a note saying she would come with breakfast. She did indeed fulfil that promise, and then asked me to skip classes during the day so we could spend as much time in bed as possible. I gladly obliged. Lets just say that multiple orgasms are the best way to stop worrying, and that my fluffy handcuffs and other such toys that I had purchased over the last few years were well worth what I had spent on them. Yukimi definitively rocked my world.

In the afternoon, Yukimi said that she would take me to a restaurant. When we got to the restaurant, which was a fine restaurant indeed, the table was made for three. Yukimi told me that there was someone she wanted me to meet. She introduced the person who came as Eibon Blackstar. He or she was wearing fancy clothing and a mask, making it difficult to tell whether it was a man or a woman. I could tell that the person had used some kind of illusion so the rest of the guests at the restaurants didn't notice. Eibon spoke with a very soft voice. I gathered that it was probably a man, and that he had known Yukimi for a very long time. They had met in Japan in the 16th century. He was with the White council, and they had set up a deal a year ago that he would come in and be my mentor and that he would help protect me. The council would in a few days, come and make an official request about it. No problem, I just needed to play along and appear surprised. After the meal, Eibon opened a portal to Nevernever and left. I think Yukimi might have been his apprentice, but I was not sure.

The day after, I tried finding out more info from the hospital to learn how Lisa was doing, but the only information I got was that she had been transferred to a private hospital earlier during the day. Talked quite bit with Yukimi about the current situation and my visions. She did know about the black court vampire. Apparently he was more known as a wizard while he lived than as a vampire. Isabella's father apparently had had dealings with him, as Abraham knew stuff no one else did. He had been gone since the 18th century and had been rumoured to live in Egypt and was a bit of a loner. As far as Yukimi knew he had never turned anyone before into a vampire. So why now, if that was indeed what had happened?

Yukimi was a bit surprised when I talked to her about what had happened to Lisa and the wardens. She said that there hadn't been a full coven of witches around for some time, not since the one she had manipulated during the winter ritual. I had sort of suspected it, but it was still a bit of a shock. And it was another thing that the others must never know as long as either me or Yukimi was alive. I asked her if she gained the memories of the previous host whenever she changed bodies, but she said she usually didn't, so she had no idea of what had happened at the wiccan ritual that had gone wrong earlier, and had caused everyone who had spent time in the sorority house to be affected.

We got interrupted in our discussions as Karl called. He had just learned that Star was going to fight against a troll king in a formal duel, and that she was married to another king. Oh crap. That had the potential for huge consequences, so I reluctantly headed over to the library where I poured over everything I could find about trolls. Trolls counted as faeries and duels were apparently very common among them. After a few hours a thought I had a reasonable idea of what would happen. I met up with Karl, Mirou and Antonio before the duel where we talked things over. Karl of course went as a wolf. When we got to the trolls in the subway-system, Star was told by their guards that she was responsible for us according to the old laws. I had no idea what that meant, and Star couldn't translate them even if she knew them. These were laws that were older than the Unseelie Accords. That was very interesting, and something I needed to learn more about. Star had filled us in that her husband was sick and that she would use some magic to disguise herself and take his place in the duel.

The trolls that lived in the subway were bigger than the trolls that Yukimi had used back in Nevernever, and I think then might have been a few hundreds. Most of them were warriors as far as I could tell. Star, in the shape of the troll king, together with eighty warriors went down a long winding path deep under the city, The rest of us accompanied them to be witnesses to what would happen. In the tunnels we glimpsed shapes moving around. It looked like giant rats with glowing eyes, but they were much to big to be rats. They had to be something nasty from Nevernever.

We reached a huge underground cavern, with lots of entrances to tunnels. The cavern was lit up by a number of large braziers burning some foul oil. The trolls that were with us were almost twice the size of the trolls waiting in the cavern. The other ones looked a bit like gorillas and were about four or five yards tall, but extremely muscular. I could tell that the warriors we had with us were nervous, as the other trolls outnumbered us at least three to one, and there was no telling how many more were hiding in the tunnels. Things could get real ugly down here. I tried to recall the way we had come in case we would need to run.

After some talks from the heralds on each side, the fight itself started. The other troll was ferocious and attacked Star with a number of violent attacks who were hard pressed until she managed to kick over one of the burning braziers so it hit the other troll. This mad it absolute filled with rage, so it stopped using its wicked claw like weapons and managed to grapple Star instead. She took a fierce beating, but managed to shrink herself down in size so she could get out from the grapple. From out of nowhere she suddenly drew a big iron-like sword, she then resumed her hulking size. She hit back hard against the troll, and managed to beat it after some tense fighting, and finally beheaded the other troll.

Then in the corner of my mind I saw Karl run towards a smaller more human-looking individual amongst the other trolls, and then jumping up and catching something in the air. He landed in front of the troll, and dropped a brass knife and growled at the troll who were visibly shaken and turned and ran. Karl and Mirou followed the troll. The situation was definitively tense and the trolls with us Quickly ushered us away. Seemed they were very concerned for the health of Star who looked like she had been badly hurt.

When we got back, we noticed that somehow Karl had gone missing, while Mirou had managed to rejoin us. The swamp trolls had followed us for quite some time but finally left off when we reached the territory of the other trolls. Mirou wanted to go and try to find Karl. I did a quick divination-spell and could ascertain that he was still alive and coming our way. Star had in the meanwhile gone inside a guarded palace of sorts. After a while Karl came. He turned into human form again, and then asked if there was anything dangerous about being bitten by a black court vampire or drinking its blood. When I asked him why he wondered, he said that he had fought one back in the cave but that she had turned into mist and gotten away. That sounded bad. As far as I knew, Karl was in no danger and I told him that. He was quite relived to hear those news.

After a while, Star came out as herself again. She asked me to come with her and to take a look at the king. She had to veil me though as the guards would not allow me to pass otherwise. So it was with some trepidation that I accompanied her. Luckily the guards didn't notice. When we got in, Star removed the veil and told the other wives to the troll king that she had called in an expert, namely me. I now learned something I didn't know before; they young wives were quite attractive in a way, but as they get older they turn into crones. This was another piece of information I probably shouldn't tell anyone else.

The troll king lay in a coma, and it didn't take me long to figure out why. He had been poisoned. I managed to find a small wound on the underside of his arm, where a rusty iron nail coated in some nasty substance had pierced his skin. I borrowed a piece of heavy cloth so I could extract it without touching it. After showing it to the trolls, and letting them find out the poison which turned out to be something from the Nevernever, I touched the nail itself to see if I could get any readings from it. My head was instantly filled with a vision not unlike the ones I had had recently.

I saw the same three trees as before, but the sun was starting to rise. The crown that hung in the air was now whole. The clearing between the trees was filled with mist, but I could see three persons clearly. A young beautiful woman with a gown of blood stood beneath the oak tree in the forest, under the tree that I knew to be the sacrificial tree near the library was a a somewhat older woman, her lower body was that of a snake, and then beneath the third tree were an ancient crone with a iron jaw. Behind the trees I could make out another tree persons. Two women and a man. The woman standing to the left was standing higher up as if she was more important. The woman in the middle had short hair and carried a long staff. The other woman was quite short and wore a cloak that obscured most of her face. Her hands glittered like stars as she seemed to be casting some kind of spell. The man to the right of them was really tall, and also quite fat. I could see a huge two handed sword hanging on his back. In the front I saw a rotting hand lying on the stone tablet. On the ground lay an iron bar covered by a dirty grey piece of cloth. Where the FBI-badge had previously been were now barbed wire, and the bronze brazier were filled with thorny plants.

I collapsed to the ground as I got the vision and did not wake for almost half an hour later, but it felt like I had been sleeping for a really long time and I felt very weak. When I woke up, Star once again veiled me and we left the King's chamber leaving the troll women to do what they could to heal their king. Hopefully this had been the right thing to do, and we might have gotten some allies.

Back outside we talked to the others,and when Karl said he had fought a black court vampire, Star said that she knew that the swamp trolls were allied with a clan of vampires.

By the time we got home, it was much later in the morning. I was absolutely exhausted when I got home. Luckily Yukimi was there to take care of me. We talked a little bit of what had happened before I fell asleep. In the morning, well almost at lunchtime, Imogen called me. She was apparently suffering from cabin fever and needed to get out after having spent lots of time studying. That was something I should have been doing as well, but well lets just say I had had other things on my mind. We decided though to meet for lunch, and Yukimi would come with me as well. There was something weird about Imogen this time though, but I was kind of glad when she left to go and talk to Tim.

Yukimi and I decided to spend the beautiful day walking around in the sunshine and visit one of the parks down town. When we were sitting there, holding hands and kissing, it was as if time slowed down before Yukimi quickly put up a magical shield surrounding us. Just in time as some foul black stuff hit the shield. I could literally see how the grass just died where the black goo hit. I then saw how a man and a woman came walking toward us, casting spell after spell that hit Yukimi's shield. I veiled myself and quickly got away as Yukimi lured the couple away from the park and towards some alley with no people around. Still, a number of people had just died near me and then been turned into walking dead. By the Goddess, that was absolutely frightening. From the alley, I could hear and see a number of explosions, and then everything was quiet. My heart was racing, and I looked around. Had Yukimi survived? It didn't take long before the police and the FBI surrounded the park to take control of the situation. I decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed home. On my bed was a note saying that Yukimi had to leave and that she had spent too long time here. She had to hide again. I spent the afternoon being a nervous wreck from the events in the park, watching the news where they reported from the alleged terrorist attack in the park.

I did manage to find out though that Lisa had started to recover from her injuries from the previous raid. She had been taken to a private hospital and had been drifting in and out of consciousness. I really needed to go and see her later on. Sometime in the evening, I got a call from Imogen who wanted us all to meet at Frank's Diner. Reluctantly I agreed to come. There was after all safety in numbers.

When I came to the diner, I saw that everyone except Mirou was there. Wonder where he had gone. Star was dressed in some weird metallic harem clothing. I mean sure, the way I dress tend to stick out so I shouldn't be saying too much, but why did she have that kind of clothing. Imogen was acting like she was on speed and couldn't sit still for more than a minute and kept talking all the time. I tried asking her what was going on, but she wouldn't answer. She suddenly decided to sit down in my lap. Just when Star commented that I already had a girlfriend, and Imogen stood up again, then all electricity in the diner broke down and it was pitch dark. My first reaction was to veil myself and move away from where I had been and then use my Sight. I could see that Imogen seemed to be the cause of the sudden darkness as as lots and lots of magical energy swirled around her in a chaotic pattern, and it looked like her body was somehow submerged inside another pitch dark silhouette that most certainly wasn't human. After a what seemed like forever, but probably didn't take more than a few seconds, we had light again as Star had taken on a fire-form. Karl had shifted into wolf-form as well, and Imogen had veiled herself. Semyon had run out and tried starting his car that was as dead as every other piece of technology in the the vicinity. Luckily there were no other guests at the diner, and the cook seemed to be oblivious to what happened. Someone lit some candles, and then everyone resumed their normal shapes or dropped their veils when we could ascertain that nothing was attacking us.

Guess that the cat was out of the bag now. Imogen said that she had been studying, and even though she didn't say what,I think everyone now knew she had been studying magic. Apparently Antonio, Tim, and Semyon had been messing with the various gangs in town. Not sure I wanted to know what they had been doing but I had a feeling nothing good would come out of it. Karl on his part had apparently been involved a lot with a local motorcycle gang that had some shady dealings. I told Imogen that I needed to talk to her in private, so we went outside, where we saw just how large area her magical outburst had affected. As I was beginning to tell her what I saw when I used the sight, another soulgaze happened. That shouldn't have been possible normally, but now she had changed so much that she was no longer the same person as last time. This time, I saw her standing in a pavilion in a Japanese stone-garden, but opposite her were a person that was filled with darkness and emitting the feeling of something old, immoral, evil and very powerful that was brutal. I still got the feeling that it was her against the world, but this time it was also her against herself, and things could turn out very badly. She responded by saying I appeared to be hiding something, which I was, but then everyone hides something. The question is what they hide and why. And that she thought I had some big decisions to make.

By this time, the diner closed due to not having any electricity, so we had to leave. Imogen was getting more and more skittish, and I could feel the energy fluctuate around her. She decided to veil herself and then suddenly we heard a scream as something, probably Imogen, crashed into walls and windows in the nearby buildings. Wherever she went electricity went out. Karl set off to the nearest payphone to call a tow-truck for the non-working vehicles. I decided to join him, as I didn't want the attention sticking around might cause. Besides, I was quite tired. Damn it, I would have to get a new phone again.

The day after, the news were filled with lots of things that I really didn't like. They figured that the city was under a series of terrorist attacks that had started in the park the day before, and then continued in the area around the diner, and then following the streets going towards the FBI-building, every piece of electronic equipment had started malfunctioning. The pumps in the local bath house had been fried so the whole building had been flooded, and lots of fires had sprung up near the diner. The FBI-building itself had been subject to what they described as number of bomb blasts. I prayed that my friends weren't involved in this but I feared for the worst case scenario. If it wasn't a war on the streets already, it sure would be now. Maybe I should have gone with Yukimi earlier when I first learned who she really was?

One strange thing on the news caught my attention, and that was that they claimed that the FBI had caught the terrorists from the attack in the park earlier. Something didn't feel right about that. Most likely they had just caught some members of a gang or something, and then decided to pin it on them. Because if they could capture two wizards with the kind of power that they had exhibited, then FBI would somehow have been way too competent, compared to how they used to operate. I didn't even want to think about the idea that Isabella's siblings had let themselves be caught as it were much too scary to think about.

I spent the morning doing some research on just how it was that Isabella's family could track her. It had to be something different from how I performed my magic. Of course given how long she had lived, then there would have to be lots of things that they could use as the symbolic link. I doubted that she had managed to take or destroy them all. If I could just find out how they did it, then maybe we could stop it. For a brief moment I wondered if the only solution would be if she took a new body. Of course doing so would probably be a death-sentence for the person whose body she would take. Dear Goddess, give me some guidance.

Around lunchtime, I got a call from Mirou, who wanted me to accompany him to Imogen's house. Something bad had apparently happened. It didn't take long before he came around and picked me up. He looked quite nervous for some reason. Karl and Star, was already there when we got there. Both Imogen and Star, looked like they weren't feeling very well. As I had feared, they had indeed been involved in the stuff yesterday. Imogen and Antonio had gone to the FBI-building, looking do cause some mayhem, while Star had been responsible for the fires around the diner as she had gotten infected by Imogen's madness. According to Imogen, she and Antonio had gone through the Nevernever and there come to some kind of icecastle, where they had been chased by some wizard with a sword. How in the name of everything that is dear had Imogen managed to without any proper training open a portal to the Nevernever? The Wizard had chased them down into a labyrinth. When they tried escaping back to our world, Antonio had somehow gotten stuck in the Nevernever.

Imogen had on her way home met the wizard that was her mentor, and she had not been impressed. The mentor had apparently caused Imogen to fall asleep, and she had woken up in a hospital. There she had seen seven of the witches that was in the coven that Lisa and her fellow wardens attacked. One of them had woken up and Imogen had had a brief chat with that one before the wardens had come in and sedated the woman again.

Now, for the more pressing problem of where Antonio was. Since he lived in the house together with Imogen, I had no problem finding a suitable symbolic link. Imogen assisted me as best as she could, and it didn't take that long before I found what I was looking for. He was no longer in Nevernever, but instead back in our world, and was as far as I could make out alive and in good condition. When I tried finding out where he was, things got a bit weird. As far as I could tell, he was in Vancouver. What was he doing there, and more importantly how and when would he get back to Boston?

When I had finished the ritual, the found that we were alone in the house. Mirou and Karl had gone outside to talk about something, and Star was gone. She had left with the gas-stove on, and not told anyone. That could have ended badly. None of the others knew where she were but we did suspect that she had gone to the FBI building, despite Mirou having told her not to earlier. Karl muttered something about Star and a lamp. When Imogen asked him what lamp, he gave some lame excuse about some special flashlight. I don't think that was what he intended to say. Dear Goddess, I hoped that didn't mean what I thought it meant; Was Star a genie? That would explain a lot, and it would make Star so much more dangerous. Might be a good idea to read up on Arabic mythology. How would you stop someone like that if you had to?

Mirou had to leave for some meeting, so it was up to the rest of us to figure out what to do. As we were trying to do that Antonio called Imogen and let her know he was ok. Karl decided that he was going to try and find Star, and that he would have the best chance of doing that as he knew more how she thought. Given what Imogen had said about the hospital she had been at, I figured that Lisa would be there as well, and I wanted to see how she was. Imogen offered to follow me there. She was supposed to be studying, but apparently didn't feel like it.

At the hospital, which basically was just an old house, we were met by a young warden who at first didn't want to let me enter before he had soulgazed me in order to make sure I was actually a practitioner. I wasn't exactly thrilled about it but there was nothing else to do. After some deliberation, he let us in on the condition that Imogen followed me, and we were guided to the room where Lisa was. Outside the room I met Eibon again, but neither of us let anyone else know that we had already met, he gave a brief nod before accompanying us into the room where Lisa was. She was really badly injured, but awake and in stable condition. It would take some time before she would be well again. She was very happy that I came and visited her, but not so happy to see Imogen. I really hope Imogen hadn't broken Lisa's heart.

I asked Lisa if there was anything I could to for her, and she wanted me to see if I could find out anything about the witches in the coven that they had attacked, as there was something not right about the whole thing. I looked at Eibon who just nodded, and he led me to a room with eight beds in it, leaving Imogen together with Lisa. All beds except one was occupied by a young woman, more or less injured and apparently sedated. When I asked Eibon about what they had learnt so far he didn't answer, but when asked indicated the girl that Imogen had spoken to earlier.

With Eibon's permission, I set up a divination-ritual,making very sure not to actually enter the girl's mind. It turned out to be the most difficult ritual I had ever done. I saw a scene where the girl walked into some French-looking café in what was obviously some major city, and sat down next to a window looking out on the street, with the light falling on the face of the girl. An expensive-looking car stopped outside, and a woman came out from the back seat. She was a short-haired blonde, and I thought I recognized her form my previous vision. She was dressed in a classic suit, and appeared to be talking to someone in the car. She walks into the café, sits down and talks to the girl. I couldn't hear any sounds, so I had no idea what they talked about. The woman took out two large envelopes and gave the girl before leaving. When she came out to the car, a large short-haired man stepped out of the car. I could see that she now had a wand with some kind of button on top, and she were wearing some expensive-looking jewellery. In the front of the car was a driver that I could not see, and a young man, who turned to the woman and handed her another envelope before they drove away. Inside the café, the girl, who I somehow knew were named Laina, opened the envelopes. In one was a large amount of money. In the other was a folder with various documents, including and an address to a house. I recognised the address as the one that the witches had occupied. There were also papers form a real-estate agent, a receipt for a rental car, and a requisition-form for material. I told Eibon what I had seen, and also about the visions I had had lately as they felt connected.

Just as I were finished Imogen came in, and wanted to leave. Eibon gave me an envelope with some documents in and just said to be ready on Monday, which was in two days time. When I got home, I read the stuff. I got invited, sort of, to a council-meeting in Edinburg. I wasn't sure if I should be honoured or scared out of my wits. I had the distinct feeling that not attending was not an option. I really had to get home and devote myself to my neglected school-work, but I couldn't shake the feeling that there were something I needed to do, and that time was running out.

The news was of course filled with weird reports of a fifteen meter tall burning woman attacking the FBI headquarters. That had to be Star. Why had she done that? Luckily no one got hurt. The day after it was time for more violence. Someone dressed as a Mexican bandit, complete with dynamite sticks, had been riding downtown on a camel, and then later on all hell had broken loose at a motorcycle club in the outskirts of town. It was reported as gang warfare, but there were some stuff that looked very troubling indeed. First the presence of large wolves, and two of them looked awfully familiar, then someone looking like Mirou had killed some of the attackers using a large sword. Please let me be wrong for once. Some of the attackers had tried to escape in a demolished van, and then had opened fire on the Police roadblock using machine guns. I think they call that suicide by police.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 6: Blood in the Streets

On the Monday after I had visited Lisa, Eibon came by the dorm to pick me up for the trip to Edinburgh. Since it was a formal meeting of the White Council, he told me to bring a robe. Luckily I had one at home. He said that we were going to meet up with two others on the way. Trying to be friendly, I asked him what wanted me to call him, and he only said I should refer to him as Master. A man of many words he is not. We met up with Imogen and Maria Feodorovna, and went to one of the parks where Maria opened a portal to Nevernever. Maria talked a bit of what would happen in Edinburg. Apparently, Me and Imogen and some other new apprentices would be introduced to the rest of the wizards. Of course that would be only a small part of what I gathered was a big meeting.

After a relatively short travel, we came to Edinburgh. I saw a real castle, and I knew that it was built to stand firm against almost any attacks. We were met by two wardens at the gates. Once inside I briefly met both Carlos Ramirez again and some of the wardens in the ill-fated group that Lisa had led. Didn't get to speak with them properly though, as the main meeting were just about to start. It as held inside a huge auditorium that was filled with people. The meeting would be lead by a council, of important people. If I got their names right they were Ancient Mai, Ebenezer McCoy, Listens-to-Winds and the man in charge was known by the title of Merlin. The only problem was that the meeting was held in Latin. I had to whisper to Eibon that I didn't understand what they were saying. He said he would tell me later about what was discussed.

After a while it was time for the apprentices to be introduced. Besides me and Imogen there were two Asian guys. We had gotten notes with what we should say in Latin, When I were introduced, a lot of the assembled wizards started murmuring and whisper amongst themselves. I think that was due me being an apprentice to Eibon. At least I hope it did. Sadly, I butchered the pronunciation of the Latin, which had everyone laughing. I did my best, but next time I will do better. When it was Imogen's turn though, everyone turned very silent, and you could feel the animosity amongst the crowd.

Slightly after we were finished introducing ourselves, and had sat down, a group of people came in. First a short blond Latin-American woman, and then a huge man who carried a sword. I recognized them from my visions, and whispered to Eibon that I did recognize them. He didn't seem surprised. After them five others came in. All of them behaved as if they owned the place and didn't care at all that they were late. I had a feeling that it was quite orchestrated though. I do appreciate great showmanship. Eibon told me the man and woman that I recognized were Kalevi Merinen and Lucia Hanae Matsushita. The assembled people started talking about some rogue wizard named Francis Black who had broken out of the White Council and now were teaching others to use magic. There was apparently a great debate of what do against him and his students. It was clear that some of the council wanted to make an example of him and his students. Lucia and Kalevi were trying to turn the crowd a lynchmob. I am not sure if was the fact that Francis Black choose what laws he would follow, or that he was hiring wizards out to the FBI that angered them the most. Eibon told me that they were young, hungry for power, mad, and the reason we could not get rid of the council. I could hear Imogen whisper to Maria, wondering what to do with the quite heated debate. Maria told her to sit down and make sure that she wasn't noticed. Apparently a lot of people would have been quite happy if Imogen was dead. The end of the debate was that the council would send an emissary to talk to Francis Black, and if that didn't get the desired result, wardens would be sent to deal with the perceived problem. Must say that debate were some of the longest four hours I have ever experienced. I really don't like debates, and I especially don't like debates where I don't understand what is being said.

When the debate was over, the doors to the room was blown open, and an extremely beautiful mid-eastern woman stormed in. Two wardens tried to stop her from entering the room. She was followed by a man with a huge sword. The woman was introduced as the Queen of the Brass Court, and the man was her knight. She spoke English, and was very agitated, and wanted the council to support her in her war against the Summer Court. Even from where I was sitting, I could feel power emitting from her. The feeling I got was that she and Star had a lot in common. The council tried to calm her down, as it was quite clear that had any fight taken place a lot of people would have died. She claimed that Summer conspired with the old queens, and that they held her daughter; the Brass Lady captive. As she left, she threatened the council and said that if they didn't support her, she would punish them severely later on when she had destroyed the Summer court. Oh dear Goddess, this was bad.

After the meeting, Imogen and I were told to wait in a room while Maria and Eibon attended to some other things. Not sure how long we had waited when we heard some kind of alarm going off. Imogen was of course ready to go exploring, I thought we should stay, but was talked into going out to see what was going on. Lots of people came running down the corridor. I asked one of the wardens that came running what was going on, and we were told in no uncertain terms to go back to our room and wait there. For once Imogen actually did what someone told her to do. Maybe twenty minutes later, Maria came by to see how we were doing. Apparently over fifty newly created Black Court vampires had attacked members of the council as they were leaving. How had they gotten there? According to Maria, all of those that had died were on the side that wanted a peaceful dealing with Francis Black and his disciples. A coincidence? Maybe, but I didn't think so. Again we were told to wait in the room as she would go and check some things out. Forty minutes later, Eibon came and said we had to leave right there and then. We wouldn't have time to fight our way out. Maria was doing some kind of diversion. That didn't sound very good. As we left we met again with warden Ramirez, who looked quite worried. We took a long detour from Edinburgh back to Boston. Once there we were told to stay indoors, behind a good threshold. Well, that meant that I needed to stay with Imogen at least for the night, as a dorm doesn't get much of a threshold. Antonio wasn't at home though.

The next day, Imogen left with Karl, and Mirou to New York. Karl had some business there, dealing with some kind of suit of armour if I understood it correctly. I declined to join, as I had too much stuff to do. Besides, I had a feeling Eibon would be quite angry with me if I were to disregard his direct order to stay put.

When I went to the dorm to pick up some stuff during the day after, I found that someone had broken into my room, and the door was sealed with police tape. I could tell that whoever had done it had also put a ward on the door. That made me very cautious, and I used my magical sight to investigate it closer. It would let anyone enter the room, but if I did so then whoever had made the ward would know. That made it personal. I went and talked to the police, who said that they figured it was some burglar, and that one of my neighbours had seen the door broken. Of course no one had seen the person or persons who had done it. The police were quite puzzled though, and said they had no clues. I had some ideas though, and it seemed my worst fears were true, in that Isabella's family were after me to get to her. I arranged to get a new room, so I had somewhere to stay. Wasn't hard to convince the dorm managers that I couldn't use the old one as I wouldn't feel safe there. I said I would come back later and get my things. Now I only needed to get someone else to get them for me. Back at Imogen's house, I used my magic to find out whether or not Yukimi was still alive. I needed to come up with some way to neutralize the threat that her family posed to me, luckily I got some ideas.

I spent the next few days studying, and thinking on what to do. I had the feeling that time was running out, in more than one sense. On the news, there were reports of strange happenings in New York. They were wondering whether it had been a meteor striking a building in central New York, or an act of terrorism. Some people talked about Nacho Libre. There had also been a strange break-in at the Metropolitan Museum. I had some sneaking suspicions on who was behind it. Please, let me be wrong for once. And Eibon had still not come back for me.

After the others had come back, Karl wanted us all to meet, apparently he had met someone who had some information for us. I first got very surprised when two men showed up that I had never seen before; an Asian man and a fat German with a moustache. They introduced themselves as Zhujiang and Herr Schwartz. Apparently they were some business associates of Mirou, who wasn't coming as he lay in hospital. Then Karl showed up with four teenagers in tow. Austin, and Hannah who were a couple, and then Megan, and Joshua. Austin was a fellow goth, or maybe more of an emo. Hannah appeared to be very protective about him, and made it quite clear that he was hers. Joshua was a real pretty boy, even prettier than Antonio, who did join us slightly after the others had come inside. Had I been single then sure I might have wanted to flirt with Joshua at a party, but I doubt that anything lasting would have come out of it. I want men, not boys. I wondered about Star, but was told that she was not around at the moment. It seemed that Karl, Antonio, and Imogen knew Herr Schwartz from before, and Karl seemed to know Zhujiang.

I got a sense that the newcomers were more than they appeared to be. Austin had some kind of powerful item, I could tell that Hannah was a practitioner, but there was something just weird with both Megan, Joshua, and Herr Schwartz. I could tell that Zhujiang was marked by some kind of power, similar to what I sensed about Mirou earlier. The teenagers seemed a bit uncomfortable being with us, but it turned out some representative from the Brass Court had tried to recruit them, and had gotten quite angry when they had said no. There was something familiar about the name of the representative. The woman from the Brass Court had come back later with some Black court Vampires, but had just walked away when the teenagers had told them to. There was something there that they weren't telling us. The question was what it was. They then said that they had seen the Brass Court woman and her vampire associates getting captured by some wizards. When I asked for a description of them, I was given very good drawings depicting both Lucia, Kalevi and some other woman that I had not seen before. Karl recognized her though. She was the Black Court vampire he had fought when we were visiting the trolls earlier, and Star fought the duel. The teenagers said goodbye and left, saying that they hoped we could do something about the current unrest in Boston.

Imogen and I told the others about what had happened in Edinburg, and I confirmed that I had seen Lucia and Kalevi in two visions earlier. They were definetively involved. Zhujiang, behaved like a typical male chauvinistic pig, and dismissed my visions, saying that he did not listen to prophecies from women. Oh, the nerve, I had a mind of showing him just what I could do. Luckily Karl stepped in and told him that my visions were right. I asked Zhujiang just who he thought he was, and got the answer that he was an emissary from the Emperor of Heaven. Herr Schwartz worked with him, and they were here due to some problems with Jade Court vampires. I said I had never heard of them, and was basically told that I need not bother.

I told the others about the ward on my room at the dorm, and my fears that Yukimi's family had infiltrated the FBI. Karl then said that when they had picked up Mirou earlier after he got arrested, he had been quite out of it, but the one thing he did remember was that they had spent a lot of time asking questions about me and Yukimi. He was quite certain that they had messed with his mind. That confirmed my worst fears. I asked Antonio if he remembered the name of the wizard that had captured him earlier, but he had no idea. Well, I was going to have to write an anonymous letter, and use him to flush out Yukimi's siblings. The enemy of my enemy might not be my friend, but they could certainly be a useful tool. Now I only needed to set in motion the next part in my plan to protect myself as well. I think they called it a dead-man's switch, that if anything happened to me, then all the information I had about her family would go public. I had a feeling that the wardens and probably others as well would be very interested.

It seemed that the reason that Star was not around, was that someone had taken the lamp that was used to control her. Karl confirmed that she was indeed a genie. He had gotten her lamp back when we had been fighting the snow trolls during the winter event a year ago. When he had learned what it was, he had put it in a bank vault. The problem was that the bank had been robbed, and now someone else had the lamp. Oh crap. I said that I might be able to track her down if I had something that belonged to her. Karl volunteered to go and get some things from her apartment. I told him that the the stronger connection she had to the object the better. As a byway, he said that he and Peggy were getting married, and that they were going to adopt the troll baby that Star had cared for earlier. I can honestly say we were all very much confused by these news. I was happy for them to get married, but adopting a troll? Had they any idea of what trouble they were in for?

After a short while, Karl was back with some of Star's belongings. I set up a magical circle with the help of Imogen. Not that I would need her help in that, as divination is my speciality, but if noting else she might learn what I do. Could always be useful if someone needed to track me down. The result I got was nothing, which meant that she was not anywhere on Earth. That meant we had to try it in the Nevernever as well. It's hard for magic to travel across the borders. Of course crossing into Nevernever had its own risks, and was not something one should attempt lightly. Karl knew of a suitable spot where we could do it safely, or as safe as possible. Was always the risk of something lurking on the other side.

We quickly crossed over, and me and Imogen did our tracking, but again we came up with nothing. That meant that Star had either been obliterated, or she was held behind some very powerful wards. We went back to Imogen's house, and started contacting our various contacts in the city to see what they knew about the bank robbery. Imogen learned that some people had made a lot of money selling various strange things recently, while Antonio found out that a lot of people in the Latino area had vanished. Karl apparently knew someone who had sold lots of heavy weapons to the alleged perpetrators. Oh great, so not only were we dealing with criminals, we were dealing with heavily armed criminals. I talked to my friends in the Paranet and also warned them of the Black Court vampires that was around. They said they were already aware of that, and that everyone was spooked. Apparently almost four hundred persons had vanished over the past weeks. Mostly homeless people, and all of them young ones.

We learned that two weeks ago, young people on the streets had started to disappear, a week later, older homeless persons had started ending up dead. According to the information Antonio found, in a shelter for homeless people, everyone had been killed under mysterious circumstances. All of the persons that had vanished had probably not been turned into vampires, but I think a lot had. The rest had probably become food. This was extremely bad. Oh dear Goddess, please protect us from this.

In the evening after we had done our investigations, Antonio came back to the house together with someone who looked like his sister Maria. This was very strange, as last I had seen her, she had been very ill, and she had died as far a I knew. But here she was alive as could be, and seemingly in good health. Imogen took me aside and asked me if I could tell if it really was her. I used my sight on her, and as far as I could tell there was no glamour or other spell on her that would make someone look like her. And she really was alive as far as I could tell. I told Imogen this. I talked to Maria while she was eating, and asked her how she was doing. The poor thing was starving, and quite shook up. She had apparently suddenly found herself in a strange hospital in Egypt, and then somehow managed to get back here, where the Police had picked her up, and then contacted Antonio who had come down to get her. The only thing she had had with her had been some strange letter in Arabic. Imogen apparently could read it, and was talking to Antonio in one of the other rooms.

As I was talking to Maria, she started crying, and I reached out to comfort her. That was a bit of a mistake. I was totally unprepared to the power of the magic that had been used on her. Why hadn't I seen any trace of it with my magical sight? When I touched her, I saw how everything turned black, and then I found myself transported to Egypt. I could see the silhouettes of the pyramids. Then I was inside one and I woke up lying on a strange stone altar. A old bearded man stood above me, and performed some ritual. He then collapsed on top of me, as he transferred his life essence into me, or Maria actually. I knew for a fact that she had been dead, and it was only because of this ritual that she was alive. So that was what was meant with the mystical quote “my life for her life”.

I woke up lying on the floor, with one hell of a headache, and I felt really nauseous, and had to vomit up everything I had eaten earlier. My skin felt like it was vibrating from the power of the spell, and I felt the cold touch of death and felt dirty and unclean. Maria was panicking, not surprisingly given how I had just collapsed. Karl kindly handed me a glass of water and a headache pill. That made all the difference. The others said that it was quite common for me to collapse like that. I agreed, and said that I had collapsed after feeling the magic that kept her alive. That it had been the most powerful magic I had ever experienced. There was no need to tell her that she had actually been dead. She looked at me like I was from another planet. Antonio tried proving to her that magic was real by producing a small flame in his hand. I don't think she accepted it though. Most people don't. I went and borrowed the shower to freshen up. I tried letting the water rinse off the after-effects of the magic, while I performed a cleansing ritual, but all I could see in front of me was blood, and it felt like dead meat rained down on me. I would have nightmares of this for some time. I performed my ritual to keep dreams at bay, both on me and Maria who also went to bed. I think I coped better with it than she did, but that wasn't to say I coped well.

The day after, I tried doing some research about where people had disappeared,to see if I could narrow down where the vampires might be hiding. I learned that it had been concentrated to some of the poorer areas in Boston. The kind of people that no one would miss. From my contacts in the Paranet, I learned that it was not just people from Boston that had disappeared but also a lot of young people who had been drifting from place to place, ranging from Connecticut to New York. That didn't help me narrow anything down, and I still had noting really useful to work with. If I just could get some good readings, then I could alert the wardens.

Antonio, Karl, and that mysterious German guy, Herr Schwartz, decided to try to find out more about the people that had done the heist at the bank, and stolen Star's lamp. So they went out in the town to talk to their contacts. In the meanwhile I tried getting some more information about Isabella's family. I would need as much material I could to neutralize the threat they posed. That didn't go so well either.

In the evening, we got a call from Austin, one of the teenagers that had visited earlier. Apparently they were trapped in a cemetery with lots of vampires around, and needed some help getting out. Well, Imogen might be able to do more in a fight than I could, but I doubted any of us could do much against vampires. I tried casting a divination-spell to get any confirmation of what was out there., but didn't get anything solid. Imogen on her part decided to call the Wardens to get some help from their part, but they would need more confirmation before they would send anyone. Well, we would need to do something to help them, so we set off toward the cemetery in Imogen's old car.

When we got near the cemetery, we parked the car and veiled ourselves, so we could get closer. Everything was abandoned and deadly silent. After some time we found the four teenagers coming out from a house next to the cemetery. Not sure what Imogen did but I think she used some spell to contact Austin, as he tensed up and started looking around. I was busy trying to watch so no one crept up on us. When we got closer I could tell that Austin was carrying a big sword and had a pistol strapped to each leg. What was going on? Imogen talked to Austin a bit and he wanted us to quickly enter the cemetery. As we did that I could feel a ripple of magic as we passed some sort of ward. A bit like a threshold, and our veils were taken down. I looked around, and could still not see anything moving outside.

In the middle of the cemetery was a big oak, with some mysterious mist surrounding it. When I got closer to it, I could feel some power emitting form it, and it felt a bit creepy and my skin was tingling. I could tell that the wards surrounding the cemetery was very powerful indeed. Austin invited us to the Mausoleum in the middle. It seemed that the teenagers had made some sort of home inside it. It was a bit morbid, but who am I to argue? After all, I have a girlfriend who is several hundred years old, and who changes bodies.

We talked to the teenagers about what was going on, and they said that there were maybe two hundred vampires in the nearby buildings, but they had managed to take out a few of them in surprise attacks. They apparently knew about our involvement in some of the strange affairs that had taken place in the city earlier, and thought we were really powerful. Was almost as if they idolized us. That misconception could get us all killed. I was a bit concerned that they knew that one of the Circle of Five hand been involved in the winter ritual earlier. I did my best to not let that show. If I hadn't told any of the others what I knew about Yukimi, I sure wasn't going to tell mere acquaintances. The teenagers wanted help, but was very wary about wardens in particular. They were hiding something. I wasn't sure what, but I had a feeling it had partly to do with Hannah being a wizard, and the type of magic she used.

As we were looking out, we saw how someone or something turned Imogen's car over and then we heard metal breaking as it was torn to pieces. Damn it, that meant we were trapped here. Imogen did manage to reach the wardens again, and this time got them to come. I asked the teenagers if it was ok if I did some divination-magic to make sure we knew what was going on, but they advised against it, saying that they didn't know what would happen, but that it probably wasn't good. There was something in the way they said it that made me belive that they knew exactly what would happen, but it would indeed not be good.

It was a tense wait before the wardens arrived. We saw them carefully coming closer towards the cemetery, but then as from out of nowhere all the vampires stormed them. They came from the roofs and ever other place you could think of. Sadly the onslaught of vampires was too much for the fifteen wardens. But they took about a hundred and fifty vampires with them. The buildings around suffered a lot of collateral damage. We did what we could to help the wardens from inside the cemetery, but it was not enough. Then just as quickly as the vampires had come they vanished.

Austin drew his sword, and I could tell that that was the item of power that I had sensed earlier when they were at Imogen's house. He summoned some dark power that felt like a force of nature. It felt unpleasant, but nowhere near the spell that had brought Maria back to life. The magic spread out and quickly decomposed both all the dead vampires and the dead wardens. We needed to get out of there. Imogen quickly picked up the few belongings that was still around. Those included the Wardens swords and their focus items.

Luckily, the teenagers had their van nearby so we could get away. Imogen managed to call the wardens again when we left, and they said we should wait at home until a member of the senior council would debrief us. Not sure I liked that. But what was done was done.

When we came home to Imogen, we found Maria sound asleep on the couch. Shortly after we came home, Karl, Antonio and a strange Asian girl showed up. When I asked who she was they said she was Kuro. That she was Herr Schwartz. That sounded very weird. I would have to look into that. We talked about what had happened. They had apparently managed to track down some of the people that had performed the heist and had some talk with them. I had a feeling I didn't want to know how they had learned the information they got. It turned out that it was some agent from the FBI that had hired the thieves, and Star's lamp was now in their custody. Might as well be on the Moon for all the good that did us.

The teenagers excused themselves and left as they didn't want to be around when a senior member of the White Council' would come. So they got Kuro and Antonio to take them to the university as they wanted to see the strange sacrifice tree there. Karl wanted to have a look around at the cemetery so he left in wolf-form, to see if he could find out anything there.

I performed a long ritual to track down the vampires. I had a feeling they were connected to the vampire that Karl had fought when we were helping Star when she fought a troll king. My ritual took hours but it was worth it. I found the link from that vampire to all the others. I could tell that there was three groups of black court vampires, one smaller group near the cemetery and one at the university and then one in the forest near the ancient sacrifice tree there.

When I was finished with my ritual, and totally exhausted, I found that Eibon had come to the house. He wanted to know what I had seen in the ritual. I told him about it. He said that the vampires were mobilizing. Unsure about for what, but it was bad. He did seem pleased about what I had found though. I also informed him about the ward that had been placed on my dorm room. He said he was aware of it but that I now had the chance. Being his typical enigmatic self he wouldn't say of what, but I got the feeling it had to do with the situation with my dear girlfriend. He told us to stay off the streets as blood would flow, and that Nevernever was definitely off limits at the moment as that was even more dangerous. We also informed him that we had gotten information that Black Court vampires had been behind the abduction of the Brass Lady.

I spent the remainder of the day, writing down everything I knew about Isabella's family, and then placing copies in sealed envelopes. You need something to use if you are going to conduct a proper blackmail. Blackmail is such a dirty word though, but what else should one call it, well it was my life insurance, and it was all I had. My goal was to get her family to leave me alone, and making them aware that I had material that would be bad for them, and that I would use it if needed. I made sure to leave a copy of the material with a lawyer, and it should be held until my death. I sent another copy to the Trimountaine Arcane with the same instructions. I had originally planned on setting up a meeting at Wishes, which was neutral ground, but then I realized that that would simply give them an ideal opportunity to get to me. I had no intention of being turned into a brainwashed minion for them.

Imogen and Antonio spent the next days getting some metal bars across the windows on the ground floor and put up lots of garlic in order to protect against any vampires. Not sure what the others were doing. I took the time to put a message in the secret dropbox, that Yukimi and I used to communicate with each other. I explained the current situation at the FBI, and said I had taken steps to minimize the threat to me. We both knew that they would not stop looking for her, so I suggested that she might have to fake her death to cast them off the trail. I also wrote about the situation where Star had gone missing and that her family had probably gotten to Mirou.

According to the news,then nothing special had happened in the city. The Trimountaine Arcane ran a story though, where they came relatively close to the truth, and warned people about an invasion of vampires in the city. I took the time to go out to do some research and while veiled visit both the intensive care units at the hospitals and the psych wards, looking for suitable hosts for Isabella if she would need to. I chose those places to look for people that either was lying in a coma with no expected way out, or people that were suicidal, in order to minimize the stain of evil such things would leave on my soul, and in a way give the persons involved a way to live on. The idea was that the person in a coma, wouldn't have a life otherwise, and the suicidal person would have free will to choose said fate.

During the evening, when I was back with Antonio, Imogen and Maria, we all started getting lots and lots of text messages on our phones that something strange was going on at campus. Even George had called Imogen. Antonio called Karl who had done some preparations at home together with Semyon and . We decided to meet outside the Campus area to see what was happening. When we came there we heard lots of noise. Semyon had apparently had had someone get a custom vehicle for him. It looked like it was armoured and capable of driving through lots of rubble with the plough attached to it in front. Herr Schwartz and Zhujiang was also present. Then Schwartz more or less ripped his skin off and in his place stood Kuro. That was very freaky to see. I could see how the disposed skin of Schwartz literally started to melt away. Probably some kind of extoplasm. Karl turned into a wolf, and both he and Kuro set off in different directions to do some scouting while we looked from afar.

After a while Karl came back saying that there were thousands of vampires running around. It seemed that everyone on campus had been turned. The vampires were attacking the sacrifice tree on campus, and the tree was winning. He said he saw a couple of horned persons fighting the vampires, and then huge whips of energy emerged from the tree and cut down hordes of vampires. He had also seen how a contingent of wizards had come and were starting to fight the vampires on the other side. We realized that there was not much we could do here, better get back home into safety. Imogen tried calling George, but didn't get any reply. I hope he had managed to get out, and had only lost his phone, but I had a sinking feeling. Antonio called his girlfriend to check that she was doing ok. He apparently had a long-distance relationship with an FBI-consultant in Vancouver, and she had just lost her job due to some internal restructuring.

The day after, the news reported that there had been some kind of accident with chemical vapours that had killed a lot of people near the old graveyard, and that there had been huge sink-holes on campus, making buildings collapse and many had been killed or vanished. The authorities had blocked all access to both areas until it would be safe again. Neither of us believed that story, and I doubted anyone else that knew anything did. I tried getting in touch with everyone I knew in town just to check who were still alive. I met up with a lot of remaining students for a manifestation of grief near campus. We had all lost friends and family. I think everyone was in shock of the scale of it all.

Later in the day, Eibon came by Imogen's house. Two of Francis Black's students had been caught yesterday near the campus. They were accused of collaborating with the vampires. When we asked him if all of these troubles that we had seen here were happening all over the world or just in Boston, he said that it only happened here. When I told him about the drawings that Austin had given us on the persons they had seen when the Brass Lady had been taken, and the vision I got from the needle that had poisoned the troll king, he looked concerned. When I wondered if there was some chance of getting any more information there, he gave me a large sapphire and a necklace, and indicated that I should work my magic on them. I have no idea where he had gotten them from though. I promised I would do my best.

He also gave me and Imogen two documents that was summonings to Edinburgh for a crisis-meeting, but he forbid us from going and said that we would die if we went there, but that we were not to mention to anyone that he had said this. He said that he believed that Francis Black needed to be warned, as the council would use the two captured students as an excuse to go all out on a manhunt for him. Imogen asked him if he had heard anything from her master, but he hadn't she had been missing for the past few days.

When Eibon had left, I started to prepare or my divination ritual. Maria wanted to watch it, as she didn't believe in magic. I told her that her presence might complicate things and that she wouldn't see anything anyway. She wasn't that happy with the response. I would have to show her some of the stuff I did for training. If nothing else it would do for a neat party-trick, trying to predict the order of all the cards in a deck or picking out which sealed envelope held which card.

After having taken a long time calming myself and performing a cleansing ritual, I started working my magic on the sapphire, and it didn't take long before I got what I was after. The vision I got was of a young boy. Strange that I knew that, as I saw it from his view. I saw a big forest consisting of spruce-trees in the middle of the winter. It was very cold and my feet were freezing due to him wearing broken shoes, and then shorts. The boy decided to go into the forest. When he turned around to look behind him, I could see a pillar of smoke a long way off. Then it skipped to a hut in the forest, cluttered with things. An old man was talking to the boy. I cannot understand the language. The boy obeys the old man. Then it seems time skips again, and it is clearly somewhere between five and ten years later, and I see a young man standing in front of an old man that has been strangled with a scarf. The young man meets a man I saw at the meeting in Edinburgh. They speak Latin with each other, but I cannot understand it. It is somewhere in the 19th century. The young man bows before the older man but he is filled with hate towards the older man. The young man later met a young woman, whom I could identify as Lucia. They seem to click very well together. Then time skips again to about 50 years later. They are talking about how tired they are and that a news age must come at any price. Then it skipped to where they were meeting a lot of people. I could not identify them. The man and woman are breaking many of the laws of magic. Both using magic to enthral others and enter their minds as well as killing people. I get a feeling that it is the right way to go. The man and the woman also talked with a woman that looked dead, and made some kind of deal. During the vision my feelings went from feeling hopelessness, to fear and outright terror, to hate, to despising someone, to hating the weak, to loneliness, and then a sense of belonging, and finally hope and a sense that the end was near.

I then repeated the process for the necklace. Again I got a vision. This time of a young girl standing on the balcony on a large hacienda. Lots of bushes around the house, and lots of people working the fields. She felt like she didn't belong, as if everyone were wearing masks and hiding their true self. The girl is around eight years old. Then time skips a few years, and I see how she is beaten by her father. She feels shame for something she has done, but also a mix of fear and hate for her father who hurts her badly. I know that it isn't the first time that he has done that. The girl is rebellious, and a few years later, the hacienda burns. Her father jumps while on fire, from the balcony, he breaks his legs when he lands. The girl is feeling a sense of both fear and joy. Next I see, she is in her mid teens, and is living on the streets in a big city, possibly Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo in the mid 19th century. One man is helping her, and giver her food and talks her into learning magic. They then travel to England. She falls in love with the man, but her feelings are not returned, and the man grows colder. She then meets the young man from the first vision, he is tall and thin here. They click immediately, then I see similar scenes where they are talking to different people. My emotions changed from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again as they did in the previous vision. First a feeling of not belonging, then desperation and hopelessness, followed by love and obsession which turned into despair and feeling left out in the cold, then friendship and hope for the future.

I knew that both of them had made some active choices that had shaped their lives, so they were not just victims of their circumstances. They were responsible for most of what had happened so far. One thing I did notice though was that there was another young woman that they both seemed to click very well with. She looked like she might be from Spain, or Greece or some similar place. There was something very familiar with her. I couldn't place it at first, but then it hit me, she looked very similar to the woman I had seen when I soulgazed Yukimi. I knew that she had been doing nasty stuff before, I just hadn't realized for how long and how much she had been involved in the current affairs. I would need to ask her about that later on.

While I had been done in the basement, working my ritual, both Star and Karl had arrived. I was quite happy to see Star again, but she seemed as if she was not herself, and behaved very strangely. She said that she had a message from a young woman, whom she didn't know the name of. The woman had said that she was sorry that she had gone a bit overboard. When I asked what had happened, Karl said that he had intended to go down to the subway trolls to talk to them about something, when he had heard a huge explosion, and when he looked around seen a pillar of smoke from the FBI-building. He decided to go there and investigate in wolf-form, basically to see if he could find any traces of Star there. When he got there, he had seen an Asian woman leave the demolished building though a portal to the Nevernever. He had seen very few casualties from the devastation though. At the top he had found a dead man and a woman. The man had gotten a large pipe though his chest and the woman had gotten a red-hot iron bar wrapped around her body. Star said she had no clear memories of what had happened, but had suddenly found herself in the Nevernever with a woman who had urged Star to go here. I gathered that it was Yukimi that had been there. I was both relieved that she was ok, but also sad that she hadn't come in person to meet me. I guess she still needed to lie low, especially with everything that was going on in the city.

Here, Imogen suddenly threw some kind of staff at me. I instinctively caught it,which turned out to be a big mistake. A powerful vision hit me as soon as I touched the staff, which was broken and had some strange engravings on it. I instinctively know that the staff belonged to a man that had been one of the most evil and vile persons to ever exist. He had ruined countless lives, and only cared for power, his family and wealth. Many hundred years of evil passed in front of my eyes in a few moments, and I fell to the ground shaking in pain and fear. I was bleeding from my eyes and my ears. I would have preferred passing out, but the intensity of the vision stopped me from that kind of relief. When I stopped shaking, I felt weak as a kitten, and had to puke. All I could do was cry from what I had seen. The feeling that filled me was one of hopelessness. It felt as if a large part of my soul was gone. I had one hell of a headache, and felt really miserable.

When I had managed to freshen up, I was still feeling a bit catatonic. I was given some tea to calm my nerves. Oh dear Goddess, that was what I needed to start feeling alive again, but I also craved large amount of alcohol to drink my self into unconsciousness so I could forget what I had seen. Sadly I didn't get any of that. I was dimly aware that we talked about what was going on, and that we needed to find some evidence of who was behind everything. Hopefully we would be able to stop more bloodshed. My visions wouldn't be enough, though.

The next few days I drifted in and out of semi-unconsciousness. I was still weak, and plagued by horrible nightmares that stopped me from sleeping. Not entirely sure how long it took me to start feeling better, but I knew that I couldn't have made it to Edinburgh even if I had wanted to. When I finally got better, I knew that I had to do look some more to find a new host for Isabella's soul. I owed her that, and I would gladly do anything to help her, as I was so in love with her. I think the others tried finding some evidence, but I was not sure of what progress they made.

I talked to some of the other members of the Paranet, and learned that another tragedy had struck Boston. This time someone had gotten into a school and murdered all the people there. Both the teachers and the children. Almost two thousand persons. Who would do such a horrible thing and why? We also heard that the Council now had new leaders, as Lucia and Kalevi had ousted the Merlin politically. I did not like those news at all. I feared that nothing good would come from that. The others had also gone to see the trolls again, but they were gone. So we would get no help from that place.

The day after, Imogen got a phone call from Karl. Apparently Mirou had gone missing from the hospital. He shouldn't have been able to move given his previous injuries if I understood it correctly. I followed Imogen, Antonio, and Star to the hospital, where we met up with Karl and Zhujiang. Karl also brought his adopted son Ymer with him. Ymer had grown quite a bit and he now looked like he was maybe two years old, and he looked like one would expect a son of Karl and Peggy to look. I had a feeling that he was using some kind of glamour, but I didn't think it would be right to look at him with the Sight. He seemed very friendly, polite, and well behaved though. Imogen took the time on the way to question Star as she thought Star was acting strangely. Well, more strangely than usual. I took the time to talk to Imogen about her and Lisa. I can understand if Imogen doesn't want a girlfriend, but it pains me to see Lisa hurting like that.

At the hospital, we had no problem finding Mirou's room. It smelled weird in the room. I took the time to cast my hyper awareness-spell to be able to take in all details of the room. What I did get was that it felt like something with faerie-connections. Sadly my magic, was enough to make the electricity in the room to go. Not very good, so I decided to leave the room and go down to the lobby, where I took the time to also pick up new headache-pills. Given the latest events I had a feeling I would need them. After a while the others came down. Karl talked to the staff, but they hadn't seen anything. We decided to go and eat breakfast at a nearby diner. I decided to go back and do some more investigation around the hospital, well at least that was what I said, but in reality I wanted to do more research for a potential new host body for Isabella.

After a relatively short while I got a call on my phone. Apparently Mirou had called Karl from home and said that he had just heard from Mirou and that he was at home. So we decided to go there to see what was going on. Strangely enough he was fully healed, Not so surprisingly, he had a rather cavalier attitude to having just left the hospital through some non-standard means. He said that he had had a spy in his head, but that it was gone now, and that one of us was under surveillance as well. Well, that would be me. Hopefully, I would never have to worry about Isabella's family again. Mirou was understandable nervous about having two wizards near his expensive electronic stuff at his house, so we decide to go back to Imogen's house. Star acted a bit disappointed for some reason. I can never understand that woman.

Karl brought us some gifts for helping him earlier. I must say I didn't do anything to deserve it, but I very much appreciated it. It was special made perfume, tailored specifically for each of us. I could definitively think of the perfect time and company to use that. Not sure how he pulled that off though, as custom-made perfume were very expensive, but it was a real treasure.

After we had talked a bit, we decided that I should try to track down the Brass Lady, using my divination. And now that Star was back, that would indeed become much easier. I took the time prepare properly and then got some help from both star and Imogen. I figured that, since Lucia and Kalevi had been implicated in the disappearance of the Brass Lady, the sapphire and the necklace as well as the drawings would be good links to whatever magic held the Brass Lady. I lost track of the time, but I could find out that the Brass Lady seemed to be slightly north of Sao Paolo.

We knew that we had some preparations to do if we wanted to be able to find and free the Brass Lady. Mirou wanted to fly down there with an airplane, but we pointed out that neither me nor Imogen would be able to use it, without putting hundreds of people at risk. And going through the Nevernever would be even more risky as we might be caught in a war between faerie courts or face other nasty things, even if we could find the way. Karl had access to weapons. Hopefully that would not be needed. I for one wouldn't know how to use one. Fearing that we might face both Lucia and Kalevi down there, I did another scrying to find out their whereabouts. Lucia was somewhere in central Europe, but Kalevi was in Sao Paolo. Hopefully we could avoid him. Star said she would be able to fix transport. That had us a bit worried, but there was not much else we could do.

Before we left, I made sure to write a letter to Yukimi, where I mentioned what we would do. If I had had a way to contact Eibon as well, without going through the wardens at the hospital, then I would have done so. Now I asked Yukimi to convey the information if she knew a way. I knew this a very risky idea we had, but we all felt we had to do something to keep things from getting any worse. Star did indeed manage to get some transportation, by summoning a actual flying carpet. A big lush carpet, the size of a large living-room. Antonio, Imogen and I would have to work shifts to keep it veiled from view.

Before we left, did I take the time to look at everyone again with the Sight, just to make sure no one was under any tracking-spells. Star appeared to be really injured. Her fiery form was barely holding together, Mirou appeared as a dragon the size of small horse. Karl looked much more bestial and I could definitively understand the myths about the Viking berserks. Zhujiang appeared as a meditating red man on a white background. As for Imogen, well, she appeared to be stable now, but I could see threads a bit like a puppet going to the strange shadow I had seen about her before. I had a feeling that outsider-part of her would try to take control again, and it would not be pretty.

The trip took us four days, by flying carpet. At first it was kind of exiting, but it got quite tedious, and people got on each others nerves. I was still plagued by horrible nightmares and headaches since I had touched that staff earlier. We made sure to fly low, and completely veiled. I really need to learn to navigate the Nevernever, as that would speed up things a lot. Every time we landed for the night I did a new ritual to see that we were going the right direction. When we finally got near the Sao Paolo, I could pinpoint with greater accuracy where we were supposed to go. I also found to our great relief that neither Lucia nor Kalevi was there. We had landed maybe two miles away, and then decided to scout the area. We followed a road that lead us to a large hacienda surrounded by open fields, and the houses surrounded by a high wall. I was not sure if it was the same hacienda as I had seen in my vision earlier, but I felt it was quite likely.

We decided to play stupid tourists, and wandered onto the grounds. I could tell that there was a heavy ward with alarm-functions surrounding the houses, and let the others know this. After a while we were approached by one of the staff working in the field. He only spoke Portugese, and we held up a map that was from the wrong country, arguing that we looked for some chapel. After a while they managed to get someone from inside the house that that spoke English. We continued to play stupid tourists, and the staff member told us that we were in the wrong country. He would drive us back to the nearest village. When the staff-member walked away to get the car from inside the ward, Star created a veil over Imogen, so that it would appear as if she was still there and then Imogen veiled herself. She would hide and try to find out the passcode needed to bypass the ward. The staff member then drove us down to the village, where he left us. We just smiled and waited until he had driven away and was out of site before we started walking back. After a while we met up with Imogen who had managed to overhear the passcode.

We then waited until nightfall to enter the hacienda again. We veiled ourselves and went through the ward. Once inside, I pinpointed the location of the Brass Lady to be inside a barn. We split up into three groups; Me, Imogen and Zhujinag in one, then Antonio and Karl in another, and Star and Mirou in the third. Each group would veil itself. When we came to the barn, I cast my hyperawareness-spell to listen at one of the door. I could tell that there was someone inside, despite the strange roaring sound from inside. We very carefully opened the door, and snuck inside. I could see an armed guard patrolling inside. With a quick sleep-spell, he went down. I knew it was a good idea to learn some offensive magic. Seemed Antonio and Karl who came in from another door had already taken care of the other guard who had been sitting in a chair.

In the end of the barn we could see what was causing the noise. A vaguely humanoid shape was partly encased in a whitish-purple crystal. With a mini-hurricane around it. All of this was surrounded by four magical circles encased in the ground. We quickly realized that we could not take out the circles by force. Mirou was itching to use some explosives though. Not sure where he had gotten that from, and I had a feeling I didn't want to know. After some debate we realized that we could try to ground out the magical circles by using lots and lots of water. Karl was doing guard-duty, while Antonio put up a veil over the well outside, and Mirou kept pumping up more and more water. I helped Imogen with the water, and she could after a while take down the outmost circle. Subtle is something she doesn't do. I could tell that Star wasn't feeling very well when the second circle came down. It didn't affect anyone else of us, but it seemed like some kind of defense. When the next one came down, she was really starting to look seriously ill. But we needed her presence. The shape inside was getting more agitated as well. After a few more hoursm the final ward came down. I went out to relieve Antonio, who would buse an axe to break sunder the crystal that surrounded the shape inside. The captive was basically shining in a greenish-black light. We could tell that the ritual here was draining all power from the Brass lady, and that some kind of corruption had taken place. Once Antonio broke the crystal, the Brass Lady collapsed. Star was also looked badly shaken. In the bottom of the crystal was a heart, the size of a human torso, and it was still beating. We knew that this was the heart of a troll.

The ritual had been draining the Brass Lady and through the troll heart directed power down a deep shaft. We heard a rumbling noise and things started to shake. We decided to very quickly get as far away as we could, so Karl stole the car and we drove off until we got far enough that Star could summon her flying carpet again. This time, it was much smaller, and looked like a rough carpet made out of fire. I could tell that Star was basically using her last energy to get us out of there. The Brass Lady was still unconsciouss. She would need lots of help from her court real soon if she was to get better. We took a detour to an active volcano in Colombia. Ar landed the flying carpet a bit away from the volcano, and then Star and the Brass Lady landed inside the volcano. It didn't take long before the volcano was ominously silent, and the eruption of lava stopped. We had a feeling we needed to get as far away as possible. A short while later, the Brass Lady appeared on the side of the Volcano. Her mere presence set fire to the vegetation there, and it now looked as she was an avatar of fire. After looking around she simply vanished. A bit later Star appeared, and she now looked fully healed as well. We all continued back home as quickly as posible, wondering where the Brass Lady had went. We didn't really have the time to stick around for me to do my divination-magic, but we were fairly certain that she had returned home to her own court. Which made it even more important for us to get in touch with her and the Brass Queen to convince them that a war with Summer was not a good idea. And maybe she could provide the evidence we needed to stop Lucia and Kalevi

As soon as we got home, Star brought Imogen and Zhujiang with her to her court, while Antonio went to the Summer court to broker peace. I decided to first check the dropbox that I used to communicate with Yukimi. I found three letters to me. She had been sick of worry to say the least. In retrospect I knew that it hadn't been the best of plans though, to go away like that. I wrote her a letter saying I was home and that I was safe. I then set out to find out what had happened while we had been gone. Apparently there had been some serious riots. Not surprising given what had happened. I recognized the name of the police officer who had stepped up and really defused the situation. He had been one of the contacts that Tim had mentioned earlier.

I had a growing feeling that time was running out, and that I needed to help Isabella find a new body really quickly or something bad would happen. I couldn't put my finger on what would happen, but I had a feeling her family was not going to forgive what she had done to her siblings. I did some more investigation, and I found the perfect person. A young woman, who was currently institutionalized in a psych ward or her suicidal tendencies. She was a gorgeous Mediterranean girl. And as a twist of fate, her name was actually Isabella. I made sure to veil myself when I looked around. As far as I could make out, she had no immediate family. I might not have the skills to understand the exact nature of her mental illness. I did hope though that it would not be a hindrance. I prayed that the Goddess would forgive me for what I was about to do. Here I was, actually planning the death of a person, who had done me no harm. I had to be crazy to even think about such things, but what could I do? I knew that I would be living with the consequences of my actions for a long time, and that no one must ever know the exact details.

I did realize though that I needed some help. I would have no problem getting her out of the psych ward, but how to stage a death, that was something I didn't know. After some thinking, I realized that a car-crash probably was the best idea, so I had to ask Karl for how to obtain a disposable car. One where the brakes would fail. I didn't tell him what I needed to do though, but told him that it was to fake a persons death. He agreed to help me, and would deliver a car as soon as possible with no questions asked. I also had to send a message to Yukimi to make sure she was ready. It took a few nerve-wracking days where I went over everything in my head again and again. Every detail had to be just right. I also went over how to play the part of the distressed girlfriend once the news would break that Yukimi's body had been found. Good thing I paid attention in acting-class. I could start crying and have a mental breakdown on demand.

The day finally came when everything was ready. I met up with with Karl near the hospital, to get the car. He went through how everything worked. I then went in veiled and got the intended patient out. I had to use a sleep spell though. Then I carefully drove the car to where I was to meet with Yukimi. My heart was racing so hard, and I almost hoped that she would not be there as that would mean that I couldn't follow through with what I was about to do. May the Goddess have mercy on me. Yukimi did her thing and switched bodies. It all went very quickly. We then put the now unconscious body in the car and had it drive down the road towards a sharp turn near a bridge, after having planted some stuff to help identify the body. It would also mean that I would be contacted and thus get a chance to learn about it. Hopefully without implicating me. The crash was spectacular, and the victim died instantaneously. I had done everything, to make sure that it would be a quick and painless death, and that no other persons would be in jeopardy. Afterwards, I had to help Isabella to an apartment she had. We were veiled the whole time we went there. We took a tear-filled farewell, as this would be the last time I would see her for many months. It was all part of the deception. No one must suspect anything.

A few days later Zhujiang came back to Boston. He had flown from England. Apparently, the Brass Lady had taken them there and they had had a long discussion with the Merlin. Star and Imogen had made their way home by flying carpet, which took longer time. In the meantime, Karl had gotten a call from Austin, who said that he and his friends had found out where the Brass Lady had been taken. Karl didn't tell him that we had already freed the Lady. So we decided to meet them down at the Avalon, which actually was still open. They claimed that they had tracked her to a castle near a city called Alba Lulia in Romania, but that everything was heavily warded. It sounded like it was a trap, but for whom? We decided we needed to investigate things out, but that we would need some kind of backup. With that in mind we home to Imogen to do some planning, without the teenagers.

For some reason, the feeling we got was that Romania was connected to vampires. The question was whether or not the White Council knew about it or not. And If there were vampires there, we would need lots of backup. And given that we hardly would get it from the current leadership of the White Council that meant other sources. We knew that the vampires had attacked the three sacrificial threes, each of which was connected to one of the old Faerie Queens. They might want to settle some scores. The question was how to contact them though, and whether or not it would be a good idea doing so. We really didn't want to start more wars as we had just averted one. Imogen went to the hospital that the wardens used, to talk to Lisa. She would hopefully know something.

I got a call from the Police, where they said they found Yukimi's body, that she had been killed in a car crash. I pulled off my best performances ever and had a complete breakdown. Mirou took pity on me and drove me to a psychiatrist he knew so I could get some help for my nightmares and my grief. I had to spend the whole evening there. Would do weekly checkups later.

The day after when I got home to Imogen, I found that they had somehow liberated Leina, the leader of the coven from the Wardens' hospital. Austin was also there, and then later came members of the former senior council from the White Council. I recognized the Merlin, Ebenezer McCoy, Ancient Mai, Listen To Winds from Edinburgh. Eibon was also there and a one-eyed man whose name I didn't quite get. I think it was Vadderung. They questioned Austin and Leina a lot. They were less than happy though. We told them what we had been doing, and the visions I had been experiencing. I was told to seek help for my nightmares. The wizards said that they would look into the castle, and thanked us for the information we provided. They took Leina with them, as well as the broken staff that Karl had found at the FBI-building. I returned the sapphire and the necklace to Eibon when no one else was looking. He left me with the instructions to practice.

A few days later Eibon came by, and told us that they had hit the castle in Romania, and that they had dealt with the vampire that was there. They had found lots and lots of evidence there that implicated Lucia and Kalevi. They had now been taken care of and would face a trial. Two shards of Ibliss, who I gathered were members of the Brass court had also been involved. They had been sent back to their court for punishment, as they were outside the jurisdiction of White Council. Maria had also been found. Apparently she had been a prisoner at the hacienda in Brazil. She had been captured in Bulgaria when she had been following the vampire. Eibon had found her, when the Brass lady had gone down there after she had regained her power and destroyed the wards and everything else there. Francis Black was no longer wanted, as the council realized that he had been made target by Lucia and Kalevi.

Imogen and I were summoned to Edinburgh, where we attended the trial. Both Lucia and Kalevi was executed for what they had done. It was a stark reminder for me, that if anyone found out what I had done for Isabella, then I would probably face the same penalty. I decided that I would do everything I could to atone for my deeds. I was suffering a lot from guilt, given that I had turned into the very kind of monster I wanted to stop. And all of it for the sake of love.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 7: The call of the wild

Two years passed since the horrible events that had shaken Boston so badly. I had actually managed to finish my education and was now working full time with the theatre, and we were doing good, and had had a number of hit performances. I had moved in with Isabella. But to keep up the illusion, I had actually gone on a few dates with guys before we had officially met. And when we did meet, she seduced me again. Yes I am a sucker for romance, but I also love being ravished, something she did very well. I still had some nightmares, but the therapy was helping. To ease my conscience and atone for what I had done, I had started helping kids and youths that were in trouble. I knew all about suffering, and was quite good at helping them. I had of course made sure to make it clear to Isabella, that if she ever returned to her former live of doing evil, then she had better make sure I was dead or I would do everything in my power to stop her. And I would find a way, even though she was so much more powerful than I were.

A lot had happened in the two years. The FBI had had lots of troubles, and a lot of their management had been fired. Good riddance is all I can say. On the good side was that the police officer that Tim Dobson had known earlier, had now been promoted to police commissioner. He did seem to be quite capable, and had made good rapport with the general public. All gangs except one of the gangs in the Spanish parts of Boston had vanished from the city. Sure there were still some crime, but the gang seemed to actually care about the people in the neighbourhood. The wiccan sorority had dispersed, and another sorority now used the house. Some of the girls had been turned into vampires during that fatal attack, others had had mental breakdowns or just left town. I had tried to keep in touch with some of them, but they didn't seem to be interested. There were also rumours that some strange person haunting the cellars of the rebuilt campus. Some witnesses claimed to have seen some nerdy-looking man who looked quite sick. Could George have survived the vampire-attacks? No one had been able to find him.

The White council had gotten some new members, but they had also lost others as they had done more investigation in the events. Apparently there had been 21 persones in the council that had been on Lucia and Kalevi's side,as well as 50 outside the council. Two of those were students of Francis Black. He was no longer actively hunted, but the council was still on edge. There had also been two more shards of Ibliss involved.

As for my friends, Karl and Peggy had married during the summer, and it had been a very nice outdoors wedding with almost 200 guests. Peggy had also given birth to a set of twins; a boy and a girl. They were named Ask and Embla. Karl had said something about that being mythological names. Ymer had really grown now, and now looked like he was twelve years old. Star had been travelling a lot. It seemed that whatever had happened to her, had made her lose all her skill and love for music. Now she was far more serious and wanted to learn how to fight. I must say that that scared me, as she had been dangerous before. Lisa had recovered fully from her injuries, and were now the operational boss for all wardens in the North-East US. I think Antonio had helped her with her recovery. I was a bit surprised but quite happy that Imogen and Lisa were now actually a couple, even if they didn't get to see each other so often. Antonio had moved out of Imogen's house and now lived with his sister, who had started studying at the university. As far as I gathered, Karl and Mirou had given her a stipend, in exchange for Antonio helping them out with some PR-stuff,and he was also very active with helping the poor in Boston. Something I never had expected was that he had now settled down in a stable relationship with a woman named Catherine, who was a consultant as far as I gathered. Zhujiang and Kuro had stuck around, but I hadn't seen them much. Apparently they were busy making diplomatic contacts between various supernatural organisations. Mirou had been busy with his company and done a lot of travel, he was still dating Nathalie.

Antonio had held a fundraiser for the poor at the theatre. Mirou and Karl had helped. The other actors had been quite happy to help, but sadly we didn't do quite as well performance as last time. I think it was because everyone was still on the edge after the vampire-attacks and all the chaos and suffering that had happened. But we did good, and a lot of money were donated to a good cause.

I liked the Christmas-party that Mirou organized earlier. A perfect place outside town, with fireplaces for warmth and lots of decorations. I think some of it was for the benefit of me and Imogen, but he claimed it was due to the children that were present. It was very charming though and quite idyllic. I got to meet Mirou's father. The feeling I got was that he was a man with a lot of wealth and power. Definitively not someone you would want to make angry. I could tell that he was not a normal human, but I had no intention of trying to find out more. It would be rude. Besides, I already had some ideas.

All the preparation for the presidential election were in full swing. Some of the candidates were real nut cases, to say the least. Hell, some of them made Star at her most confused look like a wonder of mental ability. And the worst ones based their ignorance and hatred on their misunderstandings of the bible. So much for treating others like you yourself wanted to be treated. The really scary part was that they had a lot of support. I feared for what would happen if any of them got elected. Isabella and I hadn't talked about marriage yet, even though we were certain we wanted to spend our lives together. Massachusetts was one of the few states that allowed two persons of the same gender to marry. All of that could change though if the wrong person gained power. Even though a marriage might mean some protections, I had a feeling it would also make life a lot more complicated for both of us.

The cold from the winter kept on, and spring hadn't really come until the beginning of May, that started with a day that had so thick fog that you hardly saw two yards ahead of you. I couldn't find out anything about the origins of it or what it was for, but I had a feeling it came from the Queen of Mists, for some devious purpose. Some people reported having seen strange shapes moving inside the fog. I had a feeling a lot of people would end up vanishing without a trace if they ventured out in the fog. The day after, the fog had vanished without a trace, and we finally got the warmth of spring.

At the end of the week, Karl invited us all to his house for a barbecue at his place. Mirou couldn't make it because he was away on an urgent meeting. When I talked to Karl, he said that apparently according to the old laws then Ymer owned all the land around Boston and that the three Faerie Queens that were bound to the sacrifice had some ties to him. Not sure I that was good or not. They had gone out in the forest where Ymer had spoken to the heralds, who had bowed to him, and then he had wanted to see the grave of the Troll King. I would have to ask Ymer about what exactly the old laws contained.

During the party, we found out that Peggy was pregnant again. Big congratulations to Peggy and Karl. I could tell that Antonio was getting a bit uncomfortable with that though as his girlfriend Catherine, seemed to think that the idea of starting a family was a good idea. He had been caught, hook, line, sinker and all. Star was a bit put off that no one wanted to have sex with her. Oh Goddes how strange could one get? Yes, she is quite attractive, but then everyone at the party were already in a relationship. Catherine was quite shocked about Star's question for an orgy. Guess Antonio hadn't told her about how strange Star could be.

During the afternoon, Nathalie came by, and wondered if Mirou was there. He had been supposed to come home the day before, and she hadn't been able to reach him. I offered to use my magic, to see if I could find him. After checking with Karl for a place I could use, I set up a circle and did a scrying. I saw a scene as if I were in a war-zone. Smoke and fire everywhere and the smell of burnt meat. I could hear bullets flying around. It was total chaos. As far as I could make out he was alive though. When I told Nathalie, she excused herself and immediately set off to New York. Karl put on the news when he heard about my vision. There had been a terrorist attack in New York the day before, with a lot of people injured or killed. The car of a diplomat had been blown up. Oh, heavens, what had Mirou done now?

Naturally this put quite a bit of a damper on the party. We couldn't do anything with more information, so Karl started calling all the hospitals in New York. After a while he managed to find the right hospital, and learned that Mirou was indeed there and that he was not too badly hurt. He then called Nathalie and told her. I tried getting hold of the Paranet to learn anything about what was going on, but no one knew anything. We decided that Nathalie should see how bad the situation was, and if need be should we get down to New York. After a few hours Karl got a telegram, stating that Mirou would come by later on during the nigh. Why would he use a telegram instead of calling Karl? It wasn't as if didn't know the number.

Mirou did indeed come by during the evening, together with Nathalie and two big muscular body guards. He had been hurt in the attack, but was feeling better now. He had been doing a job for his father in New York. The person he had been negotiating with had been killed, and he suspected that it was another family that lay behind it. He thought that they would be after us as well since we were his friends. Well, since he had helped defend Yukimi earlier, I had to help him. I unfortunately had nothing to use as symbolic links for my divination magic, so for now I could only wait.

We decided though to talk about what we could do, to prepare in case someone would come after us, and to find out what was going on. Given the kind of weapons that had been used, according to the news and what Mirou said, we figured that it would take someone with a lot of resources. Karl apparently knew some people that might know more, so he contacted them. Zhujian would contact his organisation to see if they knew anything more about big international power players. Given the names of the parties involved, I decided to do some research and found out that Ashi-Dahaka was according to ancient myths, the dragon that would end the world as we knew it now and usher in a new era.

Karl managed to find out that an attack-helicopter and other types of heavy weapons that were supposed to have been shipped to Iraq had been mysteriously diverted to New York a month and a half ago, and that also went for some of the independent contractors, or mercenaries, that the government employed. Zhujiang learned that there were even more dragons involved; Vritra, Ahi, Zygornich, Kulshedra, and Ferrovax. When I talked to Isabella afterwards, she most emphatically said to stay out of their business as each of these beings were incredible powerful and they had no concern for who would get hurt in their bid for power.

I contacted the Paranet to see if anyone knew of any supernatural groups starting something here on the east coast, and also issued a warning to the people that if they heard anything about dragons, then they should get very afraid and keep well away. Other than reports of a dragon having been sighted in New York during the terror-attack, no one seemed to know anything. My continued research gave nothing further than old mythology about dragons. I think Imogen tried contacting Maria, her teacher to see if the White Council knew anything. Star went away to see her court if they knew anything.

We had a few day where nothing more happened. So hopefully things were not as bad as we had first thought. During the Friday, Star came by the theatre, when we had a rehearsal. She wanted me to help her find the Troll-king's ring. I agreed to help her as she would otherwise get into some kind of trouble. Apparently she had gone and made a deal with the Queen of Mist. No idea why. I told her I could help her once the rehearsal was finished, and made sure we quit a bit earlier. Then Star tells me that last time she took a mortal down there, Imogen got attacked by a vampire, and that we maybe should have someone else with us. I told her that would be a really good idea. She called Karl, while I called Imogen to check up on her. She claimed to be fine, and that she would call me if she stated developing some strange thirst. I wasn't entirely satisfied with that, but not much I could do at the moment. Karl agreed to join us. Mirou and Zhujiang would go and check on Imogen and protect her in case the vampire came back. Or protect the rest of us if she turned into a vampire.

I was a bit surprised when Karl turned up together with Peggy and Ymer. But it was not my place to question their decision to come. I knew Peggy was tough, and well, I could sort of understand why Ymer was there. I was after all going to use his father's grave as a link in my magic. Karl turned into wolf-form in order to protect us better as we went down there. Everything looked different from last time I had been down in the subways. It felt desolate, and we could see was dead rats lying around. Once we got down to the main chamber, we saw the huge stone coffin. There were lots of ornamented writing on it in some obscure language I could not identify. After Karl had indicated that we were alone and that there was no threat down there, I started making a huge circle with magical symbols on the ground, and then made a quick prayer to the Goddess to grant me clarity to see, as I sat down inside my circle which was made both to create a link to what I sought but also to protect me from any backlash of my visions. Getting knocked out by those visions weren't any fun, and therefore I took plenty of precautions to let the circle ground out any excess power.

A series of images flashed through my mind. First the hacienda down in Brazil, then a city that had to be Alba Lulia in Romania from the descriptions I had gotten. I saw echoes of what had transpired, but I wasn't sure where things happened. People screamed in horror, then blood flowing as someone made a ritual sacrifice by cutting out the heart of someone. I saw chaos and panic, and fire. Once the vision had cleared, I slowly rose to my feet again. One thing I realized was that for someone to be able to cut out the heart of the Troll king, they would have needed to be the same size as he was. And I thought I had seen the hand holding the huge knife. The tips of the fingers had been white, with the rest of the hand then turning into a reddish orange colour with wisps of steam coming from it. I was not sure how to tell the others this. I didn't want to upset Ymer, but I somehow just knew that he had seen the same vision that I had, and it seemed as if he pondered the meaning of the vision. As I erased my circle, I offered my condolences for what had happened, but Ymer didn't seem to care for that as he hadn't known his father.

When we came up from the subway, Star called Imogen again. Apparently the vampire had been there but he had gotten away. Karl and Star set off to her place, while Peggy drove me home as this had taken longer than I had thought, and it was now relatively late in the evening. I had just started relaxing, when I got a call. Apparently the vampire had been at Imogen's house, but had been driven away after some of the tough guys that Mirou had brought with him had opened fired on it. So they figured that the vampire had been injured and gone back to its hiding place, which they though were a cellar on Campus. They needed help, because otherwise he would regain his strength,and we really didn't need another vampire outbreak. Reluctantly I agreed to join the others in the quest to find and put down the black court vampire. Imogen confirmed that it was indeed George.

When we got to the campus, Imogen veiled herself, and Star cast a veil over her so she looked like Imogen. Karl took wolf-form, and Mirou turned into a small dragon. Good thing it was in the middle of the night so no one saw us. Down in the basement, it smelled of death,and we immediately found a dead woman, who had been totally drained of blood and then had her neck snapped. Mirou was in dragon-form too big to go in through the smaller passages, so he would hold the entrance. He did something just as we had gone in, as we could hear a ripping sound and smell a vile stench.

A bit further in we found,what could most be described as a nest of parts to computers and other electronic stuff. Various body-parts lay scattered around and it smelled awful. We found what had been his sleeping-quarters in a closet. At first we found no traces of George though, then suddenly Karl jumped up against a shelf and dragged him down to the floor. Zhujiang also attacked him. What remained of George then turned into a mist trying to go away. I used an airblast to knock him towards on of the walls, and Imogen now cast a spell of her own at him. Before we could react though he got loose and flew out towards the exit. I then cast my hyper-awareness spell on Star who followed after him. Karl also sprinted after him. Apparently that had alerted Mirou who blasted a cone of fire in through the passage, which set fire to a bunch of the electronic scrap in the basement. I used another spell to stop the fire. No use risking the house burning down. Sadly it seemed that George got away in the night. If he wasn't dangerous before, he sure was now. Yes we should have planned that much better. I feared that we would pay for that later. I just prayed that no one else had to pay for it.

The day afterwards we met up at Karl's place, as we had planned on going a quick trip to Transylvania and search for whatever made the link I saw during the ritual at the tomb of Ymer's father. Hopefully it would be his ring, which I gathered had some special symbolic meaning. We had arranged to go there through Nevernever with the help of the teenagers and the way they knew. So we went to a place near the cemetery where we met up with them. They offered to join us, which we thought was fine, as they could take care of themselves. We had to take a somewhat different road in Nevernever as a giant dragon named Jörmungandr had woken up and laid waste to some areas.

We also learned that there had been an attack Beijing, and that the head of the White Lotus Society had been killed. Someone had blown him up with the help of a bunch of missiles. Many blocks had been utterly destroyed. I don't know where Austin had got his information from, but it was something we needed to investigate. Not that we could do much, but at least the attack in Beijing would be very important to Zhujiang and Kuro

When we came to Alba Lulia, there was something that felt wrong. Karl turned into wolf form to go and scout, while Star summoned a bicycle and set of to do likewise. The rest of us hid and waited. Austin now carried a huge sword and two pistols. Hannah had her wizard staff, while Joshua carried an automatic rifle. Megan was the strange one, she didn't speak but somehow the others seemed to know exactly what she wanted. Like me she was unarmed.

After a while both Karl and Star came back, they could each report that the city was abandoned, and they hadn't seen anyone. As far a they could tell,the city had been abandoned maybe six months ago. It hadn't been a done in panic, but the inhabitants had left some of the bulkier pieces of furniture around. When we came up to the castle, we saw that the gates had been destroyed, and partially burned. Inside we could see more evidence of a fight. Some rooms were burned out, while others were untouched. The castle felt cold.

We started looking around, and I could see how Mirou's eyes became full of greed. He wanted all the riches that was there. Not that I blamed him,but we we did have other priorities. The sun illuminated most of the rooms, but a we headed downstairs into the areas cut out of the very bedrock, it all became dark. Star lighted the torches and lamps that decorated the walls, and they burned with a strange colour. On the way down we passed several cells, and torture-chambers. I could tell that they had been in good use. Hopefully none of the others noticed that I got quite aroused by being near some of the devices in the torture-chambers. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would regret it if I touched any of them as I would certainly experience all the suffering that they had caused, but I could so see myself being tied up and whipped. It was something I would have to talk to Isabella about later. We did have room for one or two such devices, but if anyone saw it they would start to wonder. I wished we had our own dungeon where I could get disciplined.

After a couple of levels of cells and torture-chambers where strange experiments had taken place, we found the skeleton of a huge troll. We could tell that the troll had been tied down , and the chest cavity had been broken up with a lot of force. Didn't know you could do that. There was no sign of the ring there though, so we continued to search. In yet another sub-basement, we found a stack of things that had been collected from the unfortunate victims of the owner of the castle. All neatly arranged first sorted by year, and then by person after person. Finally we found the belongings of the troll. There were some jewellery, a ceremonial sword and a huge metal ring that had belonged to the trollking. Star gathered up the items as she was going to give them to Ymer later on. Not sure where Antonio had picked up that 17th century hat he was suddenly wearing.

We were a bit surprised that we had not found any signs of where the vampiress, whom we had learned were named Rozanne Gutlek, had lived. After some searching, Karl found a secret door in the floor of one of the workrooms. When we looked around we found that it was warded with a ward that was extremely powerful. I performed a divination-ritual in order to see if we could find the password that was needed to enter. Surprisingly enough I succeeded, and found that the password was the name of Rozanne's twin brother that had died when he was two years old. I also got the sense of peace, quiet, and a feeling of security. This was her place of retreat. We entered a small room, which was furnished in a simple way. All we found was a coffin filled with dirt, a table with some candles and writing utensils on it, and a book case filled with diaries. All neatly arranged in order, year after year. We looked in some but could not rad them as they were written in a language we could not understand. It probably was Mediaeval Romanian. The oldest books looked very fragile, as if they would fall apart by just touching them. If anyone could read them, they would be a treasure for historians.

We also found a few focus items in the room. There would be lots of uncomfortable questions if we were to hand them in to the white council, and they were too dangerous to leave. I sure as hell didn't want to suffer the same kind of trauma I had gotten from the staff that had belonged to Isabella's brother. We decided to destroy them, together with the Troll Kings skeleton. We couldn't exactly offer him a proper burial, but we could cremate the remains. Star managed to get the remains out on the courtyard, and then Mirou set fire to it with dragon fire.

We did decide to look some more at the place. Imogen took down some paintings that she wanted to bring with her, while Mirou packed up some of the diaries and some other stuff. Joshua and Austin took some paintings and put in some kind summoned mist, and the paintings just disappeared. If that was what I think it was, then that was a very neat trick. I didn't take anything with me from the castle, but I did appreciate the beauty of the priceless paintings. In a way I hoped that the art could be saved for the future. Maybe someone should some anonymous tips to a major museum like the Tate gallery in London or the Metropolitan museum in New York. They would have the resources and skills to conserve the art. Of course they would need to send lots of security personnel as well.

As we were investigating, I got a feeling that something was wrong and that we needed to head back immediately. Of course the others didn't believe me, but after some talking, we left for home. When we got home, it had passed a day a and a half since we left. We learned that there had been a huge explosion in the house where Mirou lived. A lot of people had died, and Nathalie was in hospital in a critical condition and she had lost a leg. I called Mirou who was at the hospital, and asked him if there was anything I could do. He said there wasn't anything at the moment. He had apparently called her family and they would take her to a private hospital as soon as she was stable enough to move her. Given her condition it would be bad if Imogen or I visited.

I spent the next few days doing work both at the theatre, and the charity work I did as well as trying to search for clues about George's whereabouts. But even with my divination rituals, could I find any traces of him in the city. Which I guess is a good thing. Hopefully he wouldn't make lots of new vampires somewhere else. I did almost feel a bit sorry for him.

I got a letter later from Mirou where he had had been talking to his father, and apparently there seemed to be something strange going on. The dragon that everyone though had been behind the trouble had together with his children, claimed to never having left Persia, and was quite surprised of what was going on. Not sure I believed it, but not much I could do. Those dragons played in a league far above me. So if that dragon was innocent, then who had orchestrated the attacks? Turned out that more attacks came, a Master Stoorworm who had the role of CEO of a large company in London were murdered as a skyscraper were blown up Then a plane flying from Japan to China mysteriously vanished. We learned later that there had been a dragon named Kunisada onboard. I could not help but wonder just how many dragons were there. I thought St. George and other mythological heroes had killed most of them.

Antonio accompanied Star on some trip, where she searching for something that was related to her court as far as I could understand. Karl asked me if I wanted to accompany him and Ymer to Nevernever to see Queen Mab. Apparently Ymer had inherited some kind of obligation to her, and wanted to find out what was going on. I was a bit sceptical as it might be very dangerous. I talked it over with Isabella. She had met Mab before, and said that it could be bad if Mab remembered you. I finally decided to join. Karl had after all helped me a lot and who knew if I could help a troll king with something that might be good for something later on. Given that the trip would be in a few days time, I did as much research as I could. I really did not wish to risk angering her by not behaving in a proper way.

Some day before we left for Nevernever, everyone in Boston felt slight tremors as from an earthquake. We then learned that that had been felt all over the world at the same time. That could not possibly be good. When Karl,Ymer and I set of for Nevernever, Karl took wolf-form again and had told me to dress warmly. The trip to Mab's place of power, the Arctis Tor was quite uneventful. It was a beautiful winter landscape. The gates of Arctis Tor was guarded by two gigantic ice trolls, who bowed and paid much respect to Ymer. Inside, we were met by a servant who would take us to Mab. He took us through winding corridors to a large garden covered in ice. During the passage we had to stop as something made Karl resume human form, and he quickly needed to put on some clothes to handle the cold. Ymer had taken on a slightly more blueish appearance and looked more troll-like as he was affected by the cold.

A lot of ice statues filled the garden, and in the centrer stood Mab herself. The servant bowed and left us there. We all bowed, or in my case curtseyed, to her. She was incredibly beautiful, and looked like I would expect a queen to look. She and Ymer had a long talk in a language I did not understand, where she explained the situation to him. He later gave us the short version of it. Apparently he had to let her have 60 percent of the warriors he commanded for some duty near some wall. The rest he could do with as he choose as long as nothing happened where she would need him and his warriors. It was quite clear that there was no way he could get out of those obligations without incurring her wrath, which was something best avoided. He also found out that he apparently had a kingdom in Nevernever.

After Ymer had talked to Mab, he wanted to find out what had happened to the other trolls, so he talked to the two guards at the gate. They summoned a sleigh that would take us to his other kingdom. It was powered by a team of huge ice-blue troll-dogs. Each of the dogs were bigger than a horse. We passed through a lot of small villages on the way. Ymer somehow just knew when we passed the border to his realm. I guess the land was tied to him in I a magical way. Finally we reached a settlement where we were greeted by a number of huge trolls. They did look a bit surprised, but they all seemed to acknowledge him as their king. In a grand hall we met with the troll queens who were sitting in front of a giant throne. Ymer took over and demanded reports from them of what had happened. Again they spoke in a language that I did not understand. I could understand from the way the seven women acted though that they were worried about change, and suspicious as Ymer looked like a human. I could tell that they were not united and that there were lots of intrigue going on between them. Ymer found that a long time ago the trolls had been serving the three queens that now had a token presence in Boston, but that something had happened so they now served him. What exactly had happened were long lost in the mists of time.

After a long council-meeting,Ymer said he would take around fifty of the warriors with him to Boston to maintain the outpost they had there. One of the younger troll-queens also follow with him. They would do trade, and act as a link between the mortal world and Nevernever The other troll-queens were given orders of what do to in Ymer's absence. I am not so sure they liked that.

When we got back to Boston, we learned that Nathalie had awoken. She still had a long way to go to recover though. I knew that she was not a normal human, so she would probably recover much faster than a human would. We also learned from Mirou that a Welsh dragon named Y Ddraig Goch, or The Red Dragon, had done a hostile takeover of Stoorworm's company. The timing seemed to be more than a coincidence. A Russian dragon had started to act while a Hungarian dragon had started to fortify itself. A war between dragon would surely spill over and affect lots of innocents. We heard rumours of war in Nevernever, and also strange conflicts here on Earth with weird weather-patterns all over the world.

After yet another few days the Police told Imogen that they were finished with the investigation around her house, and that they had found traces of a former student who they believed to be responsible for the dead body of a child that had been found on her property. She could now move back home again.

Karl called all of us to be extra careful. Someone had planted a lot of explosives under his car. He had found it when he was going to do some repair of the car. Imogen asked me if I could trace who had handled it before I was a bit uneasy about doing that, but after Karl explained to me that C4 was so stable that you could actually put it in fire without anything happening to it, and only way it would detonate was with the help of a blasting cap, I agreed to do a try. I was chocked to see the amount of it. Karl said that it would have been enough to obliterate a city block. Someone really wanted him dead. Imogen helped me by setting up extra wards so that if anything happened it would not be an explosion, but rather just a blast of warm air, while I did my divination ritual on a small piece of the plastic explosive, as well as some of the residue of the explosive material found at the remains of Mirou's apartment. I managed to get the vision of a young man who looked like some kind of military personnel as well as his name, which was Tom McKenzy. He had been involved in both attacks.

Antonio did some searching on the net and found that Tom were some former military and had worked security but was now a mercenary. We had some debate on how to proceed with the information, as someone suggested that we should contact him for a fake job and thus capture him, but we decided against that, as it was likely that and any accomplices knew more about us than we did about him. He would not fall for such a simple trap. Instead we passed the information off to Nathalie's family who were very wealthy and powerful. A few days later we got a report back that they had captured both him and two other men. The other two had been found near Imogen's house. Then another 15 persons had been picked up. They had been involved in the attack in New York against Mirou as well as an attack on a military base earlier. Hopefully that was the end of that, but I somehow did not feel so safe any more. Would be nice knowing who had been the person behind them though. Someone had to have given them finances and information.

We later learned from Zhuijang that the dragon leading the White Lotus society had somehow survived, and that they had called in all their troops, with agents abroad being told that they were on their own. It made life more difficult for him and Kuro.

On the Saturday afterwards, I was out eating lunch with Isabella, after having been at the theatre, and I suddenly got another vision. This time it was that a woman's wrath was behind all the recent problems and it would tear the world apart. I saw terrible storms and lots of open water. Something bad would come from the deep. It wouldn't start here though.

The vision had been powerful enough to make me pass out, and I woke up looking at the ceiling fan, and some very concerned staff-members at the restaurant and Isabella who frantically had tried to wake me up. It took some time to clear my head. Why did all of these visions hit me so hard, and what did it mean? After leaving the restaurant I talked to Isabella about the vision, but she had no idea what it could be referring to. She was quite concerned because it did sound bad though.

I was a bit surprised later on when there was a knock on the door, just after Isabella had gone out to buy some groceries. I was even more surprised when I opened the door and saw a gorgeous young Asian girl with flaming red hair, dressed as a Japanese schoolgirl in a black latex and leather uniform. She carried a small whip in her hand. Flirtingly, she lightly spanked me with it as she said that this was a spankogram, and that the message she had for me was that Mirou wanted us all to come to Imogen for a meeting. I must say I had never heard of spankograms before, so I was quite confused. And of course, Isabella came home just at that moment. I think the girl could thank her lucky stars that I was so surprised that I didn't know what to do or say. Isabella wasn't quite pleased, but she understood that I was not trying to cheat on her. The girl beat a hasty retreat. That had the possibility to go so very wrong, and I would definitely let him have an earful.

I talked some with Isabella before setting off to Imogen's house to see what Mirou wanted. Once there, we learned that Mirou had gotten some information that there was a possibility of another cell of mercenaries here in Boston. We decided to check it out. They were supposed to be in the Spanish district, and according to Antonio, that was an alleged den of drug-dealers.

I had some choice words with Mirou about the appropriateness of doing what he had done. He just laughed and said I should thank him for some nice make-up sex afterwards. When I told the others of my vision earlier that day, Mirou tried insinuating that I was pregnant. Oh, the nerve of that creature. Sure I would like to be a mother some day, but not now.

After some debate on how to proceed, and confirming with Nathalies family when they would go after the other cells, we set off to the Spanish district. It would have been nice if Kuro had been with us, but she was apparently occupied somewhere else. We realized that if we didn't time it well enough, any remaining cells would go to ground, and then we would again be targets. Our plan was to quickly subdue the cell, so that way they could be questioned. Letting the police sort it out, would most likely have been a better idea, but if this cell was gunning for us, then we might have a chance that the police didn't. I just prayed to the Goddess that we wouldn't get hurt or killed.

Once we got to the area, we parked nearby and Antonio set out to make some inquiries, as he knew the neighbourhood. We found out that it was an apartment facing an alley. I stayed on the ground in the alley together with Zhujiang, while Karl, Antonio and Imogen would go for the door of the apartment., and Mirou would in dragon-form crash through the windows at a determined time, while Star moved up along the fire-escape staircase. It started spectacularily as Mirou made a dragon-shaped hole through the window, as he flew down from the roof of the building on the other side of the street. Zhujiang decided to also go up the fire-escape, and he ran up it like he was starring in some kung fu film.

After a few seconds I hear a lot of commotion, with gunfire and loud crashes inside the apartment, and then Mirou flies out again, this time carrying someone in his claws and just dropping the person on the ground. The dull thud, the body made as it hit the ground next to me told me that the person was already dead. He then crashed into the windows of another apartment. What the hell was he doing? Then suddenly a man jumped from the windows of the apartment that we were after, and landed on the fire-escape on the other side of the alley. Right about then, I could hear a woman screaming from inside the apartment that Mirou had crashed into. Bloody hell, what had he done now? I cast a sleep spell on the guy on the fire-escape. It wasn't enough to take him out, and I could see how he tried shaking the tiredness off. Then Zhujiang jumped after them man, who drew a gun and shot at him. Luckily he missed. I cast another sleep-spell, and then Zhujiang knocked him out with a quick flurry of blows.

Just as that was ending, I spotted a man at the other end of the alley. He had a military look, and when he saw me, he dropped the sixpack he had been carrying and ran away. I shouted to Zhujiang that there was another guy as I set after him. I followed him into a parking-house, where I at first lost track of him. The slightest sound echoed between the concrete pillars, and there was flickering lights. I carefully made my way through the garage, as a car suddenly came at me with great speed. Instinctively I summoned an airblast to stop the car. It almost succeeded; The whole car swayed from side to side and the windscreen shattered. I threw myself to the left side, and having the car just touching my skirt as it sped by.

After having dusted myself of, I headed back to the others. They had taken care of the people in the apartment, and found folders with info on us. After some time, Karl called Antonio on his phone. He had in wolf-form followed the car down to the harbour, and had now acquired a small boat that would take us out to a big yacht where the man who got away had fled to. Star really didn't want to go out in a boat.

We carefully set out to make sure we were not hear nor seen. Antonio veiled us so no sound was heard. When we reached the yacht, we saw a guard on deck. I hit him with a sleep spell, and then Star flew up and punched him out. Sadly she dropped him into the water. Not nice, and not according to the plan. The man disappeared beneath the waves. We quickly got up on deck of the yacht.

Once on deck, we saw a flash of light out at see, and a huge water cascade. Someone had set of a nuclear weapon. Dear Goddess, that scared us. We were afraid of a shockwave coming towards us, but nothing happened as far as we could see. Star just vanished though when she saw it. The others went below as we heard voices arguing, while I stayed on top to look for traces of the guard. Sadly I saw him, and he was floating face down in the water. That would come back to haunt us later. I was sure of it.

The others managed to quickly overpower the people down below, and found even more material about us, as well as their previous plans and one terrorist act that hadn't happened yet, down in Dallas. As far as we could gather they took their orders from someone in Albania. Not even sure where that is. Who lived there, and what had we done to attract such wrath? We needed to leave the yacht quickly before the authorities came.

Karl decided to take the yacht out to sea. Not sure that was such a good idea, but all authorities were probably on high alert right now after the nuclear explosion. Antonio and I set out to do a quick search of the ship to see if we could find more information, while Imogen went through what we had already found. Karl and Mirou then started questioning the mercenaries. I did my best not to notice the weird sounds from the cabin. I had a feeling that the questioning was quite aggressive, and I had no wish to find out.

Most of the information we had found were about Mirou, but also a lot on Karl. Apparently someone had paid lots of money to find all that information. Zhujiang went up on deck as he said he had seen something. Then a shot while later the yacht lurched as something slammed into it hard, and we could hear a grinding noise. I lost my balance and fell down, while things from shelves and tables flew all over the place. After quickly having helped Imogen collect the documents again, I went up on deck to see what was going on. Once there, I saw Zhujiang and Star talking, how she had gotten back. And also a naked Mirou, and Karl all covered in blood. He claimed it was not his blood. Not that that made it any better. Mirou had apparently done something bad to the prisoners. I really didn't want to know such details. When I looked around, I saw what had caused the commotion, it was another boat that quickly sped away. Antonio also came up and he tried hitting it with one of his spells but it failed miserably. He only succeeded in taking out one of their lanterns. The small boat we had used to get to the yacht had been totally demolished. I looked over the railing to see how bad the damages was and there was a huge gap in the hull. I tried making the others aware of the situation, but Star apparently didn't want anyone else to see it, so she did some kind of magic. Mirou took a look and then promptly accused me of lying as the hull now looked whole. He would get his comeuppance sooner or later, and it would not be pretty.

After some debating, we realized that we needed to go to Albania and try to stop the person behind it. However, the boat was probably not in such good shape that it would manage the trip across the Atlantic. It would of course also take too long. Flying was not really an option for me or Imogen.. We headed back to land, and then cleaned away any traces of us having been on board. After having packed the necessary stuff and fixing things like taking a vacation form work and saying good by to our respective partners we set out through Nevernever to get to Karl's home in Sweden and from there go by car. He had some special route that he uses to transport things. We had to take some special precautions whenever we passed any borders as most of us didn't have any passports.

After a few days, we got to Dures in Albania, where we started asking around about an old cloister, which we knew that the mercenaries had used as a base. As far as everyone there knew it had been abandoned for a long time, but had housed almost a hundred monks when it was in use. The cloister itself was located in a small valley among the mountains, and there was only a small winding road leading up there. We parked the car a bit away so as to not draw attention to us.

Outside the cloister was a large number of metal crates with Russian markings. We veiled ourselves and went up and investigated them. They turned out to be military ammunition boxes. From inside the building we could here voices. While we looked at the crates two men came, carrying another crate. Karl and Mirou quickly knocked them out. I grabbed a pistol as I thought it was something to give me some extra protection. Even though I hoped I wouldn't have to use it.

Star first took the looks of one of the soldiers. We then still veiled sneaked inside the building, where we saw three more soldiers packing up stuff and then some old Chinese guy overseeing them. There was something weird about his appearance, he looked pale and had a clammy skin. Star came into the room an played the part of one of the soldiers, and managed to pull of indicating that his companion was outside smoking. Then quite suddenly she attacked the Chinese man, who didn't seem fazed at all. The soldiers started shooting at Star, who tried taking cover. Zhujiang, and then Mirou in dragon form and Karl in Wolf form attacked the soldiers, and quickly neutralized two of them. Then what looked like coral glimpsed beneath the skin of the Chinese man, and he shifted form into a huge skeletal dragon with seaweed clinging to it, and he hit Star hard with a claw. I locked him down from moving with a spell, and Imogen and Antonio went all in with some kind of light-based magic. The remaining soldier took the chance to run away, quite terrified. I tried using my sleep-spell on the dragon, but it had no effect. I could see that Karl had more success with his attack though. Then the dragon made his next attack, and cast a spell of pure terror. Instinctively I veiled myself and ran out of the building the fastest I could.

Once outside, I could start to calm down, and after a short while a dared to venture in again. I was still shaking, but I went in determined to shoot the dragon with the pistol I had taken earlier. As I emptied the clip at him without much success, I saw how Imogen was lying on the floor, and then how Antonio with a powerful spell managed to kill the dragon. As we went and checked on Imogen who was lying unconscious, and Antonio performed his healing-magic on her, we saw how a pool of crystal-clear blue liquid emerged beneath the body of the dragon. I recognized it as a portal. The question was to where.

Mirou, as usual did something potentially stupid, and he jumped through the portal. We could see how he appeardd in some kind of crystal cave on the other side. As soon as Imogen had woken up, Antonio and her jumped after, as did Karl. I decided to do some divination magic on it first, as I wanted to know more about it. This was something unique. Unfortunately that was when the portal started to shrink, so I had to try to stabilize it instead. Then Zhujiang and Star jumped through it to join the others. I didn't want to be left alone in the middle of nowhere with at least one crazy soldier out there somewhere, so against my better judgement I followed after them.

On the other side we saw a huge crystal cavern glowing with a bluish light, and a passageway. We followed that into another cavern where we were met by another old Chinese man and a young Chinese girl. They looked weird, just as the guy we had previously fought. The girl looked half decaying as if she had spent weeks lying in water. They were standing at the other end of the cave near some kind of pool and an altar. The pool gave off more of this bright blue light. I had no idea what it was for, but I could sense that it contained power. What first looked like a huge stone statue of a dragon turned out to be a real dragon who woke up. I just knew that we had gotten ourself into a lot of trouble, and that the dragon was Kulshedra.

I then saw translucent chains wrapped around his body, and then another translucent chain going to the the young girl. Somehow she was controlling him. I don't think anyone else saw it. It was as if I saw the magical energies, without using my Sight. The walls in the cave were covered by some kind of heavy net or mesh made out of energy, and when I looked up, I felt a sense of vertigo, as if the walls appeared to continue up forever. It was like standing on top of a mountain and looking down. I could only guess that we were somehow down in a deep sea trench. I could see that there were holes in the mesh, and that black water leaked in and out through them, in some abstract glow of energy, and that the pool was for controlling this. I was not sure if this was a prison meant for the girl, or if it was her own lair.

As I tried clearing my mind, I saw translucent images that seemed to be flashbacks of things that hap happened before. First I saw Kulshedra standing on some volcanic island, digging his claws down into the Lava. Somehow I knew he was performing a magical ritual, and the name he kept chanting over and over where Mazu. Then from beneath the waves of the ocean, the girl in front of us rose up, answering his summoning. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this had been, what had caused that horrid vision I had back at Campus four years ago, when I saw beings trying to come through the concrete walls. I had wrongly thought that to be representing the three Faerie Queens that later came. Instead this was something older and more feral, and probably even more dangerous.

The next flashback I got was that Kulsheda and Mazu awoke another dragon. He appeared as a huge skeleton covered in algae and corals. I knew that they were somewhere East of Japan. The new dragon slowly rose from beneath the ocean, and when he came up woke to some kind of unlife. After that I saw a scene filled with a thick mist, and then another dragon appeared , and then the fog just vanished. I somehow knew this had been when that strange fog had covered all of Boston earlier.

My body were almost vibrating, and my skin tingled from just the remains of the the power involved in the events I had just witnessed. I then saw a scene where Kulshedra's two children had asked him to stop what he was doing. As they felt he was changing to something bad, and they did not want any part of it. I could tell that he was furious enough that he almost killed them right there on the spot. They were in human form, but I took it that they were like Mirou.

I then got another flashback, and this time I saw how Mazu used magic to enthrall Kulshredra, and how she started attacks against other dragons and then arranged for Kulshedras children to be killed. Which explained what had happened in New York earlier.

I also somehow knew that there had been a large group of Albanian mercenaries responsible for arranging all the transport of weapons and information that local teams had then used to carry out the attacks all over the world.

I still saw the ghostly images of what had happened. But then Mazu used some magic on Carl, and I saw how a ghostly chain streamed from her towards him in an attempt to enthrall him. He seemed to shake it off and tried to attack her, but passed right through her as she was not physically there. Meanwhile Kulshedra attacked us. Imogen and Antonio held him off with magic while Mirou and Star went into close combat. I somehow knew that Star needed to use the sword she had got as a wedding gift from Ymer's father. There was something special with that sword. I called this out to her, and then they could slay Kulshedra.

The older Chinese man had just looked us while this was going on, but he now changed into the form of a huge skeletal dragon and attacked, but we managed to beat him as well after some tense moments. Mazu now appeared again, and said something in Chinese. Imogen answered her, and they had some quick discussion. When exactly had she learned Chinese? I really need to know what they said to each other.

After that the cave started to quickly fill with water, and the next thing we knew, we were back inside the old monastery. Not entirely sure how that had happened. As we left the place, Karl took the time to dispose of all the weaponry there by rigging some explosives. Might be a good idea so it wouldn't fall in the wrong hands. We then drove back to Sweden and then returned to Boston through the Nevernever.

I had no doubt that Mirou would let Ferrovax know about what had transpired, and I had to talk to both Isabella and Eibon about what I had seen. Hopefully things would start to calm down again, but I doubted it.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 8: The Eternal Sea

As I had suspected, it took some time before things had calmed down in the Nevernever, but things slowly went back to normal again over the following seven months. I spent as much time I could with Isabella, but we were both quite busy with our own projects, so it was not quite as much as I would have wished for.

At the theatre, we ran a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it was a lot of work to make it stand out. We had great success with it though, and everyone had a good time. I would like to think that Shakespeare himself would have been pleased to see it.

I also spent quite a lot of time trying to help a young girl named Emma who was going through some big troubles in her life. I might not be a professional therapist or social worker, but I have some contacts, and I am very good at listening to people. Sometimes that is all that is needed, that someone sees them and actually listens. Eventually I could help her turn her life around, and help her find a job as a receptionist at a local firm. Being able to help someone like that is a real joy, and makes the effort I put in worth it. It is the kind of atonement I need to balance the unforgivable act I did earlier. Unfortunately, there were many that I could not help at all for various reasons or some who did not want my help. I still had to try though, but every time I failed, it hurt.

I was still an apprentice to Eibon, and I had to study hard. He was still as enigmatic as before, and had high standards that I had to reach to get his approval. I had come up with some interesting ways of practicing my divination-skills, that involved decks of cards and other things. I would shuffle the decks, and then trying to predict the order the cards came in, or putting cards in envelopes and then mix them and trying to locate a specific card. I knew that if I tried that stunt at a casino, I would get in real trouble. Casinos didn't take kindly to what they considered cheating, and their definition of cheating were strange and the consequences could be deadly. I had other ways of practising as well, like trying to scry on a certain location chosen at random from a map, or trying to follow a moving object.

I met some of the others now and then, but they all had their own things to do as well. Antonio were away training parkour, and participating in wrestling shows all over the country. I even saw one once. He is a very good performer. Star had come back but she was changed somehow and then spent lot of time away training for something. She wouldn't say what though, but she was somehow much more focused now than before. Well she was still quite crazy, but now she had a purpose, a goal. Mirou was busy with the aftermath of the events with the dragons, and Karl had his family to take care of. That meant that the one person I saw the most was Imogen as we both were often in Edinburgh for training and other White Council things. As far as I knew Zhujiang and Kuro had gone home to China again. They had been ordered to return about a month after the incident with the dragons.

The Presidential election had gone horribly wrong. How could such a monster as Trump win? Most of the other candidates had been really bad as well, the only one that had seemed decent were Sanders but he had been cheated out of the election. That Trump could win proved that someone had rigged the system, but who and why? I refused to believe that people could be so stupid and ignorant to not see what a fraud he was. How evil he was. I truly feared for what would happen in the coming years. I did not need my powers of divination to see that bad things would come. Speaking of which, I had actually managed many months now without any visions. Had I finally gained enough control to only get them when I wanted to see things? That would have been a blessing from the Goddess. It was not very likely though, but one could hope.

Imogen of course participated in the protest marches against Trump at his inauguration. Star had been usual self and not had a clue on who Trump was and why he was so much on TV. She thought he was an actor. Not sure it was a good thing explaining politics to a genie.

I then got a strange dream where I looked out over a wast sea with no land in sight. It was like looking through frosted glass or some kind of plastic, so that everything had a diffuse look. I could not see any sun, but yet there was light everywhere and the sea held all colours. I got a sense of peace and calm, and if only I could get a bit closer then I would find pure tranquillity. I had a sense that I had seen it before, but no recollection of where. The sea was just too perfect.

The day after on the 2nd of February, there were reports from the hospital Boston General, that newborn children had fallen asleep and could not be woken up again. As far as everyone could tell they were still alive ans responding to stimuli. All the children had been awake when they were born then fallen into this strange slumber. In the following days it became clear that the same phenomena had occurred all over the world.

We met up at Imogen's house, where we discussed the situation. Apparently there was some problems between the Summer court and the Brass court. Antonio and Star were trying to reduce those problems and stop an all out war. Star mentioned something about everyone of her court having become corrupt and that she was trying to purify them. I tell the others about my dream, and that I think there is a connection the situation with the children, but they don't believe me. I should have gotten used to that. It was still not very nice of Mirou to ridicule the dream in the way he did. He can be such a mean being sometimes, and other times very friendly.

As far as we could tell, there had been no large-scale rituals performed. The energy buildup for a ritual that had consequences all over the world would be so high that it would surely have been detected. We all agree that there must be something that has drawn the children into the dreamworld. The one person that would know the most of that were Listens-To-Winds, so Imogen contacted Lisa to see if she could contact him as he was difficult to get hold of.

While we waited we did some more research about what had happened. I asked around on the Paranet if anyone had heard anything, but did not find anything. Imogen searched the library for anything to do with dreams. We then saw on the news that now the same sleeping-phenomena that had affected the babies had happened to teenagers and old people who were receiving palliative care. Imogen managed to talk to the doctors investigating it but they had no theories at all. Hospitals were now full so they had to gather the affected people together in make-shift places like sports-arenas. I secretly talked to Isabella, she had looked at it as well, but was as clueless as the rest of us. I did however manage to find one detail regarding the new cases that no one else seemed to have noticed, and that was that none of the teenagers at least had been alone when they fell asleep. They had all been with someone.

Late that evening Lisa contacted us and said that me and Imogen had to accompany her to Edinburgh the day after. The White council had a crisis meeting regarding the situation. Star wanted to join, but it was made quite clear for her that she and Antonio could not join us. Once we made our way to Edinburgh, we arrived as a huge meeting took place. I had never seen so many members of the White Council be there at the same time. It appeared that even some wizards had succumbed to the sleeping phenomena. Listen-to-Winds was leading the meeting. He was talking about dreams and that some people could control their dreams.

The meeting was chaotic, as everyone wanted to speak and they all had such weird ideas. I talked to Eibon, about what I had found out and he was very impressed, and then signalled that he wanted to speak. Everyone went silent. He then told them what I had found out, which of course started everyone talking again. This was something that all of the others had failed to notice. Imogen and some other wizards tried creating a ritual that would allow them to enter the dreamworld through the mind of an animal. They would not be able to enter the mind of a human without becoming lawbreakers. I decide to spend my time trying to do divinations to try and decipher what has happened.

We spend a couple of days in Edinburgh. I try to find the source of the phenomena, but without any success. It seems that Imogen and her group are making progress in their attempts at creating a ritual. The first animal they try it on is a pig. They learn enough that to see that their ritual was flawed, but they learned enough to carry on . Meanwhile Antonio had been talking to his girlfriend, and tried to get her to use her network to find out what had been going on, and Star had talked to faeries. Unfortunately Star being Star, that was something that would come back and cause problems.

On the 9th of February I had another dream. I saw the same sea as before, still as if it was seen through frosted glass. but I then noticed that there appeared to be millions of humans floating near the surface, and as I watch more and more appear. I saw how something were sucked out of their bodies and trickled toward the place that I was watching from. And again I felt that if I could just come a bit closer to the sea I would gain eternal tranquility.

When I tried more divination magic to find more information about the mysterious place that I had dreamed about, all I could see is that there was something or someone missing at the centre. Something that there was no concept for, so I could not describe what I saw.

The White Council had sent out envoys to the faerie courts and other supernatural nations to seek answers to what was going on, but had not gotten any answers. I learned that Antonio had got the Summer court to start looking at it. Apparently his position in the court helped motivate them, even if they had no answers. Or at least no answers they were willing to give.

As I were doing more divinations, I suddenly felt as if there was a large concentration of something related to the sleepers near Imogen's house. I had to find her rather immediately. We made our way back home to Boston, and saw that something was wrong, and it was probably Star's fault. Outside her house lay some faeries in a food-coma and a ton of empty pizza-boxes. They had even built an equivalent of stonehenge out of them, the next thing we saw was a children's slide leading down into the underground dungeon where Star now lived. When we asked the fairies what was going on they said they had delivered children thee in exchange for pizza. We heard some strange sound from below. We called out to Star, but no answer. Imogen decided to run into the house and call for Antonio. I looked around for any clues, and could see that something heavy had been lying on the ground and thus disturbing the grass.

The only way down was not through the slide, as it took up the normal way. At the end was lots of pillows, and then everywhere were babies. Literary hundreds of them. We find star there trying to look after the children. Imogen asked her what in hell she was doing, and got the answer that Star had asked around for information from the faeries about the sleep phenomena, but there had been some kind of misunderstanding. It was never her intention to get them to deliver children to her. While I was looking around to see that all the children were alive and unhurt, I noticed that the children seemed to come from all over the world. Some had nametags from local hospitals, while others had nothing to identify them, or where they came from. While I was doing that Antonio came, and he had been looking around as there was a rumour among the supernaturals that someone wanted children. He had been trying to find out who. Now he knew and he was as horrified as Imogen and I were. He had been using his contacts with the Paranet to get them to try and ward every hospital around to protect them from the faeries coming in and taking children.

How in the name of the Goddess would we be able to return all the children to where they came from? Some of the children seemed to not be doing so well, so Antonio and I set out to create a ritual that would bring healing energy to them so they would be unharmed. Imogen came up with the idea that there was one being who could help return the children. Santa Claus could do it with his magical sleigh. And yes, he is real. She knew a member of the Winter court who might have some idea on how to get in touch with him, so she set off to do try and arrange a meeting.

After some time, she came back together with two men. One was a svartalf smith named Volund, and the other was Santa Claus. I had the sinking feeling that Santa Claus, or Kringle as he called himself was judging me and that I did not pass muster. Imogen did strike a deal though with Kringle to use his magical sleigh and deliver all the children home. The price was that Star would help him two nights every year for I don't know how many years. Possibly forever. Kringle said that normally he was bringing toys to children, this would be the first time he would transport children instead. He arranged the transport. Hopefully that would solve that problem, and that the more unsavory types of supernaturals had not taken advantage of Star's folly and stolen too many children.

After Kringle left with all the children, we had a discussion with Volund up in Imogen's house. It was a bit tense as he and Antonio had some differences in opinion due to them belonging to different courts. I went home to Isabella, and talked to her. She had not found out anything else about the sleeping phenomena, and she was totally flabbergasted by the mess that Star had caused and our solution to it.

I returned with Imogen to Edinburgh for more research. Imogen was doing another strange ritual and by what she told me later she had managed to transport her mind and soul to a strange African-styled mud-hut on an endless plane with no animals or vegetation and with a sun that never moved, where she talked to a man named Hastrim who had been imprisoned there by his apprentice Catryn D'Amour who had stolen some strange magial artifact that he had commissioned. He said he had been the last of the Shaol, a group who were tasked with protecting mankind. Once back she searched the archives and found that Catryn had been wanted for murder by the wardens back in 1709. The White Council had no record though of the group the Shaol or of the man named Hastrim. Could this have something to do with what we were experiencing now?

We realized that we needed more information, and went back to Boston, to ask some questions to Volund together with Antonio and Star. He was not very cooperative at first. He was familiar with the name Hastrim though. As we were talking to him, Imogen suddenly went quite and then her whole demeanor changed. Something was not right. She then asked Volund if he had met with Catryn recently and what she had asked him to construct.

Antonio started asking Imogen who she was. She claimed that she was her, but her personality did not match. I took a look at her with the sight, and saw that I saw pure darkness and evil emitting from her. I did not want to start a fight, but I was prepared to defend myself if she did anything. Antonio though picked up a flashlight and shone it right into her eyes, which caused her to instantly fall asleep. He certainly had more power in his magic than I had. His spell was similar to my sleep-spell, but more efficient.

Volund made a phone-call and told the other person that Hastrim was back, and shortly afterwards a strange-looking mulatto woman came to his workshop. She presented herself as Catryn. It was clear that they had a long history. Volund told her that he believed that Hastrim had taken over Imogen's body. Catryn confirmed that she had indeed imprisoned Hastrim, but that it was due to him having become totally evil and that he had betrayed and killed all the other members of the Shaol, except her, and a few others that had been in his group. And that it was due to him that the wardens had been after her. He had killed people in his experiments. She claimed that she had devised the spell that kept him imprisoned as a means of self-defence, knowing that he would kill her if she didn't. She had actually created a place which didn't exist in order to keep him trapped in a time-loop. That did not sound good at all. She confirmed that it was not Imogen who was in Imogen's body.

Catryn could break the spell, but that would mean that Hastrim would still be in Imogen's body, and vice versa. And Hastrim was a much more powerful wizard than she was. She would have no chance of capturing him again. The switch that had happened should not have been possible. She also gave us a quick rundown of the history of the group she had been in and what they had been doing. She had not has any contact with the other survivors for quite some time. They had been hiding in the islands of Abarat in Nevernever. As far as she knew the only other survivor except her was a man named Carrion. He had left the islands of Abarat, but she did not know when or where he was now. The others had died at the hands of wardens over the years. According to her the only thing now that remained of the Shaol were the ruins of a temple back in the west of Africa. It had apparently not been much to see even when she had been an apprentice.

We learned that Volund had built a strange artifact for Hastrim in the mid 1500's, and that the purpose had been to find something. Hastrim had been obsessed with things that there were no concept for. I ask Catryn about them, but it was so esotheric that it made my head spin. She knew nothing of the sea I had seen in my dreams. She suspected that Carrion had the strange device if it still existed, and that the object she had commissioned Volund to build was a new one, even though she was not sure exactly what it should find.

We discussed how we would be able to get Imogen back to her body. I could of course have asked Isabella, but that was a can of secrets best left unopened. Some of the suggestions were unsettling to say the least. I decide, that I should not be a part of that but I should go and do research on possession. Maybe I could find something there. Had to be careful though as that kind of research was questionable to say the least.

I later learned from Antonio that Star had created an idealized body that looked like her, and that Volund had created a crystal to capture a soul. They had then killed imogen, and then Catryn had dropped the spell, and Imogen's soul had been sucked into the crystal, and when it was fused with the glamour-construct that Star had done, she was brought back to life, but now as a fae, a member of the Brass court. I had no idea that such things could be done. Just how powerful was Star?

Apparently after Imogen had been brought back to life, she had contacted Lisa, who had talked to the others. I do not know what exactly had transpired there, but I have a feeling the outcome might be quite problematic.

I then had another dream about the strange sea. Many more bodies were floating in the water. This time I saw a black storm coming at the horizon, and it was getting closer. I could see writhing tentacles and strange shapes inside it. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that that was outsiders, and that it was much worse that they were where they were than if they were here on Earth. Something that would be horrible enough. I told Eibon about the dream, and I had shivers of outright fear the whole day afterwards.

The Antonio, Star, Volund and the resurrected Imogen as well as Catryn flew to Africa while I was away, not sure where they got the money for that. I learned later that they had gone to the Ivory coast to visit the Shaol temple. Not much was there except some rocks that formed some altar. The retelling I got was a bit weird, even if one had Star as a measuring-stick. I gather that they did some strange things there, and then continued on to Cairo to visit Hastrim's laboratory where they defeated Carrion. Antonio tried to explain to me later what they had done, but his explanation made my head hurt with strange metaphysics. I gathered that they had somehow switched some concepts around. No matter what they had done it had worked though as all the sleepers all over the world had woken up at the same time. Wonder what exactly I had seen in my dreams. It took a few day before the others came home.

When I were at home alone doing some research,there was an unexpected knock at the door. When I opened I was met by a young rich-looking woman who introduced herself as Margrave Cathaline de Este, and she said that her father wanted to meet with me, and that she was Isabella's cousin. She made it quite clear that I did not really have a choice in the matter. I knew how powerful Isabella was. There was no way I would be able to defeat her cousin if she was as powerful wizard as Isabella. She didn't threaten me as such, so I gathered that I should find out what they wanted. I thought I had managed to get them to back off from me earlier with the letter I had written where I threatened to give lots of information to the White council and expose them if anything happened to me. I wrote a quick note describing what had happened and left

Outside was a limousine and a huge bodyguard was standing beside it. His muscles had muscle. I though Carl was buffed, but this guy made him look small. The bodyguard motioned for me to get into the car. Inside was an Italian man in his 40's, impeccably dressed. He and Mirou would have bonded well over clothing.

Once I had gotten into the car, Cathaline also entered and sat down beside me. The bodyguard and the driver were up front. The man introduced himself as Azzo VI. He was Isabella's uncle, and said that they were curious about me, and that they had not seen her for a long time. I tried to not divulge anything about Isabella. They knew she was alive, but not where she was. They suggested we should go to a restaurant for further talk. I was not exactly in a position to tell them no. And as long as they weren't hostile I guess things were ok, but kept my guard up.

When we arrived at the restaurant, the bodyguard went in, and then he made all the customers inside leave. I was treated to very fine food while they conducted a bit of small-talk. During the talk, I accidentally had a soulgaze with Azzo. I had tried avoid it but he really pushed for it. I saw a man pruned down to the most basics. I could tell that he was willing to do anything for what he believed in. Behind him I saw lots of mannequins of sort. I guess those were his previous bodies. I could tell that he enjoyed playing games of power and manipulation with people, and that he was good at it. He was a man who lacked empathy, and had a pitch black soul. That should have frightened me a lot more than it did. The soulgaze was very intense, but I didn't suffer any ill effects after it, as so often were the case otherwise.

Once the dinner was finished, they offered me a ride home. I declined as we were only a few blocks away from home and I said I would walk. When they drove off, I saw a shimmering effect around the car, and then it exploded. The forcefield around it kept the shrapnel contained, but the shockwave still shattered every window along the street, and knocked me down. I as I rose up I saw Isabella coming walk towards me and she was pissed off. Not at me, but at her family. And now she had just killed her cousin and her uncle as well as the bodyguard and the driver. She dragged me away and we went to a safe-house she had nearby, which I did not know about. It was a barren apartment. She told me we had to wait there for a while before she could find out if anyone else from her family were coming to town, or if they would send in mercenaries like last time. We spent a day there. I really like being with her, but it was a bit awkward, and she had me scared that her family would come back. A group of wardens of course hit town later on to investigate the explosion. I was written off as a suspect from the beginning as they knew I did not have that kind of power.

While we were in the safe-house I did take the opportunity to ask Isabella a bit more about her family, and how her powers of taking over the body of someone else worked. It was things that I had thought of earlier, but kind of wanted to not know about. But I had to know what I could expect. I certainly had no plans to learn the techniques myself. As far as I gathered it had been Isabella's grandmother who had first learnt how to take over a body, and there was two ways they could do it; either through a ritual or a quick switch. A ritual would make the switch stick better, and if I understood it correctly allow her to use the other body better and maybe even access some of the hosts memories and skills. A quick switch could be done in the blink of an eye and would leave one or both persons involved somewhat disoriented. That was what Isabella used when she took over Yukimi's body during that fight on the roof where the Wiccan sorority at school performed their ritual to honour the dead. And she used a ritual when she took over her current body.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Book 9: The Hellbound Heart

During the next six months that followed, I continued to study hard under Eibon. I was no longer considered just an apprentice but now I was a wizard in my own right. That was quite a step, but it was worth all the troubles. I now had more freedom, but also more responsibilities. It also provided me with more protection in the supernatural world. Being a member of the White council had its benefits.

Speaking of which, in Edinburgh, three different groups still working on some of the research that Imogen was involved with earlier during the sleeping phenomena, had formed. It was an open secret that they had gone a bit crazy from the research into dreams and animals, making them feral for a lack of better word. Those three groups had started becoming a bit hostile and were fighting each other for territory in the east tower. The tower itself was under lockdown by the wardens. Hopefully nothing would happen, but people were on edge.

Some of the my friends had been scarce. Carl and Peggy had their family. I visited now and then. If nothing else to see how much Ask and Embla had grown. I was proud that Carl had asked me to be their godmother. I did not hear much of Ymer as he was busy ruling his little kingdom. Always a good thing though to be on friendly terms with the local supernatural community, and he and his trolls certainly counted there. Star had gone into hiding, as she was afraid the White Council were angry at her for her role in what happened to Imogen. And yes, she was right to some degree. I know at least Maria were a bit upset. She wouldn't do anything but she really didn't like what had happened. I also know that quite a few other members of the White council were glad that Imogen was not around any more. Not sure what kind of weird business-deals that Mirou had been involved in. He did seem to enjoy it though, but did not speak of them. At least not to me. Antonio had been doing lots of travelling and acting as a luchadore. There had been some offhand-comments that he was after corrupt cops and politicians. That was a really dangerous activity if true. His sister had started working for a law firm, and liked to help the less fortunate people. Good for her that she had finished her studies, and fully recovered from the ordeals she had been through earlier. She was a goood contact to have, even if I hoped I would never need legal help. Antonios girlfriend Catherine had become pregnant, so he would be starting a family soon. Must say I was surprised that their relationship still held together, as he wasn't exactly the type for long-term committment. Imogen and Lisa was still together, despite my fears of what would happen due to Imogens change, and she had spent lots of time trying to figure out what she was now, and how that would affect her.

I also made a new acquaintance as Lisa's younger brother Kevin had started studying at the university. He had a talent for divination magic, but lacked training, so he had asked me to help him. I could tell that Lisa wasn't quite happy with it. She had no problems of me teaching him, but was a bit sceptical of him being able to do magic at all, and then even more so that it was divination that was his field. She had seen how it affected me, and it was an area that was considered grey magic. She certainly took her status as a warden very serious, so I knew that she had lectured him about what to do and what not to do. Still, I just hoped he would not have any visions that might give away my secrets or those of Isabella, as that would lead to an awkward and potentially dangerous situation.

The night of the 10th of August, I had a rather long vision or rather a set of visions in the form of a dream. A very weird and vivid dream where all the senses were involved, and the scenes covered a stretch of thousands of years, and the different scenes were somehow interconnected.

It started with me standing on top of a ziggurat, looking out over a jungle that surrounded a city. People were walking around. I had a feeling that it was not on Earth. I was standing there together with other priests, and we all wore dark red open robes, slit to let the air in due to the heat. In front of me a dead fae lay bound. He had been sacrificed. All the priests cut pieces of his body and eat in order to partake of his strength. Below the ziggurat were hundreds of more bound fae that were being prepared to be sacrificed. I could tell that I was looking through the eyes of a woman, and I could see a symbol of a spider on her chest.

The scene then switched,I saw the same city, but now it was besieged by conflicts and houses were damaged and even destroyed. A lot less people were around. The inhabitants were preparing to leave what they called the third world. People were walking through a portal in the ziggurat. I get the feeling that there were not many survivors lefts. The Anasazi warriors stayed behind to keep the invaders away. As the people walk through the portal, they came to a place with lots of red sandstone cliffs. They decided to build a city inside the rocks, and used lots of ropes t move around the area.

The scene then switched, and I saw animals, including a sabre-tooth tiger. I was standing on top of the rocks. In front of me was an altar and a female human sacrifice. The people were still persecuted and harassed by those around. The people performed a massive ritual where they killed 1100 persons to summon a Goddess to help them. Something went wrong, and the priestess were transformed into a half-human, half spider hybrid. The people themselves also transform over time to become more spider- and insectoid-like.

The scene then changes again, and this time the whole region around the city is dead. Nothing is growing. Other people around the city are waging guerilla warfare against the city and the priests. The people have decided they are willing to kill everything in order for them to live, as they refuse to die. At the end there is only death and destruction, and as I looked up I saw an airplane flying over my head. 50 000 years had passed.

The dream then shifted focus, and I was in a beautiful ballroom. The images shifted to lots of other ballrooms, and I saw lots of different very rich people in beautiful clothes. I somehow knew that it was early 15th century in Florence seen through the eyes of a woman. Somehow I knew her name was Margrave Marchesella de Este. her family was not among the richest or the most cut-throat of the nobles, but she wanted power, so she entered the political game. Started using forbidden black magic to enthrall others, as well as intrigues. Within 20 years her family had risen to the top.

Outside were a warzone between the Margraves de Este and the White council who did not appreciate the use of black magic. The scale of the use had drawn the attention of the council. Marchesella cut deals with demons in order to ensure her family's success. This was about the year 1425. The war ended, but no one knew why. Centuries later the woman were betrayed by one of her granddaughters, whom she saw as her heir. It was a debt that could only be paid in blood. I had an inkling that the granddaughter was Isabella.

The vision then shifted to a totally different scene, where I knew I was a young woman in present day, who felt lost in life, and didn't know where she would go. She found love, and happiness, but the love was unrequited. Society was hard for her as a lesbian. She then found friends and a purpose with live. She still felt empty though, and couldn't find peace. One day her love was answered, and she felt complete. After some time she starts doubt herself and her relationship as it is not equal. Her love isn't answered the way she wanted. She tried to hold it all together, but it does not work. She starts feeling bad, loses her confidence and starts hating herself, always self-criticizing herself. It is a downward spiral. The young woman's loved ones, friends and family try to help but they can only watch when everything fall apart.

I could tell that the visions were related, but not how. Maybe I would learn that later. I could tell though that even though they were very intense, I didn't think I would be knocked out from the after-effects of them, like I had been so many times before. In short I knew that they were dreams, but I also knew that they were true.

The dream then shifted to a final scene where I was out shopping with Isabelle, and then I saw a war deep underground. It was in a huge cavern where a beautiful city existed, I knew that over 50 000 dwarves lived there, and that the city was the most beautiful that had ever existed. 14 kings were fighting against a huge vaguely humanoid creature, covered in fire and darkness. I saw how the kings fell, and the city were destroyed. The Earth shook, and a chasm opened up to the ground above. The creature started climbing up, and it was followed by an army of goblins, svartalfer and other nasty beings.

I then woke up. Definitively one of the strangest dreams I had had in quite a while. Dear Goddess, maybe that binge-watching of the extended version of first Bilbo and then all the Lord of the Rings hadn't been such a good idea. Surely Balrogs could not be real, could they? That part had to be symbolic of something else, but what? Sadly Isabella was not at home when I woke up. I would have liked to talk to her about the dream. Especially the part about what I believed to be her grandmother, who were the last of her family remaining as far as Isabella knew.

Later during the morning, Kevin called me, and he was quite upset, as he had had some powerful visions, and he was suffering from the effects of it. When he started describing the vision, I knew that he had had the same dream as I had. Maybe that was why I had not suffered from the dream. But how had we had the same dream? Or at least close enough, as we interpreted what we saw differently. He said that he felt like he knew some of the people in the dream, but he could not put it together. He was most upset though over the dreams about the creature at the end. That scared him. I tried consoling him, and said that I would look into things. As for how we had had the same dreams, well I told him that some people could project dreams to others, but that it was very rare. I knew I didn't have such abilities, but maybe he did. I had no other explanation though, unless what we saw were so significant that we both had picked up on them.

He also told me that he was worried about Lisa, that she didn't seem to do so well, and that she wouldn't answer his calls, and didn't want to see him. He didn't quite like that she spent so much time with Imogen. He had nothing against her, but he felt shut out by his sister. I promised him I would try to get hold of her and talk to her. As I was amongst her oldest and closest friends. I tried calling Lisa, but got no answer, so I did leave a message. She was probably busy with something and would call back later when she could.

The day after, I got another call from a hysterical Kevin. Lisa and her group of wardens had done a mission and something had gone wrong so two persons had died. Lisa had been at Kevin's place crying, then stormed out saying that she had had enough and couldn't take it any more.

Just as I hanged up to try and reach Lisa, I got another call, and this time it was Imogen. Someone had taken things from her house. Only things that belonged to Lisa. She had tried to call her but hadn't gotten any answers. She asked if I knew anything. I told her that I had just spoken to Kevin, and that he was quite distraught. It felt as an invasion of privacy, but maybe if Imogen knew that Lisa had been troubled, she could give more answers to what had happened. I told her about the dream that Kevin and I had had the day before. Or rather I told her about the parts that I thought dealt with Lisa. I certainly left out the identifying parts that dealt with Isabella's family.

Imogen tries to track Lisa through magic. I might be much better at it, but she had access to all the material parts that would form the symbolic links. I try to first reach Lisa again, but no answer. Imogen find that Lisa is on her way to New York, so she heads off to the airport. She wanted me to come with her, but I reminded her that me and airplanes were probably not a good idea. I would inform Kevin, and also try to find out more. A first called Kevin, and he would start packing and getting a car and would pick me up later for the drive to New York. Yes, there were ways through Nevernever, but they were dangerous, and it would take as long if not longer.

I called Maria at the White council, to get an idea of what had happened. It took an hour before she called back. Apparently, the mission had involved a full house of people that had been mindcontrolled. It had gone on for a long time so all the involved persons were beyond rescue. Their minds had been shattered. The team of wardens had prepared for heavy opposition, and in the magical exchange two 12-year old girls had died. They couldn't tell who had cast the spells, if it was one of the wardens or someone else, but a full inquiry were going on. Regardless, all responsibility fell on Lisa's shoulders as she was the one that had planned the mission. I leaned that the two girls were fiends, and not relatives. At the moment wardens would also investigate the other family. So far they had not picked up anything there, but had not gotten very far in that investigation. And they still had to do a lockdown on the place of the mission so their resources were stretched thin.

I knew they wanted to get hold of Lisa, and I also knew that I might get in their way of the investigation, so I ask if I was allowed to try and find her. Maria said that of course I was allowed to do so. They knew that Lisa and I were close friends, so maybe she would be more calm and talk to me, and not react with hostility as she might if wardens came after her. I told Maria what I knew so far.

Before Kevin came picked me up, I talked to Isabella. She understood that I had to help my friend. She asked me to be careful though. She had found out that someone were targeting her financial properties, and had frozen one of her accounts. I told her would be as careful as I could. We both knew that if her grandmother was after me there was not much I could do to defend myself, but any resources spent on protecting me could distract Isabella in such a way that her grandmother would get us both. I told her about the dream I had shared with Kevin. She couldn't make heads or tails of them either, but she confirmed that I had indeed dreamt about her grandmother. She would tell more about that later.

I kissed Isabella goodbye for the time being, and asked her to be careful with her own investigation. Hopefully it was not her grandmother that was involved in the freezing of her account, but she should still be careful. Could be criminal groups or law enforcement. Neither of which were to be underestimated.

Before Kevin came to pick me up, Antonio called. Imogen had arrived in New York, and then lost all track in central park. She had called him to learn if there was a portal to Nevernever there. He didn't know so he wanted to get in touch with Star who knew Nevernever better than he did. He had lost the address that she had given as she went into hiding, and wondered if I knew it. I had to look around for a while but could provide an address. Antonio was a bit surprised as that was the place he was just staking out as he were looking for ways to bring down a corrupt police officer. The officers wife were apparently engaging in some extramarital activities, and they had been going on for some time. He had heard some rather wild rumours about her. If he hadn't been with Catherine he would certainly have looked at a chance to join. Could that be Star that had taken such a disguise? It would not surprise either me nor Antonio. Subtle wasn't one of her strong suits. He would go and check it out, and then get back to Imogen.

It was going to be a long and anxious drive to New York. Kevin was driving. It was his car after all, and he was better at it than I was. I did a couple of attempts at calling Lisa on my cellphone as were driving. No answer of course. I could not use my magic while we were driving of course. It would hex the car. Kevin and I talked a lot of Lisa and what we should do once we got to New York.

It took some time, but we met up with with Imogen, and also Star and Antonio in Central Park. How had they gotten there before us? Then I found out how they had gotten there; they had driven a Ferrari down to New York, and parked it in the middle of Central park. A couple of thoughts hit me, first where had they gotten a Ferrari as none of them had that kind of money, and secondly, why was there arrows sticking out from it and why was there bitemarks in the chassi? Oh dear goddess, please tell me they had not driven that through Nevernever. I was not sure I really wanted an answer to those questions, though. I guess they had found the portal, and it sure had drawn some attention as the police had cordoned off the area around it.

What I could see though was that yes, they had been that stupid. It appeared that the car had materialised from a bush. That had to have been Star's doing. Antonio was reckless, but he wasn't totally stupid. I feared that that would have consequences later on.

We withdrew to a nearby place where we could perform more tracking magic, but we found no trace of Lisa in New York. Instead the trace now went towards Detroit. How had she managed to do such diversion? I did not think she had the skills for that. She certainly didn't use to have the control at least, but wardens did get good training.

As we debated on how to proceed, Volund showed up in a black strange-looking coach, that did not have any horses drawing it. It was covered in snow, so he had driven it through parts of Nevernever that belonged to Winter. Not that surprising though. I guess Imogen had called for him to arrange transport. Kevin felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing and decided to head home. I promised I would keep him informed. He did say though that their family had some connections to some place there.

We took the coach through Nevernever. I can't say it was very comfortable though. We arrived after some further divination at a farm. If it wasn't for the car parked outside, it would have looked abandoned. We could tell by the tiretracks on the gorund that it wasn't that long since the car had been used.- We looked around but could not find anyone, and the door was unlocked. Inside, in a bedroom we found a jacket that belonged to Lisa and footprints in the dust, but they mysteriously stopped at a window. We now knew that she had at least been there.

I tried to cast a divination-spell to see what was going on, and instantly passed out as a wave of power rushed over me. I saw visions of fire, chaos and destruction and felt something drawing power from me. When I woke up, I found that I was lying naked in a bed, bound with the linens. Imogen had managed to wake me up with a spell. When I asked why I was lying bound in the bed, They said it was something Star had done to keep me from moving. What the hell? Sure, I liked being tied up, but the only person allowed to do that was Isabella. How would I make Star understand the concept of consent? She really was broken, and I feared that if that continued, someone would have to find a way to per away in her lamp again.

Meanwhile, Antonio had found a bag belonging to Lisa in the kitchen. As we could not find any other tracks of her in the building, we started searching the backyard. Imogen tried to call Maria, but could not get any connection. She then tried to do a divinations spell as well, but she too fell unconscious in the same way I had done We manage to wake her up, after Star wanted to tie her up as well. I think I got my point across that she could not just do something like that.

We realised that we needed to get some more and better material links in order to track Lisa, and the only place we could get that would be back in Boston, so Volund drove us back through Nevernever.

When we got back there, we found that there had been an Earthquake that had killed over 5000 persons, and left even more injured. Imogen and Star was now homeless as a huge sinkhole had opened up beneath Imogen's house, and engulfed the whole neighbourhood and opened what looked like a huge cave, with a kilometer-long faultline ran from the center. The city was in utter chaos. Was not much that we could do though, other than quickly try to connect with friends and family to see that they were ok. I was greatly relieved that Isabella was OK, she had left looking for some clue about who had gone after her assets. But we could not get hold of Karl as he was away somewhere, and Mirou still did not answer any calls. Peggy and her children were fine though. Even getting hold of them were problematic as the whole city was in chaos.

After we had gotten the things we needed from Lisa's apartment, we headed back to the farm near Detroit. The car was no longer there, so it was likely that she had moved elsewhere. I tried another divination magic, but could not get any information. Imogen and Antonio combined their magic to try and dispel whatever blocked my ritual, and when they did that the whole farm just disappeared, and we found that we were out in the middle of nowhere. We did find Lisa's jacket and some bread that she had brought.

Antonio thought that she might somehow be in another dimension like Nevernever. Imogen somehow managed to break through, and we found Lisa lying on the ground asleep. After a lot of trying did Imogen manage to wake up Lisa. She did not appreciate being awakened though, and we could see that smoke came from her eyes that shone with a bright purple light. Without even breaking a sweat, and a simple flick of her hand, she sent us all flying about 50 meters away. I landed hard enough to knock the wind out of me, but otherwise unhurt. When Antonio told her to stop it and calm down. Her response to that was to fling him away hundreds of meters with a single move. How had she gained such incredible power? I could not believe my eyes. That should not have been possible.

Then Imogen did something equally strange, and that was to somehow split into multiple versions of herself, which should not be possible. I guessed most were illusions though, or rather the use of glamour, as I had to remind myself that she was now a member of the fae, one of the shidhe to be more precise. Imogen then tried to calm down Lisa, but she did not have that much more success.

Lisa then pushed away the real Imogen, and started gathering power as she erected a shield around herself. The words that came across her lips were chilling to say the least, as she said that she could not take it any more, and it had to end. She drew in so much power that the air itself stated to almost vibrate, and I knew we did not want to be anywhere near whatever she planned on doing. Imogen and Volund had the same idea, and he managed to open a portal to Nevernever. We just made it through before Lisa let loose the spell she had gathered the energy for. As the portal closed, I saw a purple light as from an explosion. It was clear she had cast a death-curse upon herself, but I doubt even a member of the senior council could have drawn that much power in such a short time.

Yes, going though a hastily opened portal to an unknown part of Nevernever was bad, but it was much better than the alternative. We dared not go back directly to where Lisa had cast her spell, as there would be lingering effects. It was so bad that we could feel it in the Nevernever. Which was not that strange, as things on one side could affect the other if they were powerful enough. We travelled a long distance before we felt it safe to go back. When we did go back we saw that everything in a 30 kilometer radius from what had been ground zero was destroyed. A strange purple fire burned everything with a fire that even though it did not emit any heat, it still consumed everything so that nothing, not even ashes remained. Going in while that was still burning would be pure suicide. Even things that normally could not burn, like steel and concrete, burned with that sickly purple fire.

When we looked towards Detroit, we could see that the magical energy had been enough to knock out all electricity in the city, even though it had been many miles away. In fact, all electronics in a 200 kilometer radius had been destroyed. We could only imagine the chaos that would be in the city.

I needed to get back to Edinburg to talk to the White Council, as I was the only member. They needed to know what had happened so they could take appropriate measures. Imogen on her part would head home and talk to Kevin. I told her to tell him I would talk to him later if he wanted to. I am after all quite good at being emotional support, and I was one of her closest friends. And Imogen wanted me to pass a message to Maria that she wanted to talk to her, and that they should meet at a certain pub in Edinburgh.

I learned later that President Trump had declared war, but no one could make sense about what the target was. The event was seen as a terrorist act, and Detroit was now under martial law following riots and most of the state had been declared a disaster area.

It was not until I had started travelling towards Edinburgh, that the reality of the situation really sank in that Lisa was dead. I started crying, and went into a bit of shock. It was willpower alone that kept me from falling to pieces. I must have looked like a real mess when I arrived at the castle. The Senior council was in an emergency meeting when I arrived. I did get to speak to them though, and describe what had happened. The Merlin demanded a complete report. Apparently the car that Star and Antonio had used to travel through Nevernever had led to a Wild hunt materialising in Central park and people had died. He did not believe me when I told him. He seemed to have made up his mind about something, and blamed the fae for the death of three wizards. He really is an intolerable asshole, and I could well see why there was a coup earlier. In hindsight I learned that I had said too much, and that it had had repercussions.

I more or less collapsed after giving him the report, so Eibon carried me out of the room, and let me cry a river before he and Maria started asking me some questions, while also trying to comfort me. I also got to talk to the wizard that had been Lisa's mentor. They were very concerned with how Lisa had gained such power. They thought that whatever it was that had possessed Imogen earlier, had somehow taken over Lisa, and that was what had given her power. What I could understand was that they thought it was an outsider, a really powerful one, and when Imogen had died and been reborn as a fae, then that outsider had become free. They also told me that they were finished with their investigation of the events during the mission Lisa had been on, and it had been her who had killed the two children with magic. They didn't know if it had been by accident or by purpose, but that had probably been the last straw that broke her. She had already been under a lot of stress.

And to make things even worse, the wizards that had been part of the dream-experiments earlier, and who had started acting strangely after absorbing the personalities of some of the animals, had now become even more crazy. The wardens had had to seal off the entire tower that they were in, as those wizards could infect others through dreams. That certainly was bad, but I hoped that they could find a solution for it. A solution that did not include any one else dying.

I made my way home after having calmed down and gotten some rest. I knew that Imogen had a long talk with Maria. How would I explain what had happened to Kevin? He must have guessed though. And why had no one seen it before? Could any of us had done anything else to have changed the outcome? I guess I will never know. But all the doubts and questions caused me great pain.

Once I got home, I also learned that Mirou, Karl and Ymer and a large part of Ymer's army had been away and fought against the Anazasi. The same ones I had dreamed about. They had won, but at a great cost. Most of the trolls had died, but as afar as any one could tell all of the Anazasi were dead. There had also been a new Earthquake, that had widened the chasm that went through where Imogen's house had been. It was now 100 meters wide and almost 900 meters deep. That had happened at the same time that Lisa had killed herself. The chasm gave off a lot of heat, so people wondered if there would be a volcanic eruption. Surely, there were no volcanoes on the East Coast?

I heard rumours a few days later that the Merlin had sent a formal request to the Summer Court to have Antonio extradited and killed as a response to his involvement in a Wild hunt appearing in New York earlier. Some kind of Wereguild. Had that had anything to do with what I had said back in Edinburg? As far as I could make out that was not going to happen though. I did not know all the details but it had something to do with who his father was.

Isabella came home with very good news, we would no longer have to fear anything from her family again. Her grandmother had been rendered powerless, and Isabella had regained all her own assets, but also taken control of all of those from her family. I asked her if I wanted to know how that had happened, but she rather clearly told me I did not. Which, kind off was exactly what I suspected. The things we overlook for love. I would love her just as much even if we had no money, but I must say her wealth was very nice. I could definitively get used to that.

Imogen had after her talk with Maria decided to move away from Boston. She wanted nothing to do with the intrigues of faerie courts, and she was not very fond of the White council either. I don't blame her, she had gotten a rough deal. She planned on moving to the islands of Abaranth in Nevernever, and wanted to be left alone.

Then a few days later, another Earthquake struck Boston, and from the deep chasm came a huge fiery being, just like I had seen in my vision. Oh crap, Balrogs were real, and it was much much bigger than I could have imagined. It was followed by an army of svartalfer, goblins and other similar beings. That army was under attack by an army of dwarves who tried to stop them from coming into our world. Everyone in the path fled in sheer panic, and it did not take long before the National guard and the army came to try and stop the invaders. All they could do was slowing them down. I called in to the council. Hopefully they could help. If nothing else they might be able to help with evacuating the inhabitants.

The councils came through with a bunch of wardens and other wizards. I hooked up with Eibon, and tried using my divination magic to scry so we could predict the movements of the army. We got some unexpected help as Ymer came with his army of trolls as well as the three ancient Faerie Queens that were around in Boston, and then Antonio came with an army of Shidhe. I later learned he had somehow been elevated to a Summer Prince and was now head of his own kingdom. Then Imogen arrived with the wizards that had been part of the dream-experiments. They had taken on inhuman appearances and really seemed to enjoy the fight. I saw Joshua, Megan, Austin and Hannah helping out, as well as some members of the motorcycle gang that Karl was with helping out. We got help from other unexpected sources as well, like Harry Dresden, the wizard who now was the Winter knight, as well as Vadderung, the chief of Monoc Securities. He brought with him undead vikings, and real valkyries. Isabella helped out by reanimating the fallen soldiers of our army, so they could continue fighting. There were many others that helped but I did not know who they were.

We all knew that if we failed, then it would be the end of our civilization as we knew it. As if to underscore that, there was a sudden solar eclipse. As if the Balrog changed the very reality around itself. Our combined efforts slowed down the goblin army, but we could not do much about the Balrog, whom Volund claimed was named Surtr. How would he know that? Then Dragons arrived and Star in her new role as the new Brass Lady came. She changed into the role of a huge woman made of fire, wielding the sword she had got from Ymer's father ealier, and then started attacking the Balrog. Fire fighting fire. She somehow had much more effect than we had managed to get earlier.

This turned the combat, and our forces could now start defeating the goblins. We all focused now on giving her whatever edge we could. I called upon the Goddess, and drew power from the aspects of Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali and Inanna and put all my divination magic into finding some weak spot that she could use. Antonio and Imogen used their magic as well. After a long drawn-out fight that went back and forth, Star managed to finally kill the Balrog with a final attack where she gave it all. As she did that, the solar eclipse vanished, and we could now finally defeat the goblins and svartalfer. Isabella ended her spell, so the reanimated soldiers fell down again dead. Hopefully no one from the council would notice, or if they did, they would let it slide. Necromancy was against the laws of magic, but without it many more would have died.

Boston was in ruins, and thousands lay dead, among them many wardens. We had won, but at what cost? Could life ever go back to normal, for all those that had lived in the city? Now after the battle, more of the US military came into town. The city was placed under martial law. All the supernatural beings that had come, quietly moved out before the army came. Their presence would only have made things much worse. If I thought the Merlin had been an arrogant asshole, that was nothing compared to president Trump. I could not even stand the thought of that man, or anything he stood for.

My friends went separate ways after the war. Star went back and started rebuilding the Brass Court. That was something that did concern me, as I feared she would use that power to do something stupid, so I would have to keep an eye on what was going on. Earlier there at least was someone that could put her in her place if she screwed up too bad. She had now risen to the rank of Brass Queen, and she made Imogen her lady. That was something that Imogen really disliked, and I could definitively see her try to break free. Not sure what was most frightening, having Star or Imogen as the queen of a faerie court that actually had any real power. Even though they were my friends, I hoped they did not succeed. If they had power, it was like giving a child a loaded gun.

Antonio was now the Prince of Oak. Obviously he was no longer a changeling, but rather a full Shidhe, that meant I had to be a bit more careful in dealing with him. Hopefully, he did not think I had wronged him. He married his girlfriend Catherine. I don't know if she knew what she was getting into, but I think she did as she was a wizard, if nothing else she would be able to handle the strange new surroundings that the Summer court consisted of. I heard rumours that she had been turned into a shidhe. I was very happy for them though. It turned out later that Antonio had not quite given up his old habits, and actually kept his own harem of women. Fidelity was not his strong suite. He arranged for his sister to get a job as a hotel manager at Barbados, at a hotel he had inherited. I think she liked that, and she deserved some happiness after all she had gone through. Besides, it might come in handy to know the manager of a hotel if I should ever be there.

I am not entirely sure where Mirou went, but he set himself up to be a broker of information and services to any who would pay. Doing anything to get rich, and gain influence. I think the old Isabella from before she met me would have liked that very much, and would have used him for anything she could. Best to keep track of him though if the need for any such information came up, and especially to take steps if he were looking for some things that was best left a secret. I had to hand it to him, he did have lots of contacts, and I trusted him enough to know that if he was bought he would stay bought, and do whatever it took to protect what he considered to be his assets. He was predictable in his greed.

Karl and Peggy moved to Karl's home in Sweden with their children until things calmed down and things went back to what passed for normal. They lived happily afterwards, and were perfectly suited to each other. I stayed in contact as much as I could. I really liked them, and they were the only ones in the group that was not actively working on making things more complicated.

Volund said he would help the old Norse gods to rebuild the world, and help them restore power. He said this had been Ragnarok, or at least as close as we would come before the world would end. That did nothing to comfort me. In fact I feared that things would get even worse if old gods would make a comeback. Yes, that was perhaps hypocritical of me, as I had my own beliefs and ways of worship, but there was something cold and scary about him.

For my part, I moved to Italy with Isabella. She wanted to get back to Florence, and it really is a lovely city. There was nothing else tying me to Boston, and America under Trump's rule had simply got unbearable for those that weren't rabid right-wing rednecks. I had drawn so much power through the battle against the Balrog, that I was exhausted, and suffered from headaches, double-vision and sleep-problems for the next few weeks. Nightmares were of course frequent.

Once in Italy I married Isabella, after we had settled in properly and we both had recovered. We had a very nice wedding. Our friends were of course invited. White might not be my colour, but I made a very lovely bride if I say so myself, as did Isabella. My wedding dress was fabulous, and the sex on our wedding night was mindblowingly good. Now I truly belonged to her; mind, body and soul. It was pure bliss. After the wedding, I had in private as a bit of a joke, but also as a very symbolic representation given her a leash that fit to the slave-collar I wore as a fashion statement. Even though we had been together for a couple for years, now it really was forever. Isabella perfectly understood the meaning I put on it.

One thing we did later was that me and Isabella went back to the ruined castle in Romania, and recovered all the artwork that was still there. We took lots of precautions on how to transport and preserve the art in the best way. Isabella had contacts that helped us with their expertise. We kept the most beautiful pieces, but discretely sold off the others to various different museums. Would have been a pity to see them be destroyed. Some pieces of course was so badly damaged by weather and fire, that there was no way of saving them. Such loss for the world. I also made sure we got all the diaries that the vampiress that used to live there had written. They made for some interesting reading, but it was mostly to protect ourselves. If anything in them pointed to Isabella in any previous body, then someone jut might be able to put two and two together and that would be dangerous.

I started to learn Italian, with good help from Isabella, and it did not take long before I was fluent in it. Sure I had a bit of an accent, but no one cared, and it was not my intention to be able to pass as a native speaker. Once I had the language skills, I started with theatre again.

We talked about later on getting children. I would very much want to become a mother. Not sure if artificial insemination would work though, given that sensitive technical things often broke down near wizards. I would of course not have anything against the natural way of getting pregnant if I found the right partner, but that would cause too many other problems. Not the least that Isabella would probably never allow it.
 

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