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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

From Stone to Glass (original Urban/Historic Fantasy)

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Alyrium Denryle
PostPosted: 2011-07-01 04:16am 

Minister of Sin


Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Posts: 20528
Location: Steers and queers indeed...
The following script is found in a hand-written diary, its text in a flowing script and bound in supple leather.

To whom it may concern,

I think that perhaps I should preface this. I am at this point, over three hundred years old. Eight hundred if you consider a certain time-jump. That is something I also believe I should explain. I am a wizard, sorcerer, whichever term you prefer to use. My name is Augustinus de Medici, yes you read that correctly. That de Medici. I was born in the year 1470, within the city of Florence, a lesser cousin of Lorenzo de Medici. When the Medici were exiled from Florence in 1497 and thus lost much of the influence we held, there was an inquisition going on, and without the help of the papacy I would eventually have been hunted down and burned. So, I came into the service of Pope Alexander Sextus through his son Cesare Borgia. What I did while in his service is not a subject I will address in this volume, save the terminal event which caused my current spatio-temporal location. For that information, I shall refer you to the second volume of this manuscript.

It was the year 1506, and I stood among four or five fresh corpses on the northwest tower of Medina’s city walls. Two years before, a friend and man to whom I owed a not insignificant debt was imprisoned in the castle nearby. I speak of course, of Cesare Borgia. I had spent the previous two years attempting to no avail to gather what few allies he had left, but the miserable wretches would not risk the wrath of Pope Julius, a longtime enemy of the entire Borgia family to rescue him, so the daunting task fell to me. A city wall is easy enough for a sorcerer to breach, there are few overlapping defenses. Towers are sparse, so it is easy to dispatch in silence the men who patrol them at night. A castle—particularly the Castle of la Mota was a different matter entirely. Hundreds of professional soldiers were garrisoned within, and if that were not sufficient, there were two curtain walls, with the massive square keep which contained the lodgings for distinguished guests. An tenfold greater than the garrison could not take it without months of starvation, even with cannon. Circumspection then, was the game I must play.

I do believe something by way of physical description is in order at this juncture. I was, at that time, a man of medium height with a strong but not large build, wearing shoulder length light brown hair, with features which could be described as rakish, a scar also ran from my left eyebrow down my cheek. At the time, I was dressed for combat, and this is imperative when one is single handedly assaulting a fortification. I wore a barbute helm with an aventail of mail, a breast-plate, vambraces and a pair of greaves. Over that, was a black cloak, the hood rising up over the helmet. Under the gambeson was a jerkin with the puffed and slashed sleeves popular at the time, and a wore a set of hose with leather boots. At my belt was a longsword, and in my right hand, a poleaxe with runes carved across the haft and into the blade. A long dagger hung on my right side as well.

I took a deep breath, and slowly exhaled. Then took a piece of chalk from my coin pouch and scrawled a pentagram, bound by a circle in the stone of the tower, drawing my dagger. I drew it across a well scarred area of my palm, letting the blood drip into the center of the circle so that it would be empowered. I then rose my palm, and allowed my voice to slip into a deep basso thrum that projected across the city, for works like these, a normal voice was not an option.

“Ego voco virtus spiritus aqua et putaretur voluntatem meam.” As I spoke these words, the backspike of my poleaxe touched the parts of the circle corresponding to air, water, and spirit, then to my will represented by the circumscription. They glowed to life. The power was invoked, it just needed command.

“Suspendisse ut vapor, et mente confusa et dissimulare me coram sensibus.” I raised my poleaxe toward the castle and leveled it, then swung it slowly in a thirty degree horizontal arc. As I did so, a mist began to rise up from the ground. From my position to the inner castle courtyard was soon covered in a dense fog which would not only conceal me, but confuse the garrison into perhaps fighting each other. The alarm bell began to toll, waking the sleeping garrison from their beds, the price I must pay for concealment and confusion would be more soldiers.

I traced a pattern in the air, and then leapt from the tower, magic slowing the fall such that the impact was nigh-silent and nearly painless. Then I crept through the city streets, hunched and with long, silent strides. I soon ran across a guard, his half plate clad form guarding the only approach to the castle gate, his eyes straining against the fog. He knew something was going on, but could not determine where he should bring his halberd to bear. I kept myself to the areas where the fog was thickest and brought myself up behind him. I drew my dagger and clapped my hand across his mouth. Before he could react, I drove the dagger down through his shoulder diagonally into his chest, withdrew it, and cut his throat from ear to ear and almost to his spine. Blood welled briefly from both wounds as his body jerked uncontrollably. With his lungs punctured and his throat cut, it was not even possible for him to scream, and as he let out a gurgling rasp, I gently lowered him to the ground so that there was not even the clanking of his armor to give my position away to his fellows. I did not even bother hiding the body, the guard was already on alert, and there would be no purpose in it. I continued through the dark and desolate streets until I reached the castle barbican.

The outer gate was shut, and the drawbridge was raised off the ground and snug against the portcullis. There was no way to simply slip through, and the postern gate would be similarly defended. Men ran along the walls, some carrying crossbows, others halberds. The Spanish were beginning to transition over to the use of the arquebus, but this was a slow process and the crossbow was still widely in use. As I stood shrouded in an eldritch haze of my own creation, I noticed a place I could breach the first wall. The tower guards were all looking out toward the city, as were the men along the walls, those not running confusedly around. Where the wall met the tower would be the perfect place.

The outer wall was protected by a deep dry ditch, the wall, rose from this at a relatively shallow angle, and then angled upward from there, with the being perpendicular to the ground only for some fifteen feet before the wall walk, it was a good design against artillery and scaling, as the earth-backed wall could not be completely demolished and both provided good defense against scaling even when it was breached, and screened the much higher inner wall from cannon fire. That feature, however, made it relatively easy for me to circumvent.

I muttered a set of words in latin, while drawing another symbol in the air with my hand, then simply walked across the chasm. Not down and up, simply across on thin air, then gripped the wall and with another word scaled the fifteen feet to the wall walk. The guards noticed me then. I heard shouts from the inner wall, and arrows began to slam into the wall around me. I lifted my hand in warding gesture toward them, and traced a simple cross into the air, describing a plane, then a slammed the force of my willpower into it, creating a solid barrier with which arrows would harmlessly collide. Then I struck the backspike of my poleaxe into the floor and extended it sharply in a line down the length of the wall. Men were running in my direction now, even as others were confused and blundering about. That is the problem with my mist spell, once I was seen, I was seen. While distracting or confusing men was easier, and those who did not see me would be panicked and unable to coordinate, those who did spot me still knew that they had to do. As the haft extended, describing the line of effect the spell would take, I channeled my power through it and called out another word in a deep thrum of command

“Fulmino!”

Electricity crackled around me, and the acrid stench of ozone filled the air as the power of my spell took shape in the form of a stroke of lightning which traveled down the path I described and enveloped the soldiers dashing toward me in a torrent of death. Thunder echoed my own battle roar, causing a great stir in the town below as citizens woke from their beds and ignited candles and torches. The men, their metal armor now doing them a great disservice were thrown bodily back along the wall, their bodies wracked with seizures, even as their flesh burned. The smell of ozone faded, only to be replaced by a sickly sweet smell not unlike roasted pork.

I then heard the clash of armor behind me, and someone shouting something in Spanish. It has been three hundred years for me, I am not entirely sure anymore what he said. Spanish was not a language I had significant command over at the time. It was either “Hijo de puta!” or “pendejo!”. I turned, and there was a Spaniard in a breastplate and marion helmet about to bring a halberd down on my head. I parried with the queue, allowing his momentum to carry him forward and barring his use of the blade by pivoting my own weapon around it so that the shaft was at a forty five degree angle to the ground. As I stepped forward, I drove the spiked point at the head of the axe through his chin and into his brain.

At that point, I felt my shielding spell begin to weaken, so jumped from the wall into the courtyard below and into the fog-bank. I then proceeded to run forward toward the inner wall as fast as my legs could convey me thither. The wall was too high to use my climbing spell, it would not maintain itself for long enough. I had no choice but to break down the gate. This was a relatively simple matter, requiring nothing but the proper application of force. And with my concealment spell in place, there was little enough opposition until I used similar methods to gain entrance into the keep and made my way to the prison. My mist suddenly dissipated, not because I had to compromise in its design, but because the link forged through my blood to my own wells of power used to sustain it was cut. This meant that either someone had found and disrupted my circle of power, or there was another sorcerer present. More to the point, a priest. This was Spain, Dominicans were everywhere back then, though prayers were only tangibly answered for the rare few: those with sorcerous talents.

It is important to understand that one is not trained to become a sorcerer. A person is either born one, or is not. Sorcerers are trained in how to be a sorcerer. Sorcery is an act of will, and that will requires some sort of framework both to shape the energies involved and to insulate the sorcerer’s mind from his own workings. A hermetic such as myself is trained to do this through geometry, symbols both written and spoken, and analogy to elemental forces.

A priest has no such training, and in fact does not even admit to their nature. Their magic is worked through faith. Their minds are shielded very well because they do not believe they are doing anything, but their spells are inefficient, and the application is limited by that same false conception. It makes them very good at exorcisms, banishment, healing, and unfortunately for me: counter-magic. This is not to say that they are not capable of striking down the enemies of Christendom. They most certainly are, but the effect of such a prayer would be more indirect. Unlucky things would happen to a person so affected. Building materials would fall on them; they would contract syphilis, things of that kind.

As I rounded that corner, I saw a Dominican friar cross himself and then bless two soldiers with holy water. I reached out with my magic and perceived him. As I suspected, they selected one “blessed by God” to serve in an important prison fortress. He then unhooked a warhammer from his belt and strode forward in challenge, speaking something in Spanish I found incomprehensible. One of the blessed soldiers carried a halberd, the other which seemed to be a higher rank, carried a sword and one of the round shields Spaniards seemed fond of. I would have a hard time affecting any of them with spells, given their protection, but there were ways around that problem. I set my polearm in a high ward, both arms above my head, with the buttspike pointing toward all three of my opponents and waited for them to engage.

They took the cautious option, the swordsman advancing first, supported by the halberdier’s superior reach, who held his halberd over his fellow’s head. It prevented me from being able to try close in take-downs without risking a blow to the face. They advanced slowly, and then the swordsman raised his shield to block against a vertical strike and lunged. I stepped back, turned his blade aside and then struck diagonally, hooking into the leather straps that held his shield in place and wrenched him forward off balance, and away from the protection of the halberd. With a passing step, I disengaged my own hook and with a repositioning of my own weapon in my hands came in close, driving the point into his left eye.
At this point, things got interesting. The halberdier had recovered from my earlier maneuver, and I was forced to quickly retreat as he brought the rather formidable business end of his halberd down toward my head. I managed to get out of the way, feeling the spear-tipped point glance off my own breastplate. At the same time, the priest came at me with a somewhat wild swing of his hammer which I managed to raise the center of my haft in time to parry, and ward off the next attack from the halberd. I was on the defensive like this for some time, never able to complete an attack without having to defend myself in turn. Then, they made a mistake. I had received another vertical strike on the croix while the priest tried to get behind me. I used the queue then to trip him, using the momentum from the halberd to assist in sweeping his legs out from under him, and swing the same queue into the side of the halberdier’s head as I stepped forward. The priest sprawled to the floor, while the soldier was slammed into the wall and disoriented. Given that opportunity, I did not hesitate, I pivoted and used the same momentum I had gained before to swing the axe around and bury it in the soldier’s neck. Blood welled around the blade, and when I removed it, sprayed the opposite wall and the side of my face. The warm liquid dripped down over my cheek as I moved to dispatch the priest, who was already getting up. The superior reach offered by a poleaxe made opening his abdomen relatively easy, and I left him there to die from blood loss as I ascended the stairs.

I met no opposition on the stairs, thankfully; spiral stairs were designed to bar the right hand of attacking enemies, and only encountered disorganized resistance on the prison floor. It appears that while my spell was no longer in effect, the confusion it caused had a certain amount of momentum. Or at least, the garrison could not organize ex nihlo, and they still knew not who or where I was, nor why I was here. Communications in the sixteenth century were poor, at best. I dispatched the guard at the door to Cesare’s rooms. Then Cesare said something in Spanish, and I could only sigh. It sounded like a question though.

“I do not speak Spanish my lord.” I said in Italian

“Augustinus?” he replied back, also in Italian

“Who else could have gotten though the defenses without an army?”

“Your point is well recieved.”

I searched the guard for the keys, found them, and with the clack of metallic gears, opened the door and handed him the guard’s sword.

“If we could make good our escape my lord? I suspect getting out will be much more difficult than getting in.”

“Yes, I believe so.”

With that, we went back the way I came in. I noted silently, and with no small amount o worry that there was no corpse where the disabled cleric had been. The way was much easier than I thought it would be, we managed to take a few soldiers from behind on the way down the staircase and make it to the outer wall using a shielding spell to protect us from missiles. It is while I was maintaining the spell that would see him across the moat that things went horrifyingly wrong. Cesare had just made it across and had disappeared into the shadows on the other side when I heard someone chanting in latin.

“Sanctus Dominici, da mihi potestatem iacebamus inimicos Deo facit.”

My shielding spell shattered, and I glanced up to see the priest, apparently healed of his injuries enough to stand assisted by two soliders, crossing himself. The crossbowmen had reloaded and leveling their weapons for another volley. There was only one thing I could do, the priest would counter anything that extended beyond myself, so I threw my power into what was perhaps the last spell I would ever work, attempting to slow time around me so that I could get out of their line of sight before they could aim and squeeze the triggers. Then, the priest called out again.

“Sanctus Dominici, hoc immundum pelle sanctificata ante a facie iniquitatis!”

I felt my spell unravel and turn in on me in the worst possible way, instead of slowing, time sped up, and I felt my body stretch. Suddenly, the world became light, and I found myself still clad in armor and carrying my poleaxe in an alleyway. Looking out, I saw a city constructed of glass and iron. Strange iron beasts sped through black streets. Lights which made no smoke and had no fire glittered everywhere, and throngs of strangely dressed people speaking something that sounded like a bastardized English roamed aimlessly through the streets. I knew immediately what had happened. I had traveled through space and time, my ability to sense the lingering strands of the spell that brought me here allowed me to determine that much. The question was where…and when.
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RazorSmile
PostPosted: 2011-07-02 11:01pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2011-06-17 09:36pm
Posts: 13
Very interesting thus far. Liking the straightforward magic system and the dry matter-of-fact narration. He's stranded in the present day, I take it. Will he be attempting to find his way back or will he decide to make his way in this new time? I assume there will be modern-day sorcerers but are there non-human supernaturals as well?
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SCRawl
PostPosted: 2011-07-03 01:56pm 

Has a bad feeling about this.


Joined: 2002-12-24 04:11pm
Posts: 3487
Location: Burlington, Canada
I'm liking it. It seems Dresden-verse-like -- is it?
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Alyrium Denryle
PostPosted: 2011-07-04 02:28am 

Minister of Sin


Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Posts: 20528
Location: Steers and queers indeed...
RazorSmile wrote:
Very interesting thus far. Liking the straightforward magic system and the dry matter-of-fact narration. He's stranded in the present day, I take it. Will he be attempting to find his way back or will he decide to make his way in this new time? I assume there will be modern-day sorcerers but are there non-human supernaturals as well?


He can't go back. Think about what going back would do to the timestream.

And yes. There are non-human supernaturals.

Quote:
It seems Dresden-verse-like -- is it?


Kind of. There are some (in fact, many) very distinct differences. More detail as I go. Though I will say that the most distinct difference will be catholic church, and its relationship with the supernatural. From that, many other differences derive.
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Alyrium Denryle
PostPosted: 2011-07-07 10:58pm 

Minister of Sin


Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Posts: 20528
Location: Steers and queers indeed...
It was once said that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. This might be true for someone who is not a sorcerer, but for one of the gifted, it was plainly evident that these steel beasts were nothing but very advanced machines. I needed to know where I was, and when, but looking out at the street, no one was armed, and no one dressed like me. In Florence, everyone was armed. Streetfighting and banditry were endemic, so everyone at least had a small dagger. Here, no one was armed, and may react poorly to a person bearing arms. However, I was unwilling to disarm myself. So, I had to use an illusion. Illusions are not spells I am skilled with, so there were limits to what I could do then that I have since overcome somewhat. However, it is better to show and not tell such things.

Thankfully, projecting illusions was easier in terms of raw energy than mind magic, as I only had to change the light that reflected off of me to everyone’s eyes, which was far easier than directly affecting thoughts. It was just more complicated.

As a brief aside, this actually brings me to a general discussion on magic again. You may be asking why I don’t just go back in time to where I was before. Doing that is impossible. Once a sorcerer moves forward in time, they are out of play, like killing the queen in chess. Once the queen is gone, it can have no more impact on the board, but if a pawn reaches the other side, the queen can return, but cannot undo what was done in its absence. Paradoxes such as changing history which has already occurred cannot occur, the universe will literally not permit it. Extremely powerful sorcerers can view the future, but any attempt to change the future will not function, up until the point where they have viewed it. Instead, all they end up doing is creating the conditions by which that future will come to pass, in much the same way as the tragedies of Sophocles.
I watched people pass by in the alley for a while, and absorbed the local fashions. I had to work within certain limits, I could not change the form of the clothing I wore, only the appearance. So, I could not go from a long sleeve shirt to a short sleeved one, and I had to do something with the armor and helmet. I concentrated, holding the image in my head of what I wanted everything to look like, then I muttered the requisite commands:

“Precipio viribus lumen et auras, forma dissimulant.”

With that, the energies took shape. I looked down and saw that my boots had transformed to laced shoes, my greaves into some smooth blue padded material, the same with my vambraces. My helmet was a helmet of the same kind, and I wore a jacket of a rough blue material, with a pack on my back where the cloak should have been. The weapons, while still on my person, had vanished as they did not have to move as closely with my own motion, they were easier to hide. Now, I just needed a cover story. I knew that sometimes a blow to the head would cause memory loss, so that would be how to explain why I did not remember my location or the year.

I walked out of the alley and stopped a young women walking along the street, politely. Though, I am translating here for the benefit of the reader. Late middle English is however, similar enough to modern English that it can be understood.

“Dear young lady, pray assist me?” I said, my Italian accent hopefully making up for any strangeness of my address. I had no idea how much the language had changed. She giggled a little bit, then stopped.

“What can I do for you?”

“I apologize for my forwardness, but I took a poor fall, and cannot for the love of God remember what year it is, or where I am. If you were to tell me, it may loosen my memory”

She looked at me confused for a second, then her confusion turned to concern as she translated what I had said inside her head.

“Do you remember where you are from?” she asked “ and your name?”

“Augustinus, from Florence. I am also looking for the library, I just cannot remember certain details”. That seemed to satisfy her.

“You are in New York City, the year is two thousand and two.” I managed to hide my shock. I had traveled almost five hundred years.

“Thank you.” I said

“Would you like me to call you an ambulance, you might have brain damage?” she asked. It took me a moment to translate the word with its context, but I managed to gather it was a form of conveyance to see a physician.

“No, no. It is coming back to me. I should be fine.” I said with a sheepish smile.

“Would you perchance be able to direct me to a library?” a city this large and five hundred years in the future probably had one. They were spreading in Europe when I apparently left. She was kind enough to oblige me

“Thank you again, you have been most charitable.” I said bowing courtly, offering her my hand. She hesitantly took it, and I lifted it up and kissed it chastely. She blushed.
I managed to follow her directions, figuring out that the streets were laid out on a grid, with the numbers corresponding to the position of a building on the grid. This made finding my way relatively easy. When I entered the library, I was staggered by the sheer number of books,. There had to be hundreds of thousands of volumes, more than I could conceive. In my time the printing press had only recently been invented, and most books were still hand copied and very expensive. Thankfully, there was a well-marked reference section, which contained maps inside books appropriately enough called Atlases, including an atlas of the Cosmos. This, I opened first, noting immediately that Ptolemy had been wrong. That the earth was spherical was nothing new however.

“Questo per quanto riguarda quelle sfere di cristallo” I muttered to myself, filing the information away, and moving to a world atlas.

Once again, I was taken aback. There were several new continents, and the American continent was much larger than I had known. The city I was in, New York, appeared on the north eastern coastline. I also noticed that all of the kingdoms, fiefdoms and city states had united into small empires. I was apparently in a place called The United States of America, which spanned half a continent, and was broken up into smaller (but still massive) dukedoms. Well, I later learned that they were hierarchical republics, but I was only looking at the maps, and had nothing else to compare something like this with.

I could spend my entire life and still not assimilate all of the knowledge contained in just this library, and there was probably more than one, just in this city. There were more titles in this library than had existed in all of Europe at the time of my birth. To me, this was both terrifying and glorious. My family had succeeded in revitalizing the world, certainly not alone, but I could only conclude, that what Giovanni and Cosimo had started had been completed. We succeeded in bringing the classical pursuit of knowledge back from its decline after the fall of Rome. I must confess, my heart swelled with pride. Still, in order to function, I had years of reading to do, and before I could do that, I required a livelihood, and a place to live.

I will spare the reader the unpleasant details of being homeless in New York. In effect, I lived under a bridge in central park, bathing and doing my laundry in a pond for some four months as I taught myself the basic history, geography, and governmental functions I would need to establish myself. This was done though judicious use of bribes. I found out that were I to go to a proper money-changer, the gold florins I had with me were not worth much. However, government clerks did not know that, and the sparkle of a freshly minted gold coin was generally sufficient to reach an understanding. If they ever discovered the relatively paltry value of the coins, they would not press the matter, as they would both be prosecuted, and humiliated. Using this method, I was able to in effect forge a complete identity for myself, sufficient to take something called a “Graduation Equivalency Diploma” examination, and achieve the credentials necessary to enter University, and basic employment.

I must confess, I was somewhat disappointed by the exam, my English skills by that point were sufficient, as was my knowledge of mathematics. History and the sciences were the only things I needed to study for, and that was only cursory. When someone who’s childhood was five centuries ago can take an examination by studying for a few months in a public library and achieve the level of knowledge expected of someone with thirteen years of education, there is a problem.

By the time I had been in the New World for eight years, I had managed to earn a doctoral degree in—amusingly enough—Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I was simply powerless to resist the irony in it, and having been there does present advantages. For my dissertation, I was very tempted to cite my own personal observations, but could not do so for the obvious reasons. For other undergraduate requirements I focused my studies on modern history, philosophy, and mathematics. These were never enough to fulfill any other degree requirements, but enough to give me a good familiarity those areas, particularly modern socio-political history.

I shall spare the reader the details of those years as well, as much of it was the tedium of studying and living in a dormitory or small apartment. For me, given how much about the modern world I had to study while also writing about the area I was best suited to being an expert, it was not unlike living as a monk inside of a whore house. I will leave you with that thought to ponder before getting to the real point of these memoirs.

I took an adjunct position at New York University, where I taught classes on medieval and renaissance warfare. I also re-engaged myself with the supernatural community, which is where our little story really begins.
The truth of the matter was, I did not know if supernatural beings had survived the inquisition. Or rather, inquisitions. The inquisition was not just one thing. First, there were the medieval inquisitions, which were smaller more decentralized affairs. The Spanish inquisition began in 1478 and is the most well known, the Portuguese and Roman inquisitions started in the sixteenth century. Their primary goal was to stamp out heresy and witchcraft, as well as crypto-judiasm and crypto-islamicism. However that was the public face. They also went about the destruction of all “supernatural evils”, which generally included everything that was not strictly human. More than sorcerers exist, you see. Fey creatures, merfolk, selkies, dragons, griffins elves, vampires, werewolves; they all do in fact exist, and the Dominican order was tasked with bringing them all to heel. Officially, the inquisitions ended in the nineteenth century. At this point, because I was merely trying to catch up and earn a living, I did not know how successful they had been, they were certainly effective when I was alive. The protection of the pope is what kept me from being hunted down, subdued by Dominicans and burned alive, others were not as lucky.

Prior to the thirteenth century, these creatures, as well as sorcerers were a fact of life for the common people, by the time I was born, people in cities might not believe in them. Part of that was reduced numbers, part of that was a change in their survival strategies. Many a vampire lived as a minor noble or merchant prince in Italy, they were just difficult to find. Vlad Tepes was one of the few in recent memory to openly rule over his lands as a vampire. He may have “died” in 1476, but he managed to hold one of his castles, even in death, until he was finally re-killed by Harker and the sorcerer Van Helsing in 1888. Or so I gather.
The problem is that vampires can never be fully eradicated. There were three ways to become one. The first was to be drained to near-death and then fed the blood of a vampire, the second was to be cursed either by spell, or by your own horrific actions to vampirism. You were also doomed if you were the seventh son of a seventh son. There is always someone slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent people, or families who have many children, so there will always be a few powerful first generation vampires who are resistant to the usual methods of destroying them. They tend to multiply in cycles, where the number rises until someone with the power and knowledge to do something notices, then that lineage gets wiped out, only to have another lineage spawn somewhere else, or the old vampire who survived a previous purge recovers. I do not want to bog you down with an exhaustive list, I will mention more as it becomes pertinent, but I thought that would help illustrate the problem.

I was watching the local news after I finished an morning of grading, and the anchor, one Sylvia Thompson began discussing a wave of disappearances: six teenage girls, all red-heads, all taken on their way home from catholic high schools. This peaked my interest. Catholic schoolgirls with red hair, that was specific even for a serial killer. There was only one thing that could be otherwise. Demon summoning. I realize that statement may come off as overly forward, as if I have some sort of strange a priori knowledge, but it does make a logical sense.

Souls and favors are the currency of demons. They trade favors in exchange for souls, favors for favors, but of course never souls for souls, unless one demon wants a particular soul for something. All other things being equal, the rarer the soul, the more it is worth. Red-headed catholic schoolgirls were a dime a dozen, given the number of Irish, however if they were virgins, the value of a soul increases. The stupid summoners bargained with their own soul, while the intelligent ones had read one of the various incarnations of Faust, and bargained with the souls of others. Usually the foolish ones end up destroying themselves. The astute ones can wreak untold havoc. This of course assumed that I was not dealing with a serial killer with unusually particular tastes. Either way the prospect of a demon rampaging through a city this size, or a sorcerer bargaining for power with six rare souls was not a prospect I was overly pleased with. As in all things, there were other uses for souls, but this was the most likely.

I had a nice little villa built just outside the city on a decently sized plot of land. Brick walls, a nice tile roof. The kitchen, bedroom, libraries, and study were along the outside while the primary living area was an atrium just inside the gate. I had everything decorated with busts, base relief, tapestries and frescos. It felt like home, and as I got up off my chair and walked across the atrium I pulled one of the torches set into the wall, yes, I use torches and candles for lighting. The torch was a lever that activated the mechanism of the secret door leading down to my basement, a basement not on the official plans filed with the city. Again, bribery is my most valued friend.

I descended into the darkness, waving my hand and lighting the torches, illuminating the nightmare that was my basement. It consisted of a complex the size of the rest of my home. In the center was the laboratory. Shelves of strange ingredients lined the walls. Cages with newts, toads, ravens, rats and other creatures used in the construction of spells and potions were on one wall. Another wall contained some of the more exotic materials like uranium, congealed sunlight, congealed scents or concepts. The other contained herbs and other plant components. The fourth of course, contained gems and precious metals. The center contained my work table, and on the north wall was a pentagram bound in a circle carved into the floor and inlaid with silver.
This was not the room I needed. I needed the armory. That was the east room. The west room was the torture room. You never know when you might need one. I had a rack, thumb screws, a wheel, chains to hang people with, scourges. It was all very barbaric, but thus far I had never had occasion to use it, but, it gave me a certain peace of mind to know I had it. The armory had racks of polearms, stands for various sorts of armor, and a table with swords, maces, crossbows, axes and hammers. It was all very retro-grade.

I put my chin in my hand, rubbing it contemplatively and glowered at my weapons. I needed something I could hide, it would do me no good wandering around New York in a full harness trying to get information from grieving families with a police presence. I would only end up in lockup with some very uncomfortable questions to answer.

I strode over to one of the armor racks, and pulled off a gambeson, slipping my arms through the sleeves and then trying the front. Then I pulled a long coat off a rack and slipped it on. It was made of leather and had small metal plates riveted to the back. A brigadine duster would have to do, especially with the spells I had engraved in the plates. While not as strong as my plate armors, it should stop bullets, shrapnel and ward off some of the weaker attack spells. A slung a belt around my waste under the coat. It had a variety of loops and slings that would allow it to carry various weapons. I slipped my old long dagger into a loop on the right hand side, and a warhammer into the loop on the left, and made sure that the pouch containing chalk and a few other simple implements were in place. Then I opened a file cabinet, and searched through the neatly organized folders. I found the file I wanted and opened it, pulling out a wallet and checked to make sure they were the ones I wanted: a forged set of detective’s credentials. Badge, identification, they would not hold up to scrutiny by the police, no amount of bribery would get one’s name into the computer system and payroll, but it would be enough to fool a civilian. One of the other benefits of being a sorcerer is that given the raw materials, blank ID card, a lump of the raw material for the badge, I could make some convincing copies. I put the wallet into a pocket of the long coat.

There were several pieces of information I would need. Whether the girls were virgins, how he the summoner knew, and how he took them. That would help me determine who he was. The problem with using someone else’s soul in a summoning is that there had to be an element of free choice involved. The soul was in the keeping of its owner, you could not make bargains with others unless they chose to consign their souls. Of course, this could be done indirectly. Being responsible for your actions means even the consequences you cannot see, and even unintended consequences can doom the soul. The choice to go with the summoner could be sufficient under the right conditions, such as breaking a sworn oath, or with the intent to murder the summoner. In any case, the choice must be free, no compulsion, magical or otherwise could be used. So, you could not actually kidnap them by force, but you could trick them.

I climbed the stairs into my atrium, and approached a large mirror. I had figured out how to drive, I had a car, but driving around in New York was a somewhat trying endeavor, so I did not do it often. Instead, I used mirrors. If a mirror was large enough for you to step through, and you knew where another mirror of appropriate size was, you could use them as portals to travel long distances. This was easier said than done in the sixteenth century because mirrors were expensive and usually small. Now though, large mirrors were everywhere and I had made it a point in my first year to find appropriate mirrors in strategic locations throughout the city.

I muttered a few words in latin, thought of a mirror in an office building near the school where the most recent girl, Jennifer Lewis, had been a student, and stepped though the mirror. I waited inside the mirror on the receiving end, looking out and waiting to make sure no one was in the bathroom, then I stepped out, standing on the countertop of a row of sinks, the ceiling just a few inches above my head, and hopped down.

I exited the office building with only a few odd looks. I was after all a person exiting a building that no one had seen enter. I walked the few blocks to the school. New York was a very interesting place. It was an old city as far as they went in the United States, so the architecture was an interesting fusion of new and old, especially the older catholic churches, built in the style of gothic cathedrals. This school had a set of wrought iron gates with a ten-foot stone wall, a pleasant grass courtyard with a series out outbuildings lining the courtyard. The church was in the rear of the courtyard, built in the style of one of the smaller basilicas that were common in every town in Europe when I was a child. It even had gargoyles.

A plaque on the gate indicated that it was run by Franciscans, so conservative but not insane. The Dominicans had shifted roles somewhat in five hundred years, at least their public face was kinder and gentler than they had once been, but one never knew. I would much rather deal with Franciscans. As I walked around, looking for the offices, I saw kids in the usual catholic school uniforms, and noticed immediately that all the teachers were nuns or monks. They were all dressed as laymen, but it was the way the carried themselves. I found the main office, and strode in with the sort of confidence that told everyone that I had an absolute right to be there.

The headmaster was a nice looking man in middle age, wearing a simple black shirt with a clerical collar, shorts, and those foam “crock” shoes. I looked at his little plaque.

“Father Lucca?” I asked, showing my credentials.

“Yes?” he asked with the high baritone of a young man, even though he could not be a day under forty five.

“I am detective Medici, if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to ask you a few questions about Jennifer’s disappearance.” My accent was not as thick as it used to be, but still detectable, and I had learned proper modern English, though I was still more comfortable with Latin or German. He looked at me with a sideways glance before responding.

“Of course, though the police have already questioned most of the instructors and her friends.”

“I know, but something has come up in the investigation, and we would like to confirm a few details that perhaps you might be able to answer.” Most of the teachers were not suspect, unless there was a coven of summoners, all of them catholic clergy, they would have difficulty getting students from six different schools. No, far easier for one person, going from school to school and finding targets, probably through some sort of sanctioned activity.

“Were there any unusual activities, something that you might bring an outsider in for? Bringing in the DUI van, career day, that sort of thing?” He shook his head and then started to answer no, then stopped thought for a second, and then did something on his computer, checking a calendar it looked like.

“Yes. We had an outside instructor in that day hired by the archdiocese to teach sex ed.”. I raised an eyebrow, and he explained.

“We teach abstinence only sex education, students take purity pledges, but we use a third party organization so that the student-teacher relationship is not strained by discussing personal material. “
I nodded.

“Do you have the contact information for the contractor?”

“Of course, here is his card” he said, digging a business card out of a rolodex and handing it to me.

“Thank you father.” I said, taking the card and exiting the room.

I did the same thing for the other five schools, and then took the information back to my villa.
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RazorSmile
PostPosted: 2011-07-08 10:18pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2011-06-17 09:36pm
Posts: 13
- Yay, update!
- no modern guns in his armory?
- perhaps I misread but it wasn't clear to me whether he's encountered the modern-day supernatural types or not.
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Alyrium Denryle
PostPosted: 2011-07-09 12:34am 

Minister of Sin


Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Posts: 20528
Location: Steers and queers indeed...
RazorSmile wrote:
- Yay, update!
- no modern guns in his armory?
- perhaps I misread but it wasn't clear to me whether he's encountered the modern-day supernatural types or not.


There are a few reasons, not the least of which is him being a bit retrograde in his preferences, and magic being far more versatile.

He has been working to establish himself for eight years, and for reasons I will go over later, you really have to be paying attention to notice the supernatural types in the modern age.
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