Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 1: Stopping By for Tea

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night.

The teakettle whistled, high and shrill. A much more pleasant noise than the leaden "beep" of a microwave, Strephon thought. It put him in mind of the birds of the countryside. But then, he was an old-fashioned sort of person. Everything about him, from his manners to the cut of his brown tweed jacket to the style of his hair seemed to reflect the fashions of a century ago. He wheeled his chair over to the stove and took the kettle off the heat. A visitor might wonder how sad it was that such a young man in the prime of his life be confined to a wheelchair, but as Strephon liked to observe, he was older than he looked. With practiced care he poured the water into a bone china cup and steeped the teabag.

A grey striped cat leaped up onto the kitchen table and gave an irritated "miao." Strephon scratched her behind the ears. "It's all right, Mrs. Hudson, I see him too." In a louder voice he added, "You might as well come out."

The air next to him shimmered and another young man materialized, this one with dark, spiky hair wearing dark sunglasses and a leather trenchcoat. The visitor sat on the table.

"My, how noir," Strephon said. "Is that the latest style?"

"Some of us keep up with the times," the newcomer replied. "I see you're still pretending to be human."

"If you want to call it that."

"She died nearly a century ago. There really is no need to continue this exile."

Strephon placed his fingertips together and pursed his lips. "Why don't you just deliver your message and be done with it, Devon? I suppose they want me to come back?"

"You don't belong here, Strephon. The blood of the fae runs through your veins."

"As does the blood of a mortal. Mother understands my reasons. She may not agree with them, but she understands."

"Your mother was not the one who sent me. It was the Queen."

Strephon looked up at Devon sharply. "The Queen?"

"Some of the Nobles of the Court are moving into this city. There are many creatures of magic living here. The Queen suspects that some of her rivals intend to meddle in mortal affairs."

Strephon snorted. "Since when has she cared about the lives of mortals?"

"She cares about a possible attack on her own power. And she cares about you. She wants you to be her eyes on the mortal plane."

Strephon stirred his tea peevishly. "And why should I do this?"

"Because as long as you insist on dwelling among mortals, your home is in danger too."

"Fae nobility plotting their Machiavellian schemes was nothing new," Strephon grumbled. "In fact, I have often wondered if Machiavelli ever visited the Fae Court." He looked up at Devon sharply. "This wouldn't be an excuse to get me back at Court, is it?"

"Now you're being paranoid."

"Am I? You know I dearly love the Queen; I look upon her as favorite aunt; but she is fickle, devious and cunning and deceit is her meat and drink."

"Which is only to say that she is a fae. That is our nature; you know that."

"I also know that she harbors some less-than-auntly thoughts towards me."

Devon gave a half-smirk. "You should feel honored. You are half mortal, after all. She finds that intriguing."

"Yes, well I prefer to remain the Queen's favorite nephew than to become her latest toy, thank you. And I have no wish to become enmeshed in Faerie politics. I'd prefer to keep a polite and respectful distance."

"We're talking about a Royal Command here. You can't very well refuse."

Strephon frowned. "No, I suppose I can't." He took a sip of his tea and grimaced. It had grown tepid. "Very well. Who am I supposed to spy upon"?"

Devon pulled a chair up to the table and sat down. "His name is Melchior. He's an ambitious noble and he's building an alliance with some of the supernatural factions of this city."

"That's peculiar. As a rule the fae do not ally themselves with lesser race. Alliance suggests some form of equality."

"He's gone so far as to adopt a human identity and lives among the mortals as one of them. He calls himself Melchior Aesermann."

"Aesermann, after the aeser, the clan of Odin," Strephon mused. "Are the gods involved?"

"Unknown. Melchior owns an electronics firm called Aeser Technologies. They design computer games."

Strephon wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Pah. I do not care for computers. I've seen men enraptured by their flickering screens, mistaking their images for experience. They're cold and sterile; lifeless things that merely simulate life."

He took another sip of tea and looked thoughtful.

"Then again, what else are the glamours of Faerie? Perhaps the union of Fae and cybernetics is not so odd after all."

NEXT:  Connections

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dark Redemption: Introduction

The shadows lengthen in the City of Redemption and night is about to fall. Starting next week we'll be running a serial of urban Gothic horror. Take a look now, before the sun sets...

Redemption is a medium sized city in the middle of some dark corner of England somewhere. The castle it grew up around was at various times in history a shrine, a fortress, a monastery and a manor. Today it is a thoroughly modern city, although the ruins of the castle and a rich accumulation of architectural styles serve as a reminder of the city's long history. Something old dwells behind the glass and steel skyscrapers of the city's heart; something older than the Victorian brownstones and the Gothic cathedrals; older than the remnants of the fortress walls which once ringed the town; older even than the sections of ancient forest preserved since feudal times. Magic lurks at the roots of the city and it draws creatures of darkness and here. Club-hopping vampires can be seen at the city's night spots; urban werewolves run in the streets; witches and sorcerers ply their trade in unexpected places; and occasionally one will even meet one of the fae, the Fair Folk whom it is perilous for mortals to know.

Dark Redemption started out as an online role-playing game created by James Crowther (aka Jex, Lord Featherbunny), one of the Secret Masters of a Harry Potter fansite called VH.   It quickly evolved into a kind of shared world novel in which each writer's plot became a thread in the greater tale of a city of magic and Gothic horror. For a while, With Jex's permission, I was serializing some of the major plots from the story in my "Live and Let Dice" column on the website Pop Thought.

The game, sadly, eventually dwindled away, and Pop Thought, too, is no more.  I've decided to revive my story thread from the game and present it here.  Hopefully, I may even finish it.  Stranger things have happened.