Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 23: Just Trying to Help

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. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Cassandra True, a reporter for the Daily Oracle, has become acquainted with Strephon MacKenzie. She thinks he is an eccentric, if charming, recluse. She little suspects that he is actually a semi-immortal half-fae.

After the sixteenth ring, Cassandra gave up. "Where are you, Strephon?" she muttered. She wanted to share the good news with him, but he wasn't answering the phone. Where could he be? He told her that he rarely left his house so he couldn't be running an errand, and this was the third time she'd called him so he couldn't be in the loo.

An unpleasant thought had been gnawing at her since about the fifth ring: what if there was something wrong? What if he had an accident or something and couldn't get to the phone? He could be lying in the cellar with a broken something or other with no one to help him.

Or maybe she just wrote down the wrong number.

She gathered her purse together and dashed out of the newsroom. She could think of one way to be sure.

The bus dropped Cassandra off about five blocks from Strephon's house. She felt very self-conscious walking through the run-down neighborhood of once-stately homes. She walked nervously up to the door of Strephon's house and rang the doorbell.

No answer.

Of course, if he were lying somewhere in a pool of his own blood, he wouldn't be able to answer.

She tried the door. Locked. Only one thing to do.

She looked over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching. Then she circled around to the side of the building to where an ancient ivy vine covered the wall. She slung her purse over her shoulder and began to climb. Thank goodness this was one of those old buildings with lots of gingerbread to grab hold of.

Cassandra pulled herself up to the second floor and found an open window. How like that man to leave a window unlocked in a neighborhood like this! She found herself in the room she had spent the night in the night of the wolf attack. "Strephon?" she called. "Are you all right?"

She heard no answer, so she began to look around. She found Strephon's room easily enough. The bed was neatly made and there were fresh flowers in the vase on the bedside table. Cassandra wondered who made the bed and did Strephon's housework. He made no mention of servants, but she could hardly see how he could do it himself.

She sat down on the bed and absently stroked the counterpane. It reminded her of the dream she had the night before. She rarely remembered her dreams, but the recent ones were so vivid and... strange. She wondered what it meant to have erotic dreams about a man she only just met. Her flatmate Cecilie would probably say it meant she needed to get laid; that's why Cassandra hadn't mentioned the dreams to her. Cecilie had given her enough grief about spending the night here as it was.

Cassandra let her attention wander to the photograph next to the vase on the bedside table. It was a faded old black and white photograph of a beautiful woman in a frilly Victorian dress. Could that be Strephon's great-grandmother or something?

Something else caught Cassandra's attention: a carved ivory box inlaid with silver, resting beside the photograph. Something about the box intrigued her and she reached across the bed to touch it.
"What are you doing here?"

The voice behind her startled her and Cassandra fell backwards on the bed as she turned to face it.

A tall, slim man wearing a black trenchcoat and dark glasses stood in the doorway and frowned at her. "I said, what are you doing here?"

Next Chapter: Goldilocks

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 22: A Half-Hour With Miss Cooper

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. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae living among humans, is investigating faerie activity in the city. After being attacked by werewolves bearing fae enchantments, his search has led him to another expiate fae, Ferner Cooper, who has adopted the identity of a werewolf herself and formerly ran with the Reaver wolf pack.

“I said I like to help if I can,” Strephon repeated calmly

Ferner looked at him squarely trying to see if his offer was real of not when she realised what she was doing she scowled.

“I why should I trust you” Ferner finally asked

“You can’t” still said in the damn calm manner, she was so tempted to just throw him out of her flat but then what would her neighbours say. Sighing she ran a hand though her damp hair knowing that she wouldn't be able to rid of him that easily.

“Fine you have half an hour to explain why you want my help then you will phone a taxi and leave if I decide to help I get back to you clear?”

She almost smiled at the look on his face when he realised she knew he hadn't phone a taxi.

“Well then if I only have half an hour I best get started, mustn’t I?” Strephon said calmly.

"As for why I need your help," he continued, "It's a bit complicated. As I mentioned, a lady acquaintance of mine and I were attacked two nights ago by Reavers. An unpleasant occurrence, but these things happen, I'm told, in the Big City. Now, I hope I can be forgiven for taking an attack on myself personally, but there were one or two other curious things about this particular attack I found noteworthy.

"To begin with, the attack took place in Little Kingston. I'm sure you're aware that neighborhood lies under the protection of Grandma Simms, as I believe it was back in your time as well. She keeps her neighborhood protected with spells to ward off werewolves, vampires and other creatures of the night. Terribly unfair, I know, to lump wolves and vampires together, but as both prey on mortals, I'm afraid she makes little distinction between the two."

"The fae prey on mortals too," Ferner replied. "What does she think about you?"

"Oh, we have an understanding. We trade biscuit recipes and so she grants me special dispensation. But the curious thing is, how did the Reavers come to be in Grandma Simms' territory in the first place?"

"What about the other curious thing?"

"That is more complicated. The attack took place within a few hours of my visit with Melchior Aesermann. Are you familiar with the man?"

"Should I?" She frowned. "The name sounds vaguely familiar. Melchior?"

"Yes. Lord Melchior. He too is a fae slumming among the mortals like we are. As you well know, if a Lord of the Fae spends much time away from the Court, it can only mean he is plotting something behind the Queen's back."

"I don't like politics," Ferner growled. "That's why I left."

"I heartily agree with you. Would that I could avoid courtly entanglements myself. Unfortunately, a Royal Command is a Royal Command, and she is my favorite aunt. Anyway. The Queen requested that I look in on Lord Melchior and see what he was up to. It seems he is manufacturing computer games utilizing fae magics in order to corrupt the souls of mortals. Not that morals need much corrupting, but he wished to corrupt them in such a way as to benefit him. You know how things are."

Ferner wrinkled her nose at him. "The clock is ticking. Get to the point."

"Well. Lord Melchior is also building alliances here in Redemption. He does business with at least one of the more powerful vampires of the city and I have reason to believe he has connections with the Reavers as well The Reavers have been utilizing fae magic. So you see how the timing of my attack is suggestive."

"You think that Melchior ordered the attack?"

"As I said, the timing is suggestive. So I am looking for information. I would appreciate any help you could give me."

Ferner thought for a long time, watching him warily. "Listen," she finally said. "I don't know this Melchior guy. I've never met him before, I've never heard of him before. I don't think he ordered your attack, though. Blanka has been giving his pack magic charms; collars and bracelets with silver runes. They allow his pack to pass through magical protections."

"Must be handy for a wolf," Strephon commented.

"If they don't mind bonds of slavery," she snarled. "And the burning touch of silver. I heard that a few of the pack ventured into Little Kingston and were driven off by an old man in a wheelchair who killed one of them. Sheila, her name was."

"A friend of yours?"

"No." Ferner's expression seemed to say but she could have been... "There was talk of hunting down the man in the wheelchair and teaching him a lesson, but apparently Blanka forbade it."

"Hm..." Strephon said stroking his chin. "Then perhaps I owe Blanka my thanks. Well, that certainly argues that my attack was not orchestrated."

"You sound disappointed."

"Oh, I'm not. Any information I can get at this point is helpful. But there is still one important piece of information you can still give me."

"What's that?"

"What do you want?"


Strephon placed his fingertips together and leaned forward. "I said I would help you if I could. A gentleman keeps his word. You answered my questions, so I am prepared to keep my side of the bargain. What is it you are seeking in Redemption and how may I help you find it?"

“What am I seeking in Redemption” Ferner repeated almost like in a trance then shook her head. “Why do you even care in wanting to help me? And don’t say it’s because of your word; because gentleman or not, you’re still Fae; and no Fae I know has every keep their word” she tried so hard to keep the hope out of her voice hope that maybe this person could help her find Luna.

Strephon understood what she meant. One of the few things that could bind a fae was a promise, but because of that weakness the fae had practiced for centuries finding loopholes and tricks so that a faeries word almost always meant something different from what one thought it meant. “Well, as I said at the beginning of our talk, I am something of an exile myself, and Fae or not I always keep my word.” Strephon said quietly.

Ferner sighed and walked over to her fridge, carefully thinking everything over before she made a decision. She pulled out a bottle of red wine. Would you like some?” she offered showing the bottle of wine to Strephon “or would you rather have something else?”

“If you don’t mind a cup of tea sounds lovely right about now”

“If I had minded I wouldn’t have asked but tea it is”

Ferner went and put the kettle on, taking out some of the tea to make a fresh pot. Then she poured a cup for Strephon and a glass of wine for herself.

“Very well. I will tell you. But I swear: you use this against me and, favourite of the queen or not, you will pay.” Ferner growled, and a feral gleam came into her eyes. She stapled her fingers together and took a deep breath to prepare herself.

“About ten years ago Luna, my life Partner of ten years, disappeared. It was this very flat that we stayed in. I went to work one night and when I got home she was gone. She took no cloths, no money, nothing. I thought that she was maybe out; after all it was the day after the full moon; but I was wrong. She never came back. Didn't phone or anything.

"So I did the only thing I knew. I went to the different packs in the city. They knew me, and we had ran together on many occasions, but they hadn’t seen Luna. I tried the Fae in the city even going as far as the council” Ferner snarled this part in hate a disgust. “But they were more concerned about helping themselves than anyone else. And so I left Redemption travelling across the world trying to find if anyone had heard of her. As you can see, Strephon, I had no luck.

"I returned here to find that not only has many of my friends been killed but that the whole structure of the city has changed.” Taking a sip of her wine she studied his face trying to see for any reaction to her tale. “So you see if doesn’t matter what I want for I will never be able to get it”

Standing up gracefully, she added, “I will bid you a good day sir. As I said early the phone is over there” pointing to the phone Ferner made her way to the baloney wiping away a single silver tear that was rolling its way down her cheek.

Strephon watched sadly as Ferner turned her back on him. Poor creature. She truly was like him in many ways; she belonged to neither one world nor the other, and straddled them uncomfortable and alone.

He called for his cab. Then he picked up the biro by the phone and in a neat hand wrote down the address of a convenience store on Fitch Street and it's phone number. He thought for a moment and added, Tell her Strephon sent you. Perhaps Grandma Simms could not help her; the trail of her friend was so cold; but he could think of no other aid he could offer; nor even that she might accept.

"I apologize for the intrusion. Thank you very much for your time." Strephon made his excuses and wheeled himself to the door to wait by the curb.

NEXT:  Just Trying to Help

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 21: A Foot in the Door

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. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae living among humans, has been commissioned by the Faerie Queen to investigate fae activity in the city. He has learned of one such person, a fae named Ferner who has ties to the werewolf community.

The peculiar dream with the featherbunnies still lingered in Strephon's mind the next day when the cab he was riding in pulled up in front of Ferner Cooper's flat. "Here you are," the driver said.

Strephon paid the fare and hefted himself out of the back seat with his canes. "Ah, my chair, if you please?" The cabbie grunted and reluctantly ambled to the trunk and unpacked the wheelchair. Usually Tobias drove the cab which picked Strephon up; Tobias knew him and could anticipate his needs. Strephon realized how much he had come to depend on the cheerful Jamaican. Unfortunately, Tobias had his own life and other fares to carry. Strephon made a guilty note to himself to tip him a little more next time he saw him.

The hospital had been less than helpful. Yes, Ferner Cooper did work there. No, she usually worked the evening shift and besides today was her day off. No, they're sorry but they don't give out that kind of personal information. Well, if she is a relative of yours... Strephon had to exert a considerable amount of his faerie charm to persuade the receptionist to divulge Ferner's address.

A young woman answered the door. "What is it?" she asked. She wore a tattoo -- not a glamour, but actual ink on flesh -- of a wolf. She must disguise it with a glamour when she went to work; hospitals tended to frown upon that kind of body art, it might upset the patients. Her aura glowed like moonlight and her suspicious glare had a feral gleam to it. She really had gone native, Strephon mused; she seemed as much wolf as she was fae. Could she be the source of the Reavers' magic?

"Good day, Miss Cooper. I apologize for intruding. My name is Strephon and I heard there was one of my kin come to town. Since I see too few faces from the Unseen Court in this realm, I thought I would call and pay my respects."

"I have nothing to do with the Court," Ferner said harshly.

"Ah. Well, as you can see I am something of an exile myself. May I come in?"


"I... see. Well then, may I use your telephone? My cab has already left and I shall have to call for another."
Ferner narrowed her gaze. Strephon smiled pleasantly in return.

"What does a fae need a phone for?"

"I am half mortal, as you can no doubt see. This infirmity of mine," he indicated his chair, "is no disguise. Are you really going to leave a poor crippled man alone to his own devices?" A pretty blatant play for sympathy, and she knew it; but she snorted and allowed him to come into her flat.

"So why are you really here?" Ferner asked.

"Why to get to know you better, of course."

"I said really."

Strephon paused, considering for a moment, while maintaining his smile. "As I said, to get to know you. To ascertain where you fit in the scheme of things. You run with the wolves, do you not?"

Ferner frowned, and pointed to the telephone. "The phone is there."

Strephon went over to the phone and made a pretense of calling a cab, but he kept his hand on the switch, closing the connection. He hung up the receiver. "The cab should be here shortly." He looked around the flat. He saw little sign of fae magic here, and no sign of any silver collars or bracelets such as the Reavers wore. "A pleasant place you have. Quite cozy." He placed his finger together and tapped them.

"What do you have to do with the wolf packs?" Ferner asked.

"Oh, not very much. Except that a few of them attacked me and a lady friend of my accquaintance the other night." He tilted his head shrewdly. "You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"Are you accusing me of attacking you?"

Strephon sighed. "Frankly, I'd be surprised if you did. Generally I'm not that lucky. However, it did occur to me that, having connections in the lycanthropic community, you may have heard something about the incident."

"I don't have that many connections. I used to run with the Reavers, but that was a long time ago; back when Kel Reeves led the pack." Strephon sensed bitterness in her tone. She obviously held no love for Blanka, the Reavers' current leader.

"What brought you back?" Strephon said quietly.

"Why should you care?"

Something about her answer struck a chord in Strephon. She needed something. He doubted that he could turn his back on her once the full moon rose, but his instincts told him that she was allied with neither Blanka nor Melchior. He made his decision.

"I'd like to help you if I can."

NEXT:  A Half-Hour With Miss Cooper

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 20: T.L.C.

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. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae, has been commissioned by the Faerie Queen to investigate fae activity in the city. This investigation has been complicated by Cassandra True, a curious reporter to whom Strephon finds himself increasingly drawn...

A door opened and a woman in a nurse's uniform entered the room. She pushed a cart up to Strephon's bed with a cheery smile. "Good day, Mister MacKenzie! And how are we today?"

Strephon sat up in bed. He was in a hospital room. Had he been admitted to a hospital? "What's going on?"

"It's time for you sponge bath," the nurse replied in a soothing voice. She looked familiar. She pulled off his nightshirt, dipped a large bath sponge in a basin of water and began methodically wiping his chest. The water felt warm and pleasant.

"Cassandra," Strephon said, suddenly recognizing her. "You never told me you were a nurse."

"Shhh... Now for the legs."

Before he could stop her, Cassandra pulled back the covers, revealing Strephon's mortal half: ancient and withered legs with bony arthritic joints; wasted away after a century and a half of mortality. Without a word she gently applied the sponge to his gnarled limbs. At the touch of the delightfully warm water the pain of his stiff joints faded and his wrinkled skin grew young and smooth. He could feel his muscles regain their strength. Cassandra leaned a little closer as her sponge slid further up the inside of his leg. Despite himself, Strephon gave a happy sigh and lolled his head over to one side.

That's when he saw the bunnies.

The walls of his room had gone and they were surrounded by a wooded glade. Rabbits were cautiously stepping out of the bushes. They wore cammo trousers and carried automatic weapons but they were unmistakably rabbits.

"The rabbits are watching," he said. For some reason that bothered him more than the their paramilitary dress or their iridescent feathery wings.

"I'll take care of that." Cassandra climbed on top of the bed, on top of him, and reached up to the bed curtains hanging from the ceiling. She pulled the curtain around the bed, completely enclosing them.

"Ah. I think this has gone quite far enough."

Cassandra knelt over him, straddling his now-healthy legs. Her uniform had somehow come undone, revealing the turquoise swimsuit she had worn on the beach the previous night.

"Only your legs are crippled," she said quietly, "not your heart."

She bent down and brought her lips close to his. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to, you know."

Then she kissed him.

Strephon knew he needed to do something. He couldn't think what. As he wondered, his arms encircled Cassandra's waist and drew her body close to his. That was all that mattered.

* * * * *

Cassandra woke up.  She blinked, then rubbed her eyes.

"My, what a peculiar dream..."

NEXT:  A Foot In The Door

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 19: Cocoa

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. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther. Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae living amongst the humans of Redemption, has been commissioned by his aunt, the Queen of Faerie, to investigate a fae noble named Melchior who has been meddling in mortal affairs.

Strephon did not expect to find Devon sitting in his parlor when he came home, but he was not particularly surprised. Devon wore the same black trenchcoat and dark glasses he had on his previous visit. He lounged on Strephon's sofa with his feet on a table Strephon bought during Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee.

"You certainly took long enough," Devon groused.

"Had I known you were waiting I should have taken longer. Would you kindly remove your feet from that table. It's rather expensive."

Devon shifted his feet. "Don't you have a television in this house?"

"There's a new technology that's just as good. You might have heard of it. They're called books. Why are you here?"

"I came for a status report. Have you learned anything useful, or have you been too busy frolicking with your mortal bagatelle?"

Strephon furiously wheeled his chair from the parlor to the kitchen. "primus, she is not my anything; secundus, I am not in the habit of frolicking; and tertius... it is none of your damned business!"

Devon followed him into the kitchen. "I struck a nerve, did I?"

Strephon ignored Devon and set about making himself some hot cocoa. As he set the pan of milk upon his stove and stirred, Devon continued, "So what have you learned?"

"Lord Melchior has devised a way to mass-produce Faerie enchantments and means to market them as computer games. He means to ensnare large numbers of mortals in these games and harness their dreams to feed his own power."

"That's impossible."

"I've seen it myself. Illusions that trick not the eye, but are fed directly into the subject's mind. Visions more realistic than the waking world that Melchior can manipulate as easily as a dream."

"And he has shown you all this?"

"Lord Melchior wishes to recruit me. He does not trust me, but he would like to use me; so he is keeping me near for the present." Strephon took the pan off the heat and poured the steaming milk into a cup. "He has already forged alliances with Lady Kurayami, one of the more powerful vampires in the city, at least one of the werewolf packs, and Mister Simon Knox, publisher of The Morning Star. I haven't decided what he is; possibly a sorcerer, but a powerful one."

"We are aware of his alliances," Devon said grimly. "Are you going to offer me some of that?"

Strephon stonily mixed the cocoa into his cup. "You didn't say the magic word."

"My, but you're in a foul mood. Did the trollop dump you?"

To his credit, Strephon did not slam his cup on the table; it was bone china and breaking it would have spilled hot cocoa all over the place; but he did set the cup down with a decided firmness. "Have you learned anything about the attack last night?"

Devon shrugged. "Nothing definite. It looks like just a random wolf attack. I did hear of someone who might know more. She's one of our folk who likes to run with the wolves." He curled his lip slightly to show what he thought of fae who ran with wolves. "During the daytime she works in the children's ward of the hospital. She calls herself Ferner."

"Ah, slumming with the mortals, is she? Well, she might know something useful."

"For someone who has shut himself away from mortal and fae alike for nearly a century you certainly are becoming quite the ladies' man."

Strephon narrowed his eyes. "Don't you have a toadstool you need to be dancing around?"

Next:  T.L.C.