Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 35: My Favorite Bathtime Gurgles

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 Queen of Faerie to investigate fae activity in the city. He has quarreled with Cassandra True, a mortal who is unaware of his true nature and whom he finds himself increasingly drawn toward.

Strephon sighed as he lowered himself into the warm, soothing water of his bathtub. Had he a mortal pair of lungs and upper respiratory system he would probably had developed pneumonia by now. As it was, his ancient legs ached and made him doubly grateful for the blessed warmth of the tub.

Some of the steam from the tub wafted away from the tub and began to curl into a recognizable shape. Strephon frowned. "Devon?"

The mist resolved itself into a human shape. "I hope this isn't a bad time," Devon said.

"Do you mind? Can't a man expect a bit of privacy in his own bath?"

Devon rolled his eyes cielingward. Then he made a theatrical show of covering his eyes and turning his back to Strephon. "There. Are you happy now?"

"Hardly. What do you want, Devon?"

"What do I ever want? The Queen is asking for progress. What have you learned? Or have you been able to pry yourself from your busy social life."

"My social life, as you call it, is none of your business. If you must know, Miss True has decided to end our acquaintance, so you shan't have to worry about her distracting me."

"Ah." Devon shifted his feet uncomfortably. "I'm sorry to hear that."

Strephon snorted.

"No, I really am."

Strephon ignored him. "Miss Cooper turned out to be a blind alley. She knows little of the current political situation in the city. She did, however, confirm that the Reavers wolf pack is acquiring fae artifacts from some unknown source."


"Not Melchior. Lord Melchior has his own dark designs to be sure, but the wolf packs are only incidental to them. I believe someone else is dealing with the Reavers, someone who wishes to upset the balance between the wolf packs."

Devon adjusted his sunglasses and scratched his nose. "Why would a fae care about the wolf packs?"

"Because some of the pack leaders are on the Council. Change the balance of power among the packs and you affect the Council. Get a foothold in the Council and you can control the city."

"Perhaps," Devon conceded. "But it's still a city of mortals."

"No, it is a city of magic. A city of werewolves and vampires, ghosts and demons; and yes, of humans too. It is a city of dreams and nightmares; and that, my cousin, is a currency the fae appreciate.

NEXT:  New Girl on the Features Desk

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 34: Some Of My Best Friends Are Dead

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.

Plucky Girl Reporter Cassandra True and her roommate Cecilie have gone to the Club Cyba-Netsu, a local cyber-cafe. There, Cecilie was picked up by a cute guy who turned out to be Greg Hans, a murderer who had been killed by the police a week earlier. The opportune arrival of the club's owner, Aoi Kurayami, sent the malevolent spirit fleeing.

"That guy was a ghost?" Cecilie squealed. "I almost made out with a ghost! Wicked!"

"Cecilie!" Cassandra gasped. "The man was a murderer and a serial rapist!"

"Well, yeah. That part is kind of creepy."

"And he's dead!"

"There are many ghosts in this city," Miss Kurayami said serenely as she sipped her tea. "Some continue to walk the earth in a mockery of their former life."

Cassandra shuddered, but she could not help be intrigued in spite of herself. "Do many ghosts come here?"

Lady Kurayami favored her with a cryptic smile. "Perhaps."

"Any cute ones?"

"Cecilie!" Cassandra scolded. Then she turned back to Kurayami. "If a ghost haunts this place it must have been important in its life, right? Did Greg Hans come here often when he was alive?"

Kurayami's smile ceased. "Greg Hans was a sick and diseased animal. A beast with no sense of restraint. My club was only one of the places he sought his victims. You are not going to write about this, are you Miss True?"

Cassandra froze in the process of fishing her mini-recorder out of her purse. "Uh, well, I think the ghosts of Redemption would make an interesting story, don't you?"

"I cater to people with dark tastes, Miss True; people who relish the bizarre, the unconventional, the mysterious; people whom some would call monsters. Greg Hans, however, was a true monster. I would not like to have my establishment associated with such a creature as he."

"Oh. Yes. I can see your point of view." Cassandra fidgeted with the recorder. She found something about the small quiet woman to be extremely intimidating; but she braced her nerve and added, "Perhaps you know of some friendly ghosts? Ghosts you wouldn't mind associating with?"

Lady Kurayami pondered the question. "Perhaps..." she conceded. "Mind you, I can make no guarantees. Spirits are extremely fickle."

"See if you can find one with a nice bum."


NEXT:  My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 33: The Spirit is Willing

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.

Plucky Girl Reporter Cassandra True has quarreled with her friend Strephon over a job offer from Simon Knox, publisher of the prestigious Morning Star. Cassandra's roommate, Cecilie, suggests that she forget about Strephon and go with her to a club.

By the time she and Cecilie reached the Club Cyba-Netsu, Cassandra was having second thoughts. "Can't we go someplace else?" she asked.

"What's wrong with the Cyba-Netsu?" Cecilie asked. "It's a fun place."

"It's just kind of creepy, that's all."

"We've been here before and it's never bothered you." Cecilie frowned. Then she nodded and gave Cassandra a knowing grin. "Oh! I get it! Last time you were here was with him!"

"That's not it!" Cassandra couldn't very well tell her about the vampire; she'd just laugh. Cassandra wasn't even sure herself what she saw last night. It was all mixed up in her mind with Strephon and that weird Kurayami woman. "Couldn't we just go someplace normal, I mean?"

Cecilie grabbed her flatmate by the shoulders and shoved her through the club's entrance. "Girl, you need some danger in your life! Normal is the last thing you need!"

Cassandra hesitated as she entered the club. It looked the same as before; the same mix of goths, neopunks and ravers; fetsihists and eccentrics; but this time Cassandra could not help but feel something disturbingly wrong. The biker with the little fake horns glued to his forehead; were those really fake? The girl with the spiked collar who licked her lips as Cassandra passed, was that tounge forked? Cassandra shook her head and told herself to relax.

They sat down at their usual table. Cecilie ordered a Dark Delight. Cassandra ordered a Fuzzy Navel. Cecilie tapped out electronic greetings on her seat's laptop to one or two people whose usernames she recognized. Cassandra just sat and lurked. She didn't really feel like socializing. Her puppy avatar smiled at her from her computer screen. Why did she have to choose such a dippy avatar?

Cassandra felt extremely self-conscious, as if everyone in the club was staring at her. She was probably the only person in the whole club drinking a Fuzzy Navel. She glanced furtively around the room.

Someone was staring at them.

Cassandra tapped out an IM to Cecilie. She recalled Strephon's comment on how silly it was to send an electronic message to someone right next to one, but she felt safer this way; she did not want to be seen exchanging whispers.

CassE: That guy at that table over there is watching us?

Cecilie looked around. Then sent:

 SinGrrl: Who? iz he cute?
CassE: Across the dance floor. In the corner under the Guinness sign.

Cecilie saw him; a small man in a grimy coat with dark stains on his t-shirt. He grinned in her direction.

SinGrrl: i don't C a username logged in at hiz table. 

Cecilie waved at him and gave him a wink. The guy grinned back. Cecilie stood up.

"What are you doing?" Cassandra hissed, forgetting to use the computer.

"I'm going to see if he wants to dance."

Cassandra grasped her arm. "Don't," she said.

"Don't worry about me. I'm a big girl. I won't leave you alone, I promise."

Cecilie's carefree laugh did little to calm Cassandra. She was certain she had seen that guy before, but she couldn't place his face. She watched Cecilie go over to the guy's table. They chatted a bit, and then he rose and led her to the dance floor.

"Would you like another drink miss?"

The waiter came up behind Cassandra so silently that he nearly scared the wits out of her. She gasped as she recognized Ricky, the green-haired waiter from the night before. The vampire...

"What? Oh, no. I'm fine," Cassandra said. "Er, tell me. Do you know the name of the man who was sitting at that table over there? The one who's dancing with my friend?"

The waiter looked in the direction she indicated. "There has been no one at that table all night." He scanned the dance floor. "I do not see your friend."

Cassandra gave a terrified squeal. She had just remembered where she recognized the man's face. It was Greg Hans, the murderer and rapist; his picture had been in the Oracle only the week before.

She rose abruptly, knocking over her glass. "Excuse me!" she said and bolted towards the dance floor. Creatures of the night stared at her as she blundered through the dance. Through the flickering lights and bobbing heads she caught a glimpse of Cassie near one of the exits.

Franticly, Cassandra tried to weave her way through the dance floor. She reached the exit and burst through the door. The guy had Cecilie up against the side of the alley, apparently just chatting her up. Then he pulled the knife out of his coat.

Cassandra screamed. The guy turned to face her and she now saw that the stains on his t-shirt were bloody bullet holes. Only then did she remember the story that went with his photo: Greg Hans, suspected rapist and murderer, shot to death while resisting arrest...

"Hans, what are you doing here? You don't belong here." The icy tone made Cassandra's flesh creep. She whirled and saw Miss Kurayami standing behind her.

Kurayami slid past Cassandra like a wraith and confronted the dead man. "You are no longer welcome in my establishment," she said, her mask-like face stern and unforgiving. "Go."

The dead man's face twisted in rage. His lips mouthed a curse, but no words came out; only a thin, piercing moan. Then his body dissolved, like a forgotten mist.

"Good evening, Miss True," Kurayami said, turning to Cassandra. "I am sorry we had to meet again under such distasteful circumstances. I will have words with my doormen. In the meantime, please come back in and enjoy the hospitality of my establishment." She inclined her head in a courteous, but not obsequious bow, and gestured to the door.

Cassandra glanced to Cecilie. "You wanted danger?

NEXT:  Some of My Best Friends Are Dead

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 32: Psychology 101

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 been offered a job with the prestigious Morning Star by owner Simon Knox. Her friend Strephon MacKenzie, who unbeknownst to her is a semi-immortal half-fae, knows that Knox is a sorcerer allied with the sinister Lord Melchior, and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade her from taking the job.

"So what did you do?" Cecilie asked, leaning over the table with greedy ears.

"What did I do? Why, walked out on him, of course!" Cassandra said, indignantly.

"Is that all?"

"Well... I also broke a carton of eggs over his head."

Cecilie giggled. "You didn't!"

"He deserved it! Can you imagine the gall of that man?"

Cecilie straightened and took a sip of her tea. "He's obviously mad about you."

"Mad, I will grant you."

"Seriously. He's clearly suffering from feelings of inadequacy due to his disability, you as much as said so. On top of that he has a big load of angst over his wife's death. So he's built up these defense mechanisms to seal off the rest of the world. But now his feelings for you are starting to overcome those defenses and so automatically responds by acting like a horse's arse."

Cassandra gave her roommate a bland stare. "This from the girl who barely passed psychology."

"I know men," Cecilie insisted. "Trust me."

"So he's either an emotional basket case or a jerk. Either way, I'm better off without him."

Cecilie arched a cynical eyebrow. "Right. And you don't have any feelings for him yourself?"

"Pul-leeze, Cecilie! He's just another in a long line of relationships that just didn't work out. I'd rather just forget all about it."

Cecilie jumped up from the table. "Then what you need, girl, is a night out."


"A night on the town is just the thing. Have some fun; have some drinks; meet some guys. You'll forget all about Steven."

"Strephon," Cassandra corrected.

Cecilie smiled. "Ri-i-i-ght. No feelings for him at all."

Cassandra colored and reached to grab her coat. "Let's go," she said.

NEXT:  The Spirit is Willing