Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 44: The Banshee Sings

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 learned that his friend Cassandra True has been abducted by Belladonna Morrigan, a witch of Strephon's acquaintance who harbors an obsessive love for him. Morrigan has enslaved two other fae, Mist and Banshee, and intends to do the same to Strephon. Now Strephon is coming to rescue Cassandra, accompanied by his cousin Devon, and his friend Tobias, a Jamaican cabbie.

"If your old girlfriend really wanted you to visit her," Devon grumbled as he forced Strephon's wheelchair over an obstructing tree root, "you'd think she'd make the effort to make her home wheelchair-accessible."

"Morrigan was never my girlfriend," Strephon replied peevishly. "Really, Devon, your remarks about my social life are becoming exceedingly tiresome!"

"Keep quiet," Tobias warned. He crept a few paces ahead of Strephon, watching and listening for any movement in the trees. He clenched a tire iron in his fist, just to be ready.

The three men had been advancing cautiously down the twisting path through Fellwood for five minutes. So far they had encountered no one, but Strephon knew they were being watched. He fingered one of his canes nervously.

"You realize, of course, that this is a trap," Devon said.

"Of course, it is."

"We should be going in with some kind of a plan."

"Since we have no idea what we'll find when we get there, any plans we make will be rendered moot anyway."

Tobias turned back to the two. "Maybe if you two talk a little louder the old witch won't have to turn up her hearing aid."

Devon and Strephon were silent for a moment. Then Devon added, "Uppity for a mortal, isn't he."

They proceeded in silence for a while, then Devon cursed. "Your wheelchair's caught on another blasted root." He shoved at the chair, but something held it back. "Hello! What's this?" Devon saw a tangle of vines growing up from the path and entwining themselves in the spokes of the wheelchair. "Earth magic. How typical."

Strephon twisted the handle of his cane, releasing the sword tip from the end. "Morrigan! Show yourself! We know you're out there!"

A shadow seemed to part like a curtain and the old witch appeared on the path before them, accompanied by a sullen-faced girl with leaden eyes. "You were told to come alone," Morrigan said.

"These friends are merely seeing to my safety," Strephon replied. "The forest at night is full of dangers. You wouldn't want any ill to fall upon me before you had the opportunity to inflict it yourself, now would you?" His tone cooled. "Where is Cassandra?"

"She is safe, for the moment."

"I will thank you to release her."

Morrigan smiled. "Tell your friends to withdraw."

Tobias glanced at Strephon. Strephon nodded, and Tobias lowered his tire iron and stepped back behind the wheelchair. Devon let go of the chair and moved aside to give him and the iron plenty of room. Then, Devon's body suddenly shifted into the form of a black panther which sprang at the witch.

"Devon! What are you doing?" Strephon shouted.

Before the panther could reach Morrigan, the girl stepped in front of her. A thin, piercing wail emitted from her lips. Devon shifted back into his human form in mid-spring and fell to the ground clutching his ears. Tobias charged to his aid, waving his tire iron like a club. The Banshee flinched at the cold iron of his weapon as he approached, but delivered another paralyzing scream. Before Tobias had crossed half the distance, his knees failed him and he too fell.

"That was very foolish," Morrigan chuckled. She stepped over the bodies of Tobias and Devon and advanced towards Strephon. "You are fortunate I am in a forgiving mood."

"What do you want?" Strephon asked.

"Why, you, of course! Many years ago I offered you my love and you rejected me. You crushed me, Strephon! You humiliated me!"

"I never meant to hurt you, Belle," Strephon said softly.

"Do not call me that!" Morrigan drew another amulet from the sleeve of her robe; the silver leaf and thorn amulet she had made, like the one the Banshee and the Wisp bore. Strephon raised his sword cane in defense. "Put that thing down," Morrigan scolded. "Remember, the trollop's life is in my hand. Submit to me and I will release her. Refuse me again, and she dies."

Strephon 's sword cane wavered in his hand. He considered a dozen bluffs, clever arguments and gambits. None of them would serve but to delay the inevitable. He lowered the sword.

"Put on the charm," Morrigan ordered, holding out the amulet to him.

Strephon hesitated. "Cassandra," he said.

"Yes," Morrigan cackled, "do it for Cassandra." The Banshee, however, turned in time to see what Strephon saw. Cassandra stood behind her. She made a grab for the Banshee's amulet.

"Cover your ears!" Strephon shouted. Cassandra ignored him and pulled at the Banshee's amulet. The Banshee gave another hideous cry that made Strephon's nerves want to crawl up out of his fingers, but Cassandra did little more than wince. She held a pair of tin snips in her other hand and pulling the amulet taut, cut the cord fastening it around the Banshee's neck.

The Banshee fell over backwards. She picked herself up and felt around her neck. The leaden look had vanished from her eyes.

Morrigan faced Cassandra angrily. "You trollop! How dare you interfere!" Magic crackled in her hair and she raised her gnarled hands to cast a spell.

"The amulet, Strephon!" Cassandra cried. "Get her amulet!"

Strephon lunged forward and grabbed the amulet around Morrigan's neck. The crone screamed. Cassandra ran up and cut the amulet's golden chain with the tin snips and the iron ring holding the golden thorn and leaf fell to the ground.

Immediately, Wisp and Banshee appeared on either side of Morrigan and siezed her by either arm. "What? No! Let go of me! You can't do this!" the witch protested.

"We serve you no longer," the Wisp said.

Banshee added, "Now you will serve us!"

The three vanished like like mist.

Strephon blinked. "My. That was unexpected." He turned to Cassandra. "How did you escape? And how did you survive the Banshee's attack?"

"What?" Cassandra asked. "Sorry." She put her hand to her ear and picked a small piece of material from it. "Mrs. Morrigan had some wax on her workbench; for her jewelry-making I guess. I remembered the story of Odysseus..."

"...And you stopped up your ears! Clever girl!" Strephon laughed. "Never underestimate the benefits of a Classical education!"

Next Chapter:  Things Base and Vial

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