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.
Reporter Cassandra True has finally discovered the secret of her mysterious acquaintance, the reclusive Strephon Mackenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae. With the help of Strephon’s snarky cousin Devon, and the Jamaican wise woman Grandma Simms, they have staged an intervention to free Cassandra’s roommate Cecilie from the thrall of a vampire.
The cool of the morning, following the early showers, had turned hot and sticky by mid-day. Descending from the air-conditioned bus seemed like wading into a vat of warm spit. Cassandra would have liked to remain with Strephon a bit longer, but he said he had another errand to run and reminded her that she needed to write and file her story about the craft fair in the park, and that she had promised to collect some of Cecilie’s things from their flat. Cassandra wasn’t sure how she felt about Cecilie going off with Strephon’s cousin. Strephon obviously disapproved of him, but seemed to regard him as the lesser evil compared to Philippe.
As she approached her flat, she noticed a person in sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt, it’s hood tightly tied obscuring most of his face, leaning against the building in the narrow strip of early afternoon shade. Cassandra wondered how he – she assumed it was a he, anyway – could stand being dressed so warmly on such a steamy day. He seemed to be loitering with a distinct purpose, and Cassandra had a disturbing feeling that he was watching her. She shifted the keychain in her hand so that door key stuck out from between her first and second fingers, they way they’d told her in self-defense class; and resolutely proceeded towards the building, keeping him in view but avoiding eye contact. As she neared, the man spoke to her.
“Cassandra? Hello!” He gave her an ingratiating smile, partially obscured by the hoodie.
“Philippe,” Cassandra said. “I didn’t expect to see you here. I thought… your kind couldn’t go out in the daytime.”
“That’s a myth,” Philippe said.
Cassandra noted that he was also wearing heavy gloves and his nose was slathered with zinc oxide. “Aren’t you a little bit warm in that outfit?”
“Well… it was raining earlier, and the weather is so chancy.” He took a step towards her, but remained in the shadow. “I was hoping to talk to Cecilie, but she doesn’t seem to be in.”
Cassandra remained where she was in the sunlight. “She’s gone out of town. I don’t think she wants to see you anymore.” That was mostly true.
Philippe made a noise that might have been a hiss or maybe just a sharp intake of breath. “Well. That’s too bad. I handled things badly last night and I did want to explain. But you know, perhaps it is better this way.” He inched a little bit closer, and his voice dropped down so that Cassandra almost took a step towards him herself to hear him better. She caught herself in time. That would be a bad idea.
“You see, I wasn’t sure how I could tell her,” Philippe continued. “Attraction is such a mysterious thing, and hard to fathom, let alone explain. And yet from the moment I saw you last night, I felt a strange fascination. Perhaps you felt it too…”
Good grief, Cassandra realized, he’s trying to seduce me. And listening to his voice, he was almost persuasive. But then Cassandra focused on his hoodie and his ridiculous nose. He looked for all the world like Claude Rains, the Hip-Hop Years. “I think you are mistaken,” she said firmly. “If you will excuse me…”
“Wait.” Philippe reached out into the sunlight and seized her by the arm. “I’ve been waiting out her so long, and as you said, it is warm out here. Perhaps you might invite me in?”
His smile widened; not enough to show the points of his teeth, but Cassandra knew they were there. She felt her flesh creep and she felt an overpowering urge to get away from him.
“I don’t think so.” Cassandra pulled her arm away from him, causing him to stumble into the sun.
Philippe winced. He didn’t burst into flames or disintegrate into dust they way Cassandra hoped he might; but he clearly did not like it. Apparently the movies were wrong about these things.
“Please, Cassandra… I love you.” He removed his sunglasses and gazed at her with soulful, if bloodshot and watering eyes.
The audacity of this declaration caught Cassandra by surprise, and she felt the force of his charisma bearing down on her like physical pressure. But did he really think she would fall for his wounded puppy routine? Her instincts told her to run away, but on impulse she decided to try something else. “Are you going to offer me Essence, like you did Cecilie?”
Ah, that worried the little weasel. He withdrew just a hair. “She told you about that, did she?”
“Of course, that experience is not one I would share with just anybody; but you, Cassandra; you I think possess the depth of soul to truly appreciate it.” He advanced again, no longer letting the sunshine hold him back.
Cassandra retreated a step. “And is Kurayami aware you’re dealing Essence?”
Philippe stopped again. Now she saw fear in his eyes. “The Lady Kurayami does not concern herself with my personal life.”
“I thought as much.” Now it was time to get away from him; but Cassandra suddenly found that she could not move her feet. She seemed rooted to the sidewalk; she had tarried too long.
“Nor will you be bothering her with it.” Anger tinged his voice now and he bared his teeth as he advanced to attack.
“Pardon, mate,” said a voice from behind Cassandra. “Aren’t you out past your bedtime?”
It was Saul.