masterofgunfu: (A-just the facts)
A few days later and the knights returned. I had kept the Order's HQ in good order and, as expected, things had been quiet post Flare. Kate and I had hammered out a report that left her knowing nothing about Roland nor showing any hint of unusual magical power and me without a scent of being a shape shifter let alone a beast kin. Every knight had returned, looking tired and bruised but alive. All of them, alive. I felt guilty for the hint of anger at this considering more than thirty of the Pack hadn't survived the battle with the Fomorians.

I now stood at a parade rest before my Knight Protector, Ted Moynohan, as he reviewed the report. He acted like he didn't believe a word of it and if it hadn't been for the physical evidence, he likely would have said the whole thing was hyperbole. Still he grilled me, looking for something though I knew not what. Maybe he thought Kate and I were secret Fomorians or shape shifters. Okay, one of use was a shape shifter but that was beside the point. He also seemed damned upset that I had not only left my post but had the gall to act as a representative of the Order. Or maybe he was just pissed cause he missed the fight.

Either way, he was dressing me down, threatening disciplinary action when his phone rang. Picking it up with a scowl, he yelled into it, "I told you no calls! What? Fine put him through."

I stood there and fought to keep my face neutral as I heard the Beast Lord on the line thanking the Order for their aid and requesting in the future, for the times Kate was unavailable, that I be sent as liaison. Finally, the Beast Lord hung up without so much as a good bye and Ted slammed the receiver back down. He rubbed at his temples and covered his eyes. For a minute, I worried he had forgotten about me but then he spoke. "Nash, get your ass to the Armory where it belongs. We're done here."

I turned to leave but before I got to the door, he had one more thing to say. "But this isn't over. I've got my eye on you and I will find out what you are hiding from me."
masterofgunfu: (A-I will kill you)
The gray, false light of predawn found us standing and staring at the gray bubble of the druidic ward. It filled the valley, or Gap as the locals called it, below the Honeycomb--a maze of a trailer park infused with magic--and was solid yet translucent. Cracks were beginning to form and we could see the faces of the monsters within; snouts, heavy lips, mandibles and more were squished against the bubble as the Fomorians stood shoulder to should, packed tight like mints in a tin.

We had ridden buses to the Honeycomb above and walked the trail down to the Gap where we spent the next few hours clearing the floor of the Gap of all the trash tossed down from the trailers above. Anything sharp or dangerous we pushed up against the bubble. Now we waited.

We stood in ranks, all hundred of us. Well, one hundred plus me, Kate and Curran. The plan was simple. We hold the line, keep the Fomorians from leaving the Gap while Bran, Kate's honey from the Mists, and a group of vampires snuck in a backdoor to swap the lid of the cauldron, turning it from a cauldron of rebirth to a cauldron of plenty. Unlimited food is great but not when you are fighting for your life.

As we stood, a group of women strode through, witches. Each was wearing leather and chain mail, carried bows and swords, and their faces were painted blue. With a grim determination, they pushed their way to Curran and spoke with him for a few minutes before climbing up the walls to take positions on the walls of the valley.

Witches, vampires and the shape shifters, all putting aside their differences to protect the city. This was where the Order belonged not out fighting some other battle, I found myself thinking before I shoved the thoughts aside. I had no idea what the Order was fighting and as long as I breathed, the Order was here.

Raphael stepped up beside me and offered a smile and a nod. I remembered the last few hours with him, laughing as we ate and sparred. There were worse ways to spend the hours before an apocalypse. I offered a slight smile in return.

A loud crack interrupted my reflections and my head whipped around to see a chunk of pale gray, like dirty ice, break from the top of the bubble. It plunged towards the ground with an eerie whistle, where it pierced a rusted garage. It hissed and fizzled, evaporating into tin air. Silence filled the valley and we trembled with anticipation.

"We have a job to do," Curran shouted, his voice clear in the pale light. "Today we avenge our own! They came here, onto our land. They tortured a child. They killed our Pack mates. Nobody hurts the Pack!"

"Nobody!" Screamed the shape shifters.

Curran pointed to the bubble. "They are not men. There is no human flesh on their bones."

My mouth gaped at what Curran was saying. Was he really going to go there?

"What happens here, stays here. Today there is no Code. Today you can let go."

Holy Shit. The Pack lived the Code. They followed it with fanatical discipline. Obey, perform, account for yourself. Ever diligent. Always in control. Never let go. But Curran wasn't done.

"Remember: it's not your job to die for your Pack! It's your job to make the other bastards die for theirs. Together we kill!"

"Kill!" breathed the field of shape shifters.

"Win!"

"Win!"

"Go home!"

"Kill! Win! Go Home!"

"KILL! WIN! GO HOME!" We chanted over and over, our voices merging into a unified avalanche of sound. Despite myself, I felt tears in my eyes and didn't bother to hide them. I wondered what it would have been like to grow up with the Pack before I realize it wouldn't have changed anything. I was still beastkin.

More of the bubble cracked and fell. The Pack stripped off their clothes and I followed suit. An ear-splitting shriek split the morning and the gray dome fell, revealing the sea of Fomorians. They shifted forward a few steps and stood silent, a chaotic mass dappled with green, turquoise, and orange. A Dali or Bosch painting come to life.

"TURN!" Curran roared and fur burst along our ranks as we let the monsters slip free of the shackles of humanity.

The Fomorian's bellowed and a hundred and one defiant voices answered back; wolves snarled and howled, jackals yipped, hyenas laughed, cats growled, rats screeched, all at once, and through it all, unstoppable and overwhelming, came Curran's lion roar.

The Fomorians hesitated, unsure but their commander screamed and thrust his battle axe into the air. The front ranks started forward, first slowly, trudging, then faster and faster.

"HOLD!" Curran bellowed as the witches started chanting. Vines sprung up from the ground and wrapped themselves around the demons legs. The sky came alive with glittering shapes. Stymphalean birds took to the air and plunged at the demonic horde. But the attack only slowed them down and any deaths were pointless as the dead would rise from the cauldron in a matter of minutes. We needed to maim, not kill.

Next Kate ran forward, away from the front line and towards the Fomorians. What the hell was she doing? She stopped and threw her head back as some sort of seizure took her for an instant before she dropped her head back down to scream at the Fomorians. I couldn't hear her but the wave of magic that hit was unlike anything I had ever felt. The ground shook as the front ranks of the Fomorian army fell to it's knees, crippled as bones snapped with the force.

"Bring your army, little god! My sword is hungry!" Kate called out as she took a fighting stance, both her swords raised.

The flood gates opened and the battle began.
masterofgunfu: (A-Im here to help)
 It took another three hours after Kate left for me to begin to get feeling back in my legs. It started with my toes, which itched furiously. For the next hour and a half, I slowly and very carefully tested the healing; flexing my toes, turning my ankles, bending a knee. Finally I felt ready to try and stand but was interrupted by the medmage, Dr. Doolittle (I swear to whatever gods are listening that is his name), as he entered to check up on me. The look of fury he gave me was enough to freeze me in my tracks. I had read the Order's file on him. I knew better than to push it and it wasn't just because he was my doctor. See, he was a were-honey badger and even if my secret self didn't immediately want to back away from that look, I knew enough about the critters to want to stay far away. They were nasty and fearless, having been known to even steal food from lions.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" He asked.

"I think my legs and back are healed now. I was going to see if I was right," I said weakly, knowing how stupid it sounded. Still, there was a big fight coming in a few hours, I wasn't going to miss it.

"I see. How many medical degrees do you have?"

"I have a certificate in advanced trama and first aid."

"Oh. I see," he dead panned. Entering the room, he placed the pitcher of iced tea on the nightstand by my bed beside an empty glass. "I'm so glad they're teaching physical therapy, neurology and orthopedics to EMTs these days. Do you mind humoring an old man and letting me take a look before you trip or collapse and undo all my hard work?"

At my weak nod, he gestured for me to lay back down. "Well, it seems you were right. I still want you to take it easy. The PT room is across they way. I will allow you access if you promise to stop whatever you are doing if you feel the slightest hint of numbness or sharp pain. You understand me girl?"

"I promise," I said relieved. Laying about was seriously getting to me.

"Very well," Dr. Doolittle said and reached for the pitcher to pour me a glass of tea. "Drink up and you can go."

I took a drink and my jaw nearly seized up on the sweetness. "There any tea in this or is it all honey?"

"There world needs more sweetness and you child, need more calories. Your body has just done a lot of work in a very short time. Magic helps but it can't do everything by itself."

Two hours later and the doc let me out into the Keep to try walking but only after I repeated my promise to stop if I felt any numbness or sharp pains.
masterofgunfu: (beast-fuck it)
 [Previously in Magic Burns]
[[OOC: All situations and dialog come from Magic Burns.]]

The fight with the reavers and fomorians could be going a lot better I think as my legs are pulled out from under me. Still, I'm holding Julie in my arms, so something was going right. I spin so I don't crush Julie when we hit the ground; since I am in my Beastform I know I weigh enough to break something of hers if I'm not careful. The claws on my feet rake at the tentacles which continue to try and pin me and I am rewarded with the lovely sounds of tearing flesh and a bellowing roar of pain.

Suck on that Shepard, Bulgar, Bullhorn or whatever the hell your name is
, I think just as twenty more tentacles begin to whip at me. I can feel them tearing into my back as I wrap myself around Julie to protect her. I throw out an arm to drag us farther away...just have to keep moving. Then I notice the ground is shaking and I look up into the bestial, bull-like face of Ugad who is now running at us. Looks like everyone wants in on the party but I'll be honest, I was partied out. Besides Ugad was so not my type. 

I was just about to tell him so when he kicked me off of Julie, his hooves crushing something in my back. She torn out of my arms and I went flying to hit a wall of junk cars. I tried to pick myself up but the impact did something to my spine and I couldn't feel my legs. Come on, damn you, I though to the Lyc-V in my system. Damn virus made my life hell, it could at least be useful and be quicker healing me.

I was just beginning to feel pins and needles when the black cloud of power hit and threw me in the air again. I had just enough time to think, Damn it, not again, before I hit the cars and the world went dark.
-------------------------------
Hours later I was sulking in a room of the med-wing of the Pack's keep when I scented Kate. Immediately, the shame of losing Julie again hit and I had to blink back tears. "I can smell you," I said and reached over to pick up her sword to offer it back to her. "I have your sword."

Kate just stood there looking conflicted before walking in to sit at the foot of my bed.

"Not even a thank you?" I quipped, hoping I didn't lose my friend cause I couldn't save her kid. If you're afraid you've lost something important, always joke. It helps. Really.

"Thank you," she said, taking her sword back. "How are you?"

"I lost Julie." I admitted. "I had her in my hands and lost her."

"I saw. You did all you could."

"You saw? How?" I asked amazed.

"The witches showed me and Bran a vision of the fight." With magic back in the world, a lot of witches banded together for strength and protection. They also took over the biggest city park Atlanta had to offer.

"If I had my guns...," I said through clenched teeth, unable to hide my frustration any longer, but then I sighed as reality forced itself in. "They wouldn't have worked regardless since the magic was up. Jesus, what a clusterfuck we made of it."

"Are you going to make it?" Kate asked me.

Her concern made me fall in on myself. "You're worried about me," I asked surprised. "Why? I'm beastkin. I heal fast. The flare is going full force, and the doctor worked his magic. I'll be up by tomorrow." Not bad for a broken spine.

"And Jim?" Kate asked with a shake of her head.

"Which one is Jim?"

"The jaguar."

"Heavy muscle damage. Ligaments all torn to shreds. He's in the next room." As I spoke I watched Kate and saw her forcing herself to sit still. She was nervous about something, or feeling helpless. "It was a good plan. Curran creates a distraction, occupies them while they key on him, and we grab the girl. Except those bitches wouldn't die and we failed."

"You tried," Kate said, guilt deep in her voice.

"Kate, I know what you are thinking. You're thinking that if you had watched Julie, she wouldn't have left with Red and we wouldn't be in this mess."

"No. Not at all," Kate said, sounding surprised.

"I just want you to know: when I took her off that cross the fomorians had tied her to, she was calling his name. Neither you nor I can do anything to break what's between them."

"Andrea, I don't blame you. I don't blame anyone. You went out there and tried against impossible odds and almost won, while I played footsie with Bran in the mist." Kate sighed and stood. "I'm going to see Jim and then I'll see about sending a runner to the Order, since the phones are dead."

That caught me by surprise. "Why?"

"From what Bran says," Kate replied grimly, "the gray bubble Morfran made is some sort of ancient druidic ward. Morfran is buying time and working the cauldron, packing the sea-demons into that bubble. When it bursts, they will spill out onto the Honeycomb and then onto the Warren. We'll need the knights and the Military Supernatural Defense Unit."

Oh. Shit. "There will be no help, Kate. Everyone's gone. Even Maxine," I managed to croak out.

"Where the hell did they go?" Kate said, her voice tight and nearly a yell.

"There's an emergency," I said softly. I was treading on dangerous ground now, dangerous classified ground. "All the knights and the MSDU are being pulled to counter it."

"Andrea, in less than twelve hours, Atlanta will be full of demons. They will kill, feed, and release more demons. What emergency is more important than this one?"

I chewed my lip trying to decide how much I could say...oh fuck it. "I'm not supposed to disclose this. There's a man. His name is Roland..."

Kate spun and I swear, she nearly punched the wall. "What is he doing that's so damn crucial? What, is he building another tower? It will fall like all his other ones. Or did his eye finally grow back and he decided to have a battle to celebrate?"

I gaped at her before slowly and carefully closing my muzzle. After another moment, I calmly asked, "Kate? How do you know that? Even I don't rank high enough to know about the eye and the towers. I was told because I would be staying behind alone. You're not even a knight. How do you know this?"

My questions hit somewhere deep within her and the look she gave me told me parts of her were wondering if she'd have to kill me. I kept my hands where they were. I've had to kill friends before, I knew how hard it was.

"Are you planning on walking into Ted's office after the flare and telling him that you're beastkin?" Kate asked finally.

I winced at the direct question. "No. He'd throw me out. The Order is all I know."

Kate nodded. "You have your secrets and I have mine. I didn't say anything about Roland and you didn't hear anything. Deal?" Kate asked, holding out her hand.

I took a moment to untangle my hand before taking hers and meeting her eyes. "And I'm not a beastkin. Deal."

masterofgunfu: (A-you okay-spooked)
  Watching your best friend - okay, you're only friend - disappear into mist is hard but I had to accept that Kate knew what she was doing. She had been the one casting the spell after all. I stood there clutching her sword and shivering slightly in the chill, night breeze wondering what to do now. Should I wait here for her or was she going to pop up somewhere else? I had no idea but I did know I was alone with the boudas again. Shifting nervously, I turned and saw one of them, a female, approaching me with a scowl. Here it comes, I thought.

  "The Cat is back and says the Beast Lord requests the presence of the Order representatives. What should I tell him?"

  Wait, she was asking me? "Take me to him," I said with a sigh. Like this won't be awkward at all. Sorry, your Majesty, you only get the Beastkin knight as Kate, the friend of the Pack, disappeared. Well, might as well get it over with.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
  The thing about the Beast Lord you don't notice right away is how big he really is. Or maybe that was just the situation in which I first met him face to face. When I was lead to the room he was in, he seemed normal sized. A big guy sure, but nothing out of the ordinary. He was sitting in a chair at a desk that was a good distance from the door. My first clue should have been how large the door was but being a runt like myself, I'm used to things being too large. Then I noticed how large the chair by the door was and realized all the furniture had been special made to fit his frame. He had to be well over six and a half feet tall if the perspectives were working right.

 He was also sitting and rubbing his forehead, as if he had a headache or didn't like what he was thinking. I drew to a stop before the desk, front and center while Jim, or the Cat as the boudas called him, took up a spot to my rear left. A good spot if I hadn't trained to be proficient in my off hand.

  I tried to speak a greeting but my voice squeaked which caused him to stop rubbing his head and look up at me. I cleared my throat and tried again. "The Order thanks the Beast Lord for his invitation and humbly offers its services."

  The Beast Lord stared at me for a long time before saying, "The Pack thanks the Order and requests the Order's representative explain what happened to our usual liaison." It was hard to say but I think the Beast Lord was a little relieved to have formal protocol to fall back on; as long as I was an Order Representative and not a Beastkin (I had shifted back, I'm not stupid) we could pretend the furry me didn't exist.

  Carefully, as briefly and as clearly as I could, I outlined everything I knew about Kate's plan and the case, as it existed. The Beast Lord nodded in a few places as I confirmed information and asked questions when he didn't quite get the picture. I did my best but some stuff, especially the mythic crap, I just wasn't up to speed on.

  Once I was done, he sat in silence again for a long time. He looked at Jim but I don't know what Jim's response was as I didn't dare take my eyes off the Beast Lord. Finally, he took a deep breath and sighed. "The Pack requests the Order's assistance in this matter. Until such a time as Kate Daniels is available, we ask you to fill her role. Please try not to offend too many Pack members as you do your duty."

  "Of course, your Majesty," I said a little light headed. "The Knight-Protector is currently unavailable, but I must point out his authority is greater than any agreement we make. If he initiates contact and feels I am unsuited for this assignment, I must obey his directive."

  The Beast Lord chuckled and said, "Oh I wouldn't worry about that. I can be persuasive in my demands."

  And then the Reaver came through the window.
masterofgunfu: (hyena-what)
[OOC: All dialog taken from Magic Burns, pages 104 and 105.]

Kate slid a beat-up book over from the top of the stack she had brought with her and flipped it open to the index. Some volume of myths and legends which, oddly, smelled of chicken.

"Your books smell like chicken," Raphael said from behind me where he had been rubbing my shoulders; which felt incredible. Had to give the guy credit, he really knew how to work a muscle. Okay, that sounded bad.

I reigned my thoughts in and shrugged off his hands. It was time to work. "If you're going to look for Julie, I'll help. She's my responsibility."

"No, she's mine," Kate shook her head. She was wrong of course since Julie had been in my keeping when she was kidnapped but now wasn't the time. "There is nothing I can do for her right now. But I can find Morrigan's bowman," she began and explained about The Sisters of the Crow, a coven Julie's mother had belonged to which was lead by a woman named--I swear this is the truth--Esmeralda and how they had done some ritual that started this whole mess. She then went into more detail about the reeves, their latest attack and needing Bran's blood, Bran being Morrigan's bowman. "When the reeves attacked us, the Shepherd mentioned the Great Crow. Let's see…"

We watched Kate flip pages back and forth for a few minutes, her forehead wrinkling in thought a few times. She stopped once to read and Raphael asked, "Any luck?" but she shook her head and said, "Not yet."

Then she had the expression that read like a face palm.

"What?" I asked as it was obvious she had found something.

She turned the book to show us an illustration of what seemed to be a boy being chased by an older woman as they both changed shape, ultimately ending with the boy (as a grain of wheat) being eaten by the woman (in the shape of a chicken).

"Birth of Taliesin. The goddess Ceridwen had a son of incredible ugliness. She felt sorry for him and brewed a potion of wisdom in a huge cauldron to make him wise. A servant boy stired the potion and accidentally tasted it, stealing the gift of wisdom. Ceridwen chased him. He turned into a grain of wheat to hide but Ceridwen turned into a chicken, swallowed him, and gave birth to Taliesin, the greatest poet, bard, and druid of his time."

I frowned, not quite getting the connection. "Yes, I see that the boy was reborn through the cauldron, but so what?"

"The name of the Goddess's ugly son. Morfran: from the Welsh mawr, "big", and bran, 'crow'. The Great Crow."

"This is the guy?" Raphael asked. "The guy in charge of the Fomorians?"

"Looks that way," Kate answered. "And more, he is a crow just like Morrigan. Very similar names plus very uneducated witches equals…"

"Disaster," Raphael finished for her.

"Those idiot Sisters couldn't actually be that ignorant," I added doubtfully. "Fumbling spells--yes, but screwing up enough to accidentally pray to the wrong deity? Morfran and Morrigan aren't even of the same gender."

"Maybe the started out praying to Morrigan, and then fumbled just enough to give Morfran an opening. Maybe Morfran managed to make a deal with Esmeralda. She wanted knowledge and he offered it to her. Taliesin, Morfran's half brother, served as a druid for King Arthur after Merlin. It follows that Morfran was probably also a druid. Who else would've taught Esmeralda druidic rites?"

I leaned forward, playing Devil's Advocate to make sure we looked at this through all angles; a child's life was at stake here. "Okay, but to what purpose? Why go through all that trouble?"

"I don't know," Kate answered rubbing at her chin. "If you were a god, what would you want?" She picked up the tea pot and filled Aunt B's cup before doing the same for her own.

"Life," Raphael said.

"I'm sorry?" Kate asked. I looked up at him, pretty sure I knew what his point was but curious to see if I was right.

"I would want life. All they do is look down on us from wherever that exist but they never get to take part. Never get to play."

A good guess but impossible. "It doesn't work like that," I said looking back to Kate. "Post-shift theory says a true deity can't manifest in our world."

"You see reports of deities all the time," Raphael said reaching for my shoulders to massage them again. I leaned into his hands a bit but not so much as to give him ideas.

"Those aren't actual true deities. They're conjurer's constructs, wicker men for their imagination. Basically magic molded into a certain shape. They have no sense of self." I took a sip of tea before continuing.

"First, most people imagine their deity within some magical realm. I mean, what worshiper pictures Zeus strolling down the street with a thunderbolt under his arm? To manifest on Earth would require independent will on the part of the deity. That's a pretty big hurdle right there. Second, deities run on the faith of their congregations like cars run on gasoline. The moment the magic ebbs, the flow of faith cuts off. No juice, no powers. Who knows what would happen to a god? They could hibernate, they could die, they could be jerked out of existence. The magic is simply not that strong and the shifts are too frequent for a deity to appear…"

"Unless she does it during a flare," Kate said in a quiet voice that echoed off the kitchen walls.

I opened my mouth to argue but closed it with a click.
Damn.
masterofgunfu: (A-maaaybe)
[OOC: All dialog from Kate's reappearance onward is taken from Magic Burns, pg 102.]

I stared into the mirror as I slowly changed myself back to my beast self. My eyes teared a bit though I blinked them back. I didn't want to die and wasn't so sure this was the form I wanted to die in if it came to that. Hell, I wasn't even sure which was the real me. I had fought so hard for the human me to be the truth but the beast me kept coming back.

A knock interrupted my thoughts and Aunt B's voice came through the door. "I've made some tea, child, and I think we should talk."

Great, I thought. I knew what this talk was going to be. Join our pack, we have great benefits. I'd have to say, "No thank you" and she'd insist. If the Beast Lord didn't kill me, she'd do the job for not being a good little girl and accepting her "offer".

I opened the door and followed her to the kitchen. She gestured to a seat at a round table with a nice tea service laid out. Aunt B poured, herself first as befit her status as Alpha and then me. I lifted the cup to take a sip. This wasn't as easy as it sounded since I was in beast form and had a muzzle; hyenas don't have lips like humans.

We stared at each other. The simple fact was, I couldn't join her clan or the Pack. I was a knight of the Order and my first loyalty had to be the Order. To be in the Pack meant my first loyalty had to be the Pack. I hoped this conflict of interest wouldn't ever come to bit me in the ass. Of course, I likely wouldn't have to worry about that since I'd likely be dead once Kate told the Beast Lord about me. And still Aunt B and I  stared at each other, not sure where to start.

We were saved from ourselves by Kate coming back. I froze, my hour at hand. "How did it go?"

"With what?" Kate asked distracted by something.

Aunt B sighed. "She wants to know if Curran's coming to kill her."

"Oh. No, he isn't interested in murdering you. Believe me, right now you're the least of his problems."

I exhaled. Some big, bad-ass knight I was.

"Please tell me there is coffee," Kate begged walking to the table with a big stack of books.

Aunt B grimaced. "They're already crazy. If I let them have coffee, they'd be bouncing off the walls. We have herbal tea."
masterofgunfu: (Default)
 Once Kate left, things settled down to wait. Aunt B (my smooth-skinned self screamed for us to get out of there but I knew it was too late for running) insisted we have some tea and so we retired from the bathroom to the kitchen. As I sat waiting for the kettle, I scented the air looking for the common smells I associated with boudas--fear, pain, insanity, depravation--but could find none here. Well, I could smell pain mixed with sex but no adrenal soaked, get me the hell out of here pain. It was too weird for me and so I asked to use the bathroom. I also had the strong urge to see my smooth-skinned self one more time before the Beastlord came to kill me.

I stood looking at myself in the mirror and couldn't find the fear I expected to find. Sure I didn't want to die but I'll be damned if there wasn't a part of me that wasn't looking forward to fight for my life. I knew it was all over but to face that impossible fight dead on, no flinching...it was intoxicating. And so of course when I opened the door to go back to the kitchen, I found a bar instead. Damnit. I shut the door and looked around for some clothes, spotting a pair of cheap gray sweats. I slipped them on and opened the door again.

Yep, still Milliways. Well, screw it, I'll face my death with a full belly at least.
masterofgunfu: (beast-not now)
[OOC: All dialog, except for the encounter with Red, are from Magic Bleeds, I have simply changed the POV to Andrea's.]

I was settling in with Julie to wait in the Vault when Kate came by to say good bye. She had changed to fresher clothing and was all decked out for a night on the town, if taking on a pack of vamps was your idea of a night on the town. A leather vest protected her torse, some loose brown pants that none the less looked to be at least denim weight, jungle combat boots, a utility belt, knives, vambraces with silver needles and her sword on her back, the whole ensamble said more than badass, it said competent badass. I had to admit, even I would think twice before throwing down with her.

"Getting settled?" Kate asked us but I was pretty sure she was really asking Julie.

"Andrea has jerky and there is pizza," the kid replied in a wilted voice.

"I'm sorry you're mad at me. I brought you a book to read." Kate put the book on the table and Julie continued to ignore her. I carefully loaded my guns so as to give them what privacy I could. After a moment or two more, Kate crossed the room and hugged Julie, which surprised me. She didn't seem the touching type, but then kids bring out the weird in us all. "I'll be back soon, okay? Stay here. Andrea is very cool. You'll be safe with her. Who knows, I might come back with your mom."

"You think so?" Julie said, her frozen anger finally cracking.

"I hope so. I've got my sabre and I've got my belt."

"Batman belt!"

"That's right, Barbara. Protect the cave while I'm gone." Kate said, not missing a beat. I couldn't help but crack a smile.

"Here. I'm not giving it to you," Julie said suddenly sober as she handed over a necklace with what looked like a bunch of coins strung on it. "I'm just letting you borrow it for a little while. You'll bring it back, right?"

"Right," Kate said, putting the necklace into a pocket under her leather. She looked at me and we nodded before she turned and left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A few hours later and Julie was again beating my ass in Street Fighter when we heard a soft bang. We froze and looked at each other for a second before I turned and picked up a gun. I gestured for Julie to get over by the panic button and headed to the Vault's single door. A knock sounded, weak and barely audible but definitely something hitting the door. I reached for the sliding panel that covered the small window set in the door but looked over at Julie before opening it.

"Remember, if I act the slightest bit weird or something pushes through, you hit the panic button. Got it?" She nodded and held her hand over the button. I slide the window guard back and looked through to see a kid, a boy maybe Julie's age, covered in blood and laying on the floor with his back to me.

Julie couldn't see much but she must have seen enough cause she yelled, "Red! That's Red! We gotta help him, let him in!"

"Now hold on, calm down. Who's Red?" I said. As I spoke I got that feeling I get sometimes, right before a magic wave. If I was going to do anything with a gun, it had to be soon.

"He's my boyfriend! You gotta help him, you're a knight!" The kid was really losing it so I made my choice and opened the door. I held my P226 at the ready and looked first one way down the corridor, then the other before approaching the kid.

"Hey, Red. You awake?" I asked just as he rolled over and blew some sort of power into my face. I fired by instinct though my aim was off by whatever the hell the kid had just thrown in my face. Then the magic hit and I felt my bones wake up and stretch. I had just enough time to scream before the pain dragged me under.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I lay there I don't know how long, barely able to breath as my body fought with itself, when I realized someone was there. I turned my head but could only see out of my left eye as the other was blocked by a flap of skin. Still I recognized Kate. Thank whom ever will listen it was Kate and not one of the other knights returned. A spasm hit and I lost myself again for a few seconds before I was able to say, "Heeeeelp." With the word came other sensations; the wetness I was laying in, a breeze across my small intestines, the snap, crackle pop of my vertebrae as they grew and shrank.

"I'm going to take you to the hyena pack," Kate said and I panicked.

"No. Can't." I wanted to scream but forming those simple words was the best I could manage. As fucked up as my life was, I still wanted to live.

"Don't argue. We have no choice." Kate said as she set herself to lift me. She carried me through the Chapter's offices and out to a horse buggy. I could smell wolfsbane and not much else; wolfsbane was really good at masking scents which was why it was so popular. Setting me down carefully, Kate asked, "Julie?"

"Boy," I said fighting through another spasm as my neck tried to decide how long it needed to be. "Shaman boy. Took Julie."

I could see Kate's scowl of murder but all she said was, "Hang on for me. Stay alive," and turned to run back into the office. While she was gone, I reached up to the buggy's wall and managed to pull myself up maybe an inch before the spasms decided they were being too nice and called in the convulsions.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Over and over I tried to escape the wagon, only to have my own body betray me. Hours it seemed as Kate drove us from the heart of the city to the wooded lands belonging to the Pack.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was floating, buoyed by the pain, when Kate's snarl, "She's dying!" broke through and I saw the face of an angle thrust inches from my own..

The angel looked frozen for a second before disappearing from my field of view. "Open the way!" A male voice called out.

"You forget yourself..." a female, not Kate, replied.

"She needs Mother now!" The male voice yelled back. "Drive!"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Strong arms picked me up and brought me back to the world. I cracked open an eye and saw my angel was back. He carried me to a house and I caught a brief glimpse of a nice, friendly old lady who took one look at me and jerked her head. "Inside," she said, her voice baked cookies and surgical steel. "You, too!"

I had no idea who she was talking to but I hoped it was Kate. It would be good to have one friendly face with me when I was torn to pieces.

My angel carried me to a huge marble tub, spilling sex toys and fruit, to lay me down in the warm water. He even stepped into the water with me and kept me afloat so I wouldn't drown. Which was good, as another seizure hit and I lost track of things.

"Who else knows?" I heard the cookies and steel voice say.

"She had a wolf with her," the female from outside said.

"Who?"

"Derek," a new voice said and it took me a moment to recognize Kate.

"Good. The boy will go straight to Curran. I can reason with Curran. It's our luck that the Bear is away. As long as none of the older guard find out, we'll be fine," Cookies and steel mused. The nice old lady, Aunt B my mind reminded me, came into my field of vision. "Stupid, stupid child," she said not unkindly. "You know what you are?"

I nodded and my body tried again to become what it knew, what I had prevented it from becoming for months now.

"It will go easier then. Strip her." Another female, the one who we met on the road if her scent was anything to go by, jumped into the tub and removed what bits of clothing still remained on me.

"You're going to gag, go outside," Aunt B told Kate before turning the weight of her full attention on me. "I will guide you into the beast form. Your face is turning gray. You know what that means, so concentrate if you want to live. Chest first. Picture two wings growing from your back. Large wings. Spread them, child. Spread them wide."

I heard the door slam as Kate ran.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My delirium was fading and I found myself resigned to my fate. I was a shapeshifter, a beastkin, and Kate had brought me to my doom though she thought she was saving me. I lay in the male bouda's arms as he carefully searched my skull while Aunt B and the other female talked me through to my beast form.

The bathroom door opened and I heard Kate's voice. "I have to go..." she said and Aunt B turned to look at her, revealing my beast self to Kate for the first time. Her voice trailed off as she looked me over.

"Found it," the male said and Aunt B held my head and said, "Do it." He pulled the shaman's charm from my skull; the charm that had inhibited my beast for for all these months and allowed me to serve the Order without fear of discovery. My senses immediately sharped to their true potential and I was surprised to smell little fear coming from Kate. The male leaned forward and lightly licked my neck, sending a shiver through me.

"I do believe Raphael's in love." The younger female bouda said. Figures, my angel had the name of a Renaissance artist.

"Kate? Where are you going?" I asked, my voice a little deeper and rougher in my beastform.

"Curran wants to talk to me. He sent Jim, and it's best I go."

I took a deep breath. I had to explain to her, she had to know what she was walking into. "I'm beastkin." Kate looked unimpressed and confused.

Aunt B spoke up. "Do you remember Corwin?"

"The catwere. He died protecting Derek," Kate replied.

"Corwin was a good person. He came here a lot."

"He liked to play," the female bouda added.

"Yes, he did. He was shooting blanks. No harm done," Aunt B said continuing to look at Kate.

"That's to be expected, the beastweres are sterile."

Aunt B's face stretched a bit. "Not always."

"Oh."

"Occasionally, very, very occasionally, they make babies."

"Oh."

I sighed as Kate was now getting it. "Sometimes babies survive."

"You're the child of a hyenawere?" Kate blurted and everybody winced.

"Yes," I said oddly relieved that someone knew. "I'm beastkin. My father was born a hyena."

"Does Ted know?"

"He might suspect, but he has no proof."

Kate shrugged. "I won't tell him if you don't. What happened to Julie?"

"Just like that?" the female bouda interrupted. "It doesn't bother you that she is a child of an animal?"

"No," Kate said simply. "Why should it? Anyway, what happened to Julie?"

Aunt B must have decided Kate still didn't understand so she added, "The Code says we're human first. We're born human; we die human. That is the natural form, the dominant form. We must assert it and set it above the beast, because that is the natural way."

"The beastkin are born beast," I said softly. "It follows that beast is our natural form, but as we grow, we lose the ability to become beast, because we're hybrid. Therefore I am an animal that's crippled at birth. Unnatural."

Kate rolled her eyes at all of us. "Andrea, you're my friend. I don't have many of those. How you were born, what you look like, what anybody else thinks, makes no difference to me. When I needed help, you helped me and that's all that matters. Now, can you please, please tell me what happened to my kid?"

In shock I twitched my nose and a nervous cackle slipped out before I choked it off. "A homeless boy came to the vault."

"Red."

"Yes. Julie told me he was her boyfriend. He was covered in blood and he collapsed by the door. Julie went hysterical. I opened the door and he threw something at me, a powder. I carried a shaman charm in my skull to keep from turning. Usually I have no trouble, but the magic ran too high. Whatever he did..." I said and threw up my hands. "It interfered with the charm. I started turning but I couldn't finish. He grabbed Julie and dragged her out." I could tell Kate was seriously pissed, likely more pissed than I had ever seen her.

"Your sword's smoking," the female bouda said helpfully.

"It does that occasionally," Kate said, her voice flat.

Aunt B wasn't done yet though. She leaned forward. "By tradition, all beastkin are killed at birth. If any of the shapeshifters find out she's here, I'll have a mob at my doorstep."

Raphael licked his lips and said, "It might be fun."

Aunt B reached out and casually smacked him on the back of the head.

"Ow.

"Is that Curran's cat outside my door?"

"Yes," Kate replied.

"He's caught Andrea's scent by now and he'll report. You'll have to tell Curran something. It's better not to lie."

"I'll take that under advisement," Kate said and walked out.
masterofgunfu: (Default)
 I was busy adjusting the tension on a tactical crossbow when Mauro poked his head into my Armory. Standing at least six-four and nearly as wide, Mauro was a Samoan who could direct fire, kind of like this cartoon I saw once. I think it had something to do with the dense wall of tribal tattoos on his back and chest. Someday I'll ask if it was a shamanic thing or not. He was also one of the few knights who ignored the Knight-Protector's lead in his attitude towards me. He honestly seemed to like me which I greatly appreciated. The fact that he was so huge and intimidating also kept a lot of the harassment I could be getting off my back. Not that I couldn't handle it but it was nice not to have to deal with.

"Guess who's house sitting tonight," he said with a pained expression on his face.

"Oh, son of a bi…I've been here all day!"

"Sorry, Ted's orders. Plus, with the Flare coming, every knight…"

"I know every knight but one will be on patrol, no exceptions. Fine."

"I'll bring you chocolate."

"Like hell you will. You couldn't afford it and your wife would kill you if she found out."

Another fun night polishing bowstrings and guns,
I thought to myself. Maybe now would be a good time to M-scan those things from Milliways.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Half an hour later and I was staring at two printout sheets from the M-scans I did of a book of matches from the bar and a bullet I had taken from here to there and back again. Both pages were blank. Huh. Weird. Convenient but weird.

Andrea dear?
Maxine, the Order's telepathic receptionist's "voice" said in my head and I quickly pushed thoughts of Milliways into a box. Kate Daniels is on line four for you.

Got it,
I projected back as I picked up the phone. "Hey, Kate."

"I really hate to ask you this," Kate said, "but I have no choice. I'm trying to escort a little girl to the Order so I can hide her in the vault. I need three horses."

YES! I thought and nearly danced in place. "No problem. Where are you?"

"I'm at the Pack's Southeast Office. I'll meet you on the corner of Griffin and Atlanta Avenue. And I have a shapeshifter with me."

Pack territory...that could be tricky The Pack was a confederation of different clans of shapeshifters, all ruled by one man, Curran or as he is most often called, the Beast Lord. The Pack didn't let just anyone into or out of their territory but then I was just a knight helping another knight do her duty. "Sit tight. I'll be right there," I said and hung up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The ride to pick up Kate and her posse (a young waif of a girl who was maybe ten and who reeked like she lived on the streets and an Oh-My-God-Lock-Up-Your-Women hansom young man of maybe 18, the aforementioned shapeshifter, a wolf if I wasn't mistaken) was straight forward and boring. Well, as boring as heavy traffic in Atlanta can be. Everyone could tell a flare was coming and so was taking care of business, leaving town, or batting down the hatches. Flares could be bad news. Normally, a magic wave comes and goes, maybe leaving behind a harpy or some other challenging but not impossible to kill monster. Flares could leave dragons or even gods behind.

We made it back to the Order's HQ in decent enough time with me riding point, though I could tell Kate was anxious with our pace. Once we got there, she sent the little girl, Julie if I caught the name right, upstairs to her office and brought the two horses she and Derek's had been riding over to the stables while I grabed mine and Julie's. Derek took up a position at the front of the building to give us girls the illusion of privacy. I knew wolf ears would pick up anything we said and was pretty sure Kate knew too. 

She filled me in on her case; a missing person with a twist as only Atlanta could provide. Kate was looking for Julie's mom, who went missing after some big ritual. The twist came in the form of something Kate call reeves, which sounded like twisted vampire mermaids who could use their hair like tentacles, and an entity she called Hood but apparently was more commonly know as Bolgor the Shepard and somehow I just knew he didn't care for little sheep. 

And I was right. Bolgor is one of the fomorians, ancient Irish sea demons or something. I didn't really know a fomorian from a leprechaun but sea demon seemed to be enough information to know they were bad news. Kate finished talking so I said, "Fomorians," as if I really knew what that meant. "What's the world coming too?"

Kate scowled a nod and said, "Three things: what are they doing here, why do they want Julie, and what happened to her mom?"

I shook my head. "I have no clue. But that's not my area. I shoot. I make gadgets work. I'm good with post-Shift resonance theory. Ask me something about folklore, and I draw a blank every time. But I'll keep you girl safe."

"I'm sorry to dump this on you."

I looked over at Derek and sighed. "I wish everyone would stop walking on eggshells around me. It needs doing, so I'll do it. I have to stay in the Chapter anyway: it's standard procedure during a flare for one knight to always be present. I'll guard your girl."

Kate didn't look assured.

"What's up?"

"Should I write up a petition for safe asylum?" She asked chewing her lip in thought. Obviously rules and regulations were not her thing but I caught her drift.

"Worried about the Danger to Humanity clause?"

"Yeah."

I smiled as I'd nailed it on the head. "The good news is, you don't have to file one. She is an orphan with no known relatives. Under provision seventeen, you can assume temporary guardianship of her due to the fact she's can't legally enter into contract. Fill out form 240-m, and she becomes your ward in the eyes of the Order. During a flare, all families of Order personnel can legally seek shelter at the nearest Chapter without being subject to the imminent danger clause. Unless she attacks, they have no authority to neutralize her."

"I don't know if she would sign something like that," Kate said, still doubtful. "She still thinks her mother is alive. And so do I. It might hammer some unpleasant possibilities home."

"You don't need her to sign. That's the beauty of it–all you need is the testimony of one knight besides yourself who agrees that you're acting in her best interests," I replied with a Cheshire grin. "And lucky you, you know one."

"Thanks," Kate said and I could tell she meant it.

"No problem. This is kind of fun for me–I'm so freaking bored. If magic hits, we'll skedaddle down into the vault, and if the reeves show up while the tech is up, I'll use their heads for target practice."

The Order's main door burst open. Julie ran headfirst into Derek and flailed in his hands. He grabbed her and lifter her off the ground. "What? Speak!"

She stained and spat a single word. "Vampire!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

It waited for us upstairs in Kate's office; a hairless, emaciated nightmare, wrapped in steel-wire muscle and hidden in human skin. It was nude, ugly, and had been dead for three or four decades. Someone had smeared copious amounts of purple sunblock over its hide. For some reason the sunblock didn't disappear but dried into paste, as if the creature had popped a giant bubble of grape gum onto itself.

"You've got to be kidding me," Kate said upon seeing the creature.

The vampire unhinged its mouth and a deep, cultured voice issued forth. "A pleasure to see you, as always."

I entered the office on Kate's heals, stepped to her left to leave her sword arm free, and drew both my SIG-Sauers. I saw Kate's eyes widen minutely and internally I cringed. At this point I was going to have to get horn-rimmed glasses to keep my secret identity.

"Lovely firearms," the vampire said.

"SIG-Sauer P226. Move and you'll go blind."

"Do you really think you could beat vampire reflexes?" The vampire asked, the voice light. Or the pilot I should say, for vampires had no consciousness and since it hadn't already attacked us, it was being driven by a necromancer. The pilot wasn't challenging me; he was merely curious. But then again, he wasn't the one facing physical harm.

"Do you want to find out?" I replied, just for the record.

Kate interrupted us by saying, "She can blow his head off before you finish a twitch. Trust me, I measure speed for a living." I was liking Kate more and more. "Fortunately for all of us, we don't have to fight."

She smiled at me, telling me it was okay and so I put my guns away. "I'll be down the hall," I said and left the office, closing the door behind me. I wondered if we had any of that powdered stuff people claimed tasted like hot chocolate to feed the kid, hoping kids still liked hot chocolate.
masterofgunfu: (Default)

[OOC: Disclaimer, the situations and dialogue are all from Magic Burns. I have merely switched the POV from Kate to Andrea.]

I unlocked the door to the armory and stood to gaze at my domain. Another glorious day in the Order of Merciful Aid. Seven years of a stellar record serving and protecting those who couldn't protect themselves from the magical HazMat left over by the magical waves that have been hitting the world for decades and now, now I'm a glorified clerk. I have one mission go bad and I land here, in Atlanta, with a boss, one Ted Moynohan, who doesn't trust me. A boss who keeps me locked up in the Armory and off of active duty. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer right? Well, at least I can serve by making sure the equipment is in good shape. You need to be able to depend on your equipment right?

A few hours into my morning and I'm cleaning a Glock 21C (a decent enough weapon though nothing to a Sig Sauer if you want my humble opinion) when I get a visitor in the form of one Kate Daniels; tall, dark, and svelte to my short, blond, and stocky. If there was anyone my boss trusted less than me, it'd be Kate. A loose cannon, she was brought in to investigate the death of the Chapter's Knight-Diviner a few months ago and ended up on the payroll as a liaison between the Mercenary Guild and the Order. It was about this time that I realized she was just standing there looking at me.

"You need something?" I asked politely.

Kate blinked before replying, "I need to ID a crossbow bolt."

Be still my heart, this was almost like a case. I made a come-here gesture with my free hand while I put the Glock on the cleaning cloth. "Give."

Kate held out a brown paper bag and I did my best not to roll my eyes. A paper bag. Really, what sort of evidence keeping were they teaching these days? Once I pulled out the bolt (being careful to hold it by the paper) I couldn't help the whistle that escaped my lips. This was a nice piece of work. Blood-red and fletched with three black feathers, it was about two feet long. Several, inch-long black lines marked the shaft just before the fletch as well; nine marks in all. Beautiful and deadly. 

"Nice," I said. "This is a carbon shaft. It can't be bent. Very durable and expensive. Looks like a 2216, designed to bring down medium-sized game, deer, some bear…"

"Human," Kate interrupted as she leaned against the wall and sipped her coffee.

"Yeah." I nodded. "Good power, good trajectory without any significant sacrifice in speed. It's a man-killer. Look at the head–small, three-blade, weights about a hundred grains. Reminds me a lot of a Wasp Boss series. Some people go for mechanical broad heads, but with a good crossbow the acceleration is so sudden, it opens the blades in flight and there goes your accuracy down the drain. If I were to pick a broad head, I'd pick something like this." I twisted the bolt, letting the light from the window play on the blades of the head. "Hand sharpened. Where did you get this?"

She told me; a bag-and-tag case that went sour, resulting in the death of the tag, killed with the bolt by parties unknown. I frowned in thought, "The fact that you didn't hear the bow go off probably means it's a recurve. A compound crossbow 'twangs' at release. Can I fire it?" I nodded toward my man-shaped target boards to make sure she knew I didn't mean at her. People can be jumpy.

"Sure."

I put the bolt down, still wrapped in the paper, to put on gloves so as to keep the magic residue to a minimum. Grabbing a small crossbow off the bench, I loaded, swung it up, and fired. The bolt whistled through the air and bit into the center of the man's forehead. Bull's-eye, as always. I saw Kate flinch out of the corner of my eye and wondered if I should have taken some time to aim first. Oh well.

The fey lanterns flickered and faded. On the wall, the dusty electric fixture flared with soft yellow light. The magic wave had drained and the world had shifted from magic back to tech. Kate and I looked at each other. Nobody could predict the duration of the shifts: the magic came and went as it pleased. But the waves rarely lasted less than an hour. This one had been what, fifteen minutes?

"Is it me, or is it shifting more than usual?" Kate asked though we both knew the answer.

"It's not you." I said as I walked over to free the bolt. "Want me to scan it for magic?" 

"If it's not too much trouble." Magic had the annoying tendency of dissipating over time. The sooner you could scan your evidence, the better you chances of getting a power print.

"Trouble?" I asked and leaned into her personal space. "I've been off-line for two months. It's killing me. I have cobwebs growing on my brain." I pressed my finger below my right eye, pulling the lower eyelid down. "Look for yourself."

Kate laughed at my joke, half convincing me she was all right. I walked the bolt over to the magic scanner, raised the glass hood, slid the bolt onto the ceramic tray, lowered the cube, and cranked the lever. The cube descended and the m-scanner whirled.

"Andrea?"

"Mmm?"

"The tech's up," Kate said.

I grimaced, feelings stupid for making such a rookie mistake. "Oh, Christ. Probably won't get anything. Well, you never know. Sometimes you can pull some residual magic imprints even during tech."

We looked at the cube. We both knew it was futile. You would have to scan something really saturated with magic to get a good m-scan during tech. Like a body part. The m-scanner analyzed the traces of residual magic left on an object by its owner and printed them in a variety of colors: blue for human, green for shapeshifter, purple for vampire. The tone and vividness of the colors denoted the different types of magic, and reading an m-scan correctly was practically an art form. The traces of magic on a bolt, probably held very briefly, were bound to be minuscule.

The printer chattered. I pulled the print out and turned to Kate. My shock must have been clear for Kate looked confused for a second before she looked at the print out as well. A wide line of silvery blue cut across the paper. Human divine. That in itself was not remarkable. Anybody who drew their power from deity or religion registered as human divine: the Pope, Shaolin monks, even a knight-diviner, would register silver-blue. The problem was, we shouldn't have been able to get an m-scan at all with the tech up.

"What does this mean? Is the residual magic just incredibly strong on this thing?" Kate asked.

I shook my head. "The magic waves have been really erratic lately."

We looked at each other. We both knew what rapid-fire waves meant: a flare. And this city needed a flare like I needed a hole in the head. Bad things happened in flares, and giant monsters were the least of it.

Kate got the faraway look in her eyes that suggested Maxine, our telepathic receptionist, was "talking" to Kate, likely letting her know she had a call or a petitioner. Gods, I'd kill for a petition right about now. Kate looked back to me long enough to thank me before heading to her office.

Well, back to cleaning guns.

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Andrea Maria Nash

August 2014

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