The sun was rising as I finally looked up from my work. I had pulled another all-nighter. I rubbed my eyes and looked over the mess of papers scattered all over my small dining table. For all that effort, I didn’t find anything too surprising, but I did notice some things that the lead detective on this case had not. To be fair, they aren’t as close to this case as I am…which is probably one of the reasons I was never put on it to begin with.
As I started to organize the piles of paper, Gremlin, my giant fluffy orange cat jumped on the table, making things more difficult. That was her job though, making things more difficult.
“I’ll feed you soon,” I told her, she just stared at me then wandered over to her food bowl and plopped herself down next to it.
I ignored her and continued to organize my notes as I went over everything in my head before I forgot my line of reasoning. Fact one, there was two years worth of violence in the area, though not all occurred in the same alleyway my parents died. Fact two, all of the victims were either new citizens of the U.S., on visas, or first generation full-citizens. Fact three, all of the victims were parents of an only child. Fact four, almost all of these children were female. Fact five, witnesses all seem to confirm that the victims did not normally travel through that alleyway but were drawn to do so for various reasons. Fact six, I spotted in the numerous videos and photos of the crime scenes, the same fair-haired male around the police investigating the area or when large crowds of people passed by. Fact seven, the violence stopped after my father’s death.
Facts one through four point to a very clear pattern. This type of victim targeting was the marking of a serial killer. The Mage wasn’t committing the murders himself, so his hands were “clean” and there was no way I could convince my team of police mortals that someone was compelling others to do his dirty work and using Magic to get a certain type of person to walk down a certain alleyway to be murdered. That and there’s the whole portal to Twilight that had existed in that alleyway. I’m pretty sure I’d be sent to a mental hospital if I put out any of these ideas to my team.
The next step would be to see if I could get any leads on this fair-haired individual…maybe facial recognition could help…though the images weren’t great, it was the only lead I really had. I need more information before I started questioning my fellow Mages. My best guess is whoever had orchestrated these specific individuals to die in the way they did wanted to force an Awakening. Obviously it had worked, since I’m here. The only thing I can’t piece out is why the individuals had to be foreigners. For serial killers, there would be some sort of history there. That might be another way to tease out who this individual is. It was clear I would have more sleepless nights ahead of me until I figured this out.
I stood, stretching my tired muscles, then walked over to Gremlin, filling her bowl with a bit of kibble. I then laid down on my couch, hoping to get a few hours of sleep before the Threads wanted to meet. It felt like as soon as I closed my eyes I was awoken by my phone buzzing in my pocket. I groaned and looked at the texts from Ace and Nabu. We were meeting this morning, apparently. Great. I changed quickly as I received another text from Nabu asking if I could pick him up. I had him send me his address and headed out in record time. In my haste I forgot my cavalier vest, but I did have time to get a giant coffee before grabbing Nabu and at the moment no coffee seemed more life-threatening than potentially going into the Fey Realm without my vest.
Nabu, it seems, was having his own issues. When I arrived, he was outside inspecting his car; someone had smashed all of his windows and slashed all of his tires. I had seen the like before. Nabu had likely pissed off the wrong person. I parked my car and joined him without a word. I pointed out one bit of damage that stood out against the rest, a thin line scratched into the car’s side and rather low to the ground. Nabu had noticed it too, which didn’t surprise me, out of the Threads he’s been consistently the most observant.
If it had been night or if there were not any sleepers around, I might have been able to make it so his tires were fixed, not full of air or anything elaborate like that but fixed enough so someone could easily fill them with air and tow the car. But luck wasn’t with us and there were a number of Sleepers walking down the street, so I didn’t mention the idea. Just like Wanderer, Nabu could look back in time. I find it fascinating to watch from the outside, he’s clearly looking at something else, but I can’t see what it is.
When he came to he told me what he saw. Apparently, a group of people wearing stereo-typical thug outfits, complete with dark trench coats, large boots, and bandana masks, were responsible for the damage to his car. Something invisible had made the scratch on the side of his car. This was the second time a random act of violence damaged his car.
“Did you make enemies with the local mafia? Or someone else with that type of connection?” I asked.
Nabu couldn’t think of anyone, so I said, “Maybe it’s the Abyss coming back at you.”
Between the attempted carjacking in the middle of the day during heavy traffic and now this, it did seem like he was in a bought of bad luck if he wasn’t being specifically targeted. Nabu dismissed this thought though and mentioned that the attacks did start happening after he located the vampire Alyssa at one of her places of business. From what I read up about her, she was well connected and after seeing the monstrosity of a “living room” she had set up in Fort Adams, she was just the type to be vindictive enough to send such a warning to a powerful Mage like Nabu.
Nabu asked if I could see if there were any security cameras in the area. I looked above us and didn’t see any obvious ones nearby, so it was unlikely the event was captured on video, but we might be able to determine which way they went if they were spotted further down the road. I put in a call to my police buddies, though I told Nabu it would take them some time to get back to me…which wasn’t all that useful at that exact moment. So, already being a bit late to meet with the rest of our group, we decided to leave.
Gateway to Fey
Ace was playing with Jack at the park when we arrived. We were over twenty minutes late, so I was surprised to see no one else there and thought maybe they were impatient and went ahead without us. Though Ace informed us that no one else had arrived. We decided to give people a little bit more time as Nabu told Ace what happened to his car and how the thought Alyssa was to blame. Apparently, he had been tracking her whenever possible and saw some invisible presence low to the ground the last time he was out doing so, which could have been from the same thing that made the scratch on his car.
After his story, Ace, the ever-protective one, asked if Nabu would stay in the group mansion in Newport until whatever is behind the attacks stopped. Nabu agreed and Ace made it clear he was not happy about Nabu going off on his own to track down Alyssa. I wasn’t either, but then again I was continuously going off on my own into dangerous situations, so I didn’t say anything.
It soon became clear that no one else was coming, so we headed down along the walking path that led to the gateway into Fey. They both summarized what had happened the night before as we walked down the path. A beautiful female vampire of Japanese descent had told them there was a Goblin Market beyond the Gateway. That sounded very interesting. Maybe I could find something that would help me locate the man that killed my parents there.
I wish I had been there when they met the vampire as I could have questioned her a bit more than they did. Like what the Goblin Market would be like. Or more details about her missing friend. If her friend was missing and was part of the Waterfire group that went missing, then it was likely if we helped her find her friend, then we could find all of them and figure how what happened.
I asked Nabu if he could somehow track her friend using a connection between her and him. Apparently that’s not a Fate thing, but a Space thing. I keep on messing that up. Voland was doing a ritual (and invisible) while they talked with the vampire so as much as he wanted to offer his assistance, he could not. I guess if she’s still in the Goblin Market, we could tell her that ourselves.
As we came closer to a clump of dense trees, I felt drawn to it and started walking forward without even realizing it as my companions came to a stop. Nabu grabbed my shoulder, stopping me. I shook my head clear and turned away from the opening as he told Ace and I that his spell from yesterday that was meant to drive people away from the area had been dispelled. As we approached closer, Nabu looked back in time again and told us that a very large man wearing a green cloak had simply dispelled his spell with a wave of his hand. That was a tad intimidating, but Nabu put it back up as I was, yet again, compelled to move forward. This time Ace stopped me before I could go any further, gently grabbing my arm. I hadn’t realized it until that moment, but just a few months ago I would have reflexively balked at being touched without warning like that. I guess I was becoming more connected with my Cabal mates than I realized.
Once he finished his spell I turned to Nabu and asked, “Can you do the opposite? Try to attract a certain type of individual to an area?”
“Yes,” he said, “but…depending on the type of person, you’d need the associated Arcana skill to set a condition like that up.”
I nodded. So, it was probably more likely that these individuals had been compelled separately by this Mage than him setting up an elaborate trap that only drew in certain types of people. I suppose either was possible, but the first method seems simpler…It would also explain how he knew my real name. He did his research.
“Why do you ask?” Ace asked me as we moved forward towards the Gateway.
“It’s a long story,” I responded, assuming we would, within seconds, be surrounded by all sorts of strange creates in a bustling Goblin Market, “Perhaps for another time.”
He nodded at that but as we entered the Gateway, before us was a long, straight path through the woods and we were very much on our own, so I turned to him and said, “I guess there is plenty of time.”
I told them everything, though I did leave out the part about the victims being foreign. I normally would have told them about it, but I was just so tired I wasn’t thinking correctly. Ace wasn’t too happy to learn there was a threat against me and I was currently exploring it on my own. He asked if I would stay at the mansion as well.
“My apartment is much closer to work,” I responded, but that wasn’t good enough of an answer for Ace.
“I would be more comfortable if you stayed there for now and didn’t go off on your own for this,” he responded.
“This is my fight,” I said, “and I can handle myself.”
“This isn’t about that,” Ace said, “There are many others in our group,” he continued, looking at Nabu, “that can’t handle themselves in a fight, you’re not one of them. But…we’re a Cabal now, so a threat to one of us is a threat to all of us.”
That made a certain kind of sense so I said, “I might stay there for a bit, just to be on the safe side.”
The Goblin Market
The last time the group went into the Fey realm they informed me that part of it, known as the Hedge could have an impact on your very soul. So, as we approached the entrance to the Goblin Market, I pulled up my Soul Armor. As we drew closer, we saw a group of orcs, two standing on either side of the entrance. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Nabu simply greeted them and told them we were there for the market. They just grunted and waved us in.
The Market was full of activity and strange creatures in every direction. There weren’t too many that looked like anything resembling a mortal. We were probably the closest ones there. It was a bit chaotic, but we all agreed the goal was to find any Sleepers in the area and get them out. Though, I admit I was distracted looking for something that might help me find that damn Mage that caused my Awakening in such a horrible way.
The four of us meandered through the booths, Ace and Jack keeping a close eye on Nabu and I. We stuck together, but not in such a way to draw attention to ourselves, but making sure that we were in line of sight of each other at all times. I never did find something that would help me against a Mage, but I did come across a very interesting pendant shaped similarly to Loki’s symbol at a booth run by a Fey that looked a bit like a Dwarf. Well, the symbol that us mortals have made into his symbol, anyway. None of the Norse Gods technically have official symbols. This pendant though, when I looked at it, the eyes appeared to blink. Opening my Mage Sight, I noted there was some sort of Force and Mind magic at work.
Knowing his talents in Forces, I looked around for Ace and was momentarily distracted by the booths shifting all around me. Though not too surprising as everything there seemed to be Magic of some nature, I noticed that the booths were not as they first seemed and were actually made of various materials that just agreed to be booths for the time being. Fey were strange creatures. I shook my head, shutting off my Sight and called Ace over.
After some strong hinting on my end, Ace used his Mage Sight on the pendant for me and said it would be able to bend light and create illusions, though having more knowledge of Mind Arcana would be useful to determine more about it. That didn’t surprise me as it was Loki’s symbol and he did love his tricks.
“That’s not surprising,” I muttered.
“What’s important to you about this pendant?” Ace asked me as I considered bargaining with the Dwarf.
I probably shouldn’t have answered as it gave away my desire a bit to the Dwarf, but if I’m nothing else, I am honest so I said, “It’s important to my religion.”
The Dwarf then mentioned it was Loki’s symbol. I simply nodded.
“Loki?” Ace asked, “Like Thor’s brother?”
I narrowed my eyes at him before I caught myself. Now, that was something I could normally have held back, but as tired as I was my filter was very thin. A lot of people made that mistake and that was fine, just a result of common pop culture, but it always annoyed me.
“No, not Thor’s brother,” I said through my teeth.
Ace dropped the subject, claiming ignorance and I knew it wasn’t his fault. I could educate him later. Give him a book or something. The old Norse tales are very entertaining and many have been modernized enough to make for an easier and more enjoyable reading. According to my Grandmother, Loki had chosen me when I was a child. I didn’t truly believe her on that, but I have always felt a strong connect to him in particular. His role as the trickster and well, the fact that he was the one that brought the Gods low when they were at their most arrogant is admirable. That made this particular pendant very tempting.
Apparently the Fey here didn’t take money though, only traded in bargains, favors, service, and Goblin Fruit (not bananas like Ace had suggested) as well as other random things. The Dwarf suggested I give him Nabu at one point, which made me laugh until I realized he was being serious. It was soon clear that I had no idea what I was doing at this Market and no idea what anything was worth. Thinking it best to learn more of the market first, I told the Dwarf that I might be back later. He put the pendant away for me as he said he wouldn’t sell it to just anyone. I nodded my thanks and we continued on…though, the rest of the evening, whenever I looked over to that booth he was holding it up for me to see.
As we continued through the Market, Nabu and Ace paused for a moment. Looking around, I realized they were both looking in the direction of a beautiful young woman dancing on a table to the delighted cheers of her table-mates. At first I thought they were just looking because she was gorgeous, but then Ace asked if it was the same vampire woman they had met the night before. Nabu said he thought she was. I used my Death Sight on her and confirmed that she was indeed a vampire and well, gorgeous, so likely the same person. Neither of them seemed inclined to go over and talk with her, so we moved on.
Ace, Jack, and I tagged along as Nabu’s Fate Magic guided him through the Market. There were all sorts of booths and creatures throughout. I wanted to explore it more, but reminded myself there would be time for that once we found the Sleepers and got them to safety. As much as I wanted that pendant, the lives of others is far more important than my own selfish desires.
I noticed that any booth that was selling Goblin Fruit was well guarded. Most of the merchants here traded for Goblin Fruit, so it was clearly the most common and most valuable form of currency. As we meandered through the booths, Nabu kept on asking if the merchants saw any mortals come through and when they last saw them. It became clear we weren’t getting any useful information out of them. They always said “earlier this evening” or simply “yes, there were some mortals”. They weren’t going to give away too much information for free. Everything, it seemed, was for sale. This included the information we needed, so why give that away when we might barter for it? They wouldn’t even inform Nabu of the value of the Goblin Fruit he had found was worth without some sort of deal.
Ace lingered a bit near a booth that was selling various weapons. I didn’t look too closely myself, though there were some very interesting ones, including a Nerf gun that felt as though it was made of stone and a sword made of seashells. While Ace was looking, Nabu and I spotted a much more interesting booth that was selling various types of what appeared to be bottled liquor.
Without a word, the two of us silently agreed to check it out and walked over to it. The booth was run by a couple of Gnomes who were more than happy to recommend different drinks to us. We soon realized they were selling odd drinks like “bottled sorrow” as well as regular alcohol you could most likely find in any mortal liquor store. One of the Gnomes offered us a free sample. Nabu and I agreed to this and they asked what we wanted to try. I asked for something happy and they gave me a taste of “relaxing while on vacation”. Now that’s a laugh. I can’t remember the last time I took a relaxing vacation, but I felt that feeling wash through me as I drank. It was comfortable, yet unsettling knowing I was feeling something that I wasn’t actually experiencing. Nabu was given “My thesis is due tomorrow”, which sounded like a horrible feeling to want, but I didn’t question him.
It was clear Ace wasn’t happy with our actions, but he didn’t say anything. He also didn’t partake in the free drinks, which after a moment, led the merchant to offer Nabu and I a second free sample. Feeling very relaxed and carefree, I asked for something “sexual” in nature. Not something I would have normally done, but I was on vacation, after all. Nabu ended up getting an inspiring drink, which was called “riding my bike the first time without training wheels”. I wasn’t shown the label of the drink I had, which ended up being…well very pleasurable. I had to excuse myself for a moment. I guess it’s a good thing neither of the guys tried that one. That’s all I’m saying. After the second set of free samples, the merchant tried to sell us some but we both declined and thanked them for the samples.
Soon after, Nabu’s spell lead him an old crone sitting in a rocking chair that was selling owed favors, bargains, and other obscure things. She said she could identify Nabu’s Goblin Fruit, but, of course, at a price. This was the second or third time one of them had asked for him to defend them at the next Goblin Market as a form of payment. Mages, it seems, were highly sought after. I vaguely thought of going back to the booth that was selling the pendant, but pushed it from my mind. If I had acted as if I wanted it so badly, he was surely going to gouge the price.
After Nabu turned down the old crone’s offer, we soon found ourselves at the center of the Market. There was music and people drinking and gathering in various groups. I noticed some Changelings from the MET were gathered at one table and a group that was likely made up of vampires (one had glowing red eyes and wasn’t breathing, so it was pretty obvious) were openly glaring at the vampire woman that was dancing on the table earlier.
The three of us separated. Ace went to the Market bulletin board, after borrowing a bit of paper and a pen from us and Nabu went over to the bar. I hesitated, torn between asking the Changeling how to go about making a deal here and telling the vampire about how we could help find her friend. In the end, I went over to the vampire. Our group did have a task, afterall.
Seated around the beautiful vampire was a large troll, a pudgy little goblin, and an Elfin male. I later learned the Elf’s name was Yarin, though I never caught any of the other’s. She smiled at me as I approached her table. Actually, they all did…including the very large troll with the very large teeth. I asked if I could join them, then dragged an empty chair over once they said I could. Yarin informed me that they were playing a game in which one of them states something they would like to do and the other’s fully support them. He then asked me what I would like to do.
The vampire laughed and nudged the Elf’s shoulder and said to me, “He’s just trying to figure out what you’ll want to do on your turn.”
“Actually,” I said, “I just wanted to talk to you.”
“Ooooh, me?” she asked, blinking her eyes and being far over the top with her flirting. She might be beautiful, but a bit conceited about it, I decided.
I didn’t flirt back. She just wasn’t my type. Probably way too high maintenance and well, she was also undead. Yarin seemed a bit peeved at her flirting though and offered to get me a drink and got up to get me one as we continued our conversation.
“I believe you met my friends last night,” I started to explain, but she looked very confused by that statement so I continued, “outside the Gateway.”
She continued to be confused and it really did seem like she was genuinely confused so I said, “Yes, they said you were coming here in order to find something to help you find your friend that went missing.”
“That wasn’t me,” she said, “that was probably my sister.”
After a bit back and forth on how I thought a friend of mine could likely help her sister find her friend, I ended up giving her my email address in hopes that her sister would contact me and I could pass her over to Voland. I learned that her sister’s name was Sora and she was looking for her “non-boyfriend” that she “totally has a crush on”. I didn’t get much else out of the woman, she openly avoided answering me when I asked who she was, but did tell me that Sora was “boring” and highly jealous of her and Yuki. I then asked who Yuki was…and Yuki is apparently yet another sister of hers.
I was about to ask her why Sora was jealous of them, not expecting any real answer, but then I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see Nabu behind me, drink in hand. He leaned over and whispered, “The Hobgoblins frequent this place, so we’ll just have to stay here for a bit and drink some more.”
We exchanged fake disappointed looks at this news, then he offered me a taste of the whiskey. It was delicious. He informed me they took real cash at the bar. Since Yarin was getting me one, I figured I’d be set for a while, but that was good news. I vaguely wondered what he had traded for his drink and was glad to know it was just regular cash.
The Goblin then asked, “Who are you?” looking directly at Nabu. Now, in normal social situations, someone would ask me who my friend was…but well, I get the impression that’s what he was trying to do but just got it backwards, because after Nabu answered he then asked Nabu who I was. It was rather amusing. As Nabu joined us, Yarin returned with a drink for me. It was very tall and swirling with many different colors. It tasted delicious and it was remarkable how they managed to separate all the different alcohol types into one glass. I was marveling at the physics and chemistry of the thing as I sipped it. I hadn’t drank in a while, going to AA will do that to you, but I’m sure I could handle a few drinks with friends.
I informed Nabu that the vampire they had met last night was not the woman sitting with us, but her sister and that she apparently had two sisters.
“Are you triplets?” Nabu asked.
“Yes,” she responded.
“Are you all the same?” He asked and I easily gathered he meant are they all vampires but didn’t want to out her in the current group.
“No,” she responded, “I’m the fun one.”
I tried my best not to roll my eyes at her. I had a feeling I would probably like her “boring” sister Sora. Nabu seemed to be annoyed as well because he just continued by saying, “I mean, are they vampires too?”
The three Fey that were sitting near her looked very nervous by this question. The woman herself laughed it off, doing her best to say “yes she was a vampire” but in such a way to make it sound like the most ridiculous joke. She then went off to get a drink. I had a feeling we wouldn’t be seeing her again, which was a shame because I had more questions…I feel like she could have helped us with the Waterfire case.
After I finished my drink, Yarin was talking about their game again and ended up wanting to do improv. I soon found myself on stage with him and Nabu. I’m sure it was the alcohol that drove me as I don’t think I would ever agree to improv while sober. As we started things up, I did notice that the vampire was gone. Not surprising, but I had hoped she wouldn’t leave so quickly. We performed for a while and I mostly played off of Nabu’s natural stage talents and provided humor based on what the crowd appeared to react to the most. I was very good at reading people and based on the cheers, they all seemed to like our performance. Maybe that’s something I should try for fun someday?
After, we all got free drinks and I talked to Yarin a bit about Goblin Fruit and the properties of the Hedge. He was pretty open and honest about it. He said the low-end Goblin Fruit were similar to a favor you might give to a close friend, like a ride somewhere or taking care of their dwellings for a bit. The more valuable an item or fruit and the more anxious someone is to possess it, the higher the price…those were more like years of service or something along those lines. Between Yarin and Nabu, I learned more about how the thorns of the Hedge tear into your soul and leave fragments of you behind, which apparently some make into tokens. The tokens can be used by others and possess some sort of nature the owner once had. As I thought about this, I realized my Magic could be used to prevent a soul from being torn into while roaming the Hedge. That could be a service I could sell, perhaps trade for a pendant even, but there would be time for that later.
After Yarin left, Ace, Nabu, and I found a separate table to discuss some private matters. While Nabu and I were having fun socializing, Ace had been offered a job from the very scary looking vampire with extremely pale skin and glowing red eyes. He wants to hire Ace as a bodyguard to escort him from Boston to Providence as he wishes to leave the Sabot. After Ace explained what the Sabot (religious zealous types that believe themselves above mortals and don’t even try to blend in) and Camarilla (vampires that try to live among mortals) were, I informed him of what I had read about the Sabot attacks in Boston. I told him it was completely up to him if he wanted to take the job, but it would likely put a target on his head and the Sabot are very dangerous. Ace thought it might be a good way to establish a working relationship with the Providence vampires if he took the job.
Before we could finish our conversation, a fire broke out in the Hedge and surrounded the Goblin Market. At first, it was just a sticky, sweet smell in the smoke in the air, but then someone yelled, “FIRE” and there was mass hysteria as everyone ran towards the exit. My instincts drew me towards the fire and I started to focus on my knowledge in Matter to stop it from spreading. Nabu did so as well, though with Fate magic. Ace, however, flew up in the air and put all of the fire out in two quick motions. I stayed and helped those that had fallen from the ground and pointed those that seemed disoriented towards the exit.
We lingered too long, I think, as the market was shutting down on itself and the hedge was closing in on us. On the way out, Nabu spotted a Goblin Fruit that was left behind and grabbed it. I wish I had thought of doing the same, but I was too focused on being disappointed that I hadn’t had another chance to bargain for that pendant. Likely for the best and who knows, maybe we’ll find ourselves there again?
As we left the Goblin Market, we were the last to do so and it was night outside. We had only been there for a couple of hours, but apparently over 12 hours had gone by in our own world. That unnerved me. As we turned to look back at the Gateway and large hand came out of nowhere and zipped it shut.