Transcribed by: James
In Game date: December 2008
MATHEW “WOOF” RILEY had been walking down the hall of the Radcliffe Clinic toward the break room when suddenly he was somewhere else. Somewhere, very cold with heavy snow and a primal, untamed wilderness. He instinctively realized that he was in ODIANNA OF WINTER’S demesne. Usually when the Winter Rose summoned him he appeared at the foot of her throne or at the door back to the real world. It was very odd that he had arrived off the beaten path away from the main clearing of her throne “room”. His body armor and M-14 Battle Rifle had been left out for him and he could hear angry voices echoing out through the trees. Obviously his mistress wanted him to approach with stealth and be ready for a fight.
Gearing up he quietly made his way toward the voices. Odianna’s “hall” was actually a long, wide, snow covered path lined with towering trees that formed what was often referred to as the “chapel of the pines”. The trees were carved and painted with strange symbols and before them was a long row of spears with the heads of Odianna’s enemies impaled on them. Wind and snow, driven by their mistresses’ mood, whipped and blew through the trees howling ominously. As Riley crept forward he became aware of many huge white wolves stalking from shadow to shadow toward the raised voices. Because of his extreme phobia of dogs and wolves he normally would have been terrified of the massive canines. Instead he only felt a cold certainty that his mistress was in trouble and that he must protect her. The wolves were welcome to him because they shared that same directive.
Perhaps he was being influenced by his Lady directly which made him more sensitive to her mood but Riley noted something on her face that he had never seen before. Naked fear. She was hiding it well as she sat calmly on her throne but he nevertheless knew that she was terrified of the man that stood before her. His outward appearance wasn’t all that daunting. He was of medium height and wore an expensive gray suit. His dark hair had an offset white streak and he had vaguely Italian features. Also, he wore a noose around his neck in place of a tie. For some reason that terrified the ex-Navy SEAL on a profound level. Or perhaps it was because he noticed that the shadows around the man seemed to move and writhe around as if alive. Alive and hungry. Riley’s hands started to shake.
“You will stop Azael from gaining access to the Hollow Men,” he continued arrogantly with a slightly British accent, “If you do not comply I will be forced to…punish you. And I assure you, my dear, you would not appreciate that.”
Outraged Odianna cried out, “ENOUGH!!! Just who do you think you are demon? I will not allow anyone, not even one of the Fallen, insult me in my own seat of power!”
With a gesture the wind blew up to hurricane levels slamming daggers of ice against the single figure as Odianna screamed savagely pouring every bit of power at her command into the attack. The ground beneath the interloper fell away into a pit with spikes of ice at the bottom but he simply floated in place as shadow wings appeared from his shoulders. Spears of diamond hard ice erupted from the ground and slammed into his body shattering in an explosion of reflective color. The ground shook from the impact. The Fallen simply laughed.
Realizing that she was having no effect Odianna changed tactics. Squire was the first to reach the Fallen but he casually backhanded the Ogre into a tree so hard that it shattered its thick truck causing it to fall. Her wolves leaped into action charging the arrogant intruder from all angles. Shadowy spikes seemed to erupt from the man’s body impaling a dozen wolves causing them to cry out in agony. The weren’t dead though.
Even Riley, who hated wolves with a passion, winced in sympathy as he saw that the shadowy spikes were pouring into the hapless wolves’ bodies ripping and tearing at them under their skin from the inside out. Riley opened fire with his battle rifle a savage cry of fear on his lips. He hit the demon right between the eyes with a double tap.
The Fallen simply gazed in his direction and a steel hard cable of darkness wrapped around his body causing him to drop his rifle. Agony unlike anything he had ever experienced flared throughout his nervous system as shadowy spikes tore his flesh. The pain was so great that Riley could only gasp in pain.
“I can see why you employ such a mortal although I prefer my servants without their insolent tongues.”
With a strange ululating cry that hearkened back to a more primitive age Odianna manifested a huge spear of ice and charged the Denarian demon. Riley had seen the Winter Fae in combat before. She was a savage and unstoppable foe and if she had an equal in battle he had never met them.
Before she had taken two steps a thorny tentacle of darkest shadow wrapped around her throat cutting off her battle cry with a yelp. Other tentacles grasped her limbs cutting and slicing her pale flesh and lifted her up into the air. The savage winds that had raged during the battle sputtered and died out as the Winter Rose gasped for air.
“I AM NICODEMUS ARCHLEONE, FIRST OF THE FALLEN, AND YOU WILL BOW TO ME!!!”
“Please, my Lord,” she gasped, each word a struggle, “I beg your indulgence. Please spare me. I meant no insult and I shall do as you command.”
“Excellent, he replied crisply as if in a business meeting, “to begin with your alliance with Mercer and Azael is hereby terminated.”
“Azael has already betrayed you in any case. That traitorous bastard made an alliance with Lord Montague to gain access to the Hollow Men. In exchange he has switched sides and is aiding him in his feud with Mercer,” he sighed deeply and said with naked contempt, “Vampires are such sad, pathetic little creatures.”
The impaled wolves were whining in agony their calls getting more and more desperate as the darkness ripped and tore at their bodies.
“I imagine that Azael is hoping that raising an army of demonic Hollow Men will allow him to challenge me or at the least shield him from my displeasure. He is mistaken…”
The demon made a gesture and the wolves high pitched agonized wails reached a fever pitch. Suddenly, they all seemed to explode spraying the entire clearing with blood and entrails.
“…because no one escapes my wrath.”The once pristine snow was now painted an obscene, blood splattered red with steam wafting off the rapidly cooling meat. Riley fell to the ground as his terrible restraints seemed to vanish into nothingness. He lay there gasping for breath and covered in blood and guts.
“You are not going to allow Azael to achieve his goals. If he does then I am afraid that this Emerald City of yours will pay a heavy price. Unfortunately, I have been unable to scry the location of Montague’s secret prison so you will find it for me and deal with this. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Odianna said meekly her head bowed in submission. She looked up and took a deep, steadying breath.
“If I may I think I know of a way to deal with the Hollow Men,” she continued and held up a crown. Riley recognized it immediately. It was the crown that ZEBADIAH EINAR had used to transport him and his friends from Jötunheim. The SEAL didn’t know what the spirit was that came across the worlds with the crown but he knew it was dangerous.
“The Spirit who is tied to this crown would naturally want to claim the Hollow Men for his own purpose and could easily impede Azael from his task,” Odianna said quietly.
“Excellent,” said Nicodemus Archleone, “but how would you get the crown to the Hollow Men?”
“My Hound has…resourceful allies, my Lord.”
“You mean the Old Warden and his friends I take it?”
“Yes, my Lord. I am positive that they will track down Montague’s asylum shortly. When they do my slave will place the crown on one of the coma patients and the King will be able to fully manifest with a new host body. He would oppose Azael in principle. He hates all things Christian and would consider a Fallen Angel a mortal foe. He would also want the Hollow Men for his own designs.”
“Can you be assured that your…Hound I believe you called him, will do as you ask?”
“Yes, my Lord. Especially once I bind him with a Geas. He will have no choice but to obey.”
“Excellent. But know this Odianna of Winter, if you fail in this task you and your Hound will suffer agonies that are beyond your ken and I will lay waste to this entire region. There is nothing that can save from my wrath.”
“I…understand, my Lord.”
“Then let us begin. If I am not mistaken this Hound’s allies will need his aid if they are to survive this day.”
An hour later Riley found himself appearing in a wooded, snow covered area but he knew immediately he was no longer in Odianna’s demesne. These woods did not have the dangerous, primal feeling of the Winter Rose’s demesne. No, he was back in Seattle. He was sure of it. He was amazed to be alive and began trying to think of some way he could use the situation against Odianna and gain his freedom. Obviously, Nicodemus could and would destroy her with ease. But he could do the same to Riley and the ex-SEAL had little doubt that he could do massive damage to Seattle as well.
Strangely, Odianna had given him some wiggle room when she had laid the geas on him. Much like last time she invoked his name three times to gain power over him. But while she used his middle name this time she had not utilized his nickname of “Woof”. Most likely Nicodemus would not realize that the geas wasn’t completely binding. Most mortals only have a first, last and middle name after all. By leaving off his nickname Riley understood that he could act. He felt like he would be able to speak to his friends about what had occurred in Odianna’s demesne despite Nicodemus’s directive to keep it secret. The geas seemed far less compromising on whether or not he used the crown however.
His reverie was interrupted by the sound of several people furtively moving through the woods. Riley, utilizing his training, took cover just in time as an assault team of 6 black clad Venatori moved past him. They covered the difficult terrain in a fast, well disciplined manner with each of them covering their teammate’s movements utilizing mobile overwatch to prevent any surprises. Riley was impressed. They moved as well as any SEAL team through the treacherous snow covered landscape. He began following them as gunfire erupted from somewhere up ahead.
Riley knew his friends were in desperate straights and he needed to get to them immediately. He was contemplating the best way to lay an ambush when the trailing Venatori spotted him. The black clad figure shouted “Contact!” and the squad acted with alarming speed dispersing to cover in the blink of an eye. The sailor had only a fraction of a second to take cover himself as they blasted at him with short controlled bursts. Riley realized that figuring out what to do about Odianna might be a moot point as he returned fire. He might not ever make it out of these woods alive.
LEIF WOTENSEN, DETECTIVE ROY MULLENIX, ZEBADIAH EINAR and OSAMU NISHIMURA (西村修) all braced themselves to defend THE PACK. CRAIG BIG EAGLE had explained to them that the entire group would be completely vulnerable while he mystically ensured that Chernobog, a Slavic deity of death, winter and wolves, would no longer be able to influence them. BARRY GOLDMAN, a disciple of Chernobog, had nearly taken over the whole Pack with a horrific ritual that had involved human sacrifice and to be completely free of it they must be cleansed and then blessed in the name of Belobog, the Sun God and Chernobog’s brother. There was a very real risk that the ritual could severe the connection the Pack shared with their wolf spirits and they would never again be able to shape change. They all knew it was necessary though. The Pack was simply too powerful to be placed in the hands of the likes of Chernobog and his monstrous disciple. The Venatori Umbrorum seemed to have a different solution to the problem. If the Pack was wiped out then they would no longer pose a threat. To that end four assault squads were attacking the warehouse being used by the Pack for the ritual.
Detective Mullinex and Lief were on the roof of the warehouse while Zeb was on the ground, under a veil using the back corner of the building as cover. Osamu, who noticed more movement near the drainage ditch told the Warden he was going to check it out. Before Zeb could object he ran across the snow covered parking lot with the speed and grace of a deer. That was when the Venatori attack began.
Across the street from the Pack’s warehouse Alpha Team had occupied the roof of neighboring building and along with Bravo Team (who were on the ground) began laying down suppressing fire forcing Roy and Lief to keep their heads down. On cue Charlie Team ran as fast as they could across the kill zone between the two forces trying to get close enough to wipe out the Pack’s defenders. Meanwhile, Delta Team was supposed to sweep through the woods and attack the defenders from the rear pinching them between the two forces and destroying them in detail. They hadn’t counted on Riley though.
The Ex-SEAL was in a lot of trouble. He had managed to drop two of his opponents with well placed shots but he was taking heavy fire in the process. He kept moving from cover to cover in the desperate hope that he could rescue his beleaguered friends but the Venatori were some of the best trained men he had ever faced in combat. So it might be he who needed a rescue. However, he was completely occupying the assault team and he knew that if he could hold them off long enough his allies would be better able to survive.
Leif kept his head down as best he could against the heavy firepower that was probing the warehouse roof. Inspired by his father he had prepared for the fight with a spell that allowed him to see through the eyes of two ravens that circled the field of battle. Through their eyes he spied some frantic movement near the drainage ditch. He sent one of the ravens to the ditch to see if Osamu needed any help. He found signs of a struggle but the monk was nowhere to be seen. What had happened to him? Lief knew that the Young Dragon would never abandon his friends.
Gunfire echoed out in the woods to the west and Leif sent his ravens to find out what was happening. He didn’t think Osamu was fast enough to make it all the way over there without being seen but he had to be sure. There he spied Riley in his desperate battle against the Delta Team. Knowing that there was nothing he could do for his friend the doctor continued to scour the battle field for something that could help them survive.
That was when he noticed that the Venatori had 3 Humvees parked behind the building that housed Charlie Team. And in one of those vehicles he spied a pair of rocket launchers. Knowing that those weapons could be a serious game changer he was determined to destroy them. To that end he summoned a powerful lightning storm that slammed into the parked vehicles with all the fury he could manage. He might be the Son of Odin but sadly he was not quite a God of Thunder. The military vehicles were well insulated and he was only able to destroy one of the heavy weapons.
By that time Charlie Team had made it halfway across the clearing between the two opposing forces and was at their most vulnerable when Zebidiah Einar, Warden of the White Council, made his move. Zeb summoned a mighty blast of cold and ice that slammed into all the Venatori teams with a fury. He was very careful though to make sure that his blast wasn’t lethal. He would never betray his principles and break the Laws of Magic. Alpha and Bravo teams weathered the assault mostly intact but several members of each of them were restrained by a thick shell of hardened ice. Charlie Team suffered the most though. They were in the open with nowhere to shelter against the powerful spell. All but two of them were taken down by Zeb’s spell.
Unfortunately wielding such magic exposed the Warden and the leader of the assault spotted the him through Zeb’s concealing veil. After such a display of power and control the leader directed Alpha and Bravo Team’s combined fire onto the wizard. Zeb was unable to escape the fusillade and it was a minor miracle that he only took a flesh wound from the initial volley. Realizing that he had would not last much longer against such concentrated fire he gathered his power and raised a shield of glowing energy to deflect the withering gunfire. However, it wasn’t enough to withstand the combined fire of a dozen well trained soldiers. His shield shattered and the wizard cried out in pain as a bullet went through his shoulder with a spray of blood knocking him to the ground. Bleeding profusely the Warden veiled himself and managed to drag himself behind the warehouse before losing consciousness.
The remnants of Charlie Team made it to the building while Bravo began its own advance to the warehouse. No longer pinned down by Alpha and Bravo Roy began firing at them dropping several Venatori with well placed shots. Charlie Team, with only two survivors, ran up to the building and placed a breaching charge on a warehouse door. Roy was only able to wound one of them and in desperation Leif summoned Sleipnir to him and jumped from the roof to the ground level. He plunged his spear through the chest of the Venatori who had the detonator ready but the final member of Charlie Team hit the trigger and blew the charge just as the son of Odin finished him off.
There was a loud explosion that echoed across the battle field but when the smoke cleared the door was completely unscathed. A glowing sheath of mystical energy from a high powered Ward protected the building. Apparently, Craig Bigeagle had wisely prepared for trouble and strengthened the walls of the warehouse with his magic.
Leif was steering his bike around for an attack on Bravo Team, which had reached the warehouse at that point, when Alpha began firing down on him from their well placed position. He took a serious wound in his thigh that knocked him from his bike leaving him bleeding in the snow. Charlie Team then scrambled up onto the roof with grappling hooks and ropes to finish off Roy who was still fighting to the best of his ability.
Meanwhile, Riley was at a standstill with Delta Team. He had managed to wound another of his opponents with grenade but he had been shot in the arm in the process and he realized that there was no way he could prevail against so many well trained troops. Making a decision he raised his hands in surrender. They quickly surrounded him and he was disarmed and placed in plastic restraints.
On the roof Roy faced eight Venatori and he was prepared to die when their squad leader held up an arm stopping them in their tracks.
Roy’s heart about stopped at the confusion and pain in that voice. The other Venatori milled around in confusion. In the distance he could hear the approaching wail of sirens. It seemed the firefight had come to the attention of the police.
“Daddy, what are you…??? Why are you here?” Megan Mullinex pulled off her balaclava and helmet and met her father’s eyes looking completely lost and forlorn.
One of the other Venatori strode forward, “Kill him!” he demanded, “He is a traitor. He is consorting with demons and warlocks and must be destroyed!”
The speaker pulled off his helmet and Roy recognized him immediately. JJ Mercer put his hand on Megan’s arm and Roy could feel the power of the compulsion that flowed from from the White Court Vampire into his daughter.
But she grimaced and was shaking her head back and forth in denial. “No, that…can’t…be true,” she ground out.
“GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF HER YOU SON OF BITCH!” the detective screamed and he began to move forward but the Venatori raised their weapons and he knew it would be suicide to act.
He looked down from the roof to see Riley being led from the woods in restraints, while other Venatori were carrying Zeb’s limp body from around the back of the warehouse. Several more were training their weapons on Lief who clutched his leg and had his eyes closed in concentration. Ominous clouds were gathering overhead and it appeared that the Son of Odin planned to go out with a bang.
“We surrender!” Roy called out raising his hands high in the air. He looked down to where Lief was and cried out “Please don’t shoot, we are all going to come quietly!”
That got through to Leif who looked up to see all of his friends surrounded by well armed soldiers. If he completed his spell he had no doubt that he and all of his allies would be dead shortly afterward. Besides the police sirens were nearly upon them. At least they had delayed the Venatori long enough for the police to arrive. He realized that he had no choice if they were to live.