Monthly Archives: August 2015

Domina Cultures – Kemos

KemoFinal

Three began and three shall end

but dozens shall find here their friends

Fels are cats, of all shapes and race

every creature of perfect grace

Wolves named lupes, arms broad and teeth white

fur and fangs gleaming in the moonlight

Bears are known as ursas, the heart strong

thick hides and thick claws, fighting long

Three began and three shall end

but dozens found here their friends

Three Cultures, a Thousand Warlords

With the dozens of kemo subcultures and microcultures filling modern Domina City, it is easy to forget that they started with no more than three warlords: The White Cat, Hachiko, and Saikyō. The first Animal Kings of the fels, the lupes, and the ursas respectively.

In the early days, of course, there were no anthros. The toy maker could barely produce fangs and light fur, let alone the full body transformations they wanted. So, they took a few minor aspects of their chosen animals, such as whiskers or ears. The process was simple and easy, and created no sense of camaraderie. It was a fashion choice, little more.

The three founders had no desire to become leaders or warlords in the beginning. They just thought of themselves as friends with a common interest. They referred to themselves as kemonomimi, a Japanese word meaning “animal ears,” typically used to refer to fictional characters with minor animal parts. As others joined them, wishing to make use of their expertise with the toy maker, this name was eventually shortened to kemos.

While the kemos never had to deal with the racism of the vampires, the rampant militarization of the angels, or even the politics of the demons, they did have one major challenge facing them in the early days: Chaos.

For a time, it seemed like everyone wanted to be a kemo, and it didn’t take long for people to realize that they didn’t need to limit themselves to the Big Three. The canes came next, but the laces and taurs were quick to follow. Then the arachs and the pisces, the murids and the aves. More and more cultures sprouted like weeds, and there was no one making any attempt to control them.

It was only when a large number of fels and canes were killed in a “cats versus dogs” joke that spiraled out of control that everyone agreed that something needed to be done. Hachiko was the first to take control, quickly organizing his closest friends and allies into a leadership for the culture. He divided his men into five auspices, based on their skills and talents, and founded the Moonhomes to provide somewhere to keep them safe.

Saikyō and her ursas were next. She also reorganized her culture along skill lines, but in her case she used species as well. She didn’t have a pack like Hachiko did, so she was forced to keep control of her culture by herself, with little more than her own pure strength. Advisers and Alphas rose up to aid her, but not in the numbers that the lupes received.

The White Cat, as likely expected, lazed about for far longer than was safe. He waited until the absolute last minute to take official control of the fels, and even then made little attempt to organize. He declared himself the supreme leader of the culture, but set few laws and gave fewer orders. However, he still served as a rallying point, and the fels were able to organize themselves without too much difficulty.

Civil war still broke out, but it was quickly squashed. Even when microcultures like the cherves or the daes were wiped out, the nature of the kemos meant that they could just rise again under a new warlord, or no warlord at all. For a time, chaos reigned, but it was a predictable and unworried chaos, like the waves of the ocean.

Eight years after the creation of the toy maker, the Beast attacked the ursas.

The demon warlord of the Satanists demanded justice for an attack on the Ninth Gate, claiming that the ursas who had killed many of his men were working for Saikyō. Saikyō denied this, and the Beast settled in for a siege.

Hachiko, ever the loyal friend, rose quickly to aid the Animal King of the ursas, personally leading a charge of Rahu wolves against the Beast himself in an attempt to break the culture and the siege.

The Beast killed Hachiko in personal combat, and the lupes were broken long enough for him to burst into Saikyō’s domain and kill the Animal King. Two of the Big Three were dead in a single day, and the kemos were back to chaos.

The White Cat tried to organize, but there was little to be done. He knew he was too weak to fight the Beast, either politically or personally, so instead did everything he could to protect the cultures his friends had left behind. He had little success, but he was able to keep them from imploding long enough for other Alphas to rise to prominence and lead. The lupes gained the Grand Wolf and Lady Lycan, while the ursas gained Senator McDowell.

The kemos—especially the ursas—never truly recovered from those attacks, but they survived. This is the primary advantage of their chaotic organization: Even if every single kemo is killed, the cultures can still be revived.

Kemo honored are called hunters, while their deviants are known as terrors. Their warlords are called Alphas, with the leaders of entire cultures being the Animal Kings. Their novices are called pups. Due to the size of the culture, the kemos as a whole are sometimes referred to as a “superculture,” with the fels, lupes, ursas, and other major groups referred to as cultures, each having their own subculture and clans underneath them.

Notable Subcultures:

Anurans

Kemos with frog or toad features, such as sticky fingers, large eyes, and long tongues. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Arachs

Kemos with spider features. Usually limited to subtle buffs, such as sticky fingers, but they are attempting to make more obvious ones such as extra arms.

Lolths

A deceptive subculture, also known as the black widows. They are misandrist, and consist mostly of women. They were founded by Lolth, but she was killed during the Scouring of the Demonweb Pits. Her culture still lives in the Pits, rebuilt with retribution money leveraged from the Canians.

Minervas

A much kinder and more open subculture, created in direct opposition to the Lolths. Basically, all arachs are one or the other. Minerva herself still leads, and has survived multiple assassins sent by the Lolths. She makes her headquarters in a nameless skyscraper in East Middle, where the culture produces silk and clothing to be sold to the rest of the city.

Aves

Kemos with bird features. Rare for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that the more interesting bird traits (wings) are still outside the scope of the toy maker. Due to their rarity, their subcultures do not even have nicknames yet; they are simply eagles or crows or so on. Their leader is Soaring Eagle, and their base is G’Hanir, the Mother Tree, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city, though they are primarily nomadic.

Cans

Kemos with crab features. A very new subculture, they are rare but gaining popularity. Technically they are called “cancers,” but that name is rare for a number of reasons. Their Alpha is Jasmine Hannesdottir.

Canes

Kemos with dog features. Despite being one of the first new cultures to spin off the Big Three, they remain politically unimportant, with no official Animal King. They are quite numerous, however, and have a number of important packs and Alphas scattered around the city.

Bels

Kemos with hyena features, such as spotted fur, fangs, and the cannibalism buff. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Vulps

Kemos with fox features, such as red fur and tails. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Chels

Kemos with turtle features, such as shells and strong, snapping jaws. Very new and rare. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Cherves

Kemos with deer features, such as horns. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Chiros

Kemos with bat features, such as echolocation and general enhanced hearing. A minor microculture with no warlord, they have some relations with the aves in an attempt to get wings, but nothing organized.

Daes

Kemos with squirrel features, such as bushy tails. A minor microculture with no warlord. They have been wiped out several times, but always return in some form or another.

Fels

Kemos with cat features. Along with the lupes and the ursas, they were one of the Big Three founding kemo cultures. The White Cat still leads the culture, for a certain definition of the word, and things have slowly been becoming more organized.

Grissers

Kemos with tiger features. Known for being more well-rounded than the other fel subcultures, they are often used as general elite units.

Leos

Kemos with lion features. Known for power, typically used as defenders and front-line assaults.

Pards

Kemos with panther features. Known for stealth, they are the spies and assassins of the fels.

Gulos

Kemos with wolverine features, such as claws. Largely folded into the lupes after the death of Logan.

Hystrics

Kemos with porcupine features, such as the famous spines. Much more commonly known as ‘pines.’ A minor microculture with no warlord.

Laces

Kemos with reptile features, such as scales and a forked tongue. Their Animal King is Io, the Concordant Dragon, who uses his ten children as general-purpose warlords of the entire culture.

Crocs

Kemos with crocodile features, such as thick scales and teeth. Functionally identical to the gators, until the Gatorcroc conquered both subcultures, they were in a constant state of war. They follow Io closely, but their ultimate loyalty remains with the Gatorcroc.

Gators

Kemos with alligator features, such as thick scales and teeth. Functionally identical to the crocs, until the Gatorcroc conquered both subcultures, they were in a constant state of war. They follow Io closely, but their ultimate loyalty remains with the Gatorcroc.

Ophidians

Kemos with snake features, such as poison fangs and a tail—sometimes replacing their legs, sometimes not. A minor microculture with no warlord. They have little interaction with the rest of the laces, and are largely left to their own devices.

Leapers

Kemos with rabbit features, such as long ears and enhanced leg muscles. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Lupes

Kemos with wolf features, such as fur, fangs, and claws. Along with the fels and the ursas, they were one of the Big Three founding kemo cultures. When Hachiko was killed by the Beast, the culture nearly fell apart, but his friends stepped up to take control. Today, while there is no lupe Animal King, the Council of the Moon serves that purpose well.

Rahu

The Warrior Auspice, centered in the Full Moonhome. The Rahu are the guardians, soldiers, and warriors of the lupes, following such Alphas as Altaicus and Argunensis. The Rahu have historically been the most public Auspice, though the Council is trying to change that due to a number of violent incidents.

Cahalith

The Visionary Auspice, centered in the Gibbous Moonhome. Bards, seers, and storytellers all name themselves Cahalith, and they follow men and women such as Dybowskii and Kamtschaticus. The Cahalith mostly remain in the Moonhomes, moving between them to teach all lupes—especially children—the nature of the culture.

Elodoth

The Walker Between Auspice, centered in the Half Moonhome. This is the Auspice of the diplomats, the ones who smooth over the problems caused by the other Auspices, especially the Rahu and the Irraka. They have their work cut out for them, even with leaders like Dorogostaiskii and Ekloni among them.

Ithaeur

The Spirit Master Auspice, centered in the Crescent Moonhome. Many people are surprised to find that the lupes have scientists, but the Ithaeur prove that they have a place everywhere. Novaehollandiae was the one who created the package for the first lupe anthros, and Tenggerana invented a powerful healing balm called silverlight. They are another Auspice that prefers to remain in the Moonhomes as much as possible; they rarely even leave Crescent.

Irraka

The Stalker Auspice, centered in the New Moonhome. Every culture needs its spies and assassins, and the lupes are no exception. The Irraka are especially proficient hunters, using superhuman senses of smell to track targets through the darkest and dirtiest parts of the city with ease. They are led by people like Rex and Hodopylax, names even other cultures fear. Unlike the other Auspices, they rarely spend any time in the Moonhomes, preferring to stalk the streets instead.

Murids

Kemos with mouse and rat features, such as tails and fur, as well as rodent control pheromones. Despite the small size of the culture, their Animal King, the Lady of the Plague, is swift and merciless in her pursuit of power and influence, making them far more dangerous than one would expect. She is rumored to have deals with the fey, but this is unsubstantiated, and likely based on nothing more than a number of impressive toys the murids have produced.

Pisces

Kemos with fish and other aquatic animal features, such as gills. Rare on land. Their official Animal King is Johnathan Tar, the Whale-Lord, but the culture is spread widely enough that he makes little attempts to control them.

Anguili

Kemos with eel features, such as needle-like teeth and (rarely) tails. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Cetacs

Kemos with whale features, such as thick blubber, enhanced lungs, and vocal cords. Despite the fact that the Whale-Lord is technically a member of this culture, they remain a minor microculture with no warlord.

Mantas

Kemos with manta ray features, such as large flipper wings and gills. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Selans

Kemos with shark features, such as fangs, sandpaper skin, and gills. Their warlord is Alexander the Great White.

Taurs

Kemos with bovine features. They are best known for the Baphomites, despite the fact that they make up a tiny fraction of the taur whole. Their Animal King is the Auroch.

Baphomites

Extremely violent. Founded by Baphomet, but he was killed in the fight with Malcanthet. Despite the efforts of their Alpha Cairne, they are assumed by many to be a fading culture that will never rise again.

Mazers

Also known as Shubgottians, after their home of Shubgottia, the Endless Maze. They like to trap people in their maze, but they are mostly harmless; they are a small subculture, formed from people who enjoy puzzles.

Ursas

Kemos with bear features, such as enhanced size and fur. Along with the fels and the lupes, they were one of the Big Three that founded the kemo culture. After the death of Saikyō, the culture fell to ruin. Many warlords rose, but could never truly lay claim to the entire culture. Currently the closest the culture has to an Animal King is Senator Evangel McDowell, and he is more accurately described as an ambassador—albeit an ambassador with no warlord above him.

Arctos

The warrior caste, modeled after brown bears, were created by Saikyō to protect the culture. After his death, there was no one to keep them in line, and they fell to infighting and raiding. Several strong Alphas still hold them to their original creed, but too often seeing an arcto ursa means seeing a bandit.

Malays

The scientist caste, modeled after sun bears. While the malays kept true to their purpose following the death of the Animal King, their recruitment dwindled to almost nothing. Today, despite the best efforts of McDowell and people like him, the malays remain the smallest ursa subculture.

Melanos

The pandas, the diplomats, survived the loss of their warlord with far more success than the other ursa subcultures. They still have their squabbles and the occasional civil war, but under McDowell’s guidance, they are able to focus most of their attention on keeping the other subcultures alive and working together.

Thibs

The hunters. Modeling themselves after Asian black bears, the thibs are the trackers and spies of the ursas. Their numbers dwindled as well following the death of Saikyō, but the survivors found themselves without orders or instructions. Rogue thib warlords have caused serious trouble for the rest of the culture, but some of them have also proven to be Senator McDowell’s staunchest supporters.

Visons

Kemos with mink features, such as smooth fur and flexible skeletons. A minor microculture with no warlord.

Notable Kemo Alphas

Arach Alphas

Greyanna

Ambassador of the Lolths. She was a close follower of Lolth, and still blames the Canians for her death and the Scouring. Rumors claim she secretly kills Canians in her free time, but if so, Mephistopheles and his men have never raised an inquest against her.

Halisstra

Ambassador of the Minervas. She is the public face of her subculture, as Minerva herself tries to avoid leaving her domain for fear of assassins. Halisstra herself is polite and diplomatic, always mindful of the negative reputation the Lolths give all arachs. She can be quite harsh with the Lolth, especially Greyanna.

Lolth

The founder of the Lolth subculture, the Alpha was a heavily misandrist woman known for a deep and abiding hatred of anything and everything male. She largely saw all women, especially Minerva and her group, as little better than traitors. She was killed when she pushed too hard against the Canians. Mephistopheles burned the trio of skyscrapers known as the Demonweb Pits to the ground, taking out over half the culture. The Canians were forced to pay retribution costs, but Lolth was still lost.

Minerva

Alpha of the Minervas. She is an old, matronly woman, rumored to be directly related to Lolth. Regardless of the truth of that statement, it is a well-known fact that she created her culture in direct opposition to the Lolths. She largely refuses to leave her nameless domain for fear of assassins, but is still known for keeping a close watch on her culture with her many cameras.

Syndrith

Current Alpha of the Lolths, she rose to prominence after the death of the founder. While she is every bit of a misandrist as Lolth and the rest of the culture, she is significantly better at suppressing it, at least long enough to make trade deals with males. While nothing has ever been proven, it is widely accepted that any man she sleeps with isn’t going to survive the night.

Teuta Merimangë

An Armenian Lolth Hunter. She is one of the higher-ranking Hunters in the culture, with her own web of spies, informants, and assassins. She is known for being professional to the point of coldness. Rumors persist that she is working closely with Soaring Eagle on the stolen toy box.

Ave Alphas

Soaring Eagle

Animal King of the aves, “Sele” (short for Selenium, from SE) is the founder and leader of the ave culture. She is strong and driven, and her past remains a mystery. While this is not uncommon for warlords, Soaring Eagle has attracted attention by reacting violently whenever someone queries her about her past. Most recently, she and her higher-level warhawks have become fugitives due to stealing one of the original toy boxes in an attempt to finally create wings.

Delia

Alpha of the warhawks, the war arm of the aves. Little is known about the woman herself, as she has always been in the shadow of Soaring Eagle. After Sele’s flight, Delia has become the highest ranking ave left in G’Hanir, and many eyes have turned to her to see what she does next.

Can Alphas

Jasmine Hanesdottir

The Alpha and de-facto Animal King of the cans, and the only crab anthro in the city. She is the daughter of a powerful Aesir Titan, and is known for a large amount of disdain towards her fellow warlords. While her culture is still so tiny as to be barely worth mentioning, her drive has ensured that they have a place at many important discussions.

Cane Alphas

Dane

A minor warlord known primarily for fighting Lord Arisen, a fel Alpha. Still, his pack does good work, keeping local businesses secured and solvent.

Fel Alphas

Lord Arisen

A minor warlord known primarily for fighting Dane, a cane Alpha. Still, his pride does good work, providing mercenaries to other warlords.

Simba

Alpha of the leos. He is often seen as the direct subordinate to the White Cat, and is often asked for help when the other subcultures require aid. He is cunning, in his own way, but most analysts agree that he was promoted too quickly.

The White Cat

The first warlord of the fels, and one of the three founders of the kemo culture. He is known for being lazy and unorganized, but frighteningly intelligent when roused. He takes the form of a Persian White breed, hence his name.

Lace Alphas

Gatorcroc

Animal King of the crocs and gators. A massive anthro best described as a mountain of muscle and armor plating, the Gatorcroc forced the warring microcultures to work together, creating a real and powerful culture. Some argue that he is merely an Alpha rather than a true Animal King, but Io is insistent on calling him King.

Io

Animal King of the laces, also known as the Concordant Dragon. Io’s love of dragons is well-documented, and it is clear that he became a lace simply because becoming a dragon wasn’t an option. The man himself is widely regarded as the greatest surviving kemo Animal King, having personally organized the laces from a collection of squabbling kids into a force to be reckoned with. The only thing Io cares about more than his culture are his ten children, who are all warlords in their own right.

Nagi

Ambassador of the laces. He is a senator, following McDowell’s example, and was catapulted to success practically against his will due to his success in negotiating a cease-fire during a civil war that was rolling over his district. Politically, Nagi is a member of the Grand Banyan party, which should surprise no one.

Lupe Alphas

The Great Wolf

Leader of the Council of the Moon, and unofficial Animal King of the lupes. There have been repeated worries that he might be making a more direct power play, but most analysts agree that since he is largely in charge anyway, he won’t make things difficult unnecessarily. The Wolf himself is violent and driven, as is to be expected from the Alpha of the Rahu.

Tecumseh

High-level Alpha with his own warpack, and a loyal follower of the Great Wolf. Native American, and one of the first to become a lupe. He is old, angry, and confused by the screamers and their powers.

Taur Alphas

Cairne

Ambassador of the taurs, and Alpha of the Baphomites. He is aggressive and self-centered, having earned both his positions with little more than raw might. He has close relations with a number of demons, specifically the Acheroni, due to his domain’s close proximity.

Ursa Alphas

Evangel McDowell

A powerful ursa and Senator of South Central. He is a careful and precise member of the Iluvatar party, who ended up effectively in charge of the ursa culture simply because there was no one else. Officially, he is merely an ambassador, and that is the only position he desires. Unofficially, whenever anyone wants something from the ursas, he is the one to speak to. He also owns the McDowell Guns company, inherited from his brother.

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Domina Cultures – Angels

AngelFinal

Lunia the Silver

the Messenger’s home

Mercuria the Golden

the Mercy-Bringer’s tomb

Venya the Pearly

the Seer’s school

Solania the Crystal

the Ascetic’s monastery

Mertion the Platinum

the Crusader’s armory

Jovar the Glittering

the Defender’s keep

Chronias the Illuminated

the Watcher’s throne

The Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia (translated from Hebrew)

When Striga announced the vampires at Bloody Thirteen, she was exploiting pure, animal fear of darkness and the unknown to protect herself and her followers. She never considered that anyone would find the strength to rise up against her.

A young man sent to the city for little more than petty theft had an idea. The story of how Striga had tricked the toy maker out of the hands of the Mother Monster gave him an inkling of a plan. While she was now under heavy guard, he was still able to find her, and survived her bodyguards long enough to beg for a favor. He needed a weapon, and the city needed a savior.

Lilith was eager to rectify her earlier mistake, but she had learned wisdom quickly. Rather than giving him her copy of the toy maker, she allowed him to be modified, enhanced in such a way as to be perfect for fighting Striga’s vampires. If he was able to fight successfully, she would grant the gift to others.

The experiment was a complete success. The young man, now known as Zaphkiel, cleared out a small vampire nest by himself, cutting through the surprised nighteyes like a hot knife through butter. He returned to the Mother Monster with friends and allies, and the angels were born. Before Striga had even realized what had happened to the destroyed nest, Zaphkiel led the newborn angels in a daring raid on Poenari Castle, the very seat of the Vampire Queen’s power. Zaphkiel himself killed Striga with his mirrored sword, and the skyscraper was left to burn while the vampires scattered.

In the beginning, the city hailed the rise of the angels, and many were happy to donate men and resources to help build their fortress, a double skyscraper called the Pearly Gates. The defeat of Striga was a day of celebration, and the Watcher became a household name.

But while the fall of Striga broke her soldiers beyond repair, the vampires survived.

Without Striga around to conscript vampires to fight for her cause, they were free to live their lives as they wished. Although the angels hunted them throughout the city, this actually proved to their advantage in some ways, scattering them far and wide, giving them more chances to recruit others. Various warlords, both well-meaning and non, rose and were slapped down by the angels.

It was the Dragon who changed all that.

With his godeyes, he was immune to the daybreaks of the angels, and declared the vampires under his protection. Zaphkiel and his saints saw little need to discuss him, and sent several Night-caste angels to assassinate him, a tactic that had served well against many others. When Dracul killed them, Zaphkiel was forced to admit that this one might be different. Despite the council of Raziel and Pistis Sophia, the Watcher agreed to a cease-fire.

While the Dragon and his men honored the deal, Malcanthet’s Riven did not. A persistent rumor claims that the Dark King hired her to circumvent the agreement, but most historians agree that she was just taking advantage of the lowered angelic defenses. Using her new pheromone toys, Malcanthet seduced her way through the Pearly Gates with ease, and killed fully half of the fledgling culture in what was literally an orgy of destruction.

The angels managed to recover, helped most by the fact that most of them were outside the domain at the time. Zaphkiel, however, decided that their sexuality was too obvious a weakness, and used the toy maker to remove his genitals and most other mechanisms for arousal. While not a perfect defense against Malcanthet’s pheromones, it proved an extremely effective one nonetheless, and many other angels—including all of the Watcher’s saints—followed their leader’s example as a show of commitment to the cause.

At this point, the war between vampires and angels would likely have been re-ignited at any moment. Despite the Dragon’s protests, most angels believed he was the one behind Malcanthet’s attack, and small brawls between nightstalkers and daybreakers were becoming more common by the day.

Levistus simply made things worse.

From his Black Crypt of Stygia, Levistus declared vampires to be the eternal enemies of the angels, officially starting the Twilight War with a daring attack on the Pearly Gates. While the vast majority of vampires were not involved, this was more than enough proof for the angels. They were more convinced than ever that every vampire was a monster that needed to be put down. Zaphkiel reformatted the culture, naming Barachiel, Domiel, Erathoal, Pistis Sophia, Raziel, and Sealtiel as his Arch-Saints, the Hebdomad of Heaven. Each Arch-Saint was given a domain, a Heaven from which to launch attacks on the vampires.

This proved to be their undoing. While Levistus and his men fought tooth and nail, the vampires heavily outnumbered the angels, and most were content to just live their lives in peace. When angels firebombed vampire businesses or apartment buildings, filling the night with daybreaks and angelsong, the average people of the city didn’t care about Striga or the source behind Malcanthet’s attack. All they saw were innocent people being murdered by terrorists.

Public opinion turned against the angels, and the money stopped pouring in. They were forced to scale back the war and improve upon their infrastructure and businesses. Barachiel started up a very profitable messenger and delivery service, while Domiel provided volunteers to the Servants to help maintain the Halls of the Dead as a good-will gesture. Erathoal founded schools, often referred to as the first schools in Domina—even though many schools already existed, the Seer’s were safer, and survived far longer. Pistis Sophia used her spy network to find mercenary missions for Raziel and Sealtiel, while Zaphkiel himself built orphanages using money from Necessarius.

But throughout it all, the angels remained true to their core purpose: Destroy all vampires. Skirmishes with the other cultures were common, and the fey especially enjoyed antagonizing them, but vampires were always the target. Historians agree that until the culture finally throws off this racist origin, they will remain the smallest and weakest of the cultures—even if their fury and zeal allows them to make up for their numbers.

Angel honored are called daybreakers, while their deviants are known as Fallen. Their warlords are called Saints, with the Hebdomad being the Arch-Saints.  Their novices are glowlings. The angels do not have traditional subcultures or microcultures, but they do have Hosts, company-sized forces that act mostly independently.

Angel Organization

Castes

Angel castes are like the gangs of other cultures, and represent the individual angel’s occupation and area of expertise. Their Names (below) are their talents, or callings. As far as they’re concerned, the Name is something you simply are, while castes are a choice.

Dawn

The warriors, the soldiers, the generals, made up largely of the Gabriels and Michaels. The Dawn caste tends to congregate to Hosts sponsored by Raziel and Sealtiel, but they are the most common caste, and thus are spread broadly throughout all seven Heavens.

Zenith

The evangelists, both social and religious. They count a number of Lucifers among their ranks, as teaching is just another form of evangelism, but all Names are welcome, and the Raphaels often find a place with them. They work especially well with Barachiel and Erathoal, and are most common in Lunia and Venya.

Twilight

The scholars and scientists of the angels. While they attract more than a few Lucifers, it is actually the Jegudiels who make up the majority of their numbers. They excel at an intelligent, determined march towards progress. They spend most of their time in Venya, domain of Erathoal, the Seer.

Night

Most angels would be happy not to speak of the Night caste. The spies and assassins of the Heavens, they go against many ideals the angels hold dear. They attract many Uriels, and work very closely with Pistis Sophia in her home of Solania.

Eclipse

The angels most likely to be encountered by outsiders in a peaceful setting, the Eclipse caste make up the ambassadors, diplomats, and negotiators. Lucifers and Raphaels both find this caste attractive, but it is far from uncommon to see other Names as well. They flock to Zaphkiel in Chronias, but Domiel in Mercuria has also found many uses for this caste.

Names

Names are an angel’s calling, and one is only very rarely changed once determined. It becomes the angel’s surname, and members of the same Name are considered family.

Gabriels

Warriors, “the strength of god.” Gabriels are known for being aggressive, strong, and dangerous. They also have a reputation for leaping before they look and failing to follow orders they don’t agree with. The other angels often blame them for the continuation of the Twilight War, which is not fair—but not entirely untrue, either.

Jegudiels

Workers, “the laudation of god.” Outsiders rarely meet members of the Jegudiel Name, as they spend most of their time at the Heavens, handling paperwork, bureaucracy, heavy labor, and anything else that requires hard work and dedication. While they are often ignored and forgotten, other Names will quickly sing their praises if asked.

Lucifers

Teachers, “the lightbringer.” Arguably the most important Name of them all, the Lucifers are those angels who lead and teach. They plan the tactics and the strategies, watch over the orphanages and schools. Zaphkiel keeps a close watch on them, as he considers raising intelligent and informed children more important than brainwashing new angels.

Michaels

Protectors, “the name of god.” Like Gabriels, the Michaels are powerful soldiers. But while Gabriels prefer to strike first, ranging far and wide in search of enemies, the Michaels believe in defense before offense. They are the protectors of the Heavens and anywhere else the Saints deem needs defending, and are held in high esteem even by non-angels. They do, however, have a reputation for stubbornness and immovability, as well as a lack of imagination.

Raphaels

Doctors, “the healing of god.” A valuable Name that tries to stay at the Heavens, Raphaels often find themselves on the front lines to patch up their brothers and sisters. In addition to being doctors and surgeons, Raphaels are the primary keepers of the toy maker. A number of medical advancements can be credited to them, especially those Raphaels who joined the Twilight caste.

Uriels

Hunters, “the light of god.” Solitary trackers and spies, the Uriels are a quiet bunch who do not interact with others much. They are the most socially awkward of the angels, rarely getting along even with each other. But they are still praised by the Saints and Arch-Saints due to their skills. Among other cultures, they would be valuable, but among the stealth-impaired angels, they are invaluable.

Angelic Saints

The Hebdomad

Above all other Saints are the Celestial Hebdomad, the seven angels who first took the glow. They are the ultimate authority on all angels that fall under their domain, but rarely interfere directly with anyone below Saint rank. They are sometimes referred to as Arch-Saints.

Barachiel

The Messenger, Lord of Lunia, the Silver Heaven. He is in charge of all forms of angelic communication.

Domiel

The Mercy-Bringer, Lord of Mercuria, the Golden Heaven. His charge is protecting the sanctity of death, and is in charge of the Halls of the Dead for all the angels who have fallen in battle.

Erathoal

The Seer, Lord of Venya, the Pearly Heaven. He is in charge of intelligence and schooling, and watches over the Book of Glory.

Pistis Sophia

The Ascetic, Lord of Solania, the Crystal Heaven. She commands the charge of pure and unvarnished truth, unfettered by pain or despair. Somewhat paradoxically, she is also in charge of the spies.

Raziel

The Crusader, Lord of Mertion, the Platinum Heaven. He is the Arch-saint of War, and the commander-in-chief of all angelic armies.

Sealtiel

The Defender, Lord of Jovar, the Glittering Heaven. His charge is protecting Celestia, which he does with a terrifying will.

Zaphkiel

The Watcher, Lord of Chronias, the Illuminated Heaven. He is the highest angel, and dispenses wisdom and advice to all other members of the Hebdomad. He also watches over orphans and children; Chronias has more orphanages than any other domain.

Notable Hosts

Angel armies and guilds are referred to as hosts, and are best described as similar to the microcultures of other cultures. Angelic hosts do not compete with each other, however (at least not officially), and always claim members of multiple Names.

The Host of Glorious Destruction

Nick

The elderly Saint of the Host of Glorious Destruction is not well-known for her restraint. She is often called upon to strike down a vampire nest swiftly and mercilessly, and is known for her love of fire especially. She is, however, also known for being surprisingly egalitarian. In an organization where racism is seen as passion, she holds no grudge against vampires—though she holds no love for them, either. The Host of Glorious Destruction is sponsored by Pistis Sophia, and recruits angels of both the Gabriel and Uriel Names.

The Host of Radiant Nights

Ash

Although his Host is known for shooting first and asking questions later, Saint Ash is calm, collected, and polite at all time… unless you’re a vampire. Or suggest that maybe killing vampires on sight is a bad idea. Or that angels aren’t the beacons of righteousness they make themselves out to be. He claims credit for the disappearance of Levistus, and the continuation of the Twilight War is often laid at his feet. The Host of Radiant Nights is sponsored by Raziel, and recruits angels of the Gabriel Name almost exclusively.

Domina Cultures – Vampires

Vampires Final

Bel holds Avernus, the first Crypt

plays with toys and has his fun

Second is Dispater in Dis

where he makes steel and guns

Minauros belongs to Mammon

until it was stolen by Doresain

Fourth was once held by Belial

his death led to much of the same

Levistus is Lord of the Fifth

Stygia remembers the angels and Twilight

Malbolge is Glasya’s domain

she has no need to fight

Seventh, Maladomini, was forged by Baal

a shadow, a fortress, a stronghold

Cania, the Eighth, belongs to Mephistopheles

burning with fires bold and old

Asmodeus once claimed the Ninth, Nessus

took too much without care

There is no Tenth, not for Dracul

the Dragon needs no lair

The Black Crypts

Shortly after Isaac Clarke perfected the toy maker, he provided Lilith, the First Monster, with a functioning copy of the device in recognition of her aid. The woman who would become Striga tricked the device out of Lilith’s hands, claiming that as she was about to become the first vampire, Lilith was her mother.

On October 13th of that year, Striga used the device to give an elite group of angry Romanian immigrants the first nighteyes, and they announced the birth of the vampires in an event known as Bloody Thirteen; thirteen skyscrapers, each with thirteen floors, were turned into complete and utter bloodbaths.

For a time, all was chaos. The only vampires were the Romanians under Striga’s thrall, and even as the demons—especially the orcs—scrambled to keep some semblance of order, the vampires were interested only in carnage.

The coming of the angels changed all that.

Zaphkiel announced the formation of his culture with fire and light, executing a daring assault upon Poenari Castle without a single word of warning. Striga was slain, and the fortified skyscraper left to burn. A decade and a half later, no one has ever built anything on the spot.

After Striga’s death, the vampires scattered to the winds. There were no warlords at this point, no one to unite them against this new foe. The angels hunted them like dogs, and the people of the city cheered them on. Various unorganized subcultures like the Skulls and the Bloodletters rose during this time, but the Nosferatu were the only ones who ever gained any real strength and prominence. Zaphkiel’s angels wiped out many minor clans before the rest of the city even knew they existed.

Then the Dragon came.

The second person in the entire city to successfully combine dayeyes and nighteyes into godeyes, Dracul was a charismatic and intelligent man who recognized that despite the frothing rhetoric of the angels, many vampires were normal men and women who wanted to live normal lives. He declared that he would defend these people, but never attack directly.

The angels, of course, didn’t believe him, but after he fought off several angel assassins by himself, Zaphkiel began to sit up and take notice. He ordered a temporary ceasefire out of a desire to see what the Dragon had planned.

The Dragon, for his part, did very little. He nurtured the growth of several minor vampire cultures, and encouraged Bel and Dispater to expand. As other Nobles rose to power and influence, the Dragon declared neutrality: He would make no moves against any vampire cultures unless they moved against him first. This meant there was little standing in the way of Belial and his thralls, Levistus and his angel-hunters, or Asmodeus and his slavers.

Most political historians agree that, more than anything, Dracul should have struck down Levistus, or at least taken a more active hand in the development of his culture. Levistus declared angels the eternal enemies of vampires, and took an aggressive role in fighting them. Barely a year after Striga’s death, the Twilight War began in earnest.

The vampires, now far more numerous than they had ever been among Striga, were not strongly affected by the outbreak of war. There were assassinations, terrorist attacks on their holdings, and random acts of violence against them, but for the most part Dracul’s campaign had worked. The general people of Domina City saw them in a much friendlier light. Except for the Levisans, who remained locked in total war, most vampires were fine as long as they avoided angels.

The angels, on the other hand, were not so lucky. They had far fewer numbers than the vampires, being more like a large cult than a true society. Levistus and his men were able to do serious damage to the Pearly Gates—the skyscraper outside the ruins of Eden which Zaphkiel had chosen as his fortress. They were forced to expand, and Zaphkiel promoted a number of Saints to Archsaint, giving each their own skyscraper and domain. Thus were the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia born, with Chronias the Illuminated Heaven the greatest of them all.

But by this time, the city was tired of the war. It couldn’t go on, at least not at this scale. Entire buildings burning or running red with blood attracted attention that neither the Dragon nor the Watcher wanted. Levistus and the more violent angel Saints were forced to agree to keep their attacks to a minimum. Direct assaults on enemy domains were forbidden, as were civilian casualties. The first few who defied this new edict were dealt with swiftly and without mercy.

Now, vampires are a common sight in Domina City, and like the demons many do not claim a specific subculture. The public has accepted them as having outgrown their violent origins, and if angels still hold that opinion, they keep it quiet outside their Heavens.

Vampire honored are called nightstalkers, while their deviants are known as bloodsoaked. Their warlords are called Nobles, and their novices nightrunners.  The microcultures (the sub-subcultures) are known as bloodlines, broods, or Houses, depending on the subculture in question.

Notable Subcultures:

Avernans (avers, bronzers, poison-spitters)

Known for inventing new and dangerous toys, such as poison sacs and flame glands, and also sell guns. Have a very good working relationship with the Nosferatu. Leader is Bel, who sits upon the Bronze Throne of Avernus in North-West Middle. His chief vassals are the Dark Eight: Baalzephon, Corin, Dagos, Furcas, Pearza, Zapan, Zaebos, and Zimmimar.

Belians (Abriymochians, chem-heads, drug-vamps, Phlegians)

Embrace the morally monstrous aspects of the package. The members are largely chem-heads, both making and using, and are split between those addicted to mentats (the masters), and those addicted to everything else (the slaves, called sclavi). Leader is Belial, presumed dead. His daughter, Fierna, is missing. Belial’s lieutenants, Balan, Bathym, Gaziel, and Gazra, have taken to keeping the Throne of Abriymoch safe for her eventual return. The Belians are centered in Phlegethos, in Northwest Middle.

Canians (goggles, mephs, pyro-vamps)

Canians like fire. A lot. This marks them as odd to many of the other vampires, since the light burns their eyes. They are most readily identified by their daygoggles, which they wear even at night. They are also known as firebugs, pyromaniacs, and pyrovamps. Their leader, Mephistopheles, doesn’t actually lead much, not least because he is extremely paranoid, and convinced the Dagonites are trying to kill him. They are centered in Cania, in North Central.

Daevas (Damans, fetish-vamps, sex-vamps, succubi-vamps)

It is easy to say that the daevas are the vampire version of the succubi, but the truth is more complex. The culture began as a vampire brothel, owned by a husband and wife team. As more and more such brothels began cropping up, they had the idea of making themselves stand out with a theme. They began categorizing their workers by fetish. After they died, one of their employees, man called Aka Manah, took over. He slowly brought in more friends and family, until many of the other vampire brothels allied with them. Today, Aka Manah is not the only warlord of the culture, but he remains the most powerful. The daevas focus on sexual freedom and personal enlightenment, and try to stay out of politics. They are centered in Damavand, in East Middle.

Akoman (bookworms, scholars, librarians)

The scholars of the daevas, still led by Aka Manah. Originally they were merely prostitutes with a “bookish” appearance, they began to grow into the role in truth with time. They are known for large libraries and archives, where they hoard knowledge like gold.

Indar (Indarians, Indians, Indies, wordsmiths)

The silver-tongued diplomats, the Indar follow a warlord of the same name—which has sometimes caused them to be called Indarians. Despite their small numbers, they hold some of the most power among the daevas, due to strong alliances and clever minds.

Nanghait (papercutters, bell-ringers, subs, Nangs)

The bureaucrats, the workers. The Nanghait are simple, content, and masters of paperwork. They run most of the daeva culture either directly or indirectly, and have an important hand in absolutely everything. Aka Manah repeatedly credits their Noble, Naonhaithya, with the survival and growth of the culture.

Sawarl (doms, whips, torturers)

The Sawarl are often called bondage domination fetishists, and it is true that they originated doing exactly that. But they have evolved as a culture, becoming more interested in the idea of pain itself, both inflicting it and receiving it. There is much debate among the rest of the daevas as to whether this is an improvement or not. Their Noble, Saurva, is a quiet man who rarely raises his voice.

Tauriz (bloodlusters)

Led by Taurvi, the Naked Warrior, the Tauriz are based around a fetish for blood—especially fresh blood, spilled in combat. As one might expect, they became the feared war-arm of the daevas very quickly. Due to the fact that the daevas have few direct enemies, the Tauriz rarely fight defensively, instead preferring to go on bloody but mostly non-lethal raids against random nearby cultures.

Zariz (z-spies, z-shadows)

Zauri, the Shadow With Nothing to Cast Her, leads the Zariz. While their role as spies is hardly surprising, what often shocks outsiders is finding out that they still offer sexual services, based around classical spy and seduction stereotypes. They run one of the more successful brothels among the daevas.

Draculas (drakes, dragonspawn)

The nominal “leaders” of the vampires, they are a very small but very powerful subculture. Their leader is Dracul, most often simply called the Dragon. He is the only person in the city other than the Mother Monster to successfully use godeyes. They are centered in Little Romania, in East Outer, but have no specific domain.

Ghouls (cannibals, corpse-eaters, Doresainians)

One of the more horrific subcultures, ghouls are people with the cannibalism toy—which, as the name suggests, allows them to digest raw human flesh. The toy was originally intended for simply any raw meat (which it works fine for), but ghouls have a dark reputation for eating people alive. On the other hand, it is very cheap, so some of the poorer residents use it simply to expand their diet. Those who identify as “ghouls” nearly always have the enhanced jaw and night vision toys, which is why the subculture is considered part of the vampires. Their leader is Doresain, King of Ghouls. He holds court in Minauros in South Central, a fortress stolen from the Mammonites.

Glasyans (Bolgians, fey-vamps, glassers, Malbolgians)

Founded on the idea that the toy maker is the future of mankind, Glasyans are one of the few subcultures—vampire or non—to deal directly with the fey on a regular basis. Their leader, Glasya, is the one who negotiated the toy box deal between Necessarius and the Neverborn fey. They are centered in Malbolge, in West Middle.

Levisans (angel-haters, angel-hunters, Stygians, twilighters)

Also known as angel-hunters, the Levisans were founded by Levistus in direct response to angelic aggression. They (and the angels) are largely blamed for the continuation of the Twilight War, and other vampires try to avoid them. Levistus is currently missing, but his men still hold court in Stygia, in North-West Middle.

Mals (Assassins’ Guild, Baalspawn, shadow-vamps)

These vampires favor raw strength paired with guile and cunning, and have a reputation as powerful assassins. While a small subculture, they are greatly valued by the other vampires. Their leader, Baal, was killed by an angel of the Night caste shortly before the first screamer arose. His generals, Abigor, Bileth, and Zepar are struggling to hold the subculture together. They are centered in Maladomini, in West Middle.

Mammonites (maggots, Minaurosians, Thieves’ Guild)

Also called the Thieves’ Guild, the Mammonites are a small and mostly harmless subculture, concerned more about the challenge of stealing things than actually bothering to hold on to them. Raiding abandoned Mammonite lairs is a good source of wealth, if you get there first. Their founder is Mammon, but no one has seen him for quite some time, which has people such as Butler quite worried. Their former fortress in South Central, Minauros, has ironically been stolen by Doresain and his ghouls.

Nessians (Asmodeans, decayed, nessies, slavers)

The Nessians are slavers, nothing more. They sell escaped changelings back to the fey, children to unscrupulous microcultures, and other less savory things. They were never large in the first place, but their leader, Asmodeus, made the mistake of trying to usurp the Dragon. They were reduced to a tenth of their number, and Asmodeus himself was poisoned by a Nosferatu, which the toy maker cannot heal. They are currently biding their time, waiting for the perfect time to strike back. Their fortress in Nessus has been burned to the ground; no one knows where they call home now.

Nosferatu (ferrets, shells)

Vampires who embrace the physically monstrous aspects of the package. They have no overriding leader, but mostly confine themselves to South-East Central.

Guruhi (ashes)

One of the largest Nosferatu bloodlines, they follow Cinder, the White Ash. While they are a relatively new bloodline, Cinder’s sheer force of personality has made them a force to be reckoned with—at least within the Nosferatu. Other cultures and Necessarius largely ignore them, as they are far too concerned with dominance among their peers than any grander ambitions. They have a blood feud with the Nictuku, and have been fighting for as long as they have existed.

Nictuku (pines)

Another large Nosferatu bloodline, and certainly the most organized, the Nictuku follow Halifax, the Black Pine. While they are interested in diplomacy, espionage, and other far-reaching goals at least within the vampires, the Guruhi keep them constantly bottled up. What little territory they have is viciously fought over, and most maps simply label the whole mess ‘contested.’

Warbloods (Disians, soldier-vamps, war-vamps)

Warbloods are the war-arm of the vampires. They attract any nighteyes worried about persecution, and work to defend their culture from outsiders. Some of their “defenses” are unnecessarily aggressive, however. Their leader is Dispater, a secretive old vamp who never leaves his base, the Iron Tower, in West Middle.

Vampiric Nobles

Asmodeus

Noble of Nessus, the Lord of Tyrants was once one of the most dangerous men in the city. During the Battle of Shendilavri, he was horrifically injured by a Nosferatu, and has not been able to heal ever since. Like his culture, he is reduced to a mere shadow of his former glory, but he is still a major threat in the poorer sections of the city. He is careful to avoid Necessarius, but finds himself with fewer places to turn to with every passing month.

Bel

Noble of the Avernans, Bel has a good working relationship with Dispater, who he supplies with powerful new toys. The man himself is known as more of a businessman and diplomat than soldier or scientist, but his access to powerful experimental toys means he is excessively dangerous when riled.

Belian Nobles

Balan

Belial’s greatest supporter, known for insatiable appetites even by the depraved standards of the culture. He is not very well known outside the Belians, but he commands many slaves in Phlegethos, keeping them sharp for the inevitable war, no matter who they might fight.

Bathym

A staunch supporter of Fierna, he is also one of the more public faces of the Belians (though not by much), constantly insisting that they are close to finding their lost princess. Rumors claim he and Balan are brothers, but these are unsubstantiated.

Belial

Noble of the Belians, Lord of Phlegethos, and father of Fierna. He joined with Malcanthet during the Battle of Shendilavri, and was killed in the fighting. The culture struggles without him, as his powerful—if cruel and violent—personality was one of the few things that could force his chem-addicted culture into some semblance of order.

Fierna

Lost daughter of Belial and heir to the culture. She has been missing since the Battle of Shendilavri, and is largely presumed to be dead. It is assumed that sooner or later a vampire will be granted the mantle in a last attempt to motivate the culture.

Gaziel

A more neutral Belian Noble, Gaziel wishes for the prosperity of the culture, no matter who sits on the Throne of Abriymoch. He is known to be looking for vampire women, and it is assumed that he is searching for a replacement for Fierna.

Gazra

Fierna’s consort before she disappeared during the Battle of Shendilavri. While one would assume that he would be desperate to have his love returned to the culture (if only to increase his own standing), the fact that he lets Bathym make the public announcements has led to many rumors circulating about his loyalty.

Dispater

The agoraphobic Noble of the warbloods, Dispater has not been the same since the Battle of Shendilavri. The assassination attempt that killed Orcus nearly took his life as well, leading him into a spiral of depression and paranoia. Now, he never leaves the Iron Tower, the fortress at the heart of Dis, and refuses to see anyone outside of his council.

Doresain

Noble of the ghouls, the Ghoul King represents many of the worst parts of his culture. He is voracious, uncompromising, and has difficulty seeing people as anything other than food. Rumor has it that he was a cannibal since before the toy maker, but that is impossible to prove.

Dracul

The Dark King of the Vampires. Also known as the Dragon, Dracul is the leader of the Draculas, and one of the first vampires to get his fangs. There is some debate on who got them first, him or Striga, but he doesn’t seem to care enough to argue. He is also one of the only people in the city with functioning godeyes, the fusion of dayeyes and nighteyes. As an individual, Dracul is strong and uncompromising, as he is used to dealing with the arrogant and implacable vampire Nobles. While he is not officially the lord of the culture, his political connections and personality allow him to take control when the need arises.

Daeva Nobles

Aka Manah

Founder of the daeva culture and Noble of the Akoman subculture, Aka Manah is a serious and conservative man, which is odd considering that he founded multiple brothels. He keeps a close eye on his own house, but is careful not to police the other daevas.

Indar

The Silver Diplomat, Noble of the Indar. Friendly smiles and honeyed words cover a dangerously clever mind, and a lust for power that would be disturbing if he wasn’t such a delight to be around. More suspicious people wonder what he plans to do with the allies he has amassed, but Indar himself remains inscrutable.

Naonhaithya

Bureaucracy seems like the last thing that anyone would find arousing in a brothel, but Naonhaithya had an idea, and she saw it through to the end. While their brothels make far less money than those of the other daevas, the Nanghait run the paperwork for most of the culture, and thus control much of it. This mirrors Naonhaithya and her desires quite well; she runs things not out of greed, but out of a simple (if obsessive) desire for order.

Saurva

Saurva, Noble of the Sawarl, is a quiet and friendly man who is fully capable of flaying a man’s skin off the bone at range with an ordinary whip. Rumor has it that Saurva himself has no sex drive, but he leads his culture well regardless, keeping their worst excesses under control.

Taurvi

The Naked Warrior earned his title in exactly the way one would expect. His fetish for blood and gore was well-known long before Aka Manah approached him and offered him a more constructive outlet for his appetites. Today, while Taurvi still leads most Tauriz raids himself, he has found himself drawn more and more into the tedious running of the house.

Zauri

It is said that no one has seen Zauri, the Shadow With Nothing to Cast Her, for years. She slinks through the halls of Damavand, spying on every daeva in the domain, collecting and collating information that might some day be useful. She was always a quiet woman, to the point that there are rumors she was mute before the toy maker healed her. Regardless of her absence, her house does quite well financially, as the brothel techniques she pioneered have proven profitable to the Zariz.

Glasya

Nearly every warlord in the city receives a hand-written invitation on a weekly basis, inviting them to either breakfast or dinner with the fey. Glasya is one of the very few who ever took them up on that deal. Few people remember that she used to be a demon under the command of Asmodeus, before Shendilavri. She acted as his secretary, and went in his place to meet with the Princess of Killing Sparrow, the Maiden of Night’s Southern Autumn. It is unknown what deal they struck. But whatever it was, within a month Glasya had re-emerged as a vampire, leading a small but loyal culture of scientists and their diplomatic agents.

Levistus

Legend says that Levistus was the first vampire to fight an angel and win, months after Zaphkiel founded them as a weapon against Striga’s brood. Whether that is true or not, the Noble’s hatred of angels is well-documented, and his culture shares his views. While he has been missing for some time, his men continue the Twilight War unabated in his name.

Mal Nobles

Abigor

Abigor the Bellows, leader of the Mal war arm, is known as a clever tactician with a cruel streak. Some of his most embarrassing defeats came about simply due to playing with his opponent more than was wise. However, he trains his men well, and makes sure all Mals are well-armed and known how to use their weapons. He was the first vampire recruited by Baal, and thus the nominal leader after his death. However, he knew he couldn’t handle the culture on his own, so allowed Bileth and Zepar to shoulder equal shares of the responsibility.

Baal

Baal the Executioner was the founder of the Mals. He made his name by killing a single criminal in order to prevent a massive culture war from breaking out. He led his culture well for years, taking jobs he knew wouldn’t step on the toes of Necessarius or anyone else too powerful. Unfortunately, that didn’t prove enough, and he was killed by a Night-caste angel shortly before the screamers began appearing in Domina City.

Bileth

Bileth nar-Baatezu, Poison Master of Maladomini, doesn’t talk much. He has always been a quiet man, and he earned his spot as one of Baal’s hands despite his oratory skills, not because of them. Still, his skill with poison is unmatched. While he doesn’t make it himself, he is a frequent customer of Bel and the Avernans. Likewise, his classes on proper poison handling are mandatory for all new Mals.

Nyashk

The newest Noble of Maladomini, Nyashk was a low-level teacher who somehow stumbled into a powerful mantle. Rumors say that she was Baal’s lover, but cooler heads have noted that the timeline doesn’t match up. For now, all anyone can do is watch and wait to see what she does.

Zepar

A somewhat awkward and fumbling man, Zepar’s earnest demeanor and mastery of stealth more than make up for any missteps he makes along the way. He is also the unofficial trapmaster of Maladomini; while Baal always held that role before, Zepar studied best under him. He is in charge of most assassinations, which an outsider would assume makes him the most powerful man in the culture. This is incorrect, and of the three Nobles, he is by far the one hit hardest by Baal’s death. Analysts agree that without Abigor and Bileth, he wouldn’t be able to hold the culture together.

Mammonite Nobles

Focalur

Mammon’s right hand man, and the chief diplomat of the culture. As most Mammonites consider such things to be of little value, Mammon holds Focalur and his skills in very high esteem. Unfortunately, he has still not been able to organize a march against the ghouls holding Minauros.

Mammon

Noble of Minauros, despite the loss of that fortress to Doresain. Mammon himself is actually not a thief but a disgraced police officer, who thought that taking control of criminals and taking kickbacks was a more effective way of fighting crime than arrests. He continued this attitude in Domina. Whether it worked or not is arguable, but it certainly made him quite rich and relatively powerful. Thieves under his control are non-violent to a fault when on a mission, and anyone being raided by a Mammonite knows that it is better to buy back the lost property later than to make a fight of it right then and there. He has been missing for almost a year, and some say he attempted to take back Minauros himself—only to become food for the ghouls.

Mephistopheles

Noble of the Canians, the pyro-vamps. Mephistopheles is often described as having a personality nothing like what anyone would expect from the leader of a bunch of firefangs. He is friendly, polite, and rarely ever references fire. But that’s just his personality. He carries the smell of smoke around like a cloud, and is usually seen with some variant of fireman’s jacket. He is also convinced that the Dagonites are trying to kill him, and rarely leaves Cania without a heavy escort.

Nosferatu Nobles

Cinder

Cinder, the White Ash, is known for both his mindless cruelty and his distinctive twin swords. He leads the Guruhi by little more than sheer force of personality, leading them into battle against everyone and everything, but most especially the Nictuku. If he has some grand design in mind, he has never shared it. He seems interested in little more than ruining Halifax and everything he has ever built.

Halifax

Halifax, the Black Pine, is known for being a large, black-shelled monstrosity fond of poison and diplomacy—anyone who ignores the latter quickly finds themselves facing the former. Despite the fact that his own modifications have made him virtually unintelligible, he has designs on conquering the Nosferatu into a single culture under his command. Unfortunately for him, Cinder has made it his mission to prevent that from happening. No one knows the reason for this, but most analysts agree that Cinder is most likely simply bored, and finds the Black Pine’s attempts to organize amusing.

Striga

The Vampire-Queen, the Lady of Darkness, Fiica de Întuneric. Striga was the first and most terrible vampire, a woman who is sometimes spoken of in hushed whispers even a decade and a half after her death. Little is known about her past other than the fact that she was a Romanian refugee, sent to Domina on some meaningless charge. Her people were persecuted inside the city, and she resolved to do something about it. Of course, everyone was persecuted, and the woman who would become Striga was not the first to attempt to gain power and vengeance violently. But she is the only one who managed to trick the Mother Monster. While Striga’s reign was brief, brought to a swift and fiery end by the advent of Zaphkiel and his angels, she killed several thousand people in the short time she remained active. No one was spared her wrath, no one was granted mercy; even the Romanian refugees who refused to join with her felt her fangs in the night. Her reign was dreaded, and her death celebrated. People prefer to not say much else about her.

Domina Cultures – Demons

DemonFinal

Nine Hells of sin and slaughter

Nine Hells of freedom and choice

Nine gates to guard them

Nine Powers to hold them

The first gate, Androlynne

the Mother’s shrine

The second gate, Thanatos

the Diplomat’s embassy

The third gate, Durao

the Soldier’s fortress

The fourth gate, Shendilavri

the Lover’s brothel

The fifth gate, Spirac

the Hunter’s grounds

The sixth gate, Styros

the Binder’s roost

The seventh gate, Azzagrat

the Tactician’s lair

The eighth gate, Ani Kamakhym

the Mutant’s workshop

The ninth gate, Carynach

the Beast’s kingdom

The Gates of Hell (translated from German)

When Isaac Clarke first perfected the toy maker, he tested the device by giving a little girl a pair of devil horns. There was no real meaning behind the horns; he just wanted something that would be simple and easy to remove if anything went wrong, but still complicated enough to provide solid proof of his theories.

The procedure was a complete success, but had side effects the doctor couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Outside Domina, the world was quickly stirred up into a frenzy by the implications of the device. While it is certain that religious types would have been quite vocal about “tampering in God’s domain” regardless, the devil horns made it much, much worse. A number of churches led the charge to criminalize use of the toy maker, and succeeded in limiting it to the military in a crippled form.

Inside the city, however, the reaction was very different. People from all walks of life loved the implications of being able to modify your body on a whim, and the horns spread across the city like wildfire, used to show support for the toy maker and the girl who became known as the First Monster.

For a time, it was just harmless fun. But on October 13th of that year, almost four months after the invention of the toy maker, things became more complicated. That was when Striga forged the first vampires as a weapon to protect the Romanian immigrants living in the city.

Following the rise of the vampires, others who used the toy maker realized that this was a call to action. They couldn’t just sit around and do nothing while the Mother Monster’s legacy was destroyed. For a few months, it was uncoordinated chaos, even though everyone knew something had to be done.

It was Pale Night who found a solution. She gathered the three most prominent of those who had used the toy maker—Malcanthet, Orcus, and Sargeras—and forced them to realize the position they were in. By the time they left that night, they understood they could no longer sit idly by. On December 20th, the demons were born.

The first three demon warlords each came away from the meeting with a different goal in mind. Malcanthet wanted power and comfort, so she built Shendilavri and named her clan the succubi. For years, free love and peace reigned, but as time wore on, the Whore began to desire power more than comfort…

Orcus had a singular mission: Stopping the vampires before they destroyed themselves and the city. He took on many vampiric toys—such as night vision eyes and fangs—and founded the Thanatosians, filling his inner circle with close friends and family. To his annoyance, the people of the city did not really understand the significance of the name he had chosen, and referred to his House as “orcs” instead.

Sargeras did not have any shining ideals like Malcanthet, or a far-reaching vision like Orcus. He was simply a soldier, and he wanted to keep his friends and family safe. So, he recruited an army. The hellions rose to prominence quickly, not least because of their warlord’s insistence that they not work against Necessarius. While many new leaders came to power, Sargeras remained the unofficial lord of the subculture. His own Legion was simply called “the Army” (or even worse, “the Legion”), which said quite a bit about his imagination.

Over the years, more subcultures have risen and fallen. While there have been scandals within the culture (the death of Orcus and the exile of Malcanthet chief among them), for the most part the demons get along together very well. Their central tenant has always been “the freedom to become whatever you wish.” Therefore, many people start as demons before becoming something else, and they are generally on good terms with the other cultures.

Demon honored are called devils, while their deviants are known as fiends. Their warlords are called Powers, and their novices are called imps. The microcultures (the sub-subcultures) are known as clans, Houses, Hordes, or Legions, depending on the subculture in question.

Notable Subcultures:

Acheroni (back-stabbers, weepers)

A mixed bag of traitors and various other neer-do-wells, the Acheroni are the cast-off refuse of other demon cultures. While most of them have been able to move past their troubled past and even form alliances with their old clans, they still have a very negative reputation in the city. They dwell all along the nest of streets and back alleys called Acheron, with a large number of sub-domains (realms) dotted along the way.

Bulezau (bird-watchers, deal-makers, goats)

Goat-demons with huge horns and long, dangerous tails. They enjoy brokering deals, and before Butler rose to power they were a sort of police force for the city. Now their actions are limited to the demon culture, but a deal witnessed by a bulezau is not one you should be quick to break. Their leader is Pazuzu, the Binder, who holds court in Styros.

Ekolids (bugs, sewer-demons)

Bug-demons with thin limbs, more joints than normal, and a number of artificially bred parasites. Known for living in the sewers, fighting fey-monsters over territory, they have little interaction with the surface. Their leader is Obox-ob.

Goblins (demon-monkeys, skyrats)

The only subculture other than the aves to make use of the hollow bones buff, the goblins delight in running and jumping around the city, using their lithe frames to simply leap between skyscrapers. In addition to acting as messengers and scouts, the culture makes good money from the vampires maintaining the massive shade-cloths that keep the Black Crypts dark during the day. Their leader is the Erlking, the Hunter. Their domain is Spirac, the town of bridges, and is known for a number of rooftop hunting preserves.

Hags (drug-demons, witches)

Demon chem-heads. Unorganized and easily manipulated, but still extremely dangerous. Their leader is Baba Yaga the Witch-Queen. Their domain is chaotic, the borders ever-changing, and most people try and avoid it if at all possible.

Hellions (Hell’s Army, hellguard, Legionaries)

Demon soldiers. They typically hire themselves out as mercenaries, especially to Necessarius. They also have a good working relationship with the mariliths, who they occasionally hire as tacticians and strategists. Along with the succubi and the orcs, they are one of the founding subcultures.

The Army (the Legion)

The Army were the first hellions, and are led by General Sargeras, more commonly known simply as “the General.” While they have never been interested in hoarding power, they are still the strongest hellion Legion by a fair margin. Their domain, Durao, is still one of the most fortified in the entire city, rivaling even the warblood domain Dis.

Twilight Reavers (Kellions, Reavers)

The Reavers believe very strongly in the Mother’s vision of a unified Domina, and have resolved to bring that dream to fruition, starting with the demons. Everyone is watching them closely, but they seem to be using peaceful methods to meet this end. They are more often called Kellions, after their leader, Juan Keller, and are known for being the only demons to use dayeyes regularly.

Incubi/Succubi (lusters, sex-demons, Shendilavrans, whores)

A member of the subculture that heavily fetishizes parts of the demon package, using pheromones and other similar toys to enhance their sexuality. A certain amount of sexuality is expected, of course—people wouldn’t add horns to their head if they thought they were ugly. But succubi take the implications of their connection to the mythical lust demons a bit… literally. Due to the actions of their previous leader, Malcanthet, they are shunned by just about everyone else, and mostly stay in hiding. The word is also occasionally used as an insult to refer to demon prostitutes, whether they are actually succubi or not. Along with the hellions and the orcs, succubi are one of the founding subcultures. Their domain was a block named Shendilavri, also known as Whorestown, with the skyscraper Rivenheart their crowning jewel. But when Malcanthet fled, Rivenheart was toppled. Shendilavri has lain fallow for over five years now.

Daybringers

The spies of the succubi, they closely mimic the fallen angel Naamah in the belief that knowledge is power. They maintain an extensive network of spies and informants to keep the children of Shendilavri safe in a city hostile towards them.

Mahathallah

The followers of Agrat Bat Mahlat, their name translates approximately to “the Deception.” This name was actually chosen as representative of the lies they rejected; the Mahathallah were the first succubi to break off from Malcanthet, even before she fled the city. Most modern succubi are members of this subculture, and they are treated as the leading culture in many ways.

Riven

Generally known simply as “Malcanthet’s thralls,” the Riven are those who resided in Rivenheart under the command of the Queen of the Succubi. If any still exist in Domina City, they are well-hidden, though a few do pop up to cause chaos every once in a while. While Malcanthet only uses this term to describe those who follow her willingly, most outsiders use it to refer to all who follow her, since with the Succubus Queen “willingly” is a bit of a fluid term.

Widowers

The followers of Xinivrae, one of Malcanthet’s sisters, were largely defunct even before Malcanthet was exiled from the city. They were never a large subculture, and were more like one of the gangs of old than anything more meaningful. The Widowers made widows; it was their only purpose. They either killed married men (and left the wives alone) or killed their own husbands as part of their initiation. Their meaningless cruelty eventually led to the Queen of the Succubi casting out her sister, and purging Shendilavri of every trace of her.

Zens

The followers of Eisheth Zenunim are healers through and through, and have always welcomed all with open arms and hearts. They became extremely influential after the Battle of Shendilavri, but their numbers have never been too large.

Mariliths (armchairs, snake-demons, vipers)

Snake-demons who pride themselves on their grasp of strategy and tactics; rumors say their leader recruits from the RTS gamer crowd. Occasionally called to help the hellions. Although in theory they are seeking to use the toy maker to obtain multiple functional arms, in practice many mariliths never bother getting any more toys than the horns. People join the culture for the society itself, not the toys they have to offer. Their leader is Graz’zt, the Tactician. Their headquarters is the Argent Palace, on Azzagrat Street.

Orcs (death-demons, fang-wranglers, Thanatosians)

Demons known for leading vampires and ghouls. They have a reputation for butting their way into situations due to their founder, Orcus, who was known to press-gang vampires to help defend civilians. He was killed by Malcanthet shortly before she fled the city. Usually have nighteyes in addition to the demon package. Their warlord is Obould, Orcus’ lieutenant, but he issues very few orders. Along with the hellions and the succubi, they are one of the founding demon subcultures. Their official headquarters is Naratyr in Thanatos, in East Outer (near Little Romania), but what little organization the House still has is centered on Obould’s apartment complex in South Central.

Pales (Andies, Andros, kiddies)

Following Pale Night, the Mother of Demons, the residents of Androlynne are enigmatic, friendly, and extremely dangerous. Most stick to internal buffs, mimicking both Pale Night and her “mother,” Lilith. They try to corral the other demons as best as they can, especially the hags and Satanists. While not officially the leaders of the culture, they mirror the Draculas in many ways, including recruiting from all other subcultures. They refer to the First Monster as “mom,” something that annoys her to no end. She responded by calling them “kiddies,” which has turned into a mildly derogatory nickname for the culture. Their headquarters is Golmendicoria, on Androlynne Street.

Satanists (anarchists, baby-eaters)

A small but extremely violent subculture who follow the modern Satanist religion. They believe strongly in freedom and just retribution. Things only started to go downhill when the Beast took control of the clan. Their headquarters is under Carynach, and is often referred to as simply the Ninth Gate.

Sibriex (fleshcrafters, ‘rexes, sibs)

Also known as the fleshcrafters, the sibriex are one of the few subcultures—demon and non—that deals directly with the fey on a regular basis. Their headquarters is Arhestanots, the Fleshworks, and is located at the edge of South Middle. Their domain is technically called Ani Kamakhym, but since it only consists of the one building, many people just use Arhestanots. Their leader is Narek Nhang, the Unfleshed Lord.

Notable Demonic Powers

Baba Yaga

The Witch Queen, the Power of the hags, is quite different from her vampiric counterpart. While Belial and his ilk use chems to control their followers, Baba Yaga is just as drug-addled as her culture. While this does make her weak and non-aggressive most of the time, it also makes her dangerously unpredictable. She can be philanthropic one minute and screaming for blood the next. Most people avoid her domain like the plague.

The Beast

The violent leader of the Satanists, intent on leading his culture to glory. He took control of the culture much later than most of the other Gatekeepers, about two years after the demon culture was officially founded. The Beast himself is quick to anger and exceptionally dangerous, but he believes very strongly in just retribution—even if his definition of “just” is a bit more consistently lethal than most.

The Erlking

The Power of the goblins is very different from the culture he oversees. While most skyrats prefer dexterity and agility over all else, their leader is an eight-foot tall monster of muscle and dense bone weighing several hundred pounds. The only reason he can even move at all is because of his extremely expensive modifications. The man himself is very similar to his toys; slow, deliberate, but very dangerous once you get him moving.

Graz’zt

Power of the mariliths, the snake-demons. Like his culture, Graz’zt is an intelligent man with a head for strategy, and works closely with hellion warlords when the situation calls for it, preferring to not get his own hands dirty. Unlike much of the rest of his culture, the Dark Power has a well-documented weakness for sex, which nearly led to the downfall of the culture when Malcanthet was making her power-grab. Thankfully, he was spared from the Succubus Queen’s attentions through the efforts of bodyguards who valued his safety over his orders, but he still stays largely confined to his base for security.

Hellion Powers

Julian Keller

Power of the Twilight Reavers. He is known for having both a single nighteye (which he normally covers with an eyepatch) and a violet dayeye. He has somewhat of a blunt and abrasive personality, but he knows that he has to forge alliances with others in order to survive.

Sargeras

Power of the Army, founder of the Hellions. More commonly known as “the General.” Sargeras is a strong, no-nonsense type who believes that it is his duty to keep the city safe. He has had little luck in the fifteen years since becoming a warlord, for although his ideals and methods match Butler’s almost word-for-word, the two men have difficulty trusting each other. While they are both intelligent enough to keep from interfering with each other directly, they often unintentionally work at cross-purposes.

Obox-ob

Power of the ekolids, the Prince of Vermin rarely leaves his lair hidden somewhere in the sewers, preferring to send out elite Hands to act in his stead. Still, the subculture is quite small, so he has little need to exert his power unless his territory is threatened. There are rumors that the Composer killed him and took his domain, but this is unconfirmed.

Orc Powers

Obould

The former lieutenant and cousin of Orcus, founder of the orcs, Obould was forced to take control of the culture during the Battle of Shendilavri. Obould does not interact very much with his culture, preferring to be left alone with his studies and experiments. Now, he spends most of his time helping monster slayers like Derek Huntsman, but he also has a very strong interest in the powers possessed by the screamers and their ilk.

Orcus

One of the three founders of the demon culture, Orcus was always a powerful and charismatic man, who used his large size both for intimidation and to garner respect. He was assassinated at the Battle of Shendilavri, and control of the culture passed to his cousin, Obould.

Pale Night

Power of the Andros, The Mother of Demons, who followed in Lilith’s footsteps and created the demon culture. She recruits from all other demon subcultures, and tends to refer to the First Monster as “mom,” something that annoys the latter to no end. Pale Night keeps herself wrapped in a white shroud at all times, to cover the horrific scars she received from her modifications.

Pazuzu

One of the first aves, the kemo who would become known as Pazuzu abandoned his culture in favor of corralling the goat-demons, the Bulezau. At the time, they had no warlord, but the Abyssal Falcon was able to defeat all contenders and rise to the top. The man himself is lean and powerful, but focused more on limiting the damage of the wars than expanding the subculture’s influence. He is happy to hire his men out to Necessarius when the need arises, and if not, he sends them on general peace-keeping missions around the city.

Sibriex Powers

Aramazd

The Power behind the Power, as it were, the existence of the Firstborn is a secret to most people, even the sibriex. He tests many of the culture’s toys on himself, which has resulted in so much mutation and degradation that he can’t even move any more. He primarily keeps watch on the sibriex servers, as well as reviewing the culture’s experiment notes and their Helix—their record of their use of the toy maker.

Narek Nhang

Power of the sibriex, the Unfleshed Lord is not known for much besides his constant use of the toy maker. His title comes from the fact that he is never content to stay in one form for long, which makes identifying him frustratingly difficult. He treats his culture as a research lab rather than a military organization, and thus has found himself threatened by other, more aggressive cultures more than once.

Succubus Powers

Agrat Bat Mahlat

The woman who first took control after Malcanthet’s defeat, Agrat tries to keep to the shadows as much as possible. There are rumors that she is the mother of Asmodeus, but most agree this is simple hearsay spawned from the names they both chose.

Eisheth Zenunim

Also known as the Healer, Eisheth rejected Malcanthet’s violent ways even before the Battle of Shendilavri, forming her own subculture in defiance. Despite her philanthropic goals, Eisheth is not good with people, being rude, anti-social, and bitterly cynical.

Malcanthet

Although she has fled the city, the self-proclaimed Queen of the Succubi still has influence through the sleepers left behind. Sometimes called Damă by the vampires, which means either queen or whore. The demons call her Meretrix (courtesan) when they feel polite, and Lupa (she-wolf, whore) when they don’t.

Naamah

The Mother of Espionage, the Power Naamah is the first line of defense for the dangerously weakened succubi, using her extensive network of spies and hidden cameras to alert her fellows of any assaults on succubi meeting places.

Xinivrae

Malcanthet’s sister, the Black Widow was best known for murdering her husband—the crime which got her sentenced to Domina City in the first place. While originally the only criminals sent to the island were those who had committed minor white-collar offenses, by this point the outside world had given up. Legend says that the woman who would become known as Xinivrae arrived the day Isaac Clarke unveiled the toy maker; she and her little sister became demons days later. Unfortunately, it seemed Domina did not improve Xinivrae’s morality; she found that she enjoyed killing husbands, even those that were not her own, and even dabbled in seducing wives and making them kill the husbands themselves. Eventually, only a few years after Malcanthet was crowned Queen of the Succubi, she cast her sister out of Shendilavri and set about destroying the “culture” of killers she had left behind. Xinivrae was never heard from again.

Scene 232 – Vis

VIS

KATHERINE

The first thing that happened when I got back was George crushed me in a bear hug.

I tapped him on his massive shoulder a few times. It took a minute to get his attention, but he finally realized what I was trying to say. “Oh! Sorry about that!” He released me, but kept his hands on my shoulders, grinning broadly. “I just thought I’d never see you again!”

Kelly nodded. “Good to have you back, Kat.”

I nodded as well, a little weakly, and signed out a question.

She frowned. “Really? That’s your first question?”

Yes.

She sighed. “Okay, fine. Your rifle is in lockup. We can go get it right now, if you like.”

Another quick nod. It was silly, but I felt naked without it. All I had to defend myself right now was my claws and gymnastic agility.

“All right then,” George said. “Let’s go grab that for you, then maybe—”

“Actually, I already did that,” Jarasax interrupted from his bunk. We were in the ‘sarian barracks near South Gate, where technically we were all supposed to be sleeping when we off duty. But none of us slept, so we mostly just used it to store stuff we didn’t need in the van.

Though we didn’t feel too bad about using it as a glorified storage space, since everyone else did the exact same thing. Right now, the place looked even worse than usual due to the chaos of the Rampage, but Jarasax seemed insistent on making sure his personal space was neat and tidy. He was even folding his sheets with a surprising amount of vigor.

“Why’d you do that?” George asked, regarding my rifle.

Jarasax shrugged. “Why not? I wasn’t sure where we were going to meet her, so I put it in the van.” He smiled at me. “I didn’t really consider that you’d come straight here after being freed.”

I had been turned into a screamer on September 3rd, almost exactly two months ago. I had spent the intervening time in custody, trapped in a hastily-made prison in South Central, where I was dumped with the rest of the victims of that particular attack.

Then, two days ago, the entire city got turned. And yesterday, Adam Anders freed us.

All of us.

Every single screamer Elizabeth ever converted in her run of the city suddenly had their minds returned to them. A few biters, over a hundred burners, four or five hundred bats, nearly a thousand bleeders, a couple hundred skins, and about a thousand lasers. I didn’t know what half of those guys could do, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

But I’d find out. Because we, like the rest of the city, had retained our powers when we were cured. Once people started to realize that there was no way anyone could stop them from using their powers for their own gain, we’d have chaos the likes the city hadn’t seen since the fall of Eden.

“Well, it’s not like it really matters either way,” Kelly noted. She scratched the fixer on her arm, wincing at the wounds that she had incurred during the MEE, when she tried to rip it off in her animalistic state. It was a miracle she hadn’t succeeded. “Let’s get lunch or something.”

Alex strode up. “I think at this point, we’re looking at an early dinner.”

“Whatever. I need meat. I haven’t been in this area in a while. What’s good?”

“South Gate is just a few blocks away,” Alex pointed out. “Tourist area, so lots of food and such in the square. I’m sure we can find something for everyone.”

“Should we drive?”

Jarasax snorted at Kelly’s question. “South Gate in the middle of the day? Hardly. We’d be lucky to get parking this close. Just give me five more minutes to finish making my bed, and we can walk.”

“We don’t even sleep,” Kelly noted.

“It’s the principle of the thing.”

About half an hour later, after we had sorted everything out and I had collected my rifle from the van, we strode into South Gate Square, a large… well, it wasn’t actually a square. It was just a wide street, servicing one of the four gates out of the city, with plenty of restaurants and shops on both sides.

It was crowded, as usual, with the streets themselves crammed with vendors and temporary stalls to service the milling throngs, buzzing with a thousand conversations. The only vehicles that drove through here were the buses to pick up the new residents from the boat, and that was only once or twice a week, at most.

“It’s nice to see this place populated again,” Kelly murmured appreciatively, looking around in something almost like wide-eyed wonder. “I think I had forgotten what it looked like with a healthy amount of people here.”

I frowned at her, tapped on her shoulder to get her attention, and signed quickly.

She blinked in surprise. “Right, of course, you wouldn’t know. Well, for the past couple weeks, this place has been like a ghost town.”

“The whole city,” George corrected. “No one wanted to go outside, for fear of the Composer.”

But that didn’t make sense. I signed as much quickly with both hands.

George waved me off with a sigh. “Yes, yes, we know that, and Necessarius released multiple public service announcements pointing it out, but it takes a lot to break human herd instinct. We’re used to banding together when in danger, not of dealing with something that can turn everyone in a building into zombies with the PA system.”

“Let’s stop talking about this,” Alex insisted. “Look, there’s a pizza place right over there.”

“We might have to put a hold on that,” Kelly murmured, looking at her phone with a frown. “Text from MC. There’s been some weird attack about a mile north along the wall. No detail, but it looks like it could be Ling.” She pocketed the device. “Even if it’s not, we’re the closest fireteam, with the most experience with powers.”

I signed quickly—

Kelly blinked, then laughed. “Gone rogue!? Ling? No, of course not!” She sobered quickly, though. “I’m afraid that’s not it. Rather, she got kidnapped by the aves a while back, and then Soaring Eagle went missing…” she sighed. “If we’re lucky, this is her, but I really doubt she’s still alive.”

“All right, all right,” Alex muttered, disappointed. “We get the picture. Let’s go, before we get a chance to smell anything too delicious.”

Then South Gate opened.

It ground open on decades-old gears, sending rumbling vibrations throughout the entire street. Everyone within sight turned to the hundred foot-tall mass of metal, trying to figure out why it was opening outside of schedule.

And then she walked through the gate.

As easy as you please, as if she did it every day.

It was… a woman. A drop-dead gorgeous woman, at that. She strode down the street like she owned the place, her high heels clicking on the pavement. Her bronze skin sparkled in the light of day, and her golden eyes glittered like stars. In the right light, she looked like a shining statue made from gold.

The entire crowd recoiled away from her like a wave, leaving a massive circular open space in the street around her.

She smiled, amused, as every single person within a hundred yards stared, and flipped her long, caramel-colored hair over her shoulder, which drew attention to her silk dress.

And what a dress. Black as midnight, with a short skirt ending just above the knees, a lacy corset that did incredible things to her chest, and long matching black opera gloves that went all the way up to her elbows.

I recognized her. We all did. How could we not?

There were only two small differences, other than the clothes: Her mouth and her eyes. Yes, her full lips were the same cherry red, her eyes were the same breathtaking gold.

But her lips were curved upwards, ever so slightly, in the tiniest of smiles, and her eyes twinkled at some hidden joke.

“Hello,” the woman who looked exactly like Elizabeth Greene said, in a calm and friendly tone. “I am here to negotiate the release of my sister.”

She smiled a little wider, and raised her hands in surrender.

“Take me to your leader.”

END BOOK TWO