Monthly Archives: September 2015

Scene 234 – Mercor

MERCOR

LAURA

Everything about Silk disturbed me greatly.

I had thought I was used to Elizabeth. A cackling monster, a walking bloodthirsty stereotype hiding under an extremely convincing facade of friendliness and stupidity.

So when her sister strolled up, all smiles and as helpful as could be, I was more than a little wary. It was a trick. It was obviously, undoubtedly a trick. There was nothing else in the entire world it could be.

But every word she spoke passed my lie detection ability with flying colors. And unlike Elizabeth, she wasn’t dodging the questions or twisting the words to confuse the issue. As far as I could tell, she was just actually, genuinely telling the whole and absolute truth.

It rubbed me entirely the wrong way.

Who had ever heard of an enemy who just walks into your base, takes out your heavy hitter, and cheerfully gives you everything you could possibly want? Okay, not everything, but far, far more than I would have expected.

She claimed she wasn’t our enemy, and she seemed perfectly friendly. But every single instinct screamed at me not to trust her. To pull out my gun and shoot her, then lock her away somewhere and throw away the key.

But I had seen her casual defeat of Akane. I had very little doubt that she would be able to take out everyone in NHQ without much more difficulty.

As our little party walked through the halls of Necessarius, minor soldiers and functionaries dodged away from us like rats before a flame. Doors slammed in our wake, dropped papers people were too slow to collect abandoned… the rumors would be flying thick and fast, but no matter what the truth was, everyone knew better than to get in our way.

Silk slid up to me with a smile. “Something wrong, Highlander? You seem distracted.”

Her voice… her voice was exactly like Lizzy’s. Elizabeth’s. Warm as melted chocolate. But there was something else there. Something genuine, perhaps? Or was she just a better actress than her clone?

“I’m fine,” I said through gritted teeth.

She tsked lightly. “Now, now, a truthteller shouldn’t lie.” She winked with a good-natured golden eye. “Old saying from my home galaxy.”

I had a feeling she was trying to draw me into a conversation, giving me hints she knew I’d latch on to. “That’s nice.”

“I understand that my presence is unsettling,” she admitted slowly. “But I wanted to be sure not to mislead you all in any way. And while my face does have an upsetting association with Elizabeth’s, it is mine. It was important I bear it.”

I grit my teeth. “That’s nice.”

“And as for your relationship with the little hero—”

Look,” I interrupted, still not turning in her direction. “I kept my mouth shut during our little interview. But I don’t trust you, and we’re giving you the most dangerous person on the planet. So just shut up before I decide to chain you up and use you for target practice.”

Silence.

Then, after a moment, there was a gentle hand on my shoulder. Silk didn’t say anything though, just gave me that brief touch of encouragement and then increased her pace to meet up with Doctor Clarke and Butler a few feet ahead.

Once again, her actions didn’t make much sense. She must have been manipulating me, but it certainly felt genuine, like a friend accepting that I needed some personal space and granting it. Though that was the point, I suppose.

It wasn’t much longer before we reached the cold room, one of Clarke’s specialized labs under the fortress itself. Normally, this was where he kept monsters and limbs with odd toys or mutations on ice, where he could study them at his leisure. It also had a small chemical factory attached, but nowhere near as large scale as Zero Forge, or even the sulfur foundries of Dis.

Now, it played host to Elizabeth Greene.

She had been dragged over from Zero Forge complete with the liquid nitrogen vat Adam had dropped her into. No one had wanted to risk pulling her out for even a second. Once we got her here, though, we had some other options.

Now, while the vat was still there, we had cooled it enough so that the nitrogen was now a solid block. As I had done every time I came down here previously, I immediately crossed over to the nearest control panel and double-checked the numbers. Nitrogen melted at 63.15 degrees Kelvin, and boiled into gas at 73.355 Kelvin. We were keeping it as cold as possible.

As always, the instruments read it as holding solid at 27.9 degrees above absolute zero. I would certainly have preferred for it to drop about twenty-seven degrees, but this was the coldest we could reasonably keep it. Even like this, no one could get within ten yards of the thing without getting frostbite.

Adam peered through the mists caused by the unspeakable cold, trying to get a good look at the vague shape in the mist. “I see… something.” His breath fogged as he spoke. “Please tell me that’s her.”

“I have a camera that can give us a clearer picture—” MC began, even as she sent the feed to the display I was standing next to.

Silk didn’t even look at it. “It’s her,” she insisted, stepping forward and placing her bare hand on the metal side of the vat as she gazed past it into the ice. It should have ruptured her skin as all her blood froze and burst her veins, but she didn’t even seem to notice. “You finally managed to slow her down, tin man.”

Adam crossed his arms over his chest and glared in her direction. “Was that referring to me? I do have a name, you know.”

Silk strode back out of the mist, apparently none the worse for wear despite entering an area only a few dozens degrees warmer than deep space in nothing but a thin black dress. In fact, she was grinning.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said to Adam, still smiling. “In recognition of your impressive achievements regarding my sister, I will grant you one wish.” Her golden eyes twinkled like stars. “Just name your price. I will not give you anything, but merely asking will not use up your wish.”

I frowned. Every stupid story I had ever heard about genies and the consequences of dealing with them was springing to mind. Depending on what Adam asked for, she could screw with us in a million ways and more. I glanced at him.

He just chuckled. “So, what, if I asked for a billion dollars, you wouldn’t be offended?”

“Of course not,” the tall woman, cloaked by the mists of the machine, replied smoothly. “Is that your wish?”

Adam blinked. “You… could do that?”

Please. That’s not even mildly difficult.” She nodded at Butler. “Hunter could do it. Though it would put a larger dent in his coffers.”

There was a pause.

“And… what if I asked to no longer be a clay? To be made able to use the toy maker?”

“Is that your wish?”

“If… I wanted to be… ” He seemed to be thinking as hard as he could, to come up with something that would offend her. I had a few ideas, but he didn’t have the same mind for cruelty I did. “…immortal. Like you and Elizabeth.”

Silk did not so much as blink. “Is that your wish?”

Another, much longer pause.

“Can I think about this?” Adam asked quietly.

Silk nodded politely. “This offer does not expire. Take as long as you like.”

A little shaken, Adam nodded in thanks.

“Miss Medina,” Butler grunted. “Let’s please get this done.”

I coughed. “All right. There are four passkeys that will need to be put in simultaneously. I have one, MC has another, and Butler and Doctor Clarke have the others. It should take about half an hour to fully thaw her out. Most of the equipment will be fried in the process, though.”

Silk clicked her tongue. “Oh, you people insist on complicating everything. Let me handle it.”

“Handle it? What do you mean, handle—”

Fire belched forth from her hand.

Even though I was only standing a couple feet away from the white-hot flame, I could barely feel more than the slightest tinge of heat. The mist in the room fled away from the golden woman, with the cone of fire stretching in front of her like a dragon’s breath, but that was all.

Except for the effect on the target, of course.

The metal vat filled with nitrogen ice, one of the coldest materials we could conceive of, melted before Silk’s onslaught like an ordinary ice cube tossed into a bonfire. In less than a second, the vat was gone. Not even liquid, gas, already steaming away into nothingness though the vents in the ceiling as I watched. I covered my mouth and stepped back in case the metal got into my lungs.

In moments, the only thing indicating that the block had ever been there were a few small black flakes of ash, spinning gently in the slight breeze of the room. Even now, they were beginning to float down to the floor.

But before they had the chance to hit the ground, they began to move.

They clumped together as if drawn by a magnet, creating a tiny black ball of ash. Within moments, that ball began expanding and gaining color. Faster than I had ever seen before, I saw the white of bone, the red of muscles, and finally the bronze, all building on top of each other like a three dimensional painting, being made layer by layer.

And then, there was Elizabeth Greene, standing naked in the center of the cold room.

She saw Adam, and she immediately stepped forward, her face contorted with rage.

“Elizabeth,” Silk said calmly.

The naked girl stopped dead.

She turned, ever so slowly, to see her twin standing there, as coolly as if they had just run into each other at the convenience store. Seeing them standing next to each other, it was easy to tell the difference between the two—and not just because of the clothes. Silk stood with the regal bearing of a goddess, an entity who knew from experience that she had nothing to fear. Elizabeth was half-crouched like a wild animal, ready to attack at any moment.

“Silk,” the naked girl whispered softly in shock. To my surprise, she immediately fell out of her attack stance, clasped her hands in front of her, and bowed her head before her obvious superior. “Geesmasni Iar, Dagrienpa ojpa’Silk. Itenpa leis Ipa sangli—”

Gel,” her sister answered.

Elizabeth blinked in disbelief. “Gel?

Gelmasni,” Silk amended.

D-dagrienpa,” Elizabeth said, pointing at Adam. “Ipa sangli—”

I kalb-dra gel.” Silk snapped her fingers, and before Elizabeth could object any further, the naked golden woman was gone. Just disappeared, as easy as… well, as easy as snapping your fingers, I suppose.

There was a long, long pause.

“…what just happened?” MC said after a moment.

Silk sighed. “She wanted permission to kill you all. I said no, and when she insisted, I teleported her under Mount St. Helens. It will take her a while to crawl her way out of there.”

“Was that your plan this entire time?” Butler demanded.

Silk made a face. “Well, I was hoping for both of us to walk out of here peacefully, but I will not pretend that I did not anticipate this ending.” She nodded to him in thanks. “Suffice it to say, you will not be dealing with Elizabeth Greene or her renegades any time soon. Good day.”

And then she was gone, leaving only a quiet riff of song to mark her departure.

Everything about Silk disturbed me greatly.

Behind the Scenes (scene 234)

Once again, the language Silk and Elizabeth use here is one I invented, so don’t bother trying to translate it. Though for the record, “Dagrienpa” is a female-only honorific that translates roughly to “Honored.” The male version is Dagriensa. Oh, and “gel” (“no”) is pronounced with a hard g.

Scene 233 – Silk

SILK

DEREK

“I still think you should be more aggressive with the power lists,” I said firmly.

“My stake in this isn’t quite the same as the rest of you,” Adam said from his spot leaning against one of the walls in the exercise room. Well, former exercise room. All the mats had been removed for some reason or another, so now there were just bare concrete floors. “But I agree with Derek. People will feel much safer if they know MC has access to an entire database of powers.”

“Now there’s an idea,” Robyn Joan agreed with a nod. She was still playing some childish game that involved poking Akane in the shoulder, as if to see how long it took for Akane to get annoyed and attack her, but I could tell she was paying attention regardless. “Package it as MC’s thing, and that will help with public relations.”

Butler shook his head. “No. That will just earn us too many enemies.”

I sighed. “I’m not saying steal the things, I’m just saying offer to buy them for a reasonable price, rather than simply asking—” My phone rang. “One second.” I checked it; it was Kelly. “Yeah, I should probably take this. It’s the retinue.”

The Big Boss nodded, waving his hand magnanimously, and resumed pacing the room, as if he was testing out his legs. Even though I had been with him most of the day, it was still really weird seeing him walk around without his cane.

Laura checked her own phone. “Huh, I wonder why they didn’t call me…”

I shrugged as I flipped my phone open. “Who knows. Kelly? What’s going on?”

“South Gate!” she yelled into my ear, making me flinch away. “She’s at South Gate!”

“What? Who’s at South Gate?”

“I… I don’t know, just—” Gunfire sounded from her end of the line. “Futu-i! Everybody’s—” I could barely hear her over the sounds of combat. “Everybody’s shooting!”

“Kelly, calm down, who’s firing at you?”

No one! They’re firing at—”

The line went dead.

“They’re firing at me,” a cool, friendly voice like milk chocolate said from behind me.

I turned slowly, not willing to believe I recognized the voice.

It was Lizzy. Not… I mean… Lizzy. Not Elizabeth, the Composer we had on ice back at the Zero Forge. Not the predator, the enemy, who we had fought and died against these past few months.

This was Lizzy. The girl I had grown up with, who I had gone to school with. The stupid girl with the beautiful smile—

Wait.

Her smile… was different.

I couldn’t quite put my finger in it. Something… warmer? No, no, not the smile itself, but her face. There were creases, subtle smile lines etched onto her face, all the way up to her eyes.

And her eyes were different as well. Smarter, sharper. Not the dangerous, animal cunning of the Composer, but a twinkling intelligence, similar to what Doctor Clarke had.

No time to think about that. “Akane,” I spat.

I didn’t need to say another word. She sped forward faster than I thought possible, leaving behind nothing but the blue blur of her ribbon, her blade launched at our unexpected quest with the speed and precision of a lightning bolt.

It didn’t matter.

The bronze-skinned girl caught the blade with one hand, with all the apparent effort of leaning lightly against the wall.

“First,” she said with a friendly smile, her voice like warm honey. “You need to understand that I am not my sister—in temperament or power.”

The sword began to rust, like a thousand years of decay happening in a moment. Before anyone even knew what was happening, she had snapped the blade off at the hilt.

And then Akane was flying through the air, and the wall next to us exploded in dust. My heart skipped a beat for a moment, until she reappeared, glaring daggers at her opponent.

Elizabeth’s lookalike—and I knew now, whatever else she was, she was not Elizabeth Greene—clicked her tongue. “Red, please. Don’t give me that look. I am sorry, but you needed a new sword, and you know it.”

Uh… what?

Not!Elizabeth smacked herself lightly on the head. “Ah, but where are my manners? Please, all of you, sit, sit!” She motioned for us to do so. “We have much to discuss.”

I raised an eyebrow. There were no chairs here—

But even as I wondered what she meant, a couch slid out of the floor. A large, three-person couch, the kind you’d see in a family living room. Molded out of the concrete as easily as if it were clay being shaped by a master.

Then pillows and cushions appeared. Frilly white pillows and cushions, like you’d find at a grandmother’s house. Just popped into place an inch or so in the air and flopped down.

When I turned back to the woman, she was making herself comfortable in a concrete armchair with similar furnishings. Noticing that we weren’t sitting, she smiled with good cheer. “Well, you don’t have to, I suppose.”

A little awkwardly, we all gingerly sat on the surprisingly comfortable couches. A second had risen up when I wasn’t paying attention. Akane, Laura, and I took one, while Adam, Robyn, Clarke, and Butler squeezed into the other.

“Everyone comfortable?” Elizabeth’s doppelganger said cheerily. “Good. As I said at South Gate before the bullets started flying, I am here for my sister.” She folded her hands in front of her. “Obviously, I do not expect to receive her for free. I am willing to negotiate a trade.”

“What kind of trade?” Butler demanded.

She smiled. “Patience, my dear hunter. Let’s start with introductions, shall we?” She indicated herself. “I am called Silk. Elizabeth Greene is, for lack of a better term, my little sister. I do apologize, but she is necessary for my plans, and I will require her to be returned to me.”

Laura narrowed her eyes. “It was you. You were the one she was answering to, all this time.”

“That one does not answer, Highlander. I loosed her like a poorly trained dog, trusting that she would do what she did best. And in the end…” She spread her hands wide. “Everything worked out perfectly.”

“You… meant for the Rampage to happen?”

Point of order,” Clarke interrupted. “I thought we were calling it the MEE?

Silk ignored him. “Yes. The end purpose of this city was always for everyone to receive a song—a power, as you call them. It was either that or send every single one of you into a black hole and then fish you out again.” She made a face. “It’s more annoying than it sounds.”

“You… built this city.”

I glanced at Laura. “What? She can’t be much older than us!”

Laura just gave me a look.

“Little hero,” Silk said gently. “As your Highlander is silently reminding you, my sister is immortal. Our personal appearances mean absolutely nothing. She is right. I did build this city. Or rather, cause it to be built by carefully manipulating world affairs.”

“Why?” Laura demanded. “I don’t mean the Rampage. You could have done that anywhere.”

“I needed a closed circle. Besides, this city has had other uses.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

Silk sighed. “I am very, very, very old. I simply wish to improve the quality of life of every single person in existence. There will be some pain along the way, but things are looking up, I promise.”

I glanced at Laura. She wasn’t showing any sign that Silk was lying.

“Why now, then? Why not hundreds or thousands of years ago, or however old you are?”

Silk smiled. “An excellent question! It could be said that I am from a dark and distant land—”

“You’re from the future,” Laura said.

We all stared at her, before slowly turning to Silk.

She was smirking. “I was getting to that.”

“I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while,” Laura said. “I knew it was the only thing that made sense. Doctor Clarke and I have been researching the powers ever since the start, you know. We knew that they were either technology from an extremely advanced civilization, or magic.”

Silk nodded. “Quite right, Highlander, quite right. Though I should note that where I’m from, we crossed the Singularity so long ago that the word ‘technology’ does not quite apply any more.”

“Well, I wanted to be clear for everyone else.”

“Fair enough.”

I raised my hand with a meekness that surprised even me. I was just getting so overwhelmed by everything, that I couldn’t help it. “Uh, excuse me? This is all coming a little… fast. When exactly did you come from?”

Far,” Silk said firmly. “I was born millions of years from now, and came back from a time even farther.” She met my eyes. Staring into her golden orbs, I understood, to the core of my being, how unspeakably different she was from her sister. Elizabeth’s eyes held nothing. Silk’s held everything.

How old are you, though?” Clarke asked, breaking the moment.

She turned her attention to him and smiled. “My dear doctor, my life has been exceedingly complicated, and there are many possible ways I could answer that question. Suffice it say that at the youngest estimation of my age, I am older than every single human being in existence combined.”

Laura blinked. “There… there are fifty billion people in the solar system. And that’s assuming the census is accurate. It’s probably more like seventy billion.”

“Yes,” Silk acknowledged, smiling calmly.

But Laura wouldn’t let this go. “If the average age is twenty—”

“It’s twenty-four, actually.”

“…you’re nearly one point two trillion years old?”

Our golden guest chuckled. “Of course not. I am far older than that.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense! The universe itself is estimated to only—”

“Laura,” I interrupted, placing a hand on her shoulder to calm her. She glared at me, but let me speak. “Just let it go. There’s no way to prove or disprove her assertion. Trust her, or don’t.”

She leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms over her chest.

“I have another question,” MC piped up from the wall speakers. “When did you get here?”

Silk nodded. “Good question. The answer has two parts—”

“Thirty-one years ago,” Laura muttered. “In 1970.”

Silk chuckled. “Oh, you are a clever one, aren’t you? But no credit if you don’t show your work…”

“1970 is when all the big changes started,” Laura noted. “The Chinese and African Diasporas, the second American Baby Boom, followed by the Mexican, Canadian, and European Baby Booms, Domina City, the space colonies, perfectly efficient electrical engines…” She narrowed her eyes. “I imagine you either got here right before Apollo 13 launched, or soon after. Then you sabotaged the flight, and used it to whip up American and Soviet interest in space again.”

Another nod. “Correct, except for one minor detail. I did not sabotage Apollo 13. I didn’t save the astronauts, either; both of those would have happened regardless. What I did do was use the event to, as you noted, trigger the Second Space Race. In the original timeline, Apollo 13 was largely the death knell for space travel for a century or so.” She shrugged. “Too much danger for too little benefit.”

“Too little benefit?” Robyn asked, wide-eyed. “I have a list as long as my arm of all the benefits of space travel. I mean, even ignoring the technological advancements, the metals in the asteroid belt alone…”

Silk chuckled. “You don’t have to convince me, Princess. I was quite surprised when I realized what was going to happen, and took swift steps to correct such an obvious mistake.”

That made me raise an eyebrow. “You realized what was going to happen. Meaning you didn’t know until you landed?”

“Yes. History is beautifully detailed in the time I was born, but it had still been millions of years. Details were lost.” She shrugged. “Actually, I believe the problem was that it was simply glossed over. Even man’s first flight was little more than a footnote in the history books; we were never required to learn about the precise details of a single disastrous space flight. There were, to put it bluntly, more important things to worry about.”

“And the second part of your answer?” MC prompted.

Silk nodded. “Yes, thank you for reminding me. I arrived on Earth in 1970—April 15th, to be precise—but arrived in this timeline in 1969. It took a year to reach Earth.”

Where did you arrive?” Clarke asked. “In this timeline, I mean.”

“Andromeda,” Silk quipped. She shrugged. “The closest galaxy to the Milky Way, if you didn’t know. Stopped by a couple pre-industrial worlds and dropped off some things to help them along, but I knew I’d be able to make the most difference on Earth.”

I wanted to say something about faster than light travel being impossible, but, honestly, didn’t see the point.

“Let’s get down to the details,” Butler said before Laura had a chance to ask any more questions. “What exactly is it you are offering?”

“A countersong,” Silk replied instantly, turning her golden gaze on him. “Yes. I can provide my dear doctor,” she nodded at Clarke, “with the blueprints for a small device that uses a harmless form of radiation to shut off any powers within a limited radius. The radiation is invisible, but blocked by anything solid enough to block light.”

Clarke leaned forward, frowning. “How—”

Butler silenced him with a raised hand. “Sounds wonderful. What’s the catch?”

“If I give you this device, I will also give it to every warlord in the city.”

There was a long, long pause.

“It’s still worth it,” MC insisted from her wall speakers. “Even if it is only used for temporary holding cells, we need some way to shut down powers. There’s just such a broad base of them, it would be impossible to account for them all.”

“For the record, I agree completely,” Laura added.

Butler closed his eyes in resigned defeat. “…fine. I see no other option.” He snapped his eyes open and glared at the woman sitting across from us. “But I had better not regret this.”

Silk met his gaze without fear. “I make no promises. The device will work as advertised, and I have already told you of the catch. That is all.” She turned to the rest of us. “Any last questions?”

We all turned to each other, but no one spoke up. “It looks like—”

“Wait,” Laura said suddenly. “Elizabeth hypnotized Derek.”

A brief flash of annoyance crossed Silk’s face. But was it annoyance at Laura, at Elizabeth, or at me for breaking free from the hypnosis? “Yes, she did. What of it?”

“He’s still hypnotized.”

I shuffled in my seat. “Just a few headaches. Nothing major.”

“Yes, about that… ” The woman shrugged. “He’ll recover soon enough. Depends on a number of factors, but it will work best if he discovers the solutions on his own. If I explained exactly how to do it, it would likely slow the process dramatically. If he’s still not cured within a year, call me.”

Laura frowned. “…call you? How?”

“Literally,” she insisted. “Call out ‘Silk, I wish to speak with you,’ within range of any electronic device in the city with a microphone. I will hear.”

That was more than a little disturbing.

“Now, if there are no further questions… ” Silk stood, her chair molding back into the concrete floor smoothly and seamlessly, the pillows disappearing as well. “I think it is time we thaw out my sister.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 233)

I rewrote this scene at least three times, cutting out more and more every time. Silk was willing to give them basically any information they wanted, so they really should have asked more. On the precise nature of the screamers and the Composer, the relationship between Silk and Elizabeth, and what exactly they are, that looks so close to human but isn’t. I’ll have to find a way to add those later; it just didn’t work here.

Domina Cultures – Fey

FeyFinal

Fear is proper, fear is right

In both the day and the night

See the monsters run

Let them have their fun

But fear them proper, fear them right

For the fey claim everything in their sight

They sing, they dance, they laugh and play

They kill, they murder, they slay

Undying monsters of beautiful form

Undressed of clothes worn

So stay home, children, and watch the streets

Stay bundled up in your sheets

The fey stalk these broken homes

Leaving their monsters free to roam

Fear is proper, fear is right…

The Fey

In the early years of Domina City, before the death of the warden and the fall of Eden, a psychological care facility was constructed. While the prisoners brought to the island were not especially prone to psychiatric breaks or other mental afflictions, the sheer volume of people ensured that the hospital was quickly overloaded with permanent patients. Other such hospitals were constructed, and this first, nameless institution was soon just another face in the crowd.

Until the toy maker.

The head of the hospital went insane with the possibilities, sealing up the institution and inflicting horrific tortures on the inhabitants. This was during Striga’s reign and the beginning of the Twilight War, so at the time few people noticed.

Official records kept by Artemis Butler claim that there were one thousand, one hundred and twenty-eight people in the hospital at the time it was sealed, between patients, staff, and even just visiting family members. Of these people, merely ninety-six women survived. The fey were born.

The fey wasted no time. They immediately made themselves known first by burning down the hospital, then unleashing their monsters on the streets in the first Hunt. The people of the city were not prepared for an attack of monsters led by a cruel and cunning intelligence, and were beat back long enough for the fey to make their announcements.

They explained their origins, and their giggling, childish insanity quickly became clear. Despite their armies, the fey refused to take anything seriously, often referring to their actions as part of some game, and called the monsters their peataí, or pets. The first fey to speak was killed within moments. This is when the fey unveiled the homunculi; using remote-piloted cybernetic clones created by the toy maker, the fey were largely immortal and immune to reprisal. They explained the nature of the thirty-two Courts, the Maiden, Matron, and Crone of each Court, and promised that the city would see them again.

Hunts were a regular occurrence for nearly fifteen years after that day. The fey are divided into four séasúir: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. From there they are divided into four treo: North, East, South, and West. Last, there are the two éadrom: Day and Night. There is one Hunt per treo, per éadrom. This means eight Hunts every twenty four hours. They are random, never in the same place twice in a row, but always swift and dangerous.

The regular nature of the Hunts, despite their randomness, allowed the city to adapt around them. They became little more than a weather pattern, hordes of monsters and mutated dogs led by naked women. While in the early days, people did everything they could to kill every fey monster they saw, this quickly became unfeasible. In time, fey monsters had filled every ecological niche in the city. The fact that the vast majority of the monsters were edible helped immensely.

Even if they couldn’t be exterminated completely, the monsters needed to be beat back, and so the monster slayers were born. They were not a culture, or even an organization. Just men and women who learned how to fight the things the fey created. Many, such as Derek Huntsman or Mohamed the Silver, became famous throughout the city for their exploits.

Each of the thirty-two Courts (listed below) has three fey: A Maiden, a Matron, and a Crone. Despite their names, the homunculi always appear as the exact same age, and in most cases the fey are interchangeable. They are always flirty and flighty, like children on a sugar rush. They never hold grudges, and are always happy to make deals—even if the person making the deal killed one of them in the past. If the fey have any concrete plans besides chaos, no one has been able to divine it. Not even the changelings, the horrifically modified slaves who escape with barely the skin of their teeth, know anything about their end goals.

One of the oddities of the fey is the Invitation. It goes by many names, but whenever a new warlord appears, the local fey (usually the Matron) appears in their domain and offers them either breakfast or dinner, depending on whether it is a Day or Night fey. When the fey is denied or the homunculus killed, there is no reprisal, and a new representative is sent one month later. This process repeats for as long as the warlord exists.

Very few people have ever taken the fey up on this offer. The Mother Monster is the most famous, having stopped one of the early Hunts by accepting the Invitation she had been offered a week previous. Another would be Glasya, who uses these dinners to broker deals with other cultures, gaining new tricks and toys in exchange for apparently random gifts. Necessarius received the initial copies of the toy box through this method, using her as an intermediary.

The revelation of the Composer’s identity changed things yet again.

Many had thought that the Composer might be one of the fey. Despite the screamers being nothing like anything the fey had created before, they were the only ones even approaching the ability in the city. After the truth came out, the fey were silent for a time—no Hunts at all. This was extremely disturbing to those paying attention to such things, and some theorized that the Composer had killed them all.

When they returned, they did so much diminished in number, but no less dangerous. Six fey homunculi appeared in six apparently random locations around the city, claiming that there had been a war among the fey, and that only six had survived, divided into the Seelie and Unseelie—Summer and Winter. They were even wearing clothes. Furthermore, they would now be accepting applicants, warlords and servants. Not many took the initial offer, and most of the city tried to just forget about it all.

On Halloween night, the Wild Hunt began.

While this newest Hunt was interrupted by the Composer, the fey’s part in events was still shocking. Mortal men and women, not homunculi, led armies of monsters to attack a small square. The exact purpose of the attack was unclear, or why they chose this location, but it has been noted that both the Paladins and a number of warlords were present, including the newly-crowned Nyashk and Eccretia of the Never-Known Thieves. Now, the fey’s plans for themselves and their servants remains unclear, as they have been suspiciously silent since the failed attack. It has been confirmed, however, that at least one of the fey Princes joined in the attack against the Composer that night.

Every fey homunculus appears to be a genetically identical woman of Irish descent, perhaps twenty-five years of age. They are primarily differentiated by their hair: The maidens have boyishly short hair, the matrons a bit past shoulder length, and the crones much longer, past their waists. Color is also important; Spring is yellow, Summer red, Autumn brown, and Winter black. As is likely to be expected, Day fey have dayeyes, and Night fey have nighteyes. If the fey differentiate their homunculi by treo at all, no one ever noticed.

Fey Honored are called Chosen, while their deviants are Forgotten. Warlords are Princes (even when female), while the fey themselves are the Ladies. The Ladies are the Maiden (Princess), Matron (Queen), and the Crone (Queen-Mother). Novices are referred to as fetches by the majority of the members of the Courts, while the fey themselves call them changelings. Fey domains are called demesnes.

Before the restructuring, the correct honorific was [Court], [rank], [Court type]. For example: Princess of Killing Sparrow, the Maiden of Night’s Southern Autumn. The former is the name, the latter is the title. So Lady Princess and Honored Maiden would both be appropriate.

After the restructuring, the correct honorific became Lady [name], [title], [rank]. For example: Lady Maeve, Princess of Wind and Frost, Maiden of the Unseelie Court. Honored Maeve, Honored Lady, Honored Maiden, Honored Princess, and Lady Maeve would all be correct.

Fey Courts (before restructuring)

Greening Leaf: The Court of Day’s Northern Spring

Spinning Dawn: The Court of Day’s Eastern Spring

Dayborn Light: The Court of Day’s Southern Spring

Dying Dusk: The Court of Day’s Western Spring

Hidden Leaf: The Court of Night’s Northern Spring

Forgotten Dawn: The Court of Night’s Eastern Spring

Neverborn: The Court of Night’s Southern Spring

Singing Dusk: The Court of Night’s Western Spring

Harvest Burn: The Court of Day’s Northern Summer

Early Day: The Court of Day’s Eastern Summer

Eternal Silver: The Court of Day’s Southern Summer

Ceaseless End: The Court of Day’s Western Summer

Harvest Black: The Court of Night’s Northern Summer

Darkest Light: The Court of Night’s Eastern Summer

Ashen Bones: The Court of Night’s Southern Summer

Dying Jade: The Court of Night’s Western Summer

Relentless Hate: The Court of Day’s Northern Autumn

Essential Light: The Court of Day’s Eastern Autumn

Knowing End: The Court of Day’s Southern Autumn

Virtuous Dusk: The Court of Day’s Western Autumn

Lightless Past: The Court of Night’s Northern Autumn

Fevered Day: The Court of Night’s Eastern Autumn

Killing Sparrow: The Court of Night’s Southern Autumn

Murdered Asp: The Court of Night’s Western Autumn

Powerless Name: The Court of Day’s Northern Winter

Rightless Shadow: The Court of Day’s Eastern Winter

Yellow Sun: The Court of Day’s Southern Winter

White Compass: The Court of Day’s Western Winter

Loveless: The Court of Night’s Northern Winter

Leafing Tree: The Court of Night’s Eastern Winter

Orange Day: The Court of Night’s Southern Winter

Deadly Dusk: The Court of Night’s Western Winter

Fey Ladies (after restructuring)

Seelie Court

Maiden Aurora

The Princess of Soil and Flame, Aurora is kind, compassionate, and more dangerous than she looks. She is an excellent spokeswoman for the fey, and has recruited more to the cause than anyone else. Feyborn who have chosen to speak with outsiders mention she spends a lot of time with her opposite number, Maeve.

Matron Titania

The Queen of Earth and Light, Titania is warm like a bonfire: Get too close, and you’ll burn. She can be helpful, but rarely kind, and is often blunt and to the point. Regardless, she is credited as an excellent healer, and her Princes are often hired out as doctors as part of her deals.

Crone Ériu

The Queen-Mother of Summer, Ériu mostly keeps company with Cailleach and no one else. She is credited with a number of the more virulent diseases the fey have come up with since their restructuring, and many have taken a look back to see if any older diseases have her distinctive flair.

Unseelie Court

Maiden Maeve

The Princess of Wind and Frost, Maeve puts up a strong front, but underneath is one of the kinder Ladies. Records suggest that she was the first to successfully recruit any feyborn, rescuing a pair of injured kemos when she fought the Composer at her very first outing. Her Princes tend to be unique, often with wings or other obvious enhancements the rest of the city isn’t capable of yet.

Matron Mab

The Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab is one of the most dangerous of the fey. Her Princes are well-trained and highly buffed, with few cosmos to distract from strong muscles and quick reflexes. Unlike the other Ladies, she rarely uses monsters any more, much preferring intelligent servants. She seems to have the largest number of feyborn in general, and outsiders theorize that she is the fey equivalent of Sargeras or Raziel; a soldier and a general.

Crone Cailleach

The Queen-Mother of Winter, Cailleach prefers to spend her time with Ériu, her Seelie counterpart. She has no known Princes and a very small number of feyborn, typically preferring to borrow Ériu’s on the rare occasion she needs servants. Despite her anti-social behavior, rumors suggest the new status quo was her idea, which leads to the belief that she was behind the fey war in the first place—or at least the end of it. The feyborn refer to her respectfully as “Grandmother Winter,” and give her a wide berth.

Fey Princes

Gealach Tapaidh

One of the first Princes of the Seelie Court, patroned by Aurora, Maiden of Summer. “Gea” has already made quite an impression by dueling the Composer to a standstill despite being completely nightblind due to his dayeyes. Experts who observed the recorded footage after the fact have noted his sword skills to be absolutely astonishing. Many theories have been put forth regarding his identity, but none have been confirmed. There is one persistent rumor that he is Akane Akiyama, a famous swordswoman in Derek Huntsman’s employ, and that she has been heavily modified to hide her identity. The fact that Akiyama was present at Tapaidh’s debut has done little to stifle these rumors.

Aitil Péine

One of the first Princes of the Unseelie Court, patroned by Maeve, Maiden of Winter. She is immediately recognizable by her large insect-like wings, which enable her to fly around at startling speeds. Other than the fact that her skeleton must be as weak as an eggshell to allow such flight, little is known of her, though she was the spokeswoman at the Wild Hunt. No meaningful theories have been publicized regarding her pre-fey identity.

Domina Cultures – Giants

GiantsFinal

Hammer and spear

Held in the halls of Asgard

Fire and ice

Muspelheim and Niflheim, nowhere else

Blood and flesh

Arupadaiveedu is the secret home

Hunger and hate

The Blade’s Edge

Strength and fear

Found in Kimon

Technology and frost

Kējì rù hù is the source of all

The Grand Halls (translated from Norwegian)

The giant culture started simply. Some workers decided they wanted to be bigger and stronger so that they could do their jobs better, be more valuable. It began with the Nordics, just a few getting modified, which in turn convinced their friends, and so on. Soon, several hundred men and women had taken the Bigger package.

Then the attacks began.

It was the vampires who struck first. The original vampires, under Striga. She saw a chance to destroy a potential threat before it grew too strong to contain. The Nordics were big and strong, but they had little experience in combat outside of fistfights and brawls. They had little chance against trained killers. Most of their number were killed, especially fledgling warlords.

The Battle of Ginnungagap was where everything changed. After months of being harried like wild animals, the giants made a stand on the long street, ready to defend their homes one last night.

What they didn’t realize was that Striga had been killed just hours before, her fortress of Poenari Castle burning in the night. The vampires fighting the giants were angry and violent, but more than anything they were scared, running from Zaphkiel and his angels. Despite being trained soldiers and assassins, the giants fought them and won, defending the skyscraper Odin had bought for them.

But this was far from the end. Asgard came under assault from demons and kemos, even a few angels, all looking for an easy target to steal from. With their newfound confidence and a reinforced fortress, the newly-named Aesir were able to fight off all comers. For a time, they were on top of the city.

When the Jotuun were created, Odin and his family didn’t know what to make of it. The Aesir were made up of Nordic construction workers, but these Jotuun were primarily South American. The man calling himself Surtur was Colombian, while Thrym was from Brazil. Odin didn’t understand why they were mimicking Nordic myths.

The reason turned out to be a simple one: Surtur and Thrym were impressed with what Odin had done, and wanted to follow in his footsteps. They gave their own people the Bigger package, not out of any desire for conflict, but as a sign of respect and admiration.

Odin didn’t see it this way, and war was avoided by a hair’s breadth. Rumors abound on what exactly was said in the closed-door meeting between the Aesir and Jotuun warlords, but everyone left angry—angry, but still at peace.

The trolls were the next giant subculture to rise, founded by Tamil immigrants. They specifically avoided having any explicit warlords, in an attempt to sidestep the politics that were plaguing the other cultures. Whether their plan worked or the other giants were just so confused by them is a matter of debate, but either way the trolls did not end up at war with anyone. Border skirmishes with the kemos around them were common, but the troll healing toys kept fights nonlethal except in the worst cases.

Other giant cultures rose and fell, most silently. Most people have never heard of the Beanstalks, and remember the cyclopes only as monsters from Greek myths. The Aesir had no need to make an issue of them; they fell on their own, sometimes within weeks of their founding. The Aesir and the Jotuun had too strong a foundation. Anyone who wished to become a giant simply joined them, rather than some new culture.

Then came the yetis.

Founded by a small core of Middle-Eastern political refugees who fled to Domina intentionally, the new subculture quickly proved themselves distinct from all the pretenders scrambling for power. Where others shouted and clamored about how unique they were, the yetis consolidated their strength, fortifying their domain and quietly recruiting scientists and other men of learning. By the time the Aesir noticed them, they were a thousand strong, with powerful weapons and toys defending their borders from all comers.

And so the Aesir came.

The siege lasted a full week, with Aleksander Hagebak himself at the head of the Thors. Despite their superior numbers and training, the Aesir could make no headway against the entrenched yetis. Rumor has it that Odin himself was coming to fight when the siege was broken.

The trolls were the weakest of the three giant cultures—four if you counted the yetis—and did not like the idea of facing the Aesir after they dealt with the yetis and were looking for more foes. They laid a countersiege against the Aesir on the streets of New Tamil, demanding a cease-fire and an end to hostilities. Hagebak, tired of the fighting, agreed.

The next day, the Aesir, Jotuun, troll, and yeti warlords all came together to draft the Ginnungagap Compact, limiting interference with newborn cultures. They would be allowed to flourish or fade as they wished, with no unfair violence against them.

Following the Compact, not only did the yetis survive (despite their founder dying of disease), but the oni, ogres, and sasquatches rose as well. War was threatened on more than one front, for more than one reason, but thankfully nothing worse than a few border skirmishes ever broke out. Most younger giants hold it up as a point of pride that their culture is not plagued by the same civil war as the others. Most analysts are quick to point out that this is more due to Colossi being more willing to forgive crimes and trespasses that should result in war than an actual dearth of violence within the culture.

Giant honored are called titans, while their deviants are known as goliaths. Their warlords are called Colossi, while their novices are halflings. The microcultures (the sub-subcultures) are known as brotherhoods, clans, or Houses, depending on the subculture in question.

Notable Giant Subcultures

Aesir

The nominal leaders of the giants, created by a core of Nordic immigrants. The man who would become Odin founded this culture—and by extension, the giants as a whole—after the Battle of Ginnungagap as a way of protecting his friends and family. Now, they have become the civilized elite, the ones who negotiate with Butler and the other cultures.

Balders

The well-rounded elites of the Aesir, Colossus Balder typically sends his men to reinforce any Aesir outpost where warm bodies are needed. They have a reputation as tireless workers, even if they are not the most skilled.

Bragis

Outsiders are often surprised that the Aesir have bards and runners just the same as any other culture, finding the idea of a ten-foot giant jogging through the streets ridiculous. True or not, the followers of Colossus Bragi have been known to hit the streets on more than one occasion. However, they prefer to remain safely ensconced in Aesir outposts, where they can maintain communications equipment.

Heimdalls

The last line of defense for the Aesir, they are rarely seen outside their domains and outposts except in times of war. They work closely with the Lokis to keep watch on their borders, and Heimdall himself is often seen pacing the top of Asgard. They are known for enhanced eye buffs, from basic day and nighteyes to advanced far-sight buffs.

Lokis

Originally, Loki tried to pretend his culture was full of harmless jesters and fools, with perhaps a few bad apples who thought painful pranks were funny. This lasted about five minutes. While Loki himself was exceptionally convincing, few of his men were, and it quickly became apparent that the clan consisted of the spies of the Aesir. Most passers are Lokis, which has led to many jokes about them being the “little brothers” of the Thors. Loki himself rarely leaves Asgard, at least in any shape outsiders would recognize.

Thors

The warriors of the Aesir. They are nominally led by Odin’s son, Aleksander Hagebak, but he normally leaves matters to his Hammer, Mjolnir. They are the most well-known Aesir, and the ones who leave Asgard and the outposts on a regular basis. This has unfortunately forced them into the role of diplomat more than once, which rarely works well considering most Thors joined for one of two reasons: To shoot things, or to punch things. Thankfully, Mjolnir has a pleasant disposition and a silver tongue, making him ideal for diffusing situations his men cause.

Jotuun

Created by South American workers seeking to mimic Odin and the Aesir, the jotuun are slightly more numerous, but not as organized.

Muspels

More commonly called the fire giants, the “Sons of Muspelheim” were founded by the owner of a large factory, which became their primary base, now named Muspelheim. They have a surprisingly good relationship with the Nifs, and often serve as the hammer to their anvil.

Nifs

More commonly called the frost giants, the “Sons of Niflheim” are very fond of cold and ice. They are based in a domain that they call Niflheim, where they work on enhanced refrigeration technology. Nif domains are always cold enough to see your breath, and often cold enough to freeze unattended water.

Ogres

Giants with the cannibalism buff. They were not officially founded; some giants simply fell on hard times, and decided that their increased food intake would be easier to handle if they could eat nearly anything. They have no true leader (though some of their subcultures do), and are given little weight in decisions.

Gordoks

Led by King Gordok, the tribe that bears his name is made up of the homeless and disenfranchised men and women who took the ogre package in hopes of getting food and work. They are a small tribe, but have a reputation for humanitarianism… usually. Their domain is the Dire Maul, in West Outer.

Gronn

The followers of Gruul the Dragonkiller, the gronn distinguish themselves largely by being bigger and more violent than everyone else—and hating the laces of Io. The warlords are Gruul’s seven sons, and can be identified by stone-like calcifications on their skin. Their domain is Blade’s Edge, a skyscraper in West Outer.

Oni

Giants with horns technicolor skin, and a number of other demon buffs. Like the ogres, they were not founded for any specific reason or purpose; they simply wanted to be really big demons. There is some argument on whether they are actually giants or demons, but the issue has so far been tabled as they simply have no leader who is demanding a voice in either culture. They are typically categorized as giants because most oni are giants first, and only later upgrade to oni, rather than demons increasing their size.

Sasquatches

Large, hairy giants founded by Australian immigrants, known for their raw strength—even compared to other giants. They have no warlord, preferring a collective, tribal existence. The fact that they have managed to maintain this despite the attempts of many other cultures to conquer them speaks of their strength and drive. Their domain, for lack of a better word, is Kimon, called the place where strength knows no fear. Not many people know where it is, and the sasquatches treat it with almost religious reverence.

Trolls

Giants with disease-resistance and healing buffs, and often very large claws. They usually have unique skin colors, to distinguish themselves and denote a caste or job preferences. Founded by Tamil immigrants. Like the sasquatches, they prefer a tribal lifestyle, but they do allow themselves warlords, if only to interact with others. They still have a domain they call home, Arupadaiveedu, the heart of blood and flesh.

Nila

Blue trolls are the well-rounded caste, and thus the most common. They are represented by Ayyappan and Thirumal, on the rare occasion when the need arises. They are often seen by outsiders as the leaders of the trolls, but this is incorrect. The trolls do not have leaders.

Uta

Purple trolls are the hunters, the ones who stalk the streets tracking fey monsters and others. While they are not common, they are always noticed, as they are known for becoming entirely focused on the hunt, to the point of completely ignoring their surroundings. Meenakshi represents them in troll meetings, assuming he remembers to show up.

Civappu

The warriors are the red trolls, and are the biggest, most dangerous trolls, with the sharpest claws and the strongest healing buffs. They have a close relationship with the mancal, from whom they receive most of their toys. Murugan is their warlord, and he revels in the bloodshed they wreak.

Mancal

Nearly all yellow trolls are the scientists of the culture, the researchers and the scholars. They have a very good reputation with the rest of the city, as Nataraja and Kannagi sell their healing buffs and toys to outsiders. Many minor healing items such as healspray can be credited to them.

Yetis

Large, hairy giants founded by Middle-Eastern immigrants. They are fond of cold and technology. It is said that they never had any warlord, but rumors suggest that they had one once, in the early days, but his assassination put the yetis off from electing another. They generally keep to themselves, rarely leaving their domain of Kējì rù hù, and mostly trade through the Nifs.

Giant Colossi

Aesir Colossi

Odin

The founder of the Aesir, the Colossus known as Odin has made very little effort to hide the fact that he is tired of his duties. In addition to still being the highest authority among the Aesir and often the giants as a whole, he is a senator for South Central, representing the Great Banyan party.

Nicholas

The Aesir ambassador. He is known for being bitter and cynical, and despite all assurances to the contrary from the Aesir, rumors persist that he never wanted the job in the first place, and was only given it as a punishment for some unexplained transgression.

Thor Colossi

Mjolnir

The Hammer of Thor, Mjolnir is a jovial giant known almost as much for the fact that he is still a bouncer for his favorite bar as for his status as a Colossus. He is often credited with personally stopping several wars before they could break out into violence.

Thor

More commonly known by his birth name, Aleksander Hagebak, the son of Odin has little interest in the day-to-day running of the subculture that bears his name, leaving it all largely to his Hammer, Mjolnir. He prefers to spend his time at Asgard, working on paperwork.

Jotuun Colossi

Muspel Colossi

Surtr of Fire

The leader and founder of the Muspels, the Colossus known as Surtr is dangerous in the extreme. He is the spear to Thrym’s shield, the whip of domination to his open hand of friendship. Rumors persist that they are secretly brothers, but no proof of this has ever come to light.

Nif Colossi

Thrym of Frost

Unlike his mythological counterpart, the Colossus of the Nifs has a very good working relationship with the Colossus of the Muspels. They spend much of their time together, presiding over trials and giving out orders as a pair. Thrym takes the friendlier role, allowing Surtr to scare people and make him seem more reasonable by comparison.

Ogre Colossi

King Gordok

Warlord of the clan that bears his name, Gordok is known for being magnanimous, charitable, and downright jolly—until he gets mad. Things that make him mad include alcohol, lack of alcohol, hurting children, failing to properly discipline children (he recommends hefty paddles), angels, vampires, lies, and certain types of truth. His men keep a list posted outside Dire Maul. Anyone who crosses Gordok finds themselves fighting in the Maul, often against captured fey monsters.

Gruul the Dragonkiller

The enemy of Io, the kemo warlord known as the Concordant Dragon. Io was once part of a small group of people attempting to create a dragon culture. This attempt was doomed to failure due to the limits of the toy maker, but Gruul shot down any chances it had by killing everyone involved. Only Io escaped. Io himself doesn’t seem to mind one way or another, but Gruul takes his survival as a personal insult. Laces are advised to avoid Blade’s Edge at all costs.