Storium – Peacekeepers Chapter One

There’s a great website out there called Storium and it’s attempting to create tools for people to tell stories collaboratively. It’s very much like a rules light role playing game. You chose the genre and it provides you with a virtual deck of people, places, goals, and things. You as the narrator can chose which cards to use to aid in building a setting. The players have character cards, along with strengths and weaknesses. Cards can be created and modified in whatever way the narrator desires.

It’s still very much in the “Alpha” stage of development. There’s no way to split up the “party”. There is a nice chat sidebar. Editing posts can be a challenge. But I’ve had fun with the games I’m playing and narrating. The gentlemen in my urban fantasy setting (Jason, David, Cliff, Doc, and Rob) have agree to let me post the first chapter.

“Peacekeepers” – It’s the year 2020 and someone has broken an ancient promise that keeps the humans, vampires, werewolves, and other sentient races from an all out war. The detonated a bomb during the most recent Convocation. Representatives from each race has been sent to New York City to meet and find the person or persons responsible and bring them to justice.

September 24th, 2020 2145 EST 100 Park Ave. Center in New York 16th Floor

This is the floor where the police think that the bomb went off. The explosion and subsequent fire left no one on this floor or the ones above it alive. The body count is still being tallied. Unofficially it’s north of seventy-five, including the ambassadors, staff, security, and some workers that were pulling late shifts. Most of the law firm that call this floor home were present to assist with the proceedings.

The stench of smoke hangs in the air. A chill breeze blows through spaces where walls once stood. The night is clear. Sirens sound in the distance. Police tape has much of the area cordoned off, but for the moment there is no police presence to prevent the right people from showing up.

The man known only as The Drake stands near the edge of what was likely a bank of windows framing a corner office. His hands rest on his hips. Dressed in a tastefully cut grey suit and trench coat, he looks much like any businessman his age, but his power is evident to those with the senses for it.

Rik Estevez approaches the Drake directly. “Good evening, Mr. Drake. Ugly business.”

Rik is in his working clothes, a hand-crafted leather-reinforced tactical jacket over a dark t-shirt. His jeans are dark enough to hide unsavory stains and the outfit is completed with a pair of black leather boots.

These boots were… as the song says… made for walking. There were also made for kicking ass and taking names. It is with the toe of these boots that he is prodding some of the debris.

“Who did we lose?”

Nelson Archer pays the cab driver and walk the last two blocks. Even from this distance, He can smell his destination. Burnt building and worse, burnt flesh. He silently curses his luck at having been so close to the city. If he’d been home, the pack leaders would have sent someone else.

Nelson sees The Drake in his fine clothes as he approaches. Hopes he doesn’t mind that Nelson’s in his traveling duds; faded pants, shirt more gray than white, and a scarred leather coat.

He catches The Drakes eye and nods his hello, but he’ll wait. The fellow he’s talking to looks like a hunter, someone Nelson usually tries to avoid.

The feel of static in the air increases unexpectedly, as if an electrical storm was about to unleash its fury. A shimmering circle of energy appears in the air about 15 meters from The Drake and Estevez, and a man stepped out, materializing out of thin air. Jake Halston is tall, with short reddish hair and a trimmed goatee, wearing a dark, well-made longcoat. A tall, weathered staff rests easily in his left hand. The man turns back to the shimmering circle, gestures nonchalantly with his staff, and speaks a single word.

“Occlūde.”

The shimmering circle vanishes instantly, along with the static charge in the air. The man turns, quirks a curious eyebrow at the scruffy-looking man watching the scene, then approaches the pair with an easy gait, looking them over appraisingly.

“Apologies for the dramatic entrance. I had a last-minute issue to handle in the Pacific Northwest, and this was the only way I could arrive in time.”

Pausing to look over the scene, Jake grimaces. “Hell of a disaster. Nothing to compare with 9-11, but the political ramifications may prove to be far worse.”

He turns back to The Drake and Estevez. “I’m Jake Halston. Where shall we begin, Master Drake?”

“Ambassador,” Martin began with his eyes closed, “don’t forget not to give an inch on the relocation issue. If there’s one thing we’re sure of, it’s that the vampires would rather drive a stake through their own heart than give up any of their lands to the Wolves. It’s like I always say, when vampires hand you lemons, you…”

You always hit a good punchline with a fixed gaze. As Martin opened his eyes, that self-assured grin affixed to his face. But it wasted away as he glanced in the direction that the Ambassador was supposed to be.

What he saw was a chasm ripped in the hole of the building. Furniture and walls thrown everywhere. His eyes caught bloody lumps huddled on the floor that could only be corpses. What had happened here? An explosion? Impossible. Martin detected no whiff of smoke in the air.

He sees various figures milling about, obviously inspecting the scene. Had he passed out and reawoken?

Looking down he sees another body at his feet. He looks at the back of a man’s head. Blonde man. Thinning a bit at the back. Looks like he needs another Just for Men treatment, as Martin can see the man’s grey roots start to poke through.

Martin bends down to see if the man is breathing. He can’t hear anything. He needs to turn him over. He reaches for the man’s shoulder.

And kept going….

Horrified, Martin pulls his hand back. What the…???

Looking back down over the man, he notices his left arm reaching out. The man has a nice manicure, and a black and gold Rolex that looked just like his….

There’s no…if I….can someone…

“I NEED HELP OVER HERE!!!”

But no one seemed to notice….

Jake spins his head sharply, looking into the ruined office intently.

“Did you hear that? Sounded like a faint cry for help…” Taking a few steps into the debris, he pulls a piece of quartz from his pocket.

“Lūminā.” The quartz illuminates the area much like a flashlight, but faint ethereal shapes are visible, dancing at the edge between light and shadow. The wizard seems to pay them no mind.

“It was in this direc… oh my.” The light falls over the blond specter standing over the blonde corpse. Rather than causing the ghost to disappear as normal light would, the light from the crystal seems to wrap around it — him — and make him easier to see.

“This can’t be good.” Jake looks at the ghost for a moment, sympathy clearly written on his face. Then he looks back to the Drake. “This fellow needs our help. And maybe he can help us solve this.”

Drake nods an acknowledgement to Rik and Nelson. “We lost several functionaries. Most of the parties involved wouldn’t send anyone of great importance. The ‘who’ is less important to me than the ‘why’ and how.”

He raises an eyebrow at the wizards flashy arrival and subsequent discovery of the body and the specter. “I doubt the nearly departed will be much help in revealing who is responsible. Their memories are somewhat…unreliable.”

The Drake reaches out with subtle magics of his own. “He could be useful in other ways, though. Mr. St. James, you are no longer bound to this tragic place. If you wish to find out who is responsible for your untimely demise, you may join these three travelers.”

“I don’t know that I agree that who is unimportant… Who could be very important.” Rik glances at Nelson.“But I do agree that bringing the responsible parties to… justice is a worthwhile endeavor. I presume you brought the three… four of us together to minimize the threat of bias.” He looks over his newly acquired traveling companions critically. “Is there a reason that you haven’t included one of the vampire nation?”

“Worthwhile? Now there’s an understatement. We’re looking at an all out war,” Nelson says as he walks closer to the little group. He nods to the wizards. “Nelson Archer. The Packs send their regards and asked that I help in any way I can. They would have come themselves, but they’re busy calling the packs together for a council of war.”

He looks at the wavering figure of the ghost. “If this fellow can’t tell us what happened, then we’d better find someone who can. If we don’t, then tonight is just the beginning of the bloodshed.”

The Drake steeples his fingers. “The Vampire Oligarchy is, for all of their cold demeanor, as eager to find a reason to break the peace as the Packs. They have deigned to give one of their people to this peace keeping effort.”

 

He steps closer to the group. “There is a club near called Petit Mort, where many of the Oligarchy like to ‘hunt’. There you will find one who calls himself Loki.” The man’s eyes don’t roll, but the sarcasm drips at the use of the name. “He’s their choice, not mine. I recommend you make that your first stopping point.”

Estevez steps aside from the rest of the group and tries (for not the first time since receiving the Drake’s summons) to contact his grandfather. As with his earlier efforts, the old man does not answer.

At the same time, somewhere in the rumble, there is the faint sound of a cell phone vibrating. It is too quiet for Rik to hear, but perhaps not for others.

The hunter hangs up before the call goes to voice mail yet again. He keys a text message to his family’s dispatch line while he walks back to the group. {The raven seeks the owl’s call.} He hated to rely on the impersonal, but the text should trigger a call from the most senior available member of the clan.

“Then, if there is nothing else, Mr. Drake, we should be off. It doesn’t pay to waste the darkness.”

The right side of Jake’s mouth turns slightly upward in a sardonic smirk. “We’re going to a club called ‘The Little Death’, looking for the Norse god of mischief. This should be interesting.”

He looks back to the ghost. “Mr. St. James, I can only imagine the trouble you’re having right now. If I can do anything to help you, or if you remember anything that might help the investigation, please don’t hesitate to share it.”

Nelson cocks his head, turning an ear to the debris. “Anyone else hear that?” He approaches a pile of concrete and starts to pull chunks of concrete aside. Shortly, he pulls a battered cell phone free.

“Just someone’s phone. I imagine there’s a lot calls not getting answered tonight.”

Martin continues to stare, wide-eyed, as the events unfold around him. People, places, things. Talk of vampires, offers of assistance… “I don’t…what is…who….”

Then, finally, his mind starts to coalesce around the eventuality. I was here. There was an explosion, and I was here. I left, but returned as something…different.

Martin had heard about ghosts, even seen a few of them over the course of his life. They seemed withdrawn from interaction, as if there were always pulling their attention away to somewhere else. He, too, found it difficult to concentrate.

But, as he was often fond of saying: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

Addressing the others for the first time, Martin smiles his trademark grin. “Well then. It would appear that I will need to lodge a complaint post haste about the security here. And I should probably cancel my gym membership.”

The silence was deafening. Tough room…

“Just a bit of ecto-humor. First day with the new suit, you know? All right, if I’m here as…well, Casper the Friendly Adjutant, we should fin out if the Ambassador suffered a similar fate. He may have more information than I possess. We should turn this place over and find some answers first before we go anywhere.”

The wizard grins at the blonde ghost. “Heh; good to see you haven’t lost your humor. That’s a fair idea. I think we can spend a few minutes to find the ambassador. And if we can at least find out what caused the explosion, be it science or sorcery, that will give us an idea of what we’re getting into.

“Where’s the ambassador’s office? Or what’s left of it. If we can find a personal item of his, I can use it to locate his remains.”

Martin thought for a moment.

“Ambassador Wayne had a bad cold, but hated to carry around a handkerchief. So, lucky me… It was in my ought front pocket.” He bends down next to his corpse, still such a weird concept. Reaching for his pocket, his hand again passes through his body.

He remembers though, that ghosts can have a limited influence on the physical world if they concentrate. It expends mental energy in much the same way a sprinter expends physical energy.

Staring at the pocket, he focuses on what he was trying to do; imagines his spectral hand closed around the handkerchief. He feels exhilarated, a rush falling over him. Looking down, he suddenly sees the cloth in his hand. Dropping it onto the wizard’s arm, he suddenly feels drained. This is going to take a bit of practice, he thinks.

A strong gust of wind blows through the holes where glass and steel had once been. When the four look around, Drake is no longer there.

Jake can’t help but wrinkle his nose at the used handkerchief as it lands on his arm. He quirks an eyebrow at the Drake’s departure, but offers no further reaction. “Could be worse, I suppose. Good control, by the way. Try to recall a pleasant memory; I understand that helps ghosts recover their energy more quickly.”

Gathering the handkerchief up in his right hand, the wizard closes his eyes and concentrates a moment before speaking again.

“Dominum tuum invenī.” Opening his hand, the handkerchief radiates a soft glow. The wizard opens his eyes, which now glow with the same light as the handkerchief. He looks around briefly before finding what he sought.

“There,” he says, pointing further into the debris with his staff. A few supports are all that remain to indicate the area at which he points had been an enclosed office. “The ambassador’s body is underneath that pile of rubble.”

 

Shaking his head, Nelson steps forward to lift the chunks of concrete. “Well, boy?” he said to Rik. “Lend a hand. Our wizard wants to see a body and can’t disappoint our wizard, now can we?”

Rik gives Nelson a long, considering look and then stoops to help with clearing the rubble. “We should work quickly. The mortal police are not going to take kindly to our ‘modifications’ to the crime scene.” With a grunt he tosses a chunk of concrete to the side. “Though, I wouldn’t be disappointed if we could find some clue before we head out.”

The rubble shifts very slowly. Finally the pieces start to grow damp with blood. Rik reaches the first body part, a hand mangled by the masonry. It becomes clear that the man tried hiding under some wooden office furniture.

Nelson gets a metallic whiff from the ruined flesh. Little speckles of silver litter the body. His fingers sting at its touch.

“Nasty.” Rik shoulders the old shape-changer out of the way and re-doubles his efforts to extract what’s left of the ambassador.

Nelson falls back with a curse as his fingers sting and burn. Immediately, he begins to suck on the digits and spit, trying to clear his skin of the metal specks.

“Silver!” he snaps at the others. “Garlic in it too. It’s an old hunters trick. Weaken your victim to make it easier to kill him.” His hand rests on a head sized piece of concrete and, with snarl, he grabs the debris and flings it at a far wall. It shatters into dust.

“There you are, wizard. Hope he’s worth it,” he says as he sits and nurses his stinging fingers.

Jake grimaces. This is a puzzling development. “I hope so, too. Certainly wasn’t expecting to encounter a silver garl-otov on the ambassador’s body.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small tin, handing it to Archer.

“I’m sorry about your hand. This is a healing salve I got a few years ago from a Cheyenne shaman, made with various herbs, mountain water, and boiled buffalo fat, then blessed under a new moon. Should help prevent silver poisoning and ease the sting some. Figured it might come in handy, given the political situation.”

Nelson takes the tin with a nod of thanks. “Sounds like something I’d baste a roast with, but if it works, I’m much obliged.”

The wizard kneels down next to the shredded corpse, studying it closely without any apparent discomfort at the gory mess.

“The only reason I can think of to douse the ambassador with garlic and silver is if someone thought he was a vampire—which he clearly is not, or we’d be examining a pile of ash—or someone wanted to send a message they knew would be received. Although, I doubt we were the intended recipients.”

“Nice healing trick, Jake, but I have to agree with Nelson – this was a hunter tactic. Whoever did this wanted to take out everyone in the blast radius.” Rik frowns. “We will probably find more unpleasant surprises if we keep digging. I recommend we keep moving before the trail gets any colder.”

“Oh, I agree—mix the silver and garlic in with the explosion, and nothing caught in the blast walks away. Reason enough for the Geneva Convention to be updated, but the U.N. can never seem to get votes enough to pass the amendment.

“I just haven’t heard of it being used on this scale, though.” The wizard sighs and stands up, dusting his hands off ineffectively. “The explosion was probably mundane in origin, but I’ll make one more sweep for traces of magic, just to be sure. The situation is too dire to leave anything to chance, if we can help it.”

The wizard closes his eyes in concentration for a moment, then spoke softly. “I’m probably going to regret this, with so much recent death. Quae videnda video.” His eyes open, glowing with a pale blue light. Steeling himself, he looks around the ruins of the office.

Immediately he sees the specters of the slain office workers, everyday people going about their daily lives. Without exception, they are in shock, confused, and horrified at what had happened. They are just remnants, though, echoes of the lives that had ended here. Only Martin looks solid to his magical sight. Drake had been honest; Martin is unbound, free to walk the Earth as he pleases.

The look on Jake’s face shows obvious sympathy at what he saw, invisible to the others. But, he continues scanning for any trace of magic that might yield a clue. Sighing and shaking his head, Jake looked down.

“Nothing. I was afraid of… Oh, shit.” The wizard lets out a fierce scream and grabs his head in pain as he collapses to his knees, blood streaming from his nose. Several minutes pass before the pain dulls enough for him to catch up with the others.

“I’ll be waiting on the street. I’ve got room in my car for everyone, if you’re so inclined.” Rik heads down the elevator before the mundane authorities arrive.

He steps clear of the debris and looks at Rik. “If your offer extends to an irritable old wolf, I’d appreciate the ride. Cabs get expensive in this town.”

Martin was angry. He remembered the room full of delegates and staff, arguing over the most mundane and petty of things. Then, a blinding white light. “I don’t understand. Someone wanted to kill human, vampire, and werewolf alike? But why, who would want to disrupt the Convocation?”

As the others begin to leave, Martin glides across the room, through debris and collapsed wall. He is looking at the pattern of garlic and silver, to see if he can detect an origin for where the explosion originated. If found, he will try to remember just who was standing there at the time.

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