Wexford University of Wightcraft

Discussions on the gaming forum I  frequent have me thinking about the Magic School genre. Personally, I like the idea of magic instruction being handled by higher, rather than primary or secondary education, since this allows for magic folk who are competent in the mundane world.

I don’t want to explain everything, but I figured it’d be good to explain that much.


“School full of fucking magicians, and they’ve got me on a fucking plane,” I grumble softly as I stand in line for security, shifting the weight of my body and my bag from one supporting leg to the other. As I neared the tables, I started working my feet out of my loosely tied canvas shoes before stopping as the speakers above squawked-

“Holders of maroon and chartreuse checkered tickets, please see the security attendant designated by the same coloured badge, for a special process.” I looked around, pushing my foot back into my shoe, and held the red and green patterning of my ticket up to be seen by a guard who’d met my eyes. It was subtle, but his uniform was older in style than those worn by the other attendants, and not just 80s shoulder pads style. The pants were plain and simply made, black with a stripe of red and green banded ribbon up the sides, the shirt more of a pale blue tunic, not tucked in, with a slightly darker vest, more of a doublet, over it. On the upper chest of his vest, there was an embroidered patch of a shield, an orange band across the top, the rest maroon, save for a smaller red shield centered upon it with a stripe of pale blue down it’s center. He nodded as he saw my ticket’s checkered edge and waved me over.

“Are you, er, with the university?” I asked, recognizing the colours of his badge from the letter that had arrived a few months ago, unbidden, and deeply confusing,

“I am,” he replied, “please, follow me. I just want to see if there are any others…. ah, yes.” He gestured again to people in line, and I was shortly joined by four more people. Nervous, unsure. Only one seemed perfectly at ease. He had the confidence that often came to the conventionally attractive. I looked him over as he strode up, greeting the guard with a distant warmth. He was tall, his build solid, muscled, but not overly bulky. His hair and teeth impeccable, and his clothes quite expensive.

The other four of us traded a sidelong glance as we all knew this was some trustfund pissant. His manner with the security attendant was that of a man accustomed to dealing with servants, underlings and hired hands, which must be dealt with in a magnanimous, but firm manner, to keep them in a good a mood even as you reminded them of their relative station.

“Yes, hello, Mr. Cascara,” the guard said, practically forgetting the rest of us, “I was told I would be he- serving you today.”

“Mm, yes. I do hope this bit about procedure is for the, er, mundies’ benefit?”

“Oh, don’t worry, sir,” the attendant said, ushering us through a door, “it’s perfectly quick process, nothing like the ordeal they must go through. Wouldn’t want the wrong sort to get through and be a danger to the new year of students.”

The four of us not obviously brought up by someone made of more wood pulp than an actual tree rolled our eyes as one, and, to my amusement, so do the attendant as Mr. Cascara stepped past him.

“So, I take it you have a good idea what this is all about, Cascara?” I said.

He turned, his face knit in something between offense and incomprehension that someone addressed him in a room clearly containing only a single peer.

“Mr. Cascara, please,” he smiled fakely, “Yes, my family has been in the University for generations. We’ve contemplated moving to England so that we may start our instruction much earlier, but so many of the family inv-”

“Right, so you know what’s going on. Good on you,” I said, cutting his recitation of the family wiki article short and silently enjoying the look on his face as he suddenly wasn’t allowed to finish gloating. “I’m sure your family thinks it’s hot shit, but the mark of a good breeding in this instance would be making your knowledge available to the people who clearly don’t have generations of immersion in this world, not making sure the school employee knows what you think his place is.”

Cascara scowled. “So you’ve chosen to make enemies before the term has begun,” he said. “Well, it’s certainly a novel concept. I didn’t particularly expect you lot to know your wands from your asses, but this is a surprise.”

“Wait, wands? We get wands?” said one of the others, a slim young woman in glasses behind me.

“The letter mentioned something about them,” I said before turning back to Cascara. “Fuck sake, stop this bullshit peerage routine. We all can trace our lines back to fabled magicians, that’s how this works. Just because your family is so carefully arranged that most of the members are of the illuminatable percent doesn’t mean you’re better.”

“Yes, it does,” Cascara said, “Tell me, have you received tutoring in spells? Dueling? Metabiology?”

“Formal? No, but I’d lay wager that much of mythology was based on what comes from the Other Realm, so there is a certain amount of autodidactism going for me.”

“IF you needed a bezoar, where would you look?” Cascara asked, the question mark replaced with gloating.

“Stomach of a goat. Failing that, a cat’s stomach or the stomach of a nervous preteen young woman with poor habits. A bezoar is an accumulation of hair and undigested food particles commonly found in goats, but more commonly heard of these days in ‘bizarre surgery’ listacles online, and standing to reason possibly discoverable in cats, which are believed to cure poison.”

Cascara was slightly taken aback. “Luck. What is the procedure for homunculus creation?”

“Combine the master’s blood or scum with clay and a few various herbs in a mason jar, shake to combine, and bring to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimal temperature of compost, and maintain that for 40 days, after which time the now transparent humanoid form should be kept at 104 degrees Fahrenheit and fed blood daily for 40 weeks. Of course this is my own surmising of the accuracy of medieval texts. It’s entirely possible that it does in fact require specifically semen, specifically horse manure, etc, but I’m going out on a limb that such things are medieval reference, not absolute necessities.”

Cascara was silent a long while as I smirked. “What,” he said with a smug self-satisfaction, “is the purpose of the Philosopher’s Stone?”

“While the Philosopher’s Stone’s most known capability is facilitating the transformation of base metals, such as lead, into higher metals, such as silver or gold, its purpose was the transmutation of the human form, purifying the base flesh into a higher form, potentially one which is immortal, certainly one which is rejuvenated. Of course, I am self-taught from what is considered mythology, so I cannot know what the true purpose is, but that is what the mythology posits, and I’ve been right so far, so I feel fairly confident in saying that the true purpose of the philosopher’s stone is to rejuvenate the alchemist and grant them immortality.” I see from the corner of my eye the amused smiles of my fellow lost wights–magically gifted peoples whose families forgot their lineage. Cascara clearly wants to find some way to prove his superiority over me.

No one’s under any delusions that his likely-magically-augmented physique is somehow anything but superior to my all-natural flaws-and-all body bricolaged to an approximation of my satisfaction with transition hormones. But this has nothing to do with physiological giftedness. This is all about the wealthy lording around over the lower class. Gee, look at that, magic’s no cure for human bullshit.

The attendant cleared his throat, “There is a plane to catch, ladies and gentlemen.”

I looked to the attendant and shouldered my bag again, “yeah,” I said, looking back to Cascara, “I’m sure the plane won’t mind us continuing our measuring.” I turned and followed the attendant through the door, “Not sure how much the inches matter when it’s clear I’m still unrolling measure tape and Cascara here’s already tucking his away making apologies and saying this never happens to him.”

The Demon of Innocence

As a disclaimer, this story deals with the theme of priests who molest children. It does not graphically describe the act, but does allude to such, and so people who are sensitive to or triggered by the subject may wish to avoid reading this.

I am more than aware that only a very, very small minority of priests molest children. Less than 1%, in fact. It is, however, a truth that adults do exist who abuse their authority over children to abuse them. I am not accusing priests as a whole of this abuse of power, this is a fictional piece about a specific fictional priest, not an indictment of men of faith in general, even if I have little but contempt for that faith.

I hovered over the foul wretch of a man, raven-feathered wings idly flapping. It was only now he got a good look at me, and I pushed my power through the fine mesh of mundanity that usually shrouded it, allowing him a true glimpse of what I was.

“You’ve-” the man quailed before me, mouth suddenly dry and voice hoarse, “you’ve burned out your soul!”

I dismissed my wings and dropped the last foot to the floor, a spectral tail lashing behind me restlessly in my aura, like that of a cat which was biding it’s time as a child flicked it with a feather toy. “Just a short time ago, I’d have scoffed at the idea of a soul.” I padded closer to him, “I’m still not sure I believe in the precise concept you refer to, but obviously some immaterial power exists beyond the spheres material.”

The man was on the verge of quivering in his cassock, hands rising to his mouth as he sunk to his knees. “H-how could you do… this,” he gestured weakly, “to your immortal soul, my boy?” His face was a twisted painting of sorrow and pity.

I sneered. “I am not ‘your boy’,” I snarled, and turned as I heard a tiny gasp behind me. A child–the child whose pain, dimly sensed from across space and time as he called out for salvation from the torment pressed into him by this loathsome abomination in holy clothing, brought me here–cowered behind the jam of the door. My visage unknit, softening as I knelt, playing the knight of justice arrived to rescue the innocent, the spectral imagery of my power resolving for a moment into polished black armour. “Child, do not fear. I am his punishment. I am the answer to your pleas, you will not be harmed-” I turned to look at the man before me, “ever again.”

“How could you turn from the Creator like this?” the man continued, seemingly completely oblivious to his victim’s gaze. “How could you turn your soul to ash for a pittance from the Deceiver?”

“How? Because I’m better than that sorry excuse for omnipotence,” I said, my lips curling in disgust, “and the ‘Deceiver,’ as you call him, actually answered my pleas when your… ‘Creator’,” I spat the words like bile from my throat, “showed no interest.”

The wretch, the… thing who dared to call himself a holy man before me, rose from his knees, suddenly incensed, righteous indignation moving across his face like a wild fire through a dry field, “How dare you. HOW DARE YOU! NO WASTREL WHO PROFFERS HIS SOUL TO THE PITS CAN PRETEND TO EVEN ONE IOTA OF HIS GREATNESS. YOU ARE LESS THAN A GRAIN OF SAND AND GOD IS AS THE UNIVERSE!” The man fumed before me, nearly reaching for my throat.

I readmitted my wings into this plane of matter in an unfurling explosion of force, my hands shooting out to grasp his robe, the man tried to stumble back but my hot fists and sharp claws held fast to the thick fabric, not yet tearing or burning through it, though holes slowly hissed through as the white cloth blackened and smoldered in my grip. “Do you know the key difference between your pauper churl of a god and I? When I hear the cries of a child coerced by a man they trusted, rendered a helpless piece of meat to his disgusting appetites… I respond.” My wings wrapped around us, shielding the sight of the violence I was preparing to unleash from the innocent eyes of the boy behind me. “I dare, because I intervene.”

The pitiful dross-heap’s eyes were wide, “I- I never t-touched that boy… You are being deceived by the Serpent of the Garden! I am a simple priest! Please, do not fall for the lies of the pit!” he pleaded with me.

“No lie could pierce the space of mortals as his cry did.” I… wasn’t actually entirely certain of that. Conceivably a lie believed by enough people, with enough faith behind it, could in fact do so, and the power of the Patriarch does evince something to that effect. “But, shall we examine your mind? I can do that, you know. It’s a simple matter for my power to creep across the folds of your brain, reading the memories stored within as if they were brail on a page. Will those memories save you? Prove you did not harm this child? Or will they proffer a testimony that only condemns your pitiful…” my lips curled of their own accord, and spat “soul.”

His vestments finally succumbing to my grasp of hellfire, the man tore free from me, the chest of his robe in tatters. He backed away, pushing through the tips of my wings, and I slowly followed, wings still curled, blocking him from running to either side, until he backed into the door of the confessional. His panic was wrought across his face as he fumbled with the door behind him, pushing it open and falling through, closing the door behind him.

I had no care for the door, and plunged sharp claws through the edge, pulling it open and breaking latch and jam. I stepped into the small space, towering over the man who knelt in fervent prayer for his life.

I pulled the door close behind me, and smiled in the darkness.

“…Father protect me from the demon that Satan has sent…” he muttered beneath me.

“Hello, father! Have you come to confess your sins?” I said with avuncular warmth. I reached down and pressed my hand against his forehead, gripping his skull and prying into his memory.

The man’s fervent faith put up an almost impressive fight as I searched. The first things I saw were memories of his time in seminary, of helping parishioners, and I almost thought that perhaps I’d assaulted the wrong man. But pushing deeper, I found the memories he didn’t want discovered. I was disgusted by the sensation he remembered, the visceral memory that tried to creep up my arm and sit in my own mind, to claim my own nerves and make me feel the same sense. When I found the visual memories, I nearly retched. I tore my hand away from him, the memories welling in the forefront of his mind as if a hose had been torn free of a spout.

The man’s plaintive whimpers for protection were suddenly turned into pleas for forgiveness in awareness of his crimes. “…b-bless me f-father for I have s-sinned…” he moaned as he was paralyzed with fear and only the hind brain functioned, spitting out rote memorizations.

“How long has it been since your last confession?” I intoned, my mocking avuncularness replaced with reviling contempt.

“O-one w-week” he muttered.

“May the darkness like unto that of the pit where the abominable dwell push you to make a full confession of your sins.”

“I-I have… I…” the pitiful heap of dross could not summon the words to confess. He quivered and moaned beneath me.

“You have abused your position of authority, you have preyed upon your flock, you have betrayed the trust of small children and violated their innocence with your diseased needs born of repression.”

It was almost imperceptible in his frightful shaking, but he nodded in admission.

“I do not absolve you of your sins. Mistakes can be mended, but crimes such as these require punishment. There is no known rehabilitation for one such as you, to my mind, thus you must be rendered unable to commit them in future.” I grasped his head between my hands, “Do you accept your earthly punishment, and any punishment which may be assigned to your incorporeal form?”

The man of false-righteousness seemed to finally break the surface of the memory of his sins, treading the thick, black water of the psyche, and looked up to me. One eye spoke fire and wrath, of fierce denial of his actions, of a refusal to accept my punishment of him. The other accepted all culpability, that it had grievously and heinously acted in violating assault of the innocent. The light of his eyes warred a moment as his brow furrowed in mental exertion, before at last he gazed up again in contrition. I withdrew all dams and barriers which held my might from pouring through my hands, and the infernal force of my Hellish power slammed into his skull from each side, with an effect like unto the hot shockwave of an atomic bomb.

His body slumped to the ground, no longer supported by my grip on skull and blood seeped from the remains of his head, dribbling down his robes, writing his sins on the white fabric.

I turned and left, pushing the door closed behind me, muttering an incantation to seal it to innocents such as the child outside. The child who now stood before me.

I knelt once again, one knee to the ground as a defending crusader before his charge in a painting. My power blazed around me, perceived by this small victim as solid black fire encasing my form as armour. He placed his hands on either side of my face, removing my helm in his sight. “A-am I safe?” he asked, tears coalescing in his eyes.

I lifted one hand to his cheek. The hand that radiated destruction into the skull of my quarry now emanating soothing calm. “You are.” I said. “He has been punished, and cannot harm you ever again.”

“Thank you,” the boy quietly said. His innocence was damaged, tarnished, but not gone. I hoped that it would recover.

“You are welcome, but no thanks is needed, to protect a child is the duty of any who would call themselves powerful or just.” My other hand came to cradle his face, “are there others who acted with him in harming you?”

The boys eyes threatened to flood again as he nodded.

“Do you have family that can protect you?”

Tears broke the levee of his eyes and streamed down his face as he shook his head in my tender grasp.

“I will make sure you are protected. Will you come with me?” I would never let another adult force this child ever again, and I was not about to do so myself.

He nodded, and I picked him up as I stood. Unseen behind me as we winked away from the sanctuary of that temple of false-righteousness pages fluttered to the ground to be found by administrators in the morning when they searched for the former orphan.

Heller Manor- Chapter 4

Vic walked into their apartment and tossed their coat on the couch. Sounds coming from the bathroom told Mare was at work on the pipe, they walked back to check on things.

“Hey Mare,” Vic said, leaning on the door frame.

“Hey,” she responded over her shoulder as she tightened the new pipe on. “Almost done here. Got any other pipes ya want me to look at?” she smirked, cocking an eyebrow.

Vic laughed. “Sure, look at ’em all, make sure no more are gonna burst.”

“Hmm… that’ll cost you more than just dinner.” Mare replied, dropping the wrench into her tool bag as she stepped out of the shower enclosure.

“Y’could bill me,” Vic said turning and gesturing with their head towards the living room. They walked into the kitchen and pulled a couple bottles of cider as Mare walked over to the couch.

“Hey Diavolo,” she said moving Vic’s coat over, “How was the gig?”

Vic handed Mare a bottle and stepped over her legs to plop on the couch beside her. Vic nestled against Mare, who reached an arm over their shoulders, “Eh, it was fine. Woman was strung out because she saw ghosts and shit. I gave her the intro, warded her mirrors, told her to get cozy with the thing that gave her the visions and see what else she got.”

“Can you make rent this month?”

“Well, I’m going to do her Syndicate intro soon, and they pay well. I’m waiting on her for that, though. It’s entirely possible it won’t happen this month, which would suck.

“I’ve got money coming in on the blog, advertising, patrons, that sort of thing, but it can take a bit to clear. So basically I need more gigs, because $150 ain’t enough.”

“No savings to fall back on?”

Vic looked at Mare with eyes that said “Really?”

“Ok, good point,” Mare said. She sipped from her bottle. “So what are you going to do? You can’t just keep lurching from month to month hoping you’ll get enough gigs to pay the rent or that Chuck won’t evict your shapely ass.”

Vic swigged from their bottle. “Dunno.”

Outside, the skies rumbled, Portland’s daily rain shower starting early this afternoon. Vic groaned as they stood to close the kitchen window.

“Well, what’s the deal with the Syndicates? Didn’t you say they housed some of you guys?”

“Mostly just the ones on the payroll. Princes and bishops and the Revolution Committee and officers and all of that get room and board. Even if I wanted to be part of the power structure, they probably wouldn’t take me. I suppose I could squat with the Cauchemar for a while, but… I’d almost rather live out of my car. I don’t relish the idea of living in an even more neglected building waiting for someone to throw me out again.

“Well… if it comes to it…” Mare started, uneasy about finishing.

“No. We work well as we are. We don’t need to be a couple. Besides, you don’t want to be that kind of Renfield. I start living with you and the Syndicates start expecting me to truly bring you in.”

“Well, you can crash if you need to. I mean, I agree, no way do we need to be a couple, but if you’re looking at sleeping in your car, and staying at my place a bit… My bed’s comfier than your car.”

“Thanks, Mare. I’ll figure something out. Hell, if it comes to it, I can do some work for one of the cults. The Oracles always have some damned thing that needs hunting, the White Lotus probably has something they need done and a place to stay to pay for it with.”

“Why don’t you take those jobs?”

“I like being a slightly more free agent. I mean, the Oracles are my cult, and they send jobs my way, but I don’t want to be a 9 to 5 monster hunter, and the Lotuses… I just don’t have the energy to go crawling through tunnels or records for hours on end at this point in my life.”

“So you prefer living month to month and always worrying about having to load up your apartment in three days or less over a steady, but less than ideal job?”

“I’m young and introverted, it’s a thing with us.” Vic replied, poking Mare in the ribs.

“I’ve looked over their shoulder at tumblr, it really is,” Diavolo chimed in from his perch on a bookcase.

“Well, then you need to find a job that is ideal.”

“Something’ll come in, and in the meantime, I’ve got the blog. Of course, that depends on me getting jobs… unless I just start making things up.”

“Vic, find something. You get emails, right?”

“Yeah, when people get desperate. It’s not like I can really advertise. The syndicates would be so far up my ass that I’d taste all four flavours.”

“Why can’t you advertise? Don’t people sell spells and shit and do ghost hunting shows?”

“Yeah, people who are fakes. The Syndicates basically allow those because they’re good comedy. I could try to set up shop doing spells and shit, but I’d be constantly dodging the Syndicates. Assuming I got any business at all.”

Diavolo fluttered over to perch on Vic’s head, “Don’t mean to interrupt the life talk, but looks like you just got a job, Vic. Check your email.”

Vic fished their phone out of their pocket and flicked into the email app, then to the Esoterica label. “Which one, Diavolo?”

“Haunted.”

Vic opened an email with the subject “ESOTERICA, HELP-MY PROPERTY IS HAUNTED.”

I’m desperate. I’ve tried everything, even a psychic. I got your name as someone who could help. I’ve got to get this place cleared out, or I can’t sell it. I’ll pay anything. Just help me. ASAP.

Heller Manor

549 Heller Drive

Portland

–Phil Robbins, Emmings Reality

“Well, this could be something. Maybe if it fails he’ll just give me the place…”

“And maybe if you get it done he’ll pay you well and keep you in mind for the next place,” Mare said, nudging Vic.

“Alright, I’m going to drive out to this place, check it out, see what’s going on. Mare, can you do some research about this place for me?”

“Yeah, the shop’s slow today, I’ll check it out.”

“Thanks.” Vic squeezed Mare’s arm affectionately. “I’ll probably just do a consult today. Assuming that the place isn’t haunted enough to keep me there…”

“Does that happen?”

“It can. Depends on the haunt, depends on whether the place has a major world bleed.”

“Alright, well, stay safe,” Mare said, standing to leave.

“Will do, let me know what you find out.”

Vic- Occult Investigator: Heller Manor

This is the other main writing project I’m working on. It still doesn’t have a definite title, but it focuses on an warlock who makes a living as an occult investigator, who goes by Vic. The setting is somewhat loosely draw from an indie tabletop RPG titled After Sundown, which itself takes place in a horror version of the real world.

Vic is genderqueer, and prefers “they” pronouns, so if you’re confused by the constant use of “they,” that’s the reason.

I’ll be posting chapters individually, hopefully, but I may also just post individual scenes.


S-Stygis sidsim hotu!”

Vic’s hands glowed red and the light resolved into a disc of crimson between them and the gushing pipe. The disc became a portal that harmlessly drank the torrent of water and sent it to the underworld.

The drenched warlock stepped back, feet sloshing in ankle high water. They looked down at their soaked t-shirt, and futilely flapped their arms, shaking droplets of water off their thin arms.

Want me to start bailing?” a crow perched on the bathroom mirror croaked, followed by a cawing laugh.

Vic glared at their black-feathered familiar, “You know I could transmute you to a form that could, Diavolo.”

Diavolo bobbed his head, “I’ll shut up.”

Thank you.” Vic turned to the water around their bare, delicate feet, “Ewaka, qaua,” she muttered, hand glowing green-streaked blue, the light extending to the water, and a waist-high form roughly humanoid in shape and composed of water rising in response. Vic’s hand, nails smudged with alternating red and black polish, thrust a bucket into its hands, “gather the water in the bucket, empty it into the sink,” they commanded the elemental. “When you’re done, climb into the sink and wait.”

The form nodded it’s head-like orb in response and set to its task… and stalled at the “gather water” step as it ran around the small bathroom trying to gather all the water into the bucket.

Vic sighed. “Stop.” The elemental stood up holding the full bucket in it’s hands. “Fill the bucket with water, empty into the sink, repeat. When no water remains” Vic shook their head, “when you can’t fill the bucket, climb into the sink and wait.” The elemental nodded again, dipped the full bucket to fill it, and lifted it to the sink to empty it. As it repeated the task, Vic turned and stepped up into their tiny apartment’s back hallway.

They grabbed a towel from the small nook next to the bathroom and fished their phone from their pocket, drying it off as they headed to the bedroom to change. Their thin fingers tapped in the number of the super. As the phone rang she tapped the button for Speaker, “Vehor,” they said, releasing the phone into the air as they peeled their shirt off.

A click indicated someone’d picked up on the other end. “What do you want, girl!?” the super’s voice crackled through the phone.

Vic stared daggers into the phone as they tossed their shirt down the hallway to splash into the flooded bathroom. “A pipe burst in the fucking bathroom, Chuck. I want you to fix it or send someone who can.”

The super muttered something vulgar and barely audible on the other end, “No can do, I’m booked solid. You interrupted me in the middle of something urgent,” Chuck said, and the creak of an office chair and clinking off an open belt was just audible. “Hey, yer a witch, aincha? Use your magic to fix it.” Chuck laughed at what passed for his wit.

Well, you know, I could, but the demonic laborers and Dissian steel pipe they’d use would probably curse your whole shiteshack—I mean building.” Vic replied as they rubbed the towel over their chest and tried to warm their glass-cutting nipples back up.

They were rewarded with silence on the other end before Chuck responded. “Well, look, you pay your rent for this month, and I’ll consider it. You’re not late—yet—but looking at the last… year, yer gonna be. So that doesn’t make me too eager to get down to yer shit-smelling apartment and do shit for you.”

Well, you could fucking evict me,” Vic said as their drenched pants fell in a squelching heap on the floor, “but you’d have to give me a month to move out, and would have to fucking fix the damned pipe anyway before you could try to rent this place to the non-existent masses that are clamouring to live in your slum—I mean apartment.” They stood a moment, trying to decide if their underwear had gotten wet enough to bother changing, before sighing and peeling it off too, and closing the door.

Aww,” Diavolo croaked outside.

Chuck sighed on the other end of the phone. “Look, I’ll do it when I get around to it.”

Let me put it this way, Chuck. You charge me for the fucking utilities, and there’s water gushing out of my wall. You charge me for water this month, I haul your ass to court with documentation—just like last time. The sooner you fix this, the sooner you can bill me for water,” Vic arched an eyebrow and channeled a few of her ancestors, “Capiche?”

Fuck-sake…” Chuck muttered, followed by a lower mutter that was to muffled to be heard, “fine. I’ll get right down there and take care of it. Gimme fifteen minutes.”

Really? Fifteen? You always struck me as more of a two-pump-chump, Chuck” Vic smirked as they buckled new pants on.

Fuck you,” the super groaned as he hung up.

Vic pulled a new shirt on and opened the door to check on the elemental. The watery being was sitting in the bucket and the floor was covered with only a couple inches of water. Vic looked Heaven-ward, muttering, and sighed. “Lesep,” they said, waving their hand, the form collapsing into water. Vic emptied the bucket into the sink. They reached up to the portal that was carrying the gushing water into the underworld, hooking a finger into it. They pulled it down and closed the shower door behind it, letting the pipe gush into the shower. Vic pulled the dish-sized portal down level with the floor and let the remaining couple inches of water drain into it. Once the floor was merely soaked, rather than flooded, they waved their hand over the portal, “Talpor sleoc.”

So I have to go outside, I take it.” Diavolo croaked.

Yeah, I’d say let’s just go out, but… I don’t trust Chuck in here alone… I don’t have the money for new underwear if I let him fix this unsupervised…”

Doesn’t he have a key?” Diavolo replied as he stepped onto Vic’s outstretched arm.

Yes, but I have discouraging magic on the door. And he doesn’t care enough to have a way to overcome it.” Vic walked to the kitchen window to let Diavolo out, “in fact, even if there were a fire in here and this whole shithole was at risk of burning down, he’d rather collect the insurance than rush in here to put it out, so a discouraging ward is as good as locking spell with him.”

Thank the divines for greedy bastards, eh?” Diavolo croaked before taking flight out the small window.

They kind of make the world go round,” Vic muttered in reply, smiling as their familiar flew off. Crows in flight always made them smile. They half thought they were a valkyrie or shield maiden in a past life. Vic walked back and grabbed her soaked shirt off the bathroom floor, wringing it into the sink. “Let’s see… elemental dismissed, portal closed… no effects active elsewhere in the house… Diavolo out… …unmentionables…” Vic craned their neck out to the hallway, scanning it for underwear or in-discrete toys, then looked out to the common room for the same, “not in sight,” they nodded and hung the shirt over the towel rack. “Ok, we’re go-”

A clicking behind her stopped with a slight scrape and a ruffle. Vic turned to regard their animated book stand, struggling slightly under the weight of several of their harder to explain tomes. “Ah, right. Thanks, Podia.” Vic stepped over the animate-furnishing and opened a cabinet stuffed with books, a small hollow in the middle, books forming steps to. “Gotta hide you too.” Podia responded with the sound of ruffling pages and climbed the book-steps up to it’s nest, settling down inside as Vic slowly closed the door behind.

Vic walked back to their bedroom where their phone still hovered. “Annnnd you.” They sighed, “I can’t keep track of this shit.” They plucked their phone from the air and checked the time of the call to Chuck. “Still five minutes, which means at least ten.” Vic padded out to their desk and plopped into the chair, spinning the frankenstein-ed office-papasan around to face their computer. As they opened their email, a knock sounded through the room. “…or none.” Vic stood back up, catching their cat Pasha as he scampered off, and cradling him in their arms. They opened the door for Chuck, “Thank you for your prompt response, sir.”

Chuck pushed past them, narrowly missing Vic’s knees with his rusted toolbox, “Yeah, yeah.” Chuck walked back to the bathroom, “You got somewhere to be? I can lock up.”

Vic plopped back into their chair, “Nah, it’s fine, was going to do some writing anyway. I mean, I gotta make rent,” they smirked.

Chuck got to work with a steady stream of swearing and pounding in the bathroom as Vic turned back to her email. Typical spam filled the folders, and they clicked over to folder that received all mail including “Esoterica” in the subject, marking it as related to their blog.

Most of the emails were digests of comments, the blog was set to only email her once a day with shortened versions of all the comments from that day. Job offers were slim, as most people thought her blog was creative fiction. Vic didn’t disabuse people of the notion. It was safer that way. The syndicates were not fond of people who tried to tell the de-luminated masses about the truth. However, when people found the supernatural on their own… Vic was there, ready to help for a fee. It was a grey area of the Vow of Silence, that leaned heavily on the Law of Misdirection. Vic could help people with their troubles, but could not clue them into the true nature of the four worlds.

Of course, their blog skirted the Vow of Silence as well. They had to make certain changes, or gloss over some specifics of the cases they wrote up, and occasionally pay off some syndicate authority who checked up on it, but Vic got by.

Today there was a single email with the subject “ESOTERICA—CASE.” Vic opened it, knowing there was a fair chance it was nothing but a paranoid mundie.

You have to help. I NEED you to help me. I see things that make me think your blogs aren’t just stories. I don’t know what I see… I just see… people, shapes… monsters.

I’ve seen the doctors about it, but they can’t figure it out. They say there’s nothing wrong with my eyes. They’ve sent me to shrinks, and they gave me meds. I still saw shit. Now they want to commit me, but since I’m not a danger to others yet, they can’t do so against my will. So please, help me. I know this isn’t just in my head.

I need you to help. You’re my last resort.

-Kristal.

Chuck shouted a garbled FUCK from the bathroom as a fresh gush of water sprayed him in the face, as if Vic needed the encouragement for the job.

Vic sighed, and lit up a cigarette, “CLOSE THE FUCKING SHOWER DOOR CHUCK, I ALREADY BAILED THAT CURSED BATHROOM ONCE TODAY!”

Three slams responded before a small click was nearly drowned out in the sound of rushing water, and the drenched, form of Chuck, a tall man, normally-gelled hair plastered to his forehead, typically pressed work shirt drenched and stuck to his moderately fit torso, squelched into the common room in sopping sneakers.

I gotta turn off the water,” he scowled, and walked out of the apartment.

Most people would do that before working on the pipes,” Vic muttered behind him, cigarette dangling from their lip, as they turned to respond to the email. They sighed. “Great…”

Kristal-

You’re right, my blog isn’t fiction. You’ve come to the right place.

I think you’ve some how acquired the ability to perceive auras. This allows one to see into other worlds, as well as detect supernatural creatures, and a certain type of person which is better able to conduct supernatural energies. It can also detect active magic. This could mean a few different things, so I’d like to meet with you, so we can discuss the matter, and I’ll see what I can do.

Please let me know when is good for you, and where you’d like to meet.

Vic hit send and took a sip of their now-cold coffee they’d poured before having to deal with the burst pipe. Gmail popped up a message telling them a response had arrived by the time they set the cup down.

NOW. My home- 5034 Barnes Way. You’re in Portland, right?

Vic sent a quick response confirming they lived in Portland, but would need about an hour before they could meet.

Fifteen minutes passed, and while the water had been turned off, Chuck hadn’t returned.

Fuck it.” Vic groaned, scribbling a note to Chuck to post on the door, in case he came back, and grabbed a coat, made of thick olive-drab canvas, covered in patches depicting arcane sigils and anti-establishment emblems and sentiments, and shrugged it on. They leaned their head out the kitchen window, “Diavolo! Case!” they called. The bird flapped down and through the window as Vic finished sorting themselves out to leave.

Anything interesting?” he cawed.

Mundie with aura perception,” Vic replied, “or a new transhuman. Or witch. Who knows. We’ll find out.”

Chuck fix the pipe already?” Diavolo cocked his head.

Vic answered with a look that said “what do you think?” as they fished a phone out of their pocket. “I’m going to call Mare. She’s got a key.”

Diavolo perched on Vic’s shoulder as they locked the door and stuck the note to Chuck on, “Her plumber’s crack is also much more attractive.” he cawed. Vic just laughed as they dialed.

Mare answered after only a couple rings, though her voice was distant. “Vic? What’s up, I have you on speaker.” A clang in the background told Vic that Mare was under a car again.

I’ve got a burst pipe, and an incompetent super.”

A short laugh sounded over the phone, then the sounds of the phone being picked up and Mare pushing herself out from under the car. “Want me to come fix your pipes, eh?”

Yeah, I’ve got a case I’m running out for, you’ve got the key still, go ahead and let yourself in. I’ll be back before too long. I hope.” Vic folded their long limbs into the driver seat of their car that could be better described as a land-yacht as Diavolo perched on the window opening before hopping down into the passenger seat. Vic switched their phone to speaker and set it in the cup holder.

Anything major? Should I worry about horsemen of the apocalypse?” Mare scratched something on a pad, “hold on a sec,” she said before shouting something to someone else at her shop, “k, I’m back.”

Nah, just someone who stumbled into the world of beasties. Worst case scenario, we’ve got some ghosts to worry about.”

Oh, so I should make sure I pay the rent on my shop, then?”

Well, until I find an apocalypse in the next month… yes. Alright, pipe’s in the bathroom, water was turned off, hopefully Chuck doesn’t forget and turn it back on, but… we’ll see. I’ll talk to you later, thanks Mare.”

No problem. You’re paying me back for this right?”

I’ll buy dinner?”

Mare sighed in mock irritation, “it’s a start. Ok, go set that poor fuck right.”

Vic laughed, “will do, best as I can, anyway… talk to you later.”

Diavolo pressed the call end button for Vic. “So who fucked themselves how?” he asked.

Some mundie has found a magic book, or a ritual, or a smokeheart, or otherwise opened themselves for witchcraft, or they’re a leviathan that got lost and no one’s watching them to tell them about the fish and the bees, or they’re stuck in the Shallows with a working computer. The last one is the least likely, given that they haven’t been eaten yet.”

Seeing things?”

Yep.”

Those are always fun. Mostly when they throw things at you. And after you’ve sorted them out but they’re not yet sure what’s going on.”

Vic smirked around their cigarette. “Ass.”

I am as you made me,” Diavolo said, spreading a wing and ducking his head in a bow.