the Bonecaller’s Price (with NPC class!)

Bonecaller
Herbert the Crow by Bombusfelidae

I know, I know, you were expecting part 4 of ‘of Wolf and Man‘… It’s coming, but I caught a bad case of the flu this week so I wallowed in self-pity instead of writing {the fact that I couldn’t see straight might have had something to do with it as well… shh!} 

But of course I won’t leave you with nothing! A few weeks ago I talked about the writing contest I was entering. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. Two other lovely ladies got to win the fabulous honor of working for Green Ronin, a company that publishes books for tabletop RPG’s such as Dungeons and Dragons. {You know… the people that are bringing the Critical Role campaign guide into our lives!} I did however have a lovely time creating a story in a world that is darker than the ones I usually work in, and got to combine storytelling with the geekyness that is D&D. How cool is that?!

So, the setting from Green Ronin is going to be Redoubt, the last bastion of hope in a world ruled by undead. Which got me thinking, how would these citizens of Redoubt look upon someone who would use bones? In a city were the dead are definitely something to be feared, could someone overcome this fear and use the dead to their advantage. So I thought of an oracle/shaman type class that could use bones for divination. Originally I wanted it to be a player class, but that didn’t fit, so I made it an NPC class instead. So below you will first find the story of the Bonecaller’s Price, followed by the NPC class explained. I’m very curious to know what you guys think!

 

The Bonecaller’s price

The Bonecaller sits on a rickety stool in front of her shop. “Care to know your fortune, my dear?” she calls to a young woman walking past.

The woman stops, considers. She is about to leave this desolate city for an adventure outside the Walls. She would very much like to know if she will find what she is looking beyond the city’s protection. But the people here in Haven, they are taught to fear the dead and those who speak with them. She studies the old woman for a moment. She doesn’t seem all that dangerous, the young woman thinks. Dressed in dark reds and purples, gold-embroidered scarves wrap around her shoulders. Strange symbols are painted upon her face with white ink, the morning sun casting her wrinkles in a stark relief. There are bones, yes, necklaces and bracelets, some skulls in her gray, braided hair. But there are also coins, golden symbols on brown leather cords. She looks like an eccentric grandmother, not like someone who can command the dead. “I have no means to pay you.” She eventually tells the old woman, curiosity winning from concern.

“A promise will suffice,” the crone answers, “a promise that when your time has come, whenever that may be, I may pick a bone of my choosing.”

The woman looks ancient, the younger one thinks. When I will breathe my last she may very well be amongst the dead herself.

“Alright,” she says. The old woman gets up from her stool, joints creaking, and opens the door towards her shop. Inside lay treasures of bone harvested from all manner of creatures; animal, elf, orc, halfling and human alike. Treasures and talismans filled with power for those brave enough to carry the dead around with them.

A chill crawls down the young woman’s spine as she enters the shop. Dark redwood shelves line the red walls of this cramped shop. Clay jars with unreadable labels stand row after row upon them. Whatever space there was is filled with cabinets made from the same warm wood. Some have glass doors, showing a hint of the mystery that lies within, others have doors of solid wood, painted with strange symbols, and locks that seem too big for such a small cabinet. Candlelight flickers a warm gold on the glass containers holding herbs and other curiosities. Dried flowers hang in bundles from the ceiling, their subtle scents filling the air. Tapestries in all colors cover the floor. A counter stands at the back of the shop, holding even more trinkets and baubles.

All together it would give the interior a warm, homey feel, she thinks, were it not for the skulls that stand seemingly everywhere. Some hold the candles, she notes, watching a droplet of black wax roll down bleached ivory. Other skulls just seem to watch her every move, their empty sockets holding shadows out of which the dead peer into the world. One human skull on the counter holds fresh pink roses, plum-colored dahlias and green aster, their colors stark against the white of the bone. Dried crows feet hang on leather strings next to the vase, stones in different colors clasped within their grasp. A small sign hangs from the ceiling, promising fortune to all those who carry them. On one wall hangs a string with bones in different sizes dangling from it, a macabre bunting celebrating the dead.

She turns and comes face to face with the dead, dried head of an orc. She can’t contain her shriek and stumbles away from it. Its eyes and mouth are crudely sewn shut with sinew. Its red hair still long and decorated with beads and feathers.

“Don’t worry, dear,” the Bonecaller speaks from where she stands by a beaded curtain behind the counter, “these dead don’t bite.” She pulls the curtain aside, setting off a wind chime made of ribs and vertebrae. “Come in, come in.”

The young woman follows her into a small side-chamber. Candles line the walls all around the room. A single table with two chairs stands in the center of it, an intricately embroidered cloth draped over the table’s surface. The rest of the room is bare, leaving it almost hollow in comparison to the front of the shop. She sits down in one of the chairs as the crone walks around and takes a seat across from her.

The Bonecaller takes a leather pouch from her belt that softly rattles as she moves it. “The dead are all around us, my child,” she starts, untying the string that holds the pouch closed, “they see our past, every choice we have ever made. They see our present, the paths in front of us unfolding and winding. They see our future, the golden threads that flow through time until the Raven Queen snaps them.” She lays the folded out pouch on the table. Black markings and symbols cover the inside of it. “The dead know our deepest desires. What we wish and what we want, but, more importantly, what we need.” With reverence, she picks up the scattered bones from the pouch. The old woman holds them to her chest for a moment, chanting words in a language the younger doesn’t recognize.

For a moment, the candles flicker, the shadows on the walls dance and writhe, their spectral claws reaching out towards her. The air chills, her breath now fogging in the air. Wind howling through the room, like a thousand voices calling out in despair. Her heart leaps in her throat, her form frozen in terror and she knows: the dead are here.

The Bonecaller rattles the bones in her hands for a moment before casting them upon the table. Some land within the circle, most scatter upon the delicate cloth. “Ah yes,” she starts, moving her hand over the objects for a moment. She picks up a knuckle-bone, “a new journey awaits you, one long hungered for.” She places the bone back and picks up a small cordate piece, “your heart has grown too large for this city.” She sets it back, gently grabs a tiny bird skull, “you wish, more than anything else, for freedom.” For a moment the ghostly whispers of beating wings sound through the room. The Bonecaller now holds a vertebra, “you will find what you seek, but you must remember: freedom always comes with a price.”

With every word, the young woman’s hope has grown. Finally she would get out of this dark place and into the wide world where adventure calls. She will finally be free of her bonds that hold her within this city. “I will pay any price needed,” She tells the Bonecaller eagerly.

The old woman nods, carefully returning the bones to her pouch. “Then be on your way, young one. And may you find the freedom you seek.”

 

Two weeks later the Bonecaller once again sits at the table, bones cast upon the cloth and an eager adventurer across from her. “You have found a new family in your companions,” she tells him, gesturing with the wolf bone towards the door, where the rest of his group is waiting. Her client smiles as she gently lays the bone down again. She picks up the last bone for this reading. A human rib, broken and with deep scars. It’s still white, new. The Bonecaller sees the ghost of the young woman appear next to her, clutching her bleeding stomach.

I wanted to get out of this city, she whimpers, I just wanted to be free.

“You wish to leave this city”, the Bonecaller echoes, “you wish to be free.” The young man nods eagerly. She gently places the rib back in the leather circle. “Freedom,” she tells her customer, “always comes with a price.”

 

NONPLAYER CHARACTER: BONECALLER

“The bones speak, if you are brave enough to listen…”

– Fehzar Haruspex

 

To most, the passing from life to death is something to fear

and avoid, but there are those who understand that death

unveils secrets and knowledge not attainable in life.

Bonecallers are the diviners that walk the line between life and

death. They cast their set of bones and commune with the dead

to gain divine insight into any question asked. Bonecallers are

renowned advisors to any brave enough to seek their guidance.

But beware: their knowledge always comes with a price.

 

Call of the Bones Most Bonecallers hear what they named

‘the Calling’ at a young age, discovering through play that touching

bones gives them a brief window through which the dead can

speak. These children are often seen as strange, talking to

‘friends’ that don’t seem to exist and knowing things they

shouldn’t. Once discovered that they are speaking with the

dead these children are shunned and looked upon with fear.

As death touches all life and every creature, Bonecallers can be

from any race and any walk of life. While most Bonecallers

are female, it is not unheard of for males to hear and heed

the Calling.

 

Prolonged life A Bonecaller’s intimate knowledge of the line

between life and death allows them to extend their life, but not

their youth, significantly. Indeed, there are those who think

Bonecallers are born old and wrinkly.

Although most Bonecallers learn their skills through intuition

and communing with the dead, some seek out an apprentice

to pass on their vast knowledge when they feel the end of their

long life finally approaching.

 

Sortilege set This divination set consists of a variety of bones

– sometimes combined with other curios such as shells, nuts,

small keys and metal charms – which, when cast, give the

Bonecaller divine insight into her client’s query. The Bonecaller

builds her sortilege set over time, adding bones and objects that

have meaning to her. Therefore the sortilege set is considered

personal and sacred, much like a holy symbol.

 

Casting the Bones Up to five short insights may be given to one

question a player character may have, or as a general reading of the

player’s character or situation. The insights should be brief and

cryptic, leaving some things open to the player’s interpretation.

 

Bonecaller

Medium humanoid (any race), any neutral alignment

—————————————————————————————-
Armor Class 10

Hit Points 27 (5d8+5)

Speed 30 ft.
——————————————————————————————-

STR ——— DEX ——- CON ——- INT ——- WIS ——- CHA

10 (+0) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 13 (+1) 16 (+3) 14 (+2)
——————————————————————————————

Skills Insight +7, Performance +5, Religion +4

Senses Passive Perception 13

Languages any two languages

Challenge 2 (450 XP)
——————————————————————————————

Brave. The Bonecaller has advantage on saving throws against

being frightened.

Spellcasting. The Bonecaller is a 5th-level spellcaster. It’s

spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with

spell attacks). The Bonecaller has the following spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): light, spare the dying, thaumaturgy

1st level (4 slots): inflict wounds, sanctuary, unseen servant

2nd level (3 slots): augury, detect thoughts, gentle repose

3rd level (3 slots): magic circle, speak with dead

 

ACTIONS
——————————————————————————————

Bone dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft. or

range 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage

8BIT Critical Role!

BigBoard

New items in my Etsy shop!

As some of you might know, I am a HUGE fan of anything to do with tabletop RPG’s and especially the amazing webshow Critical Role (if you haven’t watched it yet, please do! For their 100th episode I wanted to make something cool, so I made a big D20 board with the member of Vox Machina on it in mini hama fuse beads. This got such an overwhelming response and questions where people could buy them, that I couldn’t not put them up.

So I now have the big D20 board with all members, the small D20 boards with the members of your choice, pendants and magnets available!

Click on the pictures or follow this link.

BigBoard

VMSmallBoard1

VMPendants

VMMagnets1

 

Keep an eye on the website, more designs and products coming soon!

Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 3)

police-badge
Police Badge through Frontpagemag

Here we are again, with part 3 of the story! If you’re thinking ‘huh, what story?’ please start here! It’s a bit shorter this time, I had some time off of work and took a week to recharge my batteries and do as little as possible. It was wonderful and very much needed. Now, onto the story!

 

“Tell me you have something for me, Kravitz,” I called out as we walked into the Violent Crimes and Homicide division of the SCPD, finally sipping my well-deserved coffee. The precinct of the Sweetlake City Police Department was located in the heart of the city. Just outside the shopping district and next to the Firehouse, our division looked out on the shoppers swarming around like ants on one side, the Cinnabon sign right across from the station a constant temptation. The other side looked out on a tiny bit of green landscaping bordering the Firehouse’s yard where, if we were lucky, the firefighters would be running drills and walking around shirtless.Don’t judge.

Deputy Malik Kravitz walked towards us, a thin file in his hand. A curl of fresh ink peeked out from under his collar, the black soft against his dark skin.

“New tattoo?” I asked when he got close enough. Kravitz was a hundred percent human, like me, but he was one of those people who wanted to be more. A lot of humans stuck to just two or three small ones, magical tattoos for a touch of luck, healing a little bit faster, being able to activate a few of the devices that required magic to work. Kravitz wasn’t happy with just two or three though, he really wanted to find out the limits of his bought magic. In the two years that he’d been assigned to our department, this was his fifth tattoo. That I knew of.

“You’re going to run out of space if you keep going.”

“That’s the plan, I have to do something if I want to keep up with people like Flowergirl over here.” He said with no small amount of snark, jerking his head towards Violet. Violet just rolled her eyes as she always did at his nickname. “One day, T.J.” Kravitz continued, “one day you’re going to get over your fear of needles and I’ll take you to Dean’s. Don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand the entire time,” he said with a wink.

I wasn’t afraid of needles, I just didn’t feel the need to have magic forced under my skin just so some things could become more convenient. I liked being just human. Kravitz knew this, but we’d been bantering back and forth about it ever since he joined our division. He was all easy smiles and good-natured sarcasm. It was why we all worked so well together. “In your sad and lonely dreams, Kravitz,” I said, grinning.

He placed the hand holding the file over his heart. “You wound me.”

“You’ll live. Now, tell me what you found.”

He held up the file again. “Donald Koppenhaver, human, age 52, moved to Sweetlake City three years ago from Greensboro, North Carolina. Works for the DMV, no immediate family in the area. He has a mother in a retirement home in Florida. Local police have been contacted, they’ll notify her.”

I held out my hand. “Any priors?” Kravitz handed the file over and I flipped it open, staring at the picture of Koppenhaver for a moment. He didn’t look like anything special, his face a bit too smug and his smile a bit too wide, but that was it. An unassuming man wearing a white button-down, what was left of his hair combed back, a thick gold chain resting over his shirt.

“No priors,” Kravitz confirmed as I turned the page to his non-existent record. “I put a call into the Greensboro PD, they’ll get back to me if they find anything of note. Doctor Strong, however, did find something interesting.” He reached over to turn another page.

It was a close up photo of Koppenhaver’s ruined chest. It had been washed clean, the wound still a gruesome cavern that I didn’t want to look at too long. But that wasn’t the interesting thing Kravitz was talking about. “Is that a burn scar?” I asked him, tracing the edges of the wound where a webbing of scar tissue radiated outwards.

“Indeed it is, and these,” he reached out and tapped the two smoother bits of the scar, both ovals, “are fingers.”

“Somebody burned a handprint into our murder victim?” Violet asked as she walked over, looking over my shoulder to the file.

Kravitz nodded. “Doctor Strong says it’s older, about three years.”

“Hell, first burned, then mauled, this is one unlucky bastard.” I flicked the photo against my hand. “Do we know what did it, Fire Mage, Ifrit?”

“No idea,” Kravitz answered, reaching over to grab another file from his desk, “Donald never even went to a hospital to get treated. There were no charges filed.”

I frowned, it was never good when someone didn’t step forward in assault cases. It meant that either they were ashamed, or they were hiding something.

“So I did a little digging,” Kravitz continued, “and found this.” He handed me the new file.

There was a booking picture of a teenage girl, her fiery red hair falling in waves past her round face. She looked younger than her file said she was, but there was a defiant gleam in her eyes as she glared up at me. “Bryni Hugh,” I read aloud.

Violet walked past me to her desk, typing in the name and pulling up personal information.

“Also known as Pyra,” Kravitz said. “Fire mage, 23, she works as a performer at Unveiled, the club in the industrial district. She has two priors, one for arson when she was a teen, which isn’t that unusual for a fire mage coming into her powers. The second, however, is for assault. Apparently, our little fire mage is a bit – forceful when it comes down to shooting down unwelcome advances.”

I flipped the page over to her record. “She gave a guy a similar burn mark because he was hitting on her.”

“And he’s not the only one,” Violet said from where she sat, “a Christopher Harris was brought into the hospital eighteen months ago with a similar burn, but he refused to press charges.”

“So we have a girl who likes to hurt men that come on a little too strong. Maybe that’s what happened with Koppenhaver last night?” I asked Violet. “Or she could just be out seeking revenge for whatever he did to her.”

“She’s performing tonight.” Violet pointed to the website of Unveiled she had open on her screen, the name Pyra written in dancing flames across the top. “We should definitely go and ask her some questions.”

“You should,” Kravitz said, sounding impossibly smug, “did I mention her brother’s a werewolf?”

Whimsical Girl

WhimsicalGirl1

Last Saturday me and my mum went to an amazing workshop where we would try and make a mixed media painting with a ‘Whimsical Girl’. The workshop was led by the awesome Miranda van den Bosch {seriously, check out her website and Facebook page!} and was held at Doe@ding {a.k.a. one of the best craft-shops in the Netherlands}.

It was such an amazing and fun-filled day. I learned a lot from Miranda about portrait drawing and shadowing, which was exactly why I wanted to follow this workshop. I also got to work with materials I’d never worked with before, like the Distress Crayons. All in all, it was a fun mother-and-daughter-day and I walked out of there with a new addiction… Expect more of these paintings really soon! But first, some W.I.P. pictures:

WhimsicalGirl4
General sketch and added tissue paper to the background
WhimsicalGirl3
Filled in the background with Distress Crayons and Gesso
WhimsicalGirl2
Finished her face! Now all she needs is hair and eyebrows….

Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 2)

wolf_teeth_by_vilebedeva-d5g2dsz
Wolf Teeth by ViLebedeva on Deviantart

Are you ready for part 2? If you’re thinking right now: what is that crazy girl talking about now? Well, I started writing a longer story this time {over 4500 words now!} that I’ll be sharing with you {and writing… shh…} in segments. So last week I posted part 1, here is part 2!

 

It’s always difficult to see one of the big black bags being zipped up. There is something final about it, more so than seeing the blood on the street or the open, unseeing eyes of the victim. The soft sound of the zipper drives home, more than anything else, that we were too late, that this person could no longer be saved.

I looked away as they loaded the body of Donald Koppenhaver onto the stretcher and into the ambulance.

“I’m taking him back to the lab. I’ll do a full tox screen and see if I can find out anything more about our wolves,” the ME said as she sidled up beside me, still taking notes on her clipboard. “I’ll let you know as soon as I find something.”

I nodded, “Thanks, Layla.”

She clipped her pen on the board and nudged me in the side with it. “Keep an eye on our girl, yeah?” She nodded towards where Violet was standing, still sipping her sugary drink.

“I always do,” I promised.

Layla winked at me and walked towards the ambulance. Not for the first time I thought about how well Layla and Violet seemed to fit. Layla’s quiet confidence seemed to calm Violet down a bit, while Violet’s enthusiasm and bubbly personality always seemed to make the frown lines of the always-shielding empath a little softer. They both loved the same music and going out to dance. I once caught them in a pretty heated discussion which Captain was better, Kirk or Picard. They were good together. Maybe when this was all over it was time for some serious matchmaking.

First, we had a case to solve. I walked over to Grey and beckoned Feldt over from where he was still standing by the yellow tape. “The killers are definitely ‘wolf,” I started as both of the werewolves stood in front of me, “any of you recognise the scent?”

Feldt shook his head.

“I don’t know them,” Grey said, his blue eyes taking in the ‘scene. “There is something weird about it.” He took a moment to collect his thoughts. Grey hadn’t been a werewolf for very long yet, I knew, being bitten by a Feral just a few years ago when he was still living in Germany. It sometimes took a moment for him to translate the wolf’s instinct to human language. “They smell like their related, but not. With family, you smell of your own person first, the scents that make up who you are. The scent of family is mixed in there, but subtle, like a perfume. But this -.” He drifted off and scented the air again. “They smell of family first, with only a few individual scents that compliment each other, but don’t overlap. Like two sides of the same coin.”

“And you’ve never encountered that before?” I prompted when he stopped speaking.

“No. He’s right,” Feldt said, “it’s weird.”

I thought back for a moment. “Could it be another witch/wolf combo, like the one in Chicago last year?” A witch had gone more crazy than usual and had charmed a werewolf into being her familiar. They went on a killing spree, cutting out hearts and consuming them to gain more power. It took weeks before they were finally stopped.

“There is no scent of magic,” Grey started as if he knew what I was thinking, “and they are definitely both ‘wolf.”

Weird. There was something off about this case. The emotions, the human and werewolf team that killed Koppenhaver, nothing added up. “Alright,” I told the two ‘wolves, “you know the drill when we’re sure we have a ‘wolf killer. Contact your Alpha’s, describe the scents, ask them if they know who might have done this, if someone has been acting strange lately, yada yada. Maybe we’ll catch a break and they’ll have some more information.”

Grey raised an eyebrow and Feldt snorted, turning it into a cough. Yeah, I didn’t believe me either.

“Harewood forest is a block away.” Grey gestured towards the end of the street. “They might have run there and hid. Ian and I will check it out.”

“Okay, we’ll go back to the precinct and see what Kravitz has for us.” I turned to Feldt. “Call your Alpha first, then try to keep the riff-raff from doing something stupid, alright?” I gestured towards the yellow line that was already gathering quite a crowd, despite the early hour and the quiet neighbourhood. Feldt nodded and hurried off.

Bent was a small neighbourhood on the edge of the city of Sweetlake City. With Benthome Lake on their left and the rest almost surrounded by Harewood Forest, they were pretty cut off from the rest of the city, almost a small village on their own. Bent was mostly one main road with free-standing houses lining the street. They had their own elementary school and a small centre with locally-owned shops and a bar. Bent was one of those neighbourhoods where everybody knew everybody, and a crime like this was sure to leave people scared.

It didn’t help that Bent was the neighbourhood with the most Believers of Sweetlake City. Even though it was small, the main road held no less that three churches. Two of those were known for preaching that ‘the Creatures’, as they loved to call the non-humans, who now outnumbered us humans two to one, were a ‘plague sent from God as punishment for our sins’. Luckily it wasn’t a popular opinion, and most Believers accepted the races that we a hundred years ago thought only belonged in fairy tales, as just another of God’s Children. But small communities like Bent, that were partially isolated, tended to draw together the humans that were set in their ways and their beliefs. They weren’t outright specist, always friendly and ready to lend a helping hand, but non-humans who moved to Bent never settled there long. Which was why it was also home to most of the Hunters that resided in Sweetlake City, I though as I spotted one of my least favourite people standing by the yellow tape line.

William Carver was in his forties, ex-military, and looked like he could take on a ‘wolf with his bare hands. And he had, while still stationed in Russia for the Winter Wars. He was bald, hiding his cold blue eyes behind a pair of sunglasses even though it really wasn’t that bright. He was also decked out in full combat gear, as if looking for a fight.

“What are you doing here, Carver?” I asked as I made my way over to him.

He shrugged. “One of my guys is on the neighbourhood watch, said they found a body this morning, pretty torn up. Sounds like ‘wolf.”

I looked over to where one of the deputies was interviewing a guy dressed in the same combat gear as Carver was. Acid and apples, so much for hoping the Hunters wouldn’t get involved.

When the Veil fell about a hundred years ago and the world was flooded with magic and refugees from another realm, humanity at first didn’t take it very well. All around the world, countries closed their borders, needing time to adjust to a host of different species and the Awakening of once human mages coming into power. Wars broke out over land and religion, rights and magical properties. Protests over the treatment of these new species and of the humans that were now outnumbered and desperately tried to cling to what they had.

After the chaos settled and people found their place in this new world, new laws were made, factions were formed. The Humans Uniting against Numinous Threats, or Hunters for short were one of these new factions, a group of humans trained to hunt and kill these new species, but only if they were found ‘uncontainable and dangerous to mankind’. Starting out as a paramilitary group in the ‘thirties, their political lobby saw them absorbed into law enforcement under the name HPA, the Human Protection Agency. But the name Hunters, and their close-mindedness stuck. I’d really hoped I could keep them out of this one.

“And why are you talking to my witnesses?” I asked.

“He texted me, I didn’t contact him,” Carver said like it wasn’t a huge breach of protocol.

I gritted my teeth, Hunters always got on my nerves with their superiority complex and barely concealed hatred, but Carver somehow always managed to get under my skin within seconds.

“It’s not your case, Carver.” I turned to walk away from him.

“Not yet, but you better hope no more bodies show up. And otherwise, call me, and we’ll handle it.”

I faced him again, crossing my arms over my chest. “Like you handled the Lito case last month?” I asked, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Carver shrugged again. “That was unfortunate, but it was a clean shooting. He came right at Korinek, ready to tear his throat out.”

“He was a seventeen-year-old boy and probably scared out of his mind!”

“Like I said: unfortunate. But sometimes these beasts are so far gone there’s nothing you can do to save them.”

I didn’t miss the glare he send to Feldt when he said that. I wanted to punch him. My hands were already clenched into fists, but I couldn’t, not without maybe losing my case. Which would mean that Carver was one step closer to getting it. No way in the nine hells. “Keep yourself and your guard dogs away from this case, Carver.” I all but growled at him.

He smiled at me, the bastard. “For now,” he agreed almost pleasantly, “but trust me, an attack this vicious, more bodies are gonna show up before the week is out. You’ve got a Feral on your hands and you know as well as I do there is only one way of dealing with those.”

I did know. Once a werewolf went Feral there was nothing that could save them. But I also knew there was more to this case than a simple Feral ‘wolf. I just needed to figure out what the hell was going on. And do it before the Hunters could swoop in with their special brand of justice and kill two more werewolves.

 

So that’s it for this week, but hang on, this story is far from over! See you next week for part 3!

Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 1)

crime-tape
Photo by Scott Olson, Getty Images

It’s Friday already? Time flies when you’re having {a much needed and well deserved} vacation. Last week I talked about writing a larger story, and I’m still working on it! It’s becoming more of a monster than I thought {introduction and first scene and I’m over 2500 words. Gasp!} so I decided to post it in pieces. So without further ado, welcome to the first part of ‘Of Wolf and Man, a Sweetlake mystery’…

The mage took off down the dark alley. Apparently the meaning of the term ‘freeze’ was lost to this guy. Then again, I guess that if you’re a homicidal maniac who killed four people with dark magic you’re not going to be intimidated by a puny human cop. That’s alright, he wouldn’t be the first Dark Sorcerer™ I’d put behind bars.

I gave chase, following his fluttering deep-purple robes through the meandrous alleyways. He veered off to the right and I followed, barely able to throw myself backwards when a nasty looking spell exploded into a shower of purple sparks on the wall opposite of me, right where I’d been a moment before. It sizzled and popped as a portion of the wall was eaten away. The guy didn’t even look back, just kept running. Alright then.

“This is Harper, I’ve got eyes on the suspect,” I spoke into my enchanted headset. “He’s heading towards Greenstreet. Be careful, he’s slinging spells.”

“Understood,” Detective Grey’s gruff voice answered.

“You be careful too, T.J.” My partner Violet warned.

I grinned even though they couldn’t see it. “Aren’t I always?” The answering huff of laughter could have been from any of them, really. The mage made a hard right into a different alley and I pulled my gun as I picked up speed.

“Last chance, Deoradhan,” I yelled as I caught sight of him again, long robes flapping dramatically. “Stop, or I’ll be forced to open fire.” Instead of stopping he flung another spell at me. It went wide and sent a dumpster flying. I aimed at a wall on his left and released a warning shot.

Deoradhan ducked and flinched, but kept running.

Fine, the hard way then. The next shot I aimed for his legs, hoping to take him down. The bullet ricocheted off of an invisible forcefield around the mage and embedded itself into the brick wall. Acid and apples, the bastard was shielding. I could keep firing, hoping to wear him out by forcing him to expend his magic, but who knew where the bullets would ricochet to. No, I’d have better luck tackling him to bring him down physically. Usually when mages shield for high-velocity projectiles they can’t withstand the slow-moving mass of a humanoid body barreling through. Besides, between the shield and the spells, he was losing energy already. He was slowing down.

Holstering my gun, I sped up, making sure I was almost on him before I reached towards his collar. I’d hoped to drag him down, or at least introduce his face to a wall, but he ducked out of the way just before I could grab him. My hand tingled from where it had reached through his shields. We rounded another corner, the mage staggering as he took the corner too wide. I took a sprint and jumped the guy, working him towards the ground. We hit the floor with a thud, forcing the air out of his lungs. I sat up on his legs and grabbed his left wrist, reaching for my ‘cuffs with my right. “Myrrdin Deoradhan, you’re under arrest for the murders of Jane Porter, Sage Wintergreen, Drayce Andvari and Eirlys Deoradhan,” I clicked the first ‘cuff around his wrist, “you have the right –“

I didn’t get any further. He reached for something around his neck. I made a desperate grab for his arm but was too slow. A wall of force slammed into my chest and sent me flying through the dark alley. My breath was punched out of me and my head hit the ground. Hard. Everything went dark and blurry for a moment.

When I snapped back to reality Deoradhan was standing over me, wand raised and aimed at my head. He looked intimidating against the dark sky, his robed form backlit by the streetlights. My heart skipped a beat as I realised that this was it, I wasn’t going to make it out of this one. He never said a word, just grinned like the psycho he was and channelled his magic through the wand, the tip glowing a sickish green hue. The wand was too close to my face, I couldn’t duck out of the way and I knew that as soon as I moved, he’d let the spell fly that would undoubtedly melt my face off.

I refused to beg.

In fact, I refused to speak at all. This was a maniac that murdered four people, one of them his own mother. He cocked his eyebrow at me, as if daring me to say anything. I glared up at him, pressing my lips into a thin line. Nothing I said or did was going to stop him. We stared at each other for a long moment. His grin widened and he shrugged with one shoulder as if to say that it didn’t matter to him if I talked or not. That killing me didn’t matter to him.

I got ready to move, whether to try and sweep his feet out from under him when he was distracted or whether to at least try and roll out of the way, I didn’t know. But I wouldn’t just lay down and die. He opened his mouth to start to spell and I started rising up to do something when a dark form jumped Deoradhan, dragging him away from me.

There was a sickening crack of bone breaking followed by a cut off human scream, probably Deoradhan. I got to my feet, the world swaying underneath me for a moment, and looked over to see Deoradhan on his back on the ground, a huge grey wolf sitting on his chest, teeth at his throat.

The mage was begging now, “No, no, no, please don’t let that thing bite me. I don’t wanna die!” He cut off with a choked sound, the wolf, well, werewolf really, putting a bit more pressure, but not biting down.

I staggered over to the pair and dropped to my knees beside them. “Like I said,” I started, yanking off his amulets when the ‘wolf moved out of my way. He sat back on his haunches on the mage’s chest, his tail thumping twice. “Myrddin Deoradhan, you’re under arrest.”

The rest of the arrest went smoothly. The ‘wolf moved out of the way and helped me roll Deoradhan over to his stomach. I cuffed him and took some time removing anything that looked remotely magical to me. I staggered over to the wall and sat back to wait until the other officers arrived. The ‘wolf climbed on the mage’s back again and sat back down, growling low in his throat every time he so much as twitched.

“Hey,” I told the ‘wolf, otherwise known as Detective Wilder Grey, “thanks for the save.”

He thumped his tail twice again, tongue lolling out of his mouth. It still looked weird, this huge, dangerous creature behaving like your average neighbourhood dog. Especially when they were just as intelligent in their wolf form as they were when human. Grey got up, still standing on our perp, and nosed the side of my head, whining softly.

I ran my hand through my hair, wincing as I touched the spot where I hit it on the street. My fingers were covered in blood when I pulled them back. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” I lied, everything was still swaying and I wasn’t sure I could stand up again.

The ‘wolf looked at me, unimpressed.

“I’ll get it checked out,” I told him, knowing he could hear the ambulance sirens in the distance.

Grey huffed out a breath as if to say ‘you’d better’, but sat back down.

I rested my hand on his shoulder for a moment, fingers clenching in his fur. Together we turned our heads towards the sound heavy footfalls approaching. Back-up had arrived.

***

The deputy standing by the yellow tape looked a little green, which was never a good sign near a crime scene, especially since the deputy in question is a werewolf. I was already regretting getting up this morning. “Morning, Feldt,” I greeted him, showing him my badge.

He looked it over for a moment before lifting the yellow tape and gesturing me through. “Morning, ma’am.”

I ducked under it and walked onto the crime scene, stifling another yawn. The showdown with Deoradhan and the following medical attention meant I hadn’t gotten home until around four in the morning. After that, my brother had woken me every two hours, at the doctor’s request of course, to check for a concussion. My poor head wasn’t concussed, but it wasn’t happy either, a splitting headache sitting just behind my eyes. So yeah, this morning was already off to a great start even before I got the call that a mauled body had been found in the Bent neighbourhood.

A man lay in the middle of the street in a large pool of blood, presumably his own. Dressed in slacks and a dress shirt that was once white, but was now soaked through with crimson. Spray tan and too much gold jewellery, I noted. Balding and what might have a been a bit of a pudge if his guts weren’t currently outside of his body. Most of his torso looked like it had been worked over with a meat grinder, which usually meant one thing: the killer was not human.

“You look like crap, Harper,” Detective Ian Andrews greeted me from where he was standing a few feet from the victim. He sipped from a Styrofoam cup which smelled like delicious, heavenly coffee.

Dammit, I should have stopped for coffee. “Not all of us can look like a spry 50 year old after chasing down a spree killer through dark alleys at three in the morning,” I told him, grinning.

“The secret is yoga and caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine.” He took another sip. “How are you holding up?” he asked, resting his hand on my arm for a moment.

“I’m fine.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“A bit shaken up,” I admitted, “but I’ll be fine. Your partner got to me in time.”

“It’s never easy looking down a barrel of a gun, or in this case, the tip of a wand. We’ve all been there. But you’re still here, that’s what’s important.”

I clapped him on the shoulder. “So, what have we got?”

He accepted my not-so-subtle change of subject and dug his notepad out of his pocket. “According to the ID and wallet our killer so helpfully left behind, victim’s name is Donald Koppenhaver, 52 years old. Kravitz is working on his background back at the precinct.”

I nodded and walked closer to the body, being mindful of where I put my feet. “Do we know what did all this – ?”

“Carnage?” My partner, Violet Bluebell, said from where she sat crouched next to the medical examiner. She was dressed in a dark pink suit today, the purple silk shirt the same colour as the tips of her short curls. Most human professionals wouldn’t be caught dead wearing an outfit like that, but somehow pixies always seem to pull it off flawlessly. Violet once told me the colours remind them of the flower-petal clothes pixies wears in their small form.

The medical examiner was gently pushing the vic’s chin back, exposing the ragged bite marks to his throat. “We think werewolf,” Layla Strong said as she carefully pulled a pluck of grey, bloodied hair away from the neck wound and put it in an evidence bag.

“Definitely werewolf.” Wilder Grey stated from right behind me. I jumped and glared at him, he gave me a shit eating grin in return. Freaking annoying stealthy werewolves. “I can smell it all over the alley. You alright?” he asked me.

“Yeah, thanks. And, you know, thanks again for – saving my life.”

He looked me over, concerned, and nodded.

“The fur is werewolf,” Violet said, “but we also found a long, grey hair and wounds that are consistent with a knife.” She gestured towards the mess that used to be his stomach.

“So either the werewolf shifted halfway through the attack, or we have two attackers,” I finished for her. “But why would he shift? If he already had a knife why not finish it this way? And if he could shift why not attack him as a wolf?” I turned to Detective Grey, “Would a werewolf and a human work together like this, normally?”

He shook his head. “No. We get pretty territorial over our kills. Unless they were both ‘wolves, but then they’d both be in the same shape.”

“Hmm. Anything stand out in particular?” I asked, “Any scent of shift-inhibitors or other drugs?”

“Nothing I can sniff out. A lot of people passed through here, but I don’t get anything out of the ordinary.”

“Alright.” I turned toward Violet where she was still crouched next to the ME. “What are we dealing with, emotionally?” I asked her.

“Desperation,” the pixie, the empath and the werewolf answered simultaneously. Yeah, that wasn’t creepy at all.

“But there’s also -” Violet paused for a moment, as if searching for the right word.

“Aggression,” Layla chimed in.

“Yeah,” Violet agreed, “like, the thrill of the hunt.” She made it sound like a question. “I don’t know, something feels weird about this.” She pushed her aqua and purple curls out of her face with her wrist. “I think I have enough for a reconstruction, though.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, holding her hands cupped towards each other. A tiny flicker of golden light appeared between her hands, blinking in and out of existence a few times before becoming a small ball of energy. The ball grew, the golden light reflecting warmly on her dark skin. She kept going, her face scrunched up in concentration, until it had about the size of a soccer ball. Then she threw her hands up, the energy flying into the air and bursting apart in a shower of golden dust.

Beside me, Grey sneezed. Werewolves always reacted weirdly to magic, especially the pixie kind.

The dust floated down, most of it disappearing before it could hit the ground. The rest seemed to cling to three invisible shapes, forming a wolf and two humanoid figures. The heavier-set man, meant to be Koppenhaver, started running, the wolf and the lithe form of the other human giving chase. Koppenhaver stopped and turned around, his hands help up in front of him. It looked like he was begging for his life. The smaller human jumped forward, grabbing him by the throat and slicing into his stomach. Koppenhaver fell to his knees, the wolf now going for his throat. The wolf rode him down to the floor, head thrashing as it tore off pieces of flesh. The lithe human stepped in again, slashing wildly into the prone form of Koppenhaver. It was brutal to watch, even acted out in sparkly glitter. Koppenhaver twitched one last time, then turned to dust once again, the other two shapes floating away on the wind.

Violet let out a sigh and listed sideways, the ME just able to catch her before she hit the ground.

“Violet!” I rushed over to her. She was still conscious, but she’d overtaxed herself. She’d had gotten just as much sleep as I had, but she’d been practising magic to boot. A glamour to calm Deoradhan down, a spell like this one to track my wild chase after him, anything to catch the guy. We were the same that way.

I turned towards one of the deputies standing around. “We need something sweet, fast.” A moment later a bottle of honeyed elderflower lemonade was pressed into my hand. I helped Violet take a few sips and gave her a couple of moments to steady again. Sugar helped, but she would be tapped out for the rest of the day. “You alright?” I asked her when she could sit up on her own again.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry about that.” She smiled and turned away, running her hand through her hair.

I grimaced at the streak of red blood now running through the turquoise. “Sweetie, gloves.”

She looked at her hand for a moment. “Ah toadstools, this is just not my day.”

Slinging my arm around her shoulder I squeezed her for a moment. “Don’t worry, you did good. We now have a place to start.” Even though the reconstructions weren’t foolproof, magic couldn’t show exactly what had happened, but pixies could feel the emotions and the atmosphere of a place and cast an illusion of what most probably had happened. It wasn’t a smoking gun, but it was a start.

“There is something still off, though. Something I’m missing.” Violet’s hand clenched in her lap in frustration.

“We’ll figure it out. We’ll catch these guys.” And we’d better do it quick, I thought, because if these guys were as aggressive as Violet had shown, there would be more bodies before the week was out.

To be continued…. So tune in next week for part 2! Are you excited yet? {I am!}

Pastel Mermaid Card

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I just love these clean cards with lots of coloured splashes! I’ve made a neon piñata and a different mermaid card like this before and it’s quickly becoming my go-to stamping method. {My friend Nikki is now calling it the ‘Marjolijn method’, enough said, right?} So when I decided I wanted to do more with my own stamps, I figured that making a splash card like this would work perfectly with my mermaid stamp.

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I used my trusty JoyCrafts Grunge set for the splashes and stamped those directly onto the white cardstock. Then I printed my mermaid and coloured it with Letraset Brushmarkers. I added some highlights with white Posca pen and added a beautiful shimmer with Nuvo Aqua Shimmer Glitter Gloss that I am absolutely in love with. Just look at the sparkles! The sentiment is a combination of Lawn Fawn Year Seven and HEMA letter stamps. The pastels really fit the softness of the mermaid and I just love how this card turned out.

You can find the lovely mermaid as a digital stamp in my Etsy shop, or click on the picture below!

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