Helkey 2 — The Golden Throne

Holy shit. Holy shit! Holy shit!! We are going to break into hell!!!

The recognition causes goose flesh to immediately break out all over my body. I begin to notice the strange sounds of people talking – notably the strange words. To recognize the strange street signs outside and the subtle, not-American look to the whole place. I glance around at the Starbucks again. It isn’t just any Starbucks. It’s a German Starbucks. One bustling with German people speaking, well, German and reading from German menus. The lay of the land and the sprawling city outside reveal a place that has long held a mysterious if ominous allure for me.

We’re in Berlin!

(Reading via video blog)

Man, this is one heck of a summer vacation. If you can accurately call it anything close to a vacation. More like watching the start to a Stephen King horror show while experimenting with magically enhanced mind-altering drugs. And my continuing feeling of not knowing what the hell is going on combined with a pervasive sense of disorientation is making me start to think this is all a very bad idea.

There are still so many bits missing… Obviously, I was part of one of my parent’s big plans. Something they filled me in on over the years. But now, because of the potion, I didn’t know squat.

“Uh, guys, if we’re going to break into Hell, then why the hell are we in metropolitan Germany?”

Mori and Beatrice share a look. It’s one of those – yeah, the potion worked better than we expected, perhaps too good kind of looks.

“Because, my dear,” Beatrice explains, “There’s a gateway to Hell on the top floor of the big bank building HQ just blocks from here.”

“It’s in the shitter,” Mori adds nonchalantly.

“To put it bluntly, it is the shitter,” Beatrice adds.

At those words, the memory starts to seep back. Furze Bank HQ is situated directly in the center of Berlin. It’s in this gigantic glass and iron tower. Looming over the city like some modern recreation of a medieval castle. On the top floor of that sky-scraper is a gilded bathroom that houses a great golden toilet. But this isn’t just your run-of-the mill opulent bathroom. This bathroom comes with a special window that allows those seated on the toilet to look out over the entire city of Berlin and its environs. To get the impression that one is sitting on the top of the world and shitting all over it.

“The Furze Bank HQ executive water closet. An appropriate metaphor of the sad mentality of many of this era’s richest people,” I observe with posed eloquence. “I think even my tight-ass AP English Lit teacher would appreciate the symbolism.” I laugh nervously at my own joke, still unable to shake a growing sense of dread. What’s the matter with us? – I ask myself silently, wanting to scream the words at my parents. Why would we ever plan to do anything so stupid as attempt to break into Hell?

“Ah, so you are starting to remember,” Beatrice replies with a wink. “Good.”

“Indeed, we live in the Age of Gilded Crappers,” Mori adds with dry humor. “And this particular crapper is our ticket, girls. A one-way ride straight to the worst place in the multiverse.”

So just between you, me and the wall, and because I really am starting to remember as Beatrice just observed, gateways to Hell are weird. I mean, really fracking weird even for a girl who grew up raised by actual live garden gnome nannies (redcaps are mean!) and with two of the strangest Martian ducks on the planet for parents. OK, well, they really aren’t Martian ducks. But you get the picture.

Now these gateways to Hell come in two forms. The first is a mostly permanent gateway. And there aren’t very many of those – about 13 or so correspondently existing during any given age and at any given time. One such monstrosity gapes its spiritual maw wide not far from here in the ruins of Auschwitz. Another lurks in the ground below the central point of impact at Hiroshima. And one just recently collapsed into existence in the thawing permafrost at a place called Yamal – which happens to mean ‘the end of the world’ – in Russia. Permanent Hell gates tend to form where bad shit has happened or is likely to happen. Places where fear or greed or war or neglect or blind pride or wanton lust or outright rage or abuse of innocents or of nature itself has resulted in or is all-too-certain to cause something goddamnbadaweful. And though they’re not exactly completely permanent, they can last for years, decades, even centuries.

Going into one of those gates is dangerous. They are watched by mysterious, strange and powerful beings that defy mortal understanding. Beings that are typically unable to cross over the boundary into our world, but who can nonetheless draw in our negative emotions in a manner similar to a crack junkie puffing away on the water bong pipe. Who gather in the event that some poor sod might die near the mouth of such a gate and be drawn in – at which point a feeding frenzy is likely to begin.

Of course, some idiot mage possessed of the right curses and understanding might actively cast themselves across such a permanent barrier. But this course is decidedly not advisable. If you want to have your wisp ripped directly out of your recently decapitated or otherwise mauled, mangled, or killed corpus, and used to feed the awful engines and forges of power-mad Asmodeus, then try to enter Hell by one of those gates. My parents, both possessed of not your average share of intelligence and badassery, would never try such a stupid thing. But, yeah, if you’re badder than the rest of us or have a death wish combined with a lust to experience spiritual torture before the ultimate and most terrible of all ends that could ever possibly befall any poor being, then be my friggin guest.

Us? Well we – meaning me, Mori, and Beatrice – have found our own private gateway into Hell. It’s not a regular permanent gate. But it is a pretty regular dump, as the case may be…

You see, the second kind of Hell Gate can form under almost any nefarious circumstance that provokes a very strong negative emotion. Murder scenes, for example, are pretty much certain to open one. War zones too. And you can often find the things yawning open pretty frequently at the various trading floors around the world during times of big booms or busts. Greed, fear, overweening pride, mass death can all serve as a key. A Helkey. A thing that attracts demons who subsequently shape a rift to peer in on the unsuspecting bad actors of our present world. These watchers aren’t usually as powerful or dangerous or numerous as those creatures that tend to mass around the permanent gates. So entry isn’t quite as dangerous. Of course, confronting even the demons of a temporary Hell Gate is still a serious risk. And temporary gates present their own unique challenges. Most are either unpredictable or open in Earthly locations that are dangerous, filled with snoopy cops, or are otherwise simply chaotic. If we are going to be bat shit crazy enough to try to get in to Hell, then we want both a safer route and one that is predictable.

And that’s where Ivan Volkov comes in.

Ivan is a big investor from mother Russia. Us mages suspect that he’s here in Germany laundering or attempting to launder money for the various powerful Russian oil oligarchs who’ve looted billions in public funds and turned it into private wealth. People who do these kinds of things and get away with it often have an over-developed sense of self-worth. They tend to view other people not as real persons, but as objects. In the case of Ivan, Ivan the Wolf as his friends like to call him, he appears to get a ridiculously and maniacally prideful rush from the notion of sitting at the top of the world and shitting all over the rest of us plebes. This self-deifying pride and enjoyment over the imagined degradation of fellow human beings is enough to attract the attention of more than a just a few demons. Demons possessed of coldly cruel minds both utterly bestial and yet also advanced beyond human comprehension. Beings once orphaned from our world but now entirely alien to it. Creatures trapped in a broken world of poison airs and ash that are yet capable of lifting their grasping limbs to stroke the ether and to tear an opening between Hell and the Earth at precisely 630 PM Berlin time every day to look in on baleful Ivan as he ascends the grand glass tower, enters the gilded throne room, unceremoniously drops trou, puts his self-imagined royal ass on the seat of a golden toilet, and begins to unleash the pent-up volume of his great bowls upon a quietly unsuspecting world.

And so Ivan’s big daily shit is our big opportunity. If opportunity is at all the right word for describing such an insane enterprise as entering Hell through a toilet bowl swarming with demons.

(Haven’t read the first chapter? Check it out here.)

(Looking for another chapter? Find it in this Table of Contents.)

Helkey 1 — The Memory Draught

Having parts of your memory selectively erased is not fun. Not fun at all.

I’m sitting here in fracking Starbucks, watching the damned almond milk in my coffee swirl into a dizzying tempest. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t for the life of me remember what I was thinking about only a minute ago. I’m sure it was important. Otherwise, both my parents wouldn’t be sitting here at this table with me – concern settling over their faces. Worse, there are nagging lost patches. Missing spaces in my recollection of weeks, months, even years gone by. It’s as if my recall has been hit with buckshot and big pieces of my past are now all blown to smithereens.

(Reading via video blog)

I remember taking my AP English finals a few days ago, for sure. Whatever had swiped my memory hadn’t spared me that ordeal. All the pretentious questions and annoying rote bits I had to ‘creatively’ rephrase as if a hundred million students across the world hadn’t done the same thing a bazillion times over. But I can’t at all remember the drive to school or even whether I took the bus that day. It goes on – my fifteenth birthday party two years ago is perfectly clear, complete with the spectacular surprise fireworks launched over the beach by dad as my mischievously grinning fellow ‘gamer-girl’ friends ran a candle-studded D20 cake out to me. But the walk I took later that night with mom is mostly blanked out. All I remember is the start and end of another of her seaside chats – but none of the meat of what passed between us.

I feel robbed and alone. Alone even though both my parents are sitting directly across from me, eyeing me over their own broad and steaming mugs. Their scrutiny makes me feel paralyzed, helpless, and compared to them, ignorant. It’s fracking embarrassing. As if I’m under special, home-care, medical observation. And I don’t even know why.

A few rays cast off by the setting sun stream through the rain-spattered Starbucks window. They shoot out through a break in the clouds and warm my left arm – which immediately begins to itch. I shift the arm away from the light, ignoring the impulse to scratch.

I know why it itches – there’s a mostly invisible magical tattoo etched in my flesh. One that tingles irritably in sunlight or flickers with dark sparks by the light of the moon. An arching and swooping channel for the energy of stored curses all linked to one, powerful, central curse. But I can’t recall what that power is to be used for or, or where it comes from, or how it will manifest. It’s a really important bit to remember, I’m sure. Like any one of us forgetting the password to our smartphone at the exact time we need to call 911.

I pat at my head. Gently probing for damage. Wondering why it aches so badly as I scan the room. Everyone’s just going about their business, taking no notice of myself or my two odd-bird parents across the table from me.

“What the hell were we just talking about anyway?” I ask my dad.

He’s a thin, wiry guy named Robert Mori. About 5’ 11”. Dark hair all spikey and disheveled. His perpetual wry, ironic grin that kind of says – ‘I know Murphy’s a bastard… but yeah, shit gonna happen, so you might as well just grin about it and deal’ painting his face. He turns to my mom – Beatrice Lushael – with eyebrows raised. Her white skin, mithril hair, pale outfit, silver scabbarded rapier, and light-gray boots contrast with his navy jeans, T-shirt, and black leather jacket. Where he’s got the whole cool, edgy writer dude who looks like he owns a motorcycle and listens to heavy metal thing going on, she has an entirely otherworldly vibe. Like her diminutive 5’ 4” frame was instantly teleported out of some different time or place. A where or when full of people that vaguely look like elves or angels or Kryptonians or Vulcans or some other idealized fictional re-rendering of us regular humans.

Me? I’m Myra. Myra Helkey.

I share my dad’s dark, spikey doo. But it is almost shoulder length now and I recently dyed streaks of it red. I sprouted past mom’s height by age 14 and now have at least three inches on her. Regarding my reflection in the pane of glass, I thumb my spiked wrist-band. The combat boots, black leggings, shades of imperial blue flannel shirt unbuttoned with the arms rolled up and a fiery phoenix white T underneath I guess combine to make me look like a tough girl. That or just another punk-ass geek. Although for some reason I wonder if I should have just gone full-out unholy. It feels like an unholy kind of day.

“Looks like it worked,” Mori says in his gravelly voice.

“Yee-ep,” Beatrice replies, somehow musically, a thin smirk gracing her waifish face, “the kid is in the zone.”

My own face must be saying WTF??? in about a hundred ways because she giggles at me.

“Myra, you have the absolute best range of expressions. I can read your mind just by looking at you. You must get it from Mori.” She gently pokes me on my still-aching forehead. It actually starts to feel better when she touches it. Coolness soothing out from the point of soft impact. But I’m still annoyed.

To this, my dad caws out one of his harsh laughs. But he pats my arm reassuringly and says “Be nice, Beatrice. You know it’s one hell of a shock. Give the kid a break, OK?”

“Are you guys gonna key me in or just keep laughing at me and pretending I’m not here?” I’m really getting pissed. And the general continued sense of disorientation isn’t helping. My folks are great and all. Probably some of the best – and that ain’t even half the story. But they sometimes really seem to enjoy jerking peoples’ chains. Even if people, in this case, includes their daughter.

My father turns to me, his dark eyes assessing, revealing mild concern. “Myra, you remember the plan at least, don’t ya? The memory draught?”

Beatrice uncurls her fingers to show a small vial with a purplish liquid sloshing around in it before rolling it back up into her hand – out of sight. Apparently, no-one but the three of us conspirators at the corner table sees any of it. The sight of the memory draught sets off a slow-motion recognition-shock in my already addled brain that takes a few seconds to run its course.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *         *        *        *        *        *        *        *

If you hadn’t already guessed from all the obvious weirdness going down, the memory draught reference should’ve clued you in that something isn’t quite right and that we ain’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. But considering how much trouble I’m having catching up, I can understand how you might be a little confused yourself. So, let me just lay it out on the table for ya: my parents are both mages. Even sensitive items like memory draughts are a part of their all-too-supernatural business, and by extension, mine.

You see, I’m a mage too.

That’s it. Me and my folks are mages. Weird mage people with weird mage names doing weird mage things. Names? You may have wondered about those. My parents and I don’t share names like regular people. Well, in the mundane world we do. There we’re all the Hansens. Boring! But our real names, our mage names, each have a meaning that keys into the source and manifestation of our power. In short, my dad’s name – Mori – means to kill or to die. Pretty ominous, huh? Lushael is a really strange one – it means rain of stars. Yeah. Kinda badass and poetic at the same time – which defines mom to a T. And me, well my name – Helkey – should have a pretty obvious meaning.

We’re all mages and we’re all pretty much constantly involved in some kind of magical drama – be it simple or dastardly complex. For example, twenty minutes ago my mom just waltzed on into Starbucks armed with a deadly-sharp rapier completely unnoticed. Such a thing may seem weird and wildly illegal to you. Something likely to result in arrest or at least some serious questioning at the local down-town police station. But it’s no big deal for mage-types like her. She does it all the time. In fact, considering that various extremely nasty beings might pop up on her unawares at any given moment it’s abso-figgin-lutely necessary that she carry such an item. Besides, it’s no trouble for her to hide the blade’s existence from most casual onlookers. A simple ignore it curse is all she needs to distract the attention of pretty much every mundane away from the lethal 36-inch length of sharpened, enchanted metal dangling from her belt. And that Beatrice is a real master curse-crafter – so don’t get on her bad side, clue?

But a magical contraband memory draught is something on a whole ‘nother level. A sensitive item like that might draw some real attention if any other weirdos like us happen to be lurking around. They might start asking questions and that’s best avoided because those things are dangerous and powerful. Possibly personality-altering. Even the best-channeled ones can be unreliable. They are supposed to be temporary. But the effects can last for any period from hours to years. And parents administering such potent potables to teen-age kids like little ol’ me might be seen as abusive by an outsider.

And besides, even if I’m still not yet cluing in, we obviously do have a plan. A very secret one if I’ve just been given a memory draught chased down with a Starbucks coffee. If mom and dad have given me one of those, big ba-da-boom to the ol’ brain, things, it would be for one heck of a good reason. Which probably means that what I knew before I took the draught was self-endangering.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

My shoulders slump and I settle deeper into my chair as realization begins to spark in my addled brain. I’m feeling kinda sick and unable to force myself to drink the rest of the strong-smelling brew before me. I also feel like a bomb just went off nearby – even though the shop is full of lively, happy, and amicably-chatting, if somehow-foreign, people and not strewn with prone bodies and shattered glass in a tinnitus-ringing aftermath. My stomach does a loop-de-loop like those big upside-down curves of the Lock Ness Monster roller coaster at Bush Gardens.

The plan!

“Holy shit!” I say, perhaps too loudly due to my sudden, shock-inducing recollection:


Mori cracks his best raven-jawed smile and Beatrice nods solemnly. “That, my girl, is indeed the plan,” he replies.

(Want to read the second chapter? Follow this link.)

(Looking for another chapter? You can find it here.)

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