Helkey 15 — Ivan the Troll Quits Church, Gets Triggered

Beatrice’s sleep is far from peaceful. The air — cleaned by plants from her home-world — is kind to her lungs. Their light bathes her body in soothing radiance. Sadie’s healing has washed away the pain of Ivan’s bite and poison. But she cannot rest easy as memories of her daughter falling through the Hell-Gate flicker in her mind. She turns and rolls in re-lived pain as Ivan’s demon-wolf teeth bite her again and again in dreams. Teeth like knives dripping black venom. That monster left with Mori and Sadie. Her fear for them, for her daughter, is a live-wire. So she tosses on her bed in Sadie’s healing chamber. The magic of somnos sluffs off bit-by-bit in awake moments that transition back to troubled sleep until at last she is laying on her back, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling.

She takes a breath, lets it out, lifts one lithe hand toward the tiles above depicting a star-field pattern. Not the constellations of Earth, but those of her world. Of what humans call Heaven. Not just one place. But a celestial convergence of many planets connected by mystical gateways. Lilani is what her people call the gates. And here, in this room, a temporary one sometimes forms. But not today. Today, with Asmodeus’ prophet so near, Heaven turns her gaze elsewhere.

Live reading originally recorded on the fantasyscribbler Twitch channel.

Beatrice glides off the bed. She slept in her clothes. A few quick flicks of her fingers and an utterance of the Bene Sevetur curse straightens out the wrinkles, reweaves ripped fabric, brushes her hair, cleans her skin and clothes of blood. It’s not as good as a shower and fresh clothes. But it’s close. She hopes Myra remembers Bene Sevetur. Hell is nasty, dirty, jagged. The Memory Draught shouldn’t have knocked it out. Shouldn’t… She shakes her head in frustration. She should be in Hell with Myra. She doesn’t care if it’s not part of the plan. She grits her teeth. Sticking with the plan means she’s supposed to be up here on Earth protecting Myra from afar. It goes against everything she feels for her daughter. The need to stand beside Myra burns like fire. Right now, she hates the plan.

Her rapier, kindre moss, and some bloody bandages rest on a table near the bed. She picks the rapier up. A soft glow of recognition flares from her name-curse — Lushael — as she lifts the blade. Myra’s name-curse is a magical tattoo inked into her arm. Beatrice’s own magical tattoos, each a model for Myra’s Helkey-as-name-curse design, are located on the backs of her hands and around each of her ankles. The rapier is a permanent magical device patterned to her name curse. When she picks it up, a harmonic resonance with its magic generates a quiet chime and a flash of light. Attaching the scabbard to her belt, Beatrice skips past the light-giving and air-cleaning globes hanging from the ceiling and stops at the door. It’s trying to avoid her gaze. Ignarus giving off a not-so-subtle deflection. But her trained sight locks in on it regardless. She turns the handle. Outside, the basement hall is empty. Windows show dark. It’s still night. How long did I sleep? Four, maybe five hours? Four is often enough. Her body is not, well, human. Nor is her sleep. Resting wakefulness is a fugue closer to dreaming for her. So her need for full rest is less. Sadie’s spell might’ve put her under a bit longer, though.

She walks down the hall, then bounds up the stairs. A brief glance reveals a dark and empty nave — pews bathed in shadows and illumination from outside light poles. They must be in Sadie’s office. Taking the stairs four at a time, she flies through the organ and choir loft. The next door opens easily. In a few bounds, she’s standing in front of Sadie’s office door. This is the way she prefers to move when unobserved by humans. Her angelic stride is more like flying than walking or running. But even with ignarus active, it tends to draw attention. It’s refreshing to stretch her legs unobserved.

Considering the door, she checks to make sure ignarus is still working. The curse energy feeding it runs strong and her reservoir brims full. She used up most of her allotment in the fight with Ivan and his Pride Eaters. Her rest in the healing chamber has restored it. Concentrating, she modifies the structure of her ignarus to cover her more generally, not just to mask her supernatural activity. She’s hiding. Not from Sadie and Mori. They’ll notice her anyway. From the devil’s tool who nearly killed her. From Ivan. Sadie might hold out hope for Ivan’s usefulness. Beatrice sure as Hell doesn’t. She respects Sadie’s strategy of trying to steal Volkov away from Asmodeus. But she doesn’t fully support it. Ivan is far-gone, corrupted by demons, deadly. Most of all, he’s untrustworthy. Treacherous. She wasn’t going to let Asmodeus’ Prophet on Earth harm her husband Mori or her dear friend Sadie.

She can hear them sleeping in the room beyond. Sadie must’ve thrown out cots for everyone. Quiet as a mouse, she opens the door and slips in. Her eyes take no time adjusting to the dark. Ivan’s resting in the fetal position on a roll-out cot. She slinks over to it. Puts a hand on her rapier. He looks so small. So ridiculous in his priest’s robe. Deceptive. Because he is far from harmless. Two quick thrusts of her rapier and no more Ivan. No more threat of Asmodeus’ prophet rampaging over the Earth. It’s tempting. She squeezes the handle but doesn’t draw. What is this rage? This fearful urge to kill to protect? I’m acting like Mori. Sadie wants him to turn Asmodeus’ gaze from Myra. Didn’t we do it at Furze Bank? Ivan as demon-wolf called a hunt. That should be more than enough distraction. What good comes of keeping him? She stands over the Russian a few moments longer, struggling with the feeling rooting deep in her gut that Ivan will murder many if left free to complete his transformation.

Beatrice turns away in disgust and drifts over to Sadie who’s asleep on the couch, her head hanging over the edge. Sadie’s face is placid. Oh you’re a good thinker, Sadie. I do trust you. It’s just you seem inclined to keep danger closer than comfort. She gently repositions Sadie’s head on a cushion. After, the priestess seems to sleep more soundly. She glances back at Ivan. Just be right this time, Sadie Dextera.

Spinning softly, Beatrice makes her way to Mori’s form which is sprawled out in one of Sadie’s comfy chairs. His mouth is open and he’s snoring. It’s not too loud. But it is a little amusing. She stifles a laugh. The glow of a magical sensor hovers over his head. Omnis scienta. He’s keeping a third eye watch while asleep. The sensor tilts toward her. Mori stirs from slumber. Without a sound, she folds herself onto the floor next to his chair — keeping the chair between her and Ivan. She doesn’t want the wolf to know she’s back if he wakes up. Ignarus can only do so much. Mori leans down toward her and plants a kiss on her cheek.

“Glad to see you up and about, sweetheart,” he whispers. “We had a little scare, didn’t we?”

She hisses an affirmation through her teeth, reaching up to take his hand. “An outrageously painful one,” she looks toward Ivan through the chair, imagining his demon-wolf form again. “Sadie still set to use him for a distraction? Wasn’t what we did enough?”

Mori gives a soft cough. “You don’t know the half of it. Sadie wants to take Ivan to Heaven.”

“So she’s going to try to save the Wolf from Hell’s grasp? Now that’s ambitious.”

“Our plan isn’t?”

“Oh it most certainly is.” Their plan to break Myra into Hell and everything after is flat-out crazy. “Well Sadie will complete the insanity. What would Myra say? ‘Mission madness accomplished.'”

“That sounds like her. I know you miss her, babe.”

“It’s hard. She’s still just a kid.”

“Parents always think that.”

“Truth doesn’t make it one ounce easier. I suppose this is what it’s like being a parent on Earth. Fated to send your children toward disaster?”

“It’s not always like that. Just is now. Myra’s tough. She can handle it.”

“Something you keep saying…”

“… It makes me feel better, at least.”

Beatrice lets out a long sigh. She’s still holding Mori’s hand. But she’s angry with him too. Angry at herself. Angry at the situation. “I’m going to be afraid for her for a long time. I’m going to be angry at my own helplessness to change things for her for forever.”

There’s some movement on the other side of the chair. Mori puts a finger over his lips. Beatrice leans forward, glancing around the chair. Ivan is rising to a sitting position. He rubs his eyes, looking over Sadie and the seeming-sleeping Mori. Ignarus is doing some work here. Though Mori put his back toward Ivan while speaking softly to Beatrice. So even if Ivan’s demon-enhanced senses push past the ignore-it curse, he probably won’t notice Mori is awake.

“Tserkov vonyuchiy,” he mutters to himself as he stands up, stretches, then moves to the door. When he reaches it, he fiddles with the latch, opens it without much noise, then slips out.

“Oh Hell no,” Mori says as he stands, scooping up his briefcase.

Beatrice springs up into a crouch then grabs his hand as he makes for the door. “Wait. Maybe we should follow him for a spell. See what he’s up to?”

“It’s not the worst idea.” They’re now crossing the room, leaving Sadie behind. They enter the hall, relying mostly on ignarus to mask them if Ivan’s within sight. By the time he’s on the stairs he seems to reconsider. “Maybe it’s not the worst idea.”

“We watch him, then collect him, come back, tell Sadie what happens.” Beatrice whispers this, then bounds down the hall. Mori shuffles behind. She makes the stairs and gets eyes on the top of Ivan’s head — giving Mori the signal she’s still got him in sight.

“OK. But we don’t give him much leash. Right?” Mori’s caught up to her at the top of the stairs.

“Would never dream of giving that one too much leash.” Beatrice waits ’til Ivan reaches the nave, then jumps down to the choir loft in one silent leap. She peeks over the railing at Ivan, letting her body lean out ’til her head is upside down, torso over the outside railing, legs thrust out for balance. Her eyes peer across the first floor ceiling beneath the choir loft and into the narthex. If Ivan turns around now, if he can pierce ignarus, he’ll only see Beatrice’s upside-down head appearing to sprout from the narthex ceiling’s edge, platinum hair trailing down, crystal eyes sparkling. He doesn’t. He’s too focused on the door. It seems to be giving him trouble. He jiggles it for a second. Spits out a few Blyats in Russian. Seems to figure it out. Then, finally, opens it.

Beatrice hears Mori reach the choir loft, gives him the thumbs up, then somersaults over the railing to land on her feet between the pews. Ivan is closing the door behind him and again misses the nimble Beatrice. She has enough time to run up and grab the handle just as the door closes, pushing it open a crack to observe Ivan. He’s making his way across the dark, cobble-stone traffic circle. Looking left and right, he trots over to the road, looks for traffic, then jogs across.

Mori has caught up to Beatrice, his ever-present brief-case in hand. “Let’s go,” she says and then lunges out into the night after Ivan. She can see him well. It’s late and the sidewalk traffic is sparse. At some point, Mori incants una and a second sight from omnis scienta outlining Ivan in a glowing tracery enhances her vision. They follow him into a Berlin late-night district. The Russian seems to know where he’s going. Passersby are occasionally whooping or making remarks at his priest robes. He ignores them. They come to a fountain, he turns left toward a late-night bar. It’s called Mio and is not far from St. Mary’s Church. Ivan must really know his bars. He enters, mounts a stool, and puts a hand out for the bar tender. Mori and Beatrice take one of the outside seats, dialing down ignarus to exclude the wait-staff. The night-time temperature has cooled to pleasant, though the smell of smoke from wildfires lingers. It’s around 2 AM and there are still a good number of people enjoying drinks or a snack.

Omnis scienta sends Mori and Beatrice a stream of information. Thankfully, Mori has also woven an interpretor curse into their magical sensor. So the words coming to them are translated from German into English.

“Ah, Ivan, welcome back to Mio,” the bartender says. He looks the Russian up and down, noting his dress. “Coming from a costume party? You don’t strike me as the religious type.”

Ivan chuckles, is eyes reflect the bar’s red and golden lighting. “Bertrand, it’s refreshing to see you again. Yes. Costume party is good description. It was… lively. Need good, strong drink. You’ll honor my tab?”

Betrand picks up a glass from the rack and gestures to the bottles behind him. “Your usual?” He points at a bottle of Dalmore 25 Year Scotch whiskey.

“Da. Large ice ball.”

Betrand produces the ice from a steaming refrigerator, plinks it into the glass, and pours the brown liquid. Screens are playing various sports and news in the background. A young couple sits down near Ivan. He rolls the liquid around in the glass, then takes a long, satisfied sip. “Ah! Nebesa,” he says, savoring the drink. He leans over to watch a news screen, casting his gaze toward Lupine — a major conservative media outlet. They’re covering boatloads of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa. Endless heatwaves and droughts now wrack the continent, making large portions of it unfarmable. Summer heatwaves produce Death Valley temperatures — killing animals and humans both by the thousands. The tide of humanity fleeing north has swollen into the millions. Lupine, a major source of climate denial and deflection, doesn’t say a word about climate crisis. The news commentator instead spews xenophobia.

Ivan seems taken in, watching with interest as the commentators lie on and on about ‘migrant armadas invading Europe, straining the medical and housing system, flooding streets with rapists and drug pushers.’ He finishes his drink. He’s relaxing. Getting back into his element. A grin creeps onto his face as he basks in the alcohol-tinged hate media. He orders another drink, then begins muttering under his breath. One of the other patrons standing at the bar near Ivan is dark-skinned. The hair on his head is styled in corn-rows. He’s tall, well built, dressed in a tailored business suit. Beatrice thinks he looks sharp. Ivan notices him — shifting his gaze between the hate-media and the man. Ivan finishes his second drink. Orders a third, then sidles over to Mr. tall, dark, and well-dressed.

“Welp, this looks bad,” says Mori.

“You think?”

Ivan puts a hand on the bar beside the man, signaling to Bertrand. “Get the newcomer Nigerian fresh from boat here another drink. On my tab.” He smirks as he speaks, pointing at the well-dressed gentleman with his thumb. Ivan is speaking German. The man doesn’t understand what he’s saying. But there’s something about Ivan’s flippant and derogatory tone he keys into.

“Excuse me, what did you just say?” He asks in English, turning to face Ivan.

“Ah. English. I see. What your name?” Ivan asks, brows lowered, his little beady eyes glistening.

“Eh… Jonas. Jonas Herrington.”

Mori crow-cackles. Beatrice splutters, choking on the sparkling water she ordered during their little stake-out. “That’s the Baltimore Ravens quarterback, isn’t it?” She might be an angel. But she didn’t arrive on Earth just yesterday.

“That’s him all right. Damn spitting image too.”

Ivan doesn’t seem to get it, though. Or he’s being willfully ignorant. Regardless, he just trundles along. “Bertrand. Please get Jonas — my Nigerian boat rider friend here another drink. I think Spade Champagne is good. He must be thirsty after long trip. On my tab.”

Jonas stands up from his bar-stool, displaying his full height. Ivan looks up. He purses his lips, making a pouty, mocking mouth. Just as Jonas stands, there’s a commotion behind the bar. The sound of a ring-tone, of Bertrand answering, then shuffling over to Ivan with a surprised look on his face.

“It’s for you. Says the name is Crane,” Bertrand hands the phone to Ivan, careful not to get between the little Russian and the towering QB. Ivan takes the phone. Omnis scienta suddenly flares. The phone sparks and tongues of magical flame rise up from it. Ivan is unperturbed. The flames don’t physically burn him. Beatrice doubts he can even see them. He lifts the phone to his ear. Red tendrils ooze out of the receiver, crawl over Ivan’s head, run down Ivan’s back, and enter his wound.

“What the Hell is that?” Mori leans forward, as if getting closer’s somehow going to give him more information on the magical phenomena affecting Ivan.

Beatrice tenses, her eyes swirling with the light of magical detection. “That’s diabolical influence. It’s using the Pride Eater’s tether.”

“Holy shit! Through the phone?? What can do that?”

“Something with an extraordinary excess of diabolical power.”

As Beatrice and Mori scramble, Jonas leans down. “Little man — did you just call me a fucking spade?”

Ivan lifts his hand in front of Jonas, one finger raised. His eyes are sparking red. Beatrice and Mori see the tendrils pulse. They are pumping devil magic into Ivan. His robe shifts as the flesh beneath gives a spasm. “Da? … Da, I Accept.” He says into the speaker. Through omnis scienta there’s the broken crackle of a voice on the other line. It’s too distorted to understand. Ivan listens and nods a few times. He seems to be giddy about Jonas getting in his face. His lips form into a toothy grin that threatens more than it smiles.

Through their shared magical sight, Mori and Beatrice watch the tendrils thicken as a pulsing orange-and–golden ring forms around Ivan’s ear where it contacts the cellphone receiver. He smiles, finishes the call. The golden-orange ring over his ear remains. It keeps the magical tendrils alive even as Ivan hands Bertrand his phone back. Beneath the tendrils Ivan’s flesh sweats. Some of his hair lengthens. His teeth grow pointed. The bar tender, oblivious to Ivan’s subtle alterations, places the glass of Spade Champagne in front of Jonas, who is still glowering down at Ivan.

“What wrong? You not like? I say — spade for spade,” Ivan gives Jonas a pointy-toothed grin. His muscles gather beneath the robe. Bulging to unnatural size. It looks as if Ivan is about to pounce.

Beatrice and Mori spring into motion. Beatrice leaps through the open window, clears an occupied table, and lands near the bar. Her rapier springs into her hand. White energy wreaths around it as she lunges forward, eyes focused on the ring of diabolical energy triggering Ivan’s transformation and rage. Mori is running in behind Beatrice, his hand reaching out toward Jonas. Jonas hasn’t yet noticed either of them. He’s too busy with Ivan. People in the bar gasp with surprise — both at Beatrice’s glowing sword momentarily breaking through the ‘ignore it’ curse and at the spectacle unfolding near the bar.

“You weirdo little…” Jonas is saying as he looks over Ivan’s robe, takes in the excess hair, recoils at Ivan’s teeth “…hairy priest? Look, I don’t need your damn racist remarks. And this is what you can do with your fucking drink.” Jonas picks the glass of champagne up, hoists it into the air over Ivan’s head, then dumps it. The fizzy drink splashes over Ivan as he lunges forward. He growls. His face contorts. The tendrils flicker, forming his mouth into the elongating jaws of a wolf. He clamps down on Jonas’ arm.

“What the goddamn fuck!?” Jonas shouts in terror.

Confractus!” Beatrice incants as she strikes the glowing diabolical ring on Ivan’s head with the flat of her sword. “Clypeus!” Mori follows as he flings a protective barrier in front of Jonas. Beatrice’s blade spikes with white light. The diabolical ring hisses with this contact, then shatters. Pieces of it fly through the bar, leaving smoking trails in the air before landing on the ground as bits of charred ash. Mori’s protective barrier shoves Ivan’s wolf-mouth away from Jonas. Venomous spittle falls to the ground, hissing. But Jonas is otherwise unharmed. With the formed ring of diabolical energy now gone, the tendrils retreat and Ivan seems to deflate.

“This man assaulted me!” Ivan shouts as he lurches away from Jonas, wiping his mouth with one hand and holding the side of his head with the other. Wet hair plasters the side of his face. He’s glaring at Beatrice and Mori while pointing at Jonas. His split focus might be comical if the situation weren’t so awful.

Jonas swats Ivan aside like a gnat as two bouncers emerge from their post near the front door. He looks at Mori and Beatrice with raised eyebrows, freaking out. “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK, he says, making a calming gesture with his hands. The drinks here were sourin’ on me anyway.” Jonas turns, starts to rush toward the door, then stops. “I don’t know what the fuck just happened,” he says to Beatrice and Mori. “But I get the feeling you guys just saved my ass from something nasty. Here’s some thanks.” He pulls a chip card out of his pocket and drops it into Mori’s hand. “You and your girl come states-side for a game, you’re on my dime now.” Then, holding his head high and whistling past the graveyard, he strides out the door.

Beatrice’s eyes fall to the card in Mori’s hand. It reads Diamond Fan Pass — All Access. She puts a hand on Ivan’s collar. “Time to go, you old troll.”

He leans back, resisting her pull, still holding the side of his head. He glares at her. She can feel malice like heat on her skin. She instinctively pivots back, shifting away from him even as she maintains hold of his collar. The bar patrons and waiters are finally recovering from their shock. Ignarus is causing their eyes to glaze with forgetfulness. There is a pause, and then the nightlife resumes as if nothing happened.

“Haven’t gotten into enough trouble for one night?” Beatrice says to Ivan as she plunks some cash on the bar. Bertrand scoops it up without missing a beat. “Perhaps Sadie will reconsider her offer after hearing about this hateful outburst.”

Ivan deflates a little. “Da, Da. Just wanted drink. To blow off steam.” He pulls his hand away from his head, looks at his hand. Seems to expect to see blood but doesn’t. Then puts his hand back to his head. “Blyat! You struck head again. ” He snaps. Beatrice hopes his ear is ringing. He walks along beside Beatrice, pursing his lips. He is red-faced — his expression ranging from anger to shame. Beatrice is quite sure the shame part won’t last.

“You deserved it,” Mori croaks, escorting Ivan out of the bar and into the street. “Any more trollish steam coming from you and we’d be picking famous pro football player parts off the floor. So you need to fucking cool it.” His face is red, jaw clenched in barely controlled fury. He shoots Beatrice a look that says — This is what we have to babysit for who knows how long? They walk out onto the street and turn back toward St. Mary’s Church. “And what was up with that goddamn phone? That was some serious bad mojo.”

Beatrice silently agrees. This is serious. Deadly serious. Something literally dialed Ivan’s number in to trigger a transformation. To trigger his Pride-Eater wound-as-conduit for diabolical magic. Who or what, Beatrice doesn’t dare guess. But the weight in her gut keeps warning her it’s something awful. And Ivan isn’t helping with his rage addiction. Pride and hate — a vicious combination. Not that she expected anything different. Asmodeus sure knew how to pick the willingly corruptible.

(Haven’t yet read the first chapter? You can find it here: Helkey 1 — The Memory Draught.)

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

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  1. We return to the tale! Some edits and corrections to follow. Video blog and map art pending. It’s great to be back!


  2. Third edit complete. Map art 30 percent complete. Video blog and podcast 0 percent complete. Moving on to begin Chapter 16.


  1. Helkey Table of Contents | Scribbler’s Fantastical Workshop

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