Helkey 7 – A Mirror Specter on the Beach of Infernia

I’m lying on the ground staring up at a putrid green sky. Trying to fracking breathe. The rotten eggs stench is overwhelming. A hot wind blows over some nearby sand dunes. It’s pretty damn strong – blasting hot sand over my skin which is quickly making it raw. This wind is carrying the stench I’m smelling. No relief from the heat either. Like air blowing out of a furnace.

I lever myself up onto wobbly legs. I look over my shoulder. The Hell Gate I came from is gone. I stare around. Nothing but sand dunes and gnarly scrub plants that look like twisted fingers sprouting serrated blade-shaped yellow leaves nearby. Some of the lower areas are damp and filled with green and purplish mud. To my west, the land rises into a rocky up-thrust among dunes. North and west, the dunes continue, backed by a distant wicked finger of some dark metal structure looming over dead lands. It oozes black smoke. The wind churning over the dunes makes a hollow wailing sound. It’s so crazy-hot I’m already dripping sweat. Thank gods I’m wearing my combat boots. Otherwise, my feet would be scorched five times over.

There is a sound of a bell ringing. It’s weird, out of place. I look around. There is no fracking bell tower – just dunes, those mean ass plants and… my searching eyes alight on a fricking skeleton on the back side of one of the dunes. It’s of some long reptilian creature with wicked looking jaws. Sooo fracking great! The bell rings again. Now I realize it’s familiar, reminding me of Beatrice. Then I remember – I heard the same sound when mom touched my forehead back at Starbucks. The displaced bell rings three more times, telling me that the time is 7-o-frigging clock. Like I need a timepiece in Hell. Well, scratch that, maybe I do.

When the bell stops ringing an apparition appears in the air in front of me. No. It is not Princess Leia. It’s me. I mean, the spitting image of me in the mirror in the damn morning in a nice safe bathroom in not Hell but on normal good ol’ Earth. Well, not literally in the bathroom mirror. A floating image of only me with no background. Just what I look like right after I’ve had a shower – all nicely dressed and clean. Except this me is the one before my current haircut. The hair is longer and tied back in a pony tail. It doesn’t yet have the red streaks. So, spitting image of me from like two weeks ago. 

“Hey Myra,” The apparition says. “I’m the Mirror Specter you made before you took up this crazy ass quest.”

So it’s a quest now, is it? Sand blows around the image as clouds begin to cross the merciless sun. I hardly feel any cooler. Like that mean sun knows where I am and can shoot beams at me even through the clouds. My left hand is dropping sparks like, well, a hand-held sparkler. So I figure the Mirror Specter was set up through my name curse. Probably activated when Beatrice sent me through the Hell Gate. Pretty nifty really. I didn’t know those Specters were used for anything other than magical librarians. And I gotta say, my Mirror Specter is way cooler than those stuffy things. The Specter me is still talking.

“… Since I am here, it means you are fracking there.” The Mirror Specter looks around. “I mean we are there. I mean here. Gods I can’t imagine what you’re thinking now.”

“Hey, don’t rub it in.” I cough the words more than talk them. The air here is vicious. Some kind of poison in it. Too much sulfur. I need to get away from it somehow.

My Mirror Specter looks at me in sympathy. She reaches out to grab my shoulder and then seems to realize she’s insubstantial. Just a ghost. Yeah, not a hologram but a ghost me with a little bit of me in it. A little piece of my soul sent to ride shotgun with me for brief periods down here in Hell. Brief because the magic that keeps it going costs. And my wisp can only recharge so much each day. But still, a little is better than nada. It makes me feel a tiny bit less desolated. Just a tiny bit.  

“I’m here to help and you should listen because I have like maybe a minute left today.” The Specter looks around. “You’re on a Hell’s beach – that’s bad. And it looks like a storm is coming – that’s worse. You need to get off this freaking beach. The air near the water is usually poisonous here, clue? Water in Hell usually equals poison air. So, you need to avoid most surface water.” She looks at my pocket. “We have water?”

I nod in reply to myself and pull the Perrier bottle out halfway to show it to my Specter. This is really fracking weird. How did I suddenly become a fricking drill sergeant?

“Good. Now pay attention. You will need to extend that water as far as you can with the duplici exemplari curse. You know, the Jesus curse?” It was an old joke. I always called duplici the fricking Jesus curse ‘cause you could literally break bread almost endlessly with it. It gave you like x500 the original material. I guess I’ll be drinking Perrier mineral water the whole time. The Mirror me has read my mind. “It might last you a fricking month, but don’t spare. You need to drink constantly here. It is too fricking hot. Drink while I’m talking for gods sake.”

I pick up my Perrier, choke out duplici exemplari, and chug down some of the still-slightly-cool sparkling water. It makes me feel better. A little.

“Now, for part 2, you’re going to need to get off this beach and find some shelter quick. Storms here are gods awful beasties.” She looks around. I can see where she’s looking. There is a sand cliff leading to rocky high ground about a half mile away. The rocks contain crevices and outcroppings. Mirror me points at the rocks. “Go to that and find shelter. It should be high enough. But get to the lee side and go as deep into a rock crevice as you can. Watch out for original owners. Gotta go.” And with that she is blown away in the sandy wind. I feel really weird – like I just lost my best friend.

The wind is picking up now and that sand hurts. But despite my Specter’s warning, I’m curious about what she said. Hell’s beach? That means there’s an ocean nearby? Probably on the other side of those dunes not far from here? Duplici has refilled my Perrier. I take another swig. I really am damn curious to see a Hell’s beach. Screw it, I’m going.

I trudge up toward the dunes. As I get closer, the air grows ever more putrid. I decide to hold by breath. It’s not easy – what air I keep in burns my lungs. I scramble over a rise and look out. Before me is a raging ocean filled with massive waves thrashing in green and purple slime. I can see pink gas rising off wave crests atop the churning toxic soup posing as actual water. Bacteria or algae material that looks like rotting flesh is piling up on shore. The foam over top of it looks like vomit. Skeletons and decaying corpses litter the beach as far as the eye can see. They probably succumbed in the poison air. Most are close to the water line. I realize the risk I’m taking is stupid. Yet I somehow feel so alive in this deadly place as I stand on my bone-cluttered dune. Out over that death sea is an advancing green-black shelf cloud. Beneath it, the ocean looks like an explosion of water and foam rising above the regular water level. I’m reminded of a film I’ve seen about the Indonesian tsunami even though this far off tidal wave like thing is being driven by a storm. The cloud is maybe 20 miles off and moving fast. Well, I saw it. I’m a goddamn Hell tourist. Now time to get the fuck out before that storm rolls in.

I run down behind the dune, still holding my breath. I take about 20 paces before I choke in some more air. It’s terrible, nasty, makes my nose run and eyes water in all kinds of bad ways. The wind is carrying the ocean toxin inland. My next breath is ever so slightly better, but it’s still bad. I’m running on toward the rocks my Mirror pointed toward. Pretty smart really, without me I’d probably be a goner. I may still be a goner. My feet pound the ground as my lungs scream at me. I have to breathe and it hurts to breathe. It’s a frigging Hell version of Catch 22. The exertion is insane as I’m choking on air and running. Behind me, the ocean is starting to growl. It’s the growl of the storm sucking water over rocks, sand, and bodies. Over it all, I hear a strange and wicked howl coming from the direction of the Hell Gate. Now what is that? Maybe the Gate is still partly open? But what could’ve made that noise?

I can’t stop to think too much as I race toward the rocks. But I’m wondering if something happened to Beatrice and Mori back there. I did leave them with three freaking Pride-Eater Demons and Ivan fucking Volkov. Not your run-of-the-mill polite evening company. Not my problem, I think to myself. But I’m worried. The howl carries on for a few more seconds, it seems to travel onward into the wasteland around me. It’s loud, even over the storm. At last, it grows quiet.

I’m still running full tilt. I can breathe a bit better now, which is a godsend, because I was really starting to run out of air. Good thing I don’t have asthma. I’d be done-in for sure. The little weirdo plants are like razor mines. One leaf slashes a small hole in my jeans. Now I’m swerving to avoid them. If I trip and face plant onto one, I’m probably dead. Who knows if they’re poisonous? Why not? The air and water are. Great!

Behind me, the storm is rapidly growing larger. It is big and green and black and mean. A towering wall stretching out over all the ocean as far as I can see. The rotten tsunami wave below it has gotten close enough that I can guess its height. Probably about 30 feet. It’s terrifying, but I’m gaining altitude as rising land has given me a much safer view of the beach. I should have thought of that before I almost killed myself on that poison shore. Hell’s sun is now completely gone — swallowed up in a big white, gray and green cloud top like fifteen miles up. The wind is pelting hard. It beats at me in gusts. Grit riding on it hits me like a power sander. If the wind gets too much stronger it will start to rip through my clothes and flesh. Seriously. No fricking joke. Fat-ass raindrops are starting to fall around me. At least these are cooler. Maybe just a little. Luke cool. They pelt me intermittently bringing with them slight relief. My hair and back are a plaster of wet sand.

Legs are starting to burn now. Running in Hell over sand uphill while breathing sulfurous air is no joke even for someone who prides herself on staying in decent shape. The strong wind pushing from behind is a help to speed me along, though. At last, my feet touch rocky ground. Before me, the outcrop rises up. It’s like lots of fingers of some kind of hard rock clawing out of the sand to poke at sky. They make crevices and canyons between them. They’re also part of a land rise perhaps 100 feet above the shoreline. I don’t even turn around to look back. The wind and sand are now too brutal. I dive into one of those pathways in the rock, make as many little turns as I can to get some shelter from the wind and grit whipping through. I cross behind three separate walls of rock and make my way to shelter in a hollow beneath an overhang before I feel safe. It’s not really a cave. But a cleft that cuts about 10 feet into one of the bigger rocks. There are cracks and crevices that run deeper. But my Mirror’s warning about ‘original owners’ makes me wary of trying to go too far in.

Cooler air wafts out from the holes. It also smells cleaner. I put my back to stone, slide myself down to a semi-comfortable sitting position, pull out my almost endless decanter of Perrier water, take a big gulp and watch the storm rage just outside. I can’t see too much because I picked a pretty protected spot. Relatively high up and wrapped in by a crescent of large stone formations. What I can see is terrifying enough. It gets dark as night outside. Sand and water are hurled around by what must be tornado strength winds. The material is all blowing away from me and I’m sheltered by many walls. So, I’m basically safe. I don’t feel safe. I know if I step outside, I’m going to be picked up like a rag doll and ripped apart by sand-razor-wind in moments. Water coming down in that roaring mess is more than torrential. I’m quickly drenched as it pours and pools in my cleft. Thank goodness I picked a higher place. Otherwise, I’d probably be swimming. This rain water seems kinder than the ocean water. I tentatively taste it. It’s still sulfurous and probably not safe to drink. I stick to my Perrier bottle.

Despite the storm’s outrageous jet-plane roar of noise, I’m getting tired. The water falling in is cool enough to be comforting, the air coming up from the cave is kind. It lulls me. Hell, I’m pretty damned tired. It’s been a long-ass day – all with drinking the memory draught, sneaking into Furze Bank, falling through a Hell-Gate, landing on a Hell beach, breathing poison air while having to run a race through razor plants against the mother of all storms. I look at my name curse. It’s still got a decent amount of magic left in it. My wisp is pretty strong and my parents did their best to use their own magic to get me into Furze Bank. All I’ve done so far is open the Hell-Gate, summon my Mirror Specter and turn my Perrier bottle into an endless refills fountain beverage. All? Hah! That’s actually a lot. But I’ve got a handful of minor curses or a couple more major ones left to me.

A permanent Ignarus curse is already running on my name curse as magical tattoo. It doesn’t always work. But it prevents most mundanes and non-magically-sensitive types from seeing the color changes in it when I use it. It also makes the sparks less obvious to them. Although, as you remember from the Pride-Eaters, it’s not fool-proof. I decide to feed a bit more curse energy into my tattoo’s Ignarus and extend it to my body. I need to rest. But I need to do it with some assurance of safety. I haven’t yet met any of Hell’s live inhabitants. But I don’t want to press my luck. The dead things on the beach didn’t look friendly at all. What should I expect? I’m literally in fracking Hell.

Ignarus amplio, I chant quietly, focusing my energy on the already active curse magic. A couple of stray sparks fall from my tattoo. I feel the curse widen like an electric field. There is a kind of snap and crackle like electricity as Ignarus envelops me.

It’s not perfect. But a girl who just spent the day breaking into Hell and surviving her first frigging encounter with it has gotta sleep. As satisfied as I’m going to be, I close my eyes and allow myself drift off. Sleep comes quick – bringing with it more of those damn ringing bells. As I drift off, I again feel a sense of duplicity. Of occupying two places at once. In one there is hard rock, roaring wind, and lashing water. In the other, there is a sense of floating and sensory deprivation. The combination makes it oddly easier to drift off into deeper sleep.

(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.)

Helkey 6 – Exorcising the Demon-Wolf

Beatrice watches as Myra does an acrobatic handplant, suspends for a second, turns to look at her one last time, and then is snatched into the Hell-Gate’s opening maw. A part of me goes with you, Beatrice thinks. But she knows it’s more. She’s sending her only daughter into Hell — with zero knowledge of the secret plan they have to break her out. Only trust and Myra’s self-made Mirror Specter guide set to awaken when she enters Hell. It seems a thin assurance to her now, but the guide, a little ghost of a hitch-hiker riding down into Hell on Myra’s wisp, is packed with helpful intel. Preset to give Myra just the amount of information she needs. To help keep Myra alive and on plan as she ventures through the most vicious of worlds. It’s all part of their bold strategy. Maybe too bold. A seriously risky plan Beatrice dares not even think of now lest the stray memory be caught up by a sensitive listener.

In front of her, the ridiculous Ivan Volkov still sits on his golden toilet. His face in blank shock at her shout to the Pride-Eaters. They’re invisible to him, for now. But given how much sin they’d already slurped from Volkov, his blissful ignorance wouldn’t last long. Better now for him to know early so he has a chance to understand. Not that it’s likely to do much good. Volkov is probably a lost cause. Probably. But she’d been surprised before.

Una!” she shouts, gathering the power of her curses. She rushes forward, making the bound across the marble in two leaps. She spins in mid-air between two demons lifting their claws to attack. They have semi-form here. A hit from any one of those wicked claws could be lethal. Hunger ignites in their eyes as she channels the curse energy to the tip of her blade. It gleams – starlike – then she slams the rapier tip flatwise onto Volkov’s forehead. The curse energy transfers into him with a white-hot flare.

Video blog for Helkey 6

Ivan can see the demons now. His shock turns to frenzy. He stands up, tries to run, but is tripped up by his pants. He falls face first in front of the bidet, cracking his elbow on its golden rim. He howls in pain. The place where she channeled Una into his forehead is an angry red. That’s going to bruise. She’s holding the curse in place for him. He has no mage talent as such. But his demon energy is strong and it grasps the curse hard in its jaws. He’s muttering now as one of the demons bends its head down – ethereal spittle dropping on Volkov. “Red… red…” he stammers as he notices the wisp energy wafting off him. He looks at Beatrice. “What did you do to me!!” He shouts as he crawls away, whimpering, from the Pride Eaters. He has apparently forgotten his pants. They are down around his ankles.

Mori springs into motion. Racking the slide on his over-grown rifle, he sights in on the first Pride Eater. The weapon erupts in a hail of blue-white bullets. Its ammunition is heaven-blessed curse energy. Macto curses. The bullets rip through one of the Pride Eaters. Great holes appear in its form. These grow larger as it looks down at itself in shock. It charges toward Mori. But the rapidly growing holes consume its form in a bright flash of falling sparks after just three steps.

The second Pride Eater leaps for Beatrice. She sees its enormous claws tearing toward her as she rises from her lunging curse delivery to Ivan’s forehead. She’s over-extended, so her best move is to spin away. She does a barrel-roll in mid-air as she avoids a series of vicious slashes – then nimbly lands on one grey-booted foot as the other points back behind her. The rapier tip shoots forward like a comet.

“Ivan!” she shouts. “You’ve endangered your soul! These demons hunger for your hubris!” Ivan’s face melts into panicked disbelief. Yes, Ivan, the monsters in your closet really do exist. Her riposte strikes one of the Pride-Eater’s clawed hands. It ripples with white light. Sparks flow from it. Then the hand – claws and everything – bursts into red mist. The Pride Eater pauses in surprise. Serious error. Mori sights in on the thing’s head. A brief trigger-squeeze and another blue-white bullet erupts from the rifle’s barrel, its flash casting shadows across Mori’s angular face. The bullet makes a perfect, purple-rimmed circle in the hollow near the demon’s cavernous nose. The hole spools outward in a widening spiral of sparks like one of those Fourth of July spinners. Now headless and handless, the demon falls. It twitches once, then explodes in a red-spark outburst. The sparks arc through the air like a flower of flares.

“Shit!” Mori shouts.

Beatrice turns her head. The third Pride-Eater has caught up to Ivan. He is raving in Russian, then switches to English as the demon sinks an ethereal claw into him.

“Not this soul. Protected! Was baptized! Was baptized!!” His tone has turned to pleading. His eyes imploring to Beatrice – as if she were somehow both cause of his current trouble and source of possible mercy.

Unfortunately for Ivan, he is not protected. Not in the least. To the contrary, he summoned these demons. His Earth-wrecking work at Furze Bank culminating in self-deifying daily dumps from the golden toilet on top of Berlin drew them the way road kill draws carrion birds. Pride Eaters. Some of Asmodeus’s favorite nasty errand boys. These were the things that came to Ivan. Day after day after day. Over time, one of these nasties had managed to spin a spirit tether between it and Ivan. A demon’s dog chain for his hubris hound. Beatrice can see it as a trailing lead of red mist rising from Ivan. The wound he now suffers would typically be lethal in a variety of ways. But for the spirit tether, instant heart attack, aneurism, hemorrhage… any number of things all resulting in death untraceable to its demonic source would have befallen him. But for poor, tethered Ivan, the effects of such a wound can be at once less final and more horrific. A Pride Eater’s long claws are very useful for gouging away a wisp’s protective coating, for developing its tether, and for using that tether to invade the wisp — possessing body, mind, and spirit. Of course, the natural protection over Ivan’s wisp was already greatly weakened by his own harmful thoughts and acts long before the demons arrived. The Pride Eater just came in, like a vulture swooping down on a dying creature, to finish the job.

“Baptized…” he wheezes pitifully as the impossibly long claw sinks deeper, questing beneath Ivan’s flesh. Then the demon possession takes hold. The Pride-Eater shimmers. Beatrice is bounding toward it, lashing out with her rapier. Mori is swinging his rifle around, drawing a bead. Sword and bullet strike toward the demon in unison. The Pride-Eater flickers, wriggling as if suddenly consumed by thousands of worms, then shoots into Ivan’s body. The mages’ weapons meet only the air where it once stood over Ivan.

“Oh, holy Hell!” Mori curses again. His weapon’s magazine is empty. With practiced motion, he ejects, pulls another blue magazine from his pocket, inserts it into the chamber, and pulls back the charging handle.

Ivan is writhing on the ground. His body is now flickering, bulging, growing larger. There is a sickening crackle as muscles and bones rearrange. A fur like thousands of black metal hair-pins shoot out of his flesh. His jaws elongate. Great teeth sprout and grow pointed. His eyes yellow. Four limbs become four legs. A row of larger, wicked and barbed spines emerges from his back. A tail sprouts from his rear. The tail’s end is tipped in barbs. At the shoulder he is now easily five feet tall. From tip of nose to tip of tail – 15 feet. He’s transformed into some horrific mash-up of wolf, demon, porcupine and stegosaurus all rolled up together.

He lifts his maw and lets forth a great howl. The sound echoes through worlds. It spirals down into the Hell Gate. It crosses the darkness and enters the Arch of Time. Into the wastes of Infernia where Myra is now just beginning to get her bearings it roars, out beyond the terrifying metal madness that is Mechanum it clangors, through the battles now raging in Avernum it explodes, past the terrible slave prisons of Carcerus it keens, and echoing at last across the great spires of Asmodeus’s impenetrable fortress Invicti on the shores of the burning purple ocean of Hell it wails. Somewhere, in that great black fortress, a Curse Rider hears the call of Ivan the Wolf, puts on his wide-brimmed black hat, and begins to make his way down to Asmodeus’s stables in search of his Nightmare. For at Ivan’s possessed summons a new Curse Hunt is begun. The Curse Hunt for Beatrice and Mori.

Beatrice feels shivers over her body at the sound. She knows the howl entered the Gate. She knows in her gut – this is a summons. She knows half of Furze Bank HQ must have heard it as well. For Ivan was now a hybrid demon-human. Not just a mere possession. But a full-on transformation only the likes of the Pride Eaters could bring out. He exists both as ethereal – which is that shadow realm the demons typically inhabit on Earth – and as corpus. Live and in the flesh.

“He just rang one hell of an alarm bell,” Mori says, sighting in on Ivan the Wolf. “You handle the exorcism curse!”

Beatrice points her blade at the massive demon-wolf. It is lowering its head, still getting its bearings, still becoming accustomed to its new form. They have time yet. Mere moments. But it should be enough. The transformation hasn’t fully taken hold.

“Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica protestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii!” She incants as she points her sword blade at the wolf demon. A kind of bow shock of light has formed in front of her sword.

“Una!” Mori shouts and the bow shock extends to his rifle.

Ivan the wolf lowers his head and growls. It is not like a normal wolf growl. This comes out more like a grating growl-cough. 

“Omnis legio, omnis congregation et secta diabolica!” Beatrice continues as the bow shock grows brighter.

Outside the chamber of the golden toilet there is shouting and the pounding of feet. Guards are at the outer door. Ivan takes an awkward step forward. There is terrible power in those muscles. He doesn’t know how to use them just yet. He crouches to pounce, but his legs splay too wide on the slick marble flooring.

“Ergo draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica ADJURAMUS TE!” Beatrice finishes. Together, her weapon and Mori’s phase fully into the ethereal realm. They will target the demonic part of Ivan with this abjuration’s full force. Its bow shock is now extreme. A bright light that briefly turns the Furze Bank HQ executive water closet into a light house tower. Beatrice lunges forward, Mori shoots, the still awkward demon wolf as Ivan lashes out with iron-fanged jaws. Sword and bullet strike the beast carrying with them their bow shocks of light. Ivan’s fangs clamp down on Beatrice’s leg. The exorcism rocks through Ivan’s body. It evaporates all demonic flesh it touches – leaving only human flesh behind. The Pride Eater is excised. Nothing of it remains. Ivan shrinks back to his original shape and stature. He is completely naked. All his clothes are in shreds on the floor. Beatrice cries out in pain – looking down at her leg-wound oozing blood and poison.

“Einfach! Halt!” The guards have kicked the frosted doors open and are drawing their pistols.

“Time to go!” Mori shouts. He grabs Ivan with one arm. Beatrice follows, but has to limp as searing pain shoots up her leg. Mori levels his gun at the globular glass window, waits one more second for the exorcism curse to fully fall away, and fires. The far larger than normal bullets riddle it with enormous holes. It swiftly loses integrity and showers down, filling the room with shards. Permanent curses, woven into their clothing, protect them from the sharp, though mundane rain. The guards, however, are not quite so lucky. They flinch, cover their heads, and slip back down the stair for protection.

Ivan is shaking, incoherent, covered in little nicks from the glass. An ugly black scar has formed where the Pride Eater entered him. He is yammering Russian, English, and occasionally tries to howl. Beatrice takes his other arm as she and Mori run to the edge of the tower. Dropping all other curses, they jump off while yelling the “Pluma!” curse together and then “Una” as Ivan starts to fall faster. The shared curse energy causes them to descend at a gradual if still gut-wrenching pace. It’s like a fast lift down.

“Well, you wanted to get Asmodeus’s attention. To draw it away from Myra. I think we did that in spades.” Mori says with a cynical half-smile as they glide toward the street with Ivan between them.

“Grand spades,” Beatrice replies. “That howl rang all through Hell and into half of Berlin. Who would’ve expected Ivan here was so far gone? I thought if we convinced him to come with us after seeing the demons, he might take us up.”

Mori gives his crow-cackle laugh. “You think he’d be scared into doing what’s right? Hah! No plan survives contact with the enemy.” He shifts his gaze to her leg. “That looks bad.”

Beatrice nods. “It is. Some of his venom got me. We need a healer.” She can feel it burning in her veins. Her head is already starting to grow heavy. The outer borders of her vision blurring.

They land on the pavement. Beatrice stumbles. A few onlookers watch them in stunned surprise. One points at Ivan. In the distance, sirens begin to blare. Far above, flashlights are gleaming through the wreckage that was once the Furze Bank HQ executive water closet. Ivan suddenly seems to realize his surroundings and covers his private parts while making a scrunched-up expression of embarrassment. Mori throws his leather jacket over the Russian after transferring his ammo to his jeans pockets. He’s light on it anyway. The jacket is rather long and Ivan is rather short. The combination results in a modicum of modesty – even if Ivan does look like he’s wearing a high-cut onesie.

“I’d call this a serious wardrobe improvement,” Mori says, cuffing the still confused Ivan on the shoulder. “Man, pink is definitely not your color.”

Beatrice swoons a little as her vision darkens for a second. She’s not in the laughing mood. That look on Myra’s face is still stuck in her head. A piece of her is still with Myra down in that hell. She looks to her leg. “Left a piece of Hell in me too,” she says, imagining it’s pretty incoherent, but not caring. “Let’s get moving before you have two invalids to deal with,” she says lifting her head to Mori. It takes far too much effort.

“Well, it’s a good thing we know a healer, isn’t it?” Mori replies. “Come on. It’s off to Marienkirche to see our old friend Sadie. Glad we had a back-up plan.”

(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.)

Helkey 5 – Hell Gate in the Arch of Time

Tick frigging tok.

We move swiftly down the halls toward Ivan Volkov – pausing at corners to make sure we’re unobserved. Mori is handy with his brief case. It has a switch that shoots out a signal interruption for any cameras in the halls. Mundanes and their tech are our most likely trouble up until the point when Ivan starts the big sploosh. I’m not too concerned about actual live demons rampaging right now. But our contacts with Felix and Gannon have me more than a little freaked out. Their wisp-hungry paw-prints, claw and tooth marks are all over the damned place. Part of me is wary of stumbling on mangled corpus, blood, viscera. Less likely this side of Hell. But man were those guys freaky with their combined curse resistance and pigs in shit wallowing happiness with just plain wrong. I slip my sweaty hand into my pocket. I produce my cell phone. I breathe out. I turn it on. The time is now frigging 6:23. I have 7 minutes left to live.

Omnis scienta shows Volkov again alone. He’s shaken off the red-head fem exec. He licks the last of the crumbs off his fingers, then thrusts a hand in a pocket. He pulls out an ear piece. Plunks it into his right ear. Flipping out his phone, he produces what looks like a play list. But he doesn’t turn it on yet.

“Really?” I whisper to my parents.

Beatrice shushes me. “He’s right down the hall,” she mouths more than speaks.

“But, musical dumps? Really?” I mouth back, pointing to the scene floating before us.

Mori smirks. I know he’s trying not to nervously laugh. He clasps me on the shoulder instead. Trying to reassure. But the effect is opposite. He does this every time he’s worried around me. Doesn’t calm me down for squat.

Ivan approaches a door. He produces a key card. We rush up to the corridor corner about 50 feet behind him. I peak around. The facing hall is bordered on one side by clear glass. I have an unobstructed view of the Berlin skyscape unfolding for miles and miles. The lights of evening are flickering on in the gloaming. Those distant storms have mostly departed leaving behind feathery cirrus that shade the sky in hews of pink and blue. At the end of this picturesque hall Ivan comes to a stop. The omnis scienta fades out as I see him in the flesh for the first time. My weirdo thought is – I’m taller than this man.

Ivan swipes his card over the reader. There is a little ‘beep’ as his access confirms. He turns the latch and I get a glimpse of marble floor ending in a platform edged with golden stairs beyond. He passes through the threshold. The door begins to swing shut behind him.

Mori lifts a hand. “Teneo,” he incants, casting a holding curse on the door. It swings shut and seems to close. But I know better.

Omnis scienta returns as we walk down the hall to the door. Ivan is moving across a marble floor with metal eagles ringed by circles embossed into it. There are three eagles. The eagle to the right appears poised to prey on the center eagle while the eagle to the left looks away. What they stand for, I’ve got no clue. But they seem way too fascist for comfort. Ivan comes to a set of ascending stairs as we reach the outer door. The stairs are golden and rise along the side of a black wall of glossy marble in juxtaposition to the white floor. The stairs terminate at a golden platform facing a frosted glass pair of double doors, each with another eagle emblem upon it.

We stop at the outer door as Ivan approaches his inner sanctum. He pauses for a moment, flips out his phone, then pushes play. Omnis scienta pulses with the sound of a revving engine and squealing wheels followed by heavy metal music.

“Gimmie fuel, gimmie fire, gimmie that which I desire!” rocks our eardrums through the sensor. Ivan Volkov is playing Metallica.

He lifts his arms wide to finger tap a rhythm. With that goblin grin, his face looks kinda like a bat. Rocking out to Metallica in a pink polo shirt. OK, then, a pink bat. He breathes deep, then opens the double doors. Inside is a globe-like chamber that seems to jut out into the sky. Most of the wall and ceiling is glass. The floor is a semi-circle of black marble. Toward the center is a raised section of golden metal. It’s probably actual fracking gold. Upon it is perched a single golden toilet with a golden bidet beside it. Ivan makes his way toward the toilet.

We’re still at the outer door. Mori gives it a little push. The latch never caught. Mori’s Teneo curse held it. It slides open without a sound. We enter, pouring in over the white marble and three eagles. The door shuts behind us, releasing a spark as Mori lets go of his curse. Holding two curses at the same time takes serious concentration. Mori’s had omnis scienta going for more than a half hour now. That’s true grit. Mori doesn’t show it. Hasn’t even broken a sweat.

We move halfway up the stairs, careful to stay out of sight through the doors. They’re frosted glass. So semi-opaque. If we bob our heads forward a little, we can see Ivan’s form as a pink and khaki blur through them. Omnis scienta shows quite a bit more. I’m kinda thinking I don’t want to watch what happens next.

Ivan is on the pedestal. He turns toward the glass and looks out over Berlin. The sound of Metallica is raging through our sensor. Mori lifts his hand and whispers – visus capitis – adding a modification to his sensor. Our perspective of Ivan blurs and shifts once more. We are now seeing through his eyes. Thank goodness. Looks like we’ll get the PG-13 version.

The view from where he’s standing is spectacular. At his perch he appears to be flying over the city. The glass walls bend in, giving the illusion that his platform toilet floats on a golden pedestal in a circle of black marble in midair. Above are the fading colors of twilight sky. In front, to the right and left, the German countryside rolls ever outward. Dim, but still visible in shades, mists, and little twinkling lights. Below on every side is all of Berlin bustling with evening activity. Cars and trains move like little toys. People seem insect size. Ivan’s fiddling with his trousers. He begins to unbuckle his belt. There is a zipping sound. A rustling of clothes. My phone says 6:29. The shit is literally about to go down on those poor people heading out to dinner or slogging through the still scorching evening outside air.

Ivan lowers himself onto the golden toilet with a happy sigh. He makes little motions with his hands to the music. “I am king,” he says in English at a break in the song and then sings along, badly and off-key – “Oooo wanna burn, fuel is pumping engines…”

There is a loud farting sound. I flinch. It sounds like a trumpet – continuing on for a good five seconds. No-one ever said anything about temporary Hell gates being aromatic. Well, maybe not entirely PG-13 either.

Faetor oculorum,” Mori encants, now weaving in a fourth spell to our shared sensor. At first there is no distinction other than some red strands that look like fire rising up around Ivan. Yeah. That’s demonic influence all right. Like the guy has been rolling around in it. But other than Ivan the environment starts out pretty clear.

Ivan is still singing in narcissistic fugue — “Gimmie fuel…” and then a wet ‘plop!’

Below him, the glistening black marble pools. It seems to swirl hungrily. The little golden pedestal appears to float upon it like an autumn leaf skimming the surface of a dark, bottomless sea. I startle as a ripple of purple-red light flashes in its depths. Tiny, at first. But growing in size. I have a vision of a shark beginning to rise toward an unsuspecting sea otter floating on the surface. Another light appears. Then another. The edges of the marble begin to flicker, steadily bleeding into a circle of spectral red flame.

“This is it, Myra,” Beatrice says. “When I say go, I need you to run to that circle. Mori and I will make a distraction. Hopefully one that will last a year.”

I don’t fully get what she’s saying. But I guess that’s the whole point. I’m committed now. Hell I’m pretty much defiled. I will never be able to scrub this whole event from my memory. Ever. I nod, “I’m ready mom,” I reply. I can’t say ‘I love you’ because that would feel like a too-permanent goodbye. But I grab her arm and squeeze. She is suddenly holding me. So is Mori. He is just there as this big crow-like presence.

“Now Beatrice,” Mori says softly.

Beatrice strokes my hair, looks into my eyes and chants the curse — “Indespectus.” My body suddenly fades into invisibility. I hold my right hand up. I don’t see anything. I have gone completely blank. I turn to see if I have a shadow. Not even that. It’s a little disconcerting. Frack. Mom’s never used this one in my presence before. She’s still holding onto my left arm. I’m still getting my new invisible bearings when she taps it and invokes the second curse – Infernum Clavis!”

Oh shit! That’s my name curse! Sparks immediately begin to fall from my arm. These are not entirely invisible.

Beatrice is pushing me forward. “Go!” she says, throwing away all caution. I spring up, driven by some kind of inner surge of bravery I didn’t know I had. There’s a niddling in my mind that I actually trained for this action. My muscles sure as hell remember what to do for some reason. I’m at the glass frosted doors. Mori has already rushed forward to kick one open. With his right hand he has pushed a third button on his briefcase.

Not the third button!

I spring forward through the door. My curse-enhanced sight shows the magic circle – now clearly formed. It is fully red and double ringed. Angry words in alien tongues fill out the gap. From the black marble, three spectral shapes have arisen. They appear to be formed of flesh and sinew without skin. Humanoid. But at least 7 feet tall. Their heads are skull-like but taper in the back toward points. Their hands distend into wicked claws the size of hedge shears. Before now, I’d only heard tales of the Pride-Eater demons. Yet here were three towering directly in front of me. Clutching hungrily at the glistening red tethers streaming off of Ivan’s inner wisp. They’ve gathered over Ivan – who is now playing the air drums on his golden toilet. One reaches out to stroke at Ivan’s head with a massive talon. It flicks some of Ivan’s thoughts from his mind. They appear as more red mist. The demon’s long tongue flickers out and laps at the bad-thought-mist like a cat lapping milk.

Swallow future, spit out hope…” I hear it hiss along to the song. Hey, demons can enjoy Metallica too, I suppose. Information I really didn’t want to know.

My boots squeak as I race across the marble floor toward the circle. I’ve got more than a little fear driving me on now. Pride-Eaters are serious bad mojo. The three demons don’t notice me. Ivan is too wrapped up in his Metallica and hubris-high to hear the sounds of my footfalls. I definitely notice the serious stench of his farts and offal. Whew! I don’t give a flying fuck at the godsdamn moment as I make my way for a portion of the Hell gate not presently occupied by demons.

Mori is in the doorway. He pressed the third button, remember? There’s a whirring sound as his briefcase begins to transform. Yeah. Cool, right? A frigging transforming briefcase. The front section pops upward, extends and narrows, the bottom section splits, the back section elongates and widens, the handle stiffens and produces an optical scope. A few seconds later, Mori is no longer holding a black briefcase. It’s now a dreadful-looking magical, long-barreled assault rifle. He spins the optical on his scope and lifts his weapon into the ready position. From a pocket in his leather jacket, he produces a blue magazine that, to my curse-sight, crackles with divine energy. What’s he gonna do with that? Protect Ivan?

Not my problem. I am now at the edge of the circle. Sparks are flying from my arm. One of the demons tilts its head curiously at the falling light. It lifts a clawed hand. Its tongue flickers out – tasting the air. It doesn’t see me. But it senses something.

“Hey! Over here!” Beatrice has moved up beside Mori in the double doors. Her rapier is out and is glowing like a golden-silver beam of sunlight through a window on a winter’s day. The demon turns its eyes toward Beatrice.

“Blyat!” Ivan curses as he now sees my parents standing in the door, one holding a full-on overgrown assault rifle, the other a freaking sword. Another loud fart escapes his ass.

Beatrice’s shout has bought me the second I need. I jump into the air, cross the magical circle’s threshold, flip forward, and do a hand plant like a skater on my left arm. My hand hits the marble and for a moment I am suspended upside-down — staring into that black, flickering with red, marble. My active name-curse dumps sparks into the gateway which lights up brighter. It flashes once. Like a camera shudder opening. I fall face-first through it.

Darkness surrounds me. The sparks from my arm drift about me like lazy stars as I fall. My stomach is now in my throat. I shout “fuuuuccckkkk!” I can’t help it. I’m plummeting to my death or worse. Above, Ivan and the demons are rapidly receding, they don’t even notice me. No Earthly sound seems to cross the threshold I just breached. Though the harsh ethereal scrapes of Pride-Eater claws is quite loud. I shift to face the direction of my fall. Ahead is blackness and a little rainbow dot. The dot rapidly grows as I approach it. It bends into a rainbow arch that seems to stand on a rainbow floor. As I drift still closer, the colored archway moves in three dimensions – becoming a circle. It is the frigging Arch of Time. To pass from one world to the next, you have to go through it. Time seems to slow. The darkness in the center of the Arch bends toward me. I feel that I bend toward it. There is a ‘pop!’ and a feeling like I’ve been turned inside out. I am through! The darkness blurs away into a greenish glow as I tumble onto hot sand and take a gulp of noxious air.

I somersault three or four times before I come to a sprawling stop. Spread eagle on the ground, I look up at the green as goo colored sky. To my left, oily clouds of black smoke rise from an array of jagged dark-metal towers. Above, a merciless sun beats down. Beside the sun is what looks like a floating black web. It casts shade below it – providing pitiful relief to the scorching lands.

“We did it!” I choke in the rotten-eggs air. “We fucking did it. Holy Hell! Oh my gods! I’m in fucking Hell. What do I do now!?”

(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.)

Helkey — Lore

Arisen World – The threefold multiverse containing the universe of the Earth, its dark possibility which is Hell, and its bright potential which is Heaven. These three worlds overlap – each sharing a future interdependent with the others. The Arisen World is the gestalt or combination of all three acting in bonded discord. A kind of entangled conflict. Each world’s course and future is determined by Actus – or the action of dependent matter and independent forms. Forms are made up of life (corpus) and spirit (wisp or psyche). Forms possess Agency – which is the ability to alter, however subtly, the destination of the Arisen World through willful acts.

Asmodeus– The present lord of hell. Asmodeus overthrew the old lord whose name is now forgotten. In doing so, he secured the vast collection of wisps in hell from mortals who, in life, were afflicted with greed, rage, cruelty, lust, fear, jealousy and other emotional weaknesses to the point that they inflicted terrible harm upon those around them. The old lord of hell had sought to reform these souls – teaching them over long ages how to act without harming others. Asmodeus instead declared these souls irredeemable – deciding to use them as a kind of currency and fuel combined. He employed powerful demonic and diabolical engines to sunder their essence and produce energy to power mighty magics. In doing so, Asmodeus generated a greater cycle of exploitation and harm. One in which all forms of such abuse fed his power even as he enslaved the abusers – tapping their power and very being to fuel his own growing might. Over time, Asmodeus learned how to trap other poor hapless souls by exploiting any harmful activity in life to draw their wisps into hell. He did this by convincing individuals that a person’s character was forever marred by the worst thing they’ve ever done. This concept, called sin, became a self-fulfilling prophecy for many who would otherwise have developed the will to escape the influence of hell but were instead inexorably drawn in to its deepening spiritual gravity.

Ammit-Heh – The chimeric dragon displaying features of a crocodile, lion and hippopotamus who lairs upon the Burned Isle in the Lake of Fire. Ammit-Heh serves the purpose of devouring hearts. This enables Asmodeus to use whisps as both currency and power store.

Avernum — The battle land of Hell, Avernum is a blasted land crawling with armies fighting for supremacy. This terrible place of endless bloody conflict was set aside long ago by Asmodeus’s dictate of Bellum Aeternus or Eternal War. As an absolute dictator, Asmodeus rules with an iron fist. One would think this might lead to a kind of fearful peace. Not so in Hell. The Lords of Hell continuously plot to overthrow each other, to take power, and to even topple Asmodeus. The place is rife with internecine conflict, plots, rebellion, ambushes and assassination attempts that always threaten to boil over into war. To prevent continuous open warfare throughout Hell and to better organize Minos into ‘productive districts,’ Asmodeus set aside the land of Avernum as a battlefield where the lords of Hell, including himself, might settle their differences. Once war is declared, each opposing Hell-Lord moves their forces into Avernum with the aim to obliterate or subjugate the forces of his rival there. Any open major war conducted outside of Avernum invokes Asmodeus’s wrath and almost always results in the destruction or enslavement of the offending Hell Lord. To be clear, other conflict still occurs in Hell. But the ritualized, sanctioned conflict of Avernum is one structure that separates the Hell Lords from the roiling diabolical and demonic masses of Hell. And Asmodeus rewards those who take part in his structed conflict while punishing those who do not.

Beatrice Lushael – Mother of Myra. White mage. Angel. Mage name means – Rain of Stars.

Blue Skinned Devils — The most numerous humanoid devil. Blue skinned devils are also cast into an impoverished and mostly powerless rank in devil society. They mostly serve as slaves and low level servants for the less populous red skinned devils and other devils of high rank.

Blood of Earth – The mage name for fossil fuels – as they are gouged out of the body of mother Earth. Also the name of any industry or activity that results in the ruination of life giving lands, airs, and waters. Blood of Earth attracts the interest of demons and devils in much the same way as other harmful acts. However, it has a special attraction as destruction of the Earth, particularly for profit, often is the result of a combination of greed, lack of remorse, pride, and joy in doing harm.

Burning Lands — An expansive region of coal fields in the northern section of Infernia lit afire by volcanoes. Devils mine and capture the fluids and gasses produced by these lands for use in hellish infernal combustion engines.

Brian Gannon — an extraordinarily greedy Furze Bank executive.

Carcerus — The slave-labor prison of Hell, Carcerus is a land filled with fortresses that serve as combined forced labor and concentration camps. Wisps formed into bodies are often sent to Carcerus where they typically work until they perish in body — at which point their wisps are harvested for worbs or to fuel diabolical magic. The prison masters of Carcerus also send out Chain Bands to various regions of Hell to do heavy labor or dangerous work of various kinds. Slaves that survive 101 years of this deadly work are freed. However, time of incarceration under the slave masters of Carcerus can be extended even for minor infractions. So terms of slavery can often extend decades to centuries beyond the first 101 years. Nonetheless, devils do occasionally survive the slave masters’ whips to matriculate to ‘freedom.’ These freed devils are often among the most ruthless denizens of Hell — having learned the lessons of brutality, torture, and relentless unforgiving labor beneath the most terrible task-masters in all the Arisen Worlds.

Century — A battle group of one hundred devils.

Charon — Hell’s moon which was destroyed in a great cataclysm about 2,500 years ago. All that remains is an orange cloud of debris surrounded by an accretion disk.

Corpus – Physical form which is the unity of wisp and body.

Curse – Channeled or crafted magic that alters an aspect of reality. Called a curse because the ancient church long ago declared all magic blasphemy in an effort to permanently confine demons to the outer realm and devils to hell and to reduce their influence and remove their ability to harvest wisps. This declaration and the genocidal war against mages that followed had the opposite effect, however, generating numerous temporary hell gates while creating unnecessary confusion and fear regarding the use of magic. Eventually, the word curse was used to describe any socially taboo or offensive language – i.e. curse words, or to describe any solemn utterance aimed at invoking supernatural power to inflict harm.

Curse Riders – Asmodeus’s elite hunters who are specifically tasked with hunting down mages. Curse riders specialize in dragging mages into Hell and butchering them for their wisps. Mage wisps are especially coveted by Asmodeus. For this reason, most mages are hunted and do their best to keep their craft secret. It is typically considered suicidal to attract the attention of a Curse Rider. Though a few powerful, cunning, or lucky mages have managed to face one down or give one the slip on occasion.

Curse Hunt — When a Curse Rider hunts down a mage. Such hunts are often expansive — taking in numerous persons, demons, and devils held in thrall by the Curse Rider. Curse Hunts are often also called witch hunts.

Dark Psychic — A cleric of a diabolical religious order — Invicti Asmodei — wholly devoted to the service of Asmodeus. Dark Psychics possess the ability to project their senses long distances both individually and through a world-spanning Minosian Web (see below) in which every Dark Psychics’ worb acts as a node. The Minosian Web enables these devout servants of Asmodeus to possess a semi-omniscience. Accessing the Web allows them to see and sometimes hear past and present events occurring on Minos (Hell) so long as the Dark Psychic knows where and when to work. These Dark Psychics then feed sensitive information to the heads of their order who in turn inform Asmodeus. In this way, Asmodeus and his Hell Lords are able to observe practically any event on Hell that draws their attention.

Demon – A powerful and unruly wisp composed of pure, unbridled negative emotion. Demons are primal, often ancient, and inhabit the outer darkness but can also cross into hell or possess the bodies of mortals or mages. They feed on the negative and malicious emotions of mortals. It is for this reason that they congregate at hell gates or tear open small and temporary ones. Mortals afflicted by addiction, mental illness born of malice, or lack of compassion can create a channel through which a demon from the outer darkness may come to possess them. Demons in the hells can possess the body of a devil or a mortal – twisting it into draconic, chaotic, or other wild and monstrous shapes. Demonic possession can impart both great power and terrible madness.

Devil – A creature that inhabits hell. Often, they are wisps trapped in hell who are given a second body by one of the Lords of Hell or through forcibly taking over the body of a being stranded in hell. Devils are often twisted forms of mortals in life, can come in the imagined shapes of dark guardians like black knights and gargoyles, or, in the case of the lords of hell, are the dark reflections of angels.

Drivers — Devils who corral and enslave wisps. They are typically red-skinned with horns sprouting from the front of their foreheads. However, other devils can also act as Drivers.

Doppleganger – Fake body double used by some mages to house a wisp while the real body sleeps.

Energetic Vessel — A mage’s store of curse energy coming from the multiversal spirit.

Felix Azriel — Furze Bank executive. One of many at Furze Bank who’ve attracted the attention of demons.

Fortress Invicti — The seat of Asmodeus’s power in Hell, Fortress Invicti is the mightiest stronghold of this terrible realm. Sitting on the shores of the Lake of Fire, Invicti commands the main trade route funneling wisps, newly fashioned worbs, and newly made devils northward to Mechanum, Avernum, and Carcerus. Its high towers can be seen for many miles in every direction. And its terrible inhabitants are among Hell’s most powerful and vicious.

Form Makers — Devils who forcibly shape wisps into devil forms. They appear as balls of floating darkness that shoot black lightning.

Furze Bank HQ — A large banking conglomerate with ties to various nefarious actors on the world stage, both earthly and otherwise.

Gibbens Crane — A Curse Rider summoned by Ivan Volkov to hunt Mori and Beatrice.

Holocaust Scourge — A powerful diabolical whip and channel for devilish magics that uses fire hot enough to cut steel for its lash. A holder of a Holocaust Scourge can also tap the energy of enslaved wisps to fling bits of this flame to inflict agony, grievous injury or both.

Helkey – An event or emotion that can serve to open a minor or temporary hell gate. These are often torn open by demons in areas where terrible things are happening. Helkey gates are usually temporary – only lasting for minutes to hours at most. Sometimes a permanent Helkey exists – attracting demons frequently who often form these temporary rifts over and over again.

Hell Gate – Semi-permanent structures that link Hell to Earth. Hell Gates form in places in which the most terrible events of the age have occurred. Present hell gates are located in places like Auschwitz or Hiroshima or in the warming Arctic or at the dying Great Barrier Reef.

Infernia — The equatorial region of Hell’s supercontinent Minos. Infernia features a great wasted defile of vast deserts, burning lands, and terrible silt bogs. It is also the region of Hell where wisps come to reside after death following their capture by the influence of Hell and its demons and devils in life. Infernia is so hot that it is only practical, even for the creatures of hell, to move about for extended periods during winter. Night-time travel is preferred. But the difference between night and day temperatures on Hell is less than on Earth.

Ivan Volkov – Otherwise known as Ivan the Wolf. Ivan is the unwitting dupe of Asmodeus on Earth – serving as his herald without realizing it.

Kindre Moss — A moss from Beatrice’s home-world of Heaven (called Heaven by those on Earth) known for its medicinal properties.

Knife Lake — A large lake on the eastern edge of Infernia whose shores are known for their abundant wisp-fields.

Lake of Fire — A burning region of Hell’s Ocean. While many areas of Hell’s Ocean burn, the Lake of Fire region is wracked by characteristically intense firestorms.

Lance — A fighting group of ten devils.

Mage Name – A partial true name that identifies the source of a mage’s power.

Magical Tattoo – A permanent channel for curses formed into the flesh of a mage just below the skin. Often taking weeks, months, or even years to complete, such tattoos often tap into the power of the mage’s true name. In this way, Magical Tattoos can serve as a direct link to the source of a mage’s power. Mage families will sometimes have these tattoos crafted for their children as a means of enhancing their ability to tap inherited magic and/or as a way to activate a specific kind of curse.  In the case of Myra, her name curse Helkey has been crafted into a magical tattoo.

Masters of Infernal Device — Asmodeus’s forge masters. Expert crafters of various devices and machines able to harness diabolical magic.

Mechanum — The ‘civilized’ region of Hell is a vast field of over-developed, smoking industry interspersed with hellish city-scapes. Here are Hell’s forges that craft everything from weapons, to transports, to dwellings, to Hell’s fearsome engines. Powering it all are the enslaved wisps — formed by various Hell-forces or creatures into devils, or housed in the traps used to power diabolical magic called worbs. Mechanum is located in the pole-ward portion of Minos just to the north of Infernia. Its climate is one racked by dust storms rising out of Infernia, drenched by vicious thunder leviathans, and poisoned by the smokes of Mechanum’s industry. Running through it all are toxic, burning black rivers.

Memory Draught – A powerful and illegal potion that is designed to selectively wipe parts of the drinker’s memory. Memory draughts can be dangerous, harmful and unpredictable. Memories from these draughts can take between days and years to return.

Minosian — The primary tongue of Hell spoken by most devils. Though the super-continent of Minos is vast beyond the imagining of most Earth-dwellers, a common culture and tongue unite the devils in their misery.

Minosian Web — A network of interconnected Dark Psychic worbs that allows these psychically sensitive devils to project their senses and the senses of those who touch them practically anywhere and to any time on Minos (Hell). Each Dark Psychic forms a nexus in this Web. Their worbs continuously send energy bled from their captured souls out to other Dark Psychics. This outward flow of rendered spiritual energy captures sights and sounds as it travels. Dark Psychics can project their senses and the senses of others down these web strands to observe past or present events near a Web segment. The Minosian Web is a primary tool of Asmodeus in maintaining his stranglehold on power in Hell. Its Dark Psychic constituents are fanatical devotees who consider it a religious duty to report what they find to Asmodeus to ensure the sanctity of his unrelenting tyrannical reign. The fanatical Dark Psychics and their Minosian Web thus form an information and religious hegemony. A sect that through their Hell Web holds a stranglehold on both information flows and the interpretation of reality in Hell.

Mirror Specter — A magical mental construct that appears as a ghost or hologram and has a modicum of intelligence. These constructs usually act as archivists, librarians or lore-keepers. Myra’s Mirror Specter is an image of herself sent to give her advice in Hell. The curses used to activate her personal Mirror Specter are locked up in her magical tattoo as name curse.

Mottle — A form made out of wisp by a Vila in Hell. One of Asmodeus’s forbidden forms. Mottles are flat, wide bat-like creatures. Their muscular, cloak-like bodies are capable of flight, constriction, and partnering to assist humanoid creatures. When draped across a humaniod, they can grant short flight, help to reduce the impacts of Hell’s terrible environment, and even provide nourishment through IV-bites. Mottles also possess the ability to send thoughts by touch. These creatures are vegetarian and subsist on various Hell plants.

Multiversal Spirit — The energy of the multiverse which is composed of the interaction of all material and life that exists. How mages describe an all-encompassing spirit similar to a transcendental oversoul. One that connects all things, all life, all spirits and all realities. Mages draw in some of the energy of this multiversal spirit to power their curse-magic.

Myra Helkey – 17-year-old daughter of Beatrice Lushael and Robert Mori. Mage name has a double meaning. Actual name informed by a curse that has yet to be unlocked.

Nightmare — A specialized wisp-powered machine made to serve a Curse Rider for his steed. Typically made to resemble a horse, the Nightmare infernal construct is both capable of transforming into a variety of conveyances and of taking on the shape of a vague fearful shadow.

Overseer Tower — A wisp slave trade outpost overlooking Knife Lake.

Plumacats — A form shaped from a wisp by a Vila in Hell. One of Asmodeus’s forbidden forms marked by the Lord of Hell for genocide. Plumacats appear to be a hybrid of a velociraptor and a tiger. Two raptor eyes peer out from a feline face. Opened mouths reveal long fangs. Hands padded for running and pouncing feature both fingers and claws. Covered in large and lustrous black feathers, the bodies of Plumacats are capable of both bipedal and quadrupedal movement. Swift and graceful, these predators hunger to devour the flesh of devils.

Poachers — Devils who hunt various creatures to use for food, material, and wisps. Poachers and Drivers often overlap — trading, sharing information and resources. At times Poachers also act as slavers — selling captured creatures and wisps to Drivers and their clients. Poacher work is typically transactional and for profit. However, some Poachers also host hunt tours for sport.

Pride Eater – A form of demon that feeds on overweening pride and lust for power blind to consequence. Pride eaters inhabit Hell and the outer darkness. They often appear as tall, skinless demons composed of flesh and sinew on bone with hollow eyes, tapered skulls and giant claws protruding from their hands. Pride Eaters can form tethers with those they feed upon. They can use these tethers to possess or control their victims. Occasionally, Asmodeus will direct a Pride Eater to unlock a person’s diabolical potential through forced transformation. This is one way that the monstrosities of Hell are brought into being on Earth. When this happens, these monsters are called prophets of Asmodeus. It is a rare and terrible event for such an instance to occur.

Red Skinned Devils — Devils stratify their society into ranks based on race, form, power and skin color. The red skinned devils are a higher level class of humanoid devils. They are characterized by their brutal sense of entitlement, reliance on bullying and violence to advance, and plotting nature. They viciously exploit others through various means. This includes the blue skinned devils whom they have mostly enslaved or forced into dangerous, less desirable work.

Robert Mori – Father of Myra. Death mage. Human. Mage name means – to kill or to die.

Sadie Medela Dextera — Pastor at St Mary’s Church in Berlin. Life Mage. Angel. Mage name means — princess of the healing hand.

Spirit Tether — A bond formed between a demon and a mortal. This bond is the first step toward demonic possession. Pride-Eaters are particularly adept at spinning spirit tethers and placing them on their victims.

Stelo-mal — Bad lizard. A large species of devil lizard native to hell. Shares some chameleon and comodo dragon-like features in addition to retractable projectile tail spines and vicious razor-sharp teeth. Like many devils, stelo mal are capable of speech and can practice diabolical magic.

Terror Hounds — Demons that prey upon the souls of those who have recently died in great terror. These hounds usually appear that scenes of terrible massacres or other traumatic events in which ultimate fear grips large numbers of creatures at their last moments all at the same time. Some Terror Hounds have been trained by devils to draw wisps taken by fear into Hell. These Terror Hounds are also sometimes called Hell Hounds.

The Great Arch of Time – The passage of time throughout the multiverse of the Arisen World. Time by mages is seen as an illusion that describes the consequences of action which generates a dimension. Time is, therefore, not seen as linear – per se – but as a pathway of consequences containing many branches that extend both forward and backward. As a result, different decisions generate different consequences – represented as bows in the Arch of Time. Eventually, the Arch of Time, like a rainbow, bends inward, forming a vast, expanding circle.

Urdrake — A form shaped from a wisp by a Vila in Hell. One of Asmodeus’s forbidden forms marked by the Lord of Hell for genocide. Urdrake are massive reptiles covered in large, spiked shells. Standing 6-7 feet tall and weighing 300-500 pounds, Urdrake are the most physically imposing of all the Vila-made forms. Their reptilian faces feature keen, binocular eyes and long boney snouts with fang-like ridges. From their foreheads and down their spines sprouts a ridge of white crystals. These are capable of emitting powerful beams of light like lasers. Urdrake’s voices are sonorous and strangely melodic. Like Plumacats, Urdrake hunger for the flesh of devils.

Vila — A faerie tree spirit native to Hell before its fall into tyranny and environmental destruction. While many consider the Vila to be an extinct race, a few survive in isolation.

Vortex — A single wheeled conveyance much like a motorcycle used for rapid movement. An engine powered by a wisp and by mined fuel propels these loud and dangerous machines. Vortex wheels are made of knobby metal and coated with glass. This glass continuously grows one to four inch long spikes — turning the machines into lethal weapons.

Wisp – The spiritual body of a soul. Wisps house a person’s unique being. A wisp remaining on Earth or passing into heaven or Hell retains consciousness and experience of a sort. On Earth, wisps are commonly called ghosts. There they are rare, mostly imagined or come in the form of a deep memory — often fleeting. Wisps passing into the great void disperse – losing form and consciousness. But, occasionally, these wisps coalesce in another material body at some point along the Great Arch of Time.

Wolf of Wrath — A demonic transformation into one of Asmodeus’s prophets on Earth. The Wolf of Wrath embodies the sin it is named for in the form of a terrible and twisted demon-wolf that incorporates the lethal traits of numerous creatures. The existence of The Wolf of Wrath on Earth sets off a string of killings and disasters as the demon-wolf’s instinct is to gorge itself in a killing rampage so long as it maintains its form.

Worb — A special device used by devils to hold wisps. They appear as orbs that devils often wear on their shoulder. The most powerful of devils have multiple worbs. Worbs can liquidate wisps in a number of ways — usually using them for power, food, or a kind of diabolical currency. To devils, wisps are the most fungible of all resources.

(Want to read or listen to Myra Helkey’s story? Here is where you can find the Helkey Table of Contents and chapter links.)

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