I was sitting at my desk in the Crimson Dagger Boston branch office at 10 Causeway St. The door to our suite had a vague title relating to a joint task force between the Department of Homeland Security and the General Accountability Office but our internal stationary just said Most Honorable Order of the Crimson Dagger, and while we did report to both those agencies, we also reported to Joint Commission on Applied Miracle and Thaumaturg set up by the World Council of Churches, the VSCAQE (Roman Catholics to you), the LDS (Mormans), Israeli government, and what ever Islamic groups were on speaking terms with the Israelis at the moment, so mostly American and Orqish ones. It was a bizarre and unwieldy set up born out of 30 different groups that didn't trust each other, but unlike some sister agencies we had an entire department dedicated to our paperwork because, you might think the The Unified Councils of Theurgy and Goety's Intrainquasitional Subdirectorate is bad, but the GAO, my Gods.
It was setting up to be a boring, typical, cliche day, I was waiting for a Federal Circuit judge to get back to me about a warrant to raid the warehouse we were pretty sure was supplying cesti to area prostitutes, and trying to figure out how to look busy to avoid getting more cases right before the warrant came, when Agent Cooprider, my partner, came by and said Balzac wanted to see us. More formally Goodmaster Emanuel Balzac K.C.D., he was our boss, head of the Boston office and tasked with the duty of making sure nothing occult, magical, paranormal, or miraculous happens inside I-495 (out side was the Springfield office's problem), and if it did to find who ever did it, and punish them. He didn't have to worry about covering it up or anything, we subcontracted that out to the CIA on the grounds that it wasn't technically spying on Americans if while helping other parts of the government then happened to do more research then was strictly necessary. Balzac was on the phone when we walked in, but as soon as he saw us he told the phone that he was putting it on hold.
"I just got a call from the Grandmaster in D.C. who just got an irate call from Salt Lake City. D.C. told me to find an LDS applied miracle worker in Boston and to get this handled fast." He then handed us each folders and said "SLC would really prefer two of their own and don't particularly like atheists like you Torv, but hopefully Cooprider will be enought, this shouldn't take too long, but the higher ups want you to drop your current cases until it's taken care of, which should be much of a problem as I'm pretty sure that you, Torv, don't actually have anything to do until the warrant for the magic hooker case comes though. So sort this mess, email me a copy of your report and hopefully that'll be in time for you to raid some pixie prostitutes."
As I left Balzac's office I was somewhat dubious about this case, anything this important was bound to be something other then short, but as I read the report things became clearer. Apparently this morning one Evan Cox found the body of a "demon" near the intersection of Green and Pearl street in Cambridge and called his local church. The church in question was the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints who dutifully sent a representative who took one look at the "demon" and called his HQ in Salt Lake City, who called us to deal with it. Thankfully the rep that the local LDS's sent was in the know and immediately identified it as not a demon but an Orq. He was also smart enough to tell that foul play was involved as Orqs tend not to just drop dead on their own, unlike their far less sensible cousins Gremlins, they tend not to have accidents, also their extreme indestructibility means that any accident powerful enough to kill one, also tends to be visible from orbit. The nail in the analogy leading to us being sent was the smell of liquor at the scene, the Orqish Caliphate never grants passes to Dragonholm who are non-devote enough to get drunk. So we drove to the scene and to start investigating a case of human equivalent xenocide.
The scene was less of a mess then one might expect for an 8 foot tall indestructible juggernaut being decapitated, but while their was a lot of blood it was pretty obvious that not all of it was his (Orq gender is arbitrary and has nothing to do with sex, but this one's sole piece of clothing was pants instead of a head scarf so his leanings were clear). I took one sniff and before Agent Cooprider was even able to suggest he do a chemical divination, could tell this was bloodwine.
This is probably a good time to tell you a little about me and my partner. Agent Brian Cooprider was an LDS applied miracle worker who preformed miracles that were similar to American style cast Luminal magic and Reform Jewish faith magic, but totally not magical, sersiously don't argue with any Mormons about this. He could thus get light to do some very bright and cool things, but it was the Jewish type stuff that made him invaluable as a police officer. During all their time fighting low level insurgency campaigns the more liberal Jews broke from the Orthidox Jewish insistent that the only right type of magic was Nominal magic, learning the names of things to gain control and understanding, and instead developed forensic magic. This was a revolutionary idea that caught on, who needs finger printing when you can cast a spell that will tell you the last 10 people to touch something, who needs facial recognition software when you can just cast a spell that fast forwards to the part you need, who needs, well you get the idea. The LDS church obviously saw the applying these techniques to genealogy.
As for me (Gaius Torv) , I'm a totem blood runist. this is a type of runery that deals with most of the major draw backs of other types. See unlike most types of magic a rune is just a word written on something, it isn't actually a thing even though it gives it power. The rune has to work away from you and unlike enchanting a sword, it is done in an instant, so you need a lot of magical mystery energy. There are several schools of thought on how to get this energy. There are gifts runists, who when someone commissions a rune from them, that person gives them some power. The draw back is the runist in question is unable to do any runes with out a buyer, and have been known to start taking said power against the will of the victim, and by known to I mean happens almost every time, magic is a passion, and it's addictive. This is the same drawback to regular blood runistry, while you start off on pig blood, evenentually it dosn't do enough and you move up to wizard blood, with all its magical goodness. The main type of non-black magic runery is Heliorunery which takes it's power from the sun. Night is an obvious problem for them, so they tend to summer in Iceland. Totem blood runery is a recent innovation, the key is to strictly focus on one type of animal to take blood from, in my case a cow. Thus if things go out of control, worst case scenario is you've butchered a herd of farm animals and in fairness that's what going to happen to them anyway. The real stroke of genius is that you take a the totem of a predictor when you eat (in my case, a house cat), since predatory animals don't eat for fun, or for power, this channels your power towards being neutral with less chance of unfortunate things happening. This ends up having the side benefit of give the user animancy skills over both the totem animal and the food animal, e.g. don't mess with me near a cattle farm or a feral cat colony I can get those animals to fuck you up. The one down side is the tendency to start picking up traits of your totem animal; my teeth are sharper then they used to me, my eyes are slightly taller then they are wide, and I have a irrational love for basking in the sun. Thankfully you don't pick up any traits of your food animal, but you do lose the ability to eat solid food, and drinking stuff that isn't blood looses it's appeal somewhat. The thing the really put runery back on the map was the invention of rune tattoos. So now modern runists can, in addition to puting runes on objects to enchant them, and drawing quick disposable runes on the ground, can now put runes on them selves. I my self have a runes on my left hand that make me ambidextrous and able to shoot kinetic energy. My right hand has runes for penmanship and lightning. My throat has one for breathing fire and my scalp, under my hair; I've got ones for memory, speaking most known languages, and thinking fast, and those are just the the start. How does this relate to detective work like Brian's forensic stuff? It doesn't I'm a detective because I'm clever, Also I have a minor hobby of deception and deception detection which not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty good at, having won 3 d/dd tournaments even after I got banned from entering them, or even showing up to them.
So getting back to where we were, I could instantly tell it was cheap bloodwine, it smelled like human blood mixed with grain alcohol, because that's my drink of choice, except with cow blood instead of human blood and burbon instead of cheap grain alcohol. This actually gave us a bit of a lead as that type of bloodwine is the drink of choice for down on their luck vampires, creatures who might be strong enough to decapitate an Orq and would be slumming it enough to get their blood from the unlicensed blood bank on Bishop Allan Dr. The very same one that the owners were stupid enough to think that both us and the local vampire director of the area's Red Cross didn't know about.
We suited up in case of hostile action at the blood bank, this meant gladius for Brian, tanto for me, but I ditched Tara (my TAR-21) in favor of a supersoaker filled with garlic infused holy water. We also each grabbed a crux omni each,think a cross, with a Star of David, Allah Akbar, and the symbols for every other major religion you could think of, and then some, and then finally spread garlic and silver skin lotion over all of our major arteries and veins. Luckily it was early afternoon, the best time to go vampire hunting, it's daylight out so they can't just run out side and it's late enough in the day that any pulling all dayer will be groggy while those sleeping will be woken up at the worst possible time, (4am people time).
When we walked in the receptionist was already calling her supervisor before we made it all the way to her desk. The supervisor, a Ms. Rachel Overzat showed us into her office. At first she claimed ignorince and tried to stall. Her and the receptionist were both obviously vampires, they looked also to be Israeli, both proboly undergrads at Brandies or Tufts who got turned by some horny vamp nobody. Ever wonder why most vampires seem to be attractive females? It's because turning is a lot like sex, in several ways, it's erotic, it's very personal, and on average guys give it away much more then girls. So that's why both male and female vampires tend to make girl vampires because they're much less likely to make them selves a harem, who goes on a rampage which requires cleaning up. It's also why the lack of gay male vampires isn't homophobia, the vampires just know how to do math, but I digress, again. Brian discretely slid out his crux omni just enough so you could see the Star of David, this got Ms. Overzat talking. Religious symbols, much like the house invitation thing aren't dangerous to the vampire per-say as a kind of OCD, for the religious symbols it also requires you to use the correct one for whatever religion the vampire was in life, that's why they should be relied on, atheist vampires are immune and the really really dangerous and old ones, they usually predate Christianity, good luck figuring out which pagan god they worshiped, and how it was represented in the time and place they grew up.
She attempted to continue the interview while ignoring the star for a bit, sneaking peaks, getting flustered, starting again, sneaking more peaks before she cracked. She claimed the orq was named Ahmed and had been part of an independent audit team sent by the red cross two days earlier. This had come out of nowhere, as the red cross had apparently decided that they were going to get shut down or be licensed. The owner Lux Ruttenberg had been dragging his feet but the investigation was moving along. Overzat was under the impression that the operation was more or less above board but I should talk to Ruttenberg. It didn't take a genius to see she was hiding something and 10 more minutes of her increasingly outlandish tales made it rather clear that Ahmed had stumbled upon something and the vampires had had him killed. But it was around this point that there 9 pops of displaced air telling us that some things had just teleported in.
I grabbed her desk with my right hand and used the force rune on my left to blow the door open. Brian had already drawn his sword and was running to the door when he ducked as a huge stream of flame came in, missing me but engulfing the now (re)dead vampire. I angled my force rune into a shield and grabbed my sword with my free hand to lead the way out the door. Here we found a demon wearing a flamethrower awkwardly over his wings. I spit a gout of flame at the demon, he had neglected to wear any sort of fire protection and was destroyed even before his tank caught fire. I had time to quickly activate a fire extinguishing grenade before the six other demons with sub-machine guns opened fire, which was fairly bush league on there part as it's pretty standard practice for Crimson Dagger agents to enchant their suites to resist bullets. They had enchanted maybe 1 in 10 of the bullets but not nearly strong enough. Brian prayed for light which stunned them and we waded in making short work of them. Brian prayed for light which stunned them and we waded in making short work of them. This is where we made our first mistake as we were too busy dealing with these six that we missed the other two that had been off killing the rest of the staff, destroying records, and as it also turned out, defacing the blood bank with graffiti ordering the owner to sit, I think they might have been confusing Jews with Muslims, demons aren't so good with things like geography. They took us by complete surprise and their shotguns would have killed us both if they had enhanced the shells better. Both of them went for Brian, he being closer and all I had time to do was to throw and force accelerate the crux I was holding at one, before the other one grabbed Brian and said the last word of a teleport spell and was gone. Leaving me and the wounded demon the only ones left alive (or undead) in the blood bank.
When I got over my shock I looked at the remaining demon and realized Brian would be in serious trouble if I didn’t act fast. The demons black shells meant Brian's luminal miracles, his only offensive prayers, would be ineffective. Before the demon recovered from the crux impaled in one of its lower heads I slapped it with a premade binding rune, sticking him in place between a bag of African-American Male (overweight) and Japanese Female (skinny/vegetarian). This is where I tortured him, there's a trick to torturing a demon, anything you'd do to most beings a demon would enjoy. I used a technique I picked up from a Goblin I know in their Commerce Protection Agency. I tortured him with kindness. Most demons are the same, they used to be angels, but something happen, usually a member of a different gender making them depressed and moody so they slide slowly until they don't believe in love or empathy or kindness or anything leaving the only joy in their sad little lives causing pain to others. But demons much like angels, as they are angels, are immortal you can't kill them and the most you can hope for is to destroy their physical body, but they'll grow that back. You have to temp them back up, it happends all the time there are very few angels who haven't spent a couple millennia causing death and destruction. Before they demon actually rises back to be an angel the very idea that they could be good, that people do love them is a torturous though to them. If love is real then they've been wasting all then time and it means the very few things they stand for are lies. So I lade into Dr. Freud's talking cure for instantaneous demonic existential chrisis. He lasted less then 10 minutes. I destroyed his body before I left, it was a gibbering crying mess anyway and hopefully this would end up being a positive experience for him and the new body would be a sign of that.
I had called up HQ before I had started and when they arrived I gave them the teleport grid reference address the demon had supplied me with. He had also supplied me with an answer to what the hell was going on. The demons were using the blood bank as a source of material for dark dark blood rituals. The audit team had come as a shock and they had tried to bribe them. The orq, like most orqs, was too honorable for that, so they had had some vampire delinquents murder him. The bloodwine was liquid courage for these frankly amateur killers which also explained why the body was so amateurishly hidden, they were drunk. He had been part of the clean up crew sent to tie up all the loose ends that might point back to the Lake.
The cavelry arrived and I have them the demons' location. It was a pretty bad other world but we had two teleport specialists (outgoing and incomeing), a love wizard from Wales, and a SMAT team (I'm done info dumping, you figure out what the M stands for) so it wouldn't be too too bad. Their base looked like something out of a really bad horror movie, not low budget bad but lack of imagination. Gothic architecture made out of bones and flesh mixed with vaguely satanic symbolism sounds bad but ends up looking like a cathedral made by a preteen Quake fan that started melting. Brian hadn't lasted long, this seemed to be a world where resurrection was relatively cheap so they'd tortured him to death several times before eating him. We captured the two demons that were left and were able to gather enough of Brian so that he could be buried in a shoe box and then got out of there. The Welsh wizard, on loan to us from the EU, took care of tracking down Ruttenberg, well most of him.
Brian's funeral was beautiful, if you find really long Mormon services beautiful, and like the man I am I didn't cry, until I got prodigiously drunk afterwords.