Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by Sturmritter, May 27, 2017.


Hi all, are you guys stil interested in this story? Should I continue?

Poll closed Jun 11, 2017.
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  1. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Shadow Hunter (Working Title) by Sturmritter (Storm Rider)

    Keija Nighthawk is a rookie hunter of shadows, a member of a discreet organization which guards the gates between the realms of man and spirit. The time is nearing, however, when a conjunction of major spiritual forces will force open the sealed gate of an ancient evil. Though they have prepared for this moment, the Shadow Hunters have yet to discover a means to keep the seal from breaking.
    For most Shadow Hunters, the breaking of the seal will mean the fight of their lives. For Keija, it means confronting her past. Will she, and her Shadow Hunter companions prevail, or will the secrets of the past overwhelm the guardians of the celestial gates?

    Table of Contents:
    Shadowhunter Chapter 1 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 21 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 41
    Shadowhunter Chapter 2 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 22 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 42
    Shadowhunter Chapter 3 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 23 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 43
    Shadowhunter Chapter 4 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 24 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 44
    Shadowhunter Chapter 5 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 25 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 45
    Shadowhunter Chapter 6 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 26 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 46
    Shadowhunter Chapter 7 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 27 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 47
    Shadowhunter Chapter 8 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 28 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 48
    Shadowhunter Chapter 9 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 29 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 49
    Shadowhunter Chapter 10 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 30 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 50
    Shadowhunter Chapter 11 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 31 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 51
    Shadowhunter Chapter 12 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 32 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 52
    Shadowhunter Chapter 13 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 33 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 53
    Shadowhunter Chapter 14 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 34 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 54
    Shadowhunter Chapter 15 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 35 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 55
    Shadowhunter Chapter 16 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 36 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 56
    Shadowhunter Chapter 17 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 37 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 57
    Shadowhunter Chapter 18 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 38 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 58
    Shadowhunter Chapter 19 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 39 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 59
    Shadowhunter Chapter 20 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 40 ......... Shadowhunter Chapter 60

    Shadowhunter Chapter 61 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 81
    Shadowhunter Chapter 62 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 82
    Shadowhunter Chapter 63 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 83
    Shadowhunter Chapter 64 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 84
    Shadowhunter Chapter 65 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 85
    Shadowhunter Chapter 66 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 86
    Shadowhunter Chapter 67 ....... Shadowhunter Chapter 87
    Shadowhunter Chapter 68
    Shadowhunter Chapter 69
    Shadowhunter Chapter 70
    Shadowhunter Chapter 71
    Shadowhunter Chapter 72
    Shadowhunter Chapter 73
    Shadowhunter Chapter 74
    Shadowhunter Chapter 75
    Shadowhunter Chapter 76
    Shadowhunter Chapter 77
    Shadowhunter Chapter 78
    Shadowhunter Chapter 79
    Shadowhunter Chapter 80

    Chapter 1: Memories of Home and a New Beginning

    Her memory of that day was as clear now as when it had happened. Looking back on the moment was a mixture of sadness and contempt tinged with excitement for what the future might hold.

    No one could have predicted what was set in motion on that day, but that's how life could be. Living day to day, not knowing what the future might hold, and trying to reconcile the present with what has happened in the past. It seemed to be the daily routine for most of humanity.

    Spirits had similar routines. Only for spirits there was more awareness of the consequences of action and reaction, and more deliberation on their part to avoid unintended consequences.

    She recalled the conversation with her father clearly, as only a spirit's eidetic memory could:

    “Father,” Keija replied curtly to her father, who was donning his uniform, a loose assemblage of lacquered and chain armor, which were favored by the Swartalfheim contingent of the Synod guardsman, “Why was I not given a choice in this matter? Why are you sending me away?”

    “Keija,” Rael Nighthawk replied, with some exasperation, “It was discussed by the entire assembly in the Synod! You were off.....doing whatever it is you do when you disappear for days on end.
    Time was of the essence!”

    (Although it must be said that the spirit world is timeless though not changeless. They still had interactions with the mortal realms, and therefore had to adjust temporally to the mortal world.)

    “And now you're off to fight some battle, while I get shuttled off to Midgaard?” Keija had tears welling up in her eyes, “What is so important that I had to be the one selected for this so-called 'honor'?”

    Rael shook his head in frustration. “It IS an honor, Keija. Everyone in the Synod knows of your skill in handling the last incident we had with those Shadow Hunters. If it wasn't for your quick thinking, what turned out to be a simple misunderstanding could have resulted in disaster.”

    Keija grimaced as the realization dawned on her, “YOU MEAN THAT IDIOT FROM THE MIDGAARD, DON'T YOU?!?” She shouted with vehemence.

    Rael looked at his daughter with a hint of sarcasm, “That so-called idiot, is one of the most powerful astral walkers in existence. If you hadn't crossed his path, and gotten him to see reason, there would have been hell to pay, perhaps literally!”

    “And so you send me back to deal with him and his organization, as an 'honor'?” Keija practically burst out in tears with the recollection of the event, “I HATE THAT GUY!”

    “Which is precisely why you were selected,” Rael replied solemnly.

    “What?!?” Keija responded with shock and disgust.

    “You are being sent to learn more about them, and their ways, in order to regain your spiritual balance and to keep the peace between our realms. Not only that, however, since they will be sending a representative of their own to learn more about our Synod. In essence, you will be our Ambassador to their world.”

    Rael finished donning his uniform, and looked at Keija squarely in the eye. “I don't know how long your assignment will last, but this was an official Synod decree, and it's been finalized, so don't think you'll go running off somewhere to escape your duty.”

    Keija bit her tongue, and knew when her father was deadly serious, “Yes, father.”

    Rael's mood lightened considerably when his daughter replied in the affirmative, “Now, go see your mother and let her know I'm heading out on Synod business as well, and know that I love you both dearly.”

    Keija swallowed her pride and was determined to make the best of it. Her father had raised her very well, and she knew her duty to her family, and to the Synod which protected them.

    She let the memory of her last moments with her mother linger briefly, but she recalled a lot of bittersweet tears, and promises to stay safe, and to correspond as often as possible.

    And with that sudden realization, Keija groaned, knowing that it had been long overdue to send a message to her parents. “I'm gonna catch some hell for slacking off in that regard,” She thought wryly.


    She was quickly purged of her mental reverie by a loud voice, as a lacrosse player darted past her with a cradled ball, and a young man chased after.

    “Hey, Elfy!” The young man named Daniel Grey chided with juvenile aplomb, “Get your head back in the game. These guys aren't playing patty cake.”

    “What is this game called again?” Keija asked, feigning ignorance, “And what the heck is patty cake?” she asked as she took up the chase as well.

    “Lacrosse,” The mortal 'idiot' replied, “And patty cake is....never mind.”

    “You realize if you call me 'Elfy' again, I'll shove this lacrosse stick up your rear-end, right?” Keija replied menacingly while grinning wickedly.

    “Save that hostility for the opposing team!” He shot back as he brought his stick down on an opposing player's cradle, and sent the ball rolling a few yards downfield.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  2. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 2: Learning the game

    Keija's memory of her father had been prompted by the the way the players had to wear equipment in order to protect themselves. The gear they wore had vaguely reminded Keija of her father's own protective armor.

    Keija quickly regained her composure, and ran towards the ball and scooped it up with her midfielder's stick. She was far more agile than most humans, and she felt as if the opposing team members were moving in slow motion as she feigned in one direction, then flitted in the opposite gaining ground towards the opposing goalkeeper.

    Just before she was about to fling the ball from her stick for a goal, she suddenly couldn't move an inch. She had been rooted with a spirit binding!

    The ball gracelessly dropped from it's cradle due to the sudden shift in momentum, and the leering face of the Shadow Hunter named Martin grinned from behind the faceplate of his helmet, mocking her predicament, as he scooped the ball up, and flung it towards one of his own midfielders, who progressed towards the Blue team's goal.

    “Sorry, Keija, but it's open rules today.” He said in passing. He pronounced her name correctly, as if it were “Kay-ah”. She really hated it when people addressed her as “Kay-jaw”.

    Open rules. The game was played allowing for spiritual abilities during open rules days. Keija should have realized she would be targeted mercilessly, but had momentarily forgotten in her zeal to score the goal.

    “Don't worry, it'll wear off in a minute or two.”

    Keija was bound and couldn't even reply with a snarky comeback. All she could do was stare at the Red team's goaltender, Lars Olson, who started giggling uncontrollably.

    Keija's eyes flashed with anger at her predicament. But there wasn't much she could do. She was more angry at herself for leaving her defenses open to spiritual attack.

    The game was called a few minutes later, and the teams gathered together for a post game revel. Her anger melted as quickly as it had built up, but she wasn't about to let the perpetrator of that last play go without a word.

    “MARTIN!!!!!!!!!!” Keija bellowed when her binding had worn off. She quickly closed distance on him as he was drinking some refreshments with the other players, “That was a dirty rotten trick!”

    “All's fair in love and war, Keija,” He winked, “oh, and open rules lacrosse too.”

    “You're cruising for a bruising, buster!” Keija replied in jest as she patted Martin's cheek, “You just wait! No underhanded trick goes unpunished by a Swartalfheimer. We invented underhanded tricks, you know.” She flashed her eyes in mock vengeance.

    “Dang it, girl, you flash those eyes, and people scatter like leaves in the wind,” Martin said somewhat flustered, “Sit down, and grab a soda.”

    Keija took a seat at the picnic table bench that was proffered.

    “Why do we even have to play this silly game? Seems like nothing but people bashing each other over a silly little ball with this weird looking stick thing with a net.”

    She sighed in frustration, more due to her getting waylaid than because of the game itself.

    “Why Lacrosse?” Martin replied, “The history of Lacrosse and why it's played will give you the reason.”

    “How so?” Keija responded, her interest piqued.

    “Well, Lacrosse was the name given by a French Jesuit missionary in the 1600's for a game that various tribes of Native Americans played in preparation for war, or for settling disputes.”

    “They played this game to prepare for war?” Keija was astounded.

    “Yep, that's right. It used to be that a game lasted from sun up until sun down. And entire villages would compete against each other.

    They also used it for recreation as well, being that it's good physical activity. Something I surmise that the spirit realm tends to lack?”

    “Hey, I'm here now and in the flesh, aren't I?” Keija shot back, her elven pride wounded by the insinuation.

    “Touche” Martin replied, “But seriously, the spirit realm doesn't really have a physical component, does it? And if not, how do you have a body? And how did you get exchanged with Jeremy?”

    “Oh, our home is as substantial as Midgaard. But we exist in a different dimension, whether you want to classify it as 'higher' or 'lower' a plane of existence is up to you, it's just different.”

    Keija explained further, “When people shift through the dimensional abyss, the Ginnungagap, the material body cannot exist, and only the spiritual essence remains, and only for a limited time. Too long in the gap, and it's game over, for anyone.”

    “So how does one regain their physical body if it cannot exist in the gap?”

    "There is a special technique that we have developed in the Synod. An ablative conduit is laid over, creating a path through the Gap, warding a person's body as it is transferred to the new dimension, and re-materializes.”

    “So it's like a tunnel?” Martin inquired.

    A voice to the side interjected, “More like a bridge,” Daniel Grey piped up. “Ever hear of Bifrost?” he queried as he wound his way towards the two to hand Martin a bottle of creme soda, “IBC” He smiled.

    “What do you know of it?” Keija sneered, her visceral dislike of this impetuous human was palpable.

    “Come now, Elfy, You know I can travel back and forth between your realm and mine at will. I cross Bifrost regularly. Helm and I are on a first name basis by now!”

    “Stop calling me that. You know it upsets me,” She simmered, “And why Helm doesn't obliterate you, I'll never understand.”
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  3. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 3: Danger is coming

    Daniel sighed, “Fine. Though I don't know why you hate me so. After all, it was you who convinced me to stop going after a look into Niflheim.”

    “Niflheim is the land of the coward's death,” Keija grumbled, “If you went traipsing around uninvited by Hela, she would have demanded payment.....FROM US, not you. You almost started a war by sticking your nose where it didn't belong, so I have reason to despise you.”

    “Why would this Hela have demanded a tribute from the Synod?” Daniel mused.
    “Because we're responsible for keeping riffraff like you out of her realm.”

    “Well, see, that's not how you convinced me to stop before, But it was a much better explanation. That wasn't so hard was it?”

    Keija glared at Daniel, “Don't press my buttons, walker, or you'll find out just how much underworld scorn a spirit can deliver.”

    “Fine, whatever you say, Elfy.”

    Keija rose herself from the bench to slap the 'idiot', but stayed her strike when she noticed the glare of the old man.

    “Daniel, Keija,” The old man said sternly, “That's enough.”

    “Y-yes, sir.” Daniel quickly stammered, “Sorry to have bothered you Miss Keija. Enjoy the soda Martin!” he said as he quickly moved away.

    “Yes, sir. Sorry for the outburst,” Keija apologized sincerely.

    The old man had an adamantite presence when he spoke, and his ki pressure alone was enough to knock most spirits to the floor. Keija was one of the few who really understood how powerful Anthony Mallory, the leader of the Shadow Hunters, was.

    When she first met him, she almost felt like kneeling in fealty, but she was instantly fond of him, and his paternal sensibility.

    He was the leader and protector of all who served in the organization. One disapproving look from him would freeze her worse than a spirit binding. The only other people she knew who could do that, were her parents.

    Daniel, on the other hand, was not quite aware of his spiritual pressure, but could sense other factors which cowed him into submission.

    Indeed, Anthony Mallory was a mystery to most of the Shadow Hunters, but everyone respected him dearly.

    The old man clinked a bottle to gain everyone's attention, “You all did well in that game, people. We play the game to build teamwork, and trust. Next week we'll play closed rules, strictly by the rulebook. No bindings, shapeshifting or spiritual abilities.”

    Keija smiled inwardly, her natural agility gave her an extreme advantage during the closed rule games.

    “Sucks to be you, Martin, next week,” She winked slyly at him.

    “Don't be holding a grudge for an open rule play, now Keija. It's all to build teamwork.”

    “Then you better hope you're on my team next week!” She smirked.

    As the Old Man continued to discuss the review of the game, a flock of birds suddenly took flight from the edge of the forest near the opposite end of the field.

    Keija sensed something was amiss, and got a nod from the Old Man to go investigate the disturbance.

    She quickly got up and darted away from the picnic table, making her way towards a copse of maples where the birds had been disturbed.

    She entered the edge of the copse, and stood silently for a moment, to gain a better sense of her surroundings and the natural ebb and flow of the fauna.

    She glanced back at the group of Shadow Hunters across the open field, and signaled that she didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

    She then turned back towards the deeper part of the copse and walked slowly for several minutes, examining the area with a wary eye.

    The flock of birds hadn't been disturbed by any gusts of wind, so there was something else at play in the area.

    Keija stopped as she heard ragged breathing deeper into the forested area. She approached the sound cautiously, using her natural stealth to keep her own location as secret as possible.

    “H-help me,” a weak, barely audible voice pleaded, “I know you are there, spirit. I can sense such things. I've come to warn the Shadow Hunters of a great danger.”

    Studying the area cautiously, after a moment she focused in on the source of the voice. An elderly gentleman was sitting against the trunk of a maple tree, looking haggard and worn, dressed in an otherwise stylish three piece double breasted wool suit.

    He was gazing at a pocket watch, but Keija knew that his focus was entirely upon her, even if he couldn't spot her exact location. The suit was blemished, however, by a dark stain that covered the abdominal region.

    The gentleman continued to speak towards her location, “I don't have....have much time left, spirit. The first seal might break any day now.”

    He lost his balance and sagged to one side as he finished speaking.

    Keija knew that she had to let the old man know what she had found, but she was afraid that if she went for help, then anything the gentleman might say would be lost forever.

    She could see that he was badly wounded, and so she risked revealing herself to the man.

    The elderly gentleman's face brightened when Keija gently revealed herself. From the man's perspective, it seemed like a young teenager was innocently peeking out from behind a tree during a game of hide and seek.

    “Ah,” he sighed with relief, “There you are. At least I wasn't hallucinating your presence quite yet.” He coughed roughly for a moment before continuing, “Not dressed as I would have imagined though.”

    Keija wondered what the man could mean, and then the realization came that she was still dressed with her lacrosse uniform on.

    “You must warn the Shadow Hunters that Nidavellir has made a pact with a faction of the Illuminati.”

    She had no idea who or what the Illuminati were, but she was well aware of Nidavellir. The inhabitants of that realm also went by the name “Dark Dwellers” and sometimes referred to as Duregar, the dark dwarves.

    They were generally considered evil, selfish, and sadistic. Anyone who dealt with that realm had to be either crazy, or up to nothing good.

    Keija turned to the old gentleman who was wheezing with each restless breath, “I'll go and get you some help.”

    “There is no time for that. It's already too late for me,” He replied sullenly, “Just make sure you get the message to Anthony.”
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  4. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 4: The importance of family

    Keija gasped in the realization that the elder gentleman's life was expiring before her eyes.

    His eidos, or spiritual self image, was forming to begin it's journey along the silver cord to the astral realm of judgment, where the emissaries of the Lord of Creation would determine the fate of the soul.

    Without further hesitation, Keija summoned and launched a wisp high into the air above the trees. She imbued a hue of red as a signal as she had been taught by her father.

    The others would see the wisp and respond quickly. After launching the wisp, Keija knelt down and gently attempted to make the man more comfortable.

    “Be still,” Keija chided softly, “help is coming. What is your name?”

    The man's lips trembled in an attempted response, but it took too much effort for the gentleman to reply. The silver cord binding his eidos to his body was fraying badly and would soon be severed completely.

    Keija sat protectively over the body, and began to murmur a prayer in order to strengthen the astral binding and was continuing to pray for several moments before Anthony Mallory and several of her teammates arrived in response to the wisp.

    Mallory reacted quickly to the situation, and further strengthened Keija's prayer and it's effect with an extension of his spiritual presence, known as ki.

    Her fellow shadow hunters, Elijah Morris and Lars Olson quickly surveyed the area and secured the area, while Daniel Grey, Martin Dubois and the rest of the team arrived shortly afterwards.

    “Elijah!” The old man commanded, “Set up a harmonic resonance on the astral cord, with a feedback loop. It just might save Edgar's life.”

    Keija noticed that the old man knew the gentleman's name immediately. Were they acquainted? Or did the old man use one of his spiritual information gathering abilities?

    “Roger that!” Elijah replied sharply.

    “Lars, take Martin, Daniel, Sam and Thomas and set up a security perimeter.”

    “Roger!” Lars replied in the same military manner, as he motioned to the others and directed them to patrol.

    “Uzume! Heal his physical wounds and then contact the hospital and have them send air medevac. We'll continue to try and keep Edgar's situation stable until then,” Anthony continued.

    “Yes sir!” a short, white haired albino maiden replied and then set to work healing his wounds.
    Anthony Mallory then turned to Keija, and with a gentle voice and a nod of his head,

    “You did well, young one, he's not left Midgaard yet. Your quick response and cord strengthening prayer were just in time. I only hope he can regain consciousness. Thank you very, very much. You may have just saved his life.”

    “Yes, sir.” Keija responded with hesitation, “The gentleman managed to tell me something of importance before he lost consciousness.”

    “Oh?” Mallory raised an eyebrow at this news.

    “He said that Nidavellir and some group called the Illuminati have struck a pact.”

    “That's not just any gentleman, Keija,” The old man chided softly, “That's my uncle. And that information does not bode well. Did he mention which faction of the Illuminati? Ah, never mind. It's important, but not as important as Edgar's life.”

    Now it was Keija's turn to be surprised, “Your uncle? Will he be alright?”

    Mallory grimaced at the severity of the situation, but clenched his jaw, “I'll do whatever I can to help ensure his recovery. You understand how important family is, don't you? He's a tough old bear, even if he's hanging by a literal thread for now. A thread that you helped to protect. I won't forget that.”

    Moments later the sounds of a helicopter medevac were heard landing just outside the grove's perimeter, and Edgar was lifted onto a stretcher and moved out.

    Mallory told everyone he'd accompany his uncle in the helicopter and that Uzume would take charge back at the facility.

    Keija watched the helicopter lift off, and head off into the distance while the others began to scry the area for more clues.

    “Uzume?” Keija inquired when the albino had a moment to spare, “How long have you been with Mr. Mallory?”

    “Eh? Why do you ask?” Uzume responded a bit surprised.

    “Well, he called me young one...” Keija hesitated to finish.

    “He's an oddity, calling spirits young ones, since technically we are without age as mortals understand it,” Uzume replied, “But I suspect he has a very deep understanding of our nature. I've been with him for 10 years now, and I respect him greatly. He is close to a celestial level gate guardian in my estimation, though he'd never declare himself as such. Raiko or even Helm probably could learn a thing or two from him, outside of guarding Bifrost that is.”

    Keija nodded in agreement, and continued to watch the helicopter until it disappeared from view. Things will be changing now, and she hadn't even started to settle in yet.
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  5. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 5: Reminiscing

    Daniel was reading a book, "The composition of the synod", after the situation with Edgar had calmed down, and read the following excerpt:

    "There was a time, not very long ago, when the realms of mankind and spirit were distinctly separated, and interaction between the realms was rare. Of course, this was not always the case. In the ancient past, the realms of spirit and man actually overlapped, with portions of each realm coexisting in the same physical space. In the present time, the realms are connected via a series of gates and conduits. In the eastern and western cosmologies, each of the 12 major gates (not to mention innumerable minor gates to areas within each realm) is ruled by an astrological sign, reflecting those astrological traditions. The realms of the western and eastern cosmologies reflect the concepts Heaven, Hell(s), and areas in-between these pure and diametrically opposed realms. A biblical example of this comes from the teachings of Jesus who said,

    Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

    In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you;
    for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again
    and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also...” (John 14:1-3)

    Norse (Northern traditional) cosmology has 9 realms each interconnected by the world tree, Yggdrasil. One of the realms, Swartalfheim, is further divided into regions consisting of the dark elves (Swartalfheimer) and Duregar (Nidavellir). And finally, I include mention of the southern traditions which include the Mayan and Austral cosmologies, which focus on the dreamscape realm, and the connections between the waking and dream worlds.

    The Synod is a confluence of the various spirit realms, consisting of East, West, Austral (South) and Norse (North) cosmologies. Representatives from the spirit realms of each tradition are chosen as leaders of the Synod council and help maintain the balance between the realms, at least on the spiritual side of existence. The mortal realms are governed by other organizations, such as our own college of mages, the Celestial Guardians and Shadow Hunters."

    - excerpt from a lecture on the composition of the Synod, given at Stonehenge (The Lions' Horse gate - Leo/Horse), by Van Kresperic, (DMP) to the 5th college of mages international symposium.

    Daniel put the book down, and reminisced a bit.

    Daniel Grey had always been somewhat of a lone wolf, even before his ability to planeswalk had manifest itself during puberty. An only child, Daniel received an austere childhood from his parents, who felt that pampering their child would only serve to ruin his developing personality. As such, Daniel developed an independent mindset, with a tinge of conceit and self reliance that comes with benign neglect.

    His locally famous incident at the Gates of Hel and his meeting Keija Nighthawk came after several excursions into the astral plane, and his discovery of the Bifrost bridge into the realm of Asgaard. From the World Tree, his explorations allowed Daniel to fully develop into a masterful astral traveller, otherwise known as an “Walker”.

    Even the Synod began to take notice of the exploits of the young man, as he delved into territories deemed hazardous. Eventually the Shadow Hunters were contacted to arrange some measure of control and guidance for the young man. Even so, Daniel continued to explore the astral realm with minimal assurances to Anthony Mallory and his organization, that he would “behave himself” during his travels.

    Keija had been “in the right place at the right time” (Which is somewhat of an misnomer in the spirit realm, as it is both universal and ageless) and had encountered Daniel before he trespassed upon the bounds of Niflheim, the realm of Hel, who in the northern tradition rules over the cowardly dead.

    An agreement had been struck between Hel and the Synod to ensure that neither would the cowardly dead escape from Hel's realm, but that none should enter Niflheim without her approval either. When Daniel, on one of his many excursions unknowingly came close to trespassing upon the gates of Niflheim, Keija managed to convince the otherwise stubborn youth that he would be causing a lot of trouble if he continued with his plans.

    Daniel, being headstrong, and with a lack of social graces due to his austere upbringing, managed to annoy Keija greatly during this encounter, and she, being in many ways a like minded being to Daniel, felt the polar opposition to his similar personality.

    After the helicopter carrying Edgar Mallory departed, Uzume released Lars' security detail, and Daniel being the naturally curious sort, decided to inquire to Keija as to the particulars of her encounter.

    “You know about as much as me!” Keija shot back exasperated, “I arrived to discover an elderly man, who turns out to be the old man's uncle, wounded and dying! I sent up the distress wisp, and you know the rest.” Keija would never betray the information that elder Edgar had asked be passed to the old man, so she left that part out.

    “Woah!” Daniel replied nonchalantly, “Settle down. You do realize we are all part of a team, don't you? That attitude of yours is...”
    “Attitude?!?” Keija cut in heatedly. “What the heck? I'm simply worried for the old man's uncle and you dare accuse me of attitude?” Keija was fuming. This guy simply knew how to push her buttons, and she roiled at the very presence of him.

    “Ok! Ok! Back down a bit yourself, because I'm worried for the old man as well. Don't always assume I'm here to smoke your bacon.”
    Keija, being a spirit, usually couldn't grasp idiomatic expressions.

    “Bacon??!? What the hell does bacon have to do with anything?”
    “Well, besides being delicious, like you, It's just a saying meaning, I'm not here to get in your business or in your way.” Daniel teased and then immediately relented before Keija exploded.

    Keija did not miss the teasing compliment, but refused to acknowledge it. She would have blushed terribly if she had assumed her human form, but as a dark elf, she was incapable of blushing.
    “Whatever,” She huffed, “Just keep your distance for now; you always provoke me, and I don't want to deal with it right now.”
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  6. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 6: Do they really hate each other? Or is she just Tsundere?

    “Fair enough,” Daniel replied as he gazed at Keija's figure. She was amazingly fit, and tomboyish in looks and behavior, but he could sense a deeply feminine personality buried somewhere in that body. He kept staring at her for several seconds before she lifted up her chin in a scoff and turned to walk several steps away.

    Daniel had been intrigued by Keija ever since he had encountered her. His provoking her was simply a result of his personality, which was surprisingly similar to his own in some respects, but quite different in others.

    For his own part, he understood he was teasing her, and it was her fiery reaction to that, which kept him doing it. The dark elves were naturally tricksters, and when Daniel saw that his teasing had an effect on this one, he simply couldn't resist having fun.

    Keija's natural beauty was simply stunning to Daniel as well. How could any young man resist fondly teasing a beautiful, seemingly young girl who gave such wonderful reactions to it?

    As Keija stepped away, the various members of the organization loitered about after the helicopter departed, Uzume called for those in the area to return to their quarters. They would begin preparing for continuing training in the morning.

    Everyone was beginning to wrap up what they were doing, when Uzume momentarily felt a strangely disconcerting sensation emanating from a pocket watch lying on the ground, near where Keija had first encountered Edgar Mallory.

    She picked up the pocket watch, and inspected it, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Taking the watch with her, she would have it analyzed later for anything suspicious.

    Later that evening, as members of the organization gathered for their evening meal, Uzume updated everyone after hearing from the Old Man at the Hospital. Edgar was in a coma, but his vital statistics indicated that he was stable.

    The Old Man would be back at the compound tomorrow morning once he had arranged security for his uncle. Everyone gathered breathed a sigh of relief and several called out Keija for her actions in helping to save Edgar Mallory.

    For evening meals, Keija had taken her human form, and when singled out by her fellow Shadow Hunters, blushed mightily at the various toasts given to her.

    When it came time for Daniel's toast, Keija braced herself for anything.

    “To an extraordinary spirit, and usually competent lacrosse player when she isn't daydreaming on the field. I simply have to commend you today for your life saving actions. A toast! To Keija Nighthawk, our newest Shadow Hunter, and a bright star 'midst hidden gems.”

    Keija was bracing herself for some withering jest on his part, but it never came. During the long, awkward silence between his toast and her acknowledgment, she could see him smiling sincerely at her for the first time she could remember (And this was astonishing her, because she had eidetic memory!), and she was flabbergasted.

    Keija stammered out a hasty thanks, and shrank in embarrassment.

    Those around her did not expect the sincerity of Daniel's toast, and knowing of Daniel and Keija's interactions in the past, couldn't help but lightly giggle as she struggled with Daniel's sincere compliment. The reaction alone sent Daniel shaking uncontrollably as he stifled laughing out loud. Regaining his composure quickly, Daniel politely replied, “You are most welcome.”

    The young woman sitting next to Keija leaned over and whispered in her ear in a thick eastern European accent, “You shouldn't have let him astonish you like that! You and I should prepare a suitable trick to repay him.”

    Keija, still blushing, replied to the lady with a twinkle in her eye, “Venka, why should I not be astonished? This is the first time he's ever spoken a kind word to me since I'd arrived! Would it be proper to trick a man for his unusual kindness? That said, he does deserve something.”

    Venka Ilsburg raised her eyes in surprise, “Oh? Were you thinking of thanking him later on?”

    Keija scowled a bit at that remark, “While he may have given me a kindness, I still don't trust his motives. Could I ask you to dig up some information on him?”

    Venka pursed her lips, “Ah, Keija. I'm truly sorry for that, but you are not aware of the Old Man's position on this subject yet. We're not to spy on each other. If you want to know his background, you can always ask him straight to his face. Whether or not he tells you, though, is up to him."

    Keija sighed dejectedly, as she knew better than to cross the Old Man's policies. “Well, I'll figure out something when the opportunity presents itself, I suppose.”
  7. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 7: Invasion!

    As the dinner ended, Uzume stood up and began briefing the attendees on the next morning's training schedule. Elsewhere, however, off in a secluded corner of the complex, the pocket watch that Uzume had stored in the forensics lab began to glow eerily.

    Moments later, tiny mechanical bugs began to pour forth through a magical portal triggered on a time delay cast on the watch days before. The bugs quickly scattered throughout the room, intent on gleaning information about the complex.

    However, Uzume had previously had suspicions about the watch, and had added some extra security safeguards to the room. As the mechanical bugs spread forth, a silent alarm was triggered, and notified Uzume immediately.

    Additionally, several traps were sprung by the mechanical bugs, and quite a few of the intruders were disabled immediately.

    “Attention, everyone!” Uzume stopped her training briefing immediately, “We have intruders in the complex, at the forensics lab! Lars, take your team to the lab once you're combat ready, I'll join you shortly. Keija, I want your team to track down the origin of this portal and deal with anything that might get past the combat team. The rest of you will lock down the the remaining rooms of the facility, and monitor for additional breaches.”

    Lars and his team immediately headed for the armory before heading to the forensics lab. Keija, Daniel, Martin and his sister Melissa immediately headed for the situation room, located centrally in the complex.

    Stopping for just a moment at her dorm room, Keija quickly pulled a few items from her closet, and pocketed them. She then continued on to the situation room. From the situation room, they could call up security camera views to monitor the situation, and react to the intruders as necessary.

    Keija also handed out communications headsets to the members of her team.

    “Melissa, you and Martin should lay down traps at these locations, and then assist the combat team. Contact me when the traps are set up.” Keija pointed out to a facility map on the wall of the situation room, “Daniel, I'll need you to go Astral, and attempt to locate that portal's origin if at all possible. Once we figure out who we're dealing with, we can assist the others.”

    As Martin and Melissa headed off, Daniel turned to Keija, thought for a moment about teasing her, then wryly smiled and decided against it. “I'll need to get as close to the portal as possible, Elfy, before I go astral. Can you keep my location secure?”

    Keija rolled her eyes at the “Elfy” comment, but at this point getting mad wouldn't change a thing. Still she bit her lip until it pained her, and then replied “I can do that, Walker. Can you get the origin of the portal?”

    “If I can get close enough to accurately view it in the astral dimension, I should be able to follow the portal's cord back to it's origin. However, not knowing what we're up against, I am quite vulnerable when walking, so please ensure my security.”

    “Where do you need to set up?” Keija requested as she pointed to the wall map.

    “Well, the storage area next to the forensics lab would be best, but until Lars and his team can secure that area, It'll be dangerous. However, we have a limited time before the Portal's signature dissipates.”

    Keija nodded, and activated the situation room's communications array, and linked to the combat team's frequency. “Lars, are you receiving this?” She spoke into the microphone.

    “Loud and clear, Nighthawk.” A voice replied crisply.

    “If the situation allows, we need to get Daniel to setup an Astral Walk in the storage room next to the forensics lab. What's your status?”

    Over the sound of sporadic gunfire in the background, Lars replied, “We've got a mess of mechanical bugs crawling all over the place. The little buggers are about grapefruit sized, and it seems they self-repair as well. We'll push them past the storage area, but the situation may get dire if we're unable to finish this before our ammunition depletes.”

    “Understood,” Keija replied, “Daniel and I will make our way to the storage room now. We'll try to make this as quick as possible.”

    Keija turned to Daniel and sternly stated, “Try not to do anything silly, just go in, track the cord of the portal back to it's origin, and come back. I'll keep those pesky bugs from harming that ugly mug of yours. Let's move.”

    Without letting Daniel get a word in edgewise, Keija opened the door, and headed towards the storage area down the hallway and towards the forensics lab. The sounds of clashing steel, and the occasional report of handguns was heard as they steadily made their way closer to the objective.

    Keija and Daniel arrived at an intersection of hallways, and as she continued to the storage area, they both glanced towards the forensics lab, seeing Lars behind a makeshift barricade, rapid firing his pistol, while Sam and Uzume wielded hammer and blade against a swarm of the mechanical insects.

    They continued a short ways down the hallway, and stopped at the door to the storage facility. Keija quickly scanned the area for any of the mechanical bugs, then opened the door and allowed Daniel to quickly enter the room and set up what he called his “hutch”.

    Keija helped him prepare some spirit barriers to prevent his body being attacked astrally, and then returned to barricade the door, so that no bugs would easily infiltrate the room.

    Daniel, for his part, prepared a bedroll from his pack, and placed a noise dampening device nearby to cancel out sound waves by broadcasting a computer generated anti-wave of the ambient sound. The area near this device became eerily quiet, and Daniel then proceeded to assume a meditative position on the bedroll.

    Keija looked on, and expanded her spiritual senses into the astral plane, where she could detect and watch over Daniel's cord. She also had to keep her earthly senses sharp in case any bugs attempted to overcome her barricade.

    She had no way of knowing if these intruders could sense other dimensions, but they were magical constructs of a highly advanced sort, according to the descriptions coming across her communications relay.
  8. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 8: Tracking the Culprit

    Several minutes passed, and as Keija gazed into the astral realm, she could see Daniel's silver cord originating from his body, and fading off into the astral haze after several meters, in the direction of the forensics lab.

    Several entities of unknown strength were alerted to this movement within the realm, and Keija knew at some point, someone or something would come to investigate. While his body was protected by spirit barriers in the physical dimension, his astral body only had the silver cord itself as it's weakest point.

    But Keija did not worry too much, for she knew that Daniel was an expert in Astral travel, and knew how to protect himself and the silver cord which anchored his body to his mind.

    Indeed, the danger now was in the physical realm, where Keija's sharp senses discovered an imminent arrival of several mechanical bugs through the air ducts, making their way further into into the Shadow Hunter facility.

    She estimated in about 30 seconds they would pass overhead and continue towards the center of the building.

    Quickly withdrawing her senses from the Astral plane, Keija reached into her pocket for a particular device, which could only be described as a type of bear-trap (One of the devices she pulled from her closet earlier).

    She leapt up to the ceiling where an air duct access cover was located. Like a chameleon, she clung to the ceiling removing the cover with unnatural strength and ease, and placed the trap in the duct.

    Afterwards, she neatly replaced the cover and dropped back down to the floor, immediately preparing a wisp in case the bug managed to avoid to the trap.

    Moments later, the clatter of mechanical insects being smashed to bits by the device sounded out. Keija quickly concentrated her sense of hearing to determine if she had gotten them all, but grimaced as she noted at least one continued down the air duct further into the building interior.

    Keija once again jumped onto the ceiling, removing the cover. She momentarily concentrated on the wisp, infusing the wisp with an intent to destroy the intruder, and launched the wisp into the air duct, where it began to barrel down on the remaining bug.

    The wisp was about to careen into the bug when it deployed an anti-magic chaff, neutralizing the wisp. Keija swore under her breath when she lost sense of the wisp, and immediately contacted Lars and Uzume on her communications relay concerning the infiltrator.

    Lars thanked her for the information, and deployed a team-mate, Thomas Silver, to track down and destroy the bug.

    “Keija, you remain with Daniel, until he returns his conscience. Let the combat team handle the intruders for now. Just keep your current location secure,” Uzume replied over the communications array.

    “Understood, Uzume,” Keija replied succinctly.

    With the information transmitted, Keija pulled out a second trap from her pocket, and placed it in the duct. If the mechanical intruder retraced it's path, it would be destroyed. Keija closed the duct cover, and returned to inspect the door barricade.

    No one knew how many intruder bugs had infiltrated, but they were known to be self-repairing. With the possibility of also replicating, no one could rest secure if even one managed to escape destruction.

    As Keija was dealing with securing the perimeter (and Lars and his team were chasing down and destroying all known intruders,) Daniel was busy entering the astral plane, searching for the residual aspects of the invader's portal.

    Time and space in the astral plane did not conform to any laws of physics, so even though he was in physical proximity to the area where the portal opened, he still had to search for the astral image, and the residual cord that connected the portal to it's origin.

    Since time also operated differently, what might seem mere seconds to Daniel could be minutes or hours in the physical realm where Keija still kept watch. In addition to the task at hand, there was also the possibility of deployed astral spirit traps which could hinder or disable Daniel in his astral state.

    Being wary of these possible traps drained his concentration and imposed limits on how long he could search.

    As Daniel drifted through the apparent mist of the astral domain, his keen intuition guided him towards a particular direction (for lack of a better descriptor), and his conscience became more confident that he was nearing his goal.

    After searching his surrounding area carefully, Daniel noted the faint thread of a quickly withering astral cord withdrawing slowly from the dim afterimage of a portal gate. Immediately, Daniel locked onto the decaying thread, and followed it quickly along it's path.

    Daniel had to outpace the decay of the cord, and slowly but steadily, the cord began to firm up and become more tangible. He was now confident that he could follow this cord back to it's origin.

    Daniel expanded his sensory perception as he continued to trace the cord. At this juncture, it was very likely that the Portal path had some astral traps deployed along it's path, and sure enough Daniel discovered two which he managed to avoid deftly.

    Daniel's years of experience in astral travel were not being wasted as he maneuvered through the surreal environment. He was certain that he was about to discover the origin point of the portal, when a spirit trap exploded in the distance, drawing the attention of a bestial denizen of the area.

    Immediately shrouding his conscience as best he could, Daniel dropped an astral marker (in actuality, the marker was a concept or idea which could be fixed in the astral dimension, and could be used as a beacon by any traveller who understood the concept and was aware of it's existence), and began to withdraw.

    He knew better than to let an astral beast become aware of his presence. The consequences of which were well documented in the number of travellers who did not survive a journey into the realm.

    Still, Daniel could not help but gape in awe at the “sight” of such a creature. This leviathan was truly immense, and since all entities in the astral plane were representations of intellect.

    The wildness of this beast represented pure chaotic thought. If one were to put it in terms of ancient psycho-analysis, this beast represented a kind of Id as described in Sigmund Freud's theory.

    Slowly, and very carefully, Daniel withdrew along his own silver cord's path, carefully taking his cord with him, leaving no trace behind. With the marker he placed earlier, Daniel could recall to this location in the astral plane, as long as he kept mindful of it.

    The bestial nature of the astral leviathan was such that Daniel was confident his marker would not be discovered or disturbed. After safely withdrawing from the danger zone, Daniel returned and re-integrated his conscience with his physical body.

    In the storage room, Keija sensed the return of Daniel's conscience, and noted the slight convulsions in his body, understanding that Daniel was once again fusing his spirit and body together.

    As a spirit herself, she naturally understood the process, but her essence was of a different kind from a human (even if she could emulate that form), and so she could not articulate that understanding even if she tried. It was simply something she knew when it happened.

    Keija gazed at Daniel, watching as he slowly regained consciousness. He wasn't particularly displeasing to look at, She noted wryly. Other than his abrasive personality traits, he was actually pretty handsome.

    She quickly shook herself out of such thoughts, as Daniel began to stir.

    “Did you find what you were looking for?” Keija questioned with a hint of scoff.

    Daniel yawned for a moment, and took a moment to re-orient himself, and replied, “Huh? Could you repeat that?”

    Keija shook her head, “Never mind. You wouldn't have returned so quickly otherwise.”

    Daniel immediately connected her reply with her previous question, “Oh, yes, I found the portal's origin, but couldn't approach it at present, but I did leave a marker.”

    Keija relaxed a bit, “Well, that's something, I suppose. We'd better report in.”
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  9. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 9: Resolve

    Keija and Daniel gathered up their equipment, and headed back towards the intersection leading to the forensics lab. Along the route, both Shadow Hunters noted the chaotic debris from the invasion, as well as now diminished occasional gunfire as straggling bugs were intercepted and destroyed.

    As Keija and Daniel turned the corner and headed towards the combat Team, they began to see the extent of the invasion and the damage to the facility.

    “These things really f*cked the place up,” Daniel murmured in astonishment. Glancing towards Keija, he also saw her composure was affected as well.

    He knew that Keija had only arrived here a few weeks ago, but she had been given the responsibility of a team, a team that he wasn't on normally (Phew!!!) but he was a free-roamer so he was attached to any team that needed him.

    He also knew that that she took her responsibilities seriously. He knew if he was affected by this attack, that she, as a spirit especially so, would be tremendously affected.

    Still in her human guise, Keija had tears begin to well from her eyes. The emotional outburst was unusual for her, but her body's physical response was natural, and it tied her eidos further into the complex network of spiritual energy surrounding the compound.

    To put it in a way that humans could understand it, This was her home now, and this invasion had violated her sense of belonging. Seeing all of the chaos and destruction these mechanical invaders had wrought, stung Keija deeply, but it also strengthened her resolve to find and defeat this enemy.

    As they arrived at the Combat team's initial deployment area, they saw Uzume directing lockdown teams, and coordinating the encirclement of the remaining invaders. Nodding to Keija and Daniel as they entered the area, she quickly asked about the success of their mission.

    Daniel gave a thumbs up, and smiled. “I put a marker down near the origin point. I can get us back there whenever we're ready.”

    Uzume smiled, her fox-like canines glistened in the bright florescent light of the lab. Uzume happened to be a Kitsune, a fox spirit, so her sense of the hunt, having been triggered, resulted in a Pavlovian response.

    She too felt the affects on her eidos caused by this invasion, much like Keija, but she had much stronger ties to the location. She also had much more experience in dealing with such sudden shifts in spiritual energy.

    Noting Keija's discomfort, Uzume told her to rest for now, and that they could commune with each other about the situation when they had the opportunity to do so.

    Keija understood Uzume's perspective immediately, and nodded in affirmation.

    Uzume asked Keija to transfer Daniel, as a guide, to her team, and they would do a recon in force of the Portal origin. Keija would rest and recover her strength, and then co-ordinate with the Old Man when he arrived, which would be fairly soon, given the invasion.

    The lockdown teams would continue on station, providing local area security.

    “Daniel, while you're on duty with the combat team, I'll need your help preparing the astral portal gate for the team. We'll need a device-assisted dive since we don't have time for a regular operation. Are you recovered enough for another walk?”

    Uzume used the organization's term for astral travel referring to it as a “Dive.” Dives were device assisted, while “walks” were done naturally.

    The normal procedure involved slowly achieving a balanced mental state and letting one's consciousness drift until it encountered the astral plane. That was a walk.

    A device assisted drive was a much more hurried, chaotic and stressful affair. An injection of Nor-epinephrine would cause a slight increase in heart rate, as vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels) caused increased flow back to the heart, resulting in higher blood pressure, while slightly increasing oxygen demand.

    The heart being more active, resulted in a brain and body more prepared for Astral travel.

    The problem was that in order to actually travel in the astral plane, the body must be in a state of rest, and so another injection of a drug, this time Cyclobenzaprine, would be administered to induce drowsiness and relax the muscles.

    A device monitored the vital signs to adjust the dose as necessary for both drugs throughout the operation. Although these drugs had no known side effects, they had conflicting primary effects which were stressful on humans, but had little effect on spirits.

    For this reason, Uzume had Lars remain behind as the team's guardian, while Thomas, Venka, and Uzume would dive while Daniel walked.

    Daniel didn't need a device to assist him, with his experience, so he was considered safe on his own. Uzume was a spirit, so the drugs were completely ineffective for her.

    Thomas and Venka were special cases. They fell into the category of: Not quite human, not quite spirit. These two and several others in the organization were termed Hybrids or Anomalies.

    Hybrids were the type of creatures from legend. An amalgam of spiritual energy and human DNA which morphed into something supernatural. Werewolves and Vampires were the most famous examples of this, but Mimics, Doppelgangers, Succubi, Rakshasas, Harpies, Nagas, and other mythical creatures also fell into this grouping.
    Last edited: May 29, 2017
  10. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 10: Astral Dive

    Thomas Silver was a Lycanthrope, a werewolf, and had an extremely powerful constitution. Therefore even though he was affected by these drugs, he could withstand the roller coaster of effects that applied to him.

    His willpower was such, that he could forcefully endure the negative effects, and encourage the positive effects of these drugs.

    Venka Ilsburg, was a mimic. She was also known as a face changer to some cultures, or a skinwalker. Her abilities to morph her body allowed her to mitigate the negative effects of these drugs as well, not through force but through finessing her metabolism.

    As Venka, Thomas and Daniel prepared to dive they all gathered in a small room the teams used for diving, appropriately called the Dive room.

    The others began their preparations while Uzume continued coordinating the final stages of the counter attack against the remaining mechanical invaders. It would take at least an hour for the others to prepare, giving her plenty of time to coordinating the other lockdown teams, and exterminate the final swarm of bugs.

    After giving the lockdown and security teams their final orders to secure the compound, Uzume joined the others in the dive room. And assisted both Thomas and Venka with the drug injection and monitoring devices.

    The countdown to the dive began, and each participant in the dive steeled their bodies for the effects of the first drug. The sensation was as if someone had spooked you from behind while you were reading a good novel.

    The sweat pours clamped up and eyes began to tear, as the heart rate and blood pressure increased. As these effects were assimilated into the eidos of each team member, the device monitored, and then began to inject the Cyclobenzaprine.

    Muscle firmness began to wilt, eventually becoming flaccid. The team members who could be affected by this, naturally became drowsy under the drug's influence, yet they will themselves into an even deeper state of rest.

    Within just a few minutes, (rather than the normal hour or so to do it naturally) they had entered a state of consciousness which allowed them to enter the Astral plane.

    Daniel, being one of the foremost experts in this field, naturally could enter a state within mere seconds, so he had neither need of a device, nor of time to begin his walk.

    Even so, both he and Uzume entered after Thomas and Venka, in order to ensure the devices were operating properly. Once the hybrids had entered the dive state of consciousness, He gestured for Uzume to begin her dive as well.

    The Winter Fox spirt nodded, and performed a norito, a specialized prayer which enhanced and unmasked her abilities. Her small human frame melted as she recited the prayer, and she shed her human form as if a butterfly were emerging from a chrysalis.

    The Winter Fox nodded to Daniel and began to fade from view as she entered the astral plane naturally immersing her eidos with the dimension of thoughts.

    Once Uzume had completed her assimilation with the Astral Plane, Daniel placed his sound dampening device, unrolled his bedroll, and entered the Astral plane as easily as he had before when Keija was guarding him earlier.

    How does one explain entering the realm of thought? Obviously, one has to think about something.

    In their preparations to meet in the Astral realm, the first Astral travelers modeled their thoughts on Astronomy, thus the Astral plane began to structure itself in this regard and the Celestial Spheres emerged. These thoughts became permanent markers in the Astral realm, and allowed groups of divers and wlakers to meet and share their intentions.

    Meeting at these “Crossroads of the spirit realm” allowed the team to orient themselves conceptually to the surreal environment, and their thoughts became an anchor in this reality. From here, they could explore safely, and retreat using the silver cords tethered to this anchor.

    Daniel took the lead once the team had completely oriented to their new surroundings. He began to concentrate on the marker he had placed earlier during the scouting mission, and headed off in a particular direction.

    The others merely had to follow his silver cord to remain oriented, and very soon the team had arrived near the marker.

    “Everyone” Daniel expressed in the Astral manner of mental telepathy, “Be aware of several leviathans in the surrounding zone. They are Class 7 or higher constructs!”

    A class 7 mental construct?! Venka and Thomas had never encountered a mental construct higher than class 3 before. And those were fairly viscous! Class 7? or Higher?!?!? That type of strength was astonishing to the hybrid divers.

    Thomas and Venka both replied with a tone anxiety, “Will we be able to avoid them?”

    Daniel gathered the team around and explained his strategy.

    The others brightened considerably, “Oh! So that's how it will go. We should be able to do that.”

    Venka and Uzume nodded in agreement, as the plan was very simple.

    Daniel smiled as he motioned for them to start, “Shall we begin?”
  11. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 11: Spiritual Feng Shui

    Keija watched the combat team enter the dive room, start the operation, and then left for her dorm room, Leaving Lars to guard over their bodies. Her eidos was still adjusting to the recent events, and she felt both emotionally drained and resolved at the same time.

    She had initially been sent here by the Synod to regain her balance, as well as interact with the human gate guardians, but she was still having trouble finding her balance. Without Uzume's guidance, as a spirit, she felt a bit like a fish out of water.

    As she opened the door to her room, she simply collapsed on her bed and emulated sleep while she attempted to resume integrating her eidos with her surroundings.

    For a spirit, their strength rose or fell with the spiritual energy of a location. By infusing her essence into her surroundings she would create a reserve of spiritual energy that she could always draw upon.

    The more she could accomplish this, the higher her strength, stamina and abilities would be. One could almost liken it towards a reverse-cultivation. Instead of drawing spiritual essence from the environment, and infusing it into their dantian as humans did, the spirit infused their essence into the environment.

    This would counter-intuitively strengthen a spirit who could call upon this banked energy and synergize it with themselves. It was for this reason, that the longer a spirit “haunted” a location, the stronger it would become.

    Keija was in the process of doing this, when Anthony Mallory returned from the hospital and began to take charge of the situation at the complex once again.

    Her integration of the environment with her eidos had been progressing as best she could under the chaotic circumstances of the invasion aftermath. Suddenly she felt the ki pressure of the Old Man, not disrupting her, but creating a more harmonious environment.

    It was Feng Shui on a spiritual level. She smiled inwardly as she re-dedicated her efforts towards accomplishing her aim without the distractions from before.

    Several hours later, there was a knock on her door. Keija was in a heightened sensory state, but her progress under the blanket of the Old Man's ki pressure had been too good to stop.

    She was clearly advancing her strength to the point where she might breakthrough into the next level of spiritual enlightenment and strength. She did not want to answer the door, but knew that the Old Man wanted to update her on the situation.

    With the reluctance of a child being asked to give back a bowl of ice cream, Keija finished fine tuning her eidos, and got up to stretch.

    While she had been emulating sleep, her form had reverted from human to dark elf, and she changed her clothing accordingly.

    Unlike a mimic, who actually would alter their body to change forms, a spirit's ability to emulate a human was more of a disguise and thus fixed in appearance. This had to do with the spirit's eidos.

    Switching actual forms would be like a mimic attempting to switch their personality and their behaviors rather than their bodies to such an extent as to be indistinguishable from themselves. Thus, spirits (except those classified as 'tricksters') chose only 1 alternate form (usually, but not always human), because in a familiar form, spirits could retain their personality and behavior traits. Although Keija indeed fell into the 'Trickster' category, she usually stayed with only one human form.

    Keija's human form was that of a 19 year old, auburn haired Caucasian beauty with emerald jade colored eyes. She stood about 160cm and weighed about 60 kg. Her spiritual form was that of a dark elf, with dusky white hair and indigo violet eyes. In this form, she was a bit taller at 168cm, but lithe at the same weight of 60kg.

    Keija's heritage as a dark elf was a tremendous agility. She was exceptionally quick in her movements and this held true for her human form as well.

    Changing her clothes with astonishing speed, Keija opened the door and welcomed the Old Man, “Greetings, sir.”

    “Greetings. I know I've interrupted your meditations, but I felt that you should hear about Edgar's condition, since you saved his life. He's still unconscious, in a light coma, but he's in no physical danger now. We can only wait and see how long it may be until he fully recovers. With that said, though, we might have some spiritual methods to contact his consciousness, but that can wait until we've fully analyzed our current situation in regards to this attack on the compound.”

    “Thank you, sir, for the update,” Keija bowed politely. “If there is anything that I am able to assist with, please do not hesitate to ask.”

    The Old Man graciously accepted the offer, “I'll let you know when. Until then, I would like you to study the organization, and familiarize yourself more with your duties as a Team leader for the reconnaissance team. Get to know your team, and work on curbing that hatred for Daniel. I know you spirits aren't exactly famous for forgiving a grudge...”

    He winked as he said this with a mischievous smile, “But I'll lend you the necessary energy to adjust your eidos if you find it too difficult to do on your own.”

    Keija demured, “Oh, sir, that won't be necessary. I am more frustrated by his behavior than anything else. I understand the consequences of not being able to resolve these feelings I have, so I am working on it. Forgiveness is the root of spiritual enlightenment, after all.”

    “Forgiveness depends on repentance, though, doesn't it Keija?” The Old Man chided, “If you believe Daniel will repent his behaviors towards you, and he doesn't, it may just result in a breach of trust between you.”

    “Even if he cannot change his own behavior, I'll just have to adjust my own. The energy of this place should be enough already, for me to accomplish that much.”

    Strength and Weakness, taking advantage of those unable to respond. In many parts of the spiritual cosmos, this was the law of the jungle.

    The Synod, however, taught that forgiveness was the root of enlightenment, and that conflicts could be resolved by directing strength towards protecting, rather than dominating those with lesser abilities.

    Although, individually, a person might be weak, in a team they could show what strengths they had by covering other people's weakness, thus making the group stronger than just the composition of it's members.
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
  12. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 12: Determination

    Keija had a fiery personality, and had her own sense of pride and identity which caused her to regard others with a skepticism in regards to their intentions. She knew that this tendency needed to be well regulated, or it would develop rapidly into distrust.

    Daniel had triggered that tendency, and his behavior disrupted her ability to regulate it, so she jumped to the conclusion that he had evil intentions when they had first met before the gates of Hel.

    Now, after interacting with Daniel on a daily basis, or at least attempting to avoid interacting with him, she slowly began to see that his intentions were not inherently evil, but rather unconcerned regarding the consequences of his actions.

    Spirits definitely had an advantage in recognizing the consequences of their actions in the long term, due to the timeless yet changing nature of the spirit realm.

    Continuing her discussion with the old man, Anthony Mallory assured her.

    “I've seen you working hard on integrating your eidos,” the Old Man replied, “Just let me know if you encounter any difficulties.”

    "Thank you, sir.” Keija bowed again politely, and seeing that Anthony Mallory turned and wandered off down the corridor, she immediately jumped at the opportunity to continue her integration with the environment.


    “It's in Singapore. I've narrowed down the location of the portal to a vicinity near the Asian Civilization Museum near City Central.” Uzume told the others when she returned to the others in the Astral plane.

    After avoiding the leviathans with Daniel's splendid plan, the team had found the faintest traces of the origin point, and had Uzume transmigrate to the physical correspondence location.

    The Kitsune, being a rank 6 spirit, was able to achieve the necessary level of concentration and materialized in downtown Singapore, on the Cavenagh Bridge, across from the museum.

    She was still in her fox form, however, so once she determined this physical location, she immediately recited her norito to ascend once again into the Astral realm. She conveyed the sense of the city, and a conception of it's geography as well as the actual gate's location to the other team members.

    This was a huge advantage in the Astral realm, where thought equated to reality. Intention, understanding, comprehension, visualization, all such thoughts could be freely transmitted in this realm without needing to actually speak a word.

    As the team members nodded with their understanding of the situation, they began to retrace their silver cords, returning to the permanent markers of the Celestial Spheres, and their route back home.

    With the knowledge they obtained, they could develop an espionage and reconnaissance plan to discover who had initiated the attack on the compound, and then strike back if necessary.

    No, rather it was necessary to strike back.

    No doubt could exist for very long in the Astral realm. If you had to wonder about some thought, that thought would be weakened and fade until a decisive conclusion was discovered.

    The team returned without incident to the Celestial Spheres crossroad, and began to surface from their dive.

    There were no doubts in Daniel's mind, that given the ease of this operation, and the successful recon of the gate location, that the enemy had greatly underestimated the Shadow Hunter's capabilities.

    As they began to incorporate their consciousness to their bodies, the hybrid team members, Thomas and Venka, had to spend several minutes recovering from the drug therapy but emerged none the worse for wear.

    The entire team was mentally exhausted however, with the chase kiting of the leviathans into each other. That had allowed Uzume to use the opportunity to transmigrate to the physical world and discover Singapore as the origin point of the attack. During that time, the others in the team led the Astral beasts on a merry chase resulting in the two monstrosities colliding into each other. Once that great battle between Astral monstrosities began, they would ignore the insignificant travellers.

    They truly deserved a well earned rest, and continued to recover in the dive room, passing the time discussing the faults and highlights of the operation. Uzume recorded the information in an Akashic record, and then would transfer it later to the archivist of the organization, Richard Lowen.
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
  13. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 13: The Clue that Allows a Breakthrough

    Singapore, a city teeming with activity, and the aura of a mercantile powerhouse. This was truly the seat of power for one of the factions of the ever elusive, ever secretive Illuminati.

    Daedalus Manufacturing Corporation was a conglomerate that based it's headquarters in Singapore. It's Chairman of the board was a man famous in the world of business.

    Quite literally, however, there were only five other people in the entire world who knew he operated as the financial arm for the group known as the Illuminati. Edward Daedalus, a medium sized man, with grey-fringed dark hair, and scholar's glasses, was a multi-billionaire businessman.

    But currently, he was in a small laboratory in the basement of the Asian Museum of Civilization, analyzing data from his creation's recent invasion of the Shadow Hunters' facility in North America.

    Beside him was another member of the secretive Illuminati who called himself Dr. Faustus. Both men were extremely arrogant, manipulative and ruthless, yet they had cooperated in the past in order solidify their own power base. This operation was of a similar vein.

    “You of course realize, that by attacking the Shadow Hunters directly, that we've basically kicked a hornet's nest?” Dr. Faustus remarked casually towards Mr. Daedalus.

    “It couldn't be helped, after that meddling Edgar DeMolay discovered our negotiations with Nidavellir” Mr. Daedalus shrugged.

    “Bu this data....” Dr. Faustus returned to analyzing all of the data returned by the construct invaders before they were destroyed.

    “Indeed. It seems we had not been taking the opposition as seriously as we should have,” Mr. Daedalus concurred.

    “If you notice here, right at the start of the operation, they already had been suspicious. These traps were set off merely 20 seconds after the operation began, and the response time to the operation...” Mr. Daedalus continued.

    “We couldn't even get a complete map of their compound,” Dr. Faustus nodded in amazement.

    “How fast can we clean up our operations here?” he added quickly surmising the operation could have been compromised to such an extent.

    “We still need to extract some materials from the area, but we can be completely done within the week.” Mr. Daedalus confirmed.

    The two schemers looked knowingly at each other, and it was clear Dr. Faustus believed it could be done quicker.

    “Don't be the host that reckons without their guest in mind,” Dr. Faustus cautioned.

    “I will keep that in mind,” Mr. Daedalus nodded, “How are things going on your end with Nidavellir?”

    “Those useful idiots?' Dr. Faustus sneered, “Point them in the direction of fool's gold, and they'll run off and happily cause carnage. While they cause chaos for trinkets, we'll have our teams in position to swipe the “pearls”.

    But we still need to secure the gates at that time. Any disruption during that operation will be very difficult to amend.”

    “Don't worry about that for now,” Mr. Daedalus replied nonchalantly, “We must begin to accommodate these Shadow Hunters, their abilities and reaction times are too powerful to ignore.”

    “Agreed,” Dr. Faustus concurred, “I'll let the others know to prepare for these Shadow Hunters as well.”


    Back at the Shadow Hunters' compound, the dive team and the rest of the members of the Headquarters group, called a meeting in order to coordinate a response to the invasion the day prior.

    The Old Man, Anthony Mallory, called everyone to order, and explained the situation with his uncle Edward, he then immediately turned his attention towards developing the response to the invasion, giving everyone a shock in terms of how fast they needed to respond.

    “We probably have only 3 or 4 days at the most to discover who is responsible for the attack. But Uzume's team led by Daniel was able to track the origin of the attack to Singapore.”

    “Are there any other clues left behind from the invasion? These mechanical constructs did not leave behind much information. No materials of their construction seem traceable,” Sam Golding spoke up. Sam was the weaponsmith and materials expert in the organization.

    If he claimed the materials from the constructs themselves were untraceable, it was a good bet they wouldn't get any leads from that end.

    “That is indeed the case,” The Old Man replied, “But we still have some traces of the magical chaff, that were used to block some of our attacks, isn't that right Keija?”

    Keija was astonished, She hadn't even mentioned the constructs in the air duct attacked by the wisps, and really hadn't mentioned those details to Uzume either, while Anthony Mallory was still at the hospital tending to his Uncle.

    How could he have possibly known about her wisp attack, and the chaff response? Just how great was this man's spiritual awareness?

    "Uh, yes.” Keija's reply was startled, but then began to explain the response to her wisp attacks.

    “There was a small posse of those mechanical bugs that had made their way through the airduct above where Daniel and I were conducting the portal reconnaissance. I sent out a wisp, but it had been defeated by some sort of device that emitted a counter magic spell. There ought to be some residue and components of that device in the air duct still.”

    The Old Man nodded in approval. “Samuel, could you take Venka with you, and retrieve that residue for analysis? I believe she's the only one besides Uzume who might actually fit in that air duct.”

    “Yes sir!” Samuel Golding responded with a stiffening of his posture. “Venka, shall we?”

    Keija remembered the final trap she had placed in the air duct, and cautioned the others about it.

    “Trap? No problem, Keija,” Venka smiled, “As long as I know about it, I can avoid it.”
  14. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 14: No Method of Safely Waking a Snoring Werewolf

    As Samuel and Venka left to retrieve the chaff residue, the others continued with their planning.

    Anthony Mallory continued to guide the discussions, “We'll need an investigations team to track down any leads from the chaff residue we find, and we'll need stakeout team to monitor those leads, as well as a strike team to conduct the final sting. Any volunteers?”

    “I can speak for my team, we'll take the investigation,” Keija replied.

    “I'll take the strike team position with mine,” Lars spoke up as well

    “Well, I guess that leaves the stakeout to my team,” another man, named Elijah Morris replied.

    “Remember, now, these will be your usually assigned teams, not the ad hoc teams during the invasion,” The Old Man reminded them all, “So get prepared, because you'll be flying to Singapore in the morning.”

    The team Keija had been put in charge of when she arrived specialized in infiltration. All her team members had a form change of some sort, and were able to sneak effectively.

    Thomas Silver, was a hybrid lyncanthrope, A werewolf. He was a powerfully built man, but could use his ability to shift into a hybrid wolf, which could be used as a disguise in various stages of a transform.

    Also, in full wolf form, he was a powerful combatant. This versatility and his experience were a great asset to a new team leader like Keija.

    Uzume, while normally the personal bodyguard for the Old Man, was tasked to help assist Keija in the learning process of leading a team, and was also a spirit capable of shifting form, though her actual form was a fox.

    Kitsune spirits also were one of the few spirit types that were classified as tricksters, and so had multiple disguise forms. Venka Isburg was a mimic shapeshifter, Her disguises were nearly impossible to detect, and she could emulate others and infiltrate locations with ease.

    Keija, of course, was a Dark Elf, and had her supernatural agility, as well as also being classified as a trickster spirit. Though her ranking was not nearly that of Uzume, she was gaining strength daily as she continued to infuse her essence into her local surroundings.

    Unfortunately, in Singapore, she wouldn't be able to capitalize on that strength, but she would still be able to switch between her human form, and take advantage of her agility and natural stealth ability.

    The investigations team had to wait for Samuel Golding and the research team to analyze the chaff which Venka had recovered from the air duct, and Keija took this time to prepare surveillance devices.

    The combat strike team and stakeout teams were also preparing in their own way.

    Additionally, the Old Man would assist as well as make arrangements for travel. He would be staying behind with the reserve teams, in case there was a follow up attack, and also to continue providing protection for Edgar in the hospital.

    The sounds of the bustling teams and the focus of everyone's attention created an aura of resolve that Keija could palpably feel. She took this opportunity to assimilate more of her eidos with the compound. There could never be enough strength imbued, when it concerned your new home.

    After all the preparations were complete, and all of the teams gave the Old Man a ready check, the teams headed towards the compound's airfield, and boarded the Bombadier Global Express jet in a hangar next to the airstrip.

    The flight to Singapore would be non-stop, as this particular model of jet was designed for ultra-long range flight. Thankfully, the jet also provided some entertainments, and the onboard entertainment suite had music, games, and a selection of movies to choose from.

    Most of the team would use the time in flight to sleep though. Everyone knew this wasn't a vacation. The only thing that was stressful, was the unknown quality, that being the identity of the attackers.

    After Samuel Golding and the research team had analyzed the chaff residue from the air duct, they concluded that it could be traced due a chemical marker that law enforcement used to keep tabs on bomb making chemicals.

    This chemical marker identified a lot of industrial chemical solvents which were used in robotics manufacturing, and after researching the lot identified, a purchase order was found and quickly traced by the organization's experts through all the various front companies, until Daedalus Manufacturing Corporation was identified as the source of the lot.

    The flight departed from their location in New England, and the flight would take approximately 14 hours to Singapore, so everyone gradually relaxed into their own routine.

    Midway through the flight, after taking a nap, Thomas Silver began to snore.

    How the heck does one “gently wake” a werewolf, in order to get him to stop snoring?!?

    Those who were familiar with Thomas' sleeping habits immediately got their earplugs out, or put headphones on from the entertainment system. Those who weren't familiar quickly emulated the actions of those who did.

    Melissa Dubois (The sister of Martin, that guy who spirit trapped Keija during the lacrosse game) chuckled as she leaned over to Keija, “There really is no way to 'gently wake' a werewolf.”

    Melissa was a spiritist, what Uzume would call an Onmyoji. A “medium” in the western cosmology terminology. She and her brother both could perform exorcisms and spirit bindings.

    But of the two, Melissa was the far more experienced and a veteran of the organization. Keija and Uzume naturally had deep respect for both of them, and a tinge of fear.

    Both Melissa and Martin were very polite and cordial in their interactions with Uzume and Keija, except in open rules lacrosse games. (ARGH!)

    Martin was assigned as Samuel Golding's assistant, so he was back at headquarters with the research and materials team, while Melissa was tasked to the stakeout team, since as a spiritist she was used to the long hours of surveillance looking for signs of spirit activity in haunted areas.
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
  15. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 15: Spirits, Wisdom and Perspective

    Melissa took this opportunity to comment on the operation, “Without your wisp attack on that mechanical bug, we might never have been able to trace the culprits. I'm glad you joined us when you did. If you had arrived after this attack, we'd still be wondering where to go.”

    “You all have been so polite to me, especially Mr. Mallory,” Keija replied gracefully, “We swartalfheimer aren't accustomed to such treatment.”

    “I'm a bit envious of you, Keija.” Melissa replied, “Even though I've dealt with spirits almost my entire life, they had always been through an indirect contact medium before I was introduced to Uzume."

    She paused a moment before continuing, "And now I get to meet and work with you on a daily basis as well. I'm just amazed. Most people think of ghosts and poltergeists as being spirits, but they usually don't include the fae spirits in that conceptualization.”

    Keija understood these distinctions all too well. For her, the mortals of Midgaard were just tales that her father would talk about, and for most of her life, Keija regarded them as “Fairy tales.” (Author's note: Tales told by fairies, rather than about fairies. Hehe.)

    When she started working with the Synod for various duties in keeping balance in the realms, she began developing a deeper understanding of the differences between the spirit and mortal realms.

    “What have you learned from your direct contact with spirits?” Keija inquired honestly.

    She was knowledgeable about mortals, but had trouble with to which extent they could calculate or foresee the consequences of their actions.

    “Spirits tend to be a lot wiser than humans, at least in their actions,” She replied.

    Keija had an epiphany with that comment. “Oh! So that's the difference between intelligence and wisdom, right? The ability to resolve the consequences of one's actions to a favorable result?”

    Melissa nodded, “Well, yes, but that's just part of wisdom. We humans see Wisdom as the careful and studious application of knowledge, where Intelligence is the ability to comprehend knowledge. One of our great teachers of religion likened Wisdom to a shelter. It preserves and defends those who attain it. And one of the famous sayings of wise people is, 'those who are wise know they still have a lot to learn about wisdom.' Why? Because a wise person understands there is always something more to learn.”

    Keija replied, “Those who align with the Synod in the spirit realm strive for wisdom. If one considered the Synod to be civilized, most of the spirit world would be considered as a jungle in comparison. Only the strength of one's will and the ability to impose it on others counted for much in the eyes of the majority of the realms, but the Synod seeks to overcome each spirit realm's differences with wisdom.”

    Melissa chuckled at that statement, “There is another example of why you seem to be wiser than most humans, you recognize the challenges before you.”

    Keija added, “There has always been strength in teamwork and the collective. My father once told me, 'Individual strength can turn the tide of a battle, but teamwork wins the war.' The only thing I'm surprised about, is how the majority of the spirit realm has not comprehended this idea.”

    Melissa nodded in agreement, “Rankings, of the type we use to classify strength, never fully describe how skillful, wise, or anticipatory an opponent may be. They only give a general idea of difficulty in terms of individual skills.”

    “Exactly!” Kieja whole-heartedly agreed, “This is why teamwork is required. To defeat an opponent of high ranking would be impossible on an individualized basis for the majority of common ranked spirits. Teamwork allows results that would otherwise be impossible, and yet most spirits still disdain working for the benefit of others.”

    “The nature of spirits, isn't that different from humankind then, I suppose?” Melissa wondered.

    “The biggest differences that I am aware of, are through Perspective,” Keija nodded, “Hmmmm. I just realized that this conversation is starting to affect my eidos unexpectedly.”

    “Oh?” Melissa was interested in spiritual eidos, “In what way?”

    “I've been coming to the realization that our perspective influences what conclusion may be reached from the same set of data. For example, if one person sees 1 + 1 = 2, they see it from a perspective of mathematics and from the abstract concepts of unit numbers. However, the synergy of teamwork can be applied to make 1 + 1 > 2, when applying skill in battle.”

    “Both answers are correct,” Keija continued, “But the context and perspective are the difference.”

    “And how has this affected you?” Melissa questioned her with interest.

    “I'm wondering if our perspective of our opponents is in the right context. Was the invasion of our compound a debilitating attack, or was it some sort of test to ascertain our reactions and abilities?”

    “I see. What would you conclude if the perspective were the latter choice?” Melissa began to understand the implication of Keija's comment.

    “That we might be heading into a trap,” Keija concluded.

    “Don't forget one other possibility,” Melissa admonished, “That it may have been both.”
  16. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 16: Trust

    “The conclusion remains the same, in that case,” Keija agreed with Melissa's assessment, “We should warn the others to be cautious.”

    Thomas finally awoke from his sleep, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Headphones came off, and conversations began to revolve around initial preparations that would happen once they landed.

    The flight still had about 5 hours left to go, so Keija and Melissa got everyone's attention, and reviewed their plans, this time with a contingency for any ambushes or traps. With the added cautionary plans in place, everyone on the aircraft felt a bit more relieved.

    During these discussions, Keija learned that the Shadow Hunter organization actually had branches located throughout the world. She was a bit startled by this.

    When she arrived at the North American compound, she believed it was the entire organization, but now she learned this was not the case.

    Smiling mischievously a Shadow Hunter named Astrid Markovich was amused by Keija's newfound confusion. “You did not know this?” She remarked in a noticeable eastern European accent.

    Keija shook her head, “I've only been here in Midgaard now for not quite 3 weeks.”

    Astrid had previously had very little contact with Keija or her team. She was an expert in Chaos theory, mathematics, and physics. Her inclusion in the stakeout team was to analyze any results that might turn up in the investigation.

    “It is to be expected then, no?” Astrid remarked with a deadpan expression, “You are new here, so take this advice: Don't be so trusting of the branch members. They are not always looking out for headquarters' best interests.”

    Keija was a bit shocked by this admission. “How can such an organization achieve it's goals if it's branches are divided in pursuit of those goals?”

    Astrid replied good naturedly, “the organization is very decentralized. Each branch has as it's focus, certain major gates under it's jurisdiction. What concerns one branch may not have any bearing on what concerns another branch, since their focus is on the gates for which they are responsible."

    Keija began to understand. “But why shouldn't we trust them?” she inquired a bit confused.

    Astid replied, “You do not know about the promotions test? How people are assigned in the organization? Barring special cases such as yourself, the organization is reviewed every 3 years. There is a tournament of merit, as well as a scholar's test. One's prestige within the organization is completely determined by this review. Transfers between branches within the organization, as well as requests for desired assignments are often determined by the results of this contest.”

    “So we shouldn't trust them, because we'll have to compete with them at some point?” Keija asked with some hesitation.

    “Exactly so!” Astrid replied triumphantly.

    “Lacrosse wouldn't be one of these tested events, would it?” Keija groaned while asking.

    “There's a reason we practice this game. Even for scholars like me, I have to be in good physical shape for the triennial review. Though I don't believe the game itself is an event in the testing process. But it changes every time. So who knows?” Astrid shrugged.

    Keija turned her attention to the immediate concern that she had, “Is there a branch of our organization in Singapore?”

    Astrid nodded, “Indeed, but it's more of a safe house, than an operational compound. Still, there are those there who have sought HQ assignments, so be aware that any member you meet there is a potential competitor.”

    "This is a lot to assimilate on such a short notice,” Keija replied, feeling the pressure of myriad concerns weighing down on her eidos.

    “Don't concern yourself about the review test for now, the task at hand is much more important.” Astrid helped Keija to focus.

    The time flew by, and soon the aircraft was beginning it's descent towards Seletar, an area north east of Singapore.

    After the plane rolled to station at Seletar, Keija and the other Shadow Hunters deplaned and were met by a small group of individuals from the local safehouse.

    The hosts were led by a smallish Thai man, with round eyeglasses, wearing a white suit.

    “Mr. Mallory informed of us, of your imminent arrival, so we have prepared a bunk house for you to organize yourselves nearby. I know that time is of the essence, but I would ask that you indulge me to introduce you to my team,” The small man said without hesitation.

    Lars Olson had been tasked with the overall command of the mission, since his strike team would be coordinating between the other teams for the end sting, and he replied “Dr. Severus! How good of you to accommodate us. We are in your hands for the time being.”

    Dr. Severus bowed slightly, as Lars deferred to the host operative, “First, let me introduce. Maya, our safehouse coordinator. She is the only one who knows the location of where you'll be staying. Plausible deniability, and all that, as you well know. Standing beside Maya, is William Scarborough, the liaison for local gate activities. And Ryan Sahmadi, our investigative team leader.”

    Each of the arrivals bowed to their hosts as they were introduced, and then Dr. Severus waved his hand and led the new arrivals to a bus. “Maya will drive you to the safehouse where you can operate freely, I only ask that once your duties are concluded, that you coordinate with Ryan and William for any follow up that needs to occur.”

    Lars nodded politely, and motioned everyone onto the bus.

    Keija looked at Astrid and whispered in a hushed voice, “Do I trust this?”

    Astrid smiled, “You can trust us, and we're getting on the bus, so yeah.”

    “Fair enough,” Keija felt a bit ashamed, but whereas erring on the side of caution might result in embarrassment, erring on the side of trusting strangers could result in disaster.

    While on the bus, Melissa approached Keija and gave her a handful of spirit wards, “These are for you and Uzume, when you begin your operation.”

    Keija thanked her, and took her seat on the bus, putting the wards away for safe-keeping.

    As soon as Lars and the rest of the headquarters team were on board the bus, Maya boarded, and took the driver's seat.

    “Do you all want me to give you a tour?” She asked playfully.

    The Shadow Hunters all smiled, “Sure!” Lars spoke up for the others.

    Acting the part of tour guide, Maya pointed out various local points of interest as they wound their way through the streets, ending up after a lengthy drive at the safehouse.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
  17. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 17: An Unexpected Encounter

    The safehouse was located in a fairly isolated area to the southwest of Seletar, but before approaching the urbanized areas of City Central.

    From the outside, It was a non-descript low key building next to a couple of rice paddies, and looked like a maintenance shed for storing farm implements.

    Inside, the building was exactly that, except for a small elevator in the back of the shed, which led down into a spacious living area, and operations room.

    Lars assigned each team an area, and thanked Maya for her and Dr. Severus' time. Maya excused herself, and then left the safehouse, leaving the bus for the group, and exiting with a personal vehicle she had parked beforehand.

    As everyone settled in, Lars then organized the teams for their first briefing in the operations room.

    “Keija, your team will be responsible for confirming whether or not Daedalus is involved. Elijah, I want your team to analyze the portal gate for harmonic signatures. My team will provide a rapid response for any situations which might arise.” Lars outlined his intentions.

    With a map of City Central, Lars began to point of the locations of Daedalus Manufacturing Corporation, the Asian Civilization Museum, and the Cavanagh Bridge.

    Keija's investigation team would head for Daedalus headquarters, while the stakeout team would survey the physical gate which was used during the invasion of their home compound in New England.

    The strike team would would provide security for the stakeout team in the meantime.

    “Let's hurry it up people,” He admonished, “We're on a tight schedule. Store what you don't need and let's get on the bus.”

    Once everyone had stored their personal gear, they all got on the bus again, and eventually heading out towards city central, officially beginning the operation.

    The bus itself was part of the disguise, as when they finally arrived at their destination, near the Asian Civilization Museum, any passerby wouldn't think twice about a group of tourists going to see an exhibit.

    Keija's team oriented themselves to the area, as they had been briefed, and immediately headed towards the corporate headquarters for Daedalus Manufacturing Corporation.

    The stakeout team headed from the bus towards the Cavenagh bridge, and began setting up equipment. Anyone looking at the stakeout team would think they were setting up as a film crew.

    Elijah Morris, the leader of the stakeout team, was a fairly large man, with sun bronzed skin, large but delicate hands, and had a short crew cut hair style.

    He was a talented musician, enough to be called a prodigy, and he was well versed in the mathematics of music and harmonics. He also studied cryptography, and was an avid puzzle solver.

    His abilities in these fields were augmented by a spiritual sight, which allowed Elijah to see harmonic patterns that others could only vaguely discern.

    The spirit gate at Cavenagh bridge, was barely discernible with Elijah's sight. The gate was evoked from the structure of the bridge itself.

    The design of the suspension bridge, and the railings had these circular bullseye motifs, 2 per panel, which created a harmonic resonance situated in front of the Fullerton Hotel, almost at the center of the bridge itself.

    Elijah continued to scan the area, until he saw the faint ripples of the spirit gate itself. One could easily confuse these ripples as the emanations of heat from the pavement, but Elijah's spirit sight could pierce the mirage.

    As he began to analyze the spirit gate used in the attack against the compound, Elijah noted that the patterns he saw originated from the eastern cosmology. This knowledge helped Elijah narrow down who might be responsible for the activation of the gate.

    “Start recording, Astrid,” Elijah called out, “Use the psi band, at a harmonic resonance of 3xf.”

    Astrid turned on the recording device at the instructed settings, and began to note the effects on the spirit gate, as Elijah began to test various tuning forks in the area. Towards evening time, he paused, and suddenly reacted in a startled manner.

    “It's gone active??!?!” Elijah suddenly exclaimed.

    “Is something is coming through?” Astrid questioned even as she reacted according to their contingency plan.

    “Shut down the device, and call Lars' team!” Elijah quickly ordered, “Melissa, can you set up a boundry?”

    “Already on it,” Melissa was quick to realize that an active gate, in the middle of the day, would cause chaos in downtown Singapore.

    So she quickly began to ward the area, which would prevent civilians from getting caught up in any subsequent gate activity.

    Elijah requested another ward from Melissa, and quickly placed it on the opposite side of the bridge heading towards Raffles Place.

    The gate harmonics began to quiver and glow in Elijah's spiritual sight, and he yelled out a warning as the first intruders emerged onto the bridge.

    Melissa immediately cast a spirit binding on the intruder, who snarled out a strange sounding nordic curse, before becoming immobilized. Still, more intruders began to emerge from the gate.

    Elijah quickly realized this was not a random chance gate encounter, but rather a response to the harmonic scans on the gate itself. They were wise to prepare for this contingency after Keija's warning of potential traps.

    Astrid had called for Lars' team, and the combat team agents quickly arrived at the scene.

    “Does anyone recognize these guys?” Elijah yelled out to the others.

    The short, stocky invaders had several of their operatives bound by Melissa's spirit bindings, but there were more arriving each moment. This clearly wasn't a random encounter, but an ambush!

    The two sides began to exchange blows, spells and blades flashed. The wards held, and helped to avert outside attention, but no guns were used since that would definitely alert outside interference from the local police. Wards could only do so much in this regard.

    Lars deployed two tonfa and quickly took down a spellcaster attempting to counter the spirit bindings on his companions.

    Melissa was already nearing an exhausted state by the number of invaders, and couldn't do much except to continually strengthen the wards as they were being attacked.

    Astrid couldn't help with combat, but acted as a spotter, helping others to coordinate their responses.

    Another of Lars' teammates, Keil Johannson, sprinted and leapt as he brought a longsword down upon another invader.

    Two invaders swung at Keil with wicked looking silver axes. Keil blocked one with a vambrace, but the other axe bit into his left leg, causing some heavy bleeding.

    “Medic!” Keil immediately yelled.
  18. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 18: Attack and Counterattack

    As Keil did his best to fend off the two attackers, Lars came in from behind one and quickly incapacitated one of the invaders. The other turned at Lars' sudden attack, and gave Keil enough time to withdraw from close combat.

    The medic of the combat team, was a young agent by the name of John Sanders. He was a skilled paramedic, and had also learned some healing spells taught by Uzume.

    He quickly sprinted towards the wounded Keil, and invoked a healing spell, and began to physically staunch the bleeding with a partial tourniquet.

    “Duregar!” Keil snarled as he winced from the pain of the tourniquet, letting the others know the identity of the invaders.

    The combat continued for several minutes, the skill level of the invading Duregar was slightly below that of the combat team, but slightly above the stakeout team's skills.

    No side was gaining ground, but the contingency planning on the part of the Shadow Hunters clearly gave them the overall advantage, once they had closed the perimeter around the gate.

    Seeing that they had been encircled, The Duregar began to withdraw, pulling their wounded and fallen with them, until eventually, with the help of rest of the combat team's arrival, they were forced back into the gate.

    Everything had happened in the space of just a few moments, it was over as fast as it had begun.

    Elijah coordinated quickly with the exhausted Melissa, to set up a counter harmonic, nullifying the gate's activity temporarily. It would prevent another attack for as long as Elijah could keep the harmonic within the gate's natural frequency range.

    He then warned Lars that he might not be able to hold the harmonic due to fluctuations in the gate's resonance. The situation was depressingly public for an organization used to conducting operations discreetly.

    Melissa and several others began to notice passers by who had been gawking at the combat once a few of the wards had been damaged.

    Melissa quickly came up with an excuse, “Oh? We're just filming for a movie. The special effects were pretty good, right? You'll have to please excuse us, though, this area should have been closed to the public prior to this.”

    Several of Lars' combat team were disguised in uniforms and began to shoo the public away.

    After the area had settled down, and the public level of interest in the disturbance had died down, Elijah nodded his thanks to Lars and his team for their quick response.

    Lars, for his part, was modest, “Just doing my job, like all of you. Keija and Melissa are the one's to thank for their earlier caution.”

    Melissa blushed at the comment, “It was Keija who tipped the scales during our conversation on the airplane.”

    “I hope her team is fairing better than ours,” Lars chuckled lightly.

    “We'll find out soon enough. At least they have Thomas with them,” Astrid piped in.


    Keija and her team had debated the best course of action to pursue when they were on the bus heading towards the central area of the city, known locally as City Central.

    Keija knew they were under extreme time pressure, and so a long term set-up and sting operation was out of the question. They would have to do a hard infiltration, but first they had to case the premises.

    Casing the premise meant observing the comings and goings of the daily routine at their target location. The team would get an idea of their target's work schedules, and what areas of the location were active at which times.

    This would normally take a minimum of a day, and would preferably be much longer except that the time required to do a thorough casing simply did not exist.

    Keija let each team member debate the pros and cons of various methods of infiltration.

    Hacking their data systems? Not enough time.

    Interviewing mid and low level employees? Again, no time.

    Tracking shipments to discover possible bases of operation? Again, no time.

    The four team members offered up potential solutions, and each time the conclusion remained the same.

    Finally, Uzume offered the least desirable, but only viable solution. A hard break-in, conducted at night, to compromise systems and obtain information, and leave surveillance devices to follow up with additional clues as they revealed themselves.

    For the infiltration of Daedalus Manufacturing Corporation's headquarters, this required an operation to distract on-site security, and a plan to either replace security with their own doppelgangers, or infiltrate an executive level area of the building.

    Both plans had merit, but again time was the deciding factor.

    Keija decided that replacing the Security folks would be too hazardous, given the lack of personnel, and limited resources in this foreign operation. The others agreed with her assessment.

    Fixing up a final plan, Keija, Uzume and Venka would infiltrate with their own intrusion methods, while Thomas would cause a distraction for security to lower their defenses.

    Taking out some spirit wards that Melissa had given her earlier, Keija distributed a few to Uzume as well. “It never hurts to be prepared,” She noted proverbially.

    Uzume headed out at the appointed time, and would infiltrate from the top floor of the Corporate building, Venka and Uzume would each cover a section of the building, starting from the ground floor up.

    Uzume had the higher difficulty infiltration, since executive suites tended to be on the highest floors of a corporation building, and the security for those suites was increased accordingly.

    As Thomas began his distraction, the security guards responded predictably, and began a lockdown.

    The coordination of the infiltration team was asynchronous, and did not depend on the others movements or actions. This was akin to a blind slap of a beehive, and hoping honey would drop, rather than a carefully rehearsed infiltration.

    Whoever found a lead would exit the operation immediately, and meet at a rally point after the operation time expired. If one of the infiltrators was caught, they would have to find an opportunity to escape on their own, using their abilities as required.

    Seeing the guards being pulled away from their usual surveillance routes, Keija and Venka stealthily entered the building and each began their assigned sections, placing surveillance bugs, and micro cameras along the way at key points of interest.

    Uzume, for her part, had used her norito to briefly enter the spirit realm, using it as a phase-walk, to reach the upper floors of the building. She quickly assumed the disguise of a janitor cleaning offices, and began to search various departments in the building for possible clues.

    Aside from Thomas' deliberate disturbance, the others encountered no obvious initial obstacles in their mission. Their operation continued, even as the fighting on Cavenagh bridge was ending between Lars' and Elijah's groups and the Duregar.
  19. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 19: Mayhem at Daedalus Corporation HQ

    Edward Daedalus was notified that the Duregar ambush on the Cavenagh gate investigators had been pushed back, and he quickly adjusted his timeline in response.

    Soon thereafter, he noticed the company security guards had issued a lockdown for the building, due to an intruder on the perimeter of the company's property.

    'These damn Shadow Hunters!' He thought to himself as he continued to issue commands to the company network. He turned towards an intercom, activated it and spoke, “Teyna! Find out from security what is going on.”

    The young woman on the other end of the intercom acknowledged her boss, “Yes, sir.” She hastily picked up the phone and proceeded to make a call from her desk, down to the Security operations center.

    As she was on the phone, Uzume turned the corner and quickly paused. Her disguise as a janitor made it seem as if she were a fairly aged white haired old man, with a smiling, grandfatherly sort of expression.

    Teyna, who was Mr. Daedalus' personal secretary quickly called out to the janitor, “You there! We're busy here, go clean somewhere else for now.”

    “Excuse me, miss,” I just need to get the trash, it won't take but a moment,” Uzume saw this as a prime opportunity to get close enough to plant a surveillance device on the secretary herself.

    Teyna gave Uzume a withered look, “Fine!” She huffed, “Just be quick and get out of the way. The sooner the better.”

    Uzume bowed, and quickly emptied the trash bins into a sack that she was carrying. Most people wouldn't think that important clues were left in garbage, but anyone was has done investigative work knows that some of the best clues are found in the trash.

    As she passed by the secretary, she surreptitiously placed the bug in the pocket of the young woman's business suit, feigning a perverted bumping overture, “Ah, excuse me miss. I'll be leaving now. So sorry about that.”

    “Just get out now!” Teyna fumed, distracted from hearing the guard's reports on the other end.

    As Uzume was leaving, she overheard with her sensitive hearing, the security guards on the phone, describe the chaos that Thomas was in the midst of causing. Uzume turned the corner and waited, feigning cleaning as she loitered about.

    When the call was finished, Teyna updated her boss on the situation. Mr. Daedalus requested her presence in his office to coordinate a response.

    As Teyna left her desk for the inner office, Uzume quickly returned to the area and dropped several more surveillance devices in the area, as well as place a camera on the branches of a nearby potted plant.

    After leaving her presents, Uzume continued down the hallway, unaware that her organizations' nemesis was just behind the doorway, plotting a counter strike.

    Keija, for her part, and Venka as well infiltrated through the lower floors of the building like a whirlwind. Keija noticed the mailroom, and immediately felt that this room would be good one to monitor, as it was a nexus of information.

    Venka, on the other hand, made a beeline for the technical services department, which was clearly shown on a directory map in one of the hallways.

    The mailroom was quiet in the evening, no employees bustled about, and the hum of a copy machine in the corner was the only ambient sound. Quickly placing surveillance bugs, and a micro camera on the mail delivery carts, Keija nodded in satisfaction and worked her way up to the next floor.

    Venka noticed that the evening crew for the technical services department was involved in a locally networked online game, which Venka recognized as 'Knights of Conquest', and was too busy to notice her casually working her way towards the server.

    Although Venka was not technically an IT (Information technology) expert, she had an expert's knowledge of basic computer skills, and could understand operating system registry entries.

    Finding the server terminal unattended was a huge stroke of luck, and Venka accessed the terminal to copy the Registry files for the server computer onto a flash drive along with system information. She then set the computer's remote access settings to enabled.

    She then called the task scheduler up to introduce some delayed programs later on to compromise the system. Someone with more technical experience could then use this registry and the system information data to compromise the server remotely. All of this was done on administration authority, so no virus had been introduced.

    “Hey You!” Venka suddenly heard from behind her, She turned around quickly to notice a pug-faced techie with glasses return from the break room with a cup of coffee in his hand.

    “Oh? Sorry,” Venka demured, “I was just checking the scheduler to see if the new passwords were set for the end of the month.”

    “Of course they were set!” The techie retorted, “I know the company policy!”

    “Yea, yea,” Venka played the interaction smoothly, “Just don't let administration know you're playing 'Knights of Conquest' after system updates.”

    “The perks of being on the night crew,” The techie snorted as he laughed, “Say I haven't seen you around before, you just get hired?”

    “Nah, Actually I'm an administrative assistant sent to evaluate the department, but if you don't tell anyone about this, then I'll leave the gaming out of my report, deal?”

    “Oh, so that's how it is. Deal.” the techie, a rather new hire himself, nodded in agreement.

    Venka excused herself, and then turned around, “Oh, by the way, the security folks have issued a lockdown, so just be aware security might sweep through here at some point. Might want to hold off the games for a while until things settle down.”

    “Yep, we just noticed that ourselves. Thanks for the warning.” The techie nodded and returned to his station, closing down the task scheduler and bringing up an internet news feed on a browser.

    Venka inwardly sighed in relief, it would be a while before he might discover any of her system setting changes if he was busy surfing websites.

    “Well, then, have a good evening.” Venka waved as she left to continue her mayhem.

    As the night wore on, Keija and her team completed the infiltration, and extracted themselves from the building. Thomas met up with them at the rally point near the Cavenagh bridge, and Keija led her team to meet up with Elijah's group.


    Back at Daedalus Manufacturing Corporation, an alarm signal notified Edward Daedalus of a surveillance device entering his secure room. He turned around to see Teyna enter the room.

    “Stop right there Teyna, check your pockets and briefcase. You've been compromised with a bug.”

    “What?” Teyna reacted poorly, as she reached into her pocket and, after a moment, removed a small chip. She held the chip, astonished, and then immediately recalled the elderly janitor.

    “Sir, there's an intruder posing as a janitor in the building!” She quickly replied, “He must have slipped this into my pocket when he bumped into me.”

    “Well, don't just stand there, call security!” Edward rolled his eyes. He was being made to look like a fool by these Shadow Hunters, and he was no fool, “No, wait. It's probably already too late, “ He amended.

    “Call maintenance, and have them sweep the entire building for bugs, and also have the IT department scan the computer systems for viruses.”

    He continued to add, “Once security has swept the building, you can give them a description of this intruder, but I doubt that it will help. Still, you must be more careful! I don't tolerate mistakes that often, but this time the mistake is on my own part.”

    Teyna quickly returned to her desk and began making the arrangements that Mr. Daedalus ordered. After finishing making the arrangements, Teyna sat at her desk, and her face became flush with indignation.

    How dare someone intrude into her working space, and attempt to use her as a cats' paw against her own employer! Taking time to calm down, she breathed a heavy sigh, and returned to Mr. Daedalus with the latest reports.

    When the lockdown was finally lifted, it was almost 10pm. Several bugs were found on various floors of the building, but no computer viruses had been introduced into the network.

    “Teyna, it's been a long evening. You can go home now, I just need to finish up some classified work.” Edward said with a hint of irritation.

    “Yes sir,” Teyna was still rather upset by the fact the company had actually had an intruder! “Is it safe to leave?”

    Edward glared at the secretary, “Of course it's safe to leave!” He snapped at her, and then quickly recovered, “Sorry, it's been a stressful night as well.”

    Teyna was taken a bit back by the bosses reactions. He was usually very calm and clear headed, but she supposed that if she were upset by this, then her boss must be monumentally so. Still, she felt as if the boss' reaction was too curt, and she felt slighted by the response.

    “Well then, sir, I'll see you in the morning.”

    “Don't bother, You can take the next few days off, as I'll be heading off on an unscheduled trip to Europe, due to this intrusion.”

    “Very well, sir. When can I expect you to return?”

    “It's still up in the air at the moment,” Edward replied, “I'll have the office call you when I'm due to return.”

    “Very well,” Teyna replied hesitantly.

    “Oh, and one last thing,” Edward mentioned with a harsher, sinister tone, “Never allow yourself to be compromised again like that.”

    Teyna blinked astonished at the harsh tone. It was the second time in as many minutes that Mr. Daedalus revealed something harsh behind his normally cool demeanor, “Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir.”

    She hastily beat a retreat down to the parking garage. Walking to her vehicle, she got a shiver from the events of the night. She needed to unwind, and headed for a local bar for a couple of drinks.
  20. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 20: A Maelstrom of Constraining Intents

    While all of these events were occurring in Singapore, back in New England, Daniel was working with Anthony Mallory to attempt to connect with Edgar DeMolay's consciousness.

    "Will you require anything else, Daniel?,” The Old Man inquired. “No sir, I'm ok with my basic hutch, I'll just need to trace his astral cord and discover if there are any spiritual obstacles preventing Edgar from recovering. Once I determine his situation, the next steps will reveal themselves to us on their own.”

    “I'll await here and guard both your bodies then in the meantime,” The Old Man replied.

    Daniel activated his sound nullification device, and quickly entered into a meditative state. Several years' of experience in reaching this state of mind and body resulted in rapidly integrating with the Astral realm.

    The sensation was as if one's body began to vibrate at such a frequency as to separate from itself.

    With the fact that Edgar's body was in such close proximity to Daniel's location as well, it was not long before Daniel discovered the astral thread that bound Edgar's consciousness to his body.

    The first thing Daniel did, was to trace the cord to Edgar's body, and to set up spiritual wards that Martin had manufactured for this purpose. Daniel could feel the amazing pressure of spiritual power emanating nearby which he concluded was originating from the Old Man.

    It was the first time that Daniel had experienced this level of ki pressure. He quickly had the thought that Uzume and Keija had to deal with this spiritual pressure on a daily basis, and felt a lot more respect for their ability to cope with it.

    Once Daniel had set up the spiritual wards in the Astral realm, the ki pressure from the Old Man would continuously energize the wards to form an impenetrable barrier to hostile entities.

    At this point, Daniel could begin the outbound trace of Edgar's silver cord, and set out immediately to discover the terminal point which would lead to Edgar's astral body.

    Daniel proceeded cautiously. The Astral realm was such that a momentary lapse of attention could bring down disastrous consequences on most travellers. Daniel Grey was certainly a cut above and beyond the average in this endeavor however.

    On the lookout for suspicious markers and traps, Daniel continued along the faint silver cord, tracing it's path through various idea substrates and emotional quagmires.

    The cord became ever fainter as the distance to Edgar's phyisical body increased, but towards the terminal point on the silver cord, it would once again become stronger as it coalesced around Edgar's astral form.

    There! He spotted the astral form within a maelstrom of chaotic thoughts, and stopped to observe his surroundings.

    The storm of intellectual activity surrounding Edgar's astral form did not seem to be a natural confluence, but rather a locus of patterns of constraining intent.

    It was akin to someone's bloodlust freezing an opponent in their tracks. Egdar's consciousness was trapped in a small safe area at the eye of the storm.

    Seeing that he could approach no further, Daniel attempted to gain Edgar's attention by sending out a marker to act as a flare through the maelstrom.

    This marker was a strong idea mixed with emotion: That of home, and family, and the trust that familial bonds develop over time. In the astral realm, such forceful thoughts became blinding beacons, for as long as a person concentrated on such thoughts.

    The marker shot out from Daniel's astral form, as if it were one of Keija's summoned wisps. It was able to briefly cut through the chaos of the maelstrom surrounding Edgar, long enough for the elder DeMolay to take brief notice.

    Once Daniel had caught Edgar's attention, it would be easier for him to focus on the marker's origin, and begin to wrap his will around the marker that Daniel produced.

    The downside to sending out such a powerful marker was always the attracting of unwanted attention from the various leviathans and other astral beings.

    Daniel patiently scanned the surreal terrain for signs of unwanted visitors, and for what seemed a long time, there was no unusual activity.

    During this time, the maelstrom of activity in the area surrounding Edgar's astral form did not let up. The chaos would not allow Edgar to communicate coherently with Daniel, even as both attempted to do so.

    Daniel did sense from time to time, that Edgar was struggling to break through the storm, but the elder gentleman's endurance had been taxed and he couldn't keep his efforts up against the raging patterns directed against him.

    Seeing that the situation was at an impasse, Daniel could only leave the marker and withdraw along his own cord.

    Trusting that the maelstrom would keep any happenstance encounters at a minimum was a risky move, but it was one that had to be taken if any hope of breaking the impasse could occur.

    The marker continued to shine brightly in the midst of the storm, and Edgar continued to focus on it, intuitively understanding that it was merely a life preserver thrown to him in order to buy time.

    Daniel continued to focus as much energy as he could into the marker, and could only hope that Edward would be able to sustain the marker with his own will against the power of the storm, and then began his withdrawal along his own cord.

    After what seemed an hour or so in the Astral realm, Daniel and traced his own cord back to his physical body and began to reintegrate his consciousness with his body.

    As the walker emerged from his walk, the Old Man quickly helped to stabilize Daniel, utilizing his powerful reserve of ki energy. “Any luck?” he inquired as Daniel regained his senses.

    “He's trapped in a maelstrom of constraining intents,” Daniel explained the situation as best he could, “It's not a natural phenomenon, so he's definitely being trapped by some sort of magic spell.”

    “It's as I suspected,” the Old Man nodded in agreement, “How was his condition?”

    “He's at the eye of the storm, so as long as he doesn't attempt to break through the maelstrom, he should be fine. I left him a strong marker to help him focus on family, which should help to strengthen his willpower enough to endure until we can break the spell.”

    “Excellent work, Daniel,” Anthony responded gratefully, “Between you and Keija, I think my Uncle may yet survive this ordeal."

    He continued, "I'll get Martin to work with you to develop a counter spell. You'll have full access to what resources you might need, as long as we have them.”

    “Thank you, sir.” Daniel replied, “I'll do what I can.”

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