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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    Chapter 21: A Chance Encounter?

    Keija and the others regrouped at their rally point, on the Fullerton Hotel side of the Cavenagh bridge, and, after storing their gear on the bus, made their way to a restaurant on the north point at the tip of the boat quay.

    “Over and Under” was a thriving American style diner and bar set across from the hotel, and the teams had worked up quite an appetite during the past few hours, and so they allowed themselves a couple of hours to relax before heading back to the safehouse.

    In the diner, the scene was lively, and Lars' inquired as to whether or not they could accommodate a tour group of 15 people in a private room.

    Normally, reservations had to be made at such a busy restaurant, but most restaurateurs would not turn away a tour group with that many people.

    “Please give us about 20 mins to set up a private area for you,” The maitre d' replied, “Please note, that our kitchen is only serving appetizers and tapas after 11pm. Please, enjoy our bar in the meantime.”

    “Well,” Lars sighed as he turned to the others, “There you have it. I'm surprised they were able to accommodate us at all at this late hour.”

    Melissa laughed gently, “15 American 'tourists'? They are probably hoping for a big tip!” She smiled knowingly.

    The group made their way to the bar, and they enjoyed themselves as they began to blow off the steam of the day. It took a while to place their orders. Lars' had all the orders put on a tab, that would then be added to their table bill once the private room was ready.

    He edged to the end of the bar, and placed the orders. As the whole group of them unwound, a rather frustrated young woman in a business suit came into the restaurant bar seeking to blow off some steam as well.

    Teyna Caulfield considered herself an open-minded person, and had a very good sense of her own spirituality (in the common mundane sense), but she felt violated tonight by both her boss, and by that intruder into her work space.

    She didn't even consider why she was attracted to this particular bar, other than it held a strange attractive energy on this particular night. She felt drawn to it like a moth to a flame, almost as if she were predestined by some higher power. She came to the bar looking to relieve this pent up frustration, and she pushed her way towards the farthest corner of the bar.

    One look at her, and the patron who had been occupying a space of at the end of the bar raised his hands in mock surrender, and gave up his position to the visibly frazzled woman. “Next one is on me,” He proffered in sympathy, ordering a drink for the lady. “What'll you have?”

    Teyna glared at the bar patron, then relented seeing his kindness was not insincere. “Whiskey Collins,” Teyna replied, “It's been a very long day.”

    “I understand completely,” Lars Olson replied, “I've been leading this group of 'tourists' around all day.” He waved his hand at the group of Shadow Hunter 'tourists'.

    Teyna snorted in understanding. “My workplace was invaded by an intruder today.”

    “Woah. Sorry to hear that,” Lars replied, but immediately became more cautious, "Is everything ok?"

    Just then Uzume pulled up next to Lars, and pulled on his shoulder, “Our table is ready.”

    Uzume blinked and did a quick double take as she glanced at the woman she instantly recognized. Immediately her trickster instinct reared it's powerful head, “Oh, Lars, why don't you invite this young lady to join us?”

    Lars, in his cautious state, couldn't help but wonder what Uzume was doing, and was reluctant to do so, “We just met, so I don't think that'd be fair to any of us.” He replied a bit confused.

    “No, no, no!” Uzume retorted gleefully, “You must! I insist!” (She whispered in Lars' ear, “She works for Daedalus.”) Lars' eyes immediately sparkled with understanding. “Only if you agree to some restraint!” He chided the fox spirit.

    Teyna didn't care one way or the other, but she wanted to take her mind off what happened earlier, “If you don't mind paying, I don't mind accepting your invitation.” She had come here to relieve stress, after all, and this was an opportunity to socialize that she hadn't had in a very long while.

    Uzume's grin was particularly predatory, but Teyna was too frazzled to notice it, “Oh, it's no problem, Miss?”

    “Teyna,” she introduced herself, “Teyna Caulfield.”

    “Ah, this gentleman here, is our tour guide, Lars, and I'm Uzume Yukikage, from Japan.”

    “Nice to meet you both,” Teyna replied somewhat absent-mindedly. She noticed something strange about Uzume, however, “Oh my,” she exclaimed as she came to the realization that Uzume was an albino. “Your eyes! They're beautiful!”

    Uzume grinned playfully, “Why thank you! And it's nice to meet you as well,” Uzume added an additional thought silently, 'again!'

    She then said out loud, “Come with me, I'll introduce you to the others.”

    Uzume took Teyna by the hand and led her towards the others. Lars followed closely behind the two. As she was leading Teyna by the hand, Uzume began to exert her kitsune charm and beguiled Teyna with honeyed words.

    Teyna felt lightheaded, and her mind began to wander as she became more aware of Uzume's scent. The feeling was very unusual for the normally prim and proper secretary, and her cheeks became flushed with embarrassment when she realized she was becoming aroused by the other woman's hand holding hers.

    Uzume led Teyna to their private party room, and introduced everyone in loud voice, “Hey everyone! This is Teyna. We just met in the bar a while ago, and she's decided to have fun with us tonight! Teyna,”

    Meanwhile, Lars began to inform the others of Uzume's plot, and everyone understood immediately that this was a golden opportunity to either get information, or possibly create a friend on the inside of their surveillance.

    Uzume turned to the bewildered young secretary and flashed another predatory grin, “This is everyone!” she gestured with a sweep of her hand.

    “Um, Hi everyone!” Teyna shyly waved.

    Keija looked at Uzume with her own level of confusion, not having yet heard from Lars, but Uzume winked and whispered in her ear, “This one was at Daedalus!”

    Keija smiled warmly, as she began to understand the nature of this prank. What luck, what astounding luck, she thought as she offered Teyna a seat next to her and Uzume.
  2. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 22: A Bad Day at the Office

    A round of appetizers and drinks arrived and the conversation turned towards the arrival of Teyna, and what type of work she was in.

    Meanwhile, Keija was warming up to Teyna as well, and began pointing out the names of the others in the Group, “I'm Keija. That's Melissa, and Astrid, Elijah and Keil....” and so on. “Don't worry about remembering their names, I'm sure we'll be too drunk in a while to care anyways.” She laughed warmly.

    The best pranks were always the ones that were set up with complete plausibility, while the outcome of the prank was still undecided. With nobody really knowing how it would turn out, the mystery began to elicit an excitement all it's own.

    Teyna did her best to remember their names, as this group of tourists seemed to be quite friendly, and she really did feel better after letting go of her restraint.

    “So you work as a salary woman?” Uzume continued exuding her charm.

    “Uh, yes, I work at this corporate headquarters for a company that builds robots and construction equipment. It's called Daedalus. But let's not talk about that dreary stuff,” Teyna pleaded, “I had a really bad day today.”

    “I'm sorry to hear that,” Keija said in a deadpan manner, while her eyes rolled in laughter at Uzume, “Our day was completely dull, other than sightseeing around Fullerton. We did happen to see quite a bit of the area though. Singapore is a lively city. We expected something exciting though, and guess what. We met you!” She giggled, “You've really made our day end on a high note.”

    Teyna was becoming much more relaxed and her inhibitions gradually faded as the group offered her food and drinks, and talked about various subjects of interest.

    She turned to Keija, “So, Keija, was it? What do you do for a living?”

    Keija turned to Teyna, and flashed a big smile, “Me? I'm a consultant for a non-profit back in the United States.”

    “Oh?” Teyna seemed interested in more details, “What type of consulting?”

    “I dabble in Feng Shui. Our non-profit deals with a lot of different organizations, and I offer advice on how to encourage the spiritual aspects of life in their work.”

    Teyna frowned a bit, as she confessed, “I could definitely use some of that in my working life.”

    Keija glanced at Uzume as her eyes flashed gleefully for the briefest moment, and knew she had a prime opportunity to reel this one in.

    “Well, you're in luck! You have an expert in spiritual matters right next to you! So how can I help you?” Keija grinned as she emphasized the word 'help'.

    Teyna sighed and shrugged, “Work has been very stressful lately. I thought I knew my boss' disposition, but lately, I can never tell how he's going to react.”

    Keija nodded sagely in agreement, and continued to listen as Teyna began to vent her frustrations.

    “Like tonight, for instance, We had a break-in at the building! And some old fart at that, decides he's going to use me as a catspaw, by planting a listening device on me. My boss found out immediately, of course. His office has some sort of electronic detection system to prevent such things.” Teyna sighed at this point.

    Keija's eyes grew wide at that, and she glanced knowingly at Uzume, who casually slapped her hand against her forehead.

    “Go on,” Keija encouraged Teyna further, “What happened after he found out? Did he give you a lecture? Did he threaten to fire you?”

    Teyna stopped to look seriously at Keija for a moment, before she shrugged, “That's just it, I just could feel the anger seething in him, but he was mostly calm and collected until security had released the lockdown. He said I could go home, and I just responded without a thought, 'Is it safe to go home?' and he snapped at me, 'Of course it's safe!' he yelled, but I knew he was keeping something hidden. He warned me in a very disturbing manner that I wasn't to make another mistake.”

    “If you feel uncomfortable working there, why do you continue?” Keija inquired with empathy.

    “It's a great paying job!” Teyna replied rolling her eyes. “And I'm the Personal Assistant for a corporate mover and shaker. Just being associated with his name gives me a lot of authority in the company! Also, my family made the employment recommendation, so I cannot just leave and let them lose face.”

    “Are those things worth the stress?” Keija held Teyna's hands as she looked deeply into Teyna's eyes.

    Teyna blinked uncomfortably at Keija's look, and the room temperature felt uncomfortably hot all of a sudden.

    “Yes, and No,” She finally uncorked her true feelings on the matter. “I have zero personal life, my time revolves around that man's schedule 24/7 at least until today. He told me to go home and take a few days off. That's never happened before. It's always been me telling him I have unused vacation days that if not used, would impact the Human Resources department adversely.”

    “He told you take time off? Sounds like a decent boss to me,” Keija smiled.

    “You don't know him!” Teyna shook her head at Keija's description, “He's ruthless when it comes to people making mistakes. And tonight I made a mistake! Not being called back to work could be the least of my worries!”

    “What?” Keija remarked lightly as if not believing her, “Do people that cross him disappear? Do they end up floating in the river?”

    Teyna grew pale at the lightheartedness in which Keija disbelieved her, “That's the scary part. Some workers do disappear.”

    “And nothing is reported to the police about this?” Keija looked astonished as she asked this question.

    “He practically owns Singapore!” Teyna began to shout, "I'm sure he's got the cops on some sort of retainer."

    Keija immediately moved to calm down the young woman. “It sounds to me as if you are in between a rock and a hard place.”

    “That's a very subdued way to phrase it,” Teyna sighed in agreement.
  3. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 23: Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place

    “Well, now that you've got that off your chest, do you want to hear my advice?” Keija smiled gently.

    “Sure. It's gotta be better than no advice at all,” Teyna said as she reached for her whiskey collins and gulped about a third of it down.

    “Start a diary of daily goings on, but keep it extremely personal, and don't ever bring it to work with you,” Keija began to advise, “Keeping a record of such things will help you to cope with the stress, get things off your chest, and might be considered as leverage in case your fears of disappearing are justified.”

    “No, I can't do that,” Teyna looked horrified, “I'm already under fire from the boss for compromising the company once with that intruder situation. If anyone ever found out I was recording company secrets, I really would disappear.”

    Keija felt the wave of fear emanating in a thick aura around Teyna, and glanced with concern at Uzume who also felt the powerful emotion as well.

    Uzume initially had thought this would be a good prank to get information out of Daedalus, but it was clear now that there was something amiss there. Not only had their surveillance devices been swept immediately following the operation, but the employee she had bumped into turned out to be an everyday person who just happened to be caught up in a web beyond her understanding.

    Everyone else sitting around the table seemed to think the prank aspect of this encounter was now unjustified and began to show some real concern for this young woman.

    Uzume put her hand on Teyna's shoulder, “There now, don't worry too much about that. You don't have to do something that upsets you that much. We just thought you might want to relieve that stress by getting it out of your system.”

    Teyna realized something powerful was happening in the way she was looking at her job. She had tried to adapt to the corporate lifestyle, but she realized after this night, that it wasn't for her, but she was stuck for various reasons.

    “I am stuck between a rock and a hard place,” She repeated what Keija had said earlier.

    Keija nodded to Lars and Uzume with a questioning look. Uzume nodded back, “We're going to 'kidnap' you for your own safety then. Come with us! You've got several days off to make a decision. If you decide to return after staying with us for a few days, then we won't stop you.”

    Teyna looked bewildered, but deep in her heart she felt something familiar with Uzume and her charming manner was very hard to resist.

    “I don't know,” Teyna managed to stammer out shaking her head to clear her thoughts. “That seems a bit too radical for someone like me.”

    “Oh come now, Teyna!” Keija smiled mischievously, “You're in need of a great adventure in your life right now! The corporate humdrum will slowly eat away at your soul if you continue down this current path of existence.”

    Teyna gave a shocked expression, as she realized that Keija had hit the nail on it's head with that remark. She wanted to live an adventurous life, not one that lived in a cubicle from 9am to 5pm every day.

    “Ok, I'll do it. I'll take you up on your offer of an adventure for the next couple of days,” Teyna resolved, as she picked up the remainder of her whiskey collins and downed it in a single gulp.

    The night wore on until the restaurant's closing time, and the group shambled out of the building into the street. Elijah and Lars led the way back to the group's bus, which was parked in a lot reserved for the Asian Civilization Museum.

    “You can either follow us in your car, or be even more adventurous and get on the bus with us,” Lars offered.

    Teyna blushed, “I think I'll keep my vehicle as a safety line. Though if I was in danger from any of you, I don't think it would matter one way or the other,” she concluded.

    “Well, here's your chance to escape adventure and drive home, or to hop on board and experience a whole new outlook on life,” Keija chimed in as she, Venka and Thomas boarded the bus. Keija smiled as she flashed her eyes for the briefest of moments.

    Teyna blinked at that, Keija looked other worldly for a split second, and then Teyna shrugged it off, thinking it was the alcohol and stress which made her see things.

    The situation bordered on the surreal, and she felt strangely attracted to the mystery of it all. "Maybe I won't need my vehicle after all," She murmured hesitantly.

    “Shall I call you Alice in Wonderland?” Uzume added with her own unique charm, and she drew Teyna gently into the bus with her hand.

    “Fine! Fine!” Teyna began to laugh unreservedly with a flood of released tensions, “If I'm going to go on an adventure, I'm going all in!” She surrendered to the moment, and hopped on board the bus.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  4. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 24: Spiritual Aptitude

    The interior of the bus was quite spacious, and organized more like a living space than a passenger vehicle. Teyna thought it akin to rock band tour buses where the members would live on the bus in between city performances.

    Still, although it was not as crowded as a normal bus, it still wasn't a limousine level of spacious luxury.

    “Here!” Uzume waved Teyna over to where she and Keija were sitting next to a small round table, “We want to test you!”

    “Test me?” Teyna replied with a raised eyebrow.

    “Yes! For Spiritual aptitude!” Keija replied, “You know, like ESP, and qigong, and the like.”

    “Oh!” Teyna remembered such games as a child. Ouija boards, and attempting to guess cards from a shuffled deck, “So what do I need to do?”

    Once everyone was on board, Lars got in the driver's seat and headed out of the Fullerton area of Singapore, heading back towards Seletar and the safe house.

    Keija motioned Teyna to sit down, and told her, “First thing you need to do, is relax and visualize your internal energy. It's not that difficult to do, as long as Lars doesn't drive like a madman!” She raised her voice loud enough for Lars' to hear that part.

    “Your wish is my command!” Lars joked back, but held the bus on a steady and comfortable course.

    “To visualize your energy,” Keija continued, “You first imagine your favorite color, and let it form into a ball representing your aura. Once you do that, imagine your aura taking some sort of shape. It doesn't matter what shape, The shape is symbolic of how you perceive yourself. Then we take a crystal that's been specially prepared, and allow it to absorb emanations in the vicinity.”

    Keija further explained, “Some people imagine their auras forming into various animals, others into structures like castles or gardens. However you choose to let it form, will give you an idea of how you perceive yourself. Some people find it difficult to shape the aura ball into anything at all. That's ok as well. It's the act of will that is the important point in this test. If the crystal can detect your mental will, it will form a complimentary image, kind of like a hologram, inside the crystal.”

    “Alright, I'll try that,” Teyna said as she sat down in the comfortable seat next to Uzume,”Do I need to close my eyes?”

    “It helps for some people, but since we're in a vehicle, you might get a little carsick if you do that,” Keija replied.

    “My favorite color is teal,” Teyna murmured as she closed her eyes to visualize her energy.

    “Teal is close to Jade,” Uzume remarked, “The color of royalty. It's a color that I like very much myself!”

    “Shhh!” Keija giggled at Uzume, “Don't disturb her. And get the testing crystal from Elijah please.”

    “Who put you in charge of this matter?” Uzume scoffed, grinning with her fox-like canines.

    “Just do it, please?” Keija implored, knowing full well, that although she was the team leader over Uzume for the mission, in terms of spiritual strength, she was much less experienced.

    “Only because you said please,” Uzume swallowed her kitsune pride for the sake of Teyna's testing.

    “Ok, I've formed a ball of teal energy, and am letting it take shape now,” Teyna remarked as she concentrated on this task.

    “Don't forget to relax,” Keija replied as Uzume returned from Elijah's seat with a translucent crtyal hued with a yellow tint.

    The crystal tested by way of affinity. If Teyna's spiritual aptitude was high enough, the crystal would begin to assume the shape and color of Teyna's imagined aura. How closely it resembled the aura would indicate the strength of this aptitude.

    Keija placed the oblong rod shaped crystal on the small round table and intoned a prayer. The crystal began to shudder and temble until it suddenly popped up into a vertical position and an image began to appear in the center of the crystal, spinning like a gyroscope.

    Seeming like a holograph, the image began to change color and shape as the image continued to spin as if it were on a potter's wheel.

    “Teyna, that's impressive!” Uzume put her hand on Teyna's shoulder. The image grew clearer from a hazy blotch of teal, into a deep jade cat.

    “Eh?” Teyna opened her eyes, and was stunned to see the image imprinted on the crystal matched the mental image she had imagined.

    “According to the crystal, this ranks at least 2 levels into the foundational level of spiritual aptitude.” Keija summarized.

    “So what does that mean?” Teyna asked bewildered.

    “It means you have potential to do something more than be a personal assistant to some corporate bigwig. To be more precise, The 2nd level of foundational spiritual aptitude means you have the ability to interact with spirits in other realms. This is not a level of awareness that most humans have!”

    “This is some kind of joke, right?” Teyna was suspicious of the crystal, and yet she knew better than anyone else how exactly it matched her mental image. “How is that possible?!? That crystal was clear when you brought it to the table. You had to switch it somehow, but no....It matched my mental image to a fault!”

    Lars glanced in the rear-view mirror of the bus, and saw Teyna, Keija and Uzume act excitedly, “All right, you folks in the back there, calm down, or I'm going to have to pull this bus over,” He laughed out loud.

    Keija smiled mischievously at Lars, “Keep on driving, but we have someone with real potential here. The Old Man will want to know about this.”

    Elijah, Astrid and Melissa all began to take notice of this commotion as well. Melissa looked at the crystal and nodded satisfactorily, “It's true, Lars.” She confirmed.

    “Well, we're almost to our destination,” Lars replied, “We can confirm her results, and then follow up our leads before we're scheduled to head back home.”

    Teyna looked a bit confused by the change in attitude when everyone noticed her test result. 'Wasn't this just all some sort of parlor game?' She was beginning to believe that she really had gone down the rabbit hole to wonderland.
  5. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 25: A Startling Revelation

    As the bus pulled up to the safe house location, everyone gathered up their equipment, and exited the bus. Teyna noticed a lot of cameras and other monitoring equipment.

    “What were you guys photographing?” She inquired of Keija.

    “Oh? That stuff belongs to Elijah. I think they were monitoring Cavenagh Bridge for unusual activity.”

    “I think you are all very unusual,” Teyna replied plainly.

    “More so than you are comfortable with?” Keija replied with a hint of a flash in her eyes.

    “That!” Teyna replied, “What did you just do with your eyes! That's what I'm talking about! Something about you is strange, and yet I don't feel as uncomfortable with you guys as I do with my own boss!”

    “Come on inside,” Keija gestured to Teyna, “I promise, none of us will bite. Well, I can't vouch for Thomas,” She winked.

    Teyna felt giddy. It was as if her whole world had turned surreal, and she had taken one of those red pills from the movie, 'The Matrix'. Was she waking up to a new reality? The thought gave her shivers and made her feel excited at the same time.

    Uzume also gestured for her to enter along with Astrid and Melissa, Thomas and Keil.

    “What?” Teyna exclaimed shocked, “You guys are living in a tool shed?”

    “Hahaha!” Uzume couldn't help but laugh at that remark, “Perception is not always reality, as they say.”

    Uzume and Lars led the others to the elevator and they went down five at a time. When Teyna arrived with Uzume, Lars, Keija and Elijah, she gasped in amazement when the elevator opened to reveal spacious living arrangements and an office complex that was on par with what Edward Daedalus operated with.

    Just as she stepped into the office area, an alarm sounded.

    “What?!?!?” The entire team of 15 Shadow Hunters reacted immediately.

    “Crap!” Lars exclaimed, “Teyna was bugged!”

    Teyna looked confused for a moment, and then she realized, she had been played as a Catspaw again by her own boss!

    “Everyone, Prepare for combat!” Elijah shouted as he saw the faint ripples of a spirit gate opening near Teyna's location.

    The Gate shimmered into existence only feet from Teyna's terrified body, Lars pulled her away from the gate as he and Keil knocked over a table and formed a hasty cover.

    Thomas shifted into a half-human, half wolf combat form, and Uzume and Keija dropped their human disguises.

    Teyna was shocked! These happenings occurred so fast that she didn't have time to comprehend her reaction, but she wasn't frozen in place. Instinctively she retreated behind the table where Lars and Keil formed a protective guard around her.

    As Nidavellir Duregar emerged from the gate, Keija let loose with a salvo of wisps, each infused with the emnity that the Swartalfheimer had for the Duregar. The initial rush of the shock troops from the gate fell in a red flash from the impact of the wisps. More Duregar stepped through pushing through the fallen.

    “Melissa!” Lars yelled, “We need wards immediately!”

    "Astrid, search Teyna and find that bug and destroy it!” Uzume added in the heat of combat.

    In the midst combat, Elijah noticed again something that had been nibbling at the back of his mind since the earlier combat ambush at Cavenagh bridge.

    As he was gazing at the forming spirit gate, he suddenly realized what was troubling him, the gate was of the eastern cosmology, and yet Duregar of the northern cosmology were exiting through!

    This was astonishing, since spirit realms normally did not cooperate, except in rare cases such as the Synod. But Nidavellir was not a member of the Synod.

    Did the dark dwarves form their own alliance? Elijah shuddered at the thought.

    It was fortunate that all the team members were lugging their equipment, and that included Lars' combat team as well. The chaos in the living quarters was already high enough with the speed of the attack, but the reaction times of the Shadow Hunters were based on years of experience or natural talent.

    The Spirit gate hadn't fully formed yet and already Melissa had weakened it severely with prepared wards. The safe house also immediately enacted automated defense protocols as well.

    Nonetheless, the Nidavellir had invaded with enough manpower to cause serious damage to the facility, and several of the combat team suffered wounds from their wicked looking silver axes. Additionally, Nidavellir magicians were working to counter the hasty wards that Melissa placed.

    Astrid turned to Teyna, and looked at her with compassion, which calmed her down enough to become aware of her surroundings, “We let our guard down,” Astrid explained matter-of-factly in her thick eastern European accent, “We know it's not your fault. Come, let us deal with the culprit device hidden on your person!”

    Amidst the yells and screams of the wounded, Astrid took out an electronic scanning device and hovered it over Teyna's quivering body. Soon, she took a set of tongs from her bag, and gently removed a surveillance device clinging to the back of Teyna's business suit. It was the size of an ant, and it began to move, struggling to break free of the tongs.

    Astrid took the bug, and dropped it into a vial, which she sealed immediately. She then took the vial and threw it at the shimmering spirit gate, knowing that if the gate was locked onto this bug's signal, the feedback of that signal entering the gate would cause it to implode.

    Sure enough, as soon as the vial passed into the gate's vicinity, the gate immediately imploded. The unfortunate Duregar who had been stepping through at this point screamed in terror as he imploded along with the gate.

    The remaining Nidavellir troops immediately charged the Shadow Hunters in a suicidal frenzy, knowing that they were cut off from their origin.

    Thomas tore through the closest one with savage claws, and Lars and Keil and a few others in the combat team let loose with automatic gunfire mowing down several more before they crashed into the wall of remaining dark dwarves. The close combat was horrific, and Astrid had Teyna shielded from most of the carnage.

    Keija and Uzume flitted in and out between the various combatants, throwing spells to disrupt the opposition attacks. Soon the battle ebbed and finally the Shadow Hunters claimed their victory.

    The cost of the battle, however, had been huge. Due to their letting their guard down, the safehouse had been compromised, and the damage to the facility was extensive.

    A gunner in Keil's detachment, Lukas Warner, had a severe cut which Uzume immediately set to tending, and Lars and Thomas both had several cuts and bruises. Though Thomas wouldn't require tending, Lars sought some healing relief from Melissa, since Uzume was busy with Keil's lance mate.

    Keija looked at the battle and decided she needed to improve her own healing abilities as well. She could tend to minor cuts and scrapes but a severe cut from one of those silver axes was currently beyond her skill.

    Her eidos hadn't been developed in this area yet, so the carnage of this battle had only a limited effect on her.

    Teyna was the one most affected. The least experienced in such encounters, and the fact that her psyche was being toyed with by both her boss and to a more limited extent, the Shadow Hunters themselves, Teyna was sobbing in abject terror at the aftermath of the battle, and this was even after Astrid had shielded her from the worst parts of it.

    Both Uzume and Keija could immediately sense her wounded eidos and immediately began healing prayers on a spiritual level to help stabilize and comfort the terrified young lady.

    Sensing the altruism emanating from the two spirits, Teyna looked at them gratefully, oblivious to the fact that they were no longer in their human guises. Only several minutes later did the shock of their appearance pierce Teyna's hastily constructed mental defenses.

    “YOU!” She stammered in great surprise at Keija and Uzume, “You're not human!”
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  6. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    (This chapter is extra long due to the start of summer :) Please enjoy!)

    Chapter 26: Is this a dream? Is this a fantasy? Is this reality?

    Teyna stared in disbelief as she stared dumbfounded at the dark elf and kitsune in front of her.

    Keija turned to Uzume and smiled mischievously, “This is all your fault, you know!”

    Uzume laughed in mock shock, “ME?! You're the one who encouraged her to board the bus, back at the restaurant.”

    Keija held her hands up, then turned to point her fingers towards Uzume, “But you 'insisted' that she join us for dinner...”

    Uzume and Keija looked each other with knowing looks as they shook their heads mocking each other.

    Teyna couldn't help but burst out laughing, “I don't believe you two! This is all so absurd, am I dreaming?”

    Lars quickly called everyone back to task, once his wounds were tended to completion by Melissa, “All right, the show's over for now, but we'll need to strengthen these counter wards, and inform Dr. Severus that the safehouse has been compromised. That's not going to be fun dealing with his expected reaction. The Old Man will want to be updated on these events as soon as possible as well."

    He continued, "Let's begin a cleanup operation here, and remove any trace of our oganization. Melissa, set up some self-destructing wards. That will help keep any further spirit gates from opening on the echo of the previous one. Teyna, I know this is sudden, but I think your boss just fired you. If you stay with us, at least you'll have some protection. I'll give you some time to figure things out. The rest of you, get to cleaning up the place! We've got to evacuate soon and we won't have time to rest until we're on the plane heading back home!”

    Everyone grumbled in reluctant agreement, and knew they'd be exhausted by the time they reached the airport. They still had to debrief Dr. Severus and his team, on the safehouse being compromised, and that wouldn't go well even if they were all completely rested.

    Teyna had her entire life flashing before her eyes, and had a momentous decision to make in her life. She could see only danger and possible death no matter which choice she made, but one choice allowed her to face that danger with newfound friends.

    The other choice would be to face that danger alone or with family. Teyna did not wish to drag her family into this decision at all. And given what she knew about Daedalus' method of disappearing those who displeased him, it would likely be reported that she had gone missing, so her family could only be troubled by her appearance.

    Still, how does one throw their entire future on a group of supernatural beings of which some weren't even human?!?!? It was all too surreal. But there they were, standing right in front of her. A Dark Elf young woman and a Kitsune lady, and both of them were smiling warmly at her with a gleam in their eyes, as if she were a family member who had just won an award.

    Teyna was too exhausted to think about it too much, but she decided to leave her family behind for their own safety. She lowered her head and smiled at the absurdity of her current situation, “I'll be coming with you.” she stated to Lars decisively.

    The two spirit girls cheered immediately and began to celebrate by bringing Teyna into dance with them. Lars shook his head in wonder and his stoic posture cracked and he formed a slight smile on his face as well.

    Elijah, Astrid and Melissa were busy ensuring that no new gates could form on the echoes of the old one. Thomas, Keil and Lukas were busy sifting through the corpses of the duregar for tactical intelligence. The rest of the Singapore team was cleaning up debris and wiping any trace of their presence from the shattered halls.


    Back in New England, Daniel was preparing with Martin and Anthony Mallory to once again attempt to rescue the trapped astral body of Edgar DeMolay. Martin had spent the entire day working on spirit wards to the best of his ability.

    He had spent most of his time pouring over some of his sister's notes in the library, and felt confident that if he could pull off this operation successfully, that he would advance another rank in spiritual aptitude, closing the gap between himself and his sister.

    But he was now facing a bottleneck in his understanding of counter wards, and had to go in search of the Shadow Hunter's archivist, Richard Lowen to discuss the problem, and hopefully find a solution to go forward with the rescue attempt.

    There wasn't much time to waste in this regard. Daniel Grey's astral marker was still considered to be trackable, but it had lost significant strength over the past few hours, which was in indicator that Edgar was suffering from mental exhaustion.

    With the rest of the HQ Shadow Hunters in Singapore, there were no combat guardians that could guard the three of them during a walk, so only the Old Man could fulfill that duty, even though he would otherwise be of great help in the walk itself.

    Taking their strongest ace card out of the deck to ensure the protection of the other two members was crippling their success chances by a large margin, but the alternative of performing a defenseless walk in the astral realm was entirely too risky. It was a catch-22 situation, in which either course of action had severe risk, but the action still had to be taken.

    Anthony Mallory was well aware of the risk, but couldn't help but feel pressured due to his relation with Egdar, and placed his trust in Martin and Daniel to succeed in his place.

    Martin found Richard Lowen in the compound library, as he was updating results of several branch operations in defense of various spirit gates across the globe.

    “Richard,” Martin inquired as he stepped into the archivist's office, “Do you have a moment?”

    The studious man with dark hair was typing into his computer terminal and replied without looking back, “Just a few secs, Martin. I'm just finishing up this last report.”

    Martin patiently waited until Richard completed his report and then began to explain his situation once Richard had turned his attention away from the computer.

    “The Old Man has tasked Daniel and myself to enact a rescue of his uncle's astral body from a peculiar confluence which is trapping him in that realm,” Martin began.

    “And what do you need my assistance with?” Richard asked with a hint of indifference.

    Martin shrugged off Richard's bookish and insulated attitude as normal for the archivist, and got straight to the point, “I need your analysis of Melissa's notes on astral counter wards. I can't make heads or tails of some of her notations. Your insights would greatly help in my construction of a counter ward to dissipate the trap holding Edgar in place.”

    “I unfortunately don't have that level of insight into your sister's activities, Martin,” Richard replied with scholarly indifference, “But I do have a glossary of her shorthand that I can allow you to use, in order to translate her notes.”

    “Anything is better than nothing at this point,” Martin sighed.

    “I'll send the file you need to terminal #3 in the library,” Richard concluded the matter and returned to his reporting.

    “Thanks,” Martin replied reflexively, even though Richard's attention was again focused on the matters he regarded as having priority.

    Martin stared at the archivist for a few seconds before leaving the office. That man was too entrenched in his own little bubble to care about the larger picture, Martin thought. Still, he had given Martin assistance that he wouldn't have otherwise received since Melissa was in Singapore at present.

    Normally, he'd have just called her on the phone, and gotten her advice, but the Old Man had asked for operational security in response to the earlier attack on the compound, so any updates on the situation in Singapore would happen only once that team was back at HQ.

    Sitting down at terminal #3 in the compound Library, Martin looked in the requested files folder and saw that Richard was good to his word. Taking his sister's notes and correlating the appropriate notation from the glossary file, allowed Martin to fully decode his sister's work in counter warding techniques.

    Martin felt a bit inadequate when he compared himself to his older sister. She was a genius in the family, that had tested to a level 4 spiritual aptitude at the young age of ten years old. Martin himself at that age tested only to the peak of level 2.

    He still remembered the image that had been burned into his sister's testing crystal, A fiery red dragon. The old saying of “Crouching tigers and hidden dragons” was definitely appropriate in her case.

    Still, he maintained great relations with his sister growing up, and he defended her from bullying in school in many cases, even though he was a year younger. She also tutored him to improve his own spiritual aptitude over the years since both joined the Shadow Hunters organization.

    Quietly focusing his attention on decoding his sister's notes, he began to appreciate the simplicity of her ward construction, and how refined the channeling of harmonic energy was induced.

    He was able to gain quite a few insights into the bottleneck he was experiencing in his own construction of counter wards once he fully decoded the notebook.

    'Melissa is going to be surprised by my progress!' Martin thought happily, but then resolved to pay more attention towards surviving the mission. 'She wouldn't be happy if I got too cocky and didn't make it back to tell her about it.' He admonished himself.

    With the insights gained from the notebook, and Daniel and the Old Man preparing the dive room for Martin, the mission to rescue Edgar slowly advanced towards operational status. The reality of the situation was grim, but Martin felt it was now possible to succeed.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  7. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 27: A New Crisis

    Near Selatar, at a predetermined rendezvous point, Dr. Severus was livid and began to yell at Lars as he stepped off the bus to head off the inevitable rant from the branch manager, “The safehouse is destroyed!?!?! And I notice in your company someone who the police have reported missing!” He directed a withering gaze towards Teyna as she stepped off the bus with Uzume and Keija.

    Lars piped up quickly, “Now, now, Dr. Severus, doesn't that strike you as a bit strange? That the police would report someone missing less than 24 hours from when they were last seen?”

    Dr. Severus was about to explode into another rant before the incongruity of the police report clashed with his sense of proper police procedures.

    Scratching his head momentarily, he then continued to rant, “Don't sidetrack me with inconvenient facts, Mr. Olson! The situation remains that you've made a mess of our safehouse! Maya, William and Ryan are all sifting through the wreckage right now, compromising our normal protocols in order to do so, I might add!”

    “Why that?” Lars responded back curtly, “We did what we could to sanitize the location. There was no need to bring in your own teams.”

    “Let's just say there remains a trust issue between the branch operations and headquarters, for reasons you well know!” Dr. Severus replied with an injured tone.

    Lars shrugged in response, “I can't help how others fare in the review process, Dr. Severus.”

    Dr. Severus ignored Lars' response, and continued to direct attention towards Teyna, “And talk about compromising normal protocols! How did this young lady get involved in this situation?”

    Lars requested that Keija and Uzume escort Teyna away from the conversation, and then replied, “Mostly by pure luck. She was an employee of the company that we were investigating as a lead in the attack against headquarters a few days ago. Uzume recognized her when she encountered our group by happenstance, and she wanted to draw her in to hopefully gain more intelligence. We discovered that she wasn't privy to the information we were seeking, but she did help us link the Company's CEO to suspicious gate activity in the area. We now know that there is a connection between Daedalus and Nidavellir.”

    “And why is the young lady continuing to be in your presence, given that the police are searching for her?” Dr. Severus inquired with a severely annoyed look.

    Lars continued to explain, ignoring the doctor's withering gaze, “In the process of gaining her trust, we discovered that she has a true spiritual aptitude, and given that her relationship with the company was rapidly disintegrating, we offered her protection from reprisal.”

    Dr. Severus was only slightly mollified by the explanation, and redirected his anger towards the safehouse situation, “The Old Man is going to hear an earful in my next report, Mr. Olson! We'll need additional financial resources from the foundation in order to repair the damage to our facility, as well as restoring good will between this branch and headquarters after today's debacle.”

    Lars could only shrug helplessly in reply, “That's between you and the Old Man, Doctor Severus. I can only do what I'm able to do in any given situation.”

    Dr. Severus spat at the ground in disgust, “Fine! Just don't expect this branch organization to be polite at the next review! We'll be gunning for several positions at HQ. At least I have the temerity to tell you this upfront, unlike some other branches!” He ended with a huff.

    Lars replied coolly, “It's the same every three years, Dr. Severus. Everyone has the same opportunity.”

    Dr. Severus, already irritated beyond his ability to cope, was just as cool with his own reply, “Just get out of here, before you cause more damage to this branch's facilities. We're done for the time being.”

    Lars bowed to the doctor stiffly, and turned to get everyone who was milling around to get back on the bus, so they could head for the airport.

    As the bus departed from the rendezvous point, Dr. Severus took out his cell phone and contacted Maya.

    “How is the situation at the safehouse?' He questioned with exasperation clearly showing in his voice.

    “William and Ryan's team are almost done categorizing the damage. We should have a report in a few hours from now,” Maya replied quickly.

    “Once you are finished there, we'll have to discuss relocating and resourcing the replacement facility. Can you meet me for a time after the report is complete?”

    “Yes, sir, “ Maya responded after a moment.

    “Is something the matter?” Dr. Severus noticed the abnormal pause.

    “Wha? Who are yo---” Maya's voice suddenly cut out from the conversation, and after a momentary scuffle sounded on the line, a sinister voice replaced Maya's on the cell phone.

    “Please excuse the rudeness of this introduction, Mr. Supervisory person. While I am normally not obliged to reveal my identity to you, you may call me Doctor Faustus! I have taken your survey team hostage and request something of you in order to assure their safe return," The sinister voice said in a haughty voice.

    “You bastard!” Doctor Severus shouted into the phone, “How dare you!”

    “Tsk. Tsk,” Doctor Faustus chided with a mocking tone as he replied, “Not a very polite way to begin our negotiations, Mr. Supervisory person. Speaking of which, how shall I refer to you? How you answer could affect the hostages, so please remember your decorum.”

    “My name is Severus, and I'm a medical doctor, not a supervisor,” Doctor Severus seethed but kept his answers cool.

    “Well then, Doctor Severus. From one doctor to another, know that the well being of these hostages will depend on how well you can satisfy my desires,” The sinister voice remained aloof.

    “And just what are your demands?” Dr. Severus curtly inquired.

    “I want all the information you can give me about the Shadow Hunter organization, delivered to this facility, no later than three hours from now, or your survey team will suffer the consequences.”

    “Information about the Shadow Hunters? What are you talking about?” Dr. Severus attempted to deflect.

    “Don't play games with me, Doctor Severus,” The sinister voice responded with disdain, “I already know some information in this regard. You have three hours to deliver. Good day.” The line cut off with this last admonition.
  8. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 28: Rapid Response

    Dr. Severus swore out loud and immediately called Lars Olson on his cell phone to inform the headquarters team of the emergency situation. The bus had not been gone from the rendezvous point for more than 5 minutes when Lars received his call.

    Immediately, Lars pulled over the bus as he became shocked at the details of this new emergency, “Ok, people!” He stated loudly, so that everyone in the bus could hear him.

    “We have an emergency situation that just developed at the safehouse. Venka, we have hostages, I'm going to give operational command for this mission to you, since you have the most experience in dealing with this type of situation. I'll let you get the details from Dr. Severus,” He said as he handed the phone to Venka, and then pulled the bus around to head back to the rendezvous point.

    Venka discussed the situation with Dr. Severus, and told him to remain calm as they were heading back to his location. Venka Ilsburg was an expert in hostage crisis situations, given her mimic abilities allowed her to infiltrate and disarm hostage takers with relative ease.

    She was quite adept at calming down relatives and close associates of hostage victims. Also, since she had a lot of experience in such situations, she was quickly able to come up with a rudimentary plan to deal with the crisis.

    The rendezvous point where the HQ team and branch manager met, was approximately five kilometers from the safehouse location.

    Although Dr. Severus had broken protocol by sending William and Ryan with Maya to investigate the damage, he himself still did not know the precise location of the safehouse like the HQ team, or Maya did.

    The area surrounding the safehouse was thickly wooded, and marshy in many places, so Venka first would require a thorough reconnaissance of the area, both from the air and ground.

    “Ok,” Venka began to detail her plan to the others, “We'll set up a command post here, we should be close enough to begin scouting, but not close enough to alert them to our presence yet. First I'll need a telepathic relay set up Melissa. If you could work with Elijah, Keija and Astrid to get one up and running as soon as possible?”

    Keija objected on two points, “The range of the telepathic array will be limited due to my current spiritual strength, and additionally, I won't be able to power the array continuously at the required range. Will that be an issue?”

    “We can get by with periodic updates, say once every few minutes for as long as you can endure?” Venka mulled over the problem in her head.

    “Well, Uzume can power an array for a lot longer than I can,” Keija deferred to her senior in spiritual strength.

    “I realize that, but Uzume has a lot more experience in crisis situations, and I need her on the front lines, scouting and reacting to the situation,” Venka countered gently in her peculiar, strong accent, “Don't sell yourself short Keija. Although you haven't been able to integrate here much on such short notice, I've worked with you long enough to know what you should be capable of doing,” She ended with a warm smile.

    Keija could only nod and accept the mission as best she could.

    “Dr. Severus, I'll need you to set an area aside for first aid. Lukas can assist, since he's still recovering from yesterday's duregar attack at the safehouse.”

    “Very well,” Dr. Severus replied stiffly, “I will defer to your expertise in this situation.”

    “Uzume,” Venka continued to give directives to the others, “I'll need you and Thomas to scout the area on the ground, I'll be providing aerial surveillance. Once we've located a target of interest, we'll adjust to the situation accordingly.”

    “Yes Ma'am,” Thomas and Uzume both nodded as they acknowledged the orders.

    “Lars, I want your team to provide perimeter security here, until we get a final target, at which point, I'll want your team to cordon off the target area, and strike the target when signaled. Also, keep the perimeter tight, so we can prevent any potential escapes,” Venka continued.

    “Yes Ma'am,” Lars acknowledge, and then motioned for his combat team to prepare their equipment and the security perimeter of the command post.

    “Finally, I'll be airborne, scouting and making adjustments to our plan based on the situation,” She finished explaining the initial plan.

    Teyna was confused, “How will you be airborne? And what should I be doing to help?”

    Venka smiled at Teyna, “You should probably help Keija, Melissa and the others with the array, since your spiritual aptitude seems to be pretty good. As for how I'll be airborne, leave that to a shapeshifter,” She winked.

    Teyna turned to Keija with a stunned look on her face, “Did she just say shapeshifter?”

    Keija nodded, “Uzume and myself aren't the only strange ones in this group,” She patted Teyna on the shoulder encouraging her to be open minded about such things.

    As everyone received their directives, and began preparing accordingly, Melissa, Elijah and Keija all began to work on constructing the array.

    Teyna stood back from the others, and watched with interest as Melissa began her work, Astrid calculated array node positions, and Keija began to integrate her eidos as best she could with the array and the surrounding area.

    Venka followed up with an inquiry as to how long the array would take to construct, and Melissa replied, “With Elijah able to see and report the necessary adjustments in real time, we can get this array constructed in about an hour and a half.”

    Venka frowned, “That'll leave us about the same amount of time to scout the area and effect a rescue before the hostage taker's demands are due. Do whatever you can to speed the process, but keep it safe.”

    “Yes Ma'am,” Melissa replied unenthusiastically.
  9. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 29: The Exhausting Telepathic Array

    Uzume and Thomas began their scouting. Uzume recited her norito and jumped to her spirit realm, to phase-walk a large portion of the distance towards the safe house. This would help speed up the scouting, and allow Thomas to concentrate on a different area for his own sweep.

    She assume fox form, while Thomas shifted to wolf form, and both began a condensing spiral search pattern heading towards the safehouse location as a terminal point.

    Dr. Severus and Lukas Miller (The injured combat team member from the night before) began removing some stored equipment from bus' cargo storage: bedding, cots and a tent, and moved it to an area where they could set up a makeshift medical clinic.

    Lars' combat team began a perimeter patrol, and awaited further instructions.

    The telepathic array was completed after an hour or so, with Elijah calling out specific adjustments to Astrid's calculations, and Melissa fusing the array together with her equipment and skills.

    From Teyna's perspective, Keija looked to be meditating and she felt a strange affinity for the dark elf, as if she were a big sister standing watch over a resting younger sibling.

    Teyna mulled this over in her mind, because from her knowledge of mythology, elves were very long lived, so she was probably much younger than Keija. But this wasn't a myth anymore, and Keija looked like a young and innocent teenager at the moment.

    She reflected on this some more, and was astonished she didn't feel crazier for all that had happened. Perhaps her spirit really was as adaptable as her new friends had indicated.

    Melissa called out to Keija, and Venka, to test the array with a quick burst of spiritual power.

    Keija invoked her spiritual strength with a Nordic prayer of resolve, and infused the array with as much of her spiritual strength as she could tolerate. The array flared briefly under Elijah's spiritual sight, and immediately Venka sent out a mental image of the command post to Uzume and Thomas, who were the most distant from the others at this point in time.

    Both scout's thoughts returned to Venka and the others at the command post, with a mental image of their current locations. The clarity of the images were jumbled but quickly refined over a few seconds of transmission.

    “Seems good,” Venka thanked everyone for the effort, but just as she was about to send out another mental command, Keija slumped over exhausted by the effort after half a minute had passed.

    “Are you ok?” Teyna quickly came to Keija's aid. Venka closed in to her position as well.

    “Yea, I'm fine. I just need to rest a few minutes. I can hold the array for about 30 seconds before I need to rest a few minutes it seems,” Keija said to no one in particular.

    Venka nodded, “Well, it will have to do. Now it's time for me to get airborne and coordinate the search.”

    Teyna gazed in amazement as Venka shifted in front her into a large falcon. The falcon cocked it's head towards Teyna and winked in a disturbingly human manner, as it then took off in flight, riding the air currents as it rose skyward.

    “Teyna,” Keija voiced as she sat back and took some deep breaths, “If you could grab some refreshments out of the bus, I'd be grateful. I've got some sodas and snacks in a backpack by my seat.”

    “Ah, sure thing,” Teyna smiled, “I finally get to be of some use around here!”

    As Keija recovered, Melissa, Elijah and Astrid all began to direct their ki pressure towards the array, helping to lift Keija's burden as much as possible. Teyna returned with the snacks and soda and was astonished to feel the pressure from the others as she passed into the array to give them to Keija.

    “What is this?” She exclaimed.

    “Ki Pressure or Qigong, you might know it better,” Keija murmured as she downed a chocolate doughnut and a soda, and began to meditate once again, “If you can feel it, then you can probably help a bit yourself, by pushing some of your own spiritual power into the array.”

    “I-I-I wouldn't know how to begin,” Teyna stammered helplessly.

    “Go with your instincts, think about a mental image where you are assisting me in some way. Think about strengthening the array in whatever manner you can imagine. Try to relax as well. All of those things will help in a small way,” Keija smiled as she continued to enter a deeper state of mind.

    All of a sudden, all the shadow hunters heard Keija's mental voice in their minds, “You've got another thirty seconds or so, so do what you have to do!”

    With the strain of keeping the array powered over such long distances, Keija was rapidly developing an appreciation for the Old Man's spiritual strength.

    As she was on the verge of a breakthrough in spiritual strength, she could really begin to understand subtle and more efficient means of integrating her eidos with the array.

    Keija suddenly felt that with continued effort in powering this array, she would achieve a breakthrough.

    Was it the thought of the Old Man which allowed her this feeling? Or was it due to her connection with everyone else in the vicinity? Either way, Keija knew that a breakthrough in her spiritual strength was close at hand.

    Half a minute later, the array's power faded as Keija slumped once again exhausted.

    Venka had been able to transmit an aerial view of the vicinity to the others, showing possible locations of interest: A burned out old shack near an estuary, a old decrepit building deep in a wooded area , a new construction site, and an overgrown old village sporting green.

    As the power faded from the array, the mental image also faded from each of the Shadow Hunters' minds. Uzume, however, being a spirit, had eidetic memory. She quickly calculated that she was close to the old building in the woods, and veered towards that direction.

    A few moments later, Uzume had a contact. There was a large hooded figure patrolling the grounds outside of the old building. A few more moments after that, she noticed another hooded figure leaving the building and begin patrolling the perimeter.

    Uzume slowed her movements down, and began to sneak her way in fox form towards the building, keeping a close eye on the two hooded figures.

    The old building seemed to be a run down, abandoned old farm house next to an overgrown watermelon field.

    The hooded figures held weapons which Uzume couldn't immediately recognize from her low vantage point. She quietly slipped past the figures and made her way to the old farm house, looking for a possible point of entry.
  10. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 30: Played after a Breakthrough

    Keija recovered once again from her exhaustion, with the help of Teyna handing her another doughnut, and the Ki pressure that Elijah, Melissa and Astrid were providing to the array.

    Taking a deep breath, she once again willed her spiritual strength into the array. The strain of doing this multiple times would have made Keija sweat if she had been able to retain her human guise.

    However, in her current dark elf form, Keija merely strained with the effort to keep the array powered for as long as possible.

    During this time, Uzume was able to relay information about her contact to others in the group. She had been able to confirm 8 hostages in the old farmhouse, 4 interior guards, and 2 exterior guards.

    Venka directed Thomas and Lars' combat team to begin their mission to form an ambush perimeter around the old farmhouse. The mental image of Uzume's contact was correlated to Venka's aerial view, and the combat team instinctively was able to gauge the direction needed to go.

    Thomas, for his part, altered course slightly and was able to arrive at the vicinity of the farm house within minutes of the array powering up. In wolf form, he was a bit more conspicuous than Uzume, but still was able to move with a measure of stealth.

    At the telepathic array, Keija continued to strain, but the insights she was obtaining were profound, and with the help of Teyna's exhortations, Melissa, Elijah and Astrid's ki pressure, and her subtle yet extremely powerful link to the Old Man all converged within her to break her bottleneck, and achieve the next rank in spiritual strength!

    Elijah was the first to notice the breakthrough, as the telepathic array flared brightly in the spiritual sight's spectrum, and every one's mental clarity of purpose and coordination reached a finely tuned level of precision.

    “Level Four!” Keija's mind chimed out to everyone enthusiastically. Everyone congratulated her breakthrough in their mind, and felt the array's effects even stronger than the first time it was powered up.

    Venka quickly brought everyone back to task though, “We still have a crisis to resolve people, we can celebrate afterwards.”

    At this point in time, Dr. Severus received another call on his cell phone. Picking it up immediately, he once again heard the sinister voice on the other end of the line, “It's been two hours now, Dr. Severus. Please tell me you've been busy collecting that information I requested.”

    “Yes!” Dr. Severus practically shouted at the cell phone, “Don't do anything hasty. I'm still working on it!”

    “Very good, you have one hour left,” The voice concluded and the line went dead.

    Keija was at her limit for this iteration of powering the array, but everyone was able to hear that conversation in their minds before the power of the array faded once again. Each Shadow Hunter individually resolved to hasten their progress towards surrounding the farm house and rescuing the hostages.

    Keija gratefully took another soda from Teyna's outstretched hand. “Thank you so much,” Keija spoke with a graciousness not often associated with Swartalfheimer.

    This was due to her weeks of integrating with the Shadow Hunters back in New England. Her nature had fundamentally become more gracious, diplomatic and refined over time.

    Her prank pulling instincts had also become less malicious and more good-natured as well, but with the advancement of her eidos to the fourth level of spiritual strength, this change in her nature had also become somewhat locked in.

    The more she advanced, the less adaptable she would be, but the stronger her abilities would become. She only hoped those back home in Swartalfheim would recognize her when she was able to return.

    After several minutes of rest, Keija was recovered sufficiently to power the array once again. This time, her spiritual strength allowed her to power the array for almost a minute at a time.

    With the increased acuity and time allowed to coordinate, the Shadow Hunters quickly were able to get into position around the old farmhouse. Venka would dive bomb one of the exterior guards and screech to signal the start of the rescue strike.

    The plan was for Uzume and Thomas to crash the farm house through windows, take as many interior guards down as they could, and protect the hostages from reprisal. Venka would swoop through a broken window and change to her human form to assist in that regard. The combat team lead by Lars would be responsible for taking down the exterior guards, and prevent any escape.

    Keija strained, but was able to maintain the array long enough for the plan to be disseminated to everyone. After Venka confirmed everyone's understanding, Keija collapsed in an exhausted heap once again. Even with her newfound spiritual strength, she still hadn't developed enough of an eidos integration with the array to prevent her exhaustion after nearly doubling her previous time.

    The rescue operation began. Though the array had once again faded in power, Keija, and the rest of the Shadow Hunters at the bus command post location heard the start of the operation as a slight echo from the array, as Venka screeched loudly while dive bombing one of the exterior guards.

    The combat team led by Lars quickly followed up with an ambush of the remaining guard, and sealed the perimeter, in case any of the interior guards escaped.

    Uzume and Thomas crashed the windows of the farmhouse, surprising one of the hooded figures, as Thomas lunged at him with fangs bared. Venka swooped through the window as planned and immediately changed form to assist protecting the hostages who were all roped and gagged in a corner of the old building.

    Uzume switched to kitsune form and began casting paralysis spells at the remaining guards. If they could capture a few alive, they would be able to interrogate them.

    The whole operation lasted about 30 seconds once it began, and it was over almost as soon as it began.

    While the rescue operation was being effected, however, once again Dr. Severus' phone rang, and that sinister voice of Dr. Faustus began to praise him with dripping sarcasm.

    “Oh My!” Dr. Faustus dripped with mock praise, “How absolutely marvelous! You were able to rescue your hostages so quickly!”

    Dr. Severus was about to fling it right back at him when he froze at the next words he heard, “So thank you very much for the information you've provided. I was able to record an amazing amount of information on your abilities and get a good feel for your level of training by this little exercise. Thank you so much for fulfilling your end of this little charade.”

    Dr. Severus was stunned. This was all a set-up by Dr. Faustus to test the abilities of the Shadow Hunters? They had played right into the hand of this fiendish opponent!
  11. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 31: The Fiendish Dr. Faustus

    “Oh, and since I have a reputation to uphold, I'll have to deal with my minions as well,” He paused for sinister effect, “There we go. Oh, I'm sure we'll meet again someday, but for now, adieu.”

    Dr. Severus could only stare at his cell phone in shock as the line once again went dead. He would definitely be changing his number after this!

    At that moment, at the farmhouse, the necks of the hooded guards either dead, wounded or paralyzed began to bulge unnaturally as a small explosive device embedded in their necks was triggered remotely, causing their necks to burst in a gory froth of carnage.

    Uzume was shocked by the effect on her eidos, but her experiences in the past allowed her to weather the severe effect, though she did feel nauseated almost to the point of illness. Keija, centered in the telepathic array, felt the echo of Uzume's pain through the de-powered array, but she was much less experienced in dealing with such a severe effect on her eidos, and also turned nauseous.

    Teyna quickly backed away from Keija as she turned an odd shade of greenish grey, “Are you ok?” she quickly inquired.

    Keija looked extremely ill for a moment as the echo of Uzume's shock washed through her, but then she began to recover, though still looking pale.
    “What happened?!?!” Teyna exclaimed, surprised by the suddenness of Keija's illness.

    “I don't exactly know, but Uzume and I are connected through this array, even when it's not fully powered up. Something terrible has affected her in some way,” Keija explained as she attempted to recover from the spiritual shock she just encountered.

    Melissa called for Dr. Severus to attend to Keija, and when he saw what had happened, he immediately related the conversation he had with Dr. Faustus. “He did something to his minions to prevent them from being interrogated. I think Uzume witnessed whatever that fiend did.”

    “That makes sense,” Keija groaned as Dr. Severus instructed Melissa on a magical curative to stabilize her eidos. Melissa infused a ward with the proper enchantments, and slapped it on Keija's forehead. Her color returned to it's normal dusky ashen gray, and her head stopped throbbing.

    “Thanks, Melissa,” Keija murmured with her best effort.

    “You've been through a lot today,” Melissa replied kindly, “It was the least I could do with Dr. Severus' help. Still, we need to find out what happened at the hostage site,” Melissa looked apologetically at Keija, “Can you power up the array again in a few minutes?”

    “Give me some time to recover,” Keija said plaintively. She was hoping the others would be back by then, but she knew that was a forlorn hope. The hostages had to be interviewed and examined and Dr. Severus would have to conduct medical checks before anyone would find out exactly what happened at the last moment.

    Venka and Thomas were also inside the farmhouse when Dr. Faustus engaged his explosive device against the minions. Although they were used to dastardly deeds, the inhumanity and callousness of Dr. Faustus' treatment of his own subordinates was shocking to people who were used to supporting their teammates no matter the situation.

    Venka gathered Uzume in her arms, and comforted her, while Thomas went outside to confirm to the combat team, that the situation inside had ended with no hostage casualties.

    Maya, William and Ryan were unbound and had their gags removed by Venka as the situation stabilized. Their grateful looks of thanks could be clearly seen as they regained their composure.

    Members of Ryan Sahmadi's investigation team were also released from their bonds and everyone in and around the old farm house began to gather together for the march back to the bus command point and the medical clinic where Dr. Severus awaited to give each hostage a thorough physical.

    Although they had been hostages, they were trained professionals as well in regard to their duties as Shadow Hunters, even if only branch members of the organization. The march back to the command post was done in silence, wary of any other potential surprises that their opponents might be able to inflict on them.

    It did not take long for everyone to recover sufficiently from the incident, once back at the command post, to begin a debriefing on their opponents. Lars took back operational command of the team, and congratulated Venka on leading the response to a successful conclusion.

    Lars and Dr. Severus and their respective teams then conferred with each other, coming to the conclusion that all this activity on their part the past two days, had been nothing more than a test of their abilities by Dr. Faustus and his minions.

    While they were not fully certain of who they were dealing with, the ties between this Dr. Faustus, Daedalus Manufacturing and the northern spirit realm of Nidavellir were certainly exposed.

    Teyna felt awkward when she was questioned about Dr. Faustus, as she couldn't remember recognizing the voice on the cell phone conversation with Dr. Severus that was amplified by the telepathic array.

    She had only known her boss was a driven and ruthless corporate shark, which was normal for that type of environment, but these past 48 hours or so had revealed a depth of depravity that had shocked Teyna into cooperating as much as she could. She really didn't understand how a robotics manufacturing corporation would be involved in occult practices, but the association of Dr. Faustus and the Nidavellir attacks had driven that point home clearly enough.

    Dr, Severus, for his part, was still having trust issues in regards to Teyna's involvement, but Keija and Uzume both vouched for her integrity, as did Elijah, whose spiritual sight nearly matched the spirits' own.

    “Well, regardless of how it all happened, the situation remains the same. Faustus and his group are causing problems for us with these probing attacks, and they are most likely hiding some other sinister intention while they delay us from interfering,” Dr. Severus summarized the group's analysis.

    “We cannot do much for the moment, but monitor Daedalus,“ he continued, “The flash drive that Venka acquired from the corporate computer network during the previous infiltration of Daedalus will be very helpful in that regard, but I think it's time for you HQ types to head on back home, and let us deal with this local situation as best we can. We'll be on high alert now, given the circumstances, so you won't have to worry about our security. Maya will see you safely to the airport.”

    Lars sighed heavily in relief but held a bit of consternation for Dr. Severus' implied distrust of his own teammates. Still, it was Dr. Severus' responsibility as the regional head of the Singapore branch, to make such determinations.

    “Very well,” Lars nodded in agreement, then raised his voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “Everyone who's bound for New England, get on the bus, we're finally going home.”

    Teyna did not hesitate in the slightest in boarding the vehicle. She was being searched for by local authorities, but she could never safely return to her old job, with what had happened that night.

    Any thoughts to the contrary were ignoring the cold hard facts that confronted her these past hectic hours. She didn't exactly know where she was heading, but she knew that it would be a lot safer than staying in Singapore for the moment.

    Dr. Faustus had continued to observe the hostage site from his well camouflaged and warded observation post, until the Shadow Hunter rescue team and the hostages marched off into the distance.

    He was extremely concerned about the rapidity of the response and rescue, but relieved in terms of how much data he had garnered concerning their abilities. It was clear that this organization would pose a huge threat to the Illuminati's long term plans for unsealing the nexus gate leading to the spirit realm of chaos.

    The work here in Singapore, researching the gate mechanics and inscriptions at the Asian Civilization Museum was now complete, but they still had to travel into the mainland to actually break the seals on the gate.

    The Shadow Hunters would be licking their wounds and taking the time to assess the capabilities of the Illuminati in the meantime, which would grant them the necessary time to complete their task.

    Dr. Faustus mused with a tinge of anxiety, at least that is what he had hoped. He would still have to plan for a contingency should the Shadow Hunters react even faster than he could now expect.

    As soon as the Shadow Hunters had left the area, after a comfortable period of waiting, Dr. Faustus began the task of collecting the souls of his recently departed minions. He laughed inwardly with a sinister chuckle as he thought, 'After all, I can't afford to waste good resources.'
  12. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 32: Preparing for a Rescue

    Back in New England, with the preparations for the dive to rescue Edgar DeMolay nearly complete, Daniel was in a conversation with Samuel Golding, the armorer and weapon smith of the organization, in the compound's recreation lounge.

    Sam was taking a minor break from working on a confidential project the Old Man had him working on, but when he noticed Daniel taking a break from his own preparations, Sam motioned him over with a smile.

    “Have you finished the new model of sound dampening device I requested?” Daniel inquired expectantly as he sat down in a chair next to where Sam was eating a meal.

    “I'm putting the finishing touches on it in the lab,” Sam replied with a smile, “I was able to reduce the size by about a third, reducing the mass of the device by 400 grams.”

    “That'll be helpful when I have to lug it around on field trips,” Daniel nodded pleasantly.

    “Yep!” Sam agreed, “I should have it ready after this other project is completed.”

    Turning to other matters at hand Daniel asked, “Oh, by the way, has the Old Man given you any duties regarding this upcoming dive? We really could use some help on the inside, since he refuses to dive with us.”

    “What? You want me to dive as well?” Sam blinked by the unexpected request.

    “Well, I'm not sure you have the free time to spare, but if you could assist in any way, it would be a great help,” Daniel looked at Sam practically begging for help.

    “Unfortunately, the Old Man has made some requests for some specialized equipment that needs to be completed before everyone returns from Singapore. I'm not at liberty to say what that is at the moment, but he assured me that this request is no less important than your dive,” Sam replied with a tinge of apology, “Speaking of which, I really should get back to work.”

    Sam finished up his meal, and gave Daniel a small salute as he headed back towards the armory.

    Daniel was a bit disappointed that he wouldn't be able to include anyone else in his dive, other than Martin. But there was no more time to delay. Sighing, but steeling himself with resolve, Daniel jumped up from the chair and made his way to check up on Martin's preparations in the Dive Room.

    Upon entering the dive room, he noticed Martin casting a preparatory spell, which would allow Martin to remotely trigger his pre-constructed wards while in the Astral realm. Anthony Mallory entered the room at this point as well, and nodded in satisfaction with the preparations.

    “Daniel,” Anthony Mallory spoke in a well measured manner, “Have you finished your preparations for the walk? I'll monitor Martin's dive, so if you need to do anything in advance, you can begin your walk at any time. I'll have Martin follow as soon as he's finished his preparations.”

    “Well, you know my feelings on this matter, sir,” Daniel once again voiced his concerns, “We really could use an infusion of your spiritual power to infuse Martin's wards at the appropriate time.”

    “I realize your concerns Daniel, but I'm not quite convinced of our security over at the hospital. I had to pull a lot of strings to get the doctors there to avoid interfering over the next few hours, and I need to be present in case they decide to ignore the request, or if some other matter intrudes here at the compound. I also have Richard observing at the hospital to inform me if the situation changes with Edgar,” Anthony concluded his reasoning.

    “It's just that I'm worried with Martin and my own strength, that it might not be sufficient against the power of that trap. If I could somehow contact you, to assist at the proper time, it would greatly reduce the anxiety I'm feeling at the moment,” Daniel finished hesitantly.

    “You cannot always rely on me to be your ace in the hole, Daniel,”Anthony gently chided, “I'm well aware of your ability to travel in the astral realm, and your ability to avoid confrontations with various entities within that realm, but you need to learn confidence in your ability to deal with unavoidable circumstances such as these. I'm confident that you can succeed, even if you are not. After all, I wouldn't allow you to attempt this if I believed otherwise.”

    Daniel had to nod in agreement with that assessment. The Old Man wouldn't willingly put any of his agents in a situation that he thought they couldn't handle. Still, although the Old Man's vote of confidence certainly helped to relieve some anxiety, Daniel still felt nervous about the upcoming walk.

    He was certain by now, that his previous marker would have attracted unwanted attention from the astral realm's denizens. Both he and Martin would definitely have their work cut out for them.

    Daniel, in leading Martin to the point where he could safely disable the spiritual trap, and Martin for being able to manipulate his spirit wards remotely while under pressure to rescue Edgar DeMolay.

    The risks were compounded by potential unexpected “visitors” from the astral realm. Finally, Daniel's nervousness also stemmed from the fact that the time to conduct the operation had arrived, and he was always nervous before any large operation began.

    'What I need right now, is that elfy to say something to take my mind off of things, and focus my spirit!' He thought about Keija and he missed the chance to push her buttons as well have her keep his mind from dwelling on the negative aspects of this operation.

    He wondered for a moment how she was faring in Singapore, given that she had no previous attachment to that locale, but then shook his head wistfully. He needed to focus on the task at hand.

    With a deep breath of resolve, Daniel set up his hutch in a corner of the dive room, and nodding to the Old Man, he placed his sound dampening device and activated it.

    The room became eerily quiet in his vicinity, and he quickly assumed a prone resting position on a sleeping roll that he unfurled on the ground. Giving a quick thumbs up to the Old Man, Daniel quickly entered his walk into the Astral Realm.
  13. Sturmritter

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    Chapter 33: Finding Help in an Unexpected Place

    Anthony Mallory turned to Martin, and gave him some quick pointers on how to keep up with Daniel during his dive, and then attached the monitoring and drug injection device to Martin's arm, as he lay down on one of the dive couches.

    Martin had done a few astral dives during his time with the Shadow Hunters, but he still relied on his rudimentary training, and was confident of the process. It also helped, that the Old Man was helping him to mitigate some of his doubts with his overwhelming spiritual presence.

    As he lay down on the couch, the device was activated, and a shot of the stimulating Nor-epinephrine coursed through his veins.

    The familiar feeling of being spooked from behind caused Martin's mind and body to become fully alert, but then the next chemical was injected causing his body to become flaccid. That state of being where the muscles lost their tone and became completely relaxed.

    As Martin concentrated on entering his meditative state, he slowly became aware of Daniel's silver cord in his mind's eye, helping him to guide over into the astral realm.

    Daniel confirmed Martin's presence, and transmitted his thoughts freely to the other as he guided Martin towards the Celestial Sphere crossroads.

    “I'm really not familiar with the peculiarities of this realm, Daniel,” Martin communicated mentally to the walker.

    “Don't worry about it too much,” Daniel warned seriously, “All of your emotions and thoughts can take form in this realm, and we don't want to have to deal with nascent blobs of anxiety here. I'm doing my best to keep a neutral emotional state at the moment, and I recommend you strive for that as well.”

    “U-ah, ah, right,” Martin remembered his basic training in this regard, ”Sorry about that.” he finished thinking as the two travelers arrived at the Celestial Spheres crossroads.

    Daniel paused for a moment at the crossroads, and then had a sudden inspirational thought. If he could secure some help from any additional travelers here at the crossroads, he might be able to pull off the rescue without reliance on the Old Man after all.

    “Martin, I'm going to ask around from some help around here,” Daniel communicated, “So just hang here for a moment, and doing some meditation or cultivation or whatever you do when you've got the time to spare.”

    “I'm not sure that's wise Daniel,” Martin replied hesitantly, “I'm not very familiar with this realm.”

    “This area is the most 'civilized' part of the Astral Realm, Martin. Seriously, don't worry about being lost here, your physical body hasn't moved an inch since we migrated into the realm. The realm, rather adapts amorphously to the prevailing intentions of it's travelers. You could think of this place like holographic projection stage, or as a dreamscape. It will help to orient yourself if you think of it that way.” Daniel explained as he scanned the vicinity for potential travelers he might be able to convince to aid them.

    “How is that possible, if there are so many travelers? Wouldn't it just be a sea of chaos otherwise?” Martin questioned him with a hint of confusion.

    “No one is exactly sure how the realm adjusts to each individual, as that is subjective perception on your part and my part and the part of every other traveler to the realm. However, we do share something of a common perception of our surroundings as well, and the realm seems to latch on to the communal aspects of these perceptions and are reinforced over countless journeys to these Spheres and other markers in the realm.”

    Martin nodded with a neophyte's understanding, “If you say so...” he trailed off.

    As Daniel was explaining this shifting aspect of the astral realm to Martin, he noticed a familiar entity from his past travels sitting cross legged, and floating above a patch of indigo colored flowers.

    Taking a moment to probe the identity of the traveler, Daniel nodded when he was confident of his conclusion.

    “Kreslin?” Daniel projected his thoughts towards the other entity.

    “Hmmm?” the other reacted somewhat surprised by the mental intrusion into his meditation.

    “Kreslin Jordan!” Daniel projected an enthusiastic recognition at the newly identified traveler.

    “Daniel Grey?” The other seemed to hold his thoughts like cards in a poker game, close to himself.

    “Indeed!” Daniel replied happily. “What are you doing at the crossroads? I'm here on some business myself.”

    “Oh me? I'm just meditating in preparation for a performance later tonight, for one of Cameron's charities.”

    “If you're just meditating, why don't you put some of that energy to use, and lend me a willpower marker, for a bit?” Daniel asked shamelessly.

    “What?” Kreslin replied suspiciously, “When have you ever needed to borrow a marker from anyone else?”

    “I'm serious,” Daniel quickly replied with the image of a bruised ego hazily dissipating into the nearby mist.

    “First things, first, Dan,” Jordan responded as he noticed Martin's astral body hovering nearby, “Who's this person tagging along with you?”

    “Oh this person? His name is Martin DuBois. He's a spiritualist who's going to help me to rescue someone.”

    “What?” Kreslin was a bit astonished by the revelation of a traveler in need of rescue, “I could probably loan you a marker for that, but why not just ask me for help instead? Oh, btw, Martin was it? I'm Kreslin Jordan, a psychic performer. Glad to make your acquaintance!”

    Martin was somewhat embarrassed by the situation, not knowing the social status of this new traveler and not knowing if the entity was even human. His thoughts issued out dripping with uncertainty into the stream of consciousness, “I'm glad to make your acquaintance as well.”

    “Nervous?” Kreslin's thoughts immediately become predatory searching out Martin's level of spiritual strength, “Don't be in this place. No one is going to start trouble at the crossroads. Not even leviathans enjoy this area due to the innumerable wards that have been used here over centuries of astral travel.”

    “R-Right,” Martin remembered his basic training once again.

    Daniel just snickered a bit and gathered Martin into the conversation with Kreslin to discuss Edgar's situation.

    After several minutes of explaining the mission, Kreslin nodded appreciatively, “I see,” he mused over his understanding for a bit before continuing, “So you need just a little extra 'oomf' in order to power Martin's counter wards for this trap that Edgar is entangled in?”
  14. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 34: Never a Dull Moment

    “Well, Martin could probably do it on his own, if he didn't have to deal with distractions. We could also use an extra consciousness to distract and ward off any leviathans or other unwanted visitors while we conduct the operation,” Daniel sighed with a hint of pleading.

    “Tell you what,” Kreslin suddenly spoke up with conviction, “If you can promise me the aid of the Shadow Hunters for a future equivalent favor, then I think I can convince Cameron or Metros to assist as well.”

    “I can't speak for the Old Man, but I can tell you that if anyone were to help in this operation, I'm sure he'd look favorably upon such a request, provided it didn't interfere with our duties,” Daniel replied with hope for the offer.

    “Ok, I'll drop out of my walk for a while to discuss this issue with Cameron, then meet you back here as soon as I get a decision from him.”

    “Thanks a bunch, Kreslin,” Daniel replied gratefully.

    Not even a moment after Kreslin disappeared, due to time distortions between the mortal and astral realms, he immediately reappeared.

    “Looks like it's just me for now,” Kreslin demurred, “Cameron said Metros was busy, and that although he would like to be able to assist, the stakes weren't enough for him to count on Mallory's following through.”

    “It was a longshot,” Daniel agreed. Cameron Saint was a fickle man, who led a rag-tag band of misfits who oversaw each other's safety and interests. They were much a like a circus troupe, full of strange, abnormal people with some having astonishing paranormal talents.

    “Still, to have your assistance is a big help, Kreslin. I won't forget it myself," He finished gratefully.

    “Alright, Lead on!” Kreslin said in a friendly casual manner.

    Having gotten as much help from the crossroads that he could reasonably expect, Daniel led the others via the marker he had left with Edgar. It was still strong, though it had visibly faded a bit since Daniel created it.

    Kreslin and Martin followed Daniel's silver cord as he sped his way towards Edgar's astral body.

    As they continued through the astral realm, various small entities had gathered around the vicinity of the trap and the astral body encased within it. They all began to scatter as Daniel and his companions arrived in the area.

    “Kreslin, take Martin around the area to scout for weak points in the streams. Once Martin knows where to begin to counter ward, we'll be able to start with the rescue.”

    “Ok, what will you be doing in the meantime?” Kreslin asked curiously.

    “I'll need to boost Edgar's marker. He's certain to be mentally exhuasted by now. All we really need to do is divert one of the streams long enough to make an opening in which I can then pull out Edgar's astral body. If you could lend any amount of your spiritual strength to Martin's counter ward, it would make the process faster and easier," Daniel explained.

    “Right,” Kreslin acknowledged and then turned to Martin, “Let's find a weakpoint in this trap and begin the rescue.”

    Daniel summoned his ki pressure, and formed another marker which he then mentally directed towards the previous one near Edgar's astral body. The two markers began to merge, and the resulting strengthened marker glowed brightly once again with renewed spiritual strength.

    This caused several of the small entities surrounding the trap to skitter once again, nervously on the lookout for any leviathans which might be attracted to the newly strengthened marker.

    Edgar, still unable to communicate directly, motioned with his astral body in such a manner as to convey his thanks, and eagerly awaited being sprung from the trap.

    As Kreslin and Martin surveyed the trap for weaknesses, a foreboding feeling of dread began to impose itself on the area.

    Daniel, startled by the sensation, quickly projected a mental warning to Kreslin and Martin, that a potential leviathan or other adversary had been disturbed by their activity.

    Kreslin acknowledged the warning, just as he and Martin had discovered a suitable weakpoint to attack. Turning towards Martin, Kreslin admonished, “Just do what you need to do, and leave the Leviathan, or whatever it might be to us.”

    Martin could only nod his head, and began chanting the spell to remotely activate his previously constructed wards in the real world. The wards had been designed in such a way as to lend their strength along Martin's silver cord, and as he finished chanting the spell, he could feel his astral body surging with energy. He then began to concentrate on diverting the flow of this stream through the weakpoint that Kreslin pointed out earlier.

    An immense roar of mental energy infused the area as the adversary approached.

    Daniel confirmed it as a class 6 leviathan, and immediately set out to distract it in the manner he was familiar with.

    With such a spiritually strong entity, Daniel had no hope of confronting such an opponent head-on. However, with his expertise in this realm, he could create a series of distracting markers which might temporarily confuse the beast. Kreslin also rushed towards Daniel to lend his assistance, after enacting his own concealing intent around Martin's area of operations.

    Kreslin left Martin with one word of advice as he sped off, “Don't move outside of the concealing intent!”

    Several smaller entities scattered like a herd of gazelles being chased by lions. The area quickly became a confused landscape of various intents, emotions and deep thoughts as the leviathan clashed, seeking to absorb the spiritual strength of the lesser entities.

    Daniel and Kreslin did their best to lead the chaotic situation away from the bright marker near Edgar's body, and away from Martin's working his counter spell against the trap.

    “Why is it, that I'm always running away from trouble when I'm with you,” Kreslin mentally laughed at Daniel. He arrived at the walker's position, and began to follow Daniel in his flight leading the leviathan away as best he could.

    “Because I'm never boring,” Daniel replied with a mental wink that faded quickly into the mist.
  15. Sturmritter

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    Chpater 35: A Merry Chase

    The Leviathan seemed to be gaining ground, but each time it looked as if it would reach a dangerous position, Daniel and Kreslin threw down markers like chaff which would draw the leviathan off them.

    “We need to find another one of these beasts, and lead it into the other,” Kreslin remarked on the time honored tactic of getting leviathans to fight each other.

    “Looking!” Daniel replied hastily as he threw down another marker to distract the Leviathan's attack momentarily.

    For several minutes, it looked as if there were no other beasts around which could oppose this class 6 beast. And it had already absorbed quite of few unfortunate smaller entities as it continued chasing Daniel and Kreslin.

    Then Daniel thanked his lucky stars, as he and Kreslin came across another area with a similar dread intent.

    “Lucky us! We found another one!” Kreslin smiled sarcastically.

    When two leviathans of similar strength encountered one another, everyone else would scatter as the two beasts would immediately ignore everything else, and attack one another. With luck, they would exhaust each other. But most of the time, one would eventually prevail, and absorb the spiritual strength of the other, causing the victor to become even more of a threat.

    Daniel, at this point, directed his attention back towards the trap and Edgar's astral body. Noticing that Martin's efforts to weaken and divert the stream were beginning to show results, Daniel renewed his efforts to entangle the leviathans against each other, so that he and Kreslin could return to assist in the rescue.

    For several moments, it seemed as if the original leviathan would reach and crush the two astral walkers, but suddenly, from the mist, the second leviathan became agitated from the arrival of the newcomers and launched itself at the largest intruder, the other leviathan.

    Both Daniel and Kreslin heaved a mental sigh of relief, and quickly concealed their intents as the the two titans began to clash, thrashing about in the mist. Quickly withdrawing from that vicinity, they made their way back towards the area where Edgar's astral body was trapped.

    Martin had continued to work on diverting the stream through the weakpoint that Kreslin had uncovered for him. He was straining with the effort to counter the trap's magical strength, when suddenly he felt relief in the form of additional ki pressure from both Daniel and Kreslin as they arrived at his location.

    “Thank the Creator!” Martin exclaimed with gratitude as one of the stream's current shifted away from Edgar's astral body.

    Daniel nimbly threaded through the dispersed streams to reach Edgar, and pulled his body quickly out of the trapped area. Kreslin assisted both Martin with his Ki Pressure, and Daniel, by helping pull in his silver cord as the streams continued to flow around them like raging rivers.

    Edgar was in an extremely weakened mental state, but his astral form smiled faintly when they had escaped the trap altogether.

    “Let's get out of here,” Daniel spoke up for everyone present.

    “Call on me if you need help again, I'm always willing to help a friend for a future favor” Kreslin projected as he headed back to the Celestial Spheres. The other three began to retrace their silver cords back to their physical bodies.

    Near the end of their journey, Edgar's silver cord split off in a direction which corresponded to the Hospital. Daniel escorted Edgar to his own body, and then returned to begin reintegration with his body, while Martin waited patiently for the device to assist in his return to the normal world.

    As he regained consciousness, Daniel murmured out a happy “Success!” as he slowly reoriented himself in real space.

    Anthony Mallory breathed a heavy sigh of relief, “Seems like my faith in your ability was not misplaced.”

    Daniel mumbled something under his breath, but thought better of it, and replied, “I had help. I mean other than Martin.”

    “Oh?” The Old Man was intrigued, “Did you rope in a traveler at the Spheres crossroad?”

    “As a matter of fact, I did,” Daniel beamed in response. “Kreslin Jordan was doing some meditation before his nightly performance.”

    “Oh? Did Cameron approve?” Anthony referred to the leader of the Sanctum group of misfits.

    “Well, Kreslin did try to rope in some of the other Sanctum members, but the available ones were busy. Though they did wish us well in the matter," Daniel replied.

    “I hope they didn't ask for any sort of payment,” Anthony sighed, “Cameron can be too mercenary for his own good at times.”

    “Nope. Kreslin assisted as a gratuity,” Daniel explained. “He did say he'd probably call on the favor in the future though. I'll have to keep that in mind.”

    “It's all well and good to return favors as long as they don't interfere with our duties,” The Old Man reiterated.

    “Yep, I figured as much and told Kreslin the same,” Daniel nodded.

    “Let's get Martin back and then we'll head to the hospital,” Anthony focused their attention back on the young man who actually did the work of breaking Edgar out of his prison.

    Daniel inspected the device, and set the parameters for withdrawal, and Martin slowly underwent a roller-coaster of drug effects as he was pulled back into his body.

    “Erfgh,” Martin attempted to speak, even though his mouth was like cotton candy at the moment. He quickly grabbed a nearby cup of water, and swallowed it, wetting his throat enough to speak clearly, “Ugh, I hate that dive device!” He lightly cursed between 'that' and 'dive'.

    “You did extremely well Martin. Melissa would be proud,” The Old Man commended.

    “Well, it was really Daniel and his friend that did the heavy lifting, by drawing away any unwanted visitors,” Martin replied humbly, “I was able to concentrate fully on the task at hand without distraction. Still, I'd rather go to bed now, if you don't mind. I'll skip the hospital visit for now and meet your uncle in the morning?”

    “Yes, yes. Of course,” The Old Man expected Martin to be exhausted by the rescue, “But I'm sure at some point my uncle will want to thank you in person, so rest well for now.”

    Martin bowed and headed off for his room ,while Daniel and the Old Man headed for the garage where a driver would take them to the hospital.

    “Thanks again, Daniel,” Anthony spoke with graciousness as they entered the vehicle together, “You, Keija and Martin all came through when the stakes were high. I appreciate that a lot.”

    The ride to the hospital was done in silence from that point on. Though it was not technically visiting hours so early in the morning, the previous understanding that was made between Anthony Mallory and the hospital administration allowed them visitation at odd hours.

    As the vehicle sped down the winding wooded road, Daniel just kept his eyes low, averting his gaze from falling on the Old Man, and he turned his thoughts once again to Keija.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
  16. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 36: Some Things Prayer Cannot Solve

    Back in Seletar, Astrid and Melissa were putting the final touches on Teyna's disguise. Her hair had been bleached, and she had contact lenses with aqua green pupils put on, which were entirely uncomfortable for the first ten minutes that she wore them, but then her eyes became used to the lenses. Also, she was given some platform boots to adjust her height.

    After a new hairstyle was complete, anyone without the benefit of spiritual sight would have a hard time recognizing her as a person of interest. A passport photo was taken, and inserted into one of the pre-made forged passports that that the organization kept handy, a parting gift from Dr. Severus.

    Since they were using a private aircraft, the customs area wasn't quite as high tech as the public terminal. After getting a casual declaration of goods, and a cursory nod from the airport's security, the team was allowed to board their aircraft.

    Lars returned from having filed his flight plan, and nodded to everyone that he was ready for departure, so everyone began to board the aircraft.

    Teyna stopped at the threshold of the aircraft doorway, and heaved a deep sigh. If she stepped through, there would be no turning back. With everything that had happened over the past two days, Teyna was somewhat shocked at her ability to adapt to these strange circumstances.
    One would have thought that revelations of spiritual occult powers in the world and strange beings from other dimensions would have caused her to go a bit insane, but she was always a bit of a pragmatist at heart.

    With the situation with her former employer having gone sour so suddenly, along with the mysterious Dr. Faustus, she acknowledged to herself that to stay would be tantamount to suicide.

    She moved on through the doorway, and found the seat that Lars had previously assigned to her. Collapsing into her seat, all of her pent up emotions, frustrations, and astonishment at her predicament all dissipated into a hazy afterthought and she closed her eyes and promptly fell asleep.

    When Teyna awoke several hours later, the plane was in mid flight over the pacific, and Keija immediately shook her shoulder, “Hey there, sleepyhead. You want something to eat?”

    “What are my choices?” Teyna asked as her stomach grumbled.

    “Well, we've got some cup of noodles in several varieties: Kimchi, Chicken and Mushroom, Shrimp, or Beef. And we also have some MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat). Personally, the MRE's aren't that bad, but the cup of noodles won't cause constipation, well except for maybe the Kimchi variety,” Keija offered with slight grin.

    “I'll go with the Chicken and Mushroom cup of noodles then,” Teyna replied.

    “Right, I'll grab a couple and serve them up,” Keija finished, then added, “Hey, Uzume, you want some cup of noodles?”

    Uzume shook her head disdainfully, “I'd rather eat an MRE before eating a cup of freeze dried ramen noodles.”

    “Suit yourself, you're missing out on this fine cuisine,” Keija teased as she headed to the galley in the rear of the airplane to gather up the food.

    When Keija returned with the meals, Teyna took a few moments to give thanks. She wasn't a particularly religious person to begin with, but having her eyes opened to a wider reality taught her that perhaps she should acknowledge the creator of all things, at least for keeping her safe for the moment.

    Keija and Uzume both felt a complimentary effect from the prayer being in close proximity to Teyna, and they too added their own thoughts to this prayer as well.

    Prayers were powerful spiritual tools. They could be thought of as non-magical, and yet miraculous at the same time. Most people didn't realize that prayer had an actual statistical effect on a person's health. They were not quite the opposite of curses, in this regard though, since curses only could affect those who believed in their magical nature.

    Prayers, on the other hand, worked independently of a person's beliefs and could affect someone's health even if they didn't know they had been prayed for in their favor.

    Additionally, Prayers acted in ways beyond simply affecting health. Prayers were petitions or offerings to the all-mighty creator of all things. What people would refer to as God, or the Divine Spark, this ultimately powerful spiritual force encouraged prayer as a means of personal communication.

    While some people derided prayer because it wasn't a science, those people still offered prayers at various times in their life, even if they didn't take them seriously.

    There was no such thing as an “unanswered prayer” either. Prayers were always answered, but the answer was sometimes “Nope! It wouldn't be to your benefit,” but not in so many words.

    The Lord of all creation for some reason opposed directly communicating with his creation, but rather preferred to do so through intermediary means. Perhaps that entity did not wish to affect free will, or impose fate upon people, and so instead communicated obliquely when responding to prayers.

    Even to spiritual beings such as Keija or Uzume, the Lord of Creation was a mysterious being. Heck, one couldn't even be sure of a gender in regard to this being. Though simply from traditional patriarchal descriptions, and through accounts of various prophets of religion, it was generally accepted to be a fatherly figure (with notable exceptions from practitioners of Wicca).

    Of course, none of these intricacies regarding prayer mattered a whit to Teyna or the others at the moment. They were just glad to have left Singapore without incident and offered the Lord of creation thanks for that, as well as their continued safety in the days to come.

    Just as they began eating their meal, Thomas once again began to snore, and Teyna looked horrified by the sounds emanating from his seat.

    “I guess there are some things that prayer cannot solve,” Keija groaned as she looked at the others who had already worked on getting headphones or earplugs out.

    “You never know until you try,” Uzume smirked in response.

    “Well, be thankful that there are headphones for the entertainment system,” Keija pointed out to Teyna who was plugging her ears with her fingers for the moment. Keija handed her a set and also placed some earplugs of her own to lessen the grating noise.

    Teyna nodded gratefully, and quickly placed them on her head, and turned up the volume on the music station that was playing on the selected channel.
  17. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 37: Preparing to Land

    The flight continued in this manner for several more hours until Lars announced over the speaker that the plane would be descending to land within a few minutes. Thankfully, Thomas had woken up by this time, and ceased his incessant snoring.

    “Now's the time to stretch those legs and get the circulation going, folks,” Lukas said loudly, as he stoop up from his seat and pace a few times back and forth. After fourteen hours in flight, it was necessary to get up from time to time to keep the circulation in the body from stagnating.

    “Oh, can it, Lukas,” Keil piped back, “We'll be on the ground in fifteen minutes, and you've already had plenty of time to stretch and pace about before this.”

    “Yea, I suppose you're right,” Lukas replied, “I guess I just get a bit nervous when in a plane that's landing.”

    “Hey? Don't you trust Lars enough to land this plane?” Keil quipped back.

    “Well, it's not like I have a choice, he's the only flight qualified agent we've got,” Lukas grumbled as he sat back down.

    “Well, if you can trust nothing else, then trust that the pilot himself wants to survive the landing as well,” Keil chuckled, “And I don't recall you being this nervous when landing in Singapore.”

    “True,” Lukas replied earnestly, “But the Old Man wasn't waiting for us back in Singapore.”

    “Explaining the mess-up at the safehouse, and our new found friend would make anyone nervous in front of that guy,” Lukas muttered under his breath.

    Teyna overheard Lukas' last comment and turned towards Keija, “Who is this Old Man that everyone has been referring to?”

    Keija paused momentarily to gather up her thoughts, pondering on how much to explain, “He doesn't really appear old, even if he might be, it's more a term of affection than anything else. His name is Anthony Mallory and he is the Primus of the Shadow Hunter organization. He's our leader.”

    “Shadow Hunters?” Teyna asked hesitantly.

    “That's right,” Keija smiled in response, “Aside from you, everyone on board this aircraft refers to themselves as Shadow Hunters. As you have already discovered, the world is not as simple as it first appears.” Keija continued to explain that there are entire societies that live in other dimensions, that interact with this world and not always with good intentions.

    Teyna was concerned by these revelations, but her feelings of shock had long since passed after the Duregar attack at the safe house in Singapore.

    “This is what we in the know, refer to as the Secret World. The Secret World includes my home world, Swartalfheim, for example, and many other realms, including the lands of our ancient enemies the Nidavellir.”

    “The Nidavellir were those creatures that attacked us at the safehouse?” Teyna interrupted.

    “You know those Duregar that attacked the safe house? Yea, those guys. Anyways, the reason we're referred to as Shadow Hunters, is because we track down and capture or eliminate unwelcome intruders from the Secret World.”

    “If that's the case,” Teyna replied thoughtfully, “How is it that Daedalus is involved in other worlds?”

    “Well, that's what we were trying to figure out back in Singapore. We connected a few dots, but it's still an investigation in progress.” Keija answered.

    “Our most important lead is a witness who's been in the hospital these past few days,” Keija explained the situation with Edgar, “But hopefully, by the time we're back at our compound, the home crew will have figured out a solution to his current state.”

    Teyna found herself asking more questions for every one that Keija answered. It was a never ending stream of curiosity that had been uncorked from Teyna's previously sheltered awareness.

    “Home Crew?” Teyna asked astounded, “There's even more of you?”

    “I thought we already explained the branch organizations and the headquarters thing!” Keija chided with a shake of her head.

    “No, That's not what I meant,” Teyna defended her inquiry, “Besides the Old Man, there are more headquarter agents? One's that I haven't met?”

    “Oh, yes, there are a few who always keep the home fires burning. When all is said and done, we should not have to come home to an empty, cold nest after an operation. That would be uncivilized.”

    “So what other surprising individuals can I expect to meet?” Teyna smiled faintly in anticipation of meeting even more strange and unusual people.

    Keija rattled off the list of names she remembered, “Well, let's see, there's Richard, Sam, Martin, the Old Man, and Daniel. Also, there are a few other admin and maintenance types that I've not yet learned the names of yet. But don't worry about meeting Daniel, he'll be sure to annoy you immediately if he discovers you are new to the secret world."

    “This Daniel fellow sounds like a handful,” Teyna mused.

    “You don't know the half of it,” Keija retorted, “He's talented, I'll grant you that. But he's one of the most annoying, headstrong, self-aggrandizing arrogant persons that I have ever had the displeasure to meet.”

    “Talented?” Teyna pondered out loud, “What's his talent?”

    “He's an astral walker,” Keija sighed, “One of the best that I've ever seen, and he's got some method of bypassing what are considered normal spirit gates, to be able to travel to various realms.”

    “I suppose that would be considered a security problem, if it's your organization's task to regulate who travels between realms,” Teyna analyzed the implications of such a talent.

    “You know? You're actually pretty good at picking these things up rather quickly!” Keija nodded in complete agreement, “Yes. Daniel Grey is definitely a security concern for my home realm and the Synod, but the Old Man seems to keep that concern in check for now."

    “So now, what's this Synod? That's the first time I've heard you mention it,” Tenya's curiosity continued to bubble.

    Keija shook her head, “That's a question that'll have to wait for now. We're about to land!”

    Teyna nodded, “I'll take a rain check on that.”

    Keija was confused by that expression, “I'm sorry, I'm not too familiar with certain idioms.”

    Teyna chuckled in reply, “It means that you owe me an explanation later on, since you can't give it to me now.”

    Keija nodded, “Don't worry, I never forget. I'll explain it when we get some free time later on. You're about to become very busy for a while.”
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
  18. Sturmritter

    Sturmritter Member

    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 38: Returning to the Nest

    The landing of the aircraft was a picture perfect 3-point landing and the plane glided down the runway smoothly as Lars reversed the engine to slow the craft down to a taxi along the private runway of the Shadow Hunter's compound.

    The plane landed at early dawn, and the misty morning sun had yet to rise over the horizon. The local ICE agents had an agreement with the organization to do cursory checks for declared goods, ensure that everyone was healthy and that no quarantines were needed.

    While they were not technically part of the organization, these ICE agents were so thoroughly integrated with the security of the compound, that they were treated as allies, rather than as potential nuisances. It was an enviable posting for those agents too, because the private airfield had minimal air traffic compared to the public airports, so their duties were quite light.

    As the team disembarked from the plane, they came up to the customs desk, and being led by Lars, proceeded to declare all their goods and the agents inspected their passports and baggage. Everything was in order, but the agent inspecting Teyna looked quizzically at Lars who quickly came over and interceded on Teyna's behalf.

    “She's a new member in training from our branch in Singapore,” Lars explained nonchalantly.

    “Ah, no wonder I didn't recognize her,” The agent nodded and smiled, “Welcome to the United States, Ma'am. I'm agent Williams. If you have any trouble with these guys, you let me know!” He winked slyly.

    Lars laughed and retorted, “John, you can't be that hard up for a date, can you?”

    “Whatever Lars!” ICE Agent John Williams shot back with a heavy dose of irony, “I've got to offer my protection from you predators when a beautiful girl happens by!”

    Teyna blushed from the indirect compliment, “Well, thank you agent Williams, I appreciate the offer, but I hope that I'm fairly safe for the time being, Still, if the situation turns sour, I'll be sure to let you know.”

    Agent Williams nodded at Teyna, and then playfully warned Lars, “You keep her safe, bro, or you'll be dealing with me,” He winked slyly.

    Lars shrugged his shoulders, “Will do. And say hello to the old gang for me back at the department when you get the chance.”

    Agent Williams nodded and then said to the both of them, “Done and done. Have a nice day!”

    Tenya followed the others to another bus, this time a simple transport, which they hopped on and took to the main compound. The sun had risen by this point, and Teyna gazed at the surrounding wooded beauty of the area.

    New England had a completely different feel to the urban vibrance of Singapore. Just looking at the rustic countryside, Teyna could feel a powerful sense of ancient and majestic grandeur emanating from the place. Was this her spiritual aptitude manifesting itself? Or something else? She didn't exactly feel a connection to this place, but she immediately felt a desire to connect to this place, to these new found friends, and to understand what they did in their daily lives.

    Her sense of adventure had been sparked, and the fact that she had made such life-changing decisions on what felt like a whim at the time astonished her.

    Even more astonishing, however, was the fact that she desired this change in her life with a passion that she seldom displayed.

    Being released from the constant presence of the ruthless corporate lifestyle was liberating in a manner she could have not comprehended until now. Teyna gazed out the window, and felt a great weight lifting from her soul as she drank in the new experiences one after another.

    Once back at the compound, Lars officially turned over his authority to Uzume, and proceeded to prepare a report for her to give to the Old Man.

    Teyna was amazed at how flexible everyone was in changing who was in charge at any given moment, as it was quite different from the corporate structure where it was clear who was always in charge of the company.

    Turning to Keija, she remarked, “How do you cope with this ever shifting command structure?”

    “Well, to be honest, the only one in command at the compound is Anthony Mallory. The rest of us just adapt to the situation based on our experience and skills. Uzume is the closest thing to a second in command, and usually takes administrative control when he's not around. She's known the Old Man for the longest of any of us, and sometimes acts as his bodyguard as well during certain ceremonial functions,” Keija explained.

    “So where do you fit into this organization?” Teyna asked directly.

    Keija answered after a moment of thought, “Me? I suppose I could be considered an ambassador of sorts. My own organization is known as the Synod. I'm tasked as a Shadow Hunter to help coordinate cooperation between this group and the Synod."

    After looking at Teyna who crossed her arms at the mention of the Synod, Keija continued, "I know I promised to explain that to you, but it would take a long time to explain the various factions that make up that organization as well. So please be patient. There's a lot to learn about, and I think you should build a solid foundation of basic knowledge here before worrying about organizations in other realms. Even I am still learning the basics here myself. In that regard, we're both rookies.”

    Teyna was once again astonished by this revelation. She looked at Keija, who was currently in her human guise, as something of an expert, but Keija just told her that she was as much a rookie in this world as herself.

    “It's true, that I would be considered on the mid level in strength, given that I made that breakthrough in Singapore, but a level four spiritual strength out of a ranking based on 10 levels is not that high,” Keija continued to explain, “And really, we haven't even assessed your own spiritual strength yet. Just your foundational aptitude.”

    “What's the difference?” Teyna was interested in learning as much as she could.

    “In your work, you have studied electricity? I assume this because you worked for a robotics manufacturer,” Keija explained through an analogy, “There is current, voltage and resistance in any electrical circuit. If entities are considered in such terms, then spiritual aptitude is akin to resistance, spiritual strength is akin to voltage, and training and skill are akin to the ability to generate a current.”

    Teyna understood the analogy, and her previous assessment had tested her ability in regards to how easy or difficult it was for her to effectively perceive spiritual strength, but that test didn't tell her how strong she was spiritually, or if she could utilize that strength to affect her surroundings.

    “So, you're saying that I'll have to undergo more testing here?” Teyna assumed that was the case, but thought it best to confirm.

    “Yep. That'll be up to the Old Man though,” Keija confirmed, “Oh, and one more thing. Having a high spiritual aptitude is a double edged sword. You are able to perceive spiritual matters more clearly, but you can also be affected by spirits more easily as well.”

    As Teyna pondered this last bit of information, Astrid and Elijah took the lead when disembarking from the transport as it arrived at the compound. With an audible shout that could be heard from quite a distance, Astrid yelled, “We're home!”

    Elijah and Melissa just shook their heads and waved Keija, Teyna, Lars, and Uzume towards the Dormitory, “Come on, let's get unpacking! The faster you unpack, the faster I'll be able to get to the kitchen and cook us a nice homecoming meal,” Elijah motivated the others with the promise of his often praised cooking skill.

    “Count me in!” Melissa chimed in as she began lugging some recording equipment off the transport.

    The returning agents all worked busily putting their equipment back in proper storage, and were anticipating a nice welcome home from the Old Man, when Samuel Golding appeared from his office near the armory.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
  19. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 39: A Few Surprises

    “Oh, you guys are back already?” He winked in a teasing manner, “I was hoping for a bit more time to surprise you with my latest undertakings!”

    “Sam!” Lars grinned as he greeted the weaponsmith with a wave, “What's this about a surprise?”

    “Well, before the Old Man left for the hospital, he wanted me to inform you about two things. First, and foremost, Daniel and Martin were successful in their attempt to draw Edgar DeMolay out of his coma. The Old Man and Daniel both left very early this morning for the hospital about two hours before you arrived. Richard is there also, so he can record everything Edgar can tell us about the forces who attacked us,” Sam related hurridly.

    "And what's the second thing, don't keep us in suspense!” Lars knew that Sam had been working on some new project just before the mechanical bug attack those several days ago, and was anticipating some new equipment for the agents.

    “As you've probably surmised, the Old Man had me working on some new equipment for the family. There's some new equipment for Keija, and some toys for the combat team as well. But the biggest surprise is for the whole team, I've finished the new underground training facility.”

    “What?!?!?” Lars grew excited about this revelation, “You've been working on that facility for ages now, it's finally ready for us to use?”

    “Yep!” Sam smiled with a gleam in his eye, “Having you gone for these past few days allowed me to put the finishing touches in secret. You won't know all the ins and outs of this new facility like you do with our current one.”

    “Can we get a peek now?” Lars yearned to see the new facility.

    “Not until the Old Man gets back from the Hospital with the others. He wants to do a proper ground breaking ceremony, and ensure all of the arrays are calibrated to his standards.”

    “Well phooey!” Lars let out a heavy sigh of disappointment.

    “You'll just have to hold off on satisfying your curiosity for now. They should be back from the hospital before noon, from what they last told me.”

    Keija passed by with some equipment she had been unloading, with Teyna helping her to carry the load, as she overheard this last comment.

    “What's this about satisfying curiosity? Now I'm curious too,” Keija grinned as she paused for a moment to adjust the load.

    Lars waved her off, “Get that load stored away, then you can be curious, rookie!”

    Keija grimaced as Lars blatantly left her with little face to mount a comeback. She quickly recovered her wounded pride, and decided to play along to salvage her pride in front of the other rookie. “Yessir!” she replied with overtly military precision, but her eyes flared a deep violet indigo as she looked squarely into Lars' eyes.

    “Good on you!” Lars chuckled in reply, “That's the spirit I know well.”

    “I'll be sure to give you a nice prank later on,” Keija muttered to herself as she and Teyna moved on to finish their job.

    As noon approached, the returning team was beginning to anticipate the arrival of the Old Man and his uncle along with Daniel Grey and Richard Lowen.

    After Martin had awoke from his sleep around 10am, Melissa and Astrid suggested they set up an impromptu surprise party for the Old Man's return, and everyone quickly decorated the dining facility with balloons and a welcome home banner.

    Lars warned them gently not to make it too much of a surprise, since they didn't want to give Edgar a heart attack when he arrived home. Keija and Uzume felt a bit dampened since they couldn't go all out in surprise mode, but adjusted their eide accordingly as they began to integrate for the celebration.

    Elijah had spent the past few hours preparing an incredible lunch of lobster bisque and blue crab sandwiches. When word arrived from Lukas, who had been tasked with scouting the arrival of the returnees, everyone quickly hid and prepared to shout out a welcome home.

    The moment came when Daniel opened the door for Anthony and his uncle to enter the room, the hidden agents had all agreed to commence their surprise when the second person entered the room. Daniel look around and noticed it was too quiet.

    Normally there was a technician or a groundskeeper or two taking a break from the day's duty, and using the dining facility to eat their lunch, but today, there wasn't a single person in sight.

    Sensing something was off he turned around just as Anthony, Richard and Edgar entered the room behind Daniel, at which point everyone emerged from their hiding places and yelled, “Surprise! Welcome Home!”

    Keija pulled a rip-cord to reveal a large “Welcome Back Edgar!” banner and set off a daisy chain of balloon releases from the ceiling. She had zeroed in on Daniel's expression and felt that they had scored a direct hit against the walker when he first jumped in defensive reaction, and then sagged his shoulders and sighed in surrender to the moment.

    “Hahahaha!” She laughed gleefully as she relished the triumph of a complete surprise! “We got you pretty good, didn't we?”

    “Yea, yea, elfy, you got me real good this time. I thought for sure we were about to be attacked by another gate invasion,” Daniel shook his head in bemused wonderment.

    Keija brushed off the 'elfy' comment, “Well, don't just stand there. Help the others in bringing out the lunch that Elijah made for everyone.”

    “Oh?” Daniel perked up at that bit of information, “Elijah made lunch? I'm on it!” Daniel quickly darted out towards the Kitchen to help serve the meal.

    Keija then turned to Teyna, who had been quietly attempting to meld with the wall in sudden shyness and pulled her towards the Old Man and his uncle. As they headed towards the pair, Uzume quickly intercepted and joined the pair to ensure that Mr. Mallory or Edgar were not too inconvenienced by the throng starting to form about them.

    “Mr. Mallory, sir!” Keija reported in with uncommon exuberance, “We found a friend while in Singapore!”

    Uzume nodded in agreement, “That's right, Anthony. We even had her tested for aptitude. She ranked level two on the foundational level!”

    Uzume was practically the only Shadow Hunter who could get away with being so familiar with Anthony Mallory. Keija felt the strong bond of friendship between the kitsune and the Old Man, and felt that hopefully she too could address him in that casual manner someday as well.

    Anthony Mallory paused from his conversation with his uncle for a moment to acknowledge the potential recruit.

    “Please, Keija, introduce me to your new friend,” He bowed gracefully in greeting.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
  20. Sturmritter

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    May 27, 2017
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    Chapter 40: Taking a Moment to Celebrate

    “Teyna, this is Mr. Mallory, the head of our organization. Mr. Mallory, this is Teyna Caulfield, former employee of Daedalus Manufacturing, and a dear friend.”

    Anthony Mallory raised his eyebrow a bit when Keija referred to her in such terms. Swartalfheimer spirits were naturally distrusting of most people, so for Keija to have made such a fast friendship with her, meant that her eidos had meshed well with the other person.

    This gave Anthony a measure of trust in Teyna, to regard her genuinely as a friend, and not a potential mole.

    “What a pleasure to meet you, Miss Caulfield,” Anthony said sincerely, “Please let me introduce my uncle, Edgar DeMolay, and to his right, my good friend Richard Lowen.”

    Both Edgar and Richard bowed slightly as they were introduced to Teyna.

    Teyna blushed slightly at the formality of the greeting, and smiled shyly as she responded, “It is my pleasure as well, sir. Thank you for your hospitality.”

    “I'm sure there are quite good reasons for your accompanying my friends back from Singapore. Perhaps you wouldn't mind if we discussed it sometime after dinner later tonight?” He smiled again sincerely, and Teyna could feel no sense of ill intent or dissembling on Mr. Mallory's part.

    “Certainly!” Teyna blurted out without a second thought. She caught herself quickly from becoming too enamored of this magnetic person, and nodded quietly.

    Uzume whispered in her ear, “You feel it already so soon?” She said teasingly.

    “Well, then, please excuse us for the moment. We've got a lot of celebrating to do, and not a lot of time to spare,” as he motioned for them to take their seats for lunch.

    Daniel, Lukas, Astrid, Melissa and Lars all had been busy bringing out dishes of Elijah's lobster bisque and blue crab sandwiches. Soon after all the places were set, Elijah himself came out from the Kitchen to wish Edgar a welcome home, then turning towards the Old Man, “I figured I could splurge on the lunch budget for this time once,” He chuckled.

    Anthony smiled back and said, “Just don't make a habit of it. I've heard it on the grapevine that I might have to pay for a new safe house in Singapore.”

    Elijah nodded confirming the report. “That can wait for now, please, enjoy lunch and again, Welcome home Edgar!”

    Edgar, for his part, watched his nephew being swarmed by the agents who treated him with the respect a father gets from a family. He smiled graciously, and nodded his thanks for all the welcome he received. It was like a family reunion in a way, and Edgar enjoyed the sensation immensely.

    After a short time for reflection and prayer, everyone began to feast and enjoy a moment of relaxation. When the majority of folks had finished their lunch, Anthony stood up to address everyone present.

    “For those who may not be familiar with the man next to me, this is my uncle Edgar DeMolay. A man who at times acts like a big brother, and at other times like a father to me. He and I have been in a number of adventures together, and for him to be here present today is really a gift from the Creator. Well, along with a few other incredibly talented people,” He nodded at Daniel, Martin and Keija in turn, and then continued to speak.

    “Almost a week ago, uncle Edgar discovered a very pressing matter concerning an organization known as the Illuminati. It was partially as a result of his discovery, that our compound was attacked during that time. Now I won't get into details right now, since everyone is still in a celebratory mood, but I will say that everyone will need to prepare themselves for challenges ahead. In keeping with the celebration, however, I'd like for Samuel to announce some surprises of his own for our benefit.”

    Samuel Golding stood up from his seat and addressed the crowd, “The biggest surprise was already let out of the bag a few hours ago, but I'll repeat it here. The new underground training facility is operational!”

    The gathered crowd cheered, “Way to go Sam!” “Woohoo!” “Hell Ya!” “Keep it up Bro!”

    “Now, now, You'll all get a chance to savor the experience soon enough. A schedule and appointment book will be placed in the usual location, so you can adjust your training regimens accordingly. For the second surprise, I've finished some new equipment for Keija, and also for Astrid, Thomas and Venka as well. Come see me when you get the chance down at the armory. Oh, and of course, Lars and his combat team will also see some upgrades on their equipment as well.”

    Lars and the combat team were all sitting close to each other and let out another round of cheers, “You are the man, Sam! THE MAN!”

    Sam chuckled, and continued to check off his list, “Let's see. Training facility, check. New equipment and Upgrades, check. Ah yes, requisitions. Please submit any new requirements to the armory by week's end. That's all I've got for now.”

    Elijah piped up with a loud voice, “Oh, have I got some requisitions for you! You better be prepared yourself!” he finished with a laugh.

    Sam feigned shock, and retorted, “Every time you try and overload me with requisitions, and to this day, have I ever failed you?”

    Elijah quipped back, “Not yet, but that doesn't stop me from trying!” He grinned.

    “At least I have a great team backing me up,” Sam added, “Speaking of which, I hope there is a few more servings of this exquisite lunch for the team down in the armory.”

    “Of course, of course. I already prepped some take out in the kitchen for them,” Elijah nodded.

    “Excellent, thanks a bunch, they'll appreciate it.” Sam finished, then nodding in the Old Man's direction, sat back down in his chair.

    “I suppose I should allow Uzume to announce a few items as well?” Anthony remarked as he turned his gaze in her direction.

    “Ah yes, thank you, Anthony,” Uzume bowed gracefully in his direction, “The first thing I'd like to announce is the weekly training regimen is shifting in response to several factors, the least of which is Samuel's work on the new facility. We've got to debrief and conduct after action reviews for the Singapore operation. Also we'll need utilize any new information that Mr. DeMolay can provide us on that account, and plan for rapid responses to the Illuminati threat that Anthony mentioned. We're going to be busy in the near future. Also, I'd like to officially welcome Teyna Caulfield to our home. She's had a wild ride these past few days, and her learning curve has been steep. For those who haven't met her, please introduce yourselves, and show her around the place, answer questions and just be helpful. Teyna, you are a very welcome guest after all, and hopefully you'll decide to work towards becoming a more permanent part of our family.”

    Teyna blushed at the welcome, and rose from her seat to acknowledge the welcoming cheers and claps, “Thank you all for showing me that there is more to life than the humdrum corporate lifestyle!”

    “Well said,” Uzume smiled with her canines flashing, “Well said indeed!”

    The celebration continued for a few more hours, with some pudding and cake for dessert, and everyone took the time individually to greet and welcome Edgar back from his ordeal.

    As the party began to wear down, Anthony stood up and thanked everyone for their efforts, then told everyone they could have the afternoon off. They would hold a meeting after dinner to discuss all that had happened, and tomorrow the real work would begin.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017

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