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The Shadows of the Veil (Mage: The Awakening)

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Ignore this story.

Chapter 1: The Scelesti Strike Again

As children, we were taught that lying is bad, and OM shouldn't do it. Over time, more and more forms of lies become known to us as adults: polite lies, bold-faced lies, half-truths, lying by omission and so on. If you do lie, you're a terrible person and you should feel guilty for lying. You just took away another human's right to the truth, you monster! Right? Wrong, lies can be used to achieve great things, goals that the scope of which most wouldn't understand. These are noble lies, the lies that I and my ilk are skilled in. Sin for a just purpose grants wisdom to the Awakened, quoth the Guardians of the Veil1.

I stood towering over my seated associate from the Silver Ladder2 who went by the name Reed Simmons, an obvious shadow name . He sat in a vintage leather chair his legs crossed, the left one neatly over the other, tapping his fingers on the armrest. It was without saying that he was of the same Path as I, a Warlock, a Mastigos mage3. He was a handsome man, possessing neatly combed brown hair, dark blue eyes and a strong jawline. He was wearing an expensive-looking gray dress suit made from Egyptian silk , with black leather shoes. He truly fit the picture of an exceptional acolyte of the Silver Ladder.

We stood there in awkward silence, awaiting for our "guests of honor" to arrive so that we may begin this meeting; the two guests in question was the mayor of Seattle, Issac Mathers, and Police Chief Edward Steele, both Sleepers4 who followed a Labyrinth5 of my own creation, an occult secret society that had great political power, or so they thought. Reed and I were to play the parts of agents who were acting on behalf of this secret society, meeting them in a hotel penthouse to discuss certain matters.

The door to the room clicked open. Mayor Mathers and Police Chief Steele stepped into the brightly-lit room. Mayor Mathers was a young man in his early thirties, only a couple years older than myself. He was a tall man with a broad frame, who engaged in regular exercise according to my sources. He had jet black hair with a small streak of grey near his temples, born from the stress of keeping everything in Seattle running smoothly, and hazel eyes. He was wearing a black dress suit with matching black dress shoes. Chief Steele, on the other hand, was a man in his forties who had the furrowing brow line and scars to tell many a tale. He was a shorter man than Mayor Mathers, who had begun to get a bit of a gut it seems. He had a head of blonde hair that appeared to slowly, but surely, go white with age. In his mouth was a Newport cigarette, his favorite I'm told by my colleagues.

Reed stood up and welcomed them both with open arms and a cordial and enthusiastic "Hello" before sitting back down and instructing them to take a seat across from him. I crafted a false, but believable smile to greet the two weary Sleepers. "So the games begin," I thought to myself. "The game of lies and deceit. The eternal game of Guardians such as myself."

"Good day, Mayor Issac Mathers and Chief of Police Edward Steele. I am of the Ouroboros Society. My colleague here is . You know why we're here, correct?" Reed said with a smile.

Mayor Mathers was the first to answer Reed's question. "Why, yes. The incident involving the creature and its unfortunate...victims." His voice was tremulous.

The "creature" in question was actually a unknown Scelestus6 mage. He had slaughtered a number of Sleepers and fought several members of the Adamantine Arrow7 before managing to escape. It was a massacre, something that looked as thought it was taken out of a horror film. Of course, being Sleepers, the good Mayor and Police Chief didn't know that it was a mage drunk on the intoxicating and corrupting power of the Abyss. But I knew it and so did Reed. They just think it was some occult summoning gone wrong.

"Yes, have you done as the Society asked of you?"

"Yes, I've already had the precinct cordon off the area and label it as a violent mass murder. That should keep the media and people from prying into the affair any further. We've assured the people that the nonexistent murderer will be caught as soon as possible." answered Chief Steele.

Reed stood up and walked towards the Mayor and Police Chief, his left hand outstretched. "Excellent. The Ouroboros Society will send more agents to conduct a full investigation on the creature in question. In the meantime, continue to make sure the common people don't catch wind of this." He shook both their hands before turning to walk out the door, myself in tow.

Before we made it through the door, we both heard Mayor Mathers say, "What about our deal? Will the Society uphold their bargain?"

I could feel Reed seethe with rage, the look on his face said it all. He wanted to crack their minds open and make them his slaves, but such action would invite paradox and widen the Abyss. I would resolve this before he unleashed his wrath on these unsuspecting Sleepers.

"Do you question the reliability of the Society? You dare question the gifts we have granted to you both? Without the Society, you both would not be in you current stations. You, Mayor Mathers, a failing politician burdened by scandals and you, Police Chief Steele, an unappreciated officer. We built you up and you question us? We will see to it that you win the re-election, Mayor Mathers, and that you remain free of blame, Police Chief Steele."

"I'm sorry that I overspoke. Thank you for all of your generosity this day" said Mayor Mathers timidly.

"You are forgiven. Now we must take our leave." I said.

In the hallway, when out of earshot of our former guests, Reed finally spoke a few words to me. "Though the Guardians sometimes overstep, they are indeed a useful tool. A necessary evil of mage society." A genuine smile was plastered on his face, I knew. Someone such as myself does not get far in a job such as mine without knowing the difference between fake and genuine emotions, as did he.

I merely nodded in agreement with his statement, as it rung true on most levels (I vehemently disagree with the overstepping part, but I'd rather not go on a rant and waste valuable time arguing with him). We continued our walk in silence until we parted ways outside the hotel.

--------

I was lounging in the living room of my high-rise condo. It was the evening and a cool sea breeze had rolled into Seattle, meaning it was a chilly evening indeed. Cool nights were best spent with a good book, I always said. I was all prepared to relax and read when I heard my phone ring. I was startled to see that it was my father and Epopt8 of the caucus, Enoch.

"Hello. What is it, father?"

"The Scelestus have struck again. Warehouse 19. Dockside. Come here immediately."

"Yes, sir."

I hung up and rushed outside. I got into my dark blue Mazda RX9, given to me as a gift from a old friend who was a mage of the Silver Ladder that I helped a couple months ago, and started driving to the location that my father had told me about, all the while screaming "That Scelestus bastard" over and over again in my head. I relished the thought of torturing information out of some unlucky Scelestus scum. This thought tided me over the entire car ride there.

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Footnootes:




  1. The Guardians of the Veil are an order that a Mage (Awakened, as they're called) can join. The Guardians are a secretive group who strives to protect the secrets of magic, one not trusted by most of mage society. They could be likened to a secret police force, taking care of unseen threats to mage society. The Guardians of the Veil are but one of the five orders an Awakened can join
  2. The Silver Ladder are another order that an Awakened can join. They are a group dedicated to establishing a proper hierarchy amongst the Awakened and guiding the Sleepers. There is a mixed reception amongst the orders about those within its ranks.
  3. Mastigos is one of the six paths (actually seven if one counts the Sixth Watchtower) that a Sleeper can awaken to. The Supernal Realm that awaken to is Pandemonium, the Kingdom of Nightmares and Abode of Demons, and their Watchtower is the Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet. They are also known as Warlocks on the Path of Scourging and Scions of the Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet in the Realm of Pandemonium. Their Ruling Arcana are Mind and Space, and their Inferior Arcana is Matter.
  4. A Sleeper is the term used to described a human who has not yet awakened, one whose divine soul is still sleeping.
  5. A Labyrinth is a term used by the Guardians of the Veil which means a web of lies and deceit that a Guardian uses to manipulate and gain status.
  6. A Scelestus (Plural: Scelesti) are a group of mages who have allowed a portion of the Abyss (a rift of unreality that is between the Fallen World (current world) and the Supernal Realms (higher realities from which all magic arises)) into their soul to perform magic, thereby corrupting it.
  7. The Adamantine Arrow is yet another one of the five orders that an Awakened can join. They are a group dedicated to protecting the remnants of mage society with combat magic.
  8. Epopt is the highest level that a Guardian of the Veil can achieve. They are the leaders of the operations that are undertaken by lesser Guardians. They use the Labyrinths created by Cultors (think of Cultors as propagandists) to gain status and power, maintain the secrecy of magic using Suspectors (elite spies and assassins), and send messages to other Guardians using Emissaries (messengers).

Chapter 2: Sin in the Name of Justice

When I stepped out of the car, I was greeted by quite a sight. This place was practically bathed in Abyssal Resonance. I looked around with my Mage Sight to make sure there was no acamoths or other such creatures still around, lying in wait to strike. When that was said and done, I turned my attention towards the main attraction. My father, Enoch, was towering over a very pissed mage, who was screaming all sorts of obscenities at my father and the other Guardians near him, before I silenced him of course. I walked over to my father and my fellow Guardians with a honest-to-God smile on my face. "Interrogating this scum would be all too fun," I thought to myself. "Real fun."

"Ah, you have finally arrived. Your soon-to-be source of information is right here," he said, motioning towards the scruffy-looking young man next to him. "He was caught consulting with the Scelestus, who managed to evade capture once more. He, on the other hand, was not so fortunate."

I turned my gaze towards the young man. He returned the look, and within it, I could feel the sheer hate that he held for everyone present in that one look, yet I failed to understand why. What mage would dare ally himself with a Scelestus mage? It made no sense to me. He eventually turned his head away from my gaze, perhaps he felt my eyes staring into his soul. No matter. I looked back at my father and addressed him.

"I will see to it that the secrets of the Awakened are kept. After the interrogation is completed, I will have the Police Chief and Mayor cover this up, while a certain Moros who owes me a favor takes care of examining the crime scene. I'll also contact Reed and see if he can use his connections to "

"There is a secluded location for you and your chosen Interfector to interrogate the suspect in, a sanctum of our own creation not too far from here. If there is nothing else, then I shall take my leave."

"May the night be productive for you, Epopt Enoch." I said, bowing slightly.

A smile light up the old man's face. "To you as well."

After Epopt Enoch had departed, I turned my attention to the accused. He was a short, sinewy young man, no older than fifteen or sixteen years old, with dark brown hair, which was illuminated by the light of a beautiful full moon, and piercing green eyes. He looked a little worse for wear, sporting several bruises and cuts on his face; surely the work of my fellow Guardians. His attire screamed "I'm going through my rebellious phase"; he wore blue jeans with ones ripped open at the knees, black boots, and a hoodie upon which was inscribed Atlantean runes. I made a mental note to myself to take away his hoodie later, as it could provide a useful clue.

"Are you aware of the severity of what you've done, boy?" I asked the fool.

"I've helped make the world a better place by getting rid of freaks like you! Magic brings nothing but pain, so getting rid of Mages is a kindness to the world and themselves." he said before spitting on my shoes.

An animalistic rage swept over me, but I did not do what I wanted, I did not incinerate this misguided wannabe-Banisher; he was but a child after all, a naive fool who knew nothing of Atlantis or the Mysteries. Instead, I simply shutdown his mind, threw him in the backseat, and began driving towards the sanctum. Tonight would be a productive night indeed.

--------

I sat in the damp, dimly-lit interior of the basement of the sanctum, companied by my usual Interfector Azazel and the kid, though I could see clearly thanks to my knowledge of Forces arcana. Azazel was a tall man in his late thirties with the well-built frame of a linebacker, who had salt-and-pepper hair and black eyes. He was clothed in dark robes, the typical garb of Interfectors, that gave him an air of mystery while still being intimidating, as they should. He was a Obrimos mage, if my memory served me well. The kid was strapped to a chair directly in front of us, bound by tightly tied rope that I had reinforced using my knowledge of Matter arcana. He was not escaping anytime soon.

The kid was starting the regain consciousness; he had been unconscious for a couple hours now and the dawn was upon us. While he was asleep, I forged a telepathic connection with him and I also ordered his hoodie removed to have the Atlantean runes on it be studied by a mage of the Mysterium. From what I was told, the runes were related to the Abyss, as I had already thought, but there was something else. There was Prime and Fate arcana at work there, suggesting a mage or mages of the Pentacle were also consorting with the Abyss. Someone or multiple people were actively working with the Abyss to some sort of goal that I have yet to understand, I just knew it. But I had other matters to attend to.

"Hello, child. I trust your little nap was a good one?" I said with an inflection of amicability in my voice.

"Where am I?!" said the kid, his voice tremulous and fearful. "What are you going to do to me!?"

"Where you are is of no concern to you." I answered, my voice stern and calm. "However, where you could end up and what we will do to you all depends on how you answer my questions. You will comply or be faced with the consequences of your actions. Do you understand, Johnathan Walker?"

"Th-The-There's no way you know my name, man! No way in hell!" Johnathan's voice was laden with hysteria and disbelief. He took a moment to regain his calm before continuing to speak. "So what if you know my name! I don't gotta tell you shit! This is nothing but proof that all mages are bringers of pain and sorrow!"

I was quickly growing tired of his babble and we had only just begun this interrogation. "You fool, you are a mage yourself! One who takes his birthright, a gift many seldom achieve, and use it to hunt others whose divine soul has awakened and ultimately, kill yourself. You are undeserving of such enlightenment, the same as your peers. But enough chitchat, you will comply. Who was your accomplice, Johnathan? I will only ask once."

Johnathan smiled a coy smile. "What accomplice? I killed all those mages by myself, and you're next if you don't let me go."

I couldn't help but chuckle, which then inevitably transformed into full-on laughter. I laughed for several minutes before regaining my composure. That arrogant smile of his soon vanished and was replaced by dread. I merely flashed a smile, one of true amusement and giddy anticipation of what was to come next. "You killing all of them singlehandedly? Such false claims are literally laughable, as you have seen. What's even more hilarious was your pathetic attempt at intimidation. But I digress. It seems you forget who has the power here. Azazel, would you be so kind as to rectify our friend's error in judgement and perhaps jog his memory?"

Azazel merely nodded and walked up behind Johnathan and placed both of his hands on Johnathan's temples. Johnathan tried to struggle and free himself of Azazel's grip, but it was useless as I had also taken the precaution of binding him with invisible spatial threads. There was no escape from this justice.

"Wh-What are you doing?! Let go of me!" Johnathan cried.

"I'd hate to force humility on you like water upon a man who is gleefully setting himself on fire, but I'd maybe attempt a little humbleness in your position. Educate this young fool on the concept of humility and consequences, if you would, Azazel." I curtly replied.

Azazel's hands crackled with lighting, which then flowed throughout Johnathan's young body. Johnathan's screamed as many volts of electricity coursed through his body. The smell of singed hair and burnt skin began to fill the room, a result of the heat being generated by the lightning. Eventually his screams became garbled messes as his muscles began to contract and spasm uncontrollably. This wasn't enough to kill him, but enough as to remind him of his place. Azazel removed his hands after several minutes and returned to my side. Johnathan's mouth was agape, most likely from the sheer pain that he had just been through. His eyes were dull, blank orbs, casualties of the shock.

"You are versed in Life Arcanum, are you not? Make it so that he's able to speak. Perhaps he knows his place this time."

I watched as Azazel's hand was set alight by the green glow of life force, which also washed over the young Banisher's body. Burnt hair and skin were returned to such a state that one could never tell that they were scorched in the first place, though their malodorous stench still lingered within the room. Life returned to his eyes and, eventually, the rest of his body. He was shaking, a cold sweat on his fearful brow. He was all mine now.

I got up from my chair and stepped closer to him, at which point I began pacing around him, a smile of twisted amusement on my face. The look on his priceless, it was less defiant and more fearful now as it should be. Perhaps there was hope for this poor fool yet. "Now that you're aware of the one of the multitude of penalties for failing to properly cooperate, I'll hope that you'll take this moment to reflect and choose the wise decision to be less difficult," I continued. "My previous question still stands, and though I do not usually repeat myself, I will ask you again: Who was your accomplice? Answer truthfully, as I will know when you're lying. Lie and perhaps I'll have him set you on fire this time."

Little did he know, his mind was like an open book to me, a veritable grimoire of secrets to be held. The flow of his thoughts was erratic and disjointed, instead of fluid and continuous. Trains of thought appeared as quickly as they vanished, hand waved away by the veil of fear that was gripping his mind. He was searching for a lie, for a way out of it. The thought of death crossed his mind and he cringed internally. Truly, there was no greater pleasure than the one that I obtained for doling out justice to heretics such as he, but alas, he was wasting precious time.

"You're stalling, Mr. Walker. I'm sure, given your current status, you fail to realize the severity of your actions last night. So allow me to educate you." I gripped his face, my fingers digging into his cheeks. "You are accused of consorting with servants of the Abyss, the seeping plane of unreality between this world and the Realms Supernal, a crime punishable by death. You are the accomplice to a dangerous heretic drunk on the power of the Abyss, one who seeks to have the Abyss devour all of the Fallen World. However..." I said as my voice trailed off.

"No, nonononono! I don't want to die!" He cried as tears formed in his eyes. "What can I do!? I'll do anything!"

"Then answer my questions and be cooperative and I will have the local Consilium consider a more lenient punishment." I said in a tone most sincere, or at least that's what he heard, as I let go of his face. It was part of my training as a Bearer of the Eternal Voice to hone the craft of verbal manipulation to inhuman levels. I could be caught in the act of murder, murder weapon in hand, and still convince the witness otherwise. He thought I was telling the truth, but he was oh so wrong. He was deserving only of death and pity now, the latter of which he would receive none of from me.

"Really?" He pondered aloud. A look of internal conflict washed over his eyes like a flood; he was truly convinced that this was his only way out, his escape from death. How wrong he was. "Okay, I'll cooperate or whatever. He called himself Brother Black and he was, like, an dude in his early twenties or somethin'. He said I could help make the world a better place. I thought it was a good idea and I decided to help him. I didn't know he was an evil guy or whatever."

Finally, we were getting somewhere. "That's all well and fine, but I need more details. What did he look like? Where did you meet him? Have you any method of contacting him?"

"Alright, alright. He looked kinda wierd, with pale skin and long grey hair in a pony tail and blue eyes. He kinda creeped me out. Oh, he also had these weird lookin' tattoos on his arms. Other than that, he looked like a normal minister. I met him at a graveyard that I hung around before he took me to this place called the Holy Church of Achzor-"

He was interrupted because he was afflicted by....something. Johnathan had begun to vomit up his own blood, and it only got worse from there. Soon tears of blood dripped from his eyes as they rolled back into their sockets. His screams of pain were muffled by copious amounts of the sanguine carrier of life in his mouth. And then it just...stopped, ended as soon as it begun.

I gazed upon his lifeless corpse and something felt...off, though I could not place it. I was so shocked by this abrupt event, not out of some sort of empathy for the kid mind you, that it took me a moment to realize that this kid was under a geas, an magical contract brought upon by Fate magic. Though the method of his death was gruesome, he deserved what had just happened to him, justice had been dispensed. So why did I feel so unfulfilled?

I sighed and ordered Azazel to take care of the body while I informed Enoch of our discoveries. Surely, he would like to know what we had learned and I was anxious to tell him of my theories, of how there could be multiple Scelesti at work here, of the Holy Church of Achzor. Such a name sounded familiar and filled me with dread, but why? I pulled out my phone and called Enoch.

"Hello, Lucifer. What was it that you discovered?"

"Many things. I wish to converse with you in person because I feel as though you should hear this in person."

"Very well, Lucifer. An abandoned church is not too far from your current location, you know the location of which I speak. Meet me there and we will discuss this matter in private. Do not keep me waiting."

"Yes, sir." I said curtly

I teleported out the sanctum and into the alley adjacent to it, which was were my car was parked. The cold Seattle air was like blades against my face, cutting me with every step, and fire in my lungs, inflaming them with each breath. I got into the car and began my short drive to meet father and reveal to him what I had learned. It was a silent ride filled with anxious anticipation.

Chapter 3: Crusade Against the Abyss

After a boring fifteen minute ride, I had finally arrived at the church father had ever so vaguely described to me over our short conversation on the phone. I got out of my car and took a moment to gaze at the building. Those without the gift of Mage Sight would have saw an old, decrepit building that had most definitely seen better days, several windows and the main double doors were covered by large wooden boards and vines had begun to overtake the church and climbed up its sides. But what I saw was something far grander, my father's personal citadel, or at the very least one of the them. This once decrepit church had been molded by my father into a heavily fortified citadel, all previous damage and wear fixed by him. An illusion made so that Sleepers did not get suspicious of this place's mysterious revitalization. I knew from experience that this place possessed all manner of magical protection, from simple wards to spirits that attacked intruders, all of which powered by the Hallow this church was built on. This was where he had discussions with other Guardians and handled matters of great importance.

I made my way inside of his citadel and found my father, his back turned, standing where the altar would have been, had he not remodeled the building, now replaced with a veritable library of grimoires and other sources of arcane knowledge. Floating above us were balls of pure, white light that filled the room in a bright light, undoubtedly powered by the Hallow. He was aware of my presence and turned to acknowledge me.

Often has it been that other mages would point out our uncanny likeness, separated only by age, and their words were true. We both have jet black hair, though he has a white streak down the middle of his hair brought on by the labors of time and stress, similar jaw structure, and athletic build. However, he had brown eyes and my own were a sort of brownish-crimson. He wore his usual outfit of a black business suit with a red tie. In his hand was a cane with a skull on it, engraved on the entire cane was Atlantean runes that I knew not the meaning of.

His austere, though wise gaze fell upon me and I took a bow before him. He nodded in my direction and I rose again. He wove his hands and I saw lines of power crackle throughout the citadel. "He's reinforcing the wards." I thought to myself.

"Now that I am certain we're away from prying eyes, relay to me the results of your investigation, Lucifer." He said calmly.

I cleared my throat. "I've learned many things, Epopt Enoch. The boy, Johnathan Walker was his name, has not one, but many accomplices."

His eyes lit up in contemplation. "Ah, I see. A possible Scelesti cult has infected this city. What else?"

"He also gave me the name of the cult and one of its members, perhaps the one behind the attacks. He said the name of the person who recruited him was Brother Black. He also told us the name of the cult, the Holy Church of Achzor, before succumbing to a geas and dying."

"The Holy Church of Achzor? I thought they were all but destroyed..." He mumbled to himself, his voice trailing off. "No matter, we have much work to do. But first, we must call together a Consilium meeting to inform the Hierarch."

--------

Consilium meetings were always a little treat, or at least that's how I viewed them. It was always amusing to see the Free Council's naive political flailing, only to be ripped to shreds verbally by the Hierarch. But I digress. Given that the mayor was in my pocket, securing a meeting place for the Consilium was child's play, this time in an old opera house in the inner city. I had decided to teleport there instead of driving, as it was quicker and I knew my car was safe in the presence of father's citadel.

Most of the neophytes, the newly initiated into the Mysteries, were wearing either casual clothing, ratty street clothes, or "hipster" wear. As I teleported in, I earned the accusing glances of many mages, most of them Free Council mages who thought me to be what they called a "Silver Ladder fascist" or any other variation of that insult they could come up with, which I'm surprised they had come up with many. I was dressed formally, as I was representing my order after all. Various cabals, some I knew and others I did not, gathered together

On the stage where I'm sure many grand operas were performed, were six seats, each adorned with Atlantean runes for the path of each of the councilors and the hierarch himself. One for Acanthus, Mastigos, Moros, Obrimos, and Thyrsus. In the middle was the hierarch's seat, ornamented with a ladder design carved into the marble, representing the broken Celestial Ladder.

Each seat was occupied by a councilor of the associated path of their seat, though the orders varied: My father, Enoch, an Obrimos, a Theurgist of the Guardians of the Veil; Councilman Vale, an Acanthus, an Enchanter of the Mysterium; Councilwoman Galatea, a Thyrsus, a Shaman of the Free Council; Councilwoman Marianne, a Mastigos, Warlock of the Silver Ladder; and lastly the Moros councilor, Dathan, Necromancer of the Adamantine Arrow. Each of them were more powerful and experienced than most of the mages in the room could ever hope to be or imagine.

In the middle sat Hierarch Cyran, undeniably the most powerful mage in the room. Everyone knew him only by his Shadow Name, as he was a very secretive, reserved person. He was an old, kindly Moros, though stern and wise when the need arose. He, along with the rest of the councilors, was dressed formally, as he, and they, was a very important figure in mage society and appearances were crucial. He had blue eyes and silver hair bestowed to him by age. His face was littered with wrinkles, accentuating his look of power and wisdom.

There was much whispering and telepathic conversation between all in attendance, though that all died down when Hierarch Cyran rose, his arms crossed behind his back, and began to address all those in attendance. He looked at me and then to Enoch and spoke.

"You and Councilman Enoch have called together the Consilium. For what purpose, Guardian, did you call us all together?" He spoke with the voice of an old sage.

I was anxious, yet nervous, to tell him of the things I had learned in our interrogation of the boy. Who wouldn't be nervous speaking to a mage who exuded great power and wisdom? "Hierarch Cyran," I managed to get out. "We have called together the Consilium to reveal to you and those in attendance something of great importance. We have reason to believe that a Scelesti cult, the Holy Church of Achzor, has taken hold in Seattle."

Gasps and murmurs traveled throughout the opera house. All of the councilors, save for father, turned to one another, and then father, in disbelief. I don't blame them, as what I was telling them was reason for alarm. A Scelesti cult was a big deal and they had to be dealt with quickly, lest they got out of control.

Hierarch Cyran had begun to pace the stage, talking all the while. "And what proof have you of this, Lucifer? Though Councilman Dathan has informed me of the Arrow and Guardian's scuffle with a Scelestus who had massacred multiple Sleepers and managed to escape capture, there was no evidence to suggest the Scelestus in question had an accomplice. Secondly, the Holy Church of Achzor was destroyed and their members hunted down ages ago in London, so you must understand my, and the council's, reasonable disbelief."

Before I could utter a word to answer the Hierarch's question, father stood up. The eyes of every mage in attendance fell upon him, even the Hierarch's.

"Hierarch Cyran, if I may interrupt," Enoch began, his voice clear and clam. "There was a second attack last night by a Scelestus mage and a young accomplice of theirs. During the interrogation of their young accomplice, an aspiring witch-hunter doubtlessly being manipulated by the Scelestus scum, the suspect revealed unto us the name of his recruiter, Brother Black he said, and the very cult that Lucifer speaks of before succumbing to a geas and dying. Also, magically speaking, the work of the first and second attacks was oddly different, with the first being more precise and clean while the latter was more sloppy and unrefined"

Hierarch Cyran's face was scrunched up in deep thought for a moment before returning to normal, as though he had reached a conclusion. "I see, Councilman Enoch. I had not been informed of the second attack until now. So a member Holy Church of Achzor has revived his vile cult. No matter, it will be dealt with." He pointed towards father. "I want you to investigate more into this matter, and if possible, infiltrate and destroy them. As for everyone else, remain vigilant and let the council and Guardians know of any Scelesti activity that you may witness."

An odd silence fell over the room. Everyone was undoubtedly contemplating the meaning of the all this. I'm sure most mages here had never had an encounter with the Abyss and its servants, and if they had, it was only minimal and they avoided it afterwards. The silence was broken by Hierarch Cyran speaking yet again, a carefree expression on his face. "Now that such a sordid matter is taken care of, the floor is open to discussion for any willing to speak."

And like that, the noise in the opera house was soon double that of what it was in the beginning. A dispute had broken out between two cabals and now it was being settled by a Duel Arcane between their members. Several members of the Free Council were whinging and trying to trying to persuade the council to change their mind on previous issues. Other concerns were of property disputes about Hallows and other such things. Nothing of real importance. Soon, the meeting was over and father weaved through the rows of seats and crowds of mages to speak to me.

"I have a favor of you, Lucifer. A simple task, really."

"Yes, what is it?"

"The acquisition of lore regarding the Holy Church of Achzor. Though most information about them was destroyed around the same time they were, some texts on them still exists and you're most certain to find it in the Apocrathum lorehouse. They specialize in such texts, as you know."

"I will see to it that such information finds its way to you." I said, bowing.

He merely nodded and made his way out of the opera house. I teleported back to his citadel and got into my car and began driving towards the Apocrathum lorehouse.

--------

Though I despised the Free Council for their various heretical views, such as their denial of Atlantis and rejection of hierarchy, lorehouses, free market places dedicated to sell of magical items, arcane lore, and tomes, were ingenious, as they allowed neophytes to become more knowledgeable about the Mysteries and allowed older mages to easily find whatever they were searching for. They were arguably the best of the Free Council's "innovations", one that had actually done some good.

Ah yes, the Apocrathum lorehouse. They were a well-known and popular lorehouse, one of the many in Seattle, owned by a cabal of Msyterium and Free Council mages calling themselves Custodes Scientia, the Keepers of Knowledge in Latin. Their goal was to make sure knowledge was disseminated amongst all Awakening in the area, while also giving neophytes a job in the hopes that they gained connections in mage society and money, if they really needed it. It was a surprisingly new Catholic cathedral, built a couple years ago, constructed in usual gothic style located in the inner city. The building didn't see much use anymore by Sleepers, as most of Seattle had taken up atheism and agnosticism. I suppose the cabal bought the property from the previous owners and were now using it for the purposes of the lorehouse.

I stepped out of my car after parking it and made my way inside. I was soon assaulted by the stares of disapproving Free Council members, neophytes and initiated and adepts alike, due to my position as a member of the Guardians of the Veil, a group the Free Council despised immensely (the feeling was mutual, of course) and my mode of dress. I merely ignored their stares, as I had a task to complete and I would not be interrupted by some petty Free Council fools. If they wanted to challenge me to a Duel Arcane, I would have been more than happy to oblige them.

Halfway to the counter, I was stopped by someone calling my name from afar, telling me to wait. The voice was feminine and familiar, though it was too far away to discern who it was. I turned around and saw a female mage in her early twenties coming in my direction. She had bright, green eyes that glowed with life and beautiful red hair that caressed her soft, symmetrical face and feminine features perfectly. There was no sign of make-up on her face, which only added to her natural beauty. She wore a short-sleeved white jacket with a teal t-shirt underneath and blue jeans, a very casual mode of dress. As she drew closer I remembered who she was: Her name was Elise Harrison, shadow name was Diana, an Acanthus Savant specializing in Tetralogy. I had worked with her before while I was piercing the Red Veil during my time as a newly initiated Guardian. During that time, we had developed a friendship (and a cabal), which remained to this day. Truly, she was one of the few mages that I would have had called a friend, though we did get into debates about certain topics from time to time.

"Hello, Lucifer! How are you?" Elise asked enthusiastically.

"Hello to you too, Elise. I'm fine, just here on business." I replied, genuinely happy to talk to her. I even smiled a little. I don't know why, but it was just something about her that induced such a feeling.

"Oh, if you're here to buy something, I can help you! I work here now, thanks to my master."

"Ah, I see. Does the Apocrathum house carry any texts on the Holy Church of Achzor? I think you know all too well why."

"We sure do! Follow me, I think they're near the back." She replied cheerfully.

We began our walk to the back of the Apocrathum lorehouse, but stopped dead in our tracks when we heard snarling and the screams of both mages and some creature echo throughout the cathedral. "Briarwolves!" someone yelled from afar. "How in the world did briarwolves get in here? What business do the Fae-" I though to myself before I saw an entire pack of briarwolves, human-sized bipedal wolves with razor sharp claws and teeth (Briarwolves are not to be mistaken with werewolves, mind you), had surrounded us. Today was not the day for such an interruption. Oddly, it was sort of a boon. I needed something to relieve my frustration upon and I was going to lash out against these briarwolves. I was going to rip them limb from limb and enjoy every second of it.

The briarwolves slowly circled around us, their wild eyes overcome with the lust for blood and a ravenous hunger. They reeked of old blood, some of it even stained their wretched fur. They howled and barked at us both and we knew a frenzy was about to start. Elise and I looked at each other knowingly, assessing each other and making sure the other wouldn't miss a beat. I reached into my inner coat pocket and pulled out two GLOCK 42's (Yes, from the same pocket; Space Arcanum is exceptionally useful in such matters). I released the safety and aimed my guns at the two closest briarwolves, the ones most likely to get a hit in. Elise assumed a battle stance. Our little staring contest with the briarwolves was coming to the end.

"Come on then! Come get us, mongrels of the Hedge!" I yelled at the briarwolves, guns ready.

They pounced on us from all sides, though they failed to get a hit in, thanks to a kinetic shield I had formed around myself this morning. Elise, on the other hand, used her skill in the Time arcana to easily slow down and sidestep their attack. They snarled and hissed at us and lounged at me and Elise a second time. I unloaded several shots in the face of one, though that didn't slow it down, blood seeping out from its face. I cast Burst of Speed on myself and dodged out of the way out of its ever persistent claws, which ripped away at a bookshelf.

"Narthlila Cuthat!" I yelled in the broken tongue of Atlantean High Speech, imagining an event in the Realms Supernal and drawing it downward to the Fallen world. Lightning arced out from my hands and found its target in the unfortunate creature before me, burning its flesh and melting its insides. It wasn't long before what was once a briarwolf was now a smoking corpse that reeked of melted flesh and innards.

I heard snarls and the sound of claws rushing ever closer towards my being. I quickly spun around, guns cocked and spells ready, only to find the pathetic beasts, eight in total, on their sides spewing out their own blood forth from their mouths. Though my knowledge of Life magic was limited, I deduced that this was Elise's handiwork. I had little time to congratulate her on her efforts, as five more briarwolves with frenzied looks on their faces charging at us both at great speed. Three of the pack members, under one of Elise's spells no doubt, broke off and attacked the leader and other member, which sparked an violent and bloody fight between them all that ended with all of them dead by their own claws and a couple of shots from myself for good measure; briarwolves were a resilient lot, after all.

"I got your back, Lucifer, don't worry!" Elise exclaimed in a tone oddly serene for what she had just done and witnessed.

It seems I had forgotten that mages sometimes developed mental disorders of some shape or form due to their line of work. Her tone made me wonder, but I eventually perished the thought. "Thanks, Diana- Look out!" I yelled at her.

By some stroke of fate, which I knew better given her status as an Acanthus, Elise dodged the blade of a katana aimed straight for her forearm, though her attacker didn't look discouraged at all. Her attacker was a tall man with a lean, muscular frame. With such a body, I assumed he was an Arrow, most likely a follower of the Brotherhood of the Demon Wind, notorious for their proclivity to breed mercenaries. He had slightly long, light brown hair and hazel eyes, the right of which had a large scar over it. He wore a gray hoodie with a black vest underneath it and gripped in his hands were katanas. 

I was a bit absolutely livid at this point, and though I tried to maintain a stoic facade, my frustration slipped through it and into my speech like water slipping through the cracks of a damn. "Who in the hell are you?! You planned this little sloppy attack, didn't you?!"

He smirked a little, though one could barely tell from the clouds of smoke wafting up from the cigarette in his mouth, and looked directly at me and Elise. "Why hello there, mealtickets, the name's Deadeye. Consider me and my pets, can't forget about those mongrels, your only entertainment for the night. Our first act will be making your head disappear, a magic trick you see." Deadeye said to us in smooth, ableit deep voice. And as soon as he was done opening his annoying gob, Elise was beset by a veritable horde of briarwoles on all sides, briarwolves who threw themselves at her with such reckless abadon one could have said that they were suicidal, and I felt my mental wall under the a crude psychic attack, doubtless it was from Deadeye.

I cast Multi-Tasking, which allowed me to undertake multiple mental actions—a very daunting and most likely impossbile task with out it— and began repairing my mental wall, thinking of a way to beat this motherfucker, and how to go about my investigation of the Holy Church all at once.

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