Aristomache Soaliokos, Branch-Leader of Norrland, Sweden’s most northern province grabs her phone, annoyed beyond belief that her sleep has been interrupted. “What”, she snarls into the phone. “… he’s gotten his hands on drums….” in the background she hears explosions and several screams. Click. “Hello?” She tries and fails to reconnect with the caller. Checking the id of one Gunnar Särenström, she realizes that he works at one of the facilities Pier 7 maintains in the inland of Norrland, the places where nobody visits, for damn good reason.
She gets up and out of her bed with a dramatic sigh. ” Take the job”, she mutters, grabbing underwear. ” The pay will be good”, she recites, finding a pair of jeans on the floor. She puts on a shirt, only to realize that she has put it on backwards. “Argh!”
She breezes through the house she bought in 1901, quickly reaching the center: a large square, open to the elements. A normal person would probably be freezing, but Aristomache is neither normal nor human. She touches the snow-covered oak located in the heart of the square with fondness. Aristomache sends her awareness through the tree, down its roots, roots that are connected to trees outside, who in turn are connected to the vast sprawling forests of Norrland itself. For a moment she just enjoys the feeling of being connected. Ah, better get to work.
She sinks through the three, through bark and sap and more, traveling from root to root with a speed that a jet could only envy. She experience impressions of great age, dirt and microbes and then steps out of a spruce and onto gravel. She smooths her shirt and takes in the facility.
Four square walls with a single gate to open it, all made out of white concrete. A square building looms above the walls, silhoutted by a pregnant moon. All in all, there are facilities like this in every corner of Sweden, used to host immigrants. Although with one caveat; this particular facility hosts juvenile delinquents of the supernatural variety, not escapees from Syria.
Aristomache frowns. She can smell something burning. And there is a nagging sound, a faint melody that is somehow equally enchanting as it is disturbing. Without waiting she strides up to the gate. She fishes up her keycard, one among a set of thirteen, and puts it against one of those high-grade pads. “I am sorry. You’re not recognized in the Castle of Awesome”, a computer generated voice taunts. She grits her teeth.I don’t know who is doing this, but I am going to shove my fist up his or hers ass.
She opens a flap of skin on her stomach, taking out a dozen seeds. She plants each and every one of them, measuring atleast ten metres in between with her eyes. She funnels great flows of magic into the soil, into the seeds, and with a mental command they grow rapidly. Dirt is dislodged as heads, then shoulders, then upper bodies force their way up.
Aristomache inspects the Newborn with critical eyes; each standing some forty to fifty metres in height, wooden skin, with long angular limbs. She extends a hand, and the largest of the ents lift her over the walls. On landing she turns in an arc, inspecting the broken windows of the building housing the delinquents,some of the unconscious personnel on the ground, but her eyes are glued to the great tree, which is burning.
She approaches it carefully, mindful of the danger of fire, one of the few things that can hurt her kind. Some decades back someone probably planted the tree in an attempt to provide shade. And now the tree will never bloom. She entertains the thought of opening the ground beneath the facility, swallowing it all. Aristomache is fairly sure that the brats need oxygen to live, atleast the majority of them. But no, she has sworn an oath to the Lightkeeper, and you never break one such oath.
“Restrain anyone who tries to leave. If they struggle, break their legs”, she says, giving her orders to the ents, who now stand at attention like soldiers. She doesn’t place her keycard on the pad for the building’s door, knowing the futility. She cocks one arm and smashes her way through. That disturbing melody becomes clearer now in the form of beats. What was it Särenström said? Drums?.. she analyses the layout of the room in front of her; a receptionist’s desk where a woman slumps, several chairs where people can sit, now strewn haphazardly and perhaps most worrying, a bloody handprint on the corridor that appears to lead into the main locales.
She takes the slumped woman’s pulse, a steady reassuring thing, and she follows the ominous beats. In one way the drummer has made it easy for her. Just follow the rythmic sound. The corridor takes her into a large dining room, where someone has stacked the rest of the personnel of the facility into a big pile. On top of the pile a harpy sits- aquiline hindquarters, arms shapeshifted in wings a strong nose accented by blue hair and big, round eyes.
She, and all harpies are women, or in this particular case girls, leaps into the air and down in a swoop. Aristomache neatly sidesteps the harpy who is all fury and no control, and she grabs the harpy’s left wing. There is a crack, and the harpy flops to the ground, screaming. Aristomache kneels, slapping the harpy a couple of times to make sure that she is listening. “Where is the person responsible for all this?!” The harpy gives her an addled look, so Aristomache slaps her again. There is something incredible humiliating of being given light slaps to face and not being able to defend oneself, or atleast it should be. No matter how hard Aristomache hits the harpy, she won’t react. She just stares at Aristomache with cloudy, hazed-over eyes.
” He’s… on… the… third… floor…..room…. 312″, the harpy sprouts, between breaths. Aristomache nods, relieved, and gets up. If the harpy hadn’t told her, she’d have to use torture. And there is something about torturing adolescents that just feels…. wrong to her. She reaches the elevator of the first floor just in time to have a a blur- a vampire attempt to exsanguinate her. Its teeth collides with her indestructible skin, and it screams as its incisors break. Aristomache grabs the vampire and snaps its neck- a move that won’t kill, merely incapacitate an undead. She glances at his eyes. Red and yet with that same addled quality as the harpy.
She enters the elevator, and wonders what would have happened if she’d let vampire drink from her. Vampires as a whole derive certain traits from the beings whose blood they drink- what traits would one absorbs from her? Atleast now she knows the gender of the person doing this; male.
The elevators opens and a blast of icy fire strikes Aristomache. Rather than burn, the fire hardens around her, turning into ice. “Got ya”, someone nearby mutters. “You think so huh”, she says to herself. She opens the skin on her elbows, sending out vines to burrow into the blue sarcophagus. “Now-” the vines emerge from the ice and impale the speaker. There is a gagging sound. Another set of vines sneak into the hole made by first set, and then around her body. It constricts, breaking the ice around her in several large shards.
A young boy lies on the floor, clutching his right side, where a red stain is rapidly spreading. She sighs. If he dies… the Lightkeeper is not going to be happy, and you don’t want one of the Fallen to be mad at you. Aristomache quickly vomits up a sticky materal which she places at the entry and exit wounds respectively. The boy’s eyes are glazed over, much like the harpy.
Mind control, she muses as she steps into the elevator, is a rare talent. The Prince, one of the members of the Council could do it. Mindmagicians– empaths, telepaths — a skilled one might be able to influence a person, but not out right control them. Aristomache makes a note to call the Branch-Leader of Stockholm, Walsingham. That there is a supernatural in Norrland capable of mind control, and that she wasn’t told. Of course, she muses, he might not know. But then again, Francis Walsingham was the man who uncovered Hitler’s plans before most people could spell ‘Sudetland‘.
Male, and capable of mind control, and an adolescent she muses to herself.
She presses a button. Midway to the third floor the car stops. The metal around her groans and whimpers. That’s the only warning she gets. The metal turns liquid for a split-second, and in that split-second it reforms around her body, trapping her in a car that is plunging down into darkness. With a heavy crash she lands at the bottom of the first floor. Oh this is going to leave one hell of a bruise.
Aristomaches reaches out with her will. Little fucker, see how you deal with this.
Outside of the facility, one of the ents stare at the second floor. It pulls its left arm back and smashes through the glass and concrete. On pulling back, it holds a screaming teenager. The ent shakes the teenager a couple of time for spite, and vomit arcs through the air.
Aristomache scales the inside of the elevator, her fingers digging into the metal. She promptly reaches the third floor and smashes it open. That disturbing tune is almost tangible now. She tracks it to a room with open doors.
She enters it carefully, not certain of what she should be expecting. In front of her, on a raised podium is a set of drums, fashioned from deerhide with red symbols on them. A young man with dark red skin and a green mohawk sits on a chair and, well, drums. She clears her throat, and he stops drumming. He is wearing a leather-jacket and torn jeans in a poor attempt to ape a punker.
“What exactly did you intend with all this?”
“I was going to make a point”, the boys says in a arrogant voice. Tusks, he has two large tusks, like a boar, jutting out from his mouth. An orc, she concludes.
The boy takes out a remote, and pushes a button. An angry symphony begins to play, the sound seeming to come from the walls. A recording of some sort? A red nimbus forms around his body. “That I can take down a Branch-Leader of Pier 7.”
Aristomache stares at him, incredulous. “You really don’t get it, do you?” The boy launches himself at her, ignoring her question.
The boy’s backhand sends her crashing into a wall. She frowns. He shouldn’t be able to hit her this hard. It’s that red aura of his... She puts her hands against the wall, pulling herself free. She absently notices that her shoulders have left an impression on the wall.
The two of them meet in the center of the room; Aristomache side-kicks the boy’s knee, breaking ligaments and bone, only to have the leg heal in second. He telegraphs wide punches and she dodges them, considering his newfound abilities. High-speed regeneration she adds to her mental file.
She plunges a fist through his sternum, breaking ribs and smashing inner organs. In return the boy grabs her neck. “Now I got you”, he says, confidently before snapping her neck. Aristomache takes a step back and realigns her broken neck. The boy stares at her, somewhat less confident now. And that aura… it has diminished. So there is a price to pay for those abilities…
She charges him, grabbing hold of his waist and charging on toward the wall. There is a large boom as they collide with the wall; a net of cracks expand from the crater they’ve made. The boy extends an arm in an pathetic attempt to punch her, which she dodges by bending her upper body downwards at an angle. As she comes up she grabs his arm, breaking it in atleast two places. She headbutts him and he leans on against the wall. He kicks her in the head like some action-hero in Hollywood movie; she grabs his leg and breaks something below his knee and then something above it. Aristomache lifts him above her head and throws him.
He lands on the drums, destroying them in the process. “What the hell are you!” She ignores his shout and strides toward him, different options of mayhem rolling through her mind. The young orc lashes out at her, and rather than avoiding his fist, she steps into it. An immoveable object encounters a very breakable force; the orcs’s fist shatters. Bone spray across the floor but even though the injury heals as fast as it was incurred, there is a slight pause in his expression.
The boy brings out a knife from his leather-jacket. Aristomache spreads her arms, as if expecting a hug. The blade breaks against her skin, very much like the vampire’s fangs did. She brings her arms slightly down, caving his chest with a boom.
He quickly rolls up, standing, now with an expression that is decidly worried. His aura has shrunk to mere milimetres rather than centimeters now. She can almost see the wheels turning inside his head. His eyes dart towards the open doors. Amateur, she thinks. She intercepts him before has managed to take more than four steps into the direction of the doors. She hoists him up, and carries him away. He twists and turns, but the attempt won’t break her iron-grip.
“Www what you going to do to me?”
“Me? Nothing”, she comments, carrying him to the elevator shaft. He glances down into the darkness then at her. “No-” “I don’t know how you did it, but I hope you have enough magic left”, she offers, with cruel smile. And then she shucks him down.
There is a scream, a ‘thud’ and then some more screams. Aristomache takes up her phone and calls the Lightkeeper. “Remember that meeting? Yes, the one about that city… what was it called… Fallowfell? Yes that one. I have an delinquent that needs to learn how to not fucking mind control his peers. And so I was thinking….”