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> The Stormcrow, A Superhero's Tale
post Oct 17 2020, 08:00 PM
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You set the stage here with Jan’s racing heart. Indeed, this was a heart-poundingly paced episode and perfect for such an epic battle.

"Lighthammer, deal with that telekinetic in the lot if you please," Cray rumbled over the comm. In spite of all the chaos, his voice was as calm and even as a sportscaster describing a golf game. "Blood Raven, stick with the ones you have on State. Stormcrow, head down Woodward and stop the foot-soldiers headed for Campus Martius."
- - Not only do I love Cray’s ‘if you please’ calm, sophisticated tone, this passage really highlights the need for some degree of command and control among the trio of superheros.

"Valhalla Awaits," she growled.’
- - Jan’s been listening to Blood Raven and I’m ever so glad she used such an appropriate line instead a perky ‘Fight’s on, dudes!’ wink.gif

"Gott Mit Uns!"
- - Thanks for the translation here; otherwise I surely would have envisioned some mother admonishing her children before sending them out to play in the snow – Got mittens? tongue.gif

'His cubic boron fist met nothing but the memory of her. But it did land squarely on the Iron Man, who had been right behind January.'
- - Wow, lots to love in this little passage. First, I love the elegance of your wording of fist meeting memory. Secondly, it was resourceful of Jan to use one foe against another. Lastly, it was simply brilliant to employ her recent experience with Stoneman to literally turn him into another shock-vulnerable Ironman.

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post Oct 18 2020, 03:40 PM
Post #302

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Oh, I knew about Oorah & Marines, but not Hooah. laugh.gif Lighthammer's cry is not original, which in a way is sort of funny!

Interesting how Lighthammer is also part of their comm now. I don't recall if he was in the past or not, but if Cray is speaking to him directly, then it is so.

I think the word you are looking to use to describe January is idealistic, or perhaps compassionate.

Idealistic is closer, yes. It's like she's so new at all of this. But her heart is purer, and I think it will remain so. She's got a positive outlook despite all the troubles she had growing up, with family and I assume with school bullies. If we could look five or ten years into her future, she's going to be more experienced, yes. Maybe somewhat jaded (after dealing with procedure especially), and not as perky. But that other, purer / idealistic side of her will remain.

Oh gosh, that poor tree. laugh.gif Poor Detroit.

Cool, I like that, when she uses Call Storm on those idiots. Just like that shout my toon occasionally uses Skyrim. See, these Nazis seem as though they think they're big and bad because they've got some local power, but most of it has not been honed yet, right? It's like, they go into battle because they've got some new abilities. They really thought they'd succeed, too.

Blood Raven stopped eating people a long time ago. There will be more about that later in this chapter, and in chapter 6. It is a moral decision that she made, for reasons...


I can see the Ironman getting messed up by lightning. Metal transmits electricity. Stoneman isn't fazed, since his energy is more of a grounding one. Too bad the Furman didn't get his fur all burned up.

She leapt over his head as his arms swept out to grasp her in a bear hug.

He tries to give her a bear hug. rollinglaugh.gif I love how these guys use their monikered powers so literally. I mentioned Transformers before, but actually they're more like evil X-men. Like, Wolverine has his claws. Magneto has the ability to attract, and so on. Each Nazi has his own powers. Too bad they don't let any girls fight, instead they allow them to only march, apparently. I'd be curious what her power(s) would be.

That was clever, getting Stone to pummel Iron. It's like a high-paced, real-life game if rock, paper, scissors.

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post Oct 24 2020, 05:25 AM
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Acadian: I try to remind myself to make sure I include some references to January's natural fear about entering a super battle. Usually simply noting the bad weather is enough. But I like to also include something like a mention of a tightness in her chest, or her racing heart, so the reader knows that this is not her idea of fun and games. Because she would never show any physical trepidation, especially not in the face of the enemy. She is stone after all. But she is still human.

I have been mulling over how the new team dynamic of team Blood Raven and team Stormcrow joining forces. Cray quite naturally falls into that role of being the cool voice on the other end of the radio who can see everything and offer calm direction.

I spent a long, long time working on those two words: "Vallhalla Awaits." But I am very happy with how it worked out. That is going to be one of Stormcrow's most popular hashtags.

Likewise, I wanted a somewhat more subtle nod to the Nazi's, well, Nazi background. The Wermacht's belt buckle saying seemed ideal.

I worked hard on the fight choreography too of course. I don't want Jan to win simply because she overpowers her enemies. She is a thinker, so I want her to find creative and clever ways to take advantage of her opponent's weaknesses, or simply predilections.

Renee: Lighthammer's Hooah is from old habits. He has spent years saying it. There will be more on that in Chapter 7 - Hammer Down.

Blood Raven will have her own way of describing January at the end of the next chapter.

Evil X-Men is a good way of looking at the Nazis. Or the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (one of the X-Men's perennial enemies). It was tough to work out the powers and attitudes of all 10 super powered Nazis. So I embraced the idea of making their powers fit their personalities.

They do let the girls fight though. In fact, the most dangerous Nazis are all female: The Dust Devil, The Phaser, and The Shrinker.

One thing I learned reading comics for years, and playing superhero rpgs, is that it is very much a rock, paper, scissors game. Fighting an electric projector? Douse them with water. Fighting someone invisible? Throw flour or dust in the air, and look for footprints. Etc...

Just A Flesh Wound

Chapter 5.24 - Crystal Death

January tucked into a roll and came up on her feet. She did not see the Werebear coming. One moment she was standing there, and the next a crushing blow smashed down upon the top of her head. She was driven to her knees, and the concrete of the street literally crumbled into dust underneath her as she sank into the earth. But her helmet - or simply her stubbornness - had saved her skull. January had long since learned how to take a hit.

She pushed back up to her feet, and called upon the strength and resilience of Earth. She turned to see the Werebear holding one half of a street lamp in one fist. The lamp's other end lay bent and shattered in the street at January's feet, and tortured remnants of steel and glass were scattered all about. The Nazi scowled as he stared at what remained of his broken weapon, and tossed it aside.

He came forward with bare paws, and raked his claws across her armored chest. She replied with a power punch that rocked his jaw. He followed with a blow to the midsection, beneath the protection of her armored chest plate. She winced inwardly, but did not double over. She hammered back with a side kick to his ribs. She slipped aside from a shot aimed at taking off her head, and followed with a front kick that split open his lower lip.

By then the Swordsman was back in action. January did not know what that fiery blade of his might do. She concentrated more on Water now. She flowed around that sword, and his first strike missed her. But it hacked effortlessly through the steel frame of the traffic signal behind her. The entire post and mast arm came crashing down a moment later, and the Werebear was obliged to leap back out of the way to avoid being squashed beneath it.

That gave January a few moments to concentrate upon the Swordsman alone. She eyed that fiery blade of his with trepidation. For all she knew, it might go through her armor - and magical defenses - like they were both butter. So rather than stand and take his strikes, she slipped and dodged each, waiting for him to lower his guard.

Finally she saw her chance, and danced under his questing blade. She swept out a leg for one of his knees. Removing that from the equation would take him from his feet, and ought to allow her to move away to fight the Werebear one on one.

But the Nazi ground his flaming shield down, and January's foot glanced harmlessly off its impermeable surface. Apparently it was just as powerful a defense as the sword was an offense. She somersaulted back and sprang to her feet, while the Nazi chopped down and gouged a great trench into the concrete of the street.

"Your sick gay agenda dies today freak!" the Swordsman cried. "The white man will-"

His words were cut short by a serpent of golden light that cracked out from somewhere behind him, and wrapped around his neck. It jerked back an instant later, and yanked him off his feet. The tendril of power hauled him through the air up Woodward, toward the intersection with State. Blood Raven stood at the other end of the energy whip, and she met the Swordsman with a front kick that sent him to the pavement.

January turned to give the Werebear her full attention, just in time to take a slash from his claws across her face. She was stone. She was the mountain. She was adamant. His talons screeched ineffectually across both her helmet and bare skin alike.

Then white hot pain lanced through her leg. She gasped in spite of herself. The world spun, and she collapsed to one knee. She saw a tiny blur race past her in the air. A brilliant sting of light blossomed from the insect, and lanced through her arm. Again, pain seared through her flesh, and January had to bite back a scream.

"Stormcrow, use your lightning!" Gadget's voice was in her ear.

She did not think. She just did what her best friend said. She pulled the sky down, and it ravened with calamitous delight. The world turned white hot, and exploded around her in electrical fury. Thunder rang in her ears, and she felt herself propelled up into the air, only to hit hard upon the concrete. Once, twice, and a third time, she pulverized the earth with elemental power.

When it was done, she found herself lying in the street. She rolled her head just in time to see the Shrinker grow back to full size. It was a blonde woman, dressed in black faux-SS gear. The female Nazi fell face-first to the ground, and did not move an inch.

"Sweet Freyja, what did she hit me with?" January groaned as she clawed her way to her feet. Her leg felt unsteady beneath her, and her arm ached. But she would allow neither to slow her down. She was stone. She was the mountain. She was adamant.

"My guess would be quantum blasts, really nasty stuff." Cray's soft, yet gruff tones rumbled in her ear. "They ignore all known forms of armor by literally slipping between the atoms of even the densest material. Or they bypass them entirely by changing their quantum states. It depends on who you ask. Either way it is pretty common with Shrinkers."

"Wonderful," January murmured. Borrowed electricity hissed and snapped around her frame once more. She clenched her hands into fists, and felt the storm raven between her fingertips, aching for release.

The Werebear rose to his feet at the same time January did. His fur was a blackened, smoldering mess. His mouth bled from where January had split his lip. Aside from his mussed fur, that one cut appeared to be the only harm she had inflicted upon him. Clearly, he was not a modern, video-game Nazi, whose boasts were as grand as his belt size. He was hard-core, like the old school SS types from WWII who chewed on T-34s and gargled Sherman tanks.

January willed herself to continue. All the punches and slashes she had taken had not fazed her. But those quantum stings were really under-named. They felt more like quantum infernos. For her leg and arm blazed with agony where they had sliced through flesh and bone. She knew that she was limping, but could not help it, no more than she could help favoring her injured arm.

But she remembered the Viking Code. Never give up, no matter what. She would never give a bully or a bigot the satisfaction of seeing her quit.

His amber eyes locked with hers, and seemed to glow hotter and brighter with rage. He snarled with a mouth full of his own blood, and actually tried to bite her head off. January called upon Water, and flowed out of the reach of his jaws. His teeth snapped shut just inches from her nose, and his rank breath assaulted her nostrils.

She literally clapped back before he could recover from his failed lunge. Using both hands, she slapped either side of his neck with all the force she could muster. Twin bolts of lightning leaped from her fingers, and ground down through his flesh. That would have decapitated a normal human. But by now it was clear that she did not have to hold back against this creature. The electrified Carotid Slap struck the arteries on either side of his neck, instantly interrupting the flow of blood to his brain.

Like a puppet whose strings had been cut, the Werebear immediately collapsed at January's feet. A few remaining sparks of lightning trailed away into the earth beneath his supine form. The rain that had begun with January's first blast of lighting ceased the moment he hit the ground.

She looked beyond him. Blood Raven stood within the intersection of Woodward and State, flanked by the police, who had their guns drawn. For once they were not eyeing the scarlet-maned heroine with trepidation. Instead they almost perched under her metaphorical skirts for protection as they all moved up to the uprooted tree that lay in the middle of the road. Farther up Woodward a geyser of water gushed up from the broken fire hydrant.

Then Lighthammer came flying down to January, legs and hands glowing with blue-white light. He touched ground just in front of her, and grinned with joy.

"Hooah!" he exulted. "You guys sure know how to party in the D!"

He put out a raised palm to high five her. January tried to raise her hand to meet his own. But agony lanced through her arm, and she stopped with a wince. Lighthammer's expression fell, and he put out a hand to steady her. But January gritted her teeth, and raised her other hand for the high five, which Lighthammer returned much more gently that he normally would have.

"Looks like you took some serious hits Weather Witch." He spoke in a low tone, one that the crowds of onlookers who now began to creep in could not overhear. "You need me to get you to a doctor? I know a guy down in Cleveland."

"I'll be alright," January insisted.

A Monty Python routine that Blackjack loved flashed through her head, and she forced herself to grin. "It's just a flesh wound," she quipped in an incredibly lame English accent.

Several policemen were now edging up from Campus Martius. All of them had their eyes locked upon Lighthammer. January was not exactly sure where he stood with the police. But she was sure that they would in the very least like to ask him a lot of questions about dead drug lords.

"I think I've overstayed my welcome." Apparently he had noticed the same thing. He bunched up his legs to leap into the sky, when Blood Raven's voice came to their ears.

"Your arrival was most fortuitous Lighthammer," she admitted. January imagined that had not been easy for her to say. "Without your presence, victory would have proven a more elusive prize."

Lighthammer straightened up for a moment, turned in her direction, and snapped off a quick salute. Then he roared into the sky in a flash of his signature light.

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post Oct 24 2020, 08:41 PM
Post #304

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And this epic battle draws to a satisfying conclusion.

That flaming sword and shield were intimidating indeed! Thank the Nine for Blood Raven’s ‘Lasso of Truth’ and timely assist. tongue.gif

‘Weather Witch’ is it? An appropriate nickname from the Hammer of Light.

Loved the ‘It’s just a flesh wound’ joke. Though I do recall that bit from the Monty Python movie, to me it more recalls an equally appropriate phrase in the toolbox of every cowboy hero.

Nice to see Blood Raven warming up a bit to Lighthammer. Being the poseur that he is, Lighthammer makes an appropriately flashy exit. laugh.gif

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post Oct 26 2020, 07:28 PM
Post #305

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Ohhh... I see. So Dust Devil and the Shirnker are ladies. Yikes. indifferent.gif

I am glad you can see the X-men connection. I don't know much about them, but that is one thing about them.... each on has his/her own specialty. I had a real-life friend whose daughter was really into them back in the '90s. I remember she had an X-men game. Ha.

Monty Python, woo hoo! laugh.gif I showed Lopov some Monty Python awhile back... I was showing him the Spanish Inquisition skit, but he didn't really get it. Not everybody does.

Compared to the Nazis, January and Blood Raven are multi-talented, right? They can pretty much do one thing, whereas the two ladies the skinheads are up against can do many things.

Man, the Nazis are getting their asses kicked. What did they expect though, really? Well, I suppose they expected they'd cream the heroes, partially because they outnumber the heroes. It's like 7 or 8 against 3 (if we include Lighthammer). Also, I think the Hitlerites assumed crystal death would upset the final results, in their favor. But they haven't really much experience with the stuff. Blood Raven has been perfecting her craft for centuries. January, not nearly as long with the magic, but at least over a decade if we include her martial arts training and gymnastics. It seems like the Nazis literally jumped into the new roles overnight? Or have they had more experience than that?

The werebear is smoldering! laugh.gif

Oh goodness. Poor Detroit!

"You guys sure know how to party in the D!"


Your arrival was most fortuitous Lighthammer," she admitted. January imagined that had not been easy for her to say. "Without your presence, victory would have proven a more elusive prize."

I love the way she speaks.

Congrats, heroes. cake.gif
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post Oct 31 2020, 08:01 AM
Post #306

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Acadian: I really enjoy Blood Raven's energy whips. They work into her force fields quite nicely, and not only provide some fun Indiana Jones moments, but can even work like telekinesis in some ways - allowing her to grab people or things and move them around. Something like that alone would be a fun concept to build an entire character around, without all of Blood Raven's vampirism and magical mastery.

The Weather Witch of Warren goes back to the very first chapter. It is what the local meteorologists call her, when January causes it to rain there while the rest of Metro Detroit has nice sunshine.

There is a lot more to Lighthammer than meets the eye, as we will see in a few chapters. But he is definitely flashy...

Renee: I started reading the X-Men back in the 80s, but eventually stopped with comics in the 90s or so. I picked up again with some a few years ago though. The original X-Men were mostly one power apiece. Though some like Iceman got really good at using that one power in numerous ways, like to form body armor, to move around on slides, to use as a weapon, etc... The later generations of X-Men became more multi-talented. Like Wolverine: who had his regeneration, heightened senses, claws, adamantium skeleton, etc...

January and Blood Raven definitely fall into that category, though their powers do eventually stem from a single source: magic. In Blood Raven's case, magic and vampirism. Their magic is all defined by their personalities, and how their focus shaped their reality. January was always athletic, and going to school forced her to become a fighter. So her magic mostly revolves around fighting, strength, invulnerability, dexterity, leaping, etc... Flying is a new thing, but even it stems from her identity, not just as Stormcrow, but her blood. As someone will point out in a few more episodes - Nátthrafn (Night Raven), Blood Raven, Stormcrow. When her family picks a lane, they really stick to it. January cannot escape her blood.

Fascists are always brave when they have overwhelming numbers. Not to much when people stand up to them. The 15-1 odds they started out with made them really brave. Even the 4-1 odds the ones who attacked January had. But as they learned, having super powers does not make you a god, nor are they a replacement for skill, ingenuity, and resolve. While the Nazis had some experience in beating up people who could not fight back. They were in completely over their heads against Blood Raven. If it had not been so public, she probably would have super-heated their blood into vapor, and literally exploded them all from the inside out. The whole thing would have been over in a few seconds. But even as hard-core as Blood Raven is, she does not go for the killing attacks very quickly.

Chapter 5.25 - Crystal Death

Paramedics rushed up, the police with them. January waved them off, and told them to see to the fallen Nazis instead. Her opponents no longer lay quietly in the street. Instead they had begun to thrash and spasm. Foam poured from their mouths, and their eyes rolled back in their skulls. It was just like what she had seen the overdose do to the Death Dealer. They were now paying for the deal they had made with the devil.

"Pay heed," Blood Raven declared, not just to January, but to everyone in earshot. "True Power cannot be given, or bought, or bartered for. It can only be created from within. So these creatures have learned."

"I count five more Nazis in the underground parking," Cray's voice came over the comms. "The Detroit PD are there now. All are down. From looking back at the video before the fight, all five overdosed as soon as they took the drug."

"Good, that accounts for all of them," Blood Raven said. "We are finished here."

January's foot felt wet. She looked down and saw that her injured leg was awash with blood. More crimson flowed from her arm. She put a hand out to try to staunch the bleeding, and winced with pain. She was starting to regret sending the paramedics away. Those quantum stings really cut deep!

Blood Raven stood before her now. January's stomach flopped when she saw the other woman. Her back was a literal charred mess, and she was sure that she could see the white bones of several vertebrae poking out from the ruined flesh. More deep cuts lacerated her armor, revealing torn muscle and sliced bones underneath. She could not even imagine how the other heroine could stand, let alone walk or talk. Yet Blood Raven acted as if nothing was amiss.

The scarlet-haired superhero casually waved one hand at January's wounds. The blood immediately stopped flowing from them. January knew from the night of the Flying Dutchman fire that Blood Raven could have sent the blood back up into her body if she had wanted to, or even absorbed all of her injuries into herself. But apparently that was not her intent. January tried not to feel disappointed at that. After all, she could not spend her entire life running to Blood Raven whenever she skinned her knees.

"I think this shall make for an excellent teaching moment," Blood Raven whispered in her ear. "When we have the moment, I shall instruct you in the art of entering a healing trance. For now, let them see what you have endured upon their behalf."

January found herself wishing that she had that teaching moment sooner. But then, she had never been so grievously injured before. So far the djieien had been the worst of her enemies, and it had only given her some bruises and sore ribs.

The taller woman wrapped January's good arm around her shoulders for support, and helped her limp down the street. January was not sure where they were going. Now that the adrenaline had begun to wear off, her body ached, and every step was agony. She simply concentrated on walking, and tried not distract herself with too much else.

But try as she might, January could not ignore the multitudes all around her. Not just the authorities, but throngs of ordinary people here for the parade. As at Ferndale Pride, they were dressed in a rainbow of colors, and were themselves a veritable rainbow of human diversity. They shouted to January and Blood Raven, and chattered amongst themselves with raucous abandon.

Several civilians tried to push their way closer, phone cameras held aloft with shining lights. But the police held them all back, out of the way. Still, they flung numerous questions the pair's way, along with words of gratitude and support. Keenly aware that she had to present a certain image, January smiled for the cameras and did her best to look both friendly and unperturbed by her injuries.

She was coming to find that this was what she liked the least of being a superhero: putting on a brave face, sometimes a false face, for the sake of everyone watching her. It was so much like her life before she came out, when she had to pretend to be a boy. Only now she was pretending to be an ordinary straight, cisgender, girl in a cape. All her life she had dreamed of being the last two. So why did it feel so confining?

She thought she had been through all of this soul-searching about her identity as a child. It turned out that throwing a cape and cowl in the mix just added a whole new layer of issues on top of those she already struggled with. No one had ever mentioned that in those old superhero movies.

In any event January straightened her back and bit back the pain. She waved to the people, and walked tall and proud. She was the perfect image of a superhero from every old movie and comic book. She was stone, she was adamant, she was the mountain. She would never waver.

She followed Blood Raven off the street and into the tall parking structure on the south-west corner of Woodward and State. They went down rather than up, and the police did not follow them. Instead they continued to hold the crowds back. Blood Raven waved a hand in the air, and January felt power flow from her fingertips. It impregnated the air around them, but January could not glean its intent.

"We are now concealed from electronic eyes," Blood Raven explained. She paused a moment, and January felt magic build up within the other woman once more. This time it was much more powerful. She tasted blood, coppery and thick in her mouth. But she knew that it was not from a cut. By now she had come to recognize the difference between the other heroine's use of ordinary magic, and the blood-infused powers of her vampiric nature.

January imagined that she heard popping and sizzling, like fat on a frying pan. The scarlet-maned heroine's blood seemed to bubble up through her wounds, and vaporize into thin air. Her injuries vanished behind it, as if the blood had literally healed it. January could sense that it was not the blood itself. That was just tissue after all. It was the life which the blood carried within it. That was what had regenerated the wounds.

That made January wonder where that life had come from in the first place? Blood Raven had said that hundreds of homeless people lived in the Detroit Radiator Building - her lair. Did she use them like a herd?

While January ruminated, Blood Raven nodded to her. Just like that, all of the blood that had soaked her arm and leg raced back up her garments and slid back into her body. January noted that the wounds remained open however, and still stabbed with pain. Though now her blood appeared entirely unwilling to leave her body, in spite of gravity's pull.

"So is that where you get your blood then?" January asked impulsively. She nodded in the direction of the Radiator Building next door. "The homeless people?"

Normally she would not intrude into the secrets of others. Being trans had taught her to value privacy. Maybe it was the pain from her injuries, or just an abundance of curiosity.

"The homeless people?" Blood Raven appeared to be genuinely surprised. She contained her bewilderment after just a moment however, and her face returned to its normal, sphinx-like mask of cool and calmness. "No, I have not taken blood in nearly eighty years, not since the war."

"It is not the blood you see, but the life," Blood Raven continued. "Blood is merely a symbol. Those of us with experience need take none at all. We take the vital force directly, from any living thing. After the war I learned to live off of plants. There are even whispers of ancients who sustain themselves from the planet itself."

"You mean you're a Vegan vampire?" January thought aloud. "I never imagined such a thing."

"The world is a wider, and stranger, place than any of us ever imagine," Blood Raven said. "But even when I did partake of the energy of others. I made a point to only take a little at a time from any one person - or beast - and only from those healthy enough to bear it. I never killed anyone from feeding, if that is what you mean to imply. Except during the war, things were different then."

"You mean World War Two right?" January asked. "What happened then?"

"I did what I had to," Blood Raven frowned. "I did more than I had to. That was the last time I lost control of myself. But it is a long way from Bellac, and no one likes hearing old war stories."

January would definitely like to hear some of those old war stories. But Blood Raven's face made it plain that she was not willing to say more. Still, she made a mental note to look up what had happened in Bellac during the Second World War.

"I suppose there is a lot about you - and Selene's Heirs - that I don't understand," she finally said.

"Does that frighten you?"

"No," January replied honestly. "It is just different is all. I learned a long time ago not to be afraid of people who are different. After all, I am different."

"It took me much longer than nineteen years to learn that lesson," Blood Raven admitted, "even with being Irish in 18th Century America. It wasn't until after I received Selene's Gift that I truly began to open my eyes to the world. It is not an easy thing to do. We humans are such petty creatures."

"If it helps you to know, the vast majority of us are restrained, when it comes to sustenance," Blood Raven continued. "Legends say that once upon a time we ruled openly, as gods and monsters, and in those days we drank deeply of the cup. But now, Selene's Heirs cannot afford to be so dramatic. It attracts too much attention."

"Just like gay people through most of history," January noted, "living a double life, always blending into the crowd, never standing out. Or like superheroes when we take off our capes."

"I never thought of it that way," Blood Raven smiled. She led them into a stairwell, and they descended down its rubber-rimmed steps. "But you are right. It is much the same."

"You didn't know that Superious is a gay icon?" January laughed. She paused to wince, when that made her arm move the wrong way. Then she went on. "He's a hot, swole, studly man, living a double life. He runs into a phone booth as Ken Clark, and then leaps back out a moment later in his brightly-colored costume. You cannot get more gay than coming out of the closet like that!"

Blood Raven laughed out loud. "You challenge me to look at the world in an entirely new fashion, great-granddaughter."

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post Oct 31 2020, 08:03 PM
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Given the hazards of her profession, I was hoping Stormcrow would eventually learn some healing. She has the compassion to use it and takes enough hits to need it herself. I suspect she will overall remain more of a fighter-mage, whereas I view Blood Raven more as a mage-fighter.

"You mean you're a Vegan vampire?" January thought aloud.’
This was truly a spit and sputter one’s tea line!

I continue to carefully read, even study, how adeptly you move between the two very different ‘voices’ of Blood Raven and her great-granddaughter. You make it look easy but I’m sure it takes lots of attention and editing to so consistently nail it as you do.

I will have to inform Superian that she is a gay icon – who knew? tongue.gif

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post Nov 4 2020, 07:22 PM
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Yes, I remember Wolverine, he's wicked. smile.gif And they had a lady named Jean Grey? *googles* Yup, sure did.

That makes sense, that their magic is so personal. They aren't just slinging generic fireballs, for instance.

Raven can't super-heat their blood perhaps, but maybe in some other chapter, against some other enemy outside of civilization.... unsure.gif unsure.gif

"Pay heed!" she says. I love that. I am grinning. smile.gif

I knew Raven would take care of Jan's wounds, just like that. I am getting to know these two heroes well.

January really does have a hard time, figuring her identity. She's got what she wants, yet feels confined on occasion by this. Wish I could say something to help her. All I can think of is to just let herself "be" which is sort of lame I guess. It's what I'd do in her position. Well, I hope she figures herself out as time goes on.

Oh yes, a vegan vampire. laugh.gif

Okay, what did happen at Bellac? There's no links this week. smile.gif Let me see, though. Wikipedia says nothing about the war part, but I'm sure you'll fill us in, in story form.

If Superman is gay, what about Superwoman and Supergirl? wink.gif Kidding.

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post Nov 7 2020, 09:18 AM
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Acadian: Some kind of self-healing was going to be a necessity for January, given the frequency of her battles, and the increasing scale of danger each poses. Thankfully as a magic-user, she has the versatility to learn new abilities, where they fit into her personality.

Blood Raven was originally not going to be a vegan vamp. She was just going to tell Jan that some advanced vampires had reached that point, along with the even higher tier of living off the planet itself. But as I was writing other chapters, and looking back at this one, I realized that she should have reached that vegan point herself by now. Especially given events in world war 2.

As ever, I spend a lot of extra time whenever Blood Raven is in a scene. She is really high-maintenance that way, but worth it. Her interactions with January are almost always priceless, for many different reasons.

Superman is a huge icon for gay men. He spends his days pretending to be a boring, ordinary man, holding back the truth of who and what he really is. Then he runs into that phone both, and flies out in all those bright colors, and shows the world who he really is, in absolutely fabulous fashion.

Renee: Wolvie is wicked, in Boston at least... wink.gif

In the final, big battle of the first story arc, Season One if you will, Blood Raven will pull out all the stops. It will be, dramatic...

She did not exactly take care of Jan's wounds. She only stopped her blood from spilling all over the place. As she told January, it is time for her to learn how to take care of herself.

It is not her own identity that January has trouble with. She dealt with that after her attempted suicide. It is the identity that others have thrust upon her since she became a super, one that is more about their presuppositions and assumptions, and what they want her to be, rather than what January really is. This will come to a head in the next chapter, when January takes a big step.

There will be a more full explanation of Bellac next chapter. But if you look back a page or two to the first day that Blood Raven faced the Nazis at Motor City Pride, you will find both her musings on being named Der Teufel von Bellac (German for "The Devil of Bellac"), as well as links to Tulle and Oradour sur Glane. Bellac is the next town up the road from Tulle and Oradour, where Blood Raven caught up with 2nd SS Panzer a day after they had committed the Oradour massacre.

I wish Supergirl was gay. She would be a lot more fun. But at least she has a gay sister in the TV show. She's one of the coolest characters in it.

As ever the places mentioned are on the Stormcrow Google Map

Chapter 5.26 - Crystal Death

They came to the bottom of the stairwell. There was nothing down there. No doors to exit from. It was just blank concrete walls all around. The only thing of note was a fire hose coiled up in a case on one wall, and the hydrant beside it. Blood Raven took them to a blank wall adjacent to the latter, and passed a hand over the concrete. Again, January felt magic stir from Blood Raven's fingers. This time, the wall responded with magic of its own.

The concrete dissolved away, like ice melting from the windshield of a car. Underneath January saw a magic circle cut into the masonry. It was a standard set of double lines, filled with glowing Celtic symbols between them. Within the center of the circle was a large pentagram, making the entire thing truly a pentacle rimmed with Celtic imagery.

The magic pentacle sprang to life with a warm, roseate glow. It reminded January of a sunset. The red light bathed the little landing, and January felt her fingers reach out toward it. Somehow it reminded January of the sanctum in the Witch House, with its dizzying array of lines and symbols, that appeared, disappeared, and reformed depending on how you looked at them. It was not the writing. Rather it was the intent behind it. This power was wrapped up in space and time, the fabric of the universe.

January also detected that familiar, coppery scent of blood. It was not as strong as what she sensed when Blood Raven performed outright blood magic, such as when she had healed herself just minutes before. But when January stared at the magical design, she could feel blood in there. It was like an imprint, or a watermark, and it called out to her.

January sensed something of herself in the pentacle. It was her blood in there. She glanced to Blood Raven, and understood. It was her blood. The magic was keyed to the older heroine. January imagined that only she could activate it, or those of her bloodline.

Blood Raven nodded to her, and January touched the pentacle. She felt her blood - her lifeforce - interact with the pentacle. She felt reality warp and shift around her, like a blanket being pulled across her body. Her surroundings became a blur of smeared colors and light. She felt her stomach drop, as if she was falling, and shut her eyes to fight the wave of dizziness and disorientation that threatened to overwhelm her.

Then she was standing in the main room of Blood Raven's lair. She could see the great green bulk of the Ambassador Bridge out of the window in front of her, miles away down the Detroit River. Beside the French doors that let out to the balcony outside was a gleaming black, baby grand piano.

Within the soft gold marble of the floor beneath her feet glowed a pentacle identical to the one she had touched in the parking structure. It was clearly cut into the floor, though it had just as plainly not been there during her last visit.

A moment later space and time blurred and warped in the spot beside her. It was like someone had stretched out reality and crumpled the slack up into a ball. Yet after an instant it snapped back to normal once more. Remaining in the wake of the temporary vortex stood Blood Raven.

January turned to face the great black, marble block that took up the center of the three-story loft. She was on the side that was decorated with the long genealogical charts. They crawled up and down the length of the marble surface, like hordes of army ants. One of those ants bore her name of course, down at the bottom, after her brother's.

The roseate glow faded with Blood Raven's arrival. January glanced down again, and found that the pentacle was gone from the floor. There was no sign that it had ever been there at all. Just as there had been no sign of the magic circle existing in the stairwell of the parking structure, until Blood Raven had awoken it. She had the sense that these were not temporary enchantments, created by the other heroine in the spot. Rather they struck January as being permanent workings, merely lying dormant until wakened by the other woman's power.

"That is a neat trick," January nodded. "But definitely not sick."

Laughter danced in the older woman's eyes. Apparently she still remembered her rebuke of January for using the term 'sick'.

"Perhaps at least awesomesauce," Blood Raven noted, "or even cool beans?"

"Cool beans?" January said. "I remember that from when I was little. You need to step up your game."

"Well it is not 'on fleek'." Blood Raven waved a hand dismissively. "I shall never have anything of mine be associated with such nonsense."

"Well you are on point there," January said. "No one even wanted to say that for the five seconds it was popular."

"You are growing more at ease with this life," Blood Raven noted more seriously. "You never would have been so gay in the past."

"I was always this gay in the past," January laughed. Blood Raven made a face, but January continued to smile. "Yes, I know what you meant. But I still love reading old fiction where writers talk about 'queer events' or 'feeling gay'. It makes me think of something much more entertaining than what they intended."

"This is why language is so difficult to remain abreast of," Blood Raven shook her head. "It is constantly in motion."

"To answer your question, well your observation, the weird stuff, like magic, is easy," January said. "It's just a teleporter, or gateway, to get into and out of your secret base without betraying your identity. It's really standard stuff in sci-fi or fantasy fiction. I can also sense the similarities to the sanctum in the Witch House. I am guessing you learned it there? You said Keziah went Beyond after she built it. Now I can see how. It's all about bending and reshaping space-time, and riding the folds you make in the fabric of reality. I bet you have several of these around the city."

"I do," Blood Raven admitted, "I have one from here to the Witch House in fact. There is another to my official residence. I shall take you there sometime. It is literally just around the corner. Cray lives in the building next door. In fact, you can see his apartment out the window. It is there, across Capitol Park."

January followed her pointed finger, and gazed down across the grassy plaza west of the Radiator Building. There along the south side of the square rose up a mere eleven story edifice of glass and stone, a dwarf compared to the massive Radiator Building. She did notice that the roof had been turned into a patio, with what looked like a grill surrounded by tables and chairs.

"My own apartment is in the Griswold, that rectangular building south of it, facing Michigan Ave," Blood Raven explained.

"Wow, Lafayette Coney Island is just across the street!" January exclaimed. "If I lived there, I'd be eating hot dogs every day."

Blood Raven made a disgusted face. "I thought you young people ate kale and avocados, and other healthy things. Not those… lips and rectums."

"Everything that is good for you tastes bad," January replied. "Sometimes you just have to enjoy life, and work off the fat with two extra hours in the gym afterward."

January eased herself onto a leather-stuffed bench that sat next to the piano. Her leg throbbed. Now that she really had a chance to look down, she did not like what she saw. Her hagfish armor had been sliced open as neatly as if it had been paper under a razorblade. The skin and muscle of her leg looked the same underneath. She noted with clinical detachment that she was lucky the cut had not gone through any tendons. She still remembered the long and painful process of rehabilitating those after she had slashed her wrists.

"Did I cause this, by telling people I am gay?" she frowned. "Even unofficially? Were those Nazis reacting to that? Or is it because you stood up to them yesterday, and made them look bad? Will today's fight inspire some other fascist into a kneejerk reaction to shoot up a temple or a mosque, like in Christchurch? Or like that one here in the Ren Cen that you stopped years ago?"

"We must always stand up to fascists and other bullies." Blood Raven sat down beside her. She reached out in a motherly fashion, and brushed the errant locks of January's long hair back into her ponytail. "Not doing so only encourages them to greater violence. Likewise, your honesty about your identity is not a call for others to do harm to you or others. It is their failings as human beings that incites them to commit acts of evil. You did not create that, nor are you responsible for it."

"I am so proud of you," Blood Raven went on, "as is your mother. You are not simply brave. You stop to think about other people, and how your actions affect them. Sometimes I forget to do that. Often times I forget that. You challenge me, simply by being who you are."

"So, does that mean you don't think I'm the one summoning Abyssals anymore?" January only half smiled. It was a joke. But it wasn't.

"I pray that you are not, elsewise we are all doomed." Blood Raven put an arm around January and pulled her close.

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post Nov 7 2020, 09:19 PM
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Jan’s whole discovery of the teleportation device was cool beans! I felt like I was sharing in her wonder at what the mysterious runes were about and gradually began to realize it was what I or Buffy would call a wayshrine. It was neat to have Blood Raven eventually confirm that. Very well done.

"I am so proud of you," Blood Raven went on, "as is your mother. You are not simply brave. You stop to think about other people, and how your actions affect them. Sometimes I forget to do that. Often times I forget that. You challenge me, simply by being who you are."
- - Aww, this was beautiful. It absolutely stands on its own in this story but, for me, is reinforced by invoking memories of how Daenlen felt as he realized his dream of having an archery apprentice who would one day eclipse his own skill had come true at the Tournament of Archers. Or how Acadian feels about Buffy.

’Blood Raven took them {to?} a blank wall adjacent to the latter, and passed a hand over the concrete.’
’Or is it because you stood up {to?} them yesterday, and made them look bad?’
’It was like someone had balled up reality and crumpled it into a ball.’
- - Not a nit but a style observation. Did you intend to recycle the word ‘ball’ in such close proximity? Would you want to consider something like ‘It was like someone had rolled up reality and crumpled it into a ball?’ or perhaps simply ‘It was like someone had crumpled reality up into a ball?’

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post Nov 9 2020, 04:37 PM
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Whoa that's wicked awesome. She's using those pentagrams to teleport. Did Raven zero-out that wall because it can be removed, or can she zero out any wall? Probably the former. In Elder Scrolls 1: Arena there is a Destroy Wall / Create Wall spell, which was really neat. We could take some shortcuts occasionally through that game's gynormous maze-like dungeons. But I suspect this was because these dungeons were all in one huge grid. The void did not exist between all these walls.

"This is why language is so difficult to remain abreast of," Blood Raven shook her head. "It is constantly in motion."

True. Even in the last 5 years, I lose count of all the new terms and sayings we've got nowadays.

Nice, so she has another residence. I suppose the Radiator Building is like her work zone.

But if you look back a page or two to the first day that Blood Raven faced the Nazis at Motor City Pride, you will find both her musings on being named Der Teufel von Bellac (German for "The Devil of Bellac"), as well as links to Tulle and Oradour sur Glane. Bellac is the next town up the road from Tulle and Oradour, where Blood Raven caught up with 2nd SS Panzer a day after they had committed the Oradour massacre.

Oh I see. Good thing Raven was able to influence things in World War II, my gosh.

I didn't know Supergirl has a les sister. I need to get into that series someday.

EDIT: Supergirl is on Netflix! evillol.gif I'm gonna watch it some time this week, for sure.

This post has been edited by Renee: Nov 10 2020, 02:54 AM
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post Nov 14 2020, 08:46 AM
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Acadian: The Blood Raven wayshrine is a solution to a problem I ran into, namely how does she get into and out of her lair without everyone seeing? Thankfully it works really well with the multi-dimensional nature of the sanctum in the Witch House, where she learned how to make those wayshrines.

Next chapter will have more on Blood Raven's dawning realization that January might be the right person to take up her mantle.

Thanks for the nits. A lot of that stuff was late additions, so did not get the usual rigor of proofreading.

Renee: I don't know what you mean by zero-out? Blood Raven did enchant the gateways into those specific spots, and they vanish from perception when she is not actively using them. Basically, they fade from existence until she powers them up with magic.

It would look strange if her alter-ego of Branwen Renner was listed as owning an entire skyscraper downtown. An apartment OTOH, is exactly how it should look on paper. Plus, it is hard to entertain guests as Branwen Renner when you bring them to a superhero's lair. So she needs a place for her secret identity.

I plan to give the whole Supergirl series another go around soon.


Chapter 5.27 - Crystal Death

"Well, I hate to break up a touching great-grandmother and daughter moment, but aren't you going to heal her?"

A familiar gruff voice sounded out from across the Gothic loft apartment. January looked up to see an old man, perhaps in his fifties or sixties from his graying hair. He wore a pair of large glasses with reddish-brown frames, and a mustache dominated his handsome features. He could have been a statue of a fatherly Greek god. Except for the dress shirt, tie, and sweater-vest he wore. Slacks and a pair of black tennis shoes rounded out his attire, along with a class ring on one finger.

"You didn't tell me that Mr. Rogers was your boyfriend," January murmured.

The newcomer laughed, and strode around the loft while January forced herself to her feet. Pain shot down her leg when she put her weight upon it. Now she felt sympathy for everyone who ever had the misfortune to fight a Shrinker. The Werebear had been much less painful.

"He is not my consort," Blood Raven said dryly.

"That would be robbing the cradle for your grandma," the not-boyfriend declared. He put out a hand, which January took gently. One thing she liked about being a girl was that she did not have to get into handshake battles over who had the stronger grip. "I'm Cray, well Frank, Frank Wigand. It is nice to finally meet you in the flesh. How are you doing?"

"Those quantum blasts really hurt," January noted. "I'm not sure how I'm going to go to work like this tomorrow."

"Never fear," Blood Raven declared. "We shall have you as fit as a fiddle in no time whatsoever. Or I should say you will have yourself that way."

Blood Raven led January to the elevator, and took them down several floors. That brought them to a new area of the building, or at least one new to January. This floor below the Gothic loft was a comfy, modern home. There was a living room with a view of the Detroit River and Canada beyond. That morphed into a kitchen and dining area toward the center of the building. Radiating out from this central space were numerous bedrooms, as well as a bathroom and laundry. It was like a dorm, but with much nicer furniture.

None of it looked lived in however. There were no little knick-knacks scattered around, like in a normal home. No family pictures. No phone charger plugged into a wall socket. No dog or cat toys scattered around. No trash in the wastebaskets. No post-it notes on the fridge. It was more like a hotel suite, than a home.

"You don't live here?" January asked.

"This is for work only," Blood Raven answered. "The legalities of how I own the Radiator Building are complicated. Suffice to say, I do not want it listed as the mailing address for Branwen Renner. It is best that the world think this building remains abandoned, and lost in a shuffle of holding companies. Instead I use it as a safe house for those in danger. I can deny them access to the other floors where sensitive things are kept, but still provide them with a secure haven. When the danger has passed and they return to their normal lives, all they know is that they stayed in an abandoned building for a time."

She led January into one of the bedrooms. It was simple, with a twin bed, dresser, end table, and closet. But it was naturally bare of any personalization. Again, it reminded her of a hotel room. But it did have a breathtaking view of Belle Isle and the Detroit River. January drank that in for a moment, before she allowed Blood Raven to guide her to the bed.

"Let us get you out of your armor, so you may relax," she insisted. Cray vanished, and Blood Raven helped January with her boots and gloves. The chest piece and tunic were especially difficult, given her injured arm, and January was grateful for the assistance. She was less enthusiastic when the other woman moved to her armored legs.

"I can do this myself," she said.

"Your leg is injured, you need help," Blood Raven insisted.

"I can do it myself," January repeated.

"I am not attempting to - what is it called - hit on you my dear," Blood Raven stood back, and rested her hands on her hips. "You are my great-granddaughter after all."

"I know," January said. It felt more than a little gross to even consider that. "I just, can do it myself."

"You know, I changed your diapers when you were a baby," Blood Raven declared. "You are not going to shock my delicate sensibilities."

"Well maybe I have sensibilities!" January snapped. "Now just leave me alone!"

"Oh, this is because you are…" Blood Raven was taken aback for a moment, but recovered quickly enough. "I see. Well, I have seen that too."

"Well maybe I don't want you to," January insisted. She felt her cheeks burn, and turned her eyes away from Blood Raven's. "I don't want anyone to see that. I don't want to see it myself, or think about it."

"Oh," Blood Raven said again. But her voice did soften. "I suppose I shall never understand this part of you. But I do not have to. I am sorry. I never thought about what it must feel like, to be you."

She moved to the door, and paused before leaving. "I shall bring some spare clothing," she said on the way out. She shut the door behind her.

January pulled off the rest of her armor by herself. Her torn leg protested angrily. But in the end, she won the argument. That left her in just her bra and the gaff she wore to tuck up her genitals. As always, she pointedly ignored the latter. The less she thought about that part of her body, the better. She was covered in dried sweat, including her underwear. She knew she should just take it all off, but did not want to be completely naked.

Instead she slid under the covers. Hopefully she would not bleed all over the white sheets. But so far, Blood Raven's magic had held, and not a drop of her blood had left her body. A moment later the other woman knocked, and came in with a small pile of what looked like sweatpants and a tee. Workout clothes, or lazy day attire. She stepped back out once more, and waited for January to change before returning.

"Now lay back and close your eyes," Blood Raven prompted her. But January held up a hand.

"Wait, before we start, I want you to promise me you'll do something," she insisted. When the other woman nodded, January went on. "I want you to go back out there and let people see you. It's not enough for us to simply fight evil. We have to create the alternative, so people don't get radicalized in the first place, and turned into black hats. We need to create good in the world."

"You need to go out and show people that you aren't here just to punch Nazis," January continued. "You need to show them that you are there for them. That you stand for them, not just against others. You need to be a symbol of hope, that everyone can look up to."

"I do not think I can be the person you want me to," Blood Raven sighed.

"I think you are wrong," January argued. "I think there is more to you than blood and darkness. I think there can be. You told me that magic is the power to reshape reality. Well, reshape it. You are a straight, cisgender, white woman. You can reach people in a way few others can. In a way I never can."

"Very well," Blood Raven breathed, "I shall try."

"Don't try, do" January insisted. "A conjure woman who doubts, is a conjure woman who fails."

Blood Raven smiled at her own words being repeated back to her.

"You are so very stubborn," she noted. "That clearly comes from me. I shall do as you ask. I shall be their symbol, at least for today."

"That's all I ask," January said, "at least for today."

"Now, we shall begin with meditation." Blood Raven leaned over and smoothed back January's hair. "Relax, feel your power, let it wash through you, and cleanse your spirit. In and out, just breathe, and feel your energy move."

They went on like that, and slowly, gradually, January felt herself drift. She followed the other woman's instructions, guided her mana into the injured parts of her body, and visualized them as healthy and whole. She thought of the element of Spirit, and how it bound together the other magical elements, and elevated them to a higher form. She used that to guide her magic, just as she used Earth to make her stronger, or Air to make her faster.

Her world devolved into that, everything else just vanished, even Blood Raven's voice. It reminded January of that state when she was not yet awake, but not really asleep anymore either. She was suspended between worlds, in that place where her imagination tended to be at its most active, and her best ideas for stories blossomed. Time disappeared, and she fell deeper into the trance.

* * *

Move over Betty Smith, because a tree grows in Detroit. This is Gilda Gadfly and do I have the dish for you. By now you all must have seen the #1 meme on the internet tonight: 'Valhalla Awaits'. Our favorite Crow said it to that giant spider last week, and she laid it down again to a panzer division full of metahuman Nazis today. Then she laid them out in true Stormcrow style. Detroit wasn't called the Arsenal of Democracy for nothing folks. And did you see those splits that she did? Ouch! That hurts just to look at. Is that a superpower? Because there is no way I could walk after doing that. This bird is full of surprises.

Which brings us to our next surprise - Lighthammer! I mean really? This guy is rumored to have carried out a one-hammer war on drugs from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Police have yet to bring charges against him, but word has it they would really, really like to talk to this guy, know what I'm saying? And our loveable Stormcrow is buddy-buddy with this fella? Maybe she's not as much of a lesbian as some people claim she is? Does she have a thing for the bad boys? Or is this just a flash in the pan?

But wait, there is more gentle subscribers. Blood Raven and the Crowgirl took some pretty heavy hits in that fight. Both were seen walking off, bleeding from multiple wounds. Less than a half hour later the Raven returned, good as new. Then she proceeded to clean up the damage from the brawl. Watch this video of her replanting a tree that had been uprooted by the nefarious Nazis. In another vid we can see her sealing up a fire hydrant that Lighthammer had broken open to literally extinguish a fiery black hat.

The normally reclusive Raven even took the time to join the delayed, but not cancelled, Motor City Pride parade. Here we can see her in the middle of the pack, carrying a rainbow flag. Rumor has it that it was the same flag she had rescued from these self-same Nazis the day before. Afterward she hung out in Hart Plaza and took selfies with fans.

Ok, I will be the first to ask. Who is this, and what has she done with the real Blood Raven? For fifty years, yes folks, fifty years, I did the research, Blood Raven has been lurking in the shadows of the City of the Straits. She has never been so forthcoming and open with the public. Nor has anyone ever accused her of being nice. Especially not to the Detroit PD, whom rumor has it she has a very frosty relationship with. Enough so that some have claimed it should be harnessed to combat Global Warming. Yet here we even see her standing side by side with half-a-dozen of Detroit's finest, as they fought off the Nazis together.

Can we thank our adorable Stormcrow for this nearly heel-face turn? Is she transforming the fearsome raven into a beloved songbird? Speaking of the Crowgirl, she did turn up a few hours later, also looking good as new. Detroit's second Blackbird joined in the festivities, and chilled with the crowd until sunset. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical at first, but this Crow has really won over this reporter's heart. Way to go Stormcrow!

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post Nov 14 2020, 08:34 PM
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Your picture of Cray is a good fit for the image your prose has created for us.

Wait! January knows what a Mr Rogers is?!? Oh that’s right, she does read some ancient history. I wonder if she knows who Fred Flintstone, Mr. Ed and Captain Kangaroo are – from the same ancient era. tongue.gif

I think Blood Raven was brilliant to not heal Jan directly, but to teach the younger cape to heal herself. Self-healing will no doubt prove essential as Stormcrow continues her hazardous career.

Jan’s comments to Blood Raven continue to build on what a powerful influence Jan has on those around her. It is a wonderfully woven familial and circular irony that Blood Raven taught Jan the tools of magic that Jan used to coax Blood Raven into a change that the older woman could not accomplish by herself. Though Blood Raven is grooming Stormcrow, the young crow already is able to challenge her great grandmother – in a good way.

I love how you used Gilda not only for that fun update, but to ‘show’ us the effectiveness of the healing done/taught by Blood Raven and the results of Jan’s words to encourage Blood Raven to be more. . . involved in the lives of those she helps.

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post Nov 16 2020, 05:25 PM
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QUOTE(Acadian @ Nov 14 2020, 02:34 PM) *

Your picture of Cray is a good fit for the image your prose has created for us.

Right? He is almost exactly what I was picturing, especially the frames and sweater-vest. laugh.gif I was seeing him as pudgier though.

Blood Raven did enchant the gateways into those specific spots, and they vanish from perception when she is not actively using them. Basically, they fade from existence until she powers them up with magic.

Yes, that is what I mean by zero-out. I just didn't know any more technical terms for this.

I have a friend in the music business who's told me when all of a soundboard's sliders and knobs are turned to zero, this is called zeroing out (or Z out, as in... "Z out that board, would ya?" )

That's very clever that she owns so much property which isn't in her own name. See, this is an advantage to living such a long life. Perhaps she's lived so long that Holding Company A's records aren't properly handed down to Holding Company B's records. Like, maybe somebody owned portions of her floors in the year 1972, but by 2019, those records have been shuffled around so much. Not everything is clear to the City.

I get January's reluctance to have her great x16 aunt change her clothes. Not even because she is trans. It's just something a family member shouldn't do, unless they are in the medical profession and here's an emergency. nono.gif Still though...

Uh oh.

What happened to the remaining Nazis by the way? Did any of them live / escape?

I like the Gilda Gladfly update. smile.gif That's pretty cool she did some research on Raven, and has traced her back 50 years. Meanwhile... Branwen goes back even further than this. So there's some mystery there.

Blood Raven allowed some selfies??? panic.gif Nooo!!!

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post Nov 21 2020, 09:15 AM
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Acadian: Jan does know some ancient history. The Flintstones are a cereal, so she definitely knows them. Scooby Doo is still around (amazingly), so she knows that too. Mr. Ed and Captain Kangaroo are probably lost in the misty dawn of prehistory to her however...

That last scene once again showed why I enjoy writing Jan and Blood Raven together. Both influence the other in powerful ways, precisely because of their differences. I also really loved how that scene brought things around full-circle with Blood Raven's teaching.

Gilda is becoming an effective way for me to relay little blurbs of information in an entertaining fashion, that would otherwise come off as being anti-climatic. It is also a nice way to show how an outsider views events.

Renee: If you look back to the end of the battle, Cray announces that the final five Nazis overdosed as soon as they took the crystal death. After that Blood Raven declares that they are done.

In spite of her tabloid demeanor, Gilda is a real reporter. I even have some backstory on her, although I do not know if or when I will be able to put it to use. Suffice to say, she knows how to do her research.

Maybe next Blood Raven will start her own Instantgram account, and start influencing people?

Lindsey Stirling - Assassin's Creed 3 Theme

24th Michigan at Gettysburg


Chapter 6.1 - Eloise

June 10-14, 2019

January rode her Victory down State Street. The only sign of the previous day's battle with the neo-Nazis was the particleboard that filled one of the broken out windows of the office building on the north side of the street. If not for that, a passerby would never guess that anything untoward had happened at all. Even the tree the Nazi telekinetic had thrown had been replanted, and the fire hydrant broken open by Lighthammer had been repaired, both thanks to Blood Raven.

January turned left into the alley between the tall parking structure on the south side of the street, and the massive black and gold spire of the Detroit Radiator Building beyond it. She glanced back, and saw that Avery was still behind her in his yellow Geo. She rode to the end of the narrow cut between the two buildings, and stopped at a large rollup door.

As Blood Raven had done on her first visit to the Radiator Building, Jan got off her nuclear-powered bike and opened the lockbox beside the entrance. She punched a code into its number pad. Then she flipped up the face shield of her motorcycle helmet and leaned down so that the retinal scanner could confirm her identity. A moment later the steel door rolled up with a clatter.

January got back on her motorcycle and led the way in. She parked at the loading dock inside, and Avery pulled up beside her. The young inventor got out of his car and looked around. It was clear that he was not impressed by the dusty concrete and steel of the abandoned skyscraper.

"This is the lair of Detroit's most infamous superhero?" he said with a raised eyebrow. "I was expecting a throne of skulls at least."

"Just wait, it gets better," January assured him with a smile. The door clanged shut behind them. Now that they were completely out of sight, she pulled her helmet off and hung it off one of the handlebars of her Victory. Then she took a moment to smooth down her hair, and undo the braid she had tied it into for the ride.

"I hope so," Avery breathed. "At this rate, Isaac's junk castle is way ahead in the lair department."

"I haven't seen him in a while," January mused as she led the way up the concrete steps to the top of the loading dock. "How's he doing?"

"Well Cyber-Cab has just blown up," Avery replied. "He can't keep up with the demand for more cars. He's building them all as fast as he can. Thank god he's got all that junk laying around. He's been upgrading Archie too. You'd hardly recognize him. He's got arms now, so he can help build."

"He's a Mr. Handy then?" Now it was January's turn to arch an eyebrow. She led the way to the freight elevator, and pressed the button to call it down.

"Closer to a probe droid," Avery said. "If Isaac keeps it up, he's going to end up a mecha."

"A Timber Wolf would be cool," January noted.

"Or maybe a Stormcrow?" Avery ventured.

January made a face as the elevator car clanked down in front of them, and the twin doors slid up and down to allow them in. Like all freight elevators, it was a plain steel box with a corrugated metal floor. January pulled down the strap that hung from the top door, and pulled it back down once they had stepped within.

"That's my dad's favorite mech," she breathed sourly.

"You seen him lately?" Avery said as cautiously as a man navigating a minefield.

"Not since we moved out." January stared at the double doors.

"Yeah, I get it," Avery sighed. "I haven't seen my dad in years either. After a while, it just gets easier not to."

January frowned. At least Avery's father never blamed him for everything that was wrong in the world. Or regretted having him in the first place. Then again, Avery's father was in prison. Neither one of their fathers were going to win the world's best dad award.

She pushed aside the thoughts of her father, and the things he had said that night after her first battle with Archie at Source One Metals. Instead she looked down at her arm, and experimentally rotated it around. She felt no pain, no stiffness. It had literally been good as new since she had awoken from her healing trance the previous afternoon. It was the same with her leg. There was no sign that the Nazi Shrinker's quantum blasts had ever sliced through her flesh.

If only she had learned to heal herself sooner, she could have spared herself a set of sore ribs from where the djieien had stabbed through her armor with its fangs. That had bothered her for nearly a week, and she still wondered if she might have broken a bone or two.

Her trance had only taken a few hours. But it was long enough for her to have missed the parade. Still, she had been able to join Blood Raven in Hart Plaza before the festival had officially ended. The older heroine had clearly been grateful for that, as playing nice with the public did not seem to be her forte.

Not that it really was January's either. But she knew that they had to be more than just fists planted into evildoer's faces. A violent thug fighting for what was right was just one step away from a violent thug fighting for what was not. Giving that comic book presentation at the library had done more than just show January that she could speak in public after all. It showed her why she should be doing it in the first place. She had to influence the world, and the people in it, for the better.

Eventually the elevator came to a stop, and the doors rolled open with a clatter of metal and wood. The sound of a violin immediately came to January's ears. It rang out in a tune that overflowed with energy, yet was underscored with a deeply haunting quality at the same time. It was bittersweet, like saying goodbye to an old friend.

"Is that… Assassin's Creed?" Avery cocked his head to one side, and listened intently.

"I sent Blood Raven some links to Lindsey Stirling's videos." January explained. "I guess she really did like them."

"She plays the violin?" Avery's words trailed away as he took the time to stare about the great three story loft that the elevator dropped them off into. A great block of black marble took up the center of the space, and stretched all the way to the ceiling high above. The walls were pierced by tall windows and French doors, revealing a glittering landscape of city lights in all directions. Directly ahead of them was what January thought of as the old wizard's study, with its ancient books and insanely elegant queen's desk.

"Piano too," January said, "and she has a harpsichord stashed away downstairs. But I've never heard her play it."

But Avery was too busy staring at the library of ancient books and stone tablets that took up the quarter of the loft that was just off the elevator. She led him around the first corner of the giant marble block that walled off the center of the room. That brought them into the contemporary collection of books, containing everything from modern Pagan works to role playing games. The display case holding Branwen's Civil War uniform and rifle stood against the windows looking over the city outside. The furniture became ultra modern, dominated by a black stone desk, and its attendant table computer, which stood on a wheeled stand. Avery paused by the latter, and ran envious fingers across its surface.

"Wow, is this what I think it is?" he breathed in undisguised amazement.

"It's an old one," A gruff, yet soft voice sounded out. January smiled to see Cray step out from around the next corner. As the last time they had met, he was dressed like Mr. Rogers, in slacks, a sweater vest, and neatly done up tie. He paused to push his glasses up on his face, as if for added effect, then went on.

"The real computers are on the other side, that's where I do most of my work."

"Hey, you're Cray!" Avery beamed again. He held out his hand, which the much older man shook enthusiastically. "I heard about you when I was a kid. Your hack of the DoD is still legendary. You're one of the reasons I became a hacker."

Now it was January's turn to be taken aback. Avery only had to take one look at the confusion on her face to continue.

"He's a legend in the community," the young inventor explained. "Back in the 90s he blew the whistle on the military hospital scandal. Sent a lot of generals and politicians to prison who were skimming money off the VA, and denying health care to veterans."

"That was a long time ago," the older man stared at his shoes, "and I spent fifteen years in prison for that."

"What?" January could not conceal her shock. "But how could…"

"I publicly revealed classified information," Cray explained, "that's treason. Never mind that when I first tried to go through channels I was transferred to Guam, and told to keep my mouth shut or else."

"Since he was released from prison, he has been working with me."

The music had stopped, and now Blood Raven - well Branwen - stepped out from beyond the next corner of the great black wall in the center of the massive loft. She was dressed in ordinary clothes, the same as everyone else, and held a violin and its bow in one hand.

"Welcome to our headquarters," she said, "this is where we plan, and work."

"I like to call it the Raven's Nest," Cray added, "though some people think that is a little melodramatic."

"It is exceedingly melodramatic," Branwen shook her head.

"Says the woman who wears a cape," Cray noted dryly.

"I like it," January said. "I mean, I live in a Witch House, and Avery has his Gadget Cave. So the Raven's Nest, yeah, it works."

More introductions were made all around. Branwen led them around the loft, pausing to put her violin away in its case. While she did Avery stared at the great waterfall of family trees that scaled the black center wall in the third quadrant of the room. January pointed out her own name at the bottom. Then she moved her finger much higher up the chain of names to Branwen's, who had been Anne at the time she had been born in 1763.

"My aunt Harriet is into genealogy," Avery said, "but she's got nothing on this."

"This is not a hobby," Branwen explained. "Rather it is a necessity, given our current circumstances. In all likelihood the Summoner who besets us traces his lineage somewhere back to this list. Somewhere there is a link. We must find it."

"How do we do that?" Avery wondered.

"Good old-fashioned detective work," Cray insisted. "The way I see it, we have multiple avenues of investigation. Branwen has been working on the genealogy, trying to find lost family members. But there are too many centuries, too many places her father has been, to find every scion he may have fathered. Much less trace their lines down to the present. So we need to study the evidence, look for suspects, the same as any cop."

"Young Mr. Wigand is ever the materialist," Branwen observed, "he is always teaching an old dog like me new tricks."

"Young…" Avery said what January was thinking. Branwen looked half Cray's age. But one glance at the family tree sprawled out overhead reminded them that the auburn-haired woman was two and a half centuries old.

"C'mon, and step into my office," Cray nodded, and walked around to the final quadrant of the loft. This side of the black marble block that took up center of the space was a futuristic command center. A large tabletop computer took up the center of the space. A bank of monitors and workstations lined the black central wall, along with a sealed glass cabinet that was packed with servers and networking gear.

"Nice cabling work," Avery nodded his approval at the neatly velcroed bundles of Cat6 and fiber cables in the back of the cabinet. "How do you keep it so quiet?"

"A simple silence enchantment," Branwen said off-handedly. "Otherwise we would be deafened by the roar. It is nearly as bad as the cannons were at Gettysburg."

"Wait, you were at Gettysburg?" Avery look stunned.

"Yes," the auburn-haired woman replied easily. "I served in the 24th Michigan, Iron Brigade. We took the Western Woods on the first morning, and we held the line while the rest of the army came up and dug in on the hills behind us. Eventually we were forced back. But many a promising young soul never walked out of those woods..."

Avery whistled solemnly. January turned her head back toward where she knew Branwen's Civil War uniform and rifle stood in their place of honor, on the other side the massive black stone that took up the center of the loft. She remembered the picture of her regiment's flag there, literally shot to pieces. Valhalla awaited indeed.

Cray stepped up to the table computer in the center of the space, and the entire surface lit up at his touch. Its massive screen filled with individual windows showing videos, maps, and a dizzying array of reports and data. He touched one, and a video from a black and white camera leapt up into the air above the table, and glowed to life in a hologram.

"Impressive, most impressive," Avery said as he looked over the three-dimensional display that glowed to life in the air between them. "I haven't figured out holographic displays yet."

"Oh, I didn't make it," Cray admitted. "The Laughing Man built our holographic emitters. I'm not a meta-inventor like you guys. I'm strictly a keyboard commando."

The hazy, blurry image was of a person in a hoodie walking briskly down an empty alley. Their head was down, invisible from the camera's view. There was little the camera really could see. It looked like a video from the Dark Ages, or the 90s, January was not sure which came first.

"This is our best image of the Summoner," Cray insisted. "It was taken from a gas station security camera the day of the first Abyssal attack. Since then, we have had no video evidence at all."

"Funny how in the movies and on TV, security camera video is always crystal clear, 4k quality," Avery noted.

"Unfortunately for us, the real world is a lot different," Cray murmured.

"There's nothing else?" Avery rubbed his chin with his fist, deep in thought. "No fingerprints, no hair fibers?"

"Nothing," Cray frowned. "Every site is sterile. I've even tried tracing down license plates of all the cars caught on camera within a half mile of the summonings. But no joy there either."

"He may have started using some kind of video camo, like Avery made for me," January offered.

"Yes," Branwen agreed. "We have come to suspect as much. He may also be flying, or teleporting, to the sites."

"Or maybe he's just taking an Urbur, or some other ride-share," Avery mused. "He could use a fake profile each time. There would be nothing to trace back to him personally."

"Damn," Cray sighed, "we hadn't thought of that."

"Young eyes see from a new perspective," Branwen murmured.

"But wouldn't he have to use his face for his profile pic?" January wondered. "Can't we just look for the same face showing up on ride share trips nearby every summoning?"

"Maybe," Cray ran his fingers through his graying hair. "But it's the internet, and even a dinosaur like me knows what catfishing is. He might be using a fake picture every time."

"We can still try," Avery looked to Cray. "Between the two of us, we can sift through every ride, every summoning day."

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post Nov 21 2020, 08:07 PM
Post #316

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Nice little update on Isaac, and smoothly worked right into the always comfortable chatter between Jan and Avery.

Branwen’s musical skills come as no surprise; after all, she’s had centuries to learn many things. In fact, her age was nicely punctuated a few paragraphs later as she mentioned Gettysburg.

’It looked like a video from the Dark Ages, or the 90s, January was not sure which came first.’ laugh.gif

Determining their next investigative move was the product of some nice collaboration and the idea that sometimes, four heads are better than one or two.

Nit: ’He paused to push his glassed {glasses} up on his face,’

Screenshot: Buffy in Artaeum
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post Nov 22 2020, 05:28 PM
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That's neat to have some pieces of side info. Isaac is busy. And dad is sour, I suppose, wondering where it all went wrong. Why is Avery's father in jail?

Raven's lair is really incredible. I hope I go there in a dream some night. sleep.gif

Whoa, Cray went to prison for hacking!

Branwen put an everlasting Silence spell on Cray's computer department. Goodness gosh!

"I haven't figured out holographic displays yet."

He's so casual about this. He says "I haven't figured out holographic displays yet" like I might say "I haven't figured out how not to burn an omelette yet."

Maybe he's taking an Urbur. laugh.gif

Cool. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.

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post Yesterday, 08:40 AM
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Acadian: Isaac and Archie will be making a personal appearance very soon. They also have a part to play in the long run.

I could not resist the comparison of the networking gear to cannons. I have heard both. Wow, lound!

Much more investigative work this chapter, along with new revelations.

Thanks for catching Cray's glasses. He would not be able to see without the help...

Renee: I have not worked out the details on Avery's father yet. My intention is to make it a subplot sometime in the future. Maybe in Season Two, or Three.

The Raven's Nest is a cool place. I would love to live there. It is even cooler than Gadget's basement!

A lot of whistle-blowers go to prison or end up sued, in spite of the fact that they are revealing criminal acts. I wanted some representation of that with Cray.

I would have loved a silence spell when I worked in the data centers. You would not believe just how loud one switch or server is, let alone a room filled with hundreds.

Gadget's remark was meant to sound casual, because to him it is. One day when he takes the time to really try, he'll get the holograms working.

As always the locations of the Abyssal Summonings can be found on the Stormcrow Google Map

Flying Heads


Chapter 6.2 - Eloise

"So just how many of these summonings have there been?" January asked. "I mean, until Ferndale Pride, I had no idea any of this was even happening."

"We do not truly know," Branwen admitted sourly. "The first instance we are aware of took place during the Nain Rouge parade, in late March. It was a minor creature - a goblin - which I easily banished."

As she spoke, Cray tapped the table computer, and brought up a hologram showing a map of the metro area. Each event was marked on the map, and linked to an adjacent window that revealed its pertinent details.

"The second summoning was a month later, on May 5th," Branwen went on. "It took place in Mexicantown during Cinco De Mayo. He must have witnessed me banishing the goblin. Because this time he anchored the flying head he had summoned with alchemical reagents - symbols of fire, earth, water, and sky. I was unable to simply banish the creature. Instead I was forced to slay it through force of arms."

January had seen that force of arms up close and personal twice now. She could not imagine anything lasting against the older heroine for long.

"A flying head?" Avery made a face. "That sounds like something from a Doom game."

"It is properly known as a kanontsistonties," Branwen explained. "If I am even pronouncing that correctly. The ancient Iroquois and Wyandot peoples encountered them. They are very dangerous to one not versed in magic, as they are invulnerable to mundane weapons."

"Three weeks later he struck again during the Electronic Music Festival. Once again, he had anchored his summoning. This time he sacrificed a dog, and used its flesh and blood to bind the Abyssal to our realm. Again, it was a more powerful creature, this time a Buggane."

January frowned. She knew that her priorities were off. But for some reason the thought of a dog dying bothered her more than that of a human. Perhaps it was because dogs were in general just such kinder beings.

"That's what you were doing when we saw you at the Technofest," Avery noted. "I was wondering about that."

Avery's mention of the Electronic Music Festival took January's mind back to that night.

The lowering sun splashed bloody fire across the sky as Amelie Lens kicked out her beats. That was when January was pulled from her musical rapture by a sudden feeling of heat. It felt like something warm, wet, and thick had poured across her body. She smelled copper, and tasted salt in her mouth. She stopped dancing, and dabbed one finger to her lips. She took care not to smear her lipstick, and feared that she had cut herself. But there was no sign of blood. Yet she could definitely taste it now, and smell it, and feel it, all around her.

Thousands of hands pointed skyward. January's gaze followed them across the street, high up to the roof of 150 West Jefferson. There loomed a figure in black and red, cape spilled out alongside her in the wind. The mysterious woman scanned the crowd for long moments. Then she lifted her head to the sky, and turned it this way and that, like a bloodhound sniffing the air.

"Let's give it up for Blood Raven!" Amelie Len's voice rose up over her music, and the crowd roared behind her. Even Avery pointed and grinned, and slapped January on the back.

But January could not feel the excitement of the crowd. Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. The hairs rose up on the back of her neck, and her stomach began to flip and flop around. The smell of blood was overpowering. She turned her head this way and that, trying to discern where it was coming from. Finally she turned her gaze to the east, toward the massive glass spires of the Renaissance Center.

Now January understood. That taste of coppery blood in her mouth had been her astral senses, warning her of Blood Raven's presence. Perhaps she had been able to sense her then because Blood Raven had been exerting herself magically. January had since come to discover that active magic was much easier to detect then spells or enchantments that lay dormant.

She had often wondered at that second thing she had sensed that night, which had caused that terrible wrongness somewhere beyond the Renaissance Center. Now she understood. It had been the summoning of an Abyssal. That had been what Branwen had been hunting that night.

All of this time, Blood Raven had been fighting this war in the shadows, with no one else even aware of it. How many other battles had been waged, that she knew nothing about? That no one would ever be aware of?

Even though she was not wearing her cape, she suddenly felt the terrible weight of responsibility that came with it.

"Yes," Branwen said. "At that point we had begun a regular program of guarding every large gathering, in case the Summoner struck. That was Memorial Day weekend, so unfortunately there were many such events across the metro area."

"Then finally the Summoner called up the djieien during Ferndale Pride the following weekend. I was waiting for him on Belle Isle, as the Grand Prix was taking place there. His previous summoning had taken place in an abandoned building nearby. I hoped that he might be tempted to try the same location twice."

"But he came to Ferndale instead," January noted, "and he upped his game again. This time with a human sacrifice."

"Every time it is a more powerful creature," Cray declared, "and every time his methods advance."

"So what is his endgame?" Avery asked. "Is this just to create terror? Or is he using these creatures as a distraction, so he can rob a bank nearby? Or kill a rival drug lord or wizard?"

"I suspect it is practice," Branwen said. "He began by following the methods laid down in the Rauðskinna."

The older heroine drew forth the eponymous book, and plopped it down on the table computer. The binding was of blood red leather, cracked and worn with age, and its title written in gold. It was bound shut with a simple strip of rawhide. Because of that all January could see of the book's brown and decaying pages were their uneven spaced edges, lurking between the covers like a troll beneath a bridge.

The table computer instantly reacted to the presence of the book, and opened a holographic image above it. Apparently Branwen had scanned its contents at some earlier date, because the computer brought up an electronic book reader. Image after image of what must have been the pages spilled forth. They were handwritten in Latin, and interspersed with numerous symbols and diagrams. January could not contain a scowl when she recognized fragments of the summoning circle she had seen in Ferndale on one.

The book radiated power in the astral. Even without trying to sense it, January felt it there. It perched like a hungry spider in its web, and January could not escape the feeling that it was staring back at her. It was almost as if the book could smell her blood, and slavered for it.

She deliberately suppressed her magical abilities, to push it from her awareness. Branwen must have noticed, for she hastily picked the grimoire back up. A moment later it vanished into a fold in her clothing. Just like that, it disappeared from January's senses, as if it no longer existed in the world.

"What was that?" Avery stared at her, as did Cray. January imagined that her face must have betrayed the crawling horror that the grimoire had engendered within her. She did now know how to answer them. She was simply relieved that the thing was gone.

"It is the curse of our blood," Branwen intoned. Then she went back to what she had been saying before.

"The Summoner has now diverged from the Rauðskinna's teachings. He has begun to incorporate the techniques of other traditions into his working. The magic circles he uses have become more complex and varied in nature. He is flexing his muscles, teaching himself, becoming more powerful."

"I think he has a genuine taste for it too," Cray added. "When most people learn that Blood Raven is hunting them, they run as far and fast as they can. Or they go to ground and hide, and hope to never be found. This guy, he knows we are after him, and he's not even slowing down. It's like he's taunting us."

"This has all happened before," Branwen said. "The last time it was January's great-grandfather Jack. Eventually this Summoner will grow powerful enough to call my father from the Abyss, as Jack did. Woe to the world if he does!"

"So how did you stop this Jack the last time?" Avery asked.

"I didn't," Branwen explained. "I was in Belgium when it started, working as a nurse for the Red Cross. I saw the stories of strange sightings in the newspapers, and realized what was taking place. I returned in time to find my father standing in what remained of my great-grandson's corpse."

"Her father Nátthrafn is the real enemy here," January explained. "He's the one who created that book. We can give you all the deets later. But to keep it simple, he's a thousand year old lich who commands an army of Lovecraftian horrors. Branwen banished him to the Abyss. But he's itching to get back. This Summoner is just a tool, who he's manipulating from beyond the grave."

"Nátthrafn?" Avery questioned aloud. "That's Nátt-raven something?"

"Night Raven, in Old Norse," January explained.

"Right, so Night Raven, Blood Raven, and Stormcrow," Avery looked from Branwen to January. "When you people pick a lane, you really stick to it don't you?"

While his voice sounded flip, January could see that he was worried. He was rubbing the back of his head, and that was the sure tell of his distress.

"We cannot escape our blood," Branwen intoned gravely.

"So how do we fight these Abyssals?" Avery went on. "Are they all like that djieien at Pridefest, or that flying head thing? I mean, can they only be hurt with magic?"

"Thankfully no," Branwen said. "Most are absolutely vulnerable to earthly measures, especially elemental forces such as fire, or lightning. It is difficult to make any general statements about them at all. I expect there are as many different breeds of them as there are species of life here on Earth. Indeed, they are the denizens of a world of their own, from a universe of their own."

"To that end, I have compiled a list of all the known varieties of Abyssals, and placed it on the share drive. Study it carefully! We will be facing them in the future. I have also included a list of many magical beings of earthly origin. These creatures have slumbered for millennia. They have been stirring since Tunguska, and awakening one by one. The magical activities of the Summoner may hasten this process."

"Are these other magical beings all bad guys too?" Avery asked. He pulled out his phone, and slapped it on his forearm. It stuck there like glue. With a tap of one finger, a full-sized computer screen folded out in front of him, along with a keyboard. He typed furiously, and his eyes lit up as he scanned his mobile display. January stepped up and looked over his shoulder at the encyclopedia of monsters that spilled forth.

"Most of these earthly creatures are no more good or evil than a lion or a shark," Branwen said as he scanned the files. "They can be dangerous if provoked, and often humans do so through sheer ignorance. But otherwise they will leave us in peace, if we treat them with respect and refrain from behaving like prey. The Abyssals themselves can only be described as altogether evil. They are utterly inimical to all life on Earth. I have included as many of both as I can within the compendium, and will add more as time allows."

"It's a Monster Manual!" Avery cried as he tapped on the entry to the raven mocker. "Does it have the Cthulhu Mythos and Fafhrd and Gray Mouser gods too?"

"That was Deities and Demigods," Cray corrected him with a casual display of nerdcore erudition. "I have a first edition copy. The one before they had to take those out because of copyrights."

"So let's call it something else, so we don't get sued too," January remarked.

"I think of it as a Bestiarum Vocabulum, as such things were known in the Middle Ages," Branwen said.

"Right, the Bestiary it is then!" January smiled, and Branwen shook her head.

"So back on point, while Cray and I start digging for suspects through rideshares, what other options do we have?"

"I believe we should look back at our previous suspects," Branwen said with a frown. "As it has been pointed out, the Summoner may be using video camouflage. That means those we have exonerated in the past may yet be guilty."

"You mean me," January scowled.

"No," Cray insisted. "I have you on multiple cameras all through Ferndale Pride and the Technofest. Some of it could be deep fakes, but not all of it. It would have taken months to insert you into all that footage, even by someone as good as Avery. Besides, I studied the video. It isn't faked."

"But that still leaves your father, and your brother," Branwen declared. "We exonerated them before because they were indoors, and were not recorded leaving before the summonings. But given that they might be using camouflage and alternate transportation, they may have left without us knowing it."

January did not know how to feel about that. The amount of good will she could conjure for either of her male family members could not have filled a thimble. But on the other hand, could either truly be the Summoner of a nightmare like the djieien? Could either have killed that homeowner in Ferndale, or their dog?

"My father would faint if he was ever face to face with a djieien," January spat. "Julian, he'd kill people, I'm sure of it. But he's a coward. The last thing I saw of him was his back, as he ran away from me and hid. He's a troll - the internet kind - not the Norse kind. He's brave when he can hide behind a computer screen, gutless when a fist is in range of his face."

January noted the raised eyebrows and other looks all around. That made her realize that she had loosed more invective than she had intended. Even so, she did not feel any need to temporize, or make excuses for her spite. She simply stared back at everyone else.

"I will make an effort to speak with them." Branwen broke the awkward moment with her statement. "If possible, I will search their abodes while they are away."

"Can you tell if they are magic users?" January asked. "Like how you knew I was?"

"Yes," Branwen said. "Given more time and practice, you will be able to sense magical auras as well. I have never detected a trace of magical ability in either however."

"Couldn't they mask their auras?" Avery offered. "In some RPGs you can do that, to make yourself look like a mundane."

"Yes, that is entirely possible," Branwen admitted. "It was a technique developed millennia ago. Some say by spies and assassins. It became more widespread when the Christians conquered Rome, and Pagan magicians were forced to hide to escape the purges that followed. The same was true during the Witch Hunts later."

"Like any military or communication technology, every advance engenders a counter to block it," Cray noted.

"And it might not be one of them in the first place," Avery said. "That family tree goes back a long way. It's more like a family jungle. Even if it's a relative, it could be anyone."

"Well, at least we can sense when the summonings take place," January said. "With two of us, that gives us a better chance to stop him, or her, the next time. Whoever it is."

"Yes, but our ability to sense the dimensional rifts is limited," Branwen noted. "All the Summoner needs to do is perform their workings out of our range of our sensing, and we shall never know it."

"What is our range of our sensing?" January asked.

"I know not with any certainty," Branwen shrugged her shoulders. "Within a few miles at least. I was not able to sense the summoning in Ferndale from Belle Isle. I only learned of it because Cray detected it on the internet and police channels."

"It's too bad we don't have a summoning radar system, like the old Distant Early Warning Line across the Arctic," Cray thought aloud.

"Brilliant!" Branwen's eyes lit up with a crimson glow. "That is exactly what we require, and we shall have it!"

"What?" Avery rubbed the back of his head. "I can build a lot of things, but I don't have a clue how to make magical radar."

"I do," Branwen insisted. "January and I shall enchant a series of poppets, and spread them in a net across the Metro area. We shall link our essences to them, and thusly extend our awareness through them, just as a spider can feel the vibrations of its web."

"We can?" January wondered. "We will?"

"Oh yes indeed," Branwen told her. "This shall also form another excellent teaching opportunity. It is time you learn the skills of the artificer."

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post Yesterday, 08:01 PM
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’January had seen that force of arms up close and personal twice now. She could not imagine anything lasting against the older heroine for long.’
- - I agree!

Very neat flashback to when we were first introduced to Blood Raven, given that we now know so much more about her.

This episode really gave us some rich detail on the danger they face.

So the Raven gang will lay out a magical web to snare their foe. Well, to enhance their detection of the Summoner’s magicks at any rate.

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