Faithslinger Chronicles – Shadow Games Chapter 3

The courtyard outside of the Graffiti Bar was a small area, no more than thirty feet by thirty feet and made up of red bricks just like the buildings that bordered the square. Only a set of four lamp posts lit the area, one close to each corner. Earp stepped forward into the brick courtyard outside of the Graffiti bar by one of the light posts to address the ghouls standing before him. "Aren't you boys…" started Earp, but he didn't get a chance to finish.

The ghouls charged the trio before anything else could happen. The first two charged Earp, knocking him down as he tried to draw his service firearm and pinning him against the ground. The other two charged both Noland and Warner. Warner threw up his arms as the ghoul collided with him and the two fell to the ground. The other ghoul leapt at Noland, but his horns had already bore down and slammed into the ghoul. The impact resounded with a crushing sound and the back of Noland's mane was smattered with dark droplets of spat up ghoul blood. The ghoul fell off Noland's horns and curled up in a fetal position on the ground.

The ghoul on Warner bit down on his forearm, sinking his teeth into his flesh. Warner winced under the pain and then pulled his arm away from the ghoul's mouth, pulling teeth out of his jaws. The ghoul did not pay any mind to Warner's actions and began to thrust his head down for another bite. However his head did not make it to Warner as it intersected with the massive bear claw, knocking him into the brick wall of the building closest to him. Cloud Redfeather stood there in his massive brown bear form over Warner for a moment then hunched down on all fours and began dragging Warner away by his collar with his mouth. Redfeather's claws carved a good section of the ghouls face away, rendering the jaw muscles useless.

The last two ghouls had Earp pinned down by the arms, keeping him from getting up off the ground. The one of Earp's left held down his arm and shoulder while the one the right was wrestling Earp's firearm from him. It leaned down and bit down on his forearm, but reeled back hissing "it burns! It burns!" The one of the left threw up his arm and tried to bring it down on Earp's skull, but impacted on a wall of solidified air. It looked up to see Tremere's arm raised with the palm of his hand facing him. Aiden had his blasting rod aimed at the trio and said 'Forza'. A blast of energy slammed into Tremere's shield, splashing out in all directions. Both ghouls were struck by the force and were thrown in different directions. Noland charged up to one, crashing his hoof into its chest and crushing the ribcage inward. Tremere drew his blasting rod from his coat, aimed it at the last ghoul, and said 'Kasai'. The ghoul burst into flames from the inside out, leaving a confectionary corpse behind.

"Are you all right? What happened?" said Cloud a moment later. Aiden had already run inside to get a first aid kit from the Graffiti Bar as Marc Tremere was checking on Warner's arm for damage. His arm was perforated by the ghoul's teeth, but the bleeding was minimal at best. Aiden returned with the first aid kit and started treating Earp's shoulder wound.

"I don't know" said Earp. "We left the bar to head down Kiwanis Park to meet up with Ash when his boys jumped us."

Warner said "We need to call this in. I'll have some of the lab boys here to collect what they can off these four." Warner looked back at Noland "Thanks for helping us back there Noland."

"I did not do anything to help you squire" replied the fae as he strutted back to the Graffiti Bar. "I would not have the Mortal Knight perish before my task is complete, that is all. I will give you a day to settle your affairs, then we will settle our business." With that, Noland departed from the scene, leaving the others to pick up what was left of the scene.

Warner called in a CSI squad to pick up what was left of the bodies and collect anything trace evidence left behind. Aiden checked out the wounds that Warner and Earp had before packing up the first aid kit. "If you need us, you know where to find us" said Tremere. "Fraternity Row" chimed in Aiden as they walked away from the scene as well.

Aiden tossed a set of car keys to Cloud and said "They're all yours." Cloud looked back at Warner and Earp with a smile "Gentlemen, your chariot awaits."

Earp shook his head in disgust. "This ain't happening."

"Oh it is happening, Earp. You got a shoulder injury that needs healing. Warner's can heal up faster than you, but he needs time as well. Aiden and Tremere can't drive because your car's hooked up with modern electronics, which leaves me to chauffer you around. Now where are we going?"

"Once the CIS team gets here, we're going to Kiwanis Park. I got a bone to grind with Ash."

The CIS Team arrived and proceeded to 'collect' the scene. Collect being the operative word, working with the SAU squad meant collecting all evidence and covering up the scene. The police department didn't need the press to find out about these occurrences. As promised, Cloud Redfeather drove Earp and Warner to Kiwanis Park. Earp answered a call on his cell phone during the trip and turned to Warner once he hung up.

"I just got a call from the CIS Parker. After we checked in Ricky and Lucy, they had to be transferred to solitary to detox. Apparently they were under the influence of something similar to rage induced by steroids. They say that they found a residue in the empty vials they were carrying. The same residue was found on the ghouls as well, but toxin screening hasn't determined was it way."

Warner made no reaction to this new.

"Warner, are you listening to me?"

Warner took a heavy breath and turned to Earp. "I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to say it. Earp, you're a real ass sometimes."

"The hell? Where is this coming from?"

Warner continued "You tend to shoot from the hip without thinking about others. You apply your expectations on everyone else and when they don't act the way you want you lean in on them. Like Noland for instance. He's just trying to do his job like everyone else and you snapped at him because he was in your way."

Earp looked back at him for a moment taking in what he just said. "Fine. But I don't expect anything more from anyone else than I do of myself."

"But you react without knowing little to nothing about them in the first place" replied Warner.

"You're sticking up for Noland? What's the story between you too? Why would you stand up for that lummox? "

"Several years ago, the Summer Knight died. Murdered actually. Either way, it created an imbalance in the balance of power between the Summer and Winter Courts and any changeling that had not taken sides was getting grabbed up. Noland is a gruff, an enforcer for the Summer Court. So when he found me and tried to get me to side with the Summer Court, but I wasn't about to sign onto a war that wasn't my cause. So...I pulled some strings and signed on with the Pizza Lord."

"WAIT! There's a Pizza Lord?" said Cloud.

"Eyes front Cloud!" snapped Earp.

Warner glowered at Earp for a moment. "Yes, there is a Pizza Lord. I never met the guy, just a few members of his elite guard. Anyway, I talked one of them into letting me be their squire, which is a big deal to the farie folk."

"Wait farie folk. Like in little people with wings flying around like shiny little balls of light. Clap your hands and they come back to life" said Cloud again.

"I wouldn't mock them Cloud. From what I heard, they attacked a very powerful fae in efforts to protect our lord and killed her too."

"How powerful could she be to be taken down by a couple of glowing lights?" remarked Cloud.

"The Summer Lady" replied Warner.

Cloud let out a low whistle. Earp took that in for a moment, and then said "If Noland was hounding you so much that you felt that you had to join up with the Pizza Lord, why are you standing up for him now?"

"Because Noland isn't his name, it's his punishment. I don't know the full story, but he did something so bad that he's been exiled from the Summer Court. He can't go home or see his family. He's still in service of the Summer Queen, but when he isn't tasked with a mission, he's left to wander the Never Never aimlessly. Anyone that addresses him must address him by his punishment, No Land, as a harsh reminder of what he did. It just changed over to Noland over the years by coincidence."

"Um guys?" chimed in Cloud.

"What is it now, Cloud?" said Earp, but looking beyond Cloud was more than enough to stop Earp. The park was lit up with red and blue flashing lights coming from a couple of cop cars parked in the parking lot. There was evidence tape sectioning off a refrigerated van and the CSIs were wrapping up the scene. The men climbed out of the car and proceeded on to the scene, however the cops stopped Cloud from entering the area. Earp and Warner approached the CSIs as they finalized packing up the truck.

"Tucker, we got a call to show up here. What's going on here?" asked Warner.

CSI Tucker was an older man in his late 40s with balding faded brown hair and chestnut eyes. He'd been on the job for nearly 20 years and remained stoic considering the scene before them. "There was a noise complaint from the neighborhood in the area. I guess they figured that some kids were having an afterhours party in the park. The cops came out to find the van in the parking lot with the back door opened. Inside are several cadavers, a couple of them snacked on. That's why they called us in to investigate. How did you find out about this?"

"We got called in as well. Someone must have thought it was oogie and felt SAU need to be here" replied Warner.

"Anyway" said Tucker," We got all we needed, so we're packing up and taking it down town. I'll fill you in once I have something else to give you." By then a flatbed truck had pulled up and began to load the truck onto the back.

Earp and Warner walked back to Cloud. "Any idea what to make of that?" said Earp.

"No idea" said Warner," but I'm wondering how it is tied into the attack at the Graffiti Bar or what happened this morning."

"Let's head back. I think we all could use some sleep" said Earp. As the trio headed back to the car, Earp's cell phone began to ring. He checked the Caller ID, but the number came up 'Private Number'. Earp answered the phone.

"Good evening, Mortal Knight. I hope I'm not interrupting you at this late hour" a man's voice purred over the phone. Earp recognized the voice of Gentleman Johnnie Marcone. Gentleman Johnnie Marcone was one of the biggest crime lords in Chicago, but also the only mortal to sign the Unseelie Accords providing him with his own barony and all recognition associated with his position. Through a slip of the tongue earlier this year during a fight with a Grendelkin, Detective Earp conscripted himself to the crime lord.

"What do you want Marcone?" growled Earp.

"I've been petitioned by a local in your area seeking representation by the Mortal Court. A Mr. Ash to be specific. Are you familiar with him?"

Ash was the leader of a cabal of ghouls that resided in Phoenix, but they are deemed outcasts by the other supernatural members in the city due to their visage and taste for raw flesh. They served their purpose cleaning up the undesirables in the city that the police would rather have swept under the rug than to deal with, but are deemed bottom feeders none the less. "Yeah, I know where to find him."

"As always, I would appreciate it if you provide your full cooperation to them" said Marcone.

"You arranged the call to me because Ash called you for help?" asked Earp.

"It pays well to have eyes and ears everywhere Det. Earp " replied Marcone, and with that the call ended.

"Hold on a moment. I have to go see Ash, he's holding information related to the case. Stay with the car, I'll be right back" said Earp. He then walked into the park to see the leader of the ghoul cabal.

Kiwanis Park is a very open park with many rolling hills and various foot paths and sitting areas setup around a large manmade lake. There aren't many hiding places throughout the park, but the most frequent hang out below a bridge that overlaps a couple of walkways. As Earp approached the bridge, he caught the eyes of a number of ghouls watching his movements from various locations. As he continued his path, a few of these ghouls quietly approached him from all directions, but they made no attempt to engage or hinder the detective from his meeting place. They too were decked out similarly to the four that attacked him earlier in the night.

Earp continued walking along his path to the bridge here he found Ash waiting for him. Ash was a taller and leaner ghoul in comparison to the others, standing at six foot two inches. He wore a wife beater under a black coat, black khakis, and cloth fedora hat with little skull studs adorning it. As Earp approached the ghoul, he noticed that he along with the other ghouls were sporting recent injuries, mostly cuts and bruises, though some including Ash were sporting injuries similar to broken bones either bandaged and splinted or in slings.

"Bout time you showed up Earp" said Ash. " For a moment I thought we didn't warrant your time."

"I was on my way to talk to you anyway. I got jumped earlier today by four of your boys. If you want to take me out, just come at me yourself" said Earp.

"Wasn't my doing, Earp. Our meat wagon hadn't shown up for a few days and my people were getting hungry. So I made a few calls to get some food here and it finally arrived tonight. I sent four of my boys to collect the food and bring it back, but when they didn't show up I came down with a few others to check it out. That's when they jumped us and did this. They even tried to take a bite out of a couple of us, but we weren't quite tasty to them so they left. That's about when the cops showed up and took the rest from us."

"So you had a falling out and got your ass kicked by a couple of your own people cause you couldn't provide for them. So?" replied Earp.

"Before we bailed when your cops showed up, one of my people were able to get me this" replied Ash. Ash produced a small Ziploc bag from his coat pocket and handed it to Earp. Inside the bag was an index finger sitting in a pool of transuculent silver fluid.