So Far Untitled - Chapter 12: The Harajuku's Plan
There were many Gate Keepers packed in the large stone room. Lord Coalpitch and Lady Sarcastia stood on top of a coffin, and looked at the crowd nervously. Lord Coalpitch had taken considerable risk to address the most recent situation by asking all but his most vital of assistants to come south and meet.
"This meeting will be brief," Load Coalpitch started when he thought the time was right. Harajuku was behind him in the shadows, almost expressionless, but with the slightest hint of a smile. "Afterwards, this would be a good time to introduce each other. I would have come up north to be with my people, but situations require I stay here. Some of you may notice not all my assistants are here; they have been asked to be addressed by Lady Vapora in her compound in Havre De Grace."
Lady Sarcastia continued. "Many of you felt the huge ripple of the death of one of our own. This was far stronger and reached further than Winnidread's death of a few weeks ago. We have gotten word this has spread across the Americas, and even the United Kingdom and parts of France, Spain, and lower Scandinavia have reported feeling it as well."
"Last time this happened on this scale was quite some time ago, when Lord Volcanus was killed by what humans knew as the Zodiac Killer," Lord Coalpitch said. "Which is why we think that this event was the death of a Lord or Lady."
"Not an assistant," Lady Sarcastia emphasized, and looked at the distant worried looks of her closest staff. She, too, wondered what happened to Donnabel. "We are pretty sure this must have been an older Lord or Lady, but we are not sure. Many have not reported in yet."
"The reason this was so intense was the Lord or Lady's soul was harvested, and ripped from The Gate Keeper Consciousness. This has not happened in some time." Lord Coalpitch lowered his brow. "This had to be a murder."
"Shiante activity was monitored immediately. After the incident with Winnidread and Harona, it seem to be a good place to start. However, we found a significant drop in Shiante density in this area, after what seemed like a steady increase since..."
Since the Half Breed left us, mouthed Harona.
"... since a while ago. Some of you may have remembered when a Gate Keeper of mixed decent left us last year, and a similar thing happened. But may I remind you, her soul was not harvested. Same with Winnidread or... well, anyone else."
"Rest assured, we are investigating this," Lord Coalpitch said, quelling the crowd with gentle hand gestures. "We think the Soot Man has been part of this, since he has been witnessed in a rogue harvesting."
"Some of you may have wondered why the Soot Man did not harvest Winnidread," Lady Sarcastia said, although Lord Coalpitch wished she hadn't, "and we do not know. He may be getting bolder. We thought he did not harvest Winnidread because he was afraid we could pinpoint where the soul was going, but now that we have lost anther so violently, and are unable to pinpoint where his or her soul went, that means the soul has not left this plane."
"That means the harvester is still among us." added Lord Coalpitch. "Now... go and tell the others. Be careful of the Soot Man. He kills with Shiante. He is somehow controlling them, and we will let you know when he has been captured. This time he won't be sent back, but imprisoned. Even if he is half demon, Lady Sarcastia has experience with imprisoning such entities, and we will deal with the consequence."
The assembled crowd quickly dispersed. Within minutes, the only ones left in the room were Lord Coalpitch, Lady Sarcastia, Harajuku and her assistant, along with Harona, Marideath, and Scarabina.
"Marideath," Lady Sarcastia said. "What can you see?"
"No changes. Many Lords and Ladies have not reported in, but I do not know enough of them to find out if they are still alive." Marideath looked at her cards, spread across the floor. "Still no sign of Donnabel."
"My eyes deceive me," Lady Sarcastia said. She looked at one of the cards. "Who is The Empress?"
Marideath picked up the card. "You, I assume."
"Funny..." she said. "Usually the Empress is a Goddess." She started at Marideath for a long time. "My eyes are still new, Lord Coalpitch. They do not see everything yet."
Lord Coalpitch stepped down from the coffin and looked at Harajuku. "What do you think?"
"I think it is time I reveal a solution." She stood, and pushed her assistant Shikyo forward. The girl was still weighed down with a heavy yoke.
The longer the Harajuku had stayed, the more nervous they got at the obvious abuse of her assistant. She screamed at her, yelled at her, and pushed her around. Supposedly, this was training, but it reminded Lady Sarcastia of a woman in a house a long time ago. She tried to think of who that was... she met so many people, but she recalled someone who abused their staff.
Marideath cleared her throat. "I am going to go to sleep now. I still hurt."
"Yes, Marideath. Get some sleep. We all could use a little sleep after that ... incident."
Scarabina rose, and yawned. "I am going to bed with Purginia, if you don't mind."
Lady Sarcastia nodded. "Your dreams will be troublesome, but please... if you sense anything..."
The three girls nodded sleepily, and left the room.
"Harona. You must be worried about Donnabel," Lady Sarcastia said, and tried to see if the Harajuku's face changed expression.
I will stay here, if it is okay with you, she signed lightly.
The Harajuku grimaced, but it was hard to see if it was a smile or a pained grit.
"Yes. I would imagine it would be lonely in the loft. Right. Well, Harajuku..."
Harajuku pushed her assistant forward.
"The Soot Man is a rogue harvester, and might be a killer of Gate Keepers. This is troubling. For everyone. To harvest souls, he must be at least half demon, but does he keep them for himself? It does not matter. The only way to destroy a demon... is with one of its own kind."
Harajuku pulled the yoke from her assistant who looked a bit shocked at first. Then the young girl with tight braids shook her head, and began to change. Her face contorted and twisted. It turned white, and curled tusks formed from her lower lip. Her head elongated and then split into two wedges that formed fat horns. Her arms grew large, and struck the ground, and supported her expanding form on its knuckles.
"Of course..." murmured Lady Sarcastia.
The back expanded and spikes like porcupine quills sprouted from the spine. Her legs curled under, and became almost frog-like. When the transformation was complete, the demon was squatting at 15 feet from stooped shoulder to curled knuckle, and must have been almost 20 feet long from its flat nose to the tip of its spiked tail. It made a sound like a donkey, except far more terrifying.
"This is Bentai, a forest demon from what used to be lower Nepal. Captured in 1893, he is quite tame now, although a bit slow and stupid. He was a gift to the Harajuku by the Dragon Lord Matsumoto for guarding his temple in Tokyo. He comes in very handy, and was sent with me for the very purpose of finding and capturing this Soot Man."
Everyone assembled was very nervous. The creature in the room could easily kill everyone one of them and consume their souls within seconds. Harajuku suddenly had the upper hand.
Lord Coalpitch seemed the most alarmed. "How do you... expect this sort of thing to be... subtle... in an urban environment."
"I don't," Harajuku said. "But he will get the job done."
"This is not only unacceptable, but dangerous!" Lady Sarcastia said, but then trailed off when the demon turned to face her. She reflexively averted her eyes to avoid the demon's gaze.
Harajuku looked displeased. "You released a half demon many years ago."
"She was a small girl. This... thing... could uproot a building and cause untold chaos."
Harajuku's eyes narrowed. "Do not be afraid of him... he senses fear."
Harona remembered seeing the Half Breed tear a large tree from its roots and throw it at a construction crane she thought was too loud like one would toss a small stone. Harajuku usually did not consort with demons, but she knew that some of them had them as slaves for various purposes. She wondered if this demon would be part of her training, and that feeling of fluttery pleasure filled her stomach again.
"Do not touch him, either. His touch causes skin to turn black and whither." Harajuku said in Harona's direction, and distracted the demon to look at her.
Harona backed off when she realized she inadvertently had been stretching out her hand to the demon's face. His gaze looked familiar, and Harona realized that the Half Breed had similar eyes, but instead of burning coals of soul-less fury, the Half Breed actually had a glimmer of... humanity. This difference both intrigued and sickened her.
Lord Coalpitch's eyes brightened. "Well, the more I think about this... I think this is just the sort of thing that we need--"
"Oh, stop sucking up to her," Lady Sarcastia spat at him. She turned to the Harajuku and said, "Put him... or her, back into the girl again until I have had more time to think about this."
Harajuku did nothing. The demon growled stupidly, and pawed at the stone floor with a huge hand, creating sparks, and then sniffed the result.
"I see," Lady Sarcastia said, and tilted her head. "A Harajuku bows to no one."
"You have nothing to fear, Sarcastia. He is under my complete control. He will not move from this spot unless I command him to."
Lady Sarcastia wondered what her conscience would say... if her conscience was still alive. She remembered something Lady Vapora once told her, "Conscience sounds like consciousness for a reason." She looked at the demon again and resigned herself to the fact that things had now officially gotten out of hand.
And they were bound to get worse.
Why do you not trust her? signed Harona when she was sure the Harajuku wasn't watching.
"Who said I didn't trust her?" Lady Sarcastia said as the Harajuku turned back. She was sure that even though the Harajuku had no expression, inside she was smiling like a crocodile.
"I say we sleep on this, and my next evening, we will set the demon loose and... I mean, have the demon find the Soot Man," said Lord Coalpitch with the enthusiasm of a sweating prostitute in church.
Lady Sarcastia nodded, but instead of heading towards her chambers, she made a sharp angle to Marideath's room.
An hour later, all the cards were on the table, spiraling in so many directions, the reading was partially on a chair, the floor, and across the bed.
Lady Sarcastia rubbed her aching neck, and surmised the situation as calmly as she could.
"Okay, so I have a Harajuku who may or may not be planning to kill me, who is the only one who can control a demon who could set fire and uproot the DC Metro area like several atomic bombs, and may have already killed Donnabel. No one knows where Donnabel is, I have another assistant who may defect to the Harajuku, and Lord Coalpitch seems oblivious. Meanwhile, the Soot Man is killing wantonly, the Shiante are under control of something that may be using the Soot Man to harvest souls, and not all the Lord and Lady Gate Keepers are accounted for. Oh, and everyone but me thinks this is related to Misabel. Do I have this right?"
"That sounds about right," Marideath said, looking back and forth... and behind... at the cards all over the place. "The future is unclear. It could go anywhere from here."
"Tell me..." Lady Sarcastia said in a low whisper, "when you read for me in that coffee shop, were my readings always this bad?"
"Hard to tell. I would say yes, but since I had no idea who or what the hell they were about, I can't really give you a fair comparison."
"Right. No offense, but this requires a professional. I am going to find Jason. Last I heard, he was going to see Sekhmet and Isis. Prepare my red travel clothing."
"Right. I'll get Scarabina to do that."
All text copyright 2005 Grig Larson, all rights reserved. No reprinting without permission