Wicked Grin (Razorgrin's origins in the Secret World)

Hey everyone - I’m currently writing some SWL fanfic, it’s basically a retelling of small bits of the game as if my player character wasn’t a silent protagonist. I just like to imagine Razorgrin causing Sonnac problems and giving Brigadier Lethe a whole lot of crap. XD

With the whole “retelling” thing in mind, I’m keeping the writing spoiler-blurred, just click to read and be forewarned of spoilers.

I’m going to be posting it up by “chapter,” which the chapters are really small-- about two and a half to three pages long. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments, hope you enjoy!


It must have been four in the morning when the phone rang. A man’s foot, dangling comfortably over the edge of rumpled cotton sheets, twitched in reflex at the sound. A heavy, tired sigh preceded a hand snaking out from beneath the warm comfort of blankets to slap at the offending device. When it didn’t shut up after his assault, thinking it had a snooze button in his half dreaming state, he grabbed it and pulled the phone under the sheets and up to his face to squint at it menacingly.

He sighed again. Pressing the green button, he slapped the black glass device up to his ear. “…Hi, Mom. Yeah, doing great. I-- Mom, do you realize it’s the middle of the night here? Yeah, I…” He went quiet, sighing again as Mom just kept going. Resigned, he answered, “Yeah, work is great. Everyone’s really nice. I-- no, Mom, I couldn’t find anything similar at home. It’s a startup company, I’m getting in as a lead coder so there’s a lot of upward mobility there-- Ugh…”

Sitting up, he finally shoved the sheets aside and peered around the room blearily. Aside from being sleep-crusted, his blue eyes couldn’t make sense of much beyond the tip of his nose. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed to put his feet on the floor, he hunched over the phone and patted around on his bedside table for his glasses. “No, Mom, I’m not-- I’m getting up out of bed. It’s…” He slipped on his glasses, simple black rectangle frames, “It’s 4:15 in the morning here, Mom…”

Tired gaze becoming more unfocused as he wished he wasn’t hearing what he was currently hearing, he rubbed his forehead and this time he did roll his eyes at his mother. “Ugh… no Mom, I haven’t met any cute girls at work. …No, I haven’t had much of a chance to go out.”

At the mention of the city, he pointed his gaze to the open window to his right. The streets were busy even at this ungodly hour, London being what it was. He’d found the drone of passing cars to be soothing, and the cool misty air refreshing, so he’d left his window open. He was almost tuning his mother out in favor of listening to the buzz of the streets, until she said something that made him roll his eyes all over again. “N-No, Mom… I haven’t met any cute guys, either. Yes, that’s very open minded of you, I know-- I-- Sure, I’ll talk to Dad for a minute.”

He had to stifle a sigh of relief while his mother was handing over the phone to his dad. “Hey, Dad. Yeah, I’m doing good. Yeah, I’ve got the door locked. …Did Mom happen to mention to you that it’s 4:30 in the morning here? No? Oh, okay. Thanks, Dad. Good night.” Pressing the red button on his phone, he slapped it and his glasses back onto the bedside table, and then flopped back into bed.

He’d gotten back to sleep for about thirty seconds, before a sharp stabbing pain radiated from the back of his throat. Bolting upright again, he coughed sharply to try and clear the blockage in his windpipe, hand going to his neck to scrabble uselessly at his throat. His eyes watered and he wore a mask of panic, but just as soon as the agony started, it was gone again. He coughed once more just to be sure, and then sat on the edge of his bed, breathing labored and mind frantic to figure out what had just happened to him.

Good and awake now thanks to adrenaline, he pushed himself to his feet and trudged to the bathroom, grabbing his glasses. By the time he flipped on the bathroom light and stepped in front of the mirror and sink, he had his glasses slipped into place over his ears. He lifted his gaze to peer at his reflection in the mirror.

He screamed. The face that looked back at him was NOT right. The masculine, sharp angles of his face and his Roman nose were the same as always, but his ears had gone long and pointy, sticking out a good four inches from the sides of his head. There were-- noticeable lumps on his forehead, just beneath his hairline-- the nubs of growing horns. His hair was the wrong color, looking more like the color of dark blood than the natural orangish-red he’d had when he’d laid down to sleep last night. And his eyes, they glowed a nearly neon blue, not the normal stormy grey-blue he was familiar with.

Lifting his hands at his own reflection as if to ward off a blow, he then saw that he had …talons? Claws? Really long nails? They stuck out a good inch or more from the tips of his fingers and looked wicked, filed to sharp points. “What the f’k? What the f’k?!” He shook his hands helplessly, as if he could shake the claws off of his hands.

Looking back and forth from his hands to his face in the mirror, he tried to sideline the panic and figure out what was going on. Had he been assaulted by some kind of midnight rogue makeup artist who dyed his hair and glued things to him while he was sleeping? Reaching up, he yanked at both of his ears-- and the sharp sting of pain told him that they were both very real, very much attached and he’d just nicked one of them with one of his claws. “GAH!”

Awkwardly putting a band-aid on the cut on his ear, he then lifted a hand gingerly to his brow, careful of the claws. He poked at the horn-lumps tentatively, they were really sore and stuck up cartoonishly, the skin red and agitated. He could feel something in there, actual growths of bone-like structures threatening to puncture through his skin. “What the f’k…” He reiterated, for emphasis.

Looking back to his hands again, he glanced at a pair of fingernail clippers sitting on his sink, determined to at least do something about all this nonsense. Putting the blades against the side of one his claws, he squeezed the levers-- and then screamed all over again. He had never in his life had the misfortune to have to trim a dog’s nails, so the presence of a quick in his own nails had baffled him completely. The claws spurted blood at the incision point, and he inadvertently threw the bloodied clippers across the bathroom as he clapped his other hand to the wound. “FFFFFAAAACK!”

After mummifying his wounded finger with gauze, claw and all, he gave up and trudged into his kitchen. Hoping a pot of coffee would lend some sanity to the situation, he reached for the carafe.

It exploded. The glass didn’t just shatter, it threw sparks of blue energy as it burst into pieces in his hand, sending glass shrapnel across the room fast and hard enough to imbed the shards into the backsplash over his kitchen sink. He shrieked again, tossing the plastic remains of the carafe into the sink and leaping backwards in a panic.

That would only be the first of many, many explosions. His orange juice bottle blew the top off in his grip, sending juice cascading onto the ceiling. Quitting the kitchen, he went into the living room and blew up his television set. Pressing a button on his remote caused it to throw sparks and smoke. Just walking past his shelves caused books, movies and albums to fly at him, scattering his collections across the room. He was vaguely aware that he should probably call in sick to work or something, but touching his phone scared him at the moment, he didn’t want to blow that up, too.

Then the truly violent explosions came. After his furniture had started slinging itself around his apartment of its own accord, he was huddled in a corner fearfully as he started breathing hard, and felt a surge of… power… overcome him like lightning crashing down from above. It hurled his body up the wall, forcing his arms out to the sides and sending blue energy skyward from his eyes and mouth, as if he were a living conduit.

He endured a week like that. The explosions eventually lessened, and he found that he could control the blue energy to some degree. At some point, he’d managed to gingerly poke his cellphone and hear a series of voicemails from his new boss. The final one was telling him not to bother coming back to work anymore, he’d been let go for neglecting to call in. It was just as well- by that point, the little nubs on his brow had grown into full antlers, tall and velvety as a deer’s. Relearning how to walk through doorways without knocking them against the frame had been a real pain.

As he was finally getting around to picking up the wreckage of his flat, there came a knock at the door. When he opened it, a black-haired woman in a white blouse greeted him cooly. “Good afternoon, Mr. Arclight. Are you–” She paused, looking him up and down, just raising a delicate eyebrow at the horns as if she’d seen stranger things. “From the look of things, I guess that question is moot… Bee problem? There’s a lot of that going around…”

Letting herself into his apartment, he watched her in bafflement as she looked around his place appraisingly, and then rolled into a practiced sounding spiel. “Mr. Arclight-- can I call you Micah?” She didn’t wait for a response. “I represent an organization located in London, a very large organization with branches across the globe and connections in every government. Although, we see ourselves as a… silent partner. We pull strings. Big strings-- prime ministers, presidents, kings. Dark days are coming, the world is in turmoil and we’re recruiting soldiers, agents, adventurers… Crusaders.”

He blinked wildly at that last bit. Had he heard her right? Crusaders? She continued, “And we offer good terms. A fresh start and a network unlike any other. Unlimited resources, a fantastic medical plan, and a way to harness and use your incredible powers. It may be a big transition but look at it this way… This is a unique opportunity. You have been chosen. You have been granted powers beyond what most can imagine. So you can be an outcast in a world that would never understand or accept what you’ve become… Or you can join others like you and take a stand against a rising darkness. And embark into a journey into the unknown, into the hidden places. Into the secret world… The choice, as we’re so fond of saying, is entirely yours. But know this… your emerging powers will attract plenty of attention, and not everyone is as accommodating as we are. …This will get you where you need to go.”

The woman handed him an envelope with a red cross on the front. He took it numbly, hearing the threats just as clearly as the offers. “There are instructions inside, use it-- or don’t. It’s your prerogative. You won’t see me again-- I trust you’ll make the right decision.”

She headed for the door. Once she was outside of his threshold, she stopped and turned back to him. “By the way, our organization? It’s called the Templars. You might have heard of us. We’ve been around a while… Good day.” She then waved, and wandered away.

Micah stood in the ringing quiet in her wake, envelope in his hand, still blinking in confusion. Finally, he repeated aloud, “…What the ■■■■?”


Micah stood in front of his bathroom mirror and stared at himself. He had carefully popped his contacts into place, going to great lengths to avoid poking himself in the eye with his talons. It took him a small age to accomplish the feat, but he took the risk rather than going out in public in his coke bottle glasses. He had the Templar card in front of him, lying on the sink. Whoever these people were, they wanted him to wander across Ealdwick and find their organization. All fine and dandy, but he currently had massive deer horns attached to his skull. How was he supposed to get through the city streets looking like this?

He started with the simple things that he could actually do something about; he shaved first. It had been over a week since he’d bothered. He had patchy, wild red growths along his jaw that only served to make him look even more like some kind of crazed Narnia escapee. Micah shaved in an old fashioned way like his father had taught him, with a shaving brush and soap, and a straight razor. Once his face was clean, he started to feel more human. His hair was getting longer than he liked, but cutting it himself was daunting and a trip to the barber under the current circumstances was just… out of the question. He brushed ear-length locks straight back, and set them in place with pomade. Wiping his hands clean with a towel, he sighed and looked himself over.

All he needed now was a suit and a briefcase, and he’d look like a defense lawyer for woodland creatures. Snorting to himself, Micah squared his shoulders and told his reflection airly, “Your honor, my client Mr. Raccoon was nowhere near the plaintiff’s trash bins on the night of the twenty-second…” He almost managed the whole sentence without falling into a fit of giggles, but at the last moment he snorted and succumbed. A few moments of helpless laughter followed, with Micah leaning on the edge of his sink with his hands and giggling hard. He had no fear that he was cracking up, he already knew he was well past that point.

The giggles had put a smile on his face, making the next steps in his process seem automatic, less bothersome. Micah went to his closet and dug around for a button-up shirt. His t-shirts were useless to him now, as well as every hat he’d ever owned. He’d never get them around his antlers without destroying them. Settling on a crisp white one, he slipped it over his shoulders and wondered what else to wear. He had no idea what to expect once he found the Templars, so he went with “business casual.”

He wore distressed, fitted grey jeans and a red waistcoat, with a thin black tie that he tied around his neck loosely. The top button of his shirt was undone, and he rolled the sleeves of his button-up to just below his elbows. Micah debated whether or not to wear a suit jacket, but ultimately decided the waistcoat was enough for a London summer day. He picked his favorite shoes, low cowboy boots made of faux red snakeskin. The toes were adorned with embroidery on a lighter shade of leather, and curled upward smartly. His mother called them tacky, but he thought they were great.

Micah felt more normal than he had in days, but his smile started to wear thin once he remembered that he still had to figure out what to do about his antlers. Returning to his bathroom, he grimaced at his reflection and his horns in particular. He’d thought about just heading toward the location the Templars had specified under the cover of night, but he wasn’t sure if the place he was looking for would be locked up when he found it. Then what would he do-- hide in an alleyway all night until they opened up? He was daring to brave the daylight hours in hopes of reaching the Templars faster. That woman had mentioned benefits-- medical ones in particular. Micah had hopes that the Templars could help him with his antler situation.

First he tried just wrapping his antlers in a towel, trying to make it appear as if he was wearing a really big headwrap. Struggling to get the cloth closed around his ears and the broad prongs of his horns, he tucked the towel into place and then looked at his handiwork. It was ridiculous. The terrycloth abomination stayed on his head for all of three seconds before he tore it back off in frustration.

His next attempt involved yanking his bedsheets off his bed and draping them carefully over the horns, till the hem settled just above his eyes and the rest of the cloth trailed down his back like a cape. Then, a second sheet went across his shoulders and criss-crossed in front over his belly. He cinched it all closed with a spare belt. The thought he’d had was something along the lines of a “flying nun” situation, trying to appear as if he were wearing an elaborate habit or religious headdress. The actual result was nothing along those lines, he looked like a horned madman wrapped in bedsheets. Micah supposed that he could tell people he was a prophet of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but the entire costume would probably just draw more attention than the horns alone would have.

When the realization hit him, Micah pulled the blankets off of himself and chucked them directly in the hamper. He was going to look strange either way, so why not just go as he was? Nodding to himself, Micah opened his medicine cabinet and dug out an old stick of kohl-- black eyeliner that he’d kept from his goth kid phase in his not-so-distant past. If he was going to look weird, he might as well lean fully into it. A little bit of makeup around the eyes, and folks would be more likely to assume the horns and ears were just makeup, too. Carefully smudging the kohl around his eyes to get that careless guy-liner look, Micah then grinned devilishly into the mirror, doing his best Kubrick villain gaze. It made his vibrant blue eyes even more freakishly bright, and was actually kind of terrifying. He’d have to be mindful to not smile at anyone like that on purpose, lest he send them running.

Chucking the kohl onto the sink, he gave himself one last look-over, and then grabbed his Templar directions before he headed for the door. Stopping at a crap-catcher dish by his doorway, Micah slipped on some rectangular sunglasses with black lenses, and slid his wallet into his back pocket. Then he was off and out into the London streets.

Stepping out into the daylight, he steeled himself and then started marching down the sidewalk. The key here would be to keep moving, and move like there was nothing strange going on. Thankfully the location marked on the card in the Templar envelope was nearby. He squared his shoulders and sauntered along, a soft smile on his lips, just an elf with horns out for a walk.

The first people he encountered were a pair of old ladies chit chatting on a stoop. Their conversation came to a halt as Micah walked by, and they both stared at him with silvery brows furrowed. He couldn’t stop himself from smirking at them, daring to wink at the old birds as he passed. He heard one of them snort derisively behind him.

A trio of teenaged girls stepped out of a coffee shop, and two of the three reached for their smartphones to point their cameras at Micah. That gave him pause; adventuring out bravely was one thing, but having it recorded felt like a bad idea. He quickly lifted his hand over his face in a way that he hoped obscured it, and flipped the girls off. It was rude, but he also hoped it would have the dual effect of preventing himself from being identified and preventing the girls from using the footage anywhere online. He hurried away to the sound of digital camera shutters chirping.

Micah rounded a corner, and double checked the directions on the Templar card. He was in the specified location, but there was nothing there. Just a pair of cops standing guard in front of a gateway. Looking around to see if he’d maybe missed something, he decided to approach the bobbies and see if they had any information for him.

“Authorized pers-- Wot in the’ell are you sposed to be?” The first cop to look up at Micah blurted out, forgetting his practiced speech as he caught sight of the antlers.

“Pardon me, officers, but I’m hoping you can give me directions.” Micah said, not bothering to address the question and presenting the Templar card for the coppers to see.

“Iunno wot that’s sposed to be either, but you ain’t sposed to be here. Go’on, piss off back to th’ forest or wherever ya come from, goat boy.” The same cop answered, his cohort just furrowing his brows and staring hard at Micah with his mouth hanging half open.

“GOAT boy? Officer, these are quite clearly deer antlers.” Micah smirked, and argued just for the sake of being contrary. He was realizing it was great fun to watch the gears turn in the heads of the guardsmen, whether it was because they likely had only two braincells to rub together between them, or they were struggling to make logical sense of what they were seeing.

“All right lads, D.I Shelley. He’s with me.” A woman’s voice came from behind Micah, sounding like she was trying excessively hard to be tough and authoritative. When he half-turned to look at her, the face matched the voice; a short blonde woman in a black trenchcoat, visage creased from years of stress. D.I. Shelley was holding up a badge for the cops to see. They both nodded and straightened their postures, got quiet in the presence of a superior. She pocketed the badge and then grasped Micah by the elbow, dragging him away from the guards. “Oh, you are a right cheeky sh’t, aren’t you? Runnin’ about in broad daylight wearing your fae shape for all to see. Did you pop down to the market on your way here, too? Maybe stop to sign a few autographs? You know, they call it the ‘secret world’ for a bloody reason… The least you can do if you’re making trouble in London Above is to put on a human glamour first.”

Her grip was surprisingly strong, Micah lurched and followed as he was dragged and berated by the small, sassy woman. He found that he liked the appellation of “right cheeky sh’t,” and tried some sarcasm to live up to the expectation. “Sorry Detective, my glamour was still in the dryer.”

Shelley stopped, and tossed Micah’s elbow out of her grip roughly, bringing him to a halt in front of her. Waggling her finger in his face, she scolded, “Alright, cut the crap, forest lord. You’re a long ways from London Below, and an even longer ways from the Sylvan Grove.” What’s your business up here? Have the Druids of Avalon finally popped their clogs and let all the fauns run amok? That’s the last thing we bloody need.”

Micah couldn’t restrain his grin. This cop talking to him as if he was even remotely clued in about what was going on was just too funny to him, not to mention all the finger wagging. He lifted his hands helplessly and smirked as he told her, “Honestly lady, I have no idea what you just said to me. I never really watched Lord of the Rings, not my thing. I’m more of a Hitchcock and Romero kind of guy.” He grinned, and when she stared at him flatly he sobered and cleared his throat. “Ahem… I woke up like this a few days ago, I don’t know anything about any druids. I’m just following directions and hoping to get some help. This is all weird to me.”

He held out the Templar card to D.I. Shelley. When she looked down at it and saw the red cross, her eyes widened in realization. “Oh… ohoho, you poor bastard. You’re Bee-stung. I’d heard of strange things happening to folks who’ve swallowed Gaia’s Bee, but I have to admit, sprouting horns is a new one on me.” Shelley grabbed Micah’s elbow, and started dragging him toward a black car with official plates.

“Wait, I swallowed a bee? Like an actual bee?” Micah asked in a small bit of panic, stumbling along after Shelley as she dragged him over to the rear passenger door of the car. He remembered the sharp sting of pain in his throat, the choking fit that woke him on the night that this all started.

“Not my monkeys, not my circus. You can ask Sonnac all the questions you like, once we get you to Templar Hall. You’re getting the special police escort straight there, elf. I’m not having you traipse down the lane to terrify more of the locals, the Templars will burn us both at the stake.” Shelley opened the car door and put her hand on the back of Micah’s head, shoving. “In you get.”

“Wh–Ow!” Micah complained, as his antlers inevitably clonked against the frame of the car. Shrugging down low to compensate for the additional height, he scooted into the back seat. Shelley slid into the driver’s side, and as she did, Micah asked, “Am I under arrest? Aren’t you supposed to read me my rights, or something?” When she didn’t respond, he persisted, “Hey, at least tell me what’s going on…”

“Bloody Americans…” Shelley muttered, pulling the vehicle out into the road. She relented and told Micah, “Look lad, I only know what I need to know, for the sake of us little people. The big bad secret organizations, they’re the ones with the answers. Your new crowd, the Templars, they’ll fill you in on whatever they want you to know. Best be prepared, they’re as like to exact a heavy cost for those answers… I’d ask if you knew what you were getting into, but you’ve no idea what you’re getting into…”

The ominous weight of Shelley’s words hung like a cloud in the car’s cab. Micah sat back silently against the leather seat, and stared out of the car’s window as they drove. It was a short trip fortunately, after not too long the detective was pulling the car into a half-circle drive situated around an ornate fountain. The surrounding buildings were carved from stone, in some sort of Roman style, or possibly older. Red flags bearing the Templar cross hung from almost every bare spot in the facade, and flapped in the breeze.

As Micah stepped out of the car and closed the door behind him, Shelley leaned out of the driver’s side window and told him, “You’ll be safe here. Get to Sonnac. Get your answers. Be ready to pay a high price for them.” She put the car into drive, and as the wheels started easing forward for her to pull away, she called out to Micah, “My sincerest condolences!”

He stood in the center of the drive, watching Shelley pull away until the hum of the car’s motor was drowned out by the sound of the water rushing in the fountain. Turning his gaze to the largest building in the center and the men and women guarding the doors in stiff looking uniforms, he puzzled over what he was seeing. This was a secret organization? Massive halls, banners and flags, just down the block from apartments and shops? After thinking for a bit, Micah couldn’t resist lifting both of his hands, and gesturing to the buildings around himself. Asking no one in particular, he said, “How in the F’K is all of this supposed to be a secret?!”


Moving up the small stairs and through the open archway of Templar Hall, Micah passed the guards at the doors without them even batting an eye in his direction. Stepping past another set of large wooden doors that stood open and guarded, he came into a massive foyer with white and grey marble floors and stone columns holding up a massive dome. On every wall of the square foyer there were more large wooden doors flanked by guards, but only one set of doors stood open. Off to his right, Micah could see a large deep red carpet, and an ancient painting of St. George and the Dragon hanging above a mantle and fireplace.

He approached the open doorway, and rapped his knuckles twice on the wood. The lone occupant of the office was a handsome, dark-skinned man meticulously penning his signature on a stack of forms. He didn’t look up from his paperwork as he said, “Ah, come in, come in. Good to see you’re capable of following the directions on the back of a card. It is the basis for us getting along famously.” He was neatly dressed in black and white pinstripes, with the Templar cross on his tie clip. His tie and pocket kerchief were predictably, blood red. When the Templars had decided on a motif, they really stuck with it.

Micah walked into the room when invited, and when the man at the desk finally abandoned his paperwork and stood up, he had expected him to at least be mildly surprised about the antlers. Instead, the Templar had just gracefully maneuvered around his desk to shake Micah’s hand, smiling politely. “Of course, with an establishment like this one we’re practically in the Yellow Pages under ‘Crusaders.’ Richard Sonnac.” He introduced himself, shaking Micah’s hand with a firm grip.

He couldn’t help but smirk at Sonnac agreeing with his earlier criticism of the Templar way of hiding in plain sight. Micah chuckled and introduced himself, shaking Sonnac’s hand with a more delicate grip. He was trying to be careful of the claws. “Micah Arclight. You uh… don’t seem too bothered by the horns?”

“Indeed, I am not.” Sonnac confirmed, taking his hand back and steepling his fingers in front of his belly, arms relaxed at his sides. He started to pace his carpet while telling Micah, “It is rare, but there have been cases of those blessed by Gaia experiencing significant changes in their appearances. Usually, the culprit is a non-human ancestor. The bee disenchants any magics that had been woven over the chosen one to hide their inhuman traits, a side effect of receiving Gaia’s blessing.” He stopped in front of Micah, appraising his horns. Sonnac crossed his arms in front of his chest, and lifted one hand to his chin thoughtfully. “If I were to venture a guess, I would put my coin on a…. Satyr ancestor. Or maybe a faun. Definitely something from one of the Fae courts.”

Micah stood with his hands folded behind his back. He blinked slowly and raised an eyebrow at Sonnac. “Are you suggesting that… fairies are real?”

The Templar chuckled, “Mr. Arclight, you just spent the last six days hidden away in your apartment, setting things on fire with your mind and growing antlers. I would think that the existence of fairies shouldn’t be too large a pill to swallow.”

Micah paused, and then found he had to nod in agreement. “…Fair point.”

“Everything is true, Mr. Arclight. Folklore, stories, myths and legends, from all across the globe. Even the most outrageous tales hold some grain of truth. You’ll find vampires are real. Werewolves, too. Devils, demons and angels. As you work as an agent of the Templar organization, you’ll come to find yourself rubbing elbows with all manner of creatures and cryptids.” Sonnac side-stepped his way back behind his desk, straightening the lapels of his suit jacket as he sat. He pulled a form from the stack on his desk, and started scribbling on it.

“Ah… that brings me to the big question-- Work? I am, in fact, newly jobless, but I’m having trouble imagining the Templars needing a lead coder. I mean, do you even have a website? Is www dot Templars dot org a thing?” Micah quirked his eyebrow at Sonnac again, delicately scratching at the side of his neck with his claws.

“Heh, I do believe having an Internet presence would be even more counter-intuitive to secrecy than having a gigantic marble hall in the middle of London, don’t you think?” Sonnac smiled and shook his head. Signing the document with a flourish, he stood up from his desk again and brought it to Micah. “No, your new Gaia-given talents would be wasted on a desk job of any kind. You are a soldier, Micah Arclight, a Crusader chosen to fight the rising tide of darkness. You will work as a field agent, furthering the interests of the Templars as well as fulfilling your purpose as chosen of Gaia. You’ll find that these two great tasks go hand in hand–”

“Hang on a second, Mr. Sonnac…” Micah held up one of his clawed hands, it had started to sound like the Templar was about to start up with a rousing speech, but he had concerns. “Look, I’ve never-- soldiered. I have zero combat experience, I didn’t even want to take taekwondo as a kid. I played Call of Duty, that’s all I’ve got to run with here. Even if I have some kind of superpower, I can’t really say I’m thrilled about the idea of running headlong into a hail of bullets. Haven’t you got some sort of internship position? Somebody’s gotta photocopy all of those papers, right?” He offered with a self-deprecating chuckle, then finished, “I just want some help getting myself back to normal, and dying sounds like it would put a crimp in those plans, so-- how about we dial back on the Crusader bit, yeah? Hell, I’ll even take up janitoring if that’s what it takes to look human again.”

Sonnac shook his head, the corners of his lips curling up. “You are a very funny man, Mr. Arclight. But I can assure you, Gaia does not grant her gifts idly, nor does she allow her chosen to rest peacefully within her earth. You are quite immortal now, you will not die.”

Micah pursed his lips, staring at Richard Sonnac for several heartbeats before he drawled, “Yyyeah. I might be willing to humor the fairy thing, but running headlong into danger just because you’re telling me I’m immortal-- That’s gonna still be a hard ‘no’ from me.”

“Hm. I see you’re going to require further convincing.” Sonnac nodded, then backed up a few steps. He lifted a hand in a beckoning gesture, and Micah had thought that the Templar wanted him to follow, until a bald man in a black suit stepped out in front of him. He jumped, Micah hadn’t heard the man walk into the room, hadn’t even seen him from the corners of his eyes. He was so nonplussed by the man’s sudden appearance, and his appearance in general, that he didn’t immediately question what he was doing there. The man was wearing a perfectly white full-face mask that looked eerie, like an un-decorated Mardi Gras mask. Micah watched as the masked man unceremoniously bent at the waist to spread a tarp over the carpet in front of him. “What the fu–”

A gauntleted hand reached out from behind Micah, roughly grabbing one of his horns and using it as leverage to pull him backwards, slamming the back of his head against an armored shoulder. The motion jerked his head back, and his eyes rolled up to see a towering man in full plate armor, gazing in Micah’s direction through the slits of a bucket helm. The armored man wore an ornate hood over the helm, with Templar symbols in red, black, and white. He looked every bit like a knighted executioner, and he didn’t even give Micah a second to struggle before drawing a blade across his throat, slitting it open.

Blood poured into his windpipe and flooded his mouth, causing him to splutter helplessly for air as he grasped at the wound. Micah started to stumble forward, but the armored man held him centered over the tarp as he staggered. His vision darkened, and they seemed to be guiding him down onto the tarp-- to bleed out there, and not make a mess on Sonnac’s carpet.

“Hmm… Do try to control the spray better next time, Pendulum.” Sonnac was frowning hard, but less at Micah and more at the blood droplets that had reached his desk. He mildly chastised the knight executioner while polishing blood off of the wood with a pocket handkerchief. “Or, are you Pit? I can never remember which is which.” He gestured to the man in the black suit, and then back to the knight. Both of them just stood at attention, perfectly silent while Micah died at their feet.

Darkness, cold, and then a hammering, whooshing noise, something like the percussive rush of sound and light after a magnesium flash. The light filled his vision, blinding and white, until it faded into a warm golden glow. He found himself elsewhere-- surrounded by foliage, the golden glow, and the cadence of buzzing bees. A well of energy rushed around him, the bees riding on its currents.

“Hell. Lo? Hello?” A sweet, genderless voice tried, forcing its timeless tongue around clumsy English for Micah’s benefit. He tried to call out a reply, but his own voice rang out like full-volume static and hammered in his skull. It frightened him, he tried to huddle inward and hide in the golden depths of the well.
“Fol-low. Follow. Follow, follow follow…” The sugary voice called out to him, and a big fluffy bee meandered its way outside of the well, leaving a golden trail of pollen for Micah to follow. He shook his head, refusing. It was warm there, and good, and nothing hurt. Just peace and buzzing.

“FOLLOW.” The voice was suddenly less sweet, and Micah found he had a small swarm of bees lighting on his face, their little stickery feet papping against his skin and their wings buzzing irritably. Micah squealed and flailed his arms, surging to his feet and dashing in the direction of the insistent little fuzzy bastard leading him away from the well.

“Alright, alright! I’m following!” Micah called out, his voice ringing out in the grey silence. The world beyond the well was desaturated and cold, a mocking shadow of the living world he’d just left behind. He could see shapes and features of the London he knew, but they were distorted and fell away into shadow, beyond the pollen glow of the bee he followed. Even with the limited sight distance, it didn’t take Micah long to realize where they were going-- right back up the steps of Templar Hall. He gritted his teeth and kept following the bee directly into the room where he’d died, Sonnac’s office.

There was another magnesium flash and rush of energy, and then light and color filled the world around him. Micah was acutely aware of the temperature in the room suddenly, crisp air conditioning blowing around his ears where he hadn’t noticed it before. It made his skin break out in goosepimples, and he shuddered. The breath rushing into his lungs stung like hell, and his vision blurred and danced with the sudden onslaught. He coughed, leaning hard on the wooden doorframe. The wood creaked in protest, and the sound was as loud as gunshots to Micah. Taking several deep, gasping breaths seemed to help him get his senses under control. Then he pawed at his neck and chest, looking for the damage done to him.

Gaia had taken the liberty of doing his dry-cleaning, it seemed. There wasn’t a speck of blood on him, and no scar or wound at his throat. It was like it had never happened, Mama Earth rewinding time just for Micah. Pit and Pendulum were still standing at attention with a bloodied tarp at their feet, but there was no corpse. Sonnac was back behind his desk, scribbling on paperwork again. He looked up, and waved to Micah. “Come in, come in.”

Micah drug his feet across the carpet as he approached, a look of disbelief on his face. “I… you… You killed me!” He stopped in front of Pit (or Pendulum) and pointed accusingly at the knight, shaking his finger at him. When Micah realized there wasn’t much he could do in retaliation to the huge, armored man, he started to lurch toward Sonnac. “You let him kill me!”

The big man’s gauntleted hand fell on Micah’s shoulder, halting him. He tried to shrug his shoulder out of the knight’s grip, but found it stuck there like it had been glued on. Sonnac smiled, “And yet, here you still stand. Like I said, uniquely equipped for ‘soldiering.’ There would be no greater asset in war than a warrior who gets right back up after they’ve been cut down, wouldn’t you say?”

He quit struggling in the knight’s grip, instead straightening his posture and brushing down the front of his rumpled waistcoat. When he calmed, the knight let him go. “Alright, fine. Color me convinced. I’ll do your soldiering, or whatever, and you get these horns off of me. Sounds like a fair enough trade, I guess?” Micah didn’t sound entirely convinced, but the alternative seemed like Pit and Pendulum would just continue to stab him until he changed his mind.

“A fair trade, indeed.” Sonnac said with a smirk, and approached Micah with a manilla folder in his hands. “To sweeten the pot, I’ll even add on-the-job training into the deal. We would not send you into the field to merely ‘run headlong into a hail of bullets.’ We can hone your remarkable abilities, sharpen them into a fine blade. Or at least, teach you to control them to less disastrous effect on property values.”

Micah made a snide face at Sonnac, wrinkling his nose in a faux smile as he took the manilla folder that the Templar offered him. “Yaaay, suuuper. …What’s this?” He asked, opening the folder and flipping through it. It had a photo of Micah paperclipped to several forms inside of it.

“Your dossier. You’re to take this to Brigadier Lethe, in the Crucible. There are some forms inside that he’ll need for his records.” Sonnac explained, then pointed. “Down the hall here, and to the right.”

“Wait a minute…” Micah said, his eyes lighting on something on the top form. “Full name, Micah René Arclight, operative alias-- Razorgrin?!” He popped the folder shut and slapped it against his knee. Pursing his lips and squinting at Sonnac from the corner of his eyes, he couldn’t believe the Templar had given him a nickname that poked fun at the fact that he’d had to have his own throat cut to be convinced into this entire debacle.

“What? Too soon?” Sonnac asked, steepling his fingers in front of his belly again and shrugging nonchalantly.

He wanted to continue glaring at the templar, but Micah quickly broke when a snorted laugh escaped his nose. He had to admit that he liked the dark humor of it. “Nah… nah… that’s pretty good, actually.”

“Good, good.” Sonnac joined Micah in a good-natured chuckle, and then pointed again. “Now, down the hall, to your right. Brigadier Lethe. Best of luck.”

“Right. Okay.” Micah said, and then headed toward the door. Pit and Pendulum had already collected the bloodstained tarp and were waiting patiently at the door to be excused by Sonnac. He scowled at them and made a two-fingered gesture with his hand, pointing rapidly between his own eyes and the two of them, an unspoken vow to keep an eye on the strange pair.

As Micah exited into the hallway, Pit and Pendulum both turned their heads toward each other. They were probably having a silent laugh at his expense.


So so happy more people get to read this! <3 Hurry up with the next instalment grins


Hehehe, thanks Kate! :smiley: I kind of went wild spamming the Funcom forums here lol, I’ve been sitting on some content I’ve been too shy to share. I’ve got the next chapter brewing in my head already, gonna get to spend some time with Brigadier Lethe next :smiley:


Micah Arclight, now “Razorgrin,” passed through the grand double-doors of the area that the Templars called the Crucible. He hadn’t expected to be met with a full service bar and a bartender. He also hadn’t expected the very high ceilings, the polished marble, or the fine deep-plush carpets. It was very at odds with the wide marble hall behind it that opened up into-- a firing range?

Casting a sidelong glance at the expensive looking bottles and the surly looking bartender, Razorgrin proceeded around the bar and into the marble hall. An exponentially more surly looking man stood in the middle of it, arms folded impatiently across his chest. He was weathered and stern looking, dark haired and sporting an eyepatch over his right eye. He wore simple slacks and a white button-up, but had service medals pinned to the front pocket of his shirt. His right leg was also supported by a metal brace, immobilizing the knee likely after a bad wound. His entire vibe was like that of an angry, retired war-dog who’d been delegated to training the new whelps. He proved Razor’s assessment right when he growled out in a low rumble as he approached, “Christ Almighty, we’ve got our work cut out for us…”

“Brigadier Lethe, I presume?” Razor gave Lethe the cheekiest grin he could muster, holding out the manilla folder containing his dossier. Sonnac had said to hand it over to Lethe, so he was handing it over without too much fuss. In his years in the job force Razor had found life is more bearable under a cranky supervisor if you refuse to cow to their bullsh*t, give them what they ask for, and not a thing more.

“You presume right. And you must be that fairy boy that they dug out of the arse-end of Ealdwick.” Lethe rumbled mockingly, snapping the folder out of Razorgrin’s grip abruptly. He slapped it directly onto a small red and gold table next to him, without even really looking at it.

“I prefer the term ‘pansexual,’ sir, not that it’s any of your business. Whatever happened to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ is that even a thing these days?” Folding his hands behind his back, Razor gave Lethe an easy smile. It was low-hanging fruit but Lethe still took the bait, looking angrier by the second.

“A comedian, lovely. Listen close boy, I’ll only say this once…” Lethe lurched toward Razor, his gait forcing him to move like a peg-legged pirate, but the barely controlled rage in his one good eye made it clear there was nothing funny in the situation at all. He shook one finger in Razor’s face as he got uncomfortably close, “The Crucible is MY house, and in my house my word is law. Forget your mother’s teat, from now on THIS is your home.” He pointed emphatically at the floor, “This is where you learn to stay alive. You’re a loaded weapon, and if you don’t learn to control yourself you’ll wind up hurting yourself, and others.”

Lethe started to pace around Razorgrin, his leg brace forcing him to sway left and right as he moved, “You have the ability to manifest Anima, your life force, in the physical world. To enhance your strength, your physical attributes. To do magic. Martial magic. None of that fairy stuff.” He paused, pointing meaningfully at Razor’s horns, not giving the cheeky redhead another opening to make more tasteless jokes. “Nevermind why this power has been awakened in you. You’re not the only one, and you’re not the Chosen One. You’re part of an army, our army, and from now on you’ll do as you’re told. It’s the way of the Templars.” Brigadier Lethe shook his finger in Razor’s face one more time, for good measure.

The old soldier hobbled toward the firing range, where a series of padded crates and cases had been stacked. Razorgrin could see inside some of the open ones, the foam casing holding rather simple-looking weapons of various types. Razor followed Lethe, and looked over the weapons curiously. “Whatever trinket you hold in your hand is merely a way to direct your powers.” Lethe supplied, waving a hand at the weapons cache, inviting Razorgrin to take a closer look. “We don’t do magic wands here. Through your weapons, you channel and wield your magic. Consider this your playground. It’s not like being on the frontlines, but it’s close enough. We have a choice of weapons for you to practice with, try as many as you wish. When you’re done, you’ll get to choose two to carry. Make sure you’re comfortable with them-- they’ll be the only thing between you and a trip to the graveyard.”

Razorgrin cast Lethe a half incredulous look, raising one eyebrow and smiling. “Fortunately it’s a return trip, for me anyway…” He muttered, not really paying attention if his comment had earned him more of Lethe’s contempt. He was looking ruefully at the piles of guns, side-eyeing the .45s and the assault rifles like he thought they would jump out of their crates and bite him. Razor’s father enjoyed collecting and shooting guns as a hobby, but he’d always been more of a momma’s boy if he was honest about it. He paced past them without touching.

The next case held a katana, something straight out of a samurai movie. Picking it up by its hilt, Razorgrin was surprised to find it was way heavier than it looked. He waved it around experimentally, and found that after two easy swings his arm was already getting tired. Probably a bad idea, he was foreseeing a lot of pushups in his future if he picked up this weapon. Lifting his other hand to the blade, he tried to touch the edge, unable to resist the urge to test its sharpness. Lethe barked out a warning, “Ah-ah!,” an abrupt utterance to warn him off from getting his fingerprints all over the metal. It made Razor jump, causing him to slip his fingertip across the edge, slitting his finger open. He hissed, and it was a measure of control for him to not throw the blade. Setting it down in its case with a rough thunk, he turned to glare at Lethe accusingly while he squeezed the wound shut in his grip. Lethe just glared back at Razorgrin unapologetically, picked up the dropped blade and started carefully polishing its edge clean with a cloth he pulled from his pocket.

The wound on Razor’s finger felt shallow, like a papercut. Opening his hand, he peered at the wound woefully. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like it was bleeding much.

A tickling whisper in his ears pulled Razor’s attention away from frowning at his finger. Looking down, he realized he was pacing toward the sound-- toward a case with a raggedy old red book in it. The book’s cover was splattered and dirty looking, the binding cracked and the pages yellowed. The whispering sound ceased just as soon as his bloodied fingers made contact with the book. It felt right in his hand when he picked it up out of its case, and he’d cracked the book open and started leafing through it thoughtlessly. There was a mounting pressure in the air around him as his eyes flew over sigils that he both understood and didn’t, failing to notice that the blood from his wound had started flowing and freely floating around his hand.

Lethe threw something at him. A small metal object bounced against the pages of the book, and then thumped into Razorgrin’s chest. Razor slapped the open book against his chest to catch it, his shoulders shrugged up with the shock of projectiles shaking him out of his focused reading. He glared at Lethe again, and then leaned the book away from his chest, pinning the object between his belly and its spine. “…Brass knuckles?” Razorgrin asked, retrieving them and slipping his fingers into the grips instinctively. He raised an eyebrow at Lethe while he flexed his fingers around the metal.

“They call you lads ‘Ravagers.’ Blood mages primarily, naturals at thaumaturgy, but you’d best have a backup weapon. Most pick fist weapons. You’ll cast magic from a distance, but if anything gets too close, punch it. Should be simple enough for you.” Lethe added that last bit disparagingly, folding his arms across his chest while he smirked at Razorgrin.

He frowned at Lethe again. “Should be simple enough for you, bleh bleh bleh.” He parroted in a pinched voice, grimacing as he lifted the book. Still, he slipped the brass knuckles into his pocket while he turned his attention back to the fascinating pages.

Lethe hobbled over and then snatched the book out of Razor’s grip. When he looked up to scowl at the brigadier, Lethe used the book to gesture at Razorgrin’s hand. “Pay attention boy, and get that under control before you bleed out all over my firing range.”

“What?” Razor asked flatly, then finally looked down. What he saw there was a crimson orb, roughly as big as a basketball, floating near his knee. The wound on his finger was dripping at an alarming rate, several drops per second floating down and joining the orb and increasing its size.

The room spun. There was the pull of gravity, a thud, and the boney clatter of horns bouncing on marble.Then Razorgrin realized how big and pretty the golden chandeliers on the ceiling were, just before they went dark.

“Oh for God’s sake…” Lethe cursed, then hobbled over to where Razorgrin lay. Bending at the waist, he sighed impatiently while he swung out a rough calloused hand and slapped the redhead’s cheek. When that didn’t work, he called in backup.

The backup was the first thing that greeted Razorgrin’s sight when he opened his eyes again. Another Templar, this one wearing the ornate black, white and red uniform, whose features were best described as “heroic.” The man had a scrap iron jaw, a cleft chin and heavy arched brows. His eyes were a brilliant shade of blue, his hair was black, and he was clean-shaven. “…Superman?” Razorgrin muttered at the man in confusion. All that was missing was the curl of hair in the middle of Superman’s forehead, but this man’s short hair was neatly brushed straight back.

“Superman” gave Razor a puzzled look, and then looked up at Lethe for guidance. The brigadier gave an exasperated sigh and ordered, “On your feet, soldier. You’re just fine, Templar ‘Anathoth’ patched you up. Get him upright, Templar.”

Razor’s finger had been bound in a simple bandage, and all of the blood he’d lost was just mysteriously gone. It was either a magic thing, or the bartender had wandered over with a bucket and mop while he was knocked out. Either way, with Anathoth’s help, Razorgrin sat upright. Anathoth then easily pulled Razor to his feet as he stood up from where he’d crouched. Razor’s eyes went wide when he was fully upright, and the Templar just sort of… kept going, until he unfolded to his full height, probably a good three or four inches taller than the top of Razor’s towering horns. He was likely a full foot taller than Razorgrin, sans horns, and Razor already stood at six feet without them. He was also probably twice as broad as Razor, with the shoulder-to-waist ratio of an inverted Dorito chip. ‘Superman’ seemed closer to the mark after all, but Razorgrin tried anyway, “Uh–thanks… Anathoth, right?”

He smiled sheepishly, and nodded. It seemed like he was going to stay silent until he shyly added, “Well. It’s-- it’s correctly pronounced ‘Ahn-toh-tee,’ from the Hebrew, but- but that’s how everyone pronounces it. Even me now, heh.” He then shrugged, and then looked away from Razorgrin uneasily.

Razor was peering up at him with his mouth hanging open. Anathoth’s voice had been rumbling deep, like rolling thunder, but he was so timid that he’d mumbled and was borderline hard to hear. Razorgrin was gawking at him, mind racing at both the effort of making out what Anathoth had said, and realizing this humanoid mountain had all the force of personality of a wet blanket. The disparity boggled the mind.

“Alright, social hour is over. Anathoth, you’ll be helping to train Razorgrin here in Fist Weapons. You can have this back when you’ve proven to me you’re less of an idiot.” Lethe said, waving the blood-magic book at Razor.

“Yes, sir!” Anathoth replied, loudly and clearly, suddenly standing at attention before Brigadier Lethe. It was a hard swerve from before, and Razor raised his brows while watching the Templar switch gears at light speed. He could suddenly imagine Anathoth in another life, a more normal one where he was a uniformed cop, or a marine. Or maybe a basketball player… He was also betting that Anathoth’s real name was probably, unironically, Chad.

“Um… this way?” Anathoth was smiling sheepishly at Razorgrin, trying to get the redhead to follow him over to a bank of practice dummies past the firing range. He smiled softly at the shy Templar, and followed.

When they reached the “practice dummies,” Razor’s reaction was… less than noble. When he looked up from his feet, he saw that they were more or less alive, skeletal humanoid figures with freakish proportions chained to the ceiling and floor by their hands and feet. They had massive teeth that would have put The Xenomorph Queen to shame, their eyes blindfolded by a dirty black leather strip. They breathed raggedly, shuttering and rattling their chains. The first thing Razorgrin did was emit some high-pitched, strained squeak, followed by leaning into Anathoth’s back at full force. It was unabashedly a “take him, not me” maneuver, Razor tried to shove Anathoth at it just before turning and running away. Unfortunately Anathoth had twice Razor’s body weight and the Templar wasn’t swayed, he just turned and looked back at the fleeing redhead in confusion.

Lethe was a few steps behind them, and he reached out and snagged Razorgrin by his collar before he could get too much further away. He swatted at Lethe’s hands and was still trying to backpedal, but the brigadier held him fast. “What the fck-- what the fck ARE those?!”

Face splitting into a horrid grin, Lethe started to drag Razorgrin back toward them, despite the struggling. “Those things are called Rakshasa, they’re basic hellhounds. We keep them chained. They used to make such a mess of the new recruits…”

Razorgrin didn’t find that comforting in the least, and he continued struggling to escape. Lethe just kept rambling, smirking at Razor’s discomfort, “You’re to use them for target practice. Don’t worry, they don’t feel a thing, and they’re unworthy of mercy.”

He shoved Razor at Anathoth, and the Templar caught him, both to steady him and to keep him from running again. Once Razorgrin came to terms with the fact that he wasn’t getting away, he blurted out, “You want me-- to walk up and HIT that thing?!”

Lethe chuckled. “Use your time in the Crucible well. There’s no point in rushing things. Out there, the demons aren’t chained up, and you won’t have me to save your sorry arse. Well, go on then. Get started. Anathoth will offer some guidance along the way.” The brigadier was waving his hand dismissively as he hobbled away, still laughing at Razor under his breath.

Anathoth and Razorgrin both stared at each other wide eyed, Razor in terror and Anathoth coming to the realization that he was now partially responsible for a deer-horned coward. It took a lot of quiet, overly-polite coaxing, but Anathoth eventually talked Razorgrin into donning the brass knuckles and stepping up to the Rakshasa.

Razor had both fists up in a boxer’s stance, one that he’d seen in movies, but it took an awful lot of bouncing around to actually work up the courage to make contact with the demon’s body. The light tap of his knuckles against its flesh resulted in an uncomfortable squelch, and Razorgrin howled and backpedaled, bouncing and slinging his hands while his skin crawled, “BUHHH–ugh-ugh-ugh! I’m gonna barf!”

“Please don’t!” Anathoth pleaded, and Lethe could be heard in the distance, absolutely cackling. Razorgrin’s time in the Crucible was going fabulously, so far.

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It took Razorgrin roughly a week of training to get used to striking the ungodly Rakshasa in the training hall. Most of his problem was coming to terms with the fear and the sensations of lashing out at demon flesh. Anathoth was there to help him off and on, but most of the time Razorgrin was dealing with Lethe. As a Templar in the Enlisted Order, Anathoth had his own missions and assignments to attend to. Brigadier Lethe would spend a lot of time standing back and shouting at Razor, which he supposed inspired him to want to hit something.

When Lethe finally relented and handed over Razorgrin’s blood focus, it was like a long-awaited reward for all of the pushups and demon-punching. He was never much of a bookworm, but something about the power held in the book called to him. Razor didn’t even blink when Lethe gave him an athame to go with it, a ritual knife for the blood sacrifice required to power the spellwork. All of the training with the world’s nastiest practice dummies had punched the squeamishness right out of Razorgrin, he only hesitated for a moment before slicing into his own palm to power his first spell. It felt good, felt right even, and fainting wasn’t a problem anymore. As long as he paid attention to the amount of blood he was spilling, he found it easy to control the corruption forced through his veins by the dark magic. It was like he had been born to it.

It wasn’t long after that Sonnac gave Razorgrin his first mission. Solomon Island, dark forces at work, find the root of whatever doom affects the island, et cetera. Razor was on board with Sonnac’s speech, right up to the part where he said he wasn’t going there to rescue anybody. That made Razorgrin frown, but he was in no position to argue with Sonnac’s orders. He was in a position however to point out the difficulties in setting foot outside the Templar headquarters, namely two difficulties that were currently attached to his skull.

Sonnac scooted a box on his desk toward Razorgrin. Inside was a hood, a nondescript looking brown one made of rough old material and designed to sit across the shoulders under a coat. He gave Sonnac a side-eyed glance and then donned it, finding that flipping the hood up over his head caused his antlers to just… vanish. The material passed through the horns as if they weren’t there, and suddenly they weren’t, as long as the hood was up. Not so much for his ears though-- they stuck through the cloth stubbornly. He raised an eyebrow at Sonnac, and the Templar shrugged, telling Razorgrin that would have to do. Many of Gaia’s bees ran around looking rather quirky, hopefully one with a penchant for “fake” elf ears wouldn’t draw too much attention.

His worries about looking out of place quickly vanished as Razorgrin entered the Ealdwick Underground, passing through a verdant portal to Agartha for the first time. The Great Tree, the golden realm and its endless twigs left him gobsmacked, and after the help of a kindly old Stationmaster, he was sent screaming across an open void via magical jump-pad to another portal taking him straight to Kingsmouth. Terrifying, but speedy.

Kingsmouth… turned out to be the most horrible, disgusting experience of Razorgrin’s life. He thought the Rakshasa were awful, but they only somewhat prepared him for zombies. Actual zombies, shambling undead. He vaguely remembered cracking wise to D.I. Shelley that he was a Romero fan. That was only a week or so ago, but after landing in Kingsmouth he wasn’t much of a zombie movie fan anymore. He couldn’t decide which was worse, the smell, the odd shrieking, or the fact that they moved in packs.

Meeting the people of Kingsmouth was particularly trying in its own way. Sonnac saying that Razorgrin wasn’t there for a rescue mission made his heart sink every time he spoke to Sheriff Bannerman, stubborn old Norma Creed or that crazy mechanic Edgar who was diligently trying to soup up an old school bus to be zombie-proof. Razor’s heart particularly ached for Danny Dufresne, he was just a boy. A resourceful boy who liked to spy on people with a webcam mounted on an RC plane, but still just a kid. Razor couldn’t help but worry about his fate the most.

The strangest denizens of the town was a camp full of hippies, led by a sleazeball named Che Garcia-Hansson. They were part of a group called “Morninglight,” a new age cult that promised self-improvement in exchange for cash. ‘Sign over all your worldly belongings and we’ll build you into a better you. Enlightenment can be yours for a starting price of $19.99.’ Razorgrin remembered reading the rhetoric on one of their creepy pamphlets, not the exact wording but something like-- ‘be reborn in the light of the new dawn.’ It was predatory and evil, but that didn’t mean they deserved to be eaten by zombies. Che was just there on the island peddling his ‘religion’ at the worst possible time-- during a zombie apocalypse.

Razorgrin’s eyes would glaze over when Che started pontificating, but the redheaded elf had still managed to win the hippie’s favor when he accidentally rescued one of Che’s “messengers.” Some clueless guy carrying a package-- it was probably drugs. Razorgrin didn’t care, may the hippies smoke themselves to a happier place. Razor might even ask for a hit, considering how dreary the whole situation was turning out to be.

The awful truth of it all was that they were probably all stuck there, suffering until the US military finally signed off on nuking the entire island into orbit. Even the Orochi scientists who were researching in the area were stuck, unable to get their helicopters past the ominous fog surrounding the island.

Why Razorgrin couldn’t just gather up these innocents and herd them through the Agartha portal to safety was beyond him. Maybe Gaia had decided they all weren’t special enough to pass through Agartha for some unknowable reason. Sonnac had certainly decided they weren’t worth saving. The ‘greater good’ could kiss his ass, Razorgrin thought.

He was feeling pretty somber and hopeless by the time he finally tracked down the infection to its source: Joe Slater. All of the evidence so far pointed to the terrible fog being led here by a fishing trawler called the Lady Margaret, and a fisherman who had brought back something ominous from the deep. Something that had lured the townsfolk of Kingsmouth out to sea, to drown themselves and rise again as the walking undead. Tracking Joe Slater into the sewers beneath Kingsmouth Town, Razor’s heart sank all over again when he locked eyes on the fisherman and his sorry state.

“Look on your face says even my good side is worse for wear…” Joe gargled out in a voice that sounded half-drowned. His skin had gone green and bloated, his one good eye gone bloodshot, the other eye socket occupied by a barnacle. His right arm was also covered in them, forming the limb into a giant club. His left side looked withered and burned bloody, with flailing green tentacles poking out from around his bandages.

Razorgrin kept his distance. Slater was obviously in the process of becoming a Draugr, one of the drowned undead. He still had his mind and control of his body, but he was in pain and losing the battle. He answered quietly, mustering up a smile for the poor man, “Gotta be honest, you’re not lookin so good, Joe.”

Joe gave a raspy chuckle, nodding and twisting bloated lips into a wry smile. There was a twinkle of appreciation in his remaining eye, maybe a small comfort that he was still recognizable to someone. He didn’t recognize Razorgrin, but it encouraged him to continue his sad tale, “I’ve been trying not to think about the… changing. Like it could all be a bad dream I ain’t woken up from. Nightmares, all nightmares, since that storm blew us off course. Off the compass, off the map. We didn’t tell anyone about the sh*t we saw… About the dead ships all caught up in red weed as far as you could see. About the things moving in the fog… in the water. About what we saw beneath it all, deep into the abyss. Or what I found there.”
Cautiously stepping closer, Razor crouched near Joe Slater’s huddled form. This was the information he’d been hunting-- what had Joe brought back to Kingsmouth? He nodded to the fisherman encouragingly, urging him to keep going.

Joe Slater held up his burned hand, showing Razorgrin where the fingers had been burned to a crisp by whatever he’d grasped in the abyss. “In that dungeon darkness, it shone like a signal flare. Like something fallen down from heaven above, you understand? A blade made of pure light, a thing of terrible beauty. I could hear its siren song, just… calling me. Last I remember was the Creed boys hollering as I took a hold of it. Or it took a hold of me. I wasn’t strong enough, I know that now. They told me it pushed back the fog and the waves while I was out cold. Told me it saved us… It didn’t save us. That thing brought the fog back to Kingsmouth. I brought the fog back to Kingsmouth.”

A blade, made of light. Well, that narrowed down his search, Razorgrin supposed. While Joe was taking a moment to wallow in regrets, Razor looked him over to see just how far gone he was. His whole body looked like it was dead and bloated. It was probable that Joe Slater was already undead, just kept in his right mind by having come in contact with the artifact that caused all of this. Razorgrin was wondering what the right course of action would be. …Would he have to put the fisherman out of his misery?

Just when Razorgrin was coming to that dread realization, Joe lurched at him, scrabbling desperately. He pleaded, “And I still hear that siren song! I know you hear it too. You could find it. You could stop the god-awful noise, put that burning brightness back where it belongs, in the deep, in the dark.”

“Yeah… I hear it, Joe. I’ll take care of it, I promise.” Razorgrin said, and he’d been lying at first. He didn’t actually hear anything-- until he dared to touch Joe’s withered hand to pat it comfortingly, where the fisherman clung to the lapels of Razor’s coat. When he did, he heard a distinct melody carried by a beautiful, female voice. It alternated mesmerizingly between humming and vocalizing, “La, la la la…” When he focused, he realized that the song was coming from behind him, and he could follow the sound. He stood up and promised again, with more conviction this time, “I’ll take care of it.”

Joe Slater stayed crouched in the shallow sewer waters, nodding to himself and gently rocking back and forth. He seemed satisfied with Razorgrin’s promise, but lapsed back into dark thoughts, “I wonder what woulda happened if I never left that red sea. Maybe Joe Slater never did… and all this is just some pitch dark dreaming.”

Razor didn’t have an answer for him, but he had a lead to follow. Joe hadn’t asked to be put out of his misery thankfully, and maybe the dead fisherman had his own reasons for hanging on for so long. Wishing he could do something for Joe but realizing he couldn’t, Razorgrin left him to his dark dreaming and followed the song out of the sewers.

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The siren song led Razorgrin practically across town, through the forests and into an overpass, down into its maintenance tunnels. Deep in the tunnels, he went into a makeshift office where someone had hung a map of Kingsmouth on the wall, and littered a table with notes and various Illuminati trinkets and keys. It was here that the song stopped ringing out, leaving him in a deafening quiet while he started digging through his find. But just as he was starting to dive into the notes, the sound of people approaching sent Razorgrin diving behind a stack of crates to hide.

“ … finally silenced that incessant noise and moved it. To a safer place.” A man’s voice, deep and grumpy sounding. Well, that might explain why the siren song had stopped abruptly. Razor hoped that also meant Joe was no longer tormented by the song.

“So where–” A woman’s voice started, before being cut off by the grumpy man,

“Away from here. I’m not in a sharing mood, Cassandra. And the moaning isn’t helping.”

“That’s not what you said last night. Oh baby, I thought we had something, something magic… black as space and red as blood.” Idiot that he was, Razorgrin had to carefully poke his head over the crates to get a peek at this Cassandra lady. She sounded hot as a southern firecracker, and when he saw her he was not disappointed. Tight little shorts on a round bottom, pale skin, bleach blonde hair. He was a sucker for blondes, so much so that against all wisdom he kept peeking over the crate at her. All the two of them had to do was glance in his direction and they’d probably see him, brown hood and bright blue eyes peering over the crate’s edge.

“This is so very beyond you, little girl.” The contempt in the guy’s voice was so deep it made Razorgrin instantly defensive of her, as stupid as that was. These two were clearly the bad guys, if they had control of the “siren song” that caused all those folks to drown themselves at sea. Or if the guy was the bad guy, then Cassandra was at least an accessory to his crimes.

For a split second, Razor considered just jumping out from behind the crates and grabbing them, but he hesitated. He needed more evidence, and honestly the guy was giving him bad vibes. Dressed in green kurta like some kind of new-age guru, he hardly looked like anyone Razor could take seriously, but he put out some kind of energy like he might be a bigger fish than Razorgrin could fry alone.

“F*ck off. I’ve seen the beyond and I’m a fast learner. I’m ready for more than… this. Give me something, let me in, let me do what I’m good at.” Razorgrin smirked. Yeah, you tell ‘em blondie.

“What, getting the boys to sign over their lives for a snog? I’ll tell you what you can do. We’re spreading an idea, but that idea won’t take hold without carriers. You keep spreading those long legs of yours to recruit more foot-soldiers.” Razor frowned. This guy was a real ■■■■■■■■.

“Be still my beating heart. Here’s what I don’t get, Beaumont. You have what you’ve been looking for, your precious magic sword. You control the armies of the living dead. You pretty much own this island. So the question is… why the sour face? I mean what is it that you’re- You’re missing something. Right? This is interesting. Your treasure - your precious- … You can’t use it, can you? I mean, the spirit is willing, but the flesh… Oh my, the flesh is limp.” Razor grinned. Not only had Cassandra supplied the guy’s name, she confirmed that Beaumont had the magic sword that caused the zombie outbreak, and he couldn’t fully use it. Atta girl, blondie!

“Watch it, little girl, you have no idea what-” Beaumont had grabbed Cassandra and was waving a finger in her face threateningly. It made Razorgrin shuffle reflexively, a strong urge to pop out of his hiding place and slug the guy. Beaumont stopped mid-sentence as he picked up on the sound of Razor’s foot sliding on concrete. Razorgrin ducked before Beaumont could swing his gaze in his direction, huddling behind the crate with his heart hammering and praying that the evil guru didn’t step around the crates to investigate. He really was a sucker for blondes, and Razor cursed himself for his stupidity.

“What? What?” Cassandra urged Beaumont, too eager to press her cohort for more information. Razor kept still as a corpse and listened, realizing that she was showing her hand, revealing that she was trying to play this Beaumont guy into spilling his secrets.

Beaumont picked up on it, too. He changed the subject, leaning into some new-age spiel that he’d probably practiced before. “You want to know what this is really about, Cassie dear, when it all comes down to it? Change. Evolution. A new dawn. The world tree will shake, the sun will turn black and the gods themselves will fall. We are rebooting the world.”

That didn’t sound good. It also pinpointed the organization they were with-- the Morninglight. It sounded just like the rhetoric that Che was usually spewing. He’d always thought they were just a predatory new-age cult throwing around big ideas with no meaning, but Beaumont actually did sound like he had convictions about rebooting the world, there. Maybe the cult did have eyes on starting an apocalypse. A zombie apocalypse was one way to do it.

“That’s the thing, isn’t it? What everyone talks about. It’s the big headline. The dawning of a new age. Right? Tokyo, the endless night. I like it. There’s poetry to it, and oh does it suit you, the evil sorcerer thing. It’s sexy.” Needling again, this time by compliments. She was really playing the ‘femme fatale’ part, now. When Razor registered the ‘Tokyo’ bit, he furrowed his brows hard. He’d heard there’d been a major terrorist attack in Kaidan recently-- did this mean the Morninglight were behind it?

“The answer is in the archives, somewhere. It has to be. They knew about it, the gateway to the black heart of the island. I have the key… but the lock… the lock is the f*cking thing.”

“Wait, didn’t you say that the lock-?” Cassandra started, but she was interrupted by Beaumont, being a bastard.

“I’ve been around long enough to recognize the flavor of the day, Cassie. You’re it.”

“Oh. Really? So that’s it? That’s how you repay me… you piece of sh*t. No more. Take one last good look at what you’re missing, lover boy.” This, followed by the sound of small footsteps receding, Cassie leaving the room. Razor’s reaction was completely idiotic-- a momentary burst of triumph, thinking, ‘Yay, she’s single!’

“Useless b*tch. The Illuminati and their bloody labyrinths…” Beaumont shuffled around for a few more moments, then exited the room. Giving it several minutes to be sure that he was truly alone again, Razorgrin slowly crept out from behind the crates, then returned to investigating the maps and notes Beaumont left behind. They talked about the “black heart of the island,” and Illuminati archives. The biggest hint in the room though, was a big red circle around a chunk of land south of Kingsmouth Town, toward the coast. If that was where Beaumont was going next, it was where Razorgrin was going next, too.

Coming out of the maintenance tunnels, Razorgrin started following the road with conviction-- the road that ran parallel to the Morninglight camp, protected by magical barriers. The Morninglight symbol of a sun-filled window was emblazoned on everything-- three vans, various t-shirts, a tapestry hanging from one of the tents. He could see Che leaning against a van and smoking his weed, thinking his hippie thoughts. Razor was going to keep marching past the camp until he caught sight of a puff of bleach-blonde hair, and red booty shorts. It was Cassie! It seemed she hadn’t gone far after splitting with Beaumont. Razorgrin immediately did an about-face and headed straight for the pretty girl. For… information, of course.

His eyes locked on Cassie as he strode into the camp, Razor didn’t even notice Che closing in on him. “Well if it isn’t the intrepid f*cking hero.” He had a sort of vehemence to him that Razorgrin was slowly getting used to, but this time Che’s tone made him sweat a little. Worried that he’d been caught sniffing around another man’s territory, he turned and just grinned nervously at the hippie. Then Che looked to his left and said lowly, “This is the one.”

It was Cassie, sashaying right up to Razorgrin and Che. The hippie had been talking Razorgrin up to Cassie already, hopefully he’d been saying good things. She turned and eyed Razorgrin before slinking up close, “Hey there, hot stuff. I like your style… and your weapon.”

He truly was a massive idiot. Just a wink and a compliment and she already had Razor’s tail wagging, the corners of his lips curling up in a stupid smile. Che interjected, “Cassandra is our resident Mary Magdalene, don’t let those doe-eyes fool you, she’ll eat you up.”

“I do have a big appetite. Comes with being Southern, I guess.” Cassie added, and it was probably a warning to be heeded. Razor wasn’t listening, he was watching the way one of the little black straps of her bra had started sliding down her slim shoulder. She lifted her other arm and plunked it down across Che’s shoulders, “Not that Jesus here would notice, he’s immune to my female charms. Boy’s got no ■■■■■.” Che wasn’t interested? Razor found that interesting… And good to know.

“Anyway Che, I need to talk to you? There’s an issue with… you know.” They stepped a few paces away, but not far enough away to be out of Razor’s earshot. It seemed like they were strategically letting him eavesdrop. The topic of conversation seemed to be another “delivery” that had gone awry, and this time Cassie was in charge of making the delivery. Che seemed opposed to the idea, saying she would just get herself killed. He was insisting she wasn’t going to go alone. They bantered back and forth before she accused Che, “You just want to keep an eye on me…”

“Trust issues…” Che sighed, then turned to Razor. This was the part where they asked their ‘intrepid hero’ for help. And of course Razor would eagerly, to impress the pretty girl. “Hey, want to do us a favor? Call it your ticket to New Jerusalem… When we finish building it.”

Razorgrin wasn’t sold on New Jerusalem, but Cassie had his full attention when she started swaying her hips back over to him. “Oh… now if that’s the kind of company you’re talking about, I might be… flexible.” She lifted a tiny pale hand and rested it on Razorgrin’s shoulder, gently letting it slide down his chest. “Very, very flexible…” He almost giggled stupidly but managed to keep his cool, just barely.

“She’s talking about sexual positions, that’s what that little pause was. It’s her idea of subtlety.” Che came over and rested a hand on Cassie’s shoulder, breaking the spell temporarily.
She turned and shoved him irritably, “F*ck off, Che…” Then, she turned her attention right back to Razorgrin, leaning in close. She offered, “We could get to know each other better… I’d like to find out what lies beneath those still waters…” Cassie was leaning in close to peek at Razorgrin’s eyes shadowed by his hood, so close that he felt her sweet breath on his lips. Whatever breathing room Che had bought him a moment ago was gone, Cassie had Razor wrapped around her finger again already.

Cassie leaned back suddenly and Razor had to fight the urge to reach for her. She added, “Don’t worry, it’s not far. And we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do…” Cassie was tracing little patterns down his chest with her fingertips while she spoke, making Razor’s heart race. He found himself smiling and nodding at her. Razor would have agreed to just damn near anything she wanted after that.

“Okay with you-- Jesus?” She turned to Che, and the hippie nodded his approval at the idea of Razorgrin escorting Cassie wherever she was headed.

He did find himself sweating when he realized they were headed right back into the maintenance tunnels. Razor was probably over-acting when he tried to sound like he’d never set foot in the place, “Huh, so this is a maintenance tunnel, never seen anything like this before.”

Cassie just smirked at him and raised an eyebrow. She looked like she didn’t believe him at all. Then, she looked down at her feet and backpedaled. There was a corpse on the floor, a hippie in a green poncho. “What the f*ck happened here? Somebody’s been tampering with the security…” Quick to turn any situation into a flirtation, she added, “We need to be careful. Lucky I have you here, maybe I’ll get to see you… flex your muscles?”

All of the boxing lessons with Lethe and his gross Rakshasa training dummies suddenly were 100% worth it. Razor actually had muscles to flex for Cassie. He spared no effort in deftly bypassing various surveillance cameras and electrical hazards in their path.

Through the haze of showing off for a pretty girl, Razorgrin did come to the conclusion that the Morninglight wasn’t fully trusting of, or working with, Beaumont. They were infiltrating his lair to “retrieve a package” they didn’t have permission to take. How else could they explain the dead hippie at the door? Beaumont didn’t want them in here, but the Morninglight were still trying to enter the maintenance tunnels.

Then Razor rounded a corner, and froze in his tracks. Dropping low, he watched as a figure in purple and maritime tactical gear paced down the hallway in front of them. There were several of them, and they were heavily armed, carrying assault rifles. Whatever ‘package’ was stored down here, rumor of it must have gotten out. “Sh*t! Keep your head down…” Cassie warned, then quipped, “I don’t recognize those outfits… who wears purple to a death match? No sense of fashion whatsoever.”

Razor grinned at her, then listened closely when Cassie suggested re-arming the laser security grid. It seemed better than letting Team Purple get their hands on the package, and better than possibly getting shot at. It meant they died a messy, explosive laser death, but uh— for the greater good? Razorgrin decided to roll with that.

Once that final obstacle was done, they passed through a portcullis door and found the package sitting on a table. It was surrounded by lasers… Cassie swore they hadn’t been there before. Still undaunted, Razor fiddled with the security system until the lasers dropped and the box was freed.

“Okay, here’s the deal. I’m gonna level with you…” Cassie started, and Razor froze mid-stride over to the package. “It’s better for everyone if this package doesn’t end up with those Morninglight hippies.” So, Cassie herself wasn’t fully aligned with the Morninglight, she had her own agenda. “We’re a different breed, you and I. We’re better than they are. So let me take this package with me and go through that door, and I’ll owe you a favor. A big one. Do we have a deal…?”

Razorgrin started to sweat. Primarily, it meant that this blonde bombshell was about to stride out of his life and he wouldn’t even get to buy her dinner. But also it meant she was taking a highly-sought after item out of the lair of a modern-day sorcerer. What if it was of some occult significance, and the Templars would want it contained or destroyed? Was it possibly the sword in that small box? It didn’t look like it could hold a sword. Was it somehow containing the siren’s song? Beaumont had said he’d silenced and contained it. It made sense that the Morninglight would want it, too. A cult getting control of a Pied Piper-esque magic item would be a real disaster. It was times like this that Razorgrin wished he had a WWSD bracelet-- ‘What Would Sonnac Do?’

He must have hesitated too long while staring at the package and thinking. Cassie raised both of her hands above her head, swirls of dark magic around her hands. It seemed she was a sorceress in her own right, and the magic clouded Razorgrin’s vision and made his whole body feel too heavy to move. “I’m sorry honey. I have to go. Believe me, I hate this as much as you do. We’ll see each other again, when both of us have… grown, a bit? I’d like that very much.” Flirting to the very end, Cassie picked up the package and started sashaying to the door, leaving Razorgrin paralyzed there. “Take care, okay? When I’m ready for you, you’ll know where to find me. I promise.”

In that moment, Razorgrin couldn’t even be mad at her. As he watched her leave through the fog of her magic, all he felt was an incredible pang of regret-- regretting that he didn’t get her phone number. Helplessly watching that little round backside vanish around the corner was the greatest tragedy of his life, he’d just decided.

It wasn’t until he sadly made his way back out of the maintenance tunnels that Razor realized she’d played him for a sucker. Cassie was a magic user, she could have probably pulled that off by herself. But she’d winked and smiled at him and he gladly did all the heavy lifting for her, and then left him with nothing to show for it. She was possibly making off with something dangerous too, and it was all Razorgrin’s fault. He sighed heavily and facepalmed, wondering how he could spin it in his report to Sonnac so that he didn’t come out looking like a hormone-addled moron.

Just as he was starting to feel sorry for himself all over again, he remembered what he was supposed to be doing while he was busy playing ‘silly buggers’ for Cassie. “Oh sh*t-- Beaumont!” Urgency hitting him like a bolt of lightning, Razorgrin started sprinting like a madman down the highway, headed for the mark on Beaumont’s map; the “Savage Coast.”

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