Sunday, 23 March 2014

Death and Politics - A Leo Wounded Bear Story

Once again we take a third trip to the world of Modern Realms, an illustrated short story set in a fictional world of magic and suspense, this time exploring a little further afield with Death and Politics. As is probably blatantly obvious, the story takes some inspiration from Native American mythology (east cost specifically), which is a fascinating subject and well worth a read in to if it piques your interest.

As always, feedback and questions can be directed in the comment's below, or my tumblr or deviantart. All characters and world concepts are copyright Jack Harvey (I.E me). Most of all I hope you continue to enjoy my stuff.

Modern Realms
Death and Politics
A Leo Wounded Bear Story
By Jack Harvey

Leo Wounded Bear finished cleaning his sidearm. He had daydreamed through it. Second nature to him. A soldier once, but no longer. His time had been served. Nowadays he made a living as a bodyguard for Councilman Onatha. Still he dressed prepared for combat, more so than someone with his responsibilities really should

“Your nerves betray you young one. Pray tell what is on your mind?” The creature said, hiding in shadow.

“You already know what is on my mind,” Leo replied. The creature had arrived unannounced, but he had become so accustomed to it's visits that he was rarely startled by it.

The creature was known by many names. Changeling, Mimic, Shapeshifter. To Leo's people, it was Hoklonote, a creature that had one foot in this world and one in the next. A trickster that could read peoples thoughts. It's intentions were always unclear, but it long had an interest in Leo, an interest he knew he could exploit. The creature had chosen to appear as a hairy elongated humanoid, with the decomposing head of a dog. Hollow sockets stared at him out from the darkness.

“You fly far tomorrow young one, far from your native lands. You fear the Old Realmers?”

“I do not fear the Old Realmers. I do not hate them either, it is just that their ignorance irritates me.”

It was true that those outside the Spirit Lands were poorly educated in it's ways. To Old Realmers in particular, the radical differences between the nations of this continent were simplified at best.

“They even insist on referring to The Circle as 'The Circle of Druids',” Leo laughed, “Druid is an Avalonian word. It is their own creation. The Circle is composed of shaman and medicine men and conjurers, and yet they insist on playing by their own rules, not ours.”

“Would it worry you less if you were not a native of the Wendiga?” the creature asked. A touchy subject, since Leo was a son of the plains, not the forests.

“No,” he said confidently, “But the distinction only makes the ignorance more insufferable. Why are you here old one?”

A sickly breath left the the Hoklonote's whithered lips. “You travel tomorrow to Malana, Bascilicata for trade negotiations. You will be enjoying the hospitality of Fernando Carlita.”

“Enjoying?” Leo objected, “He is a rich fat animal. He only hosts these meetings to treat foreign dignitaries like personal exhibits. We are nothing but curiosities to him.”

“But go you will, because Onatha is the chief of agriculture, and the people need their food.”

Leo nodded, there had been a population boom over the last couple of generations, and the Wendiga were not a warlike people. They would happily pay when others would fight, but it takes a clever person to make sure you are not paying too much.

“A man will be there. I know not who, nor who he represents, but he will be there. He is armed with a weapon. An enchantment carved into the grip of his pistol. He is there to end Onatha's life.”

“Why?” Leo said, grimly. He was grateful for the warning, but he knew never to to take a Hoklonote's advice at face value.

“Unknown, but not difficult to speculate. There is a tension between the council and The Circle. They resent the fact that outsiders often see The Circle as the de facto authority of the Spirit Lands. There are many who feel The Circle is becoming too influential.”

“But the Councilman has The Circle's ear,” Leo said, “As long at Onatha holds his position, tensions are eased.”

“There are many who feel a conflict amongst the Wendiga would be a profitable opportunity.”

Leo was about to ask the Hoklonote what it meant by that, but without warning or ceremony it flitted out of existence. He had known the creature too long to bother crying for it to return. Instead he pondered upon it's warnings, and contemplated what it sought to gain.

It was to be a long weekend. Not in the good sense.


Councilman Onatha always traveled without aides, and only Leo for protection. Many, Leo included, called this foolish, but Onatha always insisted that it was the best way.

“When a person walks into a room with fifteen bodyguards and twenty advisors it screams of arrogance. Before they even speak the others will already have made up their mind,” Onatha said during their flight over. “The quiet two in the corner? Those two are humble. They could make the most outrageous demand in all the realms and it would still come out sounding reasonable.”

Leo couldn't tell the councilman about the assassin. It would not be taken gracefully if people knew he associated with a Hoklonote. He had tried to get Onatha to take more men, but the councilman was having none of it. Onatha's priority was nailing the trade agreement, and he felt further protection would jepordise that.

“You think the other delegates will be agreeable?”

“Most certainly. They know we do not need food, we have the power of earth magic granted by The Circle for that, but we do need resources. Fuel for the harvesters, fertilizer for the crops. It won't be hard, the Old Realmers heavily industrialized themselves decades ago. Most of them have forgotten what it was like to grow their own food.”

“An exaggeration.”

“That it is Leo, but one I do not state lightly. We have food in abundance, and as long as the Circle stays loyal to the continent then they cannot learn our secrets easily.”

“Some would call that cruel.” Leo said, grimly.

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has no further use for you,” Onatha laughed. “This is no a fairy tale world Leo.”

Leo knew that all too well.“I'm just keeping your mind sharp,” he said. There was a bullet with Onatha's name on it somewhere, waiting in an enchanted pistol. What was the significance, he wondered? Enchantments were rarely seen in the modern realms, long gone out of use since flaming swords and lightning staffs were no longer needed. “This man, Carlita. I have heard many talk of him. They say he treats these gatherings like a freak show.”

“Worry not about this Carlita my friend. He is only the host, a playboy who thinks he can buy influence. In his Bascilicata that may be possible, but not to me. I only care about the talks, once they are finished we will depart.” He turned carefully and pointed at Leo closely. “You just need to make sure you do your job. Keep me safe, and I will do my duty to the people.”

Leo nodded, but as always, he feared he was not up to the task.


“Take a shot from the bow. Go on, I have always been curious.”

Leo shook his head. “Mr Carlita, I have never trained in the use of a bow.”

“What! Never? I thought you Spirit Landers were brought up hunting bison upon the plains?”

Typical ignorant Old Realmer. “The Wendgia are forest dwellers Mr Carlita.”

“Bah, more boring than expected. Very well, I will have to go watch the Janissaries fly their carpets one more time.” Fernando Carlita waved Leo away. He was not as fat as Leo had been led to believe, and much more handsome. He radiated wealth, but this didn't make him any more likable. Money was the man's only desirable quality.

Indeed the halls of his penthouse could attest to that. The entrance hallway was graced with a fountain flanked by two carved dragon skulls. These creatures were endangered now, but that didn't seem to stop Fernando displaying their remains with pride. The view of Malana from the roof was breathtaking, and it's tall skyscrapers even put Wendiga's own sprawling complexes to shame.

Leo walked past the pool, where the bikini clad Aethena Carlita, Fernando's trophy wife, swam with an assortment of lady friends. Leo did not let his eyes linger like some of the men, it felt unseemly. Instead he glanced up at the dignitaries on the next level. They were all talking Avalonian, one of the most widespread languages used thanks to King Arthur's crusades during the golden age.

Onatha seemed safe for now. There were only other dignitaries around the table. It was unlikely that an assassin would strike during the talks. Instead he motioned to the barman for a drink, and leaned over the glass barrier to enjoy the view.

The Vangarian Janissaries glided past on their flying carpets. Leo was modestly impressed. He had never seen the carpets of the desert legends before. That being said, he reminded himself that his own people could produce spectacles just as breathtaking.

“Bunch of amateurs,” came an accented voice beside him. It was one of the other delegate's bodyguards. One from the flying city of Al' Fahja. If Leo recalled correctly he had introduced himself earlier as Nazim. Though he wore a red and white headscarf, Leo could tell beyond his tanned skin that he had elven blood in him, probably second or third generation.

“You are not entertained?” Leo asked.

“Bah. The Vangarians have only known the art half as long as the people of Al' Fahja.” Nazim said in exaggerated disgust. “If Carlita thinks that this is skill then he should see what our carpet runners can do.”

“Why didn't you...” Leo started, but was cut off.

“Because my people aren't stupid enough to go around displaying their military capability for all to see. There are eyes watching you know?”

“Or listening,” Leo said, partly as a joke, but partly for vigilance. He leaned back and looked at a man at the bar. Middle aged, bearded and white, he wore a heavy brown jacket with fur lining. “Have you any idea who that man might be?”

“Him? Been here since we arrived. I think someone said he was with the Avalonian delegation. He has got his priorities right I can tell you that much.”

Leo looked back up at the delegates. An air born human with faintly translucent skin, the Avalonian government's foreign secretary, was kicking up a fuss about something.

“So you are the Wendigan's bodyguard yeah?” Nazim continued, “You seem pretty miserable my friend. Are you not enjoying Signor Carlita's hospitality?”

“I find that many times It is hard to do this job without confronting the misery.”

Nazim laughed. “Relax. Have another drink. Go talk to the fair Aethena if that's your poison. From what I've heard she no stranger to extra marital activities. Strapping young man like you shouldn't have any trouble.” He slapped Leo playfully on the chest. “That being said it looks like the barrel chested Avalonian's got there ahead of you.”

Leo turned to see Aethena talking flirtatiously with a tough looking bodyguard. Despite her enthusiasm, he still wore an uncomfortable grimace. Leo had little interest and turned away.

Nazim seemed to take personal insult to this. “Oh by the gods why do you Spirit Landers have to be so fucking stoic all the time?”

“I am not being stoic you desert dwelling hoople head.” Leo shot back. “I am being professional. You want raucous small talk then drop me a line when I'm off duty. For now I don't have time for anything but the job.”

“And a small whiskey it seems,” Nazim eyed Leo's now empty glass. Before the jab could find it's mark, shots were fired, and the two men turned in a panic. Nazim held his cool much better than Leo did.

There were playful screams and giggles from the women as the Avalonian fired off a few more shots towards the bottles on the wall. His aim was awful, until a fifth shot finally found it's mark. Leo squinted to see if he could make out any markings on the grip, but the man was too far away.

“See what I mean? Surrounded by amateurs.” Nazim joked to ease the tension “I could have hit that bottle in one.”

“You like to boast a lot don't you? You are a proud man.”

“One of my many sins. Alas, you know what the cult of Dread Lord Skafell preach?”

“You've got to sin to get saved,” the two recalled the common saying in unison.

Leo smiled. He hadn't realised he'd been doing it. To Nazim's credit the man didn't gloat. He slapped Leo on the chest again. “Let's go get a drink.”

The two left the railings to head back to the bar. Leo picked up the conversation quickly. “I thought the people of Al' Fahja did not touch alcohol. Something about it being against your religion.”

“Bah! You are thinking of the followers of Urak. A popular religion from my home, but not the only one. I am a follower of Passia, which means I get to eat drink and make love to whatever I want.”

“No doubt related to your elven heritage.”

Nazim looked surprised. “Well spotted my friend. Though I confess I think I please the goddess far more than the stuffy elven kingdoms ever did.”

They had closed in on the bar now. The delegates were descending the nearby stairs, and they too were looking for libations. Noticing this, Nazim hopped forward, accidentally colliding with the Avalonian man from earlier.

“You'd be able to see where you were going if you didn't have that fucking towel on your head,” the man shot an uncomfortable slur, but Nazim took it in his stride.

“I don't know what you use for towels back in Avalon my friend,” he pointed to his head scarf. “Is this the kind of thing you use when your woman refuses to wash the dishes?”

The man didn't say anything, too surprised to think of a clever retort. He shuffled closer to the man in the brown jacket and Leo thought he caught them trading words. Nazim taxed his attention though, as the dark skinned half elf had somehow managed to get them two whiskeys in the time it took Leo to blink.

“Was not very nice of him.” Leo said.

“Old Realmers will always be that way. Don't let it get to you.” Nazim laughed. He leaned over so that the Avalonian could hear him. “I'm still a better shot than him anyhow.”

Leo spied Onatha approaching, he was chatting cordially to the Avalonian minister.

“So you imagine yourself a good shot?” he asked Nazim.

“Best in the city if I do say so myself,” He answered not too seriously.

“You have your sidearm with you now?”

“Of course. I would be a pretty lousy bodyguard without one.”

Leo paused for a moment.

“Let me see it.”


“I want to see your pistol.”

Nazim's smile started to fade. “Why?” he asked.

Leo didn't grace him with an answer. The Spirit Lander's face was like stone, unmoving. A few people in the bar had noticed the tension, and the chattering began to drop.

“Show me your pistol,” Leo commanded again.

Nazim looked around. Without knowing what Leo's game was he put his glass on a nearby ledge and slowly began to move his hand up to his jacket. Leo gritted his teeth and made his hand ready to go for his own. Slowly, slowly, Nazim reached under his armpit and began to withdraw. Leo's hand hovered over his holster. Nazim's hand came back into focus, concealing the grip of the pistol. Carefully now, it was out of his jacket.

A woman screamed. Onatha gasped as he looked down the barrel of a gun. Faster than a blink Leo whipped out his pistol and fired.


The pistol clattered to the floor, a glowing white star shape etched into it's grip. The Avalonian bodyguard looked down at his broad chest and coughed up a gob of blood. Seconds later, he dropped to his knees and fell flat on his face.

Onatha sighed in relief. Nazim, not quite sure what had just happened, was frozen in place. Calming down, he returned his pistol to it's place of concealment.

“How did you know?” Asked Onatha, jogging towards Leo, none the worse for ware. “How did you know?”

“To be honest It could just have easily been Nazim.” Leo looked at the half elf “I though it odd you singled me out for a drink. I guess you are just a polite guy after all.”

This snapped Nazim out of his tension, and he smiled goofily.

“As for the Avalonian, I thought it was a little unusual for a bodyguard to be such a bad shot,” Leo noted. “Which meant he was wielding a weapon he wasn't used to. An air enchantment means lighter bullets, and lighter bullets are harder to aim.”

“If that was the case, then why bother with the air enchantment?” Nazim asked, finally coming up to speed.

“I suspect to incriminate you sir.” Leo pointed to the foreign secretary he had seen earlier.

“Me?” the man said in shock.

“Elemental born people have a natural affinity for certain aspects of magic. I suspect the man intended to carry out his assassination covertly, and later plant the evidence. Hoped we would put two and two together and made five. Fortunately I managed to force his hand.”

“A risky strategy Leo,” said Onatha, “but a prudent one.”

“Did you know the man?” Leo asked the foreign secretary.

“No. He was a last minute addition, one of my regular boys was otherwise indisposed.”

“By the way things are going I imagine he's permanently indisposed,” Nazim joked blackly, but nobody laughed.

Leo turned to the bar, and looked at the now empty seat the mysterious man in the jacket once graced. Long gone no doubt. If this man was as smart as Leo guessed, then the assassination attempt would be a mystery that would never be solved. Not for a long time anyway. The assassin's body began to leak blood over Carlita's miraculous marble floor. This debacle irritated the millionaire, but was ultimately little more than an inconvenience to him.The Hoklonote's grim premonition had played out to it's grizzly end.

“My goodness. Oh dear lord. We're going to have to do an investigation.” said the minister “Why would anyone do such a thing?”

“Who can say?” Leo said, turning away from the gore. “Politics probably.”

Copyright Jack Harvey 2014

Monday, 10 March 2014

A Stone's Throw Away - A Grantia Story

And so we return to the world of Modern Realms with A Stone's Throw Away, again an illustrated short story set in a fictional world of magic and suspense. I'm continuing to develop and realize parts of the world, as well as hoping to develop my writing and artwork further.
As always, feedback and questions can be directed in the comment's below, or my tumblr or deviantart. All characters and world concepts are copyright Jack Harvey (I.E me). Again, my biggest hope is that you all enjoy it.

Modern Realms
A Stone's Throw Away
A Grantia Story
By Jack Harvey

Five Seven One was a lonely man. Once upon a time he had been the scourge of the realms. He had been one of the 3000 Mages, an order of spellcasters who had nearly brought the whole of the realms to its knees. Then it all came to ruin when their enemies employed weapons of gunpowder and steam. The realms were a different place now, and it was all because of what they had failed to do.

Five Seven One had lived long past his human lifespan thanks to the powerful magics his compatriots had learned, but he remained hunted and feared even centuries later. He needed protection, and for that he needed allies. Five Seven One's part in the order was in the magic of giving life to others. He created golems, constructs and homunculi for the war. Even now there were those of ill repute who would pay good money for emotionless creatures created for the express purpose of employing violence.

Over the years Five Seven One had worked for gangsters and despots, corrupt businessmen and amoral playboys, but always he had to remain in the shadows, hidden away underground or in desolate wastelands. Though he had been suspected long dead, there was still a bounty on his head that would satisfy any man ten times over.

Loneliness, it was his burden and his alone. It had been a long time since he had felt the touch of a lover. He feared he would be driven insane through solitude, until one day an idea struck him. Though he had dared not conceive it in the past, he knew that there were ways, dark and old, that one could use to create life. He could create a companion, the perfect woman, by trading a little bit of his own life into the ritual.

Grantia was the result of this ritual. He had built her carefully out of fine gray granite. Slabs of the rock slid smoothly where one would expect to find muscles and bone. Her face a composition of expressive lines, her eyes cut from brightest emerald. Her head was bald for now, he would procure a wig later, but otherwise she was a masterpiece of design.

However, like the 3000 mages he fought with long ago, his plans were all for naught. Grantia had everything he had wanted, conscious thought, a personality, human desires, but the ritual had worked all too well. When Five Seven One had brought her into being with his own life force, she had inherited his own longing for female companionship too. There was little in him she saw in her own desires.

A month later to the day Five Seven One finally caved in frustration, and tried to take what he felt was his by force. This ended with his skull cracked open over the tiled floor. Grantia threw his lifeless corpse over her shoulder, marched miles to claim the bounty, and started her life proper. A wig never did grace her gray stone head.


The atmosphere surrounding the summit of the Royaux Mountains was far from similar to the icy wasteland that Five Seven One had placed his hideaway, but the bitter cold was still enough to remind Grantia of those days long ago. She couldn't feel the cold of course, but she was still aware of it. The frosting she had to wipe away from her gemstone eyes being one such way.

In the years that followed, Grantia had found work contracted to her by ORTO, the Old Realms Treaty Organisation, an intergovernmental military alliance of nations based out of the Old Realms, and some from the new. ORTO could not use her for espionage, as she was far too unique for that, nor military engagements, as she had trouble with discipline. After months of back and forth, ORTO finally gave her purpose; Monster hunting.

Grantia pulled her frosted up binoculars out of her sleeveless leather jacket and scanned the rocky peaks. Though she couldn't feel the cold, she still had to dress. She unclipped a length of rope from her belt, reinforced to support her weight, and measured the distance. She marched over to a monolithic standing stone. To the untrained eye it may well have been just a part of the geography, but Grantia could tell by it's shape it had once been worked by living hands. She tied the rope around the rock, grasped it tight and wrapped it over her shoulder. She pulled. It slid towards her with ease, showing it was designed so that even a creature of flesh and blood could move it.

The rock had given way to a descending tunnel. An old tomb from centuries ago, though long since looted. Grantia could see marks and indentations where gemstones and gold would once have graced the rock in celebration of it's occupant. No doubt lacing the coffers of some mercenary or greedy aristocrat now.

You see, legally speaking, ORTO was not allowed to order hits on living beings, sentient or otherwise, but as such creatures often graced the crypts and catacombs of various lands, they contracted Grantia out to archaeological organizations to “defend locals of significant historical importance.”

If a dangerous creature tried to defend such a local, be it a Lich or Hydra, Chimera or Gorgon, Grantia was well within her remit to exterminate with extreme prejudice. Unless it was a dragon of course, or similar endangered creature. Many times Grantia had come across a great historical find only to have to back off because it's resident belonged on the international “do not touch,” list.

Grantia illuminated the passage with her torch. No risk of that here though. Like the standing stone above her, the bowels of the tomb had also been stripped of its riches. If a great dragon did reside here, it had left the looters unmolested.

Grantia had been sent to settlements that circled the Royaux Mountains after the disappearance of several men. There were one or two at first, but soon people were going missing almost nightly, and nobody was more concerned about this than the executives of Ayoade Global, a diamond corporation from The Golden Lands who had expanded their operation into The Old Realms and were bleeding the local workforce dry. The last thing they needed was missing workers.

Though it had seemed Grantia's investigation had come up with naught. This had been the third tomb in the region she had checked, and like the others there was no sign of monstrous intent, just empty tombs, long looted.

As she stepped forwards, Grantia felt something depress beneath her foot. A click and a bang made her pull out her revolver instinctively, but she had misjudged the threat. A steel tipped spear shot out and stabbed into her arm. It broke off once it came into contact with her stone body, but a little bit of her own shoulder blade had been chipped away with it. She grimaced with the kind of pain only she could understand, but as she rubbed at the damage she knew it could be repaired easily. Still, she knew now it would be better to be careful, other snares along the way could do more permanent damage.

Grantia stopped. Traps, why had the tomb's previous visitors deemed it necessary to reset the traps? All the other tombs had been disarmed, yet this one's defenses had been reactivated. If Grantia had a heart it would have begun to beat with excitement, but without she still managed to enjoy some smug satisfaction.

She traversed the cave a little slower this time, taking care to avoid anything underfoot that looked a little conspicuous. Shortly, she came to a large rectangular room. The floor was covered in pressure plates, and it would be impossible to traverse without setting foot on some of them. She could see that the plates had runes calved into them, but their significance was not apparent. Once upon a time it seems the room would have been adorned with artwork featuring a riddle to accompany it, but, like most of anything else, this had been done away with.

No point in attempting to solve the room's puzzle, Grantia concluded, but there must be a way to bypass the trap. Whoever had been here first had been able to reactivate it, so there must be a mechanism somewhere on this side with which to tamper. She doubled back to retrieve the broken spear and leaned forward to poke one of the pressure plates.

Nothing happened at first. Then, shortly, Grantia heard a brief hiss. Suddenly the walls either side slammed together, crushing everything in its path. Moment's later the there was another hiss and it slowly slid back into place. At least that confirmed Grantia couldn't rely on her fortitude to get her through this one.

The hiss though, that confirmed that the trap was driven by the displacement of air. There must be a mechanism somewhere that builds up air pressure then releases it to push the walls out. Yet how to get to it?

Grantia led her hand across the wall. Slowly, looking for cracks, gaps. It wasn't long until she found one, a tablet that would once have displayed a great tale, now worn and defaced beyond value. She didn't feel too bad then when she made a fist, pulled her arm back, and punched through the crumbling stone. On the other side a small shaft, with only foot holds to help one climb down. Hardly a challenge for her though, she had just climbed a mountain range without breaking a figurative sweat.

Below, the mechanism was crammed into the rock and soil. A large balloon of some resilient hide, could even have been dragon, contained ancient air that it would blow into another above it, pushing out the walls. The hide was likely treated to withstand blades, claws and the ravages of time. Grantia pulled out her 44. and blew a large hole all the way through. It deflated sadly, pathetically.

Grantia made it across the room with only the left side wall impotently thrusting forward in a futile attempt to stop her. The tomb's further traps were easier to avoid, and sooner than she expected she had made it to the central room.

Grantia couldn't smell, and for once she was glad she couldn't. By an old coffin she had found what remained of the missing men. Their bodies were shriveled, bled dry maybe, or burned. Amongst the bodies were masses of diamonds, so whatever had done this liked to mix death with extravagance.

She put her hand to the floor, felt around. She could see it in the dust and gravel. She would have smelt it too if she could. A sickening yellow and red. Salty in texture. A ring of sulphur graced the floor. Within Grantia could make out various runes and scripts. She couldn't read it, but she recognised the language. Coupled with the Sulpher it could mean only one thing. She was dealing with a demon.


The denizens of the Royaux Mountains were a humble people, but they loved sophistication. Mostly human, with a modest number of half-elves in their population, they had once been travelers, with no nation to call their own. Few knew what had finally persuaded them to settle down, in the cold north of all places, but settle they did, and they had thrived there ever since.

It was night now, and Grantia had returned to Romahold to report her progress to the archaeologists. She had met up with them in the northernmost part of the city, where the upper classes would hold great balls and parties on the weekend. Finding them wasn't difficult. The fashion in this part of the realms was greatly influenced by coloured silks and gold jewelry, Dr Steven Dunstead, by contrast, was a bland sight dressed in his simple tweed jacket.

As Grantia approached, she noticed that Dunstead wasn't alone, he had been joined by another man in a sharp black suit, a red ascot tied around his neck. He was handsome, classically so, and he radiated wealth, even more than the aristocrats he was surrounded by.

“Ah, Grantia,” the bespectacled doctor greeted. “Come over. Here's someone you need to meet.”

Grantia held out her hand, and the man in the suit reciprocated. It seemed as though he was the kind of person that would have kissed a normal woman on both cheeks, but Grantia was not a normal woman. He shook her hands firmly, and did not wince at her stony grip. An impressive feat in and of itself.

“This is David Delcourt, vice president of Ayoade Global. He's come to check on your progress.”

The man laughed. “Nothing so grand Doctor. I'm actually only vice president of the Old Realms branch, and I'm simply here to oversee operations.”
Either way that's an impressive position to be in. You're the palest person I've seen working for a Golden Land corporation.”

He had a grin like a snake, trying to brush off the racial implications of Dunstead's comment. Though it was interesting that he was not a Golden Lander. Grantia could tell just by looking he didn't give a damn about the workers, only that the business had not been jeopardized. “My business partners put little value on heritage Doctor. As long as I make the money they don't care who's mother bore me, nor do I care who bore them.”

Grantia began to feel a little uncomfortable. “I'm only here to protect the Doctor's dig sites. Anything else that may come about would be nothing more than a happy accident.”

“Oh course, of course,” Delcourt waved off the inclination. “History is our most important commodity is it not?” His laugh betrayed any sense of sincerity. “But make no mistake,” he patted Dunstead on the shoulder, “It is our company that is funding your little expedition. If our problem is not solved, neither is yours.”

Dunstead squirmed. “Mr Delcourt, my associate meant no disrespect. Though it has been preying on my mind, when will be meeting the rest of the board?”

“Of course she did not,” Declourt lit up a cigarette, ignoring the question. “But alas, my friends, those must be my parting words. This party can only manage one person of extravagance, and who am I to stand in the way of the beautiful Lady DeGray?”

Delcourt shook their hands and made to leave. Grantia had noticed the woman he was talking about, another who stood apart from the locals. She was tall, slender, her legs seemed to go on forever and her curves were that of a courtesan but the face of noble birth. She wore jewelry that drew the eye to all the places a man was interested in. She wore a dress that revealed far more than was expected of a woman, yet had such confidence that nobody would dare accuse her of dressing inappropriately.

Beauty was in the eye of the beholder of course. Grantia was not the kind of person to be encapsulated by a bit of bare flesh, but the woman had piqued her curiosity. Delcourt had been right though, a high flying executive was nothing in the face of such a woman. “Who is that?” Grantia asked Dunstead.

“Lady Dantes DeGray. A well to do sort who moved here a few years ago. Word is she's been looking for a husband to share her not inconsiderable wealth with, but has remained unmarried all this time. The local fellas treat her as though she's some kind of walking lottery, though weather its the money or her body they are after I'll leave for you to decide.”

“Hmmm,” Grantia stroked her stony chin, “I'll catch up with you in a bit Doctor.”

“What? Where are you going?”

“Chasing a few leads,” she said, and she walked into the crowd.

Lady DeGray was at the bar now surrounded by potential suitors vying for attention. Grantia shoved her way through, and suddenly an unstoppable force had met an immovable object. There had been sideways glances towards Grantia from the moment she had arrived, but now she was up close the men could not do anything but stare. She understood, she was one of a kind. Wherever she went people would be curious. Lady DeGray however, remained cool, even in the face of losing attention.

“And who might you be?” Lady DeGray purred.

Grantia pulled out her identification. “Agent Grantia, ORTO department of historical preservation.”

“Deliciously fascinating. I have seen many rock golems in my time but I had long thought they were nothing more than mindless brutes. You appear to be much more...” DeGray stopped for a moment and her eyes lingered over Grantia's body, “...articulated.”

“It's a long story.” Grantia said, shoving her identification back into her jacket. “You seem to have a fairly unique view on the goings on around here. I was just wondering if I could ask you a few questions?”

“Hmmm,” Lady DeGray stroked the long hair of one of the men surrounding her. Grantia watched as her sharp fingernails combed through his locks. “I don't know, I do have prior commitments tonight..”

“Tell you what,” Grantia put her hand on DeGray's shoulder. “You tell me your story, and I'll tell you mine.”

Lady DeGray smiled. “Very well.” She leaned forwards, he voice a little lower. “I have my own table and booth if it's privacy you require.”

Grantia smiled back, politely, and nodded.

“Very well. Manuel!” she shouted over to one of the staff. “Have my table ready and three rounds of Tanandos.”

The men sighed, begging her to stay, but she waved them off.

“Now, now, gentlemen, you have my attention most every night. Allow me this slight dalliance for once,” and she took Grantia by the arm and led her through to a quieter part of the bar, lit only by deep red lamps and candles.

They were seated, and brought drinks with olives and baby tomatoes. Lady DeGray began to eat.

“I'm sorry Lady DeGray...”

“Call me Dantes my dear,” she said, cutting Grantia off.

“Dantes. I appreciate your custom but I'm afraid I don't drink.”

“Can't, or won't?”

Grantia didn't need to eat, drink or sleep, but she had been created to be a companion, and that meant she had to be capable of experiencing earthly pleasures. She had never tried to drink before, not in great quantities. Maybe she had been designed to allow for the consumption of libations, she had never put that to the test before. She picked up the drink and sipped at it out of courtesy. The sensation was dulled on her stone tongue, but still noticeable.

“So, what is it you wish to talk about?”

Grantia didn't stand on ceremony. “Let's start from the beginning shall we? I was told you moved her a few years ago. A strange thing for a lady to do, moving to the outskirts of the realms where nobody had ever heard of her.”

Dantes smiled and looked down. “My family hails from Avalon. You probably know they think little of nobles there, after they executed most of the monarchy during the industrial revolution.”

“But that was generations ago, it's a little late to be going into exile now isn't it?”

“Oh that's not what it is,” Dante's brushed her hair back, reclining in her seat. “I simply grew tired of Avalon, boring and gray. I had the money and wanted more interesting scenery. So I left with my family entitlement for pastures new.”

“Why here?”

“Why not?”

“It's cold and desolate, so much more than Avalon, and it's not very well traveled, there are few that come here from the wider realms.”

“But the people are so interesting,” her face lit up, “so unspoiled by others. It is places like this that you find things that are... truly unique.”

“Hmnf,” Grantia grumbled, she could tell Lady DeGray was holding back. “And what about the recent disappearances, do they not worry you?”

“A sad state of affairs,” she said evasively. “I knew many of those men, a few of them had proposed to me several times. But one cannot live one's life in a bubble. To live without risk is not to live at all.”

“Any you haven't heard anything? No suspicions as to who was responsible?”

“I am simply a lady with too much time and money on her hands, I have no experience in the more brutal side of man.”

She was lying. Grantia could tell, but for some reason she remained uncritical. There was something in Dantes that she liked, an optimism, a hypnotic quality. When she spoke, it was as if her words were taking on a life of their own. Maybe Grantia was susceptible to alcohol after all, because without realising it she began to stroke Dante's leg with her foot. She quickly drew it back, embarrassed.

“My, so you swing that way do you?” Dantes smiled.

“I.. ugh,” Grantia flustered. “I'm sorry, it was an accident.”

“No need to apologize,” Dantes leaned forwards. “A lady knows how to be discreet.”

Grantia coughed.

“Anyway. I've told you my story. Now it's your turn.”

Over the course of a few more drinks Grantia related her tale, and Dantes seemed genuinely interested. They talked through the night, and though Grantia tried a few more times to catch Dantes out, she gave away nothing more about the missing men. Grantia didn't mind though, for the first time in a while she was enjoying herself and her newfound discovery of alcohol, and Dantes was, if nothing else, fun to talk to.

As night crept on it was time to retire. As Dantes bid farewell, it seemed for a moment that she was going to make a pass at Grantia, but the flirtatious dialog was maybe all in her mind. Dantes gave her a noncommittal kiss on the cheek and waved her goodnight. It didn't matter though, the alcohol was quickly being purged from Grantia's system and her thoughts were clear again. She retrieved her weapons from the concierge at the door, then carefully began tailing Dantes back to her home.

Though she didn't have any evidence yet, she would bet her life that Dantes was the one she was looking for.


What were demons? Were they dark parallels of gods and angels, created at the dawn of time to balance absolute good with absolute evil? Were they physical manifestations of the realm's worst excesses? Rage, greed, lust, wrath? Or were they simply creatures of habit, born of a different plane of existence, that followed its own rules, customs and prejudices?

Grantia didn't know, nor did she really need to. All she needed to know was how to banish one back to the hells. Before attending the party she had loaded her gun with sanctified bullets, blessed by seven different churches and cast in silver. If Dantes was a demon she was surely a lesser kind. A succubus most likely. She would be no match for Grantia's ordinance.

Dantes lived in an exquisite apartment. It was a mix of modern minimalism and traditional carved wood. Grantia slowly ascended the stone steps that ran up to her door, having to take extra care due to her weight. Finally at the front, she pulled out her pistol and tried to peer through the frosted glass. Nothing. She moved to try the handle.

Suddenly it opened and there was Dantes. She was not surprised, it was almost as if she expected Grantia to be there. Grantia hid her gun behind her back quickly.

“My my, couldn't stay away could you?” she said seductively.

“I.. was just making sure you made it home safe. Can't be too careful what with the disappearances of late.”

Dantes ignored Grantia's protests. “Come in.”

She led Grantia through to a dimly lit living room. An open fire roared beside the modern furniture. She could see that the lights were electric, not gas like what most of the city went by.
“You've probably figured it out by now,” Dantes said, “I'm not what I say I am.”

Grantia thumbed back the hammer on her 44.

Dantes held out her arms and snapped her fingers. With little ceremony her skin turned a deep red, and her hair receded so that it ran along only the center of her head, flanked by two long sharp horns. More obvious though was the long pointed tail that extended from her spine, and the bile coloured wings that sprouted from her back.

“Sit,” she said calmly, and patted a cushion next to her.

Grantia didn't know why she didn't just shoot Dantes there and then. Instead, she shoved the gun into it's holster and sat down.

“I suppose you're here to kill me?”

“That was the idea.”

“You don't have to, you know. My intent here is not malicious.”

Grantia laughed without humour.

“It's true. I am not here by choice. I was banished here, chose the wrong side in a war few will ever know about. If I were to return to the hells there would be worse waiting for me. So instead I decided to have fun for as long as I could.” Dantes' long fingernails began stroking the arm of Grantia's jacket.

Grantia showed little sympathy. She stood, abruptly. “Fun? Every man you take to bed dies.”

“Yes,” nodded Dantes with a little self awareness. “Yes they do. Do you know how that makes me feel?”

All joy and humor had dropped from the succubus's face now. Grantia knew better than to fall for the manipulations of a creature from hell, but she felt a little pity. She knew from personal experience what Dantes was feeling.

“You're lonely,” Grantia said. “Boo fucking hoo. Aren't we all?”

Dantes looked at the floor and laughed humorlessly. “How long has it been for you?”

“How long since what?”

“Since you last had companionship?”

It had been a while, Grantia had had lovers in the past, but given her constitution very few could stay around long for the physical commitments. “Long enough,” she said.

“Well then.” Dantes got to her feet and walked over to Grantia. She put her arms round Grantia's shoulders. “No man could survive a night with me, but I reckon you just might be in with a chance.”

Grantia shook her head, but she didn't force Dantes away. “You think I'm going to fall for that one?”

“It's true. Golems by their very design are immune to all magics, and I'm willing to bet that pistol of yours is loaded with sanctified bullets. You don't tire and you don't need to sleep. You're more than a match for this weak little creature from a bygone era.”

Grantia put her hands around Dantes' head and forced their lips together. It was an odd experience, for the both of them, stone on demon's flesh, but it worked. Something Dantes had said earlier had stuck with Grantia. Might as well have fun for as long as they could.


Dantes woke to see Grantia getting dressed. It was the first time she had awoken from a night of lovemaking without having a corpse to deal with. Savoring the moment, she leaned over and put her arms around Grantia, and stroked the chip in her shoulder.

Grantia stood, without reciprocating this time, and pointed her pistol at Dantes' head.

Dantes lay back in bed, not taking Grantia seriously. “So you're going to kill me now? Was I really that out of practice?”

“The sob story worked for a while, but I'm not going to fall for it. Your magics will only get you so far.”

“What are you talking about darling?” Dantes now sounded a little more worried, as Grantia pulled the hammer back on her pistol. Dantes grabbed the sheets and covered her body.

“Even if all of what you said was sincere, maybe you are as lonely as I am, but that doesn't excuse the deaths of seventeen men.”

“The missing men?” Dantes said, surprised. “You think that was me?”

Grantia laughed. “Oh please. You're going to tell me that it wasn't?.”

“Grantia, darling, I haven't bedded a man since my banishment. You think I'd jepordise what I have here like that? Why do you think I revealed myself to you?”

“What? Am I supposed to believe It's someone else then? Another demon? What would they have to gain by coming here, doing this? Who else would have the allure to draw those men to their deaths?”

“I don't know.”

Grantia pointed the gun and closed one eye to get a better aim. Square between the eyes, simple. Dantes lowered her head, resigned to her fate, black tears beginning to form over her cheeks. Grantia's stone fingers slowly began to depress the trigger.

“Oh shit.” Grantia stopped, “It isn't you.”

Dantes looked up, she didn't say anything.

“But I think I know who it is.” Grantia threw some clothes over at Dantes. “Come on.”


Grantia kicked the door down, easy enough when you're made out of granite. David Delcourt and the two ladies he was in bed with looked over in surprise.

“Ladies, go.” Grantia pointed a huge trench gun at him. “You, stay.”

The ladies departed, and a now modestly dressed Dantes, back in human form, came to Grantia's side.

Delcourt sat at the end of the bed, smile on his face and began clapping slowly. “Oh bravo, bravo. Which one of you figured me out? I doubt it was you Dantes, you were always such a fool. It must have been you dear golem lady. How did you do it?”

“It wasn't difficult. Dunstead made an acute observation when he noted that you weren't dark skinned like most from The Golden Lands.”

“May I add that it wasn't so much of an oversight. I felt that the workers would be quicker to trust one of their own. Trust is such an important thing in this line of business.”

“Enough bullshit, Martellus. Show us your true form.” Dantes said with venom.

Delcourt smiled and twizzled his hand, there was a blast of smoke, and in his place was a creature twice his size. Martellus was a large muscular creature, bull horns spiraled around his massive under bite. Spines and thorns grew out of his flesh.

“I presume you came prepared?” Martellus tapped the barrel of Grantia's trench gun.

“The shells are packed with the ashes of saints from seven different denominations.”

“That'll do it,” he said without fear.

“Ayoade Global never even knew about this did they?”

“Of course not,” he laughed. “This was all my doing. I sensed a weakness in the space between worlds where once I had banished Dantes. I stripped the tombs of gold and sold it on the black market. Reinvented myself as a businessman. I told the locals I was working for Ayoade because who was there to correct them?”

“And you led the workers away and force fed them diamonds till they choked.”

“Such a wonderful jest.”

“Why. What was all this in aid of.”

“To torment Dantes of course. I had grown so bored in the hells. I couldn't confront her directly, even in her weakened state. So I set things up so that she would take the fall for my crimes, and be banished back to the hells ready and waiting for me to return.”

“As vile as the day you were spawned Martellus,” Dantes said.

He laughed, and turned back to Grantia. “So. I suppose you'll want to hear why...”

Grantia pulled the trigger and Martellus' entire upper body exploded across the room. Dantes instinctively covered her eyes. When she opened them again she could see Matellus' remains were already turning to ash.

Grantia propped the trench gun over her shoulder. “Come on. If we work fast we can reverse the summoning circle and he'll have no way of coming back.”

Before she could storm out the room, Dantes grabbed her by the arm.

“Wait a moment,” she said. “He'll be back, eventually. He'll come looking for me. I won't be able to stay here.” The succubus looked down, a little nervous. “Could I...”

Grantia put her arm around Dantes. “Yes,” she said simply, and the two left the room.

Grantia didn't know if they could manage a future together, but at the very least it might be able to stave off loneliness for just one more day.

Copyright Jack Harvey 2014