Episode One: Welcome back, wayward child.
The Thule district was just as I'd remembered it being; dirty, cramped and dry. The dark, gray and brown colored architecture and tightly packed tenements were all too familiar, even after five years of absence. Street rats, both of the animal and human kind wandered aimlessly, the former on guard, aware that they could become dinner for one of the many vagabonds that roamed around under the smog filled sky.
From several blocks away, I could smell the distinctive odor of the papermills that always flooded the street, an omnipresent and repulsing smell of sulfur. It hadn't changed either.
Right on the corner of 17th Avenue and 213th Street was one of the most well known building of the district; the Damnation Lounge. It's dark purple neon and black light provided one of the few source of illumination in the area, streetlight being more of a suggestion than a thing in Thule.
At the entrance, a massive troll guarded the door, bluish skin covered in wart-like small protrusions that came out of the over-sized Armani suit that it wore, curved horns rose from it's head.
As I approached, I gave me one glance and half-snarled an order. "Get in line." It said.
"I'm a friend of the manager, just call in, he'll tell you."
"Just like everone else. Get. In. Line!" He snarled again, pointing at the line of several hundred people waiting for a change to get out of the filth, many of whom were probably there to make a better life than the squalor of Thule.
"Ok, listen to me, you half-fae piece of shit. I'm a friend of the boss and he'll want to see me ASAP. If you don't want to lost your job, just tell him that Conor's here to--"
His fist hit me square in the chest and I stumbled, or rather fell back a few feet from the impact. I felt a few bones in my chest crack. I painfully stumbled back up. "If that's how you want to play it..." I sighed.
I dropped my bag and pulled out a worn scabbard from it. The troll stood back, looking at me with a mix of curiosity and nervosity, it probably never really had to deal with trouble makers who were persistent; at eight feet tall and five hundred pounds few things wanted to mess with a troll.
It moved a bit forward, recognizing a challenge, and I took position, sword raised.
"Durendal... I need your power." I muttered, passing a hand over the silvery blade, and the inscription lightly shimmered with blue light, that more or less translated as 'Through faith I conquer'
The troll moved forward and charged, confident in it's own power and durability. I let my instinct guide me, rolling to the side and I raised my blade, swinging lightly at the tendons of his leg. It only takes a few pounds of pressure to slice flesh, with a mundane blade that is, Durendal barely required any, natural armor or not.
The troll's charge abruptly stopped as his feet gave out from underneath him. He slowly rose up using his arms, but a second strike of my blade stopped that effort, the arm falling clean off, spewing blue bloods over the dirty pavement. Although it would have been a cruel act on a man, a troll would regrow the lost limb in a day or two at most.
"Now, do I have your permission to go in?" I asked, putting the blood dripping blade to it's head. It swore to me in it's native language. "Do I need to repeat the question?" I asked, sinking the tip in it's shoulder, which caused it to howl in pain.
The door to the club flew open and a small legion of men and Otherkins walked out, visibly armed. "Who the hell dares assault my staff?" a voice I hadn't heard in years yelled out.
I turned toward the new comers and looked at the one in the front, a towering man with dark, soulful eyes, dressed in a perfectly tailored silk suit with a bright yellow tie, his hands tightly gripped an ivory and ebony cane that glowed with power. Next to him was a similar looking woman stood in a long silk chinesse cocktail dress, holding a long curved saber.
"Hello, Nergal, it's been a while." I said, displaying my most cocky grin. "Ereshkigal, as lovely as ever I see." I walked a few pace forward and the look on their faces changed as they recognized me. The piercings and dirty blonde hair probably helping.
They lowered their weapons and their escort did the same. "You, what are you doing, here? We though you'd met Gehenna."
"Alas no. But it's a long story." I said, sheathing Durendal back. "How about we go in your office?"
He nodded and gave a few orders in the old tongue of Sumer and the goons passed by me and went to help the limping troll. Nergal motioned with his head toward the building and I followed him inside, his consort holding his arm.
The inside was chaotic, the music filling the air with the kind of noise and industrial that Nergal seemed to enjoy, the people inside seemed to form two crowds, the regular and the pledges. The former composed of Otherkins dressed in gothic, punk, emo or cyberpunk styles while the latter were composed of all kinds of humans, maybe hoping they'd find someone to uplift them.
"I see your tastes haven't changed." I said as we passed a small group of feasting vampires, dressed in nothing but lingerie.
"This isn't just a matter of taste, my dear Conor. Here, the others can be themselves, ignore those conventions of yours."
"I see they still like being provocative." I said, my eyes on the poor sob that was getting drained dry.
We climbed a handful of additional steps and arrived at his office, which was on a glass walled balcony, giving him a sweeping view of the rest of the club. He sat down in the massive leather chair and crossed his legs, looking at me and making a small sweeping motions toward the chair. His mate meanwhile walked to the side and laid on a couch, almost like a fashion model posing.
"Tell me, what brought you back after so long, Conor? Surely, it wasn't my personality."
"I needed to come back, there are things that need to be done... I'm over running away. And I need your help, I need a place of my own, you can arrange that. Unless you suddenly lost your competence that is."
He snickered. "Who do you think I am? I'm the best fixer of Thule. I assume you know my price."
"I do." I said. It was the same thing he'd asked me the first time we had met, a decade ago. "But I can't answer your question yet."
"Fair enough..." He said. "I have a place I recently reacquired, the tenants left a few days ago. I'm ready to loan it to you, provided you'll give me the answer once you've found it."
"Good, I have another question."
He arched an eyebrow and leaned against the desk.
"Where is Wayland?"