8FOLD: Mighty Medley # 18, June 2015, by Messrs. Brenton, Perron, Russell, and Stokes

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Sat Jun 6 04:59:14 PDT 2015

-------------EIGHTFOLD PROUDLY PRESENTS-------------
-------------THE 2014 RACCIE WINNER FOR-------------
--------------FAVORITE ONGOING SERIES---------------
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-------------- ISSUE # 18   JUNE 2015 --------------
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-------------SAXON BRENTON--ANDREW PERRON-----------
--------------TOM RUSSELL---COLIN STOKES------------
--------------- Editor, Tom Russell ----------------


"The Company Man" by Tom Russell
Moral and ethical compromises in the corporate space. On the
difference between knowing and remembering, and the hazards of sharing
a room with a mnemonomancer.

"Beyond the Fields" Part 17, by Saxon Brenton
In which our story moves into its third and final act. Backstory on a
train. Maladies spiritual and physical, and what they may portend.

"Empress of Pages" Part 5, by Colin Stokes
A reflection on the temporary nature of physical discomforts,
especially for the daemonic. A promise extracted. Secrets kept from
the Jade Throne.

"Seven 'Gainst Thebes" Part 16, by Tom Russell
In which our heroes, and our villain, arrive at Thebes Ranch. Feelings
of dread and of decay. A necessary sacrifice: a mercy, considering the

"Collateral Security" by Andrew Perron
Being that the preceding four stories tended toward despair and dark
magicks, it is only fitting that we leave you with magick of the most
delightful sort. Shall we dance?

-----------------THE COMPANY MAN--------------------
------------Copyright 2015 Tom Russell--------------

As Donald waits for the timeclock to register his left thumbprint, he
stares at the back of his hand, at the dime-sized perfect circle
between his thumb and prime finger, and at the intricate, clean lines
of black and faintly purple etched within. One morning last year, he
woke up and it was there. He remembers thinking, It's not a tattoo; it
burned and itched and pulsed and breathed, like a living thing.
   Shortly after that, the company found him and told him what it was,
a mancer's mark, told him about Venus and the broken lullaby, about
the new world and his place in it, and about the secret circle that
was conspiring to put them all back to sleep. They showed him how to
control his magicks, and offered him a job. It's not what he wants to
do with his life, but what he wants is to be a poet, and there hasn't
been money in that for years. The hours aren't bad, benefits package
is very nice. He's coming up on six months, and is actively being
groomed for management of Q-and-A.
   Q-and-A handles interrogations and, occasionally, reconditioning.
Donald's job is to wipe the memory of the session from the subject.
Sometimes they'll just let them go "into the wild", but often they'll
stage a "rescue", earning the trust of the disoriented subject, who
will then confide things they couldn't have gotten out of them during
the "normal" interrogation. Today's subject is a woman called Lieke.
Blonde. Probably good looking too, but she's so bloodied and bruised
from the session that Donald can't tell one way or the other. He can
barely make out the mancer's mark on her cheek. They still have no
idea what kind of magicks she has at her disposal.
   The interrogators leave the room; if they don't, his mnemonomancy
will muck with their memories, too. He's stretching his fingers out
toward the puffy mess that used to be her face, preparing to wipe the
last six hours away, when the lights go out. Security cameras too, he
reckons. Great.
   "Donald," she says. How does she
   "When you were a kid, you had a dog, and you named her Donald.
People thought you had said Donna, but no, it was Donald. You felt,
and you still do, that Donald is an exemplary name, the perfect name
for any occasion. You didn't tell anyone, except for Beth. She sends
her love."
   "I don't know any Beth."
   "You don't remember any Beth," she corrects. "She sends her love
anyway. Donald, I know who you are because you know who I am; you just
don't remember. You're one of us. Not just a mancer. But a part of the
circle. You're here undercover. You wiped you own memories to keep
yourself safe, and to keep me safe. And Beth. We don't have a lot of
time; Trevor can't keep the power down for long. Are you with me,
   "... Yes, I think so."
   "I wasn't captured. I'm here for you, to give you something. No,
they didn't take it. It's hidden in my thigh. Take it." Donald presses
his hand gently against her leg. After a moment, a sort of disc
materializes in his hand. Instinctively, he presses it against his
arm; it disappears.
   "What is it?"
   "Something you'll need very soon. Too soon, I'm afraid. Now, when
you wipe my mind, you need to wipe it clean. Not just the last six
hours. Everything."
   "You'll be of no use to them then. They'll be... angry. Take it out on you."
   "I'll live."
   "No, you won't," says Donald gently.
   "I won't, and I will," says Lieke. "There's a reason why I'm the
one on this mission. You know it, you just don't remember. And,
obviously? You need to wipe your mind, too. Only a day or so should do
the trick. They'll think it has something to do with my powers
interacting with yours, wibbly-wobbly a wizard-did-it, so they won't
discipline you too harshly." The lights blare back on. Lieke smiles at
him, and it's a familiar smile. "And Donald?
   "Beth sends her love."

-----------------BEYOND THE FIELDS------------------
---------------------Part 17------------------------
-----------Copyright 2015 Saxon Brenton-------------

The third act begins with the renegade Nazi necromancer Marcus Oustler
sitting on a train heading northwards from the town of Rotewald. It
was his intention to change trains at Berlin and continue his journey
to Rastenburg in East Prussia, and then make his way to his final
destination in the Masurian woods, where he would kill himself.
   The former Sturmbannfuhrer stared out the window, watching the
passing countryside. By rights he should be trying to get some sleep
before his final task, but sleep was beyond him. His mind kept going
over the plan - both the steps he had taken and those that still
needed doing - looking for any minor matter that might call for
correction. And also he was not physically tired.  That in itself
surprised him, since as far as he could tell he should still be
   Within the last half week the man had raced into Russia, then to
North Africa and back to Europe, obliterating the death camps that had
been generating magical energy and broadcasting it across the Reich.
He had tired himself with those activities, but by his reckoning he
should have been unable to replenish himself because of the resulting
drop of magical energy in the arcanosphere. Instead he was expecting a
lengthier period of mundane rest. Yet only a few hours after
destroying the Nindenheim camp he once again felt alert and active. In
fact, he almost felt as if he could have teleported himself to the
ancient castle near Rastenberg and put himself ahead of schedule.
   That would be unwise, of course. What if what he felt was merely a
temporary adrenalin rush? What if he truly exhausted himself to the
point where he could not complete the final magical ritual? No, better
to follow his carefully worked out plan, rest up during a leisurely
trip to the castle, and conserve his resources for when they were
   A conductor came through the carriage, checking tickets. Marcus
handed his over, unconcerned with whether it would pass muster. It was
a forgery, of course, but a magically created one of high quality. He
had been preparing for this for a long time. After the conductor had
passed Marcus was left alone with his thoughts again. He deliberately
turned them away from revising the minutiae of his plan, and for a
change reminisced on how he had come to this unexpected point.
   Marcus and Anna had been young and in love. They'd married shortly
after Marcus had returned from his mandatory stint of guard duty at
labour camp.  And then Anna had contracted cancer, and her death had
been the true driving force behind Marcus's later work as a
   It wasn't so much the personal tragedy that had driven him on.
Although, yes, there had been an element of wanting to learn to beat
the disease as a form of revenge. Rather, it had been the revelation
of how the cancer had been caused.  Marcus had failed to save Anna
because the cancer of her body had been a symptom of a larger malady.
Her ailment had been an infection of her what was variously described
as the astral body, or etheric double, or - as Marcus liked to think
of it - the spiritual immune system. In retrospect it was obvious that
the disease of the spirit couldn't have been cured by merely treating
the symptoms of the physical manifestation.
   Marcus had only identified what had been going on because of his
magical training with the Reichsmages, and because to be honest in the
later stages of Anna's illness he'd been desperate enough to follow up
on almost any lead.  However by then it had been too late. But
afterwards, when his grief had lessened somewhat, he'd gone back and
collated what he'd discovered, identified magical pollution as the
cause, and gone on to become *the* expert of supernatural disease.
Even if conventional doctors muttered disparagingly about using
   What Marcus had discovered had appalled him. It wasn't just the
otherwise mundane diseases that were appearing as a result of
super-natural vectors. It was that, *and* the people contracting
lycanthropy (both the ones suffering from the psychiatric delusion as
well as the ones who were physically transforming into wolves - and
worse). And the birth defects that were cropping up, some of them
producing monsters that had survived the birthing process and had
escaped to prey on the unwary. And the spontaneous human combustions.
And the rise of the hordes of zombies in the East. And the list went
   Marcus was worried that the world was entering a new age of
monsters, and that humanity might not survive. Or worse, that even if
it did survive it might be reduced to nothing more than the livestock
for an emergent aristocracy of vampires.

---------------- EMPRESS OF PAGES ------------------
----------------------Part 5------------------------
-----------Copyright 2015 Colin Stokes--------------

With a single, powerful undulation of her wires, the Librarian yanked
Fn'ordh off balance. With the reverse motion, she slammed him into the
cavern floor, flat on his back - with a meaty *thud* that, under more
dramatic circumstances, might have caused the floor to crater. The
gloves, such as they were, were off.
   A daemon, manifested in its typical humanoid form, was naturally
subject to the physiological restrictions of that form - much like a
human would be, albeit much hardier than such a fragile mortal.
Fn'ordh didn't feel particularly hardy at the moment, though, his
vision sparking with the brutal impact and fire dotting his body where
the Librarian's wires were digging in.
   There was a soft creaking sound, and then a loud, splintering crack
as one of the Netherguard plates gave way under the strain of being
pulled away from Fn'ordh's body. A feeling like liquid fire - which he
knew all too well - spread along his left bicep in a flash as his skin
was laid bare, the fragments of the armor plate clattering quietly on
the floor. So much for that idea.
   =Submit, Fn'ordh,= came the Librarian's snarl once more, a touch
more quietly than before, as she speared him with even more wires.
Some tugged hard on the armor plates, some pierced all the way through
to the ground and anchored him where he was. =Submit to me, or I shall
/continue/ what I have started until there is nothing left of you.=
   Fn'ordh despised the idea of submission to another, as did most
daemons.  Even in circumstances like these, he still chafed at the
thought, even more so than at the wires impaling him - physical
discomforts were but a temporary annoyance, after all, for an
effectively immortal being. It was a trait that seemed to be hardwired
into all daemons, one that drove their trickster-like behavior and
seemingly needless cruelty towards their summoners. The only reason
they put up with contracts of any sort, ultimately, was to gain access
to the physical realm; even if it was merely temporary, even if they
were unwelcome by anyone's standards, even if they had to enslave
themselves to come here for such brief windows of time - even then, it
was all worth the trouble.
   Because the physical realm was - by comparison to the Netherworld,
at any rate - an endless delight.
   The Librarian couldn't have said precisely why all this was so,
even after her mind games; without the reference point of being a
daemon herself - in the literal sense anyway - she could at best
hazard a guess. (Her guesses, or more accurately her theories, were
well-constructed if nothing else; the Eighth Library may be thanked
for that.) That didn't stop her from tearing off additional
Netherguard plates while she waited for a reply, though.
   "You said you had a question-" Fn'ordh began, and then paused to
grit his teeth as another armor plate splintered. Temporary, yes, but
no less painful for that.
   =Do you submit or not?= the Librarian returned quietly, her wires
seeming to heat up slightly on and in the daemon's body. Fn'ordh
quickly decided this was as good a sign of things going even more
poorly as he was going to get, and nodded.
   The Librarian's eyes narrowed briefly, and her wires went slack.
=Good.  Now... we shall /talk/, you and I.  Of how things will
progress, of your service to me.= What might have been a small smile
played over her lips.  =And perhaps most importantly, of my plans for
your realm... and for this one.=
   Talk. Yes. Fn'ordh could deal with talking, for one because it
didn't involve him getting kicked around any more than he already had.
It also meant he had time to recover his strength, time to regenerate,
time to formulate a plan to-
   -to do /what/, exactly? Take this monster by surprise somehow?
Escape and get resummoned later for another beatdown? No, he was
beaten and cornered quite neatly this time, no matter how much he
wanted to deny it.
   The Librarian's smile widened a little more as she watched the
daemon sink down to the floor, utterly defeated. =Now then, daemon,=
she continued, fixing her gaze upon him once more, =I have answers
that I wanted - some of them, at any rate - and yet I find myself with
even /more/ questions than before.=
   "I am listening, Librarian," Fn'ordh returned evenly. Anger, rage,
remorse, pleading; they would avail him nothing at this point. Best to
simply remain calm.
   The brunette reached down and picked up a discarded Netherguard
plate, feeling the lightly textured stone-like surface on it as her
smile remained.  =Will you swear to keep this secret, Fn'ordh?  Even
from the occupant of the Jade Throne?=
   The daemon's eyes narrowed slightly. He had no love for the Throne. "Gladly."
   =The Netherworld has something it should not, Fn'ordh,= the
Librarian murmured softly, almost sweetly. =I shall correct that, by
reclaiming... the Wellspring.=
   Fn'ordh's eyes widened again. He was probably going to regret that promise...

--------------SEVEN 'GAINST THEBES------------------
---------------------Part 16------------------------
------------Copyright 2015 Tom Russell--------------

   Skin of Snake slumped Adams over the back of his horse like a fancy
towel, toes and fingers a-dangling like tassels. He was quick to
volunteer for this duty; elsewise Peake was sure to give ol' Dash the
once-over and twice, and would determine that while the bullet was
real enough, the head trauma what knocked him out was but a colorful
invention, a fib and a flourish. And if the three of them-- that would
be counting Celine, but excluding Peake-- were to get inside the
viper's nest and out again, and alive, well, it wouldn't do to give
Peake cause to suspect them. (He was suspicious enough as it were,
suspicion being as essential to his nature as violence and cruelty.)
   After a spell, they came to a place, to the place, to so obviously
the place and no other, to the point where it was atypically
superfluous of Peake to say, "Thebes."
   It were a goodly stretch of land. That was plain even in the night.
Even more impressive than the fresh and flat grasses that fed many a
head of well-fatted cattle, and the little stream that danced prettily
aside the split-rail fence, was the homestead, which was bigger and
grander than most ranches in and of itself.
   But for all its grandness, it was a bleak and a crooked thing. The
fence upon inspection was rotted; the stream, muddied; the cattle, as
sinister as Peake's inconstant steed, which curled away like smoke as
soon as Peake and his captive had dismounted. And the homestead
   Just two nights ago, Skin of Snake had ridden into town on a
borrowed horse and with a borrowed face, so that he might kill the men
that murdered his brother. And he knew going in that there was a
decent chance that once he went in, he might never come out. But he
weighed the thing in his brain, weighed it against his own skills (not
inconsiderable), and against the thing that he had to do, and figured
the odds were, if not exactly in his favor, at least favorable.
Staring at that homestead, he got the same feeling again, only now
when he did all the weighing, it seemed like less a probability, and
more a certainty.
   That didn't sit well with him.
   Skin of Snake dismounted his horse. He left Adams slumped across
it, and started to lead the horse toward the gate. Peake clicked his
teeth: "Horse stays outside. Boss don't like any horses but his at
Thebes. There's at least one horse in these parts that's peculiar.
Makes the boss jumpy."
   Smiling Horse, most-like, but "Brad Clay" wouldn't know that, so
Skin of Snake didn't say another word about it.
   The injun picked up Adams and slung him over his shoulder.
   "You're our man now," said Peake, "am I right?"
   "I am."
   "Then you won't be needing that horse, will you?"
   Skin of Snake held his breath. "I won't. I'm fond of the animal,
however, and would rather no harm befall it."
   "You ain't in the East no more, Mr. Clay; out here, there's no
place for sentiment. Certainly not in our crew."
   "Of course."
   Peake produced one of his flaying knives. It glinted in the moon.
He smiled; his teeth glinted too, just like they were knives.
   "Let me do it." Skin of Snake pulled out his gun.
   Peake appeared to be irritated, but obliged him.
   A minute later, the thing was done.

---------------COLLATERAL SECURITY------------------
-----------Copyright 2015 Andrew Perron-------------

I was playing Splatoon with my son when the call came in, at a quarter
after four. It was from Stuttgart. I paused the game and told him to
heat up a frozen dinner if I wasn't back by five, then focused on the
orangey-yellow mental sensation of the Stuttgart beacon. With a quick
pirouette, I was there.
  "Flashdancer!" said Achilles, the ranking officer of the City
Police. "Himmelholle is engaging Project Kingfisher on the west side!
Currently at the corner of Breitscheid and Seiden!"
  "On it!" A step, a twist, and I twirled through space, ending up on
the corner, next to the street pole. Sure enough, there were two
figures in the middle of the street, one with an angel wing and a
devil wing, the other chromed-out and wielding a wicked harpoon. I
caught Himmelholle's eye for a moment, and knew he'd do his best to
give me the time I needed.
  A two-step strut and I was inside, where the patrons were beginning
to move from 'orderly exit' to 'panicked stampede' as the battle
heated up. I swung up on one of the checkout counters and whistled.
"Supermarket patrons!"
  For a moment, they were all looking at me, and I took my chance.
"May I have this dance?"
  I leapt down and took the cashier's hand, pulling him in for a samba
spin. With a moment's fancy footwork, he was back at the beacon, and I
was back at the store. I danced from shopper to shopper, sweeping them
up in my elaborate choreography. Some knew this dance already,
following my lead to safety, while others were reticent, requiring a
foxtrot to slow-slow-quick-quick them out of harm's way.
  Just as I joined hands with the last cashier, the windows exploded
in. I pulled her in for a desperate spin. The glass raked against my
jacket as we disappeared.
  I handed the shaken cashier off to Achilles and examined the damage.
Gaping tears that stopped abruptly, interrupted as we'd teleported
out. As always, timing was essential.
  I shook myself out, running my hands through my hair. There was no
time for more than a quarter rest, so I step-step-slid back to the
  Himmelholle was dodging and leaping, trying for guerilla attacks in
the face of Kingfisher's superior strength. I let the battle play out
behind me as I pulled panicking people off the street. Strength
clashed against strength as I cleared out the French restaurant, and
by the time the movie theater was done, I could hear the sizzle of
energy and the crunch of concrete.
  I flash-stepped back and forth, picking up stragglers; no time to
stop for a breath or stretch tired muscles. Soon, everyone within a
block radius was cleared out.
  I appeared around the corner from the battle. Okay, maybe two
seconds to stop for a breath. I sucked in oxygen for a moment, face
red and sweaty, and turned, giving Himmelholle a thumbs-up.
  The warrior of heaven and hell was struggling in Kingfisher's grip,
but at my signal, his wings flared and he broke free. He rose in the
air, hands crackling with energy, the full power of his super attack
about to unleash...
  And I pirouetted out of the city and back home. I stretched, changed
clothes, and headed downstairs. It wasn't even four-thirty; not bad
for a day's work. I hugged the kid and we went back to our game.

-----------------SEE YOU NEXT MONTH-----------------

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