Growls from a dozen throats echoed up and down the deserted suburban street. A dozen pair of golden eyes shone from the shadows surrounding the house the team had come to see. Veronica leapt out of the van and drew a circle around her with chalk. A pale white light surrounded the young woman as she chanted in elvish. Erik slid out from his seat. He drew the stubby MP-9 submachine gun from under his coat. He could feel the animals’ barely contained rage. They felt like dire wolves, but there was something noticeably different.
“IKALA!” Veronica yelled and thrust her hands in front of her. A brilliant ball of red energy burst from her hands. The growls turned to yips of fear as the dire wolves scattered from the magic blast. In the glow of the ball, Erik could see the distinctive canine shapes about the size of small ponies. They may not feel like dire wolves, but they certainly looked like them. The ball dissipated harmlessly as it struck the house. The yips ceased instantly. The pack of dire wolves turned back to face the group. The limited emotions that Erik could sense went silent. Well, that wasn’t good.
Veronica just stood in her circle and gave a warm smile as the pack stalked back to the van. Erik unfolded the wire stock of the submachine gun and placed the glowing red hologram on the sight on one of the barely visible dire wolves. Sam was not going to like this one bit. Erik sensed as Kurt and Anne moved up to the flanks. The German was his normal solid rock. Anne was terrified, but determined. Each carried the same small submachine guns.
“Wait for Erik,” Kurt quietly advised Anne, “Once he fires, then hose those things.” The detective didn’t say anything, or at least, not where Erik could hear. Erik was waiting on the diminutive, chanting woman. He’d seen the spell she was slinging before. Those dire wolves were in for a nasty surprise if they thought her magic balls were harmless.
“VERONICA, HIT THEM!” Samantha yelled from behind the line. “Erik, don’t fire!” Veronica obliged her teammate by unleashing a second ball of brilliant red. This time, the dire wolves stood their ground and snarled. That lasted approximately one second after the energy ball consumed the lead dire wolf and incinerated it. The emotional silence from the dire wolves was shattered by a flood of strangely human terror. The remaining wolves scattered with a speed that no dire wolf could achieve. What the hell was going on?
“Erik, look!” Veronica said, as she pointed at the smoldering corpse of the dire wolf. Except, it wasn’t a wolf’s corpse. The still-hot remains were indisputably human. Veronica tentatively stepped out of her circle. She cautiously approached the remains. Kurt and Anna moved behind their sorceress.
“Oh God, that’s burnt human all right,” Anne said, coughing as she neared the corpse. “I’ve smelled that particular odor enough times.”
“Glamour?” Erik asked as Veronica as he joined them. Sam walked up next to him and gripped his upper arm. As a telepath, Sam was always the worst effected in a fight. She could sense the thoughts of the dying. Erik wrapped his arm around his friend and gave her a reassuring hug.
“I’m not seeing the ghosts of a glamour spell,” Veronica answered, examining the body. “It’s almost as if he had wild magic actually bound to him. More wild magic than should’ve been available on this side of the gate. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Could it have been a werewolf?” Anne asked.
“A what?” Erik asked.
“No. Those don’t exist,” Veronica answered, “The tales of monsters were either a summoner bringing in monsters from Avalon, bargainers using their new-found powers to shapeshift, or natural phenomena being misinterpreted by the uninformed. Actual howl at the moon, vulnerable to silver werewolves are just fairy tales.”
“Okay, so what were those things?” Anne asked.
“Something new from the Dark Towers,” Erik answered, his unhappiness tinging his voice. “I wonder if Arem’s been reading Earth monster lore.” He thought on that for a moment. “Let’s get this cleaned up and get to what we came here for. Anne, would you please take Veronica and Sam up to the house so that they can examine the murder scene. Kurt and I will clean up this mess.” He motioned to the corpse.
“Okay,” Anne answered, and then led the two women up to the house. Kurt looked down at the now smoking remains with disgust.
“How exactly are we going to clean this up?” Kurt asked.
“Go get the silver bag,” Erik answered, “And hurry up before Anne can see what we’re doing.”
Anne walked up the familiar sidewalk to the dark house. It was a typical suburban house. Nothing to make it stand out from the rest of the houses down the street. Well, except for the yellow police tape across the front door. Veronica waved her hand at the door, and it quietly swung open. Anne pulled out her flashlight and motioned for Samantha and Veronica to follow her inside.
Anne could remember coming into this house the first time when the murder was discovered. That time, the quiet street was lit up with a dozen police cars and the two vans of the crime scene techs. Nearly twenty uniformed police officers were busy sealing the area up and doing a canvas by the time Dale and her pulled up. She knew it had been bad when her name got pulled out of rotation. Her captain knew she had a knack for the weird ones.
“Where was the body found?” Veronica asked.
“Down here, in the living room,” Anne answered. She could remember the uneasy faces of the officers that were first on scene. She had walked into the living room, and it was much worse than she expected. It was also the first time she realized it was connected with another suspicious death. One that had been thought to be the work of animals. It was almost the exact same crime scene.
It was the odd scent in the air that alerted Anne something was off. It was a sickly perfumed scent that shouldn’t have been in the house. No one should have been in here except for police, and they wouldn’t be burning incense. Anne drew the MP9 from under her coat and motioned for the other two to fall back.
“No one’s here,” Samantha said, “At least, not now.” Anne arched her eyebrow in question. Samantha just pointed at her head. Oh yeah, psychic. Anne was still getting used to that. Anne lowered the submachine gun, but kept it out as the three women walked into the crime scene. At the center was something. It looked like a collection of odd shapes. As they neared, Anne saw it was a wood plank on top of two stones to form a small table. White symbols covered the table in concentric circles. No, not symbols. They were words in some language that Anne knew she’d never seen before. So why could she read them?
“Upon our souls, we bargain for the power. We pay the cost willingly. We offer the payment for the contract,” Anne read. Veronica and Samantha both froze. Anne turned to see the shocked faces on the women’s faces.
“Anne, would you please explain how you can read elvish?”