James Donobran stepped out into the rain, locking the door of his brownstone behind him. He muttered two short incantations: one summoned a small dome of force above him, and the other cloaked it to make it invisible. He flipped the collar of his coat up to keep the wind off, and stepped off into the streets. His goal was a couple blocks away. Should be simple, a quick errand.
He turned to walk south on Second Avenue, the rain cascading around him. As he crossed 35th, there was a puff of smoke from the sewer, and it formed into a muscular shape, horned and winged, with glowing green eyes and yellow drool from its massive fangs.
“Finally you have left your sanctuary! Now I will be able to kill you and help make this world less prepared to face our forces!“
The mage called Outback sighed, and raised one hand, blue light flowing around it. “Mate, I am trying to get to the store and back again. Interfere with me and I’ll evert you and send you back to Hell with your balls flapping around your ears.”
“Why should I let you live? What could be so great an errand to save you from the wrath of the pit?“
“Greyshadow’s out of pads.”
The demon’s snarling face changed, eyes going wide, and it stepped out of his way. “We’ll fight later. Sorry about that.” It turned back into smoke, which de-billowed back into the sewer grate.
That done, he continued on is way. The crosswalk at 34th was clear, but as he got to the vacant lot between 34th and 33rd, there was a musical clattering, as if from hooves made of glass. He looked into the lot, and saw a black horse that glimmered in the streetlights, rain streaming down, and astride it a man-shaped figure in ornate, spiked armor that reflected the light, a lance of black wood in his hand.
“Mage,” the armored figure said in a voice like music in a minor key, “you have transgressed ‘gainst the Unseleigh, and for that your life is forfeit. Indeed, you do not deserve the death we give to one we would respect.“
The light that arced around Outback’s hands this time was an angry yellow. “I do not have time for you wackos from Faerie tonight. Shove off.”
The Unseleigh Knight lowered his lance, and charged. Outback held his ground, and then gestured, conjuring a ward in front of him. The pattern of yellow light shattered the black lance, and then the faerie-steed slammed into hit. It collapsed with a pitiful whinny, and its rider went helm-over-bandbox over it, and onto the sidewalk, and into the street.
“I am busy,” Outback continued. “My lady is in her moon-time and has sent me to retrieve items to help her. Stay down.”
The Knight lay in the street. “I will. We will do battle some other day.“
Outback took a moment to lay one of his most draining spells on the steed, whose broken leg began to heal. It made a grateful noise, and he petted its muzzle before moving on.
The rest of the trip there was uneventful, and he picked up the Always without trouble, along with a bunch of chocolate and a bottle of Yellow Tail shiraz. He stepped out, tucking them into the storage space in his coat, then buttoned it up again and started his way north.
Crossing 33rd, someone fell into step with him. He glanced over to see his cousin Bevan walking there.
“Cousin! How nice to find you!” Bevan was, like most of the birth-family, part of the Cult of the Ebon Flame, whose magical talents were all bent towards conquest through malign entities they did deals with for power.
“Busy, Bevan. Sod off.”
“I just came here to make you an offer! You know that we’re doing well, and if you’d be willing to just forswear yourself, we can bring you back home and urk!” He stopped speaking as a circle of reddish light wrapped around the lower half of his face. Outback stopped and turned. When he next spoke, instead of the Australian accent he usually sported, the Scots accent of his birth had taken over.
“Laramie’s got her days, and needs supplies, and I’ve had to face down a demon and a Unseleigh tonight. My mood for trouble’s gone, and so shut your gob. That spell will go away in a minute, so hare off, laddie, or I’ll send you somewhere terrible indeed.”
Bevan’s eyes showed his challenge, and Outback smiled cruelly.
“Unless you actually WANT to go to the Buddhist Temple in Chinatown.”
The challenging look faded, replaced by terror, and Outback reached out to pat his shoulder.
“Good lad. Say hello to Grandda for me.” Then he turned, and walked away, leaving his cousin there, staring and angry.
Nothing else challenged him on the way down the street, and he unsealed the door-wards, unlocked the door, stepped inside, locked the door and re-sealed it, then pulled the bag out of his coat, and sent it to hang itself up on his hanger.
“Laramie, got your things!” he said as he walked up the stairs.
“Any trouble?” asked his partner and lover, the vigilante and guardian of New York City known as Greyshadow.
“None to speak of,” he replied lightly.
This story, and all the others here, are dedicated to the memory of Michael Satran.
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