What with the soul-snatching demon, explanations to the people taking care of the children’s slowly-petrifying bodies, and the black radiance of the sun of the underworld shining out of the crypt (When had that gotten unsealed? He’d thought that he’d filled it full of concrete) it was early next afternoon before the Chauffeur heard about the Horse-Boys.
Oh wonderful. Kidnapping, magical enslavement, and assault, all against a group of minors. Had Ranko never heard of accessory after the fact? She was continuously ON CAMERA for gods sake! He’d often thought that the be-damned war god would be the death of him, but chewed to death by lawyers wasn’t how he’d thought it was going to happen.
For some reason it reminded him of when he’d accidentally run over those two idiot super-villains from DAGGER back in his pizza-delivery days. At least he hadn’t been blamed for anything that time: the security cameras clearly showed them running out of the bank they’d been robbing and into the street without looking.
It was time for some legal research. Between the war, the usual heroic chaos, and Arioch keeping the official types from noticing anything too weird going on, there hadn’t been much time for that sort of thing – but they had 160 children imported from the Silver Twilight with peculiar DNA and no legal existence, a Siberian werewolf child (hmm… Hadn’t he been kidnapped by the war god as well?) whom Ranko – not knowing what else to do – had initially taken to the vet and gotten a dog license for, three young cybernetic terrorist-assassins, originally cloned by the Genocide Machines, de-programmed and de-cybered via werewolf transformation, three kids – probably presumed dead – saved by werewolf transformation without any kind of consent from their guardians, three revenants – kids they hadn’t managed to rescue until after they’d been changed to vampires and couldn’t be entirely changed back – Stefan, another master werewolf, Arioch (he was still underage wasn’t he?), most of the kids Genocide had been hunting had been sent home after the mess at Disney World except for Pamela Ritton (her parents had been killed in the war), and Steven Kadowiski (his parents hadn’t handled having a super-powered kid well). He’d made it a policy to unload the Chinese refugee kids and any other normals they acquired as quickly as possible; it wasn’t fair to keep them around the superpowered kids. He’d have unloaded the powered kids as well if it wasn’t for the fact that they kept needing superheroic rescues and that Adrian had left instructions that his mansion be used as an orphanage as well as a base.
There’d been a few casualties like Fymbulwyntyr (poor kid), but at least not many.
So that made… 174 youngsters. Of whom he was sure of the legal status (in the custody of the orphanage) on… Pamela and Steven. Well, Arioch and Stefan probably counted as runaways – and if there was anyone who was likely to stay out of sight, it was Arioch.
Well, at least nobody would be looking for the dimensional exiles immediately, and one more day probably wouldn’t make a difference for the long-term residents – although they’d damn well better get the three young werewolves back into the custody of their relatives, whether they – and Vasilko – liked it or not. The Horse-boys were the most urgent problem. They’d probably have parents, relatives, and police out looking for them after they disappeared on Halloween.
First things first. Check on who they were and who was likely to be looking; one runaway, one in state custody, one who’s father might be sober sometime, one in the custody of an aunt because his parents died in the war, and one (who’d been running with a street gang) with a divorced mother with six other children. All in the 14-16 age bracket. All now more-or-less permanently transformed… no, wait a minute – the powers and basic compulsions to be owned and to obey their owners would be virtually impossible to undo, but there was a shapeshifting power included. They just needed their master’s permission to take human form.
The kids wold have liked to keep their horses, but the “it’s just not right” argument had some impact. That made them his – and he could at least moderate the psychological effects somewhat. Hopefully from “pets” to “well-behaved”. Odd… It looks like Huitzilopochtli is perfectly willing to judge, transform, enslave, and maim or kill, but he doesn’t like to tamper with people’s minds: He’s slapped in a few compulsions, but their basic personalities, memories, motives, and all haven’t been changed a bit. They may change on their own – or at least adapt to their new situation and status – but he’s not forcing it. Maybe the man has some scruples after all.
Meanwhile, Ranko and the Hauntsman were off to talk to Huitzilopochtli in person. They took along a pile of law books to try and explain why you couldn’t just judge, transform, and enslave kids even if they were being a bit antisocial. He was training some students, but he hurried up and decapitated them to make room in his schedule. Ranko winced, but at least they were already dead, and would be fine tomorrow… Unfortunately, they couldn’t persuade him that there was a difference between law and magic, or that the books weren’t just strangely encoded grimoires.
Huitzilopochtli’s opinion was that it was obviously magic; you recited the strange formulas – or inscribed them if you needed a stronger effect – and you got what you wanted. Just another branch of magic.
Huh. Maybe he was right after all. They did eventually talk him into restraining himself a little – and into trying to straighten things out a bit, which he went off to do after giving them the grand tour. They didn’t really like the way that he seemed to find a way to interpret everything according to his own notions of the right way to do things – but after 26,000 years it was a minor miracle that he could adapt to anything at all.
The group concluded that they needed to hire an expert on superhero law. Also on civil rights, custody law, and werewolf law, since it didn’t look like Vasilko was in a very good position. Even if he was judged rational, the legal guardians of the three kids he’d bitten to save could charge him with kidnapping, enslavement, and lots of other stuff – and if he was judged animalistic, well – the only known way to break the bond between a master werewolf and a lesser werewolf he or she had transformed was to kill the master.
That changed priorities again. The horse-boys might lead to lawsuits and negligence charges. Vasilko could easily wind up sentenced to death. They’d have to locate the three younger werewolves surviving relatives and see if they could arrange at least temporary custody.