Meanwhile, Darius had his first class signed up for his “School of Siege”, and was explaining to the local police. Officer Stevens was just a “bit” doubtful. It sounded like he was opening up a paramilitary training facility! Was he recruiting minions to set up as a super-villain, trying to start a security corporation of some sort, or just crazy?
Darius informed him that it was only a school, it would be offering certification in siege, not paramilitary units, and that the first courses would be Combat Golfing, Death Golems (and possibly an Internship AS a Death Golem), Philosophy of Rocket Launchers, Castles and Crenelations, and Masonry for Miners and Sappers. The first two weeks would be devoted to developing the Combat Golfing curriculum, tuition would be 25$, and your first day came with a free sandwich.
Steven’s partner, officer Riso, nearly died laughing. Stevens did too after the combat golf research started: Darius hadn’t found a way to keep his explosive golf balls from detonating when hit, rather than on impact on a target. Fortunately for him, his armor was virtually impervious to such minor explosions – although the students were more dubious. Still, they had mostly been recruited from the SCA, LARP’s, and similar venues, and were perfectly willing to consider their 25$ “tuition” as “dinner with a show”.
Besides, who knew? Hanging about with a super-being, you might learn something.
The White Necromancer was down in his crypt. He supposed that the younger students were his apprentices now, and he really didn’t like losing two of them to stupid dinosaurs. Being a ghost was bad enough as an adult – there was a REASON why most of them only stuck around if there was something they felt they had to do and moved on as quickly as possible – it must be really dull for two nine-year-olds. Unfortunately, a straightforward resurrection seemed to be impossible. While the final fraying could be forestalled, once the silver cord was broken, it could not be restored. You could bind the soul to an animated corpse or to a construct – not too desirable that. (hmm… Was he dead? It didn’t seem like it: he thought that his body was just more-or-less in stasis until he could flood it with enough life energy to get it started again. OH. To keep it from deteriorating beyond repair during that six-month astral initiation-quest. That made sense).
He really didn’t want to tell them that the dead were dead. If being young and foolish was going to result in the death penalty, what were super-heroes for?
Maybe there’d be a clue in the section on soul-bonds. The Chauffeur had been wanting to know about breaking them. Which could be done by… Dying and passing on beyond the range of the bond. Reincarnation might work, but it’d have to be a real one – complete with Lethe and growing up again – to make sure of it. That would renew the silver cord – or provide a new one anyway – but the original “you” would be essentially gone.
That kind of sucked.
Wait! You could be reborn as a demon or…. No. That was just another kind of construct and a spell-bond, not really being alive. That was why demons and the spirits of the dead never really changed or grew unless they’d been transformed while still alive or were moving on and giving up their ties to the earth.
He wasn’t going to tell them it was hopeless. Besides – if there was one thing the dead had, it was time – and he’d only been looking for one day. The Tome of the Black Sun was about the last word in necromantic lore though… Maybe there’d be something in the black magic section. If he’d graduated – if he was actually stepping into Killion’s shoes – it should open for him now.
It did – and there was something. If you extracted someone’s memories and personality, then reincarnated them, kept the new infant’s mind blank until it hit the appropriate age (or you used magic to get it there), and then re-imprinted the stored memories and personality on it, you had something that approximated a resurrection. Of course you’d need parents to provide the body – and to not mind suppressing an infant’s mind – and a good way to extract and store the memories from someone’s mind – and some way to make sure that whatever effect you used to imprint them wasn’t dispelled – and to not mind the transfer-degradation (no wonder the people who kept making clones and coming back all went mad eventually) – and… Erg. No wonder it was in the “Black Magic” section.
But they were only nine years old. And Killion – and he – had given them enough power to endanger themselves and others and then had left them without guidance in using it. He’d told them that he would help them and they trusted him.
He’d put out some spiritual advertisements for good teachers and such while he was thinking about it. One thing about employing spirits: you didn’t need to worry about them getting killed.
Back with the Chauffeur, the first thing to do was to talk to the subordinate werewolves. There wasn’t any way to actually negate the soul-bond, but he could provide a counter-influence, at least on a temporary basis, and find out how they actually felt.
That was informative. He’d been fairly sure that none of them would hate the boy, but he hadn’t been expecting that much emotional attachment. He probably should have been. Vasilko had only been eleven himself, but he’d rescued them, taken them into his pack-family, cared for and fought for them, and been kind, affectionate, and considerate. He’d shown the clone triplets how to be people instead of being assassin-machines. Even a lesser werewolves powers were pretty nice. None of them wanted their pack-family disrupted, they liked it at the mansion, and their powers and the magical gadgets they’d been given would be near-impossible to fit into a normal setting. The soul-bond had sped things up – but the kid hero-worshiped Vasilko, the younger girl was only unsure (even as a human) because she didn’t know if she wanted to be one of five, and the four older girls – well, Vasilko was intelligent, superhumanly strong, healthy, and virile, confident and dominant, throughly masculine, a junior superhero, and – like most voluntary shapeshifters – as good-looking as he could imagine himself being.
No wonder so many normal people hated lycanthropes.
About the only major attraction-trigger Vasilko didn’t hit head-on was wealth – but he did have wealthy sponsors and lived in a mansion where everyone got the best tutors and support. He probably shouldn’t have asked. They were ALL underage and their relatives had custody. They’d have to be returned to their legal guardians regardless of what they wanted which… according to the lawyers… meant a serious risk of putting Vasilko’s head on the block for doing his best to rescue people and some consensual adolescent fooling around afterwards. That wasn’t right either, no matter how legal it was. Damn.
Well, he’d visit the relatives – it looked like an uncle and his wife in Oregon – and see. He’d take along some transfer-of-guardianship papers just in case it seemed necessary. That wouldn’t hold up for long against a challenge even if he could get the uncle to sign in the first place, but it would delay things for a few months. Some of the other kids begged him into a quick trip around mars and the solar system along the way, as well as a quick visit to the NASA Space Museum in Florida, but that hardly even gave him time to think.
He dropped the kids off for a fast-food lunch and went to see Aunt Elena and Uncle Ardis. They turned out to be quite well-off (Ardis was a bank manager), fairly pleasant, and not especially unreasonable. On the other hand, Ardis was so rule and habit-bound as to be virtually petrified and he’d mourned his brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and young nephew’s deaths in the Darkstorm War two years ago.
The Chauffeur decided to spin him a story about a trans-temporal rescue mission and to try to get his signature on a document authorizing him to make whatever arrangements he needed to make to save the kids. It took some fast talk and a bit of enhanced persuasiveness – and it wouldn’t stand up in court forever – but it would buy a few months if he couldn’t come up with some other arrangements.
He had the kids let the fellow who’d tried to rob the restaurant go when the police showed up to collect him (“Yeah, they’re students at our academy for gifted young magicians”), and got back to the orphanage/school (he’d better see about the paperwork on that). The younger werewolves could stay, at least for the moment.
There was a pile of paperwork on his desk; guardianship papers for the five horse-boys, signing them up for a corrective program for incorrigible delinquency. Pretty damned vague and open-ended about what measures might be used too.
He’d been kind of hoping that Ranko could get her husband to untransform them – it was way beyond his powers – but it looked like he’d just decided to apply a gloss of legality over it. The papers didn’t seem to be magical forgeries; he’d probably just applied raw force of personality to get people to sign. At least it showed some sort of willingness to be obliging even if the man did have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Well, it was a stopgap – and it looked like today that was about the best he could hope for.
Ranko had been spending a good deal of time talking with Vasilko. She was fairly upset about him not telling her he was a father – although that was partly because she knew that, as his guardian, she should have had a talk with him and given him a contraceptive and anti-disease amulet as soon as he hit puberty instead of leaving him to bumble around. She also had a letter from the vet about… rabies shots? Why? He was pretty much immune to – oh. She had gotten him a dog license when he first arrived and she had no idea what to do. Wait; why should that scare him? OH. Obedience Compulsion. He couldn’t disobey her or anyone else she’d delegated authority to (err… like half the adults around the orphanage?) – and that meant that there were a lot of things – ranging from embarrassing to fatal – that could happen to him on a trip to the vets.
Wait a minute. What was that report? Bodies in the park again? With no apparent sign of injury? Oh not AGAIN. Hadn’t they blown up the Darkmage’s bedamned demonically-possessed invisible lethal tower throughly enough the last time?
Off to search the park (Yes, Vasilko, you can come).
Yes, it was the killer tower again – but not nearly as powerful this time. There were also several bodies that had been drained. It looked like someone was trying the “convert-to-power-battery” spell on a woman and a couple of little kids – but it’d failed. What was… Deathurge and the Darkmage. They’d re-summoned the tower and drained back all the personal demonic power that had been invested in it. Then they’d tried to test the convert-to-amulet spell on some innocent bystanders – but it’d been blocked. A global ward? Powered by personal magic? Now who on earth could handle that? A human body loaded with that much life force would blow itself into a plasma!
The Darkmage. With a competent mind to back his/her powers. With competent backup. With minions, an actual plan, and the powers of darkness and Tyrannon to draw on as well as ambient magic. The Darkmage had nearly destroyed the solar system by accident while he was trying to be a hero. The potential for catastrophe on an interstellar scale. They’d better warn the Thunderbolts and any of the other teams they could reach – especially the Indestructible Man and the rest of the team that originally put Deathurge down if they were still alive and they could find them.
They’d have been better off with the lawyers.
Unfortunately, with Ranko wandering around central park by herself, Morgarif saw another chance to strike. This time he’d stick with the Phantasm Realms: creatures from there were a lot easier to manipulate than cranky godlings from the Hundred Realms.
He managed to get a modest “party of adventurers”. A “Dwarven Paladin-Dwarven Defender”, A “Druid with the Thorn Master Prestige Class”, “Master Stroke the Barbarian”, and a “Mystic Theurge” who used no other name. Eh, whatever. Phantasm Realms were notoriously malleable and unstable. They were probably just a reflection of some sort of popular craze. They were easy enough to convince that Ranko was some sort of succubus-demon-werecat thing. Something about “Templates”, whatever-the-hell those were supposed to be. They ought to be grateful anyway. A link with the real world would greatly increase their stability. Well, at least they seemed powerful enough to deal with Ranko…
Indeed they were. She was going down for the count so fast that she barely had time to put out a distress call. In fact, despite the groups unusual battlecry (“Hold Misguided Villainous LARPers!”) and somewhat greater numbers, the battle wasn’t really going that well. Evidently the four adventurers were pretty experienced at working together. The quartet even had some bizarre objection to the White Necromancer, the Hauntsman, and Vasilko. What was wrong with Blood-Path Magic, Necromancy, Twilight Magic, and Lycanthropy?
Fortunately, the Chauffeur managed to negotiate a cease-fire until the summoning-spell ran out.
Wait a minute! There was another master werewolf around. Stefan was so quiet – and made so little trouble – that he’d forgotten all about him. Hadn’t he arrived, challenged Vasilko for pack leadership, and lost badly? Why hadn’t he left again?
The Chauffeur sent for Stefan when he got back and probed a bit. Oh. Animalistic. Under a control spell. Fitted with a submission collar. Legally tagged as property of Vasilko by the police department (he must have had him officially tested). Several of his powers negated. Vaccinated and fixed. Was all that really necessary? Why had Vasilko gone that far? What had Stefan been trying… Oh. Two years ago Stefan had been 14 – adult for a werewolf – and he’d tried to emasculate Vasilko (11) and Theodore (6), and forcibly take all five girls – ages 8 to 11. Personally, he would have tried fewer restraints and more therapy (he’d start applying it now in hopes that he’d improve enough to get let off the leash) – but given how protective of his packmates Vasilko was it was understandable. He wouldn’t scold him.
He really needed to do something about Vasilko’s legal status though. He must’ve done some research about what he could legally do about Stefan after that challenge – and realized that his own legal status was indeterminate-leaning-towards-animal thanks to the conditions of his initial arrival. No wonder he’d been so cautious and tried to hide his becoming a father. How would the others class? The three youngest had started as normal humans, were presumed human, and would test human since their minds hadn’t broken under the stress. The triplets would be presumed human, but would test animal. Their minds hadn’t broken – and they were friendly, loyal, and caring – but they hadn’t had enough of a human mind of their own to dominate. That really wasn’t fair, but that was the law at the moment. Vasilko would test human, but might be screwed over by prejudice about werewolves, circumstantial evidence, and having transformed several underage humans.
He needed a really good lawyer. The definitions went back to 1890, since cases and precedents about werewolves were few and far between, and really needed some updating.