Three Eyes, No Chance: An Order of the Infernal Scepter Story
Last Fall we sent out a bunch of playtesting packets for Demon Hunters: A Comedy of Terrors. We got some good feedback. We got something else too. Robin Chadwick, one of our playtesters, in addition to a bunch of useful gameplay notes, sent us a story. A story so good that I immediately wrote him back asking if I could post it on the Demon Hunters site. And then immediately forgot all about it until Don sent me a prodding email a couple days ago. So here we go. It doesn’t exactly fit into canon, but it’s not as far off as you might think. Enjoy!
Three Eyes, No Chance
by Robin Chadwick
I gazed into my reflection in the polished metal of the elevator’s control panel as I tried to get my tie straight. If it weren’t for my data-monocle, an eyepiece that displayed information from my PDA, I would have passed for a fairly presentable guy. My assistant Delilah shifted uncomfortably in her burkha as we reached our floor.
As soon as we exited the elevator a map of the floor appeared on my monocle, guiding us to the meeting room. I hate these meetings. I know that as a member of the Order of the Infernal Scepter, an organization aiming to make sure that Evil has the upper hand in the final battle against Good, I’m officially not a nice guy, but some of the freaks I meet at these get-togethers seriously creep me out. I’m just here to get research funding from people who don’t mind me ignoring scientific ethics or the laws of physics, I’m not one of the hard-core psycho types that this organization tends to attract.
Delilah cast aside her burkha as soon as we arrived in the meeting room. Her golden eyes, horse-hoof-and-cockerel-spur feet, reddish skin and twisted horns could possibly be passed off as contact lenses, unusual shoes, sunburn and some sort of fancy hair band respectively, but combining all of the above with a pair of oily membranous wings gives her a look that mundane folks shouldn’t see outside of comicons and Halloween. The skimpy leather dress and rusty metal vambraces she wore didn’t exactly help her to be inconspicuous either.
I quickly spotted Rick Masters, my team’s surveillance expert and a former cop who got kicked off the force for trying to sell confiscated drugs, next to Dani and Joe Brewster, the self-proclaimed “Bonnie and Clyde of the 2010s”.
I recognised one of the other team leaders, an immaculately dressed lady in her 50s by the name of Mary Marcus. She nodded to me briefly before returning her attention to a weathered tome. Next to her sat a young man I assumed was her new apprentice and two fae, one an androgynous sidhe and the other a large grey-skinned guy I pegged for some form of troll.
At least two other teams were present, both comprised of a mix of humans and half-blood demons. Their dress-sense and equipment suggested petty gangsters. I doubt they’re along as anything other than expendable muscle.
A fallen angel going by the name “Nepherial the Accursed” chaired the meeting. His well-tailored grey suit did a good job of hiding the stumps where his wings used to be, but clashed with the odd mottling patterns of his skin.
“Glad you could make it here Eugene.” He turned to me. “Tell me, have you heard of an organization known as the Yellow Sign Militia?”
“Of course I have,” I respond, hoping he didn’t notice that I’m using my monocle to research them as we talk. “A bunch of survival nuts. They were disappointed when civilization didn’t collapse in 2012 as foretold by the idiots who misread their Nostradamus, leaving all those wonderful doomsday survival plans going unused, so they thought they’d get in touch with beings outside of reality to set things straight.”
“Those are the ones,” he nodded before turning back to the assembly as a whole. “A local cell has allegedly acquired something that would be very useful to us. You’ll find the details listed in the files here.”
“The Eyes of Hastur?” One of the half-demon thugs asked, reading from the first file. “What the fuck are they?”
The room suddenly went quiet. For a brief second I could have sworn that I felt something crawling on back of my neck.
“We do NOT use that name around here! To invoke the H-word is to gain his attention. I have no intention of letting that creature notice me.” Nepherial was suddenly right in front of the guy, his eyes glowing and his composure gone.
“Okay, I get it. No using the H-word,” the thug whimpered.
“Returning to the matter at hand.” Nepherial returned to his normal calm almost instantly. “The Eyes are a collection of gems that contain some sort of link between the various planes of reality. At least nine are know to exist, most of them in the possession of the Yellows. Three of them are in town for use in a ritual tonight, hidden in the King’s Rest Hotel while the building is closed for refurbishments. They are very valuable to one of the higher-ups down below. We don’t know the Eyes’ full properties, so Dr Eugene Heartwood”—he gestured to me—“and Professor Mary Marcus will be along to provide the closest thing to an expert opinion we’ve got. The rest of you are here to act in assault and extraction capacities. Your files will tell you what is expected of you. The operation will take place in four hours. One final thing people, the Brotherhood is quite active in the area at the moment, so try to avoid attracting their attention.”
With that he dismissed us.
Rick took out a thermos of coffee and poured two cups, one for himself and one for me, as we sat in the back of his van discussing the mission. Neither of us was particularly comfortable with the situation. These big gatherings always put me on edge. Something always found a way to go wrong when a job required this many of us. Having the Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch, Heaven’s black-ops guys, potentially breathing down our necks didn’t help either.
“I’m worried Neph hasn’t thought this one through properly. No backup plans. Not enough margin of error,” I commented, as much to break up the quiet as anything else.
“You’re right there Doc, he’s not as smart as he likes to put on. Should be a simple raid, but one screw-up or interruption could send the whole plan to shit,” Rick muttered in response. “If you can persuade Delilah to do some work that doesn’t involve murdering someone we could set up an early warning system. I’ll need her wings to get cameras on the right vantage points on short notice. I’m waiting outside as a driver anyway, so I can monitor things without having to mess up Neph’s precious plan. It’s not much but it will give you a bit of reaction time when things are going wrong.”
“Thanks buddy. Seriously. I’m glad I’ve got you watching my back.”
Rick went to explain the plan to the others, leaving me alone in the van to get my equipment sorted. I started by replacing my suit-jacket with a bulletproof vest and a harness for the rest of my kit. I made sure to include a temperature probe, a Geiger counter and a 3-d scanner, all of which linked to my monocle, for when I got to the Eyes. Finally I grabbed my weapons and emergency supplies: a small handgun, some knuckledusters, a pocket tool-kit, the prototype for my new grapple-cannon and a few vials of homemade napalm. I didn’t rate the napalm much as a weapon, but fire seemed to heal and invigorate Delilah to the same degree it would cause pain and injury in a mortal, so it was worth bringing some along to keep her in one piece if she bit off more than she could chew.
I was just finishing my coffee when the rest of my team returned. I mentally added hearing Delilah and Dani gossip about the other teams to the list of things I didn’t like about this mission as Rick drove us to the hotel. Apparently Delilah had been flirting with most of Mary’s team, making some headway with Gymir, the cave-troll. Joe rolled his eyes and offered me a swig from his hipflask. Normally I don’t drink on missions, but I felt the need to make an exception tonight.
A combination of bitterly cold weather and lack of interesting nightlife in the area meant that the streets and alleyways surrounding The King’s Rest were pretty much empty. This was to our advantage as it meant Delilah could get airborne to plant the bugs without the risk of her being spotted. Seeing the video-feeds appearing one by one on Rick’s laptop made me feel a little more comfortable.
We didn’t have to wait long before the other teams started turning up. Mary’s team arrived first, followed closely by the rest. We made sure we all parked our cars off-site so that we didn’t leave a suspicious abundance of vehicles around a supposedly empty hotel.
The hotel itself looked mostly intact from the outside, but what little I could see of the lobby told me the work going on inside was much more extensive. Small amounts of light escaping between the curtains of a room on the third floor suggested that some of the militia were already here.
I approached the main doors carefully, avoiding stepping in sight of the security cameras in case they were still in use. A hacking program on my PDA made short work of the alarms and electronic locks while Dani set to work on the physical part of the locks with a modified Freon spray. Once inside the lobby we quickly spread out to secure the area, using the extensive scaffolding as cover from the security cameras. The half-demon who spoke during the meeting, named Ado according to the files, drew my attention to a light coming from down one of the corridors.
“Could be one of those militia tools,” he whispered. “Might know where we can find the eyes.”
“No guns,” I replied. “We don’t want to announce our presence just yet.”
He gave me a smile that would have been terrifying if I hadn’t seen Delilah do much worse, and armed himself with a knife that could make many swords feel a bit inadequate. I signaled for the others who’d entered behind us to take defensive positions while he, Joe, and Delilah stalked towards the source of the light.
After what couldn’t have been more than a few minutes but felt closer to an hour, Joe slipped back into sight and signaled for me to follow. He led me to the security office, where I found the other two standing over the bodies of four men covered in occult tattoos and ritual scarring. Delilah held a fifth man by his face, absent-mindedly ignoring his attempts to break free.
“Hi Doc!” she waved to me before turning her attention back to her captive “Okay bitch, in a few seconds I’m going to let go of your mouth and you’ll have a choice. You can tell my boss here where to find your magic Eyes thingies and I’ll put you out of everyone’s misery quickly, or you try to alert the rest of your friends or otherwise act all uncooperative, in which case I’ll really give you something to scream about.”
She punctuated the last point by rubbing one of her slowly lengthening fingernails up the inside of his thigh towards his crotch. The poor guy looked to me, then to her, then to me again.
“One of them is being used for a ritual in the sub-basement,” he blurted out, looking at the four of us for some sign he was appeasing us. “You’ll need to take the rear elevator to get to it. The Byakhee is looking after another in the larder behind the kitchen. I think the boss has the last one stashed in his room on the third floor.”
“Thanks,” I responded, feeling nearly as uncomfortable as him.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it slut?” Delilah cooed as she kissed him on the cheek then ripped his head clean off.
I searched my PDA’s database for info on the “byakhee” while the rest of the group searched the area. They were dangerous critters, but not worryingly so, and were loyal to the same entities as the Militia themselves.
“Neph expected we’d have to split into teams to search the place, so this doesn’t change the plan much,” I said before turning to Delilah. “You up to a brawl with a byakhee?”
“Of course! When was the last time you heard me turn down a good scrap?”
As per the plan, I headed towards the sub-basement along with Joe, Dani, Ando and two of Ando’s human bruisers whose names I hadn’t troubled myself to remember. Delilah took a couple of grunts to put down the byakhee and secure the rest of the ground floor while Gymir led the rest to search the upper floors.
A short ride in an arty wannabe-old-fashioned elevator brought us to a dark corridor. The sound of chanting and the smell of incense from behind a door halfway down told us we were in the right place. We had just enough time to draw our weapons and get our heads in the game before Ando rushed forwards and booted the door open.
A dozen scar-covered men in yellow robes in the dark room stopped chanting and glared at us wordlessly for a second before we opened fire. Half their number died before they managed to draw their weapons. The rest dove for cover and tried to pin us down in the doorway. At the end of the cluttered room lay a large brightly coloured orb I assumed to be the Eye surrounded by candles on a half-hearted alter.
Seeing three more of the cultists fall to our gunfire and another start to reload, one of Ando’s minions and I made a run for the Eye. Using the debris that littered the room as cover I reached it before any of the cultists could get a clear shot at me. I quickly stuffed the heavy orb into my coat as the minion caught up with me. A sudden movement caused us to spin around in a panic. One of the cultists had broken cover and charged towards us, repeatedly invoking the name of Hastur as he did. His voice sounded less human each time he spoke. I emptied my handgun into him but all it did was cause enough damage to his robes to reveal that his body was changing as much as his voice. When an assortment of tendrils, mouths and pseudopods burst messily from his torso I decided it was time to give the minion next to me a good shove to remind him to valiantly sacrifice himself so that I might survive. Forcing myself to look away from the grotesque scene, I sprinted madly for the door, hoping my team had managed to keep what was left of the other cultists under control.
I made it through the door and didn’t slow down until I reached the elevator. The others caught up with me while I struggled to get my breath back.
“You okay Doc?” A surprising amount of concern seeped into Joe’s voice.
“I’ll survive, thanks. Managed to grab one of the Eyes, so let’s check on the other groups and get out of this dump.”
“Looks like we might have a problem.” Rick’s panicked voice over the radio interrupted me. Images of two black vans parked outside the building appeared on my monocle. At least a dozen well-armed, black-clad figures disembarked. No markings identified them as cops or military, so my guess was Brotherhood.
“Crap! Get out of sight and we’ll meet up when we find a way out.”
“It get’s worse Doc, take a look at this.” Another pic appeared, this one showing the roof of a building across the street. At first I just see a few statues of rather stereotypical angels, then I noticed one of them has a faint green glow in her eyes and is looking straight at the camera.
“If that’s who I think it is, her name’s Jade Irons,” he informed me. “She’s been with the Brotherhood for over a century. Very dangerous.”
“Just what we need. Thanks for the heads up,” I said before turning to the others with me. “Too dangerous to go straight for the ground floor, so we’ll try to meet up with Gymir at the top then head down as one force.”
Everyone nodded quietly.
As the elevator headed upwards my comrades silently reloaded their weapons while I contacted the other teams. Delilah and co had been searching the late byakhee’s lair for their Eye when the Brotherhood arrived while Gymir’s lot had just finished off the last of the cultists upstairs. The balcony on the third floor that overlooked the main lobby had been designated our rendezvous point.
I’d like to say I remained calm, composed and in control as I led my team through the maze of corridors, but we all know that would be a lie. Between the sporadic gunfire, the almighty crash as something powerful—probably that statue monster—breached the building, and the image left in my mind by that messed-up cultist, I was pretty much running on adrenaline.
We barged heedlessly onto the balcony, stopping to call an elevator and look for any sign of the others. It didn’t take us long to spot Gymir’s team. The far side of the balcony was covered in their mangled and dismembered remains. Amongst the mess, stood that creepy angel-statue, with a mangled chunk of Gymir’s torso in one hand and his right arm in the other. The look on her face seemed to silently ask “Was that bit supposed to come off?”. I might have even thought the expression was somewhat endearing if it weren’t for the fact that this was a fucking cave-troll she’d just taken apart!
Before we could bring our weapons to bear, a group of Brotherhood goons burst through a door to our right, their guns blazing. One round caught me in the torso, pitching me backwards. The bullet failed to penetrate my armour, but the pain in my chest informed me the force had cracked a few ribs. Ando’s remaining goon wasn’t so lucky as SMG fire tore his upper body apart. A loud scream told me Dani had also been hit. Ando hauled me to my feet and we lunged for the opening elevator doors, followed closely by Joe, with Dani’s wounded form slung across his shoulders. More bullets clattered into the elevator’s metal doors as they closed.
The surge of relief we shared as the elevator slowly began its decent came to a sudden end as something, possibly that statue-monster, slammed loudly into the outside of the door. Metal started to screech as she tried to gain access to the shaft above us. Ando tore a sizable hole in the mesh ceiling of the elevator and the two of us aimed our weapons upwards. Joe ducked into a corner and tried to patch up Dani’s wounds. The next couple of seconds seemed like an eternity. Nothing happened. No sign of that monster or her friends above us. We reached the ground floor when I heard a thud outside. My instincts had me draw my grapple-cannon and fire it through the hole in the elevator’s roof in the time it took my conscious brain to put two and two together. Ando looked at me blankly as the cannon’s winch dragged me up into the shaft. If the statue was capable of gliding between two buildings, then she was easily able to descend from the balcony under her own power and wait for us at the bottom. My theory was confirmed by the panicked screams from Ando and the Brewsters as the stone monstrosity charged them as soon as the doors opened.
I hid in the elevator shaft and waited for the chaos to die down. Once I was certain the coast was clear I exited via the maintenance access and headed for the roof.
“Anyone still there?” I tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the desperation out of my voice as I call into the radio for help.
Rick, Mary, Delilah and a few voices I didn’t recognise all phoned in. Most of them had made it back to the cars. Sadly none of them had either of the other two Eyes with them.
“Del, can you still fly?” I had an exit in mind.
“It’s about all I can do.” The pain in her voice was easy to hear.
“Get to the roof. I need an airlift. I’ve got something that will make you feel a bit more alive.”
I made sure I had one of the napalm vials ready for her when she arrived.
We lost a lot of people tonight.
I hope this Eye is worth the effort.
“I made sure to include a temperature probe, a Geiger counter and a 3-d scanner, all of which linked to my monocle…”
Sounds like the start to a less than flattering anecdote.
Love the story. 🙂