To all those reading the Modern Mage storyline, this happens over chapters 17 & 18 and may take up part of 19 as well. I’ll know more about that once the inspiration for 19 comes to me. I wanted to let everyone see a different perspective than Andrew’s as well as cover something that wouldn’t have fit in the rest of the story based on the face that Modern Mage is being writer as though Andrew is explaining his past to the reader. I used bother third person narrative and some first person in the chapter here to differentiate what he was thinking at first as well as allowing me to explain some of the back story for those who read this and haven’t read the rest of the Modern Mage and Existence Stories. Hope everyone enjoys a different take on thinks in the world of Magick and Monsters that I am attempting to bring you all into.
Gabriel Roarke had been a Hunter for over a decade, ever since he recovered after his family was attacked by a Vampire. To be more precise after that creature had killed his parents and then turned his sisters forcing Roarke to kill them if he wanted to live. He had spent six months in a hospital recovering from physical injuries he’d received from surviving that night and cleaning up the mess so that he didn’t go to jail for murder. He didn’t tell the police or the doctors, nurses and psychiatrist that the hospital about the vampire because he didn’t want to be placed in a mental institution either.
At the end of his time recovering from the injury Roarke was taken in by a young couple instead of being placed in a government home. While grateful for that he was unsure why they took him in until dinner of the first night in his new home. It turned out that they had known about the supernatural and realized that what happened to his family was a Vampire attack. They began to explain that their family had been a long line of Hunters, dedicated to protecting humanity from the things most don’t even believe in. They started training him, not just in how to fight but hot to think as well. Over the course of four years they had trained hum, taken him out on hunts and treated him as though he was their own child. They made sure that he also got a proper school education allowing him to qualify for college. Just after his eighteenth birthday while shopping for supplies before he left for college the Vampire that had attacked his family tracked him down again. That night the vampire attacked again killing both of his guardians. He killed the vampire that night himself. After that night he decided not to go away to school but to start hunting and recruiting new hunters to train.
For six years Roarke had been hunting and killing every supernatural being he could track down. It didn’t matter what kind they were. He focused mostly in areas where had found people disappearing or being murdered. He excelled at ferreting out those creatures that hid in plain sight. Over time her developed sources of information on the web and made contacts with other hunters and informants. After that he started to get more and more information on beings he couldn’t have found himself. Information that told him not only where to find these monsters, but what kind her was dealing with. He couldn’t believe his fortune in finding this source of information. That source had created a problem for him earlier today.
He got information about a target in Las Vegas who was said to be a danger not just to the people in the city around him, but to others around the world. Roarke spent most of his time hunting in Ireland, Scotland and England but would travel abroad when there was a threat that would require the time and effort. He had hunted in the United States a few times but had never traveled to Las Vegas before. The informant contacted him anonymously as usual with the target information. The target was a magic user, powerful at that. The documentation sent tied him to a string of murders around the city and in nearby states claiming that he was using blood magic to increase his power. The targets address was provided with the other information, along with the implication that he was nearly completed the ritual meaning he needed to be stopped quickly. Roarke booked passage to Las Vegas and shipped the gear he would need by air freight the next day. Within the week he was in Las Vegas and picked up his gear. He would normally have taken time to scout the target and make sure that he could get in and out without any problems, but from the supplied information he just didn’t have the time before this guy started killing more people.
Roarke got to the location on the night of February first to see his target arrive back at the house with a petite red haired woman that there was no information on in the files. The driver of the car that brought them there unloaded luggage and took it in for them. He could see from his position several people inside the house when the door was opened. It looked like they had come back from some kind of trip and having a welcome home party from his perspective. Roarke watched the house as the night went on. Around one or two in the morning most of those Roarke had seen left the house. He continued to watch the house until morning. Right before sunrise Roarke got out of his truck and started to move toward the house expecting the occupants to be sleeping after the late evening.
He got halfway across the property to the door moving from cover to cover when he paused for a moment. He had about thirty feet of space to cross with nothing to duck behind when he continued to approach. He wasn’t aware at that moment that the next few minutes were going to change perception of reality forever. He pulled the sword he inherited from his guardians before standing up. The sword was refuted to be a priceless artifact that can stop almost any kind of Magic used against the person wielding it. He stood up and started across the open ground when the front door opened and out stepped the man he was after.
Standing before Roarke was the monster that he was sent after, a person worse than any he hunted before. This man had killed more innocent people that any other supernatural creature he had tracked down and had the arrogance to step out and enjoy a sunny morning as though there wasn’t a care in the world. Roarke’s determination was one of his greatest and deadliest assets and upon seeing he target he charges intending to end this quickly. Within the first couple of steps the man looked unconcerned, but it quickly changed to confusion as he dodged the swing of the sword and rolled away. Roarke firmly believed that this man was truly a monster simple by the fact that he was human and made the choice to destroy lives for his own gain. Vampires needed blood to live and were soulless, werewolves were wild uncontrolled beasts, other supernatural creatures hadn’t even started out as human and while they needed to be destroyed you couldn’t hold them to human morals. When a man decides that he would rather kill for power, money or any other reason they made themselves worse monsters than those born to it.
The monster he faced scanned the area, probable looking for assistance in fighting Roarke off in order to save his own miserable life. He spoke up, “What do you want here?”
Roarke’s reply was direct and even, no sense of rage or anger in his tone. Roarke kept his emotions in check when he hunted. He didn’t kill out of anger or revenge; his motives were as pure as he could make them. He hunted to protect humanity for the monsters as his guardians had taught him. “Your Head,” was the reply.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it won’t be that easy. Walk away, leave me and my friends alone and I’ll do the same for you. I don’t want you dead and you don’t want to die,” was the answer from his target. Did this monster really believe that it would be that simple to survive? Did he not see the determination on Roarke’s face? This man was a coward praying on the weak to gain power and thought he could simply talk his way out of his own demise.
“I’ve been threatened by and then killed better than you, why would I walk away now?” Roarke replied evenly. While he couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t be killed himself he decided that this man would not live to kill anyone else either. Roarke was determined that either he would survive this fight or neither of them would. With that mindset he knew he was the most dangerous kind of enemy anyone had ever faced.
“Make your choice and let’s get this over with,” the monster relied with a lack of patience. Roarke was more than willing to oblige him if he wanted to die. He started to close with the target again, staying on the balls of his feet; trying to be ready for anything this man before him could do. The enemy moved far faster than he was expecting and sidestepped past Roarke, opening distance that he didn’t want to give him. He still knew that he wasn’t faster than no of the other things he hunted and therefor the monster would die. Roarke closed again quickly, swinging to separate this man’s body at the waist. His target dodged, dropping into a crouch and sweeping at Roarke’s feet. Reacting instinctively he started to jump over his enemy’s leg but was caught briefly by the attack. He landed on his back instead of flipping out and away, turning the landing into a roll back away from his opponent. Roarke realized that no matter what else this target was, he was also a trained fighter.
“Why are you here?” the man asked.
“I’m here to kill you, I figured that was obvious by now,” Roarke replied, letting his tone grow dark and menacing.
“That part was obvious jack ass. What I want to know is the reason you chose to try and kill me? I’ve never done anything to harm you or yours that I know of, so why am I your target?” Roarke was shocked by this reply. Did this monster really have the gall to call him a jack ass; and why was it that so many of his targets had tried to play innocent when faced with their own mortality? Own up to what you do in life and accept your due was his philosophy; if you can’t you shouldn’t be doing whatever it is in the first place. Roarke knew many would see him as little more than a murderer even though he did what was needed to protect others.
Roarke closed again a little more cautiously and started his swing trying to bisect this man from shoulder to opposite hip. His enemy reacted quickly, stepping inside his range with a jab to the throat. Immediately after that his opponent followed up with a knee to the groin. Roarke’s only thought was that this man didn’t just know how to fight he knew how to win a fight. Roarke couldn’t call it dirty fighting as his guardians had stressed from the beginning that all was fair in love and war. His Step-Mother for lack of a better term used to say “You can fight by the rules or you can fight to win. I would rather you fight to win.” Right after the attacks to stun him the enemy shoved him and backed up to gain some space instead of following up which worried Roarke as he had no true knowledge of what kind of powers this man could bring to bear.
When Roarke got back to his feet his enemy was now armed with two long thin metal bars. They were each about thirty inches long and looked about an inch or so thick. When they closed again, Roarke had his target on the defensive. If for nothing else, Roarke had to give his opponent credit for being a fighter. They went back and forth for several minutes, both of them tiring but luck was with Roarke as his target seemed to be fading faster. The man turned the tables forcing Roarke to defend himself even more as he sought a way through his training and skill with the broadsword. As they continued this deadly dance Roarke heard a sound toward his left but kept focused on his opponent. The man looked away toward the door as his body turned toward the space between Roarke and that sound; that was the opening he was waiting for. Roarke whipped the sword in from the side slicing a line across the man’s abdomen leaving a trail of blood flowing behind its passing.
“Andrew!!!!!!!!!!!” a woman’s voice screamed. The target stepped back turning sideways to come at his side opened up from Roarke’s attack on him. He switched the grip on the sword and drove it up towards the targets side driving it in just below the bottom rib. Roarke’s spirit was lifted as he knew he was successful in his quest to kill the monster. Roarke’s elation was short lived however as this monster stepped forward pushing the sword deeper into his organs. The man had a look that Roarke recognized from his own mirror. It was a look that said that while I may be dying but I’m taking you with me. Faster than he could react to the attack Roarke’s wrists were crushed by one of the metal bars as the other contacted the side of his head. He was fine with dying as long as he knew that his target had been eliminated before he could cause any more harm. Those were his dying thought as he lost consciousness.
Those were some of the thoughts flowing through my head as I drove away from that same house late that evening. Among the others were the facts that I wasn’t dead as I should have been; I had been knocked out at the mercy of a man I thought to be a monster. Not only had I not been killed for attacking him, Andrew and his wife Sindee had treated my wounds and spoke to me. I didn’t want to listen at first but I was a captive audience initially. They had treated me better than I would have treated an enemy. They were trying to convince me that not all supernatural beings were evil monsters, that some of them were even out to help protect the human race. They had reasonable arguments for their point of view. When I asked them why they didn’t just reveal the truth to the human race with the evidence they gather they told me that Humanity wasn’t ready to accept the truth. I had no real argument for that but before I could continue had me challenge my own statement by asking how I found out about the supernatural world. I told him the entire truth of what happened to my family and I when I was only fourteen. By the time I finished telling them the story they simply cut the ropes tying me to the chair and fed me while we continued to talk.
I turned out that I may have been helping to bring about the destruction of people that I made it my mission to protect. Andrew told me that he was Mage, not just some human who gained access to powers; that Mages abilities were natural and not the result of death and destruction for power. I don’t know what to think of everything he has said because it is so different to what I have spent the last twelve years believing. When I left his home he told me to think things through, walk some and I might find what I need as I go. When I get back to the hotel I intend to do just that. One of the things I have to think over is whether I want to leave this city in peace with him and his allies to protect it or to ally myself with him against this strange enemy he told me about. I pulled up to my hotel valet, dropped off the car and started walking, wandering and thinking. I had no idea where I was going as this was my first trip to the city of Las Vegas, but I knew I could find my path back or call a cab from a bar to get back to the hotel when I needed.
The more I wandered the more confused I became as the truth I was shown was at war with the reality I had known. It’s not easy to confront the truth and your own misconceptions about it but it needed to be done. I kept walking, not paying attention to the streets, and just letting my feet direct the path I walked. My focus was on finding what I needed to in order to work through the confusion I was feeling. Somehow after being out walking for an hour or so I found myself in front of the doors to a club. Looking at the sign I saw it was called the Existence. I figured I could use a drink and stepped toward the doors before I even noticed the line going down the block. The doorman looked down at me as I stepped up and placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me from entering. That’s when I noticed the line and realized I wasn’t likely to get that drink after all.
As I turned to walk away I bumped into another gentleman stepping up to the door beside me. He was taller than me and dressed well. He was wearing what looked like custom tailored clothing. Black linen slacks, a cobalt blue silk shirt with the top two buttons undone, a linen jacket matching the pants and a nice pair or custom leather boots. He had brown hair and the palest grey eyes I had ever seen. What was most striking about the eyes is they looked like they had seen more history than anyone else I had ever know and he looked like he was only a couple years my senior. Between him and the doorman, I was more intimidated by this stranger. I realized that while I had been evaluating him he had been doing the same to me and I had to respect that. He held out his hand to me, “I’m Arthur Masters, and you are?”
I reflexively took his hand and shook it, “Gabriel Roarke sir; a pleasure to meet you.” I’m not sure why I said sir except the look in his eyes and the way he carried himself seemed to command respect. I’ve met a couple people that had similar bearing but nobody that grabbed my attention like he did.
Arthur turned to the doorman, “Marshall, I’m going to take Gabriel here in as my guest tonight, please add him to the list in the future.” Then he turned to me. “You look like you need to get a drink and maybe talk about something. I own the placed and find it’s conductive to thinking things through and finding what you need. First drinks on me.”
Arthur opened the door and waived me in ahead of him. It was such a gracious offer I couldn’t bring myself to refuse; besides my walking and just going where I felt I needed to be led me to the door. I decided to keep an open mind and go in. When I entered I was struck with just how large this place really was. The bar area wasn’t much larger than any of the pubs back home, but the bar area was just the beginning. There was a nightclub behind the main bar through a soundproofed Plexiglas wall the appeared to stretch an entire block. If the owner and the scope of its size weren’t enough to impress me, the security arrangement would have. I’ve seen military installations with less security and protection than this place. I followed Arthur to a large table in the center of the main bar area that had a reserved sign on it. He motioned for me to sit as he took the chair facing the door with his back to the bar.
As I sat down I read the sign posted above the bar and couldn’t help the laugh that came out. It read:
The use of weapons is strenuously discouraged, violators will be Penalized. For those of you who don’t have two brain cells to form a thought the above means “YOU PULL IT, YOU EAT IT” , This Policy is strictly enforced
Arthur looked at me and where my eyes focused. He turned a smile on me that made me like the man even more. I could tell from his eyes he had seen too much of what was out there and now from his smile that he didn’t let what he saw break him down. I hope that one day I’ll be able to say the same thing. While we were sitting there a petite young woman walked over to the table with two glasses and a crystal decanter full of an amber colored liquid. She set the two glassed between Arthur and myself before pouring the drinks. She then placed the bottle on the table before stepping away. As I was watching her I could see her evaluating me much the same as Arthur and I did to each other and I got the feeling that this woman would not only kill for Arthur but die for him as well. Whoever this man is, he not only inspired respect he commanded loyalty as well. The woman was just over five foot and could have been more than 125 pounds or so but she carried herself with the grace of a dancer or fighter and I had my guess as to which.
“Gabriel, if you care to join me, this is a very old and rare cognac that it would be my pleasure to share with Irish gentleman such as yourself.”
“Thank you Arthur, it would be my pleasure.” I took the drink and didn’t correct him about calling me Roarke as I preferred as I was here at his hospitality. I took a sip from my drink and felt the liquor burn slowly down my throat and warm me from the inside.
“So Gabriel, if you don’t mind my asking, what wandering thought brought you to my door this evening?” Arthur inquired politely.
I chuckled briefly before responding, “I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you. At the very least you may think I’m drunk or crazy.”
Arthur turned his head to face me and stared directly into my eyes as he replied, “You may be surprised. I learned a very long time ago as a bartender that I needed to keep an open mind about the truth of the world. Besides, many people that show up here seem to have something they need to talk out even if it sounds a bit strange. Just because I sit out at the table more often than working the stick doesn’t mean I’m no longer a bartender. Speak up about what’s on your mind, if it sounds a little crazy I’ll attribute it to the drink and call you a cab when we’re done.”
The way he spoke and the calm acceptance in his eyes made it easier to voice at least some of my thoughts. I figured I could cover the broad strokes without giving him the details that would put me in a mental institution. “Have you ever known that you were doing the right thing because you knew how the world worked only to have the truth turn and smack you over the head?” I asked him.
“Since truth is a relative term as we subscribe to our own perspectives; that has happened to me on no less the a dozen occasions. I learned a new fact each time. Knowledge is about fact and wisdom about truth. The truth can change as often as we do as people. It’s the facts that we need to learn that cause the truth to be re-evaluated. Take for example, as a kid I never believed in any of the monsters in the movies until I saw my first one. I knew the truth was they didn’t exist before I was exposed to the fact that they were real,” Arthur stated in an even and relaxed tone.
I wish I could say that I picked up on what he said right away but honestly I just didn’t, “That is an interesting perspective on truth and facts…..” I fell silent for a minute as my brain was catching up on what he just said. “Did you just say that you know that the monsters from the movies exist?”
“Of course I did. However, I think you already knew that as well. More importantly, I believe that you are having an issue resolving the fact that while these being in fact exist, in truth they are not all monsters. Would that be a correct assessment?”
I hadn’t been surprised by anyone in a long time, but this day was shaping up to be one of new and disconcerting experiences. I opened my mouth to answer a few times and closed it again before finally being able to put a coherent thought into words, “You could easily put it that way. How did you know what I was thinking about?”
Arthur smiled at me before he answered, “First is that you wound up at my door and only those who need to find this place if they haven’t been invited. Second is that you carry yourself as a warrior in a time and place where there aren’t many left in the world and since you’re completely human I would assume you were a hunter. The only way a Hunter would arrive at my door is if they were having some kind of crisis or faith or some other such issue they need to work out. Third, and what made figuring out the first two easier is a mutual friend gave me a heads up about a young man who he sent wandering with the idea planted on letting the walking guide him to what he needed.”
I looked him directly in his disconcerting gaze and asked, “Andrew? He knew I would wind up here?”
Arthur chuckled and replied, “No, he didn’t know. He did hope your wandering would bring you here because this place may provide you some on the perspective you need to work through you dilemma.” He took a quick look around the room. “Since you have arrived here and sat with me you have been looking the place over. Tell me without looking again what you noticed.”
I answered quickly and from memory as not to bias the answer by over thinking things, “I saw busy bar and nightclub with serious security measures in place to protect the place and patrons from any possible situation including an invasion by a hostile nation. I saw people sitting around having conversations and drinks without the grim mood you see in a lot of bars and clubs. I saw people dancing and smiling, moving on and off the dance floor. I saw that beautiful young lady who brought the cognac over evaluate me as though I may be a threat and saw that she was more loyal to you than I’d ever to be able to properly put into words.”
“Very observant for the quick glances you took. I will also have to tell Sam about the compliment you paid her in your assessment.” He smiled and continued, “Now, take another look around. Take your time and look closely. Scan just the bar room if you want to take a look through the glass to the club and tell me again what you see.”
I did as he instructed, taking my time to do this right. I paid attention to every detail I could spot letting my focus linger on the dance floor beyond the divider. I looked over the customers and the staff, looking for anything that I had missed in my scan of the room when I entered. By the time I was finished looking around I’m sure my jaw was hanging open in shock at what I was seeing around me. I almost didn’t believe my own eyes. “There are all kinds of supernatural beings in here along with mortals; Supernatural beings that actively war with each other. I can see at least a couple of Vampires shooting pool with a couple of Werewolves over there. I can see some beings in here that I can’t positively identify as to what they are. I don’t understand how there can be so many supernatural beings in this one city, let alone this one building without them trying to tear each other and the place apart as well. How is it that no one violated the policy above the bar?”
Again a smile spread across Arthur’s face, “I’ll explain as best I can and maybe it will help you resolve your own identity crisis. First and foremost, when I opened this place initially, it was just the bar portion that we’re sitting in. That happened long before I knew what existed beyond the scope of my world. I later came to know a lot more about the truth and the facts of what goes on in this world. Among the different supernatural races there are traditionally places to meet between rival clans or tribes or whatever social grouping that species gathers themselves in to. These places have many names selected by the race in question, but it is always neutral territory and the rules are not to be broken. The more popular term for these places is an Elysium. I would assume this to be a reference to the Elysian Fields from Greek mythology as they were a place of paradise similar to heaven in other religions. Either way, I believed that while the different races had placed where they could meet to work out issues between their own kind, there was no place to meet with another race where they could peacefully discuss things without it generating into another bloodbath. With the abilities I had and have grown into overtime I turned my little corner bar into an Elysium for all who enter. My staff and I are more than capable of enforcing the neutrality if we have to, but most who come here just enjoy the chance to relax and be who they are, not what they are expected to be. Take the pool game you pointed out. They are playing pairs, but it isn’t Vampires versus Werewolves, they’re split evenly. That table in the corner over my shoulder with the two men playing chess and having a discussion; one is a Mage and the other a Technocrat. Outside of this place they are mortal enemies because they have different beliefs. In here they discuss their belief in hopes of opening the other person’s eyes to the truth as they see it. And Samantha whose loyalty to me you commented on; I owe her my life several times over and not once has she allowed me to thank her or repay her with any kind of favor beyond the friendship we share. She is older than me by an order of decades even though she appears younger. She is a Warrior of exquisite skill, a loyal and dear friend, a confidant and ally as well as a kind hearted woman once you get to know her. Sam just also happens to be a Vampire. The first think you need to think about is that just because some writer put something in a book because they didn’t understand and were afraid of a little truth doesn’t mean they were right. Now, don’t get me wrong and assume they are all good law abiding people no matter what they are. Like humans, the supernatural have some that are born good and will always be so and some that are pure evil and like it there. The rest of the population of supernatural beings falls somewhere in the gray area and should be treated as they treat others.” Arthur’s smile turned from openly friendly to one of mischief. He reached up into the air next to me and made a sound like glass or metal snapping then reach out like he was handing me something before continuing, “Now that I have completely broken your handle on reality I need to give my bartender a break while you think though all that has been revealed to you today. If you have questions or need to talk let me know. If you need a ride back to your hotel, George will give you a ride unless I’m free to do so.” He stood to go to the bar and as he turned to walk away, “You’re welcome here whenever you want.” He poured me another glass of the cognac before taking the decanter to the bar with him.
So there I sat, a Hunter in the middle of a nightclub full of the creatures I had hated and hunted for twelve years. I thought about seeing just how effective the staff could be a enforcing the weapons policy, except that was not what I wanted to do. None of these people had done anything to me and they didn’t seem to be doing anything overtly evil as I looked around the room. I saw a couple of Vampires feeding, but the people they were feeding from offered their necks and wrists to the vampires in question. So there I continued to sit and attempt to reconcile my last twelve years with the last twenty four hours. Not an easy task and one that had my ego taking a beating at the way I was used by my informant. As much as I wanted to blame it all on the mystery person, I had to take the blame for not researching the targets myself and allowing myself to be used as a weapon. I can’t tell you how long I was sitting there in that chair, struggling with the right answer to my conundrum, but the sun had risen before I finally walked out of the Existence and headed for my hotel.
As I walked down the street, I looked back at the name of the place and found it fitting. It was a place for all those in existence to go and relax without needing to fight senseless wars, worry about being killed simply because of who or what you were. It was also a reminder of the gold to strive for; a peaceful existence. I still had to go back to see Andrew and discuss what the other option he was offering. That however could wait until the next day as I’d already been up around forty hours or so now and needed to rest.