This was CCC #25, folks:
This was the pitch:
Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali...Convicted for running over a kidnapper...and then backing up and doing it again...a sympathetic judge sends Raven to a very special "nursing home" in the desert outside of Las Vegas, where she serves the residents, and learns from them as well. She's schooled in everything a good hero needs, and what emerges on the other side of her sentence is Raven Diablo: Agent of Kali.
This is the 25th contest folks, and I wanted it to be special. It seems like everyone has been itching to write a bad@ss villain the last few contests, so that's what this contest is about- creating a villain for Raven Diablo.
I realize you probably don't know the character, but for this contest, that's okay. Here's some links to RavenDiablo.com, where you can find out the minimum on the characters:
- For Raven Diablo.
- For Xandra, The Zavada Brothers, Kim Desmond, Simon Janus, and more on Raven.
- For the Kaviani Family, and still more on Raven.
- For Whack City (aka Las Vegas).
...I've been telling Miko that Raven Diablo is full of potential. What I'm asking you to do is find some of that potential. Don't worry about what the characters are like in the books. Just read the information and run with it.
These were the rules:
- Of course, Raven Diablo has to be in the story.
- You have to create an OC villain for Raven Diablo.
- It's not required that you use the other characters shown on the website, but supporting cast is always a plus.
- No word limit.
- It is currently April 17th at 11:44am GMT. Deadline is two weeks (and a little): May 1st, 11:59pm GMT [yes, PM] (so 7:59pm EST, for my own reference).
Miko Montgomery is a friend of mine, y'all, and seeing his dream get published has been the inspiration that keeps me pushing towards my own dreams. Help me give a little back to the man, and show his characters some love. (It won't be exactly what you created, Miko, so don't freak out.)
And these were the entries, in order posted to the contest thread:
As the smell hit NSA Agent William Posters nostrils he promptly threw up his bagel and coffee from breakfast down the wall of the hotel room. The crime scene technician in their head to toe white suit shook their head in frustration.
“Someone cordon off the rookie,” came the muffled unisex voice “Before he ruins the whole site.”
“Sorry,” muttered Posters as he wiped his mouth. The smell that clung to the air like an unwanted hug was if someone filled a four day old hamburger with sulphur, onions, baby vomit and parmesan cheese, force fed it to a cancerous dying cow and then made an aerosol spray out of the subsequent faecal matter. He was trained but this smell wasn’t in the manual. Posters took his glasses off and wiped his eyes and saw the room thankful that he’d already emptied his stomach.
The pristine alabaster walls of the suite in the Mandarin Oriental were splattered with yellowish congealed pus as if a gigantic sneeze had occurred in the room. Lying in the centre of the room was the headless, armless torso of a large man with a bent machete embedded in his chest.
“So…” Posters said gingerly as he edged forward to the technician.
“Do you have clearance to be here,” the tech looked up and read his badge “Agent Posters.”
Posters scoffed “I’m with the NSA.”
Another white suited person bolted upright like a lemur and quickly crossed the room “Yes?”
“Verify Posters clearance for me. If he doesn’t check out, feel free to toss him out a window.”
Posters hand instinctively went to his sidearm under his left arm as he tried to peer into the visor to work out if he was talking to a male or female or a…
The technician shook their head and turned to the Agent. “You’ve already contaminated my site. Try not to be a further pain in my ass.”
“So what ha…”
The technician tapped him on the chest “Don’t ask stupid questions would be my first piece of advice. How about y…”
“How about you show me a little bit of respect?” Posters growled “We’re on the same side trying to find out who did this! I don’t need you treating me like a child.”
The technician muttered something inaudible and wandered off to the body “Put a suit on and try to keep up.”
“Male, homo demonicus, Kaviani muscle, approximately thirty five in appearance but a cellular analysis will probably place him around the one twenty to two fifty year range…” The technician looking at Posters waiting for a response.
“I’m familiar with the hybrid of humans and demons,” replied Posters as he took notes “Go on.”
“The deceased was surprised as the door was kicked in but any clues or DNA from the attacker was lost due to…” A gloved hand pointed at Posters vomit. “Judging by the cut, the left arm was amputated first then the right but it doesn’t overly matter as the decapitation killed him.”
“Is that sword the murder weapon?” Posters asked.
“Actually no, it’s a khukri or Gurkha blade,” replied the technician derisively “But no, it’s a calling card.”
“Of the Agents of Kali.”
The technician stopped “How do you know about them?”
“We’re the NSA, we know everything.” Posters smiled smugly.
“Really?” The room went awkwardly silent. When it almost became beyond painful the technician continued “Yes the Agents of Kali. But how it all ties together, well that’s your job. I just process the scene.”
Posters strolled around the room when he spied an ornate black rectangle just under the couch. He crouched to get a better look. “Do you have an evidence bag?”
“What did you find?”
“I don’t know,” Posters said “It’s…”
“Mine.” The voice rumbled through the room. Posters drew his gun and pointed it at the pale man in an electric blue suit, black hair in a crew cut wearing sunglasses standing in the centre of the room.
“NSA put your hands up now!” barked Posters.
The man looked over the top of his sunglasses, his red eyes meeting Posters’ gaze. “Oh no, it’s the feds.” He mocked.
“As for the Agents of Kali,” he said pointing at the technicians “You will…”
The man moved as if the world was molasses. He drew a khukri of his own from his sleeve and slapped the bullet back at Posters which hit him in the shoulder and sent him to the ground.
“Need to do better than that,” he snarled as he jumped at the closest technician who was shedding their suit. The khukri caught sailed through their neck like butter. He turned to the other three who disrobed revealing three female agents.
“Ladies, you will all join your bitch god today!” he snarled as he set upon them like a cat amongst pigeons. Posters shuddered on the ground as he fumbled for his phone and hit record.
Raven Diablo stood next to Xandra as they watched the phone footage Posters had captured. The man in electric blue slaughtered the three remaining agents before turning to Posters.
“You will give the bitches a message little man,” he snarled “Mafdet does not forgive. Mafdet does not forget.”
The screen went red as the screaming began.
“Who is Mafdet?” asked Raven as she paused the film. “And what does he want with us?”
“That isn’t Mafdet,” said Kim Desmond via the video link up “That’s Haze, he works for Mafdet.”
“Care to enlighten us Kim?” Xandra took a seat.
“Mafdet is a sect who worships the cheetah goddess Mafdet,” Kim replied “They tried to steal some artefacts from the British museum a few years ago and…”
“Let me guess, some of the girls stopped them?”
Kim nodded “Spot on Raven. Seems they’re back from revenge.”
“Do you have any idea what this is?” Xandra held up the black rectangle for Kim to see.
“Looks to be possibly a Norn stone,” Kim shrugged “I’d need to see it in person to tell you properly.”
“Mafdet. Bad enough we have to deal with Janus, The Kaviani and every other thing from a netherhell,” stated Raven “Now a cat cult out for revenge.”
“I prefer to call it justice!” stated Haze as he materialised in the room. “Mafdet does not forgive. Mafdet does not forget.”
“CLEAR THE ROOM!” yelled Raven as she leapt the table at him. Haze leapfrogged over her and ran up the table, khukri drawn heading for Xandra. Raven grabbed the table and flipped it making Haze somersault off.
“How did you get in here?” barked Xandra as she drew a large calibre hand gun and trained it on him.
Haze glanced at her then at Raven who was stalking closer. “I go where I please. And your secret society may as well be an open tent.” He lunged at Xandra who fired. He smiled as he batted the bullet towards Raven who in return hit the bullet into the roof.
“Is that the best you have?” Raven laughed which soon changed as the khukri came hurtling towards her face. With supreme skill she caught the blade in the clap mere millimetres from her face. “Again yo…”
Raven stopped as she watched Haze sink his teeth into Xandra’s neck. Blood squirted everywhere as he chewed on her neck as dog would a bone.
“NO!” Raven crossed the room and belted Haze in the face sending him flying into a wall. Xandra clasped her neck trying to stem the tide. Raven looked at her boss who nodded emphatically. Raven charged towards Haze, he met her attack parrying her arms. Every attack she made was countered but only just. Raven was amazed at how fast he was whilst he was impressed by her skill.
“You will die by my hand!” Raven stated as she pressed her attack.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone said that,” chuckled Haze as he rolled out of harm’s way and snatched up the rectangle from Xandra’s hand. “I’ll take that.”
Raven kicked up his khukri into her hand and threw it at him with a mighty grunt. Haze smiled and caught it by the handle “Thank you.”
Raven drew her pistol as Haze positioned himself in front of the bleeding Xandra. “Go ahead, shoot me!” He waved her on. “Because when you miss, you’ll kill the bitch!”
Raven’s eyes narrowed. She knew she was deadly accurate but this guy was good, real good. An errant shot and Xandra would get a face full of lead. Raven holstered the pistol with a smile.
“Giving up so easy.” Haze chuckled.
“No,” snarled Xandra as she rammed a piece of broken glass into his back “Just letting me get in position!”
“BITCH!” roared Haze as he backhanded her across the room with a sickening crack. Raven did a jump kick hitting him square in the sternum and sending him flying across the room. She raced to Xandra’s side. It was eerie seeing her so pale, so still.
““Mafdet does not forgive. Mafdet does not forget!” He barked as he staggered to his feet.
“Oh shut up!” Raven quick drew her gun and opened fire, the bullets passed through him as he faded away chuckling like a sick clown.
Raven scooped her boss up into her arms “C’mon you old cow, don’t die on me.”
Raven paced the floor as the onsite doctors operated on Xandra behind the glass. She replayed the fight over and over again in her head.
Raven stopped to see Agent Sappho with a worried expression on her face.
Sappho snapped back to reality “Gaspar.”
“I am in no mood for guessing games Sappho,” Raven said dismissively.
Raven marched to the vault like doors the led into the Agents of Kali’s headquarters flanked by forty other agents armed to the teeth. She waved her hand and slowly the doors hissed and unlocked. Standing there was Gaspar Kaviani, one of the heads of the Kaviani criminal network. His piercing eyes clocked the weapons trained on him but he could hardly care less.
“You have seven seconds before I kill you.” Raven spun her weapon in her hand. “Seven…”
Gaspar slowly bowed his head “Have you ever heard the phrase the enemy of my enemy is my friend? We have a mutual problem.”
Raven knew the answer before she asked it “Mafdet.”
“Mafdet.” replied the demon.
The end…for now
The Raising of Phorcys
“What do you know of the Elder Beings?” The tanned and incredibly beautiful woman asked the equally good looking man as he reclined in the ornate throne carved of bone and mummified skin.
“The Elders are the forerunners of the modern gods and the sires of the demonic hordes including our partners the Dalkhu.” The man answered. “Why do you ask Sholeh?”
“We swore an alliance with the Dalkhu, but as we have experienced that ‘loss prevention specialist’ could be a threat to our plans.” Sholeh stated. “We need a creature that can defeat her and pave the way to victory.”
“Summoning an Elder would take more power then bringing the Dalkhu into this world.” The man answered. “And then the emerging creature would be too powerful to control. We are talking about the primal forces of nature here Sholeh. To consort with such beings is folly.”
“Oh Gaspah you forget that some remnant of the Elder’s power remains on Earth. The one known as Phorcys had his daughter Medusa turn him to stone on the eve of the New Gods awakening.” Sholeh lectured. “That stone just needs to be broken and the primordial lord of the ocean will raise from the depths.”
“And you plan to do this how? I remember the myth of the King of the Abyss, the he could only be released by the splitting of the island that formed on top of him.” Gaspah hissed. “I can think of only one person who could do such a thing and she doesn’t work for anything less then a king’s ransom.”
“You speak of the Scarab.” Sholeh stated. “True she demands a high fee but there is another way to win her services. I have already taken steps to ensure her loyalty; all we need to do is be on site when Phorcys awakens from his slumber.
Insula ex Fumma, Mediterranean Sea
Raven stood stock still under the makeshift jetty as the two soldiers walked towards the massive Zubr Hovercraft that took up a large portion of the bay. All the personnel she had seen wore the same rag-tag uniform of loose fitting armoured plates over grey combat trousers, light weight Kevlar tops and a helmet with a golden scarab emblazoned on the side. Silently she went over Xandra’s briefing on what she would find on the ‘Island of Smoke’. The small spit of rock, at just over twelve miles wide had been taken over by a mercenary engineer known as the Scarab a few days ago. Born Zara Hussein, the Scarab had immigrated to England when she was just a child and trained alongside the Royal Engineers before going mercenary alongside a selection of loyal followers.
As bad as the army guarding her was, what the Scarab planned to release was worse. Raven had seen pictures of Phorcys and by all accounts he would be a potent threat if unleashed, one that rivalled the power of Kali flowing through her body, one that if left unchecked may even be greater then her guardian goddess. Phorcys had been ancient when Kali had been born, and while she and the other new gods had imprisoned most of the Elder Beings, it had been a long hard struggle. Now there was a plan to release Phorcys, one that Raven would stop even if it took her last breath. Silently she reached over the edge of the jetty, pulled herself up onto the decking, and slashed out at the soldiers backs, the blows killing them instantly.
Continuing up the path pounded into the rock Raven saw the main work station suspended on cables that ran across the island, a trail of steam emerging from the chasm already cut into the rock. Attached to the work station were four massive solar panels that fed energy to the solar cutter boring through the stone. The whole platform was crawling with guards and engineers but Raven knew from reports of her reputation, that the Scarab would be leading her men in the field, and not relaxing in some office. Silently Raven dropped into the chasm and edged along the side, thick drafts of steam enveloping her. Most would contribute it to volcanism but she knew it was really Phorcys taking his first breaths in over a millennium.
“Stop right there.” An accented voice ordered above her. Raven looked up to see a sleek woman dressed in thick protective work-clothes standing above her, armed with a long handled spade and a quiver of thick metal spears. “You can’t go near the Solar Cutter while it’s activated.” She added turning away from the chasm. “You may hold all the cards but I won’t risk the safety of my men, not because you refuse to follow proper safety protocol.”
“Your protocol is flawed Ms Hussein,” The familiar voice of Gaspah Kaviani replied. “As we speak the families of you and your workers are undergoing a metamorphosis. We are taking particular interest in your daughter; children are such interesting subjects when infused with demonic energies. Unlike adults their entire body changes, right now she’s pleasuring a business man back home with her new lease of life.”
“You’re a monster.” Hussein hissed. “I had come to terms with my daughter’s disease until your sister gave me hope, but it was a false hope. I would rather see my beloved Allison dead, then a filthy creature shaped by Lucifer himself.”
“Lucifer? Lucifer!!” Gaspah cackled. “A new god that was consumed by shadow, what I serve is the reason he fell from grace. And what we unleash today is older and darker still. Now tell me how long will it be before the cutting is complete?”
“Two days, the Solar Cutter is a delicate and unique piece of machinery. If we push it to hard it will break, and then we’ll have to resort to hand tools, something that will extend the demolition to an entire life time.”
“Funny you mentioned pushing hard.” Gaspah hissed. “I imagine that’s what your daughter is doing now. Finish the job by nightfall or I’ll tell Sholeh to make the change permanent.” He added before walking away towards the nearest ladder up to the platform. With a sigh Hussein slammed her spade into the ground, the force sending shockwaves spiralling out across the island. With a gasp Raven began to slip before pulling herself up straight next to where the Scarab stood.
“Who are you meant to be?” Hussein asked as she eyed Raven’s kukri and moved her spade into a defensive position.
“I’m here to stop this operation.” Raven answered. “Surrender or be destroyed alongside your equipment.” She added as several red targeting lasers danced over her head.
“Put down your weapons.” Hussein called to the guards, her words followed by the clack of dropped rifles.
“That was sensible of…whoa.” Raven begun to say, only for Hussein to lash out with her spade, the blade whizzing over her targets head as she ducked at the last moment.
“I can’t let you interfere.” Hussein spat as she swung the spade down again, only for Raven to slash through the shaft with her kukri.
“You’d sacrifice the entire planet for one person?” Raven snarled as she followed up her cut with a kick, only for Hussein to block it and pull out a spike from her quiver. “How can you be so selfish?” She asked as Hussein slammed the spike towards her, only for the weapon to miss and strike the ground, the rock vaporising as it made contact.
“Allison is everything to me.” Hussein spat as she drew another spear to block Raven’s counter attack. “I would die to save her!!” She screamed as she parried the blow, only for her lithe opponent to slip under her guard and slash the strap holding the quiver. Standing up insider her guard Raven delivered a vicious head butt to the Scarab, stunning her for a second, just long enough to throw the spike away and knock Hussein to the ground.
“You are not my enemy and I will not continue this fight.” Raven told Hussein as she picked up the spike and twirled it in her hand, before turning to face the platform, the guards looking on in horror. Seconds later they were swarming towards the exits like vermin fleeing a sinking ship, as they realised what Raven was going to do. As the last one leapt clear she threw the spear, the tip embedding above the Solar Cutter before detonating, the entire structure vaporising in an amber flash and a rain of molten steel.
“You b***h!!” Hussein screamed as she got to her feet, a pair of carpenters hammers in her hands, “You heartless b***h!!” She snarled before banging the hammers together, a shockwave radiating out from the tools and throwing Raven into the chasm. “I am the vessel of Path, forge god of Egypt and I will have vengeance on you and the Kaviani Demons. Go tell Xandra that I am coming for her as well!!”
Agent of Kali Safehouse, Czech Republic
“Zara Hussein.” Raven stated as Xandra’s face swam into view on the flat screen computer monitor. “You didn’t mention that she was like me.”
“She isn’t.” Xandra answered. “She serves the God of Technology Path. Or did before she became a servant to greed.”
“She’s still the avatar of a New God!” Raven yelled her hands clutched around her kukri. “Can I expect to run into Thor or Athena on another mission, will they be working for the enemy as well?”
“No only the most vain of gods put power into mortal flesh.” Xandra explained. “Kali focused on her need to slay evil, but as a god she couldn’t act on her own, so transferred power to a mortal to quench her addiction. Path was obsessed with steel, but when the gods transcended he could no longer feel the bite of iron and the smell of the forge, so he created a vessel to siphon those feelings to him.”
“So we’re bongs or cigarettes then?” Raven stated. “Way to make a woman feel good about herself.”
“You misunderstand.” Xandra stated. “You were created out of vanity, but maintained out of a sense of honour and duty. Whatever your origin was it’s nothing compared to the good you will do and the lives you will save. Raven Diablo the fate of the world rests with you and you alone.”
“Raven pleas come here.”
Xandra was sitting on her turning chair sipping on her green tea in front of her desk.
Raven walked towards her holding her sword.
“Yes Xandra? Any demons?”
The elder woman looked worried.
“No even worst! I know your degree in demonologies is phenomenal but there is one thing you did not learn about, since I thought it would never happen.”
The demon hunter rubbed her neck.
“What do you mean?”
“Mmmh well I am talking about the union of an Angel and a Demon, an Asura! They are created when an Angel and a Demon agree to share their powers and host it to an unborn baby. That child must have been made when the mother felt negative emotions and positive emotions at the same time. Asuras are really powerful that even the Zavada brothers could not kill them!”
Raven looked quite surprised
“And what am I supposed to do against something like that?”
“Well Raven we located the pregnant woman and you have to go and kill her before she gives birth!”
“Are you sure?”
“It is the only way! Or we are doomed.”
She walked off.
Two hours later the agent was on the roof of a building in front of a dirty building far away from the shining party life of Las Vegas. She looked threw a window in the fifth floor, a young pregnant woman was curled in to a ball next to a dead body. She knew that a jump would take her directly in the room. Then she just did it, she was crashing threw the window protecting her face with her arms. The young woman didn’t seem to care a lot. But she looked up with glassy eyes petting the mans dead face, his eyes were missing.
“Who are you..? Are you coming for my baby..?
“Yes, how do you know about it?”
“Well I always knew that she would be special!”
Raven looked at the young woman, she was not older then eighteen or seventeen, with long fair hair, blue eyes wearing a dirty light blue dress.
“Who is this man?”
“What is your name?”
Raven was surprised by that question. Normally she would not answer this question but since the girl would die…
“Raven?! Like the bird?”
“Yes like the bird”
“It’s beautiful! I will call my baby Dove then to make a contrast with your name.”
The girl was smiling. Her smile was sincere but some thing made Raven sad about it.
“Eh… Thank you.”
“Call me Maria. And this” she pointed her stomach “Dove.”
She laughed out loud. Diablo was concerned about the girls mental state she felt pity.
“And who is this?” The agent pointed the dead body.
Maria’s cheerful voice turned down and sounded really serious.
“Oh… This is my uncle… “
“Why is he…dead?”
“Well a few years ago uncle Julian took me away from mommy and daddy… I was sad and angry but kind of happy since I love my uncle even tho he did strange games to me that I really hated. But since it made him happy I let him continue. He told me never to go out of here since outside are bad monsters! And one day when we were playing he told me that he wanted to make a baby, this game was really brutal and violent and uncle kept on hitting me… But it made him happy and me to since he gave me Dove.” She rubbed her big belly. “To day he came home he smelt a lot like beer, he started to say mean things and hit me... and Dove that made me cry and angry! Dove in my belly started to glow red and uncle’s eyes popped out… then he felt down. I’m really sad he is gone but at the same time I miss him…”
She started to cry. Raven kneeled down and told her.
“I am sorry Maria but I have to kill you.”
The young woman looked up at her with her sad eyes.
“Dove is dangerous. I am really sorry…”
“Dove?! Dove?! Dove is not dangerous! Stop saying silly stuff! Don’t say that! DON’T!!!”
Her belly started to glow red and blue her left eye turned blue the other one red. With some kind of magical choc she pushed Raven against the wall net to the broken window. The girl started to float slowly at her way.
The agent took out her gun pointing it at the girl’s stomach, she took a deep breath but Maria started to tremble and talking in a weird mixed language between English the angelic language and devilish language. The words in English she could catch were “Stop it! Dove no! And!”
Maria started to cry blood and she seemed to gain control of herself.
“Raven… Doves can fly right?...”
Before Raven could do anything Maria jumped out of the window.
Raven was standing next to the dead girl. A small tear was rolling down her cheek.
She turned the dead body around just to see her face but she realized that the dress at the downer part of her body was full with blood. She looked at her stomach; it was flat.
The baby was gone.
Raven got a call.
“So did you finish your mission?”
“I am sorry Xandra…”
She turned her device off and kneeled down to Maria and whispered in her ear.
“Yes Maria, Doves really can fly. Sadly.”
"Oh I'll kill her, I just need to know why?"
Sholeh Kaviani tossed her black hair over her shoulder as she looked at the dark skinned man who sat awkwardly in his chair. "Because I'm paying you to."
"Good enough for me lady," replied the dark skinned man with a variety of guns, knives and trinkets hanging from his belt. He jingled when he breathed.
"Can you kill her?" She muttered into her wine glass as she drunk the remnants.
"Lady, you've hired Boko!" He smiled broadly "I killed the werewolf of Devon. I impaled the vampire of Prague. I blinded the minotaur of Nicosia."
"It's what the client wanted." He chuckled "It had taken his grandfather's years ago, so a bit of recipricity."
"Reciprocity," corrected Sholeh as she raised an eyebrow over her hazel eye "Your target isn't a monster per se."
"Monster, zombie, human, angel, demon; don't matter to me." Boko pulled out a large machete and began cleaning his fingernails "You hit them hard enough, often enough, they die."
Sholeh was beginning to have her doubts. "Really? That is your strategy?"
"Do I tell you your job?" he said as he scrapped the black muck from his nails off the blade onto the table edge. "I got an enchanted machete from the Volcano Prince which can cut through solid stone like butter. Used it to circumcise a gnat once, long story don't ask. Besides she's one of them Agents of Kali."
"Yes, yes she is."
"Meaning I put a bunch of kids or women in harm's way and when she comes to rescue them, WHACK!" He slammed the machete down which split the table in two and embedded in the floor "Headless Raven."
Sholeh ran her tongue over her teeth, the plan was devilishly simple, ingenious almost. Slowly she got up from the mess Boko had created and handed over a black velvet pouch. "Inside is a quarter of the payment. The rest when you deliver her head."
Boko snatched up the pouch with glee and peered inside, giggling like a naughty schoolboy. Sholeh shook her head and snapped her fingers, activating the teleport glyph sending her back to her stronghold. Boko looked up to see he was alone in the empty restaurant and smiled.
“Xandra, what am I looking at?” asked Raven.
Xandra’s eyes never left the screen, her brow furrowed deeply with concern. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were looking at your own handiwork, but you’ve never been to the area this happened in. Just look though. This woman was strangled with the yellow scarf you see around her neck, and sliced open with a khukuri.” She pointed to a small blade on the floor, at the bottom of the screen and added, “We know that was the weapon used because the killer lost his Karda in the struggle.” Xandra bit her lip briefly. “Raven, this could be a Gurkha.”
“No,” Raven answered. “Gurkhas would never be so sloppy. They’re stealthy like leopards, and agile like mountain goats.” Xandra looked at her strangely. “What? You’ve never read the Nepalese Khukuri House website? Point is, they’d have left with all their weapons. And besides, they don’t bother with strangulation.”
“My impulse would be Thug, but this is something else,” said Raven. “This is someone trying to get my attention.”
“What? Why would you say that?” Xandra asked in surprise.
“The Thugee used scarves called ‘Rumal,’ which means roughly ‘yellow scarf.’ The real color was closer to cream or khaki, but I chose actual yellow because it stands out more. It doesn’t match anything the victim is wearing. So whoever left this yellow scarf around her neck was leaving a message for me. Who is this?” she asked, pointing at the picture.
“That’s Anita Child,” Raven’s friend answered. “She deals in human trafficking, but has never been caught until now. Her specialty is…was kids.”
Raven smiled. “So good riddance.”
“The world’s a better place,” agreed Xandra, “but there’s a problem. We were already in the process of tracking her down, because she was suspected to have two missing children with her. A girl and a boy- Wanda Auf and Willie Cumbach. When we found the body, the kids weren’t with her.”
“Now this guy has my attention. He’s not going to enjoy it though.” Raven smiled diabolically.
“Yeah. I figured that’s what you’d say. You’re going to need some help though. Someone from outside.”
“Who?” asked Raven, and as if in answer, there was a small explosion at the end of the room and a thick puff of black smoke. Raven immediately unsheathed a knife and threw it across the room.
“WHOA!” shouted a voice from the smoke. As it dissipated, there stood revealed an African-American man in a black trenchcoat and tophat, leaning a bit backwards, and still holding Raven’s knife where he caught it in midair. He looked at the women with a raised eyebrow and with slight exasperation in his voice said, “I come in peace.”
Xandra put a hand on Raven’s shoulder. “Raven, this…”
“Oh please,” interjected the man as he crossed the room. “Allow me to introduce myself.” Holding Raven’s knife by the tip and resting the hilt across his other wrist, he offered her knife back to her. Once she took it, he continued, “I am the cat in the hat. I am the technodelic jazz magician. I am the Shaman of the Vegas Vibe. I am…”
“…Completely full of yourself?” finished Raven.
The man drew his head back a bit and put his hand to his chest in mock umbrage. His thumb and forefinger stroked the silver skull hung around his neck, then he continued, “To quote the late great Nicol Williamson in Excalibur, I am ‘a dream to some…’” then he threw his hands in the air and declared, “‘…a nightmare to others!’” His voice reverberated through the room like thunder, taking even Raven by surprise. He then took a bow, swept the hat from his head to reveal a salt and pepper afro, and standing, added, “I…am Miko the Magnificent.” Nodding to Xandra, he said, “My close friends call me High Hat. You,” he said, looking pointedly at Raven, “can call me Mister Magnificent.”
“Never going to happen,” countered Raven. “Nice trick though,” she conceded.
“Trick?!” Miko gasped, the umbrage real this time. With pursed lips, he pulled the tophat back down over his hair, flicked an eye up and down Raven’s form, snapped the lapels of his coat sharply to settle it back onto his frame properly, and silently turned to the monitor with the picture of the dead abductor.
Over Miko’s shoulder, Xandra looked at Raven with wide eyes and shook her head slightly. Raven shrugged apologetically in return, then put her hands up in front of her, telling Xandra both to be calm and that she would behave. Xandra said, "Miko helped us with the Milwaukee Torso Killer awhile back." She then turned to the monitor and asked, “What can you tell us about this, High Hat?”
His voice all business now, Miko said, “I can tell you that nobody will mourn the departure of this blight on humanity.” Raven smiled at that. “But what’s festered up in her place might make them reconsider.”
Raven’s smile disappeared. “What do you mean,” she asked.
Miko’s eyes flicked to his peripheral for a second, but he didn’t turn to look at her. He answered, “You see that half circle just above the edge of the scarf? Xandra, did your people take any other pictures?”
“Yes,” she answered. Three pictures came up on the screen, revealing the full mark below the scarf. “But we haven’t made heads or tails of them yet.”
“Appropriate phrasing,” offered Miko as he touched the screen to enlarge one of the pictures, “because this…” he spread his fingers from the center of the mark, enlarging that portion of the picture, “is from a coin. Or more accurately, a medallion.” The picture showed the profile of a man, with words to either side, following the edges of the medallion, and a date at the bottom: 1757-1822.
“Medallion?” asked Xandra.
Continuing to stare at the picture, Miko answered, “Yes, the Canova Medallion.”
“The Canova Medallion?” asked Raven.
Miko looked at her this time. “What do you know of it?”
“The Thuggee were rumored to be worshippers of Kali, so I’ve done some reading,” she offered. Miko nodded slightly and waved a hand towards the screen, telling Raven to continue. As she did, he brought up other pictures on the screen, showing what she was telling.
Raven continued, “The Thuggee were killers, and perhaps the earliest version of ‘organized crime.’ A group would disperse along trade routes, sometimes for hundreds of miles, and join bands of travellers a little at a time, until they outnumbered their victims. Once they reached a spot along the route of their own choosing, they’d kill their victims, often by strangulation, hide the bodies, and plunder the spoils. The captured Thug Behram was one of the most notorious, claiming to have been present at nine hundred thirty-one killings. He was quite proficient with his Rumal. He could throw it so that a medallion sewn in its lining would land over the victim’s adams apple, making it easier to strangle them. That medallion was the Canova Medallion. It had the face of the artist – Antonio Canova – on one side, and an image of his statue, The Three Graces, on the other.” She looked at the image on the screen. “This is the side with Canova’s image. Someone wanted us to be sure this was from the Canova Medallion. But is it the original or a copy?”
The magician answered, “It’s impossible to tell, but you’re right. This mark was burned into the flesh. So someone heated the medallion and branded the victim with it. That had to be done after she was killed. So he moved the scarf, branded her, and then put the scarf back in place. Someone wants to point you in a specific direction, but where?”
“I think I have the answer to that,” cut in Xandra. She was working the screen at an adjoining station, and as she tapped keys and images, she said, “The real Canova Medallion is in the collection of a private museum, bought from the family of Thug Behram.”
“So this is a copy then,” concluded Raven. “It could have come from anywhere then.”
“Maybe not,” countered Xandra. “The real medallion has done some travelling, and is currently in a touring exhibit of famous serial killers.”
“And that exhibit is here, in Vegas,” guessed Raven.
“Bingo,” said Xandra, “and no bets on where,” she said as she tapped the screen again. Miko and Raven joined her at the console.
Raven shook her head, “Damn. Sanctum Tartarus. Why is it always Simon Janus?” she complained.
“It might be more than that,” answered Miko.
“More?” Raven looked puzzled.
“I’ll meet you at the exhibit. You take my hat,” he said as he tossed the tophat on her head. He disappeared in another black puff of smoke, and his voice echoed through the room, “Enjoy the ride.”
“Ride?” asked Raven, and then she felt the hat shift on her head. She raised her eyes towards the brim, and before she could say anything else, the hat got wider and bigger, and fell over her head, resting on her shoulders. She grabbed the rim, but it got wider and bigger again, causing her to lose her grip, and it fell to her waist. It shifted once again, got wider and bigger, and fell to the floor.
Xandra hollered, “Raven!” Her eyes got bigger as the hat shrunk down to normal size, then seemed to fold in on itself and disappear. “Raven!” shouted Xandra.
Inside the hat, Raven tumbled over backwards into a dimension of strange images and sounds. Lights flashed, music played, and she felt herself slipping, no longer knowing which direction was which, which way she fell, or if she was even falling at all. A shadow that might have been a man passed close by to her, and she heard a whisper. “Still think it’s just a ‘trick?’”
She was about to scream when a bright light shined through a seeming tear in reality itself, and she landed in a sprawl on the exhibit floor. She took a second to catch her breath, braced her hands on the floor as much to make sure it was real as to push herself up, and then saw a pair of black boots in front of her face. She followed the boots upward to the black jacket, and all the way up to the face of the magician. He reached down with one hand to claim his hat from her head, then offered his other hand to Raven, which she took, and helped her up.
They looked at each other for several moments, before Raven said, “M-Mister Magnificent.”
Miko nodded appreciatively at her, leaned towards her and said, “You can call me High Hat,” before placing the tophat back on his head.
Raven gave an appreciative nod back. “Raven, then. You said something about this being more than Simon Janus?”
“Yes. It’s the owner of the Medallion- the one who normally holds it in a private museum. His name is Ali Indigo.”
“Why does that sound familiar?” asked Raven.
“Probably from your reading,” offered Miko. “The British used the son of Behram to pressure him into becoming a King’s Approver against the Thuggee. The son’s name was Ali, and the East India Company ‘gifted’ him the position of running an Indigo factory, hoping they could pressure him into disclosing the locations of his father’s hidden hordes of plundered treasures.”
“So you think that Ali Indigo has something to do with… High Hat!” Raven was interrupted by a yellow scarf being slung around the magician’s neck. Miko barely had time to throw one hand up in front of the Medallion sewn inside, keeping it from putting the full pressure on his throat.
From behind him, he heard, “Thug Behram, at your service!” The killer pulled tighter on the Rumal, determined to strangle Miko. Raven unsheathed her kukhuri, but Behram warned, “Don’t try it, girl! I will kill him!”
Raven backed off, but Miko reached backwards suddenly and poked his attacker in the eye. The thug screamed and grabbed for his eye, enabling High Hat to get free. The magician immediately ducked, grabbed the edge of his jacket, and swooped it in an arc towards Behram, like a cape. The killer was swallowed completely by the coat just before it dropped back into place. Miko looked pissed. He seemed to stare into nothing as he pulled the scarf from his neck and shoved it in his pocket. Then he spun, flaring the jacket again, and as the coat snapped forward, Behram was ejected from its folds and thrown across the room into a display.
Raven Diablo looked at the magician fearfully. The things she could learn from this man. She then crossed the distance between her and the killer swiftly, putting her kukhuri to his neck and demanding, “Who are you? And don’t say ‘Behram,’ because that’s not possible! You would be…”
“Almost two hundred fifty years old,” answered the Thug. Raven looked shocked. “Yes, it’s true. If you can’t believe who I say I am though, you may simply call me Phansigar. I took a vow of silence when British justice betrayed me, but not before I made a deal with a devil I knew from Persia.” His eyes narrowed cruelly as he looked into Raven’s eyes. “Sholeh Kaviani sends her regards.”
Raven wasn’t expecting to hear that name, but she was startled enough that she jerked backwards from the Thug a few steps. He did not miss the opportunity. Although he had been resting on his elbows, from his fallen position, his powerful arms pushed off of the ground, and he lunged forward, a kick to Raven’s gut sending her sprawling backwards. Jumping to his feet, he laughed. “She was right! This is a thrill!”
High Hat took a step towards the killer, but stopped when he saw what the killer took from his pocket. It was his Rumal. It was Miko’s turn to be startled. How had he gotten that from his pocket, while he was in the coat?
“Don’t look so bewildered, mage! I told you I made a deal with a devil! And she has powerful magicks of her own! Besides, I am Thug! As much thief as murderer! Pickpocketing is easy for one such as I- even from one such as you. Bah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!” With that, he unfurled his Rumal, spun it around his head and let it fall around him. As it did so, he disappeared completely, just in time to avoid Raven’s khukuri, which embedded in the display case behind where he had been standing. Only the echo of his laughter remained, and the fading words of a warning. “You will hear from Phansigar again, Raven Diablo!”
Raven looked at the pile of debris that was the ruined display case, and exhaled sharply. “This…is not good,” she said finally.
“You’re telling me,” said High Hat. “I hope he didn’t get anything else from my pockets!” Raven looked at him quizzically. Miko just said, “That…would not be good. Tell Xandra I’ll be in touch.”
“Wait!” called Raven, but Miko had already flared his jacket, spun, and disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.
A voice echoed, “It was good meeting you, Raven,” and then faded from the room.
Raven smiled at nothing, but answered, “You too, High Hat.” She took one more look around, and headed for the exit. She needed to go see Sholeh Kaviani about two children.
- Please read the entries and vote for the story/villain you liked best.
- One vote per voter.
- No voting for yourself (it just isn't sporting, chaps).
- Once again, the entries are kind of long, and last time, we had some procrastinators on the vote that missed or nearly missed the deadline. I also want to to get Miko himself involved in commenting on the entries, and he's hard to pin down via e-mail. So I'm giving two weeks for this vote. Deadline is May 15th, 11:59pm GMT (so 7:59pm EST for my own reminder).
Thanks for showing my friend's characters some love folks! -cb
|There are multiple uses of images from the Raven Diablo and Miko Montgomery websites, both here and in the CCC #25 Contest Thread. Those are copyright and owned by Miko Montgomery, and were only used here to add a little pizzazz to the contest entries. Ditto for any characters used from those sites. -cb|