The smoke hung heavily in the air like a curtain. Or a shroud. The spicy fragrance of tobacco, marihuana and other far more exotic substances mixed into a sense- and mind-numbing concoction that made the head swirl and the eyes water. Dampened laughter and conversations in multiple languages could be heard in the strange twilight of the sticky room and delivered an appropriate background to the suspect nature of the place.
Freetown was not a nice place by any standards. The capital of Sierra Leone still bore the wounds of decades of violence and war that bled poverty and malice. Perhaps no other location on earth was as torn as this and this bar in the broken heart of the big city symbolized it perfectly. Suspect people from all over the world came here to do dirty business. Drugs, death, weapons, even slaves, all were awfully cheap here.
The moment the trained white woman entered the room the focus was on her. Greedy eyes in the darkness scanned all over her, assessed her worth and made a decision. The smoke drew hypnotic patterns in the air that danced around her high cheekbones and fine features. She just stood there and let her almost discomforting self-confidence seep into the room.
Then the discussions set in again as the patrons decided to feign disinterest and returned to their own business. The strange raven-haired woman did not seem to be worth the trouble but the true reason was too obvious: An Apex Predator had entered the room.
Wide steps carried her further into the room with almost eerie determination. Not once did she look left or right but everyone could tell that she was perfectly aware of her surroundings as she dextrously stepped over the more disgusting leftovers of former guests without breaking her stride. Her destination was clear.
Like the other occupants of this room the guests at this special table had returned to their private business. The dark skinned men had taken up their bantering and laughter but it did not look as honest anymore. The shadow of a bird of prey had fallen upon them. The group was composed of six people who gathered around the nucleus of a very peculiar man.
His black skin contrasted sharply with his cheap purple suit and the turquoise feather on his hat of the same colour as his get up. Actual gold glistened all over his body as rings, chains and fake teeth. He was the only one who had not taken his eyes off the visitor and still his dark brown gaze rested upon her. To others he might have looked like a simple pimp. She on the other hand knew he was more. Much more.
As she finally approached his table his goons tightened up. Sneakily fingers wandered to hidden firearms. The woman acknowledged it with a simple nod.
Suddenly an ironic smile appeared on the leader’s face and he touched the brim of his hat as a gesture of greeting towards the strange woman. As he spoke with a dark, soothing voice his accent was an enticing mixture of British, Kenyan and French.
“Maurice.” Her voice was almost clinical. No warmth, no volatile emotional exaggeration.
“What brings you here? What can I do for you?”
“I need your help with a… family reunion.”
"An… uncommon request. Especially coming from someone as you. Have you tried Facebook already?”
“You should know I have no such thing as humour, Maurice. I need your special talents to get into contact with my half-sister.”
“Ah well, I see. So contact is not as easy as calling her on the phone, right? I guess you want me to do this as a payback for the little episode in Somalia? Or what else in Papa Legba’s name can you offer me?”
“No, I want you to do this because I know you want to. You cannot resist to test your power like that. To do something that only a handful wizards, let alone houngans, have ever done before.”
The tension rose. One of the thugs reached behind his back. There was only the slightest shift in pose from Jessica, the Lethal Lost Liafador. Maurice acted instantly. Abruptly he turned around and scoffed at the man in his employ.
“Do you want to die, fool? Don't you know who this woman is?”
As the gaudily dressed man turned around to his conversation partner again the smile on his face had become wider, more honest.
“Ogoun The Iron Warrior would really love you, you know that? You have guts. But then let me know: Who is your dear sister?”
The answer was short and intense. In a second all of the eyes at the table had switched from him to her and back to him several times. They did not know the importance of this name but in certain circles it carried power. Power and the promise of a slow, painful death.
It was a subjective eternity before Maurice, legendary Voodooista, reacted to that. When he finally did his deep hearty laughter echoed through the room.
“Zeon Liafador? La Reine De L’enfer? I knew you were crazy, chere, but I didn’t know you were suicidal! Conjure the Queen Of Hell? SHE is your sister? Mwahahahahahaha!!! Okay, okay, I’ll do it! Just for the kicks! But you will deal with her once she enters this realm! We’ll need all the protection Damballah Wedo, the rainbow serpent, can give us! And we’ll need some very… particular things. You think you can get them for me?”
A cold smile graced Honor Avenger’s lips. Yes, she indeed thought she could get them.
A few hours later:
The room stank of blood and death. No wonder. Several goats and chickens had to die to paint it red with their life juice. Also smeared with it Maurice sat in a corner and sang himself into a trance in the secret language of his religion. The varied singsong delivered a dark background to the grave ongoings in the center of the room.
Jessica stood in said center with a knife in hand. Beneath her feet complex concentric patterns were drawn with coal dust. She avoided looking at them too much as they tended to burn themselves into one’s eyes and cause severe headaches. It was obvious those were no warding sigils or blesses.
Before her knelt a 13 year old boy who the pair had snatched from the streets were life was of no worth. Chains wrapped around his body and cut into his flesh as he desperately tried to wiggle free. To no avail. His big brown eyes teared constantly and through the gag in his mouth came a dulled whimper as he was fixated on the wickedly curved knife in the Darwinian Dictator’s hand.
To her he was worthless. He was weak. He let all this happen to himself. He had sold off his body for drugs. Now at least he served a purpose. Maurice’s arcane incantations gained in intensity as he started swaying forth and back in an ever more aggressive pattern.
Slowly Jessica lifted the blade. Her sacrifice tried to scream but all that came out was a single high pitched note. The metal started to paint a distinctive red line on his throat. A single tear fell onto the weapon. Then she pushed in.
A sudden rush of crimson streamed out of him as his eyes widened in terror and she pulled the blade ever more left. The life gushed out of him and the light of life faded out of his eyes. Bit by bit his convulsions stopped and he tilted ever more forward. When he fell over all life force had left his body and he had stopped moving for all times.
His blood was not finished it seemed. There was still energy in it. Like it possessed a will of its own it flowed together to form a single flux that concentrated at Jessica’s feet. Faster and faster it moved till it formed a disturbing vortex.
There was no bottom to that vortex. Where the floor of the room should have been there was only an endless tunnel of circulating blood. Down and down it went in a captivating swirl going into infinity.
Accompanied by Maurice’s powerful conjuration the Quantum Queen waited for her guest to appear with a cruel smile on her crimson lips.