Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who is Ellen?

Ellen Knowles is 24 and deeply disturbed. She was born in a hole in the ground, and taught the ways of warfare from the time she could walk. Her duties were simple: Hell would come to earth, and she would lead the way.

Both the "Upstairs" and the "Downstairs", the Higher Planes and the Lower Planes, made use of Proxies to do their fighting in the physical world. They were not unlike the flawed shells that your faceless nemesis employs in concept, except the idea was to take a soul and enrich it for your purposes, as opposed to breaking it down into a fighting, terrorizing drone. 

The truth of the matter is that Nick is a Shaman, like any other Shaman on earth. It's just that anyone who took part in the conflict that we keep coming back to was on some level changed and altered to better suit the "side" they found themselves on. Nick received the most changes on record, six that he is aware of, and a seventh that he is not. Well played Ben and Amy. Can you guess which one is the one he is unaware of?

To return to the point of this discussion, Ellen Knowles was changed into something brutal and dangerous. Unfortunately, despite her enhancement, she was not made any less human.

The first kills were the easiest, as always. After all, she did not have to perform them. Ellen was a young, cute girl, and made the perfect distraction for a number of operations. She reminds me of my youth in fact.

The first person she killed for the purposes of her masters was an elderly priest in North Philadelphia. She had gotten to know him by posing as a young drug addict at a homeless shelter that he had worked in. She had grown to like him. She killed him in the confessional using a knife. She moved through the screen separating them and slit his throat in one smooth motion. 

Ellen Knowles spent the next day crying into her pillow, pretending that she was sick. She was not supposed to know fear, pain, or remorse. This display would be catalyst for her departure for the ranks of the demons. After all, subordinates around her had found out about her weak heart. That meant that she was weak, and that meant that she could be replaced by someone ruthless enough. One of them in particular had his very specific opinon about her. This underling there was born without conscience or humanity. 

Throughout all of this, Ellen's life only made sense on the Astral Plane, where she met her old nemesis Nick Dwyer and found peace in her conflict with him. When they fought to the death again and again, they felt the conflicts of a different life where the world made sense. It was a release, and that was supposed to be that.

Ellen was not with her comrades on the day they went to collect The Presence. She had awoken that morning, bound to an operating table. The underling without conscience I alluded to had smelled weakness in her, and known that her immense power could be a boon to someone willing to take it. Nothing a ritual involving heart surgery without anesthetic could not accomplish.

This underling, this weak little gremlin, was mere inches away from taking power from a legendary warrior. But there was one thing he didn't know: this was after Ellen had saved Nick Dwyer from Rogue Nemesis. And Nick had been seeking a good match after that.

Imagine Ellen, laying on that table, sluggish from drugs and livid with fear. She knows she was the strongest person in this group of hell-bound men and women, and she knows that all of those years of cooperation, friendship, and backstabbing have finally lead to a knife in her own back. She knows she will die, and she knows that the underling will take his time. He wants Ellen to suffer slowly, to know that she was not worthy of the power she wielded, to know that he was truly superior. The truth is, that gaining her power was merely a side benefit. The underling just wanted an opportunity to tear into her piece by piece.

The first cut is a slow, shallow thing along Ellen's arm, barely enough to prick the skin. The underling wants her to anticipate. He wants to see her slowly become more and more frenzied as she realizes that there will be no one to save her. He wants her to know the power he has in this moment, and that he will slowly, carefully exercise it on her again and again until she is nothing.

As the underling warms up to the task and begins the second cut, he does not notice the amalgamation of armor and weapons behind him. It does not see the thing in the patchwork armor. Nothing is uniform, and everything is sharp and bleeding something black. Ellen sees it. She smiles up at underling like the predator she is.

Underling is shocked by this, he steps back uncertain as to what is happening, and the restraints on Ellen suddenly come undone.

Ellen hears Nick's voice in her head say, "Now we're even."

There is not much else to say. Ellen killed the underling slowly, and precisely. She slowly broke his fingers, one by one. She did everything to him that he wished to do to her. And then she discarded him.

She left her "family" of fellow killers and monsters, aware that she was also a monster, but a different kind of monster. One that wanted a normal life.

She would never have a normal life. What she would have is ten years of psychological counseling and an inability to connect to others around her. She is not demon or human. And she is not at fault for the fate of The Presence.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who is The Presence?

Nick Dwyer grew up as an over-privileged white person outside of Philadelphia. When dealing with his potential insanity, he didn't have many problems worth noting. I find nothing of interest in his story.

"The Presence", as he calls her, is different. Her real name is completely unknown to him, lost to the sands of time and the actions of Mastermind. That truly is what aches at his heart: so much anguish, and so much loss, and yet he will never know her name. He mourns her this year, but if he was logical he would have begun mourning her eight years ago on a very different month. If he survives to old age he will mourn The Presence every year. After all, she died last year about five days from this date.

What he has not said is that he is the cause. What might have been The Presence was killed at his command. There were reasons. You may even understand them when our story is through.

What he does know of the Presence is simple: she existed within one hundred miles of Philadelphia during the conflicts that occurred from 2002 - 2004.  She lived in North Philadelphia, better known as the bad part of town. North Philadelphia was once a center of manufacturing and business, gutted when companies came across the concept of "outsourcing."

Philadelphia is a hard town at the best of times. She and her family lived as best they could on the edge of the hardest part, an inch from any number of hives of scum and villainy. I do not understand such places in this world, they move differently than they did in mine. But what can one do?

The Presence and he, as I communicated previously, came together in spirit. They could interact with each other over a connection they shared, and through that connection they could feel the others thoughts. They couldn't always understand them, but they always knew what the other was feeling, and could exchange general  ideas. They often exchanged the idea of finding each other, and finally knowing each other in the reality they knew for fact was real. 

More than any truth you must gather from this story, is the disconnect between what is there and what is here. The astral plane is a confusing place that could well only be the imagination of those who go there. It is ephemeral, like the wind or the future. It may well never exist at all. What is the loss of a person in such a place? Ideas made real, lost forever without ever having felt real at all.

I digress. The two wanted to see each other, and exchanged ideas and thoughts and love and caring and hope. They were very real to each other.

So when someone began hunting The Presence in her very real, physical world, Nick Dwyer knew. When the Presence began watching over her shoulder and going to and from school in new and varied routes to avoid detection, Nick Dwyer knew why. He could feel her aching fear, and she felt his concern. It was touching to her. He could help her against demons and spirits, but this was not something that an ephemeral, surreal creature like Nick Dwyer, who she knew could never exist in the physical world, could ever possibly help with.

You might wonder why Nick jumps to the chance to rescue anyone? We could spend all day desperately searching through your primitive "Hyper-links" and determining how many times he's foolishly stuck his nose into someone else's problem. This entire blog is Nick Dwyer leaping to one person's defense or another, desperately trying to save anyone he can. 

It is in keeping with his flaws. He's always trying to save the person he's lost.

When the attacker finally revealed himself, Nick and The Presence both determined that he was a problem on every level. He was a human, his mind had been corrupted and co-opted by one of the ancient demons they dreamed of, and he had desires that needed sating. The Presence was always at Nick's level. she utterly crushed this monster.

Having investigated the situation myself, I know that this was not the only one that had been possessed. The monster was carted off by the police, who called it a clear case of self-defense, and praised The Presence's skillful handling of the situation. The reprieve would not last long. There was a group in Philadelphia, a collection of monsters. They were demons in human guise, who had long since been tracking down those like The Presence or Nick. They remind me of the one he calls "Ellen." One by one, they had hunted down each of the others in Philadelphia like Nick and The Presence. After her attacker was arrested, The Presence came home to find written in spray paint on her door two simple words:


Friday, March 16, 2012

Who is Nick Dwyer?

Who is Nick Dwyer?

He has told you stories. They are the ramblings of a man who has seen too much. The study of him is the study of time and pressure. We start with a piece of coal, a child that can see far too much. Most pieces of coal burn bright, and then turn to ash after briefly shielding the world from darkness. They last for an hour or so, and their time passes. Hardly the tool needed by the forces at work here. Something more was needed. Outside forces mold and twist this coal into something sharp and hard. Pressure makes diamonds, as many will attest. A diamond can cut through anything, and many devices use them to cut what otherwise cannot be pierced. However, a diamond is also very easy to destroy, hard yet brittle, a paradox in their strength and their weakness.

He has told you of a war. This history has been pondered, and he spends much too much time trying to pursue a miasma of death and decay that allowed our current situation to exist. Let us cut to the heart of the matter.

Imagine these dark times, the ones he's spoken of from nearly ten years ago. This is not a man, but a boy, and a lonely one at that. He remembers feeling the presence of others like him, but he has felt them fade. The coal is burning out, and he is surrounded by darkness.

But another yet remains, and the boy loves this girl. Whoever she is, she is closer to him than anything else in the world. At night,  the boy and the girl wrap themselves around each other in their minds and hearts. They will never meet in person, but on the Astral Plane, their minds will connect and they will feel whole. They know they will die any day now, but in these moments they think nothing of it. They have found their peace in a mad violence that no one around them can see. When heaven and hell go to war, and the shamans and priests take part, there is no quarter and no haven. This is the eye of the storm, built on love and despair.

At times, Nick will consider the rest of humanity outside their temporary peace in a war none can see. They do not see what seeks to end them, and could not hope to understand or oppose it. He dreams of a time when they can. When humanity will rise up and own the world, in balance with the heavens and hells and everything in between. He dreams of a time where the world will know peace, and all will be in harmony, and he dreams of this.

The world will know peace, and all will be in harmony. These words haunt him now. You should always be careful what you wish for.

The eye of the storm would not last. Six months after they first held each other in spirit, they would be thrown into the fire as yet another two pieces of coal might be. The world would soon know the terror brought by diamonds.

Call me Maiden. It is a sobriquet you've already used. It will serve.