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Iron Quill (The Hunt) - Incendium


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Anything in this world can be manipulated. You just need the right form of leverage. I find that leverage is best obtained through righteous annihilation so complete that recovery cannot even exist as an afterthought. Why do you think I love fire? – Anasalea Kaeris


~ Origo Flammae ~


 “Imagine a room. What do you see in it?” The question was brusque, with a hint of urgency and austerity inflected in every syllable.

Pyr paused, somewhat taken aback by the command. It was not the one she had expected. Her questioner, a Guild officer with two guards at his flank, had arrived at her doorstep unannounced and told her parents that he needed a word with her privately. Locked in the dingy kitchen of her apartment downtown with the three imposing men, little Pyr had been told to close her eyes and answer whatever questions were asked of her.


Fighting the growing dread inching agonizingly up her spine, she kept her eyes jammed tightly shut, rubbing her temples exasperatedly and trying to concentrate. “Where is the room? What specifically am I supposed to­-”


“Don’t think. Just tell me. What do you see when I tell you to imagine a room.” The tone of her examiner had changed from measured asperity to impatience.


Pyr’s head began to ache; her forehead felt heat radiating from something placed in front of her which she could not see. Then - “A flame,” Pyr answered – it had burst instantly into her thoughts in a swell. She heard a murmur of approval before becoming lost in her own thoughts. Wrinkling her brow and taking a deep breath, the room began to assemble itself before her. It was simply a box, an even wooded square flanked by four rising brick walls, void of furniture or adornment. The cube arose, floorboard by floorboard, brick by brick in her mind’s eye. It swam forth from the murky shadows of memory, familiar but at the same time distant, welcoming but foreboding, so uncomplicated but at the same time, frustratingly immaterial. It flickered in her vision like a dying bulb in the throes of extinguishment. In the center burned a flame, white hot and blistering blue, charring the center of her creation, leaping and stretching until it consumed everything. The floors, the walls, everything and nothing – it would all be black in moments. The flame was raging and violent, hot and piercing, burning, sweltering, hungry. The room she had created for herself, the bare brick walls, the floorboards, all of it turned deathly black. Pyr let out a gasp. Her eyes remained shut. The heat licked her forehead and grew more intense.


“What did you see?”


She tried to replay everything she had seen. It was difficult; the thought had lasted only for a second, no longer. “I saw a room. And in the middle, I saw a flame. A hungry flame.” She was panting now, her brow was dripping tiny beads of sweat. The heat…


“And what happened?”


“It burned. The room was all gone. There’s nothing left.”


“Are you surprised?”


She smirked, adding, somewhat insolently, “Yes. You asked me to imagine a room, and the first thing I think of is one burning to the ground. What does it mean?”


“It means,” said the Guild officer sitting across from her with a grimace, “that you’re a witch.” Pyr opened her eyes. The officer was holding a stone in front of her face with a wicked smile. It glowed faintly with an aetherial green light as the officer brought it closer and closer to her forehead. The heat was growing; she could not endure. The officer gestured to the two guards who barred the door to the kitchen. “Take her,” he barked. “Kill the parents, they may be tainted... in the official report, suggest armed robbery and kidnapping. Secretary’s orders. We haven’t used that one in a while.” The horrible shudder that had been running its way down Pyr’s spine from the start was suppressed instantly by the blow she received to the back of her head. All faded to black.



~ Tempestas ~



“Is that everything you remember about that night, Pyr?” For the second time in her life, she had found herself sitting across from a man examining her intently. She was in a grimy pub; the stone floor beneath was well-worn and stained with rust, mold, and what looked like blood. She sat across her examiner, a lone candle flickering between them, casting grimy shadows on the scarred table. She felt the flame wink at her, call to her. The noise of shouting patrons, frothing and sloshing ale, and the slamming of fists on table engulfed her. It was oddly soothing as opposed to distracting – these were the sounds accustomed to one who had lived on the street as a vagrant for a large part of her life.


Although the first time she had been questioned intently had been almost half a decade ago, she remembered it with sharp relief and rage. Nonetheless, much had changed. Gone were the days of being a scrawny child. She had grown substantially since then, becoming tall and lithe. But a constant sense of agony and resentment marred her beautiful features; a child no longer, but a young woman forever scorned.


“Yes. They killed them, you know. Both of them – I haven’t seen them since.” Pyr cast her gaze intently into the beady black eyes of her interlocutor. He wore a tattered grey coat, and a sympathetic smile. One of his arms was a mechanical prosthetic.


“Your parents, you mean?”


Pyr nodded.


“You seem… predisposed to hatred.”


Pyr smirked. “What the hell do you think I’d be? A Guild sycophant?” She slammed her fist down onto the table. Her eyes burned blue in the faintest fraction of a second. Her questioner didn’t flinch. “Those bastards were afraid of me. And they should be,” she spat.


“No,” he replied, “But as I would have thought, immune.”




“How long have you been in Malifaux?”


“My entire life. I was born here, weren’t you listening?”


“Then you should know by now, girl, that this place changes us. We become apathetic to slaughter and demise, emotionally immune to moral decay but thoroughly and materially susceptible to it. The rules of Earth don’t apply here, and you were born into a system that will destroy you if you don’t fight back.”


Pyr said nothing to this. She knew it by heart, better than anyone, and did not appreciate being lectured. At last, she said, “Why do you think I’m here?”


“Because you don’t know where else to go.”


It was only half true.


“How did you escape?” Her questioner leaned closer to her, his own black eyes making contact with hers.   


“There was a raid. I woke up in a coach. The doors were barred. I was screaming at the driver to stop, pounding my fists against the windows until they were streaked with blood. The driver – I assume he was the one who knocked me out – just laughed. He told me the windows were one way… new Guild technology. I could see out, but people couldn’t see in. He told me that witches should be punished – that I should see all the normal people outside and realize that I would never be one of them.” Pyr held her face in her hands. The memory was making her palms sweat.


Her questioner swore under his breath. He placed a sympathetic hand on hers –


“Don’t touch me!” The hand was scalding hot.


He showed no surprise, and he asked only, “Will you go on?” Pyr did not seem to realize.


“Do I have a choice?”


“Why did you presume that you did?”


“Because you asked to me meet. You are nothing to me, but you want me, for some reason. How did you even find me? How do you know me? Why the hell do you care?”


He was no longer sympathetic. “Go on. Now. Tell me what happened next.”


She was surprisingly compliant, as though secretly she had been bursting to vent her frustration for years. “The ride seemed to last for hours, but it could not have been longer than a few minutes. The coach was attacked. I heard gunshots. A window shattered, the coach flipped on its side. And I ran. I cut myself climbing out the window, but I didn’t care.” She extended her hands at last, they seemed to have cooled. They were riddled with knotted scars. “I’ve been living on the streets ever since.”


“We’ve been watching you, Pyr. We know.” The man’s voice became a low growl. He rapped the table with his knuckles before offering, “We know what you are.” He pulled a series of clippings from the Malifaux Record. The headlines streamed before her. Local Pharmacy Burnt to Cinders. Ashen Corpses Appearing in Allies, No Suspect. Theft At Local Home, Safe Burned Through.


Pyr kicked aside her chair. “I’m leaving.”


“We know what you are because I’m one too.”




The man blew out the flickering candle, but with a single glance, gave birth to a new, brighter flame. Pyr, mid stride, turned around to face her questioner. “Who are you?”


“Someone who works for a very powerful group of people who offer you limitless power and the freedom of its use. It was my people that attacked your coach. Signs of the power you so desperately hide but so eagerly use are easily detectable. It’s how the Guild marked you for slaughter like an animal.”


“Prove it.” The flames danced behind her eyes, her hands clenched into fists.


 “Didn’t I just?” He frowned.


“Cheap tricks – like you said, we should expect such in a hellhole like Malifaux.”


He extended his hand to her. He closed his eyes, concentrating. On his thumbnail appeared a glowing orange mark: A great open tome.



~ Peripeteia ~



“Where are we?” Night was falling, and Pyr was shivering. It was growing dark as she exited the bar; she had walked with her interrogator only a few blocks. The cawing of crows mocked them as they went. The dying hues of the sun cast a bloody haze reflected on shop windows, haphazardly slinging great beams of sickly light around them. The street was empty, the dusk silent, and at last, they arrived in a square marked by a lawn in the center, mournfully lush with decaying weeds and grass.


“This is a military cemetery… although most people don’t know it. We bury our operatives here. The Guild can never know us, our names, and our purpose. We don’t bury our dead publically.”


“You and your people are not a military.”


The man chuckled. “Not in the traditional sense, no, but I’ll be damned if they say that we’re not an army.”


“Why are we here?”


“Because there’s someone you need to meet.” The man walked a few paces before stopping on a patch of earth that looked as though it had been hastily dug recently. “It is not only our dead that we bury here… sometimes we have to make hasty preparations to make our enemies… disappear. Stand where I am standing. You will meet him again at last.”


Pyr stepped forward cautiously. She placed one foot on the patch of earth, and suddenly, impossibly, she saw –


An even wooded square flanked by four rising brick walls, void of furniture or adornment. The cube arose, floorboard by floorboard, brick by brick in her mind’s eye. It swam forth from the murky shadows of memory, familiar but at the same time distant, welcoming but foreboding, so uncomplicated but at the same time, frustratingly immaterial. It flickered in her vision like a dying bulb in the throes of extinguishment.


But this time, it was different.


 A man, bound and gagged, was seated in the center. And the flame, the flame she knew so well, the flame that had haunted her, began to rise and rise. He screamed, his voice echoing, until he was consumed by fire, raw and bloody.


It was over in seconds.


“Do you see what we did to him now? Do you understand what I have shown you? He’s here. We punished him, just as he hurt you. Now do you understand why we need you? Why all those like you need you? Help them as I have helped you. Join us.”


Pyr’s felt her heart swell. Flames flickered in her hands, and at last, she felt her gift wash through her as it never had before. Purpose had fuelled her. Purpose and vengeance. She looked at the man in the face, and asked, at last. “Who are you?”


“My name is Viktor Ramos, and I will show you how we make people who hurt us and our kind disappear.”

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I like it. I noticed in this sentence, "Local Pharmacy Burnt to Cinders. Ashen Corpses Appearing in Allies, No Suspect. Theft At Local Home, Safe Burned Through. " That you used the word "Allies" but I think you meant, "Alleys" as in the spaces between buildings and not helpful people, but other than that it was a good read.


As Always,

The Grue

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