by Jonas Mueller

The Tip of the Iceberg

Orlando , Florida 5:00 AM

Flwin the sluagh walked calmly toward the Tip of the Iceberg , one of the most exotic freeholds in Florida . It was literally shaped like an iceberg that floated in an ice-cold moat filled with chimerical piranhas covered with fur . Inside lay one of the wildest satyr-run dance clubs known to changeling-kind . Elwin combed his long , stringy hair out of his pallid face with his long , flexible fingers , extinguished his cigarette , and walked across the bridge , past the redcap bouncer , and into through the front entrance .

Inside , Mercedes , the nocker bartender , was closing the bar while Luna and Paul , the matching cat and beagle pookas who served the few customers that ordered narcotics or , heaven forbid , food , were cleaning the tables and floor of various substances left behind by the clientele . Closer to the large , ice-walled dance floor , Kali , one of the satyr performers, was deactivating her keyboard . The band’s drummer , a satyr goth named Osiris , was assisting her . Both waved Elwin a quick greeting before returning to work .

" Are all the customers gone yet ?" asked Elwin as he approached Mercedes . She was a large , twenty-year-old woman dressed like a man in baggy black jeans and a dark blue T-shirt stained with alcoholic drinks of every type . Her bright red cheeks were as obvious on her pale face as the short , spiked red hair on her head . She eyed Luna with an unhealthy interest for a second before turning to Elwin . " Yeah ," she answered in a husky , Marlboro-tainted voice that made it clear she would rather not talk to a man . " Good ," said Elwin . " I need to talk to Sandy . A situation has come up ." "Fine," said Mercedes , pulling a lever hidden somewhere under the bar table . A table near Paul opened ,causing him to jump back and yip for a second before Mercedes silenced him with a few colorful words . The pooka teenager growled under his breath and returned to mopping the dance floor . Nearby , Luna sat down on a chair , producing a loud , impolite sound from a whoopee cushion . Mercedes uttered a few more impolite words at Paul , who mopped twice as fast from that second on .

By that time , Elwin had gone through the passage underneath and into the basement , the floor of which was actually at sea level . The ice covered the wall in a thin veil down here , and Elwin could see chimerical illusions of narwhals and beluga swimming in illusionary water on the other side of the wall . A polar bear , actually a chimera named Tamara , watched him for a second before leading him through the maze of tunnels into Sandy’s lair .

The room looked like an underground Egyptian palace carved out of ice . Obelisks covered in hieroglyphs marked the rectangular chamber in ten-foot intervals until they passed the throne where Sandy held court .

As always , the Fiona sidhe baroness sat on the throne , twirling her long , blonde hair with one hand while twirling a wand in the other . She turned to him , amber eyes boring into his skull for a second before she recognized him . " Sir Elwin ," she said . " Sit down . You are eagerly awaited ."

" Lady Sandra of House Fiona," he responded , using the formal term . " I have come to pass on information that could become quite useful should you desire a sluagh in your freehold , perhaps as a cleaner ." " I have no need to take you from your freehold , Sir Elwin." responded Sandra tucking her wand , her most deadly weapon , at least in combat , into her belt . " It is not I that I speak of , Lady ." said Elwin in his whispering voice , "but another , a childling who will soon undergo his Chrysalis . We would take him in ourselves, but our balefire would dry out from overpopulation . If you will assist us in rescuing him , we will allow you the right to foster and sain him . "

At the word rescue , Sandy’s eyes lit up . "Rescue ?" she asked ."From what ? Does he have Autumn People parents ?" " No," answered the sluagh knight . "It is much worse . He is a child prostitute . His pimp , as if that wasn’t enough , is a redcap Dauntain and constant ravager ." He gripped his sword and turned toward her . " I am to swear one month of fealty to you if you agree to assist us . ," he added .

Lady Sandra of House Fiona considered this for a minute before taking a temporary leave to consult her advisors , who dwelled in the back room . In the ice chamber , she called her knight , a troll named Charles ; her Eiluned sorceress Tersa , and Tamara the polar bear , who followed politices . After several minutes of arguing about the problem , for Tersa wanted to let the child go into sluagh hands and Tamara wa suspicious of the sluagh , they agreed to assist the Draincycle freehold and its graybeard knight .

With this news , Sandy held out her wand , letting Elwin wrap his hands around it while whispering the oath : " I swear one moon of loyalty to you , Lady Sandra of House Fiona . Thy command and request is my desire . May my service always please ,and may my sight grow dark if it does not ." Sandra returned with the Oath of Escheat , and they went to plan their rescue mission .

" First ," said Sandra as Paul served drinks , " We must obtain a map of the bordello where the sluagh works . Next , we must handle the guardian chimera . Finally , we must extract the boy . I suggest we avoid the redcap at all costs . He is quite likely in bedlam , and is thus , a serious threat to us ." Elwin responded by pulling out a detailed sketch of the bordello and a chimerical laser pointer . " We can see here ," he whispered in an almost military tone , " that the front door is guarded by real , live bouncers that are quite obvious to mortals . There is , however , a secret back door , visible here . It is , unfortunately , guarded by a small dragon chimera . It should be possible , though , for my squires to defeat it . " " Wait a minute," yelled Tamara . " Where do you get this information?" " A repentant customer ." answered Elwin. " Well , actually , a little Sovereign and Soothsay was involved in the repentance . " He smiled conspiratorially as Paul poured him some dark red wine .

" How can we trust you ?" asked Tamara , growling threateningly at the sluagh . "Tamara !" yelled Sandra . " How dare you insult our guest like this ?" This resulted in a long argument that ended with the judicious application of basic Sovereign . After a long planning session , an agreement was reached on how to rescue the whore . Elwin returned to his freehold to inform them of their part in the plan .

The Draincycle Freehold

Orlando , Florida 11:24 AM

Mira and Robert , a pair of Seelie redcaps , opened the doors for Elwin , who had just returned from the most liberal freehold in Central Florida . Inside , the sluagh knight slunk through the dark corridors for several yards before approaching the one door that led to something other than a massive supply of zombie-like chimera .

On the other side of that door was a large room dripping ( both figuratively and literally) with sluagh and chimera in the form of giant protozoa and amoebas . In the center of the crowd , a puddle poured onto the floor and formed into a scarred , wrinkled old sluagh hag . This was the Matron Duchess Alandya Calvina of House Balor . She looked at Elwin with eyes that looked nowhere in particular , for she was blind while in human form . " What have you found , Elwin ?" she asked in a typical sluagh whisper that somehow carried itself throughout the room .

" I have come to an agreement with Lady Sandra ," answered Elwin. " We are to meet tomorrow night near the mall , then close in on the back door . From there , our redcaps are to charge the dragon behind the door , with a troll for backup . The satyrs and I will extract the childling before his saining ." The Matron smiled , sharpened her cold ion knife , and offered to help .

A Decrepit Pedophile Bordello

Orlando , Florida 11:00 PM

Jabberwock , a small dragon chimera , glared out the back door at Paul , eyes burning a hole through the pooka’s skull for a second before the beast lunged . Paul dodged the initial swipe , leapt away from a out of flame breath that charred the chimerical ground where he had been standing , and ran into the night . The Jabberwock followed .

A second later , it was struck by the ax of a female redcap and the sword of a troll knight . A male recap fired a crossbow bolt , but it missed . Howling in pain and rage , the beast shot out its jaws , snapping at the male redcap as it slammed its tail into the female . The troll’s blade bounced off an armored spot as Jabberwock turned and tore his jaw into the female redcap . Blood spurted , and she was dead .

A second later , the Jabberwock felt a jaw bite into his hide . He turned around to slay the male , only to have the devourer leap and tear out Jabberwock’s eye . The dragon shrieked and breathed out a torrent of fire . Then , a sword pierced his belly as Sir Charles let out a battle cry . Blood rushed from the wound , and the beast faded away .

Sir Charles winked at Mira and Paul as Elwin and Kali made their way inside . He sheathed his sword and turned toward the door . Then , he stopped " Listen,’ he said . The trio went silent , and Paul removed a chimerical dagger from his nylon tech pants . A quiet beating of many wings could be heard in the distance a second before the beasts flew down to confront the group .

Paul ducked the first of the silent , winged things , which had large , leathery wings, hands ending in long , grasping claws , and barbed tails ending in points that had something unnerving about them . In the background , the boy heard Mira , a an of H.P. Lovecraft , shout " Nightgaunts!" Her shotgun went off , scaring several of the beasts away from her , and then she removed her ax . At the same time , several of the faceless creatures charged Paul .

He knew what was going to happen , having heard of such chimeras before . Still , he plunge his knife into the chest of one , losing it as the creature’s corpse became a statue. THAT was a new feature . At the same time , four of them grabbed him . He struggled horribly and futilely as two tails sliced through his T-shirt , and another two found the space between his sneakers and socks , sliced off the socks , and began calmly massaging his feet .

Nobody , especially not a boy , could struggle effectively under the duress of a nightgaunt tickling

Set’s room in a decrepit pedophile bordello

Orlando , Florida 11:10 PM

Kali kicked open the door chimerical scimitar in hand . Her eyes burned with cold rage as she drew a real stun baton and slammed it repeatedly into the boy’s mortal customer . Elwin followed , grabbing the boy , who struggled feebly as the sluagh removed various " toys " from both the boy and his bed . Then , he carried the boy out whispering words of reassurance to him . female whore followed them after several feet , screaming something indecipherable at them for a second .

A second later , she gurgled and fell dead . " Elsie !" screamed Set struggling to escape Elwin’s arms . He then fainted , the fatigues of the evening combining with the stress of watching another victim die .

Elwin looked at the murderer . He was a redcap with horribly wild eyes that screamed " Bedlam!" His crimson hair was concealed beneath a bloody beret , and he played with the spurt of blood from the dead girl’s throat . " Leave the boy t’ me ." he said in a maddeningly calm voice . " Never ," said Elwin , drawing his blade and handing Kali the boy . She ran away . The redcap watched her go .

Very well , mate," he said . "I’ll just replace him ." A scream resounded from a side room as Paul was dragged across the floor , eyes pleading the crawler knight to help him . " Or should I add him to the same list Elsie’s on?" The redcap put a knife to Paul’s throat as he whimpered .

" Neither." answered a whispering female voice . Matron Duchess Alyandya Calvina formed out of a puddle on the floor and drove her knife cleanly into the redcap’s eyes . He screamed , turned stark wight , and died forever . Paul broke free of the lunatic’s hold with only a small wound on his throat , one which Elwin quickly closed . The matron smiled , if you could call it that , and once again became a puddle . Paul followed Elwin as the knight freed the entire bordello . In one room , they found and freed Mira and Charles, then they left .

Kali had already made it to the Tip of the Iceberg with Set , and the boy’s Chrysalis was well under way . Elwin bathed in th glamour , letting it heal his wounds , and then told the boy what he really was .

From that day on until Set’s Saining , he visited weekly to foster the child .