Tuesday, April 20

Beware of Masons bearing gifts

"Of course it's me, you idiot!", snarled the Vortex with the twist of sarcasm only my brother Marcus could pull off. He rose from his seat and strode towards his side of the portal. "I stole your body before, but now I'm sharing this one! And such a powerful one this is! I helped slay the Hydra once and for all while your wretched alleycat of a son ran back to Babbage with his tail between his legs! To the victor goes the spoils!"

"Back to...Babbage? So that was Koen that took Qlippothic!"

The cat-demon prince shrugged as he lifted the black box. "As I said, that doesn't concern me. But this concerns us both." He pushed the box against his side of the circle floating above Poppa Legba's altar, and sparks poured from the aperture around the sides of the box as it permeated the membrane from the royal crater of Erebus to my side, deep in the swamps of New Toulouse.

Hesitantly, I accepted the gift with both hands. It was heavy, whatever it was. Still hot to the touch.

"This appeared on my throne, Darien. I only know a couple beings in the universe with the magic and the chuzzle..."


"Yeah, that...to pull a trick like that off."

I felt along the edges for a lid or a catch. "Have you tried to open it yet?"

The neko giggled. "Open it? I put it in there!"

A spring-loaded catch, opened form inside. That must be the reason the lib suddenly jerked upwards, nearly breaking my jaw and stunning me. I sank to my knees as Vortex howled laughter. I struggled to regain my focus as he berated me like a schoolyard bully singing "POP goes the neko!" My vision was blurred, making the pale disembodied hand resting in the red velvet inside the box appear to have several sets of fingers.

"You've heard of a Jack-in-the-Box?" shouted Vortex. "This is a Jeremiah-in-the-Box!"

My eyes widened with terror as the hand sprang to life and leaped towards me, latching itself in a choking grip around my throat!

Thursday, April 8

The rending of the veil

My children conspiring against me. Flying off in a clockwork galleon. My vampiric ancestor Aleister has to be involved. Has he cast his tainted cloak of undeath over my son yet again? Is he again reprogramming Qlippothic into a murder-doll? Why is Ash abetting them? This will not do at all. I may not be Regent, but someone must maintain order in this family!

As long as I'm in the bayou of New Tolouse, I should seek help from the forces here. Baroness Amber presented me with a small effigy of Poppa Legba and a copy of Momma Amber's Guide to Voodoo for Tourists.

Poppa Legba is the go-between of the loa, the Voodoo pantheon. I found a secluded location by the water where the song of the calling frogs was almost deafening. The night mist was pungent with the muck of rotting plant life.

I constructed an altar there. I lit a very rare cigar as an offering (I recognized the brand as my father's favorite) and poured a glass of premium dark rum to the brim as I invoked him.

Immediately the chirping of the frogs died out. Even the ever-present buzzing of the insects seemed to fade. As I waited, the ember of the cigar pulsed between cherry red and white hot, puffing thick tobacco into the night mist. The glass of rum lowered visibly until it emptied. Staring at the...for lack of a better word doll fashioned in his image, I beseeched him for a favor.

"Poppa Legba. If you please, I must speak with the Vortex."

I heard the sound of distant thunder rolling across the marshes. Vague orbs of greenish light hovered in the darkness between the trees. I stepped back as a rift opened above the altar, curling red and black borders spreading like a cigar burn in the fabric of space.

"A call from whom? Darien? Yes, yes, I know him. Fine. I'll accept."

On the other side, I saw a neko with majestic horns arcing from his temples. He sat in a throne forged of metal ribbons, pondering a black box he held in his hands. Crimson gazed up at me in surprise as his ears twitched.

"Well surprise surprise! What do you want?"

Judging from the informal greeting, I decided to skip the lengthy exaltations expected of the ruler of Erebus.

"Vortex. Aleister has kidnapped Qlippothic and Koen..."

The neko lifted his head back and cackled, baring his fangs.

"Why should any of that matter to us? We don't need that cowardly kitten any more, nor that brass toy of yours!

Demon-Prince or no, I felt my fist clench at such disrespect. But wait...that maniacal laughter was so familiar...

...from the prison of my brain jar I screamed in helpless silence as the body that was rightfully mine pressed its face against my glass prison, cackling in unbridled madness...

I gasped in disbelief. "MARCUS!"

Friday, April 2

Friends on the same side, Powers on the other side

Perhaps I was a bit hard on her. But when human life is at stake, prescriptions must be followed exactly.

Qlippothic's disappearance continues to infuriate me. I contacted Ash aboard the Clockwork Caravel to have him pinpoint her location from orbit. He complied, but the ship's radio went dead shortly thereafter. Amarantis is involved on another assignment and unable to assist.

There was some excellent news this week from Colonel O'Toole and Lady Riel. They both have been trusted friends for a very long time, and it distressed me to see them at odds.

I visited New Tolouse to share my elation with Mama Gabi. While admiring the sights, i ran into another old friend, Lady Amber Palowakski. She now resides on a stretch of swampland there. The magic is strong on her land, of course. As we relaxed by the campfire, a resident tree spirit circled me playfully, nodding its head to the drumbeats of an ongoing ceremony somewhere deep within the bog.

I explained my present difficulties, and she explained that the loa, the spirits of this land, may be willing to help me if offered the right gifts. I have seen voodoo magic first-hand, it not to be trifled with. If the loa can open a portal from New Babbage (reality-bomb fallout and all) and back to New Tolouse, then they can create a portal to anywhere.