A World Lit Only By Fire

Chapter 1: In Which a Party is Spoilt

Murder most foul...maybe.

December 21, 2012. The Waldorf-Astoria.

Marius was determined to have a profitable evening. He had come to this party, the “Grand Convocation”, as the Hermetics were calling it, to scope out his next “learning opportunity”. Every mage who was anyone, and a large number of nobodies-in-particular, were all there, taking up the entirety of 47 floors. So many energy patterns to scan, so many notes to take….so many delicious treats, begging to be sampled.

Dr. Steven Grindenwald, Ph.D.—well, candidate…ABD, really, and that was only because of that one time in the South Wing, which really hadn’t been his fault—how should he have known that the fire marshal was going to conduct a surprise inspection and demand that all the sprinkler systems be tested? It had taken months to decontaminate the place, and the head of the nuclear physics department had taken a deliberate dislike to Grindenwald ever since. Besides getting a few good drinks in, which was a hobby of all professional and discriminating scientists, Steven was hoping to make some contacts in the field, and perhaps even to change universities—if he could do so without losing too much of the time he’d already invested.

Helga was looking for a fight. This was not unusual for Helga, who was generally looking for someone to punch—so long as they were willing to punch back. A stacked and sturdily-built blonde with big angel eyes, she had sized up the room and not found anyone worth punching, so she headed down to the bar to see if she could cadge a drink or two out of some horndog who thought he might get to feel her up.

Ronan, far from the stereotypical Akashic Brother, was actually making friends and entertaining patrons at the bar by performing “cocktail swaps”. The best swaps were the ones where the drinkers were completely unaware it had happened—up until they took another drink, of course. That said, the ones where patrons volunteered their drinks weren’t bad either; his cocktail-tossing put Tom Cruise to shame.

She was halfway through her mickey of whiskey when one of Helga’s sparring buddies ran up to her. “Hey, Blondie! There’s a fight in the chapel, some kinda Holy War!” Tossing back her drink, Helga smashed her glass on the floor and ran out after him, feeling the alcohol amp up her already overdriven urge to fight. By the time she got there, ugly words hadn’t quite turned physical yet, but it didn’t take long for someone to give a fist to some other guy’s big mouth. With a cry of bloodlust and delight, she launched herself onto the largest dogpile and got a punch or two in before a stern, matronly voice said “ENOUGH!” The noise immediately died down, people with their fists pulled back for a punch cringing and slowly lowering their arms. A Steel Magnolia with an immaculate white suit to match her bouffant hairdo stepped ever so slightly forward, surveying the crowd with a stare of such withering disapproval that they hardly dared breathe. Helga and her sparring partner slipped out a back door as best they could and went back to the bar, clearly disappointed with the short bout. Before she could settle on someone to provide her next drink, a woman’s agonized death-shriek, magically amplified, ripped through each and every floor in the building, bringing everything to a very literal screeching halt. This was soon replaced with a subsonic hum as several thousand cell phones went off at once.

The elder representatives of every Tradition present had immediately had a message sent to their respective groups soliciting volunteers skilled in the magic of Prime, Life, or Matter to investigate the crime scene. Only a handful volunteered, and of these, Marius, Steven, Helga and Ronan made their way up to the 41st floor as requested by their elders. In a side room of the cocktail lounge, the body of a woman, slashed from waist to throat in one line, lay lifeless on the rug.

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