The Well of Souls
The sleek black helicopter thumped its way across the sky, tearing violently through the cold mountain air. Dust and gravel scattered in a wild spray as it lowered tentatively to the ground. As the roaring machine quieted and settled into the grass, the door opened.
The man who emerged wore an expensive silvery-grey suit and a bold red tie. He had the demeanor and appearance of a powerful corporate executive, the part he played among the mundane. He brushed the dust and wrinkles from his suit as he stepped disdainfully into the meadow.
Behind him emerged his familiar, the primary source of his impressive magical power. She was human-shaped, voluptuous and decidedly feminine. She wore no clothing, exposing every inch of her blood-red skin. Piercing red eyes scanned the area in a predatory sweep, long red hair whipping around in the helicopter’s wash. She was a succubus, a life stealer, as deadly as she was alluring.
Normally, such a creature would form a very short-lived bond with a mortal, sucking his life away in an erotic frenzy. This one, Vandra, was unusual. She had bound herself to a puppet master who, like a vampire, replenished his own life force from the thousands of pathetic humans who willingly exchanged their own essence for empty promises of love, wealth, and power. His army of minions served and sustained him, their wills gradually subsumed by his own. Together, Vandra and The Marioneteer were a truly formidable couple.
They stood, aloof and impatient, as the helicopter’s blades slowly swept to a stop.
It was several minutes later when three figures emerged silently from the aspen trees forming the boundary of the meadow. They had been there watching from before the helicopter arrived, but they were also understandably cautious.
The leader, Raul LeGrande, stepped out tall and proud, an air of brutal confidence about him. His navy-blue silk button-up and tight black jeans showed off his powerful muscles and covered most of his tattoos. Prominent gold jewelry provided a crude display of his material success.
Dangling on his arm was Abigail Southwick, Raul’s girl-of-the-month. She had bleached blonde hair and wore a leather miniskirt and tube-top with three-inch black stilettos. The utterly impractical outfit showed a buxom body covered in tattoos and piercings.
Behind them was the hulking bodyguard, a ruthless man known as Hatchet. Like Abigail, he proudly displayed his tattoos and piercings. He wore his golden hair long and braided, with a matching beard, invoking the image of a modern Viking.
These three were witch-wolves, the basis of the werewolf myth. Raul led a pack of mercenaries, willing to sell their considerable combat abilities to whomever was willing to pay.
Raul and The Marioneteer eyed each other with mutual contempt and mistrust.
“Well, where is she?” Raul called out in his thick French accent. It was an affectation that seemed to grow stronger over the decades. He had a tendency to variously claim France, Quebec, and Louisiana as his place of origin. He was actually born in Des Moines.
“I imagine she’s waiting to make a grand entrance. That is her way.” The Marioneteer spoke flawless English, along with a dozen other languages.
Raul’s eyes slid lustily up and down Vandra’s naked body. “Magnificent creature. It’s a shame she’s wasted on the likes of you. Perhaps she’d prefer the company of a real man?”
“A mangy dog like yourself would barely last a day with her.” The Marioneteer laughed.
Raul bristled. “I’ve more stamina than a worm such as you.” he spat.
It was time to make an entrance, before blood flowed. She closed her eyes, reaching for the thread of magic that would draw her through space. In an instant she was there, standing a few paces away from the two men.
She was the Ice Queen, a stunning vista of power and beauty. She wore a long icy white corset dress that emphasized the swell of her bosom and ebb of her waist. Long iridescent white hair cascaded over her bare shoulders.
Behind her loomed the wispy shade of her familiar, Sverobjorn. He was a ghost bear, ancient ancestor of the modern polar bear, magically bound to her.
Both The Marioneteer and Raul turned to face her. The Marioneteer nodded in respect. Raul gawked, his eyes seemingly unable to find their way above her ample cleavage.
“You both serve me.” She growled imperiously. “And you will put your petty jealousies aside.”
Raul grumbled his acquiescence. He would comply, not out of respect, but to get what she’d promised him — revenge.
She told them why she had summoned them to this place.
“If you focus, you can feel it; an immense flow of magical energy. Even the powerful spells the guardians use can’t fully mask its existence. It is called The Well of Souls, and I have need of its power. The guardians are jealously protective of it. Even from this distance, they may be aware of our presence. If you were to approach closer, they would almost certainly attack. You will gain access to it and destroy the guardians for me.”
“How?” Raul and The Marioneteer asked in unison.
“I have a plan.” The Ice Queen replied with a devious smile.