April 2022


The founding of the Magistratus following the Black Death led to a codification of rules, procedures, and geneology that held sway for centuries. Adherents, known as Old Blood Enchanters after the fact, carefully traced their bloodlines and attempted to arrange marriages in such a way as to combine powerful skills and maintain political power. Naturally, this resulted in an eccentric and inbred population, and the Old Blood Magistratus was reformed under Magistrate Avis II in 1743, abolishing the strict system that had predominated and attempting to build a more practical and egalitarian society. The need for war enchanters at the front in the Succession Wars certainly played a part, as did the tantalizing prospect of taxing enchanters for the first time.

Needless to say, many rejected Avis II’s reforms and declared that they would hold to the original Magistratus. Faced with this uproar and outcry, Avis relented and issued grandfather clauses to all enchanter families who wanted them. But these came with a proviso: once the rolls were closed in 1745, no further names could be added, and any family that broke the Magistratus that they had pledged to keep was then subject to the Reform Magistratus Avis had put in place.

The result was a gradual waning in numbers of the Old Blood Enchanters, as they were not called, over the years. With no new blood entering, and others trickling away, the remaining families tried desperately to adhere to the terms lest they face ruinous taxation.

By the era in question, most of the Old Blood Enchanter families were moribund, many with a single heir.

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Built by the Luxton family of Old Blood Enchanters as a country retreat, Bloomhaven was constructed as both as a charming half-timbered chalet and a magical sieve to keep unwanted visitors at bay.

The first Lord Luxton designed Bloomhaven, and his misanthropic nature shone most clearly in its entrance arch, which could be magicked to reject unwanted visitors. An unannounced guest entering via the arch would find themselves exiting it at speed in the opposite direction, and more than one solicitor quite literally launched themselves away from the house in an attempt to charge through the defenses.

The architecture was modified somewhat by his son, the Second Lord Luxton, who kept the arch but developed the far side of the house further. His general distaste for his in-laws is largely to blame, allowing himself to isolate from them in a nearly seperate house. He also added the extensive gardens, nourished by a natural magical spring, and a carriage house.

The dwindling stock of Old Blood Enchanters meant that the Thirteenth Lord Luxton was likely to be the last, as the only child of only children. He partly occupied himself with modernizing the estate and its magicks, but was known to also be a kind if private citizen. His garden’s bounty was largely donated monthly to the needy, and a special secret rear entrance was known to be usable for short friendly visits or trick-or-treating, though woe betide anyone who attempted either with malicious intent.

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Found only on the Pacific atoll of Tuo-Kua, the sprinter bamboo was first described by German naturalist Georg Haas in 1899, during the German Empire protectorate period. He noted that it grew exceptionally fast, recording rates of up to a meter a day, and recommended it for export to be used as a source of cheap lumber.

The First World War interrupted any such plans, and the atoll was taken over by Japan as a result. A Japanese botanist, Masaharu Sekito, studied the bamboo and came to the same conclusion as Haas, recommending it for export. Specimens were taken accordingly and shipped to Truk and Tokyo.

However, they failed to thrive and soon died in both cases, leading Dr. Sekito to speculate that some crucial natural substance was required for their explosive growth. Sporadic attempts to exploit the sprinter bamboo took place until the outbreak of war in the Pacific.

Ultimately, the most noteworthy use the sprinter bamboo was put to was in the torture and execution of Allied POWs who were interrogated on Tuo-Kua. Placed over green shoots of sprinter bamboo, they were subjected to an accelerated version of bamboo sprout torture that earned garrison commander Yoshinori Fukushima execution postwar as a Class II war criminal.

Sadly, like much of the unique island flora or fauna of the Pacific, the sprinter bamboo did not survive the war. The isolated garrison at Tuo-Kua, cut off from resupply by island hopping, ate all the remaining shoots as they starved. Already rare as a result of large-scale naval base construction, the bamboo was extinct by 1944.

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Marie’s call had been from a private number, but John hadn’t thought to try *69. His phone buzzed with the call.

“Manitou County Sheriff;s Department,” a voice said on the other end.

“I’m calling for a Mrs. Marie Carr,” said John. “She called and left a message for me last night?”

A moment of silencce on the line. “There is no one living here by that name.”

The phrasing immediately struck John as odd. “Of course, ma’am, but no one lives in a sheriff’s office. I would like to know if anyone or anything answering to Marie Carr has passed through your office recently.”

Another silence. “I’m going to have to refer you to the coroner’s office.”

Sensing a dead end-especially as it was a Sunday and the office was likely closed, John continued. “Please, ma’am, I just need a simple answer. I got a call and a message and I need to know what to do about them.”

An audible sigh. “Sir, are you asking me to compromise my deeply held religious convictions on the sanctity of life?”

“No, ma’am. I just want information. Information has no beliefs.”

The echo of computer keys clacking. “Very well, if you must know, an entity was booked on grave robbing charges re: the grave of one Marie Carr.”

“An entity?” John said.

“An entity,” the receptionist replied. “The matter was remanded to the Gehanna Crematorium.”

“WHAT?” Sunny shouted.

“That’s all the information I have.” The line clicked dead, going over to dialtone.

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The next shot was also wild, as anything from a Glock would be, but the guard was sprinting to the site and had two reloads jiggling on his belt.

“Can you move?” John said.

Sunny shook the restraint off her arm. “I can now.”

“Get in the truck!” John cried.

Sunny nimbly scampered up the loose soil and into the Ram, carefully buckling herself in. John almost laughed at the sight of someone risen worried about that-did she think she’d die, again?-but he was too busy scrabbling up after her.

There was no gun in the truck; John did not own one. His rap sheet caused too many questions. But he wasn’t entirely defenseless.

Chucking the shovel in his bed toolbox, John drew his Orion flare gun, chambered a bright red round, and fired it at the guard. It lanced across the distance between them, hit the man in the chest with a resounding oof, and sent him sprawling.

John tossed the weapon into his bed and got into the driver’s seat, slamming the accelerator as hard as he could.

“Where are we going?” Sunny said.

“I’m taking you home, to your mom,” John said. “I owe her a lot.”

The Ram cleared the cemetary, delivering a glancing blow to the Cougar Security car as it did so.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Sunny said.

“Look, I’m sure your mom has a plan,” John said. “Lots of risen around going about like everything was normal. It’ll be okay.”

“No, I mean…that was her grave next to mine. We both died at the same time.”

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“Bill.” John tipped his hat to William Carr Jr., beloved husband and father, to Sunny’s right. Bill had been a thoroughly decent man, the sort John had never quite been able to be, and the heart murmur that killed him was a crying shame.

John looked at the earth to the left of Sunny’s grave. It had been disturbed, as if for a burial, but the edges were also ragged and it was rather shallow.

“Maybe she left something down in there?” John mused. He was able to clamber down fairly easily into the hole. Pawing through the dirt revealed nothing but loose stones, but a sound a moment later caused him to jump back.

“Hello? Is anybody there?” The shout, muffled, was coming from the other side of the dirt – the occupied grave.

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“I’m looking for someone at this address,” John said. “Sunny Carr. Young girl, late teens, braces. You see anyone like that?”

The security guard looked over his mirrored glasses. “They don’t pay me enough to keep track of everyone that comes or goes,” he said.

Annoyed, John raised an eyebrow. “Well, what do they pay you for? Cuz it sure ain’t the conversation.”

“Watch your mouth,” the guard said, his hand brushing against the Glock in his holster. “I’m here to keep anyone from digging folks up.”

“I thought you weren’t allowed to shoot the risen,” replied John. “Wasn’t there some kind of court thing about that?”

“The stay expires at midnight and Michigan’s got trigger laws that kick in at 12:01. But trespassing and grave robbing are still castle doctrine material.” His hand caressed the Glock in its holster again, as if the urge to put 17 bullets in something were nigh irresistible.

“And the risen?”

“Long as they stay in their holes, we’re all good. Go on in and lay your flowers, wise ass, but don’t take too long.”

John pulled the Ram through. The guard didn’t follow, but in the rear view mirror John could see him making finger guns at the truck as it drove deeper into the forest of headstones.

Just like Maria had said, he found Sunny near the back.

“Sunny Carr, beloved daughter,” he read off the headstone.

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It had been a long time since John had fallen off the wagon that hard, and even longer since he’d had a voicemail waiting for him when he awoke.

“John, it’s Marie. I’m sorry to do this, to call you so late, but I really need you to do something for me.”

Rolling upright, John groped for something to write with.

“It’s my daughter. It’s Sunny. She needs help and…well, I’m not really in a position to help her right now. Would you please, please get her to my house? She is at 1610 Riverside Drive, near the back corner. Take her to my new place, 2781 County Highway 183. Please, John. Matter of life or death. There’s no one else I can trust.”

Even though he and Marie had been divorced for, what, eighteen years now, give or take, John reached for his keys. When your ex-wife still took your calls at 2am, pulled you out of the drunk tank on occasion, and held your head in a men’s room in some dive bar…well, that was a big IOU to cash. John might have just turned in his 2-year AA chip, but he wasn’t turning his back on that debt.

Luckily, the old Ram had a GPS suction-cupped to the dash, so all John had to do was focus on the intense Teutonic voice as she guided him through rural northern lower Michigan. When Brünhilda the GPS called out that he had arrived, though, John had to pull over and squint to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

1610 Riverside Drive: Eternal Rest Cemetery.

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“Rising” refers to the reanimation of a person who has died, anywhere from 8-48 hours after their death. Only observed in humans and two species of great ape (chimpanzees and bonobos), rising results in a slowing of active decay, a resumption of movement, and in most cases, the ability to see, hear, and speak. Sensation appears to be greatly deadened but not absent, as is the sense of smell. The sense of taste is completely absent, and indeed the GI tract is largely non-functional other than occasionally expelling matter that was left in the system pre-mortem. While ingestion can occur, the material simply sits in the stomach until it is regurgitated or rots. Cognition can no longer be measured, as an EEG will show a flatline or sporadic and seemingly random impulses, but in most cases the risen seem to retain all memories of their life and full intellectual function of a sort.

What causes rising is currently not well understood. The use of modern embalming chemicals seems to increase its incidence, accounting for the perceived increase in risings since the early 1800s, but it has been argued that preservatives simply increase the chance of a successful rising, as in pre-modern mortuary systems bodies would have been buried or burned too quickly to rise. One thing that can be conclusively proven is that embalming chemicals can delay the onset of rising, stretching the 8-48 hour window of an un-embalmed body to days, weeks, or even months. Careful research indicates that risings have taken place throughout history, though in most cases the risen were detected almost immediately and destroyed.

Traumatic injury also seems to decrease the chances of rising, as those killed in a severe automobile or airplane crash are 90% less likely to rise. However, once rising takes place, traumatic injury seems to have little effect on the risen, as they are able to remain motile and communicative even up to the point of being completely skeletonized. Immolation or systematic destruction by dismemberment seem to be the only ways to destroy a risen body. Eyewitness accounts and anecdotal evidence indicates that such destruction is as traumatic and painful for the risen as it would be if inflicted upon the conventionally living.

Obviously, the mechanism of rising is poorly understood, and this is not helped by a total ban on studying the process, even in apes, passed by the International Medical Foundation in 1956 and renewed in 2016. The advocacy organization Association Internationale des Ressuscités (AIR) holds that rising is a scientific, quantifiable, and researchable process; it is simply one that is not understood at present. The official position of many other organizations, including the Universal Church Council, the Imamate Consultorium, the Ecumenical Rabbinical Society, and Buddhist Unity, is that the risen are unholy abominations possessed or influenced by infernal powers.

The religious position, one which is shared by many secular people and institutions, has led only 61 out of the 195 internationally recognized sovereign entities to grant risen the same civil rights as they possessed before their rising. The remaining 134, including China, India, Brazil, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and 26 states in the United States, regard risen as legally dead. As a result, there are generally no laws protecting risen or their property in those jurisdictions other than general statutes about desecration or grave robbing. Indeed, as in 16 states in the United States, many jurisdictions criminalize the risen themselves (under the aegis of so-called “body autonomy” laws) and any risen encountered are subject to harassment, imprisonment, and summary cremation–the latter of which is particularly horrifying to activists. In one oft-cited piece of precedent, the US Supreme Court, in Davis v. Doe (2015), ruled that the risen are not citizens and have no rights explicitly granted by the Constitution in a landmark 8-1 decision.

As a result, many risen are forced to exist on the margins of society, either attempting to pass as traditionally living or banished to shantytowns or imprisoned for menial labor. Still more are forcibly cremated or interred, with the latter often leading to clashes between cemetery guards and groups of risen and their allies attempting disinterments. As horrifying as cremation is, many risen activists consider forced interment to be worse, as it imprisons a sapient being in a dark box without recourse and is considered a particularly cruel and extended torture.

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“The difficulty we run into with a quantum zoo is that animals from different universes have wildly different requirements,” says Laurie Scuggs, senior assistant quantum zookeeper.

“The Brunner’s Purple Mugthorpe is one of our most popular animals, since it’s bright purple and its mating song sounds like K-pop,” Scuggs continues. “But it breathes in pure argon and exhales copper cyanide gas, so we have to be very careful.”

The quantum exhibit has seen its fair share of controversy in recent years. It was even temporarily shut down after a toddler was allowed to get into the enclosure of a Zaxxian iome, a primate-like creature that liquefies bone and drinks it through a proboscis. Many point to the iome’s killing by a flying squad of city police as ending ther enthusiasm for the quantum zoo project altogether.

“I know they are extinct in their own dimensions, but breeding them here to reintroduce them in another universe just seems like a bad idea,” one zoo patron says. “I think we should take care of our own universe first.”

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