It was a revolution in the industry when we discovered you had to shoot a Fae twice to kill them.
We'd tried hundreds, if not thousands of things over the years. Drowning in blessed water? Turn your back for a minute and the little bastard's gone again. Coat a sword with thistle and cut off their head? Takes about ten seconds for them to find it, then they pop it back on and they're out of there like a fart in the wind. Even tried going back to the old Roman method – iron through the limbs and cuts with an iron blade until they bleed out. Turns out it only takes about two days or so for their systems to force the nails out of their arms and legs – then you come back to where you hope you left a dead Fae and "poof", no body. That one caused no small amount of controversy when we found that out, as you can imagine. Seeing a Cardinal have a crisis of faith is actually a more distressing experience than you think. For a decade or two, we were even throwing around the idea of cooking the flittery little gits and seeing if they could survive a bath in stomach acid. That one got thrown out because nobody really wanted to be the guinea pig who found out what happened if they could. No matter what solution we came up with, what new techniques we tried, the answer to our question was always the same – if you wanted to kill a Faerie, you needed to use Magic.
Then the age of the bullet rolled around, and we thought we had the solution to all our problems. A whole new sphere of killing opened up to us, one that could finally match magic in the world of lethality. No more complicated traps with enchanted cannonballs, large amounts of black powder and a whole lot of dismemberment needed anymore, just one big round to the dome. They might be able to survive it decapitation, but there was no way they were living through having their head blown clean off, right? Wrong, of course. I'll admit to nearly soiling myself the first time I saw a King stand back up with the remnants of what we thought were his brains all over his fancy suit. I'll also admit toit actually happening when he proceeded to Slip over to where I'd been positioned with every intention of taking my insides outside. All in all, it took us until Nineteen-Eighty-Fucking-Seven until some clever soul had the intelligent idea of attempting to shoot a Fae in both the head and heart in quick succession. We nearly laughed her out of the room when she first told us about her discovery; we'd been keeping records for centuries, there's no way that we'd missed something that simple. Wasn't until she dragged the rigid, pallid, as-deadid-looking-as-I-had-ever-seen body of a Puck-level Queen into the Station and got the Scryer to confirm that her domain had Shattered that we finally started kicking ourselves. We managed to save a bit of face when we confirmed it wasn't quite that simple – you only had about a 10-15 second window to land the second shot before they regenerated from the first, and it still needed a high-calibre round to do the job. Still, she hasn't had to worry about paying for drinks at the station for quite some time.
But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit; I like to do that when I tell stories at a gathering – set the stage a bit. I suppose it makes sense I'd do it when I write them down. Of course, in this case it's also had the handy secondary purpose of keeping you occupied so far. If you don't have the authorisation to be reading this, I'd highly suggest you put down your book, papers, phone, tablet, insert-device-here and start running. The Hounds were alerted the moment you started reading, but you've still got just enough time to make a real chase of it if you put pedal to the metal right away. Of course, there's always the possibility that you might be an unauthorised mage with enough power to notice and break a Seimei-rank enchantment, allowing you to get off scot-free. If that's the case, what on Earth are you doing reading this? Go hunt down the Ars Goetia or something – I'm sure we've got an original set somewhere. But hopefully (for my sake as well as yours) there's only one reason you'd be reading my writing; you're on absolute lunatic who's actually got some interest in reading the tales of one of the old Masters. Well, far be it for a man like me to question someone's mental state, so let's get into the business, shall we? We'll start with one of my favourite subjects – me.
My name is Alfred Torthon; I'm hoping you had the wherewithal to figure that out from the cover, but it never hurts to say it again. That's not the only name I've gone by, of course, but it's the name I'm going by at the time I'm writing this down – I'll probably keep it for another few decades or so, I imagine. At Romulus' insistence, I am creating a written record of some of the highlights of my time hunting down and exterminating those people, creatures and everything-in-between that we've slapped with the label of "supernatural". According to Romulus, my "fountain of experience" will be "an invaluable learning tool" for all you lot just dreaming of starting their career in specialised killing. I'll let you be the judge of that – I just think there's a bit of merit to Romulus' idea of keeping proper records of the deeds of our kind, not just their discoveries. Too many of us vanish every time another member of the old guard finally pops their clogs, names lost to memories without records. Hopefully, my little contribution might help mitigate that.
I was made in what we now consider to be around the year 430 BCE. That "made" is not a mistake, before you start questioning anything; as far as we can tell, I am the oldest surviving example of a Graeco-Achaemenid Golem. Persian clay, Greek magic. This means I have the dubious honour of being among the first of the Golems to be considered a "sentient" creation – I'm not so sure about that myself, but as of this moment nobody's been able to get close enough to a Pyramids-Era Egyptian Golem to confirm if they've got a brain or not, so I guess the title stays for now. The first several decades of my existence are somewhat hazy; think of me like a baby, operating on instinctual understanding but still learning about the world. As far as I have been able to piece together, I was created by an Athenian sorcerer under orders to create a Golem workforce to replace those who had died from the plague. The extent of this project is unknown, but I can only assume that I am an earlier or specialised model – Golems of similar age and origins that I've encountered are significantly less able to pass for "human" in comparison. I was freed from servitude nearly a century later, in the mass release that followed Alexander's death. As it turns out, binding an army of Golems to you and you alone causes several Contract issues in the event of your untimely demise. The several centuries between my release and my arrival in England aren't worth telling; anyone over a thousand's had the "wandering the Earth" stage in their life – I just got it out of the way early. I learned to move, to talk, to think; by the time I enrolled in the armies of Caesar, I could pass for human without even trying, even down to the tiniest details (I'll never understand why my creator saw fit to include proper bodily functions as part of my design, but it's proven remarkably helpful over time). Excepting the whole "made of clay" thing, of course, but that didn't tend to come up all too often.
I like to think of the first time I set foot on English soil as the moment that the man that would become "Alfred" took root. I look back on my early centuries fondly, but I wasn't "me" back then. I was learning what I was, who I was, who everyone else was. I'd wandered for centuries, pontificating in typical Greek arrogance, trying to figure out exactly what it meant to truly be human. I'd joined the army with that idea in mind – spend a decade or three travelling the world as a common man, learning about the width and breadth of humanity until I could truly define what that elusive phrase meant. It wasn't until I was lying on my back in a muddy field, struggling to get up as destructive magic of all sorts flew over my head, that I began to realise that the exactitudes of humanity didn't really matter, because whatever the monsters I was seeing helping the natives were, "human" was something they were most definitely not. I was no stranger to creatures of magic and mysticism; even by the standards of those days, long before the purges of the Church, I was well-travelled among the fantastic. I'd climbed the slopes of Olympus and watched the Mage-Gods hurl lightning from above. I'd seen Persian Binders bend the flow of the mightiest rivers to sate the thirst of their canals. I'd even been privileged enough to walk the isle of the Cyclopes, my ancient ancestors making an exception to their isolation for another son of magic and water. But all these encounters had still kept an air of humanity, a veneer of civilisation. Even the Cyclopes, backwards as they were, still lived by some recognisable rules of Men. In the Fae, though, I found a foe that was utterly, incomprehensibly alien, and glorying in their humanity.
The things I saw in that first British campaign still make my stomach (or whatever I have that passes for one) turn. Faeries have always been cruel, bloodthirsty things, but back then they didn't even make an attempt at hiding it. No suited Kings and their debonair Courts hiding rivers of blood; just pure, primal, barbaric sadism, throwing everything their foul minds could think of at the interlopers who dared to disrupt their world of worship. The first battle we ever saw on the soil of our new home, barely a day after landfall, I saw a man's intestines force their way up and out of his throat. I saw a soldier flayed alive, muscle by muscle, as a faerie picked at his bones. I saw a Briton take three swords to his chest before he fell, only for one of them to flit their way over to his body and make it rise again with a flick of his wrist. I nearly made my peace that day – I was convinced that my centuries of experience would end there and then, on foreign soil at the hands of creatures beyond anything I could hope to understand. Fortunately for me, and the thousands of other soldiers probably thinking something similar, centuries of experience were nothing compared to the information Caesar had access to. Thinking back on it, I'm not sure that the Fae knew actually knew that human magic could kill them; the Druidic magics the tribes wielded had nowhere near the destructive potential. They charged the battlemage companies with the exact same wild, fearless ferocity they ripped apart our infantry with. All my confusion about why Caesar had gone to expense of recruiting so many mages was burned away in the firestorm that followed; by the time the last embers died down, we counted nearly a score of the horrific creatures dead, along with hundreds of their Briton worshippers. The rest had fled, screaming unearthly noises as they vanished in front of our eyes. We counted just as many, if not more, of our own dead, but it still seemed a great victory. We had confronted creatures from the furthest depths of the underworld, with magics far beyond what any single mage could hope to muster, and we had driven them back.
By the time we marched back to Gaul, we had killed almost a hundred of the outlandish creatures pulling the strings of the Britons. With the knowledge I have now, I have my doubts about how many of them were actually dead, but perhaps fittingly for that period of my life, the exactitudes didn't really matter. What did was the seed of obsession the experience had planted within my mind. The Fae were like nothing I'd ever seen before, capable of things I'd never thought possible; they'd made a man coddled by the supposition of immortality fear for his life in the first time in centuries. I couldn't tell you whether it was fear, shame, a desire for revenge or something else entirely that possessed my thoughts at the time, but one thing was exceedingly clear; I had to know more. In the chaos that followed Caesar crossing the Rubicon, nobody noticed, or at least cared to look into, a soldier disappearing – perhaps he had fears for his family, or was having second thoughts about fighting his countrymen. He could be dealt with later, there was a war to fight. By the time Octavian finally established himself as Caesar Augustus some thirty years later, I'd established myself as one of Rome's various collectors of the occult and strange; another wealthy eccentric with too much money and time on his hands, with his penchant being what tomes and artefacts related to the savage Britons and their ways. By the time the Emperor Claudius announced his intentions to claim the British Isles for Rome once and for all, I was ready for my latest identity to jump at the call for Romans of all walks of life to find fame and fortune in the Empire's latest conquest. A century of study had blossomed that seed of obsession into a full-grown garden; I'd begun, in typically Greek fashion, to believe that my meeting with those beautifully monstrous creatures had been fate, that my Gods-given destiny was out there in those savage lands. I suppose in many ways I was right; just perhaps not in the ways I'd expected back then. So, once more I sailed to those barely-known lands, and here I've stayed ever since.
I've been a London boy ever since we planted the first stakes of Londinium on the bank of an unnamed river. My duties took me to the coast, the hills, the cold north mountains, driving away the natives and their faerie gods in the name of Claudius, but I always returned to the warm, welcoming embrace of the growing settlement that would slowly become the centre of British life. Since then, my work has taken me across the globe – I just need someone to cause trouble at the poles to finish off my travel checklist – but I always look forward to that moment where my feet find themselves on London clay once more. I've been there for near-every event in its storied history. I was there when we drove the Fae back across the river in the first true defeat they'd ever had. I watched Alfred unify England, saw William's armies sweep in from the coast to usher in a new era. I fought in the sweat and mud of Bosworth, hunting down the magicians pulling the strings of Lancaster; I stood guard in the shadows of the Globe, making sure Shakespeare's newest play didn't contain an actual invocation of its famous Courts. I even stood at Romulus' side in the ashes of half the city, as he signed the double-edged sword that was the Accord. I've been patched, fixed and even had new limbs shaped from its clay; London is a part of me in every sense of the phrase. I've walked its streets from camp to capital learning, listening, and eventually killing. I've been doing what I do for almost two thousand years, and I'm telling you all of this for a reason. I don't know who's going to end up reading this, if anyone. You might be a member of the Department, you might not. You might be well-versed in history, you might have never even heard of Circe. You could be an immortal, a sorcerer, or maybe even just a plain old ordinary citizen with an interest in the people that keep you safe from that side of the world. No matter who you are, though, what you're going to read here will likely seem impossible and ridiculous. I wouldn't blame you; it took months after the event for us to believe it ourselves - even then, we're not completely sure. You might think I'm lying, or embellishing the details; my history should be proof enough that I have nothing to gain from that. Every word of this story is, to the best of my recollections, true. That just leaves us with the question at hand, then, doesn't it? How in the world did you get involved with Oberon?