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The Interview:


The Cantos Diaries, by Carlos Cantos, is an infernal book. Bound in leather and made from parchment, the Diaries detail the life and knowledge of the sorcerer Carlos Cantos. The book is said to have a soul of its own…


Carmen Cantos, owner of the diaries, learned how to draw on the sorcery of the infernal forge, a dimension beyond time and space, a realm of fire and metal. But drawing on such sorcerous magic demands a reflection of the soul. One must answer honestly to the demands of the diaries…


 Pitiful Mortal, who art thou?


Carmen Cantos, the daughter of Carlos, and heir to these diaries and his legacy. Can't say its the nicest inheritance you could wish for...


I have not eyes to the flesh, only the soul. What is your visage?


Strong and full of life, beautiful and wild. And, thanks to my father, an infernal tattoo down my spine. Yes, that hurt…I suffer pains and walk with a limp now thanks to him. I am


I have not ears to hear, just the whisperings of the spirit. How do you speak?


In English, or Spanish, a low and rich. I even used to sing. I speak the language of the road, American and broad. No fancy words from my tongue, excepting those arcane or of myth.


Speak now, mortal, what is your heart’s desire?


I shall not be my father, much as your wicked pages might twist me. No, I shall not be him, the creatures infernal shall fall before me. And yet, I desire to free my father from whatever cage he has made himself.


And what is your strength to grasp such desires? How be it?


No devil or demon can harm me, book. My strength is my will, forged on the road and through hardship and determination. I shall not fail.


And what flaw in thy armor or thy heart imperils ye most?


My flesh, broken by my father’s incantations and tattoo, and the twisted words of Tazel, the demon of my father now bound to me. He will bend every moment to my malice, requiring I break him to my word at every turn


Tell me truthfully, what is your greatest love?


I…can’t say truthfully. My loves are transient and mercurial. Perhaps then, it is myself, although I hold hate enough for myself too. How I would love to love.


And without lie, what is the other side of the coin?


I hold hate enough for my father, the legacy he gave me. It fills me. And yet, to be truthful, it is not without love. Perhaps we can only truly hate what we love, and only truly love what we hate.


Where then is your peace of mind?


On the road, with the wind in my hair. When I rock to music, with a drink in my hand. With a lover, for a brief moment.


Tell me then, mortal, what is your greatest fear?


I have seen the shadows of impossible creatures in my life. They are plenty to fear, although they do not command me with that fear. Perhaps my greatest fear is to fall into fear, despair, and be twisted by Tazel, the demon that gives me strength.


Hell, perhaps it is to be alone.


What do you wish to do with your pathetic short life?


I would like to find and face my father. I don’t know what I’ll say, or do, but I would like to close that wound.


What is your place in the world, pathetic mortal?


I’m a rock n roll goddess, a biker, a sorcerer and a rolling stone. I may not have settled down, but with my history, how could I? everything gets twisted when I visit. All I try to do is make this world a little bit less twisted, a little bit more human, and caring. Try to remove the stench of corruption and lies from the modern world.


A pathetic, insignificant, and lonely life, mortal. How do you fit in with the rest of humanity?


I fit in ok. I made a few enemies – the Gas Chugger biker gang, a few suits, even the law. I ain’t fitting in with white collar society, and I ain’t trying.


Whence do you place your loyalties, insignificant as they are?


My friends. All of them. Anyone does good by me, I’ll do good by them. When it comes to the people who live through whatever mess I get them in to, you can count on me to give whatever I can back. It ain’t about country, or state, or religion either. It’s about people.


And what about your blood? Family?


There ain’t none left, torturous book. You should know, as you are the echo of my father. My mother was gunned down when the Feds busted the old man, thanks to him flippin’ off one too many of the infernal folk. And nobody know’s what became of my father.


What would your pathetic excuses for friends say about such a worthless insipid creature as yourself?


I’d guess they say I was trouble, but I was worth it. I got their backs. Most people, they just see me as a wild child, good heart, bad company. Truth is, I got problems way beyond that, and I guess people who know me, they know I got a whole lot of good in my heart too.


You consider such a twisted thing as yourself a role model?


No way. I’m a warning.


What foolish Gods and Myths do you place your misguided ignorant faith in, insignificant mortal?


I guess I don’t. Sure, I seen devils and demons aplenty. Maybe I even seen angels, although they are from the same cut. But if there is a God, he ain’t showing his face. I put my faith in my will and my friends.


And how black is your spirit, mortal? Are you tainted or pure?


I guess I landed with tainted when I was born. Not my fault about that. Guess I didn’t help much with who I hung out with as a kid. I may never be pure, but I aim to be purer.


You have answered truthfully, mortal. Now, consider what you have said, and reflect. What does this reveal?


I guess at the end of the day, I’m a good girl with a bad legacy. I just got make sure I don’t fall into my father’s footsteps. I got to make sure I connect with humanity. 

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  • 4 months later...





Who are you? Sum yourself up in one sentence.

Pitch, binder of the Infernal!


Do you have any nicknames, street names, titles, or nom de plume?

I used to be called “The Cantos Kid†when I was a little younger!


What is your full birth name?

Carmen Cantos


Where do you live?

I’m a bit of a rolling stone, but a large part of the time I live in Freedom City. My life is pretty much month by month, renting or living with friends.


How old are you? What year were you born (if applicable)?

27. I was born in 1986.


Physical Traits



What is your gender? If not applicable, please explain.

All woman!


How would you describe your heritage?

Damned. Literally damned. My parents died when I was born, except my Father decided to give me a nice tattoo down my spine at the same time, to protect me from demons.


How tall are you?

An average-ish 5’6â€. A bit more in boots.


What is your body type?

Athletic, fairly strong,  voluptuous.  Like a pin up and a mechanic in one. I’m fit, but not skinny.


Do you have any particular weaknesses, such as allergies or physical disabilities?

Sure, that tattoo happened to sever some nerves when it got to the bottom and the old man was in a rush. I have a limp and nerve pains. I can just about run, with my caliper’s, but not far or long.


How do you carry yourself? Are you graceful, or heavy on your feet? Can you be stealthy, do you walk with confidence?

I walk with a limp, but with confidence and attitude. I guess I don’t walk with much grace, although the rest of me is no klutz.


Describe your skin, eye, and hair color.

I’m olive skinned, and have green eyes. My hair is naturally a non-descript brown, but I usually dye it – from a dirty blonde to a platinum blonde, and sometimes a red head. I even went green one time.


How do you wear your hair, if applicable? Do you have facial hair?

Loose, long, and sexy. Yeah, scruffy. Sometimes I tie it back.


Do you consider yourself attractive? Do others?



Do you have any scars, tattoos, piercings, or birthmarks?

Yes, a tattoo down my spine. Guess after that I didn’t really fancy any more tattoo’s, although I hung around enough tattoo joints. I have one scar on my left arm from a motorcycle accident, a few inches long, but not too visible. I like it!


Do you resemble anyone famous?

I guess half the rock chicks that have hit the scene! But none in particular.


Do you have a dominant hand?



What kind of clothing do you wear?

Usually leathers, boots, and a t shirt. Anything rock really. A bandana sometimes. And in the summer heat I guess it’s a bikini top! But because of my disability I tend to wear trousers and boots to make me more stable, even if it gets a little sexy up top!


Do you wear makeup?



What is your vocal range? Is your voice distinctive in some way?

I have quite a wide vocal range, I used to sing in a band!


Do you have any distinctive habits, nervous tics, or mannerisms? Where did they come from, and what causes them? Do other people notice and remark on these habits? Do they annoy you or other people?






Where do you come from?

I was born in San Antonia, were my Father used to run a biker gang.


Have you made any major moves, or do you live in your hometown?

Plenty, I never really settled anywhere. I was fostered down in San Antonia, although I ran away a lot.


Do you feel loyal to your country of citizenship? Do you consider yourself patriotic? How do you feel about the government of your country?

I guess so. Land of the free and all that. But, you know, a bit of anarchy is not a bad thing. And politics is a drag, you know?


How do you feel about the place you come from?

Its okay, but I never stay tied to one place.


Where is your home town? What was/is it like?

San Antionia. I guess it was all right, as town’s go. I prefer the big cities where there is more music.


Growing up, were most of the people you knew similar to you, or were you somehow a minority? How did that affect you?

I was an orphaned, disabled, unruly kid. I got into fights, I got into trouble. Yeah, I wasn’t with the other kids.


Is there something you've always been really good at or really bad at? How has that affected your life?

I was pretty good at writing. And partying.


Were there any traumatic experiences in your early years (death of a family member, abandonment, orphaned at an early age)?

I was orphaned pretty much at birth! But I don’t remember it.


Briefly describe a defining moment in your childhood and how it influenced your life.

I guess when I first ran away from my foster parents, aged 14, hitched a ride to a Heavy Metal Gig, smoked and drank, and new this was the life for me!


What stupid things did you do when you were younger?

How long you got? Truanting, running away, smoking, drinking, partying, a few fights. I never stole anything though.


Where did you go to school? How much school did you have, and did you enjoy it?

I enjoyed some of it. I liked English, Music, Drama. But the rest of it – well, I did ok, but I never really applied myself. My grades were average overall, but I guess could have been better if I had attended more school.


Do you have any mementos of your childhood? What are they, and why did you keep them? If you have none, why not?

Yeah, some photographs, my first guitar. Some of my writings. Despite it all, my foster parents gave me some nice things and some love. I guess I was bad to them, which I regret. I should make it up to them some day.


When did you decide to become a hero? Why? Did anyone influence you one way or another in the decision?

Because I don’t want to be like my old man.


Is the reason you give people for becoming a hero different than your real reason? If so, why?

Well, I paint it out more like I want to do good. I guess I do, you know, but I keep the real fireworks to myself.


Do you have any deep, dark secrets in the past that may come back to haunt you?

Well, I’m pretty open about my teenage years and minor felonies.


Do you represent yourself as being different from who you really are? Why?

I am what I am (except I do keep quiet about having a bound demon).


If you do have these secrets, what do you fear would happen if the truth became known? How far would you go to protect those secrets?

I’d fight pretty hard to keep my identity as a superhero secret. I don’t think it would go down well with the general public, and I’d probably get church goers trying to exorcise me or something.



Do you have any sort of criminal record? If so, is it public knowledge?

My juvenile record is history. I have a few minor infractions for things like disturbing the peace.





What are your biological parents' names?

Carlos Cantos (father) and Maria Cantos


Were you raised by them? If not, please explain and describe who raised you.

No. I was eventually raised by foster parents, Ed and Rose Crawford. They were good regular country folk, I guess. Just trying to do their best – and they did pretty well, considering I was a devil child.


What was their standing in the community? What did/do they do for a living?

Carlos ran a biker gang. He was a crook and an occultist. The gang was called the Blacksmokers.


Where are your parents now?



Did your family stay in one area or move around a lot?

My parents moved around all the time. My foster parents stayed where they were.


How did you get along with their parents? How do you get along with them now (if applicable).

My foster parents – I treated them pretty bad. They fostered two other boys and we were always fighting. I was the worst of the lot. I guess being disabled made me angry, and I always stood up for myself. These days, I don’t see them much or at all. Which is wrong of me.


How do your parents view you now, or how would they?

Credit to my foster parents – they are pretty proud that I turned my anger into being a successful Journalist, although they still think I should settle down, get a flat, and so on.


Do you have any siblings? If so how many and what are their names? Describe your relationship with them.

No, although my foster brothers were called Zak Priestly, and Justin Long.


What was your birth order in the family?

I was an only child.


Where are your siblings now (if applicable)? Do they have families of their own? What do they do?

Not applicable. Zak is in prison for Car Robbery. Justin is doing ok as a Car Mechanic.


Do you stay in touch with them or have you become estranged?



Do you love or hate one member of the family in particular?

My father, for pretty obvious reasons.


Is any member of the family special to you in any way (perhaps, as a confidant, mentor, or arch-rival)?

No. I suppose I have a soft spot for Zak – we both got in trouble but it didn’t work out well for him.


Are there any black (or white) sheep in the family (including you)? If so, please explain.

I can’t say there is, even given what I said.



Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? If so, please explain, including how it has affected your life.

My father, Carlos Cantos, was a pretty famous black magician. I think his father might have been too.


Do you have a partner and children currently? If so, please describe them.



If you do not have a partner or children, do you want them someday? How firm are you in your opinion on this, and what might change your mind?



What type of person would be your ideal mate?

A rock star with the face of an angel, the body of a god, and the soul of a poet.





Do you have any close friends? If so, please describe them, and how you came to be close to them.

Sure. I am close with the T.T.Steel, the singer? You know her? She is just hitting the big time, got a voice like crap, but her lyrics are the bomb and she is one sexy performer. We hit it off big time drinking and partying. Turns out she had a pretty rough ride as a kid too – orphaned, fostered, you know the score. We look out for each other.

Yeah, and Denzel Downs. An African American Rock Journalist who works for the Rock Report magazine. I only freelance there, but he works full time and keeps me in good books with the editor. He is as tough as hell – has to be, given the Racist virus in rock music.


Do you have a best friend? If so, how did they become your best friend? How close are you to your best friend?

I guess its Axel “Grease†Robinson, he hung out with my father – which is not a great start, but he’s an old and friendly guy. He knows a thing or two about demons, runs his own grease shop, and has helped me big time when I was getting my head around all that had happened to me.


If you were to go missing, who would worry about you?

Axel, Denzel, TT. And probably several rock stars, the staff of Rock Report, and even a few biker gangs, as I have some fame – or infamy, in that group.


Have you lost any loves? If so, how did it happen, and what did you do?

Other than by the fading of relationships, no.


Do you have any bitter enemies? If so, please describe them and their history with you.

The Gas Chugger Biker Gang have always been out to get me. They have had decades of turf war with the Blacksmokers.


If you have enemies, how do you think they might attempt to work against you in the future?

Probably not violently. But if the opportunity came along to wreck my career they probably would.


What is the worst thing someone has done to you?

My Father tattooing my spine and leaving me disabled has to be pretty high on that list.


Where do your loyalties lie? In what order?

To my friends first, my family second. And my county very much last.


Who or what do you trust the most? Why?

My friends.


Who or what do you despise? Why?

Politicians who are out to screw the people. Pen pushers who stick to the law rather than the spirit of the law. Boring people. Racists, Sexists, Homophobes. Haters.


What qualities do you admire most in other people? Are these qualities you possess?

Love and honour. And I got them.


What qualities do you hate most in other people? Do you have any of those qualities?

Being boring. Being closed minded. Being selfish. I don’t really have the first too, although I can be selfish at times.


Do you have a secret identity? If so, who knows it? Do you hide it from people who are close to you? Why?

Yes, as Carmen Cantos. Axel knows about it, nobody else. I hide it as I am a cart load of trouble.


Do you work well on teams and in groups? Are you a leader or a follower?

I’m no follower, but I ain’t that keen on leading either. I work ok in groups – I hung around enough biker gangs to know that.


Are you on a super team? If so, how do you get along with your comrades? Do you trust them, or do you have secrets from them?



Are you a member of any church, fraternal organization, club, committee, political party, or other group? How much time do you spend on that?

Church? Are you joking?

I am nominally a member of the Blacksmokers Biker Gang, I guess.

I am a democrat, I think voting is important but I don’t follow a lot of politics.



Personality & Beliefs


Who are your heroes?

Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Freddy Mercury.


Did you ever become disillusioned with former heroes or idols? If so, why and what were the circumstances?

No way.


Do you like being a hero? If so, what is the most rewarding part? If not, what makes you keep doing it?

Not really. I like the power sometimes – maybe more than I would care to admit. But I am conscious of how my heritage and problems cause havoc. It’s a love hate thing.


Is there anything that would make you give up hero work, or even switch sides?

Not that I can think of. Maybe if I could rewrite the past.


What are your short term goals (what would you like to be doing within a year)?

Fiding out more about my father.


What are your long term goals (what would you like to be doing twenty years from now)?

Confront him, wherever he went to when he was shot and buried!


What is your greatest fear? Why? What do you do when something triggers this fear?

Succumbing and being perverted by Infernal creatures.


Is there anything you would give you life for?

I don’t think so. I’m loyal to the hilt, and I do want to do good. But I have no plans on sacrificing myself, unless my death was assured.


How do you feel about money and material wealth? Do you desire it or disdain it? Are you miserly with what you have, or do you like to share? Is it a mark of success, or a means to an end?

I like it, but am no slave to it. Easy come, easy go. It’s not the mark of a man, or a woman.


How do you generally treat others?

I’m not particularly polite, I’ll say it as I see it. But I am loyal.


Are you a trusting person? Has your trust ever been abused?

To people, yes. But with my history, I have demons trying to trip me up all the time! I get kind of paranoid.



Are you introverted (shy and withdrawn) or extroverted (outgoing)? Do you have a lot of self-confidence?

Very much extroverted. And generally full of confidence.


How do you act around attractive, available members of your preferred sex?



What are your most annoying habits?

Loud music, drinking too much, saying what I feel.


Do you feel contempt for any general category of people? Who are they, and why?

Dull people.



What is your favorite food? Do you prefer any particular type of food? Do you take the time to enjoy your food, or do you eat as fast as you can?

I like food in general, a juicy meat with spicy sauce is great. I like my food cheap and tasty.



What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?

Beer, or Tequila.



What is your favorite treat (dessert)?

Ice Cream


Are there any specific foodstuffs that you find disgusting or refuse to eat?

No I eat pretty much anything.


What is your favorite color? Are there any colors you dislike?

Orange, Red, and Black. But all colours are good.


What sort of music do you like? Is there any that you hate?

Heavy Metal!

Yeah, I can’t stand country and western. Or autotuned voices.


If you have a favorite scent, what is it?

The smell of burning meat on a barbeque.


Do you have a favorite animal?



What is your most treasured possession? Why?

My fathers cane. It lets me walk better, its my only link to my father. And it is stuffed full of sorcerous power. Do I love it? No. I kind of hate it. But it’s my most treasured possession all the same.



Do you enjoy "roughing it", or do you prefer your creature comforts?

I am happy with roughing it. But I like the odd wild night of luxury.


Is there a job or a task you would absolutely refuse to do?

Any boring or demeaning one. Plenty of those. Although I guess if I absolutely had to…


Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? If so, how do your beliefs affect your life?How important is it to you?

That’s a real funny question. Y’see, I know for sure there are some infernal creatures out there. But I also know that nobody really knows what the hell they are. Perhaps not even they do. They just don’t belong here.

So I don’t really believe in any religion. Although there sure is something spiritual goin’ on.

Maybe I just don’t want to bow to no man, and no God.


Was your faith influenced or molded by anyone special?



If you belong to a religious organization, how often do you attend? Do you have a specific place of worship, or friends within the organization? How much do you agree with the beliefs of your organization?

Not applicable


Could you kill? Have you killed?

Yeah, I could, easy, if I needed too. I sure don’t want to. But there are some bad people out there, who do bad things. And if I needed to kill to stop em, I would.

But I haven’t yet. And wont like it if I have to.


What circumstances led to you forming that conviction, or taking that action?

I can’t really say. I have a bit of a temper, so if somebody was threatening me, my family, my friends…maybe.


Are there circumstances under which you believe it is permissible to kill? What are they?

Yes. To stop something bad happening. Now, its gotta be real bad, and its gotta be so there ain’t no other way. But sometimes, you gotta act, rather than sit back.


How would you react to watching someone kill another person? Would your reaction be different if the killer was a friend or an enemy of yours?

I’d be pretty damn angry no matter who it was. Unless they had no other choice.


How would you react if something important was stolen from you?

Irritated, but I don’t cling to possessions to badly. Depends on what was stolen.


How would you react to public humiliation?

I’d get damn angry!


How would you react if a good friend or relative were purposely or accidentally killed? Has it happened to you?

I’d be depressed, and sad. Well, its happened before. I know enough bad boys and girls – a few have kicked the bucket, either from road accidents or being in the wrong place or the wrong time. Death always seems such a waste.

What do you consider to be the worst crime someone could commit and why?

Murder. Rape gets pretty close.

If your life were to end in 24 hours, what five things would you do in those remaining hours?

I’d drink, party, rock, and probably get sexy.

Career & Training

Do you have any special training in your hero skills? If so, where and how did you get it?

I know a bit about black magic. From my fathers diaries.


Who taught you the most about your heroing abilities? What was your relationship with that person?

Tazel, the demon that was bound to my father. Or more accurately, the Cantos line. Which means me.


Do you have any particularly unusual skills? How did you acquire them?

Not really. I’m pretty good at being a journalist, blagging my way into parties!


Do you do something besides hero work for a living? Have you ever done anything else, or do you plan to?

I am a freelance music journalist. Although most of my work is to Rock Report magazine.

Maybe one day I will write my memoirs, or a book!


What is your preferred combat style?

Brawling. I have been in more than a few bar fights. I don’t fight fair and I know how to fight. I have no martial art experience. Its about real life experience!


Have you ever received any awards or honours?

A few minor ones for writing.


What skill areas would you like most to improve in? Is there anything you can't do that you wish desperately you could?

I’d like to be a better journalist. And I suppose I secretly wish I was some world class guitar player.


How do you act around people who are more skilled than you in areas you'd like to improve? Are you jealous, or do you try and learn?

I am envious but love them!



Lifestyle & Hobbies


What is a normal day for you? How do you feel when something interrupts this routine?

I don’t have a normal day or routine. Ever.


Do you have any hobbies, or interests outside hero work? What are they, and where did you pick them up?

Music, motorbikes, art.



What do you do for fun?

Drink, dance, rock out, drive.


Do you have a costume? What does it look like?

It’s a wicked studded leather number, my boots and trousers black and silver, with a red backless silk top showing off my spine, and a red mask.


How do you normally dress when not in costume?

Less studded leather trousers (or jeans), boots, and a something causal or even sexy on top. I try to make sure at least part of my spine is showing, as it protects me against infernal creatures. So crop tops are popular!


What do you wear to bed most nights?



Do you wear any special jewelry? What is it, and what does it look like?

Not really. I mean, I wear some stuff sometimes.



Do you have a special place where you keep your valuables?

On my person.


What's your preferred means of local travel? How about long distance?

Motorbike. I have one converted for my disability.





Have you ever made a will, or tried to make arrangements for your death? What provisions did you make?

No. I live to live!


If your features were to be destroyed beyond recognition, is there any other way of identifying your body?

Yes. You wait, and I come back to life. My father wanted to make sure I stayed around…


What would you like to be remembered for after your death?

Wild, passionate, sexy and heroic.


Do you believe you pose a threat to the public? Why or why not?

I guess I am. I have enough demons out to make my life difficult at best. And my powers are all smoke and fire and metal. Which means a risk of public damage!


What do you perceive as your greatest strength?

Will power.


What do you perceive as your greatest weakness?



As a player, if you could, what advice would you give your character? Speak as if he/she were sitting right here in front of you. Use proper tone so they might heed your advice...

Take a step back, think before you act. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your life.

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  • 4 months later...



The sun was blinding, the sun was hot. It hung almost directly overhead, large and oppressive, blazing into the desert heat.

The only reprieve was the wind that whipped through Carmens hair as she drove down her bike down old road. The air was dry and otherwise still, but the speed of her engine – a speed slightly in excess of the legal limit – was enough to temper the heat of the day


The landscape was flat and barren, and her destination could be seen miles away, even in the haze of the midday heat. It was a gas station and repair shop all rolled into one. Probably didn’t see a lot of custom. But clearly saw enough.


She pulled up and felt the heat hit her. A film of sweat formed over her body almost instantly. She knocked back some water and poured the rest directly over her head without much effect. She was dressed like a biker, wearing a cut off t shirt, leather trousers and boots, and a tattoo down her spine from the top of her next to the base of her sacrum. A tattoo of angels, demons and sigils. Her hair was wild and dirty blonde, a reflection of the rest of her. She was a beautiful wild rose, full of allure but absent polish.


She hauled herself off her bike somewhat stiffly, walking with a noticeable limp. A legacy of the tattoo on had been inscribed on her back twenty seven years ago. It may have been beautiful, but it was a brutal piece of work, and had damaged the nerves of her spine, leaving her paralysed down the right leg. A condition she managed with the aluminum calipers she wore under her leather boots. 


The man she had come to meet was a friend of her father. Axel “Grease†Robinson. Perhaps “Friend†was presuming too much. She was not entirely sure her father had any friends at all. But Axel had known her father. Axel had ridden with him.She had pieced together bits and pieces about her father from news items, urban myths, rumours, and hearsay. Enough for suspicions, but falling short of substance.


She strode in, her mood a mixture of confidence, anxiety and anticipation, and caught sight of the man who could only be Axel. He had that kind of robust build that hovered between fat and muscle but leaned towards the latter. He was unshaven, and splattered with a hint of grease as befitted his name. He had a broad grin and was full of teeth. He was dressed like a mechanic, and had plenty of tattoos, of voluptuous maidens and roaring engines.


“Well now, Yer can only be one girl, walking in like that, and with that tattoo†he said, eyebrows lifting.


“Knew this day would come, Cantos’ girl walking in here. But knowin’ is one thing, and it happenin’ is another thing all together, ain’t it. You are her, ain’t yer? Before I get all sentimental? Carmen Cantos?â€


She only paused a moment. There was no disguising.


“That’s me. And I’m guessing you are Axel Grease, if you spot me so quickly, huh? Friend of my father, whatever that means?†she answered, a spiked note in her voice.


“Well, being friends with your father was a tricky business†said Axel, with a half laugh, before bursting out and hugging Carmen before she could resist or object.


“But damn, it is good to see you. How long! How long! We had some good years, me and your old man. And some bad times, too. And the end, well it broke my heart. And killed your parents. And…well, to see you…â€


The words didn’t need saying. They both knew what damage had been done.


“It’s good to see you, really, it is. Grown up and making something of herself, despite all that you went through. I heard you made good despite it all. Even made bad a few times. Yeah, I keep my ears open. Gas Chuggers still like to take a piece out of you, still got it in for the Cantos bloodline. I’d watch your step there. They don’t forget. And neither should you†he emphasised, patting a large revolver he had tucked in his jeans.


“Relax, Axel, I’m not here to swap bullets†she answered. “At least, not with you. I’m just here for answers. I got a whole mountain of rumours, and not much truthâ€


“Well you best come inside. When it comes to your father, who knows what truth there was. He surrounded himself in mystery. That was his way. Even when he told the truth, it was just a shadow of the real thing. I guess nobody got more of a glimpse of what he was up to. Me included. But I can give you that glimpseâ€


Inside Axel’s home was pretty shambolic, but a temple to organised disorganisation. It had a homely rough feel to it, full of beer, food, engine parts, and plenty of pictures of bikes, rockers and women wearing tattoos and little else. It was just the kind of home you imagined Axel living in, and it was very lived in.


“I got something for you, out back. Being keeping it safe. Belonged to your father. Guess it belongs to you now. Sure don’t belong to anybody else†he grunted, leading her through his home, weaving a jagged path to the dusty air behind his home.

The treasure he had in mind was, suitably, buried, and needed a few minutes of spadework before, in true pirate style, he hauled up a small chest. It wasn’t locked, but it was ornate.


“Kept it here all these years. Your old man, he had plenty of people interested in his life, and not in a savoury way, least not usually. I kicked most of their asses into the roadside, but some, a bit to persistent. And some came in too heavy handed. So I had to hide this stuff. With the years passing, he faded into memory, and the knocks on my door came less and less, but I never cared to dig this stuff up. Your old man, well, he gives the chills. What he dealt with. You heard the rumours? Well, they probably ain’t exactly true. But then again, they probably ain’t exactly wrong either. You may not believe in black magic and sorcery. But if you were me, and saw what I did, then you wouldâ€


He kicked some dust and grunted.


“Then you wouldâ€


Carmen was pretty sure that she did anyway. Something in her bones, scratching away. Something in her dreams, in the corners of her eyes, something intuitive. There was something beyond this world, things beyond humanity. Things that sucked the humanity out of you.


And it seemed the Cantos blood was seeped in it.


She could no more ignore her Father than a moth could ignore a flame. It may burn, but it was bright.


“What will I regret most? The things I see, or the things I don’t?†she asked Axel, knowing they both knew the answer.

And knowing they would both regret it.


She folded up onto her knees, sitting in the dust, and opened the chest. A subtle blast of hot air, and a more subtle old smell of dryness and sulphur hit them both. Inside the dust, the smell, Carmen could make out an old wooden stick, blackened but straight, with a cruel and eerie brass heat fashioned in the shape of a goat.


 â€œYour father’s stick. The Cantos devil stick, they called it. Said it could chain a demon’s soul to that piece of wood and brass†said Axel, admiring the cane but not touching it. “I never had the guts to handle it myself. I seen a thing or two with your old man, not much, but enough to make me happy to bury the thingâ€


Carmen felt like a moth to a flame. Disembodied. The decision had been taken years ago, and now she was just on the rail road, watching her decision being played out without any will over the matter. Distant, like an observer, she saw her own hand reach out, and grasp the cane firmly.


It was not an explosion, or a firework, just dust and smell, like oil and fumes, a choking, burning sensation in the nose. A crawling of hot insects up her arm. It was all these things, and more, something wrong, something impossible, something that should absolutely not exist in this world, and yet did.


It was a demon.


The thing was no more than a foot or so high, a wisp of flame that floated in the desert heat like a mirage, faint, smokeless, but dusty and dry. Although its mercurial form floated in and out of something vaguely humanoid, it was, in essence, a burst of flame and little more. Except for the eyes – two burning red orbs, malign and penetrating, set in its centre.


Axel took a few good steps back, fearful, stumbling, but not falling.


“I know you!†he whispered.


“Tazel! Carlos bound you! Tight and true!†he said, voice losing its thread but still coherent.


Tazel hissed, like spitting crackling fire.


“And know he is gone! And I am free! His blood has failed and I will wreak such havoc and misery on the fools who followed him!†it said, advancing through the air like a livid ghost.


“No! No!â€


It was half scream, half shout. All of Carmen’s worst fears were realised. All the stories about her father were true, true and real. And dangerous. And she had unleashed them.


Tazel stopped. The flame burned a deep displeasure, defiant but impotent.


“Yes?†came the burning voice, hazy and twisted.


Carmen was on her knees, hands grasping the dusty earth in despair and anger, tears mirroring those emotions. And through it all, she understood.


“Bound to the Cantos blood? Bound to me?†she asked. No, she demanded.


“Yes†came the reply, not a question this time, a burning, resentful answer, extracted from the demon reluctantly, but obediently.

Carmen stood up, full of her own defiance.


“Well, you…†she started, before remembering Axel’s words. “Tazel, is it? You sure have a lot of talking to do. Because I have a lot of questionsâ€


“Careful, honey†said Axel, cautiously. “I saw this one, two or three times. All shadow and fire, twisting his words to bend hearts and minds. Wicked thing†he said, spitting into the dust at his boots.


“What do you do, Tazel? Just twist words and give some candlelight?†she asked him. “What did you do for my father?â€


Tazel ejected every word as if it was being dug out of him by a dentist. “He possessed me. I fed him power and fire. He knew the smoke and metal of the Infernal Forge, a dimension of terrible endless hammers and chains. And he bound me†sneered the demon.


“Like how did you feed him? Show me?†said Carmen, feeling a bloodlust of excitement, a dangerous urge, build up in her.


“Like this!†answered Tazel, revelling in the answer for once, and as Carmen inhaled, he flew into her mouth, infusing her body with smoke and fire. A warmth billowed into her lungs and stomach, then through her blood and bones, her muscle and sinew. Her clothes blackened and curdled, steel rivets forming, as wisps of light flame crawled over her mouth, and dark smoke rose out of her mouth into the clear and unforgiving desert sky.


She never felt such power, like her body was alive, strong and furious. The heat was glorious somehow, not burning but invigorating.


Through red eyes she looked at Axel.


“Now comes the hard part…†she smiled, as she felt Tazel bubbling inside her. Inside her mind, she delved down deep to the demon, and started the questions....

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