“Because there’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature.’”
- General Corman, Apocalypse Now
King’s Gate is the favored neighborhood of Hamilton’s social elite, from the literati to the affluent professionals to the old-moneyed scions of industrial tycoons. While tourists appreciate its cobblestone side streets and manicured parks, visitors come to King’s Gate to see breathtaking examples of Gothic revival architecture: museums, art galleries and upscale apartments. Henry James, who wintered here in 1897, compared King’s Gate to “a madman’s private library where each building ached to tell the terrible tales contained within.” The old hotels and high-rises in King’s Gate possess distinguished names such as Miller Park, the Lawson Arms, the Evangeline, the Frederick, and the Earl. Spacious living areas feature parquet flooring, pear-wood paneling, ormolu chandeliers and marble fountains. Doormen dressed in full livery guard each building’s entrance. A throwback to kinder, gentler days, these doormen are dressed in the finery of bygone years and know the name and number of every resident. Although a friendly rivalry exists between these buildings, their doormen belong to the same fraternity, a secret society called the Portaller’s Guild. The Guild is smaller now, weaker now, but maintains its code of honor, its traditions and its peculiar cant. These modern bluecollar knights discourage loiterers and keep the peace in exchange for which generous tips parceled out during the holidays.
A Conflict in Every Human Heart
Beneath its gilded veneer, King’s Gate is a hotbed of occult activity. For society dames who have gone beyond séances and tarot readings, there are circles that dabble in ritual magic and hermetic mysticism. The invite list for fashionable parties invariably includes a reformed werewolf or aristocratic vampire. Ambitious gentlemen sacrifice black goats to monstrous idols for power. In the deepest subbasements, stage curtains whisper open on sacrilegious passion plays featuring mutilation and murder while domino-masked audiences watch in silence. A sizable group of Iraqi expatriates reside within a few blocks of the old governor’s mansion in King’s Gate, earning this neighborhood the unofficial moniker “Little Baghdad.” In the shadow of the Matahif Mosque, Arab sorcerers in cafés play backgammon and discuss magical theory over strong coffee and cigarettes. Geberian alchemists process spirits, stones and metals to create reagents, elixirs, mercurial ointments and takwin homunculi for an exclusive clientele. For a price, the owner of the Hand of Fatima bookshop will bind minor djinni to a family’s heirlooms, from ornate mirrors and oil lamps to the khanjar daggers possessed by night ghuls.
The Dark Side Overcomes
While organized crime has yet to establish a firm foothold in King’s Gate, the occult energies of the area attract eccentrics, serial killers and cultists. The Red & Blue Society, a para-Masonic cabal of scholars, accumulate arcane lore as defense against greater powers both good and evil. The bound spirits of departed pets guard their legendary library. Retired enchantress Rebekah Dejardines runs Harrow House, an orphanage for master-less familiars unable to return to the realms of Faerie, Hell or Make Believe. Lyndon “Sonny” Lester, lived openly as a well-to-do bachelor in polite society. This man they called the Prophet murdered seventeen people in a twelve-year period, from 1968 to 1980, each death a gruesome reenactment of Christian martyrdom.
Down below the streets, priests and priestesses of the Temple of Sobek breed crocodiles to honor the ancient Egyptian god. Infrared heat lamps bathe clutches of eggs in radiant warmth until they hatch. When the newborn reptiles reach maturity, they are placed in the Temple breeding pits where they reach immense proportions, fed on sewer rats, stillborn pigs and the blood of their less successful brothers and sisters. One woman, the shape-shifter called La Criatura, stands against them as the living avatar of Bast, the Cat Goddess. And while the Temple’s minions search the city for Bast’s champion, the avatar trudges through her day to day life at a seedy strip club, unaware of her destiny. Another cult, the Cult of the Undying worships a nameless, ravenous being dwelling deep within the heart of King’s Gate. After millennia of hibernation, the entity awoke with a terrible hunger, one it can only slake on the blood and souls of the living and the damned. Its worshippers host the spirit within their own bodies, allowing it to roam the surface to murder and feed. Each morning, it exits its host and slumbers, only to rise again at dusk to feed. Human prey is not always enough and the vampires of the city also feel the eyes of the predator upon them.