New York City, 1933
I was standing at the window of my third floor office with my first cup of joe for the morning.
Down below, the Model A's and Auroras had all pulled over to make way for the marching column of Imperial troops. It looked to be a full company of men and orcs with a destroyer demon and ogre heavy weapons squad. A truck followed along behind. It's canvas cover had been removed and a tripod supporting a trio of loudspeakers stood in its bed. A man's voice blared out from them exhorting loyalty to Emperor Manfred and Count Jasper Adney. The voice also demanded collaboration in flushing out the Resistance.
I shook my head at how the world had been remade by the Great War. Prior to the Winter Solstice of 1916, extremely few people believed that magic was real, or at least real enough to be a weapon of war. One of than was a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm with enough clout to pull a modest budget from the war spending. What Manfred Haeschlin intended was to summon an army of demons for the war effort.
He succeeded in spades.
Not only had he breached the barrier to the Demon Reaches, but the walls to dimensions once relegated to folklore were also fractured. Fair Folk of the Fae Realms, dwarfs and orcs from the Kingdoms of the Hollow Earth, and Lord knows what else were now lose on the world.
As if that weren't enough energies from the other dimensions now permeated the world. Some people unconsciously used that energy to make themselves superlatively skilled at fighting, gunplay, singing or what have you. Others used it consciously, shaping into spells both beneficial and malign as modern day Merlins. Emperor Manfred was one of these. That, and the demons, was why he was Emperor and Kaiser Wilhelm's fate was unknown.
The Empire tried to keep a monopoly on all things beyond the mortal ken, but enough got by to give the Resistance and the Free States a fighting chance. In New York City, the Resistance could call on three Superlatives, a couple of Weird Scientists, a handful of demons and me, the one wizard in the city not Sworn to the Empire. We all knew it was worth our souls if we were found out, but sometimes you just couldn't sit back and let things happen.
In that meantime I paid the rent as just another private dick tailing philandering spouses and tracing skips. Sometimes a case gets interesting. The mobs had adapted to the new players and new rackets. The streets had many, many new ways to make people disappear. Like I said, interesting.
And I just knew, one of these days, interesting was going to get me killed.