So, this is a cute little scene from book 2, Bloodweaver’s Bind, that never made it past the first draft stage before getting cut. This is after Damian has asked Duke Campbell for permission to remain with the gang, and he’s getting the tour of their Chinatown HQ before moving in. I liked it, but it slowed the action WAY down, and ultimately just didn’t make the cut. Here it is in its still rough-draft form, ’cause I still kinda like it.



A Vegas Arcana “Director’s Cut” Scene from Book 2, “Bloodweaver’s Bind.”

The neon glow of the “Golden Dragon” sign bled through the rain-streaked windows as we trudged up the narrow stairs, the smell of sizzling garlic and ginger trailing behind us. I pushed open the door to our headquarters, the loud creak a familiar greeting after the recent chaos. The room welcomed us with its cozy embrace, walls adorned in an odd tapestry of ancient weapons and neon-colored post-it notes. It was home, or at least the closest thing to it.

“Welcome to the madhouse,” I muttered to Damian, the newest addition to our ragtag ensemble. He stepped in behind me, his eyes taking a slow tour of the cramped space. The mix of magic and mundanity seemed to captivate him, shadows of wonder flickering across his face. He had the look of a man who’d just opened a treasure chest, unsure if it was filled with gold or cursed relics.

“Quite the collection,” he commented, running a hand through his hair as he surveyed a shelf cluttered with jars containing substances that defied explanation. His voice carried a hint of awe, tinged with an undercurrent of fatigue. I knew that feeling—exhaustion wrapped in exhilaration, the hallmark of every Deck Runner after their first real dive into the deep end.

“Every item has a story, every scratch a battle,” I said, leaning against a table laden with dog-eared grimoires and arcane devices. I watched Damian absorb the place, his gaze lingering on a set of enchanted lockpicks and a map of ley lines that looked like it was drawn by a conspiracy theorist with too much caffeine in their system.

“Stories for another time, I guess.” His smile was easy, but his eyes betrayed the effort it took to keep it in place. I remembered my own first day, the weight of joining something bigger, messier, and more dangerous than anything I’d known before.

“Another time,” I echoed. We were all worn down to the bone, the mission having taken more out of us than we cared to admit. In the dim light, Sophie slumped into a beanbag chair, her eyes half-closed, while Alex flopped onto the couch, his Hawaiian shirt a loud contrast to the somber mood.

“Man, I could sleep for a week,” he groaned, stretching his limbs with a series of pops and cracks.

“Try not to snore too loud,” Sophie replied without missing a beat, a ghost of a smile playing on her lips.

I moved away, making space for Damian to claim a corner of the room. He slid his duffle bag off his shoulder, setting it down with care. The simple act felt like a ritual, a silent declaration that he was here to stay. It wasn’t just his gear he was unpacking, but his past, his hopes, and maybe a few fears, too. As he arranged his belongings—a few books, some personal trinkets—I sensed the shift in the room’s energy, the subtle acceptance of a new member in our peculiar family.

“Get some rest,” I said, clapping him on the back. “Tomorrow, we plan our next move.”

“Looking forward to it” he replied, though his voice was laced with a weariness that suggested he was looking forward to a few hours of oblivion more.

As the group settled into their respective nooks, I found solace in the familiar clutter and whispered secrets of our headquarters. The comfort of returning here, even bruised, and battered, was a small anchor in the tempestuous sea of our lives. And as I gazed at the faces of my team, etched with the soft light and shadow play, I knew this motley crew was where I was meant to be.


“Let’s start the official tour, yeah?” I said, and Damian looked around trying to take it all in. I led him past the towering bookshelves crammed with grimoires bound in questionable materials, my fingers trailing along their spines as Sophie took point. She gestured toward an ancient-looking astrolabe perched atop a stack of maps.

“That’s been in Eli’s family for generations,” she explained, her tone imbued with reverence. “It can chart more than just stars.”

“Helps when you’re tracking ley lines through downtown Vegas” I added, offering him a wry grin.

Damian nodded, his eyes betraying a hunger for the knowledge each artifact promised. He lingered over a dagger with a handle shaped like a phoenix, its blade reflecting a history of battles unseen by ordinary eyes. “And this?” he asked, voice low, almost reverent.

“Used that to sever a Netherworld tether once. Ugly business,” I admitted, shuddering at the memory. Sophie shot me a knowing look, her eyes momentarily clouded with the shadow of the same recollection.

“Every piece here has a story,” she said, rallying back with a smile. “You’ll add your own soon enough.”

We continued our tour, the camaraderie building with every shared secret and unveiled mystery. As we circled back to the main room, the cramped space felt less confining and more like an alcove of arcane sanctuary.

With a concerted effort, we gathered around the scarred coffee table that bore the marks of magical mishaps and caffeine-fueled strategy sessions alike. The team sank into a mismatch of cushions and chairs, bodies weary but spirits unyielding.

“So,” Sophie began, her gaze sweeping over us, “Damian joining has shifted our dynamics. For the better, I think.”

“Absolutely,” I concurred, feeling the unfamiliar surge of optimism. “Your discipline with magic is something we’ve needed.”

“Thanks,” Damian replied. A pleased flush rose to his cheeks. “I’m just glad I can contribute. There’s a lot I can learn from all of you, too.”

“Mutual learning is the cornerstone of our strength,” I mused aloud. “We’ve got brute force, cunning, and now a dash more finesse. Feels like we’re gearing up for something big.”

“Helheim won’t know what hit it,” Sophie declared, the fierceness in her voice belying the fatigue etched in her features. “But first, rest. We strategize at dawn.”

“Agreed.” I noticed how the others leaned into the conversation, a collective resolve knitting us together tighter than before. “Let’s make sure we’re ready for whatever comes next.”

“So, Damian, what’s your story? Everyone here’s got one. What kind of magic are you really packing, what haven’t we seen yet?” Alex asked, his open expression keeping it from sounding like an interrogation or a job interview.

“Elemental sorcery,” Damian said, watching as Alex’s interest piqued. “Fire, mostly, but I’ve dabbled in other disciplines. My focus has always been on control, precision. It’s not about the size of the flame, but how you use it.”

“Control’s good. We could use more of that around here,” he mused, glancing at an old burn mark on the table. “Guess that makes you our fire whisperer.”

“Something like that,” he said, allowing himself a small grin. “And you? Your card tricks are more than just sleight of hand.”

“Ah, I’m just a guy who loves a good game of chance,” Alex said with a wink. But there was depth behind those playful eyes, a reservoir of knowledge and skill that went far beyond parlor tricks. “The cards, well, they speak to me. Tell me stories, show me paths. And sometimes,” he added, voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper, “they save our asses.”

“Seems like we all have our roles to play,” I observed, folding my arms as I leaned back against the cool wall, appreciating the mosaic of personalities that formed our unlikely fellowship.

“Every team needs a wildcard.” Alex tapped a finger against the deck secured at his hip. “Just as every team needs its pillars. Damian, you’re one of those now, whether you like it or not.”

“Then let’s hope I can bear the weight,” he said, the words carrying an undertone of solemnity. Our conversation wove a thread of understanding between us, binding his story with ours. In this cramped room above a Chinese restaurant, amidst relics of a world both ancient and ever-present, I felt the first stirrings of real family.


“Finding The Dagda is going to be like searching for a needle in a haystack,” I mused. “Only the haystack’s somewhere between realms, and the needle’s got a penchant for riddles.”

“Which is why we’ll need more than just brute force,” Sophie added, her gaze tracing the ley lines crisscrossing the cityscape.

“Helheim won’t give up its secrets easily,” Damian said.

Conversations ebbed and flowed, plans stitched together by the thread of our collective resolve. Each idea was turned over like a rune stone, seeking the hidden meanings beneath. Alex proposed a series of divinations to pinpoint The Dagda’s location, while Sophie suggested enlisting the aid of lesser-known entities who trafficked in information.

“Whatever it takes,” I vowed silently, my determination steeling itself against the coming storm. “We’ll bring Eli home.”

I rose from the threadbare couch, its springs protesting softly beneath my weight. The room was steeped in a comfortable gloom, punctuated by the low hum of conversation and the clink of Sophie’s magical paraphernalia as she meticulously repacked her box. Alex leaned against the wall, arms folded, his eyes distant but sharp—like an eagle surveying the landscape from on high.

“Alright, folks,” I murmured, sensing the natural lull. “Let’s get some rest. Tomorrow’s not going to be any kinder than today.”

Damian nodded, his expression a mix of resolve and newfound belonging. He fiddled with a small trinket that Sophie had given him earlier—a talisman, she claimed, for good luck. It seemed to steady him, offering a silent promise that he was part of something greater now.

“Good night, Mal,” Sophie called, her voice rich with warmth as she draped a woven shawl over her shoulders. Her fingers brushed mine in a fleeting touch, sparking a chain of electricity down my spine.

“Night,” I responded, allowing myself a small smile. In those emerald eyes, I found an echo of the courage that seemed so elusive within myself.

Alex pushed off the wall, stretching languidly. “Gonna hit the sack.” His tone was casual, but his gaze lingered on Damian, assessing the newest addition to our patchwork family. “You need anything, just holler.”

“Thanks, man,” Damian replied, grinning despite the tiredness shadowing his features.

One by one, we retreated to our corners of sanctuary. Books lay stacked in haphazard towers, sigils and symbols scrawled across their spines; each one a sentinel guarding the knowledge we so desperately sought.

In the silence that descended, I found myself standing alone in the center of the room. My gaze drifted toward the window where the city stretched out like a slumbering giant, its heartbeats echoing through the glass.

I took a deep breath, the cool night air filling my lungs. There was comfort here, in the cluttered intimacy of our headquarters. This place was more than walls and a roof; it was a testament to all we’d endured, a fortress against the tide of darkness we dared to hold at bay.

Turning away, I padded toward my own alcove, where a narrow bed awaited. The sheets were rumpled, a sign of restless nights past and those yet to come. Yet tonight, they beckoned, promising a brief respite from the relentless march of hours.

As I settled under the covers, the city’s whispers faded into the background. I closed my eyes, drawing strength from the presence of my team—their quiet breathing a symphony of shared resolve.

“Tomorrow,” I whispered to the shadows. “We fight to bring Eli home.”