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Chrysalis
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Mortal Promise
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 31 Aug 2017
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Can Be Found: RhyDin or Stars End
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 9:12 am    Post subject: Chrysalis Reply with quote

It was more than the thunderous noise that shook the air itself; more than the screaming masses in the bottom of the pit; more than the hissed whispers of temptation flowing from dark alcoves, and more than the sum of the sin in this abyss.

It was power itself, and Tartarus hummed with it.

Samuel Adder watched his nightclub lose its collective mind from its highest balcony, a wide and luxuriously appointed half-circle set eighty feet above the dance floor. He often came here alone after dawn, after the club had finally emptied, to look upon this microcosm of his empire and meditate on the coming harvest of the unlucky. Here he could taste the promise of the feast, and when he was not plotting and scheming, he was savoring it.

He was not alone this time -- though another was now gone, he could still sense the presence of Naomi Lin, lingering in the shadows, as close to the exit as she could get. She always kept her distance when he was feeding, and he couldn’t blame her: to those more bound to mortal pleasures, the feeding habits of a succubus seemed a far more intimate and beautiful act than the way he consumed power.

If they could have just one taste, they would not fear me. They would adore me… He smiled thoughtfully as he tipped his hand, and crumbling white embers tumbled into the inscribed silver basin of ashes at his feet.

“Is there anything else you need from me?” It was impeccably stated, but Adder could still feel the fear in her words, even without a tremor to give it away.

Red and black… red and black…” he murmured senselessly, staring into the ashes as a strange wind stirred them, but he could not divine the riddles of the future out of smoke and gusts. That was what she was for. “Have tailors sent to the tower in Stars End, and have the new arrivals fitted for Friday evening. There’s no glamor in owning them if you can’t flaunt them, after all.”

“My lord.” High heels clicked steadily away from him on her next too breath, all too eager to leave his presence.

“Ms. Lin?”

Her breath hitched.

“Send a hairdresser, as well.” His eyes narrowed on the dimming white embers among the ashes, all that remained of another of his beliefs that had been vindicated, and his smile grew. “I’m seeing something… platinum.”

Naomi did not need to ask who he meant. She was too smart to ask; it was why she had been allowed to suckle at the teat of his power for as long as she had. Her steps continued, and he was alone at the edge of the pit once more.

“Tartarus!” he bellowed suddenly, his voice amplified through the air, cutting through the screams, the sighs, the thudding of the music; he willed every light in the club to curve towards him as he strode to the edge of the balcony, his halo of eerie crimson the only visible feature in a sea of blackness.

“Tartarus… my citizens… my friends...” He spread his arms, beaming down at them like a proud father. “Take what you want. Taste what you want. Drink what you want. Tonight… it is free.”

The lights fell away from his smiling face as the depths of the pit erupted with noise.
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Eri Maeda
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 07 Mar 2013
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A faded metal sign stood at the edge of a lot in Stars End, painted glittering white beneath the pale dust caked on from nearby construction sites. Pieces of the lettering had cracked and fallen away, maintenance neglected long before the site was officially condemned, but the once-impressive blue glass letters still clearly read:

Hakodate Snow Palace: Where Dreams Come True!

It was capped by an engraved white dome and minarets, beyond which Eri could see a squat lime-green building, at the base of the skeletal beginnings of a skyscraper still clawing its way up to the skyline. U-STOR-IT was holographically displayed across the ugly little building’s sliding glass doors. She frowned at this development, but was undeterred, marching her way into what had once been a skating rink.

Inside, hundreds of lime-green lockers framed in white plastic lined every wall, with treacherously steep and narrow aluminium staircases leading to catwalks and yet more lockers up above. Each had a letter followed by three digits, and a digital lock activated by a fob.

A simple robot, a white plastic torso with circular green eyes and a motionless gray rectangle for a mouth, turned its head to scan Eri as she entered. A holographic screen was affixed to the counter directly in front of it, currently in poor shape -- several of its tiny emitters had been knocked out of place, with multiple strands of spider silk distorting the patchy display of letters projected out of the counter. “Name, please,” the robot intoned in a clear voice.

Hobnail boots made their familiar clatter and scrape as Eri moved towards the robot. She regarded the machine as calmly as it had observed her. When her mouth opened, she found herself issuing a demand instead of giving an answer: "Mallory St. Martin."

It was an easy question, but the delinquent still flunked on the first try. The robot took several fractions of a second to process the input before responding, “Name not found.” After a beat, it repeated: “Name, please.”

When she heard the programmed reply she gave the machine a dangerous frown, the serene mask slipping for a moment. But after the span of one careful breath, she numbly replied with her own name: "Eri Maeda."

Something inside the robot whirred and clicked. “Welcome, Eri Maeda. Password, please.”

The request for a password deepened the frown. But in her head her own questions gave her her reply. Who is…? "Cassandra." Her voice was as small and quiet as it had ever been, but audible enough to register with the machine.

“Password accepted. Here is your key.” The mouth whirred open, something clicked into place, and then the apparently magnetized gray rectangle returned to its previous state, a key fob with a metal hook dangling from it. Eri’s eyes widened at her own seeming good fortune. “Your locker number is A089. Please return the key to the white plastic bin by the front door when you are finished.”

The robot extended one of its thin rectangular arms, its aim apparently off as it pointed several feet to the left of a white plastic bin, with “FOR A GOOD TIME CALL JACK THE KNIFE” written on it in black sharpie.

She found the locker in question near the front left corner of the building. It glimmered with the same spider silk that distorted the screen at the front desk. With a quick swipe of the newly acquired fob, the locker beeped and popped open.

Within the small rectangular space, a palm-sized black spider lay on its back, its legs curled inward, killed upon the completion of Mallory’s command spell. Tucked in next to it was the letter it had delivered, bound in spider silk, and written on Samuel Adder campaign letterhead in blue ink.

Eri frowned at the strange sight, but paid it less attention than the letter. She tugged it open and unfolded it to read:

Eri,

I have something important to tell you. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you sooner, and I’m sorry for how much heartbreak I’ve caused you by the time you read this.

The man in the window has found me. His name is Samuel Adder.

He is an archdevil, older and more powerful than any being I have ever faced. He claims to have been following me my entire life; he claims to be the one responsible for my power. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know what he’s done so far:

He stopped your ability to regenerate; he willed your body to the brink of death. He wields magic more powerful than anything I’ve seen before. He shredded my wards, broke into my home, twisted Trick’s body like a ****ing marionette, and twisted his mind to forget the entire event. He claims he can incite the minds of an entire mob to murder, and based on what I have discovered so far, I don’t think he’s exaggerating.

I would love nothing more than to personally kill this cowardly fiend and watch his painful passing into oblivion, but he intends the same fate for anyone who stands in his way. When he asked me to join his campaign, before I knew what he was, I declined because it would upend my life -- and I was happy at Panacea, happy with my family, and happy with you.

In response, he forced me to remove from my life everything that could stand between us, and made it very clear that he can and will make good on his threats to destroy all of you if he deems it necessary. I don’t know what he intends to do with me, but I know you are only safe from him if he believes you are no longer in my life.

I am so, so sorry for the pain I have caused you. You deserve none of it. You deserve all of the happiness in the world, and I would do anything in my power to give it to you if I could. You are kind, and fearless, and strong, and I know you would have stood by my side to face him if I’d told you what he’d done.

And then he would have killed you.

He is immensely powerful. I cannot stress that enough. If you can’t stop him, then don’t. I’ll understand. Just look after Trick and Spencer, and make sure you stay out of his way. The three of you are the only family I have.

I love you.

Mallory


Eri's eyes moved over the letters on the page, and as soon as she finished, she started over, still standing in front of the open locker, seemingly unaware of her surroundings.

I love you. She read those words several times before she turned and hurried out, wiping away the tears falling from her eyes, already weary of crying. She thoughtlessly dropped the key into the bin as she hurried out. And as she reread the name on the letterhead, the pace of her steps quickened.
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Mallory
Adult Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject: Mirror, Mirror Reply with quote

((Content warning for suicidal thoughts and self-harm.))

Mallory had her keys out by the time she reached the front door, and had it open and shut in a single breath, slumping back against it and taking deep, shuddering breaths.

Her eyes were shut. She didn’t want to know what her new home looked like. However posh or spartan her new surroundings, they were chosen for her, just like her hair. Her piercings. Her wardrobe. Her job. Her heartbreak. Her fate.

I want to open my eyes and find it was a dream. I’ll be home, safe, in Wayside. Please. Please.

But she wasn’t.

She was on the eighteenth floor of a chic new building in Stars End, in a studio apartment that promised a breathtaking view of Fool’s Luck Bay on the other side of the gauzy curtains that lined the floor-to-ceiling windows. She dropped her bags at her feet, kicking a fallen bundle of new shirts out of her way, and stalked across the austerely appointed room for a better look.

Hers was the tallest building on the block, and her view of the bay was almost completely unobstructed. Her eyes traced the line of a wide avenue across Stars End to the water’s edge, where she could see a spacefaring fishing trawler skimming the surface to settle into the docks among the wooden sailboats and modern yachts. The sky looked too big through these windows, treacherously vast and empty, and reminded her of the long, long way down…

She leaned forward to watch tiny figures hurrying through a crosswalk two hundred feet below, and reached out with her palms to steady herself, but what they struck didn’t feel like glass. Something had stopped her two inches short, something that shimmered red and silver wherever she touched it. An arcane barrier. A gentle tug at the too-taut, too-tough threads of its power, just as Mist had taught her, was all she needed to be sure of the spell’s fiendish origin.

“****er,” she muttered, even as it occurred to her that they were probably watching and listening to her right now; it only took two steps on her way to the kitchen with her eyes closed, focusing on the forces at her work inside her mind, to find that one of them came from outside. They were monitoring her, as often as possible if not every single moment, though the presence was unfamiliar -- undoubtedly one of his countless lackeys who wore well-tailored suits and ****-eating grins.

She reached the massive kitchen island, a gleaming slab of black granite, and took in her surroundings. Stainless steel appliances. Cabinets. A block of knives. A telephone, with a long, sturdy cord that trailed to the edge of the counter. A notepad, with relevant numbers scribbled by some aide. A pen, more than sharp enough with the right amount of force. Plastic bags of takeout and snacks. And another note beside it, placed delicately on top of a small stack.

The curiosity drowned out the dark impulses racing through her head, if only for a moment. She walked over, slowly, and examined the note.

IF YOU ESCAPE -- THEY WON’T

Something between a strangled gasp and a sob rose out of her, smothered by her fist, as she dropped the note, spilling the neatly stacked pile of glossy photographs when she did. The people she loved, the people she cared about, oblivious to the strangers in the crowd who found an opportune moment to snap a discreet picture.

The threat was clear. Even if she did not escape with her life, even if the barrier failed and she smashed through a window, even if she ended this with a knife, a phone cord, or a pen, Samuel Adder still had the means and motive to inflict incredible suffering on her family.

Her shaky sobs gave way to an enraged scream, scattering the picture with a sweep of her arm, stalking through them as they fell on her way to the kitchen counter. She yanked the phone out of the wall and hurled it across the room at her bed. She snatched the carafe from the coffee maker and smashed it against the invisible barrier behind the curtains. She yanked open a cabinet to find it empty, and slammed it shut hard enough to put a crack down the middle.

She yanked open the nearest door, and found herself face to face with the bathroom mirror.

A terrified and angry version of the woman she had been just a few days ago stared right back at her. Her hair, now platinum blonde, swept stylishly away from her face, with her bangs arranged just so across one eye. A septum ring and five earrings, which she hadn’t asked for, either. The clothes she had been told to wear. The fear and sorrow, inflicted on her by this malevolent stranger, that she now wore on her face.

This is the face of a girl who lost her family, who broke Eri’s heart, who couldn’t stop him… This is the face of a girl who isn’t in control.

She struck the mirror with the palm of her left hand, creating a spiderweb of cracks across one side, and leaving a few pieces of it in her torn flesh. Blood welled out of the little wounds and over her fingers, as the throbbing pain finally set in. The pain that I deserve. The pain that I chose.

She let out a scream as she threw the next punch.
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Mortal Promise
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:56 pm    Post subject: The Hook Reply with quote

The Hook and Hand was a bar on the edge of the city, past the older, larger buildings and the old city walls, past the busy port of RhyDin and out where fishers, clam diggers, and bait shops set up shacks of their own along the muddy tracks that this neighborhood called roads. It was on the edge of the water, its front end sunk partway into the mud on a bad day, with the rickety additions that comprised its misshapen posterior dangling over briny, brackish water, held up by a dozen mussel-pocked pilings.

It was also on the edge of a pit, because it was a place so many people fell from -- usually the kind of people who thought they’d finished falling already. The miserable from all walks of life often landed on this ledge before sliding off into the abyss, whether it was the old sailors drowning in their own liquor and piss, the bone-tired pirates and murderers who’d given up on running finally dragged off to the gallows or the headsman’s block, or those crazed few who had seen things one time too many, doomed to disappear into the sea or worse places.

Hector found these miserable souls to be the perfect company, content to let him wallow in his sorrow with a clay jug of cheap liquor, without any worry on any face he could see about what he’d manage to do to himself or any of them. Here, he was far from Polly, far from obligation, far from Ed and Abby and anyone else who gave a ****. These losers get it. None of this matters.

As he leaned on his barstool to peek over the rim of his bottle, suspiciously light the last time he’d hefted it, he slipped free from his seat and crashed to the floor.

“I’ll ****in’ fight you!” he said on reflex, whirling around on the floor, teeth bared in anger, but no one pointed or guffawed. Barely anyone looked. He made a half-hearted attempt to wipe the tracked-in mud off of his ass, gave up, and slumped back into his space at the bar, sans barstool. “Barkeep, gimme another.”

The flea-bitten barkeep gave him nothing more than a glance, too invested in his game of solitaire to bother moving for any man who didn’t already have money in his hand. Too many couldn’t pay in a place like this, and the people here ran out of what little they had left faster than most.

There were enough copper coins for something in the pockets of his camo fatigues, but before he could fish them out, someone was flashing silver. The whiff of it gave him pause, but its owner didn’t seem to be waving it at him. She was a young woman, about thirty, her hair and all but a sliver of her face from this angle covered by a homespun gray cowl. She pointed at a mason jar behind the barkeep with her left ring finger, clad in a copper ring with a dull red stone, and the barkeep dutifully took her money, set the jar and two clay cups in front of her, and spat on the floor.

The woman turned her head, drawing the cowl partway back with a few delicate fingers, golden eyes alighting on him with undisguised delight. “Is this what you’re looking for?” she said slowly, lowering her gaze to the moonshine, then back at him. Her eyes narrowed skeptically.

She was pretty to look at, but… attempting to focus on her face only made the face Hector wanted to see swim back into his vision. “You’re not Linda,” he slurred, giving her plenty of side-eye as he dragged a cup closer and filled it up. “Puta. What are you talkin’ to me for?”

“I’ve had many names, but Linda isn’t one of them.” Whoever she was, she laughed openly at the abrasive wall he put up. “You can call me… Maria.”

Maria wasn’t pouring herself a drink. Hector’s skepticism only deepened, though it would be dulled soon enough by the rancid moonshine now sliding his down throat. “You here to offer me a good time, Maria? ‘Cause I ain’t interested…”

In spite of his words, in spite of his open disinterest, her smile never dimmed. “I’m here to offer you a better time than this. I hear you’re a man who can… get things.”

Hector coughed out a humorless laugh, wheezing through his next taste of moonshine. “Yeah, I get lots of things. Guns. Drugs. Drink. Bad luck. Death. Bitches who won’t leave me the **** alone. Why?”

“We need… the second and third things you mentioned.” Second and third… It took Hector a moment to work that out in his inebriated state, and he hated her for it. “In exchange…” Gold now graced her palm. He leaned forward for a closer look at the coins, but she waved her hand and they were gone. “We are generous and flexible. I think we’d surprise you with all the things we can… offer…”

The fact that he was already getting to his feet did give her some pause. “Enough to keep me busy?”

“Yes.”

“Steady?”

“Steady work for the rest of your life,” she replied, in a tone brimming with promise.

“Okay, mami.” Hector could only chuckle at all her posturing and pouting and the whole sin-and-seduction act. He belched, blew out a breath, and beat his chest with his fist, taking a moment to clear something. “What and where?”

“Shopping list and directions,” she said, a note curled between her fingers, held out and drawn back from his reach with a teasing smile.

He scowled, snatched it, and scanned the words. It was quite a shopping list. It was also completely manageable for a smuggler like him. It’d take a few hours to sleep this off, first, but then?

“Tartarus.” He snorted as he pocketed the note. “Figures I’d trade one hellhole for another. Later.”

Maria smiled to herself as he left, ignoring the desperate eyes now trained on her, failing to understand that Hector’s apparent ascent was part of the same long fall as all of theirs.

Hasta luego, Hector. Until we meet again.”

((Big thank you to Hector's creator!))
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Mortal Promise
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Naomi Lin hadn’t been to Kabuki Street in months, not since a street festival on a cold winter’s night, where she’d lingered at the edge of pachinko parlors and card tables, watching the people around her slip deeper into vice under the haze of flashing signs and paper lanterns…

Coming back on a warm September morning, Kabuki Street felt like a different world to her. The streets weren’t exactly quiet, but they didn’t have nearly the same celebratory mass of humanity; the people opening their stores, sweeping out their entryways, and hurrying off to work didn’t have nearly the same interest in sin and indulgence, far too focused on routine. Only the scattered, desperate, elderly few who were already waiting for the parlors to open piqued her interest at all.

A morning snack? she thought as she smiled back at a white-haired woman, currently rocking slowly in her black flats and clutching a heavy coinpurse as she waited in front of a locked glass door. No… I’m sure I can find something a little more… satisfying.

Her eyes alighted on the sound of girls’ voices on a nearby rooftop, and a telltale plume of smoke as they put together a meal while they chatted. Her steps slowed in front of the old building, which drew slow, predatory head-turns from a trio of delinquents squatting by the door. She smiled prettily at them, drew her black workman’s cap a little lower, and picked up her pace, giving every appearance that she would rather not have gotten their attention…

…but she allowed herself a secretive smile as she heard one of the girls toss a flip phone to another and say, “Bosu ni denwa suru. Sore wa Naomi Lindesu.

* * * * *

It was only a few minutes later when Eri emerged from an alley that ran oblique to the crossing. At the far side she paused to have a quick conference with the group of delinquents who had alerted her, and soon enough she was in slow, distant pursuit of Naomi’s dwindling form. She'd taken steps to disguise herself in plain clothing, thinking that would blend in better than her typical seifuku.

The savvy political operator, on the other hand, was easily recognizable, especially after spending so much of the last few weeks on TV talking up her boss. The black cap and Zhongshan suit made a poor disguise, doing little to cover up the succubus’ curvy figure. There were even a few heads (besides Eri’s) that turned at her passing, either recognizing her from her campaign’s media bombardment or drawn to the aura of lust she exuded.

Naomi didn’t look over her shoulder until she reached an alleyway three blocks away from the neighborhood, but missed the delinquent’s form in the crowd. Eri stopped at the edge of the alley, paused, and nailed the timing when she decided to peek: Naomi had just turned away from a final backwards glance, only part of her still visible as she descended a slick brick staircase into an arched tunnel underneath the block.

Eri hurried to catch up, controlling her descent on the stairs with her hands pressed to either wall, letting her feet fall quietly, and caught daylight at the end of the tunnel that seemed to come out at the other end of the block, and a glimpse of Naomi’s silhouette, disappearing into a side passageway. An iron gate clanged shut after her, foreboding in its appearance… but unlocked.

As Eri ducked into the tunnel, she picked up the pace, as fast as she could while keeping her steps as quiet as she could. The noise echoing into this space provided some cover -- nearby boiler rooms, wheels and hooves on the street, and the heavy hum of generators. She approached the iron gate cautiously, but when she could see no movement beyond it, she opened it up and slipped through, closing it gently behind her.

The darkness was complete, but by touch the tunnel was evidently much narrower and sloped slowly, steadily downward. Up ahead, at least fifty feet, Naomi’s phone lit up, angled away from Eri as she used its light to check around both corners at a T-intersection. Then she turned left, slipping out of sight, the faint light of her phone trailing her for a few seconds before she dimmed it.

Eri hesitated when she found herself in darkness. But after a moment of feeling along the wall with her hands to discern the size of the passage, she resolutely continued. Movement was much slower now, the delinquent's feet testing each step before her weight settled forward. The sounds from the street above caused her to grit her teeth, unable to hear as well as she would like. Once her eyes picked up the faint light ahead and which way it had turned, she moved forward at a quickened pace, determined not to lose her target.

Her quarry had been moving even faster -- when her phone lit up again, it was one hundred feet past the corner Eri had just turned. She turned the small light all around her, Eri’s way, then the other, but the soft rays from her LCD screen did not travel nearly that far. She unlatched a creaking wooden gate in front of her, and was completely out of sight by the time Eri came to a stop at its threshold.

Eri took short, careful steps in the dark, one hand trailing along the rough wall to guide her direction, the other outstretched to feel for any obstacles ahead. Without any sign of her quarry ahead, she was in less of a hurry now, but still determined to explore ahead.

When she reached the wooden gate she paused, hands clenched into fists resting against the barrier. A moment passed and she pushed through, eyes focused on a faint red light ahead of her. The stairs went down ten… twenty… thirty… forty steps, the light growing steadily the entire way, until it gave way to a wider corridor, more than ten feet tall and half as wide. Iron lanterns with red glass spilled their firelight across the way, but beyond them, at the end of the hall, the light became blinding. She moved away from the outer wall, red light illuminating her determined expression and causing her narrowing eyes to appear black.

Her pace increased with each step now, nearing full charge as she reached the end of the hall and the blinding illumination there.

The bright threshold gave way to an enormous chamber, at least fifty feet wide and nearly twice as high, ringed by balconies and dangling with chandeliers that stretched precipitously far on their iron chains, bathing the entire chamber in a deep red glow. She stood on the second-highest of the balconies, flanked by bars and stools, cocktail tables and discarded drinks. There were no patrons, no staff present that could be seen. Something shimmered faintly in the air nearby. And across the massive chamber, a tall man in a dark gray suit stood behind the railing of the highest balcony, arms folded behind his back, lifting his chin to watch Eri with a growing smile.

Eri could not have said what she expected to find at the end of the hall, but the sight of the huge space that she had stepped into was still a shock. Her eyes widened, taking in the scope of the club, the distant balconies and number of them. Combined with the red lighting she couldn't shake the impression, no doubt by design, that she had arrived in Hell.

The shimmering in the air drew her attention once the surprise and disquieting feeling were processed, and she instinctively raised her hands, clenched into diminutive but hard fists as she turned to watch it.

The shimmering mass froze, the faint outline of a face visible through the illusion, straining to keep Naomi Lin invisible. Seen by Eri, even if the delinquent did not fully understand what she was seeing the succubus still feared what would follow any attempt to strike her down.

And the well-dressed man, still unnoticed, took advantage of the distraction to attack.

Eri was already striding toward the illusion-clad figure, one clenched fist raised and ready to strike, when Samuel Adder’s magic struck her. There were three sizzling bolts of arcane energy, deep crimson and crackling with the promise of infernal pain, two glancing across her limbs, sizzling flesh and rippling through her body, and the third hitting her center mass.

The pain of those bolts glancing across her limbs was enough to reach through her rage and send her reeling back with a scream of agony. The third bolt left her staggered and winded.

Only then did the shimmering mass fully reveal itself as the succubus Eri had pursued, grabbing onto the back of her neck with lengthening claws, willing her muscles and joints to lock up. “I don’t remember sending you an invitation,” she crooned as she tightened her grasp.

Eri seemed to be an easy mark for the succubus now. Seized by the neck and feeling the lengthening claws, she still struggled and thrashed with incredible force in the initial moments of the assault, knocking the wind out of Naomi with a blow to the ribs… but it did not break the succubus’ grasp, and Eri's fight was short lived. The shock of her injuries and Naomi's will soon locked up her muscles, leaving her unable to move.

“You didn’t tell me she was strong!” Naomi called wheezily across the room to her boss, who soon flashed through a rippling black tear to stand before Eri.

“She’s a half-demon, child, a mongrel, but still many times stronger than your usual mortal prey. What did you expect?” he sighed, and reached out to lift Eri’s chin with one curled finger, smiling into her eyes. “Hello, Eri. My name is Samuel Adder. We’re going to be making some exciting introductions very soon, but first… why don’t you tell me why you’re chasing my people through the streets of RhyDin?”

He nodded aside to Naomi, who bent the spell to release Eri’s head from its arcane stranglehold.

The yanki bared her teeth in a grimace as she saw Samuel Adder appear in front of her. Her state of extreme emotional disturbance was both suppressing her human side as well as amplifying her oni side: the regeneration at work was moving even faster than normal, repairing the three distinct wounds on her body fast enough that they could see her burns fading.

And with renewed vigor, Eri found the will to break completely free of the spell as soon as its grasp slackened. She stumbled a bit as she was released, and there was an insant where her face passed into shadow, revealing a flash of baleful yellow eyes, glowing like two lamps in the darkness.

“Following to find you… want to sell you some encyclopedias… prick,” she snarled defiantly at Adder, planting her feet and throwing her head back into Naomi’s face before the succubus could grab her again. There was a sickening crunch and a splash of blood in her inky black hair as Eri struck the woman’s chin, bloodying her teeth with the blow.

But while Naomi sputtered, Adder remained calm and collected. “Sleep now,” he whispered over his hand, willing it to be so just as the succubus had done earlier, and smoky black tendrils curled out from his fingers, flowing through Eri’s mouth and nose, curling around her eyes, weighing down her eyelids. The delinquent’s visage returned to its familiar state as she stumbled…

“Naomi? Summon Mallory. I have questions for that foolish girl.”

…and fell as darkness took her.

((Adapted from RP with Eri, with thanks!))
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Nick Cross
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Following the events of the Gala on Friday, September 22nd...

Getting the Red Letter was easy. He was already a fixture in plenty of disreputable establishments. He simply had to watch and wait.

When the letter finally arrived it was time to make his move. His target was the usual type of rich kid come slumming in the docks. He was doing lines and drinking vodka in the corner.

He almost didn't catch it, when a rather unassuming woman slipped by his table and set the letter on the table. He had noticed her drinking alone before. She was good, just made it look like she was leaving, if he hadn't seen that flash of red as she pulled the envelope from her purse he might have missed the exchange altogether. After she was out the door the detective noticed two large men finishing their own drinks and leaving the bar. He made a mental note of their faces then turned his eyes to the target.

The detective watched as the man red the letter grinned and tucked it into his back pocket. His target drank for about an hour more before finally heading out the door.

Nick settled his tab and waited a a minute before heading out the door himself. He quietly gained on the man, walking like he was in a hurry to get somewhere, then he bumped into him. In one fluid motion he pulled the letter from his victim's pocket and stuffed it into his jacket. Unfortunately, the rich kid wasn't have any of that.

"What the hell man! Watch where you're going!" The kid it seemed was ready to fight.

"Hey, I'm sorry man. I was just in a hurry to get home!" The detective backed up holding his hands in the air.

"You gonna be sorry!" The kid shoved the detective back.

"Sorry kid, I don't have time for this crap!" The detective moves fast uppercutting the kid in the solar plexus. The kid falls to his knees, trying to catch his breath and keep from choking on his own vomit at the same time.

In between ragged gasps, "Don't....you know...who my father is!"

To be honest the detective didn't give a crap who the kid's father is and walked away. He waited until he got a safe distance away before looking at the letter.

"Sin worth the price....first taste is free....red metal door....Huh, not far from here." The dead man mutters out loud as he reads the letter before returning it to his pocket.

----------------------


The Door's location was only a few blocks away. The door was located down some stairs to the basement level of a large building of unassuming nature. It was oddly silent, not what one would expect of a club. The detective knocked hard three times on the door and waited. A slot at eye level opened up and a pair of angry black eyes stared back at him. Taking the letter out of his coat the dead man held it up to the slot and waited. The slot closed, and it took a couple of minutes but the door was opened and he was ushered inside by a huge bald man dressed in an ill fitting black suit and tie that looked just about ready to burst at the seams. "Spread your arms and legs" he ordered and the detective complied.

The bald brute waved a wand around and it didn't take long for the wand to start beeping.

"Weapons stay with me, " The brute ordered and handed Nick a basket for his belongings.

The detective grumbled a bit, but in the end took off his coat folded it neatly and placed it in the basket followed by his gun which he tucked in between the folds of his coat. The brute waved the wand around again and when it beeped Nick grinned cheekily and pulled his keys from his pocket. Once more with the wand, no more beeps, he was allowed to take his keys and given a ticket to pick up his belongings when he left.

The brute then opened up another door allowing the detective to step inside the club proper.

The detective stepped into the red light the loud music hitting him suddenly, Heavy Bass Rhythym thrumming loudly, he could feel it in his chest. He looks up first, gazing up at the balconies of the large room. When he turned his gaze to the other inhabitants he was greeted with a sea of hedonism. Drugs, dancing, drinking, and other vices he'd rather he hadn't seen. The air was warm, thick with the smell of booze and sweat.

Spotting the bar, he made his way though the writhing mass of bodies. It took him longer than expected as he would get pulled one way or another by people wanting to dance, or make out. The longer he remained in the throng of people the easier it would be to succumb to the spell of the place. It had to be a spell, because it took everything he had not to succumb to his earthly desires before he finally made it out in one peace on the other side of the writhing, hedonistic sea.

He leaned against the bar, it was warm, but he felt chilled. The sea of people called to him, and it took nearly all he had to steel himself against it. He cleared his throat more for show than anything else and slid onto one of the barstools.

"Whiskey, on the rocks, " He told the bartender, a scantily clad woman with raven locks and violet eyes.

In a few moments the bartender placed his order in front of him. The dead man reached for his wallet, and the bartender shook her head, "The first drink is free, sugar."

"Thanks, " The detective smiled at the woman and watched the room as he sipped his drink.

He could feel the warmth of the booze as it moved down his throat, the heat blossoming through out his stomach, his chest. He didn't realize what was going on until he had already drank half of the glass. The booze had worked it's way into his head greeting him like an old familiar friend. A feeling he had been unable to feel since he had died. Alcohol just didn't work anymore, but this was something else. He knew he should be worried, but as he drank his booze his troubles seemed to move farther and farther away.

When the Corpse Detective finally finished the glass, he found himself paying for another. It was definitely worth the price.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thursday morning…

It was Hector’s third trip to this weird little nightclub in as many days, and he found himself dreading the descent, to the point that he couldn’t follow through.

It wasn’t the darkness, the cramped tunnels, the noise of the underground, the rotting filth -- City Momma knew that never bothered him before. He’d been crawling through worse places and baring his teeth at terrible things twice his size for as long as he could remember. But there was something about Tartarus that got in under his fingernails, crawled up his arms, and slithered down his spine on a thousand little claws.

Maybe it was the way Maria and the other girls she worked with smelled wrong. Maybe it was the look in the normies’ eyes as they came out of that place in a daze, like they knew something he didn’t, even though normies never knew ****. Maybe it was all the red.

Or the fact that this time, the man in charge wanted to meet him.

Hector never trusted politicians. Whenever a new one was elected, wherever he was, he told whoever was listening (usually Jameson or Linda) “they’re up to something, man -- I don’t know what -- but just you wait -- you’ll see.” And Samuel Adder had been ringing that paranoid alarm bell in his head so hard that he wanted to crawl into the bottom of the deepest Cold War bunker he could find until he could stop hearing it.

I take the stuff right up to the gate, and they’ll find it. Don’t even need the gold. ****ers can keep it for the trouble, and keep their ****ing trouble, too.

He resolved on these thoughts with a low growl to himself as he tugged the rucksack on his back with him through a gap in a wooden fence near the end of an alley, wriggling through easily for a man of his size with that kind of cargo. Not just the usual stuff this time -- they’d told him to clean out the back room of a dusty antique shop in Old Temple, bring the three small cedar crates packed with straw, don’t look.

They were nailed shut. He didn’t look. But their uncomfortable weight, and that they were a mystery he wanted no further part in, was getting to him. He shifted the rucksack to the other side of his back, shut his eyes, and thought about someplace safe. A deep dark hole. No doors, plenty of holes. Big warm blankets to crawl under. Enough food to weather armageddon. Polly.

Then he took the steps down into the tunnel, into the darkness most mortal eyes couldn’t pierce.

It was an old electrical tunnel that ran underneath an abandoned hospital, and it was miraculously dry despite the sound and smell of the river a short distance away. White ceramic talls on the floor, ceiling, and walls were gray and black with filth, and about halfway down the corridor toward the broken, picked-clean generator at the far end, something Ed would love, but I ain’t telling that poor kid about this ****in’ place, something had broken through the wall. A wider tunnel of rough, claw-marked stone gave way to a brick-lined passage, like a catacomb, closed at the near end by a black iron gate.

Beyond it, red light beckoned him to take the path down to Tartarus one more time.

Not today.

He came up to the edge of the stone passage, paused uncertainly, then dropped his rucksack on the floor, ten feet from the gate. As it settled, he thought he heard a quick, exhaled breath at the end of the passage. It was darkness he should be able to see through, easily, but maybe through some trick of the eerie red light, or some other trick, he couldn’t make out anything more than a few feet beyond the gate. There was nothing but that breath to let him know that someone was watching him; that, and the unshakeable feeling of eyes seeking to lock with his in the darkness.

“Yo!” he shouted. His voice echoed around him, and drew no answer. He looked over his shoulder and back at the gate as he backed up to the T-intersection, darted his gaze up and down the old electrical tunnel, then narrowed his eyes on the gate again. “It’s all there, man! Everything you want! Sorry, I got… **** to do today, you know?! So you keep the gold! Keep the gold, and we’re cool. Cool?”

No answer.

“Cool,” he snarled, and turned away from the gate. **** this place. He went back the way he came, hands jammed into his pockets, shoulders forward, projecting as much of an air as he could muster that he was someone who didn’t care, but someone you should never mess with. He came up to the base of the stairs, and slowly raised his head to something that was blocking the little sliver of daylight he was honing in on.

Shadows manifesting out of the floor, raising into snarling and snapping shapes to fill the entire passage. The utter, impenetrable darkness they were made from grew and spread towards him, skittering along the walls and ceiling, hissing like a torrent of boiling water along the floor.

He turned and ran. And by the time he reached the broken passage with the gate, where the red light spread with a slow, menacing growl, he was scrambling on all fours. He leapt over debris and darted through it, only gaining speed as he closed in on the generator at the end of the hall. He leapt up to the top of it, then off of it to a rusted-out hole wiring had once run out of. His legs cycled in the open air as he struggled to find purchase, as the chamber behind him flooded with suffocating shadow and crimson fire…

…then he was home free, scrambling through tunnels too narrow for any predator he wasn’t tough enough to face. Up. Up, through the hospital, out, then anywhere safe… anywhere but here!

He twisted left and right wildly, nose twitching, seeking out different smells, the smell of a rotting and abandoned building, different in subtle ways from filthy tunnels. Staler, mustier. He caught wind of it on the other side of a gap, leapt nimbly across it, and began climbing up a steep slope towards faint rays of dusty daylight ahead of him.

But as he climbed, the tunnel widened and smoothed, the caked filth he found purchase in retreating into the pipe. The angle rose… and rose… and rose… until he was free-falling, straight down, wheeling his limbs with a shriek as he plummeted into the pit.

* * * * *

“Hector.”

The voice called for his attention, and he found himself giving it, peeling himself off of a cold brick floor to look up at a man with brilliant green eyes. Red light flooded the vast chamber behind him. They were in Tartarus.

“You’re naked.”

It was not a statement to be spat at and retorted. It was a fact, coming from a man he needed to listen to. He awaited his words with wide and eager eyes, though some small part of his brain that still knew to panic, to run, kept trying to tick away from him and look for the exits.

“Get dressed,” the man said, throwing a dirty brown jumpsuit onto the floor next to him. “And help Maria with the boxes. You have work to do, Hector. Or are you going to run away from that, too?”

There was no need to answer. He got dressed.

* * * * *

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed between then and now. He knew he’d been driving heavy bronze nails, marked with strange symbols running the length of them, through the tops of the dancing cages. He’d been unbolting the cages from their mounts, rearranging them around the vast nightclub, with the help of strangers who seemed to be swimming through the same fog he was.

He must have been at it for hours.

“The Bell of Gomorrah,” the green-eyed man said, and Hector stopped wondering how long it had been, and moved to the crate at the man’s feet. He pulled away matted masses of straw until he uncovered the artifact, lifting it free of its cage: a heavy bronze bell, covered in thousands of tiny runes that each seemed to curl in on themselves and grasp outwards. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked.

“Yes,” Hector replied, because it was what the green-eyed man wanted to hear.

“Set it up.”

* * * * *

The other workers were gone. Maria had left. Now it was only Hector and the green-eyed man who called himself Samuel Adder, standing on the highest balcony overlooking the pit of Tartarus. Broad streaks of white ash covered the brickwork between them. The white embers in the brazier crackled and flared with power.

“Come to me, Hector.”

After hours under his spell, after failing to escape him, after failing time and again to resist his domination and falling completely under his sway, its power was fading, and his stubborn will broke free. He looked down in shock at his sweaty hands, at the debilitating weariness he felt in every muscle from a day of work he barely remembered, and at the smiling politician before him. His shock hardened into anger.

“Yo, Sam! I got something to say -- **** you!” extending both middle fingers. Samuel only smiled, advancing slowly towards him, and Hector traversed the edge of the balcony. This evil wizard or whatever the **** he is was tricky. That was fine. Hector was faster than him. “Making me do this **** all day, when I gave you a deal walking away from that money! So **** you, and **** your stupid clubs, and **** your stupid campaign. I hope you get no votes.”

Samuel Adder didn’t answer. He only stepped towards Hector, trying to close the distance between them.

Hector grinned. I got something for you, idiot. Come and get it.

When they were only ten feet apart, with Samuel Adder reaching out for him, Hector drew back to the railing, then leapt right at him. Flat teeth turned to fangs, fingernails turned to claws, fur erupted from skin, and his form twisted and shrank. He could see both his arms, see both his hands, and see that he’d be too quick to be stopped. He’d bite him on the neck, a sweet little gift to remember me by, and get the hell out of there.

Until something unseen, controlled by a simple flourish of Samuel Adder’s long-fingered hands, dug its talons into his hide. He shrieked as he struggled to break free from its painful, panic-inducing grasp. He shrieked as Adder’s despicable smile swam into his vision.

He shrieked as a searing, white-hot pain consumed his beating heart.
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Ed
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Oh thank God you’re here,” Olive said with no small measure of exasperation. He found her on the walk in front of the apartment building in Old Temple, pacing back and forth. An inconsolable wailing bundle was tucked against her breasts. She thrust the baby into Ed’s arms immediately. “Here. Been screaming all morning. I can’t take it anymore. Nothing makes her stop but you.”

Sure enough, as soon as he had the newborn cradled in his arms, she ceased all her noises. Why me? He wondered, sighing.

“I need a cigarette,” Olive grumbled. “You got one?” Without waiting for an answer, she started patting him down and found what she was looking for in his back pocket. He squirmed where he stood and then bounced a step aside when she’d freed a cigarette from the pack. “Light?” He rolled his eyes and cocked his hip toward her. He tried not to shudder as she dug the Zippo out of his front pants pocket.

“Did you feed her?” he asked, peering down at Polly’s passive little face. He couldn’t help but smile. Why were babies so darn cute? He stuck his finger close to her nose. She wasn’t coordinated enough to reach for and grab it yet, but she wriggled, rooting. He let her suck on his finger without complaint.

“She won’t eat,” Olive snapped. The Zippo snapped too, when she shut it. Both sounds made him flinch, one after the other. She tucked the lighter back into his pocket, exhaled away from him and the baby, and then shuffled a few more paces away.

“Changed her diaper?”

Olive glared at him slantways. “No point. No eating, no wet nappies.”

“Did you at least check?”

“‘Course we checked! Sizzle looked for stray hairs maybe caught ‘round her toes. Tried burping her. Rocking her. Pert sang her a lullaby. Nothing’s made her quit all morning ‘til you got here.” With a severe frown the woman exhaled another vicious plume of smoke. She looked at him with pure hatred. He could almost hear her thoughts.

It’s not right. Rearing babies is woman’s work. That baby ain’t right. No more than he is. Maybe that’s why she takes to him so well.

And Ed shared a secret, sad smile with baby Polly as she suckled his fingertip. He nudged her tiny hand with its conjoined middle fingers with his pinky. Her reflexes were good, even with the deformity. Her grip was strong.

Us freaks gotta stick together, he thought.

Together, Ed and Olive jumped at the sound of a shriek that had come from inside the building. They recognized that lamenting scream immediately. Ed elbowed past the smoking woman and leapt down the half stairs to the basement level. The baby remained quiet, tucked against his chest, as he stormed into the apartment that had once been his own.

Abby was on the floor in front of the refrigerator, on her knees, hugging herself tight, rocking forward and back. Pert was floating to her knees beside her and reaching to tuck an arm around her as Ed came in. “What is it?” she asked Abby softly.

“Hector,” Abby gasped.

In the short hall behind him, a collection of other voices gasped. Ed looked back to see many faces he recognized and some that were new. He stepped sideways, further in past the broken couch, and made room for them. Polly made the tiniest of squeaks in his arms.

“No,” someone said. “Not Hector too?”

“Yes.” The reply from Abby was hardly an exhale. Rocking forward, she put her hands to her face and sobbed. All around them, others joined in to cry with her. Even Ed.

But not Polly. She had worn herself out crying already. Ed looked again to see that her eyes were closed. Finally, she was sleeping. He wondered. Had she known even before Abby? Was she a Seer too?

---

Without a body, they held a small, private service in the dark and quiet of the basement apartment. Many ‘Kin came through to whisper prayers to the idol of City Momma they had placed atop the fridge. Ed stayed for as long as Polly napped, then handed her off to Pert when she stirred. She fussed, but did not cry anymore, and she finally took to eating.

“Eddie.” Abby, wraithlike in the candle lit apartment, sidled up to him. Her dark eyes were haunted. She set her hand on his arm.

Concern and sadness moved him to turn and wind his arms around her. Without a word, he stuck his nose to her hair and hugged her tight. She was tense in his embrace. After a minute, she loosely tucked her arms around him, too.

“Be careful tomorrow night,” she whispered ominously in his ear. “Keep your wits about you, baby boy.”

Drawing back his chin, he looked her in the eyes and nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

The most fleeting ghost of a smile flitted across her lips. She looked so worn, tired. Everybody did, he noticed. Having a baby in the building was taking its toll on them all. She touched his cheek, then kissed the other, and drifted away.

Ed took a deep breath and steeled himself. First Linda. Now Hector. Mournfulness threatened to engulf him, but he resisted. He had plans tonight. Goshen had promised him he’d enjoy himself, and so he was determined to do so.

A sense of something being wrong followed him the rest of the day and into the night, though. Regardless of how willful he was about having a good time, it followed him to the party the following evening too.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The first thing Eri was aware of when she awoke was the pulse of bass, distantly heard through the brick walls of the cell she found herself in. It only took a moment to remember the fight in the club, and Adder's voice telling her to sleep. She sat up on the edge of the cot she had been laying on, shivering for a moment.

Then she stood and began exploring the confines of her cell.

There was a curtain covering one corner of the room; she pushed it back, revealing a small bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. There were faint markings on the cell floor, but in the dim and disorienting magical light in the cell, they were impossible to make out… That left only the heavy iron door with a small barred window to explore. Before she could move to it, she heard the sound of footsteps approaching, and she saw the indistinct figure of a hulking bouncer, stooping to slide a tray of food through a slot in the bottom of the door. She waited until their steps moved away before crossing to the door, moving the tray aside with her foot while she looked out the window. All she could see was a section of dimly lit hallway as she instinctively tried pushing at the door.

It wouldn’t budge.

Leaning against it for a moment while she thought about her predicament, Eri realized that she was hungry and thirsty. Had she eaten anything in the days since Mallory had handed her that letter? She picked up the tray and sat down on the edge of the cot to eat the food she had been brought. As soon as she was finished, she set the tray aside and covered her face with her hands, waiting in darkness and near-silence save the rhythmic hum of bass through the walls. She had nearly fallen asleep again when she heard more footsteps approaching, and got up to the window in her cell door for a better look.

"Miss Maeda, so good to see you again." Samuel Adder’s mocking warmth echoed down the hallway, accompanying the approaching footsteps — soon interrupted by a more familiar voice.

"Eri?!" Mallory. She sounded incredulous, and rushed over to see for herself. Her eyes widened at the sight of the delinquent.

The witch looked different. Her hair was a shockingly pale blonde, perfectly arranged, and her ears and nose gleamed with shiny new piercings. She wore a white shirt with a peter pan collar and a black sportcoat she normally wouldn’t be caught dead in. And behind her carefully applied makeup, her eyes betrayed signs of crying and exhaustion.

Eri's teeth clenched as she heard that mocking voice. She took a breath to speak, but whatever insult she'd been about to cast caught in her throat when she heard Mallory's voice. As the witch came into view of her window the delinquent crowded the door, her hands coming up to clench at the iron bars. Taking in the sight of her, even looking so different and with such suffering evident in her eyes, Eri still couldn't supress a familiar smile even as her eyes filled with tears.

"Of course it's me. I wanted to see you one more time, and tell you that I love you too," she said, her voice breaking when she spoke the words. She continued in a rush: "I'm sorry that I screwed up! I thought I could win. Please don't be mad at me."

"Mad at you?" Mal laughed incredulously, a sob burbling out along with it. "I broke up with you out of the blue, I left you in the lurch, and you came looking for me... Of course I’m not mad at you," she whispered, sliding her hands over Eri’s through the bars, holding on as tight as she could. "****ing Christ, I’m so in love with you."

She darted a look back at Adder, who was now stepping past them, gesturing down the hall at someone unseen. "Babe. What’s he done to you?" She gave Eri a worried look.

The yanki leaned her form against the door, days of tension leaving her as she heard the reply Mallory whispered to her. She kept her face pressed close to the bars, tears streaming unevenly down her cheeks. "I'm glad, truly," she whispered back. There was a brief glance at Adder stepping past, but her eyes went directly back to look into the witch's. "Nothing. We fought and I couldn't win. He told me to sleep and I woke up in here. I'm sure whatever happens now won't be good, but this was what I chose. What I wanted."

"Eri..." Mallory squeezed her hands, looking aside once more as the toll of a heavy bronze bell reverberated through Tartarus. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. "I’m going to get you out of this," she whispered, and gasped when Eri’s hands slid away from hers.

The yanki was still standing in the cell, but had stepped back from the door, her eyes dull, focused on nothing. An eerie red light was fading from the faint markings that criss-crossed the floor of her cell.

"Eri?" When there was no answer, Mallory whipped her head to face Adder, her features twisted in anger: "What the **** did you do to her?!"

Adder closed the distance with long, rapid strides, and when Mallory stuck her jaw out defiantly, he slapped her hard across the face. “It is what you did, you stupid girl! Did you tell her you loved her when you broke her heart? And she thought she could win! How did such a thought ever come to her -- did you tell her about me in your next breath? Speak!” he roared, pushing her back against the wall with a solid thud, hands pressed to her shoulders.

Mallory’s cheek stung, still red where he struck her, but she did not lower her eyes from the archdevil when he roared in her face. “I tried… to warn her,” she hissed, unflinching when he snarled in reply to her insolence. “I knew she wouldn’t give up… I knew she would dig… so I left a warning on the trail I thought she’d follow. The warning told her to keep her head down and leave you alone. You think I’d lure my girlfriend into danger?”

Adder’s lips thinned as he scrutinized her, searching her eyes for some sign of a lie… but none was found. “You already did,” he said, and with a helpless shrug, released her, stepping away down the hall, back towards Tartarus.

“Adder!” Mallory cried hoarsely, taking a few steps after him. “What are you going to do with her?!”

He let out a slow chuckle, pleased at her desperation, at how easy it was to place her firmly back under his control. “Oh, she’ll be unharmed… until I’m done with you. Then she’s free to go. But this is where my charity stops. If you do anything else to jeopardize your friends’ safety, I will destroy them. I promise.”

Mallory’s gaze fell slightly from his face, her frown deepening, her eyes ticking back and forth as her emotions seesawed on a precarious balance between the desperate terror she’d been feeling for her friends and family all along… and the steadily growing fire of wrath.

“Come along, Ms. St. Martin. Let’s watch the evening’s entertainment together.”

* * * * *

For a change, the highest balcony at Tartarus was not so isolated.

Samuel Adder rubbed shoulders with a few of the higher-class, more respectable members of this city’s underworld, well-dressed gangsters from powerful old crime families, trading jokes and kisses and toasting their plans for a more profitable future.

Nearby, a trio of women who seemed to comprise Adder’s inner circle charmed and seduced the younger men and women mingling around them, a little less respectable but no less useful for the empires he had planned, whether they turned out to be political or otherwise. Naomi Lin was one of their names, or at least the name she had chosen for now; the second was Maria Ruiz; the third, Shannon O’Connor. None of them were likely of this world or any world like it, too graceful in their movements, and reeking too much of illusions.

They paid little attention to Mallory St. Martin, standing with her arms folded over the edge of the railing, staring at the dancing cages below, but she listened to them. She thought about their names, their faces, and what other guises they might favor. She thought about what they were probably capable of, the magic at their disposal.

And she thought about killing them.

Thirty feet below her, on one of the lower balconies Eri Maeda danced within one of the thirteen cages scattered around Tartarus. Her eyes were lifeless, but her smile was bright, bobbing her head in encouragement to the patrons dancing around her cage as she stepped and clapped and shook for their amusement, a marionette for the man who fancied himself the puppetmaster. He’d even picked out a red-and-black seifuku for her to wear, in an apparent fit of inspiration from his upcoming gala.

The sorrow was not gone, nor the fear. Both roiled in her gut, clenching it into knots as she grit her teeth, but she did not take her eyes off of Eri. Wrath had found its home in her heart, and she meant to show it to this pit of indulgence and despair before the devil decided he was done with her.

((Adapted from live play with Eri! <3 Thank you!))
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It wasn’t even five o’clock on Friday when Vash decided to close up shop at Panacea.

This had been one of the shifts he always shared with Mallory, closing on Fridays, staying open another hour or two while the local college crowd decided they’d kick off their weekend with an old-fashioned card reading down in the basement, and a few treats for the road. Now, Fridays were quieter, and Vash hated the new energy they held.

He’d tried napping in the patch of sunlight that appeared near the front late in the afternoon, but found that (for a change) he couldn’t sleep at all. He watched the door, sighed, circled his spot and laid back down and sighed some more.

Cane wouldn’t care, especially not tonight. And a bunch of people were off at some soiree across town, anyway.

He had his keys in hand as he backed through the front door, ready to pack up, when a shock of color in the doorframe caught the corner of his eye. Some weirdo leave us flowers? Did I drop something? No...

He dropped to a crouch on the balls of his sandaled feet, reaching out to touch the small cluster of belladonna flowers growing out of the base of the doorway. They hummed with the flickering warmth that signaled the coming of autumn, brimming with the magic of the equinox that was now at hand.

He leaned to one side for a better look, and finally saw what the belladonna flowers spelled out:

HELP

“Mal...?” He frowned, shook his head, and dug out his phone to snap a picture. “Sorry, boss,” he muttered to himself. “But I’m pretty sure you’ll wanna see this...”
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Friday evening...

“Look, I know you said--”

“It’s fine.” Canaan cut off the shopkeeper's attempt at conciliation with a steel-edged reply and the sharp wave of a hand that conveyed his desire for silence. He didn’t care that Vash had disobeyed an order to leave him alone today. A girl’s cry for help was reason enough to lure him out of the Autumn Prince’s domain. “Where’s the letter she left?”

Vash glanced toward the office, so Cane started in that direction. The other man followed, but remained at the foot of the stairs, calling up to him. “It’s in her file. What’s going on?” There was no answer, just the metallic creak of the cabinet being opened. The Cajun didn’t even take the time to close the drawer before he reappeared in the doorway and descended the stairs.

“Have you heard from her at all since she left?” He slipped the letter into an inside pocket of his jacket.

“No.” Vash shook his head, trailing after Cane to the front door. He watched him kneel down to inspect the message, running calloused fingers gently through the petals. “That was a week ago. Her things are still downstairs.”

Cane said nothing in response to Vash, considering his options as he stood. The flowers and vines shriveled up into nothingness, burnt to cinder and ash that floated away in the salty breeze that swept in from the west.

--

Canaan was so lost in thought that he didn’t immediately realize he’d passed the derelict manor house until he’d gone two buildings too far. After doubling back, the reason for his error became apparent.

The witch’s influence shimmered around the building, tangled wards haphazardly strung up like unkempt christmas lights. Meant to detract, distract, lead the eyes away. The more he focused on them, he could feel the push back from Mallory’s magic. He knew it wasn’t her best work when, after a twenty second search along the edge of the property, he found a weak point in the matrix. One small tug was all it took to unravel the messily applied illusions and on by one her wards and failsafes collapsed.

He pressed a palm to the door. Brittle, peeling paint disintegrated beneath his touch. There was only one person inside, two floors up. He drew his hand away to knock, then tried the doorbell instead when no one answered.

The door was opened a minute later by a deeply skeptical young man with steel blue eyes and a guarded expression. “Yes?”

“Looking for Mallory.” Canaan looked past the boy to what he could see of the foyer and beyond.

“She’s not here.”

He already knew that, but frowned any way. “You the brother?”

“Trick.”

“Trick,” he repeated. Cane took a moment to scrutinize him. Trick stared back evenly, his expression steady and unyielding. Between that and the boy’s body language, the Cajun could see why he’d managed to capture Salvador’s attention. “Would you be able to tell me where she’s at? I could track her down myself, but that’d take time I don’t have.”

“Um. Well…” Trick hesitated briefly. “You’re that guy she used to work for, right? The, uh… the Green Man. From Beltane.”

“Right. Cane. She worked for me at Panacea through the summer. But then I got a letter last week saying she took another job.”

Trick relaxed fractionally, letting the door open another inch or two as he leaned against the frame. “Yeah. She’s doing some magic **** for that guy who’s running for office. Adder? I think that’s it. It was pretty sudden. She just up and moved out to go… I don’t even know what exactly she’s doing. I assume the same stuff she did for you.”

There was a piece of information there that set off alarm bells in Cane’s mind. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “She moved out? Did she say where?” When Trick’s eyes narrowed at him, he offered the kid a lopsided smile. “All of her ****’s still sitting in the basement of my shop.”

“Oh.” The boy scratched his jaw. “She gets caught up in stuff sometimes. I don’t know much about campaigning, but it’s probably pretty demanding. I can come pick up her stuff if you want.”

“Sure, sure. That’d be great. Come by anytime next week. I’ll have Vash get it all together for you.” Not wanting to worry Mallory’s brother (who likely wouldn’t be able to help out anyhow), Cane refrained from shedding any light on the truth. “You don’t know where she moved, though?”

Trick shook his head, shrugging bare shoulders. “Stars End? That’s all she said. But you could probably ask her girlfriend, Eri. Eri Maeda. I’m sure she knows more than I do about it. I’m just ‘the brother.’” One side of his mouth hooked upward for a split second, the flickering spark of a smirk.

Cane smirked, too, but his lingered on his face while offering out his hand for the boy to shake. “Thanks, Hoss. ‘Preciate it.” The smirk stretched into a full blown smile as he watched Trick consider his hand for a moment before taking it. The second their skin touched, however, Cane drew from his infernal gift of Sight.

Beneath the aura of Mallory’s own magic, which he’d easily sensed on Trick from the moment they met, lay a darker, malevolent force that saturated the boy’s Spirit. He saw what the mortal eye could not: a body and mind tainted by hellish force. The damage was not lasting; it would fade with time. But he sensed the intricate spellwork Mallory had willed upon her brother after the fact, the great care she’d taken in binding this young man’s psyche from remembering whatever hell had been imposed.

He thought back on the Witch’s letter. Specifically: While I was given a choice, I wish they had given me better options. What had been the options? Join me or I kill your brother?

Patrick was none the wiser for Cane’s intrusion. “Sure, man.”

They finished shaking hands; Cane took his leave after that. He had a party to attend.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Six o'clock Friday, before the gala...

The fae knight walked at his lady’s side down the streets of Stars End, something they never would have been able to do in Faerie but had become accustomed to on the streets of RhyDin. Here, he was not just the silent guardian. He was a companion. Friend. Confidant. He measured his longer stride to keep up with the clicking of her red high-heels on the pavement. It was good to hear that noise again. She had abandoned her high-heels and fancy dresses for a while. It had worried him. She was so quiet. So disheartened. So broken.

Now there was a bit of life to her once more. A crispness and determination to her step. A cunning, bright light in her grey eyes. His lady was most alive when playing the game.

Ishmerai just wished something else had brought that back to her. Someone else.

It was no secret in the household of The Empress that the good knight did not like Samuel Adder. “He is a snake, Mira.”

“And you, my dear knight, have reptilian scales. Do you not like him because he reminds you of yourself?” she teased him, kissed his cheek, and did exactly what she wanted despite his repeated warnings.

They took the elevator up to his office. Elevators were the worst. He watched Jewell adjust her short, perfectly coiffed hair in the distorted reflection of the silver doors. He glowered.

Catching him in the act, she smiled first at his reflection and then at him, turning to adjust his leather jacket needlessly. “I will only be a few minutes, okay?” She did not promise. They both knew better.

The opening doors delivered them onto the floor bustling with Adder Campaign business. Jewell breezed through the people. Like water, they parted like a wave for the force of the tide. Such was the nature of her personality and gifts. Unlike on the street, Ishmerai followed behind her as she lead the way to Adder’s office. The space Jewell left behind her had immediately filled back up again, the air abuzz with the chatter of office matters and juicy gossip.

His receptionist had her own office, an anteroom to his larger abode, so she could play gatekeeper between the candidate and his visitors and staff. Jewell graced her with a smile. Chit-chatted. Then she buzzed him on the intercom to let him know she was there.

“Come in, please,” his affable voice sounded through the double doors to his office, swinging open to admit her on command.

Inside was a view of Stars End’s bustling financial district, all wide pavilions and ornate fountains and gleaming skyscrapers, with clerks and investors and other white-collar workers coming and going on foot or by hovercar. A bright blue one raced right by his window, briefly drawing his curious gaze as he turned behind his desk.

Mallory was pulled up in a stiff chair beside his desk. She rose, as she had been sternly instructed to, when she heard someone entering, clapping shut the handsome leather notebook she’d had in her lap up until that very moment. Her eyes were wide with surprise at the familiar but unexpected sight of Jewell and Ishmerai, and her hands tightened around her notebook until her knuckles turned as white as her hair.

But by the time Samuel Adder had turned back around, her expression had leveled off into a slight, polite smile befitting her position. She bowed her head, took a step back as her new boss spoke.

“Jewell,” he said warmly, standing now, stepping out from behind his desk, holding out both his hands for hers in greeting. “You’re early! I was hoping you would be. Ms. St. Martin and I were just finishing up.”

Samuel’s warm greeting was lost to her surprise. “Mallory!” the familiar name escaped as the young witch was dismissed. Confusion quickly supplanted the shame and embarrassment she felt every time she saw Mallory since the trip to Perihelion, but even confusion was overcome by pleasure. “I shouldn’t be surprised. Samuel did say he had an eye for talent, and I know few people as talented as our little Mal.” She smiled at the witch, apparently proud, before crossing the room to kiss Samuel’s cheek in greeting. “I hope I didn’t interrupt anything too important.” It was an empty nicety. When did The Empress ever care if she was interrupting anything?

Ishmerai was no less surprised to see Mallory working with Mr. Adder than Jewell was, immediately taking note of the changes to her appearance but saying nothing. Mr. Adder received a cold, barely perceptible nod of his head, but he did not stir from the door until instructed.

“Wait for me outside, Merai. We just have some finishing touches to go over.” The pause was coupled with a coy smile. “For the gala.”

The knight bowed and then stood aside, waiting for Mallory to proceed ahead of him, which she did at a dismissive shooing gesture from Samuel Adder. He had more important indulgences in mind than parsing his future through the visions of a miserable young witch, and no sooner had she and the knight crossed the threshold, than the doors slammed shut at Adder’s command.

The receptionist was gone. Mallory glanced over her desk, noting the Mute light on the ringer, quietly abandoning her post rather than risk overhearing her boss making noises she had not signed up to hear.

But the witch did not follow suit. She knew her reading would resume as soon as Adder was done. There were things about her confusing portents he wished to understand before the gala, in case any of them became important. Black letters in red books. A glass slipper. A sea of painted bodies. An open cage. Darkness. Rats. Fire. Whatever their meaning, Adder seemed to lack the patience to untangle it, pressing Mallory harder and harder for clear predictions, tightening his vicelike grip around her and Eri…

Her knuckles had gone white again, but as much as she wanted to look at Ishmerai right now, she sat in a leather chair near the receptionist’s desk and reopened her notebook, head bowed to her work.

The knight chose to brood by the door, arms crossed and as still as a statue. He did not look once towards the door (no matter what his sharp ears heard), but he did cast a glance once, twice, thrice, aside at Mallory. When it seemed clear she was intent on ignoring him, he cleared his throat.

Nothing.

Slightly exasperated and concerned, he finally spoke up, “I did not expect to find you working in a place such a this, Mallory.”

Her finger paused on a page… then continued turning it. “They made me an offer. They pay very well.” She smoothed the pages, thinned her lips, and shut her eyes for a moment. There. She could sense the arcane threads of the protective enchantments around his office, and how they vibrated with the energy of lust, something she’d learned how to detect leading up to the fight at Sanctuary.

She opened her eyes, affecting a half-smile in reply to the knight, fighting back the urge to run to him now, to beg him to fight beside her, free Eri, strike this awful archdevil down for good. He’s too powerful… he’d kill us all.

“They set me up with a furnished apartment and everything.”

“I did not realize you put much value in material things.” His tone had a tinge of disapproval when he was truly more confused than anything. If she had wanted money, needed it, Jewell could (and would) have provided. Making a deal with a faerie (from the fae’s perspective at least!) was much safer than a deal with a fiend. A minute ticked by in awkward silence. He could actually hear the second hand on the clock moving along. “Are you… satisfied with your work here?”

“Growing up without, it’s nice to have. Beats the hell out of thirty silver per diem.” She suppressed a wince at the hurled barb, and silently begged whatever being would listen to stop Ishmerai from walking out, right then and there. The powerful thrum of lust on the arcane threads was building quickly… she only needed a few more moments… “They have me doing research and divining the future, so… there’s no job more perfect for someone like me.”

A furrow creased his brow as he turned somewhat to give her more of his attention. It was clearly not needed elsewhere at the moment. His tone was stern, reproving. “Your skillset is very valuable. If all you needed was more money, you only had to ask. I know you do not always think highly of my lady, Mallory, but -- ”

There. With that pulse of lust along the threads of arcana around them, Mallory knew that Adder was lost in the throes of passion, unable to concentrate on watching her words or on any other magic he commanded. This was her best shot. This could be the only chance she and Eri got, as far as she knew. She lifted her head suddenly to look at him, her eyes wide, desperate, pleading, and mouthed:

Please help me. He has --

Whoever or whatever he had, she did not get to say. Her desperate expression fell as soon as she felt the familiar pull of one of Adder’s many lackeys picking up the slack, scrying on the witch mere seconds after his own spell had failed. She could feel an awful little ball of despair forming in her chest as she sucked down everything she felt from that moment of hope among all the despair. Her polite smile fell to a faintly disapproving frown as she shut her notebook.

“I worked for your lady. She fired me. Then I worked for Cane. Now I’ve found a better job. There’s nothing more to say.” Her fingers tensed again, wincing inwardly at the feeling of heartbreak those words caused her.

His green eyes widened a touch, but just as he was preparing to offer his assistance, the wall went up between them again through the coldness of her actions and her words. “I see,” he offered after a pause that was just a beat too long. He gave what seemed (at least to any video surveillance in the office) to be an annoyed glance at the office door as he turned back to his post, giving Mallory his profile once more.

What did Adder have on her? Why did she need his help? How could he give it if they couldn’t even communicate? “I suppose congratulations are in order then,” he stated stiffly.

“Thank you, Sir Ishmerai,” she replied without looking up, not quite suppressing the quaver in her voice. It didn’t matter. There wasn’t anything more she could say to him, not now, not without endangering everyone.

As if on cue, the doors swung open, followed by the sound of Jewell and Adder’s comingled laughter. His hand was on the small of her back as he escorted her out, and he spared a brief flash of a pleased smile aside to Mallory and her obviously distressed state as he said to Jewell, “Don’t worry, I’ll be down in a few minutes, and we can head over. Ms. St. Martin and I just have to finish up.”

Her head down, her shoulders squared, Mallory marched between Adder and Ishmerai, the notebook clutched tightly to her chest. “Have a good evening, Jewell, Ishmerai; I hope to see you there,” she said quietly, before slipping back into his office.

Jewell cast a puzzled look between Ishmerai and Mallory before brushing away the lingering tension. It wasn’t going to ruin her good mood. “Don’t keep him too long, Mallory,” she chided her playfully despite the teen’s downcast disposition. Then, in obvious good humor, she looped her arm through one of Ishmerai’s and led the reluctant knight out of the office.

* * * * *

They fought outside.

“I do not care if he is your latest toy, Mira. That man is trouble. Mallory is in trouble.”

The faerie tried to brush away his concerns with a wave of her hand. “You keep saying that, but you know nothing.”

“No, my lady. You are the one that knows nothing: nothing about that man. He is dangerous. Far more dangerous than I think you know.”

She laughed at him. “Don’t underestimate what I know. I know he’s dangerous. Do you think I just trifle with anyone? That’s why I like him. Who wants to **** some pokey ol’ suit who grunts like he’s about to die every time he thrusts? Really Ishmerai.”

“Jewell,” he growled her name as she refused to take him seriously and poked fun at the entire situation.

She simply laughed at him again. A good afternoon **** always put her in a pleasant, playful mood. “Stop, Merai. I know you’re fond of the girl, but all you think she said was help me, but you don’t even know what she needs help with! Isn’t it more likely that Mallory is just in over her head? They’re probably expecting more of her than she can deliver. You know how she is. Our little witch has quite the ego and confidence in her skills. She’s the one that insisted on going to Sanctuary, right?”

The knight conceded reluctantly, “Yes.”

Jewell continued, “It seems like the same thing. She saw something she wanted to be involved in, and she just jumped right in without thinking that maybe she can’t handle it.”

“I do not think this is the case, Mira. She seems scared.”

The Empress refused to believe it was anything serious, brushing off his concerns once more: “A little bit of fear is healthy when you’re meddling with fiends and faeries, Merai.”

((Written with Jewell's player! Thank you!))


Last edited by Mallory on Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

((Content warning: physical abuse))

Saturday, after the gala, before dawn…

“People seemed very interested in you tonight, Nadya.”

It was Adder’s enunciation of her birth name that chilled Mallory more than his unspoken question. She had excuses that she had practiced in her head, the result of dozens of imagined conversations between herself and a man prone to violent, potentially deadly outbursts.

Like I’ve done before. He’s no different. Worse… but no different. She carefully schooled her expression as she watched buildings flash by through the tinted windows of his black sedan.

“Is that what you wanted? For me to be interesting?”

She could hear him shifting on the back seat, angling himself towards her; she could feel his gaze burning into the back of her head, though he remained slouched into the corner, relaxed, as if he would not strike. An unspoken lie that she recognized for what it was. “I wanted you to be useful. I want you to be useful,” he said slowly, smilingly, like a father gently chiding his daughter.

She braced herself. “Am I not?”

With a subtle beckon with two of his fingers, Mallory’s muscles seized up painfully, wrenching her around in her seat, twisting her to face him. She stifled a cry, but managed not to greet him with a snarl. She saw the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror, but he said nothing. People rarely did anywhere, and she did not expect it at all here.

“Your visions so far have meant nothing. Nothing about the debate tomorrow, nothing about the numbers that will start coming in next week...! Only a few useless riddles about tonight’s guests, and then the same horse**** I’d expect from a pulp fiction prophet about darkness, and fire, and rat-infested pits…” His magical grip on her body tightened, and she made a strangled sound as she choked back a scream. “And I expected you to do more for me tonight than stand there and soak up attention.”

Speaking was a struggle. “W-what -- ?”

He struck her across the face, then back across the other cheek, releasing his spell with the blows. When she recovered, she saw his index finger jammed accusingly in her face. “That strange, white-haired woman. What did she give you?”

“A business card,” she said with a glower she couldn’t help. Her cheeks were deep red, stinging from his slaps. “I’d helped her son before, but other than that, I don’t know why.” She dug it out of her jacket pocket, offering it over to him, and he palmed it, sparing it a quick glance. “You’ve spoken a lot about the talent you acquire. Maybe she wanted to poach me.”

He grunted, slid the card away into a trouser pocket. “And that dead detective? He seemed awfully interested in you. What did your cards tell him?”

“Lottery numbers,” she said with a helpless laugh, tears brimming in her eyes as she looked at him. “Not even good ones! Just a series of numbers he’ll blow money on that’ll lead to little changes in his life, adding up to a twist in fate. That’s what you wanted me to do for people -- that’s how these fortunes work!”

He studied her face for a very long moment… until he decided he was satisfied with her answer, nodding slightly. “You’ll have to do better. I won’t have you frittering my secrets away with the dead, but we’ll have to find you another crutch, since your abilities alone do not seem up to the task…” His eyes danced side to side as he thought, then smiled. “Be up and ready at six, and pack a few things. You’ll be doing your readings at Tartarus from now on. Ms. Lin will set you up with the rest. Okay?”

“Alright,” she managed with a nod, and turned away to the window. He’d already seen her begin to cry, but he did not need to see her bitter scowl as the hot, angry tears rolled down her face, silently begging the threads of Fate to show her the path to his ruin, as she watched the long procession of streetlights between RhyDin and Stars End flash by…
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday

Mallory’s first day in the pit gave her the strange, familiar feeling of an out-of-body experience.

She slept only a few hours and awoke feeling sick. She took a black SUV across town with one of Adder’s mid-level staffers, a taller elven man who spent the ride pecking away at his tablet after a single glance at her; and a handful of volunteers, who by contrast seemed too interested in her. There were three boys and two girls, all in their mid to late teens, at the very least none older than her, and they spent about ten minutes whispering and speculating about her.

“I think she’s one of his seers.” “Where’d he find her?” “Street corner, maybe. Why don’t you ask her?” “Shh!” “Think she knows if he’ll win?” “Think she’d tell anyone if he wasn’t?” “Is she our age?” “Maybe she’d wanna hang out.” “Nah. Ice queen. She doesn’t talk to anyone.” “I heard she was at the gala.” “I heard they left together. Do you think those two -- ?”

She felt sick again.

Part of it was what they were describing, though she’d played that fear out in her mind several times arleady: what he could do to her that he hadn’t already. The other part was that this was a matter of gossip. No one would care if they knew what he had done. No one cared what happened to her.

No one here, she tried to remind herself, but with the vast gulf imposed between her and the people she could rely on, it was hard to hang onto hope. Eri stuck her neck out for me, and look what happened to her; and why would anyone else? I left. Jewell won’t believe Ishmerai, even if he believes me, and why would he? Why would anyone?

Soon she felt a million miles away from herself, her body operating on autopilot as one of the interns finally broached conversation with her. She gave them her name. She promised she’d come out for drinks, if she ever found a spare minute from the campaign. Election night, then, after it was over. Definitely.

She was the last passenger in the car when they dropped her off at a street corner near the Marketplace, an unfamiliar route to Tartarus. Naomi Lin was waiting, smiling, looking perfect in her boots and stockings, her peter pan blouse, and her tweed skirt decorated with a giant bow tied in front. There was a sprig of flowers tucked into her lapel…

Cane.

Something clicked back into place, and Mallory smiled prettily at Adder’s lieutenant, joining her for a quick breakfast she didn’t care for while she considered the strength of the ribbon on the tweed skirt, namely whether it was strong enough to strangle the life out of Naomi Lin.

* * * * *

It was lucky for Mallory that she’d found her center and some modicum of strength, because it wasn’t long until she saw Eri climbing her way out of her dancing cage, directed by unheard commands, retiring to her cell after an exhausting performance for the dozen diehard patrons lingering since last night. Her heart broke. Her guilt only grew. But she found her rage, and when she nurtured it, it renewed her resolve.

That didn’t mean that Seeing went any better.

She saw smoke, and fire. A horned demon. Rats tumbling into a pit. A glass slipper, which she now deduced was either Cane or Nick Cross at the gala, but nothing else came to her. After her fifth attempt, she pushed away the clay bowl of blood-tinged rosewater and stared across the chasm at the far wall. She’d relied on her Sight too much in too short a time, and a sharp pain had taken root somewhere behind her eyes.

She crossed the high balcony, winding a wide path around the ash-filled brazier that still unsettled her, carefully avoiding the white streaks of it on the floor as she approached the railing and looked around the chamber. There were thirteen dancing cages here; it was hard to discern a pattern in a three-dimensional space, but they could not all have been placed to please the crowd, with several of them all but hidden away by overhanging balconies or tucked too close to the wall.

Then there was the bell, dangling from an iron arm extending out from the balcony. She didn’t want to be seen paying too close of attention, but she looked long enough to see that the letters inscribed in its bronze exterior were Hebrew, which gave her some idea of what it was.

And the architecture here was… strange. The placement of the platforms. The shape of the chamber. The fact that it existed at all, as vast as it was, underneath an ancient seaside city with a river running through it.

She went back towards her blanket littered with her supplies, skirting a closer path to the brazier this time, with a more openly curious look. She’d continue Seeing for this wretched being, as long as he had the means to compel her, but in the meantime…

…this place deserved further study.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday

Six drinks later and the world was a blur. He looked about the club slowly, everything was a blur. The pulsing bass wormed its way through his body and flashing lights lets spots in his eyes. All in all the sensations were overwhelming, and he wanted to puke. Some small voice in the back of his mind told him that something was wrong. That he'd been dead for three years and he shouldn't be feeling like this. That there was something very wrong with this place. Unfortunately that voice was all but drowned out in a sea of sensation and emotion.

He stood slowly, he was wobbly on his feet. He knew that he had come here for a purpose. He knew it was important, but he couldn't remember what that purpose might be. He pushed himself away from the bar and land began to wander aimlessly through the club. Maybe if he saw what he was looking for he might remember what it was

Several times he found himself sucked into the crowd. He would black out, only to snap back into existence some time later to find himself dancing with or worse kissing on a woman. Each time he would push himself away angrily to return to his search for something that seemed further and further away with each step.

It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. Time seemed to have no hold in a place like this. He was no closer to his goal than when he started. The feeling of dread seems only to grow more intense with time. He had to get out. He had to get out now. It was a mistake to come here in the first place. He stumbled through the crowd at a hurried pace. Then he ran into a brick wall. It wasn't exactly a wall, it was big, bald, and ugly. For as much as he budged when Nick ran into him he may as well be a wall. He bounced back and fell back, cracking his head on the hard concrete floor.

It seemed like it could have been an eternity as the dead man lay on on the floor. But then he saw her. Eri, dancing away in a nearby cage . That was why he had come here in the first place. He'd had a hunch that she had gotten into some kind of trouble, he had no idea that it would have been something like this. Yet there she was, dancing away without an apparent care in the world.

“Come now Mr. Cross, you're in a state. It would be irresponsible of us to let you leave in your current condition. Let's take you somewhere so you can sleep it off.” The brute smiled showing bad teeth. He grabbed Nick by the arm and yanked him up to his feet and steadied him. Nick was too out of it to fight back so he just played along.

The brute placed a hand on the back of the detective's neck and started guiding him out of the room and into a series of hallways blindingly bright and sterile in appearance where they were soon joined by the bartender, the dark haired woman from earlier. She gave him a bright, friendly and utterly frightening smile: “You really should be more careful Mr. Cross. Excessive drinking can be dangerous. You're lucky we care about the welfare of our customers.”

Nick soon found himself being pushed unceremoniously into a small room decorated with only a worn cot to sleep on. The heavy metal door clanged shut behind him, and he was alone. The room was overly bright and the light hurt his eyes, at least it was quiet. The sounds of the club could not be heard at all from where he was.

“Well Nick, aren't you a sucker for punishment?” he said to himself as he took a seat on the cot pondering through his pounding headache what he was going to do next.
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