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Mallory
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2018 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

August 30th, 2018.

Tahlia pulled the Panamera up to the stand, and opened the door before they could reach for it. The valet set sailed through the air, gilt edged just like the car they belonged to. Gold rims and accents glowed in the lights, and the blonde that stepped out was no less impressive. Gold and black, she paused only to smilingly inform the staring valet just what might happen if her car was so much as scratched, and then sauntered past, heading into the casino, and a rather... impetuous meeting.

There was a man waiting for her just inside the entrance of Samuel Adder's prized Seaside casino, suit neatly pressed and not a single lock of his carefully parted hair out of place, as if he had not just rushed across the casino floor the moment her distinctive vehicle was sighted. He bowed his head slightly and flashed too-white teeth as a couple of well-dressed gentlemen strolled past arm in arm, and gave Tahlia a more formal bow of greeting. "Welcome, Ms. Faras, to the Golden Bough. Have you come to play?"

He opened a hand to gesture to the banks of slot machines and vast array of card tables stretching out behind him, illuminated by a dozen pendulous chandeliers that cast glittering light off of the polished gold and brass used liberally throughout the place, a mirror of Tahlia's ensemble. Thirty-foot windows in the back of the room looked out on the sea, the black water of night illuminated by the lights of the city.

But the man had not looked at any of this. His eyes remained fixed on Tahlia's face, and his smile was steady as he lowered his hand.

It was one of the reasons she loved the car, and one of the reasons Ace had bought it for her. A gift for the team winning IFL, or a consolation for not winning rookie of the year. It didn't surprise her that she'd been spotted, or, for that matter, that she might garner such individual attention. Her pockets weren't shallow, and her clients were deeper.

Smiling sweetly at the smooth greeting, she gave a barely perceptible shake of her head, jade eyes barely ticking over the games being offered. Normally, she would wander the floor, wager other people's money until she was bored. "Not tonight. I'm here to see Mr. Adder."

"Of course," the man said with a polite smile, and turned his head a few degrees to the side, his unfocused stare settling somewhere over Tahlia's shoulder. There was little remarkable about him, handsome enough in a suit to blend in among all this finery, yet forgettable enough that no one would think that he actually belonged. He parted his lips, tilted his head a fraction as he mouthed a few words -- almost imperceptibly -- and then he locked his gaze on Tahlia again. "This way, please."

He stepped away from her, leading the way to an elevator bank near the front. He held the doors for her, watching her follow with that same polite, steady smile that seemed a little too hollow to be entirely normal.

Behind the gilt exterior, the couture dress that clung to her curves, every detail was tucked away, information for a rainy day, as it were. "Thank you." She didn't bother to ask his name, it didn't matter. He didn't matter, save that he was clearly the only way she was going to gain access to the man she sought. Red soles flashed, edged in gold and drawing attention to tan legs. This was, after all, one of many skills she'd cultivated over the years. Stepping into the lift, she turned with a sway of her hips, and a curl of crimson stained lips, and waited for the doors to close, and take her to her destination.

The man was silent for the ride up. He had never pressed any of the buttons, arranged 1 to 12 and 14 to 17, but the sign for the 18th floor lit up before the doors slid open. He opened a hand to welcome her to step out, into the penthouse office of Samuel Adder.

It commanded a breathtaking view of the city's coastline, and stood above the distant lighthouse in the middle of the bay, catching none of the glare as its lantern turned. The room was vast and spacious, and while the furniture had been selected with care and no expense spared, there was little enough in here that the black desk fifty feet from the elevator seemed all the more imposing. The man himself, Samuel Adder, had been sitting behind it when the elevator doors opened, but rose as soon as Tahlia stepped out. He chuckled warmly as he watched her, and took a moment to adjust his golden cufflinks as he strolled out from behind the desk to meet her. His shirt was black silk, his suit was gray wool, and his shoes were polished black wingtips.

"Ms. Faras," he intoned, lifting his chin to regard her with a slow, wickedly curving smile. "It's been since the Gala. How are you."

Black satin clung tightly, accented by a wide flat gold chain at her throat, and matching bands at her wrists. "Tahlia, please..." She hadn't quite gotten used to how many people knew her last name, after IFL. She was used to being an enigma, a fantasy -- a chameleon. Here, though, that was proving more difficult -- which was both a curse, and a blessing. She continued moving closer, her smile matching his, although it never quite reached her eyes. "It's been too long, but I do hope we're going to be better acquainted. You're looking well. I'm -- recovering. Part of why I felt I simply had to see you."

"Tahlia. You can call me Samuel," he said, eyes brightening a touch as he reached out to shake hands. "And recovering -- really? But you look radiant," he assured her, taking a small step closer as he released her hand. Wherever she made contact with his skin, there was a spark, something in his nature that tried to weave little threads of charm between himself and the people he met.

"I count myself lucky that you had to see me, whatever your reasoning." Skin crinkled around his eyes as he smiled again.

"Samuel..." Shaking his hand with a bemused smirk at the formality of the greeting. The sparks didn't go unnoticed, but her own glamour, that subtle charm of hers, only sparkled more brightly in response. "Yes, really. I hide it well... but I had a simply terrible encounter a few weeks ago. Some leech..." She shivered slightly, her fingers tracing the edge of the chain. "...grabbed me in Dockside, and nearly killed me. Imagine my surprise when I found out he was acting on orders..." Not touching, not quite, but she stayed close, her eyes shimmering up to meet his.

There was a subtle narrowing of his eyes, surprise and delight at her glamour, but he did not give voice to it. "That's dreadful to hear," he said, shaking his head, his eyes locked on Tahlia's. "I am glad you are alright, and I assure you... no such harm will come to you here. Please, have a seat, and let me get you something from the bar," he added, moving off to the wet bar and opening a hand to welcome her to the cluster of comfortable leather chairs arranged nearby, "and if you would, tell me who ordered such a thing."

A few steps took her to one of the seats, and she sank into it, legs crossed at the ankles, and angled to the side. Demure, although it had the effect of leading the eye up the line of her body. "Scotch, if you have something old enough to drink itself." As if he wouldn't. Setting the gold clutch against her hip, she kept herself from relaxing into the seat. "William Ramsey."

Adder selected a bottle from the cabinet, something old enough that most would save it for special occasions, and poured a generous measure for each of them. He paused in the middle of this to stare over his shoulder at her, frowning darkly. "William... I haven't seen or heard from him in a few weeks. I was worried he had gotten fixated again, and bitten off more than he could chew..." He conveyed the glasses over to Tahlia, offering one out to her, fingers curled far enough around the base that there was another spark of contact before he relinquished the drink. "It seems my worries were well founded."

She took the drink, the spark causing a twitch of her lips before she brought the glass to cover, and took a sip. "I'm afraid he won't be returning your calls. Or anyone's. From dust he came, and to dust he has returned..." Tahlia didn't seem overwhelmingly upset by the news. "And I suppose fixated is a manner of putting it. He tried to bite me once before... and now this. Some hired thug..." It sounded like she took it as an insult, that some street tough had laid hands on her. "And I have no idea if there are more..."

"Did he..." Adder shook his head sadly as he sank into a chair. "Some men let their impulses be their masters, instead of the other way around. I'd hoped he'd found a kindred spirit, a woman in my employ, who had... fixations not unlike his own," he added with a sigh. Then he sipped at his drink. "I suppose it was not to be. Please." He set the glass down on the armrest, and turned his body to face her fully. "I feel terrible that this has happened, and that he took my counsel and did something reckless and hurtful. Allow me to look into this for you, find this creature who attacked you, and whatever allies he might have. I promise you, they will not trouble you again."

"Would you? You're too kind. Surely there's something I could do to... show my gratitude..?" Kohl-rimmed eyes searched his face, her head tilted to the side and her bottom lip caught between her teeth. It was a look meant to entice, and it served her well, usually. The mention of a like-minded female caused a blink of seeming surprise, and a swift swallow of scotch. "Did you, though? I wonder... it wasn't... something with an M... what was her name..."

"Mm." He settled his fingers over his glass and stared at Tahlia with keen interest, as she bit her lip and played coy with her knowledge. "Mallory St. Martin. My campaign hired her as a Seer, but she proved unreliable... and unstable. We didn't find out until after the campaign that she'd had an ex-lover institutionalized, if you can believe it. It is devilishly hard, doing background checks in a place like this..." He shook his head. "Anyway. A few things in her manner, what I did remember fondly of her and what had drawn me to hire her to start with, called William to mind, so I mentioned her to him. I thought they'd make a good match."

The question of showing her gratitude was left alone, for now. He narrowed his eyes slightly. "Do you know who it was that was responsible for William's death? Other than himself," he added with a humorless chuckle.

Tahlia's eyes flew wide, her mouth a round O of surprise for a moment before she regained her customary aplomb. "No! I can't say I know her well... William hired me to introduce them, but... well, I can't imagine it went well."

Another swallow of scotch, and she paused to lick the taste from her lips before continuing. "I'll be honest, I was a touch put out when he asked. After all, being asked to introduce a client to your replacement is just a bit gauche, don't you think? But he did promise to reacquaint the two of us, so I consoled myself with that..." There was a teasing wink over the rim of her glass. "I wasn't there. Haven't a clue, but I wouldn't be surprised if your errant Seer didn't know."

"We can count that as a blessing, at least," Adder said with a smile, and held his glass out to clink against hers. "To introductions... and impulses," he decided to add, his eyes following the lines formed by her dress down, and back up to her face.

The clink of glass was echoed by a purr of delight, her body seeming to stretch and poise itself to invite his gaze to linger, or return. "Two of my favorite things, really. Such a shame William interrupted -- at the Gala. But then, if I recall, you were distracted..."

There was a momentary pause, and then Adder smiled again. "I was rather busy. I had an election lose," he chuckled, and sipped his scotch. "I imagine you know distraction all too well, Tahlia. Something you would count among your talents, yes?" He set his drink aside, by his feet, and held out his hand to her to draw her out of her seat.

"A sad day for the entire city. I voted for you." Clearly, she'd say that regardless, but the smile that followed seemed genuine. Slipping her hand into his, she rose, and regarded him with an almost predatory smile. "Well, Samuel...I imagine you've made yourself familiar with my activities. I would invite you to consider how talented I must be to command the price I do...and that my clients are not only willing, but eager to pay it..."

Adder took hold of her other hand and smiled up at her, openly indulging in another look. "I can double it," he said matter-of-factly, and pulled gently to urge her into his lap. "For some... distraction."

This time, the flicker in her eyes owed nothing to artifice, although she covered it almost immediately. Smoothly fitting herself into his lap, she tucked her ankles behind his, and leaned toward him. "And what kind of ...distraction might you be looking for? Money isn't everything, after all..."

"I'm going to be very busy in the coming weeks, with a... charitable project," he said, lifting one of his hands from her with a dismissive gesture. "I'd like to test my ability to stay on task with the right kind of distractions... and I'd like your help keeping the worst distractions away from me." He turned his head to her throat, though his eyes were over her shoulder, staring out the windows at the glittering lights of the city beyond. "I'm afraid a few people have become rather... fixated, like William.

"I'd like you to distract them, too. In the worst possible way."

((Written with Tahlia, with thanks!))
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Mortal Promise
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 2nd, 2018.

"This is perfect."

Coming from Naomi, perfect was the kind of word that had Maria and Shannon bracing for impact. Both looked up from their phones at once, narrowing their eyes across the table at her.

Naomi held up the latest issue of the RhyDin Post and threw it down in front of them, right in the middle of their dinner, landing in the commingling streams of champagne and blood spilling off the edge of the table. Maria made a face as Shannon delicately plucked the arm of their glassy-eyed server out of the way and slid out the front page.

Thirty-two missing after Sister Cecilia's book burnings
City Watch connects Neo-Catholic Church, arrests nuns


Shannon's eyes gleamed as she exchanged a look with Maria. "It is. They even erected a Wicker Man," she added with a too-pleased smile, flopping the soggy newspaper back down with the newly blood-stained image of a burning effigy facing up. "We won't have to wait. Little mageling brats are vanishing off the streets as we speak, and if we are lucky?" Shannon gave a pleased hum and settled back in her chair as Maria leaned in to read the article. "This election will run as long as the last. A month."

As Naomi and Shannon put their heads together to plot their next move, Maria dragged the paper closer, eyes widening at a grainy image of a dozen girls fighting a mob and tugging a bound old woman away from darkly dressed nuns. Most of the girls wore a traditional seifuku and wielded clubs and chains and even jumper cables, but one was a figure in a hoodie and mask, her left hand arched in a familiar pose as she conjured fire from her fingers...

"Miss St. Martin has been fighting nuns," she announced. "I wonder what they'd do if they knew all that we know about her... They could give us cover for our task, and provide a suitable distraction for our least favorite witch."

"I agree," Naomi answered, "so let us divide and conquer. You reach out to this sisterhood, see if you can't bait them with the witch -- Shannon and I are going hunting."

* * * * *

Maria's warlock followed their target at a distance, sticking to the shadows by the unlit workhouses as the boy scurried his way back to the crumbling apartment he called home. The homeless mageling moved in rapid bursts, hurrying to a trashcan when the crowd had cleared to pick through the top layer for carelessly discarded leftovers. When a couple came down the side of the road, hand in hand, he pretended to be carefree, balancing on the curb with his arms stretched out; then he rattled the newspaper stands for spare change the moment they'd rounded the corner. And when a whistling Watch officer appeared far down the lane, the boy took the first turn, a left and two rights to put himself on the other side of the cop.

There was a care to his movements that had come with experience, and a healthy amount of wariness for his dark surroundings... tempered by the child's assumption that he was nothing special. A potential meal for monsters, a potential nuisance for the Watch, and little else.

He knelt in front of a rusty teal vending machine, its dimmed neon logo advertising a long defunct brand the machine no longer carried, tucked into the entrance of an ugly old office building. A few fluorescent lights flickered within -- likely left on for the usual security guard to walk her patrol, though the boy saw no sign of her now. He darted a look over his shoulder, into the mostly empty street, as he pressed his fingers to the button for a large orange soda. He closed his eyes and concentrated, sparks jumping from his skin, shorting out the machinery --


-- and missed the moment when a thin bolt of hellish power raced out of the sahdows to join his little spark, lighting up every button and sending dozens of drinks cascading noisily out onto the sidewalk and into the street.

People noticed. Heads were turning up and down the street. Someone dug out a phone to take a video of the chaotic mess as soda fizzed out of rolling cans like sprinklers. There was no doubt in the boy's mind that the patrolling Watch officer nearby had heard, as well as the security guard inside. He snatched an undamaged drink from the ground and bolted, pushing off the sidewalk with one hand as he stumbled over the rolling soda cans and darting down one of the dark, narrow alleys he usually had the sense to avoid.

Scant moonlight spilled down into the narrow passage between buildings, framing the many trash piles, old bicycles, stacked crates and discarded debris as vague, menacing shapes. Someone who'd been sleeping under a ratty wool blanket was roused by the noise, and snatched the air by his ear as she yelled curses at him. He ducked out of the way and down a narrower passage, fifty feet long, with the promised sanctuary of a quieter residential side street just beyond.

His hands closed on grimy pipes and rusted doors, brushed over furry, scurrying shapes he instinctively drew away from as he slunk closer to safety. He was halfway there when he heard the slow, ominous groan of a steel door swinging open behind him.

The boy turned slowly to face it, terrified of what he would see in the darkness. Bolts of silver-white lightning arced between his fingers, feeding into a writhing mass of light that illuminated his surroundings and promised a painful shock to whoever ended up on the wrong end of it. "Stay back! Just -- just leave me alone!" he said into the dark opening, and heard nothing back. Saw nothing within, either, when the light of his magic washed over the abandoned interior.

"Hush, child." By the time Maria's words reached his ears, her magic had already taken hold of him. He let out a desperate whine as infernal threads encircled his arms and wound around his torso, conjured out of the ground by the succubus' spell. He lifted his chin, struggling to speak, pushing out the beginning of a scream before the bindings closed around him, and he vanished in a flash.

A pale white crystal wrapped in red thread dropped into Maria's outstretched hand, and the luminous orb he'd left in the alley flickered out as she faded into the darkness.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 11th, 2018.

Tahlia stood in the elevator, not for the first time, hands folded over lacquered black clutch with gold edges, red nails matching the slash of color at her lips, and standing in stark contrast to the black satin sheath that ran from mid-thigh to bust, leaving the rest of her skin bare. Business or pleasure, she'd learned quickly that distraction was her friend. There had been a few glances as she walked through the casino, but she wasn't stopped this time, passed through to the private elevator with the subtlest of sub-vocal instructions to those above.

Mr. Adder had advance warning, but by the time the golden doors slid open to admit Tahlia into the penthouse again, he was still on what appeared to be his phone, trying to appear relaxed as he leaned against the back of a leather sofa, his jacket tossed aside onto the coffee table, his sleeves rolled up in that carefully 'careless' way. The tight fold of his arms, the way his pointer finger tapped against the back of the sleek black rectangle, and the tension in his expression gave away the fury that simmered beneath the surface. He looked up and gave what was almost a smile to her, gesturing her inside, and shifted the device in his hand.

It flashed a subtle red glare when he turned. "I'm sorry," he said with a humorless laugh, "but I don't care what you think. Find out. Can you do that for me?" There was only a momentary pause. "Uh-huh. Yeah. Okay," curtly, and the device let out a quiet hum as the conversation ended.

Every sense went on high alert, but the tension hardly showed as the lithe blonde made her way into the penthouse, watching Adder from beneath her lashes. Like his namesake, he was dangerous if unwatched, and even if she seemed to be his favorite pet at the moment, she suspected he could, and would, turn on her. Sauntering over, she bent to kiss his cheek before smoothly moving to the bar. "Scotch? What mindless incompetent has ruined your evening, darling?"

Tahlia had been doing what she did best for a very long time -- when dealing with the powerful and pissed, soothe, and tread carefully.

"No one worth remembering," the man sighed through his teeth as she melted away from him to soothe him with scotch. He gestured an affirmative, and in a moment, the device had disappeared. "Competence. As a man in my business, I do endeavor to surround myself with it..." And yet. It hung in the air, unsaid. He watched her while she poured his drink, staying every bit as still as a predator deciding just what it wanted to do with its prey.

"Sister Cecilia has been murdered."

There was just the barest clink of glass on glass to signal her shock. "The nun that's been trying to rile everyone to burn witches and books and anything remotely fun?" One would think this was cause for celebration, but she knew better, and she kept her movements slow, swaying back to the couch with a scotch in each hand. "That... complicates things, although I suppose that means one of those boring people will be Governor instead..."

She handed over his scotch, made to his exact specifications, before settling onto the couch next to him. Within easy reach, but not quite touching. Not that it would save her if he decided to strike.

The signet ring on his right ring finger scraped around the edge of the glass as he turned it in his hand, staring intently at the liquid within. "Yes... I suppose it does..." His head turned. An audible shift, as he considered her over his shoulder.

"Tahlia, did you know... that children have been going missing, since before Sister Cecilia's campaign?" Now a smile was beginning to appear; it widened fractionally after he sipped his scotch, exactly how he liked it. "There have been a lot of people beating their breast over what the nuns have been up to, accusing them of all manner of abominable acts... but sharper minds suspect something else was at play."

"I did hear something..." She purred her response, taking a sip and swallowing before she finished her thought. "I thought it was witches who kidnapped children, not the religious... isn't that what all the old stories say? Consorting with devils, blood sacrifice, vile sacraments..." She took a deep breath, pale skin swelling over the tight bodice of her dress, and shook her head. "Not that I agreed with her methods. I wonder if the rest of the nuns will leave, with their leader dead. Or -- rise up in protest? They don't seem the sedentary sort..."

Tahlia had kept her distance, for a variety of reasons. Bad memories, for one, not to mention she was never certain if they'd catch the taint of her associations. "What deliciously devilish plan did you have in mind, Samuel dear...?"

Samuel let out a low, pleased chuckle at her words, leaning over the back of the couch, dangling his drink over her shoulder as he traced his fingers along the fine bones of her shoulder. "Mallory St. Martin may have been involved in Sister Cecilia's death. It settles the matter in my mind, that this particular witch has been behind the disappearing children and trying to shift the blame...

"But I'm not the one who needs convincing. There are other movers and shakers out there in RhyDin, people who can make a real difference -- the same people in your little black book." He chuckled, shifting closer as he drew his hand up to her throat, squeezing ever so gently. "They're smart. Reason it out with them... and I am positive they will come to the right conclusion."

The grip on her throat held her frozen, and she was certain he could feel the quickening of her pulse against his fingers, and swallowed, closing her eyes for a moment to keep the panic out of them. It had barely been a year, after all, since the fire. The look she revealed when they opened was filled with heat, and she managed a complimentary smile. "I'm certain you're right. You did say she was...unhinged. Unreliable. Seems the sort of thing she would do."

"I'm sure I can... convince them of the situation. After all, they're all civic minded, upstanding citizens... and supporters of youth charities can... hardly look away when they're... in danger..." She wouldn't show fear, even if her breathing had grown shallow, and rapid. Let him think there were other reasons for her reaction. "You know I'll do anything in my power to support you..."

It was a long moment before the tension relaxed, and the smile audible in his voice betrayed the fact that he was finally enjoying himself. "Prove it," he whispered into the shell of her ear, and took hold of her hand as he led her away.

((Adapted from live play with Tahlia, with thanks!))
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 12th, 2018 - 9:45 p.m.

Haley kept her phone cradled in her hands as she ambled down the cobblestone lane, her smiling face illuminated by the flickering halo of light cast by the video she played. She giggled as she stumbled over the curb, then settled into a lean by the streetlight outside of Rob's work until the clip was done.

She could see his car over her shoulder, parked in the usual spot, an old station wagon with lacklustre blue paint and wooden sides, but no sign of her older brother yet. She lifted her chin, bouncing on her feet to see through the cluttered windows of the clothing store where he worked. "Dear Rob... please invest in a watch... Trick's birthday... almost over... sincerely... Haley... p.s., you suck," she grinned wickedly as she tapped out the message and sent it. She was sure she could hear the ding of his phone over the crappy surf rock playing over the speaker system. He'd be out soon.

She heaved a sigh, turned her phone sideways, and queued up another video. The little halo of light returned as the streetlight overhead slowly dimmed, and she hummed along as the theme to "Galaxy Fighters X (Abridged)" as the music and dubbed voices filled her ears.

Knock-knock-knock. Haley jerked her head, her heart leaping into her throat, and made an annoyed face when she saw the culprit: Rob, standing in front of the nearest store window, going cross-eyed. She'd been getting chills, but now she had something to blame for it. She flipped him the bird, snorted when he affected shock, and glanced down at her phone when he turned away to exchange a few parting words with his coworkers.

An eerie red glare washed over the screen from somewhere behind her. The chill returned, and she turned to stare up at the streetlight overhead, which had gone completely dark. There was something in the air, and she could feel the malice from the stranger looming nearby.

"No!" she shrieked with her eyes clenched shut, and a wave of psychic energy pulsed out from her, shattering the windows of the store and Rob's car, peeling skin from the grasping hand and sneering face of the figure reaching out for her. She was a dark-haired woman she'd never seen before, with an ugly scar stretching from her neck up past her jaw that Haley's psychic wound had revealed. The woman was barely thrown back by the shock of injury, before she was snapping out words in a strange, guttural language, and a deeper wave of malice, deeper than she'd ever felt, washed over Haley and overwhelmed her senses.

She screamed in defiance again, but she could feel her throat seizing up, along with every other part of her, suddenly sucked into a prison of gleaming white crystal that was falling into this stranger's outstretched hand. "Haley!" she heard her brother shout before the facets of the crystal snapped shut around her, and she threw her hands against her prison and shrieked in vain as they faded into darkness...
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 12th, 2018 - 10:00 p.m.

"You took one of her ####ing roommates?!"

Naomi didn't turn to look as Shannon flew up into her face, baring her pointed teeth in anger. She could feel the woman's angry breaths on her neck, but her malevolent gaze was fixated on Maria and the delicate work of placing the thirty-sixth offering among the others.

The ritual chamber had the same gleaming black tile as the penthouse on the other side of the wall, though unlike the office of "Mr. Adder," this room made no secret of its purpose. Infernal runes had been scratched and seared into the walls and ceiling, warding it against intrusion; and three concentric rings of interlocking magic circles had been carefully sculpted into the floor, with forty circular grooves, most of them containing a crystalline orb that burned with the same searing white soul-fire their master had invoked in Tartarus, the fallen pit. The sound of fists could be heard banging on the glass as two of the children lost their patience with their captivity and -- from their perspective -- threw themselves against the windows of their mysterious dormitory prison.

Animus, corpus, chrysalis... animus, corpus, chrysalis... Maria's droning intonation of the rite silenced the protesting children, who drew back in fear from her advancing shape, glimpsed in horrifying shapes through their windows; however, Haley remained calm. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, but she was ignoring Maria altogether. Even from halfway across the room, Naomi could see the way the girl stared directly at her.

"Nebessa."

The way that Shannon hissed her true name through her teeth finally tore her attention away from their newest captive. As she lifted her chin to regard the other succubus, she allowed the illusion stretched over her to thin, revealing the long scar of blackened flesh left by Mallory St. Martin's vindictive hex. "The witch," she replied, "thinks she understands pain. Now we get to teach her how much worse it can hurt. And just think how pleased our dear Samuel will be, knowing that girl has been sold to the legions of Hell to ensure his return," she continued, tracing her fingernails along Shannon's throat as she spoke. "And that heart-broken little witch will be all the more ripe for the picking."

"And what of the attention it will bring?" Maria had lowered Haley's captive spirit into a groove in the floor, and now pinned Naomi with an accusatory glare. "What of the witch's wrath?"

Naomi scoffed. "She is mortal, and her ageless allies are gone from this realm, or as good as gone. We have nothing to fear from her."

Shannon pressed her hand to Naomi's chest... and pushed her slowly back, giving her a slow smile that belied her still-simmering rage. "Then why don't you go make sure of it. Make threats, sow discord, kill her if you're able -- and leave the important work to us."

Maria looked impassively at Naomi when she stared for some sign of the other succubus' allegiances in this. A moment of tense silence stretched on, as Shannon's teeth ground together and Naomi's claws lengthened... until Naomi broke. "Fine. I will do what the two of you fear to," she snapped, and stormed out of the chamber, disappearing into an illusory wall.
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Mallory
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 12th, 2018 - 11:00 p.m.

Trick might have ignored his phone if Mallory's hadn't gone off at nearly the same time. He shot a stony expression at the back of his sister's head, then glanced aside to Penny, whose hand he gently shook free from his own so he could dig up the device. As he scanned the screen, his steps slowed, then halted altogether. They weren't far from the Perch -- they'd gotten the news of Haley's kidnapping at the end of Trivia Night -- but what he read was enough to stop him in his tracks.

watch is here and asking about you Mal. showing those ####ing posters to witnesses.

don't come to the scene.


"Wait," Patrick said, holding out the phone for Mallory to cradle and read. "Rob says not to come. The Watch," he explained for Penny's benefit. "They're already asking questions about Mal and waving around those stupid posters."

The witch looked over her shoulder at the curving lakeside lane they just left, and her three conjured hounds looked back at her expectantly. "I still have a lock of her hair," she said uncertainly, "but it's over a year old. I don't know if scrying will work." She looked desperately between Patrick and Penny, her hands clenching and unclenching as all the rage building up inside of her started turning itself into fear. "I don't know how else to track her."

Penny had taken a subtle step to distance herself from Patrick and the phone he fished out, wary of shorting out the device with her proximity, and her hands coiled at the strap of her messenger bag across her chest. She was still silently piecing together bits of information and doing her best to make light of the situation in her head before her gaze focused on the fists Mallory was forming and all that entailed.

Patrick was still frowning. "####," he intoned, pushing a hand through his hair. He started pacing, giving the strange hounds a subconsciously wide berth. "What else is there?" The boy's mind was going a mile a minute, cycling through countless useless options while simultaneously trying to remain calm. It wouldn't do to get himself worked up, not when Haley was depending on them.

"Let me do it." Though Penny was happy to make herself useful, there was no sign of a smile on her face. Her offer stopped Patrick's pacing and he looked up, relief flooding his expression the same time as an idea came to him.

"Maybe I can help, too." His attention shifted back to the phone, his hardened expression thrown into stark relief in the blueish wash of the screen's illumination. "If she's got her phone on her, I can find it." Next came a series of taps, some kind of application being started up, and he moved closer so that Mallory, at least, could see what he was doing. After a few seconds, he said, "Look, here. This is the last place her signal pinged the system. That's nowhere near Rob or Wayside." Trick passed the phone to Mallory so she could study the map. "I don't know if that's where they stopped or if--" He didn't want to say the rest of what he'd been thinking.

Mallory leaned in to look, and her eyes narrowed on the last signal Haley's phone had sent. "That's in Seaside," she said, looking at Penny. Let me do it. The witch had to believe that she could. "Do you think -- can you pick up the trail from there?"

Penny was more about action and less about expounding on the various things she could do, so it was just with a single and confident nod that she answered Mallory. That she was an outsider with limited to no emotional attachment to Haley helped to give her a level head regarding it all, too. She held a palm out towards the witch then, "Do you have the lock of hair on you? It's not required, but it would certainly help."

"No," the witch shook her head, digging out her own phone (and consciously leaning away from the wizard as she did). "It's at home." She waited for the call to connect, then: "Eri? Yeah. No, we're still close. Get the lead box from the nightstand -- and meet us in Seaside."

Get the lead box from the nightstand. Those words sparked something to life inside Patrick. He felt naked, suddenly, entirely ill-equipped whereas everyone else had the ability to defend themselves this second. Silver dust and a knife weren't going to do him much good if they encountered any true danger. "I need to get something from my place before we go running after Hales." He wasn't about to let them do this on their own.

Pulling her hand back to her side to instinctively grab at the strap of her bag once again, Penny was doing her best to reel away from the little bits of technology that weren't actively warded against her general presence when a realization struck her. It was almost a smirk that pressed into her serious expression. "Seaside... I have a lot of eyes in Seaside. We'll find her."

* * * * *

Eri had arrived soon enough from Dockside, having only taken the moment to send the shrimps out to alert everyone and have them grouped and on watch. And so it was alone that she piloted the ugly old Alfa up the quiet alley in Seaside's business district, lights killed before turning in. The interior light did not come on when the engine was killed nor when she clambered out, shutting the door behind her softly. She had the new jian that Mallory had enchanted for her there slung over one shoulder in its scabbard.

Her expression was grim.

Glad as Mallory was to see Eri, she was on high alert, and lifted her chin to squint down the alley and be sure that she was not followed. One of her hounds loped over, then looked back and keened softly as it heard another approaching engine.

That smooth, clean purr of a well-kept engine was herald to Patrick and Penny's arrival. Patrick, for his part, seemed to blend into the sleek, matte black motorcycle, looking every bit a part of the retro-modern machine. He slowed the bike to a stop near Eri's vehicle and knocked the kickstand out, waiting first for Penny, who was seated snugly behind him, to climb off before dismounting himself and trading helmet for a black ball cap he'd tucked into his pocket.

During the stop off to get his bike, he'd taken the time to put on a black, lightweight tactical vest sporting a cross-draw pistol holder, currently housing a nondescript glock. Around his waist was a heavy duty riggers belt adorned with mag and gear pouches, along with the gleam of a holstered, lightweight compact revolver, on which he rested a hand while moving to join the others.

Penny might have been distracted for the better part of the ride, but once they arrived her hold loosened about Patrick's waist before letting go all together and climbing off the back of the bike. A nod was given over towards Eri, a silent way of saying hello as her hands busied themselves with retying her hair back and out of her face. Soon her eyes were cutting over to Mallory expectantly.

Eri had moved closer to the witch when she heard the approaching engine, standing just to the fore, but when she saw the bike she relaxed a bit, one foot settling back to flat as Patrick and Penny dismounted. She returned the silent nod as she drew the small lead box from under her jacket and handed it off to the witch.

Mallory looked over at Patrick as she accepted the box, wary of his reaction to blood magic, but the apology died on her lips. Something slithered around her hand, her flesh gently tore, and three drops of blood were enough to dissolve the box's arcane seal. "This is it," she murmured needlessly as she offered Penny a lock of dirty blonde hair, tied carefully with red thread.

"Thank you," Penny said, mindful and careful with the lock of hair; she drew it in close via the palm of her hand. Her bag was shifted around to rest more on the wizard's backside than her hip and she flashed a hesitant and poor attempt of a smile to the trio as her boots carried her three steps backwards and away from them. Just a small request of space for her to begin her work.

"Do you know who took her?" Patrick asked Mallory, though his eyes followed the bit of yellow hair, and Penny as she stepped away to work her magic. His tone rang with accusation, though there was no heat behind the words. Only that he'd managed to piece together that what was going on was larger than a simple, random abduction.

"No, I thought maybe someone with the nuns and Sister Cecilia, but..." I'm getting a terrible feeling. Mallory locked eyes with Patrick as the drip of blood slowed.

He nodded curtly, the muscles in his jaw jumping. He'd only just now smelled the blood and looked away from her to focus intently on Penny instead.

The wizard's work didn't look like very much, from the outside. Brown eyes closed for a pair of heartbeats before an inaudible murmur passed her lips. When her eyes opened on the third heartbeat, the bright golden color shined even in the muted streetlight along the road and the woman turned to take a look around at the ground.

It didn't take long before she was moving forward, "Follow me," presumably speaking to the group as a whole, but there were fresh new shadows where there had not been any, and all were giving chase with Penny in the lead.

Eri had listened to the exchange of words between Trick and Mal with a touch of worry furrowing her brow, but once Penny was in motion? There was a moment of hesitation at the new shadows, before she was stepping forward to follow quickly.

A word of Koine left Mallory's lips, a terse command, and the hounds whined but obediently stayed to guard the alley as the group rushed off after Penny, the witch clutching the lead box close under her arm. She only looked back long enough to see her brother keeping up before she broke into a run, feet nearly reaching the strange shadows chasing the wizard's heels.

The dark, twisting alleyways gave way to widening golden light, and the witch reached out for Penny's arm and hissed, "Wait!"

Tunnel visioned on the end result, Penny's entire body language was screaming to finish the hunt until she was abruptly grabbed and pulled from stepping into an active street. The chasing shadows spilled onto the sidewalk and then looked to circle back and retreat into the alley. If one looked hard enough at them, they held the shapes of wild animals.

Before them was a street of handsome row-houses, shops and office buildings, with an old-fashioned high-rise hotel looming ahead. Sleek cars pulled up to the entrance, attended to by crisply dressed valets, as people in suits and slinky dresses stepped out to try their luck at the casino beyond the revolving doors. Above them, a sign framed with beautiful gold-painted branches displayed the name:

THE GOLDEN BOUGH.

It took a few moments for the witch to process this revelation. "Adder's succubi," she murmured incredulously. "They took her... why?"

In her mind, there was one very direct way to find out. Heedless of this place's undoubtedly well-trained security team and the complex magics that protected it, Mallory snapped the Ring of Klytus off of its necklace, called forth its power with a heavy whiff of ozone and a crackling hum in the air, and started pushing her way past the others in the mouth of the alley.

Eri's eyes squinted to venomous little lines when she read the sign and recognized the building. It seemed the wards and likely security weren't on the delinquent's mind either, since she was hurrying forward with a good rolling momentum toward the high rise, with the kind of stride she got when she was about to break doors with her head.

Adder. Patrick's pulse quickened. He looked from one woman to the other, realizing a second too late that things were taking off without there having ever been a discussion. "Wait a minute!" he hissed, and there was venom in his tone this time. "Stop. STOP!" Patrick wasn't about to lay a hand on Eri, but he didn't mind copping an attitude with his sister. "Mallory." The whole name this time. He waited until he had her attention to continue. "Adder?! We can't just bust our way in there."

He had one of his guns out and held casually at his side, his trigger finger flat against the slide.

The hissed tones and forcible orders to stop kept Penny and the shadows at bay, and the wizard blinked a few times as she started to realize the chase and the hunt was over. The shine in her eyes dimmed, but only a bit as she tried to pay attention to what Mallory and Trick were saying. Mallory had whirled to face her brother, and two steadying breaths before she found her voice through her rising, adrenaline-fueled rage.

"The hell we can't!" the witch replied heatedly. Though she was reaching for Eri's hand. If they attacked, they'd attack together. Not like before. "If those malicious little ####ers think they can touch my family, I'll -- "

Her gaze settled on Patrick again. It wasn't long ago that he was in the library that Wayside, their family, had put together for her, dangling like a marionette as Samuel Adder's magic surrounded him with the promise of death. "...I'll get Haley killed," she conceded quietly, and looked over at Eri, then back at her brother.

It was surprisingly easy to slow what looked like a good solid roll the delinquent was on, no real force needed to make Eri's stride halt. She'd already heard and been reacting to the hiss from Trick and given a moment to think on it. From the slow and almost blank nod she gave, it seemed she had drawn similar conclusions after having a moment to think on it.

"Think," Patrick pleaded with them all. "We don't even know what's going on yet." He had no idea what piece of the puzzle he was missing, how Adder played into things, but he was damn sure that running in with their guns blazing was about the worst idea in the history of ideas. "People get taken around here every day, but this can't be coincidence. If this is connected to Adder, then there's something bigger going on." He was sure of it.

Penny cleared her throat, the action helping to clear her head as well as send the shadowed creatures on their way back deeper into the alley and the way they'd came. "I'm not armed enough to take Adder down at this moment," admitting with a glance back over her shoulder towards the street. "The building itself, maybe," she added, though it was mostly a murmur to herself.

Mallory nodded between Patrick and Penny. "No... you're right. We've gotta be smart. We've been caught in his web before," she said, with another glance at Eri, "but this time we're on the outside. We'll figure out what the hell's going on, first -- then we'll get Haley back."

And leave nothing but ashes when we're done, she silently promised the looming tower of the Golden Bough as she retreated back down the alley with her friends.

(( Adapted from a scene with Penny, Patrick, and Eri, with thanks! <3 ))
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Mortal Promise
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 15th, 2018 - Debate Watch Party at the Golden Perch.

There were voices buzzing through the TV on the other side of the inn known as the Golden Perch, as the broadcast debate turned to the subject of reinstating the advisory council. The patrons seemed to be drawn as much by the debate as the promise of happy hour prices on a Saturday night, but Naomi Lin kept an ear turned to the moderator's questions and the candidates' answers --

You never know when someone has a better idea to accomplish a task.

-- while her gaze lingered on the figure of Penny Escobar, studying her in profile while she leaned against the wall, apart from the crowded bar and the rest of the patrons. Ruined, of course, by the succubus following her to claim a lean beside her. She made a show of savoring her drink and curled a smile at the wizard before she finally spoke: "I thought I recognized you. You're that monster hunter."

"Recognize --we have met?" Penny gave Naomi an apologetic look. "I can be really bad with names a lot of the time. I hadn't meant to be rude, just wasn't certain." Her pint was nearing empty but the glass was lowered to her side.

"Naomi Lin," she said smoothly, offering her a hand. Her nails were painted the same deep red shade as her dress. "I don't think we have met formally, but when one claims a bounty on a politician -- word gets around." The slaying of that mad nun and the claiming of her bounty? Hardly something we can ignore. "I think I remember seeing you at the Gala last fall? I work for Mr. Adder -- mostly on PR and client outreach."

It wasn't long before there was a mild but heated flush of Penny's tanned skin when she heard Naomi. "Word gets around?" Her pint glass was switched to her other hand before she reached out to shake Naomi's. "Please, call me Penny," she offered at the introduction. "Oh, right, I was there last year, yes, yes." Said as if she was now placing Naomi's face in the scene etched forever in her memories.

Naomi smiled beatifically as they briefly clasped hands. "Anything else as big as Sister Cecilia in the works? None of the other candidates, I hope," she added with a soft laugh, her gaze ticking back to the screen as the children yawned, and Ebon spoke. "Remarkable how many monsters we have lurking right under our noses in this city..."

"I'm not on a job right now, no." Penny shook her head, managing a slightly embarrassed smile to a patron congratulating her on her newfound fame. "But if I get hired...." She shrugged her shoulders a bit as she ticked a look to the TV screen. "None of the other candidates have a bounty on their heads. I don't particularly expect them to, either." She remained silent on the matter of monsters out in the open.

"Hmm." Naomi considered Penny's answer with a widening smile. "Perhaps not these four sweet souls. But there have been a few people of interest to the public lately, beyond Sister Cecilia..." She clucked her tongue. "And if they keep it up... they could end up just like her. Shameful. Utterly shameful." Her eyes brightened, her smile widened as she watched the screen, and Rhiannon speaking of her pride in her family.

"I don't think too many are following in Sister Cecilia's footsteps," Penny admitted with a shake of her head before she finished off her pint and lowered the empty glass.

"Perhaps not in lockstep... but corrupting the souls of children isn't so far behind what she did." Naomi smiled, and looked up at one of the other patrons, in the process of submitting questions to the moderator via phone. She cleared her voice and offered:

"For cany candidates -- there are organizations in this city teaching children to use firearms, fight in gangs, and use corrupting black magic. As governor, how would you address these troubling developments?"

Naomi could feel Penny looking at her and the careful attention she paid to that question. The succubus merely flashed another smile at her as she returned to her spot at the bar to order another drink. She could feel the wizard's Sight, too, the moment when Penny decided to look at Naomi's true form while she savored a fine tequila. It wasn't long after that she caught Penny's reflection in the TV screen, looking nauseous as she hurried for the exit.

You never know when someone has a better idea to accomplish a task.

"Cheers," she murmured softly, toasting the TV, and drank.

* * * * *

Leaving the Perch provided Penny with enough fresh air to help the green tinge in her skin to fade, while she paced back and forth through the space that faced the mermaid fountain out front. An internal struggle brewed as she grew indecisive and a little worked up. She glanced aside a few times, as if she was listening to someone else speak to her, but beyond a hand gesture or two, the wizard voiced no audible response.

After some time, she exhaled with a look up to the sky and then reached into her messenger bag in a blind search. Her hand caught about a handle from inside and she began to pull a typical woodcutting ax from the bag to hold as she drifted towards the cover of a flanking hedge near the door. The longer she waited, the more about her that she muted -- her scent in the air, the sound her boots made against the ground, the now dull rhythm of her heartbeat.

Granted, Penny's entire plan went on the assumption that the succubus would walk out the front door of the Perch at all.

The door had swung open and shut many times to let patrons in and out before Naomi Lin made her exit. The dark-haired succubus had to take care down the treacherous front steps in her high-heeled boots, and appeared absorbed in her phone messages -- red text glowing on an otherwise gleaming black screen. "####ing politicians," she sighed. "They never clutch their pearls when you need them to..."

She paused by the bottom step, her face briefly illuminated as her phone screen switched to another app. Her nostrils flared, and her gaze lifted briefly from the impossible influx of emails in her inbox, but Penny had concealed herself well. Naomi had no discernible sense of the wizard.

The closer Naomi neared, the more likely some sensitive pieces of technology might start to hiccup, or worse (for Penny), give some sort of indication of possible interference. It wouldn't be a long warning though, because as soon as the woman's heels were off the of the porch, Penny was stepping out with the ax held up in the air and pointed to Naomi.

"I don't take kindly to threats." But the wizard hadn't seemed so inclined to act on it in such a public room. Alone in front of the Perch was another story. The show of the ax had been her warning, one she'd probably yell at herself later for doing, or maybe she'd scold herself for waiting until then to immediately charge forward with said ax in hand to get some sort of attack in on the creature.

Naomi had only a moment to react, a moment she would not have had if not for the wizard's warning. She relied heavily on the illusions that disguised her form, though there was an unmistakable whistle as her tail lashed through the air, striking at Penny in an effort to stop her in her tracks and drain her life force. "Then start keeping better company!" she snarled, her fangs already showing.
It might have been eerie that Penny laughed in response to that, but fights in the end weren't really made up of well timed quips and solid one liners. Not until the more clever of the two were left standing. Thus Penny's only response was a grunt as the axe's blade struck at a shoulder, unable to slice clean through to the other side without enough force. The tell tale sound of the tail was expected, but the wizard still could only catch it with her other arm, and she latched onto it with a tight grip.

The moment she might have started to feel weaker was when she was quick to yank the ax's blade from the shoulder and aim it between Naomi and the invisible tail she was clutching, slicing through it.

There was an unearthly shriek as sizzling blood sprayed from Naomi's shoulder and the severed tail lashing invisibly behind her, and the claws she tried to jam into the wizard's abdomen were interrupted when Penny slammed their skulls together. Penny fell backwards onto the walkway in an obvious daze as she discovered that her head was not, in fact, as hard as Eri's, but she'd gained the upper hand in battle.

Naomi was furious as she staggered back from the wizard, but clearly caught off guard and outclassed by the better-prepared monster hunter. "I will remember this," she promised as she tore her hand through the air, and the succubus vanished through an infernal tear in reality.

Penny shook her arm free of the remains of the tail still in her grasp, while the ax in her other hand clattered to the ground beside her. Bleary eyed and blinking to the empty space Naomi had been standing in, the wizard sat there in silence for a few solid minutes. Then she shook her head and muttered to no one in particular,

"I don't take kindly to threats."

((Adapted from live play with Penny, others present at the Debate Watch Party at the Golden Perch, and the debate itself!))
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 15, 2018

Reggie had been here before, more than once truth to be told. It wasn't always business of course. Sometimes it was just because. Today was supposed to be business, and that meant lugging the backpack loaded with gear. That might sound okay from the point of view of the uninitiated. For him it meant a long walk across town with upwards of thirty pounds of equipment stuffed into a pack designed for half that. He wouldn't mind, except that it was the company that mattered... and the fact that he was sweating like a grunter in the noonday sun. This was a posh place, and honestly he hated to come here reeking of sweat. He was here though, and the air conditioned lobby had helped to at least dry his skin. The hair was another story, though at least he could push it back from his eyes and be relatively confident that it would stay there for a while. Maybe he shouldn't have worn the leather jacket? Reggie shook his head, chastising himself. Eddie always wore one, Reggie could endure for a little while, right? The nice part about being who he was...people tended not to notice him so making it to the elevator was not a problem. It was simpler than hacking the controls to get the car to move upwards into penthouse land, not that this was difficult either, really. Still maybe his ringing of the doorbell would come as a shock to the person that dwelt beyond? Reggie was full of wishful thinking lately.

Tahlia opened the door, dressed in a pair of yoga pants, and an oversized t-shirt knotted at her waist. Blonde hair was drawn up in a ponytail, and if she was wearing makeup, it wasn't immediately obvious. The fact that Reg had been getting...well, more like Eddie...hadn't escaped her. She hadn't mentioned it to the original, to be honest, she'd been too overjoyed at getting word to think of it. Smiling, she waved him inside, and turned to saunter in to the kitchen. "Go ahead and get yourself set up - I'll grab drinks. You sneak in, or break fingers?"

"My fingers are all intact." He makes a show of holding them up so Tahlia can see them. "Do you have a lot of problems with fingers breaking? It's probably the card reader, or maybe the tension on the floor buttons. I might be able to fix that for you." Self consciously he slid his hands into his pockets and stepped further inside. "I was hoping to see..." Reggie stopped talking, the other obviously wasn't here and he didn't know what to make of that. He shuffled his way over to the couch and unbound his shoulders from the heavy pack. "So...your call seemed urgent."

"Not yours...someone else's. It's...been a slight concern, lately. Hopefully just a one time thing..." She looked out at the ocean, and shook her head. "He's still away. Business. You...you know how he is. He'll be back. Right? You said he always comes back...or Saul did." She might be holding on to that assurance more than she let on. "Huh? Oh, yeah. I've...got myself in a little over my head, Pop Tart...I could really use your help..."

Reggie peered at Tahlia, eyebrows lowering. "Business? How long has it been?" He started to unpack his things, mostly a slew of borrowed laptops and a few other things that would plug and play as he required. "Gimme a minute to recharge and we can get down to work. His familiarity with the place would have become obvious once Reggie made his way through the sitting room, and the door leading to the kitchen. "HEY! Who ate all my pop tarts?!" He'd have sworn there was still an entire box up there the last time he'd been by. Sure it had been a while, but seriously Tahlia didn't eat Pop Tarts... like ever.

"She ate the Pop Tarts? Seriously?" A laugh burst from her lips, gone a moment later. "A little over a month. It feels...longer." She'd seen him more recently, of course, but they'd kept word of her attack under wraps. "Yeah...go ahead...you know your way around. Let me see if there's still that box hidden...." Tahlia ducked down, bending to check a bottom cabinet. There was some rummaging and then...."Ha! Found 'em. Strawberry..." Backing out from the cabinet, she held out the box like a prize.

Jackpot.

"Hey, I take care of you...don't I?" She waved him off, grabbing a plate, and sticking the barely-food items into the toaster.

Reggie took the box like she was handing out hundred dollar bills, that poor lid never had a chance. "A month?" It'd been longer for him, but that wasn't unusual really. "That surprises me. He's usually so..." Whatever else Reggie had to say was muffled by the mouthful of pop tart that he'd taken. He didn't linger in the kitchen, too many memories and he wasn't altogether sure what surfaces were actually not...used. He was back in the living room, opening laptops and and holding the fake danish between his teeth. "So, what exactly did you need from me?" He'd obviously been paid in advance.

"So...what?" She was honestly curious. Reggie seemed to know the secretive Selkie better than anyone - Tahlia was nearly certain better than she did, some days. "I need you to backdoor into the Golden Bough. You've heard about the kids that have been going missing...?" She was certain he had, but it was an good an introduction as any. And she genuinely wasn't sure how he'd react to how she was getting the information...

"Wait, who ate them?" It had just registered that Tahlia had said, she.

"The same person who broke the desk clerk's fingers. She'll...be back." She hoped so, anyway.

"Uhm... So Eddie." Reggie planted his elbow and pinched the bridge of his nose, he had a big mouth. "The Gambling place?" A complex strand of cables came out of the backpack, the ends meticulously plugged in from one computer to the next, though he failed to explain any of the 'why' of it. "Sure I've heard of the abducshuns. Everyone on my block has." And a few others probably, but honestly nobody wanted Reggie...not like that anyway. "You looking to do a little illegal betting? I got this great worm that'll give you the down card for any online dealer."

"He's always that. Even... when he isn't here." The black pearl was just visible under the knot of her shirt, and there was a subtle brush of fingers across it. "Yeah, the gambling place. And no...I'm not looking to bet. I...have an open line of credit." It was one way to put it. "Yeah...the thing is...I need their network decoded. For information." Setting down a glass of soda, she took her bourbon, and flopped onto the couch.

"What kind of information?" He pressed the power buttons on the other laptops filling the air with the sound of overworking fans. The odd thing was that all of the information ticked up on the central screen, the others remained dark. "I mean, it matters because... Boom!..." the screen on the left flared to life with the Golden Bough's website. "...because it'll help me know the 'where' to look." The screen on the right came alive then, scrolling code faster than the eye could pick out symbols. Reggie shifted his hands to that keyboard and typed in a string of letters numbers and symbols. The screen flashed the word Denied over and over again. "Gonna be a little bit while the locksmith works." He sat back, finally looking away from the screens to Tahlia, he chewed his lip even though his hand still held the remnants of a pop tart. "He'll be back, he always comes back." Whether that was to reassure her or him was harder to figure out. "She'll have to break more than my fingers if she wants my staples... whoever she is."

"Everything? I don't... really know. They got someone they shouldn't have. And I know she's... well, she's there. Somewhere." Tahlia ran her hand through her ponytail, and sighed. "But I can't just go looking for her. I need to be able to get the information to someone else. I can't do anything with it, and stay useful." Not to mention safe. Her hand slid to her throat, and she took a large swallow of bourbon. "It can't trace back, and I know you know how to do that." There was a moment of silence, and she just... nodded. "I know. I just... wish he was already. And I wouldn't say that to her. She might."

"Everything?" He shoved the last of the pop tart into his mouth and focused on the screen that was still denying him access. "Admin level access..." He nodded to himself twice before stopping the scroll and adding in a few more lines of code. "I wouldn't worry about the backtrack. That device right there is an IP shuffler. It grabs your address, and randomizes the numbers that get displayed. Right now the site thinks we're on an entirely different continent. You're not the only one that misses him, but think of it this way. If he was here, there wouldn't be any stealthy stuff happening. Pretty much kick in the door and blaze away." If there was anything Reggie knew it was that while Eddie could do subtle, he liked to wake up the neighborhood. "You don't have to worry about me. Nobody wants to have much to do with me one way or another." There were those who knew what he could do of course, but Reggie doubted that any of them would give him a second look if he didn't have these particular skills. He reached for the soda and took a sip. "Not that I blame em."

"He didn't kick in doors in Westport..." She knew Reggie was right, though. Eddie wouldn't be thrilled about her putting herself in the kind of danger she was, especially after the vampire attack. She wasn't going to mention that... it was over, and she was... relatively safe. Except from Adder himself. "Reg... you know that isn't true. I know you've been busy. And I'm sure Eddie wouldn't mind if you took the Runner out... I can hardly drive it, and you know the engine doesn't like to sit too long..." She was trying to coax him... lure him out. She was worried about him. "And you can always come hang out here. There's the hot tub."

"Tch..." Reggie did his best to keep his face expressionless, though he did like to drive the big purple car. His effort was rewarded when the central screen popped to life again. "You know I don't mean you and Eddie. I just mean there ain't no real benefit in bothering with me. I don't mind really, kinda chose it for myself." He did nod though at Tahlia's reference to Westport. "He can be a calculating cuss. I think he prefers action though... I'm in, but somehow I doubt that we'll find what you're looking for through the normal CCtv cameras." Reggie still pulled up the video feeds, they were showing on that left hand screen. On the center he scrolled through the files, clicking on the one for room service. "We might find her easier by looking at what rooms are ordering... and how often. Correlate that with rooms that have had the same occupancy for... how long has this person been missing?"

"I'm not sure... the message I got wasn't exactly... coherent. Can you just... I don't know, shrink the files? Wait... can you get into Adder's files?" It was a dangerous suggestion, but if anyone would have all the answers, he would. "There's a computer in his office, but it's probably encrypted heavily." She knew how much he loved the car. "You know you're worth more than some random street kid. And I know he does...not exactly much for words. But that's okay." They were bouncing between topics... mostly because Tahlia was trying to stay on topic and not just... talk about Eddie. "Can you just... grab all the files? And maybe compress them on something like... a sim card?" She was thinking of information exchange, and keeping herself, and Reggie, protected. At least Eddie was safely away.

Reggie stared at Tahlia like she had two heads, and both of them were scowling at him. It wasn't her fault he supposed, sometimes it was like they were speaking entirely different languages. "I can get in, though I'll have to get through his firewall and any encryptions he might have. When Blowfish came out I put my pin prick code together. When Twofish happened I came up with double hook. Now I try to stay ahead of the curve." Reggie laced his fingers, extended his palms outwards until the knuckles in his hands popped before raising them over his head, stretching until his shoulders and spine popped. Only then did he release them, arcing them down to the side and bringing them back together as prayer hands in front of him as he exhaled. "This is where my kung fu is best." He grinned broadly at Tahlia, called up an input box and simply typed:

Initiate Program/S'Mores.exe.

Tahlia just - blinked. Several times in succession, slow controlled bats of those wide green eyes. She hadn't the foggiest idea what he was talking about, but assumed from the sudden zen master moment that he had a plan. Grinning back, she leaned over and kissed his temple. "That's my Reg. This is why I only ever call you, Pop Tart. You never let me down." Eddie didn't either, but calling him right now wouldn't do either of them any good. "Don't worry about interpreting it... wait... do you..."

The little blonde took a breath, and tried to translate what she had in her head. "Can we like, zip the info on one, and put a... magnifying glass on another? I don't need to see the information, I just have to get it to someone. If they're separate... it's like the zip drives. From the Gala." She still had those, stashed in places only she knew about. "That way they're only useful if you have both pieces." They might speak different languages, but so far, the kid had never not been able to translate her, or Eddie for that matter. She was pretty sure it was at least a little because he never wanted to tell either of them no.

"I can do a lot of things, frag out the data between sim cards so that you'd need both to have anything. I could arrange for a sign, countersign application to verify that the cards in question are not fakes or copies. I could arrange for a black box system, one that will keep the cards active and download anytime this Adder guy saves anything. I can't make it all visible on a card though, because storage capacity is exceeded by the amount of information." He wasn't sure what she needed, and unfortunately no amount of kisses would change the laws of physics. "Leaving this program in place isn't an option so, if you want something viewable, you'll have to pick what it is." He wanted another pop tart, but taking one before business was complete was a little like asking for both halves of a payment upfront.

"No... something they've got to put on a computer is best." Tahlia closed her eyes, trying to think this through. This was when she missed Eddie the most. He was more familiar with all of this then she was, even if it wasn't by much. Her plays had always depended on a fairly basic formula, that didn't require the level of technology Reggie and Eddie seemed to take for granted. "Can we do the countersign thing... so they need to upload both to get the information? Does that... does that make sense?" There was a subtle snap from the kitchen, the toaster finishing its work. The truth was she was just glad for the company. Toaster pastry was a small price to pay, and there'd likely be some cash in it as well.

Reggie unzipped the front pocket of his backpack and a black box about the size of his palm. Next came a USB cable and a pair of micro cards. He plugged the cable into his computer then into the box before pushing the cards into place. A pair of LED's on the face of the box lit up as he locked the cards into place. "You'll need this too, in order to get the data back together." He dragged and dropped the contents of Adder's hard drive into the window that popped up, the fans of all three computers started working overtime. "I didn't use identical cards, because you'd need to mark them so you know which goes into slot A and which into B. You'll have to remember the difference. The way this works is A gets the sign, B gets the counter. It's randomized but they'll only recognize each other. I could make a copy of either but they'd fail that initial handshake even though all the other data is the same."

He looked up as the toaster sounded, eyes going to the kitchen. "Sounds like they're playing my song in there." He'd have beamed at the comment once, he was much too cool for that kind of thing now. Cool and absolutely serious! Someone had to be, right?

It looked better on him than it had, once upon a time. But she knew in there somewhere was the kid who had eaten licorice pipes in her bathroom, and flushed when she and Eddie got lost in each other. He just seemed to feel like he had to fill those shoes while the big man was away. "Sounds like it... I think I might have extra icing from the box of apple cinnamon... if you want it." Rising from the couch, she rumpled his hair, and sauntered off to the kitchen. She understood - why else was she wearing one of Eddie's shirts? She'd saved the last voicemail he'd left her too, just to hear his voice. Dropping the Pop Tarts onto a plate, she grabbed the extra icing, just in case.

Once the download was complete Reggie disconnected the cable from the computer. "You sure extra icing isn't just for kids?" He hadn't felt much like a kid lately, he wouldn't admit it to anyone either, but he hadn't felt much like a person. That didn't stop him from covering his tracks with the thing that made S'Mores best, melty gooey marshmallow. "Today, everyone's a winner." In his estimation there were two ways to cover his infiltration into the casino's servers. Perhaps it would have been smarter to leave no traces, but the rest of him wanted it to be seen as something else. He wouldn't see it happen, but he knew that as soon as he'd disengaged the coin machines would start paying out at twice their normal rate. They'd know they'd been hacked, but it would look like that was the intention all along.

(written with Reggie's player, with much thanks)
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Mallory
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

September 18, 2018 - The Mirror World.

"Witch of Blood... would you care for a stone as well, from the world which mirrors our own? The whispers linger, and should you wish... you can listen."

Mallory and Eri stood on the shores of a vast lake, ten times wider than the body of water that sat to the east of New Haven and the Golden Perch. Mist rolled across the surface, parting around the twisted shape of massive tentacles severed from some vast eldritch beast, already calcified just a week after Penny and Mai slew Sister Cecilia. They were only a few short steps from where the witch had torn open a portal to pull her friends out of that horrible place. She remembered seeing vast shapes in the fog, writhing abominations, hearing their calls and those of the poor souls who had already been lost to the nuns' twisted magic; but now the realm seemed empty by comparison, a shell of itself, and as silent as the grave.

Not completely silent, though graves themselves rarely were. The stone Jesse had gifted her, a fragment of some powerful abomination from this realm, sat in the palm of her left hand, whispering insistently as it drank blood from the cuts in her skin. While Mallory focused on the voidstone's words, Eri kept watch and stuck close to the portal -- it had been an easy feat to reopen it, once Jesse had gifted the witch with a key.

"Show me... let me See the shape of the other side as you once Saw with your great eye, Kan-Zaradas the Hungerer..."

The witch grunted in pain as a cyclopean visage flashed across her vision, shrieking and howling at her from the depths of the void, but the price she paid had been enough. Eri looked over at Mallory with concern, but she merely slitted her glowing green eyes open, curved pupils dilating as she pointed across the crooked, crumbling towers of the mirror city stretching before them.

"There. I see an infernal light."

* * * * *

The district of Seaside was nearly unrecognizable, vast monoliths bursting out of the shoreline and crawling with petrified beings, their twisted hands stretched out to the void-afflicted sky in supplication; but once they were past the sinister temple that dominated the beach they thought they knew, they came before the familiar architecture of the Golden Bough.

A gulf of darkness separated them from the building, floating on an island of jagged rock above an abyss, with slimy rocks and the rubble of the buildings around it tumbling steadily into the depths in an endless avalanche.

But the strangeness of the hotel's isolation did not interest the witch so much as what she Saw in that abyss. A single blazing, white-hot thread stretched off into the darkness, and despite the vastness of the distance, the vision of Kan-Zaradas, the beast of the voidstone, allowed her to sense the shape of the spell on the other end. It was a teleportation circle, not unlike the portal magic the witch herself had used in the past, though the jagged hooks it came to, and the faint whispers of its power she heard, tipped her off that the spell was infernal.

A portal, anchored in Hell itself, wide enough to allow the soul of a powerful archdevil to ascend...

As the potent thread of planar magic passed through the foundations of the Golden Bough, the light dimmed, actively suppressed by the intricately knotted wards that gleamed along every corner, window, and wall. It took effort to trace the path of that infernal power through the building, diluted by the layered enchantments designed to prevent scrying, teleportation, and magical destruction. It took several minutes of careful focus, standing silently at the edge of the abyss, before the witch felt certain that she had traced the thread to its other end, in a square chamber in the heart of the eighteenth floor.

There were hooks here, too, forty in total, though their connection to the would-be portal was suppressed by the teleportation wards erected around the penthouse. Over thirty-six of these hooks were flickering flames of that same blinding white light, the same as she had seen time and again in Tartarus... though the longer Mallory focused on these, the more she noticed about them. Sudden shifts and leaps, glimpses of shadows, faces passing over them. Her fingers danced slowly, deliberately, spider-like through the air, and along the threads she could hear desperate whispers and cries for help. Mom, dad, where are you?! Mama, papa, please...! Mimi -- momma -- help! Others cried out in anger, or had no parents to name, calling out to friends or other family, a cacophony of sorrow and desperation steadily filling her ears, making each sound harder to disentangle from the last...

Rob.

"Haley." Mallory's foot dangled over open ground as she felt Eri's protective grip around her arm, as hard and unyielding as iron, keeping her from falling. The witch gave her a grateful look as she steadied herself, and held the half-oni's gaze as she explained, "There are the captive souls of thirty-six people, children, up there in the penthouse of the Golden Bough. And she's there, too. I felt her. And once they have forty souls?

"They're sending them to Hell. And bringing Adder back."

((The character of Eri belongs to Eri's player, used with permission.))
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Mallory
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 3rd, 2018.

As the day drew to an end, the sun's last rays filtered through the west-facing windows of the eighteenth floor, bathing it in a fiery light befitting the infernal ritual that was about to occur.

The soul of the real Samuel Adder, Anomenar, was almost out of time, but through many months of planning and deviously laid traps, his three succubi had secured the price of Zarhas opening the gate to his abode: forty mortal children. The gleaming white crystals that contained them were arrayed around the center of the room in a ritual pattern, flashing with the fearful and anguished faces of the captive souls returning to consciousness, and warm with the promise of life-giving power within.

Near the center stood Naomi, Maria and Shannon, their arms held up and out, fingertips almost touching as they chanted: Animus, corpus, chrysalis... animus, corpus, chrysalis... The air rippled and the sun's rays bent strangely in the narrow space between them, coalescing around the nascent gateway to Zarhas' chamber in Hell.

Shannon turned her head ever so slightly to the side, not quite making eye contact with the commander of the eighteen corporate soldiers lined up in tight formation, just outside the perimeter of the ritual circle; but he could see her, and he returned the gesture when she gave him an almost imperceptible nod. Sleek, enchanted steel weapons lined the tactical armor that covered their bodies, and their strangely warped mirrored helmets were dripping with a viscous mixture of blood and ash.

They are ready.

The last ray of sunlight disappeared, and the rippling air between the succubi took on the appearance of turbulent, boiling water. The features of the impish collector's chamber were difficult to discern, but Zarhas himself could be seen plainly... as well as the wide, suspicious eye he turned on the succubi and their surroundings. His pupil swiveled erratically, taking in each of their faces two, three times; the forty soul crystals, counting them twice over; and the far walls of the chamber, passing seamlessly over the squad of soldiers waiting in the wings.

He grunted his assent, apparently blind to whatever magic concealed the soldiers from his eyes, and produced a similar orb in the palm of his rubbery gray hand, containing the unmistakable visage of Anomenar pressed in anger against the glass, screaming his fury and promises of vengeance against his captor. A year in this prison had not been kind to the devil, or his temperament. "I am satisfied. Are you?" Zarhas intoned, baring his dripping teeth at the succubi.

In response, the three of them intertwined their fingers, bending them in a precise motion that brought the Golden Bough's intricate wards crashing down. The moment the scrying tear widened into a planar rift, eighteen soldiers drew their weapons and converged, leaping through the rift onto the oblivious imp, driving blazing blades deep into his flesh, and he shrieked in agony...

...soon joined by screams of their own, as a menagerie of tortured abominations converged on the soldiers from every corner of the infernal chamber.

* * * * *

The abandoned house was quiet, the noise from the road muffled by the heavy white curtains hanging over every window. The furnitures were covered in sheets, and thick gray dust coated the floors and hung in the air, recently disturbed by trespassers...

Mallory's rapid whispers in Latin, barely louder than a quiet breath, carried over the silence as she knelt in the small parlor. Her fingers twitched and dangled over the simple circle drawn into the dust around her, spectral sprites dancing slowly around the perimeter. She was dressed in simple, practical clothes, well-fitting jeans and combat boots and a military jacket with plenty of pockets, all of them full. Her eyes were rolled back, glowing with an eerie silver light as she Saw the Golden Bough in the distance.

Eri Maeda was there with Mallory, though a few paces away so to give the witch space to work her spells and to stay clear of the movement of the spectral sprites. The delinquent was dressed similarly in mismatched military blouse and trousers along with her hobnailed boots. She carried in hand the enchanted jian Mallory had gifted her earlier, and was equipped with other weapons carried on webbing and a black load-bearing vest.

Penny's red cloak hung loosely about her neck, the normally bright color taking on a more muted and somber shade in the presence of other working and presumably delicate magic within Mallory's circle. The wizard did her best to ignore the urge to pace, to be set in motion, a habit that often presented itself just before she was about to take on a path through the Ways. Her hiking boots didn't make a sound against the old floor of the abandoned home, and there was no telling rattle of glass as she did move, simply because she did not have her messenger bag on her. Dressed in her actual battle leathers underneath her cloak, all shades of dark brown, and with her hair pulled back into a braid, Penny waited patiently for Mallory to do her work.

There was a moment when the witch held her breath, and every ghost writhing in the dust bared its teeth and hissed in unison. White-hot light flashed across Mallory's eyes, and she broke the circle with a sweep of her hand, kicking up another great cloud of dust across the room. "It's time," she said as she climbed to her feet, looking from Eri to Penny with a decisive nod.

It wasn't quite a smile issued to both Eri and Mallory before Penny's left hand came out from underneath her cloak carrying a small obsidian stone. She turned towards one of the heavy curtains after deciding any window was as good as any, and in a sweeping arc of her hand drew up a doorway that was tearing its way open from the house into the Ways.

Initially the wizard blocked the doorway, first tossing the stone onto the other side before it grew and developed into a safe pathway for their intended destination. Whatever tension or angst that may have been brewing along her shoulders relaxed and she turned around to the couple, eyes brightening to a shade of golden copper, "Okay we're good. No need to go jumping through a pit of lava to get to the other side," declaring as if that was a large concern that had weighed heavily on Penny's mind from the start. And with that, Penny moved through the doorway with Mallory and Eri following closely behind, leading them on the path to the Golden Bough...

* * * * *

The sound of bellowing roars, dying screams, and rending flesh echoed out of the planar rift as two wounded soldiers came staggering through, dragging the dying imp between them. His jaws were fastened around the crystal that contained Anomenar, and a distinct crack formed along one side as his blood-soaked fangs ground down.

"Master!" Shannon plunged her hand into the creature's mouth as it rolled the orb back into its throat; she caught hold of it but cried out in pain as Zarhas bit down on her arm, and in a rapid flash of sadistic retaliation, struck out with her other hand and dug her lengthening claws into his red eyes. The creature gurgled out its dying breath past her bloody arm as she struggled to wrench her master's soul free.

The portal remained open, and writhing tentacles, grasping claws, and lashing stingers began to ear at the edges as several of Zarhas' abominations lost interest in their wounded and dying prey, and turned their attention to the soldiers that had escaped them. The commander paid little heed to them, or to the desperate pleas of the comrades they had left behind. He held out his hand, waited for an opening... and a bolt of infernal fury tore its way out of his hand and through his glove, tearing a deep gouge in Zarhas' ritual circle.

Enough for the portal to wink out of existence, severing the appendages of several abominations, and the reaching fingers of a soldier now trapped on the other side.

Maria let out the breath she was holding with a long sigh, but her relief was short-lived. Shannon was cradling the soul crystal in both hands, wrenched most of the way out of Zarhas' tightly clenched jaws, whispering an incantation as she dragged the body back towards the center of the ritual circle. The closer she drew, the brighter the forty captive souls grew, stretching out slowly towards Anomenar... "Now?! The wards are still down!" she exclaimed, stepping over a crawling soldier to reach for Shannon's arm, but the other succubus shrugged her off and hissed a warning at her.

"Our master is damaged! He must be empowered now, or he will die!"

Maria scowled at Shannon as she staggered away from the circle, and turned towards Naomi -- who had her attention on a fault-line hovering in the air, branching into a web of smaller fissures that warped reality around them. "The wards are down, and someone's coming -- I know," Naomi growled, preparing to welcome them with the infernal fire that erupted out of the floor around her and roared into her hands, building into a fireball that rotated faster and faster as the intruders approached the widening portal...

"Let them come."

* * * * *

"Hey. Professor Gloom."

The verbal jab jolted Patrick from the mire of his thoughts and back into reality. He scrunched his eyes closed, pressing thumb and fingers hard against both eyelids until he saw stars. "Sorry. What were you saying?"

Connie just shook his head. "You zoned out. Relax, man."

"I'm trying." Trick blinked several times until his vision clear, then stared out across the urban landscape to where The Golden Bough loomed in the distance. They'd take to the roof of the warehouse for a better view of the skyline, leaving Patrick's ship, Temperance, waiting two stories below.

"A watched pot never boils."

Patrick's eyes snapped toward the other man in surprise, the ghost of a smile tugging at his lips. "That did not just come out of your mouth."

Connie grinned at him.

"You sound like an old grandma or something," Trick said, ducking to one side when Connie chucked a pea-sized piece of chipped concrete at his head. It bounced off his tactical vest and tumbled over the side of the building to the ground below. Patrick leaned to watch it fall.

"Fair enough," Conrad conceded. "But it doesn't mean I'm wrong. You need to relax. They'll go in, do their thing, and call us for extraction. Clean and simple."

The sliver of humor he'd found slipped through his fingers like the last grains of sand in an hourglass. Patrick glanced at the walkie talkie clipped to his riggers belt, silently willing the signal they were waiting for to come through as easily as Conrad said it would.

"A lot of people I care about are in that building, Connie." And all the what-ifs were driving him insane. That Mallory and Penny were experienced and beyond capable didn't keep him from worrying about their safety, not to mention the unknown certainty of Haley's well-being.

"Look." Conrad leveled Patrick with a serious, no-nonsense expression. He clapped a hand on the younger man's shoulder and squeezed. "From what you've told me, your sister's a scary powerful witch and your girlfriend's a freaking bada--"

An explosion in the distance stopped Conrad dead in his tracks. Both men scrambled to their feet, staring in disbelief at the belch of flame and smoke which poured like blood from a gaping wound in The Golden Bough's side.

Conrad swore. Patrick felt his stomach drop. The walkie talkie at his side crackled to life. A tumult of noise blared from the speaker, discordant screams interrupting the steady roar of something miasmic blazing steadily in the background.

Trick didn't wait another second to start moving. He hauled himself over the lip of the roof, using the fire escape to get as quickly to the ground as possible with Conrad right behind him, muttering a continuous stream of curses under his breath.

"Lock it up," Patrick said to Conrad once they were aboard Temperance. When he reached the bridge, he found Caroline in his seat going over the flight check. "No, stay there," he told her when she started to get up. "Something's wrong." Trick yanked the walkie talkie from his belt and pressed it into a slot on the dashboard console. A cacophony of sound filled the room.

"What happened?" Caroline asked.

"I don't know. There was an explosion, which was not part of the plan."

Her expression hardened. "Cap?"

Patrick focused on the sounds coming through the speakers. Their carefully crafted strategy had gone to hell. Maybe even literally. He grit his teeth and met his co-pilot's eyes after coming to a swift decision.

"Get us airborne. Hard burn, Caro. Hot as you can."

"Oz?" Caroline said, shifting her attention to the comm system.

A male's voice came through the speaker ten seconds later. "Green for takeoff."

"Shiny," the pilot said grimly and flipped a few switches. "What's the plan, Cap?"

"I say we make the hole in that building a little bigger."

((Played with Penny and Eri and Trick, with thanks! Part two coming soon!))
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mallory could barely maintain her focus over the ringing in her ears as the infernal fire finally subsided, leaving clouds of black smoke floating in through the flickering green barrier that protected the witch, the wizard, and the oni. She coughed roughly through gritted teeth as she kept her hand clamped down tight on top of the Ring of Klytus. The artifact pulsed with energy, shaking the debris that littered the cracked and scorch-marked floor as it poured every once of itself into protecting them.

Corporate soldiers in tactical gear groaned and crawled around them -- those that hadn't perished instantly in Naomi's fireball. A handful remained in fighting shape, dragging themselves to their feet; they cast wary looks to their sadistic masters before they drew their white-hot blades and called bolts of sinister magic to their fingertips, waiting for the order to move in.

Shannon, the red-headed succubi halfway across the blown-out chamber from them, was staring in disgust at the other two, kneeling over... something twisted. A rubbery impish shape in the middle of the dozens of soul crystals that had remarkably remained in place in spite of the explosion, though there was the gleam of another in the imp's jaws, flashing red as forty silver threads began winding their way around it. Shannon was shouting something the witch couldn't hear over the ringing in her ears as she struggled to wrench the crystal free, gesturing angrily to the two succubi closing in around them...

CRACK! A thick, muscular tail lashed out from Maria's back, causing a backlash of power to surge through Mallory's barrier, as she and Naomi paced in and out of the clouds of smoke and dust, circling their quarry.

"I can't hold this," the witch whispered hoarsely to her two companions... before the ring became inert, a dull greenish gray, and the barrier vanished, leaving them open to attack.

When she became aware of the dispersal of the flickering green barrier, Eri preemptively charged without warning directly through the roiling smoke toward Maria. The surprising suddenness of the half oni's charge allowed her to close the distance without a spell fired, though the succubus was quick enough to divert the lethal lunge of blade that Eri presented. Soon the two were rolling on the floor in a desperate struggle, face to face with snarls and snapping of teeth.

From the ash and dust formed a pair of creatures on either side of Penny's feet, birthing their way into existence, covered in black fur with twin tusks protruding from their mouths and soon charging on all fours into the fray not long after Eri rushed forward. Directed by their master, the bright gold shine of the wizard's eyes blazing after them, the wild beasts set out to trample and meet the blade and spells of their prey with ferocity. While their teeth gnashed and hooves kicked up more debris, Penny extended an open palm up in Naomi's direction before kudzu vines began sprouting there and started their rapid growth for the succubus and anything else between them.

Maria snarled as she hit the mat with Eri, narrowly rolling out of the way of the conjured boars as they trampled over two soldiers. Naomi had her arms wound up in Penny's vines, and a new tail of draining black mist lashed out at the wizard as the succubus tried to drag her bindings through the flames still burning their way across the chamber.

Mallory took advantage of the chaos unfolding around her, snatching her ring off the ground as she pushed off at a low sprint, plowing through the plumes of smoke and around a gout of flame roaring its way out of a crumbling hole in the floor. A bolt of infernal energy aimed at one of the boars went wild, rippling out of the confusion and blasting into her side, and she staggered -- her foot caught on one of the orbs, locked stubbornly into the ritual circle -- and fell, sliding across the floor towards the center.

"Witch," Shannon snarled at the sight of the meddling mortal, and paused her chanting to conjure a bead of ugly, writhing Void in one hand, bringing it down towards the witch's head.

Mallory tightened her left hand into a fist until her nails cut open her palm and uttered a guttural whisper, and the first three drops of blood to hit the floor burst into writhing black tentacles, lashing around Shannon's arms to hold her at bay. The bead of Void crackled inches from her temple, burning her skin as she squeezed in around the tentacles, trying to close her fingers around the soul crystal locked in the succubus' grasp...

At close quarters with the irate oni, Maria was struggling to keep Eri at bay. The delinquent had released her grip on her sword when grappling with the succubus and after delivering a headbutt had retrieved the spike from her vest. Maria's hands were locked around Eri's wrists as the snarling oni attempted to stab the weapon down into her face illuminated by the glow of the delinquent's baleful yellow eyes. When she felt the test of strength swinging in Eri's favor Maria desperately conjured up an electric spell that fired with a snapping sound at close range. Eri was stunned and blasted several meters away where she lay twitching on the floor.

The boars continued on their rampage, circling back to crush more battered security or send them running in the way of the tripping and ensnaring kudzu vines. Though much of the fighting plant growth was burned away by the leftover flames dotting the scene, more regrowth rapidly spilled from Penny's hand to replenish what was being lost until she was forced to lower her hand.

A shifting clatter of metal against metal seemed silent in the white noise of violence as the woman released the latch underneath the red cloak and the battle axe about three sizes too big for someone of her size came into view and out of its hidden glamour. The look she gave Naomi was more of a taunt than anything else as she drew the axe up in both hands, and as the thick tail lashed in the wizard's direction one of the boars leapt forward and into the appendage to meet it in the air first.

The howl of pain from the beast caused Penny to stagger backwards, but she held her ground as the life syphoning power ate away at the creature even as it gnawed at the tail in blind rage.

"Didn't I cut that off already?" Penny grunted before she was drawing up the red fabric of her cloak to act as a shield to ward off a pending attack from Naomi's tail. Penny continued to press for any sort of advantage she could over the angry succubus. This resulted in more than a few floor rattling shaking stomps and a bright green whip chord of magic that flew to strike at Naomi's side as they continued to fight.

Maria skirted out of the path of the wizard's lash and advanced on Eri's twitching form, pointing a shadow-shrouded finger at the witch as she moved. Mallory screamed in anguish as the infernal hex set fire to her nerves. The pulsating, burning soul of Anomenar began slipping from her grasp and her conjured tentacles weakened as Shannon pushed the searing Void closer to the witch, and resumed her chanting. Animus, corpus, chrysalis...! she uttered as her fingers closed around the orb.

As Penny and Naomi circled each other, trading blows with axe and tail, fresh soldiers appeared from infernal portals bursting out of the floor, their warped mirror helmets gleaming from the flames as they reached for their weapons. "Move in!" called one with epaulets on her armored shoulders, "surround the intruders and take them out!"

She drew her sword lazily as she stalked towards the window, turning for a better view of the fight as Adder's reinforcements moved in for the kill...

((Adapted from a scene with Penny, Trick, and Eri, with thanks! More to come!))


Last edited by Mallory on Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The ear-splitting, raucous roar of great engines preceded the sudden implosion of what was left of the outside wall as the titanic nose of a spaceship shoved its way into the building. The decorated officer staggered and fell, crushed beneath the weight of debris that came crashing down on top of her.

As the ship advanced, her body was pushed along with a pile of rubble toward the middle of the room. It rolled to a stop at the edge of the ritual circle as Temperance's arrival blew smoke, shattered glass, and hot air from her forward thrusters clear across the chamber. Shannon grunted and tried to shield her eyes with the crook of her arm, straining against the black tentacles that still loosely bound her limbs. "Let me go...!" she growled.

Mallory obliged her.

The moment the tentacles burst into black mist, Shannon reeled away from the witch and the ruined body of the imp, and the soul she held soared through the air, bouncing over the scorch-marked tiles and rolling loose among the soul crystals of forty captive children. She went scrambling after it on all fours, grasping desperately as it rolled away from her. "Anomenar!" the succubus cried.

"Meliai." Three syllables in an ancient tongue, and the blade imbued with the magic of the Tower of Earth burst out of the witch's hand, narrowly missing Shannon's neck as it sliced cleanly through the floor tiles and severed the ritual circle. With a bright burst of energy, their magic released its hold on the forty captive souls.

Many simply rolled free, the physical forms contained within slowly materializing, while the most recent captives violently shattered their prisons, a dozen children of various ages returning to their bodies for the first time in days or weeks. The witch thought she caught a flash of a familiar head of dirty-blonde hair through the smoke billowing across the chamber... "Haley!" she cried, and felt the familiar, powerful voice in her head that could sense her every feeling:

Mallory.

From her place in the cockpit, Caroline smiled darkly at the screen on the dash in front of her which showed three, tiny red markers and where they were in relation to everything else in the room. Satisfied with having not harmed their quarry, she vented another blast of hot air through the forward thrusters to clear a path for her crew.

When the cargo bay door opened, a pair of men dressed in matching black taclite gear spilled out of its mouth with guns drawn.

"Well," said Patrick over the roar of noise. Around his waist was a heavy duty riggers belt adorned with mag and gear pouches, and the gleam of a holstered, lightweight compact revolver. Just in case. "This is a situation."

Conrad shot him a look. "Really? And here I was thinking it was ********************."

"Patrick!" shouted Mallory, her tone a mixture of relief and distress. "The kids!"

"Connie," Patrick barked. "Don't let anyone on this boat," he instructed.

"You got it, Cap," he replied while lifting his gun to shoot a nearby soldier who was shakily getting back to his feet.

Patrick disappeared into the haze of smoke toward the terrified cries of children and began herding them swiftly into the safety of Temperance's belly.

Even through the chaos of battle, the presence of Haley Jensen's mind inside Mallory's mind was clearer than any other sense. She knew the girl was helping to shepherd the other children to the ship, because she wanted her to know that. The witch cast a last look at the young psychic through the smoke, before she stooped to snatch her sword from the floor and went loping off after Shannon and Adder...

((Adapted from a scene with Penny, Trick, and Eri, with thanks! More to come!))


Last edited by Mallory on Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eri had only just scrambled back to her feet to challenge Maria when Temperance crashed into the building, bowling the both of them over again. The oni was quicker to recover and sprung back to her feet, managing to retrieve her sword from the ground, wobbly as she was. As soon as her fingers closed around the hilt, she advanced toward the recovering succubus.

Expecting another reckless charge, Maria prepared a spell, light crackling at her fingertips. The delinquent charged, but held back with a feint that drew Maria forward, the misstep causing the spell to falter. Infuriated, Maria advanced on Eri as the delinquent retreated, her claws outstretched, ready to swing --

-- only to be met with an unexpected lunge of the enchanted jian, plunging into her throat.

Eri had to fight the urge to laugh when she saw the surprised look on Maria's face, but she kept her composure and didn't waste the opportunity. She drew the sword back again, then swung it in a quick overhand chop with all the momentum her body could impart. The sharp blade sliced into the top of the succubus' skull, and remained lodged there as Maria fell back onto the ground once more. Not willing to abandon it, Eri loomed over her prone form and gave the blade a few rocking motions to free it.

On the other side of the room, Penny was now in close quarters with Naomi. The forceable impact of Temperance's appearance had rocked the wizard's balance off mid axe swing. With luck the axe still struck true to Naomi's torso, opening a gash with her jerking in pain, but all the grace and power behind the blow had been halved.

Whipping about to regain her feet, instead Penny was met with a furious lash of the succubus' tail, knocking the wizard to the ground with her weapon clattering beside her. As Penny stretched to reach for the axe handle, the last of her conjured beasts came charging from the opposite direction only to be caught up in Naomi's claws, shredded at and tossed aside against a wall as if it was not much more than a minor inconvenience. This time, it was Penny who jerked and writhed in pain, the gold in her eyes suddenly going dark as she shouted a curse at Naomi, her magic utterly spent.

Patrick came out of nowhere and barreled right into Naomi, driving his shoulder into her side in an attempt to throw her off-balance. Caught up in momentary surprise, the succubus gasped as she was knocked off her feet and sent sprawling onto the floor. She righted herself in an instant, crouching low as she whirled about to face her attacker. Trick scrambled to his feet in time to see Naomi straighten up with a laugh.

"Mortal," she sneered contemptuously. Naomi turned her back on him, unconcerned, fixing her eyes on the troublesome Wizard. She waited until she was sure Penny was watching, then snapped her tail in a scythe-like motion that caught Patrick across the chest, sending him hurtling into the wall. His body crumpled like a ragdoll , sliding to the floor in a heap.

Having rolled up to her feet with obvious strain, Penny's hands tightened around the handle of her weapon, but the weight of it was growing too heavy for her to lift it. The sight of Patrick slumped up against a wall led to a Maori battle cry before the battle axe was hauled up and thrown into the air as if it was a simple throwing hatchet. It would have cracked apart the succubus' skull if only Penny had accounted for the simple side step from Naomi before the blade struck the wall instead.

Penny rushed forward to tackle her then, wrestling with talons and the overgrown black tail with its life draining effects until the pair was rolling on the ground through the mess and destruction. The axe handle wasn't quite in reach and she didn't have the upper hand as Penny had to fight off claws scratching at her face and arms from the succubus straddling her on the ground.

A small flicker of hope formed when Naomi became momentarily ensnared in the last few creeping kudzu vines that started to coil around both her and the wizard. As the succubus was forced to slash her way out of the last-ditch effort of bindings, Penny's eyes searched around wildly first, and spotting the cracks in the wall surrounding the battle axe, extended a hand out towards it.

The battle axe disappeared, called back to its true home in the cuff on her wrist, and the wizard drew on the fading magic from that weapon to force new fissures and fault lines to break apart, spreading higher up onto the wall and up onto the ceiling -- not enough to break yet, though marble and concrete groaned under the strain. The faint flicker of copper in her eyes burned on Naomi's face before Penny was gritting her teeth in pain as Naomi lashed her tail around her torso, draining the life out of her with pulses of shadow. "You should have run when I warned you. Die, wizard," she hissed through her glistening fangs.

Penny felt a warm spray of liquid across her face at the same time the concussive report of a gun rang out twice in sharp succession. Most of Naomi's face was gone and everything that had once been inside her skull was now outside, the gruesome evidence lost in all the rubble and debris. As Naomi's body slumped over, the Wizard could see Patrick sitting up against the wall with his gun out.

The pilot slowly pushed himself forward and crawled on all fours to Penny's side. He shoved what was left of Naomi's body away and tried to get her to stand. "I'd make a joke if I could think of one," he said.

Penny's smile was brief. She curled her fingers in a loose grip around his wrist. "I'm tired," she murmured, eyelids fluttering closed.

Trick holstered his gun as two children darted past him toward Connie standing guard at the cargo door and keeping count.

"Thirty-three... thirty-four...!" Mallory could hear his voice over the soldiers' and succubi's dying screams as she went searching through the thick smoke and debris for her quarry, coughing into her arm as she went. She bumped into something solid, and pushed a weeping, stumbling child in the direction of the bright lights of Temperance and its thrusters. "Thirty-five!" The witch nodded grimly, and cast her eyes towards the last place she'd seen the infernal spirit rolling...

Nadya.

((Adapted from live play with Trick and Eri and Penny, with thanks! More to come!))
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"That isn't my name," the witch sneered as she found the pulsating and weakening light of the soul crystal containing her lifelong tormentor and nemesis, revealed in the smoke by its gleam. "But I've heard yours now... Anomenar." With the invocation of his true name, the light expanded, rippling over her as she scooped the crystal into the palm of her hand, and it burned with his infernal essence...

Crack! Shannon's whip-like tail snapped through the air as it lashed across the witch's shoulders, tearing her flesh and sucking life essence out of her body. She staggered, tightening her hand around the crystal, deepening the cuts in her palm in an attempt to invoke a counterspell, but the first syllable was still on her lips when the last remaining succubus crashed into her. There was a whirlwind of motion as she hit the floor, getting a fleeting glimpse of Eri and Trick and other shapes through the billowing smoke and roaring flames, too far across the room to clearly see or hear -- and concealed from them in turn.

"You fools slew my sisters! You won't take my master! I won't let you! Die!" Shannon shrieked, and the witch caught a flash of her true form, crimson skin and curling horns and pearly fangs, before the succubus headbutted her in the nose. Crunch. Dazed, Mallory's head lolled back as she tried to push out from under Shannon's weight, until the succubus seized her by the throat, her fingers gripping tightly as her wicked claws grew longer, scraping along the back of her neck. Mallory's hand tightened reflexively, the cracks in the crystal deepening and spreading as her blood seeped in, and Shannon clawed desperately at her arm. "No... give him to me... he is mine, you bitch...!"

"Mallory!" Haley's shrill voice rang out like a siren. The little girl threw off her blanket, abandoning the group of crying children huddled in Temperance's hull and ran down the ramp back into the building.

"Hey!" Conrad shouted after the girl as she darted past him. "What are you doing? Get back in here!"

Patrick hurried forward with Penny in his arms and a few more children in tow. He glared at the little blonde haired girl who blew past him, but directed his next words to Connie. "How many are left?"

After taking a split second to tally in the newest arrivals, he said, "Just one. And Haley, but--"

"One more you said?" Eri appeared at the mouth of the cargo bay, ushering forward a crying boy to join the others inside.

"Eri!" Patrick sighed her name in relief. "Take Penny. She's fine, just--get her inside. I'll get Haley."

After Penny was transferred safely into the half-oni's arms, Trick ran after Haley and caught her by the arm. "No!" she yelled, twisting out of his grip. "We have to help her!"

"Haley," he replied sternly, even as she continued to ignore him. Trick swore and caught back up to her in two long strides, locking a strong arm around her waist and grunting in pain as he lifted her off her feet. "This is not a discussion," he told her, hauling her back into the ship.

"No!"

Haley didn't move. She only looked. The smoke whirled away in the path of her gaze, revealing the form of the succubus tightening her clawed fingers around Mallory's throat, and she told the creature to stop. Not to stop strangling her, not to stop fighting them, but to stop -- and the billions of little connections between her mind, body and soul froze at once.

The darkness faded from the witch's vision as oxygen flooded back into her lungs, though her nerves still burned with pain from her injuries, and the two throbbing nodules near her temples where she could feel warm blood trickling down her face. She shifted her arm to touch them, and with that simple disturbance, the frozen form of the succubus dissolved into dust.

The broken and bloody pieces of Anomenar's soul lay in her hand, utterly devoid of the burn of his infernal soul, though she could feel a familiar fire spreading in her gullet...

CRACK. The space where Naomi's body still lay sprawled out was covered in an avalanche of rubble as the fault-lines Penny had created in the ceiling finally gave way, collapsing one corner of the burning chamber. "We should get the **** out of here," the witch realized, staring out the now wide-open wall at the smoke-hazed skyline. She blindly grasped Trick's arm as he offered it, letting her brother pull her to her feet with a grunt of effort and pain.

She stumbled as she hurried along with the others, staring at her hot, blood-soaked left hand that had so recently contained the soul of Anomenar, the devil who had stolen her name -- the devil whose soul she had consumed. She could barely hear Eri's question as she reached the edge of Temperance's lowered cargo ramp, and didn't resist the hands pulling her into the cramped hold with forty-odd other passengers.

Connie held his weapon by his hip, taking one last look into the vast chamber. Forty children had been counted safely aboard; of all the bodies that remained in the chamber, none of them were moving. He winced, ducking his head and backing into the hold reflexively as another section of burning ceiling tiles collapsed into a smouldering pile nearby, and recovered to cast an arrogant grin out at the wreckage. "Big damn heroes," he said as he holstered his weapon and slapped Temperance's hull twice, and the ramp let out a long pneumatic hiss as it raised.

Then, with a burst of its thrusters, Temperance lurched away from the burning building and raced off across the bay, away from the sound of wailing sirens converging on the Golden Bough.

((Adapted from a scene with Penny, Trick, and Eri, with many thanks! <3 You're welcome / apologies to those who spotted the many affectionate references to Firefly.))
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