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JewellRavenlock
The Empress
Great Wyrm
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday afternoon

There was a little restaurant in New Haven (lit by candles set on the white tablecloths, a small dance floor, and a well known piano player) which prized the privacy of their guests just a smidge below the quality of their food. The faerie waited outside for her companion, tucking a bit of short, dark hair behind her ear as the breeze tugged at it, pulling it across her face. The debate was scheduled for this evening, but she had been thinking more of her meeting with Canaan than that when she dressed: a black wrap dress, pearls at her throat, and heels that needed no glamour to make her legs look so long.

Although magic made a flawless appearance easy, Jewell still couldn’t resist the urge to pull a small compact from her clutch and check on the status of her lipstick. She wasn’t sure why Cane had wanted to meet, but she wanted to look perfect regardless. She spotted him behind her via the mirror before hearing him.

“Sometimes you make me want to say outrageously inappropriate things.” Cane affixed himself behind Jewell, broad chest pressed bodily up against her back. He stroked callous worn hands down her slender, bare arms and hunched down a little to peek inside the compact, too. “But then you’d probably encourage it, and we’d never make it inside for lunch.” She could hear it in his voice as well as see the reflection of the wicked, fish hook smile that spread across his face.

She snapped the compact closed and turned as he straightened back up. “You look beautiful,” Cane rumbled. He had a rich, sonorous voice that recalled distantly rolling thunder.

It always gave her goosebumps. “Do we really need to go inside?” She asked it playfully, but the undisguised desire in her grey eyes when she looked him over betrayed the seriousness of the question. Why go inside? Why talk about serious things when they could have so much more fun together?

The Cajun was dressed smartly in a pair of khaki slacks, dress shoes, and a deep, red polo shirt that lent him a respectable quality that the length and style of his hair did not. The sandy blond undercut was knotted simply at the back of his head instead of the more intricate braids he often sported. His pupils dilated, pulse quickening at the suggestion.

“Yes.” His voice sounded strained, yet he made no attempt to hide the various manifestations of his longing for her. Cane placed a hand on her hip, gently guiding her to the door which the restaurant’s hostess opened for them graciously. He resolutely ignored Jewell’s pout, but added in an undertone as they made their way inside, “We can always go elsewhere for dessert.”

“Mmm,” the sound was a gentle purr, “I like the way you negotiate.”

The restaurant was a quiet hum of conversation; the movers and shakers of New Haven were enjoying lunch meetings and dates. The hostess guided them to their table before leaving them to each other’s company and glasses of water with thin slices of lemon floating on top.

Jewell smiled as Cane pulled out her seat for her before taking his own. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied smoothly.

She smoothed out her skirt before turning her attention to more important (and attractive) matters, like her lunch date, after a discreet glance to the tables around them. There were two couples nearby and a table of five from one of the local offices. “So to what do I owe the pleasure of your company, darling? Because I know if it wasn’t important, we would probably skip right to desert.”

Shame on anyone who thought Jewell didn’t have any brains and was just a pretty face.

“We certainly would.” Cane’s eyes trailed Jewell’s to each of the surrounding tables. He smiled at her, reaching for the cloth napkin beneath the gleaming spread of silverware and carefully slipped it free. A sharp flourish of the wrist snapped it open at the same time he cast a spell for the mantle of immunity to cloak their immediate vicinity. He lay the napkin over his knee. “But since it is important, I’ll cut right to the chase. The witch, Mallory St. Martin, is in some kind of trouble, and I’d appreciate it if you could tell me anything about Samuel Adder.”

She felt the spell click into place and smiled as he beat her to it. He beat her to the napkin too, which she immediately forgot all about midway through unfolding it. “Mallory is in trouble?” she repeated rather stupidly as the linen fell to her lap, unheeded. “I don’t… what does Samuel have to do with it?” Far from defensive, Jewell was confused. Samuel had been (in a way) a breath of fresh air in her life, and now everything felt like it was falling to pieces again. Ishmerai had tried to warn her yesterday, but she rarely listened to the knight. Now Cane was also saying Mal was in trouble. She couldn’t not listen. “I thought Mallory was just working for him?”

“I would have thought so, too, if not for the message she managed to get to me.” Cane produced his phone which contained an image of the witch’s ingenious cry for help, the belladonna flowers in the doorway. “Found this at my store. A week ago she quit her job at Panacea and left me a letter of resignation; I didn’t think anything of it. She’s ambitious. I wasn’t surprised she’d found herself a step up in the world. But then this.” He gestured to the phone laying on the table between them. “So I went and asked her kid brother where she went. Tracking her myself would have taken too long. Brother says she up and moved out of the house to go work for your boy, Adder.”

“Not my boy,” she responded absently as she tugged the phone closer, staring at those flowers.

Cane held up his hands in both apology and conciliation. He hadn’t meant it quite that way.

Her brief smile was acceptance. She wasn’t offended. There was a part of her that had wanted to make that clear to Cane for some reason, but she could puzzle that out later. Help me. That’s what Mallory said to Ishmerai just yesterday. Jewell thought she was just in over her head a little, but this… this was different. To go through the effort to make this happen, to make sure no one could trace it back to her, to need to make sure no one could? The faerie didn’t even need to ask if he was sure it was Mallory. What other conveyance would the Belladonna Knight use?

She slid the cellphone back towards him. “She tried to ask Ishmerai, my knight, for help yesterday. I just…” she shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.” The set to her shoulders was rigid, immovable. She was all business now. “Do you know what he is?”

Nodding, Cane slipped the phone back into his pocket. “His illusions are remarkable, but I’m moreso.” The assertion was rooted firmly in confidence rather than superiority. “What he is doesn’t bother me. It’s--”

The rest of his sentence broke off as the waiter came to the table to take their lunch order. Both of them ordered small dishes, sharing an anticipatory expression with each other from over the tops of their menus before passing them back to the waiter. When they were alone again, Cane resumed his earlier train of thought.

“It’s what he’s done with that power. That kid I talked to yesterday bore the spiritual marks of some kind of torture. He was drenched in residual magic -- Adder’s magic.”

Her teeth worked at the inside of her cheek. “Do you think he did that to Mallory?”

Cane cocked an eyebrow at her, the metal jewelry stationed there catching the light. He spoke nothing aloud, but his expression said it all. What do you think?

She seemed uncertain. It was an uncomfortable thought. Her relationship with Mallory was… interesting, but Jewell was genuinely fond of the girl. “Have you really seen her in action?” Mallory swiped one bloody hand, clutching one of her wounds, across her mouth, licking it. "Take my bitterness -- make this ash in my mouth," she whispered, and spat at Jewell. Steaming black liquid, a type of blinding venom, aimed at the faerie's eyes. “She’s strong. But I guess even against an arch-devil…” She shook her head. Even she would have trouble against Adder. “****. **** **** ****.”

Cane’s smile was perfectly sinful despite the gravity of the situation. “I suspect it goes a little deeper than that. He’s got something on her. The brother for sure. There’s got to be more involved to make her scared to act. If I thought it was simple, I’d have eviscerated him last night.” Cane took a drink of water with insouciant cheer. “I called in a favor for information from a reliable source. They move in the, ah, same Circles.”

Even if the idea of enlisting demons for assistance bothered her (which it didn’t), the fury that narrowed her grey eyes would surely have eclipsed and shoved aside her reservations. “You think he’s extorting her with her family? Damnit Cane, you should have eviscerated him last night.”

The Cajun stretched out one of his legs beneath the table, discreetly sliding his foot against hers in an attempt to calm and distract. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off faerie. “I wanted to. I fantasized about incorporating his blood and fetid ichor into the color scheme of his ****ing party. But we need to be smart about this.”

She made a discontent, frustrated noise, but she was fighting a smile at the touch of his foot against her own. “Fiiine. We can be smart about it. But only because I like the witch.” She paused. “And only because this ****er apparently thought he could keep me from finding out about this by ****ing me.” Fury reduced to a simmer, Jewell was ready to plot instead of kill kill kill. “This guy… he’s got an extensive network. A lot of money. He’s been working towards whatever he wants for a long time.”

“We need to investigate the web, so to speak. As you said, he’s an extensive network. My contact is bound to return to me as soon as possible. Hell may be vast, but gossip moves quickly. I expect an answer by tomorrow. Tonight I’m taking Salvador with me to that club -- Tartarus. See if mi amante can find something of importance.” The Cajun’s expression morphed into one of wicked intent. “The Season is upon us.”

“Oh, so you two get to have fun while I go to the debate and play nice?” Jewell shook her head but she was laughing. “I’ll have to put on quite the performance. He’ll never even know something is amiss.” Her eyes were bright and the little sidhe was actually a tinsy bit gleeful at the idea. Deception. Intrigue. A web slowly encircling an enemy. What fun!

Cane leaned forward, folding one arm in front of himself along the edge of the table and extending the other palm up toward Jewell. The slender lines an arrow and compass forearm tattoo were placed on display. “But to have to sit through all that drivel, having to look at him...” He smoothed his thumb across Jewell’s knuckles when she obliged him by placing her hand in his. “I daresay I’ll need to give you something more pleasant to recall while you pretend to be interested in what he says.”

She blushed as goosebumps raced across her bare skin, her smile pure trouble. “You know, I was thinking that color red suits you perfectly and the shirt is nice, but I think it would look much better on my floor.” When the waiter returned with their food, they excused themselves with a sudden change of plans and asked for it to go.

((Written with the delightful Cane. Thank you!))
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Mallory
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunday

Mallory arose early enough to see the end of the dancers’ performance, and confirm that everyone they placed in the cages had the same hypnotic, glassy-eyed look as Eri. And when the last hour of the night approached, an unseen force struck a bell…

…though not unseen by her. She could sense the fiery fingers plucking at the threads of arcana to toll this heavy bronze bell, and knew they had to belong to a fiend: either Samuel Adder himself, or one of his three succubi.

She spent most of the morning kneeling by the brazier, attuning to its energy, and the energy of Tartarus itself. It did not surprise her to discover that the place was riddled with enchantments, threading between the cages and the bell, but also woven into the walls themselves; around the perimeter of every balcony; and knotted in the air at a single point at the dead center of the chamber.

The glass slipper no longer appeared in her visions, but the fire she Saw felt hotter, and she could hear the horned demon growling as he rose from the flames. The plague of rats remained a mystery to her, but they grew in size and wrath, sweeping over tangled masses of shrieking faces and flailing limbs. Six hands in a tightly intertwined circle, drawing wider as a porcelain mask rose between them. And all of it stopped with the sound of a truck’s horn, blaring louder and louder, ending in a flash of red…

In the split second after she had opened her eyes, but before her Sight had truly faded, she glimpsed something in the brazier before her: a face floating among the ashes, its features twisted in anguish and woe.
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Mallory
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2017 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Monday

Yesterday, Mallory’s unfocused unease around the brazier sharpened into the beginning of a clearer image. The ashes were not grave dust, nor the product of any cremation process she knew of -- she’d seen both during her experiments with necromancy -- but they held the same essence of the dead, and she knew that could not happen without reason.

Today, she started using more blood.

It was enough to prompt one of Adder’s broad-shouldered, beefy-armed lackeys to come thumping up to the high balcony for a closer look at her work, and enough to call for a second set of arcane eyes to scry away at her. But after fifteen minutes of paranoid, thorough monitoring, they could see that it was not a portal, nor was she in any danger of bleeding herself dry. The big guy took up a lean on the railing, whiling away the next two hours with a disc-shaped device, some kind of game that beeped and whistled when he stabbed at the spinning holographic shapes that came out of it. Two scrying warlocks became just the one.

When the circle was complete, it was large enough for her to sit in; it was also the exact diameter of the brazier, a fact disguised by the short arcs and broken circles that orbited it and crowded its interior. Despite its distance from the brazier or any of the streaks of white ash, this physical similarity was enough to make it into a very potent conduit.

She sank into the Sight, her vision drowning in a deep red darkness. There were flashes of what she had seen before, rats and fire, a mask in the darkness, the screeching of tires… and two frogs leaping at each other over a cooking fire, inverted. Likely a bar or restaurant, and some place where Adder would face misfortune…

…and despite her desire for him to face misfortune, it was to her benefit to give him something useful. She made a note of the vision, and deepened her trance.

There were whispers, a faint and cold presence, difficult to feel through the heat of blood magic, but none of the dead came forward. Not yet. She needed to reach out to them, to understand why they had died, and what it had to do with this place… but most of all she wanted to know,

How much time do I have left?
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Mallory
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuesday

Headlights. Was that a truck, or a van, barreling out of the darkness and into her Sight?

Whatever the case, she made a note to remind the asshole-in-chief to look both ways before darting across the street to kiss another CEO or casino magnate’s ass.

She’d been doing nothing but peering beyond the Veil (or attempting to) and recovering from her attempts since Saturday, and both the tedium and the strange weight of it threatened to drag her down; but she had to stay vigilant. She had to be smarter, more focused, more alert than her captors. For Eri’s sake.

Sometimes, their attention lapsed. She could feel it. And when she did, she practiced her subtlest magic. Whispers coming from the air itself. Long-spilled blood bending to her will, crackling and evaporating into puffs of steam. The spiders and moths that made the dark corners of this pit their home, writhing as she overwhelmed them with the desire to carry out her will. The copper coin in her pocket, bending at her mental direction without a single touch to check its progress. Mere parlor tricks, most of them, but she'd already thrown her most powerful spells at the fiend who called himself Samuel Adder and failed utterly.

She had to be subtle. But more than once, her determination broke, and today felt worse than Saturday.

The anguish came in waves, alternating heartbreak and guilt as she meditated on the delinquent hypnotized under the spell of Samuel Adder, or one of his three succubi, or the bronze bell itself; every time it happened, she forced herself to focus on what controls her, how, how can it be broken, but she always returned to the pain she’d caused Eri, both by breaking her heart and by leaving any kind of trail for her to follow.

She was losing weight. Naomi had brought her new clothes this morning, after eyeing the witch up and down last night and tsk-tsking: “Small wonder he doesn’t want you to be seen in public anymore.”

She’d tried to cry that afternoon -- at least she thought it was the afternoon -- but found that she couldn’t. She hadn’t cared that someone might see her, but the tears wouldn’t come. The exhaustion she felt seemed to have sunk too deep into her bones to let her.

The voices in the ashes were whispering again, but today, as much as she tried, she never felt strong enough to hear them.
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Nick Cross
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unknown date...

Somewhere in Tartarus' depths, down one darkened hallway and through a set of metal double doors, the place changed. The corridors were bright and sterile, like a hospital, and every adjoining room was painted a sickly green. There were reception desks at several corners, all of them unmanned. Phones swung free from their cradles, dangling by their cords, emitting no sound. Gurneys had been left in the rooms and the corridors as if they'd all been abandoned in the middle of their use.

And not even the faintest hum of music from the nightclub made it beyond these walls.

The woman Nick Cross only knew as the dark-haired bartender leaned against the closed door to his room, watching him, drumming ruby red fingernails against her arm. There was no sign of the big guy. She was alone with the detective.

She didn't look the least bit worried. "Are you comfortable, Mr. Cross?" she asked, her lips curling into a sly smile.

Nick had been sitting on the cot, leaning against the wall for several hours now lost in thought. He was surprised that he didn't notice the woman approach, though he did his best not to show it.

He gave her a wry grin. "Doing alright. Could use some fuzzy pink bunny slippers though. Where's your boyfriend?"

"Elsewhere. Not here. I hope that puts your mind at ease." She stopped drumming her fingers, turning her hand to inspect her nails.

"You're not what I'd call the nightclub type... What drew you to Tartarus, detective?"

He chuckled at her. "Not the Nightclub type? Lady, you got me all wrong! I love the nightlife! When I heard about a place where a man could find all his deepest desires, I simply had to come see for myself. I can't help but be impressed!"

He narrowed his eyes slightly as he stared at her: "Impressive atmosphere. How do you do it?"

"With power," she said, and decided to demonstrate.

Much the same way pleasure had taken hold in his mind despite Nick's resistance to alcohol since his death, pain now dug its searing fingers into his skull, mimicking the way she arched and stretched her fingers in the air, spiderlike. Her eyes, ruby red, narrowed on his form.

"I should have rephrased that, earlier... You're not really the type of man we typically invite, and private detectives aren't really the type to go chasing after their deepest desires. So I'll ask again... what drew you to Tartarus...? Did someone send you?"

She lowered her hand, and the painful spell quickly faded.

The detective gritted his teeth and closed his eyes tight as he felt something akin to having ice picks driven into his eyeballs. He was no stranger to pain. Still, he was eager for it to end. When it did, he was quick to speak.

"What about the undead? It's no secret that what I most desire is to live again. Why wouldn't I seek that out? Maybe I just heard about your little club and decided I wanted a little taste for myself. You folks really do deliver on your promise. I think what I got a taste of may have been worth the price of admission."

Lies and half-truths, or were they really? For a time he had succumbed to the spell of the place, and though he hated to admit it he would find it easy to fall for the illusion once again. Maybe now that he knew what this place did to a man, he would be able to resist it. However, a small voice in the back of his mind urged him not to. It would be so easy to fall into that trap again, but he could not allow it. Anything that this place gave him would be a lie.

The woman opened her mouth, then clenched it shut, frowning and turning away, facing... something or someone unseen, or listening to an unheard source. She looked back at him.

"That's too many maybes for a man who's telling the truth," and as she finished her words, she flexed her fingers again. The pain resumed, this time twice as intense as the last. Her eyes grew brighter, and her dark hair fanned out as she stalked towards him, and for a moment, it appeared as if horns were emerging from her temples.

The spell flared in intensity before it suddenly dropped, and she was standing in front of him, flattening her hands on her thighs as she leaned to look down at him. "Why are you here? Who sent you? Who are you looking for? Give me honest answers, or I'll be back tomorrow with more creative incentives." Her ruby red eyes flared, and she gave him an expectant smile as she waited.

When the pain came again, Nick was ready for it. Still, as he fell back against the dirty mattress, he screamed. He kept screaming until something inside him snapped and his screams turned into laughter. Insane, howling laughter.

When the pain stopped, it took a few moments for him to gather his thoughts. His lips twisted into a defiant grin.

"I'll give you an A+ for effort. You've got the pain part down at least, but you seriously lack finesse. Torture isn't about just breaking bones and pulling teeth. It's about the anticipation, the build up. You could even say it's an intimate experience. You really gotta get into their head and find out what makes them tick."

Was he giving his captor a lecture on how to torture him? Yes. Yes he was.

"You, sweetheart, you're more like a wrecking ball. Apply your methods to most people and you'll end up with nothing more than a crumpled heap and no real information."

"Crumpled heap, you say." With a sneer and a flick of her wrist, up the detective went into the ceiling, then down into a pile in the corner of the room. Seeing him as a tangled mess of limbs, wracked with pain, struggling to pick himself up off the floor, that brought her smile back.

"Enjoy the silence, detective. I'll see you tomorrow."

((Written with Mallory. Thanks a bunch!))
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Mallory
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wednesday

This day was more fruitful than the others, though not in the way Mallory would have liked.

At dawn, moments into her first vision, she saw a slaughtered calf, rotten meat falling from its belly when the knife of slaughter tore through its flesh -- a scheduled trip to a meat packing plant, promptly cancelled.

Then, hours later, festering filth swarming with flies, piled higher and higher with refuse, tumbling over itself like a geyser until it gave way, sending a golden wedding band bouncing and rolling down its flank -- an accepted invitation from a sanitation union, and a chance encounter with a biofuels investor.

Finally, at dusk, a massive gray lobster, slick with oil-like grime, its unblinking eyes staring at her over a ring of blazing candlelight -- mysterious, but taken careful note of by Ms. O'Connor, given the vision's unusual and distinct details.

This isn't what I wanted. This helps him. He's getting what he wants, and he wants to ****ing kill me and mine...!

Mallory slapped her hands flat against the brickwork in frustration, her eyes clenched shut tight. There was nothing in her visions, nothing she could see about her salvation, or Eri's, or about the doom of Samuel Adder. Is he fated to win? Are we fated to die?! Can I do nothing?!

She let out a scream as she struck the floor with her fists, and regretted it in an instant, pain reverberating back through her hands, pain that would bruise. She could feel the warmth of her blood mingling with the cold floor, flowing from fresh splits on her knuckles. "****," she breathed, then realized she could not feel the senses of another peering through her own.

Maybe whoever it was had dozed off, or was screwing around. Maybe they forgot a replacement. Maybe it was a trick of the Nexus, but whatever it was, for a few minutes, she was alone.

And as the ashes and dust scattered by her outburst settled around her, flashes of movement caught her eye. Whispers tickled at her ears. A chill ran down the back of her neck and settled in a cradle by her heart like a tiny ball of ice. She was not alone.

She darted a look over her shoulder, and saw a spectral face shifting through the darkness, its hollow black eyes fixed on hers. There was something familiar about its features...

Hector?!
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thursday morning…

The strong scent of Spanish coffee roused him from the depths of sleep. Cane groaned and rolled onto his back, forcing himself to open his eyes. The wooden slats of the ceiling stared back at him. The soft silver light of dawn that shone through the shutters betrayed the early hour. Much too early to be awake, especially after the orgasmic chaos of the previous night.

Bright flashes of memory of yet another visit to Tartarus burst behind his eyes; he could still feel its bass rattling in his bones, and the smell of sweat drenched skin, and blood -- so much blood. There was still some on him, he discovered, looking down at himself as he stretched. The dried patches that coated his skin cracked and spiderwebbed from the tension. The heady scent of sex clung to the sheets gathered around his waist. Cane smiled to himself, despite the early hour.

A glittering refraction of light caught his eye, drawing him out of his reverie.

Salvador; the Autumn Prince in his gargoyle-like crouch at the foot of the bed. Cane flashed a toothy smile at him. “Mornin’.”

The fae child said nothing. The scintillant flash of morning light skipped across his eyes again. It was such a mild display of Sal’s other-worldliness, but it still managed to send a frisson of excitement down his spine. His lover, both monster and man, thrilled him to death.

More than used to Salvador’s nonverbal tendencies, Cane rolled back into his side to retrieve the cup of coffee that had been left for him on the corner of the nightstand.

“There’s a demon in the basement.”

Cane looked up from the cup hovering by his mouth.

“I thought you’d want to know.” Sal rose to his feet abruptly. The bed creaked in protest as he stepped down and prowled away into the bathroom. The door clicked shut after him. Cane dressed in silence as he listened to the Spaniard starting the shower. He longed to join the Spaniard under the blistering spray of water, but scrubbing the blood and grime from his skin would have to wait.

After all, there was a demon in the basement.

--

The dimly lit candles arrayed in a circle on the basement floor burned brighter at Cane’s approach.

“Gihshe,” he greeted the demon.

The demon lay coiled in a small puddle of brackish liquid in the middle of the chalk lines that stretched between the candles. Her eel-like body oscillated back and forth, drawing her up until they stood eye to eye. Her skin, a dark greying color mottled with deep blues and greens, was coated with a thin layer of slick, shimmering grime reminiscent of an oil spill. The upper half of her body was humanoid in shape, except for her webbed hands, and an anglerfish-like protrusion from her attenuated forehead. Spindly, ribbed oryx horns were attached to the armored skull plate, encrusted with glittering abalone shells and purple urchin spines; silver pearls dotted the long, ink black hair that hung limply at her waist, heavy with saturation.

The tiny mandibles that covered Gihshe’s mouth unfolded, stretching and reaching out into the air toward Cane to grasp at nothing, revealing hundreds of needlepoint teeth lining a wide, thin-lipped mouth. “Aēšmazādeh,” she rasped.

“Don’t start that **** again. It’s Cane, or Canaan if you’d like to get proper.”

Her black eyes, completely lacking any sclera, glittered in the firelight. They acted as a mirror, reflecting Cane’s face back to him as they stared one another down.

“You like to disappoint all your fathers, don’t you.”

The Cajun shrugged blithely. “What can I say? Rebellion is my strong suit.”

Her tail lashed out violently against the confines of the circle. “Your father--”

Cane cut her off. “Ain’t who we’re here to discuss.” He felt the pushback against his magic cease. Gihshe resorted to slithering up to the very edge of the circle to hiss at him. He ignored her. “Adder,” he prompted. “Who is Samuel Adder?”

Gihshe retreated, folding lean-muscled arms under small, bare breasts. “The fiend who has assumed the name and shape of Samuel Adder is best known in the Hells as the Name Thief.”

Now that was a moniker with which Cane was familiar. The Name Thief was not an archdevil in the traditional sense, nor even royalty, but extended his lifespan through guile and oppression worthy of any Prince. His reputation preceded him.

“He has stolen not only the names of countless mortals, but those of enough minor devils to make him as feared as he is hated among his infernal brethren. He will then appear when one wishes to summon another, lesser devil, masquerade as that creature, and manipulate his unsuspecting conjurers into giving him exactly what he wants.”

Cane began to pace before the circle, his mind working rapidly to fit the new informational pieces where they belonged in the bigger picture. “Which is what in this case?” And how did Mallory fit in?

“Of the various evils he partakes in, his hallmark is the cultivation of potent souls.” She paused significantly, visibly pleased when Cane scowled at the implication. “While he sometimes accomplishes this in a similar way to other devils, preying upon mortals in a moment of weakness, he favors taking control of their destinies when they are young, waiting until they grow into their power.”

“And then he kills them,” Cane guessed.

“A sacrifice to absorb their essence.” The demon nodded. “He is a creature of trickery and intimidation first and foremost, but he has a powerful, innate command of magic through sheer force of will. He has personally slaughtered many in his pursuit of a highly prized soul, doing so whenever he deems it necessary. If he has taken up residence in your realm, it is for one of two reasons: to cultivate mortal souls, or to harvest them.”

“Son of a bitch.” Cane’s heart pounded in his ears.

“I have fulfilled your request, mortal. Release me.”

The Cajun’s scowl deepened. “You are bound by oath to relay all pertinent information regarding the one called Samuel Adder. If you do not fulfill this oath, the nature of the favor owed me remains to stand.”

Gihshe’s tail whipped out in a restless, wide scythe-like motion. Her mandibles parted, then snapped shut with a sharp clack of indecision. After a long stretch of silence, she said, “He puts himself at great risk by assuming a physical body to travel the mortal planes at length, but this dangerous path has grown his power astronomically in far less time than other devils.”

“He is vulnerable.”

Her countless needlepoint teeth bristled outward. It might have been a smile. “By destroying his body… you might destroy him utterly.”

((Many thanks to Mortal Promise for their input and direction.))
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At the end of the RhyDin Color Fun Run...

Samuel Adder stood apart from the rest of the crowd that had gathered around the stage, looking on curiously as Dolidh Sulrealta was bodily dragged from it. He sighed through his nose as he waited for a call to connect, and ducked around his phone, using the security guards around him to shield his words and the sight of his face. "Ms. O'Connor. There's a problem with traffic."

"Only now?" She was practically purring. She’d had to be on her best behavior this visit, and hadn’t spilled a single drop of mortal blood, that he knew of...

He cleared his throat, looked up to flash a smile and wave off a staffer trying to get his attention, and turned away from him. "I'd hoped it would clear out on its own, but... you know how it is. And with so many pedestrians about, you know how many accidents there could be?"

Shannon let out a pleased hum. "Too many."

"In two cases last year, during hit-and-runs, the driver backed over the victim in their panic to flee the scene. Do you know how tragic that is?"

"Deeply. I'll see to it."

Samuel disconnected the call and returned the phone to the waiting staffer’s hands, angling his head to listen to the man’s whispers as he greeted the people around him with an eager smile...
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doli's verbal protest at the Color Run didn't turn out to be a smashing success. She couldn't seem to muster up much support for her causes. Even her own sister didn't understand what she had been trying to do. The only one who appeared to care about her efforts at all was Samuel Adder, but only because he wanted to stop them.

She returned to the off-the-grid safe house apartment that she'd procured through the detective Nick Cross, exhausted and drained. She felt a modicum of comfort in private, where she could unleash her emotions without anyone noticing how weak and emotional these last few weeks had made her.

With tears welling in her eyes, she grabbed a pen and vented in a letter.

handwritten letter to her mother

Mamai,

My efforts and endeavors in RhyDin have soured.

I've met with Ronixi, multiple times, but she continues to rebuff and scorn me. She hates me, still, for crimes of compliance that I committed when I was just a child. I'm sorry that I never protected her from that vile man, but what could a teenage girl be expected to do...?

My weakness then does not define me now. Nor should Roni's experiences then define her now. But she's let it do exactly that, Mamai. She's been damaged, to her core, and blinded to her own power. She's a wounded bird who's forgotten how to fly. She's found solace in the company of men who admire her physical beauty and give her attention for it, but it serves as a mere temporary pain reliever, not a true cure. I fear that she'll never be free.

I fear that I'll never be heard.

The citizens here don't listen to me -- they mock me and my beliefs. Their soon-to-be ruler is a man named Samuel Adder. My intuition tells me he's more wicked than most politicians, but his influence continues to swell and infect this entire realm with his disease. For him, I'm a mere speed bump that must be paved away on his road to ruining them all.

I fear that I'll never be heard from again.

If I stay here, committed to saving Roni, intent on saving this world, then these slaves to the darkness will smite me out, one way or another. Quietly, painfully, one way or another -- I will be silenced. I will be dead.

I'm sorry for my weakness, mamai -- but I don't want that. I don't want to die a virgin martyr, buried and forgotten by time. I don't want my grave spat on by my own sister. At times, that fear makes my faith waver.

But I will summon the strength to prevail, because it's my fate. Because I am your daughter. Because I am a TRUE RULER.

With all my heart and all my soul,

~ Dolidh


In the morning, Doli marched out onto the streets with a renewed energy and spirit, still intent on carrying out her mission despite her troubles.

And despite all the commotion on the streets. She hated this filthy, vile land, which reveled in their creature comforts and modern technologies. To wit, she couldn't even find a mailbox for her letter. Apparently emails had killed the need for them. She strolled around a public square for nearly twenty minutes, searching. Searching.

That's where she heard the screeching.

She turned to see a truck veering out of control. A blown tire? A drunk driver? She couldn't tell. But she could see that the roaring vehicle was coming right at her.

There was no time to dodge it or utilize magic before the truck SMASHED right into her. She toppled over to the ground like a sack of potatoes under the force of the impact. Once she landed, she shrieked in pain. Searing pain. She gripped at her leg, which had clearly been broken. Her tibia -- snapped in two. She clenched her teeth and fought through the tears.

She looked up to the driver with scorn in her eyes. The man looked panicked himself, seeing a teenage girl, writhing in pain on the ground. But he didn't leap out of his truck to help. Instead, his engine revved up again.

And he wasn't running away. He was coming back for seconds.

Faster now than before, his truck accelerated in reverse, with her huddled mess of a body nothing more than a sitting duck. The tailgate of the vehicle RAMMED right into her head -- making the result of the blow all but a certainty. Her skull FRACTURED on impact, and again when the man pinned the truck up against the wall, CRUSHING Doli's body in between like a meat grinder. And with that, he drove off, undeterred by the screams from the terrified crowd.

Those onlookers would approach Doli after, tentatively, knowing that there was nothing that they could do to help at this point. Knowing that there was nothing they could do but ogle a crime scene. Stare and gawk at the mangled corpse of the once-pretty redheaded girl.

They'd chatter, and even take pictures, before anyone dared to get close enough to touch her. Or turn her over. Or find that letter, still buried in her back pocket.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday night, during the match…

Hector was the only spirit who talked to her.

The others retreated into the dust as her Sight reached out to them, snapping their teeth at her and hissing warnings before they melted away; but Hector recognized that weird girl; Abby ****ed you, right? Damn. In life the witch was certain that the man’s only words to her had been “Yo,” but politics and infernal captivity made strange bedfellows…

Every day since Hector appeared, as early as she could, she threw herself into her work, spilling her blood across the floor, breathing in the smoke from words of power set aflame, and snatching glimpses of the future to send off to Adder in the greedy claws of one of his three succubi. It kept them and Adder distracted for the rest of the day, leaving untrained arcane eyes tracking her activities from afar -- when they didn’t succumb to boredom or inattention.

Then she applied herself to the careful art of looking busy, which involved only a little bit of blood, a lot of Latin and sprinkled rosewater, rereading familiar passages so she could sink into meditation, and more than a little cartomancy -- it was so, so easy to lie about what the cards told her, regardless of what they whispered in her ear. And it left her plenty of time to commune with Hector, about whom she had worked out a few details over the last three days:

Part of him was trapped here, in Tartarus, as a result of what had happened to him. He could, however, go beyond the Veil, at least far enough to see into it. He was willing to take her along for the ride, bringing her Sight to a place where the future was not so different from the past and present. And he had a very simple price:

Tell Abby. Kill this mother****er. Swear it.

She swore. She cut her left palm, making a show of sprinkling the blood, pretending that it was part of another ritual for her less-skilled monitors.

Then, ‘til one of you unlucky ****s dies… I’m yours.

It was the night of the big cage match, and after some kind of commotion had security dashing off to the lower levels -- she’d sent Hector to check on Eri -- Tartarus was close to empty of anyone who mattered, except for her. People thronged the dancefloor and every balcony except for the highest, indulging in every vice pressed into their eager hands, sliding their sinuous bodies into each other, grasping greedily at the thirteen cages and roaring in delight when the bell tolled and the dancers fell deeper into their trance. But security was minimal, the man of the hour had more pressing engagements, and his sadistic lieutenants were nowhere to be found.

She knelt in the circle of drying blood before the brazier, focused on the strange white ashes until she felt her vision dimmed, and stretched out her senses along the threads of arcane power that surrounded her, until she felt her soul stretching itself away from her body -- not quite projected, but close.

Hector.

Yo.

Show me the Veil.

I ain’t no weirdo goth like you, but I gotta feeling you’re gonna wanna see this.

Her vision turned deep red, then black and gray, filled with the familiar sight of strange shapes, warped stone and broken monuments and creatures that flitted through the dark fog, hinting at forms never fully revealed. They tugged at her attention, but she remained focused on Hector, whose spirit guided her Sight to something parting the fog around it:

A bright red door at the end of a tunnel, with bright white firelight flickering through the cracks in the doors, pulsing in time with the deep, bassy sound of a beating heart.

What is that?

Doom.

Despite Mallory’s clear trepidation, Hector’s voice was clear and solemn. The witch pressed on, and the door came closer, and it was a metal door like Eri’s, with a slot for a food tray, and a small window. As she wrapped her hands around the bars, she felt spiders scuttle across her fingers, skittering away into the darkness, up towards tiny pinpricks of light, whispering as they went.

The Bell of Gomorrah began to toll, its knells reverberating through the depths of Tartarus.

The door wrenched open, and Mallory fell forward.

She was kneeling on the floor, surrounded by white fire as stone plummeted from the ceiling, and the face of Samuel Adder raised his arms and laughed. Cages and chains rattled and swayed, casting long shadows up the walls, while horned shapes with lashing tails leapt and danced around them.

The bell tolled a final time, with a horrible shriek as it stopped. There was Adder’s true form revealed, as a cry rose up in time with her quickening heartbeat: Ila Sheddun! Ila Sheddun! Ila Sheddun!

Fire surrounded him as he laughed, bright orange flame that wreathed his body, racing along the floor, roaring high up into the air, into the darkness, until it caught something falling through the void, something she glimpsed for a fraction of a second before it turned to ash:

A belladonna sprig.

As her Sight clarified with realization, she felt a tug from Hector, yanking her back towards reality, and the visions of a Tartarus-yet-to-come fell away as she raced backwards, into the eerie chill of the cold gray fog and beyond, back to reality.

Hector, what -- ?

Once they push you through that door, they’ll kill you, and lady -- you’re running outta time.

She took deep, gasping breaths as she found herself once more in the land of the living, kneeling on the floor of Tartarus’ highest balcony as the crowd roared and the music thudded away far below. Panic drove her heartbeat ever faster. Her hands were clammy and sweaty as they grasped feebly at the floor. The Bell of Gomorrah was tolling again, its knells reverberating into her chest as much as the bass. I’m running out of time!

She pushed up from the floor, grabbing a ritual knife and a jar of salt from her bag. One of them was unnecessary, but it would make for a good show. She grit her teeth, shut her eyes… grunted, as the blade sunk into her left hand, already healed of the day’s earlier wounds, but still tender. As the bloodflow picked up, she began the circle of salt -- interrupted in several place, curling outwards into other arcs, forming new circles, until it stretched halfway across the platform.

Then she began to chant, low, in Greek as she flicked her left wrist across the wrist, scattering blood like holy water from an aspergillum as she cycled through the invocation of Abraxas. The blood stained and dampened the salt as she traversed its strange pathways, following them further and further out, each step in time with the tolling of the bell, until she reached the edge, where she could see its bronze surface glowing in the eerie red light of Tartarus, and the enthralled masses gathered beneath it, raising their hands to the heavens to beg for more.

She scowled and flicked her wrist a final time, scattering blood before her. Then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She had one last vision to fake.
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Nick Cross
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday Night During the Match

The Corpse Detective didn't know how long he had been there. He had no way to mark the passage of time he'd spent in that overly bright room, but he had been there long enough. They had left him alone for the most part, save for the few times the dark haired bartender had tried to get information. He wasn't lying about her being bad at it. To him, pain was like, well not a friend. More like that annoying person you've known your whole life that you can't seem to get rid of no matter how hard you try so you just learn to live with them.

He shoved those random thoughts out of his head. He had to focus on bigger problems, like busting out of here. He looked quietly around the room -- it wasn't designed as a prison. He eyed the steel door, and then looked down at the door handle with the keyhole. A small grin crept onto his features as he went and sat down on the bed.

He pulled off his jacket and rolled up his left sleeve and gently pressed along the inside of his forearm. Once he found what he was looking for, he pressed and pinched at the skin until an object began to poke through. He winced a little at the pain as he grabbed the object with a tip of his finger and gave a sharp tug upwards. It was a thin plastic shiv, maybe four inches in length. The detective nearly cried out as it tore open his skin and went clattering to the floor. He didn't bleed -- thankfully this procedure was not as messy as it could have been when he was alive.

He took a moment to observe the wound on his arm, then grit his teeth and jammed his finger inside the tear in his skin, probing around for something. It took about a minute for him to grab the thin plastic pouch that contained his lock pick and slim torsion wrench. He set that aside a moment while he rolled down his sleeve, leaving the jacket on the bed. In a few minutes the wound would have taken care of itself.

He bent down and picked up the small shiv from the floor and shoved it into his pockets, then grabbed the picks and went to the plain metal door. He stuck his ear to the door's surface and listened for a few moments, making sure he couldn't hear anything from the other side before he set to work on picking the lock. Even given the state of his makeshift prison, he was a little surprised at just how easy it was to spring the lock. He pulled the door open slowly, then carefully peeked outside. Nothing but an overly bright, sterile hallway. He put the lock picks in his pocket and stepped out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

He looked both ways down the hall, and decided it would be best to not go through the club. He didn't want to risk whatever sort of enchantments waited for him in there. Not without some preparation -- and backup. When he came back here he wouldn't be doing it alone. He walked quietly down the hall as he kept an eye on his surroundings. Wherever this was, the place was large, and he wouldn't have been able keep track of how far he has gone if the rooms themselves were not helpfully numbered.

He could have taken more time to explore, but for now his focus was on getting out, so to that end he wandered around the sterile halls looking for something different. Something that might lead him to his freedom.

He could hear voices in the distance, “How did he get out? Spread out, we need to find him!”

It appeared he would have to find his escape sooner rather than later. He quickened his pace and dodged down an intersecting hall and kept moving until he found a door labeled, “Mechanical.” He reached out to open the door and finding it locked, brought out his lock pick and got to work on the door.

“There he is! Get him!” The security personnel began running towards him just as he slipped inside the room and shut the door.

Pressing his back against the door, he looked around the mechanical room and spied a nearby chair, which he grabbed and propped up under the doorknob. He looked about the dimly lit room even as the security personnel started pounding at the door. He didn't have much time, and that's when he spied the manhole cover.

After a bit of searching and more loud pounding at the door, he had managed to find a hook to open up the manhole, and a flashlight. He quickly hooked the manhole covers and heaved it to the side, then turned on the light and started crawling down iron rungs into the darkness.

As he made his way down, one of the iron rungs weakened by years of rust busted under his foot and sent him falling to the ground into a small rivulet of stinking water. He yelped at the pain of the impact, but quickly shoved it aside and pulled himself to his feet. He snatched the dropped flashlight from the floor to look at his surrounding. Some sort of old sewer system, long since put out of use.

A loud crash came from above him and he could hear the voices of men yelling, though he couldn't make out what they said. They must have busted through the door.

“No rest for the weary,” the dead detective muttered as he hurried off down the tunnels.

In the darkness it was fairly easy to lose his pursuers, and as he ran he started to smell the distinct smell of rotting fish. This made sense when he ran right out of the tunnel and into the water under one of the docks. He sunk like a rock and found himself trudging along the bottom until he found a good place to crawl to dry land. It felt good to feel the starlight once again.

((Thanks again to Mallory who helped me with the editing of this post))
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunday, before dawn…

Samuel Adder looked on in silence as Mallory dangled from Naomi Lin’s clawed grasp, her long fingers stretched over the back of the girl’s head. The witch murmured, her eyes rolled, her arms twitched, but all of it was nonsense -- reflexive reactions to the succubus’ intrusion into her mind. She wasn’t merely skimming the surface, not this time. She was diving deep into her mind, looking for anything regarding one man in particular:

Nick Cross.

He had nothing against the man, personally. Private investigators were a necessity in cities like RhyDin, an effective and disposable tool for getting things done, and there was a quaintness to an old-fashioned zombie detective that struck Adder as quintessentially RhyDinian. But why had he come to Tartarus? What did he know? And what had Mallory St. Martin really told him at the Gala?

“The Sulrealta girls… Nick Cross…” One of the three had already been disposed of; would the other two have to follow suit? Could he take that risk? He breathed a deep sigh, and turned to Naomi: “Anything?”

“Cards… just cards. I’ve told a few fortunes, but I don’t know what these mean… It looks like nonsense.”

He huffed impatiently, strode in front of Naomi, and jerked his head aside at Mallory. She dropped to a heap on the floor of the cell, emitting a low moan of pain as her consciousness returned to her. “Write them down.”

It took a minute for Naomi to put them all in the appropriate order, but she slipped the business card she’d used for scratch paper into his hand. It did not take him long, and understanding dawned on him with a low growl rumbling in his throat.

Tartarus, Miss Volokhov,” he said to Mallory through a barely-contained sneer, letting the illusion drop from his razor-sharp teeth. “You sent him here, of all places… why? This was not where you stayed until the day after the Gala… Ah.” He smiled. “Miss Maeda.”

Mallory braced her arms against the floor, picking her head up slowly, squinting at Samuel Adder’s face as he swam back into focus. “I don’t… I don’t…”

“Don’t trouble your little mind over it any further, you stupid, stupid girl,” he sighed, leaning closer to look her in the eye, to watch her face flush with embarrassment and rage. “What’s done is done… and the price will be paid in full soon enough.” He straightened in one fluid motion. “Come, Naomi. I think we’ve had enough of Miss Volokhov’s visions. You know when we’ll need her again.”

He lingered in front of the door after Naomi passed him by, watching the glowering girl on the floor with a wicked smile as the door swung shut, sealing her in her cell.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunday afternoon...

A letter was sent to Jewell's residence. Signature required.

It had two pages; the first was handwritten on a piece of blank paper:

Jewell, it's Zan. It was good to see you out and about the other night,
although I must admit that I'm starting to have some serious concerns about your affiliation with Sam Adder. it's not jealousy, either (only 10% max). A detective named Nick Cross wants to recount to you his experiences, so hopefully you consider his words and your response carefully. - Zan


The second used the business letterhead of the Fallen Cross Detective Agency, apparently typed on an old fashioned typewriter:

Ms. Jewell Ravenlock,

My name is Nick Cross, I believe that we might have briefly met once or twice. I have some concerns involving Samuel Adder and the club called Tartarus with which I think he might be involved. I became involved in this unfortunate business through Eri, of the Kabuki Street Girls with whom I like to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. I approached Mallory at the Red and Black Gala, and it was her that led me to seek out Tartarus.

It was a mistake for me to go there alone. The atmosphere of the place can only be described as magical. I was barely able to maintain my composure as I had to wade through that sea of hedonism. When I got to the bar and took that first drink, I was hooked. I'll be the first to admit that being dead leaves a man with a multitude of desires, and chief among those is a desire to live again. In short, I got drunk, blacked out several times and from the little bit I can remember had the time of my life. The fact is though, that it was a lie. I can't even fathom what the purpose of that place is, but it's bad news. There's even rumors that some of the people that go there never come back. Me, personally. I don't remember much from that night, but I did see Eri dancing in a cage.

All in all, I spent a week in that hell hole as their 'guest' where I was subject to interrogation and a rather poor attempt at torture by a dark haired woman who, judging by the horns may or may not be some kind of demon.

I managed to break out some time during the cage match, and now quite frankly I'm at a loss of what to do. Zan suggested you may be able to help. I need to find a way to get Eri, and most likely Mallory away from that club, but I don't dare go in there alone.
Regards,

Nick Cross, P.I.



((Thanks to Zan for his letter of introduction, and of course the wonderful Mallory for editing ))
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunday evening...

“I believe the young man is just a little concerned, Mira. Understandably so.”

“Yeah, well his concern could get me ****ing killed. I don’t know how good Samuel’s network is. If I respond to these truthfully and he finds out? I could be a dead woman.”

“Then it is all a matter of how you respond, is it not? If you respond at all.”

“Mmm.” The Empress chewed on the inside of her cheek, staring down at the two letters she had received this afternoon: one from Zan and one from the Private Investigator, Nick Cross. Why couldn’t people just mind their own business?

The knight sighed. “You play very dangerous games, my lady.”

Jewell laughed wearily, “Yeah, tell me about it.”

* * * * *

Sunday evening, Jewell’s most trusted courier departed Little Elfhame with two letters and strict instructions to hand deliver them to the intended recipients and no one else.

Éimhín delivered Zan’s first.

Zandrick,

I appreciate your concerns, but as you must realize, I am a woman capable of handling my own affairs.

It’s a dangerous business listening to the undead and involving yourself in the affairs of faeries and fiends. Perhaps I should be the one concerned about you.

Jewell


The half-elf courier then sought out Mr. Cross.

Mr. Cross,

While I appreciate your intentions, you must realize that you are warning a sidhe about the dangers of a magic saturated night club. The fae revel in the vices offered at places such as Tartarus.

I advise all mortals to avoid meddling in the matters of faeries and fiends.

I doubt you want to die a second time.

Sincerely,

Jewell Ravenlock
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunday -- dusk…

Mallory’s cell was identical to Eri’s, and likely to the twelve other dancers held captive at Tartarus. The metallic door was heavy, with a small barred window and a slot where they slid through food trays twice a day. The sink, toilet, and shower shared a small corner. Her cot was on the other end, with a simple wool blanket, the bag she’d brought with her last week (thoroughly searched), and nothing else.

There was nothing else except the sound of her showerhead drip, drip, dripping onto the tiny patch of tile floor. Mallory didn’t mind the noise, no more than she minded the music now flooding down the corridor from the dancefloor as the first thirsty patrons filtered in. It gave her a rhythm to focus on while she knelt in the middle of the room, hands dangling off of her knees, kept her eyes shut, and listened.

It did not matter that Eri was two cells over right now, deep in a hypnotic daze, ready to be summoned at the tolling of the bell; nor that the fiend who had put them both here might actually lead this city; nor that she had not spoken to her family in weeks, and her heart ached to see them and know that they were safe. These were all beyond her control right now. All that mattered was that the doom she foresaw was nearly at hand, and that she saw it through.

The dark red behind her eyes flickered with a much deeper darkness as she tensed her fingers, feeling the blood pushing out of her heart before she felt it welling through a tiny tear in her left palm. The drips came rapidly at first… then slower… then drip, drip, drip in time with the water collecting on the showerhead.

Trappers, poisoners, hunters in the dark… oh, how you thirst… come… drink

She was not sure how much time had passed when the first one came. All she knew was that her minders had been scrying on her much less since she was imprisoned her, and not at all in what must have been the frenzy of election night, and she did not feel any tickles or tugs along the subtle threads of magic fanning out from her bleeding hand… until there was a ripple, like something had just alighted on her invisible web.

She cracked one eye open, then the other, focusing on the showerhead in the corner, watching a tiny show stalking along the top. She rose fluidly to her feet, strode across the room, leaned up on tip-toe to peer at her new courier… and snatched the bulbous black spider in her left hand, crushing it into her palm.

“Tell her,” she breathed into its cracked, twitching body, as she focused her mind’s eye on the image of the Seer. “Tell her what they did to Hector… tell her where we are… and tell her that they -- must -- die.

“Go,” she whispered, and the resurrected spider flew from her hand, skittering along the floor and up the door with a speed amplified by the power of her blood, through her barred window, and up, climbing into the city above…
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