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JewellRavenlock
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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? Dammit 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.


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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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?


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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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.


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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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
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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. "AÄ“zmazÄdeh," 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 and 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.


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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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.

Zan's was delivered 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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Mortal Promise
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Monday night...

In spite of all of the twists and turns and changes in fortune over the last month, over the last nineteen years, the rise of the Name Thief known as Samuel Adder was finally at hand.

There were decades of mortal suffering gathered here at Tartarus and trying desperately to claw their way through its gates. Mortals suffered in every world he had ever seen or heard of -- they were wretched and miserable creatures cursed to know and understand the fate none of them could escape -- but this suffering had been inflicted by his hand, and it made all the difference.

The parents of Nadya Volokhov had bargained away their daughter's advantages, and with them, all memory of her, starting on her path of suffering; but the power they had bargained for was not theirs to claim. For years it had festered within this mortal girl, a lowly vessel, and now it was his to take. He had claimed hundreds of others in the dark millennia of his life, but no random mortal heart set aflame compared to the power of one cultivated carefully for decades before the harvest.

"Can you feel it, Nadya? The promise of power," Adder growled softly. She was in no position to answer him, her hands and ankles bound, her mouth gagged, kneeling in the center of a circle of crackling white embers. Though the way her green eyes glared at him with undisguised malice was answer enough. His lips curled in disgust. Even now, with her end at hand, she's no different than a cornered animal... a feral creature of terror and rage.

He shook his head in disappointment as he strode to the edge of the balcony.

Eighty feet below him, the dancefloor was empty, not so much as a lowly bartender or reveler anywhere in sight. But every one of the thirteen cages had been filled, the enthralled dancers standing within them, glassy-eyed, their hands wrapped tightly around the bars. He could feel the arcane power stretched between their spellbound hearts, growing steadily, the spell circle sparking as it sought connection with its missing centerpiece...

Time to put the pieces into place.

"Don't worry, Miss Volokhov. No further harm will come to your roommates, and once you are dead... Miss Maeda will go free. For what can be freer than a soul finally sprung from the cage that is its half-breed body, free to wander the Void as it pleases, or vanish into oblivion?"

The witch's eyes widened, and she made several muffled noises of anger as she stared daggers at Adder.

"Such language," he sighed sadly. "And to your own boss, no less. Naomi!" he called out, tearing his attention away from his captive. "Bring out the chanters. It's time."

Naomi Lin stepped out of the shadows of the middle balcony, stretched all the way around the perimeter of Tartarus, like the stands that circled the ancient fighting pits. She was dressed in black, with a thick stripe of red warpaint smeared across her face and eyes, and Adder could see her smile as she slowly raised her arms in praise and celebration.

"Ila Sheddun; ila Sheddun; tal-Sheddun dra Gomorrah!"

The Bell of Gomorrah tolled, and the brickwork around the balconies that ringed Tartarus began to shift, crack, and crumble. Adder grinned at the sound, and at the rising chorus as dozens more black-clad worshippers stepped out of the darkness to join her.

"Ila Sheddun; ila Sheddun; tal-Sheddun dra Gomorrah!"

With the steady tolling of the bell and the chorus of their chants, the balconies shifted until they tore free, sending brick and mortar and loose stone plummeting to the dancefloor below, smashed into bits, cracking chairs and tables in two, shattering bottles as the rubble tumbled over the bars. But with the layered enchantments in place, the walls of Tartarus held. The massive brick platform that had been the highest balcony floated down, down into the center of the chamber, its railing cracking and tumbling away to the floor as it sank into place, ringed by the center balcony with the worshippers and nine of the cages. Four more platforms sank into place, each bearing a cage, slowly orbiting the center platform.

As the bell tolled louder and louder each time, still dangling from the central platform, the power gathering within this pit only grew. The loose circle of embers around the witch erupted into thirteen jets of white flame; the brazier of sacrificial ashes burst into a searing, blinding beacon. And Samuel Adder raised his arms to the ceiling and laughed.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the first time since its bassline heartbeat had started thumping away in the depths of RhyDin, dominating the enthralled masses from dusk until well past dawn, Tartarus had shut its doors.

No music reverberated out of the pit, only the steady toll of a heavy bronze bell, punctuated by faint rumblings as something shifted; but the masses still heeded the call to worship, thronged outside of its many red doors, buzzing with confusion, anger, and hunger. They had a desperate need for the vices that only Tartarus could provide, and they queued up shoulder to shoulder in the dimly lit red corridors, like blood drawn inexorably towards the heart...

The little sidhe's high heels clicked against the cobblestone streets as she detached herself from the massive crowd outside one of its red doors and headed along the front of the building to where the small cluster of her companions waited in the shadows. As she went, the glamour of a slinky black mini-dress and ridiculous high-heels melted away into the far more practical mix of leather and sheaths and of pants and boots made for ass-kicking. Her ten shield rings caught the light of a streetlamp before she stepped out of sight. "Well, the doors are definitely sealed, and I don't think we should force our way through. It could give him time to kill Mallory and Eri if he has them close at hand."

"Agreed." The fae knight crossed his arms, reeking disapproval of this entire affair.

"So if you two don't have any objections," she looked to Cane and Sal, "I suggest a quick trip across the Veil to get inside without anyone we like accidentally dying." She didn"t wait for consensus, gesturing to a stretch of empty space nearby. "Salvador, Ishmerai, if you'd both be so kind as to assist me?"

With the full weight of Autumn coursing through his veins, Salvador had no objections to obliging the Empress. He had plenty of energy to burn, and a need to indulge. With a grunt, he metaphorically nudged the knight out of the way and simply stuck his nails into an invisible seam between realms. Gripping hold, a crack in the air before them shimmered. When he pulled, he rent a tear in time and space, wide enough to act as a door, and ushered the lot of them through.

((This post written collaboratively with Jewell, Salvador, and Cane! Thanks!))


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When the three entered Tartarus, leaving Ishmerai behind to handle any reinforcements, they lingered on the other side of the Veil, taking in the situation while remaining out of Sight. Quietly, they watched the argument play out, gazing across the platform at Samuel and Mallory as if through a dirty, warped pane of glass.

Mallory stared at Samuel Adder through the bright blaze of white fire around her. She could feel the threads snapping into place, centered on her, fed by the caged dancers, and controlled by the steady tolling of the bell that she had for days suspected, but now confirmed, was none other than the Bell of Gomorrah.

She knew that he was stronger than her. He could kill Patrick and Spencer. He was going to kill Eri. He was going to kill her, and a part of her knew that she should still be terrified of his power. That her only thought should be getting free, running, and hiding somewhere he could never find her, and pray that his eyes find a better prize.

But he'd stopped Eri's heart, and then told her to break it. He'd made himself at home in her home, and dangled her brother before her like a puppet. He'd made Eri dance for his twisted nightclub for days, and even had the gall to go back on his word about her. He'd threatened, manipulated, and abused Mallory without a single thought to the threat of retribution at her hands, because she was nothing more than a silly mortal girl. Because he thought she was his.

There was no more room for fear in her heart, for her blood boiled with rage.

Are you called Sheddun?

The words echoed in the air around Mallory and her tormentor, who stopped laughing and turned, confused, to look for her voice's source. No new spell circles or threads of arcane power had flashed into being. Her gag remained intact. This was a simple parlor trick, the first form of magic she'd ever learned; for lack of a free hand to wiggle her fingers, or a few arcane words to whisper, her voice emanated instead from the traces of her dried blood scattered around the platform.

"I am called many things," he began, turning his head to her and narrowing his eyes. "A few of which I'm sure you've heard before, and you'll hear more," he snarled, "when you pass through the gates of my kingdom -- "

Don't pretend to be Satan. No one who calls himself Sheddun is the Prince of Lies himself. Just a cheap imitation, hoping to impress the stupid and gullible.

He visibly fought down the urge to inflict further harm on her, but the blazing sacrificial circle was already in place, and he needed her alive until the moment he set her heart ablaze. He strode away from her, attempting to refocus on the ritual in progress, and the business he still had to attend to. "Naomi!" he called, over the chorus of chanting. "Send someone to open the doors and let the mortals in! It won't be much longer now."

Do you know why God destroyed Gomorrah?

The way Adder tensed up and closed his eyes, he could only be counting backwards to calm himself down. "For vice," he hissed through his teeth. "A ludicrous thing to punish."

And a ludicrous thing to definitively ascribe to your campaign and Gomorrah. Their sin may not have been vice itself. I agree with the scholars who argue that it was being inhospitable. Unneighborly. Being a good neighbor, a good host, is of great importance in Abrahamic and other Levantine moral traditions.

Adder was attempting to ignore her again, as his smug satisfaction at the near-completion of his task and mounting irritation at her words warred visibly across his face. He was looking pointedly away from her, at Naomi as she paused in her chant long enough to order a few of his worshippers to make their way to Tartarus' sealed doors.

"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good."

"Vice is an abomination," he snarled.

However you define toevah, it begs the question... did you ever think about any of this? Did you ever consider it? Did you even know to consider it? Are you even capable of that?

"Are you calling me stupid, you mewling stripling of a mortal girl?!" he roared, rounding on her, as close to the white-hot flames as he dared.

No. But I am smarter than you.

((Written collaboratively with Jewell, Salvador, and Cane!))


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:15 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"What -- ?" Adder began, darting a suspicious look around, scanning the threads of power for any scrap of a clue, any sign, any trap that he had missed... but with the culmination of the ritual nearly at hand, there was too much power in this place to see such faint glimmers. It was already too late.

The Bell of Gomorrah tolled a final time, the rusty stains of her dried blood splattered across it sharply contrasted by the white firelight gleaming off its bronze surface.

Break.

With the horrible sound of shearing metal, the bell split in two and plummeted to the floor. The cages sprang open, no longer sealed by the artifact's power. And the threads of the spell enthralling the thirteen caged dancers snapped, freeing them at last from Samuel Adder's control.

The moment Eri felt the spell break, there was no hesitation. She scrambled out of the opening door of her cage and into the wild fray of panicking worshippers. She could see Mallory and Adder ahead, but there was a small army of cambions, tieflings, and other lesser fiends in her way, whirling to face her and the other dancers. That was fine. The delinquent charged ahead at the nearest target, lashing out furiously with her fists, pummeling him until he toppled over the railing behind him before he could even unleash a single spell.

"NO!" Adder roared, stalking to the edge of the platform to witness the cages breaking open, his thirteen precious captives scrambling free. He did not see Mallory's new piercings melting into a thin blade called to her hand, but when he whirled, he saw her already in the process of severing her bonds. His eyes flared into two pillars of green flame, and his tail lashed out behind him in agitation as he raised his hands to retaliate --

-- and Jewell emerged from the shadows of the Veil, ("Ladies first!" she insisted to her companions) springing onto the platform and landing right in front of him. Energy, a brilliant silver grey against the flame-lit darkness of Tartarus, gathered around her hand as she swung upwards, burying her fist into his stomach in a nasty uppercut. "You asshole!" She didn't give him time to catch his breath. With the whisper of Lestari, her sapphire-studded scepter, the weapon that made her The Empress Overlady of the Duel of Swords, appeared in her hand and she began to wail on Samuel with it.

Mana energy channeled through her into the weapon, amplifying each blow. "How dare you!" The right shoulder. "You used me!" Left knee. "To get to her!" Right ribs. Left ribs. Left ankle. Temple.

Jewell battered him back with blow after blow, giving Mallory time to sever her bonds. She darted a wild look over her shoulder at the unfolding chaos, then the tangle of bodies around one of the broken cages and the rising sounds of battle. "Eri?!" She could see the other escaped dancers darting into the exits in the unfolding chaos, but she'd lost sight of the delinquent. The witch dashed forward, her heart jumping into her throat as she leapt across the treacherous gap between the platform and the balcony --

-- and found the clawed hands of Naomi Lin wrapping around her arm, digging into her flesh, wrenching it painfully before releasing to topple over a tall cocktail table. She scrambled up to a bar for cover, slipping out of sight, but the light of her spellwork flashing as she traded blows with Naomi.

Eri kept moving, trying to avoid engaging any of the mob in pursuit of her. When she nearly tripped over a broken piece of a heavy table leg among the rubble of furniture scattered on the balcony floor, she eagerly reached down to seize the improvised club. Now armed, she put the makeshift weapon to effective use, striking every foe that moved into range with hard, fast swings before their blades could connect. Beaten and fallen worshippers piled up around the delinquent, but when she saw the witch leap to the balcony and the ensuing flashes of magic of her battle, she screamed over the heads of the many foes still in her path: "Hang on! Here I come!"

Before Eri could rejoin Mallory, she was forced to throw herself to the floor, rolling away to avoid a barrage of bolts of arcane energy aimed at her by a group of the cambions. Her momentum carried her straight into a tiefling, tangling them together and knocking her weapon loose. They locked arms, the tiefling snapping his teeth at her as he struggled and strained to push his hand towards her face...

Adder was bloody and bruised, forced to his knees by Jewell's assault; but he was not beaten, and far from alone. Blood streamed down the side of his face from his scalp, and the after-effects of her mana crackled everywhere she'd landed a blow. He gained a moment of respite as Jewell was forced to duck bolts of crimson power flung by a trio of cambions arrayed on the nearby balcony; and a moment was all he needed. "I thought a fae, of all people, would understand!" he snarled, and raised his arms. In a blinding white flash, he vanished to the far side of the platform, leaving an explosion of fiery force in his wake to fling Jewell away from the platform.

Like a rag doll, Jewell was tossed off the platform, her hastily activated shield rings protecting her body from the worst of harm. Dazed by the heat, she fell freely to the dance floor forty feet below and the sea of waiting minions. Coming to her senses long enough at the end to slow her descent, the faerie used the translucent wings that momentarily appeared at her back to assist and direct her into breaking her fall on an unfortunate tiefling whose neck she broke.

She was given no time to right herself when she hit the dance floor before the horde was upon her, daggers and scimitars drawn. The blades flashed down at her, and with her scepter lost in the fall, she withdrew the dagger at her hip. Again and again it darted out, saving her from the bite of their blades. Her right hand she kept free, redirecting the spells thrown at her and firing off her own shots.

One wickedly curved scimitar caught her wrist, forcing her to drop her blade, but by then the blood was flowing freely and in abundance, her own and theirs. With sweat streaming down her face, she seized the blood in the three nearest, living tieflings and brought it to her along with the blood on the floor, in the fallen bodies at her feet, and even dripping from her own wounds. It crested around her, a series of octopus arms catching and redirecting physical blows, a frenetic, symphonatic fighting style conducted with her left hand while the right continued to absorb and reflect spells cast her way.

((Written collaboratively with Salvador, Jewell, Cane, and Eri!))


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adder's allies vastly outnumbered Mallory, Eri, and the others in the process of emerging from the Veil and into the fray... but the Veil was not the only road into Tartarus. Thousands upon thousands of tiny claws scrabbled and scratched their way through the tunnels and pipes and crevices that spiderwebbed across RhyDin's vast undercity, descending on this vast pit from all sides. A cambion nursing a freshly broken arm, staggering away from Eri's powerful swings, stopped to look up at a clattering pipe -- and screamed when a torrent of vengeful, shrieking rats fell onto him, biting, clawing, and tearing deep into his flesh.

All around the circular balcony, rats swarmed out of any opening they could find, scurrying up legs, leaping onto limbs, and tearing into exposed flesh. Wherever one was flung free, skewered by a blade, blasted by magic, or stomped until broken, two more appeared, eager to repay Mr. Adder's hospitality in kind.

Among them rose a small scattering of monstrous hybrids, six to seven feet tall with enormous gnashing teeth, whipping tails that were strong and thick enough to crack bones, and long fingers capped in scalpel sharp claws. One such beast wore a bandolier full of sticks of dynamite. Mad, mad eyes gleamed in the dark as it lit one and chucked it into the throng, shrieking the name "HECTOR" as its battlecry.

But in spite of the chaos, in spite of the rat swarms, and in spite of a stick of dynamite turning what had once been perfectly loyal lackeys into so many discrete chunks, when Cane emerged from the Veil and onto the platform? Adder was ready for him. Fallen bricks and chunks of rubble were spinning above him like a cyclone, and with a simple jerk of his head, they went soaring across the chamber, battering his own allies and sending Mallory and Eri tumbling and scrambling for cover from the projectiles. A glance back at the Cajun's form was enough to draw a thread between himself and his new target. Electricity crackled in the air around him before it gathered into a single bolt, racing across the platform at the other man.

The explosion of lightning hit Cane square in the chest with enough force to drive him back by several feet. He only succeeded in remaining on the balcony by melting the platform beneath his feet, boots digging into the softening stone to slow the momentum. Behind him, lava spilled over the edge and to the chaos below where it found an unfortunate target whose agonized screams did not last long.

The Cajun's body sang with the tension of arcane power that surged into him, muscles and tendons creating sharp definition beneath the skin. He let out a stentorian bellow of rage, bringing his hands together to divert the lightning's point of entry away from his center and into his palms.

"Yaf wmidd clas py." In the split second that followed, Cane used the conduit between them to turn the tide, locking the open channel so Adder would be unable to disconnect. He went from merely contending with the electricity to siphoning the power from its source. Reveling in the look of frightened surprise on the devil's face, Canaan broke free of the igneous rock which plastered him in place and began to advance.

Wisps of sulfurous smoke trickled up along his skin as he gathered the brimstone tainted energy to himself. Tremendous heat blossomed around Cane that blistered Adder's mortal skin and caused ripples of distortion in the air around them. His body stretched, growing in both size and strength as he feasted upon the raw power that poured into him. Horns sprouted from his temples, curling back over his skull; clothing burned away only to be replaced by fire-charred, crystalline scales that pushed up through blackening skin. Hardened flesh split and cracked like stone beneath its protective armor, emitting the hellish light of Living Flame through the fissures and bathing the balcony in his blazing radiance. He breathed through a keeled, plated sternum which expanded and contracted like a bellows to ventilate the fire in his chest, its color shifting from white to light blue with each breath.

Adder's fear resolved into rage as he dropped all illusions disguising his true form, his suit falling away as nothing more than ashes, his fire-cracked skin turning a deep, deep red. Interlopers. Trespassers. Fools! His eyes erupted into two gouts of green flame and two long, curling horns burst from his temples; his cloven feet dug into the floor as his form swelled in size, over seven feet tall, and his tail lashed side to side in growing agitation. "If I cannot break away from you...!" he roared, charging at Cane's monstrous form, lashing out at his torso with lengthening claws, amplifying each blow with crimson bolts of infernal power; but the open channel was working against him, diminishing the power of his attacks and feeding them to Cane.

They collided. The friction of the devil's claws against Cane's armor sent a burst of sparks showering to the ground at their feet. Cane snarled, reaching up with his own monstrously clawed hands to grasp Adder's head between them. He slammed his forehead to the devil's with tremendous force, the thunderous crash of bone reverberating emphatically.

Adder reeled backward from the headbutt, and dug his lengthening, sharpening claws into Cane's massive arms as he reached for him, struggling and failing to stop the other man from seizing him by the horns. Cane let him struggle, enjoying the moment with an audible growl, then released one horn and wrenched hard to throw him off balance. Then he followed through with a haymaker, sending Adder staggering away from him.

Fire erupted from Cane's outstretched hand in a stream of tightly focused energy. The roar of flame gave way to a hideous shriek as it seared across and through Adder's chest.

In spite of the onslaught from Cane's awesome form, Samuel Adder was not beaten... not yet. His face was battered and burned, his skin continuing to crack in the presence of Cane's heat, and the blood falling from his chest evaporated before it could reach the floor. He could see several of his underlings twitching in the open air around the platform, skewered on the sharpened ends of Jewell's eight elemental arms before they dropped to the floor. He let out a snarl of frustration as his green eyes narrowed on Cane with malice: "The girl is mine, you worthless mutt!"

A chorus of wails of the damned rose up around him as several spectral bolts lashed out around the room at every foe he could see. Blood turned to a noxious steam as Jewell shielded herself with the abundant liquid. Fire erupted in a flamethrower-like gout between Mallory and Naomi, flaring out at the witch who covered her face with her arms to absorb what her shadowy mantle failed to deflect, staggering backwards and stumbling over broken furniture; acid surged out of a rivulet forming across the balcony, searing through a now screaming tiefling that had been sneaking up on Eri, and splashing painfully across the delinquent's back; and ice met the fiery beast before him, three successive waves of snow, hail, razor-sharp spikes, and bitingly cold wind blasting into Cane's form.

In a flurry of blinding speed, Cane raised his arms to cover his head, dredging up freshly formed lava at his feet to create a shield of rapidly cooling stone to protect him from the worst of the attack, allowing him to regroup. Fire and ice clashed, generating a thick cloud of steam that enveloped the entire platform.

With long, thudding strides, Adder barreled through the dissipating steam, letting out an enraged roar as his glistening black claws tore through Cane's stone shield, shattering it into so much rubble falling onto the dancefloor below. The moment Cane staggered, he lunged, driving his claws in wherever they could find purchase, snarling with delight as they sank in deeper. "Pathetic half-breed...!"

((Written collaboratively with Hector's mysterious friends, Cane, and some other people. You get the gist.))


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jun 27, 2018 11:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cane's vision went red with Rage, or maybe it was just the fire he called up. Directed by fury, the fire lashed out of Cane with concussive force, filling the massive chamber with thunder and light. Scale and flesh tore away from his body as Adder's claws were rent from his form when he was thrown back by the bloom of thermal power. Molten life force spilled from his wounds to the ground, but Cane ignored it, calling upon still more infernal energy as he closed the distance. He didn't give the devil time to even think about getting up.

His clawed fists opened mid-leap, and he came down on top of the devil as he snarled, "Smy uw puly!" And he sank his claws into Adder's chest. The flames around them flowered, brightening for a second, before being drawn into Cane's expanding chest like a vacuum, the bright light within him burning blue with intense heat.

Adder's eyes widened in fear and rage, at Cane's snarled challenge in the infernal tongue they shared, and at the claws now tearing through his chest, shredding through organs that struggled to regenerate against this terrible onslaught. His body was breaking. His claws were utterly destroyed, the skin of his knuckles torn open to flesh and bone. He called upon his power with a screaming roar, bolt after bolt of infernal energy rippling across Cane's body as the larger creature tore his claws free, scattering evaporating blood across the platform. He backed away with each spell flung in Cane's face, pouring all of the power he had left into this creature's destruction.

It wasn't enough.

In this exhausted state, Adder's pathetic spells were too weak to stop Cane's inexorable advance, nor what followed. The Cajun opened his maw with a snarl to unleash a roaring torrent of hellfire. The devastating flood consumed the devil, setting flesh and nerves ablaze.

Adder screamed in anguish and fell onto his back as he succumbed to the infernal flames, peeling open his flesh, blistering away his skin, cracking his bones with the intensity of the heat. Wild green eyes darted a quick look at his rapidly diminishing allies, and he traced a claw through the air to tear open a portal... only to find the power failing him, siphoned into the living forge that was Cane. He tried to move again, to get back to his feet, but he cried out as heat-blasted flesh and bone sundered with the effort.

At the sound of her boss' mad laughter and enraged roars giving way to pained screams, Naomi Lin finally broke away from her duel with the witchling, paying for her moment of inattention with a retaliatory blast of wind that screamed around her, covering her back in razor-like cuts. She snapped her teeth angrily at Mallory, slashed her hand through the air, and disappeared in a cloud of embers and ash, reappearing on the edge of the main platform, standing before her boss... and the fiery beast that had looked like a simple mortal when he'd first appeared. His presence gave her pause, but the witch dashing after her divided her attention.

Mallory's clothes were dirty, singed and slashed from too many close calls; blood trickled from her scalp, flowed down her right arm, and dripped steadily from her left hand; and the mantle of shadows that protected her from harm flickered and wavered -- but she wasn't out of the fight yet. She leapt far enough to clear the gap to the platform, and caught a whip-like lash from Naomi's tail at her ankle as she came down hard. The succubus trilled with laughter at the sound of Mallory's sharp scream as her ankle twisted painfully --

-- cut short by a single word from the witch, vindicta. Naomi gasped as a deep cut sliced up her torso and slashed into her jaw, staggered by the wound. She turned from the girl to the many fallen figures scattered across the balcony and the dancefloor below, one screaming as another wave of rats crested over and consumed him...

...and back to her boss' failing body, nearly consumed by the inferno that issued from within the monster that called itself Cane. The succubus dragged her hand through the air again, disappearing from the fray in a flash of scarlet.

Adder was alone with Cane and the witch, but not for long.

The delinquent, Eri, snarled and bared her long lower canines at the last fiendish minion to fall to her blows. Then she heard the sudden silence of this place, and her yellow, lantern-like eyes caught sight of Adder's smoking, crackling husk of a body, cowering before Cane and Mallory. She flung her makeshift bludgeon aside with a huff, shattering the chunk of stone railing against the wall, and loped over to the edge of the balcony, reaching the platform easily with a feral leap.

Jewell's ethereal wings glimmered in the air as she rose up from the dance floor, coated in blood and ichor from head to toe, then vanished as she set down on the edge of the platform. Two long appendages of thick, red and black blood extended from her arms, writhing weapons created from those who fell before her. Despite the terrible racing of her heart, she was ready for more.

Sal's wild, glowing eyes looked on from the furthest shadows. One last cambion gurgled on her own blood as she fell at his feet, among so many others. Shifting to take a step, he blinked out of space, and on the next step was standing among them on the platform, radiating bone-chilling cold. With living, jagged carapace slithering slowly over his skin, he looked like some nightmarish alien creature instead of the man Mal knew. Blood dripped from the tips of his sharply pointed fingers.

Samuel Adder's allies were dead, or had abandoned him. The throng of revelers, hundreds of would-be sacrifices, had dispersed as soon as the Bell of Gomorrah had broken -- there was no strength he could draw from them. There was no power left for the magic he commanded. And he was surrounded.

"Finish this," he croaked at Cane, smoke, ash, and flakes of charred flesh falling from his mouth as it struggled to form the words. "Finish me... you beast."

The Cajun's demonic form diminished into something more human, if only so he could properly smile at the devil. He crouched down beside Samuel's scorched, mortal vessel twitching in agony and ignored the anemic echo of a shriek that begged for release. "I'm not gonna kill you," he said in a quiet voice. "But somethin' tells me you're gonna wish I had."

Cane glanced over his shoulder to those looking on, some wounded, others soaked in blood that was clearly not their own... coming to a stop when he reached the battered witch.

"Nadya," Adder croaked at Mallory at Cane's silent invitation, black smoke puffing out of his bloody mouth when he spoke. The witch said nothing, only turning her gaze from Cane to Adder's broken form as she pulled herself to her feet. She clasped her bloody right arm tightly with her left hand, grunting in pain as she took the first limping step, dragging her right ankle... but pain was something she had been learning to cope with since this fiend had dumped her in RhyDin.

Adder's flesh was charred and cracked, his tail mangled and twitching, but he had strength enough to pull himself up from the floor, onto his hands and knees as Mallory approached. "Nadya... it does not have to end this way. I have given you power... and I could show you so much more. I could return you home, to your family, to Vyrna in glory...!"

Mallory stopped in front of him, raising her chin to stare critically at his wretched, broken form. "My home?" she said. "My family?" His fanged teeth broke into a grin as he nodded emphatically, turning to listen to her...

"My name is Mallory St. Martin, and RhyDin is my home. My family is Patrick, Spencer and Eri, the people you tortured, captured and threatened, the people you tried to take away from me! And that power you speak of is not yours to give, because I earned it through suffering, you ****ing prick!"

Samuel Adder snarled in anger, opening his mouth to chide Mallory for her insolence, when she pressed her left ring finger to his ruined throat... and he found himself choking on his own roiling, thickening blood. He had no power left to tear open an escape from this fate, and could only watch the witch in wide-eyed terror as she flexed her fingers and beckoned to his flesh with the blood-soaked magic of the Belladonna Knight. Tiny vines wound their way through his cracking, dessicating skin, blooming into tiny purple flowers. Flesh sloughed off into growing piles of fine black soil, and the blood he tried to hiss his desperate final pleas through turned to the toxic essence of nightshade.

He reached out to Mallory with what remained of his arms until they withered and collapsed, leaving nothing but an appallingly blackened skull resting atop an altar of dark soil, with its curly horns wreathed in belladonna flowers.

"Well," Cane said when it was all finished.

Mallory turned her head with a start as if she'd forgotten Cane was there; she was drenched in sweat, her chest still heaving from the exertion of the fight. Her wild eyes ticked between him and the others, her expression softening as she reminded herself that these were friends... and that the archdevil watching her every word was dead.

Something welled up inside of her, her expression breaking as she locked eyes with the delinquent. "Eri!" She limped as fast as she could across the platform, arms open.

Eri looked a little like an animal herself right now. The costume she was wearing was barely intact, and blood was splashed and streaked across her face. Her hands were uniformly coated red, fists finally unclenched to stretch her fingers. Her breathing was heavy and her teeth still bared, though she swayed on her feet from simple exhaustion. Mallory's voice broke the frenzy, and her still yellow eyes widened. An unsteady gait carried her forward to meet the limping witch with arms already outstretched, crashing into her as they pulled each other into a tight embrace. "Mallory!" she exclaimed, unable to articulate anything more than a sob.

The two lingered in the embrace for a long moment, sharing quiet words, before they drew back far enough to tip their heads together. "I love you," Mallory whispered.

"I love you, Mallory," Eri replied, sniffling as a few happy tears left tracks on her bloody face.

Jewell--weary, breathless, and a bit out of humor because she was pretty sure she was having another heart attack while Mallory and Eri were busy kissing and being all mushy--cleared her throat loudly, "Not to ruin the moment, but who gets to keep the skull?"

"Dibs!" Mallory replied as she broke away from Eri. "We were just talking about that. We're thinking decorative door-knocker," she added with a sniffle as she eyed it.

The faerie sighed dramatically, giving up her dreams of a mantle centerpiece featuring her now dead ****-toy, and begrudgingly relented to Mallory's greater claim on Samuel's skull, "Fiiine. You can keep this one." Then she wandered off to find a piece of rubble to sit on, preferably one that Cane had not turned into magma.

By this point, Salvador had already left their cluster and resumed prowling the fringes of the room. There were other bodies to deal with. He took it upon himself to clean them up. No need to thank him.

Mallory finally turned to Cane, trying to put words to a question that had only been a faint glimmer of hope an hour ago... She searched his face curiously, and with some effort, formed the words he'd spoken before: "Smy uw puly... Does that mean I can have my job back?"

Not seeing any reason to correct her, Cane shrugged nonchalantly. "Close enough. But we're gonna have to have a little talk about monologuing."

((Written collaboratively with Eri; Jewell; Salvador; Cane; and Hector's friends, all of whom are lovely, wonderful writers I am lucky I got to do this with! Thank you! <3 <3 <3

Just getting caught up on this thread on or after October 2nd? The scene in the post above starts here!))


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Early Tuesday morning...

Maria Ruiz and Shannon O'Connor waited for their fellow succubus in Samuel Adder's darkened office. With the end of the campaign -- despite the promise of more work to come with his casino projects -- the building was quiet, with staff released from their overtime obligations and finally allowed to take a sorely needed day off. There was no sound in the room at all, except for the frustrated sighs Shannon kept heaving and the crackle of a portal about to open.

Naomi Lin stumbled out of a shimmering crimson tear in reality, unsteady on her feet, the hood drawn up on her bloody and singed robes. Shannon didn't give her a chance to recover, rounding on her immediately

"You left him there?!"

"Shannon, we weren't there -- "

"Maybe if we had been, this wouldn't have happened -- !"

"If you'd been there, you'd all be dead!" Naomi snapped, throwing back her hood -- her jaw was still split open on one side, revealing tendon that was slow to regenerate. "Our wise and all-knowing master gave a ****ing blood witch free rein in Tartarus for a week. She broke the ritual. The sacrifices ran. That demonic mutt of a gangster got loose and started killing our chanters."

"Surely the two of you could have handled a blood witch and a half-breed," Maria intoned, daring to step between Shannon and Naomi.

"She brought friends. Our master's mistress, the fae -- her loyal knight, who slaughtered our reinforcements -- a sadistic fae creature the likes of which I've never seen before, but at least he ate well! -- that busybody of a shopkeep, Cane, who may as well have been a full-blooded demon -- and an endless plague of rats and ratkin. One of them had ****ing dynamite!"

Shannon snapped her teeth at Naomi and her excuses, and turned her head to Maria: "We should have been there. We would not have run."

"Do you think each of us so strong?" Maria narrowed her eyes skeptically at Shannon. "Our master got in over his head, and now we're left to pick up the pieces. Yes? What's done is done," she added, looking pointedly between her and Naomi.

"Good. Then, we can recover our strength and plan a counterattack," Naomi growled, her scar stretching, "make sure they won't be a problem -- "

"No," Maria said, stepping up to her, and darting a warning look back at Shannon. "No counterattacks. No revenge. No war. We don't have the empire for it... and I don't think we have anything further to fear from them. Not now. Unless you think they'd like to boast about murdering a politician?"

It seemed to pacify them; Naomi, at least. Shannon frowned, shaking her head. "I am not so sure... this is a strange and violent city..."

"At the very least, they'd keep their cards close if they saw another Samuel Adder."

"The Rite of the Avatar?" Naomi asked. "Would he... do you think he would permit it?"

"He left us with this mess," Shannon replied with a huff, folding her arms tightly. "And his Hellbound spirit won't be in any shape to answer us for weeks. Months, if he's unlucky."

"Are we agreed?" Maria intoned sternly; and as they both relented with nods, she smiled. "I do not think the face of Samuel Adder could be in any better hands than ours. Let us begin."

* * * * *

The ritual had been going on for hours, long enough that the first rays of sunlight had broken over the hills to the east, spilling their gold across Fool's Luck Bay. Maria, Shannon, and Naomi were kneeling in a circle, arms outstretched, hands only barely touching, chanting on the floor of Samuel Adder's empty office. "Mara Sheddun mara," they whispered, the newest of hundreds of repetitions. "Mara Sheddun mara."

With the six hundred and sixteenth invocation of the last face of the Name Thief, the ritual culminated, and a pitch black void appeared in the floor between them, stretching at the corners into a three-pointed star, flaring, crackling with power, and emitting a dark, chilling mist. Voices echoed out of the infinite chasms on the other side of the door, the slow rumbling thunder of ancient beings rousing from their slumber at this intrusion, and the despairing wails of the lost souls condemned to this place.

Chitinous legs, glistening claws, and oil-slick tentacles scrabbled and writhed at the edges of the void, trying in vain to widen the tear, but the only thing that the coven of succubi would suffer to pass was already rising: a simple, pearlescent mask, featureless but for the empty eyes and a thin mouth, spinning in the air between them.

The void snapped shut the moment they broke the circle, and the mask descended slowly, floating down into their outstretched hands. Through mere contact with it, they could feel the essence of Samuel Adder, the idea of his presence, his shape, his voice. It was not him, but it was as close to him as they would get on short notice, and they shared a quiet moment of satisfaction at the completion of their task -- it wasn't much, but it was a small victory in the face of so many setbacks.

Shannon looked at the mask... then between Naomi and Maria with a deepening frown. "Sooo... who gets to wear it first?"
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 24th...

Maria Ruiz's first impression of Club Zenith was that it was worlds apart from Tartarus.

The old nightclub had been an impossibly massive chamber, more than seven stories tall, with a grand balcony at the pinnacle worthy of any king. It had been packed with bodies from dusk until dawn, all of them giving themselves over to a frenzied lust, happily taking whatever drinks and whatever else was pressed into their greedy hands. Its heartbeat was the bassline that reverberated through the dark roots of the city, as a thousand corrupted mortal hearts beat as one. And under its eerie red glow, there had been enough of a feast for any succubus to glut herself for months.

Club Zenith was something altogether different, at least at a glance, more respectable despite the more openly adult entertainment. Rather than hide deep underground, away from the prying eyes of this city's many self-proclaimed guardians, the strip club proudly occupied a busy mid-level floor, the perfect height for Stars End's busiest hovercraft lanes. It occupied one corner of a diamond-shaped skyscraper, with a commanding view of Fool's Luck Bay only ever broken by shuttles and airspeeders whizzing past. Between the windows, the stools, the bar, and every catwalk, most of Club Zenith was made of the same type of holographic glass; only the floors, stairs, and ceiling were gleaming chrome, catching the lights within and without, refracted and dancing strangely across every surface.

There was no ancient bell tolling, and no cages -- though there were glass platforms that orbited slowly over the main floor that passed tantalizingly close to balconies, with dancers grinding on the hard light railings. And in place of the ancient artifact, there was a DJ at work on the main stage, bulky headphones not quite covering his long, piercing-laden ears. They seemed to be invisible to most of the crowd, but in Maria's eyes she could see a glow, the faint tracing of infernal runes across his equipment, curling up and wreathing his hands in crimson threads of arcane power, pulsing out over the crowd in waves.

Despite the writhing performance on the glass platform currently hovering between him and the crowd, and the lascivious looks the two dancers were giving him, his eyes kept straying to the muse standing over his shoulder: Shannon O'Connor, her green eyes glittering as she beheld her enthralled artist, silently reveling in all the good work he was doing for them. Even if she did not seem to care for mortal lust, even at the best of times, the power they accrued from it was another matter altogether.

There was another deep pulse of energy that carried itself through the music, crackling through the crowd and the electric touch between bodies, spiraling down their legs and through the apparently seamless chrome floor. She could feel it as it thrummed along a ritually inscribed line just inches below her feet, drawn in towards an invisible centerpoint, and she couldn't help a fraction of a smile at the feeling. It was the same smile she graced a male dancer with as he led two of their new patrons away by the hand, passing under the watchful gaze of someone up on the second story.

"Mr. Adder!" Over the din, she heard the booming voice of a half-orc in a silk suit and tie, moving to greet the familiar face and figure of Samuel Adder, clasping his hand in two massive ones adorned with golden rings. Maria spared a smile for her companion -- Samuel spared a solitary wink -- and crossed the room to the bar, deftly negotiating the mass of bodies with a well-placed heart-stopping look, a distracting tickle of claw-like fingertips, and a subtle push of a few bodies towards the performers and partners they preferred.

"Vodka. Neat." She stood with her back to the counter, letting the skinny glass dangle from her fingers as soon as it passed within reach, and allowed herself a few minutes to just watch as Club Zenith's opening night progressed before her eyes.

This club was worlds apart from Tartarus. Compared to their first underground venture, Zenith was perfectly appropriate for an entertainment company like Shining Cities Entertainment. It had been announced out in the open, with the figure of Samuel Adder opening its doors after dusk after giving a small speech to the throng of eager patrons. There were no captive dancers, no prison cells or torture chambers, and no sacrificial braziers for the incineration of unlucky souls; only the steady pulse of music that quietly fed a small but growing reserve of magical power. In time, with enough venues like this, it would be enough to resurrect the infernal essence of the Name Thief...

...unless we commit its power to a more worthy task.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 6th...

Mallory did her best to warn Jewell before dropping by to talk -- a scarlet butterfly that fluttered into the place she was staying, delivering a simple message from the witch about an hour beforehand. She arrived on foot, standing in front of the luxuriously appointed New Haven house and looking at it the way one does any garishly colored animal, silently considering whether it was a warning of venomous intent or merely poor taste. Someone was looking back at her, a short red-haired girl smoking at the back of a studio van, eyeing her with suspicion equal to the witch's own. Just beyond the skeptical intern, someone was visible through the living room windows, dancing across the sofas while swinging a sword. Shirtless.

Christ, she hoped she wouldn't have to go in there.

The witch's message had given her enough time to dig through the closet she shared with Gren (it was in shambles!) to find something other than shorts and a sports bra to wear. Jewell slowed on the way down the stairs, pulling on her t-shirt and tying her white hair back in a ponytail, and then stopped completely at the bottom to watch Hugo practice.

"Looking good, handsome. Too bad TDL isn't a thing these days. You'd slay it and make me a ton of money," she said to the house monitor. He mutely flourished a bow in reply, breathing too hard for words, sparing her a roguish wink as he extended his blade away from her.

She faked a swoon and then detoured into the kitchen, eyeing the snacks on the counter. "Granola... hemp seeds. Sunflower seeds. Where the hell are the potato chips and pixie sticks I asked for?" she asked the nearest cameraman.

"Uh ma'am, we told you. You're not supposed to talk to us."

"Yeah yeah. I'll talk to whoever I--" the doorbell rang. "IT'S FOR ME!" she shouted over her shoulder to whoever was home. Grabbing the granola, "Ugh, infused with flax seeds," she headed for the door and threw it open.

"If you don't get that ****ing thing out of my face, I'll -- " Mallory stopped threatening another one of the cameraman (currently backed all the way up to the railing) when Jewell threw open the door. "Hey!" she said, affecting cheerfulness that belied her desire to be away from this house and the camera crew that came with it. "Join me for cider and donuts? My treat?"

She'd seen a stand on her way over. She hoped no one would try to follow them there, but she had her doubts...

"Mm donuts? Hell yes." Jewell actually tossed the bag of granola over her shoulder and then searched the pile of shoes that had already accumulated next to the door. "Think these are mine..." she said as she shoved her feet into a pair of flats.

"GOING OUT!" she shouted again to the house at large, explaining quickly to Mal, "Ishmerai's been kind of worried about me going out a lot. Can't blame him, I guess."

"I get it," she muttered, once she thought they were out of microphone shot, although they probably weren't; "but it's New Haven, and we can do bloody murder between the two of us." She shoved her hands into her hoodie pockets, glowered at an intern, and led the charge away from the Real RhyDin house, putting buildings and bodies between them and the set of the reality show. "I dunno how you live in a place like that," she admitted honestly, finally slowing down and turning to look at Jewell as the faerie caught up to her.

"Eh.. it's not so bad, I guess." She shrugged. "Kind of like a big game of pretend? Pretend you're the person they want you to be. Pretend you don't want to murder your roommates. Pretend no one is watching." Jewell smirked, "And when my lovely doppleganger kills me, at least they'll catch it on camera?"

"Which reminds to me to ask you, what the **** is all that about?" Mallory gave Jewell another look as they slowed to the end of a line for cider and donuts. "I really thought that invitation was from you. I know your glamour," she said. "Like cool, clear water, with... light, somehow. I wouldn't have come otherwise."

Her description of her glamour made her smile, but her nose wrinkled up immediately. "Sorry about that. Didn't even think she would invite you. I mean, I didn't even know about it until a few days before." The line inched forward. "A few years ago, some CPA agents dropped her through a portal to this dimension and time. Bitch had already destroyed her version of RhyDin. I don't know why they brought her to me buuut they did, so I locked her up in the Tower of Gulshan. Guess I should have killed her."

Mallory thinned her lips as she thought about that. "That's pretty bitchy of the CPA. They should be the ones to clean up this mess, but I guess that's not gonna happen if they dumped her here to begin with. But I dunno if I would've killed her ahead of time, either, given the chance." They made it to the front of the line, and the witch flashed two fingers as she fished out enough silver coins for hot cider and a maple donut for each of them, and turned to follow Jewell to a bench nearby.

"I might be in a similar place. Kind of." She took a big bite of her donut, despite how the conversation was making her feel. It took a lot more stress and anxiety than this to stop the witch from eating whatever food was in front of her.

Jewell was going a little bit slower with her donut. It was good, but she didn't really feel truly hungry these days. "Is that what you wanted to talk about?" She broke a piece off and nibbled, contemplated, and then shoved the whole piece in her mouth. Even lacking an appetite, it was good!

"Mm," she nodded. Just seconds later, hers was gone. "I've got..." She trailed off, her expression falling to another frown. She drew her legs up to sit indian-style on the bench next to Jewell, balancing the cider in her lap. "Adder abducted me from somewhere when I was a baby. From somewhere called Vyrna, from a family called the Volokhovs. They struck a bargain, their memories of me in exchange for power, at least according to him. And he bundled me up in a cloak from a place called Mallory's Fine Clothiers before he delivered me to an orphanage that transferred me to St. Martin's in RhyDin -- that's where I got the name," she added with a sliver of a smile she didn't feel. "There's never been a Mallory's in RhyDin -- I checked. So it could be in Vyrna, or somewhere nearby.

"I've been looking for any information about Vyrna, but I can't find anything. I've been trying to figure out where Adder's spirit is, or if he's actually, you know, gone, but I can't find anything, either. And I don't have the cloak... but I know where it is. I could get it, and use it to find one of those things."

"What a bastard." It was her version of commiserating and showing sympathy to the young witch, and she really did think that Adder was a bastard. "Do you want to find this... Vyrna place?" She popped another piece of donut into her mouth, talking as she chewed. "Not like you've ever really lived there, you know?"

"No, and... I meant what I said to him, before I killed him," Mallory replied, lifting the piping hot cider for a careful sip. "I'm not Nadya Volokhov, from Vyrna. I'm Mallory St. Martin, from RhyDin, and my family's here." She breathed a long sigh as she remembered it. Tartarus and everything leading up to it still followed her every day. If the Name Thief was truly dead, at least he didn't have to remember it. Her eyes slid shut, and she blew out another breath. "But that's still a piece of me, and the only piece he didn't touch. And I have power... and it's not just the mark left by the bargain he struck for control over my fate. Part of the gift's in my blood, and... I'll always wanna know what that is, too."

She turned to look Jewell in the eye: "**** Mariya and Evgeny Volokhov for doing this to me. I don't care why they did it. I don't want to know. But I do want to know more about me. I've never had the chance before, and... I don't know that I'll get another."

"Then you should go." She said it as if it was all as simple as walking to the bodega on the corner. Jewell shoved the last bit of her donut in her mouth and washed it down with some cider. "Mm that's good. I'll have to come back here with the roomies." It was a momentary aside before she was back on topic, "Normally, I'd warn against revenge jobs. They don't pay and you're usually doubly screwed in the end." She licked a bit of the maple glaze from the donut off her finger, decidedly not thinking about all the revenge she had sought in RhyDin and how it led to so much sorrow. "But if you want to go to learn about yourself? Do it."

Mallory couldn't help but laugh, quietly, at the sight of the deadly faerie next to her licking the last of the glaze off her fingers like a greedy child. In spite of their history, it made her laugh. "Okay. Maybe I will." She wrapped her hands a little tighter around her cup of cider, letting herself enjoy the warmth for a long moment. "And maybe I'll try... other channels to look for the Name Thief. There's gotta be a few." She knew of a couple, though she wouldn't voice them just now. Then she gave Jewell another look, a lingering, curious look.

There were questions she wanted to ask the faerie, snatches of her doppelganger's insane speech at the grotesque Samhain party that she had recalled and tried to make sense of; but none of them felt like they were meant to be voiced just now, either. "Let me know if you need a hand murdering Her Royal Highness. Bitch upstaged my title. You know I can't let that stand."

It was Jewell's turn to laugh. "No, I don't suppose you can."

((Adapted from live play with Jewell, with thanks!))


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Monday night...

The new house was starting to feel less like a complex storage locker and more like a home, now that they'd had a few days to unpack and settle in. Mallory, fresh from breaking down another box of books, had taken a detour to the small room near the middle of the second floor. She stood in the center, fists pressed to her hips, and gave the ceiling a long, scrutinizing look, tapping her bare feet against the creaky old hardwood floor.

Her thoughts drifted. It was easier to stay focused leading up to the move and the day after, when she was still bone tired, but this was the first bad day she'd had in a while. She bit her lip. Her eyes flared as she played through all of the words he had ever said to her, silently working through the anger and fear as she had a thousand times already, until all she was left with was a feeling of gnawing, growing curiosity.

Eri had spent most of her time after dinner organizing the storage area on the ground floor. Now her light steps could be heard on the risers of the stairs as she made her way up. She emerged onto the landing and started toward the kitchen, but halted when she saw Mallory in the small, empty room down the hall. The delinquent smiled, seeing her thoughtful look. "Still tired?" she asked.

A smile flickered onto the witch's lips, and she turned her head to look back at Eri. "Yeah. Kind of a weird day. Other than dinner," she promised in a gentler tone, turning to drape her arms over Eri's shoulders, "and waking up next to your cute ass... it was kind of one of those days," she added, her expression falling somewhat.

Eri's smile remained, growing brighter as she listened, making a familiar soft sound of agreement to her words. Her ears flushed at the compliment. "Waking up next to you set a good tone for my morning," she said in her soft, lyrical accent. Her smile finally faltered, only to return a moment later as she asked: "One of those? Want to tell me about it?"

"Tartarus," Mallory said, slipping away from Eri to lean in the doorway to the tiny room. She was still bone-tired, and leaning felt easier. "No," she decided with a headshake, "not that stupid place... more Adder in general. The things he said to me about who I am. I dunno how much I told you about that right after... The days after Tartarus are kind of a blur," she said with an apologetic smile at Eri.

While Mallory leaned in the doorway, Eri sat down on the floor, legs crossed in front of her to listen. "Hm, they felt a bit blurry to me, looking back now," she admitted after thinking for a moment. "But I remember you telling me he told you what your name was. Was there more?"

"Just a place," Mallory sighed, letting her eyes drift shut as she tipped her head back against the doorframe. "Vyrna. I've tried looking for information on it, but there's nothing. Maybe it's hard to reach from here. Maybe it's not noteworthy, though he did say the Volokhovs were an important wizarding family... I don't know, maybe he's a ****ing liar," she said, the heat of frustrated anger rising in her tone. "But it's hard to just, like... leave it alone and forget about it."

"Vyrna..." Eri repeated the word at a quiet pitch, her curiosity already apparent. Upper teeth nibbled at her lower lip while she thought about it. "Do you think it's a place in a different world, or... somewhere on this one?" she wondered. Lips pursed and she shook her head. "Of course you can't leave it. Even if you decided that you are Mallory now, you want to know how it started. And about where you came from. You shouldn't leave it in my opinion. It's something that was taken from you, right?"

Mallory sighed again, and cut a smile over at Eri. "Mallory St. Martin, from RhyDin. And my family's right here." After a moment, her expression fell and her gaze slid back to the other side of the doorway. "Jewell thought I should check out Vyrna, too -- and I'm pretty sure it's nowhere on this planet. Probably in a place that doesn't have a lot tying it to RhyDin." She drummed her fingers against her biceps, thinking for a moment. "I have a chance to pick whether I try to find... wherever the Name Thief is, if there's anything left of him... or where Vyrna is... and I thought she'd be a good person to ask about revenge and regret," she added thoughtfully.

"You know that... I like this, here, with you, right? I like it here. Whatever was taken from me has to be less than this. And whoever the **** the Volokhovs are, they gave me up to that monster. The people I love are around me because they choose to be."

The delinquent's eyes were solemn as she listened, with growing interest at the revelation of the probable nature of this place, and that it might be possible to divine its location. When the witch made her assurance, Eri nodded firmly. "I know," she replied with a renewed smile. "Truly, I've never been happier. But I'm with you on finding out about this Vyrna place, completely"

"Then we'll go. Together," the witch offered, along with both of her hands to pull Eri back to her feet. "I just need to get something back from Abby, and after a scrying ritual... I should know where Vyrna is, or get damn close to it."

"Together!" Eri agreed in her cheerful voice, arms wrapping around the witch as she was pulled to her feet. Her chin came to rest on Mallory's shoulder for a moment as she thought of a plan. "Okay, I'll drive you over there again, whenever you're ready," she decided. Then, with a lift of her chin to look at Mal's face, she smiled and offered: "But for tonight, you look pretty tired. How about I draw you a bath before bed?"

Mallory smiled softly, tipping her head forward to gently touch her brow to the delinquent's, and narrowed her eyes at her. "You draw us a bath, and you have yourself a deal."

"I like that plan!" Eri exclaimed, and was skittering off with renewed vigor toward the bath.

((Adapted from live play with Eri, with thanks!))
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