Kyo

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  1. Sorceri

    Fade walked swiftly down the cobbled roads of Grimstone’s main street. The sketchy old town was mostly hidden in darkness at night, illuminated only by the firelight of the few homes and establishments still awake. The rain was falling in that half-hearted way it always did just before it finally gave up. Eilun, the smaller of the moons was beginning to pierce through the gaps in the clouds, casting a faintly purple light. The streets were empty, Grimstone was not the kind of place that you stayed out in after dark, well, at least if you were other people. Darkness frightened most people, but Fade was the type of creature that relished the darkness and the shadows. Of course, there were lots of dangers in the darkness, but he had yet to encounter anything that was quite as dangerous as he was. He turned on to a side street and made his way towards the orange glow of lamplight coming from a small tavern. It was a little out of the way but seemed to still have patrons. He stepped inside. Rainwater dripped from his cloak on to the wooden floorboards. He was immediately greeted by warm air and bright light from the torchlights. He noted the tiny serpent creatures that danced around the flames, fire serpents. The lesser spirits were harmless and often entirely oblivious to their surroundings, but they seemed to appear around open flames quite often. Fade stalked across the room and sat himself at a stool by the bar, outwardly paying no attention to the other patrons. He kept his hood up, obscuring his face as the barman came up to him and cleared his throat. He kept his gaze down at the scratched wood of the bar and hesitated for a moment, keeping his body hunched and cowered slightly. The trouble with small towns is that strange faces brought suspicion. Appearing weak was an effective means of lowering someone’s guard. “What’ll it be?” The barman asked finally. “Whisky.” He said it quickly, let out fall out of his mouth despite himself. It took a bit of practice to mimic the quick, desperate plea of a man who was dependent on his liquor. He did not look up but none the less he could see the barman’s expression. In fact, he could see the entire room he was sitting in. Strictly speaking all he could see was the bar in front of him, yet he had a sense of where everything was, in the way that you know what your house looks like and where everything is placed even when you aren’t in it, like a memory. The memories were not his, however. There was another presence, a light pressure he could feel against his mind, a creature that observed while he played the role of a harmless drunk. Dangerous people were often easy to spot, because you could watch them watching everything around them, assessing and calculating. Fade had kept his head down the entire time, and yet he knew that there were 6 people in the room including himself. Three of them sat at a table behind him and to his left, another was sat alone in a small table by the far wall to his right, and the barman was in front of him. He was also aware that there were at least 3 distinct sounds of footsteps from the floor above him. As the barman poured him a glass of whisky he became aware that the barman was armed with a small dirk he kept stuffed in his left sleeve. The 3 men at the table all carried swords, and the lone woman had no visible weapons. “-Spotter’s Wood has gone dark as well, what are- “ “Sh!” One of the men shushed the other one who spoke, slapping him lightly on the head. “What? It’s just some old wino.” The man replied in a hushed whisper that Fade shouldn’t have been able to hear, and yet he could. “Probably doesn’t know his arse from his elbow I reckon.” “Yeah and twits like you mouthing off is exactly why every single one of our hideouts have been cleaned out. How else do you think people find out?” Old clients, dead drop surveillance, paying off multiple informants, hiring plants to pretend to be clients. Fade listed off just a handful of the many ways in which one could uncover the secret hideouts of a group of assassins. If it was as easy as overhearing someone in a pub then he’d have finished this job months ago. 4 months, 47 people killed. 47 members of the most renowned assassin guild in The Reach, a guild known as Maelstrom. Renown probably wasn’t a great quality in assassins, but while the guild was famous, the people within it were not. Fade had tracked down most of them now. He had located their various front operations, killed their operatives and destroyed their documents. Anything of real value would be in the hands of whoever was running this operation, a person he had yet to identify. A person that he was almost certain was one of the three footsteps from the floor above. This dirty little pub was the last of their hideouts, and the dregs had come running here just as he had expected. Now he just had to think about how to end them all. Any disturbance would alert the people one floor up. If they chose to fight then that wasn’t an issue, but if they chose to flee that would be a problem. It was not worth the risk. “6 dims.” The barman said, holding his hand out for Fade to pay him. Fade reached into his cloak and retrieved his money pouch. He opened it and took out 6 small grey coins. The barman took them and stepped away from Fade, who sipped his whisky and hid his annoyance. 6 dims for this piss? In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a large sum. He’d paid as much as 4 brights for whisky before, but stuff that expensive was in a different league entirely. Even that wasn’t a great deal of money for him. This job alone was paying him 15 blindings, he knew Lords that didn’t have that much wealth. “She watches.” A voice in his head said suddenly. It was a deep, harsh voice that only barely resembled that of a human. “The one who sits by herself, she is watching you carefully” the voice said with a throaty, purring quality. Fade did not respond; the creature could speak to his mind, but he could not speak back in the same way. Instead he began to think about his next step. The men sitting together would have to be dispatched quickly if he was to prevent them from raising alarm, yet the woman sitting by herself was focused on him, likely she was the most capable person in the room. He knew of only 6 more operatives he had left to kill, and this barman would make seven. So, the woman…had she slipped by his intel? Or perhaps one of the ones upstairs was a captive, or a new initiate? What is this woman was the ringleader? She seemed sharp enough to have caught Kuuri’s attention anyway. He considered his next step, and then Fade downed the rest of the terrible whisky and placed the glass back on the table. “Another please, barkeep.” He said, and he tapped his finger on the edge of the glass. The barman finished cleaning a glass with a rag that looked dirtier than what it was apparently cleaning. He picked up the bottle of whisky and came over to pour the liquid into Fade’s glass. As he began to pour his eyes focused on the glass. Fade took an inhalation of breath and held it, a rehearsed behavior for him by now, and then without warning he disappeared, leaving behind wisps of black smoke. He reappeared behind the bar, at the barman’s back, and in the blink of an eye he had grabbed the barman’s head from behind and pulled it back, as he drew the sharp end of a curved dagger along his throat. He disappeared again, and by the time the barman had fallen, the whisky bottle smashing against the ground, he had already reappeared behind one of the men at the table, and he slit that man’s throat as the other two shot up, their chairs scraping in horror. In a blink he had teleported once more, appearing in a crouch on the table, he rammed the dagger up into the soft flesh under the man’s jaw at an angle, causing him to gargle quietly as life rapidly fled from him. The remaining man was about to scream, Fade wouldn’t be able to react in time. His shadow rippled, and he felt the sudden surge of excitement from the creature. A large black cat shot out of his shadow like it was the exit to a dark cave, the creature mauled the man, clamping its powerful jaws on his throat and riding him backwards to the ground, where he menaced at his flesh, reveling in the kill. With another blink Fade was at the woman who had stood up from her chair, but as he came to face her she held her hands up in surrender, a smirk across her face. In her right hand she held an object. It was a stamp, one used for sealing wax. His eyes studied the glyph on the end of the stamp. The stylized, symmetrical glyph was not one he could read, it was a uniquely designed glyph and he was not scholarly enough to make out the script the glyph had been derived from. Yet he recognized it immediately. The black cat padded up behind him, it was the size of a large dog, lean and muscular. Its eyes were an alluring shade of purple, the pupil’s tiny slits. Kuuri was no ordinary beast. His black fur seemed to glint every so often, as if his coat were made of the night sky itself, stars twinkling throughout. “Why is she still alive?” Kuuri asked, sounding mildly incredulous. “Because…this woman is our employer.” Fade replied, and he turned towards the woman who was still smirking, and she lowered her arms. “I suppose I should be glad that you’re as sharp as I expected, or else I might have been a beautiful corpse, hm?” The woman had the light tan skin of a woman from Mesmer, she had hair the colour of sand, long with loose curls. She was dressed in a white shirt with a green jerkin, and a pair of brown breeches, and knee-high brown boots. Along with the maroon bandana she had tied around her head she didn’t dress much like a lady. “I have questions.” Fade said to her, but she held up a hand to stop him from asking them. “You are close, but you haven’t finished your job yet.” She said with that sly grin, “I’ll answer you when you’re done.” Fade resisted to urge to cut her down right there. He was not a man to be toyed with, and he had no patience for people who liked to play games with him. At the same time, he could not allow himself failure, he could not allow a contract to be unfulfilled. “Very well.” He said, and then he turned around and walked across the room, drawing the other curved dagger from his belt and held each in a reverse grip as he walked up the stairs to the next floor. Kuuri followed him without comment and disappeared inside his shadow once more. Fade’s extrasensory awareness returned to him as Kuuri returned to his shadow. While they were bonded in such a way his senses became more acute. Teleporting was harder without Kuuri within his shadow, it required more calculation. As he walked up the steps his awareness told him that one of his targets was reaching for the door ahead of them. He quickened his pace and as the door opened a balding man emerged in its frame and had just enough time to look alarmed before Fade teleported behind him and kicked him, sending the man tumbling down the stairs to the bar. Fade turned to face the last two people in the room. One was just getting up from a chair behind a desk while the other had already drawn his sword and was advancing towards Fade. The man went at a run and Fade waited for him. His attacker came at his with a strong forward thrust which Fade side stepped. The man swung the blade upwards and Fade leaned away from it and ducked as it went over his head. From the crouch he made a dive at the man, and then both of their worlds were engulfed in black smoke. There was a sudden rush of cold air, and the sensation of plummeting. The world around them was black, but below them there were some soft glows of light that were gradually getting closer. Fade let go of the man, pushing him away with a sudden blast of wind, and the man screamed as he fell towards the earth, his fate sealed. Another blink and Fade reappeared in the room. Gravity’s work on him was still going, and as he reappeared he had positioned himself sideways, and he fell forward through the room, towards the last remaining member of Maelstrom. His foot struck the man with a powerful kick, but the man did not budge. The impact was as if he’d hit a solid wall, and as he fell back and landed on his feet it was only then that he saw the thick tree branches that were coiled around the man’s legs, holding him firmly in place. “Finally.” Fade said with a nod of respect, “I figured one of you had to be bonded, surely.” “Second Awakening.” The man replied with a smirk. The wood of the floor suddenly shot up and grew around Fade, coiling rapidly around his limbs, tightly binding him until he was imprisoned in a mess of thick, twisting branches and vines. “So, you are the one who has devastated my guild? Disappointing I have to say…I thought you would offer up more of a challenge.” “…Well I didn’t expect such a display if I’m honest. How much growth did you have to absorb to pull this off? Second Awakening you said? So…years of stockpiling I imagine.” “What can I say? I’m prepared.” The man replied smugly, “I’ve been bonded since childhood, I achieved my Second Awakening almost 5 years ago now, I’ve adapted well to the power that comes with it. And what of you? Second Awakening also?” Fade allowed himself a satisfied smirk. “Seventh.” He said casually. “What?” came the dumbfounded response. Fade suddenly teleported, freeing himself from his bonds. Dread filled his target’s eyes as he flickered in and out of existence, rapidly cutting at the man, blood sprayed across the room, Fade moving and cutting at him with such speed that the poor man could not even track him. In moments he fell to the ground, his body in tatters, and the floor crimson with his blood. “Messy.” Kuuri said as he emerged from Fade’s shadow and stalked across the room, inspecting the scene. “I do enjoy the sight of blood…but this is out of character for you.” “A brief lapse of judgement.” Fade replied as he walked over to the desk on the other side of the room. In truth, for the longest time, he had become steadily bored of this work. Nothing seemed to offer him a worthy challenge any more. So, for a moment he decided to cut loose. “It won’t happen again.” He added as he inspected the desk and picked up the book on it. “It had better not.” Kuuri replied with a warning tone, “I will not allow my power to be wielded by a man who cannot control himself. Our bargain can come to an end, I am not some sentimental guardian spirit who will follow you to the ends of the earth.” “I am well aware of that, thank you.” Fade replied as he flicked through the pages of the book. It was a ledger written in Ishaaran script. He had a basic understanding of the script, but he was no scribe. Even to his novice reading level the structure seemed quite unusual.” “What is in it?” Kuuri asked, as he hopped up on to the desk and turned around in a circle before sitting down, his tail flicking lazily. “It’s a cypher.” Fade replied, closing the book shut. “Probably a ledger…client list perhaps. If they’ve taken the trouble to encode the script, then it’s probably valuable information.” “Very valuable.” Said the woman from before as she emerged from the staircase, “I think that man you threw down the stairs was the scribe. His head is bleeding quite heavily…I’m fairly sure he’s dead.” “As will you be if you do not start explaining yourself.” Fade replied coldly “Now is that any way to speak to your employer?” The woman asked with a smirk. “You are no longer my employer, I have fulfilled my end of our contract. Now you are simply a woman who owes me a great debt.” Fade replied. The woman sighed and tossed a large pouch of coins towards him and they landed with a clink on the floor. “15 blindings as agreed.” The woman said, “Now I have more work for you if you’re interested.” “You are a very capable woman, you already knew where this hideout was, you knew the value of the book I hold, and you did not show even the slightest bit of surprise at witnessing my power.” Fade walked over to the money pouch and picked it up, fastening it to his belt. “I do not work with people who know more about me than I do them, especially since I work hard to keep a low profile.” “Yes, you do.” She agreed, “I am very resourceful though. Many know of the legendary assassin Fade, but I doubt many living people know that you are he. You are also Vama The Knife, Kurik Bloodstealer, and at least a dozen other identities including, once, the Lord of Duskhollow. However, I know the one name that no one else knows you by…Raze Trellian.” The utterance of that name rattled Fade to his core. That name…his true name. How could she know it? He had not uttered it himself in…how long had it been? 30 years? More? “You better have a good offer, or I’ll end you right here.” He growled. “Of course, I have a challenge that is fit only for the very best assassin Ishaar has ever seen. The reward for which is 200 blindings.” “That’s obscene, you can’t possibly have that much wealth.” Fade replied. “I can, and I do…” The woman said, “Of course I know money is not the wealth you seek. You desire a real challenge…something that will help you reach your true goal…and yes, I know what that is too. Do you think you are ready for it?” Fade was still toying with the idea of slitting her throat. She knew far too much about him. Yet she knew exactly what he was after. She had set this little job up as a test, he could see that now. Months of his life spent on a test, so that she could see if he was worthy of her true mission. What could possibly be so challenging? “Tell me.” He demanded. “I want you to assassinate Emperor Reshik Esperitus Hashiram, The Ascendant God.” She said, and her sick little grin only got wider. Fade almost laughed. The idea was ridiculous, but then he saw that despite the smirk he could see in this woman’s eyes that she was serious. “You wish me to kill an immortal being that has ruled this land uncontested for at least 2 millennia?” Fade asked. Kuuri gave an excited purr. “He is worthy prey.” Kuuri said encouragingly. “He’s God!” Fade protested “God is dead, Raze Trellian.” The woman said. “Reshik is but a man who has claimed power…just as you have. He can be killed, I promise you that.” “If you’re so sure then why don’t you do it yourself?” Fade asked “Unfortunately I am somewhat forcibly following a path of pacifism.” She replied, “Which is why I wish for you to be my knife. What say you Ra-“ “Fade, if you please.” Fade replied. “And what do I call you?” “Me?” The woman asked, “You can call me Wander.” --- --- --- --- "When I was a boy Etri helped me tend my mother's garden. All I could offer was a light touch, but time and sustenance were still necessary for growth. When I attempted to grow the plants quicker i would fall deeply lethargic and occasionally fell to illness. Yet when I was a man with children of my own I found that I could do so much more with Etri's help. Where once I drew from within I now find power from elsewhere." This excerpt from the memoirs of Manev Laerin, a horticulturalist from the 12th century is one of the earliest records of humankind's awareness of Spiritual Investment. Interestingly the absence of scribe annotations indicates that the words were possibly written by the man himself. It is interesting to see literacy in a man already specialized in another field, especially in a text from almost 800 years ago. The text contains no other mention of Investment and Manev seems unaware of what essence he drew power from. Wood elemental sorcery is known to draw Investment from plants, causing them to wither, then this energy can be distributed to other plant matter to allow for growth. This is a logical parallel, rapid decay of one source and the rapid growth of another. If this is an accurate assessment of the investment process then it indicates that energy cannot be generated via Sorcery, it is more likely that this phenomenon is simply the redistribution of energy which already exists within our world. Osha indicates that my hypothesis is too rigid, too simple. As always, he is unable to offer further extrapolation. It is a frustrating but nonetheless universal trait of spirits that their knowledge is dependent on that of their bond partner. Osha declares that he knows the answers I seek, but that he cannot summon them in to words. He described this as, "Knowledge held captive. Treasures locked within a chest. A key we must find. The right key. Discovery!" Use of metaphor is a relatively new behavior to him, in our youth together Osha often found metaphors confusing. Osha's understanding begins to extend beyond logical concepts and he begins to contemplate abstraction. The indication is as clear to me as it is to anyone who has achieved the Second Awakening and beyond; We must learn on our own, we must discover the secrets of our bond. Spirits can guide us but are unable to simply supply the answers we seek. It is interesting that with such a range of different spirits catalogued within our world that all recognize and are bound to the principles of endeavor. This may seem a digression, but I think these factors are related. Common spirits are often bound by trade guilds to enhance their craft. While common spirits can form a lasting bond, unlike the typical temporary bond of a lesser spirit, it is unheard of for such spirits and their partners to achieve anything beyond the Second Awakening. Common spirits also seem to invest in essences closer to their elemental association; Fire spirits draw in heat, Water spirits draw in water, Earth spirits draw in earth and so on. Yet these examples of broader investment seem to be relative to the potential abilities that can manifest via the bond. The Sorcerium teaches that spirits are primarily beings that represent natural forces, and secondarily they are shaped by the ideas of humans. Yet research cultivated over 2 millennia has enriched our understanding of the natural world. The five elements that Sorceri doctrine clings so tightly to has already been proven to be mere vagaries. In developing my own sorcery with water, I have discovered that this substance which we refer to as an element is in fact a compound of other elements. One of these elements I have found is quite possibly the most abundant element in our entire land, perhaps the entire world. Water can exist in a solid, liquid or gas state based on the conditions of its environment, and I have found that through deeper understanding of the very nature of this element I have achieved a degree of refined manipulation that has yet to be matched by any water sorcerer I have encountered. Is it possible that common elemental spirits are manifestations of the very common understanding of said elements? Could spirits be manifestations of human cognition in their entirety? If my hypothesis is correct, then our limitations in manipulating the forces of this world are only limited by our individual understanding of the finer workings of nature. As our understanding of the world advances will our spirits change to adapt to these refined ideas? Or will new spirits be born? As dated ideas begin to fade in to history will spirits that represent these ideas also perish? So many questions and yet if I am to answer them all I would require more minds working on the problem. Yet convincing my peers to focus on such things will require undeniable evidence. Any potential doubt in my hypothesis will result in dismissal. Unfortunately, society paints me a heretic for my ideas. “Mmm!” The approving hum broke Talena’s concentration and she looked up from her notebook to the source of the noise. She was in her study, a room of smooth stone walls the colour of sand. Her space was clean and utilitarian. Bookshelves lined the walls, each crammed full of dense volumes detailing a variety of strictly academic studies, she had little interest in the creative arts. She sat at her writing desk, towers of books and stacks of paper piled around her. The room was dim, lit only by a series of candles around the room that gave a warm, orange glow. The source of the noise was an odd creature that had been hovering at her shoulder but had now descended closer to her notebook and seemed to be reading over her inscriptions intently, which was quite odd considering it didn’t have any eyes to speak of. The spirit was about the size of a small melon and shaped like an orb comprised of a viscous, metallic substance that provided warped reflections of its surroundings. It hovered in the air without any visible supports, its surface smooth for now. “Mmm!” It hummed once more, and it’s surface buzzed with a rippling vibration, “Provocative. Mm…dangerous ideas. Many enemies could be made of this.” “You say that like I don’t already have an ocean of them.” Talena replied with a quirk of her eyebrow. “Incorrect.” The orb replied, “Your fellow humans disdain you the most. The fish have no quarrel with you, I think.” Talena rolled her eyes at this. He was getting better at metaphor, but he had clearly missed that one. “Must you be so literal, Osha?” She asked him, but she couldn’t help but smirk a little at him. “Mmm. Language is structured to convey thoughts clearly. Words have clear definitions. This is logical. Mmmetaphor is…incoherent. Mm…why do humans create rules only to break them? Then they become upset when they are not understood.” “It was a comparison. The ocean is incredibly vast, as is the collection of people who oppose my ideas.” Talena explained. “Yet the ocean is far vaster than the land. It can fit the entire human population of Ishaar within it many times over. Therefore, the comparison is…mmm…exaggerated.” “Yes, sometimes we exaggerate for effect.” Talena said as she settled in to get back to her writing. “What effect? Confusion? Inaccuracy?” “Oh be quiet,” Talena said with a huff. The little sprite was an annoyingly logical thinker at times, although he was beginning to get better at understanding the nuances of human interaction. Talena found her companion’s confusion and constant questions to be quite charming…most of the time. Osha hummed again, something he did often when he was thinking. At least she assumed that was why he did it, although he seemed to vibrate more whenever he was excited, so perhaps it was simply an expression of interest. He was quite the oddity, then again people said the same thing about her, and that was probably why they were such an inseparable pair. Osha had been with Talena since she was a baby, the little spirit had been there for as long as she could recall. For a great deal of that time he had been quiet but curious and had only started to master the art of speech when she was in her teens. Often when he spoke he came across as naïve, but other times he displayed an exceptionally complex understanding that surpassed her own. For most of her childhood she had referred to Osha as an “it”, as there was nothing about his form that implied a gender, but soon after he began to speak he had made it very clear that he was a “he” and not an “it”. She wasn’t quite sure why a floating ball of liquid metal would have such a passionate stance on pronouns, but it didn’t matter to her in any case. For all his oddities he was still her very best friend. The door to her study opened without warning and a tall, slender woman in a sleek, black dress with gold trim, buttoned up the right side of her torso from waist to neck, the collar high and fitted closely to her neckline. The sleeves were tight and went the length of her arms, the material covering her palms, buttoned in the space between her middle and index fingers. It was a dress of traditional Mesmeri fashion, the black and gold colouring indicating her position as a member of the Sorcerium. Talena knew she was no Sorceri agent or priest, however. The woman had lightly tan skin and light brown hair that was tied back in a bun, with three golden hair sticks pinning it from either side. Her eyes were dark, and she had speckles of brown freckles around her high cheekbones. “I told you to go to bed” She chided at Talena. “So? I see you’re still up.” Talena replied, rolling her eyes. “Still up?” The woman replied as she glided across the room and pulled open the curtains, then opened the wooden hatch in the window and the room was suddenly aglow with morning sunshine that briefly blinded Talena. “I’ve slept, woke up, bathed and eaten since then!” Talena groaned as she adjusted to the light. Had it been that long? She could have sworn it had only been an hour or two at most. Yet the woman was undoubtedly right, as she had been every other time this had happened. “Meridia I-“ “Three nights in a row! All this lack of sleep cannot be good for you.” Meridia said sternly, “Have you eaten?” “No I’ve just…” Talena’s eyes fell to the basin of water that was to the right of her between two stacks of books. “Sorcery is not a substitute for a balanced diet and a good night’s rest.” Meridia said with a narrow-eyed scowl that made Talena feel like she was a little girl again. “Meridia, you are my matron, not my mother and I’m 36 years old, I am not a child.” Talena replied testily. She didn’t like anyone talking to her like that, not even the woman whose job was to look after her. “I’ll stop treating you like a child when you stop acting like one.” Meridia said as she began tidying up the room, picking up books and placing them back on the shelves. “This is not how a noble lady is supposed to behave.” “Oh I’m sorry am I supposed to fritter my time away buying gowns and courting the sons of Highlords like all the pretty little puffs at court?” Talena replied with a tone of revulsion, “Believe it or not I have more important matters to be dealing with.” Meridia stopped what she was doing and turned around to face Talena. Her stern expression softened slightly as she shook her head slightly. “Talenazerazar Esperitus Hashiram…” She used Talena’s full name, “Have you had a good look at yourself lately?” Talena looked down at herself. She was dressed in a dress of a similar modest style as Meridia’s but hers was an aquatic blue with dark blue trim and detailed filigree woven in to the fabric. She had a similar skin tone and hair colour to Meridia, as did most Mesmeri natives, but her hair was long with full, wavy curves, and her eyes were a brilliant blue. “You have a brilliant mind and I have no desire for you to dull it, but you are also a beautiful young woman and that combination makes you a force to rival the five elements. You are the only daughter, the only child to ever be conceived in the 2000-year reign of your father. You have position and power like no other and yet you choose to hide yourself away with all of these books.” “These books are the reason my mind is so sharp!” Talena said firmly. “And they are the reason why no one heeds you despite your mind.” Meridia replied, “You must make the world listens to your knowledge…you must demand their respect. You are the daughter of God, after all.” “He is just a man.” Talena said dismissively. Why did Meridia continue to bring that up? She knew Talena’s feelings on the matter. “That man saved us from the Devourers. He united us, made us whole.” “Yes, yes because he fused with the great elemental spirits and bla bla bla” Talena waved her hand mockingly as she spoke. “No, he accomplished that because he actually did something with his talents, Talena. I just wish you would too.” Meridia looked away as she finished speaking, and then she left the room leaving Talena to feel guilty and a little embarrassed. That woman had a terrible habit of always being right. Unfortunately, she had taken care of Talena since she had been a little girl when her mother had died. Her father was too busy ruling the known world to spend time parenting his only daughter, of course. “Mmm! I like her. She is wise.” Osha hummed. “Oh, shut up.” Talena bit back. The little spirit edged closer to her, and he nudged against her cheek and buzzed against her affectionately. “I like you too.” He said. “Yes and I like you too, you little demon.” “I am not a demon!” Osha buzzed indignantly. Talena shook her head, then she got up off her seat. It was time for her to get on with her day. She felt the prickling, tight sensation of exhaustion creeping up on her. She reflexively reached for the basin of water and flexed her fingers in a beckoning motion. The water rose up out of the basin and reached for her waiting hand like a vine coiling up a tree. The water enveloped her arm but then sank away as she absorbed it, investing its energy within herself. Immediately she tapped the invested power. Water – the element necessary for all life to exist, it seemed natural that it was associated with healing. She felt its properties immediately, easing away the tension in her muscles and providing her with a boost of wakefulness. She had not slept a wink in 3 days, normally at this point any ordinary person would be dead on their feet, but with just a short working of sorcery she felt sharp and ready to start her day. The nagging empty feeling in her stomach, however, was not so easily ignored. “Talena.” Osha said as he hovered by her head, floating along with her as she left her study and entered the hallway outside, “Investing heals only physical ailments…mmm…it does not facilitate biological processes required for health.” “It relieves the tension in my muscles, provides me with wakefulness and gives me strength and energy to keep going.” Talena replied. They moved down the short hallway and came out on to a small, secluded courtyard inside the palace, a simple square space with a garden, lots of potted plants and colourful flowers. The air was more humid in the outdoors, and the plants made the air smell sweet. “Mmm…sleep increases cerebrospinal fluid flow within the brain dramatically. It cleans the brain of toxins. Mmm…efficient.” Osha buzzed. Talena frowned. “And how would you know such a thing?” She asked “Humans…comprised mostly of water.” Osha explained, “Your bodies are…protected…mm…cannot be touched by sorcery. Yet external sources can enter…mmm…water invested within the body provides a map. You know this…mmm…you have seen it.” She nodded, she had indeed. In fact, it was what had allowed her to heal her exhaustion just a moment ago. It was also true that all life was comprised mostly of water, except for spirits of course. Talena had pondered why she could not manipulate the water that is within a person quite early into her sorcery training. It was considered a fundamental principle that sorcery could not be used to affect the human body. However, she herself had circumvented this, as had any who used the healing properties of water sorcery. To do so one had to introduce an external source of water to the body, a source that was already affected by sorcery. Doing so provided the wielder with a kind of sense of the body, an impression of its inner workings, like a complex diagram within their minds. They could use the invested water to locate problems within the body and often provide healing. In this sense water was like a conduit, it could transport the necessary chemicals required to rapidly heal wounds, mend bones, flush out poisons and several other medical marvels. “Yes, I have used healing sense Osha, but I’ve never seen what you have just described.” Talena said as they passed through the courtyard and through into a hallway on the adjacent side. “You are human.” Osha said simply, “Humans think in a line. They move from one point to the next. Dots connecting. Mmm…following a trail. Only one thought at a time.” “And spirits are different?” Talena asked “I am different.” Osha clarified, “I cannot speak for other spirits. It is hard to describe. Knowing yet not knowing. Knowledge there yet unable to be grasped. This realm…we forget ourselves…mmm…like fish swim in a school, we drift…coordinated yet unknowing. I see patterns…mmm…possibilities…a map with no key…no direction.” Amazing. Talena marvelled at these moments with Osha. He interpreted experiences differently from her. So often the little orb seemed naïve, and then other times he was brilliant. She had no doubt that in this spirit’s mind were the answers to questions scholars had been trying to decipher. Through simple observation he saw ideas that hadn’t even occurred to her, or perhaps anyone. “Additionally…healing sorcery requires presence of substantial nutrients…sorcery removes the requirement of time yet….mmmatter…matters. Matter, matter, matter….your language is flawed at times.” The little orb rippled in a manner that reminded Talena of someone shivering, shaking off an unpleasant sensation, “Nutrients must be present. If you do not eat then healing will consume your reserves, in time you will have none left. You will die, and sorcery will not save you.” “I see…” Talena said. As they continued through the palace the revelations had given her a rather pressing urge to eat something. She realized that Meridia had warned her to do these things as well, but her arguments came from a place of caring, she worried for Talena. Osha had provided a logical explanation for this, and it had made sense to her, and that desire to follow logic had driven her faster than the simple consideration of another person. The thought of that troubled her. Was she becoming cold? “And this…brain cleaning cycle you spoke of, is that life threatening if avoided?” She asked. “Mmm…yes, however it happens much more slowly.” Osha buzzed, “However avoiding this process effects cognitive capability. Impaired reasoning. Decreased problem-solving capability. Decreased attention span. Decreased attention to detail. Memory lapses. Depression.” “That settles it then.” Talena said, sounding slightly alarmed, “Regular sleep and food breaks from now on.” “Mmm…A wise decision.” Osha replied, sounding slightly relieved. “You should have listened to Meridia. She is smart. I like her.” “Shut. Up.” Talena demanded with a scowl, and the pair went off to finally get something to eat. --- --- --- --- The orange glow of fire light illuminated the warcamp. Out in the barren drylands of the Solari desert, away from the intense glows of the cities the night sky was clear. Bright stars twinkled overhead. Twin moons glowed like a beacon in the sky, Eilun the smaller moon that would rise first, and Makath the larger would rise second but would always overtake her sister and fall first. The camp was bustling with energy, although only a temporary military settlement it was the size of a town and was equipped with vendors, smithies, a lumber yard and large warehouses used for food and resource storage. Nazir walked through the barracks. His shoulder-length brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, revealing a clean-shaven face with dark brown eyes. Like every other man and woman in the camp his skin was the dark tan of the Solari. He had a slim, lean build and angular features, and was an average height for a Solari standing at 6 and a half feet tall. A black symbol was tattooed on the center of his forehead, three identically sized rhombus shapes, two adjacent to one another, with the third slotted in the space beneath them. The same symbol could be seen on all of the soldiers and workers around him, as they were all Kalak just as he was. The heat of the day had escaped in to the clear skies and the air had become cold. Nazir wore the standard uniform of the Ishaaran Imperial Army; black boots that went up to the knee, tan breeches and a cobalt blue double-breasted undercoat with silver buttons and a high collar, and a jacket of the same blue colouring that had a tailed back, the shoulders decorated with three silver pins shaped like triangles on his right shoulder that indicated his rank of Captain. The red sash around his waist indicated which command he fell under. Red indicated he was under the command of Highlord Vashir, ruler of Solaris. The Highlords of other nations were represented by different coloured sashes. Everyone in this camp served Highlord Vashir. This entire regiment had been out here holding off rebel armies for months now. Of some 5’000 men there, Nazir was responsible for a company of 140 men. However, now the camp was relaxing after a long battle. The air was thick with the scent of burning wood, cooked meat, and a variety of fragrant spices. Soldiers were sitting around campfires singing and telling each other stories while they ate and drank, and for a time forgot about the struggles of warfare. Nazir walked towards a fire where three other people sat. One of them waved at him and he nodded back, coming over to sit on a large log that had been placed by the fire as a makeshift bench. “Naz!” exclaimed the only female in the group. She stood up from her own log, standing only an inch or two shorter than Nazir. Her hair and eyes were dark like his, almost all Solari had dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. Her hair was cut short, however, and generally there was little to indicate she was female at all. She wore her uniform jacket unbuttoned with a simple white shirt underneath. She had grabbed a bowl filled with rice and had began ladling a rich, orange coloured curry out of the pot placed over the fire. She handed it to Nazir with a spoon and sat back down. “Finished berating the new recruits?” She asked with a sly grin. “They needed it.” Nazir replied with a soft smirk, “Is it just me or do they get greener every year?” “More like you become more of a hard-ass every year!” She said with a chuckle. “You going soft on me, Rizen?” Nazir replied in a playful tone. “No, sir.” Rizen said with a cocky grin and she tapped her index finger against her forehead in salute. Nazir took a bite of his food. The curry was delicious. Hot and spicy just how he liked it. Rizen paused to eat her own meal along with her two companions. To her left was the shortest and thinnest of the group, he had shoulder length hair that was thick with natural curls, and his uniform was disheveled and sloppier than the other’s. To Rizen’s right was a giant of a man who looked about half a foot taller than Nazir, and about twice as broad. His hair was cut short and he had long sideburns, the closest anyone could have to a beard while serving in the military. “So, Cap, I was thinkin’…” The short man, Leven said. “Hah! Is good joke, Leven.” The large man, Biran replied with a deep, jolly voice, “A tiny man like you has no space for brain.” The group chuckled along with him. Biran had always spoken in broken Ishaaran, he’d lived in the Erduk mountains for most of his life and had never picked up the common tongue. Solari had over 32 different languages dating back from when they were scattered in to tribes, although everyone spoke Ishaaran these days. “Oh, there’s plenty of room in here,” Leven said as he poked the side of his head with his finger, “See not everyone fills the space with rocks like you do, big guy.” “If you are thinking about anything, is probably about chasing skirt.” Biran said with a soft shake of his head. “I resent that, I’ll have you know I’m a gentleman, I am.” Leven replied, holding his hand to his chest, “The ladies, they’ll tell ya. They’ll say ‘Biran, your wonderful friend Leven is the handsomest, most charming, most intelligent and thoughtful man I know, he is. An’ he’d have bed all of us if it were up to us, but no…he wouldn’t allow it because he’s a gentleman, see?” “On behalf of my gender may I just say…” Rizen started, and then she followed up with a retching noise that got another round of laughter from the group. “You are very strange little man.” Biran replied, shaking his head again but smiling, “spirits protect any woman who ends up with you.” “Spirits?” Leven asked, “Now that’s a fine idea, I’ll get myself a little spirit chum to give me some sorcery and then no woman will ever be able to resist me. ‘Leven’ they’ll say, ‘I see that you are handsome and incredibly smart, but I also see you can fly! I shall have to kiss you now!’ an’ that’s how The Great Leven ends up marryin’ Highlord Vashir’s daughter.” “Highlord Vashir doesn’t have a daughter, you idiot.” Rizen said, rolling her eyes. She turned to Nazir who was quietly listening to his friends and eating his food. “You’re quiet tonight, Naz.” She said with a frown, “Everything alright?” “I’m fine, just enjoying listening to you three run your mouths.” Nazir explained. It was a true statement. These three people, his old squad mates, his Lieutenants, they were the only real family he had. Each of them shared the same surname – Szash. It was the name given to those who had given up their citizenship and become slaves. Of course, they were all soldiers now. They were well-trained, they were given purpose, a bed to sleep in, regular meals and clothing on their backs. Their pay went towards paying off their slave debt. For a slave the army was the best place to be. Each of them had a tattoo behind their ear that could only be seen if you pulled the earlobe back, a small glyph that branded them as slaves. If they ever paid off their debt, which few ever did, then they would be allowed to have it covered up with another glyph that confirmed their freedom. Strangely, the thought had never crossed Nazir’s mind. He had everything he needed here. He had his friends, he had his company of soldiers to look after, and he had an enemy to face. He smiled as he looked up at the stars above, they were beautiful out here in the desert. As a slave he was sure that this would likely never end for him, and he didn’t really want it to. Yet it had. Had it? He frowned at himself. Why had he thought that? He was here, now, living this life. How could he think it had ended? “Naz?” He looked up to see that Rizen was watching him. Leven and Biran had also stopped what they were doing and turned their gaze on him. They were smiling softly, but they weren’t saying anything. “What’s going on?” Nazir asked, frowning. “Come on, Naz…” Rizen said softly, and her eyebrow quirked. “This isn’t healthy.” “What isn’t healthy?” Nazir asked, and he shifted uncomfortably. Why were they being so strange? “This thing…” Biran gestured around him, “Is not real, Nazir.” “Not…” Nazir felt confused. Of course, this was real. He was here in the warcamp, eating with his friend as he always did after a battle. “Quit fooling around, guys.” “Cap’n…” Leven smiled brightly at him, but his eyes looked pained, “You need to wake up.” “What?” Nazir shook his head. He stood up, suddenly feeling uncomfortable standing still. He needed to move. He felt an uncontrollable urge to run away. As he stood up the wind suddenly picked up, becoming violent tremendously quickly. His friends just kept watching him, and he winced as the wind hammered into him. He turned to run, but when he turned around the warcamp he had walked through was not there. He was stood in blackness. No. He was floating. He could feel the wind raging around him, feel himself moving with it, flying through the endless blackness. Yet he was not alone. In front of him was a creature. She was as tall as him and was only vaguely like a human. Her body had feminine curves, but her chest was flat and featureless. She wore no clothes to speak of, but she was almost entirely covered in black, downy feathers, like a bird. The skin exposed at her midriff and on her face was dark like his, but her eyes were entirely black with yellow pupils. Instead of hair she had a crest of large, semiplume feathers that pointed backwards at an angle. Instead of arms she had a pair of brilliant, dark wings that stretched out on either side of her, and her legs ended in a pair of sharp, black talons that looked like they could cut through steel. Those piercing yellow eyes were locked with his, and the creature seemed to stare deep within his very soul. He felt like he could not hide anything from her, whether he liked it or not. In return he could sense her thoughts and feelings as well. She was a violent, dangerous creature. Proud, powerful and unyielding. “They are gone.” The spirit said to him, her voice feminine but firm and confident. Memories flashed through his mind; a great battle. It had gone wrong. There was just too many of them, they were surrounded. So much screaming, so much blood. Ruthless violence. No! He pushed the memories away, locking them up inside his mind once more. He could not face them, not yet. They would destroy him. “They are gone!” The spirit said more forcefully this time, her eyes narrowing as her expression became a slight frown. “I know that…” Nazir whispered, his hands balled in to tight fists at his side. “I am…just dreaming.” “Must you always dream of ghosts?” The spirit asked. That was right. They were dead, all of them. Biran, Levan, Rizen…and the other 140 men and women under his command. Every single one of them gone…except for him. He cursed himself. Why had he lived? He had failed them all. Why did he have to live with that? His gaze fixed on the spirit again and his eyes burned with anger. She was the reason. She had saved him. “You are not the man I saw on that day.” The spirit said, “…I want that man. The man who lived for the fight. The man who was one with his spear. The man who fought so well that he impressed the winds and rattled the rains…the man who shook the skies with thunder. I want that man.” “That man is dead.” Nazir replied quietly. “That man stands before me!” The spirit snapped at him, her eyes blazing with fury. “You are not dead, Nazir. Only your comrades are.” “It should have been me.” Nazir replied, “I dishonored them by letting them die.” “Then honor them by living!” The spirit’s voice boomed like a thunder clap and he felt the air rattle and shake around him. --- --- --- --- Nazir shot up in the modest bed he was sleeping on and gasped for air. His shoulder-length hair hung loose, and his body was coated in a thin layer of cold sweat. He was in a room made of cold, grey stone. The roof overhead was thatched and the ground beneath him was wooden. He threw off the thick fur blankets over him and immediately felt a chill in the air. Something squawked to the right of him and he turned to see a large bird, a black hawk with golden eyes and a large crest. “Shrike…” He said as his memory of where he was came to him. The disorientation from the dream faded quickly. He began to feel alert quite quickly, old soldier reflexes kicking in. He got up from the bed and began to quickly get dressed, feeling the cold snap in the air. This blasted country was far too cold all the time. The room he had been staying in had a mirror and he examined himself. His body was covered in old scars but was otherwise fit, with lean muscles and no fresh wounds. Across his back was a large tattoo, three glyph tattoos stylized in to one large design, a maze of symmetrical lines that spelled three names; Rizen, Biran, Levan. Even in death he had ensured they would always be behind him. “Are you well?” The voice was in his mind, but it was a familiar one, and he turned to the large bird that was perched on the back of a chair in the room, as it was the source of the voice. “I’m fine.” Nazir said to the bird, Shrike. “I don’t appreciate you invading my dreams like that though.” “Well I don’t appreciate you moping around like a gloomy, lost puppy.” Shrike replied. “I do not.” Nazir replied testily. Shrike said nothing in response and he got the distinct impression that the conversation was over. He spent some time readying himself, he washed and shaved and got dressed. He emerged from the room dressed in black boots, black trousers, a black, studded leather jacket with a collar of white fur and a pair of matching gloves. Around his waist was a black sash with a gold trim, and he wore a leather pauldron on his right arm that had a symbol emblazoned in gold. It showed a large eye, but within the pupil was a five-pointed star. It was a symbol known as God’s Eye, and all who saw it knew it as the symbol of the Sorceri – agents of the Ascendant Emperor. The room led to a short hall which Nazir followed and then descended the steps to the ground floor of the inn. This early in the morning the place was quite empty, but a man was stood behind the bar moving large barrels of ale while a woman cleaned glasses nearby. They were both a lot shorter than him, in fact Nazir was so tall he had to be careful of the ceilings here. The man was about half a foot shorter than him and the woman was more than a foot shorter. They were speaking to each other in a language he didn’t understand, whatever their native tongue was. When the woman noticed Nazir, she eyed her husband and he turned to face Nazir as well. “Captain.” He said in Ishaaran. “Up early I see.” “Yes. I’m an early riser, always have been.” Nazir replied, his tone measured and polite. He could see the apprehensive look in their eyes, the hesitation and mistrust. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his skin colour or because of the symbol he wore on his right shoulder. Not that he would blame them for either one. They were Valkyr, natives of Valkheim, the bitterly cold northern land that he was currently residing in. They had only joined the empire about 200 years ago, and they had not done so all that willingly. When the Valkyr clans had united to stand against the empire, they had repaid them in kind. The full force of the empire’s military had been sent to crush the opposition, and the overwhelming majority of Ishaaran soldiers were Nazir’s people, Solari. This had created no small amount of tension between the two nations. Nazir had been travelling across the country for 2 weeks now and he had been met generally with suspicion at best and honest derision at worst. Then there was the fact that he was Sorceri, and that title seemed to make everyone nervous. It was a unique role. While Nazir was still a Captain of the Ishaaran military he had been given special privileges by being enlisted in to the private army of the Sorceri, represented by the black and gold sash he wore. The Sorceri were not seen to have rank or title above that of what they already held in their previous life, however the entire imperial citizenry knew not to disrupt their affairs. Even Highlords were not allowed to get in their way. Nor did anyone have to help them either, however. The general rule of thumb when a Sorceri walked through town was to keep out of their way. Hard to do when the Sorceri was a guest in your inn, however. “I won’t keep you much longer. I need some directions if you don’t mind.” As he finished speaking Shrike descended from the top floor, her wings beating as she perched herself on Nazir’s shoulder. “Lady spirit.” The innkeeper’s wife said with a reverent nod towards Shrike. The Valkyr seemed to have a highly respectful attitude towards spirits, even if they were bonded with someone they didn’t like apparently. Shrike let out a little squawk in reply. He received no response from the innkeeper. Had they just been distracted by Shrike’s arrival? Or were they just looking for a reason not to help him. “This village and the neighboring ones have been having some trouble lately, right?” Nazir asked. The two looked at each other nervously and then back at him. “Trouble? No trouble I can think of.” The innkeeper replied gruffly, “Nothing we can’t take care of on our own anyway.” “Farm animals disappearing, showing up dead out in the wilds.” Nazir began the list that had been reported to him, “Rivers drying up. Crops dying. Meat rotting quickly. All signs of malevolence.” Malevolence was the term used to describe acts of magic, unnatural sorcery brought about by corrupted spirits known as demons. It was these sorts of incidents that Nazir was supposed to deal with. The innkeeper and his wife seemed to get a little paler, which Nazir hadn’t thought possible before. Yet the innkeeper’s expression turned to a deep frown. “We’ve had some bad luck, nothing to be worried about here.” He said testily. “Normally I would agree. The empire doesn’t send Sorceri out this far to deal with this kind of hardship. It takes over a month to get here from Radiance. You know that if I have been sent then the Sorcerium has received reports of something far worse.” Nazir met the innkeeper’s eyes and he saw anger burning in them, the man did not want to help him. Yet he also saw pain in those eyes. “Children have disappeared. Boys and girls, all of them under 10 years old.” “How did-“ The innkeeper started but his lips tightened into a thin line. He could see the cogs whirring. The Valkyr were a loyal people, and they were not fond of foreigners or outside intervention. As far as he had been informed the Valkyr preferred to handle their own problems, and so for the Sorceri to have had this information reach them meant that one of their own had called for them. These villages were far from the major towns and cities where the Highlord and those loyal to the empire resided. This was well and truly the territory of rebellious clans who wished for their old ways to return. “Please.” Nazir said, “The sooner I deal with this the sooner your people will be rid of me.” He had no desire to stick around in Valkheim. He found it far too cold and he felt most unwelcome here. He had thought he might have found something in common with a nation of warriors, but so far, he hadn’t been able to find any common ground. “Go east towards the lake.” The innkeeper’s wife said, and her husband gave her a fierce look, but she scoffed at him, “Oh stop it! This has gone on long enough! If I see another child disappear from this village I don’t think I can take it.” “But-“ “Stop being so stubborn!” The woman said, and she pushed her husband aside and walked up to Nazir until she was only a foot away from him, she had to crane her neck to look him in the eye. “Solari aren’t a welcome sight here, especially one of you Sorceri lot. I’ll bet a lot of folks won’t have said it to your face because they don’t respect you enough. Truth be told I don’t like you either…but I won’t let another child suffer for that.” “Thank you.” Nazir said with a nod of respect. “What is at the lake?” “A vengeful spirit!” The woman said, “I’ve seen it myself when I’ve been out hunting. A terrifying creature indeed. That must be the cause of it…I felt its murderous intent. I was lucky to get back here with my life, I think.” “…And this was recent?” Nazir asked. “A week ago, or so. In the forest by the lake.” The woman replied “Then I’ll start my search there.” Nazir said, and he nodded to her in thanks. “Don’t bother coming back here!” The innkeeper said. “I won’t but not because you demanded it.” Nazir replied as he made his way for the door, “I see it’s the women that are in charge around here.” Then he opened the door and left. Outside the village was quiet in the early morning. The sky above was overcast and a thin mist stretched out over the cold tundra. A few faces were beginning to emerge from the houses as workers with an early start began to get ready. Nazir went to the small stable beside the inn and found a large armored beast waiting for him. The Koth had a thick layer of tough skin and had a bulky, muscular frame, with thick legs and powerful hooves. Its eyes were dark, and it had wide nostrils and it had a large, curved horn jutting out from the end of its snout. Despite their imposing frames Koth were gentle herbivores and could move surprisingly quickly. The beast was already saddled, and Nazir’s equipment and luggage were attached to either side of it in large saddle bags. He climbed up on top of the koth and it made a soft chuffing noise. “A vengeful spirit.” Shrike’s voice said in his mind, “Perhaps a chance for a real fight.” “You lead the way.” Nazir said, and Shrike let out a piercing shriek and tore off into the sky. Nazir patted the koth’s hide and grabbed hold of the reigns, and the based burst into motion, sprinting out of the stable and along the short path of the village, before tearing off into the flat tundra heading east, following Shrike as she flew in the sky overhead. “The air is so cool here…the winds are strong too. I really like it, Nazir.” Shrike’s voice echoed in his mind. “Well consider yourself the only one…” Nazir muttered back, and he silently stared ahead as they sped towards their destination.
  2. Amegakure

    [Guren] In this world of shinobi none stand taller than the 5 Great Shinobi Villages. Spread across the countries of Fire, Water, Wind, Lightning, and Earth, they are Konohagakure, Kirigakure, Sunagakure, Kumogakure and Iwagakure. There are many other lesser known ninja villages, but none hold the infamy of the Great 5. While each of these villages has a myriad of great legends to unfold, today we will tell the tale of a hero from one of the lesser known villages. This is the story of Amegakure. War was once all we shinobi knew, a time where clans warred against clans, and many died within the battle. The ninja villages were a means to end this conflict, by uniting clans and working together so that all shinobi could thrive, and so children could live happier lives. Yet as the villages grew more powerful, soon they began to see one another as threats, and war returned to this land. The wars that followed would be known as the Great Shinobi World Wars, as they were fought across the entire continent, leaving death and destruction in their wakes. Amegakure is a shinobi village that was unfortunate enough to reside within a land bordered by three of the 5 Great Shinobi Countries. When the great wars were waged the battles were fought in this small country and the land was laid waste to. As the 5 made peace with one another yet again, the land they had used as a battleground had been left destroyed and the people left dead, injured, or facing a lifetime of poverty and hardship. As Konohagakure sent shinobi to lend aid to the country, Amegakure’s leader became increasingly reclusive and unwilling to lend aid, until eventually there was no news coming in or out from the village. At this time there was a young orphan. She had lost her parents in the war and had no other family to speak of. She lived on the streets, stealing food when she could and sleeping outdoors in the caves outside the towns, trying to keep sheltered from the almost constant, drizzling rain. This poor young lady had given up on any hope of a better life, and was consigned to her fate, until she met a shinobi from Konohagakure. The man, who had fought in the war, felt exceptionally sad and guilty as he looked upon the girl. He decided that through this young girl he could try to make amends for his deeds, and so he decided to train her. He asked the girl her name, the first to ask her in a long time, and so she told him; “Kotetsu Asuna.” Asuna, it turned out, had a hidden talent for the shinobi arts. Under the tutelage of a Konoha Jounin she excelled in the martial arts of Taijutsu, the Chakra fueled arts of Ninjutsu, and the illusionary arts of Genjutsu. A year passed and the Jounin was called to return to his village, and so he led Asuna to the village of Amegakure, where he hoped she would continue to hone her skills and become something one day. Hope had once again returned to Asuna once more. Amegakure was not what Asuna had expected. The village was ruled by a powerful but bloodthirsty shinobi. This man had kept the village safe as wars were waged, and had done so through brutal and underhanded tactics. There was no school to speak of to teach young ninja as the Konoha Jounin had told her of. Amegakure had no ranks, no clans, and made its living by carrying out assassination contracts for lower prices than any other village, and they had become quite proficient. Years passed and Asuna became stronger in this harsh new environment. As she grew into a woman her heart grew colder, and she became the most effective assassin in Amegakure. Then during a mission with a small group of comrades, when the mission turned sour, she had been abandoned by them. Left to die Asuna realized that Amegakure was not a village at all, it was corrupt, and it had corrupted her. Asuna did not die, however. Weak but alive, she managed to escape and hide her presence, living a quiet life for a short time as she recovered. However when her strength returned Asuna left the small village she had temporarily called home, and was never seen again for many years. When Asuna returned to Amegakure she was not alone. Asuna brought with her 12 shinobi each with strikes through their forehead protectors. She had rallied missing nin, defectors from other shinobi villages, and had gained their allegiance. Together they struck at Amegakure during a heavy rainstorm, in the dead of night. They moved swiftly and quietly, killing any who stood in their way. Asuna had turned the very skills she had honed within Amegakure against it. She killed the corrupt shinobi who was still in control, and killed all of his conspirators. The streets of Amegakure ran red with blood on that day, but it was not long at all before the rain washed it clean. Asuna had not returned to Amegakure to simply seek vengeance, she had come to bring her revolution. She assumed leadership of Amegakure, vowed not to run it the way her predecessor had, but also not like the 5 Great Shinobi Villages either. 20 years later and this industrialized, modern village is finally beginning to thrive and stand out once more. --- --- --- --- [Kakashi’s Theme] “-and the reason I am telling you all this story is very important.” The teacher stood in a large classroom, addressing a hall of young teenagers who for the most part looked thoroughly bored about being there. “You see today you have all graduated from this academy, and you will be beginning your journey as young shinobi soon, so it’s important to keep in mind that things were not always this way here. After all it’s important to consider that Kotetsu Taichou gained-“ Boring. Why couldn’t sensei just shut up already? Sora tuned out from the dull nattering and leaned back in the chair he was sat in among all the other students. The expression on his face was often one of mild irritation, as if just living was a minor inconvenience to him. He had always been someone who got lost in their thoughts, and he wasn’t often very interested in the thoughts of others either. His shoulder length, red hair was tied back in a high and tight ponytail, and his amber coloured eyes looked sharp and focused despite the fact he wasn’t paying much attention. He had three silver studs spaced out along the rim of his left ear and wore a thin, olive green coat with a high collar and a black fishnet vest underneath, a pair of simple, black trousers and black sandals. He sat with his arm folded, leaning back in the chair with a relaxed slouch. He wondered how much longer this assembly was going to go when something snapped him from his musings. He tilted his neck sharply to the left as a piece of chalk missed him by inches. He gave a satisfied smirk as he looked back at his sensei, who had hurled the chalk at him. Then gravity did it’s work and he fell off the side of his chair and landed with a thump on the ground. There was a ripple of laughter through the students and Sora quickly stood up and groaned as he looked at the giggling students looking at him. “Uketsuki Sora!” The teacher called out his name from the front, “Couldn’t pay attention for just one more class, eh?” “Whatever…” Sora replied with a half hearted shrug, “At least I won’t have to listen to your cheesy history lessons.” “It’s recent history, Sora. Your own mother was one of the brave shinobi who fought with Kotetsu Taichou, what would she say if she saw you dozing off to the story of her past?” “She’d tell you that you’re telling it wrong.” Sora said with a frown, a testy frustration starting to bubble up within him. “And you would no better, hm?” His teacher asked. Sora’s lips became thin as he tried to say something, but there was nothing to say. [Many Nights] Uketsuki. It was the name of his mother’s clan. The rest had died during a planned assassination from a vengeful clan who had feared their abilities. His mother had always been very secretive about their clan. He knew that his mother had excellent chakra control which made her an expert medical ninja, and many in the village praised her expertise with sealing jutsu. He knew that their clan were originally from Sunagakure, and that his mother had fled as a missing nin and soon after joined Asuna to liberate Amegakure. The adults of Amegakure were always so secretive, and his mother was no exception. She would always tell him that he wasn’t ready whenever he had questions about their clan. After a while of this he had just stopped asking. His mother had always been quite distant, she was brilliant and clever but she had never been the affectionate type. His father was even more puzzling. He was a man born here in Amegakure, a Jounin ninja who worked within the village. He was a brave and confident man, but no very bright, at least not compared to his brilliant wife. At some point the other students had began filing out. The final class of the ninja academy was over. Sora was a Genin now, and starting tomorrow he would meet his assigned team and begin doing work for the village. Real missions; like spying and bodyguard assignments. Sora hoped it wouldn’t be as much of a chore as the academy was. At least it would be more interesting. --- --- --- --- [Hidden Will To Fight] Kotetsu Asuna stood on the balcony of the tallest tower in Amegakure. She looked out over the village, a cluster of large tower structures complete with running water, waste filtering systems, electricity. This was an industrial village of dark brass tones, and a dull skyline of grey clouds, and a constant, drizzling rain. It was a melancholy place, but one that Asuna found to be quite beautiful. She was a tall woman, dressed in a long, black rob with a wide and high collar. Her jet black hair was long, spiky and stuck out to the left. She wore a black eyepatch over one eye, a few deep scars coming out of either side of it. Her remaining eye was a cold blue and looked keen and prepared. Asuna turned around and walked inside the tower to her office where two people were waiting for her. One of them was a woman only a few years younger than Asuna in her early 40s, she was an average height woman with a slim built, dressed in a long black labcoat, with a short skirt and fishnet leggings, and a pair of heeled sandals. Her hip-length red hair was pinned away from her face with a couple of light blue hairpins, and a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses were perched on her nose, the glare of the lenses in the light masking her eyes. “Asuna Taichou…” The woman said with a monotonous tone, then she tilted her head and revealed a pair of amber eyes, “Are you ready for your report?” “I didn’t ask for a report, I asked you to come here.” Asuna replied. “Correct.” The woman replied with a slight nod, “However…considering the Jinchuriki is graduating from the academy today I deduced that you would like to know the progress on our…project.” “Your son graduated today too, Satomi.” Asuna said. “Yes…” Satomi replied as if she hadn’t thought about that until it had been mentioned. “Have you thought more about teaching him-“ “He’s not ready.” Satomi said, cutting Asuna off. “That’s a real shame.” Said the other person in the room. She was a younger woman with a lean, fighters build. Her skin was almost a slightly greyish blue colour, and her eyes were a pale blue, almost white, and as she grinned she revealed a set of spiky shark-teeth. Her hair was cut short but had a set of unruly spikes not dissimilar to Asuna’s. She had a forehead protector tied around her head with the symbol of Amegakure emblazoned on it. She was dressed in a dark grey flak jacket, a pair of tight-fitted shorts, but wore a belt with long sashes of black material that covered her lower half almost like a skirt, but less restrictive. “You see…they matched up for being squad mates.” “Impossible…” Satomi said with a shake of her head, “Sora is too much like his father, head in the clouds. He’s unfocused, lacking motivation and unhelpful in a crisis. He’ll make a good ninja one day I’m sure but…we need a genin with genius capabilities.” “Your lab nerds have been gathering all the data from every test conducted in that school and they’ve crunched the numbers.” The shark-toothed woman explained, “They’ve determined that his lack of motivation comes from lack of challenge. He scores high on tests and by all accounts he does so without really trying. Which means he’s going to be chum for me and the Jinchuriki.” “This is…” A flicker of concern appeared in Satomi’s eyes, and then she was back to her stern look of concentration, “…If that’s what the reports have concluded then I will have to agree.” “Geez…who took your mojo?” The shark-toothed girl turned to Asuna, “Am I right?” “Omi…” Asuna said with a sigh, “You could try for a little more tact.” “Yeah, yeah.” Omi said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “So when do I get to start torturing the little pups?” “You can start as soon as you’re ready. I can find you a mission if you like, something safe…” Asuna suggested “Nah…I’m gonna mess with them first.” Omi said with a toothy grin.
  3. Hallows S2

    The drive back to their motel was a long, silent one. Vincent drove for once, Violet needed some more time to get her head together he felt. His sister was sitting in the passenger seat staring aimlessly out of the window, a deep look of concern on her face. Vincent pulled over into the motel parking lot and parked the car, and they got out with their things and got back into their room. Vincent turned the TV on just for background noise and sat on one of the beds. He reached under it and retrieved a mostly full bottle of whisky. He gestured at Violet to get him two glasses before retrieving his cigarettes from his pocket and sparking one up. He was feeling pretty numb right now, his brain still had to process everything fully. He had felt so hopelessly overwhelmed when facing those beings. He had designed a field of magic to give them an edge and yet it left them so hopelessly outclassed. Why hadn’t he thought about that before going ahead with the ritual? The way they skirted his barriers, wards and defences with ease seemed like cheating, which is precisely how he felt about Violet’s magic. Cosmic magic was not the same as his magic, or really any other beings magic. There were fundamental laws to magic, things even greater beings could not break, and yet the Nagloshi had. Then there was his father’s appearance, which had been more of an event for Violet apparently. For Vincent it had all happened in a sudden burst, a flurry of action where there hadn’t been previously. Before he had gotten a good look at his father they had been sent out of The Void. Violet, however, had spoken with their dad. He had saved her from falling off the ledge, had somehow frozen time within that space. Two impossibilities in one day. Time magic was…messy and complicated. So complicated that he wasn’t certain it was even possible. His father was alive. Alive and well, apparently. Free enough to travel through time and space with little effort and just summon a freaking black hole to save his kids. Which meant he was choosing to be gone. Which meant Vincent’s fears were right, his dad was a selfish asshole. One who was apparently wielding some seriously powerful magic the likes of which he had never seen before. His brain was buzzing thinking about the potential magical theory of it all, trying to understand it. Violet handed him the glasses and he poured them out a drink each. He took his and drank it down, quieting the scholarly thoughts and replacing them with the soothing burn of the whisky. “So…” He choked, putting his glass down and pouring another, “…Drown your sorrows in a bottle with me?” She swallowed, pulling her gaze away from the motel window. "Yeah." Violet had been crying. She had wiped the tears away but he could tell all the same. She watched the amber liquid rise in the glass with an apathetic stare until she leaned forwards and pulled the glass away while Vincent was still pouring. She brought the glass to her lips, paused for a moment and then finished the contents of the glass in a single gulp. Violet retched, followed by choking and coughing. Then wheezing. Then she took one deep breath and regained her composure and then nodded and held her glass out at him. Vincent poured her another glass and put the bottle down on the little table by his bed. He sipped at the whisky this time and took time to gather his thoughts. “So what particular earth shattering bombshell do you want to talk about first?” He asked finally. He wasn’t fine either but he had more experience with suppressing his feelings than Violet, which he was sure was totally healthy, right? "I don't know... I don't know." Violet repeated. She lifted her legs onto her bed and sat there cross-legged, nursing her drink. "I think... I'm... Not me? Or I'm not... Who I was... I remember being this complete being. I knew so much, my emotions were so different, everything is different... I don't know who I am. I thought I was a complete person. But I'm not..." For the every day person saying such things was an alarm bell that the person might be having some sort of mental health episode, but when it came to the supernatural these sorts of comments could be taken more literally. Violet was not human…or at least he thought so anyway. She was a being of energy and light, and now she was not. It was quite possible that something more than her power had been taken from her. “Zeal…” Vincent said as he remembered what Violet had said earlier during the conflict, “You never really spoke about her much. I guess I never really knew what she was, or if she was even something or just something your brain cooked up to help you understand your powers.” "I don't know what I thought she was... I felt like the only time I saw her was was as this strange little animal in a dream or... Something." Violet took a sip of whiskey and visibly grimaced. "It wasn't until she was being torn out of...us. That I realised we had been more together, somehow. I'd become a lot stronger than I'd realised. Learned how to control my emotions, and now..." Tears still ran down her cheeks, she wiped at them with the back of her sleeve and sniffed. "How do you feel?" “Worn out.” He replied with a sigh, “There’s always another hurdle around every corner, and the stakes keep getting higher but I’m not getting stronger, just older and more beaten and scarred. I’m in my 30s and I haven’t got a life to go back to, what little of it I had in the first place. I’m tired of following trails of blood, always on the move, and even when I get to sleep it’s nothing but fucking nightmares.” Violet nodded and sat in silence for a while. "I'm..." She muttered and Vincent looked up only to see Violet collapse back onto the bed, dropping the glass which hit the ground with a dull thud, spared of breaking, and rolled across the floor as Violet began to snore. “Really?” Vincent said aloud but he didn’t get any response from Violet. She probably had overdid it today, and she wasn’t used to being mortal again. Who knew how much energy it took to wield cosmic energy. Violet had always seemed to work magic from her own personal pool of power, except her pool was more like an ocean. She didn’t have much need for learning to use the forces around her. Ultimately he thought it best that she rest. After another five glasses of whisky he decided he could use a nap himself. He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling for a while. As a warm, boozy feeling settled in he let his mind drift off, and eventually the deep darkness of sleep took him. --- --- --- --- “Vincent!” The sceam was close but muffled through a wall. Vincent shot up in his bed and looked around the room. Violet’s bed was empty, only a mess of sheets where she once was. He heard Violet scream again and he leapt over the bed and pulled open the motel room door. On the other side was chaos. A small army of perhaps twenty or thirty people were gathered outside, including a man he recognized as the motel owner, the others perhaps other guests or staff. The only problem was they were all quite clearly dead, but walking all the same. Violet’s impala was a wreck, it’s remnants nothing but hot metal, flames and black smoke that was piling into the air. Next to the burning wreck Violet was on the floor, being held up by her hair, a black tendril of dark magic clawing at her throat, squeezing it tightly. The woman who stood there was an enemy, one that had been plaguing his nightmares for 2 years. “Morgana!” Vincent spat her name like he would a profanity, “Let go of her!” Morgana Le Fay, they very one from the legends, stood in a body she had stolen. While it was Meredith’s body, Morgana’s expression and the way she held herself made her look so unlike Meredith. She gave a lazy, satisfied smile as she scanned over him with her eyes. She was dressed in black, heeled boots and a pair of black leather pants that hugged her frame, as well as an emerald green leather jacket with a wide collar. Her long, red curls of hair looked wild and untamed, and her cold, blue eyes were piercing. Meredith’s eyes. The thought made his blood boil. He searched through every nasty curse he had in his arsenal and moved his body to face her, and then Morgana pulled out a slender athame, a ceremonial dagger, and pressed it against Violet’s neck. All the rage evaporated. His confidence crumbled and his resolve slipped away like sand through his fingers. Vincent stood very still, his eyes fixed on Morgana’s. She was still wearing that contented smirk. “Did you miss me, child?” She asked, her voice smooth and relaxed. “Just tell me what you want and let Violet go.” Vincent said, although it didn’t sound like much of a demand the way he said it. Morgana seemed to consider this for a moment. She bit her lip and let out a little sigh of mock frustration. “Hmm…no I think not.” She said finally, and then she cut Violet’s throat. The bottom fell out of Vincent. His entire world crumbled, and the environment around him became irrelevant. There was so much blood around Violet’s neck. He fell to his knees. Just so much blood. How did she know Violet was vulnerable? Why did she come here now? Questions nagged at him, tried to drag him back to reality, back to the problem at hand. What did any of it matter though? Violet was gone. Despair gripped him tightly, he couldn’t move and he couldn’t speak. Morgana dropped Violet’s corpse like it was a garbage bag and slowly stepped towards Vincent. Just as she was about to get close to him she suddenly raised her hand and Vincent was yanked back through the air and crashed into the wall of the motel, he hit the back of his head and his vision swam. “This is how you pay for what you have done to me, child.” Morgana said, and her tone was bitter and angry, the jovial façade was gone. “I will take everything from you.” He heard her words but the intent behind it barely registered. Violet was dead. The very thing she had narrowly avoided had come to pass only hours later. He was quite powerless, the grief and despair made it too difficult to focus enough to work a spell anyway. He was done for. Morgana made a subtle twisting motion with her hand and suddenly pain blazed out from his chest near where his heart was. He went to scream but the pain was so excruciating that he couldn’t even muster one. The sheer burning heat of it was unbearable and he thought he might pass out from the pain, when suddenly a cool sensation ran through his body. A cold power washed over him. It was a delicious cold that snapped him back to his senses like a fog had been lifted. Cool energy traced over his skin and it felt cruel, vicious and unyielding, a biting cold that survives when all other things die, the icy heart of winter. When he finally gained enough focus to see again, he noticed that he was now sat in a heap on the ground. Morgana was not there, but in her place was another woman. She was shorter than Morgana, dressed in black boots that looked stylish, with little rhinestones decorating the heel. She wore purple and black striped leggings and a short, black skirt. Her upper body was covered by a baggy, black hoodie with purple detailing, and the hood which was pulled up had a pair of kitty ears and simple design of a pair of cat’s eyes and some whiskers. The young woman cocked her head to the side slightly as she looked at him. She was pale skinned with white hair that was a variety of lengths and had a sort of punky look. She wore purple lipstick and her eyes were so bright blue that they looked almost white, and her pupils were narrow like a cat’s. “You’re having another nightmare, Vincent Hallow.” She said to him. She had a Russian accent but her English was very good. She came closer to him and squatted down, leaning her arms on her legs and she watched him curiously. “Who are you?” Vincent asked weakly. “My name is Isoleth, but my friends call me Izzy.” She explained with a bright smile, “and I know that you are Eli’s son, Vincent Hallow.” “You know my dad?” Vincent asked, but then he shook his head. If this was all just a nightmare, a very real feeling nightmare, then either his psyche had conjured this person from his imagination or…or they were invading his mind. “Get out of my head.” Vincent said as he pushed himself to his feet. “I’m not in your head, stupid.” Izzy replied with a smirk and she stood up as well, “You’re in the Dreaming.” “The what?” Vincent asked “Come on Vincent.” Izzy said with a grin, “You are familiar with worlds existing parallel to one another; you’ve seen the Void, and Faerie. Did you not think there were other places too?” “So…your saying when I dream I go to a place? This place?” Vincent asked. “You project an image of yourself; all mortals do this. Generally there is not lasting damage to suffering pain through your projection here but…well there are ways to use the dreaming to establish a connection between two individuals.” “Morgana? That was really her? I thought this was a nightmare.” “Indeed she was, and yes this is a nightmare, however, it was one of her making.” Izzy explained, “The wound on your shoulder.” Vincent pulled his T-shirt up over his shoulder and examined the black, sprawling wound emanating from a small crater in his skin where something had impacted it. He had gained the wound two years ago when Morgana had hit him with a blast of some nasty magic. It was a wound no conventional doctor could fix, and he had tried every magical healing technique he could think of but nothing seemed to help. In the end apart from a few painful twinges he felt fairly normal. Didn’t he? “Gross…that’ll do it.” Izzy said with a thoughtful expression, “She must really have it in for you. This curse is…very unpleasant. We’ll have to do something about that. I can fix it, but only in person. I can come to you but it will take a few days I think.” “Wait a minute.” Vincent held up his hand as he spoke, “What makes you think I trust you? Cat eyes, and your magic is cold, which makes you one of the Fae, Unseelie court. The kind that trick desperate mortals in to bargains that rob them of their life and body. I don’t want whatever you’re selling.” Izzy stared at Vincent for a moment with a slightly stunned expression, but then she broke into a laugh and waved at him dismissively. “Oh, Vincent Hallow, you are so very like Alphonse described. I suppose caution is a good thing but in this case you are mistaken. I am a changeling, All the perks of being Fae minus the immortality part. Worth it when magic is so easy. Changelings are often viewed as dangerous because they have access to a lot of power and free will to use it.” “…So you know Alphonse? Know any more of my associates?” Vincent asked “Quite a few. Your father, Alphonse, Lucia, Vael and I’ve crossed paths with David Argent once or twice.” “So you’re some changeling girl who’s all buddy-buddy with my dad and Al, and you expect me to just take you at your word?” Vincent’s frown deepened. “What the hell is going on? Where did Morgana go? Why the hell is my dad and his cronies suddenly deciding to crawl out of the woodwork?” Izzy gave a soft shrug and glanced away from Vincent. She closed her eyes and Vincent felt that cold energy again. Before his eyes the environment began to change, the motel disappeared, along with the flaming impala and the corpse of his sister. In its place appeared a vast skyscape of stars that seemed far to bright and numerous. They were on top of a very large mountain, so high that there was a layer of clouds blocking the earth below from view. Vincent felt a chill in the air, but it was nowhere near as cold as it should have been on top of a snowy mountain he was beginning to suspect was Everest. The noise of the wind was also barely a whisper and he swore he could hear a light EDM track playing in the background. “I specialize in illusions, which means a lot in the dreaming.” Izzy explained, “I thought I’d change the setting to something a little nicer. Do you like it?” “I don’t care about the setting I just want answers.” Vincent replied irritably. “Don’t you ever stop to smell the roses, Vincent?” Izzy asked, and she looked a little sad. Then she put on a smile and shrugged, “Very well Vincent, I shall answer you. Morgana Le Fay has been sent back to her mortal body for the time being. You stopped her from calling down a great deal of power two years ago. With that sort of power there would be few who could match her. That is why she hates you, and that is why she has cursed you.” “So what exactly does this curse do? Give me nightmares?” Vincent asked “No that was Morgana doing that through your connection.” Izzy replied, “This curse is designed to siphon away your power and give it to Morgana. Each time she visited you in these nightmares she took a part of your power to replenish what she lost. Each time she grows stronger and you weaker.” “I…I never noticed.” Vincent replied “Well of course not. You’d account the fatigue to not sleeping well, and with the journey you and your sister have been on…who would blame you for feeling depressed or worn out. The symptoms were masked by your circumstance.” Vincent felt a strange pang in his chest. The thought of someone taking his magic like that was…very uncomfortable. He hadn’t even noticed that it was happening. He felt completely foolish. How much power had he lost? With his sister’s drop in power as well, the odds just kept stacking against them, and that weight bearing down on him was starting to feel crushing. “Get out of your head, dude.” Izzy said with a roll of her eyes, “You’re Vincent Fuckin’ Hallow, you eat lightning and crap thunder! You eat vampires for breakfast! Do you even have any idea how scary you are!?” “Sure doesn’t seem like it when I’m ducking for cover or getting tied up in word games with scary fuckers like Lucia.” Vincent replied, frowning. “Oh please, Lucia doesn’t show fear to anyone, but she knows what you’ve done just like the rest of us.” “And what have I done?” Vincent asked. “Hunted.” Izzy replied simply, “Stop trying to play the game, just break through. It’s what you and Violet have always done best. Sure you guys stumble a lot, but you’re both still alive and kicking. You should be confident in yourself.” “Yeah I’ll get right to work on that.” Vincent replied, he wanted to change the topic, “How do you know my father and Al?” Izzy bit her bottom lip and seemed to hesitate for a moment. “You don’t know it yet, but you have been chasing us for quite some time now.” She explained, “Recently you and Violet discovered that your father was part of some sort of group. You also discovered evidence which suggested that Lucia was part of the same group.” “If you know all that then why are we still searching? If you want to help us then why wait until now?” “Well, that’s complicated.” Izzy replied, shifting uncomfortably, “We’re bound by a lot of conditions. One of which is not helping people discover us.” “Wouldn’t this be classed as helping?” Vincent asked, brow raised. “There’s been some foul play so different rules apply for now. I have been tasked to watch over you and Violet for a while, and help you out a little. I’m sorry but I cannot explain much more beyond that. Though it will still take me a few days to reach you. In the meantime I believe you have work to do.” “Two dangerous vampires need to get smoked. I’m sure we can manage.” Vincent replied. “Do not underestimate them. I suggest you gather a hunting party.” Izzy gave Vincent a knowing look, “I think you already have a few allies nearby who can help you.” “I’m still not sure how I feel about this.” Vincent said with a frown. “Well then I’ll settle it with a peace offering.” Izzy said with a grin, and then she took an old photograph out of the her pocket and handed it to him. Vincent examined the old photo and his eyes widened as he scanned over it. The room had about 12 people in it, it was some kind of gathering in a small events room. Vincent recognized a few of the figures. His mentor, Alphonse was sat at a table talking with a man with slicked back, black hair dressed in a suit. In the background Vincent’s father, looking very young, was talking with an attractive woman who he vaguely recognized. “Vael…” He murmured as he continued scanning the photo. “This was before Violet was born.” “Correct. It is the day our little group was first founded. Although I wasn’t around back then.” “How old are you?” Vincent asked “I’m only 25, dude.” Izzy said with a smirk. “And your name is Isoleth? Bit of an old sounding name for a millennial.” Vincent teased. “It is a regal name…chosen by Queen Mab herself.” “Your…the daughter of the queen of the unseelie fae?” “Yeah dude, I’m pretty dope, I don’t know if you noticed.” Izzy said with a chuckle. “I think it’s time for you to wake up. Get your shit together Vincent, you’ll feel better.” “Easy to say when you don’t have a full day of ass kicking ahead of you.” Vincent said with a grumble. “My name’s Vincent and I’m a grumpy wizard!” Izzy said in a particularly poor impersonation of Vincent, and then she started giggling at herself, “Aw I like you Vincent. We’re gonna be the best of friends, I can already tell.” “Don’t hold your breath.” Vincent said and a hint of a smirk escaped his lips. “Yass queen!” Izzy said with a triumphant grin and she clapped her hands together, “Okay just keep doing more of that smilin’ until I find you! Oh this is going to be fun. I’m so stoked to meet Violet!” --- --- --- --- Before Vincent could reply he gasped for air as he suddenly woke up on the bed in the motel room. He turned to his side and looked at Violet who was sleeping soundly. For the first time since the nightmare had began he finally allowed himself to feel relief. That had been an extremely weird dream. Then he looked down at his hand and saw the photograph he was holding, the one that Izzy had given him. “Shit…” Vincent said with a sigh, “Violet! Wake up!” He had some explaining to do.
  4. Hallows S2

    The nightmare began as it always had; with a victory. Vincent Hallow stood over the charred remains of a ghoul, only vaguely humanoid in shape. His shoulder length hair blew about in an aetheric wind. His shirt was gone and his chest and arms were covered in bloody cuts, wounds given by the now dead ghoul on the floor. Vincent winced at the pain and stepped away from the corpse, he could feel fatigue tugging at him. His body was exhausted, but adrenaline had wiped out his pain for now. His body protested for him to rest, but with he opened his emerald eyes with a look of determination. He gripped on the cane in his hand, the enchanted vessel he had chosen to channel his destructive will through. He looked to his surroundings. He was outside but it was almost completely black in all directions. He knew where he was, in a plaza outside of the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas. The Hotel, a large glass pyramid, was currently reflecting the only source of light in the entire city, an eerie green glow as shadowy entities flew through the sky. The Wild Hunt; All manor of ghostly entities and predatory spirits were now prowling the skies above Las Vegas like an enormous hunting party. People were trapped in a city with no power, and in that darkness they would sow fear, and would kill all in their sight. “Vincent!” A voice called in the darkness, and then a young woman emerged. She was in her mid 20’s with a long mane of red curls and a pale complexion. Meredith Palmer; the gifted clairvoyant who had been the beginning of this entire disaster, “Vincent! We’re too late, they worked the spell! It’s here!” “Yeah…I can see that.” Vincent replied dryly as he looked skyward again. Then he inspected his wounds. There was a lot of blood but he didn’t think he’d hit any organs or major arteries. “We need to stop the ritual.” He turned toward the Luxor building and went to walk towards it. “People are going to die if we don’t stop that!” Meredith cried, “I can…I can see it.” “There’s one crazy Necromancer in that hotel with his ancient ghost buddy, and they’re about to bring all that power down and into them, and then we’re not dealing with a two bit spell-slinger and an upstart old spirit, we’re dealing with Gods. Do you understand that?” Vincent shook his head and started walking. Meredith simply watched, a helpless expression on her face. “Then they’ll all die…” She whispered. Just then a bright light exploded in the sky. In the center of the maelstrom of ghosts, a bright light began to go brighter and brighter. Someone was cutting through the sea of ghosts like they were made of butter, a being of light and raw energy. She raged and soared and her power burned through them like a wildfire. Meredith gasped at the spectacle, whereas Vincent only smirked and rolled is eyes. “She’s a little hard to predict, even for spooky fortune tellers like you.” Vincent said. “Is that…?” Meredith asked “Violet.” Vincent said with a nod. “She’s the main event, kid. I just take care of the trash.” He didn’t waste any more time. He strode towards the Luxor while his legs could still carry him. As he stepped into the main foyer he realized how tapped out he was. He had worked a big spell that night, and had channeled a great deal of magic through himself, he was reaching his limit. His limit would have to be enough for this next part though. As he emerged into the room he noticed that the fake Egyptian-style styling of the inner building was lit up by a glowing flame in the center of the room. The center of the room had been cleared and a magic circle had been drawn in what looked like blood. Inside the circle an ancient, ghostly form that looked so dried up, rotted and disfigured that it barely resembled a human. Outside of the circle stood a man in a long, black coat and a wide-brimmed fedora. The man had a ponytail of dark hair and a clean-shaven face that looked gaunt and pale. “Lacroix!” Vincent barked across the room as he swaggered towards the necromancer, “Sorry, but your pet had to be put down.” “Oh great, you’re still alive.” Lacroix replied unenthusiastically, he seemed unconcerned by Vincent’s presence. “I’m afraid you don’t look up to posing much of a threat my good man. You’re already too late anyway. Your sister might have been up to the task but…it seems she submitted to her more primal urges I fear.” Violet’s light tore through the sky in an arc around the glass pyramid, and as she disappeared back in tot eh darkness again there was a rushing noise, followed by a crack and a boom. This seemed to drain the little colour that was left in Lacroix’s face. “Now did she absolutely have to break the sound barrier?” Vincent said with a shrug. Then he pointed his cane at Lacroix. “Listen up you washed up sorcerer, you should probably stop underestimating me and my sister. I know you think you’re badass because you’re rockin’ the dark arts and you’re about twice my age, but you won’t beat me.” “You?” Lacroix scoffed, “You’re just a thug. Throwing spells around with no grace, no consideration at all.” “Is that why you kept dodging this confrontation then? Why you came at us through your agents and pawns?” Lacroix went to work a spell, but then there was another bang and he stopped in his tracks. Vincent held the pistol he had been carrying in the back of his jeans. “What is it about wizards and always/ forgetting to account for bullets?” He asked with a smirk. Lacroix fell to his knees, clutching the area around his heart. He looked up to Vincent and for the first time he looked genuinely afraid. Funny for a Necromancer to fear death so much. As Lacroix keeled over lifelessly Vincent sighed and retrieved a carton with just 1 last cigarette. He took it out and lit it, tossing the empty carton to the floor. As he exhaled the sweet, sweet concoction of death he glanced towards the invisible barrier of the magic circle Lacroix had brought up. It was still active, and would stay that way until Lacroix finally drew his last breath. “You know…you should really hire better lackeys.” He said to the spirit inside, who was watching him with a piercing, unblinking gaze. “Lacroix was talented enough to do my bidding and stupid enough to obey my every command. He was an excellent lacky.” The spirit said. “So what now? In a minute this barrier is going to go down and then we’re going to tangle, right?” Vincent asked. “Oh I expect so, Mister Hallow, was it?” The spirit replied. Despite her grotesque appearance her voice was distinctly feminine, with a well-spoken English accent. “I’m going to enjoy that very much I think. You see you’ve ruined all the work I went to. You have unraveled a great deal of planning and dedicated work.” “I’m not too worried about what a ghost can do, even an old one like you.” “A ghost?” The spirit asked, indicating to herself. “I am not a ghost.” The circle’s magic finally faded and the barrier went down. Vincent brought his cane up immediately and called fire, and it shot out like a lance towards the spirit. She chuckled in amusement and faded away, only to reappear a safe distance away from the blaze. Vincent turned to face her again with another gout of fire but this time she simply moved through it and crashed into Vincent, phasing through him with that familiar, chilling sensation that seemed to rake at his very soul. However in that instant, where they had become connected, he realized the truth to her words. She was not a ghost, she was a soul. A real human soul, existing in a realm where it should not, where it could not without a vessel. “How!?” Vincent managed to ask through gasps of air. “What are you!?” “I think ‘who’ is a better question.” The woman said, “I think you may know my name. It is old, the last one I wore was…Morgue.” “He died before I was even born. I know who killed him.” Vincent replied. “Ah, I knew your magic reminded me of him.” The spirit replied. “Alphonse Blackmire, that old fool.” Vincent felt his stomach drop. The spirit knew his mentor, knew the man who had killed the dark wizard Morgue over 40 years ago. Information that was known only by a select few people. Which meant…this spirit really was that dark wizard. The dreaded Necromancer who could forcibly eject people from their bodies and take them for himself. He had been a constant headache, popping up for centuries, far longer than his mortal life would have allowed. But by stealing the bodies he stole their youth and their power and continued on his dark crusade. Al had finally put the guy in the ground, and it was said to have been for good. The voice, however, was feminine. “Morgue was a man.” Vincent said with a frown. “The body I inhabited was a man, yes.” The spirit replied. “But Morgue was just one name I have held, and just one life I have lived. So many know my name and yet they know nothing of me. I am…something of a story told to children these days.” “So why the big ritual? If you’re a body snatcher then why not just snatch a body?” Vincent asked. “Because, dear boy, power is not something you get to take with you when you die. If I was to truly return in my original form then I would need tremendous power.” “Which you aren’t getting any more.” Vincent said with a smirk, “Sorry.” “I’m afraid you have only delayed the inevitable, and have forced me to find a new body in the meantime.” She said. Then she came at him. “Yours.” He could do nothing to defend himself against the spirit as she passed inside him. The psychic assault that followed was agonizing. He brought up the mental protections he had trained with all of these years but this woman knocked them away like they were made of paper. She reached inside and gripped hold of his mind, and his soul. She did it all with an effortlessness that was absolutely terrifying. He could do nothing. Absolutely nothing. He began to slip away. It was an endless feeling. Like time was no longer a factor. Instead he drifted in a cold darkness. He felt his thoughts and feeling peeling away layer upon layer. All of the little things that made him whole just fell away. He was no longer Vincent. He was no longer anything at all, and before long he would simply drift into nothingness, into void. His eyes opened to an extremely bright light. He had experienced this kind of light only once before. When he had been younger, and when he had allowed his darkness to rule him, he had done just about the worst thing he has ever done, and it had nearly cost him his life. God had stepped in and saved his life. Sort of rude of him really considering Vincent was a filthy pagan and all. God had, apparently, decided to save his life not once, but twice. The light was emanating from a man dressed in black. He wore pointed toe boots, black trousers and a black shirt, with a pointed collar and white clerical collar. The man had a stubbled beard and short, jet black hair that was combed back. He also carried a sword; the one that was currently blazing with the light of God. David Argent was not a priest, despite the collar. He was, in fact, a wanted criminal. He was a highly skilled assassin under the hire of, as far as the authorities were concerned, unknown. If you asked David, he would tell you that The Lord was his client. His targets, of course, were a bunch of vampires and demons hiding in the guise of humans. David was not a good people, but he did not kill good people either. More importantly, he had an insane knack for showing up wherever he was needed. He was chanting scripture under his breath as he stepped closer to them. Vincent could now see that David was driving back Morgue with just the power of prayer. Vincent managed to find just enough time to find that irritating, and then he was rising to his feet. David lunged for the spirit but she shrieked and flew off, disappearing out of the foyer. David sheathed the glowing sword and the room grew dimmer. He came over to Vincent and helped him to stand. “It seems the Lord has more work for you yet, Vincent Hallow.” David said with a distinctly southern drawl. Vincent pattered the man on the back and smirked. “I’m still not convinced you aren’t full of shit about that but I’ll take the rescue all the same.” Vincent said with a nod of gratitude. “We need to find that thing before-“ A scream cut through the room from outside the hotel. “Meredith!” Vincent yelled as he was suddenly going at a sprint, David trying to keep peace with him. Panic shot up through him and propelled him forwards despite the blood loss, and the fatigue. Meredith was not like him. She was a kid with power but she’d had no training. She wouldn’t last a second. By the time he emerged outside once more the sky was aglow with the energy flying around as Violet finished up her own fight. Meredith was stood alone, not far from where he had left her. She was looking right at him, and his heart was crushed as he saw the wicked grin on her face. “No…” He breathed as he stopped a few feet from reaching her. “No…you…” “Vincent!” David caught up to him. “Stop her!” Vincent barked back at him. “Now!” “It…is too late.” David said regretfully, “She has already taken the girl…you can see this.” Vincent’s gaze focused on Meredith, and just for a moment he could see just behind her. A pale woman with raven hair was walking another Meredith away. She looked sad. He could have sworn he’d seen that woman somewhere before. Then he could only see the creature that was now inhabiting Meredith’s body. “Well…prescient abilities, this will be useful.” She said, her English accent coming through but with Meredith’s voice. “Not a great deal of power though…she’ll take some work.” “The girl is gone now.” David said to him. “We should do what needs to be done.” “Shut up!” Vincent growled back at him. He was beyond angry. It just wasn’t fair. His life saved by divine intervention, and moments later his fate is passed on to an innocent woman. It hadn’t sunk in yet. It had only just happened. He wasn’t ready to accept her death. He wasn’t willing to admit that she was…gone. Not while she stood right there in front of him. “I’ll…make you pay!” Vincent snarled. He clutched his cane and the runes etched along it cast an eerie, green glow. The air grow wild around them, and the pebbles and loose stones on the ground began to rattle and shake. He pointed his staff at her and his hands shook. It felt so wrong to point it towards that face. He screamed in rage as he called on fire with the last of his power. He took every last bit of it and put it into the blast. Light exploded from the end of his cane and bolten fire burst out and engulfed Meredith’s body. But then all that heat and fire was sucked up by an unseen force and disappeared inside Meredith’s body as if it were no trouble at all. “Oh how disappointing….so much power is wasted on you.” The spirit said with a chuckle, “You see even with just a small amount of power like this body has…well if you knew real magic then you would be so fearsome.” “Save me the ‘dark magic rocks’ speech.” Vincent said, gasping for breath. He had nothing left to hit her with. “Light magic and dark magic are modern philosophies, child.” The spirit said with a wicked smirk, “Restrictions placed upon this world by cowards with no vision. Darkness is not evil, Vincent. It is a force, and what are if not beings that work forces?” “Save it!” Vincent yelled angrily. “Foolish child, I lived in a time before your very concept of magic was ever constructed!” She cried back, her eyes alive and energetic. “I am The Enchantress! The Legend! Morgana Le Fay!” She strode forward and reached out to Vincent. He gestured his cane toward her and she gripped it’s end in her hand. She released the energy she had taken from his own spell and sent it down the length of the cane, causing it to shatter into ash. Vincent fell back and landed hard on the asphalt. He looked up in time to see Morgana point a single finger at him, and a dark energy began to form at it’s tip. “We’ll meet again Vincent Hallow.” She said, and then Vincent’s vision went dark. Blinding pain seared through every fiber of his being, pulsing from an area on his chest, burning at his insides. --- --- --- Vincent sat bolt upright in the bed, gasping for breath. He winced as he opened his eyes and the light from a gap in the curtains cut into the room. The disorientation from waking from a nightmare was, unfortunately, becoming a familiarity to him. He sighed and tossed the sheets away from him and climbed out of bed. He was in one of those roadside motels that were just a single room with two beds and a bathroom. He walked into the bathroom and switched on the light. The bathroom was small but had a full size mirror on the wall. Vincent stood in a pair of black boxer shorts. He was a pale individual with a wiry frame. His jet black hair was shoulder length but was recently trimmed and styled. He had grown a dark beard over the last two years. His body was a mess of various scars, burns and a particularly nasty looking wound at his chest that looked like black veins stretching out from a charred impact zone. Something of a love tap from the ancient sorceress who now inhabited his dreams most nights. Vincent undressed and got into the shower. As the intensity of the nightmare began to fade, along with the bracing cold of the shower, Vincent began to feel calmer. It had been 2 years since “The Vegas Incident” and a lot had happened. The government had done their usual “freak gas leak combined with power outage sparks mass panic” routine to explain away what had happened. Vincent and his cosmically-inclined sister, Violet had continued their search for their father, and as was the way of things they had gotten into a lot of scrapes along the way. It wasn’t long before their reputation among the hunters of the supernatural began to return in a big way. That had opened some doors and had sent a few messages. They had followed promising leads and gotten a lot closer to finding their father yet had still not found him. Vincent had also managed to admit to himself that Morgana had been right. He had spent the years training diligently in his study of magic, looking to eastern disciplines to broaden his understanding, and slowly he was discovering that magic did not have quite as many rules as he thought it did. He still wasn’t convinced that dark magic was the way to go, some magic just didn’t feel right to use. Violet had been on her own path of self-discovery. It’s not like there was a rulebook for being a shapeshifting energy-eating entity of the cosmos. One thing was certain, every creature that had ever learned of what Violet was, no matter how powerful they were, they all paid a great deal of attention to her. Nagloshi, not the true name of her species but the only one that was pronounceable by Vincent, were apparently something of an outlier, which was a terrifying notion when the system in question consists of all manner of supernatural beings, and gods of various pantheons. Even death can’t resist her, apparently. Vincent emerged from the bathroom and dressed himself. A pair of black boots, black jeans, and a grey t-shirt with a Stone Roses graphic on it. He picked up a pair of sunglasses off the table along with his wallet, keys and his cigarettes, and then he headed out of the door. The Californian sunshine was bright and sunny. The motel was on the roadside out in the Hollywood Hills. The city of Los Angeles lay in the valley beneath them, and just happened to be the next stop on their trip. A black Chevrolet Impala sat in the parking space outside of the room. The car was old but has been cleaned and detailed. It was Violet’s pride and joy, and she took good care of it. Speaking of the cosmic disco ball, she was currently sat on the hood of said car eating some sort of calorific breakfast burrito. “That shit will kill you.” Vincent said as he put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it.
  5. Hallows S2

    Vincent was the first to reach Violet, and he knelt on the gravel next to her. “Violet!” he shouted every so often as he got his hand under her head and saw the bloody wound on her head. He touched at the blood to check if it was real, and it was. That could not be good news. He put his fingers to her neck and felt for a pulse. He was shocked to find one. Violet didn’t have a heart in a physical sense, she didn’t have organs at all for that matter. Yet she was bleeding, and she had a pulse. She was breathing, although it seemed a little shallow currently. She was alive, which was good…but she was mortal. His brain was buzzing with questions, trying to puzzle it all out. He could have sworn he had felt the working of forces for only a moment earlier, but it had faded so quickly, less a pulse or a ripple and more of a blip. He had felt that interfering blip often around Violet though, and nothing had ever come of it before. Perhaps she was sick, or poisoned. Could that even be done to a Nagloshi? Had a spell been worked on her? Had she done this to herself? So many questions rattled through his brain until it turned into frustration and he dismissed them from his mind. “Come on Vi!” Vincent said in a tense tone as he began to lift her up off the ground to carry her. As he turned he saw Lucia being dragged away once more, probably smart to remove her from the equation just in case she tried anything. Vincent had to admit that Mordred was a smart woman who didn’t take chances. Which led him to question if she would take a chance on them. “Help me, please.” He said, it came out harsh, and not like a request. "To do what, exactly?" Mordred asked, her tone equally harsh, but it softened when she looked down at the girl, unconscious and bleeding. "Mother!" Morag growled. "Ah'know!" Mordred snapped back at her daughter. Then she turned, glanced at a couple of people in the crowd, and they shot off. A few seconds later they came sprinting over, pushed Vincent gently but firmly aside, and then slid a cloth under Violet and hoisted her up like she was in a hammock. They led her away at a swift pace. "She can stay in my bedroom for now, I'll not be sleepin' anyways..." Mordred sat back down in her chair and fished around for another beer in her cooler. Vincent nodded his head in gratitude and walked closer to Mordred. He would get to Violet in a moment, with her blood on his fingers he would be able to track where she was. Before he left this place, before having to deal with Violet, he had to finish what they had come her for. “Thank you.” He said as he approached, “I’m afraid I have to ask more of you though.” He tried to watch his tone this time, he’d fight this lady but he really didn’t want to, especially from this close. "Like what?" Mordred pulled a beer from her cooler, snapped the bottlecap off and took a deep swig. “Ten minutes alone with the vampire.” Vincent said simply. "Morag, take Vincent to the vampire and tell the boys to leave 'em be until he comes out that cellar." "Yes, mother." Morag walked in long strides up to Vincent and then passed him and walked around the side of the building. "Keep up, then!" Morag called over her shoulder. She stopped at the rear of the gas station where it looked like an old hurricane cellar had been built. The old doors rattled as she undid the lock from a small set of keys. "Down there." She said simply, then as Vincent started down the steps she added, as if an afterthought, "Tell Luca and Max that mother sent you or they'll eat your face." Then she slammed shut the cellar doors and pulled out a cigarette and lit it, resting against the wall of the building as she waited. Inside was darkness. A flickering candle at the back of the room illuminated columns of black metal bars. A makeshift cell took up the first quarter of the room at the far back. It was otherwise very dark. Lucia's form was huddled on her bed, her arms drawn in like a wounded animal. Then, a pair of yellow eyes, each the size of a plate, opened and gazed out at Vincent. Panting, growling. The growl awoke a second pair of yellow eyes. Snarling grew like a pair of rumbling chainsaws as globs of saliva splashed the dusty ground. A small groan escaped Vincent’s mouth. That was all going far too smoothly. “Mordred sent me?” He asked at the two snarling beasts moving in the darkness. The two enormous wolves came bounding out of the shadowy corners and barked, deafening Vincent. Snapping and barking at him, yet too afraid to do anything to him, until they pressed themselves up against the walls and sat down, panting but loosing a rumbling growl as Vincent passed them. He had faced a lot of danger over the years, he’d learned to squash his fear for the most part, he knew how to focus, and he had a whole range of magical tricks up his sleeve. Those wolves were really big though, and Vincent rationalized the gripping fear he was facing as incredibly healthy and sane. Right? As he came further into the dark cellar he reached out with his senses to guide him. He raised his palm up and created a small, glowing magelight that he cast out ahead of him, a dim blue orb that didn’t assault his eyes with brightness in the dark. The blue light eventually stopped over Lucia, chained to the far wall in manacles that were locked in with 4 sharp pins embedded in her wrists, and one larger manacle of the same design but piercing her neck. “Kinky.” Vincent said. “Visiting me again so soon?” Lucia asked in reply, her head raising up to look at Vincent, her dark eyes glinting under the blue light. “How is dear Violet?” “Resting.” Vincent replied, “I don’t know what’s happened but I will find out. First I need to deal with you.” Lucia gave an open toothed smile, and her tongue lazily drifted over her sharp, little canines. “Scions are often plagued with strange troubles.” Lucia said as if she hadn’t heard him, “Our progenitor was one.” “A demon and a human?” Vincent asked, “Vlad Tepes, son of the dragon?” “Oh please that was only five centuries ago.” Lucia said dismissively, “A misunderstanding of history, for it has its parallels. Our progenitor was, after all, the son of a dragon.” “A dragon and a human?” Vincent wasn’t sure he believed that. Scion was a term often used to refer to various cross breeds of mortal and supernatural creatures. Most common were changelings, part human part fairy. Then there were half demons, demi-gods, and all sorts else. Violet technically fell in to this category, but he had a feeling that the similarities stopped there. “I don’t need your help with Violet.” Vincent replied, “Let’s cut the crap. The only way you’ll talk is if I get you out of here, and the only way to do that is to find this missing werewolf and clear your name, assuming you’re telling the truth anyway.” “It’s not the only way.” Lucia replied, “You could kill them all and rescue me, light a knight in shining armor, hm?” “I think not.” Vincent said with a frown, “You know how my sister and I operate. Point me in a direction and we’ll see it done.” “Oh you’re no fun.” Lucia said with a slight pout, “Very well. There are several in the court who are foolish enough to challenge me. However, only a handful of people knew of my dealings with the Moreau clan. Your suspects are Cassius Quint and Xiao Liang, both have the most influence within the court. Cassius Quint is a clever, sneaky little shit. Ambitious, powerful and bloodthirsty; he has a history of killing his way into authority. “ “Sounds like most vampires.” Vincent said. “Perhaps, but do not underestimate him.” Lucia replied, “As for Xiao Liang…she is an influential member of the court, one of the few Jiangshi left, and the only one you will find outside of Asia. Her sorcery is as powerful as her martial arts, and she is especially a threat to you, wizard.” “Yeah I know…” Vincent grumbled. Jiangshi were not like typical blood-sucking vampires. They originated from China, and were very few in number. They did not feed on blood, but instead on their victim’s qi, or their ‘life force’. Vincent called it mana, but it was all the same thing just interpreted differently. Jiangshi were fairly well documented but were not the easiest thing to take down regardless, and especially so for a wizard. “What would motivate them to take you out? And why not do it in the open?” Vincent asked. “Vincent…I fear you grossly underestimate who I am.” Lucia replied, “No one has yet beat me in open conflict. Our kind’s power grows with age, and those who grow more powerful are harder to kill. Without our tricks we would never overthrow the oldest of our kind.” “So they outsmarted you?” Vincent asked “Perhaps.” Lucia admitted, “Or perhaps I am allowing them to.” “Why?” “Because I like to be underestimated, Vincent.” Lucia said with a soft smile, and her eyes seemed to become glossy and hungry, “And I will continue to be underestimated if I am saved only by my powerful subordinate, the wizard Vincent Hallow, ahahaha.” Her laugh was…beautiful. That was the thing about vampires, they really were often quite flawless creatures to look at. They were beautiful, charming and very hard to resis- “Stop it.” Vincent growled, and then he blew out a breath charged with his will, and suddenly the air was alight with a purplish smoke that was swirling around him like thick cigarette smoke. Glamour. “Still enough left in the tank for that?” He waved a hand and the exotic smoke swirled and then dissipated before him. “I have been burned at the stake at least 40 times in my lifetime.” Lucia explained, “I have had my limbs torn from my body, I have had all of my bones broken, all of my fingers and toes, I have lost and regained this form countless times. I can endure far more than this, so do as I ask or you will not receive your reward.” Vincent didn’t have much else to say to that. His jaw clenched as he bit back the anger at being told what to do, but in the end he had gotten enough to proceed. He snuffed out the magelight with a whisper and they plunged back into the darkness, and Vincent made his way back out of the cellar. “Morag, was it?” He asked as he climbed out of the cellar. He retrieved a carton from his pocket and pulled out a cigarette, lighting it and pocketing the carton again. “Show me to my sister if you please.” "No." Morag growled, then pushed him back towards the cellar, "You've been asking us all these favours. Now you're gone do one for us." She shoved him down the stairs and followed, chastising Max and Luca for barking at Vincent once more. "Lucia, we need to talk! Vincent is here as a witness." Morag crossed the room and stood in front of Lucia's cell. Lucia lifted her head once more, as if she had been in some kind of brief slumber in the short time, and a thin smirk escaped her mouth. “So many visitors today. I am touched.” She said. "I heard everything, but you know that." Morag pulled the small set of keys from her pocket, "I have a deal for you." “Oh child…you really should heed your mother more.” Lucia said with a wicked grin, “What would you ask of a woman in chains then?” Vincent stayed quiet, smoking his cigarette and simply observing. Morag seemed a strong woman like her mother, but definitely lacking the experience. There was an optimism in her that was rare when you lived so long in the shadows. He remembered a time when that earnestness would have endeared him, but sadly he found himself more in agreement with Mordred, constantly assessing the danger that each individual nearby could cause him. "You're obviously far more powerful than any one of us." Morag crossed her arms, the admission of weakness hurt her, "Many of my family and friends would die before we'd stopped you. Also, if what you say is true, we have also tortured and imprisoned you without reason, and you are at least, in this, innocent..." Morag paused for a moment, "You and my mother have never seen eye to eye but you were working towards some kind of peace and someone clearly wants to stop that. So this is my offer - I let you go, you find and return my baby brother. I will help. And when we return him, my mother will be forced to admit your innocence and we will have peace, and if not... I'll fight my mother for leadership, and I'll honour the peace. As long as you promise no repercussions." “Have you no faith in the wizard?” Lucia asked, her brow tilted slightly in intrigue, “This is precisely the sort of work the Hallows do, after all.” "It's not that, I just don't want you breaking free with all this power of yours and killing a bunch of my family because they didn't believe you when you said you had nothing to do with it." Morag flicked through the keys and held one up, "So...?" “I have no need to do that.” Lucia replied simply, “You mortals never seem to understand the importance of sacrifice. Consider this pain as a price I must pay for allowing such machinations to unfold without my knowledge. That is the way of the court. The court are still responsible for the disappearance of your brother, and I am the authority which governs the court here. It is necessary that I suffer through this and forgive if our partnership is to continue. If I was to be released then there would be war between your kind and the court, and I do not like your chances, big as you are.” “If word gets out that Lucia is free then the ones who betrayed her won’t have any reason to keep Michael alive. They’ll keep him alive as long as it keeps you chasing him, and keeping Lucia locked up in the process.” Vincent explained, he was beginning to see the bigger picture now. “The same would apply if you managed to somehow kill me.” Lucia replied, “Good luck with that though.” “I’d start by installing some UV lights in here.” Vincent said, and Lucia’s eyes narrowed at him. “That’ll hurt her real bad and make it harder for her to focus and work forces in here. And if you get real tired of her you can just introduce her to the sun. No vampire can walk in the sun.” “Are you sure about that, Vincent?” Lucia asked, her eyes daring. “You wanna be my test subject?” He replied, his tone hard. "UV lights? Oh, sure. They're in every corner of this cellar, but I convinced my mother to leave them off." Morag laughed, "Alright, so I learned something, that was helpful. We'll see you when we get back. Come on," Morag nodded to Vincent, "Let's go see your sister." “Finally.” Vincent said with a mock sigh of relief, “Are you sure you don’t want to turn those lights on or…?” “Goodbye, Vincent.” Lucia growled, and it made him smirk. There was nothing more satisfying than annoying the Queen Bitch. They left the cellar again and made their way across the gravel and down the road from the gas station. “So what’s your clan’s story?” Vincent asked as they walked, “You’re not typical Loup Garou, their curse is dependent on the phases of the moons, it draws power from lunar energy. Never seen a shifter turn into a wolf your size before either.” Morag gave Vincent a sideways glance, "Why you want to know?" She asked quizzically, as though it was more she was bored of talking about it, than afraid of sharing. “I’m a wizard, I like magic.” Vincent replied, “This sort of thing is my version of stamp collecting. I like to reverse engineer the magic I come across, try to understand it. Shapeshifting is something of particular interest to me…I could tell you everything there is to know about shapeshifters, skin walkers, wolfmen, loup garou, and most other types of it.” "Do you really want to know? Most people freak out. I think even a wizard wouldn't want to be near us." Morag grit her teeth as they walked down the road. “Most wizards are dusty old bookworms that study magic through very private and careful research. They’re clever people who’re smart enough to avoid danger. Hallows are hunters, have been for generations. I’ve seen a lot of weird shit.” Vincent shrugged, “But you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, obviously.” "Yeah..." Morag snorted a laugh and looked Vincent up and down, then she came to some sort of decision, "We're Hellhounds. We take souls to hell." “Oh…so like just Hell? Or do you also swing by Hades and Tartarus?” He gave a little smirk, “Not my first encounter with an agent of death, I’m afraid.” "That's a relief. People usually think I'm lying or they freak out like I'm going to take them to hell. It doesn't work like that. Sure, there are different forms of hell." Morag shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans, "So, what's the story with you and your sister?" Vincent took a moment to digest how casually the young woman had just confirmed the existence of multiple afterlife realms of torture. The realms of the afterlife were a mystery even to wizards. It was the kind of thing the living just wasn’t supposed to know about. “Like I said we’re hunters.” Vincent explained, “We’re half siblings actually. I’m just another mortal with a little more magical talent than most. Genetics, I think. Our father was a hell of a wizard apparently. Violet is…well that’s not easy to explain. Technically she’s a Scion but…if you’d asked me yesterday I would have said there was none of her mortal biology left…but apparently there is. Her kind…I don’t know a lot about them, but they’re made up of some kind of raw form of energy…it’s like some kind of…cosmic radiance. I couldn’t tell you much more than that.” "Alright I guess..." Morag frowned but didn't further question. She reached the steps of her house and walked up onto the decking of the old cabin and opened the front door. Inside were two men sat at a table eating large bowls of cereal. "Oh hey, Morag." A man with a thick scar through his milky right eye waved to her. "Hey, Silus. Abraham." Morag added the other man's name. He looked up from his cereal, a man with dark hair and darker bags under his eyes. He nodded at her then went back to shoveling sugary cereal into his face. Morag passed them and walked upstairs and down the hall to the room at the end. She opened the door and stepped to one side to let Vincent step inside. Mordred was, unsurprisingly, a minimalist. Photos of family and friends, or maybe part of her clan, lined the walls, but little else than a bed and side table. In the bed lay Violet, staring at the ceiling, very much awake but seemingly in her own thoughts. “You’re awake.” Vincent said, sounding relieved. His gaze turned back to Morag and he nodded at her in appreciation. “So…” He turned back to his sister, “Anything you want to tell me?” "I... Something's different. I can't... I feel weird..." Violet looked down at her hands and just stared at them. “You’re bleeding.” Vincent explained, “And you have a pulse.” He came in to the room and sat on the edge of the bed, facing his sister. “Vi…if you don’t know what’s going on then I’ll help you figure this out. If some nasty is working forces on you I’ll find them but…” He paused to take a breath and his shoulders seem to relax a little. “Sometimes you stare at nothing, and not like you’re daydreaming, I can see your eyes focusing, but there’s nothing there. Sometimes I feel this sensation in the air…like a short buzz of electricity or something, It’s like it was there and then just as quickly it wasn’t. Nothing I know of does that, magic seems to always leave a trail. What’s going on?” "Orbs..." She whispered, then her eyes locked with Vincent, "They did this! They took something from me!!" “What orbs?” Vincent asked, “This is the first you’ve mentioned this.” "I didn't want to worry you, you have so much on your shoulders, I couldn't, why couldn't I articulate this before..." Violet frowned and thought for a few seconds, "I don't feel right... I feel... Empty." Her stomach growled, "--and hungry." “We can get you a cheeseburger later” Vincent said dismissively, “How long has this been going on? What are these orbs you’re talking about?” "Maybe... Years. But I've only seen them a handful of times before the last few days..." Violet trailed off again as she was examining the skin on her forearm. “Years!?” Vincent replied incredulously. “Violet you’ve been seeing orbs that no one else can see for years!? You…you idiot!” He punched his sister in the leg hard, something that felt especially gratifying since it actually stood a chance of leaving a bruise on this occasion. "OWWuh--" Violet growled but the growl wobbled on her lips and she started crying. But she quickly became angry and pointed her open palms at them, "Get, out!" Violet's palms glowed with pink light and both Morag and Vincent were ejected from the room like debris into the vacuum of space. The door slammed shut before they could get to their feet. Vincent slowly got up, the pain of the abrupt landing brought forth anger and frustration. He wanted to blast the damn door down and throw his sister out of the window. Instead he refocused those intense emotions, and he placed his hand upon the door. “Violet.” He said loud enough for his voice to carry through to the bedroom, “…I’m disappointed you hid this from me. I don’t care about your reasons, I’m not made of glass, and my whole life…our whole life has been nothing but chaos and turmoil. I’ve been studying all I can about Nagloshi so that I can help you and understand you, but it’s not like there’s a book on this stuff. You should have told me.” "I don't understand any more, I need to fix this!" Violet called out. "I'm not whole!!" “Well then talk to me or let me examine you.” Vincent said, “I can go through all the supernatural diagnostics; check your aura, chakra alignment, check for curses, hell it could be something to do with the alignment of the stars for all we know, Violet. What we don’t need is any more of this withholding bullshit that our family is so good at. We have to trust each other.” "Shit, shit! Fine! I can't believe I'm doing this..." With a rush of air the door swung open and Violet pulled herself up in the bed and wrapped herself in the covers. Vincent stepped inside and gave his sister a long-suffering look and rolled his eyes. “Oh grow up it’s not like I’m sticking my finger up your butt.” He said as he stepped closer to the bed. With just a small effort of will he opened his third eye. It was not a literal third eye on his head or anything, but it was the eye of his mind. Specifically it could be awakened by focusing chakra, mana, whatever you want to call it, into the brow region of the forehead. The change in his sight was immediate, and always quite intense. With the third eye you saw the truth of all things. Some things were dark and ugly to the point that they could drive you insane, and some things were so beautiful and bright…that it could drive you insane. Violet, however, was looking decidedly normal. The energy that was radiating out of her body was nothing like the impressive radiance that her true form had. It was a vibrant red colour, typical of the carefree and impulsive person she was. “Aura looks fine, well it looks mortal.” Vincent explained. With some focus he could refine his view of her, and not just see the aura, or the physical being in front of him, but also the energies that coursed through her. “Whoa…” He said, sounding mildly surprised. "What's that look for?" Violet asked, raising an eyebrow. “Have you been keeping up with your meditations?” Vincent asked. Violet’s chakras were all in turmoil. Generally speaking there were 7 chakra points of significance, and they tended to reflect your mental and spiritual state. Without balance within these avenues, it created in most people a general sense of unwellness, or that something isn’t right. For practitioners it could deeply affect their ability to work forces. “They’re all messed up, unsteady flow right the way through your system.” Violet’s root chakra was chaotic and the flow of energy sporadic, which might have been normal on it’s own, as it was affected by her sense of foundation and being grounded, and she’d just had a rather nasty shock, but there was some kind of knock on effect happening. “No wonder you’re flying off the handle. It’s like you’re having a really serious identity crisis on a spiritual level.” "I'm not having an identity crisis, I know who I am... I'm Violet Hallow. But... She was... More. We-- I... Were more." Violet looked to her brother, "I have to learn what the orbs are, and what they did to me... I can't live like this..." “You’re mortal, you’ve lost a big chunk of you, like it or not. That’s bound to affect this sort of thing.” He sighed and let the power fade from his brow and the auras and energies faded from his perception. “Violet…I have our next lead but…” He sighed frustratedly, “Finding dad is less important than looking after you.” He turned back to the door where Morag was standing, “I want to find her brother though…they trusted us.” He thought about telling Violet about Morag’s lineage. He didn’t know a lot about Hellhounds but he knew that they were likely a more valuable asset than a run of the mill werewolf. If any of the people that had taken her were in the know then there might be more to this than they thought. Rare supernatural entities often seemed to be careful not to be known, so they couldn’t be exploited. Anything that was careful to blend in or not be seen usually had a reason to do so, or perhaps a vulnerability. “These orbs…” Vincent muttered, deep in thought, “Could we try summoning one of them? You’re not above that, right? We’ve summoned Vael before, it can be done.” "Do you think they're the same thing as me and my Aunt?" Violet asked. "I... I don't see why we couldn't, but if they're powerful enough to do this to me..." Violet was clearly nervous. “So we take precautions.” Vincent assured her, “We’ll make a proper three layer circle, runes, bagua seals, and we’ll do it together, blend our magic. We’ll do a full ritual, we’ll wash up, clean clothes, we’ll make an offering. If this thing has worked magic on you then you’ll have a connection to it, and we can use that to try to find it.” "Geez, I'm glad you at least paid attention to Al." Violet smirked and nodded to her brother, "Well it's your show then, Vince." “Good. Well then let’s get to it.” Vincent replied and turned around to face Morag, “Can you tell us where the nearest Taco Bell is and then where the nearest graveyard is?”
  6. Hallows S2

    The Impala drove through Beverly Hills to take them to Lucia’s mansion and private residence. Well, one of her private residencies. This seemed like the best place to find a vampire during the day, and it was the closest place to them before heading into Los Angeles or Hollywood where she did most of her business. When they pulled up however, they slowed for the security at the large iron gate, but found that the gate had been opened and there was no one manning the guard booth nearby. Vincent gave Violet a nervous glance, and they drove into the estate itself and down the long driveway towards the mansion. The building itself was exactly the sort of thing you would expect when you think of over-luxurious celebrity mansions. The grounds were extremely well kept, with the flowers in bloom and the hedges all neatly trimmed back. Everything looked perfectly put together, and yet Vincent already had a bad feeling. “No guard, gate open, no security walking the grounds…” Vincent folded his arms in thought as Violet parked in the driveway out by the front entrance of the mansion. “This doesn’t smell right. We were expecting extra muscle, but there’s not even a low budget fat doorman.” "So, they're either not here and don't care who is, or..." Violet clucked her tongue as she looked around, "... Or they want us to go inside." “That’s not Lucia’s style.” Vincent said, shaking his head, “If she wants something from you then you better believe she’ll make it seem like she’s doing you the favour. This is…” Vincent trailed off and stepped out of the car. He straightened up and looked around, lifting the sunglasses he was wearing so he could look around properly. Something just wasn’t adding up. Lucia was big on security, she would never leave her assets unattended. Vincent supposed that even for vampires it still paid to be careful, especially when you’ve been alive since the renaissance. He paced a little on the gravel and waited for something to happen. Birds chirped. He could hear the cars passing by in the distance. The flowers gave the warm air a slightly aromatic scent and he thought he could even hear a bee buzzing away. “Little details…” He murmured to himself as he swept his gaze up and down the grounds, and then his gaze stopped on the gates back at the entrance. The last time he had been at this mansion the guard at the gate had been a big, dumb thug. He would be no trouble to most supernatural visitors, and probably a good few of the mortal community as well. He was for show, an expected measure that she kept in place because mortals of status were supposed to have security. He breathed out a gentle murmur of power as he projected his will outwards. He felt the crunching of his boots on the gravel, and felt the solid earth underneath it. There was power there, as there always was. A deep slumbering power that existed within the earth, dormant until called upon. Commanded by his will, this energy pulsed rhythmically like a deep heartbeat, and that pulse rippled around the grounds. It was a kind of magical disruption spell, something that grounded out residual energies. The magical illusions fell. The gate they had driven through was open because the iron bars had been blasted away from the stone housings. There were no corpses but Vincent could suddenly smell blood, and the residual smell of smoke. The flowers and hedges had been upturned and destroyed in a serious altercation. His gaze fell back to the mansion where the illusion revealed that the front door had also been blasted away and there was evidence that the fight had made it’s way inside. As Violet stepped out of the car Vincent let out a tiny groan of frustration. “It’s such a burden always being right…” He said with a resigned sigh. "Yeah..." Violet frowned, rubbed at her eyes like she was removing sleep and then started inside the mansion, stepping over the debris of the broken entrance. "So, maybe warn a girl the next time you're gonna disrupt residual magic in the area. Feels a bit like having the air pulled from your lungs only... Everything." She shuddered. "No biggie." “Oh I know that feeling…” Vincent replied with a smirk, “It’s a bit like the feeling of impending doom you get when your sister drives on the wrong side of the road way over the speed limit.” He raised a single eyebrow and then stepped past Violet and walked into the mansion. Walking in to houses can be a bit weird for magical beings. Humans, somewhat shockingly, all hold a great deal of magical power even if they can’t consciously make use of it. But when people have shared thoughts and ideas, and enough people believe these things so fundamentally, it can create a kind of universal magic. Oaths, vows, promises, confessions of love, all of them held power at least in a magical sense. This was due to the universal belief in their importance by humanity. Another common belief of humanity is that a person’s home is sacred. So if you are a being with magical talent, if you enter a mortal home without permission, then you leave all of that power at the door. Not so when the house is owned by a vampire, however. Monsters don’t get a safe space, apparently. The main lobby was one of those grandiose affairs with the twin staircases at either side leading up to a balcony floor and hallways leading off to the upper quarters. Straight ahead there was a hall leading through to an open plan kitchen area, to the right a large lounge area, to the left a dining room. The back garden had a swimming pool and, perhaps most importantly, there was an entrance to the basement through the kitchen. Basements are kind of the most important room in the house when sunlight through the windows can burn you to ash. The white walls were covered in black scorch marks, splatters of blood and sticky ichor. Furniture was all over the place, book cases knocked over, glass shattered, ornaments toppled or broken. There had definitely been some kind of showdown. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. They had been planning to kick the door down themselves if they had to, but that was all part of the fun and games with Lucia, a little foreplay before they got down to business. This wasn’t the work of a couple of outlier hunters looking for information though. Someone, or a whole bunch of someone’s, were gunning for Lucia. “Help me out here, Vi.” Vincent said with a concentrated frown, “Who’s got enough magical muscle to come stomping in here and clean the place out?” "I didn't touch them, I swear I just got here, geez!" Violet flicked her hair with mock anger and then turned and looked out at the chaos and destruction, "Although, we know a few...." “Could be a big group of hunters?” Vincent suggested, but he didn’t seem convinced with that, “Let’s check the basement. If there’s any vamps still here then that’s where they’ll be until dusk.” Vincent withdrew the wooden steak he had retrieved before they had arrived and held it in his hand. Master of the mystic arts he may have been, but he still had a squishy mortal body and he knew how much vampires loved to play “jump scare”. Violet clocked her brother's stake, "Is your plan to kill the remaining vampires we came here to talk to, or are you assuming it's some kind of clan war?" Vincent gave Violet a flat stare. “Friend or foe, vamps are pretty unpredictable and if they’re hungry then…” He shrugged, “I’m not taking my chances with creatures that consider children to be a delicacy.” "Yeah I guess that's a bit of a downer, huh?" Violet pursed her lips together, "So... what are you thinking?" She asked curiously. “I’m thinking we need more information.” Vincent replied as they walked into the kitchen. The damage looked less extensive here but there was still signs of a struggle. Vincent found the single unassuming door that led down to the basement and tried the handle, the door opened with a click and he pushed it gently, standing back a little to see if anything decided to jump out from the darkness below. “Hello?” He called down the steps. There was no response. That didn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t anyone there though. “Hey do you wanna go first since you don’t actually have…y’know, blood?” Vincent asked. Violet snorted and closed the fridge - the contents of which she had been worryingly examining. "Baby." She chuckled and walked over to the doorway down to the basement, when she reached it she looked down at the darkness of the room below and paused. "... Pssh." She took a step off the ground and shed her human form like an unnecessary jacket. Purple and white light flooded the room, naturally cast by her body. "Alright, I'm coming down now, I'm going to start hurling laser beams if you attack me though--ARHH!!" Something tackled her to the ground, "Euch it's sticky get it off me!" Violet recoiled, she raised a hand but as the magic coursed into her palm all will to act was sapped as she realised what had clung to her, and why it was sticky. It was a little girl, no older than 13 or 14 but half-covered in blood, her hair partially matted to her face. "Uhh....." Violet looked panicked and turned to Vincent for assistance. “She’s old enough, check her just in case!” Vincent said urgently as he came down the stairs quickly, pulling a silver pentacle amulet out from under his T-shirt and with a murmur of power it suddenly shone with a cool light and he held it up in front of the girl. She didn’t react to it, which meant she probably wasn’t a vampire. Probably. "Come on, put that stuff away, you're supposed to be the compassionate one here..." Violet took the girl by her palms and focused her magic. Drawing the blood from her skin, hair and garments, Violet gathered it in a sphere floating above her. With a flick of her wrist the sphere flew across the room and splattered on the far wall. "Hey, what's your name? Violet asked. The girl had short blonde spiky hair and dark eyes. She was pale and her face was full of fright. "Helena." Vincent let the light fade – a light created by faith magic, which was especially effective against vampires among other things, and put his amulet away under his T-shirt again. He watched the girl carefully. She looked scared. Then again she was also clutching on to Violet in her real form, whereas most people just tended to look either awe-struck or horrified when they saw that. Which meant, Vincent began to piece together, that this little girl had likely seen far worse things. “What are you doing here, Helena?” Vincent asked, “Where are your parents?” "I'm a grumpy wizard." Vincent replied with fake frown and then flicked a thumb back at his sister, "and this is my half sister. Her mother ate glowsticks." "I'm a cosmic joke." Violet added with a smile. Helena frowned in confusion as Violet stepped back and transformed back into appearing human. "So, like the grumpy wizard said, 'what happened here?'" "Werewolves attacked." Helena said matter-of-factly. Then stood up and patted off the dust from the old, black dress she wore. Vincent scratched at his head. “Werewolves?” He asked, “Why did they come here? Who was here? Who are your parents?” "I don't remember, unfortunately, I drained their bodies of plasma shortly after I was turned into a vampire." Helena cleared her throat with a soft, polite cough, "Why do werewolves ever go anywhere, look around..." She raised her hand to indicate the rest of the bloody scene. "Great." Violet grumbled, and started stomping up the steps back up to the ground floor. So Helena was a vampire. One that had shrugged off his faith magic like it was nothing at all. Vampires, unfortunately, became stronger and stronger the longer they lived. So that meant that Helena, despite appearing to be a child, was in fact very, very old. That confirmation alone made the hair on the back of his neck raise. Vampires were fast, strong, and were one of the few supernatural entities that adapted to modern times. Once upon a time they were only a threat if you let them get close, but with modern firearms, and modern technology, combined with their power and influence…vampires were probably the single most dangerous creatures to humanity, at least on a global scale. The good thing was they had weaknesses. Reciting scripture, holy symbols and relics and sometimes even just the raw aura of a person’s faith could drive them back. Yet as they grew older these things became a mere annoyance, and as their connection to The Void grew stronger they would gain new abilities, their own twisted brand of magic. Oh, and their saliva was a powerful and addictive narcotic that activated on skin contact alone. So even a young vampire, a fledgling as they would call them, was quite dangerous. Helena…she was likely far deadlier. Of course, Vincent was no slouch in that department. He may have a squishy, mortal frame but he had plenty of power. Maybe not enough to do Helena in, but enough to blow the roof off of the building, and then the glorious California sunshine would take care of the rest. No vampire, no matter how old could ever walk in the sun. “Where’s Lucia?” Vincent asked. This was the most important question, because the answer would greatly affect whether he needed to give a shit about any of this business. Helena watched Violet leave in frustration. She raised an eyebrow with curiosity and then her gaze fell upon Vincent and her tone became ever more dry and sardonic as she spoke. "Well, so you see her...?" Helena raised her hands as though she were the innocent in this mystery. “I know you blood-suckers love a bit of banter, but I wouldn’t test my patience about this.” Vincent replied, his tone calm but warning, “I don’t give a crap about what’s going on here, honestly. Tell me where she is.” "Excuse me?!" Helena looked incensed, "Honestly, is that how you speak to people? I've done you no harm. For goodness sake, I'm covered in blood, surrounded by the disemboweled bodies of my loved ones and colleagues and while you step over their viscera, you say I 'shouldn't test your patience'?" Helena shook off the bottom of her dress. It was drenched. Blood splattered in every direction and then she sighed, "Ruined... Before I tell you where Lucia is, I want to know why you want to know where she is, what you want from her, and how you will go about getting that. Not an unreasonable request given her status, and your... Obviously combative... Nature..." A tiny hint of a smirk appeared at the edge of Vincent’s lips. “Oh so you’re one of the ‘we’re people too’ types of vampires? The ones that try to justify their nature by comparing us to cows and pigs. A poor analogy, because cows and pigs don’t fight back, of course.” His eyes narrowed as he looked her dead in hers. “We are not allies. I’m not here for a request I am here to get something Lucia has, by any means possible. I’m not afraid to admit that what she holds is of utmost importance to me and my sister, because that admission is also a threat. I will burn you all if I have to…but if I don’t have to…well then perhaps everyone can walk away unharmed. Understand?” Helena blinked as though she couldn't believe what she was hearing. "I'm the special attaché for Mistress Lucia, my name is Helena, I am 4, 826 years old and my favourite colour is blue and until you address me as a person, I will not acquiesce. Do whatever you like, but until you stop making assumptions and speak to me with the same respect I am showing you in spite of your behaviour then I will gladly burn just to watch with glee in the knowledge that you killed me because you couldn't be civil to someone you know nothing about..." “Here you lure in adolescents with dreams of success and fame, you dazzle them with your exotic lifestyle, you give them drugs and alcohol and work them to the bone, get them hooked on your saliva, you make yourself so interesting so that they will come to you.” Vincent explained, “In Mexico and South America you run drug cartels, you steal children from their beds and keep them locked up in cages to be devoured at your leisure. You have entire villages that are effectively human farms. Your kind have been spreading through human society like a cancer, and you are thriving. I may not know you but I know your boss, and she is a bad lady. Believe it or not, I understand your kind quite intimately…but it’s not that you are a vampire, it’s that you are a bad person. Whatever you do, you do it for that bitch and so you don’t get basic, civil decency.” "... I'm an administrator!" Helena barked angrily, "You idiot child!!" Her unmitigated anger was tempered somewhat by her outward appearance. "I've never killed anyone, I've never done those things, I can't help the cards I was dealt, but apparently I don't have basic rights, I'm not entitled to civility because my employer is a bad person. I'm starting to understand how easily humans rationalize violence themselves and for far less than hunger. Spit whatever venom you wish at me, human. I'm over this conversation I simply wish to get home, bathe, and put this whole thing behind me." "What's taking so long?! I'm getting bored!!" Violet yelled down from the top of the stairs. “Never killed anyone…yeah, didn’t you just admit to murdering your parents and draining their plasma?” Vincent shook his head. “Forget it. I already had this covered before you came along. Have fun in the basement full of your dead friends’ organs for the next…” Vincent took the phone from his pocket and checked the time on it. “Wow…8 more hours. I’m pretty sure Violet and I can stomp through at least 3 of her other buildings by then.” Again, she sighed. "Actually, I think you'll find what I said was, 'Unfortunately, I drained their bodies of plasma shortly after I was turned into a vampire', I did not say anything about admitting I had murdered my parents. It took me several hundred sessions of therapy to work through that and let me remind you, of something humans like reminding us - we cannot help our thirst, and more than any other time, when we are made, we are young, we have no control, we cannot help ourselves. We are not murderers... Not... Not all of us... Anyway..." Helena trailed off into silence. Vincent rolled his eyes and turned around and began walking back up the stairs. “Well I’ve killed a lot of things. I don’t care about whatever moral highroad you’re pitching. Your people eat my people, and I don’t like that. Help me find Lucia or I’ll just start burning all her property, which was plan A anyway so it’s fine with me.” "I don't care what you do." Helena muttered. "It doesn't matter now. Nothing does..." "UURRGHH!!" Violet kicked open the door to the basement and came stomping back down the stairs, "How long are you going to take with this, I've been up there about a billion years!!" "Are you here to threaten me, too?" Helena asked with a tiredness in her voice. Violet scowled at the vampire and then punched Vincent in the arm, "COME ON!!!" She yelled at her brother. "Why are we still here?!" “The ultra-progressive vegan vampire has a stick up her butt because I’m not being very nice.” Vincent replied with a shrug, “Forget her, we’ve other leads we can follow. Like whoever put up that illusion outside, if there’s a practitioner cleaning up after this then they might know where Lucia is.” Violet considered this thought for a moment, then she turned on Helena. "Yes?" Helena asked indignantly. She tried to scream but only a hoarse cry left her lips as Violet's eyes alighted, she opened her mouth and began pulling life energy from Helena. Violet smirked. "It was her illusion... she has... some kind of magic..." Violet gasped with joy as Helena reached out for help and fell to the floor, her skin had lost all colour. "So much..." Violet took a sharp breath and Helena heaved out a short, sharp breath in tandem. Vincent sent out his will reflexively, a simple spell that sent a blast of force under Violet’s feet and knocked her on her ass. “Sun’s going down…” He said in a mock calming tone. As his sister snapped back to reality and Helena gasped for breath Vincent sighed and sat down on the stairs, pinching the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed in frustration. Why couldn’t anything be simple. If there was anything more potentially dangerous than a 4’000 year old vampire it was one with a talent for the arts. Worse yet she was as stubborn as he was. This was getting them nowhere. “Alright.” He said finally to break the silence, “Vincent Hallow, 34 years old, and I don’t have a favourite colour. I’m a wizard, and I kill your kind when they step out of line, which is quite a lot by the way. I’m not interested in playing nice with you, but I don’t have a particular desire to harm you either. We want information, and Lucia has it. I don’t care enough about you or your kind to even begin caring whether you’re a good person or not. I want Lucia alive to get what we need, so as long as nobody pulls any shit nobody has to get hurt.” It was about as close as Vincent was likely to get to being civil. “Oh and I do hope you’ll forgive my sister, she can’t help herself, that hunger…ah you know this speech, right?” "She was taken by the Moreau clan." Helena muttered. "A family that can transform into wolves. Lucia had been in talks with them to settle some kind of old, bad blood." "I'm so sick of talking." Violet groaned and buried her head in her hands. "It had been going great. We invited them here as a show of trust but we barely had them in the door before it was all blood and screams and chaos..." Helena continued, ignoring Violet's protest. Vincent leaned forward and clasped his hands together in thought. Werewolves were not organized in the same way that vampires were. Firstly they weren’t all the same sort of creature. Some were shapeshifters who tended to live in small communities together, some were of Celtic roots and others Native American. Others were cursed humans; there was the wolfman curse that was transferred through bite and the bloodline curse humans known as Loup Garou, who transformed into large bipedal wolves on the fool moon. Of the three, Vincent felt only the Loup Garou would be effective enough to kidnap Lucia, although if the pack was large enough anything was possible. “So we have to save the bad guy from another bad guy? Super…” Vincent grumbled and got to his feet, “Come on, we better get to work. If they’ve left any fur or blood here I can track them pretty easily.” "Finally." Violet floated up from the ground, became vertical, and then landed with a soft tap. She looked over her shoulder at Helena as she started back up the stairs. Helena caught her look, "Yeah..." Violet walked up the last step and looked around at the death and destruction in the mansion. She seemed indifferent, crossing her arms and looking over the scene with a mildly bored expression until Vincent walked up. Her eyes lit up, "So, you think the perp left any DNA behind, detective?" She laughed with a snort. If Lucia didn’t even make one of them bleed then she wasn’t nearly as tough as Vincent thought she was. “Oh I’m sure I’ll find something.” Vincent said with a smirk and then he got to work. Within 20 minutes he had gathered together some blood and fur from around the wreckage and was sat burning the fur and crushing the ashes left behind into the dried blood he had scraped into a bowl. He dumped the contents into a magic circle he had drawn on the kitchen table and sealed it closed with just a small burst of his will. In the other circle he had placed a small compass he had kept in the car. He worked the spell he had completed thousands of times. However, spells like this had always been his favourite. It was doing something on a small scale to make something happen on a larger scale. There was something…elegant about it. Within a few moment it was done and he returned to Violet with the compass in his hand, it’s arrow pointing off in a direction that definitely wasn’t north. “To the batmobile!” He said with a smirk and they made their way outside.
  7. U.A. High School

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  8. U.A. High School

    As Miss Mass started on her next student Ichirou picked up his blazer and walked away to the side and sat down on the gravel, resting his arms across his knees. He watched as the golden-haired Miss Mass talked with the dark-haired boy he had spoken with before the class. As they spoke Ichirou huffed out a breath and felt his anger bubbling away under the surface. He had embarrassed himself, that was on him alone. He hadn’t learned anything, however. He respected that Miss Mass didn’t pull her punches, but there was nothing for him to accomplish there, she had just wanted to provoke him to lash out so she could find his weakness and show it to him. He had already known it though. Her methods, however, had not agreed with him. He didn’t like that it reminded him too much of his father and his own tactic; to keep knocking you down until the day you managed to stop him. That method had hardened him, had removed a great deal of his fear, but it had also kept him weak and struggling. At any rate he didn’t need someone to show him where his weakness was, he was all too aware. Ichirou turned his attention back to the dark-haired boy and Miss Mass. “- Seto Yoshinori.” The boy said as he politely introduced himself. He extended a hand towards Miss Mass, “I hope my best will be good enough, sensei!” "Show me your best, then." Miss Mass leapt back, leaving the boy's hand extended. "Hurry up, Seto Yoshinori, I'm waiting..." “So you’ve been briefed on our quirks.” Seto said with a sly smirk and got in to a primed stance, “Makes sense I guess.” Seto went at a sprint to bridge the gap between them. Ichirou’s eyes widened in surprise. Seto moved quickly for his frame, he looked like he had a runner’s physique but he moved too quickly for someone of his size. Was his quirk speed? No, Seto was fast but not ridiculously so. Seto came in fast on the offensive, he seemed unconcerned about getting in to close quarters with Miss Mass. Was he that much of an idiot? Her strength alone could crush him. If he wasn’t careful he was going to come off worse than Ichirou had. He came at Miss Mass with a flurry of open palmed strikes, utilizing some kind of martial arts that was unfamiliar to Ichirou. Seto was attacking with speed and grace, and seemed to be unconcerned with deploying force to his strikes. So he wasn’t relying on his physical strength then. Ichirou thought back to the beginning of their match, when Seto had offered Miss Mass his hand, she had ignored it. So, Ichirou guessed, Seto had a quirk that required physical touch to activate, and it was something dangerous enough that Miss Mass was avoiding him. She was on the defensive. Forced to dodge each rapid strike. She knew all it took was a touch. But she had experience. She leapt back, drawing Seto towards her and as he did, she drew her leg back and kicked the ground with the force of a digger. Rubble flew everywhere and Seto found himself soon to be peppered with debris. Seto tapped off the ground and suddenly flew upwards, although it looked more like falling upwards. He tumbled through the air, not quite as graceful as he had been on the ground. He moved in an arc, falling sideways and then back down to the ground behind Miss Mass, reaching his hand out to grab her once more, but she reflexively moved out of his reach once again. He rolled to the side and scooped up some of the rocks that had been directed at him, and then he did something and the rock fired at Miss Mass like a bullet. “What the hell is that?” Ichirou grumbled as he tried to figure it out. Seto was moving quicker, and seemed to have a limited flight capability. Was he like that dumb cat, just not as confident with his abilities yet? That wasn’t it either, the cat could use his quirk from a distance, whereas Seto needed contact to do so. The rock flew at her so fast she had no time to dodge, her arm was drawn back and she punched the rock, and it blew into a cloud of dust but to her surprise, Seto was right behind it, using the rock as a way to block her line of sight. Miss Mass gasped and tried to move but it was too late, Seto managed to graze her torso with his finger and she had time enough to grab him as she flew up into the air. Reaching with her other hand she grabbed onto the lamp post before she passed it and looked over at the boy, "Alright, and when does this wear off?" “Roughly 3 minutes if I don’t re-apply it.” Seto replied, smiling but in an earnest way. “I can lash you back to the ground if you want though.” He took her hand again and then with just a touch Miss Mass was returned to the ground slowly. “Miss Mass…thank you for the test but…” He frowned slightly and gave her a knowing look. “I’ve studied your abilities, and I have always suspected I may be a poor match up for you, however…” He gave her a determined look, “I’m no fool. I’ve seen you fight, you had multiple opportunities to change the flow of battle. In a real fight, I acknowledge that I wouldn’t have been ready to face you.” "You must bear in mind, as well you all must, that my purpose here is not to assess your ability to beat me. But to simply use your powers without fear or repercussion so I can better understand where you are all starting from." Miss Mass looked to Seto, "Perhaps in a true fight, I would have knocked you unconscious but you could also have found a way to defeat me just as easily. You must all remember that we are prone to mistakes as anyone and it is only if a villain is capable of seeing those mistakes.... That they are most dangerous..." Miss Mass quieted. Seto nodded in agreement and moved away as other students seemed to step up for their turn with a little more confidence now. He walked past Ichirou but stopped as Ichirou spoke. “Gravity.” Ichirou said, staring ahead and watching as a female student with turquoise shoulder length hair and a gaunt, tired expression stepped forward. “You can change the direction of an objects gravitational pull…and what’s more you can change the intensity of the gravitational pull. You moved faster because you had halved the gravitational force on yourself and had became comparatively lighter. Then you gave yourself an inverted gravitational pull to move through the air. You were awkward though, you had to adjust your directional pull so as not to fly off in any direction too far.” “That’s correct.” Seto replied with a single nod. “Miss Mass knew to avoid me because I can use her mass altering powers against her. If she had increased her density at any point after I had touched her then gravity’s effect would have only intensified for her. However, I don’t have her kind of resilience. She could just as easily have taken me out with a well timed strike. “ “Do you think it’s wise to just tell me all of that?” Ichirou asked “You were already figuring it out on your own.” Seto replied with a soft shrug, “besides, we’re comrades. We can work together much more effectively if we understand each other’s quirks.” “Yeah and I can exploit what I know to beat you in examinations, by exploiting your weaknesses, or sabotaging you so I come out on top.” “True, sometimes we will be rivals.” Seto conceded, “But if we strive to help each other we can all come out of U.A as heroes, and then our teamwork can be used to better serve the public. Sabotage and exploitation aren’t things you do to your comrades. Only a villain would do such a thing, right?” “You-“ Ichirou let out a snort and seethed with anger for a moment. Then he quieted himself with a deep breath and continued, “Fine I’ll throw you a bone. My Quirk looks like fire, right? Well it isn’t. Its like a…a shroud that acts like an extension of me. Anything it touches is subjected to intense heats that incinerate them. I can control the heat to some extent, but I can’t make it not burn things. It’s only use is destruction. That’s all your getting.” “Hmm…weird.” Seto said as he began to walk away. “What’s weird?” Ichirou asked. “Well your clothes don’t burn off…” Seto said with a shrug, and then he walked off out of earshot. Ichirou thought about that last comment as he turned his attention back to the match. The gaunt girl with the turquoise hair – Yachiru Totonome – had come out of the gate strong by unleashing her quirk – which had taken the form of a towering spectral figure that emanated from Tachiru, the spirit was vaguely in her likeness but had wild, crazed eyes and sharper canines, and where her hands should be were a pair of shadowy claws instead. “Another lamb to the slaughter…another…another…sacrifice…” The crazed specter said in an excitable but erratic tone, “You wanna go, bitch? Hm?” “My apologies…” Yachiru said in a monotonous, quiet tone, “My quirk is quite loud. And rude. Also violent.” “I’LL CUT YOU, FREAK!” Her Specter yelled in response. “Very rude.” Yachiru confirmed. The spectral entity went on a warpath, but ultimately ended up losing to Miss Mass when Yachiru seemed to run out of stamina and fell asleep still standing on her feet. After her came a host of other students including a boy who could absorb the material properties of things that he touched, another boy with a mutation quirk that made his skin stretchy like elastic, and a punky looking girl with black hair who had a herculean strength, and a so it kept going until the entire class had stepped up, all except one. “Let’s see what you’ve got, Noriko.” Ichirou said under his breath.
  9. U.A. High School

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  10. U.A. High School

    The door behind Noriko swung open followed by a bang as it hit the wall inside the room. The young man she had just popped in on was stood in the doorframe, still in a state of undress. “Where d’ya think you’re going, dumbass!?” He barked, his teeth bared in a snarl, his eyes wide with narrow pupils. “What’s the big idea!? Locked door not a big enough hint for you, huh?” His fists were clenched tightly at his sides as he loomed over her. "Force of habit?" Noriko raised her eyebrows and shrugged. "Cute boxers, by the way. Totally you." She glanced over his shoulder, "What's with the cat?" “Just another extra.” He replied through gritted teeth. Then his expression softened only a bit as he examined Noriko, and the wheels started turning in his head. “Tch!” He cursed, turning and stomping back in to the room, “Figures I’d be stuck bunking up with a scrub and a house pet.” The main room of the dorm was a basic kitchen/lounge area with a sofa, a tv, coffee table, and a small area to sit and eat. Noriko pursed her mouth and followed the boy into the main room of the dormitory. Her eyes darted over everything, drinking in her new environment, then she noticed movement at ground level and she looked down just in time to see the cat from their room. It slid through her legs, and sauntered over to the coffee table and then, miraculously, lifted from the ground and onto the table through sheer levitation alone. "Whooooaaah!" Noriko's mouth fell open, she reflexively reached out - she wasn't sure what she was intending, whether to pick him up or stroke him, but it didn't matter - and the cat, sank it's teeth into her hand. For a moment, the pain didn't register, then Noriko wailed and threw her hand up into the air, the cat went with it. Shaking rapidly back and forth, the cat refused to let go until she tried to pull one of it's paws away from her arm and it yowled. "Don't touch my toe beans!" Muffled, partially, by the mouthful of Noriko's hand it had wedged in it's maw. Then it spat her out and landed softly back on the coffee table. "You're both so loud and obnoxious. And I am not a scrub." It added, matter-of-factly. “You’re a sidekick at best, furball.” The boy said with a frown. “Ichirou Kazuro. You best remember that name because you’ll be chanting it soon enough. Maybe the faculty think you losers might pick up something by hanging around greatness. But don’t get in my way, or I’ll toast your whiskers.” "Oi boy, you should think twice about making assumptions!" The cat warned. "Hah! The cat told you off." Noriko smirked and crossed her arms. "Or you!" The cat's eyes turned from yellow to white and Noriko shrieked as her feet lifted from the floor and before she had time to think, she was slammed into the ceiling and pinned there. She coughed and tried to pull away from the ceiling, but it was like she was stuck in fly paper. She managed to glance across the ceiling and saw the boy - Ichirou Kazuro, as she now knew - in an identical predicament. "Pfft. I'll just--" Noriko vanished in a puff of smoke and just a moment later, her ear-splitting scream echoed across the campus and faded rapidly. "In about 3 seconds, she'll be in the troposphere..." The cat mewed. Then purred and it's eyes turned from white, back to yellow. A few seconds passed, and the screaming returned. It grew louder and louder until suddenly it stopped with a jerk. A few seconds more passed, and then a burst of smoke and Noriko was pinned back against the ceiling again, arms crossed over her chest with the angriest expression. But it was equally, and completely, an expression of defeat. "I, am not a regular student. I am your student liaison. You can think of me as a student teacher, if you like. If you need anything, if you have any questions, you will direct them to me." Slowly, both Ichirou and Noriko descended until their feet touched the floor once more. “Whatever, furball.” Ichirou said dismissively, turning to walk away from them both. “I’ve had plenty chumps throw their weight around at me. You just keep showing me your hand, dumbass.” Before the cat could say anything else Ichirou had opened the door to his bedroom and slammed it shut behind him. His room was a simple one with a single bed, a weight bench, and a pile of unpacked boxes in the corner. He quickly dressed himself in the blue trousers and grey blazer he had been supplied. He tied the red tie around the collar of his shirt but left it hanging loose, and popped the collar of his shirt. When he returned to the main room of the form he noted that the nerds appeared to be bonding. He supposed if they were busy bothering each other then at least they wouldn’t be bothering him. He had expected more. U.A was prestigious and yet he couldn’t have felt more disappointed in what he had seen so far. How were these brats supposed to be the heroes of the future? Sure, he’d already noted a good selection of useful quirks since he’d arrived, but very little brains behind them. He saw wide-eyed, optimistic kids who wanted a shot at glory. They didn’t understand the danger involved, not like he did. “So guess we’re stuck together then.” He said, folding his arms across his chest. “So fair warning, either of you decides to hit me with another whammy, or pop into rooms without warning, there will be consequences.” "Y'know, its bad to be so angry all the time. You'll get a hemorrhoid." Noriko added to the end of his statement, then turned back to talk to the cat. "So, you're not a cat?" Noriko looked him up and down, "Look like a cat..." "Yet I speak, levitate and throw you into the lower-atmosphere. Clearly, I am not a cat, as these are not things, for which cats are likely to partake." "... Ichirou-kun?" Noriko asked, turning to look at the boy, "What's your Quirk?" "That's for me to know and you to find out." Ichirou said with a smirk. "Teleportation. Levitation. Noted." "It's okay if your Quirk is bad, I won't judge you." Noriko turned in her seat and faced Ichirou. "Or if you can't use it right now, y'know..." She held up her little finger and then let it drop and gave the most reassuring, 'its okay' expression. Ichirou’s scowl worsened and he turned from her dismissively. “Tch! Idiot.” He said, shaking his head. “Talk is cheap. You’re trash talk won’t be much use when you’re so far behind that you’re eating my dust.” He went for the door. “Later, dorks. Class is about to start.” He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture as he left the two of them in the form and disappeared down the hall. Walking through the campus it was a clear-skied and sunny day. The clean, open space was a far cry from the places he had lived growing up. Students passed him by, not all on the hero class like him, of course, but U.A had students studying other subjects too. A couple smiled politely at him but he ignored them. Most people didn’t even bother to smile at him. He had heard peers tell him that he came across as “hostile”, but Ichirou knew that they clearly had no idea what hostile really meant. --- A memory played in his head like a movie he’d watched a thousand times. He could feel the heat of the blazing fire around him. The charred remains of a dead woman lay on the floor. He was whimpering like an injured puppy, a black-gloved hand was gripping on to his hair and dragging him away. “This is your fault, you little brat!” The deep, sinister voice said to him with a quiet, bubbling anger that always tinged the man’s voice. “Mom….” He choked through the cries of pain. The grip on his hair tightened and he let out a cry of pain. “Shut up!” The deep voice snapped. “Real men don’t cry, got it!?” --- The memory flickered in his mind, it became hazy as he tried to block it out. He couldn’t let himself remember those things. It was too painful. He tried to push it away, he felt the fear of it all washing over him, and if he let it he would be crippled by it. He stopped in the middle of the path towards the main school building, his fists clenched tightly, his head bowed down to hide his expression. He was frozen. He couldn’t move. Just like that time. --- The entire building was engulfed in flames. He could feel the burning on his skin. He choked on the fumes of the smoke that was billowing up into the night sky. He was trapped on the roof of the building with a mad man. A villain. The man stood looking up at the blackness of the night, his crazed eyes illuminated in the blazing light of the fire. He was dressed in black boots, and black jumpsuit made of a rubber type material, one that Ichirou knew wouldn’t burn or melt. A wild mane of blonde hair much like his own stuck out from the crazed man’s head making him look like a lion. He was wider built and muscular, with a short goatee at his chin with a sharp point. Ichirou had known the man as Kagetsu Kazuro. His father. The world at large knew this man as Hellfire, the supervillain who burned all in his wake. “You are such a disappointment.” Hellfire said bitterly as his crazed eyes turned back to his son. “Too much like your mother. You’re pathetic. A loser. I have burned a path of fire and ash to give you a good life, and this is how you and your mother repay me?” “…You killed her.” Ichirou whispered, kneeling on the ground, too scared to move. “She made me!” Hellfire barked, turning to face his son. “You brought this on yourself, both of you! Without me you are nothing! You are no one!” Hellfire removed his gloves, and his hands glowed and shimmered with heat haze. “And now you’ll be ashes.” “I wouldn’t bet on it, Hellfire!” The voice was deep but clear and cut through the fire and the smoke like an icy chill. Then Ichirou realized that there really was a chill. He could see his breath in the air. A series of crackling noises began to snap around him as the fire began to disappear, and in it’s place came sheets of ice, and eventually the entire building erupted in thick icicles that snuffed out the fire, Ichirou turned as he sensed a figure walking across the rooftop towards them in the darkness. She was a tall woman, built like a bodybuilder, dressed in a tactical vest, trousers and boots, all a pale blue colour. She wore goggles over her eyes with a light blue tint, and her hair was a darker, cobalt blue, short and spiky. As she walked the ground underneath her became slick with sheets of ice. “Winter!?” Hellfire gasped, stepping backwards. That was the first time ever that Ichirou had ever seen a sliver of fear in his father’s mad eyes. He turned back to the woman as she came closer to him, then passed him and stood in the gap between him and his father. She was the woman he had seen on TV, and heard about countless time. The legendary hero and arch rival of his father, Winter. “Don’t worry kid, I’m here now.” She said with a confident smirk. “You’re coming with me.” “You ain’t getting him!” Hellfire snarled, “He’s my son!” Hellfire dropped to a crouch and pressed his hands against the ground. Suddenly an intense heat began to melt the ice around them, and steam hissed as Winter fought back with her own power, fire and ice battling it out at equal measure. “I ain’t holdin’ that against him.” Winter said with a confident expression. “It doesn’t matter who your old man is kid!” She yelled, and she took a moment to turn back to Ichirou and smirk. “What matters is what’s in your heart!” Suddenly the ice around her rose up and the two rivals went at it without restraint. Ice began rising up, and the two were hopping between the pillars, Hellfire using his power to melt the ice and slide across it, as Winter created more ice that pushed her upwards into the night, firing projectiles towards Hellfire. Soon the smoke and the steam engulfed them both and Ichirou couldn’t see any more. He began to feel faint suddenly, his vision blurred and then went black. --- “Are you alright?” Ichirou blinked. The boy in front of him had shoulder length, dark brown hair and light blue eyes, and was dressed in the same uniform that Ichirou was wearing. “What!?” He asked with a scowl. “I said are you alright?” The boy said with a raised brow. “You’ve just been standing there looking like you saw a ghost.” “Mind your own business!” Ichirou barked and pushed past him with a shoulder check. “No need to be so rude!” The boy said, rubbing his shoulder as he watched Ichirou storm off. “I was just trying to be friendly!” “I don’t need a friend, so stay out of my way!” Ichirou yelled back and kept going. He finally made it to the large ‘H’ shaped building where classes were held and made his way inside. He was a little early and sat at the back of their classroom, even the teacher wasn’t there yet. Slowly other students filed in, including the brown haired boy from earlier. Ichirou sighed and folded his arms, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. He was going to make it here even if it killed him. He didn’t care if anyone liked him. He didn’t need friends. He didn’t need to be admired or loved. That wasn’t why he wanted to be a hero. He had a debt to pay and a score to settle. I will find you, Hellfire. I’ll be the one to defeat you…once and for all.
  11. Mistborn Alterna

    Raze stared at Galatea for a moment in silence. She had only discovered her abilities less than a half hour ago and yet he could see that she was already turning to allomancy as if it were second nature to her. She had burned tin, he could tell by the pulses he felt from burning bronze. He looked around the dark and murky rooftops around them, the mists so thick that they were but murky silhouettes to him. He burned tin, and suddenly the mist seemed to become far more transluscent. That was something else tin did as well as enhance the senses, it seemed to allow allomancers to pierce the msits and see through them. He walked quietly to the edge if the rooftop and peered down to street level. It was unusual for anyone to be roaming the streets at this time of the night. Even though city skaa went out in the mists and weren’t quite so superstitious, they were still fairly unsettled by the experience and often did go out in them if they could avoid it. It was understandable. He remembered being a child and finding the mists quite unnerving. Without tin it was difficult to see through the mists, and combined with the natural darkness, he could see why people would be afraid of it. Still Galatea wasn’t hearing things. He saw the three figures below, walking by in relative silence. He burned steel and checked for the blue lines that indicated metals on their person, but there were none. He could see they were carrying wooden shields and dueling canes that were likely made of wood and obsidian. Obsidian blades weren’t as sturdy or effective as steel, but they held a distinct advantage against coinshots and lurchers, which was why Raze himself opted for a pair of obsidian daggers over steel ones. Metal was a powerful weapon for a mistborn to use, but it could also be used against them. It was common to use coins because they could be carried in a loose pouch, and if they were pulled away by another lurcher then they would take the pouch and not the person carrying it. The same could be said of his mistcloak, which was designed to come off easily if anyone tried to grab it in a close quarters scuffle. Seeing guards walking around with no metal on their person could only mean one thing. “Hazekillers.” Raze whispered to Galatea, “Guards trained to kill or apprehend allomancers. No metals to manipulate, and they are trained in different tactics to take out different kinds of mistings.” Galatea visibly lost the breath in her lungs. "We are dead, then..." She tried to slow her breathing but find the panic in her rising. She had overcome death a hundred times over but nothing like this. "I can't believe it... I won't." She growled, standing back up. She buried her trembling fear and dangerous anger - they were no good to her right now, even if both had their place when needed. Raze stifled a laugh and shook his head. “They haven’t even noticed us.” Raze replied quietly, “Besides, we’re mistborn. Maybe 10 or 15 of them might be trouble…but not 3.” Raze looked back towards the hazekillers, who were now just about underneath them on street level. Kill them., the voice inside his head demanded. That was the vicious part of him. The part that hated nobility simply for being nobility. The part that knew he could take care of these three guards with little effort. Kill them!, the voice insisted. However, Raze just let them pass by. He stepped away from the side of the roof and touched Galatea lightly on the shoulder. “Killing is a lesson I’d like to save for another day.” He said softly. “Make no mistake, Galatea. My role in the rebellion is that of a knife, but it’s important to make sure that knife only seeks intended targets.” "I've killed before, and I'll do so again, whenever I must." She spoke in a hurried whisper, "I'm not some child you can preach your set of morals to. Teach me something useful, like allomancy, so I can do what I must." She listened as the three Hazekillers got further and further away. She was straining to listen when she got a horrible sensation. The feeling in itself wasn't unpleasant. It was the sensation of burning a metal as she instinctively tried to amplify the sound of their footsteps. She felt a blanket of dread wash over her, realising what she had done by accident, as one of the Hazekillers froze mid-step. "Mm?" The other two stopped and turned to face the first. For a few, fleeting seconds, she thought they would move on, then-- "Behind us." The Hazekillers whirled around and doubled back towards them. "Raze!" Galatea warned. “Great…” Raze growled, and then he was in motion. He leapt off the edge of the rooftop with a pewter enhanced leap, burning iron and pulling himself to the next rooftop using the metal cladding. He landed on the other side and sprinted along it and leapt again, descending down to the street levels at speed. The Seeker hidden within their number, a smart tactic, had locked on to Galatea. Raze, however, was burning copper as he made his way towards them, and they hadn’t noticed he had flanked them until they heard his feet tap on the cobbles behind them. He rushed them and the nearest to him hadn’t even began to turn all the way around before Raze had reached him, wielding twin obsidian daggers. Hearing the steps coming from behind him, the hazekiller reacted instinctively and swung out with his dueling cane in a wide arc. Raze ducked the blow, and the wide sweep had left the hazekiller’s torso undefended. Raze reached out and held the hazekiller’s right arm so he couldn’t bring his shield in, and with pewter burning the man couldn’t hope to outmatch his strength, so Raze stabbed him in the jugular and quickly let the man fall. The other two were already upon him and falling into a defensive stance, with their shields raised in protection and their dueling canes ready to fend him off if he got too close. Raze burned steel and fired a small flurry of coins at them, which hit their shields. Then men had prepared for the push by positioning themselves with their back to a wall, and Raze ended up being thrown back by the force of his own push. This worked to his advantage, however, as he gained some distance and hid himself in the mist. With Tin he could see them clearly, but they would not be able to detect him so well. He burned zinc and brass in tandem, rioting their fear and alarm towards him, and soothing away their concern for Galatea who they knew was nearby on the roof. It was a gamble, hazekillers were trained to notice emotional allomancy and his touch was hardly subtle. Emotions were high in a fight though, so perhaps they wouldn’t notice. Raze left his coins at their feet, knowing that pulling them back to him would reveal his location to them. They began to form a defensive stance back to back from one another. Clearly they expected him to come at them from any angle, always a possibility with mistborn. His emotional allomancy had the unintended effect of making the two men more careful. They had positioned themselves in the most defensible way they could, and they resisted any urge to advance, they simply waited, tense and vigilant towards an incoming attack. The simplest solution was to simply outmatch them, attack them in a way that was beyond their capabilities to defend against. He flared his pewter and advanced back the way he had come. The two men adjusted as the heard him coming, both facing him once more with their shields in defence, advancing with careful steps so as to close the gap and pressure Raze to flee or come in closer. However, they had forgotten about his coins on the floor, now behind them. Raze burned iron and pulled on the coins, and they came back to him but not before cutting at the Hazekiller’s legs, causing them to cry out and their stance faltered. He advanced on them with alarming speed, keeping his body low, he closed on them and went for the one on his left first, grabbing his sword arm and yanking him in an arc, separating him from his comrade, and sending him crashing in to a wall. Then he sent coins crashing into the second, who raised his shield and the coins sunk into the thick wood and became embedded. The hazekiller was heavier than Raze and so he was sent back a few feet before his back hit the wall of the tenement behind him, and then the hazekiller was sent back, pinned to the far wall by Raze’s pushing. The man struggled to move but Raze released the push and pulled back the coins, ripping them out from the wooden shield, and let them fly past hit and hit the wall he was pressed against. He went to run, and found the coins once more and flared his steel. The coins pushed against the wall and Raze went flying forward, leaping his his feet first, he crashed into the man’s shield. All of the power involved concentrated. The force of the steel push, and the strength of Raze’s pewter enhanced kick, it all came crashing down on the hazekiller. His shields shattered into splinters, and Raze heard the satisfying crack of bones as the man’s arms was broken. Raze flared his pewter to dull the thumping pain that had started in his legs, and grabbed the hazekiller by the scruff of his shirt, and hurled him backwards towards his comrade who was just getting up to join the fight once more. The pair crashed into each other and swords and the remaining shield fell around them in a heap. Raze approached them with a confident stride, kicking the dueling canes away from them, he loomed over the broken men, his mistcloak flailing in the light breeze, the mists dancings around him, drawn to him like he was breathing it in. He flared zinc and rioted their fear, not holding back. This wasn’t the subtle touch that Ranette always lectured on, this was a display of his power. By now their utter loss at his hands had already worked them into quite an expression of terror, and his allomancy only amplified that, to the point were the men were utterly crippled under their own fear. There were no final words, no witty remarks. He slit their throats. The vicious part of him was pleased. He left the corpses where they lay on the street and pushed himself back on to the roof where Galatea was waiting. “We should have started with copper.” He said with a hint of annoyance as he rejoined her. Then his annoyance shifted from Galatea and on to himself. “Actually, I should have been smoking us the whole time, not your fault.” He admitted. Silence returned and Galatea let out a sigh. It was over. "I am responsible for my own actions, Raze." “And so am I.” Raze replied, “You’ve been doing this for all of five minutes, I’ve been doing this since I was a eleven. I should have known better.” He took hold of her with a sense of urgency. “We need to go” he said, and it appeared he was not in the mood for questions. Once more he carried Galatea into the night, hopping across the rooftops of Urteau, leaping across the slums built inside the old dried up canals, and then up on to the defensive walls that lined the perimeter of the city. They did not receive any more notice as they travelled, and as they perched on the ramparts of Urteau, Raze looked back and made a short vow to himself that he would return here someday. Then he dropped off the walls and into the dark, misty night of the outside world. Scents of city life such as soot, piss and shit were replaced with moist grass and earthy smells. There were no more metal lines for Raze to follow and so they continued on foot, travelling through the thick grass at a quick pace. “Tineye scouts will be watching for us.” Raze said, speaking at a more normal level now that they had left the city. “There’s caravans hidden a short hike from the city, all of our people will be making their way to them under guidance from our scouts. In the meantime we have a moment to chat. I have questions for you, but I’ll let you have the chance to ask some of your own first.” "Are you teaching me allomancy, Raze, or riding?" Galatea asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow. “Right now I’m getting you to safety.” Raze replied confidently, but his expression looked a little put out despite that. He felt a stab of guilt. He had underestimated her because of her blindness. It could well have been justified, but he didn’t know, he’d never given her the chance. “I apologise.” He added quickly. “I…I’m not used to teaching. I don’t have a lot of patience, I move quickly and I tend to find other people get in my way. I thought it would be easier to just move you with me.” "It would. But then, you are slowing my ability to navigate this world without you. So my second question is - is that deliberate?” “Of course not.” Raze said, shaking his head. “Your training is secondary here. Just a taste to familiarize you. It doesn’t come before my responsibility to the rebellion and to my friends. I wanted to let you have a glimpse before you truly decided.” "I'm just trying to survive." Galatea replied, tilting her head and sniffing the air softly. She was trying to mentally store and categorise the different sounds and smells. "My world is Twilight, I shift through the mist and find, The trees sing to me." Raze looked at Galatea and cocked his head. She was a strange, mysterious girl. She was a hard person, no doubt to cope with her hard life. She was wise, more clued in than most skaa, but also at the same time very naïve. And now, he realized, someone with depth and creativity. The thought saddened him. The life he led had no room for that. He was a knife, and he knew she would be too, if she followed him. “You have a decision to make.” Raze said. “The crew are optimistic and hopeful. They told you that you were free. Then, once I discovered you were mistborn, I told you that you were free. Compared to the life you had, your life with us will be easier in some ways and harder than others. You will have liberty. But freedom? No, not really.” Raze stopped and stood, letting the ambient noises of the nature around them fill the silence for a brief moment. “You expressed desire to have revenge on those who harmed you. You can have it, but if you want our support it will come at a price. Our rebellion is small, we cannot risk its discovery while it is still young and fragile. If you join us, you can never leave us. That is a risk we cannot take. And if you join…well then you have to accept that you won’t be free. You will be a tool, a knife, like me. I do that so that one day the skaa might truly be free.” "I only really have one goal, Raze. Help me do that, and I will do as asked of me for as long as I wish it now and thereafter, and if there is an after that, we will address such a situation at the time." “Once you know where our base is, you stay with us or you die.” Raze clarified. “I will kill you.” "Yes, I understand." She said, and for some reason it didn’t sound entirely convincing to Raze. That was the trouble with rebels, they were so rebellious. “Good.” Raze said with a finality to his tone. “Come then, no more hand holding.” He walked away from her and did not turn back, and he was pleased to find that she followed him without complaint. Perhaps he really was wrong to hold her hand. After a short walk in the darkness they came across a small group of caravans with horses and other people waiting around, packing things into wagons and generally preparing for a much longer trip. --- --- --- --- It had been a week of almost constant travel. They had moved mostly through the nights where most other travelers made camp to avoid the mists. They kept off the main roads as much as possible, and at a certain point they had to abandon their wagons and carry onward on foot, or on horse for some of the lucky few. The thick forests that lead to the caverns they called home were difficult to travel with wagons. Raze, impatient as ever, had gone on ahead. With pewter he could run faster than any horse. So he had left Galatea in the hands of the others, and in particular with Telzin. “We are almost there, Lady Galatea.” Telzin said encouragingly. The young girl walked a little behind him, carrying a pack like everyone else, and she seemed to be navigating fairly well for someone without sight. Already she seemed so different from the dirty and bloody girl he had treated over a week ago. "And what am I to find there, Telzin? I'm told I will be killed should I leave. Seems there are many kinds of masters in this land." Telzin simply smiled politely. “It seems Lord Raze has employed his particular brand of severity on this topic. Still, he did not speak a lie.” Telzin stepped through the forest confidently, and his frame seemed much more lean and fit than it had before, he had no trouble carrying the pack on his back, that was considerably larger than ones the others carried. “However, do not think that this will be another life of slavery. It is different to serve, because you were warned, and you still chose it. That distinction is important, I think. More importantly, however, I must stress that the consequence for desertion is not about punishing you for disobedience, it is about protecting the thousands of people who live here, and are at great risk if we are discovered.” As they came to the far edge of the forest they came out onto some large, rocky mountains, and a cavern that was hidden by the thickness of the forest. The travelers were filing in to the caverns which were guarded on the inner tunnels, since guards posted on the outside of the caverns would be an indicator to anyone who happened on the place. “Welcome to your new home, Lady Galatea. We call this place Haven.”
  12. Mistborn Alterna

    Prologue Ash was falling from the sky on the morning when the Obligators came to Lord Aradel’s plantation in the Northern Dominance. As was typical during these visits, Lord Aradel had sent his children away on a day trip so as not to bother the Obligators. Lord Fenris Aradel stood surveying the fields around his stately home, where frail-looking workers, skin stained grey from the ash, toiled at the crops. He was a short man who had grown quite stout over the last couple of years. His dark brown hair was thinning on the top and combed to the side. The sky above was a wash of grey ash as it always was, and through that ash a burning, red sun shone overhead. The skaa workers harvested grey plants in fields that stretched on for about half a mile, with patrolling taskmasters monitoring them closely, whips in hand. Beyond was the distant city of Urteau, and the single Ashmount of the Northern Dominance, Kalling, a black mountain that spewed forth soot and ash into the atmosphere. Below the ashmount were miles and miles of untamed forests and valleys, and due to the mountainous areas of the region, it was one of the few places in the world where wild sheep could be found. Aradel did not trade in sheep, however. He cast his eyes over the skaa Workers, in his eyes they were a shuffling, lazy lot. The only real advantage to them was the shear amount of them, and they tended to work faster for a brief period after receiving a few lashes of the whip. They were slaves, but they were not his slaves. They were, of course, the property of the Lord Ruler. The nobility were simply loaned the skaa by their almighty leader, but they were given a great deal of liberties. They could beat them, and even kill them if they so desired. They could even take them to their beds, as long as they took certain precautions afterwards. Lord Aradel watched the skaa for what seemed like hours, until finally a voice snapped him out of his trance. “Lord Aradel…” The voice had a pompous, nasal quality to it. Lord Aradel turned to find the an Obligator standing behind him to his right, with a companion stood next to him. “Obligator Marwin.” Lord Aradel replied with a polite smile, “You have concluded your audit?” “Indeed.” Marwin replied. The man was average height and slim, and entirely bald. Like all Obligators he had a series of tattoos around his eyes, mostly black but some parts red, the significance and meaning both unknown to Lord Aradel. He was dressed in dark robes with pointed shoulders and wide sleeves, with gold filagery on the collar and sleeves. “My inspection on behalf of the Canton of Resource finds nothing of concern within your holdings, Lord Aradel…” For a moment Lord Aradel felt a wash of relief fall over him, but the Obligator continued talking. “However…my colleague from the Canton of Inquisition has voiced…concerns.” Lord Aradel turned his attention to the Obligator’s companion. The man behind him was tall and dressed in black robes, much more loose fitting and plain than the Obligator, with a dark hood over his head. The man raised his head slightly to reveal a similarly bald face with tattoos and markings around the eyes, however, this man did not have eyes. In place was two flat discs of metal. Lord Aradel knew that they were actually the flat ends of two spikes that had been speared through the head of the man, and the points stuck out the back of his head. He was a Steel Inquisitor, a terror of the Steel Ministry that made Obligators look like cute puppies. “Concerns…yes.” The Inquisitor said, his voice was raspy and cold, “Tell me Lord Aradel…how old are your children?” “My children?” Aradel replied, trying to hold back the nervousness in his voice, “Seta is 18 and her brother Venrin is only 12.” “Yes…and you have had how many wives?” The Inquisitor asked, his expressionless face causing Lord Aradel to shiver. “…Just one, she died last year.” Aradel explained. “Lady Marewen Aradel, previously of House Tekiel. Died of a sickness if I recall, a weakness in the blood. It is a hereditary disease that only affects women. It has other known symptoms…including infertility. Did you know this?” “I…I did not.” Aradel lied. “But it can’t always be the case, we have two children after all.” “Lord Aradel…let us not play games.” The Inquisitor said, “Bedding skaa is not a crime. Your business is otherwise in order here, you will not receive any personal punishment for this incident.” The Inquisitor cast his eyes behind Aradel, who immediately turned to see a horse-drawn carriage returning to the manor. “Your children, however….they should never have been allowed to be born in the first place. We will have to rectify that.” “No…wait, my wife, she desperately wanted children! But she knew! She knew she couldn’t conceive, what else were we to do?” Aradel looked pained. “Lord Aradel…” The Inquisitor took a step forward and Aradel recoiled in fear. “Step aside, or I will execute you for interfering with the responsibilities of The Canton of Inquisition.” Aradel hesitated. He loved his children, and he had loved his wife. He turned back to the approaching carriage, and he knew that he could not hope to stop a Steel Inquisitor. His children, he began to realize, were already dead. In that sense, was there really any need to sacrifice himself too? He winced at the thought, but then without another word, he stepped aside. The Steel Inquisitor smirked, and then stepped past him, slowly making his way through the fields towards the carriage. --- --- --- --- Venrin barely noticed the rocking of the carriage, he was so immersed in his book. The young boy was dressed in a white shirt with brown waistcoat and black trousers and shoes. His dark brown hair was combed neatly in a side parting and his keen blue eyes were transfixed to the page. His sister, Seta, sat next to him staring out of the window. She was a thin, beautiful young woman with dark hair like his own, tied back in a complex braid that was hanged over her shoulder. She was dressed in a simple, dark gown that wasn’t very fashionable, but she had insisted on wearing these sorts of things, something that was more fitting and easier to move around in. Where other young ladies wore heels and slips, Seta wore boots. “The ashfalls are quite beautiful at times.” She said, “Perhaps you would notice this too if you ever paid attention to your surroundings, Ven.” “Hm?” Venrin gave her a half glance and then went back to his book. “We’re almost home, I can look around here any time. This book is at a good part though, the hero just killed the leader of the skaa rebels and saved the damsel.” “Skaa rebels? How silly, Ven. Skaa aren’t organized enough to properly rebel, and they wouldn’t dare kidnap a noble lady.” “It’s really exciting though…the hero is a Coinshot, he’s so daring-“ “What is…” Seta interrupted him as she looked out of the window of the carriage. The horses stopped as they had reached the manor. Seta got out and Venrin closed his book and followed her. As they stepped outside Venrin gasped, spotting the Steel Inquisitor walking towards them. Venrin felt a chill as he stared into those cold discs of metal. “Seta…” He said worriedly. “Ven…get back in the carriage,” Seta said, her tone becoming serious. She was holding a small vial in her hands. Where had she been hiding that? As he wondered that, she uncorked the vial and swallowed the liquid contents of it. “I mean it, get back in the carriage, now.” Then Seta suddenly shot forward with immense speed. She closed the gap between them and the Inquisitor and let out a primal scream as she attacked him with a flurry of punches and kicks. Venrin gasped, watching his petite framed sister flying like a legendary warrior, showing power and speed that didn’t match her frame. The Inquisitor didn’t seem phased by this, however, and he matched her speed with relative ease, dodging her blows and expertly countering with powerful blows. Despite taking blows to her ribs and face, Seta kept going. Apparently, her resilience was otherworldly too. “Seta…you’re an allomancer.” He whispered in revelation to himself. The Steel Inquisitor apparently grew tired of the dance, and he suddenly stretched out his robed arms and coins flew through the air, cutting at Seta like little knives. She gasped in pain but kept at him, stopping only to call back to Venrin; “Run!” Venrin was shocked into movement, and he suddenly turned and ran away from the fields, back towards the open road. The Inquisitor knocked Seta to the side and then he sprinted for Venrin, moving at an incredible speed. With a thrust of his arms he had drawn his coins back to his hands, and then he pushed them towards Venrin. He felt objects whizz past him like arrows, and then he felt a cutting, sharp pain in his arm, and then in his leg as the coins cut into him. He cried out in pain, terror dominating his mind. He kept running and running but he could not outrun the Inquisitor. The monster reached him and grabbed hold of him by the back of his shirt, and picked him up as if he weighed no more than a loaf of bread. He screamed in horror as he got a closer look at the Inquisitor’s face. His pale, sunken expression, his metal discs for eyes, and he wore a slight grimace, one that made it seem like the creature was in near constant pain or discomfort. “I admire your resolve, child.” The Inquisitor said, “But you cannot run from me.” “NO!” Seta screamed as she reached them. She moved with more speed than she had before, and the Inquisitor seemed surprised by the sheer amount of power she had brought to this next altercation. Her desire to protect Venrin had sent Seta into a rage, and she lashed out at the Inquisitor, wrenching Venrin from his grasp, tearing the boy’s shirt in the process. The fighting became a blur as the fear gripped Venrin and he became dazed and confused. Distant shouting from the plantation shook him from his confusion, as a drumming noise came closer and closer. Horse hooves hammered across the plains, and as Seta struggled with the Inquisitor, a skaa worker on a stolen horse came bounding towards Venrin, his arm outstretched to grab hold of the boy. Venrin reached up in desperation, and the skaa gripped his arm and hoisted him on to the back of the horse, riding away from the battle. “My sister!” Venrin screamed, “No we have to save her too!” “Sorry boy.” The Skaa replied, his expression pained. “No one survives a Steel Inquisitor. Our only hope is to run…” “No! We have to go back for her!” Venrin demanded. This man, what had spurred him to act? He was a slave, and Venrin’s father was their master. They were forced to work hard all day, they were beaten if they didn’t work fast enough, and yet this man had shown bravery, and had saved him. “I’m sorry…” The skaa said, his expression still pained but also resigned. “We can never go back…” Venrin turned around to look back, and he saw his sister broken and beaten on the ground. The Steel Inquisitor had her by the hair, her face a bloody mess. Then with a final smash of his fist, he knocked Seta to the ground. She did not move again. Pain surged through Venrin, a great despair that seemed to rip his insides apart. He felt like something inside of him had been broken, like a snap of a branch from the rest of the tree. Mistborn Alterna: Breaking An Empire That was the day he had snapped. It had been over 20 years since that day, and Venrin Aradel was a ghost. In his place stood a man in his mid-30s. His dark brown hair was longer and swept back. His chubby child-like features had been replaced by sharp hawkish ones. His blue eyes were just as brilliant, but they seemed colder and less innocent. He was clean-shaven, and wore a single bronze stud in his right ear. He had become a lean, muscular man with a strong jaw and a confident posture. He was wearing a black shirt, black trousers and black boots under his cloak. The cloak itself looked like it was made of ribbons of dark-grey cloth, with a dark hood which he pulled over his head. A Mistcloak; a signature attire of the rare and legendary allomancers known as Mistborn. The tassels of the cloak were about an inch to an inch and a half wide, all a dark grey, and perfectly fitted to reach the bottom of his feet, but not to drag along behind him. The cloak was designed to conceal him in the murky mists that covered the land every evening. It was also a sign to common folk and guards to stay out of their way, as Mistborn were above mere mortal men, above even other mistings. The boy who had been rescued by the bravery and kindness of a single skaa had died the moment he had snapped. The two escapees had fled to the mountains where they had found other skaa who took them in. The skaa man, Mraine, had lied to the other skaa there. He couldn’t tell them that Venrin was a Nobleman, for they would have surely killed him on the spot. Instead Mraine had told the rebellion that Venrin was his son, and that his name was Raze. And since that day, he had become Raze. To all who knew him he was a half-skaa, his mother a noblewoman who had taken a skaa lover in Mraine, who had fled when the Steel Ministry had come for them. Mraine, it had transpired, was himself a half-skaa. He was also an allomancer, one who burned copper, also known as a Smoker. His allomantic power had no use in a fight and so he couldn’t have helped Raze’s sister. Burning copper created an invisible cloud, called a coppercloud, within an area around a Smoker, and within that area allomantic abilities could not be detected. Of course only a Seeker, an allomancer who burned bronze could detect allomancy. However, as Raze had come to learn, all Steel Inquisitors could use every metal, and many Obligators were also Seekers. Raze’s sister, Seta, had been a Thug, an allomancer who burned pewter to become physically stronger, faster, and more resilient. They were just 3 abilities of a total of 10 allomantic metals; Iron, Steel, Bronze, Copper, Zinc, Brass, Tin, Pewter, Gold and Atium. The rules of allomancy were simple enough; only those with noble blood could become allomancers, which meant no skaa should be able to use alomancy, as the Lord Ruler had decreed that any noble who beds a skaa should kill them afterwards. Yet laws, of course, were often broken. Mistings were the most common allomancers, people who could only burn one metal. Skaa Mistings were more rare, but they did exist, although they kept their abilities secret. Rarer still were Mistborn, even among the nobility the likelihood of someone being able to use all the allomantic arts was exceptionally rare. As for skaa Mistborn, Raze was fairly certain that they did not exist. Of course, he was now living the life of a skaa, and so perhaps he was the first. Sort of. Raze had learned quickly that the skaa were not as slow witted and dull as the Steel Ministry has led them to be believe. The Canton of Orthodoxy had taught religion to the nobility, but as far as Raze remembered, their teaching consisted of ‘we will handle the religion, you just do as we say and all will be well’. They had been taught some things though. They were taught that the Lord Ruler, the Immortal God Emperor, the Sliver of Infinity, had saved the world from The Deepness over a millennia ago. The Lord Ruler had gifted the nobility, the sons and daughters of his trusted allies, with the power of allomancy. The skaa, on the other hand, were forbidden from having religion. They were forbidden from having much of a life at all really. Many skaa worked as slaves for noble houses, and perhaps a luckier few with specialist skills could have jobs as tradesman or merchants, but only as far as the Lord Ruler allowed. They were his property, no matter what, that fact was made abundantly clear. While the vast majority of skaa lived this life, a small few had managed to subvert the Lord Ruler’s law. First there was the thieving crews. Some skaa had managed to make themselves very rich through a series of cons, heists and burglaries. The others were the rebellion, men and women who had fled civilization to a secret location in the mountains, where they hid and plotted the unthinkable; to overthrow the Final Empire. It was considered a fantasy to most, but it was a fantasy that Raze had latched on to. Spending time with the skaa had taught him that they were just like him. The nobility turned a blind eye to these people who thought and felt in precisely the same way as they did. And he had been saved by the kindness of a man who was a slave to his family. A man who Raze would not have blamed if he had simply watched him die with a smile on his face. He owed this man and his people. He didn’t know how, but he was going to find a way to do it. He would kill the Lord Ruler and bring the skaa their freedom. “Daydreaming again?” Mraine asked. They were stood in a backroom of a skaa tavern in Urteau, the capital city of the Northern Dominance. Mraine no longer wore the rags he had when he had worked on the plantation. He had gained weight over the years, he wasn’t fat but he looked healthier and more well fed now. His hair had greyed and thinned, and was combed back over his liver-spotted head. Despite turning 60 this year the man was keen-eyed and confident. He was dressed in a brown longcoat, with a simple olive-coloured shirt underneath and some tan trousers with grey suspenders. He was smoking a pipe, the tobacco smelled spicy and a little sweet. “Just visiting the past…I guess it's being here in the Northern Dominance again.” Raze replied, his voice was deeper and had a cool confidence in it. “When was the last time we were here?” “8 years ago. We were recruiting for the rebellion, and you disappeared.” Mraine replied with a shrug, “Two days later you return, burnt out from pewter drag and ready to collapse.” “Yes…” Raze replied, staring out of the window, “I went to see my father.” “For the last time, apparently.” Mraine said with a nod, “The ministry discovered his corpse a few days later.” “No great loss.” Raze replied coldly, and finally, he turned and locked eyes with Mraine. “Now his heir runs the plantation. New wife, new son. It was like what had happened to us was just a bad dream for him. Well, at least my half-brother treats the skaa better. Even pays them wages.” “You know…those who knew the Aradel heir would say he experienced quite the change of heart after his father died. Apparently, he relished skaa suffering, would even lash them himself at times.” “Well, sometimes a little brotherly love can go a long way…” Raze replied, and he went back to staring out of the window. “So why are we here, Mraine? You’ve got me all dressed up for the occasion, so what’s happening?” “Public executions are happening tonight.” Mraine replied, “All skaa who have defied their masters. One even killed a noble, apparently.” “I like this man already.” Raze said with a smirk. “Woman.” Mraine corrected. “Anyway…skaa with that rebellious spirit are rare. I’ve got our tineyes and seekers scouting the city. Reports indicate that there’s something going down at the Conventical of Seran, all the Inquisitors have been making their way there. The Obligators are dealing with the executions. Security is low, just the usual guards to keep the masses under control. No one really expects any noble mistings to act out against skaa executions.” “So they definitely won’t be expecting a Mistborn, then.” “Exactly,” Mraine said. “Just sit tight here and I’ll keep us hidden. Relax a little until the mists roll in, then you go do what you do best.” “I hate waiting…” Raze grumbled. The streets of Urteau bustled with activity outside. It would be another few hours before nightfall came, and then the mists would roll in. Then he could be free again. Free to run, and soar, and to kill.
  13. Mistborn Alterna

    Darkness loomed over Urteau, the city streets lit with torchlight. Brightest were the torches outside on the steets opposite the local Canton of Inquisition building. Raze stood on a rooftop of a nearby building, the thick mists dancing around him, whispy tendrils grasping and teasing at the air, they seemed to swirl and buzz to the tension of the scene. The plantation skaa had feared the mists, and even the city ones avoided going out in them. Yet they had come this night, bringing plenty of torchlight to guide them. Raze understood why, after all the mists were so mysterious. They hid things. Mistborn, however, did not fear the mists. Mraine stood on a balcony window just below him, and the old man was burning copper to keep their allomancy hidden. Raze reached down and found the familiar source of power within him, and then he burned bronze. Immediately he felt a warmth in his stomach and there was a pulsing in the air. The pulses, each with their own distinct frequency, could tell him not only if allomancy was being used, but also what metal and where. Mraine was burning copper, and so his coppercloud would dampen any allomancy within it, but that didn’t stop Raze from detecting anything outside of it. Immediately he noticed one of the obligators by the gallows. The pulses coming from him were that of bronze, like Raze himself was burning. That meant the obligator was a seeker, which was fairly common. He felt another pulse coming from a nobleman standing on one of the upper windows of the canton. He was burning Zinc, a soother for sure. It was possible that some of the guards were Thugs, or “Pewterarms” as the military called it. Most decent Thugs didn’t burn their pewter when they weren’t using it, which was a fairly smart tactic. He stopped burning bronze and smirked, nothing he couldn’t handle. “I’m going.” He said to Mraine, “Make sure the safehouse is all set up.” “Good luck.” Mraine replied. “We Mistborn make our own luck, Mraine.” Raze replied, and then he sprang in to action. He burned copper, pewter and tin. The copper concealed his allomancy from the seeker, and his sense became sharp and extra sensitive. Light became brighter and he could see more details in the darkness and through the mist. His body felt well balanced and primed thanks to the pewter, and with inhuman strength he pushed off the building at a diagonal leap. He burned steel, and immediately his vision was filled with a web of blue lines pointing in every direction. Each was a source of metal he could push on. He found the lines connected to his loose coin pouch and then he pushed on them. The coins spilled out of his pouch and flew backwards the way he had came, until they smacked against the roof of the building, and suddenly Raze was propelled forward, with the combined weight of the building, now the coins were pushing him. The additional burst sent him high above the street, bounding across the crowd in one leap. Raze burned iron and found the lines for his coins and then pulled on them, bringing them back to his waiting hands. He let himself fall down to the earth, and at about 10feet off the ground he gave a guard’s sword three short bursts of pushing, knocking the blade off of his belt and straight to the ground, whilst slowing Raze’s fall until he landed on the ground with a deft roll, going straight back to his feet and then setting off at a sprint. Gasps filled the crowds as Raze breached a line of guards with steel powered leap over them, before pulling his coins back, cutting at the guard’s hands and faces on their way back, and he grinned, feeling a wave of excitement. With another pull he wrenched the guard’s swords out of their hands and they flew off into the night. Raze advanced on them, flaring his pewter to go at an incredible speed, he swung a hook at one that knocked him to the ground, and then spun and brought his heel into another’s chest, sending him so far back he crashed against the far wall. He turned his attention back to the gallows and the mists swirled around him, the tassels of his mistcloak waving and dancing within them. The obligators flinched as he advanced towards them, after all they were bureaucrats not warriors. He burned brass and began to soothe away their other emotions, as well as the emotions of the crowd of skaa. Then he burned zinc and flared it, rioting the obligator’s fear, until one of them gave a short squeak of terror. Their fear made them slow, and Raze flew at them. With expert aim he sent his coins hammering at the ropes of the skaa’s nooses and they ropes split apart, freeing the skaa. The obligators went to run, but with another iron pull Raze brought a sword into each of his hands, and then he pushed them point first towards the obligators, spearing them through the chest. The crowd shrieked but Raze ignored them, advancing up the steps of the gallows, he pulled one of the swords out of the fallen obligators chest and used it to cut free each of the skaa, and pulled the bags from their heads. His eyes fixed on the young lady who’s bag he’d just taken off from her head. She was young, with tan skin and a slim build, with a bloody rag covering her eyes. She had black hair that was thick and went down to her shoulders. “Get up, you’re safe now.” He said, and he began soothing away at her fear and her worries. He turned to the other skaa prisoners and gestured into the city. “Run, there are people watching for you. They’ll take you somewhere safe. Go, now!” The skaa looked hesitant at first, but then they ran off. He turned back to the girl. “Can you see?” He asked. "Unlike me, stranger, you have eyes - use them! I can see no better than a mole rat." Galatea felt a strange sensation. She kept her emotions contained, after years of torture, abuse and conditioning, she had locked those feelings away and allowed them to wither. But now she felt something she hadn't ever known before - peace. She was no longer fighting her fear and pain, they were just... gone? That wasn't normal. This stranger wasn't normal. He had to be some kind of Misting, affecting her emotions like that. But it didn't matter, whatever he said, she wasn't safe. She would never be safe. “Fine, hold on.” He said and he grabbed hold of her firmly. Then he threw down his coins and steel pushed, pulling the coins with him in to the air as he bounded off, not so much flying as a series of arcing jumps through the city, disappearing in to the mist. When he reached a rooftop he put her down briefly and flared his tin, listening carefully to the barrage of loud noises around him. It was difficult to hone in on specific conversations without practice, when every noise got louder. Tin sure would be more useful if he could hone in on specific noises. “Come.” He said again as he grabbed her arm and pulled her off the edge of the roof, and they fell together to the ground below, Raze slowing their fall once more with bursting iron pushes. They landed with a tap and he released her once more. “I’m taking you to a safehouse. It’ll be a short stop, we’ll need to get out of Urteau after that stunt.” "There's no 'we', stranger." Galatea replied, feeling the air rush around her before they landed. She felt the mist cool around her, and she knew they were on the ground once more. She took a risk, and started walking. "There's only 'you' and 'I'. You saved me. I am leaving." Raze cocked his head to the side slightly and narrowed his eyes at the girl. Did she really plan on going it alone through the night without being able to see? “It’s Raze…my name, that is.” He said after her. “You don’t have to trust me, but come with me and I can get you food, let you get those injuries seen to. It’s too late for your vision but if those wounds get infected…well that’s a fresh new hell I can assure you. After that we can part ways if you still want to. Sound fair?” A part of her wanted to spit in his face and walk into the mists. But she didn't allow her emotions to control her any more. She knew, whether she liked it or not, that she was likely dead without this man's aid. It was foolish to refuse his offer, even if it was a trap - what was the alternative? "Very well, Raze, I can't fault your logic. I will accompany you for now. For dinner, if nothing else..." She smirked to herself, then she lost the brief smile, "I'm... Galatea." “You speak like a noble.” Raze said in response. “Well, sort of.” He came to her and took hold of her a final time. Then he pushed once more and they soared upwards, mists coiling around them as he flared his steel and they flew up further and faster, until Raze could see the whole of Urteau beneath him. His coins came up after him and then he let them fall, until finally they lurched as he slowed their fall with steel pushes, landing softly on the backstreet of the skaa tavern they had been using as a front. He tapped in a rhythmic pattern on the door, and then someone unbolted it from the other side and they were let in. Mraine greeted them both, and Raze stopped burning tin as he stepped into the well-lit room. The place was relatively bustling as members of their team were tending to the other injured skaa who had been escorted back there. “Is this the last one?” He asked, indicating to Galatea. “Looks like it. Get Telzin to have a look at her.” Raze suggested, before turning to Galatea. “Go with my friend Mraine, I’ll fetch you some food.” He said, and then he stalked away from them. --- --- --- Mraine took a long draw on his pipe as he examined the young waif that Raze had brought in. She looked scrawny in places, Raze was right to get her food. “Come on.” He said in his gruff voice, “Our medic is a nice guy, you’ll like him. Terris, real polite, like.” Galatea put a hand on Mraine's shoulder and allowed him to guide her. She didn't acknowledge his comment as she began asking question after question, "Where am I? Who are you? Who was he? Why did he save me? How did he save me?" "Don't worry about that just now." Mraine said gently. He led her into another room where another man was waiting by a table, chopping vegetables. He was a very tall man with tanned skin and a completely bald head. He wore a number of earrings and his arms were covered in bracers. He wore brightly coloured robes cut in downward pointing V patterns, the dress of the people of Terris. He smiled at her at first but it grew into a frown as he examined her. "Oh dear child..." the terrisman said as he began to clear the table. "what have they done to you?" "Enough." Galatea replied coarsely. "What are you doing?" She asked, hearing clutter quickly being moved. "Are you Terris? I've heard that accent before." She inclined her head, trying to understand her surroundings without the use of her vision. Sounds were mysterious clues she was desperately fumbling to grasp. “I would be surprised if you had not.” The terrisman replied, but he did not explain what he was doing. He called for assistance and some skaa women bustled in and began boiling water and getting out clean cloths and towels. “I understand that loss of sight will be distressing, as is your current circumstance, but I must ask that you please be still and let us work.” He gently touched Galatea on the sides of her face, turning her head from left to right as he examined her wounds. His frown deepened slightly though his expression was one of worry rather than frustration. “Very messy…all we can do is clean it up and apply fresh bandages I am afraid…” "Very well. If nothing can be done." Galatea touched at her cheeks, and gingerly felt up until she felt a sharp pain as her fingers probed over hewn flesh and she retreated. She had to remind herself - it was no good wallowing in self pity. What's done is done. The terrisman got to work cleaning the wound, apologizing softly as she winced when he dabbed at her eyes. He smiled softly at her even though she could not see him. “My name is Telzin.” He said, “I am sorry your owners have treated you so poorly. You are safe for now though, I know that must be hard to believe but it is still true.” Mraine sat on a stool in the corner with his arms folded. Watching the girl get treated, he couldn’t help but feel she was going to be a problem. He felt a twinge of guilt for feeling that, he had been kinder once. Years working for the rebellion had led him to responsibilities for a lot of lives, and having a blind girl with them during the escape was only going to slow them down. "Owner?" Galatea repeated the word back at Telzin, a touch of venom in her tone, "I don't have one." She winced as she felt liquid trickle into her eyes and recoiled. "Sorry..." She muttered, shuffling back into place. “No I am sorry.” Telzin said quickly as he continued dabbing her wound, “I did not mean to offend you, after all I too have once been seen as property. What I said was once true of us both, but I did not consider your feelings.” "You don't need to concern yourself with how I feel. I took my freedom today. I'll deal with my sight tomorrow." Galatea gently pulled Telzin's hands away once he had fastened fresh bandages about her eyes. "Thank you, Telzin. My name is Galatea." Then she hopped off the table and fumbled awkwardly as she was lifted into the air. Speechless, Galatea tried to voice her confusion but she was almost at the ceiling and she could no longer focus. "You don't need to concern yourself with how I feel. I took my freedom today. I'll deal with my sight tomorrow." Galatea gently pulled Telzin's hands away once he had fastened fresh bandages about her eyes. "Thank you, Telzin. My name is Galatea." Then she hopped off the table and stumbled forwards. "Ugh, get them off!" She snarled, falling to one knee under the weight of her iron collar and shackles, which suddenly felt five times heavier. She'd had days where it had been easier to carry her bonds, and a great many more where it had been difficult to move in them but never like this. Telzin frowned as he helped the girl up and one of the women helping came and took her arm. “Take the young lady upstairs and draw her a bath, get these shackles off of her and get her some clean clothes, please.” Telzin instructed to her. “Are you alright, Lady Galatea? Fatigue can take the strength from you quite suddenly at times.” He said to Galatea. "I am not a lady and you know this." She growled under the strain of the weight. After a few seconds, Galatea managed to stand completely upright though she could feel her legs wanting to give way. "I am fine." She gently removed the woman's hands from her and started the laborious trek up the stairs. Telzin sighed and turned to Mraine, “Another bitter one, suspicious too.” “She’ll see sense eventually, and even if she doesn’t…” He sighed and scratched at his head, “I’m sure she can be of some use despite her condition.” “Are you disappointed that she will not be another angry skaa to join your army?” Telzin asked plainly, and Mraine responded only with a scowl. Then he got off his stool and stalked off out of the room. --- --- --- --- Raze had gotten changed out of his mistcloak and had put on a pair of black trousers and boots, a simple white shirt and a brown waistcoat. He did his rounds, checking the smokers were rotating on schedule, and going over reports from tineye scouts. Finally he made his way to the tavern’s kitchen and procured some bay wraps, pockets of flatbread stuffed with rice and vegetables, and took them upstairs to the room that Galatea had been taken to. He reached the door and knocked twice on the frame. “Galatea? I have that food for you.” He said through the door. "Bring it in, thank you." Galatea returned to watching the woman from earlier, as she continued treating her, working a salve into Galatea's bruised and scarred wrists. Raze entered and walked over to where they were sitting. “Thank you, Ranette.” Raze said with a nod at the woman, then turned to Galatea. “How does it feel to be waited on for a change?” He asked, and placed the plate on her lap. "Unnecessary but not unappreciated." She replied simply. Then picked up a wrap and ravenously devoured it. “Oh this is necessary, we need to keep our people healthy.” Raze replied, “The nobility have the right idea, when you’re dealing with big operations you need a lot of help workers.” “You pay me though.” Ranette added, eyeing him for a moment, “I’m also a soother, dear. A better one than him, too. No wonder you were so hostile when you first came in.” “I didn’t want her panicking!” Raze protested, holding his hands up in surrender. “Soothing takes a light touch, something you wouldn’t know the meaning of.” Ranette rolled her eyes at him. "If you pull at my emotions, I'll know." Galatea cut through their conversation. "There was a lot of things I couldn't control, but my emotions was not one of them. The Master was like you," She nodded at Ranette, "And you." She added, taking another bite of food. Mouth full, she mumbled, "He couldn't stop me, no matter how hard he tried, and I felt him, stabbing around, in here," She tapped the side of her head with her thumb, "One last indiscretion..." “Relax no one’s soothing you.” Ranette replied, “Some soothers are like that but not in our crew. It’s different in the field, of course. We’ve got to use our allomancy to survive, you know?” “Not just survive, Ranette.” Raze added, “To live.” “So you don’t like emotional allomancy? I think you’ll find you’re not alone there.” Ranette said, “Although I’m pretty good at soothing if I do say so myself. Wouldn’t be any use to this lot if I wasn’t.” “Well someone needs to do the laundry…” Raze said with a smirk and Ranette wrapped him soundly on the arm. “Sorry.” He added after. “So do you have any questions?” Ranette asked, “About us? Or what comes next?” "You want something from me, that much is clear... Soothers... Allomancy... Is that what the Master was? An Allomancer? What makes you different from him...?" “We’re what shouldn’t exist.” Raze explained, “half-skaa who have inherited allomancy from our noble blood. If the Lord Ruler’s laws were followed then we wouldn’t exist. Allomancers in the skaa population, why do you think the Lord Ruler wouldn’t want that?” "I'm sorry, I know very little about Allomancy. Only that it has power..." Galatea set aside her empty plate and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I can explain it to you in depth some time if you’re interested.” Raze replied, folding his arms. “There are 10 allomantic metals, and some people can ingest and burn one of these metals to tap in to a power, most can only burn one metal, and a very small number can burn all of them, like myself. Allomancy is the Lord Ruler’s gift to the nobility, and so we use that gift to resist his rule, and to overthrow the nobility. Of course, we’re a small crew designed for specialist missions. The Skaa Rebellion could use any help it can get, and it can provide you with a free life. It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be free.” He watched the young girl chew on his words. Skaa didn’t always react the same to the prospect of freedom. Some were excited, others nervous. He had met skaa who denied or even feared their freedom, too indoctrinated by their enslavement. That was why Galatea was interesting. If her actions were any indication, she would fight for that simple right. “You killed the nobleman who kept you in chains.” Raze said matter of factly, “I’ve killed many orders more, for far less. Tell me, how did you do it?” "I hit him..." Her reply fell flat as even as the words left her lips she found herself reliving the experience. It was traumatic. But, upon looking back, she realized what she had done. She had more than hit him. Her fist had passed through his head as though it was made of little more than bread and twigs, not muscle and bone. “You hit him?” Raze asked, raising an eyebrow. The girl didn’t look like she was strong enough to hit anybody hard enough to kill them. Then again, looks could be deceiving. Some people could make themselves stronger. “…were both of your parents skaa?” "I never knew my parents..." Galatea mumbled a response but she was focused, out of curiosity or her inability to pull herself away from that horrifying experience. "I hit him... so hard..." “…You could be a thug.” He said then quickly added, “an allomancer who burns pewter. It enhances your physical attributes, makes you fast and strong.” "Pewter is a metal... And I ingest it, somehow burn it and I become fast and strong..." Galatea thought this over. "But when did I swallow this metal?" “Sometimes Allomancers can burn trace metals from the water. Pewter is commonly used for bowls and cutlery.” Raze explained, “There’s a simple test for it.” Raze reached in to his pocket and produced a vial of liquid with metal flakes. “This solution has the primary 8 metals allomancers use in it. Drink it, and see if you can burn it.” He handed it out for her but Ranette swiped it from his hands. “And if she can’t burn it you’ll give her metal poisoning. Those metals can kill you if you don’t burn them off.” “If she burns pewter then she’ll be more likely to live through it until we sort it out.” Raze replied testily. “IF she burns pewter, Raze.” Ranette bit back with a slight anger to her tone. “We’re waiting here for our rotation to escape Urteau without being noticed. When we get the call we’re going to need to move quickly, we can’t have her being sick as well as…” she hesitated. "I'm starting to realise the only things the Master taught me were those useful to him." Galatea interjected after noting the half dozen words she didn't understand. Questions for later. "Give me the vial. If I need to drink it to be of use then I will. I can't expect to navigate this world on my own. It's... Alien to me..." Ranette, however, tossed the vial back to Raze. “You don’t need allomancy to help.” Ranette assured her, “But I’ll fetch you one of the vials our thugs use, a small dose. No sense injuring yourself over it. Isn’t that right, Raze?” She gaze him a pointed look. “Uh…right.” Raze said, scratching his head. Then he turned as Mraine entered the room without knocking. “Shifts are changing, Rudy thinks we’ll be moving this lot in 5 hours. I suggest you get some sleep before then.” He said, and turned back around to leave. “Well that settles it.” Ranette said as she began to shoo Raze out of the room. “Get some rest, Galatea.” “When we say it’s time to go…just do as instructed until we get safe again. Sleep well.” Raze said, and they both left Galatea alone.
  14. Bloodlines

    Inside a shady nightclub in Shibuya, Tokyo, heavy bass rumbled through the thick stone walls. A dancefloor packed with youthful revelers was illuminated through piercing, colourful lights and lasers which cut through the darkness like a knife through butter. Attractive young bodies in vibrant clothing, skin-tight dresses swayed and grinded to the rhythmic bass and delighted at the synthesized parade of trance sounds and electro beats. A female vocalist sang a song about memories as jets of dry ice were sent hissing across the room, weaving through the lights and the people like a fog. Around the dance floor were low tables and luxurious leather chairs where groups of men and women shouting at each other over the music, laughing and enjoying drinks. One man stood out sitting with his entourage, for he wasn’t Japanese. He was a pale man, with a gaunt, skinny frame. His hands, arms, neck and chest were covered in various tattoos and he was dressed in a pair of red Dr. Martens, grey, skinny jeans with a black belt and custom metal buckle that read: “F*CK OFF”, in English. He had no shirt on and his eyes were hidden behind a pair of mirror-lensed aviators. His hair was short, cut high and tight round the sides, the top was longer but tied back in a top knot, with a little tail. The man, who couldn’t have looked a day over 30, was smoking a cigarette that had an aroma that was certainly not tobacco. He was transfixed on the end as he inhaled, watching the crimson light claw closer to his lips, devouring all in it’s path, hungry, relentless, and leaving only ash in its wake. “Adrian!” A man yelled over the music as he sat next to him. He turned to the young man and leaned back in his chair. He pondered about the way people here said his name, which always sounded more like ‘Ey Dorian’ to him. He exhaled the smoke he was holding in his lungs and pulled down his shades momentarily to see him with his own eyes. Recognition followed. “Ah, right, didn’t recognize ya there, mate!” He said in English, “I’m too fucked mate, apologies. It’s my fault, eh.” “Do you…have any…” The other man seemed to be struggling with his English. Adrian held up two fingers to acknowledge that he understand, however. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, clear bag with 5 yellow pills in it. Amphetamines were the popular choice here, which Adrian figured was fiar enough but he’d always been more partial to cocaine. He offered them to the man, held between his two outstretched fingers. The man nodded and took them gratefully, then went to reach for his wallet. He produced a handful of Yen and slipped them to Adrian who pocketed them without a word. “Pass?” He said to the young man and offered him his joint. The man smiled and went to take it, but then hesitated as something caught his eye. He stared off behind Adrian, and then quickly began to look nervous. He stood up suddenly and disappeared into the crowd. Arian frowned at that, he felt it a bit of an unusual reaction to him, but once again realization dawned as another man tapped Adrian on the shoulder. This man stood out, much like Adrian did, but for a different reason. He was a broad shouldered Japanese man, dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt, with tattoos barely poking out from under his collar. The man looked mean, and definitely dangerous. “Ah…” Adrian said with a nod, “Y’alright there Kazuo san?” He asked, but Kazuo did not reply. Instead he pointed up to the second floor of the building, away from all the patrons, to a windowed room overhead. “Boss man wants to see me, eh?” Adrian asked, and he stood up, placing his joint in the ashtray. He picked up his T-shirt and put it on; it was a black t-shirt that had a white logo of two acoustic guitars crossed at the neck, with lettering reading: ‘Johnny Cash – Genuine American Rebel’ on it. Kazuo walked, and Adrian followed him. Before long they had exited from the main nightclub area and all that could be heard of the music was the distant thumping of bass. Bright lights greeted them along with a decidedly less visually appealing corridor. They moved in silence, passing other men in black suits as they went up some stairs and then knocked politely on a door. A voice on the other side indicated for them to come in, and they did. The room’s walls were the colour of slate, and the room was decorated with expensive, minimalist furniture. Inside there were two more goons and a third man who was older, perhaps in his mid-50s. This man was sitting down, and as Adrian came in her locked eyes with him and then offered the seat next to him. “Sit.” The man said in English. “Yeah, alright.” Adrian said with a smile and he walked over and sat down opposite the man, a glass coffee table between them. A decanter of whisky sat on the table, and a glass had been poured for each of them. The older man held his hand out to permit Adrian to drink. He took the glass happily and downed it’s contents in one gulp, feeling the amber liquid burn his throat on the way down. “Do you know why I have called you up here?” The man asked. “Not really.” Adrian replied, “Pretty sure it’s not my birthday though, so I can rule that out.” “I took you on because you are a foreigner, and people here feel more comfortable buying drugs from a foreigner.” “Well I wouldn’t really say they are comfortable but it’s a lot less scary than asking you lot for drugs, right?” Adrian said with a grin, “I mean you’re a pretty scary lot, aren’t you?” “Do I scare you, Adrian?” “A bit, yeah.” Adrian admitted, “But I’ve never really been described as the brave sort so I’m probably not the best person to ask, Mister Tatsuyuki. “Plus I’m not exactly sober.” “Sober enough…” Tatsuyuki replied, “We allow you to indulge yourself on our product, provided you keep making us money, and you take your cut like everyone else. If you were to take more than your cut…if you were to steal from me, that would be a problem. Do you have anything to say?” Adrian leaned back in the chair, and there was a pause as he thought about it. They definitely knew. He’d gotten greedy, had kept money aside, hidden it away from them when he was dropping off his takings. In retrospect, stealing from the Yakuza was never a particularly genius plan, but then again he’d never been all that smart. “Don’t know what you’re talking about mate.” He said finally with a shrug, “But I’m sure that whatever’s bothering you, well, we can sort it out with a good chat, eh?” “Who do you think you are talking to?” Tatsuyuki said, and he got up from his chair and began walking to the back of this room, “I have indulged your relative lack of respect since you are a young, unenlightened foreigner. You have thus far shown little appreciation of our culture.” “Hey now that’s not fair!” Adrian said, getting up as well, “I appreciate the hell out of this culture, y’know, I love all the Pokémon games, and don’t get me started on Hatsune Miku, she’s just fab is she not? Cute too, well, for a cartoon anyway.” “Urusei!” Tatsuyuki snapped, suddenly allowing anger in to his voice. He continued berating Adrian in Japanese and as he reached the far wall he picked up katana that was sitting on a stand on a mantelpiece. “Do you understand honour, even a little, gaijin?” He asked as he began to approach Adrian once more. “I hope you’re not gonna ask me to do the hari kari shite, are ya?” Adrian asked. “Aitsu o tsukamaero!” Tatsuyuki barked as an order to his men, and the two goons advanced on Adrian, who spun around to face them, holding his hands out placatingly. “Now lads don’t be so hasty, eh?” He said with a nervous grin, “Let’s not go doing something we regret, hm?” The two men went to grab him, but Adrian avoided the first’s lunge and backed off, his tone more frantic now. “Hey listen, listen! I’m telling ya, I don’t want to hurt ya now. Let’s just settle down eh?” The second man came at him and grabbed him by the wrist, wrenching it behind his back and twisting it hard, causing him to cry out. The other goon grabbed Adrian’s other side and collectively they forced him to his knees, and held him there. He tried to summon some strength, but it had been so long since he had used it. Plus he wasn’t sure the last time he was entirely sober, and he was pretty far gone on various chemicals now. “This…this is for those who are honorable.” Tatsuyaki said, indicating to the katana. One of the men held Adrian’s head up so he could look at Tatsuyaki. “You are a pitiful little thief, and you do not deserve to taste this steel. You get the easy way out.” And then Tatsuyaki pulled out a gun and pointed it at Adrian’s head. “Oh…fffuck.” Adrian managed, staring at the outstretched arm holding the gun at him. “Look…if you’re gonna kill me I would really suggest the sword, mate. If ya cut me head off ya might have a chance.” “Be silent, your time is up you little punk” Tatsuyaki said in Japanese, which Adrian had understood quite clearly. Then there was a loud bang and his ears began ringing like bells. He felt something hit his face, the floor perhaps. His vision faded to white, and he could hear the muffled sound of the men talking, and that distant rumble of bass that had likely masked the sound of the gunshots to anyone in the club down below. “Clean this up.” Tatsuyaki said, as he picked up his glass of whisky and sipped from it. One of his subordinates nodded and left the room to get some help. The other man knelt down at Adrian’s side and began to haul his corpse up off the floor. He got the pale man up off the floor, and was holding him tight against his chest, when suddenly the corpse moved, and Adrian suddenly was the one gripping hold of him. His shades had come off and in the bright light of the room his amber eyes blazed, his pupils slitted like a cat’s. His mouth opened to a maw of gleaming, serrated, razor sharp teeth like that of a monster shark. He clamped his jaws down on the man’s throat and gnashed furiously. The man screamed but it soon became a gurgle as Adrian tore his throat out, snarling like a feral animal as he guzzled down his blood hungrily. “What….are…are you a ghoul!?” Tatsuyuki cried as he pointed the gun at Adrian once more. Adrian dropped the lifeless corpe of the man he had feasted on, and turned his narrow eyes towards Tatsuyuki, and when he spoke he did so in perfect Japanese, even with a regional kansai dialect. “I warned ya…” He said, and he paused to shiver. Fresh blood coursing through him was a particularly intense high, made you feel stronger than any cocaine would, and the intense pleasure was better than any amphetamine, better than heroin, and he would know. He’d had quite a lot of heroin over the years. “G-get back, Ghoul!” Tatsuyuki yelled, and he opened fire on Adrian, firing again and again until the magazine was empty and the gun just clicked. Adrian looked down at the holes in his shirt where he had been riddled with bullets, and then looked back up at Tatsuyuki with a hurt expression. “Just ‘cause I don’t die doesn’t mean it’s ain’t sore, ya know?” He advanced towards Tatsuyaki. “And I ain’t no Ghoul. I told ya didn’t I? I’m a vegetarian!” “But…then what…?” “I like drugs, Tatsuyuki san. Love ‘em, I admit it. Somethin’ of an addict. Just so happens though….that human blood is the best drug goin’ for guys like me. Now, see…” He held up his blood covered hand and pointed his finger at Tatsuyuki chastisingly. “What ya failed to grasp is that the reason I take so many drugs is because it helps me not consume the one I really love. But when you got and blow me to bits like this, you went and triggered my healin’ didn’t ya? Now I’m stone cold sober, in a lot of pain, and everythin’ has a price, includin’ my immortality. Bet yer wishin’ you’d cut my head off now, hm?” With a bit of resolve mustering in him, Tatsuyuki threw his gun to the ground and drew the katana from it’s saba and with a warrior cry he ran at Adrian. The vampire smiled a grin full of bloody fangs, and as Tatsuyuki swung the blade he side stepped it with inhuman speed and grace, then he plucked the sword out of Tatsuyuki’s hands with effortless strength, and tossed it away. Then his other hand clamped around Tatsuyuki’s throat, his finger nails had hardened and became pointed claws, that pierced into the skin of Tatsuyuki’s neck. “16 years….not a drop of blood. Then ya had to go an’ fuck all that up, didn’t ya?” Adrian snarled and then he savaged at Tatsuyuki. Like a starved feral beast he ripped the Yakuza boss to shreds, his claws and fangs tearing him limb from limb, relieving him of his organs, scattering his flesh and bone across the floor, all the while blood sprayed everywhere, coating the window that looked out on to the nightclub from on high. Adrian’s memories of the event grew hazy as the blood frenzy consumed him. Specifics of the even were lost. There was only blood, and violence. For a while he swam in the sea of his dark, primal nature. When he finally emerged to the surface once more, he was no longer in the Yakuza den. He was in his shitty little apartment. At some point he had showered and ditched his blood-soaked clothing. Somewhere along the line his human side had seen sense and had ditched the blood for safer options. Adrian stared down at three empty bottles of whisky, and a fourth that was almost finished. Three lines of cocaine were chopped up and set out on the counter. He took the rolled up 10,000 yen note in his hand and then he snorted each line, one after the other. With each line he was given a sudden jolt of reality that brought his consciousness front and centre. He looked around the room, rubbing at his burning nostrils. He had money, but not a lot. His clothes were hastily packed in a duffle bag, and his phone was charging on a stand by his bed, a futon on the floor. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. Then he picked up his duffel bag and went to zip it shut, and noted that the katana Tatsuyuki had threatened him with was nestled in among his clothes. “Well…at least I got a souvenir.” He said to himself. He left the apartment in a hurry, and ran down the stairs in such a rush that he wasn’t paying attention to the windows. When he opened the doors to go outside he instinctively froze and stepped back. The bright sunshine of early morning greeted him on the street outside. He lingered in the door there for a moment, his normal looking eyes returned to narrow slits as the light him them. He covered them with his shades and then took a deep breath. Then Adrian the Vampire stepped out into the sun. It’s heat prickled on his skin, but did nothing more outwardly. While there was once a time where the sun would have burned him to ash, this had not been the case for more than half a century now. However, moving in daylight was no picnic for him. His keen senses and supernatural healing seemed to stop working when he walked in the daytime. And so all of a sudden the liquor and drugs hit him almost as powerfully as they would a normal, mortal human. He felt dizzy, and he was sweating, yet he kept getting cold shivers. He became disoriented as he moved through the streets of Shinjuku. A modicum of sense came back to him as he ducked into the subway and rode a train to Tokyo Central, and managed to shamble through enough conversation with the ticket lady and the man at the station’s shop to score himself a bottle of sake and a ticket on the Shinkansen to Osaka. As he settled down on the train, he got to drinking the bottle of sake and pulled a denim jacket over his head, in an attempt to get some sleep through the daytime journey. It took a long time, but sleep did take him eventually. Sleep, for a vampre, was not filled with dreams. Instead sleep was a cold, dark embrace. While it brought him rest, it was not the same comforting experience that he had once remembered it to be. And so not long after he felt his consciousness fading, he was suddenly awake again. It had been hours, and he had awoken to a headache that was surely a sign that he was far too sober. The train had pulled into a station, and the tannoy indicated that it was Shin Osaka Station. With a grown Adrian grabbed his things and hauled himself up and off of the train. He made his way quickly through the station, which he noted had changed quite a bit since his last visit to Osaka. When had that been? 20 years ago? More? It didn’t matter especially. He knew where he needed to go. He took a moment to be incredulous at the inconsistency of his ancient brain’s memory. He had forgotten more languages than most people could speak, including his native Romanian, but for some reason had managed to hold on to English, Spanish, French and Japanese, and specifically with a kansai dialect. Bonkers. And he even remembered he needed to get to Namba Station to get to where he was going. Yet he could not remember his own mother and father. He could remember that he loved his mother, and that he had absolutely no love for his father, but for the life of him he hadn’t a clue why. The journey through the subway to Namba was a brief one, only a quarter of an hour at most. When he reached Namba station he went to the bathroom and straigtened himself out a bit. He was wearing a sleeveless, black T-shirt with a picture of Godzilla; the old kaiju rubber suit one, not the weird Mathew Broderick one. He had kept his Dr. Martens on and had changed to a pair of blue, denim jeans that had been cut at the knees to make them shorts. After that he begrudgingly made his way out of the station, and back in to direct sunlight. The disorientation wasn’t quite so intense this time, mostly because he’d somewhat sobered on the journey. A quick five minute walk in which he had hoovered through about 3 cigarettes had lead him to Dotonbori, and it’s signature neon adverts emblazoned across the tall buildings next to the canal. A wave of familiarity and nostalgia washed over him. The place had not changed quite so significantly as Tokyo had over the years. So now he was here. On the run from the Yakuza, who would no doubt seek retribution for the massacre that had transpired in Shinjuku. He had no money, and no employment now that his previous employers likely wanted him dead. He also had no contacts to buy drugs, and nowhere to live. Now that he had taken time to stop and think, perhaps coming to Osaka with literally no way of getting by wasn’t such a bright idea. However, as he had acknowledged many times before in his life, he had to admit that he was not a smart man. His pondering was disrupted by the smell of delicious foods being cooked. Dotonbori had a whole host of decent places to eat, lots of cosy little bars and restaurants where you could eat a good meal for an affordable price. He moved away from the busier streets and walked down by the canal, looking for somewhere quiet where he could avoid drawing any attention to himself. Finally he found himself a little establishment called Soma Ramen. He put an unlit cigarette in his mouth and pushed the door open, and stepped inside. He looked up to find a young woman staring at him with an unreadable expression. He waited for the customary ‘welcome’ that most shops in Japan greeted patrons with, but it didn’t come. Oh dear. “Yo.” He said with a tired smile, “Do you have a vegetarian dish?”
  15. HEROES

    The Bronx. 42 square miles of land. An urban community often associated with crime and decay, never really managing to rid itself of the reputation it gained in the 60’s and 70’s. 20 years after the decline of livable housing and the increase in arson cases, The Bronx had went through significant redevelopment and the quality of life there had improved. Yet The Bronx was no without it’s problems. Gangs were still prevalent in low income areas, and of the various Hispanic gangs, the Latin Kings and Latin Queens were the most prevalent. Violence and corruptions still stained the borough like an sickness. There was only so much the police were capable of, and The Avengers were too busy fighting aliens and killer robots to actually look out for the little guy. New York had it’s own share of superheroes to deal with the every day crimes. Spiderman, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Power Man and Power Girl. Still, none of them were handling The Bronx. It seemed that despite wealth returning there, with new housing and businesses being built, the danger was still present. Someone had to do something about it. That someone was Flare. Flare liked to be up high, to see over the city from the rooftops. As far as hero outfits went, her ensemble wasn’t quite as striking as Daredevil’s or Spiderman’s. She wore a simple slate grey hoodie with the hood up, with dark lycra sport leggings, and black athletic sneakers. Her elbows, knees and shins were covered by black, hard-plastic protective pads. Under her hood she had a tanned, smooth complexion, and wore a pair of visor-like sunglasses to hide her eyes. A fringe of dark brown hair fell across her forehead, with the ends dyed in flashes of purple. Tonight was something of a special night for Flare. On any given night she would do her ‘rounds’, making her way through the streets, quite literally looking for trouble. Generally she was used to interceding in gang fights, muggings and assaults. On more rare occasions she might discover a burglary taking place. Tonight, however, she was on to something much bigger. Over the last few evenings she had listened in on conversations between members of the Latin Kings. She had discovered that the Latin Kings were to receive a large shipment of goods; most likely drugs or guns, as part of an ongoing relationship they had with another gang operating elsewhere. Bringing drugs or guns into her town could cause no end of trouble. With a large shipment of weapons the Latin Kings could settle old scores with rival gangs and increase their hold on The Bronx. With Drugs they could bleed the town of the little wealth and prosperity it was gathering, and ruin people’s lives in the process. Flare wasn’t about to let that happen. Unlike most of the people in this town, she could actually do something about it. She stood at the edge of a flat rooftop of a collection of large warehouse buildings down by the East River. It was dark and even from her heightened vantage point she could see little to no signs of life. So she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and then she flared her hearing. Well, that was a vague term for what she was doing anyway. Flare could heighten her senses individually with an effort of will. However, even the sense people considered to be hearing, was a collection of different senses. She could flare her sense of volume, although she avoided it often as it just made everything louder. Any sound engineer will tell you that the human ear is the most sophisticated microphone. If that was the case, then Flare’s power worked kind of like the sliding controls on an audio mixing board. To make everything louder, that was like a master volume control, and it was never very helpful in her opinion. So she had learned to adjust pitch and tone, in order to shut off some sounds and hone in on others. It took her a few moments of mental adjustment, but eventually she began to hear something going on. The sounds were coming from the shipping containers outside the warehouse by the river itself. There was the sound of someone taking a draw on a cigarette, followed by a very slight cough. Two sets of footsteps were moving between the containers. Then in the warehouse itself she could heard muffled noises of people talking. She allowed her hearing to return to normal, and then she was on the move. She dropped down from the roof, gripping on to a metal pipe on the corner of the building and using it to slide down to the ground. She moved quietly, sticking to the shadows created by the large shipping containers. She moved carefully between them, towards the sound of the first two people she had heard. As she moved she flared her sight, specifically her ability to take in light. Suddenly the dark night’s colours began to fade a little, but the shadows became dimmer and the lights brighter. Now all that had been murky and hard to see where clearer and more distinct. She saw shadows moving between two containers and knew she was close to her first targets. With a short hop Flare nimbly climbed atop the container and crept slowly across it. She cautiously looked over it’s edge to see two men dressed in typical gang banger garb, all tattoos, denim and bandanas. Definitely Latin Kings. Both men were carrying pistols and were pacing calmly, peering out of either side of the container, looking for anyone nearby. Clearly they hadn’t spotted her. To take them both out she needed to get her timing right. One mistake and they’d yell, or even fire off a shot. She waited until the smoker had moved to one end of the container to look around. When he took another drag of his cigarette she dropped down behind him and swept a kick at the back of his leg, sending him falling back towards her, she bobbed back out of the way of his fall, but when his back his the ground she followed up by striking him in the chest, causing him to choke and cough. By the time the other gang banger turned around Flare was already sprinting between the containers towards him. He lifted his pistol to shoot and was opening his mouth to yell, but she was already on him. She confidently grabbed his gun hang with her right and pushed it aside, pointing the gun away from her, while her left fist came in with a hook to his jaw, then she moved back along his arms and pulled the gun from it, and turned the pistol on it’s owner. The man held his jaw in pain but immediately froze when he saw the gun pointed at him. However she didn’t hold him hostage for long, before he could even begin attempting to bargain, she had clubbed him with the grip of the gun and he fell to the ground, out cold. Flare calmly dismantled the pistol and dropped it on the floor. She began to slow her breathing, taking long and considerate breaths, actively trying to calm the rush of adrenaline flowing through her, filling her with excitement. In and out she breathed, and slowly she began to calm down. She moved back through the containers and towards the warehouse. She ducked down behind a car to get across the open gap, and then pressed herself against the wall of the building. She flared her hearing once more. “-you do not need to worry how we are shipping this in. All you need to know is we can manage regular supplies of what you need.” Said a man’s voice. He sounded well-spoken and confident.” “I ain’t questionin’ your ability to bring the goods, Saito. I just want to know how you’re shipping all this in without alerting the feds. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill brand heroin…and we’re not talking a small amount here either.” Said another man, with a hispanic accent. “Perhaps you should just focus on the money you’re going to make with this investment.” The well-spoken man, Saito replied. Flare cursed silently. It was drugs after all. She allowed her hearing to fade back to normal and began to make her move. She climbed up the fire escape ladders at the side of the building that lead to the second floor balcony of the warehouse. She opened the door quietly and stepped inside, looking around to see if there were any guards posted along the upper balcony. She could see no one, but she flared her hearing to double check. Her expression became a frown. Aside from the two men talking, there was no other sound in the warehouse. There was nobody there. That was just too unlikely. Normally a meeting like this would have gangs posting thugs all around the place to make sure there were no cops nearby. She moved quietly along the balcony, ducking behind boxes in case either of the two men spotted her. When she found a spot with a good vantage she looked out on the two men. Saito was likely the middle aged Japanese man with short black hair, and wearing a business suit. The other man was dressed in black jeans and a white vest, his arms covered in tattoos, with tan skin and dark hair, and a stubbled beard. Next to them a container had been opened up, and a bag of some sort of powder was sitting between them on a table. She examined the container that had stored the cocaine. It was full of the stuff. Then she noted the brand outside of the containers, some sort of corporate logo. Then she noticed the logo on another container in the warehouse, then another, and another. There were at least 10 containers in the warehouse with that logo. Did they all carry hundreds of pounds of heroin? She had to take out both of these men, and keep them apprehended until the police arrived. She flared her hearing again, and as she attuned her hearing, she heard the smallest of movements from behind her. She turned just in time to see and then dodge away as a long blade stabbed into the wood of the crate she had been behind. She turned and faced what she quickly realized was an honest to goodness, real life ninja. Dressed entirely in red and black cloth gear that concealed all but his eyes, the ninja was quick to react and was already advancing for a second strike. He swung his sword at her and she used her hand to block it sideways and advanced inward, so the blade was behind her. Then she brought her fingers in tight, with her knuckles flat, like a tiger’s paw. Her deflecting arm wrapped around the ninja’s oustretched arm and held it in place while she jabbed him twice at the point where his arm met his torso. The man made an odd strained noise, but Flare moved her arm around the back of his head, and as she gripped him tightly she raised her knee into his stomach hard, then hooked her leg around his and swept it out from under him, laying him out flat of the ground. The noise of the ninja crashing had alerted Saito and the Latin King leader. They both had stopped talking and had turned her way. Flare went to advance on them, but as she ran someone hit her hard from the side. Then another swept her legs out from under her and she hit the ground of the metal balcony hard. She winced in pain but tried to get up, only to have someone kick her hard in the side and she barked out a short cry of pain. As she looked up she saw more ninja’s dressed in red and black surrounding her. There must have been at least 11 of them, 12 including the one she had taken out. They had been here all along, watching her, and waiting to strike. Ninja, the real deal, martial artists that could stand so still, and be so quiet, that she had not detected them even with her superior hearing. She struggled as they grabbed hold of her, and dragged her down to the lower floor. Then they pulled her hood down to reveal short, pixie-cut her, longest at her fringe which was dyed purple. They took off her sunglasses as well, revealing her defiant, amber eyes. “One of yours?” Saito asked to the Latin King Leader. “Why because she’s Hispanic?” Came the reply, “Nah this is just some punk trying to play hero.” “Well, she didn’t have any trouble with your men apparently.” Saito said, and he looked at Flare and smiled at her. “You seem like you have a lot of potential, it’s a shame you had to go and waste it like this.” Saito motioned to the ninja, and suddenly she was being forced on to her knees, and someone held her head down, then she felt a blade resting on the back of her neck. Tears welled up in her eyes. She was terrified. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. How could she have been so stupid. So weak. And now she was going to die. Her mind fled to her family, her two parents, and her younger brother. She was never going to see them again, and for what? She couldn’t even manage this, how could she have ever thought she could be a hero? All she had accomplished now, was to get herself killed. The tears finally fell from her eyes and tapped softly on the ground beneath her. Then, quite suddenly, all of the lights in the warehouse went out. “What the f-“ She heard the Latin Kings Leader say, but then there was a noise like a blunt object hitting him, and then something heavy hitting the ground. Suddenly there was a lot of scuffling in the dark, the sounds of metal scraping and blows being struck. Then the grip on her was released and somebody hauled her to her feet. She flared her vision and almost all colour disappeared, but she could make out grainy images in the total darkness. Someone was fighting with the ninja, someone had saved her. She saw Saito fighting diligently with his men, and apparently he was an incredibly skilled fighter himself. Then there was a flash of flight that momentarily dazzled her vision, and she allowed her enhanced vision to fade once more. The light, she realized, was a glowing yellow orb that seemed to flicker and pulse like a flame. As her eyes adjusted she realized that it was coming closer, and that it wasn’t an orb at all. It was a fist. Illuminated by the light of the Iron Fist, was the dragon-like tattoo on the hero’s chest, as he advanced on Saito and hit him with a single, powerful strike that sent the man crashing back across the room and slamming against the wall. “If you can walk you better run.” A voice came from behind her, as a masked man approached having dealt with the rest of the ninja, who were in a heap on the floor behind him. “Police will no doubt be here soon.” The man, she noted, didn’t look right at her but instead seemed to be only looking vaguely in her direction. Flare nodded and moved with both of the men towards an exit door and back outside. In the light of the moon and the streetlights she realized that she was running next to a man dressed in green trousers, with a bare chest and a yellow bandana across his face, was definitely the man she knew as The Legendary Iron Fist. The other, dressed in a bulky, red armour, with an armoured, red mask, complete with red eyes, and a pair of devil horns; he was Daredevil. “How did you…” She began to ask. “I have good ears, a bit like yourself.” Daredevil said to her, “Although The Hand have become particularly capable at moving silently. Yet they still cannot hear as well as you, so you should have used that fully to your advantage.” “That’s why you turned off the lights.” Flare said, getting it. “If no one can see then the one who can hear better will succeed.” “Something like that.” Daredevil replied. “That’s a nice chat you two are having.” Iron Fist said from ahead of them, “But we need to get out of here before the police arrive.” “Right.” Daredevil nodded. “Go home kid. And think twice before you go trying to play hero again, all right?” “I…” She went to say more but before she could the two heroes ran off and left her alone again. She cursed silently and then stormed off alone. She ran down the road hurriedly, but as she ran across the road the police cars came rolling around the corner. They screeched to a halt and before she could hide they had stepped out of the car, their guns pointed at her, screaming at her to get her hand on her head. She thought about how best to take them out before escaping, but then she thought better of it. It was one thing to hurt bad people, but these were just officers doing their job. With a heavy sigh, she raised her hands in the air and calmly waited as the officers surrounded her. --- --- --- --- A few hours later she had been booked and locked up in a questioning room. Police had began questioning her but she remained silent. They asked for her name but she didn’t respond, then they began asking what she had been doing at the scene, and started warning her of the trouble she was in. Eventually she was beginning to feel the strain of it all. She was scared. She was going to get in trouble with the police, and be branded a criminal. Her parents were going to found out what she did. “I…” She went to speak, to spill the beans and admit everything to them. “I’m Isa-“ The door to the room opened and a man in a suit walked in, he had blonde hair and hid his eyes behind a pair of crimson tinted sunglasses. He moved with a delicate care, and she noticed he was holding a blind man’s cane. “Fellas, you know the drill.” The man said, “Her lawyer is here, so it’s time for you to go.” “Lawyer? She hasn’t even had her phone call yet, we don’t even know her na-“ “Isabella Vasquez.” She said, cutting them off, “And if that guy says he’s my lawyer then he’s my lawyer.” “Matt Murdock.” The lawyer said, “Now, gentleman, can we have some privacy please?” “Damn it!” The other officer cursed and the pair grumbled at each other as they collected themselves and left the room, closing the door behind them. Matt gave Isabella a warm smile and then made his way to the table and sat himself down opposite her. “Nice to meet you, miss Vasquez.” “Izzy.” She said to him, “That’s what most people call me.” “Izzy…well it looks like you’ve been busy.” He put some paperwork down in front of him, “Fleeing the scene of a crime, 18 men found beaten to unconsciousness, 12 shipping crates filled with heroin, illegal guns scattered everywhere, that’s quite a busy night.” “Look I’m not explaining myself to you, you aren’t even my real lawyer.” Izzy said, frowning, “They don’t have anything on me, or they’d have booked me with something, right?” “Oh I think they thought you were a Latin Queen, part of the gang.” Matt said, “But I’ve managed to talk them down from that, you’d be amazed how quickly the government backs down when you throw the term ‘racial profiling’ around a bit. You still have a few minor charges but your bail has been posted via a donation from the Rand Corporation.” “Uh…what?” Izzy said, frowning further still. “Why the hell is Rand Corporation bailing me out?” “I think, officially, it’s a PR stunt to do with community outreach, youth rehabilitation, something like that.” Matt smirked a little, “As part of that same program you have been offered a paid scholarship by the Stark Institute. I understand you are currently enrolled at Columbia, Biology major?” “How do you know that?” Izzy asked suspiciously. “I did a little research, and I have some resources that the police don’t. You’re Isabella Vasquez, 18 years old, star of your high school track team, currently enrolled at Columbia under a fees only athletics scholarship, with a major in biology. You also practice regularly at Ahmad’s Krav Maga Training, and even teach other students sometimes.” “If you did your research properly, then you’d know I’m not looking for hand outs.” Izzy replied coldly. “Izzy, the Stark Institute scholarship will allow you to continue to focus on your studies without the need to do track, and it’s a full ride scholarship complete with boarding at a specialized campus with food allowances, transport allowances, clothing, and finances to support yourself and your family.” “I like track.” Izzy said, folding her arms. “Look I don’t want none of Starks hand outs. I earned this scholarship, I earned my place in Columbia. I worked…really, really hard to get in there. I didn’t go looking for hand outs.” “I understand.” Matt said with a nod, and he was smiling at her. “There’s another angle to this, though. You see…you’ve been under Stark’s radar for a while. Didn’t you wonder why Daredevil was all the way over in The Bronx just when you needed help last night?” Izzy tensed at that. Mat knew what had happened last night. “…Stark’s been watching…me?” She asked, her voice trembling. “He makes a point of keeping an eye on future potential. People who have…abilities.” Matt opened a folder in the pile in front of the and showed her a sheet of paper. Izzy picked it up and read it. “Avengers Initiative?” Izzy asked. “Tony Stark’s plan for the future. To train young, talented individuals to become to heroes of the future. The scholarship will allow you to do what you have always been doing; training your body and your mind, to become as strong as you can be. You’ve worked hard to be a hero-“ “Damn hard.” Izzy interrupted. “Right.” Matt nodded, “And people have noticed. This isn’t a hand out, Izzy. But it’s your choice if you take it.” Izzy thought about it. What Matt had said was true. Since Izzy had began to notice her powers, her first thought had been how to use them to protect people. She had been training her whole life to protect people. She had been fighting, and running, and climbing every chance she had got, and as she grew older she had structured her life around this goal. Her daily routine, the subjects she learned, her fitness, her diet, all of it had been to be a hero, and now someone was offering to help her. “Where do I sign?” She asked, with a slight smirk. “HAHA! YES!” a muffled voice cried from the opposite side of the door leading out of the interrogation room. Then the door opened and Tony Stark, dressed in an impeccable business suit, with his characteristic goatee, and a pair of shades on, poked his head into the room. “Eat it, Murdoc! I told you she’d go for it, you owe me five bucks!” Then he winked at Izzy, “Welcome to the team, Vasquez. Later.” He closed the door and left her alone again with Matt, who looked a little embarrassed.
  16. Hallows

    The hours passed by and Vincent and Rachel busied themselves with preparations. The kitchen had lost the Christmassy smell of cinnamon and in it’s place was an amalgum of exotic, overpowering smells. Jinx had, at one point, wordlessly came in to take whatever the hell it was she had been baking out of the oven and then retreated once more. Vincent, for his part, didn’t pay her any notice. He already liked her better than James, but that wasn’t to say he liked her much at all. His general disdain for demons wasn’t something he could shrug off, but at least Jinx wasn’t quite so annoying as James. While he continued to guide Rachel through making the correct potions, he had went out to the car and came back with a few supplies. He was in the middle of, apparently, making some sort of friendship bracelet with several dull threads. “How’s the consistency?” He asked Rachel as he tied off the bracelet and placed it in a circle of salt he had marked out on the counter. He flexed his fingers towards it and there was a gentle thrum of energy as he closed the circle around the accessory. "The...consistency...?" Rachel stared into the pot and stirred it's contents. "I dunno... Lumpy." Vincent leaned over and examined the contents. “Keep stirring.” He said, “Let me know when it sort of gets like cookie dough.” He didn’t require a lot of concentration for the enchantment he was working. Honestly it was the kind of thing he could do in his sleep at this point, but it’s importance meant he wasn’t prepared to let Rachel try her hand at it. She was doing a fairly good job with the potions though, despite not seeming very enthused. She’d had a rough night, something he knew a little about. She might not appreciate it now, but he knew that busywork was great during these times. Vincent was just starting to think about how hungry he was, and was contemplating ordering take out when Meredith popped her head into the kitchen, she looked tired and more than a little nervous. “Can I have duck pancakes?” She asked "Uh…how-“ He cut himself off, “Nevermind.” He caught Rachel’s eye, “What about you, grasshoppa? Want some grub?” He asked in a mildly offensive oriental accent. "Yeah. Fine." Rachel muttered, her eyes locked on the pot. "Are we ordering out because I could really destroy some egg rolls right now--" James walked into the kitchen, quickly flanked by Violet. "--not over! I was speaking to you!!" Violet growled as she chased after James. "What do you want me to say? I sensed your heightened emotional state, I turned up, I saved the day." "I don't need you to rescue me!" Violet walked over to the concoction Vincent was brewing and glanced inside, "Faster." She added. Rachel begrudgingly started stirring faster. "It's my job. Remember? You summoned me. Now I'm stuck here. Even if I want to live my own life, I can't stop myself from interfering with yours. That's what you asked for when you summoned me, so..." "There are too many people in here." Jinx chimed in, her tone a mixture of neutral apathy and yet disdain. "All of you. Get out of my kitchen." She started with shoving James out, "And I'm making food and you're going to order in?" Her eyes flashed from yellow to red, "That's so thoughtless." “Well you’ve been walking around with a stick up your ass and shit under your nose since we got here so I didn’t dare assume you might feed us.” Vincent said, rolling his eyes. He made a final flourish with his hand and there was a pop and hiss, as the small bracelet in the circle seemed to smoke, the fibers burning as ancient runes were etched into the material. He inspected his work for a moment, before finally breaking the circle of salt with his finger and removing the bracelet. He handed it to Rachel. “Here, this is for you.” He said. "Dude-- friendship bracelet...?" Rachel took the bracelet between her thumb and forefinger and held it at arms length as though it might be diseased. Violet left the kitchen willingly as she was still mid-conversation with James. "Now go sit down like normal, grateful, well-adjusted people, and I'll put food out for you." Jinx crossed her arms with impatient expectation. Somebody said something to her in the next room. "Nobody's having egg rolls!" She yelled back. Then looked back to Vincent and Rachel. “It’s a dead man’s talisman.” Vincent said, “I know it looks like shit but that’s made from fibers of burial clothing. Do you know how hard it is to get corpse threads? I mean it’s not like grave robbing is legal.” He shoved Rachel out of the way gently and began finishing up the potion, noting Jinx’s penetrating stare. He also noticed Rachel’s look of disgust. “Look, that thing will 100 percent protect you from possession, and any ghost that tries to phase through you like earlier will burn up and fade back to the Void.” He turned off the gas to the hob and picked up the pot, stirring the contents out into an awaiting beaker. It looked like a glass full of thick, wet mud, and smelled like something far worse. “And this is well let you see them.” He said, pointing to the mud, “And that will let you hurt them.” He said, pointing to several jars of what looked like grainy dust. "Okay! Fine. Enough already." Rachel slipped the bracelet on and walked through into the main living room. James had cleared some space at the table and everyone was settling in. Vincent rolled his eyes and began clearing up. “Ungrateful little snot…” He muttered as he put the pots and empty beakers into the sink. A foggy memory of his old mentor making similar mutterings caused him to smirk. After he had cleared up he made his way in to the living room again and sat down with a heavy sigh. “Hey Jimbo!” He said to James, “You got anything to drink?” he asked, “Also can I smoke in here or…?” He thumbed to the door leading outside. "Sure. Drinks in the cabinet over there. And you can smoke in here." James nodded as he picked up his knife and fork. "No he can't!" Jinx called through from the kitchen as Rachel took a seat at the table. "It's fine." James reassured Vincent, though he couldn't help but notice that James did so under his breath. A few minutes later Jinx walked in holding a large Pyrex dish full of homemade lasagne. She put the dish down and as she passed Vincent she pulled the barely-lit cigarette from his mouth. "Hah!" Violet laughed as she reached for the serving spoon but dropped it immediately when Jinx hissed at her. A few minutes later, Jinx had served everyone a portion and sat down herself. There was silence, stillness. Then Jinx ate her first bite and everyone cautiously followed suite. Then everyone was back to talking amongst themselves once more. “Now here was me thinking you were a sorry excuse for a wizard, Vi” Vincent said as he sat back down from his trip to the cabinet with a small, tulip-shaped glass only barely filled with amber liquid. “And until this day I thought I was right, but it appears I was mistaken. All those years ago when you summoned a familiar, you could have got yourself a dog familiar, and then I’d be sitting here with a miller light like a college frat dudebro. But…” He tipped the glass at James, “Cats apparently have a taste for the finer things.” He took a sip of the whisky and let it swirl in his mouth, before swallowing and relishing the delicious warmth that spread through him. Then he poked at the lasagne with a fork. “That’s a lot of cheese…” He said foolishly, “Is your game to slowly kill us via myocardial infarction?” "It's hard milk." James mumbled between mouthfuls, as he hungrily devoured his plate. "Maybe." Jinx replied directly to Vincent, raising a brow with a conspiratorial inflection. "Thank you, Jinx!" Rachel added, eating the food unreservedly. "Protection from otherworldly forces... Nothing." Violet smirked, "Cooked pasta though..." Rachel shot her an angry glare but it seemed regret was a fleeting emotion for Violet. The chatter was cut short by cutlery hitting a plate. Everyone turned to Meredith, who was staring back at them with an incredulous look. “Look…I’ve tried to go with this but…are you all insane!?” “Ugh, I wish.” Vincent replied. “We just got attacked by ghosts! Then she-“ Meredith pointed at Violet for emphasis, “nearly killed me and Rachel, and now we’re in a house eating lasagne cooked by demons!? This is…it’s nuts! How are you all okay with this!?” "It's fun, isn't it?!" James smiled as he finished licking his plate clean. "Get used to it." Rachel grumbled, pushing food around her plate. Violet had long-since finished her lasagne and perked up at Meredith's frustration, "Everyone has to live, Meredith. Humans, demons, cosmic entities. We're all just trying to get through life. Don't get hung up on it." “Yeah, except we’re going to die. Soon. Or did you forget?” Meredith said, “Also its 3am and you’re all sitting eating dinner like this is a normal thing to do! It’s not normal…” Her voice broke a little and she shut her eyes to stop the tears but they formed anyway, “I thought…I thought at least if I died, if I could save everyone else in the process but…” She took a deep breath, “This is too much. I can’t act normal and pretend nothing is wrong. I…I don’t want to die.” "Shut... Up!" Violet snapped. "We're all thinking the same thing, but most of us need to recharge. Joking and pressing buttons helps to make you feel normal. We can't just sit here thinking about what's coming." "She has a point." James added quietly, "Bit harsh though... She's scary." "Can I just eat in peace?" Rachel piped up. Meredith didn’t respond, instead she bit her lip, and then she pushed back her chair and stormed off from the table. A moment later the front door to the house opened and then slammed shut again. “When did I become the well-adjusted one?” Vincent asked with a sigh. He stood up from the table and as he passed by Jinx he snatched the cigarette she had taken from him and headed for the door. “You know you could be nicer to her, if only because her visions are about the only thing that will stop us from meeting the reaper anytime soon. Hell I already met the bitch, and damn if she wasn’t smokin’ hot.” "Uh-huh." Violet grumbled. "I was being nice." She turned around to face Vincent and smirked, "Oh can I have a drag?!" Violet asked excitedly, then she inhaled rapidly. Vincent's cigarette alighted in his hand and burned through to the filter, leaving an ashen corpse. Then she exhaled a large smoke cloud that quickly formed into a skull before dispersing. As the smoke cleared, Violet's expression wasn't gleeful defiance, as Vincent had come to expect, but profound confusion. The confusion spread and warped into a nervous panic. "Vincent...?" She asked, raising her tone. Vincent scowled at her and then retrieved a fresh cigarette from his carton. “You’re so childish…” He grumbled as he stepped out of the house. --- --- --- --- When he got outside Vincent spotted Meredith stalking off down the path. He sighed and lit his cigarette and began a slow stroll after her. “Yo!” He called, and she stopped and turned to him. Her face reddened and she toyed with continuing to storm off, but in the end she waited for Vincent to reach her. “Sorry about them, well not the demons, I don’t give a shit about them. Violet and I, and Rachel to a much lesser extent, have been facing imminent danger on and off our whole lives. You really have to forgive a little dysfunction.” “Dysfunction?” Meredith replied with a raised brow. “You people are crazy, and I should know, I’ve been called crazy my whole life.” “Yeah no surprises there.” Vincent said as he took a drag, a moment later his nostrils flared and smoke plumed out of them, “All mortals are just a little bit magic, just a tiny bit-“ he indicated by holding up his finger and thumb, “Most of them have just enough ability to sense real magic. Generally they don’t react very well. It’s easier to believe you’re crazy than that you can actually see the future.” “…It would be easier if I was crazy.” Meredith grumbled. “That’s what I said earlier!” Vincent said with a shrug, “Look I know you’ve had it rough, but you’re not the only one. My mentor…well he was a real hard ass. Imagine spending all morning and afternoon at high school, and when the other kids go home to watch tv, do drugs and have sex with each other like teenagers should be doing, you’re going to the magical school of hard knocks for night classes.” “Wow…you’ve really been doing this for that long?” Meredith asked. “I mean…I knew there were others like me but…you guys are on another level.” “Yeah, well…I had the benefit of training.” Vincent explained. Thinking about his childhood was bringing back some old, buried feelings of anxiety. “…it was tough. Necessary though.” “You think? You should let a kid be a kid if you ask me.” Meredith replied. “Evidence to the contrary.” Vincent said, thumbing at his chest. “I ran away from home at 16. Used the very spells he taught me to cover my tracks. Minor transmogrification to make me look older, turning plain paper into cash, fake I.D. It was stupidly easy.” “Don’t you think you did that because you never got to live though?” Meredith asked “Maybe, but it doesn’t matter.” Vincent said, “I thought my teacher was just being a crusty old fart. I was wrong. He taught me how to do magic the hard way, because taking the easy way doesn’t end well.” “What? So you commited a few crimes, played bad boy for a bit. You don’t seem to be suffering too much for it.” Her smirk changed to a mixture of shock and guilt as she noticed Vincent’s reaction. He held his hand over his heart almost like a strange impulse, and his grip tensed. Thinking about the coldness there only brought it surging to the forefront of his mind. It was a small thing, but it was something that would never fade. A cold, greasy pool of energy within him, one just like the magic that had been used to enthrall the ghosts earlier. “What I do is difficult, and it has a lot of rules.” Vincent said slowly, carefully, his gaze fixed on something far off in the distance. “I don’t have to follow those rules though. For a time I didn’t.” “I don’t think a little counterfeiting and fraud makes you Lord Voldemort.” Meredith said with a raised brow. “I killed someone.” Vincent said, and there was a hard coldness to his voice, “And I don’t mean a bad guy, not that it matters.” “You…you’re a hunter. You’ve killed lot’s of things, right?” “Lot’s of things, yes.” Vincent took another draw of his cigarette and his hand was shaking, “The thing about supernatural creatures is…they don’t have souls. It doesn’t always mean they are bad, or that they can’t think and feel. It’s just a rule. Humans have souls…they have mortality, and true free will. Our magic is different…it’s not as strong as that of a god or immortal fay queen or whatever else, but what we can do, we do with absolute freedom…and absolute consequence.” He turned and looked at Meredith, staring deep in to her eyes. “When you kill a mortal with magic, it leaves a kind of…stain.” He rubbed at the spot on his chest where his heart was again, “Magic comes from the energies of life, and using it to take a life is just…it feels wrong.” He took his hand from his chest and held it up between them, and with his will he lit the ends of each of his fingers on fire, but he didn’t feel any pain. “It turns out that us Hallows…we have an unusual talent for magic. I can do so much with relative ease, I have a well of power within me that’s a lot higher than most. Enough to impress the wrong kind of people. I met people I thought were just like me, who understood me better than my teacher or my sister ever could. And then one day even my own vast well wasn’t enough…and I took a life, sacrificed an innocent person, and from them I took power. That cold, disgusting power…I can feel it there all the time, a constant reminder.” “I…” Meredith looked stunned, her mouth moved but no words came out. “I don’t advertise that information, but I don’t hide it either.” Vincent said with a resoluteness about him. “The people we are up against. They’ve tasted that same dark power, and clearly they like it enough to want more. So even if I do die, I will stop them.” The words surprised Vincent. He had spent years avoiding this life, the life he had been practically groomed for. Yet now, suddenly, he felt this righteous need to join the cause. “What happened?” Meredith asked, “I mean…you said you went dark but…you’re not now, right?” “I was saved.” Vincent said with a smirk. “By your teacher?” Meredith asked. “By God.” Vincent said, “Sort of ironic really since I’m a filthy pagan warlock.” “God? You mean…?” “He sent a man to save me.” Vincent said, “And then that man brought me home. And then Al tore me a new one. I thought he’d been hard on me before…” “Sounds like a real piece of work.” Meredith said. “That man is more of a father to me than my own ever was.” Vincent said with a slight anger to his tone. “No one has ever had me so figured out, no one has ever helped me quite like him.” “Not even Violet?” Meredith asked. “She’s my younger sister, I’m supposed to help her out. That’s just the way of things. Although I suppose this time she’s the one helping me. I brought them along on this detour.” “…and I brought you.” Meredith said. “…so I’ll stick with you…until the end.” Vincent smirked and took a last draw of his cigarette before flicking it away. He took a scrap of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Meredith. “What’s that?” She asked as she opened it. “My phone number.” Vincent said with a smirk. “Y’know I wonder what would happen if I never gave you it? Like your vision of the future doesn’t come to pass so how did you get the number because I never give you it and suddenly it’s a paradox, so does the world unravel and we all cease to exist?” “Um…” Meredith looked a little panicked. “Damn I already gave you my number though…guess we’ll never know.”
  17. Hallows

    Vincent was laying down on a tired looking old bench at the side of the road. All around him was nothing but dry, rocky desert and the sky above was clear as a bell, and the heat was blazing down on him. Apart from the road, the only signs of civilization nearby was the gas station off the side of the road just down from the old bench. The Impala sat at one of the pumps, Violet inside paying for gas. Vincent was wearing a sleeveless, black shirt with a white batman logo on the front, and a pair of navy blue jeans, his usual black boots, and his pentacle necklace around his neck, and had his mirror-lensed aviators on. It had been a little shy of 2 days since they had left Lafayette, and the majority of that time had been spent hauling ass across the country, stopping only to eat, refuel and rest overnight. Vincent had spent the time filling in Rachel about some of the basics about magic, and about hunters. He suspected little of it had really settled in to the girl’s mind, but he wasn’t too surprised. He had been taught about magic since he was a child, and there really was quite a lot to it. “God damn jelly beans!” He cursed at his new phone, which was currently held in his hand playing a brightly coloured games involving matching up different coloured jelly beans. The game made a little descending jingle and went to a game over screen and Vincent sighed, sitting up on the bench and pocketing the phone. He took out his cigarettes instead, and lit one, taking a deep drag. Sitting cross legged on the floor by the bench was Rachel, who was staring at an unlit candle with a great deal of intensity. Vincent exhaled and allowed himself a little smirk as he watched her. “Be careful.” He said with a jovial tone, “You keep tensing up like that sooner or later you’re gonna squeeze something out…let’s hope it’s a little magic and not poop.” "Do you always talk about poo?" Rachel asked, trying to concentrate. "No, he doesn't," Violet interjected, "Just some of the time." She smirked and jabbed Vincent in the shoulder, "Ready to go?" Vincent took another draw of his cigarette. They were in Schurz, Nevada, only a short drive away from the border to California, where they would cross the sea on a boat to Hawaii. “Well…” He said as he turned his attention back to Rachael, “I was kinda hoping she’d hurry up and light the candle.” He said to Violet, then to Rachel he added, “Come on, kid. It’s a freaking billion degrees out here, you’ve got plenty of thermal winds and ambient heat to call upon, we’re in a desert.” "How am I supposed to pull heat out of the air?" Rachel asked, scrunching up her eyes in concentration. “With your will.” Vincent said simply, “That is what magic is…to impose your will on your environment. Fire is usually the easiest for people to learn. You need to let your will extend, so you can feel the forces working around you. Then you focus on your emotions, and your own interpretations, and you need to channel them into what you desire. It takes focus.” focus.” "Fine! Geez." Rachel let out a short little sigh. She could hear Violet walking over to stand beside her brother, could feel their eyes on her, she knew what she needed to do. Rachel focused on the candle, channeling her will into the air, focusing her mind on the creation of fire. A few moments passed, and it seemed as though she would be unable to light the candle but then a wisp of smoke appeared at the tip of the wick and in seconds it was lit. "Hey nice job." Violet smiled with satisfaction. Then a few seconds later the flame wobbled and started to go out. "Uh--" Violet barely opened her mouth when the flame on the candle exploded in size. Roaring up and spreading across the courtyard. Vincent scrambled over the back of the bench and tripped, rolling across the floor, before quickly getting back to his feet. “F-fucking hell!” He spat, his sunglasses askew on his face. His heart still racing he closed his eyes and held his hands up, feeling outwards with his will. He began a quiet chanting, but it was not magical incantations, but rather a string of whispered profanities. The spell worked quickly, as the fire began to move quite unnaturally, coiling through the air towards Vincent and coalescing in between his hands, until it sat in between his palms, a glowing sphere of fire. “Alright.” He said with a quiet, trembling tone, clearly trying to contain himself. “You lost focus…but maybe I should have expected that. Evocation is probably the easiest magic to produce, but the elements are quite difficult to control.” He pressed his hands together slowly as he spoke, and slowly the orb began to dim and decrease in size. “When you call fire you bring in the heat from around you, and as a result the air cools. If you do it enough you can freeze things, and that’s how you get ice magic. However, if you draw in the heat you have to put it somewhere…you have to set the boundaries of that. Instead you let the environment take advantage of the ignition you created. Now you’ve let that heat back in to the air, and you’ve created more heat by letting the fire spread.” Vincent eventually brought his hands in enough that he clapped them together, and the tiny flame was snuffed out. “Focus is crucial. Think of what could have happened if you did that inside a building full of people. You could kill people that you’ve went in to save. You can make a situation so much worse with magic if you lose your focus.” "Focus. Got it." Rachel's cheeks blushed red. "Yeah. Focus. And don't set everyone on fire. That's like... Number 2." Violet smirked, blowing out an ember on Vincent's shoulder. “No harm done on this occasion, but I think we need to look at enchanting you a focus.” Vincent indicated back to the car and they started walking. “My cane is enchanted for elemental evocation. The runes and enchantments are designed to streamline elemental magic so I can focus on being a little more precise. Enchantment is a little more complicated, and it’ll take some time though.” "What's your focus?" Rachel asked, looking to Violet. "Ehm..." Violet chuckled and then looked to her brother for assistance with that one. “She cheats.” Vincent said with a smirk, “Seriously, Violet’s got her own set of rules. FTor now let’s leave fire calling alone until you get some more control. When we get to a motel I’ll show you some thaumaturgy, that’s my kind of ma-“ He paused as a loud ringing came from his pocket. He frowned and took out his phone, looking at the number on the screen. He had only just got the thing, and Violet was the only one who had his number. He answered it. “Hello?” The voice on the other end asked. It was a woman, she sounded out of breath. “Hi.” Vincent replied, “Uh…who is this?” “Oh…god.” The woman’s voice was trembling, she sounded like she might have been crying, “Uh…my name is, well, you don’t know who I am. I-I I don’t know you either, actually, well, I mean I will but-“ “Lady, what are you talking about? How did you get this number?” Vincent asked. “Uh...you gave it to me, or you will soon…” The voice said. Vincent’s eyes widened behind his sunglasses. “…A prescient.” He said finally, his voice quiet. “What did you see?” “Uh…a lot.” The woman replied, “It’s…it’s confusing, okay. All I know is you’re going to give me this phone number. I’ve seen it happen, and then…” She paused and her breath shuddered, “There’s too many paths, and most of them lead to the same thing. We…” She sniffed and let out a little cry, “We die.” “Uh…well what if we just stay away from each other?” Vincent asked. “Then other people will die…a lot of other people.” Vincent was silent for a long moment, then he cursed silently. “Shit!...god damn it, where then? Where do we meet?” Vincent asked “I’m in Las Vegas.” The girl said. “I-I’m Meredith, by the way. Meredith Palmer.” “Vincent-“ “Hallow, I know.” Meredith interrupted. “Look…there’s a bar called Henley’s that’s just off the strip. It’s quiet, can you meet me there?” “That’s like 5 hours drive.” Vincent sighed loudly. “…You’ll make it before last call.” Meredith replied. “Fine…fine!” Vincent said, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers, as he closed his eyes in frustration. “Fine…you better not be fucking with me.” “I’m not, I promise.” Meredith said, she sounded desperate. “Alright…later I guess.” Vincent said, and then he hung up the phone. He took a deep breath and then quickly sighed it out, scratching the back of his head as he turned his gaze to Violet. “Uh…we need to make a detour.” He said. "Mm-hm. Mm-hm. A detour huh? But that's sooo unreasonable." Violet flashed a wicked grin then got into her car. "Well let's get on with it then you two I don't have forever. Well, I do. But by that point I'll just be watching dying stars explode and it all happen all over again and I'd really rather just, y'know, get some chicken and see that psychic." “If I’m walking toward my likely death, my last meal is not going to be chicken.” Vincent said as he got in the car. As they drove Vincent repeated his conversation with Meredith, and there was a period of silence in the drive when he mentioned that going to meet Meredith was likely to result in both of their deaths. “I mean…she said most of the paths lead to death, so that means we could live, right?” "I have a terrible sense of direction." Violet muttered under her breath. "I have GPS so..." Rachel held her phone up and then looked at the screen, "Oh, no. No nevermind. No signal. We gonna die y'all!" Rachel threw herself back into her seat and huffed. “You know what I meant.” Vincent said with a frown, “This could be really serious…but she said a lot of people would die if we don’t go.” He sighed in frustration, “It could be a trap…sounds ideal for a trap, but then how did she get my number?” "I don't know what you expect me to say, Vince. But I'll tell you this... I'm not in the mood for Death. Not today. Maybe someday. We'll see." Violet growled to herself. Rachel looked up from her phone just long enough to show confusion at Violet's statement then returned to texting. They drove the rest of the way in relative silence. By the time they had finally reached Las Vegas it had gone dark. They had swapped endless dirt and roads for neon lights, busy streets and the huge and varied hotels and casinos of the famous city. As they drove down the main strip Vincent couldn’t help but hang his head out the window, taking it in. “This place really is something.” Violet leaned back in her chair, took a deep breath and as she let it out, her eyes turned white with a brilliant luminescence. "Hundreds of thousands of people. A man sobs in his room. His daughter doesn't love him any more. He drinks. A woman ties a rubber hose around her arm. Checking for veins, she says this is the last time. For real this time. A banker parks and forgets to pay his meter. A homeless man feeds the meter from his meager change. When the banker returns, he takes no notice of the kindness given him from one with so little. But the man without a house, keeps a tidy home. He asks for no thanks or applause." Her eyes quickly returned to normal and Violet coughed, very aware of herself for a moment, "Y-yeah, sure. Sounds like an interesting city." "Sounded sad..." Rachel muttered. “Creepy more like.” Vincent said with an uncomfortable shrug. Eventually they pulled off the strip and down a couple of blocks until they found a place to park. Across the street there was a quiet little bar with a sign that read: Henley’s. “That’s the place.” Vincent said as they got out of the car. He got out his cane and jacket, and put his jacket on. He opened up the trunk and took out his pistol and strap. “I’m not taking any chances.” "I thought we didn't need guns!?" Rachel barked, pointing at the pistol. “Sometimes a gun is the better option,” Vincent replied, “Especially if your enemy is mortal.” Violet leaned on Rachel's shoulder and whispered, "Never... question... uncle!" Rachel shrugged her off and grumbled, following the two Wizards inside. “Oh, right…give me your I.D.” Vincent said, and clicked his fingers at Rachel when she didn’t comply immediately. "Alright, geez!" Rachel reached for her I.D. but the moment she had it in her hands, it was in Vincent's. “Good.” He said as he examined the card. Then he ran his hand over it and some of the writing had changed. He handed it back to Rachel. “There, now you’re 21.” He said. "I don't feel any older..." Rachel muttered. "Hah!" Violet snorted and then walked inside. “That’s just in case someone cards you, don’t go actually buying beer now, you’re still a minor.” Vincent said as they arrived outside the bar. He pushed the door open and stepped inside. Henley’s bar was one of those hipster bars that were built in shabby run-down buildings where the rent was cheap, but the interior was clean and didn’t smell weird, unless you included the stench of gentrification. The Hardest Button To Button by The White Stripes was playing on a retro styled jukebox that had an tablet screen for selecting songs off of a music streaming service. The floors were a smooth brickwork tile job, the bar was clean and well stocked, and the seating area had that odd mismatch of furniture that some bars utilized if they wanted to appear alternative and bohemian. “Ugh, they better not have cocktails…” Vincent grumbled as he walked forward, looking around at the patrons. "It's okay, Vince." Violet replied, looking around. "I'll drink the 40% alcohol that tastes great. You can drink your piss-flavoured, weak wheat juice." “No single malt, Vi?” Vincent said with mock astonishment, “Al taught you better than that. Crusty old hillbilly would take you over his knee if he heard that nonsense coming out of your mouth.” "Vince, I've seen stars implode, I've met life on other worlds, travelled through multiple dimensions and tasted cosmic essence..." Violet took a breath, "... and I know, for a fact, that long island ice tea is the best drink in the universe." “Tequila, vodka, rum, triple sec, gin and coke…” Vincent counted on his fingers, “Pretty sure that’s six drinks, Vi.” "If you don't understand symbiosis then I can't talk to you about cocktails, Vincent." Violet took one long look around the room and sighed, "I hate this place. It makes me want to drink strange over-priced coffee and munch on my own farts. I'm-- help--" Violet fainted into Vincent's arms and then gripped onto him, "Vince, I'm... One of them!" Violet mock-choked, took a deep breath, and in a strangely snotty way, she added, "Hey, I'm Daffodil, your bartender, "Would you like to try our continental wine sniffing course?" “You’re too far gone for help.” Vincent said dryly and shoved his sister off of him. He scanned the room for Meredith, having no idea what she looked like, however he spotted her easily enough. In the corner, sat alone at a booth table, was a girl in her early twenties, slim and dressed in denim jeans, converse sneakers and a red checkered shirt. She had a long mane of tightly curled, red hair and a black beanie hat that took up relatively small real estate on her head compared to her hair. Her blue eyes were staring at Vincent behind thick-rimmed, black glasses, like a dear caught in the headlights. “Guess we should go say hi.” Vincent said as he nodded his head toward Meredith. He struggled to swallow, his throat dry. He felt completely on edge, his senses were tense and skittish, something he often felt when forces were at work, like when a storm begins to gather. “I think I need a drink first…” He said, licking his dry lips. "Get a drink, if you want..." Violet walked towards Meredith and after a moment's hesitation, Rachel followed. Violet could see the essence of all living things. As she walked towards Meredith she saw the gently crackling flames of the other patrons. But the one essence that shone through the darkness more than any other, was Meredith's. It was like she had less control over her own power, at the benefit of intermittent power spikes. She was a sap-filled, spitting flame of chaos. She was beautiful. "Hey, I'm--" Violet started to introduce herself but Meredith joined her mid-sentence. "--I'm V-Violet." Meredith finished her thought, albeit with a slight stutter. And she did it every time Violet opened her mouth and spoke. "Fascinating." They both said, then Violet smirked and turned back to Rachel and Vincent. "That's cool, right?" She added, though Meredith had said it behind her at the same time. "..." Vincent hesitated to say anything at all, cautious that Meredith would only mimicking him. "Don't spe-" "-speak... Oh" Meredith stopped herself and blushed. "I'm sorry it's a bad habit. I just tend to know what people say before they say it, so I either say what they say, or sometimes I answer their question before they ask it, and then I get embarrassed and I talk a lot, just rambling on and on and on and-" "Yeah." Vincent interrupted. He sat down in a chair and leaned on the table with his arms, "So you mostly see just brief moments in the future?" "Mostly." Meredith said with a nervous nod, "Sometimes it's much further in the future, but it gets confusing... Hard to make sense of what's happening, what's real and what's not, like living through multiple versions of an event." "The further into the future you see the more variables there are, so the future is less certain." Vincent explained, "Plus your knowledge of your future can make you act, which changes it, and then you see that future, and you do something else and it changes again, and again." "Y-yeah..." Meredith said, a sadness crept across her face and she bit her lower lip. "Don't you have any friends?" Rachel asked, taking a step forwards. Violet pointed at Meredith, "Well go on then, this is your thing." She virtually threatened Vincent with an angry look. Vincent responded with a thin smile that veiled his clenched teeth. “Well…” Meredith began cautiously, “It happened just before I called you. It…” She took in a sharp breath and seemed to puzzle for a moment, “…there were a lot of places that we met, different things happened from then on…it branched out in thousands of directions…and the images I kept saying over and over was…” She swallowed nervously. “So you chose the safest path for us?” Vincent asked. Meredith visibly tensed. “I...I’m sorry.” She whimpered, tears welling in her eyes. “Why are you sorry?” Vincent asked. He was getting a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Please understand…these people will die if we aren’t here.” Meredith began to cry. “Oh for…” Vincent stood up from his chair and turned around the face the rest of the room and felt around with his senses. He came in to contact with a dark, cold magic that felt all kinds of wrong. Just touching at it with his will felt maddening and he swiftly retreated his tendrils of power and shivered. The room had become deathly cold. “Rachel…” Vincent said hesitantly, “…I need you to not panic, things are going to happen…you’re not going to see.” “What’s going on?” Rachel asked worriedly. “…Ghosts.” Vincent said as he began to focus his will. He concentrated on a well of power that was stored in the centre point of his forehead just above his brow. He took a deep breath, hesitating, before finally muttering a curse and opening the point of power up. The word changed in an instant around Vincent as he opened up his third eye. He could see true image of everything within the room. A woman who he had noticed before to be quite beautiful, became horribly angular, twisted and quite terrifying to look at. He turned to Rachel, and in her place stood a brilliant, glowing aura, with a cold, dark centre that festered like a wound. He dared not look at Violet, certain that the image would destroy his ability to fight, either through terror or awe. The cold energy surged and ghostly hands began to phase through the walls, a fact that only Vincent and Violet could see. "I'm content to go now." Violet muttered, taking a step back as she prepared for what was coming. "Why should I want to panic?! It's just ghosts!" Rachel seemed a little unhinged. “They aren’t after us…they can’t be.” Vincent said and he held out his cane in challenge. The ghosts, for their part, seemed not even to notice they were there. Instead the shades began to move among the other patrons, and they began to stand behind their chairs and wait. A ghost moved to Vincent, her face gaunt and emotionless. Vincent instinctively gathered his will and pushed it out to blast the ghost back, but it did not react to the kinetic force. It just kept coming, until it was almost on him. “I’m so sorry…” Meredith said tearfully once more, and then she gasped as another Ghost rose up through the floor and table and sunk it’s arm in to her throat. She began to choke, unable to breath, and she clutched at her neck. Suddenly each of the ghosts plunged their hands into the necks of each of the patrons, and they all began choking as well. Vincent was no exception, unable to work a spell in time that could effect the spirit mere inches from him, and he flinched as she jabbed her hand into his throat. Suddenly Vincent’s body went numb with biting cold. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t breath. He felt a tremendous pressure building in his head, and his vision swam. He could hear himself choking, but it sounded far away. At some point he ended up on the floor, but he couldn’t remember falling. There was a slow, rhythmic thumping that were becoming further and further apart. His vision blurred, and he found himself drawn to a figure standing across the bar. The woman had dark hair and the palest white skin. She wasn’t suffering like everyone else in the room. The girl just looked at him, and smiled warmly.
  18. Hallows

    “Careful with that gun…” Vincent said as he held his hand up between him and the newcomer, Rachael. His protection charms dangled around his wrist as he projected his will outwards, forming a solid shield of kinetic energy. “Who the hell are you?” He asked. Rachel frowned at the man and yelled back, "Who the hell're you?!" With an incredulous tone. "Look!" Violet snapped, "I'm not in the mood to play 'Who the fuck am I'! Why did you shoot him, Rachel?" "You couldn't understand..." Rachel smirked bitterly and shook her head. “Funny, that’s usually my line.” Vincent said as he paced slowly forward, towards Lucas’ body in between them. “How about you try me, hm?” "They're monsters!" Rachel shouted, leveling the gun at them. "They turn blue and change people into them, I've seen it!" “Oh…geez.” Vincent said with a sigh, “Looks like we got ourselves a rookie, Vi.” He said with a smirk, although he still kept his barrier raised and ready. “First of all; monster is a very generic term, sort of discriminatory when you think about it. Secondly, I’m not buying this story that a Nymph in fuckin’ Lafayette of all places, has the kind of mystical mojo it takes to do that.” Amber spoke, but when she did, all personality, weakness, or naivety vanished. When she spoke, it was as though there were power in the very words themselves, they echoed like a ripple in a pond, "The lakes were sick. The rivers were dying. We had to stop that. I had to stop that. Not just for us, but for the humans, too." "Mmm... Yep." Vincent said with a wince, "Should have seen that one...all right." With a thrust of his palm Vincent sent his barrier forward and up, the force knocking the gun from Rachel's hand. He walked quickly toward her, and she seemed to visibly recoil. With a pulling motion he brought a gust of wind out from under Rachel and knocked her to her backside. She froze as Vincent stopped above her and placed the end of his cane down with a loud tap. There was a resonating hum of power as he sent out his will down the cane’s length, and it’s carved runes glowed softly. Rachel tried to get up, but found that she had been rooted to the spot, almost as if she had been welded to the floor. “Stay still.” He said with a smirk and rolled his eyes, before turning away from her. “Okay then.” He said finally, “That’s the trigger happy teenager dealt with, now…” He turned his gaze toward Amber, “…Let’s have a chat, you and I.” Amber's lip curled into a snarl. "I will not subject myself to your questioning!" Amber roared and raised her arms, the skin across her body turning blue as she pulled water from the ground, from the machines, from every inch of the factory. The first jet of water she fired at Vincent coalesced into an icy spear as it hurtled towards him. It narrowly missed but as Amber prepared to fire again, Violet had to step in. "Stop!" She yelled, running between Vincent and Amber. But it was too late. The spear of ice struck her in the stomach and she doubled over. First, there was pain. But the pain dissipated quickly as a dizzying sensation of rage began to spread through her. Amber readied another ice missile, but Violet stood back up distracting her for just a moment. "No..." Violet hissed. Throwing her arms up, a bright purple energy fired from her hands, and hit Amber like a truck. The nymph flew across the floor and landed with a thud. Before she could right herself Violet was stood over her. Violet's face was partially her own, while a section of it around one eye was peeling away like burning tinder. Beneath her skin, purple energy dancing around a brilliantly dazzling all-white eye. The hair above her forehead in that area had turned to a light pink and seemed to dance and sway as though she were underwater. Amber raised her hands, in defence. But Violet ignored the girl, raising her arms once more. This time she seemed to draw the very energy from Amber, who immediately collapsed as though she were fatigued. The blue of her skin began to turn pale and her skin became cracked. "Stop..." Amber groaned. The spike of ice forcibly ejected from Violet's stomach, leaving behind the same solid dark purple energy that was burning through her face and still she continued to feed on the life force of the nymph. “Oh for crying out loud…” Vincent said with a sigh, looking down at his shoes and the bottom part of his jeans which were now soaked from the torrent of water that had rushed around them. He felt a strange weight pulling at him, a sensation he was familiar with, it was normally something he felt in the shower. The water rolled away around him, running across the floor. As it reached Rachel she gasped as she was suddenly able to move again. Running water grounds out mortal magic. “Well, my magic’s out…” Vincent said as he turned back to Violet and Amber, and then his eyes widened and he cursed, “Violet!” He snapped loudly. Violet jumped as though she'd just been grabbed and she relented. Amber gasped as colour slowly began to return to her face. "I... I-I'm sorry... I..." Violet bent over to comfort Amber but the nymph recoiled in horror. Violet's face and the hole in her shirt quickly returned to normal. Her eye darkened and shifted until it was a natural-looking human eye. Her 'skin' re-covered her face and her hair turned blue and fell flat once more. Violet glanced at Vincent but couldn't hold his gaze. Vincent wanted to say something to Violet, but now wasn’t the time. He pulled his pistol from his holster and turned, pointing it at Rachel who was attempting to flee. “Ah! Ah!” He called and Rachel froze when she saw the gun. “Now just you sit tight while the adults talk.” Vincent said and he turned back to Amber, “Ready to talk now?” "W-what would you ask of me?" Amber asked. She seemed weakened, tired, but no lasting damage had been done. Violet slunk off to Rachel and sat on top of the girl so she couldn't escape. Rachel wanted to shout and scream and bite but having just witnessed one of what she thought had been human, turn into a life-sucking creature, she was content to remain quiet for the moment. “Well first I wanted to know how you managed to amass so much power…but I get it now.” He smirked, “You’ve created a cause for people to have faith in, to pay tribute to, and to provide offerings. Your environmental activism is how you draw your power. Fundraising faith to fuel your mystical powers. Just a guess, but am I in the right ballpark?” "You are not unintelligent." Amber smirked before trying to get her breath back. "I thought they were a myth..." Amber muttered, her eyes darting at Violet before refocusing on him. “Hah!” Vincent laughed, “Hey Vi, the myth just called you a myth!” Violet looked like she wasn't in the mood. Her top lip curled back and she crossed her arms with an air of 'and that's all I have to say about that'. “So,” Vincent continued, “You’ve been turning mortals into Naiads, which takes a serious amount of mojo, maybe the charity worship wasn’t enough? So you turn to older methods. Human sacrifice is a good way to wield serious power, wouldn’t you say?” "If power is required to save this world, then I will take it, human." Amber curled the last word out of her mouth as though she was spitting a fly out. "This world will persist, long after you are gone." “Oh yeah, absolutely.” Vincent agreed with a nod, then he shrugged and cocked his head. “Although, you should see some of the stuff these humans are doing. It might take them 200 years but that’s a drop in the bucket for you. What are you going to do when they have machines that clean rivers, and maintain forests, machines that produce clean air. Nobody is going to put their faith in you lot any more.” "Then I will 'retire'." Amber retorted. “You might retire sooner rather than later if you don’t explain what’s going on.” Vincent said, and as he was talking he went over to check on Lucas, and was surprised when he felt his wrist and found a pulse. “Vi…he’s alive.” He said to his sister, “He needs a hospital.” "That's going to be an awkward conversation." Violet replied, looking at Lucas. "I've done nothing wrong." Amber stood up shakily, "When I need more nymphs, there are already many waiting in line to serve. This girl..." She looked at Rachel with disdain, "... Is not who we thought. She is bitter and selfish, like all humans." “The accords state that if you murder humans then they have sacred right to hunt and kill you.” Vincent said testily. “And those kids are minors, the human law states that they are not mature enough to make their own decisions about their life. Not that the accords have anything to say about that.” His nostrils flared visibly at the admission, “Rachel is going to be a murderer if Lucas dies, and then she’ll be a problem for the police. Unless Lucas killed those girls, in which case she has the right. I don’t think he did though, did he?” "Nobody killed those girls." Amber replied, rather matter-of-fact. And as though waiting for a sign, women began to appear. From around corners, behind pillars and stepping out from behind machinery. There were more than a dozen and several of them looked familiar. They were the girls who had been murdered. Though it seemed this was not the case, despite the bodies. “…They weren’t murdered, they were the girls you turned.” Vincent shook his head in annoyance, “You…created corpses to hide the disappearances. Are you stupid? How could you not know this would send hunters on your trail?” "I don't see why they should." Amber replied with a non-plussed expression. "Amber, you know that the bodies were gored to death. That's not exactly common fare." Violet spoke up at last and Amber stared at her in disbelief. "Don't speak to me--" Amber finished her statement with a high-pitched screech that sounded like a mixture between a kettle boiling and a metal nail tearing down a blackboard. Everyone recoiled from the noise. It seemed to summon up images of long-forgotten worlds, dying suns, and a dark void. “Bleugh.” Vincent said with a shudder, and looked at Violet, “I mean…your people have a lovely language.” He gave her a false grin. "I can assure you, of all of us here, I would like not to hear that again." Violet looked at Amber, "So use it again, and I'll finish what I started." Amber found it impossible to hide the anger on her face, however, she remained calm. “So…no one is dead. You haven’t broke the laws that apply to you, so we hold no claim.” Vincent continued, “Which stinks of shit. You…are taking advantage of these kids.” His voice became tense, almost a growl. Well, actually my sister is under no such obligation. Vincent turned to Violet, “Fancy abusing your power?” "Come on, Vince. Let's go." Violet stood up and helped Rachel to her feet, "You've got a lot to learn, kid." She pushed Rachel into walking, "Best hope he doesn't croak." As Violet made to leave, Lucas lifted off the floor, floating into the air and following her. "Come on." She repeated to her brother, "There's nothing to do here." “You’re lucky she’s the less morally bankrupt of the two of us.” Vincent said with a scowl, “…Just be careful. Give me just one reason to smite you, and you’ll be finding out what it’s like to be a greasy stain on the floor.” He turned and walked away from Amber and her Nymphs, walking quickly to catch up with Violet. --- --- --- --- It was reaching 11pm by the time Vincent, Violet and Rachel sat in the waiting room of the local A&E section of the hospital. The waiting room was old and dingy, and was rocking a multitude of odd smells. The three were almost entirely alone, except for a sleeping homeless man with a dirty beard and long, greying hair who was sat at the other end of the room, and an old Hispanic nurse working the reception desk. “Nasty wound.” Vincent said as he leaned back in his chair, “Fun fact of the day: Satyr don’t have heightened regenerative abilities.” "I don't care..." Rachel muttered. She kept her eyes focused on the glossy white and grey marbled floor. "Things aren't black and white, kid." Violet sighed and looked around before picking up one of the magazines on the table beside her and opening to a random page. “So why’d you shoot him?” Vincent asked. Rachel puzzled him. She had a bad attitude, and was pretty confrontational and self-assured, not unlike how he was when he was a teenager. Still, she seemed to have her hostility pretty focused in one direction, and there had to be a reason for that. "It's none of your damn business." Rachel growled. "Seems pretty straightforward to me. Boy problems. You were into him, he wasn't into you, angst, drama, Twilight, etc." Violet muttered with a half-grin. "That's not it at all!" Rachel snapped. She sat there in silence for a little while longer. Violet went back to her magazine until a few minutes later, Rachel spoke once again. "A few years ago we were attacked. My mum and dad were killed, and I barely escaped with my life. Vampires, as I later learned. First I tried hunting vampires, then I found out there was a whole world of--" She paused as a nurse walked past, then went on, "A world of monsters. People were being gored, and when I found out Lucas was a satyr, and had a connection with the girls, I figured it had to be him and even if it wasn't it was one less monster." “A whole world of monsters, fairies, demons, gods, both big G and little G varieties, ghosts, dragons and eldritch horrors.” Vincent said, “Oh and I’m a wizard.” He added, “And my sister is a cosmic energy thing.” Rachel frowned at him about the last one. “It’s like...y’know in the X-men when Jean Grey becomes the Phoenix…well she’s like the Ph-“ Vincent caught the way Violet was looking at him and cut off, “-nothing…uh she’s nothing like the Phoenix force, that’d be dumb, huh?” Vincent suddenly became very fascinated with the ceiling and fell silent.
  19. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Konohamaru’s Theme] “I just don’t see why we have to walk…” Omi complained. She was trailing a little behind Sora and Kiyoko, a pack slung over her shoulder full of travel gear. “What’s wrong with a walk, Kiryuin san?” Hakirama asked, turning his head back to look at the troupe behind him. He gestured outwards with his hand, “It’s a lovely view.” Omi cast her eyes around. They were in a roaming grassland through wide valleys, with thick forest lands in most directions that went off the path. “Yeah, whatever.” Omi said with a shrug, “But we’re just walking the safe path like all the other travelers. I thought the whole point of being a ninja was to move quickly and out of detection?” “We haven’t even reached the first part of our objective yet. Who, exactly, are we supposed to be hiding from?” “Well…” Omi scratched her head and looked around sheepishly, “bad guys, I guess.” Sora chuckled, covering his mouth with a hand, "Oh, Omi-chan, always ready for a fight!" "There could be bad guys, right?" Kiyoko asked their sensei in an inquisitive and somewhat hopeful tone. “Well…” Hakirama was thoughtful for a moment, “…The client probably just wants a bit of protection from bandits. However we should have little to no trouble with your average thugs, if that even happens.” He smiled, “This will probably just be a pleasant trip…which is why we should enjoy it.” “Enjoy how?” Omi shrugging her shoulders, “There’s only so many times I can be awed by a tree.” “Long journeys can be a time for conversation. You all are comrades, but you don’t really know each other. How about we talk about ourselves?” “Hi I’m Omi and our sensei is the worst.” Omi said, smirking. Hakirama’s eyes narrowed toward Omi. “Let’s start with favourite food.” Hakirama said, “Mine is Nattō.” “Eugh, too sticky!” Omi scoffed, putting her arms up in a cross in front of her. “Sashimi is where it’s at.” "Soy beans and raw fish?" Sora considered both of those. A shiver ran through him. "I would think a nice hamburger, and a tall milkshake would be pleasant." "Where would you get a hamburger around here?" Kiyoko asked, frowning in disbelief. Sora's eyes widened in shock and he grabbed Kiyoko's shoulder. "I will show you when we get back!" Sora clapped his hands together in excitement, "Yes! A hamburger banquet for when we return." “I’ll take mine rare.” Omi said with a toothy grin. “And what’s your favourite food, Hyūga san?” Hakirama asked "Whatever's fine." Kiyoko shrugged off the question, focusing on the path ahead of them. "I guess anything." “Are you for real?” Omi asked with a soft chuckle, “C’mon, Yoko! You must have a favourite?” "Well, I don't." Kiyoko replied irritably. She kicked a stone off the path and into a bush, "My mom sometimes makes Purin after my training sessions. I eat that a lot, I guess. So... maybe that's my favourite?" Melancholy seemed to grip Kiyoko as she fought with something. A memory, or a feeling. Then she pressed on, walking ahead of the small group. "I think," Sora began, speaking quietly to Omi, "That Kiyoko-chan does not have favourites..." “Uh…huh.” Omi said, raising her brow. She smirked and eyed Hakirama, “Good idea, sensei, just look how connected we all are now.” “….Shut up.” Hakirama said with a frown. "Mutually-assured survival. That is a kind of connection." Sora added with a reassuring smile. "I can still hear you all talking back there, y'know, i'm hardly a few feet ahead of you!" Kiyoko called back over her shoulder. “So? Nobody asked you to stomp off because you’re triggered about dinner or whatever.” Omi rolled her eyes. "I didn't stomp off!" Kiyoko called back angrily, "I just... I don't have a favourite!" She growled, adding, "And anyway, I'm out in front so that--" Before she could finish her sentence, Kiyoko stopped and froze, bringing the group to a halt a couple of feet behind her. Sora looked on ahead but couldn't see anything. "What is it, Kiyoko-chan, do you--?" Sora asked, stepping forwards and going to put his hand on her shoulder. "Don't touch me!!" Kiyoko barked, a bead of sweat trickled down her forehead. "I stepped on something, and it clicked..." What little colour existed in Sora's face, quickly vanished. He looked down, and sure enough, there was a small, flat, metal device, lodged in the ground, mostly obscured by the dirt. “S-sensei?!" Sora looked to Hakirama. [Glued State] “Don’t…move.” Hakirama said slowly and calmly. He walked around Kiyoko carefully, before squatting down and examining the pressure plate she was standing on. “…A trap?” Omi asked nervously. “Hmm…” Hakirama stared intently at the device. He took a deep breath in, and let out a long sigh. “An old booby trap from the war, most likely. It’s definitely the craftsmanship of a ninja village…” He looked around the area cautiously. “It’s a wonder it’s been untouched for so long…” “You can fix this, right, sensei?” Omi asked. “Hmm…probably…” There was a momentary glint of optimism in his eyes, but then they became dull again, “Yes…probably not.” "Ah." Sora muttered bluntly. "Oooh, good..." Kiyoko added sarcastically, sweat pouring from her. She felt like her whole body was vibrating. The more she tried to remain still, the more her body rebelled. "Well, could you maybe find a way, before i'm a smudge on those trees over there." Hakirama felt across the ground, searching for a rope net, but instead he found a hidden wire across the ground from the device. “We’ll have to disarm the trap.” Hakirama said, “It’s the only way.” “No sweat.” Omi said and she knelt down, pulling a set of pick tools from her pouch, “Let’s see what’s inside this baby!” She scrambled over to the device with a mad, wolfish grin. However as she got near she caught sight of Hakirama’s face and she recoiled in fear. Hakirama was staring at her with gruesome, haunting expression, his eyes wide and maniacal, his forehead wrinkled, and his lips puckered like a fish. “Wh-what the hell!?” She stammered. “Do not test me, Kiryuin san…”Hakirama replied darkly, with dark shadows looming around him. “Touch that plate and you’ll have my frowny face burned into your retinas for the remainder of your short life.” In the background, as Hakirama and Omi stalked around the device and talked out ways of disarming it, Sora was building a small fire. Then he placed a pot on top of it, and began assembling ingredients from his pouch. "What are you doing?!" Kiyoko asked nervously, her eyes trying to dart down to where her foot was lodged atop the trap. "I need to see what you're doing okay, don't blow me up! Look, I really need you to not explode me, okay? I've got a bunch of plans and I really don't feel like exploding today..." "Yer okay, Kiyoko-chan!" Sora called, waving his spoon at her, before going back to his preparation. A few minutes passed and he walked over with a bowl. "Here, this'll make ya feel better." He held up a spoon with something she couldn't quite see. It was a creamy off-white colour with a brown topping. "No, no I really don't feel like food right now..." Kiyoko growled through closed lips as a spoon was pushed towards her. "Sensei!!" She yelled. “What are you up to?” Hakirama asked, his eyes narrowing at Sora. "I-I made Purin, sensei. Yeh can reassure a friend with somethin' they love." Sora replied, then lifted the spoon to his lips and swallowed it's contents with a smile. "It's good..." “Why do you have baking materials?” Omi asked, but her question was ignored. “How about you save the dessert as a reward for solving this problem, hm?” Hakirama suggested as he stood up. He looked to his three students one after the other. Then he nodded as if something had just occurred to him. “I just solved it.” He said nonchalantly, “Hm…sort of anti climactic…” [It’s the Training] “What do you mean you solved it!?” Omi demanded, screwing her face up. “He mean’s he solved it, idiot.” A second Hakirama said as he emerged from the nearby wood. “Well…we did.” The wood clone turned to the real Hakirama and nodded. “Yo.” “Yo.” Hakirama said with brief wave. The sound of multiple sensei's behind her forced a confused scowl onto Kiyoko's face. "Hey, whats happening back there?!" “Wood clones.” Omi said with a sigh, “He tricked us again.” “I didn’t trick you, I just took action, which is what you all should have been doing.” Hakirama said “Instead of making pudding…” The clone said, eyeing Sora disapprovingly. “So I’ve decided to turn this into a teaching moment.” Hakirama said, and then he sat himself down on the ground and plucked out a pack of playing cards from his jacket. “Oh cool.” His clone said and sat down next to him. Hakirama began dealing hands to his clone and himself. "Excuse me?!" Kiyoko yelled angrily, balling up her fists and dropping her mask of nobility for a moment, "Get me off this damn thing!!" "What kind of game, sensei?" Sora asked, kneeling down and studying the cards. “A game for winners, which you are not.” Hakirama said. “Your team mate is in mortal peril. You should probably go do something about that.” “But you said you figured it out!” Omi protested. “I did…so I’ll sit here and play cards with myself until you figure it out.” Hakirama said frankly. “Could be here for a while.” His clone added. "I'm going to kill you, sensei!" Kiyoko yelled up ahead. "Omi-chan, I think it'd be best if I sent some o' my ants t'check it out." Sora nodded confidently to Omi."They'll never find the body!!" Kiyoko added, letting loose a pent-up snarl. She stood there frozen and blinking out at the path up ahead. Then noticed an old man walking up towards her carrying a large box. "A-Ah, hey!" She called out. "Oh, hello!" The man called back. "Stop! Stop!!" Kiyoko yelled, "Don't come any closer." "Look i'll not bother you, but i've got things to do!" The man replied haughtily, and then strolled past Kiyoko, then past the others, and on his way. Kiyoko watched in silence, then turned her head to one side, showing all the colour had drained from her face. "Please get me off this now..." She said meekly. “Can’t hurt to try.” Omi said with a nod. She thought about how she could contribute, but came up short. “Uh…I think I missed the trap disarming class.” “Shocking.” Hakirama’s clone said sarcastically. “Y’know I think his clone is ruder somehow…” Omi said to Sora. Sora smirked before turning to face Kiyoko. He held his arms up, letting his sleeves drop back and then he slammed his palms into the ground, and suddenly ants were rising from tiny holes all over the ground, most of them concentrated at the trigger of the trap mechanism. Then they dispersed, flying into the air and as Sora stood back up, they vanished into his sleeves. "Alright, I believe there's a series o' pipes surroundin' the trap, an' they're full o' somethin' like a gas or a flammable liquid, I believe. She's stood on a pressure pad, so maybe replacing her, weight for weight, with something else in the exact same moment then maybe we could get away to a safe distance. “Maybe sensei could-“ “Nope.” Hakirama said flatly. “Fine!” Omi scoffed, “If I can find a lake or a pond I can make a water clone. I uh…” She scratched the back of her head, “I need to know your weight, Yoko.” Kiyoko shook her head in disbelief, "I-I've no idea!" She frowned. "Ah--" Sora nodded with a smile but then his grin turned to panic as he looked to Omi. “Don’t look at me!” Omi snapped, folding her arms. “If I make a clone to match her weight I need to use just the right amount of water.” "Hm..." Sora remained sitting in quiet thought, ignoring the calls and threats from Kiyoko. "I have an idea..." Sora looked up to Omi, "What if we increased the pressure?" “So I just need to make a water clone heavier than Yoko, huh?” Omi asked with a smirk. “Give me a minute, I’m gonna go find a river…” She stalked off, but returned after a short time with a water clone of herself in tow. As they drew closer it became clear that the water clone of Omi looked a little unusual. The clone bounced a little as it walked, and while it had Omi’s features, it looked like a version of her where she had eaten a thousand hamburgers in the last hour. “This should be heavy enough.” Omi said, then she smirked, “Just needs the finishing touch…” “TRANSFORM!” The fat water clone cried, and then with a puff of smoke, it was now a fat clone of Kiyoko. "Why are you laughing, Sora?!" Kiyoko yelled out and Sora stopped abruptly. "Kiyoko-chan, Omi is goin' t'place a water clone on the pad, once its stepped onto the pad, ye should get off it, okay?" "I'm not happy!!" Kiyoko barked back, but silently accepted her fate. “e’scuse me!” The fat Kiyoko said as she popped her chubby foot on the plate next to Kiyoko’s. “Alright take it slow, Yoko.” Omi said. Slowly, carefully, Kiyoko raised one foot and let it touch onto the ground beside the plate, then slowly, very slowly, she lifted her other foot. The moment it lifted, she virtually teleported beside Omi and grabbed her, "We have to go, come on!" Sora stood up quickly, awaiting instruction from Hakirama. “Go fish!” Hakirama’s clone cried. “Again?” Hakirama frowned. “Yo, sensei, we need to run!” Omi yelled urgently “Oh?” Hakirama turned his head slightly, “Why’s that?” “Because once my water clone disappears the trap’s going to explode.” “Oh right…” Hakirama said before turning to his clone again, “Didn’t I say? I’m pretty certain it’s defective.” "Morning!" A woman greeted the small group, smirking at them gathered around the piece of metal on the ground, "Oh, guys, don't worry about that thing, it's a relic from the war, just don't trip over it, okay?!" She waved to them with a smile and walked on. Kiyoko took a deep breath and clenched her fists. Her face started to turn red, but eventually it evened out and she stood there waiting. "Alright, can we go now?" Kiyoko spoke through gritted teeth. There was a thump as Omi flopped to the ground, roaring with laughter, occasionally pausing for breath and to point feebly at Kiyoko before buckling over in uncontrolled laughter again. Even Hakirama managed a soft chuckle as he dispersed his clone and got ready to resume their walk. As they walked Omi was still tittering a half hour later.
  20. Once, not so long ago, the world was a place of discord and danger. During this long and violent period the countries of the world were uniformly small, and constantly battled each other for control of land and power. So as not to risk their own lives, and that of their citizenry, the countries enlisted the aid of mercantile shinobi clans to fight their battles for them. Shinobi at this time were loyal only to their own clan, and of course to whoever offered them the highest bid. This period was known as the Warring States Period. Of all the clans that participated in this bloody period, in what would one day be called the Land of Fire, three shinobi clans stood out from the rest. The Senju clan were renowned for their balanced skill in all the shinobi arts. The Uchiha Clan were famed for their battle prowess and their unique and mysterious Dojutsu, the Sharingan. The Hyūga clan were known for their uncontested Taijutsu skills, as well as their own secret Dojutsu, the Byakugan. The three clans, being the most powerful, also naturally became bitter rivals. They lost many lives in fierce battles with each other, as well as fights with other clans and other countries. In the end the bloodshed began to take its toll on the world, the strain was tearing every clan apart and collapse of the world became almost inevitable. The Hyūga clan and the Uchiha clan’s feud was becoming so fierce that they ran the risk of destroying each other completely. At this time, the leader of the Senju, Samanosuke, came to both clans with an offer. Samanosuke revealed that his clan had been working to pledge itself with the Daimyo of the country, to swear loyalty to one country in exchange for ensured survival of their clan, and rights for their people. Samanosuke plead for the two rivals to set aside their difficulties and join as one. However, both sides agreed that this was impossible. Samanosuke did not give up, however. The Uchiha were narrowly ahead of the Hyūga in their ongoing feud, and so the Senju made an offer privately to the leader of the Hyūga clan, Hyouin . Reluctantly, with the real risk of losing his clan before him, Hyouin agreed to ally with the Senju. With the two clans fighting together, even the mighty Uchiha stood no chance against them. In the ultimate battle, Hyouin and the Uchiha leader, Retsu faced off against one another, but ultimately Hyouin was the victor. The Hyūga leader went to end the life of his rival, but Samanosuke stepped in and saved Retsu’s life. The result was a three-way fight between the great shinobi leaders. However, in the end, Samanosuke stood victorious over the others. Hyūga Hyouin and Uchiha Retsu both understood Samanosuke actions, and his desire for their clans to be strong and prosperous together. Reluctantly they agreed to ally with the Senju, and swear their allegiance to the Land of Fire. That is the story of how the Warring States Period ended, and how the first Shinobi Hidden Village was born. To this day it still stands, deep within the heart of the Land of Fire, the village hidden in the leaves, Konohagakure. While the clans remained autonomous within the village, it became clear that one true leader would need to speak for all of them. Naturally Hyouin, Retsu and Samanosuke all thought that thy should lead. This dispute went on for a long time, as no decision could be made. However, the Uchiha and the Hyūga were secretive, and distrustful of outsiders. The Senju, on the other hand, went to work at forming new relationships with other smaller clans. In the end, when the discussion of leadership again came to a head, Senju Samanosuke had amassed a large following, and with all the other clans loyal to him, his leadership could no longer be contested. Samanosuke made arrangements with the Daimyo of the Land of Fire, and it was agreed that the Daimyo would have final say upon the leadership of Konohagakure, but that he would heed the advice of village elders and faction leaders. With that settled Samanosuke became the first Hokage, and brought Konohagakure into an age of prosperity. Yet like all men, Samanosuke eventually passed away. In his place came his son, Mifune. Mifune carried on his father’s vision, but he was young and did not carry the same respect that his father had earned by bringing peace to the clans. His relationships with the other hidden villages that were forming became unstable, and the threat of war loomed. Eventually there came a time known as the Great Shinobi War, when the five largest and most powerful villages went to war with each other. During this time Mifune lost his life in a battle with ninja from the Iwagakure and the Tsuchikage. Without leadership Konoha was thrown in to turmoil. The two oldest and most renowned clans, the Uchiha and the Hyūga, once again began to bicker over who should become the next Hokage. When a member of the Hyūga clan was eventually chosen as a candidate, it was though that much needed stability would come to Konoha during it’s time of need. However, the candidate was murdered in the night by an unknown assassin. The Hyūga clan were immediately grief stricken and outraged, and they allowed old wounds to open. They blamed the Uchiha Clan for the assassination, sparking outrage which resulted in a war between the two clans, and Konoha fell into chaos. As the two strongest clans of Konoha warred with each other, Kirigakure saw opportunity. It sent its greatest warriors to lay waste to Konoha; The Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist. [Different Sky] Rain pattered pitifully in the miserable darkness. Smoke billowed from dwindling fires, illuminating the wreckage and devastation. Homes were reduced to rubble and charred wood. Roads and paths were upturned and blocked off. Bridges over the canals had collapsed, and makeshift barricades had been crafted through main streets. The backdrop of the village in ruin was a large mountain, with two proud faces carved in to the stone. Konoha was crumbling under the weight of its own arrogant pride. Blood dripped from the tip of a long, silvery blade that resembled a large needle. The petite, tall woman hid her face behind a white, featureless mask with only the symbol Kirigakure etched in to it. Her hair was dark blonde and fanned out behind her mask in a giant, frizzy main. She was dressed in dark, tight fitting clothing, and stared at her bloody weapon with a quiet sense of thrilled excitement. “Well this has been fun.” She said with a deep, lustful tone. “Hell yeah!” Said the figure behind her, a man with a large broadsword held over his shoulder. He was dressed in similar garb, but his frame was leaner and more muscular. He had three small horizontal, perfectly uniform scars on his left cheek, and his eyes were bright blue, his hair short and jet black. “Been a while since all seven of us hung out!” He added, chuckling heartily. “We’ve never ‘hung out’ ever, Kazue.” The masked woman replied. “Yeah, I know.” Kazue replied, “But that’s what everyone thinks, right? That we’re all a bunch of comrades, right?” “Is that so?” The masked woman replied, sounding amused. “I assumed they would realize the truth; that no two-bit blade wielding shinobi can match even one of us, let alone all seven. Although, this mission almost fulfilled itself. I could have handled this myself, no need to call in the rest of you butchers.” “Says the lady who stitches corpses together like a kebab, eh Yashiko?” Kazue replied, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, you say that but I doubt even you could have handled this on your own. If the Uchiha and Hyūga weren’t busy fighting each other, we’d have our hands full.” “If the Uchiha and Hyūga weren’t fighting each other we wouldn’t be here, idiot.” Yashiko replied. She suddenly whirled on the spot, and moved with unnatural speed as she heard noises coming towards them. She was already brandishing her needle-like sword to strike when another figure emerged from around the corner. “Don’t shit your pants, Yashiko.” The man said with a smirk. He was carrying a peculiar sword on his back with a long handle and a large, curved edge blade that looked like an over-sized cleaver. He was older than Yashiko and Kazue, perhaps in his 40’s. He had greying hair that was likely once black, that was long and slicked back. His face was covered in scar tissue from a variety of small nicks and cuts, and his dark eyes were relaxed, almost appearing bored. “Oh, it’s you Tanabe sama” Yashiko replied, her voice suddenly taking on a respectful air. “I thought you were a clumsy leaf ninja running to their grave.” “Better I announce myself early than accidentally sneak up on you.” Tanabe replied. “Wouldn’t want to get myself cut, hm?” “Y-yes, Tanabe sama.” Yashiko said, her voice wavering. “Where are the others?” Tanabe asked “Geko and Shinji are thinning Konoha’s reserves. Kagutsuchi is leading a strike on the Uchiha stronghold while they are distracted fighting the Hyūga. Saya is leading a force to strike the Hyūga as well.” “Good.” Tanabe replied, “And you two?” He inquired, his eyebrow raising. “Cleaning up the dregs.” Kazue replied for her. “Kagutsuchi said the new recruits don’t get the fun jobs.” “Hmph, he’s right. You two are nothing compared to your predecessors.” Tanabe said. “You should have more faith.” Yashiko replied, her tone defiant. “They say the young are in their prime, so we hold the advantage.” “True.” Tanabe said with a nod. “But youth is always overconfident. It lacks the wisdom and foresight that comes with age and experience.” Yashiko frowned at that statement behind her mask. It didn’t sound like Tanabe. What’s more, hadn’t he received a cut on his cheek the last time she had saw him. Where was the blood? She tensed suddenly as the realization came to her. [Cave] Tanabe barely had the chance to react as Yashiko suddenly lunged forward, plunging her needle through his chest, spinning around him and yanking the thin blade from his other side, a thin wire trailing behind it. She brought it back through his neck, causing him to cry out and gurgle in pain, then she yanked the needle out fiercely, and pulled away from him, the wire cutting through his flesh and causing him to let out a final, blood curdling scream of agony, before his eyes rolled back in his head, and Tanabe fell to the floor. Yashiko smirked behind her mask. “Not so wise now, old man.” She said with a satisfied chuckle. “Damn leaf thought he could get the drop on me with a transformation jutsu, hm Kazue?” She turned to her partner. She paused. Kazue was just standing there, looking back at her. He hadn’t reacted to the fight at all. He was just standing there with his sword over his shoulder, grinning like a damn idiot. Yashiko felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as a creeping realization began to dawn on her. She looked around at the ruined buildings, and the empty streets. Nothing was moving, nothing at all. She looked up at the clouds which no longer moved slowly in the sky, and at the frozen droplets of rain. Then she saw it, the giant eyeball hovering in the sky above her. That piercing eye stared at her, seeing right in to her soul. A crimson eye, with three tomoe swirling in synchronized harmony around the pupil. “Sharingan!” She gasped. [Reverse Situation] “Yashiko!” Kazue’s scream finally penetrated her hearing as the genjutsu wore off. Yashiko suddenly realized they were surrounded by ninja, all dressed in black, each wearing white masks fashioned after animals. Kazue was busy trying to fend off five ninja, who were expertly maneuvering around him, each taking turns demanding the skilled swordsman’s attention, tiring him out. “Took you long enough.” The ninja in front of her said. The man was wearing a mask that looked like a hawk. He was an anonymous member over the elite shinobi force known as ANBU. Yet his eyes betrayed his identity as a member of the Uchiha clan. “I’ve got all I need from you now, though.” “Damn Uchiha!” Yashiko spat, preparing herself for a fight. “Shouldn’t you be off fighting against your own allies?” “Hmph, unlike you I’m not very chatty.” The hawk-masked man replied. Then they were moving around each other in a blur. Yashiko’s needle and wire thread twinkled in the moonlight as the pair countered each other over and over, dodging and blocking until finally they separated and slid back across the dirt. The hawk-faced ANBU’s hands moved in a blur, and suddenly a huge ball of fire came surging towards Yashiko. She dived to the left and narrowly avoided the flames, but felt the heat burn her up her right side. Hissing in frustration she made a bee-line for the Uchiha, counting on her incredible speed to catch him off guard. “I can see!” The Uchiha said as he spun to face her, ducking to avoid the deadly strike of her needle. Then Yashiko brought her knee up to his chest, taking the wind from him. The ninja doubled back and she lunged forward, driving her needle through his chest. He whined in pain, but then he looked at her with those unnerving, confident eyes. Then the ninja exploded into a flock of black ravens and disappeared in to the sky. Yashiko shivered in dismay, and then gasped as she felt a kunai blade slice across her exposed neck. “Falling for the same trick twice…I guess I was right about the young.” The Uchiha said from behind her, as Yashiko felt her life quickly slipping from her. She tried to open her mouth to curse him, but all she could do was let out a final gasp, and then her world went black. --- --- --- Hyouhaku] Two corpses lay on the ground, with two legendary swords stuck in the ground next to them. As the ANBU began to sweep the area and prepare for the next fight, another ninja descended from the rooftops and landed with a soft tap. The woman was dressed in a black poncho that covered her entire body, except for her platform-heeled sandals. Unlike the ninja around her she did not wear a mask. She had jet black hair styled in a short pixie cut. She wore a black eyepatch over her right eye, and heavy burn scars could be seen on the skin around it. Despite her grizzled appearance, the woman wore bright red lipstick, and had a distinct, black beauty mark on her cheek. “Taka.” She said with a calm but projected voice. The hawk-faced ANBU came to her without a word. “Report.” She said more quietly as he drew closer. The man relayed the information he had taken from Yashiko, and the woman nodded in understanding. “Trying to collapse the Uchiha and Hyūga in one fell swoop. Konoha’s two strongest clans…how does that make you feel, Taka?” “I…” The man hesitated. “...ROOT do not have feelings on such matters, Asuna sama.” “Correct.” Asuna replied, her eyes narrowing on her subordinate. “We do what is necessary to ensure Konoha’s survival.” She cast her eyes on her surroundings. “Needless to say, we haven’t been doing a very good job. That changed with this success, well done Taka.” “My team deserve all the credit.” Taka said with a slight bow. “Nonsense. Do not deprive yourself credit where it is due.” Asuna replied. She could see the tension in the young man’s posture, the nervous twitch in his eyes. He was such a terrible liar, at least to her. “Do not worry, Taka.” Asuna said finally, a wry smirk forming on her lips. “Kuma’s team is already en route to support the reserves. Your team is tasked with subverting the strike on the Hyūga stronghold, and ensure that no harm comes of our friends.” “The…Hyūga…do you think that’s wise?” Taka asked hesitantly, “Surely I sh-“ “Surely, considering your lineage, a favour from you to the Hyūga clan will go a long way, hm?” “Asuna sama…” Taka replied “Don’t worry, I’ll be ensuring the Uchiha clan are also taken care of.” Asuna said with another smirk. “I will deal with that personally.” This seemed to considerably relieve Taka’s tension. He nodded in agreement. “Thank you, Asuna sama!” He said gratefully. “Thank me by doing your job.” Asuna said, and she motioned for him to leave. He did so without question, and quickly began barking orders and rallying the other ANBU. In moments, they were gone without a trace, leaving behind Asuna, who looked off in the other direction. “Hmm…Kagutsuchi…not a slouch like the three we’ve already taken out, this should be interesting.” And then with a flicker, Asuna disappeared into the night. --- --- --- 13 years later [Kakashi’s Theme] “-and so Asuna defeated Kagutsuchi and he fled back to Kirigakure, along with 3 other members of the Seven Swordsmen. However three died that night at the hands of Konoha’s finest special ops ninja. The Uchiha clan and Hyūga clan were both rescued from their sneak attacks, but the struggle didn’t end there. Only through the debt they owed Asuna and her ROOT, and the surprise birth of a child born of both and Uchiha and a Hyūga, ultimately led to peace among the clans once more. Asuna led Konoha to victory and ended the Great Shinobi War, and that is how she became Hokage.” “Uhuh…” Came a rather bored reply. The teacher, a young man with spectacles and short blonde hair, looked defeated as he stared forlorn at his bored student. The young girl was as pale as a ghost, and had wild, ash white hair that was spiky and unruly, except where she had shaved it bear on the left side of her head. She had three black piercings in her exposed ear, and her bored-looking eyes were a striking blue, almost white. “Omitsune chan- “Her teacher went to say but she cut him off with an annoyed frown. “Omi!” She snapped, “It’s just Omi, got it? Omi. Not Omitsune. Not san, not chan, not kun. Just Omi.” “Er…right.” Her teacher said. “Look, were you listening to what I said. It didn’t look like you were?” “Yeah, kinda, I mean I’ve heard it before.” Omi shrugged, not looking at the teacher. “Everyone knows this story. How mom saved the village and became Hokage. Who gives a crap?” “I do, very much.” The teacher said. “Your mother has tried three tutors before me, and you’ve been expelled from the academy. If you don’t apply yourself how do you expect to get along in this world?” “I already told her to let me join ROOT.” Omi said defiantly. “Don’t need friends to be a top-secret assassin. No name, no identity, no nothing. The village would be happier without me anyway.” The teacher was silent for a moment, but he certainly made no attempt to argue with her. That was nothing new though, she’d already chased off two tutors, not to mention her entire class. She’d noticed that no adult every corrected her when she said that she wasn’t wanted. “Your mother is the Hokage, and she has tasked me with your continued education.” The teacher said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from a child.” “Call her my mother again and I’ll jam this pencil up your nose.” Omi replied threateningly, picking up the pencil in front of her on the desk, and gesturing it at him as she cracked a grin and revealed a row pointed teeth. She watched as the teacher tensed up upon seeing her smile. “I-I..I will not be threatened, young lady.” The teacher snapped back, forcing some confidence back to himself, “If you give me any more back talk your mother-“ The chair scraped loudly against the floor as Omi came out of it like a bullet from a gun. The teacher’s screaming could be heard all the way down the hall. --- --- --- [Survival Examination] Omi sat in a chair in the Hokage’s office, her arms folded in resolute defiance, her chin pushed out and her face pulled to an incredibly exaggerated frown of annoyance. Gentle rings of wavy smoke drifted around the room. The placard on the desk read: Kiryuin Asuna – Hokage. The woman herself was sat behind the desk, quietly reading over some paperwork and smoking from a small pipe. Her was shoulder length and wild, with streaks of grey running through it. “Are you even going to talk to me?” Omi asked impatiently. Asuna looked up with her one good eye and gaze Omi a murderous glare. Omi returned it with childish petulance. Asuna’s eye twitched in annoyance. Clearly, she was a woman used to striking fear and respect from those around her. Not from her daughter, however. “There are no more tutors in Konoha who will have you.” Asuna said finally, and went back to going over her paperwork. “You’ve left me no choice…” “Finally…you’re going to send me to ROOT, like I’ve been asking?” Omi asked. “Hah!” Asuna seemed genuinely amused. “ROOT is a special branch of ANBU specifically for the most focused, loyal and dedicated ninja in Konoha. You are not fit to clean their boots, you insolent little brat.” “Tch! Who even gives a crap about all that stuff?” Omi scoffed, “Just ask my ex-tutor how good I am at inflicting pain.” “Jamming a pencil up some poindexter’s nose does not a shinobi make.” Asuna replied, although she was struggling to conceal her amusement. “You know…when Samanosuke became the first Hokage, his son was so dedicated to his father that he worked night and day to uphold the honor of his family name.” “What a loser…” Omi replied, rolling her eyes. “Yes…yes you are.” Asuna said, shaking her head. “Like I said you’ve left me no choice. I’m sending you in to the field.” “ANBU!?” Omi gasped excitedly, jumping out of her chair. “A supervised genin squad…” Asuna said, her eyes narrowing in disbelief. “Conditionally, I might add.” “Genin!?” Omi yelled, slumping back in to her chair. “I have to hang with the scrubs!?” “Newsflash, kid, you’re not even at the level of a scrub. You got expelled. I am seriously abusing my powers as Hokage on this one.” “Gee, what a swell parent you are.” Omi said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “I wonder if my real mom would do that for me.” “Your real mom is dead, kid.” Asuna replied coldly. “And your dad. So, you’re stuck with me, and I’m stuck with you. Unless you screw this up, that is.” “What do you mean?” Omi asked, frowning. “You’ve got 1 more chance to make something of yourself.” Asuna said, puffing on her pipe. “Report to your Jounin leader tomorrow for a test. If you pass, you’re a genin. If you fail…then I’m disowning you. No more house, no more food, no more clothes.” “What!?” Omi snarled. “You can’t do that!” “Of course I can.” Asuna said with a smirk, “I’m not your mom, remember?”
  21. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    tsumetaki-tsuchi] “Whoa…” Omi said as she walked with Hakirama and Sora through the garden outside of the Uchiha clan’s dojo inside their compound. They walked a path of flat stones placed in a line toward the main building. The fenced off garden was brimming with green plant life with beautiful red colored flowering. A tree stood tall to their right, it’s branches shading a rectangular patch of sand, with a sparse amount of stones placed very carefully around the sand. Someone had drawn swirls and lines in the sand, in a flowing form through the rocks. Up ahead the dojo building was lit with warm lanterns. They stepped up the steps and into the wooden building. Inside the dojo consisted of a simple, large open space for training in. However the matts on the floor were well made, and the sparse equipment looked to be of good craftsmanship. The walls were decorated by various depictions of the fan-like symbol of the Uchiha clan, and in each corner of the room stood dark metallic sculptures of tengu warriors with long beak-like noses. “…Whoa.” Omi said again. A door on the other side slid open and Kiyoko walked in, closing the sliding door behind her. She didn't notice them until Omi spoke. "Oh, what are you...?" Kiyoko frowned, looking at her team, "You shouldn't be here--" "I invited them." Makoto interrupted, startling the young Genin from behind as he walked past them and into the dojo. "I thought your teammates could join you in our training session this evening." "Oh..." Kiyoko nodded, but looked less than enthused. “Oh, I don’t think you three have had nearly enough stress to form a close bond.” Hakirama said, “It is very kind of Makoto san to provide an opportunity for hardship for all of you.” “How the hell is training going to help us get along?” Omi asked, raising her brow. “The times that test us are the most defining”, Hakirama replied. “Besides, you were all too happy to fight each other earlier, maybe burning some energy is exactly what you need.” “I don’t see how kicking Yoko’s butt is going to get her to like me.” Omi said, looking unconvinced. A few moments later she yelped and clutched her nose, which throbbed from another nose flicking from Hakirama. “How about you listen to Makoto san and follow his instructions.” Hakirama suggested firmly, smiling. “Fine…” Omi grumbled, still rubbing her nose. "Your sensei speaks from a place of knowledge. You'd do best to listen to him, Omi-chan." Makoto walked into the centre of the dojo and turned to face the Genin. "However," He added, his tone now quite serious, "I never said you were to fight my niece." Makoto stretched, cracking his shoulders and cricking his neck before he rolled the sleeves up of his kimono, "Can I ask, Hakirama-sama, for non-interference? Training such as this needs to be seen to it's conclusion." “My team’s safety comes first.” Hakirama replied, but sat himself down on the floor by the wall. “If I decide to intervene then I will.” “Wait…we’ve got to fight him?” Omi asked, thumbing at Makoto. “How’s that fair?” Makoto stared at Hakirama in silence for a few moments, then smirked, "That... will not happen." It seemed unclear whether he meant that their safety would not be in question, or that he would not allow Hakirama to intervene. "And Omi-chan... it isn't. That is the nature of this world." "Uncle, this isn't--" Kiyoko started, but cut herself short as Makoto charged her. "H-Hey!" Kiyoko leapt back to bridge a gap between them, but he was too fast. He closed it in an instant and threw a punch directly at her face. Kiyoko leaned back, turning into a backflip as her hands touched the mat, and she kicked with all her force, knocking her Uncle's arm up and then as her feet touched the mat, she darted forwards, kicking twice. The first kick struck Makoto in the shoulder, and the second he blocked with his forearm, grabbed her leg and threw her across the room, past Sora and Omi. Makoto then whirled around, formed seals in a flash, took a deep breath, and then a jet of flame spewed from between his lips. "Omi-chan!" Sora shoved Omi as hard as he could, knocking her out of the way, as the flames engulfed him. Kiyoko pulled herself up just as she saw the flames surround Sora. "No!!" Kiyoko yelled, "Sensei?!" She whirled around to look at Hakirama. [The Raising Fighting Spirit] The flames petered out, dispersing until only smoke and a charred body remained. It's ragged black cloth covering the static form on the ground. Kiyoko watched in stunned silence until she heard a strange noise. A grinding, hissing, clicking noise, and then the ragged black cloth dispersed, and Sora stood up, untouched. "What?!" Kiyoko mouthed. "What was that?" "That'd be my clan's technique." Sora replied. Then held his finger up and a tiny black mass began to form as if from nowhere. "The Bakuhatsu Ari." His eyes lingered on his finger for a moment, before looking to Kiyoko and Omi, "Exploding Ants." “Whoa… tough bunch of ants.” Omi said with a smirk. "Thank ye, Omi-Chan." Sora beamed, "Each member o' the Sakai clan are born with 'em. They're a part of us. We give them chakra, they give us a miniature army, full o' all kinda tricks. Plus, they're really useful in medicine and tracking." “Lucky.” Hakirama said, his eyes darkening as he spoke. “Be careful with my students, Makoto san.” “Tsh! Give me a break!” Omi said with a toothed grin. She raised her fists up in front of her and faced Makoto. “C’mon old man, I wanna check you out!” Omi went at a sprint towards Makoto and the pair clashed. She circled him, testing him with quick punches and kicks that he dodged and blocked with a steady grace. Makoto grew tired of her teasing and began to strike back. Omi weaved and dodged his precise swings with the speed and acrobatics of a dancer. Finally she jumped up for a kick, and Makoto drew his arm in to block her. Omi brought her feet forward and pushed off of his arm, sailing up towards the ceiling of the dojo, and she hurled a barrage of shuriken back down towards him. With a quick inhalation, Makoto released his chakra with his breath and blew the shuriken directly back towards Omi, peppering her with her own projectiles. Sora and Kiyoko were quick to react. Kiyoko charged her uncle, leaping into the air to strike him in the back, but he was all too fast. He turned instantly and knocked her aside and then leapt out of the way as a small black cloud flew beneath him. Makoto quickly engulfed the tiny ants in flame, then landed as Kiyoko raised herself back up using the wall as support. "This is too much, uncle." Kiyoko took a deep breath and started walking towards him. "We're obviously no match, you've proved your point.""I've barely begun." Makoto replied, then his eyes focused on Omi as she landed. In an instant, he was behind her. He grabbed her by the back of her neck, and lifted her into the air, "This isn't a game. You are in combat with a powerful enemy. Yet, you stand there explaining your abilities to one another. Asking for clemency when it becomes too difficult. Where do you think you are right now...?" He frowned, and then squeezed harder, choking Omi. She tried to gasp for air, but Makoto’s grip was too tight, and panic gripped her. [GAMA] Unable to draw breath, Omi felt herself getting weaker. Her hands desperately clawed at Makoto’s grip, but with every second she only grew weaker. She felt her vision beginning to swim. Something was beating inside her, it felt so loud to her, like someone hammering right next to her ear. Something boiled inside of her, something primal that was desperate to get out and wreak havoc. Then, suddenly, she gasped as Makoto’s grip was broken and she had fell to the floor. Hakirama stood in front of her, a Kunai in his hand that was slicked with blood, and Makoto’s arm had a small gash on it. “…That’s enough.” Hakirama said with a quiet anger to his voice. "I wholly disagree." Makoto replied with a sad smile. Kiyoko audibly gasped as she watched her uncle's one working eye flash a bright crimson red, circle by three tomoe. This was the Uchiha clan's eye technique. The Sharingan. This was not something that ever needed to be used against an ally. It had the ability to allow it's user to mimic the movement and abilities of anything it witnessed. It could see chakra, see through the illusions of a genjutsu, and was considered one of the most powerful techniques in the shinobi world. Her uncle now stood before her sensei, with a figurative sword unsheathed. "Uncle!" Kiyoko yelled. "You will be quiet." Makoto barked back at her, and then he leaned towards Hakirama. His lean deepened until it almost looked as though he was going to fall over, but then he burst forwards, tearing up the mats behind him as he crossed the dojo in a split-second. Hakirama was just as fast, raising his fists in response, but his movements were clear to Makoto's sharingan eye. He darted between Hakirama's thrusting fist and blocked his kick with one hand and with his other, he thrust his palm forwards as if he was going to smack Hakirama in the chest. But at the last moment, a blade shoved it's way out of the skin of his palm and impaled Hakirama. Makoto pulled his hand back, forcing the blade in deeper until he was able to grab hold of the emerging handle and yank it from his own arm. "Lesson over." He muttered, then shoved the blade through Hakirama's chest until the handle struck his chest. Makoto took a step back, and as Hakirama fell, he kicked him so hard in the gut, that their sensei flew across the dojo and smashed into the far wall, leaving a cracked stone indentation before collapsing to the ground. [Orochimaru ~Fight~] "Now then..." Makoto turned back to face the three genin. "Where were we?" His red eye beating down on them. Kiyoko was speechless. She kept staring at Hakirama's corpse, expecting him to get up. But he wasn't going to get up. Not from that. Eventually, the reality of her situation penetrated her fear, surprise and confusion and she immediately lowered her gaze, "Don't look him in the eye!" She called out to her teammates, "He'll trap you in a genjutsu you can't escape from!" "Kiyoko-chan?" Sora questioned. "DO IT!!" Kiyoko shouted, her eyes wet with tears she refused to allow. Sora nodded, reaching into his kimono and pulling out a pair of goggles. "Should be wearin' these things anyway, daylight's so strong..." Sora pulled the goggles on, and glanced at Makoto. He raised his arms, and black clouds formed around them, a mass of flying ants. "Ah well, looks like we've gotta get real serious now, i'll do what I can fer sensei, if we're still alive..." "Enough talking..." Kiyoko snarled, her face screwing up. Kiyoko and Sora charged Makoto from different angles. At the last instant, Sora's ants flew around the side of Makoto, forcing him away from Omi. He leapt away, blowing fire from his lips as any stray ants came within reach. Then Sora chased after him, spreading his ants thin and wide, so that Makoto was unable to penetrate the insect wall. Kiyoko dashed over to Omi and helped her up. "Are you alright?!" She asked frantically, checking the girl's neck. “He…!” Omi choked as she stared at Hakirama’s lifeless body on the other side of the room. She shivered in fear, then her eyes turned to Kiyoko, seeming only now to notice her. Then, finally, her gaze fell to Makoto, gritting her teeth in a vicious snarl. “…I’ll…I’ll kill him!” She yelled with a sudden burst of energy as she got to her feet. “I’ll…tear his….” She breathed in and out slowly, unable to speak. "Centre yourself." Kiyoko cautioned, "I feel the same way, but we can't allow ourselves... we can't let fear and anger control us." She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. Makoto tested the wall of insects for signs of weakness using his fire techniques. Every few seconds the room was cast in a brilliant orange glow and a flash of heat as Makoto destroyed more ants. "We're only going to have one chance, when Sora's wall fails, he'll... we have to work together... Omi-san?" Kiyoko raised her arm aloft and held out her fist to Omi. Omi stared at Kiyoko for a moment, and then at her offered fist. Then she nodded and bopped Kiyoko’s fist with her own, giving a single nod as she did. “Alright then, Yoko, you know his weak points, I’ll keep him distracted.” She retrieved a kunai from her belt and placed it in her mouth, before resting shuriken in the gaps between her fingers. “Shhora, don’ schwoo thish up, eh!?” "Enough!" Makoto yelled over the sound of their chatter. For a moment, there was silence punctuated only by the background hum of Sora's insects. Then a flame spread out from the back of the room, engulfing the entire wall. Before Sora could replenish the breaches, a gust of wind blew so fiercely that he was knocked to the ground. He reached out, a black mass of ants swarming from his hand and attaching themselves to the ground so that he wasn't thrown away. While at the back of the room Kiyoko and Omi stood fast, being buffeted by Makoto's gust. "Stop it, uncle!" Kiyoko yelled, and to her great surprise, Makoto stopped his assault. As she walked past Omi, she whispered, "Follow my lead." And walked towards Sora, as she did, she touched him on the shoulder and leaned in, "You've done enough." She said aloud, whispering something immediately afterwards before continuing on to her uncle. Makoto had never seemed taller to her than he did now. He towered over her, his presence and that sharingan, staring her down. "If you can't defeat an old man, then how are you going to become a ninja worth her salt, hm?!" Makoto closed his fist like a vice and held it before her, "You're not strong enough. You're not fast enough. You're not smart enough. At this rate, you never will be. It's better I save you the agony of torture at the hands of our enemies." "It's not my fault!" Kiyoko yelled at him in indignation, "You've trained me my whole life, my parents trained me, the Hyūga trained me! It's not my fault, it's yours! And yours!" Kiyoko's angry gaze turned to Sora, "And yours!" She focused on Omi, marching back to her as Sora began to object. "Kiyoko-chan, i've worked very hard to--" Sora began. "You're a disgrace!" Kiyoko snapped, getting right into Omi's face. "I'm not surprised your parents left you here!" “Watch your mouth, Yoko hime!” Yoko snarled at her, “Don’t think I won’t kick your ass!” "You couldn't if you tried!" Kiyoko bit back, shoving the girl forcefully. Makoto watched in disbelief, confused at the sudden in-fighting of the team that had stood against him just moments before. Sora walked over to join the girls, raising his hands and urging them to calm down. "You're no better!" "Oro?" Sora pursed his lips in surprise. "Bugs?!" Kiyoko growled, "Really?! That's the best thing you can do!?" Sora hesitated, holding his finger up for a moment as though he was going to argue the point, "W-well," He chuckled nervously, "K-Kiyoko-chan..." Kiyoko pushed him. Hard. Sora stumbled back and held his hands out to her, "There's no need for all y'all t'get mad, we have more pressing ma--" Sora was cut short. Kiyoko lashed out. Her punch hit him square in the jaw, and he collapsed to the floor. Sora's lips curled back in anger and he vaulted backwards onto his feet, and without missing a beat, sent a volley of insects flying towards Kiyoko. At the last second, Kiyoko dove to the ground, and the black mass struck Omi instead. Knocking her to the ground. There was a horrible wet squelch as the insects collided with her. "I've had about enough out of you!" Makoto growled irritably, raising his hands together to perform a jutsu. “The feeling’s mutual!” Omi replied as she crawled to her feet, soaking wet and covered in Sora’s ants. She made a bee-line for Makoto, hurling her shuriken at him. Makoto leapt back and dodged expertly, his hands still moving to make the seals. Omi took a shuriken from her belt and threw it forward. Makoto dodged to the side and let it fly past him, and just as he was about to finish he saw Omi’s grin, and sensed the incoming danger. [Breakdown] He abandoned his seals and turned just as Omi came at him with a swinging kick. He dodged and cut through her with a kunai, but her body simply reformed from the injury. Then another Omi swept a kick under him and he jumped to avoid, flipping backwards only to find another Omi waiting for him when he landed. Suddenly the three Omi’s rushed him together, each one attacking him with rapid strikes, all of which he dodged and deflected with unimaginable speed. Makoto finally grabbed and threw one of the Omi’s into another, and the two smashed together and disappeared along the floor in a puddle, before quickly resuming their form. “You can see right?” One of the Omi’s said to him. “Those eyes can see water clones, but I’m close enough now.” Omi grinned, her hands already forming the final seal she needed. She was close enough to Makoto now, and her chakra infused water was all around him in the form of her clones. With a final thrust out with her palm, her clones melted into water and swirled around Makoto, mixing and writhing into one swirling ball of water. It was dense, highly pressured water, stopping the target from moving on the inside. “Suiton: Water Prison Jutsu.” Omi said with a satisfied grin. “Doesn’t matter if you know how to copy it, good luck forming seals in there.” [Isami Aru Monotachi] "Yes!!" Kiyoko cheered, whistling as Sora chuckled, a smile spreading across his face once more, as he rubbed his sore jaw. "I can't believe we stopped him..." "Mm," Sora nodded, approaching Omi and patting her on the shoulder, "Well done, Omi-chan." Kiyoko turned to look at the body of their Jounin leader still lying in a crumpled heap in the corner. She had to take a deep breath to steady herself before speaking. "Alright... i'm going to inform--" Kiyoko stopped speaking as she heard a muted clapping noise. Makoto - still trapped in the ball of pressurised water which should have prevented him from doing little more than blink or breathe - was clapping. Then he stood, and the watery prison was forced to shift into an oblong shape to accommodate his standing position. "Very good." Makoto said, his voice distorted from within the prison, "There's just one thing..." He reached into his kimono and pulled out a kunai. The three genin watched in disbelief as he moved with little restriction from within the prison. "Think fast!" He said suddenly, throwing the kunai. The bladed projectile weapon breached the water prison as though there was nothing there at all. The projectile flew directly at Omi, and she was forced to dive aside to save herself. The prison of water fell apart with Omi no longer maintaining the seal, but as she opened her eyes, ready to deal with the threat Makoto posed once more, she was unable to move. Something nudged her and she looked over to see Kiyoko and Sora bound on either side of her. "O-oro?" Sora looked around, confused. "So fast..." Kiyoko muttered in disbelief, staring down at her bonds. Then she looked over and saw her uncle was wringing out his kimono. "I really wish you hadn't used a water technique of all things, my daughter-in-law made this for me..." Makoto grumbled, patting himself down. "Oh, your friends look rather confused, Kiyoko-chan, perhaps you would explain what happened to them for me, while I warm up?" Makoto smiled politely and then walked over to a small fire that remained from his use of fire jutsu. Holding his hands out to warm himself, he listened with a smile on his lips as Kiyoko explained that the sharingan's genjutsu could be so convincing that he had actually tricked Omi into breaking the seal on the water prison by dodging a kunai that didn't exist. Both Sora and herself had been unable to stop Omi, as moments before, he had trapped them both in their own private genjutsu. So, this was it. They'd lost. They'd lost the battle, their teacher, and now their lives. "We had 'im..." Sora sighed with a dejected look on his face. "We never had him... it was just a matter of time." Kiyoko looked to the ground. “Are you kidding!?” Omi scoffed, “Did you forget he killed Hakirama!?” “I’d prefer if you referred to me as ‘Senju Sensei’, or at least just ‘Sensei’, we’re not that close you know?” The voice came from the doorway of the Dojo. All three students turned round and gaped. Hakirama stood in the doorway, very much alive and entirely unharmed. “Yo.” He said with a short wave. [Konohamaru’s Theme] “B-but…you…” Omi turned back to the corpse on the floor in disbelief. Then she let out a high pitched scream as the corpse slowly sat up and turned it’s head toward her. “Zombie!!” She screamed. "N-No thank you." Sora added, shoving them onto their side. Then, between Omi and Sora, the two started worming the trio along the ground, trying to get away from zombie-Hakirama, while Kiyoko struggled on top of them, staring at the ceiling in confusion. "Hey!" Kiyoko growled, "What's happening?!" Their slinking along the floor was brought to a stop as Hakirama put his foot on them lightly. “You know…I’d hoped to get some smart students…” He said with a smirk. The zombie stepped closer until it was standing next to Hakirama. Then the Jounin placed his hand on his doppelganger’s shoulder, and it’s skin slowly began to turn brown, and then became hard like wood. Slowly the clone of wood began to turn more organic looking, like a tree branch, as it was slowly sucked back into Hakirama’s palm. “Eww….gross!” Omi said, and she made a retching face. “Mokuton is the Kekkai Genkai of the Senju clean. It is not gross.” Hakirama said with a scowl of annoyance. “It kinda is.” Omi said, huffing. "It's unpleasant, sensei-sama." Sora added, as the ropes binding them snapped suddenly and fell loose. Then a black mass formed around the ropes and disappeared into Sora's top. "An' I know unpleasant." The boy smirked as he stood back up, rubbing his wrists from the tight bindings. "You're all speaking like this is fine! This isn't fine!" Kiyoko growled angrily, marching up to Hakirama and jabbing him in the chest with her finger, "What kind of training is this, huh?! Do you think this is alright? Did you think you were being clever?!" Hakirama nervously tried to laugh it off but delicately pointed at Makoto. "You!" Kiyoko snarled, turning on her uncle, flames erupted in her eyes. Makoto looked up from warming his hands with a genuine look of surprise on his face. "Hm? --gah!!" Makoto yelped, as Kiyoko grabbed him by the collar of his kimono and threw him with all her force. Outside, the dojo, was peaceful. Quiet, tranquil, the sound of cicadas calling. An elderly Uchiha clan member raked sand into a pleasing pattern, and just as he was making his final stroke the roof of the dojo exploded and he leapt out of his skin in fright, sending sand flying everywhere. The old man scanned for the source of the sound, and saw a man flying through the sky, screaming, as he became a blip on the horizon. Patting down her hands, Kiyoko turned back to look at the rest of the team, "Well?!" She snarled, looking at Hakirama. “…Scary.” Hakirama said with a haunted expression on his face. “Guy got what he deserved if you ask me.” Omi muttered. “Kiyoko san, perhaps you should calm down. Don’t you think you’ve learned something from this?” Hakirama asked. [Friend] Doubt wormed its way into Kiyoko's thoughts and a frown replaced her anger, "I've learnt I can... somewhat..." She crossed her arms across her chest and licked the inside of her cheek as she nonchalantly tried to validate Sora and Omi's abilities, "... rely on... you guys..." "Yes!" Sora cheered, grinning from ear to ear. He walked up to Kiyoko and hugged her, but was quickly pushed away. "Don't push it, bug-boy." Kiyoko muttered, but a smile lingered in the corner of her lips all the same. Sucking in air like she was trying to draw in a noodle, Kiyoko finally sighed and walked over to Omi. The two girls looked at one another for a moment, then Kiyoko playfully thumped Omi on the shoulder. “I guess you’re not so bad yourself, Yoko hime.” Omi said with a sly grin. She turned to Sora. “Seriously though, I’ll put up with your creepy crawlies any time if they’re always that helpful. Using them to gather water like that…I’d never have even thought of it.” "They've many useful abilities, Omi-chan!" Sora got quite animated at Omi's fledgling interest, "It's not just obvious things like trackin' an' combat, but they have extremely powerful anti-toxin - didja know a single ant can lift over a hundred times it's own weight? Ants live longer than any other insect, an' if every animal was the same size they would be the fastest animal on the planet!" He just kept going, even as Kiyoko's eyes glazed over, "Didja know one ant species has the most powerful venom in the world? An' my ants are asexual, they don't need any males an' can jus' clone themselves, which I can increase by feedin' large amounts of chakra--" Sora grabbed Omi and Kiyoko around the shoulders and started to walk them out of the dojo, "Didja know ants can do more'n swim, they can survive up to 24 hours underwater! There's lots o' things that--" "--help us..." Kiyoko mumbled to Hakirama as they were dragged away. “Ah, to be a Genin again, there’s no feeling quite like when you start to form bonds with your team…” Hakirama went to follow them out of the dojo, “…and the inevitable discovery that they are just the worst.” He chuckled as he walked out in to the evening with his team.
  22. Konoha ~ Bonds [private]

    [Sasuke’s Theme] The pair were interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the grass behind them. The man approaching was dressed in the standard dark blue trousers and jacket associated with Konoha ninja, with a tool pouch strapped to his right leg, blue sandals on his feet, and a green flak jacket over his chest. The man walked at a leisurely pace with his hands in his pockets. His hair was a dark brown, shaggy hair that was trimmed shorter at the sides, but stood almost on end at the top, the ends flopping only a little to the left. His face was framed by a metal happuri style forehead protector with Konoha’s leaf symbol branded at the top. The man stopped as he drew close to the two Genin, and his red eyes lazily moved from one to the other. He sniffed once and scratched at his nose, before holding his hand up beside his head with an empty palm out. “Good morning, my name is Hakirama Senju. I will be your Jounin leader. I am very excited to be working with you both.” He had introduced himself with perfect politeness, but had done so without even a hint of enthusiasm, and his eyes were still half closed and bored-looking. Eventually he turned his head and looked around a bit further. “Hmm…Kiryuin san is late. That is, unfortunately, not unexpected. So that means you two are Sakai san and Hyuga san.” He shrugged and gave them both a half-hearted salute. “Nice to meet you both. I’m sure you’ll both do your best.” "Yo!" Sora gave a casual salute, "Nice ta see ya, Teach. The Senju are an interestin' Clan. Honored t'have ya." "Where's the other one?" Kiyoko added, ignoring Hakirama's introduction. She crossed her arms and asked, "Who's this Omitsune anyway? I don't remember anyone called that at the Academy." “Kiryuin san?” Hakirama asked. “Well, truth be told she was expelled from the academy, and is only being conditionally allowed the rank of Genin and to be part of this team due to her mother taking advantage of her position.” Hakirama sniffed again and wrinkled his nose. “Kiryuin san is the daughter of the Sandaime Hokage.” “Adoptive!” another voice yelled. [Lee Dash Lee A branch of the old tree shook as a slender form dropped from it, grabbing the branch on the way down and swinging once, before letting go and dropping to the ground. Omi was dressed in black sandals with fish net stockings covering the length of her legs, with a very short pair of black shorts on, with a single blue stripe at either side, and a tool pouch attached to a belt, positioned at the base of her back. Fish net covered her otherwise exposed midriff, and she had on a sleeveless, short jacket that barely covered her flat chest. Her arms were bare apart from white bandages wrapped around her hands and wrists. She had also chosen to wear her Konoha forehead protector around her neck, tied loosely. “Hm, you were actually pretty well hidden…” Hakirama said, for the first time showing a hint of surprise. “Well yeah, I’m a delinquent, not a scrub.” Omi replied. She turned her attention toward her new comrades, and folded her arms across her chest, raisied her head and pointed her chin out. “Sup.” "Ahoy hoy, Omitsune-chan!" Sora raised his arm in a half-wave, then went back to stroking Katsu. "Nice ta meet'cha." "You're late." Kiyoko added, "And a drop out. Do you think you should really be on this team?" “It’s just Omi, and if you ‘chan’ me again I’ll bite your nose off.” Omi said with a smirk. Then she turned her attention to Kiyoko, and her eyes flashed with a mix of anger and challenge. “You wanna go, Yoko? If I kick your ass that means I get to embarrass two clans for the price of one, right?” She grinned widely, revealing her pointed teeth. "Now, now," Sora chuckled, raising his hands defensively, "You can try, drop-out." Kiyoko retorted. "Aaah haha," Sora stepped in-between them, "Please, don't be fightin', girls. We're all a team now, yeah?" “I didn’t drop out, I got kicked out!” Omi snarled, “Because I kept beating punks like you in to paste. Don’t cry when it’s over, Yoko!” Omi suddenly made a beeline for Yoko, and the girl seemed to respond in kind. As they closed the gap towards each other, both raising their fists to strike, a figure streaked in between them. [Fake] There was a long moment of silence. The grass blew beneath their feet. Hakirama stood in between the two genin, his hands gripped firmly around each of their wrists. His unimpressed, bored expression remained as he let out a sigh. “Hyūga san, Kiryuin san, this is no w-“ Omi’s other fist came flying towards his face. In an instant Hakirama had let go of Kiyoko and pushed her away with a palm press to her chest, then his free arm came up and casually slapped the blow away. He released his grip on Omi’s wrist and she immediately snarled and leapt at Hakirama with a sweeping kick. The Jounin ducked with leisurely grace, and his hands came up and grabbed her leg, swinging her around and tossing her back to the ground quite gently. The ease at which he had done so made Omi’s blood boil. She’d make him flinch, she had to now. In an instant, she had reached in to her tool pouch and retrieved three shuriken. As her hands moved to throw them at Hakirama, she froze as he was suddenly inches from her. He snatched the shuriken from her hands with a single motion, and then threw a punch that stopped just inches from her face. Omi’s eyes were wide with terror. She couldn’t do anything against this guy, he could kill her with barely a breath. “Ow!” she cried as Hakirama flicked her hard across the nose with his finger, before releasing her. She clutched her nose in her hands, and her pale skin began to burn a hot pink. “What the hell!?” “We will not be fighting each other outside of organized sparring matches.” Hakirama replied simply. “Until you are capable of preventing me from doing so, I will decide when and who you fight, and I will not tolerate violence towards your team mates.” He turned his attention back to Kiyoko. “I’m sure you understand, Hyūga san?” "I understand perfectly. But when she loses her temper again, will we be in the field? Maybe in a delicate situation? In a battle?" Kiyoko then turned from Hakirama, to Omitsune, "A team is a chain. You're a weak link. I can't trust you." She paused, and as if as an after thought, she then looked to Sora, "Or you." “Bite me, Yoko-hime!” Omi snapped bitterly, “Like I need your approval!” [Confrontment] “Well…” Hakirama said with a pause to sigh audibly. “Now that introductions are over, it’s time to have an appraisal. I believe in being honest with my team, and so here it is…” He pointed at Sora first. “You, so far, are the only one I’m convinced might make a half decent ninja given time.” His finger moved to Kiyoko. “You seem to be carrying all the worst traits of the two most obnoxious clans in this village. You’re correct, a team is a chain, but you fail to see where your link is. The first thing you did when meeting your comrade was cast doubt as to her being allowed on this team. Not only did you show lack of faith in your comrade, but also in your leader. If you do not trust my decisions, then you are also a weak link.” Omi let out a snort of laughter, but then she caught her breath in fear as Hakirama’s ever-judging index finger fell upon her, and his eyes narrowed when he looked at her, his brow furrowing with annoyance. “Omitsune Kiryuin – the girl who has had each of her tutors give up on her, even the Academy cannot handle you. So much so that the Hokage herself applied pressure to me in order to ensure your place on this team. However, I am not one of her dogs. You are here because I decided to give you a chance, one that you are quickly using up. Out of all the members on this team, you impress me the least.” “Like I ca-“ Omi started but she was cut off. “You should care!” Hakirama snapped, his eyes suddenly fierce, “Every person in this village, be they ninja or not, works hard to preserve what we have. You, so far, are nothing but a drain on this village. If I cannot change that, then you will have no more opportunities ahead of you.” “Yeah, whatever.” Omi rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard this one a thousand times.” “Then hear this; you have until the end of this day to gain the support of your comrades, If either one of them will not support you by tomorrow, then you will be banished from the village.” Omi went to speak, but she paused, her lip quivering, and then she bit down on it and her head sank to the floor. Kiyoko remained silent, listening to Hakirama. When he was finished, she walked over to the table and sat on one of the chairs. Leaning back, she crossed her arms and sighed, "I can accept my mistakes. But not trusting you does not mean i've made a mistake. I don't know you. You might be a Jounin, so you've been given a title that says you're skilled, so what? There are lots of Jounin, and they die every day. Trust is earned, not expected. But..." She glanced at Omi, an expression flashed across her face, if only for a moment. Doubt? But in what? "Pff..." "Give me a reason to support you, Omi-chan." Sora gave her a polite bow just with his head. “I’m sure she will have plenty of opportunity to do so on your first mission.” Hakirama said nonchalantly. “Originally I was going to put you through a traditional bell test, but this mission came up quite suddenly and requires immediate attention.” Omi stood in silence, her stomach churning at the news. A mission? How was she going to be able to prove herself in that sort of situation? What if she screwed up? What would the cost be? "Are you up to it?" Kiyoko asked. Sora made a startled noise, interrupting the conversation as heads turned. Katsu, the little squishy-faced dog, leapt out of Sora's arms and landed on the ground, then waddled over to Omi and sat at her feet. He opened his mouth and started panting - a sound akin to an out-of-breath senior - quietly, with a content look upon his stunted face. "Omi-chan, Katsu supports you! Now you've just myself, and Kiyoko-chan to convince! Yatta!" Sora clapped his hands and beamed at her. "Ah--!" Then Katsu quietly lifted his leg, and emptied his bladder onto her boot. Sora's face drooped, yet somehow he maintained a modicum of cheer despite his mortified eyes, "Ah, sorry...." Omi’s knuckles cracked audibly as her fists clenched in an otherwise quiet rage. Her teeth grinded as she fought to keep herself from snarling. “Don’t…worry about it.” She said finally, her right eye twitching madly as she stared at the incontinent pug with a murderous gaze. “Yo, sensei…what’s our mission?” She asked to keep her mind off her anger. “Well I’m glad you asked…” Hakirama said with a smirk. --- --- --- --- [Fooling Mode] “This sucks!” Omi declared as she jabbed a metal litter picker into the river she was currently standing knee deep in. She pulled the litter picker back up to reveal a sludgy old sandal, and she wretched in disgust, before tossing it into the pile of junk on the bank. “What did you expect?” Hakirama asked from the deck chair he was sitting on near the bank, “Genin ninja are only qualified to participate in D-rank or C-rank missions. Get used to manual labour, you’re going to be doing it routinely for quite a while.” “This isn’t what being a ninja is about!” Omi scoffed, frowning. However, she continued with the work begrudgingly. She had to admit that Hakirama’s threat was serious enough that she had been forced to comply with it. Even though, deep down, all she really wanted was to set his hair on fire and see what he looked like bald. "Hard work is an essential trait of a good ninja, Omi-chan!" Sora waded past her and stopped at a spot that he seemed happy with, "If ya work hard at working hard, y'all will fight fer longer, hit harder an' learn more." Sora held the litter picker an inch above the water and then began jabbing. The flurry of strikes was so fast that he was forced to stop after a couple of seconds because his entire picker had been skewered with trash. Sora grinned at Omi, then dumped all the trash into his bag, pausing to stare at Kiyoko. She was staring at the water, picker in hand, doing nothing. Just... staring. Omi considered Sora’s words. It hadn’t occurred to her to use ninja skills to get the work done. Sora had used his speed and reflexes from Taijutsu to maximize his performance. Perhaps if she could impress them then they’d consider keeping her on the team. With a wolfish grin she tossed her litter picker and trash bag aside, and clapped her hands together. She performed five hand seals; tiger, snake, rat, snake, tiger. She released her chakra and thrust her hands forward. The water of the river suddenly rushed back up the way it came, chaotically flying up into the shape of a wall, the excess water arcing down and around them. “There…now we can see better.” She said with a satisfied smirk. She turned round to see what Sora thought, and then her heart sank like a stone. Kiyoko had been caught in the backlash of her ninjutsu, and was now standing and staring in the same position, only now she was drenched from head to toe in river water. “S-sorry…” Omi managed to squeak.
  23. Project Guardian

    Heavy black boots thudded against the floor as the man approached. His boots were knee height, crafted from strong leather. He wore dark trousers and a sandy coloured cloak over his body that looked like an odd fusion of a kimono and a poncho, with a wide sleeve over his right arm. His left arm was bare, revealing lean muscle, and the man wore a strange black gauntlet, with long strands of metallic wire, and metal coverings over each of his fingers, slightly pointed to appear like claws. His skin was a light tan, and his hair was a greyish white, tied back in a high ponytail. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of thick, black goggles that seemed to extend out quite far from his face, and they quietly whirred and clicked as he approached. His right arm moved from under the wide sleeve and he held up a long-barrelled rifle with a scope. "Hm..." He said with a calm, contemplative voice, "Can you say 'hello world' for me?" "I have a gun, stay back!" Ai growled, pushing herself back along the floor. She dared not take her eyes off the stranger. She raised the gun back at the man a second time, threatening to shoot him though she knew the gun was empty. "Mine is bigger..." The man replied with a hint of a smirk, although his obscured eyes hid any true expression. He flexed the fingers of his left hand in odd, careful gestures as he watched her. More whirring and humming sounded from his goggles. "Mine is also charged..." He added although he didn't move to point the rifle at her, resting it on his shoulder instead, but his finger rested along the edge of where the trigger was. "C-Charged...?" Ai glanced at the gun in her hand and back at the stranger. Pursing her lips, she lowered the gun. Then, out of nowhere, she threw it at the man and ran into the back of the lab. There had to be something in here she could use against him. As she ran there was a click, followed by a humming noise, and then there was a sudden burst of green light that shot past her and crashed into a nearby shelf, the contents shattering violently and spraying across the room. “That was a warning shot.” The man called to her. “Next one goes through the back of your head unless you play nice…” Ai froze. Without turning back to face him, she called out, "What do you want?!" She asked as she scanned the room for something to use as a weapon. Anything. “Oh, lot’s of things.” The man replied. “What I came to get, however,…is not what I expected.” He paused in consideration, his hollow gaze watching her eerily. “Disappointing, I think…I don’t think I want you…or do I?” He shook his head slightly, “No, no, you’re much too old for her, don’t be a creep. Besides…she’s one of them” He spoke as if he was talking to someone else, but there was no one. “Would he go that far? That Nakamura…” "Touch me I'll kick you so hard you'll swallow your plums!" Ai whirled around, raising her fists as though she was going to fight him. Fist fight a guy with a rifle. Smart. The man’s eyebrows raised distinctly at her threat, and then he cocked his head slightly. He raised his left hand with the peculiar gauntlet, and swiped his fingers through the air a few times, followed by a series of rhythmic tapping motions, like someone playing frets on a guitar. “You…don’t know, do you?” He asked finally. "Know what? That message? Blue something?!" Ai held her fists up yet she wavered, she found herself trying to glance around the room, looking for something she'd missed while trying to keep her attention on the strange creep. The man seemed mildly taken aback by this, but he did not respond immediately. After a while he lowered his rifle to his side, and pulled the goggles up from his eyes, resting them on his forehead. His eyes were a dark brown, and still peered at her studiously, but his overall expression looked far less disturbing after the reveal. “You might want to take a look at yourself, I think.” He suggested. He looked around for a moment, and then gestured to his right, where there was a mess of broken glass shards on a table. "Eh?!" Careful of the man's deceit, Ai shuffled across the room and positioned herself so she could keep the man's body in view while she looked down at her reflection. She saw a face staring back at her. This woman's skin was flawless, free of any acne Ai had always struggled with, she didn't even have the little scar she'd gotten when Takashi accidentally hit her in the lip with a baseball he'd struck just moments before. Her lip had swollen right up, and she'd needed several stitches to sew it closed, but you could still see the scar. But now? Now it was gone. "I had a..." Ai traced her hand over her lip, then her gaze was drawn to her eyes. They were no longer the deep shade of brown she was accustomed to seeing. They were a bright blue, an immediately obvious and unnatural colour for her ancestry. "What...?" She leaned in, forgetting the presence of the stranger. As her confusion deepened with the studying of her face, she drew her lips back and gasped. Her teeth had never been perfect, but at least they were straight, flat and, well... human. The teeth she had now didn't resemble the teeth of a person at all. They looked like they would belong on a shark, or some horrible sci-fi monster. Each tooth was broad, pointed like a fang, and serrated, yet they locked together when she closed her mouth. Pursing her lips together to hide them, she glanced back up at the stranger. "What did you do to me?!" Ai barked, looking around the lab. "Where's my dad?!" “Dad…?” The man cocked his head slightly in confusion. Understanding washed over him in a moment, and he let out a heavy sigh. His gaze fell and he scratched the back of his head before rubbing at the back of his neck. “There is no easy way to say this…how bothersome.” He said finally, and he locked eyes with the scared girl. He stared at her without blinking, a seriousness about him. “The man you think is your father, Doctor Nakamura Satoshi; An unparalleled genius in the fields of biosynthetic chemistry, robotics, and cybernetics…” He paused, and gestured to the aged skeleton on the floor. “…It has been approximately 200 years since the Blue invaded Earth, I cannot imagine he lasted more than a decade after. I…am sorry for your loss.” "W-What?!" Ai stuttered, her eyes darting to the skeleton. She saw a name badge. It read, 'Dr. S Nakamura'. "T-that can't be... I was... I was just..." Ai looked back at the pod she had fallen out of, "W-why was I..." She trailed off, staring at the skeleton. The man turned his back to her, his expression torn between awkwardness and resigned frustration. He pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes closed as he thought about his words carefully. “That pod is a testing chamber for running diagnostics and simulations. When I arrived the machine was set to run continuously until someone manually overrode it. That someone was me, just a few moments before you awoke.” He turned back to face her. “The world you think you know…it was a simulation. Time within simulations isn’t particularly relevant, you could have conceivably lived over a million lifetime cycles, each one different, each one shaping you. However…it appears as if Nakamura went the other way…he lengthened the cycle. It seems he wanted you to have a single, ordinary life…in the world that no longer exists.” "I-I can't..." Ai felt the need to cry, she knew she would, but being sat there, on the cold, dusty floor of the lab, she couldn't do as much as shed a single tear. So many questions ran rampant in her mind. So many emotions. She was terrified, and confused. In shock, disbelief and she wanted to lash out. Was her father really dead? Could she have been in a simulation? And why? This was her father's lab, would he have really put her in a simulation? What possible reason could he have to do something like that to her? If he was truly dead, would she ever have those answers? "I can't believe it..." Ai said finally. She shuffled across the floor on her hands and knees and slumped down beside the skeleton. She looked at his name badge again. A wave of disbelief washed over her, and she found herself checking over every inch of the skeleton. Anyone can put a name badge on a load of old bones. That's what she told herself. But then she saw it, hiding in his lab coat pocket. Ai reached out and pulled a long, half-smoked cigar. She didn't know the brand, but she recognized the smell immediately. He had a habit of starting them, then stamping them out, only to put them in his pocket for later. It used to drive her mother up the wall. So, this really was her dad. Did that mean... 200 years had passed? And one other thing stood out to her. "200 years... since..." Ai's face screwed up once more, she almost laughed, "Since what invaded?" “The Blue.” The man replied ominously. The name itself didn’t seem the type to strike terror into the hearts of men, but when he said it his tone carried a fearful respect. “Records of when they first struck are slim. It is believed they had surveilled our planet quite extensively on their long journey through dark space. They use organic matter as a sort of bio-fuel to sustain them, but all research suggests they are a technologically based life form, or some sort of bio-synthetic beyond our understanding. They are ruthless, powerful beings who do not hold a scrap of compassion towards humanity…” The man paused as a chirping noise sounded in the small device he had in his ear. He waited, counting the seconds. 5 seconds…10 seconds…15 seconds…18 seconds… Chirp-chirp. “…and they are coming here.” He said finally, through gritted teeth. "Well then we've got to get out of here!" Ai snapped, standing up. Even now, she found it difficult to believe. But as time passed, and she found herself better able to concentrate, it was difficult to argue with this man. The signs of wear and age on the room, the amount of dust on the consoles and floor, the fact that her father's remains were only a skeleton and not a corpse. Her father was dead... she still couldn't process that. But she could hear commotion from outside. "What do we do?!" She asked him, terrified at the idea that creatures from another world were going to tear through the door at any moment and eat them. “We have time, but only a little.” The man explained, as he pulled down his strange goggles again. He made his way over to the pod where Ai had came from and began examining it, feeling around for something. “It must be around here somewhere…” He said as he fumbled around the back of the machine. “Online servers would have been destroyed by this point, surely. Nakamura would have a local drive…where is it!?” He thumped the machine with his fist in frustration. “All that data…we can’t leave it behind for the Blue. 200 years of simulations…on Nakamura’s secret weapon. But where…where would he store the-“ He cut himself off. He whirled around to face Ai and stared at her, before finally sighing. “It can’t be helped.” He said with a resigned sigh. He reached for the clips on the shoulder of his cloak and unclipped them. Then he flung the cloak from himself with a flourish, and it whirled through the air like a phantom and wrapped itself around Ai’ body, covering her almost naked form. From underneath the cloak, 5 small, black orbs surfaced and moved through the air, back towards their master, spinning around his head before attaching themselves to the strap fastened across his chest. There was a space for one more orb, but it was nowhere to be seen. “Nakamura kun, my name is Kyounosuke Masahiro, but everyone calls me Kyouma!” He declared with a sudden pep and authority to his tone. “I am the mad scientist who walks the lonely path of genius! You are the unwitting secret weapon of the Doctor Nakamura, the last hope of standing up against The Blue! Begrudgingly…I accept responsibility. I will be your foster parent!” "You're a mental case..." Ai muttered. A terrible crash came from somewhere outside. It shook the entire room, as though something enormous was tearing through the walls themselves. "What's happening?!" Ai yelled over the terrible screeching as metal beams and blocks of stone were thrown aside as though they weighed nothing. “Stay close to me!” Kyouma ordered as he gripped his rifle and made for the door of the laboratory. He swung the door open and ascended up the stairs which opened out on to a mess of rubble and metal scrap. He gestured for Ai to follow as he navigated through the tight crawl space he had clearly found his way in from. All the while distant sounds of crunching steel screeched through the air. The ground shook as rubble fell, old ventilation pipes hissed as they expelled gas. It appeared as if they were in a vast, dark warehouse full of wreckage. However, as they moved out into the clearer sections there was a slight breeze. Shifts in the darkness revealed tiny rays of moonlight in the polluted smog that blanketed the sky. Kyouma ducked down behind a large shattered wall and pressed his back against it. He put his finger to his mouth, ordering silence, and he waited. Something writhed in the darkness. Heavy crunching sounded so close by, and so suddenly that Kyouma’s breath caught in surprise. An eerie, alien noise echoed through the night. The repetitive clicking noise sounded like it came from something synthetic, but it’s musical tones gave it an almost organic quality, almost like birdsong. Carefully, Kyouma’s fingers moved with their characteristic gestures. One of the black orbs on his belt detached silently and flew off into the night. The motion caught the attention of the creature nearby, and it rounded on them. Something scraped along the wall above their heads, and the stone began to crumble. A bassy thumping beat reverberated in the distance. Whatever it was caught the attention of the creature, and it stalked off in the direction of the noise, crashing through rubble and debris without a care. Judging by the noise, the creature was large and powerful. Kyouma let his breath finally sigh out. He stepped out from behind the wall and looked around carefully. “We should move while the coast is clear.” He whispered, and he turned and gave Ai a reassuring nod. Meanwhile a dark, metallic, tendril coiled around his leg and suddenly dragged him off into the air, disappearing into the dark fog, and the sound of tearing and rending followed.
  24. Hallows

    It was nearing 6pm when a taxi pulled up outside Giannopoulos Wineyard. Vincent stepped out of the back, carrying his sports bag and his cane. He held out an extra note for the driver, who rolled down his window and took it with a “thank you” before departing. Vincent observed his surroundings. He was outside of the main city, in a patch of countryside farmland. He was stood outside a large converted barn house that was painted white, and had been fitted out like a storefront and tourist section for the winery. The place appeared to be closed now, but he walked up to the front door and gently chapped on it with the end of his cane. He waited a moment but nobody came to answer, as he had expected. He peered through the glass parts of the door, but all he could see was rows of wines, a few cashier desks and some wooden boards with information about the wine, and times for tours of the facility. He walked away from the door and made his way around the side of the barn. He could see that a section of the land was dedicated to the vineyard where they were growing various grapes. Extensions built out from the barn looked like staff quarters, and a larger building behind it looked to be where they made the wine. A light was on in a smaller, cozier building with a balcony that faced out on to the vineyard. Clearly the Giannopoulos family lived on-site. Vincent walked carefully towards the building, checking around for anyone watching him. The place was completely quiet, and as far as he could tell, the Satyr ran a tight ship. Everything looked clean, tidy and above board. As he walked across the gravel, the door to the front of the house opened up, and a short and stout man with a broad chest and a dark-haired but balding head. “Marcus is that you…oh.” He paused as he noticed Vincent. “Sorry, my friend. We’re closed for the day.” “That’s a real shame.” Vincent said with a shrug, “I was really hoping for a sample.” “Well, you can always come back tomorrow.” The man said with a soft smile. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist.” Vincent said as he kept walking towards the door. “I’m something of a genealogist, you see, and I have a few questions about your ancestry.” “Er…” The man looked a little uneasy. “I’m sorry but I don’t understand.” “Well you’re Greek, right? An immigrant?” Vincent asked as he approached the door. “I’m an American,” The man replied, his tone sounding a little more hostile. “My papers are all in order I assure-“ “I’m not from immigration.” Vincent cut him off. “My name is Vincent Hallow.” “Ha-“ The balding man’s lips quivered before he finished the word. Panic set in his eyes, and he went to slam the door shut. Vincent held out his cane and channeled his will through it. He felt a pull from something other worldly, like a tug on his soul, and then a gust of focused air gathered around his cane, and shot forward to the door, blasting it open and sending the balding man backwards on to his backside. “Oh don’t worry, I’m not as bad as Violet.” Vincent said as he stepped through the threshold on the house. When entering the home of a human without being invited, supernatural creatures often could not enter, and others could but left their power at the door. Vincent’s wizardry happened to be one of those things that was generally left outside, and yet he did not feel that draining, sinking feeling that came with the vanishing of his power. That confirmed it for him. The denizens of this home were not human, so no protection for them. “Wh-who…who is…Violet?” The man asked fearfully. Vincent paused for a moment, and then it dawned on him. “I’m not as bad as Elias, either.” He said, rolling his eyes. Vincent dropped his bag by the door and closed it behind him. He grabbed the man by one of his outstretched arms and pulled him back on to his feet. “Sorry if I’m coming off a little strong. I’m no good at pleasantries, and to be honest forcing my way in here was the quickest way to confirm you aren’t human.” “So you’re not here to kill me?” The man asked. “Well, that depends. Probably not though.” Vincent said, as he surveyed the hall. “You can remove that glamour now.” The man looked a little uneasy, but then he sighed and gave a little shiver. In an instant a pair of short, sharp horns appeared on his head. “My name is Thanas Giannopoulos. Look, I don’t know how you found me but I’ve been living here without incident for over 30 years and-“ “Without incident?” Vincent raised his eyebrow. “You’re a Satyr. Bunch of horny, drunken maniacs if the tales about you are true. You telling me you came here to live a quiet life?” “Hey!” Thanas seemed angered by the comment. “How dare you! That’s racist! I bet you think all vampires sleep in the rafters too!” “Actually in my experience they sleep in a kind of luxury only you and I can dream of, buddy.” Vincent said with a smirk. “You humans, always tarring everything with the same brush.” Thanas muttered as he made his way down the hall. Vincent followed and they came in to an open plan living room and kitchen. Thanas grabbed a glass of wine he had previously been drinking from the table and took a sip of it. “I mean, seriously, you’re talking about Ancient Greece like it was yesterday. You have no idea what it was like. All those Gods making everybody crazy, it was a different time.” “So you’re saying Satyr have gone legit now? All nice, civilized types who go to church and pay their taxes?” “Ugh, not church.” Thanas replied, “The last lot of Gods were enough for me, I can’t be bothered with this one.” “But there’s got to be some truth to it.” Vincent said, and he gestured around him. “I mean, Satyr are supposed to be mad for wine, and here you are with a vineyard.” “Oh the Greek guy loves wine, no shit.” Thanas replied, shaking his head. “Okay, let’s say I accept that,” Vincent replied, shrugging, “What about all these Nymphs being murdered? The old stories say the Satyr loved to have their way with Nymphs, and then a few of them end up dead. Maybe times haven’t changed that much, hm?” “I did nothing to those poor girls!” Thanas replied heatedly. “What happened to them is a tragedy!” The older man had a complex display of emotions. He looked scared, perhaps guilty, but also genuinely sad and distraught at the thought of the murders. “Look, wizard!” He said with a pointed finger at Vincent, “Look, I’m not proud of my people’s past, but we were…” He sighed in frustration, “Let’s just say not a lot of people have faith in Dionysus any more. The madness he brought on during his time of power…it affected us. Like I said before, it was a long time ago. We moved on.” “And yet there’s still a bunch of young girls being gored to death.” Vincent replied, frowning. “Gored?” Thanas asked with a surprised expression. “I…oh…oh no…” His glass holding hand shook, and he placed the glass on the table before he dropped it. He held his hand up to his forehead and looked distressed. “Oh no…please…not Lucas!” “Who’s Lucas?” Vincent asked. “He’s my…my son.” Thanas looked grief stricken. “He’s always been a little wild…but he’s young, you know? I never thought…oh Lucas…” “Are you saying your son is responsible?” Vincent asked. “No!” Thanas snapped, then he hesitated. “I…hope not, but…” “The signs are there.” Vincent said, nodding sympathetically. “I’m sorry Thanas, but if Lucas really is doing this…you know what happens next.” “Oh please, no!” Thanas protested, and he was crossing the room to Vincent. His eyes were tearful and he rung his hands together like a beggar. “You can’t kill him. There must be another way, please!” “You know a human prison can’t hold creatures like yourself.” Vincent said. “This is how it’s done.” “Please, you can’t!” Thanas begged. Then his eyes flashed with something other than grief, and he seemed to have an idea. Vincent knew that look. Suddenly Thanas was charging at him with incredible speed someone so old shouldn’t have had, with his sharp horns pointed straight at Vincent, who lifted his free arm up in defense. Vincent channeled his will into the charm bracelet around his wrist, each of the charms representing different symbols of protection from various cultures and faiths. The charm bracelet seemed to buzz with power on his arm, and an invisible wall of force projected out in front of Vincent. Thanas slammed into the kinetic barrier and was sent flying backwards, crashing in to the back wall of the room, causing bottles of wine to crash to the floor and spill around him. Vincent held the shield up for a few more moments, but as Thanas sat up, the old man only wept in defeat. Vincent let the shield drop and let out a silent curse. “Nice try.” He said as he crossed the room. “Even if it had worked though, my sister is out there. She’d have figured this out, and she’d have still taken out your boy. Then she’d have come for you, for killing me.” “I’m sorry…” Thanas replied. “I just…” “You wanted to protect your boy.” Vincent finished for him. “I understand.” “The first girl…she was his girlfriend.” Thanas explained. “I never liked it. With our past, I wanted him to stay away from those Nymphs.” “Is that why you have a known rivalry with the Petros family?” “Petros? No…that was something else. The daughter…Amber, I think. She told her family some strange stories about my boy. All lies, silly things about his girlfriends. We had a bit of a row, but nothing serious. She was probably just jealous he never paid her any attention.” “Amber Petros is a name that keeps popping up in all of this.” Vincent said, rubbing his chin. “I think I need to speak with her. First I need to find your kid, do you know where he is?” “Probably with his new girlfriend. I can’t remember her name, honestly.” Thanas replied. He got up and started picking up bits of glass off the floor. “What a mess…” He said with a sigh. “You got anything of his?” Vincent asked. “Hair or blood?” “Are you from this century?” Thanas asked with a frown. “Alright, fine. Something personal of his?” He asked. “Why?” Thanas asked “To make a Thaumaturgical link to him.” “Thumbawhatnow?” “Thaumaturgical. You should know that, it’s Greek.” Vincent shook his head. “It’s for a locator spell. I’m going to find your son before he gets himself in any more trouble. Then we’ll figure the rest out.” “Will you kill him?” Thanas asked, looking fearful again. “Not if I don’t have to.” Vincent replied. “Oh, and can I use your phone?” --- --- --- Ten minutes later Vincent stood at Thanas’ breakfast bar. He had drawn out a circle of salt on the table, with a five-pointed pentagram in the middle of it. At each point of the star he had placed candles and lit them. In the centre of the star was a locket, with a picture of an older woman inside, Lucas’ mother and Thanas’ deceased wife. Vincent held Thanas’ phone to his ear and listened to the dial tone as he finished making preparations. “Come on, Vi. Pick up…” "Who are you and how did you get this number, dickhead?!" Vincent rolled his eyes. “Hey sis, how’s it going? Also you gave me this number, buttmunch.” He replied, as he casually projected a small portion of his will into the circle, and an invisible barrier of magic hummed to life, containing anything within the circle. "I'm regretting it. What's that noise?" Violet asked. “Interference, probably.” Vincent replied. “I’m doing some science, some magical science!” "I'm hanging up." She muttered, irritably. “Yeah, okay.” Vincent replied. “I guess I’ll just go catch the killer myself then.” Vincent made a quick gesture with his hand, and the gentle hum of the circle seemed to become an agitated buzz. He turned around and looked to the floor of the kitchen, where another circle had been made. Inside this one was a small hot wheels toy race car. He made another gesture and sent his will into that circle as well, and it began to hum gently. "Thought you'd had enough of all this?" Violet retorted. "What exactly are you looking to do?" “Well, I thought I’d had enough too, then Al started talking in my head like Obi-Wan which, side note, I might need to see a therapist if I’m honest, anyway, I made a few connections and now I’m at Giannopoulos Vineyard. The owner here is a Satyr and his son is…well he might be the killer. It’s a little complicated, but I keep hearing that Amber girl’s name popping up. I don’t think she’s quite as innocent as she may seem.” With a pulling gesture, Vincent seemed to slowly reel out the energy stored within the first circle. Then he placed that energy in the second one, which began to buzz excitedly. "I spent most of the day with Amber. She knows something, and half the girls in that little clique of theirs are nymphs but a killer?" There was a long pause as Violet sighed, "Seems a stretch to me. She's more concerned with her appearance, her friends and her after school activities." “I never said she was a killer.” Vincent replied. He broke the circle of salt on the floor with his foot, and suddenly the little hot wheels race car took off through the living room and disappeared in to the hall. Vincent began following it. “All I know is her name keeps popping up.” He said, “The way Thanas seemed to react, I’m pretty sure killing isn’t something he thinks his son is capable of either. What I do know, is that Amber apparently stirred up a lot of shit around Lucas, the Satyr kid, and his girlfriends. And yes, that was plural. Kid gets around, apparently.” Vincent reached the door to the house, where the little toy race car was banging against the wood, desperately trying to get out of the house. Vincent scooped it up, and it’s little wheels just kept on spinning as he held it. “It also turns out the first victim was Lucas’ girlfriend. And he’s off to see his latest girlfriend right now, apparently.” Vincent held the toy car up to the receiver so Violet could hear it’s wheels whirring. “My locator spell is cooking with gas, however, so get the car and come pick me up. Let’s see what this kid has to say for himself.”
  25. Hallows

    “Well, it shouldn’t take too long to clean this up.” The dry cleaner said, inspecting the crusted pudding inside Vincent’s jacket pocket. “Come back in an hour or so and I’ll have it for you.” The elderly man smiled politely, but he couldn’t completely hide his concern. Vincent stood on the other side of the counter, his white shirt wrinkled, with one side untucked from his jeans. He’d taken his tie off and unbuttoned the collar of the shirt. He had his sports bag hanging over his shoulder, an unlit cigarette in his mouth, and his right eye was now sporting a nasty, swollen shiner. “Thanks,” Vincent replied, as he opened his wallet and passed the man a handful of crumpled notes. “Guess I’ll wait elsewhere. Any quiet bars nearby?” “Now?” The man asked, shrugging uncomfortably. “It’s 3 pm. I should imagine they’re all quiet round about now. There’s one just a block away, though. Take a right to the next block, then right again. Can’t miss it.” “Thanks again,” Vincent replied and turned around to leave the dry cleaners. When he stepped outside he took his sunglasses out of his pocket and put them on, more to hide his black eye than to shade from the sun. He flicked the top off his zippo and lit the cigarette in his mouth, pocketed the lighter again and walked down the street. He was getting some odd looks from people as he walked by, but he found himself not caring very much. Being a wizard has always made him feel like a bit of a freak anyway, and it was difficult to care about such things after getting punched in the face anyway. Violet’s words proceeding her violent outburst were still ringing in his head. Arrogant? Well, he couldn’t argue with that one. As far as poor traits go, this was something he was fairly aware of. It was all too common for academics, and those who knew things others didn’t. However, he’d always assumed that arrogance was at least only inflicted on the mundane, ordinary people. Did he really feel he was superior to Violet? He certainly felt he had a better grasp of magical theory than her. Whose magical theory, though?, he thought to himself. After all, as he was so happy to point out to her, the rules didn’t apply to her. Not his rules, anyway. He had always had to exercise control in the form of restraint. Mortal magic was tied very closely to intention and faith. The path to black magic was a slippery slope that always began with making exceptions, and allowances for doing things that were wrong. Yet, if he was honest, hadn’t he already made those exceptions himself at times? He had the stain of black magic upon him. He flinched slightly as he almost remembered something from his younger years, but he pushed it aside. Yes, he had used dark magic, and it had left a mark on him that would never fade. It was like a hole in his heart, an emptiness. Worse than that really, for it was a hungering thing. The temptation to use black magic was always there. So, of course, he had to steel himself. Perhaps he was a hypocrite. Even if he was, did that mean he wasn’t right? He knew the dangers of losing control first hand, so shouldn’t Violet listen to him? There he went again assuming that which applied to him also applied to her. Jealous, that one had really stung. His knee-jerk response had been an urge to point out to her that jealousy was a fear of someone taking that which was yours. He was, in fact, envious. However, acknowledging that he was indeed envious had somewhat twisted the knife. He had always urged Violet to exercise the same practices he had, citing that she would be all the more powerful and effective for it. It disgusted him to realise the connotations of that; that he felt he could use her abilities better than she could. He cursed softly to himself, flicking away his cigarette butt as he came to the outside of a local bar. He pushed the door open and stepped inside. The bar was basically empty and there was only one person behind the bar minding the place. “Afternoon.” The man said, eyeing Vincent carefully. “Rough day?” “Something like that,” Vincent replied. “Let’s just say I deserved it.” “Heh!” The barman laughed. He was one of those tough, old salt-of-the-earth types. “Beer?” “God, yes,” Vincent replied. The barman cracked a bottle and put it on the bar. Vincent took it from the bar and took a long drink. The cool beer felt rejuvenating as it ran down his dry, hoarse throat. He gasped in satisfaction and nodded in thanks to the barman. “I’ll have 2 more.” He said, and he put some cash on the bar. He sat himself at the bar, and removed one of the more sizeable books from his bag. This was his bestiary, and contained knowledge and information about a whole host of supernatural creatures. Like all of his most important books, it was enchanted. The pages were all blank, with the exception of the contents pages at the beginning. He fingered through the numbered sections. Ancient Greece was near the top. He waited until the barman wasn’t looking, and then he focused his will and pushed it out. The spark of power flowed through the book, and he focused on the Ancient Greece section. He flicked through the blank pages, and as he did, ink began to spill across the pages, with flowing writing, illustrations and scribbled notes. He flicked through to the section on Nymphs. He read through the information, confirming things he already knew. The book explained that Nymphs were considered lesser deities, the children of nature deities. He cursed lightly under his breath. So they weren’t related to the river, but the river’s God. It was a minor error on his part, but these sorts of details could be important. He took another pull of his beer and carried on. He poured through pages dedicated to the different types of Nymphs. He read over the Naiad section carefully, and confirmed his suspicion that what they were dealing with was Potamides. Apparently they weren’t immortal creatures, but they were gifted with long lives. A note scribbled on one of the pages indicated that Plutarch, a Greek historian, had indicated their lifespan to be about 9,720 years. That seemed like an oddly specific number to Vincent, but it was a possibility. The book also mentioned that they were given offerings of honey and milk, but never wine. Occasionally offerings of lamb or goat were provided but this wasn’t seen as common. How does any of this help?, he asked himself internally. Everything he had was just information gathered by historians and experts of myth. He sighed and had another drink. His head was starting to ache, and his eye was beginning to feel prickly and tender. He sighed and closed the book, the strain of further reading seemed pointless. He wasn’t meant for this sort of thing. His father had been a hunter, and that was a craft of it’s own, one that Violet had taken to much more than him. He had learned from a fellow hunter though, one of his father’s oldest friends. “Ye can’t always jus’ stick y’head in a book an’ find the answers, hoss.” The old redneck’s voice sounded in his mind, “huntin’s abou’ takin’ what y’know abou’ the real world, an’ applying it to the myth, see? Y’gotta apply that knowledge to yer surroundings. Ye gotta talk to people, know how they think.” He sighed in resigned acknowledgement of his old mentor’s words. The barman came over to take his empty beer bottle away, and gave Vincent another. “Thanks.” Vincent said as he took a swig from the fresh bottle. He hesitated for a moment, then he motioned to the barman. “Hey, you mind talking to me for a bit?” “Depends on what you have to say.” The barman replied with a smirk. “What’s on your mind, son?” “Well, I’m not from around here.” Vincent replied. “New in town, you could say. But I’ve been hearing about these murders, all those girls from the High School? You know about it?” “A damn shame.” The barman replied, nodding solemnly. “If anyone don’t deserve something like that, it’s those girls. They’ve been doing great work cleaning up the river banks. The whole city really. Now I’m not some environmentalist hippy or anything, but the city looks cleaner, and so does the river. It’s nice to see this place looking it’s best, you know?” “I hear you.” Vincent replied. “Hard to think anyone would be against that though, don’t you think?” “Oh I don’t know.” The barman said with a shrug. “They’ve caused a lot of trouble for a few local companies. They brought about new legislation regarding recycling, and a few local businesses experienced a heavy cost trying to get up to standard.” “Really?” Vincent asked. “Like who?” “Oh a few factories, big industrial places with a lot of waste.” The barman replied. “Couple of fast food chains, oh and there was a bit of a weird one. This wine brewery made a big fuss about blocking their petitions and interfering with their protests.” “Why’s that weird?” Vincent asked. “If they’re bad for business, surely that’s to be expected?” “That’s the thing.” The barman said. “They weren’t really being affected at all. They’re a environmentally friendly company. It didn’t make any sense. Saying that, there’s always been bad blood between Giannopoulos and Petros.” “Who?” Vincent asked. “Thanas Giannopoulos, his family own the wine brewery. He’s never gotten along with the Petros family, they’ve had fights in the street a few years back. They mostly keep away from each other but their kids go to the same school. Amber Petros is part of the eco group. She was good friends with the other victims, of course.” “That…” Vincent started flicking through his book again. “Aha!” He pointed at a page in the book. “What’s that? A Faun or something? One of those Narnia things?” The barman asked. “Satyr.” Vincent corrected. “Fauns have goat legs, Satyrs just have the horns. Common misconception though.” “So what, you some kind of mythology buff?” The barman asked. “Something like that.” Vincent replied, standing up. “I think I need to go.” “Uh…okay. Well it was nice talking to you, son.” The barman replied. “Yeah, you too.” Vincent replied, closing the book shut. He grabbed his things and walked out of the bar. Amber, he knew that name. She was girl with the red hair, Amber Petros. She was one of the Nymphs, if their suspicions were correct. That meant Giannopoulos and his boys, who had a feud with the Nymphs, were probably the ones commiting the murders. Gored victims meant horns. He only knew of one creature that loved wine, and targeted Nymphs. The Satyr. He had ingored it in the books before, because Satyr of lore were known for bedding Nymphs, due to a severe sexual fascination with them. That was Dionysian lore all over. Nothing but sex. He had to remember that it wasn’t Ancient Greece any more. They were in a modern world, a world where men, or Satyr in this case, could not just take what they wanted. Perhaps, he thought, it was rather like Violet and her pudding. Maybe if the Satyr couldn’t have them, well, then no one could. Was it really that simple? It was time to find out. He made a quick stop at the dry cleaners to fetch his coat, and then it was off for some wine tasting.