Kyo

Graduate
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  1. Vincent entered his apartment in a hurry, closing the door behind him and then lifting his hand up somewhat carelessly, and all the candle around the room ignited at once. He removed the suit jacket and the tie from his shirt, tossing them carelessly on the floor, before kicking off the black leather shoes and making his way over to his small kitchen area, which looked more like a chemistry lab. He fixed the gas container to the Bunsen burner on his counter top, released the gas, and then with another gesture of will the flame ignited. He found a few beakers and began to rifle through his cupboards for ingredients. He found what he needed and put the potions together quickly, he didn’t have a lot of time but he’d made these ones before so he could afford to rush a little. While they boiled he changed his clothes, swapping the rented tux for a pair of black jeans and a pair of black hiking boots. He pulled a long sleeve grey shirt over his head and cursed his overall lack of tactical clothing. When you get in a real fight, equipment can make a real difference. Sadly Kevlar vests are not cheap, although they weren’t much good against teeth and claws at any rate. He untied his hair and let it hang loose, lighting a cigarette at he waited for the potions to finish. As he exhaled the nicotine infused rush had calmed his nerves. It had also, unfortunately, made him more acutely aware of how tired he was. He hadn’t slept in almost 30 hours now. Everything seemed to be slowly stacking against him lately. He was too tired for this right now. Not to mention what was going on with Violet. He wanted to investigate that one, perhaps look in the Grimoire, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be burying himself in research. Dhampir were bad news, and Faeries were really bad news. Combining the two was just…well, it didn’t bear thinking about. He had no choice but to stop this before it was too late. He was beginning to doubt that he could. Even with Violet helping him, he wasn’t cut out for the kind of fight that would come of this. The Dhampir were warriors forged in times long forgotten, and they were insanely tough to kill. Right now would be a good time for some extra help, he thought. And just as he did, he heard a knock at his door. That was…strange. Granted he was no psychic, but he had placed ward spells around his apartment which allowed him to sense the approach of magical energy. So the only conclusion was that whoever was behind that door was mortal. He walked over and opened it, half expecting to see his grumpy landlord standing on the other side. Instead he saw a kindly looking man with blonde hair and a well-trimmed beard, dressed in the same green plaid shirt he had been wearing the previous evening, with a pair of blue jeans on and workman’s boots. David had added a long, black overcoat to his ensemble, but looked otherwise the same. “David?†Vincent raised his eyebrow, “Uh…what are you doing here?†“I’ve told you enough times.†David replied with a warm smile. “I go where I am needed.†Vincent simply stared at his friend. He was never quite sure if David was a genuine psychic, or a combination of incredibly lucky and crazy, or if he really did have the G-man on his side. Although…his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. For a brief moment Vincent looked up at his ceiling, as if staring out at something far beyond it. “Is it really so hard to believe for you?†David asked with a knowing look. Vincent shook his head and invited David inside. “I don’t have time for the lecture about how I need Jesus in my heart right now, David.†Vincent said as he crossed the room and began to decant his potions in to three vials. One of them was a dark crimson, like blood. The other was a matte silver, like liquid metal. The third was clear like water. David eyed the vials with a discerning look and seemed to puff his chest out a bit as he inhaled. “Are you entirely sure you should be meddling in such dark arts?†He asked. “Alchemy?†Vincent said with a raised brow. “C’mon man, it’s not as creepy as you think. I use all natural ingredients. Frankly it’s not entirely different from making smoothies. This one even has wheatgrass in it.†He pointed as the silver potion. “And how exactly does it benefit you?†David asked. “It looks like you melted down a bicycle chain.†“It’s an anti-venom for Les Voix Terribles.†Vincent said. “Dhampir saliva contains a powerful narcotic venom. It can be pretty deibilitating but you can overcome it in a pinch. The real trouble comes much later. Nightmares, cold sweats, a hunger that you can’t satiate. It’s essentially an addictive substance.†“Yes, I am familiar with The Terrible Kiss.†David said with a nod. “Some believe it is where the Vamprism Disease originates.†“Hmm, maybe.†Vincent replied. “But we have an anti-venom, so it’s all good.†“And the other two vials?†David asked. He never gave up, when it came to magic. Vincent felt like a naughty child trying to hide porn magazines from his overly prudish parents. “The red one isn’t for drinking. If you ignite the contents it…well it makes bad things die very quickly. I won’t spoil the fun anymore than that.†Vincent then held up the clear one and looked David in his eyes, his expression calm and serious. “This one is just a contingency. If I get captured, if I can drink this I’ll die quickly and peacefully.†“Vincent…†David shook his head. “Thinking like that is dangerous. You must have faith.†“Oh I don’t plan on dying.†Vincent added, “I like being alive quite a lot. But I don’t plan on being tortured to death, either.†“Torture…†David let out a heavy sigh. “Disgusting creatures.†“That we agree on.†Vincent said with a wry smile. “I take it you’re coming whether I like it or not?†“Indeed.†David said. Vincent nodded and went over to his large wooden cupboard where he kept his various toys. He opened it and began examining the contents when David stepped forward and gave an audible murmur. “Vincent…is that a battle axe?†He asked. “Yup.†Vincent replied, taking the large weapon out and holding it up. “Never used it actually, but you never know when things might come in handy.†“Like tonight for example?†David asked. “Nah.†Vincent said as he put it back. “What I need is….this!†Vincent retrieved a genuine Smith & Wesson 500 revolver. The gun was huge, and incredibly powerful. What was more important about it, however, were the .50 caliber silver bullets. The revolver was a five-shot, and he only had five bullets which were already loaded in to the chamber. If he was going to fire he’d have to make it count, but if he shot true then…bye-bye vampire. He retrieved a chest-strap holster and fastened it to himself, as well as another at his belt which held a Khukuri knife. He pulled his duster over his shoulders, fastening it to cover the sight of the gun and the knife, and then he held his hands out at David. “Take what you want, If you’re coming then I want you ready.†“I have all I need.†David replied. Vincent assumed he had meant God was with him, but perhaps it was also in regard to the broadsword he usually took with him. Vincent picked up his cane and was almost ready to go when his phone rang. When he answered Violet explained her situation and that they were to meet at Skid Row. Vincent gave a sigh as he hung up. Skid Row was a rough area, and so even a large amount of disappearances didn’t cause much of a stir. Not to mention it’s huge homeless population. How often did L.A.P.D get reports of a hobo going missing? Something told him that there were probably far more than what the police reported. “Skid Row.†Vincent said to David and began to explain the entire situation. When he was done David simply nodded his head, as if the whole ordeal wasn’t completely terrifying. “Well it seems I really was needed tonight.†David said finally. “Let’s not waste any more time.†“Skid Row isn’t far.†Vincent said, pushing back a feeling of depression at his living situation, and then he went for the door. His hand froze as it hovered over the brass knob, and he became very still. Subtle energy coursed through him, like a shiver in the cold. It was brief but definitely present. Someone was using magic outside of his door, and they were doing it so delicately that his wards had barely picked up on it. His nostrils flared as it dawned on him. He yanked the door open and pointed his cane across it’s threshold and out in to the empty hallway. “I told you to stay out of my way!†He barked out to the empty hallway. “Vincent?†David asked, a little alarmed. “I know you’re out there.†Vincent said, ignoring David. “Drop the veil or I’ll just set the whole stairway on fire for good measure.†“No!†The voice came from nowhere, but only a second or two afterwards Meredith phased in to existence, stood directly in front of him. “I’m sorry it’s just…I thought I could be a look out! I-I can help I-“ “I told you not to, and you did it anyway.†Vincent said, his eyes wide with anger. “But…it’s okay I wasn’t getting in your way.†Meredith said, forcing a smile and shifting nervously. “I didn’t know where to go and I just wanted to help.†“Faeries…you’re so stupid!†He replied coldly. “You don’t even get it. You want me to trust you, when you do the exact opposite of what I tell you. I don’t care how much you want to help, if you can’t even follow a simple instruction then what good are you? Huh?†“Vincent…†David called from behind him. “You’re just a stupid kid with your head in the clouds, you don’t even get what it means to be human. You’ve spent your whole life in The Fae and it’s written all over you. You think you’re different but you’re just not old enough yet to be a truly devious bi-“ “Vincent!†David’s voice was louder that time, and spoke with absolute authority. Vincent turned around to see the ageing man glaring at him. It was strange to see David’s anger. He had the furious scowl of a truly righteous man, great and terrifying, but still pure and without malice or hate. That look made Vincent feel incredibly small. He turned back to Meredith, who was still standing there nervously, trying to look like she was fine but there was fear in her eyes. “Don’t even try that…†Vincent practically muttered. “…acting is just second nature to the likes of you.†“Vincent…stop it!†David snapped as he came up behind him and moved him out of the way, stepping out of the threshold and putting his hand on Meredith’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. “Young lady, are you alright?†He asked. “Yeah…†Meredith said with a nod. “It’s okay…I mean I understand. I know…what Vincent went through, I’d feel the same.†“You know?†Vincent asked. “Of course.†Meredith replied. “You escaped the Winter Queen. Everyone in The Fae knows that.†“Great.†Vincent said with a sigh. “Fame is not what I need right now.†“I don’t think they’d all recognize you. It’s just your name that’s famous.†Meredith said, trying to sound reassuring. “Vincent, time is of the essence.†David reminded him. Vincent nodded and stepped out, closing his door behind him. “Come on then, Violet will be waiting.†Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the area known as Skid Row is all the tents, old shopping carts and old boxes all over the floor. Homelessness was at an all-time high and the neighbourhood wasn’t the kind you wanted to be walking through at night. Yet strangely there wasn’t much activity on this night. Funny thing about scary monsters prowling around is that, eventually, people get a sense of it. They start to keep indoors when darkness comes, sort of like faint psychic alarm bell was ringing in their heads. A few blocks in Vincent and his rag tag group spotted two figures, one of which he instantly recognized as Violet. He approached them on the street and they turned to greet the group. “Sis.†Vincent said with a slight upward nod at Violet. “Lord above…†David chimed in, stepping forward with an open armed gesture. “Violet...well look at you. How long has it been?†“Too long professor.†Violet smiled in surprise at seeing her old history professor, while James’ eyes casually drifted over the other people who had arrived. Has my brother dragged you into this as well?†She asked, grinning. “I was guided by a higher authority than Vincent.†David said with a warm smile. “Who’s this guy?†Vincent asked, indicating to James with his finger. “Your boyfriend?†James smiled, I’m here to stop you fools from getting killed. Good enough?†Violet rolled her eyes, “Testosterone.†“Let’s compare dicks later when Violet’s not here†Vincent said with a smirk. “Hers is clearly the biggest.†“Vincent…†David chided. “Alright, alright!†Vincent said holding his hands up in surrender. “I won’t talk about my sister’s incredibly large penis any more.†“Who is this guy?†James raised an eyebrow questioningly. He looked unimpressed. “I’m family.†Vincent replied, giving a particularly toothy smile, before clapping his hands together and rubbing them in a scheming fashion. “Okay so this is fun but we should probably get to work before a bunch of crazy Vampires become insanely powerful and plunges the world in to eternal darkness, or whatever it is Vampire Gods like to do.†“There is only one God, Vincent.†David replied. “Yeah we know, David, you’ve got Jesus in your heart.†Vincent replied irritably, “But where we’re going, the G-man might not be much help.†“Who’s Jesus?†Meredith asked quizzically. “Are you for real?†Vincent snapped at her, in pure disbelief. “Kidding…†Meredith said with a smirk. “I grew up in The Fae, not the moon.†“Whatever.†Vincent said, turning to his sister. “Okay so let’s pull our resources. Dhampir stink like…like…well let’s just say it’s a really particular scent. Think you can pick it up and lead us somewhere? If we can retrace their steps, then I’ll be able to figure out which Way they used. I could track it but I’d need an object or some DNA, which I don’t have. “ Vincent pulled a cigarette from his carton when he was finished talking and lit it, taking a drag.
  2. "Vampires, indeed." Vincent said. He and Violet were now stood outside Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, also known as LACE. Vincent was dressed in a black tuxedo, a rental. His hair was tied back in a ponytail and, for once, his cane sort of matched his outfit. It was a real shame that he didn't suit the ensemble at all in that case. He was a little too tall and skinny to be looking particularly sharp but he would look just fine for appearances sake. After all he was only getting dressed up because he had been instructed to do so. Violet was wearing a pair of black jeans, boots and a slim-fitting crimson blouse with the brown jacket she practically lived in. "Lucia is inside. Other than that I don't know what to expect. This is a social gathering, there'll be mortals so she will probably play nice." Vincent explained. "Also, technically I was formally invited here by her, with you as my plus 1. That should mean we are awarded rights of hospitality under the accords. She can't harm us as long as we behave, and she must do all in her power to prevent any other guests from harming us. All the same, it's best to stay sharp. It wouldn't be the first time someone broke the rules." "Well I won't be the first to break any, but if they start something..." Violet said. "Let's just get inside." Vincent replied. They stepped up to the door and there names were checked against a list by the bouncer. He sent them through and they walked inside, passing through the main reception and in to a large square room filled with people. The walls were completely white and paintings were fixed across the walls. The people were drinking champagne and mingling, probably discussing the art work, their high class lifestyles and exchanging notes on how best to maximise their pompous assholery. A few people exchanged glances at Vincent, as if they could simply sense that he did not belong there. Before he could get a good look around a woman in a white cocktail dress, with dark brown hair styled in thick curls, placed her arm on his shoulder quite possessively and leaned in towards his ear. "Vincent." She purred before giving him a soft peck on the cheek. "I'm so glad you could come, darling." "Lucia." Vincent replied, without any inflection in his voice. "What the hell is this?" "I'm hosting this gathering." Lucia explained, "It's better that we meet in a public place. This kind of work attracts all sorts of attention, and I don't need anyone thinking you're working for me." "A phone call would have been just fine." Vincent said. "Perhaps, but I wanted you here." Lucia said confidently. "And I get what I want." Her eyes slowly moved over Violet, and there was a flicker of something wary in her gaze, like a predator who had spotted a rival. "And you brought your lovely sister, excellent." She said with a soft smirk. "How are you dear?" "Impatient." Violet replied, her face stern. "Delightful as ever." Lucia said, showing amusement. "Cut the shit, Lucia." Vincent growled. "Why are we here?" "To meet your partner, of course." Lucia replied. "Parter? You didn't say anything about-" "I'm saying it now, child." Lucia said, cutting him off. "Come, we'll discuss the plan when we're all together." Lucia led Vincent and Violet away from the crowds. Vincent noticed the eyes following him, and realised that many of the guests were vampires of Lucia's brood. They were watching him to make sure he didn't pull a fast one. He had already underestimated Lucia once, and he had no intention of doing so again. They moved from the main room and in to a closed off area, where they were finally alone. They stood silently for a moment, until Vincent grew impatient. "Well?" he asked. Instead of a verbal response from Lucia, Vincent was instead immediately alerted to a sudden presence. A young woman had materialised out of thin air, standing with them as if she had been there all the time. A veil? He hadn't even had the slightest idea the woman had been there. She was skinny but attractive, although very young, definitely below the legal drinking age. She wasn't dressed like the others at the event. Instead she wore a pair of black knee high boots and fishnet stockings. She had a tartan miniskirt and wore a black leather jacket, with a tight fitted, white T-shirt underneath, and she wore a silver chain around her neck with a little blue amulet attached to it. Her eyes were a light blue, and her hair was entirely white, cut in a short punky style. The white hair wasn't a particularly alarming tip off, or at least it wouldn't have been if it hadn't been for the perfect veil she had been casting. He had only known one such creature that could pull of something that flawless. "Faerie!" He snarled as if speaking a profanity. "Half, actually." The young woman replied, her voice light and energetic, and with an eagerness to it. "Great." Violet let out a sigh and rested back on her heels. "I don't work with Faeries." Vincent said, looking at Lucia for an explanation. "She's a changeling dear. She can't help her lineage any more than you can." Lucia said with another smirk. "Besides, you don't have a choice. You owe me." "You don't get it." Vincent replied. "I don't get along with Faeries, especially the ones from Winter. And her white hair...well that's a characteristic of Winter Sidhe." "Um..." The girl seemed a little nervous, which struck Vincent as strange. "I'm not with Winter...I mean, well, my mother is, obviously. I, um...my name is Meredith." "I don't give a shit." Vincent replied coldly. "Faeries are devious, and Winter are the most devious. And you're a changeling, which means you even have the ability to straight up lie to me. There is no way I'm buying even a word that comes from your mouth." He glared at Meredith, angry just at the sight of her. Her own blue eyes gazed back at him, but she didn't have that cold and confident gaze he had seen on so many Sidhe. She looked...a little frightened. "Vincent." Lucia said with a tone of authority. "You will work with Meredith. She is required in order for our task to proceed. You will need her veils." "I can veil just fine on my own." Vincent bit back. "And Violet is my partner, you know what she can do. We don't need this...menace." He noticed the flinch Meredith had made as he had said the word. She looked genuinely hurt by his words. But he'd seen how convincing the act of a Faerie was before. He had suffered greatly for trusting it, and he wouldn't do so again. "You think your veil will hold up against the House of Dracul?" Lucia asked. Vincent just froze. The House of Dracul were also vampires. However they were not like Lucia, they were far worse. The progenitor species that had created the contagion that spread and became the vampires of the Midnight Court. They were nasty creatures of The Void, horrible monsters hiding behind glamours of human form. They were unbelievably strong and fast, and had a range of magical abilities that seemed to advance with their age. Most commonly was that their saliva was like a powerful narcotic, and it's contact on your skin could send you in to a euphoric haze. Not to mention they didn't have any weakness to garlic or wooden stakes. The only metal that could cut them deep was silver. They were seriously bad news. "Dhampir." Vincent said finally, turning his gaze to Violet. "Dracul?" Violet repeated, "As in...?" She rolled her eyes and let out a noise that meant something along the lines of 'that better be a joke'. "Oh I assure you, Vlad is still alive and well." Lucia said in amusement. "Unlike his son, the one you would know as Impaler, or Tepes." "Lucia, what the fuck is going on?" Vincent asked. "Midnight and Dracul are allies. Why do you have beef with them?" "Oh don't be so vulgar, child." Lucia said dismissively. "The House of Dracul are our trusted allies. Fear not, Vlad is well hidden in Europe somewhere. I only wish you to take care of a single cell. This group have...overstepped." "I'm going to need a little more than that." Vincent said. "I cannot openly confront member of The House of Dracul." Lucia said simply. "But both of our families have lived this long through deception and subterfuge. You are my secret weapon in this case." "Great." Vincent replied with a sigh. "So what's the job?" "Retrieval." Meredith cut in, eagerly trying to seem helpful. "It's my job to get you in. It's your job to get us there." "Uh...what?" Vincent asked. "Well...you know the Ways, right?" Meredith asked. Vincent sighed. The Ways was a term referring to the points where The Fae and the mortal world were connected. If you knew where the points led to you could potentially move very quickly across the earth. Hell if he wanted to Vincent could be in Paris in about 30 minutes. There was a slight problem with that though. "I am not going in to The Fae." Vincent said. "It's fine, I can veil you, keep you safe." Meredith assured. "Besides we need to go to the Wylds, the other kingdoms cannot go there unless they relinquish their loyalty. That's why I'm helping...I left Winter a long time ago. I'm a Wyldfae." "So you're Wyldfae now? A minute ago you were trying to assure me you weren't all that different from human." Vincent said darkly. "Just what is your game here? What do you gain from all of this?" "Um..." Meredith replied hesitantly, but before she could say more Lucia had stepped in. "Enough, child." She snapped. "All you must concern yourself with is to go to the Wylds, find these Dhampir and retrieve that which they have stolen. They were helped by some...sneak. They have taken a valuable treasure of mine, one that is most dangerous in their hands." "If they got in to The Fae then I'm guessing they have help on the inside. Fuckin' Faeries..." Vincent shook his head. "What have they taken?" "It's a Chronoweaver. One of the last still intact." Lucia replied. "The artefact can only be used in The Fae, and only at certain times of the year. That is...the change of the seasons." "Winter to Spring." Vincent said with a nod. "I know what it is. It's the same power the Queens can use, it allows them to shift the passage of time in The Fae." "Indeed." Lucia said with a nod. "And Spring could begin any time within the next few days. They could use the Chronoweaver to make thousands of years pass in but a heartbeat for them, if they so desired. That kind of power, it is troublesome in the wrong hands. Dhampir grow stronger with age. If they do this...they could surpass Vlad himself. It could spark a war that would turn this world upside down." "This is...just not my day." Vincent said with a sigh. "So where'd they enter? The sooner we do this the better." "All I know is they entered from L.A." Lucia replied. "You best get to doing that detective work you seem so keen on." "Great." Vincent shook his head. He turned to Meredith and held out his hand. "Phone." he demanded. She obliged him and he typed his own cell phone number in to the phone. "Alright, now get lost. I'll call you when I'm ready to go to The Fae." "But..." Meredith said nervously. "Stay out of my way." Vincent snapped. "I don't need you for this, got it?" "Ye-yeah...okay." Meredith said apprehensively. "I'll go..." she added, and then she disappeared just as quickly as she had appeared. Lucia looked to Vincent expectantly and he held his hands up. "Yeah, yeah, I'm gone." Vincent said exasperatedly. He nodded at Violent and the pair of them left LACE and stopped outside in the street. Vincent felt the cool breeze as they stepped outside, and missed the warmth and cover of his duster. "Alright." Vincent said. "I want to go home and change. Then we can grab a coffee and start hitting the streets. Dhampir have a pretty noticeable stink, and they stockpile their food. Can you check with L.A.P.D and find out if there has been any missing persons in a clustered area recently? If we can get a starting point we can probably track them back to whichever Way they are coming in from." he said it quite calmly, but inside he was absolutely terrified.He didn't know which was scaring him more, the thought of facing Dhampir, or of getting found by a bunch of pissed off Faeries. "That is...if you're still game. This is a pretty fucked up situation." "It's always a fucked up situation." Violet replied, raising an eyebrow. "I'll check in with the L.A.P.D., you can do what you do best. Go find some trouble." "All right." Vincent said. "I'll call you." and then he walked off down the street in the general direction of his apartment.
  3. It was pitch black when Vincent’s El Camino pulled up in a secluded area of The Valley, not far from Burbank. The wheels crunched over the gravel outside the old lumber yard and the beams of his headlights were extinguished as he slowed to a stop and killed the engine. Vincent sat at the wheel looking out at the deserted warehouse and looked a little on edge. His hair hung limp the length of his shoulders and he was dressed in a Ramones T-shirt, along with his usual pentacle amulet around his neck, and he wore his brown duster. “Looks like the place.†He said to the passenger. “Indeed.†Came the response. Across from him sat a gentleman who must have been approaching 50. He was wearing stone wash jeans and brown hiking boots, and wore a green check shirt, buttoned up with a white t-shirt visible at the neck, as well as a thin, silver chain bearing a small Latin cross. The man had blonde hair that was swept back over his head, and a thick beard that was short and tidy. His brown eyes were strong and confident, but there was something very gentle about them. The passenger was a stark contrast of Vincent, he was clean, orderly and presentable. “We should proceed quietly.†He said as he went for the passenger door. “I’d like to avoid conflict if at all possible, Vincent.†“You know me, David.†Vincent said with a smirk, “I’m a paragon of diplomacy.†“I mean it†David replied reproachfully, but he gave a soft smile. “I am not here to hurt these people, but to save them.†“So says God’s hitman.†Vincent replied as he stepped out of his side of the car. He retrieved his cane from the back seat, along with a sheet of black cloth wrapped in string, which he passed to David, who began to remove the fixings. From the coverings he withdrew a long, cross-hilted broadsword in a simple black sheath with silver adornments. David Argent was many things. Most of the time he was a simple man with a simple life. He was a Professor of History at The University of Iowa, which was how he had met Vincent many years ago when he had went there to study. David was also a dedicated husband, and a father to a small army of children, seven in total. He was a devout Catholic who was greatly involved in the community and he was, in every way, a decent man. However every so often he would travel, and he would take up the sword he carried at that moment. For he was, or at least he believed he was, a servant sent by God. Vincent had never been entirely convinced about the existence of the G-man, but in a world of magical monsters, faeries, and a handful of Eldritch horrors, he couldn’t really flat out deny that the Lord might be real. David was a practitioner, at least as far as Vincent was concerned. The man himself hummed with a pure and solid sensation of power. In fact Vincent was certain that the man had enough magical juice to make a decent wizard, if he wanted to. David was not a man of spells and potions, however, he was a man of God. His power was drawn from pure and unyielding faith. Perhaps God had a hand in it, or perhaps David’s belief was simply so strong that it gave him that power. Faith had that kind of effect, especially on the magically gifted. “I am not a hitman.†David said, apparently unaware of the irony of saying that whilst brandishing a freaking broadsword. “I am but a humble servant of the Lord.†Vincent rolled his eyes but said nothing, and the pair quietly moved across the gravel to find a quiet entrance in to the building. Together they crept in to the warehouse, and moved carefully along it’s edge, using the shadows of the heavy machinery as cover. There was light coming from an open space in the centre. Probably candles, Vincent thought. He began to gather his will for a spell, but it would take a moment. This had all started two days ago. Vincent hadn’t had a lot of success with Client’s in the last couple of weeks. He didn’t remember much about what had happened at New York. Despite all that had happened, he hadn’t spoken much to Violet on the trip back. She had used her money to get them flights back to L.A but they hadn’t really addressed the event that had transpired in The Void. In fairness Vincent was suffering from a severe case of psychic trauma. Vael had gotten in to his head, and the images were burned in to his head. Every time he closed his eyes he was back in that dream, entirely helpless in a room with two entities he had found entirely terrifying. When they had returned to L.A Vincent had went home to rest, and Violet seemed to want to do the same. After a period of rest, a series of cleansing rituals, meditation and quite a lot of beer, Vincent had more or less straightened himself out. He had tried to contact Violet, but she hadn’t been taking his calls. He was worried about her, but he knew that his sister was not a bear that was worth poking when she wanted to be left alone. Especially since she could turn in to an actual bear. So he tried his best to get on with his daily routine. Work had been scarce, however, and so he had settled on his usual research. Violet had retrieved the Grimoire, fortunately. Vincent had spent some time since researching it’s contents somewhat tentatively. In truth the book was a little scary, and so soon after a mental assault he really didn’t feel like overwhelming his brain with new and horrifying information. Right when he was at a point of financial desperation, David had turned up at his door. Social calls aside, David only turned up for one reason. Demons. Just the sort of thing Vincent needed to get back in to the fray. David was a vigilante of sorts and didn’t do his work for payment, but he had always been happy to offer Vincent something for his help. David had a good sense of when trouble was happening, but he was no investigator, and he needed Vincent for that. They had spent the remaining time following leads which had lead them to the discovery that someone had been summoning a demon and using it’s power to commit a few crimes around the city. Mostly robbery, which seemed a little odd at first. Further digging had lead them to discover the source was a young man called Declan McManus. Declan was barely 20 years old, but clearly had discovered a gift for magic. There are no schools for this kind of thing. You don’t get a letter to Hogwarts when you come of age, and you’re pretty lucky if a kindly old wizard decides to find you and train you. Most practitioners don’t really have a potent level of ability, and as such they can’t cause a lot of harm. Sometimes, however, you get a pretty talented person emerging with no idea about the dangers of what they are doing. Declan had been using dark magic, and while he hadn’t killed anyone yet, he had summoned a demon and bound it to his will. He hadn’t broken any of the Laws as such, but binding a demon was akin to enthrallment, it still tapped in to the same dark energy, the kind that rotted your soul. Vincent had finished his spell and as a result, the already dark room had grown darker, or at least his vision had. Veils were a delicate sort of magic, and not something Vincent was particularly good at. Even at his best, his veil would only sort of blur himself and David, and muffle their speech. Also, as a result, anything he saw or heard outside of the veil was a little fuzzy as well. But it would be enough to allow him and David to move carefully without detection, and speak quietly. “Looks like the kid’s been living here.†Vincent whispered as he peered out from behind a large crate. “There’s an old cot there, he’s standing over a desk. Lot’s of books. Aw geez…he’s wearing a black cloak. Who does that? I swear television rots the brain.†“Can you sense the Demon?†David asked from behind him. “Oh yeah.†Vincent replied. The air was filled with a menacing energy. “It’s dormant but it’s definitely here. Can’t really tell how badass it is though.†“Have faith.†David replied confidently. “The Lord will guide us this night.†“That’s great and all, but I think I’ll stick to using magic if it’s all the same to you.†Vincent replied. “As you wish.†David said. “How do you wish to proceed?†“I’ll keep the veil on you.†Vincent said. “I’ll step out and get his attention. If I spook him then he’ll probably wake the demon up and then you can do your thing. Okay?†“Very well.†David said with a nod. “Let’s go.†Vincent stepped forward, leaving the veil behind and feeling it’s cover peel away from him like a thin sheet. His vision grew clearer and the sound became crisp. He walked with a confident stride, letting his boots drum against the concrete to alert the young Warlock to his presence. The cloaked figure spun around in surprise, and despite the dark shadows under his eyes, he still looked young and fresh-faced for the most part. “Wait a minute…†Vincent said loudly, holding his hands out in exasperation. “This isn’t the cosplay convention at all!†“Wh-who are you!?†Declan demanded nervously. “I am your father!†Vincent bellowed ominously. “What!?†Declan squeaked. “Not really.†Vincent said with a smirk, rolling his eyes. “Look, kid. I’m obligated to tell you that what you’re walking down a dark path, and you’re becoming a danger to yourself and those around you. It’s not your fault but you’re using magic the wrong way and-“ “Silence!†Declan snapped. “You dare to lecture one such as I? Do you have any idea what peril you have walked in to, mortal?†“Oh boy…†Vincent said with a sigh. “Look, kid this isn’t Dungeons & Dragons. Cut the bullshit, it’s pretty lame.†“You dare!†Declan yelled. He thrust out his palm and gave a snarling utterance laced with magic. Sparks shot from his hand and lightning leapt across the room towards Vincent. He lifted his hand calmly and focused only a tiny amount of will in to his charm bracelet, and created a shield which absorbed the blast and left him unscathed. “I get it, you’ve got lot’s of magical muscle.†Vincent said with a cocky smirk. “But that just won’t cut it against a real wizard.†“How…did you do that?†Declan asked nervously. “Magic!†Vincent replied, waggling his fingers in a mystical gesture. “Well I’ll show you!†Declan said with an angry scowl. “I’ll show you what I can do! Come forth! Aszog Shogoth! Your master commands you!†“Well…that was stupid.†Vincent said, shaking his head. As he spoke a dark shadow materialised between him and Declan, taking ship as a billowing mass with bulky shoulders, and whispy claws. It’s eyes were glowing with red energy and looked fierce and menacing. It loomed over Vincent, ready to rip his throat out with a single command. “Aszog Shogoth!†Vincent barked, and he tapped his cane on the floor for emphasis. The Demon stopped in it’s tracks, frozen by the utterance of it’s name. “Demonology: 101, kid.†Vincent called over to Declan. “If you are controlling a demon through it’s name, then don’t you think another wizard can too?†“Wh-what!?†Declan stammered. “No…he’s mine! He belongs to me!†“Wrong again.†Vincent said, now frowning at Declan. “When you bind a demon to yourself, it’s a trade. All the while you command him, he’s eating you from the inside out. Until there’s nothing left of your humanity. That’s kind of what they do.†Vincent turned his attention to the shadowy spectre and spoke it’s name again. “Aszog Shogoth…you are unbound from this mortal. Free to roam this mortal plane.†The simple allowance was enough. Aszog made a deep croaking noise that sounded like a distorted chuckle of glee. This foolish, upstart wizard had freed him of his binding, and thus he was now free to kill and maim every living thing in his path. And he would start with both of the wizards. Aszog lurched towards Vincent again, but became distracted and turned to the sound of metal scraping. David had emerged from the veil and drawn his broadsword, it’s metal gleaming. “Uh-oh!†Vincent said with a grin. “Sorry big guy…actually I’m not.†“Lord in Heaven give me strength!†David bellowed, his prayers thrumming with the same power as a wizard’s spell. “Cleanse this place of the foul and wretched, drive back the darkness!†Aszog hissed in pain, as if each word had struck him like a baseball bat. It grew livid and lunged at David in a frenzy, moving across the room with incredible speed. David did not flinch. He advanced in a steady stride, his sword drawn, and those gentle eyes were filled with steely resolve. Shadowy claws raked at him, but with a single swing of his sword he removed them from their owner, and Aszog reeled back, screeching as if the touch of the steel had burned him. “Be gone from this world, by the light of God!†David thundered, and he brought the sword up in a sweeping slash. The demon roared in anger as light erupted from it’s wound, and it suddenly burst into swirling clouds, it’s wails still carrying even without form. The holy light engulfed the dark creature, and it’s wails faded as it was quickly removed from this plane of existence. It wasn’t dead, strictly speaking you couldn’t kill a demon. But it would send them back to The Void. Vincent gave an unenthusiastic “Hooray!†as he smiled at David, he looked pleased with his work. Feet shuffled, and Vincent turned to see Declan making a run for it. He lifted his cane and pointed it forward, before dragging it back like he was pulling on something. Unseen force caught Declan and tripped him up, sending him sprawling backwards across the ground, before tumbling and landing next to Vincent’s feet. “Not so fast, Voldemort.†Vincent said with a smirk. “You’ve been a bad boy, time to pay the piper.†“Please don’t kill me!†Declan pleaded fearfully. “Geez always so dramatic.†Vincent replied. “You’re going to the precinct, knucklehead. The cops can deal with you. Oh and uh…I’m pretty sure another wizard will be visiting you soon. I suggest you play ball when he does, otherwise he probably will kill you.†“Vincent, do not tease the boy.†David said with a sigh. “He will pay for his crimes as the police department dictate. Then he will be given chance to repent.†“I wasn’t teasing.†Vincent replied. “The Wise don’t share your penchant for forgiveness, David.†“And that is sorely disappointing.†David replied. “Perhaps you could…refrain from reporting him?†“No can do.†Vincent said, shaking his head. “They might kill me if I did that. Also…he hasn’t actually broken the Laws, technically. They’ll make sure he gets re-educated. It won’t be very pleasant but…uh…it’ll be good for him.†“I suppose….†David looked a little uneasy. “I suppose that is all I can ask for. Thank you for your help, Vincent.†“Any time.†Vincent replied with a smile. After driving Declan to the police station, Vincent dropped David off at his hotel and said his goodbyes. Apparently David would be in town for the next few days visiting friends, and had asked Vincent to call him if anything was up. Vincent had thanked him, and then thanked him again for the 500 bucks he’d been given for the job. It wasn’t a lot considering his usual rate, but anything was good right now. It was the early hours of the morning by the time he got back to his apartment, and the sun would be rising soon. He had just thought about turning in when his phone had rang. He answered it immediately, hoping that it might be Violet. “Good morning, child.†Lucia said in to the phone. “I hope I didn’t wake you.†“Um…†Vincent said. Shit! He cursed inwardly. “Lucia…is it that time already?†“Indeed it is, child.†She said pleasantly. “Your retainer has been wired to your account already, double your usual rate.†“Two grand?†Vincent gasped, “I haven’t even done anything yet!†“Call it a good faith payment.†Lucia said. “Right…and how do you know my bank-“ “Best not to ask questions you won’t like the answer too, darling.†Lucia said, cutting him off. “7PM tonight, LACE art gallery has an exhibition on tonight, hosted by myself. You are on the list with a plus one. Be there sharp, dress appropriately and I suggest you bring the darkling as your date. You will probably require her help.†Lucia hung up, and Vincent just stood there for a moment. Formal dress? It was a good thing he’d been given an advance. He’d have to rent a tuxedo. However that really wasn’t the biggest problem. He had to bring Violet along. Worse still, she didn’t know he’d agreed to work with a vampire. As if she needed more reasons to kick his ass. He sighed and decided he better get to work. He showered, changed, and left his apartment again. He grabbed a bagel on his way to the Gethsemane hotel. Violet hadn’t been taking his calls, so it was time for a visit. He had a lot of explaining to do.
  4. The white stone walls of Griffith Observatory were always very clean, and along with the freshly cut and tidy grass, and the clean and un-littered paths it was quite the impressive tourist attraction. Not to mention it looked out on to the city of L.A from the hills of Hollywood. Vincent and Violet stood at the large, white stone monument that was the centrepiece of the garden walkway outside of the observatory. The Astronomers Monument was tall, and depicted sculptures of the six greatest astronomers; Hipparchus, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Herschel. On top of the Astronomers Monument is a 900-pound, hollow bronze armillary sphere, an astronomical instrument composed of rings representing celestial latitude, longitude, and the ecliptic. Prior to the invention of the telescope, it was the main instrument used by astronomers to determine celestial position. Across from the monument was an equatorial sundial, also made of bronze. Vincent looked away from the monument, and over to the observatory itself. At night it was always beautifully lit in white lights that made it stand out in the deep blue night of the City of Los Angeles. Here in The Void, the eerie green light it gave off was entirely unsettling, and the shadows seemed to writhe and creep around. "This place is a hallmark of science." Vincent said as he walked the centre path of the garden towards the building. "Yet here it looks like it would be right at home next to Castle Grayskull. I hate this place, it takes all the nice stuff in our world and gives it a cheesy horror makeover." "It isn't so bad once you get used to it." Violet replied, though her ragged breathing seemed to say otherwise. "I could get used to it if they sold ice cream." She wiped the sweat beading on her forehead. Vincent let out a stifled laugh but quickly swallowed it back down. They proceeded to the main doors and pushed them open, finding them unlocked. They entered the building and found it to be dark and incredibly creepy. The real building was usually very well lit, but there were no lights at all in this place. Vincent reached for the pentacle amulet around his neck and removed it, wrapping the chain around his knuckles and holding his hand out so that the pendant hung loosely from his hand. The symbol itself was important to Vincent. The 5 pointed star represented the five elements in pagan beliefs; Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Spirit. The circle around the star represented order, and it was this same concept that gave birth to the magic circle that all wizards used. A circle was complete, and constants, with no beginning or end. Together with the star the pendant was a perfect representation of Vincent's own brand of faith, his faith in magic. He focused on that faith, and in reaction his amulet began to glow a brilliant white light. The shadows seemed to visibly recoil from the light, and he stepped forward, illuminating the way. "Any idea where we'll find her?" He asked Violet. "Because I think like a necromancer that likes to spend her free time in a dimension that houses monsters." Violet replied sarcastically, blinking to adjust to the dim light. "Well you led us here in the first place." Vincent replied. "Although thinking about it...based on the interaction we've had with this woman, she seems to like a little razzmatazz. If I wanted to put on a show here I know where I'd be standing." Vincent pointed down the main corridor. "The Planetarium, right? I mean it's basically a theatre." "Well I could feel her energy, but we're so close now it's sort of everywhere." Violet turned to look at Vincent and opened her eyes wide in surprise. He looked as though he was bathed in blue light. She blinked, and he was plain, scruffy Vincent again. "Can we hurry this up, I'm starting to lose my taste for this plane of existence." "All right." Vincent said and he pushed ahead, his cane at the ready in his other hand. The moved through the corridor and the slithering shadows edged away from the light of Vincent's amulet. Normally the observatory had plenty of interesting things to see, but he didn't have the time nor the inclination at this point, They quickly moved to the opposite side of the observatory and through one of the double doors that led to the Planetarium. When they entered they were greeted by an entirely unworldly sight. All the seats in the Planetarium were filled. The people sitting in them wore clothing from all different time periods, and more importantly they were incorporeal. You could look straight through one to see the others behind it. They were all sitting quietly with their heads back, staring up at the domed ceiling. Normally visitors would be greeted with a wonderful view of the night sky, and all the stars in the galaxy. However above them there were only swirling, cascading clouds that glowed that same eerie green as the lights outside. The light bathed the room and the energy pouring over it had felt like snakes slithering over Vincent's skin. In the centre of the Planetarium, strapped across the globe-like projector, was a middle aged man. He was completely naked and shackled to the sphere in thick, black chains. The way he was lying looked like a great strain on his back, and his expression was downright miserable. He was letting out a soft whimper, like he was unable to scream any more. "Holy...shit." Vincent whispered as he gazed upon the scene. Violet reached for her gun, but as her fingers touched her empty holster she was reluctantly reminded of the loss of her gun. "Shit." She muttered, "Well it can't get much worse." "Wrong." A voice chimed. "I've been waiting.""Cut him loose." Vincent called out, not wasting his time on pleasantries. He was afraid, but he didn't dare let it show in his voice. "Now." he added."Why?" The question was long drawn out, amused by the demand. A figure wreathed in black, hooded, stepped from the shadows."Because I've been running errands for you all day and frankly..." Vincent held out his cane at the robed figure in a threatening gesture, "I'm sick of your shit. Cut him loose or you'll never get what you want from the Grimoire." "You'll never give me the grimoire, Vincent." The hooded figure held its hands up, "So, where do we go from here?" A feminine laugh escaped it's lips."Yeah?" Vincent placed his amulet in his pocket and the light disappeared. He reached in to his bag and pulled out the Grimoire. "Here. Take it. You know as well as I do that it won't work for you. I'm in no mood for the theatrics, so cut the shit. Release the innocent and tell me what you want.""I want Violet." She replied. "You can try, but you won't like what you'll take home." Violet replied defiantly. "Animals? Honestly..." The women paused and then refocused on Vincent. "Violet and the grimoire and you can take the pasty fleshbag, no fuss." "Try again." Vincent replied. "I know the dark stuff tends to fuck up your perception a bit, but try to remember what it's like to be human." Vincent didn't like what he was saying, but it didn't make it any less true. "Family is more important than strangers, even if they are in danger. Not that Violet's life is mine to trade anyway. So like I said, try again.""Alright. I could keep the grimoire and Violet and the mortal and vaporise you." A purple blast of magical energy shot towards them and Violet dove to one side. As she looked up she saw the hooded figure - the necromancer - was gone. Yet her voice lingered, "I got what I wanted, thanks kids. See you soon." She laughed and then silence spread through the room. Until Violet collapsed, her fall echoing in the acoustics of the planetarium. "Alright. I could keep the grimoire and Violet and the mortal and vaporise you." A purple blast of magical energy shot towards them and Violet dove to one side. As she looked up she saw the hooded figure - the necromancer - was gone. Yet her voice lingered, "I got what I wanted, thanks kids. See you soon." She laughed and then silence spread through the room. Until Violet collapsed, her fall echoing in the acoustics of the planetarium. "Violet!" Vincent yelled as he dropped down to check on his sister. She was burning up, but she was breathing. He needed to get her out of here right now. He stood up again and looked back at the chained up man. He looked in pretty bad shape too. He couldn't leave him her. He strode forwards, and instantly realised the shift in energy in the room. The ghosts sitting in the seats had suddenly taken notice of him. They moved all at once, flying across the room and passing through the seats as if they were a hologram. He stopped mid stride and pulled his amulet from his pocket and held it in his hand, holding it aloft above him. "In nomine dei!" He cried in latin, his voice booming around the room as it was suddenly engulfed in white light. The Ghost's seemed to be hurting under the light and fled to the far corners of the room. The light pulsed out in waves, like a beacon of energy that pushed the shades back from Violet, the chained man and himself. "Lava quod est sordium!" He bellowed, "sana quod est saucium!" The light pulsed more rapidly, and the ghosts began to shriek and howl in pain. Faith's light had also repelled the horrible, clinging dark energy of The Void, allowing a comforting warmth to wash over Vincent. Confidence rose up from within him and he pointed his cane towards the outer circle of shrieking ghosts. Then he spoke a final utterance. "Ignus!" he cried, and a shot of brilliant white flame shot out from the end of his can like a lance. It hit the far wall and exploded, spreading around the circular room like a wild fire, igniting the ghosts and causing them to slowly fade away in to nothingness. It was at this point that he realised that the flames had covered the entire outer area of the Planetarium, forming a perfect circle of his own magic. Perhaps fortune was smiling upon him when the Necromancer has chosen this room for their meeting. He focused his will and sealed the room. It was now his domain, a realm of order in a world of chaos. He felt something akin to a vacuum sensation, before a final hissing snap, as the negative energy of The Void was expelled from the room. With another gesture of his cane towards the chained man he said "Solvo." and the chains shook a little, before collapsing from the man and clattering on the ground. He slipped off of the sphere and hit the ground with a soft thump. He walked over to the man to check on him, and found him barely conscious but still whimpering. His wounds weren't terribly grave, but no doubt his soul had been ravaged. It would be a long recovery for him, if he ever recovered at all. "Violet?" Vincent called back across the room. "Violet!" He called again, a little frantic this time. "I really need you to wake up! I can't carry both of you!""I'm tired... Five more minutes, Vince..." Violet groaned back, still half asleep."Five more minutes and I'll be out too!" Vincent yelled back. "This circle took a lot of juice. We need to get out of here!""Circle..." Violet groaned, rubbing at her face, and then something clicked. She wasn't at home, with her brother, being yelled awake for a school morning. "Circle?!" Violet shot upright, she looked around the room in a bleary haze. "What's going on Vince? Did I..." She was going to say 'faint' but hated that word, "Did I black out?" She asked. "Did we get her?" "No we got our ass kicked." Vincent replied. "Well I think we did, but I have the book and this guy is free so let's just get the hell out of here.""You're interesting to watch." The voice returned, but this time - though hooded - the figure was not cloaked by shadow, she strode forwards in confidence and looked at the two wizards. Violet tried to pull herself to her feet, and while she succeeded she felt like she couldn't stay upright for long. "All it takes is a little shadow puppet and you just let down your guard." Long black hair hung down from the hood and a glimpse of tan skin hid inside. "Ignus!" Vincent roared without skipping a beat, pointing his cane forward and sending out another lance of brilliant flame towards the Necromancer.The flame shot towards the necromancer and she quickly whispered something and held out her hand in front of her. The flame splashed against her and a look of surprise washed over her as she was knocked back. She growled as her hood was blown back, and she held her head low as she pulled herself back to her full height and examined her arm. Where there was once flesh, now none remained. Only a deep, dense purple light, in the shape of her missing limb. "That hurt." She muttered, "I haven't felt that sensation in two decades. Well done, Vincent. You're rather good." She said, "For a mortal." She added, as an afterthought. She raised up her glowing hand and her lips moved silently. Darkness enveloped the room. Vincent raised his amulet once more, focusing his will. "In nomine dei!" he cried out once more and white light emanated from his amulet, fighting back against the darkness. It was not as overwhelming as before, and his light seemed to be struggling to penetrate the darkness. "Lava quod est sordium! Sana quod est saucium!""Fire and light, Vincent?" The necromancer asked, her tone mocking. "I knew Violet got her good looks from her mother, but not her magical talent as well. Though it can't be helped, I suppose." Suddenly the darkness was gone, lifted as though it never existed. Stood before them was the necromancer. If Violet could have remained standing any longer, she would never know. She collapsed to the ground, staring at the necromancer. The woman was in her early forties, her long black hair framed a beautiful face of native american lineage. "Mom?" Violet asked in disbelief."Hi, honey." The woman replied with a smile, "Close your mouth, dear, it's unseemly." "Don't trust her, Violet!" Vincent snarled, advancing forward and extending his palm so that his shield rose up, protecting him and his sister from any incoming attacks. He stared at the Necromancer, fury burning in his eyes. He had never met Violet's mother, but he had seen photos. For this twisted bitch to wear her face so brazenly was inexcusable. "Listen to me, Necrobitch." Vincent said firmly. "I don't care what you think. Violet is not yours, and you can't have her. And now you've really pissed me off. You're not getting anything from this. Not the innocent, not the Grimoire, and certainly not my fucking sister! Got it?"
  5. Vincent slumped down at the back of the couch, which he had just finished shoving up to the wall of his apartment. He took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it as he looked across his apartment. He had moved everything he could in to the far corners, leaving behind a large empty space in the middle of the room. He had also rolled up his various rugs, leaving only the bare hardwood floor underneath. He puffed on his cigarette for a moment as he caught his breath, hard labour really wasn’t his strong point. After a moment he got up and continued making preparations. In a small drawer he managed to find what looked to be a coiled up length of thin metal. He held it together in his hand before throwing it over the space on his floor. The spring steel sprung apart in to a large circle. Vincent had found this material, often used for pop-up tents, and decided it was perfect for a quick-use circle. Also it meant he didn’t have to get chalk over his floor. The circle he used for enchanting was too small for what he was about to do. So this was going to have to do in a pinch. He finished his cigarette and extinguished it in a glass ashtray, and then got to work. He picked up the Grimoire and placed it inside the circle, in the centre. Then he made sure the floor was clear of any dust and debris. Then he held out his hand towards the circle around him, and focused his will. This time he had taken a moment to build up a degree of focus. He could do this relatively quickly, most wizards had to pick up that particular skill if they wanted to be anything beyond ordinary. The extra focus was a necessary measure in this case. When the circle finally activated it thrummed with power, and standing inside it made his the hairs on his arms stand on end, like there was a field of static in the air. The circle was strong, and designed not to let anything get out unless he broke it with his own will. Well, at least that was what he hoped. He had no way of telling what kind of protections were built in to the Grimoire, for all he knew it had the power to nuke the entire city. He felt it unlikely, but then again magic didn’t really have much in terms of limitations, and the enchantments on the book were like nothing he had seen. At least this way, if something went wrong, he would be the only one being eviscerated. Hopefully. Vincent sat cross legged on the floor and opened the book up. He examined it again with his will but found no change in behaviour. If the book was linked to Violet and himself, then there would have to be something that activated the connection. An incantation was unlikely, there were plenty of things that could read minds, or even forcibly remove information from another. For something as powerful as this there would have to be a strong physical connection, and nothing was stronger than blood. Still, that seemed far too easy. An enemy could easily kill him and just let his blood out over the book and gain access. But at this point he didn’t have any other ideas. From his pocket he retrieved a small folded knife and released the catch so that the blade flicked out. He drew it over his palm quickly, and calmly, like a surgeon doing a procedure he had done a thousand times before. The cut wasn’t deep, but the blood wept out quickly and he held his hand over the open pages of the book. His blood dripped down on to the pages and were quickly absorbed, staining them. Then after a moment, as he had anticipated, the blood began to disappear from the pages, as if the book was devouring the red liquid. For a moment nothing else happened. There was no burst of power or activity. The book simply soaked up his dripping blood, and did nothing. Vincent sighed and took his hand away, cursing that he hadn’t lifted a bandage to press on the wound. Instead he just removed his t-shirt and wrapped it around his palm, pressing tightly on the cut. Then something happened that made him jerk his head up in surprise. He heard a voice. “Blood has been given.†It said, the voice was deep and commanding and Vincent’s mind flashed with images of Darth Vader bearing down on him. “Blood has been given.†It said again, more clearly. “Provide your name, spoken freely, from your own mouth.†“Uh…†Vincent said hesitantly. “Vincent Gideon Hallow.†He added quickly. “Blood has been given. The name has been given. I bid you greeting, Vincent Gideon Hallow.†The voice said. It was at this point Vincent realised that it wasn’t coming from anywhere in the room, but was speaking directly to his mind, through a telepathic link. “…Thaumaturgy.†Vincent said uneasily. “You require the blood to create a link with the living entity. Then the name spoken freely confirms that I am not under any physical or mental persuasion.†The thing about speaking your own name out loud, is it has a power. If another wizard was controlling your mind, even if they knew your name, they wouldn’t quite be able to have you say it in exactly the way you would on your own. It was a subtle magic of life, and in this case it was being used as a security measure. “Correct.†The voice responded, and then abruptly silenced once more. “Right…so who are you?†Vincent asked. “I am not a who.†The voice responded simply. “…Right†Vincent said with a sigh. “What are you then?†he asked. There was a long pause. “I am knowledge.†It replied. Vincent shook his head in irritation. “Can you be more specific?†He asked. “I am knowledge within the confines of this vessel.†It said. “All that is recorded, is what I am.†“So…some sort of intellectual spirit?†Vincent suggested. “No.†Came the response. “Merlin’s beard you’re difficult.†Vincent said as he held his head in his hands. “Are you some kind of…†Vincent lifted his head from his hand. “You’re a Keeper, right?†“Indeed.†The Keeper affirmed. Vincent smirked a little a shook his head in disbelief. A Keeper wasn’t really a living entity at all, it was more akin to a computer programme, but a magical one. Back in the old days they were used to compile information and keep a record of it. The thought hadn’t really come naturally to him, the spell was practically unheard of in this day and age. There wasn’t really much requirement for them, not when you had google on your phone. But this helped him. Keepers were essentially all knowing, at least within the confines of their vessel. Whatever was written within the Grimoire was automatically added to the Keeper’s knowledge, with perfect recall. Sort of like the world’s most accomplished librarian. “Okay, okay.†Vincent said after his moment of though. “So I know you used to belong to my dad. Are you able to give me information?†“The rite has been done. You are bound, Vincent Gideon Hallow.†The Keeper replied. “But what does that mean?†Vincent asked. “Elias Wolfwood Hallow is your current owner, correct?†“No.†The Keeper replied. “Vincent Gideon Hallow is my current owner.†“Oh…well that’s good.†Vincent said with an approving nod. “So how many owners have you had?†“Twelve, currently.†The Keeper replied. “Instructions were left, a thirteenth is also entitled to perform the rite and access my knowledge.†“Violet.†Vincent said instantly, now full on smiling like a child with a new toy. “So…you must have a ton of information. How much?†“That is incalculable.†The Keeper replied. “In terms of volume, the information I hold would require a large library, over 1 million pages of information. However, the information I hold is not widely known. It is fair to say that my value is priceless.†“Well holy shit…†Vincent said, adding a whistle. “This is a lot to process. I don’t really have the time. Let’s see…can you show me what you have on Necromancy?†“Certainly.†The Keeper replied, and the pages of the book flipped on their own to another set of blank pages. Then, slowly, ink began to spill on the pages and formed words, diagrams and notes. Vincent scanned the pages and flicked through them, the entire book was filled with various writings, all of their hand writing different. “Well that’s…a lot.†Vincent said as he rubbed his chin. “Okay…show me all entries written by Elias Hallow.†The pages began to re-write themselves until there was only one page of content. The entry was simple enough. In fact Vincent already knew what was written. The entry was regarding the resurrection of corpses. In order to control a corpse, once you have risen it, a Necromancer must use what is often referred to as a “drumâ€. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal drum, it could simply be tapping something off your hip, or clapping, as long as it carried a beat. The idea was to simulate a heartbeat, which created a connection with the corpses and the Necromancer, allowing for manipulation. It was probably one of the most basic lessons of Necromancy. “This doesn’t help either.†Vincent sighed. He scanned is eyes over a few notes and scribbles, until he noticed that some of them were ones he didn’t recognize. He was no academic on symbols, but he had a fair idea about them. However he had never seen these strange markings before. “Keeper, are these symbols druidic or something? Where do they come from?†“That information is not known.†The Keeper replied. “However these symbols do appear in other passages.†“Show me.†Vincent asked. The book transformed again and he was left with a two page spread with drawings and writing. “This is…†Vincent scanned the pages. “It’s a binding spell. Pretty uh…pretty complicated. Holy shit…†“This ritual is used to suppress the nature of a being from The Void.†The Keeper stated. “However it requires the victim to have a soul, to be mortal.†“Uh…that doesn’t make sense.†Vincent said to the Keeper. “Void creatures don’t have souls.†“Half breeds have the potential to possess a soul.†The Keeper said. “Half breeds of what?†Vincent asked “An ancient creature. It has many names, and many faces.†The Keeper replied. “Well, this is getting me nowhere.†Vincent said with a sigh. Perhaps Violet would have something. He looked across to his window and saw that it was dark outside and the street lamps were on. Time was running out. He closed the Grimoire and put it aside. He already had a circle up so he supposed this was probably the best time to get in touch with Violet. Communicating through The Void wasn’t easy. But he had a connection to Violet. He took his shirt away from his hand and looked at his weeping wound. He had blood. It wasn’t hers, but they were family. She was only his half sister as well. Still, there was a good chance he could get a short message to her. He let some of the blood fall to the floor and then he held his other hand over the droplets on the ground. He focused on the blood, took note of the properties it held. Then he focused on his mouth, and his throat. He thought of sound and how it carriedthrough the wind. Then he brought up as many memories of Violet as he could. He built all of this information on top of each other, and then he spoke only a few words, as only a short message was likely to reach her. “Violet, I have the key. It belongs to dad.â€
  6. Vincent put his phone back on the table and went to a large wardrobe sitting against one of his walls. He opened it and inside was a small armoury of weapons. He ignored the more brutal implements such as the mace, the axe, and several varieties of swords. Instead he took a simple piece of ash wood, with a leather bound handle and carved to a fine point on the end. Wooden stakes were an effective weapon against vampires of the Midnight Court, but it had to be carved from a white ash tree. He closed the wardrobe and began to gather the rest of his things. He put on his ring, his charm bracelet, and of course he put on his trusty duster. He also opened one of his kitchen drawers and took out a fully loaded p229 Sig Sauer pistol. You could never be too careful. Finally he grabbed his cane and made for the door. When Vincent arrived at Lucia's manor it was mid-afternoon. As he pulled up to the front gate a familiar looking thug came over to the driver window of his El Camino. "Hey Lurch." he said with a grin. "Lady Lucia isn't taking guests right now." Lurch said in almost the exact same tone as last time. "Do we really have to do this dance, Lurch?" Vincent asked. "Look I know she's asleep at this hour but I don't have time to wait for dark." "Don't care." Lurch replied. "Lucia said you weren't welcome here any more. She said something about...if you come in then you're breaking the accords, she won't extend hospitality." "Well on any other day I'd be down with that but I'm afraid I'm going to have to go in anyway." Vincent said with a smirk, then he leaned his head out of the window and focused his gaze on lurch. "Quiesco" he whispered, and the big guard blinked once, before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Vincent opened his door and got out of the car, climbing over the gate and landing softly on the other side. He walked through the garden and made his way to the front of the house. The guards by the door noticed him and their hands moved for their coats, and he was pretty sure they weren't reaching for their wallets. He held his cane out in front of him and gathered his will. He released it and the guards both flinched and dropped the guns they had pulled out of their holsters, which were now on the floor and red hot. Then with another gesture of his cane he sent out unseen kinetic force, sending the guards crashing back through the front door and left sprawled across the ground in the lobby. He stepped over them without a word and strode down the hall, pulling the Sig from his pocket for extra measure and proceeded cautiously in to the dark home. A quick sweep revealed the ground floor to be empty, and he knew better than to go searching upstairs. Instead he took a door off of the kitchen which lead down in to the basement. No doubt this was where Lucia and her brood would slumber. He moved slowly and as quietly as he could, but he knew that even a sleeping vampire would hear him and that Lucia was no doubt already alerted to his presence. He reached the bottom of the stairs and found himself in a dark room. With an effort of will the end of his cane glowed in an eerie blue light and he held it out in front of him, sweeping it over the darkness. There was nothing quite as cliche as empty coffins, but there were sections of the floor decorated with lavish pillows and blankets, like some sort of far eastern brothel. The various makeshift beds were recently disturbed, and no doubt the vampires were still in the room, waiting in the shadows. "Lucia, sweetheart." Vincent called out. "Come on out, I'd like a word." There was a hiss in the darkness after he spoke. Then there was a light sound of movement, and he felt the hairs on his neck stand to attention. A blur came out of the darkness and struck him hard in the side, sending him crashing to the floor, his pistol falling somewhere on the ground. Before he could get up he felt a powerful but slender grip around his throat, pulling him up and pinning him to the wall. In the dim blue light he saw the face of a pale young woman, her eyes wide with fury and her fangs bared, as she slowly began to crush his windpipe. Panic set it quickly, but he pushed it down before it could overcome him. he brought his now free hand up and let it connect with her face, and the force hit the female vamp with a crunch, her jaw completely dislodged by the punch, and she reeled back screaming in pain. Now Vincent wasn't a particularly tough guy. He was tall, but skinny. Not in an athletic way but more like a malnourished way. However the ring he wore on his finger was enchanted to take kinetic energy from every tiny movement he made while wearing it. It would accumulate and store that energy until he chose to unleash it, as he had just done. So as a one off, he had punched that vampire with all the power of a small car going along at 40 miles per hour. As she released him Vincent gave a choking cough, before holding his arm out again and forcing his will in to his charm bracelet. The air seemed to snap around him as he formed a curved wall in front of him, a physical barrier of magic to stop any more frontal assaults. The female vamp scrambled to her feet but Vincent pointed his cane at her and it ignited with fire. She hissed again and backed off. The fire illuminated the basement much more vibrantly, and he noticed that there were at least 10 vampires in the room, that he could see in the light. All of them stalked the room, eyeing him with an expression of lustful hunger and venomous anger. "I didn't come here for a fight." He called out. "I just want to talk." "I warned you." came a familiar voice from the darkness. It was light and feminine, and sounded more amused than angry. "That one day you would not be able to hide behind the accords, and that on that day I would kill you. I didn't expect it to happen to soon, mind you." "Lucia. Cut the shit and face me." Vincent snarled. The dark skinned Countess of the Midnight Court emerged in to the firelight, wearing next only a matching set of red lingerie. The light danced off of her feminine curves and the way she walked was incredibly alluring. Vincent swallowed as he felt a shiver of excitement flow through him. This was no simple vampire glamour, this kind of pull was far stronger than the standard two bit vamp. Lucia was over 200 years old and her power was considerable. Not to mention she was sex on legs and Vincent was a warm blooded heterosexual, which certainly did not help matters. "Vincent you are always so cut and dry." Lucia purred. "Why don't you lower that barrier and come and sit with us. I promise I can make your death quick and painless. In fact you'd probably like it." Vincent gulped. He had no doubt about that, with her skills he'd probably die in ecstasy. Yet he didn't much feel like it all the same. "Sorry, I've got a busy night ahead of me. Maybe another time." He said. "Where's that delightful darkling sister of yours, hm?" Lucia asked as she stepped closer. "She smelled wonderful, I think I'd have happily kept her a few days. All the better to enjoy her more thoroughly." "She's busy." Vincent said, a little more forcefully now. He had began to construct walls in his mind, shutting off his desires and keeping the intense pull of the glamour at bay. "I'm here for the key, whatever the hell that is. You've been dealing with a Necromancer lately. She pointed me in your direction, so I want whatever you have." "So direct." Lucia said with a smile. "Although I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. I have regular business with many of your kind. I do not tend to ask about the particular fields they practice." Lucia extended her arm, reaching out towards Vincent as if she longed for nothing more than to feel his skin beneath her fingertips. "You're playing a very dangerous game, child. I warned you before. From what I can tell you don't even have a clue of what is really going on. I thought you were supposed to be an investigator." "You could say my hand is being forced on this occasion." Vincent replied. He dropped his barrier, keeping it up would only tire him and then he would be able to do nothing when the vampires closed in. However he kept the torch of fire ignited at the end of his cane. "I'm not here on behalf of the Wise, I'm here because our mutual...associate, well she pointed me at you. It's that simple." "Oh dear boy, it's nowhere near that simple." Lucia said with a smirk. "For a start, what makes you think this woman is my ally? Think about James, and that ghastly affair with LaChance. I know you mortals are a bit forgetful but it was only a few days past." "So she is involved with that." Vincent said with a slight smirk. "I had my suspicions. But you told me her quarrel wasn't with the Midnight Court, it was just with Jimmy." "No." Lucia said, shaking her head but she was smiling, enjoying his ignorance. "I told you that LaChance had no quarrel with us. He is simply a pawn in this, much like yourself. Don't you see, child? You're a chess piece, nothing more. If she has sent you to collect something from us, then she must have something to gain from it. If she were my ally then all she would have to do was ask." Lucia's eyes flashed with a predatory look. "That woman is a menace. I would love nothing more than to have her put down." "Then help me." Vincent said. "You really need to work on your bargaining technique, child." Lucia said. "I would have thought all that time with the Sidhe would have taught you that much." "The Sidhe cannot lie, Lucia." Vincent replied, his tone growing darker. "There bargains are trustworthy, at least." At this Lucia threw her head back and gave a pure and sweet laugh. "Oh, child..." She said as she put her finger to her lips. "The Sidhe are full of tricks, they may not be able to lie but they pepper there words with half-truths and vague wording. They are as devious as can be. At least my kind are direct." "Fine, fine." Vincent said with a sigh. "So you want a bargain? Very well. You know what the Necromancer wants, what she has sent me to obtain. What will it cost me?" Lucia gave another warm smile and her eyes lit up with excitement. "Well, well...it is true that there are a few things you can offer me. However if I give you what you seek then you must bear the consequences of what comes next. Furthermore, should you survive the ordeal you must give me one thing." "Name it already." Vincent said. "You will give me your services. One favour, I will pay you of course. However you must do what I ask while you are contracted to me." Lucia came closer, so close that the fire from his cane was surely hot against her skin. "Does that sound reasonable?" Vincent's nostrils flared at the thought. If a Vampire wanted him for a job then it wasn't likely to be anything he'd consider moral. But a life was on the line, and potentially worse if he sat back and did nothing. He gave a heavy sigh. "I have conditions." He said. "First of all, if I do this for you I do it in my own way. I'll get you the result you want, but I use my own methods and you will not question me. Secondly you cannot order me to take a mortal life, or to hurt the innocent or people I care about." "And if I refuse your conditions?" Lucia asked. "Then I'll burn you and your brood and then I'll take what I need." Vincent said. As he spoke, however, Lucia made a quick gesture with her hand and the fire from his cane was extinguished. Before he could react she had moved forward like a blur, and she pinned him against the wall. He felt her nails pressed against his throat, and her face was inches from his own. Her scent was sweet and delicate, but more alluring than ever. As she pressed up against him he felt her glamour enveloping him. Her tongue brushed lightly over his neck and he shivered in a pleasure that he had no control over. Then the point of her fangs against his neck sent cold waves through his body. The were so sharp that he barely felt them pierce his neck. Her lips pressed against him as she sucked on the wound, and amidst the sheer terror who still could not shake the overwhelming pleasure of it all. Every fiber of his neanderthal brain urged him to take her, but he was frozen. He could do nothing. And then, as quickly as they had came, the sensations faded in to nothingness and he was left feeling cold and weak. Lucia had released her grip from him, and he had slumped to the floor, his legs giving way. "Y-you're..." he stammered. "You're a-a...wizard." "I believe that term was coined by The Order of the Wise, child." Lucia replied. "And I doubt they consider me to be a member. Warlock is probably more appropriate. Or at least I was once upon a time. It is difficult to retain your magic once you become a vampire, as I'm sure you know. But I still have enough skill to extinguish a bit of fire. I suggest you keep that in mind. I could have killed you right now, child. I could have drained you until you were nothing but a dried up husk, and it was sorely tempting. The blood of a practitioner is always more...electrifying." "...Why?" Vincent asked, unsure why he was still alive. "Because I have use for you." Lucia replied. "I simply wanted you to understand how in over your head you were. Don't worry about the bite either, when you've been around as long as me you have a great deal of control over who you turn. You would make a wonderful vampire but...I prefer to take the willing." Vincent pulled himself to his feet. Lucia had walked in to the darkness and had returned with the pistol he had dropped and handed it to him. He took it and put it in his pocket. He felt stupid, the stake he had carried with him had been no measure of protection at all. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he had grossly underestimated Lucia. As she had just displayed, she was quite the badass. "So you accept then, with the conditions?" Vincent asked. "I do." Lucia replied and she started walking up the stairs. "Come along, child. I will give you what you came for." Lucia had lead him to the second floor of the manor and in to a beautifully furnished library room. The walls were covered in book cases, each one completely full. There were comfortable looking leather sofas and a small table with an ornate lamp. Lucia went to one of the book cases and retrieved a very old and worn-looking book. She returned to Vincent and handed it to him. He examined it. The cover was leather bound with strange runes and symbols etched in to it. He opened it to scan the pages but found them all to be blank. There was something about the book that seemed familiar to him, but he couldn't quite place it. "What is it?" He asked. "A Grimoire." Lucia said. "A very old and much coveted one. The contents of it are hidden by very delicate and precise magic. Only the right people are able to unlock it's contents." "And who's was it?" Vincent asked. Most magic practitioners had a Grimoire of their own, a place where they could record their own personal finding about magic. This one was quite thick, but he could feel the thrum of magic pulsing from it. No doubt, even with it's size, it was enchanted to hold more pages than would be physically possible. It was quite possible that this book alone was an entire library of information in and of itself. "It has been in the possession of many wizards." Lucia explained. "Most recently it belonged to Elias Wolfwood H-" "My father..." Vincent interrupted. "...What the fuck are you doing with my father's Grimoire?" "If you wanted to know that you should have stipulated it in your bargain, child." Lucia said with a smirk. "Now do you understand why she wants you to have this book? And why the consequences are yours to bear?" "Doesn't take a genius." Vincent replied. "She wants something hidden within the book. And she thinks that I'll be able to open it." "You or the darkling." Lucia said with a nod. "Do not call my sister that." Vincent growled. "It's not an insulting term, child." Lucia replied. "It's simply a fact. She is from the other side of the mirror, I can smell it on her." "I don't care, stop calling her that." Vincent replied. He snapped the book's empty pages shut and pocketed it. "Thanks, I guess. I need to go." "Remember our deal, Vincent." Lucia reminded him. "In a month to today's date I will require your services. If you betray me I will make sure you suffer." "Right." Vincent said with a sigh. "Well I'll be seeing you, then." "Goodbye, child." Lucia said as he left. "and tread carefully." Within the hour Vincent was back at his apartment. He had discarded his duster and was sitting once more on his sofa with his father's Grimoire laid out on the table in front of him. He had been staring at it for ten minutes. While it may have looked like he was doing nothing, he had been extending his will unto the book, examining it thoroughly. It was potent with magical energy, layers upon layers of enchantments designed to protect it's contents. He had only seen magic like this on the rarest of occasions, and while he knew enough to understand it's complexity, he couldn't even hope to perform such delicate magic. Furthermore it was not something he could reverse engineer, nor did he think anyone could. The only way to unlock it's secrets would be to do as his father had intended. Lucia had implied that only he or Violet could open it, and so the magic was likely tied to his own bloodline. Perhaps if he had known the slightest thing about his father, then it would have been more apparent. Elias Wolfwood Hallow had left his family and disappeared before Vincent was even 10 years old. When he did disappear, he left behind a little girl who had been taken in by their mother. His father had an affair with another woman at some point, and the two had bore a child. It was difficult to process as a young boy, but with his years he grew to understand these things. He did not blame or condemn his father for that action. After all, Violet was his family all the same. Sure when they were children it hadn't been easy but it could have been worse all the same. When he was 10 Vincent had began to discover his gift for magic. It had come as a bit of a surprise to him. He never really knew about magic. His father had certainly never practised it around him. He knew of Faeries and monsters. One of his earliest memories was of playing with pixies in the garden at their home in Illinois. His father had chased them off when he had saw, and had warned Vincent to stay away from Faeries. He never really thought about it at the time, but his father couldn't have been more right on that one. Hindsight is a bitch. "Shit, pops..." Vincent said with a sigh. "What have you gotten us in to?"
  7. Vincent stepped out on to the side walk and sighed, his breath visible in the cold L.A night. He began walking swiftly down the street. He was certain the cops would be by soon and he wanted nothing to do with them. He'd never had anything against the L.A.P.D as such but he'd found in the past that they struggled to buy his particular explanation as to things that had happened. That behaviour was typical of mortals. They go on about how there is no evidence of the supernatural, and yet they encounter it almost every day of their lives. When mortals encounter something they can't explain they naturally try to make sense of it. When they encounter a ghost, or a vampire attack, or evidence of magic they lie to themselves because it's easier than facing up to the truth that there's a whole world out there that they haven't got a clue about. So they convince themselves that it was a hallucination, or that something equally unlikely had happened. It's not even the small stuff either. News channels report stories where all witnesses were reported to have hallucinated a monster attack due to a gas leak or something. Because methane is well known for it's ability to have people imagine that a 10ft tall werewolf gutted a family of three in an alley way. However there are times where people cannot simply chalk things up to a bad dream, as much as they may want to. The Adaro had been dealt with but not before he'd managed to end one girls life, and scarred the life of another. Although perhaps Vincent was partly accountable for that. He took out his phone and navigated through his call list, found the number he wanted and called it. He put the phone to his ear and it rang a couple of times before a female voice answered. “Chelsea.†Vincent said “Uh...Mr. Hallow?†Chelsea's voice asked. “We need to talk.†Vincent said. “You know where my office is, right? Can you come over there right away?†“Uh...um...†she hesitated. “O-okay. I'll be there soon.†“Thank you.†Vincent said before hanging up and pocketing the phone. Then he began the walk to his office. All in all it took him around a half hour. He stopped by a Burger King and got himself a bacon cheeseburger and a sprite, depleting the last five bucks he had to his name. When he arrived at his office Chelsea was already waiting for him and he took out his keys and let her in. After closing the door he turned on the lamp by his desk and took off his duster. “Take a seat.†He said to Chelsea and offered her the chair by his desk and he sat on the other side, putting his feet up on the desk. “I suppose you know about Rebecca?†“Uh...yeah.†Chelsea replied. Her voice was a little hoarse, like she'd been crying. “Well...you were right about her boss. He is a vampire.†Vincent said. “But he didn't kill Rebecca. In fact...as much as he is a dirt bag he probably wasn't hurting her at all.†“He was biting her†Chelsea said. “True.†Vincent replied. “But in fairness when we eat an animal we kill it and cut it in to pieces. He looked after his girls. In fact he was trying to hard to keep them off of drugs that it got him in some trouble. Something else killed Rebecca, and tried to make it look like he did it. We got the guy so he won't be hurting anyone else. I was too late though, I'm sorry.†Chelsea was quiet for a moment. It was a difficult conversation and for Vincent it certainly wasn't the first. It never got any easier though. Death is natural and it will come for us all, but it's never pleasant. It's always messy, always undignified and always causes grief to people around the victim. Coping with that is hard enough without having to deal with the existence of monsters and magic. But Chelsea would never be able to allow herself to ignore that any more. She had Soulgazed Vincent, and that experience would be with her until the day she died, just as it would Vincent. “That night...†Chelsea said finally. “I...saw-†“I don't want to know.†Vincent interrupted. “I'm sorry that happened, I hadn't intended it to. But it did and I can't take it back I'm afraid. I just wanted you to know that Rebecca's killer is gone, I figured you deserved at least that much.†“Thank you.†Chelsea said with a slight nod. “Um...how much more do I owe you?†“Nothing.†Vincent replied simply. He really could have done with more cash but it just didn't feel right. “You hired me to find out if Jimmy was a vampire and I'd figured that part out within the hour. Everything else...well that wasn't part of the deal.†“I see.†Chelsea said with a nod. “Well, thank you for doing that for Rebecca. Um...what happens now?†“You go back to your life, and I go back to mine.†Vincent said. “It will be hard for you from now on. Your eyes are open so you'll start to notice the things that everyone else doesn't. But...there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to try to work past it.†“Couldn't you...um...†Chelsea hesitated again. “Couldn't you make me forget? Like...with magic?†Vincent gave a short sigh, and considered it for but only a moment before shaking his head. “I could.†He admitted. “But I won't. Magic doesn't solve problems. I could get inside your head and hide away the memories...and maybe you would be fine if I managed to avoid damaging your psyche. But you could also end up much worse off. Paranoia, hallucinations. Memories aren't supposed to be tampered with and they...they try to cling on. You don't want that.†“I don't want to keep feeling like this either.†Chelsea replied. “Look, Chelsea.†Vincent took his feet off the desk and leaned forward, looking her in the eyes. It was fine to do so now. “If I take away your memories of the past few days then you won't remember that Rebecca died, or the how and why. So...do I take away all your memories of Rebecca? Do you know how many gaps that will leave in your mind? There are...laws that we magic people have. One of them is that we don't go poking around in people's heads. I'm sorry but I won't do that.†“...Okay.†Chelsea said finally. “Thank you Mr. Hallow.†“Look...if you're finding it hard to cope in future...give me a call.†Vincent stood up and walked her to the door of his office. “No charge, of course.†He added. Chelsea only nodded, and then she left and Vincent was alone again. He grabbed his coat and made for the door again, this time to go home. --- --- --- Three days had passed and Vincent lay on the sofa in his apartment, holding a paperback romance novel in one hand as he read it. His hair was damp and lay limp against his bare shoulders. He had showered and shaved, and the scent of apples that his hair was giving off seemed a little intense to his nostrils. He should probably have cared more that his body reacted that way to the smell of cleanliness but he was far too engrossed in Baroness Vivier and her heaving bosom. He hadn't heard from Violet, nor did he expect to. He hadn't seen her in 10 years before and the other night didn't change their relationship in any way. They had never been the best of friends by any means, but they had got along at times. In his younger years Vincent had been much more arrogant, and his sister...well she had always been a bit of a mystery to him. She came in to his life only a short time before his gifts began to manifest, and hers had followed shortly afterwards. It was difficult at first. To learn that his father had loved another woman, and bore a child with her. He was much too young to be learning that his father was not perfect. It all seemed quite silly now, as he neared 30. He didn't blame anyone, and the situation didn't bring him any pain. His mother had even welcomed Violet and loved her as her own. It would have been much harder if she had not been the woman she was, someone capable of loving any child. Vincent had never bore any animosity towards his sister either, not really. He had been much too fascinated with his own emerging powers. To him if magic was a drug, then it was heroin and he had immersed himself in it. Something had been troubling him though. Violet disliked that he was part of the Wise, and that was understandable to a degree. They weren't exactly a forgiving bunch, and their ruling was absolute. They did not involve themselves in mortal affairs but had declared themselves judge, jury and executioner when it came to policing the magically gifted. There was a time where Vincent would have wanted nothing to do with them either, hell sometimes he still didn't. Yet he had grown to agree to their laws. He understood them as a necessity. It wasn't about right or wrong, good or evil. It was about what had to be done. He thought that Violet might have understood that, after all she had always been the more logical thinker when they were younger. He had been so foolish when they were younger, and she had never missed an opportunity to remind him so. Surely she would have been happy that he had become more...ordered. Vincent was pulled from his thoughts when his phone rattled across his coffee table, vibrating aggressively. He picked it up and put the phone to his ear. “What?†He asked into the phone. “I believe 'who' is more appropriate, Vincent.†The feminine voice on the other end said. “Fine. Who the fuck are you?†Vincent asked, his tone one of annoyance. “That is the challenge I am posing to you now.†The voice said. “You are an investigator after all. I like games, Vincent. Three days have passed and, frankly, I'm growing rather bored. Apparently you need some more motivation in order to do your job, and so now I am challenging you. A person will die tonight unless you stop it from happening.†“Do you think this is funny?†Vincent asked with a frown “Oh very much so.†The voice purred. “Midnight holds the key but the door lies within the mirror. Good luck...Vincent. Gideon. Hallow.†Vincent's eyes widened with terror. There was a click as the person on the other end hung up. He sat up from his sofa and fumbled around his untidy apartment for a t-shirt. Eventually he pulled a Ramones T-shirt over his head and went through his phone to find Violets number. The woman had known his name. His entire name. Shit.
  8. The hour had become late once again as Vincent and Violet pulled up outside Aether for the second night in a row. Vincent pulled a couple of vials out of his pocket and tossed one of them to Violet. "Drink that." He said as he twisted the cap off his own and swallowed it's contents. "I don't take drinks from strange men." Violet muttered, shaking the vial as she stared at it's liquid contents, "What is it?" "It's a warming potion." Vincent explained. "It'll run you a little hot, but not dangerously so. Just in case that Adaro decides to 'ghost' you. It won't totally stop the chill but it'll keep you sharp enough to bounce back." "I run plenty hot enough." Violet replied, knowing her body's temperature was a lot higher than a human's. Nevertheless, she drank the liquid. Having a ghost move through you is an unpleasant experience, and if her brother's little potion would help at all, that was fine by her. "What's the plan?" She asked. "Alright, so..." Vincent began as he clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "I'm not much of an actor so I'm just going to be my usual, delightful self. You shift in to Giuseppe and when we head in you treat me a little rough. Try and get us somewhere private with LaChance and you can tell him you found me snooping around, and you think I know about their operation. Probably best to be a little vague, we don't know if Giuseppe is in on the whole magic deal. But we know they're in the drug business so we can lean on that. The club should be pretty full, I doubt LaChance would risk hurting me in public. We see what he spills and take it from there. If you can get some of his DNA I can use thaumaturgy to shut him down, but I'll need some quiet. Maybe you could toss me somewhere as a 'prisoner'. Then you can keep him occupied while I work the spell." Vincent fished three more vials from is pocket and handed them to Violet. "If the Adaro acts then you'll have a better shot. I've already funnelled my will in to them, so just toss them at it. One at a time, okay? If you do all three it could be...messy." "Good to know." Violet put the vials into her inside jacket pocket, "Ready when--" And as she spoke, she quickly shifted into Arturo Giuseppe, "--you are." She finished, ending the sentence with his voice. "Here, if I don't do this now, you won't bruise in time." She added, and then sucker-punched Vincent in the eye. Vincent held his hand over his throbbing eye and glared at his sister with his good one, but said nothing. His flaring nostrils said it all. He opened the door and got out of the car, closing it behind him and waited for Violet to grab him and escort him in to the building. "Oh please, that was a love tap." Violet smiled and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and pulled him into the club. The music was loud and people were dancing everywhere. Nobody really took notice of the scruffy, beaten man being pulled through to the back by the greaseball thug. They came to a door at the back, Violet knocked on it, opened the door and walked in, closing it behind them both. LaChance was sat at a desk at the far side of a large room. He frowned when he saw Vincent."Mr. Hallow, what are you doing here?" LaChance asked, "Oh, Arturo, don't tell me you've hurt Mr. Hallow unduly?""He was snoopin' around, and he knows about our plans." Violet replied, and threw Vincent forwards onto the ground. She pulled her pistol which she had morphed to appear like Giuseppe's, and aimed it at the back of her brother's head, pressing the barrel firmly against him. "What should we do?" She asked. LaChance barely reacted at all to the news. Vincent suspected that this guy had a killer poker face, he couldn't read his intentions at all. After a short pause LaChance held up his hand to Violet and gave a very warm smile. "Please, Arturo." He said calmly. "Allow Mr. Hallow to stand up and explain himself. After all he is only a P.I, not a police officer. We can perhaps reach an understanding." Violet dutifully lowered her gun from Vincent but kept it in her hand, and Vincent stood up straight, tapping his cane twice on the floor. "Much obliged, LaChance." Vincent said as he composed himself. "I'm not a police consultant. It's not my job to arrest anybody.""Indeed." LaChance replied. "However, your partner who was with you the other night. She is a police officer, no?""A fellow P.I" Vincent corrected. "She does work for the L.A.P.D sometimes. I was working with her on a separate matter as you know." "Yes, the incident and Jimmy's place. A real shame." LaChance replied, lightly placing his fingers together as he leaned back on his chair. "However I'd like to know what you think you know about my business practices, and that of my good friend Arturo.""Drugs." Vincent replied coolly. "You guys are bringing in product wholesale. This club is probably just a front. Not exactly rocket science once you get pointed in the right direction.""And who has pointed you?" LaChance asked. "Rachel, actually." Vincent replied simply. "Well, in a round about way.""Who is this Rachel?" LaChance asked. "She was the girl who was murdered last night." Vincent explained. "I've been following the trail, and it's lead to you." He stared LaChance down, hoping for him to break, but the man did not. Instead he simply raised an eyebrow curiously, and calmly shrugged his shoulders. "I am afraid you are misinformed. I was in Aether the whole night, I had nothing to do with that incident." LaChance replied. "Well that's true enough." Vincent replied. "Thing is...the thing that did kill her made an effort to make it look like someone else did it. Fangs marks in the neck...no cop is going to think much about that. It has me thinking though...whoever ordered the hit must know about the things in this city that kill with fangs. But to set them up...well that wasn't for the benefit of the L.A.P.D was it? I reckon you probably have them in your pocket anyway. Guys like you always do." Finally LaChance's expression broke. It was only for a moment, but Vincent had caught the look in his eyes. It was the tiniest glimpse of surprise. That meant he knew about their world. Otherwise he'd have just rolled his eyes and pegged Vincent as a nut-case. "Unless you have solid evidence I fail to see how I am involved." LaChance replied. "But that does not explain why you were snooping around Arturo. What are you up to Mr. Hallow?""Well I think..." Vincent took a step forward and tapped his cane on the floor once more. "...I think Jimmy, dirt-bag though he is, really looks after his girls. I think he was less than happy when he found out your crew were supplying them. I think he threatened you, and I think you don't like being threatened, LaChance. I think you sent him a message. You told him to back the fuck off, and you killed one of his girls. And you did it in a way that made him look guilty, just for a little insurance. Does that sound about right?" LaChance's nostrils flared, betraying his otherwise calm expression. Vincent smirked wickedly, pleased that he was getting to him. Part of him wanted to roast the guy on the spot, but he thought better of it. He waited, and LaChance finally spoke. "I think Mr. Hallow has had a stressful few days. It would be rude of me not to allow him to rest while he is in my hospitality." LaChance said with a smile. "Arturo, kindly escort Mr. Hallow in to the next room. Restrain him, and make sure he's knocked out. I cannot risk doing anything while there are people downstairs. We will deal with him when the club closes.""Alright," Violet picked Vincent up by his hair and led him out. When they were in the next room and Violet had let him go, Vincent held his head in pain and scowled at her. "You didn't have to pull my hair!" he whispered as he started looking around the room. "You wanted it to be believable." Violet retorted, "Would you have liked a palanquin instead?""Bite me." Vincent replied irritably. "Look you better get back. I'll have a look around in here and find something. Just keep him talking.""Don't tempt me." Violet replied with a toothy grin, but as she walked out, she looked back at her brother, "Be careful." And she left. Vincent examined the room. It was small and full of old boxes, probably just a storage room. He quietly moved some things around, trying to find something he could use. He began to get the impression that LaChance didn't come in here very often. Finding something to use for a spell did not look very hopeful at this point. He sighed and rubbed his chin, listening to the dull thumping bass coming from the nightclub. Finding nothing of use he started thinking of other options. There was a reason the Adaro was linked to LaChance. Lot's of powerful spirits could operate on their own, or were summoned by others. Usually if it was tied to someone it was a survival thing. Most likely, he determined, it was so that the Adaro couldn't be banished back to The Void. This meant the banishing potions were likely to be useless, even if they would normally be effective. He channelled his will through his cane, and the handle lit up in a cool blue light. He waved it around the room, trying to see if there was something he had missed. It was only then that he spotted it. In the back of the room there was an old gym bag. He opened it up and looked inside. He pulled out a pair of tennis shorts and a pair of white socks. With a tentative sniff he confirmed that they had been used. Shivering in disgust he laid them down on the floor and fumbled in his pocket for the piece of chalk he had. He drew a circle on the floor around the garments and took a deep breath. "This better work..." he sighed as he held out his hand and pushed his will in to the circle, feeling a small hum of magic as the circle activated. He rubbed his hands together and then closed his eyes, extending his will outwards again. In his mind, slowly he began to broaden his senses. His will pushed out, and very quickly he made a connection. Thaumaturgy was ideal for magic over long distances. It was elegant and much more powerful, but it required more in return. Since LaChance was in the next room it hadn't taken him long to find the link and focus on it. He could feel LaChance's energy in his mind. It was cool and confident. While it held no real talent for magic, he could feel something coiled around it. It was as if a dark hand was choking him, restricting him from moving. He guessed this was the Adaro that was latched on to him. He began to analyse the relationship between the Adaro and it's host. Their bond slowly materialised in his head like a detailed road map. The Adaro was indeed a spirit of The Void, that much was clear. He sensed that the creature was tying itself to LaChance's desires. Not just any desires of course, but his dark desires. Not only that but the Adaro reinforced them, made them a stronger presence within LaChance. The more he used the Adaro to enact violent acts, the more he would find himself desiring to do so. It was a vicious cycle that was incredibly common with dark magic. This was why Vincent knew the Law of Magic were necessary, even if enforcing them often seemed cruel. Using dark magic left a sort of stain on a person's soul. The more they used it, the worse it got. He often considered how easily it could begin. For a young wizard to subtly change their school teacher's mind to get a slightly better score on a test seemed harmless enough. However it was the slipperiest of slopes. At any rate this information gave Vincent power. If the Adaro was attached via angry and violent emotions, then all he had to do was gather his own emotions, ones of peace and forgiveness. Vincent summoned his emotions in his mind. He thought of the people in his life who had wronged him, who had made him angry. He thought of Violet, and the many times she had angered him both big and small. He thought of their mentor when they had grown up, and how hard he had been on them at times. He thought of men in shadows, judging him as he lay helpless on his knees. And then he thought of a beautiful, graceful woman with long, flowing, white hair with lips an icy blue colour, and eyes as emerald green as his own. He thought about all of the anger he felt towards these people...and then he let it all go. He forgave each of the transgressions in turn, feeling peace build up inside of him until it was about to burst. He lingered on the white haired woman though. Try as he might, he could not forgive her. Never. Instead he removed her from his thoughts and gathered up all he had and sent it towards LaChance. No sooner had he done so than he heard noises of a struggle next door. If what he had done had worked, then the Adaro would have been forcibly removed from LaChance. No doubt it would be extremely pissed about that, and it would take physical form and unleash it's fury upon Violet. Vincent stood up and gripped his cane, making a run to barge through the door to kick some ass, and with any luck, not die in the process.
  9. By the time Vincent had stepped out of his building and on to the street it was dark, although still early evening but the darkness came quickly in the Winter. He let out an embittered sigh with visible frost escaping his lips before he shoved his free hand in his duster, the other gripping his cane. He spotted Violet's car and strolled over, opened the door, and stepped inside. Slamming the door behind him as he sat down he rested his cane in between his legs and gave his sister a tired glance. "So what's the story?" he asked. "Necromancer." Violet replied, "I was communing with Rebecca's ghost. Confirmed it was the Adaro that killed her, by the way. If that's what that thing is, anyway." She paused as she adjusted the heater, lowering it to a comfortable level, "But when I released her, something brought her back and took control of her. Tried to attack me, and when it failed, the master spoke through her." Vincent let out a heavy sigh and held his head back so he was staring at the ceiling of the car. He said nothing for a moment, silence lingering as he gathered his thoughts. Necromancy was bad news in his book. Magic was a force of life essence, but Necromancy was a dark art associated with death. He had heard purists describe it as elegant and pure in it's own right, that death was just a natural part of life. In truth the art was but a stones throw away from Ectomancy, yet it was different, darker. Most disturbingly this Necromancer had spoke through the vessel of a ghost. "Thou shalt not enthrall another." Vincent spoke softly as if recanting a rehearsed line that he had spoken many times. "Ghosts are just shades...but they are creatures with thought and feelings of their own. To do such a thing..." "It doesn't matter, Vincent." Violet replied coldly, "It's horrible, but our concern shouldn't be on what she's done, but on what she's going to do. Someone out there with the power and the inclination to use it, but without the moral compass? We need to find them, and fast or we could end up with a lot worse than a ghost being used as a Muppet." "Fair point." Vincent replied, bringing his gaze back down from the ceiling and looking out of the front window of the car. "So what do you propose? We can go after LaChance and see what he knows. However...he's a mortal. I got no magical vibes off of him whatsoever, even with my Sight. If he's just another pawn then we can't just take him out. Our top priority is removing the Adaro from him. If that's even possible..." "I still think he's key." Violet replied, thinking back to the creature on LaChance's shoulder, "He's not in control, that much is clear. Maybe he didn't put that thing on his shoulder, maybe he's not even aware of it. I think this necromancer could have put it there to keep an eye on him. I'm worried though," Violet started the car's engine, "What happens when it knows we're trying to extract information from him?" "Previous experience in this game tells me it gets pissed and tries to kill us." Vincent replied somewhat casually. "Going in guns blazing is a bad idea. If we could create a link to LaChance then maybe I can counteract whatever is going on. Blood would be best but hair could also work. Then once he's clear we nuke it. I've got three banishing potions, one of them should work." "Should." Violet repeated, "Fantastic. Failing that, i've got a back-up, but i'd rather not use it. It's not exactly growing on trees." She muttered, and patted her jacket before driving the car out onto the main road and joining the rest of the L.A. traffic, "Well I hope Mr. LaChance isn't expecting us. Evil spirits I can deal with, but i'm about done with bullets for today." "So how do you want to play this?" Vincent asked. "Getting his hair or blood isn't going to be easy. I could veil if the Adaro can see through them he'll go for me. If I can't form a link Thaumaturgy is out, so we have to do it somehow. Maybe you could wonder twin yourself in to a wood pigeon and scoop up some of his hair for me." "Funny." Violet muttered, keeping her eyes on the road. "Actually..." She thought for a moment, "Forget animals, maybe I can shift into someone he trusts. Problem is, I can't just shift into anything I want, Vincent. I need to have touched them first. We need to find out who is closest to LaChance and arrange a chance meeting." "Did you do that on purpose?" Vincent said with a raised brow. "I..." Realisation dawned on Violet's face, "Very good, Vince. You should go on tour." She rolled her eyes at him. "Maybe I should shift into someone who found that funny." "Alright then, so who are LaChance's associates?" Vincent asked, looking at his sister expectantly. "I know about LaChance because of... well, I know about LaChance. I don't exactly live in his world, Vincent." Violet muttered irritably. "I'm not privy to his social circle." "Okay." Vincent replied simply. "Then we go find out. I need to get some actual investigation in my invoicing for this client anyway. So let's go over what we do know." Vincent leant forward and drummed his hands over the dashboard briefly before continuing. "So we got a dead mortal, probably just caught in the crossfire. Jimmy the vamp is getting set up to take the hit, but not by the mortal cops. Whoever did this laid a trail for us to follow, or some other wizards. Maybe they thought The Wise would pick it up or something. At any rate that tells us that the pressure our perpetrator is applying to Jimmy is for the sake of supernaturals. Jimmy was shittin' in his pants, so I doubt he's got much support from The Midnight Court. I could call a few friends and see if Midnight are involved with him just to be sure." Vincent paused for a moment and rubbed his temples, trying to piece together everything they had. "So LaChance is a mortal, and a competitor with Jimmy, but he must have some supernatural backing somewhere down the line. Otherwise the killing wouldn't be done in this way. LaChance probably knows about the supernatural side of the world in some way. He's got a badass bodyguard straight out of The Void, and some Necromancer bitch is pulling the strings. Say what you want about dark wizards, they like to keep a low profile. This dumbass provoked you...and that...was a mistake." Vincent turned to his sister, his emerald eyes glinting with energy as he spoke. "Think about it, would you do that? Would you reveal yourself like that? I mean clearly she has balls, which means she has power. But more importantly it means she knows who you are. She's...scared of you. She might not even notice it on a conscious level but...she has to be. Right?" "If she's smart." Violet replied, raising an eyebrow. Vincent gave a sly grin. "I like your fire, sis." he said, "But no offence or anything...but you've been kind of in the dark for years now. I might be a socially awkward cave troll but I keep feelers in the community. You're kind of a...well a nobody." "You're right. I am a nobody. I liked it like that, and still do." Violet replied, "It took a great deal of effort to put me there, so what I want to know is how does this necromancer know anything about me. Even when I came back to..." She shrugged, "All this... I still took steps to remain in the shadows. You might like the status it brings, Vincent, but being a wizard celebrity doesn't help you in the world of magic. Especially when you're supposed to be a monster." "Hey I said no offence." Vincent replied, a hint of a smirk on his face. "I think it's smart. I'd do the same but...well you know me. Trouble seeks me out like a moth to a flame." "Did you just call me 'smart'?" She asked, a grin spread across her face. "Anyway, i'm starting to see what you mean. Though i'm hardly surprised." She shifted in the car seat, moving the seatbelt away from the bullet wound in her shoulder. "You don't know the half of it." Vincent said with a roll of his eyes. "Maybe I'll tell you a few stories when this is all over. But we have work to do. Let's go see a few friends of mine. Can you take us to Hollywood Hills? I'll let you know the house when I see it." "Alright." She replied, "Want to explain why we're going to Hollywood Hills?" "Simple." Vincent said as he leaned back and put his arms behind his head. "We're going to have a chat with the Midnight Court." When they finally got up in to the Hills Vincent directed Violet to a large gated manor and she pulled up to it. At the Gate was a guard post and a dark haired gorilla of a man in a black suit walked up to the window of the car and leant in as the window went down. Vincent leant over so he could get a look at the man and gave a toothy grin. "Good evening, Lurch. Is Morticia in? Gomez? Heck I'll speak to Fester at this point." "Hallow..." the guard snarled. "Lady Lucia isn't taking guests right now. Beat it." "Ah-ah, Lurch!" Vincent replied. "You see Lucia is going to want to talk to me. Unless you want me to report her for not keeping her flunkies on a tight leash. You know I could make life difficult for her. Also last time you told me to beat it I made you take a nap, hm?" "...Wait a minute." Lurch said with a tired tone. He leant away from the car and mumbled something in to his radio. After a moment there was a crackled response and then he waved his hand at the car. "You've got 15 minutes, go." he said simply, and the gates opened. Violet took them up the winding driveway to the front of the manor and when they pulled over Vincent stepped out immediately, his sister following not far behind him. They walked up the white marble stairs as another man in a suit opened the front doors and they stepped inside. The manor was decorated with white marble and dark oak, with crimson velvet furniture. The entire affair was elegant, regal and downright expensive. They made their way into a large open plan lounge area, which had darker walls and was lit only by candles. Men and women were scattered around the room, laying across sofas, or simply on the floor. They all looked at their new guests with a hazy expression, but their eyes were dazzled and captivated. Most of them vampires, although a few with marks on their skin were clearly familiars. They were willing sources of food, and at least according to magical laws, there was no wrong in them being here. "Vincent Hallow...what a lovely surprise." A woman's voice called from across the room. She had dark skin for a vampire, and combined with the dark brown, almost black hair, her latin heritage shone through her even in undeath. Her eyes were a dark brown, and she was dressed in an elegant ensemble consisting of black leggings, a white halter neck gown over it, and a pair of white pumps. Her lips were a dark cocoa red, and when she smiled she was nothing short of a vision. "Lucia, how's it hanging?" Vincent replied cooly, as he eyed the other vampires in the room. "Guests from out of town I take it? Did you inform them of my rules?" "Of course, darling." Lucia replied. "Nobody here has any desire to glamour you..." Lucia's gaze turned to Violet and she sniffed the air. "You smell...wild." "Smell something else." Violet replied, staring Lucia down. "Ooh...definitely a predator." Lucia said with a grin "This isn't a social call, Lucia." Vincent said, trying to cut the small talk. "It never is with you." Lucia purred. "A shame, really. You're no fun." "Oh I have lot's of fun." Vincent replied. "It was really fun talking with that weasel Jimmy. He's one of yours, right?" Lucia's expression soured a little but her response was still polite. "I would never turn one such as that...but he is Sanguine, of course." She said. "But he's in your jurisdiction, Countess." Vincent said. "Yes, that is true." Lucia said with a bored sigh. "If this is about what happened last night I can assure you it was nothing to do with The Midnight Court. We aren't that...careless." "But you probably have some idea who is trying to set you up, right?" Vincent said with a slight raise of his eyebrows. "You know you're being set up, right?" "The mortal had an issue with James. He has no quarrel with us, nor do I think he even knows we exist." Lucia replied. "LaChance is packing some big, bad magic for a mortal. An Adaro, you ever heard of one of those?" "Can't say I have." Lucia replied, but her gaze flickered for a moment. She was hiding something. "Look, Lucia. We all know you have a duty to investigate all incidents involving your kind within L.A. Otherwise you'll get your ass kicked by your boss. So don't bullshit me." "We do not share internal matters with outsiders, wizard" Lucia replied, hissing the last word. "You overstep." "Aww...that's too bad." Vincent replied mockingly. "You see my sister here...she's not like me. She's not bound by the accords, like I am." this comment caught her attention. Her brood hissed in response, but Lucia simply stared at Violet, her eyes filled with sudden alertness. "If she were to...say...kill all your guests, well...technically that doesn't breach the laws of hospitality. And if you retaliate...then I would be forced to step in to protect a mortal in danger. Do you understand?" "If I step in, i'm not going to stop at your entourage." Violet put her hands on her hips and grinned, "I don't imagine you've ever been bitten by a pit viper, but let me sum it up for you. It's like someone has a blowtorch, and are burning you from the inside out. And the pain can last for months," She paused, "Oh," Violet added, as though just remembering, "And painkillers have no effect on it." Lucia hesitated for a moment, gauging Violet intently. Then she gave a soft smile and relaxed herself again. "My dear, there is no need." she said as she settled back on the sofa. "Vincent you may ask one question, and I will answer it truthfully." "Sweet." Vincent replied. "Aaron LaChance. I'm guessing his nightclub is a front. What's his game?" "Oh, Vincent." Lucia replied with a smirk. "What a boring question. He's in the pharmaceutical business. Illegally, of course. James didn't like his girls getting muddled up with that sort of thing. LaChance is simply protecting his business. He works with Arturo Giuseppe, another less than honest businessman. His home is down by the beach front." "Right, thanks." Vincent replied. "Be seeing you." "Oh, before you go Vincent?" Lucia called. Vincent raised his eyebrow in response. "Just a little warning, darling. You're walking a pretty dangerous path if you pursue this. If you keep at it I am almost certain that you will defy the accords soon enough. When you do...I will be there to kill you. Please remember that." "You're a real sweetheart." Vincent replied. "Enjoy your...uh...dinner. Later." Vincent made to leave and made sure Violet was following him. They returned to the car but did not speak until they got inside. "Alright, there you go. Arturo Giuseppe. Think you can get close to him?" "Vincent, why was a vampire invoking the accords to you? Why are you even bound by them?" Violet studied her brother, her gaze narrowed on him. "Oh, that..." Vincent gave a soft shrug and scratched the back of his head. "I...well I'm sort of a representative of The Order of The Wise now. It happened a few years back...ask me later okay?" he asked her, but his tone indicated that it clearly wasn't a question. "Let's just get this guy, okay?"
  10. Playstation 4

    Can't seem to find your id on PSN Phil, you sure that's the right handle?
  11. The Three Realms While there are undoubtedly many worlds, realms and places that we cannot see and cannot go, there are three in which we can. The Mortal Realm is the one we call our own, domain of the spirits and creatures without souls known as The Void, and the realm of nature and life known as The Fae. Each realm is intrinsically linked, and the barrier between them is thin, with magic weaving effortlessly through it all. Each realm exists in the same space, and yet they are entirely separate and their very laws and natures so different from one another. For mortal creatures like ourselves, The Void and The Fae are difficult to comprehend, as they are far more delicately changed by the presence of a mere thought, or a brief but powerful emotion. Wizards who walm the realms unknown should tread lightly, or become lost. The Mortal Realm Many wizards, as they study magic over the years, come to believe that mortal men and women are weak and frail. Many have even considered themselves above their kind, casting away the trivial pursuits of the short-lived denizens of this realm. Yet they are wrong. Mortals are the only creatures who are blessed and burdened with a soul. We exist beyond our fragile flesh, and we alone have been able to accomplish so much with so little. We are capable of great love, and great hate. We are magical in such tiny and insignificant ways that we barely notice it happening. The soul is what sets us apart, and we must cherish it. After all why do the creatures of The Void and The Fae choose to come to our world and meddle in our affairs? Clearly we are more valuable than any supernatural would have us believe. The Void Delicate and deeply attuned to emotions and thoughts, The Void is ever shifting, ever changing. One moment you could be in a dark and desolate place, and the next you could be swimming in a sea of wonder and light. The Void is a soulless place, and so when a soul enters it, the power it holds can be catastrophic. It is important to keep ones emotions in check when they enter this place. It takes many shapes and many forms, and remnants of the Mortal Realm's shape seep into it. The Void may seem familiar, but there is always something off about it. You may find yourself in a part of a town that you know all too well but you find the buildings are flat and lifeless, or the trees are the wrong type. Sometimes you may even find yourself standing in the sky, with the ground high above your head. The greatest wizards have theorized that The Void holds no shape, and the world we see is purely shadows and mirror images of the Mortal Realm. This theory holds weight, as when we die, a shadow of ourselves at the moment of our deaths is born through magic and materializes in the Void. This is not however us, for our souls go another place to which we can only speculate. Ghosts are but shadows, imperfect replicas. It is true that powerful Ghosts can cross back to the Mortal Realm and cause a great deal of havoc, but they are born within The Void. Many creatures come from The Void, including Spirits, Ghosts, Vampires, Demons and Djinn. The Fae Much like The Void, The Fae is intrinsically linked to The Mortal world. Home of the collective group of beings known as Faerie, this realm is a bright and luscious place that is teeming with magic. Ruled by the Season Kingdoms, The Fae is under a constant power struggle. The power of the 4 kingdoms becomes stronger and weaker with the changing of the seasons in the Moral Realm, and this is no accident. For example, as the summer season blooms, the Summer Kingdom is at it's strongest, and is at it's weakest in winter. Long-lived and incredibly fickle, the Faerie folk bicker among each other, ruled by their most powerful denizens, the Sidhe. Inside The Fae, the Faerie folk are all powerful and in the case of the Sidhe, they far outclass any wizard. In general it is best to avoid entering The Fae. However sometimes mortal must inervene in Faerie disputes, as their feuds can cause freak weather storms in the Mortal Realm such as Hurricanes that devastate the world. If a Kingdom shoul gain a particular advantage of the others, it could result in a slow change in the Mortal Realm's weather patterns, possibly bringing about and eventual Ice Age, or perhaps an age of huge growth from summer. While the latter may sound pleasant, such growth would stimulate awful disease that would threaten to wipe out the entire Mortal Realm. The Summer Kingdom and The Winter Kingdom are sworn enemies and are usually the ones who feud, while the gentle Spring Kingdom and the Melancholy Autumn offer balance between these two powerful Kingdoms and mediate their constant outbursts.
  12. The following is a collection of passages from the library of Vincent Gideon Hallow, 1st Class Enchanter of the Arcane Order, Archmage of the Circle of Winterfade, and Representative of the Order of the Wise. The collection has been collated with the intention of highlighting important and possibly life-saving information for those who practice the arts. The collection contains information on supernatural entities, fundamental magical theory, a breakdown of the governing bodies of the magical world and other additional information that Vincent Hallow considers to be vital. Contents: The Bestiary - A Collection of known Supernatural EntitiesThe Grimoire - A Brief Explanation of Fundamental Magical PracticeThe Hierarchy - Concise information regarding the Governing Bodies of the Magical WorldThe Three Realms - Information concerning The Mortal Realm, The Void, and The Fae
  13. Vincent pulled up outside the Gethsemane, the hotel Violet was staying at. He pulled down on the handbrake and left the motor running, turning to his sister. "You should probably get some rest." He suggested to Violet. "But if you get restless you could use some of that pull of yours and do some digging. I'm heading back to my apartment to take care of some things. I read as much as I could about the Adaro but there really isn't much on record." Vincent rubbed his neck, an expression of unease appearing on his face. "At the moment it exists within the immaterial realm, so we can't kill it by any traditional means. Evocation is a no go, fire might hurt it I guess, it works on spirits and ghosts at least. I'm going to cook up some stuff that might be effective, but we're essentially going in blind on this thing. We'll just have to keep hitting it with things and see what sticks." "At a glance, i'd say the easiest way to put down this creature, is to incapacitate or kill LaChance." Violet replied, "That's not exactly option number one. But we're going to have to keep that option open, as that thing was born of LaChance's greed, ambition and lust for power, it's entirely possible it's only going to go down when it can't feed on that any more." Then she laughed, "As for resting, i'm good on sleep for a few days. Getting strangled in your room will do that to you. Anyway, if it's like a ghost or spirit, we could try iron. It won't kill a ghost outright, but it can stop it from holding a form or affecting us physically." "I suppose that could work." Vincent replied. "Or it could latch on to someone else and keep going. Think of what something like that could do if it was feeding on me or you." Vincent shook his head, disappointed. "I don't like uncertainties when it comes to magic. Besides...I'm really not down with killing a mortal to get a result. Even if the guy is an idiot, that doesn't mean he deserves to die. Also if someone else is pulling the strings he could be our only lead." "I agree, we shouldn't want to kill him, and hopefully we won't have to. But if it comes down to it, and killing him could save more lives, i'll do it." Violet frowned as something Vincent had said came back to her, "Hang on, what do you mean 'if it was feeding on me or you'?" Violet leant across the car and pulled back one of Vincent's sleeves. Nothing. She pulled on his shirt and checked his chest, "Vincent, really?" She growled, sitting back in her seat. "It doesn't take much to ward yourself against possession, scrying, lots of easily preventable magical assaults. Just the right symbols, sigils, and so on, just a little ink. Are you afraid of needles or something?" "Don't lecture me on proper equipment." Vincent replied coldly. "I didn't see you carrying a focus last night. Of course we can protect ourselves, but we don't have all the answers. The point is we're in the dark on this one, anything could happen." Vincent nodded his head towards the street outside. "Now buzz off, I've got work to do." "Lecture?! God, you haven't changed a bit." Violet growled and got out of the car, but she stood there, holding the door open, "Before I came to live with you, dad used to say 'your brother' this and 'your brother' that, but I wasn't allowed to meet you because 'they wouldn't understand'. You were up on this pedestal that I couldn't reach, but to you and your mother I was nothing. Less than nothing. I wasn't lecturing you, Vince. I just..." She trailed off, "... you've always been impulsive, and stubborn and chaotic. I just don't like it when you take chances." She muttered. "I don't take chances with magic." Vincent replied. "Not any more..." he added, before hitting the gas and driving off, not leaving his sister the opportunity to have the final word. Her words had touched a nerve, but he had to admit that he had probably done the same to her. He didn't deny the fact that he could be a real asshole at times. In truth he didn't much care what others felt about him. However for the last 5 years he had followed a very strict code when it came to magic. Admittedly Violet had no way of knowing this, and in his youth he was often reckless with his magic. Not now though, not since he had experienced something unfortunate, which had opened his eyes. Vincent walked along the corridor to his apartment and took his keys from the pocket of his duster. However when he went for the door he heard a growing shuffling of feet and turned to see a rather overweight man in his late 40's with a balding head and wearing a stained white vest. "Well if it isn't my old pal Teddy Sinclair. How's the wife?" Vincent asked, his tone dry and sarcastic. Teddy frowned and held out his hand. "Cut the shit, Hallow. You're late on rent." Teddy almost growled. Vincent smirked and reached in to his duster, retrieving his wallet. He pulled his stack of notes from it and began to count out money. "So that's 300 for rent, 80 for utilities...there, all square?" Vincent said as he held out the cash. Teddy took the money and pocketed it, but held out his hand again. "Think again, Hallow." He replied. "You owe me 50 bucks for busting the entrance door last month. Oh and 65 bucks for unauthorized maintenance." "Unauthorised what?" Vincent asked. Teddy simply nodded to the foot of the door. The base of the threshold had an additional layer of wood that had been nailed rather crudely in to the floor. "What, that?" Vincent held up his hands in protest. "That's genuine Ashwood from the mountains of Peru. That's single piece will increase your property value by a few hundred bucks at least! Not to mention it's extremely effective at keeping out nasty spirits." "It clashes with the regulation timber." Teddy replied, unconvinced. "And I could give two shits about your spiritual mumbo jumbo. Cough up." "Fine!" Vincent resigned himself and handed over the rest of his cash, having only a measly 5 bucks left for himself. "You're a real piece of work Teddy!" "Yeah, yeah, whatever." Teddy replied as he walked off. "Don't be late this month or I'll be coming with an eviction notice next time." Vincent entered his apartment and slammed the door behind him. In the light of day the sheer messiness of his apartment became wholly apparent. He didn't decorate so much in colours as he did textures. The walls were covered in thick rugs which clashed horribly with each other, the patterns and designs ranging from Indonesian, Peruvian, to Native American and Middle Eastern. His floor was much of the same but the rugs were covered in thick stains in some areas and even scorch marks in others. Vincent threw his cane on the sofa and dropped his duster to the floor. His apartment was void of any conventional comforts, such as a television or even a cd player, computer. He considered such things to be a distraction, and so he chose not to have them. It might have also had something to do with him being flat broke. Vincent lit the bunsen burner on his kitchen table and began to collect things he would need that were scattered around his room. The first thing he picked up was a large piece of chalk. He tossed it on the sofa next to his cane. Chalk was an important tool for wizards. Complex spells often required a magically sterile environment, and this required a magic circle. Simply put a magic circle was able to keep things out, or keep things in. It could be used as a trap, or a line of defense, but it was also used to provide a safe environment for more refined forms of magic. Circles could be made of many different materials but any accomplished wizard could make an effective circle with some salt or chalk. Magic was all about faith. You couldn't cast a spell if you didn't believe you could do it. The same was true of circles. Inexperienced practitioners would use rare materials, perhaps metals or powdered minerals. However this was simply unnecessary. When it came to circles the material was less important than faith in the spell. Vincent went to his bookshelf and held out his hand, forcing out his will towards it. The simple act allowed him to find a rather large and old-looking book which he had cast a camouflage spell on. In simple terms the spell made the book seem unappealing and disinteresting to anyone nearby, and so they would find themselves having no reason to pick it up. The reason for this was quite simple. The old book was Vincent's Grimoire, a collection of magical spells, potions and enchantments that he had found or developed over the years. He thumbed through the book before opening it on a page containing enchantments and left it on the counter. He pulled a wooden chest out from under his sofa and opened it. Inside were a collection of talismans, bracelets, charms, bangles and an assortment of other artefacts. Currently, none of them were of any particular significance, but with a little bit of magic they would be a welcome addition to his arsenal. He pulled a pentacle talisman from it and examined it. After brief consideration he tied it around his neck. The talisman needed no enchantment. It was a symbol of magic, and magic was his faith. In that sense it held the same significance as a Star of David or a Cross to someone of a more traditional religion. Faith alone was capable of driving back dark creatures. Many priests believe that the symbol of the cross can drive back the "spawn of satan", but really it is their own faith that does it. The symbol simply acts as a conduit for their own faith, and power is channelled through it. Hypothetically speaking someone could use the same magic whether they had faith in God, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Assuming their faith was true, at least. Vincent rummaged through the box again and this time he pulled out a charm bracelet quite similar to the one he currently wore. The charm he was wearing had been enchanted. Specifically he used it as a focus for barrier magic. By channelling his will through the bracelet he was able to throw up powerful shields to protect him from both physical and spiritual attacks. He could do this without the charm, of course, but by using a focus he was able to refine his magic and make it stronger and more effective for specific things. His cane was enchanted for the use of Evocation, a school of magic that consisted of creating elements through memory alone. It was a messy and often destructive brand of magic, and so it was a generally accepted practice to use a focus of some sort, be it a wand or a staff, or in his case, a cane. Finally Vincent retrieved a ring from the box before putting it back under the sofa. He took his objects and placed them on a section of his floor where he had fixed a permanant circle of copper that was fixed to the floor. After putting the charm bracelet in to the circle he pushed a small piece of his will into it. He felt a thrum of energy as the circle's magic isolated all outside forces and created a sterile environment. He retrieved his Grimoire and sat on the floor next to the circle. He held out his hand and continued to channel his will into the circle. He thought about what he wanted, and committed himself to it. This seemed simple enough to describe but the practice required deep concentration. To perform truly effective Enchantments one had to remove all excess thoughts and focus entirely on what one wanted to perform. Enchantment was a form of Thaumaturgy, something Vincent considered to be the most refined and elegant forms of magic. Thaumaturgy was a type of magic that involved creating a link between an object and a spell. A common example of this was Haitian voodoo, but Enchantment was another form. Essentially it was creating a magical link between an object and the type of magic it was to be used for. In this case, Vincent was creating an enchantment that would provide him with defence against Psychomancy, or magic used to control or alter a person's mind. Combined with his barrier charm, this would give him a good all round defence. After fixing the charm to his other wrist, he repeated the enchanting process with the ring. This time he enchanted the ring to gather kinetic energy. The way it worked, was that every little momvement he made, every step, gesture, twitch or jerk, every motion in general would push just a little piece of itself into the ring. By focusing his will in tot he ring, and providing some force behind it, he would be able to throw a punch that would be otherwise unthinkable for a scrawny man like himself. It was a somewhat crude enchantment, but useful as a last resort. Afterwards he made his way to his kitchen and spent the next few hours making potions, filling vials with various contents and making preparations for the night ahead. As it began to grow dark Vincent was sipping from a pot of microwave noodles as he surveyed what he had prepared. His cane sat on the sofa, and he was already wearing his ring and charms, as well as his pentacle talisman. There was a pouch filled with what he called "Ghost Dust", a powder of his own making consisting of depleted uranium, cold iron, basil, salt and a few other choice minerals. It was a pretty good all-purpose material that could trap spiritual entities, even those which had become physical through ectoplasmic flesh. The downside was it burned them like fire and really pissed them off, and it's effects did not last very long. However in situations like this a catch-all powder was the best solution. He also had a shaker of salt, and his brick of chalk. Two small red vials were filled with a red liquid. The potions had a sort of warming effect. When certain Ghosts and spirits passed through a mortal body, the extreme chill they left behind could be incredibly debilitating. The potion would warm their bodies quite rapidly in this instance and lessen the effects, although not remove them entirely. Next were three small vials filled with dust, one midnight blue, the other black, and the other a shocking pink. These were for performing banishment rituals. He didn't quite know what this Adaro was, but once again these banishing minerals were the most widely effective, and so together they would hopefully form a catch-all effect. However, they could equally be entirely useful and result in the Adaro tearing them to shreds. "I'm spending my last 5 bucks on beer when this is over." Vincent said to himself as he reached for his phone and dialled Violet's number. It rang a few times and then she picked up. "All right I'm about as prepared as I can be. Tell me you've got something, because I have a really bad feeling about this."
  14. The Grimoire An Brief Introduction to Magic In the most fundamental and very basic sense, Magic is the essence of life. All living things generate magical energy, even if they are unaware of it. Even mortals without the gift are able to generate some modicum of magical energy, but their ignorance leaves them unable to utilise it to any considerable capacity. Those who use magic go by many names including Wizard, Mage, Magus, Sorcerer, Warlock, Enchanter, Spellweaver and many more. Practitioners cast spells by drawing from the magic created by their own emotions, or in some cases, the emotions of those around them. Magic also draws from a users life force, and so their power is finite but will return after a period of rest. Powerful magic can be performed in a number of ways including rituals, the use of a focus or enchanted items, or by performing magic as a collective. As a general rule it is considered impossible for more than 13 individual practitioners to cast one spell together, as doing so requires all those involved to be equally committed to the same desire and any more than 13 will likely result in untold catastrophe. It should be stressed that while 13 is the cap for such rituals, most practitioners will struggle to perform magic in a group higher than 3. Faith - The Foundation of Magic As a rule it is impossible to weave a spell that you do not believe in. In order to cast a spell a practitioner must be confident that he or she will succeed in casting the spell. A practitioner who believes that he or she is incapable of performing the spell, renders him or herself unable to do so, simply by holding that belief. The practitioner must also believe that what they are casting is considered true to their values. For example a person who truly feels that all violence is wrong would struggle to cast violent spells. In other words a practitioner cannot make something happen if it is not a part of them, deep inside. As a side note, even those who are not gifted wizards can still tap in to certain types of raw magic with the power of faith. Those who are religious, especially those who devote their life to their faith, naturally shroud themselves in an aura of protection that shields them from darkness, temptation and manipulation. Often these people are unaware of the true power they utilise simply by having such devout faith. In this sense, in the truly devout, prayer does indeed hold some magical properties and may provide some form of healing or benefit. The Sight The official factor which determines whether a person is considered a wizard is the ability to use The Sight. Other names for this ability are the Mind's Eye, Wizard Sight, and The Third Eye. Use of the Sight allows a wizard to gaze upon the world and see its supernatural side, allowing the perception of things hidden to the normal eye. What has been seen through the use of the Sight will remain a lasting memory forever, and will neither fade nor be forgotten. Because of this, wizards don't use it often, for it could easily drive them insane. The Sight usually shows concepts physically, e.g. if a loved one had recently died, a person could have wounds similar to those of a sword. The Sight can break through illusions and is generally the method used by wizards to pierce veils. Ultimately the Sight can provide different sensations to each user and the visions are somewhat interpretive, thus finding the truth requires skills of deduction. The Laws of Magic While there are no natural laws of magic, the following Laws were created, and are enforced by, The Order of The Wise, considered to be the de-facto authority on all magic practices by mortals. By defying these rules the practitioner may find him or herself under the watch of the The Wise, and those who abuse the laws will be punished, usually by execution. The Laws are as follows: Thou shalt not kill by use of magic. Thou shalt not transform others. Thou shalt not invade the mind of another. Thou shalt not enthrall another. Thou shalt not reach beyond the borders of life. Thou shalt not swim against the currents of Time.Soulgaze A Soulgaze is another inherent ability that marks a magical practitioner as a wizard. Closely linked with the Sight, the Soulgaze is only activated when a wizard locks eyes with a being that bears a soul. This includes mortal humans, but also shapeshifters, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures that have a soul. Vampires, and Ghosts are examples of creatures that are not affected by this ability. A Soulgaze, when activated, creates a momentary sharing between the wizard and another, allowing them to see in to each other’s soul and get a look at the person underneath it all. The experience sticks with the person, no matter how wonderful or horrifying it may be. Wizards have grown to avoid making direct eye contact with people, as the trade is rarely considered worthwhile. After a wizard has Soulgazed with a person, they can look at that person freely without fear of it happening again. Magic Circles Magic circles are an important aspect of most complex magic. To draw a circle and infuse it with will allows the practitioner to create a magically sterile environment, reducing potential for interference. Additionally magic circles can be used to trap something inside or outside of a circle. It is a common element in Thaumaturgy. When summoning a demon or spirit it is considered good practice to summon the being within a magic circle in order to maintain control, as such beings are often unpredictable. Some practitioners prefer to make their circles of different materials such as precious minerals and stones, but most wizards can make do by simply using salt or chalk. A circle can only contain the will of one spell, and so if a practitioner requires multiple barriers for different effects, then they must draw multiple circles in layers. Many consider the magic circle to be equivalent of washing your hands before performing surgery. It is not essential, but it is certainly far safer. Thresholds In the magical world there is a difference between a house and a home. A house is a physical building, whereas a home is a place where one is truly safe. Many creatures including Ghosts, Vampires, Demons and Spirits cannot cross a threshold without being invited in by one who calls it home. Powerful creatures can pass a threshold, but in doing so they leave a large chunk of their power at the door. Wizards are also affected by this, and if they enter a home without being invited they leave their magic at the door and become effectively ordinary. Places open to the public are immune to this affect, so too are the homes of Vampires. Animals are an exception to this, and may cross any threshold without effect. Cats in particular can see Spirits, while dogs can only smell them. Foci and Enchanted Artefacts The use of a Focus to amplify magic is an old and common practice. While faith is the source of casting magic, mortal wizards are as fleeting and often just as conflicted as any other human. Symbols provide significance, and allow us to focus on the task at hand. The shape or form of a Focus is irrelevant, only it’s significance to the wielder is important. The Cross is a common Focus of religious people, and for the truly faithful it holds great power. However the Cross itself is not powerful, but the symbol is represents is. A Focus does not require any magical alteration and can be made of any material. Enchanted artefacts also amplify magic, but they are different to Foci. Enchantments are created by focusing a certain intention or will into an item through deep concentration. The item will become attuned to the required brand of magic, and will act as a conduit for that magic, allowing for more refined spells to be cast with relative ease. For example a staff or wand that is enchanted for the purpose of Evocation will allow the practitioner to not only cast elemental magic, but to control it and refine it in ways that it could not do alone. Types of Magic In the broadest of terms Magic can be split in to 2 types, namely Evocation and Thaumaturgy. Evocation is loud, flashy, instantaneous and often destructive. It works on it’s target directly and without need for a link. In general evocation can be performed quickly, but has limited range and is generally more difficult to wield with precision. Thaeumaturgy operates by creating magical links between objects. It operates over greater distances and with more precision, but is more time consuming and requires a conduit to the target, usually a physical sample (hair, fingernails and bodily fluids are all effective, but by far the most potent is blood). More specialized forms of magic include: Alchemy – The art of creating magical potions, elixirs and powders. Alchemy is a complex art that requires years of study. Potions can have a huge variety of purposes and effects, and to know their effects one must study them thoroughly. All potions are made with seven ingredients: one for each of the five senses, one for the mind, and one for the soul. When all ingredients are mixed correctly they are imbued with magical will in order to take on their final magical properties. The process can take several hours. Unlike in most cases of magic, potion making is more reliant on ingredients, and less on the intent of the practitioner. Binding – Magic used to provide magical bindings or restrictions on a particular being. It is strictly forbidden to use such magic on any creature which has a soul, as this would break the 4th Law of The Wise, “Thou shalt not enthral another.†Charm – Short term magic, something that will last only a few seconds or minutes at the most. Curses – Magic spells specifically cast to inflict harm. Curses are considered to be Dark Magic, and are generally frowned upon. Divination – Magic which is employed to gain information, especially information about the future. Wizards are reminded to tread carefully, so as not to break the 6th Law of The Wise, “Thou shalt not swim against the current of Time.†Enchantment – Magic used in the construction of Magical Items. Summoning – Magic that brings a Supernatural creature in from the Void to the Mortal World. Below are a selection of specific types of magic: Ectomancy – Magic concerning Ghosts. Holomancy – Magic concerning optical illusions. Kinetomancy – Magical concerning energy and movement. Necromancy – Magic concerning the dead. Neuromancy – The magical art of mind reading. Psychomancy – Magical control of someone’s mind. This magic is forbidden by the Order of The Wise. Phonoturgy – Magic concerning sound. Verisimilomancy – Magic concerning mental illusions. Tranmogrification – Transformation magic. A Selection of Useful Spells Elemental Evocation – Fire is perhaps one of the most useful elemental spells. Fire is damaging to both mortals and spirits alike and so can be used to fend off most foes to some degree. Water is cleansing and can neutralize most forms of magic, and can also be turned to Ice. Ice magic is not very effective against spiritual creatures or vampires, as they are not affected by the cold, and are known to give out their own chilling aura. Electricity is effective at stunning creatures and disrupting magic. Earth magic has various uses, including magnetism to remove metallic items from dangerous foes. Air spells can be used to drive back foes, or to move oneself forward, or perhaps to soften a fall or project oneself upwards. Muffling Spell – The wizard can magically prevent anyone within a certain radius from him/her from hearing any sound they make. However doing so creates a kind of sonic bubble, and so the wizard cannot hear anything outside of that bubble and could potentially be snuck up on if not careful. Tracking spells – Using Thaumaturgy a wizard can track an entity over certain distances. The wizard must have a link to that person such as a sample of hair, fingernail clippings, sweat or most potently blood. If a Wizard knows a person’s full name, spoken from the person’s own mouth, then he/she can track that person if they use a spell quickly. The potency of a given name diminishes rapidly after it is spoken to the wizard. This spell only works to certain distances and within the Mortal World. Those who pass in to the Void become difficult to track. A magic circle is required to perform this magic. Veils – Magic spells that can conceal. Veils can range from simple feelings of aversion to looking in a direction, to a lack of conscious recognition of someone’s presence, as well as a complete state of invisibility. A wizard’s Sight can see through Veils. Being under a Veil also always reduces the veiled person’s ability to see or perceive the world outside the Veil. Voodoo – Voodoo is a form of Thaumaturgy that requires a link to the target such as hair, fingernails or blood. The link must be attached to a representation of the target, such as a doll. Using this magic you can temporarily strip a person of any and all of their senses, or even inflict pain. To kill a person using Voodoo is a violation of the 1st Law of The Order of the Wise “Thou shalt not kill by use of magic.†Shade – A form of Holomancy. Creating an illusionary replica of oneself. This Shade cannot physically interact with anything, but the user can carry their own voice through it over long distances, and can see through it’s eyes, and hear through it. Requires a magic circle.
  15. The Bestiary Creatures of The Void & Mortal Planes Aspects It is common for mortals to question forces which they cannot comprehend. In this world there are many inevitabilities in which we have no power over. Each inevitability is monitored by an Aspect. These beings exist beyond out comprehension, and can appear at any place and any time, and can even be present in multiple places at once. They are immortal, invincible and beyond our manipulation. Due to their nature they can neither be considered good nor evil, they just simply are. Examples of Aspects are Time, Death, Destiny, Dreams and Fortune. While little is known about Aspects, they are considered creatures of The Void. Shapeshifters Shapeshifters are mortal humans who can transform in to animals. Shapeshifters are genetically capable of taking the shape of a certain animal. All research indicates that shapeshifters are decendants of wizard families who have practiced Transmogrification, and have mastered transforming in to a particular animal so well that it has become genetic. Other possible explanations is a curse placed upon a genetic line. In general a shapeshifter that can transform in to a specific animal is called a Were-animal, i.e Werewolf, Weretiger, Werejaguar. A notable exception to this is the Skinwalker, who have their own section. Shapeshifters share traits with their animal forms. Werewolf shifters, for example, are very pack oriented and share close bonds. Shapeshifters do not have any unusual qualities other than their transformation and can be killed by conventional means. Shapeshifters have souls and so killing them with magic would be considered a breach of the 1st Law of The Wise. Skinwalkers Skinwalkers are a sub-species of shapeshifter. Unlike many shapeshifters who are believed to be linked to magic and wizardry in general, skinwalkers are believed to have originated in the void. They were capable of not only shifting into animals, but also other people. They became closely linked to native american mythology as they grew close to the peoples that inhabited the continent they originated in. Their powers for shifting into people as well as animals was believed to be a longing to integrate into native mortal culture. However, more often than not, skinwalkers played a role as guardians. The native american people were prey to several other less savoury creatures and the skinwalkers took it upon themselves to become guardians, watching over the tribes, their livestock, and wives and children while the men were away hunting or sleeping at night. Despite their good intentions, they were not often trusted. It was believed they would steal away children in the night, and steal the life-force of the tribes folk, making them die of old age. Nagloshi The nagloshi were a sore reminder for skinwalkers. Once, skinwalkers and nagloshi were the same species. Creatures that lived exclusively in the void. Many thousands of years ago the skinwalkers left the void, fascinated with human culture and a thirst to exist on the mortal plane. The nagloshi were far less interested in becoming guardians, and while the skinwalkers lost powers they had once held in exchange for permanent residence in the mortal realm, the nagloshi chose to feed in order to maintain and expand their power and influence. They remained in the void, becoming creatures closer to pure energy than anything else. Capable of assuming any form, animal, human, object. They could hide beneath the form of another creature, and feed upon energy to gain power. But it was also that feeding that became their curse, like a heroin addict, they require constant feeding. Without it, they are lessened, weak, irrational and paranoid. They lash out and friends moments before, become monsters and enemies. They were feared by the native americans, and often mistook skinwalkers as nagloshi. Spirits Spirits are energy-based creatures of The Void. They are vast and varied, and can be both helpful and downright destructive. Spirits are different from Ghosts. While often self-aware, many spirits do not think like mortals and thus can be difficult to reason with. They are immortal and have existed throughout all of time, and thus their concept is quite warped compared to mortals. Many spirits say current dilemmas as nothing more than a flickering flame, and do not trouble themselves with it as they know they will long outlive it, and will go on regardless of the outcome. Spirits are often fickle, however, and can be tempted in to service by offering something they have never seen before, or something they are partial to. For example, a spirit may have a penchant for chocolate, or pornographic magazines, or even cheesy 80’s action movies. Werewolf Aside from shapeshifters that can turn in to wolves being called Werewolves there are two notable separate types. Lycanthrope Lycanthropes cannot transform in to wolves. They are humans who are under a curse which effects their genetic line. Lycanthropes instead inherit the mind and nature of a wolf. They are pack dependant, fiercely territorial and in general show more wild signs of behaviour. Additionally they are stronger and faster than humans and prefer to eat raw meat. Loup Garou Loup Garou, also known as a Wolfman. Loup Garou are normally solitary and have never been known to operate in packs. They are ordinary humans most of the time and can only transform during the Full Moon. When they do they become a huge, terrifying wolf-man who moves on two legs and has powerful teeth and claws. In this state the Loup Garou become bloodthirsty and unable to define friend from foe, and have only the desire to kill. They are fast, and strong enough to break down walls and snap metal with ease. They heal rapidly and seem to barely react to pain. In their transformed state they are one of the most dangerous creatures a wizard can encounter. Loup Garou are incredibly rare and are the result of an ancient curse. They pass on the curse through scratches or bites, however, the recipient must survive the attack. As they are so ferocious, Loup Garou almost always kill those they cross paths with, and if anyone is unfortunate enough to escape with but a scratch or bite, a far worse fate awaits them on the next Full Moon. Loup Garou are virtually unstoppable when transformed, although silver bullets seem to be relatively effective. The best way to kill a Loup Garou is when it is in it’s human form. If you encounter one on a full moon, just run for your life. Vampires Vampire is a collective term for three similar creatures. Vampire’s are creatures who must feed on mortals in some way, and will perish under the light of the sun. All vampires are considered dark creatures and can be driven back through faith magic such as using religious symbols, holy water and through reciting of scripture. The three known Vampire species are shown in detail below: Sanguine Vampires Named due to their thirst for human blood, Sanguine Vampires are the most renowned. They can be identified by sharp canine fangs, a pale complexion. Sanguine Vampires are perhaps the most common, able to reproduce by turning other humans. While the most common of the three, they are the result of a magical affliction brought on by the emergence of the Dhampir from The Void. While they retain parts of their once human persona, their souls have left them and they are considered undead creatures. Sanguine Vampires grow stronger with age and can heal rapidly, do not appear to age, and have above average strength and speed. They can glamour humans to manipulate them, and if strong enough they can even overcome their weakness to faith magic and scripture. In rare cases a wizard can be turned in to a Sanguine Vampire, and in such cases they retain their ability to perform magic. They are weak to a steak through the heart, but the wood must be made from a White Ash tree. They are also sensitive to garlic, the smell makes them ill. While silver has no effect, Sanguine Vampires can be killed by any steel if they are beheaded. They are also weak to fire. The governing body of the Sanguine Vampires is the Midnight Court. Dhampir Dhampir are a non-human race who came through from the Void. They are able to disguise themselves as humans but their true forms are grotesque. Their true eyes are blood red, and their entire mouth is full of razor sharp fangs. Their skin is black and their features are gaunt, their skin like leather.They are harder to spot when disguised, but they are also susceptible to burning in the sun. They require human blood to feed, but they reproduce by mating with each other. Sanguine Vampires were born from a magical disease that spread within their victims. As dark creatures of The Void, Dahmpir have no souls. Dhampir are exceptionally strong and fast, and have powerful claws. They can glamour like their Sanguine cousins, but hold many other abilities. Their saliva has a drug-like effect when in contact with skin, creating a euphoric feeling. With an effort of will Dhampir can take the form of mist to pass through solid objects. Some of the more powerful members of their species are capable of levitation. Dhampir heal quickly and have no weakness to garlic or wooden stakes. They are susceptible to faith magic, but stronger members can overcome it. Their skin can be burned by silver, and they are weak to fire. Beheading a Dhampir will kill it outright. The Dhampir are governed by the House of Dracul. Jiangshi Originally they were prominent in the far east, especially China, Japan and Korea. Jiangshi are human in appearance but are creatures of The Void. Jiangshi do not have fangs, but have mouths that can materialise on the palms of their hands. They feed on life energy rather than blood, and feed through the mouths on their palms. Jiangshi are the most rare form of Vampire, and are actually a type of spirit that inhabits the corpse of the dead. They cannot be killed in the traditional sense, but destroying their corpse body will send them back to The Void. As spirits, Jiangshi are capable of magic, making them incredibly diverse and formidable foes. While they are not nearly as resilient as their counterparts, their vast magical knowledge more than makes up for it. Jiangshi avoid mirrors and cannot look upon their own reflection, or they will perish. When exposed to vinegar they become ill, much like Sanguine Vampires do with Garlic. They are vulnerable to fire. Jiangshi are governed by the Ganshi Clan. Creatures of The Fae This section concerns creatures from The Fae, collectively known as Faeries. However many creatures of the Fae take offense at being called a Faerie, as it is akin to calling a human an ape. The creatures of the Fae are usually aligned with the Seasons, the four governing kingdoms of The Fae, namely Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Faeries who are unaligned with the Seasons are known as Wyldfae. As long lived creatures who do not have souls, Faeries are often forgetful and can come across as ditzy or unintelligent, however they can be incredibly devious and dangerous. Debt and obligation is a huge factor in their behaviour, and Faeries are unable to give anything away for free. They are inherently magical and use magic as easily as breathing, however, they cannot use their magic on mortals with a soul except within the constraints of a debt or bargain. As a general rule it is considered good practice to never accept anything of a Faerie, nor offer them anything. Due to their concept of debt and obligation, Faeries are obliged to return the favour of any gift given to them, and equally they demand the same of gifts they have given. Words, promises and oaths are binding to Faeries. They have to make good on their own promises, but also make sure that an involved human does the same. Combined with their way around words, they can often snare an unsuspecting mortal with a bargain or even an accidental promise. A promise thrice made is as close to absolute truth as a Faerie can give, and such an act binds the promise magically. Faeries are vulnerable to cold iron, which is deadly to them. Faeries are not capable of lying, but many have become adept at word plays that twist their meanings to deceive people. Wee Folk Wee folk are small humanoid Faeries. They are also known as Pixies. Wee Folk are capricious and fickle and enjoy watching humans and playing pranks on them, as well as stealing their food. While long-lived they are perhaps the most forgetful Faeries, and have very little concept of time. They are often Wyldfae as they do not concern themselves with politics. As Wee Folk begin to grow more powerful, and take more interest in the events around them, they grow larger and become less forgetful. Some Wee Folk can eventually become a Sidhe. Dryads Dryads are humanoid but hold the properties of trees and plants. Instead of hair they have leaves, and their flesh is often dark brown like tree bark, or pale green like a plant. They can manipulate the rapidity of growth around them. Dryads rarely venture outside of The Fae. Phobophage A Phobophage is a fear eater. They are able to change their shape in order to scare people, and are also able to Veil themselves to avoid detection. As they feed on fear, they cannot hurt someone who is not afraid of them, and can be defeated by acts of courage and bravery. Phobophages can travel through mirrors, allowing them to bypass the threshold rule that most creatures are bound by. Gnomes Gnomes and Leprechauns are the same thing. They are small creatures of about 2-3ft. They are nimble, quick witted and mischievous, but are more of a nuisance than an outright danger. Gnomes love things that shine and often steal peoples baubles and trinkets. If a human loses his keys, it is quite possible that a Gnome took them. Gnomes can quickly jump between The Fae and The Mortal realm using their knowledge of Waypoints, allowing them to appear to teleport with ease. Goblins Goblins are short bat-eared creatures who are often mean and cruel. While not especially strong they move in large numbers. Goblins are not particularly smart, nor particularly magical and will often resort to physical violence. They normally act under the instruction of the Sidhe or in some cases a wizard who has made a bargain with them. Sidhe Sidhe are the most powerful of the Faeries. They are beautiful beyond any mortal, and each lives for thousands of years. Their powers are vast but they hold not power over humans in the Mortal Realm. If a human crosses in to The Fae, however, then the Sidhe are free to use whatever magic on them that they wish. They have powerful glamour magic allowing them to change their appearance, becoming something more human if required, as well as changing their clothes, skin colour, hair colour and eye colour. Sidhe magic far outclasses that of any wizard, but they are often bound from using it in the Mortal Realm. However in The Fae, encountering a Sidhe would leave a wizard vulnerable and at the mercy of the Sidhe. The Fae hold little regard for human concepts of adolescence, and will often seek out children to strike bargains with in order to gain the most from the deal. Many small children have been “stolen away†by Sidhe, living their life in The Fae, in eternal servitude. Sidhe are usually serve as ruling figures for their chosen Season. Changeling Changelings are children of a human and a Sidhe. Throughout their childhood they appear normal, but begin to harness their Faerie powers around adolescence. At some point a Changeling must decide to either become a full human, or a Sidhe. While still a Changeling they share the weaknesses and strengths of both of parents.
  16. Back on the street Vincent fumbled in his pockets, finally pulling his carton of cigarettes out and plucking one from it. He put the filtered tip to his lips and lit the other end, inhaling deeply. As he exhaled he waved his hand around like he was winding invisible string around it. "You didn't tell me you were here." He said to his sister. "Why?" "Because..." She replied, reaching forwards and plucking the cigarette out of his hand. Violet threw the cigarette to the ground and crushed it with her boot, "Why? Why ask why?" She replied, crossing her arms, "When have you ever taken an interest in my life?" She shook her head. "Fair point." Vincent sighed, somewhat annoyed at his cigarette being wasted. "Still, you could have checked in. My mother would be disappointed I'm sure." "Our mother." Violet corrected, "And y'know you could call mom once in a while. She misses you." "I call her." Vincent replied, "I called her last...month...or...well it might have been a bit longer than that." he admitted. "Yeah..." Violet said quietly. Then she took advantage of one of her shapeshifting abilities to mimic an animal's call, or a person's voice. She choose the words their mother had said to her last time they'd spoken, and repeated them in their mother's voice, "He never calls, he never writes. I haven't seen him in months, I dont know what he's doing." "Don't!" Vincent snapped, his shoulders visibly tensed, "Don't fuckin' do that! Besides..." he gave a heavy sigh. "She wouldn't want to know what I've been doing. You know she doesn't like it." "Well don't make me do that." Violet growled, her voice back to normal, then she shook her head, "She's a mother, Vince." She used the nickname she used to use on him as kids, "She wants to know you're alive, is all. You don't have to tell her what you're doing. Just let her know you're okay." "Alright, alright." Vincent said, waving at her like she was a nuisance fly. "Look...what's the plan. You can't tell me you're going to pass this one to the cops. Their heads are too far up their ass to figure this out. My work is done, sort of. My client wanted me to find out is Jimmy was a vamp, I did that. Job done. That said...her friend was the one who was killed. That doesn't sit right with me." "Who said I was going to pass this up?" Violet replied with a knowing grin, "I know who Jimmy was talking about." Then she walked off and reached into her pocket for her car keys, pulled them out and unlocked the BMW with a press of the button. "Coming? Or are you going to stick that cane up your ass and pogo your way there?" "Would probably beat you there." Vincent replied with a smirk. "Traffic is fucking horrendous in L.A" he added, before opening the door to the passenger side of the car and stepping inside. Once Violet was in he gave the dashboard of the car a little rub. "Clearly consulting work is where the cash is. Too bad the cops think I'm an asshole." "Too bad you are an asshole." Violet replied, starting the car with a roar of the engine before she pulled out.Vincent decided not to comment, in fairness, he couldn't possibly argue with that. As they drove, albeit slowly through downtown L.A, Vincent held his cane in between his legs and stared out of the window. "So LaChance...who's that then? Sounds like a dick with a name like that." "Vincent Hallow." Violet said simply, with a grin on her face, but then continued, "His name is Aaron LaChance. He's a direct competitor with Jimmy, runs a nightclub called Aether on 4th, but that place, and that man, is so different. There's nothing on him, criminally. He runs a respectable business, far as the police are concerned. I've only met him once, but he smelled human, so I don't know. Maybe Jimmy is just trying to point us at his competition... maybe not." Silence filled the gap for a few seconds as Violet thought, "But then, if he's human, i'd like to know where these 'claws' come in." "Well a demon's out of the question." Vincent replied matter of factly. "Never seen a wizard yet who could control one with finesse like that. No demon is going to carefully puncture a couple of holes in someone. They'd have torn her throat out." There was silence for a moment as he thought it through. While he was rude, outspoken and often childish, he was an intelligent man, especially when it came to the supernatural. In his down time he tore through books on the occult, and he had a lot of down time. "Werewolf maybe." he mused. "Not really the types to set someone up, but if someone else is pulling the strings, it's possible. There's two packs in L.A, pretty peaceful though. But everyone has a price..." "Everyone has a price." Violet repeated, "But it could be anything, money is an obvious motivator. But it could just as easily be blackmail, if LaChance knows the right people, a little word here or there, and their business could be closed for good. Jimmy might not be the only one with a dead body on his doorstep." "So what then? It's hitting midnight, unless there's a chick dead at his door I'm guessing it'll be in full swing. Probably not the best time to run in guns blazing." "Who said anything about guns?" Violet replied, "There's only one thing that closes doors faster in L.A. than a gun." She paused, smiling. "A rat." "Tch!" Vincent shook his head, smirking. "I guess I'll wait in the car then." he said, noting that Violet had pulled up near the club, a big neon sign out the front declaring "Aether" in a bold white. "Colouring book is in the dash." Violet replied with a smirk, as she got out and walked up to the front doors. She had a quick word with the bouncer who gave her a quick look over and allowed her inside. A minute or so later, chaos erupted. People piled out of the club in droves. Yelling obscenities, complaining that for the price of the drinks, you'd think you could keep vermin out of the building, and so on. Violet took her sunglasses off and watched as Vincent walked in, "Clears a room faster than your farts." "Well I'll tell you what, next time you wait in the car and I'll come in and stink the place out." Vincent replied with a cheeky smirk. The interior to the club was much as would be expected. Polished floors, lot's of lights, ultraviolet, stainless steel bars and a large dance floor. Booths furnished with pussy purple sofas. However now that it was empty you could smell the stale sweat, the disgusting, sticky floor covered in spilled drinks and God knows what else. The DJ had stopped playing music and the place fell silent. Vincent caught the eye of one of the young barmen and tipped his cane at him. "Go get the owner, kid." he ordered, and the barmen nodded and disappeared from sight. Vincent walked over and turned, leaning his back against the bar. "Reminds me of college." he said to Violet. "You can feel that sexual tension still lingering in the air. A thousand thoroughly ignored erections crying out into the night." "Deep." Violet muttered, rolling her eyes. "Why does it remind you of college? Did you spend your educational years crying out into the night?" "Nah." Vincent replied. "Every time I got close, I'd stare lovingly into their eyes...except then they really see you for what you are, and you see them to." his words grew somewhat melancholy. Before he could speak any further footsteps clicked as someone descended the staircase and in to the club. The man was dressed in a sharp suit, the top button of his shirt undone. The man was pushing 40 but was dressed impeccably, his blonde hair slicked back and his skin was porcelain. As he reached the bottom of the steps he smiled politely and spoke. "Good evening, my barmen tells me you wish to have a word?" he asked, his gaze flitting between the two of them. "Where'd all your customers go?" Violet asked. "Vermin." Aaron LaChance replied simply. "I'll be ensuring that said vermin is...dealt with." "Good luck with that." Violet replied, "I'm not here about vermin, I want to ask you about Jimmy White." "Ah, Jimmy. I hear he's had a bit of trouble outside his club." Aaron nodded as he spoke. "If I can help, then I will. Please go on." Vincent said nothing for now. He was interested to see what would happen if Violet took the lead for a bit. He hadn't seen her in so long, years in fact. She was...different. He wasn't sure yet just how different. "You've had a bit of trouble yourself." Violet replied, "But I guess rats are better than corpses." She smirked, "I want to know why when I asked Jimmy about the body in front of his nightclub, he was so panicked he was trying to jump out of a three-story building before he dropped your name. Why do you suppose that is?" Aaron did not answer immediately. He eyed Violet, searchingly, like he was trying to see through her. After a moment he spoke again. "If I could hazard a guess I would say a desperate attempt to drag my brand down with his. Our rivalry is strictly business, of course, but such things can bring out the worst in people. It sounds like a desperate gambit, from a desperate man." As Violet spoke with Aaron, Vincent instead focused inward and once more awakened his mind's eye. As the club changed around him he tried to keep his composure as natural as possible. The bright, coloured lights all but disappeared and the room was bathed in a dark green. Unlike the murder scene, this room was more pleasing to the eye. The filthy floor was replaced by a shimmering, pristine glass floor, with water gently swishing to and fro underneath it. The smell was sweet like honey, no doubt a remnant from all the sexual urges that had manifested in this room. Strangely there were no creatures, an oddity in this view of the world. Creatures were manifestations of spirits and were present everywhere. A complete lack of them was perhaps more terrifying than any gruesome bloodbath. It was then that Vincent cast his gaze over Aaron LaChance, and what he saw made his eyes widen. "But this wasn't a logical accusation, Mr. LaChance." Violet replied, crossing her arms, "This was a final admission after the man was unable to leap from a three-story building. He wasn't blaming you, he was protecting you - until, that is, he realised he had nowhere to go. Why did he want to protect you so badly?" "Violet..." Vincent called her name with a cautious tone. "...Let's not be rude, hm? We don't want to jump to conclusions." he added. He hoped that his sister was smart enough to understand him, and the fact that he had suddenly become quite afraid of this man. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at Vincent for a moment, unsure of why he'd changed tact so suddenly. What had he seen? Violet turned her attention back to LaChance and licked her lips thoughtfully, "No, we don't want to jump to conclusions." Violet added, clenching her jaw. In Vincent's minds eye he saw it. It's form was clinging to Aaron like a shadow, but it's chest and face were corporeal and quite terrifying. Skin as white as snow, and equally white hair. It's eyes were blue and piercing and it's skin was dry and gaunt. "We're just doing our job, Mr. LaChance." Vincent said to Aaron with his best attempt at a smile. "We have to follow every lead, you know how it is, right?" "Of course." Aaron replied politely. "I must say I'm a bit confused by all of this. Jimmy and I have never seen eye to eye, I admit. However I certainly wasn't involved in the incident at his club. His clientèle were a bit...sketchy. I don't want to comment further on that, it's not my place." "Of course not." Vincent said with a soft smirk. "Well listen, we'll leave it at that. If you think of anything else, please get in touch with the local police department and they'll pass on the message." "Have a pleasant evening, Mr. LaChance." Violet added, I suggest you put some poison down, or the rats will keep coming back." Violet walked out and buttoned her jacket up as the cold air hit her. "I'm tired of this run around." She muttered. "Trust me, we weren't prepared for that." Vincent assured. "Take me back to my place. I'll make coffee, I don't think we'll get much sleep tonight." "I think i'd rather go back to my hotel room," Violet replied, "If your appearance is any kind of indicator, your apartment has no facilities. Why don't we go back to my hotel room, you can have a hot shower and a cooked meal, and I can get the vodka and red bull out of my hair." Then she muttered, "You'd think people had never seen a rat before..." "No deal, I want my books." Vincent insisted. Vincent opened the door to his apartment and stepped inside, leaving the door open for Violet. He fumbled around in the dark, before pointing his cane and all the candles in the room suddenly ignited. The room, while dimly lit, was clearly a mess. The small studio apartment was littered, wall to wall, with books. Even the dirty old sofa was decorated with them, along with the cofee tablem, parts of his bed and numerous across the floor. The only area that was empty was his kitchen table, which was instead littered with vials, a bunsen burner, and a bunch of strange ingredients, including herbs and roots that looked to be dead and withered. He could see that his sister was none too happy with the environment but he didn't much care at that point. He was wandering around the room, picking up various books. Despite them having no order, he seemed to know exactly what books he wanted and where to find them. He stacked them in piles on the coffee table and urged Violet to sit. "Help me look through these." he said. "Whatever the fuck that was...I'm not going near it again without knowledge." "This place is chaos, Vincent." Violet sat down and pushed the stack of books beside her out of the way, "Jeff Goldblum would lose his mind." She muttered, picking up a book on familiars. "You should have said something to me, I didn't get a good look at it. If i'd known, I might have been able to identify it." "It's not my fault if you don't use the power you have." Vincent replied coldly. He didn't care, he was too focused on the task at hand. He picked up a book on a middle eastern bestiary and began to flick through it. "I've never seen anything like that. I've never ever heard of it. It was like...it was stuck to him, like a fuckin' cartoon genie but in nightmare form. It's not a Djinn though, before you say." "I don't like to stare into the abyss too long, cartoon nightmare genie's end up staring back." Violet muttered, flicking through the pages. "Well it wasn't a demon, they like being the driver, not the passenger. Maybe a spirit..." She trailed off as she passed over a section on aggressive guardian summons. "Probably." Vincent agreed. "Also there was water underneath us. So it might be a water spirit." he added. "Well i'm running out of spirits here..." She stopped on a page about water spirits and looked it over. "Okay, there's a couple here. The Japanese have the Kappa, i've seen those before, and that doesn't sound like what you're describing. But there's also the 'HyÅsube', which is a hair-covered version of a Kappa. That might be it. There's also a section here on spirits called 'Adaro' who were malevolent sea spirits believed to originate in the Solomon Islands." Violet paused and then closed the book, "That's all i've got." She put the book down on the table and picked up another. "Let me see." Vincent asked as he took the book from Violet. He scanned the description. "This looks promising. Not a lot of information though. Nothing about it latching on to humans. I thought it was a Marid, a specific Djinn. But...it looked pretty different from the descriptions. Maybe this Adaro thing is the best we have." "I've never met an Adaro. It just said they're very dangerous, because they're supposed to arise from the wicked part of a person's spirit." Violet paused in thought, "Maybe if the spirit's design is to come from a person, it can naturally attach itself to one if commanded by someone." She placed her hands behind her head and leant back, "I think whoever is controlling the Adaro is likely our murderer. They might even incite the Adaro into killing for them, by triggering it somehow." "Mmm..." Vincent was barely listening to her as he thumbed through his book. "...look uh...why don't you go home and get some rest. Work on finding out a bit more about LaChance, his known associates, maybe see if we can piece this together. I'm going to be up all night anyway doing research." Vincent gave Violet a cursory glance. "We can catch up tomorrow. Don't worry I'll take a shower." "Good idea. I have a dog's sense of smell, and you basically punch me in the face when i'm near you." She stood up to leave but stopped and looked around the room, "Don't go doing anything without me, Vincent. I'm not sweeping in to save your ass if you go off half-cocked." Then Violet gave him one last look before walking out. "I don't take this shit lightly, you know that." He replied, his face still buried in the book. "Call me tomorrow." Violet left some point after that. Vincent couldn't honestly recall, he was so invested in what he was doing. He flicked through pages and pages, until eventually his candles had all burned out and light was shining through his window. As he lay on his couch reading, his energy finally gaze out, and he drifted off to sleep. It was not a good sleep either, his dreams filled with the muddled visons of his soulgaze with Chelsea, and the horrid creature he had witnessed at Aether.
  17. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    When Munenori awoke all he could see was a white light. All noise was shut out and replaced with a loud ringing in his ears. There was a rhythmic thumping coming from somewhere, but he could not place it. Slowly his vision became clearer, and he could see blurred images moving in the darkness. As his consciousness returned he realised the thumping was that of his own blood pumping through his veins. He focused on breathing, as his vision became sharper still. Muffled sounds began to form, and slowly he came back to reality. He was in a dark room, lit only by a bright directional light overhead. He turned to the side to see Hitomi next to him, restrained so she couldn't move. He tried to move his own body, only to discover that he was also restrained. "Greetings, Hayashi Hitomi. Welcome home! The Susanoo are glad to have you again." he heard a voice say gleefully from the darkness. "Susanoo..." Munenori croaked, his mouth was dry and it was hard to speak. "...So it's true...even humans have monsters on a leash..." "Our leash is long, and subtler than some, Dr. Ikitsuki Munenori." The man replied, stepping forwards, his form still a silhouette to the doctor's eyes, "And to hunt monsters, you must become a monster. There are only two states in this world, doctor. Prey and predator. Which are you? I wonder..." "A grandiose statement...but absolutely untrue, I'm afraid." Munenori replied, a hint of joy in his tone. "Some are simply scavengers, living off the scraps that are left in front of them. As for myself...I suppose you could say I am somewhat broken when considering Darwinian rules of nature. Indeed some would say I became a monster many years ago...but in truth I was probably always that way. Under the surface at least. It's quite a fascinating discussion...but really if you wanted a chat you could have emailed me. People are so uncivilised these days." The silhouetted man laughed, "Apologies, doctor. It's the company you're keeping, i'm afraid." The silhouetted man nodded to one of the others surrounding them and they walked up to Munenori, passed him and sliced through his restraints, "You are free to go, if you so wish it." The man was tall and slim. He was in his early forties, and crow's feet touched the outer edges of his eyes. His hair was a silvery grey, and he had a short, pointed beard of similar colour. He was dressed in black with a white lab coat. "Dr. Hiroaki Dai - Head of Ghoul Sciences - pleased to meet you." "Interesting..." Munenori's eyes glinted at the sight of the man. "Head of Ghoul Sciences you say? And here I was thinking I was the only expert in Japan. Can I be so bold as to suggest that my research hasn't been quite as buried as I have been led to believe?" "On the contrary." Dai replied, "It's my bible, honestly." He laughed."When you're both finished congratulating one another," Hitomi interrupted, "I suggest you expend the remainder of your energy releasing me and making this right.""Making what right exactly?" Dai asked."Susanoo and Orochi have long ties to one another, in the Secret War, the two units worked together to avert an escalation. You don't have the authority to capture and detain an Orochi member." Hitomi leant down and bit at her shirt, tearing part of it away to show the tattoo above her chest. "Release me.""They don't know you're here, so i'm afraid not." Dai replied with a smile, turning his attention back to Munenori. "So I am cast aside, and my legacy passed on to...you?" Munenori cocked his head. "I sincerely hope you are a greater scientist than I. Otherwise I might find this news quite...offensive." "A greater scientist than you, doctor?" The man laughed, "No, i'm sorry. But the government wanted your work destroyed, and I convinced them otherwise. I would be happy to resume your work alongside you, if you were willing to pick up where you left off?""Well that sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?" Munenori replied. "I assume there is a catch to that?""No catch, doctor. What's good for us, is good for you. For all humankind. We want to synthesize an anti-ghoul gene. Making it impossible for them to feed on us." Dai looked to Hitomi and grinned when he saw her expression. "Never again will we have to hide in fear walking home, or worry about our children being taken in the night." Munenori's head sank. He was silent for a moment, filled with an overwhelming sense of disappointment. With a heavy sigh he lifted his head again. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid I will have to decline." He said finally, a smile appearing across his face. "To...castrate the ghouls in such a way goes against the very purpose of my research. It is disappointing that my research is being used in such a way.""Your research showed us the strengths and weaknesses of the ghouls. Why else would you create that if not for the betterment of your /own race?/" Dai shook his head, "My research is the natural evolution of that. Don't you want to live in a world where they no longer exist? We're not cattle for them to feed on, even though they would have us be as much...""We eat because we have to, just as you slaughter pigs for food even though you know they're intelligent! Why are we so evil?!" Hitomi spat back at the human."You see?" Dai pointed to Hitomi, "She would have us be their pigs. Don't you want a world free of these things?" "I do not." Munenori replied, his tone cold and direct. "Miss Hayashi is entirely correct. Humans are simply too proud to accept they are not the apex predator. Of course I completely understand your desire to fight back, but you have completely misunderstood my research. Like many you assume my work was for some higher purpose...but it was not. To me...ghouls are simply the most fascinating species on this earth. I would not destroy them, for then what else would I be able to satiate my curiosity with?""I'm... i'm sorry to hear you say that, doctor." Dai replied, "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Dai paused as he thought for a moment, "I respect you as a doctor, I respect your work, and so I would ask that you leave, Dr. Ikitsuki. There is nothing for you here, any more." Dai nodded to the Susanoo soldiers who stood on either side of the doctor. Hitomi watched them all in silence. "Very well." Munenori replied. The soldiers undid his restraints and he stood up, rubbing his wrists where they had been bound. "Although...if you will allow me one more questions. How is...Rikka?" Munenori eyed the Doctor, trying to gauge his reaction at the name he had uttered. "Rikka?" Dai frowned, shaking is head, "I don't know anyone by that name, doctor. Were they human?""Hmph!" Munenori shook his head. "I see how it is. Say hi to her for me." Munenori said finally, and then he went to walk away. As he did he turned to take a last look at Hitomi. "It was a pleasure, Miss Hayashi. I hope you understand that there is nothing I can do here. I apologise." "You've done plenty, doctor." Hitomi replied with a sweet smile, "Oh Dai, can you come here a moment?" She asked coyly."What do you want, monster? Can't you see I have more important things to deal with than you right now." Dai walked up to Hitomi but stood several feet away, but from a look from one of the soldiers, he knew he could approach. "What is it?""You can't be Susanoo, that would be these lovely men behind me. Am I right?" Hitomi asked, raising an eyebrow."I'm just a scientist employed by this branch." Dai replied irritably. "Very good!" Hitomi replied with a smile, and then suddenly she leant forwards, reached up with her unrestrained arms and snapped the man's head clean off and quickly threw it behind her. The two soldiers were so surprised by the woman's sudden freedom and the death of their scientist, coupled with trying to dodge the severed human head, that they couldn't raise their weapons quickly enough. Hitomi raised her arms and quick as a shot, she threw two bone spikes into their foreheads and turned to face Munenori as their bodies hit the ground, and the blood from Dai's stump splashed her, leaving her a wet, crimson predator. "Your research should be in the next room, doctor. I suggest you retrieve it, and we leave." She smiled at the doctor and turned to pick up Dai's body and began eating. "I think if I were capable of love..." Munenori said, "...nevermind. Thank you, Miss Hayashi.""We're all capable of love, doctor." Hitomi replied, smiling with the lower half of her face covered in blood. "I'm just glad that Susanoo took interest when they did. This wasn't exactly a perfect plan, but I had a feeling they had been following me for some time, and were only likely to attack if I was fighting that ghoul." Hitomi paused for a moment, thinking to herself before she quickly tore off a huge chunk of flesh from the arm of Hiroaki Dai and swallowed after a satisfying chew. "Live to eat. Eat to live. Those are the only two philosophies." She mused, with a grin. "Now get your materials and let's leave. If Susanoo bring to bear their full power I will be unable to stop it, we have to get out of here before they realise their star scientist and two of their little... stormtroopers, are dead." Munenori made his way out of the room and down the corridor, and in to the next. He sat himself at a computer and began searching through the files. It did not take him long to find what he was looking for. Taking an external hard drive he began to pull the research off of the computer. Minutes passed by and he looked behind him shiftily. Finally the information finished tranferring and he ejected the hard drive. He went to leave, but stopped short at the door. He went back to the PC and proceeded to completely wipe the hard drive. He doubted this was there only copy, but if it was, then all the better. He returned to Hitomi, waving the hard drive to show he had retrieved what he needed. "As seems to be a recurring theme, I'll follow your lead, Miss Hayashi." "Actually, it's been many years since i've been here." Hitomi replied, as they started their escape, "I don't imagine that much has remained the same." They turned a corner and ducked into an alcove as one of the Susanoo soldiers passed by. "But then again, maybe it's worth the risk." She added, noticing the dull grey square of metal in the middle of the wall at the end of the hall. The two of them started to run towards it, when they heard yells from the soldier that had passed them, he'd carried on to the scene of the carnage. Just as Hitomi was clambering into the garbage chute she heard gunfire and slipped down, hoping that Munenori was right behind her. This was their way out, as it had been hers years before. Though given they had seen her leave this time, there would not likely be a third time. Landing at the bottom of the chute with a thud, Munenori dusted himself off and looked at Hitomi. "Well that was...glamorous." he said. "Where to? Back to my apartment or...?"Hitomi thought for a moment. The Susanoo were likely aware of Munenori's home, and worrying maybe even her own, or her sister's. She cursed as she realised she'd visited her sister and possibly gotten her involved, she could only hope that they leave her be. The rest would be wishful thinking. "You've met one side, doctor..." Hitomi mused, "Care to meet the other?""Well at least I know your side has good coffee I suppose." Munenori said with a smile. And with that they took off through the streets of Tokyo. As they ran Munenori couldn't help but wonder what kind of mess he was in. However in this short space of time, he realised that perhaps Hitomi wasn't too bad after all. As they ran he clutched the hard drive with his research tightly. Having his life's work back in his own hands was an exhilarating feeling. What's more, perhaps he would be able to find her. "Rikka..." he whispered to himself as he followed Hitomi into the night.
  18. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    About an hour later the infected Ghoul opened his eyes wearily. For a brief moment there was a flicker of fear in them as he realised his predicament. Once incapacitated, Munenori had dosed him with tranquilizers and anti-psychotics. He had strapped the Ghoul to an operating table, his wrists, upper arms, chest and legs all bound tightly. A muzzle had been fixed around his face and he had been stripped of all clothing, but a thin sheet had been laid over him. Additionally he was hooked up to a machine, with He was in a similar room, but this one was clean, and Munenori was standing over him, the bright overhead lights causing his glasses to glint. The ghoul made an attempt to break his restraints, but Munenori shook his head. “I am afraid that won’t work.†He explained calmly. “Your strength has been restricted by the drugs in your system, and even as they wear off your lack of sustenance will likely keep you weak and unable to break free.†Munenori gave an eerily warm smile, as if this information should appear comforting to the Ghoul. However the weakened creature did not respond. No doubt his mental faculties were already badly damaged, it was possible that he did not even comprehend what was happening. Munenori lifted a small, handheld Dictaphone to his lips and spoke in to it. “Subject has awoken approximately one hour and six minutes after receiving powerful tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and anti-psychotic medication. Based on previous data I can conclude that the subject’s inherent regeneration process has not slowed by any significant amount. It is likely that the body is burning through necessary nutritional compounds at a faster rate, but is still operating at full capacity despite the larger requirement. Food Deprivation will commence immediately to survey long term effects.†Munenori stopped recording and walked away from the operating table, opening a door and leaving the room without another word to the panicked Ghoul. After only a few short hours the Ghoul had become increasingly distressed, moaning through his muzzle softly at first, but soon the moaning became wails of pain. Outside, watching the Ghoul over a security camera, with a monitor displaying the Ghouls heart rate and breathing statistics on a monitor next to him. He switched his Dictaphone back on and continued voicing his findings. “6 hours in to the study the subject is showing increasing signs of distress. Elevated heart rate and distressed crying suggest that the subject is experiencing a great deal of pain. Subject is generally lethargic and has poor concentration. Subject has also complained of chills. Skin colour has become pale, dark spots are appearing around the eyes. Overall subject shows early signs of malnutrition.†He said as he scribbled down more notes. He began to feel the familiar sting in his eyes when he blinked, and his muscles were beginning to ache. For his effort Munenori had forgotten nourish his own body. He got up to make another cup of coffee and took a bowl of cold chicken and rice from the fridge. Sitting back down he shovelled the food in to his mouth, chewing and swallowing it quickly. When he was working he took no pleasure in eating or drinking, food was simply fuel. The proceeding hours seemed to hold a repetitive pattern. A short spell of sleep, followed by mote observation, more notes, another Dictaphone recording, eat, and repeat. A point came where Munenori caught a look at himself in a mirror as he splashed cold water on his face. The dark lines under his eyes showed his fatigue, but it was nothing he felt concerned about. This wasn’t the first time he had worked long hours and he had grown quite used to it. He was now dressed head to foot in surgical scrubs. It had been almost 3 days since the food deprivation test had begun. For the infected Ghoul, time was almost up. He entered the room with the Infected Ghoul again. What lay on the table was a pitiful shadow of the Ghoul from 3 days ago. The Ghoul’s skin was white and dry. Blood was slowly trickling out from it’s ears, it’s eyes and his fingers and toes were cracked and split open, the nails caked in blood that wept out from them. Munenori has watched the descent intently. The Ghoul had lost all sense of self, only crippling hunger remained. Yet even now the natural regenerative abilities of his kind were still in effect, keeping him alive, while his body slowly decayed. The creature’s eyes moved towards him as he entered the room, the sudden smell of flesh managing to arouse the very last remnant of it’s strength. It tried to move it’s body, but his muscles had long since atrophied. Munenori found himself wondering how far a Ghoul’s regeneration could go in this state. If he fed the creature now, would it claw it’s way back to health? He had to admit that he was tempted to try. However to do so would risk the integrity of the study. He could only truly know the facts once this Ghoul had died. Fortunately that time was imminent. Retrieving a scalpel, Munenori carefully and precisely moved the bladed end across the Ghoul’s arm. Thick, dark blood emerged, already coagulating inside the creature. It seemed that now, with no energy left, the natural defences of the Ghoul had diminished. This was somewhat disappointing, but perhaps fortuitous as well. The Ghoul began to cough under his muzzle, but Munenori did nothing to help. Instead he simply watched as the Ghoul choked on it’s last few breaths. Blood began to drip out from under the muzzle, and the Ghoul’s entire body went into spasm, before finally resting. The room became silent, and the Ghoul lay on the table, lifeless. Munenori placed a gloved finger on the Ghoul’s neck. No pulse. With a soft sigh he pulled his hand away from the Ghoul and brought his table of surgical tools forward. After another few hours Munenori sat on a chair with a cup of coffee in his hands. The room had been cleaned and the smell of bleach still hung in the air. Placing his mug on the counter Munenori held the Dictophone to his lips for his conclusive report. “Autopsy of the subject has only confirmed my suspicions. Cause of death was multiple organ failure and internal bleeding. It seems that the even a Ghoul’s regenerative abilities have their limitations, and the accelerated processing of necessary proteins has caused rapid deterioration of the Ghoul’s vital organs.†Munenori lingered for a moment, thinking on how to sum up the study. “Organs harvested from the study are badly damaged and are to far gone to offer any useful data. The subject was under immense pain throughout the process, in this case I would advise execution to be the most humane action to alleviate the circumstances. If the rogue Ghoul suffering this affliction is still alive, then he or she is undoubtedly in a lot of pain. The Ghoul will no doubt be capable of considerable strength if feeding regularly and should be considered highly dangerous and extremely hostile.†Munenori took another sip from his coffee and continued. “However it is likely that the Ghoul is employing scavenger tactics, picking off the weak in isolated areas. If the Ghoul was to go on a rampage in a crowded area, while their bounty would be more plentiful, they would no doubt be quickly exposed and dealt with. It is also important to note that living flesh seems to be preferable to them, and so their only course of action is a fresh kill. I suggest beginning the search in isolated areas nearby densely populated regions. Parks and canals are probably the most optimal location to hunt and remain hidden. Anything else is merely speculation.†Munenori dropped the Dictophone on the table and stood up. He took his jacket from the nearby stand and swung it over his body, before doing up the buttons. He took the phone given to him by Hitomi from his pocket and found her number, the only one on the contact list. Pressing the dial icon he put it to his ear and listened to the rings. Finally there was a brief silence, before Hitomi spoke on the other end. “The subject has died.†Munenori said, “I have left my notes and recordings at the lab. I’m going home to rest. If you require anything else please drop by later. Oh and perhaps just knock this time.†And with that Munenori hung up the phone and pocketed it. Draining the rest of his coffee he left the lab, finally accepting how tired he was. Yet, despite that, he had to admit that it was more interesting than his own mundane reality. If Hitomi did come knocking on his door, he was already certain that he would be ready and willing to answer.
  19. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Ashara made her way in to the shade of the hangar with Dax following alongside her. They were greeted by a Republic trooper in full plastoid armour. "General Ven." He said with a salute. "We were told you would be coming. Arrangements have been made to keep this hangar secure." he said, his voice sounding tinny from the helmet he wore. "Outside of here the Republic Forces have no knowledge of who you really are. So don't expect them to follow orders. As far as they are concerned you're just another smuggler passing through." "Excellent, thank you." Ashara replied. "Where can I find Korren Alek?" "Korren is in the Avilatan's Rest. It's a Cantina here in Fort Garnik." The trooper replied. "He'll likely be with some of the smugglers he works with, so he won't approach you directly." "I understand. I know what to do." Ashara said with a nod. "That will be all, thank you." "Good Luck, General" The trooper said with a salute and Ashara walked off with Dax. "If he's not going to approach us directly... what does that mean exactly? How do we make contact with him?" Dax asked, frowning. "Presence is very important in such circumstances." Ashara replied. "If we talk a big game, heads will turn. We must merely provide an opportunity for Korren Alek to approach us without it seeming suspicious. Hush now, let's get a move on." Ashara walked back out in to the hot sun and in to the streets of Fort Garnik. While there were a few Republic Troopers around, their presence was drawfed by the amount of civilians. As well as the locals there were also a few Rodians, Cathar and other species walking the streets. Some stood in corners, talking in hushed whispers to one another, while others sauntered down the street talking openly, with little care to who heard them. Ashara and Dax entered the Avilatan's Rest and were greeted to cool air, and a dimly lit room. Music was playing and neon lights lit the Cantina, with a variety of people sat at each booth discussing whatever underground business deals they had. Ashara ignored them and ehaded straight for the bar, leaning over the counter to catch the barman's attention. "Old Trusty." Ashara said sharply. "Neat." She added before turning and looking at Dax. "And some Bubblezap for the kid." The Barman served the drinks to them and Ashara sniffed the glass, taking in the aroma before taking a sip. She found the drink to be quite putrid, but she certainly showed no outward signs of it. She eyed up and down the bar casually, noticing that she already had a few eyes on her. It was fairly typical in such places for people to be interested in a new face. She took another sip of her drink before locking eyes with the barman again. "You seen a guy in here going by Endo? That chump owes me money." She asked. "Endo?" The barman replied. "Can't say I have. You don't mean Endo, as in, the Endo, right? The one who smuggled Hutt cargo in to Coruscant? You're kidding right?" "That's the guy." Ashara replied. "That bum didn't know what hit 'em when I showed up. Good for business though, let's just say he's not the one running for the Hutts any more." "Right...well sorry but I-" "Forget it." Ashara interrupted. "Go do your thing." She had made sure to speak loudly, and sure enough it wasn't long before a Rodian approached her, leaning over the bar next to her. "Toogi, Twi'lek." The Rodian said, his tone quite friendly. "Hi chuba da naga, wermo?" Ashara replied, her voice filled with contempt for the man. "Haba uba canya kee chay choba." The Rodian replied. "Jesko na joka." Ashara replied, shaking her head. "Run on back to your keeper. I don't talk business with low-life scum." "Me dwana no bata." The Rodian said, insistently. "You heard the lady, Gureb. Buzz off!" Another man interrupted their exchange, and the mere sight of him seemed to send the Rodian running off. Ashara turned to see a middle aged human man, slim and dressed in a grey tunic and black trousers. "Apologies about the riff-raff. They just don't quit." "Nothin' I'm not used to." Ashara replied with a shrug. "Let me guess, you didn't just come over here come to my rescue, right?" "You're sharp." The man replied. "The name's Korren Alek. I overheard you talking earlier. I might have some work for you." "Oh yeah?" Ashara replied, draining her drink. "I'll tell you the same as I told the last guy. I don't talk to low-lifes." "I can assure you I'm not on the same level as Gureb." Korren said with a smile. "I work with Anvar Sh'dook. You know of him?" "Yeah, I know him." Ashara said as she turned herself around and leaned her back against the bar. "Let's talk somewhere private. The name's Ven. This here is Dax." "Oh...a kid." Korren said sceptically as he looked at Dax. "That kid is the best slicer I know." Ven replied. "And she's small, she fits places I can't. Comes in handy, trust me." "I'm small." Dax replied irritably crossing her arms as she looked at Korren, "That's what I bring to this outfit, apparently." She muttered, and turned her attention to what the bar patrons were drinking. A rainbow assortment of drinks. Liquid, gas and energy-based. Dax looked down at the drink in her hands and took a little sip. "Fruity." Her face lit up, but then she realised she was supposed to be in-character, "Yeuch!" She made a melodramatic hacking sound and stuck out her tongue, but as they left she quickly swallowed the contents of the glass before following. Korren led Ashara and Dax to a secluded warehouse filled with cargo and transports, with various crew members at work, moving cargo around and checking stock. Korren did not address them and Ashara followed his lead, walking alongside him as they walked up a ramp and on to the next floor. There they entered a modest room with a long table, and some desks at the side. Once inside Korren closed the door and they were finally alone. Korren held out his hand to Ashara and smiled politely. "General, I apologise about earlier. Needs must I'm afraid." he said apologetically. "It's fine, I was already briefed." Ashara replied as she shook his hand. "Are you sure we can speak freely in here?" "Of course. My employer, Viidu conducts his business here. He wouldn't stand for any surveillance." Korren said. "Oh and...apologies to you too, Dax was it? I wasn't informed there would be two Jedi coming." "Well you maybe need to improve your information brokers, then." Dax muttered, looking around. "'Cus they're not doin' much for you." "Manners, Dax." Ashara scolded her Padawan before turning to Korren. "So what's the situation here? This mission came about rather suddenly, so I don't have all the details." "Of course." Korren said with a nod. "I work for a man named Viidu. As far as smugglers go he's pretty honest. Still not a fan of the Republic sticking their nose in, so I have to stay in cover. You don't have to worry about him, his operations are pretty inconsequential, but he gives me an in. I heard about the assault on Ilum and I think there is a connection here on Ord Mantell." "Very well." Ashara replied. "Please go on." "This planet is going through a bit of a power struggle. The Government still officially ally with the Republic, but there's been some pretty shady stuff going on. A lot of civilians are losing faith in their Government, and the Republic. It's small at the moment, but there group are calling themselves Separatists. They don't want to be a part of the Republic any more. There are mumblings of revolution." "That is troubling." Ashara said as she folded her arms. "Yet I still don't see the connection." "Well when factions like this rise up they are rarely organized at first. However the Separatists are a different story. They've already taken control of a small colony. Word around the streets is they've been working with a woman called Layette Rhone. She turned up round about the time the Separatists started making a ruckus. She keeps a low profile but people around here have been around the block a few times. However I've been in Intelligence for a long time and I know a spy when I see one. She's an Imperial Agent, I've got no doubt about that. She's probably here to aggravate the Separatist movement and cause problems for the Republic. Background checks on her are pretty scarce, but she's had dealings with Darth Viscerus. He lead the assault on Ilum, I believe you tangled with him." "He lost his life, to his Apprentice." Ashara affirmed. "This information seems shaky though. Viscerus is dead and it's not uncommon for an Imperial Agent to work for Sith Lords." "True. But according to our intelligence Viscerus has been pretty quiet for a few years now. Up until the Operation on Ilum he's kept his head down. If you want to get to the bottom of this you will have to capture Layette Rhone. She's the only lead we have." "Very well." Ashara replied. "I assume it's not as simple as walking up to her doorstep." "She's went dark, keeps a low profile. The only way to get to her is to infiltrate the Separatists. You're an off worlder so there's no chance they'll take you as a supporter. However we can pose as a neutral party. Hence the smuggler routine. Viidu is currently off getting information on a shipment of Republic weaponry that's being stored a few miles from here. The Republic are aware of our plan but we have to make it look legit. We'll steal the weapons and then smuggle them in to the Separatist base. Once we're in you can find Layette, sound good?" "Better than nothing." Ashara replied. "How long do we have?" "I have a meeting with Viidu tomorrow." Korren replied. "Until then you should go get some rest. I'll talk you up to Viidu. He's a bit slow to trust but if I vouch for you he'll be on board." "Excellent." Ashara replied. "In that case we'll be off." "I'll be in communication soon." Korren said with a nod. "Come along, Dax." Ashara said to her Padawan. "Let's get something to eat and find a room to stay in. You can work on your meditation until tomorrow."
  20. The sun was shining brightly, easily breaching the clouds over the sky of the metropolis planet of Coruscant. Among the vast skyscrapers of Republic City lay the Jedi Temple, a large square building with four towers and a central spire, with landing bays at each corner and steps leading up to the temple from all four sides. A cloaked woman walked up the grand steps of the Temple’s main entrance, the path flanked at either side by golden statues of of ancient Jedi known as the Four Masters. As she approached the large doors a pair of Republic Troopers stood in her way. She tiled her hood slightly to reveal her smooth, blue-skinned face that was calm and serene. “Ah, General Ven, pleasure to see your return†came the muffled voice from behind one of the trooper’s helmet. As he stepped aside and the robed woman passed by them both without a word. She entered the temple and continued down the large hallway that lay within. The golden décor was grand and full of history. Although this great hallway was quiet with only a few people wandering around. It was a sign of the times. With a war in full swing many Jedi were out in the field, doing what they could for the Republic. Only scholars, teachers and the younglings remained. The woman stepped in to an elevator that immediately began to ascend with a gentle humming noise, climbing the heights of one of the four towers. The elevator stopped at a floor and another robed man entered. A tan skinned Zabrak with brown hair tied back in a ponytail, and three horns protruding from his forehead. The woman lifted her hood from her face to reveal her unblemished skin, completely smooth and hairless. A pair of lekku protruded from the top of her head, strapped together behind her with a set of golden bands. The man smiled as he recognized the Twi’lek Jedi. “A Miss Ashara Ven, you have returned from the front then?†he said with a smile. “Master Rozahn.†Ashara replied with a polite nod of her head. “It is good to see you.†“And you. Although…†Rozahn’s glance moved over the white plastoid armour that was showing under Ashara’s robe. “Do not think me rude to say that your outfit does not suit you. I’m so used to seeing deep within the archives, not strutting around in battle armour.†“It is hardly a fashion statement.†Ashara replied. “I have only just returned from Taris. We are trying to regain a foothold there but…nature has ravaged the planet over time. Very dangerous. Although it keeps me away from the real action, at least it felt like I was doing something good.†“Well, now that you’re home you can return to your comforts, eh?†Rozahn said with a soft smile. “You surely deserve as much.†“Comforts are not a luxury we can afford in this time, Master Rozahn.†Ashara responded. “I will only be here a short while and then I will return. I may not enjoy this sort of thing but it’s what we need right now.†“How very noble of you.†Rozahn said with a soft nod. “Perhaps while you are here you can stop by the trials. Some of the younglings are very promising. You never know, perhaps one might catch your eye.†“I doubt that very much.†Ashara assured the Zabrak. “I'm afraid I am not the right person to teach young minds.†“If I recall…your mastery of The Force is quite the thing.†Rozahn continued. “Control is something many of the younglings lack. You would make an excellent teacher I am sure. And you know all to well that if you continue to wait, the Council will make a decision for you.†“If the Council chooses it then I will obey.†Ashara replied. “But not before.†“Hah! Very well Miss Ven.†Rozahn said with a warm smile. “At least come along to the Trial, there aren’t many of us here at the moment. It would help the younglings if there was a better turn out, you know?†Ashara gave an audible sigh. “Very well.†She relented. As she reached her floor Ashara took her leave of the elevator and continued down the hallways, the balcony looking out on to the same great hallway she had entered below. She turned in to a small corridor and followed through it, passing banners and holograms spouting various musings of times past. Eventually she found her own chambers and entered. Her room was small and minimalist, with only a bed and a few personal effects inside. As the blast door shut behind her she removed her robe, unstrapped the plastoid covers from her arms and legs, and finally unbuckled the chest piece as well. She removed the lightsaber from her belt and placed it on her bed. She sifted through the small cupboard to find fresh clothes and changed in to a purple tunic with fine golden designs in the pattern, which had longer sections covering her front and back of her legs. Underneath she wore simple, black leggings and a pair of knee high, brown boots. Ashara sat herself at the foot of her bed with her legs crossed and closed her eyes. The silence was comforting. Even when she had found time to herself on her travels, she was always distracted by the ambient noise, the humming of a ships engine, troopers bragging and bickering, tears and laughter. She closed her eyes, trying to meditate, trying to compose herself. "There is no emotion..." she told herself. "...Only the Force." Ashara focused on her own breathing, slow and rhythmic. By meditating she was able to go deep within herself, and ease all pain and stress that she had absorbed from her recent journey. However she found Rozahn's words penetrating her mind. He had spoken truth, if she did not choose a padawan then soon enough the Council would decide for her. She did not feel ready to train another, she had so much she had yet to teach herself. When her eyes opened she realised that hours had passed her by. Yet all around her was the same, an empty room with no personality to it. She had found little need to hold on to possessions, and spending her life in service to the Jedi Order meant this room was rarely her home. She stood up from the ground and stretched her body. No doubt the Initiate Trials would be starting soon. She had agreed to spectate and she was not one to go back on her word. She picked up her lightsaber and her robe as she went out of the door. Perhaps this would be interesting after all. Inside the Training Centre Ashara met with a few of the other Jedi who had made an attendance. Among them was Master Rozahn, but also a human man and a Nautilan woman. Rozahn was quick to greet her. "Miss Ven, so glad you could come." He said with another warm smile. "This is Krem Havar and Master Dessa Ro." he said as he gestured to the Human and the Nautilan respectively. "Pleasure." Krem said and gave a nod her way, but he remained still with his arms folded. "Pleased to meet you Miss Ven." Dessa Ro said with a short bow. "Please, call me Ashara." she replied with a smile. "So are you both here to find new padawans?" "That all depends on what we see." Krem replied first. "The first trial is about to begin. The initiates will be tested on their knowledge of the Jedi Code. Not very exciting I grant you. I'd be surprised if any of them fail at this point." "I had memorized the code by the time I was five years old. Unless standards have slipped I'm sure they will all do well." Ashara assured. "After that they will be tested on their discipline." Krem continued. "That's when it gets interesting. They need to show competency with the First Form, and show their understanding of the balance between attack and defence. I hear they will be duelling each other." "That seems...a little harsh." Ashara admitted. "All I had to do was run a simulation with a visor." "Times are tough, we need to make sure they are ready." Krem replied. "I'm most interested in the third trial. An Initiate must show willingness to meditate, and show that they move with The Force, and do not fight it stubbornly like a rock." Dessa Ro chimed in. "They save the most challenging for last." Ashara nodded. "It has always been common for younglings to struggle with control. I assume because it's not as exciting as swinging a stick around." "They can daydream all they like when we end this war." Krem added. "It might not be right...but we need guardians, not scholars. I'll be picking who ever kicks the most butt out there." Ashara sighed inwardly. She felt this Jedi Knight, Krem, was a bit of a fool. There were plenty of his type. Not all Knights were as stringent on their training methods, and those who were physically adept were still capable of passing the trials to Knighthood. Ashara looked out to the children standing in the training area, waiting for instruction from their trainer. All of them were in their early teens. A terrible age, she thought. Never had she found herself feeling more lost than at that time in her life. As sad as it was to say, she expected very little of any of them.
  21. Haven [private Kyo & Val]

    "Don't worry about it." Avery said, tilting her head and giving a soft smile. "Water's not exactly plentiful here but...we aren't going to kick your butt over a spilt jug." "Yeah..." came the response. The dark skinned woman seemed to be having a bit of trouble adjusting. Yet Avery did not want her to leave so soon, if at all. She seemed confident that she could take care of herself but Avery sensed something was off. If her memories were gone, then letting her roam the Wastelands was just suicidal. Standing up and tugging at her arm, Avery tried to lead the dark skinned woman outside. "Come on. I'll show you around the town, let you see how everything works. Maybe that will jog your memory, hm?" she asked. "I don't see how a tour of a place I ain't never been to, is gonna jog my memory, kid." The woman scowled and crossed her arms, but followed Avery regardless. "No harm in trying, right?" Avery replied with a smile. "I mean, you've got some of your memories. You keep bringing up your guns, so you know you have them. And you're pretty certain you've never been here before, even though you can't remember. Don't you think thoughts like that mean something?" "No, I think that if i'd been here, y'all wouldn't be showing me around and acting like ye don't know me." The woman shook her head and rubbed her forehead with her thumb and forefinger, "But go on, show me 'round." Avery led the dark skinned woman through Haven, pointing things out as they passed them by. "I was born here, but I think Haven has been around for a few generations. Everything is built around The Tower. It's a really amazing piece of tech. We don't really know how it works, but over the years we've managed to figure out how to use it, and maintain it. It seems to generate electricity from...well, something, but I don't know what. It generates power steadily, and doesn't require any fuel. Mack thinks it might be some sort of renewable energy machine, but there's no way of telling. We just have to hope it doesn't run out." "Well y'all rely way too heavily on something ye don't very well know much about." She replied. "We don't have any other choice." Avery replied. "I mean...I guess a small number of people could get by on the land itself, but with all these mouths to feed, it's necessary." Avery motioned to a two-floored building, and with a short run she scrambled the wall and pulled herself up on the the next floor. She turned back to the dark skinned woman and bent down, holding out her hand. "Here, I can give you a hand up if you like?" She slapped Avery's hand away, "Don't baby me!" She muttered with a scowl. She started to climb up, and quickly realised two things. She was usually very strong, her legs and arms had no trouble supporting her up a difficult climb, but she also realised that she was still badly hurt. She winced as she reached the top and remained there for a few seconds, huffing to regain her breath. She stood up once the mixture of grey and rainbow-coloured dots that danced across her vision subsided. "There, see?" She growled, "Go on, now." "Alright." Avery replied, as she scaled the next floor of the building and pulled herself up on to the flat roof, sitting herself down cross-legged. She waited fro the dark skinned woman to climb up after her, and then she continued talking. "You see those domes over there?" Avery pointed out to the transparent energy fields that had the same look as glass, except they seemed to flicker and ripple at times. "We have bio-field generators. They allow us to control the environmental conditions within the dome, so we can grow crops and vegetables. Also we have some Grendels, they eat the desert roots so they are easy to care for. We use their meat for food and their hides for clothing and blankets." "Grendels..." The woman replied, slowly nodding. She let out a short breath, "Look, kid. Much as I appreciate the tour, why do ye wanna keep me here? It don't feel right. I wanna be out there, I just feel trapped in here." She muttered, and then slowly lowered herself down until she was sat. "Ye can't force people to be like you." Avery's head fell, and she grew silent for a moment. The woman's comment seemed to have wounded her a little, and she shook her head. "No...that's not it at all." Avery replied. "It's just...I've been here my whole life. This is all I have ever known. When I found you I was...really scared, but also excited. You're proof that there is more out there, that we're not alone. A lot of people here find that scary...but I think it's amazing. I have so many things I want to ask you about where you've been, what you've seen. And then...well..." Avery sighed. "I know it's worse for you to not have your own memories...I just thought if you were a traveller, you might have been interested. That's all." "Nice guilt trip, kid." The woman replied, and wiped the beading sweat from her forehead, brushing a couple of dreadlocks out of her face. "I feel like..." She stopped, thinking for a moment, "... like someone reached in and took who I was, but left the world mostly alone. Like, I know I don't belong here. I don't like being here. I have so many thoughts of being out there, knowledge about the world out there but... but then I try to connect it to myself, and I just pull a blank." Avery sighed, and looked down at her boots. She somewhat knew how the woman felt. Sometimes she felt trapped here as well, and like this woman she knew the Wastelands better than anyone else. Still, at least she knew who she was. She couldn't imagine anyone taking that from her. She lifted her head and looked up at the blue sky, feeling the scorching heat wash over her face. "Okay, how about this?" Avery said, turning to the woman with a smile. "It's my job to scavenge the Wastelands and find bits of scrap, new tech, anything useful basically. I don't really want to let you go off on your own, at least not until you get your memories back. I know you don't think I owe you anything, but that's how we are here. We take care of each other. So how about we go get your things, and we go out on a run together?" Avery rubbed her hands together anxiously, worried the woman might turn her down. "There's a big wreck I know of, but It's like a big facility...If we go together we can cover more ground. Plus there's a group of Chulari in there. They're just raiders but I can't really take them on my own." "I know what they are dammit!" The woman barked, looking over her shoulder. She shook her head and sighed, but a chance at leaving the town, that was too good to pass up. "Yeah, fine. I'll go with you. Let's get my stuff, then." "Alright then!" Avery said excitedly as she leapt to her feet. "Let's go." She added as she leapt from the building, dropping the full height of it and landing with a forward roll, before getting back to her feet. Once the dark skinned woman was down they left together and made their way to Mack's garage near the entrance. When they arrived Mack was rolling a cigarette and chatting with Leon, who did not look especially pleased to see the dark skinned woman again. "What's going on?" Leon asked, his arms folded in front of his chest. "I'm taking her out on a run with me." Avery replied. "Absolutely not." Leon said as he shook her head. "I won't allow it." "Well she wants to leave, and I'm heading out on a run anyway. If we both leave at the same time, what exactly are you going to do, hm?" "Avery..." Leon sighed, rubbing his hand over his forehead, his brow furrowed in frustration. "...You need to respect what I say, I'm just looking out for you." "I know." Avery replied, approaching Leon and rubbing his shoulder. "It's kinda cute actually." she added before giving him a quick peck on the cheek. "The thing is I need to do my job, and she can help. If she made it all the way out here on her own then she knows the Wastelands better than any of us." "...Whatever." Leon sighed. "It's not like what I say means anything anyway." "Heh!" Mack gave a smile as he licked the rolling paper of his cigarette and sealed it together. "Well little darlin', your effects are over there." He nodded over to the shelf where there were a pair of pistols sitting on a jacket, and a sniper rifle propped up against the side of the shelf. "I've stocked up your ammo. Also left a bit of tobacco in your pocket...don't know if you smoke but I find it takes the edge off sometimes." She walked over to her belongings and looked over them, piece by piece. First she picked up the two pistols laid carefully atop her coat. She inspected them thoroughly, but the moment she picked them up, she was sure they were hers. Each pistol was built for accuracy and stopping power, with a long barrel. The slightest error in aim, would make a shot wildly miss. But if you had the skill to use them, they were powerful weapons. She pushed them into her holsters and pulled on her full-length brown coat. The sleeves of the coat had been rolled up to allow for freedom of movement. She then picked up the sniper rifle and inspected it for a few seconds, and a smile traced the edges of her lips before she used the strap to sling it onto her back. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the tin of tobacco and looked at it for a moment, then opened it and smelled the contents. Her lips curled at the smell and she immediately closed the lid and put it back on one of Mack's shelves, while giving him a suspicious look as though he'd tried to offer her poison. She patted down her coat and checked the pockets, ready to head out, when something caught the edge of her finger and she quickly withdrew it to see a paper-cut. As she sucked on her finger, she reached in and pulled out a postcard. On the front, there was a picture of a great, wide ocean with a long, sandy beach. Trees swaying in the wind and dazzling sunshine beat down on the water. Frowning, she turned the postcard over in her hand and looked at the other side. There was a message written in black ink, which simply read: Dear Alice,We'll make it there, one day. Together. She turned the postcard over and looked back at the picture of the ocean and replaced the postcard in her coat pocket and stood there in silence for a few seconds. She looked over to see Avery preparing a dustrunner and a realisation quickly spread across her face. She walked over to Avery and upon seeing her, the girl stopped what she was doing."Alice." She said, "I think my name is Alice." "...Really?" Avery gave a big smile. "You remember?""I-i think so..." She replied, smiling. "That name is just so familiar to me...""Well that's great!" Avery beamed. She held her hand out to her. "Nice to meet you, Alice.""Y-yeah." She replied, and reluctantly shook the girl's hand. "We should go.""Alright." Avery said with a nod. "Hey Mack, can you pull that other runner from out the back?""Sure thing." Mack replied as he wandered off in to the back of garage. With two Dustrunners parked out front, Avery began to check them both to make sure they were in good condition. "Oh, Alice." She said as she hopped in to her own Dustrunner. "Do you know how to ride these?"Hearing her name was going to require some getting used to. Alice turned and looked over the dustrunner, "I don't think so." She replied, and pulled herself onto the vehicle. Her eyes glanced over a number of controls but within seconds, the dustrunner roared to life and lifted off the ground, "Er - nevermind." She added, scratching her cheek with a somewhat sheepish grin."Don't worry about the extra stuff for now." Avery said with a smile. "The levers control the thrust on either side. Forward to speed up, Backwards to slow down. Adjusting either side makes the runner lean, and that's how you steer." She explained before she turned the key on her own Dustrunner, and it gave a high pitched hum, raising a few feet above the ground. "The distance sensors will recalibrate so you always stay the same distance from the ground, so don't worry about going over bumps. You ready?" "I'm waitin' on you here, kid." Alice replied, and quickly brought the dustrunner about, aimed it for the main gate, and gave it everything the runner had. As the Dustrunner took off, Avery smirked and pulled her goggles over her eyes. Then she pushed the levers forward and took off after Alice. They passed the gate and weaved through the dirt path, down in to the Wastelands, where Avery pulled up so her runner was parallel to Alice's. "We're heading West, across the flats and through the mountain pass. The wreck's on the other side!" Avery yelled over the hum of the engines and the clattering of the dust hitting the metal. "Try to keep up!" She added, before pushing the levers forward and overtaking Alice, ramping over a mound of boulders and flying through the air. "Whoooo-hoo!" She cheered, before she felt the gentle bump of the Dustrunner grounding itself, and she continued onwards.
  22. Light was only beginning to creep through the mesh covered window of the small bedroom. The room itself was cramped and untidy, with clothes and various objects scattered around it. There was a wooden stand with a variety of small ornaments, necklaces and trinkets strewn about over the top of it, and a circular mirror on the wall that was cracked, decorated with old and tattered photographs. On the bed there was a lump that was covered by a grey wool blanket, it's form rhythmically moving up and down as the slumbering person breathed. From outside there was the sound of scuffling feet across dirt, and then an unceremonious clang as the perpetrator banged something against the metallic wall of the hut. The lump shot up, pulling the blanket away, it's face covered by a mess of red hair. "Whu!?" It gasped, it's voice dazed and confused. "It's dawn!" The voice outside, a male voice, called in through the mesh window. "Get up." "Why does...who did...I didn't..." The mess of red hair replied, the voice lighter and clearly female. "Get up!" The male voice called and hammered the wall again, causing the red haired girl to stand up on her bed. "Alright! I'm up!" She barked. "Geez!" The red haired girl stretched up her arms, brushing them against the roof of the hut. Underneath the grey t-shirt and white panties, her body was lightly tanned, slim and curvaceous. She stepped down from her bed and brushed her hair away from her face as she gazed in to her mirror. Her face was smooth and tan, with a paler area around her eye-line. Her eyes were an emerald green and her lips a soft pink. She eyed the photographs and gave a soft smirk. Each of the people in them were strangers to her, but she loved photographs. Pulling her hair back in to a ponytail she left the mirror and scanned the floor for clothes that weren't too dirty. The girl pulled her T-shirt off and tossed it on the floor, before picking up a simple bra and putting it on. Next she picked up a brown t-shirt and sniffed it, pulling away with an expression of disgust before tossing it aside as well. This pattern continued until finally she emerged from the cabin she called home, dressed in a pair of blue denim short, a maroon t-shirt and a brown leather jacket. She had a pair of dusty, old goggles fixed around her head, with her bangs framing her face. Stood outside the cabin, leaning against a wall was an older man in his mid 20's. He was dressed in green combat trousers, black boots and a white vest shirt. His hair was dirty blonde and messy, shaved clean at the sides. "Morning, Avery." He said, his voice polite but his face fixed in a permanent scowl. "Morning, Leon." Avery replied as she sat herself on the dry, dusty ground. She plucked a pair of boots from the ground next to her door and tapped them, one of them relinquishing a yellow scorpion who fell on the ground and scampered off. "Sorry little guy." She said to the creature, "If I have to get up, you do too!" and she fell on to her back, sticking her bare feet in the air as she heaved the dirty, brown boots on to her feet. "Mack fixed your Dustrunner." Leon said as Avery tied her boot laces. "I'll need you to go on a run as soon as you're ready. We've went two days without, who knows what could be lying out there." "It's not like there's more stuff turning up, y'know." Avery replied as she stood up. "There's nothing new out in the Wastelands." "Well we could use more scrap. And some power cells if you find any." Leon said as he began to walk away. "Lucy has breakfast ready, I'd get in there before it's all gone." "Will do, Cap'n" Avery said with a mock salute. "Don't call me that." Leon replied, before sheepishly kicking the dirt and walking away. Avery set off through the town. It was small, and most of the buildings were like her own, makeshift huts made of rusted sheets of metal and mesh. The ground was dry and cracked, and in this place water was scarce. The town was effectively a shanty town, but there were a few signs of something more. Avery passed by a portion of lands full of lush, green vegetables and bushes. All made possible by the machine hooked up next to it, which cast a barely visible dome around the area. The machine made the conditions better for growing vegetables and fruit. However they still needed water, and farms always got priority with that. Their water source was a large warehouse-like building that was actually a water mine. Workers in the town worked all through the day, using special machines to draw moisture out from the earth. Another farm was home to livestock, a bunch of large, slow creatures called Grendels. Despite the large, dangerous looking horns on their head, they were actually quite docile, and they lived on dry desert roots which made them easy to provide for. Finally Avery made her way to a small shack with a large hatch, where people from the town were queuing for bowls of food. She gave a sigh as she resigned herself to waiting in the queue, her belly giving a soft rumble. However as she stepped in to the line, the woman at the hatch whistled at her, and ushered her to come forward. "Avery, sweetheart!" The woman cooed softly. She was an elderly woman with dark, wrinkled skin and grey hair tied back in a bun, and a dirty apron around her chest. "I saved you a bowl. Leon says you're going out on the range today, you'll need your strength." "Aw, thanks Lucy!" Avery said with a smile. Lucy handed her a bowl of what looked like yellow slop. She spooned it in to her mouth and guzzled it down. It wasn't the tastiest thing in the world, but it was a hearty meal that would keep her going on her travels. Thanking the old cook, she handed the bowl back and was on her way. At the edge of the town there was a small garage that was built next to a large wall, where men carrying guns were stationed on watch towers. There was plenty to be scared of out in the Wasteland, so the wall was necessary. She turned her head back towards the centre of the town and gazed upon the large tower that stood over all the buildings. At the very top of the tower was a large sphere, spinning rapidly and occasionally sparking electricity. The Tower was the only thing keeping their town going, and if anyone ever took it from them, they would all perish. Avery pressed on, stepping in to the garage where a man in a green jumpsuit was busy welding something, his face covered by a large welding mask. "Morning, Mack!" Avery called loudly over the hissing noise of the blowtorch. The hissing stopped as Mack turned the blowtorch off and pulled the mask from his face, to reveal a middle aged man with tired eyes and scarred cheeks from razor burn. He gave her a soft smile. "And a good morning to you, Avery!" he said back. "Did Leon tell you I fixed your Dustrunner?" "He sure did." Avery replied brightly. "What about my...uh...thingy?" "Thingy?" Mack parroted, before giving a soft nod. "Oh you mean the music thingy." he said as he went over to a shelf and rummaged around. Finally he picked up a small handheld machine, with a pair of headphones attached. He handed them to Avery and gave another smile. "Good as new." He said. "Whoo!" Avery replied joyously as she pocketed the device, and placed the headphones over her head. She made her way over to the metal machine that was sat by the door. The design was sleek, with a lightweight chassis built around a cockpit consisting of two main levers for thrust, as well as various dials to adjust the performance, and a screen with a simple radar system. She hopped on the the Dustrunner and checked the compartments for everything she needed. Most importantly there was a box of ammunition sat next to a silver assault rifle with a black scope. "So is she good as new?" "She wasn't good as new when we dug her up in the first place, Avery." Mack replied as he lit a rolled cigarette he had taken from his pocket. "But she won't mind if you gun her, if that's what you're askin'?" "Nice!" Avery said with a wide grin. "Alrighty! Well I better get going. Gotta make up for lost time." "You be careful now, young lady." Mack said as he approached her and gave her a soft pat on the back. Avery responded by pulling the cigarette from his mouth and stealing a drag, before placing it back. She turned a key in the Dustrunner's ignition and it suddenly came to life with a high-pitched hum. As the engine kicked in the Dustrunner rose up from the ground, hovering gently a few feet from it. "You know me, Mack! Always careful!" Avery said with a grin as she pulled her goggles down over her eyes. "Tell them to open the gate." Mack went over to the garage entrance and gave a high-pitched whistle. After a brief moment, the large gate that was the only entrance to the town, began to rise up. Avery gave a soft chuckle as she turned on her little music maker, and a gritty, upbeat sound filled her ears. She had no idea what instrument would make that sound, or even how old the song was. Music was just one of the things that had been buried and lost by time. She pushed the levers forward and the Dustrunner shot out of the garage like a bat out of hell, and as she gently pulled on of the levers back the runner arced itself to turn the corner and sped off through the gate. The runner tore through the dusty plains, kicking up dirt behind it as it propelled over the mounds of rock and sailing through the air, before dropping back to the ground, stabilizing itself once more only a few feet from the dirt. Avery couldn't help but grin as she felt the wind across her face, cooling her from the usual burning heat. She ramped over another edge and suddenly found herself at the top of a large slope. Slowing herself for a moment she looked out on to the Wastelands. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but dry and lifeless desert. Anything beyond that was but a mystery. Travelling at night was suicide, so they could only get so far before they had to turn back. Sometimes Avery had dreams that she had managed to travel further. In some of her dreams she imagined that she had found an endless body of water. Enough for everyone to enjoy, and never go thirsty. Such a thing would be amazing, but she knew it didn't exist. Most likely all that was out there was more dry dirt. Shaking her head, Avery pushed the levers forward again and tore off in to the Wastelands. Hours later Avery had found herself at an old ruin. Chunks of metal and stone jutted out from the ground, from some ancient structure of unknown purpose. However such things were not entirely useless. She was searching for pieces of junk, scrap, or even remnants of a world long lost. Sometimes she would even find old photographs, artwork, or even the strange music maker she carried with her. Today's bounty was not quite so fascinating. She picked up the cylindrical tubes made of metal and glass and placed them in the satchel she was carrying. "Power Cells...Leon will be pleased, at least." She said to herself as she continued to rummage around. She was quickly finding that there wasn't much left that was of use. Picking up some bits of scrap metal she headed back to her Dustrunner, and tossed them in the small trailer-like compartment behind her seat, before placing her satchel in there as well. "I guess that will do for today." She said as she clapped her hands together to rid herself of the collected dirt and dust. There was likely only a few hours left before it got dark out. She had to make sure to return before dark. At night the Wastelands were much more dangerous. The temperature dropped and with such clear skies the night became extremely cold. What's more she would be plunged in to complete darkness, and navigation would be next to impossible. And yet that was not the worst of what made the night time so dangerous. There were also the ones who lurked the Wastelands. Creatures who dwell in the twisting caverns of the desert, the only other sentient species of this land, the Chulari. Typically the Chulari stood taller than Humans, usually around seven feet tall. Their eyes were pale and milky white. Their skin was a murky grey with small scales. Their legs were digitigrade, and their bare feet were tough and clawed. Their hands were four-fingered, and their chests were broad, with a narrow waist and slim mid sections. Their faces were mouth-less, and they had tentacle-like appendages growing out from their necks and chins. While hairless, their heads sported large crest-like crowns. Their biology was so different from humans, Avery didn't even know how they ate, or if they even had to. One thing was for sure, they were larger in number, and they were territorial and aggressive to a fault. While they didn't seem quite as clever as humans, they were smart enough to arm themselves. What's more their natural night vision and nocturnal activity made them a major threat at night. Thinking no more on it Avery revved up her Dustrunner once more and shot off through the plains. A few hours passed and the sun began to dip, until the sky became a brilliant red. While driving through the high grounds, her radar blipped to life. Something was moving, She slowed down the runner to a crawl, watching the radar as it continued to blimp. Coming to a stop on a high ledge, she took a metal object that looked like a pair of bincoculars. As she switched it on and peered through it, the screen zoomed in incredibly close, down in to the cavern below. As she watched the creatures moving her heart skipped a beat. The grey skin, the creepy mouthless faces. "Chulari..." She whispered to herself. "But...it's too early." Avery took her goggles off and looked out at the sky. It still wasn't quite night time. It was unusual for them to be out at this time. She peered through the visor again and this time she clocked a lump of brown cloth on the floor. One of the Chulari kicked it roughly across the dirt, and she saw a flash of dark skin, and black hair. "A human!" She gasped. It felt impossible. How could there be a human out here? All the humans lived in the town. She'd never seen one out in the Wastelands before. Peering through the visor she began to feel panic. If the Chulari had her then she was sure to die. At this point she knew it was too late. If she turned back to save her, she wouldn't make it home before dark. Even if she did turn back, she'd probably only get herself killed. "Shit!" she cursed. "Shit! Shit! Shit!" She thumped the console on the front of her Dustrunner and found herself shaking with anger, or perhaps fear. The thought of leaving someone to die like that...it made her sick. She clenched her fists, trying to steady her resolve. With a deep breath she pulled her goggles over her eyes again. Down below the Chulari spoke through strange clicks and groans that seemed, in every sense, unnatural. One of them picked up the dark skinned woman by her dreadlocked hair, and dragged her unconscious body along the dirt. The other Chulari held a strange rifle and seemed to be giving out orders to it's partner. Over there series of clicks and groans, a distant humming noise began to grow louder and louder. With another click the Chulari with the rifle turned to see the Dustrunner tearing across the plains towards them. Without hesitation he lifted the rifle and fired, strange bolts of plasma firing from the gun, straight for the Dustrunner. Avery banked a hard left, narrowly avoiding the spray of white hot plasma that hammered in to the dirt around her. She gunned the runner once more and pressed on, pulling a small grenade from the compartment and pulling the key out with her teeth, before hurling it ahead. The granade went off with a loud bang, and a brilliant white flash which caused the Chulari to wail in pain. Avery brought up her assault rifle and let loose a spray of bullets and she arced around the Chulari, causing them to retreat. As she neared the human woman she slowed to a stop and hopped off the Dustrunner. Knowing that reinforcements would be along any moment, Avery picked up the woman and heaved her on to the Dustrunner. Holding her tight over her knees she pushed the levers forward and tore off once more, as the sun finally disappeared over the mountains and darkness fell. Back at the town, Leon was cagey. He paced the path in front of the gate, a rifle gripped tightly in his hands. "Still no sign?" Mack asked as he leaned against the garage door, smoking another cigarette. "Nothing." Leon growled. "This isn't like her, something is wrong." "We could send a search party out, maybe she's not far." Mack suggested. "Not an option!" Leon spat. His tone was angry, but also filled with worry. "I won't risk more lives. Nobody knows the Wastelands like Avery. We wouldn't last five minutes." "Well, shit. You just gonna let her die then?" Mack said with a frown. "You just gonna close that gate and forget about her?" "You know that's not what I want!" Leon barked. "This...this isn't easy okay! I have this whole town to think of." "Hey Leon!" Someone called from the watch tower. "I can see something coming. It's moving fast, I think it's her!" "Keep the gate up!" Leon barked back, before aiming his rifle towards the gate. If it wasn't Avery, then whatever came through would be dead. He'd make sure of that. He waited, as the familiar hum of Avery's Dustrunner echoed in the night, and finally she emerged through the gate. Lowering his rifle Leon signalled to close the gate as Avery braked in front of him. "Where were you!?" He yelled. "You know how much of a risk that is!" "Leon, just hold on!" Avery cried as she pulled the woman from her Dustrunner and laid her out on the floor. "I found her...she's...human! A human from...well I don't know where. But-" "Get her out!" Leon snapped. "We don't open our doors to strangers. You know that!" "But Leon...she needs help!" Avery protested. "Look I know...I know I should have been back earlier." Tears were in Avery's eyes now. "But I couldn't leave her...she's one of us. But she's from somewhere else! Don't you get it? She's not from here." "I don't care. She could be a bandit! Or a murderer!" Leon snapped. "Leon...we don't call this place Haven for nothing." Avery replied tearfully. "She's unconscious...we need to help her. Please." Leon sighed, scratching his head as Avery cried quietly over the unconscious woman. Finally he shook his head and kicked the dirt in frustration. "Fine!" he said. "Get her to Doc! Quickly!"
  23. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    Munenori was quiet as he observed the aftermath of the little experiment he had involved himself in. Blood coated the room where the infected Ghoul was now locked inside. He could hear the other 10 Ghouls muttering to themselves in the other room. He shook his head disapprovingly. Messy, he thought. This was not how he liked to operate at all. The experiment was slap-dash at best, the executed by eager but inexperienced students. There was little in terms of preparation. He had to admit, however, that the lab was impressive. Reinforced glass panels, deadlocked doors, the equipment was state of the art and it was clear that this facility had never been used before. Hitomi clearly worked for men of means. He had assumed such organisations must have existed within Ghoul society, but he had never truly known. He felt his hairs stand on end, a rush of excitement coursing through him. In all of his years experimenting on Ghouls, he had done so with funding from secret government funding, human government of course. His research had been entirely Biological. Social and Cultural aspects had never been a factor, towards the end he had stopped questioning where his stock had come from. All he required was for them to be healthy. Three years of his life had been spent inside of that lab, scouring every inch of the Ghoul biology, and in many ways he had become the leading expert in their physiology. However, it had all been scrapped. His research taken from him, his funding, his lab. He was left with nothing, and was unable to tell the world of his discoveries. In all the time since he had felt empty. Until today. Despite the sloppy execution, today had been the first time he had felt alive in a long time. Perhaps with this unlikely relationship with Hitomi, his research could continue. But he had to play it carefully, she was dangerous, after all. The door to the next room swung open, and the Ghouls inside came out en masse. Gone were there sickly, pale complexions. Their feast had left them revitalised, confident and full of life. Upon noticing Munenori, a sly grin flashed across the face of one of them. "Looks like Hitomi left us some dessert!" He said as he patted his stomach. "I'm pretty stuffed...but there's always room for dessert, eh?" The comment was greeted with a ripple of laughter from the Ghoul's cronies. Munenori even managed a sliver of a smile, as he adjusted his glasses habitually. "I believe Miss Hitomi instructed you all that misbehaviour would result in...discipline, was it?" Munenori asked. His question had struck a nerve, noted in the Ghouls grimace, his face a mixture of fear and disgust for but a fleeting moment, before he resumed his cocky grin. "Hitomi ain't here." He replied. "We could say you got rough and...we had to take you out. We have to look out for ourselves, you know." "Were there not 12 of you?" Munenori asked. "I only see 10 left...and your friend in the other room makes 11. So what happened to the other? Was he...disciplined?" "Y-you don't know what you're talkin' about!" The Ghoul snarled, although his eyes were fearful. "Oh, I think I do." Munenori replied. "You see Miss Hayashi and I are partners. We tell each other everything." He lied, with such ease it might as well have been the truth. "Our research is very important...as you can see from the blood stained window, your friend has...lost control. In truth his hunger has been repidly increased, in time hunger will be all he knows. A horrific, painful existence. We plan to use this information to better your society...but there is always more we can learn. I'm sure Miss Hayashi would have no problem deciding our next subject...especially if that subject had proved disobedient." The Ghouls looked once more at the blood-stained glass, and their expressions became entirely fearful. "Look...we were just messing around. Like...a joke. We were just joking!" One of the Ghouls stammered. Munenori smiled politely. "Yes, a very funny one at that." He said with a nod. "And now that we have all had a good laugh at your comedic genius...I assume you fine gentleman will want to go home. Yes?" "R-right." The Ghoul agreed, nodding hesitantly. And he left, ushering his cronies to follow him out of the lab, closing the door behind them. And now Munenori was alone, left with only the infected abomination that was behind the glass. Still, that creature was going nowhere for now. Munenori sat himself at one of the computers and began browsing the web. About an hour had passed and he was still sat there, now with a fresh cup of coffee at his side. On the browser there were numerous tabs, but the one he was on was the official website for a company called Kirigatsu Corporation. He seemed particularly interested in their building in Tokyo, in the Akihabara area. He heard the door open and turned around to see Hitomi enter. He took a sip from his coffee before greeting her. "Ah, Miss Hayashi, welcome back. I've just made a fresh pot. Help yourself." he said casually. "Yo!" Hitomi cheered, as she walked into the lab, closing the door behind her. She looked around the room, her wide smile still holding on her face. Her eyes lingered on Munenori for a moment, before they passed onto the adjacent rooms. The ghouls were gone, but she could hear the feral ghoul in the next room. "So glad to see you're still here, Doctor!" She smiled at him, "Glad you didn't go anywhere," She added, but what she meant by that was unclear. However, Munenori saw so clearly through her mask. What she was truly thinking was, of course, still a mystery. Clearly she had been trained to hide the micro expressions all people exhibited, which betrayed their lies. Yet her "mask" was so unlike her own persona. It was almost a caricature of a real person. "Of course, why would I leave when there is so much to be done?" Munenori replied. "Forgive me I was just looking in to a personal matter." He added, nodding to the screen. Hitomi grinned, "As was I, apologies for leaving, Doctor!" She turned her gaze to the screen, "What'cha doin'?" She asked curiously, leaning over. "Kirigatsu Corporation..." Munenori began to explain. "They are a large Corporation with their hands in many pots. You may not have heard of them, but you will have no doubt heard of the many face names they operate under. They are involved in beauty therapy products, designer labels, franchised coffee shops, media companies. Aside from commercial products they are also involved in Military Weapons Manufacturing, Chemical and Biological Research, Colleges, Universities and a number of other establishments." Munenori adjusted his glasses and took another sip of coffee. "It is not known to the public but...these are the people who funded my research. They are the ones who have taken my work from me." "Ooo..." Hitomi cooed but then quickly dismissed it with a wave of her hand as she sauntered over to the nearby coffee pot, "You have better things to do with your time, Doctor. We still have a sample next door," And to highlight this, Hitomi whistled and the feral ghoul in the next room ran at the door and when the tough glass and reinforced metal did not budge, it returned to it's meal. "Mmm..." She sighed, bringing the coffee beans up to her nose and smelling them before pouring herself a cup. "Indeed." Munenori replied. "However you did leave rather abruptly. I do not pretend to know your intentions towards this specimen. Perhaps if I was a more suspicious man, I'd think you might have hoped I would let curiosity get the better of me?" "If you were a more suspicious man, Doctor, you would not have entered your apartment tonight!" Hitomi smiled back at him, "But, now that you mention it," She mused, putting a forefinger to her lips, "If I wanted to claim innocence in your death, this might be a way to go about it, ne?" She laughed, and took a sip of coffee. "Well you can rest assured, Miss Hayashi, I will not fall to death so easily. I am an exceptionally careful man." Munenori replied. "But let's bypass this trivial illusion of pleasantries. I much prefer your true self, she is more direct and to the point. I dislike diversive conversation, as you said before, I have better things to do with my time." "But I much prefer the game!" Hitomi replied with a smile, "But for now--" She added, her smile fading until her face was coldly neutral. "The request of you was simple, Doctor. You are to diagnose the cause of this..." She looked to the blood-splattered window, "... illness." She finished, taking a sip of coffee. "You've done that, and even provided us with a specimen. Do with it as you will, but we need only better understand it." She paused as a thought occurred to her. "The more important question is - How useful can I make myself?" She asked, raising an eyebrow with a soft smile. "If it is a cure you are after, then that will potentially take time." Munenori explained. "Ghoul DNA is highly adaptive which means I can synthesize something quickly, but not that quickly. I would say it could take me anywhere up to a month. I assume you wish to capture this Rogue Ghoul before then. If you are to hunt it, then you must know it's behaviour. We can already assume that this Ghoul hunted someone from the upper classes, most likely. However if you will allow me to observe our specimen for a few days then I can see how it reacts to extreme food deprivation. If we do that then I will need a more suitable facility, somewhere highly reinforced. There is no telling how this specimen will react. I have studied food deprivation before...Ghouls can become surprisingly powerful when pushed to their limits." "So, you want to keep that ghoul alive." Hitomi nodded in the direction of the feral ghoul, "And move it to a more 'secure' facility." Hitomi blew on her coffee to cool it, "How do you propose to move a ghoul when it is incapable of maintaining it's..." Hitomi searched for the right word with a curious expression on her face, "... pantomime?" She finished, with a satisfied smile. "In fact, it is incapable of any logical thought whatsoever, and would as readily attack myself as it would you, or anyone on the street." "A cocktail of anti-psychotics, and mood stabilizers. Diazepam, Promethazine, Cannabidiol and Sultopride are known to be particularly effective with Ghouls. To be safe we should administer particularly high doses. Then you simply need to transport the specimen. Alternatively you can simply dose the specimen here and keep it docile. However that will drastically impact the accuracy of the data we receive." "Drugs..." Hitomi nodded and put her coffee to one side, "How are you going to adminster these drugs, Doctor? A needle..." She began, opening a drawer below one of the desks. Hitomi pulled out a packaged syringe, opened it and pushed the needle to her skin, "... won't pierce." And as she said, the needle of the syringe snapped as she applied force, leaving her skin untouched. "This is one of the main reasons why ghouls are so feared. Your weapons are ineffective against us. Do you have an alternate solution, or shall I just tear an opening in his hide?" "I am well aware of your defences, Miss Hayashi." Munenori replied. "These drugs can be administered orally. Simply lace the specimen's food with it." Munenori rubbed his brow, a sliver of annoyance appearing on his face. "Much as I appreciate constructive questioning, you might want to start putting a modicum of faith in me, Miss Hayashi. I know more about your kind than perhaps anyone else. At least biologically speaking, of course." "What faith I have, Doctor, is not to be wasted on the likes of you. You may be right a hundred times, but I will not entrust my life, or my race, to a 99% success rate. Not even then." Hitomi picked up her coffee and finished it with a single gulp, "I will ask questions when I think it's prudent, or..." She paused and set her cup aside once more. Hitomi walked up to the Doctor and leant in, suddenly her pupils filled her eyes until they were entirely black, "... my faith could be offered, if you can tell me the function of these eyes." Munenori raised his brow, genuinely intrigued for a change. He paused for a moment, observing her with a studious gaze. When he spoke he did so matter-of-factly. "Miss Hayashi...you have the reasoning of an ignorant child. To compare your unique trait to that of a simple, all encompassing biological fact of your species, is either petty or, frankly, complete idiocy. Unless you spent some time as a specimen of mine, there is no possible way for me to know what your unique trait is capable of. If it makes you feel better to counter my arguments with flawed reasoning then by all means do so, but do not expect me to award you any praise or respect for doing so. As much as you may loathe my existence, and it is clear that you do, your organisation need me because of my knowledge. If you think me as ill-equipped as any run of the mill science teacher then I suggest you hire one of them." "It's not up to me, you're here because they want you to be." Hitomi replied, shrugging, "Anyway, for someone who claims to know so much about ghouls, you could at least try," She sighed, "You're really no fun at all." She muttered. "Not all ghouls have secondary traits. Those that do, are usually because they feed on other ghouls and inherit their abilities. This is one reason that our society discourages such an act. A ghoul's ability can be defined by one of three broader definitions," She grinned as Munenori appeared disinterested in her explanation, "Strike, Sense and Shield. These are our names, perhaps one of your test subjects told you, perhaps not." "I did not often speak with subjects. Although there were a few exceptions..." Munenori commented. "Mmm..." Hitomi mused, but continued, "Strike-form abilities are the most common. They are offensive in nature. They can be martial or projectile, but are usually formed to facilitate a kill." Hitomi paused as the information she shared seemed to settle on Munenori's thoughts, "Shield-form abilities are defensive in nature, and often gained to protect a ghoul from harm." Hitomi pointed to her black eyes with her forefinger, "Sense-form abilities give a ghoul a unique perspective on the world. They could be auditory, oculary, or any other sense that a ghoul, or indeed a human, would use to interact with and understand the world." Hitomi's eyes returned to normal and she held her forefinger up, "But... there are also those ghouls who manifest several abilities, or abilities that stretch across multiple brackets, but they are..." Her expression grew tight and uncomfortable, "... rare." "Very interesting..." Munenori replied, his hand rubbing his chin. "Obviously I have encountered the various abilities of Ghouls. There were instances where we studied particular abilities, but it was fruitless to attempt to study them all. We did deduce, similarly, that the traits could be identified by those three factors. During my time with Kirigatsu Corporation we coined them as Incurso, Contego and Sensus. Kirigatsu did have a flair for the dramatic, and quite a fondness for Latin. However the definitions were used to categorize the Ghouls, and not the abilities. Simple observation suggests your eyes have a Sense ability, but experience tells me that assuming such is undoubtedly foolish. Also the way you spoke of rare types suggests that you, yourself, are a rare type. I cannot possibly say any more than that without further testing. Although perhaps one day I might bend your ear over a particular subject of mine, one that was a bit of a conundrum. Perhaps she was of a rare type, like yourself." Hitomi noticed Munenori's meandering thoughts on a ghoul he referred to as 'she', as something he likely had a profound connection to. Perhaps they were lovers? No, Hitomi thought to herself, that was unlikely. "Yes, I too am unique amongst my race, Doctor. But I made no secret of this, when I first spoke to you I said I was unlike other ghouls. Though, I am unlike other ghouls for reasons besides my biology." Hitomi paused and then let out a deep breath, "Well... what are we doing with that?" She asked, jerking her head in the direction of the feral ghoul in the next room. "Well..." Munenori folded his arms together. "I would like it contained more adequately, in whatever way is possible. Then we will begin food deprivation. This is a simple test, leave the subject alone with no outside stimulus, no food or water, no contact with any one. This will likely exacerbate it's psychosis, which could result in bouts of intense rage, violent outbursts and a great deal of pain. While this process is relatively simple, it is exceptionally cruel. We would only proceed if you are willing." "My feelings in this matter are irrelevant." Hitomi replied, "I will restrain him, then." She added, and walked into the room in which the ghouls had been kept. They were gone now, but they had left behind the remains of their meal. Hitomi picked up a partially eaten hand and offered it to the Doctor, "Can you give me a hand, Doctor?" She asked jokingly, her sweet-as-sugar persona pushing through, "Drugs, please!" Munenori spent a few minutes rifling through the cabinets, finding the drugs he needed. When he was done he emptied out an entire bottle of each and began to grind them down using a pestle and mortar. Eventually he was left with a large pile of dust. Putting on gloves he took the arm from Hitomi and laid it down on one of the stainless steel tables. Using sterilized equipment he began to cut in to the arm, carefully cutting away the skin so that he could get to the flesh underneath. He began to sprinkle the powdered drugs on to the flesh, rubbing it gently like he was marinating a steak in spices. As he continued the powder began to work it's way in to the flesh until it could no longer be seen. Finally he pulled off his gloves. "That should be adequate." Munenori replied. "Make sure to wear protective gear. Your chance of infection is next to zero as long as you do not have skin contact with KX-Q4T."