Kyo

Graduate
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  1. 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?"
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?"
  5. Playstation 4

    Can't seem to find your id on PSN Phil, you sure that's the right handle?
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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."
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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."
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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!"
  18. 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."
  19. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    "Yes, I am." Munenori said with a nod. He cast his eyes over the students, pondering his words. It would be foolish to explain his theories in front of them. If they realised what they were doing it would likely cause panic and ultimately disrupt his tests. "Miss Hayashi. I will require the tissue samples now. Three samples should suffice." He said to her, hoping she would understand what he meant. "Yes, Doctor!" Hitomi chimed, then she walked back to the room adjacent and closed the door behind her. When she returned, she saw that the decapitated ghoul's body had been moved into the corner, and while the rest of the ghouls stood or sat around on the other side of the room, two were bent over the corpse, tearing great chunks from it with their fangs and consuming the flesh greedily. Letting out a short breath, Hitomi shook her head. It was true, feeding on a ghoul might satiate their hunger, slightly. But it would be a short, ineffective and unpleasant meal. Ghouls could consume one another, but it was not something that most civilised or right-minded ghouls would partake in. But, she understood that when the hunger took over, it was like they were burning alive, and it had to be sated no matter what. She walked over to the corpse and picked up the dead ghoul's head. Examining it for a few moments, she tore a piece of scalp from the head and then plucked hairs from each of the ghouls feeding on the corpse. She glanced over the rest of the ghouls who were talking amongst themselves, and then rejoined the students. "Here you are, Doctor!" Hitomi exclaimed, placing each hair down on the metal counter in front of him and the small chunk of flesh and hair beside them. She flashed him a smile, licking her fingers clean, then sat down and took a sip of coffee. "Thank you." Munenori replied as he carefully picked up each piece of tissue with a pair of tweezers and placed them in individual petri dishes. He handed each of them to a group of 4 students. "Each group go in to seperate rooms and tests the samples. I've prepared instructions for each of you. Follow them, record the results and I will come and check on you in a while." Each of the students gathered what they needed and went off in to their seperate rooms to perform the tests, some excited while others a little quizical about the origins of the samples. However their murmurings were kept to a low and they obediently carried out their tasks, leaving Munenori alone in the room with Hitomi. He leant against one of the tables and folded his arms over his chest, bowing his head deep in thought. "This brings back memories." He said. "It has been a while since my curiosity has been peaked like this." Hitomi remained silent, taking a long sip of coffee in response. She watched the human 'doctor' for a long while before finally letting out a breath, "You are fortunate." She replied. "Undoubtedly so." Munenori replied with a swift nod. His gaze turned to Hitomi and he eyed her, he thought, much like she probably eyed her prey. She was a fierce and deadly creature, one who could easily end his life in but a blink of an eye. Yet he did not fear her, through no fault of her own. Impressive as she was, he was perhaps broken in that aspect. He had spent so much time around Ghouls, doing great and terrible things, things that made the figure in front of him seem decidedly less impressive. "What about your curiosity, Miss Hayashi? Do you wish to know my hypothesis...do you wish to know what those students are trying to discover?" "The explanation matters little to me," Hitomi replied, taking another sip of her coffee and letting the mug warm her hands, "Whatever you find, I will use to help locate the cause of the problem." She brought the mug up to her nose and smelled the rich aroma before replying, "And snuff it out." She said finally. "That is my purpose." "How uncivilised." Munenori replied. "Are you even aware of how truly adaptable your DNA is? On a fundamental level, at your very core, your DNA adapts so quickly to foreign stimuli. For this reason you have become quickly immune to human diseases, you heal your wounds quickly. Other than your rather limited range of sustenance you are in many ways a truly optimal species. Yet the adaptibility of your genes leaves you open to sudden and incredibly rapid mutation. Exposure to rare and foreign substances can completely change your genetic make up in amazingly complex ways." "I am aware." Hitomi replied, "Civilised or not, the cause does not trouble me as greatly as the solution. Life is precious," She said, finishing her coffee, "All life." She added, putting the mug down as her eyes fell back on Munenori again, "I don't expect you, of all humans, to understand that." "A fair assessment." Munenori agreed. "You would not be alone in your estimation of my character, I assure you. Perhaps there was a time when there existed a naive boy who held similar thoughts to your own. However the more I discovered the more I realised that lives...were not a relevant factor. I take no pleasure in inflicting injury or death upon anyone...but equally I do not feel guilt either." Munenori gave a soft smirk. "There are several possible explanations for this feral Ghoul to exist. I cannot eliminate the possibility that it is a neurological condition. It could simply mean that the Ghoul has lost his or her mind. However if that is the case then I cannot help you, and so it is best to pursue the options in which I can." Munenori stood up straight again, and began pacing the room with his hands held behind his back. "Mutation is the most likely culprit. Based on that hypothesis alone I can deduce that the catalyst of such a sudden transformation is a rare material that the Ghoul has never been exposed to. From there it is simply a case of testing the reactions of each possible substance on a piece of tissue, and examining the effects. I have narrowed it down to three such substances. KX-Q4T, a synthetic compound that has only recently made it's way to Tokyo. It is a chemical compound found in a band of women's perfume that launched around a month or so ago. It is quite expensive, I would imagine only the wealthiest humans would own a bottle." Munenori held up his hand with two fingers outstretched, the same fingers Hitomi had broken, which were now deeply bruised from the trauma she had inflicted. "The second subtstance is a brand of insect repellant, also a synthetic production. This has been in use for 6 months now, however the effects may be slow. You should hope that this is not the substance we find to instigate a reaction, or you may find yourself with an epidemic on your hands very soon." Hitomi listened to the Doctor's theories until at last he paused, "You've given me two explanations, Doctor. The third?" "The possibility is an allergic reaction. This would be the most desired result, in terms of damage control. Allergies are random and can happen at any time. It is possible that a sudden allergic reaction to even common substances can cause a rather severe mutation within a Ghoul. In this case my theory is that the reaction would cause an exceptional increase in the speed at which a Ghoul burns through energy. Essentially they would need to feed more often, and the hunger would likely reach a point of cognitive breakdown much more rapidly. The third groups are performing a simple allergy test that human doctors would do." "Then we will have to hope that it is options one, or three." Hitomi replied simply, and stood up to walk back to the kitchen. She placed her mug in the sink and her stomach growled. Ignoring it, she washed her mug and let it rest where it could dry on the side. "How much longer are your tests going to take?" She asked. Munenori stopped pacing and opened the door to one of the rooms. "I will check." He said as he entered. One by one he entered each room, surveyed the results, and moved on to the next. After a moment he escorted two of the groups to the door. "Thank you for your help. You can go for now." He said with a warm smile. As the groups filed out, only 4 students remained, awaiting further instruction inside their lab. "Allergy has been ruled out on this occasion, but I expected as much, it was a long shot." Munenori admitted. "However, so has the pesticides. The likely culprit is KX-Q4T. The tests showed rapid deterioration of the tissue sample. The reaction was incredibly rapid. If the Ghoul who is suffering from this affliction is still alive...then he or she is most likely in considerable pain. No doubt by this point the mind will have gone completely insane. However there is one more test that must be done to confirm." Munenori glanced at the remaining students behind the glass window. "Bring one of the Ghouls, skin contact with KX-Q4T should be enough to cause a reaction. Please wear gloves when you apply it. We will observe the reaction and..." Munenori paused for a moment. "...If the test is a success...the subject will become extremely volatile. I assume you will be able to handle that?"
  20. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    Upon entering his apartment, Ikitsuki Munenori was greeted by an attractive, blonde haired young woman. He was a young man approaching 30, dressed in a casual grey suit with a white shirt, the neck unbuttoned with no tie. He was slim and unassuming, hardly athletic but not out of shape. His black hair was cut in a stylish layered fashion, his fringe cascading over to his right. Behind his thin framed, rectangular glasses, his eyes were an olive colour and seemed calm and yet alert. "Yes, this is my apartment." Munenori replied finally, his voice calm and well mannered. He closed the door behind him and stepped in to the room. "How...considerate of you to to walk in to danger like that. What if the burglar had still been inside?" His tone was still mild mannered, but his eyes never wavered from the girl, the bright glare of his glasses caught in the moonlight as he made his way to the open plan kitchen. "Ah!" She gasped and quickly went to approach Munenori, but as she did so, she clumsily knocked the glass decanter from the table, it shattered with a clear ringing, "I-I'm s-so sorry, Sir!" She bent down and started to pick up the pieces from the ground, "I didn't mean to, i'll pay for it." She added, "A-and I didn't think about the burglar still being here, I guess... I just rushed in." She smiled at the man and offered the largest pieces of the decanter to him. "I'm very sorry." "It's alright." Munenori replied. "Just put that on the side, I'll clean it up later." He added as he turned from the girl and opened the fridge, his frame suddenly illuminated by the bright light. He plucked a carton of milk from the fridge and closed it, and found a glass in one of the cabinets, placing them both on the bar area between him and the girl. "Curious...I may not have much but what I do have is quite valuable...and yet nothing appears to be stolen. What would you make of that?" He asked as he poured the cold milk in to the glass. "I-I don't know." She replied, pressing a finger to her lips as her eyes went vacant, "I don't really think a burglar is thinking straight either way." She placed the broken glass on the table top and stood up, brushing her coat off. "It's not the best of circumstances, but," She smiled and shook her head, shaking off her embarrassment, "I'm Hayashi Hitomi, pleased to meet you." Hitomi walked forwards and then bowed to Munenori and waited, her gaze wandered over the apartment, "You have a lovely place, Sir." She added, then she looked as though she regretted saying that, "Ah-- b-besides the mess..." She whispered, looking at the glass and the broken door, and then her gaze settled back on him. Munenori's gaze lingered on the woman. While his expression was gentle, he could not hide the way his eyes examined each detail of her, observing her every move. "Doctor Ikitsuki Munenori." He replied, before taking the glass of milk and sipping from it, relinquishing it from his lips with an audible gasp. "Ah...refreshing!" He said with a sliver of a smile. "Well Miss Hayashi, you have my gratitude for coming to my rescue, but as you can see I am unharmed...and the thief appears to have fled. Strange though...I suppose I will check the security cameras in the hallway. I'm sute the police will find that very useful." "I think that's the best course of action, Sir." Hitomi smiled at Munenori, "Well, if you think the burglar is gone, then i'll find my way out also. I'm sorry," She laughed, "I didn't mean to barge in like this, I should have thought first." "Of course." Munenori replied. "I won't keep you much longer...although..." Munenori gestured towards the fridge, "I feel like I should offer you something for your kindness. A glass of milk? Perhaps some trifle?" Munenori glanced at the espresso maker on the counter. "or would you prefer a coffee?" "Oh! Mmm..." Hitomi mused over her options until finally she clapped her hands together, "Oh, I can't choose! They all sound nice. Whatever's easiest for you, Sir." She looked around the apartment, noticed the sofa and sat down, smoothing out her coat. "You said you were a Doctor, didn't you?" She asked, "What kind of Doctor? Like a heart doctor?" "Research." Munenori replied as he opened the fridge, pulling out the bowl of trifle and placing it on the side. He found a bowl and spoon and served his guest a portion, placing it on the coffee table beside the sofa. "My current position is somewhat dull, I admit. There are far more interesting things to talk about. Such as our mysterious burglar. Forgive me but I struggle to stop myself from analysing at times. It just seems peculiar that a burglar would not steal a single item...it's as if he had more sordid means at mind, or she for that matter." "It's pretty strange!" Hitomi nodded with a smile, and picked up her bowl of trifle and examined it with her spoon as she spoke, "What kind of research do you do?" She asked, scooping out a spoonful of trifle, and eating it with relish. "Oh!" She gasped, shaking her head, "It's very sweet," She chuckled but then shrugged her shoulders, "But then, I haven't had much to eat today." Then she resumed eating. "At the moment I am researching cell mutation for a local University. The findings are quite disappointing to say the least. Poor funding, poor equipment. The facilities are not quite as up to scratch as I have become accustomed to." Munenori replied. "What about you Miss Hayashi? What do you do?" "Oh, that's interesting!" Hitomi replied, "But a bit above my head." She added, laughing. Hitomi rolled her spoon around inside her bowl and licked the back of the spoon before putting the dessert aside. "No, really, I haven't been totally truthful with you, Sir." Hitomi leant back in the sofa to the point her feet were in the air and she bobbed them up and down as she spoke, "I know you're a researcher, and I work for a company that would fund your research." She inclined her head and smiled pleasantly but a moment later she stood up, "I just need the bathroom, one sec!" She exclaimed and then walked off and shut the door. A minute or two later, she walked back out holding a compact and examining herself in the mirror. "Just a touch up! So, should I tell them you're interested?" Hitomi sat back down and rested her head on her arm with a lazy grin. In the short time she had been in the bathroom, Munenori’s demeanour had shifted. Still calm and collected, and yet his mild mannered behaviour had been cast aside. He leant forward on the sofa, pressing his fingers together in front of his face. “Interesting…†he said darkly, before slipping in to another contemplative pause. After a moment he pulled his fingers from each other, and adjusted his glasses, before leaning back on the sofa, crossing on of his legs over the other. “That explains the rather poor act you’re putting on.†He said with a smile. “Although I fail to see why any reputable organisation would feel the need to break in my door. I have an email address, you know?†"Oh, i'm sorry!" Hitomi chuckled, "Life is deception, though!" She then stood up and sat beside Munenori and placed her hand on his, "Now, let's play a game!" She said excitedly, "My favourite game, is questions and answers!" She smiled and then gripped his wrist and pinned it to his leg, "Question one! How many ghouls did you kill?" Her eyes lit up as she waited patiently, her smile still etched on her face, like a mask. Munenori’s eyes had become wide and alert, a mixture of perhaps a small shred of fear, but mostly revelation. “Oho…interesting.†Munenori replied. “I cannot give you an exact sum…I stopped counting after a while. North of 100 at the very least. And not one of them had to resolve to willingly eat something which, for you, must have been quite putrid.†"Took you long enough!" Hitomi clapped on the hand gripping Munenori's. "Well done, Dr. Ghoul!" Then she rolled her eyes and chuckled, "And, well, i'm not quite the same as the ghouls you 'studied', ne?" She used her free hand to grip Munenori's forefinger and slightly pulled back on it, though she did not exert any real force behind the action, it was clear her questions carried a penalty if answered unsatisfactorily, "Question two! What did your research on ghouls reveal? Physically, socially, politically?" “Politically…I am unsure.†Munenori began. “I believe the research was initially funded under the guise of finding a cure, or somehow combatting your kind. If the results had been more favourable I imagine it would have had a huge political impact. However that was not the case, by the time I was shut down, my own employers thought me a mad man. Anyway I digress…†Munenori sighed, acutely aware of the pain this woman could inflict on him. “Socially…I confess to not getting to know my subjects particularly. My research was biological in nature, the feelings of the subject were rarely of importance. So I suppose we reach the physical revelation.†Munenori took a deep breath, but could not help but smile slightly. “My discoveries are something I could discuss in length, and I will if that is what you wish. But we are talking about 3 years of research. Although I suppose the fundamental discovery is that…†Munenori paused for a moment, gathering his words. “Ghoul cells are highly predisposed to sudden and rapid mutation. All they require is the slightest nudge, with the right stimuli…and a great deal of things can transpire within them.†Listening quietly with a smile plastered on her face, Hitomi nodded occasionally and when Munenori had finished she let out a cheer, "Very good, Dr. Ghoul!" She exclaimed, and then patted him on the back, "Now we're on the right path!" Then suddenly, she snapped his forefinger back ninety degrees. Munenori released a short howl and grit his teeth, clutching at his mangled hand. "Sorry, Dr. Ghoul!" She patted the man on the head like a pet, "But you know things I need to know! But, i'll make you a deal." She held her forefinger up to her lips and thought absent-mindedly for a moment, "Mmm, tell me... what would cause a ghoul to start killing humans for no reason, that is, mm... a reason other than food or sport. Tell me, and... I promise I won't hurt you any more..." Then as an afterthought she added, "Or eat you." She released Munenori's hand as a gesture of good will and sat with her hands on her lap. Munenori struggled to not curse the woman under his breath. Even a calm and composed man such as himself was unable to suppress the natural reactions of his own body. His entire hand throbbed, to him it felt like it was on fire. Severe pain like that had him struggling, unable to focus. It was this reaction that lead weaker men to give in to fear, and to give their torturers what they wanted. With a slow but shakey exhalation of breath, he tried to focus. “Your promises hold little value at this point.†He said, trying to keep his voice steady. “It will save us both time if you stop making them. The facts are simple. I hold something of value to you, but if I give it up to you, then I am no longer of worth. You will kill me. I know I would do the same. If I were you…staring at a man who is responsible for a mass genocide of your kind. Do you think I have any illusions at all that you would allow me to live if I were not of some value to you alive?†"Oh!" Hitomi giggled, "You have me!" She held her hands up, "The higher-ups say they want you alive, but i'll admit that if you just told me, I think I might just eat you anyway." Her sweet smile gave no hint of aggression, yet her eyes were wide with excitement, "Who's to know?!" She laughed, and then reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a phone. "But, you still broke my rules!" She held out her hand and slowly, hesitantly, Munenori reached out. Hitomi took hold of the man's middle finger, and for the second time, snapped it ninety degrees in the wrong direction. Munenori released another low howl of pain while Hitomi scrolled down her phone contacts and hit "Call", then "Speaker" and laid the phone down on the table. The phone rang twice, and then a voice answered. "What is it?" The speaker's voice was deep, and authoritative. "Dr. Ikitsuki is worried! He says i'll eat him if he tells me what I need to know!" She glanced at the doctor and then looked back at the phone and rested her head back on her arm. "The doctor is not to be killed, or you will be hunted down and destroyed, Orochi or not. And drop that ridiculous mask, Hayashi. " The man on the other end of the line hung up and when Munenori looked back to Hitomi, her demeanour had changed. Gone was her 'sweet as sugar' persona, all smiles and bubblegum. What was left behind was a cold, dead stare. "Give me your hand." Hitomi demanded with a forceful tone, she took hold of the doctor's hand and quickly snapped his fingers back into place and stood up, "Get your jacket. I'm taking you to your lab. Now." Munenori took a deep breath, but eventually complied without a word. He didn’t know what this woman’s game was, nor did another voice over a phone provide him with any more peace of mind. The fact was simple. His life was on the line, and he would suffer all of his fingers being broken before he would allow himself to die. He clearly had leverage, he just had to find out what it was. If he could give them the right answers, but keep his life valuable, then perhaps this could one day become favourable to him. “You know.†He finally spoke up before they exited the apartment. “I find myself once again mentioning how unnecessary your attempts to coerce me are. If you want a consultation, all you had to do was ask.â€
  21. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Leaving Dax to rest Ashara made her way to the HoloNet room. When she entered it was filled with the civilians Dax had saved, over 20 of them. She gave a soft sigh. Her ship wasn't really built to hold so many. She cleared her throat before addressing them. "Excuse me, everybody." She began. "I know you are all very tired and scared right now. I need to speak with the Republic authorities right now. So you will all have to clear this room. If you go find my droid he will find you somewhere suitable to stay for the moment." her voice was calm and polite, but it left no room for question. Slowly but without complaint, the civilians left the room so that Ashara was alone. She closed the door behind her and stepped up to the console, patching a call through to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. As the call went through, a hologram of a man about her height materialised before her. However he was clearly not human. His skin was wrinkled, and his face and eyes were covered by a antiox breath mask and a pair of protective goggles. Around his jaw there were small black tusks sticking out. The Kel Dor Jedi's form was instantly recognizable to Ashara, however, and she gave a short bow to the man. "Grand Master Zym." She said as she lifted her head. Zym gave a her a nod back. "Ashara, you're alive. That is good to see." Zym said "Fleets have arrived at Ilum, but our forces are already spread thin across the Galaxy. I am afraid this does not look good. The Senate are holding an emergency meeting at the moment. I've sent the rest of the Council in my stead, I wanted to speak to you personally. What happened down there?" "I am afraid there is not much to say." Ashara replied. "The Imperial Fleet came out of nowhere. We didn't stand a chance. Master Raella and I tried to fight them off as best as we could but..." "I know. I felt it from here." Zym replied. "He was a good man. A bit...off, at times. Still...he will be missed." "I do have some good news." Ashara said. "I have about 2 dozen civilians aboard my ship. It's a little crowded, but I would like to get them to safety as soon as possible." "Fantastic work, Ashara." Zym commended. "It is my Padawan who deserves the credit." Ashara replied. "She...is resting at the moment. She took a blaster to her stomach. She'll be fine." "Quite a test The Force has put on her, in that case." Zym said with a sagely nod. "I am glad she has passed. Very well, there is a civilian transport en route to Courscant not far from you. I'll send the coordinates to your ship and let the Captain know you are on your way. You can drop your passengers off with them." "Thank you." Ashara said with another bow of her head. "Shall we return to Coruscant afterwards for a full debrief?" "Not yet." Zym shook his head. "I'll need more time, what with this Senate meeting. However...we may have a lead. Our intelligence network is already on to something. I'd like you and your Padawan to go to Ord Mantell. I'll be in touch before you arrive." "Grand Master..." Ashara said apprehensively. "I think Dax might need some time to rest. She has witnessed a lot...and she was not prepared for entering a battle. We were supposed to be training her in a safe place. I don't want to endanger her again, not so soon." "Worrying for your Padawan is admirable." Zym replied. "However, I am afraid our resources are spread thin. I need someone with your skills, Ashara. If you would rather leave Dax on the transport she can return to Coruscant. Although...no training you give her will ever be as effective as the real thing. She could learn a lot from this." "She is...cocky. Emotional." Ashara replied. "I worry that she is not ready." "Hmph!" Zym seemed quite amused by the comment. "I seem to remember a cocky young Twi'lek who was very similar. I wonder how she would have felt if Master Zhen Ko had excluded her from travelling with him. Hmm?" "...Yes, you're right." Ashara replied. "I'll make my way to the transport and await your instructions." "Good. Until then, Ashara." Zym said finally, and then his hologram disappeared. Ashara let out another sigh. She wished to be alone right now. Sadly this wasn't possible. She had guests, and a lot to do. She left the room and made her way to the bridge where X2 was waiting. "Those passengers sure can whine, Ashara." X2 said as she stepped on to the bridge. "You would think they would be more grateful at having their lives saved." "They are scared, X2." Ashara replied. "Try to show a little understanding." "I am not programmed to facilitate fear based responses." X2 replied. "It would be somewhat counter-productive for a droid to get in a panic, don't you think?" "Fine." Ashara replied, too tired to argue. "There should be coordinates coming in. Set a course and keep in communication with the Captain of the civlian transport. Let me know when we're on approach." "Roger, roger." X2 replied. "Pardon?" Ashara asked. "I do not know...it just came to me." "Dax..." Ashara said as she gently shook her Padawan's arm to wake her. "Dax...you need to wake up now." Blinking the sleep from her eyes, Dax looked up at Ashara with a confused expression, "What's happening?" She asked, trying to pull herself up. "We're boarding a Republic Civilian Vessel." Ashara explained. "We'll be stopping briefly to re-supply. We should probably get you cleaned up and in some fresh clothes as well." She added. "I'll get changed." Dax replied, and stood up. Her wound still hurt, but the Kolto had clearly helped a lot, at least she felt mobile enough to move on her own. She took a deep breath and walked back down towards her quarters, down the stairs and past the engine room. On her way there, she received endless stares and strange expressions from the civilians they were transporting. She couldn't make sense of their expressions, she'd never seen anything like it. Instead, she focused on getting back to her room and changing. Once she was in a fresh set of clothes, she returned to Ashara, once again passing the gawping civilians on her way. "This feels weird." She said to Ashara, commenting on their new passengers, as she sat down in a chair beside the pilot's seat. Ashara sat in the seat next to her and began pushing buttons on the console. "This is Jedi Knight Ashara Ven requesting clearance to dock." She said aloud. A moment passed and then a voice echoed through the bridge. "This is Republic Wanderer Class Vessel Mesmer. You are clear for landing, I repeat, you are clear for landing." Ashara began to steer the ship in to the large cruiser's docking bay as they approached. the side of the vessel. They passed through the shielded docking bay and into the hangar, before gently descending, until they touched the floor. After a moment Ashara opened the exit and allow the ramp to fall down. "Come on then." Ashara replied as she got up. "We won't be stopping for long so say what you have to say." She put her hand on Dax's shoulder and gave her a soft smile. Then she made her way off of the ship.
  22. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Rising from the snow covered ground, the Apprentice Djara sneered at Ashara, pacing around her, his eyes fixed on her form. "Your spirit to fight on is useless, Jedi" he snarled. "The fall of your people on Ilum is imminent. You are vastly outnumbered...and your fleets far from reach." "Must you begin running your mouth already?" Ashara replied. "I have found discussion with your kind to be particularly fruitless." "So you would rather have a quick death?" Djara replied. "I am feeling somewhat merciful today, so on this occasion I will allow it." "I have no intention of dying today" Ashara replied before going at sprint. She closed in on Djara and brought her dual saber upwards to deflect his downward slash, turning on her body to move round him, and bringing her dualsaber forward again to deflect another blow. The pair clashed in a flurry of blows, the humming and screeching of their weapons travelling through the snow. With an angry yell Djara lunged forward with a wild horizontal slash and Ashara leapt back with an acrobatic flip, landing and thrusting her hand forward for another Force Push. However this time Djara was prepared, letting out a chilling scream, powered by The Force, counteracting the blast. Meanwhile Master Raella faced off against the Sith Master, holding his lightsaber up over his shoulder, with his free hand out-stretched in the Soresu form. The Sith Master approached with a slow but purposeful stride, a wide grin across his face. Then as they came within arms length he struck, unleashing a furious display of precision strikes, each artfully deflected by the Jedi Master. The Sith Master lunged forward with a joust and Raella stepped nimbly to the side, the red beam of the lightsaber only grazing his chest. He swung his lightsaber downwards at a diagonal angle, but the Sith Master leant backwards, narrowly avoiding the blow, bringing his lightsaber up and to clash with Raella's. He lifted his leg and struck a powerful kick the the old Master's chest and sent him crashing through the snow. Raella rolled along the power, before leaping to his feet once more. "Your body betrays you, old man" The Sith Master called out. "You are weak." "My body may be old and tired." Raella replied. "But my ally is The Force, and a strong ally it is." "You will see just how strong!" The Sith Master cried, as he held out his hand and lightning crackled in to existence, shooting across the gap striking Raella in the chest, causing him to seize up under it's relentless assault. The Sith Master advanced slowly, as Raella fell to his knees, gently moaning in pain from the electricity coursing through him. "Master!" Ashara yelled out. Djara too advantage of her distraction and advanced, but Ashara was still too quick and deflected his strike, swiftly kicking him in the chest, sending him tumbling away with the power of The Force. She ran to Raella, hurling her dualsaber at the Sith Master, it's green beams hurtling through the air, causing the Pureblood Sith to stop his assault and dive out of the way. He scrambled to his feet as Ashara's lightsaber found it's way back to her hand. She reached Raella and pulled him to his feet. "Are you alright?" "Do...do not worry about me." Raella replied. "The fight is still upon us." He ignited his lightsaber once more, and with a deep breath he drew energy from The Force, and sprinted forward. He launched an offensive flurry on the Sith Master, forcing him to keep defending himself. Ashara joined the fight and the Sith Master was caught duelling them both, frantically trying to deflect their blows and quickly growing tired. As victory began to loom, Djara returned the the fray. The young Apprentice came to his masters aid with a powerful Force Push, kncoking Ashara backwards and having her tumble through the snow. She got up to face him and ran forward, but the Sith through his lightsaber at her. She leapt in to the air, her body twisting over the hurled blade. Djara so his opportunity, and held his hand aloft, catching her in the air and holding her there. Ashara gasped as she felt the tight grip of the Dark Side crushing her throat, stopping her from breathing. With his free hand Djara summoned his lightsaber and approached her. "Foolish of you to let your guard down like that, Jedi." He said with a smirk. Raella tried to break free from his fight with the Sith Master, but alas he could not shake his foe. He helplessly watched as Ashara's life began to dwindle away. Djara was within arms reach of her now, his lightsaber gripped tightly, prepared to strike her down. With a sudden burst of energy, the old Master let out a pained yell, slashing furiously at the Sith Master, who was caught off guard by the sudden display of force. He jousted at Raella's neck, but the Jedi ducked and bypassed his opponent, thrusting his lightsaber backward at his hip, it's blade penetrating the Sith Master through his torso. He removed it switly and the Sith fell to his knees. Raella wasted no time, sprinting for Djara with his lightsaber poised to strike. Djara turned and delivered a swift roundhouse kick to Raella's head, sending him to the ground with a thump. Wasting no time with gloating, he brought his lightsaber down on the old Master, snuffing out the last of his life. In the turmoil he had released his grip on Ashara and she dropped to the ground. Paused in the her moment of sorrow, she lingered on the last sensation of Raella's energy disappearing, becoming one with the Force. She took a deep breath, trying to find peace. However in doing so, her senses travelled further, and she felt the panic of her young Padawan. "Dax..." she whispered to herself. She pushed her finger to her ear, activating the communicator earpiece embedded inside. "X2...come in, please." "Ashara!" an alarmed robotic voice echoed in her ear. "Are you all right? It sounds like there is a war going on out there." "X2 listen to me...start the ship. Take it round the side of the Temple. Find the secluded hangar...find Dax." "Are you not coming, Ashara." X2 asked her. "Just go!" Ashara cried finally, ending the communication. Djara and the Sith Master had had turned their attention to her once more. While the Sith Master was gravely wounded, he yet lived. She was unsure if she could take on both of them at once. The Master's control of the Dark Side was incredibly strong, and his Apprentice, while young, was fuelled by his rage. She stood up, igniting her dualsaber as the distant roar of her ship's engine echoed through the air. Djara eyed her like a hunter would it's prey. His Master slowly walked towards them. "What are you waiting for, Djara?" he replied weakly. "Kill her! Strike her down and claim my victory!" "No, Master." Djara replied. "The victory is mine." Without warning he swung his arm out to the side, his lightsaber cutting through his Master's head, ending his life and his body collapsed lifelessly to the ground. Ashara did not flinch, but inside she felt a deep sorrow. That was what it was to be Sith, to cruelly murder your own Master in his moment of weakness. All for their own glory and passion. From what she understood of the Sith;s way, it meant Djara was the Master now. She could sense the thrill of his personal victory empowering him, making him far more dangerous than before. With one last deep breath she advanced on him, and for once, her future was clouded.
  23. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Ashara emerged from the hallway and folded her arms so that her hands disappeared inside the sleeves of her robe. She gave Dax a smile that suggested she was impressed with her Padawan. "You've been down here for quite a while." She said to Dax, "I thought you would have given up hours ago. I actually managed to get in the first decent bit of meditation since I took you as my Padawan. So, did you learn anything useful?" "Most of it's a load of old rubbish." She replied, and after a brief pause, she looked off to one side, "I suppose there's a few things of interest down here." "Perhaps only a few for you, but this place, like many other archives of the Jedi Order, is full of useful lessons." Ashara replied. "...I never wanted a Padawan. Children are naive, and yet think they know everything. A disturbing trait to say the least. Yet here I am, trying my hardest to show you as much as I can, in the hope that you will become a greater Jedi than I." "Yeah, well..." Dax began, her tone a little snarky, but something seemed to change her mind and her tone along with it, "... thanks." She muttered. "It is I who should be thanking you." Ashara corrected. "I was not forced to take you on. I saw something within you, and so far you have done nothing to prove me otherwise. You still have a lot to learn, but you are doing so quickly. Some Padawan take weeks or even months to construct their first lightsaber. You did so in but a day. However...pride will either make you lazy, or overly ambitious. That is why I will keep pushing you, never letting you become idle in your endeavours. Already your goals are taking form, even if it is only to learn a new lightsaber form." "Oh, you noticed that, huh?" Dax grinned and shrugged, "Well, Master Vash told me that there are two things that are a greater threat to the Jedi than anything else, she said, "The Sith, and yourself, and at least you can 'saber the former"," Dax laughed, "I guess I just wanted to be ready, if I ever met a Sith. Plus, it looks like it was most suited to me." "You should hope you never meet a Sith." Ashara replied. "It is a terrible thing to embrace the Dark Side. The Sith wield great power, but at a terrible cost." "But Master..." Dax paused and frowned, she had used that title before but it had never come out quite so naturally as it had then. "... but... I know, i've seen some of what the Sith have done, it was... monstrous. But aren't many of the Sith originally Jedi?" She shook her head, "I don't understand, why do so many Jedi become Sith, i've so rarely heard of Sith becoming Jedi. Why do we have to be in opposition?" "I don't have the absolute answer for that one." Ashara replied, "However, perhaps most obvious is our conflicting ideologies. The Sith value passion, emotion, and conflict. They believe that conflict forces one to become better, to evolve and grow stronger. Strife brings meaning to their victories, and they feast upon such dark emotions to grow stronger. They fail to see that the question is not how to become stronger, but rather should we. The Sith pay a terrible price for their power. That is why it is so easy to become Sith, but not to become a Jedi." Ashara paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully. "Sometimes you may find our code to be strict and uncompromising, but it must be so. Jedi do not even get to indulge in love. Yet it is a powerful and wonderful feeling, do not think we cast it away out of fear or condemnation. It is a sacrifice, one we must make to stay true to ourselves. We are gifted with the knowledge of The Force, and if we squander that gift...then we are no better than the Sith." "I don't think love, or passion or emotions need to be cast aside. I don't know if I can do that, or if i'd even want to, but... I don't think it's right to seek conflict just to make yourself stronger, at the expense of others." Dax sighed and shrugged, "I think there has to be a better path, if we're even capable of it." "Many have shared your views on that." Ashara replied. "And they have fallen to the Dark Side as a result. The forbidding of love is necessary. When people think of love...they think of the happy moments. However...what of loss and suffering? Can you imagine what losing something so important could do to a Jedi? It twists their mind...the pain and anger leads to hatred. To the Dark-" Ashara stopped in her tracks, swaying on the spot, lifting her hand to gently clutch her forehead as if in pain. "Well, I feel how I feel. But I would never do--" Dax watched her Master's strange turn, "Master, are you alright?" She stepped forwards to put her hand on Ashara's shoulder and then something strange pulled her away. She started to feel queasy, like someone was gripping her stomach and squeezing it. "I don't... feel very..." She looked around, confused, but her concern shifted to Ashara, who seemed far worse. Dax reached out and gripped Ashara's shoulder, looking for answers as much as anything. Ashara took a deep breath, finding strength enough to regain her composure. "There has been a disturbance in The Force...you have sensed it too." Ashara said finally. "This is not good, Dax. A feeling such as this can only mean...Sith approach Ilum." "Sith are coming here?!" Dax choked back some bile, "I'm not strong enough..." She shook her head, trying to clear it. Ashara, ignoring her Padawan for a moment, took her holo-recorder from her belt and switched it on. As it scanned her form she spoke into it. "This is Jedi Knight Ashara Ven, This is a call to all Republic Vessels in range. The Empire have launched a strike on Ilum, I repeat, The Empire have launched a strike on Ilum. Please send all available fleets immediately!" Ashara then closed the recorder and turned to her Padawan once more. "Dax, I am afraid this is not a fight we can win. It is too risky to wait for the Republic Fleets to arrive with reinforcements. We must escape, and hope to fight another day. Quickly...sweep the halls of the Temple. Evacuate all civilians, there are many who cannot defend themselves. You must lead them to safety." "Evacuate them where?!" Dax was almost shouting, "T-they won't listen to me!!" "Dax...I know this is difficult. This goes far beyond any training I could possibly give you at this point." Ashara admitted. "But I believe in you. You told me that you wanted to become a Jedi to help people, well this is that time. Round everyone up and lead them to the the tunnels in the East Wing. Follow them and you will reach a secluded edge. I will take the front entrance and clear a path to the ship, I will bring it round to get you. Dax...you can do this. The Force is strong in you." "A-alright." Dax looked around at the temple, for a moment, unsure what she was going to do, then a fire lit inside her, "Be careful!" She yelled, and then ran as quickly as she could towards the temple. Ashara let out a heavy sigh, and then headed off on her own, pulling her hood up over her head. She went at a sprint along the main hallway of the Temple, and as she reached the entrance, she found Master Raella waiting for her. The old man had a sombre look in his eyes. "Master Raella, we have to leave." Ashara cried as she reached him. "This Temple is my home...I won't let those scoundrels desecrate it!" Raella replied indignantly. "If it's a fight they want...then I will see they find it, and they shall regret it!" "Master Raella..." Ashara sighed "Enough, child." Raella replied. "The enemy is already at our doorstep. Let's take the fight to them, and with any luck we will see you and your Padawan out of this alive." Ashara went to speak, but found herself lost for words. Eventually she simply nodded. Master Raella walked out ahead of her, his blue lightsaber igniting as the noble old Jedi walked out in to a blizzard of snow. Ashara took a moment to compose herself and then she followed. Outside the peaceful courtyard had become a battlefield. The few Republic forces stationed at the Temple were bunkered down, desperately trying to hold back the approaching Imperial Troopers, as blasts of red and green lasers flew through the air. Ashara held out her hand and her lightsaber flew into it, igniting immediately. She took two steps, before the blaster fire reached her. Then she went forward in a flurry, spinning her dualsaber, deflecting the blasts away from her and back at her enemies. To her right, Master Raella was doing the same, his composure as rock hard as stone as he expertly deflected the blasts. Over their heads an Imperial drop ship cut through the blizzard, two dark figures standing at the open side. The ship lowered, and the figures descended before the ship had touched the ground, landing with a soft tap on the floor. One was dressed in an elaborate set of robes, with armoured shoulder guards, and a high collar that went up to his chin. The Sith's skin was a brilliant crimson, and tendrils hung from his chin. His eyes were as red as his skin, and his head bald. He was a Sith not only in name, but in heritage. A race known now as the Pureblood Sith, natives of Korriban. To his right was a thinner, gaunter young man. A grey skinned Rattataki, completely hairless with pale white eyes, and tribal tattoos etched across his head. "The Jedi have come to play." The pureblood sneered. "Do not fail me Djara. We will end these pitiful creatures, and lay waste to their precious Temple." "Yes, Master" The Rattataki, Djara, replied. "I will bathe this world in their blood." "Good, feed on your rage, my Apprentice." The pureblood said finally. And then each of them ignited their lightsabers, beams of brilliant crimson illuminated through the blizzard. Ashara did not waste any time. Harnessing The Force she sprinted at incredible speed, deflecting blaster fire as she went. The first trooper who neared her went down from his own blaster shot, deflected back at him. She was on the next, ducking low and spinning, bringing her lightsaber up and through his chest, before moving onwards, leaping and vaulting over a shattered wall, making a bee line for the Sith. She sensed Master Raella alongside her, his attention drawn to the pureblood. Ashara locked eyes with the Rattataki, and the Sith leapt towards her, aided by the Force, holding his lightsaber aloft in both hands. As he closed on her, she brought back her free hand, stopping her sprint, taking a breath. Then in one swift motion she pushed her hand forward, and The Force moved with her, blasting the Sith in the air and sending him crashing backwards in to the snow, but far from defeated.