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Valentine

Hallows

17 posts in this topic

OOC: Private RP, rated NC-17 for violence, gore, dark themes, etc. spoopy stuff

Hallows

 

The engine of the black 1967 Chevrolet Impala roared as it sped down the long, lonely roads of El Paso County, Colorado. Dense pine trees whipped past as a bouncy rock tune thundered from the radio. A tan hand grabbed the clutch and switched gears, dark brown eyes flicked to check her rear-view mirror, but she was the only one driving out here tonight. The night sky was clear tonight, the stars as bright as cut diamond. She smiled, the way she always did. A lop-sided grin that emphasised her strong cheekbones. She had to brush long dark brown hair out of her face as she leaned forwards to touch her smartphone.
"Okay, Violet..." She said to herself, keeping one eye on the road, "Its like a band-aid... just... pull it off really quick... and it'll hurt like fuck." She scrolled down the list of contacts until she found the one she was looking for. But not the one she wanted to call. Vincent Hallow - her brother.

Violet pressed the call button. Then cursed and disconnected the call before it had a chance to connect. Violet had spent nearly a decade apart from her brother. She'd been a teenager when she last saw him. They had their own lives now, they were a part of different worlds. Vincent had always wanted the quiet life, and no amount of talking, begging, arguing, bribing or fighting ever convinced him otherwise. Sure, every now and then she'd hear through her contacts that he'd gotten himself into a spot of trouble, but he was smart enough to look after himself. Plus, half the reason trouble sought him out was likely because unlike him, she had chosen to follow in the footsteps of their father.

Violet Hallow was a hunter. Now we're not talking a little deer hunting here. We're not even talking big game hunting. This was big, big game hunting. The sort you don't generally hear about except in weird magazines, angst-driven teen shows on television and of course, your average word of mouth story spread by your run-of-the-mill crazy. But you'd be surprised by just how much of this can be true. The crazies and the magazines, that is. Not the teen dramas. They're a load of shit.
Werewolves. Vampires. Demons. Shapeshifters. Ghosts. And a million other 'things'. She'd taught herself the same way most hunters had to. It was an isolated job. You couldn't draw attention to yourself, or form ties with other hunters. If you did, you drew the ire of the more organised and ill-tempered monsters. You learnt on the job. You made mistakes. Sometimes that caused scars. If you were unlucky, that meant deaths, but it would happen sooner or later. If you were really unlucky, it would mean your own, and really, thats how most hunters died.

But you did it because maybe you knew someone who was killed by a monster, a family member or a friend, or you knew a creature that was harmless, innocent that didn't know how to take care of themselves and were killed by someone who thought they were a monster. There were lots of reasons to become a hunter. Some more pure than others. Violet wasn't sure why she'd become a hunter. Maybe it was to protect Vincent. Maybe in becoming a hunter, she'd distanced herself from him. They were always at odds, that when she chose this life, maybe on some level she knew he would do the opposite. Maybe she just wanted to be like dad.

"JESUS!"

Violet swerved as someone crossed in the street. The Chevy screeched as she hit the brakes, and the car began to skid and turn, but it was too late. She clipped the man, knocking him from the road, into the brush, and sent the car into a spin and onto the other side of the road, where it fell into a ditch. Violet groaned and leaned back, instinctively reaching for her forehead because she had a pounding headache and she wondered if she'd cut herself. Then her brain engaged and she remembered. 14 years under the delusion that she was human. 14 years of sprained ankles and skinned knees. 14 years of high fevers, rumbling stomachs and any number of ailments she suffered through. But at least she was human.

Then, suddenly, this woman appeared. At least she appeared human, but she wasn't. She turned Violet's world upside-down. Told her that not only had her father been unfaithful, and the woman who had raised her, was not her biological mother, but she was actually a being of pure magical energy. If her metamorphosis had taken a couple more years to start, she might have taken it a little better. Which 16-year-old girl wouldn't like to be instantly over acne and able to reform herself into any form? But at 14, she was devastated. Still, at least it meant that right now, her head wasn't bleeding. But she was calling Vincent. She reached forwards, pulled her phone from it's dock and hit 'Call'. Once she'd spoken to him, she'd have to pull herself out of the ditch and go searching for the man she'd hit.

The phone rang, and rang. For a while, she thought it would just keep ringing and go to voicemail. Then suddenly, it clicked, and she heard breathing.
"Hello, Vince?"
There was a short pause on the line, followed by a long sigh. "Violet." Vincent's voice replied with a resigned tone. "Long time. What trouble are you in now?"
She'd just hit a man driving down the road on her way to a job, and driven her car off the road. Was she in trouble? She supposed not yet.
"I'm not in any trouble, Vincent." Her tone, and the proper use of his first name was enough to show she was suitably annoyed. How did he manage to do that? Nearly a decade apart and he was pushing her buttons already. He might only have technically been her half-brother, but they were siblings without a doubt.
"Can't your sister call you out of the blue to catch up?" She asked exasperated as she unlatched her seatbelt and fell forwards onto her steering wheel and activated the horn. Eventually she managed to move her knee, and the horn stopped and she kicked her side door open, and fell out into the ditch and brought the phone up to her ear.

"Oh you can, dear sister." Vincent said down the line. "However, you've never done so in the past, and judging by the racket, this is no exception."
"Vince," Violet dusted herself off as she pulled herself out of the ditch and onto the main road. "I'm tired, i'm dirty, i've just driven my car into a ditch and I think I hit a guy, so do me a favour and quit the wise guy act." She sighed and started walking back to where she had first come off the road.
"Sounds like a normal day for you." Vincent replied, sounding amused. Then his breath caught momentarily. "Wait, you mean a mortal? Oh, Vi don't say you've hit a mortal! You know how annoying police are..."
"I'm glad your sense of morality went straight to how much trouble we could get into and not the fact that I could have killed a person." Violet scanned the black lines that marked where she'd driven off the road, and traced them back. Walking into the middle of the road, she noticed another stain there. It was almost as dark as the burnt rubber, but not quite. Blood.
"Maybe..." She muttered, kneeling down. Violet touched two fingers to the liquid and pulled them across. The blood was thick, sticky and very dark. It was heavily coagulated. Far more so than any blood that would have come from a person hit by a car just minutes ago. She stood back up, wiping the blood off on her jeans. "No look, you don't have to worry about that, i'll figure it out, I was just giving you a call to check up on you, y'know, we haven't talked in so long, I just thought..." She sighed, leaving open silence on the phone.

"...Look, Violet." He sighed, "If you're looking for a heart to heart, you know that's not me. That's not because I don't care, okay? What was it my therapist said...'severe introversion coupled with abandonment issues'... Something like that anyway." At that moment, Violet heard something just ahead. She had to cut the conversation short. Hanging up, she shoved the phone into her jean pocket and carefully pushed her way through the woodland brush. She wanted to dive ahead and reach the injured man as quickly as possible, but her instincts were always engaged, and they told her danger lurked around every corner. She stepped over a dead log, braced herself against a tree and saw the man up ahead. He was leant up against a tree near a steep incline, and was teetering near the edge.
"Hey, be careful!" Violet called out to him, and for a few seconds, he didn't seem to have heard her. But as she approached, he turned, and immediately lost his footing. Violet ran for him, raised her hand to offer him something to grab onto, but got an incredible fright at seeing his mangled, peeling face that she recoiled reflexively. The man tumbled backwards and Violet quickly gave chase as quickly as she dared.

He was tumbling like a runaway ball, picking up speed as he went, until at last, his head hit a rock, there was a sickening crunch, and he fell head over heels into a heap on the floor at the bottom of the steep incline. Violet finally caught up, glancing at the blood-splattered rock before taking a second look at the man. But he wasn't a man at all, not any more. He was a zombie. That much was clear. Upon closer inspection, his flesh was rotting and discoloured, his eyes were sullen and lifeless, his body was giving off a sour odour and it was obvious he was decomposing. She'd met undead before, and not all of them were the unpleasant, flesh-eating zombies you see in most films, but judging from the bits of jagged flesh caught in his broken teeth she was guessing he was one of the more Romero-esque undead. With a reluctant admission that she just wanted to go back to the road, tow her car and get a cheeseburger, she leaned down and reached into the not-a-man's jacket and pulled out his wallet.

"Michael Smith." She said, looking at his driver's license, "Sorry, Michael..." She muttered, flicking through his things. He had several twenty dollar bills in his wallet, which she pocketed - she felt no guilt for this, being a hunter didn't exactly pay in most cases, so you got paid where you could. He had two kids. But he had folded his family picture over so that his partner couldn't be seen. Maybe they'd divorced and she'd taken the kids? Who knew. One other thing of note. A key to the Hotel Riverland. She knew that hotel. It was the place she'd come to investigate. Violet stood back up and sighed, it looked as though the glossy trash tabloid, 'Conspiracies! Believe them!!' Had an accurate story in this month. She started back up the incline. The story this month? It had been, 'My Boss Pays Me Minimum Wage And Tried To Eat My Brains!'

Deep breath, Violet. She told herself. Pulling her phone out of her pocket once more, she called Vincent for a second time. Technically, third, she supposed.
"Hey, sorry." She said quickly, coming onto the road and crossing over towards her car.
"Just what exactly is going on?" He asked. "Wait, I don't think I want to know. You find out if you killed that guy yet?"
"You sure you don't want to get on a bus and come up here?" Violet asked, chuckling. She thought for a moment, then answered carefully, "No, don't worry about it, Vince. I didn't kill him. So what have you been up to lately? You met any nice girls?"
"Yeah, sure." Vincent replied, "Women can't resist the charms of the only man in the city without Internet or a TV." He let out a soft chuckle, and then there was a sound of flint scraping, followed by a long, slow exhale. "Although, who knows, maybe one of the old ladies who hire me to find their dead husbands antique watch might give me a shot. Widows are desperate, right?"
"Are you smoking, Vincent?!" Violet snapped down the phone, "I will reach down this phone line and so help me I might just be able to!!"
"Oh, please." Vincent replied. "You're worried about carcinogens, but if I said I'd come hunting spooky McNasties with you, you'd jump at the chance. I'll let you figure out which path is more likely to end in my sudden death."
"The one that statistically has you at a greater distance from me than the other, Vince. I've got something else to talk to you about, but for right now, i've got a job to finish, to i'll speak to you later, alright?" Violet walked over to her car and popped the trunk and started to walk around the back.
"Sure." Vincent said. "I'll just hang by the phone, it's not like I have anything better to do."
"It's 2017, Vince. Buy a mobile phone." Violet replied, shaking her head, as she hung up on him. 

 


 

It took nearly an hour to walk to the Riverland. She had a backpack full of things she'd taken from the trunk of her car, as she'd decided to leave the car in the ditch. There was only two options. Wait for the tow car, which could take hours, which she couldn't afford. Or pull it from the ditch herself, using her own 'abilities'. While that in itself wasn't a problem, she worked a bit like a battery. The more power she used, the less she had, and the weaker she became. There was no reason to lift the car out of the ditch with a great show of levitation if she had to absorb a load of energy afterwards, and out here in the boondocks there was no guarantee she'd be able to find a readily available source of energy - at least one she was willing to tap into. Besides, the walk would do her good. The Riverland looked alright as Colorado hotels go. There was nothing immediately unsavoury about it. The building looked as though it had been built entirely from the ground up using pine. It had a log cabin feel to it. 

She stepped inside, and realised the cleaner had been slacking off. Cobwebs were stacked in the corners, and dust had settled heavily in parts, she noticed a layer of it on the front counter. A few seconds later a woman with sunken eyes and pale skin walked out and flashed a kind smile.
"Hi there!" She beamed, brushing a strand of golden hair out of her face, "My name's Kate, welcome to the Riverland, can I book you for a room?" 
"Well, to be honest, I came here because of a story I read in--"
"--oh for goodness sake, that silly magazine, you're the 4th person this month!" 
"Any truth in it?" Violet asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well golly," Kate looked shocked, "Nobody ever said that before, I mean they just wanted to see what inspired the stories, but..." She frowned. 

"Call me an avid fan," Violet chuckled, and Kate couldn't help but chuckle with her, "Sure, can I have a room?"
"Absolutely, we have a really nice suite, we don't have a lot of guests, so i'll just let you have it at the normal rate."
"You're really nice, thanks." Violet grinned and secured her bag while Kate directed her upstairs. As they went upstairs, a large man started coming down the stairs towards them. As they crossed, they were forced to push themselves up against the wall as he was so large. He had to have been at least seven feet tall, and built like a truck. With short scruffy black hair and a thick black moustache. His eyes had a sunken look similar to Kate's. Violet took note of this, but they seemed nice enough, on the surface at least. But she knew better than to take things at face value, especially as she'd dealt with that undead. Then she remembered she still had the key that Michael Smith had had on him.

"Here we are." Kate stepped to one side to let Violet into her room. And truthfully, besides the odd cobweb, it was very nice. Very rustic. Kate showed her the bathroom, and a few special features of the room, then as she went to leave, Violet choose her moment perfectly. She quickly pulled the key from her pocket and called for Kate.
"Yes?" She turned around.
"I found this." Violet said, holding the key up. Kate's face, pale as it was, drained of all remaining colour. 
"W-where did you find that?" She asked, she raised her hand to take it, but was reluctant to touch it, as if she did, she might turn to dust. 
"Out in the woods. On my walk here. Why would it have been out there?" Violet asked, leading Kate into a lie. 
"Oh, I don't know. Guests forget to leave their keys at the desk sometimes." Kate replied, then took the key, and quickly left.
Alright. Violet thought to herself. Technically, that was true. It was all circumstantial. Michael might have just had a stay at the Riverland at some point before he became a zombie, and he'd just forgotten to hand his key in. However, why did both Kate, and that strange man both look so ill? And why was Kate so upset at seeing the key in the first place? Something was definitely off here. The tale in the magazine was that one of the workers had been attacked by their boss. If Kate was the owner, then it had to have been one of her previous employees. It wouldn't be hard for someone like her to get that information.

 


 

An hour later, Kate walked down the stairs. She crossed the foyer, nodded to the large man who was reading a newspaper in the corner, and walked behind the main counter. She started looking through the drawers, the desk, the counter, the mail slots, the folders, everything. Eventually, she found an old folder that had a list of names and numbers, and found several with their names crossed off. Two of which were noted as employees and only one of which had the first name 'Emily' which matched the first name given in the tabloid. Kate grinned, took note of the number and left the counter, giving a wink to the large man as she left, who had a moment of disbelief as she disappeared upstairs.
Finally, Kate disappeared into Violet's room, closing the door behind her, then within a couple of seconds, Kate became Violet, her shape reforming into the native-american woman with the long black hair. Yes, that was one of the things she'd really come to appreciate about being a creature of pure magical energy. Shapeshifting sure had it's benefits. She called Emily, and after a short conversation, she convinced her to meet up at a local café. Violet left her bag and walked out of the Riverland. Her main lead here was Emily now, she had to make sure that this girl gave her something to go on or it was all for naught.

On the walk down to the café, Violet pulled her phone out and called Vincent. She couldn't help but smile. In the space of a day, she'd called her brother more times than she had in a decade. A couple of rings, and then it answered. "Hey, been sitting around for long, or been doing magic tricks for old ladies?" 
"Tricks are what prostitutes do, Violet." Vincent replied, "Or... Magicians." He spoke the last word like it had tasted bad coming out of him. "I perform thaumaturgical locator spells for old ladies, thank you very much. I tell you what though, if I ever meet the guy who invented GPS, there will be a smiting...smote...smoting? Is it smiting or smoting?"
"You're smiting... smoting... you've smited, smoted, you have smote-- smotten, smot-- smite... how did you pull me into this? Look, I called you for a reason. I'm in Colorado right now. I'm on a job, obviously, but afterwards, i'm gonna drive down to you, it'll only take like a day, so I figure after i've done this i'll come see you and we'll talk, because, the thing is, Vince... I found dad."
There was an inhalation of breath followed by a brief pause. Then there was a gasp. "Fffffuck!" Vincent swore, "I fucking dropped my fucking cigarette on my fucking trousers, Fuck!"

"Twenty plus years and you haven't learned to manage your mouth and your hands at the same time... i'd ask if we're really related but at least according to my mother we're not related at all, in fact i'm not related to humans, so maybe I should just start rolling my eyes at all of you and start calling you 'fleshbags' like Vael does." Violet sighed and waited for Vincent to regain control of himself.
"Don't say it's name, Violet!" Vincent hissed down the phone. "Your mother is like the Candyman and Beetlejuice. Except 10 times as deadly." He let out a genuine sigh of stress. When he spoke again he was quieter, and more serious. "Violet... If you're telling the truth. If... If you've really found him." He breathed in audibly, his breath shaking. "I have more than a few choice words for him, put it that way."
"It's a start." Violet let out a short breath, but her gaze was pulled away from her walk when she noticed the sign of the café up ahead, "But alright, i'll call you when i'm leaving, i'm just gonna sort this out, and then i'll be on my way. I'll talk to you soon." She hung up and noticed Emily almost immediately. 

She was nothing like them. This girl looked happy, healthy, her complexion was normal. She didn't look ill. As Violet walked up to the tables stationed outside the café, Emily nervously recoiled in her chair, until Violet introduced herself, and then she visibly relaxed a little. Violet sat down, and ordered a coffee, Emily did the same, her hand was shaking as she raised the cup to her lips.
"You alright?" Violet asked, knowing that she wasn't.
"Yeah, just, y'know, small town. Word gets around fast, right?" Emily laughed, but still, the nervousness was there.
"Right..." Violet took a sip of her coffee. It was awful, so she set it down, "You know the reason I called you here is because I wanted to know more about your story," Straight away she could see the doubt on Emily's face, "No i'm not here to make fun, or gossip or anything like that, Emily. Truthfully, I need to know, because if there's something hurting people out there, I need to stop it." At that, Emily lowered her coffee cup from her lips and set it down, staring at the contents as though it would offer her an answer.

"I worked at Riverlands for 2 years, Ms. Violet, never had no trouble at all. They were real nice to me, always treated me well enough, though they never paid me much, they always gave me enough hours so I never complained but for one thing, Kate never let me work on the third floor. The first floor was the main foyer, cleaning, back room, kitchen, maintenance. Second floor was the guest rooms, mostly, couple of cleaning rooms, and storage space. But the third floor--"
"--you were not allowed to work on the third floor?" Violet asked, frowning.
"Kate said most of the staff lived up there, took care of the place themselves, and didn't want me pokin' my head in their private residence. Well, one day I just thought with everyone out they might need clean washing, or need dishes doing, and i'd save them the job, and so I went upstairs to do it and..."
"Go on..." Violet gently pushed her to continue, careful not to push Emily so hard that she closed herself off.
"Well I opened the door and Michael just attacked me, and suddenly everyone was attacking me, grabbing at me, biting at me, and I just ran outta there fast as I could and never looked back, only thing was I had no money, and it was such a mad story, I thought nobody would believe me but it might make me some money." 
"So, you sold the story." Violet let out a short breath, looked back at her coffee, and thought better of taking another sip, then stood up. "Alright, I really appreciate your help, Emily. I'll do what I can, but for now you should just carry on with your life, look for a new job, and maybe when your boss tells you not to go somewhere you dont go there. Usually just because you'll keep your job, never mind that you might get mobbed by a bunch of monsters." Violet chuckled but Emily looked shaken by her dark humour, but she couldn't help it. 
So Emily had been attacked, and yet although she was traumatised she was very much alive. But why? If she'd really been attacked as she'd claimed, well, most things, especially the undead, wouldn't have left her alive. Could she have misread the undead called Michael Smith? Or perhaps he was unrelated as unlikely as it seemed. The only thing for it was to reach the third floor. Sometimes a little brute force was called for. She always liked that bit. That's what her bag of goodies was for.

Back at the hotel, she opened her bag and emptied the contents out onto her bed. She'd brought a number of things with her. Sure, she'd have liked to bring a lot more, but it wouldn't have been practical. She had a stake for vampires. Always an essential. She had a number of relics and holy signs in case of various ghosts, demons or old Gods, as you never know what might show up, then there was the more straight-forward solutions that made more sense in this case. She'd brought her favourite pistol, a powerhouse Desert Eagle .50 Caliber. And then an old-school machete for lopping heads, because they could very well be zombies, after all. She kitted herself out, feeling a little like Schwarzenegger in one of his action films, then stepped out and started up the stairs. It was eerily quiet. She reached for her phone, touching the side of her pocket. Yep, it was there. She hadn't forgotten it like an idiot, as she had done in the past. She remembered once she'd left a trip-mine hooked up to a detonator on her phone so she could set it off as a werewolf ran through a tight corridor, only problem was she'd left her phone in the casino the night before. Suddenly she found herself reaching for her phone and having to run down the corridor at breakneck as this slathering beast chased her for what seemed like several blocks.

Third floor. Violet checked behind her. Good to double check. Nobody there. She put one hand on her gun, and carefully, silently, she turned the door handle and opened the door to the third floor. As she opened the door, she was baffled at what she saw before her. There before her, were a half doze creatures, shuffling back and forth, dazed and confused. One of them noticed her, and immediately started towards her, then suddenly all of them charged. Violet raised her pistol to fire, but the first creature was almost upon her, it was safer to run than take the shot not knowing if it would kill it or not. She'd been unable to see what they were in the darkness of the room, but she could hear them coming down the stairs behind her. She quickly reached for her phone and looked around, she wanted to run for the exit, but there was nowhere to go, if she got to her room, she had more supplies, she might be able to fight them off then. As she sprinted down the hall, passing the rooms, someone left one of the guest rooms, and she noticed it was Kate. Only it wasn't. This woman was very much like Kate, but she was a zombie. Violet was so confused that had she not been engulfed in the enormous shadow seconds before she reached him, she would have crashed into the towering beast. He growled and grabbed for her. She heard Kate moan behind her. Ducking the enormous zombie, Violet ran into her room and locked her door behind her. She called Vincent.

"Hi, Vince!" Violet chimed. BANG! Something crashed against the outside of her bedroom door. She glanced around the room. Her options were the far window, though she was on the second floor up, or the bathroom. Though there was no way out from there. She supposed a second floor drop was doable, and she didn't technically have bones, but even so... "How are you?!" She asked loudly over the noise. BANG!!
"I'm fi-" He cut off after the second bang. "What the hell is going on!?"
"Nothing? Nothing!" Violet lied, "I'm fine, I--" BANG!!! "Zombies. I suppose. Probably. No definitely, I think. Except i'm not really sure. Because they weren't zombies a second ago. But now they are, and they're literally all zombies now. I'm really honestly confused." BANG!!! There was a snap as wood shattered and splintered. She stepped away from the door.
"Oh I see, just a little bit of the walking dead, not really worth mentioning up front, huh?" Vincent said, and there was a shuffling noise down his end of the phone, followed by a thump, and the flicking pages. "Zombies... Zombies... Ah! Here we go. Wait are we talking Haitian voodoo zombies or an undead curse? Oh or they could be thralls of a warlock, or..."

"Oh, fuck... FUCK!!" Violet growled, "Hang on!" She threw the phone on the bed, "Fuckin' bitch lied to me, it's so obvious now..." Violet threw her gun and machete onto the bed and started rifling through her things. "Shit, shit, Vince, shit!" She ran back to the phone and put him on loudspeaker. "It's a fucking warlock!! I spoke to her earlier, I thought she was the victim in all this but she started it when they fired her for a petty grievance, it's gotta be... but I don't..." She grabbed her bag and up-ended it. Nothing. No lipstick (as if she had any), no pens, no chalk, no nothing. She looked around the room, there wasn't so much as a half-melted chocolate mint on her pillow. What kind of room service was this?! Suddenly, she heard a terrible crunch as a massive bear paw of a hand came through the door. They'd be through any minute. Well, fuck.

"This probably isn't the best time to bring up that in all this time you still can't remember to carry a vial of salt or a stick of chalk." Vincent said. "Look if it's an enthralment then that means a ritual, and that means thaumaturgy. You've just got to find a way to sever the connection."
"You're right, its not the best time, but i've got all of that, its just not on me, seeing as how I thought I was dealing with the undead, and I had just been in a car crash, thank you brother, you're being very helpful this evening!" At that very moment, the door smashed open. Violet whirled around, grabbing as many things as she could on the bed, and dashed for the bathroom. Slamming the door shut behind her. She took a deep breath and let it out. She heard movement from the next room, and then the banging resumed, only now it was on the bathroom door, the last bastion of her security. Then she heard something she didn't expect - a voice from the next room.
"So, now what, genius?" Vincent asked. Right, she'd left her phone on the bed. Now what, genius?
She looked around the bathroom, "I could use some ideas!" She called back through the door as she started to look through the bathroom. She was starting to curse the day she lost all her human biology. Blood would have been really, really useful right about now. She kind of missed it. 

"You were trained by the same guy as me!" Vincent yelled down the phone, sighing in frustration. "Running water grounds out the magic of a thaumaturgic circle, but you'd need to run it right through wherever the circle is. Either that or..." he hesitated. "Violet, I know they are innocent, strictly speaking, but... I'd rather them than you."
"Shit..." Violet looked along the edge of the bath, and grabbed a bottle of shower gel, "Right, never mind me or them, i'll choose option 'None of the above'." She quickly opened the bottle of shower gel and started pouring it all over the floor. But it wasn't in a big puddle, or randomly. This was precise. It was a series of runic symbols. It was a spell. Most spells come with a cost. Most of those costs are pretty straightforwards and they can range from anything insignificant as a feather, to something as heavy as a person's soul. But if you want to reverse a spell? Well, if you happen to have met the person who cast it. Check. And have something of theirs, such as their hair. Check. Violet pulled a blonde hair off the sleeve of her jacket as she was devising her plan, laying it in the centre of her circle. And you know the right words. Check. And you're willing to put the curse back on the caster? Well, she who dealt it, and all that. Check? Violet knelt down within the circle and began reciting the ritual for the reversal of an enthralment spell. It was a pretty broad reversal. Simple. But she had to keep it that way for two reasons. First, because it was then most likely to succeed. Second, because Emily was young, she likely only had the most basic grasp of magic, even as a warlock, and while appearances can be deceiving, her abilities were clear when she met her in person. Emily wasn't nervous of the staff at Riverland. Emily was nervous of Violet. A hunter.

As she finished reciting the incantation, she slammed her hand into the centre of the circle, and an aura thrummed, rumbling from the centre of the circle, like the drum of a music beat. Within a few seconds it was over. The banging stopped. There was silence. Violet stood up, feeling a little drained, and apprehensively walked over to the bathroom door. She listened, but there was nothing. Then a few seconds later, she heard something.
"OooooOOOOoooOOOOWWWWWWHAT the hhhHHEEEELL!!?"
Violet grinned and opened the door. The enormous man was clutching his arm, his fist looked like it had been cut to ribbons and it was horribly bleeding, but he was otherwise unharmed. He looked healthy and normal once again, as did Kate. She was cleansed of the Warlock - Emily's - curse. 7 people had been cursed due to Emily's childish behavior. One person had been seriously injured, one person was dead, and many lives had been put on hold for weeks. All for a petty grudge. Kate had been so happy to be free of the curse, that she'd refunded her room cost, and given her a room for the night, while the tow truck pulled her car out of the ditch. Violet was on the drive home, listening to the radio, when she heard an interesting piece of news on a peculiar little station she frequented.
"Here's a funny one for you listeners, if you believe it - and you should! A woman, if you please, was walking down the street in Colorado today, when she up and began to mummify before turning to ash before frightened onlookers! In this day and age you'd think people would be able to take a picture with their smartphones but by the time anyone had their phones out they say she was dust in the wind, speaking of which, here's one you'd know, it's Kansas." Violet couldn't help but grin. She turned up the volume.

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In the southwest side of Chicago, in the Chicago Lawn, landlords couldn’t be too picky about their tenants. The lawn was one one of the worst neighbourhoods in Chicago, and the apartment buildings were usually run down. This wasn’t the best area to go looking for that cosy first apartment for your brand new family. Most of your neighbours would be unemployed down and outs, ganged up youths, junkies, dealers and other unsavoury individuals.

However, if you were a wizard in your late 20’s with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy, and very little job prospects, this place was just perfect. Well, not perfect, but the rent was cheap. And so it was that the home of Vincent Gideon Hallow was a small basement apartment near Marquette Park. The apartment was a studio, probably quite spacious at one point. However it was now an eclectic mess of books, and a random arrangement of bohemian furniture. The floor was decorated with a collage of various rugs that clashed horribly, and every available wall was covered by book cases, or book shelves where space was limited.

The range of books were quite extensive, ranging from a whole shelf of religious texts, another on the sciences. Yet another section was full of occult books, and another full of trashy romance novels. However the truly holy texts were reserved for the large bookcase opposite the sofa, where normal people usually would have a TV. These holy tomes were, of course, arranged in order of issue release, and was probably the most valuable collection Vincent owned. Yes, his Batman comic book collection was the stuff of legend. 

The room itself had the unique scent of stale pizza and incense. Perhaps most notable for a home existing in the year 2017, was that there was very little in terms of modern technology. The only phone to be seen was of the corded variety, and there was no computers, no cell phones. The only entertainment was the small library if books, many which were just stacked in towering piles on the floor. However, the exception to this ban on technology was the digital alarm clock by the bed. As it moved to 07:00, a screeching howl echoed through the apartment.

Vincent Hallow shot up from underneath his blankets, a frightened but dazed expression on his face. Robert Plant’s screeching continued as he started nattering on about the lands of ice and snow. Vincent’s hand grabbed the alarm clock and wrenched it from it’s socket on the wall, and hurling it over to the far side of the room. “Sorry, Bob.” He said, stifling a yawn. He slowly managed to move himself so that he was sitting at the edge of his bed. He fumbled on the floor, picking up one of the many empty cigarette cartons littering it. He shook each one a few times before discarding them back from whence they came. Finally he shook one and heard a muffled rattle.

He opened the pack and fished out the remaining cigarette, putting the filtered end to his lips. He scanned the room for a lighter, but there wasn’t one in sight. He contemplated conjuring fire to do the job. However, he knew that magic was something that should be used responsibly. Everything had a price, and the forces of nature weren’t to be harnessed to do frivolous things like lighting a cigarette. On the other hand, he’d only need a little bit of fire. “Ignis” He said aloud, though slightly muffled with the cigarette in his mouth.

The end began to burn a hot orange and he inhaled the sweet, toxic goodness. He shivered as well, as the room had grown noticeably colder, even for only a tiny flame. There was no such thing as a free lunch, magically speaking. If you needed fire, you needed heat, and that heat had to come from somewhere. Vincent got up out of his bed and made his way to the bathroom. The small bathroom was the only other room to the apartment, and consisted of a small cubicle shower, a commode, and a washroom sink and mirror.

After taking a moment to drain the lizard he went to the sink and examined himself. He was a scrawny specimen, and quite pale. He had angular features and long, straight black hair that was cut neatly just above his shoulders. He had a thin patch of stubble growing, and his eyes were dark and sunken from lack of a good night’s sleep. His eyes, however, were a striking emerald hue.  He flicked the end of his cigarette in the toilet pan behind him, and stripped, getting in the shower.

The cold water from the shower provided him with a measure of wakefulness. He winced at the sudden shock of cold, and contemplated warming it up with another bout of magic. He decided to weather the cold, however. Heating the water in his boiler would likely steal enough heat to freeze all the pipes in building. Of course, he could always turn his hot water on. He laughed at the thought. Who did he think he was? Some wealthy king who could throw money away frivolously on luxurious things such as hot water? If only.

He kept the shower brief and before long he had returned to his main room and dressed himself. He wore a pair of simple, black boots and dark blue jeans, a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, and a thin, black tie. He had boiled some water and made himself a cup of coffee, black with no sugar. It was only 7:30 am now, and he was beginning to think he had gotten up a little too early. He had worked out it would take about 15 hours to drive from Colorado to Chicago. Perhaps less if his sister was still in the habit of driving like she was on a NASCAR track.

“What the hell am I even doing?” He asked himself. Violet was going to be there soon. She was coming with news of their father’s whereabouts. Elias Hallow, renowned wizard and hunter. He was a legend in a community of perpetual loners, which was some feat. He was also, as Vincent had discovered at a fairly young age, an adulterer and an irresponsible one at that. However even that was forgivable, after all his younger half-sister wasn’t all that bad, although he’d always tried hard to make sure she never knew that. That was the job of the big brother, after all. Even in their late 20’s, it was still vitally important that he occasionally remind her that she had a butt for a face and that she smelled of poop.

In truth, ragging on Violet was about the only thing he could feel confident doing. Snarky comments and childish ridicule were his default setting when he was nervous. That was a bit of an odd realization. He was nervous about seeing his sister, someone he had spent most of his younger years with. Yet until the day before they had barely spoken over the last decade. Once their dear father had mysteriously disappeared, they had discovered they had quite different opinions on what to do about it.

Violet had decided to carry on the family business, whilst Vincent had decided to get as far away from it as possible. He had always been taught that various supernatural nasties were lurking around every corner. Yet over the years he had discovered that it was surprisingly easy to turn a blind eye to it all. He got in some dangerous situations at times, sure. Yet, for the most part, he had managed to avoid that life. And now Violet was on her way, and she would no doubt bring that world crashing in behind her.

Then there was the question of his father’s whereabouts. If Violet really did know where he was, well, then what? Vincent hadn’t really thought about what he was going to do. After hearing the news he had packed a bag with clothes in preparation. He had located the books he’d need most, like the bestiary, and his spellbooks. He had even stuffed a gym bag full of various artefacts, relics, and religious symbols.

He walked over to the desk below the hatch window that brought in a little light from street level. There he had housed four items he had claimed ownership of after old Eli had disappeared. On the desk was a Smith and Wesson Model 500 revolver, A Winchester M12 pump action sawn-off shotgun with rock salt shell ammunition, and a silver pentacle amulet. Leaning against the desk was a worn but sturdy cane of dark wood, with runic symbols carved up the shaft, and a silver skull handle.

All in all he had a small arsenal perfect for a modern wizard ready for action. He’d never really had much training with the guns, but the cane he had some familiarity with. The wood was from an ancient tree grown on the confluence of several magical leylines, and it’s runic symbols enchanted the cane to amplify and focus his evocation magic. The amulet was of pure silver, a metal that was considered magically pure, or ‘holy’ in some circles of faith.

The pentacle’s five points represented air, earth, water, fire, and spirit. The five element of magic, all bound together around a silver circle, representing human control. Power balanced with restraint. The talisman itself didn’t really hold any real value beyond it’s symbolism, but symbols were akin to power to a wizard. Vincent picked up the talisman and put it around his neck, tucking it under his collar. No sooner had he done so, three sharp knocks wrapped across his apartment’s door. Vincent took a deep breath, and let it out again slowly. “Here goes nothing…” He muttered to himself as he made his way to the door.

He placed his hand on the door handle, and forced a smile across his face, before yanking the door open. “Hey butt-face! Knew it was you, I could smell the poop from a mile away!”

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"Honestly! Is that any way to speak to your mother-in-law?!" The woman stood before Vincent looked surprisingly similar to Violet, though she appeared to be in her 30's. Naturally, this didn't make sense, on paper. But why look ancient when you can look 30-something forever? The look of horror on Vincent's face was frozen, his jaw was slightly agape. Vael leaned forwards and sharply knocked his jaw closed with her forefinger.
"That's unpleasant, darling. You look like a stupid mammal." She smiled sweetly and sauntered into the room and dropped her purse onto the couch and went to sit down, thought better of it, then brushed it off with a newspaper, before sitting on the edge. "So, how's my favourite meatbag?"
Vincent's right eye twitched involuntarily as he closed the door to his apartment and watched Vael cautiously. "How is it something as dangerous as you gets to ignore thresholds?' he asked, picking up the cane from beside the desk, not that it was going to offer him much defence if she did decide to hurt him.

"I don't know." Vael pondered, ignoring Vincent reaching for the cane. "But the fact it annoys you makes me happy, and that's enough." She chortled and sighed then looked around the room expectantly. "Well... aren't you going to offer me a cup of tea, or...?" She shrugged in mild offence.
"I don't have any tea." Vincent replied as he began rifling through his laundry for cigarette cartons. "But there's a socket next to you if you need to charge your batteries or something."
"Ooo, sweety. That's so thoughtful." Vael reached up and pinched the air, and Vincent's right cheek was suddenly squeezed. She gave him a little shake from a distance and then released him, "But honey, if I did that, the entire Eastern seaboard would be without power, and that would be just rude, even for me. No, if you don't have tea, how about a lovely cup of Joseph."

"Water's on the tap. Coffee's in the cupboard." Vincent said, as he finally retrieved a cigarette carton that wasn't empty. This one had 5 in it. Frabjous day! He put one in his mouth and gestured at its end to Vael. "Tell you what, light this up with out also taking my eyebrows off and I'll make you a coffee."
"We have an agreement!" Vael's eyes lit up, and then so did the end of Vincent's cigarette. "So tell me Vincent, what's been keeping you busy?" 
"Busy?" Vincent asked as he made his way to the kitchen and started filling the kettle with water. "Don't know the meaning of the word, I'm afraid. I work very hard to ensure I'm very much not busy." He gestured to his apartment with his cigarette holding hand. "An Ivy League college graduate living in Chicago's asscrack? Trust me it's no accident."
A book was hovering in front of Vael's face, with the pages flitting by, "Bat-Man?" She asked aloud.
"Please be careful with that." Vincent said without turning round as he rifled through his cupboards. "I'd rather you killed me here and now than damage my Batman comics. And no, that isn't an offer to kill me."
"Oh calm down, darling. Honestly, I just popped by for a chat and a spot of tea..." Vael stood up and grabbed the comic from the air and crossed the room, replacing the book on the shelf, then as she sauntered back to her seat, as casually as she could, she added, "I hear Violet is on her way here..."

"Yes, I'm sure you did." Vincent replied, shutting the cupboard door and spooning heaps of coffee into the french press. As the kettle's boiling reached it's peak, he muttered something about "Beetlejuice" and then poured boiling water in with the coffee, and left it to stand for a moment. 
He turned around, leaning against the counter, smoking and trying his best to look nonchalant, which isn't very easy since he was fairly certain his testicles had crawled deep inside him the moment she had stepped through the door. "If you want to see your daughter, I'm pretty sure she has a cellphone. Or you know you could just 'pop' in, like you normally do."

"Ah but then I couldn't get a cup of your lovely coffee, Vince." Vael leaned back on the sofa, pushing the purse aside and letting out a deep sigh.
"Uhuh." Vincent said as he finished making the coffee. "Cream or sugar?"
"I'll just take it black." Vael turned and stared at Vincent with a peculiar expression, and then chuckled, "Vince?"
"Homewrecker?" Vincent replied, mimicking her tone, as he brought he cup of coffee over. He placed it down on the table near her. "Look, you can keep doing the whole 'whimsical free spirit' thing all you want, but we both know you don't do anything without a reason. So, what particular brand of mischief has brought you here?"

Vael just sat there, stunned. "Vince!" She barked, irritably. And then suddenly, Vael, wasn't Vael. The long, dark-haired, 30-something woman was gone. In a matter of seconds, her hair shortened, became quite messy and turned a vibrant shade of blue. Her dress turned into a pair of black jeans that were worn and ripped, and the top half of her dress had become a black Ramones tank top. Tattoos covered her arms from shoulder to wrist, while she had snake bite piercings on her lower lip. She wasn't Vael at all, she was Violet. Granted, she had changed a lot in a couple of days, but she had felt like a change, and that wasn't difficult for her.
"Really, Vince?" Violet reclined on the sofa with the coffee warming her hands, "My mom not setting off your wards, not even so much as an alarm? You didn't so much as check her out? She could have been anything, anyone. And only I call you Vince. Really, you're slipping." Violet took a sip of her coffee and let out a deep sigh, "Ah Jesus thank God, that's better, you wouldn't believe what they call coffee in Colorado... oh--" Violet perked up and looked over at Vincent's still-gawping face, "That's for all the shit-talking a couple days back. We're even." A wicked grin spread across her face as she buried it in her coffee once more.

"First..." Vincent managed to say, before licking his lips and continuing, "First, you're an asshole. You know your mother scares the shit out of me. Secondly, you know fine well that when Vael shows up, the best course of action is to brace for impact, and hope she doesn't take the shape of your eyebrows as a personal insult or something. Frankly, if anyone can avoid my wards, it's her."
Vincent slumped down at the foot of his bed and finally relaxed around the shoulders. "So, how's it going, sis? Digging the hair, by the way."
"Thanks. Felt like something different. Nothing too radical, y'know? Changed hair colour, not the face, right?" She smirked, and took another appreciative sip of hot coffee. "So this is your dumpster dive, huh? You and your floozies knock many pizza boxes off this couch in your time, or...?" 
"No floozies." Vincent replied. "And my apartment is just fine. I have everything I need. Sure, a nice apartment with a view, in a safe neighbourhood would be nice and all, but then I'd have to get a real job, and fuck that noise." Vincent finished his cigarette and extinguished it by tossing the end in an old coffee mug. "How's sleeping in your car going?"

"I wouldn't call it sleeping. Sure i'm horizontal, but..." She retorted with a grin, "Hey-- more floozies for me... but seriously, thanks," She held up the coffee, "For this, y'know, and the rest. It's nice seeing you again. It's weird. But... nice."
"Yeah, real nice, minus that whole bit where you had your mom's face on, sure." Vincent said, smirking. "So you've taken a break from saving America one monster at a time..." He paused, putting his finger to his lip for a moment. "...shame you haven't dealt with that one in the White House yet but..." He shrugged. "You hungry?"
"I wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot barge pole." Violet shook her head, "I'll stick to vampires, werewolves and my mother. He scares me. And yeah, i'm hungry. I might be a being made out of magical energy, technically without a stomach, but then what's this about?" She pointed at her mouth, "That leads somewhere, and i'm drinking coffee. I'd ask my mom, but she'll give me the, 'It will take decades to explain and train you' speech. And i'm not listening to that waffle again. Waffles..." 

"There's an IHOP not far from here." Vincent suggested. "I missed your birthday for, like, a decade. So I suppose it's only fair I buy you some pancakes."
"Or waffles." He added, "They do waffles."
"Yes! I want them both! Oh my god, I could eat it all, i'm so glad I don't have a metabolic system!!" Violet started laughing excessively and leapt up from the couch, latching onto Vincent's arm, "Come on then, let's go for a walk. We'll chat on the way. Unless you need to get anything first? Wand? Talking skull?" Violet raised an eyebrow with a mischievous grin.
"Wallet." Vincent replied, and picked his up off the table. "Last time I tried to trade a talking skull for pancakes they threw me out. Crazy, right?"

A chilly wind cut through the streets of Chicago as Violet and Vincent stepped out onto the sidewalk. They turned and walked down the block, joining the meagre crowd making their way about their day. Passing a newspaper stand, selling papers, magazines, a number of those conspiracy and occult magazines that Violet sometimes used to find jobs. She picked one up and paid the vendor and shoved it under her arm as they walked along. 
"So, why Chicago?" She asked, looking around. It wasn't exactly prime real-estate. She knew her brother wanted peace and quiet, but Chicago? That didn't seem like peace and quiet to her. In fact, she'd been through Chicago more than once on jobs, although the police had likely only reported them as regular homicides or animal attacks.
"Large population means more potential clients, shitty areas mean cheap rent, but nearby commercial districts mean I can get a decent accountant and reliable banking services." Vincent explained. "Plus it's got a bunch of great libraries, and Lake Michigan is one of the largest confluences of leylines in the US."
"Vincent Gideon Hallow - Adult." Violet retorted, punctuating her words with her hand as though showing a newspaper headline.

"I just like to be prepared." Vincent said, shrugging. "I spend most of my days reading, occasionally I take on clients for a little cash, and even more occasionally I take on a big client for some big cash. Yet I stick it out in a shitty apartment living on the bare essentials because..." He gestured around them, indicating their current situation. "I knew there was a high enough chance that one day dad was going to surface, and I'd need enough cash to keep my rent paid while I went off to wherever the hell he is, so I can punch him square in the nose. I live in a dive, and barely work, so that I can squirrel my money away for a chance to beat my dad up someday." 
Vincent mimicked Violet's earlier hand gesture. "Vincent Gideon Hallow - Uberchild."
"Mm-hm - come on, wunderkind. I want bacon." Violet wrapped her arm around Vincent's shoulder and led him on.

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“Okay guys so that’s…” The server examined the food she had placed on the table, “One Belgian waffle combo, one strawberry and banana pancakes, one breakfast sampler, one peaches and cream crepe, one stuffed French toast...” The mountain of food she had listed were all sitting at Violet’s side of the table. “…and one Tuscan scramble for you.” She placed a plate of scrambled eggs and hash browns, with a side of toast next to Vincent. “Oh and a bottomless coffee for the table.” She added, placing the large decanter of murky, black goodness in between them.

“Thanks.” Vincent said, slipping the waitress 10 bucks. “That’s for not judging.”
“Aw, thanks.” The server said as she pocketed the cash, although the distinct roll of her eyes as she left them indicated that there had been more than a little judging going on. Vincent shrugged and took a piece of toast from his plate, and bit a chunk off the corner, before swiping the coffee jar and pouring himself a cup.
“So…” He said, his mouth still full of toast. He drank his coffee to wash it down. “…how’s the diet going?”

"--Whuf?!" Violet mumbled through a muffled mouth full of her masticating meal, "Oh." She swallowed her mouthful. Ending the alliteration. "What's the point in dieting? I don't have fat proteins or process sugars." Violet pulled her wallet out and flicked it open, on the inside through a clear inlay there was a card that read 'unlimited 'Krispy Kreme Donuts VIP Member'. "I know!" She said smugly, stuffing another entire pancake into her face.
“Well, I suppose that depends on how you absorb energy.” Vincent said.  “Are some things better than others? Or can you work just as well regardless of whether you eat broccoli or syrup-laced plastic?”

"I'll admit, Vince--" Violet began, through mouthfuls, "--that I haven't bothered exploring that particular question, because funnily enough I don't want to eat plastic." She cut a large piece of waffle aside and jabbed it with her fork, jamming it into her face. After a few quick chews she added, "And anyway, I think eating food is a piss poor way of absorbing energy compared to say, electrical or chemical or biological fuel, but again, I don't really want to do that either, when I can help it..."

“Well, you’ve never been a particularly efficient person, so that doesn’t surprise me.” Vincent said as he scooped some of his scrambled eggs on to a slice of toast. “Then again, we weren’t exactly brought up like normal people so I suppose you can forgive yourself a plate of twinkies when you know you’re more likely to die because a spooky spook got the drop on you.” He took a large bite of his food and fell silent as he chewed. He observed the people around them, quietly chatting with one another, or some just sitting alone reading the newspaper, or playing on their phones.
“I do envy them.” He said after swallowing. “Walking away from the fight doesn’t stop you knowing what lurks out there. Other kids worried if they’d get a date for prom, and I was more worried that my date might be a vampire, or a skinwalker.”

"Yeah, well..." Violet shook her head and shrugged her shoulders as for the first time she paused in her meal, her fork pushing her pancakes around her plate. "Do you want the red pill or the blue pill, Neo?" Violet asked, "I'd want to know... What if we were normal. Just a normal, nuclear, American family. What if we had come home one day, and mom and dad were just dead, and we didn't know why, or who, and the police couldn't explain it, and nobody could explain it, and we spent the rest of our lives wondering. Or worse yet, what if we were home when it happened, and we saw some monster kill them, and nobody believed us - can you imagine that? That's happening, right now, all over the world."

“Mm, true.” Vincent nodded in agreement as he finished another mouthful. “However, once you start to notice the supernatural, it notices you in return.” He took another sip of coffee. “Take the Midnight Court for example. On paper they seem a nasty bunch. They feed on humans, and if that kind of knowledge became truly public you’d be looking at mass panic. The court would have no choice but to militarize in response, and who knows how much they’ve infiltrated world government currently. That terrible knowledge isn’t so appealing when it’s result is human farming. A cow does not benefit from the knowledge that it’s going to be a hamburger.”

Vincent let out a little belch, partly disarming the heavy nature of the topic. “Or at least that’s what Lucia is always babbling on about, and she’s crazy. Crazy like a fox, but still crazy.”
"Vince, when you go to a doctor, he'll tell you you're sick, when you go to a dentist, he'll tell you you have a cavity, when you go to a queen bitch of a vampire she'll tell you the vampires could enslave the human race." Violet rolled her eyes, and continued eating her waffles. This wasn't news to her.

“Hey I’m just playing devil’s advocate.” Vincent replied, holding his hands up in mock surrender. “I think the important thing is that, for now, the court play by the rules, mostly. Which is good, because it means trigger-happy vigilantes like yourself can focus on helping the silly backwater folks with their poltergeists and being possessed by lesser demons.” Vincent made a show of trying to turn his head all the way round his neck. “You’re mother sucks cocks in heeeeeelll.”

"Funny." Violet smirked as she finished her third - or was it fourth? - plate of food. "Right." She added, letting out an unrestrained belch, "I'm good, you ready to go?"
“Go where, exactly?” Vincent asked, leaning back and folding his arms. “You’re gonna need to spill what you’ve got before I decide. All this time, I’ve persistently used every safe and reasonable locator spell I know, and a few dangerous ones. Not once have I ever even caught a whiff of dad’s trail. So what have you got?”

Violet couldn't help but raise a lop-sided smile. Magic. Well, magic is great. Hell, she was magic. But it didn't solve everything.
"Here." She reached into her jean pocket and pulled out a scruffy looking bit of paper and flung it onto the table, Vincent picked it up and turned it over and there he was. Their father. It was a picture of their father. Granted, he didn't know the picture was being taken. He was knelt at the end of a dock, tying a knot to secure the ship, while two men were taking a drunk selfie. But there he was. Elias Hallow.

Vincent’s eyes narrowed as he inspected the picture. His lips thinned, and his jaw tightened but he didn’t speak. Eli was looking a little older, a little greyer. Yet he looked healthy, and unharmed. Some people might feel relief at seeing their father unharmed and safe after so many years. Vincent was not one of those people. “Shame…hoped he’d at least lost a limb or something.” He said venomously. He tossed the photo back across the table. “I hope you have more than that. He could be anywhere by now.”

"Mm, except I know where that is. And I know who those men are. So if we go there now, its maybe a day's ride, with one stop on the way, and we could have a serious chance at finding him, Vince. I mean it, this is the closest i've come to finding dad in ten years. Monsters aren't the only things i've been hunting..." Violet took the picture back, cradling it far more preciously than her brother had, and pocketed it once more. Then she stood, and readied to leave.

Vincent stood up after her, taking a few bills from his wallet and placing them on the table. He made a little growling noise under his breath and then said “Fine.” And he began to walk out of the IHOP. As they both went through the doors to the parking lot he turned back to Violet.
“I want to make one thing clear.” He said, waggling his finger at her, “I am not getting the band back together, alright? You’re not Starsky, and I’m not Hutch. You’re not Bonny, I’m not Clyde. You’re not Dean, and I’m not Sam. This is a one-time thing, got it?”

"Hey, I don't have any problem with that," Violet shrugged. As they walked out into the parking lot, Violet's car was waiting for them. Magic might not solve everything. But it was very, very useful sometimes. She opened the door and got in, and once Vincent had joined her she started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot.
"Just don't start any of that, 'I'm too old for this shit' shit, Murtagh." She added with a smirk and they were off, driving down the main road, leaving Chicago on the trail of their missing father.

They hadn’t got far when Vincent suddenly clambered into the back seat area and started rifling through his bags, which had somehow magically made their way into the car. “You’re entirely too prepared for this.” He called back as he continued rummaging. When he came back to the passenger seat he held a number of things. The first was a rather large tome, his grimoire, perhaps the most valuable of his possessions. He also held a fresh carton of cigarettes and a zippo lighter. The final item was a battered old cassette tape.

“This midlife-crisis machine smells like a roadie’s nutsack.” Vincent said, “but at least it has a tape deck.” He pushed the cassette into the holder and hit play. A stringy, country sounding guitar began strumming.
“I was walking down the street when out the corner of my eye…” The vocalist sang over the guitar, and Vincent began tapping his hands against his knees. He put a cigarette in his mouth and cracked the passenger window, lighting it and taking a smoke. He turned to Violet, and eyed her for a minute.

“Normally I wouldn’t but…it’s not like you have lungs.” He said, grinning. Then he pulled a pair of aviator’s from his pocket and put them on, grinning, with the filter of the cigarette between his teeth. He leaned back, resting his hands behind his head and stared out at the road. “Oh this is going to be fun…ten years of sibling rivalry in back pay, with interest. And maybe I’ll get to sock my dad in the face by the end of it.”

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They'd barely been on the road for a few hours and her patience was running thin. Violet gripped the steering wheel with both hands, her eyes darting over at the delicately teetering ash threatening to fall onto the floor and sully her otherwise clean upholstery, or worse still, burn a permanent hole into it.
"Y'know I might not have any lungs, Vince..." Violet growled through the corner of her mouth as she tried to focus on the road, "But if you keep smoking in my car, neither will you."
"Ugh, you're so mean." Vincent replied, flicking the cigarette out of the window. "You should make more stops then. I gotta feed the monkey on my back regularly or else he gets real mad."
"Well if you really need to stop, that's just as well then, 'cus i've got a job to do before we go on. So you might as well make yourself useful." Violet took the next turning, the sign read 'Lafayette'. They had crossed into Indiana. "Hey, does it feel cold to you?" Violet asked, but before she could get an answer, she saw one. Little flakes of snow trickled down from the sky, which had quickly become overcast. She took a second to glance skyward. "It's the middle of June for Christ's sake, it should be hot as hell out here!" 

"Climate change, sis..." Vincent replied dryly. "We should have listened to Al Gore."
"If we listened to Al Gore we'd all be walking around in hamster bubbles. But, snow in June...? I guess there are worse--" Violet trailed off. Something had caught her eye. This was what she'd come here for. She pulled the car over and parked it and immediately got out, not waiting to see if Vincent was following. Quickly she crossed the road, and joined the throng of onlookers. The police were trying to contain the scene but there were just too many people.
"Come on now, move along!" One of the officers barked, "This is a crime scene!!"
Violet looked over her shoulder for Vincent and saw him approaching, then turned back to see what had happened, she pushed her way through the crowd to the front until at last she finally breached. She saw yellow do-not-cross tape, and beyond, a body. A young woman, with long blonde hair. She was very beautiful, pale, and she was terrified. It looked as though there had been a struggle. There were claw marks in her skin, but Violet couldn't get any closer.

"Hm..." Vincent said as he leaned in behind Violet and peered at the victim. "...Looks nasty. Cold should preserve the crime scene quite nicely though. Silver linings, eh?"
"Yeah..." Violet muttered, biting her lower lip in thought, "Hey, can you magic yourself a suit?" She asked, quickly pushing her way back out of the crowd.
"No, well....yes I could, with a bit of preparation but-" He cut off, following her. When they went back to the car he opened the back door and looked inside one of his duffel bags, before retrieving a small variety of ID tags. "I've got Homeland, Feds and CIA and... parking attendant?" He screwed his face up at the last one. "Anyway they don't all wear suits, you know."
"You're right. The latter get to wear a little cap." Violet grinned, then looked around. There were too many people surrounding them. She got into her car, the tinted windows gave her enough privacy to change quickly. She was only in the car for a couple of seconds, but when she exited it, her hair had been tied back into a ponytail and turned black, and her clothes had turned into a slim-fitting black suit. "I mean, maybe they don't all wear suits, but it's more fun like this."

"F.B.I.!" Violet barked at the top of her lungs, holding up her ID card in a little black flip wallet. The sharp, authoritative tone of her voice was enough to make the crowd of civilians part before her, and she confidently swept underneath the police line and stepped towards the body. One officer confronted them, a tall man with a blonde moustache.
"Afternoon, Officer...?" She let the question hang in the air, it was good to open the dialogue with a question and let him know who was in charge.
"Officer Daniels, Ma'am. And you are?" Daniels asked, nodding to her respectfully, and then to Vincent in turn.
"Special Agent Hutch," Then she pointed over her shoulder to her brother, "And that's Special Agent Starsky."
"Starsky." Daniels tipped his hat and pointed at the woman, "Nasty thing this, never seen something so savage." Violet took a moment to turn back and glance at Vincent with a neutral expression. It appeared neutral. But she was smiling on the inside. She turned back to face Officer Daniels.
"Do you know what caused these cuts to her arms?" Violet asked.
"They're defensive wounds," Daniels replied, "She held her arms up, to protect herself, and they got shredded, maybe from a blunt knife, or an animal, I don't rightly know but I expect when they get the investigative team it'll be more clear. But if I was a betting man, i'd say she was gored."

"Good thing you're not a betting man." Vincent said as he knelt down next to the body. "What with an officer's salary and all. Terrible waste..." He trailed off, now more interested in the corpse. He sniffed at the air, trying to catch any familiar scents. "Agent Hutch... can I run something by you..." Vincent indicated for her to come down to him, next to the body.
"What is it, Starsky?" Violet asked, taking a knee beside Vincent.
"I have no freaking idea." Vincent said in a hushed whisper. "I just wanted you to know that 1. I said we weren't doing this, and I knew you were gonna make me do this, which is why I packed my fake IDs. 2. I'm pretty sure that cop is one of the many, many people who has seen Starsky and Hutch."
"Yeah... I mean, obviously. To both of those." Violet gave Vincent a pat on the back and smiled, "Oookay, so..." She looked down at the body and sighed then reached into her suit trousers and pulled out a small keyring with a dozen small discs attached to it. Each disc was made of a different material, either a metal, silver, wood, glass, etc. Each disc had a different symbol etched into the disc. Violet discreetly held each disc to the bare skin of the woman, one by one. There was no reaction. "Well, she's not been inhabited by a demon, she isn't a werewolf, or a vampire, a wendigo, or a--" Violet noticed something then. The snow falling onto the woman's pale skin. She was pale, sure. But her skin was almost blue. "Maybe she's..." Violet reached out to touch the woman's arm. Her hand pressed down onto her cold, moist skin, pressing down the light dressing of snow that had accumulated upon it. Then she rubbed the snow, using the warmth of her hand, and watched as a section of the woman's arm turned a luminescent blue. It was beautiful, but unbelievable to the uninitiated.
"So..." Violet grinned, looking to Vincent.
"So someone killed Smurfette." Vincent replied with a slight smirk. "So blue skin, reaction to water...don't tell me, uh..." He made a series of 'um' and 'ah' noises, "...a Selkie? Naiad?"
"Oh come on, ball park, Vince! You really haven't been keeping up on things, have you?" Violet looked at her brother. Something clicked then. Some part of her must have been holding out, she'd assumed for some reason, that despite not following in the footsteps of their father, that Vincent might have at least continued his studies as a means to protect himself, or further his learning on his own volition.
"Selkies never stray far from the ocean, and revert to their seal form when they die. A Naiad seems far more reasonable. A Nymphs skin reacts to the element they were born from, so she was either born from water or from ice, it probably doesn't matter, assuming she is a Nymph..."
"Well, the physical signs are there, at least for a corpse." Vincent replied. "The best way to confirm is to look at the surroundings a little. Check out the town, read in to the girl, her friends, her personality. Naiads are notoriously jealous creatures."
"Now where would you find notoriously jealous creatures?" Violet asked with a mocking tone.

 


 

"Yeah." She answered herself. Vincent and Violet were stood at the gates of the West Lafayette High. One of the major schools for Lafayette, with prestigious programmes in sports, biology and mathematics. But it was best known for it's football team, the Hawks, who it was claimed many had gone on to become pro players. 
"So," Violet began, as they entered the building, "According to that idiot cop who either has never seen Starsky and Hutch or... I don't know, needs to change professions... this school connects every murder victim. They've either been a current student as young as 15, or an alumni as old as 21. No younger, no older."
"I have to say, Violet, you're a cruel sister." Vincent said, folding his arms. He had put on a long, tan-coloured winter coat and was puffing away on a cigarette. "And I bought you waffles and everything..." He sighed and flicked his cigarette away, walking through the gates of the school. "God, I hate teenagers..."

"Stop whining, ya big baby." Violet muttered, looking down the halls. Teenagers were moping past here at varying speeds and attitudes. She glanced at Vincent but decided not to engage him and instead, saw a kid with short brown curly hair and glasses, and as he tried to pass her, she snatched him by his shirt.
"H-hey, lady!" The kid struggled to break free, "What the hell?!"
"Don't lady me, puke, i'll smush your--" She saw Vincent's expression and rolled her eyes and retracted her follow-up, "Look, what's the name of the girl that died earlier today?"
"What?" The boy looked upset and confused, "K-Kate... Kate Williams?"
"Right. Kate Williams--" Violet turned to Vincent, "We really should have asked that while we were there." Although, admittedly, they were on borrowed time. Daniels might have been an idiot, but it was clear he wasn't going to tolerate their presence for much longer. "So, did Kate have many enemies?" 
"I dunno..." The kid muttered, staring at them both, afraid.

"This is high school, everyone has enemies." Vincent said, frowning. "Let me guess. Kate Williams; pretty, popular. All the guys drool over her, all the girls want to be her friend. Except..." He held his index finger up to punctuate his speech, "She, like all popular girls, is a bitch. Am I warm, kid?"
"What?" The kid frowned, "No!" He finally found his voice, "And my name's Ben!" Said Ben. "What's up with you guys? Have you been watching Highschool Musical or something?!" Vincent looked at Violet.
"Maybe once or twice." She growled defensively.
"Look," Ben continued, "Kate was a nice girl! All the Eco girls are nice, they raise money for charity, and clean up the neighbourhood, they're all part of the cheer-leading squad for the Hawks, I mean, Kate studies really hard... just... get off me!" Ben - the kid, as she had decided to call him from there on - ran off down the corridor.

"Well... clearly we're old and out of touch." Vincent said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Cheerleading eco-warriors? That's just confusing. What ever happened to the good, old cliques? Nerds, Jocks, Popular Kids, it was a simpler time. I knew things were going downhill when Batman became mainstream."
"Hmmm..." Violet sighed, she felt tired, run-down. She rubbed at her eyes. She didn't want to say anything to her brother, but she could really do with an infusion of energy. Sticking her hand in a plug socket might be a start. But maybe not a school. Her brain was working slower, but it came around eventually. "Right. All the victims were girls, all the Eco-warriors are girls, Kate was an Eco-maniac - think that's a coincidence when she's a Nymph?"
"Well there's a river running through this city." Vincent suggested. "That'd make her Potamides, a river Naiad. Essentially lesser deities. They are the daughters of the river, so it's essentially family to them. At least I think so, I'd need to consult the bestiary for more." Vincent checked his watch. "Could look it up over coffee and a bagel?" He looked back at the school. "Or we could see what the cafeteria has here. Been a while since I had a good sloppy joe."
"Where else am I gonna get dinner and a movie?" Violet shook her head and smirked, following her brother to the cafeteria. There were only a few outcomes that jumped to mind right now: 

* Kate was targeted because she was a Nymph, then there was either another
creature out there that had a grudge, or perhaps a hunter with a penchant for absolutes.
* Kate became a victim because in spite of her innocence, she drew the jealousy of a classmate
who saw her achievements and wanted to take that away from her.
* Kate was killed in an altercation because she may not have been innocent, and as a Nymph,
was caught up in something she shouldn't have been involved in.

There were other possibilities, but those were the three most likely. However, she also had to consider that there had been other killings. Whatever had happened to Kate, had happened to other girls as well. So were they innocent as well, or were they guilty? Were they supernatural creatures, or was it just Kate? Who was killing them and why? Had they really been gored, and if so by what? How was she going to get sloppy joe out of her Ramones tee? There were too many questions for her to answer. 

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“You know, I should be pleased about this…” Vincent said as he sat down with a lunch tray at one of the long tables in the cafeteria. The tray had a baked potato with a crunchy side salad and a fresh orange juice box. “…it just seems wrong. No sloppy joes in high school? Damn school lunch programs…” He stuck a fork in the salad and scooped some lettuce into his mouth. “I mean…what’s the point? There’s a taco bell across the street!”
"Do you think anyone would notice if I transported a half dozen tacos in here..." Violet knew the answer, but the important question was; did she care? "So, is it everything you dreamed and more?" She asked, devouring her food.

“I think the laws of entropy might notice.” Vincent replied casually, but there was a sternness he was trying to downplay. If there was anything he was quite firm on, it was the laws of magic. Granted, the laws seemed to apply to mortal creatures, and Violet was not strictly one of those, and so Vincent wasn’t entirely sure what did and did not apply to her when it came to the rules. He knew for certain that, for any mortal wizard, transmogrification or changing one’s shape was something that required rituals, sacrifices, or submitting one’s self to a magical boon or curse, both of which had strict conditions.

Yet Violet, the cosmic glowstick, could change her form like she was simply putting on another hat. “I suppose it’s better to say that if I conjured a bunch of tacos, there would likely be a pretty steep cost, and it would hardly be worth it.” He said after his musing.
"I'd be more upset that if I summoned tacos, I wouldn't know what they were made of." Violet put her knife and fork down, finished already. "If they hadn't been taken from a cow, lettuce, tomato and so on, then what made up the proteins and structures that formed them? I don't want to think about it."

“Well that depends on the spell.” Vincent replied, his mouth full of baked potato. “If you do it properly, gather the materials yourself, then you can more or less ensure the food is of good quality, but by that point you’d be as well just cooking your own tacos. Conjuring tacos from the cosmos, well…it’d just goop some basic compounds together based on your perceived imressions of what a taco is, mostly from flawed memories. So you’d probably just get a basically passable taco.” He let out a sigh. “Of course, all of that requires a great deal of power expended from myself, and requires a great deal of power being lent by the cosmos, and that comes with a steep debt. All of which could be avoided by going to the taco bell that’s literally across the street.”

"Can we stop talking about tacos, I'm literally--" Violet's train of thought detailed as she heard a scuffle behind her. A group of girls wearing cheerleader's outfits in colours of green and blue suddenly separated and two in the centre squared off. One was tall, slim, with fiery red curly hair and the other was average in height, black hair cut in a bob with thick black-rim glasses. They said something to one another, then the black-haired bob stormed off taking half the group with her. The other half sat back down and crowded around the flame-headed youth.

"No," Violet said, "No look now, I've got my pudding now. It's right there. And this can wait, they've clearly got it well in hand." Violet reached for her spoon. Vincent, instead, swiped the pudding cup away from her and stood up from the table, holding it aloft.
“No, you look!” He said, “You were the one who decided to start playing ‘The Hardy Boys’ and now I’m stuck in this mess until we sort it out.” He pocketed the pudding cup. “Now let’s go harass a minor and get ourselves in more trouble.”

Before Violet could reply, Vincent was already making his way to the red-head’s table. As he approached, the young girls stared at him with confusion and apprehension. “Hey, you.” He said, pointing at the red-head. “Are you Kate’s friend?”

Violet was tired, she was frustrated, but most of all she was hungry. It was a small indiscretion. One that Vincent couldn't understand the degree to which he had just affected her. But he had. Violet felt the heat in her eyes, could see the light casting a reflection off her tray. She quickly closed her eyes, scrunched them closed and tried to calm down. After a few seconds she stood, turned and walked over to join Vincent, suitably calmed. Though, she still wanted an outlet for her anger.

"What's it to you?" The redhead asked.
"Don't tell him anything, Amber." One of the other girls spoke up.
"Shut up!" Amber snapped, sighing. Violet's gaze set to Vincent's pocket and focused on it for a moment. There was a quiet 'pop' sound, crumpling plastic. Violet turned back to face Amber without smiling to, or acknowledging Vincent.

Vincent let out a long, drawn out sigh of frustration. He shot a silent sideways glance at Violet and proceeded to bottle his anger, pushing it way down. “Oh, it’s nothing to me.” Vincent said, with a clearly false smile across his face. “It’s just that we know that she’s a Nymph, and that you probably are too.” The red-head gasped as he said it, and so did her friends.
“Is that a sex thing?” one of them asked.
“Gross, he’s like…30 or something, ew.” Another said in disgust.

Vincent turned around and stared darkly at his sister. He spoke to her quietly under his breath.
“Impatient and impulsive, acting without thinking, usually to your own disadvantage, or to those around you. Typical Violet.” He tapped her on the shoulder as he strode past her. “I’m out. Come find me when you’re ready to find dad.” He said as he walked off, leaving her with the gossiping and embarrassed teenagers.

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"You better be here when I get back." Violet pointed at the teenage girls, her tone said it all, but they just laughed and walked off. "Unbelievable." She growled, turned and ran after her brother. She had to run down an entire hallway and turn a corner before she finally managed to catch up to him, he must have been going at double pace.
"Hey!" She pushed him in the back of his shoulder, and stopped, throwing her hands up, "What's your attitude?!" 
"My attitude?" Vincent asked, turning round with a dark expression. "What's with yours? For someone that's supposed to be a professional you're anything but!" He turned away from her, staring off at nothing. "I guess I'm just remembering why we stopped seeing each other in the first place..." He muttered.
"It's a coat, Vince!" Violet bit back at him, "We used to wind each other up all the time, hell, you used to admit that winding me up was a highlight for you! I just wanted you to--" She trailed off, changed her mind about what she wanted to say, "I... wanted you to remember how we used to mess around, when you were my brother..."

"Things... they're different now." Vincent replied, not looking at her. "If you think this is about pudding in my pocket, you need to think again. You brought me out here when you knew I didn't want to do this. You have not needed me here, not once. So why am I here, Vi? You can do everything I can with less cost and less restriction. So what possible reason could you have for me being here?"
Hit him. She resisted the urge, but she wanted to all the same. Vincent knew how she felt about her powers. He had to. She couldn't help being what she was, she didn't like it, many days she hated it. Rare moments of fleeting unimportance might give her momentary satisfaction, but that was it. Rarely did she enjoy her 'gift' as her mother would call it. To have Vincent reciting the words she'd heard time and again, anew; from dad, from Vince, from her 'real' mother and from anyone in dad's inner-circle. She was gifted, he was not. She was better than he was. She wasn't bound to 'mortal inadequacies', and so on.


"Shut up!" Violet snarled, her nose reflexively twitching in anger, pulling her top lip up along with it, "You think I can do all this by myself? Do you see dad, genius?! I...!!" She was going to continue shouting, but she realised the next words out of her mouth were somewhat sensitive, so instead she pushed herself into his space and hissed the words at him.
"I hunt monsters, at night, in the middle of the woods, in the rain, mud and freezing cold, after tracking them for days, sometimes. I do not make social calls. I am not a huckster, I dont spend my days tricking people out of their secrets like you do, I usually have to find other ways around it, because if you haven't noticed, Vince, in all these years - I don't play nice with people."

"Oh, please." Vincent shook his head dismissively. "You can literally make yourself look and sound like anyone. Don't give me that crap." He turned around and walked off, but after a few steps he turned on his heel and came back, pacing. "You piss through enough energy to take shortcuts that would give me so much psychic backlash It'd be like Final Destination here. I don't care about how you feel about who you are. You're a sentient battery, so what? Mom never treated you any differently, and neither did I."

Vincent stopped pacing and faced Violet, pointing at her. "You know what? Every decision I make, magically or otherwise, is about how I can get the most out of the least. If you practised that, even a little, you could do anything I could, and more. Hell, even if you don't..." He let out a defeated sigh. "I never even found a trace of him, Violet and I...I did some things that were seriously risky. Things I might live to regret someday. But you...you found a lead. And you did that without me."

"What are you talking about?!" Violet grew angrier, "You never treated me any differently?!" Violet bundled her hands into tight little fists, "I saw the look on your face when I woke up that night, and my skin was tearing off in ribbons! I'm glad I didn't see myself that night, because I was scared enough looking back at myself through your eyes, your face, hell, the whole room cast in that awful purple light..." Violet's breaths were heaving, she was trying to restrain herself, but as she grew more enraged at the thought of her past, she began to lose control. "Vince, I spent 14 years as a normal, well, a relatively normal, well-adjusted girl with a family who loved her, decent grades and I had friends and... sure, dad talked about magic and stuff when you got older, but back then, I didn't really care about all that stuff because next to you I could barely conjure a flame. Then suddenly, one night, I find myself screaming into the bathroom mirror while i'm trying to reattach my face in the glow of my own luminescence."

Violet almost laughed. There was something so ridiculous about that idea, but she was too angry and she felt as though all her nerves had been laid bare right now.
"Then this woman that looks like... well, the thing under this," Violet indicated her face, "Like a best-guess shape of a human, only made of purple dark matter or something and with hair like living energy, and those glowing white eyes..." She let out a short, sharp sigh, "Tells me she's my mother. Not the woman that raised me, and cared for me, and loved me. And that I should drop her, and you, and everything else, including my planet, and my dimension and go with her for a reason I can't fathom. So suddenly you're not my brother and my mom isn't my mom, and my dad cheated on my... surrogate mother, I guess...? And i'm an inter-dimensional cosmic glow-stick, that isn't even part of the human race any more... and I just..." Violet let her shoulders fall in defeat.

"Martha is your mother, Violet." Vincent said sternly. "That woman cared for you, and still does. She loves you, and so do I." He sighed, shrugging uncomfortably. He stuck his hand in his pocket and removed the remains of the pudding cup, tossing it on the floor, before picking out globs of the pudding with his hand and flicking it away. 

"Here's the thing." He said as he continued trying to get as much of the stuff out of his coat as he could. "Humans struggle. We toil, and we work and everything has a cost. Everything is messy and difficult, and so we have to grow up, improve, be better." He motioned to the mess he had created on the floor. "Impatience combined with childish spite. Sure, it's annoying, but that's not why I'm angry. The point is you do this back then, too. You act without thinking of the consequences. Nobody benefited from this action, in fact it only caused suffering to me, however minor. You know who does that?" He looked her in the eyes, finally. "Vael does."

"You..." Violet felt a shudder trickle down her spine, vibrate through her arms and focus into her fists. She was as surprised as Vincent, as she watched her fist connect with Vincent's face. It was like watching the scene in Rocky where Stallone goes down, only this was uglier, and with a touch more saliva. "... arrogant, jealous--" Vincent hit the linoleum floor, "--holier-than-thou, precious little knight riding in on your white horse!" Violet couldn't help herself, the words came tumbling out, "Dismount for just a second, and realise that you wish you could do what I do! I might not have liked what I became, Vince, but at least I found a way to live with myself. I got out, I travelled, I met people. Yeah, I killed some of them. But they were monsters. What have you been doing lately? Scraping by in a run-down apartment, by yourself, selling dreams to the sad and the lost, and when you've no more to sell, you can join them." Violet took a deep breath and crossed her arms, "Alright. Now you can storm off."

Vincent got up slowly, clutching his right eye. He stumbled slightly as he tried to right himself, but then he stood up straight. When he took his hand away from his eye it was still closed, and the redness suggested it was going to swell up. He looked livid, and on the brink of saying something back to her, but then he swallowed it as quickly as it had rose up. "Goodbye, Violet." He said simply, then he turned around and walked off, swaying slightly where he hadn't quite regained his balance.

Watching him leave, Violet couldn't help herself, it was in her impulsive nature to want to chase after him and attempt to resolve things. She felt the draw to follow him, but ignored it as best she could. She wasn't following him this time. If things were going to be set right, it would have to be later. For right now, she needed to know if any of the other cheerleaders - the girls who also apparently doubled as eco-warriors, community leaders and who knows what else - were Nymphs or other supernatural creatures. Knowing that might help reveal several more threads in this tale. But if she was going to do that, she was going to need a little more tact and guile than the level of subtlety with which she had interacted with Vincent just moments prior. Just a smidge. 

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 “Well, it shouldn’t take too long to clean this up.” The dry cleaner said, inspecting the crusted pudding inside Vincent’s jacket pocket. “Come back in an hour or so and I’ll have it for you.” The elderly man smiled politely, but he couldn’t completely hide his concern. Vincent stood on the other side of the counter, his white shirt wrinkled, with one side untucked from his jeans. He’d taken his tie off and unbuttoned the collar of the shirt. He had his sports bag hanging over his shoulder, an unlit cigarette in his mouth, and his right eye was now sporting a nasty, swollen shiner.

“Thanks,” Vincent replied, as he opened his wallet and passed the man a handful of crumpled notes. “Guess I’ll wait elsewhere. Any quiet bars nearby?”
“Now?” The man asked, shrugging uncomfortably. “It’s 3 pm. I should imagine they’re all quiet round about now. There’s one just a block away, though. Take a right to the next block, then right again. Can’t miss it.”

“Thanks again,” Vincent replied and turned around to leave the dry cleaners. When he stepped outside he took his sunglasses out of his pocket and put them on, more to hide his black eye than to shade from the sun. He flicked the top off his zippo and lit the cigarette in his mouth, pocketed the lighter again and walked down the street. He was getting some odd looks from people as he walked by, but he found himself not caring very much. Being a wizard has always made him feel like a bit of a freak anyway, and it was difficult to care about such things after getting punched in the face anyway.

Violet’s words proceeding her violent outburst were still ringing in his head. Arrogant? Well, he couldn’t argue with that one. As far as poor traits go, this was something he was fairly aware of. It was all too common for academics, and those who knew things others didn’t. However, he’d always assumed that arrogance was at least only inflicted on the mundane, ordinary people. Did he really feel he was superior to Violet? He certainly felt he had a better grasp of magical theory than her.

Whose magical theory, though?, he thought to himself. After all, as he was so happy to point out to her, the rules didn’t apply to her. Not his rules, anyway. He had always had to exercise control in the form of restraint. Mortal magic was tied very closely to intention and faith. The path to black magic was a slippery slope that always began with making exceptions, and allowances for doing things that were wrong. Yet, if he was honest, hadn’t he already made those exceptions himself at times? He had the stain of black magic upon him.

He flinched slightly as he almost remembered something from his younger years, but he pushed it aside. Yes, he had used dark magic, and it had left a mark on him that would never fade. It was like a hole in his heart, an emptiness. Worse than that really, for it was a hungering thing. The temptation to use black magic was always there. So, of course, he had to steel himself. Perhaps he was a hypocrite. Even if he was, did that mean he wasn’t right? He knew the dangers of losing control first hand, so shouldn’t Violet listen to him?

There he went again assuming that which applied to him also applied to her. Jealous, that one had really stung. His knee-jerk response had been an urge to point out to her that jealousy was a fear of someone taking that which was yours. He was, in fact, envious. However, acknowledging that he was indeed envious had somewhat twisted the knife. He had always urged Violet to exercise the same practices he had, citing that she would be all the more powerful and effective for it. It disgusted him to realise the connotations of that; that he felt he could use her abilities better than she could.

He cursed softly to himself, flicking away his cigarette butt as he came to the outside of a local bar. He pushed the door open and stepped inside. The bar was basically empty and there was only one person behind the bar minding the place.
“Afternoon.” The man said, eyeing Vincent carefully. “Rough day?”
“Something like that,” Vincent replied. “Let’s just say I deserved it.”
“Heh!” The barman laughed. He was one of those tough, old salt-of-the-earth types. “Beer?”
“God, yes,” Vincent replied. The barman cracked a bottle and put it on the bar. Vincent took it from the bar and took a long drink. The cool beer felt rejuvenating as it ran down his dry, hoarse throat. He gasped in satisfaction and nodded in thanks to the barman. “I’ll have 2 more.” He said, and he put some cash on the bar.

He sat himself at the bar, and removed one of the more sizeable books from his bag. This was his bestiary, and contained knowledge and information about a whole host of supernatural creatures. Like all of his most important books, it was enchanted. The pages were all blank, with the exception of the contents pages at the beginning. He fingered through the numbered sections. Ancient Greece was near the top. He waited until the barman wasn’t looking, and then he focused his will and pushed it out. The spark of power flowed through the book, and he focused on the Ancient Greece section. He flicked through the blank pages, and as he did, ink began to spill across the pages, with flowing writing, illustrations and scribbled notes.

He flicked through to the section on Nymphs. He read through the information, confirming things he already knew. The book explained that Nymphs were considered lesser deities, the children of nature deities. He cursed lightly under his breath. So they weren’t related to the river, but the river’s God. It was a minor error on his part, but these sorts of details could be important. He took another pull of his beer and carried on. He poured through pages dedicated to the different types of Nymphs. He read over the Naiad section carefully, and confirmed his suspicion that what they were dealing with was Potamides.

Apparently they weren’t immortal creatures, but they were gifted with long lives. A note scribbled on one of the pages indicated that Plutarch, a Greek historian, had indicated their lifespan to be about 9,720 years. That seemed like an oddly specific number to Vincent, but it was a possibility. The book also mentioned that they were given offerings of honey and milk, but never wine. Occasionally offerings of lamb or goat were provided but this wasn’t seen as common.

How does any of this help?, he asked himself internally. Everything he had was just information gathered by historians and experts of myth. He sighed and had another drink. His head was starting to ache, and his eye was beginning to feel prickly and tender. He sighed and closed the book, the strain of further reading seemed pointless. He wasn’t meant for this sort of thing. His father had been a hunter, and that was a craft of it’s own, one that Violet had taken to much more than him. He had learned from a fellow hunter though, one of his father’s oldest friends.

“Ye can’t always jus’ stick y’head in a book an’ find the answers, hoss.” The old redneck’s voice sounded in his mind, “huntin’s abou’ takin’ what y’know abou’ the real world, an’ applying it to the myth, see? Y’gotta apply that knowledge to yer surroundings. Ye gotta talk to people, know how they think.”

He sighed in resigned acknowledgement of his old mentor’s words. The barman came over to take his empty beer bottle away, and gave Vincent another. “Thanks.” Vincent said as he took a swig from the fresh bottle. He hesitated for a moment, then he motioned to the barman. “Hey, you mind talking to me for a bit?”
“Depends on what you have to say.” The barman replied with a smirk. “What’s on your mind, son?”
“Well, I’m not from around here.” Vincent replied. “New in town, you could say. But I’ve been hearing about these murders, all those girls from the High School? You know about it?”

“A damn shame.” The barman replied, nodding solemnly. “If anyone don’t deserve something like that, it’s those girls. They’ve been doing great work cleaning up the river banks. The whole city really. Now I’m not some environmentalist hippy or anything, but the city looks cleaner, and so does the river. It’s nice to see this place looking it’s best, you know?”

“I hear you.” Vincent replied. “Hard to think anyone would be against that though, don’t you think?”
“Oh I don’t know.” The barman said with a shrug. “They’ve caused a lot of trouble for a few local companies. They brought about new legislation regarding recycling, and a few local businesses experienced a heavy cost trying to get up to standard.”
“Really?” Vincent asked. “Like who?”
“Oh a few factories, big industrial places with a lot of waste.” The barman replied. “Couple of fast food chains, oh and there was  a bit of a weird one. This wine brewery made a big fuss about blocking their petitions and interfering with their protests.”

“Why’s that weird?” Vincent asked. “If they’re bad for business, surely that’s to be expected?”
“That’s the thing.” The barman said. “They weren’t really being affected at all. They’re a environmentally friendly company. It didn’t make any sense. Saying that, there’s always been bad blood between Giannopoulos and Petros.”
“Who?” Vincent asked.
“Thanas Giannopoulos, his family own the wine brewery. He’s never gotten along with the Petros family, they’ve had fights in the street a few years back. They mostly keep away from each other but their kids go to the same school. Amber Petros is part of the eco group. She was good friends with the other victims, of course.”

“That…” Vincent started flicking through his book again. “Aha!” He pointed at a page in the book.
“What’s that? A Faun or something? One of those Narnia things?” The barman asked.
“Satyr.” Vincent corrected. “Fauns have goat legs, Satyrs just have the horns. Common misconception though.”
“So what, you some kind of mythology buff?” The barman asked.
“Something like that.” Vincent replied, standing up. “I think I need to go.”
“Uh…okay. Well it was nice talking to you, son.” The barman replied.
“Yeah, you too.” Vincent replied, closing the book shut.

He grabbed his things and walked out of the bar. Amber, he knew that name. She was girl with the red hair, Amber Petros. She was one of the Nymphs, if their suspicions were correct. That meant Giannopoulos and his boys, who had a feud with the Nymphs, were probably the ones commiting the murders. Gored victims meant horns. He only knew of one creature that loved wine, and targeted Nymphs. The Satyr. He had ingored it in the books before, because Satyr of lore were known for bedding Nymphs, due to a severe sexual fascination with them.

That was Dionysian lore all over. Nothing but sex. He had to remember that it wasn’t Ancient Greece any more. They were in a modern world, a world where men, or Satyr in this case, could not just take what they wanted. Perhaps, he thought, it was rather like Violet and her pudding. Maybe if the Satyr couldn’t have them, well, then no one could. Was it really that simple? It was time to find out. He made a quick stop at the dry cleaners to fetch his coat, and then it was off for some wine tasting.

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The bell rang, signifying the end of school hours. Amber stood up, gathered her things and left her classroom. She wanted to meet up with her friends before heading home. She walked into the corridor, as hundreds of other students began to congest the hallways, and she tried to move through them on her way to the exit. As she went, she saw two of her friends. Jessica, a girl with short brown hair, glasses and a smattering of freckles beneath her eyes, and Rachel, a girl with bright blonde hair tied back into a ponytail. The two girls fell in line beside Amber, nodding to her with a smile.
"How was class?" Amber asked, grinning because she knew the answer already.
"Ugh, boring, Mr. Jacobson makes math more boring than I thought possible." Jessica groaned, holding her books to her chest.
"Yeah, pretty much." Rachel added, with a lop-sided smile.

"Is that all, Rach?" Amber asked, smirking. "I thought you hated Jacobson. God, you're always going on about him." 
"Yeah, he's pretty much the worst, but at least its over and we can, y'know, relax a bit." Rachel held tightly onto her backpack, her expression slightly nervous. 
"Are you alright?" Amber asked. Jessica noticed Rachel then, and looked her up and down critically.
"Yeah, i'm fine!" Rachel reassured her friends.
"You're not yourself." Jessica muttered. "Maybe we should go to the bathroom... freshen up?" 
"Excellent idea!" Amber exclaimed. She made a quick detour. She was going to wait to get home to have a nice, long soak in the bath. But at least a quick spritz would be refreshing. Leading them into the girl's bathroom, Amber closed the door behind Jessica and Rachel and let out a long sigh. 

"So that was a pretty nasty fight you had earlier..." Jessica mused, walking over to look at herself in the mirror.
"What, between me and that four-eyed nightmare-- no offence, Rach..." Amber added swiftly. 
"Oh... none taken." Rachel muttered, walking over to the first stall. She opened the door, leaving the door open, then put the lid down on the toilet seat and sat atop it. "I guess I was just hoping we could all get on. I don't even understand why you and Claire fell out in the first place."
"It's personal, okay, you know better than to ask, geez..." Amber shook her head in disappointment. "Rach, remember? Bit of privacy, please?" 
"Oh, sorry..." Rachel nervously leaned forwards and grabbed the stall door, closing it and locking it so she was inside.
"Honestly, we let you join us because we thought we saw something special in you, but you just keep forgetting the rules--" Amber turned both sink taps on, as did Jessica, while Rachel remained locked within the stall. "You've gotta keep up, dear!" Amber chuckled and looked at Jessica, they shared a look.

Then Amber started running her hands under the water, and they immediately turned a brilliant shade of blue. She turned to check Jessica, but she too was already covering her arms, as they turned the same bright shade. Just a little spritz, that's all that was needed. Then Jessica cupped her hands under the water, turned and splashed Amber in the face.
"HEY!!" Amber snapped, as her face turned blue, her eyes narrowed and she suddenly looked as though she was a human-sized faerie. Striking veins of dark blue shot through her face, with a mysterious and enchanting set of eyes that were wholly of another world. "That's not funny, Jessica! What if someone came in here right now!" But Jessica wasn't done yet. She turned, kicked open the bathroom stall, with Rachel inside, and splashed her in the face as well. But Rachel didn't change as Amber had.
"WHAT THE HELL?!" Amber roared, shoving Jessica. Jessica darted inside the stall, pulled something from her pocket, and pressed it against Rachel's mouth. The girl collapsed almost immediately, leaving Amber to watch in disbelief as her friend walked out of the stall, leaving the unconscious Rachel inside. 
"She could have seen us!!" Amber snarled, her face twisting with rage, "I can't believe you Jessica, that's not funny! Just because I wanted your help before doesn't mean you get to go all gung-ho on me with the human! She's brand new, and we're trying to make a good impression, remember?!"

"Right." Jessica muttered, "You're an idiot."
"WHAT?!" Amber looked as though her eyes were about to pop out of her head. 
Jessica took a deep breath and shook as though she was shedding something uncomfortable. Within a second, she was no longer Jessica. Violet stood before Amber, brushed some of her bright blue hair out of her face and grinned. "So, you're not the only one who can hide what they look like, kid." 
Amber was speechless. She stood there, her mouth agape, struggling to process what had just happened. 
"So, you're a nymph, but... she's not... Jessica obviously is, too." Violet crossed her arms and thought for a moment. Amber finally began to come around to her senses and tried to make a dash for the bathroom door, but Violet was faster and blocked it. "No, not so quick, i'm not going to rat you out, I just want to talk!" 
"You're not human..." Amber muttered, her eyes still bulging in surprise. 
"Mmm, like I said, Amber. You're an idiot." Violet looked over at the unconscious Rachel, "Why did you want a human in your group? Come on, fill me in a bit and i'll let you go."
"Why should I? I could scream, call a teacher, call the cops..." Amber started listing through her possible fall-backs. 

"I could just kill you?" Violet suggested.
"You're a hunter..." Amber's voice trembled as realisation set in. 
"Yes, technically. But it doesn't need to go down that way if you tell me what I want to know, alright?" Violet raised her eyebrow with an expectant, 'So how 'bout it?' expression. Amber hesitated, glancing back at the bathroom door, but there was no escape, and if this woman really was a hunter, not to mention she definitely wasn't human.
"Only if you answer my questions..." Amber retorted childishly. Violet smirked. The girl had moxie, if nothing else. She could appreciate that.
"Alright, fine." Violet nodded.
"What are you?" Amber asked, pointing at her up and down.
"Mm, there's no word for what I am, at least in the human languages. Just nicknames." Violet cleared her throat and then jerked her head at the unconscious Rachel, "Wanna tell me why you're involving a human in your little nymph group social?"
"There's a few humans in our group..." Amber replied, shrugging off Violet's question, "I mean, we're not exactly a majority race, and we want to keep the river clean, and clear up our community, and we can't exactly do that on our own these days. Plus... Rachel's nice, if a bit..." She trailed off and shrugged. 

"So, who killed Kate?" Violet asked, and studied Amber's face as she reacted. Amber was horrified at the question. 
"I don't know!!" Amber snapped, "Oh my God, do you think if I did, i'd have kept it to myself? He's killed several of my friends!"
"He?" Violet asked, frowning.
"I'm just--" She laughed, "I'm generalising, I assume it's a guy, isn't it almost always?" Amber sighed, rubbing her forehead as her skin began to turn back to normal. "Anyway, why are you here, if you're not hunting nymphs, what are you here about? The murders?" 
"Exactly. I'm here to stop them. You do want them to be stopped, don't you?" 
"Of course!" Amber got angry again, then upset. She picked up her bag, "Can I go now?"

Violet walked over to Rachel and pulled out a small bottle. Smelling salts. She cracked the lid open a touch and ran it under the girl's nose, and she roused almost immediately. Rachel jumped in surprise at seeing Violet, she was confused and agitated. Violet put her hand on her shoulder and helped her up. 
"You're alright, you passed out." Violet said, patting her on the back.
"Did I?" Rachel asked, frowning and looking around. "Amber?" She asked, and stepped out of the stall, to see her friend standing there. "Did I pass out?" Amber's gaze flicked to Violet for a moment, then back to her friend and she nodded.
"You hit the dirt pretty quick, Jessica ran to get a nurse." Amber smiled at her friend, "You should go lie down, sweetie." Rachel nodded, still a little confused, and ambled out of the bathroom, leaving Amber and Violet alone once more. "That was low..." She muttered. 
Violet shrugged her shoulders, "So, Jessica will wake up in a few minutes, she'll be okay but she won't know what happened, she's in the boy's bathroom, so you can go get her now. Best tell her the truth though, let her know what happened just now. After all, you and her are on the same team. But, i'm going to keep looking into this, you say you don't know the killer or killers, fine. But I happen to know they were gored to death, and that's not exactly a typical human murder now, is it?" 
"Gored?" Amber asked, her face turned pale. 

Violet looked her over, "You know something about this, Amber?" 
"No..." Amber shook her head, "If I learn something, i'll tell you, okay? I promise." 
"Just remember what happened here today, and remember i'll be back to have another chat if I find out you lied to me, and that chat will have an air of finality to it, right?" Violet pointed at the girl, then turned and walked out of the bathroom. So, at least if Amber is to be believed, she's not directly involved. But she definitely knows something. There are too many pieces missing from this puzzle right now. Violet began to wonder what Vincent was doing. Drinking and smoking, probably. Maybe bitching about her, and maybe he had a right to. After all, she'd overreacted, and then dealt with that by overreacting again. She hadn't taken the time to look at what she'd done, and only now after stalking and changing places with Jessica after several missed opportunities, and then getting in close with Amber and waiting for the right moment, was she able to gleam any information. Yes, several of the community clean-up eco-cheerleaders were nymphs. But several were not. Had all the victims been nymphs? 
"Dammit, I knew i'd forgotten to ask something..." Violet was just about at the exit, she had her hand on the door, and was staring out of the window, when she started to turn around to go back and ask Amber that key question that of course she'd forgotten to ask. But that was when she saw her. 

In the reflection of the window, was a woman stood behind Violet. The other teenagers seemed to take no notice of her, but they moved around her all the same. It was as though they were aware that a person was stood there, but they couldn't focus on her, or care for her being there. Violet could make out a few details in the reflection. Black, scruffy hair, thick and covering half her face. Black clothes and a necklace with a broken heart pendant hanging over her tank-top. Her skin was as white as snow, and her expression seemed sombre.
"I'm not turning around, while you're there..." Violet muttered.
"Maybe I won't be here when you do..." She replied.
"I thought we agreed you'd leave me alone..." Violet's tone grew sharp. She saw the woman shrug in the reflection.
"I guess I was just worried about you."
"It's not your job to be worried about me." Violet retorted, getting angrier. 
"If I ask you to calm down, will you?" 
Violet gripped the handle of the door tighter and took a deep breath, "What do you want?" 
"You should be nicer to your brother, he loves you, in his own way." 
"Thanks for the advice, but--" Violet turned, ready to chew her out, but there was nobody there. One of the students noticed the strange girl with blue hair talking to herself for the first time and chuckled, moving with the rest of the throng of teens leaving the school for the day. "God-dammit... you didn't answer my question..." Violet muttered. After a few seconds she shook her head, opened the door and stepped out into the afternoon sunshine.

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It was nearing 6pm when a taxi pulled up outside Giannopoulos Wineyard. Vincent stepped out of the back, carrying his sports bag and his cane. He held out an extra note for the driver, who rolled down his window and took it with a “thank you” before departing. Vincent observed his surroundings. He was outside of the main city, in a patch of countryside farmland. He was stood outside a large converted barn house that was painted white, and had been fitted out like a storefront and tourist section for the winery. The place appeared to be closed now, but he walked up to the front door and gently chapped on it with the end of his cane.

He waited a moment but nobody came to answer, as he had expected. He peered through the glass parts of the door, but all he could see was rows of wines, a few cashier desks and some wooden boards with information about the wine, and times for tours of the facility. He walked away from the door and made his way around the side of the barn. He could see that a section of the land was dedicated to the vineyard where they were growing various grapes. Extensions built out from the barn looked like staff quarters, and a larger building behind it looked to be where they made the wine.

A light was on in a smaller, cozier building with a balcony that faced out on to the vineyard. Clearly the Giannopoulos family lived on-site. Vincent walked carefully towards the building, checking around for anyone watching him. The place was completely quiet, and as far as he could tell, the Satyr ran a tight ship. Everything looked clean, tidy and above board. As he walked across the gravel, the door to the front of the house opened up, and a short and stout man with a broad chest and a dark-haired but balding head. “Marcus is that you…oh.” He paused as he noticed Vincent. “Sorry, my friend. We’re closed for the day.”

“That’s a real shame.” Vincent said with a shrug, “I was really hoping for a sample.”
“Well, you can always come back tomorrow.” The man said with a soft smile.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist.” Vincent said as he kept walking towards the door. “I’m something of a genealogist, you see, and I have a few questions about your ancestry.”
“Er…” The man looked a little uneasy. “I’m sorry but I don’t understand.”
“Well you’re Greek, right? An immigrant?” Vincent asked as he approached the door.

“I’m an American,” The man replied, his tone sounding a little more hostile. “My papers are all in order I assure-“
“I’m not from immigration.” Vincent cut him off. “My name is Vincent Hallow.”
“Ha-“ The balding man’s lips quivered before he finished the word. Panic set in his eyes, and he went to slam the door shut. Vincent held out his cane and channeled his will through it. He felt a pull from something other worldly, like a tug on his soul, and then a gust of focused air gathered around his cane, and shot forward to the door, blasting it open and sending the balding man backwards on to his backside.

“Oh don’t worry, I’m not as bad as Violet.” Vincent said as he stepped through the threshold on the house. When entering the home of a human without being invited, supernatural creatures often could not enter, and others could but left their power at the door. Vincent’s wizardry happened to be one of those things that was generally left outside, and yet he did not feel that draining, sinking feeling that came with the vanishing of his power. That confirmed it for him. The denizens of this home were not human, so no protection for them.
“Wh-who…who is…Violet?” The man asked fearfully. Vincent paused for a moment, and then it dawned on him.

“I’m not as bad as Elias, either.” He said, rolling his eyes. Vincent dropped his bag by the door and closed it behind him. He grabbed the man by one of his outstretched arms and pulled him back on to his feet. “Sorry if I’m coming off a little strong. I’m no good at pleasantries, and to be honest forcing my way in here was the quickest way to confirm you aren’t human.”
“So you’re not here to kill me?” The man asked.
“Well, that depends. Probably not though.” Vincent said, as he surveyed the hall. “You can remove that glamour now.”

The man looked a little uneasy, but then he sighed and gave a little shiver. In an instant a pair of short, sharp horns appeared on his head. “My name is Thanas Giannopoulos. Look, I don’t know how you found me but I’ve been living here without incident for over 30 years and-“
“Without incident?” Vincent raised his eyebrow. “You’re a Satyr. Bunch of horny, drunken maniacs if the tales about you are true. You telling me you came here to live a quiet life?”
“Hey!” Thanas seemed angered by the comment. “How dare you! That’s racist! I bet you think all vampires sleep in the rafters too!”
“Actually in my experience they sleep in a kind of luxury only you and I can dream of, buddy.” Vincent said with a smirk.

“You humans, always tarring everything with the same brush.” Thanas muttered as he made his way down the hall. Vincent followed and they came in to an open plan living room and kitchen. Thanas grabbed a glass of wine he had previously been drinking from the table and took a sip of it. “I mean, seriously, you’re talking about Ancient Greece like it was yesterday. You have no idea what it was like. All those Gods making everybody crazy, it was a different time.”
“So you’re saying Satyr have gone legit now? All nice, civilized types who go to church and pay their taxes?”

“Ugh, not church.” Thanas replied, “The last lot of Gods were enough for me, I can’t be bothered with this one.”
“But there’s got to be some truth to it.” Vincent said, and he gestured around him. “I mean, Satyr are supposed to be mad for wine, and here you are with a vineyard.”
“Oh the Greek guy loves wine, no shit.” Thanas replied, shaking his head.
“Okay, let’s say I accept that,” Vincent replied, shrugging, “What about all these Nymphs being murdered? The old stories say the Satyr loved to have their way with Nymphs, and then a few of them end up dead. Maybe times haven’t changed that much, hm?”

“I did nothing to those poor girls!” Thanas replied heatedly. “What happened to them is a tragedy!” The older man had a complex display of emotions. He looked scared, perhaps guilty, but also genuinely sad and distraught at the thought of the murders. “Look, wizard!” He said with a pointed finger at Vincent, “Look, I’m not proud of my people’s past, but we were…” He sighed in frustration, “Let’s just say not a lot of people have faith in Dionysus any more. The madness he brought on during his time of power…it affected us. Like I said before, it was a long time ago. We moved on.”

“And yet there’s still a bunch of young girls being gored to death.” Vincent replied, frowning.
“Gored?” Thanas asked with a surprised expression. “I…oh…oh no…” His glass holding hand shook, and he placed the glass on the table before he dropped it. He held his hand up to his forehead and looked distressed. “Oh no…please…not Lucas!”
“Who’s Lucas?” Vincent asked.
“He’s my…my son.” Thanas looked grief stricken. “He’s always been a little wild…but he’s young, you know? I never thought…oh Lucas…”

“Are you saying your son is responsible?” Vincent asked.
“No!” Thanas snapped, then he hesitated. “I…hope not, but…”
“The signs are there.” Vincent said, nodding sympathetically. “I’m sorry Thanas, but if Lucas really is doing this…you know what happens next.”
“Oh please, no!” Thanas protested, and he was crossing the room to Vincent. His eyes were tearful and he rung his hands together like a beggar. “You can’t kill him. There must be another way, please!”
“You know a human prison can’t hold creatures like yourself.” Vincent said. “This is how it’s done.”

“Please, you can’t!” Thanas begged. Then his eyes flashed with something other than grief, and he seemed to have an idea. Vincent knew that look. Suddenly Thanas was charging at him with incredible speed someone so old shouldn’t have had, with his sharp horns pointed straight at Vincent, who lifted his free arm up in defense. Vincent channeled his will into the charm bracelet around his wrist, each of the charms representing different symbols of protection from various cultures and faiths. The charm bracelet seemed to buzz with power on his arm, and an invisible wall of force projected out in front of Vincent.

Thanas slammed into the kinetic barrier and was sent flying backwards, crashing in to the back wall of the room, causing bottles of wine to crash to the floor and spill around him. Vincent held the shield up for a few more moments, but as Thanas sat up, the old man only wept in defeat. Vincent let the shield drop and let out a silent curse. “Nice try.” He said as he crossed the room. “Even if it had worked though, my sister is out there. She’d have figured this out, and she’d have still taken out your boy. Then she’d have come for you, for killing me.”

“I’m sorry…” Thanas replied. “I just…”
“You wanted to protect your boy.” Vincent finished for him. “I understand.”
“The first girl…she was his girlfriend.” Thanas explained. “I never liked it. With our past, I wanted him to stay away from those Nymphs.”
“Is that why you have a known rivalry with the Petros family?”
“Petros? No…that was something else. The daughter…Amber, I think. She told her family some strange stories about my boy. All lies, silly things about his girlfriends. We had a bit of a row, but nothing serious. She was probably just jealous he never paid her any attention.”

“Amber Petros is a name that keeps popping up in all of this.” Vincent said, rubbing his chin. “I think I need to speak with her. First I need to find your kid, do you know where he is?”
“Probably with his new girlfriend. I can’t remember her name, honestly.” Thanas replied. He got up and started picking up bits of glass off the floor. “What a mess…” He said with a sigh.
“You got anything of his?” Vincent asked. “Hair or blood?”
“Are you from this century?” Thanas asked with a frown.

“Alright, fine. Something personal of his?” He asked.
“Why?” Thanas asked
“To make a Thaumaturgical link to him.”
“Thumbawhatnow?”
“Thaumaturgical. You should know that, it’s Greek.” Vincent shook his head. “It’s for a locator spell. I’m going to find your son before he gets himself in any more trouble. Then we’ll figure the rest out.”
“Will you kill him?” Thanas asked, looking fearful again.
“Not if I don’t have to.” Vincent replied. “Oh, and can I use your phone?”

--- --- ---

Ten minutes later Vincent stood at Thanas’ breakfast bar. He had drawn out a circle of salt on the table, with a five-pointed pentagram in the middle of it. At each point of the star he had placed candles and lit them. In the centre of the star was a locket, with a picture of an older woman inside, Lucas’ mother and Thanas’ deceased wife. Vincent held Thanas’ phone to his ear and listened to the dial tone as he finished making preparations. “Come on, Vi. Pick up…”

"Who are you and how did you get this number, dickhead?!" Vincent rolled his eyes.
“Hey sis, how’s it going? Also you gave me this number, buttmunch.” He replied, as he casually projected a small portion of his will into the circle, and an invisible barrier of magic hummed to life, containing anything within the circle.
"I'm regretting it. What's that noise?" Violet asked.

“Interference, probably.” Vincent replied. “I’m doing some science, some magical science!”
"I'm hanging up." She muttered, irritably.
“Yeah, okay.” Vincent replied. “I guess I’ll just go catch the killer myself then.” Vincent made a quick gesture with his hand, and the gentle hum of the circle seemed to become an agitated buzz. He turned around and looked to the floor of the kitchen, where another circle had been made. Inside this one was a small hot wheels toy race car. He made another gesture and sent his will into that circle as well, and it began to hum gently.

"Thought you'd had enough of all this?" Violet retorted. "What exactly are you looking to do?"
“Well, I thought I’d had enough too, then Al started talking in my head like Obi-Wan which, side note, I might need to see a therapist if I’m honest, anyway, I made a few connections and now I’m at Giannopoulos Vineyard. The owner here is a Satyr and his son is…well he might be the killer. It’s a little complicated, but I keep hearing that Amber girl’s name popping up. I don’t think she’s quite as innocent as she may seem.”

With a pulling gesture, Vincent seemed to slowly reel out the energy stored within the first circle. Then he placed that energy in the second one, which began to buzz excitedly.
"I spent most of the day with Amber. She knows something, and half the girls in that little clique of theirs are nymphs but a killer?" There was a long pause as Violet sighed, "Seems a stretch to me. She's more concerned with her appearance, her friends and her after school activities."
“I never said she was a killer.” Vincent replied. He broke the circle of salt on the floor with his foot, and suddenly the little hot wheels race car took off through the living room and disappeared in to the hall. Vincent began following it.

“All I know is her name keeps popping up.” He said, “The way Thanas seemed to react, I’m pretty sure killing isn’t something he thinks his son is capable of either. What I do know, is that Amber apparently stirred up a lot of shit around Lucas, the Satyr kid, and his girlfriends. And yes, that was plural. Kid gets around, apparently.” Vincent reached the door to the house, where the little toy race car was banging against the wood, desperately trying to get out of the house. Vincent scooped it up, and it’s little wheels just kept on spinning as he held it.

“It also turns out the first victim was Lucas’ girlfriend. And he’s off to see his latest girlfriend right now, apparently.” Vincent held the toy car up to the receiver so Violet could hear it’s wheels whirring. “My locator spell is cooking with gas, however, so get the car and come pick me up. Let’s see what this kid has to say for himself.”

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When Violet arrived, she didn't look happy. Winding down her window, she glanced at the toy from the seat of her car, "So, let's bust some heads!" She called out. Opening the passenger side door for her brother, he got in and she returned to the traffic. "Pfft, boring." She muttered, then she angled her rear-view mirror so she could see her hair. Cars beeped their horns all around them, as they slowly lurched forwards through the traffic. Violet took a hand and brushed it through the left-hand side of her hair. The hair that was there fell out and disappeared, leaving her with one side of her head shaved. "That's a bit more interesting." She muttered as an afterthought, "So who d'you think did it?"
"The Satyr kid seems likely, at least the murders were designed to look like a Satyr did it." Vincent said as he held the eager little hot wheels car in his hand, the wheels still whirring furiously, "At worst he's our killer, and at best he's a douchebag who goes through girls like a fat guy hitting the buffet. Still, we don't execute supes for being douchebags."

"No, but we always have room to reconsider-- Seriously?!" As a row of cars managed to breach with the flash of a green traffic light, it quickly switched back to red and they came to a halt once more. "Traffic jams really stress me out, man..." Violet snarled and kicked back into her seat, then sighed and pushed the frustration to the back of her mind. It was like opening an ancient music box. As the lid opened, a harmonious music played, a little ballerina in black dancing by herself and then the tense, angry, inquisitive emotions tumbled into the music box. It closed. It locked. Then a car beeped it's horn directly behind them and Violet opened her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah..." She growled, and she moved the car forwards until they had to come to a stop once again.
"That Amber girl keeps popping up in this. Did you ever get to speak with her again?" Vincent asked. He had picked his grimoire out from the back seat and was flicking through it studiously.
"Oh, right..." Violet smirked and took her hands off the wheel. She pulled her legs up, placing them on the dash and reclined. Her lips moved silently and then the car seemed to growl to life, the wheel turned back and forth, and then the car accelerated a little to fill the gap ahead of them. "That's better." Violet sighed and then thought about her brother's question. "'Amber'," She said it with air quotations, "Leader of a group of eco-nerds focused on river preservation. Amber's a nymph. So is Jessica. This girl Rachel isn't but for some reason Amber seems taken with her, and while I think there's probably more nymphs in that group than those two, I think there are a number of human girls too."

"Well according to his pop, she spread a lot of lies about Lucas and generally stirred things up. Apparently it resulted in an argument between Amber's dad and him." Vincent stopped and mouthed along a little as he read, then continued talking, "He implied Amber was jealous because Lucas wouldn't pay her any attention."
"Highschool." Violet muttered, shaking her head. "Kids never learn. They think they're the smartest thing on the planet, but all teens are are a bunch of hormones donkin' into each other and fumbling through life." She crossed her arms and blew at one of her blue bangs. "Highschool was dumb. It was just you, an' me an' then one summer I met D, but it was all messed up and we hardly learned anything."
"It wasn't that bad...it was an escape." Vincent said, "School feels like a break next to what we had to learn."
"If you say so, Vince." Violet licked the inside of her teeth and let out another long sigh, "Look, d'you mind?" Violet pointed at the traffic lights, "Are you gonna give me a lecture about magic if I move us along? We've got somewhere to be, y'know?"
"If you can do it subtly... then sure." Vincent said with a shrug.
"Our turn!" Violet called, focusing on the lights. She whispered something beneath her breath and the opposing lights switched from green to red. Cars came to a screeching halt. A moment later their lights turned from red to green. "Ugh, at last!" Violet let her shoulders relax as she realised she'd been tensing them, and they drove on. After a few minutes, Violet glanced over at the whirring toy car.
"So, how much longer y'think?" She asked with a raised eyebrow before refocusing her attention on the road.
"I don't know." Vincent said, and he held the little car aloft, its wheels whirring furiously against the air. "Could be trying to get to Alaska for all I know. It should take us straight to Lucas, wherever that is."

It took them a while, driving around Lafayette, but eventually they came to a halt as Vincent's little toy car seemed to tire, and by now, it was obvious where they'd been taken. Just on the outskirts of Lafayette, there was a bottled water factory. It had been tucked away, hidden by the trees, but it was right there in front of them now. Petros Water branded in huge letters along the side of the building. "Right. Water nymphs, bottled water factory, makes sense. Why not..." Violet mumbled as she got out of the car.
"Why's the Satyr kid here though?" Vincent asked as he opened the door to the car. He went to the back seat and took out his cane and his gun and strap. "Let's play it safe. This is the Nymphs home turf, their magic will be strong here."
"Oh you don't say," Violet teased sarcastically, then walked on through the car park and up to the main doors. Before she could reach them however, the door opened and a speaker system activated with a quiet squeal. "I guess they know we're here."
"Honoured guests," The voice belonged to a young woman, it was sultry and confident and held not an ounce of worry, "I am Jennifer Petros, CEO of Petros Water. Welcome to our Indiana factory. Here, we source only the best spring water from across Indiana. In the following--"
"Automated nonsense." Violet shook her head and walked into the factory. It was quite dark in the first room, but from what she could see it looked dishevelled, as though it had been long-since abandoned, but she could also hear machinery running in the distance. They pressed on. For a few minutes, they walked in silence, until they saw someone fiddling with a console. "Hey!" Violet called out. But when the person heard her, they ran. "Catch him Vincent!" Violet yelled, reflexively running after the person as they'd already turned the corner.

Vincent sprinted after Violet and brandished his cane as they turned the corner. He focused his will into the cane and pointed it at the runner, and then he summoned a gust of wind that crashed down the hall, condensing and moving flat across the floor as he commanded it, before it finally swept under the runner and sent him tumbling on to his back.
"What the hell, man!" Yelled a girlish voice. Violet blinked, glancing at Vincent before cornering their fallen runner against the wall.
"Alright no--hey!" Violet growled, seeing Amber's face beneath the hoody she wore. "What are you doing, Amber?"
"Don't ask me that, you're on my property, Violet! That's my question to ask of you." Amber retorted, standing there with a wrench in-hand. 
"We were just out for a walk and uh..." Vincent cast his gaze around the room once, "Well geez...we really must have got lost."
Amber noticed the man for the first time, "Who's the weird geezer with the stick?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. Violet rolled her head over to Vincent and smirked.
"I hate teenagers..." Vincent grumbled.
"Ditto. I'm 2,349 years old." Amber replied.
Violet's mouth hung open for a moment, "Well... alright. Uh...?" Violet turned to look to Vincent. She was stumped by this revelation in truth, and furthermore she didn't know what to do with the fact that Amber offered it so willingly when she'd been so difficult with her before. 
"So what?" Vincent shrugged, "Unlucky for you I don't respect my elders, so why don't you tell us what you're doing?"

"I've been tending to the rivers, streams and water in Lafayette for hundreds of years. I'm a Queen. I can feel the connection between all the water nymphs in this place, but slowly, over the years, they've been dying, disappearing. So... I needed to fix that." Amber stood up, then brushed down her clothes.
"But, how?" Violet asked, "And why is Lucas here?" 
Amber's face blanched and she held her hand up, "I'm sorry, did you say Lucas is here?" 
"Well if you trust the intuition of a toy car then..." Vincent inclined his head slightly in mock consideration, "...yes, pretty sure he is."
"Amber, how were you going to fix the dwindling Nymphs?" Violet steered the conversation back onto her.
"Oh, well..." Amber shrugged, "I was changing some of the girls into Nymphs, of course. Not all of them, mind. Just the ones with real talent, the smart ones, the pretty ones, the ones that know how to get things done."
"You can't just take girls and turn them into something they're not." Violet growled, personally offended. This wasn't a far cry off what her aunt had wanted to do to her. To turn her into someone she wasn't. She was outraged, but had to learn more. This wasn't the whole story.
"I can!" Amber replied simply, "They want to become something else. Rachel told me herself. I didn't even offer it to her, she just sort of knew."

"There isn't a teenager alive that doesn't want to be something else, you moron." Vincent said, "So what about the dead girls, Amber? Didn't like it when they slept with the enemy?"
"What? What are you talking about?!" Amber yelled, getting angry. Her face flashed with blue, becoming transparent for a moment. "Slept with the enemy? What enemy?!"
"Careful, Vince--" Violet warned, her face tensing.
"Uh-oh, is that your glamour failing?" Vincent said mockingly, "You should probably do something about that." He pointed his cane towards her. "Quite a lot of Lucas' girlfriends seemed to have died recently, friends of yours. You spread a lot of rumours about Lucas, care to explain?"
"Lucas is my ex, but he's not a killer! So what, I spread some rumours about him, I was mad alright? That doesn't make me a killer either." Amber tried to calm down, the flash of blue transparency vanished and she was a normal-looking girl once more.
"If he's your ex, why's he here?" Violet asked.
"We still hang out sometimes! It's complicated, alright." Amber retorted, slightly embarrassed.
"Right. Highschool." Violet repeated, turning to Vincent, "I don't know what to do with this. I'd normally kick down a door and smoke everything inside. But this doesn't seem that open and shut." And as if on queue, Lucas appeared at the other end of the corridor. "Hey..." Violet turned to face the boy who stood in the doorway, blocking the light behind him. He took a couple of steps towards them, Violet tensed, then a noise ricocheted through the corridor. A ringing that deafened her. Lucas collapsed. Behind him, stood Rachel. She was holding a gun in one hand, and concealed something else in the other.
"I finally found it..." Rachel smirked with a look of relief and satisfaction. "I knew I would..."

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“Careful with that gun…” Vincent said as he held his hand up between him and the newcomer, Rachael. His protection charms dangled around his wrist as he projected his will outwards, forming a solid shield of kinetic energy. “Who the hell are you?” He asked.
Rachel frowned at the man and yelled back, "Who the hell're you?!" With an incredulous tone.
"Look!" Violet snapped, "I'm not in the mood to play 'Who the fuck am I'! Why did you shoot him, Rachel?"
"You couldn't understand..." Rachel smirked bitterly and shook her head.

“Funny, that’s usually my line.” Vincent said as he paced slowly forward, towards Lucas’ body in between them. “How about you try me, hm?”
"They're monsters!" Rachel shouted, leveling the gun at them. "They turn blue and change people into them, I've seen it!"
“Oh…geez.” Vincent said with a sigh, “Looks like we got ourselves a rookie, Vi.” He said with a smirk, although he still kept his barrier raised and ready. “First of all; monster is a very generic term, sort of discriminatory when you think about it. Secondly, I’m not buying this story that a Nymph in fuckin’ Lafayette of all places, has the kind of mystical mojo it takes to do that.”

Amber spoke, but when she did, all personality, weakness, or naivety vanished. When she spoke, it was as though there were power in the very words themselves, they echoed like a ripple in a pond, "The lakes were sick. The rivers were dying. We had to stop that. I had to stop that. Not just for us, but for the humans, too."
"Mmm... Yep." Vincent said with a wince, "Should have seen that one...all right." With a thrust of his palm Vincent sent his barrier forward and up, the force knocking the gun from Rachel's hand. He walked quickly toward her, and she seemed to visibly recoil. With a pulling motion he brought a gust of wind out from under Rachel and knocked her to her backside. She froze as Vincent stopped above her and placed the end of his cane down with a loud tap. There was a resonating hum of power as he sent out his will down the cane’s length, and it’s carved runes glowed softly. Rachel tried to get up, but found that she had been rooted to the spot, almost as if she had been welded to the floor.

“Stay still.” He said with a smirk and rolled his eyes, before turning away from her. “Okay then.” He said finally, “That’s the trigger happy teenager dealt with, now…” He turned his gaze toward Amber, “…Let’s have a chat, you and I.”
Amber's lip curled into a snarl.
"I will not subject myself to your questioning!" Amber roared and raised her arms, the skin across her body turning blue as she pulled water from the ground, from the machines, from every inch of the factory. The first jet of water she fired at Vincent coalesced into an icy spear as it hurtled towards him. It narrowly missed but as Amber prepared to fire again, Violet had to step in.

"Stop!" She yelled, running between Vincent and Amber. But it was too late. The spear of ice struck her in the stomach and she doubled over. First, there was pain. But the pain dissipated quickly as a dizzying sensation of rage began to spread through her. Amber readied another ice missile, but Violet stood back up distracting her for just a moment.
"No..." Violet hissed. Throwing her arms up, a bright purple energy fired from her hands, and hit Amber like a truck. The nymph flew across the floor and landed with a thud. Before she could right herself Violet was stood over her. Violet's face was partially her own, while a section of it around one eye was peeling away like burning tinder. Beneath her skin, purple energy dancing around a brilliantly dazzling all-white eye. The hair above her forehead in that area had turned to a light pink and seemed to dance and sway as though she were underwater. Amber raised her hands, in defence. But Violet ignored the girl, raising her arms once more. This time she seemed to draw the very energy from Amber, who immediately collapsed as though she were fatigued. The blue of her skin began to turn pale and her skin became cracked.

"Stop..." Amber groaned. The spike of ice forcibly ejected from Violet's stomach, leaving behind the same solid dark purple energy that was burning through her face and still she continued to feed on the life force of the nymph.
“Oh for crying out loud…” Vincent said with a sigh, looking down at his shoes and the bottom part of his jeans which were now soaked from the torrent of water that had rushed around them. He felt a strange weight pulling at him, a sensation he was familiar with, it was normally something he felt in the shower. The water rolled away around him, running across the floor. As it reached Rachel she gasped as she was suddenly able to move again. Running water grounds out mortal magic.

“Well, my magic’s out…” Vincent said as he turned back to Violet and Amber, and then his eyes widened and he cursed, “Violet!” He snapped loudly.
Violet jumped as though she'd just been grabbed and she relented. Amber gasped as colour slowly began to return to her face.
"I... I-I'm sorry... I..." Violet bent over to comfort Amber but the nymph recoiled in horror. Violet's face and the hole in her shirt quickly returned to normal. Her eye darkened and shifted until it was a natural-looking human eye. Her 'skin' re-covered her face and her hair turned blue and fell flat once more. Violet glanced at Vincent but couldn't hold his gaze.

Vincent wanted to say something to Violet, but now wasn’t the time. He pulled his pistol from his holster and turned, pointing it at Rachel who was attempting to flee. “Ah! Ah!” He called and Rachel froze when she saw the gun. “Now just you sit tight while the adults talk.” Vincent said and he turned back to Amber, “Ready to talk now?”
"W-what would you ask of me?" Amber asked. She seemed weakened, tired, but no lasting damage had been done. Violet slunk off to Rachel and sat on top of the girl so she couldn't escape. Rachel wanted to shout and scream and bite but having just witnessed one of what she thought had been human, turn into a life-sucking creature, she was content to remain quiet for the moment.

“Well first I wanted to know how you managed to amass so much power…but I get it now.” He smirked, “You’ve created a cause for people to have faith in, to pay tribute to, and to provide offerings. Your environmental activism is how you draw your power. Fundraising faith to fuel your mystical powers. Just a guess, but am I in the right ballpark?”
"You are not unintelligent." Amber smirked before trying to get her breath back. "I thought they were a myth..." Amber muttered, her eyes darting at Violet before refocusing on him.

“Hah!” Vincent laughed, “Hey Vi, the myth just called you a myth!” Violet looked like she wasn't in the mood. Her top lip curled back and she crossed her arms with an air of 'and that's all I have to say about that'. “So,” Vincent continued, “You’ve been turning mortals into Naiads, which takes a serious amount of mojo, maybe the charity worship wasn’t enough? So you turn to older methods. Human sacrifice is a good way to wield serious power, wouldn’t you say?”

"If power is required to save this world, then I will take it, human." Amber curled the last word out of her mouth as though she was spitting a fly out. "This world will persist, long after you are gone."
“Oh yeah, absolutely.” Vincent agreed with a nod, then he shrugged and cocked his head. “Although, you should see some of the stuff these humans are doing. It might take them 200 years but that’s a drop in the bucket for you. What are you going to do when they have machines that clean rivers, and maintain forests, machines that produce clean air. Nobody is going to put their faith in you lot any more.”
"Then I will 'retire'." Amber retorted.

“You might retire sooner rather than later if you don’t explain what’s going on.” Vincent said, and as he was talking he went over to check on Lucas, and was surprised when he felt his wrist and found a pulse. “Vi…he’s alive.” He said to his sister, “He needs a hospital.”
"That's going to be an awkward conversation." Violet replied, looking at Lucas.
"I've done nothing wrong." Amber stood up shakily, "When I need more nymphs, there are already many waiting in line to serve. This girl..." She looked at Rachel with disdain, "... Is not who we thought. She is bitter and selfish, like all humans."

“The accords state that if you murder humans then they have sacred right to hunt and kill you.” Vincent said testily. “And those kids are minors, the human law states that they are not mature enough to make their own decisions about their life. Not that the accords have anything to say about that.” His nostrils flared visibly at the admission, “Rachel is going to be a murderer if Lucas dies, and then she’ll be a problem for the police. Unless Lucas killed those girls, in which case she has the right. I don’t think he did though, did he?”

"Nobody killed those girls." Amber replied, rather matter-of-fact. And as though waiting for a sign, women began to appear. From around corners, behind pillars and stepping out from behind machinery. There were more than a dozen and several of them looked familiar. They were the girls who had been murdered. Though it seemed this was not the case, despite the bodies.
“…They weren’t murdered, they were the girls you turned.” Vincent shook his head in annoyance, “You…created corpses to hide the disappearances. Are you stupid? How could you not know this would send hunters on your trail?”

"I don't see why they should." Amber replied with a non-plussed expression.
"Amber, you know that the bodies were gored to death. That's not exactly common fare." Violet spoke up at last and Amber stared at her in disbelief.
"Don't speak to me--" Amber finished her statement with a high-pitched screech that sounded like a mixture between a kettle boiling and a metal nail tearing down a blackboard. Everyone recoiled from the noise. It seemed to summon up images of long-forgotten worlds, dying suns, and a dark void.

“Bleugh.” Vincent said with a shudder, and looked at Violet, “I mean…your people have a lovely language.” He gave her a false grin.
"I can assure you, of all of us here, I would like not to hear that again." Violet looked at Amber, "So use it again, and I'll finish what I started." Amber found it impossible to hide the anger on her face, however, she remained calm.

“So…no one is dead. You haven’t broke the laws that apply to you, so we hold no claim.” Vincent continued, “Which stinks of shit. You…are taking advantage of these kids.” His voice became tense, almost a growl. Well, actually my sister is under no such obligation. Vincent turned to Violet, “Fancy abusing your power?”
"Come on, Vince. Let's go." Violet stood up and helped Rachel to her feet, "You've got a lot to learn, kid." She pushed Rachel into walking, "Best hope he doesn't croak." As Violet made to leave, Lucas lifted off the floor, floating into the air and following her. "Come on." She repeated to her brother, "There's nothing to do here."

“You’re lucky she’s the less morally bankrupt of the two of us.” Vincent said with a scowl, “…Just be careful. Give me just one reason to smite you, and you’ll be finding out what it’s like to be a greasy stain on the floor.” He turned and walked away from Amber and her Nymphs, walking quickly to catch up with Violet.

--- --- --- ---

It was reaching 11pm by the time Vincent, Violet and Rachel sat in the waiting room of the local A&E section of the hospital. The waiting room was old and dingy, and was rocking a multitude of odd smells. The three were almost entirely alone, except for a sleeping homeless man with a dirty beard and long, greying hair who was sat at the other end of the room, and an old Hispanic nurse working the reception desk. “Nasty wound.” Vincent said as he leaned back in his chair, “Fun fact of the day: Satyr don’t have heightened regenerative abilities.”

"I don't care..." Rachel muttered. She kept her eyes focused on the glossy white and grey marbled floor.
"Things aren't black and white, kid." Violet sighed and looked around before picking up one of the magazines on the table beside her and opening to a random page.
“So why’d you shoot him?” Vincent asked. Rachel puzzled him. She had a bad attitude, and was pretty confrontational and self-assured, not unlike how he was when he was a teenager. Still, she seemed to have her hostility pretty focused in one direction, and there had to be a reason for that.

"It's none of your damn business." Rachel growled.
"Seems pretty straightforward to me. Boy problems. You were into him, he wasn't into you, angst, drama, Twilight, etc." Violet muttered with a half-grin.
"That's not it at all!" Rachel snapped. She sat there in silence for a little while longer. Violet went back to her magazine until a few minutes later, Rachel spoke once again.
"A few years ago we were attacked. My mum and dad were killed, and I barely escaped with my life. Vampires, as I later learned. First I tried hunting vampires, then I found out there was a whole world of--" She paused as a nurse walked past, then went on, "A world of monsters. People were being gored, and when I found out Lucas was a satyr, and had a connection with the girls, I figured it had to be him and even if it wasn't it was one less monster."

“A whole world of monsters, fairies, demons, gods, both big G and little G varieties, ghosts, dragons and eldritch horrors.” Vincent said, “Oh and I’m a wizard.” He added, “And my sister is a cosmic energy thing.” Rachel frowned at him about the last one. “It’s like...y’know in the X-men when Jean Grey becomes the Phoenix…well she’s like the Ph-“ Vincent caught the way Violet was looking at him and cut off, “-nothing…uh she’s nothing like the Phoenix force, that’d be dumb, huh?” Vincent suddenly became very fascinated with the ceiling and fell silent.

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"No i'm exactly like the Phoenix Force." Violet corrected her brother, grinning to herself at the comparison. "So, what do you think we should do with you...?" She asked, her tone neutral while she studied the girl. Rachel was tall and slim but generally unremarkable. She had long blonde hair that she'd tied into a ponytail and mouse-like features. The most striking thing about her was the eyes. She had bright green eyes. How'd she not noticed that before?
"What do you mean?" Rachel asked nervously. Violet looked at her brother and shrugged.
"You're just cutting your teeth, kid" Vincent said to Rachel, "You can't just go around with this cowboy justice crap. There are laws. There's a code." He gave her a somewhat serious frown. "Not to mention your lack of diligence, you acted based on circumstantial evidence. So the question is do we put a stop to your journey right now...or don't we?"

"I know I started out of revenge, but i'm not a bad person. I kept hunting because knowing what I know, what else can I do? People are in danger from..." Rachel paused, glancing at Violet, "From some creatures. I'm just trying to even the odds." Violet could remember what it was like to be a new hunter. The idea she was making a difference, fighting back the darkness, saving lives.
"I think she should come with us." Violet spoke directly to her brother. "Room for one more?" 
Vincent raised an eyebrow. "With us? We're going to go find dad, not show the rookie around." Vincent shook his head, "Besides, mortal hunters either have an edge, like me and you, or they have been trained from birth, generation to generation. She'll get herself killed."

"Exactly. She's going to do this whether we're here or not. She's just a child--"
"--hey!!" Rachel growled, standing up in defiance. "I'm 17!"
"Y'see?" Violet jerked her head at Rachel, "The girl is pretty much a smudge without us, and its not like you cant teach magic."
"Oh I can teach, but can she learn?" Vincent asked, looking at Rachel expectantly. "Ever made something disappear? Moved something with your mind? Ever been really mad, and then strange things happen?"
"Is that a Harry Potter quote?" Rachel asked, frowning in disbelief.
Violet's eyes lit up with amusement, "Oh yes, we can work with this." Violet stood up, "I'm gonna go see how Lucas is doing. Why don't you two stay and talk it over. I'm no good at teaching, so if anyone's going to be your teacher, it's going to be my brother. Have fun with that." Violet turned and walked off before either of them could voice their objections.

Lucas had been moved from the emergency room into a quiet ward by himself. When Violet entered, she noted a police officer stood in the corner, talking to a nurse and another sat at her desk, filling out a large stack of forms. None of them were paying her any attention. A white film spread over the top of her shoulders, coating her arms and top half, and then descending and levelling out at her knees where it coalesced into a doctor's coat. A moment later, a clipboard was in her hand and she marched towards the bed with purposeful confidence. 
"Evening, officer." Violet quickly glanced at her clipboard, made a 'hmm' noise - seemed the right thing to do - and then put it to one side and picked up Lucas' chart at the end of his bed. The police officer looked her up and down then took a step back. "Yes, yes. Gunshot wound, so the hospital automatically called the cops."
"Right..." The officer muttered.
"But it's not necessary, officer. The boy accidentally misfired his gun on a hunting trip." 
"Does he have--"
"--here's his license." Violet reached over and picked up her clipboard, then pulled a blank sheet of paper from it and handed it to the officer with an expectant look. The man stared at the blank page for several minutes, his eyes darting back and forth over the blank page until he sighed and nodded.
"Alright. Everything seems in order. Thanks, Doc. You just saved me a load of paperwork." The officer smiled and left and after excusing the nurse, Violet went and sat beside Lucas. He seemed asleep, but she knew better. Too many nights spent awake, listening to mom and dad argue.
"Oi, kid, I know you're faking." Violet leaned over and punched Lucas in the arm, and the boy gasped in pain as he reflexively tensed. Lucas' eyes shot wide open and stared at Violet with a burning rage, "Good, you're up. We need to talk." 

Vincent rolled his eyes and then sat forward in his chair, pressing his fingers together. He took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts, and then he looked at Rachel. "My sister has a tendency to jump the gun a bit. Before we even begin to discuss if you have any talent, we should probably find out if you want to. So, do you?"
"Talent?" Rachel asked, the frown lines on her face deepened.
"Magical talent!" Vincent said, waggling his fingers at her. "It's true that anyone can learn magic, like Violet implied, but some people have a lot more power than others that they can harness to work forces. Luckily, there's a few ways we can test yours. But, my question was do you want to?"
"If it will help me to be a better hunter." Rachel replied, "Yes, please, I need to know." 
Vincent's eyes narrowed. "Magic is not just a tool for you to use, it's a pursuit... It's a way of life. If you want a weapon, stick to a gun."
The frustration on Rachel's face was clear, "It's just like you said, i'm not a creature with powers, or a wizard with magic, I don't even come from a generational hunting family with information and connections to fall back on. I'm just learning. Anyone can shoot a gun - teach me magic."
"Better." Vincent said either a nod, "Now, what's your full name?"
"Why?" Rachel asked, crossing her arms.

"Because I want to find out if you have even a bit of talent, and to do that I need your full name, given freely from your own lips." Vincent explained, as if he'd given a perfectly reasonable explanation. Violet walked back into the waiting room, clocked both Rachel and Vincent and nodded to her brother as she sat back down.
"Lucas is going to be fine," She said, "We talked, he's not going to mention what happened. He has enough to be getting on with - track team, grades, girls. He just wants to put it all behind him, so that's that." Violet looked over at Rachel who seemed perturbed. "What did you say?" Violet asked Vincent, her eyes narrowing.
"Rachel Moon." Rachel replied, ignoring Violet but inwardly she was extremely thankful for Lucas' discretion.
"Rachel... Moon." Vincent said back, he spoke slowly, pronouncing each syllable carefully, and he worked his will into the words.

Suddenly the chair Rachel was sat on began to shake and vibrate. Rachel gripped onto the edges of her chair, as she knew, it wasn't her chair that was shaking... it was her. Her entire body was vibrating, and she could feel a pull on her body as though an invisible force was trying to draw her towards Vincent.
"Hm, well that was a fairly strong reaction." Vincent said with a thoughtful expression, "But you've been exposed to the Supernatural world and you haven't hidden from that revelation, so I suppose hidden potential could be likely."
"Cool..." Rachel muttered, looking at her hands with new perspective.
"As long as you can help, you can stay." Violet interjected, "So can we go now? I'm famished."
"Yes, let's bounce!" Vincent said as he got to his feet. He turned to Rachel, "Oh and, from now on don't tell people your full name like that. A good wizard could use it to invade your mind, make you kill your loved ones, or kill you or something."
"Yeah, like, you're basically Vincent's plaything now. He could ask you to turn your body inside out and you could probably do it." Violet laughed and looked over to see all the colour in Rachel's face had drained away. She hurried to add, "Oh but he wouldn't! Obviously..."
"Probably best not to tempt me though." Vincent said.

"Alright. Enough wind-up. First lesson, Rachel Moon..." Violet stood up, glanced down either end of the corridor, and seeing nobody she turned back to face them both, "Do as he says, not as I do--" Then without warning, the three of them vanished with a loud bang - the sound of air rushing to fill a void. A moment later, the trio were sat in the Impala. Vincent looked flustered, but Rachel was gasping for air and gripping onto the dash.
"What the hell was that?!" Rachel yelled, suppressing a scream.
"Translocation. Teleportation. Inter-dimensional shift. Call it what you like." Violet muttered, reaching for the seatbelt.
"Seatbelt?" Rachel asked, laughing at the idea that a powerful wizard and cosmic energy being, that had the power to teleport people and shoot energy beams, was lecturing her on the importance of road safety. However, at the no-nonsense expression on Violet's face, Rachel buckled up in the back and sighed.
"So where are we going?" Rachel asked. 
"Violet Lake." Violet answered, with a smirk.
"Violet... Lake...?" Rachel wasn't sure she'd heard right.
"Yes, Violet Lake, and no I don't think that's a coincidence. It's a lake in Hawaii, and this picture--" Violet pulled the photo from her doctor's coat which then vanished, "Our dad's there, i'm sure of it. If we're quick, we might be able to catch him before he has to leave." Violet showed the photo to Rachel who studied it for a few seconds.
"But, why is your dad so important? Why do we need to find him...?" Rachel asked, handing the photo back.
"Because he has some explaining to do." Vincent said simply.

"So i'm leaving my friends, my education and everything else behind, so that you can... what...? Get an apology?" Rachel looked to Violet.
"I dunno." Violet shrugged, "I just want to find my dad. Vince is the one with the chip on his shoulder."
"I wish I had parents to be mad at..." Rachel muttered, "You shouldn't let the wrongs in your past cloud your relationship with your dad."
"Smart kid." Violet said, speaking to Vincent. She flashed him a lop-sided grin and turned the key, bringing the Impala to life. Moments later, they were on the road once again. Only now they had a new charge. Violet took her eyes off the road for a moment to check her rear-view mirror. For a moment, Rachel's face was obscured by a bright light but before she could really focus on it, Violet blinked and the light was gone.
"You okay?" Rachel asked, noticing Violet staring at her. 
"Sure..." Violet replied, putting her eyes back on the road. It was going to be a long drive. 

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Vincent was laying down on a tired looking old bench at the side of the road. All around him was nothing but dry, rocky desert and the sky above was clear as a bell, and the heat was blazing down on him. Apart from the road, the only signs of civilization nearby was the gas station off the side of the road just down from the old bench. The Impala sat at one of the pumps, Violet inside paying for gas. Vincent was wearing a sleeveless, black shirt with  a white batman logo on the front, and a pair of navy blue jeans, his usual black boots, and his pentacle necklace around his neck, and had his mirror-lensed aviators on.

It had been a little shy of 2 days since they had left Lafayette, and the majority of that time had been spent hauling ass across the country, stopping only to eat, refuel and rest overnight. Vincent had spent the time filling in Rachel about some of the basics about magic, and about hunters. He suspected little of it had really settled in to the girl’s mind, but he wasn’t too surprised. He had been taught about magic since he was a child, and there really was quite a lot to it.

“God damn jelly beans!” He cursed at his new phone, which was currently held in his hand playing a brightly coloured games involving matching up different coloured jelly beans. The game made a little descending jingle and went to a game over screen and Vincent sighed, sitting up on the bench and pocketing the phone. He took out his cigarettes instead, and lit one, taking a deep drag. Sitting cross legged on the floor by the bench was Rachel, who was staring at an unlit candle with a great deal of intensity. Vincent exhaled and allowed himself a little smirk as he watched her.

“Be careful.” He said with a jovial tone, “You keep tensing up like that sooner or later you’re gonna squeeze something out…let’s hope it’s a little magic and not poop.”
"Do you always talk about poo?" Rachel asked, trying to concentrate.
"No, he doesn't," Violet interjected, "Just some of the time." She smirked and jabbed Vincent in the shoulder, "Ready to go?"

Vincent took another draw of his cigarette. They were in Schurz, Nevada, only a short drive away from the border to California, where they would cross the sea on a boat to Hawaii. “Well…” He said as he turned his attention back to Rachael, “I was kinda hoping she’d hurry up and light the candle.” He said to Violet, then to Rachel he added, “Come on, kid. It’s a freaking billion degrees out here, you’ve got plenty of thermal winds and ambient heat to call upon, we’re in a desert.”
"How am I supposed to pull heat out of the air?" Rachel asked, scrunching up her eyes in concentration.

“With your will.” Vincent said simply, “That is what magic is…to impose your will on your environment. Fire is usually the easiest for people to learn. You need to let your will extend, so you can feel the forces working around you. Then you focus on your emotions, and your own interpretations, and you need to channel them into what you desire. It takes focus.”
focus.”

"Fine! Geez." Rachel let out a short little sigh. She could hear Violet walking over to stand beside her brother, could feel their eyes on her, she knew what she needed to do. Rachel focused on the candle, channeling her will into the air, focusing her mind on the creation of fire. A few moments passed, and it seemed as though she would be unable to light the candle but then a wisp of smoke appeared at the tip of the wick and in seconds it was lit.
"Hey nice job." Violet smiled with satisfaction. Then a few seconds later the flame wobbled and started to go out.
"Uh--" Violet barely opened her mouth when the flame on the candle exploded in size. Roaring up and spreading across the courtyard. Vincent scrambled over the back of the bench and tripped, rolling across the floor, before quickly getting back to his feet. “F-fucking hell!” He spat, his sunglasses askew on his face. His heart still racing he closed his eyes and held his hands up, feeling outwards with his will. He began a quiet chanting, but it was not magical incantations, but rather a string of whispered profanities.

The spell worked quickly, as the fire began to move quite unnaturally, coiling through the air towards Vincent and coalescing in between his hands, until it sat in between his palms, a glowing sphere of fire. “Alright.” He said with a quiet, trembling tone, clearly trying to contain himself. “You lost focus…but maybe I should have expected that. Evocation is probably the easiest magic to produce, but the elements are quite difficult to control.” He pressed his hands together slowly as he spoke, and slowly the orb began to dim and decrease in size. “When you call fire you bring in the heat from around you, and as a result the air cools. If you do it enough you can freeze things, and that’s how you get ice magic. However, if you draw in the heat you have to put it somewhere…you have to set the boundaries of that. Instead you let the environment take advantage of the ignition you created. Now you’ve let that heat back in to the air, and you’ve created more heat by letting the fire spread.”

Vincent eventually brought his hands in enough that he clapped them together, and the tiny flame was snuffed out. “Focus is crucial. Think of what could have happened if you did that inside a building full of people. You could kill people that you’ve went in to save. You can make a situation so much worse with magic if you lose your focus.”
"Focus. Got it." Rachel's cheeks blushed red.
"Yeah. Focus. And don't set everyone on fire. That's like... Number 2." Violet smirked, blowing out an ember on Vincent's shoulder.

“No harm done on this occasion, but I think we need to look at enchanting you a focus.” Vincent indicated back to the car and they started walking. “My cane is enchanted for elemental evocation. The runes and enchantments are designed to streamline elemental magic so I can focus on being a little more precise. Enchantment is a little more complicated, and it’ll take some time though.”
"What's your focus?" Rachel asked, looking to Violet.
"Ehm..." Violet chuckled and then looked to her brother for assistance with that one.

“She cheats.” Vincent said with a smirk, “Seriously, Violet’s got her own set of rules. FTor now let’s leave fire calling alone until you get some more control. When we get to a motel I’ll show you some thaumaturgy, that’s my kind of ma-“ He paused as a loud ringing came from his pocket. He frowned and took out his phone, looking at the number on the screen. He had only just got the thing, and Violet was the only one who had his number. He answered it.

“Hello?” The voice on the other end asked. It was a woman, she sounded out of breath.
“Hi.” Vincent replied, “Uh…who is this?”
“Oh…god.” The woman’s voice was trembling, she sounded like she might have been crying, “Uh…my name is, well, you don’t know who I am. I-I I don’t know you either, actually, well, I mean I will but-“
“Lady, what are you talking about? How did you get this number?” Vincent asked.
“Uh...you gave it to me, or you will soon…” The voice said. Vincent’s eyes widened behind his sunglasses.

“…A prescient.” He said finally, his voice quiet. “What did you see?”
“Uh…a lot.” The woman replied, “It’s…it’s confusing, okay. All I know is you’re going to give me this phone number. I’ve seen it happen, and then…” She paused and her breath shuddered, “There’s too many paths, and most of them lead to the same thing. We…” She sniffed and let out a little cry, “We die.”

“Uh…well what if we just stay away from each other?” Vincent asked.
“Then other people will die…a lot of other people.” Vincent was silent for a long moment, then he cursed silently.
“Shit!...god damn it, where then? Where do we meet?” Vincent asked
“I’m in Las Vegas.” The girl said. “I-I’m Meredith, by the way. Meredith Palmer.”
“Vincent-“
“Hallow, I know.” Meredith interrupted. “Look…there’s a bar called Henley’s that’s just off the strip. It’s quiet, can you meet me there?”
“That’s like 5 hours drive.” Vincent sighed loudly.

“…You’ll make it before last call.” Meredith replied.
“Fine…fine!” Vincent said, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers, as he closed his eyes in frustration. “Fine…you better not be fucking with me.”
“I’m not, I promise.” Meredith said, she sounded desperate.
“Alright…later I guess.” Vincent said, and then he hung up the phone. He took a deep breath and then quickly sighed it out, scratching the back of his head as he turned his gaze to Violet.

“Uh…we need to make a detour.” He said.
"Mm-hm. Mm-hm. A detour huh? But that's sooo unreasonable." Violet flashed a wicked grin then got into her car. "Well let's get on with it then you two I don't have forever. Well, I do. But by that point I'll just be watching dying stars explode and it all happen all over again and I'd really rather just, y'know, get some chicken and see that psychic."
“If I’m walking toward my likely death, my last meal is not going to be chicken.” Vincent said as he got in the car.

As they drove Vincent repeated his conversation with Meredith, and there was a period of silence in the drive when he mentioned that going to meet Meredith was likely to result in both of their deaths. “I mean…she said most of the paths lead to death, so that means we could live, right?”
"I have a terrible sense of direction." Violet muttered under her breath.
"I have GPS so..." Rachel held her phone up and then looked at the screen, "Oh, no. No nevermind. No signal. We gonna die y'all!" Rachel threw herself back into her seat and huffed.

“You know what I meant.” Vincent said with a frown, “This could be really serious…but she said a lot of people would die if we don’t go.” He sighed in frustration, “It could be a trap…sounds ideal for a trap, but then how did she get my number?”
"I don't know what you expect me to say, Vince. But I'll tell you this... I'm not in the mood for Death. Not today. Maybe someday. We'll see." Violet growled to herself. Rachel looked up from her phone just long enough to show confusion at Violet's statement then returned to texting.

They drove the rest of the way in relative silence. By the time they had finally reached Las Vegas it had gone dark. They had swapped endless dirt and roads for neon lights, busy streets and the huge and varied hotels and casinos of the famous city. As they drove down the main strip Vincent couldn’t help but hang his head out the window, taking it in. “This place really is something.”

Violet leaned back in her chair, took a deep breath and as she let it out, her eyes turned white with a brilliant luminescence.
"Hundreds of thousands of people. A man sobs in his room. His daughter doesn't love him any more. He drinks. A woman ties a rubber hose around her arm. Checking for veins, she says this is the last time. For real this time. A banker parks and forgets to pay his meter. A homeless man feeds the meter from his meager change. When the banker returns, he takes no notice of the kindness given him from one with so little. But the man without a house, keeps a tidy home. He asks for no thanks or applause." Her eyes quickly returned to normal and Violet coughed, very aware of herself for a moment, "Y-yeah, sure. Sounds like an interesting city."
"Sounded sad..." Rachel muttered.

“Creepy more like.” Vincent said with an uncomfortable shrug. Eventually they pulled off the strip and down a couple of blocks until they found a place to park. Across the street there was a quiet little bar with a sign that read: Henley’s. “That’s the place.” Vincent said as they got out of the car. He got out his cane and jacket, and put his jacket on. He opened up the trunk and took out his pistol and strap. “I’m not taking any chances.”

"I thought we didn't need guns!?" Rachel barked, pointing at the pistol.
“Sometimes a gun is the better option,” Vincent replied, “Especially if your enemy is mortal.”
Violet leaned on Rachel's shoulder and whispered, "Never... question... uncle!"
Rachel shrugged her off and grumbled, following the two Wizards inside.
“Oh, right…give me your I.D.” Vincent said, and clicked his fingers at Rachel when she didn’t comply immediately.
"Alright, geez!" Rachel reached for her I.D. but the moment she had it in her hands, it was in Vincent's.

“Good.” He said as he examined the card. Then he ran his hand over it and some of the writing had changed. He handed it back to Rachel. “There, now you’re 21.” He said.
"I don't feel any older..." Rachel muttered.
"Hah!" Violet snorted and then walked inside.
“That’s just in case someone cards you, don’t go actually buying beer now, you’re still a minor.” Vincent said as they arrived outside the bar. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Henley’s bar was one of those hipster bars that were built in shabby run-down buildings where the rent was cheap, but the interior was clean and didn’t smell weird, unless you included the stench of gentrification. The Hardest Button To Button by The White Stripes was playing on a retro styled jukebox that had an tablet screen for selecting songs off of a music streaming service. The floors were a smooth brickwork tile job, the bar was clean and well stocked, and the seating area had that odd mismatch of furniture that some bars utilized if they wanted to appear alternative and bohemian.

“Ugh, they better not have cocktails…” Vincent grumbled as he walked forward, looking around at the patrons.
"It's okay, Vince." Violet replied, looking around. "I'll drink the 40% alcohol that tastes great. You can drink your piss-flavoured, weak wheat juice."
“No single malt, Vi?” Vincent said with mock astonishment, “Al taught you better than that. Crusty old hillbilly would take you over his knee if he heard that nonsense coming out of your mouth.”
"Vince, I've seen stars implode, I've met life on other worlds, travelled through multiple dimensions and tasted cosmic essence..." Violet took a breath, "... and I know, for a fact, that long island ice tea is the best drink in the universe."

“Tequila, vodka, rum, triple sec, gin and coke…” Vincent counted on his fingers, “Pretty sure that’s six drinks, Vi.”
"If you don't understand symbiosis then I can't talk to you about cocktails, Vincent." Violet took one long look around the room and sighed, "I hate this place. It makes me want to drink strange over-priced coffee and munch on my own farts. I'm-- help--" Violet fainted into Vincent's arms and then gripped onto him, "Vince, I'm... One of them!" Violet mock-choked, took a deep breath, and in a strangely snotty way, she added, "Hey, I'm Daffodil, your bartender, "Would you like to try our continental wine sniffing course?"

“You’re too far gone for help.” Vincent said dryly and shoved his sister off of him. He scanned the room for Meredith, having no idea what she looked like, however he spotted her easily enough. In the corner, sat alone at a booth table, was a girl in her early twenties, slim and dressed in denim jeans, converse sneakers and a red checkered shirt. She had a long mane of tightly curled, red hair and a black beanie hat that took up relatively small real estate on her head compared to her hair. Her blue eyes were staring at Vincent behind thick-rimmed, black glasses, like a dear caught in the headlights.

“Guess we should go say hi.” Vincent said as he nodded his head toward Meredith. He struggled to swallow, his throat dry. He felt completely on edge, his senses were tense and skittish, something he often felt when forces were at work, like when a storm begins to gather. “I think I need a drink first…” He said, licking his dry lips.
"Get a drink, if you want..." Violet walked towards Meredith and after a moment's hesitation, Rachel followed. Violet could see the essence of all living things. As she walked towards Meredith she saw the gently crackling flames of the other patrons. But the one essence that shone through the darkness more than any other, was Meredith's. It was like she had less control over her own power, at the benefit of intermittent power spikes. She was a sap-filled, spitting flame of chaos. She was beautiful.

"Hey, I'm--" Violet started to introduce herself but Meredith joined her mid-sentence.
"--I'm V-Violet." Meredith finished her thought, albeit with a slight stutter. And she did it every time Violet opened her mouth and spoke.
"Fascinating." They both said, then Violet smirked and turned back to Rachel and Vincent.
"That's cool, right?" She added, though Meredith had said it behind her at the same time.
"..." Vincent hesitated to say anything at all, cautious that Meredith would only mimicking him. "Don't spe-"
"-speak... Oh" Meredith stopped herself and blushed. "I'm sorry it's a bad habit. I just tend to know what people say before they say it, so I either say what they say, or sometimes I answer their question before they ask it, and then I get embarrassed and I talk a lot, just rambling on and on and on and-"

"Yeah." Vincent interrupted. He sat down in a chair and leaned on the table with his arms, "So you mostly see just brief moments in the future?"
"Mostly." Meredith said with a nervous nod, "Sometimes it's much further in the future, but it gets confusing... Hard to make sense of what's happening, what's real and what's not, like living through multiple versions of an event."

"The further into the future you see the more variables there are, so the future is less certain." Vincent explained, "Plus your knowledge of your future can make you act, which changes it, and then you see that future, and you do something else and it changes again, and again."
"Y-yeah..." Meredith said, a sadness crept across her face and she bit her lower lip.

"Don't you have any friends?" Rachel asked, taking a step forwards.

Violet pointed at Meredith, "Well go on then, this is your thing." She virtually threatened Vincent with an angry look. Vincent responded with a thin smile that veiled his clenched teeth.
“Well…” Meredith began cautiously, “It happened just before I called you. It…” She took in a sharp breath and seemed to puzzle for a moment, “…there were a lot of places that we met, different things happened from then on…it branched out in thousands of directions…and the images I kept saying over and over was…” She swallowed nervously.

“So you chose the safest path for us?” Vincent asked. Meredith visibly tensed.
“I...I’m sorry.” She whimpered, tears welling in her eyes.
“Why are you sorry?” Vincent asked. He was getting a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Please understand…these people will die if we aren’t here.” Meredith began to cry.
“Oh for…” Vincent stood up from his chair and turned around the face the rest of the room and felt around with his senses.

He came in to contact with a dark, cold magic that felt all kinds of wrong. Just touching at it with his will felt maddening and he swiftly retreated his tendrils of power and shivered. The room had become deathly cold. “Rachel…” Vincent said hesitantly, “…I need you to not panic, things are going to happen…you’re not going to see.”
“What’s going on?” Rachel asked worriedly.
“…Ghosts.” Vincent said as he began to focus his will. He concentrated on a well of power that was stored in the centre point of his forehead just above his brow. He took a deep breath, hesitating, before finally muttering a curse and opening the point of power up.

The word changed in an instant around Vincent as he opened up his third eye. He could see true image of everything within the room. A woman who he had noticed before to be quite beautiful, became horribly angular, twisted and quite terrifying to look at. He turned to Rachel, and in her place stood a brilliant, glowing aura, with a cold, dark centre that festered like a wound. He dared not look at Violet, certain that the image would destroy his ability to fight, either through terror or awe.

The cold energy surged and ghostly hands began to phase through the walls, a fact that only Vincent and Violet could see.
"I'm content to go now." Violet muttered, taking a step back as she prepared for what was coming.
"Why should I want to panic?! It's just ghosts!" Rachel seemed a little unhinged.
“They aren’t after us…they can’t be.” Vincent said and he held out his cane in challenge. The ghosts, for their part, seemed not even to notice they were there. Instead the shades began to move among the other patrons, and they began to stand behind their chairs and wait.

A ghost moved to Vincent, her face gaunt and emotionless. Vincent instinctively gathered his will and pushed it out to blast the ghost back, but it did not react to the kinetic force. It just kept coming, until it was almost on him.
“I’m so sorry…” Meredith said tearfully once more, and then she gasped as another Ghost rose up through the floor and table and sunk it’s arm in to her throat. She began to choke, unable to breath, and she clutched at her neck. Suddenly each of the ghosts plunged their hands into the necks of each of the patrons, and they all began choking as well. Vincent was no exception, unable to work a spell in time that could effect the spirit mere inches from him, and he flinched as she jabbed her hand into his throat.

Suddenly Vincent’s body went numb with biting cold. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t breath. He felt a tremendous pressure building in his head, and his vision swam. He could hear himself choking, but it sounded far away. At some point he ended up on the floor, but he couldn’t remember falling. There was a slow, rhythmic thumping that were becoming further and further apart. His vision blurred, and he found himself drawn to a figure standing across the bar. The woman had dark hair and the palest white skin. She wasn’t suffering like everyone else in the room. The girl just looked at him, and smiled warmly.

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She stirred a clear drink using an olive on a cocktail stick. Counter-clockwise. Nothing seemed to move in the room but her. Then she looked over at Vincent, and smiled. He stood up, and slowly moved through the room. He could have been moving through treacle for how long it seemed to take him to reach the bar. Yet everything else was frozen. As Vincent reached the bar, she took a pale hand, touched a glass and moved it closer to the edge of the bar, implying he should take it. The glass was full of an amber liquid.
Vincent silently eyed the girl, and then the glass with suspicion. For now his suffering was gone, and he felt, well, he felt strange. It was as if there was a pressure around his body like he was being wrapped in saran wrap. However it wasn't unpleasant, especially compared to the feeling of choking on an ice cold ghost paw. He resisted his morbid urge to turn back to where he had been a moment ago, but something told him he wouldn't like what he'd see. Instead he picked up the glass and sniffed it's contents. "Single malt..." He whispered, and then he shot a glance at the woman and put the glass down without drinking. "Who are you?" He asked with a frown.

"You know who I am." She picked up her glass, took a sip and then put it back in it's place. "That's not the question you want to ask."
"A lot of gods of death to choose from there..." Vincent replied, "Not a lot of them look like you, Maybe I'd have a better idea if you had a cloak and carried a sickle or something."
"Maybe, Vincent." She replied, a wry smile on her face as she reached for the olive in her glass, "Maybe..." She continued, pulling the olive from the toothpick, "... I just like to dress up." Her eyes were wild with excitement as she teased him. She dropped the bare toothpick back in her glass and sighed.
"So, let's cut the shit." Vincent said, and he leant one arm against the bar, "Either your some trickster being here to offer me a shady bargain, or you are death, the actual, literal personification of the end of all things, in which case I'm fucked. So, which is it?"
She smirked, picked up her glass and toasted him, then finished it's contents. Then the glass vanished in her hand and she looked back across the room. "Why don't you look over there?" She suggested, while Vincent's eyes seemed glued to anything mundane on the counter. 

"Because I think I have enough nightmare fuel in my brain already, thanks." Vincent said, "I don't want to add seeing my own corpse to that list."
"Why are mortals so afraid of their own mortality. You were given this exquisite gift and you're terrified of it!" She sat there musing to herself, "Would you trust Death?" 
"As a concept or...?" He asked but quickly followed with his honest answer, "People who think Death is a deceiver are the people who do this," He gestured around the room at the suspended ghosts. "What possible need could Death have for lies?"
"Honest to a fault." She smirked with a sadness to it, then she let out another sigh and nodded to the room, "You are dying, Vincent. Your sister will soon be dead. Rachel will soon be dead. Everyone comes to me, in the end." She stood up from the bar, as the patrons slowly began to reanimate as though time was taking back control.

"Dying? So I'm not... dead." He turned, finally, to the scene. His body lay on the floor, still choking, his face going red. Violet was already springing in to action, Rachel looked panicked, and Meredith petrified. "...that's a bit risky, isn't it?" He asked, "I'm not dead yet, so stop talking like it's a done thing."
"But it is..." She replied, "You are just alive at this moment." She could see the anger, frustration and urgency on Vincent's face and it seemed to amuse her. "If you come with me, I will take you on..." She took a step back, and offered him her hand with a welcoming smile. "Stay here, and there will be pain..."
Vincent actually chuckled at her. "Maybe I take it back. After all, a faerie can tell no lies, but they're the most deceptive assholes going. You can jog on, lady. You know what pain means? That I'm alive." A smile spread across her face. She loved his defiance. And it took so little to stoke it. She raised her hand to the room with an implied, 'Well go on then?' and watched as the entire room snapped back into time. Chaos ruled. Violet and Rachel were fighting for their lives in a losing battle. A ghost flew through Violet's back and she gasped and collapsed to the floor.

Vincent's pain washed back over him like a forest fire. Nerve endings fired like pistons all over his body, the cold, throbbing burn that coursed through his body from the ghost's touch. He reached for that pain, and he clung to it tightly. He welcomed it inside and then he harnessed it so that he could point it wherever he wanted. The ghost recoiled as Vincent, his third eye open, sent his will crashing into it, into each and every ghost in the room. He could not hurt them physically, but he wasn't trying to. 
These ghosts were breaking all the rules right now, which meant that some slimy sorcerer was enthralling them and asserting his will with a ritual. The ghosts were essentially puppets, and so Vincent just followed the strings. Channelled through the ghosts he reached out with his mind and delivered the psychic equivalent of a backhand to the one who controlled them. He felt a sudden sensation of shock, then realisation, and then anger.  It had been enough to break the perpetrator's concentration and shatter the spell. 
Suddenly the ghosts wailed in what was either pain or perhaps relief, and they surged upwards through walls, flying off into the night with howls and shrieks. Vincent sat up as he was released and began coughing and gasping for air, each cold breath felt like he was inhaling knives.

Slowly, Violet lifted her head. She felt dizzy, almost drunk. Glowing orbs dashed in and out of her vision. Instinctively, she swatted at them and they disappeared. Pulling herself to her feet took a great deal of effort. Her limbs felt heavy. She rattled across the ground and collapsed beside Vincent.
"I thought i'd lost you..." Violet muttered, leaning over and trying to regain herself.
"Me?... Nah." Vincent rasped between gasps of breath. He slowly got to his feet and looked around the room. Other people were crying and gasping for breath, but no one appeared to have any serious injuries beyond that.
"I can't... breathe..." Rachel pressed herself up against the underside of a table. Violet heard her rattling muted voice throughout the chaos and somehow, she found the strength to stand back up and walk over to the young girl. Sitting down beside her, Violet put one hand on her shoulder and reassured her.
"It's alright. It's over now." Violet took a deep breath and let it out - a curious calming mechanism as she didn't technically need to breathe in order to exist. But, she wasn't about to get bogged down in the existential thoughts of a cosmic energy being. Instead, she did what came naturally to her. She got angry. Real angry.

The realisation that they had been brought here, that it was a trap and that Meredith, who now stood before them, had to have had a hand in it, drove Violet over the edge. She stood, but this time, her fatigue was gone. Lights flickered out in the bar as she lifted from the ground, her human form was blasted away in an instant and she floated before Meredith with a rage burning in her heart like she couldn't control.
"I-I--" Meredith tried to speak.
"Just dont--" Violet held her hands up and from them exploded a beam of magical energy that struck Meredith in the chest and set her flying back, smashing through tables and knocking chairs asunder until she came to a rest at the edge of the bar. The white of Violet's eyes shone brightly through the twilight of the bar as more and more lights snuffed out.
"I don't feel very good..." Rachel muttered, "I feel like..." Realisation dawned on Rachel's face and she glanced at Violet before scrambling across the floor to Vincent, "Does Violet even have control of her powers?! I feel like something is consuming me from the inside out!!" She grabbed hold of Vincent's arm, "Vincent!"
"Most of the time..." Vincent admitted, and then he fumbled on the floor for his cane. The screaming started as the other patrons got a look at Violet. "Violet!" Vincent yelled over the screaming, "...you need to calm down."

"Don't tell me to calm down!" Violet growled back at her brother, her eyes still fixed on Meredith. "You nearly killed my brother!!" She roared, then held out one hand and directed her essence into Meredith. The girl choked as she tried to get back up and collapsed back to the floor with a surprised look etched on her face. The surprise turned to horror, and she began to age. Her hair turned white, and her skin began to grey.
"Stop it!" Vincent roared back at her. His grip tightened around his cane.
"No..." Violet snarled. Meredith coiled in on her stomach, groaning as the life was drawn from her.
"Stop it, Violet!!" Rachel yelled at the top of her lungs. No reaction. She had to stop her. Rachel grabbed the nearest object - an empty bottle of wine - and threw it with all her force, "Stop it!!" She yelled again, watching as the bottle arced through the air, then finally, it struck Violet in the back and shattered, disintegrating into nothing.
"I said... NO!!" Violet screamed as she reflexively turned on her attacker and fired a deadly blast.

Pain... not death...

The voice seemed to linger in Vincent's mind while the blast of solid energy arced through the air. Rachel recoiled as the blast struck her, but the attack was cut short. Violet was knocked to the ground by something enormous. It was as black as night, as large as a tiger, but as svelte as a cheetah. The creature growled and it was like rumbling thunder. It's ears pricked at the tiniest motion of sound and while still stood over Violet, its ferocious eyes focused on Vincent and the cane in his hands.
"What the fuck are you looking at, kitty cat?" Vincent taunted, and kept his staff pointed threateningly. "Get the fuck away from my sister." The creature considered Vincent for a short while then he arched up and sat down on his hind quarters, his tail swishing back and forth in irritation.
"Now... Put. That. Away." It was not a request. The creature waited, watching Vincent with suspicion.
"Nah, I'm good." Vincent replied, a daring glint in his eyes. His gaze turned back to Violet, "Get up!" He snapped at her, "Fix her. Now."

"I-I..." Violet pulled herself up and looked around. The chaos and destruction she had left in her wake had been immense. Broken glass scattered everywhere, chairs and tables broken and overturned, the patrons scattered and the bar cast in green and red twilight by the one remaining light of a neon beer sign. "W-What did I...?"
"Fix her." The creature repeated Vincent's words.
"W-what...?" Violet muttered, but she took heed of their demands and while still in a fog, she sat beside Meredith and placed a hand on her shoulder. She had drawn the essence from her body and now she had to return it. It was a painful experience. Not unlike setting yourself on fire. She was a being that fed on energy. She did not return it. Violet squirmed in pain as the last of Meredith's energy was returned and the girl brightened up, her hair and skin returned to normal, though she looked fatigued.
"Now her." The creature nodded at Rachel and Violet's face dropped. She saw Rachel doubled over in pain, clutching the centre of her torso. A hole had been blown in her clothes and Violet could clearly see Rachel's burnt, smoking midriff. The girl was in agony. Violet darted to the young girl and helped her sit upright, then she began to channel her essence into the wound but as soon as she started, she knew she couldn't take it back. Not entirely.

The wound healed, but so too did it scar. When Violet had finished, she saw the scar was almost like a sunflower. White petals dashing out in every direction with a darker centre mass of damaged tissue. She looked up and saw that Rachel's hair had turned as white as snow. Then, as the pain subsided, Rachel roused herself and the moment she saw Violet she recoiled and scrambled to her feet.
"What just happened?!" Rachel screeched, fleeing to Vincent's side and clinging onto him. Violet stood up and sighed, her eyes wandering over everything a second time.
"We need to go." Vincent said after a long silence. There were conversations to be had, but right now there were witnesses, and he could hear sirens blaring in the distance. He turned to the creature. "You're a little big to fit in the car so..." The creature took Vincent's words to heart. Upon standing, it leapt at Vincent, and while arcing through the air it landed not as a creature but as a man. He was tall, thin as a rake, with tan skin, yellow eyes and short, thick black hair slicked back out of his face.
"I agree." He replied, then as he turned back something grabbed hold of him and he smirked. "Violet..." He looked down and saw a tuft of blue hair while she clutched onto him, and by the time she let go, he saw she was human once more. At least, on the surface. "We do have to go though. Now." He patted her on the shoulder and then encouraged her to go. Then he grabbed Meredith and Rachel and helped them both outside.

Vincent, Rachel, Meredith, Violet and the strange man all piled into Violet's car. However, it was the stranger in the driver's seat. "You can hide at my place." He said, and started the car. Before they knew it, they were driving down the road. They heard sirens in the distance. So much had happened that the passengers sat in silence, trying to come to terms with everything. It wasn't until the man pulled into a short driveway that they were roused from their thoughts. Violet saw a small house, on the corner of a cul-de-sac. It seemed inviting. The front door opened and a woman stood in the doorway. The stranger got out of the car and slammed shut the door behind him. He said something to her, and she got angry. Their conversation was muffled but Violet got the impression that something this stranger had done had upset this woman.
"Come on," He said, opening the passenger door for Violet, "Everyone inside." 
"Violet... Who the hell is this guy?" Vincent asked.
"Just do it, Vincent. You should trust him more than you trust me, honestly." Violet got out of the car and walked up the driveway. The woman stood in the doorway nodded a few times then turned to the man that had brought them here. She pointed at him with a threatening finger.
"So help me, if they blow up the house, especially the purple one, I dont--" She marched back inside.

"S-Sorry..." He scratched his head in nervous embarrassment, but then disappeared inside. Violet followed. Meredith hesitated but did the same. Rachel gave Vincent a look along the lines of 'are we really doing this?' and then stepped inside. A few moments passed and the man walked back outside.
"Are you coming?" He asked Vincent. Vincent only looked at the man with a soft scowl and then he pushed past him and went inside. "Excellent." The man purred and then closed the door behind them. Inside, it was chaos. A different kind of chaos. Organised chaos. Every table, every space, every wall had been covered and decorated with dozens of objects, hangings, trinkets, and other strange things. The house felt cosy. It was a home, decorated with possessions. A spicy smell wafted down from the kitchen.

"Alright!" The man said loudly, calling attention to himself. Everyone in the room focused on him. "I don't like to mince words so here it is - I'm a demon, technically. A familiar, precisely. Sometimes people call me 'James' and that is what I prefer to go by. I am not that kind of demon. I will not offer you things in return for your soul, please don't ask. I met Violet when she was 12, she summoned me - thank you Violet - and now, technically, I am bound to serve her as she wishes..." He paused for a breath, then some other information occurred to him, "The woman that shares this space with me is Jinx. She is also a familiar. We consider you our guests and our friends, so--" 
"Huh!" A scoff echoed from the kitchen.
"So... please. Take a seat." James nodded at the sofas and chairs scattered around the large living room.
"...great." Vincent said enthusiastically, "Do you have an alchemy cupboard?"
"... ehm..." James hesitated, "... in the kitchen."
"Oh, good." Vincent snapped his fingers a couple of times in quick succession. "Come on Padawan let's go make some dead man's talismans and some other fun little ghost weapons."
"He means me." Rachel muttered, upon seeing James' confused face. Rachel followed Vincent into the kitchen. The smell was incredible. Something was baking in the oven and it smelled like cinnamon. She realised then that she was virtually starving. Nearly being turned into a cosmic energy being's lunch will do that to you.
"Oh by all means--" Jinx muttered, walking back and forth between her stations, "Just barge in, help yourself, see if I care..." Jinx was as tall as James and she was just as attractive. She had a buxom, hourglass figure. She dressed in red, wearing a slim-fitting red dress with a protective white apron over the top of it. She had long, flowing red locks that framed her face and her eyes were yellow and cat-like, the same as James. 

"Yeah that was pretty much the plan..." Vincent said absentmindedly as he started rummaging through the kitchen drawers, "So the thing about ghosts..." He began talking to Rachel, "Is that they can be really troublesome if you're not prepared for them, which resulted in that shit show back there. I genuinely wasn't expecting ghosts to descend and start murdering hipsters, it's not their usual mode of operation." Rachel nodded in silence, Vincent seemed content with busywork, but she wasn't.
"C-Can we..." Rachel began, brushing a strand of white hair out of her face, "Can we talk about Violet?"
"Sure." Vincent said as he tossed a jar of odd looking, brown, clumpy stuff, and then started looking for other things, "But you're going to help me while we do. There's no down time on the job, you'll have to learn that sooner or later."
"I want no part of this--" Jinx muttered, then tore her apron off and left the kitchen. James watched her walk out and ascend the stairs to the second floor, so he walked into the kitchen to see what was up. Vincent and Rachel were organising items across the counter. James deliberately coughed and cleared his throat as he walked over to them.
"Violet is more dangerous than anything i've come across. She almost killed Meredith, who I think was just in a bad situation she couldn't get out of, and she nearly killed me, and look what she did--" She pointed at her hair, and then the scar on her midriff still on show from her tattered clothes. "She has no control, Vincent. She can't--" She trailed off.

"And what would you have me do?" Vincent asked while he lit the hob and placed a pot over it.
"I don't know!" Rachel bit back with frustration, "But she's been hunting all this time, right? You haven't. So, what about all the times you weren't there to stop her. But she kept hunting, right? Don't you feel responsible for her? She has this incredible power but no control over it or her emotions." Rachel shoved a number of ingredients towards Vincent without care for what they were or if he even wanted them.
"Violet... is like the sea." James interjected. Rachel paused and looked at him expectantly. "Well... she is often calm. Mostly calm. Sometimes turbulent. Sometimes a storm. But storms are important too, so you must become a pilot and sail through stormy seas, for it is only through hardship that you find the buried treasure."
Rachel blinked, "I'm sorry, you had me for a moment there but then something about... tr--"
"--Treasure, yes." James nodded quickly, "Sorry, right. I like pirates? Swashbuckling. The three musketeers. Blackbeard. Honour among comrades, one for all, all for one, on a journey across the seven seas. Human history is full of such examples. I love it. I really need a sword, don't you think?" He paused then realisation dawned on his face, "Right. Sorry. Right. I have a short memory... what were we talking about?"
"Violet?" Rachel replied, holding her face in her hands. "I'm surrounded by maniacs..."

"Honestly what is it with supernaturals and flowery similes?" Vincent asked. "Violet's a person, and she's quite fucked up. So she hurt you, she could have killed you. You did that to us earlier when you damn near cremated us."
"Oh I see..." James looked at Rachel.
"That was completely different!" Rachel growled, shoving a glass jar across the counter until it slid into Vincent's waiting hand.
"It was, but it had a similar result, and results are what matter." Vincent poured water into the pot to boil and then started pouring out the ingredients and measuring what he needed. "You could have died... but you're not dead. Trust me that's the important thing here, I had a somewhat similar experience tonight." Rachel frowned at Vincent. He liked to talk about how supernaturals use flowery simile yet he was quick to speak in what seemed like riddles. But it was true enough. What had happened, happened. There was no turning back. Nobody was dead. But how long could Violet keep a clean sheet?

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The hours passed by and Vincent and Rachel busied themselves with preparations. The kitchen had lost the Christmassy smell of cinnamon and in it’s place was an amalgum of exotic, overpowering smells. Jinx had, at one point, wordlessly came in to take whatever the hell it was she had been baking out of the oven and then retreated once more. Vincent, for his part, didn’t pay her any notice. He already liked her better than James, but that wasn’t to say he liked her much at all. His general disdain for demons wasn’t something he could shrug off, but at least Jinx wasn’t quite so annoying as James.

While he continued to guide Rachel through making the correct potions, he had went out to the car and came back with a few supplies. He was in the middle of, apparently, making some sort of friendship bracelet with several dull threads. “How’s the consistency?” He asked Rachel as he tied off the bracelet and placed it in a circle of salt he had marked out on the counter. He flexed his fingers towards it and there was a gentle thrum of energy as he closed the circle around the accessory.
"The...consistency...?" Rachel stared into the pot and stirred it's contents. "I dunno... Lumpy."

Vincent leaned over and examined the contents. “Keep stirring.” He said, “Let me know when it sort of gets like cookie dough.” He didn’t require a lot of concentration for the enchantment he was working. Honestly it was the kind of thing he could do in his sleep at this point, but it’s importance meant he wasn’t prepared to let Rachel try her hand at it. She was doing a fairly good job with the potions though, despite not seeming very enthused. She’d had a rough night, something he knew a little about. She might not appreciate it now, but he knew that busywork was great during these times.

 Vincent was just starting to think about how hungry he was, and was contemplating ordering take out when Meredith popped her head into the kitchen, she looked tired and more than a little nervous.
“Can I have duck pancakes?” She asked
"Uh…how-“ He cut himself off, “Nevermind.” He caught Rachel’s eye, “What about you, grasshoppa? Want some grub?” He asked in a mildly offensive oriental accent.
"Yeah. Fine." Rachel muttered, her eyes locked on the pot.

"Are we ordering out because I could really destroy some egg rolls right now--" James walked into the kitchen, quickly flanked by Violet.
"--not over! I was speaking to you!!" Violet growled as she chased after James.
"What do you want me to say? I sensed your heightened emotional state, I turned up, I saved the day."
"I don't need you to rescue me!" Violet walked over to the concoction Vincent was brewing and glanced inside, "Faster." She added. Rachel begrudgingly started stirring faster.
"It's my job. Remember? You summoned me. Now I'm stuck here. Even if I want to live my own life, I can't stop myself from interfering with yours. That's what you asked for when you summoned me, so..."
"There are too many people in here." Jinx chimed in, her tone a mixture of neutral apathy and yet disdain. "All of you. Get out of my kitchen." She started with shoving James out, "And I'm making food and you're going to order in?" Her eyes flashed from yellow to red, "That's so thoughtless."

“Well you’ve been walking around with a stick up your ass and shit under your nose since we got here so I didn’t dare assume you might feed us.” Vincent said, rolling his eyes. He made a final flourish with his hand and there was a pop and hiss, as the small bracelet in the circle seemed to smoke, the fibers burning as ancient runes were etched into the material. He inspected his work for a moment, before finally breaking the circle of salt with his finger and removing the bracelet. He handed it to Rachel. “Here, this is for you.” He said.

"Dude-- friendship bracelet...?" Rachel took the bracelet between her thumb and forefinger and held it at arms length as though it might be diseased. Violet left the kitchen willingly as she was still mid-conversation with James.
"Now go sit down like normal, grateful, well-adjusted people, and I'll put food out for you." Jinx crossed her arms with impatient expectation. Somebody said something to her in the next room. "Nobody's having egg rolls!" She yelled back. Then looked back to Vincent and Rachel.

“It’s a dead man’s talisman.” Vincent said, “I know it looks like shit but that’s made from fibers of burial clothing. Do you know how hard it is to get corpse threads? I mean it’s not like grave robbing is legal.” He shoved Rachel out of the way gently and began finishing up the potion, noting Jinx’s penetrating stare. He also noticed Rachel’s look of disgust. “Look, that thing will 100 percent protect you from possession, and any ghost that tries to phase through you like earlier will burn up and fade back to the Void.”

He turned off the gas to the hob and picked up the pot, stirring the contents out into an awaiting beaker. It looked like a glass full of thick, wet mud, and smelled like something far worse. “And this is well let you see them.” He said, pointing to the mud, “And that will let you hurt them.” He said, pointing to several jars of what looked like grainy dust.
"Okay! Fine. Enough already." Rachel slipped the bracelet on and walked through into the main living room. James had cleared some space at the table and everyone was settling in. Vincent rolled his eyes and began clearing up.
“Ungrateful little snot…” He muttered as he put the pots and empty beakers into the sink. A foggy memory of his old mentor making similar mutterings caused him to smirk.

After he had cleared up he made his way in to the living room again and sat down with a heavy sigh. “Hey Jimbo!” He said to James, “You got anything to drink?” he asked, “Also can I smoke in here or…?” He thumbed to the door leading outside.
"Sure. Drinks in the cabinet over there. And you can smoke in here." James nodded as he picked up his knife and fork.
"No he can't!" Jinx called through from the kitchen as Rachel took a seat at the table.

"It's fine." James reassured Vincent, though he couldn't help but notice that James did so under his breath. A few minutes later Jinx walked in holding a large Pyrex dish full of homemade lasagne. She put the dish down and as she passed Vincent she pulled the barely-lit cigarette from his mouth.
"Hah!" Violet laughed as she reached for the serving spoon but dropped it immediately when Jinx hissed at her. A few minutes later, Jinx had served everyone a portion and sat down herself. There was silence, stillness. Then Jinx ate her first bite and everyone cautiously followed suite. Then everyone was back to talking amongst themselves once more.

“Now here was me thinking you were a sorry excuse for a wizard, Vi” Vincent said as he sat back down from his trip to the cabinet with a small, tulip-shaped glass only barely filled with amber liquid. “And until this day I thought I was right, but it appears I was mistaken. All those years ago when you summoned a familiar, you could have got yourself a dog familiar, and then I’d be sitting here with a miller light like a college frat dudebro. But…” He tipped the glass at James, “Cats apparently have a taste for the finer things.” He took a sip of the whisky and let it swirl in his mouth, before swallowing and relishing the delicious warmth that spread through him. Then he poked at the lasagne with a fork.

“That’s a lot of cheese…” He said foolishly, “Is your game to slowly kill us via myocardial infarction?”
"It's hard milk." James mumbled between mouthfuls, as he hungrily devoured his plate.
"Maybe." Jinx replied directly to Vincent, raising a brow with a conspiratorial inflection.
"Thank you, Jinx!" Rachel added, eating the food unreservedly.
"Protection from otherworldly forces... Nothing." Violet smirked, "Cooked pasta though..." Rachel shot her an angry glare but it seemed regret was a fleeting emotion for Violet.

The chatter was cut short by cutlery hitting a plate. Everyone turned to Meredith, who was staring back at them with an incredulous look. “Look…I’ve tried to go with this but…are you all insane!?”
“Ugh, I wish.” Vincent replied.
“We just got attacked by ghosts! Then she-“ Meredith pointed at Violet for emphasis, “nearly killed me and Rachel, and now we’re in a house eating lasagne cooked by demons!? This is…it’s nuts! How are you all okay with this!?”
"It's fun, isn't it?!" James smiled as he finished licking his plate clean.
"Get used to it." Rachel grumbled, pushing food around her plate.
Violet had long-since finished her lasagne and perked up at Meredith's frustration, "Everyone has to live, Meredith. Humans, demons, cosmic entities. We're all just trying to get through life. Don't get hung up on it."

“Yeah, except we’re going to die. Soon. Or did you forget?” Meredith said, “Also its 3am and you’re all sitting eating dinner like this is a normal thing to do! It’s not normal…” Her voice broke a little and she shut her eyes to stop the tears but they formed anyway, “I thought…I thought at least if I died, if I could save everyone else in the process but…” She took a deep breath, “This is too much. I can’t act normal and pretend nothing is wrong. I…I don’t want to die.”
"Shut... Up!" Violet snapped. "We're all thinking the same thing, but most of us need to recharge. Joking and pressing buttons helps to make you feel normal. We can't just sit here thinking about what's coming."
"She has a point." James added quietly, "Bit harsh though... She's scary."
"Can I just eat in peace?" Rachel piped up.

Meredith didn’t respond, instead she bit her lip, and then she pushed back her chair and stormed off from the table. A moment later the front door to the house opened and then slammed shut again.
“When did I become the well-adjusted one?” Vincent asked with a sigh. He stood up from the table and as he passed by Jinx he snatched the cigarette she had taken from him and headed for the door. “You know you could be nicer to her, if only because her visions are about the only thing that will stop us from meeting the reaper anytime soon. Hell I already met the bitch, and damn if she wasn’t smokin’ hot.”

"Uh-huh." Violet grumbled. "I was being nice." She turned around to face Vincent and smirked, "Oh can I have a drag?!" Violet asked excitedly, then she inhaled rapidly. Vincent's cigarette alighted in his hand and burned through to the filter, leaving an ashen corpse. Then she exhaled a large smoke cloud that quickly formed into a skull before dispersing. As the smoke cleared, Violet's expression wasn't gleeful defiance, as Vincent had come to expect, but profound confusion. The confusion spread and warped into a nervous panic.
"Vincent...?" She asked, raising her tone. Vincent scowled at her and then retrieved a fresh cigarette from his carton.
“You’re so childish…” He grumbled as he stepped out of the house.

--- --- --- ---

When he got outside Vincent spotted Meredith stalking off down the path. He sighed and lit his cigarette and began a slow stroll after her. “Yo!” He called, and she stopped and turned to him. Her face reddened and she toyed with continuing to storm off, but in the end she waited for Vincent to reach her. “Sorry about them, well not the demons, I don’t give a shit about them. Violet and I, and Rachel to a much lesser extent, have been facing imminent danger on and off our whole lives. You really have to forgive a little dysfunction.”

“Dysfunction?” Meredith replied with a raised brow. “You people are crazy, and I should know, I’ve been called crazy my whole life.”
“Yeah no surprises there.” Vincent said as he took a drag, a moment later his nostrils flared and smoke plumed out of them, “All mortals are just a little bit magic, just a tiny bit-“ he indicated by holding up his finger and thumb, “Most of them have just enough ability to sense real magic. Generally they don’t react very well. It’s easier to believe you’re crazy than that you can actually see the future.”
“…It would be easier if I was crazy.” Meredith grumbled.

“That’s what I said earlier!” Vincent said with a shrug, “Look I know you’ve had it rough, but you’re not the only one. My mentor…well he was a real hard ass. Imagine spending all morning and afternoon at high school, and when the other kids go home to watch tv, do drugs and have sex with each other like teenagers should be doing, you’re going to the magical school of hard knocks for night classes.”
“Wow…you’ve really been doing this for that long?” Meredith asked. “I mean…I knew there were others like me but…you guys are on another level.”

“Yeah, well…I had the benefit of training.” Vincent explained. Thinking about his childhood was bringing back some old, buried feelings of anxiety. “…it was tough. Necessary though.”
“You think? You should let a kid be a kid if you ask me.” Meredith replied.
“Evidence to the contrary.” Vincent said, thumbing at his chest. “I ran away from home at 16. Used the very spells he taught me to cover my tracks. Minor transmogrification to make me look older, turning plain paper into cash, fake I.D. It was stupidly easy.”
“Don’t you think you did that because you never got to live though?” Meredith asked

“Maybe, but it doesn’t matter.” Vincent said, “I thought my teacher was just being a crusty old fart. I was wrong. He taught me how to do magic the hard way, because taking the easy way doesn’t end well.”
“What? So you commited a few crimes, played bad boy for a bit. You don’t seem to be suffering too much for it.” Her smirk changed to a mixture of shock and guilt as she noticed Vincent’s reaction. He held his hand over his heart almost like a strange impulse, and his grip tensed. Thinking about the coldness there only brought it surging to the forefront of his mind. It was a small thing, but it was something that would never fade. A cold, greasy pool of energy within him, one just like the magic that had been used to enthrall the ghosts earlier.

“What I do is difficult, and it has a lot of rules.” Vincent said slowly, carefully, his gaze fixed on something far off in the distance. “I don’t have to follow those rules though. For a time I didn’t.”
“I don’t think a little counterfeiting and fraud makes you Lord Voldemort.” Meredith said with a raised brow.
“I killed someone.” Vincent said, and there was a hard coldness to his voice, “And I don’t mean a bad guy, not that it matters.”
“You…you’re a hunter. You’ve killed lot’s of things, right?”
“Lot’s of things, yes.” Vincent took another draw of his cigarette and his hand was shaking, “The thing about supernatural creatures is…they don’t have souls. It doesn’t always mean they are bad, or that they can’t think and feel. It’s just a rule. Humans have souls…they have mortality, and true free will. Our magic is different…it’s not as strong as that of a god or immortal fay queen or whatever else, but what we can do, we do with absolute freedom…and absolute consequence.”

He turned and looked at Meredith, staring deep in to her eyes. “When you kill a mortal with magic, it leaves a kind of…stain.” He rubbed at the spot on his chest where his heart was again, “Magic comes from the energies of life, and using it to take a life is just…it feels wrong.” He took his hand from his chest and held it up between them, and with his will he lit the ends of each of his fingers on fire, but he didn’t feel any pain. “It turns out that us Hallows…we have an unusual talent for magic. I can do so much with relative ease, I have a well of power within me that’s a lot higher than most. Enough to impress the wrong kind of people. I met people I thought were just like me, who understood me better than my teacher or my sister ever could. And then one day even my own vast well wasn’t enough…and I took a life, sacrificed an innocent person, and from them I took power. That cold, disgusting power…I can feel it there all the time, a constant reminder.”

“I…” Meredith looked stunned, her mouth moved but no words came out.
“I don’t advertise that information, but I don’t hide it either.” Vincent said with a resoluteness about him. “The people we are up against. They’ve tasted that same dark power, and clearly they like it enough to want more. So even if I do die, I will stop them.” The words surprised Vincent. He had spent years avoiding this life, the life he had been practically groomed for. Yet now, suddenly, he felt this righteous need to join the cause.

“What happened?” Meredith asked, “I mean…you said you went dark but…you’re not now, right?”
“I was saved.” Vincent said with a smirk.
“By your teacher?” Meredith asked.
“By God.” Vincent said, “Sort of ironic really since I’m a filthy pagan warlock.”
“God? You mean…?”
“He sent a man to save me.” Vincent said, “And then that man brought me home. And then Al tore me a new one. I thought he’d been hard on me before…”

“Sounds like a real piece of work.” Meredith said.
“That man is more of a father to me than my own ever was.” Vincent said with a slight anger to his tone. “No one has ever had me so figured out, no one has ever helped me quite like him.”
“Not even Violet?” Meredith asked.
“She’s my younger sister, I’m supposed to help her out. That’s just the way of things. Although I suppose this time she’s the one helping me. I brought them along on this detour.”
“…and I brought you.” Meredith said. “…so I’ll stick with you…until the end.”

Vincent smirked and took a last draw of his cigarette before flicking it away. He took a scrap of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Meredith. “What’s that?” She asked as she opened it.
“My phone number.” Vincent said with a smirk. “Y’know I wonder what would happen if I never gave you it? Like your vision of the future doesn’t come to pass so how did you get the number because I never give you it and suddenly it’s a paradox, so does the world unravel and we all cease to exist?”
“Um…” Meredith looked a little panicked.
“Damn I already gave you my number though…guess we’ll never know.”

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As the evening wore on, James offered the group to stay for the night. There was no good getting everything ready to fight ghosts in the dark, with half the group greatly fatigued from recent events. Plus, Violet thought to herself, it was nice staying in a home, with friends. Slowly but surely, each person excused themselves and went to bed. James and Jinx vanished first, then Meredith, Rachel and Vincent. Violet sat on the sofa in the living room, stretched and then finally walked up to her room and closed the bedroom door behind her. Violet shed her human outer shell, and as it disappeared she lifted into the air and floated over the top of her bed, crossing her legs as she sat hovering inches above the bed-sheets.
"Can't sleep... but I can meditate..." She muttered to herself. Al had seen the darkness in her long before she ever had. While Vincent was given a full education, much of her magical training focused on controlling her inner-self. Clearly, she hadn't mastered that. But she was trying. Violet placed her hands together and took a deep breath, placing them on her lap. She closed her eyes, and let her mind wander.

A starry void, crossing through space, picking up speed. Stars turn to streaks of light. Then suddenly Violet's surrounded by orbs of light. Reaching out to one, she managed to graze it with her fingertips, and it giggled and danced away. Violet was strangely drawn to them. She reached out again, but this time one of the orbs flew straight through her chest.

Violet's eyes shot open. She was breathing rapidly and for a moment, she couldn't stop. It was only upon reminding herself that she didn't require air to live that she calmed down. Strange as it sounds. The room was as quiet as she'd left it, but she still felt uneasy in what she'd seen. For a moment, it was as though there was something else there as well. Or maybe multiple things. The entire experience, whatever it had been, had made her feel as though there were a lot of eyes upon her, and not all of them were friendly. A few minutes passed as she sat hovering above the bed, when she heard a distant noise coming from downstairs. She looked over at the clock. 3am. Who was up at this time? Everyone else needed sleep. She remained in her energy form, as she was with friends and was tired from maintaining a human shell. As she reached the door to the living room she saw a blueish light coming from within, opening the door, she saw Vincent sat on the sofa, watching TV, with a glass of whisky.

"You're up late." Violet said quietly, floating over to the sofa. She lowered herself into it beside him and sat there in silence, watching what was on TV. It was an old spaghetti western or something like that. Cowboys were shooting guns at each other in a laughably bad cardboard-looking 'town'. "And you're watching garbage..."
"I haven't watched TV in about 5 years." Vincent said, "Al used to like these though."
"They're so silly..." Violet muttered, pulling her legs up onto the sofa and crossing them. "I miss Al..."
"Of course you do, you're his favourite." Vincent said, rolling his eyes. He took a sip of his whisky. "The old fart may be the best damn wizard I've ever met but he was always softer on you. A bit of that old school sexism I suppose."
"I think he knew what I was before I did. I'm pretty sure that's why you were always given combat training and 1 on 1 magic lessons, and I was given meditations, mantras, chakras, self-reflection and self-control. Much good that did for me." Violet sighed, leaning back on the sofa.

"You made a mistake, Vi." Vincent replied, "That's human. You're not the only one in the world who fucked up and hurt someone. You're not even the first one in the family, for that matter."
"She's just a kid though. What if I hadn't stopped? I was so close to killing her, Vince." Violet pulled her legs up and hugged her knees, "Half my power comes from my emotions, but when I access them, I can't control them. How's that for fucked up? Plus, all the little ghost orbs that have been floatin' around lately have really started to piss me off." 
"Well you didn't kill her... Which already makes you better than me, besides my emotions affect my magic too so..." He trailed off, his expression going quizzical, "Ghost orbs?"
"Yeah, y'know..." Violet laughed nervously at Vincent's confusion, "The little... orbs... y'know what I mean, Vincent." Violet growled with annoyance, her eyes locked on the spaghetti western.
"Don't they just show up on camera?" Vincent asked, and gave a little shrug. "I've never seen orbs...actually that'd be so much more pleasant than the fucked up shit I see with the third eye." He stopped to smile a little, "Rachel she...she's tougher than she looks. Man she looked like a fucking amazon when I saw her back at the bar."

"I like her white hair even if she doesn't..." Violet added quietly, then she looked over at her brother, "I'm goin' to hell when all this is over, Vince. I'll never do enough to square away my wrongdoings. Vael will see to that. I won't be strong enough, and..." Violet's eyes scrunched up as though she wanted to cry.
"Hey..." Vincent put his hand on his sister's, "You're not her. And besides... Pretty sure the devil wouldn't know how to handle you."
"Thanks Vince... that means a lot coming from you..." Violet tried to smile, and she saw a happiness in her brother's face, but she couldn't stop her peripheral vision from taking in the third person on the sofa. Sat on the other side of Vincent, a man in a brown trench coat with a square jaw and slicked-back blonde hair. He grinned at her, his eyes were so sharply in contrast. From the white of his eyes to the black of his pupil. Then he began to warp and stretch, taking up more and more of the room. His eyes seemed to fill the entire space, as his pupils shrank further and further until two tiny black dots were stranded in a sea of white, ever staring at her, unblinking. "I'll be alright..." She added, forcing a smile and turning to gaze at the television once more.
"Hey, who's--" Rachel opened the door, rubbing her eyes. She saw Vincent and Violet sat on the sofa watching TV and groaned, "Ugh, can't you lower the volume a little, oh--" She saw the spaghetti western on TV and immediately walked over, considered the sofa for a moment but decided she didn't want to be sat by Violet. Instead, she sat on the floor and was content to watch TV quietly.

"Aww..." Vincent said as he smiled warmly at Rachel sitting in the floor, then he turned to Violet, "You know I'm glad we got a pet."
"Ssh! Quiet!" Rachel growled, "It's not like I get to watch TV every day, let me enjoy this!"
Violet smirked at her and then shrugged at Vincent. Rachel had earned that much. It wasn't much, but any happiness, however fleeting, was worth pursuing. The three of them sat watching TV, Vincent and Rachel might have dozed off during the night, but when the early morning light shone in, they were all up and raring to go. Stretching to relieve the discomfort of being sat on a sofa all night, Violet stood up and went to walk away when something grabbed her by the wrist. She looked back, and once again, she saw the blonde-haired man with the scary eyes staring back at her with a grin, his hand wrapped around her arm like a vice.
"Y'can say g'bye t'yer girlfriend on the way down..."
"--Violet?" Rachel asked again, shaking her arm. Violet blinked and realised she was looking at Rachel.
"What?" Violet asked, frowning. Rachel scowled at her.
"You're not even listening! Vincent said it's time to go. Come on!" Rachel stormed off and Violet stood there in quiet disbelief for a moment. She had seen him all too often and it was becoming more and more frequent now. She could no longer ignore him and what's more she could hear him now. She knew who he was, but she couldn't bring herself to say his name. Maybe denying his existence was enough?

"Alright so tell me class, what are the advantages of a little daytime ghost hunting?" Vincent asked as Violet entered the kitchen where everyone had gathered. When no one answered he answered for them, "No ghosts!" He said with a grin, "Ghosts can't come out in the light of day, something about the boundary between the mortal realm and the void being stronger at this time. Anyway...it means we can try and find these bastards while their spooky army is out of commission."
"Hooray." Rachel said with a neutral tone of mock enthusiasm.
"You know I swear when we decided to take you in you told me you wanted to smoke some bad guys, did I mishear you or something?" Vincent asked with a frown.
"I want to kill monsters, not chase ghosts around like Scooby-Doo." Rachel retorted, picking up her tools and tying the bracelet around her wrist, "If you say we're hunting ghosts, fine. I don't care. That's part of my education? Then let's go."
Violet sighed, "You don't have to like me, or listen to me, but you do have to listen to Vincent." Rachel scowled at her and Violet scowled right back, sticking her tongue out, "Like it or not, you have to listen to him, he'll save your life one day... I mean, a separate occasion, you know what I meant..."
"We're after the assholes who stirred up the ghosts." Vincent explained, "People who want to ritually sacrifice large groups of innocent people in order to gain more power for themselves. Is that not monstrous enough for you?"

"Can we go now?" Rachel asked, raising an eyebrow.
"She's quite feisty." James piped up at last, prompting Jinx to add her piece.
"If you don't all leave soon, I may just transport you to a pocket dimension and forget about you." Then Jinx waved with a smile, "Okay now, have fun out there!" 
"Right..." Violet shook her head at the familiar.
"First we have to figure out where we're going." Vincent said, and then he held his hand up, pointing his finger out like a gun, and pointed it at Meredith, before making a clicking sound with his teeth. "So where to Mystic Meg?"
"Uh..." Meredith looked around nervously. "How should I know?"
"Well you foresaw all this right?" Vincent asked.
"Yeah but my scrambled prescient dreams don't exactly come with google maps coordinates." Meredith replied with a frown.
"It would be really useful," Violet replied, still in her cosmic birthday suit. Her hair waved around as though it had a life of it's own, or was suspended in water. She concentrated on herself and reformed her human outer shell, and her hair became human and the both striking yet familiar shade of blue. "Ugh, sometimes that's like pulling on a wet coat..."
"Gross..." Rachel muttered loudly under her breath.

Meredith huffed a little and then folded her arms, closing her eyes in concentration. She waited a moment in silence before her shoulder relaxed a little and she spoke again. "...there was...a lot of people...it's more like a feeling. Aggression...thirst for blood...lights flashing...a...a cage?"
"Uh...I'm not liking the sound of that." Vincent said with a raised brow. 
"...a battle..." Meredith continued, "It's a battle...they're watching and cheering. All that aggression...it's so powerful..." She visibly shivered.
"I can feel it..." Violet's voice echoed, Rachel looked over at her and the Hallow's eyes were glowing white. "The battle..."
"Double gross. Vincent!" Rachel yelled, "I think your sister is getting a lady boner for all this fighting!"
Violet snapped out of it and scowled, "What?!" She pointed at Rachel and considered issuing a threat, but thought better of it and instead crossed her arms and walked over to a nearby stool and sat upon it in silence, content now to no longer be part of the conversation. 

"T-mobile stadium, it's on the strip." Vincent said with a frankness in his tone. He held up his phone with a webpage open. "UFC match tonight between Domino Reeves and Clyde Walsh. Big room full of people feeling the same emotion. Tapping emotion is a little different, nobody is going to get hurt...but if you sacrifice lives the power becomes yours permanently. So this is the warm up, so he can stir up ghosts again and kill another crowd of people later."
"So he's going to get the crowd worked up until they start killing each other?" Rachel asked.
"Another possibility." Vincent said with a nod. 
"...In a place where fortunes are made and lost, the dead will rise to lay slaughter to the greedy, and the Sphinx will be the guardian of their tombs." Meredith said, her tone much more grave. 
"Wait, what?" Vincent asked, "I thought you said it was the fight?"
"A fight, yes." Meredith said, as if she was in a trance, "There will be a great battle. A storm is brewing. The dead shall rise and....and...." She stammered and tears fell from her closed eyes, then she gasped and her eyes opened in shock. "Wh-what happened!?" She asked.

"Super." Violet muttered, "I love a good prophecy. Because they always work out so well."
"You've experienced prophecies before?" Rachel asked. Violet was taken aback for a moment, it was the first time since their scuffle that Rachel had asked her a direct question. Violet considered her for a moment, smiled and then nodded in confirmation. "What were they like?" Rachel asked again, genuinely interested.
"Al told me a few." Violet replied, "To begin with, I would die and be born anew. Tick. I would become an agent of chaos. Tick. And there's one that hasn't happened yet, but I super love that one, so give it time, eh?" Violet mumbled off the last couple of words and Rachel frowned in frustration.
"Well what's the one that hasn't come true?" Rachel pushed.
"Uh, well, that I would destroy the world." Violet replied. The room was quiet for a few seconds.
"'A' world, remember?" James chimed in.
"What?" Violet frowned at him.
"Al said, 'A' world. Not 'the' world." James smiled.
"Hooray. I'm so relieved. That made me feel sooo much better, James. Thank you."
"You're welcome." James replied, missing Violet's obvious sarcasm.
"Wait--" Violet thought about what Meredith had said. "Tombs and Sphinxes, it makes me think of Egypt. But then you talk about fortunes made and lost... it's got to be that casino here, right? Y'know the one with the big Sphinx? What's it called..."
"The Luxor Casino." Rachel provided the information.
"Right!" Violet cheered excitedly, clapping her hands together.

"Are you okay?" Vincent asked, as he put his hand on Meredith's shoulder. 
"Uh...y-yeah I think so." Meredith said, but she didn't look fine. "So it doesn't matter where we go...people are going to die."
"...or we split up." Vincent suggested. 
"We barely survived together last time." Meredith said in protest. 
"Hey...Violet's an agent of chaos, remember?" Vincent said with a smirk. "We're prepared this time." He turned to Violet, "Right?"
"I dunno. Maybe?" Violet shrugged and offered a consolation smile, "Agent of chaos, remember?" But she seemed to sober up at the same time. "Well... I suppose I have to remove doubt... Still, chaos, etc..." Violet muttered and walked outside. Rachel frowned but wanted to see what Violet was talking about and so followed her outside, then Vincent and everyone else followed suite. Violet walked out onto the main road of the cul de sac and lifted off from the ground.
"Violet! What if someone sees you!" James called out.
"It matters not!" She called back, commanding and authoritative. In an instant, she shed her human shell and just as quickly she flew up and hovered between the suspended power cables.
"I don't think this is a good idea, Vi." James called out, shielding his eyes from the early morning sun.
"No!" Violet called back, "Possibly not!" And with that she grabbed a power cable with each hand and sparks exploded and cracked. Several of the party dove for the ground as the power feeding into Violet spat out in little arcs of electricity. One hit a car and blew out the windows, setting the alarm off. Another stuck a nearby roof, charring the tiles. Violet glowed so brightly that it was difficult to look directly at her. Then all the power in the street went out. Seconds passed until the silence was broken by Rachel as she held her phone up.
"So, yeah, power just went out across half of Las Vegas for several minutes... Car crashes, downed hospital equipment... Chaos..."
"But I am no longer starving..." Violet replied, her voice echoing as she lowered to the ground and cloaked herself in her human shell. "And so, I will not lose control..."
"Super." Jinx snarled, "Now will all of you leave!"

"Yeah for once I think I agree with the demon." Vincent said with a smirk, "Alright, youngest sibling gets the first pick." He said and indicated to Meredith and then Rachel, "Pick a sidekick and a venue, I'll take the sloppy seconds."
"Then I will--" Violet stepped forwards but as she did so Rachel scoffed and walked up to Vincent.
"As if!" Rachel growled, crossing her arms in defiance.
"Alright." Violet nodded, "That's fine, I am happy to accompany Meredith, if you'll have me?"
"Uh..." Meredith looked a little hesitant, "I suppose."
"Take the fight at the stadium." Vincent suggested, "At least the threats there will be physical, so you should be safe enough."
"The ghosts weren't the ones who hurt me last time." Meredith said.
"Yeah well you lured us there thinking I'd die to save the rest of the people in the room." Vincent said with a dark scowl, "Nobody is perfect. Now get in the fucking car before it's dark out again."

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