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Geist: Through The Ebon Gate

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It is said that any person, dead or alive, loves a good party. It's most likely this quote originated from a Sin-Eater, because the first place you'd ever find one is in a local carnival (with the exception, of course, a local wake). And there you wouldn't find just one. Crowds of Sin-Eaters all around the neighbourhood throng a carnival. Usually some kind soul (used in the casual sense here) would have booked a tent space in advance, decorating it with sigils of the Old Tongue to avoid public curiosity. Even without a map, most Sin-Eaters would know where to head -- the most nondescript tent in the furthest corner of the place.


However, a map you do have, and a crudely drawn one at that, with the title written at the top, "OLD FORK CITY COMMEMORATES 72 YEARS". Someone seems to have had fun with his childhood days, making squiggles in various colours of crayon to indicate the precise position, past the popcorn stand and the hoopla booth, right around the children's merry-go-round. The flap was tight shut.


You guys have been Sin-Eaters for a while now, but this is the first carnival you've visited, and so you don't know too many folk yet. Now would be a great chance to socialise, forge connections and listen in on some regional gossip. As they say, dead men tell no tales, but that's why you've escaped death, right?


If you go into the tent, you will see a wonderfully gothic scene. Behold the smell of incense and the string of grinning candy skulls to fit the mood. Superficial? But it fits the theme. And it looks like you're on time -- a healthy crowd has already gathered inside, but there are still seats for you. A girl in a long-sleeved blouse is sitting on one of the seats, and she turns to squint at you newcomers, positioning her glasses to see better. In front of her, people are playing a strange game that seems to involve dead spiders (maybe they're fake. Maybe).


"Hey look, there're n00bs in here," she commented. "Do you want to come join me? I'm setting up the Truth or Death game."


Or maybe you'd prefer trying out the assortment of candy skulls on the table, if you're hungry. People are picking them up from a plate quite readily, and they come in various colours! Surely you're curious what flavours they have?


Last of all, there seems to be a lost spirit on the far end. A long-haired woman is turning her head from side to side, as if she's missing something. Geists don't... lose their Sin-Eaters, do they? No, they certainly don't. That can't be right.

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Someone somehow managed to convince Isaac to leave the haunt and join the rest of his krewe at the carnival. He never was much of the social type, so parties were never something he’d enjoy. Nevertheless here he was, surrounded by Sin-Eaters, their Geists and the ghosts they attracted. Among the many Sin-Eaters here Isaac couldn’t spot any acquaintances, other than the three people he arrived here with, but that was only natural considering it was the first time he had ever attended a Sin-Eaters Anonymous event, as he liked to call them.

Despite the many Geists freely floating around the Burning Witch had locked herself up in Isaac’s mind, firmly refusing to go out and interact with anyone else. ‘If I have to get out here and get surrounded by these people so do you.’ Isaac tried repeatedly, but the Witch either ignored him or told him that she would not fraternize with strangers, not as long as she did not know what their dark side truly was. ‘Has anyone ever called you the Burning Bitch instead?’ She ignored it, not giving Isaac the satisfaction.

Someone was setting up a Truth or Dare game and… Wait, she said Truth or Death. Suddenly Isaac got curious and out of all the options in the tent it was the one that interested Isaac the most. “I’ll go check that out,†he said. “See you later.†With that he separated from the group without looking back to join the Truth or Death game. “What exactly is a Truth or Death game?â€

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Rose stopped at the tent opening, grimacing inwardly. There was too much people in there. Too noisy. Too crowded. 


"...Do you want to come join me?" A tinny voice rang out from within the tent, pulling Rose out of her thoughts and back to Earth. Isaac was already shuffling in, presumably intrigued by whatever the voice was advertising. The rest of her group mates seemed ready to do the same too. Not wanting to be left behind in an unfamiliar place, she gathered a deep breath and stepped through the flaps, flinching slightly as the thick scent of incense wafted its way into her nose.


The girl took a step towards the Truth or Death booth, only to feel a soft tug on her arm. Her Geist. which she has affectionately named Peridot, was pulling away at her, trying to get her to head towards the candy booth instead.


"No, no," She whispered to him. "Too much people..."


Peridot was having none of it. With another stronger tug, Rose finally relented, turning away from the Truth or Death booth and walking towards the candy table instead. The serpent dived into the plate with fruit shaped candy the moment she approached it, opening his mouth in a desperate attempt to stuff the fruity flavours into his incorporeal body. Finally cracking a faint smile, Rose picked one from the plate and popped it in her mouth.



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When Isaac walked up to the girl, she looked up at him squintily again, and he realizes her glasses are really specked with dirt. Nobody can possibly see through those things. "So here's how we play Truth or Death. I'm the Game Master, and this is my assistant." The assistant she's pointing to is a hunched-over skeletal figure, with small tufts of hair on his head. He's so hunched that he's basically facing the floor.  That is of course her geist.


Isaac also realized that even from close up, you can't tell if the spiders are dead or fake. He does still see, however, a circle drawn on the floor.


"So you start off with 3 spiders," she says. "And you try to flick them into the circle. With every spider you succeed at, I'll tell you a Truth question. And when you fail, you get Death, which is a great punishment I think up on the spot."

Isaac didn’t recall ever accepting those terms, but since he was there already he might as well give it a try. If his skill with a pistol was any indication of his marksmanship, this should be easy. As expected he managed to flick all three spiders into the circle, one of them even landing perfectly in the center of it.


The girl nods. "You're good at flicking spiders! Some people have fingers like bananas. Then they have to eat them up. That's Death, you see." The geist beside her demonstrates by taking all the spiders you flicked and putting them in his mouth. Red liquid spatters on the floor. Maybe it's fake blood.


"So the first Truth question is... if you were tasked to murder 13 000 people in a stadium, how would you do it? Second question: how many spiders would you eat if you were paid a million dollars to do it? Thirdly, how much would you pay someone to eat a million spiders?"


Those were some weird questions. “13000 people is a lot. A bomb would be my best bet.†The second and third question were a bit harder to answer. He’d rather not eat any spiders at all and he found no pleasure in watching other people eating spiders. “I’d eat one and I would pay one dollar.â€


But she ignored Isaac and just suddenly starts going on her own tangent. "Y'know, speaking of murdering, have you heard the news? There was this food court woman, she poisoned all her customers, and then poisoned herself after that! People saw her dead at 5 pm, just slumped over with her face in her soup! Then there was a whole bunch of people lying on the floor in front of the stall! All died a pretty painful death too!"


That bit of news somehow escaped Isaac, he hadn’t heard of any mass murder in any food court, but it did catch his interest. "Any idea why she did that? Seems a bit random."


"Maybe... she was tasked to murder 13 000 people in her food court! Hahahahahaha!" the girl starts laughing.


Isaac ignored that, it was pretty obvious that this girl was insane. "Anything else?"


"You can play again, but this time I insist we go through the Death part. I really enjoy watching people eat spiders." The geist reached out his hand for another. "But really, there's a lot of news about murder-cum-suicide things. I collect such news. By the way, my name's Starla. What's yours?"


"Name's Isaac.†This girl wanted Isaac to play and Isaac wanted to know all about these murders and suicides. Time to try and strike a deal. “I'll play again, but only if you tell me what you know afterwards."


"Isaac sounds perfect for a headline. ISAAC, EATER OF BRAINS. Come to think of it, let's up the stakes. You fail, you eat brains instead. Hahahahaha!"


Isaac wanted to cringe at the thought, but he managed to control himself. "That doesn't sound very fair."


"No, no, I agree. Brains are dark, not fair. Oh, look, I think there's somebody else who wants to play. You must give them a chance. Look, someone's watching. They want to play."

It didn’t take a genius to get the hint, she had lost all interest in playing with Isaac. “Kay. See ya.†Isaac turned around and started looking for something to else to keep him entertained when suddenly he heard a hoarse voice in his head. ‘Murders? I want to know more.’ 

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Mikaeus' brows furrowed.


He had been studying the female spirit for a while, trying to discern what was bothering her. However, she remained blithely opaque in her actions. She would inspect the ground around her, then herself, pause briefly and repeat the process anew thereafter. Her long tresses obscured her face, making it harder to tell what's on her mind.




Mikaeus cried out and keeled over as sound and light exploded inside his mind. His ears rang and his eyes went blind for that instant. He covered his ears and blinked furiously, trying to dull the after-images of The Father. He almost swore, but checked himself in time to avoid another harangue from his zealous Geist.


He looked around him and saw that the female spirit was still there, oblivious to her surroundings. The buzzing in his ears was starting to increase in volume again, so he hastened to approach her. He stopped before her and waited patiently to be addressed; he knew from experience that spirits, much like person, detest being patronized. Far better to let her address him in due time.

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Bianca casually scanned through the various activities available in the huge tent their group had entered, folding her hands and yawning to show her boredom. Who would have thought a festival filled with ghosts of long-dead individuals would be so mundane? She had expected haunted houses, otherworldly horrors waiting to pop out to scare the wits out of you... Not some gothic assembly.


Out of the three main activities going on, the only one that attracted her attention was the game that sounded like it had some sort of action: Truth or Death. Not wanting to jump into the game just yet, she let Isaac step up and go first while she hung behind and watched. The game seemed pretty simple: to flick the spiders into circles. Bianca was never a very subtle person, but she thought she could do something as simple as that.


There was a light tugging at her arm, Frankenstein was staring at the lone ghost intently, and wiithout having to say anything, she knew what he wanted. 'Oh shush, Mikaeus is going to talk to her already. You'll get your answers soon.'


It seemed it was her turn to play, as the girl hosting the Truth or Death game gestured over to her. Bianca replaced Isaac and sat down, watching the girl replace the spiders. "You better start thinking of questions, honey," she said with a grin, getting ready to flick the spiders. 

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The ghost looked left and right a few more times, as if completely oblivious to Mikaeus. Suddenly, her neck let out a snapping sound, and she swivelled the head like a mechanical clockwork towards him, facing him and staring him straight in the eye, not blinking. Her mouth cracked open, as if she was beaming from ear to ear. He looked as if he had been suffering some pain, probably from his geist's booming voice in his head. Well, that was nothing compared to what he would face now.


A scream erupted from the ghost, so high-pitched that it understandably caused a whole lot of people to turn their heads. Being right in front of the source, it was understandable that Mikaeus would be taken aback, perhaps cover his ears in a hurry. That was the diversion the ghost needed. Still screaming, she reached out a hand, straight for his bag.


[roll Dexterity + Athletics to avoid being pickpocketed]


Everyone in the room was looking towards the ghost now, remarking on just where the Sin-Eater was and why it was making such a ruckus. 2 men walked past Rose to where the candy skulls were, deep in conversation. It was hard to overhear what they were saying with this din, but Rose probably could pick out a few words, such as "strange" and "cult". One of the men was furrowing his brows and gasping. Maybe if she snuck up close, she could listen to more.


[roll Dexterity + Subterfuge to eavesdrop]

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A piercing scream rang out from the corner of the tent. In a normal carnival with normal people, security would probably be running into the tent to diffuse the situation right at this moment. Unfortunately for the wailing ghost, this carnival was far from normal. People gaped at her for a moment before losing interest almost immediately, resuming whatever activities they were doing before she interrupted them with her angst filled cries. Rose and Peridot did the same. The candies weren't going to eat themselves.


" I didn't realise she was that kind of person! It was downright alarming if you ask me, and I didn't know what to say."


" Yeah. Wow. I mean, what kind of cult was it?"


Rose stopped devouring the treats, her hand freezing over the final banana shaped candy on the plate. Even Peridot stopped fussing over the food and reared his head up in attention. Cult?  She shifted herself a little closer to them, pretending to reach over for the candy skulls instead.


" Well she didn't call it a cult, of course. It was some kind of a church. She was like, if you join this church you can gain salvation, get in touch with death or whatever. " The man chattered excitedly, intent on wowing his friend with the juicy gossip he gathered. His scraggly looking friend ate it all up.


" I didn't know we had such things in our town. What's the world getting into? Though of course you didn't tell her you already, well, had your experience with death, did you?"


Both men laughed, walking away from the booth after having their fill of candy. Rose wasn't going to let her chance to know more just slip by her. Pushing her hair back behind her ears, she swiftly left with them, taking care to keep a reasonable distance away from the two Sin Eaters.

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Bianca stared at the spiders on the table, concentrating on the center of the circles as she made her flick... and missed the shot completely. "Drat," she muttered, moving on to the next two, which she flicked onto their respective circles with ease. The girl smiled at her, saying, "Death! You gotta eat that spider! And as for your two questions... If you could grow an extra body part, what would it be? And how do you think your brain tastes if you eat it?"


"Are those the worst questions you've got?" Bianca said, raising an eyebrow as she threw the spider into her mouth and chomped down with a crunch. "I'd grow an extra arm. I'd be invincible at boxing with it! And I read somewhere that brains taste like cheese. I don't know how true that is, but it doesn't sound too bad."


Starla looks at Bianca eating her spiders, and suddenly says, "you know, there have been some mass suicides going on these few days. They weren't reported in the papers because the government wanted to keep them hush-hush. I think it's the formation of one of those Japanese internet suicide clubs. Have you heard of them?"


"No, not really. Is it one of those stupid things they call, uh, Sudoku? The one where you stab yourself with a sword because you failed the Samurai spirit or something?"


"No, I'm sure that's called hana kimi," says Starla with a frown. "You don't know a lot, do you? Those internet suicide clubs are when people agree to die, together. They're all sick of life, that kind of thing. Well we know better how to appreciate life." She looks at her geist wistfully.


Bianca snorted. "I'm sure plenty of Sin-Eaters can come from things like that. They're just a massive bait for geists."


"I don't know. I've always wondered, though, how they can coordinate so many suicides. It doesn't sound easy, after all, for hundreds of people to agree to buy from the same food court lady, in order to die. What if she accidentally sells them to innocent people?"


Bianca tapped her finger on the table, deep in thought. "What if the lady doesn't really care who buys from her? She's gonna kill herself anyway, it's not like the police are gonna arrest her corpse. I dunno, people who want to suicide have really messed up heads." She grinned at Starla.


"Oh," Starla looks down. "Maybe you're right. More importantly, I've run out of spiders. The game's over for today. Come on, You, let's go have some candy skulls."
She stands up, nods at everyone, and walks off. Her geist lifts himself from the sitting position, his nose still touching the ground, and follows her slowly.
"I respond mainly to Bianca, but 'You' works too," she replied, following Starla to the table with the candy skulls. "Sounds better than eating live spiders in any case."
Starla turns around and looks at Bianca. "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to You."
"Oh, right. Geez, geists should have better names. I swear I'll punch the guts out of the next one who has a name like 'I' or 'That Guy'."
You the Geist stops right in front of Bianca. He pauses significantly, before moving past her to where Starla stood. "Oh by the way," Starla suddenly says, as if she remembered something. "Bianca... that's your name, right?"
"Yeah. Are you going to tell me your name too, or is this going to be another round of awkwardness and mistaken pronouns?"
"Oh, I'm Starla. It's nice to meet you. By the way, you've a spider leg lodged in your teeth. That's going to look hard to take out."
Bianca grinned to show her teeth. "All the better to eat you with, my dear."

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Mikaeus reeled backwards from shock and the force of the scream both, but somehow managed to whip his bag away from the Geist's grasping hands. He poised himself for a follow-up attack, but the Geist stopped screaming as suddenly as she had begun and instead looked at him with droopy eyes. He eyed her warily, one hand of his bag.
"Oh dear, I'm so sorry!"
A girl had just entered the tent and approached him. She had long hair and a doll fringe, but more importantly, she seemed scratched and bruised.
"I'm sorry, has The Kleptomaniac caused you any trouble? She loves to stand around preying on people to steal things from."
Mikaeus turned his head to look at her before replying, "She didn't succeed, so no harm done. You, on the other hand, seem hurt."
The girl smiled. Her teeth were shimmering white and her eyes looked as if they were dancing in the light of the tent. Mikaeus let himself relax slightly.
"I'm okay. It's day-to-day work for me. I get rid of Skinriders, you see. Spirits that ride on mortal beings. So sometimes there's a bit of a tussle."
"Right here in the carnival?"
"Well, no, not right here, thankfully. It was a few hours ago, outside the library. There was a girl reading, and I could see at once she'd been ridden on. The weird part, though, is that after I helped get rid of the spirit for her, the girl turned around and yelled at me! Now that's something I don't see often."
Mikaeus raised an eyebrow in surprise. ""Well, that's odd. People don't usually like being possessed by a malevolent being. What happened next?"
The girl shrugged and said, "Well she wanted to throw her book at me. So of course I ran off, since I was running late for this party too. She was talking all about not knowing what to do now. Strange."
Mikaeus rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"Hm, this happened near the library, you say? Tell me more about this Skinrider. Aren't they supposed to be rare?"
"Well I couldn't say. It looked pretty normal to me. I see lots of riders in my line of work, so this one didn't strike me as anything different. It was just the girl. It was almost as if she LIKED the experience."
She must be stronger than she looks to take on a Skinrider by herself. In any case, this is intriguing news.
"Well, this is definitely the first time I've heard of something like this. You should put it up on the Network. If you want, I could help you enquire. I know people there... I'm Mikaeus, by the way." He offered a hand to the girl.
"Oh, you think so? I thought it wasn't important enough to be put up. But you do sound like the expert. I'm Jayne," replied the girl. "We should hang out more! Do you have Facebook?"
The Kleptomaniac peered at Mikaeus' hand, looking for something to take, but was disappointed.
Well, why not.
"Well, yes. I could add you now, I guess. Just keep her hands off me while I do…" Mikaeus glanced towards The Kleptomaniac as he retrieved his cellphone from his pocket and tapped at the screen adroitly.
"… And that's done. Now for the Network. For now, I'll just put out a quick word on the forums about this and we'll see if it trends." He gave the woman a reassuring smile.
Jayne nodded. "Do keep me updated!"
The Kleptomaniac stared at Mikaeus again. Jayne chuckled. "I think she likes you!"
Mikaeus regarded the Geist with a frown. "I guess I should be flattered… You here by your lonesome?"
The Kleptomaniac shyly retreated behind Jayne. 
"Yes I am. Or were you talking to The Kleptomaniac here? Haha. I've got to run, though. Got other appointments to keep. See you!"


With that, Jayne turned and disappeared into the crowd together with her Geist.

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Once or twice it looked as if the men would turn around and see Rose, but thankfully they didn't spot her among the crowd, and Rose caught up with them enough to hear what they were saying. The two men walked out of the tent. It was already dark outside, but ample illumination came from the noisy, bright booths of the carnival and the streetlights overhead. The carnival was situated close to a train line, where high speed trains would occasionally pass and cause the ground to vibrate just a little.


"So she wanted to take me to this man, some preacher guy, who apparently can expand my consciousness and help me." They were still talking about the previous encounter. The man raised his fingers to emulate inverted commas in the word "help". "What a lot of tomfoolery. It took me so much wrangling to get her to understand I wasn't interested. I'm certainly not going to see her for a long time to come!"


"Oh wow, what with-"


The other man's words were drowned out by a train passing through, completely obscuring his voice. The first man nodded his head vigorously.


"Urea!" he said.


Wait, how did the conversation change to biological substances? Or was there some other kind of urea involved?


Before Rose could proceed any further, she was stopped by a face which had somehow materialised in front of her, staring at her bag forlornly.


"Kleptomaniac! Please don't do that now!"


Jayne ran up to her geist's side, crossing her arms. "Do you realise how many items I've got to return this past week? And we've no time to waste on this. We're in a hurry, and if the train's left already then it's your fault. Sorry there!" She smiled briefly at Rose, before walking a few steps forward. The Kleptomaniac stayed. Jayne sighed and retreated again.


"I've Mikaeus on Facebook, we can see him anytime," she tried again. "Geists and their whims, so hard to deal with," she told Rose.


The two men had long since disappeared by then.

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Rose stared at the duo in silence for a moment, disoriented by how fast the situation has changed in the last minute. She recognized the Kleptomaniac as the wailing ghost standing in the corner of the tent, but this lady was definitely a stranger. However, she did just toss out Mikaeus's name while conversing with Rose. Not wanting to offend a potential friend of her group mate, she decided to just let go of the interruption and converse with the lady instead.


"Are you a friend of Mikaeus?" She asked cautiously, while shifting her backpack away from the eyes of the Kleptomaniac.


"Oh yes, you know him too? I really just met him today. Just now, in fact. And I- I mean, The Kleptomaniac- is really smitten with him."


A mixture of disbelief and amusement crossed Rose face. Is a human/ghost relationship even acceptable in society? She tugged at her Geist absentmindedly, hoping he'll help diffuse the awkward situation somehow. Socializing was never her strong suit. 


"Oh," she replied, at a loss of words. "I... I see. Will you and your friend be joining our crew, then?"


"Oh, no, no. I do prefer to work alone. Speaking of work." She glares at the Kleptomaniac. "We should GO." The Kleptomaniac seemed to take the hint at last, and followed the lady away. She waved goodbye to Rose and ran forward to the train station. Rose waved a hand at them in return, frowning slightly. 


"I forgot to ask her for her name..."

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The other members of the krewe had also left the tent to catch up with Rose. Many others were also leaving in droves, laughing and jostling as they gossiped about people they knew or played games. A train was approaching, its characteristic sound of wheels turning on metal track distinguishable even in the din. Perhaps Jayne could catch her train now.


And then all of a sudden there was a different sound entirely.


There was a deafening screech, followed by loud sounds of hard, heavy objects falling, glass breaking. You see the train coming right at you; where was the track? People started screaming and running away. There was a strong smell of engine overheat in the air, and then an explosion happened right before your very eyes. Whole compartments broke off from the train, tumbling and crashing through all the booths and machines. Within minutes the fun had turned into a disaster. Several compartments spontaneously burst into flames, with people hammering the windows from inside, while others were crushed by the debris.


Everybody started fleeing in all directions. One compartment seemed particularly determined. It rolled down a slope right towards you. You don't need instructions to know what to do here, get out of the way!


[everyone is to roll Dexterity + Athletics. Please tell me your scores]

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An exploding train; really? Domestic terrorism is still a thing? Either way, whoever had the gall to blow up that train was going to pay for it, but for now Isaac had to run.

Sadly his skill as a fixer did not encompass any athletic ability which in turn lead to him being unable to outrun the debris that flew all over the area. The remains of one of the doors smashed into Isaac’s back as he ran for his life and made him fall flat on the ground. Luckily he didn’t get hit other than hat.

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Bianca folded her arms, staring down the incoming train with righteous indignation. "Do you truly think that you can overwhelm me, puny train?! Behold, the fist of FURRRYYYYY!!!!"


Unfortunately her punch failed to demolish the train as she had expected, and instead caused a rather nasty bruise on her knuckles. There were also other nasty bruises on the rest of her body as she was knocked aside, but they were irrelevant as far as she was concerned.

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The winged serpent hissed, frantically flapping his wings around Rose in a bid to protect his ward from damage. The Sin Eater wasted no time either, and dived away from the flaming debris to the best of her ability. Tailing two men, losing them, encountering a love sick ghost and her equally smitten handler, and now this. It sure has been a long night. Or rather...


One chunk of metal managed to find it's target and slammed itself into Rose's back, drawing out a yelp of pain from the lady. She pushed herself up and glanced around the hellish landscape in confusion. That girl... things haven't been going well ever since I met her and her Geist... 


As if reading her mind, Peridot wrapped himself around Rose in an attempt to calm her thoughts down. Shaking her suspicions away, Rose started stumbling towards her fellow comrades instead. Making sure everyone's doing okay is more important right now.

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Mikaeus rolled over onto his back, dazed. Everything had happened so quickly that he had scarcely any time to react. All he remembered was feeling a surge of willpower, a survival instinct telling him to duck, and then he was on all fours. He sat up unsteadily and felt for his limbs. He brushed his hands down his body and let out a sigh of relief. He had somehow, miraculously, gotten through completely unscathed.




Mikaeus shook his head furiously, as if doing so might alleviate the murmuring that had starting reverberating in his cranium. Around him, the cloud of dust that the wreckage had raised in its wake was just beginning to settle. Mikaeus coughed and covered his mouth with one hand to avoid inhaling too much of the particles.


After several moments of feeling about like a blind man, he finally stumbled upon Rose.


"Rose, thank god! Are you alright? What are the rest?"

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"I'm okay, thank you." Rose nodded, hunching a little from the pain. She's going to need a huge ice pack for that bruise later. "I'm glad you're fine too. Isaac and Bianca are over... there." She pointed at duo, who were also looking worse for wear. Feeling a sense of urgency well up in her, Rose tugged at Mikaeus's sleeve and jogged over to them too. The serpent immediately glided over to Bianca, trying to hiss her wounds better.


"We should go back to HQ," She had to raise her voice amid the blaring sirens and screams. "It's not safe here..."

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The festive carnival scene has become more akin to a battlefield now, with smoking wreckage and small fires scattered everywhere. After the cacophony of the explosion and crash, there is now only the steady chorus of groans and sobbing - the casualties are too numerous to count. People lay dying or injured, while many of those still standing are dazed, or screaming and searching the wreckage for friends or family. The carnival first aid staff are about in their white t-shirts, but they are utterly overwhelmed. A police cruiser passing nearby pulls up, and the officers radio for backup. Neither the first aid staff or the police are prepared for such a devastating act of apparent terrorism, and the several minutes before any emergency crews arrive will likely be the longest of their lives.


The Sin-Eater gathering tent was hit too, but you notice the casualties there are far fewer - you can almost smell the plasm in the air as the wounded expend their reserves to treat themselves. As if you needed a reminder that Sin-Eaters aren't immortal though, you notice one in particular who seems to have been decapitated by a large panel of the train. His cloaked, ragged Geist seems to consider the corpse for a moment, before vanishing from view. Some of them are out helping the wounded. Others are helping those beyond saving, giving them a quick death.


The mortals of course have it worse. A woman nearby is clutching a gaping wound in her stomach, already going pale from the blood loss. A child tugs at a pair of legs sticking out from under one of the crashed carriage bodies, as a pool of blood seeps out from underneath. A man staggers, delirious with shock, clutching what stump remains of his arm. Another lies propped against a hot dog cart, crying out as he tries to pull shrapnel from his legs. If there is anyone unscathed, it is the people now trapped on some of the nearby rides, as the power to them has gone out. People shout and point from the Ferris Wheel, or try to free themselves from the restraints of the dodgem cars.


Already, the first few ghosts of the deceased are blinking into existence. Some seem to be unaware anything has happened, and go about their business pointing at rides or interacting with stall vendors who are no longer there. Others try to respond to friends calling their names, in vain. You notice one in particular, near the bulk of the train wreckage, howling, his face burned and ravaged by the explosion.


The only car of the train still on the rails is the engine - the rest were all derailed. While Old Fork City trains bear their fair share of graffiti, you notice a particularly odd symbol sprayed on the side of the engine car.

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“Shut the fuck up, stupid hag. I’m trying to think.†Isaac stepped over a bit of debris as he approached to tracks the train used to be on. Most of the train had been destroyed, with only the engine room still on the tracks. “I’ll find whoever did this and I’ll fucking murder them.â€


The Burning Witch didn’t shut up for a single second, but Isaac decided he had something more important to do than shout expletives in his mind at her. Isaac spent the next thirty minutes examining whatever he could. Through examining the remaining bits and pieces of the train he discovered that the explosion originated from the second train car from the front. The marks within that car where the indicative of the point of origin, which revealed that the bomb was not tucked away. “Someone was carrying it?†Isaac pondered as the Witch continued to shout at him.


“Don’t make me say this again, stupid bitch. I’ll find them and make them pay for this.â€

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The Witch beat down Rose's idea of retreating immediately, with her wailing at Isaac about getting to the bottom of the matter. Choosing to tag along with him and his Geist instead, Rose tried to do some investigating on her own, picking through the twisted metal in hopes of finding a clue or two. Eventually she reached the engine car, and took in an odd symbol that's spray painted on it. Rose extensive research into the Occult definitely paid off in that moment. She recognized the symbol as a sigil of The Old Tongue in a heartbeat.


"Shattering?" She muttered, committing the clue to her memory. "And it's drawn upside down..."


Rose felt a familiar tug on her arm as she continued looking over the symbol. "What is it, Peridot?" That's when a particularly loud cry reached her ears. Apparently Peridot was also intent on guiding her to the newly born ghost too, as he nodded and jerked his head towards the howling ghost. Obliging, she walked over to him, noticing that he's actually standing near most of the damage.


As Rose approached the ghost, he looks at her wide-eyed, as if he recognizes something about the Sin-Eater. "I'm sorry! Sorry!" he says, falling to his knees, "I crossed through the Black Gate, but I wasn't worthy! I'm sorry..."


The confession hit Rose like a ton of bricks. The culprit!  She stood over the fallen ghost in stunned silence for a moment, her disheveled hair and ripped clothing adding an air of tension and threat to the situation. "...Who's leading you?"


The ghost narrows his eyes, "I... don't think I should tell you that. This was my mistake alone, nobody else should pay for this."


Sensing his unwillingness to cooperate, Rose looked around for her comrades helplessly before attempting to coax him on her own. All of them seemed to be preoccupied with their own investigation at that point of time. Taking a deep breath, she turned her full attention back to the man. "This disaster can be fixed; we just need more information." Rose pleaded, softening her tone slightly. "You can help with that."


"How can it be fixed? What do you want to know? I won't tell you about my friends, as I said."


"Okay, I get it. We won't ask about your friends. Just tell us why you're doing this, then?"


"I was trying to be like you! I wanted a spirit to unite with me and return me from the darkness, perfected."


"Well... You don't have to drag the rest of the passengers down with you, you know. Or were you... instructed to?" She probed tentatively, trying to slowly steer the topic back to the problem at hand. This conversation was heading nowhere, even she could tell.


"Nobody instructed me to do this, it was my own idea. I just wanted to help them cross through the Black Gate too, and return again perfected. But it didn't seem to work..." He sits down and holds his head in his hands.
"You think Sin-Eaters are perfect beings?" Rose cocked her head in slight amusement. "What have they been saying about us?"
"Sin-Eaters, is that what you call yourselves? Well, the Minister told us about you. He guides us from the other side, trying to help us become complete beings like you. He tells that humans are not complete until they have crossed the Black Gate and returned to life."
The man's explanation sounded like a load of hot air to her. Knowing she shouldn't dilly-dally any longer, lest someone finds her talking to thin air and starts making a fuss over it, Rose dropped down and placed both hands on the ghost's charred shoulders, peering into his face... or what's left of it, anyway.
"There's still time, Mister. We can fix this..."
"Ugh it is too late! It can't be fixed now, I've killed myself and everyone else on the train, and I failed!"

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"Well, maybe we should try to torture him!" Bianca exclaimed.
The four of them were huddled together a short distance away from the ex-suicide bomber, who was now staring desolately at his feet. They were having an argument over how to wrangle the information out from him. The ghost was fully sanguine, but was being stubbornly mute and time was running out; the paramedics and cops were starting to make inroads against the fires and were helping those who could still be saved, or salvaged. Yet here they were talking about beating up the poor man's battered soul.
It certainly didn't help that the Father was hammering his skull with exhortations to "help the needy". It wasn't that Mikaeus didn't want to help, but this ghost could be their only lead and they had to get the truth out of him before the cops seal off the area.
"Or how about we threaten to destroy him? Actually, let's just destroy him either way." Isaac shot the ghost a venomous look. His hatred was palpable. However, Mikaeus absolutely detested the idea, especially when the target was someone who clearly didn't know what he was doing. Furthermore, there's no telling what the Father would do to him if he stood idly by and watch the krewe exercise violence upon the spirit. No, something had to be done.
"Look, what about if I offered to help him Pass On? I know the ceremony." There was a pause as everyone considered the idea, during which all that could be heard were the sirens and the moaning of the dying and the newly dead. Even his mind was quiet, which Mikaeus took as a sign of approval.
He continued, "Give me some time with him. I'll persuade him to help." He looked at all three of them in turn as he spread his hands empathetically.
"Fine. But if you can't get him to spit out the truth, we'll do it like we originally intended to." Isaac's expression was grim.
Mikaeus approached the ghost and gingerly dipped his finger through his incorporeal body to attract his attention. The entity raised its head and looked at him mournfully.
"Hi, I'm Mikaeus and this is my Geist, the Father."
Right on cue, the Father revealed its brilliant presence. It did so only for a couple of seconds, but it was sufficient to leave the ghost dazed with wonder. 
"The Father and I, we want to -help- you. As it is, you are doomed to remain rooted to this very spot, facing the sight of your failure, your sin, for the rest of your existence."
He paused to leave the message sink in.
"We want to offer you an alternative. If you offer us some information, information that will help us save other souls likes yours, you may be able to redeem yourself and pass onto the Great Beyond. Do you understand me? Tell me your name."
"My name is Mateo. I... think I understand you. I'll try to help, so at least I can do something good in the face of this disaster."
Mikaeus refrained from breathing out a sigh of relief. Not yet.
"Mateo, that is very good. We're on to a good start here, don't you agree? Now, I want you to help me understand this: What were your instructions specifically? How were you supposed to cross the Black Gate?"
"We're taught that if we cross the Black Gate, we can be found by a Shining One, a spirit, and brought back. With two souls in one body, we are ascended. The Black Gate... well, I just tried to cross it then. The gateway to death."
"A Shining One? Who told you this? Was it the Minister?"
"We don't communicate with the Minister directly. He is the one who teaches us all, and his message is passed down to those of us like me who are pretty low in the chain."
Mikaeus nodded. He hadn't expected differently.
"I see. Could you tell me who you were communicating with? It might be a good thing for us to meet."
Mateo lowered his head apologetically and replied, "I'm sorry, but I won't lead you back to the others. I made this choice today on my own, I won't get them involved."
Not surprising.
"Alright. I won't ask about the Minister for now. What about the others? Do you know anyone else that's like you? They may need our help."
"Well..." he seemed to think for a moment, but decided to go on, "There's this friend of mine. Er, a girl. Her name is Marci. She may be in danger, she knows what I was trying to do, and she may try to follow me. I don't want her to try now... it doesn't seem likely she will succeed either."
Mikaeus did his best not to let his eagerness show.
"A girl? This seems like a dangerous thing for a girl to do alone. Do you want us to help her? She might fail otherwise, as you fear.â€
Mateo was a lot more animated now as he responded, "Yes, you must stop her. She has an office at the local college. Well, it was her father's office, but it's hers now. She goes there often, when she's depressed. She's probably going to try to follow me. Even if she knows I failed, she may try to join me anyway. Marci Palmer, that is her full name."
"Yes, we will do just that. Do you… do you want to leave a message to her? She might not trust our words, but I'm sure she'll trust you. You two were close?"
"Yes." he said, looking down. "But she must forget about me and move on. If you want her to believe you, you can mention something I've told her about in past. The hag that used to haunt my apartment, for months until I moved out. About the way her lips dripped with black, cancerous discharge. She believed me, she was the first to do so."
Mikaeus nodded empathetically.
"Thank you, Mateo. You've been a big help. We'll save Marci and get to the bottom of this, alright? We'll find out why this happened and then… I'll be back to help you Pass On, alright? I swear by the name of God that I will. Can you trust me, Mateo?â€
"I don't have any choice, and I don't expect anything of anyone. As far as I'm concerned, I deserve to rot here for eternity. But Marci doesn't deserve such."
Mateo sat down and stared at the ground intently. Mikaeus lingered for a moment, wondering if he should say more. However, he finally decided against that and left the man to his thoughts.

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"Hey, what're you doing here?" a grim-faced policeman walked up to the gang. "You look a dishevelled bunch, you probably should go back and bathe. This is no place for civilians at this point, the police can take care of everything." He rested his hands on his hips and looked each individual up and down. They looked like a ragged crew, looking balefully at him as if he had just disturbed something they were doing. "If you're hurt, the paramedics are over that way. They seem really shorthanded at this point, though. We could do with more people with Medicine skills."


"Mummy! Mummy!" a boy cried out from the paramedics' tent. He was only about eight years old, but astoundingly strong -- it took the strength of two full-grown women paramedics to pull him back. "Mummy's in there! You said you'd rescue her! Go rescue her!"


"Oh, do stop him!" a woman's voice came from somewhere beside you. The ghost of a woman was floating up from a pile of rubble. She was looking miserably over at the boy. "Oh, what're we to do now? My poor Benjamin! Can someone... someone out there... tell him that I'll always be by his side, and not to be afraid? He's always so easily scared. And whenever he has nightmares, he needs his plushie to hug... but I can't give it to him now... oh if only I could pass my message to somebody about this! This was all too sudden!"


She started twisting her fingers around each other, in a state of grave distress.


In the meantime, it looked like a reversal of circumstances had occurred on another side. A woman was crying as she knelt by a fallen carousel, a bloody stump crushed underneath as the markings of the remains of a girl -- probably her daughter Amy, as she was muttering over and over. Beside her, the ghost of a girl was pushing against the woman's knee.


"Mama, Mama, I'm here! Mama, stop crying! Look, I'm okay!" She danced around her mother, but noticed that she was still not getting any attention. "Mama! Why aren't you looking at me? I want to go home... Pokémon will be airing on TV in a few minutes! I want to see Ash Ketchum beat the gym!"


"Well, if there's nothing," the policeman continued barking, "please go home and don't cause us more inconvenience."

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Rose looked at the grievers, both dead and alive. With the policeman breathing down their necks, and her knowing about her inability to do well with social contact, she decided to heed his words and leave the scene. Messing up the conversation with the bomber was bad enough. The people would probably be relatively better off without her meddling. Picking up her pace, Rose tottered after Isaac, who has already lost interest and was moving towards his black sedan.


"Wait up!" She called, huffing a little from the exertion. "Can I hitch a ride?"


A huge rumble cut them off for a moment. Turns out Bianca has also climbed into her humongous, black Volvo truck, and is currently pulling out of the parking lot. Rose could have sworn some country music was blasting out of her truck windows as she sped down the road, but she's too far away to tell.






After brewing a cup of coffee and tying her hair up into a messy ponytail, Rose sat cross legged in her armchair and turned on her laptop, then proceeded to log into Skype. It was time for the team do a little pow-wow and decide what to do next. She pulled a thick book out of her drawer, flipping through it.



[10:09:59 PM] RoRo: Hey, guys. Long day, huh.

[10:09:59 PM] RoRo: Did you notice the symbol spray painted on the engine compartment? It's upside down, but if we flipped it back up it'd have stood for 'Shattering'.


[10:09:59 PM] Paperflat: Well duh, he pretty much shattered the whole train back there
[10:10:02 PM] Paperflat: What an idiot

[10:10:27 PM] Paperflat: If Mikey hadn't been around I'd have beaten the answers out of him


[10:10:48 PM] Isaac D: Who are you guys talking about?


[10:11:45 PM] Paperflat: Mateo duh |-(


[10:11:55 PM] Isaac D: ...Who is Mateo?


[10:12:19 PM] Paperflat: Oh right, you were going around picking up chicks or something
[10:12:24 PM] Paperflat: How'd that go?
[10:12:55 PM] Paperflat: Did you tell them you got that scar from saving someone's life? Cuz that line totally works on the ladies.
[10:13:18 PM] Isaac D: Shut the fuck up, bitch, and just tell me who Mateo is
[10:14:47 PM] Paperflat: He's explosion dude


[10:12:16 PM] RoRo: Ummm guys, back to the question at hand...


[10:18:23 PM] Isaac D: ...Wait. You guys spoke to his ghost?


[10:18:49 PM] RoRo: Ummmmm
[10:18:51 PM] RoRo: ANYWAYYYY
[10:19:49 PM] Paperflat: Well actually Mikey did all the talking
[10:20:03 PM] Paperflat: I just made sure he got all the info out properly
[10:21:13 PM] RoRo: I don't think we should be telling him that, Biancaaa
[10:21:43 PM] Paperflat: Why not?

[10:21:26 PM] Isaac D: Did you destroy him?


[10:21:43 PM] Paperflat: Why not?
[10:22:08 PM] Paperflat: And I wanted to, but you know
[10:22:11 PM] Paperflat: Holy man in the way
[10:22:20 PM] Paperflat: Team relations and all that
[10:22:25 PM] Issac D: k.
[10:22:38 PM] Issac D: I'll take care of it.


[10:23:32 PM] Paperflat: What did you find out during that 30 mins?


[10:24:35 PM] Isaac D: Explosions point of origin was the second cart. The bomb was carried, not planted, but you already knew that. Nothing else of importance. I'm guessing that it was a coincidence that the bomb exploded near a Carnival.


[10:24:48 PM] Isaac D: Either way, I'm going to bed, I'll talk to you guys tomorrow.
[10:25:21 PM] Paperflat: Goodnight prettyface
[10:25:53 PM] Paperflat: Yo so what do you think of the symbol Ro?
[10:27:02 PM] RoRo: yea...  ( ´_ã‚`)
as i was saying...
[10:27:11 PM] RoRo: it meant shattered, but it's drawn upside down
[10:27:46 PM] RoRo: so it may stand for a reversal of the symbol's meanings
[10:28:37 PM] Paperflat: So like, repair?
[10:28:51 PM] RoRo: Exactly.
[10:30:33 PM] Paperflat: Mayyyybe.
[10:30:49 PM] Paperflat: Oh wait
[10:31:08 PM] Paperflat: Frankenstein's telling me there's a word for unification in the Old Tongue
[10:31:19 PM] Paperflat: Apparently it's written like "åˆ"
[10:31:35 PM] Paperflat: So I don't know why Mateo didn't use that word instead
[10:32:48 PM] Paperflat: ANYWAY I guess we'll just meet his little girlfriend tomorrow and see what she has to say
[10:34:07 PM] RoRo: Yea, might come in handy when we're trying to get her to talk...
You're right though. We should recharge for tomorrow.
Fill in Mike tomorrow, yea? I'll contact you guys tomorrow in the morning!
[10:35:48 PM] Paperflat: Night rose <3
With a light stretch, Rose gently closed her laptop screen and finished off the rest of the coffee. Nothing left to do but sleep, now.

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The scene was a mess. There was the dying and the newly dead everywhere. The paramedics were busy enough trying to attend to all the wounded, so Mikaeus didn't particularly feel like bothering them. No, he was on his own.




Mikaeus winced, but sensed that the Father was voicing his approval. Well, that was one ally he could count on. First off, he must tend to the wounded and, to do that, he needed the Father's powers. Mikaeus stood completely still for a moment, and then his eyes began to glow a faint purple as he assessed the condition of those who were around him. Seeing through these eyes, Mikaeus saw that all of them bore the mark of impending death, but the crown of death flared more darkly and solidly for some. Those were the ones in greatest peril.


Hurrying on to the nearest, Mikaeus paled when he saw the gaping wound on the man's stomach. Gathering every ounce of his willpower, he tore a strip of rag from a discarded fabric nearby and pressed it firmly against the wound. It was to no avail, however. The man's life drained from his body while Mikaeus watched helplessly. Mikaeus' eyes moistened, but he moved on to the next.


The second man was missing his leg below the knee and was bleeding profusely. He was also delirious from the pain. Praying for better success this time, Mikaeus got around to stanching his amputated limb. After struggling with Death for what felt like an age, Mikaeus finally stopped the bleeding. He heaved a quick sigh of relief as he motioned to some men to carry him off to the medical tent.


The next casualty was male as well. He was sporting severe burns on his skin and blistered all over his body. The smell of burnt flesh was overpowering, but Mikaeus reached deep into his reserve and managed to patch up his burns.


The next two hours passed as a seemingly endless blur of time as Mikaeus treated shrapnel wounds, head wounds, fixed up broken limbs and an assortment of non-lethal injuries. All were met with success, with only a heart-stopping moment when Mikaeus botched what should have been a routine bandaging task. But he succeeded impeccably on his next try, so there was no issue in the end.


Finally, Mikaeus rubbed his eyes exhaustedly. All the injured had been tended to and save for that first man, all of them had stabilized now. Mikaeus knew better than to dwell too long on the single failure; people die all the time. Some just do so earlier than expected. That was when he remembered the ghost and her son.


He eventually found them in a corner of the medical tent. As he neared them, the spirit noticed him and came over. At an unspoken signal, they moved a distance away from the boy to converse.


"I'm sorry for what happened to you. I'm here to help if I can."


"You seem to be the only one who can see me, are you a ghost too? There's a strange feeling about you."


The spirit was very much human still, which made this all the more painful for Mikaeus.


"I'm a… I have a gift."


"Then, I am really dead, aren't I? A... ghost?"

Mikaeus nodded.

"Is it like on those TV shows? I'm a ghost because I have unfinished business? All I can think of is my son, Benjamin. I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye, this was so sudden. I just want him to know it will be alright, and I'll watch over him still."


It was a very earnest desire.


"That's the essence of it. I can pass on your message. I'll tell him that his mother has gone on to Heaven, that she'll be watching over him from there and that everything's going to be alright. Is that okay?"


"That would be helpful, thank you so much."


When they returned to Benjamin, she knelt down next to her son as Mikaeus spoke.



"Hello, Benjamin. I'm Mikaeus. How are you feeling?"


"I want my mummy."


Mikaeus knelt down as well so he could look at Benjamin in the eye.


"Benjamin, your mother is here with you now. But she will have to leave soon; she's going to heaven to be with the angels. But before she does, she has a message for you."


"She's going where Grandma went?"


"I think so, yes. Do you want to hear your mother's goodbye message to you?"


Benjamin nodded, sniffing.


"Okay, here it is. 'Benjamin, mummy going on to Heaven now. But you're going to be okay, because I'll always be watching over you from above with grandma. So you make sure to be happy and live life to the fullest. Okay?'"


Mikaeus looked askance at the spirit. She had ghostly tears welling up in her eyes and nodded. Benjamin nodded too.




"That's a good boy, Benjamin. Now, let's take you to someone who can take care of you. Do you know anyone like that?"


Benjamin got up and pointed - into the tent came a woman who seemed to resemble the ghost. "Aunty!" Benjamin said, going to hug her.


"Thank you so much, he should be okay now. He has faith."


He turned to regard her, but she was already glowing brightly. She faded away, seemingly happy.


Mikaeus left the tent, but found himself suddenly besieged by a crowd of eager faces and microphones.


"Mr Mikaeus, why don't you start by telling us how you feel about this matter? What PROPELLED your HEROIC INSTINCTS?"

"Mr Mikaeus, why were you helping that boy? Do you desire to have your son someday?"

"Mr Mikaeus, "How can we motivate more Old Fork youngsters to be more like you?"


Mikaeus blinked, bewildered. The faces were obscured, but there were several microphones being stuck out at him. The words came easily enough.


"Tonight, I witnessed much carnage, destruction and pain. Many of ours died. But in this Black hour of need… I also saw fortitude, faith and hope. In the way the dying clung on to life, in the way the bereaved took faith and… I trust that in time, they will make their own peace with the dead. To those of you who are watching this, whether you be an old one or not, I beseech you to lend the authorities your, uh, powers so that we may... resolve this tragedy. God bless Old Fork City. God bless us all."

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