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6 yrs ago
"Mecha Cowboys" has less than a thousand hits on Google. I've never been more upset.
6 yrs ago
RP Concept: "Screw just the plans, we're stealing the Death Star and taking that baby for a joyride!"
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7 yrs ago
The VeggieTales theme song has been stuck in my head for at least three days now. Can't decide if it a good or bad thing yet.
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Writer of schlock dressed up in some decent clothes.

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The Vanburen Estate



Terror should’ve taken Tansy as the Triple Goddess took a step towards her with a hand outstretched, yet the sensation that shot through Tansy filled her with power and warmth. It was not unlike the moment at a fundraiser where she had to deliver a speech in front of a crowd of powerful business tycoons, who had to pretend for one evening that they were charitable souls instead of robber barons, and the room fell silent as all eyes turned on her. She, for that brief moment, was the most important person in the room—not the billionaires, not her father, and definitely not whatever group of sad sacks she pretended to have a bleeding heart for this time. Everyone had to listen to what she had to say and, if they were smart, they’d do what she said. It felt fucking fantastic.

Tansy did not hesitate. She reached for the Triple Goddess’s hand as if they were equals and felt the raw powerful essence radiating from her aura. Briefly, Tansy latched onto the feeling like a leech and drained it as she grabbed the seemingly alien creature’s hand, certain that the Goddess had just played into her own. Tansy had tricked a god. And she had also been mistaken. Tansy was not the Triple Goddess’s equal. She was the pathetic creature’s better, who was really no more than a sad shell of an icon whose influence spread no further than a few rejects who sacrificed goats and huffed glue in the woods. Tansy felt radiant.

Then, as she took one step back into the entrance of the manor, reality hit her as it always did—just a little too late. Just like the corporate execs midnight promises to leave their families and abscond with her to Tuscany would disapparate alongside the morning mist, so too did Tansy’s confidence vanish as she realized what she’d just done. She had succeeded in luring the Triple Goddess, but she’d fucked up and used herself as the bait. Not only had she drawn the attention of a dangerous monster and placed herself right beside it, she’d put those who might’ve been able to protect her on the other side of said monster.

“As you wish, my Goddess,” said Tansy as Dominion’s light waned as she drew further from Blu’s melody. The chorus of her voice stayed steady as she took a step back, her foot threatening to drift through Dominions halo but never quite reaching it as the light shifted back with her. Slightly louder, so those outside might hear, she added, “It is so refreshing to see one willing to do whatever it takes for their sibling. You set an example that others really must follow.”

Tansy planned to lead the Triple Goddess to the largest, most central room of the house, and hopefully the others would follow. According to their mysterious benefactor, the Goddess wouldn’t be as attune to her magic indoors. She didn’t know what was the more stupid thing about this plan: putting her faith in a skeleton in a cheap suit or putting it in her family. Step by step she would retreat with the Goddess until she had led her to the game room where one Christmas Tansy had cried in joy as James unveiled a ping pong table and, years later, would cry in private when none of the actual Vanburens would play it with her. It would be nice to see it one more time before the Triple Goddess wised up and crushed her skull.


The Vanburen Estate



Ezra gave Thea a somber nod and his stomach tightened as she hinted at how they’d have to handle Morgana and Tegan. He’d offer them the same second chance he was willing to give to the other Wiccans; it would be on their conscience then when they picked to go with the rope instead. Loyalty and dedication were only impressive qualities when they weren’t tainted with fanatical stupidity.

"If you want my advice: either lure her into the manor or deeper into Araminta. Otherwise; you're all fighting an uphill battle," said a skeleton that casually sipped on a glass of tea. Ezra jumped as Justin asked the important question of who the fuck was that thing. The skeleton didn’t oblige an answer, instead informing them that the only true way to defeat the Triple Goddess would be to seal her inside of something. Excellent. Now how were they able to do that? Before Ezra could even ask the question the skeleton had vanished.

He followed the others through the mirror, but he did not join them outside. His spells were more useful when there was time for preparation and planning; jumping into the fray would just create one more obstacle his siblings would have to work around. Instead, he would be useful doing what Oscar said and finding something they could use to seal in the Goddess—and, hopefully, find an actual method on how to do it.

“Wait, Arabelle, it’d be best if you stay somewhere safe where you can keep an eye on the others if we need to fallback to the construction site. I’ll go,” said Ezra.

He didn’t wait for any affirmation as he began sprinting off through the labyrinthian halls of his home. If Arabelle wanted to it was likely she would be able to beat him to any room and back, but in the time of her absence the tide of the battle outside could’ve shifted dramatically against the Vanburens. The house shook violently as the Triple Goddess voice echoed throughout the halls and large objects shattered against the garage. His breath grew heavy as he ran down the hall towards the library, his feet pounding through the pool of dried blood from their confrontation with the Wiccans earlier that day. Hopefully the healer would use her talents to keep his siblings still standing while he searched. Nevertheless, he had to be lightning fast.

Ezra slammed through the door of the library and began his search.

Meanwhile, Tansy had hesitated with her hand on the edge of the portal as Trisha offered to stay behind at Shane’s suggestion and watch the decaying statue on the ground. Tansy turned back as if she had something to say before lowering her head and frowning at the dirited footprints on the ground. She swallowed hard and choked out, “Trisha, I…”

“Nevermind,”
she sighed, shook her head, and stepped through the portal. What she stepped out into was immediate pandemonium: shouts of her siblings calling out to one another, the sound of gunshots ringing throughout the air, the crashing of ice like heavy hail upon the roof of the nearby garage. Tansy pressed forward through the foyer towards the front yard, her chest pounding as she crossed the threshold and beheld the Triple Goddess for the first time. Horrific and heavenly as it controlled the elements around them to form a kind of barrier, Tansy felt a swirl of jealousy stir from somewhere beyond her.

The feeling was immediately squashed as a car that had been flung through the air crashed to the ground with a sickeningly familiar sound of metal crunching against metal. Tansy froze as she looked at the wreckage and felt herself transported back. A dark silhouette turned to talk to the other, its voice drowned out by a harmony of singers chanting in an unknown language and the swishing sound of wiper blades. Beyond the window there was nothing but darkness beyond the flurries of snow. Then there was a light so bright that it blinded. The sound of screeching brakes hit too late. A chorus of screams. A crash. Cold air and warm blood. Two dark silhouettes unmoving. Another, just beyond the windshield, moving towards her, light radiating behind it.

Do not be afraid.

Tansy snapped out of the nightmare and back to her nightmarish reality. She wiped the cold tears from her cheeks and stumbled up to her feet. A ragged breath of anger and relief escaped her lips as she saw an injured Sabrina being protected by Oscar while Georgie, the source of this insanity, slipped away into her Garden. She saw Justin and Tuyen living up to their expertise as they continued to onslaught the Triple Goddess. She heard Shane screaming like an animal, a blue aura wrapping around him, as he shouted and fired at the Goddess to come at him.

Beyond Shane’s bellows, she heard the melody of Blu’s ocarina and felt something powerful stir inside of her. The others had seemingly ignored what the skeleton had said, but even with it screwing with them that creature knew more than any of them about the supernatural. They needed to draw the Triple Goddess inside to limit her access to her powers. Yet Tansy could hardly get Dominion to control an impudent child, so she doubted her Abstraction could manage to get a Goddess to follow her orders. Thankfully, she’d known how to manipulate others well before she came in contact with Dominion. She cast a glance towards Shane, doubtful he could even hear her.

“Please, trust me.”

The full effect and then some of Dominion’s Majesty erupted from beyond Tansy in an instant thanks to Blu’s boost. The entire yard burst with so much light that it felt like the night had suddenly given way to day as the snow around Tansy was scattered to the corners of the yard. Her entire body appeared to have melted away, replaced by an angelic figure of pure light. Hundreds of voices boomed together like horns, rivaling the shouts of the Triple Goddess.

“Spare these pathetic worms, Goddess! You know they are of no real threat. They are only trying to protect their foolish sister who has abandoned them yet again. I can lead you to her,” preached Tansy, hopeful that the Goddess wouldn't call her bluff. She lifted a hand towards the Triple Goddess and beckoned as Dominion attempted to push into its mind, the light of its Majesty potentially blinding the Goddess. As she spoke Tansy began to back away into the house, hoping to lure the Goddess with her. She commanded:
"Follow me and you shall have your brother!"



Outside the Sunrise Resort



Ezra’s eyebrows lifted in concern as Oscar said he got a call from Trisha. Trisha never called family, hell, Trisha had probably never used her cell to make an actual phone call before in her life. Ezra kept one eye on Oscar and another on Thea, watching her to make sure she didn’t try to run or scream. He noted how when Arabelle appeared the concern seemed to drain from the Wiccan’s face and spill onto Oscar’s instead. By the time Oscar filled them in on the phone call Ezra was already anticipating the worst and what he heard wasn’t far from it.

“Okay. We’ll gather the others and head home. I have to head through last. The mirror will shrink otherwise, ” said Ezra to the others while Arabelle was convincing the healer. His voice betrayed no emotion as he steadied the oversized hand mirror so the others could crouch through.

However, his mind raced. Should they just snatch Georgie and Sabrina through a mirror? Could they fight the Triple Goddess if Thea backed them up? If he’d taken Autumn’s surname could he have avoided all of this insanity? As the last of their group stepped through the mirror Ezra paused, shook his head, and went through. The mirror shrunk in size and fell flat in the snow, surrounded by half a dozen footprints, a discarded camo jacket, and nothing else.


East Aaraminta - Construction Site



The sound of Shane shouting at her to stop pierced through the choir of voices and hit Tansy like a bullet. She turned as Trisha began to, for once, do as she was told and dial up Oscar, the blinding spotlight of Tansy’s hypnotic gaze fading away as she saw Shane grab her arm. With the light from Dominion’s Majesty sealed away Shane would see the look of resolve drop from Tansy’s face as Trisha broke free of her stupor and began hurling accusations at her. Tansy’s guilt of manipulating her sister was only fleeting. She wrenched her hand free of Shane. Tansy was ready to chastise Trisha for being such an ungrateful brat that she wouldn’t even attempt to rescue her family out of pure pettiness.

Tansy spun on her heel, gasped as Trisha lunged at her, and tripped over the statue as Tuyen intercepted the assault. Summoning Dominion had caused the snow to blow away, leaving nothing but frozen earth to cushion the blow as Tansy fell. She felt a sharp pain in her wrist as she tried and failed to catch herself, her hip smacking hard against the ground. A sharp intake of air was the only sound of pain as Tansy swallowed tears. She could already feel a bruise begin to form as she slowly pulled herself up and cradled her wrist.

Tansy glared pure ice at Trisha, who had turned her rage towards Tuyen for stealing her phone and was now trying to grab around Shane to assault their poor expert. She fought back the urge to snatch at Trisha by her hair. They didn’t have time to fight and even if they did Tansy didn’t want to, worried that she would easily break her favorite toy. Really, Trisha’s violent reaction was to be expected. If anything she was more upset at Shane for intervening. In her mind she hadn’t done anything wrong: Tansy only used Dominion because he had run off again. If he had been there it wouldn’t have been necessary. Arabelle arriving through the mirror was all the vindication Tansy needed to justify her actions.

“Is she… dead?” said Arabelle, referring to the humanesque statue. “What happened here?”

“We don’t have time for that! Sabrina and Georgie are in danger,” snapped Tansy as she pointed in the direction of the manor. “They never left the house and the Triple Goddess is there now!”

“We know. Morgana’s also on the way,” said Ezra as he came out of the mirror. The mirror falling in the woods had shifted the bearing of the dimensional portal, making the exit seem as if he were climbing towards it. He winced as a momentary wave of nausea hit him as the horizon corrected itself and then stood up to his full height, brushing the snow off of his knees. He nodded in approval as Justin ordered Arabelle to reroute the mirror, his eyes momentarily lingering on the fallen statue. He figured Tansy would wait for the construction to be done before ordering art pieces.

Wait, the statue was shedding flecks of stone. Was that skin?

"Morgana's sister, Tegan, can open portals to anyone she legitimately cares about. Which can be me, Morgana... the Triple Goddess..." said Thea.

Ezra looked away from the thing on the ground. Rescuing his family was a more important issue. “All the more reason we need you to help us. We’re willing to forgive your friends in full as long as they stop supporting this Goddess. No retaliations, no charges, water under the bridge. You just need to convince them to not do anything stupid if they butt in. They don’t need to help us, they just need to stay out of our way.”

Ezra turned towards the others and said, “I’ll admit I was wrong. Trying to do things in a logical, reasonable way just doesn't make sense when we're facing off against the absurd. We should’ve listened to the experts in the first place. It’s clear now that the Triple Goddess isn’t going to give us any breathing room until she gets that skull. There’s no point in hiding it, and if she can just appear anywhere then it’s useless trying to run. Fighting seems to be our only real option now. Fortunately, the Triple Goddess just gave us a prime opportunity. She overextended herself—some of the Wiccans were still at the resort. We protect Georgie and Sabrina and hit the Goddess and Morgana,” he glanced at Thea for any protests, ”hard before the Wiccans even have a chance to intervene.”

"Every second counts. Arabelle, open the way."

Outside the Sunrise Resort



Crouching out in the brush and waiting for Justin and Oscar to start the show, Ezra couldn’t help but feel like a jerkass teenager playing ding dong ditch again. Would the “witches” melt when the water hit them? The soft sound of sprinklers snapping to life immediately stifled by the shrieks of the Wiccans getting drenched made Ezra pretend a mean-spirited chuckle was a quiet cough into his fist. For a moment he almost forgot that earlier that day these people had destroyed his property and, perhaps more importantly, endangered the life of his family. The juvenile thoughts faded from Ezra’s head as he sternly fixed his gaze on the door and waited for Blu to do his thing.

Blu’s melody drew Ezra’s attention away. The song was unnatural but not unpleasant and for a moment Ezra was so enraptured by it he almost forgot to panic about how the Wiccans might hear before remembering what Blu had said, although quickly that thought was snuffed by another worrying about how Blu knew that some people were the “resistive type”. The young man seemed harmless enough. Surely it was all on the up-and-up? Ezra squinted as he saw the song take form in a mystical light as if he was experiencing synesthesia. It was beautiful. Yes, surely Blu was to be trusted.

Unless the song is just making me think that, worried Ezra, who reasoned that if he thought that it meant he wasn’t being controlled by the music before immediately realizing that magic broke logic and as far as he knew Blu’s power was making him come up with arguments to convince himself that he wasn’t currently being enchanted.

The healer emerging from the building pulled Ezra’s attention away from his own spiraling. Even when disheveled by the impromptu shower she was prettier than he’d imagined a cultist to be and the light of Blu’s music swirling around her chest gave the healer a kind of etherealness. Ezra nodded at Arabelle to follow and quietly walked through the woods to join Blu in the brush. He held his hands up as the healer was pulled into the woods by Blu’s song to show that he meant no harm, hoping that the presence of Arabelle would stop the healer from bolting once Blu’s Abstraction wore off.

“Your friends really should’ve picked a better place to squat. There’s a reason this resort is abandoned. One moment it’s the sprinklers going off, next thing you know the roof collapses. Here. You’ll catch a cold,” Ezra shrugged off the camo jacket, happy to be rid of the ridiculous thing, and extended it out towards Thea as a peace offering. In his other hand was a handheld mirror he’d removed from the coat moments prior. “I’m Ezra Vanburen. I’ve been told by a mutual friend of ours that we both might have the same opinion when it comes to your group’s current leadership. If you would come with us I am sure we could manage to come to some sort of agreement that would leave us all quite happy—at least those of us who still have some sense.”

“Arabelle, if you would,”
said Ezra as he inverted his grip on the handheld mirror. The bracelet on his wrist glowed a faint orange as the broken wire puzzle twisted and condensed, pressing the leather strap into his wrist. Meanwhile, the mirror grew from several inches across to nearly a few feet—large enough for an adult to crawl through once Arabelle turned it into a portal to link them to the group at Tansy’s construction site.

East Aaraminta - Construction Site



Tansy bit her inner cheek to keep herself from tossing a verbal blow back at Trisha as she echoed the skeleton’s sentiments regarding their father. She gave Shane little more than a side-eye as he suggested that some of them proceed with the plan that fell apart the moment their family had left the manor thinking that Georgie would cooperate without some kind of coercion. Only Tuyen picked up for her sibling’s slack. Tansy is right. Tansy already found herself growing fond of their supernatural expert. The other probing questions helped cement in Tansy’s mind that Tuyen was at least serious.

“Ah, yes,” started the skeleton as he apparated a cloud of darkness in his hand. Tansy’s eyes widened as she took another step forward. She didn’t truly understand how her Abstraction worked, as it almost functioned instinctively like breathing or blinking her eyes. Basically she could make people do what she said and take control over them—but basically people, excluding her family, already did what she said and were controlled by her. They just did things more efficiently now. If the skeleton could act as a sort of mentor and help unlock a bit more of her potential then she would gladly accept, even if it came with listening to him casually hurl insults about her dead father.

“Tada.”

The light faded from Tansy’s eyes faster than if she’d opened a present Christmas morning to find a hideous outfit awaiting for her underneath the wrapping paper. She frowned at the skeleton as it began its lecture and fixed him an annoyed stare, only proving that she had paid any attention when she jumped at the flash of lightning appearing in the direction of their manor. Her face contorted into a look of confusion and disgust as the skeleton popped a statue out of a portal that began to shed its stone to reveal skin before both the skeleton disappeared.

Whatthefuck!? shrieked Tansy, more upset by the whole vaguity of the situation than the weirdness of it all—artists posing as living statues at exhibits had been so commonplace a few years ago that it had been the most normal part of the whole experience. She threw her head back and groaned, her head rolling towards Tuyen as the girl took charge. Tansy immediately lit up as the severity of the situation hit her. She almost reached for her phone before remembering that in her own stupidity she’d broken it. Cursing silently, she looked for her siblings. “Shane! Shane?” Naturally, he was gone exactly when Tansy and the others needed him.

She turned to Trisha, expecting her sister to already have her phone in hand. Instead the young lady was kicking at the statue and muttering about how the life of her own two sisters wasn’t her problem. Tansy’s face flushed with so much anger it was almost purple. She stomped up to Trisha, clamped her hands down on her favorite sister’s shoulders, and squeezed as she guided her away from the statue that potentially was a long lost sibling. One thing at a time! thought Tansy. She hated having so many spinning plates.

Tansy had a few inches on Trisha but she wasn’t some powerhouse. The girl probably could wiggle away, but that would actually require her to do anything which was apparently impossible. Tansy glared down at Trisha, so close to her sister that she would be able to feel the anger in her breath.

“Trisha—!” The rage burning inside of Tansy caused by her callous family member vaporized so quickly that it was scary, replaced by her typical singsong fakeness as Tansy’s death grip turned into a gentle rub on the shoulder that was anything but reassuring. “Don’t worry, I’m here. I want you to know that I understand what you’re going through. It’s okay to feel like you’re powerless and that you can’t do anything. Fortunately—” a dangerous smile flashed across Tansy’s face—“that’s exactly what you need to keep doing.”

Tansy had already decided it was pointless trying to argue with Trisha, and Sabrina (and, yes, even Georgie) were in danger. She disappeared from Trisha’s view, replaced by a light so blinding it was as if the girl was being swallowed by the sun. The others would see Tansy’s eyes turn into burning orbs of gold as a glowing “halo”, not too dissimilar from the skeleton’s dark portal, hovered behind Tansy and grew. The snow on the ground began to blow away from the two in short pulses lined up with the heavy flapping of wings. A warmth cut through the cold air and swept across Trisha who still had a chance to look away, although Tansy would try to stop her. Trisha would begin to feel something try to lull her to sleep, only instead of it being like she was gently getting rocked in her mother’s arms it was as if she was being smothered by a pillow.

"You will call Oscar and ask Arabelle to mirror us home," commanded Tansy accompanied by a thousand other disappointed voices as she attempted to command her own sister with her Abstraction, the halo burning brightly beyond her.

East Aaraminta - Construction Site



“I don’t know.”

Tansy scoffed, amplified by a few dozen other sounds of derision. The ring of light behind her brightened ever so slightly as the bony wine connoisseur immediately proceeded to insult her father after, she supposed tongue-in-cheekily (although could that phrase bet used for a skeleton?), insisted that he would never insult James. Yet with each “bastard” that came out of the skeleton, Tansy felt the light behind her increase like a bulb being hit with a power surge. She heard the distant beating of wings that heralded a desire within her, urging her to subjugate the skeleton here and now to serve as an example for all of those who go against her wishes.

Except the skeleton was right. She hadn’t the foggiest idea how any of this worked, why she could call upon it, or what she was actually even calling upon. Her siblings had spotted off some mumbo jumbo before that didn’t quite go over her head so much as it dented against her skull and fell down at her feet so she could kick it under a table where it would easily be forgotten about and never acknowledged. The spotlight on Tansy snapped off as she closed herself off from Dominion and pulled her hands to her heart. She bit her lip and swallowed her pride, choking on it briefly as she turned her head and gave the snow a look so hateful it could’ve melted. She had dealt with men who’d hated her father before. This would be no different except for how she could confirm that this stranger, unlike those rich banquet backbiters, actually had a spine.

“You’re right. We are inexperienced with magic. I will admit that we might even look like a bunch of sheep who have lost their shepherd,” said Tansy, thinking about how they’d all been incapable of getting a young woman out of a house. The shake in her voice firmed up as she continued, glancing back at Tuyen. “However, I’m used to dealing with charlatans. It's quite easy to claim expertise over a subject when those you are speaking with know so little about it. And didn’t you mention that your memories might not even be your own? I suppose what I’m trying to say is that if you’re really a master…”

She put her finger up to her lips and waited in a mockery of his own dramatic pause, flourishing her arms in a similar welcoming display as punctuation.

“...then prove it.”


Outside the Sunrise Resort



“Is that, uh, enough?”

“Should be, right Blu?” said Ezra, hiding the mild tinge of guilt he felt after Arabelle described an almost total stranger better than he could’ve described his ex-wife.

When Justin confirmed that he saw the healer Ezra felt a wave of relief, happy to know that this little hike hadn’t been a wasted excursion. The faster they were done with this the faster they could reconvene with the others, get out of the woods, get out of the cold, and, most importantly, get out of his father’s ridiculous hunting coat that smelled like a mix of deer musk and stagnant cologne. Ezra huffed quietly to himself as Justin pointed out that the Wiccans were all under a sprinkler. He’d hoped for something a little grander, but the kid apparently still had to itch his urge for school boy pranks. Maybe after they pulled the fire alarm they’d try and recruit some of the Wiccans to join their pen fifteen club.

“Fixated on that idea, are we? Well considering the water damage they did to our dining room, I do feel like it’s deserved,” said Ezra. He could hear in his own voice that he sounded a bit tired, perhaps even annoyed. He blamed it on having channeled his Abstraction for so long, but didn’t bother to justify it to the others. “So, trigger the sprinkler, let ‘em scamper, and Blu draws out the healer? It’s not a perfect shot but it is a shot. It’s better to take it now than wait for one that never comes.”

Outside the Sunrise Resort



Ezra rubbed his chin at Oscar’s suggestion. Forcing them out would offer them an easier chance to get an eye on the healer, but then it would alert the others that something was going on. It would put them on edge, heightening their senses like a rabbit when it sees a fox. Blu shifted over to him and began to explain to Ezra how his abstraction worked. Ezra eyed the ocarina held up by James’s ward, gaining a bit of understanding as to a potential ulterior motive for James wanting Blu around besides sheer “magnanimity”. How much sway could the musician hold over other people? Ezra filed the thought away for now, knowing that the woods was no place to interrogate someone willing to help them.

Blu’s idea was a strong contender. The only problem Ezra saw with it was that if the healer just suddenly stopped whatever she was doing and walked outside in a daze it might provoke some of the other Wiccans to follow. However, if they were distracted to go somewhere, like how Oscar suggested, at the exact same time Blu charmed the healer, then perhaps…a plan began to formulate in Ezra’s mind.

“Good idea, Blu,” he said, patting the man on the shoulder. I’m just worried if you lure her away that someone might follow, but if we do something on the other side of the resort to get the others to check it out while you start playing we might be able to avoid any tagalongs.” Ezra looked over at Justin and Oscar. “Something like faulty sprinklers, but a little louder. I figure you two can think of something good.”

However, getting Blu close enough to get a look at the healer might be tough to do without being spotted.

“Would a drawing of her work or do you have to see her? I don’t wanna risk you getting spotted,” said Ezra as he dropped his spells and felt a weight lift off of his shoulder. He grabbed a stick and his bracelet glowed as he cast a combination of spells to allow him to become a perfect sketch artist, using the snow as his pad, but the spell fizzled. Too far of a stretch. “Shit. Well, unless anyone has a pen and a notebook we can forget that. Arabelle, did you actually see her face anyway or was she just wearing one of their stupid animal mask getups?”


East Aaraminta - Construction Site



Tansy’s hand massaged away at wrinkles forming at the corner of her eyes as Shane and Trisha declared that they didn’t have Georgie’s number despite knowing for a fact that they’d been included in the yearly Happy Birthday group text Tansy would send out for their distant sister. A thousand retorts flashed through Tansy’s head as Trisha took the opportunity to jab at her, but she let the bullets dump to the ground knowing that they’d just fire through the empty void inside of Trisha’ head. Tansy unzipped her jacket to help dissipate the heat. She tugged at the sweater of her collar and smiled at her sweet, younger sister.

“Of course, Trisha, you’re right. I shouldn’t have blamed you for not keeping track of Georgie,” she said sweetly. “And we really shouldn’t point fingers anyway.” This was all Georgie and Sabrina’s fault after all. “I’m sorry if my little outburst caught you off guard.”

She was about to move to help Tuyen prepare when a voice like loose bits of gravel being scraped over concrete pierced the air. Tansy turned and took a step back as a cloud of darkness swirled and revealed a skeletal man dressed like a slick businessman with massive devil horns protruding from his skull. Tansy had heard her siblings speak of the weird entities they had dealt with or their father had mentioned in his writing, but she’d never witnessed any of the things first hand—excluding the only time she ever saw Dominion, but even the brilliance of the light shining from the entity was so blinding that she couldn’t even truly recall what she had seen.

Fear was the first feeling that hit Tansy and the snow kicked up around her as she subconsciously began to manifest Dominion’s Majesty. Her eyes ignited with golden light as her jacket rippled in a nonexistent breeze. Behind Tansy’s head a crack in reality formed, heavenly light illuminating her as it carved a glowing crescent out of thin air that began to expand into a circle while accompanied by a distant beating of a wing before the skeleton mentioned James. The wings stilled and with it the breeze stopped as the light around Tansy diminished, leaving only the glow of her eyes and a thin ring hovering behind her skull. She was still afraid but it no longer seized her, allowing the woman to take one defiant step forward.

“If you know our father so well then you would know it is not smart to insult him,” barked Tansy, her voice accompanied by a choir of other voices that boomed together in unison. “Who are you? How have you invoked the Triple Goddess’s ire?”

Solange

Dead plants can become fertilizer.



It wasn’t quite relief that Solange felt as she watched Skarsat, Maréngo, and Y’Vanna scramble onboard, the lifeless body of Neh’miah hanging from the Tork’s arms. Solange had experienced her fair share of death while shadowing her mother, but this was different—violent, sudden, unexpected. Did the foolish thief even have a moment to realize the end was nigh as the bolt punctured his skull or had he left the world in the same ignorant bliss that’d gotten him in trouble in the first place? A slow drip of blood fell from the crossbow bolt and splashed onto the freshly swabbed deck. A man that rivaled Skarsat in stature lifted the body from his arms and gave it to the crew to take care of, mentioning a ceremony. It was only at that did Solange finally feel any sense of relief.

She followed Ba’ku below deck with the others, the pilfered bag still tight to her chest. A familiar scent hit her nose as they made their way to their rooms. At first it was hard to recognize with it being separated from more floral perfumes, but Solange eventually recognized the smell of the sage oil or, as the girls in her line of work often called it, the smell of gold. The memory drew a thin smile to her face that wavered ever so slightly as she saw the two closets they had been given as quarters. Her eyebrow arched ever so slightly as she stared at the large hempen nets hanging from the walls and tried to figure out where their beds were.

As Ba’ku explained everything and parted, a dumbfounded Solange sat down on their generously provided crate. That cheap bastard Vargas was such a bit biter that he couldn’t even get her a private cabin with a real bed? As Skarsat struck out to find his own space, Solange watched as Y’vanna cracked open a bottle of rum despite it not even being noon. To Solange’s surprise, Maréngo stopped himself from taking a swig of the drink.

As Y’vanna turned the bottle to her, Solange stared at it with some strong consideration. Everything had fallen apart so fast. It was funny. The thought of never going back to Gullian always had been part of her personal plan, yet now that the option had been removed from the table it suddenly was the only one Solange wanted to pick. The city had proved her with so many opportunities, yet now she only had this one chance. Her knuckles lightly rapped on the wood of the crate, knowing that like their fight with the law the chance of her future being as bright as she’d hoped for it also had shit odds—and having a drunk around only diminished her chances.

“Thank you, love,” said Solange, standing to take the bottle from Y’Vanna. She swirled the contents, lifted the bottle to her lips, paused, and chuckled softly before lowering the drink with a shake of her head.“Sorry, darling, this just reminds me of a story my sister once told me. It’s about Fontaine’s longest working whore. Her name was Sarey, but behind her back the girls called her Soresy Sarey—you can imagine why, love. Although she was well-experienced, she no longer could entertain the guests behind closed doors, so Fontaine had her work the floor.”

“Soresy would entice men into buying themselves and her drinks, which she put away better than any sailor. The story goes that the bar would run dry most nights Soresy Sarey worked, netting Fontaine quite a pretty profit. Yet Soresy stopped limiting her drinking to when she was on the clock, imbibing whenever she could and buying herself bottles from the bar on a daily basis. She couldn’t leave her bed without a drink in the morning, and soon she was so taken by the booze that she couldn’t leave her bed if she tried. She became a fiscal problem for Fontaine. Soresy couldn’t pay for her room, she couldn’t pay for her tab, and she couldn’t bring in customers. She was Fontaine’s longest working girl, but she was a detriment.”


Solange ran her hand across the bottle of rum as she recounted the tale, her eyes down as she continued on, a playful smile on her face.

“Now Fontaine wanted Soresy gone but she couldn’t bring herself to do anything to someone she considered to be her friend. Fortunately for her, she’d just hired a new enforcer from a spice island who’d survived an attack from some privateers. Her name was Prudence. A young woman then, probably about your age now,” said Solange, her eyes flicking up to cut Y’Vanna like a razor. “But she was mean. Nasty. Practically a wild animal. Prudence didn’t like seeing her new master so upset, so she took matters into her own hand. Soresy was dragged from her bed by her hair to the alley out back, screaming the whole time and so covered in bedsores that she’d truly earned her nickname.”

“The girls, of course, followed. Once on the stone ground outside, Prudence produced a bottle of alcohol and asked Soresy if she wanted a drink. Soresy at this point couldn’t even really speak, but she nodded. Without a word, Prudence uncorked the bottle and held it high,”
said Solange, taking the bottle of spiced rum and holding it out. Then, she turned it, pouring the liquid onto the planks below. “She emptied out the entire bottle on Soresy and then, as Fontaine and the other girls watched, she struck a match. Prudence then turned to Fontaine, and when Fontaine did nothing she dropped it.” Solange righted the bottle, empty all but for one single sip. “They say Soresy had drank so much alcohol the night before that she burned for hours. The scorch marks are still in the alley behind the Red Sail.”

“I’ve seen them myself,”
said Solange, tossing the nearly empty bottle back to Y’Vanna. “Anyway, enjoy your drink, love. If either of you need me, I’ll be above deck. It smells like someone is trying to cover up a drunken orgy down here, and I for one don’t want to risk getting any more stains on my dress.”

East Aaraminta - Construction Site



Tansy lifted her chin and smiled ever so slightly as Trisha told her to shut up, turning her head so the finger Trisha flipped at her was deflected by the high collar of her coat. She joined the others at Shane’s suggestion that they scope out the grounds, unhappy to be back out in the cold especially after how quickly Trisha had heated up the trailer. The snow crunched as they trudged through the construction site towards the side most likely to be hit by the Wiccans. Shane and Tuyen bounced ideas back and forth, determining that funneling the Wiccans into a narrow spot would be the best idea.

“Any place you think will work?” asked Tuyen directly to Tansy.

“I’m afraid that I’m better at planning banquets than battlefields,” said Tansy with a shrug.

It was unfortunate then that this side was going to be the extension for the parking lot. Barren and flat, there weren’t any locations for ambushes out here unless they constructed one themselves—and Tansy didn’t need any knowledge of construction to assume that would be highly difficult and timely. She sighed and turned, looking at the partially built rehab center. Blue plastic sheets had been tied to post and pinned to the ground to protect the construction from the winter weather. As the others planned, Tansy wordlessly slipped in past the curtain and disappeared from sight.

Moments later, a tearing noise ripped through the quiet night as a boxcutter horizontally cut through the middle of the plastic tarp, the bottom half collapsing to the ground. Tansy slid the razor back into the boxcutter and slipped it into her cut pocket before she stepped under the curtain and folded her arms, nodding her head towards the inner guts of the under construction building. Beyond her was a maze of pipes and load-bearing beams, the unfinished walls allowing everyone to see through the entire floor of the building. At first glance it didn’t appear to fit the bill, yet Tansy was already smiling as if in success.

“We could take some of the extra tarps in storage and those hanging around outside to create a narrow passage in here and limit line of sight. They won’t prevent anyone from breaking through them, but neither did the walls of our house so I feel like that point is moot,” said Tansy. “So unless anyone has a better idea, I say we start tearing down tarps and setting up our stage. Then once the Wiccans arrive Shane will take the skull and funnel—”

Her eyes darted around the site and did a quick head count. Tansy’s expression shifted into one of dumbfounded realization as her mouth fell agape. Where was Georgie? How could they set a trap for the Wiccans if the one holding their bait wasn’t even here? She turned quickly to look over her shoulder, as if the little brat would somehow have already been inside of the construction site. She whipped her head back towards the other, her eyes widening and her face setting not into the look of concern that should be there but one of angry accusation. She stomped one foot down as she flailed her arms out towards the others.

“Where is that little psychopath!?” barked Tansy, her control crumbling. “Did none of you idiots check if she was actually coming? Areyouallthatfuckingstupid!?”

She turned and began to furiously pace, snatching her phone out of her pocket and making a call. The robotic voice of a lady asking for her to please leave a message could be momentarily heard alongside a ding of a bell before being cut short as Tansy’s phone shattered, spiked like a football onto the concrete flooring of the construction site. She inhaled deeply, looking at the dozen of pieces that made up her phone, and turned back to the others, the red on her cheeks now more from embarrassment than anger. The leather of her gloves could be heard groaning as she held her hand at her side in tight fists. She inhaled again and gave a sheepish smile.

“Ezra’s not answering. Could one of you call Georgie and find out what’s happening?” asked Tansy, the calm in her voice as chilling as the night’s air. “I would just…” Her fist tightened. “...hate for something to have happened.”


Outside the Sunrise Resort



Ezra stayed crouched with the others as Justin went forward to peak in through the window. He could feel his heartbeat slow and steady but knew if it wasn’t for his abstraction it would’ve been racing still from the hellhounds crashing by them. His eyebrows arched as Justin floated above the ground. The kid was young, but he had an impressive skill set. Ezra just hoped that didn’t lead to their supernatural expert being too overconfident. Justin had been the one to suggest that they just raid the place. With their leader gone maybe he’d get the stupid idea to just start blasting.

Ezra untensioned as Justin returned. "Morgana is heading towards the manor... does anyone have any idea if Sabrina and Georgie are out of there yet?"

“Georgie was shaken by today’s events but she’s smart, and Sabrina knows what she’s doing. I’m sure they’re with Tuyen’s group by now,” said Ezra, wishing to believe his siblings could band together when things matter. Yet that sentiment didn’t stop him from pulling his phone out and turning his back to the resort to block the light from the screen. “I’ll let the others know to get ready. Once Morgana doesn’t find the skull there she’ll probably hunt them down.”

A text warning Georgie, Sabrina, and Tuyen’s group that Morgana was headed to the manor was quickly composed and sent. Ezra quietly put his phone back in his pocket, the dim screen of the silenced phone lighting up the moment it slipped into the fabric. He wasn’t going to dress up in this ridiculous hunting outfit only to make some dumb mistake like having his ringtone go off while sneaking into the lair of their enemy. He assumed the others were also smart enough to have silenced their devices.

“I warned them, just in case,” said Ezra, looking up at the others. “With Morgana gone this is our best time to find their healer, assuming she’s in there, but if the rest of them are in there I doubt they’d be willing to hear us out. We need to find a way to isolate her. Anyone got a way we can get her attention or secretly send her a message to meet us out back?”

Solange

Run!



Her dress was hiked up to her knees, the billowing skirt bunched together like the petals of a bouquet, as Solange focused on putting one foot in front of the other and praying to whichever gods were watching that she didn’t stumble over the excessive amounts of fabric. She had not run like this since she had come to Gullian. Behind her she could feel the presence of a ghost . The woman with black and silver hair screamed for the constables, her hand that was dried with blood wetting itself yet again as it pressed against the base of her neck. Ahead of her Solange saw the uncertain future as the white sails of the Pinned Seal unfurled as shouts from aboard drowned out her own call to the captain and mixed with the cacophony of reality and memory coming from behind her. She did not turn back to hazard a glance.

Solange kept running. Orders from the Sheriff to halt were ignored without a second of reconsideration—perhaps next time order a halt before pinning the skull of one of their companions to the inside of his rudimentary coffin. Her breathing grew heavy. The gangplank was almost right in front of her. She had nearly reached it when the cannon fired overhead, the blast so deafening that Solange’s hands instinctively let go of her dress and covered her ears. The long, bundled up fabric fell loose as she pressed on, her foot stepping on the hem of the dress. Her already racing heart nearly exploded as she felt herself begin to trip. Her hands reacted faster than her brain, snatching up her dress yet again as the explosion still rang in her ears. She felt some fabric tear as she did an awkward sidestep, but she kept her balance and kept going.

She only stopped once she made it to the top of the gangplank, two sailors hoisting her aboard as the ship began to shift forward. She stepped clear to allow room for the others to jump on as she finally took a moment to catch her breath and look at the pandemonium left behind. Black smoke swirled on the wind as a small fire burned on the street and began to engulf the cart, a man laid dead in the street with an arrow punched so deep in him that he looked like he’d been stabbed by a quill, and the top of a church stood smoking where the belltower once had been. Solange’s mouth gaped at the nameless bystanders, who seemed so small from the deck of the ship, trapped beneath the rubble from the tower. Some were squirming, others weren’t. Laughter echoed in her ears as she watched ants scrambled to lift the bell off of a person, a sailor pulling her back away from the firing line of the Sheriff’s men .

The captain was busy hollering orders. Once they were out of the bay and actually safe she would seek out a proper introduction, but for now Solange found herself an out of the way place to stand as the sailors set to work. In her hands she clutched the burlap sack she’d snatched from the streets and pressed it against her chest, pulling it away as she felt herself prodded by something sharp. She did not inspect further, her eyes too busy darting to and fro as they watched the men aboard the Pinned Seal work. As the adrenaline faded she was struck with the realization that she was only comfortable around sailors when they were too drunk to stand and being watched by oversized bouncers and hidden blades in the shadow. She craned her neck and looked for the others, trying her best not to appear shaken.
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