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Time: Hours later - Post Vision
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada


Bach had sat in silence for the few hours while waiting for Odette to stir from her strange sleep, her eyes roamed beneath her lids. Murmuring words in French, English and Common Fey. He focused on reading through her grimoire for spells, trying the odd one without any luck. The magic that had ensnared her was at the root of her soul. If he were to try anything more invasive it would require her explicit consent.

He expertly ignored Mandate’s clear anxiety and silent animosity. He felt her singular red eye burrowing into him occasionally, her stare as heavy as she was. Bach returned it with a glare of his own, venomous. He held little respect for the golem, at first it was curiosity but the clear and genuine attachment had grown between Odette and Mandate, one he loathed to admit was there. He had wrongly assumed such a sentient being would have remained a tool. Regardless, Mandate could do nothing against him while she vied so heavily for Odette’s approval. There wasn’t anything in this world that could replace him in his Lady’s eyes. Figuratively and literally.

Finally after hours of awkward tension and waiting the pair of guardians were greeted with Odette’s awakening. Bach jumped a little at her bolting upright. The earth Fey followed her line of sight as she looked down on the now, opened box. The small arcane coins of various metals.

I have a plan.” She said breathless looking from a relieved Bach to a clearly agitated Mandate, her ‘mane’ bristling. How long had she been asleep for?

My Lady, I am relieved to see you awake. You dropped so suddenly, assumingly brought about by the magic on the box.” He said giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. “How do you feel?

Odette took a few deep breaths in steadying herself, “I am feeling better. I think I managed to avert the prophecy, Bach.” She squeezed his hand back grinning genuinely. “Gwyneth accepted my help to find her missing pieces, She gave me the ability to sense out her other objects and told me of how she came to be. All I need to do is sign a contract with Puck present for Gwyneth and we will solidify an alliance.

Bach smiled warmly, “Excellent work, My Lady. With Puck though?” He asked tentatively. “He will see what it is we are trying to do.

He may try to warn Gwyneth of our past dealings, stir some trouble, but it is nothing I have not already told her. She is familiar with the Fey and I do not believe she will be offended by vague details. This will end amicably, the contract we will sign will ensure that. I will ensure that.” Odette replied rather earnestly, fuelled by hope. “Puck won’t stand a chance with the groundwork I’ve done today.

He will certainly not expect this.” Bach said.

Odette nodded swinging her feet over the edge of the bed to stand up, wobbling a little misplacing her center of gravity. Reaching out for Mandate to steady herself.

Turning her attention to the golem she spoke gently, “Everything is alright now, Gwyneth’s magic pulled my mind into her little illusionary world when I broke through the warding on the box. For the better, I was able to speak with her directly to negotiate a deal and learn more about her.

I did not want to worry you but this prophecy that Puck instilled upon me was before you and I met, Mandate. Bach, can you please bring me my phone?” Odette gestured to the desk.

Yes, My Lady.” He stood from his chair, retrieving her phone and passing it into her hand.

Odette unlocked it, quickly digging up the audio file of the prophecy. “I believe you should know the full scope of why we are here in Las Vegas still. Yes we came initially to help Silence, but we remained based on the information we gained from Princess Lassantra’s oracle. Hekate gave us what we were looking for, it has provided us the upperhand in numerous ways.

She played the voice memo.

Her voice sounded across the recorded memo, Odette had just about memorized the prophecy in it’s entirety. You, my dear, are as the Earth, a powerful force, one of beauty, strength, and resolve. You are forever changing, forever overcoming obstacles, forever evolving. And when the elements, the very forces of nature over whom you have unbridled authority, conspire against you, you adapt in amazing ways. When your womb is scorched and dried, you do not become infertile; when your wells run dry, you release the gates of heaven and bring down her floods; when your limbs are scattered by the winds, they grow anew and become mountains tall. You will always adapt, always overcome your creation . . . but when a mother hurts her child, she may never regain their trust. And you, even as the Earth, can be hurt by her children in the most creative ways."

"But do not be fooled, your children are not the only ones who reside in your domain. Their stands upon your plains a being ancient, much like yourself, who comes in the guise of a friend. She is a fire that burns brighter than your own hearth, one that can level forests and leave nothing in their wake, and she is angry. Her spirit burns even now, but once she reaches her potential, once she devours the flame of humanity, she will be unstoppable. And the question isn't whether you will be burned, but if you shall reemerge from the ashes."


The recording ended as it always did, with an audible crack in her voice. The fear still plain even months later.

Odette stopped the recording then said, “We believe that the White Witch, Gwyneth’s reincarnation will be responsible for burning me. Witch-fire, being the most prominent clue to the prophecy, an ability the White Witch used against me when we first met. Not to mention the resemblance Gwyneth and White Witch share now that I have met her. If I can negotiate an alliance with her I will negate the prophecy Puck has set against me.

An obstacle, to be sure but one I cannot overcome.


---

Time: Afternoon - Present Day
Location: Berenice’s Nest - Carver (Outside Lost Haven)


Charlene picked the meat from the bones of her fish, fingers sticky with grease. She ate every scrap. Waste not, want not. She tossed the last of the bones off the cliff side. Idly she brushed her hands down her shirt, getting rid of stray scraps and wiping her hands ‘clean’ picking up some grit of dust as she did. Her mind wandered as she stared at the wreckage of the cottage, Berry’s nest. Her tongue running along ridges of her teeth, fingers rubbing against the grit, lost in thought. It was a picturesque cliff side, real sea breeze free of smog and exhaust. Noticeably now they were outside Lost Haven.

Charlie felt like she was way out of her depth dealing with Berry and now Salamander, this warlock or witch, whatever he considered himself.

He knew a thing or two about alchemy sure, her green eyes scanned the treeline looking for him. He had left the cottage at Berry’s word, she spotted him leaning against a tree looking out over the field much like herself. Her grip tightened on her staff, glaring at him. Something wasn’t right. She hated she couldn’t put her finger on it.

She checked the time on her old beat up cellphone, deciding now would be a good time to check in. She hoped she wouldn’t need to explain half of this to her mom, Jules.

Tabbing through the phone book to Home, Charlie waited listening to the ring tones turning her back to Salamander. “Come on, Harry. Please pick up…

Finally a crackly, but thankfully bored voice of Charlie’s younger sister, Harry answered with a, “...Hello?”

Harry, my dear sweet sister-

“No, I won’t help you dumpster dive in the lower south side again. It wasn’t worth it to get the collectible Chinese new year gold coins. All we found were the bronze ones, anyways.” Harry said without missing a beat, her tone drier than a desert.

Charlie was quick to defend herself, “We found two and bargained for a complete set. I was going to say, sweet sibling, I’m still out of town. Would appreciate if you could tell mom and gramps I’m okay.

“Why’re you gone for so long anyway? Did Carrie drag you out of the city again?” Harry asked, unseen twirling the cord of the phone. “Usually on these escapades you’re back to at least sleep.”

Charlie began to walk to the cliff side, the noise of the waves carrying over the receiver, “Look kiddo, don’t tell mom alright? I’m in with weird shit she doesn’t care for, I barely understand it myself.

“Oh? What is it?” Harry’s voice perked up from bored to interested. “Gang stuff? Superhero stuff?”

Magic shit, like beyond even the weirdness that goes with Carrie.

“You’re okay right?” Harry asked tentatively. “Nobody’s holding a wand to your head right now?”

Charlie laughed when her chuckles subsided she returned to a more serious tone, “No. Carrie and I found… something this morning when we were heading back home. We found a Siren at the park, accidentally. She was hanging out in a tree.

She flinched away the cellphone when Harry exclaimed, “GET ME A FEATHER! Please please, I can add it to my staff!”

Shhh! Shut up, Gramps will hear you!

Lowering her voice Harry said, “Pretty please.

Fine, but keep your big mouth shut okay? I’ll be busy trying to help her out, there’s this sorcerer who knows the guy who made her, really dark, horrifying stuff. Won’t go into detail, spare you the nightmares I’m going to have.” She said rubbing her arm and closing her eyes. “I’m not saying this to worry you, but sound the alarm when I don’t check in alright? If something bad happens I’ll make sure to leave a trail to follow.

“You’re scaring me with this.” Harry said, quietly.

I’ll be fine, I’m just covering my bases. I’ll go into detail when I’m home, but I’m feeling like that won’t be today. I’ll call tonight to check in.” Charlie tried to reassure Harry. “For now I’ve got a weird wizard to talk to.

Harry took a deep breathe in, pushing away her worry. Trusting what she said. “Okay, love you. I’ll keep this on the down low from mom, might tell gramps. He might know a thing or two about Sirens.”

Charlie sighed with relief, “Thanks! I’ll spill the beans when I’m back home, promise.

“You better. Talk to you later.”

Charlie said a quick bye, then hit the end button storing her phone away into one of her many pockets. Stealing a glance at the cottage and then at the woods, she went for the woods trekking across the field. Stopping when she felt an involuntary chill run down her spine, the wind was warm and the afternoon sun shone. The chill raised goosebumps across the nape of her neck.

Sharply she turned raising her staff defensively, seeing nothing behind her, she pivoted on the ball of her foot scanning left then right. She checked over her shoulder and Salamander left his spot, he hadn’t been shy about watching her.

Something was watching her now, she felt something’s eyes roam over her now that she hadn’t been distracted. “Piss off, googly eyes. I can’t see you but I sure as shit can feel you watching me. This ain’t a show." she snarled, backing away toward the treeline then bolted the last few yards. The chill disappeared as her foot crossed the line.

Damnit…” She said under her breath, unsettled turning to check around through the forest she called out. “Yo! Salamander! We need to talk, pronto. I need to understand what’s going on, with Berry, with this necromancer asshole of yours. I’m here and I’m going to help her.” She pointed with her staff in the general direction of the cottage.

She turned on the spot looking for him, “I’m not some worldly, well-read witch or sorceress, but I’m one of the best alchemists in Lost Haven, so talk to me Sally-man.


banner credit to Nitemare Shape

---


Time: 2:30 PM - Six hours of Walking Later
Location: Outside of Carver, Maine


Berenice was sweating, and her legs were burning with the most intense pain she could ever imagine. Her torturer had slowed pace for her several times, but it was not until they had finally entered the woods that she began to feel better. The fresher air had begun filtering to her more than an hour ago, and she had not realised how gross the skies above the city had felt until she made it back here to her home territory. Once they were out of sight of the suburbs, she perked up immensely, and actually quickened her pace despite her pain.

Her speech became rapid fire as she began pointing out landmarks that were almost invisible except to the creatures that lived here exclusively. ”See, Car-lee? Right there is the stain where I got three squirrels at once! Three! And just over there is one of the best rocks for sunning! Ooh, and in a few minutes we’ll see the creek I take baths in normally. The fish here are sooo much better than the ones I got you earlier!”

Charlie laughed, in a good mood herself. It’d been awhile since she had been outside the city for a good hike. After a full night of walking and then later a full morning of walking, Charlie had admitted she too was tired leaning heavily on her staff as she walked, thankful for the relief it gave. Not to mention hungry, she fished out a power bar from the bottom of her backpack. “I’m sure they are, glad we made it without a problem. The disguise went off without a hitch.” She took a deep breath of fresh air in, “I joke about getting out of the city, but I think I’d go crazy with the quiet out here. The serenity of it all.

Nice set up, though. Good place for a birdlady to do her thing.” Charlie commented. “I guess nobody bugs ya out here.

”No, no one comes out this far. I do not know why, but I like it. Too many walkers and I would have to move. Oh, we are here!” They had emerged from a thick wall of trees out onto a promontory overlooking the ocean two hundred feet below. The sound of the surf, now unrestricted by dense foliage, sounded clearly as the waves continued their eternal war against the coast. Outside of the line of trees, only grass and wildflowers reigned. However, the grass was much less dry than most coastal grasses, lush and verdant. Bees hummed along on their busy runs, and several thrushes flitted about, catching and eating them.

On the tip of the promontory was the remains of a blasted cabin. It might have been a handsome log affair at one point, but splinters of wood scattered almost to the treeline attested to its violent destruction. One corner, facing out to the sea, had survived, along with a few stubs of walls. Between these were strung lines of ivy and scavenged strings, and from those dangled all of Berenice’s various treasures, mostly shiny objects and animal bones. To one side, in a pile that had collapsed down the hill a bit, was a pile of bones. None of them were human, but at least one skull among those was of a larger herbivore, perhaps a female deer.

Charlie followed behind Berenice, her old skirt catching some grass. Her hand brushing through it appreciatively as she walked. Marveling at the natural sight, her eyes settling on the cabin. She stepped into the not-so-humble abode. “Shit, Berry. You’re a scavenger too.” She said with delight, running a hand at the broken walls of the cabin. “This cabin though, it’s a total wreck. Do you know what happened?

The alchemist didn’t think it was unreasonable to ask, but she figured the siren wouldn’t know.

Berenice shrugged noncommittally as she fluttered up to the corner, not caring about her disguise now that they were out of sight of normal people. ”I do not know. This is where I was born, I think. There are still some things from before, but I do not know what they are.” She gestured over to a spot underneath one section of surviving wall. There, covered by a torn section of tarpaulin, was a small cache of magical accouterments. Glass shards and broken alchemical bottles, some still stained with their contents, a broken stick or wand of some sort, a twisted and half-melted silver dagger, and, underneath the rest, still mostly buried under wreckage and apparently something the siren had missed and just happened to stack the rest of the junk on top of it, a charred, leather-bound tome.

Shuffling up her mask over her nose on reflex, her boots making prints in the disturbed dust on the ground. Her eyes on the wall. Charlie approached the wall lifting the tarpaulin up squinting at the contents behind it recognizing the odd assortment of items, especially the tome. She looked up to Berenice and asked, “Do you mind? I know what some of this stuff is.

Berry shrugged again. ”I have no use for it, so go ahead. I am hungry. I will go get lunch.” She took off the beret, hanging it carefully on one of her treasure lines, and took off out towards the sea, soaring on the strong breeze coming off of the water.

Charlie watched her go, shielding her eyes from the kick up of her take off. She turned back around looking at her surroundings, the treasures, the bones, everything. There was some value to the shinier things she had hung up, metal and coins. Her foot shifted across the floorboards, her heel knocking once and twice for hollow spots as she checked the layout. Eventually rounding back to the wall, gathering up the old styled alchemical bottles. Her grandpa had a few of these kicking around at home for nostalgia’s sake. Her hand hovered over the silver dagger, feeling something strange coming off it. Picking it up curiously she squinted her thumb running across the smoothed melted metal. It seemed to resonate with the magic inside her, she tried to transmute the silver. The material refused to budge.

Huh.” She said to herself putting the dagger aside finally moving onto the tome.

Brushing the dust off it she pulled it free from it’s hiding spot, opening it slowly with audible crack of burnt leather. She tried to pull some of the ash free from it, cleaning up the binds enough to let her open it without it falling apart. It was an understatement to say it was just in rough shape.

Sitting on her butt, crossing her long legs she flipped through the pages. Handwritten much like how many witches, sorcerers, and magic casters kept their own grimoires. She recognized some horrific rituals in English, Latin and even a little German in the anecdotes mixed generously. As she delved, her hands shook. Some passages were complete while others were destroyed by fire. Gruesome art depicting human shape being torn apart, terribly clinical notes on results of experimentation. She read on, near the end of the book there were scribbled notes and a faint sketch of Berenice’s face.

She bit at her lip beneath the mask, pained as she stared down at the sketch. This is beyond fucked up.

Her curiosity burned through her disgust, she turned the page. Jot notes about Berenice’s powers listed her ability to sing to scream, what damage she could approximately make. Guesswork mostly. Notes on what her creator really wanted to do with her as a servant or soldier. Silver mirrors being used to… control her? Disable her? It was extensive, no clues on who this necromancer used for Berenice’s creation.

Fucker.” She muttered down at the page.

The next page was a sketch of the local area and what appeared to be the leylines, on the map was noted where the cabin was and a distinctly very strange funnel drawn directly from the leyline. In an underline next to the funnel was the word POWER.

A fat haddock slapped onto the ground directly in front of Charlie as the siren swept low overhead, and then perched back where she had been, another fish still struggling in her hands. She grinned at the alchemist, hair still dripping with seawater. ”These ones fought hard, so they should taste very good.” She punctuated the statement by biting deep into the spine of the fish she held, blood pouring forth as the creature died. Spitting out the chunk of bone and flesh, she said, ”I am sorry, I know walkers like their food burnt, but I do not know how to make fire and I think you like it less burnt than I could make it. Find anything you can use?” She looked at Charlie as she bit into her fish, watching politely for the response.

Charlie shot off the floor with a shriek at Berenice’s return, the tome flipped upside down and her staff held out. “I- I swear to fucking God, Berry! Fuck me!

She held her chest hoping for her heart to slow down a pace. She looked up at her dripping head, blood stains from the fish around her mouth, reminding her all too well of the scary shit she finished reading about. Poking at the book with the end of her staff she said collecting her composure, “Found out quite a bit. You’re the result of some sick bastard’s experiment.

She ignored the fish, pulling the mask down her jaw set in a hard line. “Frankenstein bullshit is what. Necromancy, leylines, human experimentation.” Stepping up to the book again she used her staff to flip it over, not willing to touch it with her hands. Stabbing at the page with Berenice’s sketch.

She was shocked at the vehemence in Charlie’s voice. ”I only barely know what those words mean, Car-lee. But it sounds bad. Does that mean I am bad?” She lowered her fish, staring at her companion with her golden eyes. ”I do not feel bad. But you sound...angry. Is it me?”

Charlie closed her eyes, taking a deep breath in through her nose. From the day she spent with Berenice, she could say firmly that she wasn’t bad just her extremely volatile origins. Her instincts told her that much, rarely were they wrong. The alchemist licked her lips before answering, she looked up and right in her eyes. Letting there be no mistake, she meant what she said.

No. You’re not bad, Berenice. Berry… You’re fine, a little rough around the edges but- people say the same about me. I’m angry at your creator, angry he-they-who the fuck ever decided it was a good idea to do this. Decided that human life meant nothing for the sake of his experiments.” She said, firm and with a warm conviction. “Let’s eat, then maybe I don’t know catch up with Carrie if I can get a decent signal.

Charlie smiled picking up the fish with her bare hands, dusting off the best she could. “I just need a sharp stick.

Berenice’s head snapped up as a sharp, echoing clap sounded across the ruins. Leaning up against the edge of the ruined wall was an old man, grizzled and bent, though still obviously capable of quick movement, as he had crossed into their space without either of them noticing. “Well spoken, child,” he said, in a commanding baritone. “Well spoken indeed. And that confirms you are not the little pissant that made her, so I don’t have to kill you.”

Sh-Shit!” Charlie yelped, turning her back to Berenice and adopting a defensive position her staff held out with both hands, glaring at the man.

He rocked himself off of the wall with a twist of his hips, and the shabby overcoat he wore flipped open for a moment, revealing a well-worn sword hilt hanging at his hip. The man fairly oozed sorcerous power. “And, if I make the logical assumption of that speech that you are a genuinely good person and of sound judgement, then that means I do not have to kill her, either.” He nodded his head at Berenice, who had dropped her fish and flared her wings out, baring her teeth and the claws of her hands, clearly ready to defend Charlie and herself.

“Easy, girls. I am no enemy of yours,” he said, holding his hands up to show they were empty. “Rather, I would be after the one who created her. Seeing how, after all, he is my responsibility.” Behind him, still against the wall, leaned a staff much like Charlie’s, though covered in runes and bits of shamanic totems.

Who the fuck are you?” Charlie snapped, her eyes roaming his body noting the sword, the staff, his build. Picking up on the way the air seemed to change with his entry. It became charged more so than what she noticed spending the day with Berenice. It prickled at her forehead. “Answer real quick, I haven’t a lick of control over Berry here.

The man chuckled, clearly at ease. “You can call me Salamander. Everyone does these days. Don’t ask why, it’s an oldjoke. And to more clearly answer your question, I suppose you could say I am the siren’s grandfather, or as close as she’s like to get. I taught her maker most of what he knew. Or knows, perhaps.” He made a gesture, and the tome snapped through the air and into his hands. He flipped it open, still talking as he perused.

Charlie’s expression hardened at the show of force, her grip tightening on the staff her magic seeping into the wood, moving up to the copper she modified into it.

“I did not, however, teach him any of this. He left my endorsement some time ago, and I have been trying to find him, fearing what path he would likely take and hoping I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was not,” he glanced up at Berenice and his face radiated sorrow. “And some have suffered direly for my tardiness.”

“As for you, miss,” he said, turning his gaze to Charlie, “I am in your debt for caring for this poor creature. Had I found her before you, I may not have realised my error before putting her down as an abomination created by a mad man, instead of giving her a chance like I am now.” He dropped the book, which flared into bright blue flames and was more than half ash before it hit the ground.

The name is Alchemyst, I read the book.” She said keeping eye contact shuffling her footing, ever so slightly. “So you’re in my debt eh? Does that mean a free ticket to leave?” She watched his expression, looking for signs of a liar. She knew she could use the various treasures Berenice had collected for their escape. Her own pocket was full of escape routes as well. She had no interest in fighting him, he clearly had control over his own brand of sorcery whatever it was. “Hardly believe a word you say, you’ve got some charisma about ya that is setting off alarm bells. Don’t trust you.

She was plain, while her mind worked at the tin next.

Berenice, for her part, had frozen at the word ‘grandfather’. She knew the meaning well enough, but from what her two new friends had said, she wasn’t likely to have one. Her wings dropped and she relaxed slightly, but remained watchful.

“Oh, I won’t keep you here. You can leave if you want. But she,” he looked back at the siren, “cannot. Not yet, at any rate. She’s quite young, yes? She needs to learn control, conscious use of her power. I would not be surprised to learn that there were mistakes.” He sighed. “And given how she seems to be staying alive, what is keeping her together, she will need to know how to defend herself.”

He held up a hand, forestalling protestation. “I know, she can get by with friends, and I am not, right now, trustworthy. But I assure you, I mean neither of you any harm.” The tome had finished burning, leaving nothing behind. He kicked at it with one roughshod boot, growling under his breath. “And as it is, I need to make very sure my student does not return in any form to wreak more havoc on innocent lives.”

“As for the boon, I will leave it up to you what you might desire. I am a very old and very accomplished gatherer of secrets. I could teach you any number of things.”

Charlie chewed on what he said, finally after a moment she stood up straight, spinning the staff in her hand it hit floorboard with a large metallic thunk to stop. “You really think he could have survived this?” She gestured to their surroundings. “This place is a wreck. He would have had to cast some serious wards, already had some in place, whatever, to protect himself from all this damage. From what I read, he didn’t strike me as the type to not… take precautions.” Breaking eye contact with the man, Salamander, she looked to Berenice.

He’s right about one thing though, Berry. You had no idea what you were doing with your voice earlier today when you sang, as knowledgeable as Carrie is I don’t think she can teach you to control what you can do.” She admitted quietly, “I hate to say it, because this guy is slick as oil. The choice is up to you, Berry. I’ll stay if you want to stay, I’ll crack this guy over the head if you asked me to. But, you get the final say on this.

She tucked a little bit of hair behind Berenice’s ear, “You’re one of us, so we stick together yeah?

Berenice stared at the man for a moment, and then at Charlie. Her tail feathers flicked while she thought, and she stood on one foot, and then the other, obviously struggling with the decision. She really knew neither of these people that well, but then, the children hadn’t known her and they were now her best friends. Her wings stretched out and closed back in close to her body.
”That is not necessary, Car-lee. Sally-man may be strange, but so are we. If I am one of us, so is he, yes?” The old man smiled, but her gaze flicked back to him.

”That does not mean I trust you, Sally-man. You may come to the edge of the woods from now on, no further. If you come into my nest again uninvited I will claw your eyes out of your head and eat them.” She hopped down from the top of the wall and down to stand next to Charlie. She offered a hand for a shake. ”You, my friend, are welcome to stay, if you wish. I will let the Sally-man stay if you want to learn things. But you must be tired.”

Charlie shook her hand smiling, the handshake at the top of the most normal thing she did all day today. “Exhausted, actually.” She pointed with her staff at Salamander. “Not tired enough to kick your ass if I need to.

Whatever I need to learn I learn from my own mentor. I don’t get much about other types of magic but sorcerers rarely understand alchemy even if they tried.” She added with no small amount of arrogance “He can hang out in the woods if he wants. The raw haddock is looking better by the second.

The Salamander smiled genuinely, a glint in his eye. “Well, I will take my leave. I will return with the dawn, Siren.” He looked over at Charlie, and said with a wink, “If you ever have trouble with it, since I know a few alchemists who have, try a combination of sugar water, cellulose, and a good dose of a multivitamin if you would like your plants to be healthy in those dark winter months.” He laughed to himself and snatched his staff up as he walked off towards the woods.

Berenice looked at Charlie quizzically. “What does any of that mean, Car-lee?”

She snorted at his retreating back, “Yeah- well, I already knew that!” Then added, “And her name is Berenice!

Then waited until he was well out of earshot, she whispered to Berenice, “The bastard knows how to alchemize photosynthesis. I’ve been begging my grandpa for years to teach me.

”Do you think he was telling the truth? About my creator maybe still being alive. About…” She gulped down her thoughts for a second, and shook her head and retrieved her own fish, burying her face into it and eating in thoughtful silence.

Charlie went outside with a shrug, “Who knows, he’s weird. This entire scenario is weird. Might come up with some ideas after I eat.” With that said she built a fire, lighting it with the flint and steel in her backpack roasting the gutted fish over the fire.

A pair of new and terribly strange friends falling into their own thoughts, with an even stranger man at the edge of the woods with his own agenda.
A note for everyone during the mission, Dex is available to call to fudge past some basic security like doors, cameras and even some guards. Don't be afraid to just add that into the post, we do not need to collab a small exchange like that to gain access to certain parts of the station if your character needs to move around.
Dex


It had been a grueling week and a half for Dex and Serena. They worked night and day getting the crew’s security up to snuff, preparing themselves as well. All nighters working away in front of consoles or at work benches, chatting lightly or complaining loudly about how badly someone’s previous security protocols were. The loud complaints were often followed by painful cackling, ignoring how long they had gone without sleep. Occasionally Tanya’s laugh could be heard beneath the Yolac, working on her own prep. Serena helped Dex with coding while Dex helped her customize some of the drones. Drono came by often enough, he kept her company while she worked or if she needed a change in scenery she’d wander over to engineering to work off her omnitool.

She examined herself in the mirror, long sleeved coat she scrounged up from an old locker on the Borealis. It was old, brown, had patches in the pockets. Her focus would be playing the part at blending, invisibility - a drifter.

Dex plotted out their initial entrance with Haze, hiding simplified maps in her omnitool while similarly to Haze dressed down to civilian duds. The bonus part being it hid the majority of her arm. Simply picking from the false identities she crafted over the years, worked hard to keep their profiles squeaky clean. It was a breeze to get past security, the id she used was for her hard on the times, Pomponia - Pom for short, the mechanic. Drumming up a little sympathy for her and her old mechanical arm acting up again, too far out to make it back to Inner Council Space to see her proper doctor. While security commented on her being in a shit place to look for turian health care, she might get lucky with a prescription. Thankfully skipping over a thorough examination of her omnitool, not that they would have any luck finding anything. Knowing Eclipse was here had her bolster her own security largely out of paranoia. She had spent the night before landing running simulations.

Thanks for the tip, wouldn’t have stopped ya’know if it wasn’t as bad as it is. Shady fucker who did the surgery never fixed the problems he made.

The security guard laughed, “Sure. Good luck, ma’am.”

She came in after Haze of course but it was as simple as that. Reasonable distraction, that would have their eyes pass over her before long. Following the general gaggle of people entering the station her eyes drifted over the Eclipse security stationed everywhere. Haze was nowhere in sight, she adopted the ‘completely lost stranger’ to the point where a few stopped her and gave her directions. She kept moving, wondering down quiet corridors before finding her maintenance access with a few workers going about their own days. She watched them waiting for the workers to move on to their next site making note of the couple security cameras posted on the outside of the main access doors. When they moved on she hit the cameras directly with a scrambler over her omnitool, taking control of them. Adjusting their sights away when she entered herself, the hum and noise of the station masked the door opening. Stepping in she checked all the corners, found her access panel and went to work herself.

From maintenance access it had general maps of the station, immediately sending them off to Haze as soon as she found them. With the bolstered tech from Serena, hacking past their generally decent security tiers wasn’t nearly as much work as she was expecting. She downloaded maps of the station and the underground hatches lining up with sites similar to the one she was sitting in. It was easy to find the doctor’s office Drono needed to be in and the route they could take to get there undetected. She opened up her secure communication lines speaking to everyone.

Alright guys, I’ve cracked through the first walls of security for Lafayette, it’ll take more time to delve deeper. Haze I sent you all the maps I could find, same with the escort team. Noted the best routes around Eclipse stationed guards, still working on where they’re storing their equipment. Can’t quite fool the entrance scanners yet so be careful on entry. If you need a camera to look another way, if you need access to a hatch, or someone to make a phony call to pull some security guard away, call me. Comm lines are secure to use.” Dex spoke. “Remember, keep the risk low and I’m going to remind you guys that this shit depends on being sneaky. Call me if you’re stuck.

Good luck.

banner credit to Hellis



Time: Following Evening - After the Earthquake
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada


The Ambassador stood in the dead center of the largest room of their hotel, furniture was pushed aside for the need of space. Surrounding her were sigils of various symbols and elemental background. She spoke amongst her various allies, most notably among them were Captain Esen in his wispy transparent eyes holding steady, the pool of water from which Princess Lassantra’s image lounged. Three other sigils were Jordaan, the fire sprite retainer of Rhys. Duchess Gelsey, swathed in spider silks, years after The Ambassador had taken her seat of power she could barely look the human in the eye. Some were family patrons ruling territories in Paris while others were nobility. Many of which all turned to The Ambassador when word of Pixie Stix was attacked, then inevitably of her appearance after it.

She dressed lightly for Las Vegas heat, but fashionable as always. A white long sleeved collared shirt, with pearlescent buttons, bright pink pants and for now barefoot. Her matching prada purse was beside her grimoire on the desk.

Remain vigilant. Gather your resources, your warriors, please relay any information you have to me directly.” The Ambassador spoke, her eyes moving from one image to the next. “I have heard rumours that Nêuvean Winterborn is raising his own army in retaliation against his territory being attacked. He wishes to hold audience with me, I will not know more until I speak with him.

Captain Esen spoke up, “Of course, My Lady. What of Queen Titania? She has returned to power as you said, will we be able to rely on her for help?

She shook her head, tucking blue hair behind her ear. Carefully she replied schooling her expression away from scorn to neutral, the only one to pick up on it was seemingly Duchess Gelsey. The former Earth Fey Duchess shifted uncomfortably. “Our alliance has not yet been solidified, Captain. I do not expect to rely on her for this. For now, spread word Paris is safe. All I require of safe passage to and from Earth is their favour.

Around the sigils the Fey all nodded, signalling the end of the meeting. A deep breath in and short exhale, Odette strode over to her desk where her grimoire lay open and the tricky box she had been studying since her return. The little puzzle was a good distraction from dealing with the Fey. Speaking with her allies had set a strange mood for her, a line of thought she entertained now with prophecies on the mind.

She scooped it up in her hand walking over to where Mandate was, the mercurial golem sat her red ‘eye’ following the human as she approached. Odette pulled the couch a little closer to flop into it. Playing with the box in her hands, she swung her legs up over the back of the couch and hung upside down. Out loud she asked, “Mandate.” Her tone curious.

You must be built to live for a very long time. It sometimes makes me feel as if my time here on Earth will be just a blink. A drop in the ocean.” She gazed up at the golem, enunciating her next words slowly. “Une goutte dans l'océan.

Bach snorted in the background, flipping through the pages of her spellbook. “Your birthday isn’t for months, did you find a gray hair My Lady?” He teased.

While Bach was seemingly content with teasing the Ambassador, Mandate found herself somewhat stricken. She stilled upon the couch for a moment, the glowing area within her eye that served as a sort of ‘pupil’ and central point seeming to focus upon nothing in particular.

That’s right, isn’t it? I’m going to be here for a long time. What about Miss Ambassador?

It wasn’t a new thought, per se, but it hadn’t crept to the forefront of the golem’s mind in any significant way until the human herself had brought it to attention. And now that it was addressed, it couldn’t be ignored, could it?

Finally, the golem shifted. Her eye focused briefly upon the Ambassador, before its attention fell to her own massive hands. She contemplated the sheen of them, and the thoughts came forward. ”You know, Miss Ambassador, I read recently in one of my books that the ocean is probably billions of years old. I don’t know if that’s the case, with magic and mystery and strange things that most people don’t know about. Maybe the ocean was made a thousand years ago as part of a fairy conspiracy, but I think that’s probably not true.”

Mandate giggled at the silly stray thought, tilting her head and finally refocusing upon the Ambassador. Slowly, she collected her divergent thought patterns as many little tangents were spun together. Still, she remained silent and focused upon the Ambassador for the moment, head tilted. She awaited further elaboration.

Odette smirked a little at that, “Who are we to assume a history book is fact.” Plainly ignoring Bach’s comment holding up the box. “Take this box for example. Gwyneth left this to be found centuries after her death. What will I leave to remind someone I had once existed? Will you live centuries into the future to speak of who I once was?

Bach stopped to listen as well.

She paused thoughtfully then tsked. “Prophecies have turned my thoughts to how much I can accomplish - my own mortality.” Glancing at Mandate she noted, “Not an immediate thing to worry for, my dear.

Mandate was silent for a time. Her head bobbed slowly in an acknowledging -or perhaps merely thoughtful- nod as her eye drifted to her hands once more.

These are our instruments, creators of our will made manifest.

Not a thought, but a memory. Something prickled on her outermost layer, and she shook it away mentally and -ever so slightly- physically. The Ambassador needed an answer there, in that moment. She collected herself, and spoke. ”I don’t know the future, Miss Ambassador, but I know more about the ocean than just its history.” Her burning crimson pupil was focused purely on the Ambassador’s face now, upside-down as the human was on the couch. The golem’s massive hand stretched out, and gently rested on her shoulder. It was a delight to touch.

”The ocean is also force-” Impact. -And even a droplet makes ripples. You’re smart, and powerful, and even strange things like fairies -sorry mister Bach- will look to you for guidance; I’m sure the way you move everything will be felt and remembered!” The golem’s mouth -previously inverted- returned to its smile as she delivered her ‘wisdom’ with a cheerful chirp. She was quite pleased with that one.

Slowly the smirk she had turned into a genuine smile gazing up at Mandate, resting her head on the golem’s hand. She replied, “That is very sweet of you to say, my dear friend. I am working on making my brief time on Earth a lasting impression.

Bach watched on, he opened his mouth to say something then choose to remain silent. Idly flipping through the pages once again. Odette’s attention was on the golem. “Starting with cracking the puzzle on this box. But first-

She swung her legs down, forcing herself to sit upright. “I have decided to hire someone new. A metahuman.

Bach perked in curiosity, “Oh? Anyone in mind?

She dug into her pocket to pull out her phone, dialing already, “Not yet, I want someone who is a hard counter to the likes of Racheli, I am finding that diversifying our allies has found quite a bit of success as of late. Broker, Silence, and of course Mandate.” She nodded with a smile at the golem. “There are quite a few gains to have ah- Bonjour, Jacque!

In a short conversation in French, Odette spoke with her Shroud Syndicate contact, Jacque Morin. A man who came to her for work and she went to for accessing resources available in the criminal organization. They were in need of a metahuman willing to work for the right amount and strong enough to fight on her behalf or with her. The main requirements being heat/fire based, Odette knew Racheli's weakness was losing her connection to her virus through heavily applied heat. She gave Jacque no baseline for a starting price with vague instructions to set up a meeting when he found someone suitable.

Ending the call, she stood up from the couch holding up the box. “We have deciphered some of the runes on the box, I am ready to try unravel the magic keeping the contents of this sealed.

Bach nodded moving the spellbook aside, as Odette walked to the desk. Taking a seat, she placed the box in the center of a paper sheet with similar symbols drawn in a circle. Deciphering what they meant was a matter of translation and some background knowledge on witchcraft. While with research they were able to understand some but not all. The heavy lifting would be in untangling the wards imbued in the box. Warding, a skill Odette was highly proficient in.

Mandate, previously preoccupied with stewing in her own thoughts and fiddling with the necklace she kept off most of the time, looked up as the Ambassador spoke of the box once more. The possibility of meeting more new and interesting people was tantalizing, but this was more immediate. ”I wish I could help more, Miss Ambassador, but I don’t want to break anything and I don’t think I can do magical stuff.” the golem noted, standing from the couch and moving to instead peer at the box from over the Ambassador’s shoulder.

Your moral support works it’s own magic, my dear.” She said sweetly, straightening her shoulders she placed both hands gently across the surface of the box already she felt the thrum of the ward without inciting any magic.

Bach please be ready to intervene for whatever comes next.” She said.

He nodded his leafy head, his hands glowing with green now. “Ready.

So she began calling upon the arcane stream, the familiar blue misty magic outlining her hands and eventually her body. Lifting her hair off the back of her neck. The spell to unlock the wards were Fey in origin, originally meant to tamper with wards a household fey would incite over a home. Naturally it was adapted by Odette, suitably for deconstructing more powerful wards used by different magic practitioners. It was flexible, the magic that seeped into the box filling the runes. Wards were often created in layers around an object or person, it was a simple matter to either cut through the layers or unravel them one at a time.

Find seams in a smoothed surface.

The spell progressed exceptionally, finding the seams working beneath the layers. Her breathing was even as was her tone as she spoke the spell in French.

What she felt next was the equivalent to a magical hammer over her head. The final layer she pushed through pushed back violently. The muddy light from the box overwhelmed the blue of Odette’s, instantly she lost consciousness falling forward in a slump. Abruptly with no sign nor warning. Bach hesitated staring at her then shook her shoulder trying to wake her up.

My Lady?” He whispered, confusion clear in his expression. He tried to rouse her using his own magic but it simply rolled off of her like beading water. He checked her pulse next finding a steady one against her wrist. “I-... I don’t know what happened.

To say Mandate’s reaction was energetic was an understatement. As soon as the human had slumped, the golem had begun to tense. Confusion, then panic. Her hands lurched forward on instinct, but she stopped short of grabbing the Ambassador, her thoughts in a flurry as her hands shook from indecision. Her mane of metal slivers shook and bristled, and her mind was already approaching a state similar to when the human had been seemingly kidnapped by the wind itself.

What? Why? Did she do it wrong? Miss Ambassador is smart, that doesn’t sound smart- did the box hurt her? Thoughts fluttered as rapidly as the beating of wings, and they only grew more frantic when the fairy reported rather inconclusively. ”What do you mean you don’t know?! the golem’s voice had risen to a level more reserved for cheers.

Rather than waiting for a response, she lurched forward in the vain hope that she could do more than the fairy seemingly could. Her hand shot out as an afterthought, gently shoving Bach to the side by the shoulder. That she did so hard enough to send him stumbling was still rather light by the golem’s standards, and the ‘sorry’ that slipped out in that same panicked clip was barely even a conscious thought.

”Miss Ambassador? Are you okay? Can you speak? What happened? Is it the box?” Questions were prattled rapidly at the unconscious ambassador, and suddenly her fear of hurting the human in her panic seemed less important. An index finger and thumb large enough to envelop the Ambassador’s wrist clamped down gently as she sought the pulse for herself.

Good, good- No, bad, she’s still not talking, she’s still unconscious, I’m failing again-

”Miss Ambassador?!”

Bach stumbled backwards he caught himself on some furniture then glared at Mandate, “Calm down! You idiotic golem, step away from her right now!” He raised his voice to a snarl, one that Mandate may not have ever heard before.

Bach stomped forward then snatched the box out from underneath Odette. “If she were dead, I’d be dead too!” He explained losing his temper, gesturing with the box, “We aren’t just partners her soul is attached to mine. Whatever happens to her, happens to me. Do you get it? Or do I need to reiterate to your impossibly naive and imbecilic programing that you are just a tool. Bah!

I need silence and I need to concentrate without you broadcasting your every conscious thought. Pick her up and lay her down in the bed.” He snapped the order, while Mandate’s hand was pressed to her wrist, Odette’s pulse grew weaker at being separated from the box unbeknownst to the impatient Fey.

Mandate’s smile disappeared from her face. Rather, her mouth disappeared entirely, leaving a blank expanse and her single crimson orb. It stared into Bach, as if intending upon burning a hole into him with its unerring lock.

And then the Ambassador’s pulse began to flutter away, and her mouth returned as its inverse. Pouting and yet otherwise inscrutable, Mandate’s hand snatched out, and clamped over Bach’s upon the box. Lifting the Ambassador gently with her free arm, she tugged ‘gently’ upon her grip, intending to place the cube against her regardless of if Bach let go or not. She towered at her full 8 feet of height.

”Okay. But the box stays with her. I think she needs it.” Her voice was its usual harmonious noise, and yet it was… Firm, and without cheer. It allowed for no argumentation. Her thoughts resembled a bubbling witch’s cauldron in their turmoil and implicit danger, but the negligible weight of the Ambassador was a swift reminder of her duty. Still, her eye’s laser-like focus did not waver.

Miss Ambassador comes first, of course.

Bach let go of the box, stepping back looking straight up at the golem. Feeling like someone just walked across his grave and spat three times. He said with no small amount of venom, “Now put her on the bed.

He knew he should have some measure of fear to be left here alone with Mandate now, he certainly didn’t act like it. He grabbed her grimoire dragged a seat beside the bed and gestured with his chin, glaring.

Finally, Mandate’s gaze moved away from the fey, focusing down upon the Ambassador’s face, then upon the bed. One arm lifting the Ambassador became two, as she relied upon the human’s position to keep the box balanced upon her.

From there, it was a very simple matter to move her onto the bed, though Mandate was not at all brusque about it. Her hands hovered uncertainly over the Ambassador, as if struggling to decide whether to arrange her differently or not. She eventually settled upon simply seating herself on the floor beside the bed.


banner credit to Nitemare Shape

---


Time: Midnight
Location: Lost Haven, Maine


Charlene stared at her phone skimming through the mountain of messages from her friend, Carrie Ludwig. Carrie’s text messages ranged from all caps to strings of typos, different time stamps. The last message she received before the phone calls, was the most sensible one.

Char call me, this is driving me nuts!!

Charlie and Yvonne had walked back hauling their scrap. Yvonne shrugged at her when Charlie read the message out loud then decided to give Carrie a chat.

It rang a couple times finally Carrie picking up with a hello, “Everything alright?

“Oh yeah! Glad you called, Charlie. I need your help with something, where are you?” Carrie replied cheerfully.

Charlie looked around then noted the street, “With Evie, your messages made me think something was wrong.

Carrie paused a little then with all her might shouted into the phone, “HI EVIE! TELL HER I SAID HI!” Charlie flinched away from the phone in time for Evie to hear every word. The woman just squinted at the phone then shook her head. Carrie continued as breezily as before, “I guess so but can you come by and help me out with something? ASAP.”

Charlene looked to Yvonne who shrugged, “I ain’t got anywhere else to go. Triads are enough excitement for one night.”

Alright, I’m just going to drop off my shit at home then step on over to your place. See you in 30.

---


Hood down, a much lighter backpack, Charlie’s hand was on the old styled doorknob of her best friend’s duplex. Carrie opened the door wide as Charlie was reaching for it, stepping out into her immediate personal space. Carrie was never one to really acknowledge her immediate invasion of space. Behind her were sounds of various animals, the smell of them as well.

“Charlie! C’mon we’ve got a lot of searching ahead of us tonight, so I hope you wore running shoes. We’ve got some mysterious -- thing to find. It’s been bugging me, now it’s on the move.” She shuffled past Charlie her voice cheerful, energetic. Her massive amount of light brown hair tied into a messy bun on top of her head, dressed in a sundress and large hoodie to keep the evening chill off her shoulders. In her hands she held dowsing needles, ones Charlie recognized from previous midnight escapades.

First of all, you have to let me in on what exactly we’re looking for. Two, those needles don’t do shit. Thirdly, it’s not exactly safe out tonight to go wandering around the city.” Charlie pointed out gesturing with her staff, “Maybe we should try in a week or something.

Carrie gave her a strange look, Charlie typically being the first to take the lead on these searches. “What’s gotcha spooked? Didn’t think I’d ever see the day Charlie said no to a night out.”

Charlie shrugged, lowering her voice, “A witch and alchemist following some phoney dowsing needles isn’t going to look good alright? Who the fuck knows where the Hounds of Humanity are. They attacked clubs, magic folk, metas.

Her friend looked at her thoughtfully then quickly gave her tall friend a tight hug, “That’s why I asked you to come with me. We can watch each other’s back. Here’s the skinny.”

The skinny? Oh my god. She thought, giving Carrie a brief one armed hug. Then listened.

“So, you might not feel it cause you’re the literal magical equivalent to a stick in the mud.” Carrie commented, Charlie huffed. “The past little bit there’s been this really weird, disturbance in the leyline crossing over Lost Haven. I don’t personally tap into it but it’s kind of a big deal for my neighbour downstairs. Been raving about not being able to sleep at night, then I heard him complaining how it was closer now than ever.” She held up her needles, “Hence why we’re going to use these.”

Carrie paused dramatically, grinning as they made their way down the street, “And that’s why we’re going out tonight. If it’s out here here on the East side then we might have a chance at finding it.”

“If it’s a someone then I want to help them before something else finds them.” Carrie finished sincerely. “Bleeding heart on my sleeve.”

Charlie’s slight frown turned into a smile, “Fair. Let’s find it. Lead the way.

With that Carrie led the way, following the previously unreliable needles. Carrie was channeling her magic through a spell, focusing on the incredibly strange disturbance in the leyline. Neither of them were really familiar with the forces of energy that lay within the leylines. The Arcane Stream. Both Carrie and Charlie held magic within their blood and families. Carrie had an uncanny knack for understanding animals while Charlie understood alchemy.

While the needles themselves looked to be like simple thick knitting needles, along the stems were archaic symbols. They proved once again to be unreliable. They trespassed onto Gene Co property only to be chase out by approaching security guards, they wandered into the tennis ball courts at Lost Haven University to find nothing. They even walked as far past Sherman Square to find nothing but the nightlife turning down. They circled their way back to the east side, Carrie complaining she was getting cold well into the wee hours of the morning and Charlie’s feet hurting from walking all night. With their last stop at the airport proving to be a complete waste of time they made their way back home, both tired and ready to call it as the sun was starting to come up.

They cut through the local park and Carrie tugged Charlie down to sit on a bench with a grunt. She squinted at the needles and then chucked them clear into the creek. Staring at the spot for a second of consideration then she ran to retrieve them before they sunk too far out of her reach. Charlie watched rubbing the heel of her hand into her eye, stifling a yawn.

Her thumb rubbed an alchemic symbol on her staff idly thinking what could be causing so much trouble with the leylines. Obviously outside of Charlie’s expertise. She felt something strange, watching Carrie fish her needles out. It felt as if they were being watched. She sat up in the bench taking a look around, her imagination running wild now with her fears of Hounds of Humanity on the mind and extreme lack of sleep. Scanning the park she stopped on a tree, the vaguely humanoid shape sitting up in the branches caught her eye.

Standing up and not taking her eyes off the figure in the branches she walked over to Carrie, hand dipping into the water and pulling the needles free. “Look, someone is watching us. In that tree.” Charlie whispered gesturing with her staff.

“Huh?” Carrie replied then squinted against the morning sun.

Charlie hauled her to her feet, “I say we go confront them. See if it’s just some homeless person hanging out in a tree... or the something we’ve been looking for all night.

Carrie nodded, holding her friend’s arm. They approached the tree together, now getting a closer look. Charlie’s mouth popped open with shock at what she saw and Carrie quietly squeed with delight.

“Oh my god! This is better than I thought!” Carrie said.

What the fuck?” It was all Charlie could manage.


banner credit to Nitemare Shape

---


Time: Present Day - 10:00 PM
Location: Lost Haven, Maine


On the far east side of Lost Haven, the docks had quieted down. After the earthquakes earlier that evening, a lot of areas had shifted and for a few ambitious scavengers they took the opportunity to pick through what might have been impossible to sift through before. A pair of hooded figures leisurely walked down the docks, chatting excitedly for the spoils of the evening. At first glance they were scruffy to look at, old clothes, faces hiding beneath hoods. Figures difficult to discern their gender. Their leisurely pace from their confidence, working under the assumption no others would be out at this time of night to take advantage of the earthquake that kept the more skittish inside. One walking specifically with what looked to be a staff.

Upon closer inspection one would find they dressed ready for dirty work, dark browns and greys. Layered, most skin surface covered in spite of the summer heat still persistent even with the sun being set for hours. Knowingly choosing steel toed boots for where they were heading.

Earthquakes seemed to be the tip of the insanity iceberg, as of late. Especially for locals of Lost Haven, stranger things have happened and are happening all the time. Life went on regardless, no excuse was good enough to keep the brave off the streets.

The pair arrived to their destination, clambering deftly past no trespassing signs and fences. The abandoned warehouse had been all but picked clean, piles of haphazard machinery were stacked against the walls inside. Impossible to move aside safely. While the grounds outside of it were overgrown with weeds, tall grass, and littered garbage blowing across the open space.

It took two pairs of hands to force open the sliding door on the south side of the building, it gave way after a fair amount of cursing.

Twin shoulder flashlights lit up the area shining over displaced engines, rotors, all manner of heavy machinery parts. The taller of the pair removed her hood revealing dirty blonde hair tied in braids. Charlene Croll pulled down her dark brown mask to speak to her partner, “Smell that? Disturbed mildew and dust. Mask up, you were right the quake shifted shit.

Yvonne Thompson removed her mask as well to reply, revealing dark brown hair twisted into a bun, a middle aged face lined with crows feet crinkling at the corners of her eyes with delight. “What’d I say, Charlie? We’re gonna have the pick of the crop tonight.” Clapping Charlie’s shoulder affectionately.

Charlene grinned toothily, “I got this area covered if you want to check out next door, yeah? I’ll radio you if I find something good.” She suggested gesturing with her wooden staff, the fluorite crystal catching the light of the flashlight. “Check in at the top of the hour.

Yvonne nodded pulling her mask back up and stepping back out their entrance, jogging off to explore the warehouse one over. Pulling up her wristwatch and setting an alarm, it was just past 10 o’clock. Without further ado, she tuned the old, duck taped radio on her hip. Local news was playing, between music breaks. The radio and all other news sources were following all developments with the fall of STRIKE and attacks from a terrorist organization called Hounds of Humanity. Terrorist attacks rightfully scared the piss out of everyone. Magic and metahuman alike. Walmarts being blown apart, metahumans getting into a fight in the wreckage.

Then there was the gang wars raging across the west and south side of the city, everything was going to hell in a handbasket as far as everyone else was concerned. For Charlene, it felt like it was right at their doorstep. The rest of the Croll clan felt otherwise, they felt it was a world away. They kept to their own business, concern only reaching out for their neighbours and regulars. They lived in a half decent neighbourhood, most folk looked out for one another the best they could.

A point she and her mother, Julianne had butted heads on regularly. Jules wanted to keep her fresh university graduate home working in their shop.

With the news droning on Charlie set to work scrounging up parts that weren’t eaten away by the salty sea air. She picked through the piles the best she could, when the music returned she hummed along to the top forty charts, knowing most of the words to the latest pop songs. She moved through the piles, deftly examining pieces here and there scrutinizing parts while throwing some into her backpack immediately. At the top of the hour she climbed her way up to the second floor toward the foreman’s office radioing Yvonne.

Checking in, Evie. Finding some good bits over here, how goes the hunt on your end?

She paused waiting for the reply, it came through a few seconds later. “Yeah same over here, probably going to have to come back tomorrow with the truck to pick up some of the bigger- wait, hold up. Do you hear that?”

Charlie turned down her radio, listening intently. The sound of engines revving close by. “Hide. I’ll take a look.” There had been only a handful of times when they had to dodge the cops. Even in the abandoned areas, trespassing with a backpack full of scavenge was hardly offensive but… not something to be caught with. It was really unlikely for them to be doing a sweep through the area, they were too busy as it were.

She stepped up to the dirty window using her sleeve to wipe away a thick layer of grime, moving her goggles to her forehead. Squinting green eyes peered along the street looking for headlights. Down the far end two pairs of lights lit up simultaneously the sounds of engines revving loudly. The lights sped forward racing past the warehouses a few seconds later.

Bringing the radio up, unimpressed she spoke. “Street racers, Evie. I thought they were holding the races on the North end?

Yvonne answered dryly, “Cops probably caught the rumours and chased them off over here. Let’s go before-! Shit! Char there’s some assholes at your front door! Get out of there!”

Charlene clutched the walkie talkie, making quick on hiding herself inside the foreman’s office. She replied seething, “I’m not going any fucking where. They’re responsible for all those hit and runs.

“Charlie! No-” Charlene turned the walkie talkie off.

The voices below came through loudly as the door opened with a loud whine, rusty hinges protesting against the strain. She listened, grinding her teeth. A couple 49ers waltzed in beckoning the drivers in, Charlene heard a little Mandarin. Peering around the doorframe she counted three heads, including the one stepping out of the customized Mazda. Both vehicles were decked out with gaudy aesthetics spinning rims, green neon lights along the bottom of the car, rumbling chrome exhaust pipes. Lit up speakers thrumming with bass.

Eyesores. Charlie thought.

An idea coming to mind then a decision. She stepped away from the doorframe looking around the office, unafraid of whatever noise she could make being drowned out by the vehicles. Searching for anything she could use, she snuck around to the other side of a desk to find an abandoned homeless person’s bed. Opened soup and fried bean cans strewn about over a dirty sleeping bag. Snatching up all the empty cans, standing up she carefully placed each can in a line across the desk. She moved onto unscrewing some dead fluorescent lights. Stepping over puddles of water, seeing her last ingredient. The fire extinguisher.

She scrawled out old elemental symbols from memory, a steady hand while mumbling the formulas. Talking to herself through equations, as she was prone to do. Straightening them, gently Charlie opened her palm across the cans a deep breath through her nose, she concentrated on the mysterious forces of magic that dwelled within her blood.

The equation firmly in mind, the magic flowed through the scrawlings. The natural guidance of magic came as second nature to the likes of Charlene, deconstructing the base elements of the cans, separating them as the magic interacted with it, like following an instinct. Intimate knowledge of chemistry, the building blocks of life. Instinctually a skilled alchemist like Charlie understood what no microscope could provide the most dedicated scientist.

The metal in the cans seemed to spring to life, the aluminum sprang out the sides attaching to the cans around it. Moving like it was water splashing in every direction, the magic pulled all the cans together reshaping it into a larger and taller can with the available materials. Charlie made quick work again with the fluorescent light and fire extinguisher, instead of combining them she separated the more complex points of both objects down to what she needed, from there it was as simple as changing them to gas and sealing the can. Briefly considering the potency and deciding all she needed was an edge.

It was a little over a few minutes, the noise still evident by the drivers and their cars. By the time Charlie was done, the can was sealed with her surprise. A sly smile under the mask while she had worked.

Using both hands she carried her concoction over to the door peering around to see they had gathered in a small circle passing around a smoke. Adjusting her goggles, hood and finally mask. Taking another look at the trio of Triads. One sported a green mohawk, another wore a leather jacket, and the third was bald shaved down to the scalp a tattoo noticeably on the back of his neck. Pulling her ceramic knife from her hip she stabbed side of the can and threw it down to the group of 49ers, it landed rolling to tap against the one with the mohawk, the gas plumed around them.

Visibly the gangsters looked as if they were losing their balance, complaining. The bald one clumsily tried to reach for their gun, while the mohawk gangster tried to kick away the can. Pushing off the door frame she took a running leap over the railing, landing she pushed off from her crouch aiming for legs belonging to the man wearing the jacket. Her staff swept under his feet, he went down like a sack of potatoes. Her next target was baldy, with the gun in his hand. With the extended reach of the staff, she crouched low out of the crosshairs, spinning the tip of her staff against his hand, he lost grip, sending the gun clear out of his hand skittering across the concrete. He yelped holding his hand. Mohawk had snapped to attention.

Her grabbed her backpack trying to pull her off balance, cursing at her. Charlie shifted her foot back to compensate for the sudden pull, turning on her heel she brought her staff around in a one armed swing, connecting with his head with a audible crack. The hit sent him reeling, a final kick to his chest to sent him to the ground seeing stars. Baldy was recovering, her knock out gas still working him into a wobbly stance, he was on his feet trying to shake the effects.

Charlie circled holding her staff out, moving herself between him and the gun. He snapped something in mandarin, Charlie didn’t bother with a reply instead answered feigning left causing him to flinch. Ruthlessly she closed the space jabbing the butt of her staff into his chest, and much like the man who tried to grapple her she brought the staff around his head knocking him out cold.

The one on the ground rolled to his side, looking up at her and asked in a heavy accent, “P-please.”

No.” She snarled then kicked him out cold with her heavy boot.

All three of them were out for the count, she left them where they lay and instead turned her attention onto sabotaging the vehicles. It was several minutes before she turned on her walkie talkie walking out the back entrance, radioing Yvonne, “We’re cool, let’s get the fuck out of here.

Behind Charlene the cars were unrecognizable. All the lights were destroyed, the paint peeling up all over the body of the cars, rusted out bumpers and fenders. The windows were all strategically cracked. The treads of the tires hiding pins that would only sink in when they moved. When the gangsters would wake, they would turn over the engines only then to discover it would burst into flame from Charlie’s tampering.

Whistling as she waltzed out of the warehouse, by the time she crossed the yard Yvonne was waiting for her nervously double checking over her shoulder. “Are you insane!?” She hissed.

Charlene shrugged, “I couldn’t just walk away. You’ve heard the news about how bad the street racin-

Yvonne snapped, interrupting her, “No! The first time I let you beat up some assholes was because they were trying to mug some guy. Second time-” She held up two fingers, “-was because some drug dealer and his knife were between us and the exit. Today you had the choice to sneak out of there, you didn’t have to mess with them!”

Charlene rolled her eyes, “Come on, cut me some slack here Evie.

Her friend snarled at her, “No! Look I make some pretty big allowances here keepin’ your weird magicy crap a secret because you’re a good partner and have gotten us out of some jams but you went out of your way tonight to show off.” She pointed at her adding, “Don’t think I don’t know you have an ego bigger than your head.”

That is so untrue-

“Reckless!”

But I-

“Absolutely stupid!”

Uncalled for-

“What will your mother think?” Evie demanded of Charlene.

Charlene let out a big sigh then smoothly slung her arm around her friend’s shoulder guiding her into a walk, Evie allowing her while she glared. “She doesn’t have to know shit, Eves. We did the neighborhood a favour, I just busted up their cars bad enough they won’t be back on the roads with customized eyesores any time soon.

Yvonne stewed on that crossing her arms.

The city’s got enough to worry about, now it’s two street racers less. Yeah?” Charlie said tilting her head her tone light.

Evie stuck up her lip then relented, “Fuck, girl. You’re a real pain sometimes y’know. Don’t ever shut off the radio on me again, got it?”

Holding up two fingers Charlie replied, “Scout’s honour, ma’am.

Yvonne pulled on Charlie’s ear at ma’am, that earned a few chuckles from the pair.

Charlie pulled out her phone checking her messages, noticing in particular her friend Carrie, was trying to get ahold of her. Scrolling through her wall of text messages, something was wrong.

---


banner credit to Nitemare Shape
Oh no, I'm just spectating and reading. Don't mind lil ole me. @Vordak
Grime, slime, and... a Little Time

@Captain Jenno - @Baklava - [@DearTrickser] Collaborino


Anybody carrying water?

From the safety of her little perch the skullkid had watched Archer lose his temper over his pants on the skeleton, she shook her head but kept her eyes on the skeleton. The funny thing about the undead is they had a terrible habit of standing back up when your back was turned. Though without a head or spine... Well it was debatable. Now the remaining skeleton was in pieces, little flames still hopping across the bones clinging desperately. She squinted at what was left of the fire and decided that the first chuchu did a great job at smothering the skeleton, the second time would surely just be for safety's sake. It also occurred to Jillian that Archer needed something to take his mind off his pants woe, hit two birds with one stone.

While Archer was examining his pants Jillian took the opportunity to summon one last chuchu. Similarly to the first green chuchu it appeared out of the dark purple summoning portal beside where Felicia had slipped. It chittered at Archer, with unnatural flexibility it stared up at Jillian. "Well go on then, smother the fire."

The chuchu hopped forward, it's gibberish sounded like excitement to the skullkid. It loomed over the remains of the skeleton then belly flopped on top of the pile of smouldering bones. A fresh wave of green slime splashed in all directions effectively removing the fire. Archer however, would not be spared the same treatment as the fire.

Archer was bereft of the energy to kick up a fuss about it, however. He felt heavy, as though he were wearing weights about the shoulders and ankles. Anger made his blood feel hotter, and an inability to adequately express it - no faces to pulverise, no bruises to sober him- made it feel thick, and sluggish. As though every vessel was squeezed at an angle, and the flow was choked. Only coming through when enough force pushed it. He made a mental note to yell about this later, however, because this was his favourite jacket, too. And he didn't doubt he'd feel chuchu jelly 'neath his nails and follicles for weeks to come, if he ever left this temple at all.
Archer exhaled again, but the breath rattled. Adrenaline laced and wasted. He leaned forwards to tear at the lengths of his jeans that stretched down beneath the knee, until he was wearing (and the thought sickened him): jorts.
He raised a heavy hand, and addressed Jillian with a pointed finger, "You're lucky I... ah, forget it."

Out of breath, Felicia managed to pull herself up from the chu jelly puddle using the bars of the jail cell. She grimaced as she moved, reassured her hip and elbow were going to be several different shades of purple by the time she got a chance to change clothes. Fixing her hat, she watched as Archer ripped the ruined portion of his pants. She opened her mouth to suggest she might be able to salvage them, but hesitated for far too long. Oh well. He probably wouldn't trust some random woman he barely knew with patching up his clothes anyway.

She clutched the sword to her chest with both hands as she focused on trying to calm down instead. Her heart was still beating wildly and, though it was now silent, she feared something might jump out at them at any second. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment before scratching her shoulder and turning to face Jillian. No. Panicking now wouldn't do her any good.

"U-uh," she swallowed hard and wiped some chu jelly from her cheek with a clean portion of her hand, "Th-the chu jelly was a good idea actually. I-it should clean out of clothes. Doesn't stain too bad...." She glanced at Archer reassuringly before looking back to Jillian with an attempted smile, "Are-- are you okay?"

Archer was tired and burnt, red skin showing beneath tattered pant-legs. A few bruises of his own, too, albeit self inflicted. His eyes were heavy and glassed as he came down from the adrenaline. When Felicia threw him a glance, he offered only an unenthusiastic thumbs up. Less of a 'good job, team!' and more of a 'that sure happened, and now I need a drink.'

Jillian drummed her fingers across the bars, then nodded at Felicia, "I'm okay."

Tentatively she climbed down from the bars, removing her mask and holding it to her chest she began rather uncharacteristically bashful, "Thanks for fighting the skeletons I guess. If you guys hadn't I would've been toast, so... thanks." Staring at her shoes she kicked at a bone. "I've come back from nasty stuff before but I've never seen a skullkid bounce back from being a pile of ash."

Feeling she said her piece, she replaced the mask, "Those wallmasters huh?" She dug out her book again flipping knowingly to a page about them. "My book basically calls 'em useless to summon if you don't have a place to put whoever you're tryin' to catch. Otherwise they just take whoever and plops them wherever they want. Stupid things."

She held up her book for them to see. A crudely inked picture of a wallmaster on one page and notes in hylian on the other. "We're still in the temple, obviously but we need to get outta here."

Archer squinted at the page, sceptical of its contents, and mouthed the words under his breath. Slowly. Very slowly.
"Yeah, it sure does... say that..." he muttered, noncommittally, a different sort of red in the face. He put his hands into his pockets awkwardly, and then looked away, out through the bars of their cell.

"You're right, though. Even I'm not cocky enough to think I can melt the bars, though," he said, half-truthfully. He wasn't cocky enough to think he could do it right now, because he was physically and magically spent for this moment. But with a little rest, he was certain this level of arrogance, too, could be achieved.

"You think you could somehow slink through 'em? Mayb--", dawning realisation.
"Wait. If you're here, and I'm here... who's annoyin' my brother?!"

"Lethe I guess, I saw 'em make it across the bridge before I got snatched." Jillian shrugged. "Did you guys find the keystone yet?"

"We got attacked by keese, boulderbrains Hogswash rolled off, we figured out some stupid puzzles, mostly me, some weird mirrory scythes showed some spooky and hilarious reflections. Then Zephyrus poked himself with an arrow and so did Naviela. Then the wallmasters showed up and that was pretty scary." Jillian carried on in her nearly useless explanations, talking without much of a pause. When she did pause she looked between Archer and Felicia. "We didn't find the keystone though."

"We made it through literally one corridor before that hooded asshole started bein' all... hooded. And an asshole. I'm not sure how this is his fault, but it is and that's the hill I'm willin' to die on," Archer scratched his cheek, a thoughtless little gesture, "Also there was a Poe, I guess. Not our one, though."

Felicia listened quietly until it seemed appropriate for her to speak up. "We didn't find the keystone, either," she said simply. She ran her thumbs over the ornate pommel of her sword, thinking on Jillian's book and remembering how she'd summoned the ChuChus But what sort of monster could safely break the bars without potentially injuring someone? She slid her sword back into the scabbard at her hip as she turned to look outside the cell.

A single torch and a long hallway, leading off into pitch black darkness.

"Maybe there are some keys somewhere," she suggested, the end of her sentence tapering off into a whisper. What a stupid suggestion-- of course there were keys. There was a lock. There were keys. But where? "If-- if we could see further down that hallway..."

"Did you say that book can summon monsters? What're the odds you can just, have one'a those handsy freaks drop us off on the other side of the bars?" Archer asked, not quite grasping the extent to which Jillian was able to work her metaphorical mojo. Magic to him had always been very straight forwards. Get mad; break stuff.

Jillian scratched at some hair under her hat, "Are you deaf or somethin'? I just said they're useless, they'll just stick us right back into this cell. We'd have better luck trying to make a lockpick-! OH! I can do that! I can make a lockpick." She said slamming the book shut and diving her hands in deep to the slime to pull some bones free. Shaking the boney fingers free of slime she said, "Bones make great toothpicks too."

Toothpicks? Felicia didn't want to ask how Jillian knew that. She stepped aside and waited, quietly hoping Jillian's idea would work.

"I thought you said they were useless if you didn't have anywhere to dump what they catch. We have somewhere - outside of the cell. Why can't one you summon just... ah, screw it, just. Pick the lock. 'More I try to understand magic, the more I start to understand why Zeph is as boring as he is. Too much maths."

Jillian pulled apart the knuckles on the skeleton's hand separating the fingers. "Anyone wanna lend me a knife or something? I need to whittle this down a bit."

"I have a line cutter..." Felicia said hesitantly, snapping open her small tackle box for the second time that day. It was a very small pocket knife, but should she really be giving it to a child? Er... someone that seemed so childlike? She held it out to Jillian half heartedly-- a worried frown creasing her features.

Jillian hardly glanced at Felicia, spinning the knife in her hand then setting to work on the bone. "Bone is weird, the drier it is in the more brittle it gets. The opposite of wood ya'know..." Jillian paused finishing shaving down past a knuckle then shot Felicia a look seeing her worry, "Who d'you think made those puppets? I've been makin' puppets and other stuff for over a hundred years. I'm really good at it. Makin' a lockpick is nothin'."

Jillian turned back to the boney fingers, deftly gliding the small knife with her thumb. Flicking the excess shavings of bone as they curled. She whittled it down to a thick but fine point, then went to work on another finger, expertly following the natural curve of the bone to create a small hook. When she was done she held them up, smoothed down and ready to be used.

"I'm no good with locks, I usually break somethin' before trying to pick somethin' open."

Archer cleared his throat, and raised his hand: "Not to implicate myself in anythin', being an honest, upstanding citizen and all, but if you've got the pick, I've got the dexterity. Zeph doesn't let me carry lockpicks on me, but bein' a...", he coughed, "Magician has made me pretty nimble. Picked my first lock with another kid's hairclip when I was still real small."

Jillian stared at him, "Yeah yeah, if you're askin' me to make you lockpicks on the regular then whatever. Get us outta here and I'll make you 'em." She grabbed his hands then put the lockpicks into his sticky digits. She passed the knife back to Felicia, handle first. "Thanks, you good at fishing or something with carrying around a tacklebox?"

Still pondering the implications of Archer's 'dexterity', Felicia was surprised by Jillian's question. "Uh. You could say that I guess," she half shrugged, returning the knife to her tacklebox, "It puts food on the table anyway...." Her eyes followed Archer as he set to work.

"Can I look through your box?" She asked, her curiosity taking precedent.

Felicia turned her attention back to the undead child, pausing before she snapped the latch shut. Her box? She hesitated, running through the contents of the tackle box in her mind as she tried to assess what might happen if she handed it over to the childlike creature. Several lures, three old bobbers, some sinkers, some plastic worms, needle nose pliers, extra line, and a small matchbox filled with extra hooks. Then, of course, there was the first aid kit and knife. And a small jar of homemade sunscreen. Perhaps it would be fine. She had just handed Jillian her knife, hadn't she?

"M-mind the hooks," she muttered, holding out the box, "They're sharp."

Archer was already at work and a few tumblers deep, tinkering with mechanisms he couldn't even see. At one point this had been second-nature to him, when he'd been out on the streets, competing for his evening meal against performers whose pockets jangled when they walked. What was a couple incidents of lighthearted burglary between rivals?
Now, however, he found himself straining to raise each new weight. These older locks employed heavier levers, kept in place by rust and grime. His lock picking set, discarded now but once a valued tool of his trade, had been shaped from the shredded parts of an old saw. In a lock like this, the picks would easily have broken - but the bone, gross as it was, was at least not too brittle.

Archer thought to ask for quiet, but he knew that in old mechanisms such as these it was just as much luck as it was focus. Instead he narrowed his eyes, and stuck his tongue out to the side, concentrating - a rarity in his otherwise reckless lifestyle. Employing some semblance of the discipline Zephyrus had wished to instill in him, albeit in a less than desirable way, by his standards.
"Almost got it, I think. Just... a couple more..."

Jillian perked at Felicia's permission, surprised that she'd let her poke through her stuff. Slowly reaching out to the box keeping her eyes locked on the Hylian, in one quick movement and jangle of the box's contents Jillian had grabbed it quickly stepping out of reach. Giggling at Felicia's expression.

She sat down, similarly to Archer her tongue poked out when she lifted the lid rifling through all it's contents. In one hand she held up a lure and in the other a hook, catching the light then setting them outside the box. LIfting up the separator to reveal the bottom, and more to inspect. Quickly amassing a pile of everything that she found. Holding up the matchbox full of hooks shaking them as if she needed a clue as to what was inside. She emptied the matchbox of hooks onto the pile. Moving onto the sunscreen she took a long whiff of the jar, pressing a gob of it between her fingers - it was pretty thick. Recognizing the knife she put it onto the pile, carefully teetering it until it balanced. With the tackle box emptied of it's contents she lifted it upside down shaking it around, not finding any secrets as her hand patted along the sides. All the while she rattled off questions about everything she found, not really pausing to hear the answers. What sort of fish did Felicia expect to catch? Wouldn't the fish be the food on the table? Why did some of the worms look shiny while the bobbers were dull?

"You got a lotta junk in here," Holding up the tackle box again for Felicia to take it. Pausing she laughed, "Oh right, should probably put the stuff back huh." Scooping up the pile and moving the separator out of the way, in a few handfuls she carelessly dumped everything back into the bottom of it. The line tangled, hooks and lures tossed together and the only item to placed carefully was the jar of sunscreen on top. When she was done, she could barely close the lid with how things were piled back into it. Her hands were marked and sliced from the hooks, visibly moss already grew out of the cuts filling the new space.

"Oops." Opening and closing her hands slowly watching the moss grow over.

Felicia got the distinct feeling she'd made a terrible mistake as soon as Jillian stepped out of reach. Her intuition proved correct as she watched in silent horror as the skullkid unceremoniously dissected her tackle box. Almost robotically, Felicia took the empty box and stared as Jillian scooped up her belongings and dumped them back inside-- paying absolutely no mind to the hooks.

It being her only request, Felicia found this detail even more worrisome than the state of her tackle box. She watched the moss cuts on the girl's fingers, brows furrowed. There was an old sort of flame here-- angry frustration. Something familiar. More like a spark-- a memory. Why didn't she listen? Why didn't she ever listen?

Dejected, Felicia sighed, leaving the skullchild without any sort of reprimand as she did her best to prod the mess of fishing equipment into submission-- finally settling on leaving the jar of sunscreen in her pocket so she could close it. The tangled line and everything else could be dealt with later. It wasn't like she would be doing any fishing anytime soon anyway.

Click!

"Hah! Not gonna lie, that was... fifty percent guesswork."

And the other fifty percent was prayer.
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