The Eldritch Servant (Formerly Lost in Time & Space)

Tales from the Atreblan Valley

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Bailey Raptis
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Hedging Their Bets, Part 2

Post by Bailey Raptis » Wed Dec 18, 2019 7:55 pm

Moments after Bailey and Mallory vanished into the forest, one of the mourners bowed solemnly to excuse himself from the group and followed after them. As soon as he was through the treeline, his pace quickened, and he removed a sickly green pendant from his robes and whispered,

“Y’ kadishtu ahagl h’ orr’e ah.”

Deceiving and betraying his clanswoman to the Great Dreamer had been an easy task, but he had finely honed skills to track more difficult prey. His twitching ears could hear no sign of the witch and the Wayward Knight, but his keen eyes picked out snapped twigs, overturned leaves, and other disturbances in the underbrush.

By the time his brothers and sisters arrived, slithering into reality out of jagged tears writhing with tentacles, he had found the trail and followed it to its apparent end. A familiar coppery smell lingered in the air, though he knew better than to touch the blood that splattered the ground. They had learned the consequences of tampering with that on Sunday night...

But carefully turning over a few leaves revealed a protective circle of salt that had been sprinkled across the earth. He looked up, and one of his sisters of the New Age gave him a wicked smile.

“She hasn’t shut the door as tightly as she thought.”

As she raised her hand to the gray sky above, a wave of corruption spread from every living thing in the soil around the circle, withering and rotting all it touched. It rose up in a dark wave, then fell in upon the circle and melted it away.

“Prepare yourselves,” another spoke as they drew obsidian knives from within their robes. “Today we secure the final key to the New Age... and snuff out one more false star in the Firmament.”

There was an excited murmur as one of their number stepped forward to open the way, blade in hand; it rose to a chant that unsettled the creatures of the forest, and ravens took flight from the branches above them as they cried out:

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!”

A purplish-black portal tore open with the slash of a knife, and as one they stepped through, into the pale and bloody city that sprawled out before them under a crimson sky.

Cobblestones of various shades of black and gray laid out the various pathways through this twisted simulacrum of the fountain and courtyard at Three Foxes Court, though it seemed that no matter which direction one walked, all roads eventually led to that fountain. Three black hounds with maroon eyes appeared to be ripping and tearing at a marble arm in the center. That arm clung tight to an ever-beating heart, pouring blood out into countless tributaries that flowed out into the red city. As they spilled down the steps from the center, the rivulets shifted and merged together, capillaries into veins and arteries, the blood circulating to Mallory and her warlocks. The empty husks of abandoned buildings sat alongside the streets, but little resided within them but rows and rows of shelves, filled with rows and rows of books. Other than the rhythmic lub-dub of Mallory’s heartbeat, no other sounds filled the air, nor were there any other signs of life. This city was dark, quiet -- empty.

Empty, save for muted rays of green light glinting through the dusty windows of a house on the corner, only two blocks from the fountain. “There,” the wood elf whispered; the light shifted, drawing further from the front of the house as if spooked, and he scowled and stalked ahead, flanked by two more R’lyehan cultists.

The woman who had dispersed the circle had a miasma of rot and corruption flowing from her right hand, and she pointed a slimy, blackened finger at the fountain. She and her comrades spared only a glance for the others slipping into the shadows of the corner house, after the severed soul of She Who Promised. “It will all be over soon,” she told the pair following on her heels, fingers tensed around her obsidian blade as she stepped up to the fountain, intent on the vulnerable heart before them.

One brother and one sister stepped up to either side of her; they exchanged a nod and she whispered, “For the New Age.”

Their blades fell.

Instead of slicing cleanly through Mallory's eternal heart, their obsidian blades clanked as stone struck stone.

“Is it a fake?” cried their leader as she staggered back down the steps, “or armored?!” She took aim with the miasma, lining up a trio of dark bolts — when the arm started to move.

Another cultist was swearing as he swung his corrupting blade at the heart, but the curse was cut short as the marble arm flung the stone facsimile into his throat, sending him falling back as he gasped for air. The disembodied hand then grasped for the third cultist, wrapping around her throat as she slashed her dagger uselessly against the limb.

Energy rippled from behind the trio of hounds, and Bailey calmly ascended the fountain’s stairs to watch the cultists struggle with the sculpted arm he’d summoned. Sometime during the journey between RhyDin and there, the knight had removed his overcoat and suit jacket, leaving him in just a white button-up, black trousers, and shiny black Oxfords. The thorny necklace he had started wearing since he joined the Wayward Court was now firmly embedded in and around his neck, sending trickles of blood down his chest and staining the placket of his shirt. He pointed the gleaming tip of his silver sword at the trio of foes.

“There will be no broken hearts today,” Bailey said, before leaping into the fray.
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Bailey Raptis
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Hedging Their Bets, Part 3

Post by Bailey Raptis » Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:01 pm

The wood elf found the flickering figure of Michelle Montoya - her goodness, her soul - in the very back of the house, pulling books and scrolls down from a shelf in desperation, searching for something. Perhaps a way to resist her Fate, if she had detected the intruders’ arrival, as the scout suspected. “Mark her,” he commanded, and one of his comrades stepped forward, drawing an eldritch symbol of sacrifice in the air as he approached her from behind.

As the scout moved to flank her and box her into the corner, his foot came down on paper. He lifted it from the fallen book and gave it a distracted glance - the pages were blank, completely empty save for his muddy bootprint.

The realization struck him just as the cries of combat reached him from the fountain, but his warning died in his throat when he looked back to their cornered prey. What had been Michelle was changing before his eyes with the sound of ripping tendons and snapping bones, and blood poured from her temples as horns curled out of her flesh.

It was too late for his comrade, turned to solid stone the instant the shapeshifting witch let out a piercing shriek, his expression frozen in wide-eyed horror. What had been books and scrolls turned to writhing vines and bramble underfoot, the leaves too rich and green for this season.

They were in the Veil, on the edge of Faerie, and all of this had been some terrible trick.

“Run!” he shouted, twisting his body to break free of the entangling vines and dashing through the doorway. The other cultist with him was a few steps behind, stumbling as the barbed snares wound tight around her and sank their thorns into her calves. She was nearly around the corner with him, joining his mad scramble to find cover from the blood witch’s line of sight, when a necrotic wave washed over her from behind.

She locked eyes with him, croaking out the first syllable of his name before she collapsed into a pile of dust.

The illusions of this place were crumbling around him, stone walls and overflowing shelves transforming into the lashing brambles and grasping trees of the Hedge. Direction made no sense here, and he was no longer certain where they came from, but he could hear his surviving comrades fighting nearby.

He bared a longer blade, engraved steel with a curved edge ideal for chopping, and desperately hacked through the wild vegetation as he fought his way towards them. “Thessra!” he cried, hoping the eldritch mage was still alive. “Draw a tear, we have to get out, we have to-!”

His last words were cut off in a violent cough as claws sank into his back, clenching together as they tore through his lungs. His eyes rolled back, and a smile touched his bloody lips as he felt his death approaching.

Great Dreamer, we die that you might awaken...

* * * * *

As the cultist died in the sapling-formed arch that had once been the house’s entrance, an Abyssal tear formed at his feet. Slimy green tendrils devoured his flesh and disappeared, and Mallory was left standing over the blood and viscera that remained of him.

Her expression of sadistic glee turned to one of mounting trepidation as she turned to Bailey and what remained of the fight over the glamoured fountain. With the trap sprung, Bailey felt no need to maintain the illusion they were in Mallory’s demiplane, and so the landscape surrounding him more closely resembled the Hedge he was used to. Without the glamour, the imitation fountain and stairs Bailey had conjured revealed themselves as white marble, stained in spots with fresh blood. The same went for the ersatz heart and the animated arm he’d used to even the odds in his fight. Bailey sat on the middle step, his sword resting by his side, smoking a cigarette and shaking his head.

“What happened to the others?” Mallory looked for survivors as she mopped the blood from her temples with the inside of her arm, and glanced back at the archway where the wood elf’s body had just been consumed. “Like him?”

Bailey began gesturing towards various spots on the ground. “Once Braçinho finished choking the life out of her --” Bailey pointed at a towering wall of thorns. “-- she immediately started to disintegrate and these strange looking green worms erupted from what remained of her flesh. Then, they disappeared. The man -- some manner of claws erupted through the earth and dragged his body out of sight. Their leader -- I had her beaten, disarmed, on the ground, but instead of attempting to escape or begging for her life, she scrambled for her knife and slit her own throat. And then a tear opened into the Hedge -- green tendrils sprung through -- and dissolved the body before my eyes.” Again, he shook his head. “I do not need to tell you that it takes powerful magic to step into and out of the Hedge. And yet, this is the second time in recent memory someone -- or something -- has made it through. Either I am overestimating the wards innately keyed to the Veil... or my foes possess power that dwarfs mine.”

“Not their power,” Mallory mused as she studied the marble facsimile of her heart. “His. I’ll go to Michelle, but you need to talk to Jewell. Tell her every death feeds their master.”

Her eyes fell to the bloody smear on the ground where the wood elf had fallen, and she scowled. “However much longer we have left until he tries to break through... I get the feeling that all we did was speed things up.”

((Written with Mallory's player, with many thanks! The Wood Elf funeral rites were inspired by Quaker meeting rituals, including their funeral customs.))
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Eregor
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To R'lyeh and Back I

Post by Eregor » Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:13 am

The nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. - H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”


December 17, Twilight Isle

The challenge ring was filled with countless Eregors, from both past and present, allowing to come in behind Michelle’s mystic shield to strike, winning him the second match and the challenge. “And with that the challenge is over!” called Helea. “Eregor's quick thinking.. and repositioning, gives him the lead he needed to flank Michelle's attempt at a defensive spell. Congratulations, Eregor, on becoming Keeper of Water!" She then flipped a card over. "And well tried, Michelle!"

Michelle didn't seem the least bit displeased; she took off the key and walked over to Eregor, the one whom she had battled with. "Congratulations, Eregor. I hope you enjoy —your reward!" She shoved the key against his chest, and a sudden darkness enveloped the mage, devouring him into some other time and space. The Tower of Water crumbled and fell to pieces, surely to be reformed when the Keeper returned.

"Wh-?!" As the darkness enveloped Eregor, he turned towards Rhi, their eyes meeting... and then he was gone.

----------

Another place, another time

The air was stagnant and damp, redolent with a fetid reek, and Eregor felt his gorge rising once more. He staggered to lean against a boulder encrusted with slimy moss, steadying himself as he spat thin, pale vomit upon the rocks once more. How long can I keep this up? he asked himself, looking up into the hazy sky, the sullen sun hanging there like a great eye, staring down. How long had he even been here? It felt like days, even months since Michelle--or rather, the evil that had corrupted her--had banished him to this place.

To have the Key he’d won ripped away from him, leaving him hunted and alone.

Nightgaunts circled in the distance, and the ululations of star-spawn echoed dimly as they called out praise to their dreaming lord. From where he perched, Eregor could see the city spread before him in all of its antediluvian majesty. Gargantuan monoliths and ruined towers shared an abstract geometry, with angles that shifted at the whim of the city’s dread master.

The Key to the Tower of Water was somewhere in that ruin. He could not leave the city without it, but to get it, he would have to brave the heart of the nightmare.

“In his house in R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu lies dreaming.” Eregor all but whispered the words, lest he attract unwanted attention. Yet if the Great Old One was dreaming, was his body there in the great, archaic temple? Or worse yet… am I in Cthulhu’s dream?

A heavy, squelching sound drew his focus away from the city, and he turned to see a hideous, wormlike creature, so dark grey in colour as to be almost black, coated with slime. Tentacles whipped out from what might have been a head, slamming into Eregor and sending him tumbling to the rocky ground. “Aaah!” As the disgusting worm slithered closer, the Time Lord scrambled away, arcane words of power on his breath. Electricity crackled around his fingers…

...and then died, as an ominous presence filled his mind, and the magic left him. Visions of a colossal figure filled his mind, a humanoid form with draconic wings, its great heat akin to a horrid cephalopod. He recognized it from the bas-reliefs found throughout the ruins, knew it at once from legends older than Time itself.

Cthulhu.

One of the worm’s tentacles wrapped around his ankle, and blindly he reached out to grab something, anything he could use as a weapon. His fingers grasped something hard and curved, and without hesitation he lashed out to stab at the slimy tentacle gripping him. The creature shrieked and withdrew, giving him the time he needed to get to his feet. Looking down, he saw what he held--a bone, likely a rib, broken off and jagged. His eyes darted about and he saw a horrifying reminder of his possible fate: a skeleton, lying where it fell, to be food for the worms, eternally reaching for…

A sword. Pitted slightly with corrosion, but serviceable enough.

As the chthonian beast scuttled closer, Eregor quickly picked up the blade and turned upon the creature, slicing deep. It screamed once more, and he struck again, and again, until it lay dead in an ichorous heap.

A second blade lay beyond the first. The poor soul must have stumbled in this ever-shifting madhouse, and been grabbed before he could reach his weapons. Kneeling beside the skeletal remains, Eregor touched the skull gently, giving silent prayer to whatever gods the man had known were able to bring him peace, and thanking him for the gift. Then he stood, and straightened the collar of his no-longer-elegant longcoat, now long since stained and torn. Hefting both swords, he turned back towards the nightmare city of R’lyeh, as the nightgaunts turned in his direction, and creatures gibbered among the Cyclopean walls..

Once more that terrible presence loomed in his mind, raking his soul with misery. You want to torment me? Drive me mad, you tentacle-faced bastard? Go ahead and try! Michelle slipped from your grasp, you couldn’t hold onto her, and you won’t hold me either!

Step by step, he approached the city, the temple, and the Key that would take him home. To his family. To Rhi.



((opening section adapted from live play with Michelle and Snow))
Last edited by Eregor on Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Eregor
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To R'lyeh and Back II

Post by Eregor » Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:16 am

The sun had risen and set a dozen times since Eregor had armed himself and turned his path towards R’lyeh. He was ragged and weary, bruised and bloody. One of his appropriated swords had finally snapped as it was torn from his grip, lodged in the carcass of a slain Gug, but he’d replaced it with a dagger from one of the robed cultists that prowled the city, chanting the name of their dead, dreaming lord.

Panting, he limped up the great steps leading into the temple proper, and wondered if Michelle had come this way, or any other of the countless poor souls who had found their way to R’lyeh and been lost. Madness and despair encroached on his senses, tempting him to give up, to give in. Pain surged through his body, and he felt a stabbing pain in his chest that had to be a broken rib or two. For a brief moment he thought of that long-dead soul whose own rib had saved him from the worm; for an even briefer moment, he wondered if that had been himself, cursed to roam back and forth in time until the madness of R’lyeh consumed him.

“No!” He would not surrender to that insanity.

A screeching roar from ahead drew his attention, and he managed a smirk as he saw robed cultists with leashed creatures, terrible beasts beyond description, advancing on him. Weariness assailed his soul once more.

From the pit of his stomach, a fierce roar welled up and he charged forward into the throng of minions. Their overwhelming numbers worked against them, as each wanted the honor of slaying him, and so they got in each other’s way. Still, he was hard-pressed and it was only the rage burning within him that drove him onward, allowing him to ignore the stabbing blades and tearing claws and tentacles that whipped at him.

Or perhaps it was something else burning, but he refused to let that particular fire consume him. Not here, not in this insanity. If he was going to die, to change, then by all Time he would see those he loved again first!

He spied the Key, set upon a pedestal like a trophy, and he felt its call. Drawing on its power, he reached out to the water within the cultists’ bodies, and he pulled. A wet sheen spread across their faces, and one by one they collapsed, crying in agony as water oozed from their skin, spreading across the temple floor and pooling in its arcane architecture. Then the screams became moans, and the moans became whimpers, and the whimpers became silence.

With slow, heavy, dragging steps, Eregor limped over to the pedestal and picked up the Key. He felt the presence of Cthulhu in his mind, one last time, taunting him, saying that he had many more minions to call upon, and the New Age would come.

With a smirk, Eregor gripped the Key, and felt its link to the Tower, to Twilight Isle, to home. He closed his eyes, and raised one hand. A tear formed in the air, through which he could see the beach, and Rhi and Heph. He stepped through, letting the rift to R’lyeh close behind him.. “Nice… try….”

The Old Soul that had been part of Rhiannon since before she took her first breath had been set free. Had one soul released or sacrificed to preserve another? The spectral form of Zapphira rose up from the female vessel that had both shielded her and held her captive; she drifted to the darkened waters. With the Key to the Tower of Water now in Eregor’s charge Zapphira, the lost grandchild of Poseidon, gave him her remaining energy to aid in purifying the waters on the Isle.

Eregor stepped forward, and then staggered, collapsing into his wife's arms. "I saw... R'lyeh... the gibberings of... his creatures... but... I came home... to you...." He felt Zapphira's essence entering the Key, and through it the lagoon, and the Tower. "Time for... a rebirth." Tired eyes looked up at Rhi with such depths of emotion. "I love you... my heart." Then they closed, and he went limp in her arms.

"Not just to me, to us, our family." Rhiannon drew Eregor close to her to warm him. "She's free, love, after all those years, she's free." She cradled him against her and murmured, "Time is on our side."

After a moment, his hands began to glow with a faint golden light. Streamers of shimmering gold rose from his face, enveloping his features, flaring to an almost blinding brilliance. Rhi held fast, unafraid. The Key, too, began to glow, a fierce blue-white gleam, while out over the lagoon, the ruins of the Tower of Water shifted and flowed like their element, climbing up, ever upwards, reshaping the Tower once more, clean and whole.

Finally the glow around Eregor faded, and he looked... different. Rich brown eyes opened beneath dark brows, and looked up at Rhi. "Hello, a chroi."

"Hello, a chroi." She smiled warmly as she curled one of her hands around one of Eregor's. "I've been preparing for this. Just in case."
Rhiannon Brock: "Explaining your transformation to the children will be a much easier task than explaining if you had been lost to us."

"You are my heart, Rhi. How could I ever be lost, with you to light my way?"



((closing section adapted from live play with Rhi))
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Michelle Montoya
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R'lyeh Renewed

Post by Michelle Montoya » Sun Dec 22, 2019 8:09 pm

December 22nd
Overlord Isle


“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Inglui hag’wahn tagnaui.”

Hundreds of worshippers knelt in the mud, gripping obsidian daggers that plunged into the foul earth. An acrid, blinding green cloud drifted from the central altar of a cyclopean platform, a willing sacrifice draped lifelessly over irregular masonry. Their left arm hung limp, revealing the Eldritch Symbol emblazoned in black along the wrist. A sharp blade balanced on its point, through the stilled heart its victim. Dark red blood had long since congealed around the knife, mixing a coppery scent into the dark green mist. Two small pedestals stood at the north and west points of the altar, each with a small vial; one contained flecks of paint in suspension, while the other held dried pieces of mud. Michelle stood south of the platform, paces from the sacrifices head, murmuring words that were echoed by her followers.

For seven weeks, she had performed this ritual by the memorial statue of Gondar. The transformation of Overlord Isle had been slow to start, but hastened as The Great Dreamer’s following swelled in numbers and power. As the ground softened, great monolithic slabs had risen from a realm eons away. These greenish stone blocks held bas reliefs of The Great Dreamer’s visions and patron. Gondar’s memorial gave way to grotesque stone moulding, and the manor became a monstrous fantasy of distortion and perverted perspective. While the island transformed into the seedy origins of The One, rends in the fabric of time and space pockmarked the Isle. The lighthouse sank into the mud and became a monstrously craven portal to another place. Gibbering monsters, long shadowed creatures of nightmares, and the green sticky spawn of stars took residence. A cultist here or there disappeared to feed the ravenous horde, and those left behind lamented their dishonour. For each one brought into the maw of a Cthonian or Mangler only hastened the coming of The One.

Since her defeat to the Empress, fellow dreamers had performed rituals for twenty-four hours a day. While half of the followers prayed, the other half erected iron statues all over the Island. Each figure was a variation of The Great Dreamer herself, though each held a transformation which married her to The One. Overflowing ringlets of tentacles, draconic wings lifted in flight, or hands transformed into flabby claws. Each vision was uniquely formed and bore the markings of a New Age.

“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Inglui hag’wahn tagnaui!”

The chant rose in mighty chorus, and two dreamers stepped forward. They used muddy daggers to slice jagged cuts across their hands and bleed dark droplets of blood onto the pillars. A ripple of energy cascaded from the centre, blowing the smoke of R’lyeh off the Island. The sound of the cosmos tearing ripped through the fabric of reality, and the altar broke in the middle, crashing to fathomless depths below. Michelle stepped forward, sharp eyes gazing into the darkness with gifted sight. Echoes of a vast, gelatinous entity crescendoed from the rift to R’lyeh.

“Soon,” she answered.

The dreamers began to make hasty preparations as Nightgaunts soared overhead. The yacht would take them all to RhyDin. Niles stepped up to the Michelle then knelt in the mud before her. “Great Dreamer, what will happen to all our work once the blue-haired fae takes over the Isle?”

“Undoubtedly, she will work to undo it. But don’t worry, Dreamer Niles, the way is opening, and the New Age has begun.”
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Michelle Montoya
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Interlude: Peace Tonight

Post by Michelle Montoya » Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:50 am

December 28th
Home of Hearts


She calls the circle, she sets the tone,
She lights the candles that burn on.

Staring out into the sun,
She says what new day has come.
Oh what a thing to have a star,
A wishing well, I wish you well, I wish you well.

She thanks the sky, and she walks the earth,
Her tears that fall are beautiful.

She says my people, she says my tribe,
All good lovers out there, peace tonight, peace tonight.
To the brokenhearted, the burdened too,
To everyone, peace tonight, peace tonight.
-Peace Tonight by Elephant Revival


Malleus handed Michelle six satin white and gold floor cushions. Long have the pillows been lumpy, but Michelle dared not replace them for fear of losing the fond memories stored inside. She smiled gratefully and placed them around the low, rich oaken coffee table. Nadella arranged sixteen gold and white candles on the coffee tables carefully treated wood. Each candle was precisely placed, the position providing as much meaning as the candles themselves. Nadella formed a beautifully arrayed circle on the solid oak surface, receiving minor guidance from her mother. Allen stood by a sprawling counter, running the full length of the back of the room. He deftly cut and prepared offerings from Atrebla — a pinecone from a Douglas Fir, bark from a White Birch, and dried Blue-Eyed Grass. The smells reminded him of family walks through the mountains, and berry picking with his mother, sister and cousins. Derrick felt each contribution his son handed him, weathered hands gently placing them inside the chipped ceramic bowl. His fingers lingered for a moment on the smooth birch bark. Allen looked up from his next cutting, “It’s from Mother’s favourite tree.”

“I know,” Derrick responded, his arm reaching out to pull Allen in for a loving embrace. “You d-did well, son.”

Mallory stood beside Eri and looked on as an outsider making her way in, discovering something new in the chambers of her own heart as she watched Michelle and her family celebrate the bright winter holiday together. Her influence was subtle, the faint twitching of her fingertips the only physical sign of her meddling as the ceiling of the chamber slowly turned a darker, richer shade of blue, the colour of a cozy winter evening that welcomed the warm candlelight.

The witch’s movements were as quiet as a whisper, no more than a murmur for the embracing father and son as she took up the bowl with all the care of a mother with an infant. She spared a wink for Eri with a merry gleam in her eye, and stepped past her to set the bowl on the centre of the table.

“I can smell the valley,” she said, less for the others and more for her wife, who had never been to Atrebla before. Indeed, there was none of the usual coppery tang in the air from her blood, no crimson light in this chamber, only the warmth and security that this place provided.

Eri seemed calm even in the chamber she had never seen in a plane she had seldom visited. Though the delinquent appeared to be doing well to keep a cheerful face on, the preparations of the cuttings kept her attention curious and focused as she stood beside the witch. When she caught the wink, the forced cheer on the half oni’s features brightened and seemed a bit more easy and genuine.

“It’s nice, really” she agreed, tipping her head back a bit to sniff at the air in the chamber. Though cheered, some fatigue seemed evident in the slump of Eri’s shoulders. After the witch walked past her to set the bowl down on the table, she quickly sat down on one of the cushions available. After a moment she looked away from the holiday ritual to Mallory as she settled on an adjacent one, who met her look with a smile and held her hand.

With gentleness and love unfeigned, Michelle led Derrick to one of the cushions after the witch and the oni had settled. His fingers held hers a moment longer as he treasured the touch from his wife. Allen and Nadella carefully lit the candles, dressed in frankincense oil, after the manner of their ancestors. Brother and sister looked to their mother for approval as the flames flickered in the softly lit chamber. With her soft smile as permission, they each sat on their floor cushion, and although they looked almost identical, the children knew which one belonged to them. When he could no longer feel movement in the room aside from the soft, patient breathing of his wife and the restless shifting of his daughter, Derrick began to speak.

The stutter which plagued him gave way to the tone and timbre of a storyteller. A repeated word here or an extra consonant, there did nothing to hamper the captivating tale of Kulukalmalínen —the Festival of Golden Lights. This year, the story was told from the perspective of Chirush, a travelling minstrel captured by the armies of Hamand. The Warlord’s daughter, Almali, asked Hamand to spare Chirush’s life so he could compose an Epic of their victory. While the Warlord ravaged the land, Chirush took every opportunity to make music. He sang songs of forgiveness and restitution to the other prisoners, and their hearts softened towards their captors. Chirush offered tunes of hope and harmony for the soldiers, who lost their love for warmongering. He performed ballads of peace and tranquillity for the Warlord, but the Warlord would not relent. Then when the Warlord’s daughter died in battle, Chirush sang of life and gratitude as the armies lit a thousand candles to honour her memory. Hamand’s tears fell like great golden drops of light, and he led his armies home. For fifty-seven years, Chirush would make the two hundred and twenty league journey to Hamand’s home. For seven days, he played the same songs, tunes, and ballads while the soldiers and their descendants lit golden candles for Almali —The Light of Erythina.

Mallory listened not just to the story but how it was told, and how it was listened to. She watched Derrick; she watched Michelle watching her husband; she watched the children, who tried to stay attentive but could not help but be restless from time to time as their young minds wandered. In her periphery, she caught Allen looking with interest at the tattoos on her left arm, exposed by her sleeveless green dress. Mallory slowly turned it over so he could see the brambles winding through a broken mirror on her inner arm, then back to better show what had likely gotten his attention in the first place: a medieval knight slaying a wyrm on her bicep.

She caught his eye, smiling a bit as she gestured subtly to his father, and the boy sat up as he turned to listen to the storyteller. She gave Eri a wider smile and squeezed her hand as the story wound its way towards the end, to Chirush’s fifty-seven-year commitment and how it outlived him.

As Derrick’s last words hung in the air Nadella squirmed on her cushion. “Nadella, go collect the pencils and paper.” Michelle gestured to faded leather bag Derrick had brought with them. With a gap-tooth smile, Nadella wriggled off the cushion. She carried the pack in both hands to each person, handing out hand-crafted paper and conventional pencils. In her eagerness, she tripped on the edge of Eri’s cushion on the way to Allen. Pencils and paper spilled across the floor. Michelle immediately shifted to get a view of Nadella’s face, which was pinched with concern.

“It’s okay Naddie,” Allen grinned at his sister. “I did that a few years ago too!” He scooted off the cushion to help his sister.

While Nadella finished handing out the materials, Michelle explained the rest of the ceremony for Mallory and Eri’s benefit. “The paper is to write —or in the case of young children, draw, something inspired by the story. It could be a list of things you are grateful for, people you forgive, hopeful intentions for the future, a poem of harmony —whatever is most meaningful. When finished, the paper is lit with a candle and dropped in the bowl of offerings.”

The placement of the candles, with their sweet, woody scent, left a rim around the table for everyone to write or draw as needed. Derrick quietly murmured his contribution to Michelle, who wrote the words on his behalf. Nadella’s face was pinched in concentration as she drew careful shapes that resembled people.

Eri had started in concern when her cushion was nearly tripped over, but when the materials were given to her, she forgot about being worried in her curiosity at the unusual paper. She didn’t require long to think about what her wish was, scrawling quickly on the page the words —They all lived happily ever after. She added to this a symbol that looked like an eight-pointed star projecting 32 rays, drawing it quickly as if well-practiced. Once she was finished, she gave the offering to the flame. Allen made a short list. When he reached over to burn the paper, Mallory caught one phrase: I hope we will all live together again.

The witch paused her careful writing for a single second, as she caught the heartbreaking wish in the corner of her eye. She finished their names, written vertically as if it were a traditional Japanese text, each capped with an inverted triangle for the derivative of alchemical fire — light. Between them, she sketched the shape of a lyre, Lyra, and left room for a poem at the bottom:

we are candles in the dark, never alone;
like stars, we make constellations.


Like the others, she committed the message to the flame.

((Co-written with Mallory and Eri))
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JewellRavenlock
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The Cleansing of Overlord Isle Pt I

Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:30 am

There was still fighting elsewhere on the island as the Wayward Knights sought to rid the home of the Overlord of eldritch creatures unnumbered while Mallory and Phil took care of the iron statues. Theirs was the easier task.

Jewell had toured the island carefully with Ishmerai at her side, evaluating places where the Veil was thin. The places where R’yleh had crept in. The places where The One had taken root. “Are you certain you can do this?” the knight asked as she began to undress beside a tainted pool at the heart of the island. It bubbled and frothed with slime, the rotten scent mingling with the hint of madness in the air.

“No,” the faerie admitted, throwing her dress at him. She wore nothing beneath it, not even bandages over the still-healing iron wounds Michelle had inflicted upon her. Ishmerai winced to see the one on her back as she turned to look down at the water, shivering in the cool December air. It seemed colder on the island than it did in the city. A cold that would seep into her soul if she did not keep fighting back against it. “But I will try.”

She took a deep, steadying breath even as the air threatened to make her gag, releasing it slowly before her aura flared, forcing the vast storehouse of energy within her out. Then she took a step forward towards the water, and the blighted grass underfoot turned green. She took another step, and it spread. When she took a third step, her toes touched the edge of the water and the affliction was forced to retreat, leaving clear, clean water behind.

Ishmerai watched as she went to work, his one hand resting near his blade while the other held her dress but ready to offer assistance should she need it. He saw her how she really was as she expanded her own energy and tapped into her connection to the Veil and Faerie beyond it, weaving it together with her magic and reaching out to touch the island, cleansing it of the spoil that had settled beyond the surface. She was not just a tiny woman, marked with iron from her recent battle. She was brighter than a star, silver and warm, pulsing with life and an energy pure and beautiful.

The further Jewell stepped into the spring-fed pond, the clearer the water became until the entire body had been refreshed.

Then the real work began. It was time to cleanse Overlord Isle.
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The Cleansing of Overlord Isle Pt II

Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:30 am

Jewell submerged in the pool at the heart of Overlord Isle every day for a week. On the seventh day, she emerged at sunset and allowed Ishmerai to help her into a robe and support her with his arm. The ends of her hair dried in wild curls from the touch of the water during the walk back to the manor house.

“Is it done?”

“The work here is done.”

“Good.” The knight pat the little hand resting on his arm, “I do not know how much more you could do. You need rest if you want your wounds to fully heal.”

She shook her head, her smile grim, “I said here, Merai. There is still work to do elsewhere. Work like this.”

Work like this had been no easy task. The infection that was the presence of The One had been burned away inch by inch from the island by her own light and that of Faerie. It had fought back too, with much of the work she had done the first evening undone by the next. It had taken her long hours to gain a foothold, but once she had, Jewell had really begun to push back further and further until The One retreated.

In its place though It left gaping holes in the Veil. Wounds like that in the fabric of space and time did not heal in days or even weeks. It would be months before it could fully knit back together again, but to leave those doors open to creatures from R’yleh (or worse) to continue to plague RhyDin was unacceptable, so Jewell had done the next best thing: she had connected the tears with Faerie. Now instead of nightgaunts in the sky, there was a herd of pegasi. No twisted leviathan preyed upon visitors in the harbor, but there were selkies on the rocks and mermaids in the water. The manglers and gugs were gone as well, and in their place groups of satyrs, centaurs, and minotaurs roamed the island.

The colors were all brighter. There was magic in the air instead of madness. Overlord Isle had been cleansed of the soiling touch of R’yleh, but in the process, it had been saturated by the wild glamour of the fae.

Ishmerai frowned, stopping in a field of wildflowers--which exploded into a rush of pixies, laughing and dancing through the bruise colored sky--and turning to face her, “What did you see, Mira?”

She took a deep breath, “I saw a tree that is R’yleh, with roots deep in RhyDin. I may have burned away the roots from this place and salted the land so they cannot return, but there are others, Merai. And we must uproot them all if we wish to stop It.”
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Enemy Within

Post by Michelle Montoya » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:52 pm

“What is bravery but the body’s wisdom of its strength? The coward and the hero march together within every man.” - Master Po, Kung Fu

January 5th, 2020
Home of Hearts


The steady beating of Mallory’s heart had become a familiar and comforting touchstone over the past few weeks. More than any book, plant, or friendly visit, it was this centrepiece in a foreign, copper-scented demi-plane that brought Michelle peace. She stood solemnly before the solid stone fountain as her own form flickered and faded. The plague of fears and insecurities rolled within her belly, whispering insidious doubts and self-deprecating thoughts. But Derrick’s soft, stuttering words of love and reassurance from the other night cycled in her mind pushing against the tide of despair.

Ba-bump. You can do this.

Ba-bump. I believe in you.

Ba-bump. I will always be with you.

His faith reminded her that she didn’t have to be confident to be brave, that inaction was worse than fear. It was difficult to know if their plan would work, and even harder to suss out the cost —and there would be a price paid. But her other half was already making choices and dishing out consequences. It was time to face the darkest parts of who she was, and embrace them.

“I choose to act.”

--*--

The shrine was on a row of kitschy shops selling charms and trinkets and souvenirs in the Old Market district — and with few tourists and out-of-towners willing to pay the new tolls, the lane was virtually deserted. Silver and iron gates covered all of the storefronts except for one, a shop that hadn’t been there long yet looked as if it had been decaying and collecting dust for decades. Its faded banner and flickering neon sign announced,

BAZAAR BODEGA & CURIOUS CURIOS
Currency exchanged with purchases of 10+ silver!


Beltane and summer solstice cards filled the racks that blocked the front window, paper charms against thieves and vandals adorned the aluminum doorway, a fridge of soft drinks took up the narrow back wall, and a small counter held a plastic bucket for payment and a stack of frayed pamphlets for RhyDin Bengu Fever vaccines.

At the base of the counter was a small copper shrine — a human heart wound with thorny brambles, and a basin holding a jar filled about a tenth of the way with ashes.

Michelle, the Great Dreamer, stood before the inconspicuous shrine, a narrow, calculating look in her eyes. The New Age was breaking over RhyDin like the dawn of a blood-red sun. If this were a musical, the conductor would be holding their baton to conduct a rousing entrance to Act II. But the Great Dreamer had their eyes on the finale. A player from Act I was missing, their ending incomplete and unsatisfactory. It was time to finish one particular character arc within the story.

With a flourish and a twist of the wrist, Michelle summoned five large vision cards. Her lips pursed in a smirk, thinking about how Mallory used similar cards to tell the future. Michelle was helping her out, in a manner of speaking. A small truth was scrawled over each image in flowing black ink. She burnt the cards, one by one, over the shrine.

0. Moonchild


1. New Age


2. Wayward


3. Wallabies


4. Kabuchiko


It did not take long for Mallory to appear — less than a minute, and she stood in the doorway of the tiny bodega, blocking Michelle from the exit. Her fingers were stained from ink and alchemy, and her clothes were old and ratty, but she tipped her chin back defiantly and stared at her friend with her green eyes alight with infernal fury.

“They’re children, Michelle.” It seemed as if she had gotten the message. “You’re a parent. You know better.”

“You’re right,” Michelle took a step forward, lowering the black and green hood. “I do know better.” She took another step. “Better than them, and better than you. I know—” just a bit closer now, “what is best.” There was hardly two feet between them. “The only one who can stop me now, is me.” Michelle’s eyes lifted slightly in arrogance and assured pride. She studied the face of her friend, revelling in this last opportunity to gloat and show the power of It. Her voice lowered with steel and malice. “And we both know that’s not going to happen.”

Mallory seemed to draw a deep breath without any air, a rising tension in her shoulders that suddenly fell, as if sighing. “A good Seer must know her limits,” she said, “and you’re right — this fate’s in your hands now.” Where Michelle’s eyes were proud and arrogant, the witch’s defiance was tempered by sadness and acceptance. “There’s something you should know.”

The Great Dreamer folded her arms within the robes, feigning interest while she gripped two obsidian daggers.

Mallory reached out a hand to hold the side of her face as she studied her expression, searching it for all the signs of the pain she had gone through and the riddle to making it better somehow, the same scrutiny the witch had given her own reflection on too many occasions to count. “I forgive you.”

There was the smallest, briefest, almost imperceptible hesitation before Michelle moved like the wind of death. Using an intimate knowledge, Michelle struck twice with both daggers at reflected angles towards Mallory’s heart. A final attack with the ceremonial blade completed the five-pointed star. The energy of a dark sun emanated from the obsidian steel, mixing the summoning power of Mallory’s bleeding heart.

The witch fell to her knees, her final expression a pained grimace before it fell slack, and she slumped to one side of the doorway. A crimson portal rippled open, if only by degrees, the shadowy tendrils of the Great Dreamer’s power keeping the way pried open for a moment and revealing a white stone reflection of the city around them, with blood flowing in channels through the streets.

The sky was crimson, which made the faint emerald star nestled down a twisting lane stand out all the more.

Michelle’s eyes rolled back, turning dark green with flecks of gold. Smokey apparitions of claws, tentacles, and wings billowed from the Great Dreamer as she stepped forward with brazen assurance towards the blood-and-bone city, and found herself maddeningly repelled. Something white and brilliant flared at the edges of her vision as it threw her back, as the arcane wall around Mallory’s heart in the Veil still withstood an invader stepping in to destroy the heart itself — at least for now. Infuriated but undeterred, Michelle grit her teeth and dropped one of the daggers. Her hand reached for the Rod of R’lyeh as beads of sweat formed along her brow. With a foul and unearthly incantation, the Great Dreamer raised her rod and sent forth the arms of R’lyeh. Black and green shadows scurried across the white stone and over the rivers of blood towards their emerald prize.

One after another, as the arms reached deeper into the city they found more of its bloodbound denizens: dozens of red-eyed ravens descending from the eerie sky to peck and claw them to a standstill, crimson foxes pouncing out of the alleyways to wrench them to the ground and tear them in twain, and menacing shades emerging from archways, chanting dead languages from dusty tomes to bind and banish them.

But one made its way further than the rest, darting and winding its way ever closer to its prize. It found the emerald star of Michelle’s soul, reared back, and lunged with obsidian claws extended, shattering stone to finally make contact with this hidden remnant.

There was a pulse, a ripple in the air that slammed into Michelle’s chest hard enough to send her reeling into the back wall of the bodega, sending hundreds of bottles and cans cascading to the floor around her, the drinks fizzing out and commingling with the blood pooling around the witch’s body. The shadowy tendrils holding the portal open were withering and disintegrating, but the crimson reflection of the city remained intact long enough for the Great Dreamer to extend her senses into it once more.

There was no sign of the twinkling emerald star, the flicker of hope that had eluded destruction nestled next to the witch’s heart for so long.

((Co-written with Mallory. Vision Cards from the game Mysterium))
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Re: Lost in Time and Space

Post by Pharlen » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:11 am

A nasty little spat with whatever it is that Michelle keeps under her garter at the Golden Perch sent Pharlen running home in something less than what one may assume was her natural state...

But actually, it was.
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Re: Lost in Time and Space

Post by Mallory » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:02 pm

Sunday, January 5th.

The windowless room in Riverwatch had just the right amount of space for opening a portal to Mallory's heart. All it took was the inscription of a circle hidden in the middle of a paperback copy of “Bleak House” in their house’s library, and a vial of the witch’s own blood she kept tucked in the back of the refrigerator, and a crimson portal flared open--

--revealing a white stone reflection of the neighborhood around them, under a crimson sky. There was a narrow, winding road lined with channels of blood that led into the heart of Three Foxes Court, with the fountain at the center, thrumming with the steady beating of her immortal heart.

The plane was buzzing with activity in the wake of the witch's death. Red-eyed ravens looked on from the eaves of buildings, shimmering shades rustled through pages of secrets in the archives that lay beyond every doorway, and crimson foxes loped up and down side streets, darting in and out of the Veil with messages clutched in their jaws.

After activating the portal, Eri was in a considerable hurry to reach the appointed meeting place once she had travelled to the witch’s heart. From one frenzy of activity in Kabuki Street to another, she hustled along at a brisk pace to the reflection of Three Foxes Court on a line directly to the fountain.

She passed by a few familiar faces and a few unfamiliar — a dark-haired, dark-eyed half-elf briefly bowed his head to her before resuming his work tracing an elaborate spell circle connecting a number of the blood channels together, pointing its regenerative properties back towards the fountain itself. A strange shadowy owl was perched on his shoulder, and a crimson mirror image of Mallory’s Abraxas tattoo marked his left hand.

In the fountain itself were two figures: someone a little paler than Mallory, with platinum hair and more androgynous features and none of the tattoos, though they possessed the same ram’s horns and the same face, the avatar that had been described to Eri before as Malleus.

Resting in their lap was the body of Mallory, her naked flesh marred by a number of deep dagger wounds across her chest, forming a jagged star. The blood from the fountain was flowing over both of these figures, and Malleus seemed to be using it to speed Mallory’s regeneration, dipping their fingers in it and tracing symbols next to her wounds, over and over again.

Malleus, like the half-elf, greeted Eri with a slow, deferential nod.

Eri herself returned the nod in kind, but she had voiced no greeting to those she had met on the way. It was characteristic of the half oni to be quiet here in this dimension, as much as it was to avoid travelling here as much as possible. The need to know what was happening was too great this time however, and she finally spoke up to ask:

“What is the situation?”

“Mallory was slain by Michelle,” Malleus stated, looking up from their work; their expression softened slightly and they added, “temporarily, of course. But each cut severed the vessels that take her blood from the Veil, and the corrupting power of R’lyeh deepened the wounds. It will take days to heal. I have summoned every person who had bound herself to her heart to speed and empower the process.”

“Days?” Eri asked, frown growing a degree deeper. “Was this planned?” she asked, rocking forward a bit to look closer at the fountain without coming close enough to interfere with the work there. The sight of Mallory’s body there caused her dark eyes to narrow a bit in a morose expression.

Malleus continued their work as they spoke, though periodically their fiery green eyes darted up to study Eri’s face. “In a way. Confrontation was inevitable, especially at the shrines... but there were a lot of unknowns. She did not know how badly she would be hurt, or how long this would take.”

The avatar folded their hands over Mallory’s and looked up at Eri. “I can open a road into your dreams, to be with her at night; I can also suspend my form, and let her use my spirit to animate her flesh and speak to you, if you wish.”

Eri thought about that for a moment, and then nodded her head. “The dreams, then. I don’t want to wait for days to speak to her. But I can’t stay here for that long. I’ll have to get back to the world,” she explained with a helpless gesture at the vicinity of the fountain.

Malleus nodded their understanding; then they shifted Mallory’s body carefully, reverently, and held out a hand towards Eri. “Michelle gave secrets at one of Mallory’s shrines to summon her, and I want to give them to you.”

The half oni’s head tilted to one side, and her hand was raised to her mouth to bite at her fingernails nervously. “What secrets?” she asked, expression puzzled and confused.

The avatar simply beckoned for their extended hand to be taken, giving the half-oni a reassuring smile that was a nearly perfect mirror of Mallory’s hans.

Eri paused to study the smile for a moment, then seemed to relax with the reassurance. She took their hand and stepped closer to hear.

Malleus whispered at length, secrets spilling from their lips into her ears only. As they drew back, a simple gesture opened a portal to Riverwatch behind the half-oni. “Continue to be strong, and we will do our best to make her half as strong as you when she returns.”

Eri glanced over to the opened portal, then back to Malleus with a nod of her head. “I’ll be waiting,” she assured them. “Now that I’ve seen the work going on first hand, I can be patient,” she added, before turning to enter the portal back to their home.

Malleus murmured the words up to the crimson sky as Eri rippled through the vanishing portal: “Go with her blessing, spirit of calamity... and give them hell.”

((Adapted from play with Eri, with thanks!))
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Wolfsbane

Post by Amaris » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:04 am

January 8th
The Wilds


The night was dark, the moon hung overhead lending light not quite full but soon. A small river babbled along, cutting the land in half, the night was cold, and the snow was lying on the ground. Trees groaned almost in frustration as light snow fell from the sky, the soft shush of footsteps echoed a little as Amaris followed the water. She walked alongside it, looking at the water reflecting the clouds against the night sky and a few scattering of stars that were revealed between some clouds.

Amaris was muttering softly to herself, “You’re late Mari, where are you?” She paced back and forth like a wolf tended to do. She moved to a fallen tree and climbed up onto it, sitting down and dangling her feet over the water her back was turned towards the woods around her.

Clouds drifted lazily across the night sky, deepening the already foreboding darkness. Something shifted in the woods, imperceptible if not for the sharp ears and heightened senses of the wolf-kin. Michelle stepped out from behind a cluster of pines, dressed in faded breeches and a warm tunic, with a bland cloak. Only two things betrayed her transformation: a sharpness in her eyes and the obsidian daggers at her hips.

“Amaris,” she smiled warmly.

Her scent reached her before Michelle spoke, and she was already standing up carefully on the log like it was a balancing beam in gymnastics.

A cautious smile spread and she would nod “Hi,” she looked around “what are you doing out this late?”

“I don’t sleep much these days,” she approached casually with her posture open and inviting. “I’ve been thinking about you lately, I’ve missed our training together.”

“Me? Why have you been thinking about me? I’m not sure I want anything to do with magic anymore. Are you not sleeping these days for some reason?”

She walked off the log, carefully keeping her eye on Michelle but getting herself back on solid ground.

“I have been thinking about you because I care about you,” the baker responded. “I want you to be safe and happy. I want to see you thrive in the future.” Michelle chose her words carefully, a small part of her desiring to be honest, but also to weave a persuasive argument. She cared for Amaris and did want to see her at peace. But if the girl did not join and embrace the New Age, that wouldn’t happen. If she resisted, then Michelle would have no other choice. It did not care for the small and rebellious.

“You didn’t seem to care that you broke a few ribs. I mean… yeah, it was a duel, and that can happen, but you didn’t seem to care. You have changed, and I am happy I am officially adopted now.” She didn’t dare turn her back and kept moving further towards the tree line all the while facing her watching her closely

“I thought you wanted to be treated like every other fighter,” Michelle responded smoothly, turning to watch her retreat. “But if you’d rather I afford you the same caring I would for my own children, I’m happy to take on a softer response the next time we meet in the rings.” Her eyes maintained their connection with the small wolf child. “You are safer with me, then against me.”

“I do want to be treated like every other fighter, but you … were supposed to be family. Even an honorable fighter would check to see that their opponent was alright to make sure they were okay.” She eyed her, she wasn’t retreating; she was just getting herself away from the water. “Am I? Really you think I’m safer with you? I think you are lying. I don’t want to see any more people hurt.”

“You can’t stop everyone from getting hurt, Amaris, sometimes it’s just going to happen. You take that risk every time you step into the ring. You take the risk every time there is a full moon. What will you do when people see you in your entirety?” Michelle stepped forward, her voice low with a pleading edge. “What will you do when they love part of you, but not all of you? When they won’t accept the rough edges or the sharp teeth?” She took another pace towards the young girl. “I will accept you. People promised loyalty to only one part of me, not all of me. That’s not loyalty. I promise to accept all of what you are. What people call a ‘dark side’ is really our strength. I can help you embrace that strength, and with it, you will be safe. You don’t have to let other people protect you.” She dropped down a bit, to be more on eye-level with Amaris. “Join with people who will empower you.”

“I know that dueling can bring pain that is just the way it is, but … you can try to help after it’s over.” a pause from her moving around Michelle she looked at her listening to the words she issued “I take the risk every day but pop and dad have seen me as a wolf, so has Roni … even Reiko and they still love me, Auntie loves me too. I’ve attacked two people; they all love me still.” She looked her in the eyes “I let them protect me because they are teaching me to protect myself, I mean I’m in school, I duel. I do lots of things that are helping me learn to do that. None of them have told me not to be myself. They want me to learn who I am because I’m still learning that too. I’m a kid, Michelle; they’re supposed to protect me.” she took a step back, “Does joining you mean more people will die?”

Michelle stood up, sticking her hands casually into her pockets. “People die every day. I’m not worrying about them, I’m thinking about you.” She gave a heavy, resigned sigh. “One way or another, I want to prevent you from future suffering.” Michelle looked past Amaris to the woods, and suddenly there was a ripping sound from all around the small girl. Jagged tears in reality, writhing with tentacles, opened the way for humanoids of all shapes and sizes to emerge and surround the girl. They closed in quickly, forming a tight circle so that the Great Dreamer was barely visible.

“If you change your mind, tell them, and I’ll come to get you.”

She growled, turning towards the beings that encircled her. She punched and kicked, reaching down to her ankle to pull the knife her pops had given her and tossing down her backpack, ready for a fight.

The dreamers were prepared for resistance, a large bulbous-nosed dwarf dove in for a single leg takedown, grunting as he received multiple strikes from Amaris’ blade. Others closed in, holding ropes woven with magical binding threads. She sliced and diced with pops blade, holding the knife blade down, edge out. Amaris slashed across soft and unprotected spots, mostly aiming her blade for the back of their knees, under their arms, and striving for that femoral artery, the groin. Blood all over her as several fell screaming behind her. Her feet would find ankles and knees, with the blade coming down into those parts as they fell just to keep them immobilized. She hacked and slashed at the tendrils that kept trying to bring her down to her knees. Amaris knew if that happened, it’d be over.

While the fighting went on, Michelle pulled out her rod and paused. There was the smallest, tiniest hint of regret. Like maybe she had made the wrong choice. The feeling, nestled somewhere deep within her heart, passed as she stepped through her own portal of green claws and black tendrils.

Amaris struggled as shadowed claws tore at her leaving cuts and blood in their wake even as she shook them off. After a few moments, a tentacle caught her off guard. Done in by the shrubbery, she cursed a blue streak as more covered her legs took hold of her wrists, knocking the blade to the ground where it bounced towards Amaris’ backpack. Bloody, bruised and still struggling, they started to bind her. Growling and snarling, she kept trying to fight back, actually headbutting one of the followers who stumbled backwards. Yes, it was confirmed she was hard-headed. Though she did have a slight headache from that. She whimpered as they dragged her through the tear, leaving behind her backpack and knife.

<Cowritten with Michelle>
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Irony A Bitter Flavour

Post by Mist Gul » Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:39 pm

Mist made Roni return. She didn't want to go back to the scene of the crime, she wanted to find her sister and rip someone to pieces. But Mist also could do magic things she couldn't. So it's the rumble of an engine that announced Roni and Mist's arrival just out front. Then the Engine cuts off, and she's scrambling from the car.

"Follow me." quietly.

Nodding, Mist stepped from the car and followed, his chin lifting slightly as he looked around, golden eyes keen and cold.

"Where is this place?" he wondered as he walked.

Ben came out of the teleportation device in his typical street garb. The look in his eye was like that of a rabid baboon. Storming out of the cabin in with a frenzied thunder beneath his boots, he caught Roni and Mist coming out of her vehicle. A sigh of relief escaped escaped his chest, though he seemed no less panicked for it.

"Where is she? What the Hell is going on?" he asked, looking between Mist and Roni.

"Out in the woods. It's property that Ben's recently purchased," Roni said to Mist, over her shoulder, before Ben made an arrival as well. "I've got no fuckin' idea, just that I found her backpack and her knife, and all those bodies. She's not there. There's no trace of 'er."

As Roni spoke, she already marched her way along the muddy riverbanks to the scene that she had managed to come across earlier. A ruination of blood, corpses, tentacles, and other horrors stained the riverside. A few scavengers were already daring the free feed, but fled as they heard the sentients returning.

"Michelle has her, but she's certainly not stupid enough to put her where I can find her," Mist responded curtly to Ben, glancing to him briefly before following Roni to the scene.

Mist abruptly removed his cloak, then pulled his tunic off. An undershirt remained, which he removed a moment later, revealing the runes cut into his skin. Back, sides, front, they glimmered pale blue as the ones on his face. He ran his thumb down one of the runes on his side, and it was as if he'd struck a power chord in silence. Something happened, but there was no sign of what for the moment.

The thunderous movement was enough to disturb Reiko's meditation. Returning to the ground with a soft thud, she opened her eyes. Just when she thought the bodies and Roni covered in mud and blood was concerning enough, now she was hearing people talk outside.

"What..? No trace of..?" the confused woman muttered to herself. This should be none of her business, really, except that Amaris - wherever she was - considered Reiko an aunt to her. She stepped down the stairs. "Is...this a bad time to say hello and ask who you guys are looking for?" she asked, which was likely nobody but herself at this point.

"Bodies? Bodies!?" Wow. That sure put his mind at ease. Ben followed alongside Roni to the riverbanks; one thing that was calming him down was her focus and sense of direction. It put him in the head space to do something about the situation instead of just standing around and worrying. He looked at Mist with a puzzled look, "Michelle? Wait, is somethin' going on with Michelle too?"

Roni's quick and nimble, and it didn't take long before she led them to several dead bodies and a scene of a great scuffle.

"I am very confused, Mist. All I know is I want Amaris back. in one piece, or I'm goin' ta rip someone ta pieces." Growl.

"Yes," Mist exhaled, his features stony, "Michelle has been overcome by some spirit of evil, and now, she seeks to drag that over the realm." Mist took in the scene. "It's been going on for a while. Please. Step back, and be calm. I'll see what may be seen." Calm. Eerily calm. There was a lot more to explain, but he didn't, not then.

"Oh, for fuck's sake, and you guys KNEW this was going on with Michelle? Why on Earth did you let her anywhere near her?" Ben didn't mean to blame either of them; not in his heart. But he was frustrated, frightened, and quite confused. As they came across the bodies he rolled his eyes hard.

"Oh. This is great. This is just friggin' great! And Amaris' backpack was found here?"

There was talk of bodies and someone being missing. Who else would be missing that spent time around here..? Come to think of it, I haven't seen Amaris in a couple of days...if not longer. Reiko was really starting to get a sinking feeling in her gut as she thought about the last time she had seen the girl.

Unsure of what else to do, she reluctantly followed a good distance down the path where the three of them had gone, only walking instead of jogging like she had been doing earlier that morning. No way was she going to take another path. She could hear Ben shouting as she continued to follow, but remained quiet.

That is, until she heard Amaris' name and her backpack being found. Yeah. Reiko let out a gasp at what she had heard and, realising that she might have been heard, looked for someplace to stand where she could be out of sight. Amaris and Michelle? Wasn't Michelle doing some weird stuff lately?

"I didn't know Anything!" Roni snarled, pointing at Ben when he started. "So don't start fuckin' yellin' at me. I'm not miss magical all seein' Roni. I don't fuckin' see n'know all like everyone seems to think. I got my own shit ta deal with and it seems like everyone always fuckin' forgets that." Grumble, growl.

Roni couldn't be everywhere.... and she couldn't fix everything. She just knew what Amaris had told her, and that was that she was quitting magic, and leaving Michelle.

Mist ignored the accusation, though it hit home a lot harder than they knew. His teeth bared for a brief moment, then he simply dropped to his knees at the last point where Amaris had been, heedless of the carnage there. He struck another chord of power, drawing his fingertip over the mandala around his eye, and spoke a short set of curt, harsh words.

A miasma of grayish energy awoke over the scene. Mist lifted his head, slowly watching. There was not much detail, there had been too much movement. Otherwise, he created and watched a replay, so to speak, of the fight.

Ben huffed hard and folded his arms just before an apologetic look formed on his face.

"Okay... okay, look, I'm sorry, all right? I only just saw my texts about twenty minutes ago and I haven't even had a chance to figure out what the Hell is going on. If someone could please fill me in? Enlighten me?" No sooner did he finish that sentence when suddenly Mist conjured a replay of the whole thing, "Damn. Excellent timing as usual, Alabaster Snowball."

Roni didn't say anything else, just scowled at Ben for a moment before her attention shifted to whatever Mist was doing. At the exact moment, she felt very useless, and she did not like it. So she stood, and shifted on her feet antsy, and wanting to go instead of just stand. So she paced instead.

Ben watched intently: taking a mental note of everything from the attire of the participants in this scuffle, to their movement habits. Any and all information was useful at this point.

"I see," Mist muttered, abruptly reaching for one of the corpses, grabbing its arm and dragging it closer to look at. Gripping at a sigil cut into the dead man's arm, he tore it away from the bone, then he cast it up into the air before him. It became larger and clearer.

Striking at his own chest mandala, Mist reached out, fingers flexed and demanded something of the sigil he'd lifted. It burned sullenly, crumbling under the power holding it in place. That sigil is one Ben wanted to memorize, it was on each of the bodies strewn about there.

"Yo, Mist, you know anything about this symbol these emo-kids all carved into their wrists?" Ben asked, squatted down and held one of their arms up, indicating to the eldritch symbol with his finger.

Nope. Reiko was better off not getting any closer. If they wanted her help, then they would have said something. Those three were capable of taking care of things, what Reiko knew now had her all the more worried for Amaris.

Surely Michelle wouldn't stab her like she had that caller that she had seen at the Arena that night? But, Amaris is still a child... Reiko frowned. Standing there wasn't going to help get Amaris back, and she sure as Hell had no idea where to even start looking. Turning in the opposite direction, the Albino ran off back towards the cabin to get her coat.

"I don't like any of this. What's Michelle' plannin' with 'er?" Roni hissed. That said she pulled in a sharp breath, and fiddled absently with the buttons on her phone. She had pictures of the sigil already saved to her phone, and most likely committed to memory already. She had been the first to discover the scene after all.

"It is a thing which Michelle brought back with her from Rhy'leh," Mist responded, cool, distant. Alarmingly so for anyone that did know the elf.

His hand ran over a wide cut rune down his side, and the energy flowed from it like blood in water, pale blue rather than red, following the course of his hand. He seized another of the dead by the throat, and lifted it, rising back to his feet. His lips drawn back in an acid snarl, he barked off the words of a spell, filthy and cold. Something that someone as sweet as the elf should never know: yet he commanded the power with ease.

The dead man was jolted through with a ferocious energy, compelling him to speak. Though there was not much for the man to say, he had been a weak minded convert, glad to make violence for money and promise of power. So, now all that remained of him was the last moments of its life, and a soul devoured and gone.

"Well," Ben stood up straight and cracked his neck, "Guess I'm gonna get to work." He pulled out his phone and fired off a few texts. "First things first, I'm gonna get to the bottom of this stupid little symbol. Maybe it'll serve some clue as to where the Hell she was taken."

Annoyance played over Mist's features. He raised his stakes, calling more power to hand. Literally. He slammed his fist into one of the corpse's skulls. Bone and matter exploded from the blow, and he snarled another spell, harsh, dark. Dark enough that the very runes on his body faded. The one around his eye began to bleed.

Mist lifted a handful of scrambled brain and abruptly flung it at the point where the rift they had stolen Amaris. He got back to his feet.

"Yer too calm," Roni muttered to Mist as she stepped around the scene. Her gaze honed in on the point where Mist had flung the matter. She could briefly see the closed rift, and widened her eyes. Rifts, doorways, those she could manage in the world of dreams...

Mist's violent display put a crooked grin on Ben's face.

"Damn. I kinda like this side of him," he uttered. Now Ben was past the point of fear: now he was motivated. The hunt was on. Blood would be spilled; vengeance served; the very idea of it all was ecstatically thrilling.

There was a shift of energy, a snap and rather suddenly, where Roni had been standing was a Raven, with healthy shiny feathers, and a keenness in its eyes that most definitely was not animal. Her own perspective changed, and rather suddenly, when she opened her mouth to say something, she cawed instead. Well.

Mist had thrown that transformation over her, but she didn't know why. Before she could ask him what was going through his mind, he vanished.

Ben tilted his head at Roni, "Did you just caw-caw?"

Roni cawed, fluttering into the air. Something that the ribbon-king had said reminded her. She was on the hunt. Ben could follow.

(Co-written with Butcher Ben, Reiko, Roni, and Amaris.)
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Doran Ilnaren
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Eldritch Dreams

Post by Doran Ilnaren » Sat Jan 11, 2020 8:12 pm

"....a chaotic sensation that is a voice but not a voice, a fanciful transmutation of sound and despair." - H.P. Lovecraft


The sky was black and filled with a droning, mindless chant that ate at Doran's sanity, nibbling away and driving him inexorably to madness. He trod barefoot upon slime-covered cobblestones amid bizarre geometry and antediluvian architecture. Ahead of him, the cyclopean ruins opened up and he stepped out onto an outcropping that overlooked the sunken city of R'lyeh. Ahead of him rose the great temple, from whence came that maddening chant, robed cultists crying out in praise of their dread lord. He could not see, but Doran knew that the Great Old One's body lay deep in the slimy vaults, dead but not dead, not living, the body slept. But the mind, the consciousness of the thing?

The mind of Cthulhu--he winced to even think its name as it sprang to his awareness--dreamt, hungry and alien beyond human comprehension, yearning for the time when it would be free. When it would rise.

Above the droning of cultists and the snarling roars of the Cthulhu-spawn below, Doran heard other voices. faint but growing. It was not sound but sensation, a shared, chaotic cry of misery and horror. These were the victims of the cult, the sacrifices that had been slain and dragged to such a hellish fate, to feed the Old One. So few remained, and those that were left, they were all but gone. The abysmal depths of despair had laid claim, and they could do little more than scream until they, too, were consumed.

It was those cries that had drawn Doran, in his dreaming, to this place of eldritch horror. To R'lyeh. As he stood there, the youth looked up and felt the presence of Cthulhu. It was aware of him! It was aware of them all... and it was coming! He turned away from the temple, running back into the cyclopean maze. His feet stumbled on the slick, seaweed-strewn rocks, and he had to scramble to regain his footing, to keep running, never looking back for fear of what chased him. He could feel the hot gusts of wind--or was that breath?--upon the back of his neck; the stench of the place had him near to retching, and a mad gibbering filled his ears.

Something wet and oozing caught hold of his ankle, and Doran fell, landing hard on the stones. As the cacophony grew louder, closer, he closed his eyes and kicked, again and again. "No... no! NOOOO...!"

* * * * * * *

In his home, Doran burst awake and vaulted from his bed. His family and love were there, concern etched in their faces, and they did their utmost to reassure him, to console him. For the most part, they succeeded, but in the back of his mind, Doran could still hear those spirits crying in despair, and he knew that the Great Old One was coming.
Reiko Souma
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Re: Lost in Time and Space

Post by Reiko Souma » Sun Jan 12, 2020 12:42 pm

Meditations of 09 January 20xx - A Disturbance

Fast asleep on the couch at the cabin was Reiko, who had spent just a little bit more time cleaning the cabin after returning late. She had ultimately cleaned herself into a state of exhaustion that taking the medication Shourim had handed to her hadn't even been necessary. The couch, being the nearest place to her, had become her bed, and anyone who passed through that part of the cabin would see the Albino passed-out on it. For the first time in several days, she was asleep with a smile on her face and her hand to her cheek.

There was a little bit of a stretch as the Albino started to come to on the couch several minutes later. The sleep she had gotten was just the beginning of her trying to reestablish some kind of a stable sleep schedule, a slightly more normal sort - if that was even possible. Not a single dream passed through her to see or recall, not even a nightmare. As her eyes slid open, she looked forward to find herself staring at the window. No fireplace had been lit last night, either. No fire to let die. Reiko felt something on her cheek and glanced down to see her hand touching her cheek. How had..?

Right away, she knew. It was where his hand had been. What a thought to have in her head the first thing she woke up. How...she didn't know what to think at the moment. Other than her need for coffee, which had her raise in a sitting up position on a cushion, she really didn't know her else to think of. Sure, a weird feeling crossed her mind, but that could just be from the position she had slept in. It had been some time since she'd willingly slept on the couch.

Plod plod. Sock-covered feet carried the zombified Albino into the kitchen. There was coffee in the pot, undoubtedly cold, as it barely had its pleasant aroma at this point. Forget about heating it up. A mug was filled and immediately consumed. Not enough, although it did wake her up a little bit. Pour another cup of cold coffee, and drink. There it was. She was now more awake, enough to find herself some breakfast (those leftover burgers oughta do the trick after heating them up), but that weird feeling was still there. Why am I feeling like there's something wrong? It's not like I'm anybody's keeper. Nobody owes it to me to report their safety and well-being to them...so why? Reiko went along, continuing in her gradual process of not feeling like such a zombie.

A run. "Yeah, that's it. I could go on a run. It'll help me clear my head, and I'll be able to get some work done after." That was the plan, anyways, and she started to slip her feet into her running shoes. A series of stretches followed, and she stepped out onto the porch. Oof. An extra sweatshirt was going to be needed for this one.

There was a moment when she was stepping back inside to grab a bottle of water. Walking back to her car, she opened the car trunk and pulled out a sweatshirt. With black over red and more black, Reiko was now ready to go. Starting off on a jog, she made her way towards the same path that she and Ben had run on yesterday. Her mind focused on thinking of anything other than the possible source of this off feeling. "Why, damnit, why?" Reiko hissed, refocusing her mind.

Her chosen path was leading her towards the woods, as it was the same path that had been taken yesterday. It was light enough that her already-heightened vision allowed for her to see a little bit more than she was already. Not quite at the wooded area yet, however, she had her options. To change her path, or to stay at it? Reiko had to make a decision. To stay her current path meant possibly heading towards the cave that the damned raccoon had led her to. Where she had found Guddesk and Azriella, and where she had apparently been found by Shourim. She was all set on that. No more taking those kinds of paths alone, and definitely no more following raccoons!

Away from the woods Reiko went. Opting for the path to her right instead, it was one of the potential that she had never taken before. It wasn't as well-used as the ones she had seen before, so curiosity now took over. Now running, Reiko was looking for signs of wildlife. More deer, maybe? Maybe some moose this time. Photos of the trees? She still hadn't asked about the trees for her shop yet, but now her vision was distracted. There was somebody coming at her. Slowing back to a jog, the ravenette was inevitably making her way in the same direction as the one she saw. A closer look showed that the someone was, "Roni? What are you doing out this way? Clearing your head as well?"

She had been focused on just moving and not slipping on the slick that found the path she had been taking, barefoot, along the River's edge, that she hadn't heard Reiko's approach, until the woman called out her name. Wide-eyed, Roni froze, and snapped her attention towards the other woman. Honestly, she looked quite a sight. Muddied, hands covered in what looked like it might be dried blood. Hair not tamed from sleep, and barefoot. She stared a Reiko a long moment, before she took a step back.

"I-I gotta go. It's urgent." The words come breathlessly, before she herself was moving again, and aiming to step her way around Reiko, and back towards whereever she had hidden her car. She had to go. Things to do, people to kill.

"Whoa..." The woman stopped making paces, but kept jogging in place. Taking in Roni's sight, Reiko went from curious to concerned. She looked like a mess! What in the world had she been doing, digging up holes? "...Roni?" Yeah, Reiko. Way to make oneself sound like a bit of a broken record by repeating someone's name. Really?

To her, Roni did not sound anymore okay than she looked. She was, in fact, the opposite of what Reiko looked and felt today - weird feeling aside. She didn't want to keep the other from going about her business, but she was also jogging in that direction. Something had happened. That much was obvious. As for what had happened, a little bit of a heads-up given would be appreciated. Reiko didn't want to resort to her telepathy, and she sure did not want to be blindsided.

Enough. "Wait! Please?" She hoped Roni would at least say something more than her urgency in having to go. "I'm jogging in the direction you just came from. Is...there something that I should know about, something I might need to consider wearing my sunglasses for? You're all dirty...like someone who just lost a fight to nature."

Roni was generally a mess, but today she actually looked it. Reiko's question was enough to give her pause, before she rolled her shoulders in a shrug. "Just don't go that way. Go another." That's all she states, before finally, she continues, scrabbling, scrambling up along the river bank. At the most she had a symbol to follow for a trail, and not much else. It was absolutely useless, especially if she had no idea what at all it was, or meant, or how to even follow the trail that it might offer.

Her frantic path led her back to the cabin long enough to leave a bit of a muddy mess, and grab the rest of her shit, combat boots included, before she was gone again, and off in the direction that she had parked her car. Something happened to someone that Roni considered family. It most definitely could be said that she was not thinking straight at all.

Just don't go that way. Go another. That was it? The look of concern on Reiko's face simply led to a deeper frown as she watched Roni scramble off. One problem to being told to take another path was, this was the other path. "But...the other path will just lead me back to the place that I don't want to go back to," the ravenette said, mostly to herself. She came to a complete stop now, no longer jogging in place at all, and looked back in the direction where she had seen Roni coming from. Something had happened. "I'm sorry, Roni, but I don't know of any other paths that will keep me away from the woods." On Reiko jogged, no longer deciding to run because of the conditions of the path itself.

Not too much further into the path itself, the woman started to pick up on some signs of what could only be described as a disturbance of sorts. Mud, droplets...what were those, by the way? Her jog slowed to a walk, and then to a near-stop, with what started to seem like a trend. "Hey, this isn't paint…" Reiko suddenly started to look around, the walls of her guard now built up rather high. Now she had to tap into her senses, and she reached out whilst surveying the area. "...well, there's nobody in the immediate vicinity," she concluded, but kept her telepathic radar engaged whilst surveying the area still, walking forward with caution. There were...those weren't rocks she was seeing up ahead, and she started to hurry over.

Bodies, and quite a few of them.

"Oh my Fate!" Reiko fumbled with both hands - not to touch the bodies themselves, but through her pockets. She couldn't get her sunglasses out and on fast enough. "There are so many! What in the world happened, here?" Roni. She had been covered in mud and what had to be bits of blood. What was her involvement in all of this? No. No way. She couldn't be involved in this. Roni looked like too much of a wreck to be responsible! Was it..? Never mind trying to take guesses right now. Whose cellphone number did she have anymore..? Her guardian's, all of her employees, maybe Amaris, definitely Mist's, and definitely Rachael's. Better rule Rachael out, though. Reiko was taking out her cellphone and calling Mist. Between him and Amaris, Reiko preferred contacting adults over children. Besides, Amaris would be at school, wouldn't she? "Mist! Come on…" Voicemail. "...Mist, I think you'd better talk to Roni or something. Something happened near the cabin, like a lot of somethings...and Roni was the only one I saw before I found the bodies. Just call her, or something."

Click. Reiko was in no wise sticking around to see anymore. She turned tail and jogged off again, heading back to the cabin. Too bad she didn't have anyone else's phone numbers...being able to contact Ben or Roni herself would be most useful right now.

The thunderous movement coming from outside was enough to disturb Reiko's meditation. Returning to the ground with a soft thud, she opened her eyes. Just when she thought the bodies and Roni covered in mud and blood was concerning enough, now she was hearing people talk outside. As good as her hearing was, Reiko had just been meditating. Standing now, she stretched, rather flustered, before walking to the door. When she stepped out and looked to her left, she saw Roni marching off and both Ben and Mist at the bottom. "What..? No trace of..?" the confused woman muttered to herself. This should be none of her business, really, except that Amaris - wherever she was - considered Reiko an aunt to her. She stepped down the stairs. "Is...this a bad time to say hello and ask who you guys are looking for?" she asked, which was likely nobody but herself at this point.

There was talk of bodies and someone being missing. Who else would be missing that spent time around here..? Come to think of it, I haven't seen Amaris in a couple of days...if not longer. Reiko was really starting to get a sinking feeling in her gut as she thought about the last time she had seen the girl. Unsure of what else to do, she reluctantly followed a good distance down the path where the three of them had gone, only walking instead of jogging like she had been doing earlier that morning. No way was she going to take another path. She could hear Ben shouting as she continued to follow, but remained quiet. That is, until she heard Amaris' name and her backpack being found. Yeah. Reiko let out a gasp at what she had heard and, realising that she might have been heard, looked for someplace to stand where she could be out of sight. Amaris and Michelle? Wasn't Michelle doing some weird stuff lately?

Nope. In that moment, Reiko decided that she was better off not getting any closer. If they wanted her help, then they would have said something. Those three were capable of taking care of things, what Reiko knew now had her all the more worried for Amaris. Surely Michelle wouldn't stab her like she had that caller that she had seen at the Arena that night? But, Amaris is still a child… Reiko frowned. Standing there wasn't going to help get Amaris back, and she sure as Hell had no idea where to even start looking. Turning in the opposite direction, the Albino ran off back towards the cabin to get her coat and was soon driving away from the cabin.

A change of scenery was needed, at least for a little bit. Visiting Pharlen was overdue, some catching up to be done. What she didn't like was feeling useless in some situations where she might have some knowledge (whether useful or not was a different story, but that was beside the point), but this was more about finding someone than it was about how Reiko felt. So, pulling up to the Anchor in her Mercedes, Reiko stepped out and went inside, approaching the bar. "Hey, Pharlen!" the woman called just as her phone started to buzz with an incoming text.

Before she could type out a response to the text, she was greeted by the Governor, who was reading something off of her pad. She set it down; the Fox-Girl server appeared in a shower of pixels and spoke her welcome to Reiko in (gasp) Common! That was a pleasant change.

At once, even though her mind wasn't as clear as it had been an hour ago, Reiko managed a smile. "Pharlen, I've really missed being around my favourite Governor," she said, before changing subjects. Focus! An order was placed for Tendon Pho with rice and a bottle of water, as Foxy beamed and scooted off to the kitchen, though the water bottle was brought quickly thereafter.

Pharlen watched with a benign smile and half-lidded eyes, yes. "Ah, you are one of the few that has missed me, then." An amused wink, "Some people use scopes, yes. How are you?"

She then looked up from her phone. "Yes...I've been here, there...a little bit of everywhere between both here and my home planet. But, I was wondering if you might be able to help me out with something." Having been texting somebody back and forth for a few minutes, she pushed the button to direct her to the photos and pulled one up. "Have you seen Amaris lately?" Reiko asked, showing Pharlen the photo on her phone.

"Hmm? I can certainly try, yes yes," she replied, and paused, brows lifting. "I have not. I haven't seen any of the little devils since they started conjuring up unicorn things in the fields. Is there a problem?"

"Little devils? Conjuring unicorn things?" The woman hit the Back button to return to the gallery. Upon receiving another text, she lowered her phone down for a moment. Then she returned to the gallery and pulled up a photo that she had taken of Michelle. It had been taken just before she had stabbed someone, so Reiko held that up as well. "Quite likely, if you haven't seen Michelle lately either," she responded. Reiko was absolutely serious.

"Maggie, Desdenova, and Amaris have been creating their own havoc, lately," she replied, brow quirking. She sent a text, herself, from her pad, then glanced up, her eyes narrowing. "What did she do this time?" she inquired, dry and dark alike. Another text...

After showing the photo of Michelle, Reiko returned to the home screen and flipped the phone shut. It was set down on the bar before her, where it would stay whenever texts weren't coming to her. Recalling what she had heard before running off, the woman took a deep breath. "There's reason to believe that Michelle might have started to resort to kidnapping children...Amaris is missing." Reiko felt no need to mention that she had seen bodies after Roni had found them. "I want my niece back, preferably alive. So, if you know anything about what Michelle's been up to since I saw her stab one of the duelling hosts recently, then please. Will you let me know? I won't even use your name, for the sake of protecting your identity as Governor."

"Bother," she muttered, lifting a hand and snapping her fingers. The entire place came to a halt: Time stopped. She looked up. "Beril, send for Desdenova, Jackie, and Alice, please." Fingersnap. Time flowed on. The fox girl brought Reiko her soup and rice. Pharlen, however, would think there was something very wrong with her kids if there wasn't a pile of bodies to mark them being kidnapped or otherwise bothered. Go figure. "My dear, there are very few people who even know how to hurt me," she noted, dryly amused. Unfortunately, Michelle may or may not be one of those. It depended on how well the woman paid attention. "She has been popping up randomly in the Red Dragon and at the Golden Perch. Unfortunately, we all tend to stand on common courtesy, so there's not as much of that attack the bad guy because they're bad activity as there used to be. So... feel free." She smiled, yes yes.

Upon hearing this, Reiko immediately sent a text: "According to Pharlen, Michelle bounces between the Perch and the Inn frequently and could be in the area tonight. I hope this helps with finding Amaris."

When the Anchor came to a halt at the snap of Pharlen's fingers, Reiko looked around. Everybody had ceased to move except for Pharlen, Reiko, and the one she had communicated with named Beril. Before she could ask, a second snap of fingers resumed the flow of time, and the Albino's soup and rice joined her bottle of water. Payment with an initial tip was remitted to Pharlen. "Thank you, Foxgirl," Reiko said, digging in.

Her attention remained trained on the Governor at the information given to her. Random appearances at the two places that Reiko's seen Amaris at from time to time. That wasn't good. Reaching for a napkin, she produced a pen from her coat pocket and started to write. "That's a start...a good one, I suppose. Did you, or anyone you know, happen to notice anything odd about her when you or they saw her? Looking at someone for too long...maybe just doing something odd?" She was no cop, but damn, these questions she was asking!

"You have been entirely out of the loop, my dear." She turned her pad to show, absently bringing up several news articles featuring Michelle far out of her usual mien of mild mannered Baker. Randomly attacking people, including Pharlen, viscous matches, gathering up evil around her, and of course, the premoistened state the woman had been existing within. "It had been quite a few weeks worth of crazy, yes, yes." To make matters more interesting, there was also "Fluffy," the kraken that lived in the deep caverns under the dock and bay. The little figure caught Pharlen's attention - movement equals prey, except she wasn't pouncing on the moving thing. Simply focusing on it.

"Yeah...apparently, I have been." This was confirmed when she was shown the archives of articles that mentioned incidents both in and out of the duelling rings. "May I?" Reiko asked, pointing to the pad. She looked up at the Governor after taking an initial glance at the list of articles. One of them jumped out at her, that one being where she had been present at the time of the stabbing. That had to be about two or three weeks ago, Reiko figured, maybe sooner.

Because her back was to the rest of the place, Reiko didn't see the little figure that had caught Pharlen's attention. That didn't mean she wasn't aware. She was merely interested in reading these articles and passing them along to whoever was also part of this. Since Ben's hands were full, Reiko was ready to call Mist - whether by phone or by telepathy.

"Of course," she murmured, pushing the pad over and giving her attention to the one who had just arrived. The figure, Reiko noticed, wasn't such a little figure anymore; in fact, it was actually a she who had greeted Reiko and Pharlen.

"Hello," the ravenette greeted with a small smile, "I've not seen you before...are you new to this neck of the woods?" Eating a few spoonfuls of soup, she then took the pad with thanks to the Governor and started with the oldest article. This was going to take awhile to read. She was eating the soup and rice in cycles as well. This was something that she really should be calling someone about, especially with the information before her. "This...is very troubling…" But not frightening? She read her way to the article that referred to the match where Michelle had stabbed a calling host with a soured expression, only becoming more sour as she continued to read. "...now I wish I hadn't passed out when that blood spell had been cast that night. That would have helped me out a lot more," she mumbled.

A moment was taken where Reiko allowed herself a break from reading through the articles on the pad to exchange introductions with who she now knew was Daiyu Bo. She was at the Anchor on business for Mallory, which was the last thing Reiko paid full attention to as she continued to read. When Reiko had finished reading through the collection of articles that Pharlen had pulled up for her, she had no words. Although it didn't give an idea of an actual location, the woman now had a better idea of it. It's as if she moves about in a certain pattern, one that changes a lot...but I can't just call it into anyone if I have no specific location. So much for trying to contact Ben or Mist. Actually, a text was very quickly fired off, and then she put down her phone.

"Thank you so much, Pharlen." She stayed a bit longer to finish her food and water. That, and Ben had asked her to bring back some spicy udon noodles for him. She probably should have asked who else might want some food...

Her thought was momentarily interrupted by Pharlen’s response. "No worry, darling. But I advise you, be careful. A simple assassination in this place is anything but unless you know all of the variables." To this, Reiko gave a curt and serious nod. She wasn’t going to be doing any assassination, or at least she hoped she wouldn’t be assassinating anybody. The woman just wanted her niece back, preferably alive, and would do anything to help those who were also actively searching for Amaris. Seeing anybody abducted at all had her attention. Seeing a child kidnapped made her put everything else behind her until the return of said child. They were the cornerstone and the foundation of the future of their homeland!

Reiko blinked as Daiyu suddenly grew from six inches tall to six feet tall and gave the unfortunate news of Mallory being unwell, a question that she was hoping to not have to answer was asked...two questions, really. "And you said Amaris is missing..?" she turned to Reiko, only to pause. She looked back at her pad. She said a few bad words. "Where is Mist, then?"

"Yes...she's missing. Mist was helping Ben and Roni give some context when I ran off. I...I don't know if Roni wanted me to be privy to this, but I am now...I want my niece back. Alive,” the Albino answered as Daiyu Bo and the quiet customer that was with her vanished into the crowd outside.

Pale eyes narrowed. She'd already sent the kids on to Sard and Emrys. That left her all too free.

"What?" Reiko was now void of food and water. She took note of Pharlen's narrowed eyes and facial expression. "Pharlen, what is it? Is there something I missed in those articles?" the Albino asked, desperate. Anything new, she would appreciate so that she could pass it along to the others.

"There is much you don't know, and likely, it is a good thing that you don't know. How was Mist when you last saw him?" she replied slowly.

No shit. This was what the woman would say if the one she spoke to wasn't the Governor of Rhy'din. Reiko straightened, her pink azalean eyes not looking away from Pharlen for even an instant now. "Pharlen. Whether or not I interact with Michelle directly is not anything of an issue to me. I've had a death sentence signed since I was born, so whatever you know that I don't, I'm not going anywhere as of yet." Reiko might be getting pushy now, and she might need to start reigning herself in. This was for Amaris, not for herself. "As for Mist, I could tell that he was in quite a mood. He...might have been having a difficult time suppressing any anger that he had, but like an adoptive father, he was obviously worried." She folded her hands in front of her. "It's Amaris' other adoptive father, Ben, who you might want to worry about as well...who do you think has been texting me since I first got here?"

She said a few more bad words, and stepped back. "Daisy, Daisy, tell me you love me do…" Because you do sing randomly in stress situations. Or. Probably not. But, it had the desired effect. Shadows grew darker, then coiled and curled, finally pooling under Pharlen. She glanced downwards and spoke something that sounded like a splash of water. The shadows vanished. Pharlen glanced up, a brow quirked. "It is not hard to find Michelle, follow the sigil and the damp…" A pause. She lifted her glasses with one hand, and indicated with another. The Sigil marked on Michelle's followers showed itself like a hologram on the tabletop. Then an image of Michelle cast. After that, Pharlen lowered her glasses. "Chances are very good she has trapped Amaris between realities where it is very difficult to know where a being is. If she has tried to shove Amaris into R’lyeh or any of the other Dreamer's Cities, then we will know of it soon enough: Amaris is an argent star. The real problem is that there are people who can be pushed past a point and after that, it becomes difficult. I have to go. Be careful, yes." And rather than to leave... She turned not only a whiter shade of pale, but translucent: water. Splish. She was gone. Leaving only a coating of brackish water on the floor, which Foxy mopped up.

Well...shit. If the actual location was somewhere in between realities, then any telepathic usage was pretty much rendered useless. Reiko was useless in that aspect, but perhaps someone she knew might not be so useless? Right now, she was taking more notes on the napkin that she had started to write on. She didn't bother to ask for permission with taking pictures of the holograms that projected. Whether they would actually show up on Reiko's phone was a different story. They might not show up, but the effort was worth it if they did. She sighed, almost in relief. There was so much to process, even more to speak about. Reiko bowed her head. "Thank you, Pharlen, thank you very much,” she said right after the Governor vanished.

Reiko, looking to Foxy, let her small smile remain. "Foxy...may I have two orders of spicy udon noodles, three orders of rice, and two containers of every sauce that are available please?" she asked. Payment was immediately remitted. "I'm taking this to go." The poor kitchen staff had a lot of cooking ahead before Reiko could leave...


*Co-written with Roni (Cabin at the Wilds) and Pharlen (The Anchor). Timing delayed due to connectivity issues.
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