Previous threads: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?tags=Devil%20Summoner%20London%20Quest
Character sheet: http://pastebin.com/4keHKgX4
Seeing the world in slow motion has both good points and bad points. Logically, you know that you're falling as fast as you normally would be, caught in gravity's inescapable pull, but the magic bound within your red velvet ring makes it seem so much slower than that. You're not quite sure how that works, actually – although you're pretty sure that Scathach would just wave the issue away with “magic”.
Fighting in slow motion, you have so much extra time to think, to drag your body away from lethal attacks and to watch out for openings. Time to plan, to scheme and generally just to plot the best way of getting the desired outcome. All good things. Falling in slow motion, on the other hand, is hardly a productive use of your time. All you can do is watch, helpless, as the two treasures you worked so hard to find spiral away from you, tumbling end over end as they plummet into the abyss below.
You would have followed them – almost certainly dying on impact – if not for Midnight's magic, hurling you through space to a short, craggy ledge. It's not much, but it's far better than falling.
Killing that damn worm, you decide bitterly, has just been bumped to the top of your to-do list.
Swallowing down a rising tide of anger, you focus your thoughts on the most immediate issue – studying the area into which you have fallen. This isn't even close to the kind of tunnel network you were briefly plunged into before. It's more like a giant hollow, a vast cavern dug out from beneath the earth. You can even see buildings at the very bottom, crumpled and deformed by the force of hitting the ground. They must have fallen from above, whole chunks of the city pulled down with the collapsing earth.
The sheer scale of it causes you to pause, uncertain of how best to tackle the monumental pit. Checking Midnight's blade, you curse softly at the sight of it – only about a third of the razor sharp metal is still dyed black. You must have used it more than you thought as you were fleeing from Raphael. Three jumps left – maybe more, if you can wet the blade in demon blood. That seemed to recharge its magic somewhat, far more than time ever did.
As if drawn by your thoughts, demons of all types begin to appear around the crumpled ruins. From dog-headed Kobolds come to sniff out any scattered valuables to prowling Ghouls on the hunt for any easy prey, quite a crowd has gathered down below you. There are even a few of those cultists from Mizuchi's shine, staggering about in simple confusion. It must have seemed like their world was ending, you think with a sudden stab of pity – a sensation that you can sympathise with.
Still, if you're going to search out your lost treasures, you'll need to make a move soon. Wait too long, and the Kobolds will have made off with your ill-gotten gains. Then again, escape would be easy from here – a single blink, and you'd be free.
>Descend into the hollow
>Escape to the freedom above
You didn't come all this way for nothing. It was a hell of a risk coming here, and you were not planning on leaving empty handed. If there is one stroke of good luck, it's that you have a general idea of where to start looking. It's a pretty rough guess, and your treasures might have been moved or stolen since then, but you were able to follow their descent somewhat. Slow motion, you think, has its advantages.
There's enough light as well, coming from the sliver of open sky above, that you won't need to rely on glowing lichen to search by. All things considered, you've got a pretty good shot at this. The only downside is the frequent rumbling that grips the cavern, like a train hurtling along a nearby tunnel. That burrowing demon is here as well, crawling through tunnels that are deeper still. Whenever one of those tremors begins, every single one of the demons below becomes motionless, perfectly still for fear of attracting the beast. Could it be blind?
Filing that information away for future use, you grip Midnight's leather-bound handle and trigger its magic, appearing down below in a cloud of powdery snow. A few demons look up at your sudden arrival, but few of them give you any more than passing glances. It feels strange, walking among them as if nothing was wrong or unusual about it. This hollow feels like neutral ground – almost like a marketplace, or a communal source of salvage.
Wandering for a moment, indulging your curiosity, you see several tunnels leading away from the hollow, as well as a single shaft leading deeper down. The shaft must have been covered recently, for it has been broken open by the falling buildings. The book and the gauntlet, of course, are nowhere to be found.
>Search down one of the tunnels
>Drop down the shaft and search lower
>Ask around for help
>Ask around for help
Ask if anyone ran off with our loot and if so which way did they go. If we get stonewalled for a reason or another, maybe use Succubus for charm or Cern for intimidation
Scanning the hollow one last time, your gaze falls upon a small cluster of Kobolds. They bark at each other, their voices surprisingly soft and emotive, as they pick through the rubble. Every so often you see them throw aside a rock or pick up a piece of strangely formed armour. The armour – along with anything else that looks vaguely shiny – is placed in a careful pile. You have no idea what they plan on doing with their scrappy treasure, but it's also a reassuring sight. If they value metal things, one of them might have taken the gauntlet. You just need an idea of where they went.
Getting the gauntlet back, well, that's another issue altogether.
Carefully gripping your phone behind your back, you approach the group and clear your throat politely. The Kobolds freeze for a second before turning to face you. They look cautious, but not particularly hostile. There's always Succubus, if you need someone to coax information out of them, or Cernunnos if you need to defend yourself. With that reassuring thought in the back of your mind, you ask if they've seen a gauntlet anywhere.
The question hangs in the air for a moment, the Kobolds all wearing the same expression of vague confusion. A gauntlet, you repeat, a... a glove? A shiny metal glove?
Realisation finally seems to dawn here, and the group forms a tight circle as they chitter to each other, exchanging words in their own curious language. The debate goes on and on, until you're about to give up and ask elsewhere. Just as you start to turn away, the debate club breaks up and the tallest of the demons speaks directly to you.
“Taken,” he barks, pointing towards the broken shaft, “Brought low. Deep!”
That's... that's fantastic.
“Took other things,” the Kobold sniffs, “Useless though. Paper. Skins. Nothing useful.”
>Head down the shaft
>Ask some other questions first (Write in)
As glad as you are to receive fresh directions – assuming the shaft doesn't just lead down into a twisted maze of tunnels, at least – you're still a little bothered by the lack of information. What, exactly, took the gauntlet?
You can't help but sigh a little as the debate club is reinstated. It seems that Kobolds are loathe to decide anything on their own, choosing what to tell you through a committee. You tap your foot as you wait for them to separate once more. This time, the tallest one remains silent and a younger looking specimen, with much darker fur, is the one to talk.
“Not kin,” he growls, faint beads of saliva clinging to his muzzle, “Not one of the digging folk. Not any more.”
“Shiny though,” the taller Kobold adds, with a note of somehow wistful curiosity in his animalistic voice, “Like the metal. A gift from the womb of the earth – he went as kin, returned as... other.”
So, whatever it was that took the gauntlet and the book was... not a Kobold? Not any more, at least?
The trio of demons nod simultaneously, a phantom anxiety lingering about their features that suggests they'd rather talk about something – anything – else. You're about to leave when their leader, the tallest among them, speaks up. “Wait,” he croaks, “A favour. We help – now you help.”
Of course. A favour for a favour. What, then, do they want you to do for them?
“Kill it,” the leader says, amidst a chorus of discontent from the others, “Don't bury it. Pollution. Corruption.”
He's worried that when you kill this thing, burying it would pollute the earth somehow, as if whatever corruption has taken root would only spread further. Mulling the information over, you nod slowly. Leaving the body to be picked over by scavengers might not be any better, but...
>“Kill it,” the leader says, amidst a chorus of discontent from the others, “Don't bury it. Pollution. Corruption.”
Uh you know you guys like decay instantly. There would be no time to bury. Nevermind, you got it dog man.
Thanking the group of Kobolds once more, you bid them farewell and approach the shaft. You're not the first person to explore it, apparently, for someone has strung up a spool of rough rope leading down. You've never been very good at climbing rope, but you should be able to walk your way up and down the rugged stone wall without too much trouble. Without, at least, falling to your death. Slipping your weapons back into your various pockets, you take hold of the rope and begin your descent.
That's when a sudden shriek splits the air, followed shortly by a deafening crash. This isn't the sound of that burrowing demon – this came from above, as if something just dropped out of the sky. Silence falls over the hollow as all eyes turn to the swirling dust cloud thrown up by the impact. You watch, anxiety twisting inside your guts, as a near infinite number of metal shards rise up from the crater and take a vaguely humanoid form. Already moving, even before it has become complete, the new arrival scans the hollow.
Raphael, you realise as the last few pieces of unearthly metal click into shape. Did he follow you down here, or is this just a coincidence of the most awful kind? You don't stick around to ask questions though, dropping down the shaft as quickly as you dare. Shouts and roars begin to rise up as you vanish down the narrow chute, sounds of battle appearing and disappearing within a few shocking minutes.
This... was not something you'd planned for. Closing your eyes for a few risky seconds, you scrape together your focus and look around at the cavern you've entered. Only one exit, leading down into the gloom. Not a twisted maze, then.
>Proceed down the tunnels
>Have a demon scout ahead
>Retreat to the surface
damn, wish I got the warning out earlier.
>Proceed down the tunnels
If Cern can keep quiet as a hunter on the prowl, sure.
I'd prefer Kin-Ki to keep defensive buffs on to go with Mia's passive evasion bonuses, but I doubt he's the silent type.
Mizuchi would also be good for keeping quiet, but fire might be a poor choice of weakness right now.
You don't want to go into this one alone – and you don't want to be the one walking into any kind of trap, either. With full expectation of what you're getting into, you call up Cernunnos. He appears quickly, hunched down in the tight confines of the tunnel but otherwise moving with the confident grace of an apex predator. This is a side of him you've never seen before – all bluster and fury replaced with a hunter's keen instincts.
Then he turns to prowl down the tunnels, and you get a look at another side of him you've never seen before. Don't look down, you remind yourself hastily. Never look down.
Moving on with that same smooth grace, Cernunnos glides down the tunnel. His steps are light and irregular, the hushed sound of his bare feet never forming anything that could be considered a rhythm. Anyone listening in, you realise, would just hear the usual sounds of the earth shifting and settling. You try your best to mimic his pace, but your boots make considerably more noise. It can't be helped – the uneven ground here would shred your delicate feet, while Cernunnos walks upon leathery soles.
Letting him lead the way, you follow the horned god until he holds up a tightly closed fist. “Prey ahead, little worm,” he murmurs, “One of them, trying to stay quiet. Not quiet enough – I can hear him breathing.”
So, you whisper back, what does he suggest?
“Kill it,” Cernunnos replies simply, “It's a wider cave ahead, no exit. Wide enough to move around in, at least. I'll go first, you wait a moment before following. Understand?”
Can he really tell all that from hearing alone? You can't hear anything at all! Having made his suggestions, though, Cernunnos just shrugs. The final decision, of course, lies with you.
>Follow Cernunnos' plan
>Come up with a plan of your own (Write in)
Rolled 24, 94 = 118 (2d100)
You nod, keeping as silent as possible. You'll stick with Cernunnos' plan – he's the hunter here, after all. Apparently satisfied with your answer, Cernunnos slinks down the last few yards of the tunnel. When the cave starts to widen out, he flattens his body against the wall and waits, nodding his horned head softly as he thinks. With a single decisive motion, he pivots around and hurls his spear into the cavern beyond, running after it. A few steps into his run he launches into a diving roll, leaping through the air and darting across the uneven ground. The ground he was moving across is then shattered, suddenly, as a heavy iron club crashes down. That must have been the ambush he had been expecting.
“Now, little worm!” Cernunnos snarls, plucking his spear from the cave wall and turning to face the enemy. You rush in, Midnight held ready, but the sight of your target causes you to hesitate, almost falling into a clumsy stagger.
The Kobolds above were right about one thing – it WAS their kin once, but not any more. You can still recognise the snarling dog face and dark furred body of a Kobold, but the right half of its body is lost beneath a churning tide of metal. Gears, springs and stranger things aside shift in constant demented motions, forming and unforming various bladed limbs and blunt cannon mouths. It almost resembles Raphael's terrible new form, but... unfocused. Like it can't quite keep hold of its new form.
Quelling your fear and disgust, you raise your dagger and stand by Cernunnos' side, your scarf fluttering as you cast it into the faint breeze. It's time to put this thing out of its misery.
>Please roll 2D100, for Mia and Cernunnos. I'll take the highest of the first three, and Cernunnos has +20 on this roll due to his greater strength.
>A 2D10 dodge roll as well, please. Aiming to beat 6, and Mia is at +2
Rolled 6, 33 = 39 (2d100)
Lurching around in a clumsy circle, the mutant Kobold swings its hulking, metal arm at you both. Gun barrels jut out and flare with piercing flashes of light, the rattling din of gunfire punching at your eardrums. In this enclosed space it's deafening, leaving your ears deadened to everything but the squeal of tinnitus. As you hurl yourself forwards, down out of the way of that stream of bullets, you see glittering shell casings bounce against the stone, bounding and rolling at a fraction of normal speed. Cernunnos is able to dodge as well, ducking under the curtain of bullets as he rolls forwards.
Breaking off the hail of gunfire, the mutant twists around and begins to form new weapons. Claws and jagged blades mostly, even as it raises a club in its one normal hand. You don't give it the chance to complete its transformation, slashing Midnight's blade across the strangely flowing metal limb. Bits and pieces are sheared away by your attack – oil flowing like dark blood from the wound you leave behind – and the demon staggers back. Cernunnos follows, stepping in close and ramming his spear up into the Kobold's still organic underbelly. The stone-tipped spear bites deep, pushing the mutant back against the cave wall.
That's when its jaw... dislocates. Its head deforms, the tongue dropping wetly away, and thick metal pipes begin to break through the surface. With a noise oddly reminiscent of a coughing, black smoke boils out to fill the air. You can just about see its outline, but...
“Take heart, little worm!” Cernunnos snarls, “The beast is wounded – desperate!”
>Please roll 2D100, for Mia and Cernunnos. Best of three, with the same +20 bonus as before
>A 2D10 dodge roll as well, aiming to beat 8 this time. Mia is still at +2
Out of the thick sheet of fog, a giant metal claw comes screaming towards Cernunnos' head. Literally screaming, in this case, as the damage you inflicted upon it causes ragged fragments of metal to grind together. Cernunnos can't quite drag his body out of the way fast enough, so he does the next best thing. Dropping his spear, he catches the metal claw in his bare hands. Roaring with triumph – his voice warring with the strange, almost sobbing sound coming from the mutant Kobold – he wrestles back and forth with the creature.
A brief tug of war follows, but the powerful fairy god soon overpowers the Kobold, planting one foot on the thing's furry chest and pushing it backwards. His grip on the metal arm does not waver, and there is the shriek of splintering metal as the rent you made first widens into a chasm and then splits the arm apart entirely. With glittering component parts spilling out from the wound, the Kobold stumbles backwards.
There is only one thought of mercy in your mind as you dash forwards, Midnight held low before you – putting this thing out of its misery, you think, would be merciful. It's a failed experiment, a crude perversion of life, created as... what, a joke? Angrily pushing the thought from your mind, you plunge Midnight's point into the creatures chest and drag the blade down, splitting it open down the middle. Hot blood flows out over your hands as the creature falls back, what little life it had left quickly fading from its eyes.
Sprawled out on the ground, you watch as the demon's flesh decays and crumbles away. The metal components don't vanish quite so quickly – they rust and fester, but still they linger. Midnight lies on the ground, hungrily swallowing up the spilled blood. When you recover the weapon, it's over half way dark again.
“An easy fight, little worm,” Cernunnos growls, sounding strangely disappointed, “And not prey worthy of celebrating. This thing should never have existed – it has no place in any natural world.”
It sounds odd, listening to the barbaric demon murmuring such philosophical thoughts to himself. He's not stupid, of course, but it's a side of him you rarely see. Sheathing Midnight, you turn your attention to scanning the cavern for your prize. It doesn't take you long to find it – planted beneath a crude steel altar, something banged together out of scrap – are your treasures. Stooping down, you take a closer look at the altar. A humanoid figure, all hard lines and angles, with a hole sloppily drilled through the chest, leaving nothing but a gap where the heart would be. Shuddering, and making sure not to even touch the icon, you sweep the treasures up into your hands. Time to get out of here.
“Wait,” Cernunnos hisses, holding up his fist once more, “Something comes.”
Not Raphael, you plead silently, not him. As you beg the universe for this one favour, a frightful tremor takes hold of the entire cavern, causing loose rubble to fall away from the ceiling. All the signs of a cave-in are here, literally looming overhead. Like you were saying – time to get out of here.
This time, Cernunnos doesn't stop you from scurrying down the shaking tunnel. He follows closely behind you, in fact, pausing only when you reach the crude rope. Without wasting any time, you begin the climb.
>A humanoid figure, all hard lines and angles, with a hole sloppily drilled through the chest, leaving nothing but a gap where the heart would be.
You slow your ascent as you get closer to the top, until you're barely moving by the time you reach the ledge. Taking hold of the broken stone, you drag yourself up slightly and peer out into the hollow. There are splattered bloodstains everywhere – the bodies that caused the mess long since decayed – and fresh rubble litters the area. It doesn't take you long to see the cause of the tremors. The burrowing demon has surfaced, twisting around in place as it seems to sniff the air. The sounds of its breathing are immense, like powerful winds.
Standing opposite it, atop a pile of rubble, is Raphael. He doesn't move, merely regarding the worm with an alien intelligence. The moment draws out, longer and longer, as neither demon makes the first move. You don't even know if the worm knows there's something else here – and you don't know if Raphael is here to fight the burrowing creature.
You don't know what to do.
>Blink to cover and see what happens
>Make some noise. It might provoke the worm
>Make for the surface, as quickly as you can
>Blink to cover and see what happens
But if those two start getting chummy, throw a rock inbetween them.
I don't think we can take a Nyarly Archangel with a 1 demon limit. If we could get two out maybe.
If Nidd gets some really lucky rolls and weakens him a Nyarchangel might not be impossible to beat right now. It's all a matter of how much Nidd can do before dying (because let's face it, it's almost certainly not winning).
Without pulling yourself fully above the ledge, you fix your eyes on a convenient pile of craggy rubble – it might have been a balcony, once – and trigger Midnight's magic. Blinking through the space, you press your body up against the piece of cover and take a hushed breath. Returning Cernunnos to your phone – you can summon him again when you need him, and you're harder to spot on your own – you peer around the corner.
The burrowing demon and Raphael are just... staring at each other. As much as two beings without noticeable eyes CAN stare at each other, at least. That's when the rubble beneath your feet shifts slightly, a few stray pebbles rattling and bouncing to the ground. It's a tiny noise, lost beneath the sound of the worm's breathing, but Raphael's head still turns sharply in your direction. When the fallen Archangel moves, the loose rubble beneath HIS feet move as well – and this is far more of a cascade. You wish you could see some distress, some frustration, in Raphael's cold eyes, but there is nothing of that sort. Just an analytical stare as he turns to face the howling worm, raising his curious spear.
They can kill each other, as far as you're concerned. In fact, you hope they do. Bellowing, jaws stretched wide, the worm rears up and lurches towards Raphael. If the survivor of this struggle is weakened, you might have a chance of finishing them off. Then again, you're unlikely to get a better chance to retreat...
>Watch the fight and wait for a winner
>Get the hell out of here
>Get involved in the fight
Screw this. You're getting out of here.
Sure, this might be an opportunity to pick off a wounded target, or to study them for weaknesses. Then again, there's a massive risk involved – a single stray attack from that monstrous worm could crush you into powder, or some of Raphael's killing winds could strip the flesh from your bones. There are countless ways that you could get dragged into this fight, and even more ways that it could go terribly wrong. So... you're leaving. You'll keep your ear to the ground later, for any word of who survived.
Blinking up to the first of several ledges, you turn and jump to the next. It's only on your third blink that that you return to the surface, rejoicing in the slight light cast off by the cold and distant sun. You're out – you're free. Below your feet, a few more tremors ring out in quick succession as the fight rages on. Have fun with that, you mutter as you brush yourself down. Even so, you can't resist the urge to glance back down into the hollow. The worm, as you watch, lurches backwards with a low roar, Raphael's spear buried in the thing's deformed face. The Archangel himself lies upon the ground, his gleaming components bent and scattered.
Huh. You were betting on the other guy.
With his flabby body convulsing slightly, the worm twists around and begins to burrow back into the ground. Retreating, you assume, to lick his wounds – and he certainly had enough of those, bloody rents torn in his pallid flesh. Maybe you'll be able to get some peace, for a few days at least. Now, you think as you stretch the stiffness out of your shoulders, what next?
>Deliver the book to the Hellfire Club
>Bring the gauntlet to the Scathach
>Bring the gauntlet to Petra, tell her what Scathach can do
You're already out and about, you decide, so you might as well drop off the book while you're here. One less thing to cart about, at least. The Hellfire Club, then – and you might see if Marco is available while you're there. It might be nice to give him an update on recent events.
You don't see any reason to hurry either, taking your own time as you amble through the streets towards the familiar club. As soon as you arrive, down the steps and into the darkened building, you see Mister Black, waiting for you by the entrance. Or maybe he's not waiting for you – maybe he's just playing the part of the attentive host, ready to wait upon your every desire. His eyes light up when he sees the book you carry, and he wastes no time at all in relieving you of one half of your burden.
“Ah!” he announces, stroking an affectionate hand across the leather-bound tome, “It's exactly as I had imagined!”
So... he's happy, then?
“It's quite wonderful,” Mister Black smiles, his usual composure slamming down like a fortress gate, “An item that I've been seeking for... for longer than I can remember, actually. Was it difficult, recovering it?”
Was it difficult, you repeat, that all depends on what he means by “difficult”, doesn't it?
“You're alive. You're... more or less unharmed,” Mister Black nods to himself, “Excellent. I'm sure compensating your father would be quite harmful to our profits.”
Marco, you notice suddenly, is sitting at the bar, chatting quietly with Mister Red. He is yet to notice you.
“Now,” the gentleman asks, “Is there some payment you would like?”
>Can it wait? I'd like to speak with my father first.
>There was something I wanted... (Write in)
>I'll let you know
>There was something I wanted... (Write in)
"Similar request from last time. Can you acquire an object like my scarf but the opposite effect, in that it strengthens my allies."
Then go hang with Dad.
Luster Candy is useful always and it can serve as a ghetto Dekunda in case we get Debilitated again.
Moloch, if we forsake Mia's attack round could we do we debuff and buff on the same round with her?
There was something you'd like to ask for, actually, but you're not sure if it's possible. Something like your scarf, except the exact opposite. What you're asking for, you correct yourself, is something that would bolster you and your allies, rather than disabling you enemies. Is he able to get something like that for you?
“Such items do exist, yes,” Mister Black taps his finger against his chin as he thinks, “In fact, I might something suitable already. We tend to accumulate these things, you see. Tucked away in dark corners and such. Ah, but cleaning out the storeroom would be so much of an effort...” He smiles regretfully at that, seemingly not noticing you as he retreats into his deep thoughts. Probably imagining the kind of heroic effort it would take to restore some semblance of order to this unseen storage.
“Regardless,” Mister Black declares, snapping back to reality, “I shall see if I can seek them out, then. Please, make yourself at home – as you can see, your father is on a break at the moment. Perhaps you'd like a moment to catch up?”
That's right, you nod, you had a few things to ask him about.
“Then, I'll leave you to it,” the tall gentleman offers graciously, bowing slightly as he leaves. With his departure, you make your way over to the bar. Marco turns at the sound of your footsteps, his face beginning to brighten up into a smile before suddenly growing pale and stiff.
“Mia...” he breaths. That's when you realise what he's looking at – your hand, your entire arm, is coated with a thick layer of oily demon blood. Not only that, but you've got a handgun slung at your hip and a looted treasure tucked under one arm.
You've got some explaining to do.
>Don't worry. It's not my blood
>Never mind me, I'm fine.
>I need to know – is there anything you've never told me?
>I've been pretty busy. Sorry for not visiting earlier
>Don't worry. It's not my blood
>I've been pretty busy. Sorry for not visiting earlier
"I actually ended up having to look after Alice after she walked out on your lessons for a bit. That was interesting."
>I need to know – is there anything you've never told me?
Regardless of his response be sure to come clean about the heart thing.
Don't worry, you say quickly, it's not your blood!
“I... don't know if that's any better,” Marco laughs hesitantly, “I don't think I'll ever get used to this lifestyle, I'm afraid. I suppose walking around covered in blood is just something that people do, is it?”
Pretty much, you reply after realising just how often you end up splattered with the stuff, it usually just flakes off after a couple of hours. No big deal. But that's not what you came here to talk about, you add quickly, you wanted to apologise before doing anything else. It's been busy lately – very busy – so you couldn't come visit sooner. Actually, you laugh slightly, you did try to visit but you ended up babysitting Alice instead. That was after she walked out on one of his lessons, wasn't it?
“That's right,” Marco looks, if this is possible, more uncomfortable at the mention of this, “It was a difference of opinion – one that I hope will not be repeated. I heard that you tried to stop by, but I was dead to the world all day after what happened.” A pause, here. “Bad wording,” Marco says with a wince, “Sorry. So, uh, what's been going on out there? I've heard bits and pieces, but nothing specifically about you.”
Time to ask him the real question – not that you've been looking forwards to this moment. You'll give him the recent events, you tell Marco with deliberate care, but only once he's answered a question. It's something you need to know – is there anything, anything at al, that he's never told you?
“Ah,” Marco looks down, then glancing across at the barman. Mister Red was already a few feet away, but he still takes the time to sidle away to the furthest end of the bar. “So,” your father begins, “Something happened, didn't it? Your heart...”
So he knew.
“I was told that it was just a minor defect,” Marco says slowly, “The kind of thing that would normally pose very little risk, as long as you kept to a reasonable lifestyle. In truth, there were times when I forgot all about it – that's how... harmless, I thought it was.”
But things aren't very harmless now, you point out, are they? It's been getting worse, chest pains and moments of weakness. Breathlessness and brief flashes of helpless paralysis. None of that, you say with an undercurrent of anger, strikes you as particularly harmless.
“I never realised,” Marco murmurs to himself, “Please understand, I never wanted you to live your life under a cloud, afraid to even get out of bed. I wanted you to live as normally as you could, without the burden of knowing... of knowing that there was no real cure.” He sighs heavily, reaching out to toy with an empty glass. “I made a hell of a mistake. I realise that. Truth be told, your mother was always better at this... parenting stuff. When she... I mean, I was almost lost without her.”
He falls silent then, waiting for you to reach a decision. Regret is painted across his face, the first shadows of despair lurking beneath for their chance to swoop up and claim him.
>You should have told me sooner
>I could have died. I can't forgive this
>It's... no big deal. You wanted to hear about things, right?
He should have told you sooner, you admit, but you can understand why he didn't. Just... he shouldn't beat himself up about it, that's all.
“Really?” Marco's eyes widen with a note of surprise, before he barks out an astonished laugh, “Even when I was double your age, I don't think I was so mature! If my father had told me something like that, I could have torn the house apart. I'm just glad... I'm just glad you don't hate me.”
It's no big deal, you tell him with an only slightly forced shrug, but anyway – he wanted to hear about how things are going, right? Before the mood can become too heavy, you launch into a brief list of the things that have been happening. As you talk about your triumphs, Marco's lips twitch up into a proud grin, only for his face to fall when you talk about the losses you've suffered. When you mention Petra's arm, he winces in pain – perhaps imagining the same injury happening to you.
“That poor girl,” he murmurs, “I only had a short time to meet her, but she seemed...”
“Seemed like a bad influence”, he wants to say. You can tell.
“She seemed nice,” Marco says instead, finishing lamely, “But I hope this gauntlet thing can help her. Tell me, this scientist friend of yours... are her studies peer reviewed? Where have they been published?”
...She's not that kind of scientist, you think to yourself, but you can't quite bring yourself to say that out loud. The possibility of meeting a fellow scientist – or someone he believed was a fellow scientist – had brought another broad grin to Marco's face. It would be a shame to crush that smile so soon. As you're fumbling for an answer, you notice Mister Black returning, a small box tucked under one arm.
>Looks like I've got to make a move
>We'll all have a chance to meet soon, I promise
"Not sure she has any peers. I certainly haven't seen anyone else do the things she does."
>We'll all have a chance to meet soon, I promise
"I'll see you tomorrow. Its going to be a...interesting day."
Well, you force a smile, you'll all have a chance to meet up soon. You can promise that.
“You're not dodging the question, are you?” Marco asks, picking up on the pretty obvious attempt at evasion.
You're not sure if she actually has any peers, you admit, because you've certainly never seen anyone else do the kind of things she does.
“An innovator, then,” Marco murmurs, looking awfully curious, “I can't wait to meet her. But, well, anyway. I think our host is trying to get your attention. He's checking his watch slightly more than usual... about every few seconds, it seems.”
True enough, you realise when you turn to glance at Mister Black. You'll see him later, you tell Marco, it's going to be... interesting. The full moon – you wonder what will happen. With one last farewell, you leave Marco's side and stop at Mister Black, taking the small box he offers you.
“I knew we had these tucked away. Rather glad to be rid of them, if I may be so bold as to say so,” the corner of his mouth twitches up into a smile, “Please, don't ask how these came into our possession. It's better if you don't know. Regardless, just clench both fists at once to activate the magic bound within – they should do exactly what you wanted them to do.”
Tentatively, not quite sure what to expect, you wait until you're outside before opening the little box. A pair of leather gloves lie within – supple black leather, with metal symbols stamped on the back of the hand. A skull for the left hand, and a fly for the right. You're not sure why Mister Black was so glad to be rid of them, really – they look fine to you.
As you pull the gloves on, a sudden purring at your hip alerts you to an incoming call. Cassandra, or so the name on screen would suggest.
“Mia,” Cassandra says, the minute you press the phone to your ear, “I don't know whether to thank you or to kill you right now.”
Huh, you blurt out, what's with THAT reaction?
“On one hand, I owe you quite a lot of gratitude,” she continues, “But on the other hand, I've got to wonder if you know how bad things are right now. Anyway, look, I was watching you out there. I've got a pretty good vantage point out there, somewhere I can look out across the whole of the slums. I've got to admit, I was expecting Raphael to drop in, but not that... thing. Nidhoggr, I'm told it's called.”
She was expecting Raphael to find you there?
“Look...” Cassandra trails off, “That's why I've got to thank you. You kept him distracted just long enough for me to do what I needed to do. So... I appreciate that.”
She used you!
“Sure,” you can practically hear the shrug, here, “Hey, we both got something out of it, right? Anyway, I noticed Raphael wasn't on his usual patrol route. He's dead, right?”
Maybe, you guess, you saw him getting crushed by that... Nidhoggr thing. He looked dead to you.
“Yeah, about that...” Cassandra takes a breath, “Look, I'm sending you a photograph I took. That should be able to explain it better than I ever could. I'll be in touch later, okay? Sorry about the whole... distraction thing, by the way. It was the only way I could think of getting in and out undetected. Later!”
Before you can do anything more than splutter with outrage, she hangs up.
A few moments pass and your phone vibrates again, announcing a new picture message. Dread fills you as you open the picture, studying it as closely as you can. It's blurry, but you can make out Nidhoggr's vague shape. Except... it's different. Raphael's spear is still embedded, like a single horn, but a river of metal has flowed out of it, glinting in the various wounds still dotting the worm's body. The largest of these wounds, a great tear down one side of the worm's body, has burst open to reveal a single vast arm, tentatively held together with errant bone and unnatural metal.
It's hideous, an abomination beyond anything you've seen so far. You can't even tell if this was something Nyarlathotep intended to happen, or part of some mocking experiment that has run out of control. Either way, you realise with a spasm of terror, would be met with the same nihilistic hilarity. Raphael might have been crushed, but his legacy might be something even worse.
When you've regained some of your composure, you realise that there is a message attached and read it quickly:
“Taken a few moments ago,” Cassandra's explanation reads, “Seen rampaging through the slums.”
This could be a problem.
>Call Cassandra back immediately
>Try to arrange a face to face meeting with Cassandra
>Make your way back to the fairy kingdom. It's a problem for another time
>Try to arrange a face to face meeting with Cassandra
'Look I think we need to have a chat. And by we I mean you, me, and Petra. We've both have been avoiding discussing certain topics ever since we met again in this world and we need to have a talk. Preferably BEFORE we go and see Amelia."
This... should probably be something you discuss as a group. Not just that, of course, but there are lots of things that could use some discussion. Especially, you think, now that the full moon is approaching. Things might go a lot smoother if you can discuss everything face to face, as a group – Petra included. With that in mind, you immediately call Cassandra back. As you expect, she picks up on the first ring.
“I thought that might get your attention,” she says, without bothering to check that it's you, “I was joking earlier. I know you're not responsible for that, so I can't really blame you for anything. If anything, that monster is a little easier to avoid than Raphael. It's certainly easier to hear it coming – the thing screams every time it drags itself forwards!”
Gross, you murmur to yourself, but never mind that now. You want to see Cassandra, face to face, and talk things through properly. You include Petra in that as well – there are things that all three of you have been avoiding, and need to discuss.
“Let me guess...” Cassandra begins, but you don't let her finish.
You want to talk, you announce, before meeting Amelia.
“I thought that might be it,” Cassandra sighs, her attempts at good humour evaporating, “Neutral ground, okay? That means somewhere outside the kingdom, before you ask. How about the Hellfire Club – say, in a few hours?”
Considering how well regarded she is there, you're not exactly sure it would count as “neutral ground”. Then again, it's not like you've made many enemies there either.
>You've got a deal
>I've got a counter proposal... (write in)
>No deal, sorry
Alright, you sigh, she's got herself a deal. You know when you're not going to get a better offer.
“Excellent!” Cassandra sounds pleased – and relieved, you notice, “Ah, but “a few hours” isn't very precise, is it? Let me think... how about early evening? The sky tends to change colour a little about that time, just the slightest hint of pink at the edge of the horizon. Have you ever noticed that?”
You can't say you ever have. The sky, as far as you've always been able to tell, is either grey or black with very little in-between.
“Maybe I've spent too long out here,” Cassandra muses, “Too long under this dreary sky. Uh, anyway. Keep an eye out – when the sky starts to turn, meet me in the Hellfire Club. Petra can come as well, I suppose – any funny business, and they'll throw her out. I'm sure she knows that already. So we'll talk then, okay?”
Sure, you tell her without much enthusiasm, you'll talk to her then. She hangs on the line for a moment longer, her breath soft in your ear, before the call ends without another word. Tucking the gauntlet under your arm, you heave a heavy sigh and start off towards the fairy kingdom. After everything you went through to get this thing, you think, Scathach had better be able to do something with it.
You just hope Petra is still willing to give this a shot. Otherwise, this piece of ancient history is going to end up in the first pawnshop you can find.
>Take the gauntlet to Scathach first
>Take the gauntlet to Petra first
You should probably show the gauntlet to Petra first, you decide, and see if she likes it. If it meets her approval, you can go to Scathach together and see about getting it fitted. You just hope Scathach really can work with it – if you show it to Petra and she gets her hopes up, only for them to be dashed later...
Pushing that horrible speculation from your mind, you make your way to the bedrooms, assuming that Petra will still be there. It's either there or the banquet hall, and you'd rather not drag an ancient artefact through a crowd of curious Pixies. As it happens, your first guess was the right one – Petra is sitting upright in bed, a heavy book balanced precariously on her lap. It's rude, you know that, but you can't help but stare at the weighty tome. You thought...
“You are thinking,” Petra says, with a slight grin twisting one corner of her mouth, “What is this girl doing with a book like that, yes?”
You flush, the redhead plucking the thoughts right out of your mind.
“Before I was a soldier, I was a student,” Petra points out, straining to lift the book so you can read the cover. History of the Warrior Dynasty – a book about famous fairy wars, or so it seems. “History was my first love, you see?” Petra says softly, regarding the book with a gentle fondness you've rarely seen in her eyes, “I forgot that, I think.”
So, you say awkwardly, is it a good book?
“Bloody,” Petra decides, nodding her approval, “Lots of duels, executions and battles, yes? Exciting stuff, I think. Not for young eyes. So, what can I-” She falls silent, then, as she finally catches a glimpse of the gauntlet tucked under your arm. “Is that...”
>Reading should be easier with two hands, right?
>Do you like it?
>This might not work, I'm warning you now
Reading a book like that, you joke, should be easier with two hands, right?
“It IS heavy,” Petra admits, letting the thick, leather-bound book slap shut. She lies it on her lap and, without taking her eye from the gauntlet, gestures for you to come closer. Something about the light that flashes across her face leaves you feeling uneasy, like watching a drowning man spying a hint of salvation.
This might not work, you warn her as you remain a few paces away, you want to make sure she realises that. There's nothing saying Scathach's research was correct, or that it can be applied to humans. There are countless things that could go wrong, you stress, so she shouldn't-
“Shouldn't get my hopes up,” Petra finally tears her eye away from the ancient armour, meeting your gaze once more, “I know this, yes? But please understand, when Marco was within your sight after so long without him...”
You could barely hold yourself back, you admit, point taken. That said, you add with a grin as you pass the gauntlet over to Petra's waiting hand, does she like it?
“Beautiful,” Petra breathes, “It's a perfect fit!”
Well, you think aloud, it certainly looked about the appropriate size. It might take a little work, but...
“No,” she corrects you, pressing the gauntlet against the stump of her arm. The hollow metal fits, quite neatly, over the bandaged end of the limb. “It is a perfect fit!” Petra repeats, awe in her voice.
That's... actually a little bit spooky, you murmur in the silence that follows.
>I think I'll end things there for tonight. Next thread on Tuesday, and I'll stick around for any questions or anything!
Well Marco was proud for starters, although he was also pretty horrified by the idea of Mia just strolling in there. I imagine he's got a pretty distorted view of the world, viewing it as far more dangerous, but somehow not grasping the real danger. Looks like he's the sheltered one these days!
Now that I think about it, we didn't check things! It's an issue, to be honest, that didn't occur to me earlier.
Now that you've mentioned it though...
I kinda wish I'd found that picture before writing Cass as having short hair.
While the snake/frog shrines were untouched, the loot WAS left in a pretty crude shrine for a while. Not terribly long though.
In all seriousness, this isn't something I'd planned for so there won't be any massive consequences. Nothing that totally undoes everything we just did, at least.
Well, I think Cass is smart enough to keep her head down when danger is coming her way. Although really, "direct action" could just be a strongly worded letter - since when have angels resorted to violence at the first sign of trouble?
I think what you are telling me is that Michael is going to attack us soon.
When the moon messes with his reasoning.
When a bunch of eggs are in one basket.
Say during a important meeting?
You'd have to be a pretty big jerk to break up a private meeting like that!
Well that, at least, is true. Gabriel was always more of a talker.
Naturally, he offered to keep the fragment "safe", but he was strangely agreeable when Cass held onto it. Good thing he's such a reliable friend!
I could see that, actually. On the other hand, I don't think it would take long to spill over from argument to fight as soon as Michael started to lose the debate.
The idea of Michael and Gabriel totally ignoring everyone else and bitching at each other does amuse me though!
>I don't think it would take long to spill over from argument to fight as soon as Michael started to lose the debate.
You'd think as the First Archangel he'd have a little more patience, but I suppose the zealotry is too stronk.
He's pretty salty about a lot of things, so that probably doesn't help his patience. In his eyes, there's no point in trying to sway people who've already fallen in with a "false goddess".
What about instead of swaying them, working with them in a mutually beneficial alliance to kill the thing that corrupted his brothers and quite possibly sealed Daddy away?
That's probably pushing it huh?
Well, I wouldn't say that it's totally impossible, but it would be pushing your luck. At best, it would be an "enemy of my enemy" situation - and it probably wouldn't last very long once the immediate problem was dealt with!
The distinction that needs to be made is whether or not Cass would have helped/rescued her if Mia was ever in danger of death. She knows Mia is competent and resourceful to pull what she did off, but if anything went wrong...would she come or let Mia die?