Previous threads: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?tags=Devil%20Summoner%20London%20Quest
Character sheet: http://pastebin.com/4keHKgX4
History, you're learning, is a pretty bloody thing. Fairy history, at least, although mankind doesn't really have a clean slate either.
It could be that your source is pretty biased. After all, Petra is recounting a set of anecdotes from a book of battles and wars – it shouldn't come as a surprise that the stories centre around bloody conflict. Then again, Petra might just be exaggerating for dramatic effect. Despite what she said earlier about the stories not being suited for young eyes, she seems to consider them perfectly suitable for young ears. You're not complaining – they're pretty fun, really.
As Petra recounts a particular cavalry charge – and the ranks of peasant militia crushed beneath their hooves – you turn your attentions to the prize cradled in your arms. You delved into an ancient shrine, and then into a blasted hollow beneath the earth, to recover this gauntlet. For all the effort you went to, this is the first time you've actually examined the piece of armour. The metal is dull with age, but the articulated fingers move smoothly with the barest amount of effort. Glittering copper wires weave in and out of it, leading up to a blank panel on the wrist. A... screen?
“And that is how the whole royal family came to be eaten by trolls,” Petra announces, concluding her tale with what seems like an undue level of satisfaction. Maybe she's just excited about getting her missing arm restored. Or, you think wryly, maybe she's just amused by the idea of royalty getting eaten by monsters. “Say,” she asks as you pause outside the entrance to the archives, “Do you think it will hurt?”
Truth be told, you have no idea what to expect. You've tried to imagine how Scathach might attach the gauntlet, but no matter what wild fantasies you dream up – everything from simply saying a magic word to flipping the lever on a giant, lightning spewing machine – you can't make up your mind. It's not like Petra, you suggest with a faint shrug, to let something like that bother her.
“Ah, maybe you are right,” Petra decides, laughing faintly after a moment's thought, “Whatever happens, it will hurt less than losing the arm in the first place, yes?”
That's certainly one way of looking at it. Shrugging again, you trot down the steps to the archives and follow the familiar route through the bookshelves. Things look neater now, at least, and there are no more signs of errant destruction. Perhaps the research is going better, now that Scathach doesn't have gaggles of drunken fairies distracting her. The witch herself is floating in the air, a curious light entering her eyes as she notices the gauntlet you are carrying.
“Beautiful, isn't it?” she remarks, before you can even greet her, “Almost enough to put fairy craftsmanship to shame – almost.” Taking the gauntlet from you, Scathach examines it closely. “Yes,” she decides, “This will do. Now, I'll have to ask you to step outside for a while as I get this fixed up. Trade secrets and all that. Before you go, though, did you have any questions?”
>There were carvings, where I found it...
>Will it hurt?
>No questions, no
There were these carvings, you mention, where you found the gauntlet. Ancient pieces of artwork, although you're not exactly a judge of such things, depicting what looked like humans. Hesitantly, unsure of what to make of Scathach's unwavering gaze, you fill her in on the rest of what you saw. Halfway through your description you remember the pictures you took, and you offer Scathach your phone to show them off. The witch takes the device with a strangely cautious hand, as if the technology is something alien to her. There is a moment of silence as she peers at the screen before handing it back to you.
“Humans have – or perhaps I should say “had” - a long history of summoning demons to do their bidding. Of course, things were a little different this time around,” Scathach laughs lightly, “Considering the little barrier between our worlds. I wonder... perhaps that's why the temple ended up here? A relic from a past time, unconsciously excised and banished to a more appropriate world...” A shrug, then. “But those are only theories. I look forwards to sharing them with-” Scathach stops herself from saying anything more, looking down at her hands for a second.
The awkward silence draws out, leading you to blurt out the first question that springs to mind. Will it hurt, you ask, when she attaches it?
“Mia!” Petra hisses, “Ah, that doesn't matter to me, I can handle it!”
“I can't guarantee a painless procedure,” Scathach shrugs mildly, seemingly glad to move on, “But it shouldn't be too harrowing. Now, if you don't mind...”
“Wait,” Petra says quickly, “One last question, yes? This arm... it can be removed later, yes? Perhaps there are times when I do not want a lump of cold metal hanging off me.”
Scathach laughs at this, a low and smoky chuckle that carries all manner of hidden implications. “I see,” she muses, “Yes, you should be able to attach and detach it at will.”
“That's good,” Petra says, with forced lightness, “Then I have no questions. Shall we begin?”
“I'm ready to get started,” Scathach adds, and there is a moment before you realise that they are waiting for you to leave.
You'll go then, you tell the pair awkwardly, lifting your hand in a weak little half wave. You'll just go and do... something else, somewhere. A meal, perhaps. You're on your way out of the archives when you feel your phone purr in your pocket. Expecting a message from Cassandra, perhaps, you pluck the device out and glance at the screen. Rather than Cassandra, you can see Cernunnos' icon flashing insistently at you. Of course, you realise a moment later, Scathach. The hunter might have a few words to share about her – just not here.
Then again, perhaps indulging in his paranoia might not be such a good idea, especially when Petra is currently in the witch's clutches. You really don't need another thing to worry about, after all – and Cernunnos can't force you to listen, can he?
>Leave the fairy kingdom and listen to Cernunnos
>Get a meal, see if you can find someone else to chat with
>Kill time in the archives
>Leave the fairy kingdom and listen to Cernunnos
I think Petra will be okay regardless of what Cern tells us. Scathach and her ethics are dubious but she is a smart girl. She knows if she does anything out of line to Petra (or any other human) she'll have the ire of Mia, which means she'll have a bunch of Devil Summoners suddenly hostile and I don't think she wants that.
>“But those are only theories. I look forwards to sharing them with-” Scathach stops herself from saying anything more, looking down at her hands for a second.
Carnby? Amelia? Us?
Nyarly?Someone from a past cycle?
No matter what Cernunnos might know – or what he thinks he knows – the chances of Scathach using Petra as a hostage against you are pretty damn low. Besides, you decide, there's no harm in just listening to what the horned god has to say. You're not committing to anything just yet, and you're not breaking any laws by speaking with him. You'll listen and make up your own mind, then you'll decide whether or not to take any action.
Acting as casually as possible, you stroll out into the palace grounds. You stop then, for a moment, as the scent of something sickeningly sweet reaches you. One of the trees, that old scarred thing you've seen occasionally, is in full bloom. Just like the last time you approached it, seeing it gives you a strange feeling of nameless dread. It's no tree of human origin, that much is clear to you now – the heavy fruits that hang from the branches are like nothing you've ever seen. Another short buzz from your phone – Cernunnos getting your attention again – drags you away from that alien tree, and back into a more healthy state of mind.
Still, you find yourself hurrying away from the strange thing, and it comes as a relief when the cold outside air strikes you in the face. Here, away from any prying eyes, you call up Cernunnos.
“Little worm,” he greets you, “We had a good battle. I look forwards to fighting alongside you once more.”
You appreciate the compliment, you tell him cautiously, but he didn't want to talk just to tell you that, did he?
“No,” Cernunnos admits, “The time has come, I think, to warn you about the witch. Her experiments are dubious, unsafe. She plays with the boundaries of life and death, of mortality and divinity. Sacred ground, that, and not to be trampled upon.”
He's got your attention, you tell him as you sit down, so what's he got to say?
“I have friends everywhere, although considerably less than I used to,” Cernunnos begins, diving right into his explanation, “Some among the soldiers, some among the guards. It all started a very long time ago – long before you humans returned to this world. Queen Titania was cleaning house, throwing anyone who still supported the departed king into the dungeons.”
You've never heard anything about a king, you mention, unless he was talking about the “Scholar-King” that Scathach mentioned once?
“Ah,” Cernunnos admits, “The OTHER king. The previous one. He died, but there were still some who saw him as the rightful ruler. Titania made sure they were silenced, thrown into the dungeons on charges of treason or sedition. This is when I start to HEAR things – mutterings among the prison guards, mostly. They claimed that no matter how many people were dragged away, the cells never grew full. Prisoners vanished as soon as they arrived. Then, there were no more arrests – she had purged the palace of all dissent.”
Seeing Titania in a whole new light, you nod mutely for Cernunnos to continue.
“Then The Shackle rose, and started to test our borders. Soon, there were arrests once more – anyone accused of aiding the slavers or passing along intelligence was swept away. Still, the dungeons remained empty. The witch, meanwhile, withdrew. She was often seen visiting the dungeons, or the hospital wing. Wherever there were vulnerable subjects, she could be found.”
Cernunnos falls silent then, brooding as he digs at the frozen ground around his feet with his spear. You consider his words carefully – a lot of threat and suspicion, but very little direct evidence of anything. Clandestine executions, maybe, but that's about all he hints at.
>Is that all you know?
>And you've never asked Scathach about this?
>I just don't believe this has anything to do with me
>Is that all you know?
>And you've never asked Scathach about this?
>Queen Titania was cleaning house, throwing anyone who still supported the departed king into the dungeons.
"Did it start after Carnby died?"
So, you ask, is this all he knows?
A low growl escapes from Cernunnos, a slow and animalistic uttering, as he considers your question. “Proof is a hard thing to come by,” he says eventually, “But I believe there is one thing that can be done to satisfy your curiosity. The witch will be busy – while her back is turned, we search her workshop.”
What, you cry, that's his big idea? If Scathach is busy working on Petra's arm, won't she just be IN her workshop?
“No,” Cernunnos shakes his head, “Her secret workshop, deep beneath the archives. My warrior is there – his trail is as clear as day. At the very least, his blood has been there. I would not mistake his scent for any other. There is a hidden entrance, if the rumours I've heard are true. We go there, and we'll find the truth of this matter.”
You sigh, entirely unhappy with the recent developments. You really don't want to get involved in what might very well be a political struggle. Still, you ask, has he really never asked Scathach about all this?
“You expect the witch to divulge her secrets so easily?” Cernunnos barks out a flat laugh, “No, I knew that she would keep her silence. That, or she would deny everything. Secrets are a precious resource in this kingdom. I wished to keep my knowledge to myself until I had my proof. Then, there will be a reckoning.”
There is a note of suppressed fury trembling in Cernunnos' voice, the kind that suggests imminent violence. You ask your next question quickly, in hope of diverting his rage. This purge he mentioned, you ask, did it all start after Carnby, the old scholar-king himself, died?
“It did,” Cernunnos nods slowly, “Some said that the queen was maddened with loss. Of course, those that said it too loudly...”
Vanished, you finish, of course. Pieces, in your mind, start to fall into place.
>Show me this secret workshop
>I can't get involved in this
>We'll look into this – but later
>Show me this secret workshop
Fuck me, I hope we don't regret this. Like even if we do find something not so good, some dirty secret of hers and maybe Titania, do we even do anything? We want this place to be stable so we can have a base to return to and just go home once we get the fragments.
>Show me this secret workshop
"I will not and can not promise any course of action if we find something down there understood? I don't need this place in open rebellion. You can do that after we leave this place if you choose to."
If our shadowruns are right, its starting to make a bit of sense.
Scathach wants to see if she can turn a man into a god via fairy divinity.
Titania allowing her to take her political prisoners for some unknown reason.
This all happening after Carnby 'died'.
My best guess is that Carnby is still alive, either in stasis or sustained via lifeforce and Scathach/Titania are trying to make him into a God/Demon so he can be King of the Fairies forever.
He must have made an impression on Scathach if she is going so far for him. Maybe cause he'd be her only peer of science in this world.
Alright, you say with an unwilling weight in your voice, he can show you to this workshop, can't he?
“The scent should lead us there,” Cernunnos confirms, “Finding the entrance, though, might not be so easy. I expect there to be illusions, traps, hidden doors...”
This just gets better and better, you sigh as Cernunnos takes off towards the kingdom. Hurrying to catch up with him, you grab his wrist to get his attention. You will not, and cannot, promise anything, you warn him, no matter what you find down there. You won't pitch the kingdom into open rebellion or anarchy because of Scathach's experiments or... or whatever Titania is doing to all her prisoners. On the other hand, you can't stop Cernunnos from doing whatever he wants once you leave. You rattle that off quick enough that you need to stop and catch your breath before looking up at Cernunnos and adding, is that understood?
“Understood,” the horned god growls, “I will show... restraint.”
And that, you decide, is the best you can hope for. Entering the kingdom once more, Cernunnos keeps up his brisk pace, leaving you hurrying to catch up with him. Passing fairies swerve to avoid you both as you march down the corridors, suddenly turning away with worried looks on their faces or pretending to “remember” some business they had elsewhere. The attention, negative as it is, seems to please Cernunnos, as you can hear him chuckling whenever a particularly nervous or clumsy Pixie skitters away straight into a column.
At least he's enjoying himself.
“Here,” Cernunnos growls suddenly, stopping outside the archives, “The air is thick with the smell of blood. Can you not smell it, little worm? Normally, a scent that would delight me, but... this odour pollutes the air.”
You can't smell anything, you murmur, but Cernunnos is already creeping away into the archives. Whispering a curse, you follow him in.
Cernunnos describes an irregular pathway through the archives, winding in and out of the shelves as he pads along on silent feet. You know better than to ask him the reason for the peculiar route – he's being quiet for a reason, after all – and it soon becomes clear to you. There are various fairies fluttering about the stacks of books, whispering to each other and examining things carefully. Scathach's research assistants, you assume, but they seem far more competent than the witch led you to believe. At the very least, they seem sober and devoted to their work.
Whatever their work actually is.
“The trail leads us... here,” Cernunnos murmurs, his hiss of a voice reaching your ears. You look around, scanning the dark and dismal corner that he has led you to. The lantern above is broken, with a few shards of broken glass decorating the ground, and the whole area lies within a deep pool of shadow. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you see... nothing. Just another row of bookshelves.
Then again, you remind yourself, Cernunnos did call it a “secret” entrance. There has to be a hidden mechanism somewhere, or a magical trigger to open the door. You just need to find it. A quick examination reveals only one irregular feature – a book, tilted out from the shelf it lies within. You could just push it in so it lies flush with all the rest, but... would it really be that easy? It has to be a trap, or some kind of decoy. That said,hiding a switch in plain sight seems exactly the kind of thing that would amuse Scathach.
“Quickly!” Cernunnos urges you, “There will be a patrol soon. I do not wish to fight – yet.”
>Press the book and see what happens
>Examine the area again
>Have Kin-Ki rip the wall away
You don't have time to examine every other tiny irregularity in the shelf, or to mess around with the little bits of broken glass. You need to get this open NOW, and not a moment sooner. With a little more roughness than you intended, you shove the book into place and wait, wincing at the sound of machinery clunking and grinding. You crouch low, half expecting to see arrows flying overhead, and wait some more. Just when you think nothing is going to happen – a decoy, after all – the shelf before you starts to move. Just like the cliché goes, it swings open to reveal a gloomy tunnel.
Well, you won't complain. Cernunnos is already slinking away into that black passage, and as you start to follow him the door grinds shut behind you. After a moment of disorientation, you realise that the passageway isn't actually as dark as you thought – there is a low flickering light coming from below. With Cernunnos leading the way, you make your way down the slippery stone steps towards the bottom of the tunnel.
The chamber you arrive in is... dismal. Crowded with thick tomes – more ragged and ancient than anything you've seen in the archives – and glass bottles filled with murky liquid. Some of the less dusty vessels seem to have been used recently, and the twisted objects floating within look like... organs. Disgusting, you murmur as you move on to the newest section and grow still. The most recent specimen looks, at first glance, like the same raw meat as the others, but then you realise that it's a piece of fruit – like the kind you saw growing from the tree outside.
“Newest sample,” a scrawled note attached to the flask reads, “Successful at replicating vital essence. Greater yield than previous tests.”
“This is an insult,” Cernunnos mutters, his voice drawing your attention.
“This, all this,” the horned god gestures at the equipment around him, “Perversion. Twisting nature to her own ends. The witch cannot be forgiven for this.”
Wait, you murmur back, you don't even know what she's doing yet. This might all be for... some higher purpose. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. The words turn to ashes in your mouth as you spot what might have been a Pixie, shrivelled and preserved within a flask of reeking fluid. It twitches as you pass, although you could not guess whether it was with genuine life or some pale imitation. Swallowing hard against a wave of bile, you move swiftly on.
“That tunnel,” Cernunnos says, pointing up at a branching passageway, “That should lead up into the dungeons. That one there,” his finger shifts to the opposite wall, “The hospital wing. She has tunnels all over the palace, so her ghoulish works can continue unhindered.”
What about that one, you ask as you point down the furthest tunnel, where would that one lead?
“Down,” the horned god growls, with a note of dread finality in his voice, “Deeper still. The scent of blood is thickest from that direction.”
Of course it is. Before you can lose your nerve, you take the first of many steps down the darkened staircase – noticing, as you do so, a few errant drops of blood staining the stonework. Halfway down the stairs, you hiss out to Cernunnos, telling him to be quiet. Don't even breathe, you order. He does so, but you can still hear a distant rasp, the heavy rhythm of air being dragged into unwilling lungs. Something else, you realise, is alive down here – if “alive” is really a suitable word to use.
It's only when you reach the bottom of the stairs, entering a filth-black cell, that you see the source.
The first thing that catches your attention, as you enter the room, is the shorn remains of a tree, hacked apart and carved into a kind of throne. Perhaps that is what you look at, some distant part of your mind suggests, because you didn't want to look at the thing sitting upon the throne. Withered and blackened with age, the rough approximation of a human figure is nearly bent double, slumped across a kind of writing desk. Somehow, even with the crooked angle its head sits at, a crown still sits upon the figure's head. Countless glass bottles are strung up around it, some with the dregs of bright red blood within, and thick cords connect the corpse to those vessels.
You stare, in deathly silence, as a thick breath rasps out of the wizened figure. That's all – just one gasp for air, followed eventually by the next. No words, no movement beyond the barest shifting within its sunken chest. Is this really what Cernunnos meant, you wonder, when he said Scathach was playing with the boundaries between life and death?
Swallowing hard, your wandering eye falls upon a fresh vessel, full of glistening red blood. It would be the work of a minute to fit the new vessel into this... arcane device and feed fresh blood to the prisoner. Maybe then...
>Load the new vessel into the device
>Search the area for any notes, any explanation of what is going on
>Get the hell out of there
Damnit you two. You know he wouldn't want this. Though we might be able to hear that from him.
>Search the area for any notes, any explanation of what is going on
Read carefully, deduce what loading a new vessel does.
>Load the new vessel into the device
If it restores him to be able to talk to us.
>Scathach went full Yuna
Bitch is getting put down eventually
Or we can just convince both of them to stop. This seems a like a 'Road to Hell paved with good intentions' situation. Starts with an idea, a small hope and in pursuit of that you go too far.
You glance around at Cernunnos, perhaps hoping to find some clue in the unearthly light of his inhuman eyes. He merely shakes his head slowly, at a complete and total loss for words. Moving on, dearly wishing for a drink – anything to get the cloying dryness out of your mouth – you begin to search the room for anything that might give you an explanation for what you're looking at. Keeping your eyes away from the macabre sight in the centre of the room, you begin a slow circuit.
There are notes, scraps of paper really, tacked all over the walls. Some illegible, lost beneath dark stains and smudges, but others offer brief windows into what transpired in this hellish cell.
“C passed today,” one of the oldest notes you can find reads, “The body was set to be cremated. A construct took its place. Crude thing, but it did the job. Now the real work can begin.”
“Human tissue is fascinating,” the next reads, “It lingers, it remains. How long, without intervention? Not long enough, certainly. I must take steps.”
“The first transfusion was a partial success. Speech okay, but cognition was muddled and unpredictable. The mind has yet to recover,” paper rustles in your hand as you turn to glance at the withered body, shuddering at the thought of it speaking. You let the note slip from your fingers as you skip the next few, moving right to the newest looking ones.
“Watered the tree with fresh blood yesterday, under the cover of darkness,” it reads, “The next day, a good yield of fruit, far exceeding the sacrifice made. An easier source of life, until permanence can be achieved. C spoke for several hours. I enjoy our conversations.”
I think he might need a text-to-speech device for that.
So, you theorise, the body must be... complete enough that it can hold a conversation. You don't know what kind of conversations you'd have with a withered corpse, but that suggests that his sanity remains intact. You might be able to speak to it as well, if you loaded the new vessel of blood – if it truly is blood – into the device. Taking the glass jug in trembling hands, you place it into one of the empty cradles and hook up the thick, strangely organic feeling tube. Red floods down into the clear cord, vanishing into the corpse's scrawny arm.
Slowly, colour and vitality creep back into the corpse. It's like watching decay working in reverse, you realise, or like a desiccated thing being soaked in new water. The next inhalation is far less gasping, sounding almost... natural. Even so, even with all the signs of new life warning you of what might come next, you can't stop yourself from crying out as the corpse lurches up, flopping back against the back of the throne.
Then the eyes flutter open, and you scream again.
“Ah...” the corpse rasps, those filmy eyes fixating upon you, “Is it... really you? Amelia?”
Choking back a wave of desperate nausea, you feel yourself shaking your head. Everything seems to be coming from so far away, and yet every detail sinks into your mind with grotesque detail. With each passing moment, his eyes grow clearer and more alert. Within a few moments, you realise, he could pass for a living human. No, you correct yourself, he would be a living human.
“No, it's not you,” the reanimated man says, in a note of vague disappointment, “You looked... so familiar. Would you fetch me that ink? Ink, a quill and some parchment, please.”
Mutely, you stumble about the room until you find the things he asked for, dragging them out of a drawer. Placing them before him, you watch as he starts to write, apparently satisfied.
>Who are you?
>You should be dead!
>Please, tell me what's going on here
Who are you, you choke out mere moments before a realisation strikes you, is he... Carnby?
“That's right,” he says after a pause, “Yes, that's right, isn't it? Ah, you must forgive me. Sometimes these things... minor details... they slip my mind. I am Carnby, yes.”
Then, when he mentioned Amelia, he knew her because he was her...
“Father,” Carnby spits the word out, not with any kind of contempt but with the sheer effort of forcing his mouth to work, “Or... I think that was it. Maybe... grandfather? No, it was father. Definitely.”
Glancing back at Cernunnos – the horned god has retreated, lurking in the shadows by the furthest wall – you try to think straight as you force yourself to meet Carnby's eyes. Please, you plead with him, can he just tell you what's going on here?
“I'm working,” Carnby says simply, gesturing vaguely with his quill, “Knowledge must be preserved, passed down to the next generation. It cannot be allowed to just... fade away with the death of one man. You understand that, don't you?”
“I don't know,” a sly voice calls out from behind you, startling a little scream out of you. Spinning around, your hand slipping down to Midnight's grip, you look up into Scathach's masked face. “Do you understand, Mia? And please, don't draw a weapon in this place – guests should not fight in the presence of their host.”
Slowly, reluctantly, you pull your hand away from Midnight, glancing around at Carnby. He doesn't look... upset at the sight of Scathach. He seems perfectly calm, in fact.
>I don't understand this at all!
>You're doing this out of some... sick romance?
>I think you did the right thing. Wisdom needs to be protected
>How many people died for this?
"Is this what you want Carnby? Killing your people, killing off this next generation you speak of just to preserve some knowledge you have in your head? A lot of people have died for you already."
How many, you ask Scathach in a hollow voice, how many people died for this?
“Hmm,” Scathach touches the smooth white porcelain of her mask, “I couldn't really say. Would it make you feel any better if Titania would have just had them executed? This way, at least, they could do some good.”
That... doesn't really help, you shoot back before looking around at Carnby. Is this what he wants, you ask, having the next generation put to the slaughter just to preserve the knowledge stored within his head? So many have died already, you add in a desperate tone, how can he accept that?
“I...” Carnby falters, his lips fluttering silently as his voice fails him. Looking down at his desk, at the parchment he had been filling with his precious knowledge, his brow twists in a miserable mask. As he falls silent, you feel a hard grip closing around your arm. Scathach, holding firmly – but not harshly – onto you.
“We're taking this outside,” she tells you, the steel in her voice offering no argument. You can deal with Carnby later, you decide, as you allow Scathach to lead you back into the first chamber. “Throw whatever accusations you want at me,” Scathach adds, her voice softening, “But leave Carnby out of it.”
That softness in her voice strikes off a wild idea in your mind, and before you can stop yourself you hear the words escaping you. She's doing this out of some... twisted idea of romance?
“That's a very crude way of putting it,” she retorts, sounding irked by your harsh words, “But not entirely inaccurate, I suppose. You see-” With a sudden silence, she turns to look again at you. “Wait...” she murmurs, “You didn't think I... me and...”
Well, you ask, are you wrong?
“So very wrong,” Scathach laughs, “Titania would have my head!”
So, you recover quickly, so talk. You're not an unreasonable person – that would be Cernunnos, who you decide to return to storage – so you can discuss this like civilised people. First off, does Titania know about this? Is she hoping to make Carnby a god, so that they can rule together as immortals?
“Titania does not know,” Scathach confirms sadly, “I hope, one day, she will learn of what I did for her. Until then, until everything is perfect, I must toil in secret.”
If she's not doing this on Titania's orders, you ask with a frown, then why is she doing this? Was it really to preserve Carnby's knowledge – and what knowledge could be worth this much spilled blood? - or does she have another motive at work?
“I am, despite what many people say about me, a loyal subject of my queen,” Scathach admits slowly, “When her husband, when Carnby passed, she was distraught. Seeing her like that, so weak and despairing, was... not what I wished to see. I drew up my plans, that day, and now I am finally close to fulfilling them.” A silence falls, after this. “I'm a reasonable person as well, don't you see? I could have used the divine fragment as soon as it came into my possession – but I didn't.”
Well, even with everything she's done, she's not wrong about that.
“So we come to a choice,” Scathach says, with a heavy voice, “What are you going to do about this? I would ask you to keep this a secret – let me reveal it, when the time is right. In return, I'll hold up my end of our original bargain – you'll have your fragment, when the time comes.”
She falls silent, then, and waits for your response.
>Fine. It's a deal
>Too many people have died. The queen must know about this
>Fine, it's a deal
"No promises. I won't lie to save you, but I've got nothing to gain by blabbing to the queen either. So as long as you don't get me in trouble, I'll keep your secret.
Fine, you whisper, it's a deal. But there are going to be conditions attached – you're not just walking out of here until she agrees to them.
“Indeed?” there is a subtle humour in Scathach's voice as she asks, “And what conditions would you like to put upon me?”
Don't drag this awful process out, you demand, if her experiments with the divine fragment don't work out, she should just stop. Stop, and let nature take its course. Next, you add before Scathach can say anything, you're making her no promises. You won't lie just to save her, but you've got no reason to spill her secrets to the queen. As long as she doesn't get you in trouble, you'll do it – you'll keep her secret.
“All very reasonable,” Scathach decides, nodding softly, “I'm glad you were so... agreeable.”
The word, coming from her, sounds more like a spiteful insult. Moving aside to let you past, Scathach casts a wistful glance down the tunnel towards Carnby's chamber. You think on her words, her immediate denial of any affection towards the human – if Carnby can truly be considered a human after all this time – and wonder to yourself. Let her keep her secrets, you decide, it's not your place to pry into her personal feelings. Shaking your head, you start towards the stairs to the surface when a pair of hands fall heavily onto your shoulders.
“Don't forget,” Scathach purrs, her voice rushing right into your ear, “You're involved in this now, just like me. Remember that, and everything will be fine.”
Shuddering slightly as she releases you, you march away towards the staircase, pausing only when Scathach's voice rings out. “She's waiting for you,” the witch calls, “Your friend, I mean. Better not keep her waiting!”
Even when you return to the well lit section of the archive, standing in the warm glow of the lanterns, you can't help but feel somehow polluted. Now you know what lies beneath the archives, you can't shake Cernunnos' words from your mind. This place really does smell of blood, once you know the truth. It's only when you see Petra's back, turned towards you, that you force the grimace off your face. Petra... doesn't need to know about this. Nobody needs to know about this.
Your lips twisted into a phoney smile, you sit down next to the redhead, your eyes immediately falling upon the shining metal prosthesis attached to her right arm. It scrubs up well, that's for sure, but something about it seems off. It's not moving, you realise, it's just lying flat on the desk.
“Need to turn it on, yes?” Petra murmurs, nodding towards a heavy looking button, “I've not worked up the nerve.”
Shaking your head in exasperation – a slight note of genuine amusement entering your smile at last – you reach out and quickly push the button. Petra gasps, although whether it is with pain or surprise is unclear. For the first few moments, nothing happens. Beads of sweat form on her forehead as the redhead concentrates and then, with a single minuscule motion, one of the fingers twitches.
“You see?” Petra shouts, “You see it, yes?”
You can see it, you shout back, letting yourself get swept up in her enthusiasm. Even with everything weighing down your mind, you can't help but let out a cheer as Petra forms a fist with her new hand, then wiggles her fingers.
“It really worked!” Petra declares, “Ah, but...” hesitating, she glances around at you, “You are... pale, yes? Not your heart?”
>It might be
>I'm a little tired, that's all
>I... don't think we should talk to Scathach much from now on
"You and I have a meeting to go to in a little bit. With Cassandra about...well everything really. This is going to be pretty important so no matter what she says try and stay calm alright?"
You're just a little tired, you tell her, that's all. It's not even a lie – even without dealing with... well, everything, you were already pretty tired from recovering the gauntlet and the book. It doesn't take much to get you tired, now that you think about it. Perhaps the signs of your poor health had been there all along, staring you in the face. Perhaps you'd just been ignoring them.
Leaning back in your seat, putting on the act of a worthy warrior returning from glorious battle, you begin to tell Petra the story – only slightly exaggerated – of how you recovered the gauntlet. You highly doubt that your more outlandish claims are met with any real belief, but Petra seems to enjoy listening to your story as much as you enjoy telling it. You both stop joking around when the subject of Nyarlathotep swings around though, as Petra's eye flickers down to her new arm for a moment. You can understand her concern.
When you mention Raphael, Petra's hand – her flesh and blood hand – flits up to her face, the fingers slipping lightly across her eyepatch. Bad memories there, you imagine. Still, she grins boldly when you mention Raphael's fate – even if you cautiously avoid using the term “death”. Better to be sure before making those kind of claims.
“Quite the adventures, yes?” Petra grins, reaching out to ruffle your hair – again, using her left hand. “What next then, punching God in the face? Ah, I mean the Great Will of course!”
Nothing that lofty, you tell her, you've got a meeting to attend. Actually, it's a meeting you'd like her to attend as well – with Cassandra, to discuss... things. Important things, you warn as Petra's eye narrows, so no strangling her.
“I'll manage,” Petra sniffs, “Ah, but I wanted to try out my new hand, yes? A shame...”
You kill the rest of the time until your meeting with vague and aimless conversation, the kind that never produces anything of value. Fun though, and Petra makes suitably impressed noises when you call up Mizuchi to show her your new demon. The two seem to get along, with Mizuchi immediately inducting Petra into his cult. The only blip comes when Scathach returns, pausing briefly by your desk to perform a few checks on Petra's arm. Winking slyly at you, she is quick to depart.
Nevertheless, you feel refreshed by the lively conversation and when the time comes to leave for the Hellfire Club, you do so quite happily. You even manage to notice the sky as you walk through the city, exactly the kind of pink-tinted grey that Cassandra told you about. Almost pretty, if it didn't remind you of the bleached, desiccated flesh clinging to Carnby's undead bones. That memory, you sense, will remain with you for some time to come.
The doors to the Hellfire Club, when you arrive, are sealed shut. Frowning, you knock on them, only for a muffled voice from behind to reply. “Private function,” the deep voice grunts, before the door swings open slightly. “Oh,” Mister Red, looking like a particularly well-dressed brick wall, says, “I beg your pardon. You're on the guest list tonight – enjoy the taste of luxury while it lasts. Tomorrow is back to normal.”
Cassandra, you think to yourself, was able to arrange all of this? She mentioned being a friend of the club, but this is pushing things a little. Spotting Cassandra herself, sitting at the bar, you approach her.
“Nothing to do with me,” she explains, with a crooked smile, “It's all for later. Our... your boss.”
>You used me. You sent me into the slums, knowing what would happen
>She could still be your friend, you know
>Let's just get this over with. Say your piece
>She could still be your friend, you know
"You know something bothered me when we had our talk in the church. You said that she wasn't your friend that she knew but something wearing her face. Do you actually believe that?"
"She was your leader back then wasn't she? I think the issue here is that you, both of you possibly, put her on this pedestal. That she could do no wrong and as long as you followed her everything would be alright? I don't think either of you realized how much you influenced her just by being behind her, specially you Cass since you were with her the longest I hear. But now she has been alone for millions of years with only her perspective to fall back on. You should have seen the guilt on her face when I confronted her about removing some of your bloodier memories."
I suppose Mia would have a good idea about that since she is in the exact situation as Amelia was, being a leader and all.
Cass shouldn't delude herself into thinking she isn't fighting her friend.
Boss. That's the word Cassandra used. It's a distant word, as if she was trying to put as much distance between her and Amelia as possible – in the same way, perhaps, that she keeps everyone else at a distance. Amelia, you suggest, could still be her friend. It doesn't have to be this way. It makes you think, though, about something she said a long time ago, something that bothered you. She claimed that Amelia wasn't the friend she once knew, but something that was just wearing her face – is that really what she thinks?
Cassandra's mouth twists down into a grimace at that, and she turns away to stare at the beautifully polished bar. “That was a... harsh thing to say. No, I don't think it's true, now that I've had time to think it through.”
The issue, you muse, is that everyone has been putting Amelia on a pedestal. Not just Cassandra, but Petra as well. They both had this assumption that she could do no wrong, just because she was their leader back in the day. Neither of them, really, has realised how much they influenced her – how much SHE depended on them. Now, Amelia has been on her own for countless years, with only one perspective to fall back on, her own. That's why she's been making so many mistakes – but that doesn't mean she doesn't regret them.
“Regret,” Cassandra begins, “Is all well and good, but-”
She didn't see Amelia, you interrupt, when you confronted her. The sheer guilt on her face when she admitted to editing Cassandra's memories was enough for you. She doesn't just regret what she's done – she wants to FIX it.
Cassandra's mouth twitches, at first deepening into a scowl and then creasing up into an unwilling smile. “Where did you learn to speak like that?” she asks, bitter amusement in her voice, “I thought you were the shy and retiring type.”
Well, you admit, you've had to be a leader. You learn these things.
“Listen,” Cassandra sighs eventually, “I'm going to make you an offer. A chance to compromise. First, though, I guess you'll need some reason to trust me. I don't really blame you, considering.” With that, Cassandra tugs off the thick gloves she was wearing, folding them neatly and holding out her hand, palm down, like a proud fiancé showing off her new ring. It's an apt comparison – that little ring of charred bone is snug around one of her fingers.
“And you,” Cassandra adds, shooting Petra a glare, “Don't even say it. I know what this looks like.”
“I know nothing,” Petra shoots back, in the voice of total neutrality.
“So now you've got at least some small reason to trust me,” Cassandra continues, “I want you to give me a chance. I'm taking this fragment to the top of Elysium, just like my... benefactor wants.”
What, you cry, why? Why on earth is she going to do that, if she's finally seen what kind of bastard he really is?
“I want to see what he does,” Cassandra answers with a shrug, “I want to see what he really wants from me. Maybe we'll come to blows – but that's why I want you to follow me. It'll be an ambush, you see? Might be our best chance at killing him.”
“A stupid risk,” Petra replies, “And I know a stupid risk when I see one, yes?”
>Petra's right, you're taking a stupid risk for no reason
>It IS risky, but the rewards are worth it. I'm in
>Why not just give me the fragment now?
>>Petra's right, you're taking a stupid risk for no reason
"Cass, giving the fragment to Elysium might not bring the Great Will back. He never had cosmic energy yet he was still around up until this point. Up until the point Nyarly got control. Michael is desperate, he might not realize or care, but Mastema is smart enough to realize that. He probably wants it for himself. Just cut ties."
Like it still might be possible to make Law better (as in less dogmatic). Gabby is still around and the angels could rally to her and her ways. They just can't have mastery of the human world.
Petra's right, you sigh, it's just taking a stupid risk for no particular reason. Bringing the divine fragment to Elysium is pointless, you tell her, it might not even do anything. The Great Will, her god, never had the kind of divine power she's thinking about, but He was still able to function. He spoke to His Archangels, and He bestowed His... blessings. It wasn't a lack of faith, or the need for a grand gesture that sealed him away.
It was him. Nyarlathotep. Using Amelia's divine power, that monster has put up a wall between the Great Will and His angels. It's that wall that's driving them to desperation, Michael chief among them. The Archangel might not care about whether or not this gambit will work, but Mastema – her “benefactor” - is smart enough to know. He wouldn't be helping her, if it wasn't for some plan of his own. The best thing, you advise her gently, is to just cut ties.
“Mia,” Cassandra says softly, tapping her fingers on the bar with a nervous energy, “You're asking me to give up, after everything I've been through. Everything I've done. Could you do the same, in my position?”
You can't answer that straight away, while Cassandra takes your silence as conceding the point. If she's still dead set on doing this, you tell her with a weary sigh, you'll do it. You don't want her going alone.
“That's-” Cassandra begins, before falling silent. There is a heavy knock at the door, only slightly muffled by distance and the thick portal. “That's not good,” she mutters, “Say, can we finish this discussion later? I might have been followed...”
You grimace, at that, and let your hand slip down to Midnight's grip. So much for peaceful negotiations.
>I'll have to end this here for tonight. Next thread on Friday, and I'll stick around for any questions.
Keeping him "alive" indefinitely with infusions of demon blood is possible, but she is seeking a way of returning him to full - and hopefully immortal - life. Which, ultimately, might be possible.
Is Marco Minotaur still around? I suppose since New Cycle and Old Cycle Carnby exist concurrently I suppose the demon Minotaur and the New Cycle human Marco could be different entities.
Oh shit. I guess that's a reason to go to Elysium then.
Well, it's an option!
Would you trust Scathach with your alternative universe father?
She's pretty down about things, but at least she won't really get the chance to brood on them! Really though, she's been slowly coming around for a long time - I think she'll recover!
>but at least she won't really get the chance to brood on them!
If it is Michael we must try Mia's super strategy: Diplomacy!. It probably won't work but it might stall for time for the other summoners to show up if we get a message out.
Excited? I think it could be a lot of work, but that's not something to shy away from. I just hope I can meet everyone's expectations!
As for the cast, you're pretty much dead on with Leon. He's a lot happier with his lot in life this time around, but he's still pretty neutral to things. Elliot is cautious, not quite sure what to expect. Joseph is a little nervous, even though I see him as getting on pretty well with Amelia these days.
So say a world regression like plan that Amelia has in mind pans out. Would it possible for people to stay behind in the demon world like Carnby did? Would anyone of the cast want to? Leon seems happy here, but I dunno if thats just the fairy kingdom atmosphere or that he has Ellie or what.
I imagine that Amelia would appear before everyone and give them the choice of staying in the demon world or returning to the human one. That said, it's not a choice I'd like to make if I was put on the spot!
As for the cast, I think Petra might have once preferred to stay, but not these days. Cass might stay, actually - provided she could keep working towards reforming Law. Leon and Elliot are pretty happy in the fairy kingdom, but that's because they're freeloaders. Joseph is a bit of an uncertainty, but I think he'd return to the human world.
I wonder how long it takes to get back. Dominion came back after being chucked into a fire.
Life does start to get a price tag when there are eventual respawns. She is still ice cold though.
That's the interesting thing, she's not actually "killing" anyone in the permanent sense. Dying and having your blood siphoned off is still pretty unpleasant though! I think a large degree of Mia's outrage comes from seeing it through a human perspective, but I still see a lot of what Scathach does as morally wrong.
>I wonder how long it takes to get back
Ultimately, it varies. Stronger demons can "pull themselves back together" at a faster rate, but they have more to rebuild. A higher power like the Great Will can speed the process along, as well. No hard and fast rule though.
I feel that the major issue is that of consent. Had they done it of their own will, it wouldn't be that different from Hua Po and Sati.
But all in all, can we kill the worm first before Elysium? I do NOT want to leave that thing rampaging any longer than it already has.
Ironically, I imagine there would be many in the kingdom willing to sacrifice themselves for what was a pretty popular king. Scathach just tends towards secrecy, and that isn't always a good thing!
Either way, once the immediate problems are sorted, there will be the choice of where/what to do next. I imagine Cass can be persuaded to wait.
Day is almost over and we still got to contend with Michael and then tomorrow we have to meet up with Amelia. Not sure long that will take, probably not the whole day but a good chunk of it.
The Nidd and Elysium might have to wait until those are done. Never a dull moment.
First. Nice Quad Dubs
Second. Whenever Amelia said 'The human that was Amelia' back in the day she was trying to delude herself or pretend that she wasn't the same leather jacket wearing teenager she was and still is right?
I imagined she was admitting that she wasn't human any more - it was a way of "warning" everyone that she might not be the same person they once knew.
That said, I see a large part of that as due to her isolation. Once she got the gang back together again, she got back into the human mindset pretty quickly.