Author Topic: Raising Hell  (Read 4799 times)

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Offline Harlequin

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Raising Hell
« on: June 19, 2019, 02:37:27 AM »
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Even when it had been the acceptable mode of communication, Saint Sabrina had never been much of one for sending a calling card, and phones turned into paperweights (or ashes or, on one memorable occasion, a live mouse) in her hand. So she found herself approaching The Block. She had a bone to pick with its master.

The compound squatted toadlike over the long drive, purposeful and completely devoid of art, save for the demonic sigils splashed across the tall fences. Sabrina hated it on sight.

As she came up to the front gate, she felt demonic warding magic prickling over her skin; a weak summoning that fizzled and died on contact, though it left behind a hazy burn on her aura. The gate clattered open at her touch. Already on guard, Sabrina's eyes narrowed. Perhaps, despite her best efforts, she was expected.

Her best efforts being limiting knowledge of her intention to visit to only two people: Jake and Astrid; neither of whom were likely to come running to the Leader of the West.

Well, she was here now. She might as well have the conversation she meant to.

Hards in her pockets, she whistled a jaunty tune as she started up the drive -- a pub song popular during her youth, titled "The Maid Freed From The Gallows". The cameras she passed would show not a tall woman clad in a layered black chiffon dress and a wide-brimmed black hat meandering toward the front doors, but in turns an enormous shaggy black dog; an antlered figure coated in oil; a flickering shadow with bright white eyes; a rat with matted fur that left tiny, bloody footprints on the pavement.

The front doors less 'opened' more 'dissolved' as she neared, leaving a doorway into the wide room beyond. Frowning now, Sabrina entered, and made her way toward the front desk, intending to speak with the oddly stricken-looking demon staffing it.

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2019, 06:23:57 AM »
The last scheduled appointment of the day left a little over an hour ago and things at the compound were quiet.  Demons on the third floor lazily monitored the camera feed between rounds of a card game.  There was little reason for concern after the perimeter had been augmented with demonic sigil magic.  Everyone thought that Zeus was being a bit overzealous with security--paranoid even (though none spoke the word aloud).  Since that first incident with McCloud’s message getting through, security was tight as a drum.  Zeus had made sure of that. 

Besides, anything that wasn’t welcome or expected would set off the summoning spell for the Gatekeeper. 

One young power demon, fresh on the job, sat attentively in a computer chair on the first floor’s mezzanine.  He was working on a routine maintenance check on these computers when something on the feed for the front gate caught his attention.

“Did you see that?”  He turned toward the shadow demon at his right, who shook her head in reply before fixing her attention on the screen again.

There was the smallest of movements--a tiny creature approaching the gate.  “Is that a rat?”  The power demon squinted, then blinked in surprise as the image shifted to a shadowy creature.  The other demon held down a key on her keyboard and spoke into a microphone.

“Confirm shadow entity at front gate, camera 2.”  Her tone was relaxed.  Anything shadowy was probably one of theirs and nothing to worry about.  Besides, as soon as it was close enough the Gatekeeper would be there.

A voice came through the computer speaker.  No one could determine who this creature was or agree on what the creature looked like.  They went back and forth for a moment arguing about it until the gate opened and the Gatekeeper still had not appeared.

Is that one of ours?”  Now worry edged into the shadow demon’s voice.  Zeus would not be pleased. 

On the third floor, everyone currently on duty crowded around the camera feed watching as the rat--no, dog--or was it a deer?--thing made its way to the top of the hillock.  Uncertain whispers began to pick up. 

“Someone needs to tell him.”

“I’m not fuckin' doing it.”

“We can’t just sit here and argue about it we have to--”

“So why don’t you tell him if you’re so worried--”

“Like you’re not?!”

Of course, the chatter caught Chtahzus’aak’s ear before anyone had the chance to make an official report, and he appeared in the mezzanine on the first floor, stepping through the shadows to look over the shoulder of the power demon (who jumped as soon as he was aware of this).  The feed had been switched to one of the inward-facing cameras to track the creature approaching the entrance.

Zeus crossed his arms over his chest, watching and waiting.  He knew this was not one of his.  The failure at the perimeter was a moderate annoyance, those sigils had been laid in haste and never truly tested.  This creature would not breach the front entrance, but he was curious to watch it try. 

The doors dissolved as if Chtahzus’aak himself had approached them.

WHAT?”  He could feel everyone watching the feed fly into a panic.  They had all just witnessed the impossible, and every inch of his own body tensed.  Zeus sent a silent summon to Brael, if he had not already caught on to the disturbance, and practically flew out of the mezzanine in a quiet rage.  By the time the creature had approached the front desk, Zeus was down the short staircase and halfway to the desk himself.

The witch?

He almost stopped in his tracks, utter disbelief painting his features.  There was a torrent in his mind.  On the one hand, this was precisely the person he wanted to speak with, especially after Brael’s recent abduction.  On the other hand, she had completely bypassed every security measure he had in place.

“Sabrina.”  Chtahzus’aak approached the witch at a slower pace, wrestling his demeanor into submission.  “To what do I owe the pleasure?”  They would go into the conference room to speak, unless she was here to fight.
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente

Offline Trillian

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2019, 10:23:18 AM »
Brael was slow at Zeus' side; he'd become obsessed with magic and summoning spells of late, and was researching what Miss Thesdea Thane had told him when he'd been caught (not caught) in her holding spell. She concerned him and he was still full of regret at speaking Sabrina's name. He'd thought their both being witches would make for a good connection; he'd been ignorant of a war between them. The more he thought back to that moment when he'd asked her to make her own choice, the more he felt he'd almost had her... he'd sensed her wavering, teetering on the precipice of indecision. Then he'd spoilt it and away she'd gone, angrier than ever.

Unlike Zeus, someone mentioned directly to him that there was an unknown presence inside the building. He ran through rooms until his shadow travel kicked in and then he wisped at speed to the foyer. Materialising at Zeus' side, he was just in time for his commander to speak the witch's name. Wide-eyed and with the information about Miss Thesdea Thane on the tip of his tongue, he had to hold it in less he spill it out. Zeus knew what had occurred from start to finish - it was his decision whether Sabrina knew of it or not.

But he really, really wanted her to know about it.
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Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2019, 01:17:08 AM »
“I’m here to see —“ The front desk staff member’s expression turned from confused to sheer panic under Sabrina’s gaze, causing her frown to deepen. Sparing them further interaction, the man she’d come to see came rushing down the stairs.

 “Chtahzus’aak.” She finished her thought with the cadence of a greeting. His name felt natural in her mouth, but her accent was firmly of this plane.

To what do I owe the pleasure?

Not expected, then. So why had the wards failed on contact? The magic here had the same galvanized tang as the blood painting the floor at Broomfield Crossing. Some sort of transference, perhaps? Had she taken more than bruises from that place?

She realized she was still frowning, and schooled her expression into a half-smile. Her pale gaze slid briefly from Zeus to the man staring at her agape from his side. His scent was confusing; a little of everything — smoke and dirt; char and ozone, and a hundred other, smaller traces that nearly tickled a sneeze from her. Her nose twitched. That bore investigation.

Zeus himself wore the blank, dark musk of shadows like a mantle. It explained how he’d so easily circumvented Jake’s security. You can’t keep the shadows out; literally and figuratively.

The silence had stretched between them for a few beats too long. She fixed her eyes back on Zeus.  “My apologies for not sending a missive, I prefer a direct approach. There’s a matter I’d like to discuss with you, is there a place we can speak in private?” Her posture was relaxed, and she kept her hands in her pockets. Fighting was not on the agenda.

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2019, 02:03:39 AM »
Zeus nodded in acknowledgment of her apology, still too rattled to formulate a verbal response to the gesture.  While the knowledge that her intentions were to only talk pacified his readiness to fight, the demon did not drop his guard.  How did she bypass the wards?  What was she?  There was the familiar waft of demon on her, but that did little to explain her ability.  Her power must be enormous--inconceivably so.  He glanced to Brael briefly, conveying the subtlest look of unease, before returning his attention to the witch.  Privacy would not exclude Brael.

"Come with me," he turned and motioned with his hand.  Chtahzus'aak led both of them to the conference room below the mezzanine.  After holding the door open for both of them, he closed it and crossed over to the head of the massive black walnut table.  He held out a hand indicating that the others sit, and was silent until they did so.

"This is Brael," he met eyes with the other demon before turning back to the witch, "He has some important information for you, but first I must ask,"  Zeus met her eyes with an intense gaze, folding his hands in front of him on the smoky glass river inlay of the table.

"How did you get in here?"  His tone was calm, but not without the usual command.
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente

Offline Trillian

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2019, 09:04:48 PM »
Brael stole glances at Sabrina along the way. Her size should be intimidating, and he rarely looked up at anyone since his height at 6'6" was impressive to most... but he was not intimidated by her size. Her presence, who she was... he looked upon her with awe almost as much as he'd looked upon Kerr, the ex-Luminary. Her reputation preceded her.

"She's got something from another dimension inside of her," he said, because he knew of such things personally and he could also sense that she possessed something in which he was lacking. Sitting in her presence he knew he could not break the wards. She could not break the wards, and the report that reached his ears was that someone was walking in, not breaking in.

He'd heard rumours about her and it wasn't like she'd ever kept it a secret; the dark symbiotic being inside of her. Its dimension was far older than those who held transmuting creatures like on the multiple demonic planes. Their protective runes, wards and sigils had no power against such a thing... and therefore no power against her. As much as it afforded her a passive benefit, Brael wanted nothing to do with it for himself.

"The Treacle let her in," he continued, for Chtahzus'aak's benefit more than Sabrina's. He smiled at her because he'd hoped to display his knowledge rather than to show off. He was speaking out of turn, he knew... it was Zeus' place to speak with her. "Am I right?"

His eyes twinkled with the merry hope that he'd guessed correctly. If he was wrong, he'd be devastated; because he was so sure.
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Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2019, 10:17:50 PM »
Zeus sighed through his nose.  The wards at the perimeter were active magic, always looking and sensing, summoning the Gatekeeper when anyone besides Chtahzus'aak appeared before them.  They were temporary measures taken to quickly increase security and they were bound to have their holes.  Those he could understand being bypassed by spells or even the otherworldly thing.  The sigil on the structure was a passive mark, a blood magic sigil tethered to him.  The opening appeared only when the requirements were met--either the presence of the Gatekeeper or another of his upper circle of subordinates, including Brael.  Their presence should trigger the primary effect, requesting identification with the soft glow before opening.

But the sigil didn't even glow when Sabrina approached, the opening simply materialized.  And it only did that for him.

"No,"  shaking his head he smiled and chuckled.  "Not unless this Treacle shares my blood."  At those words, he regarded the witch suspiciously.
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente

Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2019, 04:09:03 AM »
Sabrina followed Zeus’s lead, sitting at his left hand when she was bidden to do so. She looked a little like a grown-sitting in a child’s seat in the black rolling chair, but if she was uncomfortable, it didn’t show. She was well used to things being too small for her. She also did not object to Brael’s presence. What a man considered privacy in his own house was his business alone.

Sabrina eyed the table and the shapeless white sculptures near the monitor. The whole place felt oddly corporate, but whoever had designed this room, at least, had made some attempt at making it pleasing to the eye as well as functional. 

She blinked her pale eyes at Brael as he spoke, surprised. Clearly someone had done their homework. The half smile she wore warmed in response to the twinkle in his eye. Whatever he was, he was smart.

Her smile disappeared at Zeus’s dismissive tone. She lifted her round, black hat from her head and set it hanging from the back of her chair before she focused her eyes back on his. Her pale hair was bound in simple braids, coiled and fastened with silver pins at the nape of her neck. “The truth is, I don’t know.” She said mildly, in answer to his question. She folded her hands on the table. “I felt the summoning at the gate, but nothing further.”

“If your blood specifically is so important to the security of your...compound, however, perhaps it would be wise not to leave it splashed about random basements in other people’s Districts.”

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2019, 04:42:15 AM »
At first, there was confusion in his features.  Random basements?  He didn't make a habit of bleeding in the homes of mortals much less in other...

Chtahzus'aak sat up straight in his chair.  Of course, the nexus at the little suburb in the South District.  But that was before the fall of the Oligarchy, and the matter had been dealt with.  So how did Sabrina find out about it?  Unless she saw it firsthand and scraped his dried blood from the concrete?  But to what end?

All of this was beside the point: this sigil was supposed to be only activated by living blood.

He narrowed his eyes and spoke in a calm, level tone.  "That blood was inert for the purposes of the door."  How had she unintentionally gained access?  He would have to set that issue aside for the moment.  Clearly, she was here about the nexus.  Perhaps by dealing with that issue, she would be more willing to disclose how she breached his security.

The demon placed an elbow on the table and, closing his eyes for a moment, rubbed his forehead.

"How did you come upon it?"  Zeus met her eyes again, propping his head up on his fist.
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente

Offline Trillian

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2019, 07:52:15 AM »
Brael, proven wrong, was crestfallen. He tried not to show it but he wasn't as used to keeping things to himself as his superior. His shoulders slumped and he dropped his gaze to the table, missing the warmth in Sabrina's smile and only seeing indulgence. He berated himself for not having learnt his lesson. First there'd been Jake, who'd angered him enough to have an outburst and potentially ruin peace talks between him and Zeus. He'd promised himself not to do it again, but now here he was once again speaking when it wasn't his place.

Still, he relished the presence of the witch, basking in the pools of her knowledge. When it was his turn to speak he would be able to identify for Sabrina everything that Miss Thesdea Thane had done, even the things he'd lost the understanding of in the meantime. It had returned to him, the knowledge of what she was up to. All that, and more.
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Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2019, 11:38:33 PM »
Sabrina breathed in through her nose, suppressing the urge to bite back. He was speaking to her like an itinerant child.
"A constituent of mine came across it, trying to cleanse the house where it was kept. By the time I got there, your seals were nearly eaten through. She could have died, and much, much worse." Her tone was clipped, now; consonants pronounced sharply. "The thing you summoned...how did you do it? I locked those gates years ago."

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2019, 01:07:01 AM »
Chtahzus'aak leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest.  He disliked explaining himself to anyone, but knew it would only serve to keep relations between the two of them civil at minimum.  This was not how he wanted his meeting with the witch to go.  His face showed genuine concern at mention of her constituent.  Regardless of what anyone may have thought of him, it was not his intention to cause needless harm to innocents.  That the Thing was discovered in the first place told him that his subordinates were sloppy in securing it, in spite of their reassurance that everything was under control. 

Must he personally confirm everything? 

"It was not what I was looking for."  The demon did not enjoy admitting a failure, especially one where he couldn't determine precisely where things had gone amiss.  He sighed and looked to the ceiling briefly before looking back at her.  "This was a few months before the dissolution of the Oligarchy.  I don't know anything about your locks.  I was told the situation had been taken care of, that the Thing was secured." 

He softened his expression and folded his hands in front of him on the table.  "How is her condition now?  Is she alright?" 
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente

Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2019, 05:06:13 AM »
As he expressed concern for Astrid, Sabrina’s own hardening expression warmed. She didn’t come here to start an argument, but she needed him to know how foolish and dangerous his actions had been, and it seemed like he was getting it.

“She’s fine,” she said, “She taxed herself using her psychic abilities, which is how I learned of your involvement. I was able to kill the Thing before it could cause more damage.” She adopted his term, finding it appropriate. Her tone was matter-of-fact, but no longer bordering on annoyance.

She sighed, “But long before us, its presence in the house corrupted a family of Humans that moved in, causing their deaths and the imprisonment of their spirits. I believe Astrid is working on freeing them now.”

“But you said...you broke into the Blackness — the realm where the Thing came from — unintentionally?” This fact was clearly important to the witch; she lowered her voice and enunciated that last phrase. She did not, however, speak as though she disbelieved him.

Offline Trillian

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2019, 10:04:32 AM »
Brael also didn't like how the conversation was going... until it softened. As slight as the settling was, he was immensely proud of Chtahzus'aak for showing his concern and calming the witch.

See? He felt like saying. See? He is not evil or callous. He only demands respect because he deserves it.

But he held his tongue. Twice he took a breath, wanting to interrupt, twice he shut himself down. He physically lifted his hand to his mouth, holding the elbow with his other hand, looking thoughtful perhaps, but it was really to remind himself to keep quiet.

His gaze darted between Zeus and Sabrina. They were discussing something that he remembered hearing about but wasn't there personally. He recalled he'd been annoyed not to have been part of it. Obviously the job performed without him had been second rate. A strange resentment fell over him regarding Zeus (not a feeling he'd had before), for not trusting him enough when he'd been an Oligarch. Brael had always been around but Zeus wouldn't look at him twice. Until now.

He squashed the resentment and shoved it away. He had no right to judge a situation he didn't fully know about. At least Zeus had finally taken an interest on him - even if it was a forced one.
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Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2019, 02:17:02 AM »
Relief touched his expression briefly when Sabrina confirmed that the one who came upon the Thing was alright.  His eyes widened in surprise when Sabrina said she had killed it.  When he had played a role in its capture it didn't feel like a living thing that could be killed.  Truthfully, he wanted to send someone to study it and discover its usefulness.  Not in the house, of course, but bringing it to a more secure location.  There were many tomes left behind by the human who summoned him to this plane, some were useless but others held promise.  The tome detailing that particular summoning may not have been as useful as he originally thought--which was a shame considering he cross-referenced the text with others.  The entire ordeal was one of many personal projects he was reluctant to involve the Oligarchy in at the time.  Perhaps that was a mistake, though it mattered very little now.

All of that was put on hold when the Oligarchy fell, and the project fell to the wayside as more pressing matters took priority.

Chtahzus'aak frowned when she spoke of a human family also being affected.  "A highly unfortunate accident."  His tone was sincere.  There was a glamour in place, or so he had been assured, to hide the Thing.  It wasn't as though precautions were not taken.  It might be worth his time to pay this Astrid a visit himself.

He nodded at her question.  "It came through unexpected, in spite of the ritual being followed to the letter."
Anna/Odessa/Sonya || Astrid || Chtahzus'aak/Zeus || Extasis || Fler || Jeremiah || Laurent/Va'tamal || Malakai || Rachel || Vai
Old things have strange hungers. - Catherynne M. Valente