Author Topic: Raising Hell  (Read 4800 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

Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2019, 03:15:42 AM »
Sabrina pursed her lips, thoughtful. On reflection, Astrid had perfectly described a demonic summoning, which bore little resemblance to the ritual Sabrina had used to break into the Blackness -- or seal it away. She'd put too much of herself into those spells for them to go so terribly awry so easily.

Then how had he done it? How had she walked in here? Were the answers to these questions the same?

Throughout her exchange with Zeus, Sabrina had been able to ignore the secretive, bubbling glee the Treacle had been sending through her head, but it overwhelmed her as this last thought crossed her mind. A memory rose unbidden and with crystal clarity, forced to the forefront. Sabrina sat sharply upright, eyes wide and without focus, fixed on a point somewhere beyond Zeus's left shoulder.

The crack of her mother's palm across her cheek sent Sabrina sprawling against the bed in their meager apartment. Then fingers gripping her dark hair cruelly, forcing their faces close together, nearly nose to nose. Her mother was beautiful, even with her face taut and snarling with rage.

"Beast," spat the other woman, looming over her daughter, who then was too young and small to fight back, "Insolent. Arrogant. I'll beat your father out of you if it's the last thing I do."


Shared blood whispered the treacle, as the images receded.

The halfbreed remained tense as she came back to herself. The color of her eyes had shifted from their usual unnerving ghost-white to a black that swallowed her pupils. Fixing them on her host, she kept her face and voice carefully neutral. "Zeus, did you ever find yourself in Spitalfields, London in the late 19th Century?"

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2019, 02:28:29 AM »
Curious.  Chtahzus'aak noted the straightened posture and glazed-over expression, unsure of what to make of it.  In silence, he waited for her to speak.

Anxious tension returned to his limbs as he watched the blackening in the witch's eyes.  This was the same color change reported to come over her during The Trial, and Zeus was leery of what it could indicate.  The neutrality of her tone did nothing for his apprehension.  Did she come to fight after all?

19th Century London?

There was a witch in Spitalfields with an object he desired.  An ancient knife he had been tracking through the ages, following footnotes in texts and rumors in letters.  Whispers on the wind.  When he had the information he needed, Caiomhe was not a difficult witch to find.  That charming witch with fiery hair--what a pleasure she had been.  In the end, he had gotten what he came for.

What did that have to do with anything?

Zeus kept his thoughts and expression carefully guarded. 

"Yes," he replied slowly, after some time had passed.
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 #17 on: July 05, 2019, 06:15:52 PM »
Brael watched the two converse like it was a tennis match. A very slow, laborious tennis match, with opponents moving in slow motion as they clocked the conversation from one to another. Maybe less like a tennis match and more like a game of chess, but Brael had no patience for chess or why this piece moved that way while that piece could only move this way, and don't even get him started on the knights.

So there was a connection to be made in London, in the nineteenth century. He looked expectantly at Sabrina, who'd discovered it.
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Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2019, 07:30:35 AM »
Sabrina leaned forward again,  “Will you tell me the story?” There was none of the command in her voice Zeus’s agents would have reported from the trial; no magical shame or compulsion, though her focus on him was laser-sharp.


Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2019, 07:45:12 AM »
"Story?"  Zeus frowned, searching for a possible connection to the Thing that had been accidentally summoned.  There was no story to tell, as far as he was concerned.

"I was a tracking down an antique blade and traced its location to a witch there." Zeus shrugged.  "I spent no longer than a month there."  He regarded her curiously.

"Why?"
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 #20 on: July 10, 2019, 08:00:05 AM »
The witch’s breath caught in her throat, and for a long moment it was the only sound in the room.

How many witches were there in that squalid burrough? How many stolen, blessed blades?

One and one, as far as she knew.

She exhaled, a long sigh that whistled through her teeth.

“Her name was Caoimhe.” It was not a question. “You spent a night with her and stole the knife from beneath her pillow while he slept.”

He wouldn’t tell her the story, so she told it for him, with the tenor of a tale repeated over a lifetime; a litany. She added a piece he didn’t know.

“Nigh on ten months later, I was born.”

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2019, 08:53:15 AM »
Surprise, at first, that Sabrina knew precisely who he had seen and bedded.  And what he had stolen.  His eyes widened then narrowed suspiciously as she spoke.  How could she know these things?  Surely, she hadn't plucked it from his mind.

Then the last bit she said--he sat straight up, color draining from his face. 

It wasn't impossible, but it was rare.  Rarer, still, for such a creature to survive.  Caoimhe was no ordinary human, surely.  He assumed that witches knew how to deal with unwanted conception.  But she'd carried it to term?  Fascinating.  That would have been no small feat.  Or did she try to rid herself of the child and failed?

There were many questions buzzing through his mind now.

Unsurprising, then, for a child of his to have incredible power.  Sabrina's reputation was widely known.  There was an unexpected swell of pride blooming in his chest, filtering a bit into his softening expression.  He held the feeling at an arm's length, finding it strange in its newness.

"Your locks are blood magic," he murmured in understanding, pieces finally falling into place, "Like mine."  Chtahzus'aak couldn't decide if that was something he should be terribly worried about.  Would she exploit this?  Should he anticipate future security breaches?  Or was there a kind of kinship to be found in this new discovery?

Doubtful.  It was too soon to tell if she would resent his absence or the theft of the knife her mother had in her possession.  Not that it was rightfully hers to begin with--neither was it his.  He doubted Caoimhe would've taken well to finding both the knife and the shadow demon missing when she awoke the following morning. 

Chtahzus'aak was at a loss for words as he looked at Sabrina--his daughter?--with thinly-veiled wonder.
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 #22 on: July 10, 2019, 01:52:46 PM »
Brael tensed when he realised what this was. A family reunion! He shouldn't be here! This was a private moment for the both of them. Excitement swelled in his chest; he was all a flutter. This was an amazing outpouring that he'd just watched, a connection that he had no right to spy on.

"Excuse me," he said, standing. He beamed at them, at the pair of them, and turned himself to shadow so he could flee the room. This was between them.

After hurrying through the building, he transformed into his physical self and made a noise very much like a squeal. He did a hoppity dance in a circle, attracting bewildered stares and questions from people nearby. He refused to answer any, saying mysteriously that it was Chtahzus'aak's place to make his announcement.

It was SO EXCITING!
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Offline Harlequin

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #23 on: July 17, 2019, 02:58:34 AM »
"Precisely." Sabrina's tone was clipped, as was the sharp little nod she gave.

She noted Brael's departure with a flick of her gaze. Smart move, that.

Her brows creased. So they had their answers, and knowledge now they couldn't take back. The black eyes staring back at Zeus, searching his face across the table, were his own. And Sabrina had a name and a face to go with the blood she carried.

She had made the choice long ago to never seek out the demon that had sired her; the family she'd known had only ever been a source of pain and terror, and they were of Earth. Why should a hell-born father be any different?

But the feather's edge of gentleness that came across Zeus's face as he watched her gave the witch pause. Could there be something to gain here? What could she learn from him?

And what could he try to take from her? At this thought, she couldn't help the suspicion that crawled into the creases at the corners of her eyes. Her mother had tried to make her smaller, less than what she was; and she'd driven an iron railroad spike through her head to stop it. Would she need to do the same here? Could she?

The tension in the witch was nearly palpable, clearly visible in the crux of her brow and the lines of her face. Until it broke all at once like a levy, and she leaned back in her chair with a heavy breath. There was no need to take it there. Not yet. "I would like--" What did she want? She pursed her lips. "I would like to see the knife, if you still have it." As far as she knew, with the rest of her family dead, it was her birthright; even if those deaths had occurred at her hands.

That was a good place to start.

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2019, 03:31:18 AM »
Brael's sudden departure surprised him, tension rushed into the vacuum of space left behind.  For a moment he stared at the empty chair the other demon had once occupied.  Zeus would have to call him back later after they'd addressed the other matter at hand.  As far as how to do that--the shadow demon came up blank.  His eyes returned to Sabrina, holding a soft (though guarded) gaze.  He was equally lost in thought, swimming in his own unpreparedness for this sort of a revelation.

What would she say next?  What would she do?  What, if anything, did he want out of this?

Chtahzus'aak thought it was best to let her lead.  She was endlessly unpredictable and he was waiting still for her motivations to be made clear.  As if their exchange couldn't have been made anymore delicate now there was a shared bloodline to contend with.

He listened closely to her request with an unchanging expression.  Of course, she would want to see the knife.  If he were in her position, he would request to have it.  This made him wary, but he kept the feeling reigned-in.  If the ultimate goal was to keep his relationships with the other District Leaders as smooth as possible, outright refusing would not work out in his favor. 

Nevermind whatever complicated feelings there were swirling within him in regards to kinship.

He was quiet for a moment while stilling the tension in his chest, and let a long, quiet sigh past his nose.  There was a reluctance to grant her request, and the temptation to lie.  Did he need the knife?  No.  It wasn't as useful to him as he thought it would have been, though there was no denying its potential for power (so he'd been told).  Would giving it to her (if that was what she ultimately wanted) open future doors to him?  That was something he had no way of foreseeing. 

In the end, her trust was worth more than the tainted blade.

"Of course," the tone was easy, but the amount of time that had passed between their words was enough to hint it was a decision not made lightly.  It was made, nonetheless.  He stood from his chair.  "Would you like to come with me, or wait for my return?"  Taking her to the Vault was another extension of trust, but he wouldn't pressure her.
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 #25 on: July 23, 2019, 12:43:29 PM »
Sabrina did not miss the pregnancy of that pause, and took the offer for what it was. An olive branch, perhaps. Or the first bricks that built a bridge. She sighed in turn. This job was making her paranoid.

"I'd love to accompany you, Chtahzus'aak, thank you."

Her smile was easy, and suited her face better than any other expression she'd worn so far.

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #26 on: July 24, 2019, 12:29:22 AM »
He nodded and moved to open the door for her.  The Receiving area was quiet now after the initial disturbance of Sabrina's arrival had passed.  Only the guard at the elevator looked in their direction as Zeus led her to the doors, and he promptly moved aside with a bowed head as soon as it became clear Zeus intended to enter. 

While everyone else needed a card-key, Chtahzus'aak did not.  Like many other things, the doors opened at his approach.  He'd enjoyed the simplicity of it and never thought twice about the feature until today.  The entire compound’s security lay open to her like a flayed fish.  There would need to be altercations made to the sigils--if that were even possible.  If he dwelled on it now it would put a sour expression on his face, and that was not what he wanted in this precise moment.

The elevator itself was large enough to accommodate an uncloaked shadow demon, as were the majority of the places within the compound.  He waited until she joined him in the elevator before pressing the button for the ninth floor and clasping his hands behind his back.  The descent was rapid enough to avoid the need for a conversation to fill what he anticipated would otherwise be an awkward silence, and for that he was grateful.  Their discovery made the spacious elevator feel much more constrained. 

The doors slid open to reveal a short hallway leading to a massive round door much like the vault of a bank.  The structure, composed of the same material as the entrance to the compound, had been polished to a high shine.  The pair of shadow demons standing guard stepped aside, in the same respectful manner as the demon at the elevator, as Zeus led Sabrina down the hallway.  At their approach Sabrina would see the same sigil carved deeply into the face of the door just before it dematerialized, allowing them to step down into the immense vault.

No sooner than they crossed the threshold, the door rematerialized behind them, effectively sealing them in.

Letting out a long sigh, Chtahzus’aak took a moment to look around at the rows of drawers and lockers lining the walls.  Each smooth face had been labeled with simple descriptions in demonic text aside an emblazoned sigil.  His footsteps against the polished floor echoed flatly as he moved toward the massive white quartz table at the center of the room.  It was spotlit by a single overhead lamp, decorated with demonic low-relief and flanked by stone gargoyles.  Save for the generous locked bookshelf and armchair at the back of the room, the vault was filled predominantly with safety-deposit-box-type containers.  After glancing briefly at Sabrina, he motioned to the oversized wooden chair behind the table.

“You may sit if you wish.  It will take me a moment to locate it.”  His tone was uncharacteristically soft and he did not examine it, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand.  Turning on his heel, he crossed over to the western wall.  Each tiny sigil on locker doors and drawer faces, for those that contained an object, emitted a gentle red glow as he drew near.  The organization was immaculate, but he could not recall if he had grouped it with daggers or magical tools.  He checked the former first.  When that proved fruitless, he crossed to the eastern side of the vault and scanned the rows of drawers with an extended finger.

There it is.  His finger came to a stop.

Chtahzus’aak pressed his thumb against the sigil and the drawer slid open on its own accord.  A cushioning foam lined the interior, cradling the object in question.  He took the pitch athame by the soft leather-wrapped handle and removed it from the drawer.  The demonic text label faded and sigil-lock grew dark.  He left the drawer open. 

There was brief hesitation before he turned back to Sabrina, but his expression was unreadable and he went back to the table at the center of the room with athame in hand.

“Here it is,”  The blade was set gingerly down on the table.  "The Selenite Athame."
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 #27 on: July 24, 2019, 06:48:13 AM »
Sabrina followed a respectful distance behind Zeus, but hesitated to enter the elevator with him for a split second before she understood that it was not, as was almost always the case, woefully cramped for her. A cricked neck was never dignified, and she intended to keep every ounce of her dignity about her. For lack of anything better, she also found herself clasping her hands behind her back.

The ride was mercifully short.

She noted the way the demons moved away from the vault door with heads bowed, just like the guard at the elevator. She wondered idly how he kept all his staff -- servants? -- so perfectly in line. There was no scent of magic about them, so mind control was unlikely. Did they love him that much? Or fear him? Either way, it seemed terribly dull -- like being surrounded by a pack of obedient robots.

What was not terribly dull, however, was whatever lived behind the door, which disintegrated at their approach. Upon its disappearance, Sabrina felt a cacophony of magic wreathe her like a mantle, and she couldn't help but pull in a deep breath; filling her chest with it lest it smother her as she stepped through the door. Zeus's bindings on his collection of artifacts were as secure as they could be (against all but her, apparently), but like recognized like, and those items that could think murmured to her in a thousand tongues, while the the rest reached out as they could  with dumb hope or malice. There was age here, and power the likes of which dwarfed her own collection; its sources likewise as varied. The sound of Zeus's voice filtered through the haze, and she opened her eyes -- not realizing she'd closed them -- slowly. Another easy smile spread across her face, and she nodded to indicate she'd heard him, though her eyes roamed the room.

So neat and tidy. Everything in its place, when each magic item in here was by its very nature implacable. Looking around this room, she felt she understood something about Zeus: a need not only to have, but to control by any means necessary.

She did not sit as directed until he returned with the blade, but drifted toward the table nonetheless while he located it. She kept her hands to herself, flexing her fingers to keep at bay the insistent tingling in her fingertips. As badly as she wanted to open every last drawer and lose the rest of her week (Month? Year?) learning the secrets within, she recognized that Zeus brought her here for a single purpose, and abusing that trust would be a grave misstep.

Once he set the blade down, Sabrina seated herself, examining it with a cocked head. The Selenite Athame. Her family's undoing; bane of her mother's life; her birthright, stolen and tainted though it was.

It seemed terribly small, there on the table.

Entranced, reverent, Sabrina reached for the blade; it looked even smaller in her hands. It felt to her like a bird's egg -- dull and cold against her palms, with something bright and living locked away under its black sheen.

Though she'd never seen it before, it felt familiar in a way she couldn't place.

"Caoimhe blamed me," she said, half to herself, "She was a cruel and wicked woman, and a worse mother. She punished me every day of her life for the loss of this thing, until I ended it." She looked across the table at her father,  "I would like to take it home."

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #28 on: July 24, 2019, 07:06:48 AM »
Chtahzus'aak frowned at her words, feeling an unexpected flare of--what was it, defensiveness?--rise to the surface.  A strange thing.  There was too much for him to unpack here.  This was not the time or place for him to expose all of his... vulnerabilities. 

"It is yours," the words came far more easily than they ought to when he really wanted to tell her that he expected she would want it.  There wasn't anything to be gained in communicating that, so he kept the thought to himself.  He was quiet for a moment, tucking his hands into his pockets and keeping his eyes on the blade.

A pity it wasn't as useful to him as he'd anticipated, but there was little he would have considered being worth the consequences she'd described.

"I--"  There was an apology on the tip of his tongue, and he fumbled over it.  "I regret that this action wrought an upbringing of turmoil for you."  His words were slow and careful, and he avoided meeting her eye, keeping his gaze steady on the athame.  Zeus' expression was mixed between guarded and strained and after a moment he cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back.

What an eventful first meeting this had become.
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 #29 on: July 24, 2019, 12:36:46 PM »
Sabrina watched him watch the knife as sheturned the blade back and forth in her palms for long moment, then shook her head gently and looked down "You couldn't have known. She was playing you for a fool, as well. She wanted another child. My sister's father was an angel of some type." She spoke in a flat tone, but this was obviously difficult for her to talk about, "She wanted a matching set." She made no effort to keep the bitterness from her voice on this last statement.

There was a reason she didn't talk about her past. He didn't need to know any of this. Related or not, they'd only met today. She looked up again, smiling wanly. "But, I'm getting sentimental. Thank you." She held up the knife to indicate what she was thanking him for.

With an abrupt shift in tone, she changed the subject. "If you have any research or work that needs doing on anything in here, I'd be more than happy to help, by the way. It's been a long time since I've seen a collection like this."

Offline The Cedar Witch

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Re: Raising Hell
« Reply #30 on: July 24, 2019, 01:24:22 PM »
Chtahus'aak had suspected Caoimhe was attempting to wring something from him.  All the time he assumed that he'd gotten the best of her, extracting what he wanted before she had the chance get hers.  But he'd somehow not anticipated that what she wanted from him could be a conception.  He noted the bitterness in Sabrina's voice, and a sympathetic frown showed plainly on his face.  His expression neutralized after she met his eye, and he nodded acknowledgment of her thanks.

A smile touched his features when she changed the subject, and he turned his face away to look about the vault.  It was an interesting offer.  He knew that she could have more valuable insight than the trio of goons he had in his service.  Or perhaps he was giving her too much credit, and not shown his three enough patience.

No matter.

"Perhaps," his eyes slid back to hers, expression touching on being pleased before settling back into a more serious one.  He was struck with the temptation to invite her to have a look around before they went back up to the first floor.  Peculiar.  Something to be unpacked later.  He cleared his throat and glanced away for a second, then back to her face.

"There is another issue I must bring to your attention."  He explained that Brael had been summoned and briefly held by a witch, what words were exchanged, and that Sabrina's name specifically had set her off.  "Brael may wish to give you more detail in his own words once we are upstairs."
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 #31 on: July 27, 2019, 04:46:36 AM »
Perhaps

The word was like a slammed door. Or perhaps it just felt that way. The vaguely pleased look the passed across his features softened the thought. 

That was fine. Sabrina could be patient, though her fingers itched to paw through every drawer in this damn room.

"Tess," she sighed, tucking the knife into the band of her hat, where it looked like an exceptionally dangerous feather, "Yes. I'd like to hear what he has to say. The more I know about her, the faster I can get her out of this town."

Their trip back upstairs was similarly quiet to the trip down, but, Sabrina noticed, significantly less strained.