Author Topic: Raising Hell  (Read 4798 times)

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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."