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[Werewolf: the Forsaken] The Seventh Seal

viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User


They gather 'round the natal bed, the foolish and the wise
They fear the child yet unborn whose voice shall break the skies

The faithful watch the forest for the coming of the King
Their lanterns bright they wait at night for the darkness he shall bring

The dragon waits in shadows, his breath will scorch the land
The handless hero 'neath the castle makes his final stand

The Sorceress in the tower, she's hidden far away
But nothing under Luna can keep the Burning Groom at bay

When the first had given birth, all seven hills did burn
The many died as the world cried for the Red King they had spurned

The Patriarch's dark sin did result in second birth
The keening screams of the most obscene did rip apart the Earth

His bride the third remained unheard against the holy horde
She took her life with a boning knife and gave it to our Lord

The fourth prepared a dagger, she placed it at her heart
The perfect cure cannot make pure what the King has set apart

The fifth one blew the horn that would end the elder world
Untimely hewn neath silent moon, the King’s red flag unfurled

The chosen ones were gathered, in sheds they were put down
The sixth one's monstrous birthing blood did scarlet stain her gown

The seventh bride will break the tides; the moon no more shall shine
There comes a day not far away she'll birth the death of time


[HR][/HR]

Hail friends, it is I, viskarenvisla.

After Mr. Shopping concluded his fantastic Detroit Rock City, the two of us decided to take a little break and let ourselves process. We didn't play again until a while later, when Shopping grew intrigued by an idea I had that would take us back to Chicago, the city-setting in which I first introduced him to Werewolf: the Forsaken. We considered other games but ultimately concluded that Werewolf was the best for our purposes, especially with 2nd edition out.

This game takes place in January of 2015 in the Windy City, a year after interpack conflict in the city reduced the Forsaken's numbers. Increasingly insular behavior, a seedy and deceptive Shadow, and pressure from Anshega and Hosts that see opportunities on Lake Michigan's shoreline make Chicago a less-than-friendly place to be a lone wolf, let alone unaligned with either side in the eternal war between Urdaga and Anshega.

Mr. Shopping's character, the star of this game is Lilly-Jane White, a lone Ghost Wolf Ithaeur who has prospered at the University of Chicago and created a relatively safe, coveted territory all on her own. Otherwise known as the White-Witch, she is well-loved by spirits and popular with people on her campus...Despised by the wider Uratha world, especially the Urdaga.

This game is intended for a mature audience. Some politically incorrect slurs/viewpoints may be found within, but I assure you, these are the machinations of character and NOT, I repeat NOT any actual views.

Obviously this game belongs to my player and me - please don't reproduce it without permission. Credit for the beautiful graphic goes to Mr. Shopping.

I used google maps to create my Map of Chicago with territories, areas of special note, and borders. I find this a useful way to reckon space and have a handy reference available for Shopping.

I use an nwod dice roller for transparency's sake. It should be relatively easy to distinguish my narrations/characters from Shopping's posts. I use Werewolf 2nd edition with numerous alterations, for example I kept the old harmony system in place (and adjusted other rules as necessary), kept numerous themes concerning Mother Luna and Father Wolf, and while Wolf-blooded have subtle Tells, they are mostly not in the know. This is not a continuation of the DRC canon either.

Without further ado, I present The Seventh Seal.
 
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viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User


"The lake is like...This eternally hungry thing, y'know?"

Rude of her to talk with her mouth full but she figured he wouldn't complain.

"The shore's receded a few centimeters already...Maybe no one else noticed but I did," Xiao Zhang continued as she looked out the porthole at the wine-dark waters of Lake Michigan, each wave crashing against Chicago's shoreline a gnawing, hungry little bite. A huge, amorphous, eternally patient but desperately hungry thing. Long after she was dust it'd still be gnawing away at the land until all was consumed. That was life - a journey toward death.

Entropy all around. All other meaning was just a shadow thrown on the wall by entropy's cold unlight. Death Wolf knew this, although she only shared it with a privileged few...like Xiao Zhang, of course.

"It's kind of like...This boat's riding on the lake's teeth in a way. Funny huh?" she asked, peering into the black bag as she sat there on her sterile blue plastic tarp in the ship's berth, smiling joylessly at its raw contents. 'Funny' was more a memory that she could recall when she ate real good, and with the soft, warm young flesh loaded with ulal juicy and bloody in her belly, she realized it really wasn't all that funny. She laughed all the same, walked onto the yacht's deck, and threw bag of bones over the side, giving the rest of her meal to the lake, sinking down to join the rest in secret. A wash of bleach and vinegar - none would be the wiser.

A hearty meal gave her the stamina she needed to be a good sister and be supportive of her big brother. Da Zhang had big dreams, big temporal ideas for a Bone Shadow - he wanted to unite the weaker packs into a separate bloc to oppose Olivia Citysmith, and tonight's meeting would be just like the other ones. He'd let loose about big deas, he'd get all inspiring and talk good, Elodoth style. 'There's a reason they're weak,' she thought dryly as she anchored the yacht near the old, abandoned tanker on the lake that human eyes and human radar always overlooked, climbing the rusty ladder. They'd bicker, they'd argue, they'd get nowhere and Da Zhang would take it real hard again. When would he give up like she had?

She heard the voices, smelled the others before they saw her - made sense, she was Irakka. Whether she desired it or not, it almost always happened that way. On the tanker's deck, irregularly strewn with oil drums older than she was, a couple of massive cranes, she stood in the shadow of a stack of tipped over shipping containers, the new moon's unlight prickling her skin. Xiao Zhang listened to those gathered...

"...because they have all the best territories, the strongest loci, the best spirit allies, right? They leave us with nothin' but dregs and trash," she heard Broken-Mirror complain. Ratcatchers' Alpha...Looked half a rat himself, strung-out and stringy. "It's not like we could just take it."

Her brother's tall, imposing figure, seated on top of an overturned lifeboat in front of the burning oil drum providing the only warmth and light against the October darkness, seemed to shift with barely contained irritation. He hated people who gave up, and ironically quitters like Broken-Mirror were all he had to work with. "Not from the Architects, not from the Whispers or the Hooked Claws," Da Zhang growled with barely restrained patience, staring directly at Broken-Mirror with his pale pasty face standing, fidgeting with his cigarette, his beta Mikey Wu crouched down on his heels at his side, looking bored, detached as always. Kid just wanted to hunt rats.

"Who's got the nicest territory but the worst defenses, huh?" Da Zhang queried the gathered Forsaken, his gaze moving to Bryan tapping away on his iPhone, his packmate Big Coal with his suspicious, distrustful glare shivering underneath his parka. Representing insular the Iron Knights.

"The White Witch obviously," he barked angrilly at them, provoking glances back and forth, whispers of surprise. They hadn't considered about that. "Think about it. She's all alone, all her buddies are either _Uragarum_ or spirits. Five, six of us could get in there easy, take her down and run her out."

Xiao Zhang closed her eyes and shook her head evenly, yet unseen...'Oh brother why? Why did you have to bring her up?' she thought.

"Yo home slice," Bryan began, looking up from his phone with eyes the color of circuitboards. "Haven't you heard the stories about her?"

"Yeah dude," Mikey interjected. "I heard she's gots some serious far'huf with her turf's shadow, like, she's buddy-buddy with all these weird Magath."

"You just that little cub crush Bry, I know what you all about," Big Coal thundered in his low baritone, a pearly white, fanged grin at his packmate turned upside down into an ugly, unfriendly grimace at Da Zhang. "She went after my boy here though with silver, tryin' to gat his ass cuz she didn't like his love songs-"

Coal was interrupted by the other Iron Knight punching him hard in the shoulder with indignation, drawing a challenging chuckle from the big man.

"I don't have a crush on her," Bryan lied, uncomfortable under the pointed stares of five other Uratha. "Ya'll don't know she murdered her first pack with Iduth-Fil? She's the one who killed the Lightning-Runners."

"Petruskey told me one time she lets spirits possess people, like a fuckin' Izidakh."

"No way man, she lies with Magath-"

"The girl's packless, crazy, runs around with silver and hates other Uratha-"

"I heard she eats kids."

That was enough for Xiao Zhang.

"All of you are wrong," she said in a raspy voice somewhere between whisper and snarl, stepping out from the shadows, startling all those gathered but Da Zhang. Her joyless, beetle-black glare swept among them.

"You don't know anything about her, but there's only one thing worth knowing."

Xiao Zhang turned and looked to her brother, gazing into his eyes challengingly.

"Don't cross the White Witch, or you'll end up dead."
 
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viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User


Saturday. January 10th.

Chicago University, Cook County, Illinois, the United States of America.

The Winter quarter, year of our lord 2015.

Humans and their calendars...you'd been shadowbound for a while and at this point the days, the numbers, the months just seemed like arbitrary markers, humanity with its obsession with patterns trying to lock down and put identity to a natural phenomenon that just happened to repeat itself. Even the word 'winter' was just one of those meaningless little words, but this time...

Well, who said you couldn't have a little bit of fun and get in on the season's groove?

The pleasant state of half sleep had persisted since Pangur had awakened, a quiet feline 'mrr' breaking the heavy, gentle quiet of your room. The American flag hanging over your window casts red, white, and blue across the smooth wood of your floor but it couldn't hide the clean scent of snow outside. The palpable excitement in the air, even as kids slept through the snow-glare morning light, alcohol haze clearing.

This semester had brought a few new students, transfers and froshies starting a bit later, getting acquainted with the towering buildings, the sense of stately order, the academic rigor, and maybe later on what lay beneath, depending on their fortunes. There were the booze-soaked, drug-addled parties that were a mainstay of the Midwest, a secularized ritual to prevent the chill of the vast, freezing lake from throwing everyone into depression. A lot to take in, separated from home as you were.

But you were different, because this was your home. Perhaps more accurately, the whole University was your castle. Your enchanted fortress, a glade of serenity in an urban jungle – a cliché that was painfully applicable.

No bad dreams this time - pleasant images of sledding, of seeing people you'd met from long ago...snow piled high, a bonfire burning right in the middle of the Quad, good drink, good food...everything you could look forward to here in your castle.

You awaken when Pangur's little white paws push aside the American flag, a pale square of light illuminating your room at the very top of the Art House which you'd staked as your particular territory here within your domain. Your cat gave a 'mroow' as he jumped up on your bed, a second annoyed, demanding feline sound as he walked up to your face, standing on your chest and staring you in the eyes with those bright, gleaming little silver moons of his.

You were different. You were a werewolf, one of those chosen, cursed by the moon. You were a witch, the denizens of the Otherworld always watching, always curious, always ready to obey or fight or haggle in their multifarious, endless ways. You were-

"[Lilliiiith! Come oooon! Get up, I'm booored!]"

The voice of a 12 year old boy, slightly raspy and utterly naughty, came from the little feline face in front of you. Yeah. That was also different.

You had a talking cat - not just any cat, but like, some sort of strange Glimmerling that had chosen you as a ‘fetter’ or something, manifested around you, or slipped into twilight in your bag while you went about your day.

A tiny little white paw plucked your lip. "[It's awesome outside, everything's the same color as me and your hair lazybones. Come on, stop sleeping, I'm bored!]"

Lilith shifted uncomfortably on her bed as she woke to Pangur’s morning insistence, a sleepy frown crossing her pretty feminine features. They darkened as she made a sound of protest, screwing up her face and moving her head side to side as Pangur kept it up. The witch’s intense, violet-colored eyes cracked opened to the comforting solitude of her room and the little alath she'd come to love in that kind of unrequited Disney sense all little girls had for their imaginary friends. Only Pangur wasn't imaginary - his annoying ass was real and waking her up, again.

Lilith gently pushed him off as she sat up in her bed, brushing a trail of hair from her face. LJ’s hair was white locks of bladed feathers, as pale as bloodless bone. They came down to her bare, slender shoulders in a jagged morning mess. The tank that hugged her torso and gave her dignity was white too, down to her white panties. Lilith had different colored clothes, obviously, but sometimes it just turned out that way. Before all this, LJ’s hair had been a stupid mousey brown or something - it was getting harder to remember as time and distance drove her farther and farther away from her old life. But now it was white as death, white like her name.

"Unnh...uh huh," she murmured.

Lilith ran her fingers through her titular mane, then rolled her neck to get a couple of pops out of it. Her nails were painted black for contrast. The witch’s right arm was tattooed from the shoulder down to her wrist in a prison-style sleeve of colored ink - tribal stuff, coiled monsters, shadow freaks and First Tongue rules that only those in the know would really understand. There wasn’t any magic in it, not yet. Just the power to make people think she was a badass.

The Shadow didn't work like you'd think. It never did.

Lilith covered her sharp violet eyes as she tried to adjust to the light.

Another sound of protest as she glared at Pangur through a crack in her fingers.

"Dude, what, like, what time even is it?"

Pangur padded down to your feet and sat there, looking pleased with himself that he'd woken you up, Pixar-style sneer writ on his feline face - expressions just a little too human for imgur, though he could easily go deadpan catface if humans got a glimpse of him.

"[It's like, 8:30 or something around that area, who cares! Only meatbags get all worked up about time, you know that? No other animal does.]" he pointed a claw at you accusingly before hopping off your bed and onto your desk, little pointed paws traipsing their way into your drawer and pawing at the bag of weed within.

"[But since you care so much it's time for my morning joint. Wake n' bake sistah!]"

That was another thing that was different. You'd taken a lunar spirit that at first had been little more than a ball of very curious light and turned it into a TV watching, pizza loving, booze guzzling campus cat. Animal services would be all over your ass if they knew but his…unique properties kept him free of health problems.

Lilith still didn't know where Pangur got the whole meatbag thing from. He probably read it in a comic book or saw it on TV. Or heard it from a spirit. Either way, LJ hadn't been able to curb all the bad influences that had been bombarding the glimmerling since he'd come Fleshside. But he'd turned out okay.

"I'm at least half meatbag, you know that, right furball?" LJ smirked. Technically she was half-and-half. Half wolf-spirit, half homo sapiens sapiens. But lately the definition that Lilith went by became harder and harder to quantify. She’d been spending more of her time in the Shadow and less doing things, well, a Chicago senior should be doing. Shit like last night. She rubbed the rest of the sleep out of her eyes and prepared for her morning rituals.

The young witch slipped from her bed and stepped lightly around the various piles of shit on her floor with practiced, almost instinctive ease. She passed the standing mirror leaning up against the wall, and then leaned back, smirking at her lean, ferocious reflection. Yeah, some of it was from her being wolf, but most of it was from her unkempt hair.

LJ had a pretty face. Dark, piercing eyes like razors, a wicked smile when she wanted to. Best of all, after more than two years away from Colorado, hardly any trace of trailer trash remained.

You looked good. Scars well hidden, any of them in your mind kept carefully repressed and tended to. Not so many had gotten away as well as you had, especially not with the way things had been recently.

It'd been a helluva year in 2014. All the packs had been at each other's throats, like some sort of civil war that had afflicted Forsaken and Anshega alike while an Azlu infestation had grown unchecked near the lakeshore. Once the Skyfire might have been the ones to handle Hosts but they were a casualty of that conflict, originally exiled by Steelsmith, all smug in her ivory towers, for 'violations of Oath and Measure' or some bullshit. Rules rules rules, and all of them hypocritical, just one good reason among many to not be Forsaken...like you even needed a reason not to have joined the Pure.

At the least, the Slaughterhouse Five, who'd never been good neighbors, fucking loud-ass Suthar Anzuth throwing their weight around and 'tolerating your presence' as they put it, hadn't been able to stand against the combined forces of Anshega that had assaulted their territory like disciplined military units and took their heads as trophies, leaving a power vacuum in Washington Park and a place for thugs, vagrants, and Chicago's other night-terrors to move into.

A new mayor had been elected after the old one, Paton, had been charged with corruption - that meant he hadn't played the game right or something. Pissed off the wrong person. It was unusual that someone who was actually corrupt was charged with corruption. The city's three real governments, namely the three organized crime organizations who pulled the strings of the city's 'democratic' apparatus, had for once cooperated in making sure Mellanie Brastov now sat in City Hall. The East Bloc Syndicate had intimidated other candidates and pollsters, the Old Families from Sicily provided capital for an oil-slick campaign, and for their part the Four Corners Confederacy of gangs had made sure everyone voted for Mellanie who'd promised handouts for all who'd paid tribute to her in votes or campaign cash.

Dirty fuckin' American politics but who cares? They didn't bother you. Funding may have been stripped from the school, reducing the security personnel to nothing but a cadre of rent-a-cops, and kids may have had to pay more for tuition but those were human concerns. Fleshly matters, and you were so far beyond those.

You were Queen of the Campus. Mistress of the University.

The White Witch of Chicago U, the one you didn't cross ever although a few had gotten it in their heads to do so. Their fates weren't worth mentioning...

"[So. Today's gonna be a pretty exciting day, you know that?]" Pangur piped up, puffing out his white little chest and kneading at the translucent, Indian throw cloth covering your desk.

You could tell he wanted you to ask 'why'.

Lilith rolled her eyes slightly as she played along, drifting into her bathroom to get ready for whatever was in store. "...Why?"

"You find me a boyfriend?" she called out from inside, leaving the door open just a crack.

"Today I buy you an Xbox?" Lilith asked through a mouthful of toothbrush.

"[Hey what the hell! How'd you guess?!"] Pangur snapped irritably, hopping off your desk and walking insistently after you toward the bathroom, stopping and peeking his head slightly through the crack to glare at you indignantly. "[I mean, not the second part...]" he paused in consideration, clearly backtracking.

"PS4 would be better..." he muttered.

Lilith leaned against the sink, toothpaste foaming as she brushed. She paused with a frown, kicking gently in his direction with a bare foot to shoo him away. The young witch spat daintily as running water swirled down the sink. She shook her head before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

"Seriously, Panny? I'm not even over Ryder yet."

Case in point, she would probably never be over Ryder.

"[Oh come on, he's boring. I've read and watched lots and lots of TV yo, I know how you guys are - once you find some other dude to drool over and do weird meat things with, you'll totally forget all about that guy,]" he said offhandedly. Maybe a little insensitively, but he was still a spirit - things like romantic love, or at least that particular kind of connection, were things he probably couldn't comprehend. It was hard to remember sometimes that he'd once been utterly alien, not even a thing of matter really.

"[Besides, with this guy, I know you'll have a lot in common. Trust me.]"

He turned around and looked at you over his shoulder, little tail flicking like a lightning bolt. "[In fact, you two are so similar, it's almost-]"

That's when your cellphone began to ring.

Pangur grinned at you, all wide and toothy.

"[Better pick that up!]"

"Urgh! Dude, stop trying to set me up with guys, okay?" Lilith said with exasperation as she went towards the phone vibrating on top of the closed toilet lid. She tried to explain it in terms that he'd understand, a hand on her hip, cell in the other. "I'm like...Elsa, okay? Guys don't get me, and I don't get the guy. I get cool powers instead, sing a hit song, learn lots of life lessons, blah blah blah."

LJ frowned again, irked as she put the phone to her ear.

"Hello?"

"HI SWEETY!" came your mother's voice - always louder than necessary, nearly phone-blowout levels. You could hear the TV blabbing in the background, the sound of a beer can snapping open.

That combination of sounds...you could almost smell Steer Creek for a moment there.

"How's mah baby girl?" she asked enthusiastically, taking a long slurp. Saturday morning, already drinking...Typical White Family activity.

Pangur didn't look deflated at all, still grinning at you smugly. Like he was waiting for it.

Despite the painstaking lengths she'd gone to kill the Steer Creek twang out of her speech patterns, it always started creeping back when she talked with her mom. LJ couldn't say she missed the backwater shithole that she'd clawed her way out of, but despite all the fights they'd gotten into, she would always miss her mom. Lilith quirked her lip as she sat down on the covered toilet and cupped her cheeks on her elbows.

"Hi Momma."

"I'm okay, school's going really good."

"I'm sure it is miss straight A's!" your mom crowed, clearly someone in the room to impress.

"Straight A's?! That's how the girl does it!" You could hear your uncle Roy chuckle from nearby. Roy Gray was your mom's brother in law, and they'd become really good friends like everyone seemed to with your mom - her sister Margery always said, 'anyone who doesn't like your mother is just a natural son-of-a-bitch.

"Yeah your uncle's here, we got snowed in last night and I couldn't get the Jeep out so ol' Roy came over to shovel it up with Margery but we got a bit tuckered instead, hahahaaa~" she laughed. Ah your mom's laugh...Musically grating. Wonderfully familiar. Her happiness was an earnest sort - there didn't seem to be people like that here in Chicago.

"Oh, oh tell 'er! Tell 'er!" your uncle urged.

"Oh yeah! Hey, guess what!" your mom asked. Wanting you to guess of course. She never got just how open ended that question was.

Somebody was pregnant.

Or somebody got a new truck.

It was probably one or the other.

She smirked helplessly at how easy it was to visualize everything in that fucking dump of a house. Aunt Marlene probably hunched over the ancient TV set somewhere, Uncle Roy's 500 pounds of gristle and flab settling into his sofa and overalls - the clutter and desiccated mess that would put an episode of Hoarders to shame. Probably a dog poking around somewhere. Definitely someone's baby crawling around someone's ankles...

"What, Momma?"

"Your cousin Valentine Gray is transferring to Chicago U!" she announced excitedly.

Wow that was not expected. Valentine Gray - he hated that name, insisted on being called Valen - was someone you hadn't seen since you were 13 years old. A tubby, pasty little kid with platinum blonde hair and glasses that didn't quite fit his head, he'd miserably sat through family reunions without uttering a word. Just a year younger than you, yet he'd seemed more like three or four. Poor kid hadn't quite come off right.

"Yup!" Roy grunted - you could hear the couch creak precariously under him. "He's gonna make robots!"

Last you'd heard he'd gone somewhere in state, far from home, no surprise. Just another one of the far-flung, various branches of your widespread family. Oh god, people were gonna start with the fuckin' color jokes again...White and Gray, now you just needed a Black and you'd complete the monochromatic rainbow.

"Okay," LJ said, more flatly than she wanted. "I mean that's great."

Lilith had hoped that Chicago was far enough from Steer Creek that her only connection to that place would be a few phone calls a week. A living, breathing reminder of her Neanderthalic origins wasn't in the cards.

"Yup! He's gonna be so excited to stay with you!" Your mom crowed again.

WHAT.

"He's not staying with me, Momma." LJ said, this time a lot more firmly.

"He gets a dorm room like everybody else, okay?"

"Whaaaat? Oh come on don't be silly, he needs somewhere to put his head, and besides the dorm office said he was too late to get a room and they're all taken up!" She complained.

"Yup, kinda decided a bit suddenly, but I says to him he's got family to help!" You heard Roy grunt, like he'd somehow completely disregarded the 'he's not staying with me' part.

"I'm sure you can find him a room in the Art Palace or wherever it is you're hunkerin' down."

"Yeah, okay." Lilith said through her teeth, her words suddenly clipped. She wasn't happy about this at all.

"I gotta go now, Momma."

She could tell she'd put a big one on you, even if she wasn't acting like it.

"Okay, okay. Thanks honey, a lot. Love you sooooo much, please come home soon! Everyone wants to see you! Okay, bye bye, see you, love you, byeee!"

You were finally released.

Pangur was still grinning.

LJ leaned back against the toilet, sighing through her lips as she glared up at the ceiling. She raised a middle finger at the little eavesdropping asshole at the door as she closed her eyes.

If she had to, the witch would find some way to put him with a roommate, or in an apartment, or -something-. Just not with her. It wasn't just that LJ didn't want a constant reminder of the trailer park haunting her life here - Valen was in legitimate danger if he got too close to her, or any of her enemies found out that they shared blood.

"[Oh come ooon, you'll be happy to see him again. He's from the same descant as you LJ.]" He tipped his chin up proudly, walking over to the bedpost and leaping onto your mattress, settling in the pile of covers and sinking into his own chin and body like a lump of gleaming, cat-shaped putty, still watching you with attentive silver eyes.

"No, I won't," LJ snapped. "I have enough drama in my life without this shit," she complained, getting up off the toilet to edge the door shut with the heel of her foot. She didn't have time to babysit him or protect him from the darkness that neither he nor any other mortal could see. The less the witch cared about him, the less the evil that lived in this city would too.

Shower, makeup. Clothes.

LJ stepped out of the bathroom in her usual style, that phase she’d gone into back in the trailer park and never gotten out of. A loose-fitting white tank with a Victorian-style medical drawing of a heart, black sports bra underneath, skinny-fit jeans with a looped belt harness and girl boots. The witch pushed her arms into a ripped-up black jacket and pulled a beanie down over her head. She hadn't changed her style up much since Ryder - benign apathetic neglect in a refusal to reinvent herself and move on.
But maybe moving on meant more than just a different look.

Lilith drifted over to her desk to start up her sound system. She checked through her desk for a joint she’d forgotten to smoke last night while low, slow grunge filled the room. LJ lay on her back on her bed as she got high, ashtray on her stomach, watching the oily smoke drift upwards in fleeting, trailing patterns.

Morning medication. It helped keep the Rage at bay. Helped keep her thoughts from going too dark.

The smell of weed invariably invited Pangur, who was soon sitting patiently at your side, arms and legs folded up beneath him, awaiting his own hit. He could sense that you were bothered, frowning as if this was unexpected, maybe even a little peeved.

"[I don't get it. I thought you'd be happy to have someone you're similar to here in the campus. I feel kinda weird sometimes there's no other Lunim around...I mean like, you're all alone, without other Wolves. Don't you guys group up together?]"

LJ eventually handed the joint off to Pangur to take a hit. She folded her arms behind her head, exhaling a slow gust of smoke coiling upwards to the patchwork-poster sky. Her violet eyes were hard and painfully intense, features cold. Silence was her answer.

"I miss Ryder," she said pointlessly after a while.

He took the joint in both paws, putting it to his mouth and taking an inhalation that swelled him a little bit like a balloon. As his eyes become bloodshot, raising an eyebrow at your admission, he let the smoke slowly waft out of his little nose, rolling onto his back and tapping the joint on the edge of the tray.

"[You're lonely,]" he stated the obvious like a sage.

"[...Why don't you just go visit him?]"

It was kind of a conversation killer. They'd talked about this so many times that both of them knew the eventual outcome. LJ would get all teary eyed, or angry, or somehow emotional, Pangur would remind her how many times they'd broken up and gotten back together, then she'd get more emotional, or withdrawn, and round and round it went...

Lilith was quiet for a long time. She knew she wasn't being fun, and she hated that.

Pangur sat through it patiently for a while before taking another hit from the joint and giving you your space, jumping up to the window and looking outside, tail flicking side to side. Waiting for you to come out of your funk, knowing there was only so much he could do. These were things he just had a hard time understanding - you had to explain a lot of things when you tried to watch Friends or South Park, and he got them in the literary sense but not in terms of how it affected you in real life.

It was about 9:00 when your phone vibrated again, a number you weren't familiar with.

Lilith sat up against her bedframe, shaking out her white bladed locks slightly before answering.

"Yeah?"
A voice you weren't familiar with answered. Distant and disinterested, mid-range male's voice. "Yo. This Lilly-Jane?"

A slight twang that seemed distinctly native to Steer Creek, although it too was in the process of suppression. You could tell.

There was a pause, followed by a look of distaste. It was probably Cousin Valen. Cue Deliverance.

"It's LJ," Lilith corrected him gently, trying to at least be kind of nice.

"Yeah that's easier in't it," he said dryly. "Okay, LJ. You probly guessed who this is..." a yawn from the other end, the sound of a bus chugging along through the snow. "...but in case you didn't it's me. Valen."

He didn't sound like he was expecting much at least.

No fanfare. No 'heeeey good to hear from you!', none of that. He sounded a bit haggard really...probly'd taken the bus all the way here.

"If you want, I'll get you lunch or something," she offered, trying to keep the reluctance out of her tone. "And I'll find you a place to stay."

Not like she had anything better to do today.

"Uh...Actually, I was wonderin' if you could help me with something else. I got all that other stuff covered, didn't think it'd be fair botherin' you with it."

Oh.

"I'm sure daddy was all like 'a-hyuk they can just shack up together!' and like, yeah. Not happening."

Her mood lightened a little bit at that.

"Alright, what's up?"

"Nice, so like-"

He was interrupted by a low, gruff voice, informing him 'yo that's my seat'.

"One second LJ."

'Yeah well it's my seat now. Your bag can sit somewhere else.'

'Yo what the fuck man-'

The sound of something going 'FLICK', something metallic.

"Okay. Sorry about that. Yeah, I want you to help me with just a couple things...I wanna check out the Searle Chem-Lab first, and then I'm looking for someone who goes to school there."

"John Brodsky."

viskarenvisla: (Roll intelligence+streetwise+2)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


Yeah John Brodsky, junior year, tall and gorgeous and wholesome and pure with freckles across the bridge of his nose. Champion midweight boxer for Chicago University, well known and well loved. You knew he was doping up - you'd smelled it on him whenever you'd passed by. He could probably be found in the boxing gym at the Henry Crown Field House on the weekends, doing his usual thing: punching.

"Okay. So you want me to take you to the lab and you want to meet John?" LJ didn't really care about the why, but she was curious. Valen was shaping up to be a lot different than she had expected.

“Yep! That's about the size of it. After that like, you can do whatever it was you were doin'. I got plans of my own."

Weird. You could count on one hand the number of times Valen had actually talked to you, and every time he'd been real quiet and passive.

"Anyway I'll be there in about two hours. I'm gonna go my place first, then I can swing by and find you."

"I'll let you know where you can find me," LJ said quickly. She didn't want his scent or his Shadow footprint anywhere near the Art House. "Later."
 
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viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
She hung up and forced herself out of bed, crouching down in front of her fridge to transfer a couple of hot pockets into the microwave that sat on top.
Yeah, consumate hunter. Apex predator. I know.

She sat cross-legged in front of it, biting her thumbnail with a sharpened canine. Somehow all of this made her feel uneasy. Out of her comfort zone that was in a whole different world from Steer Creek.

Well, whatever. A couple of hours, a few smiles, lame reminiscing, introductions, and he was out of her life. Back to business as usual.

As the scent of rotating processed food filled her nostrils from behind the heated glass, part of LJ felt a strong urge to return to the Shadow. Things made better sense there. She was in better control. Feelings like this were coming more often and the witch grappled with the very disconcerting worry that she was becoming less and less connected to the Flesh.
Like Ryder, lame as it was - was it really that they just sucked together, or was it that LJ couldn't hold down a boyfriend anymore?

Parties like last night, they reaffirmed that LJ was more human than most of her kind, but still that nagging fucking feeling remained. Reminding her just how hard it was to live this life between worlds.

It was only on weed that you could enjoy this kind of chemical-filled, post-processed 21st century food. The meat was low quality, and that was really the only part of it that was even palatable - the rest you could get down. Hopefully if Valen decided he wanted lunch he'd be interested in Q-burger or something. Ryder had been almost vegetarian, supplementing his diet with enough fish to keep from becoming rail thin, even though there was a certain appeal that was still to be had to his slender body, not lacking in strength any.

It'd been a long time since you'd had someone to sleep next to you in your bed - Ryder had been the only one at Chicago U that had felt good and right, but the two of you...you just couldn't seem to hold it down, and despite being a dropout turned writer and musician, there was no shortage of women who'd be interested in him.

Pangur made a low, quiet whining soud as he picked up the tension in the room, his shoulders rolling in discomfort as he paced along the ground nearby as you ate. "[So what're we gonna do tonight anyway? Anything crazy?]"

LJ polished off the last of the store-bought starch before she scooped Pangur up in her arms.

"We're gonna play with the stinky kitty!" she grinned, chiding him mercilessly, roughhouse rubbing his flanks and gently smooshing his face into his rolls of fur.

"What GRK-" he was smothered as his face squished into his neck and chest, eyes squinting shut as he half-heartedly struggled but fell into a pleasant purring fit, hanging easily in your arms.

At least you'd always have Pangur, whom you'd stolen from the Lunar choirs somehow - the reason why he'd come to you in the first place had always remained a bit obscure, but you'd never been able to get rid of him either, and eventually he'd grown on you. Thus far your most loyal, most true friends have been spirits, like this one, or the eponymous Friend.

He'd been quiet lately.

You catch something on the TV screen.

The news is playing - Pangur always switched it on in the morning, part of his attempt to stay informed and connected to the 'Meatworld' as he put it - and saw a strange scene. A brick building, tenement structure by the looks of it, had been cordoned off by yellow hazard tape, helicopter-mounted camera zooming in to focus on men in Hazmat suits carrying out bodies on stretchers, covered by blood soaked white sheets.

'MYSTERY BUG KILLS 8'

LJ lay on her back, holding Pangur weightless to prance his little hindpaws on her stomach like he was walking upright.

"Da-dum, da-dum, I'm-gonna-take-a-walk..." she sang softly, then distractedly as her violet eyes trailed off to the TV.

The White Haired Witch saw the world differently than most. It'd started when she was a little girl, catching nightmarish glimpses of what she now knew was the Shadow. Now everything was filtered throught the darkness beneath and between. Mortals might have shrugged their shoulders at the explanations of talking heads. Immigrants carrying old plagues with new names across borders and into her city. Pandemics that were a flash in the pan of the media news machine and nothing more.

But LJ knew better. Instantly she thought Beshilu. Or Vamps. Or any number of things more sinister than any mortal could comprehend.

Thing was, only if it came to the University did it become her problem.

*** ***

You waited for about another hour before deigning to venture outside. Tracy Bartell greeted you as you went down the stairs, always cold because she thought tights were the same thing as pants. Malcolm Lee was busily at work on that shitty painting of his, the crappy details of the fruit lost in the gharishness of the color, yet there he was, wearing a fucking beret like he was Picasso reborn.

A text from Valen informed you he was getting close - you told him to meet up with you at Siggy's, sending him the address. Now was a matter of seeing how competent he was at finding his way.

Outside it was kind of eerie. The snow had covered everything up since last night, falling real heavy and blanketing all in white. Cars were stuck, hopelessly snowed in while some diligent owners in heavy coats tried to dig them out with shovels. It wasn't all that cold, maybe around freezing, but your breath was fogging up in front of you. Pangur inside of your sidebag peeked his little head out to gaze in wide eyed wonder as you strolled through your winter kingdom – he was invisible to all who couldn’t see spirits in Twilight thankfully.

The trees greeted you, branches bowing subtly as you went by - especially the Ash trees, which were almost obvious in their deference since you'd secured the sacred Heart Tree in the middle of the Quad. You were aware of tiny zephyrs within the wind flitting amidst the cold flurries of snow, whispering curiously to each other.

"[The white witch is out...]"

"[Spread the word, she walks, she walks amongst the snows!]"

Up South Ellis you walked, which had thankfully been plowed clear, although the sidewalks were still a mess. The great, looming brick structure of the Jones Laboratory seemed to spark and zip when you went past, as if mad scientific experiments were taking place within even though the building was closed on Saturdays. Same with the white, clean expanse of the Searle Chemical Laboratory - that sterile, featureless place where great art was made in your hands and that of your fellow students. The Workshop itself was often eager to see you, to see what pieces of earthly metals you'd feed it, creating trinkets and chiminage, and sometimes more, beauty that couldn't be achieved in the realms of the Flesh.

A car watched you go by, headlights seeming to follow you like eyes even though you were perfectly aware of the fact that the red Sedan did nothing but sit there underneath a big blanket of snow.

"[Psst...Pssst, hey!]"

"[Yeah you, White Witch! Get this offa me will ya?]" it whispered.

"[Yeah me too!]" hissed an SUV across from it. Of course only you could hear it, and when you were child if you'd piped up people thought you were either crazy or 'blessed by God to hear angels'.

LJ smiled as she walked confidently through her campus with an easy stalk. The cold didn't bother her - the jacket she wore didn't look like much aside from a punk fashion statement, but the inside was lined with some of the gossamer spider silk from the Library she’d patiently brought through the gauntlet, infused with the fabric to keep it from fading and keeping her body's temperature at a comfortable constant. It didn't do anything cool like turn aside claws or bullets, but the witch was working up to that. The air felt crisp and smelled pure and clean. Fall was her favorite, but there was something about being the White Witch in the dead of a beautiful winter.

Lilith paused to tilt her head at the spirit chatter, boots crunching to a stop near the two cars on the sidewalk. With a tug of her lip, she went to the red sedan and pushed off snow from the hood and windshield with her jacket sleeve, her long fingerless glove keeping the frozen stuff from going down her jacket. She cleared the other one in a similar fashion, just enough for them to breathe.

"[Your owners will be back soon to warm you up and take you for a ride,]" she reassured them under her breath.

"[If not,]" she smiled, "[I'll finish up on my way back.]"

They seemed to straighten a little, the weight that had been pushing them into the snow sliding off their shoulders. Imperceptible to all but you but they seemed more comfortable now, freed of their icy burden. Muttered growls of humble thanks, surprising since auto-spirits tended to be incredibly arrogant creatures.

After your journey crunching through the snow, mostly alone on your quest, you arrived at Siggy's. It really wasn't much, a palette storage shed that had been bought and reconfigured into a rough sort of bar. The name 'SI GY'S glimmered weakly in neon, the mixed scent of breakfast beer, omelets, and sausages frying on the grill reaching your nose. Somewhat more tantalizing than what you'd eaten but your body always longed for that red, bloody flesh that was hard to obtain here in the city.


All the more antagonizing being surrounded by the sweetest of meats, all of them utterly unaware of the true ruler, the apex predator in their midst. Not that you'd ever thought of eating a human before, right?

The inside of Siggy's sort of reminded you of a cross between a medieval peasant's tavern and a modern American diner - shoddy wood and low lighting, a fiberglass bartop where a few students nursed the hair of the dog that bit 'em and plates of breakfast to dull hangovers. Coffee was being served as well. Typical American morning scents.

Your table had been waiting for you, in the corner where it was most comfortable for your Uratha senses, where you had a view of the whole place. The heavy wooden, cheap looking thing had been ruthlessly carved into during its short tenure of service:

'TAMMY AND SCOTT 4EVER'

'420BLAZEITYOLO'

'MANDY CARSTON SUCKS A MEAN DICK'

The bartender, Peter Willow, a graduate from 2012 who'd never gone anywhere, greeted you with a stern nod. A Happa whose rich tycoon father had distanced himself from the dreadlocked and bearded 26 year old, he fixed you up a mug of breakfast beer, which drew a glance of excitement from Pangur.

LJ ordered an omelet, mostly for Pangur to pick at while no one was looking. She took out her sketchbook and put in her earphones, letting the music take her away while she started drawing out the world that no one saw but her - the Shadowscape, the denizens that inhabited it, and eventually the golems that she'd thought about building for such a long time. Still just dreams really.

She smiled as she drew herself crouching on one of the giant's shoulders, showing it how to spin a pinwheel between its massive, deadly gauntlet fingers, repurposed for something innocent.

About fifteen minutes passed before you sensed him.

As Pangur was sneaking bites of your omelet from under the table on your lap, eating with little feline smacking sounds and suppressing burps, he stopped and peeked up, narrowing his eyes at the man walking toward you.

He was of middling height - not notably tall, not notably short. His gait was easy and smooth, like someone who was always taking his time with where he was going, but was extremely focused on the goal, which in this case was you.

What stood out most was just how much Valen Gray looked like you. Same sharp eyes, same nose...Hell he even had those shoulders of yours, even though his were a bit broader, more built. He was also really in shape, like all the babyfat had melted away. Your cousin's eyes gazed at you with distance, like there was a thousand miles between you no matter how close he got - that's right, they were really, really gray. Almost silver.

He was underdressed for the weather, kind of like you, but it looked like it'd been affecting him a bit more. Tired from his long journey, skin pale from the cold and hauling around that big black Adidas duffel bag, he stopped in front of the table, looking down and cocking his head curiously, an unlit cigarette between his lips - Willow hadn't called him on it yet, might not even do so since he clearly seemed to know you.

Under his dark green, military green outerjacket, hood lined with fur and a gray inner lining like a hoody underneath, you could see the hints of a tattoo on his shoulder, a Mexican style, voodoo lookin' skull wreathed in curling black vines, biting down on a burning dagger with a grin. Add to that the platinum blonde hair that was so light it was almost silvery white...Man your cousin had changed.

"Lilly..." he caught himself. "LJ, right?" that same distant, disinterested tone as he dropped his duffel bag heavily to the floor, not yet inviting himself to sit down.

LJ barely looked up when he entered Siggy's, slivers of sharp violet intimidating and even a little otherworldly without much effort trying. They softened to mortal intensity as he approached. He was a lot different than the fat kid she'd known back in Steer Creek. It looked like he'd been through a hell of his own to get this way, though she had to admit inwardly that it was an improvement. Valentine would probably break a lot of hearts around campus - though it looked like if he wanted to he could break a lot more.

She smiled up at him thinly, polite enough to drop the headphones down around her neck. She didn't comment on how much he'd changed. It'd just make shit even more awkward.

"Mhm. You found me."

"You gonna sit?"

"Sure," he said, pulling out a chair easily enough and settling down heavily, shrugging his jacket off his shoulders and leaning back in the chair, running a hand over his face. "Damn...I didn't realize this place was such a long haul." He suppressed a yawn, rubbing his eyes and folding his hands, looking at you from a thousand miles away, taking you in for a bit.

An awkward silence, as he seemed like he wasn't quite sure what to say.

"So uh..."

LJ tried her best to be patient, holding her tongue against the inside of her cheek.

"Why'd you want to come to Chicago?"

The way she said it wasn't hostile, but it was pretty direct.

Your question may have caught him a little bit off guard.

He cleared his throat and sat back. He didn't ask for a beer, or anything to eat, just irreverently sparked his cigarette, taking a long drag and letting it float around his head for a bit.

"Got a few reasons I guess," he admitted noncommittally.

"One of 'em is probably pretty similar to you...Get the fuck outta Colorado and far away from them." A note of hostility finally, definitely aimed toward his family. You could see why. When you'd first left there had been some hard feelings.

He tapped the smoke on an ash tray - Willow looked like he wanted to say something but you two together kinda put him in a bit of a spot so he remained where he was, letting your cousin continue. "This place also has a mechanical engineering program I wanted to do, and it was one of the only ones that'd accept credits from Denver Community."

Ah. Of course. No way he'd be able to afford getting into Chicago U as a froshy.

"I'm not here to bother you. Like, I honestly forgot you go here until my dad mentioned something."

He seemed like he'd picked up pretty quick.

LJ appreciated that. It won him a softened smile from across the table. As she watched him, she could tell that Valen was on edge. She doubted it was the wolf in her - she'd gotten better than anyone at suppressing it. He was completely out of his element, new town, new school - or maybe it was something else.

"Whatever," Lilith said reassuringly. "I'm fine playing welcoming committee."

"If you need something, just give me a call. I'm usually around."

God, this was awkward.

Pangur looked uncomfortable on your lap, cringing slightly at the situation.

“Yeah uh, nothin' personal or nothin' cousin, but I don't really expect anything," he said flatly, suddenly sneezing into his forearm, sniffling and gathering himself. "I mean, it'd be nice if you could show me where this John Brodsky jokester is, and maybe show me the ChemLab. I heard the metal workshop here is pretty spot on and I gotta get a look at it, see if it's fit." He took another draw of his cigarette, gazing at you very directly.

"After that I doubt we'll really talk to each other."

Ah yeah. You could see it. The tightness of the family, how incredibly up in everyone else's business they'd been, it'd probably really turned him off to the idea of connection. He scratched idly at his upper arm - a scent of blood underneath.

"So why don't we just do this? I got someone waitin' on me to let me claim their couch."

"Whatever," LJ said, dismissively this time. She was the one doing him a favor - two of them actually. "You don't have to be all rude about it."

Lilith reached into her jacket and left a couple of bills on the table for Willow as she got up, giving time for Pangur to slide off and into her pack.

"We'll go to the lab first and I'll see what John is up to. Then we go on with our little lives."

He didn't seem phased by you calling him rude, shrugging with the same dismissiveness. "Sounds good to me." He tapped his cigarette once and set it to smoking, picking up his duffel bag and yawning again. Guy looked like he hadn't slept in about a day, sniffling and wiping his nose. "Jesus...They got a cat in here or somethin'?" he complained, sneezing against into his sleeve as he walked toward the exit.

Within your bag Pangur peered out at you apologetically. "[Wow, didn't know he was a jerk. Sorry.]"

Lilith led him out the door, keeping her pace brisk enough that there wasn't much room for conversation, just keeping up. As they went back out into the cold, LJ called Jenna Parker, hoping that she could get to John as quickly as possible. The faster she could ditch her cousin, the better.

Jenna informed you that John was working out in the Field House, no surprise there. Probably already all 'roided up anyway. First thing first though was the lab.

Valen walked behind you, not a single word spoken as he played idly with his phone and chainsmoked. It wasn't far anyway, and when you were outside he threw out his cig and crossed his arms, suppressing another yawn.

"You graduatin' soon? Heard you're a senior," he said idly.

A hand ran through his platinum colored hair, glancing around with what amounted with quiet paranoia.

"Yes, this is my last year," LJ deadpanned as she stopped at the laboratory building's locked side entrance. The witch went through the ring of keys she kept for university doors on both sides of the Gauntlet, doors that were secret and ordinary. The key went in with a click of tumblers and unlocked with a turn. "Everyone's off today but since I'm staff I can give you the tour."
She gave him strange, questioning look before going inside. "Don't touch anything."

"Wait you're staff here?" He asked, for the first time showing interested in you, eyes gazing with intent at the keys you were holding. Now he seemed to be betraying some energy. "So that means you can just waltz into this place whenever you want? Use whatever you want? Why?"

LJ pressed her palm up against the pair of light switches on the coridoor wall, sending the flourescents flickering to life above. She glared at him quietly, unable to completely hold back her feral annoyance.

"I assistant teach," she explained, jamming the keys back into her pocket. "And no, I can't just come in here whenever I want or do anything I want."

Both not really true.

Again he didn't seem bothered by your annoyance but when he thought you weren't looking he appeared regretful, like he shouldn't have said what he did back at Willow's but it was too late. Instead he just slid past you into the hallway, looking around with interest until you came to the main Workshop.

"Wow." He dropped his duffel bag and walked with measured care in, a look of almost childlike wonder coming over his face as he gazed at the wide room, filled with drills, benches, an anvil, lathes, a smelting iron...pretty much everything people would need to work with metal.

"Woooow...I'll be damned ya'll have a Jet BD-920W!" Valen said with quiet awe as he approached the lathe, not touching it but looking at the expensive, shiny, well kept parts with fascination. "Oh and this here's a Jackson 4-12BZ!"

He seemed to come to life in the shop.

LJ let him look around while she leaned her slender back up against the wall, folding her arms over her chest.

Valen stopped and pulled up a chair, sitting in front of where someone had been doing some soldering, gazing at the little metal box that was sitting there, the hinges being worked on. "Hah, amateur..." he chuckled, smiling excitedly, greedily as he leaned over it. "They used a roll-hinge where they coulda just hook-pinned the damn thing..."

"Yo, so you're into this?" he asked finally.

It was hard not to at least be a little affected by the kid's enthusiasm for the shop. Her lip tugged some at the question. "Yeah, you could say that. I'm in all the advanced courses and I help teach the other ones."

"Oh yeah, Iron Man over there, he's one of mine."

She nodded her head at the exoskeleton that looked part medieval, part futuristic, in varying stages of assembly up against the wall.

LJ doubted he would know shit about it. The thing was a possibility for her senior thesis, but more than anything, it was a way for her to experiment on new ideas for her real project, the Shadow guardians.

His eyes widened.

Valen stood up from the chair and walked immediately over to the piece of work you'd pointed out. His hands hung limply at his sides as he gazed up at it, analyzing every bit of work that had gone into it. You could see his lips moving as he bent down and looked at a hand whose production was demonstrated and explained in little pictures and word bubbles - the articulation of the joints seemed to be what really drew his attention. He held his own hand up next to it, bending a finger joint, as if to confirm that the pin-work you'd done gave all the same motion as a human hand.

He walked along its various stages of progress, never touching it, but getting awful close as he bent down, crouching on his heels to see how you'd attached the hip joints.

"You made this actuator yourself didn't you," he pointed out, moving a finger lightly along the rotator cuff that would have allowed the machine to rotate at the hips like a human.

"Don't touch."

"The femur too, and these...What're these, these cables here, you tryin' to imitate ligiments?"

"Touching..."

He pulled a finger away obediently.

He was still real close though, walking around the other side.

"Most of it is just trying shit out," LJ said. "Half of it doesn't work and like, never will. But I'm learning a lot."

He seemed like he wasn't hearing you, just standing there in front of the finished product in quiet awe.

You could tell he wanted to touch it, to take it apart and put it back together.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and just cocked his head to the side, circling your exoskeleton, ambition gleaming in his silvery eyes.

"I'm not the only one who didn't belong in Steer Creek," LJ allowed herself a smile at the observation.

Valen veered away from the iron skeletons, seemingly satisfied, his interest slipping away back beneath the outer shield of apathy he'd donned when you mentioned Steer Creek...or maybe that was just how he was. A guy who didn't really care for much. "Okay. That's pretty cool. The equipment looks nice and up to date. A lot better than at Oakes..." a sickly expression came over his face as he stood near the entrance, waiting for you patiently. He had more to say it seemed.

You could hear whispers scratching at the Gauntlet - you always drew attention where you went on campus, always brought a small audience in the Hisil if you closed an eye and looked. No doubt the four-armed, slope-shouldered, pot-bellied reflection of the workshop itself, as if one of the city's strange dun spirits had donned Mr. Garvey's features and absurd little ginger soul patch. "[Get a load o' that one...Looks just like her he does,]" he grunted, a hiss of red-hot metal plunged into cold water overlaying his words.

"[Did she spawn another one of herself?]" came a lighter voice, whispering through the air.

"[Nay wolves don't appear that way, it's truly disgusting how they do it-]"

"[Can't say I really like the one following 'im...]"

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+composure-1)
Mr Shopping: (2)

At that you discreetly close an eye and reopen it, a slightly silvery cataract forming over your pupil, turned away so that Valen wouldn't see it.

The workshop is quite different in the Hisil - there is a bubbling pool of molten metal not one story beneath, a metal grate suspended above it forged of coldrolled-shadowsteel to keep from overheating and burning the feet of those who treat through it. Where the lathe sits in the Flesh there is a massive, enlongated anvil, chains and hooks hanging above, suspended with creations in the works - strange, semi-organic weapons of war, what appears to be some sort of massive engine taking shape...one of the Diligence reflections, a short and stocky, red-fleshed creature wearing an iron grill over his face and a leather apron over its rotund body is busily hammer at a small bundle wires and cables, strange electrodes that look as if they should be smashed to pieces by the hammer strikes but instead glow red and take shape, surrounding them in some unknowable technical design.

The blast furnace, one of the large features of the workshop, is being worked by Tediumites, pinch-featured, soot-covered, skinny things with swollen belies that shovel coal into the mouth of the massive, cone-shaped furnace while Garvey's workshop's reflection, wearing a blastmask of plate glass over its pinch-featured face, plunges the head of a massive spear into its fires, glowing white hot.

Three of the Workshop's assistants, tall, dun and soot skinned, four armed creatures, about six and a half feet tall and thinner, shorter than the Workshop, are gazing directly at your cousin, frowning and whispering amongst each other.

You don't see anything that appears out of place in the Hisil reflection of this place.
 
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viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
The White Haired Witch rolled her head slightly off to one side, eyes hidden in the shadow of her bone-colored bangs. Her lips pursed into a wry line as she gave the Shadow a surreptitious sideways glance, one violet eye squinting lightly while the other went pale. LJ inclined her head slightly at the spirit denizens, a measure of respect for them and their workshop from the campus' alpha female - a guardian to some, queen to others. The place's apex predator to those who didn't agree.

Lilith rubbed the Hisil out of her eye on a shoulder before she turned back to her cousin. She left her repose from the wall with an unhurried push, stalking to the door and killing the lights to the shop on her way out.

Valen's weirdness was starting to get on her nerves. She gave him a cold look before she started back down the corridor to the side entrance they'd come in from. The young wolf pushed her hands into her jacket pockets and let her pace speak for her - she didn't have time for bullshit.

"Let's go meet your friend."

"He ain't my friend," Valen said easily enough, following you along. His eyes caught a reflection of wintery light from outside, gleaming silvery and metallic in the dark when you clicked the lights off, a look of intense focus and motivation visible only briefly before he fell in behind you, final as that. He cracked his knuckles, carefully, one at a time, ignoring your cold look, simply following along. Perhaps he knew how you felt about him, about his ambitions. Hard to say. He didn't seem stupid but he seemed awfully detached.

Walking back out into the snowy cold, Valen bent down to take two big handfuls of snow, starting to carefully compact them together into a snowball as he followed behind you.

"I'm looking forward to trying out that lathe. The blast furnace too," he said off-handedly.

"You can join Shop Club if you're really into it," LJ offered from over her shoulder, though her tone wasn't as friendly as before. "Garvey's got this thing going on after classes. Who knows, you might even make some new friends..."

Lilith's boots crackled lightly through the snow as she shifted the weight of her side pack. She could barely remember how Valentine was back when he was twelve, and he was almost a stranger now. In a way, it hurt, but she coached herself on the way that this was probably for the best. Spirits were already taking notice of him, and the less she seemed to care about the guy, the better.

"I'm already signed up for Metalworking 204 and Components Smelting," he said offhandedly, packing the snow into a tight ball and tossing it idly between his hands, falling in at your side and glancing upward at the cloudy sky, yawning lazily. He put his hands behind his head and looked up at the sky with this dreamy expression that kind of reminded you a little of your mom, when she'd talk about things she coulda woulda shoulda done. Usually she was drunk but he was pretty sober looking despite his obvious exhaustion.

"The prereqs are so annoying...I already did Metal 204 but for some reason they're not transferring that specific credit," he finally complained, showing a hint of spite. "Not that it matters. I'm gonna get the Riggs Prize this year." Oh ho! How ambitious we are! The Riggs Prize was usually awarded to seniors in the sculpting and metalworking sectors of the campus, a prestigious award with a pretty fat grant attached to it.

You'd never heard of a sophomore getting it.

A dark brow raised up under the lip of her beanie. Kay. Huh. Well, at least that kind of confidence and ambition proved that they actually shared some DNA after all. LJ though, she didn't talk big and make declarative statements like that - she just did it.

"So, like, what's your thing, then?"

A glance at you from the side, as if he didn't quite understand what you were saying, furrowing his slender, pretty brows.

"Huh? Like, what do I wanna do here?"

"No," LJ said, not looking back. "Your -thing-. What are you good at, besides talking a good game and being really emo?"

He stopped when you said that, eyes widening slightly.

Looked a little hurt, but pushed it aside, dropping the snowball and shoving his hands in his pockets, looking stonily ahead. "Doesn't matter," he answered coldly, following behind you. "You'll see for yourself and decide if it's any good."

The implication being 'you will', of course.

"Mine's welding," LJ said, not missing a beat. "Shaping. Coming up with crazy shit. Sometimes it's art, sometimes it has a point. Sometimes it's shit - and sometimes it rocks."

"I know," he said calmly. "Your mom talked about it a lot."

"So what's your thing, man?" LJ asked again, a little bit of enthusiasm creeping back into her voice, finally turning to look back with a sliver of an encouraging smile.

viskarenvisla: (Hmm. Presence+Persuasion+1)
Mr. Shopping: (2))


He gazed back at you without enthusiasm, cooled off clearly, but that hint of a smile was infectious - you could feel Pangur shifting within your bag, pressing his ear up against the side to listen. Valen took a moment to consider the question as he unzipped a sidebag on his duffel, withdrawing a green apple in a plastic bag that he withdrew - it had been carefully separated into slices, one of which he withdrew and took a bite from, offering the other parts of the fruit to you, gazing ahead.

Blech.

"Well, I kinda got like, a couple things goin’ I guess," he said hesitantly. Reserved, like he thought you might think it was stupid.

"I really like robots," Valen stated bluntly. "I just think they're really super cool, and I want to make them, that's like the bottom line. Thing is I like things to look good and be beautiful - why should we look at ugly crap all day?" he asked, finally seeming to get into it now that he was talking about his ambitions.

LJ accepted the peace offering with that same errant smile, taking a slice between her fingers and taking a bite. Fruit was sweet but ultimately unsatisfying, as was most food to her kind, apparently. Just raw meat, bloody and hot on your lips. The White Witch didn't partake much - only when she went hunting did prey ever get between her jaws, but instinct was a visceral thing.

You saw shit. Felt it. Wanted it. You lived it in your dreams.

Part of the life. Part of the curse. Part and partial. She'd come to terms with that in her own fucked-up kind of way.

When Valen wasn't looking, she carefully lowered the rest of the apple into her bag for Pangur.

Lilith let him talk, smiling at the surprising irony. Yeah, the ones she was planning on waking weren't robots or anything. They were more like golems. Giants. Terror-machines with hearts of gold. But it gave the White Witch some admiration for the kid. In a weird way they weren't too different after all.

"Momma said something about that."

He nodded wryly, taking another delicate bite of apple, turning it over in his fingers and considering it, nibbling at the edge and removing the skin that he seemed to savor before the flesh. A creature of his senses, this one, flippantly casting the whole slice in his mouth before looking at you dryly. "Aunt Patty talks about like, three things. The dogs, the neighbors and their bullshit, and you. A lot about you. She says you're an inventor, you're a metallurgist, you're a smith like your great great grandpappy, I bet you've heard about grandpappy Walter and his great big hammer."

He didn't laugh out loud but his eyes did the laughing for him as he slid a hand in his pocket.

Pangur was distracted as he munched away at the apple, little eyes gleaming ferally.

LJ rolled her intense, otherworldly violet eyes off to the left before she started down the street again. "Anybody who leaves Steer Creek is big news to them."

Bitterness there. Just a little bit in her voice.

"I know..." he said with clear disdain in his voice, clearly pleased to be out of there, although he gave you a wary glance. Like you still might have had the taint of Steer Creek about you.

"Okay. So what's your thing then really? I wanna hear it straight from your mouth, none of the embellishments."

Black Magic. Shadow Arts. Hisil secrets. Power. Forgotten lore.

The good stuff.

The White Witch shrugged her shoulders, coying it up as she walked ahead of him. She chuckled as she put her hands on her hips.

"The riddles of steel. Mysteries of the universe and all that."

LJ grinned. "I like chill guitar. Trashy TV. Good weed."

"That's my thing."

You heard him laugh behind, clapping his hands twice. "Riddles of steel and mysteries of the universe? Which show is that from?" Valen chuckled into his forearm, a puff of steam exuded against the fabric, gaining control of himself quickly and clearing his throat.

"C'mon, seriously."
"What's your thing?" he prodded, sounding curious about the mystery you presented, catching up to you and looking your way insistently.

Lycanthropy, among other things.

"Get that Riggs Prize," LJ said with a pleasant curve of her lip, "and maybe you'll find out."

He sighed and gave a long, exaggerated roll of his eyes, of his neck at the mysterious nature of your answer. "Alright I'm holding you to that." You knew that Valen was actually interested though...he wouldn't have asked twice if he wasn't, didn't seem like that kind of dude. Maybe a little too smart for his own good, but obviously someone who had some pretty lofty dreams...for a mortal, anyway. Who could blame them though? This immutable, static world was all they'd ever know.

The two of you continued without much speech between you as the world began to wake up a little bit on a Saturday morning. More cars were rolling up and down South Ellis Avenue and the sun was starting to peek through the heavy cloud cover in a few places, even as flurries of snow continued to fall. Your cousin was deeply absorbed in his phone, holding it close to his face and narrowing his eyes, clearly caught up in something as he followed you.

In your bag, almost simultaneously, you felt your cellphone buzz as it received a text message, and Pangur stir, peeking at you with big silver eyes from the confines of the bag. "[Yo LJ. Herald's got stuff to tell you when you got a moment - the Mandarins are in an uproar for some reason.]"

They were always in an uproar for some reason. Despite the infinitely mutable nature of the Hisil, the Mandarins feared change. Anytime something different came along, or something happened that was just a little beyond their sphere of influence or experience, they lost their shit and made a big fucking deal about it.

She'd learned to pay attention though. The White-Haired-Witch had eyes everywhere, and the Mandarins often became their voice. Most of the time, it could be fixed with a few words. Or it took Git and Gatt. But sometimes, it was serious enough that LJ had to go out on the hunt and fix it herself.

Reminded her of the campus serial killer she'd dealt with months ago. That one had been careful; a visiting photography professor who liked to drug his female students and take them to his dungeon to photograph them at the point of death. Motherfucker covered his tracks so well that the police would never have caught on - but LJ had. It'd started like this - quiet ripples in the Shadow that had led her along a dark and winding path that ended with her running him down in the woods on the outskirts of town.

Lilith never enjoyed killing, but tearing him apart had felt good.

The White Witch doubted that this one would be about another serial killer, or a rampaging giant magath, or a schism in the Gauntlet - those were few and far between - but she'd answer the call nonetheless. LJ tousled Pangur's little feline head before she groped for her phone and checked the text as she stepped lightly through the snow.

Ah yes, it's Trisha of course.

You can practically hear her voice crackling and dry, familiar note of complaint running through it even through her texts. 'duuuuuude im so hungover lj, can u plz bring some magic curativez'

Good thing you'd taken care of that photography professor - he'd been getting closer to your strong jawed, bright eyed, energetic friend who'd deigned to take a photography class as part of her major, land surveying or something. Something having to do with buildings, typical of the kind of friends you kept to. Trisha had a good bullshit detector one, strong woman's intuition and something of a fearless streak. All excellent traits for a wolf-blooded ally, and better than that, she was fun. She could dispel bad moods, and she didn't let herself get down easily like Shay who had typical dancer's pathos.

Humans. You'd been one once, but your time in the Hisil had changed you so much, along with this exquisite, terrifying Curse that had redefined your existence. Despite the immutability of the world of flesh, humans were far more unpredictable and prone to sudden shifts than spirits. Friend would always be Friend - Pangur had changed drastically but he was still quite true to his core nature, his behaviors much as they always were, simply refined and 'felinized'. A person could totally transform themselves though, and Trisha was one of those people who'd come from almost as much nothing as you, inner city in her case, with none of your family's love, and overcome it.

Too bad she could be such a lusher on the weekends.

You noticed that your cousin had put away his phone, removed a ring from his hand, and was carefully taping his wrists, trying to be surreptitious about it.

LJ smirked under her bladed white bangs as her fingers danced over the touchscreen of her smartphone.

'Dun worry sista! Dr white, medicine woman is otw'

Send.

She paused, then sent off another one.

'better not be any naked guyz in there. or girls'

You received a response shortly after: 'no such luck, bring me 1 of each plz~'

LJ tucked her phone into her jacket pocket and chuckled little gusts of fog into the freezing morning air. Her sharp violet eyes took momentary notice of Valen wrapping up his wrists.

"Please tell me I'm not bringing you to beat this guy up," Lilith sighed in a monotone.

Valen's eyes flickered behind him, a little frown pulling at the corner of his lips. He didn't like your monotone, especially didn't like that he'd been discovered - must have been used to pulling the wool over the eyes of your less than perceptive fellow Steer Creekers. He simply turned his eyes forward casually and continued to wrap over the backs of his hands. "It's just a precaution. Johnny's a doper. Those kinds of dudes can get a bit overconfident, but I'm not gonna try and start a fight with him or anything," your cousin replied.

She gave him an incredulous look, purple eyes darkened but glinting from under the shadow of her bangs. "Whatever. You want to get suspended on your first day, be my guest," LJ said evenly. The witch was not going to help him out of whatever bullshit he'd gotten himself into.

First impressions were overrated anyway, right?

"I won't get suspended," he deadpanned with a sigh.

"You're kind of a pessimist aren't you," your cousin muttered, giving you something of a serpentine glance as he finished taping up his wrists, felt for something in his coat pocket, and slipping them under his sleeves.

LJ wouldn't even look at him. This type of bullshit was Steer Creek right here, downing a few beers and letting your fists do the talking when you had a problem with someone. She'd expected more from Valen than wanting to start shit even before he'd moved into his dorm.

"Considering you've been here for less than an hour, you won't even tell me what your deal with this guy is, and you're getting ready for a fight?"

"Yeah, maybe."

Valen stopped with a sigh from his nostrils, tapping his foot quietly.

Like he was debating if he should tell you or not.

He sucked in through his teeth and just continued onward, popping out a tin of mints - Altoids, the powerful kind - and biting down on one, offering the tin your direction while looking ahead. "Okay. Here's what's going on," Valen said with an aspish frown as he fell in beside you. "This guy owes me money. Like, enough to cover my rent for the year - that's what I'd been banking on in order to stay here, but he stopped responding to me, won't answer my calls and stuff."

"So, I'm gonna go and try to work it out, see if he can at least give me enough so that I don't have to like, overstay my welcome, scramble for a job, and try to do classes at the same time. Like I said, he's a doper, he might try to take a swing at me."

Valen shrugged, like he didn't have anything to apologize for.

Lilith just kept walking, her gait an easy stalk. She looked at Valen with only a skeptical, sidelong glance, hands warming in her jacket pockets.

"What does he owe you for, Valen?" LJ pressed. It was a lot of money, and that really only meant a couple of things. The answer was going to mean a lot for her rapidly-forming opinion of Valentine - whether or not he was a lot like her or just a piece of Steer Creek shit.

Her eyes were on him now, harsh and hard.

"Not drugs if that's what you're implying," Valen said dryly, unphased by the way you were staring at him, his turn to avert his gaze from you as he shifted his bag on his body, suppressing a yawn with his forearm as he slid his mints back into his pocket, clicking the lid shut. "To help get the money together to come here, I had a cash lending service that I did on the DL at Denver Community College. Johnny here transferred before paying me back what he owed me."

"I had to work for a bit legitimately to make all the money I needed after he hightailed." He seems to gloss over that quickest, like it's the legitimate work part that he really didn't wanna talk about. "So. Here I am. I suspect he has enough to pay me back and then some."

He doesn't like this. He feels embarrassed. You can see it in the way his jaw tightens, how he reaches for another cigarette, but to him it's a necessity to pursue his ambitions.

LJ accepted that, for the most part. Her intense violet eyes softened as she looked back to the snow-covered campus ahead. She nodded, but didn't give any further indication of her feelings. Moneylending. That was kind of enterprising. Not really the kind of thing that college kids normally did. And if you were from Steer Creek? If you couldn't get a free ride like LJ had, shaking down the relations wasn't an option - the branches of that money tree would always be bare. So it was student loans, drugs, or whatever Valen had been up to.

The White Witch could easily help him get his money back. She could also come up with it herself, or call in some favors with her friends on the Other Side to change the information in the university's financial system. Boop. Paid in full. Or she could go Wolf on Johnny doper and put the fear of the darkness in him.

But she wasn't going to do any of that. Valen was his own person and it was his life. Being the White-Haired-Witch didn't mean she needed to help solve everyone's problems. It meant making this place one where people could take care of themselves.

He gauged your reaction, watching you sidelong, expecting you to say something nasty or critical - he'd probably gotten used to that kind of whipping. When you were at the bottom of the totem pole in human society you got kicked left and right. Worse if you were at the bottom of Werewolf society like the Ratcatchers, little Urdaga punks up in Chinatown. When he saw no response was forthcoming he just turned his gaze forward and continued on.

You arrived at the front of the Field House - the Royal Crown was a pretty damn big structure, as might be expected for a place where high jumping, track, and other Olympic sports were practiced. Internal facilities had all the workout stuff you could need, benches and weights, a place to train calisthenics, and of course a nationally famous boxing ring. Of course, today being Saturday there were plenty of kids in the gym. You passed inside the lobby, a dark, typically administratively depressing room with a glass-fronted desk behind which a petite, big eyed girl from the Physics department wearing Chicago U sweats was doing her homework. The big glass door directly in front of you led outside to the track, over which the roof had been closed to protect it from snowfall. Looked like they were playing soccer.

The petite girl at the desk pointed you toward the stairs going down where you heard Metallica playing - typical boxer leadhead music. It stank strongly of sweat, chlorine, gatorade and cleaning supplies. Down a short hallway, locker rooms on either side, until you came into a blue-matted room with two boxing rings. Heavy bags were hung along one wall, and about ten people were here working. At one of the bags was John Brodsky. Shit that guy was fucking big.

He had that sort of...slightly inbred look you could catch in Steer Creek sometimes, although the squished shape of his nose, squinting eyes, and block-like head with its ruff of brown curls were all more distinctive of Tobersville about twenty miles West of the Creek. He was wearing a blue jersey, sleeveless, black stripes over it, boxing gloves over his hands, hugely defined muscles bulging as he slammed left and right hooks into the hanging bag while an equally buff, thickset Latino guy with a thin little moustache, hair shaved down to his scalp held it. "Harder boy, harder!" he encouraged. John slammed the bag hard enough to almost knock him off, laughing and taking a gulp from a yellow bottle of sports drink.

Valen's eyes narrowed to slits, and he let out a hissing from the corner of his mouth, setting his bag down and clearing his throat as he approached, not looking back at you. He cleared his throat once, twice when he didn't get the guy's attention. "John," he said evenly, pushing his hood back, platinum blonde hair catching the light.

Brodsky stopped punching and turned to look at the approaching sophomore. Momentary lack of recognition before an ugly frown came across his face, sighing and rolling his eyes, hand against the bag. "What are you doing here man?" the boxer grunted, gazing down at him like an Ogre upon a stringy peasant.

"I transferred here too. That's not important though," Valen said sharply. "You owe me upwards of ten grand-"

"I don't owe you anything," John chuckled, turning back to punching the bag casually. Valen stared quietly for a bit before opening his duffel bag, withdrawing a plastic envelope and holding it before him.

"I have the agreement you signed and fingerprinted here. With all the interest you owe me $10,450. Come on dude, I need it to get a place to stay."

John just continued to punch the bag, ignoring Valen, acting like he wasn't there. Your cousin's shoulders slumped, seeing he wasn't really getting anywhere. "Look. Can you at least give me some of it? I don't want to crash on someone's couch."

"Sorry dude, don't got it on me," the boxer grunted, his partner unusually quiet as he watched.

"So we'll go to an ATM and you can withdraw-"

John Brodsky turned and shoved Valen roughly by the shoulders, sending him stumbling back. "I can't believe you followed me all the way from Colorado you fucking faggot." Valen tried to regain his balance but was shoved again despite his protests. "You're not official, you're not legal, I don't owe you shit, and you can't do anything. So piss off before I fuck you up."

Lilith leaned her back up against a wall, keeping a comfortable distance with her arms folded over her chest. Her sharp violet eyes watched in an easy, predatory silence. Her nose crinkled at the heavy, stale scent of male sweat and undertones of body odor. She could hear each and every one of their heartbeats thundering in their chests, even blood pumping through their veins. Usually that took focus, but with all that effort and muscle being thrown around, she could pick it up even in Hishu.

As LJ watched with detached interest, she realized that one of two things was about to happen - Valen would either kick this thug's ass or would get the shit beat out of him. If It was the former, color her impressed. The latter? She'd probably make sure that Brodsky paid for it later.

Valen straightened himself out as the rest of the guys in the boxing gym watched, sneering and laughing at this intruder on their tribal grounds. A few high fives were thrown as your cousin fell into consideration, facing the door - he had the same look as you did when you were thinking. No one really paid you any mind - no, not true, they definitely noticed you, they were just afraid to say anything to you. You had that kind of presence.

Valen Gray didn't though. Instead he had a steely, determined look in his eye, like he had expected this would happen. "John," he said, turning around.

"Oh my goood what? What? You're not getting-"

"I bet you $10,000," he began, walking toward the guy fearlessly, puffing his chest out, stopping inches away from him, "that you can't knock me out in five hits."

He laughed in your cousin’s face, rolling his piggish eyes. "Oh fucking please Valentine." Valen's fists clenched at the name. "You'll go down in literally one punch."

You'd heard about John - he had a reputation for those knockout blows. Pangur liked to watch boxing sometimes or MMA, and occasionally the college's own teams fell under his purview, commanding his view from your phone or computer. He was peeking from his bag in interest, at the possibility of your cousin getting knocked out.

"Don't do it man, he'll fuck you up!"

"Back off bro, your hospital bills'll be more than 10k."

"Just go dude."

The other boxers were jeering.

"$10,000," Valen said again evenly, holding his arms open challengingly.

If there was one thing a big, asshole bully like John Brodsky couldn't resist, it was a chance to look like a badass easily. He gave a 'tch', adjusted his gloves, and pulled off his jersey to reveal his freckle-stricken back and muscular body. "Come on, let's get this shit over with. I've been wanting to knock someone the fuck out anyway."

LJ's dark brows raised. He was ballsy, she'd give him that. Making friends on his very first day. She tipped her head in growing interest as the challenge was laid out. Funny how this kind of thing worked on both sides of the Gauntlet.

Thing was, if you got one over on a spirit, they -had- to obey. It was in their DNA, in the rules of their world, as true as any kind of law of physics in that place. Call it LJ's Laws. But here? If Valen was actually still standing after this, the only thing that would make Brodsky pay up was his pride. And most people would put ten grand well before that.

"[Think he'll make it?]" LJ murmured down to Pangur.

Pangur looked up at you grimly and shook his head. "[Hope you had fun bonding, cuz he's bound for vegetable-city.]"

Valen walked eagerly into the ring, pulling his jacket off, revealing a white shirt underneath with an image of a caduceus in gold, scaly serpent wrapped around Hermes' wand. "$20,000 if I can knock you out in five hits." John frowned, clearly not expecting this, but his fellow boxers cheered him on, called him a tank, a bull. "Also, if you decide you don't wanna play John," he sneered, wide mouth giving him the smile of a cobra or something else unwholesome and fierce, "8:30pm. September 24th, Stolton Bridge South."

A grin and a 'ch-chk!' as he made a motion of a camera taking a picture.

Brodsky paled, put in a difficult situation by whatever your cousin had said. For a long time nothing was said as the two of them stood together in the ring.

With a roar, John launched himself at your cousin.
 

viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
Valen looked pleased as punch as the two of you walked out from the gymnasium - his right eye would probably turn black by tomorrow and his left arm was hanging somewhat uselessly at his side, and that bloody nose wouldn't take care of itself most likely as he sniffled, but they were mostly superficial. Holding a clean, yellow Bank of Chicago check between his fingers, folding it crisply and slipping it into his wallet, he walked with considerably more bounce in his step despite the five-hit beating he'd taken.

To other people it would have been just too fast to see, but a wolf's eye is trained to track movement better than a human's. You'd seen how with every blow John had launched, Valen had simply moved with it, negating forces that could have broken a man's skull. John, it seemed, hadn't known that particular trick, and now your cousin was twenty thousand richer.

"Heheh...a Brodsky always pays his debts," he said in a bad British accent, smiling widely for the first time you'd seen.

It kind of looked like the way your mom smiled earnestly.

Valen looked at you a little more openly now, bearing his battlewounds with dignity as he gave a slightly sheepish smile. "So. You helped me pretty good cousin."

"Why don't I take you out to lunch after I deposit this? We can go somewhere nice."

"My treat, obviously."

An insistent buzz from your cellphone in your pocket.

Probably Trix again.

Lilith gave her cousin a distracted smile. Her head was still back there in the gym, watching him fight. It wasn't every day that you saw someone take that kind of punishment and walk away. And the way he moved too, that gave her some pause. Valen was turning out to be much more than he seemed. In a way, the witch had hoped he would have just been a dumbass from Steer Creek who would vanish into the teeming sea of Chicago University students. That would have been easier.

But no, he had a part to play in all of this, somehow. LJ was sure of it. The kid hadn't showed any obvious Tells, but there was something special about him. Like it or not, Valen was going to make ripples in the Hisil. He'd already started today in the gym. Question was, would he help her in the long run, or would she have to run damage control on him?

"You were the one who took on Brodsky," LJ smirked as she checked her phone. "I just played the tour guide."

'where are youuuuu, i was kidding about snagging me some bitchez but if you're already in the process plz continue' said Trisha. The message was punctuated by a little emoji of a black cat lying passed out on its back with a bottle of liquor.

"That was nothing," Valen said with a shrug. "Big gambles and getting beaten up are kinda part of the whole moneylending schtick, which is why I got my eyes set somewhere else."

You were certainly right about him creating ripples in the Hisil...it'd drawn the attention of a number of violence spirits you'd seen around campus, manifesting in a trio either as clouds of razor-wire and hot smoke that left trails of blood as they clashed angrily with each other, or sometimes they took the form of metal-plated, strange biomechanical imitations of gangsters with gas masks and fingers tipped with deadly claws. They'd smirked and sneered and cheered as this little explosion of violence gave them a boost of essence.

'NO EMOJI' Lilith wrote. 'I'm coming now, just hold tite sista!'

The White Witch looked up from her phone and looked at Valen with more respect than she had before. Maybe a little pride too, but she didn't let it show too much. She brushed a couple of white locks from her violet eyes.

"I've got a girlfriend who needs me. Too much drink-drink and not enough think-think. Maybe I'll give you a call after I nurse her back to health."

"Go out and make some friends. Get a UC hoodie. Go Maroons." She stepped off and gave him a wave before heading back to the dorms.

"Sure, Go Maroons, whoo." He sounded equally unenthusiastic as he walked toward the bus stop, shouldering his duffel bag.

"Cute cat by the way!" Valen remarked as the bus came, picking him up.

Hesitancy. A momentary pause on the snow-covered sidewalk. It was all that Lilith could allow herself as Valentine got on the bus, all that she could show him and the world as the ramifications of what he'd just said went up her spine with a cold, ugly chill. The White Witch had felt that there was something different about her cousin the moment they'd met - yeah, anyone could be a little antisocial and strange - but LJ had learned to trust her instincts. They'd kept her alive just as much as all the power she'd reaped; all the spirits she'd bound or befriended.

Much of her wanted to believe that Pangur was just fucking with him. He could be overprotective sometimes, even jealous. Lilith knew he'd fucked with Ryder before. Subtly tried to ruin some of their dates. Childish shit. But revealing himself to a mortal...

She wished it was Pangur. She wished he'd crossed that line instead of the alternative, that Valentine shared the darkness in her blood. But the White-Haired Witch knew better. It would make things complicated - but if he just stayed - if he just stayed like Trisha, it might be okay.

But if he turned? If he Changed?

Lilith resumed her walk back to the dorms, jaw clenched.

"[I thought mortals couldn't see you,]" LJ said down at her bag with at tight-lipped frown.

"[Yeah,]" Pangur said with a foreboding tone, poking his head out and watching Valen go before melting back in, gazing up at you with blue, expressive eyes, ears pressed against his round skull. "[They can't, but he just admired the merchandise didn't he.]" Perhaps he considered that you thought he was messing with your cousin, because he put his paws up on the edge of your satchel, emerging like a turtle with something urgent to say.

"[I wasn't screwing around with him either LJ, honest! He's the same descant as you.]"

All around you could hear the spirits that were constantly in attendance, watching you and following you for a distance - you were something of a campus celebrity for them - as they gossiped to each other.

"[Did you see? Did you see? That one is a Gray, our mistress is a White!]" came the scratchy, creaking whisper of some Curiosity-reflection, likely gossiping with the Rumoururls.

"[They fight for paper ulal as usual, that is their way, yes!]"

"[Naught will come of it, The Fortress is quiet...Would be quieter if you all would silence your jabbering, I'm trying to hear a lecture!]"

There were places in the University where the gauntlet was particularly thin - those places fluctuated across your territory, like rain clouds over a weather map, one of the reasons Chicago U had such a mystical, old-world feel to it.

Lilith's fingers slipped into her pack and curled reassuringly around one of Pangur's feline ears. She comforted the little alath with her touch, showing him wordlessly that she believed him and wasn't mad. Not at Panny, anyway. She slipped her other hand into her jacket pocket, trailing a long, foggy sigh behind her into the winter morning.

It would have been much easier if Valentine had just stayed in Denver.

LJ allowed herself a quiet smile as she heard the spirit chatter in her wake. Hisil groupies. Well...more like little fish following the shadow of a big, scary predator. Some of them legitimately loved her, as much as a spirit could, anyway.

Most of them were like children. Kids who didn't know any better. Even the violence gaffs. They just did what they existed to do. Do you blame a baby for crying? Plants for growing? Or a dog for following you around? Same principle. That's why LJ never hated them.

Wolves though...

Lilith absentmindedly brushed the base of her throat with the tips of her fingers as she returned to the Art House, her expression unreadable. Too much was on her mind.

After she'd picked up a few things for Trix, the witch found herself on the fourth floor of Hoover House, rapping her knuckles gently on her friend's door.

Hoover House took up floors four to eight at Max Palevsky's shiny, glass-facade West Building, a tall trapezoid of gleaming blue-tinged steel caked with snow, great drifts gathered at the bottom and overwhelming the normally garish decorations on the sign outside. The Ash trees, bare of leaves and mostly in a state of dormancy, were decorated with white streamers that ended in little brass bells, ringing quietly in the Winter wind.

Most folks thought it was just pretty, art hung up persistently in a few places around campus - those in the know understood though. These places were under your protection, and all were to tread lightly here.

Still, Max-Palevsky Residential had a reputation for spookiness...haunted rooms, shadowy figures in the night, urban legends about mummified faces who would peer at you from mirrors in the bathroom if you looked at 2:22AM...

Fourth floor where your friend Trix lived was an all-girls floor, although you wouldn't guess it by the number of guys that regularly roamed the halls. Already you saw a tall, curly haired athlete leaving someone's room with a backpack, that 'I got laid' smirk across his face as he passed you without looking. Not 'til he was safely past and able to look at you from the sanctuary of the elevator.

You could smell Trix beyond there. She smelled of booze, of hangover, of sweat and stone dust and that lingenberry Palmara lotion she wore. Some grungy rock was playing beyond the door - Fourscoeals, some English band she loved - turned down a bit as you heard her stumble toward you to answer. "Ohhh my god took you long enough," she complained.

Trix pulled the door open, aroma of her room wafting out to meet you. She'd cleaned it in the past couple days at least, but there was still that heady scent of Blue Stuff that had gotten spilled on the floor last year, of pipe-resin that she'd scraped and tried to smoke for all the good it did her.

Trix was a tall girl, easily 5'10 and strong looking. Short, curly, corn-blonde hair lay in dissaray down to her shoulders past her powerful jawline. Somewhat plain looking, that was offset by the dazzling, beautiful smile she wore when she saw you - it's twin, the horrible grimace, was something of a rarity, but either one displayed dazzling white, perfectly straight, frighteningly -hard- looking teeth. If you knew where to look, how to look, that was the giveaway that she'd been cursed by Luna, although hers was an incomplete blessing; the biting strength of the Urhan but none of the other perks. A small benefit in the face of the usual harassment, difficulty, and spiritual invasion most Blooded experienced.

Wearing her fluffy blue bathrobe over strong shoulders, crossed over her substantial chest, she hustled you, closed the door and threw a towel down over it.

"Jeeeeez you shoulda seen last night," she laughed, doing that long, drawn-out vowel thing these Midwesterners seemed to appreciate - she was a Chicago native herself, daughter of a single mother who worked at a meat-packing plant. Tough beginnings, tough life. You could understand each other from that angle. Plus she loved getting high.

"It was just a massacre...no one beats this beer-pong champ."

You could tell she was pretty hungover - such was the price of being the champ. Bags under her eyes...Pale, a bit green I the face...You could smell she'd brushed her teeth to get rid of the scent of dry-heaving. Probably dehydrated and low on sugar.

Trix's room was pretty well decorated - posters and pictures of the great outdoors, bizarre sea creatures, and postings from National Geographic hung on the wall. Trix had a thing for zoology and was actually going to be accompanying Doctor Branner on his trip to the Amazon next year - pretty big achievement for her.

Her bed was a dissaray of heavy blue blankets, a fisherman's net hanging from the ceiling in front of it, expertly tied rope knots strung through with black fabric to obscure whatever illicit behavior happened there. Her closet swelled open with boxes of clothes, of books, of stuff she hadn't unpacked even though it was already Winter. A plush leather couch sat on the back wall, covered with a Pakistani silk veil, shades of pink and red diamonds frankly clashing with the leather but one of her prized possessions.

"You look like shit, dude." LJ smirked as she stepped inside. The White Witch tried to clear her nose with rub on her sleeve as she took a look around. To say that Hoover House stank was a gross disservice to the word. It reeked of all the usual coed smells - booze, pussy, tampons, barf, and a pungent mix of drugs and sex. It was strong enough that Lilith could pick it up even in the Hishu. Kind of repulsive, but a good indicator of a healthy university ecosystem.

It was the other scents that raised her hackles and brought revulsion and hate, not these.

Beshilu shit. Azlu slime. Wolf musk.

LJ pushed an orange into Trix's hands, along with a bottle of green tea. "Eat. Drink."

She set her bag down near the door and drifted over to the leather couch, draping herself across and carefully kicking her boots over the arm. She pulled off her beanie and let her white locks fall free, setting the hat aside to put her hands behind her head.

"You shouldn't party so hard, sista," LJ said through wry, pursed lips. "Shit's bad for the baby."

"Nope, this shit's bad for the baby," she said with a wink as she turned off an alarm on her phone, popping a Yasmin in her mouth and chugging some of the green tea you brought her, starting to peel the orange.

"So what took you so long girl?" Trix protested as she hopped back onto her bed, flashing you shamelessly (at least she was wearing underwear this time) as she clicked on that big screen plasma TV that hung on her wall, something she'd won in a crazy drunken bet - guy bet her his TV that she couldn't crack a walnut with her teeth.

She didn't often tell that story.

"Waitwaitwait, lemme guess...you woke up at Ryder's place again." Trix shook her head and tsked with a long index finger shaken back and forth in disapproval - Trix wasn't a fan either.

"Nooope," LJ frowned playfully, before her expression turned gloomy. "I think we're really done this time. I mean, I don't know - I guess."

Classic, classic LJ and Ryder. She winced internally for having said that.

She gave you an annoyingly familiar look of sympathy, let you save face since you'd brought her medicine. "Guys're always trouble babe, no matter who you are. Can't live with 'em," she tapped her pipe out, ridding it of ash before offering it to you for packing. "Can't legally hunt 'em."

Key word here being 'legally' of course.

"Don't rush it. You're hot. Guys'll come to you if you don't try to scare 'em off." A playful chuckle from her as the weather forecast on the TV predicted even more snow - bastards in city hall had predictably cut the plowing budget, which meant there might be a bit of shoveling to do later. She frowned a little, glancing out the window.

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+empathy+2)
Mr. Shopping: (5)


Pangur remained quiet, peeking curiously out of his bag at your friend.

You know her pretty well by now. You've had all-nighters together, rarely studying, usually chatting, laughing, drinking...things that were really grounding, really pleasant, human things you hadn't even gotten to do when you lived in Steer Creek. That's how you can tell when something's bothering her a lot, something she inadvertently reminded herself of.

You sense defensive prey behavior - touching the back of her neck, shifting to lie on her stomach, a slight increase in her pulse given away by movement at her throat few humans would pick up on.

Lilith had been internally struggling with letting her pining for Ryder get the better of her - she and Trix and pretty much all of her girlfriends had all been through the conversation before. Standard moping, questioning whether or not she loved Ryder or vice-versa, or if she could find anyone better, or even if he would be okay without her.

She'd almost gotten into it again too, having long since allowed herself to lower her defenses emotionally around Trisha - but as she turned to her with a bitten lip, LJ stopped, tipping her head as she easily registered an uncomfortable shift in her best friend.

"Hey...are you okay?"

viskarenvisla: (Manipulation+Persuasion+1)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


"Yeah," she said a little too quickly, kicking her feet up in the air a little nervously and turning her attention back from the window to you, then to Pangur. The unease in her eyes was immediately replaced by adoration when she laid eyes upon him - she loved your cat. "Ohh you brought the baby!" she crowed as she pushed out of bed and toward your bag, crouching down before it and reaching out to scratch under Pangur's chin.

He rather enjoyed the attention and lazily batted at her finger as she laughed, relaxing somewhat in your familiar presence and your cat's. Remembering you were her friend, someone she could rely on.

"Well...Okay, there is something that's kinda bothering me."

Lilith sat up quietly as she packed Trix a bowl, watching her and the alath with a soft smile. She couldn't help but hide the concern in her violet eyes. There were a million things going on around campus that needed her attention, but if a friend was in trouble, none of that mattered.

"There's this new guy on campus, I think he's a transfer. He's pretty hot, I danced with him at Asylum last Saturday but like..." she seemed to struggle, looking for the words.

"Something about him really creeps me out. Like, I mean, I saw him again last night when I was really drunk, and I don't remember what happened. I just woke up here, and like I -think- we fucked cuz I'm sore but everything's a blur, and he was real rough..."

"He like, bit me and scratched me. I think I did the same cuz I had some blood under my nails when I woke up, but that's like, not my style." She sat down heavily on your couch, withdrawing Pangur from the satchel and holding his warm, round form.

LJ started to frown, her eyes hardening to that frightening, deadly alien intensity. The more Trix talked, the more angry she became. Lilith's breath was heavy in her chest as she started to look around the room, her lip a sharp, ugly curve.

"What did he look like?"

Pangur's eyes were on you the entire time - he recognized when you were getting angry, when the Hunt stirred in your heart. So did your friend as she drew your cat closer, but she was one who found security in the lithe darkness of your white shadow. She pressed her lips together, mouthing slightly at the lip-ring she favored.

"...He was like, stereotypically tall, dark, and good looking. Long face, long dark hair, long limbs, everything long...He was real tall LJ, and his eyes were really bright."

"He had a tattoo of a crow on his back, I remember."

LJ stood, running her fingers roughly through her bone-white locks. She put the pipe on the edge of Trix's bed as she started to slowly pace, her thumb tracing the base of her throat. Her jaw was tight, the barest signs of her lip trembling into a snarl hiding teeth that were beginning to sharpen. Now she opened herself to the world she'd numbed by wearing the Hishu, forcing the nerve endings and olfactory receptors in her nose to become a million times more sensitive than they were before.

It hurt, every time she did this, a cold jolt in her sinuses and then a shock as her brain was saturated with scent information. She closed her eyes and pushed through it with a gentle growl.

The witch had her suspicions. It could have just been a freak who liked it rough, but nothing was ever that easy. She raised her chin, taking in the air, searching for any sign that something was amiss. If he was what she thought he was, he was careful not to make it obvious he'd been here.

Mr. Shopping: (I'm going to use the quicksilver flesh to use Urshul senses and see if I can detect Uratha here)
viskarenvisla: (Okay, +3, plus you can track. Please roll me...intelligence+investigation+3)
Mr. Shopping: (2)


Your friend was silent as you searched, as your eyes roamed the room. Shifting your senses like this was already a bit jarring, but the world became entirely other when you looked through the lenses of the wolf compared to the scent-blind Hishu.

A jumble of meaningless, unimportant information...you had to sift through it mentally, find the right thread...and with focus you were able to pick it out.

The scent of a male was in here; stronger than others. It had been here the other night, smelled of the outside, of snow, a distinct thread that you could follow if you bothered to track it through the weather and complexity of the city.

But...There was also something other you noticed.

Honeygrass, ladies' slippers, and jat spice had been burned, the ashes scattered on the doorway and dug into the carpet.

viskarenvisla: (Roll intelligence+occult)
Mr. Shopping: (3)


A talen.

The smoke would be used to block out the senses of spirits, the ashes to keep them from crossing the threshold, temporarily thickening the gauntlet.

Lilith knelt down near the door, fingers picking through the carpet and staining their tips in ash. She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together, bringing it close to her nose. She felt her heart sink as her suspicions were confirmed. Wolf tricks. It was possible that the asshole with the crow tattoo and the talen was one of their slaves, but that didn't really matter - Anshega or Urdaga, they hadn't just trespassed on her territory - they'd violated it by fucking her friend.

"I have to go," LJ said suddenly, darkly, as she rose, wiping her hand off on her thigh. She walked back to the couch and reached into her bag to pull out her revolver. She palmed it and felt its reassuring weight in her hand, feral frown grim and hateful. Flicking the chamber open, she checked that all six were filled with silver. Nodding, Lilith slapped it shut and gave it a spin before slipping the iron into the back waistband of her jeans, pulling her jacket down over it.

"[Pangur, stay here and watch out for Trix.]"

Trix's eyes widened when you pulled out the revolver, almost dropping her pipe as she took a hit, coughing loudly. Pangur nodded, getting the idea, all duty as he unfettered himself from you a little reluctantly. "[Sure, don't be gone too long,]" he said as he entered twilight. "[I'll keep a link open between us.]"

One of the benefits of an astral sky-kitty was its telepathic abilities.

"Wait what's going on? Is he a Werewolf?" she asked in a panic.

"I don't know," LJ said as she pulled her beanie back on, back turned. "He was at least a Blood, like you. Wolf or not, he didn't want me knowing he was here."

She glanced back at her from over her shoulder, violet eye frighteningly sharp and far too intense to be human. "Take that silver shiv I made for you. Next time you see him, use it. Doesn't matter if he's one of them or not."

Trix's eyes widened, but you saw a glint of excitement in them...readiness for what you said that most girls her age wouldn't have. She looked to her drawer, where you could scent the corrosive smell, the stinking, horrible holy metal. She ground her perfect white teeth, holding off on the pipe for the moment.

"What're you gonna do LJ?" she asked with a mix of quiet foreboding and growing excitement.

"I'm going to hunt." she said, stalking towards the door with deadly determination in her savage purple eyes. She had his scent.
 
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viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
Lilith knew that this was probably a trap as she went through the halls of Hoover House and down four flights of stairs. This was provocation, usual tactics for wolves and their slaves. If they hadn't expected her to find the talen leftovers, getting in Trisha's pants was probably stage one of a bigger bullshit plan.

And if they had expected her to find it, they were probably setting up an ambush right now, thinking they were fucking clever.

The best part about being a lone wolf was being underestimated. They'd expect her to do this hot and blind and in a rage. She was pissed, but not pissed enough to fuck up and find herself at the bottom of another storm drain.

LJ kicked open the front doors of the dorm and stalked out into the harsh white campus, stopping to take in the air, following the intruders scent with a jagged curl of her lip.

"Motherfucker..." she hissed under her breath.

"[The White Witch is hunting,]" she said to any of the spirits who were listening. "[She wants this one. Whoever finds me the one with the crow on his back will have my love.]"

viskarenvisla: (Roll...Presence+Persuasion+4)
Mr. Shopping: (3)


A couple of hipsters were sitting outside on the ledge of some piece of noveau art garbage sculpting that had been placed outside of Palevsky. They grew quiet and uncomfortable as you passed by, but they were inconsequential.

You were heard.

An owl sitting in a tree, snowy white feathers just a little too symmetrical, turned its head and gazed upon you intently with eyes that resembled tawny pits of darkness...it heard.

A razored whisper of violence blown upon the wind stopped as it crawled like a shadow up the street in the Hisil, motions like blades up and down its slithery back...it heard.

The trees' rustling changed their tune, intrigued by your pronouncement...in the Hisil you knew they'd be signing to each other, passing along the word, and all who saw...they'd hear.

Your domain followed your command as surely as thunder follows lightning.

Your steps trace Westward, trails of snow thrown in flurries about your feet. There was a heavier feeling in the air, like the University had grown quieter. You knew why, for underneath the hush ran whispers through the Spirit World.

The White Witch was hunting.

*** ***

As your servants ran ahead of you, the more entrepreneurial ones having already caught his scent, or followed his light signature, or tracked his cellphone or whatever myriad ways the denizens of the Shadow would fulfill their end of the bargain in living under your protection, you walked across the Medicine Campus to the very West, past buildings that smelled of sterile blood, of urine contained in plastic, of clean steel and hopes barely held together in plaster casts.

At the edge of your territory extended Washington Park, where once the Slaughterhouse Five had made their own domain in its relatively vast expanse. A warpack of Blood Talons, they'd finally fallen to the coordinated assaults of the Anshega a couple of summers ago, and now the Hisil had grown into a tangled, deadly wilderness. The hinterlands of your otherwise well-tended garden.

If he had been Uratha he might have used one of the Slaughterhouse Five's powerful loci to enter the Hisil after having his way with your friend...if not, then surely the spirit denizens of that place had seen him, although they were outside your influence.

You didn't have to wait long, however, for the first trickling of information to start coming in. They imprinted themselves in the environment around you as you stood before a snowbank, Shadowy-claws tracing sigils, pictures, runes, harsh alien whispers filling the air around your ears.

"[Beyond the Bloodmoors - keeping the Flesh he ran...]"
"[A small house, of his own, alone he is, and frightened - his fear we followed...]"

"[A raven 'pon his back, lashed and scarred and maimed...]"

A map incised itself into the snow before you.

"[Alone he is without, but within he is many...]"

Lilith kissed her hand before putting her palm on the map drawn in the snow. She smiled in gratitude before returning to the Art House, trading two legs for a set of wheels. Her 1969 Mustang didn't like the cold, but with a witch's touch it ran just fine. Tires crunched and ground through the snow as she drove into Washington Park, making sure that Pangur and the others knew where she was going.

The place had used to belong to the Slaughterhouse Five. They'd been local legends around the city once, until bigger and badder wolves came in to clear them out. She leaned back in the car's leather seat, tapping her fingers over the wheel as she drove one-handed. LJ still suspected that this was a trap, but it was one she was going into with open eyes. The spirits hadn't said anything about this one having a pack, or the place belonging to one of her many enemies.

What had given her the confidence to do this was his fear.

You drive through the snow as it flurries down from the sky. At least someone had cleared the drive through Washington Park - even this early in the morning though when you entered the tunnel of trees, it felt like it was closer to twilight, the already dim sun obscured by the trees and the hanging sense of darkness in this place.

The Slaughterhouse Five had been one of Chicago's great alpha Forsaken packs, known as great warriors...but the Shadow War of 2014 that had destabilized the city and cost so many Uratha lives had wiped them out, even as many Anshega died doing so.

You could sense massive shapes loping alongside you in the Hisil, paws leaving burning marks in the concrete, blood-dripping maws snapping loudly, greedily at you as you passed them in the Flesh before peeling off to return to the darkness of their Hisil lair.

You finally came to where you knew the scent led, able to follow it even as you drove. Your old, reliable '69 Mustang thundered quietly to a halt in front of a squat, one story house with a small yard surrounded by a chainlink fence.

The white washed walls were old, paint chipped, and you could see the walkway hadn't been shoveled, tracks leading inside. The lights were off, but you could smell the male within.

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+composure+3)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


You noted a little box at the top of the door. A security system with an alarm. Same with the two front windows - blinds were down in front of them.

Lilith idled on the street in front of her prey's house. She cased the outside first with her human eyes, then her spirit ones, folding her arms against the driver's side window to rest her chin. The security system was a point towards the theory of this one being Blooded - wolves were usually more creative than falling back on store-bought security. A Howler gaff never ran out of juice, you couldn't cut any of its wires, and when it went off, you could bet that an interloper would start bleeding from its ears.

LJ closed her right eye as she focused with her left, looking across the Gauntlet to see if there were any hidden surprises waiting for her.

Your senses pass through the Gauntlet, easily as slipping on a pair of shades.

In the snow-flurry cast world outside your home, massive snow drifts nearly drown the low-slung houses, streets carved like valleys through them. This particular house looks moldering and old on the other side. The door hangs by its hinges, and the windows clatter noisomely to the Hisil wind, yet you notice the elfin, fleeting Zephyrs on the wind avoid the house.

You do see a symbol on the door, however, burned into the wood.

It's a stylistic representation of a medieval torture device. A scourge, nine-tails ending in thorned hooks attached to a handle. It looks as if nine scorch marks have been carved into the door as well over the macabre symbol.

Lilith killed the engine and got out, immediately feeling the warm air in the car being sucked into the chilly afternoon with her. She adjusted the gray scarf around her neck and blew steam into her gloved hands. Blinking the last of the Hisil out of her eye, the witch considered her options. The witch was powerful, but her powers had limits. She couldn't rip the door off the hinges with a wave of her hands, or draw this bastard out of his hole with her breath, or make his heart stop with her eyes.

Not yet.

So Lilith had to be smart. Smarter than her prey and the ones who wanted to cut her reign short. She had to do shit that the darkness didn't expect. Keep them off balance. Her violet eyes flicked to one of Chicago's last payphones down the street and felt a smile come curving to her lips.

LJ got back into her car and found a good vantage spot a few houses down, kicking snow up against her tires and packing some on the windshield and roof. When she was ready, she stalked to the payphone and called the police.

The phone rang once, twice. "Chicago PD."

An older, middle aged woman's voice. Sounded tired, haggard.

Lilith closed her eyes and put her hand to her throat. She had to go back there for this, for the emotion, to ensure that they didn't think that this was a prank call. She wasn't an actress, but the fear - raw, hateful fear - terror and desperate, life-destroying panic - that she knew.

It had been over two years, but even now, LJ could summon it right back up again. The bottom of the storm drain. Naked, bleeding, in terrible pain. Her throat constricted and her breath caught in her throat as it always did when she remembered the feeling of the chicken wire cutting into her neck; binding her wrists and arms and legs and ankles. Knowing that the monsters above wanted to break her. Knowing that they wanted to make her one of them.

The witch's pulse quicken, and she felt the tears well up behind her eyes. Just say the words with that emotion. Just say the words.

She started with a sob.

"P-please...there's a man, and he looks Arab and I think he has a bomb, I think he's making them inside his house, I think he's going to hurt people!"

Tears down her face. Muscle memory from old trauma, not from getting into the lie or believing it. Just the words said with that emotion, emotion so powerful she had to lean against the side of the pay phone.

"Ma'am I'm gonna need you to calm down please," the woman on the other line said - you could practically see her doughy folds ripple as she sat up straight. You heard someone nearby mutter 'finally some action' with your sensitive hearing.

"Can you give me the address of the building? Please ma'am, I need you to stay cool, and focus for me."

Patronizing bitch...

"I think...I think...it's....Four-eight-eight South Indiana Avenue...please hurry, he has long dark hair and a crow tattoo and he's talking about fucking Allah and ISIS and I don't know if he saw me! PLEASE!"

The last came out as another wracking sob. LJ hung up, putting her forehead up against the machine to try and steady herself.

"[You'll be there again soon...Just you wait...]"

The voice came in a deep, breathy, wet whisper from behind.

Lilith stiffened, her teeth suddenly bared, lengthening as she spun around, already grabbing for the revolver at her back.

Nothing there.

She panted hard, violet eyes ringed with hot, inhuman amber, jerking her head from left to right, trying to see where the voice came from.

"[Show yourself.]" the White Witch hissed.

"[Hhhhhhhhhnnnnhhhhhsssssst...]"

A sense of isolation, being alone.

It's gone, whatever it was.

A low, feminine snarl left her lips as she let her fingers slip from the pistol grip at her waistband. Narrowed eyes searched the Hisil, but there was nothing. It wasn't often that a spirit could do something like that - rip away memory, or sense deep pain like that. This one was far more concerning to her than the prey at hand, but she knew it was gone - for now.

LJ pulled her jacket back over her gun as she stalked towards her car, wiping the tears from her face with a sleeve, expression dark and determined. This was one for Friend. Friend would know what it meant.
viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+stealth+3 please.)
viskarenvisla: (Also call 1-10)
Mr. Shopping: (3, #...7)


She sat behind the wheel of her car and tried to compose herself, weeping silently even though she didn't wish it anymore. That was the problem with opening the fucking floodgates, right? LJ let out a little sob as she cried into her arms up against the dash, internally soothing herself. Telling herself what she always did - that she'd killed them all, that no one would ever do that to her again, not while she was alive.


That voice...that promise - it was bullshit. It was bullshit.

"Ughh, fuck..." Lilith murmured through clenched teeth.

The police are obliged to take something like a bomb-making Arab seriously - that's a lot of politically heavy loaded words, and whoever stopped a terrorist was definitely going to be someone who got departmental recognition. The squad cars come from the North, their sirens blaring.

He falls for it.

The prey could have driven away, but unfortunately it was one-way, heading straight for where the cops were coming. He bursts out the front door, running Southward, opposite direction, basically right toward where your car is parked.

He comes closer, you get a clearer view of him

He's wearing a black track jacket, Nike, and blue jeans. Appreciably tall and well built, you can see why women would like the guy but for the fact that he looks like he's not doing so well. Long face, long nose, long, deep dark eyes that seem to reflect the low afternoon light like a mirror, clean shaven.

Bags under his eyes, tip of his nose red. Your heightened senses pick up on his fear, his weakness.

(LJ activates her Hunter’s Aspect on her chosen prey, inflicting the Mystified condition)

That mysterious thing happens where a connection grows between you, as nature asserts itself. You see him casting his gaze left and right, almost stumbling. He's hearing things, he's seeing things...The other side messing with his perceptions as the aura of the hunt grows from you. He's running right for your car.

He might have seen the pinpoints of amber light in LJ's violet eyes, or the fierce, cold-blooded killer look on her face. Or he might have seen shit. The prey ran right into her hands as she opened her car door into him as he tried to run past, pushing hard so that it would give him a good fucking crash.

"AUGH-"
WHAM. He slammed right into the metal, stumbling backward and straight onto his back, landing in a snow drift. You smelled blood, heard him curse in pain as he struggled to roll over onto his side.

Disoriented. Downed. Helpless.

His blood smelled pure and packed with energy in the air.

"Hey, asshole," LJ sneered as she stepped easily out of her car, pulling her iron from her back to point it down at his face. Her dark eyes hardened. "Get up. Get it the car or the police find you dead right here."

She cocked back the hammer. "Now."
 

viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
He cowered in the snow, pupils dilating in fear, showing his back almost...reflexively. Swallowing and shuddering he finally looked up at you, failing to recognize who you were. He's smart enough at least to get to his feet, holding his broken nose and cursing, tears streaming down his cheeks as he climbs in on the passenger side.

If he were Uratha you'd know by now, but he's definitely not. Still...He seems to know this drill, climbing in obediently and buckling himself in.

He's shaking, hands on his knees, teeth grit, eyes watering and terrified. Trying not to sob, not to cry.

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+empathy)

He seems...pretty damn scared, like he understands what's going on to a certain extent. What you are, and why he should be frightened, beyond the usual affects of your presence focused on your Shadow-addled prey.

"Dominus incandensus abdjure me..." you hear him whispering.

"Shut up," LJ said derisively, pointing the gun in his general direction as she got into the car and started the engine. She drove slowly, as not to attract the attention of the approaching cops. Lilith sucked in a breath through her teeth as she turned on the radio, allowing herself to feel the gratification of catching her prey.

Snow crunched gently as she glanced into the rearview mirror. "Make a goddamned sound and I will kill you."

The sirens were getting closer. He seemed to clam up, nodding and shrinking from the gun. He gave the impression of being strong and tall, built like a powerful sapling but you see that it's a facade. This is sickly prey, although he smells like he's been obsessively showering.

Your prey bites down on his knuckles, forcing himself to look ahead as you drive with him. He's unusually quiet and obedient for someone who's just been kidnapped - maybe he's just one of the smart ones who knows to keep his mouth shut when there's a gun pointed at him.

"I love this fucking song," LJ said offhandedly, cold as ice.

She took a moment to glare over at him, letting the full weight of her presence out, if only for the moment that her eyes crossed his throat.

"Do you know who I am?"

He looks at a loss for words, unsure what to say as he cradles his bloodied, broken face, turning reflective eyes onto you and watching.

At your question he shakes his head wordlessly. Clearly wanting out of this car badly.

"BULLSHIT!" LJ suddenly snarled, slamming the butt of her pistol onto the dash before pushing the barrel up against his head. "You come onto my campus and fuck one of mine, and you don't know who the FUCK I AM?"

"WHO SENT YOU?"

"NNAAAHHH! PLEASE! PLEASE DON'T!" He sobbed in terror as you push the barrel of your gun against his head, eyes squeezed shut, still holding his bloodied nose, watching you with the same frightened expression as a beaten dog. "I did everything I was asked! You can check with the others, I obeyed and I brought her the blood!"

"I don't know what I did wrong..." he sobs, keeping his back turned away from you, covering the side of his neck.

Lilith gave the kid's head a push with the muzzle of her gun before she eased off, eyes back on the road. "Who asked? What others?"

The kid's a couple years younger than you maybe, you can tell from how he's responding to hierarchy, from how he looks, how he behaves. He begins to speak but is cut off, choking and coughing on his own blood. He tries to block it with his hand but it spatters on your dashboard and floor.

Eww...

"Man, come on..." LJ complained.

"Just, just clean it up. Fuck."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he sputters as he looks panicked, unsure what to do. Strangely he just pulls off his track jacket in a panic, wadding it up and cleaning diligently, glancing out of the corner of his eye occasionally at you, as if afraid you're going to lash out at him again or just shoot him.

"I don't know what you're talking about...It's the others, the ones y'know, like you?" he volunteers, choosing his words carefully. "Apostles."

"They're not like me," Lilith said coolly as she started to put the pieces together. "Just tell me what your fucking deal is and I'll let you live, ok? Start from the beginning."

He looks at you with confusion, starting to figure it out himself. You see him look at the door, clearly pondering bolting.

Eventually he just draws a knee up to his chest, putting his forehead against it, swallowing and wiping at his nose. The white t-shirt he's wearing underneath isn't great for catching bloodstains, and he's soon a red, splotchy mess. "I don't understand it, or what you are, or what's going on...They came to me, a few weeks ago when I was sick and...nnh..." he put a hand to the side of his head. "It's hard to remember..."

His voice chokes up and he puts a hand over the back of his neck. "The Apostles, I think that's what they are called, I don't know how many there are. They chase me, catch me and hurt me...Make me catch animals for them, bring them food, take pictures of places that make no sense..."

"They know I hear voices, always have." He glances at you like he half-expects you to think he's crazy, blinking frightened black eyes your way. "Angels, they're always watching, and I have to do what they say, and what the Apostles say or they whip me, and I can't tell the police, or my family. They make me do these things, like with that girl last night. I didn't want to!"

"Please don't hurt me...I'm sorry for everything, I just don't want to die..." the kid sobs, pathetic and terrified of you.

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+empathy-1)
Mr. Shopping: (2)


He looks confused. Feverish, but he doesn't smell like he has a fever. He has a lot of classic signs of abuse, of imprinting and marking by particularly vicious Uratha.

Ch-klik.

LJ uncocked the hammer and put her iron down, sticking it into the front of her jeans. She wasn't sympathetic, but most of the murder had gone out of her as she'd pieced together what was going on. He was a wolf slave, like she'd thought, a pawn for the darkness. But an unwilling one. He didn't qualify as an innocent, but he was a victim.

"Alright, kid. I believe you. I'm not going to hurt you and you're not going to die."

She tipped her head some, like she was considering something. "Sorry for the shitty treatment. I'm on my own and I can't be too careful."

"Believe it or not, I'm actually one of the good guys."

"You fucking broke my nose," he said in muted protest.

A somewhat resentful, still terrified glance your direction.

She sighed as she idled at a red light, not looking at him. "I said I was sorry, okay?"

"I'll drop you off at the hospital when we're done if you want. And I've got, like...fifty bucks in my wallet."

"W-wait..." he said, entreatingly, looking like he was going to dare step beyond his cringing and shuddering, black, desperate eyes locked on you. "You said you're a good guy?"

"Uh huh."

"Can you please help me? Can you make them go away? They're gonna kill me, when I'm not anymore use to them, when they don't think they need me anymore they'll do away with me. I heard what they did to the girl with the dreadlocks, they showed me what was left of her..."

"I just don't wanna die like that," the kid entreated, coughing painfully into a fist.

There it was. First pang of sympathy.

"I don't know," she said honestly. "You ever think about running away?"

"Of course I ran away!" the guy shouted in protest, bringing his nails down on either side of his head, eyes widening at the memory. "You think I got far?! They pulled me out of my bed, and the one with the freaky bird mask or whatever, he...he did -this- to me."

He turned and lifted his shirt, showing you his back.

Jeez...It wasn't a tattoo of a raven.

It was as if someone had used his flesh as an etching board, hardening and slicing it to make the stylized, scarred shape of a raven in his flesh, its head a strange round shape with a long beak, two beady round eyes glaring emotionless, soulless. It looked like shading and details had been inked under his flesh with pine-ash.

viskarenvisla: (Make an intelligence+occult)
Mr. Shopping: (2)


You recognize it for what it is.

It's not a mark declaring him property so much as one that keeps him open, constantly ready for possession by a specific kind of spirit. If it isn't hiding within him now it is able to freely leave and reenter him as it chooses. You've heard of Izidakh doing this to wolf-blood slaves, creating conduits for their spiritual servants...or sometimes even a fearsome totem.

Unless the laws incised into his flesh, the declensions describing and binding him are countervened, distorted, one-upped, or simply erased, he's likely doomed.

LJ stared at the dark magic that was scarred into the kid's back. She'd allowed her spirits to ride the bad ones, and only with her explicit permission. This was something else, something much worse. The witch realized that she would have to deal with this carefully - it was no longer just about one Blooded victim.

"Okay, put it away," she said lowly.

"How do they contact you? You have a cell phone number or something? Another slave?"

He's quiet for a moment, as if he's unsure of revealing this to you...terror of punishment ingrained into his system, but he sees a hint of hope. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a black, old looking cellphone from the turn of the millenium. It's a little flip phone, a tarnished, ivory cross imprinted on the front.

"They use this to contact me."

It looks like it's been salvaged from a house fire or something.

Dark tidings indeed.

"Sometimes that...That black woman with one eye comes, just shows up and takes me to the priest. I don't know why, they could just reach me with this thing." His hand shakes, almost dropping the phone, clearly consumed by anxiety and helplessness at his situation. As he should be - these Uratha have all but collared and neutered this poor human, obviously having inflicted psychological conditioning, probably plenty of physical torment, and to cap it off he's been rendered in a constant Open state, readied for possession.

Lilith didn't show it, but she was starting to feel pity for the Blood. She knew that this was how Uratha on both sides treated their slaves, but passively knowing and having your face rubbed in it were decidedly different. The witch reached out for the phone with an easy, measured motion as not to spook the kid further, and took it into her hand for a closer look.

"I probably can't help you," Lilith said honestly as she studied the phone with narrowing eyes, nostrils working its scent information through her brain. "If I try, your masters are probably the type that'll kill my friends and do worse to me. I hope you get that."

"Your body's been cursed and tagged for a demon to take over whenever it wants," she continued, voice low but even. "It'll make you do things, probably worse than what you've done already."

She brushed a thumb over the ivory cross on the flip phone's surface, expression darkening. "You have a couple of options though. You can try to find the enemies of your masters. They might have someone more powerful than me who can help you." Lilith pursed her lips as she drove slowly back towards the safety of her territory, past the white of the shops and tenements. "You could try running again. Take, like, a plane, or Amtrak. Anything that'll get you out of the city fast and put a lot of distance between you. Wolves don't range far, and unless they really want you, they might let you go. That thing on your back could be a problem though."

Finally she looked over at him, knowing he'd probably considered this one even before she said it.

"Or you can end it."

It's weird seeing prey-animals look at you with eyes that clearly understand their situation - maybe not the actual details but the important parts. 'Your body's been cursed...' 'Your masters will kill my friends...' 'I can't help you...'

Probably can't was about as good as 'can't' anyway, right? Still, his expression...It was like looking at a steer who understood he was destined for the butcher's block. It's not the same as looking at someone who knows they're about to die, the heat of the moment before your enemy falls in battle - he's resigned, shoulders slumping, hand falling away from his bloody face to rest in his lap as you took his phone.

He didn't say anything for a while, just closing his eyes and swallowing. Trying not to cry.

Finally he took a shaky breath. "I think the last one is my only option," he whispered, resigned, but looked up at you, swallowing and clenching his jaw, trying to save a little dignity. "I'm sorry about Patricia, if that's who you're talking about...I don't know why they wanted her blood, and I didn't want to hurt her. I really didn't but I had no choice."

"I'll tell you something though," he added, swallowing nervously. "I heard them talking when they thought I wasn't...They're looking for something."

"They say what it was?" Lilith asked with a quiet glance.

He shook his head, scratching at his upper arm idly, a nervous tick that died down as suddenly as it'd begun, staring out the window.

"No...But I think whatever they're looking for is underground. The one-eyed woman, she made me buy a bunch of flashlights, flares, climbing lines and stuff, and I heard the Priest say something about like, I dunno, caverns, or catacombs, or a tunnel or something."

"Tell me everything you know about them," LJ said, but not forcefully. "It might save some innocents from going through what you have."
viskarenvisla: (Make a presence+persuasion)
Mr. Shopping: (Faiillyooooor)


His jaw twitches, fingers clenching up, taking a handful of his trackpants. He starts to breathe heavily, looking out the window, pulling at his collar, rocking back and forth slightly. "Mm, nnh, I can't...I can't say anymore, Jesus what if they're listening? You said there's a demon in my back or something?" The yet unnamed man who'd had his way with one of your best friends, a creature far too pathetic to see as anything more than a victim, turned around and tried to look down his back, starting to panic.

"Just let me out." He pulls a knee up to his chest, biting down on his thumb and looking unhappily out the window. "I gotta find somewhere since the cops are at my place for some reason..."

Doesn't look like he put two and two together on that one.

"Fine," Lilith said, hitting her turn signal and turning the wheel to come to a stop at the sidewalk in front of a run-down diner. She wore a grim, wistful expression as she put the gear into park. "I'm going to give your masters a call," she said, turning the evil-looking burner around in her hand. "When I'm done," LJ nodded her chin up the road, "I'll drop it off in that trashcan up there. The blue one."

Lilith fished out her wallet and emptied it out - a twenty, two tens, a five and a couple of ones. She handed the cash to him. "Here. For the fucked-up treatment. It's all I've got."

Trix's attacker didn't say anything, just nodded to indicate that he'd undestood, biting down hard enough on his thumb to draw blood as his fingers scratched against his thigh, swallowing as he looked at the money blankly, like he didn't recognize what it was for a moment. Shakily he took it, folding the bills and putting them in his pocket. "Thank you," he said flatly, voice distant. You knew the look in his eyes.

The nameless dread of the Hisil. The fear of wolves in the night. He'd been pulled out of bed before and no doubt horribly abused, why not again?

When you stopped the car he climbed out and slammed it shut, sitting down on a bench by the side of the road in front of a row of brick apartment buildings, clearing snow off and crossing his arms, shivering slightly in the winter cold.

"Hey." LJ stopped him as he got out of the car with a half frown, expression regretful. "Take care of yourself."

No response as he watched you. No more words to be said on his end.

You couldn't really help him, after all.

Didn't even know his name. Probably better that way. There was power in knowing a thing's name. Power to bind, power to curse, or in this one's case, to remember. And she didn't want to remember him. Lilith already lived in a world of constant reminders that there was evil everywhere. That the world was ruled and directed by darkness that was beyond humanity's comprehension.

That kids like this were pawns in an endless battle for control.

But Lilith was different. She knew she was.

You open the phone's contacts - only 'a' and 'b' listed here...Nothing more.

You select 'a' and give it a call.

It rings once, twice, a third time. Then it picks up - the connection is bad, like you're calling a phone from the 70s or something. You can hear raspy breathing over the other end, a sound like an iron lung working.

"...You must be Lillith," came a very deep, dignified sounding voice, one that had a reverbrating tone. An older man from the sound of it.

LJ had dealt with wolves before, Anshega and Urdaga. Sometimes they had been chilly negotiations, others very violent. She hated Forsaken, and had no love for the Pure, but being a lone wolf meant that you couldn't make enemies out of everyone. Case-in-point, LJ knew she couldn't let the surprise she felt at hearing her name show in her voice. Or show weakness. Or fear.

"And you must speak for the Apostles," she said evenly.

You heard a crackly sound over the other end - not like the reception, but like something else was playing across the connection, an image of something loathsome squirming between the electrical signals imprinting itself on your mind briefly. The iron lung hissed in the background, and you heard the sound of a chair squeaking.

"I would not suggest that I alone speak for the Holy Apostalate, but for my own flock, yes. I am their voice, combined and manifest." A pause, a sound of sipping, swallowing, a low 'hmm' of consideration. "I see you've finally come across my thrall. I sincerely hope he did not present too much trouble, young lady."

His tone, his voice had the feel of a school principal speaking down from above to a student.

"Your thrall is fine," Lilith said, keeping her voice steady. She took in every word, every sound, every spirit distortion as she evaluated this new threat. The witch already knew that they were dangerous - the kid's back was testament enough to that. It was their intentions that she wanted. "I didn't damage him."

"His flesh does not concern me," the man said dismissively. "He serves his purpose in spirit, though I fear his might be flagging." No humor in his voice...the man on the other end sounded absolutely serious. "'Tis but by the grace of our saviour 'ere that one goes...but forgive an old man his proselytizing." A sinister tone in his otherwise serene voice.

"How might I, Father Agonistes, help you, Lillith-White-Witch?"

viskarenvisla: (You can make a wits+empathy-1 if you wish to gauge him)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


He was certainly expecting you to call. He seems utterly calm, controlled, like he commands the situation for some reason. Anshega arrogance, or something more? You knew effectively nothing about this wolf, while you were something of a well-known feature of Chicago's Uratha landscape.

"I'm contacting you out of respect, Father Agonistes," Lilith said, keeping her voice as cool and as businesslike as possible. Her instincts were telling her that these wolves were more powerful than any she'd dealt with before - Friend would know for certain, but for now, she had to tread carefully - especially with these ones being Anshega.

It was only a matter of time before a powerful pack rolled into Chicago to fill the void that the Slaughterhouse Five had left. She had always known that this day would come. LJ wished she'd been more ready for it, but couldn't help that now. The White-Haired-Witch could only palaver and buy herself more time.

"You must know that the University is neutral ground. It's also mine. I don't care what happens outside of it."

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+composure-1)
Mr. Shopping: (2)


The sound of the iron lung working, hissing. You hear him rise, move, close a door.

Just before the door shuts you sense on the edge of your hearing a voice rising in a piercing crescendo of agony, breaking the edges of humanity.

"One must attend to one's own house, one's own crops and kin." His voice implied understanding, a lack of judgment. "I understand that your vision is otherwise...Unclouded by Lunar light, your judgment sound and the University in fine hands, as the locals banter."

"I propose a meeting," Agonistes said finally.

"A face to face, heart to heart, an exchange of honest words and, I hope, a parting as friends."

This was the part where little witch queens got disappeared and turned Anshega. A classic ending to the cautionary tale that was her life. No thanks.

"First, an agreement," Lilith said. "No more incursions onto my territory. No attacks. Not until we have ungin. In exchange, I won't oppose you."


"You have my word," he said easily enough. "No attacks, no harm to your person or your kin."

One thing was known about Firetouched, that when they said something it was usually the truth, or at least they thought it was true. Usually, their word was good. It was the really zealous ones you had to watch out for, the ones who could twist words, who could use honesty against others. Those who lied often bore the marks upon their flesh.

"I'm sure we can both offer each other something..."

"Swear it on your totem and the blood of your patron god," LJ said firmly.

"Come now Lilith. A meeting of friends requires no oaths sworn. This is a House of God, and no violence shall befall you here."

viskarenvisla: (Make a wits+empathy+1)
Mr. Shopping: (5)


It seems that…He genuinely doesn't wish you harm - he does not see you as an enemy. You get the sense that he wouldn't be speaking this beneficently with you if you were. Like you could otherwise expect a lot more fire and brimstone

Father Agonistes will keep his word, especially since you said you wouldn't oppose him.

"You'll have to forgive me for not trusting anyone," Lilith said, tension creeping into her voice for the first time. Her words were clipped. "The Urdaga found me when I was nuzusul. They tortured me very badly." A long pause. "I made sure they would never hurt me again."

"So I don't care if you kill every last Forsaken in this city."

She knew these were words Father Agonistes wanted to hear. They weren't far from the truth either.

"Thus marks the words of someone who has suffered by their cruel hand," he said in a gentler voice. "We all have, here."

"Please, come. Mine is the church at the end of West 45th, in Canaryville. My functionary Meryn shall take you to me." You hear a knocking at his door, the Father lowering the phone, a child’s voice from beyond. 'Faaather, Hampton says he wants your help!'

"Yes, tell him to bring his workbook! I'm almost off the phone!"

He lifts the phone back up to his face. "Forgive me...My superiors are calling for my services. Shall I expect you here?"

"I'll be in touch," LJ said. She wouldn't make it too easy for them. And it wouldn't be in their territory. When she hung up and closed the flip phone, the witch knocked her head back against the seat, breathing hard through her teeth.

"Ugh, fuck..." she murmured, combing her fingers through jagged white locks. "Fucking...fuck."
 
Last edited:

viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
]viskarenvisla: (Make an intelligence+streetwise please)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


Canaryville. Go figure. You already had the Executioners to deal with just North of Canaryville on South Halsted and West Pershing, and Sherman Park hosted the aptly named Slave Catchers...Just what you needed. More Izidakh when there were already two packs, and those were decidedly hostile toward you and even other Anshega packs.

The Mustang's engines roared to life as Lilith left the thrall to his fate. She slowed only to ditch the Izidakh burner out the window and into the trash before tearing off into the winter gloom. Her life was getting more complicated by the hour - first Valentine, now a new threat. She knew how Anshega liked to make nice - they turned you. Father Agonistes wouldn't be the first who wanted to recruit the famous White Witch to the dark side.

And every side that wasn't hers was dark.

She'd handled this the only way she could - giving herself time to regroup and figure out what the hell she was going to do next. Lilith had never aligned herself with anyone before, least of all wolves - but if the Apostles were as dangerous as she was beginning to believe, her survival might depend on making a deal with the devil.

Better that the world go to hell around her than hell come to her world, right?

Lilith returned to campus in a darker mood than she'd been in months. She went Sideways on her way to the chapel, entering her court unannounced.

The Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. On the Fleshside it appeared as a stately stone chapel, traditional Midwestern style and somewhat like a castle with its turreted belltower. White streamers and bells hung from the Ash trees on either side of the door, and on the foundational flagstone was inscribed an image of a white cat walking carefully on its tiptoes.

In the Hisil it appeared much the same, although the land surrounding it had the appearance of a mystical, enchanted grove. The Ash trees with their silvery, pale bark whispered in excitement at your arrival, branches bowing slightly in your direction. A curious gaggle of squirrel like creatures moving through their boughs peeked out at you with big, completely black eyes, a number of them gnawing on what appeared to be the skulls of birds.

"[What's she doing there all the time?]" you heard whispered from a skulking, blue-fleshed creature that appeared like a child wearing sack-cloth pants and carrying a collection of iron pipes under one arm.

"[Holding court you dolt, aren't you supposed to be the one who knows everything?]" growled a gray, lumpen creature that had appeared as a stone near the base of a tree.

The stone of the chapel glowed white, wooden doors replaced with clockwork, intricate iron-gilded gates that gave a hiss of steam, a dial spinning on the front as complicated, geared locks in the shape of cogs disconnected and opened at your approach.

Rather than faithful laymen at prayer or bored students listening to a speech given by an administrator who practically styled themselves as priests, the rows of pews had been turned in a V shape to face your throne. A high-backed, dark throne of twisting, gilded iron grew from the floor like some gray, merciless plant, gracefully shaped to seat your form comfortably. The interlinked iron had the appearance of cables, gears, actuators, engine parts, cloth of purple-edged, imperial white draped over its arms and back, a comfortable purple cushion adorning the seat. A thoughtful gift from Herald, to make long hours of sitting there bearable for your back and rear.

The Mandarins were in attendance, all twenty something of them - it was always impossible to get a direct count. Typical Chicago City-Spirits in appearance, namely unusually tall, with somewhat alien faces lacking pronounced noses, with wide mouths and sharp teeth, little beady shrewd eyes and a propensity for more than two arms, these ones were dressed in intricate, long robes of pure white, fringed with Chicago University maroon, tall and unnecessarily gaudy hats reminiscent of ancient Eastern Dynastic headwear fluttered with silken wing-shaped ornaments as they bickered and argued.

"[...a disaster I tell you, an absolute disaster and it's all your fault Sub-Parthitect Ang!]" you heard one of them scold, Middle-Administrator Yat most likely. He was prone to outrageous accusations. "[If you'd made sure the budget had been allocated on time then none of this would-]"

"[SILENCE!]" Commanded Herald from near your throne, an alien, strange spirit with its long, gaudy salmon and green robes, its eyeless face reminiscent of a collection of Lovecraftian pipes. Its voice echoed in the mind rather than being spoken, ensuring that it was heard above all. It held in its needly, insectile claw a rolled up, white-sealed scroll, gesturing to your throne with the other and bowing at the waist.

"[The White Witch has come to court.]"

Lilith sometimes marveled at how strange it would have looked to any mortal. Her, dressed and looking like a normal university student, but being treated like this place's greatest predator. Spirits saw her differently, or at least felt her power. Maybe they only saw that part of her that was wolf spirit, and not the woman.

The White Witch didn't rule by fear. She could be ruthless if it was needed, but it was like she said to that doomed kid - LJ was one of the good guys. Maybe she wanted to be seen as something more than an apex predator that kept her territory in line like other wolves did. Maybe that was why she almost always wore the Hishu.

The sound of their endless bickering brought a ghost of a smile to LJ's lips. At least that could always be counted on; the ridiculousness of their bureaucracy, the urgency of even the smallest problem. The silly bickering. She handled it with all the patience of a mother, finding amusement in it where she could.

Lilith locked her fingers behind her head as she climbed the steps to her throne, draping herself across the seat of power with an almost adolescent irreverence.

She turned her head to look out at the assembled court with her otherworldly violet eyes, a silent acknowledgement to begin.

Irreverent or not, even the Mandarins revered you. They stood up and bowed at the waist as you took your throne, multiple limbs folded in their multiple silken sleeves.

Herald waited for respects to be paid, for the Mandarins to deliver their praises - 'wise sorceress of the Quad' and 'majestic Lady of the Labs' and such - before he himself stepped before you, unfolding his scroll with great ceremony and pomp.

"[We have seen to the requests and injunctions submitted by subjects of the court; you will receive your Duties and Incomes when the court has concluded.]" It glanced at the scroll once. "[There are no disciplinary infractions to report this week...an improvement, Prefectural-Seneschal Jai.]" It could be hard to tell when Herald was being sarcastic, or if it even understood the concept as humans would - it was lost on a lot of spirits.

A pause as it glanced at the top of the list of intricate, interlinked shadow-runes incised onto parchment.

"[Northeast of our holdings, in the land of the South Lakeshore in the place known as the Kenwood Academy there rises an infestation of Azlu. Be warned of the Spider-Fiends, for though they rarely venture from the Flesh into Reality, their webs may entrap the unwary.]"

A discomforted mutter among your court. "[It doesn't concern us!]" "[They'd never dare to trespass here...]"

Herald continued.

"[Two unknown Uratha have been spotted in the vicinity of the Bloodmoor. Their intentions are unknown, as the denizen who reported spying these interlopers, did not approach. All denizens are, once again, instructed to avoid the Moore, for it is infested with the Destroyer's foul children, and lo there doth dwell a great many beasts unclean of soul and hostile by nature, the castaway spawn of their iniquity.]"

As the Herald read through his list, LJ wondered how much the court's existence had to do with the structured academia of the university and how much it had to do with her influence. Probably both - a little girl dream caught up in the weight of campus tradition. Viola. You got this - a crazy amalgam of enlightened supernatural monarchy. Professor Barnes would be beside himself.

She looked at her nails as she considered Kenwood Academy, toying with the gift that let her change her flesh. Her nails went sharp as she contracted her fingers, then back to crescent again. The Azlu weren't a major concern, but something on her ever-growing list to keep tabs on.

It was when Herald gave the account of new wolves in the Bloodmoor that Lilith really took notice. The Bloodmoor. Washington Park on the Fleshside.

"[Suthar Anzuth?]"

The Herald glanced at the scroll. "[That is not specified. One of them was male with eyes the color of envy and hair like blood, carrying a scattergun. The other was a female with hair like blue ink, her eyes obscured in the dark, carrying a silver lantern.]" A pause. "[They were Forsaken, as when they passed under the moon's light their renown reflected alien, cold light.]"

"[They were last seen heading in the direction of the Door on the Island of Black-Bynum - his fate is unknown.]"

What was it about this city that made it crawl with wolves?

LJ gave a cold, dismissive gesture.

"[Anything else?]"

It nodded, appearing to straighten - positivity perhaps? Hard to tell with a creature as alien as this. The Mandarins were buzzing amongst themselves, hissing and cursing about the new wolves nearby. The reflected your attitudes for the most part, either pandering to you or simply influenced by your will, it was hard to say.

"[The Heart Tree spoke to me through its dreams when the star Antelius was at its zenith on Tuesday night,]" Herald continued, rolling up the scroll and holding it before itself with insectile, courtly stature. "[It has expressed its gratitude for your continued protection - it and its children have slept peacefully, and it wishes to offer you a tithe.]"

Finally, some good news. Lilith showed her satisfaction with a vaguely lupine smile as she slowly sat up in the throne. "[I accept.]" She decided to visit the Heart Tree later that day to renew her promise to the venerable spirit and its children. Whatever form the tithe took, she would need all the help she could get.

Too many thunderstorms on the horizon this time to celebrate.

"[The Heart Tree offers one of these three choices as a boon,]" the spirit announced, raising a claw and motioning. One of the Mandarins rose from amidst the many, looking self-important as it shuffled forward, carrying a carven, silvery box made of ash-wood, shaped like a small treasure chest.

It ostentatiously opened it, revealing a white cloth upon which sat three talismans, each carved from intricate Ash wood in a shape of spiraling roots.

"[Arcane power - water becomes ice, steam becomes snow.]" It gestured at one that seemed to pulse with a bluish, cold light.

"[A reservoir, enough for a substantial bribe or to survive fell wounds.]" One one of them seemed transparent, almost glass-like - a Touchstone.

"[Quicksilver, as your flesh, mutable, better, stronger.]" The spiraling root shapes on this talisman seemed to shift and move constantly under your gaze.

Lilith's hand hovered over each of them in turn, but settled on the one that radiated cold. In the dead of Chicago's winter, it seemed the best choice. Besides, it fit with her style. White Queen,
Queen of Ice and Snow - sure, she could have some fun with this. Fuck, it might even save her life.

The White-Haired Witch took the talisman into her hand, bluish light dancing in the black pupils of her violet eyes.

It was the same sensation as learning a gift - you felt the connection, felt the whispers plucking at the back of your mind as the talisman directly linked you to the powerful Jaggling that made its home in your University. A rush, as if flying through a maze of frost-encrusted leaves, whispers in your ears...chants and formulae in the growled, secret words of the Primal Tongue, resonating declensions of arcane speech that no human could pronounce. Even if they could, it wouldn't do anything because humans did not harness essence, did not command its pseudo-consciousness to change the very foundations of quantum reality.

Volumes of knowledge implanted themselves in your head as a secret of the universe was opened to you, spells and incantations, verse and declension and curse penned into your brain.

The talisman went dark, becoming a mere pretty thing. The knowledge that had been passed on was the real gift.

Lilith shivered as the knowledge worked its way through her spirit DNA, passing through her system like the filtering of the iciest drink she'd ever had. Her breath came out as fog, while momentary frost crept under fingers that gripped the throne. With a final, frigid gasp, warmth returned to her body.

Fuck was that a trip. Every single time.

She gave herself a few moments to recover, wrapping her scarf closer around her throat and making a mental note to try the new trick out the next time she got a chance. "[If that's it, Herald, the White Witch has something the Court should know,]" Lilith said, pushing herself to stand with an easy grace.

The Mandarin bowed, withdrawing into the crowd backward as Herald turned toward the chattering court and raised its hands - others had gathered to watch. Git and Gat, massive city-spirits with their firearms worn openly on their coated, powerful bodies, a gleaming tangle of rotten swamp-wood and muck swirling around a little mote of white light, a stately, faceless being of shaped metal wearing wire glasses on its eyeless face, a labcoat of chain links hanging down its androgynous seven-foot tall form - they all fell silent.

"[There's a new student here. You probably saw him today. He shares some of my blood. The Gray.]"

She folded her arms over her chest, projecting with her stony expression and simmering eyes that this was a serious matter, one she wasn't too pleased about.

"[He might be like me, but I don't know yet. I want him watched closely but not harassed.]"

That caused tension in the court.

It was one thing when spirit troubles arose - the denizens always had their problems to bring to you and there were always weird sightings in the Shadow, crazy wilderness that it was since the packs had been slaughtered and nothing but these strange wandering Uratha had been crawling in. When a First Change happened, that was notable, and drew the uneasy attention of the Hisil. When it was related to the mistress of this place...The guardian of a territory...Now that was something to gossip about.

You could already see the excitement, the outrage, the fear, the confusion in the Mandarins' eyes as they all seemed to silently accuse and bicker with their eyes and facial expressions. Git and Gat looked at each other and then to you - clearly wanting to know if you wanted them to follow your cousin, make sure he didn't receive unwelcome attention from the Spirit Side.

A low, feminine growl rippled from LJ's throat. In the silence of the chapel, it sounded much louder than it was, and much more threatening. It was a clear sign that she didn't want this to become bigger than it already was. She gave Git and Gat a quiet shake of her head - she had much subtler ways of keeping tabs on Valentine.

"[Anyone who makes his life difficult will hear from me. Until I know for certain, he's nothing more than another student here.]"

Those present all bowed their heads and then revealed their throats, or whatever accounted for a similarity - the pile of muck pulled back to reveal its gleaming core. The spirits here had been well conditioned, understood their place in hierarchy. A spirit that knew its place was a happy spirit, after all.

LJ looked pleased with that. Her hands transferred to her hips as she looked from spirit to spirit, human in all outward appearances but for the alien light in her ferocious violet eyes. "[Good.]" She looked to Herald, silently bidding him to take over - she had enough of court for now. Stalking towards the door, Lilith looked to Git and Gat for them to follow her out.

Lilith pushed the massive double doors to the chapel open with ease, her lithe human form belying the supernatural strength within her frame. Out into the otherworldly Hisil, the White Haired Witch lifted her head and closed her eyes, breathing steady relief through her lips. She'd held Court hundreds of times but this one had been difficult for her - normally news of two new wolves sighted in Washington Park would be cause for concern enough, but now she had the shadow of powerful Anshega, the complication of her cousin and his blood, and everything that came with the new semester.

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. This was when Lilith started doubting herself. LJ had never crowned herself queen of this place - it'd never been something she'd asked for. It just happened. The spirits wanted it. Same thing as her Change. It just happened. No going back, no crying about it, no giving it up.

No matter how bad things got, or how scary they became, a lot of people were depending on her. They couldn't ever, ever see her be afraid.

LJ steeled herself as she looked to her left and right, to Git and Gat, smiling gently. They were much more than head and shoulders above her 5'9 frame, and to a mortal, intimidating as hell. But spirits saw things differently. Did they see her as the young woman she presented to be? The punker intellectual with plenty of attitude, white hair and violet eyes? No. They saw her wolf spirit. Her power. Something much, much more frightening. Much more than head and shoulders.

The witch put her hands on both their chests, looking between them with darkening eyes. "[There's a new player in town. Anshega. Powerful.]"

Her palms slid from their coats as her arms folded over her chest with a tense affectation that came over her only when she discussed her own kind.

LJ told the two of them what'd happened today. About Father Agonistes and her suspicions of the Apostles' power.

"[...Which is why I need to see Friend,]" she said at last, eyes glittering from under the shadows of her bangs, the frown of her mouth vaguely lupine.

Your two bodyguards gave each other quiet glances - inscrutable, alien, perfectly black lens-eyes reminiscent of the glass that covered many of Chi-town's more impressive buildings, their pebbled skin exposed only on their throats. Almost eight feet tall, with slab-like faces that kind of reminded you of a toad, the far-armed giants had the bearing and behavior of particularly uncouth Old Chicago era gangsters. They wore these 30's style, Mafioso winter coats of heavy black wool - in Spring when the rains came they'd be wearing thinner, sleeker raincoats. Their weapons didn’t change though, and these two City-Spirits wore them openly.

Otherwise physically identical, one could distinguish Git by the large, broad knife he wore in his belt, Gat by the big hatchet in his. Once you got to know them you recognized Gat’s penchant for pointing out the obvious and Git’s particular optimism.

They listened to you as you spoke, sharing looks - silent communication - before returning their glassy, strangely intelligent eyes to you. Uncomplicated stares, unsullied by lust, or greed, or hate, at least when it came to you. In their eyes was complete and utter trust, like the kind a child gives its mother, or a dog its master. Gat frowned, noseless, strongly angular face drawing that expression of disdain mixed with fear that came over most City-spirits when new, unknown Uratha were spoken of. Such was the natural distrust the Denizens of the Shadow had for things half-Flesh, half-Spirit...but again, it was different with you.

Your bodyguards absorbed it all.

"[Ooo...You're goin' to see him?]" Gat guttered in his pronounced, strong Northshore accent. "[It's pretty serious huh.]"

Git unhappily pawed the pommel of his slugger with spidery, multi-jointed fingers. "[Boss why don'cha just stick around in Reality wit' us? We'll keep ya safe. And look! We learned new card games! It'll be fun.]" He gave one of those utterly innocent smiles that belied his silverback-plus stature, third arm reaching into his coat to withdraw a pack of strange, shifting playing cards that complained about being withdrawn from the dark warmth of his pocket audibly.

Retreat to the Shadow, remain under their protection, play cards...An option.

A moment of tenderness flitted across LJ's features. Yeah, they were just trying to help in the way they best knew how. Playing card games with all their hands and arms, keeping the boss lady safe. But it didn't matter - Skinside or Shadow, she couldn't just run from this or sit around and do nothing while hell came to her doorstep.

"[Cards later]," Lilith promised with a slight grin. "[For now, watch my back in the Shadow when I'm not here, and tell the moths to watch my cousin and my friends closely. Anything strange happens, they tell me right away, okay?]"

"[Told you she'd play,]" Git said with a grin at his brother as he put the cards away. His brother nodded eagerly, clearly looking forward to the opportunity, not only to enjoy a game but to follow your orders. Git and Gat, despite their Wise Guys bearing, were spirits of profound hierarchy and order who were much happier as your sentries than when they'd been lost and wandering on the streets, appearing underfed and underarmed.

"[We'll send the order through now and get 'em on the girl with the teeth, the Gray one, the one who dances, and the one who makes art.]" Gat counted them off on his fingers, double-checking with his twin.

"[When're you gonna go and see Friend?]" Git asked, speaking the word under his breath and glancing around, as if worried he might invoke the fell spirit.

"[No time like the present,]" Lilith called, as she started into an easy jog towards the fell wood that marked the entrance to Friend's nightmarish domain. It was a place of darkness and shadows, of slender, hundred-foot trees and mist. It was a world of eternal night and terror, but like its king, LJ didn't fear it. It didn't matter what Friend was, demon or dihar - he was the one creature in her life that she trusted with everything - so much that he was like the father the witch had never had.
 

viskarenvisla

Doctor of Face-Smashing
Validated User
The jog became a run that took zero toll on her body, didn't even really raise her pulse. Two legs soon became four as she took on the urhan form, and began the hunt for the chiminage that the Terror King would so desire - prey killed at the moment of greatest fear.

A reflection of a white hare. A rare prize to find in Chicago, where most of them were dun-brown or black. It tried to warn you off with a snarl of sharp, nasty teeth tipped with ice, eyes blood red, but it was for naught. Nature asserted itself. You chased it down, paws thundering through the Hisil snow on the boundary of Friend's wood, and its ichor spilled red and hot on the white powder.

There was just enough essence within the corpus to preserve itself - some spirits discorporated or exploded, but some didn't, lingering to be devoured.

Its blood dripped on the pathway through the gateway of trees, tall and leafless that marked the entrance to the silent, cold, mist-shrouded world that Friend had carved for himself amidst the trees - it was unclear what he was...Part wind, part oak, part man, part beast, a strange and frightening spirit that you'd loosely linked with myths of Wendigos. The Chippewa told stories of beings that resembled Friend, although it remained unknown what his past was. That, as with all knowledge, came with a price that would likely eclipse the blood of a rabbit.

You entered the wood. The branches were hung with transparent, weblike cloth that drifted in tatters through the air. Any sounds of the city, either Hisil or fleshly, were utterly cut off here, as if this was a different world. It even smelled different, as if there was nothing around you for miles and miles but cold, ice, forest, pine needles and desolation. It was likely that Friend's realm was either a Place-that-was-Not, or possibly held a gateway to another part of the Hisil.

It was twilight here, as always. The way to call friend was to build a bonfire and sit before it with your offering.

The shadows would call to him, and he would come to your clearing.

True to her name, Lilith's sleek wolf form bore a white pelt, lupine eyes violet and flecked with gold. She was no greater a hunter than any other of her kind - it was all instinct, really - find your prey and let the body do the rest. All her wolf forms were perfectly evolved for hunting and killing, the Gauru especially. Maybe that was why LJ spent most of her time in the Hishu or Dalu, where it wasn't just about predator and prey. On two legs, she had hands, and hands could create as well as destroy. Maybe she was fucked-up, like the other wolves in this city had said, but intended to use her gifts for more than endless turf wars.

Yeah, call me when that happens, LJ. Jesus.

The white wolf prowled in a slow circle, low to the ground near the bones of her last ritual bonfire. The cracks in the blackened wood had succumbed to the strange influences of this place, cooling to what looked like silent, screaming faces formed in-between the spidery branches. Another circle and her boots touched the ground instead of paws. LJ rose in the Hishu, ephemera blood stained around her mouth and down her chin, the rabbit carcass now hanging from her curled fingers instead of teeth.

No shit it would take more than the life of one little white rabbit - an allegory that made her smirk in irony, but even for a creature as powerful as Friend, the rules still had to be followed. The witch gathered branches in her arms and crushed the ashes of the old pyre beneath her feet. When it was built, LJ crouched down on her heels and blew over her palm like she were sending a kiss into the jumble of wood - but instead of air, white flame leapt from her fingers to swirl and engulf the bracken and roar to high, dancing life.

"[Terror King, your daughter, the White Witch invokes you.]" she whispered, as she held the rabbit carcass before her to drip ruby essence into the flames, her feminine face a twisting maze of shadows between two piercing violet eyes. "[Friend and Father, I call you.]"

Night fell in those few moments as your bonfire burned, white and ghostly.

A mortal would be paralyzed by terror - most Uratha would be incredibly wary of the fact that something bordering on the Beyond was manifesting here. It was a malicious thing by its nature...not a friendly, gentle nature spirit. It was that reflection of nature that was red blood frozen on the snow, of creatures driven to madness and starvation, of cannibalism and desperation to survive overcoming all things in singular terror. The shadows around your grove became so dark it seemed like all that was beyond the crackling light of this small bonfire, growing ever taller with each drop of essence-fueled blood, was nothing but cold and void.

To your right, you heard something dragging through the snow.

Behind you a rattling sound, distant and far off.

A wind blew through the branches, shaking them.

Antlers clashed with boughs as something massive, bigger than any bear, moved itself on burned off, smoking stumps for feet, leaving charred ash in the snow behind it as it loomed over you. You couldn't see more than its shadow, than its silouhette in the darkness. A skull, bigger than your torso, jaws that could easily snap you in half. A single baleful, cold blue eye gazed at you, bone-like antlers causing the tree’s branches to clatter and hung with the same bits of tattered white cloth that was tied around the trees.

"[Daughter...]" it whispered, devoid of kindness, of warmth, and yet you knew that was simply its nature. A shuddering wind through the trees was its voice, and its actions spoke far more than its mere countenance.

It bent down on all fours, elbows arching and extending far beyond its back, its mouth gaping open as it spoke - from within you could see eyes gazing outward, gleaming amber and red, blue and green, like countless pairs of stars blinking in a void.

It extended a hand outward from the darkness, arm crackling sinewy and cold, like ice breaking on a lake's surface. Reaching far, far outward, snapping and stretching a bony paw with three strange, needle-sharp claws that seemed like they'd been grown from a moose's hoof, mutated and twisted by the Hisil, it touched your cheek.

A bare hint of warmth, of pleasure to see you. It'd been hoping you would come, that would spend some time in its grove.

Lilith smiled and closed her eyes at the monstrous gesture of affection, her hand rising to touch the back of his claws. The usually introspective witch never had to debate internally why she survived each and every encounter with her surrogate father, a dihar, a nightmare god. She felt no fear of him or this place, only love. LJ's life was his to take, for he was the one that gave it to her in the first place. He'd given her that freedom, and her vengeance. She would forever be loyal to Friend, over any of her own kind - maybe even over her own blood.

But Friend had never forced her to make that choice, and she loved him even more fiercely for it.

It was the kind of certainty that you knew heart and soul, the kind a child felt towards her parents, that they would never hurt her. It was the same for Friend. And if one day he decided to take her life...she would be sad, and wouldn't understand, but she would probably offer it freely. That was the kind of pull Friend had over her.

Her smile deepened.

"[Father.]"

Its hand moved down, alien, cold digit that killed the very air it touched, that could twist minds like a cat's claw in a ball of yarn, and plucked the rabbit corpus from your hand. It dragged it back through the snow, toward its mouth - a moment of crunching, splitting corpus...and then another pair of eyes was staring at you from the back of its gaping throat, blinking distant and ghostly. A small river of blood flowed from where Friend consumed your sacrifice, the spirit snuffed out utterly and completely from this world.

Friend's feelings toward you were mostly a mystery, aside from the benevolence and kindness it'd shown you - perhaps that abstraction was what made it something you could adore. Like a god or something. Was it a Greater Jaggling? More?

It spoke through the wind, its voice carried chillingly, shaping the fire like stones dropped upon a pond's surface.

"[Friend senses Doubt a-gnawing/Eyes outward glaring inward growing/Smaller grows the City of Winds]"

"[Friend knows/Where the black crow goes/There 'neath slave-skin trouble brews...The Fires of Winter, Daughter...They close around, and the White Witch smells the smoke]"

The supernatural darkness that radiated from the Terror King touched everything here except for the pale fire before her. Lilith stood at its radius, holding her sides as she concentrated on Friend's word with a bitten lip. What he said was always true. Always. She tilted her head as he spoke of things that she'd been hiding in her heart and in her mind - it was impossible to tell if Friend simply knew all that transpired on both sides of the city's Gauntlet, or if he was taking them from her - either way, the power that he had to possess for both was far beyond any spirit she that knew existed in this place.

She took a breath, knowing that she would need to follow, and follow well.

"[The White Witch seeks solace/Where trees grow tallest/Of my enemies, there are three/Which is the greatest threat to me? /Ivory lords and demon-skin/Cursed blood of my own kin/Or another that I cannot see?/Give me sight, Father mine, leave your daughter here not blind.]"

The great Wendigo like god-spirit contemplates your words - you speak them in the strange meter and shifting format as him, a rhyme and form of the First Tongue that seems to come most easily to a creature such as him. Sometimes it feels like Friend is coming down from somewhere much higher in order to communicate with you - a sensation of a scientist gazing down at an ant might be an apt description, but even that pales.

"[Friend knows...]"

The massive shadow crawled backward into the forest, retreating into the darkness, a single claw beckoning you forward through the wood.

Before you a path lay, and at the end of it you could see a light wink on, like a lantern.

A cabin lay ahead of you. You'd never been here before, didn't know it existed. There was nothing terribly unusual about the structure itself - a bare looking, log-built construction, had that 19th century pioneer look to it. The windows were dark, the door chained shut with a padlock. You could see this thanks to a lantern that hung from a hook near the door, providing illumination in the shadowy Hisil-night.

Friend stood there. He'd changed.

He'd taken the shape of an enormous man, his skin white and cold as a frozen corpse's. Friend's face was hidden behind a featureless wooden mask strapped around his head, scraggly beard growing from his face down his massive, muscled chest. He wore no shoes, stood in the snow on a pair of feet that were blackened and burned, infected and painful looking. A trail of bright red rabbit blood flowed from behind the mask down Friend's chest.

There was a wooden stump with a heavy woodcutting axe leaning in the snow next to it.

"[Ritual]" it said simply in a low-bass no human could utter.

viskarenvisla: (Roll intelligence+occult+2)
Mr. Shopping: (4)


You understand what it means. It's going to perform a divination and it requires your help in order for it to be an accurate prediction. Clearly this is a matter where even Friend must consult either...A higher power, or perhaps the weave of fate itself.

A quiet thrill went through LJ as she followed Friend down the path and deeper into the nightmare wood. This was not the way most of their meetings went - talking in the grove, yes. Being shown things. But not this. This was new. As she walked and came upon the cabin, constructed from a dark mortal dream or some time and place where Friend had once been, LJ looked upon his new countenance. The witch knew he could take on different forms - he had when he'd first come to her in that storm drain. She doubted that the wendigo shape he took was his true form either - maybe just the closest facsimile of something a mostly-mortal mind like hers could come to comprehending.

How do you embody Fear? Fear doesn't have a form. It doesn't have a shape. It's a feeling. It's in the air. In your blood. Everywhere. So of course Friend could change; she didn't ask why. The part of her that was still very human and very Lilith White realized though how frightening this would be to any mortal - or even any wolf. Much as the fucking Hirfathra Hissu hated her, could any one of them do this?

Lilith nodded obediently as she prepared herself to help Friend carry out whatever ritual that needed to be done. She needed to see, not just for her sake, but for everyone living in the University.

viskarenvisla: (Make an intelligence+occult+2 roll again please. Any specialties of yours?)
Mr. Shopping: (Not that would apply to this, I don't think. Binding)
Mr. Shopping: (1 success!)
viskarenvisla: (You know a few magic circles, the basic ones were taught to you to boost the power of certain rituals. Summoning circles, divining circles, binding circles, circles of passage, there are many...and you know how to make a Divining circle. If you wish to make one you can use ashes from a charnel pit in front of the cabin.)
Mr. Shopping: (Okay)
viskarenvisla: (Very well. To make the circle please roll intelligence+crafts)
Mr. Shopping: (Bam. 5 successes!)
viskarenvisla: (Take the ‘Inspired’ condition)


With fingers and palm blackened by charnel soot, Lilith first drew across her face, a slash of black over her cheekbones, bridge of her nose, and eyes. This was the type of shit that twigged out the uninitiated - It was a ritualistic necessity in that it marked her as touched by the Shadow. One of Friend's. It bound her to part of the circle and all that came with it. Share the protection; share the fuckup if the bindings were broken.

The White Haired Witch spat into her soot-stained palm and etched the savage, complex runes into the earth with fingers that were now clawed. She worked quickly and skillfully as the divination circle began to take shape around the focus. When she was done, LJ stood back and admired her handiwork with her hands on the small of her back.

Eyes mostly. Eyes ringing the pentagram, with the all-seeing one drawing everything else into its central gaze. It was flawless - always good to show off in front of Friend - and affirm that he had chosen her for a reason.

Friend gave no outward sign of praise - that wasn't his style - it was his actions that bespoke his confidence in you.

You were a queen at the university. They'd chosen you because they put their trust in you without asking questions, simply by accepting your authority and that you'd take care of them, keep the fire and destruction from flooding their end of the Hisil. They didn't ask about the things you had to do to make sure they were secure.

He opened the cabin door with a heavy iron key and ducked inside - it smelled bad in there, like unwashed bodies and despair. A moment later he emerged, holding a chain, tugging behind him a figure, humanoid and tall, thin...you recognized one of the Denizens of the city by its four arms, chained behind its back and attached to the bracket held in Friend's hand. Its face was covered by the same featureless mask as Friend wore and it moved with silent, drooling obedience to the stump where it was guided.

Friend put a hand on its shoulder, forcing it down to its knees, and laid its head carefully on the stump, turning its masked, featureless face to you.

"[Ritual]" it explained.

Of course. Blood divination...or ichor, or ephemera.

Such were the secrets of the darkness beyond the trees and deep in the wood that lay at the heart of one of man's greatest cities.

While Lilith knew that all ritual in the Hisil required sacrifice, the appearance of the city spirit made her hesitate. There were creatures just like it in the university, and in the moment it took for the witch to realize that this wasn't one of them, her resolve faltered. Plenty of Urdaga wouldn't have seen the distinction, but she sure as hell did. The ones under her care were her friends, and unless they broke the rules, she wouldn't hurt them - let alone fucking sacrifice them.

But this was prey from outside her borders. Fair game. Same as the rabbit. The two slashes of violet that stared out from her feral countenance shone with an amber light as the witch stepped carefully around the circle. She held her wrist and grunted as she willed her fingers to change, to grow to long, life-taking black Gauru talons.

She took no pleasure in tearing out the spirit's throat. Opposite. Thank your prey. Use every part of the fucking buffalo.

It twitched when your talons ripped out its throat, and the blood began to spill down the stump. Whispers filled the air as the spirit's ichor filled in the runes you'd carved, the ash mixing with the blood. Friend’s voice returned to the cold, windy whisper of its Wendigo form, an ancient form of the First Tongue that was native to this part of the Hisil, one that used the circle, the blood to build a bridge between you and the loom of Fate, into that same power most prophets drew from.

Friend gazed at you, forcing you to meet his lifeless eyes behind his mask as the runes in the magic circle glowed red, then amber with power. The fire in the lantern slowly began to go out, until all you could see and sense was Friend kneeling across from you in his massive, bearded, unruly form, holding the spirit as it bled out on the stump.

"[Friiiiieeeeend knooooowwwsss...]"

In the darkness, to your right, you saw another figure taking shape.

Seven lights forming a septagram.

They alit, little flickering lights that grew and crackled - you felt as if you were gazing down at something puzzling, many intersecting lines, strange squares and static shapes through which these red lines of hellfire ran.

viskarenvisla: (Make an intelligence+investigation)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


Your mind processes it quickly - the smoky shapes, the strange lines, the massive expanse of darkness and blueness to the right...

You were gazing down upon Chicago itself.

viskarenvisla: (Make an intelligence+streetwise+1)
Mr. Shopping: (1)


You recognized immediately where two of the points of light were shining, as if upon a map.

One was in the middle of Sherman Park, where those miserable Slave Catchers dwelled. Firetouched you'd had a run-in with before.

The other was burning directly over your library.

As the torchlights burned brighter, fires began to spread out from them, catching upon buildings, engulfing streets, even as they were covered with winter's frozen snow, and at the center of the seven points an intensely white, hot light burned.

A humanoid figure, stretched out unnaturally upon a breaking wheel, composed of flame, a void of darkness in its face. It rushed toward you, seeming to grow around you and engulf you - only Friend's power kept you from being incinerated as the same fiery shape rushed at you over and over again from the hole in its visage, like the infinite reflections of a pair of mirrors facing each other.

viskarenvisla: (Make an intelligence+occult)
Mr. Shopping: (2)


You don't understand what you're looking at - a human figure composed of flame upon a breaking wheel with a void for a face...Seven points of light around Chicago, two of them out in the water, two of them in places you could recognize...

The vision slowly faded, the lantern's light grew bright again, and the darkness was pushed back.

Friend rose uncermoniously from the bloodied stump, gazing upon you.

"[Friend knows...Seven is the number of the fire that glows/Apostles chanting their creed - a burning skull, a fiery scourge, a typhoid rose/The Gray, your cousin, his fate-atwisted like a helix with the Ambitious One with whom he always goes/Your kinsmen with moonlight sickening their blood, blue ink and blood that flows/All connected]"

"[...But the threat that binds them is greater, and hidden beyond even Friend]"


That was unusual, for Friend not to know something.

No easy answers this time. Not for the White Witch. She looked down at the focus and the circle even after it was over, still seeing after-images of the vision that had come and passed. It was exhilarating, but what LJ had seen left her with more questions than she'd come with.

For the Izidakh, fire and sickness, the usual stuff. The typhoid rose immediately brought her to the epidemic in the city, which might now have been the Apostles' doing and part of a larger plan.

For Valentine, the Ambitious One sounded like it could have been a spirit urge, or if you wanted to get philosophical, just the drive that pushed him out of Denver and into Chicago University. Did that mean she'd have to take a more active role in his life or he'd go down a darker path?

And last but not least, the Forsaken. Blue ink and blood that flows. Sounded like Iminir and Suthar Anzuth, but she couldn't be sure.

All fucking connected, but none of them the true danger.

The White Haired Witch was utterly silent. Contemplative. If Friend didn't know...

If friend didn't know, it could mean a lot of things. A lot of fucking things. A greater threat. Greater than Friend's sight. That was all she knew for certain. That, and she needed to prepare. To keep her territory safe and No-Face from taking everything away from her. That was all the White Witch could do.

Friend imparts unto you a secret, perhaps condolence for not being able to tell you the answer you seek - a simple messaging ritual, stolen from the Forsaken and changed. Instead of sending messages via lune, spirits of dreams carry your words, either to those sleeping or awake but only at night. Secure words, impossible for any to intercept, instructions and specific symbols granted to you, spoken into your mind as little ghostfires lead you back toward the grove where the fire still crackles weakly.

After, the two of you spend time together. Friend is a good listener. He isn't necessarily the most vocal - he likely operates on rules of consciousness far different from you or other spirits - but he takes in everything you say with consideration, with care. Despite how terrifying he is you know he cares deeply for you, and that is something that transcends the Flesh and the Shadow.

To the issue of the Apostles, it responded thus: "[Friend knows their purpose is pure and clear and runs as a stream/but stream though it may be with bones clogged it is bleached white and eaten clean]"

To your cousin, it responded thus: "[Friend knows your blood walks with owl's eyes taking in all without turning his head/he admires you]"

To some of the other goings on of the court he merely listened quietly, or gave a laconic statement – "[Friend knows…That needn't concern you]" - his way of saying 'relax my dear'. As to the Forsaken wandering around in the Bloodmoore, however, he was quiet.

Finally he spoke up.

"[The Black One has been bound in his own chains/Friend knows, Friend knows/Led by chains of lightning and hammers Black Bynum goes]"

Black Bynum...A Ridden that had taken the Shadow as its home, something arcane and fell that seemed like an evil wizard in a tower. For it to have been dominated...
 
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