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The Hunt is On- to Catch a Shade Messages in this topic - RSS

Posts: 234

(Co-written with Shadowcthuhlu)

The apothecary is dark and silent, abandoned in a hurry during the commotion of the Shade’s attack. A white raven glowers from a perch in the corner, periodically screeching dire portents to nobody in particular. Preserved amphibians float in grimy jars on high shelves. The lower shelves hold bottles containing a cure for every malady and a poison for every occasion. The air is still and silent until two intruders burst through the door. A bell jingles cheerfully as it opens.

Gideon and Evensong carry the body of Dirae Erinyes between them, sadly reduced by one head. With one hand, Gideon sweeps the clutter off a large table in a clatter of metal and glass, then the duo lay Dirae down on the wooden surface.

“Bio-thaumaturgy was never my strong suit, I’m afraid,” says Gideon. “I suppose we don’t have the time to consult their original design specifications at present. Never mind. We have work to do, and precious little time to do it.”

“I’ve studied the notes before - the good news is that Shade didn’t remove everything important.” Evensong’s hands pause for a moment over her chest. “The scroll is not too badly damaged, and my Hebrew is good. What is most important is electricity - to get their motors running again.”

“I’ll see if I can get some electrodes from the back room,” says Gideon. “I have a spare battery on me, of course - never know when you’ll need something electrified - but I’m not well-equipped for emergency galvanisation. I know you’ll think me lax, but I really don’t do this sort of thing very often.”

Gideon sees the concern in Evensong’s face and his expression softens. “I’ll do the best I can, Evensong. We may not have known each other too long, but I like to think we’ve all become fire-forged friends. I’m not about to let a friend die on my watch, new or otherwise.”

With that, he wanders off into the back room. Sounds of rummaging are heard. “Electrodes, electrodes, my kingdom for electrodes! What do they teach apothecaries these days? You just can’t get the equipment!”

Evensong takes what remains of the head from her bag - not much at all. The mud-stained scroll sadly flops on the table next to the mangled mass of metal and bone. Looking over the shelves, she sees “Ms. Murgatroyd’s Anti-Sorrow-Spider Candles - Also Excellent in Deterring Stinging Insects in Watchmaker’s Swamps, and the Odious Pests Abroad.”

After requisitioning several packs and a pack of “Mr. Pompeii’s Most Vigorous Matches,” she returns to her spouse. She carefully wraps the shattered remains over the scrolls, before setting down the packs of candles. A moment of instinctual fear as she lights the match, and a moment of concrete fear about having it pointed the right way as gouts of flame sparked off the short lived match. (All experienced Londoners know that Mr. Pompeii’s Most Vigorous Matches see little use as actual matches, and much use in the pranks of both urchins and Stags alike.)

Brushing the wax away from the much-cracked eyes and from the mouth - at least, a gap where a mouth should be - Evensong recreates a face. It’s not much of one, but it will do until time and Rattus Faber mechanics can make full repairs. It’s not that Dirae Erinyes had much of a face to begin with. The Surface language chant heavy upon her tongue, Evensong carefully carves the חַי on the forehead. She wonders if this is how the Bishop feels in his prayers.

Gideon’s head pokes out of the back room. “Found them, along with a rather heavy-duty generator. Might take a minute to get it fired up, but it’ll prove far more energising than my dinky battery-pack.”

“I’ll help you - just give me a minute to crack open their chest.”

The Shade’s work has made this part easier, giving Evensong an easy way to bypass steel and muscle. With a sickening crack, Evensong opens up the chest cavity. Inside, the one remaining heart lies motionless, caught in a network of gold and ceramic. Evensong places its missing twin in its brutalized cradle. She forces the soft metal to grip the heart again, hoping that the delicate writing on the band was not too badly marred. Satisfied with her work, Evensong folds the metal and muscle back into place with another sickening crack.

A few tense minutes later, the flames roar as Gideon and Evensong shovel the last helping of coal into the furnace. The generator in the back room hums to life, expelling high-pressure steam through unseen pipes to drive a turbine and produce the necessary power for a touch of golemancy.

He takes a pair of thick insulated cables with metal clamps at the end and plugs them into a handy socket in the front room. When the ends come within a few inches of touching, arcs of electricity crackle between them. All electricity yearns to form a circuit, to follow the path of least resistance, to go to ground. The one Gideon has in mind will pass through Dirae to enliven their body. The spark of life has never been quite so literal.

“Sorcery most foul! Divine wrath beckons!” squawks the raven. Gideon shushes it and the raven resumes sulking, watching the proceedings with one wary eye.

Evensong takes a moment to clean their hands of coal dust and oily ichor before placing the electrodes. Most of them are stuck on Dirae Erinyes' chest, with a few stray ones trailing up to the extremities. The last one is placed on the now-waxy forehead.

“You are going to want to stand back - the twitching can be violent.” Evensong only steps back reluctantly, even as she warns Gideon. “Are you ready?”

Gideon nods and flicks the switch. As the current passes through their body, Dirae convulses violently, sending the few remaining implements on the table clattering to the floor. Static crackles from the electrodes. Leather straps binding us to the table. Electrodes, wires, transference. This is much like what was done to us, Gideon.

He shakes off the intrusive memory and continues the work, hands wrapped in insulated gloves. For the flesh and clay to reform, the damaged parts must be cut away. It is delicate work, but Gideon has steady hands and Evensong holds the twitching body as still as she can. Even as he cuts, the scroll does its work, breathing life into the rebuilt head.

“Full power,” says Gideon, dialling up the generator and standing well back.

The crackling lightning takes on a life of its own, crawling over Dirae Erinyes in waves. The white raven screeches and flaps its wings in agitation. The dingy room is bathed in an unearthly blue light. Hebrew letters flare on the golem’s forehead. Alive. The body shudders and jerks as if it is straining to get free, shedding the electrodes as the cables come loose from the strain.

Dirae takes a gasping, shuddering breath as the last of the electricity leaves them. Alive.

Evensong rushes to their side, something like laughter escaping from her controlled facade. A groan follows as the lungs struggle to get into rhythm. Evensong rushes to undo the leather straps as the breathing finally settles. The eyes flicker open, and a sharky hand rises up to grasp Evensong’s hands, fluttering over the leather strap over the neck.

“Thank you… we were arguing about whether or not the Lazy Lord variant was too political to play or not...” With that weak joke, Dirae Erinyes gives a stiff smile. Evensong falls into their embrace. “How is everyone?”

Evensong’s shoulders stiffen up, and she draws a breath before continuing. “Phryne is dead. Everyone else survived. Drake is dealing with their wounds right now.”

“I remember the sun...”

“She exploded when that happened. I don’t have enough intel to tell you more.”

Gideon unplugs the power supply and removes the last of the electrodes from Dirae’s shoulder with a soft pop. “That light… it was just like a device I had stored in my Shed. Not mine, unfortunately - I ended up with it due to a postal mix-up. It was… like the sun, but not. This requires further investigation. Imagine the power that could be harnessed…”

He trails off. “I’m sorry about Phryne. Perhaps if I had been quicker, she would still be alive.”

“I thought she would’ve survived…” says Dirae. “I thought I wouldn’t be the only one of my siblings...”

Evensong hushes them with a soft kiss. “You have me. You will always have me,” she softly half-sings, before humming a popular tune, hiding any sobs from Dirae Erinyes.

Gideon tidies up the last of the equipment and scuttles into the back room to put it away.

“Is the Shade still alive?” Dirae Erinyes asks, interrupting the humming.

“Yes, but badly hurt,” replies Evensong.

“Then we’d best be on our way,” Dirae Erinyes says, steel violence in their voice.
edited by JimmyTMalice on 11/11/2017

Gideon Stormstrider, the Episcopalian Esotericist
Jimmy T. Malice, gone.

A Tale of Two Suns - Meeting Your Maker - A Squid in the Polls
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Posts: 2298

Cowritten with John Moose.

The corridor surrounding Henchard is deep red, and quivers slowly, as if alive. Further away, faceless shapes enter from some side corridors and exit to others. Beside Henchard, a red mist solidifies into Noah. The doctor seems to have calmed down remarkably… Although something about him seems very off. His unseeing white-grey eyes seem to rest on Henchard, then the corridor, then his leg, as if seeing normally. The blood on his leg has ceased to flow out, now instead crawling back up his leg, like an armada of red worms. The wound isn’t closing, but the blood seems hesitant to leave. Henchard dreads to think of what his own neck is going through. Noah stands up slowly but steadily, and begins walking toward a small, dark corridor, leading downwards. He carries his cane, but does not seem to have need of it. On the floor, where Noah’s steps fall, shapes as if agonized faces appear, their screams unheard. “This way”, Noah says dreamily, not seeming to pay much attention to Henchard anymore.

So. Not medicine, but another mystery of the neath. Unfriendly as always. And hopefully over soon. A whisper floats past him, and Henchard looks back. The corridor is gone, replaced by a door locked with a mask. He turns his back on it and follows Noah.

“So” Noah remarks, heading deeper down the winding corridors, “What would you prefer? Love? Violence? The thrill of the chase? We have time to kill, and I’ve stored a good selection of memories down here. Is this your first time in the Chambers? I’m sure you’ll learn to appreciate it.” He stops, hesitating between two paths. Left, a golden glow shines faintly through the walls. Right, shadows of small, scurrying things are cast on the walls, without any clear source. Noah chooses the right one. “Distilled memories. It’s how I make my living, generally - extracting valuable memories from those without the ability to appreciate them, and painful ones from those who’d do better without them. You’d be surprised how much people will pay for utterly dreadful memories, in certain circles.”

“So you run a...memory trade,” Henchard says, stepping over a large face forming beneath them. Its mouth was open, hungry, salivating. “And people pay money to come here?”

“I… Operate a modest service under the watchful eye of my superiors.” Noah’s face is carefully devoid of all emotion. ”And no, not to come here, per se. To view the memories accessible from here, and sometimes to mingle with other… Enthusiasts. Although I must say, I personally find these corridors rather soothing in themselves. But generally what’s being looked for is… Say… The feelings of first experiences, true love for those who are unable to find any, how it feels to kill a person… Very hedonistic in general, you see.”

“I think so,” Henchard said, “There is nothing people want more than what they cannot have.” He stops in front of a door of a yellow star and knocks lightly on it. “So each memory is stored behind one of these doors-”

The door opens without warning, flooding the corridor with light. Henchard finds himself running through Flit, a high-pitched laughter bubbling from his throat. He’s holding the favourite hat of a fellow Fisher-King, being chased by the owner. The hat’s owner seems far less amused and Henchard knows he’ll get silent treatment for this, but he’s never able to resist teasing-

(Somewhere at the back of Henchard’s mind, he hears a young girl begging him to leave her memories alone)

-A ladder! Henchard scurried up, hat clenched in teeth. He emerges onto a flat roof, cluttered with junk and useless bits. Too useless or too big to even be stolen. A tilted flagpole hangs over the streets below, and an idea takes root at the sight of it. He can raise the bluest, hattiest flag London has ever known! Wave it from the top of the flit, a nice blue against the stars-

(A young girl is pleading, sobbing, to be left alone)

-He arrives out of breath, having looped back at the flagpole. The hat’s owner has fallen behind, struggling over the rooftops in the distance. Henchard waves, and turns to the pole. He scrunches out, inching his way along it until he reaches the end. One hand grips the pole with a too small hand, the other fumbles in pockets for a needle and thread. Carefully, carefully, he stitches the hat to the remaining rope-

(A young girl is screaming, incoherent with pain, alone, alone, alone)

-A hand grabs his foot! He squeals and jumps, twisting around the flagpole. The other person screams as the world blurs. Their hands wrapped around his foot hard enough to hurt. Let go Let go Let go LET GO!

-and Henchard is back in the corridor, Noah patiently waiting for him to resume the journey.

“I hope you liked it,” Noah said, before Henchard lunged across the room, his hands grabbing the front of Noah’s shirt.

“What was that voice?” He hissed, “The one screaming to be left alone.”

“Oh, that? The owner of the memory.” Noah’s expression is of mild surprise, instead of the usual fear - something about this place seems to be keeping him calm. “That happens, yes. It’s not a pleasant experience to have your memories ransacked. It’s handy, really - if the voice matches with the age in the memory, you know it’s fresh.”

“Fresh?” Henchard draws back a fist, and then lets it drop. “If we weren’t in a hurry to get back to the fight,” He pauses, “I’m not sure if I could kill you here, but I would certainly give it a try.”

Noah frowns slightly. “Hurry? We’re not in a hurry.” Noah cocks his head to the side, puzzled at why this man won’t just relax now they’re safe. There’s some choice memories he’d like to get to… “The dose I gave us won’t wear of at least for another half an hour. We’ll be safe and sound here until the battle is well over.” His face lights up a bit. Oh, he was worried we were going back… “Don’t worry, we’re not dying like the rest of them, I saved us. You can just relax now, and then we’ll find a good hospital to return to. I’m sure the Shade won’t keep chasing us as long as we lay low and don’t bother it.”

Half an hour. This wasn’t a temporary retreat to lick their wounds, this was a coward’s retreat, abandoning their friends and allies and leaving them to rot. Henchard looks at Noah’s vacant expression. Maybe not a coward’s retreat, but an addict’s. But either way, the result is the same. Henchard shoved Noah away and the man tumbled to the ground. Laughing and jeering faces grew out of his shadow, and he gazed up at Henchard, confused.

“No. We don’t have half an hour.” A strange fuzz grew downwards across Henchard’s face, and his hands twitched with the desire to scratch at it. Noah’s face was similarly affected, blurring him like water on paint, like memory after pain, like rot upon bread. “You will fix this. And you will get us back to the Shade in time for us to help. Do you understand.”

What Henchard gets in response is a honey-mazed laughter. “A ha ha, no, no way. Back to that? I like my blood on the inside, thank you very much. Besides, it’s impossible. The Honey’s in us now, and until it dissipates, no power in the Neath is going to take us out. If you figure a way to get out, be sure to let me know. I could publish.” At this, Noah breaks into open, roaring laughter. “Well I couldn’t! But still!” At the back of his mind, something is nagging him about this situation, but he’s having too much fun to stop.

Henchard kicks out at the laughing figure. Noah topples over onto his back, still laughing, the faces beside him cheering and sharing greedy smiles. Henchard stands over Noah, and places a foot against his throat.

“You left them alone.” He whispered, and stomped on the figure’s throat. “They trusted you and you ran, abandoned them. Betrayed them.” Noah coughed in response.

Henchard picked the figure up, resting him against a door locked with a mask. “And you dragged me into it too.” His hand shoots out, smashing the figure’s head against the door frame. The door starts to open, starts to consume Noah, and Henchard drags the figure away from the light. Noah screams, torn between dreams and memory. The door closes, the light fades, and the figure’s head is beaten into the doorway again. “You’re a monster.”

Noah only smiles in response. His mouth starts to move, to respond as the light swallows his arm. The figure is torn away with a scream. The head meets the door. The head meets the door. The head meets the door and blood crawls back inside the skull. The head meets the door and is pulled away with a deep sucking sound. The head meets the door and is torn away leaving a tendril of blood quivering, between the head and the door. The head meets the door, and Henchard drops the figure in disgust. Noah moans as the light consumes him.

-Noah is standing on the deck of a ship, eyeing the light of the buoy shining in the distance. It’s still five days’ zailing to Irem, and the supplies are dwindling. His first mate approaches him and opines “You’ve done and fucked up properly this time, Noah”. What-

-Noah twitches on the warm floor, feeling something sweet trickle in his mouth-

-warm morning in a Paris café, enjoying the beginning of the hustle and bustle of the streets. The sun feels warm on his skin. He casts his eyes on the newspaper, the cover exclaiming how “It’s real this time, boy, you’re dying and it’s in the hands of someone you thought was a friend, there’s no clever words that’ll get you out of this, Noah” Wait, that’s not what it-

-the warmth of the walls is gone now, that red light in his head that let him find his way as if he could see again, it’s all dark and confusion and pain pain so much pain-

-his lover grabs him by the hand, spins him around so his red dress flutters in the darkness, and leans in to whisper to his ear: “That’s cerebral fluid you’re tasting. Let’s find out what dying’s like, shall we? It’s ok, you deserve it, Noah”-

-his head is burning, he can’t breathe… No, no, what is this, why am I…

As Noah thrashes around on the floor, a small crack comes from his large coat’s breast pocket. A loud buzzing fills the corridor, as angry, red-shaded bees escape, swarming around him and crawling over his face. Noah tries to wave them away, but his arms aren’t moving properly.

“Now the screaming, Noah” the bees buzz in his ears. “They always screamed, didn’t they Noah, scream now, scream, there’s a good boy, scream, that sound’s coming from you Noah, scream, scream, scream” he feels the air grow cold, and something leaks from his head, from his mind, and water that tastes like mud flows over him, and suddenly he’s submerged in cold, cold water, the bees holding onto his ears and eyes and nose-

The buzzing comes first. Leaking from the door unlocked with a mask, seeping from the edges. Something has been angered, and Henchard waits.
The figure comes second. It stumbles from the door locked with a mask, and falls to the ground. It thrashes there, still lost in its dreams.
The bees comes third. As if birthed by the struggles, they spread over the figure, leaving it a red blur. The buzzing settles, almost to a whisper.
The screaming comes fourth. It floods over the buzzing, leaving only the occasional whisper to bob to the surface, friendly and drowning, clinging to life.
The screaming, the bees, the figure, the buzzing, they vanish. And Henchard is alone.
edited by suinicide on 11/11/2017

A gentleman seeking the liberation of knowledge, with a penchant for violence.
RIP suinicide, stuck in a well. Still has it under control.
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Posts: 573

The sun the Sailor staggers to his feet - something he's been doing a lot of lately - and the sun this time manages to stay there. Spots sun the sun the swim across his vision, as if he's been looking directly atHE SU- something extremely bright. The Shade is gone. Phryne Amarantyne is gone. The alley is a ruin. As far as victories go, this seems a hollow one.

There is a joyous burning in the far reaches of his mind. Phantom pains coruscate across his skin, the memories of wounds. The brightness the hunger the voracious incandescence the white and the light and the sun the suN THE SUN THE- He steadies himself with his stony arm - the only part of him that seems any kind of steady. Deeps breaths. Focus. Remember the pain of it, the unimaginable hurt, the ugly little dark thing that, when faced with a god, with something that toed the line between ecstasy and torment, wriggled and screamed and struggled for the peace of darkness. Hold onto the hurt. The light did that. It's like a mantra - the light did that. His breathing steadies, and the giddy feeling abides, although it's still there, thrumming in his second thoughts.

There's a crater in the street, and those of the hunting party that remain in the area are bloodied and haggard. No bodies, at least. To think it'd take sunlight to wound this thing. A cruel joke. Boxes of the stuff, piled up in the hold of the Reck, the Sailor's private shame. Untouched for months - the dark ugly self twitches in pride at this - but still, he'd been unable to throw it away, to sell it. And now it could have been of use - may still be of use - at the cost of him baring himself, his weaknesses and dependancies.

A shout. What remains of the hunting party is gathering, calling him over. In a slow, loping limp he makes his way over to them. Now that the painful euphoria of the light that had once been Phryne is abating - although he fears it will be a long time before its effects truly fade - the pain finally gets a chance to set in. He is hurt, and he's not the only one. He thinks he spies the Dynamo siblings, ministering Cider, and his hobble becomes more purposeful. There is still work to be done. His thoughts echo in his head - to be done, done, un, the s -

The Scorched Sailor, Captain of The Reckoning Postponed.
+6 link
Drake Dynamo
Drake Dynamo
Posts: 471

Drake administers Hesperidean Cider to the wounded all around him, still somewhat shocked by the Monster-Woman's explosion. A sip for the Sailor, a significantly larger one for Florence, who is only now regaining consciousness. Looking over towards the street, Emma is giving her own Cider to Lady Orosenn, who appears to have suffered a death at the Shade's hands. He further notices that quite a few people have disappeared: Gideon, Henchard, Rache the Blind, the agent and her machine husband. Drake sighs, knowing what must be said.

"We need to make chase. Captain, I understand you've suffered grievously at the beast's hands, but I think you and I are the only ones well enough to follow," Drake says, looking at the Sun Scorched Sailor. "I doubt Lady Orosenn will be in any condition to do battle upon her awakening, whenever that happens to be, and I doubt Emma will leave her side until then. The others are not fighters, and to be frank, neither am I, but I have already caused enough harm and I could not bear to put my friends in further jeopardy."

There is a moment of silence. Before the Sailor can respond, Drake holds up his hand.

"No need to answer. Only come if you are truly desirous. My actions have cost you so much already: a nose, an arm, the use of your ship during our voyage. I will go to the street to hail a carriage. If there are others who want to accompany me, gather them. If they so wish, we will end this together," Drake declares, steeling himself, and heading for the street.

(OOC: If there is anyone who would like to come, now is the time. Write a little post of your character going to the carriage within ~24 hours of when this is posted, and then we shall work on the FINAL post of the RP together.)
edited by Drake Dynamo on 12/12/2017

Oh no. Another post from that goon who goes on about statistics.

Drake Dynamo -Correspondent, Hesperidean Cider Drinker , Matchmaker, and Paramount Presence
The Antioch - The Coffee God (I do not check this account often)
Mr. Mauvais - A ghostly skullduggerous fellow, chopped up for the time being (Only active during seasonal events)

Guide to becoming a Poet-Laureate
If you need to discuss RP matters, I can typically be found on the IRC in #Argo.
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Posts: 234

Gideon limps out of a side-street to see Drake and the Sun-Scorched Sailor attempting to hail a cab. Most traffic is giving the bloodstained alley of the Shade’s ambush a wide berth – surely nobody in the whole city could have failed to see the unearthly light from Phryne’s timely detonation. The inventor steps forward beside the pair onto the kerb, sticks two fingers into his mouth and lets out a piercing whistle. Almost immediately, a carriage begins to slow to pick them up.

“You’ve got to let them know who’s boss,” he says, and smiles weakly.

Gideon feels naked without an arsenal of gadgets in his pockets. There is nothing left now but the Shade and the hunters. Like a wounded animal, it flees the fight to return to its den. It’s caused far too much pain and loss already. Time to end this.

“If you’re going after the Shade, I’m coming with you,” he says. “My ankle is probably sprained, but I’ve come out of this better than most – Dirae will live, but they won’t be in full working order for some time. I don’t even know what happened to Henchard and Noah. And we all saw what Phryne did for us, to stop that creature once and for all.”

Gideon runs his hand through his hair in agitation. “It’s wounded. I saw that myself. We can stop the Shade, and I’d be remiss if I let anyone else get hurt by it on my watch. I don’t have any more mad inventions to stop it, but I have this.” He pulls a small derringer from his pocket – a last-resort weapon if there ever was one – and is surprised to find his hands shaking.

“Maybe it will be enough. One last blaze of glory. Are you with me, friends?”

Gideon Stormstrider, the Episcopalian Esotericist
Jimmy T. Malice, gone.

A Tale of Two Suns - Meeting Your Maker - A Squid in the Polls
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Mr. Hamilton
Mr. Hamilton
Posts: 80

(OOC: I’ve been forgetting to check this recently and I didn’t notice the post about responding in 24 hours. I was wondering if I was early
enough to join in in writing the last post or not.)

I am open to any calling cards and most other social events.

My alt: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/George~Albany

My alt's appearance: http://community.failbettergames.com/topic9363-your-characters-appearances.aspx?Page=8#post164336

My main profile: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Mr%20Hamilton

My main profile's appearance: [urlhttp://community.failbettergames.com/topic9363-your-characters-appearances.aspx?Page=6#post164298
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Posts: 963

(co-written with John Moose!)

It wasn’t the pain. She had experienced worse. It was the feeling of helplessness as the darkness gathered in her vision that really - almost - frightened her. She couldn’t stop to try drawing in air through her crushed windpipe. And then everything went black.

It was impossible to determine how much time had passed when Lady Orosenn became aware of a sound. The sound of water, softly lapping against the hull of a boat. And whispering voices, nearby, but so low as to sound very far away.

She opened her eyes.

A tall figure, sitting on the end of the boat, clad in black and grinning without the hindrance of flesh or skin, is looking at her, its head slightly turned to one side. “We haven’t met before, have we? Welcome, I suppose.”

Only now realizing she’d been holding her breath, the monster-hunter exhales. Apparently, breathing is possible in this place. Not yet answering the Boatman, she takes in her surroundings.

She is not alone on the boat. There are a few indistinct figures, huddling together at the boat’s other end. They are the ones whispering. Her gaze travels further, trying to make out a shoreline at either side of her, but all is shrouded in fog. She faces the Boatman once more and clears her throat, slightly inclining her head to the skeletal figure.

“Hello there. No, we haven’t met before. It was just a question of time though. I knew that when I left my home.”

The Boatman answers with a dry chuckle, making a noise like small bones clattering in his skull. “How very prescient of you. I regret to inform you it was a question of time before you left, too.” The skeletal figure stretches a leg, ‘accidentally’ kicking a folded chessboard closer to Orosenn. He does not make eye contact - it is clear he will not be asking for favours.

“So, is this it, then? The end of your hunts, the last chapter? There’s some that have passed this way that would quite like it so. Some very recently, as it so happens. I imagine they’d love seeing you again.” His gaze returns to the Hunter, and somehow his permanent grin seems to reach all the way to his eyes, now.

The monster-hunter’s peligin eyes are as expressionless as ever. If these two were to enter into a staring contest, it could take a very long time… but Lady Orosenn obediently picks up some white chess pieces and begins setting up the board. Pointing over her shoulder, she asks: “Any of those you mentioned among the sorry lot over there? If they want another lesson, well, here I am.”

“Oh, no, no, these are a more recent haul. An orphan here, an elderly lady there, that sort of thing. Not sure if any have enough fire in them to go back.”

“Business as usual, hm?” Lady Orosenn asks rhetorically. “And what if they haven’t the strength? What happens then?” Her voice sounds disinterested, as if she were but inquiring about the weather.

“Then, my lady, they travel all the way. To the far shore.” He slightly adjusts his queen, waiting for her to make the first move.

The huntress chooses a random white pawn to start the match. She isn’t particularly preoccupied with the game yet. Unless things in London go really wrong, someone should administer some Hesperidean Cider to her dead body soon enough. But maybe there is a chance she can weasel some useful bits of information out of her opponent.

“The far shore. Hm. Sure, I’ve heard about that. No way back, eh?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know that, little one. But it is no great secret. No way back at all, and if you see those dusty moth-keepers from Tanah-Chook, you might want to pass that message on. Their pets bother my… customers.” The Boatman thinks he recognises a variation of the Hyperaccelerated Dragon, and stops to consider his opponent a bit more carefully. He responds with the Sicilian Pterodactyl, and now locks eyes with Lady Orosenn in anticipation of her next move.

In truth, Lady Orosenn is only a mediocre player. But successful hunters need an almost photographic memory: it is vital to recognize your prey’s moves. And just so, she can remember almost every move she’s ever seen used against her on a chessboard. However, right now she’s playing against someone who’s probably seen every move ever invented a thousand times or more. Come to think of it, he’s probably invented some himself. So, instead of choosing a particular line of attack - only to have that answered right away - she continues to make random moves and tries to see what the Boatman will make of that.

“Tanah-Chook, funny you should mention it. Not many ships stop there, but I do know the place.” She absentmindedly takes one of the Boatman’s rooks, just because the option presented itself. Could that have been a trap? “Where exactly does this river lead to anyway? The boat is definitely moving, but I guess we’ll never really get anywhere…?”

The skeletal figure is having some trouble figuring out the monster-hunter. She begins a very promising Pseudo-Demi-Slav-Offense, and then throws it all away for a simple rook. He decides to go for a more classical move to judge her habits. “Somewhat presumptuous to expect to know where we’ll go if you don’t even know where we currently are, isn’t it.” His voice is getting less cheerful as he concentrates on the game.

Ignoring the retort, the huntress ponders how to continue. She recognizes the Boatman’s move, even though she couldn’t name it, and knows what would be the usual way to answer it. However, she now recalls a match she once had in Apis Meet, during a long night when the Wax-Wind just wouldn’t let up. She had been playing against a Glassman who insisted the only way to unsettle even the greatest chess-masters was to play absolutely counter-intuitively - do the opposite of what seems reasonable all the time. It had served him well enough: he’d been winning all night, before throwing away everything in his last match. He insisted he’d planned it that way. On a hunch, Lady Orosenn now moves one of her knights deep into enemy territory, taking out two pawns in the process, with no hope of getting her knight back. Then she leans back, apparently very satisfied, looking out across the water.

“Well, wherever we are, I can’t help noticing some lack of variety in the scenery. Say, don’t you ever get bored of the view?”

The Boatman is now staring, unmoving, at the board. A Queen’s Continual Denied, Pro-Tartakower–Makogonov–Bondarevsky-maneuver? Really? Not that she wasn’t still losing, but he started to have a very uncomfortable feeling that she was simply gloating with these utterly obscure moves, and preparing something he might not have seen before. Growing irritated, he looks at the monster-hunter and responds: “Oh, it has its moments, especially when there’s someone to keep me company. There was a girl who very much looked like you not so long ago, come to think of it.”

At those words, the huntress freezes. She tries to read the Boatman’s expression, but this of course yields her nothing. Impossible. I would’ve heard. But he wouldn’t stoop to this, would he? Or would he? She forces herself to look at the board. It is an utter mess, enough to give chess enthusiasts a heart attack. Am I actually giving him trouble? Yes, I think I might. And even if not, I’ll rather go down with guns blazing anyway.

After a few deep breaths, she forces a smile and answers: “Nice try. But we don’t actually look that much alike, you know.” And with no further ado, she bends forward and puts her opponent within one move of a checkmate.

The Boatman is utterly frozen. Did she plan for this? Didn’t she? She’s reckless enough… But not skillful enough, surely. They were flukes. Surely. Surely.

A splash causes him to look up from the board, at a shape in the water. Lady Orosenn also turns around, only to gasp in astonishment.

“Oh ho! Talking of people you know.” There might be actual glee in the Boatman’s voice now.

In the water, the blind doctor from Lady Orosenn’s party is thrashing around in a panic, gulping water and doing his best to stay from sinking. For whatever reason, bees are crawling around his face, getting tied into his wet hair and taking flight only to return to him.

“Poor Mister Rache. It seems without his sight, he can’t even aim for the boat properly, can he.”

Shaking off her amazement, the huntress leans over the side of the boat as far as she dares, reaching out with her hand towards Noah. Realizing he can’t see, she shouts “Here! Doctor! Hold out your hand! In the direction of my voice!”

Barely avoiding drowning - whatever it would mean in these waters - Noah slowly splashes his way towards Lady Orosenn’s voice. His grasping hand finds hers, and as she pulls him aboard, he collapses in a small heap on the boat. He vomits out some oddly dark water, and tries to speak.

“...Uff… Hufff… Haven’t we… Met… NO GO AWAY! ...The hunter… NO NOT THE HAMMERS! ...NO! No, please not there, you’ve taken enough, please…” His voice keeps changing from exhausted but normal, to manic screeching. The bees are now calmly buzzing around him, finding rest on his wet, bloodsoaked clothes. “Help me.. He hit me, and hit me, and hit me… NO NOT MY EARS NOT IN MY EARS… Help… Oh, please help...”

The Boatman shuffles further away from Noah’s limp shape. “A friend of yours? How unexpected… oh no. Not now...” There is real disappointment in his voice when he sees a golden shimmer appear around the monster-hunter’s body. “Until next time then. We’ll continue the match where we left off.” And before she fully realizes what is happening, Lady Orosenn is gone from the Slow Boat.

The Boatman is left behind with the blind doctor, now weeping as the familiar voice has gone. It has been a while since the skeletal ferryman had a game as enjoyable as that one, even if it was all a most exaggerated bluff. He wonders when he’ll have another game like this, and when he’ll see the huntress again. She should have a good story or two on her next visit, be it a final one or not. She’ll come back; they always do. He looks down.

“We haven’t met before, have - oh for heaven's sake, stop crying on my pieces, will you!”

Coming to in her aching body, Lady Orosenn scowls up at Emma’s face. “You could’ve chosen a better moment for that! Ah well... thanks anyway.”

edited by phryne on 12/16/2017

Mostly offline for now.
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Drake Dynamo
Drake Dynamo
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(OOC: Ostensibly this is the final post of the Hunt, but if you’d like to do any sorts of wrap up posts for your own characters, don’t view this as a barrier! So, with that out of the way, this post was co-written with Barselaar and JimmyTMalice. And Merry Christmas!)

Having successfully hailed a carriage, Drake sees that the Sun-Scorched Sailor will indeed accompany him, as will Gideon. Wordlessly, the three board the carriage, and Drake directs it towards the Forgotten Quarter.

“So, we go to finish this,” Drake remarks, looking at his compatriots.

“Aye, so we do,” says the Sailor gravely. If he harbours further thoughts he keeps them under his bandages, settling himself in a corner.

“It’s almost hard to believe this might be the end of it,” says Gideon. “It’s scarcely been a few days, but it feels like this fight has been going on for a lifetime.”

The inventor pauses, lost in thought, and watches London rattle by - all his old haunts, the coffee-houses and the University. Long evenings discussing lofty ideals and arcane theories that meant nothing when something craftier and far more cruel swept over them. Not just this fight - the one before, too. Will it ever end? Am I doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes, to lose every friend I have?

At length, he speaks up again. “I thought it impolite to ask before, but it seems fitting now: what is the Shade, truly? You said you created it, but how? Why does it wear your face? I worry, Drake, I do. I’m no fighter - far from it - but I saw how you froze up in that alleyway. What will it do to you if you destroy your own dark reflection?”

“It’s little more than a homunculus, a golem of sorts, born from my blood, and the blood of the Mountain, Cider, and Flint. The Captain was there at its birth; it seems like so long ago. I see it as my duty to right the wrong that it has brought to the Neath; I will accept whatever consequences its death may have for me,” Drake answers.

“I think Dirae would take offense at the ‘little more’ part, but I see your point,” says Gideon. “It has the freedom to make its own choices, and it has chosen the path of wanton destruction. We’re hardly lawmen, but when something so dangerous threatens the city, even ordinary citizens should take a stand. And we, if you don’t mind me saying, are very far from ordinary.”

At this, the Sailor laughs, then winces in pain. Gideon shakes his head. “It’s far too late for me to have any moral qualms about the hunt, regardless. We’re in this until the bitter end.”

Drake ponders this for a moment. “But ordinary citizens shouldn’t have to take a stand. This was my mistake, and I have nearly brought ruin to the city for it,” he says.

“We all make mistakes,” Gideon says softly as he gazes out of the window at the ancient buildings of the University passing by across the Stolen River. “Sometimes other people pay the consequences for our actions. All we can do is try to make it right as best we can.”

With that, no more words are spoken until they arrive in the Forgotten Quarter. The trio departs from the cab, and silently approach a ruined temple, outside which a carriage has been crashed. There is no question as to where the Shade is hiding.

Huddled in a corner, the Shade shivers. Covered in burns, cuts, and scratches, he looks very ill. Upon hearing footsteps, he looks up to see Drake, Gideon and the Sailor approaching.

“Hello Drake. Good to see you,” The Shade says with a forced smile. He glances between the figures arrayed before him. “Three magi before me, bearing gifts. How lovely.”

“Gifts? We’re here to end your menace-” Drake begins, raising his scimitar, but the Shade interrupts him.

“Oh, stop it, Drake. I don’t have much time left, and if you weren’t here, time would do your job for you. So please, give me this,” the Shade pleads, before being wracked by a wave of shakes. Drake warily nods.

“Alright, go ahead. What is it you want from us?” Drake inquires.

“Three questions I have. I’d like three answers,” The Shade murmurs. The Shade now coughs violently, and some blood trickles down his chin. Drake lowers his blade, and takes a knee near the dying being.

“Tell me, Drake, how does family feel?” The Shade asks softly. Drake pauses a moment in thought before responding.

“Imagine a warmth, deep within yourself. And it’s always there. And then, there’s love, all-encompassing, and it’s a part of that. And when you need it, it will be there for you,” Drake explains. The Shade nods slowly, before beckoning the Sailor closer.

“Captain, I know it is painful for you to say, but what is the touch of the sun like?” The Shade now inquires.

The Sailor glances at Drake, who motions for him to acquiesce. He keeps a wary distance, bloodied and tired, but even so fails to keep a note of pity out of his voice. “All your dark places, illuminated. All the private shames and shadowy guilts, everything you’d ever hoped to bury away from mortal ken, brought to light. The light - the Law - it knows ye utterly. It’s glorious.” The last words catch in his throat. “And then it finds you wanting. And then it hurts.”

The Shade closes his eyes, and is still. It seems like the Shade has passed for a moment, but suddenly his eyes open again and takes a deep breath in. He angles his head towards Gideon.

“I haven’t forgotten you, Stormstrider. I want to know, how do you know your own mind? What do your dreams mean?” The Shade gasps.

Gideon looks pityingly at the Shade. He had been expecting a fight, not this poor, dying creature. You’ve been lured before, says the Voice of Arnold. Don’t let it trick you.

“My mind is my own. It’s merely more crowded than others. For a time, I forgot that. Thought the voices were mine too. But they’re not, and I can ignore them if I want. As for my dreams, they’re… reminders. They help me to recall my mistakes so that I don’t repeat them. And sometimes, they let me speak with bygone friends - and enemies - again.” He smiles sadly. “I don’t know what sort of dreams a creature like you has, but I hope they help you find peace after what you’ve done. Even the worst sinner can find absolution in the end if they truly repent. A friend told me that, and I’m not certain if I truly believe him, but the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“I did what was required of me to set nature right. Which of you can say your lives were worse before the Neath? Still, my time here is done,” the Shade says, and beckons Drake closer. Drake edges nearer, and the Shade grasps Drake’s forearm.

“I don’t want to go. Where will I be? Do I have a soul?” The Shade whimpers, fear evident in his voice. Drake sighs.

“It’s alright. Don’t be scared,” Drake whispers. “There’s a place for all of us, in the end.” And suddenly, without any fuss, the Shade is still. Drake rises, and steps away from the body of his long-time foe. He begins to remove stones from the base of the temple’s altar until eventually there is a space large enough for the Shade.

The wind howls through the wasteland where all things come to be forgotten. Wordlessly, Gideon and the Sailor help Drake move the corpse, and set the stones back in place.

And so the Hunters buried the Shade, Shadow of London.

Oh no. Another post from that goon who goes on about statistics.

Drake Dynamo -Correspondent, Hesperidean Cider Drinker , Matchmaker, and Paramount Presence
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Henchard sat at a table, dressed in a hurry. An ill fitting suit several years out of date, only moderately torn. A generous description of a hat. A pair of shoes polished to a shine. And a torn, knotted smile across his throat.

A devil sat on the other side, dressed in its Sunday best. The standard suit. The standard hat. The standard shoes. And a bright, honey sweet smile on its lips.

“And here you agree to never open a package with a shepherd's crook on it.” The devil said, about three pages into the contract. “This one doesn’t come up too often, but we do require you to remember it...”

Henchard nodded along, not listening. The sounds of slamming doors and crunching bones echoed in his head, drowning out all other noises.

The devil tutted, disappointed. “You could at least put in an effort. There’s no fun if you don’t try and stop us.”

Henchard nodded again. “This will fix me.” He said, mostly to himself. “No more guilt. No more arrogance. No more hurting people.” He swallowed.

“So you’re one of those,” the devil said, “A disappointing end for anyone. No matter. The paperwork is all in order.” He stood up and walked over to Henchard. “This won’t take more than a second.” Something flashed in his hand, and Henchard closed his eyes.

The lion shall lay with the lamb, the priest had said. And he followed the tiger away from the party. Henchard did not stop him.

The gunner, not the most skilled, but the most brave. Placed their hand on the wrong tree. Within minutes they were pulled inside. The zailor, who refused to abandon them, and was caught in the same way.

The navigator boasted of her skill, but now she was gone. Just gone. And so was their map.

The cook, far too trusting, and the zoologist, far too hungry.

Noah, mixing bees with crawling blood, begging by laughter, and smiling the whole way.

And the eighth. Emptiness where guilt should be. And the rage over both their betrayals.

Each death was Henchard’s fault, and he didn’t care. A free man left the embassy.
edited by suinicide on 12/26/2017
edited by suinicide on 12/26/2017

A gentleman seeking the liberation of knowledge, with a penchant for violence.
RIP suinicide, stuck in a well. Still has it under control.
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