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

Posts: 216

8 days ago
(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 Squid in the Polls
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Posts: 2159

8 days ago
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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