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Self Conceit [Community Story Arc RP Thread]


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A Community Story Arc on the Everlasting Server


Hello and welcome to the Self-Conceit RP thread. Self-Conceit is a Community Story Arc run as an overarching story and plot that is open to anybody and everybody on the Everlasting Server to participate in. Like other Community Story Arcs before it, Self-Conceit is predominantly run and operated on the Homecoming City of Roleplay Discord Server.


Self-Conceit is something of an experimental venture in that it will be touching upon and exploring the use of multiple mediums of roleplay to drive the story. This will include not only in-game live Roleplay and Community-Run events, but will also be utilizing the Homecoming Roleplay Forums and Play-By-Post RP. Use/engaging in Forum RP is not required in order to participate in the Community Story Arc proper, and individual players/posters can opt in and out according to their preferences. Likewise, it is not require for you to participate in the in-game RP if you would prefer to participate exclusively in the forum-based RP.


Please do not post in this thread except for Arc-Related, IC content. If you have any questions or want to express interest in the roleplay, please join the Homecoming City of Roleplay Discord Server and check out the Self-Conceit Discussion Channel. You can opt-in to the Community Story Arc Channels by using the !rank arc command in the Server's Bot Channel.


I would strongly prefer that posters who want to post in the IC thread join the Discord and introduce themselves before actually doing so. While I can tolerate blind drop-ins, it would make ongoing communication. collaboration, and planning much more difficult - not only for me personally but also for all of the other posters.

When posting in this thread, please preface all posts with an IC date, location, and with the name of the character or characters who the post is focusing on. You may also find it prudent to tag specific other posters indicating who the intended audience/recipient of the post is, and so that people do not get too lost in the posts depending on how crowded the thread becomes.


For the purposes of all Community Roleplay that transpire in this thread, please note that all of the rules of conduct in-game, here on the Homecoming Forums, and on the Homecoming Discord Server apply here as well.


Participants and players may post individually and one at a time. Posters may also collaborate together through forum PMs, Discord DMs, or collaborative real-time text documents such as Google Docs or Various Syncpads. It is asked that all posters please bear in mind the flow of time, especially as it pertains in IC proximity to other characters. Be considerate of other posters and do not lock them out of interaction if they are nearby by posting a novella-length sequence of events lasting for two-IC weeks (as an example). If something like this does transpire, I will expect a reasonable explanation as to why it occured - localized time dilation, a pre-arranged agreement between posters, etcetera. 


Also note that, necessarily, any events that take place in the forum RP thread will not be congruous with any events that take place in-game (if two groups of people in-game and in the thread are at the same Up and Away Burger joint, both incidents will have taken place at different times, potentially even retroactively). If there is expected to be a substantial overlap between the two, an accommodation may be made, or I may make an executive decision and arrange events so that the two do not overlap.


Self-Conceit has now begun. Visit the Self-Conceit discussion channel on the City of Roleplay HC Server for more details about the Community Story Arc and how to participate. This thread is also officially open for any and all related RP.


Edited by Terminal
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This post contains a number of teasers for the arc which were posted previously on the City of Roleplay Discord Server.




. . .late afternoon yesterday, the ancient god Prometheus appeared in Atlas Plaza in front of Paragon City Hall.


The mythical figure was greeted by a formal reception that appeared to have been arranged in advance by the Mayor's office, and after a brief discussion, Prometheus was escorted inside. The Mayor's office has released a perfunctory statement indicating that Prometheus' arrival and his reception at City Hall were planned in advance between both parties, and that City Hall will not be releasing any formal announcements regarding the meeting.


"Prometheus might be available for questions and interviews later, although that is of course his prerogative." Said Brighid Moreira, City Representative.


Since then, Prometheus was seen periodically being led in and out of the Mayor Morale's office, concluding in a speculated final meeting at around 11:00 P.M. He has not remained on-location, and vanished in a burst of amaranthine flames when approached by reporters.


"This will not be the first time that Prometheus has reached out to Humanity in this way." Said Azuria, a M.A.G.I. Seer who works at City Hall. "I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics, but he was instrumental to Primal Earth during the Praetorian War, and was involved in both the final battle against Mot and - more recently - assisted the ADTF with the now-averted crisis involving the Carnival of Shadows."


When asked if Prometheus' sudden appearance, by inference of his recent actions, is indication that the world might be about to face yet another impending crisis, Azuria answered, "His meeting has been booked for over a month. I am confident the world and society as we know it are not at any unusual risk."





The Will to Power is a self-fulfilling prophecy.


It is realized not within the mighty, for they know not. It does not appear before the wise, for they are bereft of influence. It is unseen by the complacent, for they are blinded.


It is a destiny, self-realized, when the raw and unfettered font of the self knows what it desires and has the means and the will to seize it.


These Humans have many proverbs which address this. "Bushido is Only Realized in the Presence of Death." Their capacity to attain greatness is best realized in finality. This failing is borne of the consequence of those who would reject the Will to Power.


Those who possessed power and wisdom, but not the courage to see what lay before them, consumed with fear - mutilated the world itself by tamping the Flames of the Will. Not merely once, but time and time again. The world has become inured to the visions of these pathetic creatures. Even where they arise steeped in the Will itself, all is constant, unchanging in light of their grandiosity.


This is a perversion of the natural order.


This...is heresy.


Heresy that shall be remedied.



A Prerecorded Video


A brief recorded video which seems to have been filmed in Paragon City hall has been circulating through all the media outlets in the city - and has made international news as well, though it is not receiving anywhere near the same attention as the recent debacle with the Carnival of Shadows. The video is simple and brief, running only a couple of minutes in length. Prometheus, standing at a comically small podium - the ancient god is an easy nine feet tall - is addressing the camera, still wearing his golden braces, sandals, and his turquoise tunic while brimming with otherworldly ethereal flames.


"People of the world - You know me as the god Prometheus, who stole power from the gods and gave it to Humanity. What you do not know is that since the days when this world was young, I was here, and that since that time until now, it has been my duty to oversee the cultivation of this world as a caretaker. I come before you now to make a formal announcement required of me in the course of my duties as this world's caretaker. In bygone times, what you are about to hear would be reserved for the ears of gods, emperors and kings alone. Those days have passed however, and in my judgement it is the public at large to which my announcement must be made. It is thus: In approximately two days time from when this announcements airs, our world and its various alternate iterations will all be visited by another being, much like me. Another caretaker, of sorts. Their duty, much like mine, is one of cultivation. They will assess our world and sow within it foreign and exotic fonts of power meant to diversify and promote its cultivation overall. That is all my duty requires me to inform you of. I will also add for the sake of deterring panic that this visitation - in and of itself - does not and will not pose any risk to Human society at large, nor will it imperil the planet or existence as we know it. Indeed, almost none of you will even notice the effects of the visitor's presence. For the sake of comparison, you may envision their activity as akin to the opening of Pandora's Box by your Marcus Cole - albeit, with drastically less potent effects and consequences. My duty to inform you of the visitor's arrival is now concluded."


Speculation as to the greater meaning behind Prometheus' vague and obtuse portent is rampant in the news, the streets, and online. Mystics and scientists alike have entered furious debates, theorizing and guessing at possible ramifications of the 'visitor' arriving on Earth. Other, more organized and militant powers plan and scheme as to how to identify the visitor and any changes they make, as well as how to take advantage of their arrival. Prometheus has not been seen again since the announcement, and Paragon City Hall has not released any additional statements.





"Alright, open her up." The Warden of Zigursky Penitentiary, accompanied by Blue Steel and a number of select PPD Officers, stood in a control room deep underground, beneath the foundations of the prison itself. The area had been sealed during the incident with Nemesis and his scheme to use the Antikythera to dominate Paragon City. Now that things were finally approaching some level of normalcy once more, it was time to survey the damage and see what could be done.


The Warden and Blue Steel watched as two engineers worked at the maintenance hatch for the sealed blast-door for several minutes before, with a barked warning, they made the gated aperture open to reveal the large, still, silent chamber within - and its centerpiece.


The opened and silent Pandora's Box.


"Somehow I don't think just closing it back up is going to fix any of our problems..." The Warden murmured.


"Even I didn't know about this. This is obscene. Is there even anybody on the planet who knows how this all worked?" Blue Steel asked reproachfully.


"Gods and Monsters, child." An airy and feminine voice lilted from behind him. With a start, he turned. Three women, wearing long flowing robes and seeming to drift across the ground, swept past him. Their features were sculpted, their expressions serene but stern.


"What are they doing here?" Blue Steel demanded flatly. 


"They're the only people we have a line with who know how it worked." The Warden replied. "They're the experts. I invited them."


"The artifice of Zeus is finally come undone." One of the women spoke as the three women surrounded Pandora's Box.


"There is nothing left here. All that was held therein is absent."


"Even the power of Zeus is gone. This is simply an empty coffer now."


"So we should just get rid of it then?" The Warden inquired.


The three women shared a look before one of them replied.


"Keep ahold of it here. There may yet be a need for it again soon."


"No mysticism here please. Explain in clear terms." Blue Steel demanded.


The three women all spoke in turn. "A deterrent against transcendence." 


"A means to imprison what resides within, without."


"A way to thwart upheaval and cataclysm borne of a change in spirit."


"That is both unhelpful and unclear. If you three want us to keep this box in here on the City's dime, it had better be for a good reason." Blue Steel barked.


"We would have protected you, little champion." One of the three said. "Very well. Pay heed. What do you know of our Well of Furies?"





The Cor Leonis Archon who served as captain for the Striga Isle checkpoint - now substantially more ramshackle after the massive detonation set off by Calvin Scott - threw a hurried and panicked salute as he realized precisely who was approaching his station unannounced.


Arakhn, leader of the Path of the Dark - one of the dreaded Science Lords of the Nictus - had finally returned after going missing during her ill-fated attack upon both the Freedom Phalanx and the New Praetorians. Her already questionably arranged uniform was in disarray and her body covered with many still obviously recovering injuries, but it was she in the flesh. Few other people could project such unbridled rage with their looks alone.


"Ma'am. We were not expecting your arrival. Is there anything you require?" Thinking quickly, he then remembered to add, "Be aware your quarters had to be moved due to a shift in lava flows. Calvin Scott betrayed us and nearly blew up the entire volcano."


"I need to speak with The Center immediately." She answered darkly. 


"Of course ma'am. He's been sequestered ever since the attack but I'll see to it that you're conveyed immediately." He then executed a number of memorized hand-signals to his squad, and the checkpoint became a hive of activity as additional guards poured in to secure the area while a truck arrived to transport the leader of the Nictus.


Maestro himself was waiting for her when she stepped up into the back.


"The Center has not been seeing anybody since the attack. Not even me. Only the Ascendants who were on rotation have been in or out of the deep site."


"I do not care. I will see him." Arakhn snarled.


"Arakhn. You can't see him. And there's something important we have to d-"


"It was not a request. There is nothing you can say to me of any greater import than what I have to discuss with him. There is nothing you can do to stop me from seeing him. There is nothing anybody can do to stop me."


Maestro waited for her to finish with an uncharacteristically somber expression - the man was infamous for his sharp tongue and off-the-sleeve witticisms, but he seemed almost mournful now.


"Arakhn. Everyone is being convened. You arrived just in time. Nosferatu, Vandal, Burkholder. You can't see The Center...Because he went into a coma three weeks ago."


The leaden silence that hung between the two archvillains was broken only by the sound of the truck's engine revving up as it pulled out and away from the checkpoint.


"How is this possible-" Arakhn practically whispered.


"We're not sure. The Ascendant Guard are keeping their cards very close to the chest right now. The doctors they have let in and out have said that he is in a stable condition and that he is in perfect health for his age. They have requested examination by a few mystically inclined experts just to make sure he hasn't been cursed or the like, because as far as anybody can tell there is absolutely nothing wrong with him other than being a vegetable."


Another bout of silence, broken only by the dull thuds of the truck rolling over lowered spike-bollards and road-bumps.


"Have any of the others...tried to exert themselves?"


"No. For the moment, unless any of the others press something - you are now officially the acting Supreme Commander of the Council...Lady Arakhn."





"Absolutely not." Zigursky Penitentiary's warden stubbed the end of a nearly finished cigar in an ashtray, knocking the burnt excess off the tip before raising the smoldering remnant back to his lips. "He's too much of a flight risk."


"My client doesn't even have any limbs, thanks to you, and he's been a model prisoner -" A clearly frustrated public attorney began.


"On account of not having limbs." The warden muttered, puffing gently on the slim remnant of his habit.


"...And he has absolutely no powers anyway. You can't possibly continue to justify keeping him in fortified maximum security now that you're having to tailor power suppression per inmate." The attorney carried on. "Before when the previous power suppression system was online it made sense to keep all the special cases in one basket, but with it go-"


"That's a stupid line of reasoning. A supervillain is a supervillain, no limbs and no powers or otherwise." The Warden withdrew the nearly exhausted stub and exhaled. On their last leg, the attorney pressed on.


"Please, you yourself admitted you can't even come up with any special containment measures for him. What possible trouble could he get into in gen-"


"I don't intend to find out. You're done making your case for today, counselor." The Warden said, dropping the dead heel of the cigar into the ash-tray. "Even if I were inclined to listen to your points, he's still got an army of Freaks working to bust him out on the regular. Upstart stays where he is."


As the last embers of the Warden's cigar burnt out, Nick Pocker's trance ended, and he rubbed his temples out of habit. He stared through the narrow slit of his cell door and watched as the utterly immobile and prone Upstart was wheeled back into his own cell on a gurney, his parole interview concluded. Their gazes met, briefly, and Upstart's eyes flashed conspiratorially. Nick whistled innocently as he turned away. Had it been up to Nick, Upstart would have been moved into even higher security. Nick had an eye for schemes - and Upstart was getting more observant and mouthier by the day, even for a would-be Messianic cult figure. The way Nick figured it, the Torso-Freak was up to something - and it was going to catch everybody by surprise when he finally sprung whatever it was. Everyone but Nick Pocker, anyway. He resolved to call his lawyer next time they let him out. It was getting time to make sure he had men in place when the time came...



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"Haven't seen you since that business up in Astoria, Hill."


David Odysseus Hill, wearing an immaculate suit, turned and treated Sebastian Frost to a winning and clearly practiced smile. "Not quite sure what you mean old sport. Last time I went to Astoria was in the 90s, and it was with both these lovely ladies here." He gestured to both Aphrodite and Peresphone, their arms glued to his shoulders and with red and white wine in their hands. 


The leader of the Family snorted derisively. Sebastian Frost towered over Odysseus by a whole foot. His worn features and white but full hair, complimented by his distinctive fine-white outfit, made him stand out at the party. "Don't play that way with me Hill, you weren't even wearin' a mask. There isn't anybody who doesn't know."


"Nobody who matters who does not know, has to know whatever it is you're insinuating, Frost." Odysseus shot back.  "But let's not talk about all that weird magic rubbish that was going on up there. Let's talk business. Pretty strange to see you at one of these affairs in person. Sort of outside your realm, isn't it?"


Sebastian Frost looked down at Odysseus and his dazzling smile with such a stern look of contempt that the nearest group of partygoers immediately began to hurry to the opposite end of the room.


"You know damn well why I'm here Hill." He said flatly.


Odysseus shrugged. "I suppose I could hazard a guess, but really, I am not much of one for speculation. Not much of a thing in the antiquities business.  Take that journal that's up for grabs - just for example." Odysseus gestured over to the nearby placard stand, covered in large glossy photos of numerous items with typed descriptions underneath. The photo he gestured to depicted a somewhat weathered, red leather-bound journal with a black ink stamp-mark on the front cover. Its description read,



Journal found in an older residence of the infamous Harry Frost shortly before its demolition. Marked with his personal seal (seen above).

Due to the sensitive nature of this item, its contents (if any) have been neither confirmed nor perused.

Bidding will begin at $300,000.


"Possible piece of history right there.  Very tempting. Very juicy." Odysseus drawled. "Of course, that's just the thing. I deal in antiquities, we don't shell out for 'maybes.' Even if that seal is authentic, what do you think the odds are the journal is just blank or filled with chicken scratch?"


Sebastian Frost continued to stare hate at Odysseus as the smaller man took a pause to sip on the glass of white wine Aphrodite offered him. 


"But you know, it did occur to me, that a 'maybe' might be worth it if the item has any resale value." Odysseus carried on. "Especially if whatever is in there can be scanned and archived. If there were just the right buyer lined up, you know."


"What do you want, Hill." Sebastian ground out.


"I'm bidding on every other item at the auction. I want all of them. Cough up a quarter of what I spend to defray my costs and I'll make sure you're the only one bidding for the book, and you won't have to gamble on the outcome of a bidding war over it." Odysseus said, his expression suddenly serious.


Sebastian's eyes narrowed. For a moment, neither man spoke, the air between them filled only by the ambient chatter of the other guests.


"You don't care about most of this crap. You're also here for something specific." Sebastian said finally.


Odysseus strategically said nothing, instead gesturing for Persephone to offer him her glass of red wine.


"I'll pay three quarters of any one bid you make Hill. That's my only counter-offer. If you don't like it, we can settle this on the streets." Sebastian's eyes narrowed, his second sentence coming out only as a murmur.


"You had me at my own name Frost. Glad we understand each other." Odysseus treated him to another well-practiced, lackadaisical smile and had his giggling cohorts perform an impromptu toast with their glasses between the two men. 



Later that Evening...


Sebastian Frost gestured a deliberately casual hand-signal to his bodyguards, who stood to attention outside as he closed his private study door and settled into an armchair, placing the suitcase he has carried in with him on the table. He unlatched it, and carefully lifted the red leather-bound journal from its cushioned seating with something approaching reverent care. After adjusting the lights in the room with a remote, he opened the journal and immediately let out a long sigh of relief. The pages had writing on them.


He flipped through the journal and began to frown. Quite a lot of writing, actually. And drawn symbols.


Perturbing and unusual drawn symbols.


Sebastian Frost spent the entire rest of the night reading the journal, until the sun had come back up.



Elsewhere, Talos Island...


"Another dead one huh, boss?" Lukas Morakis said, an evidently disappointed look on his face. 


"I was so certain this was it too." Odysseus snarled as the two men looked down at the ornate deck of Tarot cards. "The fists react to them."


"But there's not anything magical about them. Just a regular Tarot set." Lukas paused. "Or an incarnate artifact and the Well is giving you the big thumbs down."


Odysseus shook his head. "No. It's not a Well artifact. I'm certain of that. It was the first thing I thought of. Whatever this deck is, it's something new."


Lukas shrugged. "You'd know better than me, boss. I suppose we could always call in the techies to look at it, maybe it's just a sufficiently advanced deck of Tarot cards."


"I doubt that." Odysseus muttered, "But call them in anyway. Maybe the scientific method can show us something a little bit of divination can't."



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Arakhn, flanked by two Ascendants, swept into what had former been the Center's office. Now, it was hers - but all the trappings of Paolo Tirelli still littered the place. The room was filled with shabby, potted plants, and the lighting was dim with the overhead fixtures evidently not having been changed in years. Several mass-produced and cheaply framed paintings mounted in a slapdash fashion from the bare-earthern wall on one side of the room. The Center's desk itself was crowded by a number of pulp magazines that could have been found in any Dentist's office, and a small radio set was still playing some hazy and indistinct Italian song, interspersed by static.


It was the office of a no-name, low-ranking Italian functionary. Exactly the way the Center had it decades past, and somehow, also exactly how he liked it. So he had confided in her the first time she had seen the office. 


Shaking her head in disbelief, Arakhn approaching the desk, planting both hands on its surface.


"How did that man ever get anything done in here?" She wondered aloud.


"He spent most of his time meeting with key personnel or else writing and responding to letters, Lady Arakhn." One of the Ascendants answered. "We have been attempting to persuade him to go electronic for years now, but he's always insisted that the most important work should be done physically or in person."


"Well, that is going to be one of many things that is going to change around here. I am a Science Lord and the ruler of the Path of the Dark, not some bureaucrat lost in Nostalgia." Arakhn replied calmly, lifting up one of the magazines - a Consumerist Motor publication - and crumpling it in her fist.


"Very good, Lady Arakhn. Should we have all of this disposed of?"


"...No. It is still possible the Center will recover." She dropped the crushed magazine back onto the desktop. "I will have a new command office dug out and built in the next few days. But we should move any vital materials that are here somewhere more secure." She moved around the desk and opened the draws, whereupon she began handing off a number of items inside to one of the Ascendants, who in turn stored them into a secure carrying-case. The items included a number of fobs, launch keys, several hand-books filled with ciphers and codes, and a number of dossiers...


...And from near the back, Arakhn pulled out a gunmetal-green, antique cold-war era two-way hand radio. It was so bulky she could barely grip the whole thing comfortably.


"What is this?" She asked.


"I am not familiar with the item myself Lady Arakhn." One of the Ascendants answered. "But we were required to memorize every object kept in this room from a list. By the looks of it, that is the old hand-radio the Center kept as a memento. It is nonfunctional."


No sooner had the Ascendant uttered the word, a stream of static spat out of the radio's speaker.


"...It was listed as nonfunctional." The Ascendant immediately corrected.


Arakhn stared at the radio's speaker as it continued to blare white noise, her expression obfuscated by her mask. "This area has hardened walls, shielding, and no signal repeaters. Who or what could be broadcasting that we would receive it in here, with this?"


"Receive what, Lady Arakhn? It's just static." The Ascendant replied. If he was confused, he hid it well.


Arakhn did not answer, and simply continued to stare at the speaker.


It was not just static to her. She knew that voice. It was a voice she had not heard in centuries.


The voice of her Science Lord Pedagogue. She had not seen them since they had fled their home galaxy.




Behind her mask, her eyes narrowed as she reached down with her free hand and switched the radio's power button off. The voice from her past quieted. "Its battery may have been functional and jostled when I lifted it out. Send it with the rest of the items, I'll see about having it examined and fixed if there is any damage."


"Yes, Lady Arakhn." The Ascendant replied dutifully, taking the radio from her and storing it with the rest of the items from the Center's desk.

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"My client needs a new pacemaker."


"Well we got 'em by the truckload down in the prison infirmary." The Warden said in a deliberately casual tone as he leaned back in his chair. "Variety of makes and models suited for a number of heart conditions, just have your client fill out a medical request form next time we let him out."


"First of all, I have already checked with the infirmary, and you do not have any pacemakers which are suited for my client's specific condition." The Public Attorney said with a tone of suppressed annoyance. "Second of all, I would again like to remind you that my client does not have limbs and so requires to meet with me in order to sign or fill out anything. And third, I am here to officially protest that you have been overdue to let Upstart out of his cell for the last  ninty-six hours."


"He'll be fine, his drip will make sure he won't die of starvation or thirst." The Warden treated the attorney to a callous smirk. "As for the pacemaker, it doesn't really matter if the models we have aren't a perfect fit for your precious snowflake. He'll have to make do."


"Warden, Upstart has a particularly rare condition." The attorney began, while also reaching down to retrieve something unseen from his case. "Radiation exposure combined with regular use of particularly mutagenic blends of Excelsior have caused his cardiac muscles to become resistant to electrical stimuli, including from his own pacemaker nerves. He needs a pacemaker that can induce contractions without electrical stimuli."


"I can't help but notice that he has unfortunately not yet dropped dead, meaning even if his heart is somehow resistant to electrical stimuli, clearly it's not a life-threatening condition. Request denied, counselor." The Warden dropped 


"This isn't a request, Warden, I have an injunction from the CoS stating that Upstart does require and will recei-" The Attorney began, finally pulling up and presenting the written order.


"Get that shit out of my face." The Warden snarled, slapping the document away. "As Warden, I am empowered to make executive decisions as to the welfare of each prisoner where I have reasonable cause to believe that their actions will cause imminent danger to other inmates, prison staff, or create risk of flight or breach. The last time any Freak was allowed a custom-made medical device from outside the prison, they used it to escape. It was a colostomy bag, counselor."


"If you do this, Warden, I am going to have to file sui-" The attorney began.


"Go ahead Counselor, for all it's worth. I'm sure the DA will leap from their seat to cover the breaking case of Upstart being unfairly denied a custom pacemaker." The Warden interrupted him again. "And even if you could get your day in court, I would bury you in the merits. Then, in desperation, you can file a civil suite and I might even settle with you. But he's not getting his new death ray disguised as a medical device. I would rather pay out to you in the six years it would take your claim to clear than to allow that possibility."


"Your CoS also said that he was going to resign if you overrode his authority again." The Attorney stated calmly after a brief pause.


The Warden swore and snatched at the injunction again, this time to read it properly. After examining it for the better part of two minutes, he put it down and carefully smoothed it out before looking the Attorney dead in the eye. 


"Alright. We're doing this. But on a few conditions. First, Upstart's new pacemaker is not going to be custom made. It is going to be ordered as part of a set, so that we have them in stock and this does not come up again. All of them will be strenuously screened and tested for abnormalities and magic, and made and shipped using verified producers and logistics. The pacemaker he gets will be selected randomly from out of all of them. And it will come with a remote. As Upstart's Attorney, you will make it clear to him and sign a waiver on his behalf confirming that he is cognizant that we will switch the thing off if he tries to make a break for it and that we will not be liable for any condition that befalls him as a consequence if he decides to act stupid."


"I'll see what I can do, Warden." The Attorney said dryly.





"Hey Tempter, your request went through. You're meeting with your attorney bright and early tomorrow morning." A guard barked gruffly through the door-slit of Nick Pocker's cell.


"Lookin' forward to it." Nick replied, grimacing as he made a conscientious effort not to open his eyes as he 'meditated.'


Nick Pocker had picked up the habit of meditating since way back in the day. He also had made a habit of varying up his meditation routine, slightly, once in a while. His way of probing at what did and did not work in the cells. When Pandora's Box had still been in use, absolutely nothing had worked. But now that it was gone and the PPD had to tailor their containment measures to every individual in maximum security, more possibilities had opened up.


Nick Pocker himself was marked as magic user and as having contact with extra-dimensional entities, and so his cell had a powerful antimagic power suppression system and dimensional grounding. No cantrips or demonic cavorting. But the PPD were still new and essentially rank amateurs at the power suppression game. For decades they had been content to just sit on their laurels and let a Cosmic Artifact do all the hard work for them. Now that they actually had to try, they brought excessive funding, brute force, and federal decision-making into the game - it had been inevitable that they would mess it up early on.


Case in point - antimagic was never a wholesale affair. If magic was completely negated it in an area, every one out of five people were prone to having sudden heart attacks out of thin air. While Pandora's Box had always suppressed magical effects, it had never completely stamped them out. The antimagic field suppressing Nick Pocker's magic was the latest and most advanced system to come out of a series of federally funded research in systems that could safely suppress ongoing magical phenomenon without killing people and without discriminating against particular individuals, to reduce overhead and liability. 


Of course, since that meant the system had to work just as well on a Human as it did on an innately magical being such as a Circle Mage who was captured alive before they could abandon their own body, that meant it, by design, had built-in blind-spots. It could only suppress ongoing externalized magical effects - not internalized ones, such as the forces which kept an ancient Oranbegan body-snatcher anchored in their current host. On paper that did not matter since most spellcasting in general was externalized. The angry fourteen-thousand year old Oranbegan could not cast any spells, so surely the system worked. 


Nick Pocker was a well-behaved inmate. Not once during the entire tenure of his life-sentence in Zigursky Penetentiary had he ever been found trying to escape, participated in a riot as far as anybody knew, or been caught conspiring with other prisoners. He was unerringly polite to the guards and staff, and did as he was told. So, amongst other minor 'harmless' privileges, they let him have candles - thoroughly examined and disenchanted and run through antimagical fields - in his cell. For his meditation, which his court-appointed psychiatrist assured the prison was necessary to help regulate his longstanding behavioral issues with anger management and impulse control.


One thing amongst many that a bunch of federally funded magical researchers and PPD analysts did not know was that there was at least one kind of demon that could shapeshift without using magic, as long as it stuck to only organic materials. Such as tallow. Which would not be warded against since it had to be explicitly signed for - invited in - multiple times to be shipped and received, and which the antimagic fields would not disrupt since the transformation and its own demonic nature were internalized magical qualities.


Earlier that day, while unobserved, Nick Pocker had carved a small chunk out of the side of one of his candles - which was indistinguishable from all the others - and had eaten it.


'It will be here soon.' Nick Pocker's guest whispered in his mind. 'On the same day. Your minions will have precious little time.'


'And what is it exactly?' Nick Pocker asked. 'It can't be a tech weapon. Maybe something like you?'


'No. It will be an artifact of the higher cosmos. Like your Incarnate Artifacts. Your captors have no means by which to discern its true nature.' The sound of a burning forest was the voice of the alien presence in Nick Pocker's mind as it responded.


'Well great for Upstart. How do we take advantage of this?'


'There are more.' The burning forest said. 'Many more. If one knows where and how to look. We can show them to you...'



Edited by Terminal
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"Ever since we were brought together under the Center's leadership, the aim of the Council has always been to dominate this world - his way, and to achieve his vision." Arakhn began, addressing the assembled leadership of the Council. Burkholder, Vandal, Maestro - and her compatriot Nosferatu, who she had already spoken with privately earlier.


"He is no longer here with us, though he may return. The Purpose of this Council remains the same. It is a force that shall dominate the world. Though no longer simply to attain the Center's vision, and no longer abiding by his rules, his limits. The Center was always an opportunistic and shrewd tactician, but he was too soft. It is time we unfettered ourselves from his principles - from all principles of restraint. From here on, there is no measure too extreme. We will seize this world in a furor of power of dominance."


"So you are suggesting we throw away all pretense of civility and just declare war on the entire world?" Maestro remarked dryly. "Somehow that sounds more like suicide than dominance. Not to bring speciesism into this, but are you speaking right now as the Supreme Commander of the Council, or as the leader of the Path of the Dark?"


"Neither." Arakhn replied calmly, causing Maestro to raise an eyebrow. Burkholder, who had folded his arms and been frowning since the start of her address, finally leaned forward in his seat. Nosferatu still had the same savage grin on his face he normally sported when he knew something the others did not. Vandal, encased in his powered armor and the only member not seated at the gathering, simply stood tall and impassively as he listened, inscrutable as always.


"Your concerns are valid. You fear that I intend to turn all of this world into nothing but a cattle pen for Humanity, presided over by the Nictus. But I must turn to the Center and his designs: He wanted to rule a world which was still dominated by Humans. I propose that true dominion cannot be limited by what species is in control. This world should be ruled by those who are unafraid of the measures and means necessary to achieve that rule."


"You are beginning to sound," Vandal interjected gruffly, "quite a lot like Requiem...Lady Arakhn."


Silence hung in the room as Arakhn turned to glare at the impassive, armored giant. 


"Do you know the story of the Science Lords of the Nictus, Vandal?" She asked suddenly.


Vandal shrugged. "I know enough. The Kheldians kicked you all out for your treachery, lies, and lust for eternal life."


"What you are conveniently forgetting, Vandal, is that the Kheldian civilization spans the breadth of an entire galactic federation." Arakhn retorted harshly, though she had assumed a more composed posture once more. "When we came here to Earth, it is true the only thing I cared about was eternal life and dominating the planet for the future of the Nictus. The fall of the 5th Column and negotiating with the Center was what made me realize that the Nictus are no longer in a position of inherent strength. There are harsh realities I have had to face since that day. The Nictus can no longer survive alone. Not here on Earth. Not in the greater cosmos. Requiem had to face those same truths, and in doing so, he abandoned everything but his own self-interest. I am not like Requiem. I have realized that in order to save the Nictus, we must abandon our insular philosophy of innate superiority. The entire world - Humans, Nictus, and all others who dwell here - must be brought to heel under one authority. Ours. Using any means necessary."


"So you propose the best way to save your species is to treat them like tools and slaves just like everyone else? What a twist." Maestro quipped. "And tell me, how DO your fellow Nictus and Science Lords feel about that?"


"The Path of the Dark and the Science Lords are a philosophy." Nosferatu finally said. "Not just a species. Ours is the desire for Eternal Life. We abandoned our original Kheldian bodies in that pursuit. We abandoned our status, our people, and our homes in that pursuit. What made you think we would have any lingering loyalty to our own kind? Arakhn has the right of it. Species do not matter. Only victory and power."


"Which is why I am not speaking as your Supreme Commander or as the leader of the Path of the Dark." Arakhn continued. "I speak to you now as a Science Lord, and as the ruler of the New World Order that is to come - which shall conquer death itself, not only for ourselves, but for all beings who will submit."


"A pretty sentiment, but I cannot help but notice all your immortality research to date has only benefited the Nictus." Maestro said once more.


"More pertinently, I don't see how your words alone are going to win wars, Lady Arakhn." Burkholder said. "Ideals like yours are just delusions without the wit of force to make them reality. What, exactly, do you have that is going to make them possible?"


"There are two answers to both your concerns. The first is that, now unfettered as we are, the Science Lords have more allies upon Earth than we realized. Kindred spirits. There is an ally who shares our same goal. Before, when the Center led us, their aid would have been unthinkable - unconscionable. But the Center is no longer with us. So now, I present to you all the newest member of our ranks - and the first Human Science Lord."


Everyone turned to the blast-doors leading into the meeting chambers as, with a whir of motors and the grinding of bolts, the massive gateway opened. Immediately, the room was filled with the stench of rotting flesh, and the sound of buzzing flies.


"Salutations." Dr. Demetrios Vasilikos said as he stepped into the light of the room, flanked by two Eidolons. Maestro immediately recoiled in unbridled horror, while Nosferatu simply chuckled and steepled his long, clawed hands together. Vandal remained as impassive as ever, only slightly turning his head to look in the newcomer's direction, while Burkholder - though his nose wrinkled with clear disgust - had fully leaned forward in their seat now.


"I admit I was skeptical of your Lady Arakhn's pitch myself when I first heard it, but I have always admired the scientific rigor of your Council in their pursuit of power, and there is quite a lot even I still have yet to learn of the benefits of integrating Human physiology with Nictus essence. Not to mention being able to work out of a proper lab again instead of the sewers does have its appeal, ahahaha."


"Dr. Vahzilok. Interesting. His work is not without its merits, Lady Arakhn," Vandal stated calmly, "But he is a butcher, and his creations have limited potency. How can he really serve us?"


"My creations have such limited 'potency' as you call it, my cybernetic friend, is because I do not create life out of death solely for the purpose of warfare." Vahzilok chastised gently, wagging a finger as he approached the table. "I am a scientist, not a soldier. But afford me the raw materials necessary for my work, and a few keen minds willing to listen and learn, and access to your own research - I am certain I can produce something impressive for you."


"Hm." Was Vandal's only reply. 


"I have obvious concerns about his priorities and reliability myself - but I cannot deny his talents, and I cannot deny that I can already think of uses for his creations...such as they are..." Burkholder announced. "Moreover, I do not believe it costs us anything substantial to at least see what he can do with the right materials."


"Have all of you lost your minds?!?" Maestro shouted in anger, rising from his seat and slamming on the table with both hands. "This man is a deranged, psychotic, unhinged, delusional, grave-defiling sewer goblin. The instant the world learns we are harboring him there will be no respite! Any vestige of political independence we have will be scoured away, America will send cruise missiles and troop carriers in less than a day! What little public interest and outreach we have will evaporate! The Center would never tolerate this-"


"The Center is not here, Maestro." Nosferatu practically hissed smugly from across the table.


"Ah, and not to worry, nobody need know I am here. As far as anybody is aware, I have currently left the mainland to visit my disciple, the Facemaker, in the Etoiles once more." Vahzilok volunteered. "And so far as my field-workers and various colleagues out in the city, it is not as though I have instructed them to start wearing authoritarian insignia. By the time the jig is up, it will be far too late."


"Too late? Too late for what?" Maestro demanded incredulously.


"For this." Arakhn finally spoke again. She retrieved an object from underneath her seat as everyone turned to look at her once more, staring with measures of bewilderment as she set the Center's antique two-way radio on the table for them all to see.


"This is how we are going to make the world submit to us..." 





"Here are those files you wanted, sir." Melchionni said respectfully to Sebastian as he handed the leader of the Family a set of manilla-sealed files - emblazoned prominently with the golden star of Praetoria. "Just sos ya know, those were not easy to get. Had to deal with that cruck-skinned freak from Cap au Diable for 'em."


Sebastian did not say anything as took the files and immediately opened them. The remains of an entire bottle of scotch and two full ashtrays haunted the corners of Sebastian's desk, which was now crowded with an assortment of documents, either heaped in boxes or tied together with cord. At some point earlier in the day, Sebastian had even had his men bring in an extra monitor for his desktop - and then, in exasperation, also had them hook the large-screen TV mounted up on the wall to the desktop as well. The screens were filled with news reports of the Praetorian invasion - and also more confidential reports and security briefings on curious subjects such as the largely unreported counter-invasion, spearheaded by the Dream Doctor and leagues of incarnate heroes.


"Melchionni. Brother." Sebastian said abruptly as the Consigliere turned to leave. Somewhat surprised, Melchionni turned, folding his hands behind him as he looked on expectantly. Sebastian would not have called him brother unless it was important. They shared no bond by birth, but by circumstance and shared turmoil.


"How many of the Family do you think really actually care about all of it? Us, the whole shebang."


Melchionni was puzzled, but decided to try and take it seriously. Sebastian was clearly deep into some nerve-wracking business and probably needed a serious answer.


"I don't know about the buttons and the capos honestly, sir. Lotta piss and hot blood in them and not a lot else, mostly just backstabbing scumbags who like wearin' nice suits. You probably know that though. The Consiglieres are your true Family, but even Family is fickle. They'll die for you in calm weather while you're young. All bets would be off in a storm when you're old, and nobody is really indispensable. Not even you."


Sebastian nodded at that.  "What I figured. We'll have to change that if we're going to survive. Make something more outa our little Family."


"I dunno sir, are you really sir it's such a good idea to rock the boat ideologically? We've got a good thing going right now, times are good for us." Melchionni cautioned.


"There are." Sebastian nodded again. "But times are about to change. It's time to start thinking about survival. Not just us guys at the top, but everyone who really matters and who we can get in with us. Family." He sighed. "But it ain't going to work unless we know who we can rely on."


Melchionni simply looked on, trying not to assume any kind of look. Sebastian fetched a pen, cleared a small spot out on his desk, and over the course of three minutes wrote out two letters in regular, practiced cursive. He folded them without signing or addressing them.


"Give this one to Fawkes, tell him it's from the top and don't let him give you lip. Make sure he's got a fire under his ass." He handed the first letter over, which Melchionni dutifully tucked into his suit's inside-pocket.


"Keep this one to yourself, and start meetin' with our friends. Show it to anybody you think is somebody we can count on to be more than just a friend to us. Don't worry too much if the wrong eyes see it, but make sure that all the right ones do."


"You got it, sir." Melchionni replied dutifully before turning to leave the room.


Sebastian looked back down at the files from the manilla folder and took a moment to set them down and light a new cigar.


"Incarnate control." He muttered. "Cole really had no talent for gravitas in namin' anything important."





"Again, sir?" The pencil-pusher in the suit asked.


"Not really sure what the point is. " Odysseus grumbled as he looked sourly down at the Tarot cards scattered across the table. "These things can't tell me my past, present, or future, as has been firmly established. I'm halfway convinced this deck is bunk and the fists are reacting to something else."


The scrawny man shrugged. "There are a lot of different ways to read and interpret Tarot, sir. And that's us operating on the assumption this is even actually a Tarot deck. Like I said, it-"


"Yeah yeah, only superficial similarities to the arcana." Odysseus waved him off irritably. "But really, I don't think we're doing ourselves any favors here. I'm just going to wait for Lukas to get back and see if our little 'experimental trial' did anything, and if not, I'm dumping this trash into my card shredder-"


"Boss!" Odysseus' head jerked up as Lukas Morakis charged into the warehouse office panting for breath mere moments after having been named. "You are not going to believe what just happened!"


. . .


"You're serious." Odysseus said flatly, some time later in a more comfortable office while another warrior was stitching up a new gash Lukas had across his left leg.


"As gravity, boss. We went to the place your guy told us to go based on what the cards said, and for a second there I thought we had been set up. Me and my men all turned a corner and walked right into Citadel and Luminary. We should be DONE, boss, rotting in the Zig right now." Lukas' hands were still visibly shaking even as he tried to settle comfortably into his chair.


"You sure you didn't just have the numbers on them? How many warriors did you bring with you?"


"Only me and three guys boss, none of them were Elites - and those two had BACKUP. They had Longbow Nullifiers with them. And I'm not trying to suck my own dick too hard over here, it's probably going to be on the evening news, that's just how crazy it got."


"So let me get this straight...you and three other guys, and you're the only Elite there...walk into what was, for all intents and purposes, and ambush by Citadel and Luminary, plus some candy canes...and you won?" Odysseus look was distilled disbelief.


"I mean it would be a stretch to call it winning? We beat the hell out of them and then booked it. I'll be honest boss, we all had the piss scared out of us and just hightailed it out of there the second we thought we could get away, but then when we got far enough away and had time to just...ya know...realize what had just happened...we beat the crud out of them. I don't think we made either of the bots have to trigger their 'porters, but we definitely put everybody else in the dirt. At first we thought they were screwing with us, you know, had thrown on purpose in order to follow us back - so me and another guy doubled back there to see what was going on. We really messed them up. There was scrap and circuitry all over the place and it was clear they had left, so me and the men looked around, and we saw crates with roman numerals on them - the same ones the cards showed us. So we hauled them all back here."


Odysseus just stared.


"So...Did you and the egghead figure anything out with the cards?"


"No." Odysseus said. After a moment's consideration, he rose from his seat and pulled out his phone. "But this bears a little more experimentation. Are the men you brought with you still here?"


"Yeah." Lukas said uncomfortably, repressing a wince as the medic started tying off the thread in his leg.


"Alright. Let's put together a few extra warbands then, and have a little group reading. See if we can't get another miraculous fortune to come out in our favor. And bring those crates you found. We're going to get to the bottom of all of this..."



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WARNING: This post of Self-Conceit contains scenes of mutilation as a result of violence and somewhat suggestive themes. Your discretion is advised in reading.




Upstart drifted into consciousness with an intense awareness that Dreck, the leader of the Freakshow, was speaking to him.


Glancing around with bleary eyes, Upstart confirmed that, yes, he was still in the prison infirmary and Dreck was nowhere in sight.


'Ya can't get rid of me that easily, ya scrawny little shit.' Dreck growled, unseen. Upstart made a note that the sound of Dreck's voice seemed to be coming from somewhere approximately below the level of his own head, lying prone as he was on the medical gurney in the secured room.


Upstart, concluding that he was high out of his mind on some kind of anesthetic or analgesic, decided to humor the voice. Free entertainment and diversion in the Zig were not things you passed up easily, especially when you had no limbs.


"Been a while, friend." Upstart managed to croak out. "Th...think the las' time I saw you was in my dreams. You were...were smothering me with your hammer."


Dreck laughed. 'Still the same pussy you always were. Now c'mon, get up, it's time we broke you out of that shitcan.'


Upstart sighed, and winced as a phantom itch crossed the right arm he no longer had as he, in a moment of weariness, attempting to gesture plaintively. "Fuckin..." He licked his lips and tried again. "...In case ya hadn't noticed, friend, I'm not going anywhere since you put me here. Lost all my fingers and my toes and other things in that last hurrah of mine. What do you want me to do? Roll out of here?"


'Where there's a Will, there's a way. What if I told you, you have everything you need to turn this whole dump on its head?'


"I'd say that sounds like you're trying to get me killed again. But since I am your captive audience, go ahead and tell me what I'm supposed to do exactly." Upstarted muttered.


'It's simple. In case you had forgotten, chump, you're UPSTART. You were like a fuckin' Messiah to us. All you have to do is start the ball rolling and every Freak and loser in the joint will follow you in tearing the whole system down.'


"Funny thing is, I think my landlord knows that too. S'why I don't get any visitation privileges." Upstart was frowning, but Dreck's insane hallucinatory voice clearly seemed to be going somewhere.


'I never said it was gonna be easy ya little shit. Just that you have everything ya need.'


"What, my tongue and my rapier wit?"


'More than that. Your big fat mouth is more than a mouth, man. It's made for more than chewin' and sucking dick. It's a tool. It's a weapon. You can use it to kill. You can use it to convert. All you need is the will to USE it.'


Upstart mulled it over, and realized he was entirely too cognizant and coherent for Dreck's voice to be just a hallucination brought on by drugs. He could see everything, wasn't too worn up by what he now realized was post-surgery recovery, and wasn't seeing spots and stars flying around the room.


"Who are you, really?" Upstart asked Dreck.


'I'm you man, obviously. A part of you at least. The part of you that knows The Will To Power.' Dreck answered. 'The world has changed while you've been under. Before, yeah, I admit it, the odds were a little long and against ya. But things are different now. You don't need anything but what you are to get everything you have ever wanted. All you need is to want it...and be willing to do anything and whatever you have to in order to get it. Act, and the world will listen, and it will reward.'


"And why would it? It's filled with a bunch of asshole guards with jackboots who really want to beat me senseless and keep me in here."


'Ah, but they ain't you. They don't have the Will To Power. They're bit players. They don't matter because they're chicken shits who don't know what they want and are terrified of what they might have to do to get it.'


"And I'm any different since you crushed all the life and dreams out of me, friend?"


'Ya know that ain't true. Your dreams are still yours. What ya lost was a limb or four and the nerve to realize that even now you still ain't powerless. This is me tellin' ya you have all the power in the world. Which is where we come to our turning point.'


A bead of sweat formed on Upstart's brow. Nearby, the ECG machine monitoring his heartbeats started to show an uptick.


'You have a choice now. You can take the opportunity that I've laid out in front of you, and seize the fucking day like it's your whore, or you can decide to play the maimed cripple. And I promise you, if you thought your dreams were dead before - if you pass this chance up, your dreams will die once you leave this room.'


A long moment passed. Upstart's heartrate continued to climb, and his breath started to catch.


"Alright, what the hell. Not like I have anything else to lose here. Just one question before we do this, partner. What can I really call you?"


'Man, you just don't get it do you? I'm that little nugget of self-worth in you that rails against an uncaring universe. I am your Self-Conceit, the thing that drives you to make your Will come true."


Upstart snorted. "You know what sort of gave it away you weren't really Dreck? You talk too damn much."


And then Upstart's eyes rolled up and back in his head, and the ECG machine let out a shrill warning cry as his heartbeat began to oscillate like a ball bearing in a centrifuge. 


A flurry of panicked voices grew in proximity from outside the room, and the door into the private room burst open. A clinician and a nurse ran in and immediately pulled open a nearby set of draws, retrieving a number of instruments and rushing to attempt and resuscitate the dying supervillain.


"No shocks, his cardiac muscles are resistant to electrical impulses. We'll just have to do this with oxygenation and CPR. How is his implant?" The clinician asked as he readied a canister of oxygen and a mask.


"Functional and working, but readouts say there is tissue rejection of the right ventricular lead. The heart will bypass the dead tissue on its own but that will take two minutes he doesn't have." The nurse reported, his eyes darting over the diagnostic feed for Upstart's pacemaker as she unbuckled the restraints across Upstart's chest to clear its surface.


"Fucking Freaks and Excelsior dependency..." The clinician muttered as he leaned over to begin strapping the oxygen mask to Upstart's face.


The Nurse did not see precisely what happened next. She only heard the surprised, strangulated gasp of the clinician as Upstart abruptly regained consciousness and bit the man's throat out. She then promptly fell over as the flailing clinician's dying body flailed and collapsed into her, with Upstart hanging on to the man's throat and using the motion of his body to carry himself off of the medical gurney.


The Nurse huffed in pain as she squirmed to try and get out from underneath the press of the twitching clinician as he died, only to find her breath catching in her throat, her eyes widening in existential terror as Upstart, his face and mouth a ruddy mess of viscera, loomed over her. He could barely move at all except by wiggling, but the orientation of his fall had put him in just the right spot. All he had to do to bite at her was crane his neck.


And he did. The start of the Nurse's shriek was enveloped by Upstart's mouth as, in a completely unexpected turn, he kissed her full on the lips. In the moment of confusion and panic, the Nurse beat at Upstart's head, grabbed onto the side of his right ear and twisted, pulling off part of the lobe while also trying to shove Upstart off of her.


Upstart broke the contact himself, pulling his head up and spitting a globule of blood from his mouth onto the floor as he then twisted to fall onto the floor back-first.


"That was a hell of a thing..." He muttered as his eyes tracked across the ceiling, down the wall, and then locked onto the nurse as she extricated herself from under her colleague's corpse and pressed herself against the side of the gurney. His gaze settled on her identification tag, which displayed her name - Clarissa.


"Alright Clarissa. I need you to answer a question for me." Upstart's voice was hoarse, practically uttered as a whisper. "Are there any other Freakshow in the infirmary right now?"


With a look of utter bewilderment and disgust, the nurse - clearly somewhat to her own surprise - nodded vigorously. 


"And do any of them have a functioning set of legs and at least one arm?" She nodded again. "Then here is what needs to happen. You are going to go to them, free them of any restraints they have, and tell them Upstart is here in this room. They'll know what to do from there. Stay out of their way and come back here once you've done that."


Trembling all over, the nurse rose to her feet and, wobbling all the way to the door back out of the room, went to do as she was told, her expression of utter bewilderment never crossing her face. She closed the door behind her as she left.


"Whose blood is that?" Upstart heard from outside. There was a brief pause.


"It's the patient's. He's stable right now, Doyle has it under control."


Upstart chuckled faintly and began to hum an eerie, tuneless set of notes as he waited. No more than eight minutes later, he heard the first gunshot in the distance, and peals of manic laughter. He smiled and licked his lips again, and waited for his Kingdom to come to him.


. . .


The guards were able to close the gates, and the PPD Transcended were deployed to quash the riot. 


Everything went wrong.


The Freakshow - malnourished, missing limbs and organs, with only weaponry stolen from the prison guards and few of whom had been rated higher than threat level 30 on average - should has been crushed by the premier metahuman suppression force of the PPD. But they did not break. Consumed with zealotry and suicidal fervor born out of fugue and nightmares, they met the Transcended in a clash and, impossibly, won. Kheldian light and quantum energies swerved around their targets unexpectedly. Inhuman physiology bolstered by Kheldian essence with enhanced strength and vigor was beaten and broken by men and women nearly ten times weaker than they were. Some primal, ineffable force flowed through and with the Freakshow as they stormed through the prison, unseen and unrealized by the myriad combatants - and as the defenders fell, the Freaks spread out and began to work their mayhem. As one of the few gangs used to jury-rigging and hot-wiring and cracking diverse kinds of hardware and systems, they were able to subvert enough of the security in the first few cell blocks to break out a small percentage of general population - and after that, the revolt swelled and became unstoppable as members of every villain group from all over Paragon City joined their ranks.


Protocol was followed - blast doors were shuttered, knock-out gas was pumped through the ventilation, and both the PPD and Longbow began to assemble cordons outside of the Penitentiary proper. At first, these measures worked - the revolt seemed to stall and falter. The final turn occurred, though, when the Freakshow managed to penetrate into a maximum security zone and disabled the power suppression systems for the cells. Hundreds of vengeful and powerful metahuman prisoners stalked through the corridors like lions, and that was the end of PPD's efforts to contain the revolt.


Flames and smoke rising from the Zig broke the horizon to meet the dawn, and the air itself trembled with the clamor of frenetic, shouting voices from within the Zig.


Without, a series of nervous PPD and Longbow cordons received additional reinforcements and formed a full blockade around the prison - it looked like this was a full prison breach scenario, every bit as bad as when Arachnos had raided the penitentiary in 2006 - and they were the last line of defense.


Both Manticore and Swan arrived near the impromptu headquarters for the blockade and listened grimly as a Longbow Captain anxiously relayed events to them.


"We'ce already received radio communication from inside saying that the prisoners have, uh, taken most of the surviving prison staff prisoner." The Captain continued. "They have yet to issue any demands. We estimate conservatively that they likely have more than a thousand various civilian, prison, and PPD personnel held up in there."


"And how many prisoners are we dealing with, exactly?" Swan asked.


The Captain shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. It's impossible to run a formal census on the population in there. Too much turnover and, uh, throughput to put it delicately. Quite a lot though. We estimate perhaps as much as a fifth of the prison populace is comprised of metahumans with combat-ready powers. Most of the Penitentiary's vital systems have been comprised, between the Freakshow and various other tech groups in there they've even managed to worm their fingers into the system A.I.s. They've got full control over power, suppression systems, and deterrence-"


"Captain!" A panicked cry came from the nearby radio station from its operator. "We've got a big problem! We have multiple mass-scale attacks in numerous zones!"


"It will have to wait. The heroes of the city can handle it, we need our full attention here-" Manticore began.


"Sir, you don't understand. I am getting reports that both City Hall and Portal Corp. have been attacked and seized! And I am getting reports that both Citadel and Luminary have been attacked and severely damaged in Talos Island-"


The two heroes and Longbow Captain looked on incredulously as the radio operator carried on. "In short, uh...local PPD and other Freedom Corps. units are being tasked to handle things all over the place-"


"...So no more reinforcements." Manticore said with an air of finality.


The radio operator shook his head. "No sir. Whatever you've got planned to stop this revolt, you'd better do it fast. First Responders are all over the place and directionless right now - we've been hung out to dry around a nest of wasps."








Self-Conceit has now begun. Visit the Self-Conceit discussion channel on the City of Roleplay HC Server for more details about the Community Story Arc and how to participate. This thread is also officially open for any and all related RP.


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                                         Fifty-seven feet under Zigursky Penitentiary


Nothing but static, but that was probably only to be expected.  It didn't stop Morris from asking the obvious question, though.




"No." Agent Marco Bohr replaced the handheld radio on his belt.  


"They're jamming us somehow." The younger Longbow guardian licked his lips, checking his pistol for what seemed like the hundredth time since they had come down here.


"Son, we're under fifty feet of rock, steel, and concrete."  Bohr sighed.  "There's no signal down here."


"How are we supposed to report back then?" Morris retorted.  "Do they really think the two of us are gonna be anything more than a speedbump if they all decide to come down here?"


Bohr had to admit his partner had a point.  In fact he was surprised they hadn't run into anyone, be it Zigursky personnel, or inmates trying to effect an escape.  Maybe they thought nobody knew about the old maintenance tunnels.    They were supposed to have been sealed off twenty years ago, but from the functional lighting and relative lack of flooding, there was obviously still some upkeep going on.  ...Which didn't extend to pest control, he thought petulantly as he stepped aside to avoid yet another scampering rat.  He heard Morris curse behind him.


"How much further?"


"Just to the next junction, then we can head back." Bohr responded.  To tell the truth, he was starting to get nervous as well.  Knowing what was going on a few dozen feet over his  head was making his mind wander in dark places.  

The lights flickered, dust falling from the ceiling as a slight tremor went through the floor grating, shivering pools of stagnant water.  


"A...Subway train, maybe?" Bohr looked back at his partner.


"This close to the prison?"

Another tremor, this one strong enough to send the two Longbow agents fumbling for their balance.  

"What the hell!?" Morris yelped. "It's an earthquake!"


"No, that was an explosion!" Bohr corrected, starting to move past his partner back the way they came.  "Come on, we should get-"


The lighting failed.


"Damnit!" Bohr cursed, fumbling for a flashlight, but it wasn't necessary.  The bulbs flickered back to life a few seconds later.  He breathed a sigh of relief...Short-lived, as he heard Morris hiss.




Bohr turned around to face his partner, a cold knot suddenly forming in his stomach when he realized they weren't alone in the corridor anymore.  About thirty feet ahead, illuminated in the harsh sodium light of the bare bulbs, there was a woman.  Shockingly pale and lightly built, with a shaven scalp, barefoot, and barely topping five-feet...She certainly didn't look like much of a threat.  Or she wouldn't if not for her attire: the standard blaze-orange jumpsuit pants of a Zigursky inmate under a white canvas straitjacket, festooned with straps and buckles, the long sleeves hanging undone at her sides.  


"Don't move!" Bohr barked with authority, leveling his pistol.  Morris did the same beside him.  


The woman flinched. "Why so loud?"


"Hands up!" Morris shouted, simultaneous with Bohr yelling "On your knees!"
She rolled her eyes, putting her hands up, the straps down the sleeves dangling. 




"I said, on your kn-" Morris started, then choked off.  "N-n-n..." He tried to stammer out.  Bohr chanced a glance over.  Morris's eyes were wide, his face ashen and covered in sweat.  His muscles shook with tremors, his pistol rattling as he slowly lowered it.


The woman.  She was doing this!  Bohr snapped back to the smirking inmate, sighting down his own pistol and began to squeeze the trigger.  It wouldn't budge.  Safety catch?  He tried to flick it with his thumb, but found he couldn't do that either.  

It wasn't the pistol.  He was paralyzed.

"Unfriendly..." The woman repeated, moving forwards.  Her lips weren't moving, but Bohr could still hear her.  In his head! He realized with horror.  Humming softly to herself, the woman moved in between the pair.  Bohr couldn't even move his head or eyes to look at her.  


"You could shoot him.  Or maybe he could shoot you." She giggled.  Both agents suddenly swung their weapons up, aiming at one another.  "Or...You could just forget about all this."  
A dreamlike fog entered Bohr's mind, and then he was free.  He looked around, bewildered, wondering why his pistol was out.  Morris was clutching his head, leanign against the far wall."


"Morris...MORRIS!  What happened?"


"I don't know..."


Psychlone continued down the corridor.  The guards had known about the maintenance tunnels, so she had known.  Burned into her mind along with everything else when the power dampeners went down.  And only two Longbow agents!

She could easily have killed the men, admittedly, or made them kill one another, but like Dr. Everhardt had kept telling her.  Empathy.  So they lived, free to continue their long happy Longbow lives, never to-


Another tremor, massive this time.  She was sent sprawling into the stagnant watter coating the floor.  She lay there for almost a minute groaning as she tried to regain her bearings.

The corridor behind her had collapsed.


...Well, so much for live and let live.  She shrugged, and continued down the corridor towards the exit, whistling happily to herself.

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Date:  During or Post “Hellions Raise Hell”
Location:  A makeshift ambulance triage center in/around Steel Canyon.
Characters:  Misosazai



Misosazai sat at the curb next to makeshift triage center, exhausted.  Her hair was partially spilling out from under her bandana, but since she wasn’t overwhelmed by the smell of burning hair, it seems that the bandana did its part when it counted.  


Part of her wished she’d held onto Ryk’s old Hellion vest.   It wouldn’t have been much protection and may have caused confusion with some of the heroes, but it was more protection than the jeans and bandeau she went into battle with.   Every inch of exposed skin was marked by smudges of ash, blood or apparent 1st degree burns.  Minor scratches and streams of sweat laced them together.   She’ll likely have a shiner to go with the swollen lip once she cleaned up, too.  A pretty large blister was forming on her left arm, so I guess that’s at least one 2nd degree burn to add to the list.


As exhausted as she felt, this was the most alive she’d felt since… well, she couldn’t think of a time.  


The battle had gone on for hours.  She’d crossed paths with a few heroes during the fray- not enough to exchange names, but she’d gotten some nods of approval and glares of disapproval at her tactics.  Without any of their fancy arrest teleporters, she had to make sure that her foes didn’t get back up to fight again in some other way- finishing the fight with a dislocation, a break, or shattered fingers, whatever the situation permitted.  She’d personally been responsible for freeing several people bound for human sacrifice and keeping hellions from several explosive bundles until someone else could defuse them.  


Most of the time, though, she was just hitting, and hitting HARD.  No holding back. No pulling hits for sparring.  The workboots threw off her timing a bit but made up for it with a more solid connection.


The smoke and distant alarms suggested that the hellion fight was still going on, but who knows?  The ambulance radio referenced incidents with the Family, Warriors, something going down at the zig… whatever this was, this thing was huge.


It didn’t make any sense.   Bombings.  Sacrifice.  Assault. Chaos.   These were all Hellions 101, sure, but where did the world’s most random scavenger hunt fall into this?  She pulled out Bernie’s list and compared it to another that was pulled off of one of Pyroclast’s “generals” after she’d hyperextended both his knees.   The lists didn’t even match!  There was some overlap, but nothing that really stood out in any notable way. 


What was this all about?  What was she missing?


She folded them back up and tucked them away.


*It doesn’t matter.  Just get up.  Keep fighting.  Keep helping.  When there are no more hellions, go after the warriors.  Keep fighting… until…*


Closing her eyes, she focused on her training, letting her muscles relax, then tense, then relax.  Her breathing slowed, but deepened as she willed away the pain and fatigue. 


*… until it ends.*


She stood, stretched, and looked for the next hot spot.


*… until everything ends.*

Edited by chase
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Date: In the course of “Hellions Raise Hell”

Location: Steel Canyon

Character: Artemian

{Melodramatic? Yeah. But that's Artemian for you... XD}  


The emotions of conflict never changed...

The razor’s edge of Pain.

The blood-red howl of Rage.

The hard, biting cold of Fear.


The mage closed his eyes and let them all wash over him. Focusing. Gathering.

“We’re going to gut this one, aren’t we? We’re going to gut him and watch him twitch!”


The Hellions’ thoughts were bright-hot with ambition and pride. Sure of their victory, they were already reveling in expectations of torture and agony.

The mortal at their feet was terrified. Every tale he’d ever been told of sacrificial alters and hellfire danced through his memory. He’d already given himself up as lost, beyond all hope of aid.


“I… think not,” the mage said softly, stepping out of the shadows, pulling the strands of Pain, and Rage and Fear tight with a snap. Holding them poised, sharp as daggers, a heartbeat away from the now-started Hellions’ minds. “I think… that you will s-surrender yourselves peacefully, and trouble Steel Canyon n-no more. Or… you will reap what you have sown. The ch-choice... is yours.”


“This man… requires aid.”

Artemian helped the mortal he’d taken from the Hellions three blocks away to a bench, where an over-worked medic was handing out bandages. “His assailants… h-have been dispatched… to PPD Processing.”


When Kaikara had asked him to come to Steel Canyon he had not known what to expect. Mayhem was all she had said. Chaos. Danger. All of the usual horrors of this modern city and its plentiful sorrows. ‘Focus,’ he reminded himself again, leaning against the medic’s ambulance, rubbing the bridge of his nose and trying to ignore the familiar rising doubts. ‘This is not Astoria. This is not Doom. This is only a cult of half-trained mortal hedge-mages...’

And yet…

He looked around at the civilians, and the medics and the handful of other heroes gathered in this small refuge and he sighed. Mot was not among the horrors of Steel Canyon, but that did nothing to make what WAS here any less trying. The emotions of conflict never changed... And he was already weary of them.



Edited by Coyotedancer

Taker of screenshots. Player of creepy Oranbegans and Rularuu bird-things.

Kai's Diary: The Scrapbook of a Sorcerer's Apprentice

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Talos Island
In the middle of 'The Warriors Wax Off'

CW: Violence, Language

There were more sirens than usual.  Liz wished she could say the noise didn't put her on-edge, but she'd be lying if she did.  Too many bad memories, combined with the general stress of being back in Paragon after everything that had happened.  Still, it wasn't until she heard the first screams that she decided she couldn't ignore it any longer; the sound, distant on the ocean breeze, causing her to sit bolt upright, one pointed ear twitching.  She got to her feet in one smooth motion, brushing dirt and fallen leaves from her muscular form as she glanced around the small natural area where she had been resting.  As built up as Talos Island was, there were still a few green spaces.  Though now that she was up and aware again, there was no pretending that the small cluster of trees was anything more than a decorative feature.

She took a few sniffs, letting her keen senses filter out the immediate.  Dirt and foliage, beyond that the salty tang of the ocean, beyond that car exhaust, garbage, the scent of people on the beach and the nearby walks...Behind it all, smoke.  Gunpowder and steel.  Fear and blood.  She felt the familiar pull, the attraction to violence.  Liz wished she could say it was because she needed to ensure people were safe.  That it was a call to help those in need, and not her instincts telling her to hunt down whatever had disturbed her rest.  To use the chaos as an excuse to seek prey.  She could say so, but she would be lying if she did...

No.  She growled and took a breath. She was in control, not her instincts.  It would only be a lie if she gave in.  And, after all, there's no harm in just looking, right?  Even if nobody needed help, it would be best to get a better grasp on what was going on.  She paused for a moment, listening, sniffing the air, and getting her bearings.  Then she was off, easily vaulting the fence around her temporary hideaway and leaping to a nearby fire-escape. 

Better to stick to the rooftops.  Even with the agreement, and her 'parole', if this was as bad as it seemed to be she didn't trust the PPD -or even worse, Longbow- not to peg her as a threat and take a shot at her.  Elizabeth Gunnisson may be trying to straighten out, but Barghast was still a name that carried a degree of infamy. 

Below  her, the damage was growing worse and worse.  Shattered glass littered the sidewalks, razor crystals reflecting the ruddy glow from torched storefronts and burned-out vehicles.  Everything was covered in a haze of greasy smoke, stinging her eyes and burning her nostrils with petrochemical stink.  A riot?  She wasn't aware of anything that could have set one off, and this all seemed somehow more...Directed.  From following the trail of destruction she could tell that whoever had done this had moved with purpose to one of the more high-end districts.  This wasn't just random mayhem, they were carving their way into the busiest sections of Talos Island. 

Movement caught her eye, distinct from the panicked movements of fleeing citizens.  PPD, a trio of them.  Beat cops, not SWAT or the more esoteric specialized units.  They were running, only one looked armed, all covered in dirt and superficial injuries.  She could smell the sweat, the blood, the fear...  Before her instincts could trouble her again, one of the men dropped, a wooden shaft sticking out from between his shoulder blades. Was that a goddamn javelin!? 

One of the officers stopped to help his friend, the other kept running.  He, as it turned out, was probably the smart one as the Samaritan was quickly set-upon by his pursuers.  Leather vests, headbands, fatigue pants.  Festooned with an eclectic mix of chainmail, torques, and other anachronistic accoutrements.  All brandishing axes, swords, or maces, all of which had obviously seen use despite their museum-piece appearance.  Warriors.  This didn't make any sense. The Warriors were just a street gang.  Sure, they were full of pretentions about 'martial honor' and 'the old ways' but still...Protection rackets, muggings, and street fighting with the Trolls or Outcasts; that's what Liz expected from them.  Trying to sack an entire district, and openly attacking the PPD, not so much.  Perhaps Odysseus had finally snapped and decided to take Talos down with him in one last blaze of glory. 

The police officer bolted for a nearby ally, his assailants in hot pursuit.  Oh well.  Liz had exactly zero love for the Paragon Police Department, but the guy probably didn't deserve whatever the Warriors were about to do to him.  Besides, she was curious as to what would make them act so overtly.  She figured she'd ask.  Politely.  This was supposed to be a redemption arc, after all...


"He went in there! After him!"

Acteon waved his sword over his head like an ancient war-leader rallying his troops.  A not-entirely inaccurate analogy, all things considered.  He certainly looked the part, with muscular arms covered in angular tattoos, a red headband under a scalp shaved apart from a long braid down the middle, and dueling scars on his cruel, angular features.  His Warriors, four of them, pursued the man down the alleyway.  He couldn't help but smirk as he heard the strangled yelp of alarm, then the sound of impacts on flesh. 

Acteon took his time, resting his sword on one shoulder as he almost casually walked into the alley.  Two of the Warriors had the bloodied cop by his arms, dragging him into a kneeling position as Acteon approached.  The man looked up with wide fear-filled eyes, a trickle of blood cutting a red trail down the grime coating his face.  Acteon grinned, spreading his arms. 

"Be glad!  I'd love to watch your head roll, but instead, you get to deliver a message to the rest of the cowards, hiding in their precinct." He took his sword from his shoulder, resting the tip under the cop's chin and tilting his head up. "Your Heroes can't save you.  Citadel, Luminary?  They tried to stop us and they failed.  We're on equal footing now, and the machines were found wanting!  That's what's gonna happen to anybody else.  Tell them to send their heroes, they're all on our level now.  No tricks, no power-suits, no divine protection, nothing will  help them.  Just mettle against mettle.  Strength against strength, as it should be."

He looked up to regard his men. "Tell them to come, and fall to the true Warriors!"


The cheered, waving their weapons in the air.  The cop looked positively ill.  "Of course...I think they need something besides words, don't you?" Acteon continued. He smirked, obviously enjoying this opportunity to monologue at a captive audience. "We Warriors learn from history.  Ever hear of the Battle of Kleidion?"

The officer looked at him blankly.  Acteon continued.

"Fifteen thousand men were captured, but simply beating them into the dirt wasn't enough.  No, they had to send a message.  So ninety-nine out of every hundred had their eyes put out." He smirked and held his sword in front of the cop's eyes. "The lucky ones got to keep one eye so they could guide a train of their blind comrades back home, so everybody would see that those who did this were not to be fucked with."

He held the point of his blade up to his captive's right eye.  The man blanched, suddenly realizing what was coming. "P-please!" He stammered. "You don't have to do this!"

"Consider yourself lucky." Acteon hissed. "You get to keep one at least."

"Neat story.  You see that on the History Channel or something?"

The Warrior chief frowned and lowered his blade as something dropped into the end of the alley.  No, someone. He was expecting more heroes, especially after the poor showing of the two machines.  And, he knew that thanks to the blessings of Odysseus they had to fight as equals, but...This one still gave him pause as she rose to her full height.

She had at least a head over the tallest of his men, easily seven feet from scuffed boots to a head topped by a wild mane of ruddy brown hair.  More hair, or perhaps fur grew like sideburns down the side of the woman's jaw, and patchily covered her exposed shoulders and muscular arms, which ended in hands tipped in vicious-looking claws.  She regarded the warriors with eyes like beaten gold set in a face with a slightly flattened nose, fangs protruding from a mouth that was currently twisted in what was either a confident smirk, or a snarl.  Pointed ears completed the effect, giving the supposed hero a distinctly lupine appearance.  The Warriors raised their weapons.

"Come to save the day, hero?" Acteon snarled...Which got a dry chuckle, oddly enough.  The woman took a step foward, raising clawed hands.

"More curious." Her voice was feminine but deep, with an honestly unnerving growling undertone.  Though it almost sounded as if she was trying to downplay this. "Though I'd really rather the guy not lose an eye...And this is really sort of a transitional period for me, so why don't you put the LARP gear down and we can talk about this, yeah?"

Acteon spat on the ground.  The gall of this bitch! "I'm gonna enjoy taking your tongue.  We fight as equals, now! You are nothing!"

"Equals, huh?" It sounded like she caught the significance in those words, at least. "Look, why don't you just walk off, and I'll deliver your message in person.  Nobody has to get hurt here." It would probably sound more sincere if it weren't delivered with all the calming tones of a hungry bear.

"I  have a better idea."  He pointed his sword. "Take her head."


So much for non-violence.  Liz was really trying too, no matter how much her instincts were howling for her to just drop the pretense and attack.  Even as one stepped forward, she raised a hand.

"Now let's not do something we're all gonna re-" She cut off with a snarl as the man swung his axe, the blade impacting with her outstretched arm with a solid wet thunk.  It hurt, a lot, even if it only went in a few inches, despite the force of the blow.  Stupid! She should have known that was coming! Dodged! Something! And now the bastard was laughing! Laughing! At her!

The laugh quickly died as he drew back the axe and saw that the wound was rapidly closing before his eyes.  If Liz was in a better mind, she might have thought their level of surprise odd; the Warriors taking a few steps back with wide eyes, as if what was happening was utterly inconceivable. 

"B-but...We..." Their leader stammered, apparently lost for words.

A deep growl built in Liz's throat.  That hurt.  They had attacked her...How dare they!  She had to exert her dominance, wipe away the insult that this prey had given her by daring to think they could challenge her!  A small voice in her head begged for control as her instincts flared, begging her not to just throw away everything she had been working towards.  To fight with restraint, and focus, and-

The Warrior with the axe charged forward, bellowing a wordless battle-cry.

Well screw that.


Arctos was a good fighter.  Acteon knew for a fact that he had killed three men, veteran Warriors all, in the fighting pits.  His speed and technique were already gaining widespread renown among the ranks of the gang. 

The beast-woman still took him apart.

He barely even saw her move, one moment she was standing there growling, the next she had caught the incoming blow by grabbing Arctos's wrist.  There was a sickening crack, and the Warrior's battlecry turned into a high-pitched scream as his weapon dropped to the pavement.  It cut off a moment later in a gurgle as the claws of her other hand slashed, a spray of red joining the graffiti on the alley wall.  Before Arctos had even started to collapse, she leapt at the rest.

One Warrior was borne to the ground, and the other two piled in, swinging their weapons.  It didn't do them any good.  Acteon just stood there, stunned.  How the hell was she that fast!? Her feral appearance had given him pause at first, but to see her move...This wasn't super-speed, he could wrap his head around that, this was something altogether more primal.  Something that triggered the deepest recesses of his lizard brain.  Nothing human-shaped should move like that: the perfect economy of motion, the lithe strength and speed.  A singularity of purpose, like this thing was designed to completely take apart anything that couldn't take it down first.  Large and feral gave pause.  Large and feral, and attacking like a striking snake...That was something that froze him to the spot.  But how!?  They were equal! That was what had been promised! That was what he had seen!  The Warriors would be the equal to any hero that dared to-

Then it hit him: suddenly, and horribly.  Hero. They were the equal to Heroes. The wording, apparently, had been very specific.

And then she was looking at him, crouched with fangs bared, a deep rumbling basso growl seeming to emanate from her very core.  She was splattered with red, thick on her hands, claws and -he was chilled to see- around her mouth.  His men were dead, or as good as, and Acteon knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was next.  He whimpered, lost control of his bladder, and turned to run.  Barghast was on him before he took two steps.


The red haze cleared from Liz's vision and she realized the leader was the last one left.  He was dangling, one of her hands clamped around his neck and lifting him off  his feet, the other raised to strike.

Finish it! End it! Kill him!

With a growl, she shook her head, instead tossing him against the side of the alley, where he fell into a heap on a pile of trash bags.  She snapped her head back at the cop who was looking around, eyes wide.

"Run.  Get out of here!" She snarled.  He nodded once before taking off, without a second look back.

She turned to the remaining Warrior, whimpering and scrambling to a seated position.  She pointed a clawed finger at him and growled out one word.


And so he did...

Edited by Sidhe Vicious
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Date:  Post “The Warriors Wax Off”, Nightfall

Location:  Skyway South Monorail Station

Characters:  Misosazai

The monorail station was deserted- it always was this time of night- so there was nobody to distract Misosazai from her reflection in the station’s glass.  Covered in mud, blood, and soot, one would have trouble making out her original skin tone.  The swelling over her left had started going down, but her right eye was just starting its path.  Split lip, dried blood under the nose, and a smile on her face that should have had no reason being there.   It had been one hell of a wild day.

The smile turned to a grimace as she raised her arm to check out her side.   The arm itself sported an improvised bandage, courtesy of the Warriors.  Nothing to get worried about- but her ribs took a bashing from a war mace, and she wasn’t sure if there was internal damage yet. 

*That one might need a doctor.*

She wasn’t sure what had happened there- the move should have been routine- she’d moved with the flow of the swing to lessen the impact and intercepted the handle to deflect the blow.   It should have just been a cushioned contact, hold the mace against her body, twist, and disarm.   Instead, it somehow hit her with enough force to send her reeling and gasping for breath.    Playing it back in her head over and over, she still couldn’t make out where she went wrong.  

It wasn’t just fatigue from fighting the Hellions- she’d had time to recover before she’d run into the others and agreed to go with them.   Lord knows why they asked her- a Mage, a Winged Girl, and street trash.  Which one doesn’t belong?   Why had she even gone?  How did she ever imagine to be in that class?   Part of her wanted to blame the mage- she’d briefly seen him in action during the fight- some sort of mental domination or telepathic control- but she knew that was just a cop-out.   She went on her own.

She frowned.

Then there was a Dr. Brane before engaging the fight- she was still not quite sure what to make of him either.  Bold, brash, overconfident, and pretty clearly operating under rules very different than her own.  They were…  well, how were they different from her rules.   He fought on their side, but clearly with his own agenda… but how was that any different than her?

… maybe that was what bothered her.  What were her rules, now?  It wasn’t the risk of mind control that bothered her, or even defeat at the hands of the warriors- maybe that winged girl was there to whisk away fallen champions to Valhalla once they fell- no skin off her nose, she wouldn’t qualify.  

No, it was what Barracuda said to her.   Misosazai had just taken down one of Barracuda’s party- an arachnos soldier.  She wasn’t sure if he was down for the count or not and she needed to be able to focus completely on Barracuda if she was going to have any chance of getting through this, so she’d broken his arms for good measure.

Barracuda grinned- a toothy, terrifying grin- and had said, “Looks like we have someone with some POTENTIAL” here.   She didn’t say that to the person that was making people give up with a thought.  She didn’t say that to the winged girl making precision shots that made the mind boggle.  She didn’t say it to crazed mercenary-merchant-of-destruction.  She said it to *her* as she stood there breaking the arms of a downed foe.

In her reflection, she saw her mother.  They were back in the dojo- she’d been marveling at the fire-throwing power of some young “at risk” heroine for some private sessions- the emphasis was on discipline of action more than fighting style.   She’d marveled at the ability to bring fire forth at will.  Her mother was far less impressed, and was far more concerned that the young heroine's path would be one of conceit and destruction.  “Raw Power don’t define you, Misosazai.  Your actions and motivations do.”    It was so frustrating- her mom would use Misosazai much like the old TV shows would use “grasshopper.”   She never gave Ryk a nickname like that. 

Another spike of pain brought her out of meditation.    Right now, it didn't matter.  What mattered was finding a place to crash before she collapsed from exhaustion.    Several of the construction sites in Faultline had makeshift showers so the crew could clean off before heading home.  They'd all be abandoned now, and she had a stashed backpack along the way with some bedding.   The adrenaline was wearing off. she needed rest nothing else.


Still, as she limped toward the Faultline gates, she couldn't help thinking


What did motivate me?

What did Barracuda see in me?

What would mom have seen in me?


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If Manticore was surprised when a Freakshow Super Stunner strolled into the PPD's command tent for the blockade, he did not show it. The Freak he had been expected. He did raise his eyebrow at the Circle of Thorns mage who silently seemed to drift in behind the Freak, almost unnoticeable despite his vibrant robes for all the clamor and raw energy his companion emanated with every step.


The Freak began his introduction by turning to Swan and saying, "Hey little bird, I've got a special feeder mounted somewhere on my chassis. Maybe after this whole thing blows over you can take a few pecks to look for it, huh?" 


Swan bristled while the PPD liason nearly physically retched, and the Mage hurriedly spoke to try and move past the disastrous first impression.


"...and I am Ruin Mage Appalos of Oranbega." He said as if the Freak had not just uttered the worst possible pickup line in history. "As our apparent erstwhile associate has demonstrated, we are a party of strange bedfellows - it would be best if we proceeded expeditiously so as to return to our own corners of this particular conflict."


"Agreed." Everyone else in the room said almost simultaneously, much to the Freak Stunner's disappointment.


"Getting right to it - the Freakshow, Dreck, has been planting sonic bombs all throughout the sector of sewers beneath the Zig, both indiscriminately and tactically. We have been sensing and dealing with the aftereffects of their repeated detonations down in Oranbega for several days now, and quite simply, he has to be stopped. If this continues, even our Ruin caste of mages will be unable to maintain the structural integrity of our city's supports. The whole sector will collapse, and take the prison with it."


"And while few of us up in the big brick would cry too many tears over the thought of that, we do mind it happening while we are still stuck in it." The stunner added. 


"We can accommodate that. All you have to do is surrender and we can start evacuating you to other detention facil-" Swan began.


"We would rather get crushed in sewage debris first." The stunner interrupted. "And before we get into the whole back'n'forth, I'll lead with the bit where we will start killing hostages if you don't pony up a plan to save the day. Upstart is expecting a strategy when I go back in to relay all this to him."


"And though I am loathe to back up this brute's threats, I, too, have the safety of a City I am sworn to protect." Appalos added dryly. "If you do not supply us with an adequate plan, the Circle of Thorns will have no choice but to assault your blockade of the prison from without so as to enable Upstart to escape - thus depriving Dreck of motive to drop the prison on us, you understand."


"As if we expected anything other than coercion and threats from lunatics like you two." Growled the Longbow Ballista seated at the situation table. 


"Rude." Appalos tutted. "It costs us all nothing to be polite, gentlemen - and woman."


"I have a plan." Manticore said levelly after a brief, tension-filled pause. "But I do need some assurances of my own. What I have in mind will require precision and cooperation - so while we are attempting to save the prison, I need your word that none of you will attempt to escape and potentially jeopardize everyone."


"Sure, whatever." The Freak Stunner answered. "You've got detente."


"Good. Then here is my plan." Manticore gestured for the two to approach the situation table, and after adjusting the controls for its holographic interface, pulled up blueprints for the layout of the sewer sector beneath the Ziggurat.


"This map is incomplete and out of date," Manticore began. "But it has enough fidelity for what we need. There's an easy way to keep Dreck out of the sewers. We are going to flood them. The entire sector."


"Woah woah woah, hold up there kitten-man, you can't do that! I'm no big-shot engineer but even I know flooding the whole shebang will cause it to collapse anyway!" The Freak Stunner interjected.


"Not necessarily..." Appalos said slowly. "As long as the flooding is controlled, and as long as my caste gets full cooperation and information on how this procedure is to be carried out...we can brace the integrity of the materials in the Earth enough to keep the sewers from collapsing too extensively due to pressure and overflow. It would be much, much easier to contain than hundreds of sonic bombs detonating."


The Freak Stunner was still fuming - he opened his mouth to speak but then bit on his own tongue abruptly and just grumbled to himself.


Manticore knew what the Freak was thinking - he was upset that the plan meant closing off the sewers as an escape route out of the Zig. He was probably already thinking about ways to get around it - and yes, the Freak's eyes had just reoriented to really start paying attention to the holographically projected map.


"This plan is stupid and terrible." The Stunner declared. "Tell me more."

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Oranbega, beneath Brickstown

In the Middle of a Riot at the Zig




“Manticore wants to… what?” Behind the impassive calm of White Thorn’s graceful ivory mask, Kaikara raised an eyebrow at Apallos, not entirely sure that she had heard what the Ruin Mage said.

“He wishes to flood the tunnels beneath the prison,” Apallos repeated, matter-of-factly, as if that was the most obvious and rational idea in the world.

“He’s insane.” Kai shook her head. “Even with your order’s Earth magic supporting the tunnels, there are so many undocumented entry and exit points to seal…. Someone is going to have to go down there and manually-”

“Exactly! And it will not be without danger, of course. From our enemies *or* our erstwhile allies.”

“The Temple volunteered me, didn’t they?” She shook her head again and made a mental note to discuss ‘responsibility’ and ‘authority’ with Portias of Primeva when all of this was over. “And I bet we have to take Manticore himself along, too, don’t we? Just so he can ‘keep an eye’ on us.”

“Indeed.” Apallos sighed, a little dramatically. “And that ReVolting fellow. I fully expect either the hero or the villain to become troublesome at some juncture. Possibly both. As is their nature.”

“If they try anything silly, we’ll have to deal with it… I just hope we don’t end up flooding the whole western district right along with the sewers. If those caverns aren’t sealed this is going to be a terrible mess."

"Less-so than the alternative..."



Edited by Coyotedancer

Taker of screenshots. Player of creepy Oranbegans and Rularuu bird-things.

Kai's Diary: The Scrapbook of a Sorcerer's Apprentice

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Date: Somewhere around the time of "The Devil to Drive Them"

Location: A run-down area just outside of Steel Canyon

Character: Bruce Halford (Soundquake)


Out of all the gangs in Paragon, the Tsoo were the one Bruce hated the least. Violent magical gangsters and assassins they may be, but if one knew how to approach them they could at least be reasoned with from time to time. That is, if you survived an encounter long enough to talk to them. Thankfully, Bruce had managed to gain the mild respect of a mid-level Tsoo member during his early years of solo work; this provided him with a potential source of info on the underworld that one couldn't get by simply bashing in heads on the streets. 


As he flew over the neighborhood--a rough tangle of buildings just outside of Steel Canyon to which he had trailed Hellion activity in the area--Bruce felt slight gratitude for that connection, considering the dead-ends he'd been running into all day. Since the Family had stolen the dagger and taken their hostages, Bruce had the gut feeling that the Hellion and Warrior activity that occurred simultaneously had to be connected. Deciding on the Hellions as the first target of his investigations, he'd examined the locations of each major Hellion attack in Steel Canyon, but no pattern emerged. Then he moved on to a slightly more complex strategy; with the aid of "forcibly relinquished" phones of Hellions, he sought to find contacts in common and use his sonic powers to mimic the owners' voices in the hopes that he could get the contacts to inadvertently reveal important information. Once again, there was nothing to indicate any greater plot. And yet his gut feeling wouldn't go away. There had to be a connection; after all, as Sound Master had once told him, "heroes aren't allowed to believe in coincidence". The lessons given to him by the famous hero during his sidekick days had never failed him before, and he didn't intend to forget them now. Not when he was certain he was on to something.


Knowing that the Tsoo were rivals of both the Warriors and the Family--two-thirds of this bizarre triangle of gang activity--he decided that they might be able to help determine any connections the Hellions had with them. The catch was that he had to obtain the cell phone of a high-ranking Hellion. Which meant he would likely be fighting a small army of them to get to such an individual.




Spotting a couple of Hellions around a suspicious-looking building, he decided it was time to make his entrance...




Blayze had been enjoying the company of a few "girlfriends from Hell" when all of it broke loose--figuratively speaking. Out of nowhere, his activities were interrupted by what sounded like an obnoxiously loud bass speaker descending from the sky to the ground outside the front door of the building, shaking his eighth-story window as it passed. Before he could run to said window to see what it was, the telltale sounds of destruction and heavy combat came from the floors below, working their way upwards. A hero had arrived. Growling angrily, he directed his demonic companions to melt the elevator doors shut with hellfire and hole up inside the room, barring the door as best they could in preparation for whatever idiot came up the stairwell.


This turned out to be a mistake.




The voice--from outside the window--was so loud it not only shattered the windows and flung loose objects across the room, it burst eardrums left and right, his own remaining intact only because he clamped his hands over his ears just in time. Before he could even react, a red-and-white costumed figure began tearing his small number of guards apart with sonic blasts of varying strength. 


"How? We heard you downstairs!"

"You heard what I wanted you to hear," said the figure. "Though your buddies here won't be hearing anything for a while. Too bad you chose to block off the elevators--otherwise you'd be able to get reinforcements right away."


Blayze was no pushover, and he was certainly not about to let this hero get the better of him without a fight. Calling upon his own infernal powers, the veteran Hellion began to fight back. "Oh, I don't need help to burn you!"


With his lengthy experience in surviving cape encounters and general life among the Damned, it wasn't hard for Blayze to figure this hero out. Soundwave manipulation to trick them into blocking off their escape route and preventing reinforcements, followed by a surprise sonic blast to quickly incapacitate his comrades. His opponent had power and skill, to be sure, but nowhere near enough to risk a head-on confrontation with an entire gang of Hellions and their demons.


The costumed freak smirked cockily. "You think your demon crap scares me? Cute. You can't bring half as much hell as the old bastard I learned from. Me, I'm a little nicer--for example, he would have just torn your entire gang apart floor by floor and brought half the building down on your head before digging you out of the rubble."


A blast of hellfire was dissipated by a sonic burst that created a wall of air to disperse the flames. The hero countered with carefully-aimed bursts, dodging what he couldn't redirect and gradually wearing his opponent down. But Blayze didn't panic. He didn't have to win outright--he just had to keep the idiot busy until his reinforcements could come up the stairs, and it wouldn't be long before they arrived.


In fact, they arrived just as the bastard cornered him, grabbing him by his jacket with one hand and raising the other for a sonic attack; the sudden entrance of a large number of dangerous sons of bitches distracted the hero just long enough for Blayze to cover himself in hellfire, forcing the hero to release him. Before he could begin the counterattack, though, a massive sonic shockwave sent him and his comrades flying backward as the hero shot out of the building via the broken windows, fleeing into the night on waves of sound.



As he rocketed through the night sky toward the location of his Tsoo contact, Bruce smirked at the cell phone in his hand. He may not have been able to completely dismantle the operation that had been going on there--and his inability to bring down the Hellion commander fast enough to force a surrender was a disappointment as well--he now had a potential lead. He only hoped his contact could deliver on their promise to help him get to the bottom of the mystery...



Edited by CoGDork
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[A collaborative post by both CoGDork and Terminal.]


Underneath Talos Island

Shortly after the Warriors Left the Streets

A Meeting between Bruce and a Sky Fall of the Tsoo


The cavern where Bruce and his contact were to meet was, as they tended to be, dark and damp. Shining luminescent crystals were the only source of light within its depths, and the hero's innately suspicious associate lay there, waiting in the dark, concealed not only in shadow but by a haze of obscuring mists conjured with the aid of knowledge gifted to him by the ancestor spirits of the Tsoo. 


The subtle throb of ultralow soundwaves announced Bruce's arrival as he descended outside the cavern. Entering cautiously, he took out the phone and held it up before speaking to the seemingly empty cavern. "I got it, Silent Crane. You can cut the cloak and dagger crap now."


The Tsoo swordsman stepped from his hiding spot. "It is not cloak and dagger." Silent Crane's voice brought with it a tension in the air, both in the figurative and literal sense - as one of the Sky Falls, his mere presence caused the air to ionize faintly. "For us, it is survival. Something a ngộ nghỉnh like you does not know...or appreciate. You have it. Let me see it."

Bruce nodded in acknowledgement as he handed the phone over. "I appreciate it. I just happen to be feeling a little... impatient. I have a gut feeling that's been nagging at me, and the last few days haven't exactly been productive in finding out the truth. Good thing I know the right people."


Silent Crane listened absently as he took the phone and examined its list of contacts - and after several moments of examination, nodded. "This will suffice." He pocketed the device in his trousers.


"The Tsoo have known of the connection between the Hellions and the Warriors for some time now. The Hellions are frequent buyers of artifacts and magical items from them - but there is more to it than that." He spoke in a low tone, barely audibly from beyond where Bruce stood.  "The Hellions themselves are but the unwitting servants of the quỷ. Demons. What I say to you now is not commonly known - the leader of the Warriors, the one you know as Odysseus, all the wealth he has ever known is due to the patronage of one of these beings. That is the link between the two. These fools do not conspire knowingly. They are moved as we would game pieces on a board."


A sigh escaped Bruce's lips. "Well, I can't say I'm surprised that the Hellions and Warriors were puppets. But the one pulling the strings... any idea what their game is?"


"The relationship between Odysseus and his patron has changed at times...so we believe. It is difficult to discern a devil's true designs at the best of times. Moreso when there is no clear aim to its actions over decades." Silent Crane answered. "We do not even know its name, or its nature. Even our knowledge of this patron is second-hand."


"Damn," Bruce cursed, "Another dead end... but at least I know a connection exists. You sure there isn't anything else you can tell me?"


"Just one thing. The Hellions and the Warriors - they have both been procuring large amounts of unusual items as of late. Items without great intrinsic value. Not technologically advanced, not magical. But what is worthless to us may have value to the quỷ. The timing is unusual - it suggests the fiends either have a sudden need of some sort...or are reacting to something else that has happened recently." Silent Crane's tone here held greater traces of uncertainty - as if he were simply speculating.


As Silent Crane spoke, Bruce stroked his chin in thought. "Hm. I assumed the timing of recent events meant the Family was somehow working with the other two... but I didn't think of the obvious. Competition. Whatever the Family's goals were, their actions must have disrupted the goals of this demon somehow. Which means that the next step is to look for a connection from THAT angle... either the dagger they stole, or the hostages they took. I should also look into the sorts of things the Hellions and Warriors are gathering up and see if any of it has any connection to what the Family took..."


Silent Crane gave Bruce a curious look. "Have you not seen the news lately, ngộ nghỉnh? The Family did not steal the dagger."


Bruce looked up. "I missed that break. That's where I went wrong--I heard about the theft, and assumed the Family was involved since they were the only ones in all of this who seemed to be acting with any sort of clear plan in mind. Serves me right for not watching the news."


"One supposes the captured Family could be lying, of course, but their lie would be a most peculiar one if so." Silent Crane elaborated. "They say that rogues from Vanguard infiltrated the Midnighter Club during their very own raid on it, and took the Dagger in the chaos."


Bruce sighed again. "Damn, how many players does this game have? At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Nemesis had a role. Of course, that's always a safe assumption these days... hopefully I can find where this thread ends before someone else joins the party."


"Then our business here is concluded." Silent Crane nodded ever-so-incrementally. "Until we meet again...as either friend or foe." He took a single step back into the swirling haze that had gathered behind him as he spoke, and vanished into its depths.


As his contact disappeared, Bruce gave one last look at the darkness before turning to leave. "...Here's hoping 'friend'." With no more hesitation, Bruce left the cave and took off. He had work to do.



Edited by Terminal
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Midnighter’s Club

Two Days After “The Incident”

Kaikara (with a "guest appearance" by Tommy)



“No, I’m serious… He fell asleep in the middle of all that static and smashing and punching and he STAYED THAT WAY! For the ENTIRE FIGHT! … It was ridiculous.” Perched on the corner of the reception desk, with a loaded Nick’s chili-weenie in one hand and a ridiculously colorful Unicorn Slupie in the other, a dark-haired girl with a light, Etoilean accent and wire-rimmed glasses gestured vaguely to the polished white skull that rested beside her, laughing. “And that was AFTER he’d already lost his lunch because of the sewer smell.”


“I know everybody has bad days, but... Man. Yeah. That sounds like a real doozy for old Justin, alright.” The ghost’s voice came from everywhere and nowhere, bound to the skull like the entity himself, but not contained by it. ‘You all handled the situation though, right? I’m not going to hear about Bricks turning into some kind of Freak-a-palooza sink-hole with homeless spooks all over it, am I?”


“Pretty sure we did. Even if some of the old city’s corridors or caverns do get flooded, Apallos’ cabal can fix that a whole lot easier than they could fix whole sections caving in… I just wonder why Dreck is so worried about this guy getting out? I know they had issues.  But… Turning the whole Zig into rubble? THAT’s more than just “issues”. That kind-of sounds personal… And now Arte says that the guy those Hellions were working for is somewhere in there, too… In the Zig… Some guy who calls himself ‘Tempter’.” She shook her head. “One of us is going to have to follow up on that. I don’t like it, but Artemian will probably have to do that on his own, since I’ve still got to catch up to the Family before they do something really bad to Tina and the others.”


“Sounds like you’re up to your eyes, kiddo. Your side-kick, too… Promise an old man you’ll be careful?”


“We will.” She grinned. “Well, as much as we can be, anyway. Hero-business and all.”


“You’re going to give me grey hair. You know that, right?”

Taker of screenshots. Player of creepy Oranbegans and Rularuu bird-things.

Kai's Diary: The Scrapbook of a Sorcerer's Apprentice

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(A collaborative post between LiaSyuki and Terminal)


Steel Canyon, a Hellion Lair

During the Events of 'The Hellions Raise Hell'

The Dealings of Valkyr Kara and a Demon Behemoth


"Demon!" a voice called from down the hall. "You offered me information in exchange for a sacrifice! ...You may have this one." To punctuate her words, Kara tossed forward the orange-clad convict, clearly still injured from their earlier fight on the streets. "...He has no place in this world, and so is not needed. He should suffice for whatever amusement you wish to use him for."


"...I Accept Your Offering!" The towering behemoth of flame exulted. Its voice was the sound of glaciers crumbling as it reached out to engulf the terrified escapee from the Zig in one of its oversized, taloned hands.


"Wh- No! NO! You can't do thi-" The convinct began to shriek, but abruptly went limp, their eyes glazing over lifelessly as the demon's fiery grip encirled him. The decrepit room filled with hellish, inhuman laughter. A haze of yellow and green mist filled the room, and for but the briefest of moments, Kara thought she heard, in the distance, the sounds of anguished screams. The demon raised its victim into the air, and then in a burst of seething corrupted flame, the convict's body and clothes disintegrated and bled out from the world like water vanishing into sand.


Kara tensed as she watched the fiery behemoth drain the life from the broken man she had granted him, her helmet masking most of her reaction but unable to hide the golden glow that shone from her eyes. Still, she made no move to defend the man. She had made her judgement and deemed his life worth less than whatever information the demon could grant her. To falter now would be foolish.

The infernal mists abated. The sounds of distant torment receded. The towering creature of the Abyss seemed to inhale deeply, as though taking in a rich boutique's aroma. And then, it turned its eyes of flame to Kara.


"As I promised - all I would have shared with the fools who summoned me, I shall know impart upon you...mortal. Come, follow. A demonstration is in order." Turning, the collosal fiend began to head down the corridor leading further into the Hellion's den. 


The gilded archer glided along behind the demon, watching carefully for any signs that this might be a trap. She had kept to her word, but knew infernals were notorious for twisting their deals. In her hand she gripped her bow as if ready for battle at any moment.


A stray Hellion wandered out before the two as they came to the other end of the passage. His eyes alit with open awe upon seeing the approaching fiend.


"Oh man, this is awesome!" He gabbled. "I've never seen one of you guys before! Uh, I mean, revered master, most unholy of-"


Without even looking at him, the Behemoth scythed through the gang member's body with one taloned hand, raking it through with flame and causing the man to fall to the floor in flaming pieces. Kara tensed again and her grip on her bow tightened further as the Behemoth trod over them with its cloven hooves, grinding the steaming viscera into the old, carpeted floor as it went by. It seemed the creature bore no loyalty whatsoever to its own erstwhile allies or summoners.


It led Kara to one of the crates she had found earlier - stolen goods taken by the Hellions during their mayhem from earlier, which she had already pried open. It was filled with miscellaneous value - empty ketchup bottles, rolls of duct tape, a camping lantern, a box of staples - as if the Hellions had just raided an office supply store right after a grocers. Peering down into the container, the Demon seemed to evaluate the contents for a moment before reaching in and retrieve... A set of mismatched, novelty dice with numerous different sides and facings. They seemed to have a vague and superficial mystic theme to the patterns and designs they were engraved and colored with, but were clearly utterly mundane - still packaged as they were in a hobby shop plastic bag.


With a snort, the behemoth burned the plastic covering away, causing noxious fumes to waft into the air as it passed the objects to Kara, offering its clenched fist over hers to drop them into her grasp. Nose wrinkled under her helm, the young Valkyr accepted the items as they were placed into her gauntleted hand.


"Come, mortal. Tell me what you see." The Demon beckoned, an amused intonation in its voice - insomuch as a distant avalanche could have intonation to it.


Turning and shifting the dice in her hands, Kara looked at them a moment before turning her gaze back to the demon. "At a glance, they would seem to be mere dice, though strange ones. But there is clearly more than what we see, isn't there?"


"That depends on what you look for, mortal." The behemoth replied. "Have you ever studied an artifact of the Well of Furies before?"


Again, the Valkyr frowned under her helm. "...My sisters believe me too young to handle items imbued with fragments of the source."


"Your sisters are fools." The demon rasped. "Threads and shards of the source are imbued in all aspects of creation that surround us. Imperceptible to all but those the Well has deemed worthy of its notice...or to those who dedicate themselves to the study of such cosmic power. These objects are no mere vessels for the power of the Well however. They hold within them something new."

The demon was suddenly leering at Kara appraisingly...as if it were eying up a horse and about to pry open her mouth to examine her teeth. "Aspects of the Source that have been seeded within the world by a novel Cultivator."


By now Kara had landed and her stance seemed less wary and more... Insecure? It seemed that something the demon said had bothered her and she was unable to hide it even though covered head to toe in armor. "And these groups... Hellions, Warriors, possibly some of these others that have caused chaos lately... They have found some of these fragments that have been placed for others to find. They wield them and seek others to empower what they have..."


"Yes." The Demon seethed in affirmation, the hissing of its voice being the sound of snapping icicles. "You have already grasped the crux of the new order. Like the Well, these new aspects of power require a Master Artifact to be harnessed. Many individuals of late have found...or been guided...to these Artifacts, and bearing them, they now can perceive and seek out aspects of the source to empower themselves. What you hold there..." The Demon pointed with a single extended claw. "Is one such Master Artifact. The pieces altogether. If the Cultivator finds you worthy, then you, too, will see. It shall be interesting to observe what form your powers take, mortal. The shape of these energies is exotic and foreign to your universe...they are like to manifest in a most..." The demon huffed out a short plume of hellfire. "...amusing fashion."


"I see... Then if these fools insist on blundering about with these artifacts, then they shall learn what it truly means to hold a fragment of the source..." Kara muttered as her fist tightened around the dice. "Yes, this should be quite interesting indeed."


"Normally, it might be questionable whether this Cultivator would find you worthy of its power...but I believe it shall, in time. As you demonstrated with your offering, mortal, there is truly nothing you are not capable of." 


The demon then burst into a bout of hideous laughter, the sound booming throughout the room like the rumble of a crevice opening up in the middle of a plain of ice. Kara let the demon have his laugh as her wings flapped, raising her off the ground. "Though I have a bit of a late start, it seems I shall have to join in this race of empowerment. If that is the whole of what information you have to offer, then I believe our business has finished."


"Tidings then, little mortal. Let us see what Great and Terrible wonders you shall evoke in time." The Behemoth suddenly gestured at her with a single outreached talon. "We shall all be watching you closely, morsel. Do not betray our expectations." With another hideous laugh, the towering creature emitted a billowing cloud of sulfurous fumes from about its hooves, enshrouding it and vanishing within them. For another brief moment, Kara thought she heard the distant, anguished cries of innumerable voices - and then the room was silent once more, the thick haze of brimstone abated, leaving nothing to mark the devil's presence save for the blackened, scorched imprints of its hooves in the old and tattered carpeting of the den's floor.


With nothing left for her here, Kara flew back out the way she had come, a few of the feathers of her wings knocked loose and fluttering to the ground. Although, did they seem slightly darker than before, or was that merely a trick of the light?

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Midnighter’s Club

Two Days After “The Incident”


“Keep it cool. Tabby, Keep it cool.  Play normal. “


She paced furiously- or as furiously as she could there wasn’t much room for pacing in the Library’s custodian’s closet, but her artifact/nap room was under guard now and she needed somewhere to hide.   The fur from nape of her neck to her tail was a full ridge now, her tail was bristled to triple its normal width.  It whipped about, slamming into the walls of her small confinement with a thunking that was sure to wake the dead.

“Breathe in, Breathe out.  Wax on… wax off. Focus. Find your happy place.  Find your happy place!”

She turned back to the book she’d left propped on the mop sink, “Crafting the Dagger of Jocas.”  It was here all along- exactly what she needed- and she’d been too stupid to notice.  More than one of the mages she’d consulted told her that she was an amalgam of essences- that her path to a cure was to excise  the parts of her that weren’t the original Tabitha Lachann.   Well, there’d been more than that, sure, but that was a big part of it.  

*This is it.  It was right here with me, and it was STOLEN.*

Worse, it was stolen from the archives.  On the first day of Tabby’s student work-study, she’d been told DO NOT GO IN THERE probably a dozen times… which was rude on a number of levels, like they didn’t trust her.  Since she quickly learned that most of the stuff that fascinated her about that job was in those archives. she’d spent practically every unsupervised moment back there.

And now they’re probably going to be going through security footage, recording every transgression. They’ll realize she’d  been trespassing.   They’ll fire her and she’ll never be allowed in there again and then she’ll lose her best lead on a cure and then she’ll get expelled and that’ll be a violation of the terms of her release and… and…

“Oh, God, I’m gonna puke.”

No, there was only one way out of this mess:  she needed to recover the Dagger of Jocas.  That way, they’d stop looking at the archive access, she’d have access to the scalpel she needed to cut of the non-Tabitha parts of her once she learned how to detect them, and she might even get credited to her community service for such a heroic recovery!  It was the only way!

Mission defined, resolved set.  Now she just needed a plan.  

Gathering information made sense, but unfortunately, she didn’t have many contacts.   The downside of her plan to “lay low until I get cured” was that she really didn’t interact enough with anyone to consider them a trustworthy contact.   Of course, the other downside of her plan was it failed miserably when meme-worthy pics, video, and even audio clips went viral, turning her into an unwilling internet star… at least in some dark corners of the web.

The great contradiction: she didn’t know anybody, but everybody knew who she was.  (Well, everybody WEIRD, it seems.  The notoriety didn’t help her at all with the important stuff, like selecting next semesters’ classes…)


Maybe that was enough….

Tabby opened her phone and navigated to NaughtyNeko.org’s Tabby Tracker.   She saw that the pic of her fighting the carnies with the caption, “It’s not a party till naked catgirls are on the dancefloor” won the monthly prize, but that didn’t matter right now.  Flipping through previous submissions, she found what she wanted- uploads of her short visit to the Vanguard command center.   A bit farther back, and some from her time in Fort Trident.

She had contacts that knew her in both Vanguard and Longbow!  She just didn’t know them!  Bonus- their uploads proved they were already lax on security.  Just a few PM’s away.

She logged in under an old pseudonym “notACatgirlButIStalkOneOnline” and thought to click through and do a bit more investigation into her potential leads, making notes as she went.  A flamewar in one had @tightsFromLA claiming to have a Longbow rank as captain.  Promising.  Fanfic attributed to @FurFreak27, though, put him on the block list. 

“5 more to research…”

Then she noticed the frenzy of new posts down in the non-catgirl “sightings” thread.  It was usually pretty dead, given the forum’s specialized focus, but something had caught the community attention.  Some post purportedly from the dark web of a new female Power, some “Burnt Feather”.  Probably photoshopped.  The video had almost as many trigger warnings as @FurFreak27’s fanfic—almost, so she figured it was safe to proceed.  She’d seen worse.

She was wrong.  Fortunately, the Janitor’s closet did have a sink to puke into.

Shit. That… that’s a horrible way to go.   Thank God that’s Praetoria.  I don’t want anything to do with…” her voice trailed off as an idea formed.  “That’s the Praetorian Dagger of Jocas.   Right there. In her bloody hands.  How different could it BE from the one in this world?  If Ireturned it instead who would be the wiser?   PLUS it means I don’t have to deal with a bunch of pervy furry-loving freaks.

She played back the video again and took down the email address.  After creating a new dedicated mail account and doing her best impersonation of a battle-focused muscle-head, she hit send.

Now, time to kill until I get a response. 

She’d overheard some voices outside talking about turning the zig to rubble or a sinkhole or something like that.  It was muffled and hard to make out, but her apartment was within spitting distance of the zig perimeter.  *Not like I’ve got much there.  Most valuable thing there is the security deposit.   Hope I don’t get cheated out of that.*  Still, worth learning more, and if she as going to be taken seriously as someone that could be of value to someone like Burnt Feather, she needed to practice coming across as a real professional, not some nervous student worker.     If she just slipped out and approached with the calm confidence of a Midnighter, maybe they’d tell her more.

With the perfect plan in place, she gathered up the book and left the clos… 

DAMN, is the door stuck? LOCKED?

Edited by chase
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Talos Island, Big Hill Next To The Tram



Tabby did her best not to trip over her disguise.   The baggy jeans, hoodie, and mask was originally chosen to minimize pressure against her fur while hiding as much of her catgirl-ness as possible.   It didn’t really succeed at either, instead just transforming her into an uncomfortable clumsy mess with a cat tail working free from the pants, lumps that were clearly cat ear’s, and lots of muffled profanity under the mask.  

Still, it was all she had available on such short notice.   She practically took the janitor’s closet door off the hinges to make it out of the Midnighters’ in time to go shopping AND make the rendezvous.    The little remote-control car had sapped away what was left of an already-miniscule food budget, so she really hoped she could get the darn thing in the original packaging and return it after all this was through.

Still huffing and puffing through the mask, she stopped, dropped her backpack on the grould, placed the car beside it, and held the remote in her hands.    

*Batteries! I forgot the goddamn batteries.*


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Around the Same Time As Tabby...

An Email Address




To Burned Feather or whomever it may concern,


I am Cato. I am an Elite leading a small but crack Warbands amongst the Warriors, by the command of our leader Odysseus.


*We* like *your* style. You've clearly got the moves, the gift, the talent. And we've got a deal for you.


You said you wanted a crew. Come to my address and show us all what you can do in person. Assuming that video wasn't all smoke and mirrors and you manage to humbly impress by wit of force, my band and I would be pleased to work with you for a hot minute. We serve the strongest side! 


Half my boys think you're just some dweeb from online who is halfway decent with photocut. If that's the case and you're in over you're head - we've got the goods to pump you up. 



Also Around the Same Time
Another Email Address




-2667.9 10.5 2835.8





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Talos Island, Big Hill Next To The Tram




The email notification came in even before she caught her breath.   She’d have laughed at the irony of where she was being sent if she wasn’t so damn tired.    She opened the backpack and pulled out he car’s original packaging.   “All this trouble… for that. Let’s get you back in the box, returned, and then grab some grub and maybe a nap.   Won’t get any sleep back at Brickstown, though, but it might be a good day to catch some rays atop Atlas…”

She was so focused on reassembling the box that she didn’t see the toy car roll until it picked up momentum, racing down the hill toward the busy street below, far too advanced for her to have any chance of reaching it.   The string of profanity won’t be repeated here.  Just use your imagination and then multiply it by ten.   Then, as the tiny truck bounced off the curb and moments before certainly being crushed, she triggered a translocation spell- her FIRST translocation spell- she’d been researching it ever since she found herself stranded on a dead ferry- and she caught the car, pulling it back to safety.

“Yes.  YES!  I… I DID IT- it worked.  Holy crow mother of dog it worked. Something FINALLY went RIGHT.  OH I LOVE YOU you stupid toy.” She started singing, “I’m gonna get to return you… I’m gonna have money for groceries.   I’m gonna be able to eattt!”

She broke out a little dance, disturbing quite a few passers-by and totally missing it when a gust of wind carried the box and receipt away and out of sight.

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Atlas Park, Atop the Atlas Statue



The afternoon sun was always the best.   The way it envelops the fur with a golden glow, yet low enough in the sky that it lacked noon’s harshness.   Up here, atop the Atlas statue, with the bustle of the world below her… she could just melt.  Just fade away, lost in the luxury.    She could even forget about her belly grumbling and the fact that even ramen noodles broke the next week’s food budget unless she found a buyer for a barely-used remote control car that was now packed in her backpack.

She heard the phone vibrate- an email.  She didn’t want to move.  Couldn’t.  

“Ok, CreyTek, play last message”

“be aware cancel meeting, possible snipers. You'll hear from me.”

SNIPERS!  Where? At the meeting place?  At Talos? DID THEY FOLLOW ME HERE?  Who?   No, she was overreacting.   Nobody would even know she was here unless… she pulled open the Tabby Tracker.  Yep. Video footage circling her basking under the sun.   The post claimed to be drone footage, but she caught a hint of cape at the edge of a few frames.  Some super had submitted this for the daily free pizza prize.   Great.

But no.  the meeting was cancelled.  They wouldn’t have any reason to track her here.   Her contact’s worried about snipers at the contact site.   Outside the midnighter entrance.  For a meeting at 9:30 tonight. 

That’s not exactly a quiet time on a college campus.   If she wasn’t there for the meet-up, someone else might be there and get mistaken for the contact.   Somebody uninvolved could die.

She dialed her work-study supervisor, but nobody answered.  She left a Voicemail, “hey, it’s Tabitha.  I can’t explain, but please don’t let anyone near the steel canyon campus entrance tonight, 9-10. It… could be dangerous. umm... bye”  

Now, she could lie low and feel safe, unless curiosity got the best of her.

Curiosity got the best of her.  She bounded down from the atlas Statue, half cat-landing, half slowing her descent via spell, and darted under the balcony at city hall.   She stashed her backpack there, keeping only her phone (in a shoulder wallet) and one earbud on her.

“Or… I could sneak around Steel Canyon and see if I can figure out where the snipers may be.  I bet there are only a few buildings able to see that entrance from a distance, and stealth IS my specialty.” Well, stealth and slamming concentrated blasts of arcane energy point blank into a bad guy’s backside, but she was trying to cut back on that- but maybe tonight will be an exception.

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Sharkhead Island

After a Certain Dust-up At Villa Requin





Midnighter or not, the man in the dark coat wasn’t particularly adept at perception-enhancing magic, Kaikara decided, watching him from the edge of a convenient rooftop. Granted, pulling a veil of shadows around herself from the shifting darkness of the Void did make her very difficult to spot, but one solid Detection charm would still have given her away… If he had thought to cast one… Which he had not.


She’d followed the clues pulled from the Family’s ransom video across the Isles as quickly as she could, but it hadn’t been fast enough. By the time she got to Villa Requin, this man… The one Ashley had called “Darin”… had already infiltrated the building and found two of the mobsters' captives. Brighid and Azuria were safe, at least, and though he looked like the sort who might try to wring a little extra profit out of the situation, he hadn’t. She was impressed by that.


‘But where’s Tina?’ she wondered, dropping into the alley to follow the mercenary’s path. The other two had talked about the Family taking her “elsewhere” before Darin’s arrival, but that could mean anywhere. ‘Hope this guy’s got more of a clue than I do.’



Edited by Coyotedancer

Taker of screenshots. Player of creepy Oranbegans and Rularuu bird-things.

Kai's Diary: The Scrapbook of a Sorcerer's Apprentice

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Tabby's Apartment Building



Resting inside Tabby's apartment mailbox was the neatly folded box for the remote control car she had bought - along with the receipt, both weighed down inside with a rock. There was a message written in careful permanent marker on the back of the receipt itself.


Do not panic/look around. Longbow following you. Longbow Captain/Tabby Tracker User was monitoring your phone. Knew about your new email. Want Dagger/Rogues, not afraid to make you collateral.


Captain has been removed. Longbow still want to use you. We need to talk. 


Ditch current phone. Do not worry about being followed. Meet at 317.3 -31.5 2252.1 (Here in Brickstown)



Edited by Terminal
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