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IC [Mage the Awakening] After the 2003 Hoax

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  • #31
    "I am impressed, Miss," Silencer told Willow. "You did what perhaps I should have done. I consider myself in your debt. As you completed the task I took upon myself, you may bill me."

    Silencer handed Willow a card with an e-mail address written on the back of it. On the front was the image of Death.

    OoC: Ashreyel, forgive my presumption, and I hope I offered no offense.

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    • #32
      Willow smiled slightly and slipped the card in to her purse. "I'll see if I can wrangle a discount, seeing how you took responsibility. The point is it's all cleared up for now. I don't suppose I could convince you to wrap up your proceedings though? Scar has a very important meeting to attend, there are certain parties that would look upon us with a degree of disdain should we be tardy."

      Leaning down to whisper something in Scars ear, Willow turned and left the cafe, ensconcing herself firmly in the drivers seat of the Mercedes and allowing it to idle as she picked through various radio stations.

      OoC: Cire, No offence offered or taken.
      Last edited by Ashreyel; 01-13-2014, 12:55 AM.

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      • #33
        Winchester settled into the driver's seat of a black 350Z and sighed as he backed out of the diner's parking lot, mentally tuning out the voice of John Mayer as his car started up, turning on the wipers to disperse the light drizzle from the clouds that had only gathered in the last few hours. As much as he hated to admit it, Tuesday had figured him out correctly: he had a curious hunger that had only been disappointed with the failure for...this. The Bound. Whatever it hadn't been.

        Winchester didn't like being figured out. He imagined it was something most members of the Mysterium had in common: they solved the mysteries, and perhaps WERE mysteries, but not for other people to understand. If they chose to be inscrutable, then so be it, and woe betide the soul who tried to put the pieces together.

        But no, Tuesday had her victory, and all she had really needed to do was observe she had already won, like some koan.

        Perhaps it was childish, perhaps it was wrong, but the young Mastigos pulled his will around himself like a warm blanket, leaving himself alone to focus and unwind. He felt outside thoughts try to intrude, and dismissed them, redoubling his focus and compartmentalizing his brain to drive and meditate upon this conundrum of a chess set and the woman who was setting him and some others on the hunt for it.

        **************

        The Seer known as Ponte frowned, eyeing the car as it pulled off from over a table in one of the antique shops that dotted the street; he had hoped to infiltrate the Warlock's thoughts covertly, maybe mine them for some information before exploding his brain in some terribly subtle way that would have let him slip out hours before anyone realized there was magic involved.

        To his credit, Ponte didn't think he'd been noticed, but the young man in the car seemed to have his psyche already armored. Ultimately unsurprising, but still inconvenient.

        "Honey, you thinkin' of buyin' that?" A grandmotherly woman behind the cash register. "We've got the chairs in back to go with it--" The Seer shot a blank smile, and the lady's smile went slack as he severed himself from her memory and perception; no mage, her mind was easy to casually tear into. She only came to with the jingle of the dront door, as Ponte let himself out. She chided herself for missing a potential customer, and turned her attention to the crossword puzzle and a glass of iced tea.

        Out on the street, Ponte opened his black umbrella and walked a block down, then two--the red lights hanging over the street favored him, keeping him within sight of his target for a couple minutes before the fancy Nissan rounded a corner. He didn't think the boy inside had a clue he was being followed, but he wasn't going to get away that easily, unintentionally or no. Ponte prepared to weave a couple more spells, letting a little mana slip into them; it was going to take a some extra juice to reach out into the fields, the grasses and trees surrounding the town, and what was coming certainly wasn't going to be as subtle as he had hoped, buuut what were you going to do?

        ***************

        His CD player had looped before Winchester realized he was taking far longer to get back to his hotel room than he should have. He prepared to lower the partition between his thoughts and his actions, only to find one half of his brain crashing--metaphorically, thankfully--into the other as something collided into his fender with a crunch of fiberglass and an animal bellow of pain.

        As he pulled his face from the airbag that had hit him in the face like a boxer, he scowled. This was the ass end of nowhere, a nondescript two-lane road with barbed wire and rough pasture to either side. His room was miles behind him.

        As he crawled out of the driver's side door, he took stock of the situation. His body ached, but probably not in any way that would leave worse than bruises come tomorrow morning. He turned his attention to the front of the car to survey the damage, and see what--it had certainly sounded like a "what" rather than a "who," and he hoped that wasn't wishful thinking--he had collided with.

        Cooling on the asphalt and sprawled a third of the way across the median was the corpse of a deer--White-tailed? He didn't know, they were all Bambi to him--its tongue lolling out of its mouth in an almost-comical contrast to its pulped ribcage and torn abdomen. The 350Z hadn't fared much better, its front buckled in and a perfume of chemicals and oil commingling with the scent of rain and the stink of animal guts marking both beast and vehicle as toast.

        He reached out with his senses to figure out how he had gotten here, his mystic senses picking up the astringent scent of space, severed and stitched and looped around itself. His mind itself remained untouched, of that he was certain, and in the back of it he began to assemble a scenario. Space had been subtly distorted--curled turtle-like into his thoughts, any attempts to confuse and befuddle would have failed, and probably set off the warning bells he was just now hearing--streets leading north tied east and west, turns south sending him north, turns toward the motel sending him out of town...and now he found himself out here. What had happened? Was Tuesday pulling something, a prank in some follow-up to her sales-pitch earlier this morning?

        An irritated grunt drew his attention, and he turned to look at the source. Another deer had appeared behind him. Two--no, three more bounded over a fence, and within seconds a half-dozen animals looked at him with about as much hate as a flighty, timid herbivore could muster.

        "You goddamn monster." Winchester said under his breath, to whoever had confounded his path. "This is--!" A new car? "This is--!" A new model, less than a year on the market? Still not entirely paid off? Still under warranty and insured--okay, he wasn't completely screwed. Still, there were many things Winchester could have said.

        But it was a nice car, less than a year old--the 350z had only hit the market at all less than six months ago--and it was a sign for him of having moved up in the world, replacing a grumbling '97 Sable.

        Going over the fortress in his mind brick-by-brick, he clenched his fist, and muttered--to the animals, to Tuesday, to whoever or whatever was responsible--with furious calm.

        "This is going to hurt you a whole lot more than it just hurt me."

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        • #34
          From his hiding place, Ponte noted that Winchester was more than ready for a fight. He shook his head. Just what had he expected? Those enemies that would go down easily would hardly warrant a place on the List of Thirteen itself. No, this battle would be anything but easy. Even so, it was not a battle that Ponte could escape. Violet had made it all too clear to him and the rest of his pylon that they must slay Winchester, Oberon, and Lar. Given Violet's power and cruelty, failure would certainly be answered with slow, agonizing death. Ponte shuddered at the very memory of the terrible, Romanian woman who had sent him after Winchester. Why could she not have inflicted this mission on some other pylon?

          Ponte reminded himself that self-pity would get him nowhere. He prepared himself for the battle to come.

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          • #35
            "Your right."

            Scar handed some cards out to other members of the cafe. "I hope you all enjoyed todays show and consider it a preview of things to come. If you have any enquirers about the upcoming event then please feel free to call the studio."

            With that he glanced back at his untouched coffee, then looked at his watch. He pulled his wallet out of one of his pockets and threw a wad of bills onto the table, glancing at Tuesday he gave her a nod "You've got my number if you wish to go through with our deal."

            With that he straightened his suit and walked promptly out of the cafe and over to the marcades climbing into the back seat.

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            • #36
              Lar placed his had hand perpendicular to his for head and surveyed a field to the south of the town. It had rained the a few day earlier giving the soil a spongy consistency. In the center of the field there was a small patch of grass that grew taller than the surrounding grass. This was a spot were a plant reasoned locus pierced the gauntlet. With a shovel slung over his shoulder Lar approached the locus.One hundred and ten years ago upon that very spot the locus now resides Henry Smith was lynched. The whole town gathered to watch him being branded on every surface of his body not even his eyes were spared. With every agonized scream he let out the crowd responded in thundering with applause. When they could find no place left to brand him he was set aflame. The townspeople fell upon his remains like buzzard feasting on carrion. They took what was left of him as mementos. If a wound would indeed engulf the Paris it would begin here. However when Lar inspected this place the before he found no evidence of a wound having ever been there. This should have been impossible there was simply too much hate there for it not to form. Even if the wound was closed not long after it was opened there should have still been some evidence etched on the spiritual landscape. The land should have hate resonated essence lingering on both side of the gauntlet and a hate resonated locus. Yet there no lingering hate and the only locus was plant not hate reasoned. This time Lar planned a conducting a more vigorous investigation. He took a quick peak across the gauntlet to see if he noticed anything he didn't pick up before to his disappointment everything looked the same as last time. Lar thrust the shovel into the earth and exhumed a muddy pile of dirt.

              Suddenly from the timber line a shadowy tendril bolted toward Lar with murderous intent. He raised the blade of his shovel deflecting the black tendril upward as force form the strike pushed him back. The tendril soon regained it bearing and split itself in three. Before they came with in striking distance Lar had already fled into the shadow. From the safety of the shadow he peered across the gauntlet using his life sight to find his assailant but to no avail. His assailant had used his powers over death to make it appear that he was dead rendering his efforts useless. So Lar switched to a different tactic. He roused Gesubkak his familiar form her slumber within in his pistol. Gesubkak had a long spindly gun metal body. In place of hands she had two gun barrel. Her mouth were lined with 5.7×28mm bullets in place of teeth. Her eyes were orange muzzle flash frozen in their blazing glory.

              He clenched his fist and whispered" ugualad."

              Into being came a tracking spirit. It appeared to be a tan colored bloodhound save its eyes they were reminiscent of a radar screen. The ban he gave his creation was that he must find whomever Lar commanded him to.

              Lar tuned his attention Gesubkak. " Unrin padalad."

              "Pad lunugazig" Lar commanded his creation.

              The tracking spirit and Gesukak cross the gauntlet and began hunting down Lar would be assassin. While Lar followed them from the shadow. It wasn't long before the seer assassin was found hiding in the underbrush. As soon as Gesukak sighted him she materialized and let lose a barrage of bullets upon him. The seer ripped a chunk of rock form the bedrock to shield himself form the stream of lead. Suddenly the underbrush sprouted thorns and entangled them with in their branches. The seer using the power of entropy to kill his living cage and broke free. However he was too late the poison that coated the thorns had already entered his system and was beginning to take effect. The seer started to stumbled around aimlessly in circles as him motor function began to fail. Lar pounced from the shadow ,and knee caped the disoriented seer with his shovel felling him like a lumber jack a tree. Gesukak approached the seer keeping her hand strained on the seer but she did not finish him. She knew her master would want to question him first. Lar change the nature of the tracking spirit he made into a spirit of truth. It gained a humanoid shape made out of paper with various equations and Atlantian glyphs that were so complicated it was impossible to make heads or tales of them. He ammned his ban he had place on his creation. The spirit must force the truth out of anyone Lar questioned. Lar standing in front of the seer stabbed his shovel into the earth and place both his hand it handle. He then rest his chin on his hands turning his gaze toward the seer.

              " Who do you work for and why were you sent to kill me?"

              " I serve the Exarchs through the words of Violet. She ordered your death because she feared you would find the rook." The seer said in disoriented stupor partly form being poison partly from have a spirit forcing the truth out of him.

              "Rook?"

              "It part of the Chess Set of Fortune a powerful Arcadian artifact."

              " Where's this rook?"

              ''We don't know but it is believed to be somewhere in the shadow."

              " How much of the set do the seer possess."

              "The board and sixteen pieces?"

              " Do you know where the board and pieces are kept?"

              "No."

              "Do you know where missing pieces of set are?"

              " The other rook is in the underworld on the bottom of the Urdabrunnr river. The Queen is." Before he could finish blood erupted form every orifice of his body. This was followed by dramatic swelling of his eyes and tongue .

              "I think I over did with the poison." Lar chuckled to himself.

              As he dragged the seer's lifeless corpse across the gauntlet to dispose of it he pondered what he just heard from him. The local spirits had been muttering about a great crow in a fortress lording over them. He had assumed this was as a powerful crow god but he had misunderstood. Rook can also mean crow and the word itself was thought to originate form an Italian word meaning fortress.

              " Could the spirits be referring to the rook." he thought.



              Last edited by VectorFox; 01-14-2014, 04:28 AM.

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              • #37
                Peeling away from the curb with a slight screech of tyres, Willow drove towards the airport. Checking her watch she calculated they had roughly 21 minutes to get to the airport...and would arrive there in exactly 19. More then enough time. Opening the glove box, she passed a small leather satchel back to Scar. "You didn't think we'd miss the flight, did you?" she asked as she sped through the twisting narrow streets and on to the main road. "Don't worry, the flights been delayed. We have lots of time." Scar responded.

                Squealing to a stop in the airport parking lot she checked her watch. 19 minutes exactly. Perfect.
                Sliding out of the Mercedes, Willow took a large heavy leather suitcase from the trunk, extending the handle and made her way in to the airport, her heels clicking on the lino floors, matching pace with Scar as they made their way to the boarding lounge. Hurrying, but not rushing.

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                • #38
                  The Claviger (at this moment, Doolittle is very much a Claviger, not any old mage) pays a call on the City on the Hill, a local Cabal of low-ranking Théarchs.

                  She invokes the Right of Hospitality and displays a genuinely frightening level of courtesy and politeness to them, offering them each some small (but exquisite) gift, and generally being the very model of the gracious guest from hell. It's with some relief that they find out their superior is not buttering them up to take their soul stones, spy on their political rivals, or lead a doomed charge on the Exarchs themselves; she only wants a quiet spot to carry out some ritual casting unobserved (and is perfectly willing to be chaperoned by the cabal's Acanthus as she does so), and would like the help of one of their number as she works on a secret project.

                  Collaring the hapless Enchanter, a young man by the shadow name of Serendip (who's only been Awakened for a few weeks, poor thing), she marches down to the local Hertz Rent-a-Car, and slaps Serendip's driver's license on the desk, asking for a large flatbed truck. The employee putters about in back, and she grins conspiratorially to the younger mage. Oh? Yes, that is right - I cannot drive, so I /do/ so hope that you shall consent to be my chauffeur for the afternoon? Serendip nods weakly, and predictably assents. These apprentices - so keen for arcane experience and an exploration of the mysteries! She's only happy to oblige.

                  The 'mysteries' aren't immediately in evidence. Doolittle spends the afternoon going on a gleeful grand tour of the city's antique shops, working off a dog-eared printout of municipal attractions. Serendip is dragooned into service as her driver, and, as he soon realises, lifter, porter, and dirtier-of-hands, as she buys box loads of mirrors, lenses, magnifying glasses, and other focusing equipment.

                  None of them are very expensive - as she confides enigmatically to the apprentice, with what she's about to do withe them, it won't matter - and she's clearly gone for quantity over quality. Nonetheless, by the end of their trip, she's spent a few hundred dollars, and the back of the pickup creaks and clanks with the boxes of hideously framed mirrors. She orders - no, sweetly requests, in charming, suddenly fumbling Anglais - Serendip to load them into the ritual spell room, while helping to temporarily remove all the furniture and other materials that are already there. With a stern abjuration against the rest of the Cabal disturbing them, Doolittle and Serendip enter the ritual room, now stacked with mirrors. She begins unpacking them, and stacking them up precariously around the edge of the room, on the floor, covering every inch of available space,.

                  'Now then, Serendip. I remember my apprenticeship ... how tiring and frustrating it could be. Now ... how about you and me let off a little steam … ?'

                  Serendip looks at her speculative. Under her freaky makeup, Doolittle's pretty bangin', and her outfit, though ostensibly modest, certainly invites that kind of speculation. All these mirrors, though - well, he's into some pretty kinky shit, and wouldn't mind watching himself … but there are so many …'

                  'Ah! Excuses-moi, that - that was not what I meant at all. Not at all. No, wait a second - catch!'

                  She underhands her scabbard across to him - a thin (but extremely tough sheath of engraved metal and petrified wood, a little under three feet in length. He looks down at it, confused, then looks up at her, bushy eyebrows raised. She has drawn Durandal, and is sweeping it back and forth in lazy practice arcs in front of her body, warming up to use it. Once she's convinced she has its balance right, she lowers it, then stalks over to Serendip, who shies back a little.

                  'I do not bite. I am not about to spit you on the sword of an ancient Mage. But, for what we are about to, you will need at least some protection, some warding about you, a little more potent than what you have now …'

                  She waves a hand over him, and his movements feel suddenly … synchronised. Graceful, as if every movement is in line with some kind of dance he's not quite conscious of.

                  'Well, now, we are ready. Ready to get really, really, really unlikely?'

                  She grins. He is confused for a moment, and then realisation begins to dawn.

                  He's too slow, though.

                  Doolittle spins, and Durandal strikes like a thunderbolt. Without seeming to move through the intervening space, it shatters the nearest mirror, sending shards across the room.

                  A balletic leap brings her across the ritual room. She beckons to Serendip, who smiles, stepping forward, and raising the scabbard like a crowbar above a spectacularly horrible claw-footed full-length mirror.

                  ~~~

                  The two proceed to spend an hour happily smashing mirrors into thousands of pieces. It is extremely satisfying.

                  ~~~

                  Outside, Morgenthau and Spectacle, the senior two cabal members, stand outside the door to the ritual room. Their eyes meet, and their eyebrows slowly rise as they hear the sounds of giggling and shattering glass.

                  ~~~

                  They rise even higher, burrowing into the studious Mastigos and Obrimos' hairlines, as Serendip and Doolittle emerge, hand in hand, faces flushed, each with a sword in hand. The younger Théarch reaches into Doolittle's hair, and removes a three-inch razor-sharp shard of glass from her do.

                  They return, boxes of magnifying glasses and lenses in hand, towing Spectacle and Morgenthau behind her, and spend an altogether calmer and more measured couple of hours carefully setting up lenses throughout the room. Morgenthau's skill with Space, and Spectacle's skill with Forces aid them in arranging each magnifying glass throughout the room. When all is complete, and the ceiling light is switched on, the mirror-scattered radiance will reconverge at the centre of a summoning circle made of brambles cut from the rough urban scrub outside the City on the Hill's sanctum.

                  But she doesn't turn on the light yet. She knows that this circle must best used once, and once only, to contain the being she's made it for.

                  'Merci, merci, merci beaucoup, mes amis. Your assistance has been of great use, and I shall recommend you to the Ladder for your work here. In the event that you are in the Old World, and feel the need for a Pyrenean holiday, you are welcome to stay in the Silver Ladder's chateau there. You will keep the circle intact until I get back? I have been called to officiate upon a bout of the Duel Arcane this evening, and may not be able to get to work on the ritual tomorrow - make sure no-one uses it, please? Thank you.'

                  Spectacle is unreasonably excited by the prospect of a holiday in France, Morgenthau a little less so - he burns easily, and suspects he's just been politic'd. Still, the Mastigos gets to work raising a ward over the ritual chamber, and Spectacle goes to call up Limen, the absent Thyrsus of the Cabal, to have a go at clearing any curious spirits out of Twilight. Doolittle smiles, remembering the days she was an apprentice, and were her mentor would get her to do all the grunt work for him. Ah, those were the days.

                  As she leaves, she calls Tuesday's phone.

                  'Tuesday! Ah, I apologise for my absence. Have our two chest-puffing duellists found a place to fight yet? Our Obrimos arbiter should be on zir way soon - all I need is an address - although, it necessary, I am sure I could persuade zir to stay until tomorrow …'

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                  • #39
                    Harold Roberts sat nervously in one of the Airports private offices. He should have been flying back to America by now, but unforeseen engine troubles had delayed his flight. It was a delay he neither wanted, nor needed, and one that might cost him dearly. His hands nervously fidgeted in his lap as he hunched forward, waiting. To make matters worse he'd failed his second security check, apparently coming up on an Interpol list of banned fliers. Of course it was wrong, but he had no choice but to wait here while security checked up on it. It was just another delay.

                    He glanced at his watch before wiping sweat from his brow. He needed to get out of Paris dammit. Practically jumped right out of his seat when he heard the door open, glancing over startled to look at the new arrivals. A tall dark haired man, dressed in a pressed suit and wearing black sunglasses, accompanied by a rather plain, but professionally dressed red headed woman. The blood drained from his face and turned cold with recognition.

                    Scar walked across the from and sat opposite Harold, on the otherside of the table. "Be a dear Willow and get the door."

                    Terror set in as he heard the door shut and lock. How was it even possible that they had the airport key? How did they even know he was here? Neither of these questions were as important as the main one burning in his mind, what happens now?

                    Willow walked across the room passing a vanilla file over to Scar. She looked up at Harold and smiled “Mr Roberts your flight was delayed? Its so fortunate we had this time to catch up.”

                    Scar leaned forward “You do understand Mr Roberts, when we loaned you the money for your business venture, we expected you to make regular repayments.”

                    Harold started babbling quickly, “I was going to make the repayment just as soon as I was back in America I just needed to move some stock around and-“

                    “Your late. Your payment was due a month ago, that comes with certain consequences.” Scar’s face was cold uncomforting, it gave Harold the sensation of a noose tightening around his neck, suddenly his tie seemed all to tight.

                    “Please, I can make the next payment I just need a bit more time. It was a bad month, not much stock moved, I’ll have more next week.” Harold splurted out the first thing he could think of.

                    Willow shock her head, “Please Mr Roberts, don’t waste our time with additional lies. We know how much stock you moved. Near record profits I believe. We also know how much you lost at the Casino’s in Paris, a number that I dear say is equally impressive.”

                    Harold opened his mouth to speak but he had nothing.

                    Scar opened the folder and started flicking pictures onto the table. “We also know about your family. All of it, included your, shell we say, extended family. That’s a beautiful wife you have there, does she know about your mistress? And your daughter, how old is she now? 19, I do hope nothing bad happens to her at university, you know how those young students love taking risks.”

                    And it continued, through his two sons, his brother and sister in law, even to his parents in their retirement home. Nothing was directly stated, but it was clear just how bad a misfortune could befall Mr Roberts family.

                    It was Willows turn now. “In light of your current difficulties, we’ll give you that one month extension, but I hope you understand, this is a one time only offer.”

                    Harolds face lights up with joy, “Of course of course on thank you.”

                    Scar butted in, “We’ll also be charging you an additional 15% penalty for the late payment, and for making us track you down here. And I hope you understand Mr Roberts, the next time your late, we wont be having any sort of chat.”

                    Not long after that the two had left the office and Mr Roberts to his own thoughts. He was already on the phone making arrangements for next months payment.

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                    • #40
                      After Tuesday finished talking with Doolittle, she sighed and rubbed her forehead. It would be an easy thing to get Silencer to the duel, but Oberon might be a different matter. Assembling her team was proving harder than she had expected. Maybe she should just abandon her quest. Doolittle's concerns echoed her own. The risks that she planned to take not only courted her own doom, but put countless other lives at stake.

                      Than Doolittle thought of her lost love and her resolve returned. She would not give up nor would she let anyone stand in her way. It occurred to her that Silencer was in her way. If he beat Oberon, it might disrupt the entire mission. While she thought that Oberon would win, could she really afford to take the chance?

                      After a minute, Tuesday decided she should avoid taking any risk to her team that she could avoid. Decided, she called Silencer and set up a meeting with him, claiming that she had matters to discuss with him. Predictably, Silencer invited her to his hotel room.

                      However, on her way to the meeting, Tuesday started to have second thoughts. Oberon might object to her fighting his battles for him. Trying to protect him, she might lose him by her own actions. She bit inside her mouth. When she later knocked on Silencer's door, she had no idea what she would do.
                      Last edited by Cire; 01-15-2014, 01:06 AM. Reason: Typoes

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                      • #41
                        Winchester stared at the animals surrounding him and the tragic wreckage of his car. He wasn't a park ranger or anything, but he was pretty sure that he was safe. After all, deer were herbivores, right? Not particularly aggressive if not cor--

                        Three of the animals lunged; one bit at him, the others rearing up and kicking out with painfully sharp hooves. It hurt, but the shields he kept in place allowed the pain to register objectively. The bite would leave a wicked bruise--actually, it was probably bleeding underneath his jacket sleeve--but the rest of his suit was torn beyond repair, and he had long, stinging gouges that he would want to see SOMEONE about if he couldn't garner the mana shortly. Oh well, he reflected, at least none of them had antlers at the moment.

                        His turn. He sought out the source of this compulsion. Someone with at least a Disciple's grasp of mind had brought the wilderness to bear.

                        In his minds eye, he saw the crude tangle of animal impulses. Their thoughts were emerald and primal, drawn in broad brushstrokes: a desire to run. To eat. Two does, heavily pregnant, wanted to find a safe place to bear their young in a few weeks.

                        Reaching deeper, he felt the orange lightning of his attacker's magic guiding them, crackling and grasping and prodding, inflaming anger. The beasts wavered, their hooves tapping on the street as they staggered like drunken men under the weight of two hands in their brains. Like any drunkards, though, this didn't really dull their anger.

                        From within his mental citadel, he measured the rote that Ruled the beasts, eyeing its topography, its construction. It was a single spell, a single foundation bearing six bindings. There must have been at least seven, he realized, turning his head an inch to the left to look at the body in the road and rendering what might have been a lost eye into light scrape along his scalp and a dent on the roof of his car.

                        With his fingers crossed and a prayer that whoever was doing this had put more effort into the number of leashes he'd made than their strength, he assembled his knowledge of Mind and Prime into a spade, infused it with Mana, and stabbed at the heart of the rote.

                        The deer groaned, and most collapsed to the black, rain-slick road, or into the green grass ditch alongside it. Two remained standing, nonplussed, before they leapt away, panicked.

                        ********

                        Ponte cursed silently as he felt the spell unravel, and cursed that he couldn't find anything more potent. A cougar would have been nice, and would have been eating the man already. He probably could have grabbed a handful of dogs, easily, and they might have been good at bringing the Mystagogue down, but they wouldn't necessarily have stopped his fancy car.

                        Besides, Ponte liked dogs. He had three himself, and he didn't have the time to sort out which ones would have just been born wild and which ones belonged on someone's porch.

                        He fumbled with the gun at his side. He never loaded it. To actually draw it would mean that his magic hadn't been sufficient. On the occasions he'd had to draw it, the threat had been enough. But he'd miscalculated the degree of skill his target had possessed in the Arcanum of the Mind, and pretending his cooperation would spare his life was a lost cause. The noise would draw attention, and he wouldn't be able to do anything about that.

                        ********

                        Winchester was very angry. He told himself he should subdue his target. Surely he should learn why he was being attacked. Just tearing into him--or her--with a psychic knife would be crude, impulsive, and...well, killing--whether with magic or not, even in self-defense--was WRONG, and he knew it. Supposedly it went poorly for Mages who violated their moral code too often. Still, someone else wasn't above the attempt.

                        And then there was the affair of his things.

                        The Mastigos glanced back at his car.

                        He casually brushed his hands off on his ruined suit. Bespectacled and bedraggled, he looked laughable, like the comic relief of some blockbuster, like Ferris Beuller's principal at the end of his failed quest to bring in his quarry.

                        Another rush of Mana, and he grabbed a hold of the mental cloak to the right of a nearby tree, and tore it like a spiderweb.

                        The man revealed was heavyset, with salt-and-pepper hair and a slightly cherubic cast to his features. Under other circumstances, he might have seemed avuncular and warm, but the chilly panic that emanated from him as he fumbled to get a single bullet into the chamber of a 9mm handgun dispelled any charm he might have been able to put forth.

                        "My turn." Said Winchester. His hand turned and unfurled in a rapid series of mudras, before snapping into a quick-draw, pointing his finger with a smile that showed too many teeth to be remotely genuine, as the nameless Seer loaded his pistol and levelled it at him.

                        *********

                        "Bang."

                        *********

                        Several minutes later, Winchester appeared in his hotel room, next to his suitcase, and stripped off his torn clothes. As the mental barrier he had constructed eased back, he became aware that he was in quite a bit of pain. The deer-hooves had left bleeding gashes down his chest, and his left forearm had a giant bruise running down its length that screamed with every twitch of his fingers. Frankly, he should go to the nearest hospital.

                        Forget that. In his last moments, his neurons frying and fraying and firing randomly, his would-be assassin had muttered and sputtered something about a Chess Set. That this came on the heels of his meeting with Tuesday seemed...less than coincidental.

                        He pulled out his Blackberry. He had a few calls to make. Tuesday would probably be interested to know that there was an attempt on his life, the firm would probably appreciate a heads-up that he would be missing for a few days, and then...he had a stolen car to report.

                        His attacker would be found in the driver's seat, his own loaded gun with his fingerprints by his side. The shock of the wreck would just be too much for him, Winchester supposed.

                        He also supposed his insurance would go up after all this was done...

                        Bastard. He'd almost kill him again if he could.

                        He'd almost kill...

                        He had killed...

                        Winchester sat down on the side of his bed, staring blankly at the dark screen of the television, and his reflection in it.

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                        • #42
                          No sooner had Silencer answered his door than had Tuesday received a call from Winchester. Once Winchester had made clear his situation, Tuesday hung up. She turned to Silencer. "Urgent matters are afoot," she told him. "Urgent matters require my attention."

                          A puzzled and disappointed Silencer watched Tuesday depart. After a moment, he raced after her. He reasoned that she might need the help of a Guardian of the Veil.

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                          • #43
                            Winchester had channeled a handful of Mana into his wounds--he had spent more in the last few hours than he had in the preceding week--and so he felt a little less dire when he opened the door, wearing a set of khaki pants and a dress shirt that covered the vast majority of his wounds. But Tuesday would likely be able to notice the slow, slightly pained quality to the Warlock's motions, as he walked and settled himself into one of the chairs at the small, cheap table in his room.

                            Silencer probably would, too, but he wouldn't be able to contrast it to the more crisp, businesslike gestures with which Winchester had approached Tuesday's seat at the diner earlier in the day.

                            "I'm going to assume he's all right?" He said, gesturing loosely toward Silencer--who, as Tuesday had taken the other chair, was seated on the bed--with his left hand before gingerly resting it on the table again.

                            "That would be safe to assume." Said Tuesday, then amended herself. "At the very least, it would seem reasonable that while our Guardian friend is here, no further outbursts should happen."

                            Winchester sighed, and frowned. "It looks like I've got some catching up to do, too." He said. "But I might as well get this out of the way, first." He looked back and forth between the two, turning off the room's window-mounted A/C unit right next to his face, before beginning. "So I was heading back here after we'd talked..."

                            ***************

                            "...and then I called you." Said Winchester. "I figured this was relevant to everything else going on."

                            "One question?" Asked Silencer.

                            "...Go ahead." Said the Mastigos.

                            "How did you not notice that--what, a ten minute drive?--That it took you more than an hour and brought you to the middle of nowhere?"

                            Winchester's expression darkened--a little surprising, given that he had already seemed a little more dour than usual when they'd arrived--but he retained his calm as the question needled him right in the ego. Mostly. "I was...reflecting. Tuesday gave me much to think on, so I'd put just enough awareness to drive me back here safely behind the wheel, and is it really that important given that someone tried to kill me today?"

                            "It won't be the last." The Guardian said, without wit or subtext. "In fact, I'm surprised if it's the first."

                            "Perhaps there have been enough barbed words hurled about today." Tuesday interjected, in a voice of polite steel that brooked no dissent. "I will ask for now that we keep ourselves to a strict one-duel-a-day limit."

                            She turned her attention back to the Mastigos. "Does this affect your commitment?" She asked. "I suspect the Seers are involved, and it is unlikely that it will stop here."

                            Winchester blinked slowly, as though the thought had not yet occurred to him. He set his jaw and steepled his fingers, looking sinister over a pair of spectacles that caught a stray beam of light. "Seers or not, they tried to kill me." He said, a tone of self-righteous anger simmering in his voice. "If I back down now, it's as good as if they'd done it in the first place."

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                            • #44
                              "Sir, I like the way you think," Silencer told Winchester. The Guardian then turned to Tuesday. "I am afraid my duel with Oberon will need to wait. If there are Seers to be fought, they must take priority. I will help the two of you in whatever way that I can."

                              Tuesday smiled. "That might be the most sensible you have said to me yet."

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                              • #45
                                Straightening her hair, Willow led Scar in to the large spacious office, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River.
                                Sitting at one end of the desk she began taking plain files from her laptop bag and scattered them haphazardly across the desk.
                                "This is interesting. Interesting indeed...Scar, did you hear about this article?" she flung a scrunched newspaper across the desk to him.
                                "I'm thinking we may want to look in to this one."

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