Jason had purchased a sizeable brownstone near Gotham’s old city. It was a place to keep his sizeable collections on books and other unique artifacts. He didn’t keep it hidden, or try and deceive anyone on where he lived. And for the casual intruder…well, they were quick to think twice when Etrigan was out.
The rain came down in sheets as the lightning threatened to sunder the sky. Essentially, just another night in Gotham. Tonight, he was expecting a guest. One Zatanna Zarara. Zee, as she’s most commonly called. They’d fought together on various things and relayed on each other when one didn’t know something, or didn’t know who to turn to.
But, he knew that Zee would be coming over for a visit. That portal from last night didn’t just go anywhere. It went to the House of Mystery. And it’s current owner is one John Constantine. Which could only mean that Zee was involved somehow. Jason wasn’t worried about Rebecca’s wellbeing, or safety. She couldn’t be more safe if she tried.
So, sitting by the fire. Book in hand, a glass of a good scotch on the table next to him. Now, it was just a matter of time when she’d show up.
When Zatanna needs to speak to someone she doesn’t really need to make formal invitations. Jason was an ally, even if he sometimes was caught on the wrong side of things. It’s why she felt completely at home and comfortable enough to perch herself on the arm of his chair in his study. A wordless action as she crossed one fishnet-covered leg over the other and leaned over to look at what he was studying with such focus.
She hoped he was thinking about what happened the other night. It made some rather unpleasant ripples. Gotham wasn’t the place to make ripples. If she was smart she probably wouldn’t have even come to work the clean-up, but she did. Coming back to this city cast a rather gloomy and dark cloud over her mood. There were a lot of memories here, she had friends here. One of those friends in particular wasn’t here anymore. Maybe he was dead. In her heart she hoped that it wasn’t true. It didn’t stop her from crying when she heard the news. The sadness dragged her back down to a very dark place. She hadn’t been there since she lost her father.
“You know I have a lot of questions, Jason. Why don’t you tell me your tale of what happened?”
It may have been Jason’s scotch but her graceful hand reached for it to bring it to her lips. A little nip to chase away a case of the cloudy uglies. Maybe it would prepare her for hearing how much of a mess this whole situation caused.
“Your Ward is fine, Nightmare Nurse can only stomach babysitting for so long though. She’s not as patient as you are. I’m assuming she’s your ward or apprentice, whatever you want to call it. Not your girlfriend right? I guess this is why I’m asking you. Maybe if you had told me about this earlier this would have come to a different end.”
“You are not the only one with questions, Zee.” saying as he closed the book on something or another demonic. Jason figured she’d come, and didn’t bother to try and stop her from taking his drink. “I figured as such. After I went back. I scryed the portal and saw it led back to the House.” saying as he took another glass and poured himself a drink.
“She is not my girlfriend, a student apprentice role would be suitable for what she is. As for what happened. Well, her parents are both heavily genetically altered due to some concoctions they had ingested. Then they decided to get pregnant. On the night of Rebecca’s birth. Morgaine LeFey decided that she wanted a new army of demons without hells sway. Her father and I stopped her, thanks to Etrigan able to get in and bite her. You know how he loves to bite her.” a small smile played on his lips, knowing that Morgaine was bound to do something soon.
“All the babies that had been infected were cured, except for her. She never displayed symptoms of whatever Morgaine was trying to do. As far as I could tell, the demonic possession, if you will, never took hold. Her blood was fine. So, I left her…but kept a cautious eye on her through the years to see if she would develop anything more than what was already given to her by her parents.
“That is her story. As for why we were on the rooftop… well, we were investigating a cult that was attempting to bring Barbados back. And… well, I assume you know why that wouldn’t be a good idea. Turns out, the dummys weren’t summoning Barbados, even though they were trying to. A fight ensues, we start taking out the men, then something triggered my change and Rebecca’s change..”
Taking a sip of his brandy.
“Then Asa shows up and starts healing magic on the bad guys…and well, as they say, the rest is history.” crossing his leg, he turns to look at her. “The Order of St Dumas also made an appearance.Special guest. You can guess how that ended.”
“Right, except that it was a trap all along. They were attempting to control her, they might have gotten a two-for-one special but it takes a lot more than a little infernal ritual to control the Big Guy. No one controls Etrigan.”
She relinquished the glass without a protest. It was his and it was only fair he take it back. Zatanna was only speaking the truth as she saw it, even the bit about controlling the demon. Even Merlin gave up and settled for binding him to a human.
She groaned and brought a palm to her face when he mentioned the order. Could she guess? She certainly could. It probably ended horribly.
“I can’t help you with that. The Order will probably seek retaliation against you and Rebecca.”
She threw her head back with an exasperated sigh.
“People died, Jason. Enemy or not, that goes right against the hero code that this city has. Gotham has its own way of dealing with problems and you-know-who is probably going to come crashing through demanding some answers. Not to mention, the taking of human life leaves a pretty nasty stain on the soul. So add in a demon-tainted young woman and deadly mess and you’re just adding fuel to the fire.”
She tilted her head to look him in the eye to see if he understood that, if he understood the seriousness of the situation.
“She needs discipline, she needs to know how to control herself. She has to fight against those dark urges and her very nature if she wants to continue to live in this city and live with her freedom intact. If she’s your apprentice, it’s your responsibility to show her how, not show her how to kill a bunch of lame-ass infernal wizards. Though, I’ll bet that was probably due to Etrigan’s encouragement and believe me, I’ll have words with him too. I think this is a good opportunity for you, I think you would learn a lot but you and the demon need to be a team on this. Rebecca also needs to get a say in this too. She’s tough but she’s still going to crash once the weight of her actions hits her. Are you sure you can handle this? It’s okay if you can’t.”
“To be fair. We tried to be non-kill. The men were killing themselves, essentially. Even going as far as slicing the throats of the men who were unconscious.” a wave of the hand. “I understand fully what you are telling me, Zatanna. I didn’t know she could transform. She never experienced that in the times I observed her.” taking another drink.
“I understand what you are saying, Zatanna. From the moment we set foot on that roof, we were going for a non-kill solution. I knocked out two of the men that were on me. And one just about jumped onto Rebecca’s sword. That’s where things went south. It was not, and is not our intention to kill.” taking a deep breath. “I have been fighting for over a millenia, Zatanna. I know what the consequences are for taking a life. Believe me, I do not wish to kill anyone.” now he was looking her back in the eyes.
“There are things about Rebecca that I am still learning. It’s been many a year since i’ve had an apprentice of any kind. None like her, I must say. I believe she will do good under my tutelage and bring a unique aspect of what she is. If done right, she has the potential to lead the next age of Magic.” a shrug.
“Don’t worry about the Order. I am unconcerned with them. They won’t be the first order to attempt to kill me and Etrigan. I am sure they will not be the last.”
“If done right, she won’t be following the path that so many others have done before her that leads straight to damnation and hell. She might even be a warrior against the very black magic that created her. That’s entirely up to her and in some part, who guides her.”
She did make a bit of an eye roll at mention of the order, “What about Rebecca? She’s never fought them. This is probably the point where you need to think a bit beyond yourself and the demon and consider who else is getting dragged into these problems.”
She leaned over just a tad, not quite sliding off of the arm of the chair but it looked like she was about to.
“I want you to be happy. I also don’t want you to get in over your head with this. If you need help, please, ask for it.”
A bit of a smirk played on her face as she brought her cheek against his, her lips brushing against his ear, “Jason, there’s something I’ve always wanted to try with you…”
“Do not worry about me and Rebecca. Whatever happens, we will deal with it. And if it becomes something more than we can handle, then we’ll be sure to ask for help. But, I have had apprentices before…. Though, none quite as stubborn as that young woman.” pressing his lips together, he picks his drink up, and before taking a sip, he tilts it in a way to offer it to her first.
Turning to look at her, a brow lifting. It wasn’t that he never thought her attractive, it was just that their relationship was always .. platonic. Afterall, he knew her father. And he’s known her since she was just a child. Though, he’s learned to look past that as … well, most people are much, much, younger than him. Watching her for a long moment, he tilts his head. “What is it, Zatanna?” asking with his brow still lifted.
“What is it that you wanted to try?”
She batted those long dark ashes, she felt a slight twinge of guilt over what she was about to do and may have to answer to him if it fails. She did respect him, as she respected many of her friends and tried not to toy with them too much. She was just genuinely curious and she would never know unless she tried. At least it seemed this would be a safe way to do it, even if Jason seemed a bit confused.
<font color=blue>“Enog enog mrof O’ Nam- Esir eht moned Nagirte”</font>
Her eyes flashed blue as she whispered the words against his ear, the words taking on an alien form as she spoke them backwards. With her tongue though, those backwards words could do quite a lot.
She moved back after the last word was spoken, not wanting to be caught in the flames or perhaps a foul mood of a demon if her little trick had actually worked. Not that she’d allow the demon to be foul for long. She didn’t have time to deal with his temper when she had serious business to discuss with him.
Dropping the glass, he grips one hand on the edge of the recliner, and the other on her thigh, though, unintentionally.
“You could have asked, Zatanna.” saying as he pushed himself from her. Soon, flames would wrap around himself as his flesh started warp and change. Soon, the Demon would be standing in his place as the flames dissipated. Looking around quickly, he’s confused by the change. “Who dares summon me?!” asking as he then turns his attention on Zatanna, hopping back, he readies himself for a fight.
He’s not sure if she’s under the influence of someone else, or something else.
“What do you wish, Zatanna? You dare summon Etrigan when there is no need?! Bah!” waving his hand as he stalks towards the window to glance out. “There is no fight, no reason for me to be here. So, what is it you want, Zatanna? If you are under the influence of another, please know that I will make your death quick and painless. Then find whoever did that, and feast on their entrails while they still breathe.”
He’s nothing, if not, chivalrous.
…in his own, very violent way.
“Hey, Big Guy,” she said with a warm tone and a smirk.
It’s true, it’s probably a bad idea to summon him where there’s not something for him to take down. He’s better thrown at the enemy than brought out for tea and cookies. Fortunately there was no tea and no cookies and all she could really do to get his fire down to a simmer was bring her hand up to put against his armor as she stepped closer.
“Oh that was positively frightening, many will wretch with disgust at the sight of your disemboweled enemies. I’m fine, promise. I’m glad to see you too. I won’t keep you long, next time I promise it’ll be to fight or play,” she offered him a wink. She knew that a lot of the time it was necessary to talk on his level. She didn’t want to be an annoyance to the demon.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
She was very good with casting illusions but this trick was merely a bit of slight of hand as she reached behind his ear and withdrew a shiny penny in between her fingers.
“Jason needs your help training the young halfling. She’s better served on this realm but if she keeps it up, she may not be able to reside it in for long. She might even be able to keep up and fight beside you one day. What are you thinking on this? Do you want to help her or do you want to eat her? You can’t let her go around feasting on entrails. She needs to play by the rules, don’t kill the humans.”
“Eh?!?” he gives her the strangest of looks as she pulls the penny out from behind his ear. Reaching behind his ear, he makes sure there’s nothing else there then narrows his eyes at her for a long moment “Bah! You and your kind are insufferable!” waving a hand at her as he then walks over to the recliner before moving to sit on it as he listens to her. “…But, I am pleased to hear that you are not under the influence of another. As humans go, you are … most pleasant to be amongst.”
When she spoke about Rebecca, he shrugged.
“The girl has potential. I wish to keep her, and then potentially place her in a position of power in hell.” maybe that’s not what Zatanna wanted to hear. Letting the moment sink in for a long moment as he steepled his fingers, hiding his mouth behind it before lifting it and giving her a toothy grin to show that he was kidding.
“We fought upon that rooftop. The girl is poised for great potential. I wish to keep her around, Jason can train her, and I shall assist. Do not worry about her feasting on entrails of the enemy. That is suited for our most hated enemies…such as Morgaine. But, Morgaine is no ordinary human.”
“You do not need to worry, Zatanna. It may not look like it, but I tend to believe Jason has things under control. I suspect you and that most insufferable sorcerer have her?” asking. “Next time I see him..” gripping the edge of the recliner, he squeezes it, nearly ripping it off the recliner itself.
Go figure, someone wants to kill John.
Then checking back behind his ear…just to make sure.
“Bah! I do not like being toyed with, Witch.”
Zatanna fell for the joke, hook line and sinker, it showed by the scowl that crossed her features and she was inhaling and about to give him her thoughts on that subject before he smiled. Her body language changed like a switch was flipped. She’d much rather keep the mood light, just being in this city had her feeling weighed down and a bit emotionally frail. She was genuinely happy to interact with the demon. It was a great distraction.
She flipped the coin between her fingers before spreading them, making the penny ‘disappear’. Sometimes it was the most simple of tricks that were the most entertaining.
“Actually, Asa is watching over her right now. You don’t need to attack the chair over the thought of John being near your girl.”
She was already going to need to fix Jason’s barware, she didn’t want to have to deal with the mess of fixing the entire study over a fiery temper from just mentioning Constantine.
She didn’t want to see him off in a foul mood and didn’t want to escalate the situation any further. She merely moved over to the side of the chair and leaned against his massive arm.
“You’re easily one of my favorite and most ferocious demons, Etrigan. Thank you for speaking with me…hrmm….”
She leaned in a little closer, eyes narrowing by his ear, “I see another one…right here!”
The toying certainly didn’t stop at parlor tricks, not when she snuck in to peck his cheek, leaving a fresh smear of lipstick in the wake of her lips.
“Hmph!” swatting when she pecked her lips against his tough, scaly skin. “Bah! I see through your lies, Zatanna. But, Your compliments are received. If you are ever need of my assistance, know that I will come to your aid…” trailing off as he paused. Then gave a grin.
“One thing I must ask of you. When you see Asa. Tell her that I am in search of a mate. A .. demon who can truly give me an offspring.” grinning “I will slaughter sheep and cattle in her name. I will burn a church in her honor. I will do anything for her hand.” winking as he stepped away from Zatanna.
“Farwell, Zatanna.” bowing before her.
”Gone now, O Etrigan
And rise again the form of man!”
Once again, the column of flame would erupt and Jason would be standing there, staring at Zatanna.
“Please. Do not ever do that again. John did it once and Etrigan nearly gutted him. But, I suspect Etrigan likes you more than him, anyway.” waving a hand as he walks over to the remnants of his glass.
“I’ll pass along the message. Don’t get too hopeful about her accepting the offer, though. I know it’s lonely for you on this side, you’ll find something that works out,” she didn’t even know how to respond to that any further. The request stunned her in a way that made her cheeks flush.
It was just not something she wanted to linger on too much longer. Perhaps it was just better than Etrigan was wrong about his perceptions of Asa. Knowing that was relieving but knowing the truth about Asa was also terrifying as well. It wasn’t something that was up to discussion, some truths were better left in the shadows.
<font color=”blue”> “Riaper.”</font>
The broken glass was her fault but she didn’t need to leave it a mess. Broken shards pulled themselves back together and fused back into one glass that stood brilliantly on the floor as if it were brand new.
“I’m sorry, Jason. I’m really in a foul mood and needed some levity. It’s good to know, just in case, anyhow. I don’t plan on doing it again. He tolerates me a lot more than John.”
In a way, she was impressed it worked. The startling bit about it also meant that she could just as easily weave Merlin’s own magic. That was how the man and the demon were bound. It was better not thought about too deeply.
“You both seem to be in agreement. I’ll pass along the message to Asa. Rebecca will need to decide if she wants to continue to be your apprentice. I suppose you’ll see her in class if she does decide that is the path she wants to take.”
Wordlessly she bent down to pick up the glass, reaching for the bottle to refill the glass before offering it back to Jason. The apologetic and somewhat sheepish look in those brown eyes for her was hopefully enough to prove she was sincere about her apology. Jason didn’t need to be messed with and neither did Etrigan. There was a purpose behind the attempt.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
Taking the glass, he places it on the stand and then moves his hand onto her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Zatanna. I know Gotham has history for you.” offering a squeeze of her shoulder, he gives her a bit of a smile. “At this moment, I do not think there is much you can help me with. Unless you can teach me how to deal with young women with anger issues and able to transform into a bloodthirsty demon?” asking with some levity.
“I will be fine. Me and Etrigan will be in contact about the girls progress.” taking a deep breath, he glances out, then back to her.
“You should go talk to Richard. Maybe that will help with your mood?” asking, thinking maybe that it would help. He could hope, anyway.
She thinks she knows everything and she can handle everything herself. I was like that at that age too just less angry, and toothy and demonic. She needs outlets for that rage. Most college students just drink, party and screw the stress away…”
Zatanna held a finger up.
“…I also did that. Anyhow. You’ll figure something out. Try to put yourself in her shoes.”
She sighed at the mention of Dick. He wasn’t going to be happy about this situation and she really didn’t want to put herself in the range of fire. It was probably better for what scraps of a decent relationship they had to not put herself right in the middle more than she has already.
“Misery loves company, right? I’ve got to get back. Work first, a stiff drink and a hot bath after. Take care, Jason.”
Under the light of the moon, the disciples gathered for their grand ritual. The Giordano Botanical Gardens was a beautiful place frequently visited by many in the past, back when the rooftop gardens were a beautiful and lush place and it was well tended to. It has since turned to ruins, a former battleground for several foes that had occupied the space. Blood had spilled on that ground and over time the neglect and lack of care had made the space quite desolate. A few bits of plants and shrubs hung on, several rumored to be quite dangerous to touch or be near. Those dangers lurk thanks to the lovely green champion of nature that no longer occupied the space. Echoes of the battles remained, panes of glass shattered on the greenhouses. The lone large statue at the center had bits and pieces removed. The lovely visage of the angel remained vigilant, sword held high, shield on his other arm. His face was stained by rains, neglect, bits of moss that clung to his stony features.
The gathering took place under the light of the full moon. The Hunter’s Moon of October held a great spiritual significance to this ritual. In the quiet and the still of the evening they gathered, preparing and spreading their tools around the space in silence. The robed and hooded figures chanted in a whisper as they placed their candles, their crystals and carefully laid out the lines of black salt upon the dead earth.
One remained in the center of the star that began to form as the lines joined, the very tip pointing to the south, the reverse of a standard pentagram. There were twelve others, five assigned to creating the unholy symbol. Three stood at the odd points of the star, the southernmost and the North East and North West, focused on the chanting, sleeves rolled back as they held their palms outstretched to the side of them. They asked for blessings of the moon to protect the ritual, they called for the dark one to hear their words, to find them at this infernal site.
Four remained, patrolling the perimeter, blades in hand as they watched from the four cardinal direction of the rooftop for anyone that may attempt to disrupt the ritual. It seemed by their weapons that they were ready to use lethal force if necessary to halt anyone from interrupting until they had achieved their goal.
Rebecca and Jason had been preparing for this event. The more difficult part was tracking down where it was going to happen. Their evening hunts had gotten them closer and closer, clues laid for them to follow. At every moment they had thought they had caught up to the Cultists they were always too late. There were merely signs of them having been there, puddles of wax, smeared lines of salt and symbols on the ground made from blood. They roughly translated into single words ‘Demon’ ‘Rise’ ‘Great’ ‘Harvest’. Another symbol was sometimes found. To those familiar to the city, it was a very familiar one. The outstretched blackened wings of the bat. To others with more knowledge of demonology, it was coincidentally the symbol of an old god, a demon, a being that once roamed Gotham where buildings and streets have since covered up any remains of the destruction it had caused.
It took some old fashioned detective work, plotting the locations on the map to locate the final site. How did they know it was the final site? Their hunts had taken them to seemingly every corner of the city. Random locations, or seemingly random until they were marked on a map. The familiar star shape taking form if lines were connected. The very epicenter of the shape was the gardens.
Rebecca had come dressed for war. The street armor she had created seemed good enough to protect her. The important thing to her was that she wasn’t weighted down and unable to move. She didn’t have the resources or the tools to create much, most of it was stuck together out of bits and pieces she could scavenge from second-hand stores or junk she had come across. Her weapon she had commissioned from one of the art students in exchange for some tutoring. It wasn’t fine crafted by any means but it was balanced and sharp and light enough to work into the skills she had built up over her childhood. It was all she needed, that and a little warpaint.
“I hear nine,” she murmured softly, crouched behind the stonework that surrounded the gardens. She focused here sensitive sense on the voices, eyes closed, head tilting. They didn’t have a plan yet and she wasn’t going to jump into action. This was one point where she submitted to the skills of the immortal veteran warrior. Jason of the Blood would know what to do, how to approach. The most important thing was stopping this before they finished. Stop whatever impending doom they may summon and rain down upon the city.
This wasn’t Jason’s first time taking down a cult, or battling cultists, or … anything they were doing right now. During the week and as the pair investigated, Jason could see how talented the young woman was and where her potential was. Hopefully if she continued to want to partner with him, she’ll listen to his advice and grow. As the pair ascended down onto the cultist ritual area, Jason would look around. Nodding to what she said, he’d kneel down and press his palm to the ground.
The ritual was growing stronger, he could feel the magical energy building up. It’s cascading crescendo threatening to explode. “Four are patrolling the outside. Then there are more on the inside, I cannot pinpoint them. I will draw two in here, then you take care of them from where you are.”
Jason wasn’t going to transform, not yet. Etrigan would be needed later, but Jason didn’t want any of the cultists killed. At least, not right now. Throwing some pebbles towards a couple of the guards, he waits to get their attention before darting into the alleyway where Rebecca would be able to take care of them easily enough. The last two were on the other side. Moving over to Rebecca, he, along with her slowly move up towards the main ritual area. The chanting was growing stronger, the very Earth seemed to heave with every verse of the incantation. Soon, they were going to need to stop them.
“If we stop them now, the energy could continue building and then detonate, destroying several of these buildings in the process. We must wait until they’re nearly complete. Then, I believe, i’ll be able to channel the energy somewhere else so that whatever they summoner, will be unable to come.”
His idea of drawing them was throwing a rock? The action earned a hard bit of side-eye from the young woman. Still, it was an effective and simple strategy. It had the effect of startling the armed men, they called out, alerting the others and the four started to descend upon the two warriors.
There was a lethality with how they moved in, blades drawn, moving quickly. They had some skill and perhaps beneath the robes were stronger than they had appeared. Rebecca took on her two with a snarl, raising her blade defensively.
Jason could hear the blades clash from his location as the young woman began to fight her two opponents. What had been a quiet a approach was quickly turning into a full-out brawl. The two remaining came at him with a similarly fierce approach. They needed to get close to strike and came at him with blades glinting in the moonlight. Whatever he may be able to deflect with his own blade, they countered back with more force.
“You will die for interfering! Your blood will only fuel our ritual!”
Jason’s own blade came up to block whatever strikes these cultists tried on him. The cloaks they wore seemed to be heavier than normal cloaks. Able to take a beating and keep the cultists alive. They were awfully strong. These men weren’t your typical cultists. They were far stronger and much more durable. “Yes. It is nothing i’ve not heard of before.“ saying as they told he’d die, and then use his blood.
Deflecting a blow from one of the two men, he parry’s it off to the side, stepping out of the way as the man tried to recover. Sticking his foot out, Jason trips the robed man and followed up with a strong strike of his pommel against the back of the man’s neck. This left him open for the other, though Jason decided to wear his armor underneath his clothes so when the blade struck, it slide off the chainmail shirt. It’ll hurt later, but for now, Jason kept his arm.
“Rebecca. How are you fairing?” asking with a grunt as Jason came up quickly inside the man’s reach and slammed his shoulder into the other cultists body to knock him away so Jason could recover and start thinking how they were going to stop this ritual.
Rebecca was faring decently well. She danced with the blade, kept out of reach of their jabs and swipes. Anything that did get too close was deflected by the clothing she wore leaving only cuts in leather in their wake and thankfully, no blood. She may have spent too long toying with them. It was a good test of her skill and she was watching their movements very carefully. It wasn’t a form of training she recognised. It felt like the kind of skills one might develop in the street, learned from experience.
The precious time she wasted came to a shocking end as one of them rushed at her with a mighty roar and she moved her blade to counter the attack. The attack never came.
The blade from the cultist fell to the ground, soon sprayed in the blood that ran down the length of his torso and dripped onto the ground.
The man had literally thrown himself into the path of the blade, impaling his body on the length of the rough steel. He made one last mockery of the action, a bloodied spit at Rebecca’s face before his eyes went dead and his body ceased to function.
It took a second to recover from the shock before she withdrew the blade quickly, the body tumbling to the floor as the sharp anchor was released. Something didn’t feel quite right, a chill traveled along her spine from the sudden action the cultist took. She hadn’t taken a life before, she had seen people die, she had witnessed a lot of violence in her life and she may have spilled blood.
Her voice was still rough but higher pitched than it typically was, surprised, shocked, unsure. The second man came at her before she could get her bearings, if he struck true it would have done some very horrible damage to her. She swung with the blade, throwing her weight behind the strike. It struck with deadly precision.
Two bodies now. She swallowed back the reflex that kept her from getting sick, moving past the two bodies now on the ground and towards the cultists with a quite focused look in her eyes. The hunt was on.
“Rebecca.” saying as he pulled her along a wall as they got closer. If she looked at him, he’d look back. Studying her eyes. “We’re close.” saying as he could see the glow of the pentagram. Jason could only hope that they weren’t too late. There was an idle wonder if he was going to run into any of his so called friends. Surely he wasn’t going to be the only one that felt what was going on here.
“The language is a type of Latin. More germanic in nature. The Vandili spoke it.” offering as he crept closer to where the other cultists were on the pentagram. “They were magically inclined, worshipped a select number of gods. Similar to whom the Vikings or Norse worshipped, though their rituals were based in blood and sacrificing the young. Believing their blood was the purist.” pressing his lips closer as he glanced around.
Jason was starting to sweat, feel uncomfortable.
“The magic is potent here, Step back, It’s forcing me to cha…change”
”Change! Change! O form of man!
Free the prince forever damned!
Free the might from fleshy mire!
Boil the blood in the heart for fire!
Gone! Gone! O form of man
And rise the demon Etrigan!!”
With an eruption of fire, Jason changed, horns pushing out of his skull, his skin turning. Soon, Etrigan was standing where Jason once stood. Skin hot from the fire that just consumed Jason. Bright red eyes looking around, taking in the scenery.
”What did Jason say before summoning me, little girl?”
As the battle had gotten underway a cloaked figure had come to settle atop a stone gargoyle on the corner of the adjacent buildings roof. The long cloak he wore moved with the wind flowing about him its erratic path the only discernible movement as the eyes behind his mask took in the unfolding chaos. As had been the case as long as he had dwelled upon the earth those who guided his hand had directed him where he needed be the most. A gauntleted moved from its place atop the gargoyles head and to the blade at his side he had seen more then enough.
Rising the figures muscles clenched as he prepared to leap the gap between buildings. Bringing his sword up and out before his face, where it nearly touched his nose both of his armored hands grasped the hilt as a short prayer was uttered a deep reverence to each of the words.
“Lord guide my hand, for I am your ser….”
As Etrigan appeared the figures final words would fade as this new development demanded his attention, he would beg his Lords forgiveness after the cleansing. Seeing the demon appear the knights eyes narrowed to slits and with an unseen flick his sword would ignite as he leaped through the air to land among the growing melee.
Aiming out the tip of his sword at Etrigan himself.
“Surely the Lord tests me with your presence beast. I shall not be found wanting!”
She was compelled to stop them, Jason pulling her only served to frustrate her from her desire to move closer to them. If they had wanted to stay stealthy, it certainly wasn’t going to happen now. They were noticed and the cultist in the center brought raised his arm, pointing it in the direction of Rebecca.
“The maiden has arrived. The blood will bring our master forth.”
Jason seemed to be getting onto the right track about blood being the key. Two had bled out now, two were dead at Rebecca’s blade. The other two were unconscious and insignificant at the moment.
The chanting stopped suddenly, the 9 others remaining halting what they were doing. Had they reached their stopping point? Had they finished their chant? Three split off after the two that were unconscious, withdrawing their sacred blades from their belts. The others seemed a bit stunned at the arrival of the demon. This was not what they had anticipated.
Rebecca seemed unphased by the transformation, only raising a brow at the demon calling her a ‘little girl’.
“Something something Vandili and blood cults. Then O’ be gone. We <b>need</b> to stop them….”
Her focus was drawn away again, the cultists now splitting and reaching for their blades upon the arrival of a third. In the chaos of the change and a newcomer the three cultists that split off had achieved their goal. Their two comrades that were knocked unconscious earlier by the knight very quickly has a smile painted across their necks. Blood once again spilling to the ground.
Rebecca stepped towards the pentacle upon the ground, her voice soft, cracked yet still melodic.
“One…two…devil’s coming for you…three…four…better lock your door…”
She spun the blade, smirking at the leader of the cultists, daring him to come at her if she is to be their sacrifice.
When dealing with the chaotic, chaotic things tend to occur, and when summoning demons it’s possible one might well get more than they bargained for. A glowing portal opens, and a woman steps out, clad in purple and wearing a matching nurse’s cap. The blonde sniffs at the scent of freshly-spilled blood in the air, smirking. “Well, this is no good. Almost seems like someone else’s problem, exceeept…” She looks to either side of her, as if expecting to see Johnny or his fetching sidekick.
“Looks like this is all me, then.” She laces her gloved fingers together and pushes her hands palms-out. “Time for surgery.” Some of the cultists look to still be alive; with a flick of her wrist to summon a golden rod topped with ancient iconography and a quick read of the situation, she aims to keep them that way, if only to deny the purpose of this entire event. Let the monsters battle amongst themselves; she’s here to prevent a plague.
Etrigan looked around, first at Rebecca, then to Azrael with a grin as the flaming sword is leveled at him. “Bah! If you like fire so much, Burn on this!” Taking in a deep breath, Etrigan would a large swathe of hellfire at the cross wearing man. “I have fought against your kind before, Templar. I thought I had killed you all!” wings would then sprout from his back as he started taking to the air.
“Girl. Kill them all, they will unable to finish the ritual if they are all..” trailing off as he noticed they were killing … well, each other. Etrigan was hardly an expert in such affairs, Jason tried to teach him. But it was often lost on him. The Demon not caring, only wishing to kill and slaughter beings. Though, Jason focused the demons attention at things that really needed to be killed. Etrigan upon seeing Nightmare Nurse grins.
“Where’s John? I figured this would be right up his alley.”
“Last I heard, He was doing with a outbreak of faeries in Mexico.” laughing raucously as he started to burn the area inside the pentagram.
Azrael leapt back and to the side as Etrigan took in a large breath, his next move could not be clearer had the angels themselves shouted it from the heavens amidst a chorus of trumpets. Bringing round his cloak as he evaded the attack his hope being its fireproof properties would save him should his speed not.
“I am no Templar! The Order of St. Dumas shed those fools centuries ago Etrigan!”
He of course knew the demons name and had often been made to read of it’s exploits should he ever encounter him. Coming out of his roll the knight shook lingering hellfire from his cloak and moved his sword toward the now flying Etrigan.
“Wait…you seek to stop their efforts?”
Had he the time Azrael would surely seek the lords direct guidance but clearly now was not the time. Turning his attention to the scene as it grew ever more chaotic and confusing around him. He had his orders and so he would let them be his guiding hand.
“Very well demon, Fly if you must my sword was not meant for you!”
Taking a moment to find the closest cultist Azrael spins about the bring his flaming sword across their back, and so he would begin doing to any would dared come to close.
In an interesting turn of events, the cultists were shocked when they attempted to make their next action. In an attempt to hasten the ritual, they were rendered completely ineffective even as knives plunged into their own flesh. Perplexed, some had even attempted to run their fellow cultists through with no effect. They roared in pain but their wounds healed almost instantly.
<i> “Attack the others!” </i>
The group split, four coming after Etrigan, the other four following the trail of hellfire after the holy knight. Blades drawn, they attacked with everything they had. A very small, mighty, and very invulnerable army.
Azrael would soon realize how invulnerable when the grievous wound across the cultist’s back healed right before his eyes.
Rebecca was left to the leader, a strike at him with her blade and it did nothing. She didn’t need the yellow demon to bark orders to do exactly what she already had in mind. The frustration began to build and the scene around her had become quite distracting. Two others had arrived on their ambush, the miraculous healing from every swipe of her blade became increasingly frustrating. She could only guess that someone was helping them, protecting them for some reason. Between strikes she attempted to search out who but the rise of the fire blocked her from getting a decent view of the blonde that had come to their aid.
The moment she spent searching distracted her enough to be hit, the blade cutting into her shoulder and nearly rendering her dominant arm useless. She screeched in pain, quickly grabbing her sword with her left hand and raising it to defend herself just as another rapid strike began to come at her.
“Your sword will never be meant for me, Crusader. I will flay your flesh before you can attempt to use that pig sticker you call a sword on me.” calling out to Azrael. The four cultists that were on him seemed to be unharmed. Even the one the Crusader was on seemed to be unharmed. This was troubling. Swooping down, he lands easily enough to side step their sword strikes. “They cannot be killed, perhaps they can be maimed into unconsciousness… “ Order of St Dumas, who were they? Pft, Who cares. The Crusader was nothing more than a human behind armor.
“Whatever Order you belong to, Crusader. Know that you have sinned just by being in battle with me!” laughing as he swiped away at the sword strikes, eventually bringing his own sword out. A long curved blade riddled with pot marks from centuries of battle. “You fools do not frighten me.” parrying strike after strike, he moves within the reach of one of the cultists, Etrigan makes a fist and delivers a solid right hook to the invincible, at the moment, cultist.
“Ah, yes. The Order of St. Dumas. Now I remember, I once slaughtered your leader! That was a great day! I flayed his flesh while he lived, then slowly baked his entrails and ate his heart. It was quite delicious!” laughing, Etrigan didn’t really, but he knew enough that he wanted to tease the holy man. “Did you know, he too, cried for his Lord. But he never came!” Etrigan shouted as he started making his way towards Rebecca. After she defends against another blow, the man’s sword would stop short of its target. A large, yellow clawed hand grabbed the wrist and simply pulled him back to throw at the other three cultists who chasing after him.
“Hahaha! This is like throwing pigs at the Arab’s during the Crusades!” it was obvious Etrigan was having a blast.
Stop them? Stop whom? It was difficult to pick out what the real problem was. Was it the demon? Was it the holy man? The sweet nurse had effectively not made herself a target, yet. All Becky knew at the moment was the searing pain of the wound she just received and the chaos that surrounded this moment. Men thrown, men sliced and yet they bounced back up without a single mark upon them only to have them attack again.
Etrigan made a mistake in coming after Rebecca’s target. Even the sweet dulcet tones of Asa’s voice couldn’t keep her calm.
“That was <font color=red><b>MINE</b></font>…”
The demon had made a mistake in taking her target, a growl emanated from her throat as she turned, chin defiantly held up as she glared at him. Perhaps she had enough of his mockery, of making light of the situation. He wanted a battle, he got one and he seemed to be enjoying it. He crossed a boundary that he was all too familiar with though. The ‘little girl’ was just as territorial as any other demon and perhaps it was a matter of honor for her to deal with the problem she had locked in on herself. Now…it was thrown aside, just as he had thrown aside the true potential of the young woman.
Shadows stretched beneath the moonlight, quivering for a moment before the sickening sounds of flesh rending and twisting could be heard. A fearsome and angry scream coming from the twisting form.
Perhaps if Etrigan was focused, if he wasn’t wasting his breath making foul jokes about wars long gone and ancient battles of good versus evil, he would have been better prepared for the attack.
Aided by wings, she leapt into the air, claws and the full force of the attack coming down onto the yellow demon. An angry maw of teeth aiming to chomp upon his skull. No words, no jokes, just pure rage attacking him.
Azrael slashed and then intended to immediately move to the next cultist only to find his efforts insufficient. He could see this day had been crafted to test him to his limits considering demon had become ally and his enemies would not die. Perhaps then he was meant to find another path toward salvation. If they would not die then perhaps they would accept being rendered harmless in another fashion.
“You lie as expected Etrigan, your foul presence has never encountered my order…not directly.”
As the cultist closed in Azrael taps a hidden mechanism on his sword causing its flames to erupt and burn hotter still. Spinning about his sword comes down intent on removing arm, leg and hopefully cauterizing the wound to greatly slow the lost limbs return.
In the midst of his spinning tornado of blood and fire Azrael catches sight of the girl he had thought to be his only other human and perhaps uncorrupted ally. Gone is the warrior of before her form replaced by what he could only assume to be another demon. He had faced many in the span of his time as the champion of St. Dumas, as had all the others before him and surely would those who came after. He would not give into fear despite the turning of the tide toward darkness.
He would end these cultist and then these demons, and if not he would give his life doing his duty.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Etrigan thought for sure he was helping her not … you know, die. Then she transformed into… whatever this was and he was completely unprepared for this. Her strikes land,her teeth landing on his flesh. Though, not slicing through the hardened scaly skin as she may have thought. But, he was getting the feeling she was acting on instinct instead of a thought process. Reaching up, he grabs her maw and using his incredible strength, he pushes it open and off his skull.
“Perhaps you are in need of a punishment, girl.” growling as leaned back slightly to kick her away from him. “What do you suggest, Nightmare Nurse?” asking as he rubbed his head where she bit him, he could feel the wounds closing, though, slower than usual. “Shall I roast them? Make sure they cannot recover from such a wound? Maybe include this Holy Crusader? I wish to personally bake him in this armor of his. Feast on his entrails…” watching Rebecca though, he readies himself for another attack.
“Look to the holy man and focus your fury on him, He could use a challenge!” yelling at Rebecca, a grin on flimsy lips as he awaits for her next attack. Figuring she wasn’t going to attack Azrael, though, that’d delight him to no end.
“Well… that’s one way to go about it,” the healer from Hell mutters to herself. Azrael switches to nonlethal means at a very fortunate time, and she doesn’t bother repairing the cultists’ limbs because a simple bit of triage renders them a bit lower on the priority scale than her new ally. Able to switch focus, she instead keeps as close to the unleashed Vesper as she dares, weaving together spell after spell to keep her upright as she does battle with the more experienced Etrigan.
She laughs a bit maniacally at the demon as he calls her out. “What makes you think I’m on your side of this, Etrigan?!” Time to drop her colors and hope the right folk notice. She’s expecting him to come after her next, which is all the more reason to keep the halfbreed girl on her clawed feet. “The cultists want to die, it’s their life-force that’s powering the ritual you fucking yurodivy!” With her keen mystical senses, she’d picked it up pretty easily; in certain ways she’s a competent substitute for ol’ Johnny Brit, but as far as attitude, well…
Yeah, maybe, still.
Azrael’s strike lands true. There was no magical recovery from the damage he caused and he successful disarmed, maimed and rendered the cultist absolutely unable to cause harm to himself or anyone else, even if he was howling in pain from both the fire burning at his flesh and the fire of the hell blade licking at his soul.
Vesper found a mild bit of satisfaction as her teeth took hold, the demon’s blood coating her teeth. Even as he pried her maw from around his head that long tongue ran across his cheek. The force at which he pulled her off flipped her over in front of him but she was able to twist before she landed, avoiding the kicking blow and instead striking with her own with her claws. It was easy to tell she was still spitting angry with rage, she was lashing out, if a bit carelessly with the intent of doing harm to the larger demon. It was certainly keeping him busy and distracted and unable to move away from the young demon attacking him.
The cultists were getting their bearings again but they weren’t as quick to action as before. They were absolutely <b>stunned</b> by many things. They had gotten the demons they wanted, perhaps more than they had desired but they had just witnessed the other cultist get completely disabled by the Holy Knight Azrael.
There were no intelligible words coming from Vesper, only an angry hiss as she struck at the demon but there was one action she did take that the demon was familiar with, she was taking a deep breath…
“Bah! Crusader, cease your actions against the cultists, and strike your sword at the woman attempting to heal these men!” shouting at Azrael “If you do this, I promise not to feast upon your bones this night!” Etrigan was currently busy with Rebecca. “It seems I was incorrect and the Nightmare Nurse is *not* on our side” grappling with the angry demon that was formally Rebecca.
“Enough of this, girl. You are clearly not in control!” maybe a little hellfire would do her good. As she swipes at him, he’ll try and grab onto her. If this works, he’ll take a deep breath and then breathe hellfire out at her. Hoping to burn enough of the demon to render it, or her, or both, unconscious. Etrigan was doing what he could, now hopefully Azrael would listen to him. Though, honestly he couldn’t wait until later when he can tell the Order of St Dumas that Azrael took orders from a demon.
Granted, it was for the greater good.
But, it still would tickle him pink.
“I do not take orders from demons! Least of all you.”
Anyone else would see the humor in such a statement given Azrael had indeed been listening to a demon. So far he had appeared to ignore the Nightmare Nurse but he had heard her as she chastised Etrigan and took note of her methods perhaps because they annoyed the yellow skinned loudmouth so.
“Should I heed Etrigan though I would loathe to do so? Tell me what manner of demon plays nursemaid?”
Azrael asks as he steps and closer to Nightmare Nurse his flaming sword aimed at her as he circles careful of any remaining cultist and of course the raging demon girl behind the nurse.
“My Lord commands that I deal with this situation first and foremost. Guide my hand elsewhere and we have no quarrel”
Her blue eyes go wide open as demon pits paladin against her. An unexpected move, but a clever one. She can feel the heat from the Swords of Sin and Salvation at her back, though she doesn’t turn away from her task, keeping up the healing upon Rebecca through the worst that Etrigan is capable of. Unfortunately, the concentration from the effort renders her somewhat defenseless, but an oath’s an oath regardless of whether she’d taken it voluntarily.
At the very least, Azrael, ever the gentleman, offers her a way out. “Keep disabling the cultists, stop them from killing themselves; I can’t heal them and the girl!” she shouts desperately. “I’m not your enemy here, holy-man!” For what it’s worth, she’s very convincing, even when she lies, but in this rare instance she’s completely sincere. Her aura is one of hot black evil, however, something fundamentally tainted and wrong, though intrinsically that’s not so different from Etrigan’s.
She’s at his mercy, whatever his choice. Drawing in a breath through her nose and planting her thigh-high boots, she focuses her magic through the scepter that she’d conjured from nothing and continues her holy task.
That deep breath meant a scream, and her scream was quite unpleasant at full force. It was that unholy screech, fueled by the imprints of the bat that she had inherited and this time it was much stronger.
It was a grand exchange of the screech and the fires of hell that burst from Etrigan’s belly. While it seared and pained her it, it appeared she had a resistance to its more potent effects. Her long tongue ran over those sharp teeth as she backed away, planting herself between the demon and the holy man and the mystical nurse woman. She swayed slowly from one foot to another, her head tilting as she waited for one of them to make a move either against her or the Nurse.
Maybe the pain of hellfire brought her to her senses, if only enough for her to understand and comprehend the plot that the yellow demon was now trying to hatch. That was not why they were there. The threat was still there as long as the cultists stood and they were completely unprotected and they were coming to their senses.
One of them got caught in the crossfire of the screech. Immediately the panic took hold, a great fear of bees sending him running and screaming until he unknowingly leapt from the edge of the building. At least his death is far away enough from the Sigil that it didn’t fuel the ritual.
<font color=red>”Kill them and fuel my anger. Kill them and make me stronger. Kill them so I can eat your unworthy <b>heart</b>.</font>” The words were hissed between sharp teeth. Rebecca had figured out what was happening, she felt it the moment the first had leapt onto her sword. It only made her want to cut them down all the more.
“Girl. You are being most unpleasant! Cease these actions! This is not a heart you are eating today!” telling her as she hissed at him. The scream had been unpleasant, but thankfully due to him using his hellfire breath, he was able to counter most of its effects on him. Leaving him with a ringing ear. They were hear to stop the cultists, to stop the ritual. But Nightmare Nurse and Azrael were fouling things up.
“Bah. Strike at her already, Crusader! Your dallyance is becoming quite the chore!” shouting at him. “If we are to live, you must take orders from this demon! I have no reason to lie.” Her trinket may be something to destroy. “If not her, then strike her trinket! Do -something- instead of prance around like some silly court jester!” Holy Men. What a pain in the ass they are to deal with! Jason certainly didn’t have a problem dealing with them. But he’s also not a demon…
“What would your God say if you died here on this spot due to your inaction? The very city is at stake, Knight. If not the world. Heed my word and strike at the Nurse or her trinket!” This. This is why he doesn’t deal with holy men. “If you do not, Holy Man. I shall make sure your Order is nothing but bones and ash when we are done with this.
But first, I must deal with this most dire of situations!” looking to Rebecca, as he works out a plan in his brain.
“Come, Girl. Attack me, and find out what it feels like fight a true demon.” he growls at Rebecca. Hopefully Azrael listens to him, because… damnit. If he doesn’t, Etrigan isn’t going to be too happy!
A knight of the Order did not hesitate to obey his god, and he did not stay his hand when dealing with demons. It was a simple incontrovertible fact of the life he had been called to, had been born to serve. It would bring the eyes of his most immediate higher power when his actions this night became known to his masters. Perhaps the rumblings that claimed he had grown to old to serve as champion were not without merit, not long ago he would have been appalled to even consider his inaction.
“I have been tested, and I have failed.”
At this his sword would be raised and swung for the neck of the Nightmare Nurse. His mind clouded as it might be knew he would not be faulted for removing a demon from the earthly plane, even one that healed.
The Rod of Asclepius is a manisfestation of her healing magic, not a physical token that can be destroyed or taken away from her; she would’ve loved to have seen Azrael waste his attention upon attacking it. However, unfortunately for her, he doesn’t, instead going for the metaphorical throat of the situation. She really can’t afford to let herself die either, and as Etrigan had let up for a moment she’s no longer distracted from healing the halfbreed and fully able to sense and duck beneath the magical blades, which slice the top of her little nurse-hat off and cause the whole thing to flutter to the ground.
“Welp, it was a nice party, but I’d better be going!” she yells to Etrigan, stepping forward until she’s directly behind Vesper, the real cause of all this carnage and the very linchpin of the ritual itself. Dropping into a curtsey toward the folk trying to kill her, an orange portal opens beneath her, gravity carrying the two anti-heroines downward. The instant they’re through, it disappears into ether.
Meanwhile, at the House of Mystery…
SPLASH! Asa kicks her feet, rising to the surface of the olympic-sized swimming pool. Roman-style columns line the chamber, between them statues carved in the likenesses of the old gods. She swipes her wet blonde locks back from her face, calling out, “Oh Zataaaaannaaaaa,” she calls out. “Brought you a real live one!”
One moment she is being told to stop, the next she is told to bring her claws back to battle against the demon. It didn’t make sense and the confusion revealed itself as she tilted her head and looked him over. She wasn’t quite considering it. Every moment away from the deadly violence was a moment she could get her bearings again. There was a threat that still loomed but there wasn’t an immediate one that she needed to jump after. This wasn’t the time to test herself against him, and such tests could end in a deadly manner. Was she eager for death? Was she willing to risk it and maybe end whatever it was that was happening to her? Things she did not understand, desires and hungers that went against her very human nature.
She snapped her jaws at Etrigan, perhaps in mockery, perhaps to only tease him. However action and movement to the side caught her attention immediately, she sprung to action, one arm raising across to block the blade, another clawed hand in a fist rising up to strike true to the Knight’s chest.
There was no contact, no collision, no satisfying feeling of her claws tearing through armor and into the soft flesh of the human. Instead she fell into water, the force making her screech but it was soundless beneath the surface as she clawed through the liquid to bring herself to the surface.
Pulling her away from the site, away from the scent of blood and the mockery of the demon caused her to change. Or perhaps she just needed a chilly dip to cool off.
All the same, she sputtered as she frantically reached for the side of the pool, pulling herself to the edge and out onto the concrete surface. She didn’t know what happened but she was relieved to be away, to hear only the quiet of the water lapping at the sides of the pool.
“…thank you,” her voice was hoarse from the screaming, or she was just physically exhausted from the shift back to something more human. Either way, she was thankful to be away from that mess. Was she just thrust into another?
“Hmph.” Etrigan nearly snorted when the two were pulled into the orange energy portal. Looking from where they were, he levels his gaze at Azrael, then he grins. “Failed, huh? Sounds like you’ve got something coming to you when you get home.” slowly starting towards the crusader, his grin widening. “You know, if you come worship me…I can give you power that you’ve never imagined, Knight. You can do real good. Better than you can with this .. Order.”
The cultists are running away, and he doesn’t bother to stop them. Knowing that they’re not going to be anymore harmful than they were. They’re souls have already been damned to Hell.
“What do you say, Crusader? You want to bat for the other team?” grinning more. Etrigan is staring the knight down. The Demon doesn’t really want to tangle with the Knight, he’s hoping, if anything to drive the knight away. “We have the best kind of candy…” saying now with a bit of a sing song voice…
Well, as best of a sing song voice he could muster.
The avatar of annihilation slips from the water nimbly, dressed in a one-piece bathing suit instead of her earlier garb. She turns to sit on the edge, letting her feet dangle in the water a moment. “Just part of the job, sweetie,” she calls over toward the shifted Rebecca, presumably in her original form. Every hybrid tends to be unique, and Asa knows she can’t make any assumptions around her, though from all appearances she seems to have let her guard down. Worse, beneath her bouncy and pleasant demeanor, she’s actually a bit tired.
Being a hero is just exhausting.
“They call me Nightmare Nurse,” she offers, wondering what’s taking Zee so long. Unawares of the current owner of the House she now occupies, and probably for the better, else they might’ve wound up in a Chinese opium den or something instead. “Who’re you?” When she reaches back for a towel, she already knows it’ll be there because she wants it to be; she’s been here before. Hell, she used to own it herself. The House of Mystery has always needed a caretaker, and it hasn’t generally been choosy about it.
She lifted her head for a moment to get a good look at the woman. It was different from her normal set of eyes, the other form heavily relied on other senses it seemed. Pieces of the bat clinging on, even in a form that was demonic in nature. Jason Blood had warned of that, rather asked about it but she didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Something about it didn’t surprise her or shock her. Her own father’s abilities were transformative, it depended on the situation. Another fearsome fact that just settled in as Rebecca took a deep breath and pushed herself up. Her armor was just ruined, shredded and burned and now sopping wet from the pool.
The name was a bit of a joke, a nickname she had gotten from her father when she was going through a very hard goth phase in her teens. It seemed to fit in this situation. She worried her real name may bring problems down on her family and she wanted to protect them, they didn’t need her issues added onto the pile of all of the other problems they faced.
“You really are a nurse? You stopped that fire from eating me up.”
Azrael turns gripping his blade tightly his eyes burning nearly literally as he looks up into the eyes of Etrigan. On any other day this would be the part where Azrael faced down the demon Etrigan and either added a chapter to his tale or saw it ended. But this would not be that day as fate had already made its choice and a different demon had landed a fata blow to the knight.
Azrael sways as his footing begins to fail him and his sword drops from his hand with a resounding clang, its flame sputtering out a moment later. Touching his now empty hand to his chest he slowly pulls it away to find blood dripping from between his fingers. Glancing down he now sees clearly the wound Rebecca had left in his chest. He could have sworn she had missed…
Asa sees the lie for what it is, but doesn’t press on it. There’s little to be gained from it, aside from a pretty choice opportunity to set the girl off again and face the demoness one-on-one while she’s weakened from the jump here. And as far as great ideas go, that’s pretty far removed. “Well, don’t ask to see my license,” she laughs, toweling off her hair and then standing up. She hangs up the towel, pretty needlessly, and retrieves a terrycotton robe from the rack, slipping it on over her shoulders.
“I did do that, didn’t I? Come on, let’s go get something to eat.” She wanders from the pool area, and the door for whatever reason leads directly into a middle class-style kitchen/dining room combo. She pulls open the door for the refrigerator and extracts a jug of milk, then slams a few cupboards open and shut as she hunts down some bowls and a box of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Cereal. After pouring some cinnamony bits into both bowls then drowning them in milk, she grabs a spoon and slips onto a cheap-looking wooden chair next to a cheaper-looking fold-out card table.
Rebecca still seemed bewildered. She was in auto-pilot while following the nurse. The very elaborate pool room led to a very modest kitchen. It didn’t make much sense but she was still reeling from the events. At the mention of food she ran her tongue over her teeth and made a grimace. That taste was still in her mouth. She wondered idly if there was a gallon of vodka hidden in a cabinet somewhere in there.
She almost protested, opening her mouth to say ‘no, thanks,’ but the cereal was already poured and drowned in milk. Two bowls, two spoons and she still didn’t even know where she was. Was this supposed to be normal? Just sit down, eat some cereal, talk about shopping and boys or something?
She carefully took a bowl in a shaky hand and plopped into an empty chair. For a long moment she was silent, poking at the cereal as it floated about in the liquid.
“I was trying to save you too. I can’t believe he listened to that tool.”
Waving a hand.
“You’re no fun…”
”Gone now, O Etrigan
And rise again (or rise once more) the form of man!”
A column of flame would wrap around the Demon as he stared Azrael down, when the flames dissipated, Jason Blood would be standing where Etrigan once stood.
“I’m afraid tonight isn’t the day you die, Knight.” offering as he kneeled down and looked the wounds over.
“I have a friend who can fix you up.” explaining as he pulled the knight back up to his feet, letting him lean against Jason. Casting an incantation, the two of them would vanish. Jason knew plenty of healers. This was not going to be the day that Azrael died.
The monster in human guise calmly eats cereal, stainless steel clinking softly against porcelain on occasion. If Rebecca cared to look, she would almost certainly find whatever she truly wanted here, though of course she does not, nor does she understand the nature of the strange domecile they are currently located in. Outside the window above the sink, it’s a beautiful sunny day out, a white picket fence bordering a mowed lawn and beyond that a working-class neighborhood where people almost certainly do not own Roman swimming pools. It’s a panorama, another thing concocted for their benefit, though if one were to crawl out that window to explore…
Well, the pleasant lie is Massive, and one could easily become lost in it.
She points with her spoon at ‘Vesper’. “Don’t think I didn’t notice that! I really appreciate the gesture,” she says, after swallowing a mouthful of Excellence. “Etrigan’s a tricky bastard, though. I mean, I’m not too shabby myself but I was kind of at a disadvantage, being late to the party and all.” She blinks, her eyes blue rather than the honey-color they were when she channeled the Rod. “So was that your first time?”
“He is what he is,” that was the long and short of it.
He was going to say and do whatever twisted a situation into his favor. Rebecca didn’t know much about demons but she did have a very good idea they were the tricky sort. If she had been on her toes, she might have suggested a similar ploy. It felt within her nature to do so.
“Yeah. I’ve been hunting them down a while. I hear….things. It was driving me nuts and I wanted to stop it before something horrible happened.”
She decided to try and take a bite of that irony with some cereal before she said much more. It became horrible, it was a blood bath. Two, maybe three fell by her own hand.
“It was something done to me when I was a newborn, I guess. Morgaine turned a bunch of babies into demons. I didn’t exactly get the cure because I didn’t show any signs, like something in my blood hid the signs of it. I don’t know. Jason Blood would but I don’t want to talk to him right now.”
Asa’s a liar herself, and a conniver; she understands the game and doesn’t hold it against the demon. Among the ancient and the immortal, the truly timeless, the truth is a bendy and inconvenient thing. Doesn’t mean she holds Azrael in any great esteem, but the religious tend to be pretty gullible, else there wouldn’t be any demons left, let alone useful idiots to summon them.
Crunching up some more cereal between her borrowed molars, she listens to the story. Not entirely unfamiliar, but it’s got its own twist. “Not to be a Debbie Downer but in trying to stop it, you almost made it happen,” she points out, no hint of judgement in her voice. It’s not really her place, and the loss of life doesn’t bother her much given that she’d still discharged her own duties to the best of her ability.
And there’s something unironically nice to be said for good intentions.
Smiling coyly, she says, “I could tell you, too; I’m the greatest mystic physician walking the earth today. But it won’t matter; you need to know what’s going on with you now, and how to control it. That’s why I’ve brought you here.”
There was so much sugar in the cereal it nearly made her teeth ache, but it did mask the other flavor that had been lingering.
Her eyes rose up when the Nurse mentioned that she nearly made it happen. She wasn’t wrong and the look she gave said that before she looked back at the less interesting cereal bowl.
“I think it was a trap. Every death just made me feel more…bitchy? I don’t know how to explain it. I just wanted to devour everything.”
A brow quirked at the mention of being the best physician. Wherever ‘here’ was, it was odd and she couldn’t quite place what it was or where it was. It didn’t feel normal.
“That would help. What’s the catch?”
She felt like there was something to it, there was always something to it. She was just naturally very cautious about these things.
Asa nods vehemently, clutching her bowl in both hands. “It was a trap, and it almost worked too, but fortunately for you I was the guest of honor at a bachelor party in Jersey Shore and… well, let’s just say it got my attention.” It was the reason she’d shown up and immediately began healing the cultists, something that had occupied her and prevented her from fully dishing about it until now.
When asked about the ‘catch’, the monster grins broadly. “Clever girl. With magic there’s always a price to be paid, but in this instance that price isn’t mine to give. My… associate will, I’m sure, make her own demands but she’s easy enough to get along with – and easy on the eyes, too.” The Nightmare Nurse winks for emphasis, trying to add a little levity into the rather unpleasant topic.
“Mostly, you seem like a good kid and I do hate to see that corrupted. And it was nice to play the hero, even if I’m only moonlighting.” She squints a bit, then sets aside her half-eaten cereal. “While we wait, we should probably find you something a little more comfortable to wear.”
“Probably got a lot of attention…” she trailed off into a mumble.
It wasn’t her intention, she was hoping to get in, mess things up and get out. There were entities in that city she did not want to get the attention of and some had a very close eye on her.
The news didn’t stir any hope for a fantastic resolution to this. She was trying to look at it in a good light. So she’d meet some more people in the community. She’d be able to control herself and maybe learn to control her temper.
“I’m trying to do the right thing. Even if that’s going to be a losing fight against what I am. There are worse things in that city than me though so, it’s whatever.”
She glanced down at her clothing again and sighed. A robe would have been nice, just something fluffy and soft and warm to curl up into. The fight had very much been taken out of her and she felt like she was waiting for some impending doom to come down and strike her. She was pretty sure she felt her claw stick in, she felt the throb of a heart wrenching in damage for only half a second. Even thinking about it had her push the bowl forward.
“Alright, let’s raid the closet.”
“Oh, all the right kinds,” Asa agrees dreamily.
She sighs wistfully at the girl’s admission, seeing the familiarity there. The thing that had really made her invested in the situation in the first place, and confirms her continuing interest. “You’re not the first person to be screwed from birth, Vesper. But anyone can change, anyone, and if you really want it then don’t let anyone tell you you’re too tainted, too broken to be fixed.” Smiling sympathetically, she’s more than willing to leave it at that, to not mention how much of herself she sees in that story.
The two of them stand and leave the room through a second door, stepping into a lavish bedroom with a heart-shaped bed and so many mirrors, some fogged and hard to distinguish shapes in, some convex or concave or tinted. An open accordian-style closet door reveals a rack of clothes and many shoes of grungy, functional style, all of which should be about Rebecca’s size. At the end of the rack, a luxurious-looking mink fur robe hangs invitingly.
Nightmare Nurse, meanwhile, flops back on the bed, pale legs hanging over the edge as she watches her own reflection with a smile. “Get changed, I won’t look,” she promises.
“I don’t and won’t,” that very subject hit very close to home.
She never believed her parents were beyond redemption. She was told they did such horrible things and caused so many problems and even at times were mentally unwell. It didn’t matter though, she believed in the good in them. All in all, they were great parents. They cared for her and her brother fiercely even if a bedtime hug was sometimes in the comfort of being enveloped in a huge leathery bat wing.
With a sigh she finally was willing to open up, she tried to distract herself by rifling through the clothes. Old shirts she thought were long gone, that her mother might have thrown out. She plucked up one that had been her favorite, it even still felt like her favorite.
“You can call me Becky. Rebecca Langstrom. If that puts anything into perspective. My father is a pretty well known ‘monster’ in his own right. Haven’t seen him in a long time though. He sends me stuff at school sometimes, says he’s really proud of me. My brother is so genetically messed up it’s not funny. So…I guess they thought I’d be the normal one to break the cycle.”
She snorted as she got undressed. She didn’t care if the woman looked or not. She was no curvy Zatanna, more lanky and slender with more of a dancer’s build than anything.
“I sure broke it. This look okay?”
She spread her arms out, the shirt was oversized and went down about mid-thigh but it seemed to work. She only bounced around awkwardly as she tried to pull on some shorts.
“Sorry, thought you’d get some confessions of secret boy crushes or something and you got my life’s story instead. I’ve been mucking around the occult since I was twelve, I guess I should have seen it coming.”
Asa had known many things about Vesper at a glance, maybe even things the girl herself didn’t know, though she hadn’t known her name. It does bring it a bit in perspective, but even the Langstrom family are newcomers. She might glance at a picture-box now and again as she steps past but she doesn’t know a whole lot about their problems. From what little she did know, well, it hadn’t seemed infernal.
True to her word, she doesn’t look, but more out of respect than anything else. The thing might be the master of the inappropriate but even she has a sense of decency at odd times like this, particularly when she’s uncomfortable enough. She’s a nurse, damnit, not a babysitter and where the hells is Zatanna?
She rises to a sitting position, nodding approvingly. “Very retro. Is that Marilyn Manson?” She squints at the graphic on the front before rising to her feet, waving a hand over herself to change her outfit back to thigh-high boots and long, long gloves covered in gauzy bandages. The robe remains, lending a somewhat comical air. “Oh, come on, I didn’t expect gossip – give me some credit! I’ve been mucking around the occult since time was popularly considered a passing fad.”
Something that Becky had not yet questioned was the nature of her ‘rescuer’, she who could weave magic fairly effortlessly and seemed unaffected by the most horrible of demonic entities. Naturally, Asa does very little to dispel her aura of mystery and intrigue.