Black Gold: Meeting at Shadowcrest
Synopsis: Faust arrives in Gotham and goes to visit Zatanna Zatara at her home, Shadowcrest, to relay a request from the Deputy Director in charge of Mystic Affairs at Nowhere.
Gotham City. People either loved it or hated it. There was no in between. You either stood on one side or the other. At least that’s how I saw it. Of course, most of the individuals that I came in contact with also thought of it in one of two ways. This is also dependent upon your worshipping habits, but usually what came to mind was Gotham City was either God’s left arm pit or Satan’s anus. Take your pick and deities, demons and other celestial beings were quite interchangeable.
Either way I found myself sitting in an Uber, because it was the only way to travel these days.
Not really, but I thought I would do my level best to fit in. I was not alone, because there was always someone that was curious about what was happening in other parts of the country. Not that they lacked for entertainment and in way shape or form, but given all that was shared during my meeting with the Deputy Director I knew that interests would be piqued.
We had arrived at my destination thirty minutes ago, but I wanted to give it a moment before I ventured out. Gotham was Gotham. Not the first time I had traveled here, it won’t be the last. I just wanted a moment to think through everything that happened before I arrived. What it all meant and how it all would play out.
Tests. There were always tests, but if there were tests what was being set in motion. I don’t know if I can answer that. I don’t know if I care to. Assumptions are things I care little for. I prefer facts when I can acquire them. Either way it didn’t matter. This was just the beginning, or the middle. Or the middle of the beginning. Ha!
Opening the door, I stand up tall looking the building over adjusting my shades before stepping forward towards the entrance. It would serve me right if she wasn’t in. I didn’t call ahead, but there are reasons for that. When you call ahead you give someone an opportunity to duck out and say they missed your call or that they were out of town. No, no. Can’t have that happen.
I checked into a posh hotel and everything. That’s no indication that I would be here for several days just a nice place to wait if I have to. Can’t spend my days in an uber and I can only drink so much before it’s no longer appealing. Granted I have not reached that limit yet, but I rather experience that somewhere other than Gotham.
Locating the name in question I reach out with a finger and press the call button.
The door opened. There wasn’t a return buzz, there was no voice calling over the speaker in the box. It was just a small burst of the air moving and the door opening entirely on its own. Things were not always as they appeared and that is something Mr. Faust would figure out as he moved through the posh apartment building and to the matching numbers placed on the door in lovely brass findings.
Like many mystics, Zatanna kept her true location a mystery but if people wanted to find her, they could. So long as their intent was not to bring harm, they would be welcome. The Magician was a collector of odd friends and allies that she had crossed paths with over her life and her adventures.
Faust would find the door would open again, before his finger made contact with the heavy brass knocker. No bells, no buttons, just a single knocker that opened into a darkened foyer, a large staircase leading up to the upper levels. By interior design alone it didn’t seem to make much sense for its placement within the apartment building.
“Welcome to Shadowcrest,” her voice was warm and welcoming as she came into view. Those elegant but confident steps down the stairs made it seem like even in her relaxed home life, she always tended to put on a show.
“Pardon the dust and the cobwebs, won’t you come inside?”
When the door opened I look across the threshold knowing that this is when it would be lights out for my “shadow” there would be no crossing the threshold for my companion. Private audience which would lead to many questions that I may or may not answer. Rather than linger I stepped across giving no concern to the door that was left open as it would close soon enough.
Taking a moment to take everything in I direct my eyes to the second door that opens. Stepping inside my eye focus on stairs that will take me towards my destination. My thoughts focused on the stairs themselves, rather than thinking about the elevator if their had been one. I probably would have passed regardless. Each step drew me higher, and as I counted them I focused on that rather than my relative position to the ground at the moment.
The design of the building mattered not, because it is what it is. There was not a doubt in my mind that if confusion is what was desired confusion would be what was drawn forth. Twist and turn and you would lose yourself within the well constructed labyrinth. Luckily for me I had no desire to cause harm or level threats. Threats were irrelevant and unnecessary not my forte unless truly necessary. It’s best just to say that other messengers could be dispensed and leave it at that. For most it meant that they were willing to take that risk. For me, a nice dinner and perhaps a movie before returning to the roost.
When the woman came into view Sebastian stopped for a moment allowing her her due before she apologized for the dust and cobwebs.
“Eh? Hadn’t noticed.” Stairs. Those were the only things that had come into focus until I lifted my head and the raven haired woman found herself stair into her own reflection.
“Of course. Didn’t come all this way to do this own the stairs.” There was a hint of a smirk as I resumed my movements until I was off the stairs and inside her home. Of course it was a bit of a misnomer as the moment I stepped through the door of the building I was inside her home so to speak.
“I trust I haven’t interrupted anything.” Would it matter? I don’t know. It’s possible. I never really know. It really doesn’t matter for way I rather not think about, because thoughts can be distracting. So pleasantries or right down to business which should it be? Which would be more believable?
Small talk. I’m capable, but really? Who does small talk these days?
Shadowcrest had been in the Zatara family for many generations. It operated on its own laws that didn’t really adhere to the laws of what most would consider reality. It was exactly where it needed to be at the right moment or it was nowhere at all. Faust may even feel a bit off equilibrium stepping inside. The interior wasn’t in the building, who was to really say where the actual home was anyhow?
The door didn’t stay open long enough to allow a someone passing by a peek, unfortunately it also meant that if Faust tried to open the door again it may lead somewhere else entirely.
“I try to make myself available if someone needs to see me. Unless I’m doing a show, I’m usually around. How can I help you?”
She stopped briefly at the foot of the stairs, looking him over before taking another cautious foot step forward and getting into a more comfortable distance for a conversation. She took a moment to take in a breath before he spoke. Usually when people came to speak to her, it wasn’t good news.
I tethered myself as best as I could. There was always going to be a bit of disorientation. Awareness was a blessing and a curse. Being unaware would be a blessing for my mind at the moment, but no such case for me. It took less than a moment to right myself, but better this than other things I could be dealing with. Turning my attention towards Zatanna I offered a smile.
“Well, it seems to be my looking night then.” Throw in a chuckle and I would find myself a seat to drop into.
I don’t bite. Promise. I’m a messenger nothing more nothing less. Lies, but tonight right now I’m a messenger. Surprise you’ve been activated or whatever we want to call it. I bring tidings of good things. Lies, but what a wonderful lie it would be. My lips settle back into a tin line, but at least it’s not a frown.
“It seems that events in Gotham has been picked up by our scryers. Enough was revealed to warrant a visit.” Visit not investigation. I’m not investigating anything.
Yay for me.
“Events like that always create ripples. I’m not surprised.”
She did pause a moment with a brow raised. She had an idea of what scryers he was speaking about. It was impossible to mask the energies of that particular event when she wasn’t even there. Perhaps she should have been, it likely would not have been such a disaster.
“It was also in Gotham which is a bit outside jurisdiction when the city has its own in place. It’s best to tread lightly on this one. I’ve come nose to nose with the Bat over similar situations, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.”
There was more than this man just coming to mention the event, he likely knew she was knowledgeable in how the events came to be, who was involved, how it ended. Information was more valuable than money and information could be used like an arrow from a bow.
“So, what’s the nature of the visit?”
She made a gesture over in the direction of the parlor, a dim light from the fireplace illuminating a comfortable seating area. She was a good hostess, even if certain turns of phrase put her on alert.
“No one’s surprised.” I could care less, but here I am talking about it, because the even itself is not what lead me to be here talking with Ms. Zatara.
“Bollocks on the Bats and his sycophants. The Demon’s Head and his assassins arrived en masse to fetch something that was taken. Same assassins was led by what I can only assume was an demented infant in a red mask that from what I understand is part of the House of Bat. As far as I’m concerned their house is out of order, but it’s the last thing on my mind.” My mind, but I’m not exactly the person they need to be concerned with when it comes to all things Bat.
“They sent me not some caped or masked wonder.” Simple as that. “I’m not here to tsk, shame or wonder what the hell happened. It didn’t happen. As far as I’m concerned that business is closed, but my visit is not unwarranted and it is connected to the event I suspect you’re referring to.” I move in towards the parlor and find myself the nearest chair so I can glance back towards Zatanna.
“I’m here to solicit your assistance and in a way a lack there of, for something that’s coming.” Did that sound right. “It’s not so much I want to put you in the penalty box, more like I want you to sit on the bench. Well, not me.” I clarify. “My superior would like you to sit this out, but they would like you to observe. Before you ask no we have set nothing in motion. This is something that’s occurred all on its own independent of our actions.”
Zee kept her lips quite shut on the subject of the Bats. They’ve been out of order since the Batman was presumed dead. He held that order, he kept everything in line. He had a very calculated and careful way of doing it and he poured all of himself into that very mission. Zatanna’s connections now were rather loose and she hadn’t reached out to the eldest, nor had he reached out to her.
She had no problems following the accent, the words used, the tone used. She was used to that rabble from John.
“In what way is it connected? I became involved, you know. I ran clean up. I spoke with the individuals involved, more of a warning to them than anything.”
Her eyes narrowed a touch, maybe it was a trick of the light from the fire that made them flash blue, or it was the complete lack of information that was being floated to her.
“What am I sitting out on? Do you even know what you’re dealing with? This runs a little deeper and older than what it seems like on the surface.”
“Serendipitous convergence.” It really is. It’s a wonder how it happened, but one I did not have the pull to find out through official channels. Simply put the Deputy Director wasn’t talking. I’m sure he has people looking into it, but either way, it can be problematic.
“My superiors would like to know how capable certain individuals are. Should it be something they should be concerned about or is it something they should no longer be concerned with. I mean buildings are still standing. The populace is alive for the most part. The alternative is troubling, yet they still walk the streets, lead their happy little lives. So, no there’s no concerned about that.” For the moment. “It seems that they have it well under hand. Hopefully it continues to remain that way. Death has a way of bringing a clarity that few ever desires. ” He waved his hand a bit.
“However..” He reached into his jacket producing the sheet of vellum. “As for your involvement. Oh we’re quite aware of that. It was made abundantly clear that you were involved.” Unrolling the parchment he let Zatanna have a good look. It wasn’t the first sheet with the words that had been written upon it. Instead it was the sheet of Loops. Lines of loops that formed a bit fat ‘Z’.
“Personally, I have no qualms about your involvement. someone needs to clean up magic gone wrong. Why not someone of your caliber.” My shoulders rose and fell.
“However, this is the second sheet. The first sheet revealed demons. Then, The Demon.” I shake my head. “I rather not discuss him if possible. The less said the better. I don’t know how many demented infants Gotham can handle honestly, but you know perhaps it’s a magnet.” I couldn’t help the smirk.
“Think of this as an assessment to see if the status quo should remain or if things should change. Whatever has the House of Bat out of sorts is …” How could I put this?
“…has drawn concern from various individuals. What if that spread into the area that falls under our purview. Gotham is your home. It falls under you eyes. You aid when you can if you can. You intercede when events demand it, but what if you are unable to? What if you are drawn somewhere else? Are you confident that your associates would be able to meet the problem head on. Handle the fall out? Make the tough choices if they have to?” Faust rolled up the vellum spoke a few words then rolled it out revealing what he had seen on the first sheet.
The lines of loops that formed words. <I>Demons. THE DEMON.</i> “That is the least of our concerns.”
“This….” He motioned to the words that came after the second lines of lips. “…does.”
“Born on a Monday. Christened on a Tuesday.” That’s where it ended followed by one last line.
“Black Gold.” Which had nothing to do with oil.
“I find that troubling, but as troubling as I find it. Do you think your cohorts are ready and are you prepared to sit on the sidelines and watch?”
“I’m concerned about the gathering that occurred. I feel it was a very small play in a larger scheme. A scheme now in the hands of Jason Blood and his apprentice to figure out, assuming they can manage to not make a bigger mess than they have already. You’re right, he’s not a concern. As long as the demon has something to hunt and something to fight, he usually stays out of trouble. He may be following a branch of the tree that is the many problems of the mystical nature that affect this realm.”
The awful part was having to pick and choose which battles were worth fighting and which were worth ignoring until they became a bigger problem. Then again, with those words spoken, there was the bigger problem.
“Who do you need?” her tone was clipped.
She could trust in her friends and her allies but she didn’t like the thought of losing one of them to such a threat. With the right people, it shouldn’t be that bad. With the right people it could also go way off track and into a chaotic mess.
“That is none of my business. It could be, but I’m not one of the “cool kids.” I’m my very own Rudolph. Except my nose doesn’t glow.” I pouted, before smirking. “There are always larger forces at work.” It’s true. “My life is the result of larger forces at work. Well, they both have massive egos.” Can’t help that.
“However, what should we be concerned about? What you’re concerned about which will probably some kind of hands off deal, because someone will get their tights in a twist. I’m confident that you will be able to handle that bit of business, but Black Gold it can go one way or another. From better to worse. It is possible that these items could intersect or are intersecting” Potentially.
“Sadly I’m just a messenger. I could check around, see if there’s anything to be concerned about regarding the Black portion of this, but, given what you said you may have to consider the fact that you may find yourself entangled in this as things become larger. So, entangled that you may have to delegate and trust.”
When most people that are aware of Nowhere engage with Nowhere it’s not all threats and intimidation. It was about preparing. Preparing for the hard choices. Good or bad. Like I said. Depending on who you prayed to Gotham City was either God’s left armpit or Satan’s anus. Take your pick, but there was always something funky going on.
“Aren’t we all a result of larger forces?”
Everything seemed to happen for a reason and Zatanna had her own complicated web of a past that tied her intricately to this world.
“I’m going to take this with the approach of being the woman behind the curtain. I’ll delegate what I can. Makes it easier for me to keep these eyes on a certain pair of demons until I can find someone else suitable for the role. I am in full understanding of the role they want me to keep in this.”
It was the ‘why’ she was trying to puzzle out. Did they want to see how things turned out? Test the best of those that would gather against the threat? What were they even going to do with those findings? Nowhere was not omnipotent, all-powerful, and impenetrable. All they had to do was twist the knife in the wrong direction and they’d have a host of problems to deal with. Monitoring metahumans and aliens was one thing, monitoring mystics was a whole other realm entirely.
“Scotch before you hit the road, Mr. Faust?”
“Some yes. Some…” He considered it for a moment. “More of a happy or tragic accident.” Much of that depended upon the person’s point of view, but we all cling to what we want. In truth my life as it is was the result of someone being craftier than my father. Still there were things that I was privy to, not because information had been shared by the deputy director or his predecessor, but because of observation and knowledge of certain events.
Someone was testing the edges, wanting to see how much they could fray them. I won’t pretend to know how far it goes, but I know no good can come of the Black. There are some things I can look into that has nothing to do with Gotham, but I find myself wondering is this the beginning or a happy accident. Perhaps that’s been overplayed?
I know what the Deputy Director has done by sending me here. Damn it. It’s not that I care for a soul in this city, but my interest has been piqued. Perhaps my shadow can deliver my report for me. Perhaps.
“A drink would be nice, but I’m afraid that I should get back, report in and see where to be I’m sent next. I may be in Gotham for the foreseeable future or I may be recalled.” Difficult to say. “I may be directed elsewhere.” Perhaps find out what the paths that Gold and Black have taken. Perhaps look and see if this portends something more. It is conceivable. Anything is conceivable. Many eyes have been drawn away from Gotham and towards happenings in the Middle East.
What creatures play when the cats are away?
“Perhaps next time?”